Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dear Santa: Pall Malls and a DustBuster, please

Last night I managed to lure my husband to the Mall of America for a little Christmas shopping, about an hour's worth before my neck started to get a little stiff and my eyes began to glaze over -- a tipoff that claustrophobia, loud music and plain old volume overload were taking their toll. So we bought three gifts and left. The rest, we'll make or order online. Yeah, it's a little late in the game for that, but I think I'd rather shop naked at a gas station convenience counter than go to the mall or any mall again this season.

I just hate to shop. No doubt about it. I hate it more fiercely than just about anything other than Republican politics, war and famine. While some women are consummate shoppers and do it almost recreationally, I am (you've heard of the AntiChrist?) the AntiShopper. I go out of my way to avoid shopping whenever I can. My home and my wardrobe are living proof: Both are pretty spartan. It's kind of embarrassing, especially when many of my contemporaries are at the House Beautiful stage of their lives.

Yeah, I admire nice clothes and beautiful homes, but I'd admire them so much more if I didn't have to shop or pay for the myriad items our bodies and abodes display. I find myself overwhelmed by too many choices, colors, styles. I find beauty rather easily, so when someone says, "What's your favorite color?" I can't pick one. Scarlet? Love it. But depending on the day, I might feel maroon or chartreuse. Beige comes on in waves, especially when purple is nearby. And then, when I see the prices, I must make still another, more difficult choice: beauty or, uh, food? Soon, my whole being cries, "Retreat!" I get a much stronger sense of well-being when I open a full fridge than when I dig through a stuffed closet.

There is one type of store, however, that I tolerate quite well. I enjoy old-fashioned hardware stores, the kind with sawdusty boxes of odd-size nuts and bolts in the back, where items have prices scrawled in grease pencil (no UPCs, no scanners in these places) and a guy named Dick or Wally can find anything you need. And not only does he remember what you bought there last. He remembers what your dad bought there too. Hey! Maybe I could do my Christmas shopping at the Hardware Hank. Heck, it worked for my Dad. Then again, he thought a DustBuster, a "bottle" and a carton of Pall Malls to be "just grand" Christmas gifts. He might have been right after all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Norway's not cold at all

Reading about Walter Mondale’s appointment today as Norway’s new honorary consul, I saw a link to a new Norwegian producer of, you got it, galoshes. I saw some cute yellow shoes on the page and gave it a click. These little numbers are called “Swims.” But you don’t think sex sells everything, take a look at the gallery of these ladies galoshes. Whew!

Funny. My dad used to call these overshoes “rubbers.” I can just hear the howl of 13-year-old boys everywhere.

But I do like the shoes anyway.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Read between the lines

In my world we talk a lot about journalism ethics, and how the craft of journalism is changing; some might argue that good journalism is dying. Why? Well, because many people write well enough to establish some credibility with readers, and these people now generate audiences for themselves even though they know nothing about the tenets of good journalistic practice. Anyone with a computer and Internet service can pretend to tell you what he or she thinks is true. But these new media stars don't think about fairness. They don't care about libel laws. They don't much care for facts, really. And they surely don't tell all sides of stories. They write the sexy parts (which attract the readers) -- or the parts they want us to hear (mainly their own voices). And because most people don't understand the difference between writers who are educated, ethical journalists and pundits with an ax to grind, from Ann Coulter to Coleen Rowley to Jon Stewart, most of us suffer as a result. We just don't learn the truth about issues because we end up listening to the wrong sources. Informing ourselves used to be fairly easy: read a couple or three good newspapers, watch a national newscast, and you could be pretty good to go. Throw in National Public Radio and Bill Moyers, mix well and boom! You could watch an issue and feel fairly confident that you could figure out what was really going on. No more. Now it's really tough to separate the wheat from the chaff. There's just too much out there to choose from, and you really have to read and listen carefully, or you'll fall victim to the stupidity -- yes, stupidity -- that's now passing for journalism in this country.

Let me put it this way: Just because someone has a smart mouth, an applauding audience or a series of clever sentences doesn't make him or her worthy of our respect. Think for yourself, but do your homework.