Isn’t She? Pretty in Pink?

Being a child of the 80s, I occasionally relate to Molly Ringwald in certain unfortunate scenes from her brat-pack films. Yes, I still compare myself to teen-oriented “coming of age” flicks.

So this week I started a new PR internship. To me, this is a big deal since it is my first job opportunity in the U.S. post-Scottish living. I have to get up very early for the commute—apparently 6:00am really exists—and at this time, my parents are also bustling around the house, getting prepared for their respective work days.

It was my first day and I was almost ready to leave. My parents beat me to the door, briefcases in hand, and off to the races.

Then it dawned on me: they didn’t say “have a great day,” “good luck, sport,” or even “go get ‘em, tiger!” I felt like Molly Ringwald on her 16th birthday. At this time, I was running late, so I ran out the door, GPS system in tow, and I started my car. The song playing on the radio when the engine kicked on, you ask?


I kid you not. Turned out I had an amazing day—sans 80s apparel.

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Filed under 80s, america, employment, happenstance, work

A Bittersweet Victory, But Think Again

small_obama_imageChange has come. Barack Obama, a man whose vision for America trumped issues of race, will be the forty-fourth President of the United States. When I received the news last night that Obama had surpassed the necessary electoral votes to win the election, I could hardly contain my excitement. Delivering his address to an ecstatic crowd, Obama nearly moved me to tears.

However, when it came to Proposition 8–the proposition pulling for a ban on gay marriage and the amendment of California’s constitution–the majority of voters made themselves clear: California would rather give farm animals rights over gay citizens. That’s right, homosexuals may not have the right to marry, but they still retain the right to stretch their wings, turn around, and move their limbs freely within their cages.

Maybe Californians didn’t know that mostly out of state sources (i.e. Mormons who once believed in the union of Man and Wife and Wife and Wife) were funding attack ads on gay marriage. Maybe they didn’t understand how vague (Prop 8 = Free Speech?) and malicious their arguments were. Whatever reason “Yes on 8” voters conceived, the real punishment against the gay community would have been to allow gay couples to marry. Think of all the troubled marriages around you, the divorces, and relationship woes. Gay citizens should have the right to be as miserable as heterosexual couples. Think of our divorce rate and all the broken families that occur from poorly planned nuptials. Flip to a standard channel during the middle of the day and you will most likely come across a courtroom program featuring an irate couple.

“He was cheating on me!” shouts a woman to the judge.

“Only because she cheated on me first,” he defends.

Why should heterosexuals have all the fun? I think of the “Yes on 8” attack ads and the common “think of Proposition 8the children” slogans. How incorrect is the logo featuring a “traditional” family holding hands, cavorting in the sunshine. Chances are, 50% of those tiny logo marriages, will end in divorce.

Think again, California. Even if you oppose the homosexual lifestyle, let gay citizens marry. It’s only decent.

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Filed under america, civil rights, gay, life, marriage, Muggles, politics, television

Mr. Belvedere 3000

It’s the small things that slip through the cultural chasm between America and Europe. Small things such as television programs. Sometimes you don’t realize that the television shows you grew up with were not syndicated abroad and that when you ask a British person if they’ve heard of say “Perfect Strangers” they look at you funny. Then you proceed to play the “Perfect Strangers” intro for them and they still look perplexed.

“Boy, I feel bad for them,” you think while watching Balky jump into the arms of his cousin Larry.

I think back at all the programs that existed when I was small and one stands out above the rest. The corners of my mouth turn up at the thought of a rotund British butler who cared for a rambunctious, all-American family. There you have it, if I could gift one of America’s favorite television programs from yesteryear, it would have to be “Mr. Belvedere.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Belvedere, imagine this scenario: a posh British immigrant comes to America–Pennsylvania to be precise–and he offers his services to a white middle-class family. He is constantly tormented by the family’s youngest child, Wesley, but he still loves the rascal. The series was originally based on some earlier movies from the 40s–movies with titles like Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell.  Who knew British housekeeping services could be so much fun.

Think of the possibilities that still exist with Mr. Belvedere today.  Maybe Mr. Belvedere can be the key between American and British relations. Mr. Belvedere can make anything happen.

Since the original Mr. Belvedere, Christopher Hewett, passed away in 2001, why not revamp the series and bring it back?  In my Belvedere fantasy, I have the perfect actor in mind.

Ricky Gervais.  I’m sure he could do justice to the role of Lynn Belvedere and to give it a spin, it can take place in the future.  How about the year 3000?  I should work on developing this.

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Filed under america, life, Muggles, television, transatlanticism, UK

Who Smoked Kurt Cobain?

Somewhere in Germany lurks an artist, a woman named Natascha Stellmach, who may be in possession of Kurt Cobain’s remains.  How she got them is a mystery, but what she plans on doing with them is morbidly bizarre: she wants to smoke them in a joint in order to set him free.  This is not a joke.  She wants to set him free by inhaling his ashes mixed with hash.

“Ich habe eine gute Idee,” Stellmach chortled. “Eine sehr gute Idee…”

I can picture her artist compatriots commending her brilliant plan for Kurt.  In my imagination, they are all wearing black and snapping their fingers in unison.

According to Stellmach, the ashes came to her and it was “kind of magic,” but does the German artist really think that this is what Kurt Cobain would have wanted?   I dusted off my old Nirvana albums after learning about Cobain being rolled into joint.  In Utero, Nirvana’s third and final studio album jumped out and Cobain’s tongue and cheek song “Rape Me” seemed more poignant than ever in describing the life of the tormented 90s grunge artist.  Here’s a woman who is seeking attention, not one who respects Cobain’s career.

Even long after his death, it feels like Kurt Cobain’s posthumous career is in full swing.  After all the conspiracy theory books and movies that claim that the 90s grunge icon did not willingly kill himself, maybe we should let Kurt Cobain rest in peace.  Yes, that includes you, Natascha Stellmach, you little people smoker.

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Filed under Art, Germany, life, Muggles, Nivana, transatlanticism

The Reverse “Pounding” or how the grass is always greener on the other side

Quite recently, I came careening into Earth’s atmosphere, bracing myself for reentry into the United States–as well as the inevitable encounter with U.S. Customs.  August was a time of vast accomplishment: I turned in my thesis, finished my Master’s programme, quit my job, said goodbye to Scotland, and moved back to California.  Having lived under the rule of the pound for over a year, I was excited to get back to the dollar for a little while.  The Almighty Dollar.  Many months ago, I read an article about expats in the UK (you can read that through a past post) and I remember the article saying how Americans in London couldn’t even afford cheese from their local grocer.  The article made me think that this would never happen in America–sure living in Scotland is less expensive, but I was in a place where my hard-earned dollar was worth half as much.  Don’t tread on me; I can’t live without cheddar.

Despite the exchange rate, I quickly learned to cope.  I got a wee job and things were absolutely fine…that is, until I came home (isn’t this like a bad movie? A horror flick called “Economy”?).

When I pulled into my parent’s driveway, the grass wasn’t green; it was dead.  I learned that it was a brutally hot summer in southern California and it had become financially impossible to maintain the lawn.  That was definitely a good indication of what I was in store for.

Soon after I went to a super market–the experience can be equated to being a contestant on The Price is Right and getting every possible answer wrong.  How had food become food that expensive and why was a bag of regular shredded cheese nearly $8?  I am 100% certain that I can get more food with my dollar in the UK than in the US.  There is something seriously wrong with this picture, especially when every headline I read has the word “crisis” in it.

Then to top things off, my bank, WaMu, went under the day after I called the branch to talk to a financial advisor.  He said that things were funny around election year.  This joke isn’t funny anymore.

It’s important to understand how we got in this position and what decisions brought us to our financial knees.  Senator Biden had pointed out serious flaws in this administration’s decision-making during the Vice Presidential debate–well duh–yet Palin’s response was that their ticket was harping on the past.

“There you go again, youbetcha.”

Well someone should pay attention to history and have enough sense to figure out what went wrong.  It’s like you play the Oregon Trail and you try to correct your strategy so that your family doesn’t all die again–though I never seemed to get it right.

Now Palin is trying to shift focus and that irks me.  I’ve read several articles in the LA Times about how  Obama “pals around with terrorists” or in truth, a “Distinguished Professor” who Obama had worked with at a non-profit to improve education in this country (What has McCain done for education?)   Seriously, the McCain ticket needs to stop distracting Americans, creating diversions and distorting the truth in order to avoid important issues.

As an American who has just returned from Europe, I want a way out of this mess.  I want to stop hearing “I told you so” from my friends around the world.  I want my dollar to mean something and I never want to hear “maverick” again, youbetcha.

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Filed under america, economy, life, Muggles, politics, transatlanticism, UK

Girl P*wer: Rethinking the War Cry

In an episode of “Spaced”, a British comedy series from television yore, Daisy Steiner, a freelance journalist played by Jessica Hynes, interviews for a position at a stylish magazine.  The interview is a nightmare and her parting words clinch her fate: “Girl power!” she exclaims, before making her exit.  Sobbing on her flatmate’s shoulder–Shaun of the Dead’s Tim Bisley–she confesses to her bold statement.

“Did you do this?” he asks, holding up the peace sign.  She nods and looks down at the floor.  He turns to the camera, grimacing and biting his knuckles.

Now I am all for egalitarian work spaces and “feminine pride” so to speak, but shouldn’t one choose their “war cry” more carefully in today’s (thank God) post-Spice Girls world?  Let’s look at Hannah Seligson’s NY Times Article “Girl Power at School, but Not at the Office“, an article with an intelligent point, yet worthy of question given the title’s mantra, a mantra that can hardly be disconnected from the image of five English pop stars, jumping around in glittering mini skirts and Kiss Army platform shoes.

Reading on, Seligson discusses American academia as a sanctuary for women.  This may be true to some extent and having enjoyed some wonderful internships and leadership positions during my academic career, I concur to some degree; yet, looking back on all of my Humanities courses, I can hear Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” playing in my head as I reminisce.  Surely Math and Science courses are still heavily male oriented–being a reader I wouldn’t quite know from first hand experience.  I think Harvard University president Lawrence Summers would be chortling with glee if I were to concede to masculine superiority in math, science and engineering education, but I shall not.  I borrowed The Origin of Species in my own free time.

Even in America’s most prestigious institutions such as Harvard, the battle for equality has not been won.

“Will it ever?” I ponder while striking a pose analogous to Rodin’s “The Thinker”.

Society is changing.  We have evolved from the “I Love Lucy” era and the mentality that when women pursue a career, they obviously have something to prove (“Speed it up a little!” shouts the candy factory supervisor).  We all have bills to pay, loans to pay back (Are there any benefactors out there?), and for some, transatlantic lives to live on a student’s shoestring budget.

The  “old-boys’ club” as Seligson notes is also different from the past.  For example, I would probably be the first in a group of colleagues to suggest a trip to the pub.  Having lived in Germany and Scotland, I am not joking.  Whiskey anyone?

Today, women can be bread earners, members of the intelligentsia, pint drinkers, and above all feminine creatures.  The same goes for men and if a gent chooses to be a reader, that is fine.  That is sexy.  We must recognize the signs of the changing times and for god sakes, do not say “Girl Power”.  I just grimaced and covered my face in horror when writing that.

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Filed under america, Education, feminism, life, Muggles, ny times, Spice Girls, TV, work

On the Fringe of the Fringe: A Review of Edinburgh in August

It’s raining, it’s pouring, if only I was snoring. August is here and if you are (un)lucky enough to live on the Royal Mile–or somewhere of equal historical interest–you are feeling the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival to full effect. Park your tour bus and exchange your currency, the tourists have arrived!

Since I am on the verge of completing my Masters programme, I haven’t had a chance to see anything; thus what I am offering you is a birds eye view of the Edinburgh milieu. Hey, that rhymes. Allow me to now get out my binoculars and take notice of ‘tourist behaviour.’

Ok, here is our first subject: the middle-aged man, dressed in casual wear and holding a camcorder. He’s walking in my close (or wee passage-way as he might say), videotaping himself…walking! How many hours of footage has he captured? Is his camera even on? I’m sure his relatives and friends will love to gather round his television and watch this epic video. They will be humming that bagpipe tune for weeks.

Next up is a family coming round the corner. They are all wearing plastic ponchos with tiny Scottish flags on them–they didn’t prepare for the rain did they? A tiny girl breaks from the pack and takes off toddling down the road and the rest of the family follows in ‘flying-v’ formation. Look at them go!

Our next study takes place at my work, where many tourist women come in for local fashion. Strike a pose, we’re on the high street! If we go down to the fitting rooms, we find a pack of young female tourists–from my own country I might add–who handle the most expensive dresses like they were rummaging in a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese. Must keep smiling and suppress urge to kill.

I tell you, sometimes the theatre is best on the streets instead of in the venues. You can even BYOB instead of pay an arm and a leg for drinks in overpriced tourist watering holes. I sometimes cringe at what happens to our fair city during the festival, but it’s all in the name of fun and it’s a tradition that has long preceded my residency in Scotland. What people forget is that when they travel, they are seen as ambassadors of their country, specimens to be dissected by those they come in contact with. Indeed tourists can be amusing to behold, but other times, they just need to be more respectful of the countries they visit. It’s just common sense.

Hm, that beer garden is sounding pretty tempting just about now.

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Filed under edinburgh, Fringe Festival, life, Muggles, Scotland, transatlanticism