Thursday, December 29, 2005

cabin fever

I don't know why this amuses me so, but it does. In case you've ever thought about digging to China, you might want to check this out first (hint: start shoveling in Argentina).

Otherwise, very little to report. I've been sleeping a lot, running end-of-the-year errands, and sifting through my craft supplies with an eye to sending a box to the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, who are doing some sort of art therapy outreach to Katrina survivors. If I can't go with the Red Cross, well, my beads will still make it. I also made this, mostly because I was feeling pretty low and needed to prove to myself that I could start and finish something without getting distracted or overthinking a project:

She joins an older, nameless sister:

I also found these. I made a dozen, years ago, and used half to make some earrings. I think these were going to be a necklace. Anyway, they still make me happy, so I'm going to work them into something.

What all this may clarify, besides the fact that I'm leaving the house very little right now, is why I don't cook anything complicated. There's just not enough room. That's my kitchen counter, with the jars of beads, the plastic frog, and so on. Maybe in the new year I'll, oh, accumulate a table.

Monday, December 26, 2005

knocked one off the must-do list

I just ran my book project past an agent, electronically. I should know if she bites within a month. The form calls it a "quick query", which is a lie; while it didn't take as long as writing my intro and sample chapter did, it was still more laborious than is probably wise at four in the morning.

Because last night a friend, in the course of chastising me for something else, started asking me difficult questions like what are you afraid of? and why are you compromising? and what do you really want? He was sort of talking about work and sort of talking about love, and I suppose there is not that much difference between those things, really. A point I am too drained to clarify just at the moment.

I am going to call you on the 30th when I get back into town, he warned me, and the first thing I'm going to ask is if you've written to any agents. And I didn't want to have to hang my head on the 30th.

So after he left I called up the table of contents I'd gone over so many times, and the author bio, and boiled things down and talked things up; tried to express a self-assurance about the project that I haven't felt since it got shot down. The first time. Nabokov showed Lolita to twenty-seven publishers before someone would take a chance on it. The guy who invented Scrabble tried for seventeen years to get someone to buy it from him. I care about this project and I will keep putting it in front of people until someone says yes.

Which I guess is a lot like love too.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

how to make a baby gargoyle

I just thought this was cute. But maybe I'll try it in one of the luxurious days of nothing planned I have stretching ahead of me until I head to Detroit for New Year's. Or maybe I'll just build the shelves I was researching when I came across this cool site for artists, get all my junk up off the floor, go into 2006 a hair more organized than I am right now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

viva chavez

Giant multinational corporations must be beholden to the countries from which they take resources? Good heavens, what will they think of next! This is the sort of thing that's making Princess and I talk about taking Spanish classes and moving to Venezuela.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

please return if found

You have to give it to these thieves for guts. Even if the idea of selling this Henry Moore sculpture for scrap is a travesty (and the bronze alone can't possibly be worth 5.3 million dollars, can it?), and I truly hope the authorities find it before it gets melted down (who the hell is going to take that risk?), I am impressed by the chutzpah it takes to drive a flatbed lorry into a sculpture garden and make off with a two-ton whatsis.

I mean, can you imagine the original conversation at the pub about this? A few guys, one of them in a baseball cap, having a Guiness and trying to think of ways to make some quick cash? Let's just nip down to Perry Green and nick one of those Moore sculptures, one says. My brother's mate knows a guy with a crane we could borrow, says another. I've always been struck by how Moore's work reflects post-war uncertainty while speaking to the deep human need for abstraction, says the one in the baseball cap. Although these are balanced reassuringly against those organic feminine masses. Guy number one: get us another round, you big wanker.

The police say it was probably stolen for scrap. What an absurd idea. Although stealing it for a private collector suggests a private collector who's not too worried about someone seeing it gracing their manicured lawn from the air.

Perhaps it's an act of dada?

I want to see the xeroxed signs stuck to telephone poles around Hertfordshire. If found please call. No questions asked. May be disoriented, needs its medicine. Sentimental importance.

Friday, December 16, 2005

not with a bang, but a whimper

Ripped directly from an e-mail I just sent, because I'm too tired to write much more, and I need to be up in six hours so I can go model.
Although I worked my last catering shift (hopefully ever) tonight, so things are already looking a damn sight better. Or maybe that's because I got cut before the heavy part of the breakdown ensued, went and sat in Cafe Abir reading "Jean de Florette" for a couple of hours, and then went to Lefty O'Doul's and got plastered on one Screwdriver while listening to a piano man in a red shirt and corduroy vest playing "Another Brick in the Wall" and "Sweet Caroline" to a group of completely blotto women in red hoodies and headbands with fake reindeer antlers attached. Oh, the humanity!

I've left other employment with more fanfare. Not that much more; my departure from ILM was effected very, very quietly. In part because I was still on crutches and heavy pain meds after having my knee rebuilt, and bearing a striking resemblance to hell on toast. But tonight, well; I just mentioned to a few people that I thought tonight was the last shift I was going to take with the company, ever, and I tried to be particularly kind to guests and coworkers and clients, tried to go out gracefully.

Sadder than expected. I've been with this company six, nearly seven years. Had some fun. But at one point, as I was going back and forth between bussing and the room I was looking after with one plate in my hand, I started thinking about what I could have accomplished with all the energy I'd spent walking back and forth all night, with one plate, one dirty glass, one small stack of spoons. Thought about all the things I could have built, painted, or written with that effort, and I knew.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

meant to show this to you earlier

I was going to write about Halloween in the Castro, too, or at least near it; I didn't make it all the way down Market. Chose instead to hang out around Church and Market, where I could see people walking by and not get caught in the crush. I was going to post a totally mind-numbing list of the silliest costumes I saw.

Looks like I didn't. But I wanted to share my photo of the pair that I found most interesting, swimming upstream against an endless profusion of naughty nurses (and cops, and firefighters, and angels and kitties and devils and nuns and so on and so forth, with some women just dressed outright as "ho's", all naughty, naughty, naughty). I was standing with an African-American software developer who took offense, as soon as he realized that the man was in blackface. Hey, that's racist! he shouted after them. That's the point! they shouted back, and I found myself explaining the whole looters/foragers media representation controversy to him. Which I guess we talked about more in the blogosphere than people did outside it, huh?

Anyway. I love concept costumes. Did I mention that I went as a sack of Scrabble tiles? I was warm, I was comfortable, and I was completely covered. Something to think about for next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

a prevalent use of groove

I don't understand how it works, but this is a very cool thing. You tell it the name of a song you like, and it creates a "radio station" playing music it thinks you'll like based on a painstaking analysis of the song you fed it. You can refine the output by choosing more songs, or giving thumbs up/thumbs down on the ones it plays for you.

And it's free. Yeah, there are some ads, but you can ignore those, or subscribe.

I used to fantasize about designing a device that would read brain signals to determine what exactly about a piece of music a listener was responding to. Then it would choose or make music tailored to the listener's preferences. This comes pretty close, and unlike my design doesn't involve sticking anything into the old brainpan! So far, I've liked about 80% of what it's found me, some of it quite a bit, and most of it stuff I've never heard of before. If you hit the "why did you play this?" button, it explains how the current song matches the music you've picked out--so apparently, I'm drawn to "latin influences, use of tonal harmonies, electronica roots, and a prevalent use of groove."

I don't know enough about music to know what some of that means (although I'd like to tattoo "prevalent use of groove" on my body somewhere) which is part of why this is so useful to someone like me. I heard about it from a friend who used to be a music writer, and she thought it was cool but nothing earth-shaking; it wasn't tossing out anything that really surprised her. But for someone who doesn't know much about music, and doesn't listen to the radio very often for new stuff, and doesn't risk purchasing too much music she's never heard of... this is very helpful. You can even probe the music-loving brains of your friends who have signed up; by entering their e-mail address under "shared stations" you can listen to what Pandora is picking out for them.

The more I write, the more I feel like an infomercial. But I'm always impressed by elegant technology, and this falls into that category for me. I've had it on for most of the day as I wrangled a mindless piece of writing into shape.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Monday, December 12, 2005

i guess that december is just always hard for me

Last year at this time, I thought I might melt down. The year before, I was living in the Mission with an evil woman and the two car alarms she called children, she was evicting me to move in her stoner boyfriend, and I was waiting for the word that my father's cancer had metastasized, which in fact came on New Year's Day. The year before, before I was blogging, I spent December in the throes of a beautiful and doomed affair with a man who looks exactly like Jake Gyllenhaal, an affair I sensed was doomed when he invited me to spend New Year's with him and his friends in a house in Santa Cruz, and then told me as we were getting ready to head down that he thought he'd made a mistake. Oh, and then of course he came down with something and was terribly sick New Year's Eve and I held his hair back, as they say, and then he unceremoniously dumped me as soon as we got home. Yep. Good times.

I'm going to ramble a bit. But I was just walking home from rehearsal, trying to figure out why I was feeling so foul, and I realized that I usually do, around this time. It was worse when I lived in the Midwest and had real winter to contend with, but it's still not my best season. That whole dead season thing, you know? Trying to be festive when really, you just want to pull everything in and hibernate. And having a birthday at this time of year can be a real bitch; it makes the whole year-end process of taking stock of what one has accomplished that much hairier.

My birthday weekend... eh... thank you everyone who made it to the various rendezvous points on Saturday. I really do appreciate your coming out. Disappointingly, there were people sick, or people with sick parents, or people who said they'd come by and then couldn't make it. Ours was a small but dogged band, wending its way through dinner and a show, and I had a massive headache for much of the night, and the three opening acts for the band I wanted to see at 12 Galaxies were all incredibly loud and (to my ear) boring, and I just never felt like the evening fell into any sort of groove.

It was more... effortful... than it was festive. I felt like I was worrying too much about whether other people were enjoying themselves--getting a conversation over dinner started when I realized that none of my friends knew each other, running to Walgreen's for earplugs when the "music" was too loud at 12G, worrying about whether BunnySlope's companion was enjoying himself, losing Friend of RatFister at the club (we found him again, eventually, or he us), and so on. I was glad to see everyone, but I just wasn't up, and there were a few points where I started thinking longingly about being home in bed with a book. And I couldn't figure out how to fit everyone else in there with me.

Last night was better, perhaps because I attempted less; after spending the day working (yes, my birthday, damnit) I went to see Narnia with Java. As we were sitting through the interminable "pre-show countdown", a tall blond man in black came and sat down next to me. And I'm thinking, is it possible? And yes, it was in fact PRobot! And his girlfriend! I haven't seen him since we had our ugly confrontation when he picked me up from the airport, coming home from Detroit and my dying father, and he called me passive-aggressive (which is entirely possible, although I have to admit I've never really been clear on what that means). So, y'know, I was thinking it might be awkward. But it's been so long since all that happened, I've been through much more painful things since then (amazing how pain gives you perspective, isn't it?), and we had a very nice if brief chat, and we all shared a candy bar during the big battle sequence. So that was okay, and I recommend Narnia highly, unless you're my mother, who cannot watch movies where bad things happen to

1. animals
2. robots (the scene in the first RoboCop, where he kills the bad robot and its foot twitches? Yes, even that)
3. children
4. or space aliens

without making a scene. Mom, don't go. Even if I promise that everything turns out okay, this movie will upset you. It is my duty as a loving daughter to tell you not to see this one. Everyone else, go; the kids who play the kids do a tremendous job, the animation is very good (especially on the beavers and cheetahs), Rhythm and Hues have really figured out how to do fur, Tilda Swinton is a warrior goddess, and in general they got it all right.

I think what I need to do is just start making enough money that I can spend my Decembers on the beach somewhere, eating fish tacos and drinking cerveza. I'm not even sure I'd like fish tacos, but I'm willing to try.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

tomorrow is my birthday

I'll be thirty again. How do I do it? Well, virtue, clean living, and a pure heart.


Isn't it funny, how easy it is to start worrying about this when you get to a certain age? In my twenties, I swore I was not going to be one of those women who got all coy about her age. I also wasn't going to give a shit about my wrinkles. But here I'm teetering on the edge of my thirty-seventh year, and an hour ago one of my dance class friends (who's been doing esthetician stuff lately) mentioned that I wasn't aging too badly, if you didn't count the sun damage she was seeing around my eyes. And what did I do? I went straight to Walgreen's and bought thirty bucks worth of SPF 30 sunblock.

And a candy bar.

I really need to pull my act together a little more. There's a longer post about that, where I muse on where I am at this point in my life blah blah, but I have some work I need to do before I clean myself up and go carouse with my friends, all of whom will be honest with me about my love life and lie about my crow's feet. Which is the right combination, don't you think?

Friday, December 09, 2005

i have a little dreidl, i made it out of rebar

Washington Cube points us to the most astonishing Hanukah thing I have ever seen or heard of. Proving that goyim don't have a lock on campy excess.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

dolce i guido

These little guys are Italian greyhounds who live with a painter I work for occasionally. The studio is cluttered with carved glass platters in a head-high vitrine, old furniture from the flea market, three white-draped birdcages that house massive, noisy parrots. There's a back door into a little garden, visible through the windows which have replaced the back wall. It's very, very cold, and as you can see, these pups have their own comfy chair where they sleep under an animal-print fleece blanket for hours.

The first time I worked for this man and the group that meets weekly in his studio, I was about to set my things on the chair (which is next to the model's stand) when I noticed a long, skinny paw sticking out of the folds in the fleece. And then another. And then several more. Altogether, I counted seven, which seemed like too many no matter how I did the math.

So I peeked. And la voila, two whole dogs.

They're both rescued. Guido, the larger one, was the first. Dolce is not his littermate, she came along later. The painter learned of her from an airplane seatmate, knew by the time the plane touched down that he would have to take her. She loves Guido. He's not so sure about her, but he tolerates her tiny seven-pound self, perhaps because she's a heat source. Every now and again while I'm working they'll crawl out of their nest and come running around on the stand and floor, their long toenails clicking on the old paint-spattered wood. Monday I had my back to the group, with my right leg stretched out behind me, and occasionally I could feel a tiny cold nose sniffing at the immobile foot, its exact position marked on the floor with an "L" of blue tape.

Another artist had brought his own dog, a black lab with a head roughly the size of a toaster, and Dolce was incensed, barking and growling ineffectually at the intruder. Who slept with his glossy head between his paws most of the session. The artists laughed, the space heater buzzed, the parrots squawked from their post near the front door, Charlie the lab stirred and licked experimentally at my foot.

God help me if I ever need to write another resume. How do I explain all this?

Monday, December 05, 2005

you know how i love this stuff

They've found a new mammal in Borneo!

I love it that there are still things we don't know.

Friday, December 02, 2005

where is your line?

Back in the last century, I made a mad dash through art school. Some very powerful stuff came out of it, and it changed the way I viewed the making of things, from paintings to poems. I learned a lot about intentionality and audience. Not as much as I would have liked about color theory, but I guess that's what happens when you drop out after three semesters.

In the interdisciplinary "Visual Dynamics" class I took my first year, we had to make a self-portrait of ourselves using a material we believed represented who we were. I punked out on this one; I couldn't think of anything good, and did the project at the absolute last minute, producing a muddy, ill-conceived piece of work that did not sing so much as slump.

But there was a young woman in the class, a newly-minted angry teen radical vegan lesbian, complete with fresh-shorn head and Ani diFranco tapes, who made an intense image. At a friendly hair salon she was allowed to sweep up the cut hair; she brought it home, sorted it by color, and "painted" with it by gluing it to a piece of paper. The resulting work was ghostly, primal, and disturbing. In other words, it worked.

But it worked in some ways she hadn't expected, which came out in the crit (a deeply humbling experience where you stand with your work in front of the class, woozy with sleep deprivation and jangling with nerves, and the class tells you exactly what they think of your work and, to some extent, you). Because I looked at her hair portrait and told her that it reminded me of the Holocaust. Of the long beautiful hair of Jewish women being shaved off and stuffed into pillows.

She completely flipped out. That's not what I meant, you're seeing something that isn't there, I'm not talking about the Holocaust, you're nuts etc.

It's not what you meant, sure. I responded. But you need to think about your materials and what responses they may evoke in your audience. You need to do your research. And to my surprise, both professors (two very different men) backed me up. Your selection of materials and images set up resonances, said one. It's your responsibility as an artist to know as much as you can about what you're using, said the other. I was seeing the Holocaust too, said another classmate, but I didn't know whether to mention it. Another couple of people nodded in silent agreement.

A fruitful discussion blossomed about the artist's relationship with her audience, one that all by itself was almost worth the thousands of dollars I spent to be a returning student surrounded by youngsters. Because I think about it a lot, as a writer, and when I'm being more conscientuous, as a blogger. The upshot was that we must be free to make or say what we want and/or need to, but we need to be conscious of as many of the ways it might be taken as we can, and work accordingly. In this way we take ownership or responsibility for our work. Go ahead and put it out there, sure, but be prepared for a range of responses, and don't be surprised when someone catches something you might not have intended. Especially if you haven't thought through what you're using.

This may seem like a leap, but it's a little like all those people tattooed with Japanese symbols who don't really know what they mean and are stunned to find out that "brave warrior" is actually "foolish weakling" or something. The more you know about your images, symbols, materials, intentions as you work, the better your chances of making the point you want to make and not sending out a completely contrary message. In my case, I learned a great trick for surviving crits: whenever someone said something completely unexpected about what they were seeing in my work, I would smile and say, wow, you got that, how interesting. And then I would go home and think about how they got from point A (my work) to point B (their response) and about whether I was making the points I wanted to make, or needed to rethink what I was doing. I did not go home and think, I need to censor myself. But I did think about whether I was being as accurate as I could be, and as... conscious of how my audience would take my work. Did I want to upset people? Make them queasy? Charm and seduce them? Make them feel hopeful? What was the best way to do that visually, while still respecting that they chose to experience and interact with my work?

Lately I've been thinking about this with blogging as well. What are my words up to, out in the world? At some point, I think virtually every blogger posts a variant on, this is my damn blog and I must be free to say what I want. And all of their friends and readers write in and say, yes, yes, it's your blog, we love it when you speak freely, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and so forth and so on. And to a large extent, I agree with that, as long as you're not inciting people to perpetrate violence on other people, or slandering someone by spreading lies and unfounded rumours about them. The latter, incidentally, is legally actionable if the person you're talking about can be identified by clues you give about them--even if you don't use their name. Word to the wise.

But there is a line, and for months I've been stumbling around in the dark, tripping over crap on the floor, trying to find it. Not easy because I think that it's in a different place for everyone.

I'm realizing that my particular line has to be that I actively work not to distress anyone I care about, or who cares about me. And I don't want to make anyone, whether I know them or not, feel lousy about themselves or a situation that they're in. Even if I don't agree with their politics or their worldview (such as that slew of MRA's a few months back--remember them? Wasn't that fun?), my readers are my guests, and unless they abuse me or other readers (which some of the MRA's did certainly do) I'm going to try to treat them accordingly. Operative word being try.

I leave the affliction of the comfortable to people who are better at it than I--or save it for my paid writing. Because there's something delicious about getting paid to afflict the comfortable; something I'm working on right now in another window.

Where is your line?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

they love music, the dance and witty remarks

Here's a cool page about sea monsters. The title of this post is from Ulisse Aldrovandi's completely bizarre 1642 commentary on stingrays.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

just because it was on my camera

I love the way you turn corners in this city and bang, murals. Far less self-conscious than those silly hearts they had all over for a while. Even if they were for a good cause, I liked the original Chicago iteration better.

Maybe because cows are inherently funnier than hearts.

But iguanas, now, iguanas are funnier than hearts and cows.

Especially when you've only gotten three hours of sleep because you have no damn sense at all and were up late writing emails that Earthlink decided to eat and then consoled yourself by reading John Barnes' Gaudeamas (much better than some of the reviewers say it is) until the book slid from your lifeless hands. But I'm not naming any names here.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

how does this happen?

So I gave up on working last night and decided to go to this event. I'd never been; in fourteen years in San Francisco I think I've only been to one specifically bi-oriented event. Years ago. I know how strange that sounds, considering that I moved out here so I could live someplace where being bi was No Big Deal, but that one event put me off the scene pretty thoroughly. I was trailing in the wake of the woman I was seeing at the time and feeling really uncomfortable, and everyone looked like a RenFest escapee, and I just couldn't handle it.

But last night I thought, what the hell. Maybe that cute girl from the Red Elvises show will be there, and I can stop wandering around the Berkeley campus trying to figure out where she works (kidding, really, I'm not stalking her. Yet.) And even if she wasn't there, maybe there'd be another girl, or maybe I'd meet the bi boy of my dreams... because I've always thought that would be kind of fun, and easier for me than dating straight men, who don't know all the things bi guys do. Whatever the case, I'd be surrounded by my own kind (even if they tend to look like RenFest escapees), and that would be a welcome change from clubs full of straight people (where dirty dancing with a girl is taken to be something you're doing to turn men on, not for its own good reasons) or gay men (no action) or lesbians (don't trust bi-girls).

No disrespect to straight people, gay men, or lesbians! Some of my best friends are straight. Or gay. But there aren't many places bi-folk can really let down their hair, know they can dance with anyone, talk to anyone, have similar history. And you're not aware of the lack until you're surrounded, as I found tonight. Everyone I looked at I could flirt with and not worry that I was crossing someone's comfort threshold. Boys dancing with boys dancing with girls dancing with girls. Ran into friends of Snufkina's, recognized a beautiful and famous domina BunnySlope had pointed out to me, saw a few people I knew I'd seen somewhere before, started to feel like I was in the bi groove, dancing a little catch-the-bats-release-the-bats, a little "aren't all bi girls belly dancers?" snakiness, and so on.

So how is it that I ended up drawing the attention of the one straight man in the place? Why does this happen to me? Why? I mean, some of the other men might have been. I suspected they were there with their girlfriends fishing for bi-girl adventure. But of the unattached men, the one who started talking to me about Star Wars at the bar while the bartender drew me a tonic water instead of the club soda I'd asked for was definitely straight. He was there because he cross-dresses. That's it. Otherwise, not attracted to men.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

all small creatures should have bows in their tails

Echidne tells us some interesting things about one of my all-time favorite authors, Tove Jansson.
very special thanksgiving guest blogger!

My mother has a lot of great stories. This one is one of my favorites, and the one I'm most likely to make her tell other people. So in case you thought you were having a difficult Thanksgiving, let me present My Mother's First Thanksgiving as a Married Woman. Keep in mind that she was a winsome nineteen years old when this happened, and my father a beardless twenty-one.

My mother was the world's worst cook; my mother-in-law of six months was one of the world's best, the sort who baked bread once a week and always had several different kinds of fresh-baked cookies waiting in a large glass cookie jar. My family did not celebrate the American holidays (Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, etc); my new husband's family had paper cut-outs, gee-gaws, and special table centerpieces for every one of them. No one in my family (grandparents, aunts, cousins) had ever made a turkey; my in-laws had at least three a year. My mother-in-law worked out of a large kitchen with every sort of jello mold and bundt pan and knife hanging on the wall or on a rack, ready for action; we lived in an apartment without a stove. For the first five months of our marriage we cooked on a two-burner hot plate, and it was more then adequate.

Knowing that we were going to host this first holiday in our married life, we bought a built-in oven and many feet of 2x4 to surround it. We completed the structure just two weeks before the big event. My mother was very ill, and hospitalized. The doctor had said she might be able to leave for a couple of hours to attend this most important dinner. But she really was not available for any help - even if she would have known what to tell me. Oh, and there was also the typical tension/competitiveness between new mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. We'd already had a completely perplexing conversation about cranberry sauce, about which I knew nothing except that it came in a can; she had made a point of telling me that while my new father-in-law liked his with orange, my new husband did not, and I would be wise to prepare some of each kind. So the battle lines were drawn early.

My father told me not to worry - he would help. I was young enough, and scared enough, to believe him. After all, he'd had a grocery for a while. He knew about food, right?

Okay, so because our freezer was miniscule, I waited to pick up the 14-pound (Dad said two pounds per person) frozen turkey I had ordered until as late Wednesday night as possible. As soon as I got home it went straight into the fridge so nothing bad could happen (I had been repeatedly warned about unsafe poultry.) On Thursday, as arranged, I called my father at 6:00 am and we began. I placed the bird on the sink apron, tucked the phone between my ear and shoulder, and started looking for the leg sinew that Dad said had to be removed...."just cut the skin right at the knob, grab the sinew and pull". Ah, you are beginning to see how this is going to go. Twenty frustrating, sweaty minutes later, after trying the channel lock because my fingers could not grab that slimy thing well enough, we decided to go to the next step, hoping that no one would notice that the sinews had not been removed. We were going to have stuffing, not dressing, and I had tripled the recipe because it had originally been for a five-pound bird. Having already tied the legs together--I had to use a piece of quarter-inch hemp rope because that was the only thing I could find after rooting around in the junk drawer with my slimy hands--there was only one opening left to try and fill. And for some reason, I couldn't get very much stuffing into the neck. I was not feeling very reassured when Dad said "don't worry, that cup of stuffing will be more then enough to go around for all of us, you can bake the rest".

Did I mention that the new oven only had room for one shelf with the turkey pan in there? It's okay, I could cook the now-dressing at the same time I made the green bean and mushroom soup casserole, while the turkey was cooling. No problem.

At 8:30, it was time to start cooking so that everything would be ready at about noon, when my guests would arrive. "Turn the oven to 250 degrees because slow cooking makes for a juicier bird," said my father. I peeled the potatoes, and followed his advice to pour lemon juice on them so that they wouldn't turn brown (oh, you say that is for apples--where were you forty years ago?), and started looking at the recipe from Aunt Rose for angel food cake. "Don't worry," my father said confidently, "you can bake it at the same time as the dressing, and the casserole, while the turkey is cooling."

I must admit, having never made mashed potatoes before, I was really nervous when all I had was lumps. "Don't worry, just cut up some onions and put them in there. Onions cover any sin, and since they're lumpy nobody will know the difference." And then he went off to the hospital to pick up my mother. Having had the phone crammed against my ear for over three hours, I had a shooting pain in my left shoulder, the same shoulder I had just had cortisone shots in for bursitis. But it was the numbness in my fingers that really bothered me. It eventually went away, and I decided I could nap for an hour. Everything was set, not to worry!

At 11:00 o'clock we're both up, showered, dressed, and ready to do 'the finishing touches'. We put the door that was being used as a table-top on the four brick-pile legs, and set it with the mismatched dishes and flatware (we hadn't registered, or had any wedding showers, because we were part of the 60's rebellion against materialism. We were soooo cool.) My father called to say that my Mom was not well enough to leave the hospital, but that he would be there for dessert, and would bring a plate of my delicious meal back to her. I was not only sad that she couldn't be there, and worried that my Dad would also miss my cooking debut, but also a little scared about facing all of my in-laws alone.

At noon they arrive, and everyone starts sniffing. There should have been a lot of aromas. You know there weren't. Forty years later I can still see the smile on my mother-in-law's face when she realized what a debacle I had made of that first holiday meal. Here's a sample of the conversation:

MIL: Where's the gravy? You made gravy, right?

Me: What was I supposed to make the gravy with?

MIL: The giblets and the neck.

Me: It didn't come with giblets.

MIL: (wrestling open the rope-bound legs of a still frozen-in-the-middle turkey) These are the giblets, in this package here.

Me: Oh. No wonder I couldn't get the stuffing in.

Needless to say, the next four hours were excruciating. From having to untie that poor turkey's legs to trying to figure out what to do with a flat angel food cake (you cut it up into squares and cover them with defrosted frozen strawberries that you've sent someone to the drug store across the street to get), my mother-in-law could not stop gloating. We did the meal in courses. First the salad, while I fried the green bean casserole on the hot plate; then the casserole. The next course was the cranberry sauce, nicely laid out on the plate after slicing it in neat circles right from the can, my father-in-law's garnished with slices of canned mandarin orange. My mother-in-law, who apparently thought cranberry sauce was something with whole cranberries in it, did not see the advantage of being able to use the lid of the can to slice up the sauce into orderly, seed-free disks. The potatoes were just too much of a disaster to try to save, even by my mother-in-law who seemed to know all kinds of tricks.

Actually, I didn't even see her try with those because I was locked in the bedroom closet trying not to sob. I must say, though, that with enough butter you can fry dressing into a great little side-dish; even if you have used 3 day-old rye bread as the base.

Even at 450 degrees for hours, that poor turkey never really got thoroughly cooked. We did eat some very crispy skin and about a half-inch of meat. It was the creatures that lived in the small park down the street that enjoyed the 13 pounds that were left (I certainly wasn't going to throw it out!). While I could see the feral cats enjoying themselves, I also fully expected to see some buzzards landing, which would have been interesting in downtown Chicago. Luckily, my Dad reminded me that I was allergic to strawberries before we started on dessert, so we didn't have to spend any time in the emergency room. He picked up a pickled tongue sandwich for my Mom at the deli we should have just gone to, and told her that everything had been so good that it was gone by the time he got to my party. She was never told the truth, and died two and a half months later happily thinking that I had made the big leap to cook that she never had.

So, for those of you who have wondered why Indri explains that she grew up eating "turkey roll" for Thanksgiving, you finally have the answer.

Did Mom ever get better at it? No, and we didn't care; those Thanksgivings we didn't spend with my grandparents or my friend Kristin's family, we stayed home and ate turkey roll (which conveniently has both light and dark meat, so everyone's happy), cranberry sauce sliced from the can, frozen green beans with lots of butter, and perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes from a box. There was something for everyone to do in the kitchen, clean-up was easy, and sometimes we got crazy and read at the table, just to punch up the relaxed nature of the event. One year we didn't bother to cook at all, but went to a bookstore, bought a couple dozen books, and went to Denny's and let them cook while we happily read and ate together as a family.

Whatever works.

Now I need to pack up my cranberry and green grape relish, made with white wine and fresh ginger, orange juice and lime juice, and get going to a dinner with Princess the food critic and a bunch of foodies I don't know, who I hope will not notice that I did not follow the recipe's instructions to add salt and pepper to taste because I didn't trust myself to get it right. But I hope everyone has had as happy and stress-free a holiday as possible, and is enjoying the weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

somebody stop me before i eat any more raw cookie dough

What do you think of this drawing? It's not mine; I found it in a sale bin outside the Emeryville Michael's yesterday, laying atop a pile of Knifty Knitter kits (a Knifty Knitter is a round plastic knitting loom. You can make anything you want on one, as long as it's a hat. Or a beer-can cozy. Or one of these.) Finding the drawing made me sad--look at how carefully the artist worked to get the stripes of the rainbow even, and then the drawing was abandoned! It should be on someone's fridge somewhere, and instead it was crumpled up among the beer-cozy makers. So I guess I'll put it on my fridge, make up a niece or nephew if anyone asks, and be done with it. Even if I can't quite tell if the figure is crowing with delight, or crying in agony. Or perhaps both.

Now, I have a love-hate relationship with Michael's. Yes, it's an overpriced hell of scrapbooking supplies and the makings of a million chintzy wedding favors. I often find myself looking around guiltily when I go into a Michael's, half-expecting one of my old art-school comrades to bust me in the fake flowers aisle, drag me in front of the Meaning Police, have me stripped me of my black wardrobe and forced into the pastel sweatsuits and bobbed haircuts of the women on the Happy Scrapping! books. I don't even know what I could possibly scrapbook about, as I have neither gotten married nor produced children, the things most scrapbooks seem designed to celebrate.

But there are some things it's easier to find there than anywhere else, and I tell myself that I'm subverting the supplies, that I can use tools intended for building cheerful scrapbook pages to create suitably depressing or abstract Works of Ahhhhrt.

I'm not buying the paper punch that punches out perfect little Christmas trees though. Nope. No way I could subvert that. I buy one of those, first thing you know, I'll have gotten my hair straightened and streaked. No.

No disrespect to any of you that might be scrappers, incidentally. Perhaps because I suspect if you are (and I can think of one or two who might be), you've managed to find the die-cut bats and coffins. Goth scrapbookers. Please tell me there is such a thing.

God, say "scrapbook" often enough, even in your head, and it starts to sound really strange.

edit: Yes, there is. With suitably anguished subject headings like your photos are dying.

Monday, November 21, 2005

might as well jump

Perhaps to counter claims that Munich is pretty but a little boring, a professor there has said that if 600 million people all jump at the same time, we can correct Earth's orbit. I suppose we would be even more effective if we put on lead weight belts first, but I haven't read that far yet, I was so anxious to share this with all of you. I'm imagining Van Halen blaring from every speaker next July 20, and if it's stuck in my head it might as well be in yours too.

Friday, November 18, 2005

for everyone flying somewhere for thanksgiving this week

An opportunity to brush up on your airplane safety basics.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

they love to tell you stay inside the lines/but something's better on the other side

They were playing John Mayer on the radio as I was easing into a suspiciously-available parking space on Leavenworth about half an hour ago. Suspicious because half the streets in this neighborhood turn into street cleaning zones from two to six in the morning Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday, and the other half Tuesday/Thursday/Sunday. Yes, that's all seven days of the week. The fact that it only took me two circuits to find this space concerns me; I also fear that it might actually be an unmarked construction site or something, and when I go back in the morning to pick it up and take it back to Dollar, it will be gone.

At the very least, someone will have peed on it. That's a big thing around here, maybe to provide variety for people tired of peeing in the doorways of apartment buildings.


I really love this song, and tonight it seemed doubly-maybe even triply-relevant. Because the past few days have really brought home how my life isn't what I expected at all; I who thought I would grow up to be a diplomat or a biologist or something.

Not a professional nekkid person.

It's certainly not what come up in the results of that test--you know the test--we all took it in high school. The one that said we should all be forest rangers because we said "yes" to "I like to work outside." I came up forest ranger/priest/journalist/police officer (really, no shit); I bet you came up "forest ranger/salesperson/doctor" or "forest ranger/engineer/bus driver" or "forest ranger/dairy rancher/aphid counter." I don't know, you tell me. But mine didn't say anything about how I would grow up to one day work three three-hour art modeling gigs in a single day. Which is, what is the word I'm looking for... ah yes.


It gets better. Three gigs today, two yesterday, and one five-hour job the day before that. Play with the numbers and I've spent nearly as much time naked in front of strangers over the past three days as some of you spent working in offices (if you took cigarette breaks and longish lunches). But I'm guessing that you didn't do any two-minute handstands during that time, or hear a client explain that she liked drawing you because your thighs had "real volume", or have pierced-lip teenagers who hope to be animators come and kneel at your feet to examine how your furry little toes fit together.

Or maybe you did. I have no idea what happens in offices anymore! Maybe office work has gotten more fun since I gave up on it.

I'm really not gloating. I've spent much of the past three days cold and in pain; I wanted the animatorlets to be able to see an unobscured ribcage for their sculptures so I had my arms up and my hands locked behind my head for eight hours total, which any model with any sense will not do. I said something impolitic about something I'd read on the difficulty of mixing color to an instructor who explained with ill-concealed impatience that her students were beyond that point and knew exactly what they were doing, and I wondered if I'd ever work for her again. One of my clients insisted on playing exactly the kind of classical music that my parents discovered years ago would cure my insomnia, and I spent a couple of poses trying not to pass out and fall off my stool. My eyes are so dried out from the space heaters that my eyelids feel foreign; ill-fitting spares kept in reserve for when the real eyelids are out being cleaned.

But I did it. I wasn't sure I could, or that I could gracefully. But I brought snacks to share to my second job of the day and we talked about Danny Elfman and Hell Comes to Frogtown (watch the video clip on that second page, I dare you), and at the third I was still feeling like my poses weren't completely lame. I left each job cheerful and feeling like I'd been of use. And I made almost as much money as I would have catering, which is really the point--I am physically capable of modeling enough to replace or curtail the catering, and I hadn't been sure about that.

Is it a career with advancement opportunities? Ah, no. But then neither is catering, and I don't leave catering jobs whistling and feeling like I've done honest work.

Originally I was going to dedicate this post to Half-Nekkid Thursday, a ritual in which I have yet to partake. But in light of my employment, it seems like it would be more appropriate for me to have Half-Clothed Thursday! So here is some proof that between jobs yesterday, I had a few minutes to sit in a tree. With clothes on.

Monday, November 14, 2005

the test

Will a friend play Scrabble with me?

And how will they handle it when I paste them?

For that matter, how will I handle it?

There was a moment tonight where I seriously considered scaling back a little. I haven't known Java long; we'd just had a reasonably intense discussion about the difference between happiness and contentment and seeking right livelihood; I hadn't realized that while he reads voraciously, his spelling is very... phonetic. At one point I even joked, sort of, about easing up. Don't you ever hold back, he responded. Okay then.

I didn't tell him the story about playing against a group of guys from the dojo once, being the first up, and spelling "byronic" (all seven tiles+first player bonus=nobody else had the slightest chance).

None of them ever played against me again. I'm not sure Paramedic even spoke to me for a few days after that game. Which is awkward when two people are throwing each other around, doing joint locks, and so on.

Anyway. I have developed a theory about Scrabble players. I think there are basically two kinds (yes, I hate binaries, but they're so easy). Those who go for the most beautiful word regardless of points, and those who delight in wedging in letters in such a way that you get lots of shorter words, and a clotted, impassable mass somewhere on the board. I fall into the first category, my mother and Scrabble arch-nemesis the second. Oh, she goes for beautiful words, but she's also a much better counter than I am, and much more clever about using all the little spaces. My mother plays Scrabble the way she packs a box, come to think of it; everything is fit in quite neatly, and the box itself is much heavier than it looks. A sign, I think, of high spatial intelligence.

We played Scrabble a lot when I was growing up, my parents and I. Usually but not always Mom won. Sometimes Dad did. Depending on who you talk to, I didn't start winning until I went away to college. I like to tell the story of coming home the break after I'd declared a linguistics major and roundly trouncing my folks for the first time ever and Mom refusing to play with me after that, but she claims I'm making it up. Whatever the case, on the score sheets from the last few games I played with both my folks, when I'd gone home to help while Dad was sick, you can see where he got tired and we stopped, or he slept while Mom and I continued.

I've started playing online, because I burned out my software opponent, and that's kind of strange. Although it's possible to communicate with your opponent, I've only played one person who was willing to talk and play. Mostly there's not so much as a "hello" or "good play!". It's sort of like going to a sex club, really; you could talk to the other person, but why break stride to do so? But playing against another human, albeit a silent one, is more heartening than playing against a computer, which will always take its turn so fast that you start to feel like an idiot even if you're winning.

And in answer to the earlier question, Java came through fine. I wasn't playing all that well, from a numbers standpoint, but I still won by, well, a lot. And he was completely fine with that, said he'd want to play again, and then told me he'd teach me to play cribbage. Where he will doubtless get his revenge, because apparently cribbage is very numerical.

And I did manage to keep the bloodthirsty war cries to a minimum.

I'm learning.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

all we ever did was nuke gummi bears

And stick them together in new, usually obscene, configurations. But if I still had a microwave, I might try this. Ain't science grand?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

i will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded

I'm so absorbed in raising some capital (ie, modeling alla damn time) and getting free of the catering quagmire that I can't think of a single amusing thing to write. So let me send you to Peter Anspach, who provides us with helpful tips for being healthier, happier, Evil Overlords. I've had some managers who could have benefitted from this list--think I should send it on to them?

Also, happy happy birthday to Snufkina!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

moon the klan


I'd say more, but I just got home from work, and I'm completely spent.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

never question bruce dickinson

I have a rental car for a couple of days: too many modeling jobs, too far apart, and an ill-concealed desire to drive like a madwoman, howling along to the radio with the windows open and my hair whipping in my eyes and making me more dangerous than usual.

Channel-surfing on the Bay Bridge, I caught the Bangles version of Hazy Shade of Winter (which is not, I repeat not, their song, as some would have it; it's actually Simon and Garfunkel). You remember, it was on the Less Than Zero soundtrack, back when Bret Easton Ellis was, well, sort of relevant, before other people wrote better books about SoCal kids snorting coke. It's a song that never fails to make me think of California, probably because the film is set in LA. That might be why I always get it mixed up with California Dreaming (written the same year, btw), which also references brown leaves and grey skies.

But I digress. What really struck me was that I could hear the claves very clearly--and they sounded as though they'd been played live, which surprised the toast out of me. I thought everything from that era, percussion-wise, was machine-made. But there are a few points where there's a tiny hesitation, where the downbeat doesn't come at the same time it did in the measure before. I found that very endearing.

It also made me think of one of Christopher Walken's finer moments. It embarrasses me how much this cracks me up.

Here's the original SNL skit, courtesy of GorillaMask. Take a look at Will Farrell's midsection on the second take; fellow belly/Polynesian dancers will note that he's got a plausible ami going for a minute there, which is a complete surprise. And he's playing one of these for all he's worth.

Monday, October 31, 2005

old vlad had it right

Just in time for Halloween, and my upstairs neighbor watching scary movies for, like, thirty hours straight now. According to a Media Data Corporation report, courtesy of Family Media Guide, impalement is the number one murder method in scary movies. MDC looked at 100 horror movies from the past thirty years, tracking thirteen "gruesome acts and gory details"
bite injury … charred skin … decapitation … decomposition … disfigurement … electrocution …entrails … impalement … protruding object … severed limb … skeletal remains … transmogrification … twisting body part

They counted 1,734 total instances among the 13 unlucky acts. Impalement's the frontrunner with 419 counts (nearly 25%), followed by protruding object (313) and bite injury (305).

There's a lot of this that I find interesting, but I'm trying to sew a costume this afternoon so I'll have to save the analysis for later. But I want to make one point, because I'd already been developing a theory about it. Sure, according to the movies bad guys go for impalement first. But have you noticed how often impalement is the way bad guys die in action films in general? Right off the top of my head, and forgive me if these are spoilers for you, I can think of three movies where a villian dies by falling on something sharp--Spiderman, Shaun of the Dead, and Transporter 2. I had a bunch of others, but I can't remember them right off.

Now this is important: the villians fall onto the pointy things. They are not actively impaled by the heroes. Now we all know that a hero can't actually kill a villian in the final aristeia (please note that I'm using that word here in the sense of a climactic one-on-one battle, not in the sense of excellence); unlike in Homer's time, audiences don't like a story where the hero proves to be as prepared to kill as the villian. Maim, sure. Fold, spindle, mutilate, absolutely.

But for Spiderman or the Hulk or Frank Martin or Jet Li to actually kill their nemesis dead in single combat makes them no better than said nemesis. So the villian has to die through their own hubris, or lack of skill, balance, or willingness to cooperate with the hero (falling from a great height being another big way villians die, usually after letting go of the hero's offered hand). Forcing set designers to come up with endless variations on the fortuitously-placed pointy thing, whether it's a shard of glass in the abandoned warehouse, a twisted bit of metal out at the pier, an ugly modern sculpture in the villian's luxurious lair, or Shaun's garden umbrella stand. Once you start watching for it, it's everywhere.

On that cheerful note, I'm going to pick my way ever-so-carefully across the cluttered floor of my studio back to my sewing machine, with its itty-bitty impalement device. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Sunday, October 30, 2005


This was not the best choice for my bedtime movie, Halloween weekend. I'm doing my best to remember the funny bits, and not so much the entraily bits. If you haven't seen it, it's very funny. The prat gets eaten and the best friend shows his real worth.

Halloween weekend in San Francisco. It's been two or three days solid of sirens, now, and we haven't even had the Castro celebration yet. Friday night BunnySlope and I went dancing, which became more of a production than usual for me. As I wrote to a friend,
I'd planned on wearing jeans, a tank top, and eyeliner; I ended up in a full skirt, boots, a combination of her bra and sheer top, my Afghani dance choker, ring, and earrings, Rajasthani mirror belt, and nearly full performance makeup.

I looked like a red and black Christmas tree. And there's glitter all over the bathroom.
Coming back from post-dancing Thai food, we stumbled over a drunk monk. Clean-cut fella dressed for a costume party, big cross around his neck, Elvis sunglasses hanging from his collar, dried vomit on his habit. It's weird, but I knew right away that he wasn't in the habit of sleeping on the sidewalk, because he was perpendicular to the wall. People who usually sleep on the sidewalk lie parallel to the wall. This neighborhood's a real education.

Anyway, BunnySlope is a very pragmatic, down to earth sort. We'd walked about ten feet past the tourist when she stopped and said, he's lying on his back. We should at least roll him onto his side. So we went back and poked at him experimentally. BunnySlope checked for a pulse. He was large and limp; I didn't think we'd have much luck, but as we were prodding him over he came to and mumbled ten more minutes. We asked him if he had a car. He said yes, named an intersection across the city, and closed his eyes again. Do you want us to get you a cab? If you stay here you'll get rolled and possibly hurt. People walking by offered to call an ambulance. NoizokayI'mokay. BunnySlope put on her schoolteacher voice. You at least need to stay on your side, she told him, if you lie on your back you could aspirate and die.

I'mokayI'llgoinnaminnit. He rested his head on one of those street level window ledges, you know, the ones for the basement windows. She and I looked at each other and shrugged.

Walking away, she talked about her inclination to protect people.

We should have rolled him ourselves, I answered.

Friday, October 28, 2005

there can be only one


Thursday, October 27, 2005

a shout out to czech artistry

Looking for stuff to send Snufkina, I stumbled across this gallery of large-format photos by Ladislav Kamarad, who I'd never heard of. Some breathtaking work here. Check out the snapshots from Patagonia if you like penguins.
miers gets the point

Two days of good news in a row. Now though we get to sweat over what other ill-prepared crony Bush is going to try to foist on us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

go sheryl!

Sheryl Swoopes has come out. Houston Comets leading scorer and co-founder, Swoopes is the sort of athlete who goes out to have a baby, or an injury, and then comes back to win MVP awards. She mentions that she's not coming out to make a point or anything, she's just tired of having to lie about who she loves.

And she's worried that people are going to tell little girls that they can no longer look up to her. But I'm thinking about all the little queer girls--and boys--who have a new hero. And all the little girls and boys, queer and straight, who are going to notice that she is behaving with integrity, and take it to heart.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

2k why?

A moment of silence for the 2000.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

the next generation of laptops

You'll kick yourself that you didn't think of it first. At least I'm kicking myself. And at some point I'll have to try this.
my night at work

I must stop catering. It wasn't even a bad shift, I'm just fed up. Working sick wasn't a hot idea either, but I didn't want to cancel twice in one week. So I took too much pseudoephedrine and powered through a couple of strawberry cough drops and wobbled out onto the floor at Bimbo's mildly altered.

Which will get you a long way there, as the place is kind of surreal to begin with. There are notices in the kitchen that have been there since 1931, all signed "Mr. B" (Busboys, the candle lamps are extremely fragile. Please be careful). There are paintings on the walls of a sexy mermaid (I think the artist couldn't do hands, so the scaly lass always has her arms up and totally concealed by a cloud of red hair). Behind the bar, a tricky arrangement of mirrors lets you watch Dolfina swimming in her "bowl".

I was able to not cough directly onto the hors d'oeuvres I was serving. That counts for something, right?

I have eleven more shifts scheduled through the end of the year. The plan right now is that a) I don't take any more and b) I find some way to replace that income. A is easy; I just keep saying no until my supervisor gets the picture, or we have a talk about it, about why they're not letting me manage anymore and about how you don't let your intelligent empoyees get bored because then they start acting out (ahem). B is a little more of a trick.

Maybe Dolfina needs a backup?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

if you like photography or dogs

You'll appreciate Seamus' find of a stock of glass-plate negatives the family had thought lost to flood damage. He's been scanning them in; the most recent is very unusual for a studio portrait of its time, and very dear.
the lampposts are screaming

Zen for the rest of us. Work-safe, but completely irreverent, and sort of gross.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

what i've been doing as i lay around sick

The fabulous thing about being a permanent absentee voter is that I can vote from home, which I did today. It's much nicer sitting on the bed with all the pamphlets and ballot bits strewn around than standing in line somewhere. Not as exciting, maybe, not so much smell of civic spirit in the air, but you do get the chance to muse over the information.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I hadn't paid much attention to this election--a special one the Governator called--besides noting that my teacher friends were agitating against all of the Guv's ideas. Reasonably so, since he's blaming teachers for the mess our schools are, and pillaging the education budget. But what I didn't know was that the first proposition, 73, would make parental consent for teen abortion the law.

If you live in California, and you weren't planning to vote November 8... let me remind you that a lot is at stake.
my throat hurts too much to laugh as much as i'd like

But that shouldn't stop you. Pulls together some of my more recent themes. And explains why you need to get to SFO so damn early.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

a bright spot for boobs

I've been thinking about breast cancer a lot lately. My mom and I have been talking about mammograms, it came up last night in a short story I was reading, some of my artists were talking about it the other day, I'm newly linked to the blog of a young woman who just had a mastectomy. Not to mention that I think I've gotten to that age where you start to wonder what little nasty you're harboring. If the problem that's going to take you out has already started, but it's so low-key that you can't hear it yet, you know?

Anyway. I'm very excited about this news about a drug that dramatically cuts breast cancer recurrence. It's still being tested, and it's wildly expensive, but everyone involved is talking about fast-tracking approval, so more women might stand a chance (and men--for every 100 women in this country with the disease, there's one man with it--and he's damn surprised). This is really good news.
bone-eating snot flower

No, not me, silly. But an amazing creature found off the Swedish coast. The more science fiction I read, the more astonishing I find the range of Earth creatures--what they look like, how they take nourishment, reproduce, everything. And this one's a lot prettier than the name above--or even "zombie worm"--would suggest.

In other damn, but I love science news, scientists have discovered that they can grow collagen much faster if they remove the water from the starting medium. Cutting down the time from weeks to minutes. Conceivably this would make it possible to grow replacement tissue in the operating room. As the proud owner of grafted tissue, you can see why I'd think this cool. Now if they could just figure out how to do cartilage, and fix my friend True's knees, that would be excellent.

Speaking of snot, I woke up at 5:30 this morning having terrible dreams that I couldn't swallow without pain. And guess what? Awake, I couldn't either. I'd felt this sore throat coming on yesterday, but nowhere near as bad as it was this morning. I used everything I had available--gargled with salt water, made "throat coat" tea, and then had a zinc lozenge for good measure. Gourmet combination, let me tell you. Yuck. At least I didn't have any work scheduled today, and my crepuscular phone voice was enough to convince my catering supervisor that I really shouldn't work tomorrow either, so I'm going to try to ride out whatever this is on the Good Ship Indri's Bed. Ahoy, indeed. Boarding parties bearing soup and ice cream welcomed with open cutlasses.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

get cracking on that five foot shelf

Although I can't imagine reading War and Peace on my computer, this is still a very cool little resource.
okay, i've been lying to you

Know how I keep saying I have nothing interesting to report? That is not strictly true; some very interesting things have been going on. But I've been struggling over how to talk about them, or whether I even should, and it's been having a major impact on my blogging. Because talking about what's going on means I have to talk about MonkeyScientist, and today marks a month since we last had any contact with each other. Which is meaningful, considering that for the twelve months before that, the longest we went without even a little bitty email was a few days.

I'm not going to go into the whys or wherefores of that; I've done enough "he said, she said" here over the past couple of years. And I really don't feel like going there anymore--for one thing, it makes me uncomfortable when I read it elsewhere, and for another, well, one of these days we might be on speaking terms again, and I'd rather not waste any of that time dealing with fallout from what I've said here. And finally, the core story doesn't make either of us look good. He's been careful to protect my reputation online, to the extent of not talking about me at all at times when I've wished that he would; while I won't behave the same way, I can try for my own version, and hope I don't fuck up.

All this prelude! The point is that last month I made an incredibly painful choice about how things were going and how I could protect myself and my own interests--something I'd been doing a very poor job of for some time--and while I'm surviving just fine, I'm also realizing to what extent my connection to another person was shaping my life. Even a physically absent person. Perhaps especially a physically absent person. You don't extend as much energy as I have to support a relationship--of any kind--without having that expenditure change your perspective, and what you believe you can have, do, or be. So I'm talking about him, but only tangentially; this is not about what he did or failed to do, but how I cranked myself around to meet what he was capable of.

Which is why, when I started seeing someone else (actually, a couple of someone elses, one from each food group, and yes they know about each other) almost immediately after undoing one of the big knots tying me to Berlin, I was stunned to learn that there were people out there who really wanted and were able to be with me. I'd been forcing the situation with MonkeyScientist for so long that I'd forgotten what it's like when it's easy. I will continue to honor the deal I cut with him about blogging, which means sparing some of the details... except to note that I am a very fortunate person, and grateful for the presence of these awesome people.

Also for Taqueria Cancun, and the Lexington, from whence I just returned, full of hard cider and good cheer for a birthday-having troupemate. A good rehearsal tonight, time with cool women, and a messy chorizo torta! Life is good.

Monday, October 17, 2005

the no-fly list

This is too good. Tip of the uniform hat to Xark.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

what a difference a soundcard makes

When I first found this strange, wistful video I thought it was just an animation showing off what someone did with some mossy sticks. Now with headphones I can hear the atmospheric sounds of Under Byen, a Danish outfit out of Aarhus. They sound a little like Sigur Ros, with Bjork on vocals.

edit: Brian was curious, and I'm procrastinating. Here are the lyrics, translated into English
Outside the plantation / orchard grows
The gentle whisper of the trunks
The edge of the crystals

And the time is crispy
A pigeon with a pounding heart
When one stops and listens

To the dreams of the plants out there
That slips under the hem / seam
And the rustle of the the fabric against the floor

Thursday, October 13, 2005

where would you like to be locked in?

Walking home past my beloved library late last night, I saw a guard making the rounds, checking to see that doors were locked and so on. Which reminded me of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, simply one of the best kids' books ever written. Have you read it? We got a chapter a week read to us when I was in fifth or sixth grade, on Fridays, if we had behaved ourselves that week. I got so fed up with that system (we didn't behave ourselves much) that I found my own copy and read to the end on my own.

Which may have been the point. I don't know, that was a weird year. We lost our "real" homeroom teacher early in the fall, probably to frustration, and then ripped through a series of cowering substitutes, one of whom stood by feebly as Jamal Miller ("he slams your locker door on your fingers because he likes you") accidentally-on-purpose wacked me in the arm with a baseball bat.

Why was a baseball bat allowed in the classroom? Another question I can't answer for you.

But I digress.

"The Mixed-Up Files", if you haven't had the pleasure of reading it, is the story of two kids who decide to run away from home. But they're very methodical about it. Claudia, the older one, comes up with an elaborate plan for she and her brother (who she includes because he's been better about saving money than she has) to go live in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. They get all tricky about hiding out in the bathrooms until the janitors have gone home, they wash out their clothes in the fountain (and raid it for coins, something I always found a breathtaking transgression), they sleep in a fancy antique bed behind a velvet rope, and so on. So it's a book that workes on several levels--one, you get to enjoy their adventures and ingenuity and two, you learn something about the Met.

So I walked past SFPL Main last night, and started wondering how I could endeavor to get locked in some night, and what I would do once I was there. I didn't think about it long because I was hungry, but I did skitter around a little: what about getting locked in Pearl Paint, the three-story art supply place on Market? Or the Asian Art Museum? Or the Exploratorium? Or Green Apple Books on Clement? Mmmmm.

Where you like to be locked in, if you had the opportunity?
tomato smashed with 4x4

And other things shot with a high-speed camera. I like the square of Jell-O making impact--it goes completely flat, and then bounces back to its original shape. Amazing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Go read this post of Marc's, about old-time music in Cambridge. You'll like it, and it's much more interesting than anything I have to report this morning. I'm still battling the deadening effects of three days of self-induced sleep deprivation.
not exactly swords into plowshares

But a promising idea nonetheless.

Monday, October 10, 2005

i'm just pleased

That Blogger is finally letting me upload images again.
my brain is sloshing

Today my father would have turned 62. I haven't thought about that as much as I did last year at this time, mostly because I've got two pieces due and I've been listening to thudding Danny Elfman commentary tracks for something like twelve hours straight and I have all the signs of a migraine coming on, which makes thinking about anything besides the fetal position very difficult.

I wonder what he would be reading, now? How far along in his "history of the world" reading project he would be? Maybe I'll read something for him, when my head stops hurting.

Friday, October 07, 2005

the completely frivolous day

I was too tired when I got home last night to put this into any sort of order, but yesterday was the sort of day that makes me wonder if I could ever hold down a "real" job again.

And the defining image has to be my sitting in Dragonfly's chair for nearly three hours, with his Yorkie wriggling around in my lap. As befits a stylist's dog, Laney had a little tiny butterfly clip holding his hair off of his face. He kept dropping the chewed-up bits of fake green bone on me. And at one point I had to throw the smock over him so only my hair got dyed, and not his.

Meanwhile Dragonfly, who belongs to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, was describing how he got tied up in a rope harness at the Folsom Street Fair. I got to see a photo, and admire his cool makeup job (each Sister has to develop a look of her own; Dragonfly is going with yellow and green eyeshadow and Nagel-esque cheekbones marked in red. Being a Sister seems to make him happier and more settled within himself than I've ever seen him, in the years I've known him. I love talking to him about it.

Then modeling to good music at an animation studio where one of the artists remembers me from when I dated BowlCut; we always gossip about the scene, and I always marvel at how wonderful these guys' drawings are. For about a third of the night I was facing a corkboard covered with concept drawings by this artist, which made me itch to go home and draw. I wore my shiny boots and the artists made me look like an action hero. I came home and read Everything is Illuminated (much funnier than expected, and I'm glad I waited until I got back from Ukraine to read it) until I couldn't see straight.

Sometimes I feel like my life is completely off-track. My mother's friends ask her when I'm going to "settle down" and "get a real job", and she fiercely defends me, but the point's been made: I'm on a tightrope. I'm going to be 36 in a couple of months, and according to the annual note from the Social Security Administration, at the rate I'm going I will never be able to retire; the world's oldest artist's model, teachers will call me in when they need their students to meet the challenge of rendering wrinkles on top of wrinkles. Sometimes I think it would be nice to not wake up every morning wondering where the hell I'm supposed to be that day, and in what costume--tux? Theater-going clothes? My skin? I envy friends who don't have to calculate how much ramen a hair appointment equals.

But damn. I get to help and hang out with some talented people. I have moments like last night where I love my work so much I wonder that it's not illegal. And I have more freedom than a lot of people I know.

Days like yesterday are valuable reminders of that.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

gestational agreement

What a term, huh? It comes up repeatedly in the draft of a bill Indiana state senator Patricia Miller (R) is working up. The bill, if passed, will make "unauthorized artificial reproduction" a felony. Yes, it sounds Orwellian to me too. It makes Echidne, who got it from Amanda at Pandagon who in turn got it from Kos, think of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Now, what exactly constitutes "unauthorized artificial reproduction?" Are you ready for this? Attempting to have a baby using assisted reproductive technology (ART) and donor gametes if you are not married.

Really. One man, one woman. Married to each other. No single women, no single men, no gay couples of any flavor. Non-married people using ART could face a Class B misdemeanor charge ($1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail), doctors performing ART on non-married people could face the same charge, and people who lie about it could face an even heavier one (class A misdemeanor).

There's more. If this bill passes, prospective parents (the term the bill uses is "intended") will need to get a certificate stating that they've been cleared to have a child using ART. In order to get the certificate, you have to undergo the same process prospective adoptive parents do--in other words, a home study conducted by a state-licensed social worker. I used to work for an adoption agency, and let me tell you, this is one serious document. It involves a series of home visits, where the social worker goes around and checks out where all the power outlets are. That kind of detail. Letters of recommendation from people who have known the prospective family for at least x years. Tax returns for the past few years. Written statements from the prospective family on their values, beliefs, activities, and why they're trying to adopt. Background checks. Fingerprints. Criminal record. Everything.

When I first read Echidne's post, I felt like I'd gone down the rabbit hole. Reading the actual document helped, a little, but it's still scary. Because I see what Miller is trying to do, and some of it I agree with. There are measures in the draft proposal that would go a long way towards protecting the parties involved. For example, if a "gestational mother" (surrogate) is unmarried when the agreement is made, and then she gets married, her new husband has no legal claim on the child. The bill would mandate psychological counseling for the gestational mother, which makes more sense to me than just letting her twist in the wind before/during/after delivery. And there are many clauses designed to clarify to whom the child "belongs", which makes sense in light of how many ugly scenes have taken place with people changing their minds and getting into nasty, protracted custody battles (although to the best of my limited knowledge, this is more of an issue with adoption than with surrogacy.)

And I'm not even that horrified by the home study, although I think it puts more strain on people who have got to be pretty miserable anyway, considering the trauma of infertility. Yes, the part about detailing your faith-based activities makes me a little nervous--just as it does when we're talking about adoption. Although in my experience, social workers were much more interested in the prospective family's demonstrated emotional and financial stability than their faith. And, it should be noted, a prospective adoptive parent's marital status is not an issue in many places.

Senator Miller's got an interesting history. A Methodist active in her church, mother of two and grandmother of four, she's authored a lot of bills. One, this year's SB76,
Requires a health care provider to provide a pregnant woman with information regarding the availability of ultrasound imaging and auscultation of heart tones of a fetus before performing an abortion on the pregnant woman. Allows a pregnant woman to view the fetal ultrasound imaging and hear the auscultation of the fetal heart tone before an abortion is performed.

Apparently Miller believes it's the state's job to make absolutely sure a pregnant woman knows that she is killing a living being.

She's also introduced some measures I agree with, such as increasing the ability of the indigent to get hospital care and getting the state secretary of family and social services to get proactive about long term care. It's clear from the list of bills she's either written or sponsored that she genuinely cares about the health of Indianians--from rubella to cheerleading safety to when doctors can prescribe Ritalin. But much of this proposal--besides the way it protects the gestational mother and clarifies parentage--is off-base, and does not support the health and wellbeing of Miller's constituency.

Because she's letting what looks an awful lot like a faith-based agenda get in the way of examining, clearly, how we make healthy families. She's come out and said that the point of this bill is to make sure that only married couples can use ART; she cites research that suggests that the children of married male-female couples are happier than other sorts of children. Has she seen the research that contradicts this finding? That suggests that the children of gay couple, lesbian couples, single parents can be just as happy and well-adjusted?

Truthfully, I wouldn't mind seeing everyone who wants to have children go through something like a home study. Before you brand me a eugenicist, let me clarify: I believe everyone who wants kids should be called upon to examine their life with the kind of care a home study requires. I think it could save a lot of heartbreak down the road if prospective parents had to be able to explain why they wanted kids, how they planned to take care of them, and what sort of network would be in place to support the family. But I digress.

The point is that this is one scary concept, and opens up scarier ones. Miller's trying to help--I believe she really thinks she's doing the right thing to protect kids--but this is an ugly, homophobic, and narrow-minded way to go about it.

edit: Typical. I exert myself to write something a little more complex than the usual navel-gazing or silliness and then it becomes immediately obsolete. As Bob (thanks Bob! Good luck on the job!) has so helpfully noted, Senator Miller withdrew this draft on Wednesday because the issue was proving "too complex". But I will swallow my disappointment at my point being academic in light of the fact that this thing needed to go down, and it did.