Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Could It Get Worse Than Bush?

Maybe. Or, just as bad... in a different way.

Watch this:

Giuliani Time.

We in NYC lived it. Other people need to get past the 9/11 images and see what Guiliani Time was really about. Al Sharpton comes off as reasonable in this film, which tells you something about the megalomaniac that is Rudy.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Car Tunes

There was a time when I discovered new music by listening to the radio. That time was about 30 years ago. Now I watch TV, particularly car commercials. I hate it when classic songs are used in ads (who wants to associate Led Zepplin with Cadillac, or Iggy Pop with some tacky cruiseline?). But I love it when I hear a great, obscure song and I can pull up Ad Tunes and find out what it is.

Some great ones over the past few years:

"Pink Moon" by Nick Drake (VW Cabriolet)
"Struggle" by Ringside (Dodge)
"Here Comes the Sun Again" by M. Ward (Cadillac... believe it or not)
"Ladyshave" by Paul Oakenfold (Mitsubishi)
"You Only Get What You Give" by The New Radicals (also Mitsubishi)
"Days Go By" by Dirty Vegas (Mitsubishi again... they're good at picking music)

And VW has apparently contracted with Wilco for their entire new album, "Sky Blue Sky".

While car commercials have been a musical goldmine for me, there are other ads that have driven me to download as well:

The Geico caveman on the moving sidewalk is serenaded by a Norwegian group called Royksopp, to the tune "Remind Me". I dare you to get that one out of your head.

Korbel champagne grabbed Bitter:Sweet's "The Mating Game" (which I also associate with Sara Ramirez's character, dancing in her underwear on Grey's Anatomy, another terrific source of new music)

"The W.A.N.D" by Flaming Lips (Dell ... ew... )

"All Will Be Well" by the Gabe Dixon Band. It was used on a promo for some very short-lived tv show about young lawyers. I don't remember the show, but I'm enternally grateful for finding the song.

Grey's Anatomy, as previously mentioned, is a great source of music (I've discovered Joe Purdy, Mat Kearny, The Ditty Bops, and Kate Havenvik there) as is "Six Feet Under" ("Breathe Me" by Sia, and various tunes by Jet, are standouts) and "Nip/Tuck" (who can forget Christian Troy caring for his little boy to Rufus Wainwright's "Vibrate". Or the season finale that ended with Art Garfunkel's "That's All I Know"?)

According to my daughter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars are also musical treasure troves.

Who needs a radio when you've got TV?

**Edited to add that yesterday, while watching The Golf Channel, they prefaced showing the current leaderboard by identifying the background music as songs from the new album by the Arctic Monkeys! To quote Jackie Gleason in "Smokey and the Bandit", "What is this WOYLD comin' to?"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Man of Constant Sorrow - An Anniversary Rerun

My father died 12 years ago today. This photo was taken only a few weeks before his death, when Lucas was 8 months old. Although he could be a harsh father, he really loved babies and it shows here.

I thought it was fitting to rerun a post from March 13th.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOne part Tony Soprano, one part Ralph Kramden and a pinch of Bugs Bunny...that pretty much sums up my dad, Sal. He grew up in the streets of Brooklyn, one of eight children (there was a ninth, but he fell from a fire escape as he played with his older brother, my Uncle Joey. Somehow I never trusted Uncle Joey). They lived in a tenement building above the barber shop that his father owned and next door to the woman who would become mymother. (and also "next door to Moider Incorporated")

A sweet, quiet man, my father served six years in the Navy during WWII, including a stint on the USS Lexington. He was at Pearl Harbor for a weekend of R&R when he and his shipmates were suddenly called back and they left, stealthfully, in the middle of the night. It was December 6th. Because of this incident, he was convinced that FDR knew the bombing of Pearl Harbor was going to happen, but allowed it as a way to get us into the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Lexington was torpedoed and poor Sal had to await rescue while bobbing around in the Pacific. As a kid, not realizing the magnitude of this event, I would tease him and call him "Chicken of the Sea" when he didn't want to join us in the water at Rockaway Beach.

Our relationship was a complicated one. For years I just thought he was a horrible, abusive father which in many respects, he was. He was generally sullen, having been forced to forego a dream of being a carpenter and moving to California in the 1950s by my mother: The Queen of Control and Manipulation. She insisted that he take the civil service exam, stay in Brooklyn near her mother and sisters, and get a job with a pension. He spent his working life delivering mail.

We paid dearly as a result. His hair-trigger temper and ill-fated attempts to control me, especially, resulted in aberrations of parenting that began with verbal lashings, humiliation and sadistic "discipline". We feared him. He never said much, but talked with his hands like Tony Manero's father in Saturday Night Fever. ("Hey! Watch the hair!") By the time I was a mouthy and wild teenager, he was hauling off and punching me full-fisted in the face.

It may seem strange to you, but after many years of psychotherapy I came to pity him. I realized that Sal was the puppet...and Margie Dearest was the puppetmaster. She'd instigate arguments between us, she'd put words in his mouth, she'd challenge him with "you're gonna let her get away with that?" until he had to take action to prove his manhood. He was miserable and he was trapped. I quoted him in my earlier post about marriage, where he said "If you wanted to be happy, what the hell did you get married for?" Sadly, this told me how low the bar had been set for him. He gave up everything to please a woman who could never be pleased.

I don't think I could have ever found it in my heart to forgive him had there not been moments of genuine love and affection that seeped through. Unlike my mother, I think he really did love us...especially as babies. This became evident to me when I had babies of my own and saw the warmth in his eyes. I knew, too, that by loving my children this way he was expressing a wordless apology to me. (My mother, on the other hand, once said "So sue me!" when questioned about her parenting style.)

Image hosted by I'm sad that Lucas never got to know my Dad. They would have adored each other. Thankfully my daughter did get to experience the "real" man...the one who wept as he held her as a newborn, who held my hand as an adult to make up for all the times he couldn't do it when I was a child. While I can never forget the mistakes he made, I am wise enough now to understand the grey areas.

My Dad and Emma at my wedding to Tony, 1993. Photo by Rob Fraser.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Windy City Soundbites

We're back from Chicago! It was business for me, but I brought both kids and made it a little vacation for them. Although I am a diehard New Yorker, I just love Chicago. Just wish it weren't so damned cold in the wintertime...otherwise, I could definitely live there.

Some of the high and low points of our trip:

Almost didn't make it: My secretary, in a rather typical moment of brain-fart for her, booked my kids' tickets using my last name although theirs are different. (I specifically gave her this info). Since my daughter is 21, she had to show ID and guess what? The name on her license didn't match the name on her ticket. It took about 2 hours to get this resolved (and it only got resolved because we were flying out of a smaller airport). Thankfully, I'm one of those people who needs to be at the airport hours ahead of time to reduce my stress-level.

Stayed at the Swissotel: My favorite place to stay. See above view from our room. The only downside? Two double beds in the room instead of two queens.

Had dinner with my cousin Mary at Big Bowl. It was so much fun...she's smart and funny and grew up in my crazy family, so we always have a lot of laughs. Wish we could see her more often. Go read her blog. She's great.

Got to spend a ton of time with my assistant, who is the greatest: We had dinner Tuesday night at Shaw's Crab House, where Lucas ate a 2lb. lobster by himself. When asked if he wanted any sides, he asked for a "side of a swordfish steak". That didn't happen.

Dinner on Wednesday night with a friend and his family: We ate at Scoozi! which was just noisy enough to accommodate our table of four adults and four kids. The food was great, but the high point for me was the pomegranate Mojito! And, they took Lucas home with them for a sleepover.

Thursday involved more work, but also a visit to the new Freedom Museum in the Chicago Tribune building. Do not miss this on your next visit there. It was terrific, interactive, educational and fun. Had an incredible lunch at Bandera. The Bandera roasted chicken with 90-degree rice (basmati rice with lime and cilantro) was so good I wanted to pick up my plate and lick it. Lucas finally got his swordfish steak.

The Blue Angels were warming up for their impending air show: Maybe it's the New Yorker in me, but I don't like to see speeding jets flying near skyscrapers.

I'll hopefully be getting out to Chicago more frequently this year. As you can see, the eating thing is big out there. Any favorite Chicago restaurants you'd recommend?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Show 'em Who's Boss - Redux

I'm in the gorgeous city of Chicago on business this week, hence the rerun. Re-enjoy!


I have a love/hate relationship with horses. I love them, they hate me. We didn't have a lot of first-hand contact with horses in Brookyn (except for this one who was used as a prop for a photographer outside the local Thom McAnn shoe store), but I did have an uncle who lived in the country who had a few horses that we were completely crazy about.

In the city, my sisters and I would pretend to gallop up and down the block, whipping our butts and yelling "Yah! Yah!" The '60s was a big decade for television Westerns and I watched every one of them, falling in love with the lead cowboy in each show. Bronco, Sugarfoot, Maverick... I was going to marry all of them.

When I was about 14, my friends and I decided to go horseback riding at a stable near a park in Queens. "Dixie Dew" had quite the selection of nags, er...steeds. We would go out weekly, with the trail instructor screaming "Show 'em who's boss!!"

I was usually terrified, and apparently this fear is something these animals can feel or smell or something. One week, a horse brought me under low branches so I arrived home with a scraped up face. Another time, he walked into a deep pool of water, stirrup-high, and refused to move. The trail crossed a pretty busy highway, so of course another horse I rode decided to stop dead in the middle while drivers in both directions were forced to wait. (the car horn was invented in New York, so we like to use it as often as possible. That day was no exception.) Every week my mother would ask me WHY I kept going back, when it seemed like one disaster after another. I sort of agreed, but I was still determined to show at least one of these horses who was boss.

Finally, we went back and everything seemed to be going along just fine. My friend Andrea and I were riding side by side, clopping along like a couple of seasoned cowpokes. Suddenly, her horse began to do "the bump' with my horse. He swung his big fat hips right into my guy, and mine returned the favor. Andrea began to scream. The trail instructor calmly told her to please stop screaming because...Too late. At that point, my horse took off, galloping at full speed blindly through the woods. Off the trail. I lost the stirrups and was hanging on for dear life, arms wrapped around his neck. My body slid forward and I dropped to the ground in front of him. I looked up and saw his hooves as he stepped on my legs. (I had the presence of mind to think "wow...this is just like those stampedes on "Wagon Train'!)

Before I could get up, the horse stopped and turned around, apparently determined to run me over again. ("I get it! You're the boss! Alright already!", I thought.) In the meantime, the instructor had found me, grabbed the horse and hoisted me and my balloon (formerly known as a leg) onto his back. My injuries were limited to contusions in my calf and the unpleasant task of saying 'You were right." to my mother.

I don't ride horses anymore, but I still love them. And Andrea is still my friend.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Photo Friday: Oddity

Maybe not for you, but for us to find a snapping turtle at the foot of our condo steps is certainly an oddity!!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Who's Fault Is It, Anyway?

There was a segment on The Today Show about this study, demonstrating the power of McDonald's branding and advertising on children.

The debate was between Donnie Deutsch, advertising icon, and a woman from some organization for an advertising-free childhood.

I've got to side with Donnie on this one. McDonald's can advertise all they want, but if parents don't want the message pounded into their kids' heads, it's their responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen.

Impossible? Hardly. I did it with both of my kids. First of all, they didn't watch commercial television until they were about 7. Sesame Street and movies ruled at our house! And not necessarily kid stuff that adults couldn't Rainbow Brite for us. They watched the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Foodwise, we're a non-red meat house and a non-fast food house. Both of my kids ate things that would normally be viewed as "adult" food (sundried tomatoes, catfish, shitake mushrooms, etc.). As a little guy, my son would refer to his friends as "carnivores" (not in an obnoxious or judgmental way, but the way another kid might say "my friend is Irish").

When my daughter was about 10, I left her home alone for a while one day. I called to see if she had eaten lunch. Her reply? "Yes, I had capers and goat cheese." My son went to daycare with a packed lunch that blew away the lunches of the TEACHERS: salmon, cous cous and asparagus. He was two. While they were not "forbidden" from eating sugar, they didn't find it at home.

Eventually my daughter ate meat at school ("Mom, I have a confession to make. I'm not a vegetarian anymore." Pfffft!) and at 22, eats it from time to time. Lucas at 12 has still never eaten it, and has no desire.

She didn't step into a McDonald's until she was about 8, and Lucas has only been there a handful of times in his life.

My point? McDonald's can do whatever they want...they can't undermine me, they can't overpower my role as a parent. I would never take my kids there (not to mention the sexist toy thing), and I suggest that if other parents are disturbed by this study they should follow suit.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Photo Friday: Wet

Not an award winning photo... more of a snapshot, but it's a good excuse to post my "Myths About Greyhounds" entry. These two are cooling off at our annual picnic to raise funds for Greyhound Rescue and Rehab.

Myths vs. Truths about retired racing greyhounds:

MYTH: People who own racing greyhounds just keep them when their racing days are over.
TRUTH: When a racer is retired (anywhere between 18 months and 6 years of age), an adoption group will take the dog and find a home for it. No one knows the exact numbers, but in some parts of the country and at some tracks, dogs are still euthanized when they can no longer race. Thankfully more and more adoption groups are springing up every day.

MYTH: Greyhounds, since they were racers, need a lot of exercise.
TRUTH: Greyhounds, since they are retired, just want to lay on your couch. They don't need any more exercise than an average dog. During their working life they raced (for 30 seconds) every three or four days and slept in a crate for 16-20 hours a day in between. These guys were sprinters, not distance runners.

MYTH: Greyhound are high strung.
TRUTH: HAHAHAHAHAHA. Stop, yer killin' me.

MYTH: Since greyhounds are relatively large, purebred dogs, they must wind up with hip dysplasia and other genetic maladies and have relatively short lifespans.
TRUTH: Racing greyhounds are bred for health and performance, not for looks and "personality". They have a life expectancy of 12-14 years and do not suffer from the health issues that other pedigrees have. And they still have great personalities.

MYTH: Greyhounds were abused, so they must be skittish and spooky.
TRUTH: While we don't love greyhound racing, the abusers are in the minority. Practically speaking, you wouldn't abuse something that you are counting on for your livelihood. It would be more accurate to say that in racing, greyhounds are inventory. They are not pets while working, so they need to learn how to be the object of your affection. They are quick learners.

MYTH: Greyhounds cannot live with cats or other small animals.
TRUTH: This is true for some greyhounds, usually the ones who were excellent racers and have a high prey drive. However, many are retired early because they didn't care much about chasing the lure, and go on to live happily in homes with kitties and/or small dogs. Mine is not cat safe, but is fine with small dogs. The adoption group will tell you.

Other truths you may not know:
Greyhounds don't have a "dog smell".
Many dog-allergic people (like me) can live happily with greyhounds.
Because they are on a strict schedule at the track, many are very easy to housetrain.
They make great apartment dogs. They spend most of their time curled up in a little ball.
Most rarely bark. Some never bark. Mine only barks when he sees a dog who is not a greyhound. (He's a 'breedist". What can I say?)

And maybe the MOST important truth about greyhounds if you are considering adopting:

They can never, ever, EVER be trusted off-leash unless they are completely fenced in. They can see clearly up to 1/2 mile away, and if they spot something of interest (even a blowing paper bag), they will "lock on" and go for it, regardless of oncoming cars, trucks or trains. Oh, and electric fences don't work with greyhounds. If you don't believe me, put the collar on, get in your car and drive through the electric fence at 45mph. You'll be, oh, about a mile away before you feel the shock.
If you are serious about adopting, you will (or should) go through a pretty thorough screening. If the adoption doesn't work out, you don't give the dog away or bring it to a return it to the group. So, they like to be pretty certain that the dog will be right for you.

Bottom line: If you want an incredible companion, don't have the time or energy to raise a puppy, and would like what is basically a cat in a dog costume, then a retired racing greyhound may be the ticket!

If you can't adopt but want to help (adoption groups have to pay for all medical costs when a dog leaves the track, including neutering and dental work but sometimes repair of broken bones as well) click HERE and be sure to say that panthergirl sent you!

And a thank you shoutout to the beloved Stephen Colbert for this