Monday, March 31, 2008

I have a good friend who used to work in loss prevention for a big electronics store. His job was to watch security monitors and catch shoplifters, and many times, he would spot pimply-faced teens padding themselves with CDs and video games and sketchy-looking older people helping themselves to mp3 players and digital cameras. People can be very bold when it comes to robbing from the rich corporations and giving to themselves.

That being said, I have spent too much precious time peeling stickers off DVDs and CDs, and I have cut my hands up trying to open unforgiving plastic packaging at home. I've had to use knives, scissors, and letter openers to battle merciless plastic.

Stores should figure out how to implement new theft devices (like ink or electronic tags that are put on clothing and taken off at the time of purchase). I would enjoy it if stores offered to remove packaging for you. I am not kidding. There should be little kiosks by exits where employees bravely take on the task of taking off packaging.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

(MC Lars is more punk than you)
Go! Books about Evanescence (Are not punk rock!)
Guns ‘n Roses watches (Are not punk rock!)
Hello Kitty iPod cases (Are not punk rock!)
Rob Zombie lunch boxes (Are not punk rock!)
Slipknot binder paper (Is not punk rock!)

T inkerbell pillow cases (Are not punk rock!)
Led Zeppelin air fresheners (Are not punk rock!)
Tupac incense burners (Are not punk rock!)
Hot Topic is not punk rock! (Hot Topic!)Hot Topic is not punk rock! (Hot Topic!)
Hot Topic is not punk rock! (Hot Topic!)Hot Topic is not punk rock! (Hot Topic!)
Misfits candle tins (Are not punk rock!)
ICP throw blankets (Are not punk rock!)
Beaded Elvis curtains (Are not punk rock!)
Talking Lambchop plush dolls (Are not punk rock!)AC/DC hair clips (Are not punk rock!)Spongebob wristbands (Are not punk rock!)
Sex Pistols boxer shorts (Are not punk rock!)
Dischord back catalog (Okay. Maybe that’s punk rock.)
Hot Topic is not punk rock! (Hot Topic!)Hot Topic is not punk rock! (Hot Topic!)Hot Topic is not punk rock! (Hot Topic!)Hot Topic is not punk rock! (Hot Topic!)
Hot Topic is a contrived identification with youth subcultures to manufacture an anti-authoritarian identity and make millions.
The $8 you paid for the Mudvayne poster would be better spent used to see your brother’s friend’s band.
DIY ethics are punk rock
Starting your own label is punk rock
G.G. Allin was punk rock.
But when a crass corporate vulture feeds on mass-consumer culture, this spending mommy’s money is not punk rock!
"Hopt Topic is not Punk Rock"--MC Lars

Poor little Emo kids. Rebelling against the upper middle class by wearing heavy eyeliner. Fighting the power with pale skin and black hair. Committing acts of subversion by scaring families at the mall. Taking down the man, one Chemical Romance song at a time.

I love the Emo culture. The angry cry of angst-ridden teenagers can be oh-so-poignant.

“I had a conversation with Barack Obama. I’m waiting to hear from Hillary Clinton.” --Hayden Panettiere (indestructible cheerleader)

As Americans, it is our civic duty to vote. The commander-in-chief is considered "the leader of the free world." In deciding who can best run this great nation, one has to consider many things, such as each candidate's position on the economy, taxes, the environment, health care, reproductive rights, the war in Iraq, foreign relations, government spending, education, welfare reform, and immigration (just to name a few pressing issues.) Being an informed voter is crucial.

So I'm going to flip through Us Weekly and find out whom Scarlett Johansson is voting for.


Barack Obama has been sweeping the Democratic primaries. He represents "change," and if elected, he would be the first black person to have "Hail to the Chief" announce his entrance. He is a force to be reckoned with, but I cannot help but wonder how many women over the age of 30 were led by the hand to Obama's camp by none other than Oprah Winfrey.

I question the place of celebrity in politics. There are some entertainers who have entered the political arena like wrestler Jesse Ventura, "Ahnold," and Ronald Reagan. However, it is different when stars decide to endorse a particular candidate. The smattering of celebrity endorsements only trivializes the political process. It is great when Sean Penn rolls up his sleeves and helps out in a Katrina-devastated New Orleans, but why does it matter if Sean Penn supports Dennis Kucinich?

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Brought to you by Ashton Kutcher, featuring Paris Hilton, and it's all on E!" sounds like something that would make my eyes bleed, but the premise of Pop Fiction ( actually sounds pretty clever. We'll see.

"Isn't it weird for you to do that?"

When I received this question, I was not playing the piano with my feet. I was not steering a car with my elbows. I was writing with my left hand.

I turned away from the dry erase board and faced my student. He was serious.

"No, it's not weird. I'm left-handed. I know...write with my left hand. No biggie."

Unconvinced, he went back to his work.

I decided to do a little research on my "condition." In 1987, the Washington Post wrote that lefties are losing their stigma and teachers are no longer forcing their left-handed students to use their right hands ( In 1988, I entered kindergarden, and my teacher promptly tried to force me to use my other hand.

While I understand that anything associated with the left (and I don't mean left-wing) is associated with being sinister and this goes back centuries, it's strange that there is still a stigma attached to being left-handed. 10% of the population is made up of south paws, and the myth that righties live longer than lefties is untrue. Lefties are not clumsy; they are just people trying to make it in a right-handed world. Also, lefties are traditionally better bloggers.

Ok, I made that last one up.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dear God:

Please let me never throw a "black and white party," where my guests faithfully show up in black and white attire, and I make a grand entrance in bright red.

It is almost as bad as purposely choosing ugly bridesmaid dresses for your wedding party so that you shine all the brighter. But it is not as bad as having a lavish sweet 16 where there are pictures of yourself displayed everywhere, you make a dramatic entrance, perform some sort of song and dance, and have a presentation of receiving the Mercedes your parents had to get you. Nothing tops that on the scale of absurdity.

Thank you.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

I respond to "Baby on Board" car decals. At least, I try harder not to hit a car that has one.

I scratch my head when I see family sticker decals, though. You've seen them--colorful depictions of people on white stickers. Sitting at a stoplight, you can find out that the person in front of you is married, has one daughter who plays tennis, another daughter who takes ballet lessons, a son who plays little league baseball, and a dog. I once saw a car that had stickers that covered the entire length of the back windshield. Are these stickers some sort of badge of honor? "I have a family! We are very active, and we like to show it on our vehicles!"

Also funny are the timely bumper stickers. "My child is an honor roll student at so-and-so elementary" is fine, but how about, "My child was student of the month at so-and-so elementary?" Recently, I saw a proud parent touting their student of the month as well as boasting, "My child had a perfect checkup at Dr. So-and-so!" You know that was just an attempt to stave off sibling rivalry. "Your brother is excelling in school, and you didn't have any cavities! Way to go!"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Maybe it's American yuppieness, maybe it's a caffeine addiction, but I like having a Starbucks on every corner. I am angered when a mall or airport terminal doesn't have one. People need their overpriced coffee fix (and oddly named cup sizes. "Is it French? Is it Italian?")

Something I find strange, though, is how frequently competing drug stores are across the street from each other. It's not like having two fast food places close to each other; their food may be similar, but there are differences. CVS and Walgreens, however, offer the exact same items for nearly identical prices. "Oh, I'll go to this one because they're selling 24-packs of Coke for $5. But that one has Tide on sale!" Often, the choice hinges upon which side of the street they're on and which one I'm driving down.

This kind of inane drugstore competition eats up prime real estate a perfectly good Starbucks should have.

Many people consider shopping a joy, but there are some things that take the fun out of retail therapy. Mall parking, for instance. Fights over limited parking spaces can cause bloodbaths.

Something that really makes shopping unenjoyable for me is having a maximum number of items I can take into a fitting room. It's tolerable if it's possible to hang the extra clothes on the outside of your door and switch them out with ones you've finished trying on. If you're not able to do this, trying on clothes becomes a competitive sport because you're forced to relinquish your items to a common rack.

You have to try on the first set of items, put all of your own clothing back on, leave your purse vulnerable on its little hook (to signify that the fitting room is taken) and rush over to your other possibilities. They are not safely cordoned off or looked after by fitting room attendants (they promised!) so it's likely you'll find other people rifling through your selection. Sometimes you got the last piece in your size or color you like, and your prized find is scooped up by another shopper.
Because of the danger of having your selection picked through, speed in trying things on is crucial, as is repeatedly poking your head out of your fitting room to check on the rifling situation. Because of this speed and distraction, assessment time is cut short. All you have to go on is, "Well, I guess this doesn't make me look like a cow or circus performer. I'll get it."

And all the while, insipid pop music streams through the store's speakers. Maybe it is time to learn how to sew.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Project Runway" makes me want to learn how to sew, and Tim Gunn inspires me to be a better person (ok, a more fashionable one.) Not everyone can be "fierce," as the flamboyant wunderkind on the show, Christian, is so fond of saying. However, I believe in a world where everyone, regardless of size, shape, or financial status, should be able to put together outfits that are not cringeworthy.

Some of my cardinal sins of fashion are:

  • visible bra straps Bras are supposed to be worn under clothing and should not be seen. Big-chested women are exempt from this rule.
  • cut-off shirt sleeves You work out. Good for you. Now wear some sleeves over the gun show.
  • Crocs Spending some time in your garden? Sounds peaceful. Walking around in these rubber abominations because "they're just so comfortable?" Just say no.
  • beach/club clothing at work/class Anything that is shiny or shows too much skin is probably wildly inappropriate, unless, of course, you are a Playboy Bunny or Hawaiian Tropic Girl.
  • stripper shoes There is a reason why clear, strappy shoes are only sold in shops that also offer sensual massage oils and flavored prophylactics.
  • "dresses" that began life as blouses and tunics There's a difference between short and, "Whoa, I feel dirty just looking at you."
  • head to toe black seperates Only exceptions--it's your work uniform, or you're Cat Woman.

Obviously offensive:

  • fanny packs
  • mom jeans

Just annoying:

  • loud jewelry like bangles and earrings, worn in quiet settings such as work, class, or the movies

It's nice to be able to treat yourself to a fancy dinner every once in awhile. You can get out of the house, dress up, get served by gracious waiters and waitresses, sit in interesting settings, peruse extensive wine lists, and enjoy fine dining. Even people who are fairly proficient in the kitchen can appreciate the quality ingredients, interesting food combinations, and artful presentations talented chefs work with. Going out to dinner can making eating an especially pleasurable experience. I enjoy sharing meals with good company, talking over a few bottles of wine.

Then there are the experiences that mimic the Citibank commercial where the couple dines in a five-star restaurant, only to pick up convenience store snacks on the way home because they're still hungry.

On Friday night, my dinner was more like the latter experience. It was a friend's birthday, and she wanted to go to a trendy Asian restaurant on Lincoln Road (which is a trendy area in trendy South Beach. Yeah...I know.) Knowing what this meant, my boyfriend made a sandwich, and I ate a bowl of oatmeal before heading out. We walked up to the eatery, and if the bouncer at the door was any indication, we were in for an unpleasant experience.

We walked in and were shrouded in darkness. Disturbingly loud techno music blared from the speakers. In the dim light, we spotted our friends and squeezed into the seating area. The birthday girl apologized; she didn't know we would be simultaneously eating and suffering permanent hearing loss.

We yelled our orders to our waitress. "Sorry, we don't have the Spider roll tonight." Ok. "We're out of edamame." But you're an Asian restaurant...moving right along. "The only beer we have is Budweiser." Then we knew that something was seriously wrong.

We found ourselves gesticulating wildly, as if we were in a Spanish soap opera. Our "table" was too small to hold all of our plates and glasses, and we knew that if we weren't careful, our corner would turn into a soy sauce slip-and-slide. The tuna tartar tower was more of a molehill than a mountain, and we had to reorder all of the dishes again because the portions were more suitable for Lilliputians than normal-sized people.

Why would the establishment that I have just described pretend to be a place for eating? Why is the word "grille" in its name? Most importantly, why does it have a fully stocked bar and yet only offer one kind of beer?!

Places like this should just store alcohol in their kitchen spaces, call themselves lounges, and call it a day. They should leave the food service to places that don't aim to be clubs.

Friday, February 22, 2008

On US-1 near the junction for I-95, there is a popular pizza place that sells slices as big as your head. The entire building is a not-so-subtle homage to Italy; it is bright green and red, and the name of the restaurant is written in big white letters. It is almost always packed with families, high school kids, and beachgoers who were on Key Biscayne. I think it is safe to say that people are aware of this eatery's existence. On my way home every afternoon, I drive by a man who is probably in his sixties advertising for this restaurant. He usually sits on a stool under a tree. The sad thing about it is that he bears the harsh Florida elements wearing a giant pizza costume. To make it worse, he also wears a chef's hat (because pizza cooks itself?) Last week, there were heavy thunderstorms and tornado warnings; Mr. Pizza sat on his stool holding a dinky umbrella.

Team mascots and people walking around in costumes at Disney World make sense; this does not. I've seen a giant gator dancing around for an apartment complex and giant puppies trying to draw attention to pet stores. Wouldn't a commercial or billboard featuring delicious looking pizza work better than making a sad old man sit by a highway in a ridiculous costume? I don't see the point of having human beings don large costumes and walk around waving.

Everytime I see that man, I am compelled to pull over and discuss job options with him. Surely, pushing paper or even flipping burgers beats sitting around, wearing foam pepperoni.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chocolate, cards, flowers, fancy dinners, sexy underthings, cherubs, hearts, all things pink and red. What is there not to like about Valentine's Day? It's fun even when you're single, though some aspects are different. Instead of candlelit dinners, there are happy hours with friends, and instead of lascivious lingerie, it's whatever you happen to be wearing under your clothes when going out after happy hour. Just because you started February 14th without a valentine doesn't mean you have to end it that way.

Some people think that Valentine's Day is a commercial holiday created by greeting card companies. That doesn't make it any less fun or worthwhile. St. Patrick's Day is supposed to be a day to remember what St. Patrick did for Ireland (I think), but it has turned into a green beer guzzling holiday. There's Cinco de Mayo, which is supposed to celebrate Mexican heritage and pride, but most people celebrate margaritas and Dos Equis. Holidays don't have to be so...serious.

The only qualm I have with V-day is the actual date. It ends the holiday gauntlet my boyfriend and I have to go through:

October: my birthday
November: his birthday
December: Christmas
January: anniversary
February: V-day

By the time V-day rolls around, we weigh a little more because of birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and indulgent dinners, and our wallets weigh considerably less. Sometimes I think we should stay home and not make a big deal about it, but I worry about the fallout. On my part, that is.

Today, February 13th, I may think foregoing V-day is a great idea, but on the 14th when I see other girls getting flowers and balloons and candy, will I feel like I'm not as loved as they are? On the 15th, when I'm talking with friends and they mention the fabulous restaurants they went to and the supersweet gestures, will I feel like there is something sorely lacking in my relationship?

The greeting card companies that "invented" Valentine's Day are quite clever. I am thoroughly brainwashed. Even if I know that deep down I don't need singing stuffed animals and two dozen roses to make me happy, this is not a risk I am willing to take. For my boyfriend's sake, we will continue to make reservations, and I will have empty vases waiting.

Hallmark: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,001
me: 0

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

There are some things from childhood that people will always enjoy. Candy--kids like sour confections or Nestle and Hershey's-like chocolates, and adult palates enjoy dark chocolate truffles. Toys--little angels turn into crazy monsters at the sight of signs for Toys "R" Us and FAO Shwartz, and older boys and girls bounce happily out of the Sharper Image or Best Buy with their new gadgets. Irreverent cartoons like "Family Guy" are wildly popular with the college age crowd and older. Las Vegas, with its lights and circuses (ok, also gambling, booze, and legalized prostitution) is dubbed "America's Playground."

It's good that in a culture like ours, where people work more hours and take fewer vacations than most people in other industrialized nations, we can take refuge in fun, albeit childish, outlets. Reliving lost childhoods is good in many ways, but the problem is when people who are old enough to vote buy clothing and accessories that are more appropriate for "back to school" shopping in the third grade. I'm talking about Tweety decals, Tinkerbell jewelry, and the most pervasive, and possibly the most offensive--the world of Hello Kitty.

I'm not going to knock Japan. The Japanese value childishness in their culture; cutesy images are everywhere, and if I'm not mistaken, it is the birthplace of anime and the schoolgirl fetish. I appreciate their sense of humor. Somehow, I think it works...for them.

I am going to knock grown women who brazenly don Hello Kitty gear here in the states. It's not okay for people whose ages are in the double digits to have purses, office supplies, electronics, or apparel emblazoned with images of a cute little cat and her friends in the same way that it's not okay for people to bring their beloved blankies um, anywhere. These things should be relegated to the most private corners of one's home. If a woman wants to wear Hello Kitty underwear, that's fine (refraining from making an obscene kitty joke. You're welcome.) But this strange infatuation with the dot-eyed cat or other cartoons should stay out of sight.

Some sites that pay tribute to ju
st how creepy that little cat is: (ridiculously funny...this guy's wife is a Hello Kitty fanatic),-evil/casio-exilim-720-possessed-by-hello-kitty-310113.php (innocent cameras Hello Kitty-ed out) (the HK AR-15!) ("The kitty klux klan--not to be confused with any other klans--will one day stop the cult of this evil feline and the world will be safe once more.")

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

small talk: these conversations often begin with or consist entirely of comments on the weather

Small talk is inappropriate and/or awkward:

  • when you're in the dentist's chair
  • when you've just exited a stall in a restroom and have to chat with the bathroom attendant
  • when you're waiting in line at a drugstore and happen to be buying something embarrassing
  • before I've had my coffee in the morning

"Awkward silence, begone" --->Entertaining small talk topics

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I've always been a stickler for grammar. Now I teach grammar and writing at a college in Miami, and my pickiness has gotten worse.

These are my essay pet peeves:

  • starting with a question
  • starting with a question directed towards the reader and then answering it
  • starting with a definition (I've actually had a student write, "Do you know what a boat is? A boat is..." It was a double whammy)
  • dry transitions ("First," "Second...") because some English teachers require transitional phrases at the beginning of each paragraph, but they don't bother to explain how to do it effectively
  • when I have to explain how to use quotations, how to paraphrase, and how to cite sources...many students have NEVER had to use MLA format
  • when students come in because they need help with an assignment, and they are paralyzed with fear over having to "analyze" something

I'm more annoyed with teachers than I am with the students because these kids have slipped through the cracks. I know there is a problem with overcrowded classrooms and underpaid teachers, but it's not right that there are people enrolled in college classes who can't even compose middle school level writing.

Friday, February 1, 2008

I can't understand the stigma attached to being left handed. When I was in kindergarden, my teacher arranged a meeting with my parents. At the meeting, Mrs. Dee told them, "I've noticed that your daughter writes with her left hand. If you would like, I can encourage her to use her right hand." My dad insisted that changing which hand I wrote with wouldn't be necessary and that he's a lefty and does just fine. They left the meeting, shaking their heads.

Earlier this week, one of my grammar students was watching me write an example on the dry erase board, and he commented on my left handedness. With this puzzled look on his face, he asked if it was hard for me to write and do things. I explained that I'm used to it, and it's not a big deal, but I don't think he was convinced.

What does "it's a right handed world" mean? Most people are right handed. And your point is?

While I occasionally smudge my notes because my hand goes right over what I've just written, I don't suffer from being a lefty. Where did this notion that kids should be taught to write with their right hands come from?

Here are some facts about using the "wrong hand":

  • Some famous lefties include Joan of Arc, Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Henry Ford, Lewis Carroll, Samuel Clemens, H.G. Wells, Jimi Hendrix, M.C. Escher, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Left-handers adjust more readily to seeing underwater.
  • Many think that lefties have an advantage in fist fighting (may sound like a bad thing, but think of it from the self-defense angle, not the rebel without a cause angle)
  • Some are dominant left-handers, who use their left hand for EVERYTHING. For example, they would use their left hand to swing a bat, hold a fork, play tennis, play golf, etc.
  • Some are dominant right-handers, who use their right hand for a majority of things and maybe only write and hold a fork with their left hand.
  • Left-handed children are more likely to test out as highly creative and to have extremely high verbal or math ability--both of which are considered to be predominantly left-brain functions.

Useful products for lefties:

And I found this one particularly this if you want to confuse your classmates or coworkers:

Thursday, January 31, 2008

In New York City's Central Park, there is a memorial to John Lennon. It is an area of the park called "Strawberry Fields," and there is a mosaic that is a reproduction of a Pompeii mosaic on the ground. Two years ago, my friends and I, along with a small group of passersby, were admiring this mosaic. I like having everything captured for posterity, so I asked a man who was standing nearby to take a picture for us. He looked like a nice, competent man who would not run away with my camera. My friends and I stooped over the mosaic. The man graciously took the picture and placed the digital camera in my hand, but once I looked at the picture, I realized I had been wrong in my assumption of his competence. He had taken a shot of just our heads. No mosaic, no trees...there was nothing to denote that we were in a park at all. I had to wait until he was a safe distance away before I could ask another person to take a picture for us.

I can't travel with a tripod, and I certainly can't fit a tripod in the small clutch purses I use when I go out, so I often have to rely on other people to take pictures of the best times of my life for me. I don't expect people to compose shots a la Annie Liebowitz, but I do expect some common sense. If we're at the Grand Canyon and I ask you to take a picture for me, please don't zoom in on just our faces. With digital cameras, you can see in the viewfinder what the picture will look like, and you can also see the picture seconds after taking it. Short of bar scenes where I expect my fellow revelers to find it difficult to operate a camera, there is no excuse for taking photos of just heads, or worse yet, parts of heads. (Note: more than once, male photographers have focused on just the chest area. I suspect this was deliberate, however.)

I'm patient enough with older people who look at me blankly when I hand them a camera. As for everyone else, what kind of cameras have YOU been using?

Here are some things to remember about using, oh, just about every camera on the market:

  • Just push the big button. Yes, the big button. It's the same one that's in the same place on every camera.
  • You have to hold the button down until the flash goes off. Longer. No, don't take your finger off yet. Damn it, just give it a few seconds.
  • I don't care if it's a vertical or horizontal shot. In fact, I don't think anyone cares. I don't need to remember what shoes I was wearing on a particular day.

And people wonder why I think it's more fun to take pictures of ourselves--two or three people leaning in, and me extending my arm as far as it will go...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cell phones are great and everything, but I really can't stand being forced to listen to strangers' conversations. I find it creepy when I'm in a public restroom and hear a girl talking on her cell phone inside a stall. Is there anything so important, it can't wait five minutes for her to do her business, wash her hands, and exit? I doubt it.

The worst is when you're sharing an elevator with someone and he or she is yakking away as if there's not someone two feet away in an enclosed space. Sometimes being in an elevator can be awkward enough as you listen to muzak, wait to get to your floor, and try to not look at the other people in there with you. When I become an audience for a tirade on clueless boyfriends or unreasonable bosses, rundowns on a person's day and his or her to-do list (so that I'm just as bored as the person on the other line) or even wildly inappropriate stories that make me wonder if I'm in an elevator or a confessional, I start to yearn for the days when private conversations remained private. At least those Nextel walkie-talkie type phones are becoming passe' and texting is taking over.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Yes, that's the bore of comfort. We only know when we're uncomfortable." --Lord Warburton in Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady

A first world problem is not really problematic. It's Paris Hilton losing a purse that contained $10,000 in cash...and finding another purse with $20,000 on the floor of her bedroom. It's a mom planning her four-year-old's birthday party and frantically trying to find a Dora the Explorer pinata. It's the indignities of waiting in line and being put on hold by an operator. It's finding out your favorite soda won't be produced anymore.

Apparently, we're not supposed to "sweat the small stuff," but there's a difference between worrying needlessly about things one can't control and finding amusement in everyday things that are also kind of annoying. Everyone has their quirks and pet peeves, and most of us observe things in the world around us that make our eyes roll or make us go, "Oh, come on." This blog is dedicated to the little things that make us groan. There will be times when I find the need to wax on odd things that make people smile, but I promise you, I will never write about the pleasures of hearing a child laugh for the first time or smelling freshly cut grass.