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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Thursday, 16 June 2005

Mainstream Media was disappointed again. The cash cow they’ve been milking for at least a year now has finally gone dry. Whatever will E! Entertainment do without him?

Yes, Wacko Jacko was found not guilty on all charges-- the conspiracy charge, the molestation charge, even the giving alcohol to a minor charge. The networks carried the obligatory climactic scene where the verdict was announced and after that, nothing. The disappointment felt by every network “legal expert” was obvious. Even after they figured out whether it was Janet or LaToya going through the metal detector.

I’m sure they’d prepared lots of pithy remarks and well-informed speculations for a guilty verdict. There’s not much to say for innocent. “Well, Charlie, I guess Michael will go back to the Neverland Ranch and consider his options.”

One of those options, according to his lawyer, is to discontinue his practice of sleeping with young boys.

Excellent idea, Michael.

Although I did not follow it closely, I listened to the coverage of the trial on occasion. There wasn’t any irrefutable evidence against him, despite all those highly publicized police searches. It all boiled down to a he-said/he-said situation. The victim’s mother torpedoed the case for the prosecution. They didn’t stand a chance.

I am a bit disappointed that we won’t be getting those fascinating tidbits on how Michael’s getting along in jail, like we did with Martha Stewart. Maybe he would have directed an inmates’ talent show or taught them all how to moonwalk in the exercise yard.

I will also miss the jokes on the late night talk shows. I loved Conan O’Brian’s Triumph The Insult Comic puppet’s “coverage” of the fans outside. “You saw him come in his pajamas?” “Yes, he came in his pajamas.” For a while, a judge’s gag order prevented anyone involved in the case from discussing it in public, so Jay Leno, a witness for the prosecution, brought in substitutes to deliver the Michael Jackson jokes in his monologue.

Maybe now that it’s over, we can let Michael have the privacy he craves so much.

But where else are we going to find a washed-up, eccentric, ghoulish “King of Pop” who’s just so wonderfully weird?

He’ll be back.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:06 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 16 June 2005 9:09 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 14 June 2005

If you are really pissed off at your husband, here's a way to get back at him. Have him take the kids to see "The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D." It's 92 minutes of misery.

My daughter, who's a really good kid and deserves to be taken to a movie now and then, has been dying to see "Shark Boy, etc.". She said it was like "Spy Kids." Well it's not. "Spy Kids" was fun. It was a ridiculous premise, but at least the premise worked. And there was Antonio Banderas, who I can watch in just about anything.

What's this film about you ask? A wimpy nine year old named Max escapes his depressing life through dreams. As things get worse (his parents fight, he's bullied at school, he doesn't like his fourth grade teacher), his dreams take on substance and become real.

Suddenly Shark Boy and Lava Girl appear in his classroom so they can take him off to the Planet Drool because it's about to be destroyed. And since it's his dream creation, he's the only one who can save it.

When it's in 3D, the film looks murky. Maybe it was trying to watch it with the 3D glasses over my own bifocals. Yes, you do get that nifty effect of sharks swimming over your head, but there's no vivid color. Everything was dark and kind of fuzzy.

"Shark Boy, etc." was written, directed, and produced by Robert Rodriguez. He also wrote the music and supervised the special effects. One of the warning signs of a major turkey is seeing the same name in various key positions. (Not everyone is Orson Welles). I've got a sneaking suspicion that Robert Rodriguez is a pseudonym for George Lopez, who's all over this film. He's the kid's teacher, and the dream villain, and the Ice King and the Robot. I didn't keep track, but Lopez probably has about as much screen time as little Max and the adorable kids in the title roles.

It's not a bad movie for kids. Despite a number of fart jokes, it's not scary or gory, and there's a happy ending Max and the bully Linus become friends and Max's parents decide to stay together. And everyone decides it's a good idea not to be selfish.

However, I'd seriously recommend sneaking out and seeing "Cinderella Man" or "Batman Begins" once "Shark Boy, Etc." starts rolling.

Or wait until it comes out on DVD (very soon, I'm sure).

Posted by judy5cents at 4:30 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 7:42 AM EDT
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Friday, 10 June 2005
Just Say No?

Abstinence is a big deal among conservatives. They're getting beaucoups de bucks to go to high schools, show some really gross slides of victims of sexually transmitted diseases, then hand out the virginity pledges.

There is no talk about birth control, or condoms. Just don't do it.

There are studies that show that kids who sign these pledges postpone their first sexual experience. But when they do have sex, it's more likely to be unprotected sex.

Now as the mother of a pre-pubescent daughter (she'll be 10 in September), this is something that I'm going to have to deal with. I've been practicing The Talk for some time now. And yes, abstinence will be heavily promoted.

But the thing is, I know that it's not going to be a one-time decision for her. She will have to keep on making that choice over and over again. It isn't going to go away.

That's the hard part. Teen-aged boys, being hot-wired for sex anyway, can be very persistent. And with sex so pervasive in this society, it's really hard to avoid it. If everyone really is doing it and the only person telling you not to is your mother, what's to stop you?

My main objective is to prevent her from having to make that decision. That means rules. She won't be left alone in the house while her parents are working and when her beau comes to call, you can bet she'll have chaperones.

Here's the one thing I want her to know about sex. It's for grown-ups. Grown-ups take responsibility for their actions. They protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and STDs. If she's grown up enough to have sex, she has to be grown up to prevent the negative consequences.

Of course, I'm hoping that won't happen until she's at least 27. And convent schools are looking pretty good these days.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:23 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 10 June 2005 10:25 PM EDT
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Thursday, 9 June 2005
Throw The Bum Out
I want to get rid of Ken Tomlison.

He's the CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and he hates public radio and television. He feels it's too liberal. He says NPR is commonly known around Washington as "National Palestinian Radio." If he had his way, PBS and NPR would be more like Fox News. "Fair and Balanced" as the slogan, but in reality unfair and unbalanced.

His public statements are along the lines of "Well, everybody knows that NPR has a liberal bias. Just listen."

Apparently, he hasn't looked at CPB's own polls posted on their website, only 22 percent of respondents believed NPR's coverage had a liberal bias vs 31 percent for the major news networks. Nine percent said it had a conservative bias. But the highest percentage, 38 percent, said they believed NPR had no bias at all.

No bias at all. Now that's fair and balanced.

This is another one of those let's-put-a-hardass-conservative-in-charge-and-really-shake-things-up appointments this administration is so fond of. It's my ferverent hope that Tomlinson will be ousted and replaced by someone more moderate. has a petition calling for his removal from his post at CPB. By all means, sign it.

I can live my day to day life without a newspaper, but I can't give up NPR's straightforward, accurate news every day.

Which reminds me, I need to make a pledge to my local public radio station. Stupid system, but it's all we got.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:36 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 20 June 2005 1:34 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 8 June 2005
You Done With The Sports Section?
I read a newspaper today.

With time to spare between dropping my daughter off at the Westminster Presbyterian Church for bible school (yes, liberals really do attend church just like regular Christians) and Walmart, I stopped off at the closest Port City Java and treated myself to breakfast. To pass the time I bought a copy of the Wilmington Star News.

I don’t remember what was on the front page. The only story I recall was about a couple trying to run a greyhound dog rescue operation out of their house but it got out of hand. You’ve heard the story before–sixty-odd dogs were found in the house, emaciated, covered with fleas, ticks and dried feces, all of them sick. The dogs were turned over to animal control, treated by vets then an official Greyhound rescue group began looking for homes. Five had to be euthanized.

I also read Annie’s Mailbox (the replacement for the late Ann Landers’ advice column) and the comics. My horoscope said it was a particularly lucky day for me, although I didn’t notice any good fortune. I looked through the want ads and I even perused the mediocre editorial page. Then I left it there for someone else and went shopping.

My husband and I don’t subscribe to any newspapers. We get Newsweek and Car & Driver, but no newspapers. Aside from the funnies and Annie’s Mailbox, there’s nothing in there I’d want to read every day. We usually don’t have the time to sit and read one all the way through. Like every other newspaper, the Star News has downsized itself so it seems like it was printed for a child. You can’t hide behind it like the old kind. And I just hate the way newspapers pile up. I always worry I’m going to end up like one of those old ladies found dead with ten foot piles of newsprint.

When I was growing up, my parents received both Cincinnati daily papers (The Enquirer and the Post & Times Star), the two weekly Clermont County papers and the Wall Street Journal. My father read them all and did the crossword puzzles. It was fairly common to subscribe to both papers. Something might happen during the day that you’d want to know about. People like my parents were still getting used to the idea of television and there was no such thing as a 24 hour news network.

In college, my room-mates and I subscribed to the Akron Beacon Journal and when I was a reporter for a Cincinnati suburban weekly, I got to read the daily papers every day at the office.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped reading newspapers. Not enough time, don’t have the money, worried about the disposal problem. (I always felt I should recycle them but I never got around to it). I get my news from Newsweek, National Public Radio, ABC News and lately CNN and the BBC.

According to USA Today, Newspaper circulation has gone way down since the 1980s. Like me, people now rely on television and the Internet to stay informed. Every major paper has its own website and they post every issue on line. But it’s not like sitting and reading the paper.

I suppose one of these days, newspapers will disappear completely. But I hope not. Because I really do enjoy sitting at Port City Java, sipping my coffee and reading the paper.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:37 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005 9:46 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 7 June 2005
Free Advice on Writing (and worth every penny)

I decided to write about writing today, which to me is a lot like thinking about thinking. You get so distracted deconstructing the mechanics of what you’re doing, you find you’re not really doing anything at all.

Which is not to say that writers can’t benefit from a class, a workshop or just a good discussion about writing. There is however, the temptation to use classes, workshops and discussions as a means to be a writer without actually writing. (Writing is hard work, dammit! Let’s just talk about it for a while)

I know something about writing. I studied journalism in college where I had to learn grammar and style backwards and forwards. It helps to learn the rules before you break them. I also have written two books Caviar Dreams, and Tree Huggers, due out in 2006. I’m hardly an expert, but as you all know, that’s never stopped me from giving my opinion before.

I don’t like the idea of reducing writing to a set of seven handy steps, like Dr. Phil and his “Seven Steps For A Phenomenal Family.” Nothing is that simple. Also, it’s my feeling that if I concentrate on writing the “Right” way, I won’t be writing my way. If I’m going to spend my time doing writing exercises that no one’s going to read, I might as well work on my third book (five chapters and counting!)

I did a Google search on writing sites and got 198,000,000 hits. They have titles like “Rules of Writing,” “Writing Secrets,” “Writing.Com.” They offer ways to make money as a freelancer and how to get your great American novel published. There are online classes in writing, online writing discussion groups, online peer reviews and a huge number of bloggers blogging on writing. You could spend your whole life learning and discussing your writing, that is if you manage to find time to get it done.

By the way, I belong to a web forum of mystery writers. The web board has helped me a lot through the years, even though most of my postings are in the “Chat” Section as opposed to writing advice. Check them out at Mystery Writer's Forum.

But if you’re looking for advice, I will offer this quote from author E.L. Doctorow.

"Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. . . . Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Keep writing and eventually you get a book.

Posted by judy5cents at 4:39 PM EDT
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Monday, 6 June 2005
Hurricanes Happen Here

It's official. Hurricane season started five days ago. So far here in Wilmington, NC we've had normal weather for this time of year. Partly cloudy and warm, with an occasional shower.

But it's a long way to November. Sometime between now and then there will be a hurricane. According to the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado University, there will be 13 named storms this year and seven full fledged hurricanes. And the probability of a major hurricane making landfall somewhere along the US coastline is 73%.

Don't you just hate that? They tell you it's coming but you don't know when or where.

Here's the list of names for this year's storms: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Dennis, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katrina, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rita, Stan, Tammy, Vince, and Wilma.

Every year I look at the list and try to figure out which who's going to hit us.

Is it Cindy? Is it Irene? Is it Emily or Franklin? Maybe Nate? Who's going to be the one who sets us off to Home Depot for plywood and then to Wal-Mart to stock up on batteries, Doritos and Spam?

Last year it was Charlie who knocked a tree across our driveway and smashed our fence. A couple years before that it was Isabelle, who started out as a Category 5 and was headed straight towards us. Lucky for us, Isabel lost strength and headed north, causing nothing more than a few fallen tree limbs here

Welcome to coastal living. By choosing to live near the ocean, my family and I have chosen to live with hurricanes. We have learned to hope for the best and plan for the worst.

We have also learned there's no point in feeling sorry for yourself it one hits. And you certainly don't go on television asking why this horrible thing had to happen to you.

It happened to you because you live in a place that's prone to hurricanes. It isn't as if you haven't been told enough times.

Hurricanes can be oddly liberating. When one is headed this way, I realize that all the stuff we've accumulated through the years is just stuff. We'll get by just fine without it. As long I come out on the other side with my husband, the kid and the dog, I've got no complaints.

So pass the Doritos and open up the Spam.

Got more time to waste? Go to

Posted by judy5cents at 4:45 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 June 2005 9:05 PM EDT
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Friday, 3 June 2005
Hoping For Another Dead Body

Jennifer Wilbanks, the so called “Runaway Bride who sparked a very expensive missing person search when she decided to disappear,” pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and is making restitution for the cost of the search, along with 120 hours of community service.

Aside from her fiancee, nobody seems to be happy that she’s alive and safe. The sheriff’s and Police Departments in Lawrenceville, GA all want their money back. The locals who put up posters and tramped through the bushes searching for her are mad as hell that they wasted their time while she was on a Greyhound bus to Albuquerque, NM.

But I think it’s the Main Stream Media who’s really pissed off. They wanted a body to be found. They wanted another ongoing sensational story, just like Laci Petersen. (In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, that’s the pregnant woman in California who went missing on Christmas Eve and turned up in the San Francisco Bay months later. At least her torso did. And it was her husband who did it!)

When a swarm of reporters and remote broadcast trucks descend on your town, demanding to know the status of the search for the missing woman, what else are you going to do but put more money and effort into it?

As for all those volunteers, I would expect a good many of them went on the search in hopes of seeing themselves on CNN.

I can understand why Wilbanks lied to the police when she was found. If I were in her position, realizing the huge amount of trouble I’d just caused, I know I’d want to make up a story about being abducted, just to save a little face.

Outside of the Lawrenceville, GA area, no one needed to know about Jennifer Wilbanks’ disappearance. And yet, once again, it was all over the media. Shame on all those newsroom editors who made this as big a story as it was. Watch yourselves next time, OK?

Posted by judy5cents at 10:06 AM EDT
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Thursday, 2 June 2005
Follow The Money

After 30 years, we finally know the identity of Deep Throat, the confidential source in the Watergate scandal which brought down President Richard Nixon. It was FBI second in command, Mark Felt.

I’ve been waiting for years to find this out, even though I’ve never heard of this guy. I was always hoping it would be someone close to the president, like Henry Kissenger. Anyway, I just hated not knowing.

What amazes me is how Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and their editor Ben Bradlee managed to keep it a secret for so long. I mean, there has to have been pressure. People at parties saying, “Oh come on, you can tell me..” Or publishers offering millions if Deep Throat’s identity was identified in the next book. You have to admire their ability to keep that big a secret for more than thirty yearas.

It’s also amazing how no one guessed and there were lots of folks working pretty hard trying to figure it out based on the evidence. The main contenders were Patrick Buchanan, speechwriter and special assistant to Nixon; Stephen Bull, a Nixon aide; speechwriter Raymond Price; Jonathan Rose, attorney for regulatory affairs; speechwriter David Gergen; Gerald Warren, deputy press secretary; and Fred Fielding, assistant to White House chief legal counsel John Dean. Although these folks were mentioned often and Fred Fielding was presented as the best bet in a Smithsonian article, Mark Felt’s name never came up.

This is a guy who knows how to remain in the shadows. And not just in parking garages.

Now what I would like to know is why there’s even a question as to whether Mark Felt was a hero or a villain? I can understand why Pat Buchannan would call him a traitor (interesting in itself, since Buchannan topped the list of Deep Throat possibles) And you know convicted Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy would say pretty much the same thing.

But what’s up with the rest of you?

So let me set you all straight. Deep Throat is and always was a hero, whether his identity was known or not. He saw corruption in the Nixon administration and he helped bring it to light by keeping a couple of young reporters on the right track

Mark Felt changed history. For the better.

Posted by judy5cents at 7:37 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 2 June 2005 7:52 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
I See London, I See France

All right, I’m ignoring the big story of the day (don’t worry, I’ll get to it tomorrow) and instead, I’m commenting on that cheap shot photo of Saddam in his Y-fronts.

I’m sure you all saw it--the former dictator of Iraq standing in his white cotton underpants, showing the whole world that he’s hung like an Arabian stallion. Now, if I’d thought about it, which I never did, I’d have expected Saddam to wear boxers as opposed to briefs. I still believe that is his preference, as what he was wearing in the photo was probably prison issued.

The photograph was leaked to the press by an official in the military, no doubt inspired by that famous Brady Bunch episode in which Marcia Brady conquers her fear during her driving test by imagining the DMV tester in his underwear.

Hey Iraqui people! You don’t have to be afraid of Saddam anymore. Here he is, right here in his underwear. Your fears are over.

Never mind the suicide bombers, the threat of civil war and the lack of fresh water and electricity.

And never mind that it’s a clear violation of the Geneva Convention. We are not supposed to humiliate prisoners, no matter what their crimes.

A photo of Saddam in his undies is a long way from Abu Ghraib. But as the leader of the free world, the United Sttates should be above this type of juvenile behavior. (I have a sneaking suspicion that in the undisclosed location of Saddam’s imprisonment, his pants are flying on the flagpole). We are better people than this. Aren’t we?

Too bad we don’t have a wise school principal taking us into the office and giving us a good talking to. We’d be a better country for it.

Got some more time to waste? Visit my website

Posted by judy5cents at 8:41 PM EDT
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