Friday, October 16, 2009

Hate to bust your balloon

Well, there’s a kid that’s going to be known as Balloon Boy for the rest of his life. Balloon Boy Graduates High School. Balloon Boy Marries. Balloon Boy Wins Nobel Prize. Here Lies Balloon Boy. Shut up, Balloon Boy. Kids probably would do things differently in their lives if they knew how hard a bad nickname can stick.

The funny thing is that when it came out that the Balloon Boy’s family had been on Wife Swap, I knew instantly which family it was. No doubt. And I’ve seen maybe a half dozen episodes of that show. And on the great bell curve of insanity that is Wife Swap, I don’t remember this family being especially wingnutty. The premise of the show is to take two families that aren’t real tightly wound, that live opposing lifestyles, expose them to each other in a minimum ratio of 3:1, and see what happens. They don’t pick normal people to be on this show. People with standard homelives and a high tolerance for opposing viewpoints would just be bad television (boring equaling bad). The explosion is guaranteed. The only variable will be whether there will be warm, cuddly, people-are-people resolution full of peace, love and understanding between the two families, or a virulent final smackdown fueled by a week of living in close proximity to your polar opposite. I think the producers are fine with it either way it goes. I remember the Heene family mainly for having 2 settings. Off and 11. And for not having a really clear distinction between science-science and Johnny Quest comic book-science. Still, on the Wife Swap continuum, they were fairly normal.

I feel bad for Balloon Boy. Any time you end up on the national news for something this goofy, and yet costly to taxpayers, it’s gonna stick. Whether he was playing a prank that got out of hand, got caught up in some sort of attention-getting ploy cooked up by his parents, or if it was just an honest mistake, anything that involves several Sherriff’s departments, Air National Guard, helicopters and CNN is just going to make you “that kid, you know, Balloon Boy” for the rest of your natural life. Ask Baby Jessica.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Freeze! NCIS

Okay, my latest obsession? NCIS. Loving that show. I don’t know why. In theory, I should be totally uninterested. And considering how long it’s been on, I was totally uninterested for a very long time. It’s military related. Not really my thing. It has a heavy forensic element. And I’m not so wild about those autopsy/bone saw scenes. And it has the quirky goth chick. And frankly, I think that’s a sign of trying to hard. But then, I kind of did one of those leave it on while I’m folding laundry things. And whammo. Fished in.

Okay, let’s get the first reason I’m digging it out of the way. Mark Harmon. So yummy you could eat him on toast points. He was hot in the 80s. And now the silver fox thing is working like gangbusters for him. You could do a reality TV show of him, just following him around all day. He wouldn’t need to have any crazy ass psycho-drama to be must see. Mark Harmon eating scrambled eggs for breakfast. Mark Harmon on the treadmill. Mark Harmon opening mail.

Second, I’m completely into throwback to the 80s shows right now. Basically, character-driven formula drama with a sense of humor. Think Simon & Simon or The Scarecrow & Mrs. King. You know what to expect every episode. You just tune in to see these characters do their thing. If you do it well, these shows are sustainable for years. Lately, every new show thinks it has to have twists, turns, surprises, cliff hangers, jaw droppers. And they burn out way too fast. Look at Heroes. It was “What will they do next?” every episode. Then by the second season, you really just didn’t care any more. You can get bored by constant fireworks. Psych, Monk, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight. All of them have a modern gloss. But at their roots, they could all have been on TV with Miami Vice. And USA is the king of comfort food TV right now. They don’t really surprise me often. They don’t really have to.

Don’t ask me what’s going on in the current season. I’m just kind of contentedly wandering around somewhere in the middle, where I came in. And that’s the really cool thing. Because I’m late to the party, there are all these back episodes to catch up on. It’s all new to me. Nice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Big Girls Don't Buy (Ralph Lauren)

Well, when rocks get lifted, you never know what's gonna crawl out into the light of day. Looks like Ralph Lauren had already fired the poor model they'd turned into a scarecrow, prior to the bungled PhotoShop pic from their ad making the news. Cause she was too fat. At 5'10" and 120 lbs.

A quick check of the CDC's BMI calculator shows that at a BMI of 17.2, she would be in the underweight category. Not really badly underweight. Not scarecrow/stick girl underweight. But underweight nonetheless. And Ralph Lauren passed on her, and went to look for somebody skinnier - e.g., more underweight. This seems to be a concept that the fashion industry has a problem with, if you want a tall girl, being super slim isn't going to be very healthy. You can have a skinny girl. She's just going to be short. If you want the girl to wear a size 0 sample, go out and find somebody 4'11". Tall or tiny. Pick. Your choice.

And at 5'7" and considerably more than 120 lbs, I'm obviously way too fat for Ralph Lauren's clothes too. So I'm just gonna mosey on over to the big gals' department, and spend my money over there. And you go ahead and sell your clothes to those tall and skinny freaks of nature. I'm sure there's a lot of them out there. And first thing in the morning, after they've had their black coffee and half a Triscuit for the day, they probably have enough energy to go out and by your glad rags. Sounds like a hell of a sales strategy. Good luck with it.

Whip It Good

Kind of a delayed movie review, but I went to see Whip It last Friday (October is shaping up to be a very full month for me for some reason; lots to chat about). It’s a coming-of-age movie about roller derby in Austin. There were a few faults that any movie snob worth their salt would pick out. But, like Erin Grey’s nose, they were flaws that added to the overall charm. And without them, it would have been just any other cute chick flick, instead of the quirky chick who’s a little rough around the edged but nobody puts in a corner. Movie snobs might be disappointed. But a movie fan would find a lot to like.

So, here’s my usual 3 things:

  1. This is one of the few movies I’ve taken my teenage niece to that was about women where I didn’t feel like I was betraying a hundred years of feminism. These aren’t overly primped, primed and spackled women that have been molded into something not-quite-human and are little more than mannequins. The roller girls of Whip It look like rough and tumble, real women: inch-thick eyeliner, torn fishnets and highlights that you had your girlfriend do for you. Gals not girls. Not to say they aren’t glamorous. They are. But it’s an empowered, self-confident glamour that comes from knowing what you’re capable of. Not from what shoes you mortgaged your house to buy. And the roller derby scenes featuring the gals cutting loose, throwing elbows and face planting, are about as thrilling as anything I’ve seen on the screen this year.
  2. Andrew Wilson is the missing link of the Wilson brothers. If you’ve ever looked at Owen and Luke and tried to figure out how you get from there to there, Andrew is the missing piece of that puzzle. He’s the Wilsonopithicus. The Ardi of the Wilson family. And a brave, brave man to wear cutoff jean shorts through an entire movie.
  3. I loved Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern as the parents. Stern got the Texas dad look down like a circus clown, but he missed the accent by a long chalk. Marcia Gay Harden on the other hand? Nailed it. She had the accent, and the former small town beauty queen thing knocked. But the really nice thing was the two of them together. Two married adults, over 40, flirting. With each other! What a concept. And they were just too cute together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trying to get off the bottle (or at least get on to an environmentally friendly one)

For some reason I’m having a hard time finding a water bottle. No, actually not “some reason.” It’s because I’m picky. I want to do the right thing and reduce the amount of plastic bottles in landfill, yet I like my portable water. I’ve been shopping for one for about 3 months, and have yet to find one that’s up to scratch.

The whole BPA-free issue is just the starting point of decision factors. I can’t really do the travel mug style water bottles because, well, I have a nose. And I hate it when my nose bumps the lid. And for some reason, they all seem to have a weird, thick rim, and they all turn into dribble glasses for me. I’m not crazy about aluminum bottles, either, even though they’re uniformly the prettiest. There’s something about drinking out of aluminum that creeps me out. I think it’s bad Boy Scout canteen flashbacks. Then there’s size conundrum. I prefer a 1 pint size. Anything more water than that can get pretty heavy to drag around. But in that size, everything I’ve found is a kids’ model. Not really looking for a Hello Kitty water bottle. And on the juvenile side, don’t get me started about the nipples. I hate the ones that have the delivery mechanism that you more or less have to suck on. I’m 40 years old. I do not need to be in public slurping on a ba-ba. Grew out of my oral fixation, thanks.

You wouldn’t think it would be this difficult, would you? What I really want is a reusable 1 pint Dasani bottle. Nothing fancy. If anybody spots anything out there, let me know.

Love You Too

So. U2 last night. The culmination of 20+ years of fandom, from the moment that Stacy loaned me her copy of War in the summer of ‘86 and I huddled in the basement listening to Sunday Bloody Sunday on the record player. I still have that album by the way. Sorry, Stacy. You were the coolest.

And making it to an actual show was the fulfillment of almost-made-its and just-misseds (the one time I had a ticket in my hand, I had to give it away – to a person who ended up touching Bono. Yes, that hurt.).

And I’m going to break this into parts.

Visually the show was worth everything. The amount of showmanship and stagecraft that goes into a U2 show is simply stunning. They’re stage is both a work of technical art and a deeply utilitarian, interactive tool that allows them to give the fans what they cam for – the BIG SHOW. It’s also nice to see that they still seem to enjoy working together to make music on stage. They’re still having fun being rock stars. The moment that Bono brought a teenage kid on stage to get a moment of what it’s like to stand in front of thousands of screaming fans was very sweet. I really admired the way that deeply personal songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday and One have been turned into universal calls for peace and compassion. Really a show that encompassed everything from calls to peaceful revolution to electric light-suited rock god glam.

[Though just on a sidebar note: Adam? Honey? It’s time to start taking care of your body. You’re starting to give Keef Richards a run for his money. The Edge is into the clean living, and he’s jumping around the stage like a Jonas Brother. I’m just saying.]

But, oh, wait. Look. Here’s another shoe! Let's drop it.

The acoustics at Cowboys Stadium where I saw the show were so bad I was completely appalled. Granted, I was in the nosebleed tier. But so were about 10,000 other people who all paid $80 a pop to listen to an echoing, reverberating, cacophony. The 23+ years of U2 love? I was only able to recognize about 4 songs from the first few bars. It took half of the song to figure out they were playing Stuck in a Moment. There were really only 2 songs that I could really enjoy listening to. Well kind of enjoy. About half way through I realized that the weird black shower curtain across the roof was some sort of lame ass, hillbilly duct tape fix where the stadium had attempted to baffle sound. Not. Even. Close. So obviously they know they are selling concert tickets in which you can’t actually hear music. You hear something. But it ain’t music. If Cowboys Stadium doesn’t start to close off the upper tier and just not sell those tickets, they are completely without honor and no better than con artists and highway robbers. They should be deeply ashamed. Plus the parking sitch is a complete shambles.

I’m glad I went to see the boys. Because, when it comes down to it, I’m never going to get to see U2 unless it’s in an arena. They won’t be playing the local House of Blues any time soon. But now that I have, I’m able to say, “As God is my witness, I will never see another arena show again.” Not even for Bono. Love ya, babes. But that was awful.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Educator Wanted: Smart, Self-directed, Caring Individuals Need Not Apply

Okay. So this school wants to send a 6-year old to reform school for bringing the Swiss Army equivalent of a spork to school. They have a zero-tolerance policy, they say. Stupid, yes. And probably disastrous to a first grader who loved school and now will have a junior rap sheet.

But there’s another layer to this. A zero-tolerance policy sounds all tough and scholastically law & order. And everybody can hitch their pants up really high and strut around saying how tough they are on miscreants. Cool.

But what it’s really saying is that we don’t believe that the people that you are entrusting your little dumplings to for 8 hours a day to make sure that their tiny noggins are filled with knowledge are smart enough to tell dangerous from not dangerous. They just aren’t equipped to make that call. And that's who's making sure the kids are edumacated.

So in the end, the people who are smart enough to tell an eating utensil from a machete, and have to enforce an asinine rules frequently enough will get sick of being treated like idiots and leave. And the only people who stay are the ones that acknowledge, if only to themselves, that they aren’t brighter than the average bear, and need someone to give them no-thought-needed rules to follow in lockstep - pointy thing bad, suspend child. Suddenly, those kids are living in a Pink Floyd video, with somebody yell about not having pudding because you haven’t eaten your meat.

It comes down to who you want educating your kids. Smart people needed to be treated like they have a brain. And giving them the latitude to use the sense the good Lord gave them is one way to do it. Because if a good teacher isn’t going to be paid adequately (and we’ve pretty much proved we don’t want to do that), treating them like an adult is the least we can do for them. Otherwise, you're left are people who probably shouldn't be entrusted with the care of young minds in the first place. Not a place I'd want to be sentenced to for 8 hours a day. And it's no wonder kids don't either.

Oh, and by the way, maybe you shouldn’t let kids have sharp pencils either. Somebody might poke an eye out.

Jar Jar Jinx - or Et tu Mother Nature?

As promised, here’s the final pictures of the Dinner in a Jar project. Of course, Mother Nature decided to spit on my whole planned evening. We were rained out of the Shakespeare in the park event where I had intended to debut my nifty little picnic idea. But, dang it, people were going to eat out of those jars if I had to sit on them. Cause it was a darned good idea. And it really worked out well. Here’s how it went down in the end:

The cornbread was baked in the jars using Paula Deen’s Corny Cornbread recipe (, dropping the temperature 25 degrees for cooking in glass, and giving the inside a good shot of non-stick spray. I put about an inch of batter in the bottom of each half pint jar and wiggled it a bit to get it smoothed out, and put them on a cookie sheet to bake. The recipe said 30 minutes, and since my jars were smaller than a baking pan I figured on 20 minutes. But it actually took about 35. And this cornbread is so moist, it held up for another 15 minutes in the oven on warm without drying out.

For the stew, T used this recipe from the Santa Fe School of Cooking (, or at least as close as she’s able to follow any recipe. That girl is an inveterate fiddler when it comes to cooking. I asked for this recipe because when it comes to green chile, I’m vehemently anti-tomato. And I really don’t care who knows my food segregationist leanings. Beef stew with tomatoes, yes. Green chile stew with tomatoes, no today, no tomorrow, no forever. I also asked her to use some cornstarch to thicken the juice a little. On its own, the thinner broth from the recipe would be fine. But in a layered dish, I though it needed a touch more structural integrity. And we used pork butt in stead of beef.

Then final touch was T’s cauliflower mash. It’s a trade secret, but I know that there’s roasted cauliflower, a little potato and milk. Truly delightful.

The jars came out of the oven, and we layered in a dipper of stew, a good serving spoon of the mash, then a drizzle of the stew broth on top. Then the lids went on, a wipe of the jar, and into the cozies they went. I found bright bandanas at Wal-Mart to use as napkins, and rubber banded one to the top of each jar, for extra insulation. They were actually quite cute in the end. Unfortunately, because of the show being cancelled, I didn’t get a full field test of the entire idea. So I don’t know if it would have held up as far as temperature and transportation. But I can say – delicious. The final product ended up being like the most amazing tamale you ever had in your entire life. I could have eaten 2. I didn’t. But I could have. And the little jars not only looked sweet, but the cozies made them easy to hold, and there was this lovely warmth that seeped out from the cotton that would warm your hands on a fall night under the stars. Or at least I imagine it would. If the weather would have cooperated and it wasn’t piddling with rain and ruining my night . . . aaaaaahhhhhggg! Mother Nature, I shake my fist at you!

Anyway. This was full-on Martha Stewart action, y'all. And overall, well worth the trouble. And since all the accessories (jars, cozies, bandanas) are reusable, the next time it will be a piece of cake to pull it all together. Plus, it ends up being not only cute as hell, but more eco-friendly than plastic bowls and paper napkins. If I do say so myself – success.

TIME: Quotes of the Day