Thursday, June 29, 2006

Putin Kisses Boy on Stomach in Public Act of Creepiness

I guess if you can't disrobe and kiss young boys on the stomach, what's the point of being President?

Okay, sorry, sorry. Forget the jokes. I'm asking seriously: What do you think was going through the brain of Russian President Vladimir Putin to cause him to kiss a little boy on his abdomen?

Do you find this creepy? Because I find it creepy. In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone finds it creepy. But maybe Russians do not agree. Can someone elucidate? Is this something that happens frequently in Russia? I mean, I know Russians one-up the European two-cheeker kiss-kiss with the Russian trifecta, but still.

My dear Russian readers, (a girl can dream, can't she?) I don't mean to offend. In fact, I sympathize. I mean, it must be obvious that we here in the States have grown accustomed to our fearless leader putting body parts where they don't belong. Of course, our President -- at least, ahem, our current one -- usually confines the misplaced body parts to inserting his own foot into his own mouth.

Your leader, on the other hand, seemed to lose his lips, only to find them again on the stomach of a tow-headed, little boy. Gosh, how embar---

Wait a minute. Let's face it. This is still waaaaay less embarrassing than Bush.

So there's that.

But there's still this:

Grody! Somebody get that boy some therapy, STAT.

To Please the Swedes

Okay, so for some reason I'm big in Sweden. I keep getting mail from my Swedish readership requesting updated posts. (Thank you! Thank you for reading my little blog!)

When I explained the reason for the blog hiatus is that I'm moving, my correspondent requested further that I "just write a little something, then." Wow. First of all I'm flabbergasted that I have a readership at all and secondly, I'm flattered to have requests. I feel that me and my little blog are ready for the big time at any moment! But anyway.

Mark Twain once said "I didn't have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one instead." If you understand this, and you've noted the length of my blogs, then you'll understand why writing just a little bit is impossible for me.

So I can't really write a little bit. I mean, look, even this "short" note to explain why I can't write just a little bit is overly verbose and, well, kind of long-winded. That's why instead of writing more, I'll leave you with this:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I stink! No new posts!

I was on vacation with my family and now I'm moving. The vacation and nightmare move should prove good blog fodder upon my return. Especially considering I'm moving this Saturday and have exactly 3 boxes packed so far. Can someone please come over and pack up my place for me? Thanks...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Grandma versus Pitchfork Media versus My I-Pod

Allow me to introduce you to my Grandma.

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My Grandma has several aliases, which are useful in describing her character. These include but are not limited to: Gram, Grams, The Grams, Snowbird, and Gramsterdam. As you may have inferred from her airbrushed license plate, she also goes by "Rea." This is short for Mary, leading some of her partners in crime to dub her also "Mother Inferior."

In short (and she is wee indeed) Gramsterdam is a 4'10 octogenarian sick unit with a sense of humor like none other and a stockpile of dirty jokes that rivals the resources of the entire internet. She is at the same time the sweetest and most devious creature on the planet.

Just look at the sweetness depicted here:

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So prosh, huh? You're probably trying to hug your computer. In fact, I thought about submitting this picture to Cute Overload but I don't think they take Grandmas.

But she also has a sharp tongue and an acerbic wit that she will use without mercy if the situation merits.

Take for example the time my six year old self knocked over the goldfish bowl and put poor Floppy into my mouth, only to have him spanked back out of me in an episode that left my rear end red and stinging for a fortnight. I was outraged, but a life was at stake. A little, orange fishy life. I'm happy to report that floppy was extracted, safe and sound, from my Jaws of Death, though his home was in ruins. After I suffered the indignity of having a goldfish spanked out of my mouth, my Gram went on to inform me that Floppy would now die, because I didn't listen and knocked over his home.

My little six year old lip started to tremble. My little six year old eyeballs started to water. And then my 60-something year old Gram started to feel guilty. So to make up for making me cry, Grams bought me a bracelet while we were shopping for Floppy's new digs. Floppy was saved, Gram's guilt was assuaged, and I learned a valuable lesson early on. You can undo harm by purchasing shiny objects for your victim.

(I'll save the rest of these stories for my therapist so we can move on with this post already...)

As you'd guess from her snowbird moniker, Gramsterdam winters in sunny Florida, just east of Orlando. She lives there half time, spending summers in my own dear hometown of Pittsburgh. As you can imagine, because of both her scintillating wit and because people are afraid to let her out of their eyesight, she has loads of friends in both zip codes. Right now, Florida is winning, as shown here during her recent 82nd birthday celebration:

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But her Pittsburgh crew, while smaller, is equally sassy, as shown here at the Ascension Church friday fish fry a few lents back:

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The act of snowbirding requires Gram to uproot herself twice a year and consequently requires me to load Gramsterdam and her 9000 bits of miscellany (Gram's two occupations: crossword doing and trinketry) into her Lincoln and to drive the 17 hours up or down through the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. This trip has become increasingly dangerous, due to the fact that sometimes I look over to find my Gram slumped over the passenger seatbelt, snoring merrily (and reassuringly) in the most alarming position I've ever seen.

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Clearly, the trip is rough on her. See her sleep as I chug coffee just to stay awake:

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(Wow, that's a bad photo, isn't it? I really need to stop performing my own haircuts).

In addition to drinking 100 cups of coffee to stay awake, I also frequently drink of the musical goodness that lives in my ipod. In order to compete with Gram's snoring, I sometimes have to turn the ipod to ear-shattering levels, which occasionally has the side-effect of rousing Gram from her typical "I wasn't sleeping I was just resting my eyes," in-car state of being.

Perhaps because my filthy coffee addiction led to a pitstop that ultimately led to us being rear-ended as our journey commenced, Gram stayed more alert than usual during our most recent sojourn. In her wakeful state, Grams graced me with a music review that was as acerbic as it was dangerous. Dangerous, I say, because once the music-review commenced, I spent the balance of the trip driving with my knees while transcribing her comments into the memo section of my blackberry.

It wasn't until later that it hit me: While I don't agree with her hate-all assessments, it's only a matter of time before Pitchfork Media gets wind of my Gram and starts paying her handsomely. Making fun of pitchfork writers grasps the proverbial low-hanging fruit, but still, I think you'll agree that my Gram is much pithier. And at least her puns are intentional. Of course, my Gram's musical expertise is questionable, since I'm pretty sure the last CD she purchased was Conway Twitty, but she does have some rock experience, having endured an endless barrage of bands staying at her former Crafton Heights residence. As proof, I offer you a picture of Gramsterdam with some actual rockers, who, as it happens, have recently been maligned by pitchfork.

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Coincidence? I think not.

Here's the review in the order my ipod decided to play them that fateful morning:

1. Mogwai - Auto Rock: "What IS this? It sounds like they are trying to beat one another up with sound."
2. South - Safety in Numbers: "Not too bad I guess. But all these friends of yours in bands. Don't they ever do something you'd recognize? Nobody does songs that are recognizable anymore. They all just want to do their own hits and it's not even catchy! But these boys sound nice. Nice voices. Did you say they were French?"
3. The Cure - Lullaby: "Now see, what's so interesting about that? Whaaa Whaaa Whaaa. I'm so sad. I'm sad because I'm bored doing the same thing all the time."
4. Men at Work - Who Can it Be Now: Okay, the best part about this whole music review is that she thought this was my ex boyfriend's band and refused to comment. Bha haha ha ha
5. Unrest - Suki: "Too much goofy. They don't impress me with that bass. Bang Bang Bang! Does anybody dance to these songs?"
6. Flaming Lips - Evil will Prevail: This was too much for my Catholic grandmother to endure and it had to be turned off immediately.
7. Drive like Jehu - Sinews: "Borrring. Oh! oh that's terrible. That's terribly discordant. Is this serious or just a joke? Tsk, tsk. They don't even have to practice to play like this, do they even tune their instruments? It sounds like a bunch of apes got into the band's equipment closet. Just think, their parents probably paid good money for guitar lessons and they ended up like this!!!"
8. The Who - Legal Matter: I don't understand this. You couldn't jitterbug to this, that's for sure!
9. T Rex - Life's a Gas: This song gives me gas and I can't even understand the words.
10. Marvin Gaye - Li'l Darlin': He's okay but his backup singers, (gives thumbs down sign).
11. The Bats - Made up in Blue: Gram refused to comment on grounds that she thought I was trying to trick her into criticizing my old band. Hey, at least she didn't think we were Men at Work!
12. Monopoli - Everybody Anyway: Gram straight fell asleep to you. Sorry Chaim and Alfonso, you're not big with the 80 year old set...
13. Clap Youe Hands Say Yeah - Upon this Tidal Wave of You. Okay, this is the best one. Halfway through the song, my Gram perks up from her nap to exclaim, inexplicably, "Donkey, donkey, donkey!" Then she starts mocking his voice, which i can't easily transcribe. Then she asks me "Is the lead singer Chinese or something? Chang chong, chang. Gah, that's horrible." Then, as a loud sound marks the end of the song, "Whew. Thankfully somebody shot him."

Gram, you really aren't being very nice!!!

14. VU - Sweet Jane (at the end of the live set, upon hearing the audience applaud): "those fools! clapping for that?"
15. Magnetic Fields - Fido, your leash is too long: "What, a horse walking around is music now? Fido, this song is too long!" Then Gram gets on a roll. After hearing the lyric: "I don't know where I went wrong" gram answers, helpfully, in rhyme: "You started this song."
16. Love - Old Man: This garnered the best review of all the music, where my Gram says, "the music doesn't overpower. For once. I like this one." Wait, what?
17. Hot Snakes - who died: Ok, so apparently the Drive Like Jehu crowd did no better with my Gram as their latest reincarnation. Her response was "Terrible!" Then she offered the blanket condemnation "I haven't liked any of them so far" and slept through the next 5 songs. until
18. Magnetic Fields - The One You Really Love: "Hm. Banjo."
19. Night Ranger - Sister Christian (I've decided to be honest with what's on my i-pod here). Gram sez: "What in the heck kind of song is this?"
20. Mission to Burma - Max Ernst: This song merely provoked laughter.
21. Big Star - When my Baby's Beside me: "When my Baby Baby Baby's beside me I go crazy because I'm a big jerk who can't sing!"
22. Magnetic Fields - Nothing matters when we're dancing (my ipod loves the Magnetic Fields, and finally, so does my Grandma). "Okay I like this one. this one is nice. You can hear them over the music and you might be able to dance to it. You can understand the words. Very romantic." (I thought it best not to tell her Stephin Merritt was definitely talking about dancing with a dude).
23. X - Straight "Can we skip this one? It's hurting my hair." (her hair?????!!!!)
24. Stereolab - entrez vous - "no thanks, frenchie french fry"
25. My bloody valentine - magic nights. "borrrring." (Frankly, Gram, it may make me unpopular with my indie set of friends, but I wholeheartedly agree. There, I've said it, I FIND MY BLOODY VALENTINE TO BE THE MOST BORING BAND ON THE PLANET!) Wow. that felt liberating.
26. The New Year - Plan B. "They should have stuck with Plan A."
27. The Fall - oh brother. "Oh brother."

Okay Gram, you're getting too obvious while the list and the review went on for 14 more hours, this post shall not.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Martizzle is Banned from the Hizzle

Most of you have heard me reference my roommate M, known in some circles as the Czech Czich, in previous posts. For reasons I'm sure you can all understand, M is now banned from the house. Are you reading, M? I mean, thank you for all your helpful calls throughout this afternoon's game to give me a Reality Czech and to proclaim a Czechmate at the game's end. But now you might want to Czech out Czraig's list, if you know what I mean.

He Is Not My Monkey and So What?

My blog has taken on a corporate bent lately that I am loathe to acknowledge. But sometimes the corporate life lends itself to a singular hilarity that begs for a transcript. Take, for instance, this piece of pure unintended comedy I received the other day in response to public statements I made about legislation pending Congressional action. I've removed all parts that might compromise the author's privacy, but otherwise transcribed excerpts from the letter faithfully.

This guy definitely gets the pulitzer prize for hating, but I have to say he earns my grudging respect for his innovative turns of phrase. I mean, why settle for calling me "ineffective," "inexperienced," or even "incompetent" when he can point out that I run from traffic signals? I have to admit that I probably would have merly skimmed a less colorful missive but read his letter several times over. All of this goes to show that bad grammer, like a well placed typo, can sometimes be elevated to an art-form. Especially when you've attended the Sex Pistols' school of letter-writing.


Ms. Red Storm,
June 7, 2006

I have read the bio for you on this website and find it very interesting, also you have my respected as using to care about hard-working union employees when you were at the Clinton white House and as a Senate staff. However, I cannot believe how far the apple has fallen from the tree because I do not see those values now. I look at your credentials and bio and see that you are a politician who has worked for politicians all your life but I do NOT see that you do my job or have ever so HOW WOULD YOU KNOW? anything about these issues like your letter suggests?!?

You are a pencil pusher with no ideas and I cannot understand why you feel so strongly about opposing HR ----. You are a pencil pusher that can no longer lead by example! This should not be decided by you, some executive who would run scared from a stop sign.

I hope that you give this some consideration and remember that when things continue to get worst that YOU had a hand in it.

Best wishes to you and the parties that you represent,

John Q. Hater

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Put Me Out to Pasture (on the Georgetown Waterfront)

I've made mention, in previous posts, of the fact that a friend of mine is managing a new restaurant called Agraria on the Washington Harbour. I've visited the restaurant a number of times over the past week and the place is an absolute knockout.

My friend is the restaurant manager and sommelier, invited me to an exclusive, "friends only" bar preview last week. Unable to decide between the classic and inventive drink menus, I split the difference and ordered myself one of each - and by one of each I mean one of each and every drink on the menu (almost, anyway). Fortunately for everyone involved, I did not sample each of the countless whiskeys available but instead contented myself with fondling a 30 year old. (Macallen that is).

One of Agraria's superb bartenders started me off with best proper martini I've had in at least a year. I next turned to the tasty prickly-pear infused margarita, followed by a sidecar and then the evening began to dissolve when I imbibed my way through 3 or 4 champagne cocktails in such rapid succession that I can only vaguely recall their contents, though I'm pretty sure these included pureed strawberries getting involved with a basil leaf. Despite the, er, memory lapses, I can fairly sum up the bar menu like this: The classic drinks were classic and delicious. The inventive drinks were tasty and inventive. In fact I'm pretty sure the cocktails at Agraria are secretly made by angels.

Fallen angels, that is. Because the Agrarian bachannalia was directly responsible for the post-Agrarian debauchery depicted in my previous post and some other assored misadventures, which are perhaps best left unsaid, if not undone.

The restaurant itself is owned by farmers and, once Agraria gets its menu sorted, they plan to offer a variety of organic offerings from smaller, family-run farms. I was hoping to see some real, live farmers at last night's grand opening but, sadly, if there were any farmers in attendance, they'd traded their pitchforks and overalls for Brooks Brothers finery and were indistinguishable from the architects, lawyers, journalists and political types enjoying the scene.

And an enjoyable scene it was. I really like this place. The decor is stunning, the staff are knowledgeable, attractive, and hip, and the drinks are strong and delicious. What more can you ask? Maybe a few pictures...


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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lobbying Scandals

As I have mentioned before, I am a lobbyist. Considering all the scandals about legislators and lobbyists currently bogarting coverage in our nightly news, I thought maybe I should set the record straight once and for all. You see, my friends and family have been calling me daily to ask some predictable variation on the following questions:

"So are you affected by all this Abramoff business?"
"You're not going to wind up in jail, are you?"
"Do you do stuff like that? I mean, do you buy them furniture and hookers and stuff?"

So here is your answer: HELL YES.

Actually, quite the opposite is true. I am an effective lobbyist, but not because I make good arguments (I do, but as you know Congress isn't interested in the facts). I don't buy lawmakers furniture, hookers, firetrucks, or kitchen appliances. I don't pass them foil-wrapped money-cakes. I don't take them on gambling junkets under the guise of "fact-finding" missions in Monte Carlo. My friends, I am an effective lobbyist for one reason, and that reason is my mad lobbying skillz. I thought I'd outline just a few of my innovative techniques here for your edification and reading pleasure.

Reverse Lobbying

The first creative lobbying technique I employ is a little gem I like to call "reverse lobbying." A friend of mine actually coined the phrase. This friend was formerly Chief of Staff to the Federal Agency That Makes Rules Affecting My Industry (FATMRAMI) but has recently left his post in an entreprenuerial venture that involves highly caffeinated vodka. Before he left, he bought me many dinners and picked up my bar tab on more than one occasion. As he defines it, "Reverse lobbying" occurs when I go out to dinner with a hill staffer or Member of Congress and THEY PAY. Unbelievably, this actually happens sometimes. Reverse Lobbying is especially useful when dealing with cabinet officials, who are expressly forbidden from accepting even the cheapest meal from lobbyists.

Picture one such reverse lobbying scenario that happened several years ago at a conference in Miami. We were all at some club called Mint about 2 hours before I had to wake up and make a presentation about "industry trends" and I had enough drinks to make me think jumping jacks on the dance floor with some Italian dude in a white leisure suit was a good idea and that stealing said government official's wallet and impersonating him in order to direct traffic and harass taxicabs was an even better idea. (Side note: Is it generally considered a "bad idea" to admit to felony offenses on a blog? If so, I must remind all my viewers, especially those in federal law enforcement, that I'm only KIDDING. Do you believe me?)

Anyway, at the end of the evening in question, we all got our tabs. Mine was noticably lighter than expected. I noticed a grim look on the government official's face when he got his bar tab, but I thought nothing of it at the time. Turns out my drinks ended up on his tab.


These days, reverse lobbying is really losing its efficacy (that is to say, ever since this particular government official migrated to the private sector) so I've had to supplement reverse lobbying with other creative methods. Unfortunately I am not going to get a realistic lobbying budget any time soon, so I've simply learned to do more with less. As another step in my continuing journey for legislative excellence on a shoe-string budget, consider:

Bait and Switch Menus

The Bait and Switch Menu technique involves taking a staffer out to an extremely expensive and classy restaurant but insist that they order from the lounge menu.

Staffer: Wow, Citronelle! How nice of you.
Me: It's so nice out! Let's sit outside and order from the lounge menu!
Staffer: Well, if you want to...but it's 96 degrees and raining.
Me: Shut your cakehole and enjoy this nice bar food!
Me: Can I have the rest of your fries?

I Wanna live like Common People

See, the thing is, the bait and switch only works a few times before staffers stop having dinner with you. So you have to mix it up sometimes. Because my industry is a straight-laced, old-boy dominated industry, staffers who deal with my issues do not often encounter a lobbyist who is wearing Chuck Taylors with her suit. Rather than hide my weirdness behind serious attire and fine dining, I embrace and even trade on my reputation as an eccentric.

Doing so allows me to skip the expensive restaurant altogether in favor of taking the staffer to a dive bar, where I insist that they drink Shlitz all night. (PBR is another great choice, where available). The Velvet Lounge is one such great location because it's actually a second home to me and the staff is like family. If the staffer gets hungry, I can always run across the street to the soul food joint and bring them back some collared greens. Yum, yum, slumming is FUN!

Me: Hey, cupcake, I'm headed to the bar. What are you having?
Staffer: Um, a heineken?
Me: A heineken? A HEINEKEN?!?! F*ck that sh*t. PABST BLUE RIBBON!!!

Wrasslin for Earmarks

A third technique is both cost-efficient AND ethical, because it takes the quid pro quo out of "dinner deals" and puts it right back where it should be: "arm wrestling contests." This technique can be used on lawmakers, staffers, and even other lobbyists! In fact, it levels the playing field quite nicely. For instance, let's say I'm competing for earmarks with a lobbyist from a much larger corporation with a much larger PAC than my own (Note: My PAC is so small we don't have one). Ergo, why would i try to out-fundraise Goliath when I can arm-wrestle him instead? As you can see by my pictures, with arm wrestling you can cheat and call in reinforcements in order to secure victory while still remaining within the ethics rules. Pretty sweet, huh?

Me: So if I win, I'd get $900 million in the Agriculture bill for taxicab zoning changes, right?
Staffer: And if I win, you will water my boss' plants while he is working in the district. Or if he goes on an extended trip. Like, say for instance, jail.

Beat the Gift Ban on the Cheap!

With today's lobbying reform bills moving through Congress, cost-saving methods can also be important way to avoid getting south of pesky ethics rules such as the "gift-ban." The solution: all your Congressional gifts should be hand made. Think back to when you used to make your mom presents and how much more she appreciated that hand-crafted Valentine than its storebought counterpart! While this generally does not translate to adulthood (my old boyfriend tried this technique on his Mom one Christmas when he found himself financially strapped, but I'm pretty sure she did not hang his painting on the refrigerator...), it DOES work on hill staff.

Me: Hi Jane! Thanks for agreeing to meet with me this morning. I brought you a present! It's a bracelet made from beads that came from a necklace my sister left at my house while she was visiting, which I broke. I fashioned the salvaged beads into a bracelet, just for you. Do you like it?
Staffer: Do I have to wear it?

In conclusion, dear readers, I want to remind you that not all lobbyists are scandalous. Well, at least, not scandalous in the traditional sense...

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