Friday, July 29, 2005

Isn't this just a little bizarre?

I'm no supporter of Fidel Castro, so please don't start in on me from that angle.

The Miami Herald reports:

Caleb McCarry, 43, will serve as the Cuba ''transition coordinator,'' a position mandated by President Bush a year ago to implement measures designed to help bring an end to Fidel Castro's 46-year rule and provide assistance to a subsequent democratic Cuba.

''For nearly 50 years, the regime of Fidel Castro has condemned the people of Cuba to a tragic fate of repression and poverty,'' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said as part of McCarry's introduction, adding that the appointment will ``accelerate the demise of Castro's tyranny.''

But is it really OUR job to have a U.S. government official charged with "transitioning" the government, albeit evilly repressive, of another country?

Oh yeah. I forgot.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fascinating, fascinating me

Following a five-minute conversation today, a colleague told me I was fascinating, that I always had something unusual and interesting to talk about. I laughed and told her she'd obviously never had a long conversation with me!

Whether I am fascinating or not (I vote not) isn't the point.

It's so very hard to know how we look to others. We carefully create a facade, both in our looks and our behavior (and these days with our online personas), but we never really know if other people receive the signal that we think we're sending out. Then, on a day when we're not trying at all, we come across as fascinating.

Long, long ago, on the penultimate* day of a not-good marriage that had long been sucking dry all my time and energy, I went to a party. It was attended by friends but for one woman in a blue blouse who was a stranger to us all except the guy she was dating. Something was being discussed by the group, something that was apparently common knowledge, and I didn't have a clue what they were talking about. Ms. Blueblouse looked over her drink at me and said loudly, "You really don't get out much, do you?"

Had she thrown acid in my face, she couldn't have hurt me more. I was already in quite a perilous emotional state, had the self-esteem of a pencil nub, and didn't need a slim, smart-mouthed, pseudo-urbane tootsie calling me out on my limitations. I was a good person, kind and smart and entirely too patient, but all she saw was an unsophisticated hausfrau.

I've spent the last twenty years getting out, making sure I knew what was going on. Occasionally I'll tell myself that I showed her.

And today, having been perceived as fascinating for at least five minutes, I believe I've finally arrived.
*Warning! I know a handful of big words and occasionally use them.


Too powerful to be mucked up with MY words. Go visit for yourself.

Did'ja ever

...get to the end of the shower and not remember whether you shampooed your hair?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The gated community of FM radio

For some years, I had car radio Button 1 set to NPR and Button 2 to the local oldies station. For those who have somehow missed the definition, “oldies” are those songs that range from 50’s music such as “Rock Around the Clock” to late-60’s offerings รก la “Green Tambourine,” with a heavy side order of the Beatles. Happy music. Often a little silly. Often a lot silly, really. I’d listen to the oldies in the morning, partly because the station offered frequent traffic reports and partly because radio stations have become so specialized and compartmentalized that there was no station that met my slightly eclectic, Britney-free taste. So I defaulted to the music of my childhood.

For years, maybe a decade, I’d flitted between these two stations in the morning, one good for my mind and the other good for my mood.

Then the day after Christmas last year, Button 2 changed format, name, and call letters.

Now it plays “classic hits” (their term, not mine) – Eagles, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, one James Taylor song (“You’ve Got a Friend”), but also Supertramp, Queen, The Doors, Dire Straits, Jackson Browne, late Beatles and Paul McC sans Beatles, and for reasons that defy logic, Manfred Mann’s version of “Blinded by the Light” repeatedly. You get the general idea. Or not.

It took me a while.

Most of us experience music from our past as an aural time machine. Play Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” and I am in another place, on another plane, having a physical reaction that would, in part, be indelicate to discuss here. I hadn’t heard a lot of the music on the “new” station for quite some time and was both enjoying it enormously and feeling guilty because my morning DJs of more than a decade had suddenly gone unemployed.

One evening driving home, listening to my new Button 2, I indulged in a little mental programming of music I hadn’t heard in quite some time that would fit nicely with the new format. Yeah, they should also play “Jack & Diane” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and…

The moment right after the Stevie Wonder moment came the revelation that Button 2 is a segregated radio station.

No blacks allowed.

Back in the day when I first heard the songs of the aforementioned 70’s/80’s artists, they were played on stations alongside the music of Mr. Wonder, the Commodores. The Temptations. Smokey Robinson. Prince. 'Retha Franklin.

Surely I was wrong. Would someone really program a classic 70’s/80’s station – but whites only?

As I finished the ride home that night, I mulled over the songs I’d heard over the past weeks, searching for even the slightest evidence of a little soul. Nothing. The songs that continued to play as I traveled continued the theme: John Mellencamp, Jim Croce, Electric Light Orchestra. (Maybe somewhere within some of the groups getting airtime was a black member or two, but I guarantee you these are not artists known to be black.) Once home, I found the station’s website and “last played songs” list. More of the same: mostly male and all very, very white.

Might I mention here that I, too, am very, very white? But I’ve also been very, very enriched over the years by the work of black artists in many mediums – music, movies, literature. Life without Stevie Wonder would have been colorless indeed, pun respectfully intended.

I still push that Button 2 occasionally, but not as often as I did when the station and I first met. It makes me feel a little slimy to do so. Radio stations in the 21st century are owned by corporations with huge marketing research resources. They (allegedly) know what people want. (And my station is owned by a conglomerate, so I’m guessing that it has clones all over the country.) Someone must want Whites Only music. A lot of someones must want this.

Or do they?

It took me two months to notice that my music was bleached clean. I wonder if the station’s other listeners have noticed?

Yes, I know that other stations play primarily black music or white music. In those cases, however, genre drives the programming decisions. Some stations play hip-hop; some old school. And country’s white all day long and so be it.

In the case of “my” station, however, that just doesn’t fly. Tell me why the Commodores’ “Brickhouse” and Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” don’t belong on the same playlist? Why Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” and not Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”?

One chilling effect of this programming is economic: there are royalties to be had when a radio station plays a song. And when stations play only white music, only white artists make money.

I hope that wasn’t the plan.

Tell me a story

A dozen posts in and I'm blocked.

Not exactly. Glib and cutesy is easy, and that I can do. Just scroll down.

However, one thing I like in a blog is a story, a good story, a well-written compelling story. Many blogs are nothing but: the story of my romance, the story of my divorce, the story of my move cross-country, the story of my job hunt, etc. Give me a slice of your life; that's all I ask.

Today my own life is not up to slicing, so I offer the stories of others. Sometimes I just plain forget that there's so much free and easy audio online. Like This American Life, heard on the radio in my town on Saturdays and Sundays. Now those are stories.

Listen up.

Inspiration Soup, revisited

There's far more to these Weight Watchers recipe cards than just the quiz (see post below). One must partake of ALL the recipes to get the full effect.

Click on the link above, then scroll down on the site and take the tour. I haven't laughed 'til I cried in so, so long. It's a cleansing experience.

Gas pains

The price of gasoline has plummeted to $2.26 at my local Hess.

Sad is the day when I think that's a good thing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Filthy, dirty Doonesbury

Garry Trudeau is makin' 'em mad again.

In today's (Tuesday, July 26) strip, he refers to Karl Rove by his Bush-given nickname, Turd Blossom.

Google that name, will ya? It's all over the web in perfectly respectable publications because GWB gave Rove the nickname and it's been well-reported.

But a dozen newspapers find Trudeau's bathroom humor unacceptable and have pulled the strip for the 26th and 27th.

I repeat, George W. Bush gave Rove this nickname. Not Trudeau.

(Didn't take me THAT long to go political, it appears.)

Trudeau is quoted in Editor & Publisher:

"Given that I'm writing for a general audience, I try not to use crude or vulgar language gratuitously [...] But in this case, I felt that [President] Bush's nickname for Rove was illuminating. 'Turd blossom' has so many connotations, none of them flattering. It's a small masterpiece of nastiness."

Click on the calendar to see July 26 and July 27 if those dates have passed by the time you read this.

Did I mention that Dubya gave Rove the nickname?

Quite an interesting class going on down the hall

They began by singing the Hokey Pokey at full volume (and I presume dancing the dance) and seem to be ending with a similarly enthusiastic chant, although this one's unknown to me. It sounds like a Tupperware meeting. And yes, I once sold Tupperware, though not enough to make any money.

I wonder what they could be studying down there?

My doppelganger


I Googled my own blog name (you know you've Googled yourself, too) and was just a wee bit stunned to find out that there's a Bitty's Back Porch restaurant in Birmingham, AL.

And here I thought I was being original.

Disclaimer: although Bitty has driven through Alabama a number of times, this blog bears no resemblance to the restaurant of the same name.

Although it does seem to mention food frequently.

Survey says...

This one's circulating around the blogosphere...

Three things I’ve done today
Three things on my desk
Three people I’ve thought about today
Two truths and a lie (and you guess which is which)
Three books I'm reading
Three places I've been
Three places I'm going

Three things I've done today:
Taught two classes
Ate an unrewarding cheeseburger
Woke up too darn early
(The more important question is: what three things HAVEN'T I done today?)

Three things on my desk:
A disorganized pile of music and data CDs
A note containing this fascinating name: Wrenetta
A roll of orange Creme Savers that I'm trying to give away because I've sworn off sugar

Three people I've thought about today
The brilliant student with the drinking problem
My unborn grandchild
Ernest Gaines

Two truths and a lie (and you guess which is which)
I saw Robert and Ethel Kennedy and their children at JFK's gravesite.
I had lunch two tables away from Weird Al.
I stood in line at the airport with Kasey Kasem.

Three books I'm reading
Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
A Lesson Before Dying (Ernest Gaines)
The Curious Writer (Bruce Ballenger)

Three places I've been
San Diego
New Orleans

Three places I'm going
San Diego
Kewanee, IL
Anywhere, Europe

And now you know a little more about me.
It's your turn.

(Thank you, Waveflux.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Why Johnny can't think -- but 8 can

An adventure in which one little boy and his way cool mother refuse to allow the child to be left behind...

(And a new blogger figures out the links thing.)

Not obsessed with food, really I'm not

...but it unnerves me to notice that 4 out of 5 posts, this one included, mention food.


I am Inspiration Soup. You?

Still trying to see if I can get links to work. I may break down and ask those of you who might be trolling this site to tell me what I'm doing wrong. It's the only part of the Blogger package that's doing me in.

You are Inspiration Soup!! You live to Inspire
those around you with your green beany, white
chunky, red soupy goodness. Many have come and
lit candles in your honor. You've inspired
them to become better people. Thank you,
Inspiration Soup... thank you.

What Weight Watchers recipe card from 1974 are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Ok, so that worked. But I think it's because the site I'm sending you to gave me everything I needed to make it work. Woe is still I.

You lookin' at me?

I had dinner at Cracker Barrel the other night (now you know I live near an interstate, don’t you?) and partook of a little people-watching in the process.

Near me was a man who looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. His face was ashen, but what drew my attention were the large smudges of black around his eyes and mouth. He looked as if he’d been working with charcoal and hadn’t bothered to wash up before dinner. His posture was a bit odd, too. I immediately sized him up as seriously ill.

I tried, but I couldn’t stop looking at him. I hope I was reasonably surreptitious because I never would have wanted to make him uncomfortable. Fortunately, he was far enough away that any glance I made down the aisle included him without singling him out.

I didn’t stare so much that I could report what he ate or how robust his appetite was, but I can tell you that he was eating, and unassisted.

He looked to be, well, not much older than me.

During my meal, a group was seated in front of me, a pair of couples edging toward or comfortably in their 60’s, and a very elderly woman – well past 80, surely – in a wheelchair. As they settled in, the group paid the chair-bound woman a lot of attention, but once they’d been seated a few minutes, the 60-year-old youngsters fell into conversation that apparently didn’t interest or include the very elderly woman. She sat staring off into the distance, fingering the button at the top of her dress, peacefully living in her inner world.

Despite the wheelchair, the woman looked vibrantly healthy. Although deeply wrinkled, her skin glowed, and her eyes were bright and alert.

So there they were: the seriously ill man and the introspective elderly woman. Both surely felt the weight of their mortality more than anyone else in the room. But despite sickness or advanced age, being alive is being alive, yes? So why not celebrate another day by having a meal out?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Doesn't take much to make me happy

It's Thursday night, which is my Friday.

I got paid today.

A small new stretch of highway on my drive to and from work, which saves me some time and stress, has finally opened.

The moon is lovely tonight: full, sharp, and glowing.

I stopped by Steak 'n' Shake and picked up the best food value in the business: chicken chef salad for $4 something.

And now I have a blog of my own.

Life is good.

A few tentative steps into the blogosphere...

So I've been thinking about blogging for a while now.

The unknown, however, is a scary place. It's one thing to use "comments" to insinuate yourself into someone else's blog. It's another thing quite to be responsible for the whole thing.

What if I look foolish online? Everyone in the www (whole wide world) could then read my idiocy and laugh behind my cyberback. On the other hand, what if I gave a blog and nobody came (the more likely scenario)?

Then there's the identity issue. Should I be upfront about who I am or cower behind a pseudonym? Should I let the people in my life know about the blog, or should I maintain my Bitty persona separately from the flesh and blood person who will log off in a little while and get back to everyday life?

Well, I don't have to decide everything at once, now do I?

I'm Bitty, this is my back porch, and even though I'm still thinking through some of these issues, you're welcome to sit down and chat a while.