Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween from Soleirella and Snow Black

Halloween 2007
Halloween 2006

Quote of the Week

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Halloween!
Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn't even the star of his own Halloween special.
- Chris Rock

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama: The Ron Popeil of Politics?

Tonight’s 30 minute long Barack Obama “infomercial” scares the willies out of me. Although ahead in most polls, there are still enough undecided voters who could make or break either of the campaigns. Many political strategists predict that only half of those undecided voters are actually undecided and the other half are individuals who would not vote for an African-American but do not want to be labeled as a “racist” by the pollsters. Those supporting democrats are historically more fickle and are more likely to stay home then take the time to visit their local voting booth. If these strategists are correct the election is even closer then polls are indicating. With so much at stake in the final 6 days of the 2008 Presidential race I do understand the need for such a bold move on the part of the democratic campaign. Will this move will break, not make, Senator Obama’s bid for the White House?

Money Shot in the Foot: Barack’s campaign raised an unprecedented amount of money. Historically the Republican’s commanded the position of largest war chest which makes the Democrats fundraising juggernaut even more amazing. This monster fundraising effort is why the Obama campaign can spend nearly $5 million for a 30 minute infomercial on 7 television stations. Even though the campaign could spend that type of cash on television time should they spend that much money with the crumbling economy being at the forefront of the mind of every voter? Will voters be turned off by the five million dollar extravaganza?

Rally Cry: Tina Brown of The Daily Beast was quoted as saying; “One of the striking ironies is that a man who draws tens of thousands of people to his rallies, whose charisma is likened to that of John F. Kennedy, can be sort of a bore.” Will tonight’s infomercial showcase Barack’s trademark charisma or expose his reported boring side? When you have a face for radio you stick to radio, not television. When you have a personality made for rallies you should stick to rallies.

Over-exposed: Hillary Clinton announced her bid for the presidency on January 20, 2007. Barack Obama threw his name in the ring on February 10, 2007. John McCain officially became a contender on February 28, 2007. By the time Election Day rolls around the American electorate has been inundated by political ads, messages, news, mail, and phone calls. If you live in a swing state like we do in Minnesota, these messages are almost constant. Will a 30 minute political infomercial be the last straw for people who already feel bombarded with campaign messages and are sick of a 20 plus month election cycle?

The Great Pumpkin Effect: There is always the chance of saying something stupid that could potentially sway even committed voters away from a candidate. Barack Obama can learn a great lesson from the Peanuts special that aired immediately following “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” on television last night. Linus Van Pelt, the sweet, blanket loving friend of Charlie Brown, runs for student body president in “You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown” Holding a commanding lead until his final speech, Linus tells everyone about the Great Pumpkin, quickly becoming the laughing stock of his school. He ends up winning by one vote only because his competitor, Russell Anderson, voted for the best candidate; Linus.

Somehow I don’t think John McCain would cast his vote for Barack, so if Mr. Obama wants to win the election he better avoid pissing off his supporters and any mention of The Great Pumpkin to protect his small lead.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gossip Girl

In our household we pride ourselves as intellectuals bordering on full-out geekdom. Our bookshelves are filled with well thumbed novels from a variety of genres; everything from history to mystery providing hours of entertainment and mind expansion. The ginormous television in our living room is primarily tuned into the History Channel and the Discovery Network. Playing Trivial Pursuit is a favorite evening pastime and it drives us both crazy that our Scrabble skills are not superior to many of our friends who beat US Weekly. The Best Week Ever would certainly include hours of reading, a trip to a museum, an American History marathon on TV, and a trip to our favorite watering hole to play NTN trivia. Our focus on gaining knowledge and desire to learn as much as we can about the world around us are traits we share with many of our friends who are truly Extra-ordinary; incredibly well-read, well-traveled, and educated. Sharing our lives with such intelligent People is inspirational, and drives my personal desire to continue growing intellectually and emotionally. Relationships with some of the best minds around do come with a certain set of challenges; fear of inadequacy, humbling conversations, and moments of topic confusion. My ego learned to deal with not being the smartest or most knowledgeable person in the room, but the confession I am about to make has me questioning whether I am as smart as my friends, or just a source of their Entertainment Tonight.

My ambivalence to the output of Hollywood is not a secret to those who know and love me. During the course of a year I might make it to the movies once or twice. Most nights of the week the television is off or tuned to programs geared towards both entertainment and personal enrichment; Good Eats, Modern Marvels, and Mythbusters fill our DVR queue. Turning my back on conventional entertainment like Blockbuster movies and sitcoms makes confessing to my love of trashy entertainment shows and publications much more embarrassing to admit. Stopping short of actually subscribing to the trashy and expensive tabloids that make paparazzi rich, I limit reading gossip to online sources and doctors’ offices. The only time I actually spend money to learn what Hollywood’s heartthrobs are up to is if I need a mindless read on an airplane. Even then I am known to hide the People magazine inside the cover of the in-flight magazine so those around don’t judge me by the crap I’m reading. There, I said it. I admitted it. I love celebrity gossip, but why does someone who couldn’t care less about entertainment have any interest in the entertainers?

My understanding of high fashion is so out of step with trends that my clothing purchases focus on the classics; those people who never seem let me down: Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Ann Taylor. Even sticking to a few select designers, with more loyalty then a Labrador Retriever I expertly study the clothing of models and actresses as if I’m suddenly going to inherit millions of dollars and switch my wardrobe to Dolce & Gabbana. The Oscar pre-show on E! is celebrated like a national holiday even though I rarely see even one movie nominated for the Academy Awards. As I screech with laughter at each fashion victim, there are no fewer then a dozen phone calls to my mother to discuss what they are wearing, not who is winning. I love a good fashion disaster!

While the breakout of baby rabies, loosely translated as an obsession with having or raising babies, in Hollywood is nothing short of obnoxious, there is something inherently satisfying about watching female celebrities get fat. The only thing more satisfying then watching these size zeros blossom into women with curves is when they discover motherhood is not all Prada, Prams, and Playdates. Does anyone feel sorry for a moment that Angelina is overwhelmed with her 6 children? Even with nurseries filled to the brim with eco-friendly baby bottles, 1000 thread count crib bedding, and an expert staff of nannies and personal trainers we read of celebrity struggles with sleep, weight, child behavior, wandering husbands, and varicose veins. Look how well Brittany handled motherhood. Even more pleasurable than reading about starlets realizing motherhood is a hard job is reading about the beauty, happiness, and success of professed childfree actors and actresses like George Clooney, Dame Judi Dench, Kim Cattrall, Rachael Ray, Bill Maher, Kathy Griffin, and Oprah Winfrey. These stars stand by their childfree convictions despite the negative impact it could have with the media and its obsession with baby bumps. Bravo!

Perhaps my love of all things gossip is just a bit of Schadenfreude, the German term made famous in the Broadway musical Avenue Q (see, I am cultured, I go to musicals!) . Schadenfreude is translated as happiness at the misfortune of others. These stars who seemingly have it all with their looks, money, and fame have their own set of issues too; adultery, depression, divorce, health woes, break-ups, and breakdowns. I cannot be the only geek in the world that gleans a little pleasure from the fact that even the most beautiful people in the world lead less than perfect lives. For a reminder that we’re all a little bit dysfunctional, nothing beats a good celebrity train wreck.

I might not know why half the people in celebrity news these days are even famous, but that doesn’t diminish the way I devour this trash. A ravenous appetite for celebrity news and gossip might not be the most intelligent material to ingest, but ultimately it’s probably OK! to have this mindless diversion to my everyday stresses.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Never in a million years did I think my marriage would experience a lull, but apparently no one is immune to relationship ebbs and flows, not even us disgustingly cute couples. Despite having a life filled with activities, projects, careers, and friends my marriage became staler than week old bread. Even with jam packed social calendars our personal interactions were boring, focusing on the mundane transactional activities necessary to run a home and care for two small dogs. Our marital problems did not stem from anger, hatred, unhappiness, or shattered illusions of marital grandeur but our becoming more like business partners and roommates than lovers. Friends dealing with crises such as abuse, neglect, adultery, and bankruptcy in their own marriages left me feeling selfish even thinking our marriage had issues let alone talking about it. After whining to a few friends, letting go of the fear they would think I was a colossal failure, I quickly realized I was not alone.

It is pretty cliché actually, but in hindsight the fun in our marriage took a nose dive about seven years after we moved in together. The honeymoon was over, the glow of young love extinguished by the realities of day to day living. The Seven Year Itch is loosely defined as the propensity to become unfaithful after seven years of marriage and honestly, things were itchy. The infidelity we used to “scratch” that itch was not dalliances with other people. We began cheating on each other in other ways; spending too much time at work, focusing our energy on the dogs, watching increasing amounts of television, replacing intimacy with food and wine. Reading and ironing fast became the top activities occurring in the bedroom. At first I thought these changes were a sign of strength and maturity in our relationship, demonstrating our ability to live independent lives, free from the co-dependence prevalent in many marriages. It didn’t take long to realize our relationship wasn’t maturing but deteriorating; our passionate romance turned into something more boring than C-Span. While we didn’t lose that loving feeling, that lusting feeling was certainly lost.

How did this happen? As a childfree couple we hit a point of stability that most couples with children don’t hit until much later in their marriages. We have established careers, a dream home, two dogs, and plenty of stamps in our passports. There is no obvious personal ladder to climb, which is odd and unusual in a culture that constantly focuses on “what’s next.” We don’t have a little human's progression and growth to focus on as a supplement to our own marital advancement. After confiding in some friends who are mothers on the lull in my marriage, the universal reaction was how they blamed their own marital lulls on raising babies. They also expressed how little time they had to even focus on issues with their mariages since they were so busy raising children; at least I had the time and energy to acknowledge and address the seven year itch.

Until recently I laid blame for the marital monotony on my husband; he stopped paying attention to me, looked right through me, put everything else in life ahead of me, ignored my “advances,” and stopped taking me out on dates. My interpretation of what was happening left me miserable and paranoid, feeling grossly unattractive. My self-confidence was shot; if my husband didn’t find me attractive, who would?

Then I had a friend turn the mirror on me and ask why I wasn’t blaming myself for the missing wow factor in my marriage. The obvious answer is I never blame myself for anything and think I am always right, but after much consideration I realized that maybe I was a little guilty. We both let increased responsibilities inside and outside the home come before our relationship, we both took each other for granted, and we were both going through the motions. I allowed monogamy to become monotony. I turned into something that I swore I would never become; a wife. I allowed myself to become a boring, nagging, unhappy, cranky, wife. If I didn’t want to be that person anymore I had to do something about it.

One friend pointed out the difficulty in balancing the desire for stability with the need for excitement in a relationship. Another friend mentioned her struggle balancing getting comfortable with letting herself go. How can two people remain romantically connected when they spend much of their day dealing with household management and high-powered careers? Is it possible to inject mystery and passion into a relationship between people who routinely witness each other plucking unwanted hairs or sitting on the toilet? When people say marriage is hard, these are some of the struggles that make it hard. How do you get wanton attention from a person who watches you floss your teeth and pick your zits?

After 7 years of marriage and 10 years together I had honestly forgotten what it took to “catch” the eye of a man in the first place. Every suggestion I got, from playing hard-to-get to picking fights to spark “make-up sex,” seemed like silly games teenagers play. Isn’t the reason to get married to stop playing games? I’m also married to a man who HATES games, who would assume hard-to-get equaled uninterested and whose reaction to a fight is to shut down, not rev up. Can this marriage be saved? Yes, but it wouldn’t be by playing games, it would be by finding the very thing I had that attracted my husband to me in the first place; sexy confidence. I forgot how to be sexy and lost part of my confidence because of that.

It is always important to have a role model, a person who personifies a goal. So who could serve as the role model for developing sexy confidence? Marilyn Monroe, the original object of attention in “The Seven Year Itch,” is one woman normal men find universally sexy. WWMD, “What Would Marilyn Do,” became a personal mantra. Marilyn would never wear sweats to bed. Marilyn would strap on stilettos rather than sneakers for a night out. Marilyn would wear thigh highs and lipstick when scrubbing the floors. Marilyn would never hide her personal assets behind frumpy clothes. Marilyn would flirt, seductively smile, light candles at dinner, drink champagne in the bathtub, and keep men guessing. She would strut her stuff and not care if anyone noticed… although she knew they did. Although Marilyn didn’t get the guy in “The Seven Year Itch” she was the object of his desire and that is a much more fun role than playing a wife, in the movies or in real life. If watching paint dry is more exciting then your marriage try asking yourself “What Would Marilyn Do” although I hope this marital plan to spice things up works so well you’ll someday be asking yourself “What Would Michelle Do?”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Land of the Free?

During a recent trip to Europe I couldn’t help but notice the number of people engaging in life threatening activities. No matter where we went people were taking their lives in their own hands, risking their safety and well-being with no one protecting them from the perils they faced. How could the government and law enforcement just sit back and watch these people commit unspeakable acts like riding a bicycle without a helmet or, *gasp*, drink beer with alcohol content higher than 6%? The opportunity to live on the edge is so incredible overseas there is no need to do crazy things like sky dive or bungee jump. Who needs extreme sports when you can risk life and limb eating at a restaurant that doesn’t use latex gloves? If I wanted to drop a hairdryer into the bathtub there was no warning against that. Not one of the many coffees consumed advised me of the possibility of scalding. Essentially my ten days in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Bruges served as a reminder of the everyday freedoms that we in the United States somehow lost through the years.

Laws in the United States often focus on protecting us from ourselves, assuming that people are too stupid to make sound decisions on their own. Rather than provide some education on the dangers of an activity or expect the populous to have an ounce of common sense, our lawmakers and courts have formed a land where we can’t get a good, scalding hot cup of coffee, run barefoot through a park, or get a juicy, rare hamburger. Common Sense dictates that coffee might burn your mouth, broken glass could be stepped on while running barefoot, and eating undercooked meat could cause illness. People should be permitted to make their own decisions on such trivial matters based upon the amount of personal risk they are willing to take on. Will there be people who make bad decisions, take on more risk, and end up hurt or dead? Yes. But maybe letting Darwinism do its job and weeding out some of the idiots among us isn’t a bad thing.

We know that bike helmets can prevent brain injury but sometimes you just want to feel the wind rushing through your hair during a good bike ride. Shouldn’t this be a personal decision? Shouldn’t parents determine whether their children should wear a bicycle helmet, sit in a car booster seat until the age of 10, or have railings on the edge of their beds? Yes, each of these safety measures has proven benefits but what if a parent can’t afford these items? They should be able to make the decision about the amount of risk they are willing for their child to take. In Amsterdam, where the bicycle is the preferred method of transportation, I witnessed several women biking through the city with more than one child accompanying them on the ride. These children were not wearing helmets in fancy trailers behind the bicycles equipped with mechanisms to disconnect the trailer from the bicycle in case of a fall. Nope, these women were riding with one or two children in little wooden contraptions built on the front of their bikes, another metal seat attached to the handlebar, and an infant strapped to their chests in a carrier. The kids were having the times of their lives, the mother was getting a heck of a workout, and they were avoiding car transportation for their simple need to get from here to there. Think about it, these women would be arrested for neglect in the United States and have their children taken from them. Is that freedom?

Even without official laws, today’s companies and small businesses protect themselves from frivolous lawsuits. One of my favorite things in the world is a hamburger mooing right back at me and most places won’t serve it for the fear of giving me food poisoning. If I’m willing to take the risk, give me the damn cheeseburger! This is the same for my love of coffee, extra hot. The coffee in Europe is to die for and one major reason is the nuclear thermal temperature; the coffees were piping hot and delicious since baristas were not protecting themselves from stupid lawsuits. There are even restaurants that refuse to serve over easy or sunny side up eggs because they might get you sick. Leaving my house might make me sick too, should I live in a bubble instead of living life?

What makes these dumb laws protecting us from ourselves so infuriating is how little attention is given to real dangers that each of us are unable to control. Our right to bear arms makes the topic of limiting access to guns a hot topic of debate. If laws provide any indication as to what our government sees as our biggest threats, fireworks are banned in more places then firearms. It is easier to go out and buy a gun than it is to get un-pasteurized milk, grain alcohol, a hot cup of coffee, or a freaking rare cheeseburger. Guns have certainly been the cause of death for more people then raw milk, but I could get a gun at the local sporting goods store but cannot transport raw milk cheese into the country or across state lines. About 300 people got sick from raw milk cheese in 2001 yet it is somehow treated as a bigger health threat against our health than a revolver or rifle. We can make the decision whether we want to ingest these banned food/drink products, but for most people murdered or killed in accidents the decision to have a gun draw on them was not theirs to make.
What is the essence of America? Finding and maintaining that perfect, delicate
balance between freedom "to" and freedom "from."
- Marilyn vos Savant, in Parade
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the United States and the life that I have. What I don’t enjoy is being babysat by the government and lawyers who spend more time protecting us from unimportant things and less time focusing on the real dangers facing each of us everyday. Attempts to save us from germs, disease, and accidents are keeping us from enjoying some of the finer pleasures in life and freedoms while Europeans eat, drink, and are merry. Lawmakers should focus on crime, global threats, economic stability, and ensuring our water supply is safe and air is clean enough to breathe and stop limiting personal, enjoyable freedoms.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Quote of the Week

I'm still playing a massive game of catch-up from my vacation. I hope to have something substantial posted by tomorrow. Until then, chew on this:

If you can speak three languages you're trilingual. If you can speak two languages you're bilingual. If you can speak only one language you're an American.
- Author Unknown

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Quote of the Week

For my Mother, who is celebrating her 28th birthday again today...

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.
- Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Quote of the Week

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
-G.K. Chesterton