Black Woman Blogging

One black woman's views on race, gender, politics, family, life and the world.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ain't No "Yum-O" In This GD Cookbook!

As infrequently as I make guest appearances in my own kitchen, there ought to be klieg lights, a makeup artist, a director and a dialogue coach when I show up. Cooking on a regular, sustained basis requires planning and creativity I just don't care to develop. But I know I need to. When I think of what BMNB and I spend eating out -- mind you, we spend a lot less than we did before the furlough -- I could easily feed us for a lot less on $ .99 per lb chickens from Safeway and the like. Again, planning and creativity. Mind you, my mom used to put a meal for eight on the table seven days a week when I was a child. I have no excuse.

I was reading an article on about using coupons to get free groceries and after trolling forums I found out about this cookbook entitled -- get this -- "Get In The Kitchen, Bit@hes!". This cookbook is described as "not your Grandma's cookbook." If you visit the author's website, and click on "The Book" tab, you'll be greeted thusly:

Tired of all the cookbooks written by wholesome and sweet chefs that make you want to smack them in the face with a frying pan?

Well… you’re in luck! I’m not gonna coddle you, hold your hand or even tell you that you look hot in an apron. I’m not your momma, sweetheart. I’m your daddy!

Stop wasting money eating out and ordering in. Don’t have the time to cook? Don’t like cooking? Quit your damn whining and Get in the Kitchen!

Just the prompt I needed. There's a free recipe page with entrees the likes of "Love You Long Time Pork Ribs," "Poke Me Pork," and "Trailer Park Chicken Marsala." I haven't tried any yet -- I'm going to try the "Love You Long Time Pork Ribs" -- but just the idea of the book, along with its recipe difficulty rating system -- "Dumb Ass" (easiest), "The Little Chef That Could" (more difficult), and "Are You Fu#@ing Kidding Me?" (hardest) -- had me almost falling off my chair laughing. If someone could go to this trouble to make cooking this easy AND this funny, I need to make the effort to get in the kitchen. If I like the ribs, I'm definitely buying the book.

Ain't no "Yum-O" in this cookbook, no sirree. I guess this lazy bit@h betta get in the kitchen. Between the furloughs, car repairs, vet bills and the holiday season coming up, I need to make a dollar out of 15 cents, starting in the kitchen.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Letterman Used Power For Sex -- Surprised?

Okay, so let me first admit my bias. I've always thought David Letterman was funnier than Jay Leno. His humor had less reliance on sight gags and was more nuanced and intelligent than Leno's and, to an extent, Carson's, who is one of the greatest in my books.

That said, I'm not so biased as to give Letterman a pass on his past "indiscretions" with female staffers. But surprised? You'd have to have lived in a yert to have been surprised by his actions.

Powerful men use or trade power (and wealth) all the time to get sex, especially if they're, well, unsightly. I'm no beauty queen, but let's face it -- David Letterman is far from gorgeous. I'm talking light years from handsome. But for his height, Middle Earth would have called CBS and asked them to return their missing hobbit. I'd hazard to guess that but for the power of his celebrity and position of authority as a boss, for years he'd have been taking matters into his right hand with a jar of Vaseline beside him, if you know what I mean.

So am I surprised that he used his power as a boss and a celebrity to get laid? Not at all. Happens every day, in workplaces large and small. Power gets traded for sex so much, in the workplace and outside of it, that there ought to be a formal exchange for it, like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or NASDAQ.

Do you think Monica Lewinsky would have even bothered with Bill Clinton if he had been a middle-aged, mid-level manager at IBM with a scratchy, twanged voice? Would Donna Rice have bothered with Gary Hart but for his political power? Would any woman in her right mind put up with the pomposity of Donald Trump if he were just a working-class construction foreman with a bad combover? I don't think so. I doubt that Jesse Jackson, John Edwards (cute as he is), Eliot Spitzer, Newt Gingrich and the like would have had half the success they've had getting women, sometimes in addition to their wives, but for the power they possess or possessed. C'mon -- if you had seen Eliot Spitzer walking down the street before he was powerful, would you have said to yourself, "There goes my dream boat!" ? I don't think so. More like, "That dude so needs a tan."

What's surprising is that, in this age of so-called women's liberation and empowerment, we women are willing to trade ourselves so easily for something that can slip from a man's hands in the blink of an eye. It takes two to do the horizontal mambo, at least willingly. Given all the legal protections in place against sexual harassment in the workplace, are the women who bumped uglies with Letterman powerless victims or willing participants who were attempting to advance their own careers? Unless somebody sues him, we'll probably never know. It all just has such an ick factor to me.

I never really watched Letterman on a consistent basis after he went to CBS. Now, I just don't want to.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't Opt In

The public option is back on the table, in a new form. As proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the new public option allows states to decide whether to opt in or opt out. I think this is a fair compromise.

For those states whose senators opposed the public option and will probably continue to oppose it in any form, my message to you is this: If Senator Reid's proposal passes and becomes law, don't opt in. At least have the integrity to stand behind the vote of your chosen representatives. Don't opt in.

If you went to one of those town hall meetings and warned of socialism, Barack O'Communism and the like, then own your words and your deeds. Don't opt in. If you love federalism that much and hate so-called "big government" that much that you're willing to stick it to yourselves, well, then, party on. Don't opt in.

Seems to me that the states that most vehemently opposed the public option are also those states that have traditionally had the highest rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases. You know the states I'm talking about. Most of them are in the south. They would only increase the risk in the public option pool, not spread it. Maybe they don't know what it's like not to have access to affordable health care. Maybe they don't care at all.

You see, I know what it's like to have free health care extended to me in a time of need. I was interviewing for jobs in San Francisco during my third year of law school and the only health care coverage I had was through the law school's clinic. I sprained my ankle running for a bus, and a cab driver was kind enough to drop me at a free clinic in San Francisco, for no charge even. There I was, suited and booted, sitting among the drug addicts, the homeless, and the soiled doves, one of whom told me, "Girl, you might as well get tested for AIDS while you're here -- it's free, you know" -- waiting to be seen by a doctor, not knowing how much it would cost. I was seen, bandaged, given a set of crutches and instructions for treating my sprain, and was sent on my way. When I inquired as to a bill (and held my breath), I was told, "It's no charge. This is San Francisco." I told them that I could pay them when I got back to school, even send them back the crutches, and I was told that there was still no charge and that it would cost me more to send the crutches back then what they were worth. Trust me, I wore those crutches out -- in the snow on the way to class, up two flights of stairs to my hovel of a student apartment, you name it.

I know what it's like to be thankful for and in need of health care. I'm sure California will opt in if given the chance. Quite frankly, if the healthy states like Colorado and Hawai'i opt in, California needs to be up in the mix, too. Those high-risk states can go it alone, though, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe their states' rights will give them solace from the pain of not having access to affordable health care.

As my dad would say, sometimes people have too much sense for their own good.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Michael Jordan Didn't Talk Trash (?)

One of the perils of being an attorney is having to work with other attorneys. My work often involves debating my colleagues on finer points of law, down to the meaning of individual words. It's amazing how different attorneys can read a case and draw different meanings from it. Because my work involves drafting decisions that reflect the legal and factual conclusions of my employer, only when my view of the law and facts prevails does my work ever see the light of day, and never with my name on it.

It can become very tiresome to be in constant debate mode.

I was sharing this sentiment with Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) on our way to work today, one of the days when we actually shared a ride in together. As usual, he used a sports metaphor to give me advice:

"Jordan didn't talk trash."


BMNB proceeded to explain to me that I need to stop debating folks and let my written legal work do all the talking. Just stop talking, for goodness' sake. "Michael Jordan didn't talk trash. He let his work on the court speak for him. He didn't have to talk trash because his worked backed him up. You need to stop talking and let your work speak for you."

I told him that, in my case, I'm not like guys. When someone attacks my work, I take it personally and feel obliged to defend it. Then I had an epiphany: I needed to leave it on the court, so to speak. Do my work, do my best, and leave my feelings about my work at work. Don't take them with me.

It was only later in the day when I Googled the phrase "Michael Jordan talking trash" did I find out that, yes, indeed, Jordan did talk trash. But he talked trash with a purpose: To get in his opponent's head, distract them, and defeat them.

But I won't let the truth get in the way of a good sports metaphor.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taking Up

I against my brother
My brother and I against our father
My brother, my father and I against our uncle
And all of us against the infidel . . .

Old Arab Proverb (I'm told)

When I was a child, as part of a large black family, I was trained, as were my siblings, to "take up" for any of my siblings if any one of us got into a fight. Mind you, since I was the youngest, I didn't have to make good on this familial pact. It was understood that if any one of us got into a fight or was threatened with one, and there was another one of us around, they had better "take up" for the one who was in a fight or threatened. If we got home and our parents found out that we didn't take up for one another, we were going to get it. We would be judged, and there would be hell to pay. Didn't matter if your sister or brother started the fight -- that would be dealt with later -- all that mattered was that if there was going to be trouble, you'd best be fighting alongside your sibling instead of sitting on the sidelines or fighting against them.

Because "taking up" was a common phenomenon among black families in the ghetto during the '60's and '70's, if you lived in the ghetto, you pretty much knew what your odds were going into a fight. There were people who wouldn't mess with me because they knew my older brother would take up for me. "Don't mess with her. Her brother's crazy." Just the knowledge that you weren't going to be the only one they'd have to do battle with was enough to keep the peace. Don't start none, won't be none. Talk about a deterrent. I guess it was the ghetto equivalent of NATO.

You don't expect when you're in your forties that your siblings would still have to take up for you, but it's nice to know that they would. I won't dignify the person or the act that caused me to seek advice, solace and support from my siblings, but my siblings made it very clear that they would take up for me. Between sips of iced tea and bites of an off-the-chain pound cake (my sisters may not be Southerners, but like Southern women, there's always dessert in their house) I was given an infusion of SWIE-wit and the confirmation that the pact still stood. A subsequent family meeting in my absence involving my oldest brother made clear that the pact still stood.

I am blessed beyond measure to have the family I was born into. I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I know I am blessed.

The pact still stands. We may be sliding into middle age, but the pact still stands.

Thanks to our parents.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

A Noble Piece Prize for President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on receiving this year's Nobel Peace Prize. I believe you may be the second [correction: third] African American man to be so lauded and the third sitting U.S. President. You are to be commended for capturing the attention of the world and inspiring hope for a nuclear-free and peaceful world.

As you noted in your remarks to the press on Friday, "the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes." Well, I'd like to give momentum to a cause dear to my heart, health care reform. Real health care reform. To that end, I've decided to award you Black Woman Blogging's first Noble Piece Prize. Unfortunately, the prize does not come with $1.4 million dollars. All that it entitles you to is a piece of my mind in furtherance of a noble cause.

Mr. President, I fervently believe that a public option in health care reform is the only real reform possible. I realize that the recent versions of health care reform legislation have left out this option as a "non-starter." I believe that the only entity powerful enough to negotiate effectively with Big Pharma on the price of prescription drugs (that my taxpayer dollars help create through research and development tax credits) and compete effectively against health insurance companies is the public option, not fifty or so state co-ops.

Mr. President, we already have rationed health care as feared by opponents of the public option. It's call denial of claims by health insurance companies. And we already effectively have a "public option" -- the emergency rooms of hospitals around the nation where the uninsured sick cannot be denied care and for which the public picks up the tab either through higher health insurance rates or higher taxes for programs like Medi-Cal.

You acknowledge that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to you for leadership in service of the aspirations of people around the world. Well, Mr. President, leadership is doing that which is difficult, unpopular, and necessary, whether it's pardoning President Nixon or pushing the 1964 Civil Rights Act through Congress without committee hearings. The public option is, in my opinion, difficult, unpopular, and extremely necessary.

To that end, I hope you take this piece of my mind and put it to a noble use. If you have the Democratic Party votes to get a public option passed, I think you should do it, even if it means holding Blue Dog Democrats' feet to the fire (quite frankly, I think Blue Dog Democrats are the political world's equivalent of pre-op tranny prostitutes -- they walk the walk, talk the talk, but they don't deliver what they're selling) and making the Republicans bend over and hold their ankles. You've tried bipartisanship and it isn't working. The Republicans and their talk-radio lackeys would like nothing more than to see you fail for reasons unrelated to the merits of your cause and, in some cases, for reasons related to a new-age racism that's gone "sheetless." Again, leadership, true leadership, is doing that which is difficult, unpopular, and necessary. Getting Democrats to unite on anything of substance is difficult; you will always be unpopular with the Republicans; but the public option is, in my humble opinion, very necessary.

Again, my congratulations on your becoming a Nobel Laureate and a Noble Laureate. And give my regards and birthday wishes to Bo.

Very truly yours,

Black Woman Blogging

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Mama Was A Germophobe

Mama was a germaphobe . . .
Wherever there was a germ, she would burn it
And when she died
She left me Clorox and Pine-Sol

-- A parody of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone," with apologies to The Temptations

I was cleaning one of my bathrooms yesterday, and the smell of lemon-scented Pine-Sol wafted from the sinks, countertops, toilet and bath tub. French lavender-scented Method All-Surface Cleaner had been slathered on the window blinds that I had previously dusted. The windows, mirrors and chrome sink fixtures shined with the assistance of Windex. I had finished sweeping and Swiffering the floor and was getting ready to mop and clean the baseboards.

I thought to myself, “Mom would be proud.”

You see, my mom, SWIE, was a germaphobe. Or rather, a germ assassin. Her cleaning philosophy could be summed up as this: If a surface was going to have contact with food, any human orifice, or feet, it had to be disinfected. Dishes, flatware, pots and pans were washed with dishwashing detergent and Clorox. Sheets, pillow cases, any manner of bed linens, bath towels, underwear -- no matter the quality or color – as well as bath mats were laundered in laundry detergent, hot water, and Clorox. Toilet bowls, sinks, showers, and bathtubs were cleaned with Pine-Sol. Floors were mopped with Pine-Sol. And kitchen towels were washed separately from bath towels, underwear or anything else in order to avoid any cross-contamination in the cleaning process. I think she even put bleach in carpet cleaning solution.

She came by this germ aversion naturally and through personal experience. My mom once briefly worked doing cleaning in a hospital, coming into contact with all variants of human effluents. I think that’s where she developed her love of Clorox. She might have also gotten her germ aversion from her mother, who had once worked briefly as a maid in a cathouse, or at least that’s what I remember her telling me. Contrary to popular stereotype, “soiled doves” of the bordello persuasion are pretty particular about their “work environment,” so to speak, or at least they were at that time. My grandmother said she laundered a whole lot of sheets in scalding hot water, detergent, and, I think, Clorox. And this was before washing machines. But my grandmother was always pretty particular not only about cleanliness but timeliness. She would always brag to my mother that she always had her house cleaned from top to bottom AND Sunday dinner on the table by 2:00 pm on Sunday, a deadline my mother wasn’t always able to meet.

In other words, my mother couldn’t stand dirtiness. She even had somewhat of a grading system.

If your house was dirty, she would say that it was “just nasty.” But it was the way she said “nasty” – drawing out the “a” to a long “aaaaahhhhh” that sounded like, “Well, that’s just naaaahhhsty.”

If your house was beyond nasty, it was filthy. Nasty was for untidy; filthy was for visible dirt, dust, mold, mildew, dried food, poop, etc. on surfaces exposed to food, human orifices, or feet. And then there were her superlative phrases: “That don’t make no kind of sense” added to “nasty” or “filthy” ratcheted up the dirtiness factor; “That don’t make a lick of sense” ratcheted it up another notch; and if “That don’t make a lick-a-bit of sense” was added to “That’s just filthy,” well, then, you had reached the height of uncleanliness in my mom’s book, to wit: “Well, that’s just filthy. That don’t make a lick-a-bit of sense.”

In order to maintain my mother’s sense of order and cleanliness, she had us kids on a cleaning schedule. Every day, the following tasks were carried out by the six of us: 1) Cleaning the front bathroom; 2) Cleaning the back bathroom; 3) Dusting and polishing the furniture in the living room, cleaning the patio window with Windex, and vacuuming the living room and the hallway; 4) Morning dishes; and 5) Evening dishes. Mind you, this was a 1200 or so square foot house. Cleaning the bathrooms entailed cleaning the sinks, toilets, and bathtub or shower with Pine-Sol, cleaning the mirrors with Windex, sweeping the floor, and putting out a clean hand towel. Bath mats were switched and the floors were mopped, with Pine-Sol, weekly. Evening dishes required two people – one to wash, the other to wipe – and entailed washing (with detergent and Clorox, of course) and drying dishes, putting away leftovers, taking the stove apart and cleaning all the eyes, wiping down the counters (with detergent and Clorox, of course) and wiping off the dining room table cover (she had a solid maple dining room table with a plastic cover), and sweeping the floor. I remember the discussion that went on about whether I, the youngest child, should be added to the cleaning rotation. The test? If you were tall enough to stand on a chair and put away a dish, you were added to the cleaning rotation. I think I was seven when it happened. My brothers had it worse -- they had the gender-specific chores of taking out the garbage, yard work, and poop-scooping added to their daily chores.

Morning dishes, however, was the most crucial task of the day. My mom got home at 4:15 or 4:30 every day, so morning dishes had to be done before she got home. Why? My mother refused to cook in a dirty kitchen. Absolutely refused. If she came home and the kitchen wasn’t clean – I mean, nothing on the counters except appliances, no dishes drying in the dishstand, no food bits in the sink -- she would change out of her work shoes into her house slippers, grab her purse, car keys, and cigarettes, and go to her sister’s house and leave us without dinner. That wasn’t such a big deal until my dad came home and wanted to know why there was no dinner. If you were the person responsible for there not being dinner, there was hell to pay. My dad loved my mother’s cooking almost as much as he loved us, and after a long day working on printing presses, he’d come home hungry and grouchy because of his hunger. He was not someone to be starved because of an indolent child who lost track of time watching Star Trek.

Weekends had their own rhythm. Bed linens were stripped and laundered – and I’m talking seven sets of bed linens – in – what else? – hot water, laundry detergent, and Clorox. Floors were mopped in Pine-Sol. My mom upped her cleaning game on the weekend, due in small part, I think, because of the possibility of a visit from her mother. If your house wasn’t clean, Granny would talk about you. My mother didn’t want to be “that” daughter – you know, the daughter that “don’t keep house” -- so if we got wind that Granny was coming, we would fly into action to clean and tidy the home beyond our usual tasks to meet not only our mother’s approval, but our grandmother’s.

My mom loved Clorox, Pine-Sol, Windex, and her BFF later in life would be Tilex. She would have loved the Swiffer. She was not an environmentalist; in fact, it was the germs of the environment that were to be battled and conquered, in her view. No "Simple Green" or "Seventh Generation" for her, no sirree. She would routinely take a week of vacation during the spring just to do spring cleaning on her house, washing walls, carpets, drapes, outside windows, etc., believing that no one would ever clean her house as well as she did because it was her house. She didn't like dirt or dirty smells, and woe be unto those who didn’t spray air freshener after “dropping some kids in the pool.” She would hunt you down, ask you, “Did something just crawl up inside you and DIE?”, and then, with one hand holding her nose and the other wielding Glade Air Freshener like a flame thrower, would kick open the offending bathroom's door like a DEA agent and prepare to do battle with your poop stench.

I don’t always meet my mother’s cleaning standards as to frequency, but I do meet them as to breadth and depth of cleaning, even ratcheting up my game a bit. My obsession is baseboards: You can tell if my life is all out of whack if there’s dirt on my white baseboards. My husband thought I was being obsessive when I told him that we had to go around our entire rental with pails of hot water and Spic-and-Span (Pine-Sol is too hard on paint) to clean all the white baseboards in a 2600 square foot house. When he saw the effect, he was hooked. A baseboard cleaning convert.

My mom would be proud of us. That is, if she came on the right day.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome Home, Roman Polanski!

Dear Mr. Polanski,

On behalf of the citizens of California, it is my pleasure to welcome you, albeit somewhat prematurely, back to California. We’ve been waiting for you for about thirty years or so, give or take. Your anticipated arrival was rather unexpected and left us woefully unprepared. I would try to greet you in person upon your arrival, but my understanding is that, for security purposes, you arrival via the federal government’s “Con-Air” airline will not be made public.

You will notice that many things have changed in California, and in the California prison system, since you left. The prison population is much larger, more diverse, and less tolerant of crimes against children. Given prison overcrowding, it is a well-known fact that the prisoners, not the guards, run the prisons. Given the crime to which you pleaded guilty, as well as your wealth, privilege, and your use of these attributes to enjoy a wonderful new life in Europe, you might find your next home and your new neighbors to be less than welcoming. Perhaps you can break the ice by regaling your new friends with tales of films you directed that they may have seen on a prison movie night. In light of your fugitive status – oh, pardon me, I mean “living in exile” – you will probably find yourself in close quarters with an element of society you’ve only seen in, well, films. As a director, I’m sure you’re more than adept at dealing with difficult people.

You will also find that the California criminal justice system has changed. You will be far more likely to face a woman judge now than probably at any time during California’s history. Not good odds for you. You’re also far more likely to face a non-white judge. That may not work well for you, either. But with friends like Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen to attest to your changed character and brilliant film career abroad, maybe your judge will sentence you to time served. On second thought, given Woody’s penchant for young, daughter-like girls, you might not want to have him as a character witness or mention him to your new friends.

Be forewarned, though: If you are indeed sentenced to serve additional time, your new friends will probably do to you what you did to that thirteen year-old girl, but without the benefit of champagne, Quaaludes, or Vaseline for that matter. Enclosed please find a check for $10.00 to put on your books for the purchase of Vaseline and soap-on-a-rope. I think you’ll find they’ll come in right handy.

Again, our warmest wishes to you upon your anticipated return to California.

Yours very truly,

Black Woman Blogging