Friday, April 27, 2012

6 Signs You're a Bad Parent

I believe in reconnaissance prior to making big buys (especially if I don’t have the money at the time) and while doing Ipad legwork today, ran into the results of bad parenting pretty much everywhere I went. In case you are wondering if you are, in fact, a bad parent, I suggest you print this post, laminate it and keep it handy for reference.

1) If your teenaged daughter is driving the wrong way (as in completely blowing by the “One Way Do Not Enter” sign) in a driveway, nearly hits me head on and then FLIPS ME OFF because I honk my horn and do not get out of her (wrong) way, YOU  are a bad parent. You were supposed to teach her how to read, how to follow BIG white arrows painted on the floor of a parking structure and how to take responsibility for her actions and errors. You were also supposed to teach her that it is a VERY bad idea to flip off strangers because you never know when you’re dealing with someone who will come back after you. Ask the guy from my high school class who ended up with a length of pipe through his jaw after he flipped off a motorcyclist. The guy throwing the pipe was never caught.

2) If your mother, who is 70 lbs. overweight and has arthritic knees is in charge of your energetic toddler in a  busy mall or near traffic so you can “run errands” or “just pop in here for a minute”, YOU are a bad parent. I have made at least two diving grabs of small children about to run in front of oncoming cars (being driven by people who were too busy texting (yes), listening to EXTREMELY loud music or driving and talking on a handheld phone – also the result of bad parenting - to notice). Grandma or Nonna does not have the ability to keep up with the child. I have also stood guard over little kids who wandered away from their supervising adults (usually, Grandma) You don’t want to worry about your kids while you’re shopping? GET A SITTER. Leave them at home with Nonna. They’ll all have a great time conspiring against you.

3) If your child is having a public meltdown, YOU are a bad parent. Why? Clearly, your child is overstimulated and overtired and you should be hauling said child HOME (they can go hang with Nonna). You’re probably one of those obnoxious douchebags who talks a good game about how your world revolves around the little prince or princess and about all the lengths you go to and how much money you spend to provide the very best, not to mention the sacrifices you’ve made. Remaining in a public place after your kid starts screaming means you are putting yourself and what you want ahead of the kid, thereby contradicting your smug superiority. You are also inflicting your lousy parenting on complete strangers. In the middle of dinner or a movie? Tough. You probably shouldn’t have brought Junior in the first place. New rule: If the kids starts screaming, you have 30 seconds to stop it or leave the public space. Remain and every person around you is permitted, encouraged and required to take your picture and upload it to Facebook identifying you as a bad, selfish parent  (bonus points if they get your name). This is a high tech pillory and your ass deserves to be in it.

4) If your daughter is publicly sucking face with her significant other in a noisy manner or one that blocks foot traffic through a crowded space or if she is permitting the significant other to paw her in public, YOU are a bad parent. You have not taught her that there is a time and a place for everything, that while love is a wonderful thing, excessive displays of it are considered a public nuisance and an indicator of low self-respect. You may as well start checking Youtube for the sex tape. Since that’s proven an effective means to launch a reality show empire aimed at gullible teen-aged girls, well, monkey see, monkey do. And start figuring out whether you want to be called “Grandma” or “Nonna.” Fast.

5) If your teenaged son thinks it acceptable to suck face with his significant other in a noisy (or juicy) way or in a manner that blocks foot traffic through a crowded space or if he is pawing his significant other in public, YOU are a bad parent. You have not taught him there is a time and a place for everything, and that while love is a wonderful thing, excessive displays of it are considered a public nuisance and an indicator of low respect for the significant other (who should know better and think better of herself. Or himself). Sit Junior down and explain boundaries, respect (for self and others) and what it means to be a MAN (not a man). Of course, if he’s behaving in this way, you probably don’t know, either. Decide whether you want to be called “Grandma” or “Nonna.” 

6) If your upper middle-class daughter, who carries a designer handbag and has (we’ll be conservative) $300 worth of jewelry on her ears and fingers, perhaps $1,000 worth of clothing on her back, shoplifts a $1.25 bag of sweet potato chips from Starbucks (Yup, saw this happen) without any indication of guilt or shame (and actually acts a little proud of herself), YOU are a bad parent. “Thou shalt not steal” is one of the Big Ten and it used to be that kids didn’t shoplift because A) Mom and Dad said it was wrong and B) they were terrified of the fate that awaited them if they got caught. And the cops were the least of their worries. Start studying up on Lindsay Lohan. You’ll need to know the procedures. 

These are just  the samples I’ve encountered this week. I have no doubt there will be others.  And I leave you with the following thought: 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Manifesting Destiny

 As you read today’s post, hold the image of Dorothy going from Munchkin Central to the Emerald City.

Today is what you’d call a “really good day.” I had a second interview for a job that would have a 60 mile round trip commute (doesn’t bother me. I used to ride a bus between Concord, NH and Boston, MA to work on a document review project for $15 an hour. And we were defending W.R. Grace over asbestos. I learned the following terms on that project: “tremolite asbestos”, “crocidilite asbestos” (not harmful. There’s blue and there’s white) and “mesothelioma.” ).  I was an enjoyable interview; I think I’d enjoy working for the guy who interviewed me. When I got home (after a detour to the gym. I missed yoga, but I got in an hour on the elliptical. Wonky Right Knee isn’t objecting too badly), there was a conditional offer letter from ANOTHER company whom I’d applied to over a month ago and written off as “well, I guess they’re not really interested.” Nope. They want me (based on what another friend wen t through after her offer letter, this is going to take some time). And a head hunter presented another opportunity that looks to be in my wheelhouse (so to speak).
I’m enjoying this moment. This is (potentially) having my choice of 3 really good offers.
I manifested this. I made this happen.

Yeah, I said it: New Age-y “If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it” kind of crap. Creative visualization, vision boards, affirmations, all of it.

Of course, you don’t just sit back on your ass and wish. “Marry that thought to an action.” (I think I ripped that off from a M*A*S*H episode). Visualization helps you see the roadmap. You still have to walk it.

I was listening to “Haunted Playground” today on LA Talk Radio ( Show available as live stream from 3-5 Pacific time on Tuesdays and archived programs for on-demand listening). The host(ess) Sheena Metal and Danielle Egnew, a psychic medium and musician ( Is that not a sweet face?), discuss things not of this Earth (Oith, if you’re from Brooklyn). Today, the hot topic was manifestation and whether it’s legit. They touched on “The Secret” and how people generally want to manifest material things thinking that happiness lies in having the items. The talk morphed into people expecting gold starts and Nobel prizes for common courtesy and making amends for the harm they cause others (the example given was getting a blood test, but going to the wrong lab for it, which caused extra work and inconvenience for the tech at the lab). I tried to call in to weigh in BUT NOBODY ANSWERED THE PHONE.


Here’s what I wanted to add to the conversation (and since it’s me-focused, maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t get through on the phone): manifesting, working to manifest something in your life is not the same as wishing. Wishing is a passive activity. Manifesting is more dynamic and requires effort from the person seeking to manifest. Danielle was talking about “spiritual physics” (first time I’ve ever heard the phrase) and the electric charges of negative thought and positive thought. I can’t speak to that, but, as with weight loss and other topics, I can speak to my personal experience.
I want to manifest a lean, healthy and (to my mind) attractive body. I want to be happy with what I see in the mirror (which, due to a horrendous night’s sleep looked pretty beat this morning. Hey, I’m over 50 and I was tired. That’s why God created concealer. And foundation). Did I expect to wake up the next morning a size 6? No. But what started was thinking twice before putting something in my mouth, walking rather than taking the elevator, drinking more water. Then, I started seeing a therapist who told me about HCG and referred me to an acupuncturist who offered this. And then I was off and running on my weight loss project. I found an Android app for recording weight, calorie intake and calorie output and tracking of various metrics. It kept me honest. Unexpected money came in that allowed me to join the gym. I had the time to join Lila’s yoga class and learn some resistance moves from Torquemada the Trainer (who is now training on her own). I got a job that paid well enough and was structured, timewise, to allow me to continue working out 6 days a week. I found the Atkins “candy bars” (still love those things). A session with another therapist got me looking into the Paleo diet and in researching that, I found and Through those guys, I modified my diet again and I feel healthier. The Great White Belly is still putting up a fight but I’m winning. I’ll try to get someone to shoot pictures of my legs. They have never been this toned. I started doing pushups (and now chin-ups) and that’s made a difference in my body fat. I don’t look in the mirror and see a “twinkly-eyed temptress” (I just threw up a little in my mouth. I’m sorry, that phrase is brain gouge. It’s a 5 car wreck of a phrase; I am repulsed but cannot look away. Samantha Brick, you need a shrink. And an editor who will wash your mouth out with soap every time you write drivel like that), but I’m liking what I see a lot better than what I used to see.
Like I said, creative visualization will reveal the roadmap, but you still have to make the journey.
What else can I make happen? I want to write (creatively) for a living. I got the idea of starting a blog about my weight loss (and anything else that comes to my attention and the challenges facing a “woman of size.”  I got a few followers and then started sharing link to it on my Facebook page. More hits. I created a Facebook page for the blog. More followers (some of whom I don’t know), more hits (we’re over 8,000). Now, it’s on Twitter; I’ve posted a link in with my comments on some other blogs that I like and that has driven traffic. Look, Ma, I’m building an audience.

Because I’m such a wit, a comedy website,, invited me to write for them. One sketch has been turned into a video, two others are “in the hopper.” On my vision board is “Final Draft,” software for writing screenplays (format things properly). I don’t have it yet, but if I keep writing stuff, maybe the money will flow in that will allow me to buy it or maybe someone will give me a copy. Right now, though, what I DO have has allowed me to start writing comedy again.
I have written one novel and have notes, ideas and chapters for others. Unlike Stephen King (and Snoopy), I do not keep the rejection letters that I’ve gotten from various agents and publishers. However…since I started writing 11 years ago on that bus ride between Concord, NH and Boston. (On my way home one night, I stopped into a CVS, got a “composition book” and started writing by hand), Amazon has introduced the Kindle. Access to a potential audience is no longer strictly through the turnstile of traditional publishers (with wannabe editors in their early twenties guarding the gate. “Ordinary People” was rescued from a “slush pile” – unsolicited manuscripts. I honestly don’t think it could happen now) or “vanity publishers” where you pay a hefty fee up front for a small run. $39.99  and an uploadable manuscript will buy you access through any number of services that will make your e-book available on Amazon and other outlets, no printing costs to be considered (or used as leverage in negotiations), no twenty-somethings new in the business saying, “Yeah, it’s good, but we can’t figure out how to market it.” (Oh yeah, I got this one thrown at me). J.K. Rowling, before whom I would genuflect, got rejected a lot for Harry Potter (and she also started with a pad and pen). I’m hearing that she actually got “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” published and it sold pretty well. Well enough that she wrote some more books about Harry.  The latest publishing sensation is “50 Shades of Grey”, which started out as (ugh, I can’t avoid saying this) “Twilight” fan fiction. Technology is providing a way for me to jump the turnstile (If you’re interested, I’ll let you know when it’s ready. Just let me know), but I still need to make the effort to make it happen.
The way will be revealed.

I wanted an acting career ever since I was about 6 or 7 years old. Of course, I was sitting in Vermont and California was soooo far away. It took me until I was 40 to say, “You know, I’ve got to do this. I’m sick of saying ‘what if.’” 10 years ago this week, I left Concord, NH in a snowstorm on April 26, 2002. I had 4 cats, a Ryder truck, kidney stones and a best friend recovering from cancer surgery. And I love being in LA. I am grateful every day that I am where I want to be. Have I conquered the airwaves or movie theaters? No. Not yet. But I’m coming back around to it. People with nothing to gain from it tell me they like my writing.

I have “made a demand upon the Universe” for income. Today, I have 1 job offer and the possibility of 2 more. Understand that I didn’t just sit back: these came about because I updated my resume on careerbuilder and Monster and followed up on search agents I had set. I’ve built a body of work in this field and a good reputation already, which gives me more options than if I was a newbie. 
I still want income and time sufficient to allow me to write and work out. I may have to rework my gym schedule to accommodate a commute. That’s okay; I know how to eat better now and I can always do pushups and other “body weight” based exercises that don’t require being in the gym.

I’ll get there. You’ve got to follow the Yellow Brick Road. The Emerald City isn’t delivered. (Ruby slippers, my ass)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

List of Demands

Dear Universe,
It’s time for a “Come to Jesus” meeting.
You’re performing acceptably in the “basic needs met” department, but that’s about it. You get off to strong starts in “transition towards goals” then kind of peter out despite the energy and effort I’m putting in there. As with any employee whose work is not what it should be, I’m going to have to give you a list of goals. I didn’t want to have to do this, but you leave me no choice.

1. Enough of this “feast or famine” bullshit with the income flow. I’m DONE with worrying about covering my expenses beyond shelter and food (clothing, I don’t shop that much. Lately). I’ve had it not having enough to join in on birthday parties, movie trips, seeing my friends’ shows, etc. (when I’m invited) because I don’t have the scratch. Oh yeah, and part of those expenses will be body maintenance such as hair, nails, face.  It’s been over a year since I was able to have my hair professionally cut, colored and styled. I am educated, I work my ass off and with one or two exceptions, my employers are goddamned pleased with my work. STARTING TODAY, you are to provide me with a veritable Mississippi River of income (legal). It can come from once source or multiple, I don’t give a good goddamn, but it is ALWAYS to be no less than 10 times my monthly expenses, regardless of what they are.  And you can start with the money sitting in Colorado that is now 1 year, 2 months and 2 weeks overdue.

2. A home of my own. I’d prefer to remain in the Valley near my friends. I have a successful rental history and reference lined up.  And this ties to the financial progress because it’ll cost me a lot less to be in an apartment than it does to be in this hotel (as nice as it is). Doesn’t have to big or fancy, but there has to be room enough for me, a cat or two, my artwork (including Red Sox memorabilia to be framed) and a full kitchen (meaning I have an oven, not just a two burner stovetop). Oh yeah, garage (or covered parking) and some kind of patio or backyard (with shade). I haven’t been able to spoil the local hummingbirds in a while. You owe me on this point. I’d like a gas fireplace, air conditioning and a well-lit space. Cats are solar powered and need frequent sunbaths.

3. The start in creative writing success this week SHALL continue and build. The Rick Santorum sketch on is getting a good reception, this blog is THIS CLOSE to 8,000 hits and work on a website for the novel (to be an E Book) will commence shortly. No more sudden stops, no more fucking detours, no more promises made being abandoned. THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO. Should it culminate in a TV series and a movie or two, that would be great. You will need to provide the opportunities, I’ll take it from there. Starting today.  More followers on Blogger and Twitter, Facebook likes, Pinterest pin, whatever. Bring my audience.

4. The body: I’ve been stuck in the 170s neighborhood since fucking July 2011. Genug already (genau, enough, assez, suficiente, bastante). I’m eating right, I’m still hitting the gym but the Great White Belly is not diminishing to where I can see progress. START SHOWING ME VISIBLE FUCKING PROGRESS! I need something good to post to Nerd Fitness. Oh, and this ties to the financial progress because if I have to buy my own damned health insurance, it doesn’t happen with the Great White Belly hanging around (and the insurance is needed to get the Wonky Right Knee fixed. Sick of that shit, too). The United Healthcare computer algorithm doesn’t give a fuck about my habits so much as it does my BMI. Size 6 or Size 8 would be lovely. Get cracking.

5. More friends/social connections.  I love and would not trade my current circle of friends. However, when they are all busy with other things, I get lonely and I am sick of spending Friday and Saturday nights by myself doing NOTHING (except for Shark Tank on ABC. It’s educational). Throw me some additional friends and, oh yeah, the RIGHT MAN. If these are people I’m working with on writing more sketches or other pieces to be performed, wonderful. What? They’ll come through improv/stand-up/sketch writing classes?  Send me the means to join. Just give me the opportunities. I’ll do the rest.
. More travel opportunities and not just as a means of survival. I’m done with that. I want to travel (writing research? Book tour? Yeah, bring ‘em.), do it first-class all the way. And I want a travel companion.

7. I want assets. I want to rebuild and expand my coin collection (including getting some Vermont coppers). I want to rebuild the investment portfolio that I had to cash in during the most recent “famine” period. Stress sucks and assets go a long way towards reducing/eliminating it.

8. I figure that I am overdue for a 50th birthday party. It was another stupid fucking famine period when June 1, 2011 rolled around. Yes, there was a celebration, but I want a PARTY.

Okay, so that’s only 8 goals and usually, lists like these are in 10s, 3s or 5s. Deal with it. End of meeting. You have work to do.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't Hate Her Because She's "Beautiful"

The Daily Mail, one of the UK’s big papers (and surprisingly to me, NOT a News Corp. paper), has a columnist named Samantha Brick. A couple of weeks ago (April 5 or 5 April), Ms. Brick wrote an article about how women hate her because she’s “so beautiful.”  Cue worldwide firestorm. Here’s Samantha Brick, herself:

And here’s Kelly LeBrock from the Pantene “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” ads:

(Okay, well, technically, it’s from “Weird Science”, but the movie and the ads were contemporaneous).

Since then, we have moved on to more important stuff like transgender beauty queens, penguins biting Newt Gingrich (yea, penguin!) and Kim Whoredashian hooking up with Kanye (Ego Bigger Than Donald Trump’s) West while wanting to run for mayor of Glendale (there really isn’t one) because “there’s a lot of Armenians there.” This new ambition supports the theory of politicians being whores.

Speaking of which…

The Brickhead has opened her mouth again about how her “fabulous self-esteem” came from being Daddy’s “Number 1 Girl.” Now, she says she “thinks” he did this because she is his oldest daughter, but I will bet you a pony that either a) Daddy told this to all of his daughters or b) her four sisters are plotting to shave her head at the first opportunity. This kind of naked parental favoritism doesn’t make for healthy adults. According to her column, as she grew up, her father constantly told her she was beautiful and the most important thing in his life. The fact that she had a lazy eye surgically fixed at the age of 8 because Daddy “didn’t want her to get picked on” kind of undercuts that. Ms. Brick has 4 sisters and although she bitches about women “hating her for being beautiful” (really), she talks about rivalries among the five because “we each want to be the prettiest, the most intelligent, the funniest.” (Honey, you’re down two strikes and I’d have to see pictures of your sisters before calling you out. It’s only fair). Daddy used to tell her that all women were mean to each other. And since that's the energy she puts out...

She's now married to her second husband (according to her, the first one was a Peter Pan. I don’t think she traded up), a Frenchman named Pascal. Here is what she says about Pascal:  “strong masculine partner who would walk over hot coals to ensure no harm comes to me.” Unh huh.
Oh, we’re just gettin’ warmed up (to paraphrase Al Pacino from “Scent of a Woman”).

Let us set out here with the presumption that Ms. Brick believes herself to be a happy, well-adjusted woman with good self-esteem (not vanity) and a healthy self-regard. Everyone in the world is envious of her. This is the image she projects.  We are back to “My Cousin Vinny” and the scene with the playing cards and the brick (Yeah, I know. It just worked out that way).

“The D.A.'s got to build a case. Building a case is like building a house. Each piece of evidence is just another building block. He wants to make a brick bunker of a building. He wants to use serious, solid-looking bricks, like, like these, right?”

He pulls out the Ace of Spades.

“He's going to show you the bricks. He'll show you they got straight sides. He'll show you how they got the right shape. He'll show them to you in a very special way, so that they appear to have everything a brick should have. But there's one thing he's not gonna show you..”
He turns the card on its side.

“When you look at the bricks from the right angle, they're as thin as this playing card.” And the Ace of Spades is suddenly the Joker.

One of her columns describes her “lifelong obsession with her weight.” (Column dated April 19,2011) She refused offered dance classes because “Who wanted to see my hefty form attempt to pirouette across a mirrored room?” Read more: . There is at least one fat acceptance advocate who could tear this twit a new one. Samantha has a poor opinion of anyone  who is overweight. Here’s your first clue that perhaps the  emotional brick is not as solid as you may think.

Ms. Brick is certainly thin. Her husband, Pascal, sees to it by threatening to divorce her if she puts on weight.  He gave her an exercise bike for Christmas a couple of years ago and CHECKS THE MILEAGE to make sure she rides it and rides it enough to suit him. (Jesus Howard Christ)

I can think of at least 10 women who would have tied Pascal’s tongue around the spokes the first time he pulled that stunt.

He also checks the groceries to make sure Samantha’s not bringing home any foods he doesn’t think she should be eating. She goes along with it because “it’s not worth the argument.” She also cops to "sneaking" chocolate. She tells a story of bringing home a family-sized chocolate bar (doesn't give a specific weight or dimensions) and catching hell from him. What he DIDN'T know is that she had purchased two bars. The second one didn't make it home. If she's so happy with him monitoring her weight, why does she feel the need to sneak? Wouldn't she just happily fall in with his wishes?

Samantha is a British subject, they live in La Belle France, but they don’t go visit her family in England so much anymore because Pascal thinks it’s acceptable to loudly criticize the appearance of strangers who are too fat for his liking. Obviously, this does not apply to French douchebags. I don't want to see this guy in the national uniform of Speedo.

Pascal also picks out Samantha’s clothing for her, even once (and I am NOT making this up) “refused to open the car door unless I changed into something he approved of.”

What the…? Either you open the car door yourself or you open the front door to your house and stay there. Let me teach you a handy French phrase: Allez vous faire foutre.  (Go fuck yourself)

By the way, this is Pascal:

Monsieur Merde appears to enjoy his brie et vin. Either that or he’s due in about 3 months.
This is not a marriage. It’s a hostage situation. This woman has full-blown Stockholm Syndrome.

But wait, there’s more…

Ms. Brick left a position as a TV producer (most famously, a series based at a British fat camp called “Chubby Children.”) to devote herself to being Pascal’s victim wife. I can’t find information on IMDB about Samantha Brick, except for a PA on something from 2009 called “Sensored.” Just saying.

Let’s reiterate: Ms. Brick is taking a victim mindset. She states that her life is difficult because women resent her for being beautiful (she said a pilot on a flight had sent a bottle of champagne back to her seat. I’d like to meet this pilot and administer both a breathalyzer and an eye test). And when that column created an international shit storm, she whined about being the target of a global witch hunt.

In “Addams Family Values”, during a Summer Camp From Hell swimming lesson, Wednesday Addams is supposed to save a drowning victim. The alpha mean girl steps forward and says, “I’ll be the victim.” Wednesday retorts, “All your life.”

Ms. Brick, in a July 29, 2010 column, stated that “the TV industry is a world that ruthlessly allows women to be exploited.” She describes some encounter that, had they happened stateside, would have resulted in HUGE settlements in sexual harassment lawsuits. Victim of her own beauty, right?
Okay, let’s jump forward to her August 25, 2011 column about using her looks to advance her career and that “any woman with sense” does it.  “I learned very early on in my career how to clock within seconds who the important male was in any room and pandered to him accordingly.

And you wonder why they behaved like sexist pigs?  Really? If I hold a candle next to your right ear and blow in your left ear, will the flame flicker? Honey, if you're going to treat them like sexist pigs, how the hell do you EXPECT them to behave?

I have worked with women like this. And yes, I resented them because the work that wasn't getting done by them because they were too busy trying to play the men in the room got dumped on the rest of us. Those women, too, had the "all the other girls hate me because I'm beautiful" whine going. One was particularly ridiculous: she'd buy her clothes a size too small because she didn't want to admit to a double-digit dress size. It was funny as hell to watch her try to walk. It wasn't so funny having to clean up after the messes her incompetence caused.

Normally, I’m not going to dig into someone else’s looks, but as we say in the legal business, “the defendant opened the door.” Others have commented about her “meaty calves” and “matronly dresses” but I would ding her for the bulbous nose and uneven teeth (Daddy should have sprung for braces at the same time as the lazy eye operation).

I’m calling bullshit on the healthy self-regard and seeing a “twinkly-eyed temptress” (Ew.  Really? This is your self-description? Straight out of Harlequin Romances) when she looks in the mirror.  Look at the picture , again. Maybe there’s Botox involved, but that smile doesn’t reach the eyes. You know those hellish Christmas cards? The ones with the whole family in reindeer sweaters where you look at the kids and you know they just caught hell and are smiling in a “Look, I’m being good, honest, really” way? Smile on demand but not feeling it. It’s just plastered on to please someone and avoid…abuse.

And if your self-image is that of "temptress," are you really surprised that your friends think you're after their husbands? And that they don't like it? THAT'S WHAT THE FUCKING TEMPTATION IS, YOU SELF-ABSORBED DOPE!

I don’t hate this woman. From what I’m seeing, she’s living in a hell of her own making. When you are a victim, you have no power and she’s clearly ceded all of hers to the men in her life while deluding herself that coquetting and “frisking like a prostitute with a prospective client” (Rhett Butler, “Gone With the Wind.” I know that book by heart, practically) actually shifts power to her. If she really had the power, we wouldn’t hear about “sexist pigs”, nor would we hear whining about how everybody hates her because she’s beautiful.  Nor would she tolerate the control freak. He may not be hitting her (yet), but what happens if she tries to assert herself (that’s the true demonstration of power)? Not so much a twinkly-eyed temptress (ugh) as a doormat telling itself it’s a lioness. If you’re going to shake your ass to get ahead, Honey, you’d better be prepared to accept what’s coming.
My late father taught me to believe that since I had a brain, I should be relying on that to get me through life. My mother never told me to use my looks to get ahead (although it did drive her buggy if I left the house without mascara or lipstick or dressed in torn or too-casual clothing). I think I am a woman of sense. And while my male co-workers aren’t chatting me up, they do respect me.

“…you might be thinking I’m little better than a prostitute.” No, Samantha, you are NO better. And you’re a pretty sad one at that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If You Write It, They Will Come

I believe it was the Ladies Maines, Maguire and Robison aka The Dixie Chicks who said, “Some days, ya gotta dance.”

Okay, I got laid off from my “day job” on the 19th of March. Unlike last year, the State of California didn’t give me a hard time about unemployment insurance. I was qualified, but they had a bunch of village idiots requesting and processing documentation. Every time I called and/or sent them a document, the timeframe to get things rolling got pushed back 10 days. Funny how, when I called the Governor’s office and told THEM what was going on, I got a call from the regional supervisor and the first check was delivered within 2 days. Don’t screw with me: I know how to make a bureaucracy work for me.

Here was an opportunity: time for me to use as I choose. Yes, spend some time each day working to get gainful employment, but also time available to do what I want. Wasted time, unlike  wasted money, is not something you can get back. We haven’t figured out how to throw things into reverse for do-overs (and anyone bringing up Hermione Grainger and her Time Turner? Shut up).
I “put it out there” that I wanted to do some creative writing. Lo and behold, opportunities came up and I jumped on them: I have friends who have a parody news website: (they have a Facebook page and they need 41 more likes to become 1,000 likes. If you’re on Facebook, please go like their page:!/dognewsteam).  Someone sent me a link to a request by a locale improve troupe for topical comedy sketches. I’ve submitted two sketches to them and we’ll see what happens.  I’ve told you all this already.

And things are happening.  Desire + belief + action.

Anyway (drum roll, please) here is the “Rick Santorum Makes New Plans” sketch that I WROTE!!!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Let's Make This Interactive

Forget it. Next week.

I am practically Christmas Eve happy-dancing with excitement. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to write. Within the past 2 weeks I have written 3 comedy sketches (I guess they’d qualify as spec scripts) and (drum roll) ONE OF THEM HAS BEEN PRODUCED AND WILL BE ONLINE TO VIEW THIS WEEK!! Damn, that makes me happy. The other two have been submitted to a well-regarded improv/sketch comedy troupe for consideration. Will they take them? Will they reject them? No friggin’ clue, but it was good to write sketches again. Back in 2002-2003, I was part of a kick-ass sketch show called “Sketch Me If You Can” (I was the one who came up with the name. DID SO!) that showcased a pretty broad spectrum of humor, all of it good. I got a lot of satisfaction from my works getting laughs and applause (even if I wasn’t the one performing the words).  I also met some wonderful, supportive friends for life. And I got to play Judge Judy, the principal of a school, a little old Jewish lady, candle addict (I even did a somersault onto the stage) and a dancing moth all in one night. This is the good stuff.

I’d like to issue a correction to “Half-Assed Gourmet Strikes Again”: Instead of tomato paste, use a SMALL can of tomatoes. Not sauce, not paste, just a small can of diced tomatoes (with basil is fine). Management apologizes for any inconvenience, injuries or insulted taste buds. However, we assume no financial liability.

We are going to play “Get To Know Your Blogger” (before I become wicked famous and change my back story). The great Mike Wallace is no longer available to interview me, neither is Studs Terkel.  Now, comments are few and far between, but you’re going to have to step up and make this interactive or else you get exactly what I feel like telling you. Ruh-roh, Shaggy.

So, I am asking you, my Readers (notice the capitalized respect), to submit questions to me that you’d like me to answer. Today is April 15, 2012; I’ll give you until April 22, 2012 to send a question in the comments section or through Twitter (@50toNormal) or on the Facebook page (address above).  Warning: while I’m pretty open to answering questions, I will NOT respond to what I think is trolling or just plain stupidity for the sake of being stupid and getting attention.
All right? Let’s hear it.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Follow Up to "I'm Not Laughing"

Heinecken (Who owns Newcastle) responds

Dear Susan,
Thank you for your inquiry regarding our recent advertisement. We appreciate the time you took to share your opinion with us.
The hallmark of the Newcastle brand is its wit and authenticity and the crux of the campaign is intended to use refreshing honesty to call out the “Bollocks” or “BS” that is typical in most beer advertising.   In this case, the real Newcastle Brewmaster is actually a man and the actor in the ad is a man and is also wearing a tie to reinforce this point.  We believed that the hands were obviously male hands and the irony would be immediately evident.  It was intended to be a comment on the typical beer ads that only show attractive women and was certainly never our intent to offend anyone.
As always, we are interested in the opinions of consumers regarding our activities and your input on this issue was important to us. We are hopeful that the information we have provided to you in this regard addresses your concerns. Thank you again for taking the time to share your views.

HEINEKEN USA Consumer Affairs

My response:
Respectfully (because your reply was courteous, professional and respectful), my brain didn't analyze the ad along the lines of your intended joke (it's really a man). I didn't go to the standard beer advertising gimmicks of beautiful women (and I'm not a dummy) as you intended. It went to the types of ads that show the process of how a product is made (normally with "lovingly hand crafted" and "using only the finest ingredients"). Since I have made home brew myself, it's not impossible that Newcastle's master brewer is a woman.

I will say, the joke misfired. Badly. Whoever, wrote it has seen "Seinfeld" too many times or maybe not enough times because the woman attached the to "man hands" in that particular episode was beautiful. Given a couple of days, I could write a far more effective send-up that would make the joke and not offend.

Thank you for your response.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I'm Not Laughing

Nope, no numbers. Just irritation. (By the way, Kids, expand your vocabulary. There are more ways/degrees of being angry than just “pissed off.” Angry, irate, livid, irritated, vexed, annoyed, bedeviled, outraged, choleric, peeved. We’ll address the alternatives to “awesome” in another post).

I will be sending an irritated email to Newcastle Ale in short order. Their latest ad focuses on the “hands of the Brew Master” as the process of making Newcastle is described in loving, almost sensual detail. The “punch line” comes in answer to the question “And why do we focus only on the hands of the Brew Master?” “Because she’s not an attractive woman.”

I’m not laughing. Oh, no, I HAVE a sense of humor and I DO get the joke. It’s just not funny.
Yes, we are being clever and showing our “open-mindedness” (it’s in quotes for a reason) by subtly telling you that a female is in charge of making a product that is normally associated with male consumers. I get it. However, we are alienating potential female consumers by implying that  women should not be seen if they’re not pretty. Sorry, Guys: even though I didn’t like the picture of me from Sunday (and that was not down to the photographer. I just think I looked stressed and tired and old in it and I had thought the focus was the cute little dog in my lap), I’m not wearing a burqa to conform to your standards.

And I won’t be buying Newcastle again (yes, I have been a fan of the stuff) any time soon.
I keep hearing (as a rationale for me to “do something” about my appearance) that men are visual creatures whose sexual appetites are stimulated mainly by what they see (this theory severely undercut by the Penthouse Forum. No, I’ve never read anything in it, but I’ve heard rumors. Word pictures only).

This ad echoes something from “Tootsie” when Dorothy Michaels/Michael Dorsey has auditioned for the soap opera and been told she’s “too soft” so therefore, not wanted for the part of hospital administrator, Emily Kimberly: “Oh I know what y'all really want is some gross, caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point that power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly. Well shame on you for letting a man do that, or any man that does that. That means you, dear. Miss Marshall. Shame on you, you macho shit head.”

Yeah, what she said.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, despite having established a record of accomplishments, Senator Hillary Clinton was derided for her looks and pantsuits (I heard “cankles” a lot). Sarah Palin, on the other hand, who has quit every job she’s ever had when the going got tough, was lauded for her looks (I heard “GILF” once or twice – Governor and then fill in the rest if you’ve seen any of the celluloid “American Pie” crap). (By the way, the woman doesn’t know how to wear clothes: knee-high Cole Haan boots with a knee-length skirt? Are you kidding?) This was parodied to hilarious effect on “Saturday Night Live” by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey (long may they wave).

I’ve brewed my own beer a few times (haven’t in a while since the batch of summer wheat beer exploded on me. Almost literally). That could be me and my hands.

I would like to take the little Don Draper wannabes who came up with this ad, grab them by their ears and sit their dumb asses down. I doubt any of them would be featured in a People’s “50 Most Beautiful” issue (of course, for that, you really need a publicist and an upcoming project due to be released shortly). And guys: where do you think your ugly mugs came from? Some of those "unattractive women" are your mothers and they probably die a little inside when their sons come up with this kind of shit. And get promotions based on it.

I’m a little sick of the phrase “War on Women” that’s been getting screamed from the rooftops during this never ending Presidential campaign. This, though, seems to tie into it. If we can verifiably do the same things men can, we’re not to be seen doing it (There was a “Law & Order” episode that was a riff on the Hewlett-Packard internal spying scandal. The Carly Fiorino analog was a nasty, back-stabbing scheming but pretty lesbian bitch. I don’t think Carly is gay. However, she tweaked and exaggerated her back story when she ran for Senator in 2010 and showed herself to be a “mean girl”, so who knows. Maybe she experimented in B school) or we MUST be ugly (fragile male egos? Who knows?) And if we are not within the physical mold that’s in vogue, we’re not to be seen or if that’s unavoidable, we’re to be ridiculed.

So, Ladies (and enlightened Gentlemen), if you are equally displeased, please join me in expressing your displeasure to them: and in drinking pretty much anything else until they apologize/withdraw the ad.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Give Me Some Credit

Numbers? That would be negatory, Good Buddy. (Look, 416 years ago, when I was a teenager, instead of cell phones and this new-fangled Internet, they had CB radios. And truckers. And CB lingo. Got it? 10-4)

I’m going to take a slight detour from the usual healthy eating/exercise/what chaps my butt topics and hit the topic of “credit.” In my previous post, I alluded to having screwed up financially and the excruciating process of now undoing the damage. Sort of like my health and weight. Physically, my brain is Captain Ahab to the Great White Belly (Don’t get the reference? “Moby Dick.” Instead of keeping up with the Whoredashians, why not catch up on great literature? I THINK a lot of it is free to download on Kindle or dirt cheap). Financially, it’s my brain (still Ahab) v. a truly ugly credit report (public records, charge offs, old, rusty collections). Ironically, my day job (when I have one) is analyzing other people’s credit. God/The Universe/The Powers That Be has/have a twisted sense of humor. After the post was published, I was asked about improving credit scores.

For starters, anyone trying to sell you a “FICO Kit” or credit cleaning service is a scam artist and that includes Suze Orman. As someone who has become a trusted source of information to millions, she should be ashamed of herself. THIS IS NOT A SYSTEM THAT CAN BE GAMED. No easy fixes and anything they can do, you can do cheaper (as in “for free”). Hold onto your $49.99 (or higher).
Step 1: Pull your credit report. There are 3: Experian, Transunion and Equifax that are used as sources of information in the mortgage industry. As a consumer, you are entitled to one free pull of each per 12 month period. Whether you choose to stagger them or pull all three at once is up to you. If you want your actual credit score, that’ll cost you. For the purposes of analyzing your report, YOU DON’T NEED YOUR EFFIN’ FICO SCORE. You will be offered credit monitoring services and other “up sells” as you gather your free info.  This is because the credit bureaus are not going to make dime one from you exercising your court-ordered rights of knowing what’s on your credit report without having to pay for it. Unless you KNOW you are a victim of identity theft and you want to keep track, ignore the offers. Right now, just to figure out where you stand, you don’t need those services.

By the way, pulling your own credit report will not affect your credit rating. However, a lot of inquiries on your report by potential creditors could be a red flag (or at least a hot pink one) that the consumer is scrambling.

Step 2: Okay, let’s check for errors. Is your name correct? Your Social Security number? Your date of birth? Current and prior addresses? Employment history? If anything’s wrong, time to get on the phone and get it straightened out. And yes, as a credit professional, I am here to tell you that errors happen.

Step 3: Your credit history: Do you recognize the accounts? If not, get on the phone to the credit bureau. (You used to have to write to them). THIS PART IS IMPORTANT SO IT’S ALL CAPS: MAKE NOTES AS TO WHO YOU CALLED, THE NUMBER YOU CALLED, DATE AND TIME AND NAME OF PERSON ANSWERING THE PHONE, ACCOUNTS, AMOUNTS AND PROMISED ACTIONS. You may have to don your horned helmet and armor (Speaw and Magic Helmet if you’re Elmer Fudd) if they do not follow up as promised. Look, this is YOUR credit history. If you’re not willing to work/fight for it, why should anyone else? YOU are your first, best line of defense.

A credit report is broken down into public records (Bankruptcies, judgments) and credit line history: real estate lines (mortgages, including Home Equity Lines of Credit. They’re a bitch to underwrite), installment lines (auto, boat, RV, student loans (sound sinister music. The collection process on those bastards needs to be reformed. The credit companies were Bush’s biggest campaign contributors and they got draconian bankruptcy and student loan collection laws passed. Fuckers)), secured/unsecured loans. (If you’re confused as to the difference between these and your Visa card: installment loans are x number of payments at x amount to fully pay off (amortize) the loan). And finally, revolving credit (credit cards). You may get a $1,000 credit line on a Visa, but you don’t use that all at once (or rather, you really, really, really shouldn’t. VERY bad move) and if you pay it down, you can charge more on it back up to the credit limit (and sometimes over because the bank wants those over/late fees. That’s where they make their profits).

And finally, collections. I don’t think I need to tell you these are bad marks on credit and that despite having pretty clear laws on what is prohibited behavior, violating the law is more common than obeying them. However, that’s a whole other blog post and I WILL need my horned helmet and armor for that discussion.

Let’s say your credit report legitimately reflects some “dings.” What to do depends on what they are. Let’s say you had to go to the emergency room, you have insurance, but there are a couple of medical collections on your record. As an underwriter, we don’t take those too seriously BUT you may want to have a “Come to Jesus” phone call to your insurance carrier if those medical collections are open (unpaid). After all, it’s on YOUR credit report. If they’re closed, they’re paid, no worries.

Bankruptcies: Bad, but with the economic issues we’ve experienced since 2008, no longer uncommon and no longer a stigma. They’ll be on your credit report 10 years. When I was working in subprime lending (prior to Bush’s bankruptcy “reforms”), one could declare Chapter 7 (liquidation of debts) every 7 years. I saw a lot of loans with serial filers; 7 years and one month after the previous discharge, the borrowers had filed again. And had it granted. By the way, Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a “workout” plan, sort of like the Chapter 11 that GM, American Airlines and various corporations use to regroup so they can continue business.

Judgments: bad. And they sit on your record for 7 years. Make arrangements to pay them (or get them discharged in a bankruptcy if it’s come to that) and get a copy of the satisfaction from the court. You may need it. You don’t want those to remain open. If you were evicted, in California, that stays on the Unlawful Detainer Registry 7 years (and anybody who tells you it’s forever is lying and trying to buffalo you into doing something financially unsound and stupid).

Foreclosures/Short Sale/Deed in Lieu: Again, like bankruptcies, these have become more common with the economic downturn. In order to get a new mortgage, the foreclosure/short sale/deed in lieu must be 7 years old for conventional and 3 years for FHA. They will want a 12 months VOR (Verification of Rent) for FHA and 24 months for conventional (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines) mortgages. (Thanks to Nicole Smith for providing the correct timeframes).

Collections: If the original creditor has written off the account as a profit & loss, they will have sold it to a third party debt collector for pennies on the dollar (dealing with these rat fuckers WILL be a separate topic). Contact the original creditor and see if you can work with THEM or at least verify the final amount they wrote off. I’ve had a few accounts that had been charged off and sold, but the original creditor gladly took the money. It did NOTHING for my credit profile, but then neither does paying the third party guys. It does, however, clear the conscience and piss off the likes of Allied Interstate and Vital Recovery Services. They deserve it.  Collections will age off your credit report after 4 years. The Statute of Limitations for collections is generally 4 years from the month in which the account went 180 days past due. (Check your state) Collectors do not want you to know that.
Late payments: Are they 30 days, 60 days, 90 days late? And how long ago did they occur? Understand that if you’re applying for a mortgage, you will be asked for an explanation (illness, job loss, divorce) The longer you’re able to make your monthly payments on time since the late payments, the better your profile gets. Improving FICO is like rebuilding your home after a disaster. First, you assess the damage (analyzing the report), clear away the debris (correcting false information on the report) and then, you rebuild from the ground up.

What is rebuilding? Speaking as an underwriter, we look at a bankruptcy from its discharge date (Chapter 7) and how the consumer has behaved (credit-wise) since then. Rebuilding is making the payments on time and in full and keeping that going for at least 12 months. In my case, it was necessary to re-establish credit with a secured card and it will be necessary to make the payments in full and on time (by the way, if you have to go this route, check with your bank first to see if they offer it. There’s no guarantee of acceptance, but if you already have accounts with them, they know you. If not, a few banks offer secured cards and you can compare terms side by side on the Internet. Citibank is the only one that pays interest on the savings account securing the card).

A stellar piece of advice I was once given: “It never hurts to have a credit union in your back pocket.” Very true. And since they’re non-profit, the fees are a lot more reasonable than commercial banks. They offer credit cards, installment loans and mortgages, just like Citi and Bank of America.

DON’T run your cards up to their limit, even if you can and do sustain the payments. Pay them down and keep the balances low.

Once you’ve established, let’s say 6 months, of a solid payment history (no lates, no overages), you could apply for a small unsecured loan through your bank. This is where the credit union comes in handy.

If your credit has gone bad for whatever reason, you’ll receive a lot of offers from shady credit card companies like Cortrust and First USA that specialize in “high risk” credit and charge 25% and higher on their credit cards. There is a massive industry with a lot of tentacles (high rate credit cards, payday lending, auto loan title lending) based on lending to desperate people who can be taken advantage of. Do yourself a favor and opt out of these pre-screened offers: It will also minimize the number of unknown inquiries on your credit report. Speaking as an underwriter, if we see inquiries on your credit report, we will ask for an explanation. “I don’t recognize this” is kind of weak.

Like losing weight, rebuilding your credit can be done, just not overnight. You’re playing a long game. It’s kind of analogous to that asshat Rupert Murdoch building television networks in the US. That was his end game. Minor problem: only US citizens can own radio and TV networks and stations (learned that one from “Working Girl” and it’s true). Rupert was an Australian citizen. It’s a seven year process to become an American citizen. Rupert bit the bullet, went through the 7 year process, pledged allegiance to the flag and the Constitution, then went out and set up Fox. (Yes, and thank you so much for Sean Hannity and that constipated turtle, Charles Krauthamer).

So, 1) Know where you stand, 2) make sure everything’s correct on the report, 3) tie up the loose end and 4) ya gotta rebuild it brick by brick. Or on-time payment by on-time payment.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What's A Girl to Do?

Okay, Gang: I’ll just say it right here, right now and out loud: Boy, did I indulge today. However, since I’m good most of the rest of the time, it’s okay. I didn’t work out today, either. Not only was there no Pilates today (Christ didn’t work His core, so I follow His lead), but I managed to kick my own butt pretty hard yesterday with weights (and the Wonky Right Knee has filed a grievance. When I pointed out to the WRK that we no longer have health insurance, the grievance was withdrawn). Part of the butt-kicking was fueled by the Red Sox getting the snot beaten out of them by the Tigers (Ten to zip). At least the Pinstriped Damned of the Bronx are also sucking right now (but we know that won’t last), the Celtics and the Bruins are headed to their respective playoffs.

You take your blessings where you find them. And a little schaudenfreude (German for pleasure in someone else’s troubles) every now and then is perfectly natural. Suck it, Mariano Rivera.

It’s been 3 weeks since I was laid off from my job. I’ve been applying for positions (and head hunters keep trying to place me at a former employer. Not happening; we had a bad breakup). No forward motion. Not good.

As part of moving forward financially, I applied for a secured credit card (yes, I have fucked up financially). Good news: I was approved. Bad news: the bank debited the security payment from my account. I don’t have access to it yet (nor do I want to run up the balance within days of approval. I’ve been looking at credit reports for a living for years. It’s not a good move). I filed for unemployment, but I don’t know when the check will arrive (they say they have up to 10 days). I have a whopping seventeen bucks (should be more, but there is that pesky loan that has yet to be repaid). I cannot sustain the cost of my current housing and the decrease in available funds prohibits (for now) signing up for West Side Rentals which is a relatively scam-free database of available rentals in LA. As an offshoot of being a financial fuck-up, I can tell you how to battle the third party debt collectors. They are predators, if they obey the law, it’s unusual and they count on their victims not knowing the law. Start by watching “Maxed Out”, available on Netflix, ITunes and Zune). With those bastards, I am Boadicea, the Warrior Queen (she deserves a biopic. If I write one, they’ll probably cast Angelina Jolie. Jennifer Lawrence is too young). No mercy. Ever.

Plus, I went to a great party for Easter yesterday and was among working actors and writers. I started to feel the bug biting again. However, that’s fees for headshots, fees for Reprographics to print them up, fees for LA Casting…see, when you’re sitting in Vermont and dreaming of having your own TV series or being on the couch chatting with Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin or Johnny Carson (Yeah, I know…that was a looong time ago and they’re all dead. Okay, so now it’s Ellen and Jay Leno), you don’t know about the costs of getting started (if you think about it, it’s self-employment and every business has start-up costs) or the classes you need to take (improv, cold reading, working with the camera, scenes…). I’m thinking, I’m thinking…

And the Great White Belly is proving to be as stubborn as I am about leaving.

What’s a girl to do? First of all, ask people to click on the ads so I can get paid for this blog. I’m not going to ask for paid subscriptions. Yet.

Okay, and after that? (Returning to a frequent theme of this blog)

You consult Journey, Dory, Edna Mode and Dr. Evil and apply the Law of Attraction.

From the Abraham-Hicks website (Law of Attraction), I got the following two quotes over the past couple of days:
“The Universe does not know whether the vibration that you're offering is because of something you're observing or something you're remembering or something that you are imagining. It just receives the vibration and answers it with things that match it.”

“If your desire is strong enough, it doesn't matter what your beliefs are. If you have a desire that is strong enough, that desire will be the dominant vibration, and it will over-ride any other vibration that you have.”

Well, that tells me not to dwell on the negative. This is good because it’s worrying about the “what if” that’ll pull me down into a slide where I end up just staying in bed all day. Not good. Positivity is a coping mechanism, but it’s an effective one.

“Don’t Stop Believing.” Steve Perry’s never lied to me yet.  (Okay, fine. The clip is "Glee." Same song)

I consult a psychic (insert snorts of derision here). She’s been on the money so far and since she’s telling me that things are going to be great, I can relax, I will take her advice. She tells me I’m going to be even better than fine, I listen. It’s just that, on days like this one, it can be tough to remember that (hell, menopause makes remembering things tough). A longtime friend (30 years) has observed that I “land on my feet” (could be why I like cats over dogs. However, if dogs could purr, they’d move up a notch).

“How many menopausal women does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
“I don’t know. How many?”
“Uh…Oh Christ, I forgot. And why is it so damned hot in here?”
I just wrote that joke. (Mine)

Dory the Fish: Keep on swimming.

I found this great blog called “People I Want to Punch In the Throat” (like her on Facebook and her friend, “The Underachiever’s Guide to Being a Domestic Goddess” which has a fantastic profile picture. Both are funny as hell) and she offered tips on how to become a successful blogger.

 In one particular post, “My Blogging Advice”,, she offered the sage advice that you just keep plugging away. You keep on swimming, just like Dory says. In my case, once I get this up and published (with all links and pictures added), I will go “throw weights” at the gym. And force the Great White Belly to work. Plus, the endorphins from working out will lift my mood or so the theory goes.

Edna Mode from “The Incredibles”:

We’ll skip past the “My God, you’ve gotten fat” (I used to do a great Edna Mode impression. I should work on it again) and go to “Fortune favors the prepared.” While I don’t think I’m going to need a super suit to go battle Syndrome, continuing to write this blog, editing my novel and writing comedy sketches builds a body of work so that, WHEN asked for writing samples, I can say, “Here, look at this.” Sitting on my ass pulling out my hair will not accomplish this.
Dr. Evil? Well, he’s not really a life coach, but the sequence where’s he dancing to “Beyond the Sea” cracks me up to a ridiculous degree. I don’t have the DVDS and the only clip on Youtube is 18 seconds long, but it works to make me giggle. And if that’s not enough, there’s “The Big Lebowski”, “The Blues Brothers” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” (“Young Frankenstein” is the funniest movie of all time, period, but I don’t have access to my DVD of it. Storage).

So, I’m going to keep on swimming and not stop believing because…fortune favors the prepared. And dance like Doctor Evil.

Friday, April 6, 2012

10 Things I Would Do With the Mega Millions

One week ago today, I did not become a multi-millionaire (and chances are, neither did you). Having just been laid off, to say I could have used the money is an understatement. If I recall correctly, the cash value was $394,000,000, leaving $295,500,000 after 25% Federal taxes. Split 3 ways, $98,500,000  per winning ticket (except that now, the “winner” in Maryland is claiming that she lost the ticket).

In going through my wallet this morning to find stamps to mail my unemployment insurance claim form, a  slip of paper fell out with the following written on it: Psalm 122:7 “Peace be within you walls, prosperity within your palaces.”

Yeah, I really like this picture.

Maybe there’s still a big fat jackpot coming my way of a net $295 million (Yes, I go to a psychic. She hasn’t been wrong yet and she’s described 2012 as my “money year”). That being the case, this is a PARTIAL list of what I’d do with the money.

1) I have friends who need new homes or improved homes, but have had the kind of financial issues that make getting financing tough (not because they were idiots. They got hit upside the head with the economy). I would sit these families down and offer the following deal: You find a house that you like THAT YOU WOULD BE ABLE TO AFFORD IF YOU COULD GET THE FINANCING (PITI – Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance). I will purchase the house for cash. You will rent it from me for $1,000/$1,500 whatever per month (we’ll figure it out). This money will be put in a savings account and in 2-3 years (we’ll figure out a time frame), you will be able to finance purchasing the house from me because a) you will have at least $24,000 seasoned funds to use as a down payment and b) you will have a spotless Verification of Rent showing you making the payments. In that amount of time, I trust you will have taken other steps to improve your credit.

2) I would not open a charitable foundation (unless instructed to do so by a financial pro). Giving to charities that support your causes gives you a good feeling and tax deductions; opening and running your own charitable foundation gives you a headache (ask Greg Mortensen of “Three Cups of Tea.” His is in trouble. So is he). The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank has a program for people with fruit trees in their backyards (one in four LA area homes. It’s like the zucchini of the Southland): contact them and they will send people to pick the fruit (it’s a donation to the food bank). This way, your neighbors stop screaming at the site of you coming at them with a bushel of lemons, you don’t have a backyard full of rotting fruit and you help your less-fortunate neighbors get the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

3) I would work with the food banks, the regular banks that have a lot of properties on their hands that are starting to show signs of neglect from being unoccupied and some colleges with strong agriculture programs (my alma mater, UVM, for example). Here’s the deal: we buy some of the properties, knock down the decomposing houses and turn the sites into community gardens. The ag students get a scholarship (work for us for a year and we’ll pay your tuition for that year) or we make a deal with the Feds for loan forgiveness in exchange for work for x number of years. They’ll be helping people learn to grow food, save seeds, make compost, preserve food and get a toehold on independence. We’re Americans: (and yes, I know the narrative is slanted in favor of white European settlers) Our ancestors wore calluses and dirt under the fingernails as badges of honor. Our favorite stories are the ones about someone landing at Ellis Island (or similar) with 89 cents in the pocket and working long enough and hard enough to turn that into a major fortune (that his grandchildren and great grandchildren squander on hookers and coke). We did it before. We can do it again.
4) Yes, I know there are a few of you who have big needs right now. We’ll work something out.
5) I know a few entrepreneurs who could use an investor. Give me a rock solid business plan (and I know a few of you are constantly working on yours) and we’ll play “Shark Tank” on a small scale. I’ve got $295 million to play with.

6) It’s not enough money to buy the Red Sox, but maybe a minor league team. Baseball is America’s pastime (Basketball can suck it).

7) I know some really great musicians and filmmakers. I’m thinking I can pick up a couple of empty warehouse buildings pretty cheap and convert them into studios (one for music. One for film). The People magazine that covered the Oscars had stories about lottery winners. One woman won $112 million and opened her own production company (among other things. I don’t see myself buying a lot of Hermes bags). Sounds like fun.

8) I would buy a theater and have some of my friends set up an improv school/troupe. One that teaches the skills without sticking a vacuum cleaner into the students’ wallets.

9) I might buy my own gym. While I recognize the benefits of having to move the 45 lbs. weight plates left behind by the self-absorbed muscle heads at the gym, it’s getting old. So is all the old, dead chewing gum left on equipment, the loud, stupid cellphone conversations or people just sitting on machines and texting rather than working out. This would be a gym for grown-ups.

10) And I’d get a kitty. Like this guy.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

No Slugs Were Harmed During This Post

Nope. Still no numbers.

Today is going to be challenging to hold onto the positivity. Nothing is coming through on the income front (and I’m about to get stiffed again tomorrow on a promised loan repayment. Yeah, I read your Facebook page. You could be an adult and let me know, but no, I have to chase you) and I’m finding nothing but scams on the housing front (Craigslist. I get my final paycheck tomorrow, so I’ll sign up for West Side Rentals) unless it’s “transitional” housing (You just got out of rehab/jail and need a place to live. NO! NO FUCKING WAY! NO!). Given the demise last season plus the lack of good trading off-season plus the bad thumbs of Josh Buckett (I spelled it that way deliberately. If you follow the Red Sox closely, you know he was the ringleader in the fried chicken and beer scandal. Probably hurt his thumb slipping in grease) and Bailey, the closer (pulling his out of his ass, no doubt), the Red Sox aren’t likely to lift my spirits today.

However, I have friends. Friends who send me pictures like this:

And it came with the message, “What I wish for you, my friend...a new home, FULL of money!!!” I keep returning to that picture and post (Facebook) to remind myself that while I don’t have everything I want, I’ve got some damned good stuff.

I got a call from my hair stylist. I haven’t been able to see her in over a year (she’s expensive and worth every cent), but she keeps in touch. I know a couple of people who are genuinely and thoroughly kind and generous of spirit (I am not one of them. I can very kind, but I can also be hell on wheels). Kindness is in short supply in the world. She told me she believes in me and my ability to overcome my issues. If it was possible to reach 90 miles to hug someone, I would have.

With friends like that, you really can’t spend an entire day in Slug Mode (no shower, pajamas all day, in extreme cases, you don’t even brush your teeth).

I have brushed my teeth, taken my vitamins, braided my hair (Yoga day. A ponytail gets in the way of mat work. A braid lies flat) and applied deodorant. You can’t be a slug with Lady Speed Stick in the armpits.

And Universe, while I am trusting you to deliver what I want, I remind you that I am willing to employ blows to your gonads to make you drop them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How Sweet It Isn't

Don’t look for numbers here. Since I didn’t have the right ones for Mega Millions, I’m even less interested in “between the toes” BUT… The Great White Belly is definitely shrinking. Since this was a huge part of my motivation to work on this weight loss project, yeah for me. Can I get an “Amen”?
To three young ladies at the gym: Young lady #1 in the locker room: thank you for showing me what a perfect female ass is supposed to look like. I had been wondering. It wasn’t necessary to stick yours in my face to make the point (What are you? One of my cats? They were always standing on me to stick their butts in my face), but I do appreciate the education. 

Young ladies #2 and #3: Yeah, I’m the bitch who yelled at you in Pilates class yesterday because you were TALKING SO LOUDLY in the back of the room that it was distracting the rest of us from the teacher’s instructions. If you had no interest in what we were doing, why the fuck were you in there? And by the way, not only did the teacher turn away my apology, but she (and at least  7 other people) THANKED ME for saying something. Your behavior was something I’d expect from a 6 year old, not a couple of college aged women. Damned right you should feel ashamed. So should your parents for doing such a shitty job of raising you. You are a couple of spoiled brats.

Today is Monday, April 2, 2012. Last night, “60 Minutes” aired a segment on Dr. Robert Lustig and his campaign (I guess you’d call it a campaign) against sugar, specifically sucrose and fructose. Now, you guys had better show some appreciation because I did some serious (well…) research before writing this post. I took notes, even.

Link to the segment:;cbsCarousel

Link to a New York Times article about Dr. Lustig:

Obesity is a hot topic in the US: how it affects the health care issue, is the BMI really an accurate measure, whether it’s being exaggerated and demonized (certainly stigmatized). There are multi-billion dollar industries to sell products and services to fat people (or people who believe they are fat). There is the old saying of “You can never be too thin or too rich.” (I was willing to test the second half of that statement this past Friday night, but I didn’t draw the right numbers). Part of the discussion is “why”? Why have American waistlines expanded so much in the past 30 odd years?
Enter Dr. Lustig. The man has credentials (endocrinologist. He knows his way around a gland). Like I said, I took notes (4 pages) and I could go into a lengthy dissertation, but I won’t do that.
Let me give you Dr. Lustig’s bottom line: it’s fructose (and the first half of that word rhymes with the Queen Mother of Dirty Words, as Dr. Lustig pronounces it).

About 30, 35 years ago, high fructose corn syrup became a cheaper alternative to sugar in so many foods, it’s ridiculous. It has been vilified and the Corn Refiners Association has aired ads to convince you otherwise. The  “Corn sugar” ads and the ones where someone starts to badmouth High Fructose Corn Syrup and ends up putting foot in mouth. You’ve seen ‘em. By the way, Dr. Lustig isn’t too much of a fan of sucrose (table sugar), either.

Americans eat 141 lbs. of sugar per year. That’s more than the weight of your average supermodel. And it’s not just someone dumping 4-5 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of coffee or drinking multiple sodas per day. Like I said, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) is in damned near everything. Breads, buns, salad dressing, mustard, salsa, ketchup, spaghetti sauce (check out the label on Prego sometime. It's an education) as well as the usual suspects. You could make a conscious decision to eliminate sugar, not have it in coffee, avoid desserts and Snickers bars, but still go over 100 lbs. per year just because HFCS is included in so many different items.

Sugar affects the same pleasure centers of the brain that cocaine does. Maybe it's a white powder thing...

We do NEED sugar for energy: glucose. But glucose, sucrose and fructose are all structurally different from each other and our bodies process them in different ways due to the different structures. Glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen; it’s what elite athletes use for energy and the body stores it with no problem. An annual tradition with the Boston Marathon is a pasta dinner the night before: carbo loading. When he was Mayor, Ray Flynn used to host and chow down (Ray used to run the Marathon. I don’t think Tom Mennino does). Glycogen in the liver is not a problem; there’s no upper maximum limit. And glucose consumption will trigger the leptin (“Okay, I’m full”) hormone.

Fructose, on the other hand…

This is a link to Dr. Lustig’s lecture, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”. It’s an hour and a half, but worth watching.

In it, he explains how fructose, like ethanol (booze) can only be metabolized in the liver. And what isn’t used is stored as fat, not glycogen (!) in the liver. He had a Power Point presentation on how the various sugars are processed through the body, including the end results. The end result of fructose metabolism is uric acid. Notice how lately we’re seeing ads for medicine to treat GOUT (how 18th century)? And the ads talk about how high uric acid is a root cause of gout? Save yourself the prescription and co-pay: cut out the foods containing HFCS. Oh, and even if you’re saying, “Well, I don’t have gout, but I do have high blood pressure.” Uh huh: see previous comment. Excess uric acid is a factor in high blood pressure (hypertension).

You may be thinking, “Gee, if I go back over these blog posts and change my eating, this broad seems to think I can ditch a lot of meds.” And that's a bad thing?

Alec Baldwin, then and now. He got a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and eliminated sugar from his diet.

I’d say he’s damned close to his Jack Ryan (“Hunt for Red October”) hotness.

Like Gatorade? Notice a change in the flavor since Pepsi bought the brand? Yeah: they swapped in HFCS.  If you’ve just run the Boston Marathon, then guzzle it down. But if you’re just browsing in 7-11 for something to drink and you like that kind of unnatural, glowing shade of purple coming from the bottle…rethink your choice. And read the label on juice before consuming that.

Dr. Lusting speaks of a “perfect storm” (that term is overused) that occurred in the 1970s: 1) Nixon didn’t want food prices to become an election issue, so he ordered Earl Butz (Secretary of Agriculture. Never liked that guy. He was a HUGE jerk) to ensure that food prices (and food distributed through WIC –  Women, Infants & Children, a program to feed the poor) stayed cheap. 2) The Japanese invented HFCS and it was introduced to the US in 1975 and 3) the US Dept of Ag (The Food Pyramid guys), American Medical Association and American Heart Association called for Americans to reduce their dietary fat intake. LDL, low density lipoproteins (the Bad Cholesterol) had just been discovered and it was believed that dietary fat contributed to their increase, so food manufacturers began reducing the fat and replacing it with (you guessed it) HFCS because otherwise, it tasted like crap. Sure, this was healthy. After all, fat was the bad guy, right?

Not so fast, says Dr. Lustig. First of all, there are 2 types of LDL: Pattern A, which floats and does nothing harmful to us and Pattern B, which is dense and the building block of arterial plaque.

Want to guess what contributes the increase of Pattern B LDL?

And as for WIC and providing cheaper food, Dr. Lustig showed the label from Isomil, a brand of baby formula available in the program. I don’t have kids (and judging by the hot flashes, WON’T have kids), but I was floored by the baby formula being 43.2% corn syrup solids by weight and 10% sugar. That’s over 50% of what your baby is eating is sugar, and the majority of that is fructose. Dr. Lustig had completed a study on obesity in 6 month olds and we know what couch potatoes they are...

Oh, and by the way, we don’t get enough fiber, either. Mostly because we’re chowing down on processed foods. For the sake of shelf life, processed foods don’t have much, if any fiber. According to Dr. Lustig, “When God made the poison, He packaged it with the antidote”, which is fiber (Dr. Lustig is a little extreme in his view). Fiber inhibits carb absorption and increases satiety (the full feeling. Leptin). Instead of drinking juice, eat the fruit that it comes from.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Well, giving up sugar and carbs is just circling back to Atkins,” give yourself a cigar. Dr. Robert Atkins was onto something. The Arkansas endocrinologists behind Protein Power are onto something. Sugar Busters, South Beach and the Paleolithic (Caveman) Diet all circle back to cutting sugar, processed foods containing sugar (and omitting fiber) and refined carbohydrates out of your diet.

One of Dr. Lustig’s colleagues, Lewis Cantley (I hope I spelled his name correctly) has linked sugar to cancer (breast and colon) in that tumor cells have insulin receptors and they use blood glucose to grow.

Dr. Lustig wants to see sugar regulated the same as alcohol and tobacco. Like I said, the guy has an extreme view. I think education is a better action than legislation or litigation.

As for the sugar manufacturers, hey, there’s the alternative fuel market. A friend told me that enthanol burns hotter than gasoline and burns out engines. So, the Corn Refiners should fund a couple of Detroit engineers to develop an internal combustion engine that can handle it. How many miles can you get out of a bottle of Coke?

Okay, it’s Easter in a few days. If you’re in the US, you are familiar with the rows of pastel-wrapped candy in the stores destined for Easter baskets (if they make it that far). Cadbury Crème Eggs are only available this time of year, as are Hershey Eggs and big jelly beans. In America, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas are sugar saturated holidays (If you don’t have a date for Valentine’s, there’s always the deeply discounted boxes of chocolates…). Go ahead, eat your jelly beans (unless the dog gets into your Easter basket behind your back. Stupid Max), bite the ears off of your chocolate bunny, but try this: once the candy is gone, 30 days without processed food, without sugar, without baked goods (which, I suppose, count as processed foods). You’ll be making and carrying your own lunches (saving money). You want spaghetti for dinner? Fine. Make sauce from scratch. It’s wicked easy. Make salad dressing from scratch. Get stevia (Truvia is a stevia and sucrose blend. Don’t bother.. Once again, read the label). Sweet Leaf makes liquid flavored stevia (English Toffee, Vanilla, Lemon, Grape, Chocolate Raspberry) for $13.99 per bottle (which will last a couple of months).

You’ve got nothing to lose, except maybe a few pounds, some high blood pressure points, expensive meds, maybe a diabetes diagnosis…