Saturday, December 31, 2005


Have discovered a better language immersion technique than rocking to Thalía : Univision. And by that I mean the website and the TV station (accompanied by a grammar book, of course). Commercials are particularly interesting and instructive (written words with the voiceover pronunciations)!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

"Stress relievers"

Note to self: when transporting condoms filled with flour through airport security, don't choose Philadelphia.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"The substance of things hoped for"

Slate has two really fascinating articles relating to Christmas. In the first one, a minister addresses the problematic Immaculate Conception. Basically, the article posits the notion that even if Jesus had a human father, it doesn't take away from the symbolism of the Christmas story. (There's an awesome quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton: "If a heavenly father, why not a heavenly mother? And if an earthly mother, why not an earthly father? . . . I think the doctrine of the Virgin Birth as something sweeter, higher, nobler than ordinary motherhood, is a slur on all the natural motherhood of the world." I forget how radical those 19th-century American feminists were! Even Lucy Stone is lost on contemporaries.) The second article is an exchange between three theologians about the existence of Jesus, the significance of faith, and the importance of historical and biological accuracy.

Nerdy but interesting articles. I have a tremendous amount of respect for theologians as scholars of texts that some people happen to consider holy -- they analyze, critique, and debate various scriptures like literary hawks dissect a writer's work. That's a rather tough field -- I mean, here are folks who are just double-checking the Greek and Hebrew translations, contributing to a discourse about the cultural roots of and current significance of texts; they're half historians, half literary critics. The only problem is that to understand most their analyses you have to have some familiarity with the texts themselves (and some of us try not to do that anymore). It also just so happens that the subject matter is something for which others have killed or been killed. (Actually, I shouldn't say that... nothing "just so happens.")

Of course, the only reason I think this is all fascinating is because I'm not spending Christmas Eve with family tonight, having declined to attend the apparently mandatory Christmas church service Sunday morning.


Not really a fan of Annie Proulx (her stories are always such depressing reminders that life isn't easily summed up), but the alumni magazine always writes about her. ALWAYS. So I figured, if the latest film based on her work does win a Golden Globe or Oscar or whatever, I should at least be familiar with it before having to read about it in the Spring issue.

Good film! I cried.

And I do think Heath Ledger's performance is brilliant ... although that may be only because I've only seen him in teeny-bopper high school flicks like Ten Things I Hate About You. At any rate, he does a stunning job portraying a character short of words and external affection but boiling with so much more, hemmed in by his own trepidation as well as by social codes and gender constructions.

Gorgeous scenery, too! Ang Lee does an amazing job of visually showing how beautiful and stark and empty Wyoming is, and how beautiful and stark and empty lives of cowboys (especially two in particular) can be.


Pooh turns 80 today! Apparently I looked like Winnie the Pooh as a toddler (and my sisters say I still do), so it's one of my dozen nicknames. To the point where my mother would tape little cut-outs of Pooh onto my college care packages.

Friday, December 23, 2005

It's a Cold, Cold Winter

Continuing the books-from-the-senior-book-recommendation-list, I finished The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah the other night.

In a nutshell, it's about Winter, a ghetto princess who loses her privilege and protection when her drug king father is ultimately busted by the cops. Half the story describes either Winter's shopping sprees or her sexual exploits, since those are the only illusions that can make her happy. But they're not described in any titillating or sensual detail. Souljah writes in Winter's Brooklyn vernacular. She lists things as they happen, with no poetry or lyrical style. Just the bare facts, in one teenger's voice.

Then there's the weird insertion of the author into the story. Throughout the book, Winter hears Sister Souljah on the radio, picks up flyers for a Sister Souljah event, and is referred to a Sister Souldjah discussion group by a friend. Eventually Sister Souljah, as a character in her own story, takes Winter under her wing, exposes her to critical thinking, affairs of the mind, etc. This is the point where the reader thinks Winter will turn her life around. But she doesn't. She's too easily distracted by money and sex, and loses sight of friends, family, and community. The girl is straight up cold in her relations and dealings with other people; she approaches everything and everyone as a business venture to see what she can get from them. She falls in with an up-and-coming drug dealer, and ends up in jail by the age of 18.

I just thought it was a little odd to write yourself into your own book like that, as a beacon of hope for a little ghetto superstar who winds up serving time because she won't listen to you. I was thinking this might be a parallel to hip-hop music, where artists write themselves into their own lyrics.

In all, The Coldest Winter Ever wasn't a great book, and I didn't think it was particularly well-written. I couldn't relate to the main character, and I found myself unable to empathize with her, either. (Your family's belongings have been confiscated by the police, you're technically homeless, you have limited funds availalble, and you go shopping for designer gear every other day???) And yet I couldn't stop reading the book! I didn't particularly care what happened to Winter; I just wanted to see how she'd draw on her street smarts to get out of the messes life kept throwing her. But she doesn't, and ultimately the point is that she can't. Sister Souljah so drastically took the rags-to-riches American "dream" and tore it down: Winter's riches-to-rags nightmare isn't first and foremost a commentary on the state of the inner city. It's a portrait of how money, sex, and beauty are fleeting, and therefore so are any human connections based on them.

It's the first book from the '01 book recommendation list that I've liked somewhat!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mucho queso

I have six months to learn to converse in Spanish. Or more accurately, to possibly give a short speech and toast in Spanish, and talk to people afterwards.

So I've been listening to Thalía. Specifically, her Dance Hits Remixed album. All the dance tunes are awesome, and make the morning bus rides bearable.

But I don't think it's helping me with the grammar!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ghosts of Christmas Past

One of my favorite real-life Christmas stories used to be the Christmas truce of 1914, for two reasons:

1. In middle school, I discovered the John McCutcheon song "Christmas
in the Trenches"
one day at the library; and

2. My mother made me watch the children's story "Silent Mouse" whenever it aired on PBS, and it briefly alludes to the first holiday season of the Great War.

My other favorite real-life Christmas story is, of course, Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cocktail party fodder

A group called KnowledgeNews had an interesting ad in's Word of the Day:

"A Cure for Brain Flab!
One brain-building, at-a-glance email a day helps keep unsightly ignorance away."

Apparently getting factoids emailed to you, for $19.95 a year, is analogous to going to the gym; and the marketing certainly plays up the feel-bad-about-yourself angle. Because of course, brain-building doesn't have inherent value; in order for its absence to be "unsightly," others have to notice it and care...

Can't people just pick up a book of their own choosing?

Besides, does the same thing for free. =)

Friday, December 16, 2005

More Bluntness

Currently sandwiched between Tupac and the Megs on one of my playlists is James Blunt's "Out of My Mind."

Judging by the look on the organ-grinder,
He'll judge me by the fact that my face don't fit.
It's touching that the monkey sits on my shoulder.
He's waiting for the day when he gets me,
But I don't need no alibi - I'm a puppet on a string.
I just need this stage to be seen.
We all need a pantomime to remind us what is real.
Hold my eye and know what it means.
I'm out of my mind.

Normally, I wrap Christmas presents to Christmas music. But the Time-Life Treasury of Christmas gets old after a while. . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Makers and Missions

Today's birthday girl chose the Sterling Cafe for her dinner. Excellent food! It's all-organic (or almost so), and she was really psyched to try the kefir, but they were out so she had to settle for the kombucha instead. Apparently it all conforms to the Maker's Diet. Her cousin and sisters, on the other hand, opted to split a bottle of wine. (If it's red can we swing it as a healthy drink, too?)

Yesterday's birthday boy chose Mission. Not a big fan of the food, but I'm admittedly automatically suspicious of "gourmet" Mexican restaurants -- I feel like the cuisine of La Raza is supposed to be simpler, earthier, and available in greater quantities. But the place serves a GREAT exceptionally strong drink called the Bartender's Margarita. Yowsa!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Planet That's Evolving

Sometimes an eCard says it better than a paper card (which wouldn't reach Chicago by tomorrow, anyway!): Monty Python's The Meaning of Life as a birthday greeting!

The Fox!

The Legend of Zorro is currently playing at the Admiral, that awesome West Seattle bastion of second-run films. I liked it better than The Mask of Zorro!!! Then again, the old 1958 version (The Sign of Zorro) is a film I think I've seen the most in my life, second only to The Great Escape. But I digress... I LOVED this sequel!

However, there are a TON of historical discrepancies, the first being that the film wants to take place 1861 by having Abraham Lincoln and the Confederacy make appearances. The whole storyline revolves around California attaining statehood in time to join the Union before the Civil War. But since California became a state in 1850, that's when the story has to occur, even though Lincoln was still practicing law in Illinois and the Confederacy obviously hadn't formed yet. Also, the intro sentence claims that Californians were "poor and desperate" and wanted statehood (implying that joining the United States brought economic prosperity), but I always thought the Gold Rush of 1848 brought a hell of a lot of business to California (though maybe not the Los Angeles area so much), for better or worse, and sped up the process of statehood. It also brought ethnic conflict, and I doubt that Latinos were allowed to vote for statehood, as the movie happily portrays.

All of this was in the back of my mind as I watched the movie, but I'm learning to suspend belief. (In my younger, more intolerant years, I would've hated this movie because of its inability to insert itself properly into history. Ah, but wisdom comes with age... or maybe it's apathy, not wisdom! Like I said, I loved this movie.) Then again, post-Civil War American history interests me more, so I don't necessarily care that much to do the research.

The cheesy opening scenes have Zorro saving a ballot box full of brown people's votes from the bad guy who doesn't want statehood. I think this opener can only make sense to a post-Election2000 audience! But it's the kind of movie that kids would love because there's a kid who gets to participate in all the action; the heroine likewise gets to kick some ass; and there's a cheesy secret international organization out to rule the world. So many holes, historical and otherwise, but it was all good fun.

Speaking of films, I can't wait for King Kong!!! I had to watch the original twice for a class back in the day, and this latest version apparently is fairly faithful to the 1933 film. But of course it can't appeal to its audience in the same ways (there's no Depression wreaking havoc in cities, but there are different monsters for a modern audience). So I'm curious to see what's been changed for 21st-century viewers, and how those viewers might read a storyline that is placed in the 1930s.

Le Chef

Making a real Sunday breakfast while finishing up writing the holiday cards proves that it's going to be an AWESOME winter!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Back to Bedlam

Because I heard James Blunt's hauntingly beautiful song once, I borrowed the entire album to rip. And DAMN it's excellent! I might have to buy it. The whole album is essentially an anthem to jaded, disaffected human relations, but that's fine. It'd go nicely with my Keane album, which is all exploratory and innocent.

"You're Beautiful" is still my favorite, but "Cry" and "Goodbye My Lover" are now up there too. Seriously, "Cry" is so good I have to post the lyrics, sans le fromage, although I fully expect to hear it on an OC or Seventh Heaven episode soon:

I have seen peace. I have seen pain,
Resting on the shoulders of your name.
Do you see the truth through all their lies?
Do you see the world through troubled eyes? . . .

I have seen birth. I have seen death.
Lived to see a lover's final breath.
Do you see my guilt? Should I feel fright?
Is the fire of hesitation burning bright? . . .

You and I have lived through many things.
I'll hold on to your heart.
I wouldn't cry for anything,
But don't go tearing your life apart. . . .

I have seen fear. I have seen faith.
Seen the look of anger on your face.
And if you want to talk about what will be,
Come and sit with me, and cry on my shoulder,
I'm a friend.

Not Feeling the Love

The Fam Peeps, as they are known in my cell phone contact list, went and bought the Christmas tree without me this year. (And it's not the typical Charlie Brown tree we normally get, either...)

Plus, to pour salt in the wound, they decorated it without me! There are only three decorations I care about putting on the tree -- the little bead figure I picked out at a bazaar when I was six, the Frosty and Crystal ball, and the unicorn I broke when I brought it for Show and Tell in kindergarten. Hmmph. Rearranged those three. Showed them. Bah humbug.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Carte blanche

I spend waaaaay too much time finding the perfect birthday cards for people, and matching the cards in the holiday card sets to the people who will be receiving them. =) But it's fun! Cards always scream people's names at me!

Watching people watching people

And, from the ever-fascinating world of observations in human behavior, a new study in Germany indicates that the larger the group watching someone in trouble in a public space, the less likely anyone is to offer help. The exception is when the situation turns violent or dangerous.

Gut reaction: "That's horrible! See? People are uncaring, unfeeling monsters en masse! Where's the humanity???"

Rational but optimistic reaction: Maybe people don't offer help when there are others around because they assume someone else will. Degree of responsibility lessons, not necessarily the level of compassion.

Need to work on overcoming those visceral judgments....

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Just a tad fishy

A new creature may have been "discovered" in Borneo, according to the WWF. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but this seems suspicious:

Researchers hope to confirm the discovery by setting cage traps to catch a live specimen, but warn that Indonesian government plans to clear the rainforest to create the world's largest palm oil plantation may interfere with plans, WWF said.

The proposed plantation scheme, funded by the China Development Bank, is expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares, equivalent to about half the size of The Netherlands, said the WWF, formerly known as the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The potential new species of carnivore in Borneo would be the first since the discovery of the Borneo ferret-badger in 1895, the WWF said.

Pictures of the animal were first taken by WWF researchers in 2003, the photos kept unpublished by the WWF as research continued.

The WWF's website claims its "researchers have not yet established whether this is an entirely new species or if it is a new species of marten or civet cat, which looks like a cross between a cat and a fox." Also, the animal "might remain a mystery for ever, if its habitat is not adequately protected."

I agree, protecting wildlife and the environment are top priorities (I think I donated to WWF once). It just seems like such perfect timing that photos of a potentially new creature are released right when bulldozing plans are becoming a reality.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Still incredibly sore from hauling all my worldly possessions eight blocks!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Livin' La Vida Lazy

Vegging out is kind of fun! I can't remember the last time I stayed in my apartment all day! I can't even preten to have read anything. All I did was talk on the phone and watch movies. This is so cool! I should do it more often...

Psycho aside, I've never found Hitchcock's movies particularly scary; they're more general psychological thrillers. Marnie seems like Hitchcock's attempt at pseudo-Freudian interpretation. The basic plot is that Sean Connery's character (strangely) pursues a woman who won't have sex with him. She has rabid reactions to lightning storms, the color red, and men touching her. Her horribly scarring childhood event was cliched and predictable, and the movie dragged on for too long to reveal it to the viewer. But I guess in 1964, topics addressed in Marnie weren't kosher for public discussion, so a film can be so indirect for two hours. It reminded me of Butterfield 8. The two movies polarize the issue of abuse: Elizabeth Taylor's character in B8 becomes the slut, while Tippie Hedren's Marnie is the psychotic virgin. Both films also isolate a legitimate social problem, by placing assault solely in the realm of the lower classes; and both seem like vaguely disguised morality tales about the dangers of single motherhood.

So after that mega-downer, I watched The Medallion. It totally dripped cheese!
But I love all Jackie Chan movies, no matter how dorky. They're so formulaic and logic-defying, it's awesome! Sure, they sometimes appeal to stereotypes -- the gangsters, the stuffy or bumbling Brits, and the "magic" of the "Orient" (here I use the "postmodern quotes"). But they're funny! And they're always intergenerational --there's usually a kid involved. I also love how Jackie Chan movies are these happily oblivious East-meets-West tales, with a random black guy thrown in for added dimension. It's a brilliant, reliable success story. And hey, The Medallion is one movie aimed at American audiences where you actually see an Asian male kiss a woman on-screen. Go Jackie!

When I ransacked the family collection of DVDs, two I hadn't seen included Kingdom of Heaven and The Passion of the Christ. I refused to see both in theatres, but ran off with the former, since it at least features Orlando Bloom. However, history nerds shouldn't watch epics. Period (no pun intended)!
Basically, this movie is trying to be a metaphysical Braveheart. But at one point, Orlando Bloom says "I have lost my religion," and I couldn't help but sing the REM song to myself! After that, I couldn't take it seriously and had to stop.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Take the Story You've Been Sold...

Since 1993, the day after Thanksgiving has usually been Buy Nothing Day in the US. So on the start of the holiday shoping frenzy. I'm packing things in boxes and listening to Dar Williams' "Bought and Sold" and Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Throw It All Away" in an effort not to walk downtown and buy new gadgets for the upcoming move.

Last year I was purchasing items tax-free in Portland, so I know my weaknesses. I just packed all the shoes I won't wear in the next four days! I think I'm also in another value-people-not-things mood, which actually makes it easier to double-check if I really need something before I put it in a box.

Maybe I'll return the North Face coat tomorrow . . .

This Year's Moveable Feast

The Maker's Diet has inspired one of my sisters to change her eating and buying habits. So our Thanksgiving meal consisted of a free-range turkey, cous-cous, kale salad, and only half the normal amount of mashed potatoes. (I almost forgot to have cranberry sauce, since I'm the only one that eats it and it was hidden in the back cabinet.) Dessert was (organic) pumpkin pie and (organic) pumpkin shake. Beverages were (organic) sparkling pear and cranberry juice. No lemon cream pie, tablet, lumpia, or pancit this year. (Maybe at Christmas?) But still a very good meal, if lacking in the ties to tradition that surface in most Americans evey fourth Thursday in November. And my sister can prepare good dishes!

Oh, but the guest. There must be some law of nature that when guests are present at family gatherings, the innate weirdness of each family member becomes their defining characteristic, despite their best efforts to quell it and appear normal. Sometimes those guests (especially those your sister doesn't know how to get rid of and is therefore stringing along) flee because they can't handle the simultaneous conversations (in English, bad Spanish and Tagalog, and halting French), odd historical and literary references, fond name-calling, and spontaneous dancing. But despite the odd genetic tendencies, it's always heartening to reaaffirm that post-turkey charades can still be played for two hours, with three people who are not keeping score!

I also made off with several DVDs, and am looking foward to vegging out for the rest of the long weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Trivializing the Bard

Every Friday, the BBC website has a pop quiz of current events. Nice surprise to see a Shakespeare quiz today.

Quiet and Misty

It's been really foggy and misty at night lately, and IT'S AWESOME!!!! Not the clammy, cold kind of fog, either. Smoke from chimneys gives it all a warm, cozy feeling., and the empty streets and hazy streelights are so mysterious and alluring.

I like fog!

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

--- Carl Sandburg

Monday, November 21, 2005

Bittersweet Symphony (great techno remix, btw!)

Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried,
Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide
"Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?"
And -- "A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied.

-- Omar Khayyam, Fitzgerald translation

This week is especially difficult. Friday will be exactly four years to the day that Dad died. (It'll also be the biggest shopping day of the year! Woohoo!) It's really hard not to relive the entire sequence of events, especially since people keep asking. But paradoxically, it's also hard not to step back and replay the same events from the point-of-view of an imaginary and impartial observer.

I do that sometimes: remove myself from personal attachments, and just observe behavior patterns in my life and the lives I encounter. As a human, of course, one can never truly objectively observe social interactions; that would lack pathos. But to the extent that it's possible, life as humans live it is oddly hilarious. Perhaps "bittersweet" is a better word. Greek theatre to the contrary, to me most moments in life inextricably blend tragedy and comedy; it seems that every personal tragedy has some element of comedy, and every hilarious instance has an undercurrent of sadness.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Accenting the Stereotype

The Morning News had a silly article on how American women swoon over British accents. But like all jokes, it had a grain of truth to it.

There are so many fascinating intersections of nationalism, colonialism, gender construction, and class wrapped up in the squealing "Ooooh! Such a cute accent!" (Half of all British accents are unintelligible to American ears anyway. Didn't MTV put subtitles on an Oasis interview once? And the Gallaghers were fairly understandable. ) Seriously, there's an entire psychological realm to mine here!

Arrrgghh. Lately everything is too superficial for me. I want everything to be greater in depth. Maybe that alienates people.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ice Cream

When did Ben and Jerry's stop selling One Sweet Whirled? I can't find it anywhere! I could eat an entire carton of it right about now... topped with Bailey's, of course. A lot of Bailey's...

Siren Songs

Thanks to the Sirens for introducing me to Dar Williams' "As Cool As I Am" a few years ago. GREAT bond-of-womanhood anthem about why it's beneath women to be used as pawns against each other over stupid, egotistical men.

I'm also extremely thankful right now that people forced me to listen to these songs, which are currently on my playlist:
Skunk Anansie, "Weak"
Billy Joel, "And So It Goes"
Leonard Cohen, "Hallelujah"
Travis, "Driftwood"
Badly Drawn Boy, "Walking Out of Stride"
Badly Drawn Boy, "A Minor Incident"
REM, "Texarkana"
Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"

Hibernation time

(Although polar bears don't really hibernate ... this is just an accurate picture of life this week!)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Black and White and Read All Over

Lately, I haven't been paying attention to the news. But I have been reading The Morning News, which basically just scans daily news sites for stories, which I think I first read about in an alumni magazine because some Mayflower Hill alum writes for it. The Morning News is kind of like Fark, except that it's not just funny stuff. Most of the content is rather nerdy, such as:
levels of diplomatic immunity.

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Books...

Amazon sells the entire Penguin classics collection for $8000. A guy bought it as a birthday gift for his wife, whose personal library was destroyed in a forest fire.

Of course, if he'd gone with the Dover Dollar Classics, he might've saved a bit...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

See Rainster Paint. Paint, Rainster, Paint!

When you accompany a friend to an art supply store so she can purchase a flesh-colored acryllic to cover up her nose ring for her upcoming med school interview (no, makeup didn't work), sometimes you end up being Inspired to Create Art. (This can especially occur when both a small canvas and a set of oil pastels are on sale for a dollar each. There's a cheap, starving artist in everyone.)

Oil pastels, however, smudge quite easily. They stick to your fingers and smear all over everything when you accidentally drop the canvas and then pick it up, utilizing fingers smudged with different colors of pastels. They also leave streaks in the bathroom sink, which still has wax residue from your last cheap, time-consuming project.

The finished product might look like something created by the brightest toddler in your sister's preschool class. But it's all good! It was messy and fun and different.

Maybe Utrecht has tubes of oil paint on sale!!!!!!

Friday, November 11, 2005

French Fries, Two by Two

Mikey's two-fry rule is still one of those inexplicable laws of nature. It goes something like this: in every batch of french fries, if you eat them in pairs, you end up with no leftover fries.

But, since you don't count the small ones or the broken ones (and sometimes you forget you're testing the two-fry rule when eating the french fries), it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. =)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Gobbledy Gaynor

This rendition of "I Will Survive" is hilarious! Now I won' t be able to sing it at karaoke without cracking up!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

"A" is for...

Thinking I'd read my cousin's blog before talking to the grandparents, I came across her latest musings.

In fact, I'm not sure if it's only the weather, or if I've reached "that" age where a person begins to crave their natural home. I've watched many friends slowly saunter their ways back, some right after school, some after a few years in another town, yet with few (but how feisty!) exceptions all have returned to the places they grew up. Of course this makes sense on a logical level, there are families, friends and familiarity in these places, but I also feel there is something more to it. I'm reading The Scarlet Letter with my kids and there is a part that talks about how people are bound by intangible yet irrevocable ties to the site of their greatest sadness. I feel like this idea gets closer to the real reason than the logical explanation. Of course I'm not saying that everyone had a terrible childhood and this is why they ultimately come back to their hometown; I just wonder what it is really. Especially now because I'm feeling the draw too in a surprisingly powerful way. Hmm...

(Bold emphasis mine.) I had to read Hawthorne's classic three times, but strangely enough I don't recall this particular part. Of course it would take another language-oriented person to point it out. Or rather, it would take a Palmer to do that. Oh wait, that's a little redundant. There are no non-humanities people in the family. Suffice to say, this is the cousin I'd run into at regional spelling bees.

But yeah, cuz. I did just that. Who knows, maybe we all do.

And now, prone to genetic moodiness, I'm reminded of Kipling's poem "The Recall." (Despite any political judgements of Kipling, he wrote some damn good poems.)

I am the land of their fathers,
In me the virtue stays;
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers,
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation,
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night,
The hours, the days and the seasons
Order their souls aright;

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.

On a related note, why do they always make teenagers read that tale about Puritans bearing a child out of wedlock?

I just need to say...

I'm in love with my newest pair of shoes!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sometimes, you spend a Saturday evening sobbing senselessly after getting an email from the family you spent Thanksgivings with in college (it's also almost a year to the day I found out he'd get shipped out -- and it's almost Thanksgiving):

-----Original Message-----
This is email correspondence that places the reality of war and the politiical process (or lack of political process) in Congress side by side.


Congratulations on your new child! Gretchen and I have five children, and we know what a blessing they are. Please accept our best wishes.

Thank you for the press release by Tom calling for an investigation by Congress on the justifications for the war in Iraq. While I laud Tom for making this call, I was offended at the rhetoric that focused blame just on the Republicans but more so at the extraordinary absence of a connection with the human suffering by Americans and Iraqis in this war, a war based upon the slenderest thread of justification to initiate and to continue to prosecute. It is this disconnect by politicians and their staffs that Gretchen and I talked about with you on September 26th in your Washington offices. . . .

Yesterday afternoon I received a call from Ben, our son serving in Ramadi. Remember him? He unburdened himself of the continued bloodshed he witnesses daily in Iraq. He was on his way to secure a site where the helicopter crashed that carried two Marines to their deaths. The Humvee in front of him was blown up and his good friend and soldier of the Vermont National Guard, was killed. Witnessing another senseless death, he said that this was a stupid political war being run by stupid politicians who had no regard for life. He said that the politicians began with a very bad idea and have allowed it to get worse. He despaired that politicians and the American people have abandoned the troops by their indifference.

I hope that you will find that human connection and convince Tom that he must also. I hope Tom will make a genuine effort to convince his political friends and together you all will do something about opening up this war for us to view in the light of day for ourselves. Take it from me, your child will grow up fast, and you and that child you have just welcomed into this world may be where Ben and I are ? alone and abandoned by our government.


Dear Ben,

This is all too sad. I hope this hole will be replaced by good memories to counter the bad ones - even though the bad ones won't go away. I wish I were there to give you a hug and to play cribbage and let you talk all of this through. Maybe in February we will do just that one night. I will get the bottle of Cointreau.

It is getting colder here, but the leaves still cling to the trees, even in November. That is a good omen -when life has a strong grip of its own.

Remember what my Grandfather used to say, "In Maine, the trick is to get through the winter, the rest will take care of itself." We will find a way to get through this winter. I hope it snows like hell in Iraq all winter.




Dear Mom and Dad,

These days are long and draining and I feel the LT's loss very much. When you work with a man so closely for so long it is hard to watch him go. We started with 16 men I believe in our platoon and he was one of them, always out with us and always giving everything. There is a hole that we feel now and nothing can replace him. We did our job and it was the right decision to go and try to secure the helicopter crash site. We all knew it was our job because we didn't want to leave those who might have been in need. It is a sad time to see two aweful things in one day and I have been very sad with the whole state of affairs. We will move on and pray that no more of this happens. I will think a long time on this day and cannot wait till my time is up here and I can go home. I love you both very much and can't wait to see you.

Rep. Tom Allen Votes to Urge Congressional Investigation of Misleading Justification for Iraq War, Condemns oversight committees' refusal to investigate Administration statements properly

Washington, D.C. -- Representative Tom Allen today called on Congressional leaders to conduct a long-avoided investigation of the Bush Administration's stated justifications for war in Iraq. He voted for a resolution that urged the Republican leadership to comply with Congress' oversight responsibilities and condemned their refusal to oversee an Executive Branch controlled by the same party as contrary to the established rules of standing committees and Congressional precedent.

"The majority has failed miserably," said Representative Allen, the only current member of the Maine Congressional Delegation to vote against the war in Iraq. "My constituents in Maine are outraged that Congressional committees have refused to conduct meaningful investigations into the misleading justifications for war made by Administration officials. Over the last two years, I have joined colleagues in responding to the public's outcry by writing numerous appeals to committee chairmen, introducing legislation, and making public appeals for proper nvestigations, but all have fallen on deaf Republican ears."

Neither of Congress' two premier oversight committees, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee or the House Government Reform Committee, has held even one hearing on the White House's misleading statements regarding threats posed by Iraq in the lead up to the war. The Senate Intelligence Committee agreed to resume its stalled 20-month investigation into the Bush administration's statements about the Iraqi threat only after Democrats forced the Senate to debate the justification for war in closed session. The former Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is now CIA director, in 2003 flatly refused to investigate the Administration's use of intelligence on Iraq.

"The public trust demands openness and accountability in our government," said Representative Allen. "One-party control of government leads to abuses of power and policy unless the Legislative Branch exercises its oversight responsibilities under the checks and balance system. Unfortunately, current leaders in Congress have chosen to abrogate their duty to the public, by refusing to investigate abuses about the decision to go to war, including the manipulation of pre-war intelligence and the public naming of a covert operative. I am committed to making sure the truth is not covered up."

White Mules

Supposedly a rare creature among hybrids, they have been spotted congregating in public places far away from Mayflower Hill. Half a table at Emerald City Swank? Wow!

On a side note, a simple google search of "white mule" reveals a Williams Carlos Williams story, a Knoxville curse,, and a mule birth. All of it's really interesting! And all I wanted was the cute stuffie...

The Journey is Everything

Montaigne believed the journey, in itself,
Was the idea. Yet from this moving plane
I look down on the dazzle of the world,

Conscious of his words but wondering
When, when shall I be here, at journey's end?
The journey, said Montaigne, is everything.

Two hours ago the setting out began
With words of love. It is too soon to be
In love with landscape, altering below --

The flight upriver and the dwindling hills --
As if I came for this, a traveler,
And every wisp of cloud were an obsession.

It is too soon! The journey is myself,
Concerned with where I was, where I must go,
Not with the clouds about me (what of them?),

Not with the morning skies -- nor would Montaigne
Have noticed them, his mind on other things,
The journey is my heartbeat in this plane.

Yet with more time? Were the excursion longer
To the Cote d'Azur et d'Or, perhaps, La Mer,
The hyacinth fields of Haarlem, Tanganyika,

The river Lethe of the Perpentine,
The Fortunate Isles or Nepal -- anywhere,
I might discover what his words still mean:

The journey, in itself, a thing apart.
But no. These words are older than Montaigne's:
The sky is changed. I have not changed my heart.

-- Helen Bevington

Friday, November 04, 2005

It's been a year...

...since the infamous Nov 3 shopping sprees. Sets of friends in most blue states admit to them.

Yowsa! Waxing and Waning...

Once again, caveat emptor. This kit should be used with caution:

Granted, it says in the instruction manual that "Practice Makes Perfect." But nowhere on the package does it say "For microwaves only." For those of us who pretend to not own microwaves because we're trying to get back in touch with the therapeutic aspects of cooking (really it's because kitchen counter space and sockets are limited, and the coffee maker takes precedence), there were no instructions for stovetops!

Lessons learned from winging it ghetto-style:
1. A watched wax jar never boils.

2. Wax will get all over your bathroom. It will also get all over the kitchen, if that's where you boiled the water to heat the wax to "a liquid consistency" -- and most especially if you ran, one mitted hand holding the pot with boiling water, and another mitted hand holding the wax jar. It can leave a taffy-like trail on the carpet between your two rooms.

3. Only the mysterious blue liquid in the blue vial will remove wax residue from your person. But not the carpet or tiles. Also, the cotton balls you want to douse with the blue potion will stick to places on your fingers that you didn't know the wax touched.

4. Salons have an important niche in our society and pride. Even if you have bad luck there.

So, yeah, Parissa.... "Practice makes perfect." Can I play Anne Shirley sometime?

And all to wear a pair of trousers after all!

Oh, bah!

Believe it or not, I have never seen Oprah. So the day I have an 8am meeting and therefore can jet early, I was kinda looking forward to watching it when I got home. (Not that this was the highlight of leaving work early...)

But instead, due to excessive rain and wind, Channel 5 was too fuzzy. Normally it's only fuzzy for Law and Order. Sometimes I swear, there are signs that some things at least don't need to change! And, if I don't know what I'm missing...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hills Like White Elephants

. . The woman came out from the bar.
'Four reales.'
'We want two Anis del Toro.'
'With water?'
'Do you want it with water?'
'I don't know,' the girl said. 'Is it good with water?'
'It's all right.'
'You want them with water?' asked the woman.
'Yes, with water.'
'It tastes like liquorice,' the girl said and put the glass down.
'That's the way with everything.'
'Yes,' said the girl. 'Everything tastes of liquorice. Especially all the things you've waited so ong for, like absinthe.'
'Oh, cut it out.'
'You started it,' the girl said. 'I was being amused. I was having a fine time.'
'Well, let's try and have a fine time.'
'All right. I was trying. I said the mountains looked like white elephants. Wasn't that bright?'
'That was bright.'
I wanted to try this new drink. That's all we do, isn't it - look at things and try new drinks?'
'I guess so.'
The girl looked across at the hills. . . .

I think this story and that loveable mofo, DJ Zen, are what I think of when I think of absinthe. Which made Halloween weekend interesting. The ritualistic aspect to making the drink explains why Hemingway loved it so much.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

And I Don't Know What to Do...

I'm still very much obsessed with James Blunt's hit "You're Beautiful." The video too is strangely fascinating -- none of the normal flashy stuff for an ADHD TV audience. There's one set, one camera, one singer singing directly at the camera.

Of course, there's the weird question about whether or not he's jumping off a cliff to go swimming, or to end his misery. (Why else arrange everything in your pockets in a nice, straight line? Even though some of us do that all the time...)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Emperors and Chinstraps

So stodgy old Penguin, the publishing giant, must be trying to hipsterize itself.

A well-known comic artist (or so a quick Google search shows, since I know nothing of comic art) has drawn the cover art for Penguin's new release of Candide, one of my favorite books. And I can't find an online image large enough to read the comic! Savvy web marketing, Penguin people! How will I know to buy it if I can't read the cover? How will I know if I approve of graphic art gracing the cover of great classics? I do, of course, but am just curious as hell... =)

Also from Penguin, The Elements of Style is now illustrated, putting a new twist on Language Arts teachers' mantra of "Show vs Tell! Show vs Tell! Show vs Tell!" It's also been made into a song, apparently. Part of me appreciates such a statement about communication and the melding of the visual, language, and performing arts. The other part of me wants to forget I was given three copies of the Strunk and White classic before the age of 16.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Note to Trainers Who Give Prizes During Pop Quizzes

If you give big black plastic Halloween-toy arachnids (can't even type the S-word) as a prize to someone in the front row, a person blogging in the back row might look up and squeal rather loudly.

Those things might be fake, but they're huge! And they look real!

Plus, if a certain trainee has already established herself as the trainee who spills coffee all over the snack table first thing in the morning, she might begin to think that the gods are amusing themselves directing the course of her day. (She can laugh at this herself, but is further justified in distrusting deities.)

Woof Woof, Pavlov!

No joke, I stood for a good full minute or so with my soapy hands beneath a faucet, before I realized it wasn't an automatic sensor faucet. I even hunted for the sensor!!! And then I finally saw the hot and cold water handles on each side of the faucet.


Which reminds me, how long has it been since I've seen a non-sensor faucet in a corporate restroom? Not that this is one of life's more pressing questions. (Thanks to a recent award recipient I now know a great quote about life's pressing questions ... even if I heard said quote at an ungodly early breakfast for a beloved nonprofit. But I digress.)

And yes, the software training I am attending provides ample opportunities for blogging. =)

Cheesy Pop moment #528

Heard this song last Saturday during a particularly hectic Ballard-to-Rainier Valley-four-times trip, and now I can't get it out of my head.

I love the video, too! It contains an example of a classic behavior pattern for mildly OCD people! (If anyone has had dinner with me and observed me arranging the utensils, there's a scene in this video that should strike a chord!)

Pleasant surprise in the Lone Star State

Washingtonians "Tim" and "Diana" (Seattle karaoke buddies coincidentally in Austin for separate business meetings) were waiting to sing at a dive bar, and figured out that Austin has a smoke-free ordinance! After chatting with the bartender, I learned it passed 52-48%, and took effect Sept 1.

And apparently the bartender's tips have gone down significantly since...

At any rate, at least I didn't smell like smoke afterwards. =)

And we learned the hard way that if you don't know the karaoke host, it kind of sucks.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

And the moral of the story is...

If a book is recommended to you by the paranoid but sweet lady next door (who was robbed one night while you were home and just thought she was just moving her furniture), and said book also is on your Senior Class Book Recommendation list (from which you have recently decided to choose reading material), it is not necessarily a fabulous book.

Despite Gavin de Beckers' credentials in helping elected officials, movie stars, and ordinary people learn to recognize, predict and avoid patterns of violence, I found his book redundant. Basically, it asserts over and over again that people (women in particular) should trust their instinct, and should learn how to recognize their instinct because their lives or well-being could depend on whether or not they listen to it.

There are some useful chapters on language cues in potentially dangerous situations, occupational hazards, domestic violence, stalkers, and aggressive children. It's just that the whole book is peppered with the stories of his clients who failed to tune in to their intuition and as a result had horrible things happen to them (I mean, there are the success stories, too, but the failures are so traumatizing... The opening chapter tells the story of a woman who escaped from a rapist/murderer. It was awful to read.)

Anyway, the book has good nuggets of advice in it. But like the central theme, it's all instictive anyway.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck

This movie is pure brilliance.

George Clooney's film about Edward R. Murrow's battle with Sen. Joe McCarthy, Good Night and Good Luck is entirely in black and white. Almost every scene takes place in the CBS studios. With the exception of a woman singing on-air between programs (and in the opening and closing credits), there is no swelling soundtrack to alert the viewer when to be inspired. The script is extremely dialogue-heavy. The real-life footage from the Senate hearings is not edited for cute soundbites. Ultimately, like the underlying premise of the profession Clooney's Murrow seeks to defend, the film attempts to report simply "the facts" (however pre-screened, edited and fictionalized in a hyper-real account).

I kept thinking about Arthuer Miller's The Crucible throughout the screening -- I think it's because Miller's play, about 17th-century Salem, was written in response to McCarthy's witch hunts. I have no idea what Clooney's underlying political motivations might be, but the timing of his film might indicate that the screenplay was written in response to certain current events and legislative trends.

Go and see it!

Monday, October 10, 2005

No more neo-Luddism

So now I know that Brown does nothing for me, and I'm not very happy with a certain Spirit of Service, given that both managed to lose two DSL packages. Nonetheless, all's well that end's well, and I am no longer mentally living with the mysterious and yet brilliant builders of a relic on Salisbury Plain.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pimp My Party!

The Tories are soliciting feedback on how to make the Party cool. I will admit, at first I thought it was a hoax put on by renegade Labour or LibDem interns. But then it asked for genuine feedback!

According to The Sun, at least, the website really is real. (And if you see it in the Sun it's so, right, Virginia? Even if it's the Sun across the Pond...) And it's commented on in at least one Labour MP's blog (which you know is run by young 'uns).

Maybe the GOP should attempt a similar "How to Get Hip" campaign. Um.... or not.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Nervous laughter...

Many thanks to the FG for mentioning that Friendster now allows people to see who's been viewing their profiles, rather than letting viewers remain anonymous.

Had several minutes of panic when the change was mentioned oh-so-casually. But thankfully, it's a new month, and nobody whose profile I viewed in August or September will ever know! This runs the gamut from old classmates/History Dept rivals to friends-of-friends-of-friends I always run into at fundraisers.

Cue nervous laughter...

Friday, September 30, 2005

"Alias" premiere

Okay, so why should I watch Alias next week? They just killed off the hot, hot hot guy! With no teaser for next week, hinting that maaaybe he's alive, and they faked his death so that this new Prophet Five international conspiracy group doesn't come after him.

C'mon, ABC! Tell me you passed Market Demographics 101! The under-40 female viewers (or at least this one) are not okay with this!

I understand writing a pregnancy into the script to accommodate Jennifer Garner's real-life expectancy. But killing (dare I say "killing"?) off a character because the show's two stars are exes and can barely work together anymore? Get over it! I want Vaughn back on the show!

Sometimes the phone number is one digit off...

Note to Future Self: Make sure it really is yo' mama's voicemail before you leave a message saying "I'm jumping in the shower, but come on over anyway. I should be out by the time you get here. See ya."

Otherwise, the person whose voicemail it really is might call you back. . . . And then there will be awkwardness.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Ticket

It's now officially West Wing season again!

Nice surprises -- Will is elected to Congress in three years! (Although getting put on the Ways and Means Committee as such a newbie is a stretch...!!!)

Questions -- Can Santos overcome a 9-point poll deficit? And who is the leak???

Addiction, addiction. But it's been fun, especially since I figured out two seasons ago that Haffley's character represents the WA 5th congressional district (inspired, methinks, by George Nethercutt's politics and Tom Foley's stint as Speaker of the House).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Policy instead of caffeine

Just need to say... I LOVE having fast-paced conversations with savvy people about campaign strategy! Even at 9:30 in the morning! Despite having barely sipped my coffee, I think going over campaign failures of a new Arizona law and trying to defeat the same awful initiative in Washington revved me up enough for the rest of the day.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

No man is an island (especially with all this technology!)

Maybe it's just because I've worked 9-6 today, will still be working from 7-10, and have only an hour to restore my sanity, but I found this to be the most hilarious thing since I re-watched Chicken Run last week:
Pardon My Planet,
Sept 16, 2005

I think Donne, Hemingway, andHugo would get a kick out of it!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

As You Like It

Loved Catcher in the Rye, and loved this book too. In typical Salinger style, it's cynical. It addresses the emptiness and the facade of American material culture. Though it's set in the 1950s, the characters and their disillusionment are still relevant.

The title characters are the two youngest siblings in the Glass family, all of whom have been child stars on a radio show called "It's a Wise Child." The central plot of the book revolves around what it means to pray incessantly. Since they're also geniuses, the answer doesn't come easily to the pair! For all their precocious wisdom, for all their intellect, the Glass kids are not happy. Franny and Zooey are actors (literally and figuratively), and all the world's their stage. The story is a little angst-ridden, and in contemporary terms could be classified as a record of a quarterlifecrisis. I can ignore the fact that the one having a nervous, hysterical breakdown is the female character. I can even ignore the undertones of Asian exotification (those wise Eastern philosophers always sound so mighty appealing to those trapped in the throes of Western materialism!).

But between the preachy monologues of the two main characters are such amazingly accurate glimpses of human behavior! There's a scene where Franny's date picks her up at the train station, and Salinger describes the faces and actions of those waiting on the platform. Later, they're eating lunch and Salinger describes Lane's satisfied look at being seen with the right girl in the right place; Franny knows what he's thinking, feels guilty for knowing it, and adjusts her actions accordingly. The descriptions of Mrs Glass are also so apt, so human, and so universal: while her two rather privileged children are bemoaning the lack of intellect in American society and trying to reach a higher spiritual plane, she worries about their health and warmth and happiness. The irony that Franny and Zooey are missing the accumulated poignant, smaller and real moments of life while they're busy deconstructing the larger, complex facade is hard to miss.

Ultimately, I think that's Salinger's point about "praying" without ceasing. Maybe Zola was onto something.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"All politics is local" --and the locals are loony!

After The Stranger's City Council candidates' debate, a friend and I walked away knowing exactly who we'd vote for this primary season. Planned to stay for half an hour and ended up watching the whole circus.

Primaries are always more amusing than generals!