Sunday, July 30, 2006

we've lost track of "never again"

Jessie at Speermint has posted an editorial from Ha'aretz that does a much better job of articulating why Israel's war on Lebanon is a travesty than I can.

I can't argue that the conflict is too abstract for me to get a handle on. I'm having exactly the opposite problem, really: even if I don't understand or accept Israel's rationale, on a visceral level I know exactly what's going on. We're seeing sixty-plus years of paranoia and frustration boiling over. And I get that. But bombing civilians won't bring back all the family we lost in the old country, and it won't make us safer in the new--whether the new is Israel or the U.S.

I have a slightly different relationship to the phrase never again than I think many Jews do. For many, the phrase means, never again will we let ourselves be taken off to the camps. For me, it means that we have a sacred obligation, now that we have as a people seen the face of true horror, to not let it happen to anyone else if there is any way we can stop it. How wretched then that not only are we not standing in the way of indiscriminate murder, but it is our hands on the levers.

I doubt I'm the only American Jew who is filled with shame by this whole thing. Neither am I the only one who has kept quiet for an unconscionably long time. I'm finding that it's easy and seductive to say, well, I don't know everything that's going on, surely there's a side to this I'm not seeing, and that side makes all the difference.

But it doesn't. What side can there be that justifies these casualties? Even before Israel apparently targeted UN observers? And then hit those poor people in Qana by mistake? The airport, the banks, hospitals--it's like trying to flush out a rat by destroying the whole house. I understand that Israel doesn't have the classic hard targets to aim for, bunkers, military airstrips, and so on, but surely there is another way!

I want to believe the loss of our six million taught us better than this.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

i swear that this is not me

But I suspect this woman and I would have a lot to talk about. We could visit this museum together, for example.

Monday, July 24, 2006

would this be like swallowing your plate? or the dinner table?

I'm sure this has been all over the television news, but I just read about Houdini, the python who swallowed his electric blanket. His owner thinks somehow the blanket got tangled up with Houdini's dinner and the snake just kept swallowing. Because you know, that's what snakes do; they're not really built to puke.

Poor dear. If surgery photos don't squick you out, it's sort of fascinating to see how the vets set up their operating table and draped the patient. The x-rays are pretty cool too.

My question--after, of course, how is he doing?--is about the site of the incision. All 18 inches of it. I had a knee surgery in 1998 that left me with a three-inch-long scar, and I still have a little numbness along one side of it. Is Houdini going to be numb along his scar? Are snake nerves like ours, sort of a ramen-like tangle just under the skin?

edit I went looking for "snake nerves" and ended up going down the Internet rabbit hole; now I'm fixated on a Sephardic Italian lady who won a Nobel Prize in medicine for work she did in a clandestine lab. Which is obviously something else altogether. So let's just stick with Houdini for this post.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

anyone who doesn't believe al gore now can kiss my sweaty...

California's roasting. Record high temps all over the place. My favorite part of this article is the 87-year-old man "mad as a hatter" at a power outage because he is "too weak now to even check on my lady neighbors." Isn't that dear?

At least my unit is on the side away from the sun, and I have this awesome concrete floor under my hot tootsies.

Monday, July 17, 2006

things i wish my dad could see

Two years on, I still think of my dad when I read certain news items, usually about music or archaeology, two of his favorite things. But he would definitely appreciate this, if my geeky fawning is any indication. Unfortunately I'm on deadline just at the moment so I can't fantasize about all the uses to which this little tiny chip could be put, but it's so nifty! What do you think it could be used for?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

what i would look like if i were 9 feet tall. and asian. and made of concrete

One of those multimodal transportation days; I took BART to the Ferry Terminal this morning so I could take a ferry to Vallejo to meet Java, who was just finishing up a modeling gig. Then we drove for what felt like several hours (it was 105 degrees inland, and you former and current Californians know what I-5 is like anyway) to Stockton to see this sculpture next to the new sports arena.

The artist calls it "Stockton Rising" to celebrate how a "muddy-street gold-rush camp" that went through a bad period (one of the first school shootings, gang violence, the dubious distinction of being the "Napa Valley" of meth production) is pulling itself together through the building of large things. Like a new sports arena (with a fancy hotel set for completion next door in 2007), and this one-and-one-half-times life-size sculpture of six happy active people posed Godzilla-like over the houses, fields, and parking lots of Stockton. Isn't it cool?

On the left, Java. On the right, me. But because we are both--what is the term now? European-American--and Scott needed more variety, he put other people's heads on our bodies. Java sports the head of Scott's assistant's boyfriend, and I the head of another model from the Guild.

Java's legs. The sun was in a bad position to get a good shot of the whole body, but the detail is accurate. I can't believe I'm telling the world this, but my thighs--my real flesh thighs--are each a full two feet in diameter. Which, scaled up 150 percent and rendered in concrete, is pretty impressive. Or maybe daunting.

This makes up, I told the widely-grinning Java, who was at the moment poking at the stony abs of his image, for all those drawings beginners make of us and throw away.

The prospect of beer-fueled sports fans climbing all over us in absentia is also pretty amusing.

Friday, July 14, 2006

hey, women?

Anyone out there been able to identify changes in mood that appear to be linked to their use of birth control pills or other synthesized hormones?

And guys, smart-ass comments will be summarily deleted. So please don't waste your time composing them.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

gore's wager

First. On the Emery-Go-Round today, which is a free shuttle that runs around Emeryville taking people to the shopping centers, IKEA, and BART, I yielded my seat to a very pregnant, fashionably dressed young woman sporting a Hello Kitty watch and tight jeans. Her friend was spilling out of a grey tank top in the way that makes me wonder how there could be anyone who doesn't like women's bodies, a triangular pendant lined with diamonds poking one happy corner into her impressive cleavage. I pretended that my iPod was turned up too high to overhear their conversation, which floated around retail jobs, saving money for a car, and someone they knew who had been foolish enough to pay a month in advance on his cell phone just before going to jail, where he couldn't use it.

"Why does the price of gas have to go up just when we're wanting cars?" asked the one without a bun in the oven. "It's scandalous. It's because we're running out of oil."

"Isn't gas made by men?" asked the other. "Isn't it artificial?"

"Well, they make it with oil somehow. And I was watching Bill Nye the science guy in a show at school a couple years ago, and they showed how much oil there is left. They showed it in a barrel. This is how much we're supposed to have," and here she indicated with a carefully-manicured hand, this much. "And this is how much we really have," with her fingers closer together, like she was squishing a marshmallow. "I was hecka scared when I saw that. It's not just cars, it's everything, airplanes, trucks."

"Is that how much there is in the world, or America?"

"I don't know. Not just America, I think. But maybe not the world."

"The Middle East?"

"I want to say the West Indies, but I don't think that's right. The Middle East."

"Because they're drilling everywhere."

Needless to say, I was dying to yank out my earbuds and clarify some points, but just then we got to the MacArthur BART station, and there was the general crush of people trying to get out of the too-small bus, and their conversation turned to ill-concealed mutterings about people who don't give pregnant women a seat. But I was so struck by the whole thing. Here are these teenagers, dressed to the hoochie-mama nines, talking about peak oil--something I've only heard, well, bearded white people talking about. It was so exciting, but at the same time frustrating as hell: the message is getting out, but the details are not being transmitted well. It's not just the cars and planes and trucks, I wanted to tell them. It's every single thing made out of plastic, unless they get it together with the "plastic from oranges" science soon. It's the potential for serious economic and social collapse. It's freaking Mad Max.

Hours later at home, I read this, about what happened today when an insurance company gave away free gas in Wisconsin. People lined up for hours, four people were arrested for getting into fights. I'm old enough to remember gas rationing in the seventies. We should get used to what this looks like.

Second. In June, I was modeling for three very nice ladies I work for in Marin every couple of months. Marin County, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, is a very wealthy area north of San Francisco. It's where all those car commercials with cars driving around pictureseque cliffs by the ocean are shot, and it is lousy with health food stores and crystal-clutching rich hippies. These artists are my mother's age, mostly; one is a little older. They talk as they work and don't mind if I do too. They give me advice. I ask after their ailments.

So a few weeks ago, I was talking about having just seen An Inconvenient Truth, and how affected I was by it; that although I knew a lot of the parts already, seeing them pulled together the way Gore does has really changed my perspective. I'm babbling on about how glad I am now that I don't have a car and get to use my bike, how we have to keep the polar bears from drowning, and so on. These ladies have always struck me as softly lefty in that way of a) Marin women and b) Marin women who went to women's colleges and c) California artists of any gender or alma mater. I figured I wasn't saying anything that would offend anyone.

Until the oldest spoke up. "I don't believe that global warming is that big a deal," she said, rather frostily. "I am not convinced, and I don't see why we should have to change our way of life."

Third. The single solitary thing I remember from a humanities class I took in college where we were brushed ever so lightly with the Great Thinkers is Pascal's Wager. I'm sure you all know about this, especially folks like Larissa and Odious and Peculiar, who had that fabulous St. John's education. But I'll recap: Blaise Pascal argued that it was safer to believe in the existence of God than his/her absence. If there's not a God and you believe, the gambit goes, you've lost nothing by believing. If there is a God and you don't believe, boy are you in trouble after you die.

I'm not going to touch Pascal's Flaw, or my own beliefs on the God question, or how I think believing in God the way too many of us are taught to leads to rigid and inhumane behavior. Not my point, although I know some of you might like to muck around in decision theory for a while. But here's what strikes me about Pascal's construction: if we behave as if global warming really is a serious problem worth our attention and it turns out not to be, what have we lost? Besides our inefficient vehicles, our outmoded and resource-intensive technology, and our arrogance? Will it kill us to take a moment away from our other pursuits to demand more fuel efficiency, more bike paths, more personal, corporate, and political accountability?

Whereas if global warming is even half the problem Al Gore and his scientist buddies think it is, and we do not behave accordingly, boy are we in trouble while we--you and I, my clients' grandkids, that teenager's unborn son--live.

We are making the wager not only for ourselves, but other beings to whom we are responsible--people and creatures who cannot choose, as we can, to leave the car in the garage more often, or change out the lightbulbs, or vote for candidates who will protect what remains of the wilderness.

Are we choosing wisely?

Monday, July 10, 2006

a moment of silence

The West African black rhino appears to be gone. Poached to extinction.

Sometimes I'm ashamed to be a primate.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

weed, california

In one direction: Shasta, said to be one of the most magical mountains in the world. I've been about halfway up, a trip where I learned a useful thing--I am not terribly prone to altitude sickness. Home to snow, pine martens (remind me to tell that story sometime), and Lemurians!

In the other: The Hi-Lo Cafe. Been all the way inside that one. Home to fresh-made baked goods, biscuits and gravy, and Hashbrownians!

Friday, July 07, 2006

keeping my head down

As Miniver so helpfully reminds us, Mercury is retrograde right now. A fact which became clear to me the other day when I accidentally sent a private email to a group, or at least thought I had, and had a bit of a sweat until I figured out that I hadn't.

So I'm going to stick with photos a while longer. Safer! And by the way, I'm back in the yay area; I was only in Seattle for the weekend.

This pretty girl is Daisy, companion dog to Princess' sister and her family. They're out of town for a couple of weeks, and when we showed up Saturday night, sweaty, sunburned, and snippy, she wasn't too sure about us.But we won her over.

We couldn't find where the dogsitter had hidden her ball, so we bought a new one (Seattle is a very good place to buy things for dogs, if you're wondering) and discovered that the rumor was true: this girl is indefatigable.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Hmm. Looks like a brother to this fella. For some reason I find the boots unnerving. But not as much as the fact that he's, well, apparently stoned and partaking of his own flesh.

It is too easy, when choosing Seattle images, to involve fish, eagles, or coffee. So I'm trying to skip all those.