Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We Was Po' Revisited: Sign Me Up

Okay, so I've blogged about this before (see "We Was Po', part ii" from August 2010), but another article has popped up on yahoo related to this same topic. If you haven't seen it, it's a list of the worst paying college degrees of 2011. Of course, religious studies is included along with social work and several education degrees. For those of us lost in the throws of passion for the study of religion, this really isn't a surprise. As I've said before, if you come to the study of religion in any form expecting to get rich, you have been lied to, my friend. We do it because it's relevant and interesting and awesome, but this is not my point.

What made me come back to this again is a conversation I had on Facebook with an acquaintance. They asked me what I graduated with, and after I told them, they promptly sent me to the above article and basically declared me a fool in not so many words. Not only do I possess a degree on a list of so-called "low-payers," I have two other BA's in subjects equally (to their mind) as useless. Of course, by useless they meant that I will likely never become a millionaire doing it. My response was the following:

You ridicule my choices in degrees because they won't make me a ton of money and even pity me because of it, but I pity you because you seem to only be able to value the possibility of money. Yes, I need money to live in this society. Capitalism is mostly evil, but it is what it is; and I have accepted that fact. Yes, I know my particular areas of study, despite their salience, will not allow me to own 4 houses, a fleet of cars, and whatever else it is for which you need that much money. However, what you are looking at as a pittance of a salary seems miraculous to me. My first job netted me less than half of the lowest salary on that list in a year. My wife, though better paid than we were then, still makes less than half of that in a year. If I were to land a position teaching my subjects and managed to pull in the "low" salary of around $30,000, I would be ecstatic and suddenly be operating on twice the budget we have now. If I were to have a job making that much, my wife could quit work because we would be able to pay all our bills. She could do whatever she wished in school and take her time finding a job doing what she wants to do. Once she got a job (which would net her nearly $30,000 as well), we would be rich based on how we were raised, the areas we grew up in, and our lives up to that point. Life would be much smoother financially. Hell, we might be able to actually think about buying a house and a car made in a closer to current year. In short, I would be divinely happy with that. So, remind me again what the problem is with that figure.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mad Clippers: The Truth Behind (Some) Extreme Couponing

Okay, my friends all know I am in love with coupons. I clip the Sunday paper, troll online sites, email companies, etc. in order to get them. We are broke and both of us have been since we can remember. My mother was a crazy coupon lady. On a trip to Harvey's once, she paid under $10 for over $200 worth of groceries. I'm still impressed. My own shopping trips haven't gotten quite as awesome, but I do all right. I get things for free occasionally, and I get things for damn near free a lot of the time. However, I don't do coupons for the fun of it. Sure, I get a kick out of it, but that isn't the point. The point is to make sure we can afford the groceries and household items we need every week.

So, where in the world is this headed, you ask. I finally found a site online to watch TLC's Extreme Couponing, and I am, for the most part, I am horrified. Some of the people are awesome. One guy bought an insane amount of hba items (like around 200 toothpastes, etc.), but turned around and donated a ton to deployed soldiers. One woman did the same with food items, but donated over half to a food bank. Those I get. Those I think are awesome. However, even they have something in common with the others that makes me livid: the stockpile.

All of the people profiled on the show have stockpiles that take over garages, rooms, closets, you name it. Some of the families are large, so a reasonable stockpile makes sense. Buy 50 bottles of shampoo for nothing or near it, and you don't have to worry about it for a while. BUT they don't just buy it like that. One man had a literal wall of toothpaste which he was stockpiling for his 4 person family. There is no way they will be able to use a fraction of that before he buys more. One woman has hundreds of packages of diapers in her garage that she got basically for free, but she has no kids! She is neither married nor dating anyone with whom she is planning on having a child anytime soon. She simply bought them and stored them for "the future." While it makes sense in a way, it just seems excessive and wasteful to me. If I had the space and money to spend, I would do the crazy coupons for those things and donate them, but I don't. My "stockpile" might be 2 or 3 bottles of the same shampoo when I didn't need it yet but which I spent maybe 50 cents on. The difference is that I won't buy anymore shampoo until that is gone.

This whole thing aggravates the hell out of me. I have nothing against saving money; it's wonderful. However, this is no longer actually doing that. The diaper woman was shown buying Mylanta or a similar product which she admittedly never uses, but she couldn't pass it up because it was such a good deal. A "good deal" is one that saves you money on an item you use. It would be like me going out and buying 20 boxes of pregnancy tests to keep in my stockpile because they were extremely cheap. I have no use for them, so any money I spent on them is automatically wasted. Therefore, not a good deal. *sigh*

All of this is not to say that all extreme couponers are like this. On the contrary, there were a few who simply built up items their families needed without being ridiculous about it. Anything over their own need that they got for free or spent pennies on, they donated or gave to extended family. Those are good deals. What these other people are doing? Well, compare an episode of that show to Hoarders, and the only difference you are likely to see is how neatly the items are contained. They are simply escaping the stigma and label by throwing up a shield of coupons and being on a different show. Just sayin...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Adventures in Women's Studies: *Facepalm* Ad Infinitum

What a way to start a morning...So, Summer's Eve has a new set of commercials promoting their wash and on-the-go wipes, and oh dear Goddess. What's the big deal?, you ask. Well, go check them out at Huffington Post. I'll wait...

Done? See what I mean? What in the world made them think these were a good idea? The Black woman goes to the club, the Latina is having kids, and the white woman is apparently the reason for the entire world. I would love to meet the person in advertising who created this mess. Between these and the Klondike bar fiasco (read my response to that here), I feel like I've fallen through some portal into the 1950's. What's next? Hoover commercials telling us that wives want a vacuum for Christmas or a woman caressing a shiny new refrigerator?

What has happened, people? I know that fads and time periods come and go; just look at fashion. But really? Fifties' style sexism? I could do without that one returning. The worst part of all this is that it isn't just advertising. Take a look at politics. Michele Bachmann has fully admitted that she follows old school biblical submission in her household, which of course, calls into question who exactly would be running the country should she be elected (Goddess forbid). Would her commitment to submission become a serious problem were she to be the most powerful person in the country? (And a question for another blog: how does being president even work with that ideal?) Regardless, it shows how prevalent these sexist ideals have become, and frankly, I am really worried. We are presenting the next generation of girls with these fragmented and outdated templates of how they are "supposed" to be. If this continues, no one should be surprised when teen pregnancy stays the same or increases (child bearing being an ideal job), when domestic abuse and rape become just another minor problem (more so than they already are seen as), and college stops being a means to a life of one's own and starts being just a way to get an Mrs. degree.

And yes, all this from poorly conceived advertising...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Life 19: I Have Always Relied on the Awesomeness of Ballsy Southern Broads

When I was about 16, I bought a copy of Brett Butler's Knee Deep in Paradise in the Wal-Mart book aisle. This was before my hometown had a Supercenter, and I haunted that aisle to the point that I can still see it in my head. At the time, I was up to my neck in self-loathing Evangelical fervor, convinced of my own damnation and living in a black cloud of suicidal funk because of it. As was my habit prior to and after that time, I buried myself in books that, surprisingly, were more supportive of that little lesbian hiding within than the psycho that was wandering around on the surface. I found E. Lynn Harris' first novel (Invisible Life) at our library (I still marvel at that), and Brett Butler in Wal-Mart. Now, Butler is not gay, but she has had a similarly disjointed and broken life. And she hails from my neck of the woods--proof that you can be as odd as we seem to be there and survive, even thrive.

The 90's were rife with comedians and stand-up specials on every channel, but none of them ever caught my attention like Butler. Despite the jokes, something told me she had been as destructive and destroyed as I was at the time, and I loved her for it and have ever since. To this day, if I still had copies of her specials, I guarantee I would laugh until I hurt myself at her. I still quote things from her specials now. I watched every single episode of Grace Under Fire and was heartbroken when it no longer existed.

When writing, I could call myself back from the darkness, rest and reclaim things I'd let go of long ago.--Brett Butler

In the years before the internet was the monstrosity that it is now, I never really knew when books I would be interested in would be coming out until they hit the shelves at Wal-Mart or the library. So I had no idea her book was coming out until I stumbled upon it that day. It was profound enough of an experience that I remember it nearly 17 years later. Much like the Harry Potter releases so many years after, I did not sleep that night so I could devour the book. Then I read it again. And again.

I recently found another copy in one of my used book haunts and snatched it up immediately, worrying that I had only found it so engrossing and profound because of the time in which I first read it. I was wrong. I still see my own shattered years in hers, though the shattering was due to much different events, and my family in hers, both of which collapsed under the weight of their own particular Southern dysfunction. This has been less of a review than a love letter to one of my favorite famous women and her book, I know, but I don't think it could have been anything less. It is strong, intelligent Southern women like Brett Butler that make me proud of my Alabama roots. She is what I think Mema was to me but would have been publicly had she been born much later and what I hope I am or will be.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fun with OCD: My Top 5 OCD Household Items

I don't usually do blog posts like this, as this is not a shopping blog, but as I was washing dishes this evening (an inordinate number for just two people, in my opinion), I was thinking about all the awesome things on the market that make me as an OCD person happy. Some of the following we own, and some I covet and hope to own eventually. So, sit back and enjoy my top 5 OCD household items.

#1: The OCD Chef Cutting Board

This is the newest item on my "I want that" list. Naturally antibacterial, allows my chopping to be perfectly even, and it even has OCD in the title. How can you lose. Can be bought here. Thank you, ThinkGeek!

#2: Rachel Ray Gusto-Grip Basics Knives

Now, these we actually own, thanks to some leftover financial aid money when we moved into this apartment. In addition to being awesomely sharp and matching our kitchen colors, the handles are non-slip (important for klutzes like me) and anti-microbial, as all knife handles should be. Can be bought here and other places, I'm sure.

#3: The No-Pot Coffee Maker

I don't generally like coffee, but my lovely wife does. And on the rare occasions we stay in hotels, it always bugged the crap outta me when she would use the in-room coffee pot. Now, I'm not saying all hotel housekeepers are lax with the cleaning. However, I've worked at a hotel, and I know that some are much more stringent than others. So not all hotel room coffee pots are really clean. Imagine my delight the first time we stayed in a hotel whose in-room coffee makers had no pot! You use these little packets of coffee, and it dispenses directly into your cup. Brilliant! (I couldn't find a pic of the one I was looking for, and I'm not sure where they can be bought by the public. Sorry.)

#4: The Premier Anti-Bacterial Toothbrush

Until last year, I found myself unable to use the same toothbrush twice. I would buy the multi-packs at Dollar Tree every week, and toss after using. As you can imagine, even buying these at the Dollar Tree got a little pricey. Then one day while perusing the travel section of the health and beauty aids department at Wal-Mart, I found a wonderful thing: the Premier Anti-Bacterial Travel Toothbrush. The bristles themselves are anti-bacterial, which is supposed to last the standard three months. (I don't quite trust that because I'm me, so I buy a new one every 2 and a half months.) At about $2, they are certainly cheaper than my previous toothbrush habit, and I don't have to carry the ecological guilt either.

#5: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

No matter how much you clean some stuff with regular cleaners, there are stains. Enter the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. You wet this thing and scrub at the stain...voila! no more stain. I love these so much; they were especially wonderful when moving into a new place. I have no idea how they work, and I don't wanna know. It's probably of alien origin.

That's all for now. Maybe I'll do my favorite OCD products for carrying about next time...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Trapped in the Cockadoodie Car: OCD and Me Have a Sit Down

"I am your number one fan. There is nothing to worry about. You are going to be just fine. I am your number one fan."

Thanks to my unfortunate unemployment, I find myself with time to watch and re-watch a lot of my favorite movies...or at least the ones I still have and haven't sold to the video store. Among today's selections is Misery, one of my favorite Stephen King creations. For those of you who haven't seen or read it, it's the story of Paul Sheldon, a writer who has come to loathe his money-making romance series, and his entrapment by a crazed fan. He has a wreck, and Annie Wilkes, insane ex-nurse extraordinaire, hauls him into her home and...Well, I despise spoilers, so suffice it to say, Annie Wilkes is truly one of the craziest bitches to ever come down the pike. As in several of my favorite King tales, this serves as an allegory for what his addictions did to him (also see The Shining) and also how a writer's mind splits (see Secret Window and The Dark Half). Worry not, faithful reader, I do have a point.

Just as an addiction or the writing life can control and warp one's life and mind, so can mental disorders. OCD often acts as the monkey on my back that drugs and alcohol can be for those addicted to them. My particular OCD is absolutely not as life-destroying as any of these things on a regular basis, but it is for many. On my worst days, I feel trapped and held hostage by these ideas and worries that I absolutely cannot control, and always somewhere in the back of my mind, one of those nagging little voices says, "But your life would be chaos without us making sure the door was locked and the stove was off and the books are in order and the cans are alphabetized!" The worst of it is that some part of me believes that. Some part truly thinks I would likely leave doors wide open, burn the place down with forgotten stoves, and be living in filth were it not for these bizarre obsessions and compulsions of mine...when, really, we all know perfectly well that it is they who are the problem--not the solution to anything. I'm hobbled by my inability to go against them.

"WHAT'S THE MATTER? I will tell you "what's the matter!" I go out of my way for you! I do everything to try and make you happy. I feed you, I clean you, I dress you, and what thanks do I get? "Oh, you bought the wrong paper, Annie, I can't write on this paper, Annie!" Well, I'll get your stupid paper but you just better start showing me a little appreciation around here, Mr. MAN!"

In any case, the actual impetus for this blog concerns storage. I was sitting here watching Misery, and I happened to glance at the bookshelf to the left of the TV. For the most part, it holds my religion and women's studies books, but it also has our Sharyn McCrumb collection, my awesome Jim Jones snowglobe, and a few things "stored" along the top of the books on the shelves (a few notebooks, etc.). Of course, this drives me nuts. I don't like having the stuff stacked up there; it is certainly not an ideal storage location. I twitch every time I look at it, but I honestly don't have anywhere else to put it. So, I started wondering, "where does everyone else store their extra notebooks, pens, post-its and office supplies?" I pondered that for a bit until it dawned on me that most people, at least those who aren't students or the parents of school-age children, don't have extra office supplies stacked everywhere and don't need to have storage for them. It was another of those "we are not normal" moments that I seem to have more and more recently.

And my own personal "Annie Wilkes" came and patted my hand and said, "No, no, dear, it's they who are not normal. How prepared are they? And I bet their doors aren't locked and they're the ones whose houses catch fire from stoves. I keep all that from happening. I am the last line of defense between you and chaos."

Yeah. Sure.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I'm Done: Final Thoughts on the Recent Debacle

In the last few days, there have been I don't know how many Facebook groups, repostables, statuses, etc. about the Casey Anthony circus popping up. I know, I already blogged about this, but I am getting incredibly sick of it. The straw that broke the camel's back was this youtube video using pictures of Caylee Anthony and a country song written for her. At least 10 people I'm friends with on Facebook posted the link in a span of maybe 2 hours. After hiding the 7th one, I went check it out. I was told to grab tissues, but I doubted the necessity. Turns out I was right. No tears, guys. As small children go, she was adorable, but so are a lot of kids. I'll repeat: I hate that a little kid died; it was incredibly senseless and sad, however it may have happened.

BUT (you had to know that was coming) where is the outpouring of grief for the millions of starving and malnourished children that die everyday? Where are the songs written for them? Where are their Facebook groups and repostables?

70% of the approximately 9 million children under 5 who die everyday die of preventable causes, most of those are caused by malnutrition.

I can already hear some of the rebuttals about helping people here first, etc, etc, etc. So, how about this:

Five children die everyday in the United States from causes directly linked to abuse or neglect.
It is absolutely insane to me that so many people have spent so much time talking and thinking about this case. Again, it was bad, but so are the thousands upon thousands of other deaths that happen everyday. Over 1000 children under the age of 5 die every hour, so in the twenty minutes or so I spent writing this almost 350 children under 5 died. If the recent craziness is any indication, my Facebook wall should be packed with links to songs, groups, etc. about those kids. Let's go see....

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Step Right Up!: (Reluctantly) Weighing in on the Casey Anthony Circus

I cannot believe I'm writing this blog. I have ignored the entire Casey Anthony debacle as much as possible, and I wouldn't even have known they reached a verdict had every news source not been blasting it. Of course, as soon as the verdict was read, Facebook blew up. In fact, there are already two of those re-postables in honor of the little girl going around, after only about 45 minutes. By the way, this post is probably going to piss some people off, just to warn you.

First of all, I am making no judgments on whether she did or did not kill her daughter. I was not there. I did not see anything, was not present in the courtroom to see evidence or hear testimony, nor do I even know any of the people involved even remotely. Therefore, I have no reason to think my judgments would be correct. If she did do it, she should have been punished, though the death penalty would never have been reasonable in my opinion. If she didn't, I'm glad she was acquitted.

I am not writing this to yell and scream about her not guilty verdict. Nor am I writing it to proclaim her innocence. As I said, who am I to say? I was not on her jury. What this is about is the public response to the whole mess. Since it began, the public has been collectively losing its mind over this case. Yes, it is sad that a small child died. Is she the only one that died at that time? No. Is she the only one who died under odd circumstances? No. Do I think that if she had been a child of color or someone much poorer the media would have jumped on this? No. The Casey Anthony circus reminds me a great deal of the Jon Benet Carnival several years back, and I have the same opinions about that mess as well.

I continue to be depressed and aggravated by my fellow human beings. You would think the woman had come into their homes and murdered their child from the tone and comments. The comment (from Facebook, of course) that bothered me the most was: "I have never been so disappointed or disgusted with our legal system." Really? Never? Not once? While I do believe that murder is a serious and terrible offence, this particular case is certainly not one that made me lose faith in the legal system. That happened years and years ago and continues to happen repeatedly. Rapists walk the streets, women are still forced to pay for their own rape kits in some areas, children are taken away from loving parents because of sexual preference, a homeless man is given years in prison for stealing $100 because he was hungry (which he later returned on the grounds that "he was raised better") yet a person who steals billions (literally) in corporate America is given mere months, Leonard Peltier is still in prison, poor people and people of color are disproportionately jailed for minor offences that the wealthy and white continually get away with....

So, do I mourn the fact that a young life was ended, possibly violently? Of course, but I also mourn the thousands who die homeless and hungry, who are killed by bullets and bombs in idiotic wars, who suffer needlessly everyday. The point is that if the Casey Anthony case is the first thing that made you question the justice of our legal system or anything else in this world, you have not been paying attention.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Not Without My Books, or Change is a Four-Letter Word: Hoarding Rears Its Ugly, Cluttered Head

This afternoon Anna had a sudden urge to see what the living room would look like rearranged. So she found a program online, and I spent the better part of an hour or so calling out the measurements of everything. Basically, it all came to nothing because the stuff we have simply doesn't seem to work in any other configuration, but I do have a point to this...Afterwards, Anna was saying that we have too much stuff--primarily books. It isn't that she doesn't like books. Quite the contrary. She loves to read as much as I do, but she simply doesn't have the need to keep them once they're read for the most part. I like to keep a great deal of mine, mainly because I'm always certain that, at some point in the future, I will want to reread it or will need it for something, and therefore in order to save the trouble of finding and buying it again, I should keep it. In the past, I have been proven quite right in many cases. Some of my books show the wear of many, many readings. Some I may have only reread once or twice, but they are either difficult to find or simply things that I love and want around. Some are, well...

Anyway, during the course of the conversation, I burst into my usual frustrated tears. My immediate response was to go on the defensive. "I did good! I've gotten rid of a ton of stuff!" And I have been good and gotten rid of a ton of stuff. Our closet can testify to that. My gods the amount of crap we cleared out over the past few months, when one counts the storage apocalypse as well as the closet! But certain things, books in this case, I absolutely panic at the thought of clearing out. Take my "school" bookshelf for instance. There are things on there that I have used many times, and were I in graduate school right now, I would be using them again--books I have kept from various classes, some from my honors thesis, and a few (*cough* 9 *cough*) versions of the Bible for comparative purposes. The problem is that I am not in grad school and don't look to be for quite a while. I can't afford to retake the GRE without a job, nor can I afford the application fees. And besides all that, even if I got into a graduate school right now, we certainly couldn't afford to move to wherever it might be. But I just can't get rid of them. If and when I needed them, it would prove difficult and expensive to replace some of them, so I should keep them. Not to mention the fact that if I got rid of them, it would be like I was admitting defeat in a way, letting FSU's rejection decide that I'm not going to do what I want to do...

When's just trading in or selling some books that I'm not using at the moment...I hate OCD.