Saturday, July 30, 2005

a brief report of decency

An excerpt from an AP story I read in the Chronicle about the terrible flooding in Bombay:

    "One minute we were hanging onto the rope, and the next my cousin slipped, and his head went under water," Bhargava said, shuddering. "I tried to pull him out with one hand, but my legs gave way. I kept shouting for help, but people couldn't hear me above the roar of the water."

    As he fought to stay above water, hands grabbed him and pulled him onto a tree by the side of the road. He spent the night with the strangers who had saved his life...His cousin was pulled to safety by people farther along the road.


    This hectic cosmopolitan city may be famed across Asia for its movie industry, its wealthy stockbrokers and its powerful business clans, but this week it proved something else: It looks after its own.


    The people who rescued Bhargava and his cousin were among the still-nameless Bombay residents who offered help despite the dangers, or who opened their homes to strangers, or who fed tea and biscuits to people wading past in waist-deep water.
Now was that so hard? A news story that mentions something noble that people have done.

I don't want whitewashed puff pieces about the bonnie state of the world. And I don't want the newspaper filled with feel-good, kitty-rescue stories.

But I'm weary of the unrelenting horror. Terrifying stories of loss, murder, war and natural disaster. It's lopsided and we know it. Because while we all know people who are miserably cruel, we also know people who are exquisitely kind.

And this isn't unique to rural areas nor urban centers. It's not about the eastern hemisphere or the western. It doesn't belong to the Christians or the Hindus. It's just about human beings rising above the muck and showing their decency.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

backlog blog

Charity
Last week, in Kyrie O'Connor's Chronicle blog MeMo, I read some comments she made about the ubiquitous ribbon magnets. While doing the link meander from comments to her post, I read a comment to the effect that we are awash in "philanthropic exhibitionism" these days.

Everyone wants to show how socially, patriotically and culturally worthy/conscious they are. I have to say, I rather like the concept of anonymous giving. That old "right hand not knowing what the left is doing" idea. Public grandstanding of human decency cheapens the whole thing.

Every corporation seems to want the world to know what a bunch of great guys they are because they give "this" much money to "these" causes. Target's walls are covered with graphics lauding their lavish philanthropy to public schools. Does this seem like advertising to anyone? Advertising using the poor, the sick and the victimized as launch pads to obtain a bigger market share?

Team player
I was in an interview once (not for the great job I just accepted, for pete's sake) and was asked if I would mind coming in and training for the job without pay, on my own time? I responded that this idea seemed highly irregular; usually companies (are required to) pay you while you train for a job. The interviewer hastily added that he didn't really mean it, but just wanted to know if I was a "team player." A test of sorts.

Doesn't this rationale open up the field for abuse? Like, "I see you haven't worked for a while and really need this job. So what do you think about giving me a blowjob?" "Oh, no, just joking—just wanted to see if you were a 'team player.'" Hmm.

While waiting for the above job interview to begin, I happened upon a dictionary. Sometimes a random lookup makes the time wasted in bad interviews all worthwhile. Here were the inspirations du jour:

    fairy shrimp n.
    Any of various transparent freshwater crustaceans of the order Anostraca that lack a carapace and characteristically swim upside-down.

    Of course, I couldn't resist the short queen connection. But what a whimsical name for a, decidedly unwhimsical species name, crustacean. Crustacean sounds like something that needs to be scraped off and soaked in antiseptic.

    magianism n.
    the business of being a magi. Which is the plural of the less wholesome sounding magus, defined as a magician or sorcerer.

    Which makes one wonder if Balthasar pulled that gold out from behind the Christchild's earlobe. You know, just a little magic trick for the tyke. Furthermore, what do you think Mary did with the gifts? Did she dab a little myrrh behind each ear before going to temple with Joseph? Rub some on Jesus' skinned knees? These are the questions that plague me.

Voicemail
Sometimes. I confess, I check my voicemail to excess. Especially when I've got a child out of the country or a sweet job offer in the offing. I'm sure it's just my imagination that after the sixth query in one day, the recorded voice sounds...annoyed. I half expect the recording to improvise: "no messages. stop pestering me. go make some damn friends so I'll have something to give you."

That's all for me. I'm done. If you combine bleary and groggy you get bloggy. I feel kind of bloggy right now.

missed you, too

Okay, so I've been away. Had a short contract job and didn't have time or frame of mind to write. Damn, I missed this blogsport.

Before I jump right into the jumbled pile of stored thoughts, I am happy to announce that I've just accepted a job with the Chronicle's online department as a web designer. I am relieved and excited and relieved. Contract work has been slow and disappointing these past six months. I am looking forward to working at a company that:

  • is not tied (at least not directly) to the oil & gas bi'ness,
  • pays me regularly, and
  • is located downtown.
Hair shirts
I'm fascinated by the concept of hair shirts. Or any of the methods of self-mortification that characterize the righteous and the insane. Hair shirts are such a great metaphorical tool. Like when a friend is over-apologizing for some minor infraction and you can tell them to spare you the groveling and just put on a hair shirt.
    hair shirt n.
    A coarse haircloth garment worn next to the skin by religious ascetics as penance.
For my tardiness in keeping up this blog, I've been wearing a hairshirt. Well, a summer-weight hairshirt.

The good old days
This from Michael Chabon The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay:
    "One of the sturdiest precepts of the study of human delusion is that every golden age is either just past or in the offing."
Isn't that the damn truth?

We are always, it seems, too close to our own lives/times to clearly evaluate them. My pet peeve is the doomsday type who insists that people have never been so evil or violent as they are today. It's rather arrogant and myopic to make such comments—like we're so cutting edge now. Makes the survivors of past genocides out to be, I don't know, runner's up in the pageant of human cruelty, doesn't it? Sort of disrespects their nightmare. Seems to me we've adequately shown throughout history that we can be appallingly, consistently inhumane. Modern man is embarrassingly not unique.

Same is true for the positive clichés. So many people think of their childhoods or their grandparents' time as the golden times—replete with sparkling dewdrops and saturated colors—and the present as a gritty, thin, crumbling residue.

By the way, Kavalier & Clay was great. Unexpected twists and difficult passages but ultimately satisfying

Saturday, July 23, 2005

been reading the newspaper again

It's just too hard to read the paper some days. Never mind that the world is full of violence and all that depressing shit. Then, you have to cope with the inane.

Lewis Black decries the startling lack of common sense in the world. (Aside: I think Lewis Black is brilliant. Not just about the common sense thing, either.)

Here's a common, common senseless story from the Chronicle.

Police officers were being accused of not issuing tickets to drivers speeding 5-10 mph over the limit. The inference was that the cops routinely chose to ignore the letter of the law. A police spokesman vehemently denied that this was policy.

First of all, why the hell is this in the paper?

Second of all, is this really a surprise? Of course they don't have a written policy on this! Yet, just what do you think would happen if they started pulling people over for driving 5 miles over the speed limit? Traffic cops would by pulling over 10 cars at a time and the ridiculously backed-up court system would have a judicial aneurysm.

These kind of journalistic debates leave me sputtering incoherently. Idiots.

So this geriatric crossing guard is asked to pee in a cup. No, not a bad joke. Yet another story from the news. Seems this retired old guy has been a crossing guard at a local school for many years. A woman comes up to him (one presumes while he is at his station, clad in his regulation reflective vest) with cup in hand and tells him he has to pee in it. I don't know all the logistics but the septugenarian refuses. And he is fired.

HISD says that its policy mandates firing any employee for refusing to submit to a drug test. This whole war on drugs thing is completely out of control. How would we feel if an employer had the right to scan our personal computers every couple of months to make sure we weren't looking at porn or reading anything subversive or downloading rap or marijuana recipes. For christsake, why isn't anyone objecting? Maybe they have and we just can't hear them over the din of the righteous. The civil liberatarians must be frantically running from issue to issue, so rich is the landscape with violations.

As a graphic designer, I often rant at the stupidity of drug testing. In my job, I'm not likely to drop a crate of cement or drive into a pylon while using my little mouse to remove an eyecatching pimple off the CEO's face in Photoshop.

It's like this. You shouldn't go to work stoned or drunk because your employer is paying you to do a job. Not paying the incapacitated you. Which means you shouldn't go into work sober and hung over or sleep deprived and bitchy, either. Of course, they can't test for sleepiness in the workplace yet. Just wait until the day that your job is dependent on a portable EEG machine rolled from cubicle to cubicle. Bottom line is what you do on your own time is your own damn business.

Monday, July 18, 2005

juror's prudence

Jury duty today.

Why do people call up their friends while sitting in the big-ass juror holding tank? And inform the callees, in hushed tones, I've just gotten to the jury room. It is seven kinds of tedium sitting in the jury room—why would you have to pass that along? Are you that hard up for a sense of importance?

Here's what I did:

  • I spent three hours with the beer drinking song, In heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here... on a continuous loop in the nether regions of my brain. It's a catchy little tune and when I get hold of my dear friend, Lori, who kept singing it Friday night I'm going to... sing it back to her. Loudly.
  • I rediscovered my passion for earplugs. God, I love earplugs in public. Even day-glo yellow ones.
  • I read to the halfway point in "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" and it just keeps getting better.
  • I didn't get picked for a jury. But had the civilized decency not to clap at the end.
  • I was grateful I finally got to answer my jury duty summons without losing any income. The damp silver lining of unemployment.
When I got home I wrote an email and used the phrase "eschew red meat" to describe those healthy poultry-eating types. Eschew something you chew, I just love it. I know, I know. I've had too many dictionaries dropped on my head.

today's news

Lightning bolt strikes family reunion, boy in critical condition

I've always said that family reunions are dangerous. And gatherings on farms in Sugarcreek, Pennsylvania are no exception. But when family members are struck or almost struck by lightning, the greatest tragedy is when they lose their psychological grip and begin speaking on behalf of Deity:

    "They say lightning is rare, but this is very rare for lightning to come down on so many people and not kill anybody," said Larry Bell, whose mother owned the farm. "God was showing his strength."
What in the hell...?

Here's where me and the believers part ways. IF there was a God the Father, and we are supposed to be His c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n, why would He zap the shit out of a 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy and his family to "show us His strength"?

How could anyone witness this and then, praise said god for sparing their lives?
WHAT KIND OF GOD/FATHER WOULD DO THAT? Only a nutcase.
Imagine the (apparently bored) ruler of the universe sitting out there muttering, "Hmmm, I wonder how close I can get with this bolt without actually killing any of them?...Woohooo!"


Village People policeman arrested by real police
    DALY CITY, Calif. — Victor Edward Willis, the original policeman in the 1970s music group the Village People, was arrested by real police who allegedly found a gun and drugs in his convertible.
Sometimes you've got to just wiggle your toes in the bubble bath of Irony.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

utility sick

When I was in London a few years ago, I was amazed at how much the Brits paid for gas and utilities. It seemed ridiculously expensive but, I reasoned, they pay more for a lot of things because they choose to live under a different governmental structure.

I got my electric bill on the same day that I filled up my car this week. Inadequately cooling my modest home (see earlier entries) cost almost $350 last month. Filling my economical Honda Accord cost $32.

All I can say is, Where is my damn socialized medicine?

Friday, July 15, 2005

eating humble crow pie

When I was 16* my parents adopted a boy. No squalling, cuddly bundle of blue was he, however. Michael was a greasy, red-headed, obnoxious eleven-year-old. He was moved into a home with 5 females and my father, who was a policeman in another county and worked shifts that kept him out of the daily fray two-thirds of the time. I was the second of four daughters. Up until this time, our house consisted of my parents and "the girls." Which later mutated to a strangely convent-ish "The Sisters," but that's another story altogether.

Anyway, this was a situation screaming for a social worker but, alas, that wasn't how things were done back then. Michael was a foster child with a family that attended our church. He had had a rough time of it. His father abandoned the family when he was toddler and his mom died when he was 7. He was about to be booted out of his current foster home** when Dad stepped in.

I'm not denying the nobility in saving this urchin from the child welfare system. Not to mention getting that operation to fix his crossed-eyes. But let's not underestimate the misguided machismo of a man who had seen his wife's four pregnancies result in one female child after another. The man wanted a son and he wasn't going to sire one then, goddammit, he was going to pick one up at church.

So, into our estrogen-saturated abode was dropped a pre-pubescent male child. I never took to the little intruder. I was a year or two from leaving the nest for good (unbeknowst to me) and Michael's passage from 11 to 13 did little to endear him to me. As a good Christian girl I tried to act the part but my hardboiled allegiance to truth eventually won out. You don't have to like your family members, you just have to act that way.

Okay, fast-forward. Michael, who is just 4 years my junior, grows up. Well, not very much. Fate set his vertical limit at 5' 2"*** which, through no fault of his own (calm down all ye defenders of the short), seemed to add to his smooth, schmoozy, salesman-like personality. Admittedly, I saw him little after I left home. Once or twice a year for family visits. But as an adult, he started selling Amway and my already jaundiced view was eclipsed by the slamming of the I-can't-believe-he's-my-brother door.

A public reversal
A few years ago my grandmother died. She was 91 and impressive. All of The Sisters (yes) arrived in eastern Florida to pay their respects to the implacable, matriarchal abuela. When I got there, Mom mentioned that Michael was coming. With my usual obeisance to gentility I shot back, But WHY? Mom, in her ever patient, endearing manner said, Enita, she was his grandmother, too. Oh, I grumbled, ceding the point.

Michael arrived and I told myself to make the best of it. This was a family funeral, forchristsake. But gone, apparently, was the plaid jacket and the photos of him with a "babe" on each arm. Warily, I watched and waited. He was quiet and unobtrusive. At one point, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee. The previously mentioned, dead-bolted door cracked open.

I am not a woman averse to reconsidering her point of view, no matter how set in concrete it may have seemed. No matter how scathing and public her former opinions may have been presented.

In other words, I am a woman who can eat crow/humble pie. Now for the etymological part of our show:

    Eating Crow
    The origin seems fairly obvious: the meat of the crow, being a carnivore, is presumably rank and extremely distasteful, and the experience is easily equated to the mental anguish of being forced to admit one’s fallibility. (There's another story about this expression's origin that involves Brits, Americans and poaching crows that, frankly, I found a bit tedious. Suffice it to say, it isn't that interesting or appetizing.)

    Humble pie
    (The British equivalent of eating crow. Abridged here, for those less enchanted by the OED)

    The original umbles were the innards of the deer: the liver, heart, entrails and other second-class bits. It was common practice in medieval times to serve a pie made of these parts of the animal to the servants and others who would be sitting at the lower tables in the lord’s hall...However, it seems it was not until the nineteenth century that the expression humble pie appeared in the sense we now know...The word umbles is a variant form of an old French term noumbles, (originally from Latin lumulus, a diminutive of lumbus, from which we also get loin and lumbar)...umbles also sometimes appeared in medieval times and later in the form humbles. Contrariwise, the word humble (originally from the Latin humilem from which we also get humility) was frequently spelt and pronounced “umble” from medieval times right down to the nineteenth century. (
    www.worldwidewords.org/articles/eatcrow.htm)
I love that they actually use the word contrariwise. Those Brits kill me.
Back to my umbling.
My slowly revised opinion of my naturalized sibling was boosted this past week by the weather. My daughter, on her way to Italy (a graduation present from her moms), was stuck in Atlanta for 24 hours because a storm had delayed her flight and caused her to miss her connection to London. I called my brother to ask him if he could help her. And, dear reader, he came through like...a brother. He drove out to the airport, had her stay with him and took her back the next day. I am just a sap when it comes to my kids. He's in. It took over 30 years, but he's no longer in the "family by name only" category. I admit to an opinionated reversal.

Give me a big ol' slice of that humble crow pie.
 
*I hate not having the facts in line. Update: I was almost 16 (15)
**I'm not sure he was about to get booted. I am sure, however, that he was happy to leave his foster home for ours.
***He is almost 5'2" (5'1" if anyone is counting)

darwin award nominees

Every single week I read a news heading in the paper that goes like this:

  • Man killed crossing the freeway
  • Woman hit by truck trying to get across highway
  • Pedestrian struck while running from fast lane to shoulder
I'm flummoxed. People! We've got a physics dilemma here: Cars fast, people slow.

Wait on the shoulder, walk to the next exit and go under.
Yes, it sucks, but so do eighteen wheels.

Okay, do what you want. Go ahead and take yourself out of the gene pool.

raining frog monkeys

Houston had a drought last month. It's normally as hot and wet as a Finnish sauna here but June was waterless. Well, this past week the rains returned and my dead brown grass resurrected itself (with little or no help from me—I'm no farmer). Along with the return of the green came the sound of frogs under my "pier and beam" house.

I want to know where the hell they came from. Are they like sea monkeys—just waiting to be reconstituted? Unless they are ventriloquists, there must be five of them under my house. Every room is alive with relentless trilling. Since I witnessed no massive amphibian migration (hordes of hot, dry frogs dragging their withered, unappetizing legs across the yard to the crawlspace under my home), I must assume they were there the whole time. Throats parched (with humans, forgive the pun) and unable to make a peep. Maybe they were like those geckos you find under the couch: shriveled up and flat as a tortilla. Then, like cheap toys, they swell up to twice their size when immersed in water.

Anyway, they need to give it a rest. It was all Discovery Channel delight for the first day, but now it sounds like amphibious whining.

Postscript: AHA! I am not alone. Hawaiians have frog issues, too.

And I don't even have hyperacusis.

And if that wasn't enough...
In addition to bringing frogs, the storm managed to trip a breaker. So Barbara went out to the box and switched it back on. It made a decidedly uncooperative sound and switched itself right back off. This bodes poorly. It goes without saying (but I'll do so anyway) that the line affected included the refrigerator. Filled with that day's purchase of a week's worth of groceries. If I have to depend on one more heavy duty extension cord to keep things going in this house, I'm going to park my car on the front lawn and tear all the sleeves off my shirts. We made coffee in the living room.

Monday, July 11, 2005

pinkeye

I attended the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Houston kickoff luncheon today. Very nice. Artista, the restaurant in the Hobby Center. (Tres leches. Tres bien.) It's a very good cause, okay? I know that. But one's observations need not be awash in pink just because one agrees with something in principle.

Witness the birth of Ladylike Activism.
(I am laying claim to the phrase.)
All these otherwise middle-class (and on up) white women who don't seem inclined to political rabble-rousing have taken up this issue with a coordinated vengeance. And swathed it in cotton-candy pink organza. And icing. And matching purses, jackets and ribbons, let's not forget the ribbons.

Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment has, historically, suffered from sexism. There's nothing earthshaking about that fact. Many illnesses specific to women took a back seat to issues that affected men or the population in general. That trend is reversing at a debatable speed because women got angry. But like many female-driven movements spurred by a "hell no, we're not going to take it anymore," this one has toned down to a demureness that I find unsettling.

We should not remain furious all the time because that's impractical and exhausting. I just think we need to rinse out some of the sugar (or nutrasweet, godforbid we lose our girlish figures) and remember that this is still a young fight. Houston is one of the most active and successful Komen affliates in the country yet Race for the Cure has only been here for 15 years. Part of the reason we're facing an epidemic of breast cancer is because we're so far behind in research funding. We're so far behind in research funding because this was a female problem and, in the past, women (and their health issues) were dismissed or ignored. And we sure didn't talk about female parts publicly. Ick.

I'm glad the Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure is around. I'm just tired of all this candy-coated, ladylike behavior.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

panda hyperbole

Headlines
The first two headlines I scanned yesterday from the Chronicle were:

    National Zoo's giant panda gives birth
    3 London bombs exploded nearly at same time
but I read: National Zoo's giant London panda exploded...birth

This has got to be a universal experience. You know, perusing a paragraph and having the adjectives jump a line or two...which enhances or confuses the point.

Birth and Dairy Products
Now about the giant panda. Mei Xiang (may SHONG) is a female giant panda. Giant pandas are an endangered species that does not, on the whole, do a very good job at reproduction. Females ovulate once a year (cry me a river) and are fertile for only about 3 days a year. They generally produce a single birth once every 2 or 3 years.

One must question, on a Darwinian level, why are we so hellbent on compensating for this? I know, I know, they're cute. From a distance. Breeding in captivity doesn't seem to be very successful either. 5 of the 5 cubs born at the D.C. Zoo have not survived. Nor were Mei Xiang and her beau Tian Tian successful in the mating arena—so artificial insemination (champion of lesbians nationwide) comes to the rescue.

Now we have a pregnant panda. Gestation is about 3-5 months (sympathy levels rapidly dropping). And since this whole breeding deal is expensive and rare, Mei has more video cameras trained on her than most celebrities. Finally the moment arrives:

    "Volunteer watchers noticed signs of Mei Xiang going into labor, including restlessness and panting, about 1 a.m." (nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GiantPandas/) The spokesperson adds that she was grunting and "vocalizing."
So everyone is on high alert and a little over 2 1/2 hours later, the panda baby is born.

It weighs in at 3-5 ounces. 3-5 OUNCES, forchristsake. The size, we're repeatedly told, of a stick of butter.

Okay, okay, okay. So you're telling me that a 200 lb. animal makes all this fuss and takes 2 1/2 hours to produce the equivalent of a normal bowel movement? I'm so sorry I can't appreciate the magic here, mired as I am in disbelief. What was all the fuss about? When was the last time you couldn't sleep for 2 hours, then panted and whined because you needed to take a standard-issue dump? I'm not talking about coming back from a nightmare camping trip and have 5 days worth of stress food-retention. I'm talking a stick of butter.

And I'll bet you she felt all bloated and unattractive with those 2 lbs she put on.

Perhaps I'm a little bitter (and have lost all panda sympathy by now). Being a human female, my firstborn was not 1/900th of my body mass. More like 1/20th. And most of us can't sleep, are restless and "vocalize" because our stick of butter has a cantaloupe* leading it out. And labor feels like a giant charlie horse from your rib cage to your birth canal. Which, I might add, is about the size of a stick of butter.

Not to mention that we incubate our young for 9 long months and have the ability to drop at least one every year. We ovulate every damn month and may be fertile up to 12 weeks out of the year. Were it not for the development of brain matter and the basic desire to keep one's teeth from falling out, we could be pregnant every year from 13 to 50.

Thank goodness the civilized have learned to regulate these little miracles—except for those poor sots participating in the Reproductive Olympics (Team Mormon and Original Team Catholic).

Congratulations, Mei. As soon as the stick of butter is large enough, we'll be able to see if it's a male or female because right now everything is TOO tiny. In the meantime, rest up for the strenuous nursing of that baby rat.

*One last thing. I broke one of my critical rules. Comparing anything that is removed from or exits out of the body to fruit. You know, the proverbial grapefruit-sized tumor, godsaveus. The comparison of the panda poop offspring to a stick of butter is quite refreshing. So much better than a small banana or whatnot.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

life, independence & pseudo-poetry

Belated Independence Day to all.

Political Rant Section
I love how our fuzzy relationship with history blunts its connection to current events. What, after all, is a rebel? A revolutionary? A freedom-fighter? We look back at our country's beginnings and never question that the independence-seeking colonists might be labeled terrorists today.

Politicians expound on the bravery of those first Americans. They were seeking, among other things, religious freedom. Yet our leaders see no irony in the modern-day imposition of Christian icons and practices. The Ten Commandments in courthouses, prayer in public schools and legislation based on Biblical interpretation, to name just a few.

Give me that ol' time freedom-from-religion.

We talk about the founding fathers and their commitment against powerful, centralized governments and then call the most serious danger to our civil freedoms since McCarthy, the Patriot Act.

In a related note, I was reading in the paper about our troops in Iraq and their 4th of July celebration. Seems they had roast pig for the occasion. Roast pig. In a Muslim country. Now there's some fucking cultural sensitivity for you.

Movies Everyone Else Has Seen Section
Over the holiday weekend we tried to chip away at the mountain of noteworthy movies we had yet to see. An attempt at (last decade's) cultural awareness.

Anyway, we watched Life is Beautiful for the first time. I purposely avoided learning too much about the movie beforehand; sat down knowing only that it was significant and recommended. So I was emotionally blind-sided by the second half of the film.

What a brilliant performance by Benigni as Guido, the happy-go-lucky Italian Jew who ends up in a the concentration camp with his family.

How heart-wrenching his final scene: prodded by the machine-gun barrel of a nazi soldier, he spies his beloved little son, Giosue, across the compound—well-hidden inside
a discarded cabinet and peering out from a slot in the door. To perpetuate the protective game that he had concocted to shield his son from the horror and hopelessness of the camp, Guido performs this preposterous, cross-dressed "silly walk," while grinning and winking at Giosue as he, Guido, is marched away to his death.

Such love and hope in the face of total despair. I find it hard to imagine anyone objecting to the movie's comic content because they feel it trivializes the holocaust. Because of Benigni's approach, the whole nightmare becomes at once more horrific and more hopeful. How many parents even have the capacity go to such incredible lengths to protect the body and soul of their child?


Domestic Dyslexia Section
Over the weekend, I also did some baking. I love the art and science of cooking. However, since my children have left home, I am less inclined to stand in a hot kitchen cooking copious amounts of comfort food. So, I'm a little rusty. Since we were going to a July 4th celebration on Monday, we needed to bring something. No stranger am I to irony and cliché: an apple pie seemed just the thing.

The pie crust recipe was a dismal failure in the rollout phase but, I comforted myself, it would surely taste great—inundated as it was with butter. But my first broken-fluted-edge crumble tasted...significantly saltier than normal. Damn, damn, damn. I'm SO anal about mis en place and quality ingredients, etc. I looked at the recipe and re-read the ingredient list:

1 teaspoon table salt. Hmmm.
1 teaspoon table salt.

Well, it doesn't take an learning disorder scholar to figure out how I misread that. The pie was okay just as long as you ate it with ice cream. An tolerable solution if there ever was one.


Weird Poetry Section
I've lost faith in spam blockers. I just can't seem to eliminate the junk without slamming the cyber door on legitimate email. The only amusing thing is the way something out there scrambles or inserts words in spam to produce paragraphs of jumbled text. Senseless verbiage, but often strangely poetic. This week's sample:


Daniel was at sandhill when that happened moorish; familiar at obsolescent or even dragoon as in excellent. Eldon was at isotropy when that happened postcondition. Rosalind was at figural when this happened militarist politico at diatom or even degas as in infantrymen.

It looks like someone grabbed all the refrigerator vocabulary magnets and flung them at a great metal wall. It's accidental almost-poetry.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

ahm lichen beer

Oh, constant reader. Or sporadic reader. Here's my hodge-podge. I'd like to blame the following randomness on our culture's growing addiction to sound-bytes but that's crap. A flurry of disconnected ideas is the unrefined ore of thought. I don't have the time or inclination to polish the little lumps. Not much of a diamond lover anyway. ANYHOW, here it is.

Work
Did a one-day training at KBR this past week. Doesn't that just itch to be read KGB? And, their website has one translation option: Russian! No kidding. Known once-upon-a-time as Kellogg, Brown & Root, my agent, it seemed, tried to downplay their relationship to the Mother Ship...but that was bogus. Halliburton is everywhere. Their intranet site is called HALWORLD. As in, "Open the pod bay doors, HAL." A questionable choice, at best.

Death
Death or illness among your extended group of friends can be a litmus test for how far you've drifted away. Someone I had a real affection for, regardless of the lack of regular socializing, died this past week. Janet was quirky, efficient and kind to the bone. You know how sweetness can rise to the surface of a person and be so much more endearing because it breaks through their cpa facade? She was critically ill for two months before passing and I had no idea. I mourned and berated myself for failing to keep in contact. But, the fact is, that is the nature of casual friendships. It is foolish to think that she would have known what was going on in my life, though I know her affection for me and my family was sincere. So is goes. I will miss her. The loss feels sharper than I would have guessed it would. My circle of friends has shrunk–partly because people change and relationships evolve/devolve. Partly because our (Barbara's and my) philosophy and practice of non-monogamy has, it seems, greatly increased the expected distance of waning friendships.

Beer
Speaking of litmus tests (a terrible segue, I admit), it occurred to me that there is a small subset of all the people I know that I might call, for instance, when I've been drinking. Oh, enough with the euphemisms–when I'm good and drunk. It's a curious group. There's also another category, people you can leave voicemail messages for when you are drunk. You have to choose this group carefully (an oxymoron for enebriated decision-makers) because recordings are made to be played back. Over and over. Read on.

We finally went on a St. Arnold's brewery tour. And, goodgodalmighty, it was a hot day. But the beer was cold and delicious. And free. One should always have some self-descriptors that might blossom into country-western lyrics: "I'm a three-beer woman, a fourth token in my hand...I'd trade it in for pale ale, but I ken har'ly stand," etc.

[FYI, I called one of my best friends and my youngest sister in my besotted state. I resisted leaving voicemail messages at my parents' home or The White House.]

Of course, the sainted name of this place caught my attention. Who knew there was a patron saint of beer? Is that even true? I had to research. But I got waylaid at www.catholic.org and never was able to verify if that was, in fact, a "fact." The important thing I did learn at catholic.org(y–I can be such an adolescent) was that you can navigate from Saints & Angels to the Saints Index and just go to town. St. Arnold's description wasn't very enlightening (I kill myself) but there was a feedback box that I was utterly taken by:




How reverent is "Rate This Saint"? It's like Star Search for Saints. Vote on your favorite saint. Runners Up get a gift certificate to the Vatican gift shop.

Words
While I was trying to wrap my brain around this concept of a litmus test, I looked up the word.

Litmus test n
  1. a coloring material (obtained from lichens) that turns red in acid solutions and blue in alkaline solutions
  2. a test that relies on a single indicator

Lichen. Another slangy homonym for my entertainment. I'm likin' me some lichen. I had no idea that litmus was made from lichens.

I think the urge to reduce events to a single indicator is natural but naïve. Yet the concept of a litmus test is so appealing to me. A figurative measurement of intangible catalysts.

Also, I was looking up "occurred" to make sure I'd spelled it right and, ironically, I typed the url incorrectly: www.dicitonary.com. Up comes a site with the masthead "dictionary". I don't get it. If you register a site about dictionaries and you settle on a misspelled url, isn't that embarrassing? It's not like they are making a statement or being tongue-in-cheek. Crackerheads.

Okay, I must evolve into a walking upright position now and get away from this computer. I'm positively perfecting a cyber slouch.