Friday, March 27, 2009

Who can turn the world on with a smile?

Back in college, when I was depressed and took a semester off, I started watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This was the era of Ally McBeal, and I remember thinking "everyone praises this show for showing a single girl in a career... wasn't this basically Mary Tyler Moore?" To see if I was right, I needed to watch it.

We didn't have cable, so I got some of my sister's friends to record it for me off of Nick at Night (which now shows stuff like George Lopez and Roseanne!!! How old does that make me feel?), plus I bought the available box sets on VHS. I didn't see every episode, but I saw a lot of them. This was a show that I swear, helped me get through my depression. It was just one thing that helped, but it did help.

I recently got rid of my VHS box sets, because I hadn't watched them in a long time, and they were taking up space. I bought the first season on DVD, and then didn't really watch it. I had buyers' remorse.

Recently, I decided to watch it again, after probably not seeing it in about 8 or 9 years.

Damn, that show is funny!!! I was surprised at how funny it is, even though I watched it a lot 10 years ago. I had forgotten how snappy and hilarious the writing is, and how lovable the characters are. This show premiered in, what, 1970? And honestly, it doesn't seem dated at all. The basic premise of the show is one that still gets used today- single career girl tries to balance work with life- sounds like Ally McBeal and also 30 Rock, doesn't it? But the jokes are still hilarious- as much as I adore 30 Rock, I am not convinced that in 35 years, someone who wasn't even born when the show went off the air will watch it and think "Wow, this show is hysterical!" Very few of the jokes are topical- some are, like a reference to Eric Sevareid, or being able to give the plot of a John Wayne movie without having seen it ("Oh, you know... he won."), but not so many that you don't get it. Incidentally, 30 Rock did a great episode featuring Laugh-In as EXACTLY that kind of comedy- so topical that people can't get the jokes at all 30 years later.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was this gently feminist show, touching on everything from men getting promoted because they were men, anti-semitism, the drudgery of being a housewife when you have ambitions to go on and do other things, being single in your 30s when everyone else expected you to be married, having a job that you like, and the fact that even good girls like Mary Richard had premarital sex, and she could do that and still be considered a "good girl." It wasn't ahead of its time, exactly, but it was definitely au courant.

I watch it and I STILL think "Wow, who wouldn't want to be Mary Richards?"

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Elephant Who Cried Wolf

We just got back from a big trip a few weeks ago, and one of the things we did was go to Nairobi. We had one reason, and one reason only, to go to Nairobi - the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is an organization that raises orphaned baby elephants rescued from all over Kenya (among other conservation efforts, but they are best known for the baby elephant orphanage).

We foster two of the baby elephants there, and since we were going to be in the region (loosely), we decided to seize the opportunity to go to Nairobi and visit. This added a considerable expense onto our vacation, but it was now or never to see my elephant, Lempaute. The goal of DSWT is to take these orphaned babies, raise them, and repatriate them back into the wild. They have had 85 orphans come through and go back into the wild, and some of them have even had babies of their own, babies that are wild.

It was a real treat to see the elephants. My husband fostered Lempaute for me as a Christmas present 2 years ago, and I never, ever imagined that I would visit someday. Never. I feel so lucky.

Here is my elephant, Lempaute. Edwin, the head keeper at DSWT's Nairobi nursery, told us that Lempaute is the "cheekiest" elephant that they have. We saw this for ourselves; we saw her antics in action, such as fake-charging a group of school children to scare them, walking down the rope line at the midday mudbath and feeding and letting everyone pet her, and then, at the private viewing, scaring a couple of children who were looking at her in her nighttime enclosure by sticking her trunk out at them. She even startled me by grabbing my arm with her trunk and pulling. I think she likes the children's screams. We read in the keeper's diary entries that her new game is to pretend that there is something in the bush that is scary and run away, and get her elephant friends to stampede away too. Elephants develop at approximately the same rate as people, so you have to remember that Lempaute is only three, just a toddler, really.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust really does great work. They focus on conservation, but in ways that would be workable for Africans. They not only try to educate communities who share the land with the animals, but provide resources for economic development. They work to build relationships with the local communities, not just so people will know what to do if they find an orphaned baby elephant (as sometimes the babies will fall into wells; this is a common cause of being orphaned), but also to get information about poachers from the local communities. They provide jobs for Kenyans. You cannot volunteer there; that would take work away from locals; they would rather pay and create jobs and infuse money into the community than take work for free. It is one of the few non-profit organizations where the administrative costs actually serve as an important function of the organization. They also serve as a tourist draw; although we would love to go on safari, we didn't have time this visit. We went to Nairobi specifically to see the elephants, and while we were there, we patronized hotels and restaurants and hired a driver.

The website for the trust is really good; it has a lot of information about the work that the DSWT does, information about the orphaned animals they raise (mostly elephants, but they take other orphaned animals too, such as rhinos, zebras, and dikdiks.), keepers biographies, and other great information.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Staycation All I Ever Wanted

I confess, I am somewhat amused by the advent of the "staycation," defined as basically, staying home during your time off from work or school. The New York Times even had a whole article about this supposedly new phenomenon.

Almost EVERY vacation I had when I was growing up was a staycation. You know why? Because we were too poor to go anywhere. Staycations are nothing new. Who the hell is so out of touch that they thought they needed to make up a word to describe what probably millions (at the very least, hundreds of thousands) of people have been doing for a long time? Because a lot of us are too poor to go anywhere. These are probably the same people who looked at me like an idiot when I asked if they went to Rome, New York or Rome, Italy on their vacation. Well, there IS a Rome, New York! So there.

Travel is great; don't get me wrong. I have done a reasonable amount of travelling since becoming an adult (a long-distance relationship that spanned the Atlantic Ocean helped a lot), although nothing that could be considered too exotic. Various places in England and Paris. I have been to Hong Kong and Phuket, Thailand. Phuket sounds like it's exotic, but really, it's Destin, FL with more Germans and less spoken English. This is interesting in and of itself. Back in the day, going to Europe was a big deal. Now, Europe isn't just for rich people anymore. Europe, big deal! Now, those people who complain about how air travel is like Greyhound now (you know what, it isn't- have these people actually ridden Greyhound?) need to find better, more exotic places to visit to show that they are better than all those people who go to London, because, hell, everyone goes to London!

This is why people that we know do things like go backpacking and mountain climbing in disputed territories like Kashmir. If I had to choose between this and going to England for the (counts on fingers...) well, I've been a number of times, England would win hands down!

Disclaimer: we are planning a trip to Egypt and Kenya in January, so I'm just as guilty of it as anyone.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Architecture School

I discovered, via reading the boards on Television Without Pity, that there is a new show on Sundance called Architecture School. When I clicked on the forum to read about it, I discovered that Architecture School follows a group of undergraduates at Tulane's architecture school.

Oh God. Oh God. This was where my friend (the one who died) went to school. He was in this program. The show follows an aspect of the program that wasn't in existence during my friend's time there- the students design and build houses for low-income residents as part of the gradual rebuilding of New Orleans post-Katrina. My friend graduated and died in 2001, so well before the need for this program.

This brings up a question- do I watch this show? I don't have Sundance (or cable at all anymore, see my previous posts), so I would have to buy it on iTunes.

I am leaning towards not watching; I feel that it would be wallowing on purpose. Maybe people who have never grieved don't understand this impulse that draws you in to face that black hole of grief and jump in. When you are early in the grieving process, you fall in that hole all the time on accident. As time goes on, you learn to avoid that hole. It is still there, though. Maybe it is smaller, but make no mistake, it's still there. And sometimes, yes, you jump in on purpose, especially after you have learned how to avoid it. There is something about losing someone so close to you. It tears you apart, and even though you want to be better, you want to get back to normal, sometimes, when you are mostly back to normal, you miss that grief. Well, not the grief exactly. You miss the person, and the grief reminds you of them. The reverse is true as well- be reminded of the person, be reminded of the grief.

I don't really jump in any more. The desire to do so surprised me, a little. I might just watch some of the clips on Sundance's website. Probably that will give me my fill. To tell the truth, I think architecture is frightfully boring, so once the initial shock is over, I'm sure it will be just like every other reality TV show that I have abandoned.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Too Much TV

We cancelled cable so my husband wouldn't watch so much TV, and now I am the one having the problem! Who knew that when you combine TiVo and Netflix, you end up watching TV for hours??? I think I am motivated in some way to get the biggest bang for my buck from Netflix (even though they slow down your service if you are too quick with the returning).

My sister did assure me that it's normal to binge on DVDs when you first get Netflix, but then you taper off to a normal level. I hope so.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why I Hate Talking Shop with Non-Academics

Actually, I hate talking shop period. I think this is another sign that academia is not for me- I find talking about it so boring. However boring it is talking about it with other academics, it is so much worse talking about it with non-academics who really don't understand the weirdness of academia or Ph.D. programs. Let me count the reasons why.

  1. They just don't understand. Anything. They ask you innocuous questions that raise your blood pressure like "When are you going to be finished?" and "Are you finally graduating this year?"
  2. They offer the DUMBEST ideas for your dissertation. Here is a tip for all of you who have never gotten to the point where you had to write a dissertation- if you came with an idea from reading The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, watching the local news, or corporate training, it has almost CERTAINLY been done before.
  3. The question "So do you know what you're going to do when you're finished?
  4. You have to try to explain your complicated, esoteric research idea to people who, even if they're smart, don't know the context. I'm not talking about general ideas, like "My dissertation is on 18th century American literature" or "paternalism in the Japan in the 1950s", but very specific details, because they are sure that they can understand the exact details and relationships of the variables.
  5. Worst of all, I don't like talking about academia with non-academics because I find that I get annoyed and snappish. I'm a bad conversation partner on this topic.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ugliest. Nursery. Ever.

My sister just found out she is pregnant, so I sent her the link to Apartment Therapy's nursery/baby/parent site, ohdeedoh. Apartment Therapy's aesthetic is mostly too modern for my taste (I hate that "grandma's estate sale" look that is passing for the trendy "mid-century modern" these days), and ohdeedoh leans that way too, but there are a lot of cute ideas for people who don't want that ugly pale yellow/green ducks theme or overly cutesy nursery themes from Babies 'R' Us. But this nursery goes too far.

You know what, people? "Eastern Bloc" is a horrible nursery theme. And no, that is not a black and white picture.

The whole post has other rooms that use grey that aren't so bad, but grey is probably my second least-favorite color for a nursery, followed only by black.