Archive for the ‘Observations and Ruminations’ Category

The Winter Coat

August 16, 2008

The winter coat I wear is a brilliant shade of red.
I’ve got on my long underwear and my scarf, gloves and hat.
Impentrable, fearless, tough, protected
I button up the charcoal togs and tighten my hat around my head
to brace for the expected wind outside, and our first date.

You try to kiss me and my eyes dart frantically for an exit.
Somewhere to slip away to.
Deer, kitten, mouse, plaything
When I feel hunted I sometimes wound in order to escape.
Maybe I’m not right in the head.

On date number two your coat brushes me when we kiss.
Deepest dark blue it hides your belly and makes you look dashing.
Tender, sweet, light, bright
My heart bumps a bit when we touch-I must be vigilant
But I do like it a little.

I tell you about the dream I had watching myself being held down by another version of me.
I couldn’t make my body move to escape.
Frustration, apathy, terror, disrepect
Is that concern or pity on your face
when I tell you I woke up crying?

Our third date you are distracted because work isn’t going well.
You wear a thick ski coat covered with those ugly epaulets.
Boredom, dissatisfaction, need space, need air
Maybe you are starting to lose interest in me?
Is it just a matter of time?

We have a fight on our fourth date but I don’t know how it starts.
The slightest perceived hurt brings words of destruction from me.
Sweetheart, father, lover, sadist
Just tell me who you want me to be and I’ll be her.
Am I running away from you or are you running away from me?

These thick coats we wear to protect ourselves from the cold
Keep us from actually touching.
Invincible, girl, boy, disarmament
But maybe, if we both undo a few buttons at the same time
it’s a start?


ECOnomy- Give up a Third of Your Car for a Month

August 10, 2008

Last month, when I turned 39, I took stock of a few things, one being that I sometimes talk a good game but don’t always put my beliefs into action, like, for instance, my stance on the environment. 

I have, in the past, sometimes played the part of the liberal green girl with my family.  My father likes to joke (and I still don’t think it’s funny Daddy) that California is the land of fruit and nuts.  While I’ll admit that moving to California shifted some of my viewpoints even farther to the left, I don’t believe that caring about the environment is actually a left or right issue.  God gave us a great planet with off- the-charts natural beauty and I can’t stand the idea of my nephews not having the chance to see some of the things that I’ve been privileged to see, care of Mother Nature. 

So I felt that I needed to put my money where my mouth was and not be one more exhaust pipe poisoining the environment.  I don’t have an air conditioner, or a dish washer and I try to recycle, but I do have a gas guzzling car and I live pretty close to everything, including work.  I don’t need to be a walking/talking example of the song “Nobody Walks in LA”. 

On the day before my birthday, I challenged myself to cut down my gas usage by 1/3 or use non-gas transportation for a month, to see if I could do it.  I bought a three-speed-bike, lock and helmet, checked bike routes, and signed on to to log my time.  The website shows you how much gas you save, calories you burn, and green house gases you don’t put into the environment. 

The first month is coming to an end in a day or so.  I have been averaging walking or using my bike about 2 1/3 days a week. It’s easier and harder to do this than one might think. 
Easier– 1)it rarely takes me more than 5 to 10 minutes longer than it did in a car and parking is a cinch.  2) The low humidity in LA means you don’t sweat that much.  3)  I have lost weight.  4)  I actually see and hear things I never experience in a car.  5)  It’s really refreshing and invigorating.

Harder– LA is not bike friendly.  1) “Bike paths” as they like to call them aren’t marked and cars while normally polite, can be a little scary when they pass you. 2) I can’t really dress up too much for work on the days that I commute so I’m a bit limited. 3) There are some days I simply have to drive in order to make meetings. 4)  LA actually has alot of hills.  5) Rain, although this hasn’t been an issue yet. 6)  There aren’t alot of safe bike racks in town.  7)  Sometimes I really don’t feel like riding my bike. 

Now that I’m getting used to the harder aspects, I have become more adventurous.  Last week, I really felt like going to a movie but it was a day I had committed to riding my bike and it was already 7 PM.  I put my strobe reflectors on and rode to the Grove.  I got there in 15 minutes.   I have also ridden to Santa Monica with my dog (I know a little Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz.)  Our final destination was Corn Dog on a Stick.  While we took a lot of breaks, it was really fun, but totally exhausting.

So here’s my challenge….anyone out there want to join me in giving a day or so of their week to public or non-gas transportation?   Burn calories, save money and your kids, grandkids, nephews, nieces, friends kids will thank you!

SOCIAL PSYCH: “With No Frills or Tuition, a College Draws Notice” from The New York Times

August 5, 2008

In the growing debate over higher learning institutions and how they use their funds, The New York Times spotlighted Berea College, a private institution with a large endowment and a founding mission to accept only applicants from low-income families.   Students receive a tuition-free education and must work on campus in a variety of different areas, as part of the deal.  In stark relief, the author compared wealthy institutions such as Harvard and Yale, and asked “whether the wealthiest universities are doing enough for the public good to warrant their tax exemption, or simply hoarding money to serve an elite few.” 

The issue cuts to the heart of altruism as well as the reasons humans engage in pro-social behavior in the first place.  Focusing first on the individual, students at Berea prove they are deserving of aid (norm of social justice) by showing their ability for future success in advance of acceptance.   Berea gives free tuition in exchange for work, an example of reciprocal altruism. 

Taking a big picture gander at the institutions doing the “helping,” it is important to look at American history and maybe genetics as a guide to why we engage in altruism.  The United States and American democracy were founded on the “sometimes conflicting value orientations of individualism and egalitarianism.” (Franzoi)  As a young nation that wanted to survive and thrive, improving your situation through hard work, education, and helping others was paramount to developing the nation, and in a tough wilderness, continuing the species.  In the case of the institutions in the piece, the schools with the largest endowments, Harvard, Yale, etc., were also the first universities in the United States—established to provide brighter futures for new generations of Americans, and in reciprocity, make the country stronger.  It is interesting that these schools are now being criticized for holding on to vast amounts of money, raising tuition to astronomic levels, and providing much of their funding for research to advance their own needs—the schools’ reputations—instead of providing more financial aid to students in need.

Adding fuel to the debate, what is implied but not stated in the article is that the government relies heavily on not-for-profits (and offers strong tax incentives) to address many needs that big government simply cannot take on.  These institutions remind me of spoiled children. By existing in a system where money is not an issue, they lack empathy and have forgotten from whence the came.

If human beings best respond to reciprocal altruism, scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, perhaps a program themed around altruistic giving as a means to strengthen America might be an interesting program aimed at curbing America’s  growing me versus we mentality.  Using both central and peripheral routes of persuasion through advertising and public relations efforts, the government would first launch a campaign through a secondary source, perhaps key not-for-profits such as the Red Cross and major universities, showing how the existence of these not-for-profits reduces America’s tax burden.  A second phase of messaging would persuade Americans to give to the local not-for-profit to improve America’s future—we’re in this together. 

Complementing the direct efforts, schools teaching pre-school through college age children would include annual altruistic components in their curriculums and would require families to “donate” a set amount of time and money to the not-for-profit or community organization of their choice, with the reward being a tax break and positive recognition.  Families would also be given the opportunity to receive points towards reductions in college tuition, starting at pre-school age, as long as the family participated in a minimal number of hours in not-for-profit activity, with each other.  These tactics reflect the use of observational learning, the children modeling after the parents, and rewarding prosocial behavior through tax breaks and recognition.  A key component of college acceptance would be dependent on the applicant’s level of work with not-for-profits in high school and students would be given the option of paying for college through community and college improvement work.     A core curriculum class in active altruism would be required at all colleges. The end result might be increased altruism as part of our daily existence.  





Remove your Banana from the Car…Slowly

July 8, 2008

Some people always leave things behind-an accidental reminder of your time together.  I am one of those people. I leave underwear, jackets, toothpaste, blackberry jacks, and you name it.  I have left things behind in homes, hotels, cabins,  cars, and offices. I’m sure this has some psychological reason attached to it, like I don’t want anyone to forget me, but while the sentiment is sweet, it wears thin from constant use. 

When a banana takes over your car

When a banana takes over your car

My closer relatives have gotten into the habit of doing a sweep search right before I leave, knowing that otherwise, they will end up mailing the oddball item back to me.   The thing that seems to bother them the most is when I leave behind food stuff.   I tend to buy “exotic goods” from the local deli, supermarket, or specialty store -most of which I will not eat during my stay. 

When I visit my sister, a typical call following the trip might be…”Did you mean to leave this rice milk in the refrigerator…there are unopened boxes here.”  I will respond, “Oh, you can go ahead and have it.” Followed by her saying, “Well, what do you want me to do with this five-year aged gouda ?” To which I will make some comment about how her sons might enjoy some quality cheese. She will then roll her eyes (or so I imagine over the phone line) and remind me that the boys are under the age of seven.  They don’t do rice milk and gouda.

Refrigerated products do not compare to items left out in the sun.   I leave food behind in my car as well, believing I will actually eat it before it spoils.  Why carry that heavy banana inside?  But bananas are by far the worst item to leave, after maybe rotting meat.  With the amount of bananas I have left on my passenger seat, I have also fought more fruit flies while driving than I care to admit.  Drivers in other cars probably think I have some condition, swatting the air as I drive and rolling the window up and down, up and down, while talking to the little insect on the precipice of flying out.  When all else fails, I just start smashing everything with my hand or a rolled up newspaper.  Yes, I’m the poster girl for safe driving.  Fruit flies are much more dangerous than cell phone usage, but no cop is going to tell you to make sure to take all old fruit out of your car before operating the vehicle. 

Worse than the fruit flies is the removal of the banana itself.  It’s fine if the banana has completely dried up, but you can’t count on that process to happen quickly.  Sometimes, the banana has gotten so mushy and ripe, one must wipe it off the carpet or seat, leaving a ripe banana smell that won’t come out of the car until cleaned thoroughly, by a professional.  And even then, they have missed or left bananas in my car, thinking for some reason that I actually wanted them.  Maybe for a snack with my two month old, half drunk Sierra Mist?

The point of all of this?  If I don’t offer to drive next time, please don’t take it personally.  I’m likely worried about some old fruit I have left somewhere, that I can smell, but can’t exactly find….yet.

My Next Boyfriend is a Superhero

July 4, 2008

I’ve decided, forget, my next boyfriend will be a superhero.  With this summer’s crop of overly endowed gentleman protecting Hollywood, I feel like I have a lot to choose from.  I have never seen myself with a Hancock type–men with superhero powers from birth aren’t really my demo, always trying to reconcile their issues with someone or something from their past.  The Incredible Hulk is too angry all the time.  Come on, control your feelings muchacho.  I haven’t seen Hellboy II but I’m just guessing I won’t feel the heat from him either.

#1 Choice for My Next Boyfriend

#1 Choice for My Next Boyfriend

Iron Man however- he is so smart,  clever, and cocksure….he is seriously in the running.  Yes, he has issues, and I think he might have trouble staying out of his head, but he came up with that whole suit himself, under duress!  And his place in Malibu is magnifique!

Double dating is also a possibility. Iron Man and the Incredibile Hulk’s nemesis just met in an LA bar (looked like the new London Hotel).  If you saw IH you know what I mean.  It sounds like those two will be going at it soon in the City of Angels.   And, Hancock lives in LA too, a perfect trifecta.

No real girl threats either, really.  I mean Liv Tyler’s fake resume as a cellular bioligist will surely be found out soon so I’m not counting on her and the Hulk staying together.  Hancock’s girl can’t even get close to him or they both become mortal, and Iron Man’s Pepper Potts a.ka. Gwyneth Paltrow is likely a wet noodle in bed, I just have a feeling.

So, that leaves three potential superhero boyfriends, living in LA.  Where would one hang out?

The 38 Year Old Co-ed

July 4, 2008

Friends joke that I am always taking a class.  Yoga Thai Massage, Aerial Basket Weaving, the History of the United States….you name it.  But I have taken it to another level this summer, social psychology at UCLA.  My class has kids (kids!) almost twenty years my junior-I have more in common with the professor and her references to pop culture (George Carlin’s “seven dirty words you can’t say on television” anyone?) than I do the students. 

So I try to blend in.  My comments in class are peppered with references to the latest celebrity high-jinks and I am underdressing-jeans, t-shirts, flip flops. I have started bringing Cheetos and food from the vending machine to class. (Some of you might say that doesn’t sound like anything different than I always do.)   I like to think they don’t see the grey hairs, tummy bulge, or creaky movements as I unfold my body out of those annoying chair cum desks.

Ms. Richards and Mr. Sambora

Ms. Richards and Mr. Sambora

I turned in a 3 page paper yesterday which involved me observing persuasive attempts in every day life.  I watched TV for 2 hours.  Denise Richards- It’s Complicated and Desperate Housewives were the main heady topics of my analysis.  I brilliantly argued that DR uses the two-sided persuasion tactic to innoculate its doubting audience.  Basically, by preemptively using negative stereotypes in the introduction, like Daddy’s Girl, Husband Stealer, etc,  followed by the “real Denise” as the mom who never goes out, the sweet innocent with a little quirky in her, the audience will not side with Denise’s ex-husband.  They will be innoculated from being swayed when they hear stories about her requesting her ex-husband’s sperm to make more babies and the dubious Ricky Sambora choice as the sane follow up to Charlie Sheen(??). 

For the assignment I slaved-no B+ permitted.  I suddenly had sympathy for all those students I taught at USC who didn’t understand what it took to get an A based on my essay grading system.  Sometimes based more on a feeling than anything else.  It’s experiences like this that bring out the schiz girl in me.  While I want to blend in, I also want them to know of my years of experience….so I think I come off as the know-at-all in the back of the class who overshares.  The difference is, when I was in this class twenty years ago, I would have cared more what the students think, and would have made sure I didn’t say anything that made me look uncool.  Today, I always have a comment, I think primarily to have a little dialogue for the professor to bounce off.  I do know how it feels when the class looks at you blankly.  Now they look at me blankly too.

In the end, I posit, I will learn probably even more about myself by how I operate in this class, a kind of social psychology experiment if you will!  Just as long as I get an A.

How do you feel?

July 4, 2008

Ulterior Motives explores Los Angeles and beyond from a sensory and sensual level.  Events, objects, ideas, artistic expression, and sustenance are discussed with aplomb in this space.