Friday, October 31, 2008

Sick Kitty on Halloween

I just spent the last five hours in two different vet offices dealing with the news that my best friend - who happens to be a cat - has liver failure. Simone has not been herself the last week or so and now I know why. She is currently in the kitty hospital, hooked up to an IV and, undoubtedly, swearing at everyone in sight with that deep, rumbling 500-horsepower growl of hers.

I'll admit, I cried most of the afternoon and not just when I handed over the deposit of $950 for her weekend care.

Handsome Vet: "Are you okay?"
Me: (Sputtering, trying to keep composed but failing.) "N-n-no."
Handsome vet: "Are you going to be okay?"
Me: "Ummmmmm. Eventually, I guess."

Quite simply, if I lose her, I'm screwed. Sure, I've got lots of friends and family but they mostly live far away and have their own lives. This is my day-to-day connection and my singular world would get downright echo-y without her around the house.

I had plans for tonight but I'm not so sure I'm in the mood. Especially when black cats are a decoration favorite on this Hallow's Eve. Wah. I think I'll just stay home and watch more "Buffy" ...

For you praying types, can you sneak in a good word for Simone? She's a great friend and I need her to last quite a bit longer. THANKS.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Real Political Animals: Donkey and Elephant

(This is a cross-post from my other gig at BlogHer.)

Democratic Donkeys and Republican Elephants: The political animal imagery has been around so long - at least 180 years - that we no longer question the how or the why. In fact, I'd forgotten about it entirely until Sarah Palin showed up to a rally wearing a red-white-and-blue donkey neck scarf on October 21. Naturally, she got slammed with lots of 'WTF?' blog posts and news headlines and her misplaced accessory might've been overlooked but the darn thing had the word "VOTE" all over it.

So, let's go back to the beginning. The first evidence of a donkey symbolizing the Democratic Party was in 1828 when Andrew Jackson ran for president. Like the political battles of today, name-calling ensued and his opponents labeled him a "jackass" for his populist views and his slogan, "Let the people rule." Jackson, however, turned the tables and used donkey imagery in his campaign posters. Throughout Jackson's presidency, the donkey was used to represent Jackson's stubbornness, particularly when he vetoed re-chartering the National Bank. (Hey, that sounds familiar ...)

Meanwhile, the elephant first appeared in 1864 as a symbol of the Republican Party when Abraham Lincoln used it in some of his campaign literature. The pachyderm appeared again in an 1872 Harper's Weekly political article. But it was Harper's political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, who cemented both donkey and elephant as permanent party symbols.
"The elephant has a thick skin, a head full of ivory, and as everyone who has seen a circus parade knows, proceeds best by grasping the tail of its predecessor."

--Adlai Stevenson, Democratic presidential candidate, 1952

In his first cartoon featuring the donkey, published in 1870, Nast penned the animal kicking a dead lion. He branded the donkey as the Copperhead Press and the lion as Edwin M. Stanton, President Lincoln's secretary of war, who had just died. In Nast's mind, the cartoon illustrated a Democratic press whose lingering anti-war beliefs dishonored Stanton. ('Copperheads' were Northern Democrats who had opposed the Civil War from the beginning; Nast considered them anti-Union racists who had acquired too much power.)

Nast's first use of the elephant appeared in an 1874 "Third Term Panic" cartoon that also featured a disguised donkey chasing frightened animals. An elephant depicting the "Republican Vote" stumbled towards a pit labeled "Inflation" and "Chaos." From Nast's perspective, the elephant represented the effects of Copperhead Democrat scare tactics, as well as the confused lumbering body that Nast felt that Republican voters and publications had become.

Known as the "Father of the American Cartoon", Thomas Nast unwittingly contributed two of the most enduring political symbols of this nation and I find it pretty damn delightful that he was a German immigrant. Nast's cartoons went on to illustrate the beauty of emancipation and to lambaste the poor treatment of blacks, Chinese, Native Americans and basically any people that were being oppressed. Except the Irish - Nast HATED the Irish.

But it was his famous skewering of corrupt New York Democrat, William “Boss” Tweed, which delighted readers the most. Tweed's fear of Nast's cartoons was widely quoted:
"Stop them damned pictures. I don’t care so much what the papers say about me. My constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures!"

The best part? When Tweed was eventually indicted, he fled to Cuba, and then Spain. Officials wired ahead to Spain to arrange for Tweed’s arrest. The Spanish authorities, however, had no photographs of Tweed to identify him, so they used one of Nast’s cartoons. Bingo! Tweed was arrested as soon as he stepped off the boat.

Oh yeah, one more thing: Thomas Nast also gave us the enduring and overwhelmingly jolly images of Santa Claus in 1863. Before Nast got to St. Nick, he was tall, skinny and somewhat dour. (Nast also gets credit for Uncle Sam's goatee.) How crazy is that? Almost as crazy as finding out that Willard Scott, occasional weatherman and centenarian lover from 'The Today Show', created the Ronald McDonald character, which is also true.

On his blog, Amused to Life, Reese wonders if given the choice, would the same symbols be chosen today?:

"Interestingly, in these days of product branding and trademarks, the Democratic Party has still not officially adopted the donkey as their mascot (though they use it widely), while the Republicans have officially adopted the elephant. It begs an interesting question. What icons they would choose if they were to start from scratch and begin the process again. Doves and hawks? A tree and an axe? A bouquet of flowers and a pistol? A wishing well and an oil platform? Peanut butter and jelly? For the last, certainly not, because we know despite all the platitudes of bipartisanship, they clearly don't mix well together."

Another take on the symbolism from Kevin Scarborough at Scarborough's Fair, a Ron Paul supporter. (Actually, his reasoning makes more sense to me but who am I? A jackass, that's who.):

“These symbols cover both eastern and western religions. The donkey from the democrats represents the western religions of Judaism and Christianity. The Messiah is said to be riding a donkey, and Jesus, too, rode a donkey. The elephant represents the eastern religions (specifically Hinduism). It is Ganesha, the elephant headed deity and one of the most worshipped Hindu gods. Also, it represents Airavata, the white elephant that Indra (God of war, weather, and King of the gods) rode upon.

In both instances there is the notion of royalty. Jesus was the Messiah who was the King of Kings and King of the Jews and rode upon the donkey, and Indra, King of the gods, rode upon an elephant. Both hint at royalty, divinity, and sovereignty. Notice the use of the stars. One is opposite of the other, right side up, and upside down. They are opposite expressions of the same divine symbol."

Olivier Blanchard over at The Brand Builder Blog, offered some great excerpts from Williams Safire's probe into this symbolism. Olivier also asks readers to use current symbols as more relevant updates. The results?:

"Just wondering if maybe political logos like the ass and the elephant - which have pretty much lost their meaning sometime at least three generations ago - are still the best emblems to represent political parties that look and sound nothing like they did back in 1874. I posed the questions to a few friends today and this is what they came up with ...Star Trek and beer. I may have to broaden my focus group just a tad."

Finally, who says the folks at Associated Press don't love scary squash? The AP has helpfully provided a bunch of great political pumpkin stencils, including donkey and elephant, for your Friday night festivities.

Update: On Oct. 26, the Contra Costa Times reported in its "The Eye" column that the donkey scarf was given to Palin by former Hillary Clinton supporter Linda Williams, of Carmel Valley, Calif., who claimed that she gave up the vintage 70s item to send a message that she was now supporting Palin.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Electoral Map - Before and After the Great Depression

As the political season reaches a crescendo amidst a financial meltdown, everyone seems to be looking back to the bread lines of the Depression. So, it seems only fitting that we squeeze some political insight from that era. Check it out, the political leanings of the country in 1928 (click on maps to enlarge):

And the electoral map post-Depression in 1932:

Whoa. Talk about national whiplash. Seems that everyone is into the GOP ideals until they wake up one day and their job/bank/401K is wiped out. Then, it's time to switch.

Is history about to repeat itself?

Props to the Political Irony for the maps: "What a difference an economic meltdown makes."

Monday, October 27, 2008

One Grape Project

Last week was chock full of little victories but I may have a favorite:
Behold the Grape Pie.

I made it last week because my backyard provides a huge bounty of Concord Grapes in the fall and every year I don my Grandma Myrtle's apron and try to make use. Last year, I produced jars of Grape Jelly but this year, I opted to think outta the jar. When I came across a funky recipe in Bon Appetit, a new grape project was born.

Trouble was, de-seeding eight cups of those lil' purple muthas by hand took a ridiculously long time. Ultimately, it became a two-week project but last Tuesday, I finished that damn pie at 1:30 a.m. Though it doesn't look as pretty as the recipe photo (dough fell apart - I blame the altitude), it tastes unbelievable. All in all, I'm pleased with myself. Behold, the giant mess it made:

AND speaking of Little Victories, I squealed with delight when I spotted my very favorite comic strip, 'The K Chronicles', in my Sunday Denver Post funnies. Big, fat congrats to Keith Knight - the funniest dude with a pen. I am a long time fan and have met Keith a few times, the last being at ComicCon. (Yes, I'm a geek so what of it?)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Finally, A True Showdown

- Watch more free videos
Since Dowdy insisted on copying me in today's post, I feel the need to up my video-posting game. View. You will not be disappointed.

My Personal Nightmare

No joke people. Mail it in. Or, set your alarm, steal a donkey and get your ass there on November 4th. It's really, really, really important.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some Down & Dirty Lessons From the Weekend

My wisdom comes to me in small bite-sized bits. The building of my knowledge base is similar to building an igloo mansion one ice cube at a time.

Lesson #1: Not only is it a bad idea to get jalapeno juice in your eye, it is even worse when your eye gets stuck shut from the fake eyelash glue you wore for the previous evening's Halloween party. Just go ahead and set aside 20 minutes of your life because you're not going to accomplish much during that time, unless being hovered over the sink and loudly whimpering counts for anything.

Lesson #2: All this time, I've been trying to meet guys the old fashioned way - parties and the Internet. Neither have really panned out for me here in Colorado. Now I realize, I should take a more old fashioned damsel-in-distress kind of approach.

On Saturday, I was bucked off a horse, flew threw the air and landed at the bottom of a steep hill. Within seconds, two hunky mountain bike riders were at my side, telling me about how adrenaline affects one's body. "Just stay still," said Hunk #1, "Don't be in a rush to get up. Just take a moment to rest for a second."

Said Hunk #2: "He's right. Just enjoy the scenery."

Since I could barely breathe and had them both hovering over me, I decided to do just that. Before long, five more versions of the same guy came along and I thought about never getting up.

Lesson #3: Never take your long-sleeved black top off - no matter how hot it is - to publicly expose your decidedly un-sexy bright green sports bra to the world. Your famous last words, "Nobody will see me anyway. We're just going for a quick ride. I mean, it must be 80 degrees!"

This action will only tempt fate and result in a likely scenario that involves being bucked off a horse and then tended to by a final total of SEVEN foxy boys on mountain bikes. Oh, and let's not forget the FIVE other total strangers that came to the rescue with their pick-ups and SUVs to ferry your half-naked bruised ass back to the barn because your horse was long gone.

Yup. I feel smarter already.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Teens Will Save Us

I know, I know. It seems crazy but after phone banking last night with a bunch of Obama supporters who are NOT OLD ENOUGH TO VOTE, I believe this.

There I was, calling random strangers, asking about their ballot choices when I realized that the great majority of people around me were, in fact, high school kids. I was suspicious but they seemed normal. The guys arrived on their skateboards and the girls peppered their language with lots of "OMG!" and the inevitable "so,like, I was, like, totally, like ...." This horrible speaking habit, I noticed, was not displayed on the phone calls. (A-ha! So it can be turned off!)

Dang. I am so impressed with these kids and told them so. When I was in high school, I certainly didn't two shits about what was going on in the outside adult world, let alone offer to help. Geez. (I do remember being excited about voting. I cast my ballot for Reagan because he seemed nice - swear to God.)

I was commending one girl and making this comparison between the generations and she said, "Yeah, my mom, like, said the same thing. Dunno. Different times, I guess." Then, she went back to talking to her buddy about their recent 'solar v. wind v. fossil fuels' debate in her Environment Class ....! Different times? Holy shit! It's like they are from a different planet - a much more enlightened, responsible one.

I had to ask, "Why are you guys here if you can't even vote?" They explained that it is a student-organized group at their high school (George Washington, here in Denver) that does a number of activities, including volunteering for Obama. I asked one shaggy-headed young man if he was frustrated that he was doing all this but could not cast a ballot. "Oh, yeah. Totally. But," he shrugged, "Obama needs to be our next president and I'll be able to vote for his second term."

"Wow," I said to the kid. "You guys are going to save us. Truly." He just smiled at me sheepishly. I continued, "It does make sense, I guess. Since you're going to inherit everything. Er, sorry about the big mess. Heh."

"Yeah," he laughed nervously "Thanks a lot!"

Postscript: I was less inspired by the older gentleman phone banking to my right. He was an African-American fellow who'd recently moved to Denver from Georgia to help his kids and grandkids "prepare." For what, I asked? Well, the End Times, of course. May 21, 2011. Mark your calendars.

Today's Dirty Post

First of all, please enjoy this photo and note that the child that is so expertly flipping the bird is Piper, the seven-year-old daughter of Sarah Palin. I mean, that kid is serious! I also love how oblivious all the adults are to her deep-seated rage, especially the kindly Grandma who stands behind the boy. One can only hope that Piper grows up to have her own lesbian punk band.

Second of all, my pal, Susie just wrote me two of the funniest things I've read in awhile. The first is her general observation about the financial crisis:

"I'm so over hearing from Wall Street and Paulson and Bernanke and Todd about what the government is doing to help. It's like getting sex tips from your rapist."

F**king brilliant!

Next is a horrible dating story that she relayed. Well, you just have to read to believe it and no, this did not happen to either one of us, though I can certainly picture it:

A woman, let's call her Julie, had been dating this man, let's call him Mike, for just a short while. They had reached the point in the freshly budding relationship where she spent the night at his house for the first time. In the morning he had to leave for work and left her a key telling her to make herself at home and just lock up when she left and put the key under the mat.

Julie got up and made herself some coffee. The coffee did what coffee does and she had to poop. It was a very large poop. Not at all the kind of poop that you would want your new man to know that you were capable of producing. Especially not a guy that you really really like - a lot.

So imagine her consternation when she discovered that the toilet would not flush. It's not that she clogged the toilet. It wouldn't flush. Dismantling the toilet did not lead to any solution that involved flushing and she was absolutely freaking out. She called her friend and asked her what to do.

Julie's friend gave her advice that, at the time, must have seemed reasonable when faced with the option of leaving a giant log in Mike's toilet.

Her friend told her to fish it out, put it in a ziploc and then take it with her to throw away.

Not know what else to do that is exactly what she did.

Completely frazzled from the fishing expedition she got herself ready to go and wrote Mike a note, which she left on the counter that said, "Had a great time. I really love our connection."

Then she walked out the front door....

Leaving the key and the ziploc bag with the giant poop in it on the counter next to the note. The door had the auto lock in place so she was locked out and her poop was locked in - next to the note about their special connection.

She was so mortified that she changed her phone number.

Mike never pursued any further contact.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

RIP Mother's Cookies

I thought the financial implosion of the Western world was bad but this ... THIS ... is going to have profound reverberations. We may never recover from the loss.

Workers at Mother's Cookies were told on October 3rd that the company is shutting down for good and cookies will no longer be made. Yes, that means the end of those wonderfully gross-yet-delicious circus animal cookies.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last Monday. Their distribution plants in Ohio and Canada are closed forever The private equity firm that owned Mother's blamed rising fuel and ingredient prices. Employees at Mother's were not given the federally required 60-day notice due to "unforeseeable business circumstances." That means they couldn't pay them anymore.

Better stock up kids. God knows they'll last forever.

BREAKING NEWS: Racism, Ignorance Alive and Well in America

If you are depressed about the state of America, you may want to avoid this video.

A reporter interviews a bunch of folks at a Palin rally and whoa-nelly! There's just no way to prepare yourself for the kind of thinking that lots of us assumed had died out with burning crosses and pointy white hats. Through it all, a calm reporter nods and takes in all this hatred with the patience of a prison chaplain. Wait until you hear where he's from.

One thing is for sure, I surely detest Sarah Palin on so many levels but now I can add a new one: There's something about her that brings out the absolute worst in my countrymen; I am horrified and completely embarrassed by them. They are - cannot be - the future of America or we can just hang it up right now.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Okay, so last night I was doing my part to save my country by making phone calls for the Obama campaign. It was mainly to find out who folks are voting for, if they've sent in their Mail-In Ballots and if they had any questions about Obama or Colorado's Democrat Senate candidate, Mark Udall. At some point, I got into a very detailed conversation with a woman who sounded about 50-ish.

The voter had many questions about Obama's policies and it really kept me on my toes. After mostly getting answering machines, I was glad to finally be engaged. At some point, the person brought up the recent accusations by Sarah Palin that Obama hangs with terrorists. I explained the entire William Ayers story - that he is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lives in Obama’s neighborhood. (Ayers was also named citizen of the year in Chicago in 1997, has worked with Obama on a schools project and a charitable board, and gave a house party when Obama was running for the State Senate. Total contribution that Ayer's has given to the Obama campaign: $200.)

After walking the person through all the facts, that Ayers was associated with a radical group to protest the Vietnam war when Obama was eight years old, I finally appealed to the person's common sense.

Me: "I mean, you sound like a smart woman. I think that you ..."
Person: "Actually, I'm a man."
Me: "Wha ....? Oh, Jesus. I'm so sorry."
Person: "Yes, I'm a male person."
Me: "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. I really, I just ... I ..."

Yeah, so that was fun - for both of us, I'm sure. The person also had one of those gender neutral names like Jessie, so that wasn't a clue. Christ, I'm helping the Obama campaign about as much as Lindsay Lohan.

In the end, the dude (I mean, if he says so) was won over by my reasoning and it was the only mind I changed that night, even if I had to offend him first.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Like most everyone watching the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it, I desperately need some peace. My head, my heart and my portfolio are a jumbled mess and if there is one thing this last trip has taught me, it's that being gone for more than a week makes me totally batshit crazy. It also made me realize that I need to try harder to develop a life in Colorado or else I need to go back to California. But, I'm not ready to give up yet.

So, I took this photo during my August road trip through Colorado, out somewhere near Pagosa Springs. A terrifically loud thunder and lightening storm had just ended, then the sun popped out across this cozy meadow and rainbows sprung up everywhere. Gins and I just kept 'oohing' and 'aaahing' and saying aloud how lucky we were to be there at that moment, to be alive and to feel so grateful.

I need to remember these moments when I am feeling so dark and confused about the future. Maybe if we can just get through this storm, there will be a rainbow. And maybe - just maybe - if we pray really, really hard, there will also be a pot of gold (with no early withdrawal penalties) guarded by a friendly, hot bartender/leprechaun and an iPod-wired, fully upholstered time machine.

Isn't this what dreams are made of?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Take Me Home, Country Roads

I left home around 4 a.m. September 26 and I finally return home today - and not a moment too soon. I get itchy if I am gone for more than a week and this trip has been haunted by so many ghosts, making me wonder where it is I'm supposed to be exactly. While it looks glamorous to most, straddling two worlds really takes its toll, especially when one is not firmly entrenched in either.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wal-Mart, not unlike the Ebola Virus

Check out this frightening, fascinating real-time graph that illustrates Wal-Mart's takeover of America. (Keep your eye on the year in the right hand corner of the page.)

And if you think this is off-topic from today's raging, bleeding financial headlines, you are dead wrong. Getting 'bargains' of cheap plastic crap - mostly made in China - has undermined our economy for years. It has also wreaked havoc on the small business owner and brought in giant ugly box buildings to litter the American landscape.

I'm telling you, all the smiley faces and all the perky store greeters in the world cannot gloss over it. As we are learning anew every single day, bigger is not always better.