Friday, October 31, 2008

Treats or Tricks?

If I didn't know the full moon happened a few weeks ago, I could have sworn there was one this week. For months, things have been pretty sedentary for me - or, I should say, it's been a while since life has handed me the usual drama I'm accustomed to. I don't know why this week was so special, but the cosmos decided to go on vacation and let me deal with the chaos on my own. OK, so it wasn't that bad. I've been through much, much, MUCH worse. I guess it was just unnerving to be plucked from my seat of quiet contentment and tossed into a shaking, spinning sphere of noise.

So, speaking of full moons and chaos, today is Halloween. I'm not one of those people who goes crazy over the holiday, but I am known to dress up for our party at work. Today - I'm a mime.

The beauty of being a mime is, well, that they can't talk. This is ironic since most of the chaos of my week has revolved around the spoken word: presentations, training team members, brainstorming for a new company name and identity, verbalizing ideas for my to-be-written novel, and more. Then there was the accusation from a friend that I said one thing and wrote something else. To that person - yes, I'm talking to you - I'm not angry; that's not my style...but I am extremely hurt. Anyone who truly knows me would know that I have no tolerance for liars or two-faced people (which probably explains my disdain for most politicians), and to have someone (a person very close to me, mind you) even for a moment think that of me is just...I don't even know the word for it. Tragic? Ignorant? As we corresponded via e-mail, I tried to explain (Word to the wise: e-mail is always a bad way to try to explain yourself), I probably made things worse. But then I thought, why do I even need to explain myself? I know perfectly well what I said, and what I wrote, and if this person listened and read carefully, they would see that the ideas are not contradictory but complementary, and that what I wrote is an extension of what was said.

I told this person that I'm not angry and that we're still on good terms. I meant that. We are. I've known this person far too long to do otherwise. I'm not a fighter. But I think it's important for said-person to understand that a misunderstanding can be hurtful, dangerous even, so it's good to look and listen carefully first. Said-person may very well maintain their opinion about this, but I don't think it's up to me to change their mind. I spoke the truth. I wrote the truth. My part is done.

[On a separate note - less than one day to go. Thank goodness for the end of daylight savings; one extra hour to write with this weekend.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And It's Only Tuesday

This week is already shaping up to be "one of those weeks", so I thought that I would just post a quick apology now to my friends out there waiting for the next big post. It most likely will not happen until later in the week.

So, here is a quick summary of what's been happening so far:

  • The pumpkin I carved so lovingly on Sunday afternoon and placed proudly on our front porch was demolished by some animal Sunday night. The entire face is completely gone!
  • Promotion at work (yay!)
  • Meetings at work (oh...)
  • Husband's birthday minus the bash due to a cold (his, not mine)
  • Snow?!?
  • Prepping for the big change coming to our company and how I will help lead the charge
  • Trying to figure out what my storyline will be for NaNoWriMo. Only a few days left.

Lots of planning, brainstorming and Advil-popping going on.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Earlier this week, a coworker gave me a clipping from November's Self magazine with the heading "Got 3 minutes? Start Writing a Novel." She left a sticky note pointing to the article, saying "Christine - Saw this and thought about you - you can do it!" What a nice gesture. I told her a while ago - maybe a year or two ago - over lunch that I like to write as a hobby. Since then, she's been giving me clippings from magazines or newspapers about writing and getting published. I think that's tremendous that she has so much faith in me, especially being that she's never read any of my writing outside of professional material.

I put the article aside, thinking, well - I don't do novels. I write poetry. Bad poetry, but poetry nonetheless. I tried my hand at short stories a while ago but they never amounted to much. I always lost inspiration...or heart...or interest. Then I started thinking things over again. A novel. I always say, with all the craziness I've seen in my life so far, I could write a book. Maybe now's the time.

Why now? Well, apparently November is National Novel Writing Month. Who knew? Also, apparently, it's the 10th anniversary. So, what exactly does this mean? Click here to find out.

Write 50,000 in 30 days. The thought of it sounds so...daunting. I can't even imagine what 50,000 words look like. I guess novels don't necessarily have to equate Dostoyevsky, though - right? I have to at least try. So...without further ado, I am announcing that I am officially participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have one week to sort things out and prepare myself.

The article my coworker gave me gave three tips: 1) Find a personal story line, 2) Turn off that critic in your head, 3) Stay Motivated. Sounds easy enough, but we'll see. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Feeling Punk

My mind has been in a fog the last few days. It could be information overload, as that tends to happen at the most inopportune times and my brain decides to shut down before rebooting. It could be that it finally feels like fall, and I would rather be kicking around the leaves than sitting in my office. But, I think the real reason is that I'm coming down with the first cold of the season. Hooray! It happens every year this time, usually on or around Halloween, so it's actually a little early this year.

It starts with Sore Throat. makes me sound a bit like Kim Carnes when I speak. Sore Throat often brings his companion, Fever, and her best friend, Chills. It's like a big party. All the while, I try to act like I'm not home but they crash my pad anyway. Before I know it, Sniffles drops by and then it's wall to wall Snot. Snot likes to stick around for a bit. He's a big guy. He doesn't like to be told when to leave. Hacking Cough finally shows up near the end of the party, saying "Hey, where's everyone going? The party's just starting!" Sometimes Sore Throat feels bad for Hacking Cough and they buddy up. Glassy Eyes is always around, but she kind of just sits there, waiting...

All the while, I'm in denial: "I'm not sick; it's allergies. I'm just thirsty; all I need is a mug of something hot. The office is just cold. Or hot. I'm fine. Really. Boy, is it warm in here!" I try to play it off, but in a few days time, that will be impossible. I become a red-nosed, congested mess and everyone has to stand 5 feet away from me so not to catch my plague. Then if someone happens to get sick, they all know who to blame. They're just jealous the punks didn't come to their house first.

So, I'm already planning for the shindig around Thanksgiving. That's always a hoot.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

From Where I Come

Ever since I was young, I have had heard bits and pieces about my ancestory - mostly from my mother's side - so I knew enough in general terms to understand (somewhat) my cultural roots. Like many Americans, my ethnic composition is a hodge podge of several groups, none of which you would immediately be able to detect by just looking at me. My family has been in the United States for a few generation now so I'm about as exotic as Wonder Bread. Because we are a nation that likes to push people into boxes to make things easier, I'm considered "white." I hate that. Yes, my skin is on the pastey side, but I'm not "white." Same goes for "black," "yellow," "olive," and so on. People are not colors. We are heritages and cultures and stories and history. If you're going to assign me to a color, at least pick a pretty one, like "rose" or "indigo."

But I digress. Back to my ancestory. So, my maiden name is not a common one, and most people really don't know where it came from. (For the sake of privacy, I will not give my last name here, but those of you who know me can follow along at home). It's Russian, folks. Or Ukranian, depending on the year you're talking about. People don't often believe the name's roots because it doesn't end in "-ov" or "-ski." I will say this - as with alot of names (just try and dispute it, government), upon entry into the U.S., someone decided to add an extra letter to the name so instead of "-alo" it became "-ailo." And so the name stuck.

Why all this talk about last names and heritage? Well, last week, I found out, under no uncertain terms, that I'm also Hungarian. Or Austrian, depending on the year you're talking about. I had heard rumors drifting in the stratosphere that I had relatives from the Austria-Hungary Empire. As it turned out, it was my paternal grandmother's mother's family. Thanks to the website Ellis Island and some help from my aunt, I saw with my own eyes the ship's record of my great grandmother's passage, who left Hungary at age 7 with her siblings and mother and sailed aboard the passenger ship Derfflinger from Bremen, Germany; her father came a few years earlier. In fact, today, October 21, is the 105th anniversary of my great, great grandfather's arrival into New York aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse.

I can only imagine the hardships they must have faced. It's bad enough to endure cramped quarters on a passenger ship for weeks amongst strangers harboring who-knows-what kind of diseases. It's downright heartbreaking to be so desperate to leave your homeland to seek a better life for your family regardless of the risk to your own; to arrive on a foreign shore not speaking the language or looking the part, coming from shear poverty into more poverty, and trying to improve your standing despite heavy xenophobia and beliefs that you are another species altogether. But they overcame those barriers, just as my maternal relatives from Ireland, Wales, and the Netherlands did. I won't get into the story of my Mohawk relatives; that will be another post.

I guess I could make several points here and go off on a diatribe comparing my relatives' story with the current immigrant situation, assimilation or lack thereof, and how xenophobia still exists and what will the presidential candidates do about it and so on. But I won't. You can do that. I'm just happy to have a connection and a tangible piece of my ancestral puzzle. It's not the only piece, and I cannot wait to learn more. I do know that many records, on both sides of my family, were destroyed either in fires or whatnot years ago, so I'm not sure how far back the trail goes. Has anyone researched his/her family ties? What sites are good? Has anyone tried the Mormon Genealogy Library?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Your Guide to The Hunt

Tomorrow I will be once again partaking in the Far Hills Race Meeting, more commonly referred to as "The Hunt." This will be my fourth or fifth year (I lost count after a while.)

Those of you in New Jersey have no doubt heard of this annual fundraiser and its reputation for being one of the grandest, rowdiest, high-priced tailgate party east of the Mississippi. More often than not, it's a bunch of rich college kids drinking way too much. Sure, you'll get the conservative crowd with their fancy spots, waiter service, high heels and cigars but for the rest of us, it's a chance to get together with some friends and have a good time, whatever shape we're in. My group is a little older (not college age) and do not try to be anything other than what we are, but we fit in anyway. I have to say, it is not a very ethnically diverse crowd, which only exasperate the stereotype (a true one at that) of it being geared toward white, upper middle class prepsters who try to "out-prep" one another. For someone like me, the crowd watching is just plain hilarious.

So, since I've been to a few of these things, I offer my insight and "survival guide" to you first-timers:
1) Prep your stomach and liver for mass quantities of alcohol consumption. Some start doing this Friday night/Saturday morning. Whatever works for you. For me, as I'm not one to frequent keggers anymore, I pad my stomach with bread and such before the drinking starts. Whatever you do, just remember: no one likes stepping into vomit on the field - least of all, Muffy in her Prada shoes, so do what you have to do to avoid it.

2) Dress weather-appropriately. Without fail, on the very day of The Hunt, an Arctic front blows in and it's freezing. This is only made more interesting by the deluge of rain that tends to also fall. It's like Mother Nature turns the switch just for us. One year, it rained so hard and the fields were so muddy, mud splashed all the way up to my thighs on my jeans! You're exposed for 5, 6, maybe up to 8 or 9 hours, so to avoid hypothermia, bundle up! Wear layers.

3) Wear appropriate shoes. I'm sorry - Prada heels are not appropriate, even if you're stuck with Thurston Howell III under his lush corporate tent and not parading around the grounds. Heels can sink into mud and dirt. Wellies are de rigeur on those days when you could have taken Noah's Ark to the races instead of the train. Men wearing penny loafers and argyle socks are just hilarious, but if it makes you feel good - go for it.

4) The Train. What to say about the drunk train. Board early, if you can, to get there. Watch the fields crossing over to the rails (see #2 and #3). Board early, if you can, going back. Fight for a seat. No one likes that jerky motion after chugging your weight in beer. Your stomach will thank you.

5) Bring dollars. At whatever site you find yourself, no doubt there will be betting. We just do for fun, so our group usually bets a dollar a person (although new comers to our spot this year are trying to mix it up, and I can't see the rest of us being down for that.) White boards are optional. We'll have one this year; I'll let you know how it works.

6) Have fun. It's what the day is about. I'm sure the proceeds of the day are going to a good cause, but being that I live in Essex County, I have not, nor will I probably ever, find myself in the halls of Somerset Medical Center. I'm not going to take the day, or myself, too seriously.

I would like to hear your stories about The Hunt - whether from this year or previous years. What have been your experiences, and what tips would you add to this list to help out Virgin Hunters?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stamped Out

As mentioned yesterday, I recently came across some old letters from a few pen pals I had back in grade school.

One girl, Crystal B., was from Thorndale, TX and I started writing to her through a program arranged through our schools. The second girl, Jackie C., was from Clondalkin, Ireland, just outside of Dublin, and that connection started with a girl scout project. My writing friendships with both Crystal and Jackie lasted about 3 years - between 5th and 8th grade. I don't recall any of us writing much beyond that point in time. There were two other pen pals that didn't work out so well: a boy from France, and a girl from Midland, TX. I have a feeling the boy didn't write or understand English well (or maybe he didn't want a girl as a pen pal); whatever the reason, he never responded. The girl from Midland wrote her whole life story in the first letter; she must have thought I was a jerk for asking where Midland was and telling her that there was no such town in New Jersey as Indian Falls where she said her friend lived, because she never wrote back, either. Ah, c'est la vie.

I enjoyed having pen pals. Most of my friends had pen pals then, too. It was the thing to do in the pre-Internet days. Can you imagine - taking the time to WRITE a thoughtful letter, maybe include a drawing or magazine clipping or something; ADDRESS AN ENVELOPE and maybe include a doodle on the back flap, and STAMP the letter?? Preposterous! But that's how we did it, kids, back in ancient times.

I learned so much about other places in the world and what people were like, whether we shared similar interests, and so on. It was a great experience. But what made it really great was receiving MAIL. As a kid, the only mail you get if you're lucky are annual birthday cards (maybe) and perhaps a monthly subscription to Highlights or some kind of children's magazine. You just don't get mail. So, with my letters (especially the ones from Europe) I felt important. I felt there was a connection and it made me smile then, and it does now re-reading the letters. You don't get that from e-mail. Well, I suppose you could, but would you really print out each e-mail and save over the years? It just wouldn't have the same effect.

Today, if you do a Google search for pen pals, you'll come across mostly Web based services. "Hey, kids, you can send more e-mails in addition to all the other Web-based things you do! Hooray. Watch out for the pedophiles." Just another nail in the coffin of childhood. There is Student Letter Exchange that actually let kids MAIL letters! But, I doubt there is such an interest anymore. Kids, for the most part, don't even know how to write a decent sentence without "texting lingo." Such is a sad day for the English language.

As for Crystal and Jackie - I don't know where you are or if you even remember me, but I hope you're both doing well. If you read this, send me your e-mail address and I'll drop you a line.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tripping down Memory Lane

This weekend, I stopped by my father's house to help clean out some of the things I left behind when I moved out a few years ago. Since then, I got married and while our little house is wonderful, it just does not have storage space. At all. Like, zilch. My intent was not to leave things at my father's house, but with hardly any room for daily goods, I took what I needed and left what I didn't. After a few years of empty-nesting it, my father decided that he didn't want to build a shrine to his youngest daughter (come on, dad! don't you love me anymore?) so after storing my {ahem} stuff in his house, he ever so kindly asked me to remove it from the premises so that he could actually use the space. Ugh.

Lucky for me, dad became impatient and basically threw whatever was in my old bedroom in boxes for me to sort through, making my job of sorting ever so much easier. Honestly, though - rediscovering bits and pieces of my past as I sifted through box after box was really....weird...but kind of a fun weird. Like, going through someone else's things. With the exception of a few items that were, in fact, someone else's things - my sister's - they were all mine and I couldn't believe it:

The '80s Childhood

  • My Girl Scout uniform and badges
  • Scholastic News from grade school. News of the day included the Challenger explosion and Berlin Wall tumbling down
  • Letters from my pen pals circa late '80s/early '90s: Crystal from Thorndale, TX and Jackie from Dublin, Ireland
  • All my NKOTB memorabilia, like posters, buttons, dolls, trading cards, comic books, magazines...I think I paid for their retirement
  • A local newspaper from '91 announcing that the U.S. entered the Persian Gulf War and remembering my sister's then-boyfriend going off to war
  • Statue of Liberty commemorative pencils from 1986
  • My hot pink and purple Caboodles with a scattering of scrunchies, headbands, makeup, movie ticket stubs, phone numbers
  • Lisa Frank stickers

The High School Years

  • Prayer cards, postcards, thank you's, birthday and Christmas cards from family and friends...some still in my life, some not
  • Triangle-folded notes passed in high school classes, including one from my German-exchange student
  • A newspaper clipping from '95 with a photo of the high school senior I had a crush on winning a basketball game
  • A collage meant to have been in my senior year high school yearbook with photos of friends who transferred schools years before
  • Mixed tapes of dance music I probably would still listen to, had I a cassette player anymore
  • Likewise for the broken Walkman

College and Beyond

  • Swizzle sticks from when I finally turned 21
  • Canceled rent checks from senior year in college
  • The approval letter declaring I would graduate cum laude after completing original research for my honors thesis in psychology with an "A"
  • Dried bouquets from all the weddings I had been in
  • Early copies of my post-college résumé
  • Recruiter cards, from places I had no interest in then but now find are my clients
  • Directions to my former boss's house for her annual Christmas party
  • A list of stolen CDs, created from memory (yes, I'm that neurotic about my music), after someone broke into my car...including "Take Your Time" by Love Bite

This list may not seem extraordinary to you. To me, it's a small sampling of over 20 years of my life. During my sorting, I had no emotional attachment to most of the junk in those boxes and just tossed away. Then I came across this stuff and was instantly transported back to those days when Little Chrissy was just trying to make her way through the small world that surrounded her. I was reminded of all the embarrassing moments and occasionally, the sunnier times when, for the briefest of moments, I felt invincible. I'm happy to say my world has opened up much more since then, but I am a bit sad that I don't really relate to my younger self anymore. I guess that's life.

Why did I hold on to this junk for all these years? I guess I felt like there was some significance there. Am I the only one my age who is now just letting go of her past?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sticky & Sweet (The Review)

If you read my post on Friday, you would know that I was a bit torn about going to the Madonna concert this weekend. Well, we decided to go. I mean - it's Madonna, right? So, for those of you who have not had the chance to see her on this tour, I'll save you the suspense. If you are planning to go, and don't want the surprise ruined, turn away my friend - turn away.

The Good:

  • SEAT LOCATION: So, the show I attended was at New York's Madison Square Garden. Our seats were decent and conveniently located directly behind the bar. So far so good.
  • SONGS: Delivered as expected were a slew of her new songs off Hard Candy which are ok but not spectacular; she did, though, inject new life into favorites like "Vogue", "Into the Grove" and "Ray of Light." I think my favorite was a more spiritual version of "Like a Prayer."
  • STAR POWER: Britney's video worked well during one of the songs, as did virtual Kanye West and Justin Timberlake. Pharrell Williams came on stage a few times which added to the cool factor.
  • CHOREOGRAPHY: It was all gorgeously choreographed - lights, screen images, dancing. Many times through the night, it felt more like a rave than a concert.
  • TENDER MOMENT: Singular. She dedicated "You Must Love Me" to her daughter, Lourdes, who was celebrating her 12th birthday that day.
  • AMERICAN THIGHS: Did I mention what excellent shape Madonna's in? If you've seen the photos, you would know how her thighs are cut like stone. All but a few songs were fast, so she was on her feet dancing for the majority of the show. Amazing. I hope I can be in half that shape when I'm 50.

The Bad:

  • TIMING. The show was to start at 8 pm. No, no, really - it was. In reality, it didn't start until 9:30 pm. No opening act, which is fine and to be expected. No encore, and it was all done by 11 pm. With all the set/costume changes, we actually waited longer than she performed.
  • SET LIST: Her setlist is pretty much identical each show. That's sad. Especially for you suckers who paid to see her at all area shows, no doubt you're seeing the SAME SHOW every time. She has enough material that she could mix it up a bit.
  • HIGHWAY ROBBERY: The tickets were overpriced. The price of a tank top was just stealing.
  • FAKE OUT: There were times when she was on stage when a recording did the singing for her - I mean, she wasn't even feigning to lip-synch.
  • HYPOCRISY and POLITIK: As mentioned, I thought her version of "Like a Prayer" was incredible - and the screen graphics showed quotes about how to be in touch with a Higher Power, like, don't have hate in your heart and don't hold a grudge and things like that. Too bad Madonna doesn't seem to follow it. As anticipated, she started in again about Sarah Palin. Enough already. That bandwagon left a month ago. Time to get off. Plus, as well-publicized, her video that briefly showed Obama in good light and McCain/Bush as the enemy. It wasn't as bad as the media made it out to be, but it was no less obvious what her intent was. Let it go, Madge - let it go.

Overall, it was a good show but I did not leave feeling like it was the best I had ever seen. I expected more. But as she sings, "This is who I am, you can like it or not." I was left with an resounding "Eh."

Sticky & Sweet Set List
Intro/Candy Shop

Beat Goes On
Human Nature
Video Interlude - Die Another Day

Into The Groove
She’s Not Me
Video Interlude - Rain/Here Comes The Rain Again

Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You
Spanish Lesson
Miles Away
La Isla Bonita/Lela Pala TuteDoli Doli (Live interlude - Romanian folk song)
You Must Love Me
Video Interlude - Get Stupid

4 Minutes
Like A Prayer
Ray Of Light
Hung Up
Give It To Me (Finale)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hung Up

Over the years, I've had a sort of Love/Hate relationship with Madonna.

When she first came out, I was too young to understand what she was singing about or even why there was controversy around her. When she went through her awkward stage, like marrying Sean Penn or trying so hard to be a serious actress in the likes of "Dick Tracy" or "Bodies of Evidence," I was in my awkward stage, albeit moving away from bubblegum '80s pop like Madonna, NKOTB and Debbie Gibson in favor of darker (and better) music like The Cure and Siouxie Sioux (What can I say? I was ahead of my time.) She drifted in and out of my life over the years. By 2000, Madonna reinvented herself for the 50th time, and I was ready to accept her with open arms.

Things were going well. We were on sort of a honeymoon phase after Confessions on a Dancefloor, but now it's just all going downhill.

Oh, Madge, what are you
doing now?

I understand that you don't like McCain/Palin. Alot of folks don't, and that's...ok. I don't care about your politics. I want you to Get Into the Grove. Instead you're Causing a Commotion and pretty soon you'll find out the Power of Goodbye from your fans. Controversy isn't anything new with you. That's who you are; it's why people love you - because you say what's on your mind and don't give two craps about the repercussions. are an ENTERTAINER, not a politician. Hell, you're not even an actress to qualify as a political activist alongside your ex, Sean. So, shut up and get on with the show already.

Incidentally, I am going to her concert - although, I have to say, with a heavy heart. I don't respect her lashing out at Palin; again, I may not be a fan of Palin either, but seriously, have some class. STILL...I've been waiting a lifetime to see Esther in all her glory. I'll let you know if I end up staying for the whole thing.

Below is a little timeline I created to map out my rocky relationship with the Material Girl. Like one of those pros/cons list you might create when you're about to break up with someone. She better give me a reason to stick around. {Double click on the image - I know it's a tad small.}

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Do Something Nice Today

I just heard about Operation Nice which is kind of like Random Acts of Kindness, which is all meant to put a smile on someone's face - even your own.

As someone from the New York metro area, being nice around these parts is almost an oxymoron. I mean, people in this area try to be nice, but maybe don't express it to the highest level. A study on the geography of personality in the US ranked New York and New Jersey toward the bottom for positive traits like agreeableness and conscientiousness, and toward the top for neuroticism. We're notorious for road rage, for being cynical and unfriendly, for complaining, for just having an overall attitude. You got a problem with that?? A point of pride for those who live here, our hard edges just may not be appreciated by everyone else.

You know what else we're overloaded with? Stress, depression, and worse. Our lifestyle is taking the life right from under us. Will it change? Probably not. We move fast, talk fast, it's go-go-go, and if you get in our way, watch out. That's just how it's done here.

Not to say that we're all meanies. The study, of course, talks in generalities, and most of us do have good hearts, we like to laugh and smile, and interact (in a good way). But, when I think of doing a random act of kindness - like leaving a note on someone's windshield - I have to stop and think, "Is this nice, or is this a violation of privacy on the verge of stalking?" I bet people in the Midwest don't think twice about it. They were ranked as the nicest (and to my friends out in the Midwest, you really, really are!)

So, let's try to put aside our geographical differences and stereotypes and try to do something nice today. I know just the smallest thing can make me smile, and I'd like to do the same for you. Maybe I won't leave a note, but the sentiment is there just the same :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Death of a Salesman

In less than 4 weeks, the sale of the century will be over. Both salesmen with the best inventory are promising low, low discount prices for the highest quality. They dance and sing, put out commercial after commercial, to lure the American people into buying into the fabulous deals they are offering. And we do like those deals...and fads, and getting caught up in the frenzy; just look at the original Cabbage Patch Kids and Beanie Babies. Then the sale goes on for too long, and the ads become as annoying as "Bob's Discount Furniture" or "Head-On." We're ashamed of falling for the tawdriness of it all but keep defending our purchase because it seemed good at the time.

OK, what??

Let me explain. If you look at it, really look at it, you can see how the two presidential candidates are basically pimping themselves out for a few votes and to earn the crown as King of the World. They preen themselves, have a few cleverly written lines and catch phrases, talk about what they can offer, and what their competitor cannot, and once they're done with their sales pitch, keep nudging people to buy in. And we've bought into it...basically because there is no one else selling right now.

Back in college, I took a statistics course for marketing. Why, I couldn't tell you because I was a psych major and already fulfilled that requirement. Anyway, I ended up doing an independent honors project on top of the course that examined political marketing/campaigning and what is done, what works and what doesn't - statistically. It was during the 2000 Bush/Gore presidential election year. Basically, it showed that established incumbent candidates relied on talking about experience, while challenger relied on negative ads against the incumbent because they had no experience to speak of. Unfortunately, in this day and age - even during the 2000 election - negative ads come at us from all sides.

Now, I previously addressed my overall feelings of this year's election season. So now, debate #2 is over and there's only more to go. We have a relative new-comer in Obama and an experienced Senator in McCain; then we have an experienced VP-nominee in Biden, and an inexperienced VP-nominee in Palin. So, the negativity is flying around like poop on a spin-art machine. Yeah - it's gross. Yeah - it's unappealing. Yeah - it makes me want to run the other way.

The thing that I think is amusing is that people are so fiercely protecting their candidate of choice, mostly because people don't want to venture from their own political parties. If you're a Democrat, more likely than not, you'll vote for Obama. He's attractive, speaks well, has catchy ads, is marketing himself in all the cool places like the Internet, and most importantly, is not Bush. A good salesman all around. An overwhelming number of Americans are buying into him like the second coming of Jesus Christ Himself. Do you support everything he's proposing? Do you even know what he's proposing? If you're a Republican, it's McCain for you. He's experienced, he's a war hero, he's a soft speaker but takes action, he's like the Cloris Leachman of the national dance floor. What about his policies, his voting record, and his proposals? Get the facts: Candidate Comparison; Senate Voting Records.

In our troubled times, we really need to do a little comparative shopping, and select the things that we truly need and will improve our lives, not fluff that will in time collect dust and be thrown out. Buy wisely, shoppers! The sale will be ending soon!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vegas, Baby...Yeah!

As you read yesterday, I just returned from my first venture to Las Vegas: Sin City, the Entertainment Capital, City of Lights, Glitter Gulch, the ADD Capital of the World. What were my impression, you may ask? Well...first, I think a long weekend was more than enough for me. I'm not a gambler, I'm more of a rocker than a clubber, I could care less about the Donny and Marie show or tigers. But I do think it's one of those places you have to experience at least once in your life.

Years ago, I wrote the poem Desert Floor, which I posted on here a while back. It was written based on the stereotype I held about the city, before seeing its "charms" first hand. Re-reading the poem now, it pretty much sums up the place. The city itself is so artificial. First, yeah, it's on the desert floor, surrounded by gorgeous mountains. It's become an oasis of sorts, but I don't think necessarily the good kind. Themed hotels that are supposed to look like other places like Venice, Paris or New York are kind of cool in their kitsch, but it's still kitsch. Even beautiful places like the Mandalay Bay, where we stayed, are lovely, but there's something really weird and kind of wrong to see a mother pushing a baby carriage through the rows of slot machine and smoky air, or an obviously-destitute person shoving dollars into a machine that could probably be better spent on food or rent. Then there are those who look like they came straight from the plastic surgeons, tanning salons or steroid-suppliers.

It's not all bad. Again - the desert was beautiful. I drove out to Red Rock Canyon with two of my oldest friends to watch the sunrise, which in itself was beautiful, but what was most astounding was that, for a brief moment, there was pure silence. Coming from noisy Northern New Jersey with the aural congestion of planes, trains, and especially automobiles, to hear nothing - not even insects or birds - was wild. Back into Sin City, the awe continued in seeing celebrities (yes, it's true, Paris Hilton and friends were at LAX with us), visual stimulation around every corner and the freedom to do anything you wanted at anytime. I suppose, too, the company helped.

Would I go again? Maybe. Is it my scene? Definitely not. I found myself trying to have the "Vegas experience" which contradicted my everday life. But, I suppose, that's the point, and no one has to be the wiser.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Friends and Strangers

Just came back from a fabulous weekend in Sin City with some of my girlfriends. It was a big weekend for us. For me, it was my first official visit there (we'll go into that more another time); we were all celebrating birthdays; and it was just an excellent excuse to get together since all of us have hectic lives and don't see each other much.

The girls that went to Vegas have been a part of my little circle for such a long time. I've known one of the girls for 25 years, and another girl for 24. A third girl, I've known for 16 years, and a fourth girl - for at least 10 years, probably more. In fact, I've been friends with the majority of those in my circle for a minimum of 10 years. I love that because they are the most sincere, and for that, the most treasured. We've shared each other's highs and lows; there's comfort in knowing that these friends will always be there, and even if we have an argument, it will blow over in time and we can resume things better than before.

I have made more "recent" friends, but those friendships do not usually last. We try to maintain it, but then life gets in the way, and we lose touch. I suppose I'm less trusting, too, then I used to be, more insolated, and tend to keep people at arm's length. Is that right? Of course not, because I've come across some wonderful people and don't mean to appear like a cold person. When I feel like I might be perceived this way, I feel terrible and try to rectify it by forcing myself to be more open, more outgoing; but this is who I am. Many people don't understand it; others just don't like it. I say, too bad. My real friends understand me, and I feel comfortable enough to be myself, and there is nothing better than that. Thanks, guys!

I've been humming the "Friendship" song all day today. I could totally see us doing this:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Curse of the Counter

As a product of my times, I am one of those people who are on several social networking sites, like Facebook, Myspace, Imeem, Mixx, LinkedIn, and have my blog linked on sites like Technorati and Blogged. No doubt, that's only a fraction of the available sites compared to where and how others place themselves.

These sites are great when it comes to connecting with friends and reconnecting with others that you haven't talked to in a while, to stay current on what's going on in your little circle and the greater, wider world. Not even addressing the sites' addictive qualities, there is a side that is less productive - the side that turns the Web into a sort of popularity contest. For instance, I've seen people (people, mind you, not bands or organizations) that have several thousand friends on social networking sites. Really? Wow. You must be cool to have so many friends. The more friends means the more popular, the more awesome, the more worthy of attention, right? Right?

The land of blogging, to a degree, can be like that, too. Now, there are the sites that market products, concepts, whathaveyou, and rely on the number of people who visit the site to make it popular, to have a broader reach, to serve its purpose, maybe make a few bucks in the meantime. For the rest of us - sure, we're happy to have visitors to our site, but it's not critical. Maybe it is. I haven't decided. I mean, I think about the meager beginnings of Stuff White People Like. It became so popular that back in March, it was bought by Target as a promotional tool. As a white person myself, I found the site amusing (although having it go "corporate" lessened its street cred in my eyes), but not sure it was the smartest move for Target to narrow its demographic...and come to think of it, I'm not too sure how Target has rolled out its promotions via the blog. But I digress...

So, in the hopes of having a popular blog, too (and maybe being picked up by a corporate venture in the process), I originally had a counter on my blog to keep track of the number of visitors. I became obsessed with it, angry with it and the lack of people who were (or weren't) turning the numbers one by one. My site wasn't crowned prom queen; it wasn't even the AV-club queen. It was dreadful. I want people to visit my site and be engaged, but I don't want it to be a popularity contest. "I only had 2 visitors today." So, I have taken the first step in breaking the counter-curse by removing it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Back in the Saddle

My hiatus from blogging didn't last quite as long as I thought it would. I took the opportunity to step away from the blog, refocus, think about things in general, feel oxygen through my veins, and return to being human again. And it was wonderful.

Yes, I'm back...but don't expect the same blog. If you've been here before, you'll immediately notice a new look about the place. But appearances get you nowhere without substance. I will be changing it up and writing about something different every day. Why? Because it's my blog. Seriously, though, I cannot limit myself by topic. Perhaps the most successful blogs hone in on one theme and peripheral topics, but I've learned that's not my cup of tea. Ironically, trying to keep a blog about poetry - a topic that interests me tremendously - took the life and joy out of it for me. Then to make matters worse, I was constantly comparing myself against other bloggers and writers. To a degree, that's healthy; to obsess over it is not. Not to say I'll never write about poetry again - just that it won't be the focal point.

So, here I am. Thank you to those of you who have come back to visit. You are the reason I've returned. To those of you who have stumbled onto my page - welcome. We're going to have some fun. Get ready!