Thursday, July 29, 2010

To see or not to see: who decides and who cares?

This is not the type of post one would expect to find on an old lady's blog, but the topic is one I've considered from time to time in recent years. If you are easily embarrassed, perhaps you shouldn't read further. Or, perhaps you could read further while pretending you're watching one of the doctor shows on TV and letting your thirst for knowledge override your need to protect yourself from a discussion of things related to the human body.

I'm speaking out today about a sensitive topic because I feel that the male members of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) have been scamming female television viewers and catering to male ones. (This will not be a discussion of "male members"; they can stand up for themselves.) I'm attempting to make a case that the FCC and network censors have perpetuated a fraud by insisting that any female nipple be covered or blurred on television, while allowing the entire rest of a big boob to bounce freely and while imposing no similar viewing restrictions on nearly identical male nipples. I think they're trying to make us believe that they're on the job by focusing our attention on the tip of the iceberg when, in fact, the giant mass that makes up the rest of the iceberg is where any prurient danger to society may lie.

Several years ago, the local board-of-something-or-other met to discuss what restrictions and ordinances should be applied to a couple of so-called "gentlemen's clubs" that had recently opened in the area. I still laugh when I remember reading the following item in the newspaper's report of the board's decision: "Dancers must remain at least three feet away from customers at all times and must wear pastries." Yes, it read "pastries," with an "r."

At the office we had so much fun discussing that typo. If the dancers themselves were tarts, would they meet the requirements? What if the dancers had cinnamon buns? Could they still be fined if they covered themselves with "bare" claws? Would doughnuts provide acceptable coverage, what with their dirty little peepholes? Thus began my mild curiosity about why female nipples are considered erotic when male nipples are not.

Do you remember the fuss when Janet Jackson had a nip-slip at the nationally televised Super Bowl? What a furor that caused! Since Janet was wearing the gold jewelry equivalent of a "pastry," I submit that it was not the nipple but the rest of the breast that censors and many viewers found too shocking for family television.

More recently -- and what set me on this current bandwagon -- I saw TV censorship carried to such an extreme that my eyes rolled more than once. The show was a documentary about a transgender man who would soon be undergoing surgery to make him a woman. The scene took place in a doctor's office as the doctor explained the upcoming surgical procedures. The patient had been living and dressing as a woman for about a year, but in this scene his body, naked except for a pair of white briefs (or panties maybe?) was clearly that of a very tall, rather skinny, flat-chested man. Get this: They blurred his nipples. Even though it was discussed at length that the patient was still a male in every physical way, the censors must have based their decision on the idea that he would someday in the future be a female. How big of a prude do they think I am?

Another point: If I stop to think about the last handsome, shirtless, well-built guy I saw on TV, I can conjure up a very pleasant image in an instant. I see broad shoulders and amazing abs. The nipples are there, too, but they're no more significant than shirt buttons. They play no role in my fantasy. Not being male, I can't say for sure, but I suspect men's minds work much the same way. My point is that, male or female, it's not the nipples but the shape of the flesh that surrounds the nipples that we find titillating, er, exciting.

I'm guessing most guys, given a choice between looking at a flat-chested woman with bare nipples or a woman with a set of well-rounded boobs under a patch of frilly fabric that conceals the tips, would grin and gape at the second woman. This is not to belittle the first woman, who might even gain a couple of points by covering up with a little frilly fabric of her own to distinguish her nipples from those of her male counterparts. And what about the sweater girls of the 1950s? Not a nip in sight, but they had everybody talking.

Think about the exposed cleavage you see on TV awards shows or red carpet interviews. Think about the barely-there costumes on "Dancing with the Stars." Think all the way back to "Baywatch." On TV, female nipples threaten to pop out all over the place, but they don't, quite. And as long as they don't, nobody raises a fuss. The TV censors go on taking care of their male viewer buddies by showing them plenty of the breast parts that really interest them.

In closing, I assure you that in writing about this topic, I am not making demands on network censors. My calling them out is not an instance of tit-for-tat. I just want the censors to know I see through them. And in no way am I expressing a desire to see more female nipples on television. I'm merely suggesting that if one occasionally does escape confinement, accidentally, it would be nice if we as a nation didn't get sucked into some great, collective, hypocritical gasp.

I can live with the fact that the female nipple doesn't get to breathe as freely as the male nipple does, so long as it gets the same amount of respect. After all, women's nipples serve a legitimate, honorable, and very respectable purpose.

If you have an opinion on this topic, I would be very interested in reading it. Further, I hope no one was offended by what I've posted here. I wrote this only because the perceived public fascination has resulted in a type of discrimination, and I needed to get these nipple issues off my chest.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mexican food is on my mind

My mouth is watering for a chicken chimichanga, but the rest of me doesn't want to get dressed to go get one. Looks like I'll find something in the fridge and eat dinner right here in mi casa. And watch mi televisiĆ³n.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The rules for taking turns

Butch and Kadi long ago mastered the art of eating from a spoon or fork. That's because I've always given them the last two bites of my own meal (as long as it's not on the bad-food-for-dogs list). Lucy and Oliver, my granddogs and frequent houseguests, have also progressed from licking a spoon to taking a bite from it.

At the age of 13, Kadi has recently become less interested in eating than she was in the past, and I've figured out that she'll eat more if I spoon-feed her. I've also discovered that it's nearly impossible to spoon-feed one dog when others are present and paying attention.

The dogs themselves have taught me that it's important to state the name of the specific dog who's going to get the next bite; otherwise, there's a free-for-all grab for the spoon. When I say one dog's name, though, the three others sit and wait to hear their own name called. I've been impressed that they caught on so quickly to the idea of taking turns and with the manners they show when we follow this procedure. But I haven't fully understood just how serious the concept is to them until a couple of days ago.

I was sitting in the living room, holding a bowl of moistened kibble with some canned chicken stirred in. The chicken was something new, so there was a lot of interest in it. Kadi and Butch got the first bites as soon as I sat down, followed by Oliver and Lucy as they scrambled into position. The eating order was established as Kadi-Butch-Oliver-Lucy, and I maintained that order as I doled out the food.

Things got a little bit confusing when the dogs shifted position. Oliver moved in to the left of Kadi, both of them to the left of my legs, and Lucy found a spot to the right of my legs, next to Butch. The feeding order was still Kadi-Butch-Oliver-Lucy, but their sitting/standing order was now Oliver-Kadi-Lucy-Butch.

For most of the meal I had no trouble maintaining the feeding order, but at one point near the end, a little problem arose. I got distracted and accidentally skipped Lucy. The instant I said Kadi's name instead of Lucy's, Lucy came unglued.

Oh.My.God! She stretched up on her hind legs. Her head detached from her shoulders at collar-level and thrust forward about a foot, her neck turning into a large, coiled spring. Her eyes grew about three times their normal size, popping out of her head and waggling independently, on little springs of their own, over the food bowl. Her mouth opened so wide I felt sure she was about to swallow the food, the entire spoon, and my arm all the way to the elbow. We got her message, loud and clear: "IT'S MYYYYYYYYYY TURRRRRRRNNNN!!!"

You can bet I'll pay closer attention from now on. And I'm going to remember the effectiveness of Lucy's display of righteous indignation the next time someone tries to cut in front of me in the checkout line at Walmart.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The best part of being a bug

Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a world where the flowers are larger than you are?

Note: The top photo in this post was taken by Kim Neely.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hush Hush & Houmas House

Recently, on an otherwise boring afternoon, I was delighted to find one of my all-time favorite movies on TV: Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. I've watched this film many times since I first saw it in a Texas movie theater in 1964, and it hooked me again this year.

This old movie has everything going for it:  a great cast (Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland,  Joseph Cotten, and Agnes Moorehead), a clever plot twist, and a lavish Louisiana setting.  It's that setting that holds particular interest for me these days.  Here are a couple of examples (images captured from my television set):

The movie was filmed in Burnside, Louisiana, about half an hour from my home, at Houmas House Plantation. This is one of the most beautiful places I've personally experienced. My most recent visit there was with my younger daughter, Kelli, in 2008 (unfortunately during my non-posting period). We spent an early-fall afternoon touring the gardens. At the end of our tour, we had two peaceful souls and a couple hundred gorgeous pictures to show for it.

Here are a couple of photos that remind me of the scenery in the movie:

If you compare the house in the recent photo to the house in the movie shot, you'll notice that a widow's walk (belvedere) has been added on top of the roof. The Houmas House website states that this change was part of a restoration begun in 2003 by the current owner of the property, so I'm guessing it was part of the mansion as it existed at some point in time before the movie was made.

If you've never seen "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte," you really should. And if you have seen it, then I know you'll remember its hauntingly beautiful theme song:

The song is "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" by Patti Page.
Click here to read the lyrics.
Thanks to TheNewFormat for posting this video on YouTube.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A new set of wheels

About three years ago my older daughter bought herself a motorcycle:  a red, chrome and black Harley.  Even though I’m not a motorcycle enthusiast, I have to admit that her bike is a beautiful piece of machinery.  Over this past weekend she surprised me with new wheels in the same colors.  I’m now the proud owner of a brand-new...wait for it...walker!!!

I’d been in a lot of pain for several days because my arthritic knees were pitching a major bitch-fit, and I was using crutches if I had to move.  Crutches are cooler than walkers, I think.  When I was 25 years old and broke my knee, I even danced while using crutches.  Athletes with sports injuries use crutches.  Crutches are young
But this walker?  I could have kissed it when I saw it.  I could have kissed it even if it hadn't been shiny and red.  It offers so much more stability than the crutches and, best of all, it has a little basket I can use  to carry a book or a bowl of cereal or even, if I’m careful, a glass of Diet Coke on ice.
Between the new walker and the assistance of Kim, who cheerfully stayed with me and did the grocery shopping, cooking, and errand-running -- not to mention letting the dogs in and out a thousand times -- I was able to rest my knees enough for the inflammation to subside.  Now I’m walking on my own again.  The new walker is parked, waiting and ready for the next time I need it.  And I know from experience there will be a next time.
There have been several instances in the past few years when a walker would have helped.  I’ve just resisted the idea of it until now.  It's still a little painful to admit to myself that I'm old enough to need a walker, but I’m really glad to have it in my "just-in-case" toolbox.  

It feels so good to be able to take a book from one room to another without having to carry it under my chin.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Water lilies

The two of us, leisurely wandering,
saw lilies, peacefully PONDering.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The day everything changed in one spit second

When my second husband and I divorced in the early ‘80s, our relationship was still very amicable. We’d grown apart through the years and through many work-related separations, but we still cared for one another as one cares for close family. When we divided our community property, we did so in the spirit of fairness and graciousness.

As part of that property settlement, I ended up with some cash in exchange for my half of the (small) equity in our house. It wasn’t a large amount of money, but my husband suggested that if I would put it into a certificate of deposit, it would grow faster than it would in a savings account. And so I followed his advice.

Several years later, I needed some of that money. It’s been so long since this happened that I don’t remember why I needed it, but my best guess would be that my car had broken down. Again. Off I went to the bank, on my lunch hour, to see what I could do.

The bank officer I met with was a woman I’ll call Rusty Soloman (not her real name). At that time I worked in personnel management, and Rusty must have had similar responsibilities at the bank, because she and I were on a couple of human resources committees together. She was then about the age I am now. She was short and stout, with grey hair twisted up in the back. Her lips seemed permanently pursed. The way she tilted her head to peer over her glasses made me feel as if I were under close inspection, like bacteria on a microscope slide. I felt uncomfortable in her presence at committee meetings and even more so at the bank.

That day we met in Rusty’s office. As it was lunchtime, she spread a paper napkin on her desk, pulled an orange out of her purse, and commenced to peel it. While I explained to her that I wanted to cash out the CD, she finished peeling the orange, pulled off a couple of wedges and stuffed them into her mouth. I remember thinking that the remainder of the orange looked like Pacman sitting there on that white napkin.

Rusty finished chewing and began to tell me all the reasons why I should leave the CD alone. She asked why I needed the money, and I told her, even though I thought it wasn’t really any of her business, since I wasn’t asking for a loan. She told me there’d be a penalty for taking the money out early, and I told her I knew that and was prepared to pay it. I don’t remember all the stuff she said that day, but I remember clearly how little I felt as I tried to convince that sour, old woman that I needed to use some of my money, and she tried to convince me I didn't.

I began explaining it to her again. And as I spoke with conviction on my own behalf, something happened that normally would have horrified me: A tiny drop of spit flew out of my mouth, arced gracefully through the sunbeams that were shining through the window, and landed, as if by intent or destiny, smack in the “mouth” of Rusty’s Pacman orange.

I stopped speaking and watched Rusty carefully. Her head was bent over the orange, her eyes focused on it as if in disbelief; then, slowly, she raised her head and glared at me.

I felt embarrassed. I felt like the worst kind of clod. I touched my hand to my mouth and mumbled some version of “sorry, excuse me.” Rusty mumbled something in return, pushed away from her desk, and walked out of the office.

While she was gone, I began to assess the situation. Not in a million years would I have done such an uncouth thing intentionally, but it did kind of sum up my feelings about the whole transaction up to that point. I realized that in spite of some minor embarrassment, I didn’t feel little anymore. I thought it was sort of amazing how one tiny, droplet of spit could shift the balance of power in a room. I thought and thought until I had to wipe the beginning of a smile off my face.

Rusty came back a few minutes later with the paperwork all filled out, and it took only a couple more minutes before the money I needed was in my checking account and the balance of the CD was in a savings account. We said polite but hasty good-byes.

I’m sure my skirt tail hadn’t cleared the doorway before Rusty’s orange hit the trashcan. I'm not proud of it, but I've secretly always hoped she had to ask to borrow money to buy herself a new lunch.

Oops...I did it again!

The new design templates on Blogger offer too many possibilities for me to resist exploring them every couple of weeks. As pretty as I thought the last background was, all golden sun shining through trees, I found that the lights, shadows and busyness made the text harder to read. Maybe it was just a condition of my tired, old eyes, but I've decided to change it anyway. Today I'll go with a background I'll call "sun shining through a sparkling clean, glass window." Or, better yet, "butter."

I think this simpler look will do a better job of showing off photos featuring colors that clashed with the orange tones of the previous background. Photos like this one (can anyone tell me what kind of flower this is?):

It also occurred to me that the new background is very close to the color I painted some of the walls in my home. I searched for a long, long time to find the right yellow-gold to accent the neutral, mossy green I used on the rest of the walls, but this blog background color popped right off the chart at me. Maybe that's because it was so familiar.

I apologize if you're getting tired of seeing the frequent switch-ups here. I'll do my best to leave this alone for a while and spend the "design time" writing new posts instead.

My daughter and I were discussing a fairly colorful incident last night; maybe I'll tell you about that next.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Picture me scratching my head

My project for most of the past week has been organizing my online photo albums. I scanned the majority of my non-digital photos a long time ago and categorized them by decade, but that turned out to be the easy part. Having scanned several photos at a tiime, I’ve had to go back to each scan and crop it into individual photos. This week I’ve been working on labeling each of those photos, which has turned out to be the biggest job of all.

A lot of the paper photos had names and dates written on the back, but the paper photos aren’t necessarily in the same order as the digital ones. That means flipping back and forth through the pictures one-by-one, searching for the one that matches the digital photo I’m trying to label. That gets old fast!

Two things have been most helpful in determining the dates of the photos: 1) the fact that we moved so often while my daughters were growing up, and 2) the girls’ school photos laid out in chronological order. The scenery and the furniture in the photos helped me be sure where each one was taken, and the girls’ hairstyles matched against the school pics helped me pinpoint a year.

So far I’ve worked my way from the pre-1940 photos all the way up through 1979; now I’m ready to tackle the ‘80s. Here’s a sceenshot showing just five of the 18 rows of pictures I have to identify and label from that decade:

The close attention to detail required takes a lot of time, but the biggest time consumer is my obsessive need to stop and admire each individual photo. These aren’t just pictures to me; they’re people and places and times of my life. They’re second on the list of things I would save in a fire, right after my dogs.

As I've been writing this post, the subject matter began to seem familiar, so I just did a blog search and discovered that I wrote about this once before, right after I began this project more than three years ago. The tone of that first post reflected much more of my love for the photos and much less about the technical difficulties involved in completing the project. Sometime between then and now, I seem to have lost the ability to envision an end to this work.

The photos mean as much to me now as they did then, so I assume that the difference in tone between the two posts is that I'm three years more tired and definitely more realistic about the amount of work this project entails.

One thing hasn't changed, though: It's still a labor of love.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Birthdays, remembered and misremembered

According to my grandmother’s tombstone, she was born 114 years ago today. Except she wasn’t. She was actually born 114 years ago tomorrow. Dang, I hate that carved-in-stone error!

This photo of my grandmother, Lola, at age 2,
 is one of my most prized possessions.
The photo was taken in 1898.

I remember that the first time I saw the tombstone after Mammaw died, I inquired about getting it corrected. One option was to buy a whole new tombstone, and the only other suggestion was to put the right date on a little piece of marble (stick-on correction marble?) that could be attached to the tombstone to cover up the mistake. The former method wasn’t in my budget, and I thought the latter would look tacky.  So, I made a decision to think it over for a while, and that's what I've done about it -- nothing -- for the last 22 years.

When I think about this mistake, the genealogist in me always beeps an alarm: “DATA ERROR! DATA ERROR! DATA ERROR!” But that isn’t what really bugs me. What makes me feel bad about it is that I know Mammaw earned the right to rest in peace under a letter-perfect headstone.

Not that she would have cared. She was the most forgiving person I’ve ever known and would have brushed off that kind of mistake with a wave of her hand and a big smile. Her only concern would have been to make sure no one was embarrassed about it.

My stepfather was the one who provided the information to the monument company, and he wouldn’t have recognized that the birthdate was wrong. I can only guess that Mother, or whoever gave the dates to him, was distraught and confused Mammaw’s birthday with another birthday in the family.

That would be the birthday of my aunt Yvonne, who was born 87 years ago today.

This is Yvonne on the day she married Neale,
my grandmother Lola's son. Although Neale
is shown in his uniform, Yvonne chose not to
wear hers to her wedding; she was a WAC
 They met and married in England during
World War II.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Trying something new

I've spent most of this (so far) quiet holiday playing with Paintbrush, a free download for Mac that's similar to the paint program packaged with Windows-based computers. It's a fun way to spend an afternoon if you don't mind using the eraser tool a whole lot.

Here's my best effort of the day:

Let freedom ring!

Have a wonderful 4th of July!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Seeking clarity

In 2006, on the second day of my blogging adventure, I posted a poem entitled "Reunion," along with an explanation that the title of this blog came from that poem.

"Reunion" is in the sidebar, as it has been since my first day as a blogger, even though I've always doubted that it shed enough light on the obscure blog title. I'm leaving it in the sidebar because it's old and comfortable and makes me feel good.

Last night, twenty-one years after I wrote "Reunion," words with another velvet-sacks  theme crawled into my head while I tried to ignore them and go to sleep. They insisted on lining themselves up first one way, then another, a couple of words and phrases changing places like chorus dancers who have suddenly realized they're out of position on the stage. The words wouldn't leave me alone until I turned on the light and wrote them down.

I'm calling this little piece of prose "The Introvert," and giving it the top spot in the sidebar because I think it does a better job than "Reunion" of explaining the velvet sacks metaphor. I'm not sure why these words came when they did, the way they did, or why, coincidentally, they were accompanied by a distinct mental image of a medieval maiden in a dark, dank castle keep.  I wish I knew the rest of the maiden's story.

What do you think this is about?

Friday, July 02, 2010

Tent Revival

This enormous tent sits on land less than a mile from my home. The tent is so large it could hold at least a couple hundred people, and it probably does hold that many each day, though not all at the same time. This particular tent was not erected as a place for people to congregate for singing and praise and worship and praying to God in Heaven for peace on planet Earth. This tent is all about hellfire and brimstone of the man-made kind.

It's a fireworks tent.

Someone "revives" it twice a year, a couple of weeks before the 4th of July, then again right before the Christmas/New Year's holidays. The only thing I can think of that it has in common with a religious revival tent (other than its exterior appearance) is that both have a pretty strong focus on bringing in some big bucks in a short period of time.

I've digitally doctored the photograph of the tent to make it "more pleasing to the eye." In the original picture, as in real life, the unadorned, white tent offers a visual field of serenity that belies the nearby presence of utility poles and lines, vehicles headed in three different directions, golden arches, and all the other ugly signs of life near a heavily trafficked intersection.

Another tent, smaller but more flamboyant, sits cater-cornered across the road from the  one pictured. It's an open-sided canvas construction, with lots of giant, boldly colored banners waving to distract drivers and advertise the rockets and bombs for sale inside.

Twice a year, these tents and their contents wreak havoc on us. I've posted before about my dogs’ fears of fireworks. It breaks my heart to see them so frightened, and every year my anger grows that parish officials won't ban the sale and use of fireworks in this area. They're banned in nearby Baton Rouge and in the small town on the other side of us, but if my closer neighbors want to show off their hosting abilities, they can offer more than hotdogs and potato salad: They can provide explosives!

I heard the first "pop" this afternoon. The noise always starts before the actual holiday and ends days afterward, and all it takes is one loud bang to ruin an entire day. Butch and Kadi know from experience that one explosion is usually followed by others, so if they hear the last one near midnight, I might be able to get them to go outside again by three or four in the morning.

Obviously, these tents wouldn't be erected if there wasn't a market for fireworks, but it bothers me that there doesn't seem to be much regulation of when and how they're used. It would be tolerable if fireworks were permitted for an hour or two on a designated day. That would probably feel more like a celebration, too. I'm just not buying the idea that all the folks who live in the unincorporated areas of our parish are happy about the loud noises, not to mention the fiery sparks flying over our rooftops at random times over a two-week period. It's a bit much.

I wish they'd put it to a vote, but that isn't likely, so I'll just do what I do every time those tents go up: I'll fervently hope for rain.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Pardon me, have you seen my head?

Of the numerous bills I get each month, I pay about five by snail mail.  The phone bill is the last one to come in, so the day after I get it, I write checks and go to the post office.  That’s just enough time to ensure that my mortgage payment gets where it’s going with a couple of days to spare.
One day last week I piddled around and missed the mail pickup time at the nearest post office, so I waited until the next day.  I got distracted and waited too late on the second day, too, then I remembered that the mail collection time is an hour later at the post office in the nearby town where I used to work.  I decided to drive the extra distance.   Since I was going in that direction, it seemed like a good idea to use that trip to make a deposit at my bank, which is just down the street from the post office.
Somewhere between here and town, my mind wandered, though obviously not the part of my mind that was impressed with itself for thinking to combine the two errands.
After I made the bank deposit, I came home, pulled into the carport, turned off the engine, picked up my purse, and there on the seat were the bills I was supposed to have mailed.  I’d daydreamed right past the post office.
I thought about it for a few seconds, long enough for my stern, no-nonsense persona to come out and purse her lips, then I backed out and drove the whole sixteen-mile round trip back to the post office.  Yes, I wasted gas.  I could have waited one more day and gone to the nearer post office, but I felt it was important to teach myself a lesson.  
What about you?  What absent-minded thing have you done lately?