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What’s with the pigs?

22 Sep

Whenever one of the kiddos is sick, we end up watching more television then is humanly healthy.  It’s hard not to, I mean, I’m a voracious lover of books and so are the kids, but when you’re under the weather flipping on the tube is just the easiest thing to do.  So, we’re watching and we’re watching and I’m thinking and I’m thinking (I never veg, I’m always thinking…), and it dawned on me the other day.  There are an awful lot of pigs in the world of kids TV.

There’s Babe, which I will confess wound up being much cuter then even I expected.

There’s Piglet.  Who doesn’t love the Hundred Acre Woods and the house at Pooh’s corner, and the related cast of characters, including the shy, humble pig(let)?

Of course, there’s the classic, all-time favorite pig – Wilbur and his BFF Charlotte (who’s much cuter then any spider I’ve ever met).

And then, there’s Olivia, the latest favorite piggie in our household.  If you’re not in the KNOW, Olivia is a book character created by Ian Falconer (an illustrator who’s done many a New Yorker cover design).  The book was an instant success when the first one was published nearly 10 years ago.  That success led to the usual marketing schtick of a variety of not-so-necessary-but-I-must-have products for kiddies, which in turn led to usual 15 minutes of fame that will befall any semi-celebrity.  An animated featured for Ms. Olivia, the pig.  I’m not knocking it.  Don’t tell my kids, but I love Olivia.  It’s just a cute little show.  Really.

Olivia

But it all leads back to my original question.  What’s with all the pigs?  Dogs and cats are cute, of course, and naturally lend themselves to animated story lines.  And if they’re slightly snarky (viz a viz Garfield) they’re even better.  Bears are cute.  If you don’t smile at Pooh’s never ending quest to find more honey, well, you’re taking life way too seriously.  Monkeys are cute (and curious, if their name is George).  Ducks and bunnies are cutie-pie no-brainers.  Even mice can be made more appealing in the world of animation.

But pigs?

Pigs?

Have you ever seen a pig live and in the flesh on a farm?  Well, have you?  Cute is the absolute last word you’d apply to a pig.  Pigs aren’t exactly the most respected animal in history (often being referred to as dirty, filthy, beasts and being taboo in more than a few cultures).  Although, according to historical lore, the ancient Egyptians referred to the stars as piglets.  Perhaps the first instance of the “cute”-ification of the pig.  And in the Chinese Zodiac, the pig is the last of 12 signs, and is considered a lucky year to be born under.

Oh those lucky pigs (?)…

I’ll confess I really can not find a reasonable explanation for the many characterizations of cute in the form of a pig.  Oh, hold on, it’s time for Olivia.  I’ll do some more “research” and get back to you.

Kindness of Strangers?

28 Aug

This past week my husband and I watched Spike Lee’s documentary “If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise” on HBO.  Excellent, but painful to see.

Of course, we’ve followed the story closely from the beginning.  We have extended family members who had relatives living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina first hit.  None of them, not one of them, has ever moved back.  If you watched the documentary, it’s easy to understand why.  The stories that came out of that horrendous week are, well, horrendous.  The police corruption, the death, the mayhem.  Unfathomable.

What struck me most in reflection was the overall lack of kindness among strangers.  I’m certain there were many stories of  resilience and coming together in the face of adversity that aren’t covered as much.  But the depth and breadth of the stories of pure nonsense, of using a tragedy to fuel one’s own hate of another, of cities determined to keep New Orleans poorest and most destitute people out of their areas (to the point of shooting pedestrians without a word), is absolutely shocking.

And New Orleans simply brought to light that which seems to seethe under the surface of certain areas in this country.

Did I tell you the story, earlier this summer, of taking my morning walk when 3 blocks from my house, as I crossed the street on a green light, some unknown man in a random car tried to run me over as he yelled the N word out of his window at me?

Yes, we have issues.

On the flip side, one morning this past winter, I was out with my two youngest kiddos, after dropping my husband off at work, low on gas and without my wallet.  Apparently the gas gauge was in a funky mood because it turned out I was actually on “E” and the car died on the side of the highway.  It was 20 degrees outside.  We have roadside assistance.  So I picked up the cell phone to call and wouldn’t you know – no service…  Long story short, more than a few people stopped but I was getting strange vibes from some, and wary of who to trust (remember I had small children in tow).   A gentleman pulled his car over, an IT repair service vehicle, and perhaps it’s the techie heart in me or the kind smile, or that little voice, but something told me, he was sincere in his offer of help.  He not only paid for and got gas for the car, but he waited to make sure we off and capable of getting home safely before he departed.  And refused to give me his name or phone number to return the money.  Saying simply “pay it forward.”  Which we will, my husband is under strict orders to assist a woman & her children in need, if the situation should arise.

In both situations, I was a vulnerable woman (who happens to be black) approached by random men (who happened to be white) and of course, depending on the individual the situations left me feeling quite different.  Neither caused me to make a commentary about a whole group of people.  It’s time we afforded minority groups the same courtesy.

There is a need in our country today to stop trying to sweep under the carpet that which is painful to confront.  Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

The polarization that threatens to encroach upon our very well being is slowly seeping through the edges of our society.

The only way to rid ourselves of the “race card” is to stop playing the “race game.”  Period.  And that means saying no to racism in every form, every day.

I hope we can agree on that.

On the other hand, I hope that we can get back to (or perhaps finally beginning to cultivate) that Norman Rockwellesque vision of a country where the kindness of strangers is a given, no matter the appearance of the persons involved.

And you know something, it can all start with a smile.

Can I get an Island with that Vowel?

21 Jul

http://www.123rf.com/photo_5287736_nice-legs-in-water.html

So today I randomly tweeted with a gal I’m connected to @nachtschwarmer.  She’ll be out of a job soon and tweeted that she’d gotten a first interview on her search for a new job.  Hooray, said she.  I agreed.

I don’t know Tania outside of Twitter, so I always make a point of taking that time to browse through a tweep’s bio & blog/website whenever we “engage” in convo.  That’s my way of staying on top of my social networking sphere.

Her Twitter bio led me to her website (did I mention she’s looking for a J.O.B.?), which in turn led me to her Tumblr blog.  Her Tumblr blog had a post from The Daily What (another website) with a picture of an awesome island abode and that post came from here:

Epic House is Epic

Did you catch that?  Did you click on that link?  Well, did-ja??  What a house! What an absolutely freakin’ awesome way to live.  Yeah, yeah, I know, where’s the bathroom they say… That’s not the point!

My overtaxed, rushed and harried brain went … Ooooo.  And then it said Aaaahhhh.  Ooohhhhh. Cue the dreams (just saw Inception, excellent!) of me, dear hubby, and the four kids whisking off to some remote island to live in peaceful, harmonic bliss….

And now for the kicker, here’s how my brain works:

See picture of blissful, romantic hut on some remote island.

Find out where said island is (in this case Bali).

Head over to Google (what else?).

Run a quick search on houses/abodes available for sale in this locale.

Realize that said island is very remote, so chances of DH finding an English speaking job to “transfer” to are practically nil.

Google houses available for short term rent on said island.

Bingo.  Find a reasonable alternative to buying in paradise.

Realize that island living comes with rather large pests.

Head back over to Google and search for common pests in said locale.

Run across this other blog that mentions a trip to Fiji and mosquito netting around each bed (argh! mosquitos? doesn’t that mean malaria risk), read through article only to find out that mosquito netting isn’t for mosquitos at all, but rather for spiders (ick!) the size of a human hand (WHAT?!?!)…

Ok, that’s Fiji, not Bali (yes, I do know a bit of geography).  Regardless, they’re not THAT far away from each other either.  So…

Google to see which islands have the least pest problems.

Find out that Hawaii, Ireland, and New Zealand are the only islands without snakes.

~Oh snakes!! That’s right.  Don’t particularly care for snakes either…~

Read further to discover that Hawaii MAY indeed actually have snakes, scratch that one, really not an option anyway being the most expensive of the three.

Make a note to self that future family vacation to Ireland will be that much nicer knowing there are no snakes.  Probably too cool there for snakes anyway.  By the same token, too cool for me to enjoy what I want out of an island, which is warm, tropical weather.

Remember seeing a list on Forbes of the top places to live in the world.  Check list.  Yes, there it is.  New Zealand.

Narrow in on New Zealand, which has the friendliest people this blogger has ever run across.  Haven’t  been there, but have met more than a few traveling Kiwis and they rock!

Wind up here, looking at pictures of quaint, not-too-remote, houses on NZ.

Now if I could just find a tropical part of New Zealand where we could afford to live, work, and buy a house, I’d be all set…

Wait~a~minute.

What was I doing here anyway?

Perspective

9 Jun

I’m reminded today that it is ever so important to keep our perspective as we go about our day-to-day, especially in this increasingly “virtual” world that we live in.

A local sportscaster complained that many of his fans on Twitter were insulted that said sportscaster didn’t post all of his show’s tweets personally.  This was not a personal Twitter account, this was his radio show’s Twitter account.  And the expectation was that this host should be spending his days and nights knee deep in tweeting?  Really?  When does he have time for his “real” job then?  And even if it were a personal Twitter account, what about his “real” life?

Other times I’m struck by how personally people take your presence or your absence on Twitter.  As if your world really does (and should) revolve solely around a virtual community of people, the majority of whom you’ve never met (if you’re really an active social networker).  What do we know about the people we follow and/or connect to online?  What do I know about you?  Or you about me?  All we know is what a person deems appropriate to share in virtuality.  And it’s safe to assume that the level of “sharing” is much less in the virtual world than it is in real life.

And that’s ok, and as it should be …

Why are we so taken aback by glimpses of a person’s real life personality?  What makes us think that a dozen updates or status feeds a day gives us any real clue as to who’s behind that avatar?

So many seem to lose their perspective in social networking.  Social networking is simply a tool for making basic connections virtually.  Those connections may lead to wonderful friendships in real life.  Or they might not.   And that doesn’t make virtual life any less rich or interesting.  There are great virtual socializers doing cool things online everyday, forging new ground, helping to reshape how we communicate as a society.

Most importantly, social networking has made the global community a place that we all can participate in and enjoy.  It’s made the task of connecting to like-minded individuals and exchanging shared ides, that much easier.

I enjoy my social networks, my connections/contacts/virtual friends.  And I try to remember that there’s much more to each one then the bits and bytes that are shared as our Facebook status updates and Twitter feeds reach out into virtuality, cross paths, and sometimes intertwine.

I’m not much of an unfollower and if I put you on a list, there you’ll stay (for the most part – on occasion I’ve removed one or two for extremely offensive language).  But I live my virtual life this way because something drew me to this person initially and if they turn out to be more or less than what I expected, I remind myself that I should not have expected much.

This is just a venue for a virtual part of a more complete (and complex) human being that I really don’t know.

And that helps me keep my perspective.

The Sweetest Sour of Them All

4 Jun

It occurred to me today that the lemon is proof positive that anything sour can be made delightfully sweet! Lemon bars, lemon ice, lemonade, lemon meringue pie, lemon pound cake, the sky’s the limit when it comes to lemon-aided desserts (and I love them all!)

Surely this realization must have some application to every day life.  Of course there’s the old adage, when life gives you lemons make … well, you know the rest.

It’s certainly been true in my life that very sour situations have turned out to have very sweet endings.  Less then a year after my father died, I met my future husband – we connected on the first night over a discussion about our fathers, his had passed away five years prior.

Life these days has become pretty sour.  Recession.  Failing institutions.  Politics.  You name it.  And don’t get me started on the news.  Is there no flip side?  Nothing positive to report?  I know I said yesterday that I don’t believe in positive just for the sake of always being positive (that’s phony), but I don’t believe the glass is half empty either.  A perpetually negative, sour outlook is a sure recipe for an unhappy life.  There’s a fine line between sarcasm and an out and out cynic.

So if that venerable tart, Ms. Sour Lemon, can dress herself up in so many sweet ways.  Well, why not us?

Looking at it from my oil spill clogged glasses, I’m thinking maybe the oil spill will turn from sour to sweet if it causes us all to rethink our dependence on crude oil.  We needed to get off that tip anyway.  And the sooner the better.  Perhaps clean alternative energies will be met with less legislative and lobbying resistance in light of this latest debacle.  Maybe, just maybe, caring about the environment will become a “norm” and not an “activist” cause.

That would be sweet.

Fleeting Days of Spring

3 Jun

There are only (however many) days left of spring, and I can hear the birds singing outside our bedroom window.

I love spring.  Love it, love it, love it.

Roses, love them too!

This year though something about spring is a bit of a downer.  I’m beyond sad about the oil “spill.”  One would suppose that it will be resolved eventually (ee-ven-twush-ali, Fawlty Towers anyone?).  But already the damage is beyond repair.  No, I’m no expert or rocket scientist, but I’ve washed a lot of dishes.  And one thing I’ve learned, in my expert dishwashing years, is that a little bit of oil goes a long, looonnngggg, way.  One pot saturated with oil can make for a tough cleaning job.  Plus, oil and water don’t mix.  Am I overstating the obvious?  Why aren’t we angrier?  There’s still oil on the shores of Alaska from the Exxon fiasco 20+ years ago.

It’s been 44 days, and counting, and it’s still not “capped” – I guess we’ll have to wait for them to plug the thing before we can assess the long term damage, but “millions” of gallons of oil can’t be anything but bad?  Agreed?

And poor, New Orleans.  How will they recover?  How will any of the many water-based businesses in the Gulf recover?

Reuters has a timeline 0f the whole sordid affair, here.

I’ll get off my environmental soap box, for now.  It’s in my blood, I grew up out west.  I’m not an “environmentalist” by any stretch of the imagination, but I care about the environment and can’t imagine why anyone else wouldn’t.  No matter what your stripes, no matter what your worries or cares, it’s the environment or nothing.  Ya know?  If we don’t have a sound world to live and breathe and eat in, everything else is a moot point.

I worry that my children’s generation will look to us 20 years from now and say – WTF?!

And I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

One more thing

3 Jun

Did I mention that I’m highly, highly, opinionated??

Ok, just thought I’d throw that out there.

Now we’re good.