Friday, February 25, 2011

The Power of Repitition

We have a rather limited set of television shows we watch with any regularity and this leads us to, when we fail to fast forward, see the same commercials over and over again. My guess is that were we to watch some other shows on other channels, our view of the world and the products it has to offer would change, but for now, I'm convinced there are only about a dozen or so things tv tells me I simply cannot live without.

And I'm a little concerned about a couple of them.

Ad #1: Remember in that movie The Devil's Advocate where then-unknown Charlize Theron goes shopping with the other lawyers' wives and the wives turn out to be demons with scary faces? Well, they found other women like that and put them in an add for the Trojan Triphoria. These hens cackle in a most unnatural way that actually frightens me. They are at a bridal shower and apparently all of them have purchased a vibrator for the bride-to-be. Now, I like to be as sex-positive as the next liberal elitist, but even I am a little confused as to the message of this one: hey you're getting married, you'll probably need these three identical vibrators to stay sane. It's all downhill from here. Your husband will be working late and you'll have to make do with chocolate bars and buzzing. But, no, the bride-to-be goes home and shows her husband that she got three identical vibrators from her demonic friends and he fist pumps into the air. Which I guess could also mean that he's pleased to be off the hook. And that a Trojan Triphoria is less threatening than the gardener.

On a side note, you cannot (repeat: CANNOT) purchase this item if you live in Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Texas, or Virginia (kudos, West Virginia, for being the more enlightened of the Virginias). That's right, you cannot buy this product if you live in those states, sorry Abby and Danielle. Apparently, only a doctor in those states is available to treat your hysteria.

Ad #2: It's a tough world out there. With so many vibrators to keep track of, what options are available to the working person who simply doesn't have time for anything? I mean, have you considered how much time and energy it takes to get a cup of coffee. Apparently, it is a huge investment of time and mental energy. After all, you have to make it and/or buy it. The modern American simply cannot expend this kind of precious time-ergy on coffee when 5 Hour Energy is just a sip away. If you've seen this commercial, you know how preposterous it sounds. The pursuit of a cup of coffee has been likened to the pursuit of a driver's license renewal. or a Russian bread line. You would be a fool to waste all of this time just to get coffee.

Except, wait. I drink an espresso that I make each morning. And Jamie has coffee religiously. Furthermore, Jamie's a dad now which surely cuts down on his available free time. I wonder how he manages. Oh, wait, no I don't. For the exorbitant price of somewhere near 30 dollars, Jamie invested in the space-age technological feat of the programmable coffee maker. In futureworld, Jamie sets up his coffee before bed and it brews itself in the moments before he wakes up, providing him with a steaming hot cup o joe when he trundles down to the kitchen. It's simply flabbergasting that this technology is available, but I guess, only if you have 30 dollars (note: about the same price as two weeks' worth of 5 Hour Energy). My process is barbarically longer: I wake up, I go to the kitchen, I turn on the espresso machine, I go to the bathroom, wash my hands, turn on the computer, and return to the ready-to-go machine into which I feed, in succession, two pods of espresso and hit a button. Each pod takes about 15 seconds to brew, so I might have to spend 1 minute total (it takes several seconds to remove the first pod, put it in the trash, insert the second pod, repeat, stir the sugar into the coffee, etc.) to get my coffee. Decadent time wastage, I know.

But somewhere, focus groups were consulted and much money was spent to air these commercials for some of the most important things in our lives: sexual stimulation and narcotic dependence. I really must be more vigilant about fast forwarding through commercials - imagine how much coffee and vibration I could have time for if I did!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Women's Issues

Despite my best attempts to appear disinterested and aloof, I would actually confirm that women's issues are important to me. After all, I am a woman, and a highly opinionated one at that. Since devoted partner has shown a waning interest in my post-Law and Order: SVU tirades, I thought I'd widen my audience to talk about this recent news tidbit that has my proverbial panties in a bunch.

Let us dispense with the obvious: rape is horrible; there is no excuse for rape; no one should be raped; people who rape other people belong in jail. Have I covered my bases? Good. Let's move on, shall we?

Once upon a time, New York City was considered a dangerous place. People disembarking from elsewhere were to be on their guards or suffer the violent consequences. As a result, many many people were wisely suspicious. Since the city became one of the safest big cities in the country, it seems to me people have become lax in the common sense department. This woman, who is a victim, showed remarkably poor judgment and I think there should be some significant acknowledgment of that.

Issue #1: The woman in question is 27. Not a 16 year old runaway, nor a wide-eyed recent high school grad coming to make her way in the big city. This person is a grownup (I would also take the other two examples to task for their decision making, but I think it's important to highlight that this person is a de facto and de jure adult). While searching for an apartment she discovered that a strange man she had never met wanted her to live for free in exchange for cooking and cleaning. Yes, I know New York is expensive, but did nothing about this "free lunch" strike her as OMGDANGERDANGERDANGER?

Issue #2: Let's pretend that this arrangement seemed normal to her. How about when he offered to buy her plane ticket? Had she never watched a Law and Order, or CSI, or any crime show ever on television? Does she not have the internet? Or cable? Or, I don't know, access to a newspaper? I know she's from Wisconsin, but people keep telling me that just because a person doesn't live in New York, that person isn't doomed to ignorance. Does she not have family or friends who said to her, "are you out of your ever-loving mind? You are so totally going to be raped and likely murdered by a psychopath!" Or how about, "this sounds really really suspicious. Give me all this man's information and make sure you call me as soon as you get there to let me know everything is ok, or I'm going to call the police because if I don't hear from you withing three hours of your plane landing, you are likely dead." (Come to think about it, why didn't this happen?)

Issue #3: He let her leave the house to go to work! Now, I know that if the woman had gotten this far she was probably so mortified by her own words-can't-describe stupidity that she might have been embarrassed, but I would wager a little embarrassment is preferable to returning home to your rapist and the handcuffs he hooks you to the radiator with.

Words like empowerment get tossed around to the extent they mean very little now, but the woman's issue that is most important to me is making women less f#$%@%@3ing dumb. There is no excuse for this having happened (which doesn't excuse the perpetrator). None whatsoever. This is a case of someone being so irretrievably stupid that she risked her life for no reason. And I don't know where this stupidity comes from, but this is not an isolated case. Whatever the disadvantages of being the second sex, there must be some way to make women smarter. At least smart enough to not get into these kinds of situations. Violence against women can't be solved merely by making women smarter, but it can make THIS PARTICULAR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN go away. Everything she did was stupid. EVERYTHING. And it makes me very very very ALL-CAPS mad.

And what really gets me is that this kind of story detracts from women victims who couldn't have prevented their victimization. This is a great story: salacious, tv-worthy (for the record, at this point in time if you are a poor woman from a developing nation and you DON'T KNOW that if you accept free illegal passage to this country, you are coming to be a forced prostitute, you are stupid too). Victimized women whose stories are more heartbreaking and less glossy get forgotten.

I'm sorry Miss Wisconsin had such a horrifying experience moving to New York, but Miss Wisconsin did everything in her power to ensure the horrifying experience. She did nothing to prevent it and now she'll probably get a book deal. For being stupider than your average urban 6-year-old who knows not to accept candy from strangers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Say Yes to the Dress

So, unexpectedly, I bought a wedding dress this weekend. I'm not going to tell you where, or what it looks like, but it was sickly inexpensive and almost fits the bill. What happened was this: I saw a wedding dress in a magazine article online and found out that a store in Manhattan might have one in something approaching my size for me to to try on. With mom in tow, we went to play dress up on Saturday afternoon. The dress was fine, but not what I was looking for. which was ok, it was just an experiment.

On a whim, I asked the saleswoman if I could see another model I had spied online - one I thought would be just the wrong look on me. She brought it in a size 2. So there was that to contend with. Mom and I just held the bodice up to me and then looked at each other in a kind of shock. We liked the look of this one. Unzipping the thing as far as it would go, we shimmied it on me (note to girls: getting into a size 2 dress when one is demonstrably not a size 2 is funny; ok, I lied. It was funny this time because my actual size, 10, is one I am eminently happy with; when I was a size 14, this would not have been funny and might have resulted in tears). Though the dress was angry at me for having attempted to wedge my hips into it, we could still pull it up so that it looked somewhat dress-like on. And we still liked what we saw. At which point the saleswoman interrupted us to bring in the same dress in a size 10 in black. This would have been useful to have before I needed mayonnaise or vaseline to help myself out of the size 2.

I tried on the black dress and again, mom and I were kind of stunned. This really very cheap dress was really very much fitting the bill. Now there's a little something it is now important to mention: my mother is going to make my wedding dress. After discovering that asking someone else to make a wedding dress is the same kind of financial investment as asking someone to sell you his second-hand car, I decided that I would prefer to have a second-hand car (or a trip for two to the islands) instead of a dress I'll wear once. My mother, who crafted such awesome pieces as my sophomore year and senior year prom dresses, stepped up, with some trepidation, to fill the void. With my labor coming at no cost, the only expenditure would be the fabric. And even if we bought medieval tapestries for fabric, it would still be less than what we saw at Sak's. The question remained: what kind of dress would I want?

Wedding magazines were zero help. I am not a Ukranian hooker, nor will I be auditioning for the ice capades any time soon, so most of the glossy paged advertisements weren't going to be of help. Things I knew I didn't want: tulle, lace, beads, rhinestones, feathers, hoop skirts, sequins, tiaras, wings, jacquard, or snow leopard pelts. This narrowed down my choices significantly. I don't want to worry about tripping on the dress, or the dress falling off, or the dress being too heavy. I just want a dress. A simple whiteish dress. And finding this, future brides, is not an easy task.

Because brides are princesses and should dress as such. Even if that means being immobile. We're just not going to be having that kind of nuptial affair, so I thought I should keep it simple. The saleswoman, however, was unmoved and briefly tried to upsell me some plastic blingy jewelery which I did my best to demure respectfully (though in my head I was thinking that anyone who wore those monstrosities could only be doing so ironically, and devoted partner has made copious mention of the fact he doesn't think irony is appropriate at our wedding).

So we bought the dress. As a prototype. I can't say I'm disappointed in this. It is true, we have two additional scouting opportunities coming up (it should be noted we still don't have a finalized wedding date or location, but the more things I can dispense with, the better). And the best part is, I felt like Yelena in the dress. One of the things that has been causing me heavy to oppressive anxiety is that notion that there's an expectation that I be somehow better than myself when we get married; that the bride is an idealistic object that has to be perfect. Whereas, I'm really keen on being myself, just properly washed, on my wedding day. This dress looks like something I would wear if we were going to opening night of the opera, or someone else's wedding (obviously not in white). That appeals very much to me and the [dreaded word] vision I have of my special day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Darwin Awards: Yelena Edition

I don't know if any of the chefs I apprenticed with ever read this, but if they did, they could attest to the fact that I was not the neatest cook in the kitchen. Flour on my face was frequently cited, and mocked. Devoted partner can comment, extensively, on the unique places I could get melted chocolate. Like my butt. Even though my butt is not exposed when I make chocolates.

I am in the process of making a bunch of confections for an event at ye olde alma mater and as I was stirring my molten caramel, it occurred to me that chefs wear those long jackets for more than just fashion. I was in a tank top, my limbs exposed to 2nd degree burn inducing hot caramel, when I realized that tank tops are my frequent top of choice in the kitchen. Part of that is surely due to the fact that in 2004 I bought pretty much every color tank top available at H&M, but the other part is that cooking is hot work. And yet, the bare arms do dare my chemical experiments to leap out of their pots and do me permanent damage. Which is also funny given my burn aversion.

Even as I deftly step away from the pot of caramel after the cream has been added, causing the cauldron to bubble dangerously, I don't think to put on more clothing. I don't think this has anything to do with a) a propensity for risk-taking or b) innate exhibitionism, but it does give me pause. I've seen some unpleasant kitchen accidents and their aftermaths, and I'm not entirely sure I would welcome a caramel welt on my tender arm skin.

I once thought that it would be a great idea to do youtube videos of myself in the kitchen. I think I'm pretty good at speaking extemporaneously; I'm not camera shy; and wouldn't everyone like to see a confectioner who gets chocolate on her butt? Now I'm glad that was one of many plans I never executed. My kitchen garb is simply not telegenic (devoted partner's sweats and natty H&M tank), and I generally wait until confectionary is over to wash my hair. Vanity aside, I just don't think it's fair to the public. Then there's the bad example I set for the children as I tempt the fate of grievous bodily injury which, should it occur, would result in additional bad-for-the-children language. And I'd have to keep my kitchen far more glimmery than I am wont.

So, I have no exciting video of myself hovered above a pot of boiling sugar - you'll have to use your imagination. When the inevitable happens, I won't whine about it because I will have well deserved it, but I'll definitely have pictures of my wounds for all to ogle.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Some Thoughts on Sport

It was an unusual weekend in that I watched two sporting events on television. It is true that in my younger years, the Ewing/Oakley years if you will, I watched sports on television quite a bit. And then, well, the Knicks became unrecognizable and brought forth no necessary nostalgia. Sports on television were limited to the Olympics, the occasional late night world's strongest man, and the Superbowl - which we spend with Matt and his awesome friends every year (is it bad that I think my body is giving off a distinct fried chicken smell today?).

And the Superbowl this year was, I guess, good. I didn't notice that Christina Aguillera doesn't know the words to our national anthem, but I did notice that Fergie can't even sing. As for team alliances, I was reminded that the quarterback for the Steelers most likely committed a felony against a woman, if not by the letter of the law, certainly by the spirit, therefore rendering me a cheesehead for the day. Beer was quaffed, aforementioned chicken consumed. Good times.

But there was something distinctly unsatisfying about the game itself. I mean, it went on a very long time and the only salient details I remember today are that I should definitely eat more doritos, drink more Pepsi Max, and that the future member of the sex offender registry kept throwing the ball to the opposing team. And I blame this entirely on the sporting event I watched the day before.

France vs. Scotland in the Six Nations rugby tourney.

Which owned. Utterly.

I can easily trace my affection for the sport of rugby to the many Saturdays I spent in college watching devoted partner play it. Your dads might remember me as the girl on the sidelines in heels and a skirt - because I'm all about team morale. I also lived next door to rugby players, frequently killed brain cells with them, and stepped over their fetid uniforms on the way to the loo. Other than one homecoming game, I don't think I ever watched my college team play football because I was a fan of the rugby. And you should be too. Rugby is like football if football was awesome. And here are some of my reasons why:

the game clock pretty much doesn't stop unless someone is being taken from the field. That means for 80 minutes there's just a game to watch. It's fast paced considering the amount of time spent in Roman-style orgy pileups, and there's a lot of back and forth making it interesting. Also, without padding, helmets, and frequent pauses to thank jeebus for stuff, it's really really manly. And this is good for the ladies because rugby players (and I'll admit bias here) are seriously hot. I mean their bodies. Their faces I don't much notice because I am actively entranced by their thighs and calves. Which are on delightful display due to short shorts - not 1970s basketball short, but short. And the legs on these guys are unbelievable: sturdy tree trunks of legs. But, wait, it's not all hot and bothered fantasy on the field. These guys can run and they have to do it a lot. I can appreciate the punt return for a touchdown, but that guy who scored it hadn't really been running all that much for the previous 10 minutes of the football game. The runners in a rugby game run all the time. Even the big guys. And they run fast.

And for fans of MMA, ice hockey, and bum fighting, there is a lot of seriously excellent violence to be had on the rugby pitch. You pretty much get to kick the heads of the opposing team's players on a regular basis, and stomp on their ribs with your cleats. These things do not incur penalties, much like baseball players don't get penalized for frequent spitting. For fans of soccer (are there any?), it's like soccer only with hitting, punching, and, one more thing, oh yeah, action.

So Superbowl XLV, you just didn't measure up on the entertainment scale, even as we heckled sir-what-do-you-mean-no-means-no at every opportunity. The camaraderie and heavy dog petting (Chica, I love you), clearly outshone what was on tv. But as for you, Six Nations Rugby, we have a date next Saturday.