Tuesday, May 31, 2005

And now for something completely different...

...Kind of. I'm reading Silent Spring by Rachel Carson--not a very cheery book. So I was overjoyed when the Momster send me this cute cartoon which sends the same message: support organic farming and fight against chemicals and pesticides, because they're more harmful than we think. Anyway, go to this site: Grocery Store Wars. I promise you'll giggle, even if you're not a Star Wars fan. Boy, that Cuke Skywalker. What a hottie :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

It's not just about the news, baby

As a reader and a writer, I'm drawn to all things literary. In the paper this morning was a Chicago Tribune Review of a literary journal, THE2NDHAND, meant for the masses, not just for university professors and grad students. Read the Trib review and then check out the journal at www.the2ndhand.com. You can read the stories online or order copies of the journal for just a few bucks each. Author Joe Meno says, "In a lot of ways, it's a galvanizing force for the great underground writing scene we have here. It's at the direct center of the underground writing scene in Chicago."

My very literary friend and I were emailing each other about why some great writers never make it big while the crappy writers often get book deals. If you want to help ensure that the great writers get recognized for their work, check out this literary journal and support local talent (well, local if you're from Chicago) and seek out the underground writers in other cities as well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


This just in from the world of entertainment news: Tom Cruise, or shall we say Dr. Tom Cruise, has taken it upon himself to help heal the suffering. Cruise is a follower of the Church of Scientology, and his religious conviction has led him to believe that modern ailments can be cured through alternative methods. What he practices in his own life is his own business and if it works for him, great. I fully support religious pluralism throughout the world. But he had to go poking his nose into someone else's business, and that's when it got personal.

Brook Shields wrote a memoir recently called "Down Came the Rain," about the postpartum depression she experienced after the birth of her daughter in 2003. Postpartum depression is common and isn't well-understood yet. Cruise commented on Shields' use of Paxil to help treat her extreme depression caused by fluxuations in hormones and chemicals. Cruise said in an interview with Access Hollywood set to air Thursday (via the New York Daily News), "These drugs are dangerous. I have actually helped people come off. When you talk about postpartum, you can take people today, women, and what you do is you use vitamins. There is a hormonal thing that is going on, scientifically, you can prove that. But when you talk about emotional, chemical imbalances in people, there is no science behind that. You can use vitamins to help a woman through those things."

Obviously he knows exactly what he's talking about, as his eloquence on the subject demonstrates. I try not to make personal issues of the topics I post on my blog, but as a woman who fights with her hormones on a monthly basis (as do most other women), I must personally say that some people JUST DON'T GET IT. I hope Brooke Shields told Cruise where he could put those vitamins. True, holistic medicine and alternative therapies can be very beneficial for men and women struggling with all sorts of health problems. But as each month passes and I fall victim once again to the storms in my mind that pass with each placebo pill that I punch from the packet, I realize more and more that women are at the mercy of our hormones. It's a problem that doctors have really only scratched the surface of. What may seem like a little bloated crankiness to men is a reaction within our bodies that we can't control and often don't understand. Brooke Shields struggled with a severe hormonal imbalance after she gave birth, and on top of trying to take care of this newborn baby on little sleep, she had to battle the feelings of fear and frustration at not being able to shake her depression.

A dear friend once said to me, "Sometimes I think I've gotten crazier as I've gotten older, because I just get so PMSy. But I realized that it's all relative. When I was a teenager, I was crazy all the time (as most teenagers are), and now that my hormones have evened out, when I do get PMS, it seems so much worse." She's right. I'm not saying we're all just a big ball of hormones and men should just wear armor all the time. I am saying that when the hormones hit us women hard, we really cannot fully control it. We think about things too much. We get upset at little things. We really crave certain foods and we get bloated. And when it passes, we wonder why we got so upset, why we felt suffocated and cloudy, why things seemed like such a big deal. We feel ashamed of ourselves for not being able to control it. We feel like such fools for letting it affect our work and our relationships and our living space. We get mad at our bodies because we know it will happen again next month and we hate our doctors for not coming up with a real solution. Shame on Tom Cruise for publicly lashing someone about an issue he can't possibly understand, and shame on Tom Cruise for his lack of empathy for a fellow celebrity, a fellow human being, a woman just trying to live her own life.

Tom Cruise must be suffering from Short-Man's Syndrome: an ailment which causes the vertically challenged male to think that HE has the ultimate wisdom and experience to advise others on matters he truly knows nothing about. They have a vitamin for that, don't they?

A different sort of Up-or-Down vote: Viagra for Sex Offenders?

When you think Viagra, you probably think of that Bob Dole commercial in which he's watching Britney Spears on tv and he tells his dog "Down, Boy." Ew. Lately, people have been talking about how Viagra is the new club drug, especially in the gay community. Today, the news media have been reporting that New York comptroller Medicaid audits from the year 2000 through this past March found that 198 convicted sex offenders in New York received Medicaid reimbursement for Viagra prescriptions after they were released from prison. Now the states have been notified that they aren't required to pay for such prescriptions for convicted rapists and other high-risk sex offenders.

Maybe you're saying, 'why should sex offenders get Viagra, especially for free? That's like bringing alcohol to an AA meeting! And everyone knows, that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic...' Or maybe you're saying, 'but these guys are like any other criminal--they did the time for their crime, they may have learned their lesson (or not), but once they're released from prison, they have the same rights as anyone else.' Aha, but those convicted of violent crimes are prohibited from owning a gun, and registered sex offenders are barred from entering a certain zone around schools and other places where children spend a lot of time. There was also a story last week about theme parks banning convicted sex offenders from buying passes or entering the park. But how far is too far when it comes to restricting rights of convicted criminals? Just like any other rule or law that restricts peoples' rights, it's a fine and dangerous line.

Don't get me wrong: the thought of registered sex offenders taking Viagra, and free Viagra at that, really creeps me out. And I agree we should restrict their access to schools and other public places where children roam freely. Maybe Medicaid should be paying for mandatory extensive counseling for these guys for the rest of their lives, since many sex offenders were sexually abused as children and need mental help, not prison time. Viagra is not medically necessary for these people. Therapy is.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Going Green in the Red Rocks

First a shout-out to my good buddy who just moved to Salt Lake City and sent me a postcard with the hopes of getting a shout-out on my blog. But this is not just a gratuitous shout-out to my friend, it's also a pat on the proverbial back of Salt Lake City, home to a strong environmental movement among responsible businesses. My friend commented on the lack of environmental responsibility of sending a piece of paper in the mail instead of emailing a digital image, but the gorgeous scenery on the postcard attests to the need of Salt Lake City to preserve and protect the surrounding ecosystem. Which it's doing, with a program run by the Salt Lake City government called Salt Lake City GREEN. Mayor Daley is doing an okay job of striving to make Chicago the greenest city in the nation, but it looks like Salt Lake City may be showing him some fierce competition.

My friend also requested that I visit and bring beer and Giordano's pizza, which is a Chicago staple (and so so good.) I swear, he's using me for the pizza, but for beer, he need look no further than Salt Lake Brewing Company, home of Squatters Pub Brewery, an SLC e2 business and 2004 winner of the 'environmental company of the year' award by the Recycling Coalition of Utah. Props to them for being environmentally responsible and conserving water in this desert region with waterless urinals. That's not the only thing they do that makes them worthy of such awards, but they have a photo of the urinals on their website, and who doesn't love a good toilet photo, really. I wonder what the urinal cakes are made of...

Enough potty humor. The brewery also uses windpower (as does a large portion of the city), which is becoming a rather popular source of power for breweries (and other homes and companies) in the Western U.S. New Belgium Brewing Company in Colorado boasts of its use of wind power, and they make a damn good beer. If someone can prove that wind power makes a better beer than other types of power, maybe more people will invest in wind power technology. As we learned from Kid Rock (see my post about Trippin'), sometimes one can only understand social issues when they relate to beer, and if that's what it takes, hand me some frosty mugs and a six-pack. Anyway, if you want to know more about how Squatters Pub Brewery is contributing to conservation and social awareness, just check out their website. And if you're in Salt Lake City, support the cause.

See? Salt Lake City really is more than just Mormons and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. So to my SLC buddy, I take back the jokes about your recent move, and I have no fear that you'll greatly contribute to the success of socially conscious breweries wherever you live.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Oh, I see how it is...

So, we went to war in Iraq because of unsubstantiated claims of weapons of mass destruction, which we have yet to find. Okay, so riddle me this: Iran is telling the rest of the world, to our faces, that they're planning to resume uranium reprocessing for nuclear weapons. Where's our committee with the maps and charts and threats of invasion? Hmmm....Iraq=Saddam Hussein, against whom the Bush family has had a vendetta for decades. Iran=What's-his-name. Either we learned our lesson the hard way by going to war without fully exploring all our options and paying more than we expected (in resources and lives), or *someone* dragged the whole world into his personal drama and doesn't really care what happens now that he got re-elected and realized that this whole President thing is hhhhhard woooork. Gotcha. I see how it is.

Monday, May 09, 2005

(Poll) Religion and Politics: An Honest-to-Goodness Open Opinion Forum

I have no idea how many people actually read my blog, but I thought I'd throw a poll out there to y'all because I really want to know something. A preface: many of my friends and family members have been talking lately about Tom DeLay's and Bill Frist's attempts at melding religion and politics, specifically regarding the Terry Schiavo situation and the recent judicial nominees whom most (if not all) Democrats oppose. This isn't really a new story, especially after the November 2004 election was accompanied by a big discussion about morals and values, but people seem to be getting more worked up recently. I won't say how I feel about any of this because don't want to sway the poll. I want people to answer honestly and openly, regardless of their political or religious beliefs. So I ask you to either post comments here or email me and tell me:

Do you hear or know of people who are discussing the recent use of religious discussions to help sway legislation or public policy? Do people think that the line between church and state will soon become (or already is) blurry? How do people feel about a greater presence of religion in politics? Do you (or others you interact with) feel that there's anything to be worried about? Is the growing public concern about DeLay's and Frist's politico-religious involvement off-base, or is there really something to be vigilant about?

I know a lot of people, whom I don't speak with on a regular basis, who have varying political views, and I want to know what other people think. I hear a lot from one side on a regular basis, but I try to really keep an open mind and not judge a situation based on one specific point of view. So tell me what you think, tell me what people around you think, just tell me SOMETHING! I need some intellectual discussion, people! No judgements made, I promise.

Thank you for your time.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Music sharing for your ears

I've been passing the word on to people about Launchcast, which is an internet radio station hosted by Yahoo! You can pay $3 per month to get commercial-free music and better quality, or you can pay nothing and listen to 800 songs a month. The reason I love it so much is that I created my own radio station and rated the artists and albums I like, and Launchcast will play them, as well as other artists and albums that are of the same genre or that are rated by other people who share some of my music preferences. Plus, I can go to an artist's page and randomly rate other similar artists, even if I've never heard of them. And just like that, I expand my playlist and get exposure to other music I wouldn't hear otherwise. And anyone with a Launchcast station can link their station to other users' stations, thus further expanding their music universe. The only things I don't like about Launchcast are that they tend to play a lot of the same stuff often, the commercials are slightly annoying, they're not compatible with Mac OS X yet, and they also stick in some random crap that I would never in a million years listen to on my own. Small price to pay for tonal amusement.

Regular radio, you're going down. Internet and satellite radio give us music fans what we want to hear. So, I share with you my station. Feel free to listen at will, link your station with mine, or suggest new music to add.
Rock On.

U.S. Forests Can't Get No Love...and other ways we Americans are failing each other

I'll spare y'all the rant from atop my soapbox because I promised myself and my readers that my blog would be a forum for constructive discussion and relevant information. So without futher ado, here are some articles to read while you're avoiding work on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Warning--they won't make you feel proud to be an American, but check out the bottom item for something that will lift your spirits...

1. Environmental News Network: "Road Building to be Allowed on National Forest 'Roadless' Areas"

2. Washington Post: "New Rule Opens National Forest to Roads"

3. Washington Post: "House Panel Receives Detailed Spending Plan for '06"

4. Washington Post: "In Kansas, a Sharp Debate on Evolution"

5. Washington Post: "Tom DeLay Calls for Greater Humility"

6. National Geographic Online: "Wild Horses Sold by U.S. Agency Sent to Slaughter"

And now for something completely different (and cheery!)
Something for dinner, in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Try the turkey tamales with mole negro (looks yummy!):
Epicurious.com: Land of the Seven Moles--Oaxaca's Intriguing, Intricate Cuisine

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Eco-tourism: to go or not to go

Tonight on the Daily Show, Lewis Black commented on the new MTV show, Trippin', starring Cameron Diaz and all her little celebrity friends. On Trippin', Cameron and other celebrities travel to various locations around the world to educate viewers about the local customs, social issues, environmental challenges, and other items that we Americans are terribly uneducated about. Lewis Black played a clip of Drew Barrymore talking about going to the bathroom in the woods, and another clip of Kid Rock becoming enlightened after learning that he does, in fact, need water on this planet because the beer companies need water to make beer. The Kid Rock thing was too easy to ridicule, and it's sad that sometimes people can only relate to world issues through beer. But I'm glad he actually realized that environmental degradation matters to everyone, including redneck country rock stars who wear cornrows and white tank undershirts.

Lewis Black's comment about Drew Barrymore's woodland activities really says it well: that nothing sums up the United States' relationship with the rest of the world than a white woman taking a crap in native's backyard. I could comment on the political aspects of America's involvement overseas, but it's too complex an issue to cover in one small blog, and I'm no political scientist. However, I will comment on the dilemma that Trippin' poses. Cameron Diaz is doing the world a great service by educating the MTV viewers about cultures and ecosystems around the world. During the last election, P. Diddy proved that we can motivate the 18-to-24 set to get politically and socially active and that MTV, though it has somehow stopped playing actual music, can be an educational tool. That is, in between shots of the spring breakers hanging out on the other side of the island, where resorts have contributed to air, noise, light, and water pollution.

Ecotourism allows people, usually white middle and upper class Americans and Europeans, to visit remote areas in third-world countries and indigenously populated locales, learn about nature and local cultures, and comprehend the economic, political, social, and environmental issues that plague those communities. Do they return to their communities and help educate people there about what they experienced? Do they donate money to world aid and conservation organizations? Perhaps, but more likely, they go home and tell their friends they crapped in the woods, and they show photos of endangered animals taken with their pricey digital cameras. But traipsing through remote wilderness areas and sacred lands compromises the ecological health of previously protected habitats and the cultural beliefs of natives who rely on the land for their existence. So do we prohibit these trips into foreign lands in order to protect fragile habitats from pollution and degradation? Or do we continue taking people into remote wilderness areas and sheltered villages because it helps educate the public about other cultures and environmental issues? It's a tricky thing. I'm torn.

Shows like Trippin' have potential, if the stars return from the trip and do some follow-up with the communities they interacted with, to show that they're serious about the experience they had. Otherwise, people will watch another reality tv show about stars having an exotic adventure, and then they will zone out, change the channel, and forget what they saw. Message to Cameron and the gang: if you want to make a difference, you have to do the work of real people and not rely on your celebrity status to change the world.