Monday, June 29, 2009

How to Make Happiness Even Happier

We just ended a 12-hour day at the Happiest Place on Earth--Disneyland. One of my favorite things to do is to leave the park and eat dinner at The Nearly-Happiest Place on Earth, the Rainforest Cafe. I think it is called that because a small rainforest needs to be clearcut daily in order to supply power to the place.

Anyway, I like to say that it's nearly the happiest place because it is there where we sit in air conditioning and have a margarita. After that I am prepped and ready to tackle the Happiest Place for a couple more hours. My tired and drooping feet get cheered up to finish out the day with the kidlets. This year I had (what I think) is a great idea. Why not put a beer garden in the middle of Disneyland? After only a few hours us weak adults are pooped--but the kids are still ready to go. Why not make a nice, discrete little adult watering hole, just to the side of Sleeping Beauty's castle somewhere where they can recharge and be cheerful, participatory parents for another few hours? I bet they could make some real cash with this.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts on Michael Jackson

Thankfully I'm not sick of hearing about Michael Jackson on the news yet because I don't watch TV, and the internet doesn't scream at me (yet). I realized yesterday that when I was a kid I told my mom that I couldn't imagine a world without Michael Jackson. "Some day he's going to die!" I told her, "Yep, just like everybody else." She wisely answered. I, however, was young and couldn't believe that someone that powerful could be mortal. Maybe that's what he thought too, and that's why he got so weird.

Michael Jackson and Madonna both defined the culture of my growing-up years, but mostly because I was the only kid I knew who wasn't allowed to listen to either of them. I heard about them, read about them, looked at pictures of them, and had friends tell me about them, but they were off-limits in my house. It was one of those strange childhood things that you're not allowed to do and for some reason you become fascinated with. I remember sitting in my cousin's room looking at his Thriller poster and him telling us all about it. I remember that same cousin coming to a family dinner with one white glove on his hand. When my grandma asked him why only one he said, "You only wear one." I thought that was so cool.

Well, at least the park in Beverly Hills will be a little less creepy this year.

By the way, I finally did get to see Thriller (by junior high or so), and it is pretty cool. But it would have absolutely freaked me out if I'd seen it when I wanted to. And it's amazing how closely he ended up resembling those zombies.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who Gave You the Right?

In his book The Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis uses a mistake in a grammar-school textbook to draw conclusions on the state of culture and education in his society, as well as where it is headed. Drawing from his idea, I'd like to present mine. My husband teaches U.S. History to middle school kids and he was reviewing a kids' reference book on the U.S. Constitution. The textbook goes through the entire Bill of Rights, shows the original text, and documents periods in our history where the specific right was featured. It also lists any Supreme Court rulings that have to do with that right. All in all it's a pretty good book, but my husband noticed something that got us thinking.

The book actually stated that the First Amendment "gave us the right to free, unhindered speech." When we looked back at the actual text of the amendment, on the mirroring page, it said, "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech." Now, who gave us the right? The textbook seemed to say that the constitution gave us the right to free speech; but the language of the constitution itself says that congress may not restrict the freedom of speech. The constitution seems to assume that we have the freedom of speech already.

Now this came as a surprise to me, but probably just because I got an insufficient education. The Declaration of Independence says that man was "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." That means that the Founding Fathers believed that civil rights came from God and that congress was not allowed to mess with them. In fact, none of the Bill of Rights actually gives us the right to do anything--it assumes that God has given all people rights and it explains how the federal government may not infringe upon them. If God did give men the right to free speech, then any government that tries to mess with that will ultimately fail.

When we start assuming that the state has given us rights, instead of God granting them, the government can make up any right it chooses. Who's to say stop when we start having a right to abortion, a right to free health care, a right to affordable housing, a right to surf the internet? The UN has already neared the end of that road, and we're not far behind. However, if we assume that God has granted us our rights then we are not allowed to invent just any old right that we choose (in order to justify something we really want). The government that feels that it can grant rights can also take those rights away--then who will we have to complain to?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"All the Glory to God and the Calories to Us!"

Quote of the week by Nan Devine, chef and hostess extraordinaire after serving up a marvelous Father's Day feast. I asked her if I could keep her quote forever!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Hills

Since soon we will be migrating south for the summer and spending time in the famous Beverly Hills, I have been meditating on some of my bizarre impressions of the place.  Of course Beverly Hills is world-renowned for famous movie stars, but I think it's definitely one of the weirdest places in the world (I guess it's not odd that those two things should go together).  So, in honor of the place, here are my Top Ten Weird Things about Beverly Hills:

10.  Houses with no foundations built in an earthquake/fire/flood/mud slide zone.
9.  The daughter of the former Shah of Iran who blasts Arab disco through the neighborhood until at least 2 am.
8.  Rich people who treat their dogs like children and their children like dogs.
7.  Michael Jackson's house that overlooks the only children's park in the city.
6.  Paying $10/gallon of milk at Whole Foods.
5.  During the day being the only white person in the entire city.  Everyone's ethnicity changes between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm.  There are Mexican nannies, Mexican landscapers, Mexican construction workers, Mexican pool cleaners, and Mexican dog walkers.  I really think more Mexicans should actually live in the houses since they do all the work!
4.  The 95-year-old neighbor who is a former Russian ballerina.  He is also gay.  He also walks his German shepherds every afternoon while wearing a tweed jacket (yes, even in 100+ degree weather).  He also paints rocks for a living.
3.  George Michael (in all his bling) kindly helping you with your double stroller at the bank.
2.  Non-native-English speaking nannies at the park who sit on the grass while the children play in the chlorine-saturated "stream."  They sit on the grass and watch the non-native-English speaking construction workers get their lunch at the mobile taqueria.  The construction workers stare back.  They both make comments about each other in their non-native-English speaking languages.  When you combine this with #7 it just discourages me from ever attending the park.

And the #1 weirdest thing about Beverly Hills is.....
1.  The 90-year-old neighbor, and former silent film star, who lives with her boyfriend.  But it gets weirder--he used to be her mother's boyfriend.  And it gets weirder--her mother only passed away about 5 years ago.  

Monday, June 15, 2009

Growing Up in Santa Cruz

I took my younger son to a nearby local bookstore for their "Read Time" this morning.  The reader was a sweet older woman, with the perfect British accent that is necessary for a good story hour.  She was reading some book about a little boy pig who was always told to make messes and wear dirty clothes (because he's a pig of course), and who had always wanted some day to have a clean room and wear clean clothes (because he didn't fit in).  Anyway, at one point in the story the Mama Pig puts her son to bed with the familiar rhyme:
This little piggy went to market
This little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy had roast beef
But this little piggy had none.
And this little piggy cried "Wee," "Wee," "Wee," all the way home!

She paused here to ask the youngsters if they knew that poem too.  Their usual blank stares didn't tell her much, but one mom leaned over and pointed to her son saying, "He knows it with tofu."  I don't think the reader understood, so she repeated herself, "He knows it with tofu, not roast beef." (She could only bring herself to mouth the hideous words "roast beef").  At this point the employee understood, at least I'm sure more than this mom did, and repeated the poem with the more culturally sensitive changes:
This little piggy went to market
This little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy had TOFU
But this little piggy had none.
And this little piggy cried "Wee," "Wee," "Wee," all the way home!

I thought of insisting that my son knew it with "McDonald's greasy hamburgers" instead of tofu, but thought better of it an instant later.  She seemed too pleased.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Am Michael Scott and So Are You

This is the best show that's ever been made by the entertainment industry.  I haven't watched TV in ages, but I can't get enough of this one!  Why is it so great you ask?  Well, in the interest of entirely ruining comedy by trying to explain it away, here we go.

1.  This show would make Chesterton proud.  People do stupid things all day long, and it's hilarious to watch.  My life would probably be even worse.
2.  Everyone identifies with a different character, but nobody wants to be Michael Scott, the boss.  However, the real point is that we are all Michael Scotts.  Michael Scott takes every pathetic, sinful, self-centered thought every human thinks throughout the day--and then he says them out loud.

3.  The one character who never repents, never changes, never apologizes, and you never feel sorry for is not Michael Scott--it is Ryan the Temp.  He is pathetic.
4.  Even the most admirable characters on the show mess up.
5.  It tells the truth about people--and there is no laugh track.

This is not to say the show is infallible.  Some of the more recent episodes make me nervous that it will plunge to the depths of foolishness and inanity where most good TV shows go to die; but I will keep my hopes up until that happens--and if it does I will keep watching the re-runs.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Conversations You Never Saw Coming

Ryle:  "Mama, I love mac 'n' cheese even more than God."
Me:  "Ryle, you are not allowed to love mac 'n' cheese more than God."
Ryle: "OK."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Celebrity Spotting in the Hills

OK, so instead of a shirt and tie, imagine him in a t-shirt and shorts and an i-pod stuck in his ears, and I saw him like that last weekend jogging by my grandmother-in-law's house in Beverly Hills.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize it at the time, or I swear I would have said something witty and clever (or it would have sounded witty and clever until it came out of my mouth).  In fact I didn't realize it was him for sure until I came home and looked up some pictures of him with a shorter do, since his shaggy mane had been trimmed a bit.

At least now I have about a month to think of something clever to say the next time he jogs by when I'm living there for a couple weeks.  How about, "I hope no one puts your i-pod in jello!"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Second Verse Same as the First

I was one of those kids who didn't have cable growing up, so there were tons of songs I loved on the radio and knew nothing of their music videos.  Now that seems like ancient history, since I can look up anything on You Tube!  Here's one of my favorites from my high school days and I think the video is better than the song.