Archive for May, 2007

My brilliant and talented niece has a piece in today’s Huff Post that jives with a note I’ve had on my desktop for a couple of days, proving something about family … or not … and prompting me to write about Carl Bernstein.

Her post in the Post covers Berntein’s new ‘must read’, “A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton”, and quotes him as making much of how important he … ooops … it is.

I have no doubt it’s a page turner that’s flying off the shelves; after all, who’s hotter than Hillary at the moment, and Carl sports journalistic gravitas like like a bull dangles mountain oysters.

Not only does promise of an up-close-and-personal look, no matter how over-the-shoulder a peek down the blouse, at the cast iron bra that Mrs. Clinton must wear to deal with her fidelity-challenged Mr. guarantee buzz and sales, any hint of sex and scandal gets an extra boost when the Bernstein name goes with.

Which brings me to the note on my desk.

Carl Bernstein on marital devotion and loyalty. That’s rich!

Leave it to someone who’s been living on a little island in the middle of nowhere for years to remind those who may have forgotten that the uproariously funny book “Heartburn” … a truly inspired takedown of an unfaithful husband with appalling timing and equally poor taste in dalliance partners … was based on Berntein’s real-life philandering by his amazingly talented, now fabulously famous … then profoundly pregnant … ex-wife, Nora Ephron.

Hands down the best retribution ever dealt a wandering ego-with-a-penis, Ms. Ephron managed not only to keep readers, and eventually film-goers, highly entertained while inspiring women to brook no crap and proving that being the cheatee in a marraige can be turned into a position of great power, she put spending time with Carl Bernstein high in the top ten of what no self-respecting woman in her right mind would ever consider.

Yes, it was hard for the guy to get a date. May still be.

So, intimately familiar with all that is Washington politics as he is, as well, who better to probe the ins and outs of Hillary’s dealing with Bill’s ins and outs than the man single-handedly responsible for a British Baroness being forever thought of as the woman with a nose like a thumb and a mid-90s spike in the popularity of Key Lime Pie?

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While hopping around other blogs this morning, I realized that I’d not yet posted photos of my lovely family. I’ll take care of that right now.

In case we’ve not yet met, I’m Sandra, aka Mom, the adult male is Mark, often called Dad. The kids are Sam and Cj. At the moment, I’m 55, Mark is 40, Sam is 4.5 years old and Cj is 25 months. We live on Mahé, the biggest island in Seychelles … big being 4 miles wide and 17 miles long … near the village of Baie Lazare.

Beach familyBox o’ kids
Happy Cj
Sam makes cookies

Now that that’s done, I’ll get back to writing.

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Am I the only liberal, snotty, angst-ridden, happily married, over-fifty woman in the world who gets the screaming steaming thigh sweats over Bill Maher, or just one of a legion of middle-aged malcontents getting all hot and bothered to the strains of common sense wrapped in a manly, no bullshit package that seems as much a gift as a heart-shaped box of chocolates?

Since I don’t live on a part of the planet that get Maher-ified often … the occasional appearance on Larry King Live when that’s timed to air in our tiny CNN window in Seychelles is all I ever have available … it’s impossible for me to guess how his cute little pinched look, receding hairline and flat East Coast accent goes over in the US. I know he’s been around a while and is a hit, but do millions of American women there lie back, close their eyes and think of Comedy Central when their fire needs a stoking? I’m curious.

I don’t usually have ‘things’ for comics … musicians historically having the greatest likelihood of weakening my knees … since brash and edgy most often come across as cold and distant, and that just doesn’t wind my bathtub toy. I thought Dave Letterman was cute for a while, but then I met him.

(An aside … My mom was on Letterman’s show once when one of the other guests was Marilyn Manson. She thought he was ‘a very nice young man’. When I asked if he appeared to her as at all odd, she said, “No odder than some of the friends you used to bring home.”

Like I said, there are musicians in my past … sigh … )

But the Bill Maher tingles … what are those about?

Could it be I find him Electra-fying? He does have a nose very much like my darling father’s … stately, pominent and occupying a lot of face space … and in fact Bill (Do I dare call him Bill?) grows to more resemble my dad with every sporatic viewing I’m allowed.

Whoa! If this is some version of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” I’d better start hunting for a towel to throw in, because I’ll be done with having sexual fantasies FOREVER.

Stepping back from the brink of Freudian slippery slopes, I’ll get to why Bill Maher has me thinking today that jumping his bones would be a pursuit worth getting lathered up for … this from the Huff Post — a blog from Bill on South Carolina’s plan to allow concealed weapons on school campuses, and a sexy piece of writing it is.

Linking sex to violence is so hot.

In South Carolina you need to be 21 to get a concealed weapon permit. So the undergrads wouldn’t be armed. Just the teachers and grad students. So it wouldn’t actually stop anyone like the Virginia Tech shooter, until he worked his way up from the sophomores and stopped to re-load, but here I am applying practical logic to an argument made by guys who come in their pants when they hear the words “muzzle velocity.”

Sharp witted, brilliant, caustic … and, yes, brash and edgy, but with such a hefty dose of musth in his take down that instead of cold and distant he seems hot and close enough to be breathing on the back of my neck.


Anyone have a cigarette?

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People may be complaining about rising fuel prices in America, but just look at how hard Chevron is working to keep the flow flowing. They’re laying out $4 Billion in Asia this year in the hunt for more black gold, after already striking in Cambodia after drilling four exploration wells.

I keep having the words ‘Texas Tea’ drift around in my head. Hmmmm — after all, tea did come from Asia. Now if those SUVs (Supersized Uber Voracious … ?) that are so popular could run on oolong …

Moving right along without the benefit of ever-vanishing fossil fuels (well, aside from those that power my computer, your computer and all the computers in between, not to mention the beamy-uppy thing that sends the signal around the world, and whatever else is involved in having my solitary finger taps morph into the words in front of you) …

and speaking of digging for gold, there are some ghoulish goings on. All in the name of desperation and poverty folks are mining the killing fields, and I’m talking Eureka!, not BOOM.

With people as poor as most are in Cambodia and an estimated 20,000 mass graves holding the remains of most of the almost two million who died during the Khmer Rouge years, it seems a no-brainer that these repositories of victims would be seen as a potential … well, gold mine.

When a set of earring can be removed from a long-dead corpse and sold for almost forty bucks in a country where 35% of the populations lives on less than fifty-cents a day, what else could happen?

The payoff does not come without a price, however:

The digging has stopped, and several people said they had been awakened at night by screams from the graves.

“People heard voices calling out, ‘Help me! Help me!’ ” said Svay Saroeun, 50, a deputy village chief. “Maybe they are angry at the villagers for digging up their graves. Or maybe they were tortured to death, and now they are being tortured again by people who are disturbing their sleep.”

The story is also covered here.

The government of India is loaning Cambodia $35.2 million to aid rural development.

“The loan will be mainly used to build dams, irrigation systems, and electricity networks from Kratie province to Stung Treng province,” said Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, who recently visited India.

“The rest of the loan will be spent for buying water pumps for helping rice farmers during drought season,” Namhong, who is also minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation … .

Let’s hope so.

Hun Sen made a visit to Myanmar, hoping to promote the idea of direct flights between the two contries. Apparently, the thought is to put together package tours of ancient temples that would include the Angkor Wat complex and those of the same era in Bagan, Myanmar.

Agreement was reached for direct flights from Bangan and Mandalay to Siem Reap, but no dates have been announced yet for the first flights.

That will be an interesting trip.

There was no talk about human rights during the trip, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s name will not be coming up. (Her latest one-year period of house arrest is to expire this weekend!

The International Federation of Journalists is voicing ‘shock and outrage’ over Hun Sen’s dismissal of a reporter as being “insolent” and “rude” for asking questions.

Perhaps not content to slam the guy in the National Assembly, the Prime Minister is making people nervous:

Keo is now in hiding and fears for his personal safety. After he attacked both Keo and RFA as “insolent”, Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly asked another journalist about Keo’s real name, background and political leanings.

The threatened garment worker’s strike I wrote about recently is looking more like it’s going to happen, with some building workers already striking after their pay was cut from 14000 riels per day to 8000. (Those numbers may sound big, but that’s a cut from less than $3.50 to less than $2.00.)

This isn’t hurting Cambodian’s bond rating, however, as Moody’s gave the country a B2 level rating this week.

Cambodian external debt at the end of 2006 was $3.2 billion, according to Thomas Byrne, a vice president and senior analyst at Moody’s. Byrne adds that virtually all the debt is from creditors including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. Meaning that Moody’s rating is on Cambodia itself, as the nation hasn’t issued any bonds yet. “What our rating is, technically, (is) a rating on the government,” Byrne said.

Even so, there is reason to believe that things are turning to the better in Cambodia. “Cambodia has recently attracted significant inflows of foreign investment into such sectors as tourism, garments and energy, which should help boost the overall level of investment in the economy, as well as strengthen the balance of payments,” Byrne said.

Imagine what the country would be like without corruption! What a nice dream, heh? With nearly two-thirds of the government’s annual revenue coming in foreign aid, however, where’s the incentive to straighten up and fly right … or left?

There’s always all that oil money to come in soon, though, isn’t there? That’ll fix it. Hmmmm …

Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam are agreeing on incentive policies for their “development triangle”.

With a view to creating favourable conditions for people’s activities, transportation, business and trade as well as investment in the triangle, which must go hand-in-hand with other regions in the process of international integration, the three co-chairmen agreed on preferential tariffs for many kinds of goods essential to daily life and production for the people of the three countries, as well as facilitating cross-border transportation by applying simpler procedures for products produced within the region.

Sounds like it’s working already, at least as far as those who like to spins da wheels and takes da chances at the gaming tables, with between 600 and 700 punters crossing from Viet Nam to play in Cambodian casinos every weekend, and quite the career has sprung up from impulse to throw money away:

At a very hot noon of Tay Ninh as a coach from HCM City’s Ben Thanh to Tay Ninh’s Moc Bai has just stopped, tens of young men surrounded the coach and delivered name cards of Cambodian casinos to passengers. They spoke incessantly: “Please cross the border to gamble. I’ll bring you to casinos and bring you back home safely. It is only VND400,000 ($24.91) for the whole package service”.

… There are American style sexy-shows each Thursday.

And a couple of things I learned about from Anything: … , a blog now added to my blogroll for it’s great stuff on Cambodia …

A book is out by Siv Sichan, Cambodian-born former US Ambassador to the UN:

It recounts my journey from humble beginnings in a sleepy village in Cambodia to the corridors of power in Washington, DC. It is about an extraordinary escape from hell in Cambodia; an American journey from apple orchards to the White House; a timeless and universal tale of love, dreams, hope, and freedom. This is the unique history of two lands: opposite sides of the earth; two cultures: ancient and modern; two nations: weak and strong; two societies: poor and rich. It is the true story of one mother’s love and sacrifice, of her son’s hope and struggle for survival, and his life between these different worlds.

A link I’ll be using as our trip in August gets closer, What’s on in Cambodia, a listing of art-related events.

And did you know you can get a Khmer edition of The Cambodia Daily fee by email? According the this blogger it’s just a matter of requesting with the email from the blog attached.

There goes another week …

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Since I’ve been out of touch with American pop culture for more than a decade, a headline in Forbes offering a look at the “best paid men in entertainment” drew me, as the thought of a concise look at who’s hot this year seemed a good way to catch up.

I was hoping for something that might explain who Demi Moore’s boyfriend is, or maybe drop a clue to leading men the world is salivating over that I should at least have heard of.

No such luck.

Spielberg, of course, I expected. When money and entertainment are mentioned together, that one-man blockbuster franchise has been at the top of the ticket for years.

George Lucas on the bill was a bit of a surprise, but apparently he’s still raking it in from past glories. Fair enough.

Tom Cruise. Well, yeah. And Denzel Washington? Okay. But these guys were all doing really well for themselves way back when while I was still in the real world.

Where were the new really rich, incredibly successful, amazingly popular show biz men?

And then they started popping up.

Simon Cowell. Dr. Phil. Howard Stern. Rush Limbaugh.

Ah wha … ah wha … ah hooey? Gasp. Choke.

Okay, Howard and Rush have been around a long time, but IN THE TOP 25 BEST PAID MEN IN ENTERTAINMENT? I don’t think so.

I remember Rush doing diet commercials on local TV in Sacramento … a fat fish in the small pond of KFBK listeners … and was stunned when his radio show went national. “Who the hell outside the Central Valley wants to listen to that blowhard?” I asked myself. And now he’s in the top 25?

And Howard Stern. Sure, edgy, hip and all, and I’m all for a guy being dedicated to his hair … but in the top 25 in ENTERTAINMENT?

And the other two? Paaaalease! I popped back to the home page just to make sure it was really Forbes I was reading and not a Mad Magazine parody.

Sorry, folks, but I have to ask …

What the hell are you thinking over there making mediocrity so lucrative?

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Adoption is such a hot topic these days.

In the little time I had to peruse the Huff Post this morning I found three and half adoption related stories on the home page.

The half is one about Oprah. Since she wasn’t raised by her parents, she sort of qualifies for the orphan designation, and with the story being about her father spilling beans about a baby she had at 14, I’m calling this related. Apparently, he’s writing a ‘tell some’ book, although the hype is that he knows it ALL.

I sincerely doubt that.

Move up the page a fraction of an inch, and Angelina Jolie is announcing she’s taking a year off to spend time with Brad and the kids. Good for her. I suspect she’ll end up even busier than when she’s working, though, as she’s not exactly the sit-around-and-eat-bonbons-while-the-kids-watch-Baby Einstein type.

I think I’ll make a prediction here that within the next twelve months there will be reports of new efforts on her part toward some worthy attempts at change for the positive in the world.

Over to the left side of the page, Chris Kelly’s blog slams critic Michael Medved for slamming Katherine Heigl for slamming birthin’ babies as a pastime … this while coming off her latest film, “Knocked Up” … and suggesting adoption as a viable alternative.

Apparently the urine-tinged Medved … don’t ask me … has some investment in women bringing forth life from between heaving thighs, or something, and considers any other way of building a family as letting down the side.

Good to see he’s taking hits over that attitude.

And finally, there’s the story about the adoptive gay flamingo couple.

“Fernando and Carlos are a same sex couple who have been known to steal other flamingos’ eggs by chasing them off their nest because they wanted to rear them themselves,” said WWT spokeswoman Jane Waghorn.

Gay flamingos are not uncommon, she added.

“If there aren’t enough females or they don’t hit it off with them, they will pair off with other males,” she said.

Well … yeah. Isn’t that what they all do?

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Some days my life seems like one big pile of poop.

I’m not speaking metaphorically here, by the way. No, it’s real poop that sometimes surrounds me on every front … like I’m sitting in a giant crap caldera. Take today, for example …

It began with me hurrying into the shower with an eye toward starting off fresh rather than spending the entire day in my jammies, only to discover a hefty deposit of cat excrement in the corner. Oh, joy! The smell, the smell!. Even after dousing the tiles with bleach and scrubbing away, the pong still pinged, creating a pungent undertone my sweet orange and cedar body scrub couldn’t begin to mask.

Moving right along, Cj managed two … count ’em, two … huge diaper-fulls (diapers-full?) within about an hour this morning, the second happening sometime after I’d put her down for her nap. She naps in my office, the only room in the house with air conditioning, which means it’s cool and quiet, and shut up tighter than a drum. Sound cozy? Well, it is, and it hangs on to odors for ever. A drop of rose oil can keep the room invitingly fragrant for days … unfortunately, a half-pound of poop lasts even longer.

It’s now eight hours later and my eyes still water when I walk in. Phew! The lingering aroma of Cj’s nap time pooh may, just may, dissipate by tomorrow morning if I keep the door open all night. (That, unfortunately, has previously proved to appear an invitation for a cat to evacuate bowels in a new and exciting atmosphere … a potential eventuality that would defeat the purpose entirely.)

And, of course, we have puppy. Not our puppy. Well, she’s not meant to be ours for long. She was born to our dog, Dinah, and will soon find a new home with my dear friend, Gay.

But Gay is in France right now, driving around Province with her mother and sister, eating great food and enjoying the printemps du France rather than housebreaking her puppy.

Hence … and I do love ‘hence’ … her dog is shitting in my house — a lot!

I’ve picked up at least five piles of puppy poop today alone, and I have no doubt there will be more before the day is done.

A gecko shat on my shoulder while I blogged away on the veranda … Cj had my office, you see.

An Indian Mynah … a noisy and obnoxious pest of an introduced species of bird … buzz-bombed me and missed plopping on me and my computer by inches.

Darn good thing that our Aldabra Giant Tortoise doesn’t come in the house very often.

And that has been my day.

Ever find yourself praying for constipation?

Aldabra Giant Tortoise WikiPhoto

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Man! Am I tired.

In addition to doing the got-two-little-kids-running-my-tail-off boogie that takes up so much of every day, writing a couple of thousand words that need to string together in some sort of interesting sense, getting a few of loads of laundry done, and giving the puppy a bath, I’ve just finished three hours sweating on the veranda with a chubby Czech guy who speaks no English, but wanted to know all there is to know about me.

I had well beyond my fifteen minutes long ago, having been on TV often in my younger years in the US and the UK, and on radio with the BBC and here with my own show. The cafe Mark and I ran for half a decade plus got coverage on travel programs in Europe every year, and back in January, an interview I’d given on adoption in Seychelles aired on CNN.

I’m not shy, and I usually have something to say … stop the phony gasps, please; I know you’re not one bit shocked … so I tend to okay interviews when I know the topic and feel I’m adding something to a conversation somewhere that’s worth my time.

I have been interviewed for non-English publications, but today was the first time questions came at me, one after the other, without a single recognizable word.

We spoke through an interpreter, and I have developed a new-found appreciation for those politicos who spend hours and days with interpreters poised like parrots on shoulders yapping away in simultaneous translations. It’s exhausting.

No matter how well grasped the idea that I wasn’t going to catch a word, eye contact was important … and polite … so the conversation had me feeling like I was living an ever-looping scene from “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?”.

Having someone who wasn’t understanding anything I said, much less getting my jokes, nodding and smiling and and giving that ‘You’re doin’ great!’ look while I was trying to explain some of the ins and outs of life as an expat and what it’s like being a mom again at fifty-something was disconcerting, to say the least.

Add to that a poopy Cj stinking up the joint and Sam trying to wrangle an extra dose of cookies and milk and the puppy making off with every chewable item she can sink her razor-sharps into, and the picture of the afternoon is close to complete.

The interview was for a book on women living strange lives … or something. You know; girl meets boy, moves to tropical island, adopts kids … that sort of stuff. I was told I could be inspiring to women in the Czech Republic.

Okay. Perhaps they need an example of nuts?

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Due to popular demand, this post has moved to the International Adoption Blog.

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An article in the LA Times about Christian groups launching a “massive adoption campaign” is getting buzz, and because the report features a fifty-four year-old who’s now feeling as though he is “supposed” to bring kids into his family even though he’s feeling old and gray, I tried to get away with posting this on my Older Parent Blog, but that didn’t work out. Seems discussing anything to do with the Christian Right, no matter how fair-handed or restrained, is playing with fire.

Oh, well. That’s what personal blogs are for.

My gut reaction to the story’s subhead, “Thousands of churches will urge members to find homes with ‘a mommy and a daddy’ for the nation’s 115,000 orphans”, was a bit of a stomach lurch.

Adoption was portrayed as a tool for evangelism.

Urging families to adopt? Hmmm.

Much like China’s ‘One Child Policy”, or pressuring single woman to relinquish their children to two-parent families, or denying the option of adoption on the basis of weight or height or favorite Mexican dish … whatever … , actively encouraging across-the-board adoption because, “It’s time for the church to stop debating the Bible and start doing it,” could be stepping all over the toes of families deciding what is right for them.

Over the next six months, Christian media will be saturated with stories and ads touting adoption and foster care as a scriptural imperative, an order direct from God.

Yikes! And God says: Thou shalt adopt? Oh, that makes me very uncomfortable on so many levels.

First, I suppose, would have to be the idea that adopting is benevolence personified. No one should adopt a child because it’s the right thing to do, to chalk up Brownie points, to assuage a conscience or atone for sins. Doing so is a recipe for disaster. There is only one reason to build a family through adoption and that is a loving longing to raise a child.

Good deeds can include volunteering time and effort for the good of others or sponsoring someone else’s time and effort or contributing resources, but adoption is no more a good deed than is getting pregnant. Yes, of course it’s a good thing, but it is NOT a good deed.

With Shirley Temple no longer considered the accurate representation of the typical American orphan, the idea that adopting a child is a happily-ever-after-ending-in-the-making complete with a medley of cheerful tunes and a snappy shuffle-hop-step hit the skids long ago. Any advertising campaign designed to promote mass adoption is almost guaranteed to paint that picture. It wasn’t true in the bad old days of adoption and it’s not true now. Even though, “Tens of thousands of pastors will be urged to preach about the issue, set up support groups for couples considering taking in troubled kids … “, the overwhelming message is bound to smack of love conquers all, which many will attest is simply not true.

Efforts to convince people that they should adopt … “Many of these parents had not thought about coming forward to take children from the child-welfare system,” said Sharen Ford, a supervisor with the Colorado Division of Child Welfare Services. “It was the furthest thing from their minds,” until their pastors started preaching on the topic and inviting state caseworkers to visit with photo albums full of children waiting for homes, she said” … carry more than a hint of begging, possibly even pandering, and are very worrying.

I’ve written before about how unsettling I find it when adoption and abortion are packaged together, and I worry that this new ‘adoption campaign’ may carry a big chunk of that agenda under its umbrella.

Abortion and what constitutes ‘family’ can both be as much issues of politics as of faith, and tangling adoption into those webs scares the crap out of me. It’s enough a political hot potato without fanning the flames, and in our world the topics of abortion and gay families are lighter fluid.

As anyone who reads me at all either here or on my pro blogs at Adoption.com knows, I am a big fan of adoption. I am vociferous in my support of adoptive families and feel that age, location, wealth, ethnicity, choice of ice cream topping … whatever … do not limit a family’s ability to love and raise a child not born to them.

But, and here’s my big but again, this does not in any way mean everyone should do it. Most certainly there are many who should not be allowed, and many who should not be encouraged. We’re not talking puppies, here, but a life-long commitment to children who come complete with hearts and minds and personalities, and issues and traumas and very difficult problems.

This campaign may very well bring some wonderful people to the adoption table, introduce them to the idea and hold hands while decisions are reached. It might be that many children who would not have found families will through the efforts of the churches involved.

Then again, with the death of Viktor Matthy in the news again recently as his strictly religious parents are sentenced to four years in prison, it has to be said that the designation of “devoutly Christian couple” doesn’t guarantee squat.

The conversation may be a good one, but I sincerely hope the campaign will be tempered with a great deal of caution.

For hours of interesting reading on how not everyone is cut out for adoption and why this broad attempt at a mandate may not be a good idea, check out the following categories, posts and blogs:

Parenting Special Kids : Trauma
Parenting Special Kids: Disorders
RAD Blog: Disruption
Older Child Adoption
Foster Adoption

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