for when you don't know what else to say

Friday, February 23, 2007

Craig Ferguson makes sense

During his monologue Monday night, Craig Ferguson declared he would not make any Britney Spears jokes. He also shared his own struggles with alcoholism and expressed something I've been thinking about for a while. (it's 12 minutes long, but worth it)

I have loved celebrity news and gossip for a long time, but the tone and exploitative nature of the beast seems to have taken a turn for the worse in recent months. Coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death has been disgusting thus far, and only will intensify as the custody battle goes forward. But that particular story spun out of control last October before her death, when her disgusting pimp/drug pusher/companion allowed Entertainment Tonight and The Insider to exploit a poor woman who was obviously still out of her mind with grief over the loss of her son. Anna Nicole's tragedy was big news, but the really disturbing question (i.e. why would someone subject a vulnerable, grieving drug addict to these interviews) was not being posed. She was once again held out for our prying eyes like a freak show. But this was not some drunken dance at an awards show or dumb TrimSpa ad. This was her son's death. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

When the Britney Spears "Cootergate" incidents began happening, I just shook my head. Yes, she was out of control and not wearing panties. But most people who go clubbing don't have a cadre of photographers poised to get the gynecologist's perspective as they exit cars. And in years past, I don't think people would have published something like that. I didn't condone her behavior at the time, but I can think of some nights in my own life where photographic proof would have shamed me. Britney knew she had these people tracking her every movement, so yes, she should have tried to avoid it. But again, she's a human being - with a lot of personal issues. Her exploits just made me feel like she was in trouble, stuck in a downward spiral, and she needed someone to tell her there's another way to deal.

Fast forward a few months: Anna Nicole is dead, and Britney looks determined to join her in the afterlife. Say what you will about Anna Nicole (I was never a fan), but she was used up by her atrocious entourage and the media until there was nothing left. No one stood up and said that this woman needed help, not drugs and tabloid interviews. And now that she is gone, the people who profited from her in life are fighting over profiting from her in death. I hope the circus surrounding her messy exit from this life does not end up destroying the one good thing she had left, her baby.

I also hope that Britney will be able to get help and avoid a similar fate. She is clearly disturbed, and just doesn't know how to cope with what I can only imagine is a seriously crazy life. When I heard that she had shaved her head, I felt a darkness come over me and settle in the part of my brain that adores reading US Weekly at the gym. I just can't find it funny anymore. Craig Ferguson is right. Schadenfreude isn't as hilarious when the stakes are human life.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

One down

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the my father's death. I can't believe it's already been a full year. They say the "firsts" are the hardest, and from what I can tell they're right. Some days the pain is almost as sharp as when I first heard the news. So much has happened in just this one year that he missed. The Bad: two accidents, illness, surgery, a pile of stress. The Good: an engagement, a national award, a promotion, an eventual clean bill of health. I know that he is with me in a way, but I miss him so much, and my annus mirabilis/horribilis only served to underline how much I thrived on both his praise and support. But overall, I feel like I'm handling things pretty well now. Especially with the god-forsaken holidays behind me.

Not being sure just how to commemorate such a terrible event, I went into work and kept myself busy. What could possibly be gained from sitting at home? I couldn't think of any memorial gesture he would enjoy - he just hated all that stuff and thought that it was sappy. Instead, I decided to do something he wouldn't mind. I made one of his recipes, a stew that he would often make as his form of comfort food for us.

My dad was not a cook by any stretch of the imagination. His main meal ideas involved telling me or my mom what to cook. Or what to pick up. But he did make two things. The first was eggs and potatoes. The second was his storied "poor man's stew." Poor man's stew became a legend, mostly because my dad was prone to exaggerating its origin and tying it in to the Great Depression and the ingenuity of the American Spirit or something. We always knew the details were completely fake, but we appreciated the creativity applied to the dish's genesis story. So straight from Herm's stockpile of homemade recipes featuring convenience foods, I give you the recipe.

Herm's Poor Man's Stew
  • two cans Campbell's Chunky Vegetable Beef Soup
  • one can Campbell's Chunky Vegetable Soup
  • one cup of water
  • half a box of elbow macaroni (approximately half a pound)
  • one package of Ball Park Franks
Set eight hot dogs into a medium pot of water on high heat. Pour all three soup cans into a large pot and set the heat on high. Fill up one of the empty cans 3/4 full of water and add that to the soup. Pour in the elbow macaroni. Add salt and ground pepper to taste. When boiling, turn down the heat to medium and remember to stir every few minutes so it doesn't fuse with the bottom of the pot.

At about the time your soup gets into boil mode, you'll notice that your hot dogs are starting to cook. Boil them until they are on the brink of implosion. Take them out one by one, chop them into small pieces, and drop them into the stew pot. Be sure to share some of the hot dog bits with any children, pets, or adults who may be hovering nearby. Keep that motley stew simmering until the pasta is cooked and you are happy with the consistency. Pour into bowls and enjoy the wrongness.

Enjoy this with the ones you love enough to pretend to cook for. Cheers, Dad.

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