Saturday, December 28, 2013

TIME Magazine Repost

(originally posted on May 17, 2012)

Since everyone else is talking about it, I might as well join in the fray.  I seem to be at the edges of organic, hippie, breastfeeding community, so what the hell!  Please note that this is simply a visual analysis of the TIME Magazine cover.  I have not read the article itself, nor do I intend to.

So, first and foremost, breastfeeding is about:  food, nutrition, health, and a loving bond between mother and child.  There is nothing loving or remotely food-related about this picture: 

Let's discuss why, shall we? 
  • The cover's stark white background leaves the impression of something clinical, or -- at best -- a vacuum devoid of any feelings, especially those of love, care, and nutrition. 
  • No one breastfeeds standing up. In addition to nutrition/eating, breastfeeding is often very soothing for children; they end up falling asleep. Therefore, mothers and children are often sitting, cradling, rocking, or even lying down when breastfeeding. I doubt this child is even "eating" during this picture. The fact that the entire thing, then, must be staged adds to the alien, uncomfortable feeling the viewer gets because he's literally hanging out with his mom's boob in his mouth for no particular reason. Boobs in mouths for recreational purposes is something adults do, not children. 
  • Speaking of children, the cover states that this boy is three years old. Uhh, what? He looks like a first-grader. My Unit's nephew is nearly three, and he's a BIG boy (nearly twelve pounds at birth!), and he is neither this tall, nor is his face as mature looking as this boy's. You can be damn sure that the photographer or editor picked the oldest-looking child from the bunch for this picture to reinforce the discomfort and awkwardness of this image. Take, for instance what he's wearing:
    • He's not dressed like a toddler. At the risk of sounding like a 1920s mother, he's wearing long pants! And said long pants are camouflage, which then makes us think of the military. The military brings up connotations of rigidity, masculinity, and aggression, not to mention adults. Again, nothing loving or nutrition-related there. 
    • His grey, long-sleeved shirt matches the grey undertones in his camouflage pants, giving the overall impression of a tiny soldier, or -- worse yet -- a miniature adult. Toddlers' clothes tend to be brightly colored and/or patterned, with whimsical trucks or monkeys or frogs or what have you. There is no whimsy here. 
  • He is a "he." It's not a mother and daughter; it's a mother and a son dressed like a miniature adult. Or, in other words, a woman and a "man," once again leading us to sexual connotations (can you say "Oedipus complex"?), rather than familial, maternal ones. 
  • He's standing on a wooden chair. In addition to the above comment ("no one breastfeeds standing up"), the allusion to milking a cow (during which one traditionally sits on a wooden stool) cannot be ignored. 
  • Let's look at the mother. I know lots of mothers of children under the age of ten, many of whom breastfeed, and none of them look like that. You can be damn sure that TIME's photographer or editor picked the sleekest, fittest, trimmest, "hottest" looking mom from the bunch for the cover. 
  • She's Caucasian and blonde.  I don't even need to break that one down for you. 
  • In addition to faux-breastfeeding her son, they have dressed her to show as much skin as possible. There are lots of tops and tanks out there made for breastfeeding or items that can be worn easily whilst breastfeeding, but they still put her in a tiny tank top with skinny straps to reveal as much skin as possible while still making her look "casually dressed." 
  • Two words: skinny jeans. See above re: slimmest, fittest mom possible. 
The effect, of course, of all of these things working together is to present an alien, "unnatural" picture of what is, in reality, a very natural practice (that is, breastfeeding). When looking at the picture, we are experiencing what Freud calls "the uncanny." The uncanny (briefly, simply) is "an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange or uncomfortably familiar" (Wikipedia Contributors). We recognize mother and child, but with the added layer of "adult-ness," the lack of a recognizably maternal setting, and the hints of sexuality creeping around the edges, we decide the overall image is foreign. We then reject it, are repulsed by it; something about it "does not compute" in our heads.

And here's the kicker: now that TIME has done everything within its power to stage this photo to make the audience feel as uncomfortable (or uncanny) as possible, both "models" are looking directly at the camera, thereby looking "at" us. So not only do we feel uncomfortable with the images presented, we now feel guilty about feeling uncomfortable because they can "see" us looking at them. It's a kind of reversed voyeurism, chock-full of judgment and criticism from the mother and son watching us watching them.

The last thing I'll address it the much-discussed headline: "Are you MOM enough?" While I think that so-called "attachment parenting" is a crock of shit, this headline makes parenting into a competition. Rather, it reinforces the idea that parenting or mothering is a competition of some sort. Unfortunately, there are many women out there who already view their maternal duties -- consciously or un- -- as a kind of competition. Parenting is not about how hard you can make it on yourself. If you choose to do things the most difficult way possible by growing all of your own food, literally wearing your babies/toddlers/children on you 24/7, and going without showering or bathing so that you can spend your days making your own homemade granola/yogurt/detergent/bread/sausages/toothpaste/ketchup/mayonnaise/pesto/wine, kudos to you! But no one is going to hand you an award and think, "Wow, she must be a great mom because she's so stressed out all the time." 
Well, I certainly won't.

There can be a happy medium -- or several happy mediums -- in parenting, and those ways are different for every parent, every child, every family. Things like "attachment parenting" and "elimination communication" strike me as neither happy nor medium. But it's not a competition, people. Shame on you, TIME Magazine, for contributing to the pressure that mothering is something to compete at, something to "win."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Chronicle of Chronic Things Chronologically

I never thought it would happen, but I guess I'm one of those people who suffers from chronic pain.  I don't have fibromyalgia or M-S, but I swear each day something hurts, often multiple somethings.  Whether it's my back because our mattress is older than I am or sinus pressure because of a change in weather, my "normal" is somewhere on the pain scale.

Last night, certain pain was so bad I took a painkiller (hydrocodone).  I don't take them often, and I only take them at home because they're the equivalent of smoking about three joints for me.  I sometimes slur my speech, and I most certainly cannot operate heavy machinery as the label warns.  I'm not all that convinced that it really takes the pain away; it just makes me not care that I'm in pain.

Then, around 3 a.m., both Doogie and I had to pee.  I got up to let him out, and it was amazing.  Nothing hurt.  I stood up and felt nothing.  Not my head, not my back, not my knee (which I dislocated before Thanksgiving),  not my other knee (which has been picking up the slack), not my uterus (which has issues), not my ovaries (which have even more issues and are very angry about them).  It was incredible!

The next morning, when I remembered what had happened, I thought, "Is this how normal people feel?"  It wasn't until the complete absence of pain that I realized how much pain I'm in on a regular basis.  And that kind of sucks.

There's not really a point to this post.  It is kind of depressing, so here is a gratuitous picture of a kitten serenading you:
Photo by Benjamin Torode

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dolphins, Manatees, and Frogs -- Oh My!

When planning our trip to Key West, my Unit and I decided that we should rent mopeds to tool around the city.  Key West itself is only seven square miles, so many people use a variety of bikes and things to get around.  Given my love of motorcycles (but inability to drive them), I thought mopeds would be pretty damn awesome.

We asked our delightful front desk attendant where to rent bikes, where to find the cool places to eat, and where Hemingway's House was, and she gave us the 4-1-1.  Seriously, she was very helpful and even gave us some coupons for some places.

The first day, though, we walked.  We walked to Duval Street, which was already crowded and blaring music at 11 a.m.  We walked around the block to get the lay of the land.  We walked to the wharf to see what there was to see.  We started to walk back to own hotel that evening, glancing at some of the famous houses and B&B's (including places I had wanted to stay, like the Artist House, but it was already booked up).  During our sight-seeing, right after sunset, I realized something was itchy and sharp on my foot.  We stopped in doorway, and I inspected my foot.

Somehow, my pinkie toe was digging into the toe right next to it; so much so, that the pinkie toenail had cut open the neighboring toe.  What the hell?  I was not wearing my usual high heels, just sandals.  Okay, sandals with like a 1/2" platform.

After I took off my sandal and the Key West night air hit my piggies, I realized that more things hurt.  Where the thong of my sandal fit into between my big toe and the rest were giant blisters.  On both feet.  Putting the shoes back on again was like pouring grain alcohol over my feet and then lighting them on fire.  I begged my Unit to even call a taxi cab (it didn't even have to be a pink one), but she pointed out we were only a few more blocks from "home."

As soon as we reached the hotel, we made a mutual decision:  tomorrow we ride!

But then the discussion came of mopeds or bicycles.  The pros and cons are as follows:
  • Pro:  mopeds are infinitely cooler
  • Con:  mopeds are loud
  • Pro:  bicycles make it easier to communicate with each other while riding
  • Pro:  bicycles are cheaper to rent
  • Pro:  mopeds are faster
  • Con:  faster speeds means more likelihood of one of us (read:  "me") hurting ourselves
After much debate, we decided to rent bicycles.  My Unit pointed out that we could rent them for a day and always change to mopeds later if we wanted.  We were going to be in Key West for seven days; we had plenty of time.

Oh, bike-riding!

I was very, very nervous.  I had not ridden a bike (that wasn't stationary) in about two decades.  We immediately came up with a disaster plan:  should one of us fall off, fall down, fall behind, hit something, be hit by something, we were to yell loudly "DOO-DOO DOWN!"

It is legal in Key West to ride your bike on the sidewalk, except on Duval Street (as it's simply too busy); when riding in the streets, one must follow the regular rules of traffic.  We stuck to the sidewalks for that first half hour, with my Unit in the lead.  To watch us was probably like a comedy of errors.

I couldn't seem to steer my bike; I whipped the handle bars back and forth, correcting and overcorrecting.  I swerved and squealed and tried to avoid telephone posts, fences, overgrowth from yards, and, of course, pedestrians.

My Unit took us down lesser-known paths (fewer pedestrians), past a graveyard (not exactly inspiring), and finally down to Key West's (and the United States') Southernmost Point (which isn't even the southernmost point, but let's not split hairs).  After Southernmost Point we found ourselves in a quiet, tree-lined street with wide roads.  We actually started heading back north, putting me in the lead.  My Unit was finally able to see my ride a bike.

First, amid the laughter, she had to take a picture so there was photographic evidence that I was both outside AND on a bike:
Also keep in mind that I have excellent posture.  Okay, maybe not "excellent," but certainly better than average (thanks, Mom!).  So, when riding a bike, I don't hunch over the handlebars.  I sit up straight like a lady should -- shoulders back, tits out.  For some reason, this made my Unit declare that I look like Kermit the Frog when I ride a bike.  You decide:


We rode and rode and rode.  We hit the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor as we did not want to hit the beach covered in Spring Breakers.  It wasn't what either of us expected.  My Unit, for one, thought the waves would have been bigger.  I thought the size was fine, but she's also been to the beaches on Hawaii, and I haven't.  I thought, frankly, it'd be warmer.  You'll notice in the bike picture I'm wearing jeans.  It didn't get above 76 degrees for the entire week we were there.  Very unseasonably cool weather.  I don't get out of jeans or pants until it's at least 80 or 85.  A couple of mornings our redheaded front desk girl was wearing a turtleneck under her uniform shirt.  70-some degrees is cold to the islanders!
So we didn't swim in the ocean, but we did snap another picture to prove that I was actually outside.

 We also stopped for lunch at a restaurant off one of the docks.  I wish I could remember the name so I could tell you not to go there.  Neither the food nor the service was very good.  Thankfully, I was really only interested in one thing:
My Unit's tattoos make an appearance in every one of these pictures.

We stopped at another dock later on during the day.  Here's something I've learned working with animals:  any time there's a group of people crowded around, something interesting is happening.  Lo and behold, there was a small crowd gathered near the edge of the dock.  Naturally, I elbowed my way into their midst so I could see what was happening.

The sea cow!
It was a manatee!  This fisherman was hosing him down.  Here are more not-very-good pictures, all taken with my phone (as my Unit cried, "Don't drop it into the ocean!!")

You can see his wee flippers in this one.
Just to the left of all this was a lone pelican, posing but being completely upstaged by the manatee.  I felt bad for him, so I took his picture, too.
"I'm watching YOU, Mr. Manatee.  Just you wait."
At this point my Unit dragged me away so "other people can see," and so I wouldn't drop my phone into the water.  And then we headed home.  I was getting tired and cranky.  Then I realized we had been biking for over four hours!  That's a big deal for someone who leads a mostly sedentary life.  It was naptime.

But the manatee-sighting had inspired our next big ticket item:  a dolphin tour.  Coming up next:  dolphins swimming, dolphins having sex, and gratuitous food pictures!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

How Patrick Bristow Ruined My Life

Leonard loves Muppets!  Leonard loves Muppets a great deal.  NO, Leonard does not love Muppets in a way that is unhealthy, you perverts!

I am of a generation that was influenced a great deal by Muppets.  As my friend Karen put it, the most recent Muppet movie "is not for kids; it's for thirty-something geeks who love Muppets."  Amen, sister!  I am one of those (proud) geeks.

I've seen every Muppet movie in the theater since I was able to.  There's a reason Avenue Q is in my top 3 favorite musicals EVER.  I've only seen one Broadway show thus far in my life, and it was Avenue Q.  In fact, we even sat in Row Q.

I collected Muppet and Fraggle toys from McDonald's in the 80s.  When I was growing up, Fraggle Rock was only shown on HBO, which we did not have.  We had four channels, including PBS, so I watched countless episodes of Sesame Street.  Between it and The Brady Brunch, I spent much of my formative years believing that everyone else wore bell-bottom pants and spoke fluent Spanish.

This kid Wesley down the street did have HBO, though.  I didn't really care for Wesley; he was kind of a wimp.  But I made sure to play with him and then insist that we watch T.V. (read:  Fraggle Rock) and drink cherry Kool-Aid in his basement.

I cried in 1990 when I heard that Jim Henson died.  I absolutely hated seeing The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) in the theater because it was the first feature film without Jim Henson as the voice of Kermit (and it's still one of my least favorites, despite the awesomeness that is Michael Caine).

My two favorite Christmas movies are White Christmas (1954) and A Muppet Family Christmas (1987).  I still have our version of A Muppet Family Christmas taped off the TV (on VHS with a handwritten label), complete with national and local commercials from 1987.  When I was in college the first time around, my mom got me a commercial version of the movie on VHS.  When I watched it the first and only time,  it had been edited; some of the songs were cut.  I was so angry, I threw it away.  Even today, you can only find the original version on YouTube or my 1987 VHS copy.

In A Muppet Family Christmas, Kermit and his nephew, Robin, discover a network of Fraggle tunnels in Ma Bear's basement.  Promptly after watching the show, I went downstairs to our basement to look for Fraggle holes.  I didn't find any.  That was the day the magic died for me, but that's a different story.

Well throughout college (at least undergrad #1), I used to tell people that I wanted to be a Muppet when I grew up.  And I did.  Rather, I wanted to work with the Muppets.  I had heard stories about them remaining in character, that working with Kermit the Frog was working with Kermit the Frog, not Henson or Steve Whitmire.  I wanted to witness that kind of magic first hand.

As I've gotten older, despite being an actor, that dream has become more and more of a fantasy and less than an achievable reality.  A couple of years ago, Dave Goelz (performer of Gonzo the Great and Boober Fraggle, among others) was scheduled to come to the public library for a talk.  I was prepared to show up at least three hours in advance in case there was a line so I could meet one of the greats.  Two days before the event, he had to cancel.

And then.

But then.

A friend who also writes reviews (same friend who told me about Dave Goelz's scheduled talk, actually) told me Stuffed and Unstrung was coming to town.  I immediately researched the show and promptly bought two tickets.  While it appears to now be called "Puppet Up:  Uncensored," Stuffed and Unstrung (as my program clearly calls it), is a Henson Alternative production.  It is a live, improvisational show with Henson puppets (but not familiar Muppet faces) that is intended for ADULTS ONLY.  Dirty, dirty-minded puppets!

While Avenue Q is an adults-only show which lampoons Sesame Street (in fact, all products for Avenue Q, such as the sheet music I own, have to have a disclaimer which states that they are not associated with Jim Henson Productions), it is still a scripted show.  Taken from the Puppet Up! website:
What happens when Henson puppeteers are unleashed? You get a new breed of intelligent nonsense that is “Puppet Up: Uncensored” – a live, outrageous, comedy, variety show for adults only. Enjoy an unpredictable evening when six talented, hilarious, expert puppeteers will improvise songs and sketches based on your suggestions! With a motley group of characters brought to life by the world renowned puppeteers of The Jim Henson Company, this is not your average night at the improv and it is definitely not for children. But all others are welcome to enjoy the uninhibited anarchy of live puppet performance as never seen before! ("About - Puppet Up!")

YOUR suggestions.

I could hardly believe it as I was buying tickets -- this was my chance to interact with the Muppets!  Well, it was as close as I was going to get.  I researched the crap out of the show during my ticket-buying frenzy.  Not only did they take audience suggestions, sometimes they took audience volunteers on stage, too!  Many of the clips on the website and on YouTube featured Brian Henson (Jim's son and the current head honcho for you Philistines) as a performer!  OhmyGod, I might be within arm's reach of Brian Henson!

I made sure to buy tickets on the floor, close to the stage, because when performers are picking volunteers, they're not going to walk all the way to the cheap seats.

That same friend later asked if I wanted to go with him; he had two free tickets since he was reviewing the show, but I already had my tickets in hand.  I was SO FREAKIN' EXCITED!!!!

My dear friend and fellow actor Pamela and I went to see the show.  I could hardly contain myself.  I nearly wet myself with excitement.  As soon as we had our programs, I perused mine.  It did not appear that Brian Henson was performing on this particular tour.  Who cares??  The puppets were all hanging on a wall on the stage, staring out with their dead eyes, waiting to be given life by the talented performers. 
Photo Credit:  Puppet Heap

The night began, and it was perfect.  As the video clip on the website explains, Stuffed and Unstrung is two shows for the price of one.  The first show is watching the puppets live and also on the video screens; it looks the way you think it might look if you've watched any other Henson production.  But the second show -- the SECOND SHOW -- is watching the performers as they also watch their own video monitors.

It may or may not interest you to know that Jim Henson revolutionized puppets on television.  Before him, puppets were still stuck in a box, a makeshift "stage" a la Punch and Judy sometimes with the performers visible; even Howdy Doody was limited by strings.  Muppet productions happen approximately seven feet in the air; the stages are built to accommodate performers with their hands over their heads.  Guest stars have to watch where they're walking, lest they fall into a hole.  And watching that is the second show.

Like any improv show, the performers asked for audience suggestions.  Normally, I'm a pretty loud person.  I saw both Second City and Paula Poundstone perform at this same theatre, and they both took many of my suggestions though I was in the cheap seats because I'm just that loud.  I don't know what it was this night, but my voice was high-pitched and strained, not loud.  Thank God for Pamela!  That woman can project like nobody's business (and with excellent diction, too!).  Several of her suggestions made it to the stage.

As intermission came, they had only asked for volunteers once.  I wasn't picked, but I wasn't too upset.  It was a silly sketch, and there was still the whole second act.  I bought a magnet and a hot dog puppet during intermission, and the night continued.

The second call for volunteers came, and I tried my damnedest to be loud again, but still no go.  Then the third call for a volunteer.  This person would actually get to -- I can hardly type it -- perform a puppet.

This was it.

I screamed, "Me!  Me!"  Pam said, "Stand up!" and shoved me to my feet.  I was practically jumping out of the row.  And then it happened.  Patrick Bristow, the host of the show, came to me.
Oh God.  I almost peed on myself again.

Maybe you've seen  him before, Patrick Bristow.  He has a very distinct look, with his glasses and ginger hair.  His bio says he
is best known for his numerous television appearances most notably as Peter on the groundbreaking ABC series Ellen. Other television credits include, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, Friends, Mad About You, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and others. Film credits include Twilight Of The Golds, The Longest Yard, as well as the first Austin Powers, So I Married An Ax Murderer, and the accidental comedy Showgirls. ("Cast and Crew - Puppet Up!")
Patrick was a little taken aback by my desperation enthusiasm.  He even said something to the effect of, "Wow!  You're really excited, aren't you?"
Yes, yes I am.
"You're not a puppeteer, are you?" he asked warily.

Here's where things get tricky.  Performers (like me) being asked on stage with other performers (like them) can quickly become a mess.  Why?  Several reasons, such as the volunteer performer might be suspected of being a plant/ringer.  More importantly, the volunteer might try to "out perform" the original performer, usually at the original performer's expense.  Such behavior might be funny to the audience, but it's incredibly rude and comes at a cost.  Don't ever try to take over someone else's show; like I said, highly rude and unprofessional.  You're there as a guest and a participant, but not an actor/performer.

So with all of that in mind, I had promised myself that I would be on my best behavior.  I wouldn't "try" to be funny or snarky.  I just wanted to enjoy myself and be a Muppet for however briefly.
"No, I'm not a puppeteer."

"Wow, you're so excited.  I'm a little scared of people who are this excited.  Did you come with someone?"
"My friend, Pam."  I gestured down to Pam, sitting on my right while I was still standing, breathless.
"Okay, yeah, I'm gonna pick her instead."
I -- what??

I am not making that up.  In the face of my enthusiasm, Patrick Bristow, hateful human being that he is, picked my friend for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity instead of me.  To her credit, Pam tried to protest and insisted that I go instead.  But Patrick would have none of it.  Pam was on her feet and ushered to the stage while I sank back into my seat, stunned.  Even the people around me, who had witnessed my attempts to volunteer from the beginning of the show, were staring gape-mouthed.

Pam doesn't even know this, but as she walked onto the stage, I almost started to cry.  Coming so close to achieving a childhood dream and then losing it to my dear friend, especially in such a deliberate and mean-spirited fashion, was almost too much bear.  My whole body was shaking.  For the tiniest of instants, I sincerely hated Pam.  The realization of how ridiculous it would look to cry at such a show and not wanting my make-up to run were the only things that kept me from sobbing outright.  My eyes slowly sucked the moisture back in as I tried to be an adult even though my little kid heart was breaking.

Pam's puppet performance was, of course, awesome.  She was funny, but not too funny.  She was well-behaved and didn't upstage the original performers; the audience loved her (as they always do; she's very talented).  She told me as she was leaving, one of the puppet performers asked her (quietly, off-mic) if we were improv'ers.
"No," she said, "we're actors."

Overall, Stuffed and Unstrung (or whatever they're calling themselves now) is a fun and enjoyable evening of adult entertainment.  It is also how Patrick Bristow single-handedly let me come within seconds of achieving a dream I've had since I was seven years old, and with a sneer, snatched it away.  I will never forget that night, nor will I ever forgive him.

Fuck you, Patrick Bristow.  You're a horrible human being.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Leonard Loves Muppets

It's true!  And just to prove how true it is, I read a book about Mupppets.  More than that, I reviewed said book.  Check it out:

Memoirs of a Muppets Writer: (You Mean Somebody Actually Writes That Stuff?)Memoirs of a Muppets Writer: by Joseph A. Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely adored this book. For anyone who loves the Muppets, this is a must-read. Bailey's stories are not only chock-full of insider Muppet information and behind-the-scenes stories, but he also gives some of the nitty gritty, like how Sesame Street writers were told which educational goals to use, that Muppets are built on a scale of three's (1/3 head, 2/3 body). The stories are funny, touching, sad, and incredibly useful as Bailey also includes very practical advice for writers of any genre.

So why did I give this only four stars instead of five? TYPOS. Seriously, whomever is the editor for Walnut Press should be fired. This had some of the strangest, most misguided use of punctuation I've seen in some time (and I teach college students!). Also the font size occasionally changes from one paragraph to the next, and the text uses both quotation marks and italics with no rhyme or reason (is it dialogue? Internal dialogue? Adding emphasis?). All in all, very distracting; I would expect more from a man who included a section on the importance of grammar in writing.

The only other detractor (besides the glaring, distracting typos) is the rather disjointed narrative. Bailey jumps back and forth in time, and it can occasionally be confusing to the reader where we are in his career timeline with Jim Henson Productions.

View all my reviews

Friday, November 8, 2013

Splish Splash

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook how unrealistic "bath scenes" are in television.  She made some great points, such as:
  • That many candles are a fire hazard
  • By the time "your man" gets home, you will be wrinkled and pruny, not sexy.
  • My favorite:  "You know you're just going to have to take a shower later, a 'business shower,' where upon you do all the things you needed to do in the first place (shave pits, legs, lady parts, and wash hair)" (Underground for Tea).
Like I said, she makes some very valid points.  And it got me thinking (dangerous, I know). I generally take baths to relax because I'm super stressed out, not for sexy time.

Step 1:  Is the bathtub clean?  Eh, I'll rinse it out and risk it.
Step 2:   Fill with (hopefully hot) water.  

 Maybe there are some lame bubbles, but more than likely, Epson salts because I'm fucking sore and incredibly neurotic.

So I get into the tub...crap.  I suppose I could light a candle, but --


Hi.  Anyway, maybe a candle, and I was thinking of reading a few pages of that book I --

Whatcha doin'?

I am taking a bath.
Sometimes it's nice to read in the tub, assuming I don't get the pages all wet.  I could even grade papers or --

Is that water?


Are you sure??
Can I lick it?

Yes it is, and no, you can't.

What's goin' on, guys?


Apparently there's water in there.

I am trying to relax!

Really?  Where??  I like water.

I liiiiiike it.  I do.  What's this?  Can I touch it?  Can I bat at it? Can I knock it into the water?  This is fun!  Let's plunge my hairy hairy arms all the way into the water!  Splash splash splash!

Ohmygod, I love ALL of you!

Pet me.  Pet me.  PET ME NOW.

Bath time is so much fun!  Fun fun fun! Splash splash splash!

Are you sure I can't lick just a little bit of water off of you?

It won't be awkward.  I promise.




You don't have to be all defensive about it.


...meanwhile outside...
I heard this is where the bath is happening?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Commuter Communication

I have a forty-minute commute to teach.  Forty minutes.  That's one way, against the flow of traffic, assuming there are no major sporting events happening downtown.  Needless to say, I have lots of time to think in the car.

Sure, sometimes I think about my lesson plans and what we're going to do in class that day.  Sometimes I might think of blog posts or other pieces of brilliance.  But most of the time, it's pretty random.  I've even startled myself with some of the randomness of it all.

For example, what started out as thinking of class discussions...
Lysistrata ==> wordplay, sexual puns ==> double entrendre ==> entendre is French for "listen," so a "double entendre" means to listen twice ==> J'entends, tu entends, il/elle/on entend, nous entendons, vous entendez, ils entendent.
Holy crap, I remember how to conjugate entendre!  I haven't had French since high school.

The rest of the time it's not nearly as interesting; more along the lines of
I'm hungry. Do I have snacks in the car? Fuck, are we stopping? What happens if my blood sugar drops on the highway. Does that count as a medical emergency? "Cause of crash: lack of snacks."
I have to pee. I have to pee really badly. Why didn't I pee before I left??
Fuck you, other car!
I REALLY have to pee. Maybe I should wear Depends in the car like that crazy NASA woman who went on the stalker road trip. I don't understand how people can do that. I REALLY have to pee, but I don't think I could just make myself pee in the car, even if I was wearing Depends.
Like that one time we were at the lake and -- FUCK YOU!
I really had to pee then, too, but it was hard to make myself pee in the lake while treading water so I didn't drown. How many times have I almost drowned? Two, I think. Maybe three.  Is it any wonder I don't go swimming?
Are we seriously stopping again? Why can't I just fly home? Like in a tiny --
Douchebag. Douchebag. Douchebag.
-- airplane. 
I've also been lucky enough to see some strange and interesting sights on my daily commutes, including but not limited to:
  • A bright green Ford Mustang with the license plate G-LNTERN
  • An SUV with the license plate TA2D UP
  • A sobriety test happening at 2:30 in the afternoon -- well done, madam!
  • What I thought were two people having sex on a motorcycle (they weren't).
  •  The shadow of an airplane overhead during which time I had a Skyrim flashback, and I seriously thought it was a dragon (it wasn't).
And just think:  I get to do this approximately ninety more times before the end of the semester.  Yay me!
(Image courtesy of

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Throwback Thursday: A History Lesson

From the blog annals comes one of my favorite pieces, "The True Story Behind the Pyramids."

(Tiny ugly baby kitty picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

From the people who brought you "Smutty Kitchen Talk" and "Suggestive Non-Sequitor Day*," we present "The True History of the Egyptian Pyramids."

The Unit and I were lying in bed one evening when she started "angry humping" my leg. "Angry humping" devolved out of a completely different conversation, but involves fast ("angry") pelvic thrusts against an object one would not normally "hump," such as my leg or a chair, unless one were a dog. She then put a very cold hand under my shirt on my bare skin, at which point I complained: "I don't recall ordering any angry humping, let alone cold angry humping."
Unit: "That's what my receipt says."
Me: "Really."
Unit: "Yes. 'Please deliver one angry humping. P.S. Please add cold.'"
Me: "And who signed this alleged receipt?"
Unit: "Jack-Jack and Poe."
Me: "And may I see this alleged receipt signed by the cats?"
Unit: "Well, you could, but you wouldn't be able to read it. They wrote it in their old language, a combination of pawprints and symbols."
Me: "Like hieroglyphics?"
Unit: "Well, cat-a-glyphics, yes. Because you know that the Egyptian pyramids weren't built by humans."
Me: "Of course not. They were built by aliens. Everyone knows that. Didn't you watch Stargate?"
Unit: "No, they were built by cats. Well, by slave-cats. The royal cats (from whom Jack-Jack is descended) ordered the slave-cats to build the pyramids. Slave-cats were the hairless cats; they were hairless because they were out in the sun in the desert all the time."
Me: "Slave-cats...?"
Unit: "And all the mice were slaves, too. Of course."
Me: "Of course. So there were some royal cats, and some slave-cats, and some slave-mice. And the slave-cats and slave-mice dragged the blocks out in the desert to build the pyramids. Were there any free mice?"
Unit: "No, but that does bring up the subject of the Micesons."
Me: "The (snicker) Free Micesons?"
Unit: "Exactly. But most cats don't believe in them."
Me: "It's just a cat-spiracy theory."

What you have to know is about the time we got to "the Free Micesons," we were both laughing so hard (in bed) that we were crying. After that we started coming up with definitions for words, along the lines of "cat-spiracy." I can't remember what the definitions were, but I believe we had "catapult," "catalogue," and "catastrophe."

So there you have it. The TRUE history of the Egyptian pyramids. The recent unrest in Egypt has, of course, been very upsetting for Jack-Jack since it's her country of origin, being descended from royal cats as she is. She's very grateful that Mubarak has stepped down. Poe-Poe, being the black cat of the family, does believe in the Free Micesons (did you know you can find evidence of them in the hundred dollar bill??), much to the shame of his mother. It's a very sore subject, so please don't bring it up.

*SN-S Day went something like this: "Dammit, a spice jar just broke! There's cumin all over the counter."
"That's what you get for putting on underwear!"

Follow up:  The original "History" was posted in February of 2011, and sadly, the facts about Egyptian unrest, riots, and political problems are still relevant over two years later.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Snap, Crackle, Pop

As I was lying there, my stomach started growling.  My stomach had been upset most of the day, due to eating junk food and soda on the road.  I didn't really want to eat, but I knew the growling and rumbling would keep me from falling asleep.  Earlier in the evening my step-dad had said, "I'm eating a Rice Krispie treat.  I pulled one out for you, too."  I politely took the wrapped treat, but had no intention of eating it at the time.  It was not homemade, but the actual Rice Krispie brand in the blue metallic wrapper.  Again,  I had eaten junk food all day, and didn't want anymore, so I set the treat on my bedside table, planning on ignoring it.

As my stomach growled in the thick darkness of rural Iowa, I contemplated the treat.  What the hell, I thought.  Just a bite.  Still in the dark, I unwrapped the Rice Krispie treat.  Each crinkle of the wrapper sounded like thunder.  There is NO sound in the house in rural Iowa.  No traffic, no neighbors, no helicopters overhead, no sirens, no gunshots, no dogs barking outside, no car alarms, no cats  running around, no fans, no icemaker, no dehumidifier, no house settling noises.  Nothing.  Except silence that fills my ears until I can hear my own blood pumping through my veins.

I was certain the screaming of the cellophane wrapper would bring my stepdad lumbering into the guest room wanting to know why I was eating in bed.

Despite the raging wrapper, I managed to open the treat.  I originally planned to just nibble off a corner and then put the half-wrapped treat back on the bedside.  But after that first bite, I couldn't stop.  Maybe I really was hungry?  Maybe it was because I haven't had a Rice Krispie treat in years?  Whatever the reason, that treat was the most delicious thing I had tasted in 48 hours.  Somewhere between bites two and three, I thought, Do they have a pest problem?  Maybe mice or something?  I probably shouldn't leave a half-eaten Rice Krispie treat out.  It didn't really matter as there was no turning back now.

Going entirely by my sense of touch in the pitch black, I laid flat in bed and slowly peeled back the wrapper with increasingly sticky fingers and took bite after bite of the crunchy, marshmallowy goodness.

And that is how I ate an entire Rice Krispie treat in bed in Iowa in the dark.

(Delicious picture provided by

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Enjoy Being a Girl

Today I was pulled over on the Interstate for the first time in at least five years. I was speeding. Here's how it went down:
Officer: "Do you have your license and insurance?"
Me: "Yes, sir," handing them over.
Officer: "You were going [XX] in a 60 mph zone. Do you have a reason why you were going that fast?" 
Me: "No, sir, I'm just trying to get to school."
Officer:  "Just trying to get to school, eh?"
Me:  "Yes, I teach at X. University."
Officer:  "Oh, what do you teach?"
Me:  "I teach English."
Officer:  (He gets that rueful smile that 90% of people get when I tell them I'm an English teacher.)
Me:  "Lemme guess, not a fan of English?"
Officer:  "I went to X. University."
Me:  "Oh?  I just started teaching there this semester."
Officer: "Yeah, English was never my best subject."
Me:  "That's what most people say.  I promise, I'm not going to correct your grammar."
Officer:  *chuckling*  "Well, just drive safe, okay?"
Me:  "Yes, sir, thank you."
And I left before he could change his mind.  And never mind Leonard's bald-faced lie in there.  Of course, I'm correcting your grammar!  That is why I was twitching just now when I had to write "drive safe" instead of "drive safely."

I texted my Unit about this, and here's how that exchange went:
Me:  I got pulled over on the Interstate.
Her:  Why?
Me:  Speeding.
Her: Are you costing us money?
Me:  I didn't get a ticket.
Her:  Boobies?
I laughed out loud at that, and replied, "No, not exactly."  While I was wearing a very cute dress that day, it showed neither cleavage nor leg.  Maybe he let me go because I made him laugh (I'm very funny).  Maybe he let me go because I'm adorable (I'm very adorable).  Maybe he let me go because he was afraid of red-pen-teacher-marks on whatever citation he wrote.  Whatever the reason, I'll take it!

(Annoying animated GIF compliments of Adam Rifkin)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Metamorphosis, Or Getting Older Sucks

So the other day I was driving to pick up my Unit, and I felt something weird on my ear.  It was a little bump.  And I thought Do I have a zit there?  A scab?  Did I accidentally scratch myself in my sleep?

At the next stoplight, I pulled down the mirror on the visor and inspected my adorable little ear.  I felt the top of it for the bump I felt moments earlier and looked for a scab or something.  No scab.  Instead it was a pokey little hair!
Growing out of my ear!!

At some point in the previous 24 hours, I had turned into a seventy-five-year-old man with hairy ears. [Make your own Kafka joke here.]
I was stunned.  So naturally I left it where it was so I could show my Unit when I picked her up.

As soon as she got into the car, I relayed the above thought process.
Her:  "Why didn't you pull it out?"
Me:  "Because I had to save it to show you.  See??" again thrusting my hairy ear into her face whilst driving, at which point she grabs my pokey ear hair and YANKS it out.
Her:  "It was a gray hair."
Me:  "Fuck you, it was not."
Her:  "It was."

I still had a bump on my ear (hair follicle?  I dunno), so I kept picking at it the whole car ride until my Unit had to smack at my hand and tell me to pay attention to the road.

When I got home, I broke out the tweezers, pulled out what was left of the pokey ear hair, and then plucked two gray hairs that had sneaked onto my scalp despite the best efforts of my hair dresser.

It was a banner day.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Adventures in New Things

First and foremost, Leonard's not dead!  Just really busy and really, really tired.  The first two weeks of school have passed by in a flash, and my head is still reeling.  So many new things!  New things can be exciting, sure, but they are also really, really scary.  And upsetting.  And mind-numbing.  And bad.

If you don't already know this, Leonard suffers from major social anxiety and panic attacks.  "But Leonard," you're saying, "you're an actor and a performer!  How can you have social anxiety??"  I could give a fairly in-depth response about the differences between performing in front of a captive audience versus being thrust into the middle of a crowd, but instead I'll just quote The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:

"I'm complicated."

So new things can be very....interesting.  New places, new rules, new things = sensory overload.  For example, one of my least favorite things is trying out a new eating establishment.  Where do I order?  What all is on the menu?  Do I order here and then pay over there?  What sides does it come with?  Do I have to clean up after myself and put my tray away?  What are all those other people doing?  Let's watch them and see what they do first.
I'll actually start to get a tunnel-visioned, only able to see in front of me, almost no peripheral vision as I try to take it all in.

These first two weeks have included new places like that with me trying not to wander around aimlessly having a small mental breakdown.

New cafeteria:  I eat for free at one of the universities -- woohoo!  But it's a cafeteria -- chock full of things that cause me to hyperventilate.  Where do I go?  Oh here's a tray.  I'll take a tray.  Watch out for those people.  Don't run into them.  Don't let the students judge you.  Why is there a long line?  Do we all have to wait in line?  There must be good stuff there if everyone is waiting for it.  What if I don't like it?  Where are the plates?  I do eat for free, right??

The main cafeteria is "dine-in only."  There are no to-go bags or boxes.  But I couldn't figure out if that meant I could back in and get seconds (it's free!) if I wanted to.  So I literally sat at my table for five minutes, found a person who had already been eating, watched them stand up, and followed  them (with my eyes) as they went back in, got seconds, and came back to their seat with no repercussions.  I did the same thing when it came time to leave.  Where do I put this tray?  Is there a trash can?  What are all those other people doing?  Let's just watch them.  But casually, CASUALLY!!! Don't be a creeper.

Lather, rinse, repeat for each one of the dining establishments on campus.  There are four.

And then the REALLY new stuff:  working out at a gym.
Disclaimer:  Leonard has not been in a gym to, y'know, "work out," in over a decade.  So I've been wracking my brain trying to remember those things my ex-husband told me during the two times I went to the gym with him.

The first gym excursion was a bonafide clusterfuck.

I had plotted out my course, found the gym on the campus map, found my own location as well, and packed a bag with all my goodies (although I forgot a towel).  After teaching my class, I walked over the gym, trying to take deep, cleansing breaths, and signed in.  I asked the work study student at the front where the fitness center was, and she told me.  Then I asked where the locker rooms were, and she told me.  They were nowhere near the fitness center.

So I headed over the locker room to put my stuff.  Except every door over where it said "locker rooms" was locked (there were three).  So I said "fuck it" and headed to the fitness center, which is really just a glorified large room with some equipment in it.  I told that work study student that the locker rooms were locked.  She said, "Oh, they shouldn't be.  Bob the GA should be able to unlock them."

So I walked with her through the gym back to the front of the building to find Bob.  But we couldn't find Bob.  We did find a woman who works there (an adult this time), and told her we couldn't find Bob and that the locker room doors were locked.  She said, "Oh, I can unlock them!"  So then I walked with her back to the locker rooms.
"Doesn't your key work?" she asked me.
"I don't have a key," I said.  Hell, I don't even have an office at this institution.
"No, I mean your key card," she says.  And then I remember that our I.D.'s double as key cards.
"Oh, I don't know.  I didn't see one of those --" and I lamely imitate the swiping motion of the key card.

We get to the locker rooms, and she, too, realizes that only one door has the key card swiping thingie.  I try it.
No go.
She tries it.
Still no go.
She manages to  unlock one of the other doors, and I get a peek inside the locker room.

It's not a locker room like I remember.  It's a private locker room for one of the women's teams, complete with wood paneling and their names above their stuff.  Not what I had in mind at all.  I was at a loss.  Where was I supposed to put my stuff?  Where could I shower?

Turns out hardly anyone uses the locker rooms like that anymore (according to "Coach").  The office woman assures me that she can unlock the doors anytime for me if I ask her.  I thank her and head back to the fitness room.

I get on the treadmill and push some random buttons so I can walk quickly for 20-25 minutes.  As I walk on the treadmill, the once empty room starts to fill up with students who look like they actually know what they're doing.  I try to look like I know what I'm doing it.  I'm sweating a lot from walking around the entire complex during the Great Locker Room Clusterfuck of '13.  Plus it's a million degrees outside.  When I'm done on the treadmill, I head back to my car and drive all the way home so I can shower and maybe cry.  And nap.
End Result:  University #1's facilities suck.

Two days later, I repeat the process with the gym at University #2.  The night before, just like University #1, I do my research.  I find the facility on the campus map.  I plot my route.  I try to figure out as much as I can from what's available online.  Where do I go?  Do I sign in?  Do they provide towels, or do I have to bring my own?  Do they provide locks, or do I provide my own?  What kind of equipment is there?  Is it stuff I remember how to use?

University #2's facility is whole new world.  For starters, it takes up an entire first floor of a building.  There are several courts, a free weight room, a fitness center, and REAL locker rooms, complete with lockers and showers.  All of that is a sigh of relief.  I put my stuff away and head to the space with the exercise machines and treadmills.  I try to keep focused, even though I'm getting tunnel-visioned from all the new stuff.
Just find the treadmills.  We know treadmills.  Don't do anything besides treadmills today.  Don't wanna overdo it.

I find a treadmill, and it's state of the art.  I could even plug my iPhone into it if I wanted to.  I could watch TV on an individual screen if I wanted to.  I just want to walk quickly and listen to my iPod and zone out for a bit.  So I push some random buttons in an attempt to mimic my fast-walking from the day before at University #1.

But no.  This fancy new  treadmill does more than just let me walk fast.  It changes.  It changes the incline and the speed on my "route."  Suddenly it's moving quickly and I desperately try to find the button to slow it down before I pull a George Jetson in front of students who could very well be MY students.   

I keep up the best I can.  I sweat and I breathe hard.  When I'm done, I step off the treadmill and try not to pass out.  The floor still feels like it's moving, and my head is reeling.  Just make it to the locker room.  Just make it to the locker room.  I can shower in the locker room.  Don't pass out in the gym.  Don't trip in front of students.

I text my Unit from the locker room:  "220 calories and 29 minutes on the treadmill.  I feel a little dizzy."
Her response:  "Slow down, cowgirl!"

That shower was the best shower I ever had.  When it was over and I was dressed, I headed to cafeteria #2 to repeat that process all over again of figuring out how to eat.

It's been two weeks, and I think I may have figured out a routine.  Sort of.  I've added some other exercise equipment into the mix; each time I get a little tunnel-visioned as I try to read the pictures and instructions on the machines.  A lot has changed in ten years in the wide world of fitness.  As usual, I don't want to ask questions of the work study students in an attempt to keep the number of times I look like an idiot to a minimum.  I think I've done okay; I've only "wandered" the entire fitness center looking around once.  Okay, maybe twice.  I've also lost two pounds.

Some of the heart-pounding anxiety has lessened, and I no longer feel like I'm going to die in the locker room.  But is it any wonder I slept for fifteen hours last night?

End Result:  New things are exhausting; change is bad.
Monica Waters: You don't like change, do you?
Adrian Monk: I have no problem with change. I just don't like to be there when it happens.