Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Magic

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I remember being a wide-eyed child, mystified by the magic of the Christmas season and losing myself in the overwhelming sensory experiences.  The glowing TV brought animated holiday specials into my living room where I sat with the sugary remnants of cookies still clinging to my teeth and the smell of fresh pine from a brightly-lit tree hanging in the air.  The anticipation, seeing that empty spot beneath the tree and wondering what colorful packages Santa Claus would leave behind, would leave butterflies in my stomach as I lay awake in the darkness of my room, peering out the window hoping to catch the telltale glow of Rudolph's nose in the cold winter sky.

As I slowly grew older, the magic began to wear off.  Driving out in the snow to pick out the perfect Christmas tree was no longer met with the excited passion that it once was, nor was decorating it.  No longer did I rely on the innocent dreams of Santa Claus to get me through those long nights before Christmas morning; rather, I would hope to get everything on the list I drew up for my mom.  I eventually stopped watching for Rudolph, and I no longer had the Pavlovian response to the sound of bells that I used to when I was convinced it was the sound of Santa's sleigh.

In my most recent years, Christmas has meant very little beyond driving back to my hometown and eating dinner with my family.  It went from magic and innocence to forced obligations and consumer guilt.  It was a gradual decline nearly 26 years in the making.  This year, however, is different.

The Practice Christmas

This year is my practice Christmas.  It's our first holiday season together in our new home, our last Christmas together before our baby arrives.  Compelled by this overwhelming urge to create a traditional base on which to build our celebrations for years to come, this Grinch heart grew three sizes and decided to celebrate Christmas again.

Our tree reaches the ceiling, decorated in bright lights of multiple shapes, sizes and colors and glittering, shining bulbs; the Nativity scene I remember from my childhood has a place of honor in my living room surrounded by pine garland and poinsettias.  Four stockings hang from the chimney, two red and two green, beneath a bough of pine, candles and a candy jar full of red and green M&Ms.  The kitchen and the bathrooms all have holiday-themed hand soaps, and random Christmas trinkets decorate the first level of our house.

Wanting desperately to draw on my own cultural background for traditions, I contemplated baking Polish favorites, but marathon baking isn't one of the traditions I'm quite ready for yet.  Gingerbread was on the docket, but I had to take into consideration the traditions of the rest of my family:  I can't bring cookies to our Christmas Eve celebration because I've tried that before and no one eats them, as they're all used to my grandmother's sweets spread and any deviation from the norm is sacrilege, and on Christmas day, the palate of my almost-five-year-old twin cousins is more suited to the Rice Krispies treats* and cake balls I decided to make.

This year, Americans will spend an average of $741.00 on gifts.  On Black Friday alone, the 212 million eager consumers that flooded retail establishments looking for bargains spent an average of $365.34 to a total estimated tune of $45 billion... in one day.  This is one tradition we shirked this year, and I hope we can continue to limit ourselves in the future so the true meaning of Christmas isn't lost in the bowels of the economy as it so often is.

We'll see how well I can keep that promise when my little girl starts staying awake at night to watch the sky for Rudolph like another little girl I used to know.

*I made traditional marshmallow squares, and a nice seasonal minty chocolate variation, as well!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another Frivolous McDonald's Lawsuit

Personal Responsibility:  Sue Whoever You Want, You Still Won't Get It

In 1992, Stella Liebeck burned herself on McDonald's coffee.  The 79-year-old from New Mexico had the coffee sitting between her thighs when she removed the lid to add cream and sugar.  When she removed the lid, she spilled the coffee on her lap and received extensive scalding burns.  She sued McDonald's because their coffee was "too hot."

In August of 2002, the Pelman family of New York sued McDonald's for not disclosing their nutritional information plainly and clearly and causing their daughters to become obese.  Jazlyn Bradley, a 19-yr-old involved in the lawsuit, said that her regular diet included an Egg McMuffin in the mornings and a Big Mac meal at dinner.  Ashley Pelman had a taste for Happy Meals, and ate them three to four times a week.  Despite the obvious detriment to anyone's health that burgers and deep-fried potatoes cause, Bradley's father claimed "I always believed McDonald's was healthy for my children."

In 2003, Judge Robert Sweet in New York threw out a case brought by Ceasar Barber which also blamed McDonald's (as well as Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy's) for his poor health.  He claimed that because of their food, he, as well as others involved in this class-action suit, suffered from high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

These three examples of lawsuits brought against McDonald's and similar corporations showcase the scapegoating that overly litigious Americans with no sense of responsibility turn to when they have no one to blame but themselves.

You Can't Be Trusted

Fast-forward to 2010 when, surprise surprise, San Francisco essentially bans Happy Meals from being sold in the city.  Requiring meals that include toys to meet specific nutritional criteria, specifically having less than 600 calories (35% or less of which from fat) and less than 640 milligrams of sodium, half a cup of fruit or three-quarters cup of vegetables, puts McDonald's and other fast-food locations in quite a bind.

On the surface, it's a nice noble gesture to protect children from obesity and marketing.  But when you dig deeper, it's actually a government regulation to protect children from what San Francisco believes must be horribly inept parents.  It's actually quite offensive when you stop to think about it.  What they think they're saying is:  We don't trust corporations to the do the right thing.  What they're really saying is:  We don't trust you to make the right choice.  The illusion of freedom isn't very comforting.*

Frivolity, Thy Name is Lawsuit

And that brings us to that other titular frivolous lawsuit.  Apparently, McDonald's is such a powerful force in the life of Monet Parham of Sacramento, California, and her two children that she essentially needs a restraining order because she just can't function as long as McD's is in her life.  (As tempted as I am to draw a correlation between the fact that she works for the bankrupt state of California and is probably looking at a lay-off and the timing of her lawsuit, I won't...)

"We have to say no to our kids so many times and McDonald's makes that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald's is getting into my kids' heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat."  The lawsuit continues by suggesting that McDonald's is engaging in sleazy, illegal marketing techniques and that they have a responsibility to essentially parent your children.  They compare McDonald's to tobacco companies, the latter of which can't market to children.

Let's take this one step at a time:

Saying No.  Saying no is part of being a parent.  If McDonald's of all things is making that hard for you, your issue is much larger than a toy being sold together with a cheeseburger.

Marketing Without Permission.  Most people who are presented with McDonald's marketing experience it in their own homes on television.  When you plop your kid in front of a TV set, you give McDonald's, as well as a slew of other companies, permission to advertise to your child.  It is your responsibility to monitor what they come into contact with, not the advertiser.

Sleazy, Illegal Marketing Techniques.  They equate what McDonald's is doing what tobacco companies are not allowed to do.  Fast food isn't illegal; smoking under the age of 18 is.  I shouldn't even need to clarify how completely different these two things are and how one clearly isn't illegal.  Oh, unless you live in San Francisco, of course.

Corporations Parenting Your Children.  It's not their job.  That's your job.  If you don't want your child eating a Happy Meal, you don't drive them through McDonald's.  It's that simple.

It's Common Sense, People

You don't put a flimsy paper cup full of scalding hot coffee between your thighs and expect it to be stable. You don't eat cheeseburgers and deep-fried potatoes every day and assume you're going to be healthy.  You don't feed your kids food you don't want them to eat.

When will people stop blaming everyone else for their own shortcomings?  Do we all really need to be paid indecent sums of money for being incompetent at taking care of ourselves?

*Thankfully, and surprisingly (though maybe not surprisingly; California has a record of ignoring votes), Mayor Gavin Newsome vetoed the bill in November.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sarah Palin's Caribou-boo?

Sarah Palin's Alaska

As if former Governor of Alaska and failed vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's life wasn't already like a reality show unfolding before us in the news, she now adds to her repertoire of media showmanship an eight-episode travelogue on TLC that documents what is presented to us as typical Alaskan life.

"Sarah Palin's Alaska" set a network record when it debuted to an audience of five million.  The second episode wasn't so lucky, seeing a whopping forty percent of viewers turn away.  Not only does the show have to compete with Sunday Night Football, but it also competes with the general anti-Palin atmosphere that hangs over a large portion of the American audience.  With their curiosity sated, people just stopped watching, except those in the "over 57" age bracket, who now make up most of the 3 million people who still watch the show.

Admittedly, the show is boring.  There is no real discernible plot, nothing that carries one episode to the next, and the gaping holes left where there should be charm, character and warmth are instead stuffed with dramatically dragged-out family interactions and what look like stock aerial shots of Alaska's unique landscape.  Throw in a political quip here and there, a moment or two of real human emotion and Sarah's constantly impeccable "prom hair" (as Sarah's daughter, Bristol, puts it in one episode) and the show is pretty much what you expect it to be.


The largest animal rights organization in the world with over two million members, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a media machine in its own right.  Boasting a sizable repertoire of celebrity supporters and a nearly $35 million dollar budget, they manage to reach hundreds of thousands if not millions of people a year with various campaigns, advertising and through their members' personal outreach.

Ingrid Newkirk, founder and president of PETA, combines mainstream guilt with radical activism nearly seamlessly, preaching that "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment" and aligning with radical terrorist groups like the Animal Liberation Front while simultaneously marketing her ideas to children with wide-eyed cartoons and internet games.

The Clash

Because of Sarah Palin's penchant for putting animals in her sights, PETA has put Palin in theirs.  Referring to her in 2008 as the "moose-hunting, fur-wearing, pro-aerial-wolf-gunning governor of Alaska," PETA pretty much marked her as the enemy and while never really attacking her politics, she has been fair game for ridicule ever since.

Take, for instance, the most recent episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska."  Sarah and her father travel to the arctic circle to hunt caribou, a large game animal used as a food source for many Alaskans.  Despite several fumbling attempts behind the trigger and a few errant bullets, Sarah manages to proudly bag one.

This same scene happens nearly 22,000 times a year in Alaska when families who have limited access to grocery stores, and therefore limited opportunity to partake in the $142 billion-a-year meat market, make the perilous trek to the frigid northernmost reaches of the state to put true free-range, organic food on the table.  You'd think an organization committed to ending the cruel practices involved in factory farming would be able to appreciate, at the very least, that the animals hunted for food aren't treated cruelly at all in their lives until that final day.

However, PETA's Vice President Dan Mathews released this statement yesterday:

"Sarah seems to think that resorting to violence and blood and guts may lure people into watching her boring show, but the ratings remain as dead as the poor animals she shoots."

You could easily rephrase this to read:

"PETA seems to think that resorting to nudity and celebrity endorsement may lure people into joining their ranks, but their membership still consists of less people than those who watch Sarah Palin's Alaska."

Marketing to the carnal side of humanity, whether sexual or violent, isn't new and to attack another for utilizing a similar technique is a textbook example of hypocrisy.

Frankly, PETA is out of touch with the reality that exists between New York City and San Francisco, in spirit if not in geography.  People have hunted to sustain themselves since time immemorial, and while many of us now have access to chewy blocks of tofu at our local Whole Foods Market (many of whom still don't eat it), this just isn't an option for others.  At trying to deny reality and keep its followers in a shadow of idealistic ignorance, PETA excels.

Sarah Palin, of course, has her own faults that could (and have and continue to) fill entire blogs if one was so inclined.  However, in this respect I have to commend her for giving people a glimpse of a life in a harsh land that they might not otherwise see, regardless of what it entails.     

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Facebook Phenomenon

Raising Awareness - A Half-Assed Approach to Curing the World's Ills

White.  Not that it's any of your business.
Yellow... but it wasn't when I bought it!
Black and lacy.  Rawr!
Non-existent.  Woooooot!

Thanks to Facebook and the tireless efforts of women across America typing fiercely on their keyboards to update their status with the color of their bra, breast cancer has been eradicated.  Okay, maybe not, but at least the Susan G. Komen Foundation and other breast cancer-related charities took in record numbers of donations.  Well, that's not entirely accurate.  Let's just say all those status updates, all those little black letters sent into cyberspace, at least raised awareness... of bras.

It's what I call the Facebook Phenomenon:  The ability of a social networking site to make otherwise apathetic people feel like they care about a cause and are doing something to help.  Every one of those little status updates makes one a member of A Movement, however brief and inefficient said movement is, and satisfies the ego temporarily.  "Raising awareness" is the typical phrase used to justify the lemming behavior of the Facebook activist.

Raising awareness can be an important first step toward advocacy of any kind, as you can't work to fix a problem you're unaware of.  However, "raising awareness" is only effective when it actually educates people and gives them a reason to care about the cause.  This never actually occurs in Facebook memes.

"Red polka dots zomg!!!!111!!!!!1!!" versus "Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in women.  The older you are, the higher your risk.  Be sure to schedule a mammogram!"  Guess which one the copy/paste messages sent to women encouraged them to post?

The breast cancer thing is gone and done with, left as quickly as it arrived.  It was fun for a little while.  It made a brief comeback when women were encouraged to post where they like to put their purse (which raised awareness of sexual innuendos and how perverted our friends can be, yet again missing the entire "breast cancer awareness" mark).  But where one fad takes leave, another must take it's place.  Let's now say hello to cartoon characters.  I mean, child abuse.

Another Facebook Failure

The basic status reads something like this:  "Help join the fight against child abuse!  Change your profile picture to your favorite cartoon from your childhood!  Copy and paste this status.  The goal is not to see a single human face through December 6."

Let's ignore the fact that Child Abuse Awareness month is April and that cartoons from my generation were primarily violent, which of course would be counter-productive.

Let's focus instead on how much time people spent Googling images of cartoon characters instead of Googling local child abuse advocacy groups; let's focus on how many conversations revolved around the merits of Ren & Stimpy and how cartoons have changed since we were young instead of how many conversations revolved around signs of abuse and who to call if you suspect someone you know is being abused.  Let's focus on the omission of facts and statistics, but the addition of several YouTube videos of cartoons from the 80s.

Today, Child Abuse.  Tomorrow... Who Knows?

The five-minute humanitarian on Facebook knows deep down that their efforts are accomplishing absolutely nothing.  Some of them are even embarrassed, changing their pictures so they're not left out but quickly justifying it with lame excuses when rational people question the merits of Facebook fads and their ability to actually make a difference.

Some of them are even more annoying, as this anonymous poster can illustrate quite well:  I think that it helps raise awareness to the cause and that people can make a difference. I have contributed, I have worked with children in an emergency abuse and neglect shelter, and I am now a CPS worker (how many people will hate me solely because of that?), and I still proudly put that as my status to raise awareness and inform others-the sense of nostalgia had not really crossed my mind.  In this case, this handy little fad gave this person a soap box upon which to stand and raise awareness of... well, herself.  I'd love to go on about the blatant ego stroking ("I expect to be hated for all my tireless efforts"; "Oh, I didn't even realize this hinted at nostalgia... ... ...") but that's a whole different blog.

So, the question is:  How many times can we replace the phrases "breast cancer" and "child abuse" with other issues before people realize that it really doesn't matter, and that they'll return to blissful ignorance once again when the Facebook updates run their courses?  How many people will be gung-ho about the temporarily-hot button issue for a week before returning to posting YouTube music videos and pictures of their pets?

If you didn't care before, posting a picture of Fred Flintstone or Jem isn't going to suddenly make you care now.  But of course, you care about everything, right?  Just need that little reminder once in a while to make sure everyone knows.  The Facebook Phenomenon will be there for you with the next fad, ready to pat you on the back and say, "You done good, kid."  I wonder what it will be.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Life is Good

It's easy to flounder in the sea of fear conjured up by the media and their uncanny ability to take every positive blessing we receive in this world and complain about it enough to make it feel like a curse.  It's easy to forget that life actually is pretty good when you filter out all the muck and truly take a look, with fresh eyes, at everything we are given.

Thanksgiving is one of the few reminders we get to just stop and enjoy life.  To some people, it means a delicious meal spent in the company of family with football on the television, and that's good enough.  To others, it is a calling to put aside our complaint calculators and start counting our blessings instead of trying to find fault with them.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to put aside my own complaints and take a moment to be thankful for everything I've been given.  I hope that any of my readers can make their own list even longer than mine and look to it when they feel hope beginning to slip.

I am thankful for...

...answered prayers.  God is good.  For a long time, I have denied His very existence but when I sought forgiveness, it was given to me.  When I seek comfort and peace, it is given to me.  I don't ask for much, but God makes his presence known in my life when I need Him most, in both small and large ways. daughter-to-be, one of the largest blessings I will ever receive.  She came as a welcome surprise amid worries and tears of ever having a family.  Every little kick brings a smile to my face, and every milestone, tears to my eyes.  Waiting to hold her in my arms instead of my womb is already teaching me the patience I know I'll need to parent her effectively. fiance, who provides me with a life I would be incapable of providing for myself.  Words are inadequate to describe everything he has done for me and continues to do for me, but I am grateful for all his selfless sacrifices.  His work ethic and dedication are to be admired, and he gives me hope in this world's ability to still produce good men. family, especially my mother and father who have always been a firm rock beneath my feet that keeps my head above water in the most turbulent of rivers.  Ever giving, ever loving, and ever patient, they are the perfect example upon which I hope to model myself for my own daughter. dog, who sometimes tests my patience but loves me unconditionally and is a valued member of our family.  He's loyal and cuddly, and his very presence makes me feel safe.
...our home, a place to call our own with four walls and a roof to protect and comfort us.
...clean, safe water delivered to my home on demand.  I can drink, cook, clean and bathe with confidence with the simple act of turning a knob. stores that provide me with a variety of nutritional resources that would normally be unavailable in this region, especially to someone who doesn't find laboring in fields to be appealing.
...access to the internet, a place where I can exercise my freedom of speech and share my ideas with people of all backgrounds and persuasions.

...and so much more.  But it's getting late, and I need to sleep so I can cook our first real Thanksgiving for Two (the only one I'll be cooking "for two") and start our own family traditions tomorrow.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Amazon Loses Another Customer

The Pedophile's Guide to Love & Pleasure: A Child Lover's Code of Conduct

"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certain rules for those adults to follow" writes author Phillip R. Greaves Jr. of his controversial e-book whose title reads more like a horror novel than anything concerned with the safety of juveniles. "I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps lighter sentences should they ever be caught."

And should they ever.

One would hope that this self-published guide to raping children with the hopes that it will become acceptable behavior would be universally shunned not only by people, but by corporate entities as well.  It is no surprise, then, that public backlash to the availability of this questionable work by the massively popular online retailer,, had grown into a lurking behemoth so quickly that Amazon had to pull it from the e-shelves much to their own chagrin.  What is a surprise is that it was there in the first place, defended by a corporation with obviously no sense of social responsibility.

Amazon's Excuses

This is the official, yet trite, statement released by Amazon supporting its right to capitalize off of products promoting gross sexual misconduct and criminal activities:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts; however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

The first sentence doesn't actually say anything other than they believe in the basic meaning of censorship, but it hints at their objection to it.  It seems that it is more appropriate to sell a book training pedophiles than it is for Amazon to actually enforce their policy against offensive materials, the mere existence of which is laughable if pedophilia can slip through the filter. 

Contrary to their next claim, they absolutely do support criminal acts by giving authors of books like this a platform by which to spread their filth to the masses.  Amazon operates under the guise of "individual rights," but not offering a particular title for purchase doesn't stop an individual from buying it; it just keeps that person from buying it from Amazon.  The idea of losing a dollar is more offensive than supporting pedophiles and books on how to commit that atrocious crime.

I guess it's not such a surprise after all.

The Customers Are Always Right

Despite Amazon's lame attempt at being a beacon of free speech and anti-censorship, the customers have spoken.  They have taken to Twitter and Facebook to express their disgust, call for a boycott and reaffirm that decent, responsible people still have some say over what is appropriate in their communities and in our society at large.  It should never be as easy for pedophiles to share this kind of dangerous information as Amazon has made it; thank God the customer is always right and "The Pedophile's Guide" is no longer available.

I'm not sure if I'll ever be comfortable shopping at Amazon again either way, because I certainly don't support what they obviously stand for.  This isn't the first time they've come under fire:  In 2009, they had to be forced to stop carrying "RapeLay," a first-person video game that centered around stalking and raping a mother and her daughters.  The fact that Amazon carries these kind of articles and only removes them when someone has to tell them it's inappropriate is enough for me to find a better retailer with which to exercise my individual right as a consumer.  Since they love that right so much, I'm sure they won't blame me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Johannes Mehserle: Not the Devil

There's something about the power of a random bystander's camera or video phone:  The power to mislead and influence people into believing that they're seeing the entire truth of any situation.  People tend to forget the stories before and after the few-minutes clip they see on their nightly news or are linked to via YouTube because "seeing is believing," even if the only thing being seen is one tiny fragment of a larger picture.  If you live by this philosophy, you might not realize why the Mona Lisa, for example, is such an important work of art, because chances are great you're focused on one brush stroke in the background.

This isn't a new phenomenon brought about by the instant connectivity provided by the internet and YouTube, but rather something we've been seeing for quite awhile.  Look back to that March night in 1991 in Sacramento, California.  An inebriated man is leading a high-speed chase, a chase he admits in his own words occurred because a DUI would be disastrous to his parole (which translates to the selfish lawless that you can drive drunk, you just can't get caught), on a freeway and then through a residential area.  When finally he stops the car, his passengers get out and are arrested without incident, but the driver taunts the police, fights them, resists arrest.  None of this is seen on the video George Holliday taped from his apartment of Rodney King on that night; what does appear on that video is a gang of white cops beating a black man.

An incident that would have gone unnoticed instead went down in the annals of time as the quintessential race-motivated beating of an innocent man because people were presented with sensationalist reporting feeding on their very fear and paranoia driven by one random bystander's video.  The now infamous Los Angeles Riots of 1992 were the result, where 53 people lost their lives, over 2,000 were injured and nearly countless damages occurred.  Riots wherein truly innocent people were made to suffer.

I can't help but feel that the country is being made to walk through the fire again with Oscar Grant's unfortunate death in 2009.  With the recent trial of Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle, we see the riots beginning to swell already.  Organizers start with good, peaceful intentions to exercise their right to convene civilly in protest of something they feel is wrong only to degrade themselves once more into an animalistic frenzy of violence and destruction.

One need only do a rudimentary search on YouTube to find a collection of videos and set oneself up to make his own judgment, videos that fail to mention that Oscar Grant was detained because he was positively identified by the train operator as one who was involved in starting fights that prompted the officers to be called in the first place, or that he had physically resisted arrest by trying to scramble back into a train car to be whisked away and avoid any punishment for the physical altercation.  What we see, instead, is essentially a remake of an old classic:  White cops brutalizing an innocent black man.

I don't buy that Mehserle, a trained officer who graduated from the academy in the top five of his class, mistook a heavy 40-caliber Sig Sauer for a taser, but I do buy his parallel line of defense:

"...Officer Mehserle... attempted to restrain Mr. Grant and to seek his compliance by ordering him to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed, but Mr. Grant resisted and refused to submit to handcuffing. Officer Mehserle was pulling at Mr. Grant’s right hand and arm, which remained under his torso near his waistband. Mr. Grant had not been searched by any officer for weapons, either prior to his initial detention or after being seated near the wall...

"...(Officer) Pirone said he heard Mehserle say, "Put your hands behind your back, stop resisting, stop resisting, put your hands behind your back." Then Mehserle said, "I'm going to taze him, I'm going to taze him. I can't get his arms. He won't give me his arms. His hands are going for his waistband." Then Mehserle popped up and said, "Tony, Tony, get away, back up, back up." Pirone did not know if Grant was armed. Mehserle had fear in his voice. Pirone had never heard Mehserle's voice with that tone. Mehserle sounded afraid."

Johannes Mehserle, having already responded to several calls involving illegal weapons that early New Year's morning, had believed Grant to be armed.  Contrary to the popular, and erroneous, belief that Oscar Grant had been handcuffed and so couldn't have been reaching for any weapon, real or otherwise, he was not restrained by handcuffs.  He had been resisting arrest, and the officers were clearly unable to place handcuffs upon him.

It is unfortunate that Oscar Grant had decided to resist arrest that night on the BART platform, and it's unfortunate that an officer already shaken up from a hectic night of duty made a decidedly poor decision in his attempts to subdue a criminal.  It is unfortunate that people claim it was racially motivated (prompted by one officer's, not Mehserle, use of the word "nigger" in a parroting fashion after being called a "bitch-ass nigger" by Oscar Grant himself), and it's unfortunate that the rioting has already begun.

However, I don't vilify Officer Mehserle, and I feel that his sentence of two years plus time served is more than reasonable for his actions in the line of duty.  I can't join the raucous cacophony of angry YouTube viewers chanting the played-out "F*ck the police" line, and I refuse to accept criminals becoming the faces of innocence in the name of racially motivated politics.  

I don't put any stock in "seeing is believing" when seeing is only half of understanding. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The (Birth) Teacher's Pets

That's Right.  Birth Classes.

The Man and I are enrolled in Bradley Method birth classes at a local medical center.  For those who don't know, the Bradley method focuses heavily on natural pain relief to empower women to give birth without medication and have a fully conscious, healthful birthing experience.  I'm terrified of medication so it seemed like a good idea to me.

However, I still don't entirely get the concept of birth classes.  It seems like someone who can read just as well as I can reads a book and then relays that information to us.  We pay $160 for twelve weeks of siphoning information through a middle mom with the added benefits of watching videos produced in the 1960s showing real women in unmedicated childbirth situations.  So far, everything that we've learned, from kegels and pelvic tilts to proper prenatal nutrition, could be covered with a careful Google search. (If you're gonna Google birth videos, please do so with your safe search on or you might end up with Two Girls One Fetus or something equally horrifying.)

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy going.  The short, friendly woman who leads the class is as helpful as they come and it's interesting to see other moms-to-be and share in their experiences.  But I'm looking forward to more information on labor and delivery.  You know, the scary parts that classes still can't really prepare you for.  It's the same as watching those television programs with the guys who eat crazy food:  They can tell you how bad a durion tastes and smells, but you'll never really know until you've tried it.

I'm not writing this blog to talk about Bradley or birth classes, but rather the people with whom I have to share my Thursday nights: The (Birth) Teacher's Pets.  They know everything and they aren't afraid to tell you.

Lukewarm Hipster Status

We'll just call them Rachel and Mark.  Rachel really is her name, which doesn't matter because there are a million Rachels out there and I can guarantee that you don't know her.  Mark probably isn't his name, though it sounds right.  I generally just refer to him as Fauxhawk.  I'll let you figure out why.

She is a "crunchy-overtanned-brown-leather-handbag skin in a Midwest November" level of annoying to look at; he's an "Olde Englishe Scripte Tattooe down the forearm poking out of my ironic indy band T-shirt" level of annoying.  Together, they're a pretty good combination of people who's general appearance makes me groan at the though of having to talk to them.  And once again, my judgments were confirmed.

How Not to Act in Public

During our first class, we had to share some basic information about ourselves.  Hi, my name is ______ and my due date is _______ and we'll be giving birth at ________ with Dr. _______.  While everyone else seemed to do this without problems and without getting self-righteous, the hipsters had to take it a step further.

"Hi, my name is Mark.  We don't have a doctor; we're using a midwife.  And we're not giving birth at a hospital, we're going to do it at home" in the most condescending way possible.  "Yeah," Rachel chimes in.  "We don't have a due date, because we don't believe in due dates.  But I guess when people ask, we need to have an answer so we just generally say the end of February."

All of us idiots who, for some odd reason, would choose to not give birth in a tub in our living room kind of shifted in our seats as if to say, "Oh boy, here it goes." And it pretty much set the stage for the rest of the Thursday evenings we'd be spending together:  Condescending rhetoric and so much self-love that it's almost dripping from the ceilings.

Birth Teacher (BT):  "We'll be watching some videos during the course of..."
Mark:  "Will we be watching 'The Business of Being Born'?  I think it's a very enlightening movie."
BT:  "Um, no.  We won't really have time for that."
Mark:  "Oh.  Because I think it's an invaluable resource that everyone should see.  I mean, you really should watch it.  I'd be more than happy to bring it in."
BT:  "Well, we're really trying to focus on short videos showing women in unmedicated birthing situations."

Mark (While watching a video):  "Um, shouldn't those women be standing in a squat instead of pulling their legs up like that?"

Rachel:  ::laughs::  "Um, expressed breast milk is not the same as breastfeeding.  It's the inferior option.  Dad can bond in so many other ways that doesn't involve feeding the baby, like, y'know, skin-to-skin contact.  I tell all my patients to wait for three or four weeks before even attempting to give a pacifier."

This is obviously not what the rest of us came for:  To ask questions to an instructor only to be met with laughter and condescension from someone who, despite knowing everything, is still attending birth classes; to be a potential audience to propaganda films by Ricki Lake of all people, decrying the horrors of modern medicine; to be basically told that our choices are "inferior" because despite us all having the same opportunity to educate ourselves, we reached different conclusions.  How dare us.

And then on the day that JM and I signed up to bring in a snack for the class, which was healthy enough to include a vegetable, a whole grain and a jug of orange juice, they brought in bags of Hostess cupcakes, Ho-Hos and mini-muffins.  Because they're smart enough to push out their offspring in their filthy bath tub without some ignorant doctor, but not smart enough to not try to load up a bunch of pregnant women with refined flour and corn syrup.

All I can do is sigh and wait to see what unfortunate entertainment I'm subjected to next week.

Kater Tot's Grand Opening!

It's About Time

I'm at that stage in my life that is so conducive to blogging:  That "stay-at-home mom-to-be with opinions so damn important that they must be shared with the world" stage, that "I don't get out of my house enough to socialize, but dammit I read the news" stage.  That self-important stage that you hit when you realize you really haven't done much with your life, but you're somehow more than qualified to share your opinion on the wide world of the internet.

If the internet wasn't created with people like me in mind, then I have no idea what it was created for.*

Weekly Specials

I wanted to say "Daily Specials," but my ability to commit to anything beyond my daughter-to-be, my fiancee and my dog is questionable, so I'm going with something more realistic:  Weekly updates.  That way, it will feel like a tremendous gift when you get more than one every seven days.  This is also my optimistic way of motivating myself to actually keep writing in this blog and not to just write two posts and forget about it.

Things I like to write about might not be things you like to read about.  I'll share way too much information about my pregnancy and all the interesting body changes that have occurred and will continue to occur; I'll probably piss you off once or twice with my politically incorrect views on the hot-button issues of our times; I'll discuss in grand detail my dog's farts.

In short, I'm not interested in serving the same meatloaf-and-mashed-potatoes plate that I normally have to dish out just to keep a friend or two.  I serve Kater Tots.  If you don't like Kater Tots, I'm sure the Huffington Post would be more than happy to pander to your sensitive viewpoints all the while keeping you in the victim mentality.  Go ahead, check them out.

*Actually, I'm pretty sure Al Gore invented it to as a means to brainwash the masses into building their own cars out of bamboo that run on guilt and Duracells, but I can't verify that.  Check Snopes.