Thursday, December 30, 2004

see me to talk! i didn't quite understand!

First things first: have you donated yet? There are links all over the place now to relief organizations of every conceivable type, or you can take the easy way out and use one-click at Amazon.

Okay. So you can find my blog if you're looking for "children peeing pictures", which is news. That visitor must have been deeply disappointed to click through and get a post about Brussels. Ah well.

Random thoughts: Yesterday Snufkina and I went on a photo safari--urban this time--and I took something like a hundred pictures of graffitti and construction sites. I also noticed that she is much nicer to strangers than I am. Of course, the people who approach her don't seem to be as inherently odd as those who approach me, but maybe that's just a perceptual thing. I'm happier with these photos than the ones I took the last time we did this, and it's really interesting going with another person. You start to get an idea of what she's going to be drawn to. At some point, we should probably sit down and compare what we get on these expeditions.

The kids upstairs are taking revenge on me for some noise I made the other night and have apparently bought themselves a very large television. One or the other or both of them had better find jobs soon or I shall go mad.

One of the legs of my new bed bends under pressure. I should have known not to trust IKEA. Fortunately the distance to the floor is not great. But I need to get cracking on the platform-building, so I can put the mattress (sans legs) on a sturdier surface.

Finally, the thing referenced in the title. As I was sorting papers last night, I found something my mother had sent. I wish I had a scanner so I could just show it to you, although I may be the only person who can read it. It's a story I wrote in, oh, looks like third grade. The teacher had handed out a mimeograph (kids, that's like a Xerox copy; the ink was blue, and had a distinct smell of ozone) with a stylized drawing of a black sun and a city skyline. Written at the top was the beginning of the story; we were supposed to finish it any way we liked. Here's mine (the teacher-provided opening is in bold, my response in regular type, her notes in italics):

Dawn should have broken that morning at 6:05 a.m. But it was still dark at 8 o'clock. It was almost noon before the panic came. The sun would never shine again. What do you think would happen?

the werewolves came and ate all the people up. They also made a slide out of butter and splashed all around. They took markers and scribbled on the walls and they would decay and bury the bodies. The planes and boats would fall into the Bermuda triangle.

See me to talk! I didn't quite understand! But I'm sure with more practice, you [sic] stories will have meaning!

Dream on, lady. But I get paid for it now.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

pik is safe

And has an amazing, if brief, story of outrunning the surge. Didn't even lose his passport.

Every time I sit down to write, it seems inappropriate in the face of what I've just learned. As I don't own a television, I get my news online, via the BBC, and I usually check that before logging in to Blogger...which is where I see the numbers of dead rising, the photos of communities devastated. And like everyone else, I just can't get my head around it. 77,000 confirmed dead, and they haven't been to all the islands yet. How many people is that? That's a small city. That's the number of Belgian or Italian civilians who died in WWII, or Norwegian soldiers. And the prospect of disease following in the water's wake, taking how many more.

So while I was thinking last night about describing a tango performance I saw, or talking about how good it is to have MonkeyScientist back in town, albeit briefly, or even natter on mindlessly about the clutter-clearing I've been doing (and I need to get a shout out to my mom here, who is doing the same thing at her house, and apparently more effectively), it seems really small compared to what's going on.

So all I can say is that if you have anything to spare, send it on to Asia...I woke up in the middle of the night trying to remember who all owes me money (it's tricky, being so overemployed; stuff falls through the cracks) so I could call them today and suggest they get cracking on paying me. So I can contribute something.

Monday, December 27, 2004

caffeinated soap?

Living far from the cube farms, I guess I haven't been keep track of advanced caffeine delivery technology. Also available: caffeinated lotion, Italian soda syrup, and hot sauce. And a cute baby T.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

10,000 people dead

Jesus. And people ask me if I'm frightened, living in San Francisco, of earthquakes.

Does anyone have any group in particular that they would donate to, for disaster relief?

I have a cousin who is traveling in the area; we haven't heard from her yet. And I know that some of you either live close by, or have traveled there recently and made friends and contacts. Here's hoping that you and yours are all safe.
can't sleep...clowns will eat me

Or mimes will mock my jaywalking. Courtesy of Daryl Sng.Is anyone else starting to wonder why he and I bother keeping separate blogs, considering how often we link to each other's finds? Daryl, will you be my blog husband?

Saturday, December 25, 2004

open the pantry door, hal

This is an older article about the International Space Station food shortage--since 9 December, the Progress has successfully docked at the ISS, with its 2.5 tons of food, water, oxygen, and fuel. But I put it up because it makes an interesting point about how the Russians reacted to the shortage, versus the Americans.

If the station's supply falls to 45 days' worth or less, the crew must be evacuated. Which is why everyone got their knickers in a twist when Astronaut Michael Foale and Cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri revealed they only had enough food left to make it through January, and they're just halfway through a six-month tour of duty. I have to admit that my first mental picture was of two men in a Jules Verne-styled ship, with big rivets around the portholes framing their desperately gaunt faces.

What interests me isn't that the men went through the food so fast, although from what I've heard about how food tastes in space, I'm surprised they ate so much. A friend of mine who used to design menus for an airline explains that at high altitudes, our sense of taste is depressed, so food has to be more strongly flavored to compensate. There are other considerations as well.

But that's not what gets me. What gets me is that the Russians on the ground perceived that there was enough food left that it wasn't a crisis situation. It just wasn't the crew's "favorite meals." Whereas the Americans on the ground were all worked up.

I really think this says something about our respective cultures. My friend Oleg said an interesting thing a few years ago when I asked him what the strangest part of moving to California from Russia in the '80s had been. We were in a supermarket in Los Angeles. Without hesitation, he looked around and said, this. All this food. Could the ground crews' different reactions stem directly from their experience--or lack thereof--of privation?

I mean, there are times when I feel like I don't have any food, and I feel bad for myself. Yet if I look in the cupboard, there's, oh, cornbread mix, cans of soup, cereal, dried fruit, oatmeal...and the fridge has olives, eight kinds of fruit preserves, condiments, half a bag of frozen peas. They may not all be my favorites. I may have picked all the apricots and prunes out of the dried fruit mix and now all I have left are the dried pears and apples, which I don't find as groovy. But I don't need to evacuate my particular Spaceship. I'm just so accustomed to plenty that I'm not seeing clearly.
what's on your list?

Dancing Brave has an interesting idea: make a list of 101 Things To Do In 1001 Days. Set a target date, make the list (trying to keep things pretty specific, "become a better person" doesn't apparently count), and then try to stick to it.

I like this for a few reasons. One, it's not as open-ended as a New Year's resolution. Two, I like seeing her list, and Amanda's (I found DB through Amanda). I don't know either woman, but I have a strong sense now of each one, based on what they dream of doing. Probably totally off-base, but still fun. Three, as you can see from the comments to DB's list, it creates an opportunity for people to help you. Barbara Sher calls this "barn-raising"; breaking your dream down into manageable parts, and then enlisting your friends to help you achieve them. In DB's case, people are offering her professional massages (she's never had one), giving her advice on what to do when she spends that afternoon in the batting cage, and inviting her to go to knitting classes with them. I found myself looking through the list for things I can help her with, and I don't know her from Adam's housecat!

Some of the things, I don't personally see the point. One of these women plans to cut out all chocolate for three months. I can't imagine how that could be construed as a good thing.

But then, clearly my list will be different.

Friday, December 24, 2004

fun with xylene

Yes, I've been playing with the full complement of dwarves this week--Grumpy, Bitchy, Surly, Paranoid, Childish, Easily Distracted, and all the rest. I know. In about a week I'm going to post an entry that will make a great many things make more sense. But not yet. Suffice it to say for now that I don't usually get so funky just because I didn't get a job I wanted (although, come to think of it, I haven't had much experience with not getting a job I want, so I have little basis for comparison) and because I happened to damage a digit (still swollen and painful, thanks for asking, but typing's getting easier, and I can knit again). There's more to it. Trust me, I have cause to be depressive.

BUT I am trying to pull myself out, which is why Wednesday night I decided to sass up my space a little. I am collarbone-deep in decorate your place cheaply books, both purchased and borrowed; while they vary wildly in style and tone (I like it how "Home Cheap Home", for example, talks about buying a Salvation Army couch--and then spending a thousand dollars to have it reupholstered. Nope), they agree on how a little creativity can liven up any dull old place.

So I bought a vinyl shower curtain for ten bucks, and attacked it with my paint markers. Not as many as I thought I would (many of them turn out not to work on vinyl), and not the actual paint-with-a-brush paint I thought I'd use (ditto) to get nice thick dark lines. Indeed, this is what I got:

Yes, the xylene fumes got to me. Better living through chemistry, indeed: interior decoration with the help of powerful brain cell-mutilating inhalants. But I'm pleased with the result, even if it's completely DIY and not all elegant and so on. It reminds me of the doodling I did as a teenager--on my shoes, on my jeans, on my friend Jeanne's locker door, on anything that was moving too slowly to get away. You probably can't tell from the photo, but I left the original frosted curtain in place behind the new one, with an oval cut out. So you can see into the shower, but only within the "frame"; you can't see the untidy clumps of bodycare products that sit on the edges of the tub.

Took my first shower with it in place yesterday, and giggled the whole time. It really did make me feel better. I recommend the experience highly. Whether that means I think you should come shower at my house, or just send me your shower curtain to draw on, I'm not sure.

Here's another cool thing to do with a plain vinyl shower curtain, and a batch of postcards. Apparently you can also hot-glue things to a shower curtain, although you want to use the low-temperature setting or you'll melt right through. I'm thinking about attaching some shiny plastic cabochons (another thing I'm drowning in), but I'll probably use clear silicone caulk. Mostly because I happen to have some, and there's much less chance of burning oneself that way. My fingers are very sensitive about such things right now.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

gigantic cock-a-roach

Man, it's been a good month for science. First they find a new monkey in India, and now--among a great many other things, including a pure-white millipede nearly three inches long--researchers in Borneo's East Kalimantan have found what they think may be the world's largest cockroach. At 10 cm (about four inches) long, the new bug beats out the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, which runs to 2-3 inches long and an inch wide.

I admit I have a soft spot for the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa, isn't that great?), although I certainly didn't try to bring any back with me in '99. "Hissers" are interesting. They're supposed to make good pets--as one site explains, they're superior to other roaches in this regard because they are "wingless, sanitary, odorless, clean, and slow", all fine traits in an animal companion, unless you want it to run alongside when you bike or jog. Or if you're attached to fur. Or faces. Anyway. You only need to feed hissers every other day--ground up dog chow and some veggie scraps--and leave them a damp sponge for water. If they get mites, you shake your roaches in a bag with some flour, an image I find highly amusing, although I would have to remember not to then fry the poor things in butter.

If you're curious but not ready to make a two- to five-year commitment, you can try out hisser husbandry by renting a roach.

And if you'd sooner eat insects than rent them, here are some tasty recipes. Pound for pound, insects don't provide as much protein as beef or fish, but they're a much better source of iron.

Cock-a-roach is my mother's pronunciation. For a lot of years, I thought it was the correct one. Until I learned to spell the word, and couldn't find that extra "a". I'm sure we all have a word or two like that, right? You're saying it wrong, but you're so cute nobody corrects you. Like a friend who just told me that she thought another word for the private parts was "gentiles", until her mother, laughing, straightened her out.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

didn't get the job

I was trying for, and got the news from someone other than the person who should have called with it. Was feeling pretty wretched but a friend came over with papaya juice and made me talk about other things until I'd cheered up a little.

The timing sucks, and I'm clearly going to have to buckle down and find some other lucrative writing work, before I go insane catering and set a guest on fire or something. Oh, and I also closed my fingers in the door--the heavy fire door--to the apartment, and one of my fingernails is half-blue and the fingers all hurt. I ended up having to reschedule an interview by three hours because I was too knocked out by the pain to think about asking questions or trying to use my mysterious little recorder; once I did get there, I miscalculated the distance between the lip of my glass and the lip of my mouth and ended up with ice water in my lap. Fortunately my interviewee was someone I know, a guy who isn't easily fazed by a sodden, throbbing-with-pain journalist.

I would have chosen a less crappy day for myself, given the chance. But, I have some nail polish almost the color of the bruise; maybe I'll just paint all my nails and pretend blue was my intent. Lesson in there somewhere.
hello, flower mound!

Someone who visits my blog fairly regularly lives in Flower Mound, Texas. Or at least they're routed through there, somehow; I'm not entirely clear on how the system works. Statcounter gives me certain information about visitors--city/state/country, IP address, browser, screen resolution, referring site if there is one.

It's a little bit of a puzzle, and sort of fun. There are certain people I can pick out from this information. People I know (my friends here, Kate in D.C.), or people I haven't met who have written to me--Eric in Seattle, Ken in Kansas. Eric's got "tukw" in his address, and Ken "sunflower", which always makes me smile when I see it in the middle of the hash of numbers and letters that make up most of Statcounter's only-sort-of-helpful listings. Sometimes I can figure it out from someone's location and my knowledge of what kind of computer they use; other times I can figure it out by which link they consistently use to get to me.

But Statcounter isn't as interesting now as it used to be, in part because Blogger's "next blog" button means I get a fair number of hits from people who are just surfing through, bored. And I feel bad sometimes when I see the searches that have led people to me; here they were looking for real information on, oh, some kind of animal or something else that I've referenced, and instead they get... this.

But I was talking about Flower Mound. I have no idea who that is, but I love it that there's a place with a name like that. Especially in Texas, which I've never seen and imagine to be kind of dry and hilly. I am so curious that I went ahead and did a search, and learned that the Town of Flower Mound, population roughly 50,000 souls, boasts a wind sculpture that looks like a bunch of giant spoons. It's also conveniently located in the center of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex (which sounds very William Gibson BAMA or Sprawl to me), the median age is 33.3 years, and Flower Mound kids do better on every section of the SAT than either other Texan kids or the national average. The rather literal, dry quality of the Web site--and the apparent blinding whiteness of the place (91% of the population as of the 2000 census self-identified as "white") aside, FM actually seems kind of sweet and sane.

But I'm piecing that together. I haven't found any photos of so much as a flowery hillock. One close-up photo of some wildflowers, and a few shots of Lake Grapevine, and a link to another site that exhorts me to check out the shopping. A timeline of the town's history, road by road. And a list of statistics by which I can determine that even on the biggest day as yet recorded, the good people of FM managed to stay 2.5 million gallons below their water system's maximum capacity.

But what is it like? I have no idea. I'm hoping my FM visitor will go out and take some pictures with a little more juice than the official ones on the site (Police Car in Front of City Hall) and send them on to me.

Monday, December 20, 2004

i may just sleep through this week

That, and nest. I'm feeling low and vulnerable, and a few days of gluing things together, eating mac and cheese, and ignoring the phone might be in order. Especially if it--the phone, that is--persists in its irritating tendency of ringing before ten am, with chirping acquaintances on the other end who have forgotten that I work nights.

I am also thinking about painting my shower curtain, and potting the cutting I took from the plant I rescued from MonkeyScientist. Break out the brownie mix. Stay up all night reading science fiction (currently: the excellent time-travel comedy To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis). I might get crazy and do some of the handwash-only delicates. Chills!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

this is utterly chilling

While everyone I've talked to is heartily sick of hearing about the Scott Peterson trial, an interesting thing has been brought forward, backed up by a fourteen-year study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Brace yourself, this is awful.

In the U.S., the leading cause of mortality among pregnant women and new mothers is homicide. And the perpetrator is usually someone the woman knows. Well. Her boyfriend, her husband.

Apparently some men find it easier to kill than to consider paying child support. One kid took a shotgun to his pregnant 16-year-old girlfriend because he was afraid he'd be up on statuatory rape charges if anyone found out he'd impregnated a minor.

Like first-degree murder charges are somehow better?

I'm so horrified by this that I can barely write. I mean, feminists have suspected this for years, but there are finally numbers behind it.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

all kinds of stuff coming

Plenty of stuff in the blog pipeline, but I'm still recovering from my two days' solid writing at the begining of the week, and refilling my word bags. In the meantime, I'm now fascinated with the idea of dying yarn with Kool-Aid--it's cheap, it's safe (the textile dyes I ordinarily use require that I also use a respirator, dedicated saucepots, and things with names like "mordant", which sounds pretty grim), they're washable, and the finished items smell fruity for a while.

Which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

Anyway, it's also a new project on the "things I could do with kids" list, which grows ever longer; someday I will accede to the inevitable and become a grade-school art teacher. I'm just not ready for that bobbed haircut and the denim smock, you feel me?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

a new monkey

Wow. In case you were convinced there was nothing new under the sun, this should cheer you right up. Researchers have discovered a monkey heretofore unknown to science running around in India. It's a type of macaque. The last new macaque was discovered a hundred years ago. Cool.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

staying on track

I read somewhere yesterday that the way to make your blog popular is to post frequently--really frequently--the suggestion was, as often as you eat, so three times a day, plus snacks.

Putting aside for the moment that most of the time I don't eat three meals a day--yesterday, I took my first (and only) honest meal at 11:45 pm, and the friend who watched would probably disagree whether a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of Cheerios constitute an honest meal--this seems like an awful lot of posting. Although I guess it depends on how long the individual posts are. For example, I would love to see more from Snufkina, and not just because she said a very nice thing about my tush recently, but not if it meant her posts weren't as thought-out and well-illustrated with her photos. Same for Jake, who goes silent for weeks and then comes out with something that invariably manages to be funny and poignant without getting maudlin. Meanwhile the guys I check regularly are pretty consistent about a post a day or every other day, but they're generally shorter and more quickly digested.

I'm not sure what I'm getting at here. I should really turn off the radio; I never said I could write to dance music. Am I saying that my female friends write meals and my male friends snacks? No. Am I saying that Marc blogs like a girl because his posts are (sometimes) as long as mine, or those of the other women I read? No, well. No. Anyway, I'm in serious danger of getting all meta about blogging, which wasn't the point when I sat down. I guess the question I sat down to ask was, how often should a blogger post to hold their readers' interest? Where's the cutoff point? Where's the moment when, since they've been quiet so long, you stop checking?

Actually, and that whole discursion is completely typical, what I sat down to write was that I am feeling completely loose right now, and incapable of holding onto a thought for longer than one rumble from my neglected stomach. Yesterday was incredibly intense--I wrote for about 18 hours straight, eating nothing but dried fruit and a little leftover Thai food--to finish up two pieces of writing that could mean major changes in my life. One was a thousand-word essay that, if the editor buys it, will net me the single largest writing check I've received to date, and possibly signal the beginning of a relationship that will free me to do more writing and less catering. The other piece is just as meaningful: an 800-word sample that will help a different editor decide between three or four applicants for the same weekly column. A column which would mean a larger beat, a larger readership, and a better-looking resume.

Which is a lot more intense than I realized, especially now that both pieces have hit their e-mail targets and both women have told me they'll get back to me by next week. And I don't know what to do in the meantime. I mean, I have a lot that needs doing, like laundry, and a lot that I want to do, like knit and paint. But the big-picture thinking I meant to do this week, I need to put on hold until I know about the column. So I'm lolling around, basically, trying not to think about it. Yes it's noon on a Wednesday and I'm postcoital and still in my robe and trying to decide whether to clean house this afternoon or just go to the zoo, and I know how some of you dayjob folks feel about that, but then you probably have health insurance and know when you're getting your next paycheck, so we're even. Well...

Something I didn't think about when I left ILM in a huff to be a writer was how much of a shark it would mean becoming. You know, the whole keep moving thing. I was thinking about this last night, how once a week for seven years, someone walked into my office with a check with my name on it. Wow, was that luxurious.

Of course, I hated my life.

I just need to learn better focus if I'm to keep going like this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

a meditation for the working writer faced with a new editor

I sent this to MonkeyScientist, and then I realized I liked it so much I'll expand it and share it with you too. I am really, really loopy this morning. I've had a two-hour nap and half a pound of dried nectarines; my viscera are making all kinds of fascinating noises. I have one more article to finish and then I'm going back to bed.

breathe in:
the Universe loves me so much that it has sent me this particular editor so I can become a better writer, and a more patient person.

breathe out:
S/he's going to want me to change the piece I just e-mailed. Possibly quite a bit. I am not the piece; the piece is not me. I can change the piece. I want to change the piece. The thought of changing the piece to her/his specifications fills me with radiant joy and love.

breathe in:
Money is ephemeral, art eternal.

breathe out:
Double Chocolate Milanos are fleeting, but their crumbs live forever in my keyboard.

breathe in:
I gaze benevolently upon myself from slightly above, and to the left. I observe my breathing, the flow of my thoughts, and the way that one fingernail that is longer than the others keeps accidentally snagging the CAPS LOCK key and making me go back and fix shit.

Go in peace.

Monday, December 13, 2004

equal time

Snufkina passed on this Hanukkah song with a little OutKast stylee; the animation's pretty basic, but the concept's funny.
it's a bunderful life

Okay, I admit it: I haven't actually seen the Capra version of this holiday classic. But now I feel like I have, and in just thirty seconds!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

the advantage of advanced age

There are enough spankings to go around. So every hot lesbian at Fairy Butch's Hanukkah Ho-Down! could get in a few whacks, and there was still some spankage left for my dear friends. That one very genteel butch in the vest and tie, man, she thought I was a lot older than I am. I can tell just by looking this morning. Fortunately I'm not modeling this week.

Thanks guys. It was the most loveliest birthday ever.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Well, so far I've danced with an absolutely luscious Hawaiian girl, watched Snufkina body-check a man several times her size because he was using his cellphone to take pictures of a go-go dancer's barely-covered quim, eaten tepid biscuits and gravy in my father's memory in an all-night place that usually does better. I'm a wee bit drunk, and I am anticipating with extreme pleasure crawling into my nice wide new bed and sleeping for as long as I damn well want before I wake up to buy myself a book I've been coveting and have birthday dinner with my friends.

So far, so good.

Friday, December 10, 2004

proud to be a fruit beer swillin' smelly ol' liberal bongo-slapping hippie

Poor AX. In his endless quest to bring rootin' tootin' bloggy goodness to the masses, he occasionally finds gems like this site, where you can buy all sorts of things like T-shirts that show you believe we should "nuke 'em all and let Allah sort it out." I just hope he hadn't finished a nice big meal when he rolled into MetroSpy. I've had an apple and some chorizo, myself, and am feeling queasy. I'm also tempted to disinfect my keyboard, or my eyes, or something.

Is it snarky for me to point out that these people can't even freaking spell? "Dispite"? "Site" for "sight"? Is it their patriotic, God-loving fervor that makes them type so fast and ignore spellcheck so thoroughly? Or is that the "fukkin liberals" mentioned on their Frogweenies bulletin board have taken over our educational system and rendered everyone illiterate?

And we're supposed to reach out and make nice-nice with these people because their man's in office for another interminable four years? I'm not feeling the love, here.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

indri are a kind of lemur

The biggest surviving species, actually. There used to be bigger, slower ones, the size of small cows, but you know what happens to big, slow, small-cow-sized things with no natural predators when humans finally make their appearance. Indri are black and white, and weigh about thirty pounds apiece. They are the only lemur species that can't be bred in captivity, and also the only ones without tails.

Anyway. Here's another sort of lemur of which I am now enamored. Check them out.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

in the big house

So last night, before I came home and had my marital fantasy meltdown, I was of course working a swanky party at the Cantor Art Center, the courtyard of which I have described here in the past.

Although I was originally tapped to pass hors d'ouevres, about an hour into the party, Sleek moved me onto door duty. Apparently last year when we did this party, the guests complained afterwards that they hadn't been told where anything was. So this year our salesperson budgeted to have one person who just opened the door between the main hall of the museum and the courtyard, and told people going through the door where they could find the seafood buffet, the coffee station, the dessert display, their ass with both hands, etcetera. Whoops, did I write that out loud? Anyway. Red was on the job, and got bored, so I was sent to take over.

And I have no idea how Red had managed to do it for a whole hour. Oh my god, was it ever boring. And made worse by the fact that every person who came through the door had to say something witty like, is this your whole job tonight? and you should get a doorstop (the site forbids it) and you got the easy job! and I had to nod and grin like, like, one of those robot dogs.

As it happens, it wasn't really that easy. The reflected light from the hall made it difficult to see through the door, and it was kind of tricky telling whether the people I was seeing were on my side of the door or the other. And the place was so packed that I couldn't really open the door all the way, I had to keep it sort of half-open, sort of Schroedinger's Cat-like. Is the cat alive? Is the cat dead? Is the courtyard full of poison from a capsule broken by a decaying electron?

But I digress.

I know that some writers love to do that thing where you look at strangers, and try to imagine what their stories might be. Apaprently that's very big among fiction writers, or at least among people who teach fiction writing. So I thought, okay, I'll try it: after all, I'm using about a half of one percent of my brain capacity here. This could give me ideas for stories I could write when I get home, and sell for lots of money, and never have to open this damn door for another person again.

But I couldn't seem to look at these people and come up with any narrative.

Until I started imagining that every last one of them was a criminal of some kind, and I had to figure out what kind as they walked past. And then, wow, I was on a roll. Insider trading was a little old man with a much younger woman trailing behind him. A woman with big teased hair was mail fraud. I saw at least two pedophiles. I am a bad person, but it was hilarious, and nobody knew why I was smiling so much as they walked through my half-open door.

At least, until I got so bored that I nearly fell asleep and clocked an Assistant Vice President sporting teeth like big planks of IKEA melamine-covered fibreboard with my door. Please tell Sleek that I'm about to pass out here, I asked a passing FP (Fellow Penguin--cf. WIT, Worker In Tux), and thirty-five minutes after I'd assumed door duty, I was back out with the hors d'ouevre tray.

Slinging snacks to imaginary felons.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

any minute now, i'm going to start feeling this

E has managed to fuck another birthday for me.

The man has an instinct, I must say. And the fact that he has just proved me right in something MonkeyScientist had almost talked me out of doesn't help.

But I'm not being clear.

I just got home from a holiday party for some bank, down in Palo Alto. It wasn't great, it wasn't painful; there's a cook who regularly flirts with me who was being a 'performance chef', which means that he was out on the floor carving lamb where I could see him as I was bussing and passing hors d'ouevres and so on, and that was nice. I wouldn't date this man--we want very different things, as he's made clear from our conversations in the past--but he makes me feel sexy, no small feat when I'm wearing a tux and feeling about eight feet around at the hips. The guests were no worse than usual, and I ate quite a few handmade truffles, washed down with a heart-stopping quantity of dairy products loosely bound with potato. My ride and I regaled each other on the way back with stories of what we'd like to do to Dubya and his pack of thieves, and I'm home before ten, which should mean that I get an article done and a shower before I go to bed.

Except that there's an email in my box, and as soon as I saw the subject line, I knew.

Bit o' news, E begins. All good here, in Vancouver at present...being a husband. Yup. Married at City Hall, San Francisco, 2 weeks ago. And then he names her, as if I didn't know her name, as if I didn't know that he met her no more than four days after dumping my ass because he thought he "should be alone for a while", as if he hadn't put me on the e-mail list of people who got the updates from their trip to Israel, about eating melon in the afternooon in their hotel room in Tel Aviv and napping with her in the sweltering heat.

How do I know it's not me, I asked MonkeyScientist Sunday, after we'd already had an awkward conversation about this delicate thing we've been doing, this very limited engagement before he expatriates, how do I know it's not me when every man I've ever really loved, really thought I might have a future with, has married the next woman he dated? And I counted off on my fingers: Jer, BowlCut, Slice, E. MonkeyScientist folded down two of my fingers because there was actually someone between me and the woman BowlCut married, and because E wasn't married. That's not true, he said. Fifty percent.

Seventy-five percent now. And the fact is, they're all married, some of them quite gloatingly (I've been to BowlCut's wife's Web site. The self-congratulatoriness ain't pretty, let me tell you)--and I'm not. And I know it shouldn't matter; that I'm a fine person all by myself, with my own interesting life, blah blah fucking blah, but where is the man who has MY back? Who will love me, and travel with me, and think about building a family with me while I still have a fresh egg or two left, before the DES damage means I need to have my damn misshapen precancerous cervix taken out, and be there to come home to when I've had a night like tonight and just really want my shoulders rubbed and my hair stroked? Who is interested to see what kind of adventure we can have together?

And the knowledge that I would be miserable now if I'd stayed with some of these guys isn't helpful. I mean, it will be later. But the burning that is rising in me now is making that clear, smooth truth hard to hold onto.

So I write it here, knowing that I'm going to distress some people, that some of you are going to worry about me, and some others wonder about my stability. Whatever. I have to say it here because I CAN NOT write the e-mail back to E that I so deeply, desperately want to write. I will be okay in the morning. I may even be okay after my shower, especially if I take a beer in there with me. But this part right now, this part sucks.

Monday, December 06, 2004

hitting my marks

Well, for one thing, I have finally finished my sock monkey.

You see, I started him, oh, I dunno, nine months or a year ago? I threw a party, when I still rented a studio in the dojo and had the space to craft with other people; a guy I'd met online came over and taught half a dozen of us how to make sock animals. We sat at two long tables pushed together, covered in socks, embroidery floss, polyester stuffing, and buttons. We ate snacks. I got everything done but one ear, and sewing closed the feet. And then we had to clean up and get out; I was going to a show, Snufkina had to get home, our sock monkey maestro had evening plans. I had the second ear all cut out. I told myself I would sew it on when I got home that night from the theater.

I'm not sure I made it home that night. It's entirely possible I slept in AX's nice warm apartment, or in the grotty child-infested Mission flat I inhabited for a mere three months, I don't remember. What is certain is that when I consolidated my life into one space, the wonderful Spaceship (which now, finally, boasts an honest bed, but that's another story), my monkey made the trip with just one ear, and the real danger of losing the fine muscular definition in his legs as a result of polyester batting attrition. He's been sitting on one of my bookcases ever since, a mute testimony to my congenital disability to finish the things I start.

For a while, I made things even worse on myself: I have a somewhat Thelemic affirmation that I painted on a sheet of paper and tried to tape to the door. Every single THING is a manifestation of will, it reads, What is your WILL? I was trying, when I wrote it out, to remind myself that I am the only one around here responsible for kicking myself in the butt and making things happen. But in my usual fashion, I didn't stretch the paper before I painted it, and the warping from the water made the paper buckle and ripple and become generally unstickable using the advanced adhesive technology I was trying to employ (Blu-Tak) and I ended up propping the sad, wrinkly thing up on the bookshelf, against the monaural sock monkey.

You see the problem. A half-baked sock monkey next to an ineffective sign about getting stuff done. Sitting directly across the narrow hallway from the bathroom, the door of which I usually leave open if I'm alone in the Spaceship when I'm, you know.

One of my many, many self-help books--probably about not being a helpless clutterbug (first rule: stop accumulating books about how not to clutter)--suggests that if you have even a little project hanging fire, it's going to add to your overall sense of helplessness. Finish that one little project, the helpful author (who is probably one of those folks who gets all the laundry folded straight out of the dryer, and sends thank-you notes the same year they receive a gift, and never runs out of toilet paper, stamps, jam, safety pins, or wholesome goodwill towards all people) tells us, and you'll start to feel like you've got a grip.

So the other day, feeling sad and sore and a little overwhelmed, I got out a needle and sewed the ear on. With the red embroidery floss still in the needle from when I was working on my bellydance belt because I was afraid if I stopped to look around for lavender thread, I'd forget what I was doing and end up taking a nap instead. You can't see the red thread in the photo because I have cunningly placed the sock monkey with the new ear away from the camera, but I assure you, it's there. The whole ear is, in fact, significantly lower than the first ear, and the stitching on the feet looks like a four-year-old did it, but come on. This is not haute couture.

What it is, is finished. And I am feeling a little better, really.

Even if the ear is on backwards.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

emancipated elephants!

The Freep's URL for this article says it all; Winky and Wanda will not be going to Columbus after all, but PAWS down in Southern California. Instead of being cold and cramped and surrounded by younger, rowdier elephants, "the girls" will share one hundred sunny, warm acres with a few other elephants, including two from San Francisco.

It's not indicated whether the petition I asked y'all to sign (and thank you, everyone who did) made any difference--the paper cites the discovery that Wanda might have herpes as the reason that the Columbus Zoo decided not to take the girls--but I like to think the pressure we brought to bear might have had something to do with the decision.

Whatever the case, it's good news.

Friday, December 03, 2004

i know you want my job now

Spent the afternoon in a very warm room naked and pressed lightly back to back to back against the little Rastafied Indian temple goddess and a young woman of Sicilian origin with fascinating tattoos, our arms intertwined. We listened to Ella Fitzgerald and talked about everything from Farsi funerary rites to "Lost in Translation" as an artist who's trying to burn off a generous grant by the end of the year sculpted us in wax. I had my fingertips resting against the Sicilian's hip; the temple goddess' dreds brushed against my butt every time she laughed.

And I got paid for it, too.


Monday, November 29, 2004

realer than reel

Bob at Whirl-a-go-go points us to an artist who photographs and mounts her own Viewmaster reels. Right now you can get Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, a set of four Franz Kafka parables acted out by little plastic figures, and lucifugia thigmotaxis, which is apparently a story about a cockroach. The cardboard part of the reels is letterpressed, and the narration comes on a separate CD notable for the charming ding tone indicating that it's time to move on to the next image.

I'm delighted that someone is doing this. And if you're in the Portland area, you should check out the live performance of her new work Jeremiah Barnes, about the mysterious disappearance of 86 earthmovers.

Friday, November 26, 2004

i want to be a reef!

Creative recycling of human remains. Up until now I was bummed that my (thoroughly abandoned) body couldn't legally be left out for lions to eat, but now I see that there are other interesting options.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

the people upstairs

Are having sex for the second time today. Taking longer than usual, too; the first time, I was talking to my mother on the phone, and by the time I got up to put on some music to cover, they'd finished. In a minute, I'll hear his heavy footsteps, and possibly the sound of the television being turned on.

Huh, no, they're really working at it today. In a minute, it sounds like I'll know their names. Maybe they took a class or something; usually it's much more perfunctory. Jesus, was that the sound of someone falling off the bed? Are there more people up there than usual? That thumping is new.

I have no idea what that sound was.

I think they're done now. That's insane, he's saying. I am sore tempted to go up and ask what new thing they were doing, because it has never sounded like that before. And I work from home, so I've heard a lot of the before. But that sounded epic.

It's not that I don't like hearing it. I just don't like hearing it when I'm not having any myself. Blasted holiday.

the raw and the cooked

Pancakes for dinner tonight. Deeply misshapen ones; I made them bigger than I could comfortably flip with my spatula, and they got all squished up and had tendrils flying off everywhere and droplets of batter sizzling away, far from the main body of the pancake amoeba. I ate the first two with my fingers while I made the rest, and ate the rest with butter and syrup.

The interesting thing about the mix is that the instructions tell you to adjust the amount of milk depending on how thick or thin you want the cakes. Which got me thinking about the difference between thick and thin pancakes, or cookies, or brownies, or seared ahi filets, or chicken cutlets, or anything prepared with heat. Because it's really a question of the ratio of surface area to volume, isn't it? A thick pancake mostly tastes of the interior, while a thin one the exterior. Your preference for thin over thick, or vice versa, could be a direct indicator of how cooked you want something to taste.

Had a foodie moment around this recently, talking to Thread about a disappointing loaf of so-called artisan bread I'd bought at the UN Plaza farmer's market. The crumb was too dense, I told her, and then had to explain that there are two different names for the "parts" of bread, interior and exterior, crumb and crust. I hadn't know that before I started catering. Yes, the outside is the crust, but for years I thought the guts didn't have their own name.

Crumb. Which is linguistically curious: crumbs are obviously small bits of crumb, but crumbs don't add up to crumb. Crumb is not a mass noun, like water or sugar.

English is damn weird.

Anyway. I had a babysitter when we lived in Mason (isn't it cute?) who would deliberately overbake the cookies she made, because she liked the burnt taste. Maybe also because that way she guaranteed that she didn't have to share with the rest of her family. If I have access to a pan of lasagna or macaroni and cheese, I'll go for the darker stuff around the edges first. I like the edges because they're chewier, and somehow richer than the center.

I mean, I'm happy to eat the center too, of course. But a tender center's not as exciting as the crunchy burnt bits. Maybe it's something primal or atavistic about me, the same impulse that makes vegetarianism so difficult to maintain: I want to chew and rip and tear.

But not with cookies, which I invariably underbake. And usually eat before they've fully cooled, pulling them off the cookie sheet in burning-hot, gooey fingerfuls.

Maybe in case that babysitter ever shows up and tries to steal them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

what, you need a minyan for a circus?

Went to see Polk County at the Berkeley Rep tonight. Mixed experience; the show itself was strong, but I was in a funk that I was having a difficult time shaking. Winter is always a hard season for me, even out here where it's not so awful...the reality that MonkeyScientist will be gone come the new year is sinking in...I'm questioning my commitment to the troupe...and I'm feeling bored in my work, all three strands of it.

I'm just feeling kind of stalled out today, on virtually every front; I'm less than three weeks away from 35, and feeling like I should have my shit more together by this time than I do.

Anyway. In the lobby after the show, I ran into Bounce, a fight choreographer I had the real pleasure of interviewing a couple years back for an article. He was a real friend during the time my dad was failing; said some very useful things nobody was saying. So we're talking, and I notice that he's wearing a ring on the meaningful finger, and he admits that he's getting married come January. I give him a big hug and tell him how happy I am for them, and he says, rather abashedly, not to B, but to K, who I haven't met.


Bit of a U-turn there; last I knew (which I believe was April) he and B were solid. So I stood there for a moment making these chewing motions, and then I told him I was very pleased nonetheless, whoever K was.

Then he told me that right after the wedding, he's getting on a cruise ship (sans bride) for six months to perform in a new Cirque du Soleil project. He'd gotten the call two weeks into rehearsals. They needed a tenth man with his skills; how soon could he get to Montreal for an audition?

I was so happy for him, on both counts. So much exciting stuff is happening for him that for a few minutes after I took my leave of him, my mood was much better.

Then of course I started wondering when Cirque du Soleil was going to call me and tell me that they needed, oh, a tenth blogger to send to the Carribbean, and my funk sifted back in through the cracks. Now I'm home and feeling listless.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

why doesn't the flashlight work?

Despite what everyone told me, I knew we had a future together. It won't last, said the experts. That kind can't be counted on. I was told that he would be capricious, that he wasn't strong enough for me, that I needed more juice, more oomph than he could provide. That without a cord connecting him to the wall and thus a steady power supply, it could be just a matter of months before we were through.

But my little Hitachi "personal massager", the second in a proud Japanese dynasty ruling the Waterbones empire, lasted years without complaint. Asking only that I keep up a steady supply of readily-available C batteries (I can't be the only woman in the world who's jumped panting out of bed to dig through the junk drawer and strip the flashlight, right? I sure hope my old roommates don't have any power outages any time soon, because they've got a surprise waiting for them), quiet and discreet, tastefully shaped like an overgrown vitamin pill: I bought this one in 1992 to replace the one I had in college (that itself made it through many a finals week unscathed) and it gave me twelve years (!) of dedicated service. Which is about four times what my most serious boyfriend managed, and he had all those pesky needs of his own.

I was starting to think my little blue-and-white friend was immortal, and I was overjoyed that I had a friend I could share him with. Which is how it came to pass that I wasn't alone when Hitachi-san--sporting a fresh battery purchased in haste from a 7-11 on Clement Street, not pilfered from anyone's disaster gear, thankyouverymuch--began the most pathetic imaginable death rattle. First a good solid buzz, then a slowing, then nothing. Shaking helped, but only so much; there'd be a burst of enthusiasm, but within seconds we'd go through the whole cycle again.

I know now what the term buzzkill really means.

It was kind of embarrassing. Fortunately said friend, who thinks I'm a loon anyway, was a good sport about it and we did something else.

The next time I hit the switch, I was alone and hoping for at least a brief, sweet, private farewell. I got nothing whatsoever. Hitachi-san, my friend in many a dark hour, boon travel companion, the point of light in my struggle with tendinitis in my wrists, was well and truly gone.

As I wrote last night to the last person to see Hitachi-san alive, I may bury it, my most faithful companion, in the yard, after a suitably tasteful state funeral. I was thinking about a velvet-lined shoebox, maybe. But in the cold light of day I remember that the yard still hasn't been landscaped, and when they come to do that, digging up a vibrator in a cushioned box could be a little weird. But just dumping it in the trash seems somehow disrespectful. Perhaps I could make a collage around it? Refashion the plastic shell into a dollhouse accessory or a tiny planter?

Rest in peace, Hitachi-san. You were a good friend and ally, and asked so little in return. You may be replaced, but you will never be forgotten.

Monday, November 22, 2004

found her on the first post

After finding Daryl and Pik, I am convinced that there's hope for the 'next blog' button. Which is why I keep slogging through the teenagers, the advertising (Blogger is now rife with so-called blogs that are just spam), and the Jesus freaks, who are legion.

Which is how I found Ellina at Screaming Monkeys Attack, apparently a waitress-slash-writer-slash-cellist. She's got one real post up so far, and it's long and complex, but beautiful. Waitressing and Arvo Part and sunlight. Check it out.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

tmi versus mitin

I believe I've mentioned MITIN (pronounced "mitten", natch) here before; it's an acronym I'm trying to inject into the language. It stands for "more information than I need", and while it may seem similar to TMI--"too much information"--it's actually quite different.

TMI, as it tends to get used, usually connotes something beyond what the hearer is comfortable with. A good example might be talking about your hemmorhoid surgery at a fancy cocktail party. MITIN, as I see it, is something beyond the hearer's level of patience--but it's not necessarily messy, distasteful, or somehow inappropriate. So if I say that my conversation with the guy who fixed my, oh, toaster was MITIN, what I'm saying is that I didn't really need to know how the heating element works, or how many pieces of wire there are inside the average Westinghouse toaster versus the average Braun toaster, or who invented the first toaster and what that meant to the development of a democratic society. I don't need to know those things to okay his going ahead with the needed repair.

TMI and MITIN do share in common that they are completely in the eye of the beholder and fluctuate according to situation. I don't think Snufkina or Thread, for example, have TMI thresholds (except perhaps hearing about their parents' sex lives), while I know that Sleek does have one, and it's directly related to the mechanics of straight sex (can't use the word moist in conversation with him, about anything, because it makes him think about girl parts, which he really prefers not to do.) MITIN's the same, and then some: I was happy to hear all about the innards of my car before I agreed to have her disemboweled, but I don't really need to know what Muscles did to make my computer work again--although I am of course deeply grateful that he did.

So. I recognize that my writing style is probably MITIN for a lot of people, and bless those of you who like being "in the center of my life", as my godmother said of reading my essay. And there's some stuff coming up that may be a little TMI--how can I put this? I've been in a pretty intense sexual situation for a few months, and I'm learning things from it that I would love to talk about here, things as meaningful in their own way as watching my father fade out--but ours is not a culture which can handle talking seriously about sex.

I'm casting about here a little, I know. I guess this is just a heads-up. I'm going to be talking about sex more and death less and catering hopefully very little unless it's entertaining; bear with me.

Friday, November 19, 2004

this is how bad it is

D and I volunteered to be among the first staff cut tonight; the party (a corporate open house) had run an hour past the official end time, yet our manager was trying to stick to the original allotment of staff hours he'd been given, so people had to go. I used to feel weird about being among the first to leave, especially with this particular manager. I thought it reflected badly on my dedication, blah blah blah, I imagined that he was narrowing his eyes as he noted that yet again, I was piping up that I would like to leave.

No more. I'm a manager myself now, and responsible for staying until the bitter end of the parties I've been given to run; I don't feel obligated to do the same for events that aren't mine. And I'm really past caring whether upper management thinks I'm dedicated or not. The parties I've managed since they put me back on (it took a while, after my extended absence; I captained a lot) have come off smoothly, if we don't count the Great Cheese Riot. The feedback has been good, nothing major has been lost, broken, or set afire on one of my parties, and I haven't made any staff cry lately. While I may not be a shining example of the ultimate floor manager, I'm doing my job competently.

But I digress. D agreed to drive me home, so I wouldn't have to wait for Emperor, who is driving on his spare tire today. Very, very, slowly and nervewrackingly. D and I used one of the unassigned cubicles to change out of our tuxedos (there's a whole big cube farm this company hasn't filled yet, it's a little eerie) and I was done first. I've been wanting to do this all night, I told her, and proceeded to crawl under the desk, into the dark little space bounded by desk and cube wall.Now nobody knows where I am. D humored me for a moment--calling my name, asking loudly if anyone had seen me, and so forth. And then, because she knows a good idea when she sees one, she crawled under the desk with me.

Which is when things got really silly. Here we were, two adult women, curled up in the fetal position under a desk. Railing against the circumstances and our own inability to find lucrative work we believe in that keeps us beholden to catering, to all the frustration and waste that catering entails.

Wouldn't it be funny if we stayed here until they thought we were all gone, and we could hear what they said about us? she said, meaning the clients. Wouldn't it be funny if we stayed until after they left, I shot back, and went in and rewrote all their stuff? Then we speculated on whether there was a high-tech security system with lasers, like in any movie you've seen that involved a heist, that would cut us to ribbons the minute we crawled out from under the desk. Then I pressed my face into the carpet and moaned, Goodbye cruel world! I'm going to huff the formaldehyde outgassing from this industrial carpet and end it all!

Meanwhile D, who really looks like she's toeing the cheerful-cheerful party line when you see her on the floor, was going off on a rant about the sticker on the underside of the desk printed with a date two months after the war on Iraq began, something about the relationship between the dot com bubble and the military-industrial complex that I couldn't quite follow, something about how the bodies hadn't started coming back yet, and we were both laughing hysterically and hugging our polyester tux pants-clad knees to our chests and trying to stretch out the achy places in our lower backs.

It's moments like these--or the Contraband Scavenger Hunt at the coming-out party Danielle Steel threw for her daughter, or the bus trip back from a Big Sur gig where one of the other managers demonstrated his fellatio technique with a (very long) banana, or every time I do a little swing dancing with the chef who beat throat cancer last year who, regal in his whites and Dansko clogs, dips me until my braid brushes the kitchen floor--that make it hard for me to imagine leaving catering. I don't remember liking anyone at ILM this much, except Almeida; here I'm surrounded by awesome people. If we could all go form another company, some other sort of thing altogether, that would be perfect.

For now, though, we brace ourselves for the holiday season, and the onslaught of superficial, ultimately joyless little parties that people throw out of obligation, and dream of our real work.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

good news on the children-with-aids front

According to the BBC, a clinical trial of a promising antibiotic has been cancelled because the drug was proving so effective in slowing the deaths of African children with HIV/AIDS that now they're giving it to all the kids. A bright spot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

i may have to marry this woman

Daryl was looking for baseball stuff and found Majikthise instead; I'm not linking to any particular post of hers because I'm overwhelmed by the choices. Philosophy that works. Just go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

your fickle will ruin things otherwise

Thread has a line, so to speak, on all the silliest things. I have no idea what language this was translated from, but some of it--I leave to your imagination what--is actually true.

Sagittarius - Your Love Profile

Your positive traits:
Your playful nature brings out the happy inner-child in dates. You're willing to take risks in love... and reap the rewards.You've got a killer sense of humor that gets talking with any hottie you meet

Your negative traits:
Sometimes your sarcasm comes off as biting and abrasive. You can be brutally honest, tactless, and truthful even when it hurts. You're such a free spirit that you find it hard to commit to one person

Your ideal partner:
Someone high energy who will pick up and out with you whenever. Is creative and fun - thinking of new adventures for the two of you. Is bold... and not afraid to tell you "I love you" early on

Your dating style:
Unpredictable. You never know how the night is going to end up.

Your seduction style:
Daring. You're always pushing to try something new in the bedroom. Full of imagination. You've always got a new fantasy you're dying to try. Spritually driven. Sex for you can be an other-worldy act.

Tips for the future:
Realize that while freedom is great - sometimes a stable relationship is better. It's not all about you. Focus on your parnter's needs every once and a while. Make up your mind about your parnter, and stick to it. Your fickle will ruin things otherwise.

Best color to attract mate: Purple
Best day for a date: Thursday

Get your free love profile at Blogthings.

no, i don't believe it either


What herb are you?
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Sunday, November 14, 2004

when bloggers run around loose

This woman, wearing denim painter's pants and slightly banged-up red Timberlands, was sitting across from me in the AirBART shuttle from Oakland Airport today. She's going to be speaking at an event down in San Jose as one of a batch of "Online Divas"; I watched her trying to explain blogging to a hefty suit with a Southern accent. He held her card in one hand for a long time as she held forth on the election, gesticulating and smiling.

I couldn't catch her name, and from what she was saying I thought for a moment that she might be Wonkette, and I got all excited. Only upon getting home and doing a search did I realize my error.

Anyway. I'm watching her talk this guy up, and waiting for an opportunity to say something, introduce myself, do a little blogger shmoozing, but she's totally into her conversation. I assume, from the way he didn't put her card away right off, that the guy has probably done business with the Japanese. The bus pulls up to the Coliseum station and we all tumble off. I notice that she's only carrying a backpack, and think it strange, but I'm so intimidated by her focus on the suit that I don't say anything. Once inside the station, I sidle up to them and try to help them navigate the BART ticket-buying maze, but she's having none of it. I need to ask her [the information person in the booth] a question. Here I'm thinking, hey, bloggers gotta look out for each other, but no dice.

So up on the platform, waiting for the train and wondering if it's worth trying to make contact at all, make sure she and the suit get on the right train, I was guiltily amused when she realized that she'd left her suitcase on the bus. I mean, it's awful: she had to go back down and probably paid the "excursion fare" in time to get out on the sidewalk and realize that the bus--and everything that she hadn't packed into her bulging blue backpack--was long gone.

Intersecting worlds.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

the world is bound by secret knots

Chilling in Glendale, in the toy- and book-strewn precincts of AX's brother's home, recovering from an absolutely insane day yesterday. The troupe performed as part of the Spark! tour, and I was there as a percussionist, which is a story I will tell another time when I'm not completely ravenous and trying to follow along with the Reading Adventure of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

But here's a link to an exhibit at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a very odd and charming place tucked into sun-bleached Culver City. Athansius Kircher was a Jesuit scholar who believed, among other things, that everything in the universe was controlled and defined by magnetism; the title of this post was his, and for some reason it's just, well, sticking to me.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

under her skin

Here's the 2005 reading schedule so far for the anthology I'm in. I'm definitely going to read in San Francisco and Berkeley; there is a possibility that I might read in Cambridge as well. If one of these is in your town, stop by in any case; there's some great stuff in the collection.

February 11: Politics & Prose, Washington DC

February 22: Modern Times Bookstore, San Francisco

February 24: Black Oak Books, Berkeley

March 10: Center for New Words, Cambridge

March 22: Bluestockings Bookstore, New York City

Pooja is talking about getting together dates in Seattle, Chicago, and Pittsburgh as well; I'll post those as soon as they're firm. Also, there's going to be a review of the book in the December issue of Elle magazine. Yes, I find that weird, but what can you do? Publicity's publicity.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

help winky and wanda

My mom just forwarded me an online petition regarding Winky and Wanda, the Detroit Zoo's Asian elephants. The girls are getting on in years, and the Zoo would like to send them to a nice big elephant sanctuary in a warm place (Tennesee or California) where their arthritis and other health problems wouldn't be so burdensome. Here's what Hugh McDiarmid at the Freep has to say about it.

Seems like the right thing to do, right? Well, apparently other members of the American Zoo Association are protesting the move; their counter proposal is that the elephants be sent to the Columbus Zoo instead. There are already elephants there, and the climate's not a whole lot better. The hard concrete of their winter lodgings gets woodchips sprinkled on it "from time to time to break up the monotony" and the animals would still not have enough space. This wouldn't be any kindness to Winky and Wanda.

The people circulating the petition believe the other zoos are being snarky about this because it's an ethical slap in the face: here's the Detroit Zoo making a decision based entirely on the elephants' comfort, and not on keeping a big draw (elephants mean money to zoos). I'm not sure this is completely accurate. I've known of other zoos that have yielded their animals when it seemed to be in the animals' best interest, and I do believe that many zoos do try to balance ethics with the bottom line. The whole question of whether there should be zoos or not--and I struggle with that--aside, I've seen that zoos like our own Oakland and (increasingly) San Francisco zoo do try to do the right thing. But sending these elephants from Detroit to Columbus just seems wrong.

It's also interesting because if you read the signatures on the petition, some of the comments give a lot of insight into why other people are supporting the proposed animal sanctuary move. Here's what Nancy, signatory number 3,070, has to say on the matter:
Any show of ethical behavior in Detroit should be applauded. It's in the Bible that we are responsible to treat animals with care, and I believe we will hear from the Creator on how we dealt with His other creatures.
I am, as I'm sure is obvious, usually pretty uncomfortable when people talk about God's will in anything, but here we have people (and Nancy's not the only one) representing their faith as a humane one, and I respect that.

I signed the petition. I hope you'll consider doing so too. Here's one more interesting article, from the Humane Society of the United States, that goes into more detail on the AZA, standards for elephant care, and so on. And here's a cute piece about the opening of the Detroit Zoo; it seems that the people who built the zoo were told that if they didn't get the enclosures finished on schedule, the animals would be housed with them.

And the elephant pictured above is neither Winky nor Wanda, but their predecessor Paulina, who also helped build the zoo.

Monday, November 08, 2004

take that, dr. atkins

Very interesting piece about a suggested link between red and/or processed meat and type 2 diabetes. I'm eating meat these days myself, but I'm uneasy about it; this doesn't help a bit.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

just remember

The last Southern schools to desegregate did so in the past fifteen years.

There are people alive in this country who remember when abortion was illegal.

Most people wouldn't know now, if you asked, what the word miscegenation means, yet it was still illegal in 16 states as late as 1967, and the last state to repeal its miscegenation law (Alabama) did so in 2000.

Women didn't have the vote in every state in this country until 1920.

The Stonewall Raid, the first time a group of gay people stood up against oppression (in this case, abusive police) and widely understood as the birth of the gay rights movement, took place in 1969.

Title IX, which ensures equal funding for young female and male athletes in school programs, was passed in 1972.

I could go on like this, but the point is that we need to not panic, and keep an eye on the long term. Many of the freedoms we take for granted are actually quite new, and society is changing faster than human flexibility will sometimes allow.

I've said it before, I'll say it again; there will be a time when we look back at these years and wonder why it was so difficult to imagine gay people marrying the way we now marvel at how blacks and whites were once prohibited from marrying. There will be a time when all women and men have the right to choose what happens to their bodies. There will be a time when the sovereignty of every individual is recognized and honored.

Maybe not in our lifetimes, but that's a chance we have to take. People like Dr. King and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Harvey Milk didn't know whether they would see true and lasting change, but that didn't stop them from getting out of bed in the morning. Every movement for change has its setbacks, but if you look at where we are now, compared to where we were a century--fifty years--even just ten years ago--the larger pattern reveals a slow swell of social evolution towards a more just and humane society.

History will vindicate every person who sighs now and puts their shoulder back to the wheel. I know it's exhausting. I know it's disheartening. But there has been real change, and the fact that we need to fight to defend it doesn't invalidate all the work the generations before us put in.

Friday, November 05, 2004

a couple of good things that happened tuesday

These are from an email I got from

In Colorado, voters passed Amendment #37, an initiative that will now force the state's major energy companies to get 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. This new law will reduce pollution just as much as taking 600,000 cars off of Colorado's roads each year!

In Montana, voters defeated I-147, a mining company-sponsored initiative that would have polluted the state's rivers, streams and drinking water by overturning a ban on dangerous open pit cyanide leach mining. Despite the fact that the mining company spent five times as much money as the grassroots campaign working to to uphold the ban, 60% of Montanans voted against I-147!

It's victories like these that give us hope. In both cases, the grassroots campaigns faced serious opposition from well-funded industry interests, and in both cases, the voters responded to support the best interests of the people and of the environment.

I'm finding writing anything I don't absolutely have to completely exhausting, and the work is uninspired. My NaNoWriMo count has slowed to a crawl. I want to write to friends but I don't know what to say. No progress on any of the art projects. After the election, and some of the wretched things Bush has said in the past couple of days, I'm feeling pretty listless on the creative effort front.

The artists I'm working for are feeling it too. So far I've modeled every day this week--one day I did two gigs--tomorrow is the last job of the week, and then I get a day off. Upshot is that the people I've been seeing the most of are all artists, and they're all furious and despairing. They stab at the clay and fitfully crumple up the drawings that don't please them. So I'm working doubly hard to be giving, present, engaged as a model. Putting out more than the usual amount of energy. Sweating more than usual; this morning I could feel it running down the insides of my legs, which is unusual, to say the least.

Throwing oneself into work is not sounding like such a bad idea right now.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

what we do now

This post, of course, started very differently. When I was thinking about it yesterday morning, after hearing that Kerry had conceded, there was a real rant quality; there was a lot of how dare they and how the hell did this happen.

And not much more. Imagine a woman crying and foaming at the mouth and you've pretty much got it.

So I refrained, and other people have said cogent things much more elegantly than I would have, and I vented some bile in real-time conversation, and came to the conclusion that I would talk about something else.

Namely, what we do now. Those of us who aren't leaving the country, of course, and assuming that Nomad's idea--that the states that went blue ask Canada to annex us--doesn't gain the requisite support.

Senator Kerry has asked us to extend our hands to the people who gave Bush a second term. There was the obligatory talk of letting the healing begin. Someone on NPR was talking about how the more mature members of the two big parties will doubtless make an effort to bridge the tremendous, acrimonious gap that has appeared in our society.

That's all well and good, but a little too abstract for me right now. What I want to know is how those of us who were counting on an end to the Bush presidency heal ourselves, and what constructive steps we can take so that we don't lose faith altogether. I've talked to an astonishing number of people who are considering, with various levels of seriousness, becoming expatriates. That's one answer, and there's a lot to be said for it, but those of us who are staying need other stuff to do.

The thing is, there are really two separate issues here. One is that Bush is still president, with all that entails; the lies, misdirection, Halliburton, etcetera. The other is that slightly more than half of our neighbors raised their voices in support of a worldview that many social liberals find deeply troubling, and we've got to get our heads around what that means. Four years ago we could howl about a stolen election and believe that the country really didn't want Bush. This time, although I've heard that there were troubling anomalies, the disturbing fact is laid bare: half the country thinks Bush is the man for the job. This was not a political election, but a cultural one, says another NPR guest I'm too shell-shocked to catch a name for. But I don't believe there is a culture war going on in this country.


I don't know how to handle the second problem. I'm feeling personally attacked by this election; the news that my childhood home was one of the eleven states that passed a gay marriage ban (even if it did go blue) surprises me. The realization that so many people believe that the government has a right, nay, an obligation, to make personal choices for me sickens me. The news that an unusual number of women went for Bush shames me. I have no idea how to make any of this better. I'm not sure how to fight the culture war.

As for the other, however, I have some clue. Besides open insurrection, which seems like fun until you're showering off the tear gas residue with cold water so it doesn't get into your pores, may I make some suggestions?

We need to stay on top of our senators and representatives. We need to encourage them to redouble their efforts; we can't afford to have them missing votes or confirmation hearings. Rehnquist is hanging on by a thread, and we'll probably find that some of the other Supremes were stuffed with sawdust and propped up in their chairs years ago. One commentator noted yesterday that the Court Bush appoints will affect our society for the next forty years. That's two generations.

I plan to be alive at the other end of that span, and hopefully not rotting in jail for sedition because I've shown up at a rally in a provocative T-shirt, which tells me that We need to pay attention to what the adminstration is doing. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know all the provisions of the Patriot Act until a bookstore clerk told me he wouldn't be noting which books I was purchasing, just how much I'd paid for them. So if the mirrored-sunglasses dudes came asking what I'd been reading, Bookstore Guy wouldn't be able to tell them. I'd had no idea. But then, I hadn't really thought anything so heinous could clear both houses.

Guess what? It can, it has, it will. We need to know what's being considered so we don't, as the Who says, get fooled again; here's the site for Senate bills, and here's the House of Representatives.

Let's keep an eye out for organizations that the Right opposes. I'm betting folks like Planned Parenthood are going to need more help in the future--time, energy, money. If Roe v. Wade is attacked again--and it will be--these people are going to need our help. I know my mother's feeling exhausted as she reads this; I'm past the age myself where I can easily imagine standing in front of a clinic at six am in the rain. In a perfect world we wouldn't have to keep fighting this battle. In this world, there is coffee.

Consider volunteering in general. Doesn't matter who for, as long as you believe in them. I recommend this because I've found that volunteer work goes a long way towards helping me climb out of depressive states, and it feels a lot better in the long run than hunkering down with the raw cookie dough (although I'm doing that too.)

While I'm not prepared to try to put a good face on what happened Tuesday, neither am I willing to give in to the temptation (strong as it is) to retreat from the world, because that helps nothing. Ranting about Tuesday isn't making me feel any better either, so I'm going to try to keep a leash on that. The arenas above are where I plan to take the energy, try to spin my anger and dismay into something useful.

Will I see you there?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

doing the deed

San Francisco City Hall, North Light Court, 2 pm Election Day. There are ranks of folding chairs set up on either side of an aisle leading from the atrium to the stairs to the ground floor. On one side, the signs tell us, sit the clerks. On the other, the inspectors. Waiting their turns to staff the polls.

Really strange walking down that aisle; even though the group is not broken out along red/blue lines, the sensation of deep division is strong. Resonant with where we are as a country today.

I am feeling especially conspicuous; having modeled this morning for painters who wanted "a lot of color", I am wearing a very silly sundress with a crinoline, and yarn braided into my hair. I hope people don't think this is my special voting outfit. That one's got fringe. This, I feel like saying, is my job interview outfit.

Absentee ballot, man. I didn't even have to get in the line; a woman asked if I was ready to hand in the (signed, sealed) envelope I had in my hand, and I watched her put it in the box. So I got to fill out the ballot in the privacy of my own home, and do some people watching. Best of all possible worlds.

Now I spend the rest of the day trying to soothe my agitated stomach.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

an awesome dog story

Courtesy of Daryl Sng, the story of a Rottweiler service dog named Faith who can smell changes in her person's body chemistry. You totally have to read this, it's amazing.
tag you're it

Been meaning to carry my camera more consistently; San Francisco is full of wall art, officially sanctioned and otherwise, and I love capturing it. This fella Drew, meanwhile, likes putting it up. No small feat in Malaysia. Fortunately for him, the cops are all apparently too fat to catch him.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

bart swat?

In anticipation of evil election-time shenanigans, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, our train system that links the East Bay with San Francisco and runs thousands of happy people down to the airport every day) has announced that they're bumping up security throughout the system, just like New York and DC. Bomb-sniffing dogs, folks in bright green vests, and SWAT teams.

I had no idea that the BART Police had SWAT teams. I mean, I know I shouldn't be surprised; the officers you do see around on the platforms and trains have guns and everything. But I mostly think about them wandering around making sure nobody eats or plays loud music or hawks loogies onto the cloth seats. When there's a hostage situation, where do the BART SWAT snipers take their positions? On the escalators? Do they have their own bomb squad? They must.

It's going to take a little doing for me to get my head around this. And once I've accepted it, I plan to start work on a TV pilot about the pulse-pounding adventures of transit cops. Because really, nobody else has done it.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

that time of year

Just a friendly reminder that if you live with a pure black or pure white cat, you might want to keep her indoors for the next few days. I don't know if it's true that misguided individuals like to snatch such beasties for evil Halloweeny purposes, but why risk it? I was in the vet's waiting room once with a man who'd brought in his cat because someone had nabbed her and carved a symbol into her chest (probably as part of a gang initiation, he thought); he was a complete wreck. Tough-seeming guy, too. And that wasn't during the spooky season.

The San Francisco SPCA has nothing to say about that this year, but they do offer some helpful tips for getting your dog in the Halloween spirit, especially if the pup is not entirely comfortable with kids yet. I just like the idea that they're telling dog owners to dress up in cheap masks and limp around the house to acclimate the dog.

Oh, and the cat came out okay.

edit: I spoke too soon. The SFSPCA does have a few words on the vulnerability of ebony felines, as well as an interesting morsel about the evolutionary advantage of having a black coat.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Well, I did it. Survived my first public performance as a member of a professional dance troupe. I'm, to quote the velveteen rabbit, a real rabbit now.

Managed not to fall off the bar, either, which is a real plus.

Yesterday was just lovely all the way around. I'd managed somehow to not schedule any catering or modeling or lunch commitments, so I could spend the day leisurely getting ready for our show at the Odeon. Went to Piedmont Boutique to buy some odds and ends--false eyelashes, fishnets--and ended up walking out with a pair of hot pants covered in red holographic sequins, a pvc-covered bra, a new garter belt, two big fluffy hair doodads covered in red feathers. Oh, and a pair of false eyelashes with rhinestones on the band that you glue to the eyelid. A much different look than our usual garb, but Jill wanted something with a retro burlesque feel.

I did, however, stop short at sequinned, flower-shaped pasties to pin to the bra. Nope. No sir.

The experience was a post all by itself, but I have real work to do, so I'll try to sum it up in a few words:

1. friendly salespeople covered in glitter
2. another woman in the changing room trying to pick out a red vinyl devil costume, with the help of two noisy friends and their quiet babies
3. the equivalent of nine hours' catering pay expressed as sequins and lash adhesive

As I was handing the woman behind the counter my bank card, I said something rueful about not paying rent. Well you'll look great standing out on the street, she noted, after you get evicted. Let me tell you, dahlings, if I stand out on the street in these items, making rent will not be a problem. I was giggling all the way home on the bus, which was tricky because I was trying not to breathe through my nose (anyone who's taken a bus to or from the Haight knows what I'm talking about here) and trying to keep my feathers from getting crushed in the press of unwashed bodies.

The rest of the preparations went pretty smoothly. I cleaned up, played a CD Snufkina had made of my favorite music, and tried to still my breathing so I wouldn't end up with eyeshadow all over my forehead. I'd left a lot of time, knowing I needed to get those lashes on, and that turned out to be a good thing. Last night was my first time applying my own falsies, unless you count that time in a parked car in SOMA at night, which I don't; I was afraid I'd glued my left eye shut for good and gave up on the whole enterprise. Last night was much better, although the lashes extended out, oh, eight or ten inches from my actual eyes; my hair kept getting caught in them. By the time I was done, I knew there was no way I was taking BART from the Tenderloin to the Mission, so I got a cab with the world's most flusterable driver behind the wheel, which was fun.

The event itself? Blur. Six wonderful friends showed up, post-workout, post-work, post-dividing-up-of-the-marital-property, bearing flowers, bearing knitting, bearing with me. MonkeyScientist did not recognize me when I came to say hello, which is pretty funny in light of the fact that we're sleeping together; he claims the feathers threw him off. Thread worked on her Halloween costume and drank bourbon. The bar went from thinly populated to packed and raucous, there were a couple of acts before us, and then we were in the tiny backstage area, passing around one small mirror and reapplying lipstick.

I did mention that I didn't fall off the bar, right? That's not figurative; the five of us who hadn't done the choreography in public before were relegated to the bar, while the group that had got the stage. Which meant that we couldn't do any of the turns or the floorwork, so we just sort of noodled through those parts, or vogued, or laughed and blew kisses at each other. I sort of remember how that went, and giving up on moving my feet at all when I realized that I had about six inches less to work with than we'd had in Monday night's rehearsal, and the realization that the song was coming to a close much earlier than I'd thought it would. It's a much longer song in rehearsal... I couldn't see anyone except my troupemates and the tops of the heads of the people at the bar, I missed great big hunks of the choreo, and my plan to grab someone's drink on one of the posing moments went straight out the window. But I had a great time, got a buck pushed into my stocking, and everyone congratulated TalkyBabe and I when we got back into the dressing room for having made it gracefully through our debut.

Then I had my drink, on the house! Woohoo! Blotto on one Cape Cod, on top of no food during the day, on top of the most intense feeling of relief. At just about the point where I was going to really start embarrassing myself (after I'd kissed both Snufkina and her boyfriend Muscles, who handled it with their usual patience, but before I started kissing strangers), MonkeyScientist took me home and fed me ice cream, and his cat tried to eat my feather hair doodads.

I have waited nearly a year for last night. And it went just exactly as well as it might have. Although I have to say that I'm finding the clothes I have on today--jeans, a grey T-shirt--unspeakably boring.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

do you remember your first time?

Boy, I sure do. I was so excited--I'd been looking forward to the moment since I was old enough to know what it was. I was eighteen when it happened, which I think is a perfect age--old enough to be responsible and to understand the consequences, young enough to be enthusiastic. There was even a photo of me doing it, in the school paper. I've still got a copy. I've got an oddly distracted look on my face, considering my blissed-out state, and there's that truly unfortunate asymmetrical haircut, and I'm sitting on someone's shoulders holding up a sign.

I'm talking about the first time I voted, of course. What did you think I meant? Honestly, you people and your filthy minds.

Anyway. I've been thinking about that first time a lot. I thought about it today, when I went to my mailbox and found that I'd gotten my absentee ballot from the Registrar of Voters. Yep, I'm voting paper. It's a sorry state of affairs that if we want to feel secure that our votes are being counted, we have to vote from the privacy of our own homes. Walking to dinner tonight with AX and Pavlova, the latter talked about how much she loves going to her polling place and running into scads of people she knows, and the former told a story of going during the rush and seeing people spread out over every surface dutifully filling out their ballots and thinking, now there's democracy. That sounds wonderful to me, but I don't trust Diebold, or touch screens, or for that matter the poll workers I've dealt with in the past who hadn't mastered the rudiments of sorting things by alpha order (I have two last names, which makes things all the more complicated for these folks).

So I have become a Permanent Absentee Voter, when really what I'm trying to be is more of a Presentee Citizen. And as exciting as I find standing in those little fold-up booths (sadly, I came of age after the great curtained booths had gone the way of the dinosaurs) wielding my little library pencil (and getting the I Voted! sticker afterwards, natch) there are certain compensations to voting from home.

There's a whole aspect to it, really, that hasn't played up, but should. The sex appeal. The upstanding citizens at Votergasm get it. Incidentally yes, I've signed the pledge, at the American Hero level. Even if it means I've consigned myself to a sexless hell for the next four years, I love the drama of the gesture--and if it means I only sleep with non-American nationals, that's not all bad. And I think American Heroes can still graciously allow American non-voters to go down on them.

But I digress. Think of all the fun you can have, voting from home! Knowing that you can take as long as you want, dressed however you like, in whatever position, at whatever hour of the day is your best for that sort of thing--now that's hot. You can do it on the floor, the counter, the kitchen table. You can incorporate any sort of food or toys you like, as long as you fill everything out properly, don't smear the ink, or catch your ballot on fire. Remember that scene in Dangerous Liasons where John Malkovich writes a steamy letter using a beautiful woman as his writing desk? Afterwards, the ballot goes neatly into its envelope (you don't even need a stamp, is this a cheap date or what?) and then you can either slide the whole thing into a willing mailbox, or walk it over to City Hall and hand it saucily to one of the nice people waiting there for it. And la voila, nobody is the wiser.

Just don't, you know, leave your underwear in the envelope for the wrong people to find.

I'm being silly, yes. But after the last election, our national rape fantasy's been getting played out in horrible, vivid detail because, in part, too many people still believe voting doesn't matter, and too many others don't believe that blatant vote fraud is worth addressing. Anything we can do this time around to rectify those errors is worthwhile. For crying out loud, members of our own Congress have asked for international observers to come monitor our elections (if you still think it's just benighted banana republics that can't run an honest election--if you're one of those folks who felt that the Florida debacle should be ignored because it was "time to get on with our lives"--you really need to read Rivka's post over at Respectful of Otters on voter fraud in Nevada.)

All over the country, people are taking time off from work to go door-to-door, make phone calls, drive people to the polls (two members of my troupe will be out in the swing states--right now that's the only valid excuse for missing a rehearsal!), or just sit and watch and make sure that everyone who wants to vote gets to.

Compared to all that effort, sending away for an absentee ballot (in California, you have until October 26th to apply, and you can even download the application as a pdf file) and then getting it back in is ridiculously easy.

You don't even need lube.