Sunday, November 9, 2008

Take the Quiz: Are You a Woman?

We all love quizzes, especially the grocery store check-out magazine variety. Are you a good lover? Do you eat enough vegetables? Do you have suicidal tendencies?

Well here is a quiz for you: Are you a Woman?

You might scoff. You might think that everyone knows what a woman is, and whether or not they are one. "Isn't it all in the genes?," you ask. No. Being a woman in today's America has little to do with genes, but everything to do with this quiz. So let's get started!

1. How many minutes do you spend in the shower each week?
a. 105
b. 50
c. 200

2. How much money do you spend on hair care, maintenance and products each month?
a. $3
b. $30
c. $80

3. Have you ever considered cutting off parts of your body?
a. yes
b. no

4. How many pairs of black shoes do you own?
a. 1
b. 3
c. 6

5. Are your eyelashes long enough?
a. yes
b. no

6. When do you know that you have had sex?
a. When you have had an orgasm
b. When your partner has had an orgasm
c. When you are told so

7. How many inches are there between your body and the inseam of your pants?
a. 0.0"
b. 0.5"
c. 3.0"

8. Does the sight of your own blood make you squeamish?
a. yes
b. no

9. How many items do you take with you when you leave the house?
a. 3
b. 8
c. 15

10. How do you avoid unwanted come-ons from others?
a. You don't - it's inevitable
b. Avoid eye contact
c. Get married

11. What do you fear losing most?
a. Sex
b. Power
c. Sex IS power

12. At work, what animal do you resemble?
a. a deer
b. a parrot
c. a horse

So, let's see how you did! Use the following chart to score your quiz.
1. a = 5 b = 0 c = 5
2. a = 0 b = 5 c = 5
3. a = 5 b = 0
4. a = 0 b = 5 c = 5
5. a = 0 b = 5
6. a = 0 b = 5 c = 5
7. a = 5 b = 5 c = 0
8. a = 0 b = 0
9. a = 0 b = 5 c = 5
10. a = 5 b = 0 c = 0
11. a = 0 b = 0 c = 5
12. a = 5 b = 5 c = 0

If you scored 55, you are a woman. If you scored anything less, you are probably not really a woman. You might think you are, but you are just not trying hard enough to fit the high American standards of womanhood. You have lots of work to do...

1. How many minutes do you spend in the shower each week?

Let's start with your personal hygiene. If you don't think you need to smell fresh and flavorful at all times, you are sorely mistaken. Only men can go days without a shower, or just rinsing the sweat off after a jog and calling it good. Women need to invest in their cleanliness. You will need to take at least one shower every single day, and that shower must be at least 15 minutes long - no quick in and out. There is much to be done: shampoo hair, condition hair, repeat, shave armpits, shave legs, wash body with soap, shave bikini line, scrub face with defoliator, pumice heels and elbows, apply post-shower moisturizer. If you think you can get by with only 30 minutes a week, you are obviously forgetting some of the essential components of being a lady.

2. How much money do you spend on hair care, maintenance and products each month?

Next, your hair. Women's hair is like a misbehaving child. Don't be afraid of tough love! If you want truly female hair, you must keep it on a strict schedule and be quick to correct it, because it is usually wrong. Does your hair have unsightly brown, or heaven forbid, grey hues? Does it stray from a ruler held vertically next to your ear? Does it exhibit dangerous signs of moving when you turn your head? Reforming miscreant hair is not cheap, and should not be tried at home! That's why we have professionals. They have studied long and hard to master the intricate science and technology of hair correction and funny stories. Only men have curly, wavy, brown or graying hair in the good old U S of A. If you don't want to be mistaken for a non-woman, don't skimp on the budget here: cut back on groceries instead (see question 3).

3. Have you ever considered cutting off parts of your body?

It is contrary to natural law for a true woman to love every part of her body. You must hate at least one anatomical part - enough to fantasize about cutting, sucking, molding, squeezing or stripping it into oblivion. More importantly, you must assume that all of your lovers hate it equally fervently. If you haven't already chosen your despised body part, there still might be time. Just grab the closest women's magazine to educate yourself on the myriad of despicable body parts and which are the most deserving of removal or surgical alteration. If you have already removed or reconfigured the repulsive feature, you should quickly start hating the next deformity on your list.

4. How many pairs of black shoes do you own?

Men are simple creatures and can live with simple wardrobes. Women cannot afford to be caught without a good pair of black shoes for every length of pants, skirt or dress she owns. Fashion is woman and therefore, woman is fashion. If the latest magazine cover model does not stare back from your mirror every morning, you can't seriously include yourself in the competitive market that is femininity. Furthermore, the world economy depends on us! Your total shoe count may vary, but you are living dangerously close to androgyny if you don't own at least 12 pair. You don't want to be responsible for the next stock market crash, do you?

5. Are your eyelashes long enough?

The bottom line is, your god-given facial features are not good enough. If you think your eyelashes are long, thick or black enough as they are, you are obviously still a child and shouldn't be taking this quiz. Actual women have climbed out of the pit of ignorance to understand that lips, eyes and cheeks were meant to be seen from a distance of four city blocks. Plain, flesh-colored flesh, eye-colored eyes and lip-colored lips are terribly juvenile. Graduation into full womanhood means fixing those silly mistakes god made. Real women have found more appropriate colors, like Red Hotz, Lightning Rod Blue and Blushing Rose.

6. When do you know that you have had sex?

Some people count the number of times they have had sex by the number of orgasms they have during sexual intercourse. Those people are called men. If women kept track of sexual episodes this way, there would be quite a few pregnant virgins out there. When counting incidences of "sex", the proper time for a women to add a tally mark to her belt is when her male partner has completed his climax. This number is useful for his statistical bragging rights later on, and that is all that matters.

7. How many inches are there between your body and the inseam of your pants?

You are not doing your womanly duty if every inch of your body does not telegraph through your clothing for all of mankind to ogle. If the inseam of your pants is not tight up against your labia, the crotch seam digging in between your buttocks, then you are neglecting the needs of a very large and important segment of the population - lechers. If your bra strap is not digging into your back, revealing a silhouette of hooks and clasps through your two-sizes-too-small Lycra-cling shirt; your shirt neck not scooped low enough to reveal the top 40% of your womanly orbs; the top of your butt crack not peeking out from your low-slung jeans, you are a disappointing specimen indeed. A woman's wardrobe should be a flashing, neon arrow focusing all eyes on the public property that is her sexual bounty. Don't worry about freezing in the winter - physical comfort is a small price to pay for the important job of sharing every private crevice of your body with horny men everywhere.

8. Does the sight of your own blood make you squeamish?

How often do you see your own blood? If you are a woman, it is likely once a month (more often if you forget your girlish limitations and try to use a tool once in awhile). Starting at 12 (and even younger now that we American girls are getting fatter, younger), nature's dreaded trick is played on women everywhere. In the name of the arguably lousy reproductive strategy that our species has devised, women are debilitated by blood dripping out of their southernmost orifice every 28 days, accompanied by migraines, cramps, expensive feminine products, soiled underwear, and a constant anxiousness as they wonder if the last tampon will hold through their big presentation at work. Not only do we have to deal with the gory spectacle of lumpy, black-brown uterine refuse sticking to our pubic hair and ruining our best white slacks without warning, but we are stigmatized for not being in full control of our internal bodily functions. The most embarrassing thing a teenage girl can imagine is visible evidence of her period (ever wonder where that "sweater around the waist" fashion originated?) Blood cascading down your naked legs in high school swimming class - now there is a memory you will never forget! Females are either menstrual or pre-menstrual for 50% of their lives, and it takes place during the 50 best years of their lives! This hormone-driven cycle also makes women the scapegoat: they are blamed for the conception of a fetus (she must be a loose woman), responsible for the bearing, delivering and feeding of a baby (he can't be expected to stick around), and disparaged if aborting it. If you ever feel like shouting, "IT'S NOT FAIR!", you must be a woman. However, this question was just an excuse to rant, so no points will be awarded for your answer, either way. Let's get back to the real quiz.

9. How many items do you take with you when you leave the house?

See questions #1, #5 and #8. Women must always be prepared for blood, sweat or tears - literally.

10. How do you avoid unwanted come-ons from others?

If you are a seasoned woman, you know that marriage is no shield to catcalls, requests for blowjobs and other subtle expressions of a man's interest in your body parts. Neither his wedding ring nor yours will stop a healthy, male co-worked from assessing your boobs, ass and legs. He is just trying to brighten your day, and anyway, you brought it on yourself by being such a tease. Be a real woman and appreciate the lust that runs in his veins - he can't help it! You say you are 76? You are missing an eye? Remember, as long as you have two X chromosomes, you are provocative. Understand how hot he gets thinking about your empty eye-socket: even wrinkled, liver-spotted flesh is erotic if you are a male. Don't fight it. When you boss asks you to get up on a stool and retrieve something high up on a shelf (you, wearing a mini skirt, and he, holding the stool), just realize that you were born a sex slave and will die one. It's the American way. When you are surprised by an unexpected moment of intimacy with a dirty, trench-coated stranger on the street, consider it "serving" your country.

11. What do you fear losing most?

If you haven't figured this out yet, the correct answer for a sensible American woman is "C - Sex is Power" - and it is the only power you are likely to have, so use it wisely.

12. At work, what animal do you resemble?

Horses are fast and powerful. Parrots are vociferous and fluorescent. Deer are, well, doe-eyed. If you were Boss, to which would you write the big paycheck? The horse, of course! That is why real women know how important it is to appear deer-like, balanced on artificial 6" stiletto "hooves," or flashy and bright like a tropical bird - so they can distract the horse, and divert his big paycheck. If you haven't yet learned to play fragile and helpless next to men's lime-lit sturdiness, you may be causing unnecessary inferiority complexes in your natural superiors at work. Working women should be easily distinguishable from the serious money earners so as not to be mistaken for competition. You should wear hot pink, fire engine red or turquoise blue to work (skin-tight reduces the risk of being taken seriously). Or, in a pinch, just grab some hazard tape and a traffic cone from a nearby construction site - as long as you have the shoes to match! Modern women know that their primary responsibility at work is to lighten the mood during the grueling nine to five - so much so that managers and bosses can forget they even exist. This works out wonderfully when bonus time rolls around. Just think, when your boss opens his fat bonus check, in his excitement he might invite you to dinner and drinks, and he may even let you sleep with him if you promise not to tell his wife. Who says hard work isn't rewarded? Go team!

Don't be too disheartened if you scored below 55 on this test and therefore can no longer consider yourself a female in this country. There is one last chance to reclaim your sexuality. Did you actually take the quiz? If so, you get a bonus 10 points because only women take quizzes to find out things about themselves they already know. If your score is still too low to qualify, you will be joining a large number of sexless beings, like amoebas, ants and certain trees, so you don't have to feel lonely as you sit alone in your apartment on a Saturday night. You may still be allowed to hang out with us real women once in a while. After all, our glamor and humpability is magnified three-fold when you are nearby for comparison. Just keep any hints of confidence or self esteem well hidden, or we might have to give you the boot...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Circle of Life

What goes around comes around. That is what they say. Things come in waves, circuits, cycles, rhythms.

Like the stock market. Today, I lost $30,000. But in the 90's I probably made some money. I wouldn't know, because I follow the stockbroker's orders and "don't look" pretty much all of the time. I will look when I'm 50 and starting to plan the next half of my life. I'll be working full-time, of course, because the account balance will only cover about 1/5th of the 100 years I intend to live. The Dow is a merry go round. Good thing I don't get motion sickness.

Like politics. Democrats, democrats, democrats. Today's seemingly liberal boom is the nation's reaction to 10 years of self-righteous isolationists holing up and taking care of number one. The tide has turned. Now those same egotists aren't so sure of themselves. They are scrambling, trying to look busy as their employers search for ways to increase efficiencies. The math-illiterates shout, "Me! Me!" as the federal government hands out free money - Lo and behold, their adjustable rate mortgage has surpassed their take home pay! Angry cries of "Less government!" and "Let the market decide" were sad pseudonyms for "Gimme Gimme Gimme!" not so long ago. Now we hear the indignant grumble, "The government should do something about this," as pig farms and Bill Sizemore move in next door.

It makes me feel sheepish, and nervous, to think that I too will change my tune someday. Perhaps I already have. In college, didn't I say I was going to work my way around the world, transforming myself into a truly global citizen? Hadn't I prided myself on eating 16 cent ramen and living on $100 a month? I seem to remember that my life goals included sitting in trees and my values centered on fierce, feminist independence. Had I actually written a paper in college on the redundancy of males? By my young-person standards, the me of today would be boring, stodgy and stiff; too concerned with money, prestige, trophy accomplishments and the tidiness of my lawn; a traitor who married a white male, moved back to my home town and added to the overpopulation problem by reproducing - twice!

What if, by the time I am 60, I become my exact opposite? My 20's were marked by an expansionist mind, thirsting for different, craving newness. My 30's, by accepting and living the accepted norm. Will I be reduced in my 40's and 50's to a forever narrowing mind and an ever-increasing fear of the unknown? (I don't own a cell phone or an ipod - it could be an omen.) I cringe when I think about myself sitting in for my 94-year old grandmother - and it isn't the wrinkles that have me shaking. It's the locking my doors against "those crazy young people," rejecting strange new ideas, battling to remain the same.

But, perhaps the cyclical nature of life will roll over me...and keep on going. Maybe my selfish phase has come and gone. Perhaps I have hit the apex and am already moving back around towards the idealism and open-mindedness of 20 years ago. If the Dow goes up and down - and then up again - why can't I? After all, my grandmother - that little old lady who is scared of mohawks and piercings - she chats with her family online and has e-accounts at the bank and the department stores. There may be hope for me yet.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A List of Meaningful Kisses

My oldest daughter is ten years old. She has reached the age where she feels obligated to gently rebel against her parents in order to assert her nascent independence, like any normal, healthy child. To my dismay, her tool for testing the waters of adolescence has been to forbid me from kissing her. Our family has had a good-night ritual for most of the years she and her sister have been alive. We read together as a family, and then each of us, my husband and I, tote one of the girls to bed (this part is optional now because Katie does, after all, weigh 70 pounds!), we tuck them in, give them a hug and a kiss, and then pass each other in the hall as we repeat the ceremony with the other child.

At some point, Katie made it known to me that the kiss portion of this routine was no longer allowed. I would thereafter be invited to carry her (ha!), tuck her in, hug her goodnight - even share a quiet conversation about the day just passed or the next to come - but I was prohibited from kissing her sweet curly head as I enclosed her in my arms. Being a creature of habit, and lulled by her lovely daughterliness, I sometimes forgot the cruel rule. Burying my face in the hair on top of her head during our good-night hug, the small smacking press of my lips in the dark gave me away. My punishment would be no hug the next night.

At one point, I was carrying a balance of 21 nights without hugs because of my petulant insistence on kissing her. Somehow, I could not draw forth the required discipline. My lips were right there, next to her soft, apple cheek. I couldn't resist.

The human lips are said to have more nerve endings than any other part of the body. Within the brain, they are connected with both the language and emotional centers and with the part that controls the fingertips, thus combining communication, inspiration and discovery in a way no other part of the body does. No wonder kissing is such a phenomenon.

During a particularly jaded time during my college years, I considered romantic kissing between a man and a woman as a way for the man to commandeer the woman's attention, distract her, and block her vision long enough for him to remove a few pieces of her clothing. While this may actually be true for many fraternity boys, I also remember the overwhelming wonder I experienced as a girl, passing my lips over the smooth, warm face of my high-school sweetheart. More delicate than fingers brushing aside his hair and more intimate than cheeks touching during the slow song at the high school dance, I unabashedly explored him from ear to ear and from chin to eyelid with soft, inquiring lips. Regardless that we were standing in the parking lot of Winchell's Donut Shop in broad daylight with cars coming and going all around us, I thought it was the most romantic thing I had even experienced.

My first actual kiss, however, was a terrible disappointment. I was 13. I had a wild crush on Martin. It was Halloween and we were much too old to be out trick-or-treating. But, being at the age where one tries desperately to have his cake and eat it too, we were children for the free candy, but adult enough to foray into the world of sexual relationships. Or at least he was, and he brought me along.

Martin had invited his two buddies, and my sisters also came out with us. On one of the darker, shadowy streets, Martin's friends suddenly seemed to rush ahead, driving the girls forward at a quick step, but Martin slowed down to a snail's pace. We must have been holding hands, because I was already embarrassed, but suddenly he stopped and turned towards me. My heart was racing. I was dressed as a street-walker or some other terribly inappropriate costume for a girl who had just started menstruating maybe a month before. This boy was the most exciting and lovely boy in the school as far as I was concerned. He was intriguing, smart, sassy, tough and scrawny in a totally sexy way. He had heard I had a crush on him. He and his friends had devised this plan. He was kissing me! Through the thick makeup and around the tacky jewelry, his lips were touching mine. His tongue was reaching inside my unpractised mouth. And all I could think about was...slugs!

I had had a often-repeated nightmare about slugs, millions of them crawling over every square inch of space, coming over the fence at my grandmother's house, slowly teeming like a swarm of locusts, moving at a snail's (ha ha) pace! It was a terrifying dream. And the underside of a tongue - the part visible when you lift it up to touch the tip of your nose - looks like a slug. Or at least I imagined it so at that moment.

So, as his tongue swished around between my tight jaws, I relived the childhood nightmare. The slugs had made it past the fence, past the apple tree and I was frozen, riveted to the ground as they slimed their way up my body and into my mouth. Poor Martin. He might have been a good kisser - I couldn't say.

There have been a number of uncomfortable kisses in my life. The old, lecherous, great-uncle, obviously enjoying himself far more than acceptable as he kissed my ten-year-old cheek and patted my young rump. The out-of-touch stepfather who thought it was funny to slip in a little tongue once in awhile as a surprise. Even the most important kiss of my life - my wedding day "You May Kiss the Bride" kiss - was performed in front of an audience of 200. My husband and I felt called upon to make it intimate, yet fit for public consumption, poignant, but not too sloppy. I think we rehearsed it beforehand.

Kissing might seem like a modern cultural invention. No one imagines cavemen and cavewomen kissing like Rhett Butler and Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. But passionate, erotic kissing can feel instinctual and animalistic - like eating, consuming, inhaling. You want to inhabit your lover's body, sustain it, feed it and be fed by it. During lovemaking, kissing connects and attaches you to your lover above, just as below. Highly sensitive lips touching and exploring during emotionally charged moments makes perfect sense, even before homo sapiens and their social rules got so complicated (poor Scarlet).

Even kissing babies is instinctual. What mother doesn't nuzzle her young? Cows do it, cats do it, even kangaroos and rats do it. Pushing ones lips against a small, warm, soft body that you are hormonally programmed to love is a natural proclivity. That spot right under the baby's ear and right above her neck - the spot vampires also gravitate towards - is like a bullseye for mothers, aunties and grandmas. I have kissed, snuggled and caressed this spot with my mothering lips too many times to count. What joy it brings!

Growing up, I don't remember a lot of kissing in my family. It always kind of grossed me out to see other teenagers' mothers kissing them (especially on the lips - a custom that still gives me the willies). But now that I am a mother myself, I can't imagine NOT kissing and hugging my girls. That is why Katie's ban on kissing was such a blow. I enjoy kissing her. It demonstrates my affection for her and my willingness to support her emotionally. And it just feels good.

I toed the line for 3 months. I respected the proclamation. I followed her rule (sometimes I negotiated a kiss before she slept over at a friend's house to make up for the hug I would miss that night). And then, one night, I heard it - the sound of smacking lips! A kiss!

My husband, tucking Katie in, said goodnight, hugged her and... gave her a kiss!

I said, "Wait a minute!"

"What?" said Katie.

"How come Daddy gets to kiss you and I don't?" My voice was booming with mock anger. "What kind of a trick have you been playing on me? All these months I haven't been allowed, but Daddy has? That's not fair!"

The silence seemed to indicate that I had gained an advantage. I decided to make my own proclamation: "From now on, since Daddy gets to kiss you, I get to kiss you too!"

And she didn't argue.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Just Like in the Movies!

My husband and I just got back from a double-feature at the local, second-run theater up the street, where they charge $3 to get in, and serve beer and pizza. I am not sure if it was officially a double-feature, but we hung out in the bathroom long enough to not be sitting there when they cleared the theater between shows. We bought enough pizza and beer to justify seeing each movie for a mere $1.50, and enjoyed a rare, long night out without the usual time constraints brought on by the babysitter's bedtime or our dogs' bladder capacity.

We watched Hancock with Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Justin Bateman, and followed it up with HellBoy 2 with Ron Perlman and a string of actors not talented enough to mention here. While I enjoyed Will's acting (and just looking at him), you might guess from my previous comment that I only tolerated HellBoy 2. One movie pleased me; the other left me disappointed.

As I was leaving the theater, it hit me that what makes a satisfying movie-going experience is similar to what makes voters happy. Will Smith is good to look at, 10 points. Will Smith is a good actor, 20 more points. Great supporting cast (one academy award winner!), 30 points. Hancock had a familiar, but still interesting story to tell, 30 points.

Hellboy 2: Ron Perlman - not terribly sexy, but cute in his own roguish way - 5 points. Acting skills - 9 points. The supporting cast consisted of a stoned-looking Selma Blair, who had nothing much to say, but got all hot and fiery with emotion (drawn in with CGI to make up for her inability to emote with her actual face), a bunch of actors in costumes so thick and immobile that they should have been CGI (it would have been cheaper), and some great martial artists that were so slick and fast the camera couldn't follow their moves. Supporting cast - 11 points. Storyline: far too familiar. In fact it brought to mind Saturday morning cartoons with Tom and Jerry when I was a kid. Tom chasing Jerry. Tom trying to eat Jerry. Jerry miraculously escaping all harm. Tom getting hit in the head with a frying pan. Storyline - 18 points.

Let's apply these standards to our politicians.

Good Looks
Although it is truly sad that we care about the way our elected officials look, it is true that people don't vote for poorly-dressed nerds with highwaters and spinach in their teeth. I think politicians have figured this one out, but some get extra points just for their genes (although age is also a determining factor).

Looks - Obama: 10 points, McCain: 3 points

Acting Skills
Some politicians just exude confidence and authority. They make you feel in your bones the direness of a situation. They light a fire in your belly. Call it what you will, I call it acting. I am not saying this in a derogatory way - not at all. We all have to act as part of our daily lives. I act one way in front of my children, a different way at work, and yet a different way when my grandma is in the room (grandma doesn't approve of fart jokes).

We are all just individual people. Authority is not within us, but given to us based on our ability to act like leaders. Leaders don't have nervous ticks. They stand up straight and look you in the eye. Leaders use their faces and their bodies to add impact to their words for the benefit of the audience, which is you and me. If Will Smith were running against Selma Blair, guess who would win? Turn the sound off the next time you watch the presidential candidates speak.

Acting - Obama: 18, McCain: 10

Supporting Cast
No president can run the country by him or herself. When one tries, cries of impeachment are not far off. No, a presidential nominee needs a strong supporting cast. There has to be the preferably strong female interest (assuming the candidate is a male) to create chemistry and emotion; and the good guy/best friend trying to get by or maybe make a difference in the world. A "Professor" is always a plus, too, with cool gadgets and inventions to perk us up.

Now a Presidential nominee can choose to play his cast like the sad, out-of-touch comedy troop from Gilligan's Island. The three stereotypes of womanhood are represented: Mrs Howell - the rich bitch, Ginger - the sexpot, and MaryAnn - the girl we all wish we would have married before we ended up with Mrs. Howell (but little did we know MaryAnn was a Valium addict, with those glazed eyes...). The only problem with this approach is that real women are nowhere to be seen. Woman as equal, as protagonist, moving the conversation (or the plot line) forward, does not exist. Even Gilligan, representing the best friend, is abused and his efforts for a better life are ridiculed. Like on TV, the only keeper in this political staff is the Professor (but then again, he was the only cute male on the show - 5 points).

McCain has selected a rabid Mrs. Howell as his running mate. Palin is obviously a strong woman, as required for a film that aims to captivate watchers. But she is unsympathetic to viewers. She does not accentuate McCain's role, nor does she serve as a model for women to identify with. She could be construed as "everywoman" to those who live in small towns and have extreme, out of touch views about science, but that is a minority among women today. Believe it or not, most women agree with most men that evolution and global warming are true. Her presence, however, certainly moves the story forward. Paradoxically, McCain and Mrs. Howell (I mean Palin) together have ridiculed the everyman in Gilligan, and I don't see any Professors on their slate.

Another approach to casting for the presidential campaign is to treat your actors with respect, providing human depth and complexities that most movie-goers appreciate. While McCain's bleach-blond wife prefers to take a "traditional, symbolic" role in the White House, Obama has a real woman (although she looks like a Ginger) in his wife Michelle. This is the role model most women prefer. Strong, sexy and smart. And her role compliments Obama, for a compelling reason to watch this film to its conclusion.

Biden was selected, I am sure, for his ability to win votes in his home state. But he also happens to be a respected and experienced senator who would bring added benefit to the White House. I don't know enough about Biden to say for sure, but he looks a little like the Professor to me.

So, while McCain has selected cast members that give him a big bang for his buck, Obama is hoping his audience will make it past the previews and dig into the heart of the matter.

Supporting Cast - McCain 20, Obama 15

There is a reason why action flicks primarily fascinated with gun fights and explosions don't win academy awards. But they often make a lot of money! The conundrum for the presidential nominees is finding a story that excites the masses, but also offers a wonderful story worthy of repeat viewings. McCain has gone with the tried and true. He is remaking the classic "Shoot-em-Up" film with his campaign by pushing abortion into the center of the conversation. The shots are flying as this highly emotional issue is paraded up main street in an effort to mobilize people who would have ignored him otherwise. Unfortunately for him, this mobilizes both those passionate for and against. McCain knows, however, that those passionately for abortion rights are already voting for his opponent.

The problem with this approach, in all of its manifestations, is that it depends on voters to determine their president based on their immediate anger and fears. McCain is relying on various shock factors for his platform, and that requires an unbroken stream of reasons to be mad and scared. Can he "keep it up" through November? Not a very feel-good movie if you ask me.

Obama's previews show his candidacy to be "Schindler's List" or "The English Patient" - thought-provoking stories of hope and - I'm embarrassed to say it - love. The love of mankind, including those who are dying in the war in Iraq. The love of the earth and trying to slow the devastating effects of our lifestyles. Pretty sappy, huh? What real man votes based on hope and love? Well, I think the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (5,800 actors and film industry representatives who determine Oscar winners each year) is made up primarily of men...

The storyline for the two candidates couldn't be more different. Do you over-stimulate people's synapses so they stay seated (with mouths agape) for four years of meaningless, high-speed car chases, or do you promise captivating plot twists and in-depth character development for all who cast their vote?

Storyline: Obama - 32, McCain 20

Obviously there is more to getting votes than this! Let's hope that the American voters can see past these surface elements to what really makes a movie great. "The unifying idea that is a recurrent element in an artistic work" is the theme. Car crashes and sappy kisses aside, voters need to look at the substance of each candidate and vote for what will make this country a better place, and maybe even win us an Academy Award, perhaps for "Most Improved Nation."


Totals: Hancock - 90, Obama - 75, McCain - 53, HellBoy 2 - 41

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Beginning

Guess What!? I live in Portland. No, not THAT Portland, the cool Portland - Portland, Oregon. This is my first post on my first blog. The topic of the day? Something about Portland no doubt!

I could start with the heavy topics on everyone's mind right now (politics!), but let's start out slow and warm up to that later, shall we? How about something that Portlanders are proud of - our coffee!

I actually hate coffee. My husband, a self-proclaimed coffee-addict (he packs the campfire espresso maker on back-country hiking trips), tries to get me hooked every chance he can, but I like to think that I have prevailed. I don't have those throbbing headaches he gets if he goes a day without the customary 3 cups. I don't get grumpy and bite people's heads off if I haven't found a coffee shop in any of the small towns we pass through while vacationing in Central Oregon, Alaska or Sweden. However, I am frequently guilty of spending $4 for a cup full of hot milk and sugar, flavored with espresso. And worse yet (according to some of my friends), I usually buy it at Starbucks.

This leads us to two questions: How can a person hate coffee but enjoy espresso? And how can a person live in liberal SE Portland and patronize Starbucks, the evil corporate coffee-shop-takeover king?

To answer the first question, I guess I just love milk and sugar and will stop at nothing to get some (I love cereal too!). I especially like that a whole-milk latte - or better yet, a caramel, whole-milk latte, or better still, a whole-milk caramel mocha - is an accepted accompaniment to any activity at any time of day. It's versatile! It fills you up, boosts your morale (yes, I still get that "happy" feeling when I imbibe caffeine), and best yet, it doesn't have to "count" as a meal! But it can be a simple, any-day solution to the "what to get for lunch" dilemma and an apparently reasonably-priced fallback when everything else seems too "fast food" or too expensive.

Your office-mates don't look at you funny when you drag a 4,000 calorie, syrup-laden coffee drink around with you everywhere you go, not like they do when you eat a bowlful of Peanut Butter Cap't Crunch during the company safety meeting. (Maybe it's the spoon that makes them stare...) I guess I could try hiding my Capt' Crunch in a coffee cup.

As for the Starbucks question, well, somehow I manage to live with myself. I was appalled when I heard that Starbucks had bought the lease out from under a number of local coffee shops, without actually buying out the businesses themselves. I was dismayed that both Torrefazione and Seattle's Best Coffee succumbed to the irresistible (I imagine it was literally so) offer by Starbucks Corporate to dissolve their enterprises so that Starbucks wouldn't have any competitors nearby.

Some people hate Starbucks for their aggressive capitalistic ways. I guess I am a wimp. Because I like consistency and availability. Although I frequent a few local coffee shops that produce a better or comparable coffee drink, I am loathe to try anybody new for fear of disappointment.

Did I mention that I am very picky? I have turned my nose up at more coffee drinks than people twice my age and income level (luckily, my husband doesn't mind slurping up my discards). So, despite Starbucks' glaring example of "Might equals right" (I despairingly call it "The American Way"), I appreciate the product. The same Caramel Macciato can be found in almost every airport and main street of every moderate-sized town I visit.

There is nothing worse than looking forward to a tasty, hand-warming cup of sweet comfort, and finding that it falls far short of my hopes and expectations. Except maybe neglecting my duty to put my money where my mouth is.