Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Movie Reviews

In my annual quest for Oscar picks, I have seen three movies over the holiday break.

The first was Marley and Me. It’s a great little film; Heartwarming and very funny. I recommend you buy the ticket, but walk out ¾ of the way through the show. The ending is a real tear jerker. Quite frankly, it was too much for this dog lover to bear.

Then there is The Curious Case of Benjamen Button. I held high hopes for this piece, fully expecting it to be my favorite film of the season, but instead found it filled with distractions. The technical effects were indeed Oscar worthy, and I watched with anticipation as Brad Pitts face grew ever younger from scene to scene. My sheer interest in seeing Pitt de-age pulled me right out of the story. The plot dragged in the middle, and the big emotional moments of the movie failed to ring my heartstrings. I stayed through to the end, but did so reluctantly. Maybe it had something to do with the foul smell I endured as the woman sitting next to me removed her shoes, crossed her legs, and propped the offending appendage just inches from my popcorn. That distraction had me ready to beat feet for the door.

Last night I went to see Doubt with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. We have a winner with this one. It was the best picture I’ve seen so far. Streep was at her very finest. I actually recall being startled during a particularly intense scene when I heard a little something in her voice that jolted me to remember it was her. I was so engrossed in the character she created, I actually forgot I was watching Meryl Streep! (Which is exactly the opposite of what it was like to watch the Brad Pitt film.)

I have no Doubt Streep will win Best Actress this year. But I say that not yet having seen the Nicole Kidman film, Australia, which is next on my Oscar Quest list, but really, I simply can not imagine Nicole could be lucky enough to have all the stars in Holly-world align to allow her to find the right vehicle, the right direction, the right script, and the depth of passion required to compete with Streep on this level.

So far, my money is on Doubt to sweep the Academy Awards.

Of Course I still have a few more films to go see before making those fun final picks. The list include:

Slumdog Millionaire
The Dark Knight
The Wrestler
Revolutionary Road
The Reader

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Cash

Every year we take the children to visit their grandparents on Christmas Eve. After the hugs and greetings the children run to the Christmas tree where they search like squirrels. Hidden in the branches they each find an envelope with a crisp new twenty dollar bill.

No wonder they don't believe me when I tell them money doesn't grow on trees!
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Puppy Mill Problem

All across the country, people were protesting in front of Petland stores this weekend. It happens every year during the Holiday season as, The Humane Society of the United States, a private not for profit advocacy group, works to raise awareness about deplorable conditions in puppy mills. Complaints include charges that animals are kept in unsanitary cages, are unsocialized, poorly bred, have numerous health problems, and breeding bitches are kept in cages and impregnated every time they come into heat until they are not longer viable, and then are killed.

I came across one of the protest groups as I was doing my holiday shopping in Lewis Center, OH. A group of people gathered in front of the mall braving frigid temperatures for the sake of abused pups. A spokeswoman for the group, Mary O’Connor-Shaver of Columbus Top Dogs provided a press release which states:

“The goal of this event is to raise awareness of Petland and its relationship to puppy mill breeders and to solicit support from the community asking that Petland stop selling puppies while Central Ohio homeless dogs and puppies wait to be adopted.”

She wants the public to understand “There is a difference between reputable breeders and commercial breeders…Pet stores should be more regulated. We are finding these [pet store] dogs are very sick.”

She said “Lisa Wahoff, director of the Franklin County Animal Shelter pulled data in 2006 showing that as many as 7 out of every ten dogs coming into the shelter each day could be traced back to Petland sales.”

After speaking to the protesters, I took the time to talk with the folks at the Lewis center Petland store. Danny, the manager, brought out the Petland mascot Safari Sam to greet me and pose for pictures. He said Safari Sam was on his way out to the roadside to wave at the cars, and had been out earlier that morning standing side by side with the protest group. “The protesters show up every year during the holidays, but as you can see, it does not affect businesses at all.” He said with a wave of his hand, indicating the packed crowd of customers in the store. He was very good natured about the protest and adamantly stated that “all Petland puppies come from U.S.D.A. approved breeders.”

A report from the website bestfriends.org provides a comprehensive .pdf report outlining the definition of a puppy mill. One point of note in the reports states:

• Puppy mills are often USDA-licensed so they can sell puppies to pet stores. A USDA license is a red flag that breeders are in the business to make money.

The Petland manager went on to say “Petland does not approve of inhumane animal conditions.” “We think of Petland like a pre-school. We sanitize several times a day, and have customers use anti bacterial hand cleaner in between every pup they handle. Sanitation is a number one priority.”

In addition, the Petland website provides a comprehensive and scathing retort to the HSUS charges claiming this organization falsified video footage, fools the public, and uses a large percentage of donated monies for salaries and operating costs instead of the intended purpose of saving dogs.

I looked at the puppies and the condition of the cages and could only describe the Petland environment as impeccable. The puppies were handled by many customers who would go into a designated play area and get down on the floor with the pups while a staff member supervised. The staff was very attentive and helpful as they explained various breed traits. Clearly the workers were well informed, and dedicated to matching the right breeds with the families needs. Issues of size, temperament allergies and shedding were all topics I overheard during my visit. If these puppies came from disreputable puppy mills where poor kennel conditions and lack of socialization are a problem, the pups certainly do not live under those conditions once they are in Petland’s hands.

The Petland manager also talked about Petland’s Adopt-A-Pet program, which connects families who have a litter of puppies or kittens to families looking to adopt. He said “When someone finds a box of abandoned kittens and brings them in to us, we take them in, get them vaccinated, feed them, and provide them with good homes.” He want on to add, “Every Petland animal finds a home.” Implying Petland does not ever euthanize unwanted animals.

O’Connor-Shaver scoffed at that claim saying “no rescue organization in town has ever been contacted by Petland in regard to developing a partnership for their Adopt-A-Pet program.”

I asked Petland what they do when a puppy is growing and no one is buying. “We mark down the price, several times if we have to. Eventually they all find a home.”

While that may be true, one anti puppy mill website has posted an interview with a former Petland manager who tells of dogs being brought to the stores by the truckload, and those that do not pass muster are returned to the breeder. What happens to those puppies is unknown.

Petland claims the animal advocacy groups tie their annual protests to year end fundraising drives and prey on the sympathies of consumers to increase donations. The flip side of that argument is the protesters say this is the third year in a row the Ohio legislature has allowed the Puppy Mill bill to die in committee. They claim the commercial pet industry has ‘a strong lobby at the statehouse”, and “several powerful members of the committee make sure the bill never reaches the floor.”

For additional background information regarding the legal battles on this issue visit The Dog Service Network LLC blog and The Columbus Dog Connection.

These sites list the names of Ohio legislators involved in the committee hearings on The Puppy Mill Bill, but do not provide details on which legislators have received campaign donations from related lobby groups.

Such information would be most helpful to voters wanting a common sense solution to this issue.

For more information, the on line magazine Dog Owners Guide provides a balanced review of Puppy Mills, respectable breeders, and rescue organizations.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Shoeicide" Bomber Makes a Stink

The White House issued a red level footwear alert today, after a shoe throwing incident during the Presidents press conference in Iraq.

Bush has appointed 18 year old Airport security guard Buster Brown head of the countries new DC footwear anti terrorism team. Brown will be sworn in as Shoe Czar in the Oval office tomorrow.

President Bush joked about the incident saying “the shoe was a size 10.” However, Dick Cheney soon after enlisted Colon Powell to “toe the line” and release a Pentagon report claiming the shoes were actually sized 9-11. He then called for an international coalition of nations to invade Birkenstockistan. Cheney was later quoted as saying “This time we are gonna Sock it to em!”

Some conspiracy theorists are floating rumors of a “second Shoe-man” and claiming the attack was an inside job, as the video clearly shows no reaction or response from security or the Iraqi Prime Minister.

*Witnesses report having heard the plop of a third shoe hitting the wall behind the president. A commission is being set up, headed by the CEO of Hush Puppies, to scrutinze all 8mm videotapes made of the event.

One official from the Olympic javelin throwing committee scored the shoe bomber as a 5.5, because even though he missed his mark, he scored high on style points. The NCAA is rumored to be lobbying for a special Heisman Trophy for the throwers fancy footwork, calling him “a shoe in” for the next NFL draft. However, the secret service ranked embarrassingly low scores, as they were out on a coffee break, and missed the entire event. Apparently Special Secret Service Agent In Charge- Douglas Chesnick was replaced by a new crop of agents the White House recently outsourced through Wal-Mart.

Bush did his best to calm fears telling reporters he felt no threat, and all members of the White House Press Corps were in agreement on the prowess of the Presidents “Ducking skills.” Loyal Republicans met the Presidents plane with fanfare, playing the blues brothers song “Sole Man” as Bush exited the tarmac. Protesters responded by dressing up as Buster Brown and sporting signs that said “Heck of a job Brownie!” and “Sock and Awe!”

Stock in the shoe market jumped by 54% worldwide as a result.


*Thanks to Stephen Parrish for adding to the fun.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Silly Sunday

Today is my 46th birthday. So I am spending it with the family, just relaxing and having some fun. We were all cracking up over these parodies of the "INSPIRE" posters we found on the net.

I do love laughter, especially the contagious type. So here's a few of our favorites that might just split your sides too:

Great Gift Idea

I have this old bathrobe. Green and purple paisley printed silk on the outside, lined with a rich purple terrycloth on the inside; its comfy classy, and silky soft.

This old dressing gown has been with me through it all. I threw it on when that late night phone call came. I wore it when my dog was sick, when we huddled in the basement during the tornado warnings, and when I had to talk to the police after the neighbor kids’ toilet papered the house across the street. I literally lived in this thing after my surgery, and when the doctor sentenced me to a month of bed rest during my second pregnancy. (Ugh, that was rough!)

This is what I greeted family in at the hospital after both of my children were born. It’s what I wore when I woke up every three hours of the night to feed them. It’s what their little heads pressed up against when they were sick, as I paced the floor singing lullabies. This robe was what I worried in the night my husbands’ plane got caught in bad weather, and he did not arrive home till 4 am. And I am pretty sure this is the outfit I will have on when my daughter sneaks in the door on the night of her senior prom.

Tonight, I am wearing it because I couldn’t sleep, and decided to write. Often my robe is curled around me when I am writing, or reading one of those books’ that is just so damn good that you just HAVE to finish it, even though your eyes are watering up with tears of tiredness. The paisley print on the cuff is what I find myself staring at when I wonder if “tiredness” is really a word.

My robe is sixteen years old. I remember the day I got her. My husband purchased her for me as a Christmas gift two years into our marriage. I opened the Victoria's" Secret box with such surprise. I had not expected a robe. And purple paisley? Well I guess it was pretty, but not what I would have picked for myself. This dressing gown was a stranger to me; Just a thing. It wasn’t one of those gifts that make a big sensation in the frenzied moments around the Christmas tree, but just a simple gift, offered with love.

I wore it off and on at first, just treating it like any other garment. But over time, this old robe has become a part of who I am. This robe has been around. It seems like it has been wrapped around me during almost every major moment of my life, (not to mention it’s what I am always wearing after, um, well, --you know.)

The funny thing is, I look at this robe and have to admire my husbands sense of style and quality. Even after all these years, this old robe is still in top notch shape. He did not buy a cheap robe. He shopped for the best. I may not be the pretty young woman he bought it for those many years ago, but I still feel like the girl he loves when I put it on. After all the baby spit up, all the dog hair, all the spilled coffee, and everything else in my messy old life, it still looks more than nice enough to make me feel beautiful when I wear it, and it’s certainly still good enough to answer the doorbell in at two am.

When my husband bought me this gift, I’m pretty sure he was not thinking sixteen years down the road. He was just looking for something nice to give his wife.

How could he ever imagine that little gift would come to symbolize a lifetime of living?

If there is anyone out there reading this tonight, and looking for that perfect gift, I suggest a nice silk dressing gown, with quality terry cloth lining. It just might be a wonderful way to wrap someone you love in comfort and style their whole life long.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Leggo’s and Coffee

My ten year old son awoke early this morning, and much to my amusement, announced he would like a cup of coffee. Hubby and I shared a secret smile.

“Do you take it black, like me, or with cream and sugar like your mom?”


He then proceeded to go to the kitchen and pour a cup. Dad and I pretended to bury our heads in the paper nonchalantly.

“Would you like to read the comics?” My husband asked, handing the boy a section of the paper.

“I like to do the SODUKU.” He replied.

“I like to read the op-eds, your Dad likes to do the crossword, and now the SODUKU can be your section of the morning paper.”

With that, we three sat in quiet silence, drinking our coffee and reading the news for about 33 and a half seconds.

“I’m going to go play with my leggo’s now.”

“O.K. Honey. I’ll call you when it’s time to get ready for school.”

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Breaking News: Harris and Kilroy WIN OHIO Seats!

Breaking political news from the heart of Ohio:

This just in -- Mary Jo Kilroy (D) won her U.S. Congressional race by a margin of 2,311 votes, and Marian Harris (D) won her bid for The Ohio House of Representatives by a nail biting 735 votes!

I am thrilled for both of these outstanding campaigners. Way to go Girls!

Now I have only met Mary Jo on a few occasions, and can not say much beyond what most people already know, especially in regard to the truly nasty nature of what this woman had to endure in her last two campaigns. But I can tell you a little bit about Marian.

When I was approached and asked to run for political office two years ago, the mere idea was a shock to my system. Marian was one of the first candidates I met along the way, so I asked for her advice. Even though I was a total stranger, Marian invited me into her home. She served a delightful blend of Chinese flowering tea, and indulged my constant questioning for an entire afternoon. At the end of the day, she sent me on my way with a stack full of books and reports to read.

“Keep them as long as you like dear, but make sure I get them back. I’ll need them if I decide to run again.” She said as she waved goodbye from her brightly colored front porch. I was a total stranger, and she entrusted me with hundreds of dollars worth of valuable campaign material!

After reading through everything she gave me, I eventually decided to run, and Marian was there for me when I did. She introduced me to the people who helped launch my campaign. She gave me tips on building support, dealing with the press, and fundraising. I called her all the time with questions, and she was always there for me, willing to share her time and insights. During those conversations, I often thought about her grandchildren and how lucky they are to have her. Marian could move in with The Walton’s and feel right at home. She is genuine, real, open and honest. Not the typical politician type at all.

I am so glad Marian won her race. She is far and away one of the most honest and forthright people I have ever had the pleasure to know. Really. One thing I have learned about the world of politics is that most, if not all of the players are snakes. These people will pretend to be your best friend just to see what they can get out of you. They will tell you lie’s with crocodile smiles, hoping you will spread their rumors to knock someone out of the game. Everything is a set up as a double blind maneuver. It’s sickening. They will try so hard to get close to you, to gain your trust, and to set themselves up as your “inside advisors” when all they really plan on doing is cutting your throat when the game is done. It’s a nightmare; like waking up as a character on Paris Hiltons “Who wants to be my BFF” show. The only twist is these people play the game with godliness instead of New York jet Set Cool. The game is to see which snake can act more pious than the Pope in order to fool the press and the public.

But not Marian.

After all I have seen in the past two years, after all the back stabbing bull; Marian’s win restores my faith in the system.

Sometimes the good guys (and gals) really do win after all.

What are you reading now?

What are you reading now, online, in print, and for daily news?

Currently I am enjoying an old copy of The Complete essays of Mark Twain that I found in the back room of a local antique store a few days ago. One essay in the book I found particularly enjoyable is titled That day in Eden. It is narrated lovingly by a wise and sympathetic Satan, telling the story of the moment when Adam and Eve lost their child like innocence by eating the apple.

For online reading, I am hitting The Huffington Post, (mainly to keep abreast on Depak Chopra's current struggle to find harmony with his personal Zen in the face of meany editorial attacks) and I'm hooking into Chris Brogans site, and a site called Alltop . ALLtop is great because you can pick a subject you like, (such as news, writing, animals, art, or blogging) and then quickly scan the first paragraph of what everyone is currently posting on that subject. I found Alltop through my new buddy Chris Brogan, whose web site is just chock full of information on how to better your blog.

Hopefully, this site will improve and become more fun for you readers as I try out a few of Chris's techniques.
Three suggestions he shared that I am using in this post include, asking a question of your readers, embedding links to sites that are useful to your readers, and the use of photos to entertain your readers.

(Whadda ya think Chris, do I pass blogging 101?)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Getting "Back" to it

Oh my aching back...

I was doing fine, just going about my business, cleaning the house and moving the furniture after our big turkey day soiree, when, BANG!

You know how it works-you do all sorts of heavy lifting and then something S-N-A-P-S when you do a tiny little twist while bending over to pick up a feather.


If the writing rambles a bit tonight, -my apologies. It just means the pain killers are kicking in.

The good news is, I am laid up in style. I am blessed with TBDFITL (That's Ohio State Buckeye speak for a really great family.)

I'm sitting up in bed with my heating pad, a big glass of ice water, and my brand new HP G60 125NR Notebook computer that my hubby and kids bought me for an early Christmas/Birthday present.

I adore this computer, and will be happy to provide a review if anyone out there is interested. For that matter I could review quite a few little tech toys as I am a total gadget geek.

I know the idea is a bit off topic for this blog, but with the holidays on the way, it seems like a helpful use of my blogging energy to share the pros and cons of a few possible gift ideas with my friends out there in bloggerville.

What say ye dear readers, would you like this blog to go there?

Or maybe I should just narrow the focus of this space to the topics of writing, publishing, and use of social media. Or I could stick with politics...but I suspect we are all a bit worn out on that topic for a while. (If you're not, then I'm not the only one who needs a chill pill.)

It is time for a topic change. Thats for sure. So you all tell me... What would you like for Christmas from this site?

I would surely appreciate your ideas.

-But before I get "back" to it, I think its best I log off for the night.

Either this computer has the magic ability to split itself into twin screens, or the percoset is kicking in.

Nightie Night Wabbbbiiiiitttttssssssssss.................

Splitting Hares - Limited Edition Cel - 2001
Bugs Bunny GossamerMad Scientist Released 2001
Hand Signed By Chuck Jones
Unframed Price: $1350
Available at:
Alexander Ross fine Art Gallery