Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes


Well, President Bush can brag about his ability to get other world leaders to listen to him--and I won't say a thing.

It seems President Musharraf has finally listened to Bush's requests and taken off his uniform. Of course, President Bush didn't tell him what to do once the uniform was off, just to take off his uniform and hold elections. Since it seems Musharraf can't do much without being instructed by Bush (and isn't that a little scary?), he may very well be walking around naked, getting ready to hold elections.

That must be awkward.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Grinchess

As the Christmas Season is officially upon us and the hordes are frantically shopping, lest they miss out on this year's tacky gifts (Singing Salmon plaques, coffee mugs with Santa in compromising positions, etc), I realize that I am becoming more and more Grinchy about Christmas. Not the religious celebration of Christmas, and not the concept of giving. But the other parts:

  • When was the last time people actually thought about the birth of Christ and the spirit of giving? A few years ago, I was telling an American acquaintance that I wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen or hand out gifts at a shelter on Christmas day, since I don't really celebrate. She screamed at me, saying Christmas is about being with family and not about being with a bunch of drunk hobos. Am I missing something here?
  • In all of the shopping and buying that goes on, the spirit of giving seems to be missing. We buy expensive things off of wishlists and give each other (and ask of each other) things that have no real use or value. Why? It's not like we don't shop all year long. I feel like jewelers are practically drooling when they see people walking by. It's not like this is really their holiday. They have Valentine's Day and Mother's Day to guilt people into shopping. Why can't this holiday be about truly sharing? (Sidebar: As a sign of what a hypocrite I can be, I will admit to accepting jewelery should anyone wish to purchase me some. Please contact me for my direct mailing address).
  • In what is one of my more bizarre personality quirks, I am offended by non-Christians singing Christmas songs. It really bothers me when performers come out with annual Christmas albums, singing the Classics, spreading Christmas Cheer. I mean, does Barbara Streisand really celebrate the birth of Jesus? Or Neil Diamond? Aren't they just getting rich off of something they actively don't believe in? I realize they are performers and people like their singing (another mystery) but it still bothers me.
  • Perhaps due to the fact that I did not grow up celebrating Christmas, I'm not a big fan of Christmas music in general. The fact that I can barely get away from it after Thanksgiving Day makes me a little Grinchy. I mean, there are a handful of carols I look forward to (I love The Little Drummer Boy, What Child Is This and a few others) but hearing Bing Crosby sing I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas is much like nails on a blackboard. (PS, I also hate the movie that song is from after having been forced to watch it EVERY Thanksgiving and Christmas for nine years--why why why?!).
  • I do not look forward to December 26th. It seems like the most anti-climactic day of the year, with people rushing to the stores (again) to return/exchange the things they received that wasn't up to their standards for whatever reason. Plus, all the gift wrapping paper, boxes and tinsel on the sidewalk trashcans is just so depressing to me--as if a holiday died a colorful, tragic death.

So, while you will find me in the malls trying to buy (hopefully meaningful) gifts just like everyone else, I want to say, I'm not happy about it. I have absolutely no solution for making things better--but that's what makes me a Grinch.

(Apologies to any Christmas fairies, elves and fans who may have been offended by these sentiments. I will understand if you're not besides yourself in March when the Persian New Year approaches).

Little Cassandra

"I'm not going to marry a poor man!", she said. It would have been considered a calculated comment, had it not come from a third grader.

It was one of those rare summer days, when nothing was being skinned, chopped and prepped for the winter. The women were sitting around the kitchen table, nestling their hot teacups in their hands or nibbling at the petit fours that were left over from the neighbor's wedding party. The topic of discussion was the wedding of course; analyzing the bride, groom, clothes, families, food, flowers, guests and music of the previous night. Most of the children were playing; running in and out of the kitchen, chasing each other and occasionally squealing.

Everyone stopped talking, words and pastries hanging in mid-air with the young girl's announcement. Had we not been shocked at the fact that she had declared that she thought of marriage in front of a group of adults, we would have been shocked by her cynicism. I'm pretty sure we all just stared at her. Which is probably why she continued, undeterred. "My husband is going to be rich and handsome; I won't accept him if he has sisters--they meddle too much; he has to be educated, but doesn't have to work in his field if he can make more money doing something else. He has to worship me and make me look good where ever we go. I refuse to worry about things like budgets and limitations." She was speaking in earnest.

One of the ladies at the table laughed and said, "Won't he have to be a little crazy to want to marry you? You're not that pretty, you're not rich and you have sisters. Why wouldn't he find someone better than you?"

She gave the woman a baleful look, "He won't find anyone better than me, and I don't care if he's crazy. I prefer it. That way, his family will be glad someone married their son. I'll be a hero."

There was an awkward silence at the table. Even if everyone thought of marriage and planned pairings and weddings from the time they had children, no one spoke of it in such a way. Especially not the girls, and never so young. Her mother's laughter broke the silence, almost proudly. "Well, I don't have to worry about this one!"

No one else laughed, though. This was as uncouth an exchange as this group of gossips had seen in a while. In the ensuing silence, everyone was making mental note to keep their sons away from this family and to warn their friends of their ways as well. Everyone in this group took credit for a good and happy match made, even if they had been casual by-standers. But no one wanted to be associated with a potentially bad match that could come back to haunt their own children's prospects.

We all finished our teas and pastries in silence, in a state of shock of sorts.

I heard she got married last week. They say her husband is indeed rich, handsome, doting and sisterless. I have yet to hear anything about his mental state, but if the past is any indication, it is not really a concern to any of the parties involved.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gobble Gobble

Why would I volunteer to take not one, but two dishes to our office potluck? Because I'm just that kind of crazy. And technically, neither of the two side dishes I'm volunteering are difficult to prepare--I just had to go and buy all the ingredients and add the preparation process to what I was already committed to doing tonight.

Now, I have half of a Thanksgiving dinner menu on my clothes. I have the footprint of a stray mushroom running down my chest, cranberry sauce splashed all over me (how do you get cranberry sauce speckles on your shoulder?) and an unfortunate dab of apple sauce on my sleeve. Yes, I do own an apron, and no I wasn't wearing it--mostly because I only remember it when it's too late.

While I was sautée-ing, simmering and straining I was checking for alternate recipes online and planning the real Thanksgiving meal on Thursday. That's when I found some Thanksgiving day menus on the Food Network site. What has happened to them? Sandra Lee is not a chef. I do not know who she is or where she came from, but she has no business putting 'menus' together. (Yes, I know I sound judgmental and I don't care). This woman pops a can open in a pastel colored kitchen, mixes the contents with something out of another can and calls it 'semi-homemade'. As I was looking over her 'menu', one thing in particular just bugged me to no end: The Mayflower Martini. Why? Does she know that the people who came to this country on the Mayflower were Puritans? Did it occur to anyone that they looked down on such sinful activities as drinking? And how come no one mentioned the bar on the Mayflower before this? Why must she add some bizarrely named and decorated alcoholic concoction to every program and menu? Ahhh! Cranberry sauce almost runneth over.

And with that, I will end my rant against poorly timed cooking sessions and ridiculous food show hosts. I hope your Thanksgiving is a fun and happy one and you have the chance to share your meal with people you love and are grateful for. Make time to go for a short walk, it will help 'open your appetite'.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Imaginary Friends

It seems that since I discovered the Internet a decade or so ago, I also started gaining friends I have never met. It started with a young man who was generous with his time and responded to a questionnaire I was conducting. Unlike the numerous others I had contacted before him, he did not ask me my marital status (at least not until after the questionnaire was complete), nor did he ask me to marry him so he could come to the US. He did tell me about life for our contemporaries in Iran at the time. He shared stories of parties, work, happiness and tragedies. I enjoyed our conversations quite a bit. I'm proud to say that while I still haven't met him, we have maintained our friendship over the years.

Then for a few years, my online friends seemed to fade far in the background. I had a new marriage and life to get in order. Recently though, I have been finding new friends again and I must say they bring a smile every time I hear from them. Of course, even I think there is something strange about exchanging emails and comments with people you've never met. Perhaps if we met, you would dismiss me quickly or I would judge you unfairly. But distance can make the heart grow fond.

Sitting at my keyboard, I can exchange emails with my Stranger in Texas, wondering how he's doing and hoping our exchanges bring a smile. He can forgive my rambling, and possibly wonder how we got to this point (and he'll conclude it's because of my wit and distant charm).

I can chat with the Night Owl in Atlanta and smile in recognition, plotting and planning future sleep deprived visits. She can laugh at my madness and wonder how on Earth our paths crossed. But that how won't matter as much as where our paths will lead us.

And I can find you somehow, some way. My face will light up when I hear from you. I'll think of you when I'm planning a dinner, reading something you'd appreciate or hear something outrageous. I'll wonder how you're doing if I don't hear from you. I realize this friendship may seem imaginary to some, but it is real to me. It is real in its possibilities and potential. After all, I have met a couple of these distant, imaginary friends before. I kept one as a lifelong friend, and married another. See what a little imagination can do.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Edumacation: Part II

I was reading the comments to my last post (My Edumacation), and was going to respond when something funny happened. I got distracted with using my random knowledge for something that mattered. And I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, I still want to respond to the comments since reading them helped me figure out why I was so frustrated:

Deep down, I know I have all of the formal education I need. Unless I one day decide to go to law school, which at this point I'm too tired to do, I think I have enough degrees. The problem isn't lack of knowledge, as much as it is lack of opportunity to apply this knowledge to something that has meaning. Or even applying it something that doesn't have meaning. I am bored out of my mind and not using my brain. While every job has a level of frustratingly mundane something or other, that is all my job has become--frustratingly mundane. I don't learn anything, I don't grow, I don't contribute anything of significance and I don't have the opportunity to shine. If there is anything I need, it is a place to shine. Deprive me of that and I will in turn be frustrated, pissed off and depressed about my very existence. At this point, I feel I have forgotten how to contribute anything of meaning even if the opportunity came along. That scares the crap out of me.

I don't know what I want to do with my life. I dream about writing a book, but don't feel I have anything significant to say. And even when I find something to say, I can't express it as I want. And I still need to support myself on daily basis (tragically, bills don't pay themselves). So what will my day job be? What will I do with myself now that I am all grown up, and aging quickly? I can't very well copy, paste and organize-lunch my way to retirement. I could, if I weren't so determined to do something Significant.

Which brings me to the topic of regrets. I don't regret passing on Pharmacy school. I put a lot of thought into rejecting that road. I may wish for the financial security it would bring, but I would be just as unhappy with the actual work. So, it's not a regret of not acting, it's the fear of not doing something meaningful. Egotistical little nut that I am, I want make a difference and matter in something of my own making.

So if you have any ideas what a person with my background can do to make a splash, let me know. Otherwise, I'll be the one banging my head on the keyboard hoping for greatness:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Edumacation

I was the first woman in my family to move away and live on my own; the first to 'see the sunlight and moonlight'*. I was the first woman in my family to go to college, and graduate. I am the first woman in my family to get a graduate degree. None of these are necessarily my accomplishments; I would be lying if I said my family didn't have something to do with it.

However.

My motives to get an education were not that noble. I was filling a void that had consumed me most of my life. I started reading like a child possessed around the time I was six, because as I explained to the school librarian, I felt like an empty bowl that needed to be filled and only books could fill it. Unfortunately, I never read anything useful that would help me make money (an astute observation only a father can make). Nor did I read with the intent to put my knowledge to material or social use (there is little to brag about when your favorite genre is the history of the French Revolution--when you're 12). I just read, because it brought me joy and made me feel the tiniest bit less empty.

My college education was a bit of a fiasco, considering I stayed in the US promising to study pharmacy and get a respectable job in that field in Iran after graduating. I am not a pharmacist and I live in the US, so that's one of the promises I have made which I failed to keep. The majors I chose instead were a compromise (in my mind) that would please my parents (science is semi-respectable) and myself (I had to read British literature, how bad could it be?). Unfortunately, imaginary compromises fail to please anyone. My parents still remind me of the broken promise (and financial fall-out of not being a respectable pharmacist) and wonder why I wasted my time on an English degree that I can't do anything with. At this point, I had wasted years of my life, thousands of dollars and the opportunities life had granted me for for nothing. Yay me.

My graduate degree was another ill-planned compromise. I chose a field that virtually guaranteed me riches (at the time) and I was interested in because it would allow me to support myself and find outlets for my less lucrative interests. With the dotcom bubble bursting and my degree taking significantly longer to complete than I had originally planned, that didn't work out so well either.

Now, I am the proud owner of a B.S., a B.A., a M.Sc and a professional certificate. NONE of which can help me find a respectable job that requires me to do more than copy, paste and order lunch. All of this education, and I will barely be making more than a high school graduate doing the same thing I am doing. At this point, I don't even trust myself to make any decisions about anything.

I am not very proud of myself today.

*An old expression in Farsi, used to refer to women who were no longer innocent and often used their experience against men to get the upper hand. Generally not used as a compliment.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Synchronicity

So a few things happened today, and they all seemed to be along the same lines: Religion.

First, I read about the Georgia State Governor holding a day of prayer, asking for rain. I know I'm not the only one who wondered if it would be just as effective to have a rain dance. Then, I met my new co-worker and as we were casually chatting, he mentioned that he likes watching science shows--not for the content, but because he wants to see what those evolution types and Big Bang theory people have to say now that the 'science' is being proven wrong and what has been said in the Bible is being accepted as the best explanation for the beginning of life and the universe. I tried to take solace online, and found that Alex was going through a similar thing across the pond. And the icing on the cake was reading a reaction to the seasonal "War on Christmas" and some of the responses to the post.

How can I not say something?

While I am not particularly religious, and don't adhere to all of the tenets of the religion I was raised with, I have a healthy respect for religion and its role in people's lives, as well as people's religious identity. I sincerely pray for people (and myself). However:

  • It bothers me when a day of prayer is announced, asking for rain to come or to stop coming. This is not an effective way to combat droughts; if it were, I'm sure the millions of people suffering from lack of rain in Africa and praying according to their respective religions would have solved their problems by now. They haven't. Our prayers are no more special and will not change the conditions on the ground any more effectively. Encouraging people to conserve as part of our lifestyles and rethinking our agricultural policies may help. Just a thought.
  • I think it is dangerous when religion and faith in that religion--any religion--are used to not think. Not because science is absolute and can replace religion, but because when we stop thinking and blindly accept a doctrine, we are starting on a road that will take us to dark, dark places. It will be easier to give into fear and act without thinking. We become self-righteous in our beliefs and reject alternatives as blasphemy. My Muslim and Christian co-workers may mutually reject the idea of evolution and think all of these 'theories' are plots to disprove God and disrupt His will, but none of these theories disprove God. They try explain beginnings. If any of these people actually read Darwin, they would understand it better and wouldn't try to disprove evolution through Biblical/Quranic quotes. Even worse is when they mix theories and ideas in an effort to prove their point. Lamarckian evolution is different from Darwin's theory; neither prove that God doesn't exist. It is perfectly acceptable to believe in God and consider the possibility that the universe was not created in six days, without compromising your faith. As far as I know, all Abrahamic religions encourage questioning and thinking. Despite common perceptions, Islam teaches its adherents to think and question and not follow the faith of their fathers blindly. Judaic tradition encourages the same thing. Then why is it that you cannot be 'faithful' if you don't cling to ideas that are long obsolete and disputed?
  • As someone who lived in a theocratic country, I am pretty sure Christians in this country are not being persecuted for their faith when someone says "Happy Holidays". As a matter of fact, on days when I'm thin skinned and paranoid, I think Muslims are being persecuted, what with the wars against Muslims, the profiling and the constantly suspicious looks every time I don't apologize for my religion. But at this point, this is still paranoia. Christians still enjoy a healthy majority, attend their houses of worship without fear (and broadcast it on television daily) and proselytize in public and private venues. Where I come from, none of that rings of persecution; it's the order of the day.
I realize this little rant won't change anyone's mind. I'm pretty sure someone will come and offer me salvation pretty soon, as long as I believe what they believe--otherwise, I will burn in the eternal flames of hell. But that's where my faith comes in, they're not in a position to judge me on this.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'M IT! (Slightly late in the game, but whatever)

TK tagged me, and I've been giddy to play this new fangled game. I realize I'm coming in a little late in the game, but I'm fashionable that way. Oddly enough, in my excitement, I didn't realize how hard it is to think of 7 random facts about myself. And if you think this hard about it, is it really random anymore? Crap.

Here are the rules, directly lifted from the tagger:

  • Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog...
  • Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself...
  • Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs...
  • Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog
  1. I eat my hamburgers in a circle/spiral. No matter how normally I start eating the burger, less than half way through, I'm biting in circles.
  2. I'm a starter. I get so excited about starting projects--any project--that no one can dampen my enthusiasm. I just hope someone is around to finish it, because if it takes 5 seconds longer than I think it should in my mind, it will join all of my other Enthusiastically Started Projects in that ugly heap in the corner. I will eventually finish it when I reach the level of self-loathing that comes with knowing your abandoned project is haunting you in your sleep.
  3. I have a mole above my left ankle that can distract me for hours. This is the main reason I didn't seriously entertain the idea of getting a tattoo in my younger years. If I can get this distracted by a monochromatic mole that has been on my leg since I was born, can you imagine the havoc a multi-colored tattoo would cause?
  4. I think I have intentionally killed two spiders since I read Charlotte's Web. The cobwebs in my house are only removed if they become overtly gaudy, as I believe in respecting the potential literary aspirations of my eight-legged friends.
  5. I pulled my brother's gastro-tube out of his stomach when he was four (I was sooo provoked, it was really self defense). As I sat stone-faced in the ambulance watching the paramedics attending my brother, I broke my silence to recite Humpty Dumpty.
  6. Because I don't eat pork, I thought it would be safe to request a Kosher breakfast on a flight from Tucson to Boston (at the time, they didn't offer vegetarian, but still served food on airlines). While everyone around me enjoyed their pancakes, eggs and syrup, I was staring at a marzipan pastry of some kind that came wrapped in a Hebrew travel blessing. I stopped observing Kosher about five minutes after our flight landed.
  7. In first grade, after a straight week of getting gold stars, Miss Hughs would give us tennis balls with a big smiley face on it. Being a little bit of a teacher's pet, I had a whole collection by the middle of the year. My mother thought I was begging for tennis lessons, and promptly signed me up with a bunch of kids who actually wanted to play tennis. I spent most of the summer hiding my smiley balls in my shirt so they wouldn't accidentally get mixed up with the plain balls. I was six years old with tennis balls under my shirt, running with my chest stuck out so they wouldn't fall and get lost.
Most of the people I would tag have already been tagged. Except Manny, I think. And Vermillion, too--if he's not too busy with his career as a reality TV star. Others are just too busy and important to be disturbed with internet tag...