Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tin Soldiers

I have a post in the works on everyone's favorite topic, religion. It's going to have to wait though, because my thoughts have been diverted for a short while.

Did you ever go into a movie theater, have an amazing dream, and wake up covered in popcorn? That's Avatar.

You can criticize it, sure. You can say there are clichés, or that the plot is old, or that some of it is predictable, but guess what? I DON'T CARE. And neither will you. See it. In 3D.

This film got me to thinking, and I'm not going to tell you what about, because I don't want to spoil it. One thing that happened is that this song started playing in my brain. I thought it should play in your brain too.

If anyone can play this on a guitar, a ukelele, an accordion, or whatever, it's perfectly in my range. Let's jam.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World's Worst Mother Teaches Responsibility

Thanksgiving. I woke up and thought about how my house was going to smell really good soon. But first, preliminary chores. For one thing, the bin we keep in the kitchen to collect recycleable cans, bottles, boxes, etc. was overflowing. I needed to bring it into the garage and empty it out.

Suddenly, I realized I did not have to do this task alone. On the couch were two little helper types, beings we are trying to teach stuff to, like: we all have to pitch in to get chores done! And: okay, you don't have to help me, but I don't have to make breakfast for you either! And: when People are coming over, the house needs to be tidier than usual! Which means help me right now or else!

I'm just kidding. The children were more than willing to put shoes on and accompany me to the garage. I showed them how to sort the cardboard and paper into one blue plastic county-provided bin, and the bottles and cans into another. We all cooperated, and it got done quickly and efficiently.

I knew that I had succeeded in instilling into my older son, Einstein, a sense of obligation, and of the importance of taking part in work as a family, when he said this:

"Mommy, I want to do this every Thanksgiving!"

Your traditions may include watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, baking pies, or impromptu football, but every year at the appointed time, without fail, my son will happily and proudly take out the recycling.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Everybody Steps On Me, That Is Why I'm Cracked, You See

Back here I tried to explain what progressive rock is. I then discovered a much better explanation and I urge you all to check it out, even if you don't really care about the definition, and even if you think progressive rock sucks (actually, especially if you think progressive rock sucks). Amazingly, what you are about to experience is absolutely hilarious, while at the same time completely true (Lolly, get your adverbs here). Watch the videos for the full effect. You won't be sorry. Progressive Rock in Five Minutes

And now: World's Worst Mother Attempts Sarcasm

My son Pumpkin (Now 4!) is a picky eater. When it comes to pasta, it usually has to be in mac and cheese form for him to be happy with it. I was making wagon wheel pasta for Einstein, and Pumpkin pouted and refused to have any. I gave him some milk, and refused to make him his own special meal. The difficulties of parenting need to be taken out on the kids, of course, so I gave my son this gracious attitude: "Well, I'm glad you are having milk for dinner. Hope you enjoy your milk dinner!"

Fortunately, the child was not in any way affected. "Mama, after my milk dinner, can I have candy?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

All Mukkah'ed Up

So you know when you're trying to find something on the Internet, and you end up stumbling onto something unexpected? Well, this happened to me the other day. The surprising thing that I found outraged and infuriated me. It also made me angry. And pissed me off. I've been going back and forth on whether to blog about it, simply because I'm not even sure I can find the words to make you understand why this is bad.

Let's start by reminding you of this. You don't need to read that now. It's long. Here's the summary: a friend asked me why it was that we couldn't celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, and wouldn't that solve the problem of my son's Christmas envy. (I should say "sons'" Christmas envy because, unfortunately, now it is both of them.) The answer is, no way, no Christmas in my house. The post linked above explains all that.

There are two sites I found, and there may be more, that hold themselves out as "Jewish" and "kosher" and sell gifts you might want to give to Jewish people. But what if you have a Jewish friend who is married to a non-Jew, and their family celebrates both Christmas and Chanukah? These sites have the perfect gift solution for you. Clearly this situation puts you into a holiday gift black hole, I mean, what could you possibly give these people at the Big Important Holiday time of year that would make everyone happy? The answer is: a Chrismukkah gift! I cringe as I type that completely stupid blended word, knowing that a search for it might now bring up this blog. At some point I blogged about my son's invented word "disgrossting." The words "gross" and "disgusting" are meant to be combined. Christmas and Chanukah (while often used in the same sentence) are not.

I'll link you to the sites so you can see what I'm talking about. But please don't be taken in. The sites do features some very nice Judaica but I refuse to give them my money and you should too.

Here's one. Here's another. Look at some of the stuff there. You won't believe it.

A search reveals other sites, and of course, a Wikipedia entry, which notes, "um, 12tequilas, Chrismukkah's been around for several years are only just looking it up? Where have you been? Under a rock somewhere maybe?" I love you Wikipedia, but you can bite me. Yes, I am that angry about this.

People who celebrate more than one religion within their families don't mix the holidays up to create one new mashup tradition. I suppose some people might want to do it that way, but they shouldn't. Chanukah is NOT the Jewish Christmas, people. No matter how much you may want it to be. If you want to have a Christmas tree, have one. Don't put dreidls on it. If you want to hang stockings, hang them. Don't make them blue and white and decide they are "Chrismukkah" stockings. If you want to sing Christmas carols, sing them. Don't play a Klezmer carol CD. It's insulting. I have news for you: Chanukah and Christmas do not even coincide this year. There is just no excuse for this.

Look, I get it. Christmas is fun and all that. If you must celebrate it, do so, but don't feel as if you have to take a perfectly good Jewish holiday that has no relation to Christmas, and turn it into Christmas. If you want a dog, get a dog. Don't pretend that your cat is a dog. You cat will not take kindly to that, and you'll end up looking like an idiot.

Monday, October 12, 2009


If you know me well, you know how I feel about cold weather. I'm always cold anyway--I wore a sweater in my office throughout the summer--so I don't particularly look forward to the All Coldness All the Time months. A year or two ago, I found myself making a mental list of the things I actually do like about autumn and winter, so that when I start shivering and my teeth start chattering, I can refer to this list in an attempt to cheer myself up. Happily, it keeps getting longer. I thought I'd share it.

Pumpkins. I like everything about pumpkins. I like their color. I like how there are all different sizes, from the cute little itty bitty ones to giant award-winning insanely heavy ones. I like taking all that gook out from the inside and extracting the seeds and roasting them. I like Jack-o-Lanterns. I like pumpkin-flavored things, from Starbucks's Pumpkin Spice Latte to pumpkin muffins to pumpkin soup. (If desired I will share recipes for Curried Pumpkin Soup and Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars.)

Sweaters. Especially the really soft ones.

My trench coat.

My leather gloves. Also, my velvet gloves.


Scalding hot showers. Yeah, I know, they are supposed to fry the skin and waste energy. Remember how much I hate winter. This helps me get through it. It's like those magic mood lights, which I should probably use too.

Wood fires.

Hot beverages of all kinds: coffee, tea, chai, etc.

Chili and soup.

My fleece robe. Actually, this comes out all year round to combat winter cold, air conditioning cold, and ice-cream-consuming cold. Yes, I put a robe on over my clothes in order to eat ice cream. Nothing should take away from the joy of ice cream, I say.

Walking in new snow.

Skiing. (Okay, I have not skied in years. But I loved it when I did it. And since I went WAY north to do it, I was able to prove to myself that even I can survive extreme cold if adequately prepared.)



Halloween. My son Pumpkin was born on Halloween. And on Halloween night, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch (if it is sufficiently sincere)....

My birthday.

Chanukah. And Christmas, y'know, for the days off.

New Year's Eve.

Not needing to run groceries inside before they perish. In fact, if it's cold enough, you can run your other errands after that one. One year at Thanksgiving, there wasn't room in my refrigerator for the cider that I use to make my famous secret-recipe hot cider. So I just kept it outside. (That won't work every year though. I think it was something like 65 degrees and sunny last Thanksgiving.)

Curling up next to a warm fuzzy dog under a blanket. Or, if I'm lucky, a snuggly child. Or both.

In early February 1987 there was about a foot of snow on the ground at Kennedy airport in New York. At my eventual destination, hours and hours later, it was 85 degrees, sunny, warm. It was not an island in the Carribean. It was Eilat, on the southern tip of Israel. So to conjure up that same feeling of warmth, I give you Israeli proggers Orphaned Land.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Can anyone tell me what this song from way back in '89 is about? It seems a woman named Elisabeth is trying to get a supposedly innocent person out of jail. But, is this based on something that actually happened? Yep, I'm one of those irritating people that always wants to know what the song means. If you ever want to know what any of my songs are really about, I promise to tell you, and not be cryptic or tell you to figure it out for yourself. (That is, unless the song isn't really about anything, and then I might do those annoying things.)

By the way, since I know you are wondering, Nik Kershaw no longer wears his hair in that style. I think he is still that skinny, however. Still mastering the melodies. And he just might still have those boots.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Rock 'n Roll

Blogger's Note: This is is less of an essay, and more of a brain dump. I wanted to get into the whole concept of repentance and what is supposed to happen on these High Holidays as we approach Yom Kippur, but there isn't time. Continued discussion is welcome though.


Prepare to be wowed by the depth and profundity of this:

When you get an itch in the middle of your back, G-d makes it so you can reach back and scratch it.
If you can't do that, G-d gives you a back scratcher to help you reach.
If you can't do that, G-d provides you with a trusted friend to scratch your back for you.
If you don't have that, G-d gives you relief with the notion that the itch will eventually subside.
What's that you say? Didn't G-d give you the itch in the first place?
Shut up.


I, and about eleven or twelve hundred other people, went to a Porcupine Tree show. (I promise this post is not really about Porcupine Tree.) It was Friday night, Sabbath eve, or Erev Shabbat. And this wasn't just any Shabbat, it was Shabbat Shuva, the Sabbath of Return or Sabbath of Penitence, which always falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

For some time, I have lamented letting go of much of my Jewish observance, but it was only recently I started to do anything about it. When it began, it was like a big file drawer was opened in my mind. I was having lots of religious/spiritual memories. Most notably, I could remember Hebrew songs. I remember songs in their entirety that I have not sung in years. I sing them to my kids at night; they love the sound of them even if they don't know what the words mean.

The opening band was King's X, a guitar-rock band that turned out to be a bit of crunchy fun. During their set I was thinking that although I'm not supposed to be here on the Sabbath, G-d is still here, at least in some capacity. So I started saying all the Friday night prayers I could remember. Then I tried to do a bit of teshuvah.

This is the time of year when we are meant to be seeking forgiveness for the wrongs we've done, but there are a number of chances to get it right. In order to improve yourself in the eyes of G-d and possibly transform the severity of whatever G-d has planned for you in the year to come, it is said that you must do teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah; repentance, prayer, and charity or good deeds. So I did what I could there in the midst of screaming guitars and pounding drums. I did feel the presence of G-d.

Recently, I was suffering from an ailment that causes a very uncomfortable symptom. (This is not strictly a female ailment, but I think it is more common in women.) The symptom seemed to continue even after I started the antibiotics, and I worried that maybe I had something more severe. I didn't so much pray, but thought to myself that if this symptom would go away, I could handle any of the usual life crap I typically complain about.

So G-d challenged me. He took the symptom away, but gave me a couple of emotionally challenging situations to deal with instead. The first of these was a bad thing, but one that I had some control and influence over.

Just after Rosh Hashanah, my son Einstein's asthma became exascerbated, and I took him to the emergency room. It turned out he had pneumonia. Of course I would have taken my discomfort over his. But I could comfort him, get him water, tell him how brave he was, advocate for him, make his stuffed animals do goofy things so that he'd laugh, rub his back until he slept. He's better now.

The PT set began. It seemed G-d was still there. I tried to listen and hear everything.

"But after a while
You realize
Time flies
And the best thing that you can do
Is take whatever comes to you...."

The life crap, regular or unusual, can get you down. I am good at pulling myself out of a funk, but lately I feel myself getting pretty low. It has made "proper" teshuvah difficult. But you do what you can. There are methods, and rituals to follow, but it really all comes down to finding a way to have the presence of mind, and the desire.

"Silence is another way/To say the things I want to say." Maybe G-d is hearing me even when I'm not doing it right. Help me do it right, I thought. The next morning I could not get to synagogue, but I said the Sabbath morning prayers, with the Shabbat Shuvah bits added in, in my pajamas.

"Down in my soul you are..."
My left hand held on firmly to my right arm. I may have been in a crowd, but I was keeping myself company. Maybe forgiving myself.

A little teshuvah and a little tefillah in an unlikely place. I have the hand-stamp to prove it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Little Waste of Space

I'd planned on rounding up and riding out the hard news and other randomness from the past few months, in typical noncohesive fashion, and then appending a piece on my thoughts on Rosh Hashanah, which is almost upon us. Unfortunately, I did not have time for the write-read-edit-revise-lather-rinse-repeat process that such a post would require. For now, I send you l'shana tova wishes, and sweetness all around, and please check back for the deeper spiritual stuff. The following starts of kind of serious, but gets lighter and skippier as you go.

June 2: 12tequilas is extremely happy, having had a great appointment (routine) with the gut surgeon yesterday (and those of you with IBD know what I'm talking about). Her good mood was only slightly diminished when opening the paper and finding out that a 14-year-old boy in the neighboring county was killed as a result of unprovoked gang violence perpetrated by kids the same age.

Does this happen to you? When I was getting ready to go out with friends to celebrate turning 21, a friend called to tell me that the U.S. had just dropped some big ol' bombs on Baghdad. Good thing the restaurant in which I was ceremonially carded had big screen TVs, so we could all hear what George Bush Sr. had to say about commencing Operation Desert Storm on my birthday. I just did not want to know about it right then.

More recently, I was happy about accomplishing something and was kind of floating and smiley about it. In fact, a person I greatly respect called me "intrepid," which is a descriptor I'd never before enjoyed. Then I was informed that some asshole was shooting people at the Holocaust Museum. The first thought that popped into my head was "I don't want to know about this right now." I may have said it out loud. And then I burst into tears at my desk, because I felt terrible for having that thought.

June 15: A letter to advice columnist Amy Dickinson complained about the appropriateness of housewarming gifts after telling guests she wasn't expecting gifts. "I don't want to complain," she writes, "but I don't think liquor is an appropriate housewarming gift. I think it's a husband-warming gift, and the wife is left out in the cold!" Um, did I miss some rule that only women drink? If so, I'm in trouble.

This woman and her husband were trying to replace all their old and worn out stuff after they bought a new house. So they thought they'd have a housewarming party and ended up with booze. Although wine might be a slightly better choice, I thought it was funny that she made a general statement to the effect that a gift of liquor is only for the husband. (It also depends on the kind of liquor, have you ever tried Godiva? It's like dessert, really.)

July 8: 12tequilas here with the hard news. I had something quite hard really about how they're going to close a bunch of I-95 rest stops in Virginia, the learning of which made me really have to pee all of a sudden, but then I came upon a debate about ice cream, which taught me that there are some people who place cones above ice cream in importance, and others that don't like ice cream at all (-gasp!-).

A close relative commented thusly: "Here is my $2 (2 cents raised for inflation). My local ice cream shop, (which I will now shamelessly advertise, I should get paid for this) Bruster's makes their own waffle cones and their own ice cream. A single scoop in a waffle cone is huge compared to a single scoop in anything including the waffle bowl. The waffle bowl is, is by the way, very good dipped in chocolate. Make sure that when you get said cone you also get the plastic "cone"-shaped holder. If your cone is flawed, ask for a bowl. If you do not, you will drop ice cream on your lap and then have sticky, yet yummy, mess to clean up. (And your clothing will be stained beyond repair, especially if said ice cream is of the chocolate variety)."

She also asked: "if the government closes rest stops on 95, where are people supposed to pee? Men have it easier than us women. I think the person who wants to close the rest stops is probably a man and doesn't care about where the women pee!"

I explained that apparently the rest stops were built before there were all those McDonald'ses. Supposedly the distance between McDonald'ses is not very long. If you've ever been to a Virginia rest stop, however, you'll know it ain't the same. Close Relative recommended WaWa. Their bathrooms are "OK," she said. "Plus you can make your own milkshake or smoothie there. Not in the bathroom though."

I'd like to share this column from July 13. In it, John Kelly gripes about having to change his password all the time, but shares some interesting tips for repeatedly coming up with passwords you'll remember.

July 22: 12tequilas here with the hard (and crunchy) news. A class action lawsuit has been filed against PepsiCo, parent of Quaker, maker of Cap'n Crunch cereal and its spinoff, Crunch Berries. The suit accuses the defendant of All Sorts of Torts, stemming from the main wrong of deceiving customers into believing that Crunch Berries contains fruit. (Update: the case was dismissed. Try to contain your shock.)

July 30: 12tequilas here with the hard news. President Obama drinks Bud Light. Really, what more do you need to know?

On August 6, 12tequilas broke a rule. The rule is: never buy candy corn when it is not Halloween. Most of her FB friends aren't big fans of candy corn apparently, and Close Relative was actually concerned by this news. However, on August 11, 12tequilas looked at the package again and saw that the fourth ingredient is "honey." She instantly realized that candy corn is healthy. Just like ice cream your child doesn't finish has no calories.

More recently, 12tequilas visited Bed, Bath & Beyond (remembering Peter Griffin's advice to "stay away from that 'Beyond' section"), and noticed that they carried a Candy Corn Party Tray with all different colors and flavors! Even better, they have THIS. Shot glasses, made out of ice. She could probably die happy now.

August 19: 12tequilas likes it when awesome people admit to weakness. From today's WP: "'There are many times where even I, at certain points in the evening, after a few drinks, can't pronounce my own surname.' -- Ukrainian actress Milla Jovovich, 33, to Britain's Daily Express."

Last, my personal favorite--August 26: 12tequilas here with the hard and righteous news. It was reported on an in-depth radio news program this morning that Mel Gibson's estranged wife Robyn got some good stuff in the split, including the property containing Gibson's "breakaway" church (he had to create his own because no church is Catholic enough). Rumor has it that Robyn is thinking of razing the chapel to build some guest homes. But more importantly, the radio people were all wondering how Gibson could claim to be beyond the most Catholic of all Catholics, and then get his mistress pregnant and divorce his wife. They agreed that the Jews must be blamed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

King of the Ladies

(Or: World's Worst Mother Update)

It's a bit difficult to grocery-shop with kids. Despite that, if I shop by myself, I find that I miss them. So I instituted some rules to try and make the process easier. I ask the boys to recite the rules each time we walk into the store ... where they proceed to break each and every one of them. But I figure one day they'll stick.

"What are the rules of the grocery store?" I ask. "Don't run away from Mommy!" Einstein will say. "Don't grab things off the shelves!" Pumpkin will say. "No one pushes the cart but Mommy!" "No yelling!" Sometimes they make up their own. "Don't talk to strangers unless Mommy says it's okay!" That one's not specific to the store, but it's a good one anyway.

A few weeks back they kids learned a new rule before we even went into the store. That rule is: avoid confrontation.

The parking lot for this supermarket has your usual layout--rows of spaces you can zig-zag up and down. There are also spaces along the back of the lot, facing out toward the street. On this particular day I turned down the car down one parking aisle and decided it was simpler to just head straight to the back. I did that, but as I was putting the car in park I noticed a car moving slowly behind ours, perpendicular. It had come around the perimeter as I was headed down the middle, and in a flash I realized that I may have gone right for the space without looking to the sides as I crossed over the perimeter access, and nearly ran into the crossing car.

In my rear view I could see the car behind ours inching forward. The man driving it was looking in my direction, and although he was wearing dark sunglasses, I could sense the accusatory stare behind them, and I could tell he wanted to impart his unhappiness. I waited. The kids asked why I wasn't getting out of the car. "Okay..." I said, to my windshield. "Just keep going..." The kids were confused, of course. I explained that the driver was mad at me and that I really did not want to talk to him. To them this seemed completely appropriate. Eventually the driver moved on, and parked at the other side of the lot. I whipped the kids out of the car as quickly as I could, just in case he came back to yell at me.

Moral: If you almost cause an accident, play dumb, and use your kids as a buffer whenever possible.


Holding hands and skipping is a great workout for the shins. It will also improve your mood, guaranteed.


There is nothing like ascending an escalator toward a little boy standing there with his arms stretched out in front of him, waiting patiently for you to reach the top.


Pumpkin made a crown at school, and he was planning to sleep with it on his head. "So I can be king while I sleep," he explained. But then he changed his mind, took it off and handed it to me. I put it on my head. Pumpkin looked at me for a moment and then declared, "You're King of the Ladies!"


And a WWM bonus:

"Mama!" from somewhere else in the house.

"WHAT?!?!?!" said in an annoyed and exasperated tone, conveying how tired I am of being called for the 900th time while I'm trying to make dinner.

"I love you."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yesterday Upon the Stair I Met a Man Who Wasn't There

(He wasn't there again today.
I wish that man would go away.)

I thought this ad was enormously funny and had to share it with you. Not sure what that says about me, but...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Soothing the Savage

I am going to defocus this blog even more now, by spinning a post off of the comments in the last post, which had very little to do with that post itself, but in any case got me thinking. Probably no one was paying attention, but there was a little debate about music, and eventually, we took it outside, so to speak. But now I feel like I have to backpedal, and get off my high horse, and some other clichés. I had suggested that anyone who listened to Porcupine Tree would be certain to love it, and of course that is just not true.

Porcupine Tree is a progressive rock band--or, as it is more commonly known among fans, a "prog" band. Prog is tough to define, and, as always happens when people are passionate about something, there is much disagreement over the definition. There are also a number of subgenres of prog to further confuse things (progmetal! neoprog! goth prog! classic prog!), but generally prog rock is characterized by experimentation, ununsual time signatures, sometimes unusual instruments or unusual ways of playing standard instruments, departure from pop and rock formulas, and songs of epic length (think old Genesis). Prog is an underground thing--dare I say it, a cult thing. It takes very little time for the 1,000-seat theatre at Lehigh University to sell out for the North East Art Rock festival (NEARfest) which took place last month. Many are willing to spend quite a bit for a Patron ticket to ensure their spot for NEARfest, because these people are serious.

But if you ask the person to the left of you and the person to the right of you, chances are neither one of them has heard of prog. That's because not only is prog sort of an acquired taste, you have to want to acquire it. Every once in a while a new person gets introduced and they realize that they've been missing something all their lives. But this is rare. So I was being unfair to expect that this would miraculously occur for all or even a few of my wonderful readers.

(Lest you think that you've never heard of a single prog band, there are a number of them that have made it to the mainstream that might be familiar to you. Examples are Pink Floyd, Rush, and Yes.)

I'm still a little surprised that anyone wouldn't like "Lazarus," the song that was the subject of the last post, being such an emotive and lovely song and all. But I know, we all like different things. My children think the live-action Scooby-Doo films are just as great as the animated material, which I couldn't disagree with more. A family member once described The Simpsons as "stupid," and a part of me died. I guess I just have to get over it...

Although I am a prog fan, I'm not a nutty exclusively prog listener. That should be obvious if you've been following along. To show you that I'm not just about the esoteric, I'm going to link to something that is almost on the other end of the musical spectrum from Porcupine Tree. Check out the Web site for Grey Eye Glances. This is a folkish pop band. What I love about the site is they have a page with actual entire songs, not just clips, to listen to. Or you can go to the sampler page, which has a few of these songs chosen to be introductory. It so happens that two of the members of Grey Eye Glances also play in the prog band echolyn, but obviously they couldn't live by marble rye alone. Some of the songs are just plain fun, some are a bit haunting, I love the musicianship and harmonies, and I can sort of sound almost as good as their singer if I really try. In other words, GEG is singable. Let me know what you think.

Let's swing back again for a sec. Spock's Beard is a prog band, generally thought of by the oxymoron "mainstream prog." Those who judge books by their covers will certainly have things to say about this band's name. But if they sound good, who cares?

For something different, again, I'm repeating the plug for Chris Cornell's album "Scream." I may have turned some people away from it by posting the "Part of Me" video in an earlier entry. It's not the best song in the bunch, and the video is useless unless you happen to think Chris Cornell is sexy (ahem). But the album is really funkin' groovy. It's cheer-up music at its best: the perfect mix of angry and fun. No further YouTubing here; I'll leave that one up to you.

Back on this post I said I might post some more of the short films from Alphaville's Songlines collection. This one is actually more like a music video, in that it feels as if there's no true ending to the story, but again, no band members, just real live ACTORS. I love turning this song up in the car just for the explosive riff that starts it off--a devastatingly beautiful piece of noise that unfortunately gets cut off in the vid--and my son Pumpkin now makes requests for "the LOUD song." Fortunately, I never get sick of it.

I could go on and on, flitting about the musical omniverse, making you start looking around for my mute button. I haven't even touched kids'-music-that's-good-for-adults, timeless classic rock, the 80s music you won't admit you liked, etc. I'm currently creating a sort of ultimate playlist that spans my life and includes all the songs that ever had any significance to me. I promise not to post it (unless you ask, of course). But, I have more tales to tell of the world's worst mother, so watch this space.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

World's Worst Mother: Happiness is a Sad Song

This post is dedicated to my friend Marty, who passed away May 21 from a serious illness. He was my age-ish (young!). We shared a deep love and respect for the awe-inspiring talents of Porcupine Tree and its alchemist, Steven Wilson.

(This post is referenced at the Love Thursday feature of

When my three (and a half!)-year-old, Pumpkin, gets picked up from a hard day at preschool, he can be a bit tired. Of course this fatigue tends to manifest itself as whining, or crying over nothing. If he's whining, crying, or otherwise kvetching and there's no pain or threat to him, I've been known to react to such conduct by ... laughing at him.

I picked the kids up yesterday, and as I was buckling them into their car seats, my six-year-old, Einstein, asked for macaroni for dinner. Pumpkin had already begun whining about something so I thought I'd egg him on. "I was thinking of making you a big bowl of mud. With worms! Yummmm!" Pumpkin, who was most certainly not in a joking mood, responded with an emphatic "NOOO!"

"Oooo ... and maybe some beetles!" I said, smacking my lips. "They crunch when you eat them, yum, yum!"

"Nooooooo!" responded Pumpkin.

Behind me in the car, Einstein made this a conspiracy against the scowling tot. "How about some tasty grasshoppers?" he suggested.

"NOOOOOOO!!!" The tears were starting.

At this point, the CD in the stereo started playing Porcupine Tree's "Lazarus,"1 and if you play the video below you'll get the idea of the atmosphere created thereby. I heard Pumpkin say "Mama, this is a sad song." He's a sensitive kid and minor keys are something else that can make him cry. (It is, in fact, a sad song, but a lovely one, in contrast to PT's heavy full-rock-out material and their spacey stuff.)

Einstein was touched by the song's mood as well. After 30 seconds or so of driving, during which Pumpkin seemed to completely calm down, I heard Einstein say, "Mommy, look, I'm holding [Pumpkin]'s hand."

I looked.

He was.

I'll never forget it.

1 I realize that Lazarus was a New Testament character, but I'm in denial about this, just like I have always denied that C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia are about Jesus. When my mother called them "Christological" I decided that she meant "Crystal-logical." Why not?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hard News Roundup

Sorry this has taken so long. There was a delay while arrangements were being made for various things. This blog is in the process of obtaining a private plane, particularly to transport all of its loyal readers to the vacation home. I'll leave it as a surprise where that's going to be.

Fortunately, many of these news items never get old. For example, did you know that Urban Decay (slogan: "beauty with an edge") makes a lovely product called "Pocket Rocket Lip Gloss"? I'll tell you what that is, and when you don't believe me you'll click over there and see for yourself. Remember those pens that featured ladies whose clothes would disappear when you turned the pen upside down? That's the idea behind Pocket Rocket, only, as you probably guessed, it's guys stripping down. But there's more! "Need to lure a real man? Give the tube a rub to release pheromones into the air! Undetectable to the smell, pheromones enhance mood and sexual attraction." I am not making this up. The tube is flat, so it slides easily into a pocket. Oh, and there's lip gloss in it. That tastes like crème brûlée. You're supposed to pick based on what kind of guy you lust over, so if you're looking for a family man, pick "Julio," because Julio is holding a little baby girl, and when you undress him down to his boxers, the child is in a diaper, too. I am really not making this up.

So, most of us have been on job interviews, and they vary in how difficult their questions are. The worst interview I ever had to endure was for a judicial clerkship, in which the judge asked me what I did besides what was on my résumé. At that point in my life, pretty much EVERYTHING I'd done that had any value at all was on my résumé. So I got all tongue-tied. (Um, uh, please give me the job ... except not, because you seem scary ....) In any event, we at least know that we won't be asked questions about our sex life! Right? Click here and check out John Kelly's column, in which he describes a recent interview in which the job-seeker was asked whether he might take part in an orgy.

On April 27, I posted the Hard News summer fashion preview. July-like warmth, sans humidity, in the D.C. area brought out the shorts that weekend. It appears that short shorts are in this year, which is all right, I guess. But I also observed shorts with ... wait for it ... boots. Yeah. People, I love boots. In the fall and winter. They don't go with shorts. Especially the fur-trimmed and sheepskin-lined ones. Also, I saw one person wearing shorts with knee socks. I looked carefully and fearfully for more of these, and thankfully found none. But since then I have seen both of these combinations again. Gah.

George Clooney, who is a fellow expert on intellectual property law, contributed this item: The family of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. wants the MLK National Memorial Foundation $800,000. The foundation is building, um, well, a memorial to MLK, and will be using, um, well, his likeness, and, um, y'know, some of his words, so the fam wants to be recompensed. It's so dumb, me can't really talk good about it. George, is there a follow-up to this?

Back on April 9, alert reader Liev Schreiber sent this gem which I'm just going to quote.

On Tuesday, State Rep. Betty Brown (R) caused a firestorm during House testimony on voter identification legislation when she said that Asian-Americans should change their names because they’re too hard to pronounce:

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

On April 23 I wondered what kind of soulless person would create a Baby Shaker iPhone app, and what kind of soulless company (hello, Apple) would allow said app to be sold, and what kind of soulless people would purchase and use said app. In case you're not aware, it's okay to put a crying baby in a safe place and walk away for a while. It is NEVER NEVER NEVER okay to shake a baby. ONE shake can cause brain damage and death.

And speaking of babies, on April 13, a hard news flash: people are stupid. Amy Dickinson's advice column in the Post's Style section that day contained this letter: "Dear Amy: Like other readers of your column, I also have a problem attending showers for babies of unwed mothers. I simply send a gift and don't attend the shower. A baby born out of wedlock is not something to celebrate, and I'm not going to be pressured into going. Signed: Having My Say."

Amy's answer was great: "I believe every child born is 'something to celebrate,' but because of your particular point of view, you are wise to stay home." In other words, you're a freakin' idiot and you don't get cake. P.S. Can we please stop using that awful word "wedlock"? What the heck is "wedlock"?

And speaking of babies, on May 14, once again, I observed that, except for all of the SMRT people reading this right now, people are stupid. Exhibit A: Amy's column that day featured reader responses to a request for advice on what to say to people when they ask you when you are going to have kids, when, in fact, you don't intend to. My favorite (read: the stupidest) response was from "Disgusted," who said, "'No Babies' should more honestly rationalize her decision by just admitting 'I'm selfish, and I don't want to interrupt my lifestyle,' or 'I dislike children; they are so untidy,' or 'I'm afraid I'd make a child turn out as miserably neurotic as myself.'"

I truly liked this one, though: "A better answer for a childless couple might be to just pick any date far in the future and when busybodies ask, 'When are you planning to start having children?' you could say, 'Nov. 11, 2022.'" But George Clooney said that he would suggest a "smart-ass, scary response -- something like, 'I wish I could. I really do. But remaining childless is a condition of my parole.'" Love it.

On April 8, I passed on this quote from David Axelrod: "Why didn't the waters part, the sun shine and all ills of the world disappear because President Obama came to Europe this week?... That wasn't our expectation." It...wasn't? Why not, Dave?

On April 7, I noted that sixteen billion jellybeans would be eaten by people around that sugary bunny holiday, while some of us happily ate matzah instead. But more importantly, the U of M wanted to show a porn flick at the Hoff Theater (and to serve jellybeans therewith, perhaps). But Maryland Senator Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) didn't like that idea much, and threatened to withhold the university's construction funding if it happened. So, like good college students, they devised a workaround. Instead of showing the whole movie in the theater, they showed parts of the movie in a lecture hall, and made it all educational-like by having people speak on issues like free speech. Opposite this article, a columnist criticizes the U's president for having "caved" by cancelling the film as soon as "conservatives in Annapolis saw a dandy weapon to wield against those libertines of academia." Also, a letter to the editor asks "[h]ow many of these holier-than-thou politicians have accepted campaign contributions from telecom and cable companies that derive a significant percentage of their revenue from pay-per-view porn? Will our conservative Republican, family values heroes be returning these contributions?"

On April 8, there was more Maryland news. The university's senate was trying to get the powers that be to remove the invocation from commencement ceremonies. I personally love this because I actually succeeded in having direct mentions of Jesus removed from the prayers said during my law school graduation at Catholic U. (I'm sure Jesus returned in subsequent ceremonies.) The Maryland students' reasoning is the same as mine was: "many people ... 'felt excluded or marginalized.'" The U of M prayer has not been removed.

The next post might be about Government for Dummies. It also might be about trying to control our children's bad language. As a preview to that, you may want to hear a song from Chris Cornell's lastest record (a departure from his earlier work, but really good, despite what the critics have said). Embedding is not allowed so you have to click to YouTube. You need to ignore the video itself; it's not great, concentrate on Cornell himself (for the ladies), the scantily clad females (for the guys), and the song. You can totally play this for your kids; mine call it "The Fish Song." You might want to tell them it's the Fish Song before you play it very loud for them in front of your friends. Trust me.

Monday, April 20, 2009


As I'm sure you've noticed, the remedial politics lessons have not yet begun, I owe you a hard news roundup before it becomes old news, and the last post was not related to any of that (except the Star Trek content alone made it worthwhile; I dare you to disagree). I've decided to get back on track by seeking your answers to a hypothetical question. This is not a test; there will be no grades in this class. But first, please feast your eyes on ATG's latest acquisition:

This is the interior of the 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster convertible. It's not available yet, but we have it here. The Porsche is lovely, of course, but sometimes one needs a little variety, and the weather's becoming convertible-worthy. Besides, we might need to take a few field trips.

Now for your hypothetical. Suppose you wake up tomorrow morning and find that you are no longer you. Instead, you are the president of the United States, Barack Obama. Please tell me: what is the very first thing you would put on your agenda for the day, and why. For purposes of this exercise, assume that you don't have to stick with any position or direction that the real Obama has taken thus far.

Leave your answer in the comments below. If for some reason you are unable to comment (and remember that you can choose Anonymous and either remain anonymous or reveal your name in the comment itself), send me your comment on Facebook or to 12tequilas-usual symbol-something comcastic in a net, and I will post it here for you.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Camp N

I'm about to send a wave of bummer across this blog. There may be some humor here, but mostly this post is going to tell an unfortunate tale. I'm doing this because I want to thank someone who cannot be identified.

In the summer of 1984 I went to sleepaway camp. I had been to sleepaway camp three summers before this, but I think one or two years had gone by in between. I enjoyed those first three summers, especially the two that I spend at Camp Ramah in New England (Palmer, Massachusetts). I learned to paddle a canoe there, how to hit a ball with a tennis racket, and how to batik, and I got to experience Kabbalat Shabbat (that's the Friday night service for "welcoming" or "receiving" the Sabbath) outside in the mountain air. Most importantly, I made many great friends and even kissed a boy or two.

The camp I attended in '84 was different. It was also a Jewish camp, and it had a Hebrew name, but I'm going to call it Camp Naked, because it was situated on the grounds of Ramblewood in Darlington, Maryland. If you click around that site, you come to figure out that Ramblewood caters to "alternative groups" that might wish to hold events in which guests are in their "natural state." Yes, really. It's in the middle of nowhere, away from main roads. Observe the towel etiquette when sitting, please.

Slipping Down

This camp experience was different for me, not because we ran around naked, but because I didn't have a good time there, to say the least. It turned out that half the girls I bunked with were in my class at school. My school was very small and, as in many high schools, students were categorized as "popular" or not. I was not, but for the most part everyone liked me. Even still, having those girls there was a problem. They were in that popular caste, and thus in another social world. Camp has a different dynamic than school, and it wouldn't be wrong to say that at Ramah, I was fairly popular. But at Camp N in 1984, with our hyperawareness of our places in the hierarchy, the girls from my school didn't suddenly become my friends. So from the very first, as people were getting to know each other, those girls from my school started getting chummy with the other girls, and then there was I. I quickly realized I was not making friends as I always had easily. What could I do? I folded up. This was whacked. This was bad.

This was rock bottom.

My counselors didn't help much: our "senior" counselor had an additional job at the camp, so we didn't see much of her and had two junior counselors instead. They were 16, not much older than we were. They hardly spoke to me the entire summer. (I heard that one of them suffered from a rare disorder that causes your boobs to move around your body, so that sometimes they're on her stomach, sometimes on her back, sometimes even on her head, which makes it hard to get a bra to stay. The other one became addicted to World of Warcraft and Second Life and never leaves her house.)

There were a few other things I had going against me. We were 14, no longer kids, and some things had changed while I was off doing theater day camp:

  • My mother had followed the recommended clothing list to the letter and this meant I did not have enough clothes. I didn't have the right clothes either; my bunkmates came from wealthy families and their mothers bought them designer clothing.

  • I was not fat by any means, but I didn't have the eating-disordered starved bodies characteristic of most of my peers either. (A couple of the girls were actually chubby, but they made up for this with their fashion sense and exuberant personalities.)

  • I had hair that was a bit difficult to control, especially in the humidity, whereas the other girls had the kind of hair you could run a brush through in the morning and it would shine and look beautiful.

  • The hair on my legs was very light, nearly invisible, and I really had not felt the need to start shaving it yet. But leg shaving was a Big Deal at camp that summer. It was odd that I didn't do it.

  • I wore glasses, and they weren't like the glasses I have now that I get compliments on those days when I don't wear my contact lenses.

  • Most notably, I'm very fair and sunburn easily, while most of my bunkmates brought Coppertone SPF 2 tanning oil with them. When you are wearing shorts the color difference really stands out.
I didn't have any friends at camp that summer, unless you count the little ones. Not the skunks and the little birdies. I mean the poor homesick kids who were too young to be away at camp. If I remember correctly, Camp N took kids as young as seven. I was often swimming "buddies" with one of the little girls, and they loved that I was bigger and could throw them around in the water. On a camp trip to Hershey Park, I ended up chaperoning groups of little kids on the log flume. I think I rode it seven times in a row with a different group. I could forget about things during times like these.

Quiet? Or Undead?

It gets even a little worse. People talked about me behind my back. I tried to ignore it but I kept thinking I heard them calling me a certain insulting name. It didn't come out into the open until the day we had auditions for the camp play. I'd done theater before--usually cast in funny roles--and I sing, and I figured I might be able to come out of my shell a bit this way. After the audition, I went to ask the counselors that were running things--both guys--when we might hear their decision. They said it would be soon, and one said "we have to work on the casting now, so why don't you make like a tree and get out of here." (It's "make like a tree and leave," dumbass.)

That sounded mean in itself, but then the other guy said, "yeah, take off, Poltergeist."

I froze. My eyes bugged out of my head. "W-what did you call me?" I asked him.

"Poltergeist," he answered. "Isn't that what they call you?"

When I ran away crying, I think he got his answer. It was the name I had pretended not to hear. He apologized later, of course, but I heard that over the next few years, he lost his swagger as he slowly grew into a giant, gelatinous mass, and took up residence in a swamp. He now eats swamp vegetation and the occasional toad.

But I never knew why they called me that. Best guest: my "ghostly" pallor. Oooo, scary. Run away! Run away! She's heeeeerrrre.

"I am Hugh"

I wasn't the only one who had troubles. There was a guy there, and I'm a little fuzzy on his purpose at camp, but I think he did various jobs there. He had a mental disability of some kind, and he was openly teased by the wonderful Camp N population. I don't remember his name, but I'm going to call him Hugh, because it is a movie star name, and because it was the name the Enterprise crew gave to the Borg drone who became disconnected from the collective. Borg Hugh (a/k/a "third of five") turned out to be NOT evil at all, as Captain Picard was able to determine in this clip, but unfortunately he ended up getting reassimilated. You can see that underneath his scary cybernetic exterior, Hugh is a cutie-pie.

Toward the end of my stay at Camp N, I got well and truly sick. I had a nasty sinus infection and was laying in a bed up on the second floor of the infirmary when the entire camp lost electricity and water. At that point they decided to send all the sickies back to their bunks to rest. I was feverish and dizzy, and I found myself at the top of a flight of stairs, looking down in fear, wondering how I would get down those stairs without falling (ever had a sinus infection like this?). All of a sudden (at least it was sudden in my memory), Hugh appeared. He took my arm and led me slowly and carefully down those treacherous stairs.

I can't explain it, but there was so much kindness in that gesture. Hugh certainly didn't care that I was Poltergeist, just that I needed help. I could have kissed him. I wanted to put him in pocket and take him home, except I wasn't going home just yet. (When we did go home, there weren't enough seats on the bus, so I sat in the aisle perched on a duffel bag. It seemed fitting. All I could see out the window from that angle was the sky.)

The Fame soundtracks (film and TV) were played constantly at camp. This song is for you, Hugh. You're a star. I don't know where you are, but I know you've become one with the sun.

Epilogue: some months after camp I went to a youth group dance. I'd washed off the scum of Camp N, and had a wonderful time socializing and dancing with guys I met. Some camp people were at this dance and I steered way clear of them. At one point, the D.J. announced that a song was being dedicated to me and Hugh. This was meant to be cruel, and I (and Hugh too I assume) ignored it, pretending we didn't hear.

Hugh, I owe you a slow dance. And as for my fellow campers and camp counselors, my mutant friends with advanced cerebral capabilities have seen that some of you, sometimes, cry in your coffee, and you're not sure why.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Which Do You Choose, A Hard or Soft Option?"

We're in the midst of decorating here at ATG, and soon it will have the atmosphere of everyone's dreams (or, at least, mine). I linked to the light fixtures deep in the comments of this post, but in case you missed that, here is what one of them looks like against our soothing black walls.

The furniture is being custom-built; just wait until you find out how comfortable....

And now a complaint. I'm 12tequilas, right? The one, the only? My chosen identifier has the disadvantage of cluing the world in to my alcoholic tendencies, but aside from that, after all this time it has acquired life of its own, so to speak. It is I.

Some time ago I realized that if I used 12tequilas, rather than some variant of my given name, as a "user ID" for any and all online accounts, I would stop being told that the ID I had chosen was already in use. Because NO ONE ELSE in the world is 12tequilas. Except that today, when I had to set up a new account for a credit card that was taken over by another bank, I was shown the ol' exclamation point in a triangle and told that 12tequilas was in use. Grumble, grunt, growl. I had to use my emergency backup name, trevi.moon, which is cool, because I've never actually had occasion to use trevi.moon. There's the bright side.

Moving on to the real nitty gritty:

Richard Cohen is a Washington Post columnist, but he is syndicated all over. According to WikiGenius, he's won honorable mention over at Pulitzer four times. I've enjoyed his writing for years. (Now, Mr. Cohen writes opinion, so he makes people angry all the time. If you are one of those people, you might want to say something bad about him here in the comments. I'm not going to tell you not to; I don't want to censor anyone that visits me here. Just be aware that if you're too mean I might decide I don't like you anymore.)

Not long after Barack Obama was elected president, Cohen wrote about how Obama might combat the isolation bubble by reading the newspaper. It's interesting; I'll wait here if you want to go read the whole thing. This paragraph jumped out at me:

A BlackBerry is of limited utility. You cannot have a hearty family breakfast with everyone gathered around the BlackBerry. But with a good newspaper, the president could read the hard-news section, the first lady could adhere to gender orthodoxy and read the softer sections, and the kids could chuckle at the comics. Just as in the old movies, papa could explain things, like what's the purpose of NATO anymore. (I'm dying to know this myself.) Not all newspapers have comic sections, but even those that don't usually have sports pages and business columns.

I know Cohen wasn't trying to get his readers to imagine the Obamas as black, executive Ward and June Cleaver with daughters, but that's just what I was thinking. I'm sure someone somewhere criticized Cohen for assuming that Michelle Obama wouldn't want to read the hard news, just because she's a woman. Personally, I start out reading that front section of the newspaper. On the other hand, I can't dwell on those long articles about our rotting economy. (And I do read the advice columns and the comics. Shut up.)

Some people avoid the news entirely because they don't want to get depressed, and I understand. But some of what shows up in that front section of the paper is fun, or you can make it fun by adding your own spin. If you dig for it, you'll at least find something you can make fun of because it isn't really news, and then suddenly, like magic, you've given it entertainment value.

The following are examples of "hard news" items I posted on Facebook in the past month. Pretend they all begin with: "12tequilas here with the hard news," 'cause it sounds better that way.

March 23: 12tequilas here with the hard news. The Prez did not show up to the annual Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday. What the heck is that? And who cares? Today's Post Style section says Obama "was supposed to be at the head table, smiling and clapping as the club's journalists flounced around in costume, belting political parodies to the tunes of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gilbert and Sullivan. **** The president, however, had planned to skip the affair to spend time with his family at Camp David. Typical. String 'em along, get elected, go back to the wife. The nerve."

March 19: Lance Mackey has won his third Iditarod in a row. But it's the dogs I congratulate.

March 18: I hope not to offend my Catholic friends here, but the Pope is an idealist. Or maybe a dumbass. "You can't resolve [the HIV problem in Africa] with the distribution of condoms," said Pope BXVI according to the Washington Post. "On the contrary, it increases the problem." Your Popeness, it would be great if telling Africans to abstain would work. But it won't. (My friend George Clooney commented thus: "So, so many snarky comments I could make. But I'm afraid of those heavily armed Catholics out there, so ... mum's the word!")

March 16: Dick Cheney smiled, grinned really, and his face did not crack in half. Or maybe it did, and CNN covered it up. Photo at link. (Anthrax rhythm guitarist Scott Ian Rosenfeld informed me that: "It wasn't him. I heard it was one of those Audio-Animatronics from Disney. The only way the real thing is capable of smiling is when he's shooting someone in the face.")

March 6: Brad Pitt was here on Cap. Hill yesterday. The "hard" bit is that Nancy P. was gushing over him. Looks flushed in the photo. Dana Milbank of the Post's "Washington Sketch" also said this: "For the two hours Pitt was at the Capitol yesterday, Congress could have declared war on Canada and nobody would have noticed. But while it was disruptive, the actor's visit to Washington could not have been better timed. His latest film 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,' is about a man who ages in reverse. As it happens, this is the same way Washington grows: As time passes, the nation's politics become more and more juvenile."

March 5: Michelle Obama has made sleeveless dresses POPULAR. By wearing them HERSELF. Time for some tricep dips. (This led to a bit of discussion; my friends, actors Rachel Weisz and Seth Green, were trying to convince me that Michelle Obama is "hot" but I wasn't convinced.)

And here is something quite recent, and it is so hard that it's okay if it's a few days late (these are my rules, after all):

March 31: 12tequilas here with the hard news. It's Genital Integrity Awareness Week, and so, the cleverly-named "Intactivists" staged a protest yesterday, marching from the White House to the Capitol. What's their beef? They think MALE circumcision is BAD. Not just unnecessary (even though studies show it reduces the spread of HIV by 60 PERCENT), but BAD. Read this for all the details, but apparently you circumcised guys are missing out on "'entire realms of exquisite feeling'"! And you can blame "circ" for deforestation too. (Author Dan Zak doesn't seem to believe any of it.) Check out how I wrote that entire report without saying "penis"!

Hard News will be featured here, probably as a weekly roundup unless I've just got to get it out there. And YOU can feed Hard News by sending e-mail to 12tequilas, followed by the usual symbol, ending with comcast in a net. We're not at the point of giving out T-shirts if we use your submission, but maybe someday, if you keep on spreading the word.

Here's the final item. March 3: 12tequilas here with the hard news. According to Glamour magazine, there are 11 things guys don't understand about women. The only one of the 11 that applies to me is the one about marriage. But I am a mutant.

If the opposite sex has you frustrated, you're in need of a little crunch, or you wish you'd never been circumcised, play the video. Loud.

News: "Have you got it? Do you get it? If so, how often?"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

World's Worst Mother On TV

I let my kids watch TV. I watched lots of TV as a kid. I know there are better things a child can do, but TV has been a godsend for me (and you! admit it!) when I wanted to make sure no one snuck up on me while I was inches from a hot stove burner, or when the groceries I just bought needed to be put away ASAP.

Of course the various cable and broadcast channels carry a great deal of crap. I keep trying to explain to my father-in-law that "animated show" does not automatically translate to "kids' show." (Has anyone seen Making Fiends? Check it out; it's actually very clever, but very disturbing and not for kids, even though that is the intended audience. There are also countless shows that are mind-meltingly stupid, which we try like heck to avoid.)

Fortunately, there is quality TV to make up for this. One of my favorite shows is Arthur, which is not only educational, but, as Wikipedia puts it, is "noted for its self-referential humor" and "features a discernible, complex continuity, which is uncommon in children's cartoons." I also have great respect for Between the Lions, which I have found to be reminiscent of the old, trippy Electric Company, which I fanatically loved as a kid. For older kids who can handle the violence, there are even some good, new superhero cartoons. And the kids have DVDs of the really good classic material, such as Looney Tunes, which is not violent at all. Ahem.

My kids have portable DVD players that they bring for long trips (they are also the perfect distraction/reward if you have to take a child to get a shot...if he is watching a video he won't even know the needle went in.) We only let them bring the players in the car if the trip is longer than an hour. They call them "our little TVs."

The other day we were all watching Pinocchio, which Disney has finally seen fit to release again. When we reached the part where Geppetto, Figaro, and Cleo are all trapped inside a whale, I tried to prompt a little discussion by saying to the kids that I did not think it would be good at all to be in a whale's belly.

Having quickly realized what was most notably missing from Geppetto's whale, my 6-year-old, Einstein, agreed.

"We'd have to bring our little TVs!" he said.

He's got his priorities down, people. He's all ready for that desert island we might get stranded upon.

Here's an example of the awesomeness that is Between the Lions. You have to watch an entire episode to really understand, but here is one of its recurring features. Thank you, Chicken Jane!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blame the Danish

Short on time? For syllabus, click here.

If you saw the last post, you know that Absorbing the Genius now has a new car. It's a Porsche Cayman. ATG Readers are eligible for rides around town (in exchange for comments, of course).

With announcements out of the way...

Did they do this in your high school? In the 10th grade, our history and English classes were connected, because in English we studied literature from the period we were studying in history. It was American History: 1865 and on. That all starts with the Emancipation Proclamation, and later on there's the New Deal, and a couple of World Wars, but somewhere in the middle it gets awful "QR" to me, Big Bird. I was in the Honors level, and at some point we started talking about Politics. My fellow smartypants students got it, or they talked like they did. I wanted to get it, but I didn't. My father, who had a history degree from Harvard University, tried to explain it to me. It refused to absorb.

All I know about politics, I learned from Schoolhouse Rock.

(Admit it, weren't you really happy for the animated rolled-up paper?)

I got a few bad marks in history, there in the 10th grade. Fortunately, I had the same teacher for English as history, and I did very well in English, so the teacher didn't think I was an idiot. As a matter of fact, she called me into her office one day to find out if I'd received assistance in writing my (five-paragraph expository) essay on Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, because she was impressed with it. That was all me, I told her. I get literature! Just not politics.

(This one time? My teacher and I had a disagreement over a point of grammar. I really wish I could remember what we were arguing about, but the cool thing was that she knew I was good at this. So, she sent me off to another English teacher, saying that if that second teacher agreed with me, she'd give me the points. Teacher 2 sided with Teacher 1, but I still love to tell that story.)

(Then there was the time all the guys wore skirts to history class. Ask me about that; it was funny, but way off the topic.)

I've always been embarrassed by my mental block, and I've dealt with it by avoiding discussion. I would nod, smile, and agree. I got away with it for a long time. Then came the 2008 election.

The Obama Opposition

Some of you will gasp in horror when I declare that: I never really liked Barack Obama. I can't tell you exactly why, it's just a feeling that I had. When he spoke it just seemed like he wasn't saying anything (and by contrast, the more I heard Hillary Clinton talk, the smarter and more capable she seemed to me). During the course of the election Mr. O. started to get more and more and more popular, like scary popular, like messiah-worship popular. The day after the election, it seemed that everyone but me had these silly grins on their faces and were acting like Skittles actually had rained down from heaven (taste the rainbow!). We're talking smart, accomplished people acting this way.

(And I have to add that I didn't think Gov. Palin was all that bad either. Stop buggin' yer eyes at me.)

As I have mentioned, I have two small children, so there isn't a whole lot of time for extra reading and research (and I really really like fiction, so if I have a free moment I'm likely to go for that). However, I did make the attempt to understand what was going on here. I did some reading. The mental block was still there.

Some of what I read online was vehemently anti-Obama, very different from what I was seeing all around me. For example, I learned that delegates to the Democratic National Convention were intimidated and harassed, in an attempt to persuade a change of allegiance, and that, as a result, the roll call in Denver was a sham. I said something to the hubs about this and he said, "wouldn't we have heard about this on the news?" That's what I would normally think, but this came from a reliable source. I discovered that there were numerous bloggers saying the same basic things and making Obama appear to be the worst possible choice to lead our country. Worse than GW Bush even. How could this be?

I felt like there was nowhere for me to fit in. My mother's cheering for the senator from Illinois instantly put me on the defensive, and--since I'm not all that good at defensive--a bit dizzy, but reading stuff about Obama being a total douchebag (and every other nasty name there is) made my stomach hurt. It just didn't feel right, none of it. There did not seem to be a right answer. Isn't a democracy designed to get to the right answer? (Ohhh, 12t, wake up, you are sooo naive....)

I tested a couple of my very smart friends at work, Hank Azaria and George Clooney, by mentioning a point or two made by those trying very hard to publicize the Truth about Barack Obama. They shook their heads and said, oh no, you don't have to listen to this. I felt better immediately! Until the next time I happened to be online....

By now, if you know me, you're all amazed and thinking "she fooled me! I had no idea how ignorant she was!" Or maybe you are thinking that you don't completely understand all this either. Maybe you, like me, could use some stripped-down reasoning, a 10th grade (or 6th grade) lesson in the workings of government and election campaigns in the Present Day. A refresher. Sound boring? I promise it won't be. You waste your time here, let me know and I'll make it up to you somehow. Maybe I'll let you drive the Porsche...

I plan to get the lowdown from a variety of sources (including everyone reading this now), but on a Schoolhouse Rock level. I'll ask everyone to turn off their emotion and think slower so I can carefully absorb all of their genius, gently combine (wearing safety googles and gloves of course) and use my mutant superhero zapping powers to smear it all over YOUR computer screen.

Government and Politics 100 Remedial will appear here on ATG like the Smoking Man from the X-Files continuing storyline. I also hope to provide lots of other fun stuff that gets resolved at the end of the hour, so to speak.

SYLLABUS. This post reveals a deep dark secret to the Internet; namely that I have a total mental block regarding all things political. I figure that I'm not the only one with at least some degree of this blurred vision, and so I'm trying to help others by collecting data from political bloggers and others with great minds, after which I will try to explain the differing viewpoints in this blog, treating my audience as if they are as dumb confused as I am. It's a tall order. Encourage me!

Don't go yet....

In 1989 Alphaville released a video album based on their Breathtaking Blue record, which is more accurately described as a collection of short films. The collection reflected a variety of styles and there are a few famous names involved. One of the shorts even won an Oscar. To my knowledge, it was never available in a viewable format this side of the pond, but thanks to YouTube a few of the vids can now be enjoyed.

The following is Summer Rain, starring one Mikael Bertelsen, a Danish TV anchor. This flavor of Danish is always welcome here at ATG. And, this is film-festival-worthy stuff. The lesson to be learned from this film is that the right pair of glasses can really...well, see for yourself.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Visions and Revisions

I was a sociology major in college. A required course was SOCY 103, Sociological Theory, and I was fortunate enough to have as my professor George Ritzer, who wrote The McDonaldization of Society, now in its 5th edition.

Ritzer encouraged us to conduct sociological experiments wherever we went. For example, he said that when we make our way around campus, we should fall into step with someone and walk right next to them. As you might hypothesize, this weirds people out (that's the sociological term), because it is unexpected. Similarly, Ritzer said that when we step into elevators we should face the people in them, contravening the typical practice of turning to face the doors. The riders don't quite know what to do with themselves.

This morning, I was riding in the elevator from the 6th level of the Metro parking garage. The elevator doors opened on the second level. Since the elevator never stops on 2 (these people couldn't walk down ONE flight), a couple of riders got confused and stepped off, and others followed without thinking. This had the effect of breaking the silent elevator tension, and we all had a good laugh and slapped our foreheads at how scatterbrained we are.

It often amazes me how tiny behavior bits can sometimes have tectonic shift effects. I had content in a post here that turned out to be objectionable, and when I found out, I completely flipped and removed the post before anyone else was exposed to it. My confidence was severely wounded, and since this blog has only just begun, I felt kind of like I'd just bought a car, driven it off the lot, and promptly hit an innocent mailbox with it, crunching its right front fender and marring the brand-newness immediately.

But then I realized that once the car is dented, you don't have to worry so much about retaining perfection. Just keep changing the oil and rotate the tires every so often. The gorgeous and divine sjfrog left a comment here with the words "extremely funny" in it, and another lovely reader today referred to me as a "bearer of joy." More than enough to restore my confidence, and now, you can only see the dent when the sun shines on the car in a certain way.

This is an ever-evolving experiment, Professor. With trial comes error, and perhaps some happy accidents, too. In the words of Hell's Kitchen contestant Robert, when he was handed a bit of authority: "Yeah, baby, gimme the reins, let me drive this bitch."

The things that happen may affect us, but we are still in control.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This is the First Post on Absorbing the Genius. I shan't call it the "inaugural" post, for reasons that will become clear later on.

But it is certainly The Beginning of Everything.

I suppose I should get some of the introductory stuff out of the way.

I am one of many who read blogs for quite some time, thinking, "I would like to have a blog of my own, but I am not as entertaining as these folks I read every day." Many of the bloggers I was reading then thought the same thing, before they finally realized they were wrong (was I wrong? comment below!). Much of what I was reading then (blogs and pre-blog "diaries" or whatever) were written by women struggling with infertility of one kind or another. The vast majority found some way of having children but the lengths they went to were incredible, and inspiring. I just had to take some pills, give myself some injections, succumb to multiple ultrasounds and blood draws, suffer a couple of losses, and the eventual result was: I am a mother of two boys. (I don't mean to make light of this; it was heartbreaking and frustrating but I'm not getting into it now.)

I finally started a blog on, but there were technical problems with that one. I think of it as the practice blog. I didn't tell any of my friends and family it was there.

I complained to my friend Linda about the problems I was having at momsbuzz, and she kindly offered me a contributor spot on her blog. In the beginning I received comments from the other contributors, so I knew someone was reading me. I posted about life, trying to relate to others, the way the blogs I followed did for me. But no one really knew I was there. (I must take a moment now to thank Linda, without whom I would not be here. Linda has the distinction of writing some posts that have garnered hits from all over, for years on end, such as this one.)

So when this post of mine, which actually tackled a Substantive Issue, went live, I e-mailed a boatload of friends and family about it. I figured if I was taking the time to let them know about something I'd published on the Internet, they'd go read it. I went as far as telling them that I'd send homebaked brownies to the person who left the "best" comment (because we all know that a blogger doesn't know your opinion of what you've just read unless you comment).

Brownies for comments. I know, it's pathetic. It didn't stop there. On Facebook, I linked to the Big Issue post and other posts recounting cute things my kids did, pretending each time that "I" (using my real name) couldn't stand this 12tequilas person, warning people to stay far away from her blog posts, and expressing my disbelief that she would beg shamelessly for comments by offering baked goods and other prizes. (Then I would comment on my own status, conversation style, as if I were two people, to save others the trouble.) I thought that this was an incredibly clever form of reverse psychology and that it would work.

Status Update: I want to make sure that no one goes to to read 12 Tequilas's loony writings.

Comment (from me): Uh, didn't you already tell us about this? And why shouldn't we go read the new blog post with the provocative title?

Reply (still from me): Yes, I told you already, but I worry. If people read this, and leave complimentary comments, her head will swell so much it will explode. And then her charming and handsome husband will have to scrape brain matter from the wall. We can't have that.

Surreply (from me, again): I see. It's so good of you to warn all of your Facebook friends of this danger.

A friend commented to ask if my brain scan had come out normal, to which I replied, "It's all from reading SCARY blogs, which are a form of MIND CONTROL." When another friend noted that such comments would make everyone want to go to that blog (which, duh, was the whole point), I said, "Look, [friend], if you want to give that crazypants 12 Tequilas the satisfaction, then go check out her stuff. Beware, you might be entertained or you might learn something. And if you comment, I hear you could get brownies. Don't say I didn't warn you."

Wouldn't you at least be CURIOUS?? To be fair, I did get several hits, but as for the rest of the folks who received my mass e-mail or saw my Facebook announcements, I figured out that they did not read (or read the one time but didn't go back) because 1) they are too busy, 2) they don't "get the point" of blogs, or 3) they refuse to leave the safe confines of Facebook by clicking on a link.

Furthermore, another friend of mine advised that my posts were too "long and rambly." The blogs I frequent have long posts all the time (and have readers out the wazoo), but I have to admit I got more people to click over from FB when they were told the post was diminutive.

Which brings me to an important feature of Absorbing the Genius: the Syllabus. I'm going to provide a truncated version of the long posts for those who might want to be kept up to date, but don't have time for the long (and rambling) read. A digest. An abstract. The Cliff's Notes version, if you will.

And in the interest of keeping things concise, I'll save for the next post the stuff about the Purpose of This Blog, Its Possible Future, and the Reason for its Title. (If you would like to know why I'm 12tequilas, that's easy, click here.)

Coming up next: others' blogging habits, news, politics, and mayhem. In the meantime, relax to this, from when computer animation was new and cooool.