Wednesday, January 30, 2008

To Tip or Not To Tip

Tipping. I've come to learn that tipping is an American phenomenon, or at least have been led to believe this. Several years ago, a friend was visiting from Australia and did so much complaining about our tipping practices that I finally said "Look. This is how it works here, so just deal with it. Ok?" His position was that restaurant owners, salon owners and cab companies should simply pay people enough money rather than relying on us to supplement their income.

I agree with that to a point. I've never understood the fact that restaurants are allowed to pay servers LESS than the minimum wage. Thanks to the "beloved" Ronald Reagan, these same servers now have to pay taxes on their tips...whether they receive them or not! The tips are estimated based on the receipts for the day, assuming that every patron left 15%. Craziness. As a result, the level of service in many establishments has suffered, because there is no direct correlation between the quality of service and what your server is credited for in tips. Still, I always leave at least 20% for good service because it does send an immediate message of appreciation.

But I digress. In this country, we not only tip wait-staff but we also tip cab drivers, hairdressers, manicurists, waxers, masseuses, delivery people, doormen, red caps, and on and on.

We don't tip people who work retail, although a person working in a bookstore or The Gap is making a crap salary too. Why is that?

My problem is often not whether to tip (although sometimes it is: if I'm paying a delivery charge for my groceries, do I also have to tip the guy? If I don't, will he spit in my peanut butter next time?), but how much.

I'm having a sofa delivered today. What am I supposed to give these guys? Dilemmas about tipping cause me a great deal of anxiety. I'll probably give them too much simply because I have fear of bad karma. Help!


A sidenote here: The Jeopardy! test was WAY hard. Fifty questions, but you had only 15 seconds to read and type your answer (thankfully NOT in the form of a question). I think I did ok, although in some cases I thought of the correct answer about 45 seconds too late. A transcript will be posted online later today so maybe I'll post it here, so you can see how well you would have done. But remember that it's a lot easier when you have a lot of time to read, think and then type. Whew!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Barack, I Hardly Know Ye

Update: Check this out. Very helpful tool to compare the candidates.

Argh. I'm so confused. Six days ago I posted that I was going to support Hillary for the nomination and gave what I felt were pretty solid reasons why. I don't particularly like her (not the way I liked Bill) but thought she was the best candidate to actually do what we need done in this country and who had a chance to get elected.

Since then, in the past six days, she has really turned me off. And my boy Bill is getting a little loopy I think. It also offends my feminist sensibilities for him to be her front man in the campaign. I'd rather see her do it without him (unrealistic, I know).

In the meantime, I've read plenty about Obama, mostly from people I admire greatly. My cousin Mary and today, Caroline Kennedy's Op Ed piece in the NY Times. I totally get the inspirational aspect of him, and when he first arrived on the scene I was very excited that he might be a dynamic solution for our country. I get a good sense of him as a person, I think he's smart and classy and honorable. But about a month ago I saw him on Russert and instead of being riveted by him, I was bored. I kept waiting for something, anything, to make me want to support him... and it just wasn't there. As I've said before, words like "hope" and "promise" worry me. I sort of equate them with "prayer". In my world, praying and hoping doesn't make anything happen. Action does.

Barack, I want to jump on your bandwagon. I want to be able to pull for someone who will make an historical difference for this country that so desperately needs leadership. And leadership that won't embarrass us as a nation like what we've had for the past eight years.

I still have a gnawing fear that the red states will not vote for either a woman or a black man. Regardless of what people would like to think, both racism and sexism are very much alive and well. One poll I saw this morning said that 54% of Americans are ready for neither a woman or black man to lead the country. That is both sad and frightening.

I have to vote in the NY Primary next week and I honestly don't know what the heck I'm going to do. Between now and then I'm going to read. A lot. I'm going to try and look past the likeability factor and figure out whom I really think can beat the pants off the Republicans (or heck, beat them by one vote if necessary).

Unfortunately the candidate that I really like the most, John Edwards, probably doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting the nom. But maybe whomever does get it will take him as a running mate.

Obama supporters: Convince me. Please.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"I'll Take Potpourri for $200, Alex!"

It's been another wacky week, so rather than bore you to death with details I'll just post some random thoughts today:

1. I'm taking the online Jeopardy! test on Tuesday. Really psyched about that, although the chances of EVER winding up on the show are miniscule. And if I do wind up on the show, I have to hope there are no History or Bible categories.

2. Update on the bullying situation: Met with an attorney (he is just crazy enough to be a good lawyer when he's on your side. He's a civil rights guy who once worked for Gerry Spence. I don't need to say much more than that). Not sure what exactly he can do, but he connected very well to Lucas (he, too, lost his dad at a young age) and without taking any money from us wrote to the Youth Officer at school. A few hours later I got a call saying that a mini-bus will be sent to pick up and drop off Lucas in front of our door, starting next week. Coincidence? I don't think so.

3. Make Me a Supermodel on BRAVO is a much better show than America's Next Top Model. Way edgier.

4. Our living room is currently empty. We're getting a new sofa/loveseat/chaise sectional thing on Wednesday so we gave all of our current stuff away on Freecycle.

5. I love "The Biggest Loser", but the product placement is SO obnoxious that I start to feel as though I'm in The Truman Show.

Contestant:"I'm hungry all the time."
Trainer, holding up a pack of "Extra" gum: "Well, try chewing gum. MY FAVORITE IS EXTRA, BECAUSE THE FLAVOR LASTS A LONG LONG TIME. " (ok, that's not exactly what she said but it's close)

Argh! People are not stupid about this stuff anymore. They realize that with the rampant use of TiVO and DVRs, advertisers have to find ways to enter our psyches that we can't fast-forward through.

The most disheartening moment for me recently wasn't on The Biggest Loser, though. It was on the otherwise brilliant Ugly Betty. When Betty "offhandedly" mentioned that she couldn't wait to go see "27 Dresses" (moments after an actual commercial break for the same film), I nearly reached through the screen and grabbed her by her blue braces. I don't mind seeing Carrie Bradshaw at her Apple laptop, or seeing Wisk detergent on Tony Soprano's laundry room shelf. But the fourth wall is broken for me when characters start hawking product.

6. Water at the gym should cost either one dollar or two dollars. Not $1.50, which leaves me trying to figure out where to put the change while I work out.

7. Why is my dog shedding like it's June? There are tumbleweeds everywhere in this house, and hair all over our clothes. I'm afraid I'm going to be spray-painted by PETA the next time I walk out the door. "It's not a fur coat! I swear!"

8. Note to my daughter and my liberal cousins: I want to support Obama, I really really do. I don't love Hillary. I just want to make sure we beat the Reps in November, and that the new Prez can get the job done. He hasn't convinced me yet. But there's time.

9. My lease is up early next year on my RAV4 and I'm going to lease a Prius. The 2009 will have a plug-in option, upping the MPG to over 70 (or so they are saying).

10. At the end of February, my commute to work is going from 35 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes each way... without traffic. See item #9.

11. I paid $3.59 for a gallon of gas on Tuesday. See item #9.

12. The coolest new game for the Wii is called Endless Ocean. It's a scuba-diving adventure game and it's way cool. I may never get my TV back.

13. My four Netflix DVDs at the moment are: Superbad, The Lives of Others, The Magdalene Sisters and disc one of The Tudors. What should I watch first?

14. If I read another account of how Heath Ledger's masseuse didn't call 911 first when she found him, I'll spit. When my daughter had her first seizure at 13 months old, I was so scared that I was freaking out. She had had her MMR shot the week before, and I thought she was brain damaged from the vaccine. She was in a full "tonic-clonic" seizure and it wasn't stopping. The first person I called was my friend Susan who lived a few blocks away. I asked HER to call 911 for me because I knew I was too upset to speak clearly to them. This is one of those "walk in her shoes" moments. Unfortunately she is not only having to deal with the trauma of finding her client dead, but apparently is unlicensed and getting nailed for that.

15. And while we're on the subject of Heath Ledger, I want to clobber those stupid papparazzo who are sticking their flashing cameras in the faces of Michelle Williams and little Matilda. Having dealt with what she's going through, if I had the extra bonus of being stalked by idiots with cameras when Tony died, particularly when trying to help a young child through that, I don't know what I would have done. It's good to be a nobody.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

R.I.P. Heath Ledger ... So Sad

Got to the gym tonight at 5, turned on the TV and the "breaking news" was about Heath Ledger, found dead in his Soho apartment this afternoon. At 28. With a 2 year old daughter who will not remember him. Absolutely heartbreaking.

As a wee tribute, I thought I'd repost my mini-review of Brokeback Mountain. Original post date was 1/21/06... almost 2 years ago to the day. All of the original comments are intact.


Brokeback Mountain. Just got back from seeing it. What an amazing, amazing film. One of those that leaves you feeling like you did something very strenuous for three hours...I am drained. A must see and I wouldn't wait for the DVD. It's gorgeous on screen. (Although Anne Hathaway's lips and eyes nearly chew up every scene she's in. Yikes. She'll be perfect in "The Liza Minnelli Story".)

Anyway, Anne aside...(and she's quite good in her role, don't get me wrong)'s a perfect piece of cinema.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Why I'm Choosing Hillary

I like John Edwards, I really do. I just don't think he's going to be able to get the kind of support that will get him the nomination. I'm also thinking that his wife's illness may derail his campaign.

I liked Obama a lot at first, but the more I hear him speak (and I'm watching the debate right now) the less I believe he's capable of doing this job. Good guy, smart guy, might be right in a few years, but words like "hope" do nothing for me. It just all sounds like vaporware. There is no "hope". We need someone with specific ideas and the experience to implement them (as much as any president can).

Hillary probably isn't someone I'd love to have over for dinner. (Bill, on the other hand, I'd love to chit-chat with) But I honestly and truthfully feel she could hit the ground running and make shit happen. She's a doer. She takes no prisoners. She knows what she's talking about. And I think she could beat any of the Republicans.

The biggest reason, however, may be that all of her skeletons are completely out of the closet. Obama, not so much. I'm fearful that in October, the Karl Roves of the world will pull out some scandalous info about him (you know, like he has enjoyed a good BJ from time to time or something horrible like that). And as a result, we'll wind up with Reverend President Huckabee and all the non-Christians will be rounded up and forcibly baptized on Inauguration Day.

I know she can do the job. Let's hope that America's fear of strong women doesn't keep her from beating the old boys.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Catching Up

So.... what the heck have I been doing the past two weeks instead of blogging?

~ Dealing with bullies. Do you know that if two 12 year old punks harass your child, throw him to the ground, put him in a choke hold and expose themselves to him and it's not on school grounds or on the school bus, there is nothing that can be done about it? They have to either turn 16 or they have to physically injure your kid to be charged with anything. This has been going on since August (at least) and I'm still trying to figure out how I can protect my son from these assholes and their asshole parents.

~ Working a lot. Had to host two women from Hamburg this past week who needed to learn about how we do what we do in our US office. Luckily they were really nice, but it's still tiring to spend every waking hour with people for a week, including lunches and dinners, and then deal with things like Item #1 when you get home. Anyway, I'll be doing the same to them in the Spring, if I can figure out an arrangement for Lucas while I'm gone. Have never been to Germany, so it might be nice!

~ Watching Project Runway, Make Me a Supermodel, The Biggest Loser Couples, and lots of other mindless stuff late at night.

~ Planning a trip to Florida via Maryland for President's Week.

~ Working out again. So cliché for January, but what can you do?

~ Seeing "Sweeney Todd". Johnny Depp was great, but as a huge fan of the original I think that Tim Burton overdid the blood. Unnecessary. And the Ballad of Sweeney Todd should have been used during the opening and closing credits!

~ Seeing "The Farnsworth Invention" on Broadway. Fascinating play, starring Hank Azaria, about the invention of television.

~ Watching "Who Killed the Electric Car?" on DVD. Don't miss it.

~ Watching "3:10 to Yuma" on DVD. Loved it.

~ Sending books to soldiers in Iraq via Books for Soldiers.

~ Becoming a Guitar Hero on the Wii. I am proud to say that I was the first in my house to beat the game (on Easy, but STILL!!!)

~ Thinking about a zillion things I want to write about here... need about a month off from work in order to do it!

Monday, January 14, 2008

What is the Opposite of Writer's Block?

The reason I haven't written much over the past few weeks is because there is TOO much to write about, rather than not enough. I'm hoping to get some time to spill it all here, but until then...enjoy this comic book cover. I used to love "The Rifleman" as a kid. Apparently he loved us too!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What Primaries? What Golden Globes?

You need to get out there and post your nominations for the 2008 Bloggies! Nomination ballots close on Friday!

Make some lucky blogger cry!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Let's Du-et: Panthergirl's Entertainment Report

In theaters:

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is not for everyone. There were only four people in the theater when I saw it (including me and my equally-deranged movie partner). But all four of us were laughing until we cried. I loved films like Team America:World Police, The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. I hate films like the various Adam Sandler messes, or the Rob Schneider collection. But this is smart, gross, patently offensive and reminiscent of films like Airplane!, more than Talledega Nights. John C. Reilly is a hugely talented actor with a theatrical voice that enables him to take Dewey through a musical evolution that a lesser actor could not have pulled off. The soundtrack contains a track called "Dear Mr. President" that was omitted from the film, but is possibly the best one on the CD. I think the film would have done better in the summer, but hopefully now that we're past the family-oriented Christmas week, twisted filmgoers like me will get out and see this one.


Juno. Not good. Great. The first 20 minutes feel a little bit like a film that I'm too old to really enjoy. But stick with it, and this is a beautifully written "dramedy" where every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was wrong.



Eastern Promises. For some reason, I bought the art-house hype of this film but knowing I probably wouldn't make it to the art-house, I stuck it on my Netflix queue when it came out, and sure enough it was available on DVD soon after. I love Naomi Watts, and The Painted Veil was one of my favorite films this past year. But this one was a big "eh" for me. If I ever mention wanting to see another David Cronenberg film, please kick me in the ribs and remind me that this film and A History of Violence were both a huge disappointment. If you have a burning desire to see Viggo Mortensen's junk, then by all means run out and rent this one. Otherwise, it's a predictable, formula gangster film with a few grossly ridiculous plot twists that almost make it feel like "Walk Hard: The Sonny Corleone story".


On the other hand, The Namesake is a beautiful little film that follows a traditional Indian couple to the United States in the 1970s, and the tug-of-war between their deep cultural roots and the immersion into American ways... for them and for their children. The film spans decades and does it well. Spurred some interesting message board sparring on IMDB as well.