Friday, April 30, 2010

Don't be Brett Favre


You know, this topic was one of the ones that we discussed at the initiation of this blog, but we figured that just a plain "Don't be Brett Favre" was too obvious. But you know what? Given the news today that Brett Favre just now discovered that he has to have ankle surgery in order to play next season, I think that it's time. Don't be Brett Favre, and don't let your friends and family be him either.

I repeat, on the last day of April, three and a half months after Brett Favre last choked played a game, he has told his team that he has to have ankle surgery, on an ankle that he's had surgery on twice before, in order to play football next season.

Today, on the day that NFL minicamps begin, he announces this.

Today, a week and a half after the draft ended, the draft in which his team could have and did not select a quarterback in a high round.

Today, well after a free agent period ended, in which his team could have gotten a quarterback that is better than the collection of shitty quarterbacks that they have (both Donovan McNabb and Jason Campbell were dealt around, and either is significantly better than Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels, and whoever the hell they picked in the 6th round).

Hell, he didn't even see a doctor about this ankle injury -- which, again, happened in JANUARY -- until recently.

And now all NFL fans (and really, all sports fans, given the way that ESPN covers this story) will be subjected to Brett Favre Brett Favre Brett Favre Brett Favre all damn summer long. Who wants to bet that his name will come up during the ESPN coverage of the World Cup? Soccer - football - Brett Favre plays football, done!

His team will be screwed over regardless, but Brett Favre doesn't care, because all he cares about is himself and how many times people say his name, how often poor Rachel Nichols has to be camped out on his front lawn, and how many more tearful press conferences he is able to have (my money is on at least three). Because he knows that when he goes away, no one will care about him anymore, and they will move both their affections and their hatred on to the next quarterback (I bet Brett Favre really hates Tim Tebow). Brett, football will go on without you, please just go away. And the next person out there who is thinking about acting like this? You don't be Brett Favre either.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Don't Forget About HIV

We're taking a break from our usual bossiness and condescension today, but don't worry - it'll be back tomorrow.

In a letter published in the Washington Post this week, Elton John wrote to his friend Ryan White:
"Dear Ryan:

Twenty years ago this month, you died of AIDS. I would gladly give my fame and fortune if only I could have one more conversation with you, the friend who changed my life as well as the lives of millions living with HIV. Instead, I have written you this letter."

Elton goes on to describe the world Ryan lived in - one where he was expelled from school and shunned and threatened by his community - and to acknowledge the tremendous difference Ryan made once he became a celebrity. As Elton said:
"When the media heralded you as an "innocent victim" because you had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion, you rejected that label and stood in solidarity with thousands of HIV-positive women and men. You reminded America that all victims of AIDS are innocent.
When you became a celebrity, you embraced the opportunity to educate the nation about the AIDS epidemic, even though your only wish was to live an ordinary life."

And he did. For our readers who were too young in the late 80s to remember, Ryan was on national television, in newspapers, and in front of lawmakers, talking about his experiences as a teenager with HIV and his hopes for the future, both in his own life and for the disease in this country.

As Elton continues to tell Ryan about all the things that have changed about HIV in this country, including the CARE Act that bears his name and how much the disease has changed for children ("Children in America are seldom born with the virus, and they no longer contract it through transfusions"), it is clear how far we've come and what a difference Ryan himself made.

But also:
"Ryan, when you were alive, your story sparked a national conversation about AIDS. But despite all the progress in the past 20 years, the dialogue has waned."

Some facts that Elton shares:

In addition, in November of 2009, the World Heath Organization announced that HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of disease and death among women of childbearing age (15-44) worldwide. That's huge news, isn't it? Something you'd expect to hear about? Not only was it barely covered in the mainstream media, it was conspicuously absent from the internet and blogs, too. Even a blog like Jezebel, which positions itself as a feminist view of pop culture, fashion and sex, buried this major piece of information. Consider the following: More than 200,000 people in this country don't know their HIV-positive status. Half of new infections are believed to be among people under 25. I don't have specific demographic information, but I've read Jezebel daily for years, and I am aware that their readership skews young - readers in their 20s - and female. And yet, they decided to put this information smack in between two cutesy bits about animals in their links roundup Leftovers. Maybe because Lady Gaga's makeup wasn't involved?

I was going to start this final paragraph by saying that I'm not trying to lecture you, but you know what? I am. (Turns out the bossiness isn't easy to turn off.) We are woefully complacent about HIV, especially in this country, and there is still so much work to do. So get educated, get tested, and stay safe. And if lipstick will help? Have at it.

Get Educated
The Body
Smart + Strong
AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families
Ryan's Story

Get Tested
HIV Testing 101
National HIV and STD Resources

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Don't Be Afraid of Baking a Cake from Scratch


Second in an occasional series to lessen your fear of cooking

I know so many people who are terrified of baking anything from scratch, and only make cake from mixes, or biscuits from the Bisquick box or from a can. But I am here to tell you not to be afraid! Really, I promise, baking a cake from scratch is not that much more complicated or difficult than using a mix, and they taste so great. That sense of accomplishment, and the oohs and ahhs and mmmmms that you'll get when you bring that beautiful cake to the table and people dig in are enough to conquer those fears. Most cake mix recipes have you add an egg or two and some oil to the dry mixture, right? Well there are some simple cake recipes that are almost just as easy -- the dry mixture might consist of flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, but that takes just a few minutes to get together, and you are often just adding eggs and oil to that, and sometimes another liquid. I swear, that can be it, and then you get to brag to people about your cake baking skills and listen to them rave about how good it is.

Here are a few quick things to remember when baking a cake from scratch:
  1. As with the egg whites, it helps to have all of your ingredients at room temperature when you start out. If they're not at room temperature, and you're in a hurry, don't try to warm them up too fast (like in the microwave). For eggs, just put them (uncracked) in a bowl of warm water while you're getting your other ingredients together. For butter, cutting it up into small pieces will help it to soften in just a few minutes.
  2. Pay attention to what the recipe says about the size of the pan, and how many pans to use. Once when I was twelve, I was making our favorite family recipe chocolate cake: it called for three cake pans, but I could only find two, so all of the batter was divided between two pans, and not three. When I checked on the cake midway through the baking and noticed that there was a volcano of batter streaming out of the pans onto the oven floor, I realized my mistake. Don't be like me!
  3. Don't get baking powder and baking soda confused!
  4. Don't overmix the cake; when mixing, you want the ingredients to be just combined enough so that no individual ingredient is distinguishable, but stop as soon as you get to that point.
  5. To get even and flat cake layers (helpful when you want to frost the cake), after you fill the pans, rap each pan on the counter firmly -- that will release any air bubbles, and will keep the cake from having a big dome top. You can also buy some of these cake strips (available at most cooking stores and stores where they have cake decorating supplies), and they are like magic for an evenly baked cake for a nice flat top.
  6. Parchment paper is your friend! Let me tell you, it is so much easier to do almost anything related to baking when you use parchment paper. Just put a little butter in the cake pans to start, then cut a circle of the parchment bigger than you think that you'll need. Fold the circle into a quarter, and put the point of the circle in the middle of the pan, and then fold back the circle where you need to trim the edge off. Unfold, and put the paper circle in the middle, and put a little more oil or butter on top to make it lay flat. Your cakes will be forever easier to take out of the pan.
  7. Buttermilk makes for a great cake, so if you see a recipe that has that as an ingredient, let your eyes perk up a little. You can make a buttermilk substitute in a pinch by adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk, just a tablespoon per cup, and let it sit for about five minutes.
  8. Frosting the cake: It is much much easier to frost a cake once it has cooled all the way, and it is even easier if you do a light layer of frosting all over the cake, then pop it into the fridge to let it chill, and then finish the frosting job (this is called a crumb coat). But honestly, if you don't have time for that, your cake is going to taste just as good even if it looks a little more, let's call it "rustic" shall we? Just make sure it cools, because otherwise you'll pull off chunks of cake as you try to frost, and that's no fun.
But honestly, even if you forget most of these things, you can still turn out a good homemade cake. The second and third points are the most important of that list; if you use straight from the fridge ingredients, have no parchment paper, stir up the cake willy-nilly, and you don't have time to cool it all the way before frosting it, it'll still taste good (for the latter instance, just use a glaze, it's much more forgiving, or even better, make a cake that you can just dust powdered sugar over and call it a day).

Here are a few good recipes for easy, practically no fail cakes:

Double Chocolate Cake

This is based on the double chocolate layer cake from Epicurious, but I've made a few changes to the recipe that make it a little easier, the biggest of which is to convert it from 10 inch cake pans (which most people don't readily have on hand) to 8 inch cake pans.

  • 2 ounces semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup hot brewed coffee (if you have no coffee on hand, just use hot water)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2/3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F, grease pans, and line with parchment as discussed above.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee or water. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored: about 3 minutes with a standing mixer, 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer, or 8 by hand. Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting recipe, or the recipe in the linked recipe (or if you run out of steam for making frosting, I don't want to push you, just go with frosting from a can for now!)

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

This recipe is from the Domestic Goddess herself, Nigella Lawson, and it is easy and delicious, and it is one of those wonderful cakes where frosting it is not necessary.

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, put in a baking sheet in case of sticky drips later, and grease and line the 9x5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper (don't forget the parchment here, it's a very wet cake so you'll need it).

Combine the flour and baking soda in a small bowl, set aside. Beat the butter and sugar together, either with a wooden spoon or with an electric hand-held mixer, then add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well. Next, fold in the melted and now slightly cooled chocolate, blending it in gently and not beating hard. Then gently add the flour and baking soda mixture, alternately spoon by spoon, with the boiling water until you have a smooth fairly liquid batter. Pour into the lined loaf pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will still be a bit squidgy inside (don't you love Nigella?), so an inserted cake tester or skewer won't come out completely clean.

Place the loaf pan on a rack, and leave to get completely cold before turning it out. Don't worry if it sinks in the middle: indeed, it will do so because it's such a dense and damp cake. Dust with powdered sugar, or don't worry about it, and slice and serve with whipped cream or ice cream.


See, those didn't look that hard, now did they? The next time you reach for that box mix, don't do it! Think of these recipes and dozens of other easy ones, and bake it from scratch!

Getting more ambitious? Here are some fantastic tips about making and frosting layer cakes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don't Ruin Your Rep, Reality Stars!

(Image via TLO)

Another season of Project Runway has (relatively boringly) come to an end. And with the end of a season of a competitive reality show come the inevitable reunion shows and the interviews with the contestants. Unfortunately, this also tends to be the time when reality show stars feel the need to stick their feet in their mouths. Sometimes that's fine - when Richard Hatch convienently forgot to pay taxes on his million dollar prize, none of us was especially surprised. And of course, "I wasn't there to make friends" is the supreme cliche of reality TV at this point, so that's just white noise. Plus, we tend to be able to forgive a lot when the show is running - the exhaustion, the editing, the totally bizarre environments of these shows...I'm not sure that Mother Teresa would necessarily be a fan fave.

But what about people who have come off pretty well on the show? In this post-season of Project Runway alone, we've got two really great examples of this. First, Jay Nicolas Sario was the last designer eliminated before Bryant Park. He showed a gorgeous collection in the tents and came off pretty low-key on the show. Alas, he then spent the reunion talking shit about a model that he had never even worked with, telling her that she's the reason he "won't hire models with bad teeth and big legs." Not to mention some unfortunate misogyny and just straight-up rudeness in post-show interviews. Classy, kid.

And what about Anthony Williams, also from this season of PR? He was far and away the fan favorite of the year, and when he was able to come back after his elimination to replace a designer that had quit, the internets - including us - rejoiced. Unfortunately for all involved, once he got eliminated a second time, he decided to put our love to the test, by giving an interview with EW that included soundbites about how you shouldn't listen to Tim Gunn. That's just a start, and doesn't include the bits about ignoring the blogs (uh-oh) and his not-very-apologetic apology to Mila on the reunion. (Although, I have to be honest - I'm totally stealing his "I can't give her a kidney" line, because I am just that bitchy.)

Survivor is also rife with these examples. I mean, take the adorable Elisabeth Filarski from seaon two, Australia. She had the super-cute pigtails, the self-made immunity headdress that she brought as her luxury item, and her sunny and charming personality - she wasn't the last person left on her tribe (finishing fourth overall) by accident. But now? Elisabeth Filarski has morphed into Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the slightly crazy and definitely shrill right-wing-representation on morning chatfest The View.

And speaking of Survivor winners pissing away America's Goodwill, I'm not sure anyone can even begin to live up to Brian Heidik, who did porn, went on Survivor, won the hearts of viewers and a million dollars, went home and SHOT A PUPPY. WITH A BOW AND ARROW. There's really not much more to say after that.

Rob and Amber, who you probably know from Survivors: Australia, Marquesas and All-Stars, as well as The Amazing Race 7, are on another end of this spectrum. While some of us love them (I definitely watched their 2-hour special about their wedding), many more of us love to hate them and their dumbassery on reality television. But have you noticed? Away from TV, these two are refreshingly low-key. I mean, did you even know that they had a baby almost a year ago? Probably not, and you know why? They're not selling EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS! to Us Magazine, giving infuriating (or even charming) interviews, or any of the rest of it. Yes, Rob just did Survivor: Heroes vs. Villans, but when he got eliminated, away he went.

And then, of course, there's Jon Gosselin, the King of this post. Jon is someone who had all the sympathy coming out of his marriage and his show. According to the internet message boards and the tabloids, Kate was the unreasonable, OCD shrew who had browbeaten this wonderful guy into an emasculated and unhappy shell of the man he once was. And we all know how that one ended up: in a cloud of blonde rebound girls, new vehicles and Ed Hardy. He turned the tables on himself completely, and suddenly found himself on the opposite end of all those exclamation-pointed headlines. Of course, Dancing With The Stars hasn't exactly helped Kate's image much, so...let's all take up a collection for the kids' therapy and proceed to ignore their parents, shall we?

Basically, this entire post is a plea to our current favorite reality star, the hilarious and charming Chad OchoCinco. We love his enthusiasm, his flirting with Cheryl, his name change, his celebrating, his enjoyment of McDonald's, his friendship with Erin Andrews and, most especially, his fantastically delightful Twitter, wherein he lays out his requirements for a relationship (McDonald's, weekly mani-pedis, and time to play Call of Duty), asks Oprah out on dates, and has long and thoughtful discussions with his followers about successful women. Who knew we could get all that from a silly football player who spends the off-season on Dancing With The Stars? And so we hope that Chad, once his days of dancing are over and he starts giving interviews about his experience on the show, will stop, think about how so many of us adore him, and not piss away this country's goodwill. Of course, I've never gotten the impression that he is anything less than totally psyched about DWTS, so I'm not too terribly concerned, but still...don't fuck it up, Chad!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Don't Try So Hard, Zoe Saldana

There are a lot of things I like about Zoe Saldana. Her acting, first and foremost. Granted, neither Pirates of the Caribbean nor Star Trek are exactly Oscar-worthy dramas, but they are two of my favorite films, and I enjoy her performance in both. (I didn't see Avatar. Yes, I know I'm the only one in the Western Hemisphere. But I heard she was good.)

She has fantastic fashion sense too, the muppet she wore to The Oscars notwithstanding. She looked super-cute on The Daily Show and here she is at The Losers premiere looking characteristically sharp.

But as you may have noticed, this post is not titled Rock On, Zoe Saldana. That's because I feel like whenever I read a quote from her, it either starts out okay and then tips over into Wait, what? or it just makes no sense to begin with. I suspect that in her desire to supply provocative quotes to go along with her current status as Hollywood's It Girl, she's just going a little too far. Or maybe, like my mother-in-law, she simply doesn't listen to the words coming out of her mouth.

A sampling:

“I’ve never really been that feminine. Look in my closet and you’ll see things that are elegant, sexy, tomboyish, sophisticated, beautiful, aggressive. It’s harsh. It’s a lot of black. Pretty is the last word you would think of. Sometimes, I have to give myself permission to be pretty.” (Source)

So...clothes that are elegant, sexy, tomboyish, sophisticated, beautiful, aggressive, or black aren't pretty? And I can't even mock the "permission to be pretty" bit, because I honestly have no idea what she's talking about. Let's move on to another quote on the same theme:

"I have a very strong character and I like to be challenged. Men's clothing makes me feel empowered so I often wear a man's suit. Sometimes I think I should have been born a guy! I wear black a lot and I like solid colors. Like me, they're independent, bold and decisive." (Source)

I guess if she'd been born a guy she could wear men's suits more often? Maybe? I have no idea. Also, I have an independent couch, bold tea pot, and decisive bed skirt. I like assigning random adjectives to things. It's fun.

So what have we learned? That Zoe Saldana is not feminine. Just to hammer home the point:

“I love acting with men. I tend to gravitate toward roles in movies where I get to be the only girl.” (Source)

She is all about men. Men, men, men! Her treehouse has a "No Girlz Allowed" sign. Vaginas = icky. Now let's move on to her feelings on social issues:

On sex: “Love it, love it, love it-can’t live without it! I love sex. I love skin. I don’t believe the body is something to hide. I think in American society we’re messing up our kids by taking away the education on and awareness of our sexuality and replacing it with violence, guns and video games-and we’re breeding little criminals.” (Source)

I also enjoy sex. I would gladly trade the gratuitous violence in movies for gratuitous sex. But I'm not entirely sure lack of sex ed is a leading cause of gang violence. Plus, this quote comes from a woman starring in a movie where she blows shit up with a rocket launcher. I don't know that she's in any position to be condemning violence in American society.

Here she is talking about the furor over Vanity Fair's all-white "Young Hollywood" cover:

“I feel like we can spend a lot of time bashing our beautiful country, but we don’t give it enough credit." ... The actress explained that though the magazine might not be the best representation of Hollywood, she’s hopeful the media will catch up with the reality of what constitutes the fabric of the country. “Our pace might be a little slow and it might not be on par to how we, as American civilians, would like it to be, but it is still an amazing country,” Zoe continued. “So, when I look at magazines like Vanity Fair and Vogue, I know that it’s just a matter of time, the same way Obama took his time and he got to office and became President… it’s just a matter of time until magazines, the media, our art, our culture, our colloquial lifestyle, tags along to our today reality.” (Source)

Yeah, your guess is as good as mine. Here are her ideas about roles for women:

Zoe also credits Angelina [Jolie], Salma Hayek and Halle Berry for opening up more options to female actresses. "Before them, women were just sex pots or mothers. They were never the heroes who saved the day. They've enabled a generation of actresses to have a bigger variety of roles. If I wanted to be part of a story that is amazing and had a lot of sexual openness, that's fine. But I am so grateful to know that, like them, I can open different doors for women." (Source)

I guess she never saw Alien? Or, if we're talking about movies where women aren't "just sex pots or mothers," Heathers, The Manchurian Candidate, Arsenic and Old Lace, Notorious, and The Philadelphia Story? And that's just the ones in my DVD collection! I bet there are at least, like, ten more.

Let's close things out with the only Zoe quote that actually annoys me:

You're playing a black ops soldier in the adaptation of the graphic novel The Losers, out in April. Do you enjoy roles that require you to run around and shoot a gun?
"Like you wouldn't believe. It turns me on in a way that I shouldn't be saying. It's not the guns that turn me on, though--it's seeing women in a commanding position. It's boring to always play the victim. [In sobbing victim's voice] "Rape me! I'll have your child!" Eff that! Why don't you have my baby and wait at home while I go kill some motherfuckers? It's just very empowering. [Laughs.]"

I have a baby. Until I had a baby, I would have told you that I had no desire to "go kill some motherfuckers." Now, pedestrians who so much as look at me and my kid wrong are in danger of getting their heads ripped off. The idea that men = asskickers and women = victims and weaklings makes me want to punch someone. Possibly Zoe Saldana.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Don't Wear White Tights

Because they make you look like a little girl, give you stumpy legs, make your shoes look terrible, are ugly, and make Roxy cry.

(It was also nearly 70 degrees the day I snapped this picture. There was no reason on earth to be wearing tights at all, nevermind white ones.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Don't Ban Books


I was going to save this post for Banned Books week but a few things that I read this last week infuriated me, and I couldn't wait until September. And you know, I think that we need more than a once a year reminder about this. First the ALA announced their list of this year's most banned books, which had some surprising titles. And then I read the story of some women in Florida who basically want to preemptively ban all of the books in the library of the whole COUNTY. To all of this, I have one very simple thing to say: Don't ban books.

As I have already documented here, I love books and reading. When I was a little kid, I was an incredibly voracious reader. My parents were both in graduate school when I was little, so we had books all over our house. I learned to read at age three, so I grew up with the perspective that reading was just what you did with your leisure time. My reading level was consistently years above my age, so books geared at kids my age were always too easy and boring for me. Therefore, I usually read books that were the perfect level of difficulty and complexity for me, but the topics were often a few years above me in maturity level. There are times when I've reread some of the books that I loved as a kid and realize that there are entire plotlines that went way over my head because I was too young for them (for instance, House Like a Lotus by Madeleine L'Engle is one of my favorite books in the world, but wow did I miss a lot in those first ten or so readings). My parents never forbade me to read books that were too old for me, or that might have themes about drugs, or sex, or abuse. Instead, my mom just read books along with me.

Any books that my mom had the slightest question about, she would read as soon as I finished it. I thought that we were just sharing books, and we were, but she was also checking up on what I was reading. My tricky mother, I only realized when I was in my twenties that this wasn't just a fun mom and daughter book club. In that way, I felt like I had all of the freedom in the world to read whatever I wanted, and I also felt free to talk to my mom about whatever I was reading and whatever upsetting or confusing issues raised therein because I knew that she was reading the books too. Not only did this lead to great communication between me and my mom, it made it much easier for me to bring up difficult topics with my mom, because it is so much easier for a pre-teen to talk about hard things in the context of a fictional world than the context of real life. It also, not coincidentally, lead to a lifetime of my mother and I sharing books and handing them off to one another, and she's still the first person I call when I finish a book that I love so that I can insist that she read it too.

And let's talk about some of those books on the most banned list. Twilight? Really? Twilight has many problems, but being sexually explicit is just not one of them. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an absolutely wonderful book that has [SPOILER ALERT] molestation as a key plot point -- isn't it important for kids to learn about that, and to know that they should be able to talk to their parents or someone else about it? [END SPOILERS] And really, penguins? A true story about two male penguins that became a couple? To Kill a Mockingbird has been challenged because there's racism in it, which seems to be missing the whole point about the reason that kids should read this book. There are plenty of trashy books that are full of sex, drugs, violence, and racism but there is also a lot of great literature full of all of those topics, and I'm so glad that my parents never barred me from reading any of it

Instead of the fantastic and thoughtful parenting employed by my parents, the parents in that Florida county would prefer to be the kind of parents who don't want to engage with their children at all. So instead of sitting down and talking to them about sex, or drug use, or creepy sparkling stalkery vampires, the parents choose to just slap a warning label on the books so that they can make sure that their kids, and the kids of lots of other parents are never faced with those issues, and therefore never even learn about sex and drugs and creepy stalking sparkly vampires.

But we all know that that's not what happens. Teenagers will always learn about drugs and sex (okay, maybe not the vampires). And there is nothing more enticing to all of us than the forbidden -- the more their parents tell them that they're not allowed to read something, or see something, or do something, the more teens will want to do it. I am not saying that the good move is to tell your teens to go out and use drugs and have sex and get together with those vampires, but trying to keep them from even learning that any of those things exist will make them all the more exciting. I had read plenty of books that had drugs and sex as part of the plotlines by the time that I was in high school, and what those books taught me was that none of those things was a bed of roses, and that I really didn't want to deal with all of that stress when just being a fourteen year old was hard enough. Are all teenagers going to make the same choices that I did? No, but I would prefer that they at least had all of the information available to them in order to make the choice that is the correct one for them.

Those parents in Florida, and all other people who want to ban or otherwise restrict books really just need to stop and think about how education is the best thing for all of us, and how they should be trying to broaden their childrens' minds, and not limit them. And then don't ban books.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Quickies: Teething Edition

I had a theme for this week, but I'm sleep deprived and I never get my shit together to find ten links for it. Yes, that's right: I am too tired to surf the web. So have some things from my bookmarks that have made me giggle.

Don't try to steal this dude's iPhone:
Chased Down a Thief Today (Localocracy)

Don't forget--Vajazzling still exists:
Sexist Beatdown: Vajazzling, and its Inevitable Male Counterpart, Dickerating (Washington City Paper)

Don't forget to turn off the lensflare machine:
Star Trek: How It Should Have Ended (HISHE)

Don't read this somewhere you can't laugh out loud:
The Alot is better than you at everything (Hyperbole and a Half)

Don't expect the usual relationship advice from someone named 'Mann Landers':
The Mann Landers Column

Don't send these cards to relatives who don't understand the young people's humor:
Foxy Blunt

Don't declare yourself King of the Geeks until you take this quiz along with John Hodgman and Patton Oswalt:
Science Fiction Trivia Challenge (WFMU)

I don't believe there's a town named "Fingringhoe." They must have made that up.
Britain's Rudest Place Names (The Telegraph)

Don't buy a jetpack for $90,000. Wait for it to go on sale.
Safe and Affordable Jetpack: Just $90,000 (Wired)

From the wayback machine: "I don't think this internet thing will catch on."
Why the Web Won't Be Nirvana (Newsweek)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Don't Threaten To Murder Me

Mrs. White: He had threatened to kill me in public.
Miss Scarlet: Why would he want to kill you in public?
Wadsworth: I think she meant he threatened, in public, to kill her.
Miss Scarlet: Oh.

A few days later, I can be blase about this, but on Friday? Less so.

Remember when we asked you to do (or rather, not do) this? That goes double for those of you out there who are angry racists who object to having the children on the bus pointed out to you when you are loudly and profanely disparaging an entire culture of people. I'm pretty sure that then turning your angry racism on me, calling me all manner of colorful and derogatory terms, and telling me just exactly how hard you're going to kick my ass and how much you want me to die, qualifies as Being An Asshole On Public Transportation. Knock it off.

But hey! Don't let this put you off public transport, dear Reader. In all my years of bus-riding - many of them spent on that exact route, my city's most...exciting - that was the first experience like that I've had. One angry racist isn't going to keep me from taking advantage of the public transportation system that my city has spent time and money to build and keep relevant, and it shouldn't intimidate you, either. But the next time someone is spouting crazy, I will probably stop, think, and keep my nose in my book.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Don't Click On This Link

Oh, you're thinking, this one of those reverse psychology things, right? She actually wants me to click the link.

No! I don't! I mean, look at the title:

Just Discovered: A Leech With Giant Teeth That Lives In Your Nose

A leech. With giant teeth. That LIVES IN YOUR NOSE.

A short scene:

Daisy: I don't know!
Mr. Razor: Go back! Go back!

I'm not kidding. It's disgusting. And disturbing. Don't look.

Happy Friday, all!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Don't forget to send in your census form


Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2.3 of the United States Constitution states in part:
The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.*

Here's a little public service announcement from the Don't Do That team: People, don't forget to send in your census form! Mail it in by tomorrow! If you like where you live at all, or you're planning to live there for any period of time, or you have friends and family who are planning to live there for any period of time, it is very important that you fill in the form. Getting them the numbers of how many people live in your area will bring (or take away) a lot of important things to your neighborhood, city, county, and state, including public transportation, good roads, increased funding for the schools, additional representation in Congress, and all sorts of other good stuff.

The census ads all say that it takes ten minutes to fill out ten questions, but it really takes much less. So go, fill it out and send it in!

* The sentence that starts right before the one that I quoted refers to "three fifths of all other persons" and well, I like to fill out the census as a shot in the face to all of those people who wished that I still counted as three fifths of a person, especially in honor of Confederate History Month.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Yes, Do That: Embrace Civility (and Tea)

I had plans to attend the Tea Party Express rally (featuring Sarah Palin!) this morning, mostly because it was supposed to be nice out and I had nothing better to do. But my non-taxpaying, Communist daughter clearly had other ideas and kept me awake most of the night. By the time we got going this morning, Palin's speech had already started.

Baby Razor wasn't happy that we went anyway.

(Look at the little Bolshevik. She's even wearing red.)

Then the stupid, Socialist bus was late, and when it showed up the driver announced that there was a mechanical problem and dispatch wasn't responding to him, so the bus was out of service. Sigh. Honestly, the MBTA is one of those things that makes me kind of understand the tea partiers point of view, because, you know, I pay taxes for and rely on public transportation that blows goats. I'd almost be willing to stop paying those taxes so they could stop pretending they're going to get me anywhere in a timely manner. I don't blame Obama for the T's debt though, which is where the tea partiers and I part ways again.

Anyway. By the time I got to Boston Common most of the sound and fury was over, so I took pictures of the genteel counter-protest organized by the Real Boston Tea Party. Their idea was that no matter what your politics, you should disagree civilly. We at Don't Do That couldn't agree more, since two of our most sacred tenets are Don't Be Rude and Don't Act Like An Asshole In Public. We don't think these rules are unreasonable, but a lot of people seem to have trouble with them.

So a hearty Yes, Do That! to people from any spot on the political spectrum who reject name-calling and hyperbole and refuse the temptation to demonize opposing viewpoints.

Cookies are always nice too.

Don't blame the wife


When the news about the Jesse James philandering started to break, I found out about it (as with many other things in life these days) from a link that one of my friends posted on Facebook. One of the first comments in response was "Well, you know, Sandy hasn't always been good at holding on to her man." Ooh, REALLY? Then came this article on Jezebel, which declared that we should think less of Sandra Bullock for being married to someone who would strike a “Heil Hitler” pose for a camera (since she obviously knew every detail about his life). And then there was this lovely Twitter post by Jim Carrey, who said with regard to the Tiger Woods situation:
No wife is blind enough to miss that much infidelity. Elin had 2 b a willing participant on the ride 4 whatever reason. kids/lifestyle ;^)
Not ready to end there, he followed it up by saying:
RT I want 2 make it CLEAR that I do not condone infidelity at all, but 2 some degree the responsibilty 4 it is shared by both people! ;^)
Let me say this in words of one syllable, so that hopefully people will understand: Don't blame the wife.

Think back, why don't you, to that last asshole that you dated. Did you know everything that there was to know about him? Did you, maybe even after you broke up, find out something about him (or her) that shocked you? For instance, that he slept with someone else the weekend before your wedding? Or maybe that he stole money out of your bank account while the two of you were on a romantic trip through Europe? Or, possibly, that though he'd been married to you for twenty five years, he'd been having an affair for the past nine, and had two children with his mistress? Because if so, you are not alone: those stories all true, and all about people that I know well, are just the first three that popped into my head, and I'm sure that I could come up with more if I thought about it harder. And let me tell you, none of the three of them had any idea what was going on. I knew (and very much liked!) two of the three above assholes, and I was stunned. So let's stop it with the "She must have known! She was stupid if she didn't know! The fact that he was doing this must mean that she agreed with him!" bullshit.

Sure, there are some wives who are guilty as charged. The wife of Phillip Garrido? Yeah, I'd say knowingly standing by while your husband kidnapped a girl and then held her hostage makes you pretty worth the blame. But those wives are few and far between, and mostly it's just a lot of women who have their lives thrown upside down when they realize that their husband has had a secret second life and in fact, is a totally different person than the husband that they knew. I'm not sure why the picture of Jesse James striking a "Heil Hitler" pose is enough to convince people that Sandra Bullock must have known that her husband was a racist; he was obviously pretty good at hiding key things about his life from her and everyone else, as we see more and more details come out by the day. No, infidelity is not the "responsibilty" of both people, unless you're counting Tiger and his little Tiger as two people.

The problem is that people love to blame the victim in order to convince themselves that they could never be a victim in that same way, and that therefore it must have been something that she did wrong, or that she already knew about. Why can't they just blame the husband? It's about what he did wrong. It's about Tiger sleeping with some girl that he's known since she was nine, and about him sleeping with someone right after Elin had their first baby. It's about Jesse James being a racist sleazeball that cheats on his wife with other racist sleazeballs. Why can't everyone just concentrate on their horrible behavior, and not try to throw some of the blame on their wives, who are the ones who are the biggest victims?

Notice, by the way, that this post is titled "Don't blame the wife" and not "Don't blame the spouse." This is not because I think that husbands are any more to blame for the criminal, abusive, or just jerky behavior of their wives. It's because I have no reason to make that post, because no one ever blames the husband. Women are supposed to be all knowing when it comes to their husbands, and to do everything that they can to keep them on the straight and narrow, but no one expects a husband to know much about his wife. It's so interesting that no one cares to blame the victim when the victim is a man.

So please, do me a favor. The next time you hear a story about some guy who goes around kicking puppies, or sleeping with all of the librarians in the Tri-State area, or wasting really good champagne, and you're about to say, with regard to his wife, "Girl, that says more about her than it does about him!" just stop, think about how it's really the fault of the puppy kicking, librarian heartbreaking, no good dirty bubbly waster, and don't do it. Instead, maybe you could bring his wife a bottle of champagne when she gets rid of him.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Quickies: Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage Edition

As our resident mother is enjoying a greatly deserved mini vacation, we have some links about marriage, kids and parenting for you today:

Don't want Great Aunt Helen to come to the wedding? Here's a fantastic way to keep her from the details: 8-Bit Game Wedding Invitations for German Couple (Komplett Blog)

There are so many don'ts to choose from here. Don't put fruit in your wedding photos? Don't wear those weird fake gloves? Don't tie your tie so that it looks like a vagina?: ...What is going on here? (Wedinator)

Don't shrink your grandma's hands! Oh, those hands? Yeah, don't do that either: WTF (STFU Parents)

Don't miss this video of POTUS and FLOTUS if you need a little happiness to start your day: Obamas share private moment (CNN)

Don't skip this Pulitzer Prize winning article because the subject matter is heartbreaking, it's got information that every parent should know: Fatal Distraction (Washington Post) (Chat with the author today.)

Don't let this happen again, CRAYOLA: Consumer Reporting (Amalah)

Don't start a fight in front of your kids at the Children's Museum, for goodness sake: 2 women brawl at Children's Museum Not so Minnesota Nice, hmmmmmm? (KSTP TV)

Think your business idea sounds kind of gross? Don't worry: the name of this one makes skin crawl, and businesses like it are apparently booming: Killing Lice is a Growing Business (New York Times)

Don't actually tell your kids stories like these, because they'll believe you (trust me, my dad did something similar to my sister, she believed that she was from an alien planet for a long time): I hope they don't have kids in hell (Que Sera Sera)

Don't try to pretend you don't love this kid. Okay, well, unless you hate the Red Sox: Joshua Sacco Delivers Herb Brooks' 'Miracle' Speech Before Red Sox Opener (NESN)

Don't give this kid detention for being cracking you up: Awesome Kid Gets Detention for being Hilarious (Huffington Post)

Don't you want to be this girl? Or have her dad? Yeah, we do too: Voltron Girl (Buzzfeed)

Want links to other things not to do? Follow us on Twitter.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Don't Humiliate Yourself For Fashion

Last week was a hell of a long and tough week for me at work. On Friday afternoon, I was so glad to be able to come home and sit on my patio with a glass of wine and the latest issue of Marie Claire magazine (PS, how PRETTY is Jessica Simpson?). Alas, my reverie was interrupted when I turned to page 62 and saw this.

(Click to see the full horror, including the WTF-inducing copy.)

I mean. Is somebody kidding? Is it April Fool's again and I didn't notice? Because that is the only plausible explanation I could come up with. This is not a feature about a cute bathing suit for your summer vacation, nor is it even attempting to pretend that the bikini bottoms (BIKINI BOTTOMS) are shorts. Nope. They genuinely think you should be wearing blazers, stilettos and HALF A BATHING SUIT out in public.

Doesn't Nina Garcia work at Marie Claire? Do you really expect me to believe that this fierce bitch wants women to be parading around the streets of this country half-naked? Because I don't.

And also! I don't care how many shiny magazines tell you it's a good idea, or how many fancy celebrities have embraced it, TIGHTS ARE NOT PANTS. And if Blair Waldorf says it, it is probably gospel. (In the future, these may come in handy. Keep 'em in your wallet!) People. Don't Humiliate Yourself For Fashion.

If it looks gorgeous on the hanger or fab on your coworker, but not so great on you? That is okay! I bought a pair of shoes today that I think are completely adorable, and also very trendy, but the longer I wore them in front of the mirror at home, the more I realized how unflattering they are on me. Just because it's at Mod Cloth (ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS) or H&M (remind me to tell you the story of the Sad 80s Corner that Brownie and I discovered when we went shopping last fall) doesn't mean it's automatically cute. Just because 7 For All Mankind is an upscale designer denim brand doesn't mean you should drop $180 for these. Please oh please remember, especially you kids out there, that we old people lived through the bad fashion of the 80s and 90s so that YOU don't have to.

(Sidebar: Why are they bringing all the terrible 90s fashion back? Where are the babydoll dresses and the Doc Martens and the girls taking style tips from Angela Chase, Rayanne Graf and Courtney Love? Why ACID WASH and TAPERED LEGS and whatever the hell this is??)

So this spring, as you're hitting the stores to get ready for the next few months of sunshine (or winter, for our upside-down readers), take a moment and think. Is this flattering on me? (You can go up a size and no one will know, we promise.) Will I wear this more than once? Is this the grown-up size of that outfit I wore for Easter in 1992? Am I only considering this because it's "trendy"? If the answers to those questions are No, No, Yes, and Yes, just stop, think about how much more fun it is to be comfortable and look like a normal person, and don't buy into that terrible trend.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Don't Use Your Dead Dad To Rebuild Your Brand

Of all the things I thought I would never have to tell people not to do, Don't Use Your Dead Dad To Sell Shit was, well, not even on the list, because honestly, what kind of creepy sociopath would you have to be to think that thirty seconds of you looking sad, coupled with the beyond-the-grave words of a deceased parent, would make us forget the epic slut parade to which you subjected America?

This kind of creepy sociopath, apparently:

Dear World,

He's sorry he banged all those skanks and his dead dad wants you to buy some Nike products. Thanks for your support!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Don't Shit on Erin Andrews


Erin Andrews, sideline reporter for ESPN for Major League Baseball, college football and basketball, and a variety of other sports, has had a tough year, to put it mildly. And now someone is suggesting that she's brought it all on herself and looks like a bimbo? Just STOP. Don't shit on Erin Andrews, and don't blame her for wanting to move on with her life.

In a scenario that would make just about any woman terrified, a creepy stalker was following her around the country, getting hotel rooms next to hers (apparently just by asking the hotel for a room near hers, which is so frightening), and then filming her changing in her hotel room through a peephole. And she found out about all of this because he put those videos on the internet. Thankfully, a while after the videos and the knowledge that it was her on the tapes became public, they caught the guy, and he is now in prison. But countless numbers of people saw that video, and now feel free to make nasty comments to her as she tries to do her job. And she won't be able to go into a hotel room for a really long time and feel at ease, and has nightmares about someone attacking her (and, of course, just him being sentenced caused people to start searching online for the video all over again).

In an attempt to move on, she joined the cast of Dancing with the Stars this season (as many journalists and athletes have done in the past). It seemed like a good fit for her to do something different, especially since she was on the dance team in college. And, quite frankly, she is rocking it this season, being smart and funny and getting good scores from the judges. Then, she just recently found out that she's been getting death threats from someone who has apparently been sending harassing emails since September. Despite that, she is still on the show, still smiling, and still saying entertaining things about the show, dancing, and OchoCinco on her Twitter feed. And yet, apparently, she's "made a fool out of herself and a sham of her profession."

How, exactly, did she do that? The reporter is sure to mention that she's a "comely blonde" and she was "flashing cleavage and thigh." And also that because she's a woman, she has to work twice as hard as men. Ah, so women journalists aren't allowed to relax and have fun, and definitely not allowed to wear pretty dresses. When Kenny Mayne -- also a reporter on ESPN, just like Andrews -- was on Dancing with the Stars a few seasons ago, did he make a sham of his profession? Oh, right, because he wasn't flashing cleavage! And he wasn't consorting with the likes of Pamela Anderson. The misogyny in that whole article is just insane, and it's coming from a woman. I'm not even going to link to some of the crazy comments on male dominated sports blogs about Andrews, but trust me, they're dripping with pure hatred of this attractive woman who dared to make a career out of sports journalism and then dares to enjoy it and enjoy herself. They loved her comeuppance, and are now angry that she's on national TV and isn't hiding out somewhere covering up every inch of skin and crying herself to sleep every night.

I hope that Erin Andrews stays on Dancing with the Stars as long as possible, as a big FUCK YOU to that guy in prison, all of those blog commenters, the people at those hotels who gave that guy in prison rooms next to hers, the woman who wrote that article, and everyone else who doubted her. Next time you want to shit on Erin Andrews for trying to move on with her life, just stop, think about everything that she's had to go through, and whether if you were her, you would be, as Daisy put it "in a cabin in Montana and with an extensive automatic weapon collection," and don't do it.

Update: Erin Andrews responds in an interview:
I'm just confused because I guess it's OK for an NFL player and a gold medalist to do the show and be taken seriously, but nobody else is allowed. People say, "How do you expect to be taken seriously?" Well, Evan Lysacek is taking this so seriously. The guy just won a gold medal, has tons of endorsements, celebrities around the world want to meet him. Chad Ochocinco takes this so serious. He and Cheryl Burke are in the studio seven to eight hours a day. So that's my biggest confusion with the few people who judge me and say this is the wrong thing to do. I don't know what damage I'm doing. I'm basically killing myself to not embarrass myself. I've been in the top three in scoring each week, behind an athlete and a professional dancer and singer. I'm not sure what damage I created for myself. What am I doing to be a bimbo? I don't understand what I'm doing wrong.

You're not doing anything wrong at all!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Don't be afraid of whipping egg whites


Last week, poor Roxy had a harrowing egg white experience. She was making these cupcakes, and started whipping the egg whites for them. And she whipped, and she whipped, and she whipped, and whipped some more (not like that, you dirty people), and then she brought the laptop into the kitchen and IMed me in panic after she had been whipping the egg whites for 15 minutes and there was froth but nothing else. She was typing with one hand while holding the electric beater in the other hand, and while she managed not to get any egg white in her laptop, the whites were still not light and cloudy. I talked her down, we figured out the problem, she started over, and soon had beautifully fluffy egg whites, and the resulting cupcakes were delicious. So, in this first installment of an occasional series about food and cooking, I am here to tell you: Don't be afraid of whipping egg whites.

Now, as Roxy's experience shows, beating egg whites can be a little tricky, but if you remember a few key things, it will be a breeze. First, start with your equipment: room temperature egg whites, a clean, dry bowl, and clean dry beaters. The most important thing for the latter two are that they are clean and, you guessed it, bone dry. Apparently a copper bowl is the best thing for whipping egg whites, but seriously, who has a copper bowl? Glass or metal will do just fine. As for your beater, I usually whip my egg whites in my stand mixer, but a hand mixer is actually easier, especially if you only have a few whites. Optional additions are cream of tartar or lemon juice, I'll get to that in a moment.

The easiest way to separate your egg whites is to crack the egg into your hand, and let the whites fall into the bowl through your fingers. This technique makes it so much easier and cleaner to do it that way than cracking the egg and shuttling the yolk back and forth until as much of the whites as possible are gone: this way you get almost all of the whites into the bowl, you run less of a chance of puncturing the yolk and getting any yolk into your whites, and any bits of broken egg shell stay on your hand, and not in your whites. In order to get the whites to room temperature, you can either put the eggs into a bowl of warm water before cracking them (dry them off before cracking so that water doesn't get into your whites), or once you've separated them, put a bowl of warm water under the bowl that holds your egg whites and let them sit for a few minutes.

Then just turn on your beater and start whipping. Start the beater at a relatively low speed, and then turn it up when they start frothing. At that point, you can add a tiny bit of that cream of tartar or lemon juice (about 1/8 of a teaspoon per egg white) because they stabilize the whites and make them fluffier, but if you don't have any, it's not a big deal. Then keep whipping until they get fluffy. Then you're done! As they start to get fluffy, it's always better to go slow and keep stopping to check, because you don't want to overwhip them (this one of the reasons why it's better to use a hand mixer than a stand mixer for this, because you don't want to walk away and forget about them, because then they'll get liquid again). See, that was easy, wasn't it? And it took only a few minutes.

So the next time you see a recipe that looks great, but you pass it by because you have to whip the egg whites, just stop, think "I can do this!", and don't be afraid of egg whites.

A few other handy links about beating egg whites:
Beating Egg Whites Tips and Hints []
A video on beating egg whites []
Stage by stage pictures of beaten egg whites [bakingsheet]

Any egg white questions, or ideas for other "Don't be afraid of..." for cooking? Comment here, email us at, or hit us up on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday Quickies: Literature Edition

In honor of all the lovely YA readers/writers who enjoyed Brownie's celebration of YA Lit, this week's link-o-rama is for word-lovers everywhere.

Don't quit your day job:
Day jobs of famous authors (Lapham's Quarterly)

This whole interview is a Don't. Let's call it 'Don't be Nicholas Sparks:'
Nicholas Sparks, Miley Cyrus share a 'Last Song' love story (USA Today)

Don't feel the need to pretend you're reading Ulysses. Nobody actually likes that book:
Classic book titles book jackets (Book City Jackets)

Don't forget to put your tattoo somewhere that isn't going to sag:
Contrariwise: Literary tattoos

Don't quit after your first draft:
First Drafts (Surviving the World)

Don't miss Margaret Atwood's thoughts on Twitter:
Atwood in the Twittersphere (NY Books)

Don't worry about children loving the macabre:
Fairy tales or Twilight, horror and macabre fascinate children (Telegraph)

Don't forget how awesome fairy tale illustrations are too:
Red Fairy Book illustrations (Himmapaan)

Don't get eyestrain reading all of these awesome books:
Download 700+ free scifi books onto your iPhone (io9)

Don't fall for fashionspeak:
Fashion nonsense (Boston Globe)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Don't Be A Bad Neighbor

My husband and I bought a house about a year ago, after many years of living in dorms, apartments and giant houses with tons of roommates. We were psyched to stop sharing walls and floors and ceilings with strangers, and figured that moving out of downtown would solve all our problems. Sounds great, right? Well, reality ended up being a little different. And after living through yet another week of the same old crap, I am here to boss you around some more and to remind you please, Don't Be a Bad Neighbor.

Common sense, right? Don't have karaoke parties on a Wednesday night, and you're golden. Except it apparently takes a bit more than just straight common sense. For instance, in our last apartment, we had upstairs neighbors who didn't take their shoes off when they got home. I'm not one to judge someone's footwear choices (okay, yes I am), especially in their own home, but this particular choice meant that we had to listen to them clomp around for hours at a time. And they were night owls.

(That's leaving aside the night there was a threesome in the bedroom directly above ours. Lucky for them, we found it pretty humorous. Also lucky for them, it was relatively early on a weekend evening.)

These girls, who were directly out of college and enjoying being single girls in their twenties, also actually did some really nice things. I mean, they quieted down their Ugly Sweater Christmas Party when we asked them to. And they had an election night party that they invited everyone in the building to, which meant that we got to drink Jack Daniels with our 70something-year-old neighbor and hear all about his first marriage and his divorce anniversary. So that didn't suck, and made it easier - slightly - to overlook the constant 4-inch-heel parade over our heads.

And what about the neighbors in our first apartment together? Sure, Neighbor Tony, who was directly next door, was amazing and we're still friends with him. But what about the people who let their dogs pee (and worse) in the hallway instead of taking them all the way downstairs and outside? Or the ones who took my clothes out of the dryer and left them, damp, on top? I mean, it is not rocket science! If you're going to park someone in for the whole week, it's polite to leave an extra car key with your roommate or the landlord. If you're going to set your alarm, make sure you turn it off before leaving for the weekend. If you have a giant motorcycle, don't sit in your front yard and rev the engine for a full five minutes before you pull away (SERIOUSLY HE IS DOING THIS RIGHT NOW AND IT IS TEN PM WTF).

And if you live next door to someone with ears, PLEASE keep your four little yappy dogs fenced in, instead of letting them roam the neighborhood, barking at the heels of people just trying to mind their own business and causing bike crashes. Otherwise, you're going to turn Dog People like my husband into the kind of guy who buys the Dog Dazer II and wishes for fatal dog/car collisions.

As I mentioned, we've had one neighbor in particular who was wonderful. Neighbor Tony was everything you could want in an apartment neighbor - there to pick up your paper when you're on vacation, to get in touch with the landlord when you're locked out and don't have your phone, to trade books and talk movies with, but who doesn't expect an invite to every party you throw and isn't overly interested in the details of your life. The man could write a book about the ins and outs of being an awesome neighbor and, frankly, he probably should. (Hint: It does not involve leaving passive-aggressive notes.) Millions of apartment dwellers and homeowners would thank him. So the next time you think about turning the music up an extra few notches or busting out Dance Dance Revolution in your second floor apartment, just stop, think about the sanity of the people below you (or above you or on the other side of the wall), and don't.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Don't Overshare on the Internets

Do you remember when you discovered the internet? And all the horrors and glories - and porn - it holds? I, being the band geek that we have established that I am, spent much of junior high and early high school emailing back and forth with a girl who had a website about the flute - pieces she was studying, programs she was performing, etc. I got lots of great music recommendations from her, got her advice on the new flute I convinced my parents to buy me, and still wonder what she's up to.

These were also the days of AOL chatrooms (remember "a/s/l"? - that's, like, the great-grandparent of Chat Roulette), wherein I could indulge my propensity for nosiness and compulsive lying, curing me of the latter and only encouraging the former. However, I also remember clearly the day I realized that the internet could bring people together and also disseminate information at lightning speed. I was a senior in high school, skipping class and chatting online in the library, when someone mentioned they'd seen something about a school shooting on TV. This was before news sites had instant updates (or, more likely, before I knew about the news sites' instant updates), so I got all the information from all the other people in the chat room with me, then went home, turned on the news, and saw the images from Columbine.

Eventually, during my sophomore year in college, I ended up getting sucked into the narcissistic world of LiveJournal and life hasn't been the same since. I can't remember if LJ came before or after my forays into online fandom and television message boards - who knew that Buffy the Vampire Slayer could bring so very many people together? - but I do know that I made some of the best friends I've ever had through that awesome network of tubes and wires.

What I didn't do? Fill my LJ with the TMI of the drunken and slutty college life that I was living, or post inappropriate pictures on Facebook. (Because, kids, this was before Facebook. Can you even imagine such a dark time?) And ten years later, I say OH THANK GOD. Those pictures are tucked safely away in unmarked photo albums on the top shelves of closets where they belong, ready to be destroyed the moment my children grow into their snoop phase. And the memories? In my brain and the brains of friends from college, but through an Icehouse-soaked haze. NOT preserved for posterity through the magic of Google cache.

Here's what I also have not done: Picked fights with my partner online. Written about my constipation to introduce myself as the new editor of a pop culture blog (and followed it up with a post about farts). Posted pictures of my placenta on Facebook (I am not linking you to specifics. You are welcome). I also have not made very very creepy fanart (sorry about that), shown off my terrible tattoos, or stalked celebrities and then Tweeted about it (she was SHOCKED that anyone would think that was inappropriate).

I know the allure of internet anonymity can be tempting. And if you want to write Baby-Sitter's Club fanfic (that one's a classic) or about your adventures as a Vegas escort (NSFW), the internet is a great place to do it. But if you're blogging less anonymously or posting on Facebook, please oh please keep your TMI to yourself. Not just for your own sake - we don't have to tell you all about employers who Google, right? - but for all the rest of us, too. Because we don't care about your kids' diapers, your awesome new vibrator or dear GOD your hemorrhoids. (Minor bonus points for the anonymity on that one, though.)

So the next time you're thinking about Tweeting the details of your GI distress or writing a bitchy (or, worse, lusty) comment on your partner's Facebook wall? Just stop, think about the rest of the internets who have no interest in needing to run out and bleach our brains, and don't share more than you need to.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Don't Forget It's April Fools'

Whether you love it or hate it, April Fools is here. We'll be updating this entry throughout the day with the best/worst hoaxes we find, plus anything that sounds like a hoax but isn't. (Remember: Google announced gmail on 4/1 and everyone thought they were joking. Email with unlimited storage? Psssh. That's crazy talk.)


As much as we would love Tribles & Bits cereal, Think Geek is just messing with us. (More joke products at the bottom of that page, including a Screaming Knife and Canned Unicorn Meat.)

Google is now known as Topeka (We can't believe Topeka, KS really changed its name to "Google" for a month. That's like that girl in middle school who insists everyone call her "Serena" even though her name is Sarah.)

YouTube introduces Textp, a text-only viewing experience

Witty, romance novel review sites Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Dear Author have decided to make some cash by selling their reviews on Etsy instead of just giving them away for free.

If you subscribe to Thrillist, don't worry: there is no such thing as MeetingRoulette or a restaurant serving peppercorn-encrusted elephant tenderloin.

Mom-guilt gone wild: Stay-at-home mom arrested for using bouillon cube.

Large Hadron Collider humor! LHC opens portal to another dimension. Meanwhile, a Man arrested at the LHC claims he's from the future. (In case you're wondering.)

Aw, it's a baby skeksis!

This is fake: Physicists assemble world's smallest snowman. This is real: Scientists create world's tiniest starship Enterprise.

Oh god, how I wish this one was real: Prankster tortures New York with elaborate In-n-Out hoax.

World of Warcraft Insider has gone through a few permutations today, including Twilight Insider and Gaga Insider.

io9 wraps up the best geek-related pranks on the web.

Oh, AfterElton, it's mean to tease: Kirk kisses Spock in Upcoming "Star Trek" movie

We actually had to read this one to make sure it was a joke. That says nothing good about Mickey D's: McDonald's scraps composting program because food won't decompose

Not A Joke
Census Bureau receiving forms with Star Trek races written in