Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Picasso: My Favorite Artist NOT!

            I spent 6 hours in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza today. It is one of the many art museums in Madrid. Some of you have long suspected that I am a philistine when it comes to art appreciation and you are right.  So why did it take me 6 hours to tour it? Let’s figure it out.

            I spent the first hour looking at a fabulous temporary art display called “Heroines”. I give it an unqualified two thumbs up. The collection focuses on paintings of women who are strong, active, intelligent, and independent. It was a refreshing change from the images of woman as seductress or submissive servant that is often shown in art.  Me gusta “Heroines”!

I occupied the next two hours by sitting in the outdoor café, eating tapas and sipping tea. I admired the buds on the camellia bushes, gawked at the sunny daffodils waving in the breeze, and watched people from all over the world coming and going from the museum. Sound more like me?

After paying the bill, I went back into the museum. The paintings are arranged chronologically, and you start with the oldest paintings up on the second floor. I climbed the several flights of stairs, hoping to find something worthy of all this exertion.

It didn’t take me long to be drawn back in time to the 12th century AD when the first paintings in the collection were created. I love history and old paintings, even when I don’t particularly appreciate the subjects, are tangible pieces of history. By the way, Henry VIII as painted by Hans Holbein the Younger in 1537 looks nothing like Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the actor in The Tudors.

I strolled from Carpaccio to El Greco to Rembrandt and Rubens. I moseyed past Goya, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas. I had reached the late-1800’s in an hour and a half. I wasn’t even close to seeing everything this museum had to offer.

I spent the next 30 minutes speed-walking through the first floor of the museum, the 20th century pieces. I just don’t understand modern art. Much of it looked like product advertisements in magazines. Some of it looked as if a kindergartner had painted it on an off day. I never get the paintings that are just a canvas of orange with a white spot in the upper right quadrant. Really, how talented do you have to be to paint that? And who would pay money to purchase it?

I finally found myself at a dead stop in front of a painting done by Picasso. For half an hour, I stood there trying to figure out why this painting was called “Man with a Clarinet”. I looked from all angles, but I couldn’t find the man or the clarinet. Then I wondered if the painting was one of those special effect paintings where you had to squint to see the image. I tried squinting until the guard patted my shoulder and kindly asked me if I was having a seizure.

So where did I spend the final 30 minutes of my trip to the museum? Well, that’s a no-brainer – the gift shop, of course. You’ll be shocked to know that I bought…a book about the museum. You’re not shocked at all, are you? You know me too well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

In the Foreign Branch of my Office Today

            “So what are you going to do today?” Chris, bless his heart, was going off to work. Such a shame to waste a beautiful day in Madrid stuck in an office working.

            “Not sure yet,” I answered.

            “Any museums you haven’t hit yet?”

            “Yes, but the museums aren’t open on Monday. Maybe I’ll go shopping instead.”

            Chris grunted.

            I smiled. “I found this really cool shopping area near the Plaza de Colon on Friday. The architecture is gorgeous. There’s ornate ironwork on the windows and plaster faces of historical figures near the roofs of the old buildings.”

            “You’re going to look at the outside of old buildings today? That sounds interesting.”
            “I might see what they have at Prada and Gucci while I’m in the area. There’s a Tiffany’s next door, too. Maybe I’ll have breakfast there.”

            I calmly patted him on the back as he choked on his morning coffee. I probably should have waited to mention Tiffany’s until he had finished swallowing.

            “I’m just kidding, you know. That’s not my style.”

            “So what are you really going to do today?”

            “I’m going to one of the foreign branches of my office to write my blog.”

            “That’s a great idea,” he answered enthusiastically. “There’s a Starbucks just across from the hotel.”

            “That’s where you’ll find me.”

            He bent down to kiss me. “Te amo, mi amor.” It was the only Spanish he knew other than please and thank you. Isn't that sweet?

            “Right back at ya, mi esposo.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

Life on Mars Destroyed by Capitalism!

            “Did you know that Mars doesn’t have life because capitalism destroyed it?”

            “Really? That seems a bit far-fetched to me,” my husband answered, looking up from the latest issue of Astronomy magazine. “You’d think something like that would have been on the cover of my magazine.”

            “I know, right? Apparently Venezuela has discovered that capitalism destroyed all the life on Mars. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made the announcement today.”

            “I don’t believe you can count Chavez as a credible source, Vic. He’s nuts!”

            “Well, I don’t know. Here’s what he said: ‘I have always said, heard, that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet.’ Do you really think that’s nuts? Maybe the guy has a point with all that capitalism/imperialism stuff.”

            “If you say so,” my husband shrugged.

            “Just picture it – little green men making stuff and selling it to other little green men who use the stuff to make other stuff. The next thing you know, all those little green men are living in fancy houses, driving expensive cars, and contributing to little green manmade global warming. Poof goes the planet!”

            “Now you’re nuts,” my husband laughed.

            “I guess you’re right,” I reluctantly agreed. “It does make a great story, though. I can hardly wait to hear what Chavez has to say tomorrow!”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What kind of a name is that to give a child?

            “Miss Effie, your granddaughter is here to see you.”

            “Huh?” the little white-haired lady grunted, her eyes more or less focused on the plate of food in front of her. She was looking at it, but she had yet to lift a fork. She was one of the fifty or so residents of the nursing home who were in the cafeteria for lunch.

The food was particularly unappealing today; overcooked strings of dry turkey perched next to mushy canned green beans which nestled against a glob of what might have been yam before it had found itself in the nursing home kitchen.

“Your granddaughter is here to visit you,” the nurse repeated loudly.

Effie looked up and saw her goth-dressed granddaughter holding an 18-month-old boy. “Huh,” she grunted again. The granddaughter set the toddler down and bent to give her grandmother a hug. The residents and visitors in the cafeteria smiled at the little one toddling about, waving his hands with the pure joy of being alive. It had been a while since anyone else in the room had felt that way, but some of them thought they could remember what it was like.

“What’s the baby’s name again?” Effie asked her granddaughter.

“Bradyton,” her granddaughter answered, repeating the baby’s name when she saw her grandmother’s confused expression.


“That’s right.”

“That’s a stupid name,” Effie announced to everyone in the room. “It’s no wonder I can’t remember it.”

“I like it,” her granddaughter protested. “It’s a nice name.”

“It’s stupid.”

“You’re a crazy old coot, Grandma,” the granddaughter laughed, picking up her son and plopping him in Effie’s lap.

Effie nodded. “Yup. But I’m your crazy old coot, so you have to love me.”

“I do love you, Grandma,” the girl said, “and so does Bradyton.”

The old woman grumbled, but her eyes sparkled with love and pride as she held her great-grandson on her lap. “It’s still a stupid name.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Woman's Place?

           "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar." 1 John 4:20

            Have you ever wondered why John the Evangelist didn’t mention anything about hating your sister? Does the Christian deity care so little for women that he will give you a pass if you hate your sister, as long as you love your brother?

            The editors of the 2011 translation of the New International Version Bible don’t believe that’s true. The NIV Bible has been carefully translated to use gender-neutral language as it was used in the original Greek and Hebrew. Plural references in Greek and Hebrew (and many other languages) are inclusive of both genders. (e.g. “hermanos” in Spanish includes both your brothers and your sisters.)

If John the Evangelist originally used a word that meant “brothers and sisters”, shouldn’t the English translation of the Bible reflect that?  After all, none of the authors of the Bible wrote in English. (Note: The statement "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for me" is commonly attributed to Gov. Miriam Amanda Wallace “Ma” Ferguson of Texas. Most Americans now believe that Gov. Ferguson had neglected to take her daily meds when she said this in 1925.)  

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has already begun criticizing the new translation. The Council is an organization that believes women should submit to their husbands in the home and that only men can hold leadership roles in the church. Translating the Bible into gender-neutral language puts men and women on an equal footing and undercuts the very premise that women are less than men in the eyes of the Church and therefore in the eyes of God. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

W hat does a new translation of the Bible mean for English-speaking Christians? I guess it all depends on how willing they are to explore the Bible as an historical document translated from an ancient language. I suspect the 2011 NIV Bible will have a marginal impact on the daily lives of most American Christians.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Check out Rebecca Black's new song "Friday"!

            “Wow! They don’t write’em like that anymore.”

You know the songs I’m talking about, don’t you? They’re the classic rock and roll songs where the chorus goes “da doo run run” or “shoop shoop” or “be bop a lula”. You still sing along with them when you’re alone in the car because secretly, someplace deep inside, you really like them, even if you won’t admit it.

Of course, no one wonders why they don’t write’em like that anymore. We all know why. Pop music is much more sophisticated today than it was “back in the day”. Isn’t it?

This week, Rebecca Black became a viral sensation on YouTube with her song Friday. Watch the video a few times and you’ll find yourself singing along with her. The lyrics are simple, she repeats “fun, fun, fun” so many times it isn’t funny, and bless her heart, the song actually includes the lines “Yesterday was Thursday, tomorrow will be Saturday”.

Now I have this dumb song stuck in my head. For whatever it’s worth, you have to admit that they actually do write’em like that nowadays. And we still like them.

Enjoy. It’s Friday!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Your Average "Housewife"?

            “You don’t mind if we sit here, do you?”

            Gloria and I glanced at the two women and the entourage of spa employees that accompanied them. We both shrugged. Gloria closed her eyes and I went back to reading my book. We were lying in the sun by the pool at our favorite spa, and we had been the only two people around. It was a gorgeous Sunday in March, the weather in Atlanta was heavenly, and we were feeling thoroughly pampered.

            “These chairs need to be turned around so we’re not looking into the sun.” The cute young pool attendant hurried to turn the pool lounge chairs just so.

The elegantly dressed wine steward from the upstairs restaurant who was carrying a bottle of red wine and two glasses patiently waited for the women to be comfortably seated.

            “I’m going to need another towel,” one of the women announced. The pool attendant dashed the five feet to the neatly rolled stash of towels and grabbed two, just in case one wasn’t enough. “I only need one,” the woman protested, leaving the young man holding the other towel. It was only when he had reached the pile of towels to return the other one that she added, “Oh, I guess I’ll take that one, too. Bring it back.”

            Gloria sat up, looking annoyed. I didn’t bother to hide the fact that the drama surrounding these two women was more interesting than my book. Probably in her late thirties, the one in the red bikini and blonde hair that I’m sure was her natural color – not – smiled at Gloria. “So what are your names? Are you sisters? We’re sisters.”

            “I’m Gloria, this is Vicki. We’re friends.” As far as Gloria was concerned, that was the end of the conversation. She closed her eyes with a nearly audible click, and pushed her sunglasses back up her nose.

            “Where did you meet?” the black and white one-piece sister asked.

            Gloria sighed and opened her eyes. “China.”

            “I bet that’s a story,” the woman answered.

            “Yes, it is.” Gloria replied. Luckily she was spared having to tell it.

            “Those aren’t wine glasses. Those are plastic. That’s completely unacceptable,” bikini sister complained loudly and shrilly, startling the geese that had been resting peacefully on the lawn into honking back at her. “We can’t drink wine out of those.”

            “I’m sorry, ma’am,” the steward explained. “We’re not allowed to serve glass containers in the pool area.”

            Her sister reached out and grabbed the offending plastic drink cups. “I’m more concerned about the fact that you did not bring an ice cooler for the wine bottle,” she snapped disdainfully. “We certainly can’t drink wine that hasn’t been properly chilled.”

            “I’ll bring a wine chiller immediately, ma’am,” the steward said, bowing as he headed for the steps. He looked incredibly relieved to be leaving. He didn’t even bother to mention that red wine is usually served at room temperature. Smart man.

            The young pool attendant politely asked if he could do anything else for them, and then spent a few minutes moving the just-turned chairs back in the direction they had originally been facing. When finished, he vanished into the spa, presumably to check out help-wanted postings on the internet.

            The wine steward came with the wine chiller and ceremoniously placed the bottle of wine in a sterling silver ice bath. He was waved away unceremoniously by bikini sister. “If he thinks I’m tipping for that lousy service, he needs to think again,” she muttered to her sister. “Plastic cups and unchilled wine, for heaven’s sake.”

            I thought for a moment that the drama was over. I was incorrect. Red bikini sister lit up a cigarette.

            It was obvious the moment the burning smell reached Gloria’s nose. She sat up, grabbed her robe and sandals, and was standing at the spa door waiting for me before the blonde had time to say, “You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?”

            “Of course not,” I answered sweetly. “We were just leaving anyway.”

            Gloria pulled me into the room and the door shut behind us. “How did we end up in an episode of ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’?”

            “Those two certainly thought they were entitled to whatever they wanted,” I replied. “I never did hear a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ leave their lips.”

            Gloria snorted in disgust. “Well, what do you want to do now?”

            We looked at each other in silence for a moment. “Wine.” As one, we moved toward the restaurant.

            “I have to warn you, though, that if my red wine comes unchilled in a plastic glass I’m planning on throwing a fit. A big, fat, hissy fit.”

            Gloria laughed at me. “I’d pay money to see that!”

            “And I won’t leave a tip, either.”

            “Sorry, sweetie, you just can’t pull it off.  The only words you know how to say in 5 different languages are ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  Your idea of ‘not leaving a tip’ (she put air quotes around the words) is to only leave 15% instead of your usual 20%.”

            “I’m never going to be one of ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’, am I?”

            Gloria shrugged. “Why would you want to be?”

            “Good point.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

The REAL Cause of Body Fat

I figured out why I'm fat! The shampoo I use in the shower that runs down my body says "for extra volume and body". I'm going to start using "Dawn" dish soap. It says "dissolves fat that is otherwise difficult to remove.” Repost if you have the same issue ;-)

            Now what I want to know is why isn’t this headline news? Why do I have to learn about this simple cause of body fat on FaceBook? I suspect it’s a conspiracy by shampoo makers to hide the truth. After all, shampoo must be a multi-million dollar industry, and the fact that this harmful side effect has been carefully concealed for so many years is a BIG DEAL! Where are Woodward and Bernstein when you need them, huh?

            My doctor doesn’t believe that the shampoo-fat link has been scientifically proven. What does he know anyway? I listened to his advice, which included some nonsense about exercising and eating less in order to lose weight. Puhleeze! I’ve tried that before, and it just hasn’t worked out for me. At this point, I’m willing to try something new. Dawn dish soap it is!

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Congressional Pancake Race?

            For those of you breathlessly awaiting the outcome of the “Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race” in London, you will be happy – or unhappy, depending on your point of view – to learn that the House of Lords soundly defeated the House of Commons this year. The race is held annually on Fat Tuesday to promote awareness of the Rehab charity, which provides services to people with disabilities.

            You’ll enjoy watching the video, I promise. It isn’t often you get to see important members of Parliament running around Victoria Gardens in their suits. Adding a chef’s hat and apron and asking them to flip a pancake in a pan as they run is simply inspired. I certainly hope Rehab took in a ton of pounds. (An American joke – British dollars are called pounds, right? Never mind.)

            Don’t you think it would be totally cool to see our American Senators and Representatives competing in a pancake flipping race on the White House lawn? How about it, ladies and gentlemen? I bet you could raise a lot of money for a worthy charity.

Of course, you’d all have to agree on which charity to support with the proceeds. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet proclaims, “Ay, there’s the rub….”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Proof of Extraterrestrial Life? That's So Cool!

             NASA scientist Richard B. Hoover has announced that he has proof of life that originated somewhere other than Earth. A rare type of meteorite – CI1 carbonaceous meteorites to be specific – appears to contain “indigenous microfossils of cyanobacteria”.  This is HUGE NEWS! And YES, it IS more important than Charlie Sheen being fired.

            It will take the scientific community years of further research before a majority of scientists will be willing to step out on that limb with Hoover and agree that there is definitely life outside of Earth. That’s OK; I get the scientific method and I approve.

            However, I’ve long maintained that it is highly improbable that life exists ONLY on Earth. Billions of stars, each with planets rotating about them, and not a single one other than Earth formed the conditions that facilitated life? That doesn’t seem likely, does it? I want to believe that Hoover’s proof is real.

            I feel a bit let down, though, that the potential proof we have of life outside of Earth is a fossilized bacterium.  Come on, man, I spend my days doing my best to kill the darn things. I use anti-bacterial soap when I wash, I wipe down my kitchen surfaces with bleach, and Lysol is my best friend. If an extraterrestrial bacterium were to visit me, I suspect it would be DOA.

            Of course it is possible that extraterrestrial bacteria would be impervious to my weapons of choice. In that case, they could make me sick, and scientists would have to figure out some way to kill them before they killed me. Either way, it’s not looking like a win-win scenario for a first contact with still-living extraterrestrial bacteria.

            It would be much more satisfying if proof that life existed outside of Earth took the form of the Ambassador of Vulcan stepping out of his starship on the White House lawn, don’t you think? Live long and prosper, my friends.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Tongue Magnets "Attract" Teens and Health Risks

            I’ve been giving teenagers a hard time in my recent articles, but perhaps I’ve been unfair. An article I read today shows that there is at least one teen out there who seeks to make a difference in the world.

            Lauren Garcia, a 13 year old from Wheat Ridge, Colorado, has found her mission in life. She will be educating other teens about the serious consequences posed by…magnetic tongue rings. You have to admit that this is indeed a worthy cause.

            Medical science has recently discovered that teens (and older people who lack common sense) who accidentally swallow magnetic tongue rings face severe health risks. It seems that the magnets attract each other while in the intestines, causing nasty consequences. Dr. Saundra Kay explains, "You have one strong magnet in one loop of intestine, another magnet in another loop of intestine, and those magnets are so strong that they will bring those intestines close together and the two loops joined. Slowly those magnets will burrow through the intestines and it makes a hole."

            Unfortunately, young Lauren had to learn this lesson the hard way. She poignantly states, “"I could have died if I had waited to come to the hospital."

            Now Lauren is hoping that telling her story will inspire other teens to stop using magnetic tongue rings, no matter how "attractive" they may be. She has discovered first-hand that being fashionable isn’t worth risking your life. Her story is touching, and I know that other teens will greatly benefit from her efforts to educate her peers. Kudos, Lauren.


Friday, March 4, 2011

They're Teaching WHAT in Illinois?

            "I can’t believe this. Have you seen this article?” I asked my husband, pushing my laptop between his Kindle and his face.
            “No. What’s it about?”

            “Northwestern University.”

            “That’s a good school. You checking out the basketball standings?”

            “No, I’m reading an article about a live sex demonstration that took place in one of their psychology classes.”

            “Really? I took a psychology class in college, but there weren’t any live sex demonstrations. I’m sure I would have remembered that.”

            I pinned him with a stare.

            “What?” he asked.

            “You don’t think there’s a problem with having a live sex demonstration in a college class?”

            He thought for a moment. “I’m not sure what the professor thought he was teaching by showing something like that. Don’t most college students already know that stuff?”

            “That’s your objection? They already know that stuff? It’s live pornography and a renowned university is showing it to kids!”

            “I would rather have them see sex than violence, I guess. Now if they showed someone getting shot or having his throat slit with a knife, that would be highly disturbing. Sex is…” he winked at me, “…you know, nice.”

            “You are impossible! No, get back on your own side of the bed.”

            “Why does this professor showing a live sex demo bother you so much?” he asked.

            “It’s just…wrong,” I answered. “A teacher shouldn’t expose students to pornography. It’s not a valid teaching method, no matter what subject is being taught.”

            “It would solve the problem of how to motivate students, that’s for sure. I bet that guy’s class at Northwestern is the most popular class at the school. I wonder what you have to do to get an A?”

            I rolled my eyes. “I think he needs to show a live childbirth next. The kids would learn more from that, don’t you think?”

            “That’s a disgusting thing to show kids,” protested the man who had just barely managed to remain conscious in the delivery room when his son was born. “That would be...wrong.”

            “You are such a…” I paused to search for the perfect word to express my exasperation, “…MAN!”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bears, Monkeys, and the US Treasury

            "How was your day, honey?”

            I growled like a brown bear with a sore paw and left it at that.

            “That good, huh?”


            “The writing didn’t go well today? Want me to help with plot details or something?”

            “That sounds like heaven,” I answered wistfully. Every writer needs to talk out plot details with someone who doesn’t have to pretend not to be bored after 3 minutes. My husband, bless his heart, is my someone. “I didn’t have time to write today.”

            He didn’t want to ask, so he just grunted. I knew what he meant.

            “I spent all day getting our business financial records in order for the tax accountant. Corporate tax returns have to be postmarked by March 15th.”

            “Sounds like more fun than a barrel of Congressional monkeys. It took you the whole day?”

            “Yup. I ate a sandwich while I worked through lunch.”

            “Nice. I’m sure the government appreciates your fine work. They’re broke, you know.”

            “Really? I hadn’t heard. I thought we were the ones who were broke.”

            “Isn’t it great to know we’re not the only ones?”

            “Not finding that thought particularly comforting. Thanks though.”

            “Never let it be said I didn’t do the least I could do to help.”

            I smiled for the first time all day. “Aw, you always do the least you could do to help. I tell everyone that.”

            “Gee, thanks…” he replied with a chuckle, “…I think.”