Monday, November 30, 2015

Your Couch is Literally More Likely to Kill You Than a Terrorist: Fear and Its Profiteers

In this short but fascinating article in The Washington Post, Andrew Shaver breaks down the statistical chasm between our most catastrophic fears and reality.

Shaver observes that since 9/11, Americans were no more likely to be killed by terrorists than by unstable furniture, and that many more Americans die from diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and traffic accidents than from terrorism. 

He notes that our perceived difference in personal control may account for the gap: We are courting death every time we drive to the supermarket, but yet we fear ISIS and airplanes, because we feel like we're in control of one situation and not the other.

I think there's also something else going on that Shaver doesn't go into here: Fear and its profitability. This is by no means an original idea, but it bears repeating.

It's no secret that the more afraid people are, the more easily they can be manipulated into buying and doing things they wouldn't otherwise buy and/or do. Those who profit from that irrational fear--like politicians and mass media--know this, and they're financially incentivized to perpetuate it.

Take the recent mass shooting/terrorist attack at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado. 

The attack was committed by a white, American domestic terrorist (like nearly every other such attack in recent years). The attacker cited the "baby parts" myth as his motivation for the attack--the urban legend, perpetuated by professional fear-mongers--that Planned Parenthood "sells baby parts."

This myth was quite literally created, repeated, and endorsed by people who are trying to become President of the United States and their financial supporters, using fear to curry votes and money.

Then John Q. Wingnut is out there listening to this, and he thinks it's real, and he shoots up a reproductive health care facility, murdering a bunch of people trying to get birth control and breast exams.

In the end, people who traffic in fear and peddle irrationality get more than votes, status, and money for their efforts. They get murder, and there's blood on their hands. 

Because it turns out that the fear-industrial complex does more than play upon our statistically improbable fears. It literally creates the very violence it claims to be condemning and warning people about. 

And if that's not terrorism, I don't know what is.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It Might Surprise You to Learn That Sand Crabs in Your Crotch Are an Unpleasant Surprise

I found that out the hard way, as my aunt reminded me at Thanksgiving this year.

"Now THAT would make a good blog post!" she announced, reminiscing about the time we went on a family vacation to North Carolina's Outer Banks one August many years ago. 

My mom, aunt, cousin, dad, and cousin's girlfriend all looked up at once from our adult coloring books; the ones that my psychiatrist mother had informally prescribed to my entire family as a more structured take on the traditional activity of sitting around the living room, and that had commanded our undivided attention for the better part of three days.

"Oh My GOD. The crabs!" I shrieked. For we all remembered it well. Too well.

We had rented a beach house in Duck, North Carolina for the week. Determined to make the most of our time there, we set down our bags the moment we arrived, donned our bathing suits, and ran out enthusiastically to greet the warm sand and surf.

We played and frolicked for hours, splashing in the water and sitting on the wet sand at the edge of the ocean, letting the waves break over our sun-starved legs.

It wasn't until later, in the shower, when we peeled ourselves out of our bathing suits, that we discovered the crabs. 

Now, these weren't the typical crabs that I would expect to see in and around the general vicinity of my crotch. Not that I would expect to see crabs in that vicinity, mind you. Certainly not at that point in my life, anyway. Or really ever, I'm extremely honored and proud to report.

No, what emerged from the handful of sand that had accumulated in the crotches of our bathing suits looked like something that would horrify even the proprietor of a brothel in Hanoi or the Red Light District of Amsterdam.

They looked kind of like this, but less cute and equally prehistoric:

"WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!" we all yelled from several bathrooms throughout the house (or some version of the same sentiment). 

It appeared that while we had been obliviously sitting in the sand, the pleasant waves had flushed a small community of sand crabs into the crotches of our bathing suits, and the ill-fated invertebrates were now scurrying around a bathtub, as confused and unhappy as we were.

I don't need to tell you that this was an unpleasant surprise, and it marked the first and last time we sat down in the sand at water's edge in Duck, North Carolina.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Muslim Refugee Terrorists Are Super Sneaky and Diabolical the Way They Keep Dressing Up Like White Rednecks from 'Murica All the Time

I think Donald Trump was right when he said that thing about ISIS using Syrian refugees to Trojan Horse in a bunch of terries, because that is so obviously what is happening in 'Murica right now.

This week's shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado--perpetrated by yet another white redneck with an AK-47--proves in no uncertain terms that ISIS and its Islamic caliphate have figured out the most diabolical disguise ever for their terrie activities: dressing up like crazy redneck white supremacist wingnuts!

It started back in the day with Tim McVeigh. Then Eric Harris and Dykan Klebold at Columbine. Then there was the Aurora movie theater guy. Then that dude in Arizona who shot Gabrielle Giffords in the head. And the other kid who shot up an elementary school in Connecticut. Also the Charleston church. Then more recently it was the student at the community college in Oregon and a bunch of other mass shootings and public massacres all clearly perpetrated by ISIS-led refugee terrorists dressed up like regular old 'Muricans.

These evil bastards have perfected the art of subterfuge by blending seamlessly into 'Murican society: the bowl haircut; the vacant stare; the pasty complexion; the improper English spoken with a flawless 'Murican accent. These guys have it DOWN.

Make no mistake: there is nothing more dangerous than a Syrian refugee ISIS Muslim terrie who knows how to pretend to be a regular 'Murican terrie. Like all of the people named above so obviously were.

I mean, we need to close our borders now and start doing a religious inquisition before shit really starts to get out of hand around here.

I Want My Next Pregnancy To Be Just Like the Movies

When I have a third baby--which God willing will be NEVER--I want it to be just like the movies. 

I want to present my pregnancy test in a little wrapped box to my 6"3, 170 lb husband with a full head of shaggy brown hair, and watch as he opens it, the joy slowly registering on his face as he leaps to embrace me. None of this sitting on the toilet, staring at a stick in disbelief, asking myself how this happened, and picturing another wailing infant and a year of punishing, Guantanamo Bay CIA interrogation-torture tactic level sleeplessness. No instantly thinking of this pregnancy as a metaphor for Candy Land, where you draw that Grandma Nut card that sends you all the way back to the beginning of the board right when you're almost at the Candy Castle.

Of course, we will fast forward through that whole first part where I'm puking and want to eat nothing but green olives and chocolate almond milk. Those 14 weeks where people keep staring, wondering if I'm just getting really fat all of a sudden, will go by in a flash.

Because you never see that part.

Nope. I'll skip right to the part where I'm painting a gigantic nursery a soft shade of gender-neutral yellow (since in the movies, no one ever gets that chromosomal test where they know the baby's sex while it's still indistinguishable from a tadpole, because they're a zillion years old and could be carrying Rosemary's Devil Baby and kinda want to know it). No, in the movies they're always SURPRISED! 

I want to stand on a step stool with my hair in a bandanna and have my gorgeous husband come up and embrace me from behind. Then we dissolve into a fit of giggles and begin painting each other's noses with stray brushes.

When the baby finally comes, there will be no scheduled C-section and arranging for child care of my other spawn. No sirree Bob. There will be a dramatic and feminine gasp, as I turn (again to my hottie husband), clutch my abdomen, and say "Honey! I think it's time!" 

And he will rush around frantically gathering our belongings as we head for the hospital.

Then I will fast forward to exactly ten seconds of screaming while I clutch his hand and a nurse's hand, and at second number 9.5, the nurse will hand me a seven month-old infant, someone will announce triumphantly that it's a boy/girl, and place it completely free of blood and gore on my crispy light blue hospital gown as I weep with joy and my husband brushes a tendril of damp hair away from my forehead.

Cut to me sitting up in the hospital bed cradling the aforementioned sleeping seven month-old infant looking like I was never pregnant a day in my life.

Yep. That's what my next pregnancy will be like. Just like the movies.

Open Letter to Random Decorative Dried Bean Parfait Sculpture That I Made for No Apparent Reason

Dear Random Decorative Dried Bean Parfait Sculpture That I Made for No Apparent Reason,

What are you? And where did you come from? More importantly, what possessed me to make you? For make you I did; long, long ago. That much I know.

Beyond that, it's all a blur.

I have a vague memory that the idea for you came from a book about crafts using found objects from your cupboard. Sorry, but that's pretty much all I've got as far as your origins are concerned.

Your top layers have sort of been ruined due to jostling it seems, and your colors have faded; but something made me keep you around all these years. Or more accurately, something made my parents keep you around, since I haven't lived in this apartment for 21 years and surely you're even older than that.

I imagine most people have things like you tucked away or inconspicuously displayed in a forgotten corner somewhere. Things of little sentimental (and even less economic) value, but that are nonetheless compelling.


Maybe because in the end, it's mundane garbage like you that becomes the unexpected and unsung keeper of our memories. Not the big, grand memories, of course--like the graduations, weddings, and sports victories whose commemorative objects feature so proudly and visibly in life.

No, I'm talking more about those objects that reflect the people we were and the things we did in the interstitial spaces between those celebrated punctuation marks in life's narrative. The hideous ashtray that we made at summer camp, or the sticker of a unicorn that we stuck to our bedroom window, its ancient adhesive still clinging to the glass out of habit. The things that don't represent or remind us of anything special, except who we were and what we did on an ordinary day a long time ago.

I guess that's what you are, Random Decorative Dried Bean Parfait Sculpture I Made for No Apparent Reason.

And I guess that's why you're still around.

Friday, November 27, 2015

In Honor of "Black Friday," I Bring You . . . Shopkins

Well, maybe I'm not actually bringing this to you. I'm pretty sure most of you have heard about these. But the thing about living in Alaska, see, is that we always get wind of every trend at least six months after the rest of America, and usually that's a good thing. 

Certainly it's a good thing in the case of "Shopkins," which, as the kids say, are "on fleek." Or at least they are on fleek with little girls ages 7 - 12?

What the fuck are these? That's what I asked my cousin's girlfriend, a first grade teacher in California who is up on this kind of shit. She tried to explain it to me, but I still didn't get it.

They're a TV show? And also a toy? And also a game? But they have no purpose or narrative other than to spend money. Their motto is "once you shop . . . you can't stop." So I had to look them up on the Interwebs' source of all accurate information: Wikipedia.
And according to the omniscient Wikipedia, Shopkins are:
A collectible small doll franchise, designed, and developed by Moose Toys in Melbourne, Australia. Shopkins toys are miniature store item characters available to collect, trade, and share. Each Shopkins character has a name, hobby, hang out, and BFF, intended to create an emotional bond for the collector. Each new series of Shopkins combines 140+ characters with playsets and accessories. Originally released in June 2014, by February 2015 over 65 million Shopkins had been sold worldwide. Co-chief Paul Solomon credits his mother Jacqui Tobias, director of girls’ products, for the idea of Shopkins.

So upon closer inspection, Shopkins are tiny pieces of made-in-China, landfill-bound plastic garbage aggressively marketed to girls. I Google-imaged some of them and the little "store item" characters are shit like banana splits (who buys a banana split?), popcorn, baguettes, waffles, and tiny girl dolls with blue hair and cupcake headbands shopping for strawberries.

Black Friday as a concept is bad enough. But when you add a toy that literally has no other object, narrative, or purpose besides shopping, well that takes things to a whole new level. Whatever, who cares. My daughter can play with these, as long as she remains interested in math and science and becomes a surgeon.

By that time, though, one of the most vaunted medical institutions in the country will probably be renamed "Johns Shopkins."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

22 Things Americans Can Count on This Thanksgiving (If They're Lucky)

1. An argument about how to cook/carve the turkey in which each party claims to be the authority on how to cook/carve the turkey.

2. A gratitude deficiency complex.

3. A fleeting but unsettling discomfort over the colonialist origins of Thanksgiving.

4. Traffic war stories.

5. Someone discussing who might or might not be gay in your family.

6. An arguably demented senior citizen becoming extremely agitated for no apparent reason.

7. Too much something (usually information).

8. Not enough something (usually drugs and alcohol).

9. Heated arguments about Donald Trump and refugees.

10. A faction of people who only care about the football game.

11. A faction of people who could give two shits about football.

12. A faction of people who actively hate football and want to deliver a raft of concussion and domestic violence-related stats on it.

13. White people whitesplaining the Black Lives Matter movement like they know what they're talking about.

14. Troubling regression into childhood dynamics with parents and siblings.

15. Someone who keeps offering and trying to fix things in your house and car.

16. Full-bore retreat into personal devices as coping mechanism.

17. A child having a temper tantrum.

18. A trip to the emergency room.

19. Universal judgment of parenting skills.

20. A long, intergenerational explanation of the Whip and Nae Nae, complete with YouTube tutorials.

21. A bunch of people from your high school supposedly meeting out at a bar in a strip mall off Route 17.

22. An attempted "piecaken."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Open Letter to This Random Egg Sculpture That I Had to Have for No Apparent Reason Whatsoever

Dear Random Egg Sculpture That I Had to Have for No Apparent Reason Whatsoever,

I remember when I first saw you, proudly displayed in the window of the (now long defunct) Regal Pharmacy on Johnson Avenue. 

You were next to a lot of other polymer food sculptures, but none beckoned to me quite like you did. Your clear yellow plastic yolk and half-shells resembled a model of the female reproductive system from health class, and I knew I had to have you. 

There was just one wrinkle: inexplicably, you cost $100.

$100! In 1989! For a random egg sculpture! My mom--usually a complete pushover prone to dropping scratch on total crap at the slightest provocation--drew a firm line in the sand with you. She was determined to test the mettle of my commitment by challenging me to save up all my babysitting money for six months, confident that I would forget all about you in six hours.

Well, we showed them all, didn't we, Random Egg Sculpture That I Had to Have for No Apparent Reason Whatsoever? 

I returned to Regal Pharmacy in six months and triumphantly dropped a Benjamin on you, rightfully earned through several honest nights' "work" watching Full House and Perfect Strangers while the kids did whatever the fuck they wanted babysitting kids in my apartment building, much to the surprise of my mother and the cashier.

Years later, in college, my friends made fun of me because of you. See, you might not know this, but I worked 20 hours a week making omelettes at a shitty on-campus eatery, and the first thing I had to do at the beginning of every shift was crack 200 of your brethren into a giant bucket. 

Those who had the privilege of visiting me at my 12-story post-war apartment building--known by the also-very-regal name of "River House"--claimed that you were a trophy, awarded to me for my deft and renowned omelette-flipping skills.

Still later, shortly after I graduated from college and omelette making, I was walking down the street wearing the same bandanna on my head that I always wore (only semi-successfully) to keep long, black hairs out of people's omelettes, and someone cried, "Hey! Omelette Girl!"

And I thought fondly of you. 

Oh, Random Egg Sculpture That I Had to Have for No Apparent Reason Whatsoever, it's so very good to see you again.


One Hot Mess.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Open Letter to My Cabbage Patch Twins

Dear Cabbage Patch Twins,

I'm sorry to call you that, but I've forgotten your names. The birth certificates you came with have long ago been lost amidst the flotsam and jetsam of my childhood bedroom. You're still pretty cute, even though I see you only once a year. There you are in the same place I left you, the same place you've been sitting since the mid-80's. 

I have to say you sort of give me the creeps. That vacant stare in your wide, painted-on brown eyes. You, the boy, with that one front tooth hanging out over your lower lip. Why are you both looking at me like that? Seriously you could be in The Shining, you're that creepy. I'm half expecting you to apparate in the hallway of my parents' apartment building chanting REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM over and over again.

I remember how much I wanted you. How much I begged for you for my birthday, Hanukkah, Christmas--anything. Then by the time you finally showed up, I was sort of over you. Ironically, this became a theme for me later in life, in some of my romantic relationships. How could I have known then that you would set the Freudian stage of my psyche so profoundly--you, two plastic and cloth fad twin dolls?

I also think I maybe used one of your shoes for an ashtray once.

What are you still doing here? Maybe part of me is saving you for my (non-plastic and cloth) kids. Except my daughter is into Harry Potter and doesn't seem to know you exist; and my son's only three interests are balls (athletic and anatomical); projectiles; and ketchup--in that order. 

So there's not much hope for a renewed interest in you, I'm afraid.

Remember when I used to line you up with the other Cabbage Patch Kids on my bed and teach school, and make you play the recorder, and then whip you with a rag when you failed to toot out Hot Cross Buns in tune? Then I felt bad and let you watch The Breakfast Club with me on VHS. Judd Nelson was totally hot for five minutes. 

Man, those were the days.

I sort of want to throw you down the incinerator chute, because the level of nostalgia you're invoking in me is painful and counterproductive to my overall mental health. But that seems mean. 

So I'll let you live another year.


One Hot Mess

What Does It Say About Me That My Earliest Memory is Shitting in a Pull-Up on Purpose?

But before I get to answering that question, let's talk about the fact that I Google-imaged kids' potties and this is what came up. I don't even think they make this for adults, but clearly they should. Regardless, it's obvious that this iPad Baby Einstein potty is a poor weapon in the battle against too much screen time. I mean, if your child learns to associate even life's basic excretory functions with something marketed by Silicon Valley tech bros, then truly all hope for humanity is lost.

But back to my earliest memory.

I can see it now, like a sepia-toned snapshot from 1979. I'm two years old and I'm standing against the doorframe of my childhood bedroom in the apartment where my parents still live today. I was wearing nothing but a plain white off-brand pull-up. (This was before the time when you couldn't help but make every part of your child's body--including their ass--a walking/crawling billboard for Disney-Pixar).

I had a little red, plastic potty chair and I knew how to use it. But I didn't want to, was the thing. Even at that young age, I knew instinctively that you should always, ALWAYS shit in your pants and let someone else change them if you could get away with it.

That's an instinct I seem to have lost over time, forgetting that the world's most successful people do some metaphorical version of this all their lives. Like probably the very same people who invented this Baby Einstein iPad potty.

And that's why I never got rich on Baby Einstein iPad potties.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Let the SkyMall . . .

Not many people know this, but Adele's hit song "Skyfall" was originally inspired by the inflight magazine SkyMall. That was the original title, in fact. But just when Adele was getting ready to drop her hit track, the inflight version of SkyMall was discontinued. Don't worry though. There are still plenty of SkyMall goods available online, right in time for Black Friday. Check out these unique items and gift ideas!

What's a snowstorm without a statue of the abominable snowman? Snowmen are SOOO last winter. Show your neighbors you're serious about snow with this life-sized Yeti!

Do you have shrubs? Of course you do. And you know what? They're probably freezing as we speak and shouldn't go without a jacket! Keep your shrubs cozy and warm in chilly weather with these stylish vinyl shrub jackets. Available in two colors: moss and grass.

This adorable trio of ceramic dragon hatchlings is ideal decor for your desk if you smell like fungus and want your coworkers to know for a fact that you spend all your free time mastrubating to Japanese octopus tentacle porn and playing Call of Duty while eating Dorritos and Mountain Dew for dinner.

We all know that real Christmas trees are a fire hazard and an environmental menace, so just get this giant blowup version of the winter classic for your front yard instead. Bonus: you can repurpose it into a bouncy house for birthday parties in the off-season!

Buy this bike tire with pedals. Because tire with pedals? That is all.

Don't you just hate going to a wine tasting and having to carry your glass around? Well, SkyMall just solved this classic dilemma with this set of six silicone wine glasses that you can just fold into your pocket like this bourgeois cowgirl here. Make sure they're empty first!

Be the envy of your whole neighborhood by dressing your doorway up like a Christmas present, and don't let anyone tell you it's tacky. They're just being Bah Humbugs!

If you purchase two of these travel pillows we'll throw in this recently divorced father of two and real estate broker to the stars. He's going through kind of a hard time. Obvi.

Remember the Yeti you just bought? Time to find him a friend. The abominable snowman needs his southern Sasquatch buddy hiding behind your tree when the snow melts!

Make your patio look like a National Geographic special with this life-sized foam replica of these mysterious wonders of the South Pacific. Your friends and family will think you've become an archaeologist while they weren't looking. Unless of course you already are one. In which case you're probably not going to buy this life-sized foam replica of these mysterious wonders of the South Pacific.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

How to Drive in Winter the O.H.M. Way

Step 1: The Mental Preparation

Survey the conditions of your driveway and shitty 2005 Subaru with 126,000 miles on it, both of which are buried in ice and snow. Make a mental note that each is a white lump only vaguely discernible as the object that it is. Open can of whoop-ass. And by whoop-ass, I mean lemon flavored La Croix sparkling water or better yet a Diet Coke. Chug it in two sips. Suck in air in a very exaggerated way and then crush the can like Rocky Balboa. Belch loudly and throw the can dramatically over your shoulder like they sometimes do in the movies. Then go pick it up and put it in the recycling, thus negating the aforementioned dramatic effect. Crack your knuckles and jump up and down a few times while clapping your hands and repeating "OK. Let's DO this shit!" over and over.

Step 2: The Physical Preparation

Stick key in ignition and whisper to yourself the following incantation under your breath: "come on you piece of shit start start start start start." Scream "THERE WE GO!" victoriously when the engine finally turns over. Blast the heat on as high as it goes as you hunt for the ice scraper. Commence 15 minutes of rigorous scraping, stopping juuuuuust at the point where it's no longer completely irresponsible to operate a vehicle whose windows are this obscured by ice, snow, and grime. Settle into the driver's seat and blast Top 40. Put your hands 10 and 2 on the wheel. Think about how you still haven't changed out your tires, and you have no studs, and there's nothing you can do about it now. Worry briefly that you are--at least in this moment--a horrible stereotype of a female driver.

Step 3: The Execution

Adjust your mirrors and repeat the "Let's DO this shit!" thing from Step 1. Say a Hail Mary even though you're Jewish, and turn all the way around so you're looking out that one tiny hole in the rear windshield from Step 2. Pray there's no oncoming traffic, and slowly let your foot off the brake. Feel the adrenaline begin to course through your veins as you careen down a 45 degree driveway while laying on the horn, just in case someone or something should happen into the path of your car in the three seconds it takes to reverse car-sled into the street. Breathe sigh of relief at the miracle of having successfully navigated driveway. Begin to drive and anticipate inevitable skid at several particular skid-prone, anti-lock brake-defeating areas of commute. As you invariably go into a skid at each of these locations, try to remember that thing you're supposed to do when you go into a skid. Take hands off wheel? Take feet off pedals? Go WITH the skid. Don't FIGHT the skid, you tell yourself like you're fucking channeling Morpehus from The Matrix. Note numerous cars undergoing roadside assistance and silently acknowledge that you're one false move away from joining them. Successfully reach destination with minimal damage to person or property and think about how the next time, you won't be this lucky. Then think about how many "next times" there will be between now and April.

And that's how you drive in winter like One Hot Mess.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Convo That Happens at Least 5 Times Daily

Me: Yeeeeeessss?
Paige: Can I [do an "experiment"/play dress up in your closet/put on face paint/take all the living room furniture outside, etc.?] (all when we have to leave the house in under 20 minutes).
Me: No.
Paige: Pleeeeeaaaaasse??
Me: No.
Paige: Just one little [insert request]?
Me: No, Paige.
Paige: But why?
Me: Because I said so.
Paige: But WHY though?
Me: Because [insert brief explanation of disastrous mess]. And also because we don't have time for that right now.
Paige: But I promise I won't [insert inadequate assurances of avoidance of disastrous mess], and I'll be super faaaast?
Me: I said no, Paige. How many times do I have to say it?
Me: Let me ask you something. Every time you ask me to do something like this in this context, the answer is no. And you won't take no for an answer. So why don't you just stop asking me and just do whatever you want to do?
Paige: But then I'll get in trouble.
Me: Well, that's a chance you'll have to take I suppose. And isn't potentially getting in trouble preferable to having this conversation five times a day? It's called asking forgiveness not permission. You should start practicing it now. It will come in handy later in life, I PROMISE you.
Paige: Moooooomm??
Me: Yeeeeesss?
Paige: Can I please [insert next unreasonable and messy request here]?

20 Movies No Kids Ever "Play"

You know how kids'll be like, Let's play Star Wars! Let's play Ghostbusters! Let's play Frozen! Let's play Harry Potter! And so on. Well, there are just some movies your kids NEVER play. O.H.M. now presents 20 movies no kids ever "play."

1. Terms of Endearment
2. Sophie's Choice
3. Citizen Kane
4. North by Northwest
5. The Shining
6. Silence of the Lambs
7. Ishtar
8. The English Patient
9. Born on the Fourth of July
10. Steel Magnolias
11. A Beautiful Mind
12. American Beauty
13.The Color Purple
14. Seven
15. Saw (I, II, III or IV)
16. Taxi Driver
17. Requiem for a Dream
18. Carlito's Way
19. The Godfather (I, II, or III)
20. Trainspotting

Friday, November 20, 2015

Frankenfish: A Limerick

The Food and Drug Administration
Has created a foul situation
They've given approval
To chromosomal removal
And to fish DNA alteration.

It's like something straight out of Sci-Fi
And Alaskans have never been shy
To say it ain't great
To put Frankenfish on your plate
Instead of organic sockeye.

Well the government says go ahead
Like they did with asbestos and lead
Well that turned out fine
So surely this time
We should not greet this mutant with dread?

And even if Frankie is edible
Its wacked-out genome will be spreadable
To our native wild species
I'd rather eat feces
And I'm suspect the science is credible.

This animal has its own BRAND.
"AquAdvantage" its called (fresh and canned)?
And it need not be labeled
'Fore it gets to your table
The concerns of consumers be damned.

The problems with Frankie ain't mild
I would sooner feed dirt to my child
Than to let them eat salmon
That some company's scammin'
To edge out the fish that run wild.

"Friends don't let friends eat farmed fish."
Every Alaskan knows this.
They'll let rivers run dry
Before they will buy
A salmon from a Petri dish.

Star-Crossed Non-Lovers: A Mini-Tragedy in One Act

“I have something to confess,"  I admitted forlornly. “I'm in 8th grade. I lied before and said I was in 9th. I’m sorry.”

"I don't think it can work,” he--a 10th grader--replied gravely. “We can’t have a relationship built on a foundation of lies. Plus anyway . . . the age difference. It’s too much.”

I looked down at my Keds and fingered my plastic charm bracelet nervously.

We were standing outside on the back deck of my aunt and uncle’s townhouse in suburban Maryland, where I spent the better part of every school vacation. My parents routinely shipped me off there for a week or two to torment my aunt, uncle, and two much-younger cousins. This particular spring break, I’d brought my best friend, and we'd picked up two high school boys on the basketball court/playground behind my family's house. 

I don’t recall where she and her assigned dude were at that moment, but the one who’d paired off with me was a tall, lanky redhead named Sean who favored mesh lacrosse shorts and tank tops.

The 72-hour relationship that was currently deteriorating before my eyes consisted of: (1) flirting on a playground; (2) inviting Sean over to the basement of my aunt and uncle’s house where we dissolved into flirtatious giggles after wrestling on a couch; and (3) letting Sean stick his tongue in my mouth for approximately 15 seconds.

His mother was a reputable realtor in the development where my aunt and uncle resided, and her glossy head-shot beamed from every brochure and lawn sign for miles around. He couldn't risk such a dalliance. Plus, the 8th grade versus 10th grade maturity-gap--and the fact that I'd lied about it!-- was simply too scandalous.

We parted ways, and my aunt greeted the entire affair with undisguised amusement. I tried to enlist her help in reclaiming Sean's affections, but her hands were tied. The best she could do was locate his mother's address and phone number in the development directory, and offer (with a smirk) to drive me to his house. 

Well, I wasn't about to suffer the indignity of chasing him down now. Not like this.

And that, dear readers, was just the beginning of the rest of my life.

Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" Rewritten for Motherhood

I said let's get out of this house
Your attitude is shitty
I think I saw a mouse
I thought heaven can't help me now
This rain goes on forever
Being a mom is gonna take me down
They’ve got balls, they’re whiny as hell
They’re so bad but they do it so well
I can see the end as it begins, my one condition is

Say you'll listen to me
Standing at the front door, staring right at the floor, babe
Zipped lips and smiling cheeks
Don’t talk back to me again even if it's just in your wildest dreams
Wildest dreams

I said "Please do not act like you are two,"
Their hands are in the candy, their clothes are in my room
And that "MOOOOOOOOOOOOM" is a familiar sound, nothing lasts forever
But this is just too much now
They’ve got balls, they’re whiny as hell
They’re so bad but they do it so well
Before we leave, remember to piss
My last request is

Say you'll listen to me
Standing at the front door, staring right at the floor, babe
Zipped lips and smiling cheeks
Don’t talk back to me again even if it's just in your wildest dreams
Wildest dreams

You’re gearing up for a big fight
Tangled up with you all night
We share chromosomes
Some day when you leave me
I bet these memories will cause a syndrome

Say you'll listen to me
Standing at the front door, staring right at the floor, babe
Zipped lips and smiling cheeks
Don’t talk back to me again even if it's just in your wildest dreams
Wildest dreams

Ahhh, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Despicable Oui: The Crassest Thing You've Never Seen

The victims of last week's terrorist attacks in Paris had not even been named before some enterprising capitalists decided to make a quick buck off the tragedy.

New York magazine offers this "Guide to the Web's Grossest Attempts to Cash in on the Paris Attacks," and it's truly a sight to behold. 

Normally I hate New York magazine, because most of its articles are about top 1%-er shit like how to buy your kid's way into Stanford, what to give your hair colorist for Christmas, and who's doing what in the Hamptons.

But I have to give them credit for this one. Just check out some of the items that New York notes were designed to "make a quick buck," the proceeds of which do not go to charity (because that would make it better?):

Or this one:

I think the stainless steel travel mug is my favorite, though my one complaint is that it only seems to come in 15 oz. Because like, 16 oz. is the size of a standard latte. What about the extra ounce? Also the iPad mini cover. Although I have an iPhone 6 and I'm not seeing an option for that? Kinda torn between those two. Or maybe the hoodie? Ugh, help! I can't decide! And did AC/DC sign off on this or what?

New York reports that the companies sponsoring these products have since removed them, presumably because someone clued them in to the fact that they were um ... contemptible and disgusting, maybe?

Now I'm hoping that New York magazine will turn the same critical eye toward the white collar financiers whose "products" triggered a global economic disaster, and who certainly made "a quick buck" off of those. We can argue which is more abhorrent. It's hard to say. One made much more money, but the other has a much more clearly despicable reason for making it.

I'm not holding my breath for a critical think piece from New York on that one. 

Very Seriously, You Will Not Believe That This Isn't From the Onion

It's from the New York Times, and it's a very, VERY serious article about a very, VERY serious subject: the Starwood-Marriott hotel merger. If you haven't heard about this, don't worry. I'm here to drop some science on you. 

The title of the November 18 article is "Starwood Devotees Greet Marriott Merger with Dread and Anger." Basically, a bunch of rich peeps who spend six months out of every year in fancy hotels (and per the comments on the article, want you to pity them for that) have a serious case of the SADS because Starwood Hotels & Resorts, their favorite luxury hotel conglomerate, is marrying the hotel equivalent of a meth whore.

They are "reacting emotionally." With "DREAD." And "ANGER." Over a HOTEL MERGER. 


And you better believe, the wide swath of desperate humanity whose lives are presently being devastated by this unholy corporate union had WORDS for the atrocity. "I'm livid," said one man quoted in the article. He continued: "I dread to think what the merger will do to my platinum-for-life status."

No, you cannot make this shit up. But wait. There's more. Ever so much more.

See, in case you didn't know, every "big hotel chain has a loyalty program." But this one "stands out for the way it pampers its most frequent customers." Pretty much the only thing Starwood Preferred Guests doesn't do is put its elite customers in actual pampers so that they don't have to suffer the indignity and inconvenience of shitting in a toilet all by themselves.

Under the now-endangered loyalty program, frequent guests "are assigned a personal travel ambassador to handle their bookings, cajole hotel managers for upgrades, and arrange customized perks." One such guest noted that he sends his "ambassador a Christmas gift and know[s] about her family, and she knows about [his] wife."

Mmmmm'kaaaaaaay. Would love to hear more background on that sub-plot.

Another imperiled victim of the merger told the reporter wistfully that he "happens to like chocolate-raspberry mousse, and most Starwood hotels know to greet him with that dessert upon check-in."

But "it's not all about the frills." No sir. These mini-Kanye Wests are "worried." Specifically, they are worried "that service will deteriorate as Starwood gets folded into the much larger Marriott network." In other words, the high-end hotels under the Starwood umbrella--like the W and the St. Regis--will now just be like any other old shitty Motel 6 off Interstate-80 in the middle of cow-patty Nebraska. And this, you see, is profoundly worrisome.

A Chicago-based consultant/victim interviewed for the article "comforted himself" by "noting that Marriott at least owns Ritz-Carlton, 'which [he] guess[es] is good,' although [he] contends many Ritz-Carltons are 'resort factories' lacking the distinctive touches of Starwood's top properties." (Incidentally, when I picture this guy "comforting himself," I imagine him alternately jacking off, weeping, and rocking back and forth with his knees clutched to his chest on a bear-skin rug).

The consultant/victim went on to bemoan the deficiencies of the Ritz-Carlton in Grand Cayman, the resort equivalent of the Cheesecake Factory, I guess, because "if you don't put your book down on a beach chair at 8 a.m., you're in the fifth row back from the beach." 

Fortunately, he has an upcoming trip to Dubai, and is looking forward to a planned stay at a Starwood hotel there because it offers "falconry."


I had to look that up. It's "the hunting of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained bird of prey." So what's the pick-up artist equivalent of falconry, I wonder? MILF-ery? What Starwood hotel offers that service? Surely there must be at least one. Perhaps in Monaco. 

Another guest was devastated that his "ambassador" had gone dark soon after the merger. He found himself in a weird "I don't know what's going on phase." I can only assume it was very disorienting-- basically like the top 1% equivalent of being in a refugee tent camp sponsored by UNESCO.

There's a sliver of hope though:  Starwood devotees are seeking safe harbor in the Hyatt loyalty program, which they "guess is sort of the next best thing."

May God have mercy on their souls, and may He help them find the one and only thing in life they seem to be deeply lacking:


One of the victims of the tragic merger, un-ironically (?) doing his best imitation of the photograph behind him. Courtesy NYT.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Winter Comes to Alaska: A Comic

Let's Talk About Real Refugees, Shall We?

A few years ago in Anchorage, I was riding in a cab as I often do on work trips. If I'm not messing around on my iPhone, I'm usually talking to the driver, because they often have interesting stories to tell and I usually learn something new.

This particular day was Election Day. 

The driver was a man, in his mid-thirties maybe. He had the radio on, and the news station was reporting about the election. We got to chatting, and I mentioned I was in town because of work, because of the election. He laughed. "In my country where I come from," he said cheerfully, "We don't even know the meaning of this word, 'election.'" I asked him where he came from. "Somalia," he replied.

When he dropped me off, he got out of the driver's seat to help with my bags. As he handed them to me, I asked him how he liked living in Alaska, how he was adjusting to the cold. He smiled, put his hands in his pockets, and gazed briefly upward. He looked back straight into my eyes. "I love it here," he said simply. 

Maybe I was just seeing what I wanted to see, but in that moment, I felt he was communicating true relief at having left a failed state. One in which he had probably seen and experienced atrocities I couldn't begin to imagine in my comfortable, sheltered universe of free first class airline upgrades and five-dollar lattes.

I didn't catch his name, but I've been thinking about this man a lot over the past few days. And here's what I want to know:

I want to know if even just one of the people calling for America's rejection of refugees (e.g. Donald Trump) knows what it means to be a refugee. Have they ever spoken to or met a refugee? Have they even the slightest inkling of what refugees endure to get here? Do they know how hard they work once they get here? Do they understand what refugees are leaving behind? Do they understand the arduous vetting process refugees undergo to resettle here? Do they recall that America is founded on the principle of open arms to refugees in crisis? Do they know the statistical fact that in the past decade in America, 301,797 people have died from American-perpetrated gun violence compared to 71 deaths from terrorism? And that not a single one of the 750,000 refugees who have settled in America since 9/11 has ever been arrested or charged with domestic terrorism?

No. Of course they don't. Or if they do, they feign ignorance. They just want to get elected, even--or perhaps especially--if it means effectively defecating on the values of the nation they're proposing to lead. 

To paint refugees with the broad-brush label of "terrorists" and turn them into straw bogeymen for political gain is unconscionable. It's disgusting. It's wrong. It's shameful. It's immoral. It's probably illegal. And it's profoundly un-American on every conceivable level. If we don't raise our voices in opposition to these disingenuous maneuvers now, then we don't deserve to call ourselves Americans.

It's easy to call yourself a patriot. That's just a word. But as I wrote yesterday, it's moments like these in history that truly test the meaning and substance of our words. Future generations will not look--and historically have not looked--kindly upon people who turn their backs on refugees in crisis. 

Will we be on the right side of history this time?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wait, Remind Me . . . What's Written on The Statue of Liberty Again?

In the wake of ISIS-led terrorism, the refugee crisis, and politicians yammering on with unconscionable, asinine cruelty about turning away refugee families in need, I think it's worth remembering a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 and inscribed on the pedestal of that gift from France--the Statue of Liberty--in 1903. 

The poem, called The New Colossus, is a tribute to the millions of immigrant families who came to Ellis Island through the port of New York in the late nineteenth century, of which my family was one. Here's what it says:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Although I grew up in New York City, I only visited Ellis Island once: for a sixth grade history project. I stood there in awe like any other tourist; the sheer size and symbolic import of this monument was not lost even on a twelve year-old.

As the New York Times wrote in its editorial today, confusing refugees with terrorists--while "politically expedient"--is "morally unacceptable, and, as a matter of strategy, misguided." The world is confronting its greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II, and we didn't do such a great job saving the Jews from the Nazis back then either, let's recall. Now we have another chance to do the right thing with respect to people fleeing ISIS.

It's a stark affront to this country's values and fundamental principles to indulge bigotry; to refuse safe quarter to people fleeing unfathomable violence and turmoil around the world; to suggest that people should be subjected to religious "tests" as a condition of entry to America. This is the disgraceful response advanced by smug, crowing, self-proclaimed "patriots." And yet, it's quite literally the least patriotic response imaginable. 

Since 9/11, the U.S. has admitted almost 750,000 refugees. Not one--not a SINGLE ONE--has ever been arrested for (much less charged with) domestic terrorismImmigrants are an enormous asset to this country. They always have been, and they always will be. It would be a grave and unforgivable abdication of our democratic ideals--not to mention a breach of fundamental human rights--to turn our backs on Syrian refugees now. 

It remains to be seen whether America will honor the promise of the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, or whether those words will turn out to be as empty as the souls of politicians who would turn their backs on people like this:

 I'm still holding out hope for the former.

A 17 Year-Old Ski Bro Tells You About His Day


It’s like, totally gnar pow in the backcountry right now. Like, seriously epic. It’s like, DUMPING out there. I mean, it's super low vis, but the turns are SICK. Like, seriously. 

I hit first tracks on dawn patrol and I’ve been carving like, EPIC turns all day. So like, I was in the white room on my first run? And then I picked this one line? But I full-on cliffed out, and was all like, BUMMER. 

So my one bro helped get me out of that sketch, and then I was full-on BOMBER down the other side. I had to bail and did like, a full-on yard sale at the bottom. My one other bro is like this totally sick ripper, like he was in the X-Games. Seriously. And anyway, I got him shredding a RIDICULOUS line on my Go-Pro. He totally stomped the landing. 

It was so sick. 

You gonna check out that Warren Miller movie later? Killer. Hey . . . mind if I scrub one of those beers and like, a quick toke off that J?