Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Life is Relentless

So, this is the pile of blogger business (and non-business) cards that I acquired at BlogHer. I'm determined to go through each one and investigate these women and their sites. It's going to take a while.

And speaking of being overwhelmed ...

Check out this monster zucchini that came out of my garden a few weeks ago. Happy to say that I'm nearly done eating it. However, I have harvested two even-bigger monsters since then, both inexplicably yellow.

Even more frightening, there are about a dozen more right behind them, ready to burst with squash-like goodness ... Sooooooo, anyone like zucchini? I do late night porch drop-offs, just FYI.

Monday, July 30, 2007

BlogHer '07 Recap

Wow. What just happened? I arrived home from BlogHer ’07 last night and my brain feels like it has been through a wind tunnel of sorts. So much to absorb – my brain was completely rocked.

I've never seen so many powerful, brainy women (and a smattering of guys) in one place – about 800, I’m told. Each with their own laptop and most, with their own blog(s). I interacted with so many of them, each one more creative and articulate than the last. (More photos on Flickr.)

Craft mamas were EVERYWHERE. If there are dominating groups at BlogHer, it goes as follows: Mommy Bloggers, Food Bloggers and Craft Bloggers. I find this charming and hilarious - we basically still have the same interests (plus a few thousand more) as a 1950s housewife except now we've got tattoos, laptops, voices and, best of all, choices. Nice work, ladies. Keep those knitting needles sharp ...

Some favorite quotes:

"From now on, assume that everyone is press," Elisa, Lisa and Jory, founders of BlogHer, kicking off the conference

“Being passionate 24 hours a day is exhausting,” – Claire Blaustein from cookthink.com

“Keeping a blog is like having a child, it must be fed,”
– Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic Presidential candidate, John Edwards

“I like being a blog husband,” – John “Fletch” Fletcher

“Tell your boobs to quit staring at my eyes,” –t-shirt on man walking around Navy Pier

“I was naked … once,”
–Liz Strauss, interjecting in a discussion on how quickly women disrobe in front of one another

“Don’t be scared of the Site Meter,”
– Ree, "Confessions of a Pioneer Woman"

“It’s my world too!” – Elizabeth Edwards, responding to my "Thanks for attending" remark.

Friday, July 27, 2007

First Night: Infiltration

As predicted, I am overwhelmed by the collective power of BlogHer attendees. Some have been blogging as long as 10 years while others just started but have hit the ground running, already earning triple-digit readership. I shared a cab from O'Hare with the two ladies who just happened to be running the "Take Your Blog to the Next Level" panel - real techies - and they were amazing. One girl, Marilyn, has "4 or 5" blogs and tends to change the format on all of them ... monthly. Oh, she is also married and is raising two small children.

Fer chrissakes, what do these women eat for breakfast???? Sheesh.

Last night, I managed to elbow my way into a rib-eating feast with all the attending food bloggers. The place was Carson's, a legendary place known for their air-tight delivery of their famous ribs anywhere in the world. We'd followed one gal several blocks like a line of ducklings - what a payoff!

I was sitting next to my new best friend, Susan Voisin, who manages to be a fat-free vegan while living in Mississippi. She's my hero. (Susan ate a portobello burger.) The conversation topic was, as imagined, FOOD. There was also some dishy food blogger gossip but alas, I knew none of the characters.

Here's Elise Bauer, who is very famous in the food blogging world - something like 50,000 page view a day. She's getting a fashion update in preparation for her rib ravishing session. She led a session today and using tech tricks to increase traffic. She is brilliant, like everyone else here. I keep looking for the "Blog Success: How to Train Your Body To Eschew Sleep" panel session but no luck yet.

It's already starting to feel like SXSW - over-stimulating and highly educational. However, instead of celebrities and struggling rock stars roaming about, there are blog-ebrities (I met Pioneer Woman!) and not-so-struggling individualists who have something to say. I'm just trying to keep up ...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

BlogHer Bound!

Tomorrow morning, I head to Chicago where I will meet up with thousands of other lady bloggers for the annual BlogHer Conference. These women are fierce and focused and I'm hoping it rubs off on me.

This is an interesting time to be alive. Bloggers everywhere are a creative intense bunch and they are changing the way we communicate, not to mention sparking the begrudging transformation of traditional media; the world is almost changing faster than it can process. Why, for example, is Word's spellcheck still unfamiliar with the word "blog" and all its incarnations? Get with the program, Bill, it's 2007.

I feel that blogging is so entrenched in our society that when I hear communications professionals say things like, "Yeah, I hear that blogging is the next big thing", I think, "Next? Where the hell have they have they been?" I must be too deeply into it, otherwise, I would not be so stunned when people ask to me to explain what it is.

As for the conference, I plan on being slightly intimidated by the collective power and talent. I still feel very far behind in this realm. Hopefully, I'll learn how to spruce up ClizBiz so that more than two people want to read it. The image of Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz" always comes to mind when I'm fumbling around with html or some other simple function: "Sigh. If I only had a brain."

Here's hoping I return to my blogging chair on Monday with some fresh inspiration and useful tech knowledge cuz right now I feel like a six-foot third grader who has been held back too many times.

Here's to the power of osmosis!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

RIP: Tammy Faye

When I returned from my glorious weekend in Vail, I was saddened to hear about the passing of Tammy Faye. (Yeah, she's got a bunch of last names but really, how many Tammy Fayes' are there?)

I was actually surprised at my own response, "Oh, no!" In general, I loathe Christian TV evangelists who steal from their loyal congregants, women who wear too much make-up and phonies in general. So, why would I care if Tammy Faye walked the earth or not? Why did I not have the same reaction when I heard about the passing of Jerry Falwell: "Well, that took waaaaaay too long!"

There are two men I blame for my attitude reversal, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, directors of the documentary, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." I Netflixed this film several months ago, specifically so I could laugh and gawk at this ridiculous woman. (FACT: I am an asshole.) Instead, I ended up with an unavoidable affection for the strong little lady who insisted on being herself, even as her world came crashing down while all of society mocked her.

Admittedly, I knew nothing about her past - that she and Jim (still creepy, after all these years) Bakker had been pioneers in Christian broadcasting, twice building empires from the ground up. I also did not realize what a large role Jerry Fucking Falwell and Pat "I Actually Work For Satan" Robertson played in the PTL scandal.

What struck me the most about the film was how her actions consistently matched her words. No one questions that she was the first among Christian celebrities to stand up and offer comfort to AIDS patients ... in 1985! That's really early, folks. Shockingly, other so-called Christians weren't as quick to embrace the mostly gay male victims of the mysterious new disease. When her own fans recoiled instead, she was openly disgusted:

"How sad that we as Christians, who are to be the salt of the earth, and we, who are supposed to be able to love everyone, are afraid so badly of an AIDS patient that we will not go up and put our arm around them and tell that that we care."

She was genuinely confused about their hesitation - after all, isn't this what Jesus would do? Watching her shake that fiery little fist on the air, I saw a real naivete that became more and more apparent throughout the film. I had been too busy judging her public persona and somewhat distracted by eighty layers of mascara. Turns out, Tammy Faye was no phony, she'd been this way all along and continued to be exactly who she was long after the world had dispensed of her.

I also began to see a LOT of Dolly Parton in Tammy Faye and let us not forget the gospel of Dolly: "You wouldn't believe how expensive it is to look this cheap."

I couldn't help myself - by the end of the film, I wanted to hug TF and take her to lunch. Despite the fact that she looks kinda freaky and has the voice of ... well, if cute bunnies got angry and could talk, this what they would sound like.

After some contemplation, I could pinpoint the source of my unexpected affection - she was a real Christian! Who knew? Sadly, I only know a handful of these folks, people who actually have their hearts open and love all mankind, y'know, like Jesus? Others who like to hide behind the Christian name meanwhile passing judgement upon others while spewing hatred and fear toward anyone who is different, those are the Christians who have claimed the airwaves, not to mention the White House. I detest them. Trouble is, they often use the same words, quote the same Bible and invite you to the same friendly BBQs. I am notoriously wary about these folks. As Johnny Cash sang, "You're so heavenly minded, you're no earthly good." Amen.

Tammy Faye was, ultimately, a good sport. Little known fact: The quickest way to Heather's heart is self-deprecation. When Tammy Faye started to re-emerge on the public scene, she appeared on The Drew Carey Show, playing the mother of character Mimi Bobek (Kathy Kinney, at right), also known for wearing excessive amounts of makeup. She then appeared on VH1's reality series, "The Surreal Life" in which Tammy Faye, Ron Jeremy, Vanilla Ice, Traci Bingham (who?), Erik Estrada and Trishelle Cannatella (WHO?!?) all lived together in LA.

Evidently, Tammy Faye forged close bonds with all her house mates, many of whom came to look up to her as a mother figure and a spiritual inspiration. She encouraged the household to "grant themselves permission to cast off the things that are holding them back, to forgive themselves and others, to be happy with themselves whoever they are, to persevere in the face of opposition, and to show each other unconditional love." Her speech moved the cast to tears; Bingham later confessed that it had been a "life-altering moment" for her.

At the end of the show, Tammy Faye said she thought of Vanilla Ice and Trishelle Cannatella as children and could relate to them deeply. Tammy Faye as Vanilla Ice's adopted mama? It doesn't get weirder than this, folks.

Point is, Tammy Faye, when all was said and done, walked the walk. Coming from a non-Christian (not quite anti- but often veeeeery close) such as myself, this speaks volumes. She made me realized I had judged her, the very behavior that I so detest in others. Who could have possibly guessed that Tammy Faye would end up teaching me such a lesson? I hope they give her lots of puppets, microphones and lash applicators in the clouds.

Rest in peace, TF.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Me in 10 Seconds

As instructed by BlogHer's great leader, Lisa Stone, I present tiny revealing shards of me-isms throughout the years:

ClizBiz, age 10:

"I don't see why I have to wear a shirt outside when I don't even have boobies yet."

ClizBiz, age 20:

"No, really, I'm very conservative. I only took half a hit of acid 'cause I had to drive home."

ClizBiz, age 30:
"I only fear two things in this life: Getting married and NOT getting married."

ClizBiz, age 40:
"And then which button do I press?"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rodents Take the Stage TONIGHT!

For those of you based in the Centennial state and craving some live improv comedy, please come check out The Rodents of Unusual Size this evening for our monthly performance at the Avenue Theater at 417 E. 17th Avenue in downtown Denver.

Every show is mostly unscripted and therefore, entirely unique. Much of our brilliance is built on audience suggestions since our own brains are entirely overcrowded. Our last performance included live audience blogging - see Kath above, in action. (Photo credit goes to the talented John Hartkopp.) There was also a few mouse trap casualties and some surprise groping - all in a night's work ...

Show starts at 7:30 and $10 gets you in the door ... with a drink!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Phyllis!

Today marks the 90th birthday of one of America's greatest comedic treasures: Phyllis Diller. It is always scary to meet one's heroes - what if they are cold, colorless and disappointing? Thankfully, Phyllis is one of those celebrities that is every inch what you imagine and about 20 times more.

First off, she is much more beautiful in person than I'd expected. With all that plastic surgery, I was worried about getting close up and getting a scare like I do when I see Meg Ryan at a distance. Not at all. "The trick with the surgeries is knowing when to stop," she told me. "I once had the best plastic surgeon and then he up and died on me ... the NERVE!" Phyllis looks great - realistically an attractive older woman but not at all plastic.

Secondly, I quickly became aware how sharp her mind is. Nothing escapes her - politics, social issues, geographies, the arts - and she is never bored. While talking in her living room, Phyllis became distracted by her cat, Miss Kitty, chasing a fly. "Oh, look! She gonna get it! Look at her!" she squealed. "Now then, where was I?" Meanwhile, I'm thinking, 'God, I love this woman.' Phyllis lives very much in the moment and does not suffer fools.

I'd once made the mistake of complaining about my age in her presence when I was 36. "HA!" she blurted, and then came up and poked me in the chest with every word: "I hadn't even been on stage yet when I was your age!" And then again for good measure, "HA!" Made me realize how long life could be and how much I could get done and how I wish I had a quarter of her talent and as much ambition.

This is a woman who, after birthing five - FIVE - children, became the world's first female stand-up comic ... in 1955. She was 37 years old. Apparently, her husband, Sherwood, couldn't keep a job and it was the only way she could support the family. (He was, however, hot in the sack.)

I asked her once if she knew she would become famous. She sighed and, for once, was quite serious, "Yeah, I knew." Diller is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for delivering 12 punch lines per minute - a record that still stands today. Watching her act or listening to her old comedy albums is like witnessing lighting - it's so quick, so natural, so powerful. It lights up the room in one bright flash after another.

On top of all this, Phyllis also became an accomplished concert pianist and has performed with over 100 symphonies across the U.S. Her arthritis keeps her from playing these days so now she paints, whenever she's not the voice of "Mother Tucker" on TV's "Family Guy" or making other appearances. She once let me photograph her famous "Wig Room" and take a look at her many, many paintings. As I came down the stairs, she looked up, "Well, whattya think?" I shook my head, "I think that there are about 30 very average people walking around right now - I think you've hogged enough talent for all of them." She laughed her famous laugh and enjoyed that theory very much.

Phyllis is also a big-time foodie and adores cooking. When touring, she'd bring all her own food, cookware and hot plate and make gourmet dinners for her staff after each show. During one conversation, I asked her what she liked to make. She excitedly grabbed her shopping list so she could list off preferred ingredients. On the list was three flavors of Jello-O. "I LOVE Jell-O," she declared.

So when her birthday rolled around that year, my father urged me to send her a giant box filled with Jell-O packages. She sent me a long thank-you note (Phyllis is quite the formal corresponder) "I laughed so hard! Thanks for giving me a gift I could really use."

When I last spoke to her earlier this year, it was post-martini time - she has one every night. Her secretary initially apologized to me in mousy chirps, "I'm sorry but Ms. Diller doesn't talk to anyone after 8:30 p.m. ... " and then I heard Phyllis grab the phone and shout enthusiastically, "Heather, DARLING! You KNOW that come June, I think I'll be running out of my stash so .... " I took the hint and sent her another big box yesterday.

Happy Birthday, Phyllis! Just walking the earth same time as you is a terrific honor.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Keeping Up

My blog fingers have been lazy lately. I guess they have been touching other things – guitar strings, horse reigns, books, car keys and if I get lucky, myself.

Saturday night, I attended a long-awaited House Destruction Party. Every Wednesday night, my fellow Rodents and I practice our improv chops in a completely empty house that Jeff owns. There’s no running water or furniture – the perfect blank canvas to regress.

Soon, the house is coming down to make way for a income-generating condo and we celebrated by attacking the house walls with racy commentary. There was the ‘Name the New Building!’ room and the Sexual Confessions Room. HDW has some great photos here, as does Kath. Never has communication at a party been so clear:

If you didn’t get a chance to read the Wall Street Journal’s gigantic piece on the 10th Blogiversary, please do. Interesting stuff, except what is cranky stuff-ass Tom Wolfe doing in there? If you missed it, let me know and I’ll make sure you get it.

Thinking about using public transportation? Biking? Walking? This image should cinch the deal for you. And remember, there are only so many dead dinosaurs to extract from our beloved blue marble. There is a common saying in Saudi Arabia right now:

"My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel."

In case that doesn't cheer you up, check out this story about how American publishers are protecting our nation's children from tiny cartoon boobies and half-millimeter-long penises. When I ponder this brazen idiocy or the Bushies 'total abstinence' program or the wasteful and delusional war on drugs, well ... it makes me reach for a cold compress .... and my passport. It also makes me want to draw genitalia in crayon and fax it to the White House while smoking a giant spliff but that's just me. Is there a graph for 'Heads Up Asses Per Capita?"

It does remind me of a brief conversation I once had with a woman outside a supermarket. She had some card table set up with flyers and whatnot and approached me with the dreaded clipboard and pen. Ready to save the world, she spoke in full perk:

"Hi! How are you today? Would you like to help us fight the war on drugs?"

Me, matching her cheerleader enthusiasm beat-for-beat:

"Oh, hey! Thanks so much but I actually use drugs! Good luck with that though!"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Bonfire of Waste

Last night I returned from Seattle - visiting Dad and other tribe members. Until I get my photos and my adjectives together, here's some food for thought:

PARADE estimated that the current crop of presidential candidates (19, at last count) will spend approximately $1 billion in their frantic reach for the White House. The editors took a quick look at what else that money could buy:

* Treatment and prevention for more than 150 million cases of malaria in Africa
* Basic health insurance for 250,000 Americans
* More than 415 million school lunches for U.S. school children
* Nearly 6,700 new, fully armored Humvees for U.S. troops
* Hurricane relief for our compadres down south - foreign nations offered nearly $1B in aid post-Katrina

This perspective gave me the same queasy feeling I get after viewing crappy Hollywood schlock. You know the kind where the whole film reeks of half-assedness and the entire cast phones it in?

Inevitably, I torture myself with what could be accomplished on just the catering budget alone. "Thousands of dollars in bagels, fruit and sandwiches ... and for what?!?" I shake my head, disgusted by the waste of perfectly useful greenbacks.

Same shit, different venue.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Queendom Comes Full Circle

At last, my reign has begun. Henceforth, I shall be known as Queen of the Fourplex.

It was Esther who moved out first. She lived on the first floor and I miss her the most. Her husband built the place I live in the 50s and she’d raised the family here. She has Alzheimer’s and now lives in a Home. She was smart and feisty and whenever I was out gardening, it was like “50 First Dates with Esther.” Something like, “Who are you? Where do you live? What are you doing in my garden?” And so on.

I truly enjoyed the “Who are you?” question. I had just moved in and my life was a blank slate. “That’s a very good, question, Esther,” I would say, “Who am I anyway? What exactly do I want? What kind of life? Hmmmmm.” This would piss Esther off even more and she’d stand over me, hands on her hips, waiting for a concrete answer. Then, she’d point out all the weeds I’d missed, “Well, whoever you are, you’re a crappy gardener.”

Then, Neal, the yummy musician/river guide just below me finally got fed up with the nasty neighbor next to him and moved in with his girlfriend, Emily. I’ll miss his rapid-fire laugh and the expert guitar riffs that came up through my water heater. I will not miss the fornication soundtrack. Talk about rubbing it in …

Finally, management kicked out Crazy Angie next door to me. She reeked of negative energy, lived in darkness and was obsessed with TV. She’d slam the door as you passed by, wouldn’t make eye contact and was afraid and/or against most everything. She called the city to complain about Neal’s “attack dog” – an old mushy yellow lab named Belle. She’d lived there since 1993 but they finally got her ass out last Saturday which means ….

IT’S ALL ME, BABY! As the worker dudes – a friendly guy named Tim and an 18-year-old helper named Mark – slowly fix up all the empty units, I’ve (temporarily) got the entire building, lot and expansive backyard to myself: The ClizBiz Queendom.

I could devise no better way to break in the castle than to invite some gal pals over for a healthy tradition called ‘Circle.’ Every season or so, a group of us ladies gather together to talk about our lives, speak some healing words of encouragement, eat, drink, smoke and get crafty. These wonderful women – mostly from Mississippi – roped me in last year when I needed it most. Once again, the Girlfriend Network saves my ass.

Inspired by the pressing urge to decorate my Sin Box - an old cigar box filled with candy, cigarettes, chocolate, illicit drugs and ex-boyfriend phone numbers - I decided we should make personalized boxes. Please note the masterful - mistressful? - work of Miss Amy Cobbs. Her artistry blew us all away.

The unstoppable One-Armed Carley didn't let her little running mishap get in the way of Art. She made a Saving for Costa Rica Box while wearing my Grandma Myrtle's apron, which I'd personally extracted from a rotting North Dakota farmhouse. Ah, the many exotic lives of an antique apron.

On the left here is the lovely Amy, who looked so delicate and summery in frilly white and pink. She claimed the muse wasn't with her, "Ya'll, I'm just not feeling it today. The creativity is just not comin'." Though we all loved her results, we generally agreed that The Muse is one fickle bitch.

Celine, to the right here, is somewhat known as a Master (again, Mistress?) of Manifestation. She showed up to a Circle at Carley's house one time and wowed us with sleek new car, which seemingly came from out of the blue. (I've heard she can also do this with $5,000 paintings.) When we asked her where the car came from, she responded: "I manifested it!" Either the girl has special powers or has some serious connections on the Black Market. Personally, I welcome either one.

At left is The Mighty Miss Bliss, who kindly helped me gather all the art supplies. "Girl, we got to go to Hobby Lobby!" she declared. Despite the mass acreage of flourescent lighting, I was floored by all the bits and pieces of yet unmade masterpieces - the place is teeming with promising elements of the future.

An apt description for my new exclusive space. Come on by and I'll let down the drawbridge - lots of cold beers in the fridge ...