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...