27 September 2008

The Fall Will Probably Kill Ya?

When I was in college, girls in the dorm who liked to put movie star posters on their walls, usually had one of two posters: the forever handsome but dead James Dean looking pretty cool in a motorcycle jacket with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, or a nearly black and white photograph of a very young, handsome Paul Newman, the only color in the poster being his ice-on-fire blue eyes. I was never inclined to put celebrity posters on the wall. No matter how handsome the subjects might have been, I didn't want photographs of movie stars on my walls. I thought it was uncool, something contrary to the intellectual type that I wanted so much to be. I wasn't a swooning teen, adoring a photograph of someone I would never meet.

Ten years later I bought my first house. It was an old house -- about 75 years -- in a very trendy neighborhood. The house wasn't quiet old enough to be inhabited by ghosts, but certainly old enough to have 'character', in real-estate parlance. That character and charm came with dozens of coats of paint, splintered floor boards, a maze of leaking pipes, a large family of mice, a 45 year old furnace the size of a minivan, and 15 beautiful cultivated rose bushes in the yard. And one poster of Paul Newman, his icy aqua blues sexily watching over the washing machine.

Since I was moving in as the previous owners were moving the last of their belongings, I reminded the woman that she had left her poster in the basement. "Blue Eyes?" she said. "It was there when I moved in. Been there for ten years before that according to the last owner. I just never bothered to take it down".

So I was left with the last thing in the world I would have doled out money for -- a celebrity movie star poster. "Must be hiding something on the wall", I thought, "maybe a Hole in the Wall". I peaked behind it. Just wallboard, slightly different in color than the surrounding wall. When I took it down the wall looked empty. That corner of the basement seemed mustier, darker, with a few more cobwebs. It was already spooky enough, as the laundry area was adjacent to a room with a dirt floor and an ominous "TS" spray painted on the wall. Maybe there could have been ghosts there. Or the skeletal bones of someone long forgotten. I put the poster back on the wall. I needed sexy blue-eyed Paul to look over me while I washed diapers and bibs.

I remodeled most of the house before I sold it. I had walls cave in after I discovered that, along with the mice, living in the walls was a termite colony. I tore out walls and floors and frayed electrical wires. I retiled the bath. I created a terrific kitchen with lots of light, new appliances and surplus counter space that any chef would give up her best knife for. I rescued the decorative tile around the fireplace, hidden for years under paint. I found glass doorknobs that matched at a flea-market and heating grates at a place that specialized in rescuing architectural gems from soon-to-be demolished old homes. Nearly everything changed -- except for the poster of Mr. Newman.

Mr. Blue Eyes guarded my dirty laundry for seven years. Some of those years were difficult ones for me, but seeing the poster over my washing machine frequently made me smile. It became a joke among my friends -- Paul watching me wash my lingerie. I didn't know much about Paul Newman then, other than he was an actor. His food company was only a few years old. I had never tasted his salad dressing, or marinara sauce, or popcorn. When I moved out, I thought about taking the poster with me. But Mr. Blue Eyes seemed to belong there, waiting for someone else's laundry. I think that presence is what has been missing from all the laundry rooms in the houses I've owned since. They have just been utilitarian laundry rooms with detergent, fabric softener, and hangers.

Several months ago one of my book groups read Newman's memoir Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good, co-authored with his business partner, A. E. Hotchner. Unlike a Hollywood memoir, the book barely mentioned that Paul Newman starred in movies. The title of the book is also the motto of Newman's Food Company, Newman's Own, a venture that he started as a joke. Never expecting to make any money, Newman and Hotchner decided at the onset that they would donate their profits to charity. While others might have thought that they were jumping off a cliff like Butch and Sundance, they went into business to have fun and to do some good. And good is what Newman's company has done by donating over $250 million to charities in the last 25 years.


I didn't have a poster of a movie star watching over my laundry after all. I had a picture of the kind of person who deserves to be a celebrity not because he was an actor or a race car driver (he was pretty good at that too!) but because he was an humanitarian.

Just for fun, in memory of Paul Newman:

The cliff scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

What a laugh Paul Newman had!

And a clip that is among the most romantic scenes from the movies:

Have some Newman's Own popcorn while you watch the clips.

Next time that you think about doing something to help someone, remember that despite the risks, you probably won't drown and the fall probably won't kill ya. Even if it is risky, take the chance, dare to do some good, and have fun.

18 September 2008

Spend two minutes ....

...and listen to Obama's Economic Plan Ad ("A Plan to Change")


Read the full plan here.

12 September 2008

And now for something non-political

A fun controversy:

What generic term do you use to describe a drink such as Coca-Cola, Sprite, Pepsi, 7-Up, etc.?

You can submit your choice at this site. There is a map of the results submitted. And, at Strange Maps you can see a national map by county based on use of the terms Soda, Pop, or Coke.

Where I live, the majority of people say 'Coke'. I find this humorous; at my office, by majority opinion, Pepsi brand products are stocked in the drink fridge. Beer, of course, would have been the first choice, but that was vetoed for obvious reasons.

What do I say? My dad was from Chicago; my mom from Philly. I think it was a compromise: Soda-Pop. Not Soda. Not Pop. But Soda-Pop.

Another common word usage in my neck of the woods that makes people from elsewhere laugh: there isn't such a thing as a 'potluck' dinner; it's a pitch-in!

I can't explain it for the same reasons I can't explain why the locals pronounce the word wash as if it is wahrsh.

10 September 2008

Some Words You Should Know

What do the following 921 words have in common?

A, able, about, Abqaiq, abuses, accept, accolade, accomplish, achieve, achievement, across, actual, actually, add, administration, admire, admit, adversity, advocate, afraid, after, again, against, ago, agree, Alaska, all, allies, alone, already, also, alternative, although, always, am, America, American, Americans, Americas, among, an, ancestry, and, another, answer, any, appear, April, Arabia, are, aren’t, army, as, ask, assure, at, authored, average, away, baby, back, bad, banners, basic, be, beautiful, became, been, before, began, believe, belonged, better, between, Biden, big, bigger, billion, bitterly, bless, both, boy, brave, break, bridge, bring, Bristol, broke, brokers, brought, budget, build, built, burden, business, but, buttons, by, caliber, call, came, campaign, can, candidate, cannot, can’t, captives, careers, carrier, carry, catastrophic, Caucasus, cause, cell, certain, certitude, chairman, chairmen, challenge, champion, change, character, chef, chief, children, choice, chosen, chuck, citizens, city, clashing, clean, clear, clearly, cling, cloud, coal, columns, come, comfortable, commander, commentators, commercial, commitment, committee, common, community, company, compassion, competing, competition, confidence, confident, confront, Congress, consider, control, convictions, could, council, count, country, courage, create, crowd, crucial, culture, current, cut, dad, dangerous, dangers, daughter, day, deal, death, decades, deeds, defeat, defend, Defense, delay, delegates, deliveries, democratic, dependence, dependent, deploy, despite, determination, devoted, didn’t, dignity, directly, discovery, divide, do, does, doesn’t, dollar, done, do-nothing, don’t, door, down, dramatic, draw, drilling, drive, driving, each, earmark, earth, easy, eBay, economic, economy, education, either, eldest, elect, election, elementary, elite, end, energy, enlisted, entire, entrenched, equally, Eskimo, establishment, ethics, European, even, every, everything, evil, exactly, except, excuse, executive, expect, experience, experts, explain, extra, face, facility, fact, factories, fades, fairness, faith, family, far, farm, farmer, farther, fear, feelings, fellow, few, fields, fierce, fifth, fight, fighting, filled, finally, find, fine, first, fisherman, five, flash, focus, followed, followers, food, for, forced, foreign, forfeit, forget, forty, forward, fought, found, four, San Francisco, friend, from, fuel, gal, game, gas, gentlemen, geothermal, gifted, girls, give, go, goal, God, goes, going, good, good-ol, got, govern, government, governor, grace, graver, great, greatest, Greek, grew, grin, groups, grow, guards, guess, gulf, guns, guts, guy, habber-dasher, had, half, hallway, Hanoi, hard, harm, Harry, has, hauled, have, having, he, He, healing, hear, heard, heart, heath, heather, heating, hedge, Hell, help, her, herd, here, high, higher, high-flown, him, himself, his, His, history, hockey, home, hometown, honesty, honorable, honored, hope, hour, house, how, hundreds, hurricane, husband, I, idealism, if, I’m, imported, in, income, increase, independence, infantry, inflict, infrastructure, ingenuity, inside, insisted, inspire, integrity, interest, interests, interrogations, intimidate, into, investments, involves, Iran, Iraq, is, isn’t, it, I’ve, January, jet, jobs, John, join, journey, joys, Juneau, just, Kasey, keep, kids, kind, kind-hearted, knew, know, knows, ladies, laid, Lancaster, landmark, large, last, lately, later, lavishes, law, lay, lead, leader, leader, leadership, learned, leave, led, lesser, lesson, let, lieutenant, life, lifelong, lifetime, lights, like, listening, little, littlest, living, lobbyists, long, look, lose, lost, lot, lots, love, luxury, machine, made, major, majority, make, man, many, massive, mate, matter, maverick, may, maybe, mayor, McCain, me, means, measure, media, meet, member, memoirs, memorials, men, mercy, message, met, Mexico, Michigan, might, millions, mind, mingle, Minnesota, miss, missions, Missouri, Moe, mom, money, monopoly, more, most, mother, move, Mr., much, muddle, my, myself, name, named, nation, natural, nearly, necessary, needs, nephew, network, never, news, next, night, nightmare, no, nomination, nominee, north, not, nothing, noticed, now, nowhere, nuclear, Obama, observed, of, off, office, Ohio, oil, old, on, once, one, only, opened, operator, opinion, opponent, opportunity, opposition, or, order, organizer, other, our, ourselves, out, oval, over, overcome, overlooked, owe, own, package, pain, parents, parties, party, passed, past, path, pattern, pay, paychecks, payroll, Pennsylvania, people, perfectly, perhaps, permanent, Persian, personal, petroleum, pin-hole, pipeline, Piper, place, plan, planet, plans, plant, pledge, plot, political, politicians, politics, pollsters, possible, power, powerful, powerless, powers, praise, prayer, preconditions, prefer, presidency, president, presidential, prices, primary, print, prisoner, private-sector, privilege, problem, produce, producing, production, profile, project, promises, promising, promote, proof, prospect, protected, proud, PTA, public, pull, pundits, put, al-Qaeda, quickly, quite, quo, quote, racer, raise, ran, rather, read, readily, realize, really, reason, recalls, record, reduce, reform, refused, Reid, relentless, religion, reporters, request, reserve, resolve, resources, responsibilities, return, revenue, rhetoric, rid, right, roar, run, running, Russia, said, Sally, same, Saudi, say, schools, Scranton, seals, season, section, security, see, seek, seem, seen, self-dealing, self-designed, Senate, Senator, sent, September, servants, serve, service, serving, share, sheer, shook, short, should, shuffled, shut, side, sight, signed, simple, since, sincerity, single, sister, sits, six-by-four, slope, small, small-town, snow, so, solar, solve, some, someone, sometimes, son, sort, sought, sources, speak, speaker, special, special-needs, specific, speech, speechmaking, spending, spends, spirit, squalor, squarely, stadium, stakes, stand, standing, starting, state, station, status, steel, step, still, stirringly, stood, story, strategic, strength, strike, strong, struck, studio, Styrofoam, sudden, suffered, summed, summoned, suppliers, supplies, support, supposed, sure, surplus, survival, suspended, take, talking, talks, tax, taxes, taxpayers, tend, terrorist, than, thank, thanks, that, the, their, them, there, these, they, they’re, thing, this, those, though, thought, threat, three, through, throw, thumbs, time, to, today, Todd, told, Tom, tomorrow, tonight, too, took, top, torturous, tough, toward, town, Track, treasury, Trig, troops, true, Truman, trying, turn, turning, two, typical, under, uniform, Union, united, unlikely, unqualified, up, upright, ups, us, use, using, usual, valves, Venezuela, very, veto, vetoing, vice, victory, Virginia, vital, voters, walk, want, wanted, wanting, wants, war, was, Washington, wasteful, waters, way, we, we, weapon, week, welcomed, welcoming, well, went, were, were, we’re, west, we’ve, what, when, where, wherever, which, while, white, who, whoever, who’ll, who’s, whose, why, will, Willow, wind, winning, wisdom, with, within, without, woman, women, won, won’t, word, wore, work, workers, working, works, world, worried, would, writer, wrote, year, you, young, your, you’re, Yupik

Like LIPSTICK, the above words are apparently off-limits since they were included at least one time in Sarah Palin's convention speech.

Maybe we should limit the talk of both campaigns to the following subjects and not worry as much about specific word choice as about the substance of the candidates' stances:

Some other topics may be undertaken with extreme caution: CHARACTER, HONESTY, HYPOCRISY, INTEGRITY, TRUTH, SPIN. In these cases, it is better to let your words and actions about the issues speak for themselves.

News Flash John McCain and the Republicans: this election IS about the issues!

Bulletin to Barack and the Democrats: Keep it focused on the issues! Palin is NOT the issue.

06 September 2008

Post Convention Ramblings....

I'm stealing this .... with attribution:
The McCain-Mooseburger ticket. I don't always agree with his snarky comments, but Bill Maher always makes me laugh.

Both Sides invoked Truman:
Sarah Palin talked about the Missouri Habadasher. Joe Biden quoted Harry S Truman this week, too: "when someone said 'Give 'em hell, Harry', he said 'I'm not going to give 'em hell, I'm going to tell the truth and they will think it is hell!' ". See the clip here beginning at timestamp 2:52. (found posted by Kay In Maine at White Noise Insanity). Truman, a Democrat, was selected as VP as a compromise and was not considered very experienced or qualified for the job during a time of war. Who knew that he would have to make the decision to drop the atom bomb or appoint four Supreme Court justices?

Witty, biting snark attacks
How many times do we need to hear the lipstick joke? A soccer mom, but tougher? Do they really think that "Soccer Mom" or "Hockey Mom" is a voting category? Perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about because I never felt that as a mother of a Cross-Country/Track athlete that I was part of some sort of monolithic voting block or special interest group. But maybe that was because I have hay fever and rarely stayed for the entire meet. At least Palin's pit bull comments were in a nicer spirit than the other snarky remarks made by her and the also-rans on Wednesday night. Am I so biased that I didn't notice that same tone while watching the Democratic convention?

Deriding community organizers? What happened to Bush 41's 1000 points of light? Weren't they community organizers? I think someone who advocates for others -- people out of work, people without health care, people living in substandard housing, people who look to others to help them find resources to help themselves -- these community organizers are the people who work in the trenches throughout our country. It isn't the same experience as building a hockey rink for your town, but it isn't unimportant. It isn't a shallow job. It isn't something that one does for fame or fortune or because it is a posh job. It's damn hard work, regardless of what your cause is. For the Republicans to scoff at this type of work, especially when so much of it is done by faith-based organizations (like the organization Obama worked for) is hypocrisy and, derogatory to those without ready access to the same avenues of power that many in some classes of society have.

A sound bite adding to the rhetoric from the Dems': "My friend John and George Bush are joined at the hip. And we need a hip replacement." - Joe Biden

Witty? Certainly. But I hope that Biden followed it up with facts. It's funny to watch the pundits and comedians poke fun at the politicians. But I don't want an entertainer in the Oval Office -- or someone who is intent on belittling the opponent in order to grab the headline. How can we not demand that our candidates behave civilly? It doesn't make them folksy and just like me or Average Joe Citizen. It makes them petty. And mean. It's the kind of behavior that I would repremand my child for.

I agree with Obama's statement: this election -- as is every election -- is too important for the candidates to waste time making trivial, bickering snipes at each other. If you know about an objective analysis of issues discussed in each speech, leave the link in the comments.

About that jet: "That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on eBay," she told cheering Republican delegates at their convention last week. True, but she left out that it never sold on eBay. And so state staffers had to broker a deal with a buyer" It has been reported that it was sold at a loss to the Alaskan government.

This link cuts through some of the rhetoric from Wednesday night.

For a humorous twist on fact checking comments by the right wing, including their new folk hero. Watch this clip from Jon Stewart.

Sexism in News Coverage
I will agree with the Republicans that some of the reporting has been sexist. But, I don't think that it is because Sarah Palin is a Republican. Asking about her experience is legitimate; to suggest that it is sexist is cynical, political, empty speech. And it's political bullshit to suggest that people in the Senate have NO experience and that they are all lazy 'do-nothings. How convenient to overlook the fact that the Democrats have had the majority for only 2 years and to ignore that it is a slim majority.

Is asking about whether her kids are too young for her to be VP sexist? It isn't sexist that we ask female candidates. It is sexist that we don't ask men. What is more sexist than the question is the societal expectation and social norm that women should be the primary caregivers. It isn't just the press that thinks this.

A better question would be: "How does she do it?" not "How can she do it?". Although I know many men who co-parent or are the primary caregiver, and I know that men are impacted as well by work/family balance issues, when I look at the women I work with -- across all levels of education & skills -- it seems like it is the women who continue to bear most of the responsibility for raising their families and keeping things running smoothly in the home. I know many people struggling with the balancing act that do want to know how she manages these issues, rather than imposing the view that she can't govern because of her children.

What I think is an even more subtle form of sexism -- or maybe it is anti-feminism -- are the photos of Sarah Palin's shoes. Did you notice these photos posted in the few days following the announcement of her candidacy?

Although it appears to have been taken down, there was one photo -- maybe a crop of the photo with her & McCain's feet -- that only showed her shoes. I immediately wondered if it wasn't to stress that she dressed like a conservative lady, the antithesis of Hillary's pantsuits. How ridiculous!

I almost expected to see Podiatrists for Palin signs!

Why would I care about what shoes any of them are wearing?

Conventional Propaganda
Political conventions are carefully crafted shows -- the Greek-revival columns reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of King's I Have A Dream Speech; the 9/11 footage (which I'm glad that I missed); the personal bios of the candidates and their wives (ahem one for Cindy, not for Todd?) -- and, whether you agree with them or not, they are meant to be exploitative, to create an image, an ambiance, a brand, a visceral reaction. That is the nature of propaganda. The conventioneers -- teary-eyed one moment, enthusiasticlly smiling and applauding the next -- make for good television. Neither party passed up the chance for a multi-day infomercial.

Don't let either party get away with thinking that the American public is so stupid that they will only go for the sound bite. If you haven't yet made up your mind on the facts, make an informed decision in the next 60 days by reading the candidates' stances on the substantive issues on their individual websites:, Read about those issues from other sources, too; not just the sources that you typically agree with.

It's no secret to readers of this blog which candidate I support. If you are going to vote -- whether for Obama or McCain -- make an informed decision. And if you're not going to vote and you're eligible to do so, don't complain about the next occupants of the White House to me!