Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day: Facts and Celebration Suggestions

Today is February 29th.

Occurring only every four years, this extra day is added to February to even out the year so that the planet doesn't start tilting, causing everyone to slide off into space where we would all float aimlessly for eternity....or, nearly as long as last night's American Idol.

A lesser known but equally important fact about Leap Day is that it is also known as Groundhog Revenge Day. Wouldn't you -- if, still enjoying the cozy slumber of winter hibernation, were ripped from your covers and held aloft by a madman in a top hat -- desire to exact some payback for this indignity? Of course you if seeing one's shadow has anything to do with a prolonged winter or premature spring anyway.
I am going to get
you, sucka!
Sadie Hawkins, as
drawn by Al Capp

As far back as Fifth Century Ireland, funny business regarding women wearing pants on Leap Day has been going on and, thanks to Al Capp--an irreverent cartoonist known for the comic strip "Lil Abner," the homeliest spinster in the town of Dog Patch was entitled to propose to the bachelor of her choice--giving February 29th its alternate identity of "Sadie Hawkins Day."

There is also the issue of the Leap Year birthday.

The 29th of February is a very popular day for scheduled C-sections* due to the fact that children born on that day magically age at a much slower rate than those with non-Leap birthdays.

If you are born on Leap day, after eight cycles of a 365 day calendar, you are legitimately only two years old. Referred to as "adult babies" you may be profiled on an occasional episode of HBO's "Real Sex" during which the rest of us will want to poke out our eyeballs with knitting needles.
I wish I were

It is also suggested that on Leap Day one does something exciting and madcap since the day is, in essence, a "gift" of an extra 24 hours.

Some people like to take chances on Leap Day, believing they will experience play the lottery, eat that piece of fish that got shoved all the way to the back and has been in the fridge for over a month, park next to that windowless van outside Sears Customer Pick-up at the mall and, if you are a true daredevil, go for a stroll on any Ivy League campus in America wearing a Rick Perry t-shirt.

Some lesser known facts are that, on this day, farts have no smell, gossip is morally right and chocolate and cheese have no calories (and actually help achieve weight loss if consumed standing up) so go forth and enjoy your Leap Day! Maybe even propose marriage to the cute guy you see on the subway every morning....but stay away from groundhogs. They're mad as hell and mean business.
This woman is only 23 years old.
*Amazingly enough, absolutely true.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The 84th Academy Awards: Nip Slips, Giant Insects and Lots of Yawning


Oh, what's that? The Academy Awards are on? Hold on a second, I have to scratch a little spot on my heel that's been itching all day. Ahhh...much better. And, maybe I'll just fold that towering pile of clean laundry that's been waiting to be put away.

Now back to the awards...unfortunately, both the scratching and folding were more interesting than the 84th Academy Awards this year. 

Oddly lack luster, I wondered if my lack of enthusiasm was a result of the fact that the world is  currently a simmering bowl of crap pudding and that watching a parade of "entertainers" exchange air kisses and self-aggrandizing accolades for playing dress-up seemed, well, damn stupid in the face of Syrian massacres and global recession. Usually, I celebrate things like award shows and royal weddings as a welcome distraction from a harsh reality but, this year, I wasn't really feeling it.
Aunt Myrna, is that you?

Billy Crystal, a nine time Oscar host, looking like somebody's Aunt Myrna after she'd been embalmed (hint: men, it's okay to go gray) summed it up for me as I started to fidget on the couch. To paraphrase Billy--maybe "watching millionaires giving each other golden statues" wasn't going to make me -- or the rest of the world -- feel any better this year.

But I stayed with it.

Despite falling asleep during, of all people, Chris Rock who -- for all I know -- may have provided a welcome moment, I endured uninteresting fashions and presentations that were likely written by Academy saboteurs instead of writers: an unfunny appearance by the typically adorable Emma Stone who gamely struggled through an awful bit about how exciting it was to be a first time presenter and some unsettling shtick from the usually amusing Will Ferrell and Zach Galifinakis.

Wearing all white and carrying cymbals they confused me, and the rest of America, by introducing this year's nominated songs by belittling the likes of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Moon River" while introducing some musical drivel about being a muppet.
Looking odd...

That's it, Sandy. Try to smile.
I vigilantly waited for evidence of recent plastic surgery gone awry but other than the intensely botoxed Sandra Bullock, the formerly flat chested Cameron Diaz sporting a pair of brand new boobs as well as Nick Nolte who resembled a very ill-tempered Santa Claus and appeared to have no idea where he was, the only fun I had was when Tom Cruise appeared.

I can't put my finger on what he had done but he did not look much like himself. Was it an eyelift, new cheekbones or just what happens to all scientologists as they age?

The highlight of the evening for me, as well as exterminators all over the deep south who've been searching for the predatory insect leader of a strain of giant, exoskeletal mutants terrorizing homes in the gulf states yet has eluding capture, was Miss Angelina Jolie. Men with giant nets were immediately dispatched, hopefully arriving in time to catch her at the Vanity Fair after-party.
100% crazy

Skinnier than ever (let's get this out of the way for those who will accuse me of being jealous of her lean appearance-- yes, when the local I-Max theater had technical issues, they did ask to project a wide-screen movie about the Grand Canyon on my ass--happy now?), she velociraptored her way to the center of the stage and struck a pose that can only be described as totally nutso.
Brad's on the left.

Thrusting one emaciated leg out of the slit of her gown and placing a bony claw on a shriveled hip, she crazy-smiled and read her lines, finally (I hope) alerting Brad Pitt that it's time to grab the kids and run for the hills. Rumor has it that you're planning to marry her, not do it! Give her back the vial of Billy Bob Thornton's blood that she used to wear around her neck and cut your losses before she devours you immediately after mating---just like the female praying mantis.

Jean DuJardin kissing his director...
My favorite moments included the 82 year old Christopher Plummer receiving his first Oscar and all those guys from "The Artist" who proved to American audiences that French men really enjoy kissing each other again and again and again.

Okay, we get European guys are uninhibited and totally comfortable demonstrating emotion and physical affection to each other. Now stop.
...kissing a co-star

...kissing his award..
In years past, I have tried to see at least one or two of the nominated movies but this year saw only "The Help." Despite not having seen Meryl Streep in yet another tour de force interpretation of a historical figure (rumor has it that next year she will play Lyndon Johnson in a new bio pic), I can't imagine anyone out-acting the fabulous Viola Davis. Based on Meryl's charming and self-deprecating acceptance speech, I suspect she agreed.

All in all, it was a deadly bore. I found myself mentally alphabetizing the spices in my kitchen as tuxedo clad and be-jeweled presenters and recipients came and went. If J-Lo's "nip-slip" couldn't rescue the show from being a crashing bore, I don't think even Tim Tebow could have saved it. Better luck next year.
Slip? You decide.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Agoraphobic? No. Hooked on Hummus? Yes.

Not at this point...yet.
After reading yesterday's post, a reader asked me if I am agoraphobic.

I was shocked by the question but after re-reading the post, I can see why someone might think I have issues with leaving the house.

But, honestly, I do not.

I trudge out on a daily basis and squint at the world, fists clenched at my sides just like the rest of you. I do admit that sometimes I get a little resentful about having to leave the house. After all, I can see my couch from here. And there's the TV.  And Buzzy is here, too.

I don't take him with me when I leave but miss him a lot. He would have made a fabulous companion at the mall yesterday when I went into a specific, trendy store to buy my favorite mascara and was ignored by the bitches within. I think they ignored me because I am neither specific nor trendy and that may be a pre-requisite if you want to lay your money down on their marble counters.

Buzzy would have made a huge difference. First because of his beauty and charisma. They would have come out from behind the counter and begged to be allowed to pet him but I would have said no.

Or, I might have released him among the clutter of pots and palettes and let him make merry. That, too, would have garnered attention but would also have involved mall security and possible detention and the idea of Buzzy behind bars is just too much to bear.
In any case, despite the fact that the real world is an occasionally cruel and unforgiving place (case in point: Dakota Fanning is no longer the cute little girl she once was), it is my regular haunt.

If I didn't emerge occasionally, how would I keep myself stocked with my current addiction of Trader Joe's Garlic Hummus? Answer me that.

I love hummus and I love garlic. A lot. So when I saw these two ingredients combined, I knew this unassuming little tub o' magic was coming home with me. 

Upon tasting it, I thought that my container had mistakenly received an extra dose -- or twenty -- of fresh, minced garlic. It was potent enough to unsettle vampires within a 50 mile radius.

I looked for the words "atomic," "mondo" or "gadzooks" on the label but all it had was the usual list of ingredients. After one bite, I was hooked.
Pulling out the baby carrots, I ate more and more until, well, Seth wouldn't come near me...or let me ride in his truck until my breath improved. So I stopped for a while.

But just yesterday, I lost my resolve and snuck back into Trader Joe's for another supply. It's insane--on a cracker, a chip, off a spoon, and is so powerful that Homeland Security should consider incorporating it into some form of strategic national defense.

Eat it if you hate your dentist, your boyfriend, your children. There's no end to the people you can alienate.
"But I love you....!"
In fact, I should load up and hang out in the doorway of the specific and trendy make-up store in the mall. That will certainly get me attention...and, probably, free mascara for life just to get rid of me.
From this... this. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Technology, Baby...?

Every once in a while, I like to venture out of doors.

It gets kind of quiet around here and occasionally I miss using a public bathroom, getting stuck behind someone texting in the left lane or having small children in school buses give me the finger at stop signs, so I strap on my booties and out I go.

What I've been noticing on my field trips, particularly when I am seeking interaction with life forms with opposable thumbs and who don't say meow when I ask them a question, is that fewer and fewer opportunities for personal interaction exist these days.
Point, scan...easy, impersonal.

When our local supermarket installed a system in which shoppers can scan and bag their own groceries, paying with a swipe of a card at an automated checkout, I have to admit, I was thrilled.

Based on sheer laziness, I welcomed this chance to not have to remove each item from the cart, place it on the conveyor and bag it myself after a cashier scanned it. This process also cuts time -- occasionally significant -- off a supermarket visit.

Great, I thought. Saving time and not having to make small talk on days when the needle wobbles between Idi Amin and Atilla the Hun on my mood-o-meter is a win for all. But while I do enjoy this efficient alternative, as I see more self-check counters popping up, I realize that soon we'll be able to go about our daily business and never have to utter a word to another soul.

After spending time at one of my favorite websites, People of Walmart, this may seem like only a positive but I may want to chat with the woman wearing short shorts with the loaded colostomy bag strapped to her leg.
Point, scan..easy, impersonal.

And, while I also acknowledge the benefits of the EZ Pass, a popular system by which you can avoid long lines at toll booths while traveling America's highways, I do think back on days of pleasant interaction with toll both personnel who when smiled at would, 99 times out of a 100, smile back.

Yes, the remaining one percent were either serial killers or obvious sexual deviants but it was the most fleeting of interactions and, sometimes on a long trip, it was a refreshing moment for a tired driver.
A friendly moment

Toll takers were also valuable sources of directions when lost but now we have GPS systems. Trips into gas stations are beelines to the bathroom since we have pumped our own gas, too.
Did someone say "virtual sex?"

Obviously, there are positives and negatives about these faceless shortcuts but it's obvious that future generations will have little need to interact with others if so inclined. Why seek a mate or befriend other mommies at the playground when you can engage in virtual sex or hold an app up to your baby so a phone can decipher whether it's a hunger or full-diaper cry?
World's greatest invention

Yesterday in Target, after I loaded up on the staples I'd come for (Tootsie Pops and tube socks), I noticed a young mother walking the aisles with a small child of about three, facing her in the seat of the shopping cart.

Mama was on the phone and the boy was deeply engrossed in a video game. Neither was looking at the other but when the mother saw my look of unbridled disgust, she immediately began to interact with the child in an exaggerated manner, hoping it might change my mind about this detached scenario.

The fact that she recognized and reacted to my disapproval indicated that she understood what I'd witnessed was wrong and gave me hope as I nostalgically remembered my own shopping trips with the boys. We'd make lots of eye contact, talk, fool around, examine items together and they would learn stuff. It all seemed pretty basic.

So we are silenced as we streamline our daily lives using gizmos and scanners.

Are we better off?
Sonny Corleone is not a fan of toll booths.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler Means Do Not Eat the Fried Butter Balls!

It's Mardi Gras and I am out raising hell, so please accept this timely archived post in honor of today's traditional festivities...

I used to think I had already come face to face with the killer sandwich of all time.

I used to think of it as the widowmaker, the equalizer, the King of the Sandwich World that would clog your arteries in record time but allow you to die with a smile.
I was wrong.

Ironically, since today is Mardi Gras, it was in the French Quarter of New Orleans where I was lucky enough to be introduced to the muffaletta. I can feel my rings getting tight at the mere mention of its name.....

The muffaletta, a delicious and exotic creation invented by people far greater than ourselves, sounds like what it is: a combination of something to be eaten and something to wear -- in this case, a blood pressure cuff and a heart monitor.

Imagine several layers of succulent Italian meats and cheeses piled atop a thick, salty layer of olive salad and packed under the sheltering dome of a huge round loaf, cut into quarters and intended for four. Whew!

Four? I think not.

My son Charlie and I, legendary aficionados of all things intended for four but only enough for two, stared at one another in disbelief as the oil trickled down our chins and the sodium infused our blood streams. "Does something this good really exist or are we dreaming?"

I thought this sandwich was the grand daddy of all heart-stoppers until clicking around on the Food Channel yesterday and coming face to face with Paula Deen, the white-maned grande dame of death by food, and a sandwich she'd made to share with people she wants to kill lady friends at brunch.

Someone should look for those women because, if still alive, they are in immediate need of  defibrulators.
Happy or homicidal?

Innocently dubbed the "Brunch Burger," picture a juicy hamburger topped by a fried egg and bacon and squeezed between two Krispy Kreme glazed donuts. If you are still able to stand without leaning on the shoulder of a paramedic for support, then you have not actually visualized this tower of calories, fat and cholesterol. There is risk in even gazing upon its image in a photograph.

Honestly, is Paula kidding?

No one loves salty and sweet more than I. I sniff PayDay candy bars like fine cigars at the check-out counter and dip pretzel rods into chocolate, pretending to give them as gifts at holiday time. I even loved the recent duet between Shakira and Beyonce but this sandwich made me tremble...and not in a good way.

Paula's brunch menu was topped off by a yogurt and fruit parfait meant solely to distract us from the fact that a Cardiovascular SWAT team, armed with pacemakers and led by Doctor OZ, was surrounding her home in Savannah just as the credits were starting to roll.

Apparently Paula has decided to cut to the chase. Why bother sneaking a pound of butter into a recipe when you can simply kill us with a sandwich?

It gets worse.

Paula also offers a recipe for deep fried butter balls.

The reviews for recipes on the Food Network's website is one of the last bastion's of civility on the internet. Cooks and foodies convene in cyber space to cheerfully discuss their pursuits in the kitchen.Or, so I thought.

This time there was in-fighting and hostility among the reviewers.The comments swung from accusations that attempted to re-polarize the northern and southern portions of the United States as well as some barely coherent rants which I blame on the effect of the butter balls, themselves. 

How could anyone think straight after popping a few of those babies?

Since it's Mardi Gras today, I want to send a special shout-out to my Louisiana family and friends who all have Ph.D.s in  personality, charisma and hospitality. Not to mention good looks. We miss you and hope to see you before the muffalettas get us.  

To all my readers: Go out and eat something you might not normally enjoy on a regular day. If you're not lucky enough to be down in New Orleans today, buy the ingredients for a muffaletta and make one yourself. Or, head to Krispy Kreme but don't tell me what you do with the doughnuts you buy. 

Afterwards, in honor of the traditions of the Crescent City, stand by your front window and expose yourselves to the neighborhood. When the police show up, simply remind them that it's Mardi Gras today.

But stay away from fried butter balls. Or Dr. Oz and the SWAT team may show up at your door and I've heard that he never, ever changes those scrubs he we

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The High Cost of Spinach

While stumbling around the supermarket the other day, I came upon a woman, approximately my age, holding a bag of baby spinach and looking concerned.

I could tell from a distance that she wanted to talk to someone. I always want to talk to someone so I was happy to oblige and, besides, I'd  been heading toward the very same baby spinach for our evening salad.

As expected, she turned to me -- eyes a little crazy, but mine were crazier so it was fine, "Can you believe how much this spinach costs?"

After observing that the price of the spinach had risen substantially since the last time I'd bought it, I took a step backward and answered, "No, do you think it's a mistake?"

But it wasn't a mistake. The prices of all the bagged veggies had gone up.

I realize that bagged vegetables, salad mixes in particular, are a luxury. They are for the lazy (me) who don't want to wash and chop but you pay a price for the short cut. My new friend and I had a fine time bitching about spinach and the state of the economy. We went on to trash Ashton Kutcher, discuss how we hate texting and how disappointed we were to learn that Heidi Klum and Seal are getting a divorce.

We agreed that we really thought that marriage was going to last.

She then made the mistake of asking my advice. She wanted to know how I cope with high prices and wondered how I manage my household budget.

I made the mistake of assuming that, after a mere 15 minutes of conversation, she'd managed to ascertain that I am a madcap kidder so I told her that my strategy is simple: any time you see anything selling for under three dollars -- no matter what it is -- simply buy it.

"Do you ever actually see anything under three dollars, anymore?" I reasoned. "No! So, whether you need it or not, it's automatically a bargain."

Clearly, or so I thought, it was apparent that I was joking but this poor woman stood back and said, "Wow, that's a great idea. I'm going to try it."

It took me another fifteen minutes to convince her that I was kidding. And I'm not entirely sure she finally believed me. I got the impression that she felt I'd given her a brilliant piece of financial advice but decided to withdraw it because it was too good to share.

A few days later, I was poking around in the Dollar Store and actually saw her with a loaded cart. Heading this way and that, she tried to avoid me but, now genuinely worried that my flippant nonsense was going to send her to debtor's prison, I called out, "I really was totally kidding!"

Could it be that this incident has cured me of talking to strangers? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Funny Valentine

Here's a "Susan Says..." classic for Valentine's Day...

For Valentine’s Day this year, Seth and I decided that, as our gift to one another, we would refrain from trying to kill each other for a 24 hour period.

Don’t be shocked.This is a generous and affectionate gift after 30 years of togetherness.

Lately, we’ve become like the Pink Panther and Cato—never sure when the other will leap from behind a pile of laundry to engage in mortal combat, aging pinwheels spiraling through the house until, exhausted, one of us gives up...until next time.
Being married for a long time is both a blessing and well, another kind of blessing. I can read Seth’s mind. Literally. I’ve proven it many times. It’s as if his thoughts travel across his rapidly enlarging forehead in the same digitalized font as news travels around the tickers in Times Square.

I can also tell you exactly what he is going to say before he says it. Depending upon location, specific landmarks provoke pre-recorded comments like “Who the hell would paint their house that color”? Or, upon passing a tag sale, “Why would I want to buy someone else’s crap-- I have my own damn crap!”

While I, too, have pre-recorded comments that he anticipates, he will never read my mind.

I remain an enigma whose thought process is encased in a lead shield of mystery. This is also known as being a woman. We may be predictable on certain levels but, even after years of trying to crack the code, our thoughts remain our own. 

It occurred to me, with a enormous degree of shock, that I might annoy him as much as he annoys me. It’s true that he’s the one who falls asleep in front of the TV with his mouth open wide enough to swallow our bedroom set. But am I not the one who staggers to the kitchen in the morning to greet him with a post-sleep hairdo (a vortex whose morphing shape, he claims, I use to communicate with my home planet) so frightening that any sane man would gag and hurry towards an exit? Yet he does not…he kisses me hello and says something pleasant. The bastard.

Previous Valentine’s Days would find us scrambling to get a table at a cozy restaurant or acting surprised when a dozen roses appeared. As the years progressed, I’d had enough with the roses as well as being rushed through a meal. I think being together a long time makes you a realist—about your partner as well as yourself.

In a long-term marriage, realism is usually tempered by enough compassion and friendship to soften the edges. For example, I should probably have removed the previous comment about Seth’s forehead….
One of my favorite Valentines was received as a little girl from my mother. It may have been my first conscious Valentine, because I remember expressing surprise when I was presented with a lovely bouquet of Charms lollipops for no apparent reason.

My mother explained that, one day, there might be a special someone who would be my Valentine but until then I was hers and she was mine. I remember saying the same to my sons when they were little.

I still tell them that, not just on Valentine’s Day but until Seth is able to get the net over my head and my world, temporarily, goes black. Back then little boy kisses were offered with home made cards. Nothing could have made me happier. 
Sometimes I wonder about future generations of Valentine givers. Kids have come to expect instantaneous gratification at the click of a mouse or the flourish of a Wii wand. Will they expect that same immediacy from their relationships with humans?

Marriage is about compromise and patience--things not widely taught in tech class. The divorce rate was already high before all this began so who knows. What I do know is that it’s definitely worth the pay-off if you can hang in there.
So, what do you do with a man who is so good and kind that he robs you daily of your natural vitriol, tries diligently to diffuse your natural negativity and does not leave you because of your morning hairdo? You marry him.

Happy Valentine's Day to all with love.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Annual Snarky Review of the Grammy Awards

Adele, the big
The Grammys have been one of my favorite award shows since I was a kid.

I count on them for outrageous behavior, crazy fashion and at least one slightly disturbing reunion of aging rock stars there to receive some sort of lifetime achievement hoo-ha.

Last night's show, significantly toned down as a result of Whitney Houston's death the previous day, wasn't nearly as insane, or entertaining, as last year's ceremony.

I thought LL Cool J did an excellent job as host, managing to keep the show respectfully aware of the loss of Miss Houston as well as maintain a festive atmosphere.

There was great music--Adele returned with a fabulous performance of "Rolling in the Deep" after vocal chord surgery and Bruce Springsteen showed that he is still "The Boss" although I miss Clarence Clemons and still long to see -- but am afraid to know -- what is under Steven Van Zandt's bandana.

Jennifer Hudson knocked my sock's off with her tribute to Whitney-- a moving and beautiful rendition of "I Will Always Love You", managing to prove Simon "You're Just Not Good Enough, Jennifer" Cowell wrong for the thousandth time.

There was also the ageless showman and recently knighted Paul McCartney, re-energized by another new wife (did he or did he not sign a pre-nup this time?) performing the new "My Valentine" as well as closing the show with some Beatle's favorites.

Yes, I am having the
tip of my nose whittled
down to nothing.

Chris Brown provided the zumba instruction portion of the evening, there were several dead Beach Boys propped up on stage for a 50th aniversary performance while canned music played behind them and Katy Perry, with a bad blue perm, traded in sweet/sexy for space alien/S&M.
Reason to smile:better hair
than anyone on earth.

Bruno Mars didn't disappoint, both with his snappy choreography or the height of that amazing pompadour, Nicki Minaj proved more boring than controversial with an interminably dull on-stage exorcism and Fergie debuted a brand new nose-alteration a la LaToya Jackson while Bonnie Raitt and Reba McIntyre were botoxed to the point where they could barely open their mouths.

Taylor Swift moved one step closer to obscurity (I hope) and the Foo Fighters* proved yet again that mediocre rock and roll, when unchallenged in its category, will win awards.

Best new artist went to Bon Iver. I just spent some serious time on Youtube listening to them. I liked some of their stuff but suggest the lead singer remove the vise from his balls before he does permanent damage.

I also think that Diana Ross should have been given her award during the show instead of having it mentioned when she was introduced as a presenter. After all, did she not lay the groundwork, some 40 years ago for Whitney and so many others?
All in all, the Grammys were understandably quieter and more somber than in years past. The biggest shock of the night took place in my own home when Seth commented that he liked Lady Gaga's face net and scepter.

This has put a whole new spin on Valentine's Day tomorrow. I'm glad I saved the grocery net from the trunk of my old car--I will be trying it on for size in just a bit.

Now, take a moment to enjoy Jennifer Hudson's beautiful performance from last night....

*I know I'm going to take some hate for my  Foo Fighters comment but not only do I stand by it but deep in your hearts, you know I'm right.