Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Leaping a Day

Congratulations - you may have just won a shiny new day. No charge. You don't even have to pay sales tax on it, except for an hour taken back when Daylight Savings hits. Such a deal. So - how will you spend it?

You're already grumbling about spending it at work, aren't you? Tsk, tsk. There could be worse ways to spend a day. Besides, this year Leap Day is a Friday, personally one of my favorite days of the week, or at least in the top seven. It's the cusp of the weekend, chock full of hope, anticipation and optimism. Like hunger pangs right before a terrific meal.

Leap year was invented to catch up to the astronomical year. Since our orbit around the sun isn't a perfect 365 days, every once in a while we have to throw in an extra hitch in our giddy-up just to keep on track. This is quite similar to the way I dance. One, two, three...and a half. Yes, I get more out of dancing than most people. I can tell they're jealous from their irritated looks when I'm on the dance floor.

The only issue I have (you just knew I had an issue) with Leap Day is that it's during Lent, a 40-day period of sacrifice for Catholics. If you're going to the trouble of adding a day, why not add a really good day, like summer vacation, or double up on Christmas?

I recently discovered that Lent actually lasts longer than its supposed 40 days. Years ago people took their Lenten sacrificial fasting seriously, to the point of passing out during long church services. The loud 'thunk' they'd make hitting the wooden pews tended to upset the choir, hence, church goers were allowed to eat on Sunday. (Fainting at work was permissible as long as you were on break or worked for the government.) As a result, Sundays don't count. There's a total of 40 days of Lent, but Sundays are skipped. It seems longer because it is. Don't ask me - the Pope did it.

I discovered this, as I mentioned a few seconds ago, recently. Which means I've been over-Lenting since the Kennedy Administration. Through all these years, no one who saw me suffering through a sacrifice-filled Sunday had the courtesy to let me know I could ease up for a day. I had to get a calendar out and do the math to see I'd been snookered. As a Lenten kindness, let's assume they didn't know either, or were too weak from fasting to realize.

Reviewing the situation, it appears I'm owed well over 200 days full of chocolate, or swearing, or whatever I gave up each year. The Catholic Church doesn't issue coupons for this sort of thing, although I've been told I will receive compensation in my next life, which is great, but with inflation the way it is, I'd prefer something a bit more immediate. So to make up for lost time, I'm sitting here right now popping Hershey kisses and squawking like a sailor. Which, if you think about it, is not a bad way to spend Leap Day.

NOTE: Swearing, the blatant overconsumption of chocolate, and nitpicking about the Pope are not condoned by the publisher of this blog. This post is for entertainment purposes only and should not be construed, viewed or reviewed as an endorsement of such shameful and perverse activities, h
owever fun they may be.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hilla-Bama Ding-dong

Recently CNN correspondent Randi Kaye asked African American women in a beauty salon if they were voting for Clinton or Obama. In other words, are you siding with your race or gender? Ouch. Talk about a classless question. It was, however, invigorating to see many intelligent responses, such as 'keep it real - vote for the best candidate,' and numerous attempts to bring the subject back where it should be - to the issues. (I kept hoping someone would give the correspondent the stink-eye and reel off a list of eloquent reasons why they were voting for McCain, but no such luck.) The media’s assumption of simplistic bias, not the people’s voice, quickly became the focal point.

Now we see comments that Clinton is running into problems with Latino voters. They aren’t voting for her en masse as they supposedly were before. This prompts the vision of a large crowd stirring about, murmuring disgruntled grumblings, whispered protestations, and low growls. I'm not Hispanic, but just being lumped together like that would make me growl. I, for one, don’t lump well. I have a tendency to smash stereotypes whenever possible, just for entertainment's sake. It's safer than skeet shooting, and slightly cheaper.

But we all get lumped, don't we? Assumption of voting trends along racial and gender lines seems to be a foregone conclusion. People are lumped, stirred, and scrambled into convenient political groups. I can hear you lumping me right now.

Yes, we do our own lumping. We’re naturally visual. To get by, we simplify and classify. I admit to being thrilled to see a woman as well as an African American in the race. So lump me in with the ‘change is exciting and interesting’ group. Just don’t put me in the ‘must-be-voting-for-Hillary-because-she’s-a-feminista’ group. Unless you have already. Then I’m putting you in the ‘knucklehead-ruining-my-life’ group.

Maybe that’s what the growling is all about. As the CNN correspondent found out, assume that someone is voting their gender or race and they may get a tad ornery with you. Life is shades of grey, yet we continually strive to boil it down to black and white. Like a photo in newsprint, the simpler we make it, the less we see. We need hours to do the topic justice, yet it’s given only a snippet of face time.

Can we drive the media? Can we steer the pundits? Can we step out of our own stereotypes and choose wisely? Seems like a huge ship to turn this late in the voyage. The best way to avoid 'issues' with large chunks of aggregated voters is to not aggregate them in the first place. So who's doing the lumping- the candidates or the media? It appears to be a little of both. And look at that - I just lumped the candidates AND the media. Shame on me.

Just say 'no' to lumping!

CNN transcript - Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees - aired 1/25/2008

"Hillary running into problems with Latino voters" - Ruben Navarrette, Jr for the SD Union Tribune on the VC Star Opinion page 2/21/2008.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I just got back from a delightful meeting with members of the House Oversight Committee and Legal Operative of Government Insensitivity Endowment, aka HOCaLOoGIE. Those guys really know how to throw a party. Unfortunately, I wasn't invited to their party. I was subpoenaed to testify, which is a funny term for an ugly thing.

The following is what happens when you eat too late at night and reality invades your dreams:

HOCaLOoGIE: Miss Eitman, have you ever knowingly injected humor into your writing?

Me: No, sir. Never. And may I state for the record that that is a lovely bowtie you're wearing today.

HOCaLOoGIE: We have a sworn affidavit from your friend, Andrea Pettite, that at a party in Palm Beach on September 13th, 2004, you admitted to using humor to bulk up your columns.

Me: Andrea is a friend of mine. She's a good person. I'm sure she simply misremembered.

HOCaLOoGIE: Your editor, Mr. Mac Adamia, states that on numerous occasions during the period between Boxing Day, 2003 and Bastille Day, 2006, he personally supplied you with puns and amusing innuendos.

Me: Sir, that's physically impossible. Everyone knows editors have no sense of humor.

HOCaLOoGIE: Is it your contention, then, that you have done nothing wrong?

Me: I once dated a Republican.

HOCaLOoGIE: Coughing

Me: I did, however, miss the memo stating that humor is illegal.

HOCaLOoGIE: That's beside the point. We have evidence that you used comedy to gain a competitive edge over other writers. In the process, you damaged the image of American journalists everywhere. For shame.

Me: Can someone tell me specifically which law I broke? Is this about that unfortunate typo last week?

HOCaLOoGIE: Miss Eitman, it is evident that your testimony here today is in direct conflict with Mr. Mac Adamia's testimony. May I remind you that fibbing is a federal offense. Someone here is a liar.

Me: If that's the case, I'd be on the lookout for pants on fire.

HOCaLOoGIE: Is that a humorous observation, Miss Eitman?

Me: Absolutely not, sir. Wanna pull my finger?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Beyond Chocolate and Roses

I have never been a fan of Valentine's Day. Yes, I'm sure it's fun for a few googly-eyed lovebirds, but for most people it's a time of tremendous pressure. Guys, for instance, are obligated to get something bigger and better than last year, following a gifting rulebook that often makes their eyes bleed. For example:
1) no blenders
2) no cordless drills
3) no lingerie that makes her look fat
4) no beer
5) no drive-through
6) if it's jewelry it has to be at least 20-carat gold and no less than 2 carats in weight because that's what Mary Jane Bismarck next door got last year so it has to be bigger and better or else are you listening to me why are your eyes bleeding?
7) keep the receipt
Men are under such stress that often they sit staring at the tv for weeks, watching the last vestiges of football season fade to black, frozen until the last possible minute before they rush out and buy the first box of chocolate-covered cherries they see.
Women worry mostly about finding that dang receipt before it goes through the wash and they're stuck forever with that lousy gift of love.
I once knew a very snugly couple who had been living together for about 5 years. She kept hinting to her beau, we'll call him 'Pookie' since that's what she called him, that she wanted to make it permanent. One year, just before Valentine's Day, he asked her if she preferred gold or platinum. She was thrilled, telling everyone that Pookie was finally going to 'pop' the question. Instead, Pookie proudly presented her with a lovely platinum blender. So she could make her widdle Pookie his energy shakes. I don't know what happened to them after that, since she made us all leave, then locked the door. But I think she found a new use for the blender. We never saw Pookie again, but her rose garden looked fabulous.
A very stressful situation all-around for people in relationships as well as those without. Singles, on the other hand, have to worry about the obligatory feeling of soulful loneliness, which can be entertaining in the proper setting, such as with a beer and a country song. However, a lesser-known, yet more ominous threat lies in the form of the sneak-attack date. This is when someone asks you out right before Valentine's Day so they have a date for Valentine's Day.
A sneak-attack date is usually committed by someone who suspects that you're looking forward to being alone with a beer and a sad country song and wants to ruin your plans. Somehow they make it sound like no one should be alone on Valentine's Day, that it's your civic duty to go out with them. This is part of the reason that when Ground Hog Day hits, I hide, hoping to avoid a sneak-attack date. There are many things worse than being alone on Valentine's Day. A date like that is one of them.
As a grown-up, Valentine's Day is the closest I get to prom date jitters. Flashback to my 16th birthday. A huge gift box. I open it and out spills a puff of red and white lace and chiffon. "What is it?" I ask. I was hoping for a new saddle blanket. This is NOT a saddle blanket.
"It's a dress," my mother replies excitedly. I wear jeans and flannel shirts. Nothing against dresses, but they tend to get caught in the double clutch on the tractor.
"A what?" I ask, looking for the receipt.
"A PROM dress," she clarifies right before I pass out. I had never even gone out on a date. I had been asked out, but since I never knew what to do when they asked, I usually just stared back at them until they withered away. That didn't go over well, and now I had a big stupid fluffy dress and a mother fully expecting me to grow breasts and social skills in two months. Cupid, shoot me now.
So how do we turn this carnal carnival around? How do we make it less about forced gifting and more about love? Why not think outside the box of chocolates?
Valentine's Day isn't just for lovers, it's for the loved. We have quite a few service men and women who could use some thoughts and thanks. A single white carnation, a thank-you note, a hug, an email....anything. So get off your butt and go love somebody. Just not me. I'll be at the barn.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Winter in Southern California - No, Really

It's official - Punxsutawney Phil has spoken. Or rather, risen and shivered in the chill of the winter sun. To be fair, if a bunch of strange men in odd clothes and top hats yanked me from MY lair and held me up in the freezing, frigid, frozen freeze, I'd wish some nasty weather on them, too. What part of 'hibernation' don't they understand?
So Spring is sleeping in this year. Whatever will we do? As a kid in upstate New York, watching the Rose Parade on television was like peering into a weird wormhole of summer. Leaves on the trees on New Year's Day, flower petals everywhere, t-shirts while I was bundled in three layers of long underwear and staying warm by scraping the frost off the television set. More than anything, I wanted to ride my horse in January without worrying about getting her stuck in a snowdrift until Spring. In marvelous SoCal, shiny cowgirls with blinged-out saddles and matching ponies were ambling down Colorado Boulevard. No parkas, no mittens, no problem. Mecca.

Growing up in farm country, we had serious respect for the weather. We watched for cloudbursts that could ruin our hay crop, lightning that could fry our barn or little brother, and blizzards that could give us a day off from school. But Southern California had somehow tamed the weather, put it in its place and limited its play time to a few days a year. No snow days, although at times we can see the snow on the mountains. It's kept there all nice and tidy in case we want to visit it, a sort of petting zoo for weather. We do have 'smoke days' sometimes, when a fire comes close enough. A little harder to make a 'sootman,' though, especially in Santa Ana winds.

There are a few more drawbacks. With no real weather to speak of, it's a bit hard to start any decent small talk. For example:
Me- "Nice day, isn't it?"
Stranger- "It's Southern California. What did you expect?"

We have compensated for our weather shortcomings by developing a flair for the dramatic. Instead of 'rain,' we have 'torrential flooding.' 'Wind' translates to 'Santa Anas.' Instead of storms, we have 'weather events.' Try as I might, it's difficult to take seriously a weather warning that flashes INCREASING THREAT OF DRIZZLE, a real warning posted during our last 'weather event.'

I gleefully admit to channel surfing to see which network puts its news crew in the most ridiculous danger. "We're live, here at the scene of this potential weather event in Malibu where potential flooding is potentially imminent." Somehow standing near a puddle in raingear waiting for rain shouldn't be the lead story on any newscast. Do our local meteorologists get jealous of other areas that boast real storms and seasons? Weather-event envy may well be another tragic drawback of living here.

Being able to go outside and play ball nearly any dang day on the calendar takes a bit of the value out of it. Mowing grass in January can be so very tedious. Yes, I'm pouting. But I'm pouting in shorts.

Maybe I'll write this some other time. It's such a nice day outside. Again.