Friday, May 31, 2013

Just Lie Down On The Dotted Line...

An awful thing happened last week. A sad, immoral and criminal thing. A young teen-aged girl seeking medical services was molested by her service provider. Ah, I know what you’re thinking. (I think.) You’re thinking, okay, awful enough, but hardly unusual. In fact, these days, a molestation is about as rare as a sneeze.
But the story caught my eye anyway. To protect the girl’s privacy I will not identify her city, county, state, country, geo-political union, continent, hemisphere, planet or solar system. Let’s just say this happened somewhere in the Milky Way.
Here’s the situation: 14-year-old girl has a skin condition. (itching? redness? post-tattoo buyer’s remorse? who knows.) So the girl’s mother takes her to (WARNING. This is where the story starts to get weird) a MASSAGE THERAPIST. (who is also board-certified in Dermatalogical Medicine? We’re thinking not.) Ah, who knows. Maybe he’s a Renaissance Man. He does massages, laser treatments AND Feng Shui. And he changes windshield wiper blades for free. These days, people have to wear a lot of hats to stay in business. Still, the story was starting to make my temples itch.
Okay, so mom takes epidermally-troubled teen to local Skin Doc/Massage Therapist for treatment and apparently drops her off. Either that, or she went in and made small talk with the staff who happened to be (eh) NOTARY PUBLICS? Yes, she went to a Notary Public’s office for her appointment with the “skin doctor.” What’s the harm? They could maybe certify that she was seen on time.
Well, I always get suspicious when the first thing a doctor asks me to do is to don a blindfold. Yes, he blindfolded her for treatment! (I’ll bet you didn’t think you had to warn your kids about that old trick. Well, you DO!) I’m not blaming the girl. Kids are taught to follow doctors’ orders. Still. I would’ve liked to see that M.D. degree on the wall.
So after he blindfolds her, he proceeds to allegedly “perform lewd acts” on her in the interest of clearing up the skin condition. We can only hope she does not now have two skin conditions instead of one. Anyway, DaVinci’s Renaissance Man looks a little grabby. And he’s naked, besides.
Police arrested the Dermatologist/Massage Therapist/Notary Public, and charged him with committing the lewd acts after the girl told her mother what happened. A police search of the Notary Public/Massage Therapy/Dermatology office turned up…sex toys and condoms. That would be an eyeful while awaiting your turn in the patient room.
But, when you think of how Notary Publics turned Mortgage Robo-Signers have molested the general public, it is not surprising that this took place in such a versatile office setting. Where did they get this guy’s name, off a lawn sign on the side of the road? On the other hand, maybe he was charging Notary Public rates for his services, which would make him a comparative bargain.
Truly, a sad situation for this teen. And a cautionary tale for parents who need to give very specific instructions as to what to expect from medical service providers. And, maybe make sure you’re dropping them off at a doctor’s office.
And while Congress attempts to massage the Mortgage Mess, we can only hope they can find a financial ointment capable of solving it before the whole economy goes septic.

WRECK-TURE Wreaks Havoc In Midwest

The body count is still not complete from Saturday night’s Tornado Terror in Missouri, and already the Weather Channel is broadcasting a new round of watches, warnings, and blood-red parallelograms of punishment being leveled against more of the Midwest. For a nation that has barely processed its much bally-hooted Non-Rapture event, it seems we have moved directly on to circumstances that bear a frightening similarity to what was kinda sorta projected by the Biblical Billboard crowd: bunches of people, some sucked right out of their shoes, leaving this earth and meeting their Maker in very short order.
Sadly, these people died. But, they’d be just as gone had they been raptured. Not a comfort at all, but pretty darned WEIRD, in my opinion. So, whether you tend to think God is pitching batting practice with hailstones, or that the cow emissions and SUV flatulence have finally formed a lethal miasma that will now routinely spawn F-4 tornadoes, the thing is, it’s getting SCARY out there.
Joplin has seen over 100 deaths, but over 1,000 people are still missing. Hopefully these people will be checking in as hospitals release them and emergency crews dig them out, but when you look at the extent of the devastation, you can’t help but wonder if the death toll is going to climb far higher. It’s enough to make you want to hire Mike Mulligan and his trusty steamshovel and dig yourself a good old fashioned basement.
It has been interesting watching the live coverage, particularly when the storm chaser filming out the front windown of his car saw a telephone pole lift off like the Ghost of Christmas Cracked and fly over his car in a fully upright position. Honestly, I think I ducked myself when I saw it. So the best hiding places seem to be basements, storm cellars, meat freezers, and clinging to Jim Cantore’s back. I don’t know about concrete structures. A bunch of people were killed in a Home Depot when a concrete wall fell on them. (and yes, I would totally avoid the aisles with the screws and nails, power tools, and lighting fixtures, too) Heck, get OUT of the Home Depot and run to the mattress store! Get between a pillowtop and a boxspring and hang on with your teeth!
It seems quite a bit of the country has been subjected to weird winds, watches and warnings this spring. Last month St. Louis Airport got dinged by a twister. This weekend they had one near Minneapolis. Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia saw some terrible damages only weeks ago. Joplin was toppling. Tuscaloosa is now just Loosa. Lives were lost, homes destroyed, memories obliterated in a matter of minutes.
Let’s take a look at the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale to see what it means:
F0 — Light damage. Chimneys crack, branches break, trees are torn and signs are shellacked.
F1 — Moderate. Roof shingles take flight. Mobile homes are moved or flipped. Automobiles go off in non-GPS approved directions.
F2 — Considerable Damage. Roofs torn off. Mobile homes are mincemeat. Railroad cars are overturned. Trees uprooted. Cars go airborne.
F3 — Severe. Walls disappear from well-constructed homes. Entire trains go belly up. Whole forests flattened. SUVS go sailing.
F4 — Devastating Damage. Solid houses leveled to their foundations. Large objects become missiles.
F5 — Incredible Damage. Strong frame houses lifted and tossed. Sometimes pureed. Cars fly the length of a football field. Any tree still standing is debarked.
Joplin’s damage was recently assessed to be at an F5 level of damage in many places. It’s an effective reminder of how temporary life is, of how quickly it can be taken from us. I hope we can all pray for those affected, and may God have mercy on us all.

FAIL-A-GEDDON Leaves Many With Full Shoes...and Redundant Pet Services

In the biggest Rapture Fail Date so far this week, the Harold Camping Crowd got Left Behind. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Heck, the group even commissioned billboards to announce the May 21st date to a generally indifferent public. Doom Dates? Well after Y2K failed to so much as delay anyone’s cable bill, very few people were willing to bet their entire eternity on the word of a guy most people hadn’t heard of before this year. This month, even.
But, it seems the Camping crowd was doing more than just informing the world that someone else would have to take in their trash cans next week. They were also FISHING for donations. Yep! Apparently heaven just might have a cover charge. You can’t be too careful when it comes to having a Saturday Night reservation at an exclusive club.
And how come these committed Christians seem to have only a perfunctory familiarity with Matthew 24:36: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” That seems pretty basic, it is in the Gospels, and uttered by Jesus himself. Since when did Harold Camping become a more important authority than the guy he’s supposed to be working for?
Seems, though, that Harold has flunked spiritual math. Apparently he consulted several Old Testament Books, cross-multiplied them with some New Testatment Scripture, and came up with a Rapture Equation that didn’t quite balance. Whenever someone picks an End of the World date based on biblical math, they don’t take into account that there is ALWAYS a rounding error! And not all these preachers are the math geniuses they style themselves to be, anyway.
Now all kinds of news media outlets are asking if this is going to shake people’s faith in Christianity. Well, it should certainly shake their faith in Haroldolatry. After all, the man had previously predicted a similar rapture in 1994. He is now onto his second mulligan! And many remember the Hale-Bopp black sneaker crowd that expected to board spaceships in conjunction with the appearance of the Hale-Bopp Comet in 1997. Unfortunately some of those people committed suicide when their ride failed to show up. They were determined to leave the planet one way or the other.
A group of Christians labeled “Millerites” after William Miller,a Baptist Preacher, awaited Christ’s return 1n 1843. When He did not appear on schedule, Miller insisted he would return 1n 1844. Again, nothing. Finally, the group was ready to be Raptured in 1845. By then everyone gave up. Still, it’s tough to be so wrong that people are still talking about you as an historical footnote.
So Camping was a failure. Fishing for money was successful, but wrong. That leaves Hunting. Which I’m sure they all will be doing next — hunting for excuses. So far it looks like the only thing that may have been raptured was his radio station’s transmitter. Or, maybe’s it’s just too embarrassed to continue transmitting. With luck, 200 million people DID get saved this weekend. Saved from Harold Camping. He’s not completely wrong, though. The world’s gonna end, all right. Just not when we’re expecting it to.
If you are inclined to donate money to “the cause” it is tax deductible. They are officially a non-prophet organization.

Track & Britta: Not An Energy Drink!

They sound like one, though! Political Gadfly and rightwing opinion-polarizer Sarah Palin, along with Husband and Snow-Machine-Monster Todd, attended the marriage ceremony of their son, TRACK, to his high-school sweetheart Britta Hanson. The marriage took place in Hatcher Pass, Alaska.
Now the official story, which I eyeballed at the People Magazine website (because those “Associated Press” persons were too busy tsk-tsking President Obama for throwing Israel under an IED-laden bus), quotes the two families as saying, “Our families couldn’t be happier!”
Now joint statements like that always gives me visions of them saying it barbershop quartet style. Of course they could be happier. But I don’t feel like counting the ways.
In any case, best wishes to Track and the blushing bride. I suggest trademarking the “Track & Britta” name pronto, because surely SOMETHING could be sold under that name, if not a 2012 candidacy for Britta’s mother-in-law. (“Britta: The filter to use when you’d rather not know your mother-in-law’s unvarnished opinion.”)
Everyone seems to be dressed in Alaskan Midday Formal, Pre-Moosehunt Version.
The families added (a capella): “The Hanson and Palin families are ecstatic and proud that Britta and Track married in one of our favorite spots in America, spectacular Hatcher Pass, Alaska,” says the statement. “It’s a site we’ve all shared fun memories of skiing, snowboarding, hiking and snowmachining.”
Best wishes to the newlyweds and both their families. And Happy Snow Machining!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

About Face: A Real Head-Scratcher

In the age of the internet you get to learn all kinds of weird things you didn't want to know, such as how people actually lived in the 1500s. (Remember "peas porridge in the pot, nine days old?" It is more than a cute nursery rhyme.) For me it is the basis of ALL KINDS of exciting medical discoveries, a depressing one of which I am about to share with you. You know how when you get old your skin gets all wrinkly and saggy? (I'm sure none of you is old enough to know this personally, but you've SEEN pictures of really old people, right?) Well in the good old days we were told this is because you got old. Then later conventional wisdom took over, and it became more a matter of too much sun, a smoking habit, not eating the right omega three vitamins and general "hard living." (All living is hard. Whom do the Conventionally Wise think they're kidding?) Now we generally understand that as we age, our skin loses its elasticity, and, due to a variety of factors such as gravity and too much frowning, your face has no choice but to sag as close to the earth as it can get. While wrinkling in the process. So far so good! Turns out, that is not the full explanation. The full explanation is MUCH WEIRDER. In my opinion. It's as weird as cats and dogs living on thatched roof cottages and losing their footing during a bad rainstorm. Thus it "rains" cats and dogs. No, the true explanation for why your facial skin sags and wrinkles is that YOUR SKELETON IS DISINTEGRATING! True. I read this on reputable website with medical links. How it works is, your body slowly loses skeletal mass, and as it does, the skin no longer has enough structure to hold it up. So it sags into the cavities. (Note to the woman who had a face transplant: I hope you ordered one size too small!) I'm sure you never suspected this, since skeletons are supposed to last not only your entire lifetime, but, theoretically, they are supposed to remain in decent shape until the Resurrection of the Dead! Plus, if skeletons actually deteriorated, how could they be finding missing links such as Piltdown Man? (Oh, wait. He was a hoax. Make that Polyurethane Man.) Makes me wonder if early humanoid-type varieties of ape-persons weren't as small as they appeared to be. Maybe they just disintegrated a few sizes! Perhaps Neanderthal Man originally had the physique of Hulk Hogan or Jerome Bettis. I have to admit I'm kind of grossed out. It's bad enough that our bodies are "80 percent water" to begin with. (Which makes us the equivalent of sentient water balloons, going through life hoping to not get punctured.) I am not one of those people that likes to contemplate how many quarts of blood I'm made up of, or what makes it rush around in my body to feed all the cells, or how many miles of capillaries exist in my arms. I'd rather not think about it! So now this idea that our skeletons are dissolving as we go about our day is just not a comfortable one for me. It makes me want to tread lightly before I lose more bone mass and collapse into Silly Putty. Maybe it's one of those things like those montrous-looking but tiny creatures that exist everywhere around us, even on our skin, but are too small to gross us out. (The Dust Mite is pictured at the top of this article to the left.) Figure, if MY skeleton is slowly dissolving, so is everyone else's! So I'm not going to worry about this any more than I worry about mad cow disease. I figure the vegans are well-qualified to run the earth after I'm reduced to a blithering pile of shrinking bones. That reminds me of my kids' jokes. Now they are four and six, so they don't tell really good jokes. They mostly say nonsense things that I'm supposed to laugh at. Such as, "What do you call a bird on the lawn with X's on its eyes?" (What?) "An X-O Bird!" (hahahahahahahaha!) The 6-year-old is actually joke-savvy enough to know this is NOT a joke, and he tries to explain this to the 4-year-old, who pays no attention whatsover and launches into 20 more equally incomprensible jokes. But here are two jokes from my kids that actually made sense! 6-year-old: "What's black and white and black and white and green?" (What?) "Two skunks fighting over a pickle!" From the 4-year-old: "What do you call bones that fly?" (No idea.) "A hot air skeleton!" Haha! I DID laugh for that one! Have no idea how he could make that up! In fact, he doesn't think it's any funnier than the rest of them. I hope the Hot Air Skeleton doesn't dissolve before it runs out of air.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Might As Well Face It, We're Addicted To Oil

I wish I could tell you I saw the State of the Union address, but at that hour Hubby and I are completely absorbed in a routine that involves brushing teeth, donning PJs and reading bedtime stories. On top of all that, we have kids, too! So my impression of the president’s State of the Union speech is based purely on hearsay. If I've misunderstood anything I blame it entirely on the CEO of the Sago mine, who was supposed to be transmitting the information to me via tin cans and a string. But the main point came through loud and clear. We Americans are a bunch of staggering, out-of-control oil addicts! The president didn’t mention the part about assaulting other nations to ensure we could continue getting our fix. That’s no doubt due to our “democracy addiction.” In the State of the Union Address the president informed us we are ADDICTED to oil. Thank you, touchy-feely speechwriters, for not just saying we need the stuff to run our cars. I have not heard, at this point, if the president expects us as a nation to quit cold turkey, attempt a 12-step program, or if we're about to be tossed into the earthly gutter to beg foreign countries for euros "to buy a cup of coffee" (while we sneak to the local gas station to fill up our SUVs). The thing is, in order to solve our problem, don't we need to hit "rock bottom?" Or could we get by with an intervention of some kind? Personally I don't care to call it an addiction. I prefer to think of it as a gas guzzling problem. Sure, we like to gas up, but I can switch to my bike anytime! Let's take a look at the main warning signs of addiction and see how we U.S. motorists stack up. I am taking the liberty of answering for the majority of Americans because I didn’t have time to call or poll. I feel I am no more than one or two standard deviations away from being “average” so this is perfectly acceptable. 1) Does it take more gas to make you feel “full” than it used to? Answer: Yes. Especially after we bought our full-sized van. 2) Do you ever use more gas than you intended to? Answer: Definitely! Every time I get stuck in traffic, accelerate to pass Sunday drivers so fast that their wigs blow off, or have to go back to the store yet again for that one critical item such as my son needs Saltines for some classroom topography project. 3) Do you have “blackouts,” or “lose time” after using a lot of gas? Answer: Not sure about the blackouts, unless you’re referring to the time we left the door open all night and then couldn’t start the van the next day. We spend a third of our lives sleeping, and another 25 percent driving. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for watching State of the Union speeches or buying solar panels for the roof. 4) Do you ever use gas in the morning to reduce anxiety? Answer: Let’s put it this way, if I didn’t use gas in the morning, I’d be CREATING a lot of anxiety! We’ve got to get everybody to work and school, and it’s just too far to walk unless I’m planning to start a family farm on the front lawn. 5) Do you ever find yourself wishing you could gas up in order to calm yourself? Answer: Whenever that needle slips below a quarter tank I start to worry. Then I tell myself to relax, I can afford to pass the three stations with the expensive brand name gas. Then there’s an unexpected detour and suddenly I’m in full panic mode. 6) Do you ever gas up when taking prescription medications? Answer: Yes. I figure what’s more dangerous, me driving under the influence of penicillin, or me hitch-hiking after taking prescription meds? 7) Have you ever gone to work or school smelling of gasoline? Answer: I’m not 100 percent sure, due to the intoxicating effects of inhaled gasoline, but most likely yes. 8) Do you have a history of relationships with other gasoline users? Answer: There was that boy in ninth grade whose mother drove us everywhere. Beyond that it was bikes. But once I hit the real dating scene it was gas users all the way. 9) Do you find yourself using gasoline to help you sleep? Answer: My sister-in-law swears by the “Driving the Baby Around the Block” method of getting cranky babies to sleep. 10) Do you fill up your gas tank more than the recommended amount? Answer: Only to the nearest dollar. Lately it’s been to the nearest nickel because it’s just too expensive to let any spill over. 11) Do you try to conceal your use, or “edit” stories about using gas? Answer: We DO keep the van in the garage at night, so that would technically be concealment. Also if I ever run out of gas on the highway (especially after passing up a few “expensive stations”) I hope to be able to conceal this from my husband. 12) Do you ever use gasoline alone? Answer: After dropping off the kids, yes. But then I rationalize, saying well you never know, I MAY be pregnant. 13) Do you ever say things you regret while using gasoline? Answer: Sometimes I lose my temper. But never in front of the kids, and I don’t do rude hand gestures. 14) Have you ever slept in your car? Answer: Yes, but I was at the U.B campus where there was NO WAY to get a parking space after 8 a.m. So I’d get there an hour before my class started and yes, sometimes I napped. 15) Is your life increasingly chaotic and turbulent? Answer: On a personal level, no. But every time I read the news I get the feeling the world as a whole is trying to pull a “Thelma and Louise” off the nearest cliff. The other area of the State of the Union speech I wanted to address is our president’s call for a ban on human/animal hybrids. Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to meld human DNA with horse DNA? A new race of Centaurs that could gallop to work would surely solve this oil addiction we’re so worried about. Well, it’s hay for thought.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Steel or Feathers? Superbowl XL

Pity the poor Detroit Lions. This Sunday's Superbowl extravaganza at the Pontiac Silverdome is as close as the city is likely to get to that hallowed game. I think the team's been jinxed ever since George Plimpton donned the Lions uniform to provide research for his book "Paper Lion." Since then the Lions have played with all the determination of a paper team competing in a scissors league. They play like journalists in pads. But never mind the poorly scripted reality show that is the Detroit Lions. ("I'm a Detroit Draft Pick, Get Me Out of Here!" or "The Amazing Waste") We want to focus on the big game itself, now less than a week away. In spite of the Motor City's recent malaise as former powerhouse automakers GM and Ford tighten their belts to the point they look like Lindsay Lohan during Lent, Detroit is determined to put on a super show as the Superbowl enters middle age. Turning 40 this year, Detroit doesn't want Super Bowl XL having a midlife crisis. True, it's 40 years later and the original British Invasion seems complete. The Rolling Stones are performing at halftime. They're as American as shepherd's pie, yet here they are facing (let's be honest, early Geezerhood) and they're performing at our quintessential U.S. sporting event. I guess they are tamer than poor, maligned Janet Jackson. That's the other buzz on this event, that it could be the site of a spectacular Al Qaeda-fueled terror attack. With three threatening videotapes in the past month alone, you have to start wondering if they're going to start issuing press kits. Maybe Osama and the guy with the glasses will show up with the teams during media week? All I can say is if there are any surprises at the Super Bowl I'd rather see nipples than nukes! Word has it there has been a lot of terrorist "chatter" about Detroit and the date February 5th. Well, duh, it's the Superbowl. They're probably betting on the game. Somebody wiretap the bookies! I do have my preferences on this. The Steelers represent a traditional blue collar town, and an industry that is a shadow of its former self. As tough as the Seahawks team seems, they reside in an area famous for latte-sipping, tofu-eating hippies. How can we root for a city whose people might not care if their team wins? Also the Steelers still wear the same team uniform with its solid black and gold color scheme. The Seahawks abandoned their blue and gray for a hue that can best be described as "algae." Yes, it might be necessary for oceans to thrive, but it's still slime. Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren has already won a Superbowl with the Packers. Steelers Coach Bill Cowher has been laboring for the Steelers for 14 long years (that's two consecutive Biblical famine periods) with no ring to show for it. What better going away present for retiring running back Jerome Bettis? Even though I'd prefer to see a Steelers victory, my number one goal here is to see a GAME. That's something I didn't see during the Conference Championship weekend, when the Steelers and Seahawks basically blew out their opponents by a comfortable margin. Also I am including in my nightly prayers, "Lord, please don't let this game be decided, or ruined, by ZEBRAS!" (Honestly, as Noah was closing up the ark I think I would've left the whole referee species behind.) The Steelers ARE at a bit of a disadvantage, playing in a dome. This is a team that is accustomed to battling the elements, along with the other team. And we all know Mother Nature can be a formidable opponent! In the controlled atmosphere of Ford Field they may feel like a pigskin science experiment rather than an athletic contest. It may distract them! But as long as the Steelers players keep their Terrible Towels firmly affixed to their bodies during any commercials with one or more Desperate Housewives, I think we can keep the FCC at bay. So my prediction: Big Ben Roethlisberger shakes off the thumb injury and takes it to the Hawks. If the two teams produce an exciting game, and we get through it without a hint of terrorism, then I will consider us all winners.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Terrorocracy Triumphs in Palestine

The Palestinians held their big election, and by American standards the turnout was stupendous. An estimated 80 percent of the eligible voters went to the polls. (U.S. turnout is typically less than half) What a great day for democracy! Perhaps the winds of freedom and civil discourse will soon be sweeping over the entire Middle East! Except the developed world is not so happy at the news. You see, the winner of the Palestinian election was not some moderate. Not a pro-western leader. Not a party anyone can consider talking sense to. The winner in these elections was Hamas. Yes THAT Hamas. The radical organization that advocates the destruction of Israel. (Admittedly it takes more than desiring the destruction of Israel to be labeled "radical." It's a fairly common sentiment.) The thing is, this group is utterly devoted to terror as a way of life. They are now the officially elected and sanctioned Terrorocracy in the Middle East! Technically, the term HAMAS stands for: "Holy Armageddon! Mullahs Aiming Scuds!" So you can see why the normal nations are upset. I think we've already announced we can't consider negotiating with a duly elected terrorist organization. It would be like if we elected one of the Crips mayor of Los Angeles. John Gotti governor of New York State. Perhaps Tim McVeigh (before he was executed) and David Koresh (before he was incinerated) winning the presidency and vice presidency on the America First ticket! However, now that we've admitted WMDs were no longer the real reason for invading Iraq (at best they were a "consensus reason"), we've settled upon this "bringing democracy to the people of the Middle East" canard. It is certainly a duck of a story that is laying an egg as we speak. ("Canard" is french for "duck" if you'd like to secretly enjoy that statement a little more, perhaps with a nice irony glaze.) Now that we have Terrorocracy, we know darn well that Iraq is going to end up being a Theocracy the moment our "political advisors" skeddadle when the danger of kidnapping or an IED (Improvised Exposive Device, ie. "roadside bomb" or "shrapnel sandwich") gets too great. I have long felt we will not exit Iraq due to political pressure, overseas or domestic. We will exit when we run out of money to fund the operation. One more Katrina-style natural disaster should do it: L.A. earthquake, Northwest volcano, NYC hurricane, whatever it is. Really, do we want to keep wasting money and lives just so the ruling religious party over there can have their Theocracy? Even if it's democratically elected? Ah, for the good old days of puppet dictators! Whatever happened to benign rulers? Wise kings? People whose sole goal wasn't to trample the earth and the people on it? Well regardless, Hamas has announced it doesn't have any immediate terror attacks planned. However it has warned that Israel needs to "change its flag." Gee that's kinda personal! It's one thing to trespass on my lawn, but another to criticize my wardrobe. People in the south are still touchy about the rebel flag. Apparently Hamas wants two of the blue stripes removed because to the Palestinians it represents an alleged Israeli belief that the country's dominion extends from the Nile River (in Egypt) to the Euphrates River (Iraq). As if they didn't already have enough to fight about over there. I suspect it's no coincidence that geopolitics is converging with religion in a region commonly known as the Holy Land. It was the site of the original Eden, and the site of the future Armageddon. Let's just hope it doesn't occur in the "near" future!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oprah Does The Right Thing

I have to give Oprah Winfrey credit. She went on her show to say, loudly, Mea Culpa! That is something author James Frey* (his real name and unfortunately also the name of another author who does NOT lie for a living. I hope they sort it out via middle initials.) pointedly did NOT do on the Larry King show as he defended his version of the truth. Oprah obviously read my blog and had a change of heart! Okay, she probably read a smattering of the invective being hurled by some very fine writers in newspaper columns all over the country. But my point is, her media empire is vast enough, and audience entrenched enough, that she doesn't have to apologize to anyone. The fact that she'd bother to do so says she cares about her credibility. She even admitted to being embarrasssed at this whole thing. That is just so rarely heard from a celebrity of any kind, much less one of her stature. I'm a little bit amazed that Mr. Lying Author appeared on the show again soley for the purpose of being browbeaten by Oprah, columnist Richard Cohen, and others. He said he had "made mistakes," and when Oprah pressed him on it, even admitted to making mistakes AND lying. Granted, this second Oprah appearance will guarantee even MORE book sales. But honestly, the book was doing so well, fueled first by the book club selection, and now by the controversy, that the second show wasn't really necessary. I'm wondering if his publisher, Doubleday's Nan Talese, threatened to apply a very hot poker to his private parts. They are in major damage control mode. Now that financial success is guaranteed, apparently Nan would STILL like to maintain a shred of credibility. Hard to do when your own husband, Gay Talese, is doing the rounds on national TV basically disagreeing with you. Some have even suggested that the publisher may have subtly nudged Mr. Frey along the duplicitous path he ultimately took. Who knows! Wouldn't surprise me. I would really like the publisher to add a note at the end of the book. "Based on a true story." My brother called me this afternoon to ask if I knew anything about this "Frey guy" and why Oprah was interviewing him, and why he looked so uncomfortable. I said, "Read my blog!" But it also gave me a chance to flick on CBS and catch part of Oprah's show. Yes, it was fun watching Frey agree with everyone that he was, in fact, a big fat liar. I mean really, a root canal with no novocaine? I don't know too many non-Nazi dentists who would do that. So Oprah, from me to you, I'm sorry for calling you the country's most prominent enabler. I am heartened to see you stand up for Truth, Justice AND the American Way. Just like Superman would. As to Mr. Frey's book, well, heating oil prices are high. I hear a lot of people are buying wood-burning stoves. Let's put his book to good use!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Why Good Things Happen To Bad Authors: Lies & The Lying Liars Who Sell Them

When it comes to book sales, there's nothing as good as a famous person to wave a magic wand and turn your pumpkin of a tome into a glittering coach. So when the Princess of Hype, Oprah Winfrey, selected James Lie's* (not his real name) memoir for her TV book club last fall, it was little wonder that it propelled him out of the pumpkin patch to the top of the New York Times bestseller list for non-fiction. He has reigned there for the past couple of months. Problem is, some super-sleuths at the suspected something was amiss with "A Million Little Pieces," Mr. Lie's* (not the name on his birth certificate) cindery tale of how he wrecked, then redeemed his life after years of drug and alcohol addiction. (Well, people have been calling it "gritty," but I wanted to stick with my Cinderella theme. So I decided "cindery" meant the same thing. Besides, the man's reputation is now in ashes.) They weren't the only ones to get a whiff of the ocean as they read the tale. Janet Maslin of the New York Times also wrinkled her nose at some of the book's scenes. But the truth crusaders at the Smoking Gun had the gumption to investigate some of Mr. Lie's* (not the name that on his police record) claims. What they discovered is that a Frey* Fact is not the same as a True Fact. For you grammar sticklers who thought "true fact" was redundant, well, no longer! A Frey Fact "may" be 95 percent true, or it may not be true at all. It may be something he thought was true, wished were true, or simply pretended was true. Take the several months he spent in jail. Turns out, it was a few hours. He didn't even have to change his underwear! His "street cred" is not even as good as Martha Stewart's. Now I KNOW it can seem like months when you're in a boring place with no good reading material. But it doesn't justify portraying yourself as a seasoned jailbird. (Martha, on the other hand, knows when to use her turmeric, and that cayenne spice is a weapon.) So Mr. Lie's* (not the name on his book jacket) reputation is in a Million Little Tatters, at least with the literary community, by which I'm referring to people who actually write, edit or review sentences for a living. In the book sales universe, the marketing people are probably in ecstasy. The more notoriety he gets, the better his book does! Oprah was not outraged about this. Instead of standing up for truth and justice, she settled for the American Way. Which is to say, it didn't matter. Yes! She has succeeded in becoming this country's most prominent enabler ever. Larry King invited Mr. Lie* (not the name used on his glossy bio sheet) onto his CNN talk show shortly after the scandal broke. Was he there to apologize? Hahahahahahaha. Surely I jest. He was there to RATIONALIZE. Now, most human beings are natural amateur rationalizers from the time they hit school age. (My 4-year-old: "I didn't mean to hit him. My BRAIN told me to!") However addicts are professional rationalizers -- they do it for a living. So Mr. Lie* (not his original nickname) told us that memoirs are a literary form that aren't about "facts" but rather about one's perception of the facts. Which I could buy if he were referring to his subjective experiences. It is one thing if Christina Crawford tells us her mother Joan was mean to her. It's another if she says her mother died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. How much time you spent in jail is not just a matter of perception, it's a matter of public record. Oprah said that the truth didn't matter as much as the emotional experience people had while reading the story of Mr. Lie's* (not his real nom de plume) "truth." Forgive me for stating the obvious, but when it comes to non-fiction, some stories resonate simply because THEY ARE TRUE. Would the Diary of Anne Frank be a classic if we learned she was hiding in the attic due to agoraphobia, and went on to die of old age in a Belgian nursing home? Mr. Lie's* (not what kids called him on the playground) story failed to sell to publishers as fiction, so he punched up some of the scenes, painted himself as the key figure in some girl's death in a train wreck, and repackaged it as a memoir. Why not, there's room in DaVinci's Last Supper painting, too. Didn't Judas have an accomplice? But Mr. Lie* (not the name he uses on his IRS forms) had the nerve to say the book is "95 percent true," so overall the reader is being served a lot more fact than fiction. It would be helpful if the publisher would use a different color ink in order to differentiate the faux prose -- perhaps yellow? With respect to Oprah's contention of the "experience" being true for the reader, I just plea bargain to differ. Suppose a man or woman goes on a date and has an absolutely stunning time. The date of his or her life. Then, before the next date occurs, learns that the other person is in fact already married. Not quite the same date, is it? Sure, a good time was had. Enjoyed every moment of it, maybe. But the experience as a whole has soured because it was based on a lie. A restaurant meal that's only five percent arsenic? Well, I think I'd want the arsenic as an optional side dish, not baked into my entree. So James Frey (his real, sullied name) is going to profit nicely from his jitterbug with the devil. Can't wait to see the eventual movie: "Bogus Memoir and the Brotherhood of the Flaming Pants."