Monday, October 31, 2011

What fanatics really want

In fact, often the fanatic is more interested in you than in himself. He wants to save your soul, he wants to redeem you, he wants to liberate you from sin, from error, from smoking, from your faith or faithlessness, he wants to improve your eating habits, or to cure you from your drinking or voting habits. The fanatic cares a great deal for you; he is always either falling on your neck because he truly loves you or else he is at your throat in case you prove to be unredeemable. And, in any case, topographically speaking, falling at your neck and being at your throat are almost the same gesture.

Amos Oz, from How to Cure a Fanatic (excerpted in Utne Reader, November/December 2011)

(I think I'm going to buy Mr. Oz's book . And check out the superb cover illustration by Tom Richmond!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kick the ass-trology, already

No matter how long I stick around, I fail to understand some aspects of human life. I don’t understand why Gimme a Break lasted six seasons while the original Star Trek lasted three, why anyone enjoys the taste of bell peppers, and why horoscopes persist in magazines and newspapers long after science has put to rest the notion that stars millions of light-years away have any effect on our lives.

The Los Angeles Times, one of the few American newspapers I respect, still has a horoscope – every day – and I scratch my head. A horoscope just does not belong in a Pulitzer Prize-winning paper. If I were the chief editor of the LAT, I would quietly and with no fanfare remove the horoscope one Monday morning – considerately adding a brief note of explanation to readers:

We at the Los Angeles Times have concluded that a horoscope is unnecessary and is incongruous with the logical thought that this still-new century demands. In this space, we will now have quotations from great thinkers and books.

What do you think would happen? Would most readers nod their heads and think, “It’s about time”? Or would they light their virtual torches and storm the Readers’ Representative Journal, screaming for my head?

Even more disheartening, horoscopes persist in women’s magazines. (Never, ever in men’s magazines.) Why does my sex tolerate ass-trology in its publications? Is there a meme that women just aren’t that into critical thinking? If the media can convince women that it is mandatory to wear shoes that cripple and distort the feet and to spend hundreds of dollars to remove perfectly natural (and necessary) pubic hair with agonizing hot wax, perhaps getting them to believe in ass-trology is child’s play.

Here is a sampling of three different horoscopes for my “sign,” Cancer (June 22-July 22) in three different women’s magazines dated October 2011.

Marie Claire – October 2011


The Mood: Homey
The Forecast: As the weather continues to cool off, you’ll become a domestic goddess – brewing hot apple cider, cooking a fall stew, even carving a pumpkin. After the 23rd, a guy will want in on this low-key fun, so make room in the kitchen. In money matters, Mars in your house of finances has you working hard, so splurge on a crazy Halloween costume.
Power Day: 23rd

Glamour – October 2011


The new moon in your pleasure sector in October 26 tempts you to grab onto something that’s not yours. Keep yourself in check with values you learned growing up. If it (he!) doesn’t belong to you, walk away.

Cosmopolitan – October 2011


Homey Pluto suggests inviting people over to watch the World Series on the 19th. Some juicy gossip will come from it – the stars predict a hookup between two of your single pals.
Dating tip: Alluring Venus recommends you rock a pair of sky-high heels on a date near the 7th. Grab his arm if you feel wobbly – he’ll like the chance to show off his chivalrous side.
Love advice: Playful Saturn says have a Guitar Hero showdown on the 13th. For every new song, strip off a piece of clothing.

What do these horoscopes have in common, besides being narrowly focused on a superficial notion of romance?


If ass-trology was a real science, researchers would most likely come up with similar results, even if they do not meet and/or confer with each other. If ass-trology was a real science, all people born under the Cancer sign would have similar experiences during the month.

No sky-high heels for me on a date near the 7th, or a Guitar Hero showdown on the 13th (who needs the Guitar Hero game when I have a real-life Guitar Hero?). We didn’t watch the World Series on the 19th. I didn’t do anything significant in the kitchen on the 23rd (that is Two Dogs’s domain), and I didn’t have a lick of temptation to grab into something that wasn’t mine on the 26th.

If you’re not into ass-trology, you don’t have to ass-ume what your days are going to be like. That’s the mystery of life. Why not just let things be as they will be?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Scary television logos (just in time for Halloween)

What do you remember when you remember the television of your youth?

Do you remember the astounding stupidity of Lost in Space’s Dr. Smith (which makes you ask 1. What hellhole of a university gave this asshat a doctorate, and 2. Why, oh why did he survive so long – you can’t be stupid in space, people!) Or is it the seamless cool of the Fonz, a cool that makes even vending machines obey? Or is it Pee-Wee’s happy household of talking, singing thingamajigs? (You wouldn’t fart in a talking chair, would you?)

Or is it the heavy, hairy hand that brings down this hammer?

The logos which are the closing punctuation of TV shows can have lasting effects on our memories – for better or for worse.

Type in the words “scary TV logos” in the YouTube search engine, and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find. You’ll also see that “scary” is highly subjective.

I grew up in the pre-home video era, so I guess it’s hard for me to see the fright in this logo:

It’s only a mouse, after all. (And he's not even meandering!)

The following two logos are more annoying than scary. This one concluded cheesy 1970s sitcoms:

And this one ended cheesy syndicated 1980s sitcoms:

This one is nicknamed “Closet Killer”, and when you hear it you will understand why:

That’s the sound an orchestra would make if a killer jumped out of your closet. Ironically, this often ended the supposedly family-friendly Brady Bunch.

This one from across the pond is spooky:

This one from NTA (National Telefilm Associates) is not too scary on its face, but it gave me goosebumps because it often kicked off some eerie sci-fi movie on Pittsburgh TV’s Chiller Theater.

I don’t remember any television logos that really scared me in childhood, but I found one on YouTube that scares me now at age 46. I would not want to watch this alone at two in the morning:

BИD (VID in English) is the undisputed king of all scary logos. I am exceedingly grateful that I didn’t grow up in Russia!

P.S. Are you reading this blog at two in the morning? If so…I hope you’re not alone! (And don’t watch BИD twice!)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Is everyone a cheater?

I don’t know about you, but I thought I knew the definition of infidelity in relationships – sexual contact with anyone other than the one you’re supposedly monogamous with.

Not too long ago, the they who define culture came up with the idea of “emotional infidelity.” Michael Formica, one of those experts with a trail of letters following his name and a blogger at the Psychology Today website, defines emotional infidelity thus:

Although the implications and consequences are similar, emotional infidelity as a construct is a bit more murky, as it does not simply apply to sexual or romantic interpersonal relationships. . . .

The notion of emotional infidelity can also apply to platonic same- or trans-gender relationships, as well as activities, work, exs, siblings, extended family, hobbies and even kids. Many women in the part of the country where I live and work ruefully refer to themselves as Wall Street Widows - non-interpersonal emotional infidelity in full flower.

Emotional infidelity is any situation that creates or causes some degree of emotional unavailability on the part of one partner that interferes with one particular aspect of the relationship, along with the quality of the relationship as a whole.

According to a recent survey by the Kinsey Institute , 23 percent of men and 19 percent of women in partnerships say that they have cheated on those partners. If we use Formica’s definition of infidelity, those percentages go up to 100 percent. What person in a relationship doesn’t also have other people and goings-on in his or her life?

If everyone cheats – if everyone can’t help but cheat – then “cheating” means nothing, and why should anyone care?

This kind of definition creep bothers me. In the absence of real trouble, some minds go in search of worry and offense. The idea of emotional infidelity is a gift to this kind of mentality. Instead of a clear, specific definition of cheating, anything and everything in your partner’s life outside of you can become a threat. Talk about crazy-making. People who not only trust their partners, but have self-esteem that is unassailable, do not worry about emotional infidelity.

Formica ends his blog post with this non sequitur:

Here's the rub - in the case of emotional infidelity, you're stealing from yourself.

Actually, if you believe in emotional infidelity, you’re stealing from yourself – and your partner.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Don’t forget to enjoy what you eat!

Not too long ago, most of us didn’t think much about what we ate. We’d trudge to the grocery store after the workday and grab a foil-wrapped “TV dinner” (meant to go into the oven, not the microwave), a few boxes of pasta and powdered cheese ready for their ground beef or tuna “Helper,” a box of sugar-coated cereal for the kiddies, and the cheapest meat in the newspaper ad.

Today, such ignorance seems almost luxurious. The experts who “know better” than us are shaking us by the shoulders like desperate doomsday seers and screaming at us to ask! Is your food organic? Local? Free-range? Green? Packaged? Genetically modified? Raw? Pasteurized? Artificially colored or flavored? How many calories? How much fat? How much sodium? Were any living things harmed in the making of it? (The unfortunate and unavoidable truth is always “yes” – the living must depend on the living for sustenance; it’s easy to forget that plants are living, too). Every encounter we have with food is now ideologically booby-trapped.

To paraphrase John Lennon, food is a concept by which we measure our fear – and our impulse to make sure that our habits are better than theirs, whether they are our family members, our neighbors, or our concept of “average” people.

Whatever happened to enjoying what we eat?

Speaking for myself, I’ve gotten just as much of a kick of joy from a lunch of a cupcake and cappuccino at the Barnes and Noble Café as I have from a lunch of spring greens and sliced pears. I do try to keep most of my meals on the healthy side, but I say a life without ever once sitting in front of the television with a bowl of popcorn is a life that has missed out. I feel sorry for those who insist that food is mere fuel, as if we are just spiritless machines.

See this bowl of stew? It has two slices of white French bread sticking out of it, which will not please the whole-wheat fetishists. The potatoes will turn off the starch-haters. The carrots are just too cooked for the raw foodies. And get ready to scream, vegans, because there are chunks of lamb meat in the bowl, too.

So what?

This stew, created with love by Two Dogs, gave me the best nourishment I had all day after a long Wednesday of running around. I felt joy and gratitude with each sip and bite. I was glad to be human and glad to be able to love this dish.

It is not enough for our food to be “correct” – nutritionally, politically, ecologically. Our food needs to touch our humanity as well. I dare say it may be better to share fried chicken with loved ones and laughter than a raw vegetable smoothie while running towards your horribly stressful job.

Food for thought.


I am proud to take part in Blog Action Day Oct 16, 2011