Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Oprah's Ego

For several years now, I have wondered if Oprah's ego is not getting a wee bit out of control.

It started a decade ago, when Oprah began having Phil McGraw, another character not exactly known for his modesty, on her show regularly. Dr. Phil would make sweeping pronouncements regarding a guest's problems and what she (almost invariably she) should do about them, based on a few minutes of listening to her talk. If the guest showed any reluctance to accept the instant diagnosis, Oprah would jump in with a comment like, "Did you hear what he told you? I mean, did you really hear that?" The implication seemed to be that if you didn't agree, you must not have been listening. There was never discussion of the possibility that other interpretations and diagnoses could be made.

This happened about the time that Oprah apparently decided she was some kind of spiritual leader. The show's opener was changed to give more of a Baptist church feel, and the format was modified to include things like the ever-sappy "Remembering Your Spirit" segment. For this reason, I don't think Oprah automatically backed up everything Dr. Phil said because she idolized him. Rather, I suspect she saw him as a peer, another Great One like herself.

Then of course, there is her decision to put herself on the cover of every issue of her magazine. I was just in the grocery store and I saw the latest issue of O magazine (January 2009) on the rack. To my surprise, there were two people on the cover. My first thought was that Oprah had finally deigned to share her cover with someone else, and that perhaps her ego was not as overinflated as I'd thought.

But when I picked up the magazine, I saw that both people were Oprah. On the left is a slim Oprah in a tummy-exposing white workout suit. On the right is a chubbier Oprah in a purple workout suit that displays only some carefully-arranged cleavage. (Oprah's putting some rack on the rack this month. Sorry, couldn't resist.) The headline: "How did I let this happen again?"

That's right: the only person Oprah has shared her magazine cover with... is herself. OK, there is a reason behind it. She's discussing her weight gain and is illustrating it with contrasting images of herself. But still... once, just once, O magazine features two people on the cover and they're still both Oprah?

On the other hand, Oprah declared this summer that she's tired of being on the cover. So there's hope that she has not crossed some kind of ego Rubicon, from which there is no return.

Friday, December 26, 2008

...But I'll Have a Handicapped Christmas

I had my second blog topic all planned out, but you know what they say about life happening while you're making other plans.

We had a tremendous snowstorm on Saturday night. This Tuesday, I attempted to walk downtown, but faced my nemesis in the form of a huge ridge that the snowplows had left between the street and the sidewalk. I'd already climbed over two ridges to get that far, and the sidewalk in between them had been plowed, so I naturally assumed that the sidewalk beyond this ridge was also plowed. This was the grandest ridge of all, but I worked my way up it sideways, congratulating myself on my cleverness, and stepped towards the smooth white surface beyond. In midair, too late, it occurred to me that the flat white surface was too high to be a sidewalk. Then I plunged feet-first into powder snow up to my crotch, felt my right foot twist as I hit the sidewalk beneath, and pitched forward chest-first into the snow.

The familiar pain I felt as I struggled to my feet told me I'd twisted my ankle again. This is the second time I've seriously twisted my ankle. I don't want to go into the first time in too much detail, so let's just say it involved a moving vehicle. My ankle had looked as if it had an Idaho potato growing out of it.

I managed on adrenaline to stump all the way back home through the snow. Once home, I checked the foot and found the swelling to be surprisingly small. It seemed disproportionate to the pain; I could not flex my foot or spread my toes. I managed to get around via a bizarre pointed-toe shuffle.

What both incidents of sprain had in common was a feeling of longing for the moments before the injury, which felt so close and yet so unattainable. Had it really been just ten minutes ago that I'd been walking out the door on two strong feet? How come I couldn't get that moment back, correct the mistake, restore my strong and healthy body? It was only ten minutes away.

The next morning, I had a good look at the foot and saw that the ankle was no longer swollen at all. The only swelling was on the actual foot. This made me concerned that I might have broken a bone. James took me to the emergency room at the hospital, where we were lucky enough to be seen within an hour. The doctor told me it couldn't be a broken bone. In the area of the swelling, he explained, the bones are very large. You can't break them unless you, and I quote, "fall off a roof or get in a high-speed car accident." It was a sprain, but in the foot rather than the ankle. He recommended the usual sprain treatment (rest, ice, elevation, compression--often abbreviated to RICE) and we picked up a pair of crutches at a nearby drug store.

Today, I'm much better and can walk around the house comfortably without crutches. We went out for a short walk and I found I did need the crutches for that, what with the uneven ground and the ice.

So I hope that soon I'll be walking and kvetching normally. It's an odd thing about serious injury or illness--you stop complaining. You can't afford to complain because you'll really get yourself down if you do. When things are going relatively well, that's when you can complain, and feel like complaining, about the small things. I think it's one of the ways we seek balance in our lives.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Weather Inside Is Frightful

Christmas is coming, and you know what that means: unpleasant stuff pelting down upon you whenever you venture out of the house. No, I'm not talking about snow. I love snow. I'm talking about Christmas songs.

Not all Christmas music is bad, of course. There are a few carols I quite like, such as "Come All Ye Faithful" and "I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In." Even in the category of popular music, there are some worthwhile offerings. Take "Two Thousand Miles" by The Pretenders, or the heart-warming "Mistress for Christmas" by AC/DC.

You just don't hear those songs, that's all. Oh, maybe now and then on the radio. But if you walk through a shopping mall, or go to a restaurant, what you are going to hear are songs that weren't even good the first time, like "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Walking in a Winter Wonderland." (By the way, does this song have the dumbest lyrics, or what? "He'll ask us, 'Are you married?'/ We'll say, 'No man'"--what are they, sixties hippies?) Even worse, you'll hear certain well-worn "favorites" played over and over and over again. There are Christmases when I think that if I have to hear Little Drummer Boy one more time, I'm going to disembowel myself just to stop the pain.

Overplaying of certain songs is one major cause of seasonal pain. Another is Singing... Too... Sloooooowly. Why do they do this? I wonder if there's a misconception that a song sung much more slowly than it was meant to be sung is soothing and relaxing, rather than irritating, as in fact it is.

Both male and female vocalists may be guilty of the pointlessly, annoyingly extended song. Another phenomenon is unique to the female vocalist: singing in a sweet little cutesy-poo voice, all full of whisperiness and sighs. These girls remind me of Jewel, only worse.

The irony is that the holiday of Christmas has more good songs than any other holiday I know. So why do merchants choose to play so much of the wretched stuff? Are they unable to tell the difference?

I suppose the best thing you can do at Christmas time is buy one or two excellent Christmas albums, hole yourself up in your house with your stereo, and don't come out again until boxing day. In the process you can save yourself a lot of money and fight another phenomenon that plays havoc with the holiday: rampant consumerism. Your local non-trampled Walmart employee will thank you.