Thursday, December 25, 2003's 2003 Political Dot-Comedy Award Nominees Announced

I'm very pleased to report that I'm a nominee in two categories in this year's Political Dot-Comedy Awards competition. My political humor as a whole is nominated in the Best Parodies (Overall Achievement) category and my Dubya's Dayly Diary is a nominee in the Best Bush Humor category. So if you have time, I'd really appreciate your voting for me in
one or both categories here. Thanks!

And even if you're not in a voting mood, I'll bet you enjoy visiting the terrific nominees in categories including Best Web Cartoons, Best Satirical News, Most Entertaining Left-Wing News & Commentary, Most Entertaining Right-Wing News & Commentary, Best Print Comic Strip, and Best Late-Night TV Comedy. You may even find some new (to you) humor sites to help you survive 2004.

FYI very few blogs are nominated. This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) in the comic strip category is a notable exception.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

To Everybody...

May you all have a blessed Christmas. Takecare and Godbless.

Beware of bothersome gifts

Tuesday, while cleaning out closets, I took a tour of gift blunders. Some were things people have mistakenly given me. Others items I bought as potential gifts but never got around to matching up with recipients. Though I've made my share of mistakes, there are people who have me beat.

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) - Gary and Karri Clark haven't forgotten their second Christmas together. He knew she wanted bathroom accessories, so he wrapped up a couple of gifts and waited.

The toilet seat and towel rack didn't go over too well.

``Here I thought I was doing good,'' he recalled with a laugh. ``It was something she can always use, day after day. It's the gift that keeps on giving.''

The Clarks were among those who responded to requests by the Daily Times-Call newspaper to share their stories about bungled gifts and best intentions - the waffle makers, blenders and vacuum cleaners given with love and practicality in mind that will never be forgotten or forgiven.

Karri Clark admits she wanted a new toilet seat a decade ago because there was a crack in the old one. She just didn't think she'd get one gift wrapped.

``I could not believe it,'' she said. ``What man gives you a toilet seat for Christmas?''

. . .Gary Clark admits his bathroom gifts were out of desperation: It was Christmas Eve, he was at Kmart and he couldn't think of what to buy his wife.

``She wanted it, but not for Christmas,'' he said. Since then, he's done better: His wife received a Ford Explorer for her birthday this year.

Fellows (and any boneheaded women, too) hold off on anything having to do with the elimination. Yes, I know there are some really big collections of toilet paper in very pretty colors, but. . . .

Meanwhile, I need to unload kids' softwear, 100 percent wool sweaters and several SLR camera/binocular sets.

Note: This item will also appear at Mac-a-ro-nies.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The vote is in: women are more rational than men.

The results of a recent study are written up in New Scientist:
Both male and female students at McMaster University were shown pictures of the opposite sex of varying attractiveness taken from the website 'Hot or Not'. The 209 students were then offered the chance to win a reward. They could either accept a cheque for between $15 and $35 tomorrow or one for $50-$75 at a variable point in the future.

Wilson and Daly found that male students shown the pictures of averagely attractive women showed exponential discounting of the future value of the reward. This indicated that they had made a rational decision. When male students were shown pictures of pretty women, they discounted the future value of the reward in an "irrational" way - they would opt for the smaller amount of money available the next day rather than wait for a much bigger reward.

Women, by contrast, made equally rational decisions whether they had been shown pictures of handsome men or those of average attractiveness.

(via DazeReader)

Friday, December 12, 2003

Ellen Goodman Re-introduces a Radical Idea.

21 years ago, Equal Rights Amendment opponents listed three horrible fates that would follow if we added women's equality to the Constitution: (1) unisex toilets, (2) women in combat, and (3) gay marriage.

Well, today we've got all that. The only thing we don't have is, ta da, the Equal Rights Amendment.

Read Goodman's painfully true piece here.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Growing Up and Pairing Off

I'm at that stage in life where many of my friends are settling down with a partner for the forseeable future. Whether they're still just dating but had have 'The Big Talk' and planning a future together; moved in together; gotten engaged; gotten married.

Yes. I'm in the mid-to-late twenties age group--post-college or finishing up with grad school, going up or beginning to go up the career ladder.

Every single one of my close friends except one--not necessarily from the same circle--are in those various stages now. In some ways, this trend seems to be saying that this is a perfectly normal and natural life stage to go through. And for many people, it is. Granted, the question of having kids as a given for couples is changing radically as more and more people choose to delay having kids or indeed, NOT have kids, settling down with a partner is still very much de riguer.

However, as I get older but remain single and grappling with a love life that alternates between the bizarre and the non-existent as I work to set the practicalities of my post-grad-school life in order (i.e. getting a good stepping stone job, getting my finances settled, getting my green card etc), it is hitting home everyday that popular culture seems to divide people in my age group (even extending into those in their mid-30s) between the Haves and Have-Nots.

The Haves--what Helen Fielding calls 'The Smug Marrieds'. Not necessarily married but settled into a steady, functional and heading-towards-permanent relationship. Smugness optional.

The Have-Nots--the Singletons who are still 'out there' in the dating pool. Some of whom have become jaded and cynical. Others having their hands (and in some cases, heart) burnt badly. Still more dealing with frustration, social expectations, self-doubt at their own attractiveness etc.

When I get angry and frustrated at this unspoken Have/Have-Nots binary, I am not angry at still being single. I'm irritated because I have to ask the following questions:

1. 'Why artificially construct such a polarity? Can't we go on a case-by-case basis?'

2. 'Is being single make a person any less a person than someone who has settled down?'

Coming from Chinese culture where custom dictates that marriage is still seen as a duty everyone must fulfil at some point to perpetuate the family line, I do feel the weight of it keenly because in some ways, I'm still a traditional girl at heart who believes that she has certain familial duties to fulfil. And I feel that I get a double whammy of Single-phobia because over here in the West, there's the same pressure to find that Mr Right and settle down because of some (unnecessary) assumptions that being paired off is a natural thing to do and validates you as a normal person. Just look at the number of dating blogs out there by both men and women and the number of personal blogs that occasionally but regular discuss relationship issues, dating etc.

However, having been through every conceivable stereotype of The Bad Boyfriend including the Commitment Phobe, the Needy Wimp, the Mama's Boy, the Emotional Abuser, the Mentally Deranged, the Blackmailer, the Playboy, the Love Rat etc etc (i.e. more dysfunctional relationships than you can shake a stick at), I have to ask why, as a young woman, being in an unhappy relationship is preferable to being happily single and getting on with a full and happy life?

One of my friends reasoned that it is because of this:

"If you remain single, your friends who have gone on to this next natural stage of life will move on and you will gradually feel left out with no one who commiserates or understands you because they don't know what it's like to be single anymore. And when they have kids--bye bye being friends."

It's scary. What she says makes sense... but I have started to ask myself: is that her talking or her that has been conditioned by society and culture talking?

Even scarier--it does and will happen. People change.

But then, so do I and all the single people out there. It's inevitable--people grow apart, people reach different life stages at different paces.

And I have reached the stage where I am happy being single and concentrating on getting my career off the ground and tending to my friendships.

I just wonder why my marital status can't be accepted by society as a valid one for ME as an individual because the pitying looks and unsolicited advice that come from tarring me with the stereotype brush really is getting on my nerves.

I refuse to become Bridget Jones.

Self-Sufficient and Gorgeous Bachelor Girls' Club anyone?

Monday, December 01, 2003

Reflections on Place

When I was younger, I believed that where you live is important as how you live. For me, the two were related. One was going to be happier in some places than in others, I reasoned, so it was important to choose carefully.

This was partly a reaction to what I saw my journalism school colleagues doing after college. Many took the first bus to wherever they could get a job, to terrible-sounding cities in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t want to do this, because I wanted to choose where I lived. So I resisted, or maybe never heard, whatever call they were hearing.

I was lucky; I got to stay in the town of my choice. But what I didn’t realize was that it would be the first in a long series of choices. Looking back at the places I’ve lived, the process of making the choices interests me now—as well as the expectations, the hopes, and the realities I inevitably had to live with.

In writing this series I’ve looked back at the places I’ve lived—favorite things, favorite memories, how I got there, why I left. And, since one choice inevitably led to another, I’ve tried to understand, in each case, what happened after.

Join us at Bells & Whistles this week for stories and reflections on place. (Tomorrow: A picture of me in really bad glasses.)

WORLD AIDS DAY 2003: Live and Let Live

My goodness, it is another World AIDS Day. This is among my least favorite days of the year.

Don't misunderstand: I do not minimize the need for this day. It is vital to remind the world of the human cost of HIV and AIDS. We must remember those we have lost. We must thank the care providers and researchers who give so much time and effort to help those who have the disease. We must rededicate ourselves to this crucial effort. And as difficult as my experiences have been in reporting on the disease; in volunteering as a helper and "buddy"; in raising my voice as an activist; even in sitting at deathbeds, holding friends' hands and easing their way from this life to the next, I recognize the blessings and growth bestowed on me from having lived through them. Indeed, I am grateful for these experiences, for the many wonderful people whose life paths have intersected mine -- and for the global effort to honor them.

Still, I suspect I have been at this AIDS business for far too long. My first awareness of the disease came 20 years ago, and in the intervening two decades, I have suffered a lot of loss. As of Nov. 30, I have lost 121 acquaintances, friends, and loved ones to AIDS. Thinking of the happy memories I shared with these people -- which I do often -- gives me great joy. But on each World AIDS Day, I think of these people en masse, in a rolling line: Willie and Robbie and John and Leon and Steve and Connie and Carey and Vince and Audra and Andre and Bobby and Paul and Lorraine and Jamal and Rochelle and Joe and Colin and Walter and Mary Sue and on and on ... As you can imagine, it can be mind-numbing, and each year the process becomes increasingly brutal.

My beloved grandfather, who died from cancer three years ago, once said to me during a time when a lot of his 70- and 80-year-old friends were dying that I had undergone too much loss for someone so young. I was just over 30 then and agreed. Now, I am 42 and more fatalistic: Death is part of life. Whatever your age, you deal with it and go on. I can do that. But it doesn't make the grief disappear, though, and the pain intensifies as the years roll by.

Five years ago, I was stunned and saddened by the death of a friend and AIDS activist. My pain was such that I had to write about it. The story appeared in Baltimore City Paper in May, 1998. My pain is such today that I have to share a piece of it here:
Upon hearing that Steve had died, I also learned his funeral would be a political event, a showy media fest in front of the White House. This was poetic justice, in a sense. Steve had given his life to the fight against AIDS. He moved from Seattle to Washington, by way of stops across the nation, following candidate Bill Clinton and demanding that if the Arkansas governor won the presidency in 1992 he make finding a cure for AIDS a top priority. Clinton promised Steve -- to his face -- that in his first 100 days in office, he would launch a Manhattan Project-type effort to find a cure and guarantee comprehensive health care for all Americans. To make sure that the president-elect made good on his pledge, Steve moved to the nation's capitol with his [partner] Wayne. And he made Clinton a promise of his own: "I will haunt you."

So I suppose lying in state in front of the White House was a fulfillment of Steve's vow. I know it was his final wish -- when he entered the Washington Hospital Center for what would be the final time a month ago, he told Wayne he wanted a political funeral in front of Bill Clinton's house. As someone who loved him, I had no choice but to respect his wish. Still, I was angry. Color me selfish, but my friend was gone. I wanted an opportunity to mourn in a manner that I thought he deserved--something solemn, dignified, respectful.

And I wondered about AIDS activism in general. For those of us who've worked in the trenches, from caring for dying loved ones or "buddies," to shouting ourselves hoarse in the street or sitting in a jail cell, to taking on unfeeling government suits -- all the while neglecting our own lives, families, relationships, and personal health -- how much is enough? Steve gave up his life -- apparently willingly. He fought incessantly, irritated and riled many, lost sight of his priorities time and again, and paid fuck-all attention to his own well-being. And now, by his own choice, he was giving up the only opportunity to have his friends and loved ones speak only of their love for him. What more is necessary to create visibility for the war against this disease that has murdered thousands and held activists' and caregivers' lives hostage for nearly two decades? Does some well-meaning fool have to hang himself in the village square using a long red ribbon as a noose?
Yes, I have dealt with much loss. It haunts me today and likely will do so until my dying day. But I must think of my lost loved ones and about their deaths.

On World AIDS Day, there is no choice. The situation is worsening, according to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who warns that the world is losing the fight against the disease. Read his 2003 World AIDS Day message here.

As noted by England's National AIDS Trust, five people die from the disease every minute. The disease once known (erroneously) as the "gay plague" now affects every part of this planet, infecting more than 42 million people, 5 million of them last year alone. More stats from NAT's World AIDS Day site:
Worldwide, and in 2002 alone, AIDS claimed 3 million people last year. That's over 8,000 people every day. But the story does not end there: just under 14,000 new cases of HIV infections occur every single day.

95% of all AIDS cases occur in the world's poorest countries. In several southern African countries, at least one in five adults is HIV positive. In 2000, the HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women in South Africa rose to its highest level ever: 24.5% bringing to 4.7 million the estimated total number of South Africans living with the virus.

That's a terrifying thought. And it's the reality that millions of people in developing countries are living with HIV and AIDS as you read this: communities devastated, teachers and doctors dying every day, people's futures shattered, because they can't afford the drug treatments that are helping people living with HIV and AIDS in richer countries like [Britain and the US].
Adding insult to proverbial injury, there are those who, through ignorance and/or bigotry, still attempt to stigmatize those with the disease Hence this year's WAD theme: "Stigma and Discrimination -- Live and Let Live." NAT offers a test that asks Are You HIV Prejudiced? Take the test and learn something about yourself. However you score, make it part of your life to stop this nonsense. Help people learn to live and let live.

So there are many reasons that make World AIDS Day necessary. UK organization Avert offers a summation:
In order for HIV to be effectively tackled on an international level, efforts need to be made to
Started in 1988, World AIDS Day is not just about raising money, but also about raising awareness [and] education and fighting prejudice. World AIDS Day is also important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.
Indeed. I have been at this AIDS business too long. But as long as prejudice continues and education is needed and items sit on the to-do list, I will stick with it. Quoting Frost, there are miles to go before I sleep.

Much love always to everyone on my list... You are missed, every World AIDS Day and, in truth, every single day.

Resource Links

At ALL FACTS AND OPINIONS, this day is dedicated to the commemoration of World AIDS Day; there is also an ongoing online vigil. Please join us to remember, share, and commit to the effort to end the plague.

What to do with teenagers when roller skating gets old? SkyZone!

As the mother of a teenage daughter, figuring out activities that give ME a break, are nearby, don't involve computers and cell phones...