Saturday, February 27, 2010

It's the Fur

So...I was at the Rite-Aid shopping for Easter Candy with my friend Ka...(oops, no names, we'll call her, "Bunny." And, actually, Bunny was shopping for mascara, it was I who ventured over into the Easter Candy aisle.)  After pointing out a chocolate bunny filled with coconut, Bunny told me she's not a fan of coconut and told me about an Easter cake her grandmother used to make.

Apparently, the cake was bunny-shaped (thus the too-cute nickname) and covered in white frosting and coconut.  Bunny and her sister didn't really groove on the coconut, and would protest to grandma, "We don't like coconut."

So, Grandma, calling upon years of child-rearing, offered, "There's no coconut!"

Now, you've seen these cakes in magazines and such over the years - shockingly white, reeking of sugar even through the glossy pages of Southern Living or Good Housekeeping, and obviously totally covered in coconut.  "No, Grandma, that's coconut."  But Grandma couldn't be deterred.

"That's not coconut.  It's the fur."

This is where we pause to consider the relative wisdom of papering over a child's finicky palate by trying to convince her that the offending food item is actually animal fur.  How is this more comforting?

You've got to admire her spunk, though.  And I love the metaphor.  "It's the fur."  I think I'm making that my new phrase; a way to identify when someone is trying to make something unpalatable more desirable and instead, makes it worse.

Which brings me to several events of the past week.  Let's do it old school Q&A-style this week, folks?  What do you say?  (Like you can argue.  I'm totally driving here.)

1.  Will it ever stop snowing?

Clearly, not.  When I woke up Thursday morning at 6:00 to large romantic flakes falling outside our living room picture window, I was thrilled.  This storm was largely unaccompanied by the usual 11 days of hype about some approaching "Storm of the Century" (why does TV news have to accompany every event with rhetoric that sounds like it was scripted by the people who write the coming attractions for nighttime soap operas?)  Instead, you got to feel like you were discovering the event for yourself - and it was gorgeous as the snow continued to fall throughout the day.

It was a lot less amusing when it was still snowing a day and a half later.

Friday morning, as I headed out to the gym, my travails through a landscape covered with more than 24 hours of snowfall felt like a scene from Fargo.  The storm began with those big wet flakes that mixed to slush for the first few hours of the storm.  As result, when the snow became "snowier" it built on top of two or three thick inches of wet icy slush.  Cars and pedestrians slid everywhere; snow-shovelers heaved small scoopfuls weighted down by that heavy mush.  And - with February 2010 becoming the snowiest single month ever on record in New York, the mood rapidly veered from the ordinary frustration of a heavy snowfall to something darker and more suited to the fact that its been snowing almost non-stop for three months and there's no end in sight.

It's the fur.

2.  Will there ever be a comprehensive health insurance reform bill?

OK.  First, can we please start calling this health insurance reform and not health care reform?  When the media calls it health care reform, I feel like we're going to eschew antibiotics and clinical medicine for leeches and chanting.

What we're really trying to do is prevent individuals with insurance from going bankrupt if they get sick, because the current business model is designed to incent companies for figuring out ways to avoid paying your claim.  And prevent people from not having coverage because then getting sick means potentially dying for lack of care - especially preventive care.  And prevent companies from spending so much of their revenue on insurance that they can't give you a raise or hire more workers so you don't have to work 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, with no extra pay.

Anyway, there was another summit at the White House this week (remember when these summits were quaint homey affairs focused on beer and race relations?  Aah, the good old days.)

There's a split opinion on this; most will agree it was a stalemate, but some will tell you the Republicans won because they didn't look completely like rabid obstructionists bent on destroying the President (though John Boehner and John McCain couldn't resist coming across as more concerned with blocking comprehensive legislation while Lamar Alexander somehow managed to be the most reasonable person in the room.  This is sort of surprising since Alexander's last brush with notoriety included multiple Presidential campaigns where his main strategy was wearing a red plaid flannel shirt and driving a tractor.)

Others will tell you that the President won because a stalemate gives him moral authority to say, "I won the election; people voted for change; and in the absence of compromise I'm doing it through reconciliation - forcing an up or down majority vote rather than being forced into an unconstitutional super-majority to get any business done."

But the tactical "who-won?" analysis ignores the larger issue which has been the undercurrent of the President's problem for nearly a year.

Setting aside the lack of articulating a coherent narrative for his presidency (how about: "In this time of huge challenges facing our nation, we must all come together with an understanding that shared sacrifice and systemic reforms are necessary to bring this nation into the 21st Century with a strong middle class, a growing economy, and the innovations in science and technology necessary to achieve both.")  The bigger issue is that the President broke his gut values connection with the American people.

In the fantastic book, "Applebee's America" by Matthew Dowd, Doug Sosnik and Ron Fournier, the authors - political operatives and pollsters from both parties - talk about the importance of making, and not breaking, a gut values connection with the citizenry as a key factor in winning elections, growing businesses, or attracting audiences.  For Obama, his entire gut values connection was built around his message about a "new kind of politics."  The entire rhetoric of "Hope" and "Change" wasn't just inspired by the substance of his policies, but how he was going to achieve them.

Now, every four years, one - if not both - of the presidential candidates make "changing the tone in Washington" a theme of their campaign.  But Obama, especially in his primary battle against Hillary Clinton, made process more of an issue.  He wasn't just running against Bush or the Republican candidate or the tone in Washington.  He was running against his own party, in a way. Against the triangulation and compromise and bad feelings of the Clinton years.  He gathered up the frustration and the energy and the disappointment of all those people who saw their expectations of the last Democratic administration wind up on a blue Gap dress in an evidence bag.

Personally, I never believed there was any such thing as a "new kind of politics."  The Clinton years proved that the nature of politics with adversarial parties is opposition, and breaking through obstruction takes a leader who realizes that politics is more about warfare than it is about compromise.  Or rather, it's about getting to a compromise by forcing your opponent to blink.  (Bush understood this, which is how he got re-elected: he pushed forward with his agenda in the absence of a mandate - or even a popular vote majority - and dared democrats to vote against it.  He, however, broke his gut values connection - which was based on "Trust" in the shadow of the Clinton years - by lying to the public about WMD in Iraq.)  This is why I supported Hillary in the primaries; I felt we needed a warrior, not a conciliator.

Anyway, for Obama, when you tell people you're going to change the process, you have to change the process.  Instead, what the public saw was bailouts for bankers, escalating unemployment, foreclosures, expensive federal programs that don't seem to be changing the game for the middle class, and business as usual in Congress with lobbyists controlling the policy and members feasting at the trough of federal pork.

It's the fur.

3.  What happened to that kid from Growing Pains?

I really wanted to make some sort of dirty joke about the fact that he played a character named "Boner" and some line about the irony of a Boner disappearing in middle age.  But I'm not in the Catskills, it's not 1973, and now that guy's dead.  That's not funny.

That's the fur.

4.  Did anything funny happen this week?

Yes.  First, I was on the phone with Bunny yesterday (she is SO going to kill me when she reads this) who was cracking up that I resorted to voice mail, email and IM to track her down.  "Do you have cabin fever because of the snow?  You're like my kids."  To which I inquired whether I was going to be sent outside to burn off the expend the excess energy?

"Yes.  Go find a stranger to play with."

That could have been the title of a book about my 20s.

Also, another friend/co-worker - who will totally be the first person to read this, and I'm out of nicknames, but I'll call her Sunshine - inspired me to remember my favorite awful dessert.  I've been making it for 10 years - it requires no baking - and it's AWESOME.  And awful.  You'll love it.

White Trash Chocolate Pie:

1 pre-made pie shell, preferably the Oreo kind.
1 layer of Jell-O chocolate instant pudding
1 layer of chocolate chips
1 layer of Jell-O white chocolate or vanilla instant pudding
1 layer of mashed up cookies (animal crackers work well)
1 layer of Jell-O chocolate instant pudding
1 layer of cool whip or other chemically enhanced whipped topping
Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, mashed up Oreos, sprinkles, M&Ms or anything you happen to have lying around.

Do not serve this to children.  Ever.

5.  Are you almost done, Eric?

Yeah, yeah.  Besides, it's Saturday and Neil is making those romantic noises I hear on Saturdays.  Like, "Do the laundry." and "Clean the bathroom."

That's love, folks.  It's like a snowfall.  Sometimes it's romantic, and sometimes...

it's the fur.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ok, I need a straight guy to explain to me why - although there are plenty of kinds of toys for little girls - why the only toys for boys are superheroes or trucks. While there's nothing wrong with an active imagination, or with manual labor (and, indeed, everyone should have a job at some point in their life that requires working with their hands) - I don't quite get the point. Are we hoping the next generation of men grows up to work construction or wear lycra?

Not A Peep Out of You

Exactly how empathetic do I need to be to the woman traveling with three children?  And a nanny?  And her Kindle, which she's paying more attention to than the three extremely loud children that the nanny obviously can't quiet down, and who have now been screaming, "Mommymommymommymommymommymommymommymommymommy" for nearly an hour.

I've tried drowning it out with my iPod, to no avail.

Someone should steal this idea for Survivor.  Trying to answer 100 emails on a Friday night before the plane lands has to be harder than rolling an oversize crate through the jungle.

I love February.  Sweeps month means the season-long series are building to a climax (nothing like building to a climax...) and the reality shows are in full froth.  Jordan and Jeff, who met on Big Brother, are competing on the Amazing Race.  He's the nicest guy ever to be on a reality show and she rode his coattails to a win.  And she can't tell time.  That may not be a problem when you're occupying the same 1500 square feet for 90 days, but when you're racing around the world, through timed challenges and airports I imagine not knowing what "a quarter to three" means is a problem.

On American Idol, the addition of Ellen DeGeneres appears to be a ratings hit, though am I the only whose noticed that something about her hair color and style, her eyes, and the make up they have her wearing makes her look like a kewpie doll?  Seriously, she looks like a comic book character or a marionette.  Meanwhile, Kara DioGuardi has apparently turned into a cougar.  I had to rewind one episode to confirm that she actually made a 19 year old boy take his shirt off (it was SO not worth it.)  When the kid ultimately made it to the Top 24, the way she hugged him was like something from the 80s movie My Tutor. (Note: the clip from the auditions episode is apparently so risque, that it's been taken down by Yahoo!Video and by YouTube for "terms of use" violations.  Considering both of these websites currently have videos of busty women performing some  bikini mud wrestling and a bodybuilder grinding the gym floor in a jock strap, I'm guessing that Fox played a role in getting these videos removed.  It kills me that Fox thinks the American Idol brand has to be kept squeaky clean.  Past seasons have including a variety of strippers, sex workers, and other persons of questionable judgment.  In fact, the contestant in question here, Casey James, has a criminal record.)

But the Reality Show I am most interested in watching premieres on Thursday... the televised White House negotiations over Health Care reform.  President Obama has invited congressional Democrats and Republicans to complete the historic reform of health care that might actually provide equitable access to health insurance for all Americans, lower the deficit, prevent people from going bankrupt just because they get sick, and enable companies to actually hire workers and give raises rather than spending all their money on subsidizing ever-growing health insurance costs.  It might actually stop corporations that make tremendous profits, which do not get passed along to their employees, but get swallowed up by grotesque executive pay packages - profits that are driven by taking premiums from their plan participants but not actually paying any claims.

Or not.

Why do I have a feeling we're in for another round of the "I'm-right-and-you're-wrong-song?"

And as frustrated as I am with the President for having turned over the process to Congress, thus ceding the message, wasting a year, and obscuring the benefits of the bill with the process by which it was created; and as annoying as it is that Congressional Democrats still haven't learned how to play hardball, or take a strong progressive stand rather than always trying to split the difference, while Congressional Republicans - when in power - push through the most divisive reactionary agenda and get Democrats to vote for it by creating a fear that they'll look weak rather than principled; and as stupid as it seems that the Republicans claim to hate government but always want to run it and act like spoiled children when they're not in charge while the Democrats always just want to prove government can work so they vote for stuff even when they're out of power, making the Republicans look competent - the real frustration is all of this is a cheat.  The Democrats want to govern so badly, simply to prove government works, but can't.  Meanwhile, the Republicans undo Democrats (when Democrats are in power) by claiming that government doesn't work, and is the problem, then block everything, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is America so stupid that people don't realize that, when Republicans foment public concern about government's competence it is because the Republicans themselves are intentionally blocking accomplishments simply to create that impression for the sole craven purpose of winning elections, so they can run the government.

So, I'm not expecting much from this televised event - though, if it pre-empts Survivor, it better at least be as entertaining.

Meanwhile, at Walgreen's (I was in Chicago this week, and is there any drug store more fun than Walgreen's?) the passage of Valentine's Day means the arrival of Easter Candy.  With a purchasing window nearly as long as the post-Halloween Christmas candy run, Easter provides just as much time - but much better candy.

I had the first Peep of the season, and it was the freshest yellowest tastiest Peep I've ever eaten.

(Peep Guide:  Yellow - or "classic" Peeps are the gold standard of candy.  Chewy, squishy, unapologetically created in a lab, and coated with a color not found in nature and a sugar that is so fine and granular, it's like the beaches of Maui.  Blue and purple Peeps are more of an evening Peep - appropriate for the longer sunsets that accompany March, while sea green and orange Peeps should be avoided at all costs.  Peeps associated with other holidays - ghosts and cats for Halloween, hearts for Valentine's Day, snowmen for Christmas, etc - are a nice transition Peep; the Peep that holds you over to Easter - but the Easter Peeps are the real deal.  For the truly adventurous, you can now select chocolate-covered Peeps (in milk or dark chocolate.)  Diabetics may indulge in the sugar-free Peeps, though it's sort of like Decaffeinated coffee - it simulates the experience but not the true feeling.)

Incidentally, if you were beginning to wonder whether this entire column was going to be about Easter Candy - it's not - but it easily could be.  We haven't even gotten to the magic that is a bag of Brach's Candy Chicks and Rabbits.  Another time....

I'm not going to do a full recap of my week - though I do have a few quick tales to tell.

First, if you're in Chicago, check out the 33 Club.  It's new American in a classic men's club setting - the high ceiling, the baroque decor, the big mahogany bar.  The places just has the feel of scotch and musk and hooking up with the guy from Mad Men (not that I've thought about that.)  The amish chicken was moist and flavorful, prepared with lots of fresh herbs and served with crispy Brussels Sprouts.  The pan-fried whitefish was flaky and light and tangy and salty in a lemon-butter sauce with lots of capers.

In Lincoln (yes, Nebraska.  Shut up.  I really like Nebraska - I've been going there for eight years.  Yet - though I can navigate the complexities of New York, Boston, and Los Angeles - I get lost driving from the Lincoln airport to downtown.  This is a distance of less than 5 miles, requiring only two roads.)  Anyway - in Lincoln we met with a pair of lobbyists that totally cracked me up.  She's a Democrat who worked for the former governor, a presidential candidate and the University; he's a Republican who covers K12 education.  Together they're like a comedy team.  She's chatty and direct, he's reticent and reserved.  They're like the James Carville and Mary Matalin of Nebraska.

And - shockingly - there's a delicious Indian restaurant right in downtown Lincoln.  If you're there, check out The Oven and get the Chicken Tikka.  And - if you're with a group like I was, order the mixed appetizer, which is basically a large tray of batter-fried goodies.  One had potatoes, one had chicken...there could have been an old sneaker underneath that crispy crust, I still would have eaten it.

(A prize to any reader who can come up with a way to deep-fry a Peep.)

And that's it for this week folks.  From the heartland to heartlessland (Manhattan) where we went to a cocktail party where either I got very drunk or someone actually tried to say Vera Farmiga (of Up in the Air) and called her Mia Formaggi (which I think is awesome.)  I couldn't have been that drunk - before we headed over there Neil made Backcountry Bolognese from this month's Bon Appetit (I probably needn't state that he replaced the Antelope sausage with regular sausage, and ground venison with ground beef.  Antelope being hard to find - or shoot - here in the West 70s.)

We're heading out to my sister's for dinner tonight, which I imagine will bring me full circle to the sounds of,  "Mommymommymommymommymommymommy."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oy Vey

Why is it that just when you put one ego-deflating mid-life crisis issue to bed, another one pops up like an endless psycho-emotional game of Whac-A-Mole?  (Remember that game?  As a kid we used to go to birthday parties at Pizza Machine - a Chuck-E-Cheese-like indoor amusement with video games and skee-ball and Whac-A-Mole.  I may have been an overweight, uncoordinated geek, but I turned into an athlete of Olympian skill with a roll of quarters and a foam mallet.)

Sunday took me to San Francisco - a city that, much like Paris, I didn't quite get initially, but have grown to appreciate over time.  In addition to some meetings in Sacramento, I was able to attend a company meeting that included the boy geniuses you've heard me refer to in the past.  So, of course, after two days of meetings, I can admit that I really like these guys; smart, funny, very hard-working and serioius - making it difficult to feel intimidated at all.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that - literally minutes after I put this issue to bed, our CEO (who's my age) ends up in Forbes magazine as part of a story about how America's 15 most powerful CEOs are under 40.  Oh - and one of my former customers was on the list as well. 

Terrific.  Now I don't just have to worry about turning 40, but I can feel inadequate about what I haven't acheived at "under 40."  If I didn't have such a strong sense of self-confidence, I might be tempted to call a Porsche dealership or one of Tiger Woods's "girlfriends."  You know, except for the fact that I'm not straight.

Or a cliche.

But it is one of thos moments where I have to think a little bit harder about what I have accomplished, and feel good about my work and my marriage.  Plus, it's kind of hard to be resentful when you actually like and respect someone as much I like our CEO. 

Besides, he's still not a doctor.  (Hey, at least I'm technically a lawyer - it's the Jewish Mother Silver Medal.  I'm not sure what the Bronze is?  Dry cleaner?  Accountant?)

Oh - and have I told you - he somehow found this blog and now half the company is reading it.  If you want awkward, get on the phone with your General Counsel and have him quote your own publicly posted sarcastic quips back at you.  Meanwhile, the pressure to be amusing is reaching stressful proportions.  I haven't had this kind of performance anxiety since I was single.

So let's just move on to this week's signs of the apocalypse.  While the mid-atlantic got hit with its 42nd consecutive snowstorm, Vancouver was dry as a bone.  It's not going to be much of a Winter Olympiad if the skiers are slaloming down dirt and the figure skaters keep falling through the ice.  (Though that could be a cool sport: "Survival skating." The competitors have to complete a series of compulsory movements with artistic flair, while avoiding patches of thin ice or elegantly pulling themseves free.  Heck - it could be our only shot at beating the Chinese.)

And there was an earthquake in Illinois. 

It's not quite Haiti, but an earthquake in Chicago is a little bit like snow in Hawaii.  Weird and wrong.  And of course, that's where I'm headed this week.  Next week is North Carolina so there's probably a tsunami on its way.

It was a pretty good dining week.  Last weekend Neil and I dined with friends at 10 Downing Food & Wine, in the West Village, which we'd been eager to try.  One more entrant in the New American category, though there was little new about it.  One of our friends got a $16 burger (I hereby refuse to pay more than $10 for a hamburger ever ever ever again.) while Neil and our other friend got fish - which was well-cooked and well-seasoned.  I got the herb chicken with lemon; tasty, though served at room temperature.  Why do so many restaurants fail to get the food to the table hot?

We had a very nice evening - but it was due more to the company than the food.  It was fine, but ultimately unmemorable.

Fortunately our friends had recently been to Seattle, and were able to recommend a restaurant there.  If you're ever in that part of the world, check out Dahlia Lounge.  I had a pork loin with brown butter spaetzle and greens that was rustic and comfort-y and delicious.

Meanwhile, what is it about the Pacific Northwest?  Is it still trendy?  In the 90s, Seattle and Portland were all the rage.  All that coffee and nature and grunge band music?  Is it still trendy?  I've only been there twice, but I just don't get it.  It's pretty enough with the mountains and the Puget Sound and those tall skinny evergreens - but it's sort of depressing.  It never really gets warm, and it's overcast and damp, and it rains just over 300 days a year. 

It's so gloomy, it's like the Sad Sack City.  (Meanwhile, if Neil ever opens up that shop, I'm opening a lunch place right next door and calling it "Happy Sack."  A play on words, get it?  You know, how a brown bag lunch is a sack lunch?  Whatever.  Moving on.)

Finally, Wednesday brought me to LA (where my delicious meal at BLT Steak on the Sunset Strip included a bottle of HammerSky vineyards "Open Invitation."  One of the best wines I've had a long time.  It's a zinfindel, but it drinks like a Merlot/Cab blend.  Only 280 cases, but if you can find it, buy it.  Decant for 5-10 minutes before drinking.)

Yay. Los Angeles!  One of my favorite places to visit.  I don't know what it is, but there's something about that town where, the minute I land I feel all happy and young and energetic.  I'm up at 5 every morning and in such a good mood it's like I've been medicated.  I couldn't even be brought down by the ticket I got in Orange County for talking on my cell phone in the car (which, ironically, included a built-in phone, which makes no sense if it's against the law.) 

The best meal I ate all week was at the home of a business colleague and friend, whose Pasadena home was built in 1917.  By LA standards, that's the equivalent of owning a Renaissance-era castle.  We dines on vegetables from their garden, and a short rib recipe that was out of this world.  Tender and homey, with carrots and onions - like a modern spin on a pot roast your grandmother might have made.  And a clementine cake for dessert - all citrusy and nutty and served with homemade whipped cream spiked with rum.

(I am now imagining every single reader thinking, "Well, of course he's having a mid-life crisis.  He's a gluttonous drunk.")

Anyway - there's lots more to talk about - Ellen on American Idol (Good), this week's episode of Lost (disappointing) and why some kid on the USC Campus (where gross Cousin Trevor went to school) could be heard screaming "Fuck" and "God Damn It" when I was pulling in to the parking structure at the main gate to the school (Here's a thought: when you're 19 years old and get to live in an oasis where it's always 75 degrees and gorgeous, nothing's that serious.)

But we're out of time for today.  It's Valentine's Day and something has made Neil ill (I hope it wasn't last night's romantic dinner; Neil tends to be allergic to sentiment.)  I'm going to go take care of him: I may not be one of America's most powerful CEOs, but if I can't please a Jewish mother, I can always act like one.

The Last Word:

Do This, New York:

In San Francisco?  Try Delfina for great neapolitan italian food, or go next door for their gourmet pizza.  Afterwards, check out Bi-Rite's Salted Caramel Ice Cream.  There's a reason it's been named one of the top 50 food experiences in the USA.

If some quirk of fate or inexplicable desire to see evergreens takes you to Seattle, check out Dahlia Lounge.  Pack an umbrella.

If you're in LA, and can't get an invite to Malcolm and Julie's house (Thanks, Julie!) check out the BLT Steak on Sunset.  Yeah, it's pretty much what you expect from a steak place, but the wine list is awesome, the food is better than most of the crap you get in LA, and the atmosphere will make you feel like "somebody."  You're not.  (Well, maybe you are.  Maybe you're one of America's most poweful CEOs.  Under 40.  Oh, whatever, I don't have the energy anymore....)

Don't Do This, New York:

You can skip 10 Downing.

Don't ignore your husband if he's got the stomach flu on Valentine's Day.  Gotta go.......

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Chanel No. 9-Lives

I'm not going to find a way to work this into a larger narrative, so I'm just going to open with this story:  my husband has been researching the types of products he might carry if he opened his own retail business one day (which he should do because the store - which would carry gifts and home accessories - would be AWESOME.  Tasteful and well-merchandised and design savvy.  He should do it.)  Anyway, he was at the Gift Show this week and one of the vendors was promoting perfume and fragrances.  For Dogs. 

This would be funny all on its own, but it's hilarious when he tells you that the scent was so good he'd wear it himself. 

You can see how it might be difficult to work this in to a larger framework, despite the fact that my writing generally resembles the ambling musings of a mental patient.  But it will be especially difficult because our focus today is the potential repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

This week, Congress held hearings on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, opening conversations about allowing gays to serve openly in the US Military for the first time in more than 16 years.  It's pretty inspiring to see folks who are generally perceived as fairly conservative, like Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen (the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), vociferously arguing that DADT has been an expensive failure and that gays should be able to serve openly.

Mullen was pretty blunt when he said that it was anathema to a culture of integrity to ask people to lie about who they are.  It almost makes you want to stand up and clap.

Though it also reminds you how slow the pace of change is.  69% of the public already approves of allowing gays to openly serve.  Major Western democracies like Israel, Canada and Great Britain permit open service.  It's not like we're asking for something unpopular or revolutionary.

It also seems like a question leap forward for equal rights when you consider that allowing us to serve in the military is, effectively, allowing us entry into an institution at least partly characterized by increasing your odds of getting shot and killed at an early age.

Still, despite the fact that this is no longer a very controversial issue, Senate Republicans just about had apoplexy over the matter.  Now, while it's always amusing to see John McCain turn purple and sputter, it's all so hypocritical that I just can't stand it.  For years these guys hid behind a position of "We'll agree when the military leadership tells us it's ok," thinking that day would never come.  Now that it has, the tune is changing to: "Not during a time of two wars."

There's an old Bugs Bunny cartoon where Daffy Duck keeps denying an insurance policy by adding conditions.  (Between 3:45 and 4pm, during a hailstorm, and injured by a stampede of cattle.  And one baby zebra.)

Yeah, sorta feels like that.  But karma's a bitch, so keep your eyes open for that Baby Zebra.

OK...I know I've already talked about Lost ad nauseum, but we need to discuss the season premiere.  Now, we finally know what the storyline is going to be for this season - or at least a part of it.  After detonating a bomb in 1977, with the intent of preventing the hatch from being built and the plane from ever crashing, Juliet has apparently created an alternate reality.  The show is shifting between a 2004 where the plane never crashes and a 2007 where the detonation of the bomb has accomplished nothing more than killing Juliet (RIP.)  It's kind of like that movie, Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow where the story jumps back and forth between what her life would have been like if she had/hadn't missed a closing subway door.  In one, she got to start her own PR firm, while in the other, she gets sacked and her boyfriend cheats on her.

This is why I take cabs.

Anyway, it's actually a pretty interesting way to resolve the time travel story line.  If the explosion hadn't had any effect on the past, the entire time travel season wouldn't have made much sense.  If all the investment the writers had made in making temporal dislocation a key element of the story didn't have some payoff in terms of the characters ability to affect future events, it wouldn't have made sense.  Likewise, if the explosion had only re-written history, the stakes become dramatically lower.  The whole thing never happened, and the viewers feel pretty ripped off (it's Bobby Ewing in the shower, it-was-all-a-dream.  And people hate that.)

Instead, we get a little of both.  Two worlds that seemingly exist side-by-side (hey, if we've done flashbacks and flash-forwards, why not flash-sideways?)  The temptation is to ask which one is "real."  To assume one of these things really happened while the other is what could have happened.  I don't think the writers are going to make it that easy - I think they're BOTH real.

Why?  First, Miles "spoke" to Juliet after she dies and she said, "It worked," which links the 2007 and 2004 storylines.  Second, it's a more interesting story.  The entire arc of this show has been - for all of it's mythology and time travel and polar bears - a story about redemption.  It's why, in the first seasons, there was so much speculation that the island was (actually or theoretically) purgatory; the "simpler" characters reached a point of redemption and "died" (Shannon, Eko) and the more complex characters (Jack, Kate) were on a much more difficult journey to redemption.  I think the purpose of the story is to show you that many of these people found the redemption they so sorely needed because of that plane crash; because they had been on the island.

Yes, at some point the two timelines need to converge and there needs to be a resolution, but I wouldn't be surprised if the characters were permitted to choose or otherwise influence their destiny as a matter of will.

Which is a pretty good lesson for the week...and ties back to the courage it takes as a conservative Republican Admiral to stand up for equality.  Our lives are a culmination of the choices we make, and our character is defined by the hard ones, the ones that takes courage.  Who do you want to be?