Sunday, June 29, 2008

Flash This!

Yes, it's that time of year again, when the hot flashes are a-flashin' and I ask myself the big, important questions, like, "Why the heck hasn't somebody invented anything to take care of this!?"

And since all the brilliant minds in this world have not been able to solve this problem effectively, how can we turn it around and find something positive in it?

I think I have the answer.

Forget about hydrogen cars. Forget about solar power, wind power, our dependence on fossil fuels - why isn't anyone harnessing the massive power that is being generated by an entire cohort of hot-flashing female baby boomers?

Well, until they figure it out, maybe they can start work on the following, simpler ideas that would be very much appreciated:

1. A self-regulating blanket that compares the room temperature with the body temperature of the sleeper and adjusts its coverage accordingly. Solve this one and you will never have to worry about money ever again.

2. A very tiny, water-tight cooler that could hold the following: two or three ice cubes and a cold washcloth. Very handy for hot flashes while you're on the road, and it tucks neatly into your purse or gym bag.

3. As gas prices go higher and higher, some of us are using our car air conditioners more judiciously. Hence, it gets damned hot in there. Hence, we need a device that will warn our fellow motorists that we didn't just cut you off because we're lousy drivers, but because we're driving like hell in order to get to somewhere air-conditioned. A small digital readout that you can mount on top of your car could be handy. You can program it to scroll several different messages, such as, "sorry about that," "no, I don't have PMS," "I'm sorry officer, but the sweat was dripping into my eyes and I didn't see that stop sign," or simply the curse words of your choosing.

4. Velcro is not just for strippers anymore! Because sometimes you just can't get those layers off fast enough, more clothing should be made with easily detachable seams. One rip, and you're cool as a breeze.

I had lots of other ideas, but because hot flashes have also been shown to be linked to memory loss, I can't think of them at the moment. So I'm going to go stick my head in the freezer until I feel like myself again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Take A Hike...

As part of the celebration of my father's 75th trip around the sun, a good deal of our extended family got together for a weekend that included dinner, then brunch the next morning at a local resort nestled into the Shawangunk Mountains (just east of the Catskills). A good time was had by all -- or least I hope everybody was having fun -- despite this weird random weather pattern we've been having where it's sunny one minute and a raging thunderstorm comes up the next. After Sunday brunch (and after family photos in many different combinations...a reminder to those of you who took pictures...I want them!!) we set ourselves loose upon the grounds for an afternoon of hiking or whatever else we wanted to do outdoors in this stunning locale.

I've had the pleasure of hiking in this location many times before in my earlier years. There is something called the "rock scramble" whereupon the braver and more nimble members of your hiking party may disappear into a rock crevice and go hand over hand through the course until you emerge from the other side. The locals have another name for it, but by any name, it's a good workout. I was concerned about how much hiking I could do, so in the beginning, Husband and I followed the kiddies through a garden maze and up a treehouse.

Meanwhile, my dad,stepmom, stepbrothers and my older nephew took off for the tower, which is the second most strenuous type of hike -- 30-45 minutes or so uphill then up the stairs of the watchtower, then all the way back down. The view is worth the climb, and when I get into better shape, I can't wait to tackle it.

Once we were done with the maze however, I started to feel a little antsy (that's how I often get when a thunderstorm is approaching) I needed to move. No one else seem motivated, so I took to the lower trail, which looped around the lake. As I progressed, I could hear the thunder growling louder and longer. I heard the horn signal that the boats should get out of the water (I think the signal is also for swimmers, but I imagine the water was a little too cold for swimming and no one was in the lake). But I didn't feel like going back. Maybe that was foolhardy, but that's just the mood I was in, stoked on a decadent brunch and the collective love of my family that weekend. I kept walking until I got to this little wooden gazebo (I suppose it's too small to really be called a gazebo) and was struck by the view of the shack against the lake and the resort. That's what's in the photo. What didn't show in the photo was a bolt of lightning that jolted down just as I was taking the picture. I kept walking a little farther, until I was about halfway around the lake, and with the storm getting stronger, it seemed like a really good idea to head back. I left behind a young couple who were setting up their camera with a tripod, and the woman had just said to the man, "get a good picture of that lightning." I didn't want to be anywhere near them, and their expensive lightning rod.

All in all, it was a great weekend, (thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone and happy birthday to my father again!) and I'm really proud of myself for trying a little bit of a hike.

I'm looking forward to more -- great weekends, time with my family, and hikes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Remembering George

George Carlin died Sunday night, and I'm pissed off.

No, not for that reason. We all have to go some time, and his bad heart was bound to get him eventually, but what I'm pissed off about is some networks' coverage of the fact.

Fox, in particular. They called him a "controversial comedian" and that was about it.

WFT is up with that? He was not merely "controversial." He was a freaking legend. Lenny Bruce, another freaking legend, passed the torch to Carlin, who ran with it, performed new tricks with it, got arrested for it (when radio station WBAI aired his "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television," and he inspired every single half-assed dirty comic out there today who thinks that swearing is the way to get a laugh.

There's a difference here, between, say, Jim Norton and George Carlin. A huge difference. Carlin used language appropriate to his point. A fine-bristled brush at times, and at others, a sledgehammer.

For the kiddies out there who haven't heard Carlin's genius, he made fun of the peculiarities of our language, the freak show that is the human race, and our amazing, astounding, head-scratching, infuriating idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies. Welcome to the freak show, he said once (and I'm paraphrasing), and those of us in America have a front row seat.

Another thing that amazed me is that his delivery sounded as if he were making up the whole act as he went along. Yet from what I heard about him in an interview, he very carefully wrote and rehearsed (and rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed) each performance. I don't know how he kept the spontaneity in his act, but that's another thing I admired about him

I was first introduced to Carlin when I, a curious ten-year-old, "borrowed" my father's copy of FM and AM, and Class Clown (which I still have to this day). I played them and laughed my ass off. My friend Deanne came over and we both laughed our asses off, (and I got in trouble with her mother) but from then on we repeated his best lines to each other like certain folks do with favorite Monty Python skits now. (our favorites were from his rants about growing up Catholic, which neither of us were doing)

I began to collect each new album as it came out. Occupation: Foole, Toledo Window Box, A Place For My Stuff, and others. Over time, Carlin began to influence me as a writer. I think that's where my fascination with words began. The way he crafted them amused me, startled me, woke me out of my stupor, and made me think.

And for your amusement and thought processes, I leave you with a few of my favorite Carlin rants.

And the knowledge that whatever anyone is saying about him on the news, he'd probably hate it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Power of Words: And Who Gets The Power To Choose?

At around eight each evening, I go brain-dead and bone-tired and just want to flop in front of the TV. So, to paraphrase my father, I seek out not the most highbrow of entertainment.

Last night, I was particularly zombie-fied (it had been a tough week), and was happy to find a rerun of "Blazing Saddles" on TV Land. I knew it would be cut to ribbons but thought it would be amusing still and also bring back memories of when my folks took us to see it way back when.

Yes, I knew it would be dubbed. But I was surprised at how it had been edited - what was removed and what was left in, which words were OK and which were verboten.

Of course, the "seven deadlies" were removed. That goes without saying. (And for some reason, “screw” is now on this list. Or at least it is in TV Land) And the many, many mentions of the "n" word were obliterated. The people would only get out the "ni" sound and then some other sound (a gunshot, a church bell, the whinny of a rearing horse) would come in and drown it out. But you knew what they were talking about. "Black" and "white," even "schvartze" (Yiddish for "black") were allowed to stay. But so many potentially offensive race references and stereotypes were left in - except for the one famous line when Cleavon Little and Madeline Kahn were in the dark and she was commenting on the size of his schnitzengruber (or something like that). That scene was simply cut. Another reference I found interesting was how the editors dealt with references to homosexuality. It's OK for Dom DeLuise to play an obviously flaming Busby Berkeley type, scolding his chorus of male dancers by calling them "sissy-marys," yet no one in the movie was allowed say "faggot." I remember another instance of censorship of this word when I was driving home from Christmas at my father's and stepmother's house, listening to NPR for company. They were playing Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" and they cut the word. Excuse me? NPR? Home of the open mind? Censorship? Jeez. We got the context. I didn't feel offended, and the several gay people I knew at the time didn't feel offended, either.

But what about negative stereotypes of the elderly, the mentally challenged, Prussian soldiers, Mexican bandits, alcoholics, Klan members, bimbo secretaries, American Indians, and all the rest that were left in? Why are only certain groups protected? The size of their lobbying groups? The number of outraged letters the network would get?

And have any members of these groups ever actually SEEN a Mel Brooks movie? He lives to offend. Nothing mean-spirited is meant (as far as I can see). I can see that certain words should be struck from the lexicon completely, in any context. But the fact of them was clear in Blazing Saddles, which was set in 1874.

Did Germans flood Brooks with letters when “Springtime For Hitler” appeared in the first production of “The Producers?”

Don’t know.

The second movie of that night’s double feature was “Young Frankenstein.” I would have loved to see that, too, but I was leaving TV Land for Bed Land. I wonder if the censors had cut “schvanstukker.”

After all, no one wants to offend the very powerful coalition of Reanimated Transylvanians. They can really get ugly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

It's finally true...

It's finally happened.

The joke that some female comedian (I want to say "Erma Bombeck," but then again, I always want to say "Erma Bombeck." Must be some kind of mental tic. There's probably a medication for that.) uttered about dieting has come true. That one day they'll find out that chocolate is good for you and lettuce is bad.

Now the Food Police is saying that this is so. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants which are good for your heart and keep you feeling and looking young. And according to "First" magazine (and the FDA), 93% of lettuce in America is contaminated with perchlorate, a chemical found in jet fuel and car batteries. Perchlorate has leached from the soil into our ground water, in 43 states. Also effected are cucumbers, citrus fruits and tomatoes (like tomatoes haven't had enough bad press lately). And don't think you can sit back all smug (like I so often do...) with your organic produce - this nasty doesn't discriminate.

Nor does it sit back there with question marks around it as to its potential damage like so many other toxic chemicals in our bodily stew. This one has already been shown to screw with your thyroid gland. Dr. Richard L. Shames, author of Thyroid Power, says that exposure to this chemical can make your thyroid sluggish, leading to fatigue, depression, and weight gain in one of three women.

Finally, finally, you can say "it's my thyroid" and have it be a legitimate excuse for those love handles!

But seriously, folks. Poison like this has been around for years. WHEN are the powers that be going to wise up and DO something about this. A scary fact I found out when I was researching my last article was that even though DDT has been banned for the last thirty years or so, children are still testing positive for this deadly pesticide! It's speculated that the chemical is still in the soil and ground water, so we're still consuming it.

Holy crap. It's enough to make you crazy. But is getting all stressed about it actually worse than consuming a heaping bowl of salad? (like I do just about every day?)

I'm willing to bet you that someone, somewhere has gotten funding to do a study about that.

Meanwhile, I gotta go find someone to write to...right after I finish my lunch.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Stuck On You

Today I went for my annual physical. Based on a previous blood test, my doctor wanted me to up my Vitamin D supplements. He told me the amount he wanted me to take every day, and I asked him to write it down so I wouldn't forget (don't trust that memory anymore!). He scribbled it on a sticky note and I put it on the chair next to me in his office, with my things (actually, atop the overshirt I was wearing when I came in).

Then, he wanted me to come into the examination room, but he has a thing about people wearing their shoes in there so he asked me to remove them first.

We finished, and I left, and by the time I arrived at the health food store to buy a larger-dosed Vitamin D, the note had vanished. Couldn't find the damned thing anywhere. His office, by this time, was closed, so I searched my memory for the amount he'd said. 3000 a day? 4000? Oh, whatever, I thought, and just went inside.

As I approached the door to the little mall that housed the not-so-little-anymore health food store, a woman walking behind me got my attention. "Excuse me," she said. "But there's something stuck to your rear end."

You can probably guess what it was. Yep. The doctor's sticky note.

"I just didn't want you to go around looking like that," she said.

I thanked her profusely. She said, "I hope you weren't wearing that for too long."

Only for three previous errands, I thought to myself.

Great. I'd been trolling all over town with a sticky note stuck to my ass.

I'm glad I ran into her. It made me wonder how many other people would bring something like this to someone's attention, or just let them walk around looking like a schmuck.

A question for my dwindling readership: Would you tell someone if they had something stuck to them? Something sticking out of them? Or let them traipse around looking stupid and laugh behind their back?

Monday, June 02, 2008

RFG Book Review

I just finished reading a tiny unsung gem of a book (actually, not that tiny...) by Margaret Atwood that I found remaindered (gasp!) at B&N. I think the title had something to do with it, as it's a bit obscure-sounding: Oryx and Crake.

Atwood has gone back to her "Handmaid's Tale" style of futuristic allegory with this one. Only the apocolyptic vision of O & C comes after a good chunk of the world drowns due to global warming (pardon me, climate change). Getting too far into it would give away the story, but the artistry with which she winds plot and character is masterful. We open to a mysterious loner who calls himself "Snowman." This malcreant lives in a tree to protect himself from the blazing noonday sun, and is regularly tormented by a group of inquisitive children.

Then, going back and forth in time, Atwood lays out the story, told through Snowman's hunger-fuzzy vision, of he and his childhood friend, Crake, and the girl who came between them. The boys grew up with every privilege in a special secure compound. Their parents were preternatural geniuses who worked in this compound's lab creating various gene-spliced "upgrades" to improve the human condition in this challenged new world. The boys, after college, take over the family business, so to speak, but with quite different results. Which, ultimately, leave Snowman up a tree with a lot of 'splaining to do to this band of children.

I was willing to overlook a few minor plot flaws to go along on the ride through this brave new world. I probably even would have paid full price for it.