Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poem in Your Pocket 2010

Sheesh! I almost forgot! Tomorrow is Poem in Your Pocket Day, brought to you by the Academy of American Poets. So quick! Choose a poem from this page or this website or this list, print it out, and put it in your pocket. Pull it out during the day and read it to yourself, or share it with a friend or colleague.

At the recent Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, poet and memoirist Mary Karr said that writers must do two things, and one of them was memorize poetry. (The other was rewrite.) Yes, that's right: memorize poetry. I'm not a poetry-memorizer (yet), but I'm putting it out there as a good idea for everybody, not just writers.

Why memorize poems, or put one in your pocket? The NYTimes published an editorial last year that attempted to answer this very question -- but Jim Holt's answer is "because it's deeply pleasurable." Interesting, but is it persuasive?

Two more reasons why it's good to read and occasionally memorize poetry:

1. Memorizing, in general, exercises the brain, and improves your brain's ability to remember other shit. That's good, right? I'm going to try to find some research that supports that statement.

2. Memorizing poetry, in particular, embeds vocabulary, syntax, and rhythmic language patterns into the brain so that you have them available for your own speaking and writing. The Well-Trained Mind elaborates on this theme quite well.

3. Maybe this goes back to the NYTimes editorial, but I'm convinced that poetry is worth the extra effort it takes to read, ponder, and digest. Even if we don't "get it" when we read a poem, if we spend time with it, read again more slowly, and possibly memorize it, that poem will likely gradually reveal itself to us, like the sculpture reveals itself to the sculptor, like a fingerprint shows up with the dust and the microscope.

Anyway, here's the little poem I'm putting in my pocket tomorrow:

Hope is the thing with feathers, by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it on the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea,
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

I'd love to know what poem you're putting in your pocket tomorrow (or today, probably, since it's almost after midnight).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Random Things In My World

1. A guy walked across the intersection in front of me when I was stopped at a red light. He was young, probably in his 20s--but he was wearing a geriatric beige V-neck sweater; and--get this--he wore black rubbers over his brown dress shoes. Adorable.

And even more adorable? As he crossed the street, he gave a little skip. And then another one, clearly picking up his pace in order to not hold up traffic. He appeared to be totally un-self-conscious--which, how rare is that?!--and it made me want to give him a hug.

2. Toilets are getting smarter. Today I met a toilet that offered two flushing options: one for poop, and one for pee. Allegedly, sending pee-pee to the sewers takes less flushing power than sending poo-poo to the sewers. Who knew. So there were instructions next to the flushing lever: For liquid waste, push handle up. For solid waste, push handle down.

3. Here's an interesting psychological situation that my children and I have observed many times on the way to and from school. A woman takes her brushes and sponges and buckets and brooms outside and cleans the sidewalk and street in front of her three-flat. Yes, you read that right: she sweeps. The street.

If it has recently rained, she'll sweep water into a bucket, and then carry the bucket off and empty it somewhere. If it's dry, she sweeps leafs and sticks and even dirt into a neat pile, and then brushes the pile onto a dustpan, which she then empties into a bin. Sometimes she even crosses the street and sweeps the gutters on that side.

I think this must be some sort of OCD, because there is no practical purpose to her sweeping. She's not cleaning the drains to prevent flooding. She's just sweeping up tiny bits of lawn debris--sticks, leaves, even dirt. It's THE GROUND. There's SUPPOSED TO BE dirt.

It reminds me of my across-the-street neighbor, who used to spend hours on summer days lying on his stomach, plucking clover from his front lawn. Hours. I told my friend the therapist, Dr. Paradigm Shift, about him, and she said, "OCD. Off his meds."

I think there must be an OCD epidemic in my zip code. Hope it's not contagious.

4. We were driving home from church the other day, and Civil War by Guns N' Roses was playing on the radio. The kids recognize this song from the first note, which is not actually a note but the voice of Strother Martin as the prison warden in Cool Hand Luke famously saying, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

We listened to the song for a minute or two, and then M. Peevie, who thinks deeper thoughts than most nine-year-olds, asked, "Mom, how can war be civil?"

And then we had a whole discussion about what "civil" means, and C. Peevie pointed out that many others in history have asked that same question, and I said, but not many nine-year-olds have asked it, and ultimately none of us really knew the answer.

And there you have it. Four random things from my world. Bet you're wishing you were me right now, aren't you?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

More Mercola B.S.

I hate to be a One-Note Whatever, but my friend Stroke posted another Mercola article, this time about cosmetics, milk and beef, on FB, and it was so filled with questionable shit (and I say that with the utmost civility) that I decided it deserves its very own blog post.

I think it's likely that there is some, possibly even a lot, of truth in some of Dr. Mercola's claims. However, I think the truth gets obfuscated by misdirection, exaggeration, and deception, and that really bothers me.

Probably I should just let this go, but I just can't. It bugs me that you can't really tell who or what Mercola is quoting, or what the original source is. It looks like he's quoting a NY Times editorial, but he's not. I checked. It looks like he's quoting Dr. Epstein, but he does not cite the source of the quote. Did he interview Dr. Epstein personally, or did he just borrow quotes from Epstein's Huffington Post piece dated April 13? Because much of Dr. Mercola's material appears to be lifted virtually verbatim from the Huffington piece.

Mercola's article also makes it look like he's quoting Epstein's book, published in 2006, but the part he quotes makes reference to the NY Times editorial published in 2010. Draw your own conclusions.

Epstein himself is a questionable source. In his Huffington Post article, he uses himself (as the Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition) as his own source for his claims rather than citing independent sources and studies. He claims that

Increased levels of IGF-1 have been shown to increase risks of breast cancer in 19 scientific publications, risks of colon cancer in 10 publications, and prostate cancer in seven publications.

but he does not cite even one specific source, nor does he indicate whether the studies have been replicated. He does not give the reader any way to check his data; we're supposed to trust him. I looked on his website to see if he names the sources there, but I could not find them listed. Epstein did link to two scientific articles, both of them written by himself on the topic of growth hormones in milk, published in The International Journal of Health Services in 1990 and 1996.

Additionally, Epstein wrote that "the Cancer Prevention Coalition, endorsed by five leading national experts, petitioned the FDA in May 2007 to label rBGH milk with an explicit cancer warnings." I checked the Cancer Prevention Coalition website again to find out who those five leading experts are, but all I found was this press release which listed three organizations with a vested interest in the outcome.

The sad thing is, I think it's entirely possible that there is validity in at least some of Dr. Mercola's and Dr. Epstein's claims, and that the general public could benefit from knowing and understanding the truth about the effects of hormones and other food additives on our health. I also am not a huge fan of multi-national corporations because I don't want the profit motive to influence public health policy, which it likely does.

But this kind of self-interested, hyperbolic, misleading, and un-sourced reporting does not help or protect consumers, it does not get policies changed, and it does not lend credibility to the cause of consumer protection. In fact, because it it so blatantly self-promoting and profit-driven, those who take this path are just smaller and more ironic and hypocritical versions of Monsanto.

I also wonder about this: from the comments I discern that many who are attracted to Mercola's brand of maverick medicine are conspiracy theorists who don't trust traditional medicine, big corporations and the government. But what makes them trust Mercola? Do they think he's just a simple country doctor who's not making a mint from his website, products, books and articles? Why don't they apply the same skepticism to Mercola and Epstein that they do to the CDC?

OK, I'm done with the E. Peevie, investigative reporter bit. Thank you for letting me have my little rant. I'm going back to my schtick as a slightly nutty but devoted mother and teller of stories about poop, broken bones, soup, and other vicissitudes of Life in the Peevie Homestead.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Busting Dr. Mercola

Dr. Joseph Mercola runs the most popular natural medicine website on the Internet. Millions of people rely on him for medical advice and guidance for healthy living. He's known for being a medical maverick, often disagreeing with the conclusions of established medical practice and traditionally trusted sources.

Take flu shots, for example. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that almost everyone should get vaccinated as the best way of avoiding the flu -- but especially children and young adults age 6 to 24; pregnant women; health care workers; and adults at higher risk of complications because of existing health conditions. The Mayo Clinic agrees, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

But Dr. Mercola disagrees. In
this article about the flu shot causing death and mysterious illness, Dr. Mercola actually quotes the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to back up his claim that "flu vaccines have a dismal success rate," but does not provide a link to the entire fact sheet (called Flu Vaccine Effectiveness: Questions and Answers for Health Professionals) so that his readers can get the whole story.

He's right: the CDC does admit that in some years, some studies do not demonstrate vaccine effectiveness. However, the article also reports that, among nursing home residents, for example, the vaccine provides "substantial protection against more severe outcomes, such as influenza-related hospitalization and deaths." Among adults age 65 or older, "the vaccine has been reported to be 50%-60% effective in preventing influenza-related hospitalization or pneumonia, and 80% effective in preventing influenza-related death."

The same CDC report cites three studies that "suggest substantial benefit from influenza vaccination of children," and yet Dr. Mercola claims that "the flu vaccine is no more effective for children than a placebo, according to a large-scale, systematic review of 51 studies."
This claim is just not true. Here's what the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews DOES say (italics mine):
From RCTs, live vaccines showed an efficacy* of 79% and an effectiveness* of 33% in children older than two years compared with placebo or no intervention. Inactivated vaccines had a lower efficacy of 59% than live vaccines but similar effectiveness: 36%. In children under two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to placebo. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Influenza vaccines are efficacious in children older than two years but little evidence is available for children under two.
[Read this article for a discussion of the difference between efficacy and effectiveness. Basically, efficacy studies control for other factors in determing whether a treatment works, but effectiveness studies do not, implying that effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a treatment might have more to do with other factors than with the treatment itself.]

Why would Dr. Mercola misrepresent the conclusions of the authors, who clearly stated that vaccines are 33-36% more effective than placebo, with significantly higher efficacy rates?

On November 10, 2009 Mercola posted an article asking
"Why is Canada Changing Its Flu Vaccine Policy?" One section alleges that "Many conventional physicians have doubts about H1N1 vaccines," and it cites an article by Nancy Terry alleging that "other physicians are adamant about not getting the H1N1 vaccine." Not one of the "many conventional physicians" quoted is named. (And by the way, who is Nancy Terry? She is a "medical writer and editor" from Jackson Heights, New York. I searched, but I can't find any evidence that she has any kind of medical degree or scientific training.)

Another off-the-beaten-track health and wellness tip: Dr. Mercola
recommends that smokers NOT stop smoking until they've solved their diet and sleep problems first. "Sugar is worse for you than smoking," he claims, and "One french fry is worse than one cigarette." He does not cite any sources, and I was not able to find any reliable primary source who agrees with him.

I'm not the only one with concerns about Dr. Mercola and his Shop of Superstitious Medicine. He's been warned by the FDA twice (in 2005 and 2006) to stop making illegal, unapproved claims about products he sells on his web site. And speaking of selling products: I might not admire Dr. M's medical creds, but man -- that guy is one highly qualified master of marketing. He uses his website to sell supplements, and he pulls in customers by making shocking, counter-intuitive, anti-medical-establishment claims.

The blog Science-Based Medicine offers an
interesting piece on Mercola and his anti-flu-vaccine screeds. I liked this bit in particular:

[The article] reveals his exceptionally poor grasp of the immune system, asserts that influenza is not worth preventing (36,000 deaths, 200,000 hospitalizations from seasonal flu, I suppose one could see his point), and perpetuates the thoroughly refuted toxin gambit. Nevertheless, at the time of this writing, his article has misinformed nearly 250,000 readers.

I think it is odd that of the 75 comments on the H1N1 article linked to above, NOT ONE expresses disagreement with Dr. Mercola's opinions. Apparently, he does not tolerate dissent. Here's an interesting and articulate
dissenting response to a Mercola article on Vitamin D which was blocked from his website and subsequently posted elsewhere.

If you're still a believer, at least check Mercola's sources, and see if any other legitimate source agrees with him, or backs up his opinions. Investigate whether he's endorsing or selling any products that are connected to his conclusions

And here's a thought: You trust your own doctor, right? (If not, why is she your doctor?) Ask her if you should follow Mercola's advice. Let me know what she says.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Surprised by Joy

Today I should be heading to the Secretary of State's office with my daughter to get her driver's license. We should be playing hooky together to celebrate her 16th birthday, and maybe going shopping, having lunch, and getting her hair cut.

But Caitlin was born too soon and did not survive; and I lost not just my tiny daughter, but my entire future with her. The future looks different when you lose a child, and especially when you lose a baby with whom you have not even had a chance to make memories. You've started to make plans, you've started to wonder: what will she look like? Will she be a princess or an athlete--or both? Will she inherit math-phobia from mom, or have a knack for numbers, like dad? Will she be a rock star? A poet? An engineer? A mom? Every expectant parent imagines and anticipates the moments of sweetness and connection: sitting in a rocking chair singing lullabies; stretched out on a bed reading books; walking in the door at the end of the day and hearing, "Mommy!" (or "Daddy!").

Getting through those first few months was painful and lonely, but losing Caitlin eventually supplied me with a mission: to walk beside others who are going through the same painful loss of a pregnancy or infant. I don't have anything to offer except empathy and compassion. Sometimes it helps a grieving parent to know that someone else has gone through that dark valley, and come out on the other side, where eventually, hope and laughter return, where we can again be surprised by joy.

The brief lives of Grace, Jonathan and David, John Paul, Abigail, Jeremiah, Luke, Willow, and Jack touched many people besides just their parents and siblings. The continual presence of their absence changes the future, and we may never understand why God allowed these lives to be conceived and then cut short.

And now there's another one. Tomorrow I'm getting together with Matthew's mom, two weeks after his birthday, which was also the day he died. Another mom struggling to put one foot in front of another, watching the rest of the world go about its business while she wants to scream, "I had a baby, and he died!" I'll sit with her, and ask her to tell me Matthew's story if she wants to, and I won't try to cheer her up by telling her, "Don't worry; you can have another baby!" I'll try to help her feel a tiny bit less alone.

Maybe I'll bring her a copy of this poem by William Wordsworth, which my friend Irish read at Caitlin's memorial service:

SURPRISED by joy--impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport--Oh! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind--
But how could I forget thee? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss?--That thought's return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart's best treasure was no more;
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

So I'm not doing normal mother-daughter birthday things with Caitlin--but I'm saying her name a lot today. And maybe tonight we'll have cake in her honor. I'll bet she'd like that.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blogging 24: Jack Gets Laid!

The following takes place between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Smart move, putting the martyr's widow in place to lead the IRKsome peace process.

President Taylor: "Is CTU capable of handling security for the peace process?" Excellent question. I think we all know the answer.

Yes, why are you calling Chloe?

Chloe in provisional command? Chloe? CHLOE?! Has he ever met her?!

"Try to make the transition as quick and painless as possible." AH-HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Sexy Non-sexy dialog (tm: TWOP) from Hastings: "I let the snake into the garden."


Kissing? Kissing! Is Jack gonna get laid for the first time in eight seasons?

Yes. Yes he is. Finally.

Who's the old guy? I mean, who's the old dead guy?

Ah-ha. He was an old guy with a Vantage Point. And now there's a Peeping Trofim standing over his corpse with a high-powered rifle. Ruh-roh.


President Suvarov, you say? I remember him. He got blowed up in Season Six, but survived.

"There may be someone who can help us here--but you're not going to like it."


Samir has just gone into cardiac arrest. Oh, and he's foaming at the mouth. Hmmm.

Finally! The inimitable Gregory Itzin is back, playing the Nixonian President Logan. Will they still call him President Logan, even after he did all that bad shit?

Apparently, yes, they will.

Logan: "In some ways, the people there appreciate me more than the people in my own country."

Logan: "I'm going to be exercising some leverage--but the details must stay between me and the Russians. No laws will be broken." And also, we won't be breathing, blinking, or speaking.

Logan: "I made mistakes. Terrible mistakes, that stained the office of the presidency, and for which I will be paying the rest of my life. But I can still do some good." I love it when criminals refer to their crimes as "mistakes."

He's still weasely.


I'm pretty sure Agent Freckles is going to die.

Shot. In the gut. Can't be good. Bleeding.

(Mr. Peevie said, "She told the writers that she wanted her character to go out with a bang--and she went out with two!" Good one, Mr. Peevie!)

No happy endings for Jack.


Silent clock.

Weird Dinner

We had a really weird dinner one night last week. I'm oddly proud of it.

I had a craving for hummus, so I picked up the chick peas and fresh pita bread on the way home from dropping the Peevies at school.

(I compared American chick pea brands in the canned vegetable aisle to the ethnic brands two aisles over. Who knew that Sultan brand, all the way from the Middle East, would be the cheapest -- two cents per ounce cheaper than Progresso. I saved 32 cents, which is not nothing.)

I made fresh hummus, which was a tiny bit too salty, and not quite lemony enough because I was too lazy to actually measure the ingredients. But it was still delicious, and with the warm pita-- well, let's just say I could have made that my whole dinner.

But no, I have a family to think of, so I rounded out the dinner menu with a fruit salad--and I use that term loosely because it consisted solely of strawberries and bananas. Strawberries are in season, cheap and plentiful at my local produce store, and I've been buying them twice a week at least.

(I'm thinking of buying extras and freezing them for future recipes, including smoothies. We love smoothies in this household, and it's a great way to get extra vitamins into fruit-resistant kids.)

So that was our dinner. Mr. Peevie and A. Peevie needed a bit more protein than what the hummus offered (hummus actually has about a gram of protein per tablespoon, which is a pleasant nutritional boon), so they shared some leftover sloppy joe. But the rest of us were happy with our fruit, pita, and hummus.

It all felt very Bohemian and vegetarian and obsequious and purple and clairvoyant.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Joy of Parenthood

One of my fondest joys as a parent is talking about about sex with my children. I really do love these conversations, because I just never know what will come up.

Last week, A. Peevie and I hopped out of the car and walked across the parking lot to the drug store. Along the way, we passed a discarded condom wrapper lying on the asphalt.

"What's that, Mom?" A. Peevie asked.

"It's a condom wrapper, A.," I said. "Do you know what condoms are?"

"No," A. Peevie said. Pause. "And I don't want to know." His instincts guided him to take evasive action to avoid a conversation that he somehow intuited would be awkward.

"Well, buddy," I said, "I'm going to tell you what they are when we come back out to the car. And it's going to be only the first of several conversations that we will be having about sex in the near future." I could feel him sending vibes of displeasure into my airspace, but he didn't say anything else.

"So, A.," I said as we walked back to the car, "Condoms. A condom is like a little rubber hat that a man puts on his penis when he has sex to make sure that the woman he's having sex with does not get pregnant." I was not ready to get into a discussion of STDs yet.

"Oh," said A. Peevie.

"The reason I need to tell you about this is that it's time for us to start having a couple of talks about sex, buddy," I said. He grimaced. "And by the way, are you doing sex education at school this year?"

"Umm, hmmm," he said. "For a week." Well, then. That should do it, right?

"Well, dude," I said, "Daddy and I want to make sure you know what's true and what's not true about sex. So we will be talking about it--but for today, we can be done." He emitted an audible sigh of relief.

In the same week, I was in the car with M. Peevie and a news story came on the radio about the Illinois abortion notification law. "What's abortion, Mom?" M. Peevie asked. Of course she did.

"Sometimes a woman or a girl gets pregnant, and she doesn't want to be pregnant any more, M.," I said. "An abortion is a medical procedure that makes her not pregnant any more." I knew it would not end there.

Sure enough. "But Mom," she said, "What happens to the baby?"

"Well, M. Peevie," I said slowly, thinking through my options--there's a simple answer to this one; and then there are answers that are just going to lead to eight thousand more questions; I went with simple--"the baby dies." It still led to more questions, because this is M. Peevie. It's what she does.

"But Mom, why would someone not want their baby?" The questions were getting harder.

"Sometimes a person gets pregnant, but she's not ready to be a mommy, M.," I said. "Sometimes teenagers have sex, and they get pregnant by accident, and they aren't ready to take care of a baby. That's what that news story was about."

She was quiet in the back seat as the traffic whizzed past. "Um, Mom?" M. Peevie said, "I think this conversation is going into things I don't want to talk about."

Phew. I could not agree more. After all, she's only nine.

"OK, baby," I said. "We don't have to talk about it anymore."

I wasn't kidding when I said these kinds of conversations are a true joy of parenting. They're challenging, for sure; and mostly I'm just swinging in the dark, trying to tell the truth, but without giving them more information than they're ready for.

And I love that I get to be the one to guide them. What an honor; what a precious honor.

And what a crapshoot.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Blogging 24: We Interrupt This Intense Program With a Weather Report. It's Raining.

The following takes place between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.

The sun is rising over Manhattan. (Sunrise on April 5, 2010 took place at 6:33. Close enough.)

Ethan is still pasty and sweaty.

Wait. Remind me: why is the POTUS in New York again? In imminent danger of becoming POTUS-toast?

Tick tock. Tick tock. Wow. No dialogue. Just...waiting. Tick tock.


Tarin knows what to do.

Hmmm. What. WHAT? What does he know to do? That was pretty good suspense if you ask me.


"Can you hear me now?" Nice product tag line placement, Verizon Wireless!

Jack: "It's not our call. President Taylor said..."

Wait just a cotton-picking minute. Since when does Jack NOT second-guess the president and do exactly what he wants to do, even if it is in direct opposition to the president's direct orders?

A black SUV, of course. The Vehicle of Betrayal.

Bishop. The soon-to-be-dead agent's name is Bishop. Nice subtext on the name, writers.

Who is this actor playing Bishop? Looks familiar.

OH! President Taylor got slappy!

"It wasn't your decision to make!"

"I don't want deniability! I want Hassan!"

She's like, ready to cry. Baby.

And wow. That Rob is one cheeky bastard: "Really, Madame President? New York is safe." Um, yes. Really. Treason is treason, dude. That's why Tony Almeida and his Cubs mug went to prison, man.


If Dana doesn't stop pursing her lips I'm going to twist them with a needle-nose plier.

Bishop: "We succeeded. We saved Manhattan."

Aw, Boy Scout. You are such an honorable man. Too bad you didn't do a background check before you got engaged to a DOMESTIC TERRORIST.

Tarin, to Hassan: "You wanted the cover of Time Magazine!" Good one, Tarin.

The line that will cement Hassan's place in (fake) history as a Martyr for Peace: "Yes, I've made mistakes. But believing in peace was not one of them."

Aw. Hassan is crying. What a baby.


POTUS is putting a lot of pressure on Ethan to get back to work right away, isn't she? Shouldn't she at least let him take an hour off to recover from his MASSIVE HEART ATTACK?

Jack sure is familiar with New York City streets and traffic patterns. It's almost like he's urban-omnicient.

Dana! You evil bitch! Chloe does not trust you; therefore YOU. WILL. BE. CAUGHT.

Arlo! Keep asking questions! Go Arlo! But I'm pretty sure you're going to die and get stuffed into a vent...

Oh! Don't turn your back on her, dude! Don't turn...oh crap. Oh. Crap. Oh...Saved by the earpiece. Phew.


"You're on an island, you know. There's no way out." Heh.

Well, if you're going to steal a car for a chase scene, it's good to pick a fast one.

All anyone has to do is take one look at Dana's BitchFace to know she's behind all these shenanigans.

Wait another cotton-picking minute. How did they have a car and two henchpersons, complete with disguises, waiting at the parking garage which was a last minute diversion from the Real Plan?

AHA! The Cell Phone of Discovery!


Ad for Home Depot: "Break open a can of doing"? Lame


Wait, what? The Russian foreign minister? What do the Russians have to do with all of this?

Oh, yeah. I forgot. We started off the day with Renee separating a Russian mobster from his thumb to try to get to the Chief Russian Scalawag who was selling the Rods of Doom.

And that reminds me: Where has Sark been all this time? I miss him.

Oh. Oprah would not be happy. Jack is texting while driving.

Cole's feelings are hurt. He is probably going to say goodbye to love.


I know why Dana wants to talk to Jack Bauer. I'd want to talk him. Wouldn't you?

Excellent Get Smart doors.

It wouldn't be 24 without Jack pulling the old choke-hold-up-against-the-wall maneuver.

Did Renee just roll her eyes in whatever-boredom when Hastings gulped at Jack's rough interrogation techniques?

Dana: Tick-tock, Mr. Bauer. You're running out of time.

That is a cute little blue...WAIT. WHAT?! WHAT?!!!! Really, Fox-News Chicago -- REALLY?!! You're going to interrupt 24 with a freaking WEATHER REPORT? That is so wrong.

[I picked up the phone at this point and called Fox News Chicago. When the guy at the station answered the phone, I said, "Really?! REALLY?!" and apparently, he had received a few other similarly irate calls, because he said, "I'm very sorry, Ma'am, she'll be off in just a minute."

"Really, though?!" I said again, and he said, "I'm very sorry, Ma'am. She had to do a weather update because of the rough weather situation. She'll be off in a minute." And they couldn't just scroll "It's raining and windy in Chicago!" across the bottom of the screen?]

Ahem. Back to the blogging of 24:

Recycled plot device: World leader forced to confess heinous crimes over the internet under threat of public execution.


People keep saying, "Get over it."


I'm still mad at Fox News Chicago for breaking into the show with a fucking WEATHER REPORT.

Those bad guys must be rilly, rilly bad if they're actually against peace!

Kayla: "Can you guarantee that he will be saved?" No, dummy. There are no guarantees in life, and especially not in a hostage situation. The only guarantee in 24 is that the perimeter will be breached.

Where are these drones, exactly? How can they deliver such clear video?

Jack: "Renee, I need to talk to you. I want you with me on the assault team. I may need your circular sawing and stabbing skills." OK, he didn't really say that last thing.

She is like a little red-headed puppy.


What happened to "Renee, you must stay behind me at all times"? He actually held the door for her to go in ahead of him.

Why did Jack put that gun clip neatly on top of the fuse box?

Watch out, little girl with Etch-A-Sketch!

Oh, that woman on the couch is going to scream, isn't she? She's going to blow the whole operation!

No! Even better: she's the be-wigged one!

Oh my. Hassan is dead. The whole confess and then get executed show was pre-recorded. What a cheat. Good thing the wife and daughter weren't watching that.

And...silent clock.

More preview teases with Gregory Itzin.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why You Should Stop Saying "Happy Mothers' Day"

I don't actually hate Mothers' Day any more (it was not high on my list of holidays after losing a child), but I totally understand why some of my friends do.

My unscientific poll last year found that more people feel sad on Mothers' Day (MD) than happy. Many people feel ambivalence or even dread as MD approaches, for many reasons: having lost a child, desiring a baby, having a sick child, having a strained relationship with your child or your mother, wanting to be married, having a mother who hurt or disappointed you (aka, being human), experiencing the death of your mother, dealing with your mother's serious illness, and on and on.

So for all of you out there who don't feel particularly thrilled about the prospect of yet another crummy mother's day approaching--I'm sorry for your pain. I get it.

Why does there need to be an official mother's day on the calendar, anyway? I've decided that I want to be the kind of mother that has zero expectations around the day. What I really want is to have a great relationship with my kids, such that every day we have loving interactions, and That Sunday in May is just another typical day.

When they've grown up and established their own households, if they want to send me a card or a potted geranium or take me out for a meal, great. (Although I'm not particularly fond of geraniums. But whatever.) I will never decline kindness or attention. But if they forget, or they're not good at getting a card in the mail, or they've had a busy week--so what? If we continue to have fun together, and good conversations, and reciprocal expressions of love and appreciation, then one Day on the calendar means very little.

(BTW, this logic does NOT apply to my birthday.)

If, however, by the time my kids are out on their own I've screwed them up enough that they don't feel any tenderness or appreciation toward me, then our problems are larger than an M-Day card can fix. (God protect them, please, from my mistakes and selfishness.)

And what about dads? Should they be off the hook? Mr. Peevie's job, I believe, is to help the kids, while they're still young, to say "I love you mom" and "Thanks, mom"--but not just on M-Day. If he does it on M-Day, great; but as long as he's setting this example the rest of the year, then I'm totally cool with minimal fanfare on That Day.

I don't dread the Day; and I don't want my family to dread it either. Do you want to join me in my Quest to Take the Expectations Out of Mother's Day?

And I really want to address the issue of the ubiquitous, relentless, and somewhat mindless Mothers' Day greetings. The only person you really need to acknowledge the Day to is your own mother. You don't need to say it to me or to any other woman, whether she's a mother or not. It's not like Christmas/Hanukkah, or Independence Day, or Halloween, where the celebration and acknowledgement includes everyone.

I'm not trying to be mean here, and if you say HMD to me, I won't bite your head off. But be aware: saying "Happy Mothers' Day!" does not make it happy. Before popping out the cliched holiday salutation to someone who is not your mother, look into her eyes, and try to discern whether it is, in fact, a happy day for her. Maybe a better thing to say is, "How are you today?"--and really mean it.

And I will leave you with this Anne Lamott essay in Salon about her not-June-Cleaver-mother. It's not pertinent to Mothers' Day, per se; but it's Anne Lamott, so it's entertaining, touching, and truth-telling, and I think you will enjoy it.

NOTE: I really wanted to include a picture of June Cleaver with this post, but for some reason Blogger won't let me. Stupid Blogger.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Tiny Sign That Maturity Might Come. Eventually.

Two kids who often fight like feral cats were sitting on the bed, still in their PJs on a Monday morning (thank you, Lutherans), playing on their DSs, together in their virtual world.

"Oh, I'm going to die. I'm going to die," I overheard A. Peevie say. "I'm dead."

And then, the part that made my heart well up with pride and joy, and not a little astonishment:

"You're doing good, M. Peevie," A. Peevie encouraged. "You can do it! You can beat him! Good job, M., good job!"

I don't know about you, but when one of my kids forgets his own (fake/virtual) troubles and opens up a can of Unexpected Maturity to say something kind and encouraging to his sibling, I practically start crying from happiness.

Even if it's just about a video game. Because that's a start, isn't it?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blogging the Festival of Faith and Writing:

Dateline: Chicago

Getting excited about the Festival. Arranging logistics: what time are we going to leave? Who will drive? Can we get there in time for the 1:45 interview with Wally Lamb on Thursday? Can we stay until Mary Karr gives the final plenary on Saturday night? (By the way: click on that link. It's an interview with Karr in

No, no. We MUST stay until after Mary Karr's talk. To leave before Karr would be like going to the Oscars and leaving right before Tom Hanks announced Hurt Locker for Best Picture.

Here's what I'm slating on my dance card in between Lamb and Karr:

  • Possibly Michael Perry on "Life as a Bumbling Agnostic," or Matt Ruff confessing "An Interesting Moral Education; or How I Learned to Lie for a Living."
  • Another Wally Lamb event: "There But For the Grace of God: What My Writing Has Taught Me About Sin, Redemption, and the Complexity of the Crime-And-Punishment Equation."
  • The talk by the poet Christian Wiman sort of intrigues me, even though I am not a poet, and only barely a reader of poetry. His topic is "Hive of Nerves: On Modern Anxiety and Its Ancient Remedy." I loved his essay, Gazing Into the Abyss."
  • Maybe I'll check out Kate "The Tale of Despereaux" DiCamillo's talk on "Why Writers Write: Questions and Answers on the Craft of Writing."
  • And, fondly remembering my conversations with Andras Visky both in my own home and also in Romania (name dropper!), I am interested in seeing his new play, Backborn.

There's more, of course; so much more. But this is a good start.

The primary reason I love to attend the Festival of Faith and Writing--other than the fact that it is three days of NO KIDS! NO DISHES! SHOWERING ALONE AND WITHOUT INTERRUPTIONS!--is that it is inspiring to me as a writer.

So far, the first thing I've learned from the FFW this year: I'm too lazy to be a real writer. These writers are prolific, focused, dedicated, focused, hard-working, focused, and apparently un-distracted by Facebook, 24, and Angel DVDs. So far, in reading through the speaker biographies, I have not read about any writers who seem even a little bit like me. They're all very evolved, spiritual, and terribly, terribly focused on their Craft.

Maybe I can spin that to a publisher as some kind of advantage.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Blogging 24: Hello, Plot Devices! Hello, Subtext!

Now that we know for sure that this is the last season for 24 (WAH! WAH! WAH! But also? Yeah. Smart move, since it's been getting a little shark-jumpy for the last three seasons.), I feel compelled to blog it more diligently.

  • Wait, what? Jack just agrees to go and babysit a world leader during an imminent radiological attack? When he's in the middle of the action, he's going to willingly get into a minivan and go for a drive with a politician? Nuh uh. I call lame plot device.
  • Nothing good ever comes from a man with a black goatee.
  • PresidentTaylor to toady: We can't give in to the terrorists--"Not unless you're intent on destroying our moral authority!"
  • And also: "Caving to any terrorist demand weakens this nation immeasurably." These are examples of what Dave Barry likes to refer to as "wooden dialogue" created by the "wooden dialogue generator."
  • Hmm. Another plot-device heart attack. I remember that happening in Season Whatever when Wayne Palmer's girlfriend's rich, old husband collapsed and MorallyAmbiguousSherry stopped Girlfriend from giving him his meds.
  • I thought they were supposed to take President Hassan alive so they could turn him over to the terrorists. When did that change?
  • Did that tunnel get longer for the trip back? Or am I just confused by all the shooting?

So, it looks like some fun times are ahead for next week's two-hour episode: the inimitable Gregory Itzin will be back, which can only mean delicious trouble.

Also from the previews: "Tick-tock, Mr. Bauer. You are running out of time."

Aaahhhh. I love the smell of subtext in the morning.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Green Room is Moving On Up

I'm delighted to report that rights to The Green Room have been purchased by an anonymous buyer for $6.8 million. The new owner has contracted with E. Peevie to continue to produce clever blog posts in her own inimitable style for the next two years, with an option to renew.

There are also plans in the works to develop a sitcom around the hilarious Peevie antics; and the casting team has already contacted representatives of Billy Bob Thornton, Valerie Bertinelli, Dylan "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" Sprouse, and Elle Fanning for lead roles in the family comedy.

The new management has been mute on the subject of who will be asked to play the role of A. Peevie. "It has to be someone who can capture his unique brilliance and lovable strangeness, without turning him into a caricature," a member of the casting team said. "There are not very many actors in that age range who have the kind of depth we're looking for."

As Green Room readers could predict, many of the story lines will have to do with poop, both human and butterfly. But the family comedy will take on other contemporary topics as well, including Little League, Jesus, public school education, and the new health care bill.

Even though the news of the acquisition just broke early this morning, already major players have indicated an interest in being involved in the project, including President Barack Obama, Kiefer Sutherland, and Vincent D'Onofrio.

"I have had my eye on this talented woman for awhile," D'Onofrio reportedly said. "I would jump at the chance to work on a project that had her name on it."