Tuesday, November 25, 2008

excuse me, could you please raise my taxes?

Yesterday, I sent letters to elected officials asking them to impose a new tax.

The story is that I recently ordered a couple of things from reusablebags.com. One is an aluminum water bottle that I will be gifting to my sister-in-law and the other is a package of biodegradable doggie-doo bags. (Sorry if that was TMI). I have also ordered the Wrap-n-Mat, reusable sandwich wrap and David takes his lunch in it everyday. It will even fit two sandwiches if you smush them just a little (which he does).

Anyway, reusablebags.com has a "Take Action" tab at the top of their site that suggests asking your favorite retailers to offer a credit to customers who bring their own bags (for example, Trader Joe's puts your phone number in a drawing for $100 in groceries) and/or sending a letter to government officials encouraging them to implement a plastic bag tax. I am a plastic bag hater. Hardcore. I don't allow them in the house anymore. I pick up the ones that blow as litter whenever I walk the dogs and I hate them even more. I carry in my reusable bags and glare at people who don't bring their own bags and once I even made the developmentally challenged bagger at Shnucks take my ice cream out of the plastic bag and just put it in the reusable one with all the other groceries even though it might dethaw and get the fabric bad a little damp. Today at Target I insisted that the girl fit everything into the one reusable bag I brought in even though she wanted to separate a few things (like the Schnucks bagger, she was being thoughtful and wanted to avoid a potential accident with a shirt, lotion, and a frozen pizza, but I would have none of it). So I decided that I would go ahead and e-mail a letter to my state reps and the mayor. Why not? I'm sure they love hearing from their constituents.

St. Louis seems to be regretfully behind the times when it comes to a lot of environmental issues (I'm still wishin' and hopin' for a smoking ban like our friends across the river have...). It seems that as a city that gets pissed off about being ranked 4th most dangerous this year, they might want to think about getting some good, green press. But, alas, this is the sort of tax that will probably show up in Portland or Seattle long before it makes it to the midwest.

Anyway, if you are interested in petitioning your own government officials, you can get the letter here. And if you need a civics course refresher in who your elected officials are, you can find that out here.

(On a side note, here's an FYI: A previous e-mail I sent to Mount Pleasant Winery -- stating my shock and dismay at the fact that they do not recycle any of their glass bottles and demanding an explanation and a date for when recycling would commence or else I would take my wine consumption elsewhere -- has gone unanswered. Jerks. At least elected officials send you a generic reply to acknowledge your correspondence.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

desperation is seriously unattractive

We have all learned this lesson (some of us earlier, some of us later, some of us more brutally than others). But it's true: The more desperately you try to convince someone of something or sell them something or promise you something, the less likely you are to get your wish accomplished. There is just nothing appealing about desperation.

I wish someone would send that memo to retailers all over the country, who are flooding my inbox and mailbox with coupons and shipping promotions and special sales and doorbusters and online-only deals and all of these discounts that, instead of being enticing, make me feel nervous and creeped out. There are always holiday promotions, but it just feels different this year. It's like the theme for the 2008 holiday season is "Tension and Anxiety." I mean, if they are trying so hard to sell their stuff, it just kind of makes me not want it. It makes me feel like nobody wants it, so they have to give it away, their desperation thinly veiled by a great big cheery, smiley, holiday-themed advertisement. It makes me think that I, and every other American, would be better off saving money instead of spending it.

Which of course is a huge part of the problem, right? Consumer confidence and all that. I get it. And I feel terrible for the retail industry and job situations and the whole mess of it. all of that stuff. One of my BFs (that would be best friends, not boyfriends) works in retail and I know it stinks right now. I'm not saying that they haven't fallen on hard times and I'm not saying that we shouldn't spend any money at all or that there is something wrong with those of us who are looking forward to holiday shopping and getting some bargains. I'm just saying that there is a keen odor of desperation wafting through these advertisements. And it's a serious turn-off.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the pity party wraps up

I've been nursing these burns on my arm for the last week. Second degree burns, particularly ones that cover your entire left bicep, are quite painful. And because your left bicep moves everytime you move your arm, it can be hard to keep still, hard to keep a bandage on, and it can leave you tired and cranky. I was a total grouch all last week. I didn't want to get dressed, because getting dressed hurt. And I didn't want to leave the house because putting on a coat and driving hurt. But I had things to do and places to go and so I did them -- grouchily and unwillingly.

So I returned to the doctor yesterday for a follow-up visit yesterday. She said that it is a really bad burn (yes). It is starting to heal (finally). It might not scar as bad as she had originally thought (here's hoping). I told her that I have been trying to be really protective of it by wearing really loose sleeves and while I normally work out three times a week, I haven't been going to the gym. (I should confess that I typically work out in the evenings, and this lapse-due-to-injury happened to coincide beautifully with cold nights, early darkness, and a desire to snuggle with my puggle on the sofa and eat lots of warm, cheesy dinners). Anyway, the doctor told me that working out would be good for my arm, would keep the skin from getting tight as it healed (gross) and help the circulation. She said that while I'm home and just sitting around reading a book or whatever, I can have the burn open and that will help it heal.

It seems clear that my pity party needs to end. It still hurts, but I can pop a couple ibuprofen and manage to vacuum. So, no more sleeping in. No more skipping work outs. No more bumming around on the couch telling myself I'll finish the laundry when my arm feels better. I'm back to normal. (The stretchy arm tubes Jamie provided are a HUGE help with this -- they stay in place without cutting off my circulation!) And I will need to be running at full speed this weekend, as I coordinate a wedding. A wedding with eight bridesmaids, two flower girls, two ring bearers, a junior bridesmaid and two candelighters. No, I'm not kidding. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

just do it

It sounds so trite, but it is really true. I sit down at the computer and I don't want to do it, I don't want to write, I don't want to think, I don't want to try to wrestle some pretty vague ideas into marginally interesting and somewhat original ideas, only to then wrangle those into coherent sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters. I would rather update my Amazon wish list. Browse Etsy for fun jewelry. See if Old Navy has new seasonal dog collars. Let Facebook suck my day away. But honestly if I just sit down and start doing it, start typing something, it actually works. Things get written. It is quite remarkable. So all my high falutin' goals about 40 hours a week, or writing 4 hours a day and then reading, or whatever... These things sometimes happen and more often don't. But if I just do a little bitty bit everyday, I can maybe see this dissertation getting somewhere. Like to a PhD party.

Monday, November 17, 2008

there was a barber and his wife...

But his wife was not really important.

We saw Sweeney Todd at the Fox on Saturday night. I have been a total grump all week. My burns are no longer excruciating, but they are decidedly uncomfortable. And having them wrapped up restricts my movement (don't want the bandages coming loose, believe me) and limits my clothing options and is generally irritating. So although I love going to the Fox, dressing up and leaving the house wasn't actually sounding that fun. And instead of wearing the darling sleeveless sequined top that I bought months ago on clearance and had been planning to wear, I wore a turtleneck.

But aside from my personal injury and wardrobe malfunction, the show was great. It was very different from the movie (and I'm a big fan of the Tim Burton movie). The most remarkable thing was that the actors onstage were also the orchestra. It was amazing. Everyone was onstage all of the time and they each played a different instrument and all of the movement was choreographed with their instruments -- Joanna's cello, Mrs. Lovett's baritone, Toby's violin, the beadle was on keyboard. It was pretty amazing because they managed to do it without the instruments distracting from the story -- they would either set them aside for certain scenes, or use the instrument as a sort of prop. The setting was pretty sparse and they used red lighting and dramatic music instead of blood for the murder scenes, and it was still creepy and vengeful.
Warning: plot spoilers ahead.

So afterward, the show inspired a conversation between D and me about the plight of women in nineteenth-century England (of course it did, you're saying to yourselves). I mean, even the spunky Mrs. Lovett pins her entire future on a relationship with a demented barber. And I am far from convinced that Sweeney Todd's motives have very much to do with his poor wife's unfortunate fall. As I proclaimed to D, this is not a love story. Mrs. Lovett wants it to be, but Sweeney Todd is far more worried about Judge Turpin than he is about Lucy (his wife, who he believes is dead) or Johanna (his daughter, now Judge Turpin's ward). For all his grief about Lucy's fate, he quickly channels into rage against Mrs. Lovett for misleading him. Yes, she lied to him. But what were her options? And what would have become of Lucy in any case? Even more pressing -- what kept Sweeney from discovering the lie? Why didn't he seek out her grave if he were truly the mourning Victorian he claims to be (the type whom, I imagine, wears a ring with a lock of her hair in it and keeps her letters folded in his pocket)? Sweeney doesn't discover that Lucy is still alive, because he is not motivated by his love for Lucy. Instead, he is obsessed with revenge. Judge Turpin emasculates Benjamin Barker and Benjamin Barker comes back to kill him. That's the real story. The women are just pawns to give it all a little pathos. Johanna goes from being Judge Turpin's ward to being stolen away by a strange sailor. We are to believe he's saving her, but his own lyrics, "I'll steal you, Johanna" suggest otherwise.

So I'm not saying these are flaws in the story. I think it is a masterful tale of vengeance and obsession and I really like the movie and the play. I just think that what could masquerade as a tragic love story is really not about love at all. What Sweeney Todd cannot forgive is not the loss of his wife and daughter. It's the loss of his manhood. It's the Judge taking Sweeney's manhood (symbolized not-very-subtly by raping Lucy and sending Benjamin Barker to prison far away), and leaving him powerless. So if the Judge metaphorically castrates Benjamin Barker, Sweeney Todd will return to metaphorically castrate the Judge. By cutting off his head. The ladies -- even Mrs. Lovett, who steals the show (at least in the version we saw at the Fox, although Helena Bonham Carter does give Johnny Depp a run for his money) and sings my favorite song in the score, "Nothin's gonna harm you, not while I'm around" -- are just collateral damage.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Cooper's latest work (that would be Little Mac's bed):
He feigns innocence:

Little Mac says not to worry -- she's perfectly comfortable on her new bed. The couch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

lunacy panic

Not my own, actually, but Victorian England's lunacy panic of 1858-9. Shockingly, it was discovered that a number of medical "professionals" were locking away people who were actually quite sane, but perhaps awkward or embarrassing to their families, thus warranting their convenient disposal into asylums. (It occurs to me that this practice arguably exists today only it's called rehab...). Anyway, when newspapers published stories about this, there was a public outcry and what came to be known as the lunacy panic -- which helped regulate psychiatry and the admission of psychiatric patients, and also spawned a number of delightful sensation novels. One of which I will be teaching on Friday:

I love this novel -- the lunacy panic, the mistaken identities, the gender identity issues, Marian's mustache, Frederick Fairlie's art-loving invalid status, the obsese Count Fosco's sexy/creepy magnetism and his love for small dogs... There is plenty to talk about so I should have no trouble filling 50 minutes of class and, as I have not been teaching all semester, I'm looking forward to being back in the classroom. Even briefly. Hmm. Especially briefly! I get to talk about a novel for an hour with smart and enthusiastic students and I don't have to grade any essays. What a deal.

If you haven't read The Woman in White and you want a taste of Victorian sensation, this is a good place to start. I can also endorse wholeheartedly Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret (and if you like THAT novel, you'll LOVE the dissertation chapter I've written on it!). Happy reading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

feel the burn

I have second degree burns on both of my arms. As my friends very kindly pointed out when I, shamelessly seeking sympathy, e-mailed them pictures, it looks like I have arm herpes. Whatever that is.

At any rate, a freak accident with hot green tea has resulted in my left bicep and right wrist bandaged and wrapped in gauze. My not-very-nice physician informed me that it is likely to scar, although she did call me a "poor thing" and said that it must have hurt.

I realize it could be much worse. It could have burned my face instead of my arm. I could have real herpes instead of blistered burns. But it's enough for me to have a little pity-party of my own.

I am looking forward to this weekend -- some work, some play, a date night to the Fox Theatre with D. I'm also going to get busy with some Christmas crafting. I'm newly inspired to do this sewing/crafting thing, thanks to:
*Project Runway for making me often think wistfully that fashion design might be more fun than Victorian literature
*my parents for giving me a sewing machine for my birthday
*the economy for making me want to conserve money (and by "want to" I mean "need to")
*D for thinking that anything I make with the sewing machine is amazing
*discovering and reading my cousin Beth's blog about her own craftiness, delighting in some of our shared interests (bags, Buffy, knitting squares and rectangles), and following some of her links to various crafty-idea websites

So whatever this blog is for -- keeping in touch, keeping myself on track, indulging in my narcissistic fantasies -- here it begins.