Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Stuffed Shirts and Pompous Windbags

There’s a nasty-looking little Chinese restaurant in the East Village with a handwritten sign in the window—a dirty window, too—that says ‘our chef is very famous in London.’ But not in New York, or anywhere else outside of London.”

Great line, and great concept from Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children. It's one I'm coming to relate to more as the weeks go on. I've observed that certain members of human society thrive on sharing with me ad nauseum the details of their accomplishments a few years back as if its somehow relevant to me or my casual aquaintance with them. Sorry dearie, if you don't have a curriculum vitae, your experience with 1994 is probably not overly interesting or worth basking in your own reflected glory over. You could go make a CV and I'd be happier to read it since it would take less time than hearing about it from you over and over and over. Please get over yourself, or better yet go do something besides hoping we will all be impressed by your achievements that stopped rather abruptly fifteen or so years ago.

You certainly don't care to hear about what I was doing in the nineties, but I'd like to tell you if I thought it would spark you to retire to a hole somewhere and leave me out of the boring details. It's something like the way women decorate their homes with wedding pictures and dried flowers until they are mostly replaced with baby pictures, and those are eventually mostly changed out for graduation pictures and pictures of grandkids. Only your wedding flowers have shed their petals all over the floor and you have yet to vacuum them up!

While you prattle on about how wonderful you were back then, and we sit there smiling and nodding and squirming inwardly at your boasting we sometimes wonder what your reaction would be if we took the competitive bait. We weren't sitting around waiting for you to show up back then, we were busy. I know I was. One particularly event filled year for you was the year I spent taking 21 credits, working full-time and a second job to boot. I was competing for a pageant title, perfecting my interview skills, and working out for a couple of hours a day. Oh yeah, I also had a boyfriend turned murderous sadistic stalker to hide from in the midst of my highly predictable and punctual schedule. In that same sememster, I aced my instrumental performance juries, and turned out some of my best creative work to date. That was also the year I was recognized by Up With People for my extensive volunteeer work in libraries and schools. I'm sure you never heard me mention that though, I've been somewhat engaged since then with other things.

In the real world, no one really puts Eagle Scout on their resume, they've done something better by now, and it certainly isn't dinner conversation unless its with your own little Scouter. But wait...I know, your chef was famous in 1994.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Vehicles of Patriarchy

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High heels, I loathe you. Oh sure, you are pretty. You make my calves and booty look so voluptuous, yet you make my toes and arches ache and blister. Who decided that open toed sandals should be made of shiny leather which will rub, rub, rub the skin off my feet? You can't wear socks or hose with them, you can't even put on a bandaid for padding without it showing through. Who was that man, I'd like to punch him in the face. And you know it was a him. You know a woman would have considered toe friction and bunion avoidance. She also would have considered arch support and a surface to balance on wider than a pencil. She also would have considered that if your right leg is 1/32nd of an inch longer than your left, this manifests in incredible pressure on your right big-toe joint in high heels. The male designer of course, never got past the idea of calves and booties.

I can't get away with wearing my Columbia hiking shoes except on casual Fridays anymore, people are starting to talk. My flat oxfords don't cut it with summery skirts and capris, so I bought some lovely, bone colored open toed dress shoes for work. They were beautiful, feminine shoes that would have done Minnie Mouse proud. I envisioned the women at work saying "great shoes!" I thought about how I empowering it would be to be two inches taller. I put on the shoes and they felt decent at the store. When I got dressed this morning I realized that there was going to be some serious pain by the end of the day. By breaking out the bandaids I was able to spare my pinky toes. I thought the joint by my big toe would be OK, but as the day wore holes into my feet, I came to rue the day I found them on display at Shoe Pavillion.

Of course today was also one of those wild goose chase days at work. I couldn't just sit at my desk and slide the shoes off except for when I walk down the hall to the vending machines for bottled water. No, of course I had meetings outside the office. I had to walk up and down the stairs six times, carrying my 30 lb briefcase with me. Chivalry is dead, none of the office guys so much as glanced at my case let alone offered to carry it, but high heels survived the feminist movement to curse us into our graves. And of course, my meetings were no shows so I had to back and forth it up and down the stairs all day long. You can't walk quickly in them because its too painful. Walking slowly means more steps with the inane rubbing with each step. Hans Christian Anderson was prophetic of high heels when the Witch told the Little Mermaid her every step would feel like knives slicing her skin. I think she would have thought twice about becoming human had she realized it was not an exaggeration.

Some of my third-stage feminist friends claim makeup is a vehicle of patriarchy, a snare set by men to keep us subservient and superficial. No, I love Estee Lauder and Mary Kay. They have never prematurely aged me. They have protected me from melanoma and give me some color on days when I feel like the walking dead after a long night with a sick toddler. They let me experiment with a new look for a $14.95 tube of lipstick instead of $90 cut and highlights and they are completely reversible. Men of the metrosexual persuasion are even catching on to the benefits of tea-tree oil and concealer for the occasional unsightly blemish.

High heels however, have given me nothing back. They have sent me to the choiropractors office for an adjustment and a $120/hour sacro-cranial massage to relieve the headaches that travelled up my sciatic nerve to my skull. They slow me down to the pace of a tortoise forcing me to do my work twice as fast to make up the time. And when I walk in the door and I see my husbands eye travel up me from ankle to shoulder I kick the infernal things off in disgust. Not on your life after the day I've had with these blasted shoes. Please pass the ibuprofen, and honey, next time you catch me glance at the spring shoe display at Macy's please steer me toward Sephora instead. You'll thank me later, I promise.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Vote for Plan B

Scientists at Johns-Hopkins University have developed a genetically modified mosquito that is better able to survive than mosquitoes in the wild. The plan is to release the mutant mosquitoes who are hardier and through natural selection, they will eventually take over and other mosquitoes will die out. They believe this is a good idea, because the genetically modified mosquitoes are immune to malaria.

I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here: it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it.
-Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

While 300 million people contract malaria each year, and 1 million die from it, this could potentially avert the malaria problem. Except that the malaria the genetically superior mosquitoes do not spread is a form that makes mice sick, but not people.

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.
-Dr. Ian Malcolm Jurassic Park.

Does anyone really think its a fabulous idea to release genetically mutated super-bugs into the environment? I don't know of anyone who personally enjoys being bitten by mosquitoes, having mosquito bites, or being infected with encephalitis or West Nile virus. Malaria is one of our concerns, but malaria in people, not in rats!

It's almost as if they think that having more mosquitoes will make things better. I've never had mosquitoes take all my blood before, I suspect the population of Africa (where Malaria is most rampant) could supply more blood to the mosquito population than they are currently. So is the idea that with only half the mosquitoes now spreading disease, we will feel better about that-and somehow not notice we are getting twice as many mosquito bites? (I don't think that reduces the odds of contracting Malaria much.)

What is so great about discovery? It is a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.
-Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

Um-kay, maybe rape is a little extreme, but there has to be a better solution than the introduction of genetically engineered micro-vampires into the food chain. It's only a matter of time before the little devils mutate to become invincible, organize and take over the world-right after we all die of some undiscovered prion that the genetically modified mosquitoes do carry, but the scientists did not notice when they concocted their little scheme.

Enter Plan B: Scientists at Hebrew University have annihilated their mosquito population by spraying a sugar based pesticide on acacia trees. Female mosquitoes need blood to reproduce, but they need sugar for energy. Mosquitoes are picky about what they eat, so its been discovered that we can selectively spray only the flowers and plants they find attractive-not the ones that are part of our food supply.

Call me crazy, but the idea of a mosquito-less world is very appealing to me. No more choosing between wearing eau deu Deep Woods and dying of West Nile more paying $150 every three months on Canine Advantix for my dogs.

I don't think the John's Hopkins research has gone to waste, maybe they could generalize their research to creating genetically modified honeybees that have no stingers, but who also create more honey. Its a win-win situation for Winnie the Pooh, and for those of us who have to carry an Epi-Pen in the spring and summer.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Continuing on a Theme

Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.

~Marilyn Monroe

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Social Prostitution

Social Prostitution is the name I've coined for the sociological phenomena in which people sell themselves by doing whatever they are encouraged in exchange for money, fame, or attention. The most obvious culprits are professional athletes and celebrities but chances are there are some relatively well-evolved social prostitutes right in your own neighborhood-think office politics, the parents who promote their child's disability for sympathy and respect, and the gal down the street who is happy to help in an emergency--as long as everyone in town knows about it and praises her for it.

Celebrities don't just act dysfunctional, we actually encourage them to be dysfunctional and we reward them duly. The most obvious and tragic recent media example is Anna Nicole Smith, whom we have rewarded handsomely for the entertainment her life has become.

She is reinforced not for fulfilling societies values, or encouraging us to better ourselves, but for being a prime entertainment source. In the end, she lost everything, her volition was lost to drugs and addictions, the life of her son, and eventually her own life as well. Her family and friends mourn while the media and legal system debate over her estate and the parentage of her daughter. We as a society are the ones who continue to be entertained by her personal tragedy; the fame and money we award her certainly leave her empty and used, even in death.

What will bother people about this viewpoint is the idea that as a society we encourage people to create and then publicize their dysfunction. The fact is, we do, and what does that say about us? We put a premium on dysfunction and there are plenty of people willing to step up to the plate. How much of Anna Nicole's life outcome was chosen and how much did we create for her? For a person who doesn't sing, dance, act, or compete in sports, there is a premium on popularity. If your name isn't being googled and you aren't in the tabloids you may fail to exist. Without your fame, you may lose your money, and you will lose your prestige and your stream of attractive and possibly powerful suitors. Keep yourself attractive to the media and you will be compensated for as long as people enjoy watching you. The game becomes a question of how to keep the attention on yourself. Certainly the tabloids won't go away when they serve such a vital purpose to those they exploit; tabloids may very well be resented by celebrities for the fact that what they expose is the social prostitution itself.

When society pays your paycheck, and there is a premium on deviance you have choices-you can step up to the plate, you can get a new job, or you can just wait and see which auditions come your way when you aren't in the top 20 internet searches. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Kobe Bryant all caught on very quickly and jumped on board.

We reward celebrities and athletes who lie, steal, molest children, rape, and even murder with more attention and legal excuses instead of consequences. We even compensate those who lose or gain a few pounds. We punish those who refuse to play by concocting false accusations and suspicions-"she's not above the game, she's actually a closet lesbian, her marriage is in trouble and she's addicted to painkillers..."

Being an entertainer is more than a job, its a life and even when you aren't on the court or the silver screen you will entertain us. Don't worry, you will be rewarded for your hollow and coarse life with a seat on the A-list and better chances for the next multi-million dollar contract.