Well, Maybe Not An Elephant

This has been bothering me for months: SNL’s Fred Armisen as Barack Obama.

Is this blackface? What is it?

In fact, why in 2009 is there one African-American actor in SNL’s cast list?

I’m no credentialed cultural critic. I went to college – drove there five days a week for twenty-three years, in fact – but I don’t have a theory about why this is or isn’t flying, except that the cast keeps growing in size, the women are starting to look very similar and and they keep adding white guys. So what’s happening here? Why am I increasingly uncomfortable with what I see?

This is a very respectful treatment of our President’s character – affectionate, even. But someday it won’t be. Sometime, Mr. Obama will do something the writers don’t like. When this bit goes south, it’ll be a disaster.

Updated to reflect Siobhan might be right about a few things. Like.

He Brought Home the Bacon So That

Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, is off the sauce.

I’m putting weight on. My upper body is filling back out again. I feel stronger. Despite the aches and pains, it feels good to live in a body. Quantum physics says I don’t have one, that there’s no such thing as matter, that I’m more of a cloud of potential dispositions of energy, that my body only really exists when I touch another object, that then the particles squeeze together into what we think of as matter only in the section of me that’s touching the object, but that I don’t actually touch the object, that when my particles squeeze together tight like that, that compression creates an energy field that repels the other object, so that in fact I don’t ever really touch it. I wish I had known that when I got in all those car accidents. But then I’d probably still be driving that brown Volvo station wagon with no heat or air conditioning. And that wouldn’t be good.

In the course of the holiday season, I heard more about substance abuse and abusers than I have at any time since I quit hanging out at that bar I don’t mention anymore. But really. Half my friends were hooked on something. I think this is a symptom.

Callers reach the counselors at 800-854-7771 for free. It’s the same number Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa firmly and clearly broadcasted, after the murder-suicide of seven people Tuesday in the working class neighborhood of Wilmington.

Erwin Lupoe and his wife, Ana, had been fired from their jobs a week before the Wilmington tragedy. But whether job loss stems from a firing or a layoff, the effects are traumatic.

“I don’t think it’s ever been this bad. Not in my tenure,” [Elizabeth] Gore said. “Because the people that we’re dealing with now, they have always had [money]. They went to school, they were able to get jobs. Now the jobs are not even out there.”

Supervisors at the call-in center say many of these calls are not strictly about mental-health issues, but deal with lapsed medical insurance, foreclosure, bank problems and unemployment benefits.

Oh boy. This week, House Democrats sold women – particularly poor women, but really all women – down the river when they removed family planning from the stimulus package. It’s health care and they removed it to get Republican votes the package was never going to get in the first place. Sad. The Democrats look like patsies. Poor women get shafted AGAIN. The Republicans look like Lucy van Pelt holding a football. Our economic situation is so serious we should really expect believers in a disastrous, failed ideology to demonstrate some humility, but no. Meanwhile, outside the Beltway, life as we know it has been falling apart for some time now.

There are 12 parking lots across Santa Barbara that have been set up to accommodate the growing middle-class homelessness. These lots are believed to be part of the first program of its kind in the United States, according to organizers.

The lots open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. and are run by New Beginnings Counseling Center, a homeless outreach organization.

It is illegal for people in California to sleep in their cars on streets. New Beginnings worked with the city to allow the parking lots as a safe place for the homeless to sleep in their vehicles without being harassed by people on the streets or ticketed by police.

Harvey stays at the city’s only parking lot for women. “This is very safe, and that’s why I feel very comfortable,” she said.

Nancy Kapp, the New Beginnings parking lot coordinator, said the group began seeing a need for the lots in recent months as California’s foreclosure crisis hit the city hard. She said a growing number of senior citizens, women and lower- and middle-class families live on the streets.

I am tired of calculation and bad faith negotiating. I’m tired of cowardice and coersion. Though I try to live peacefully, I find myself longing for the song of the guillotine and for our own Bastille Day. What does Johnny say?

Pop Tarts rock.

Heaven help us if they discover the wah wah pedal.

Too Many Holes In the Crust of the Earth


Daria: Why are you calling me at 10 p.m.?
Tata: Because that happens to be now.
Daria: No, why are you calling me at 10 p.m.?
Tata: Did you know that between meals other people stop eating?
Daria: I did not know that.
Tata: It rings – like – a distant bell, doesn’t it?
Daria: Yeah, maybe I’ll put my snack down and think about it.


Three-Year-Old: What’s this?
Tata: It’s a garden stake with a friendly face. It keeps your plants company.
TYO: It doesn’t scare the birds?
Tata: No, sweetheart. A face in the garden doesn’t scare birds.
TYO: What about scarecrows?


Tata: I am a genius and I know this because I am an idiot!
Leilani Goldberg: D’ya ever take a number to have a talk with yourself?
Tata: Okay okay okay so you know how my hip flexors have been tight like angry fists and causing me fairly consistent and debilitating agony?
Leilani: Yes…?
Tata: So the other night, I get off the rowing machine, which usually buys me about two hours pain-free, and suddenly I have one of those blinding revelations that makes you feel brilliant and stupid at the same time. Ready? ‘While my muscles are warm, why don’t I stretch my hip flexors?’
Leilani: And what happened?
Tata: No pain for a whole day. I’m a genius! And I’m an idiot! Because I have known since we had baby teeth that stretching is the answer but did I get down on the floor?
Leilani: The floor is your friend.
Tata: I’m surprised my friend took me back.


Tata: Pete, dinner is spectacular.
Pete: Thank you!
Tata: I’m glad you quit that hideous restaurant. That place always made you angry.
Pete: I’m thinking about working as a personal chef.
Tata: That’s good. Your cooking deserves a wider audience, and if it doesn’t get one, dahhhhhling, I will become that wider audience.


An ice storm is coming. I feel this in every fiber of my being. Even so there is reason for delight: the seed catalogs have arrived. They bring new magic words: self-pollenating fruit trees. Now is the time to dream of fragrant, sunny afternoons.

Where She Is Now I Can Only Guess

ThinkProgress: this fucker doesn’t make the cut on the varsity cogitating team.

Jesse Taylor:

Kefalinos denies intimating that Obama would be assassinated, and insists that the cookie is “not unflattering. I think it’s a fun face… And anyone who says anything else should be ashamed of themselves.” Besides, nobody got upset about the “Dead Geese Bread” he sold after the recent Hudson River plane crash. (We’re NOT making that up.) Also, Kefalinos insists he can’t be racist because, for one thing, “my brother-in-law, he’s Cuban.”

I like that ubiquitous “I can’t be a racist because [someone else] is [something]” rationale. It’s priceless. By that reasoning, I can’t be a racist because sasquatch is lemurs.

He Does Seems To Come Out Right

Sorry I’ve been quiet. Bit of a snowstorm beating a path across my brainstem. I considered curling up into a ball on the couch but I didn’t actually feel bad – just stupid, and when I say I felt stupid, I think I actually sat at my desk yesterday and stared into space. I’m not sure precisely because I was, you know, stupid. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that sometime this week the kitten here, whom we’re now calling by the first common noun that springs to mind despite our settling on Piccolina as a Bugs Bunny-inspired moniker, has taken to waking me up by flopping down on my head, licking my hair and stabbing me with her adorably needle-like kitten claws. This is not the first time a pussycat decided to festively recoif me. You will note the kitten practices what she sees the older cats do, including sharing glasses of water with me. Water is especially delicious if I’ve taken a few sips from the cup. Pete makes faces, but he forgets he’s covered with the spit of adoring kitties. Drink up, girlies!

I’ll Wait For Answers Just Dance Me In

Obama Chief of Staff puts a stop to pending Bush regulations

WASHINGTON (CNN)– President Obama has wasted no time handling the Bush administration’s unfinished business.

White House officials tell CNN Obama Chief Staff of Staff Rahm Emanuel sent a memo Tuesday to all agencies and departments of the federal government. The memo halts further consideration of pending regulations throughout the government until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.

Enough about them; let’s talk about me. This morning, after playing my usual game of How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up? and guessing 7, I sat in the attic on the crooked seat of an ancient rowing machine Pete and his brother have carted around and used since they misspent their youth and found enough pocket change to go drinking with the Vice Principal. In fact, every morning, I sit on this crooked seat and row while watching the news because being physically strong has always been important to me, because I will never have the kind of money gym membership requires and if I did I wouldn’t spend it that way, because I can row, which is above all else political. It is political that I have the ability as a middle-aged, lower middle class white woman to take care of my health, and it is political that athletics shaped my physical form. It is political that I color my hair, wear cosmetics and wear clothing that does not restrict my movement. My hair looks fab, by the way, and that’s political. Everything I eat, everything I do, my artwork, my job, the blog – it’s all shaped by politics. This blog has no ads, and that is a political decision; my ability to pay for this blog is political. I’ll never take a bite of a Domino’s Pizza or set foot in WalMart or Sam’s Club, and those are political decisions. I shop at Costco because Costco treats its employees well, and that’s political. Last week, my delightful compañera Jill was kind enough link to yet another of My Little Meltdowns with this note:

Now, my good friend Tata is usually given to blogging about delicious cooking and fabulous decorating and about her highly colorful family and her Coolest Cats in the Known Universe. But you know that a politically-related story is important when Tata gets her umbrage on, and this one takes the proverbial cake…

Frankly, I’m not that nice a person. I’m nice to Jill because I like her, respect her and know she’s smarter than I am, which I like a whole bunch. Writing about my family is political, writing about food is political, taking in stray animals is political, having shelter, creating a home and even falling in love are all political, and we skip over these points often to get to the funny or the tragic. When I write about the selfishness of movement conservatism, it always corresponds to my own selfishness because I am subject to the same human impulses that make people despots and saints. It must correspond, if I’m any kind of writer. Jill knows all this and she’s too kind to say so: when we met for the first time, Siobhan, Jill and I had lunch and went bra shopping and I said nothing about myself because for more than ten years everyone I met had heard about me – whatever I was, everyone I crossed paths with knew me in an abstract sense. Which is political, of course. Seeing myself through someone else’s eyes is political, and educational, and I have so much to learn.

The other night, Pete and I were making dinner.

Pete: Phil’s daughters just went back to school. The younger one, Ellie, who started college in September got kind of date-raped in her first semester.
Tata: Welcome to the World of Women, my dear.
Pete: She got herself into a situation she couldn’t get herself out of.
Tata: No. That is not at all what happened. She was going along and some shithead raped her. She didn’t do anything. She didn’t get herself into a situation. A rapist freaking raped her. He is responsible for his actions. Did she press charges?
Pete: Yep. He got three months’ probation. Phil’s more upset about it than Ellie is.
Tata: Good for her, because shitheads are literally everywhere.

Every microscopic bit of that is political. We may choose to overlook politcal aspects of our actions and identities but they exist and bear examining. Back to me on the rowing machine: my skin color, my free time, my good health, my control over my body including my uterus, my ability to feed myself nutritious foods, my job, my insurance, my sexuality, my desire to feel strong and take care of myself as an adult, my hope that I will someday retire, these are all the results of other people’s life’s work. I am who I am as a composite image of other people’s struggles, wins and losses, and I cannot really know who they are or were, but I have watched and listened, and I know when people are trying to rewrite, reshape or redraw me in an image more comfortable for uncomfortable them. That is what happened every day for the last eight years, one little rule here and one acre of national park land there, one drowned city over yonder and holes in the safety net everywhere, and let’s not forget the cowardice endemic in the creation of a Department of Homeland Security. It’s all political and it’s all exhausting, but at least for the moment, someone is thinking, and not just about himself.

Daybreak If You Want To Believe

I hesitate to predict further into the future than tomorrow morning, not because I don’t see where we’re going but because I see We are lots of Us, and I have been confused. I have little stamina, work in short bursts and require naps about which I am quite serious so don’t call me. Tomorrow is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, which we can honor by heeding the call for a national day of service. What’s that, then?

Millions of Americans are expected to honor Dr. King and answer President-elect Obama’s call to service by volunteering on the January 19 King Holiday. More than 12,100 service projects are taking place across the country, more than double last year. Americans will make it “a day on, not a day off” by delivering meals, refurbishing schools, reading to children, signing up mentors, and much, much more.

Yeah… never before would I have believed a word the government said about Dr. King, but things are different for everyone now, so back to me. For years, I contented myself with small projects, connecting stuff with people who needed stuff and anonymous donations because I didn’t trust myself to be able to finish the job, whatever the job, before I went limp with exhaustion. Yesterday, I saw a poster in the family store for a food pantry collection in the tiny town. It hasn’t been publicized well, so I don’t expect much, which might be fine for a normal person but Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Still, for me, it’s a leap into the unknown. I am going to meet people and see what I can do. I predict tomorrow morning, I will really learn a thing or two, and one or both will be humbling. That’s got to be good for everyone, right?

Grin At the Change All Around Me

Okay okay okay so last night I’m walking around upstairs, thinking Ta thoughts, going la la la la life’s good – whut? and next thing you know because you’re joining this story late I’m bouncing – bump bump bump! – down the stairs and land on the left side of my sweet patootie. I didn’t bother screaming since I couldn’t possibly scream louder than the bump bump bump! of my butt down the stairs and by the time I thought of screaming I’d already landed and that seemed, you know, pushy. Besides, as my much younger sister Corinne reminded me, we used to do this for fun, which was before I spent half of every day coddling my right hip, so when I landed in the middle of the flight of steps it took about a year for me to narrow down the source of all that pain reverberating through my limbs like church bells through mountain air.

Mark Rothko
Red, Orange, Tan and Purple, 1954
Oil on canvas
84 1/2 x 68 1/2 inches (214.5 x 174 cm), approximate size and shape of giant bruise on my butt.

This morning I was supposed to exercise with my friend Leilani Goldstein. She’s a professional trainer but she pities me and finds me hilarious so she pushes us through two hours of really rigorous calisthenics a week and I try out two hours of my comic material. Breathing is optional, of course. Leilani had a scheduling conflict, which was fine by me.

Tata: No, rescheduling is fine. Last night, I sailed down a flight of stairs on my celebrated rump and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get down on my mat, let alone up in boat pose.
Leilani: You – are you hurt?
Tata: You bet! I can only do plies in my overactive imagination! Wanna try Sunday?
Leilani: You’re going to heal in 24 hours?
Tata: Not at all, but you can still laugh at me while I dead lift like I wish I were.

Meanwhile, Leilani, who is kind and gentle and wouldn’t hurt a flea and used to dance for Ringling Brothers, fails to utter three words in a row without testing the aerobic capacity of her sinuses.

Leilani: I’m so sorry – KTTTTHHHHT! – to hear you – GONNNNKT! – bruised YOUR BUTT!

Yeah. Me, too.