Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "Rants"

Polar Opposites

Posted on Jan 12, 2011 in Featured, Politics and Rants |

Polar Opposites

I didn’t go to the rally to Restore Sanity, nor any Tea Party Express shindig. I don’t do politics outside my little world where I know I won’t get shot, yelled at or eyes rolled. I’m just not that much of a glutton for conflict.

I have more friends who are not Democrats than I do ones who are; and I like it that way. I have hard-core Republican friends (as in lawn signs and cocktail party fundraisers) for the likes of the most serious right-wing conservatives in our political circle today. I have several very close friends who are die-hard Libertarians. They are the gun-wielding, don’t tread on me type folks. I like my people. I like my world of scale and scope and perspective.

I like my world because we live in a mutually respectful environment of variety, opinion, banter and belief. I have a dear friend who met me on a street corner with a cup of coffee while I was holding a sign to protest Prop 8. He kept me company, chatted about our weekend with our respective twins and then left. He voted in favor of Prop 8. We had dinner the next weekend.

Another family — serious Palin fans — went to rally after rally in support of the first female vice-president. We had one thing in common: the advancement of women in politics. What we didn’t have in common was just whom should fill that tall order. When it didn’t pan out for them, I understood their disappointment. I was thrilled (dear goodness, don’t get me wrong), but respected their passion.

I have a Republican friend who voted for Obama in the past election (and contributed to his campaign). I watched him on election night as he cried in my livingroom watching history happen. Some things, I thought, are bigger than politics.

Polarizing politics are just that: polarizing. It takes a strong will, a stronger belief in the Good of people to really try our hand at civilized debate. Without polar opposites there is no middle ground — a sacred place where we can meet peacefully.

Take a clue, Washington. Most of us are out here living civilly, living together within the boundaries of passion, belief and over-riding respect.

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Don’t Blame the Palin Right

Posted on Jan 8, 2011 in Featured, Rants |

Don’t Blame the Palin Right

It’s not political craziness that makes someone kill; it’s craziness that makes crazies kill.

I’ve been watching the unfolding of the shooting spree in Arizona targeting Gabby Giffords, for hours on-end. I’ve listened as one expert after the next releases statements about the “wakeup call for America,” to conduct politics without violence. I’ve watched politician after politician speaking on-air about how the media needs to stop positioning polarizing politics. I even watched the Tea Party Express defend themselves as victims before blame had ever been cast. All of what they are saying about the scary state of politics and unbecoming banter is true, but it’s not what caused 19 people to be shot today.

Mental illness is to blame today. Mental distress is to blame today;  not politics, not guns, not even Sarah Palin’s stupid chart.

If it was cancer, Jared Lee Loughner would have gotten help. If he had blindess he’d have been offered help. If it was fear, he would have been helped. Somehow, this schizophrenic 22-year-old unstable man in deep mental distress wasn’t given help. Blame the lack of psychiatric intervention. Blame his inability to seek mental help. Hell, blame his family. But don’t blame politics and media for this man’s clear mental illness.

Strange rants on YouTube, odd postings to MySpace and, according to classmates, frequent nonsensical outbursts somehow went under reported and written-off as creepy or weird. This man —  this assassin — murdered from  a place of mental illness, not a place on the Palin altar.

The first report I heard today was that a Palin right-winged freak killed a Democratic Congresswoman point-blank in the face. Gifford’s father, when asked if his daughter had any enemies said, “Yes, the whole Tea Party.” Well sure, but that’s politics. This crazed man did not act on behalf of the Tea Party; he acted on behalf of a part of his mind that is non-functional.

Mental illness goes often undetected, pushed off as depression or weirdness or a loner.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Mein Kampf freaks.

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Mowing in the Target Trough

Posted on Jan 2, 2011 in Featured, Seasons |

Mowing in the Target Trough

“Valentine’s Day is coming!,” La Gringa said yesterday. “Shut the hell up”, I thought, as we were herded toward the Christmas blowout sale aisle with another three dozen bargain shoppers. If the post-holiday season wasn’t depressing enough, try perusing through the 75% off racks at Target with once-carefully thought-out gift options, now chucked on the ground, grinding under my shopping cart. The Target message was clear: the holidays are over sucker, move on the Valentine’s Day! MLK Day Commemorative Plates! SuperBowl Sunday Chip’n’Dip Bowls!

It suddenly hit me: Target is ruling my spending, my holidays and my calendar.

Now, like all good neighborhood residents, I try hard to shop locally, but Target is Target and we all eat from the same trough of discount deals, readily available everythings and decent selections. If you’ve got a lunch break, you go to Target, if you’ve got a bunch of errands, you go to Target, if you need uniforms, kids underwear, bananas, a birthday card and a new scale all at once, you go to Target (For the record, you don’t ever buy your wife a new wardrobe at Target for her birthday, trust me.). The problem is, Target is leading loyal customers into truly believing that it’s the benchmark for all things commerce. That’s where I draw the line.

There things to be mindful of when shopping at Target as a regular source of purchasing:

1. Emotion Marketing. Because Target says it’s time to start buying Easter baskets in February, doesn’t mean you should. Or that it should be on your mind, or in your current budget. It’s hard to resist, right? This year I saw Back to School clothes for sale at Target in June. By August when I went to buy the uniforms, they were sold out. You’re kidding me, right? I used to get my school uniforms the weekend before school started and supplies, the day after school started. Target has me thinking about — and buying — items on their marketing schedule, not mine.

2. Selection and Variety. We need a new scale. Target has four kinds of scales. Good variety, right? If Target doesn’t have it, then it doesn’t exist, or costs too much or is too much of a pain to get in the car and go across town to the shop that specializes in such things. There are four types to choose from, just pick one, right? The same goes for toys, kids clothes and seasonal tsotchke. I couldn’t find a silver cardigan for my daughter at Target, so I just didn’t buy it. The developmental kids toys are the same everywhere and I should just pick one of them in the “developmental” toys aisle at Target — well, at least that’s my thinking. Yesterday I staged a rebellion: I’m going to (a) research scales  (b) determine what kinds of features I want (c) read the reviews. Then, I’ll go to Target and if they have it, great, I’ll stick it in my cart next to the deodorant and Intro to Yoga DVD, but if they don’t, I won’t be a slave to the Target machine, I will buy the scale I want to buy. Maybe. That is, er, f I have time and I don’t have to stop by Target anyway on my way to pick up my kid from ballet.

3. Setting the bar. I am often reminded when I question authority, process and procedures that most things are geared toward marketing toward, or communicating with, the lowest common denominator. Everything from public school to airport security screenings are designed for Bozo the Clown, so it’s no surprise that even my son calls out the low bar of marketing messaging. “What does ‘MORE SWEAT FOR LESS’ mean, Mommy?,” my 7-year-old asks. “It means you can pay less money for sweat pants,” I replied. “Why do I want to sweat more for less?”  he answered. Indeed son, why? For the love of all that is good: My kid is calling out the low level communication strategies. But you know what I did, huh? Huh? I turned around to see if they had the same sale for women’s sweat pants.

And so it goes. I love me my “Tar-jay”  I know that I’m part of a marketing machine and I expect the bar to be set low. I’m never disappointed nor impressed. I won’t be deterred from the big red circle and cheap popcorn at the front door. I won’t either be impressed by quality, selection or price. But here’s the kicker, see… I don’t have to like it, but it’s hard not to.

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Girl, You Got it All Wrong

Posted on Oct 22, 2010 in Featured, Politics and Rants |

Girl, You Got it All Wrong

I sat staring at the TV in complete shock last week as Deleware  Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell made a wicked, sad fool of herself. I wanted to leap through the television and shut her up — not for her clear lack of knowledge of law and current events or even for her politics — but moreover, for her gross embarrassment to me as a woman. For that dishonor alone,  I’m sure my high school Women’s Studies professor is cringing with distain.

I am a woman with a bias. I vote for women if I can. It’s just the way I roll. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s my history attending an extraordinarily feminist school; maybe it is me in the footsteps of my entrepreneur mother; maybe for my love of the underdog or the passion I have to raise my daughter with an equal balance of femininity and balls-out strength. My first inclination during election season is to seek out the female candidates and support them if I can. It might not be right, but it’s what I do. The only problem is, it’s hard to stand behind female candidates that are neither feminine nor brilliant. Christine, Meg, Carly, even you, Barbara: you are letting me down.

Somehow I expect that women will conduct themselves better in business and politics than men. I expect to see issues discussed cleanly, clearly and honestly. I expect a strong debate, filled with valid inflammatory topics and solid political banter. I want a good battle, an honest fight and die-hard representation of the things that make each candidate passionate about their role in the political theater. With the exception of being pro choice, I am willing to accept almost every political view, but I am not willing to accept unladylike conduct.

Meg Whitman, one of our local female CEOs has a wildly different position on politics than I do, but that’s not why I’m disappointed. It’s the wretched thievery of content, the nasty, dirty advertising smears, the red-faced head-shaking fury of a woman on the brink of leadership.  A leader doesn’t mistreat employees, whether they are execs at eBay or illegal house keepers. Leadership for women is the opposite of that — using the cortisol in our brains to our distinct advantage, not disadvantage to others. I don’t want PollyAnna for a politician, but at the same I’ve known insiders who say Whitman is a true witch — and not the good corporate kind that all of us female entrepreneurs secretly want to be. Oh Meg, you leave me no choice but to vote for the liberal, bald-headed Jerry Garcia wanna be. You let me down.

The national political stage for women has been set for this year’s election and it’s ugly. Our women in leadership seem to have lost their ability to woo an audience as women. Even Sarah Palin has lost her ladylike manner, replacing it with texting lingo “Pls” for “please”, making up words like ‘refudiate’ and finishing everything with an exclamation point or two!! Fading to the background are ladies in politics including the formidable Condoleezza Rice  whose grace never, ever tarnished, despite the trepidatious environment of international unrest, war and the endless hinting at being gay. I am not a fan of Rice’s politics, but female politicians can take note: Dress appropriately, behave like a lady, speak intelligently or do not speak, fight like hell for what you believe in.

What is a woman wanting to support women in politics to do? I will not spend my vote or even so much as slow down my Tivo fastforward on women who play dirty politics. I expect more from women. I expect civility, respect and, most of all, I expect you to represent me as both a woman, an executive and a voter with dignity.

I am left, sadly, candidateless this election term, reminded again of the great importance of The WhiteHouse Project and Girls Rock the House.

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Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher

Posted on Sep 23, 2010 in Featured, Rants, School |

Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher

I can see the headline now, “Mama Bear Pounces on Unsuspecting Teacher” with a horrific tale of a mother at wits-end with her child’s teacher. It’s not pretty. Trust me, because you’re looking at Mama Bear. Rowr.

I’ve been wondering what’s going on with my Thing 1, a normally fun-loving, silly, smart, smartass, school-loving kid. About a week after school started he began to refer to himself as “bad,” started lying, getting in trouble at school almost every day and yelling at his friends. At home, his regular excitement for school was replaced with silence. Something was wrong. I asked the doctor, talked to friends and to my Thing. Why the seismic shift? Somehow for all my investigation into what could be bothering my child, it never occurred to me that it was his new teacher that would be the cause.  And when it hit me — it hit me. Hard.

In a fit of frustration, I pounced on the poor woman. I screamed and pointed and cried. I smashed my hand into my fist and went off on her, “YOU are the reason my child is unhappy. You know what’s wrong with him? YOU! YOU!” Oh, that was just the beginning. I went completely off-the-deep-end. After 10 minutes, I left, exhausted and frustrated. She had said nothing.

Somehow, the mystery had clicked for me and I was mad as hell. I — who writes strategic marketing plans for school programs for fun, who worships my kids’ teachers and promotes their school and their programs like it’s a full-time job — completely let-loose. Never mind that this woman is a  seasoned, highly regarded teacher with a stellar reputation.  I was the mama bear protecting her baby and there was nothing that was going to stop me from letting this woman know how I felt.

I went home and was sorry. Not sorry that I’d finally gotten to the bottom of what was going on with my kid, but sorry that I’d spoken to someone with such passion. I wrote an apology note immediately, but you and I both know, an apology at that point is worthless, I caused more damage than she could have ever done to my kid. I am now going to be known as the crazy mom that went off on her kid’s teacher.

The next day I read about the father who had boarded a school bus to defend his daughter being bullied. The normally upstanding guy with a nice family and good home simply lost it. He told CNN the next day: “She finally opened up and told me what was going on,” Jones said. “And from there, you know, being a dad just loving my daughter … and just loving all my kids, you know. … [At] that point, my heart broke when I [saw] her standing there … [she] wasn’t going to get on the bus crying. And a dad is a dad. And I was going to be her protector that day.”

I can relate. Truly. My feelings as a mom overruled any logical, reasonable behavior I could have mustered. I truly feel for James Jones as a parent and as a dad who was overcome by the need to protect his child. I feel for him as a parent who must apologize, like I did, for behavior unbecoming to any upstanding person. I feel for him as a man who made a bad situation worse, because that’s just what I did. I made it about me, not about the issue.

There is something carnal about parents and their children. Maybe it’s instinct to protect or an overwhelming sense of responsibility to make their lives as happy and peaceful as they can possibly be. Maybe it’s a chemical reaction that bears have to their cubs — keeping danger at bay with all the ferociousness they can muster. Maybe I’m just a mom.

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The Scary Thin Line Between Blogging and Journalism

Posted on Aug 8, 2010 in Featured, Rants |

The Scary Thin Line Between Blogging and Journalism

As a very young writer, I had the great honor of working for one of the finest editors in the publishing business. Twice, actually. My first real job outside of  selling pantyhouse at Nordstrom was as an intern for Los Angeles Magazine a zillion years ago. The editor,  Blue Lew, taught me more than he’ll ever know — but the number one lesson about journalism that I learned was that the line journalism and advertorial shall never, ever, be crossed. True journalists hold the honorable role of being paid to write without the bias of influence from advertisers nor perk-a-lators.

This precious lesson helped me write some terrific advertorial inserts which made me more money than journalism ever did. And that’s okay, because one is based on touting the products of the company that is paying you, the other is reporting on a product, event or thing. See? Not hard to decipher at all when the line is drawn.

There was a table at Los Angeles magazine that was endlessly piled with goodies. The old wood 6-ft banquet table had everything from cosmetics to fancy dog treats, hoards of the latest goods to hit the market. Sometimes it was junk; other time it was backstage passes to the opening of House of Blues. The goodies were free for the taking — just pick up whatever you want. Nobody was expected to write about them, talk about them or hell, even use them for more than white elephant gifts. But what the table wasn’t was a deal between the writers and the PR folks who send them the goods. See, journalists don’t take the crap you send them — at least unless then need to in order to write a story. But bloggers? Many bloggers do. And that’s where the scary line between journalism and blogging comes to play for me.

And it’s not just the bloggers’ issue, it’s the PR execs too. Send you a sample, you give me a write-up. I send you to a show, you give me a raving blog post. You send me a book, I write a review. You give me free downloads for my kids and I tweet it out to my followers. It’s a growing relationship between bloggers and journalists that needs to be addressed. In listening to people speak this week at BlogHer 10, I started to become more clear on the problem at-hand: Many bloggers are advertorialists, not journalists. Although not good or bad, it’s got to be addressed. And beyond that, it’s got to be determined that paid blogging — no matter how you cut it — isn’t journalism. And that’s okay. But it’s got to require transparency.

A seasoned PR exec with a stellar reputation was approached by a blogger who wanted to know why she hadn’t contacted her lately. She asked why she wasn’t commenting on her blog, why she wasn’t returning emails at the drop of a hat. Caught off-guard, she tried to make it clear how valuable the blogger was to her and important to her business. And that’s true. But what the blogger was missing in all of this is that her direct access to this PR exec wasn’t a friendship — it’s a business relationship. Do you think the PR chick is calling up Brad Stone every day for a chit-chat? She calls him, then it means she’s got news or information to share that might be useful for his writing. He takes her call knowing that she’s got business. How are bloggers missing this important piece of business relations? Dear blogger friends, PR executives do not want to be your friend, they are working for their client. It’s not personal. It’s not about you. And no, they’re not reading your every Tweet.  PR execs know how to engage a journalist, but why not a blogger?

A few weeks ago I received a direct message on Twitter from a company that had offered me free downloads of their new iPhone app. I never got around to it. Yesterday I get a DM saying, “Taking your word for an older promise to try our (parenting) app on your iPhone.” Excuse me? I gave you my word? My word of what? And what promise would that be? How do I explain that offering writers a product to try is very different than committing to write about it. I think bloggers are mistraining our clients to expect that if we receive products to try that it means they will receive a post in return. The lessons of that old table are so simple and yet so hard to teach.

Advertorial is not a bad thing — it’s a great thing! The lines are very clear: you pay me with product or money and I, in return write a glowing blog post for you hitting all the points of interest that you’d like me to focus on. You pitch me or I pitch you. Great. You offer me a Cannon PIXMA Photojet printer which is worth about $375. How much are my blog posts worth? Well, if I write for BlogHer, they’re worth $50, so that’s either a blog post and social media outreach for $375 worth of your services or you are being over paid. Maybe that doesn’t work for longterm relationships with PR folks. Okay, how about if you loan me the printer and I get to have a photo printing party with some friends. You get to use the printer, print out as many photos as you want with all the supplies paid for. That’s worth about $50-$100. More in range of what we’re talking about here. Now you’ve got a deal. And, you’ve got a story to tell, rather than a simple review. That’s a good advertorial deal for both sides. And, could get you both more traffic and more clients.

I used to be on every PR list known to man. Seriously. Anything that had anything to do with entertainment was in my inbox. Not so much anymore. And that’s fine, I’m not an entertainment writers. It’s not my business. And, shame on the PR person who pitches me because they must be unaware that I no longer do that kind of writing. Recently I got on a PR list for live events for children. Now, that’s interesting to me. Why? Because I blog about my kids and kids lives, because I am always up for an adventure and I rather like cultural stuff. You want to send me tickets? That’s great! I like that, but what’s in it for you, you PR maven, you. Not much unless you have made a deal with me to do so. As your guest and having been “invited” to attend your event, I feel no obligation to write about your show. But the line is funky here too, especially for mom bloggers who could really use activities for their kids and ones that are free? Whoah, that’s hard to turn down.  But before you say yes with three exclamation points, I’d suggest making the relationship official and transparent. Think: is this advertorial or is this journalism? And then, proceed accordingly. Neither is wrong, of course. It’s just business.

Transparency is the key here. Decide what it is you are doing and be transparent about it. The way I see it, you have three options (a) be a journalist and use your blog to report things/people/events/thoughts without influence or bias; (b) be an advertorialist and use your blog as paid writing, using your blog as a mechanism to advertise things/people/events. Neither is wrong or less influential. The only wrong turn you can make is to blur the lines. And in doing so, lose trust of your audience. Set expectations, understand your strengths and limitations and understand that being a writer — both advertorial and journalistic — are held to the highest level of integrity.

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