Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bah Humbug

I don't know about you, but I fucking hate Christmas. I actually LOVE the idea behind Christmas -- you know, that whole 'peace on earth, goodwill toward men' thing -- but, at the risk of sounding all Charlie Brown-ish, I hate the the commercial side of Christmas.

Every year I remind my family of the important Christmas lesson the Grinch learned:

"Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas. . .perhaps. . .means a little bit more!"

Every year I email them The Center for the New American Dream's guide to simplifying the holidays. Every year I threaten not to come home for Christmas unless they agree to dial down the crazy. Every year I go home for Christmas anyway and spend all day talking about how I'm never coming home for Christmas again.

Then I go to Anthropologie for the after-Christmas sale.

Anyway, I mention all this because my mom called me the other day to ask me for approximately the tenth time for my Christmas list (see?) and to tell me about an organization she'd recently heard about. "I know you hate," my mom said, "but I got a letter from them about some charity thing they're doing and that hunger group you like is part of it."

It turns out that the charity thing is, a website that earns commission for referring shoppers to various online retailers and then donates half of that commission to a charity of your choosing.

So if your Christmas comes from a store -- and let's face it, whose doesn't? -- at least you can save the world just a teensy bit while shopping.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Secret Word Of The Day

You know what word doesn't get used nearly often enough? Smitten.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

You Could Cry Or Die Or Just Make Pies All Day

I'm supposed to be making pies right now. The trouble is I don't want to. Well, more specifically, I don't want to make the pie CRUST. I know what you're thinking: I don't HAVE to make the pie crust -- they sell that shit in the grocery now. But you're wrong, I do have to make the pie crust. Sometimes I even have to cut said crust out in the shape of little tiny leaves (don't worry, I have cookie cutters for this!) and arrange the leaves artfully on top of the pies. You know, instead of just covering the pies with some boring old crust.

What? Like this is the first time I've mentioned the OCD.

Another problem with Tuesday night pie-making is that all of my pies involve bourbon. It hardly seems fair that the pies get to have bourbon and I don't, but bourbon on a school night is a BAD idea. Plus, I'm not allowed to drink bourbon unsupervised. Trust me, it's a good rule. Most people who know me would prefer that I not drink bourbon at all.

But here are my options: A) spend the rest of the evening cutting dozens of one-inch leaves out of pie crust while drinking water or B) spend the rest of the evening cutting dozens of one-inch leaves out of pie crust while drinking BOURBON. Right. So let's just hope I have ginger ale.

Now I guess I should go make the pies. Oh, and PS, I stole the title of this post from Patty Griffin's "Making Pies," my appropriately-named pie-making theme song.

Update: This post was up for exactly 16 minutes before my phone rang and I heard my best friend's voice say, "Uh, you need to just drink wine."

Monday, November 20, 2006

What Sucks Is That Y'all Have To Wait Until January To Read It

Despite the best of intentions, I had an incredibly unproductive weekend. I went down to my parents' beach house with two weeks worth of laundry and lots of schoolwork. I planned to get everything clean while grading papers and planning the next week's lessons.

What I didn't plan on was my friend Meaghan showing up to our Friday night dinner date with the advance copy of Chris Moore's next book, nor did I count on my complete inability to resist his charms after I decided to read the first couple pages just to see how it was -- my professional responsibility as a sometimes bookseller.

The book begins with Tommy's discovery that his vampire girlfriend Jody has turned him into a vampire while he was sleeping.

And really, I was just gonna read a few pages and then return to it at some point when I don't have a two-foot-high stack of papers to grade (you know, like maybe in June). But on page two there was this:

"Yeah, but you should have asked me before you did this, " Tommy said. "You shouldn't just kill a guy without asking. It's inconsiderate." Tommy was from Indiana, and his mother had raised him to have good manners and to be considerate of other people's feelings.

"You had sex with me while I was unconscious," Jody said.

"That's not the same," Tommy said. "I was just being friendly, like when you put a quarter in someone else's parking meter when they aren't there -- you know they appreciate it later, even if they don't thank you personally."
Come on. If your choices were that or a bunch of essays about whether or not New Orleans should be rebuilt, I bet you would have opted for the Chris Moore too, especially if you knew that the essay on the top of the stack made frequent reference to New Orleans as a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah.

Chris Moore is laugh-out-loud funny, but BRAINY laugh-out-loud funny. All of his books (my favorite, of course, being Lamb) are both amusing and intelligent. The best part of You Suck is not the narrative (although it IS quite good) but the excerpts from the diary of the vampires' 16-year-old minion Abby Normal, a perky girl trying her damnedest to be a goth girl. So what if Moore stole her name from Young Frankenstein? Her diary is hilarious.
The Chronicles of Abby Normal
Dedicated Servant of the Vampyre Flood

I have been to the lair of the vampyre Flood. I am part of the coven! Okay, back up. So I like slept till eleven, because we're on Christmas break, only it's called winter break now because Jesus is AN OPPRESSIVE ZOMBIE BASTARD AND WE DO NOT BOW DOWN TO HIS BIRTHDAY! At least not at Alan Ginsberg High School, we don't. (Go, Fighting Beatniks!) But it's all good, 'cause I'm going to have to get used to getting up later if I'm going to be a creature of the night.

So, like first thing, I made some toast, and it burned, as black as my soul, and I was so bummed that my tears of despair fell like cold bits of crystal, to be destroyed on the unforgiving rocks of this miserable life. But then I saw that Mom had left a twenty on the counter with a note:

Allison (Allison is my day-slave name -- my mom named me after some song by some Elvis guy, so I totally refuse to accept it), here's your lunch money, and please stop at Walgreens and pick up some RID for Ronnie's head lice. (Veronica is my sister, who is twelve and a total tumor on the ass of my existence.)

So I was like, Sweet! Starbucks!
See? Funny. And don't worry, I haven't given away the best parts. Besides, the book doesn't even come out until January -- you'll have forgotten all about this by then. In the meantime, check out the Chris Moore oeuvre. You, too, can be part of his devoted cult following.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


I rarely listen to the radio. I have XM in my car and plenty of CDs at home, which makes tuning in to my local radio stations fairly unnecessary. And the fact that there's really nothing local about most local stations -- who today are owned and controlled by megacorporations -- makes listening to the radio downright undesirable.

Except when I'm at my parents' beach house, where there's a great little independent radio station on which I heard an amazing song today. I was happily singing along to the Judybats' "Being Simple" and was about to flip back to XM when it ended and the next song began with a piano. But then a woman with a great voice started singing and I thought "Hey, this is pretty good," so I left it on, and by the time she got to the chorus I thought, "Wow, this chick is amazing!"

I came home and googled her and am now completely head over heels for Vienna Teng. I ordered her CD and I've been sitting by the radio all day waiting for them to play the song again. You may have heard of her already or she may not be your musical cup of tea, but I'll share her with you anyway just in case. . .

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Bad, I Thought I Was Supposed To Be Teaching

I got in trouble at school today. And I don't care.

My boss unexpectedly summoned me to her office where I was greeted by a big-wig from central administration. He handed me a report that indicated I'd made absolutely no use of a program I was directed two months ago to "utilize" in my classes (sidebar: why do people insist on saying "utilize" when a simple "use" will do? WHY?) and called upon me to explain myself.

The program in question is an online program based on the premise that students are customers of education and that the job of teachers is to prepare their customers to be competitive in the business world. According to their website, the program "utilizes the concepts of business management and applies those ideals to learning" by using (not utilizing? are you sure?) "performance charting to assess student learning."

Performance charting. Guess what that means, y'all. Data.

Mother. Fucking. Data.

Essentially, my kids enter data into the program

and the program graphs the data.

Then I'm supposed to check to make sure that each of my students is updating all nine of their "key performance indicators" (number of pages read in two hours, for example).

As I explained to the big-wigs today for perhaps the third time, the program has little (if any) instructional value, the kids find it as useless as I do, I have neither the time nor the technology to integrate the program into my daily classroom routine, and monitoring my students' use of the program is incredibly time-consuming.

"Every hour I spend checking to see if my kids have graphed their test scores is an hour I don't spend reaching them and teaching them," I told them angrily.

"I understand your frustration, Megan," my boss responded, "but I just want us to look good."

For the record, I like and respect my boss, and I recognize that she was in an awkward position. But you know what's not gonna look good? When all the quality teachers quit because they're so sick of fucking kids over in the name of data collection, and you're left with the teachers who can't do anything BUT collect data.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Five Things You Don't Know About Me

WonderTurtle, who rocks, tagged me last week.

It's taken me a while to think of five things ya'll don't know about me that are interesting enough to share yet not so interesting they should only be shared with one's therapist. It's an important balance to strike. . .

  1. I do not like U2 or Coldplay. I know, I know, they're both supposed to be totally awesome bands, but I will change the station every fucking time. My friends and I were once at a Carbon Leaf St. Patty's Day show where you could register to win a free trip to NYC to see U2. I filled out the form along with my super-excited friends but then snuck it into my purse instead of turning it in -- I was afraid I might win and I didn't want to have to go to that shit (sorry, girls).

  2. Despite the fact that I am a grown-ass woman, I worry constantly about getting in trouble. Not "getting in trouble" as a euphemism for getting pregnant, but getting in trouble as in "I hope you know that this will go down on your permanent record." I cannot STAND for people to be unhappy with me, even if they're people I don't like or respect.

  3. I am absolutely terrified of people wearing masks. When I was about three my sister and I were out trick-or-treating with my dad. We were walking up the steps to a house just as some big kids turned away from the door. The big kids were wearing what even my dad describes today as very scary masks. I completely freaked out and would not stop screaming until my dad took me home. I still can't deal with a masked person -- even a little Mardi Gras mask is enough to make me start shaking and feeling nauseated. That's how scared I am of masks.

  4. I secretly adore Adam Sandler. He cracks me up. I've seen Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, and Big Daddy more times than I should admit and am overly fond of reciting lines from each ("you eat pieces of shit for breakfast?!" for example). I've even seen and laughed at Adam Sandler's BAD movies -- think Water Boy and Mr. Deeds. And, god help me, I saw Mr. Deeds in the THEATER. Does it make it better or worse that one of my students let me in for free?

  5. I hate not being good at things. I quit ballet class when I was a little girl because I wasn't twirling after the first class. I then quit ballet class TWICE in college after I finally came to terms with the fact that I'm clumsy and couldn't twirl gracefully if my life depended on it. I quit sailing in my 20s even though I LOVE being on the water because I suck at the steering the boat part of sailing and I could never remember the proper sailing lingo (seriously, you have to say things like "jibe ho!"). I'm quite good at the trimming the sails part of sailing, and I'm sure I could have eventually kicked ass at both ballet and sailing, but I didn't really have the time to devote to either and if I can't do something well I'm simply not gonna to do it at all.

There you go. Now I think I'm supposed to tag some people, so if you haven't done this already consider yourself tagged. That would be pretty much everyone except Coaster Punchman, Lulu, and WonderTurtle. Get to work!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Why I Don't Have Kids

I awoke this morning with a hangover. Plus I was cold. The temperature had dropped about 20 degrees since I'd gone to bed with the windows open, so I lay there half awake, shivering and trying to decide whether to get up and close the windows or just go back to sleep, while my kitty alternated between two of her favorite spots: my pillow and the nearest windowsill. Shortly after Luna hopped onto the windowsill and I rolled over and pulled the covers over my head, I heard the window come crashing closed.

"Ohmygod, LUNA!" I screamed, bursting into tears as I realized that the reason her butt was dangling off the windowsill was because her left front paw was stuck under the now-closed window. Then Luna started screaming -- a sound I hope you never EVER hear coming out of someone you love -- and squirming while I opened the window to free her.

As soon as her little foot was free, she jumped down and dashed under the bed, leaving a sporadic trail of poop in her wake. I followed her and then sat on the bed crying while my sister and her boyfriend (who were visiting) tried to coax her out so we could assess the damage. Luna hissed at my sister and then darted out from under the bed, at which point I was able to scoop her up and cuddle her and say god only knows what sort of nonsense to her. And Luna, who is definitely not a lap kitty, sat cowering in my lap for a solid 15 minutes before taking up her usual position next to me (not ON me).

Careful examination of the window-smashed foot revealed exactly zero damage. She's not limping, she's not licking her foot excessively (well, she's not licking it any more than she's licking the rest of herself), and she doesn't wince when I touch her foot. If I hadn't seen it happen, I'd never know that an open window came crashing down on her.

If you think that's stopped me from worrying about her, you obviously don't know me very well. "Do you think she's okay?" I asked my sister and her boyfriend about 50 times this morning. "I think she's fine, Meg," they responded.

"Do you think I should take her to the vet?"
"I think she's fine, Meg."
"Do you think she's in shock and it only SEEMS like she's fine?"
"I think she's fine, Meg."
"Look at her pupils. Don't you think they're too dilated?"
"I think she's fine, Meg."
"But what if she has internal bleeding?"
"Internal bleeding?! In her FOOT?"

Apparently my hypochondria extends to those I love.

With the exception of an hour-long brunch, which I spent wondering aloud how my kitty was doing, and an evening break to see Borat, which I HATED and thought was reprehensible even though I was laughing the whole time (just in case anyone's keeping track of my karma), I've spent my day curled up next to Luna on the couch, petting her and asking her if she's okay and addressing her alternately as sweet kitty, sweetie, sweetheart, sweetpea, sweetness, honey, and sugar. If I'd been thinking more clearly I might have blessed her heart. But mostly I've been stroking her paw and glancing at the window and marveling at the fact that the little bones in her little foot are not completely shattered.

Cats are resilient. I know this because approximately twelve people, including the vet, have told me so today. It's the cats' moms, I guess, who need looking after. Luna herself stretched her window-smashed paw out and rested it in my open palm this afternoon, as if to assure me that she's okay.

And I KNOW she's okay because I just watched her hop down from a windowsill and land solidly on the paw that a mere twelve hours ago was trapped under a window. But still. I keep checking on her in case the trauma has finally caught up with her and the bones that weren't broken thirty minutes ago have completely fallen to pieces while I wasn't looking. I haven't entirely convinced myself I don't need to stay home from work tomorrow to keep an eye on her either.

Can you imagine how crazy I'd be if I had a HUMAN child?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Insufficient Funds

My friend Uncle J Bird has a great post up about how Dubya has squandered his political capital. Check it out.

In Response To A Letter To The Editor, Vol. VIII

From The Virginian Pilot, 11.10.06

To the Editor:

Al-Qaida and terrorists around the world must be dancing in the streets, celebrating their Democratic victory in this country.

--John, Norfolk

To John:

I'm not sure it was such a good idea to stop taking your medication. Please turn off The O'Reilly Factor -- as your inability to distinguish between fact and fabrication can only be contributing to your delusional state -- and contact your mental health professional before your condition worsens and you become completely certifiable.

--Megan, Norfolk

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Upon The Resignation of the Secretary of War Defense

This is a little late, but whatever. . .

Donald Rumsfeld resigned his position as Secretary of Defense yesterday. I, for one, am glad. This should give him plenty of time to focus on his existential poetry.

You're going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don't happen.
It doesn't seem to bother people, they don't—
It's printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.
Everyone's so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story's there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven't happened.
All I can tell you is,
It hasn't happened.
It's going to happen.
—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Now That's What I Call Gettin' Some Pi

This video has been occupying almost as much of my after-school time as the "Lazy Sunday" video did last winter. No backstory, just click play. . .

Straight But Not Narrow

By a margin of 57% to 43%, Virginia voters approved the Marshall/Newman Amendment, which not only defines marriage as something that may only exist between one man and one woman, but also forbids the state to legally recognize ANY marriage-like relationship that is not actually marriage.

There were about a million good reasons to vote against this amendment, all of which were heavily promoted by The Commonwealth Coalition.

  1. We already have a law on the books banning both same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions, so a constitutional amendment is unnecessary.
  2. The amendment goes too far in that it applies equally to straight and gay couples. (hey, there's a unique concept)
  3. The amendment discriminates against unmarried couples, both gay and straight.
  4. The amendment is an invasion of privacy that represents an unecessary government intrusion into our personal lives.
  5. The amendment would make it considerably more difficult for unmarried victims of domestic violence to seek legal recourse against their abusers.
  6. Opposition to same-sex marriage is primarily religious, and Virginia has recognized the wall of separation between church and state since we passed Jefferson's Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom in 1786.
  7. The amendment is bad for business. Passage of this amendment is likely to spark litigation against companies whose benefit plans offer coverage to life partners, and will drive highly-qualified professionals out of the state.

And that's all well and good, but here's why I voted against the Marshall/Newman amendment:

Gay people should be allowed to get married.

That's it. End of story. (I've covered this territory before.)

And so, as a straight Virginian, I'd like to apologize to the gay community of Virginia. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that 57% of Virginia voters are so fucking bigoted they rejected every reasonable argument above simply because the idea of gay sex kinda creeps them out, and I'm sorry that 57% of the voting public is too fucking stupid to read past the first sentence of the proposed amendment and vote no.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You're Doing A Heckuva Job, Hart InterCivic!

Voting machines in Alexandria, Falls Church, and Charlottesville did not display the full name or political party of Democratic challenger Jim Webb today. Instead, voters were asked to choose between James H. "Jim" or George F. Allen.

Guess how the residents of Alexandria, Falls Church, and Charlottesville typically vote.

Don't worry though, Hart InterCivic promises to fix this problem "before the next major election." 'Cause, you know, a mid-term election involving one of the mostly hotly-contested Senate seats in the country. . .no biggie.

If Hart InterCivic's unwavering devotion to future voting accuracy doesn't make you feel better, take heart: "This is not the kind of problem that has either shaken our confidence in the system overall or that of the vote," said Alexandria Registrar Tom Parkins. "There have been far worse problems around the country."

Buck up, lil' campers. You've got it pretty good here in the Old Dominion. There have been far worse problems around the country than not knowing which candidate you're voting for.

Fucking fake democracy.

And PS, they haven't called the race yet, and Webb is up at the moment anyway, so don't bother accusing me of being a sore loser.

Monday, November 06, 2006

On The Eve Of The Midterm Elections, A Few Friendly Reminders About Democracy

Much is being made of the importance of voting in tomorrow's elections, and although I believe voting is little more than a symbolic act at this point, I have plans not only to vote but to spend a couple hours working the polls for Jim Webb and the Democratic Party.

I would, however, like to state for the record that I have long considered voting to be the lamest and lowest form of political participation possible. Far more important to the preservation of our democratic system is an educated, informed electorate that's willing to monitor and question its leaders, for as John F. Kennedy pointed out, "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." His was not a revolutionary idea -- my beloved Jefferson noted the same nearly 150 years earlier: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Voting is nice, but paying attention and questioning authority are really what democracy is all about.

And while Jim Webb is certainly no JKF or TJ, he does seem to get this whole democracy thing:

In a democracy, we are the boss. And George Allen and George Bush work for us. And the more people they can scare away or turn away from politics, the fewer bosses they're having. They don't want participation. They want to just move along with the status quo, lining the pockets of their corporate friends, protecting their own, while your job goes overseas and your kid goes to Iraq.
So, sure, go vote tomorrow. And vote Democrat. But then give some thought to refreshing the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Or maybe just write some strongly-worded letters or something.

Mea Culpa

I had a strange dream the other night:

My sister was hanging out at my house (which wasn't my actual house, but was supposed to be my house in the dream) and she called me over to the computer to discuss what she did and did not like about my blog. "All this stuff about politics -- ugh -- so boring!" she admonished. "So I just got rid of it," she announced happily. "What do you mean you got rid of it?" I asked with a hint of panic. "I just clicked those little boxes next to the posts I don't wanna read so they won't show up when I come here," she explained.

And then, as I began to freak out, my brother appeared out of nowhere and explained to my sister that clicking those little boxes deletes the posts for everyone, not just for the person doing the clicking. (For the record, I have no idea what "those little boxes" are -- I just made 'em up.)

The rest of the dream kind of happened in a jumble. I started interrogating my sister to determine which posts she'd deleted while she apologized repeatedly and my brother tried to calm us both down. But the more missing posts I discovered, the more upset I became, until I realized my sister had deleted one of my all-time favorite posts, at which point I began to cry, prompting my sister to apologize yet again. "Oh my god I'm so sorry!" she said, trying to hug me. And instead of doing what any normal person would do and accepting both her hug and her apology, I grabbed a nearby aerosol can (of what I don't know) and sprayed my sister IN THE FACE while I screamed at her, "How could you be so stupid?!"


Obviously this raises a number of issues. First, that of the aerosol can. Doesn't my dream self know how bad that shit is for the planet? Second, the fact that I'm now dreaming about my friggin' BLOG indicates a certain level of blog obsession one might expect to find only among the clinically insane. But most importantly, my dream self is a BITCH!

Generally speaking, I do not A) scream at people, B) call them stupid, or C) spray them in the face with unknown substances. If I WERE to do any of those things, it certainly wouldn't be in response to an apology.

I have strict rules about apologies despite the fact that I come from a non-apologizing family. Oh, and we're Irish, which means we drink too much and we have bad tempers. But do we say we're sorry when we let our besotted tempers get the best of us? Hell no! Because that, my blogfriends, would mean we're not always right about everything. And being wrong is apparently something one should never admit. Sure, when we were kids, my parents TOLD us to apologize, but I don't think I ever saw them apologize to each other, and they rarely apologized to us.

In fact, my sister and I are the only members of our family who apologize, and that's a fairly recent (in the grand scheme of things) development. Apologies do not come easily to girls who were raised to believe that admitting you're wrong is a sign of weakness, but we're working on it. One thing we've got down is that when someone apologizes to you, you accept their apology. End of story.

Of course, if you're asleep and there's a spray can nearby, all bets are off.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And This Is Where I Live

It took me 30 minutes to find a parking space last night when I returned home from worshipping Satan.

Okay, fine. I wasn't worshipping Satan. I was sitting on my friends' front porch drinking wine and passing out candy. But it did take me 30 minutes to find a parking space.

And you know why? Fucking Rocky Horror people, that's why.

I live around the corner from an independent theater -- or cinema, as they call themselves -- that shows The Rocky Horror Picture Show every other Friday night. Parking, while scarce, is never much of a problem. But last night -- as you may know -- was Halloween, and Halloween -- as I should have known -- is kind of a big thing with the Rocky Horror folks.

A really big thing. I've never seen so many Rocky Horror people.

So I drove through my neighborhood mumbling, "fucking Rocky Horror people!" with increasing agitation as I searched in vain for a parking space. I have nothing against Rocky Horror people -- I was totally in love with one in the 10th grade and have known some very nice others since -- but couldn't they have carpooled or something? I mean, they're taking up all the parking spots. And I LIVE here.

Such were my thoughts as I circled my block repeatedly. And with every fishnetted, black eyelinered, crossdressed Rocky Horror person I passed, I grew more annoyed.

Until I saw the guy with the megaphone.

There he was, standing on the corner looking decidedly un-Rocky Horror-ish, shouting about salvation and urging the Rocky Horror Picture goers to abandon their freakish ways, repent of their sins, and accept Jesus as their lord and savior. My new friends the fucking Rocky Horror people, to their credit, merely chuckled as they passed by and then continued on to engage in all manner of sinful debauchery.

But my other new friends, the City of Norfolk police, sent Mr. Megaphone packing. Which is as it should be. I mean, the dude didn't even have a costume.