Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hate to Hate the Haters

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ("Umar F'in A") tried to bring down Northwest Airlines flight 253 using a PETN bomb in his bikini underwear, as we all know. On the flight he allegedly threw one of those germy airline blankets over his head and said, "I have a stomach ache," and then tried to blow up the plane and kill all the people. On Christmas.

If this incident wasn't so absolutely disgusting and disturbing, it would be funny. Tina Fey or Seth Meyers is going to stretch this material until the absurdity makes people laugh. Thank God.

The vignette might include an all-American "kid" the size of Bill Murray flying home alone, again, from boarding school. In his loneliness he tries to befriend Umar F'in A. Umar is distracted, however, with his evil plot and rejects Billy's overtures of friendship with distain. Billy's pissed, so when Umar pushes the button to request a blankie and no attendant appears because the airline is on the verge of bankruptcy, cute little Billy offers Umy his Harry Potter "Invisibility Cloak" (wink wink). We might then see Umar rubbing his hands, laughing menacingly, pouring steaming chemicals into science beakers he pulls from his pants, under what he thinks is a blanket...until he's whacked in the head and subdued by the SNL guest who runs in breathlessly and says in that old familiar way,

"Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

But we are not there yet. Before we can joke at all about this very serious breach of national security we have the investigative reports to hear, the congressional committee hearings to withstand, the media slice-and-dice, the international reaction and the Republican fundraising to survive. Even worse, though, are all the blogosphere hate comments.

In one particular Facebook post, a right-winger Friend of mine posted a comment that suggested President Obama is responsible for the underwear bomber because two of the accomplices were released from Gitmo. He even cited a link to a story from ABC News! The story reported that two former Guantanamo prisoners were implicated in this terrorist plot, and that they had been released in November of 2007. A year before Barrack Obama was elected. Nevertheless, a comment followed that read:

"I honestly wanna know who voted for that stupid fucker because i ask everyone every day and NO one says they voted for him...."

You might have read some of these hate comments. I hate them. When a Bangor Daily News story wrote about Congresswomen Chellie Pingree's life and career, some anonymous person wrote:

"And your moron Pingree, who says she is against corporate welfare, beamed when she announced a $40 million stimulus gift to Mafioso wind company Firts Wind. Corporta welfare is good if it's for one of Chellie's pet causes. She is fired next November."

What kind of humanity tries to blow up innocent families traveling on Christmas Day? How can anyone who has a heartbeat not know someone who voted for the President of the United States? He got roughly 53% of the vote nationwide and all four Maine electoral votes! And, Chellie is a moron? I bet she can spell First and Corporate.

We were raised not to hate. It's hard not to hate the haters.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Land of Opportunity

My imaginary friend Ellen Goodman said yesterday she is retiring on January 1, 2010 as the leading syndicated columnist who writes about women.  Opportunity knocks when you are in the right place at the right time and know the right people. Clearly the time is now for some lucky person to slip in as Goodman's replacement, but where does she need to be, and with whom in order to vie for the job?

If you have been a professional for a while and just figured out the political game (by the way, I agree with you, and it looks like you lost weight) even thinking about a job as a writer is audacious. Yet here we are on the precipice of a brand new year. "2010" sounds perky and promising. If a black man can be elected President of the United States, surely a self-proclaimed moderate working mother from a small town in Maine can grab the megaphone for a few weeks and comment on the state of affairs of women and girls, right? You have thoughts. You were an English major. This is America. Go for it.

If writing isn't your forte, grab your clubs and cover for Tiger Woods for a year or so while he recovers from the crash. Or, maybe since Kate Gosselin and the eight kids are on their own; you could pick up a Rent-a-Husband franchise for a good price and make her an offer.

Somebody, anybody, run for senate in Connecticut! God knows Joe Lieberman needs a time out.

The 24-hour news cycle is chock-full of possibilities. Partisanship and polarization might be troublesome if your cup is half empty, but for every challenge there is an opportunity. This year you might get your lucky break. Alternative Dispute Resolution for Congressmen could take off if marketed and priced right. Your brilliant and effective Twitter Therapy for working parents with ADHD could get in to the healthcare bill as a covered benefit if you are from Nebraska or Louisiana.

It's cold, dark and raining. Surely an opportunity is buried somewhere under the discarded wrapping paper and pine needles. Turn off the Christmas music and put it away. Package up 2009 and put it on the shelf. Against all odds and in defiance of cable news shows, ring in the New Year and make it the best ever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Young and the Restless

Politics is defined loosely as who gets what, when and where.

Sounds a little like Christmas, don't you think?

If you are political and ambitious, the holidays might present an interesting challenge. You could choose to send politically correct "holiday" cards to the audience who will usher you in to victory at the next election. At some level you sincerely mean the wishes of good health and peace, but there is an ulterior motive. You are trying to win votes. For some, this is a conflict. For others, it's the game.

If you are a twenty-something coming of age in the digital era during a recession and a war on terrorism, the holidays might introduce the first of many chapters of family politics. You define yourself and stand apart from your kin yet simultaneously long to be recognized and accepted. Some of us have been that young adult. We graduated from college blessed and burdened with the knowledge that what our family told us was true about the world is not universally accepted. There is another view - and another way of life that is attractive, and feels good. You might express yourself and your cerebral awakening with long hair or vintage clothes. You might acquire a taste for strong black coffee, rioja and green olives. You reject, for a while anyway, red meat.  

The irony of studying and traveling on the family dime only to mature and find yourself at odds with some fundamental principles once believed to be self-evident is not lost. You see a crack in the ice and cold water separating yourself from the very people who raised and nurtured you, and put you on that plane to Europe with $500 and a back-pack full of clean clothes and wishes of safety.

All politics is about compromise. The elected officials who were passionate and unwavering on their soap box during the campaign learn quickly ideology takes a back seat when the election is over and governing begins.

The family, together for a day or two around the holidays, recognizes the common ground and embraces the differences among its tribe. There is compromise of a different sort. Tolerance is a value both old and young acquire for the survival and celebration of a shared journey.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Bright Side

Sure, the recession sucks, but look at the bright side. Being thrifty is now cool, and cutting expenses is all the rage. This is a wonderful opportunity to change your life. You can re-invent yourself - for less.

So go ahead - fire that cleaning woman that's been driving you crazy for the last three years. Rip us the renewal for the ridiculous Day-Timer refill that costs $30 and comes in a plastic tub filled with useless paper. It is way more fun to buy a pocket calendar at the local book store for $12.50

Pull out some clothes from the back of your closet that thankfully still fit and are woven with memories of yourself from a different era. Say out loud and without shame "I can't afford it" to the thirty-five people who ask you for money today. It's liberating - and true. Finish every bottle of product, including hotel hair conditioner. It frees up space in the bathroom and must be good feng shui.

Set aside this year's embossed and engraved gold foil Christmas card from the Maine Turnpike Authority and make a mental note to check on how much this exercise in political glad-handing is costing tax payers.

The recession might also be good for women, in a dark sort of way. Flex-time, recently only for "mommies" on a track, is now for anyone at a Fortune 500 company that wants a "sabbatical."  Businesses are cutting costs by offering employees reduced hours and encouraging creative ways to work less while meeting demands. This is not a bad thing.

Maybe all the guys on Wall Street are busy counting their bonus money, but did you see last week's NYT Sunday Business section? The Corner Office and The Boss, two feature articles usually about male masters of the universe, were about women. The cover story was about menopause, for God sakes. There were three other major pieces by and about women.

If the recession means less shopping, more soul-searching and a shot at the corner office, bring it on.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bon Appetit

If you were at that Holiday party last night and are now feeling a bruschetta and watch Julie and Julia with your long-legged 12 year-old daughter. Then blog about it. This exercise will string back together any loose brain cells and send feelings of comfort and joy to your core.

In the movie, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) whips up a batch of bruschetta for her adorable husband Eric (Chris Messina) and he wolfs it down while inspiring her to blog about cooking. It was during the scene with the chopped fresh yellow and red tomato medley piled on thick slices of pan-fried-in-butter French bread that we hit "pause" and headed to the kitchen. Isabel chopped, and I sautéed. She tossed plum tomatoes with olive oil, course salt, pepper and basil. I started the bread-seared-in-butter a second time without garlic so it wouldn't burn. Isabel squeezed fresh lemon juice in her mix. I sliced pieces of Manchego, fresh mozzarella and smoked apple cheddar cheese to have on the side. This wasn't in the movie, by the way. The dog's ottoman covered with a checkered table cloth set with white china plates made a wonderful table. She had orange juice. I had seltzer.

The tossed tomato concoction over the slices of bread browned with butter was gorgeous. Delightful. Heavenly. Medicinal, even.

Also in the movie Julia Child (Meryl Streep) discovers French cooking while in Paris with her adorable husband Paul (Stanley Tucci). It's difficult to describe Meryl Streep as Julia Child in Paris. The adjectives in my repertoire don't do justice. You can't help but fall in love, again, with this version of Streep and her relationships with people and food.

We left just a smidgen of the tomatoes but no bread or cheese for my adorable husband. Oh well.

You already know, of course, that the dream of being a successful writer comes true for both Julie and Julia in the books, the movie and real life.

 After we finished our spontaneous and delicious brunch, Isabel looked at me and said with satisfaction and confidence, "Mom, you should blog about this."

Where do I begin?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It Happened Today

Has it happened to you yet? You know it will. It's just a matter of time.

The mind-altering spice cocktail of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger got me in the mood today. Inhaling this blend of scents making gingerbread on a snow day ushered in Christmas Spirit. 

Christmas like snow is layers that accumulate. Some get muddy. Others, fluffy with the right mix of environmental factors, are dazzling. We have a base of childhood that builds over time with various textures and depth for a limited part of every year. Forget 365 days of Christmas. It has a beginning and an end. The Christmas Spirit blows in and out year to year on different schedules that aren't on your calendar.

If the press of business, lack of funds, or sheer loneliness is creating a barrier, take a hit of A Charlie Brown Christmas, by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Art inspired by art, these tunes are a delicious layer of frosting. Guaraldi's interpretation and self-expression of Charles Shultz's story is beautiful music that will soothe and wrap you in a blanket.  You will remember that night in Burlington, Vermont when it snowed for hours while you were in Leunig's listening to jazz. The windows were foggy. The candles burned low as the fat bartender with the handlebar mustache waddled around pouring and shaking and clearing. The bells on the door jingled and cold wind rushed in your face when you finally left to find the streets silent except for the forward clamor and backward beeping of snow plows off in the distance.

If Vince doesn't invite the spirit in, say out loud "Peppermint Patty" three times. That might also do the trick.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Power Lunch

Barack Obama gave his speech on Afghanistan, in case you haven't heard. If you didn't articulate immediately a strong and reasoned position about the merits of the Obama Administration strategy, don't be too hard on yourself. You weren't invited to the lunch either.

Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, has an amazingly vivid and coherent opinion on the subject. He does not agree with President Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan. He said so yesterday. This is sort of interesting, and can be heaped in the pile of all the other opinions out there. Along with the columnists are the pundits, candidates, generals and radio jocks all arguing over whether the President is right or wrong. The speech is a big meaty bone they will gnaw on for our benefit and their paycheck until the next speech.

What is interesting in yesterday's Friedman article is the reference to a sneak preview he and others got to the Afghanistan speech. "At a lunch on Tuesday for opinion writers, the president lucidly argued that opting for a surge now to help Afghans rebuild their army and state into something decent - to win the allegiance of the Afghan people - offered the only hope of creating an "inflection point," a game changer, to bring long-term stability to that region."

What lunch? Who are these opinion writers? Was Fox News invited? Did President Obama smoke a cigarette with his coffee? Did the Salahis show up?

My gut says there is no precise right or wrong answer when it comes to fighting terrorists. There is no play book. To the people who are aghast that "never before" has our commander in chief put parameters around a commitment of American blood and money, I say get over it. Storming the beach at Normandy isn't an option.

I liked when President Obama said:

We must rebuild our strength here at home. Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That is why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I am most interested in building is our own.

Then again, I just had a tuna sandwich alone at my desk.