Saturday, November 29, 2008

If I had a time machine...

... I would go back to high school in many different eras and take pictures of myself wearing each era's clothes and hairstyles. What? Isn't that what everyone would do with a time machine?

Anyway, turns out I don't need to bend the space-time continuum to make that dream come true, because I discovered the website http://yearbookyourself.com/. Here are the fabulous results. Prepare yourself.

First, some context. Steph in 2008:



Steph in 1960:




Steph in 1966 (blonde!):



Steph in 1968:



Steph in 1978 (Mexican-Irish-Italiafro):



Steph in 1990:



Conclusions: I should really look into getting a pair of cat-eye glasses, AND I look good with an afro. Am I right?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day-twah

As some of you may know, I grew up in Southeastern Michigan, about eight miles north of 8 Mile Road, which marks the infamous border between Detroit and its suburbs. I know you've all seen "8 Mile" and know what I'm talking about. Don't pretend otherwise.

I'll admit, the cute little city where I grew up, Birmingham, is a far cry from the mean streets of Detroit. We have an Anthropologie, for goodness' sake! But, still, there's no denying that even us Metro Detroiters who grew up in cushy suburbs have an undeniable link to that complicated metropolis that everyone loves to hate. Like it or not, the city of Detroit defines Southeastern Michigan, and I find that people who grew up in its surrounding suburbs simultaneously ridicule Detroit for being dirty, dangerous, and depressing, while also feeling some sentimental tie to it, in all its decaying glory.

A house in Birmingham


A house in Detroit


After all, Detroit has its own unique character and history, and is associated with some pretty significant industrial and cultural achievements for our country, despite the city's current bad rap. There are the obvious things that Detroit is famous for, of course, like Motown music and the now-struggling auto industry, but there are also the things that perhaps only Metro Detroiters can appreciate, like Red Wings hockey fever, incredibly delicious Middle Eastern cuisine, and the adrenaline-pumping experience of getting lost in the Cass Corridor when driving back from Canada. Only in Detroit!

What makes me really sad, though, is that despite the love I have for the fuzzy, romantic idea of Detroit, the actual city really is putrid, and has only gotten worse over the last decade. It's true that I haven't lived in Michigan for over six years; my parents moved to Nevada between my freshman and sophomore years of college, and since then I've only gone back to Detroit once, to visit my high school best friend during my senior year of college. But I follow Detroit's decline closely. The city's fall, sadly, is not that hard to keep track of. To put it extremely mildly, Detroit has been through a lot of crappola lately: the spectacular collapse of the auto industry, for example, as well as the humiliating and frustrating spectacle of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor, being convicted of perjury, after dragging the city through several years of corruption, waste, and scandal. You might already know all of this; Detroit's sad state has been broadcast widely. Forbes named it the "most miserable city" in the United States (http://www.forbes.com/2008/01/29/detroit-stockton-flint-biz-cz_kb_0130miserable.html), and it is holding steady in the number three position for worst crime rate in the country (http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/11/24/crime.stats/).



The crime rates, the crappy economy, the abandoned houses and lack of infrastructure: this is all bad stuff. But I think one of the biggest slaps in the face that the city of Detroit has received in recent years came from its mayor, the aforementioned Kwame Kilpatrick. This man, who is widely regarded as the Worst Mayor Detroit has ever had (which is saying something), dragged Detroit through quite the sideshow of corruption scandals, and even threw a stripper-murder scandal in there for good measure. Sigh. He was charged in March of this year by the Wayne County prosecutor with misconduct in office, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and perjury, and in August, two felony counts of assaulting or obstructing a police officer. Eventually, according to the New York Times, "He agreed to plead guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice and to plead no contest to a felony count of assault on a police officer; to pay restitution to the city of $1 million; to surrender his law license, forfeit his state pension to the city and be barred from elective office for five years; and to serve 120 days in the Wayne County jail, followed by five years’ probation. The other charges were dismissed." So yeah, he's in jail.

Kilpatrick and his chief of staff (with whom he had an affair) Christine Beatty


But here's the really baffling thing. Kwame Kilpatrick was an awful mayor; he used taxpayer money to give his friends jobs, buy himself cars, and get himself out of trouble. A lot of people in Detroit, who are mostly poor and largely disenfranchised, were understandably ticked off and called for his resignation early on. However, even as Kilpatrick was racking up the charges and facing jail time, people were writing supportive messages to him on the website http://kwamekilpatrick.com/. Here are some of the messages:

i,m sorry kwame kilpatrick that u in jail i wish u get out soon
this is latoya white. we miss u mayor. -latoya white

i feel like everybody cheat but you just got cought but they dont
have to take you to jail for that
-lawandabrunson

Kwame - Kwame i dont think u Should Resign you are a strong african american man
you have done so many thinhg for detroit. Everyone mess up in there life, you should
stay strong through this and and work through this with your wife your No.1 Fan Elijah M.
-Elijah

I'm sorry, but WHAT? Why in the world would anyone in Detroit support Kwame Kilpatrick after he wasted their money and made an embarrassment of the city? Based on the three messages above, I think there is some confusion about what Kilpatrick was actually going to jail for. Hint: it wasn't for cheating on his wife. It was for LYING UNDER OATH and PERJURING himself in court. But even assuming for the sake of (stupid) argument that it would be somehow possible in the United States of America to be sent to jail for adultery, why would people support him anyway? It blows my mind.

It can't just be because Kilpatrick is African-American and people view his jailing as racial targeting, because most of Detroit's population is African-American, and huge numbers of black Detroiters wanted the mayor locked up. Check out, for example, this very thorough blog advocating for Kwame to take a hike: http://goawaykwame.wordpress.com/, and this video showing ordinary Detroiters publicly calling for Kilpatrick's resignation:



And it can't just be the fact that he is a "strong African American man" that makes people want to support him, either, because both of the police officers who blew the whistle on him were also African-American, and I'd imagine you have to be a pretty strong individual to stand up to a corrupt public official who is in charge of your livelihood. Is it because Kilpatrick dresses well and wears a diamond stud earring? Because one would think that if you're an impoverished person in Detroit whose mayor is using your tax dollars to pad his own salary, you wouldn't want to write effusive messages to the mayor wishing him the best. Right? Or am I missing something?

The whole thing is sad and confusing, but at least Kilpatrick is in jail for a while and probably won't be holding public office again any time soon. Hopefully the voters of Detroit will learn something from this fiasco and elect mayors who won't drive the city even further into the ground. In the meantime, I'll continue to watch and hope for the best for the city from the removes of Boston. Come on, Detroit, bring back the glory!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Evilitamins

I feel it is my duty as a vigilant consumer to inform others about products out there that may make them barf. It's especially important to warn people off of "vitamins" that will make them barf, I think, because if you barf up your vitamin, then what's the point, really?

So, here's the deal: I bought these One-a-Day All Day Energy vitamins this summer in DC, kind of on a whim, partly because I was intrigued by the idea of a combination vitamin AND energy booster, and mostly because I still have the One-a-Day jingle from the '90s stuck in my head, and probably always will ("One-a-Day people, healthy people, for everybody there's a One-aaaa-Daaaay...").

Shortly after I bought the vitamins, I decided to take one before going to the gym one morning. Expecting a wonderful energy boost, I was somewhat dismayed when five minutes later, I was curled in a fetal position on my bed, dry-heaving. After a few minutes of intense, crippling nausea, the feeling passed, and I got up and went to the gym. Being Stephanie, I didn't think anything of it, and continued to take the vitamins a few more times that summer, despite the fact that they made me want to toss my cookies every time I took them.

I think because I took the vitamins so infrequently, I didn't connect the dots and realize that the gross vitamins were actually the ones responsible for the waves of nausea that overtook me every time I swallowed one. Yeah. The last straw came a month or so ago, when I took a One-a-Day and found myself, again, lying curled in my bed fighting off the impulse to hurl. Lying there, I suddenly realized, "Holy crap, these vitamins are EVIL." It took me a while, but I got there. This is sort of like the time it took me two years to figure out that I was giving myself stomach ulcers and slowing my heartbeat down with ibuprofen. These are all signs that I should probably not enter a career in the medical field (sorry, University of Phoenix).

Anyway, I was so weirded out by these vitamins that I went online to see what other people have said about them, and I found that they have made other people violently ill. Plus, they're LOADED with caffeine and guaranĂ¡, that crazy Amazon berry that os brasileiros are obsessed with. I read some of the comments online about the vitamins and here is a select sampling:

"Started having major sleep disturbances, waking up seeing things on the wall like images, not feeling right, breathing, very tired feeling, chest pains, up now at 4:30 a.m. because of this, and came to read the back of product and seen that one pill contains as much caffine as a cup of coffee, that's terrible. Guess it's my fault for not reading the label. I already have high blood pressure so this product is definetly not a good recommendation. Stopping usage of this product today!!"

"I am 25 and I took them. I had to stop when they kept making me vomit. A nutritionist suggested I try an organic vitamin instead because the iron in those cheap vitamins can be really hard to digest."

"Into my second bottle, I noticed I was anxious...I was gritting my teeth and just couldn't relax. It was like I was holding my breath and I had to consciously attempt to relax. I attributed it to daily stress. After continued high blood pressure and chest pains, I went to the ER where they suggested I get a pacemaker!! Since I passed the treadmill stress test and Holter monitor, they decided against it. I stopped taking the vitamins and things are slowly getting back to normal."

So, just a few side effects, I guess: nausea, anxiety, nightmares, hallucinations, chest pain, vomiting, high blood pressure, bad spelling. I guess One-a-Day apparently subscribes to the belief that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But these vitamins seem like they might actually kill you. I guess I probably won't take them anymore. Or I'll just keep taking them and have a defibrillator handy...either way.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flashbeagle

This particular Charlie Brown TV special, the 1984 Flashbeagle, was recently trashed by a Slate article (which was singing the praises of earlier, more melancholy Peanuts specials), but I still love it. Please watch this and tell me that Snoopy flash-dancing isn't awesome.*



And can we please play tribute to the "Lucy is the Boss" song? I had this song stuck in my head for like 6 years when I was younger.* Might as well pass it on to you guys. Also, please note that at the beginning of this video, it shows Snoopy wearing a leather jacket, strutting down the street with a gang of little yellow birds.** Snoopy was such a bad-ass in the 80s!




*Ages 5-11.

**I'd like to comment here that a certain Canadian boyfriend, whose name will go unmentioned here, insists that Snoopy's bird friend (Woodstock) is actually named Peanut. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Loose change

You know, I very much agree with Carrie Underwood that celebrities really shouldn't make political statements. Ever. Think about it: most celebrities are both extremely uneducated AND wealthy, which means that not only will their political beliefs often be astoundingly ignorant, but they'll also be unrepresentative of most Americans' views. It doesn't matter what side of the political debate celebrities are coming from. I cringed just as much when Britney Spears voiced her support for W in 2003, as when Sean Penn wrote an open letter to him in 2002.* I guess what it all boils down to is the following: who gives a crap who Pete Wentz wants for President?

I may not be a celeb, but I also tend to abstain from making political comments, both in my blog and in most of my personal interactions, because I'm not a very politically active person, and because I despise political arguments. Political arguments are futile, frustrating, and boring. My preferences usually aren't strong enough to warrant making a comment anyway, so I leave that to the passionate politicos that walk among us. You know who you are.

However, I do feel compelled to make a teeny tiny comment about the fact that the United States of America just chose Barack Obama, our first African American President-elect, on Tuesday night, because I am pretty excited and happy about it. I'm not going to make some big political proclamation here or anything. I just feel optimistic and I would be remiss if I didn't comment at ALL about the momentous election season we just wrapped up.

To be honest, for me, the election couldn't have come soon enough. I was bored of the politics and posturing very early on (i.e., about two years ago) as is my custom in presidential elections. When Sarah Palin entered the scene, I officially checked out. Done. I voted early in San Francisco and left City Hall more interested in seeing how the California ballot initiatives would come out (not great, as it turns out -- Prop 8 is pretty disgraceful) than the outcome of the Presidential election. But on Tuesday night, watching the returns come in at an election party in Boston hosted by a Romanian couple, I felt excited and happy. Not Oprah-level excited and happy, but pretty jazzed. More than tapping into some previously undiscovered wellspring of support and love for Obama, I was just happy that our country (or, a majority of it, anyway) seemed energized and engaged, and still does.

It warmed my cold little heart to watch John McCain's extremely classy concession speech (and see his adorable, ancient mother on stage with him in Arizona) and to see the Obamas, with their two cute little girls, take the stage in Chicago. It was all very nice and warm and fuzzy. And perhaps the most touching moment of this whole past week was seeing Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a staunch supporter of McCain and the much embattled lone Republican on the View, speak warmly about Obama and national unity. I think she was slightly full of it, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.



Of course, I know that this warm fuzziness is not shared in all households in our country, and I realize that it will fade quickly into the day-to-day drudgery of life and politics, but it's nice for now. America, f*** yeah.



*I bet Bush was thrilled to get the Spears endorsement.