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Showing posts from February, 2020

TBT: "Common People," Shatner Version

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The year 2004 was all about William Shatner's cover of Britpop band Pulp's '90s hit "Common People." It's weird, it's confusing, it was made into a ballet performance, and we still don't understand why it's so good. It was all Ben Folds' idea; he produced the song and had Joe Jackson belt out the chorus and a youth choir finish off the dramatic crescendo behind the crunchy indie rock guitar.



It's a rich old man sarcastically singing (or Shatnering, I guess?) the anthem of a poor young man whose frustration and bitterness and shame were apparently triggered by the presence of a beautiful, rich young woman who allegedly dared to express an interest, Marie-Antoinette-like, in the lives of the "common people."

Original songwriter Jarvis Cocker struggled as a musician for a long time before "Common People" rocketed him out of the gutter and into a life of wealth and fame. At first, he seemed to describe the song's narrat…

$Monday: Get Out of the Bucket and Into the Sea

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Don't ever settle down in a bucket of crabs. The people we keep around us have considerable power to motivate, inspire, and support us--or to drag us down. If you ever find yourself trapped in a bucket of crabby dragger-downers, remember that there are plenty of fish in the sea--and yes, some fish really have friends; this is not just a completely silly metaphor. Everybody needs healthy relationships, including some literal fish. So come on in, the water's fine!


It is always painful to end relationships that aren't working for us, but that pain is sometimes necessary to get right with ourselves and redirect our energies toward healthier connections. As a person who struggles with anxiety, I know that when the world seems limited and small and stingy and lonely, it's an issue of my own perception, and it might also be exacerbated by my habit of hanging on to dysfunctional friendships longer than I should. It is important for me to remember that the world is full of fla…

TBT: Choose Health

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Remember the swine flu? Now we're talking about coronavirus. There will never be a time in our lives when there aren't any disease outbreaks, or when we don't have to care about pollution in our air, water, and food. We're all stuck here together on Cruiseship Earth arguing about things like whether to vaccinate or "choose life." Ultimately, none of our personal choices will matter if we all get taken out by plague or poisoning. So we need to choose health, together, collectively, for each other and for each other's babies, or else none of our individual choices will ever be worth a plastic bag in a whale's belly.

Here's what I wrote back in The Time of Swine Flu:

Choose Health
Cultivate health from the inside out and the outside in!

Everybody's talking about the swine flu, so I figure this is a good time to bring up the health situation for us un-wealthy folks. Part of the reason this flu has become such a problem is that people did not rece…

$Monday: Save $5K a Year + Healthcare by Eating In

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Learn to cook--or make someone else do it. Do you have a man, a child in upper elementary or higher, a roommate, or a good friend you see regularly? Delegation is possible. Without giving up quality time with your favorite people, going on a home-cooked diet can upgrade your life and save you thousands of dollars every year.


Me, I love cooking. It's one of the sensual pleasures of my life. So anytime I can make the time, I cook for myself and my family and sometimes for my friends or my daughter's friends. I love colorful spice jars and crushing things with a pestle and squishing my hands into dough.

If you don't love cooking, you can make a deal with others in your life to make it happen.

I have a single lady friend who enjoys cooking but struggles with meal planning and grocery shopping for one on an irregular schedule. She wanted to get back into the habit of cooking and eating healthy meals, so she used a short-term subscription to a meal kit service to make it easier.

TBT: Grow Your Household... Laterally!

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As a "poor and fabulous" 25-year-old who branded myself the "Recessionista Genie," I bought a beautiful and spacious house in a desirable suburb with my husband at the very moment when the housing bubble burst, when we were making under $40K a year total and drowning in student loan debts. Home prices hadn't quite plummeted to exciting lows yet, but the door also hadn't slammed shut on the ridiculous lending practices of the bubble times. We were approved for an unimaginable six-figure home loan with no money down (we didn't even pay closing costs), and we took it. We were tired of living in a moldy, drug-soaked apartment building in a high-crime downtown neighborhood, and we were willing to do just about anything to escape living in a cesspool of filth and sickness. Our secret to success? Filling the house with roommates to help pay the bills and share meals.

We lived with at least one roommate at a time for about four years, until we had an exceptiona…

$Monday: Own Your Moneymaker

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Ladies, gentlemen, humans of every gender and sexuality or none whatsoever, take care of your reproductive health. Nobody has a right to your sexual or reproductive choices but you, and knowing that all the way through your guts and juices and bones is essential to financial wellness. Reproductive autonomy is economic power.

How many children to have and when to have them can be the most financially significant decisions of a person's entire life. This is obvious.

But so is sexual autonomy, aside from reproduction. In any culture that controls human sexuality through shame, people (especially the disabled, children, and women, but all people) are at risk of being manipulated--sexually harassed, exploited, traumatized, or threatened--using the lever of public shaming over one's body and/or sexuality. These manipulations cost people jobs, productivity, creativity, confidence, social power, and physical health.

Kidnapping and rape survivor Elizabeth Smart is a great resource for e…

TBT: Cosmopolitan Fashions

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Back in the early years of the millennium, I wrote this post about wearing clothes and accessories made by people of many different cultures. This has become a big topic lately, and I've learned a lot over the past 15 years about cultural misappropriation. I have always cared about dressing ethically, and now I am more knowledgeable about the issues. I would (or do) still wear most of the items shown below, because they are non-ceremonial items, produced and sold by people of the cultures represented in the styles, and offered to the general public (sometimes in tourist shops, specifically for outside visitors to shop). The one garment I show myself wearing in this post that I never owned is the Congolese dress I modeled while volunteering to sell Fair Trade handmade clothing, accessories, fine arts, and crafts. (Because African prints carry complex meanings in the U.S., I don't feel right about wearing something like that in my daily life.) I realize that purchasing items fro…

$Monday: Immigrants! (F Yeah!)

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There may not be an I in TEAM, but there is an I in TEAM AMERICA, and it stands for IMMIGRANTS! (F yeah!)

Our nation is rich in immigrants, and they are more likely than native-born Americans to work harder for less money. They also come here with generally healthier lifestyles and different experiences than anyone born here has had. In other words, they bring value into our lives.

So support businesses owned by immigrants. Have your car fixed, your house painted, your dinner cooked by immigrants. Shop at grocery stores run by immigrants.

Food that comes from, or is at least somewhat inspired by, the traditions of another country is always interesting. It might be healthier. It might be exciting. It's probably inexpensive. And you get a little bit of a cultural experience without having to travel. You can stay in your hometown and expand your world at the same time.

My favorite cookbook, Thug Kitchen, often gives me a friendly reminder that it's a joy to visit an Asian market …