Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A reason to like Sarah Palin.

I have been crafting a long entry in my head about Sarah Palin but haven’t written it because I don’t want to hear any shit from anybody. As you can imagine, I think she’s a tool, literally and figuratively, but I don’t feel the need to go into great depth on her tooldom or inexperience or policy or even her obvious disdain for women. It’s all out there for you to read, and I’m not going to try to convince you about anything.

What I do want to bring up is that today, I found a reason to appreciate Sarah Palin. Of course, it comes with a reason to fear her, but what is giving me hope is this reason to appreciate her. I had in my head that if Obama were to win, Sarah Palin would drift off into obscurity, a la Elizabeth Smart or baby Jessica. Once a pop culture phenom, she would be able to go back to the governorship in Alaska, and continue to carry on as if that embarrassing stint as VP candidate was a bad dream. Perhaps she’d take some civics classes, because God knows she needs them.

Okay, I’m getting off track. I realize that.

John McCain picked Sarah Palin because she is a game-changer. She changed the game, all right. And what I’m finding hope in is that this woman might, just might, actually change the game for the better. Unknowingly, of course.

Here is a quote from a article published today:

"A civil war [in the GOP] that is simmering will break out into the open if McCain loses, and the party will have to decide what they want to be in the post-Reagan world," said Gloria Borger, a senior political analyst for CNN.

Decide what they want to be… You know what that means, right? Change. Maybe, just maybe, because of this woman, the Republicans will be forced to really take stock of their ideals, and figure out which ones actually aim to work for the good of the country, and which ones aim to work for the good of the party. Maybe Republicans will get off of the God Train and quit pandering to the extreme Christian right, meanwhile sacrificing the rights of women and, well, ME. Maybe Republicans will go back to basics, and re-examine what it means to be the party of smaller government, and not God’s government. After all, is my God the same as yours?

How great would it be to know that both parties are looking out for me?

This would be great. But what also could happen is that the GOP will see how much Sarah Palin invigorated the base, and they will start going after those folks again for 2012, with Sarah Palin as their presidential candidate. This will lead to a downward spiral, and eventually, even though gays won’t be allowed to be married, Mr. State and Ms. Church will be allowed to, and they will be known as the Church-States. I would prefer not to have them over for dinner, but something tells me I won’t have a choice.

For now, I choose to remain optimistic, because really, what other reasonable choice to I have?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Movie review: Changeling

Changeling, in case you haven't turned on a television in four months or haven't driven anywhere in Los Angeles in the past two months, is the newest film from Clint Eastwood, starring Angelina Jolie. Clint Eastwood has given us several great movies over the past few years, including Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River. Like both of these movies, Changeling deals with several issues that I don't like to think about: kidnapping, pure evil, capital punishment, police corruption. In its dealing with all of these issues and more, the film left me haunted.

The movie is based on the true story of the kidnapping of nine-year-old Walter Collins in Los Angeles in 1928, and his mother Christine's quest to find him. As you can tell from any preview, Walter is missing for a few months and then a different boy is returned to Christine Collins. Christine protests, tries to tell the police that this is not her son. The LAPD, already suffering from a bad image, insists that this IS her son. So goes the next hour and a half of the movie (TRT: 2:30).


What we learn as the movie goes on is that it's the Walter Collins kidnapping is only a smaller story in a much bigger story. The bigger story is that of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. Once all of this story is interjected, the movie becomes completely unbelievable. It would be at this point in the movie that I would stop my "willing suspension of disbelief" and start scoffing and checking my watch. The only problem is, the story is true. Most of the movie is rooted in actual events, with a few minor changes or additions made (I'm assuming) to further the action and drama. But the bulk of what happens, the really disturbing stuff that happens - it's all true. It all really happened.

Angelina Jolie is, not surprisingly, amazing in this role. Her emotion is raw and appropriate, and only in Christine's rough handling of the man convicted in the Wineville Chicken Coop murders (she slams him against a barred window) did I see more of Angelina than the character. It was hard not to draw comparisons to her character in Girl, Interrupted in some of the psychiatric ward scenes. I'm biased when it comes to Angelina, but I really do think she is arguably one of the best actors today, and this movie continues to prove my theory.

And how much do I love Amy Ryan? She shines in this movie - I can't wait to see more from her.

I think my survival instinct kicked in while I watched this movie, because while I felt bad for Christine, my reaction was not tears, it was more of shocked disbelief. I found myself saying, "I can't believe that," and then I would remind myself, well, it happened, so you might as well believe it. A lot of the times, I would think, THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!!! and then I would remember - oh yeah, it did. I think this whole tug and pull of my emotions and my knowledge that it was a true story impeded my ability to truly enjoy the film. I really liked it - but it was almost too much for me. The bad guy was too bad, the scenario was too devastating, the mother was too wronged. It's almost as if it's just too horrible to be true. When I left the movie and came home, I didn't have the gift of forgetting as I do when I see a movie not based in fact. To think that this happened, that this was allowed to happen was too much for me to process. It was fascinating but not enjoyable, and maybe I would have liked it better if it were one of those crime shows on extended basic cable. However, while I haven't seen pictures of Christine Collins, I would venture a guess she's not nearly as hot as Angelina.

One more thing - I urge the my friends with children to skip this movie.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tails from this year. That's right. Tails.

This year has been probably the most important year of my life to date. I have learned so much about myself and the world I live in. I have had a great year full of things for which I am grateful, but some things have also happened this year that I haven't been too keen to blog about. So I just haven't written, or I've posted political commentary published elsewhere. I figure I have a lot of catching up to do, so I'd like to start with a story I've been meaning to tell for a while.

You might remember a while ago, I posted about the the newest addition to our family. About a month or so after that post, I was walking Noodle and Boy Dog, aka, Uncle Traveling Matt, and a small upper-middle aged woman stopped when she noticed the dogs. Uncle Traveling Matt was particularly interested in this woman, which is weird because he's really not interested in anybody. He jumped up on her and wagged his tail. I pulled him away, apologizing.

"Can you keep a secret?" she asked me.

"Uh, what?"

"Can I tell you a secret?"

"Um, sure." Crazy lady alert!

"This used to be my dog," she said, smiling and pointing at Uncle Matt. (Turns out, I can't keep a secret.)

"Really," I said, not as a question, but more as a statement of annoyed disbelief.

"Yes, I had him for four and a half years, and I almost got divorced over this dog because my husband hated him. He peed all over everything and kept running away. So the last time he ran away, I just didn't look for him." I couldn't think of anything to say, so she kept talking. "I don't want him back," she went on (AS IF I WOULD GIVE HIM BACK), "you girls are doing such a good job with him and he's so happy, I can tell. And I know you think I'm a horrible person" (YOU THINK?!) "but I love my dogs more than my own kids. I wanted a dog like that one," she continued, pointing at Noodle, "so I got him, but I couldn't house train him and he kept trying to bite my husband. My husband hated him. I have this white carpet in my house, and he just destroyed it."

I stared at her. "Yeah, we have white carpet too, and he's still not housebroken. Where did he come from?"

"The pound. And I didn't want to take him back to the pound because I thought they'd just put him to sleep, and I just couldn't live with myself if that happened."

Now, here's where I realized only later what I should have said, which was this: SO YOU THOUGHT IT WAS BETTER TO LEAVE HIM ON THE STREETS IN A NEIGHBORHOOD THAT IS LOUSY WITH COYOTES?!?!? Instead, all I could say was, "He was infested with fleas when we found him."

"Yeah, he had fleas when I had him."

I couldn't believe this bitch. "You have to TREAT them for fleas. You have to give them MEDICINE for it."

"Oh, I gave him flea baths and stuff," she said, at a loss as to why those baths didn't work.

"No. You need to give him Frontline or Advantage."

"I've never heard of those." Then, "I thought maybe he needed a friend, so I went and got a labradoodle, Butch. But this little one kept running away."

"What is your name?"


"Well, we called who he is registered to and no one ever returned our calls."

"Yeah, I've changed my number since we licensed him."

"What is HIS name?"

"Aldo. I named him Aldo because it's a combination of my name and my husband's name, Sal."

I stared at her. "I thought you said your name was Maria."

She smiled warmly. "Maria Dolores."

I wanted to wipe that warm smile right off of her stupid face. I could not believe what I was hearing. But sure enough, when I brought him back upstairs and we began calling him Aldo, he lit up like a Christmas tree. Since then, he's been so incredibly happy - no longer withdrawn and shy, no longer afraid, just at peace with us. We really think that he tried to go home to her but she didn't let him back in, because I found him two doors down from where she lives, and she told me he'd been on the street for four months, which by the way were the wettest, coldest four months of the year. Now when I see this woman, I don't even acknowledge her, and if she talks to me, I don't stop and talk to her, I just nod and continue walking. She doesn't deserve to be a part of Aldo's life anymore. She had her chance and she blew it, and we picked up the pieces.

I do feel bad for the other dog, Butch. Every time he sees Aldo, he just sits and stares at him longingly, like, "Hey! We used to be friends! Where did you go? What happened to us?"

Meanwhile, we've added another great dog, albeit perpetually stinky, to our family, and we couldn't be more grateful. I know now that we are his guardian angels.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


In March of this year, my dad called me and told me his friend’s daughter was looking for an internship in television, and asked might my company be interested in her? He told me who the friend was, and he asked me if I knew the daughter and I remembered that I had babysat her when she was a little girl. He told me she was now 20 years old and going to Ohio University, majoring in journalism. I gave my dad my work email and told him to have her email me her resume, and I would pass it on to whoever needed to see it, although I couldn’t make any promises as to the help I would be in her securing an internship. A resume was mailed, and I passed it on. I’m always excited to help a fellow Ohioan.

My memories of babysitting her were pretty foggy, so I myspaced her to see what she looked like nowadays, and to make sure I was thinking of the same kid. My dad had also told me to look her up on You Tube, as she apparently had a few videos up there she took of herself singing and playing the guitar. I never got around to the You Tube portion, but I did see her on myspace, and she actually had pictures posted of when she was little, and sure enough, it was the girl I was thinking of. She had grown into a perfect mix of her mom and dad, with her dad’s small brown eyes and her mom’s angular chin.

She emailed me and thanked me for helping her out in the internship hunt. She also asked for some advice on finding a place to live for the summer, and also informed me that she googled me and found my blog and had enjoyed it. She said it had been her dream to live in LA her whole life and she was thrilled she was going to get the opportunity. (The last I heard, my company had offered her an internship but regretfully had to rescind it because she has a bad back, and being a PA requires a lot of heavy lifting. But luckily, she had found another internship somewhere else in LA and was still able to come out for the summer). She had told me she was looking forward to meeting me. I gave her some advice on living in LA, and told her to let me know when she got here. I ultimately never heard from her, but my dad did tell me she was interning somewhere in Sherman Oaks. I told him that was a good part of town, and he said his friend would be glad to hear that. I assume she finished out the summer internship and headed back to continue school at OU.

My dad called me this past weekend to let me know that she had been taken to the hospital last week complaining of back pains. The doctors gave her an epidural and a shot in one of her shoulders. She had an allergic reaction to either the epidural or the shot, went into cardiac arrest, and slipped into a coma. My dad called me again yesterday to let me know she had died. She was their only child.

I had not thought of this girl in 18 years. I hadn’t seen her, hadn’t heard anything about her. I’m sure her dad came to my college graduation party, and probably even my sisters’ graduation parties, but she never came with him, and he was just another one my dad’s friends. And yet, seeing her pictures on myspace gave me a bit of nostalgia, and wonderment of just how much time had passed, and just how much older we had both become.

I can’t comprehend what this must be like for this family. With the news of this girl’s death, I realized with terrifying clarity that I have no real understanding of death and its finality. I have been incredibly lucky in my life to experience death in a very normal way – grandparents died when I was in middle school and high school. Both of my dad’s brothers died within the past year – one was sick, the other wasn’t. The one that wasn’t sick, it came as a shock, and it was tragic, and I still am in disbelief, but somewhere in my head I told myself this is normal. Uncles will die. This is what happens. But this isn’t supposed to happen. An otherwise healthy 20-year-old girl is not supposed to die in a hospital complaining of back pain. And it’s overwhelming for me to think of it as a reality, that this is something that does happen, and it’s something that did happen.

And even now, this death is on the outer fringe of my world. I have no emotional ties to this girl. The last time I saw her, I was feeding her and changing her diaper and probably reading her a story and putting her to bed. I don’t know anything about her as an adult – how tall she was, what her voice sounded like, if she laughed a lot. I am sad, certainly. I am sad for her parents. I am sad for my father, who is devastated by this, undoubtedly because he too has a 20-year-old daughter. But more than anything else, my mind is consumed with the question, how does someone deal with this? How does this happen, and how do her parents move on? How can we, as humans, possibly be equipped to deal with such a shattering, unending grief?

I don’t know the answer to this, but I know that we are. We are equipped to deal with this. Tragedies like this strike families all the time, and more often than not, they find a way to deal with it. It must be one of those things that you think you can’t possibly have the strength for until it happens to you. Only then does the strength come.

Years ago, I told my friend Donna I felt bad that I had been lucky enough in my life to never experience such a tragedy, and that I felt like I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Donna lost her mom when she was still a teenager. Donna said something like, “I don’t think you should feel bad. I think you should just feel grateful. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

I am. I am so grateful. My life has certainly not turned out the way I imagined. I have encountered things and dealt with things I never thought I would have to. On a much smaller scale, strength has come to me in waves to deal with the things that have arisen. The ultimate question is, I suppose, is it worth it? It is a trite question with a trite answer. All I can do is try to remember that life indeed is fleeting and fragile, and as long as I keep loving, there will always be love coming back. That makes it worth it.

**UPDATE: I just found out a few things about this situation and I wanted to correct myself. She was actually 22, and I'm gathering that she had fibromyalgia, as her obituary calls for donations to a fibromyalgia institute. No less tragic, but I just wanted to be as accurate as possible.