Wednesday, August 30, 2006

146 in the 206

How common is your surname in America?

And yet, I've only met one other person not related to me, randomly in an airport line. The dude saw my labelled luggage and blurted out that he had the same last name too, but had never met non-family Palmers. It was one of those mutual revelations that we are not alone . . .

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Nobody likes to watch the sausage being made

This gem passed on from a coalition partner:
"As the 19th Amendment was passed, success was won only after 56 state referendum campaigns, 480 legislative campaigns for state suffrage amendments, 47 state constitutional campaigns, 277 state party convention campaigns to get suffrage planks in the party platforms, and so forth and so on... "

from Lillian Faderman,
To Believe in Women (Houghton Mifflin, 1999)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The revolution will not be humorless

NOW turns 40 this year. And the Onion is hilarious.
National Organization for Women Turns 39 again
(This particular paragraph is really really funny for anyone who's ever had to work in a coaltion, period. No matter the issue!)

"... Despite an increased workload and growing societal pressure to form lasting partnerships with other activist groups, the 39-years-young NOW has never been seriously affiliated with any other organization, perhaps due to its decision to focus on ambitious campaigning and legal advocacy work during its twenties instead of public relations. However, NOW vehemently denies rumors that it is only interested in other women's groups, declaring it 'just hasn't found the right partner organization to start a coalition with yet.' "
I like this idea -- corporate personhood, but for nonprofits. Yeah, yeah, it comes dangerously close to championing hurtful stereotypes of strong, politically-minded women. But the coalition metaphors are brilliant, even if they are rooted in skewed notions of gender roles. (Hey, you gotta work within the cultural frame of reference of your readers... )

And it's damn funny!

Monday, August 21, 2006

¿Qué es verdadero?

This movie was all over the board. It started off as a film about a guy reconnecting with his childhood crush, then became a story about a tranny plotting revenge against the priest who abused him, then transformed into a murder mystery. Half the movie, the viewer thinks certain scenes are flashbacks (or a filmmaker character's interpretation of flashbacks), but then halfway through realizes they're actually scenes in the filmmaker's movie.

But I love confusing stuff like that, where reality and fiction blur. The whole plot was a movie within a movie, with all the accompanying drama.

It was brilliant.

Before I watched it myself, I'd heard there were some disturbing scenes. There weren't, really, unless I've just been desensitized. I also assumed it would be more a movie about the traumatic lives of kids assaulted by Catholic priests. But it wasn't at all. It wasn't a statement about loss of faith, nor was it a blatant indictment of pious hypocrisy. That all played a part of the overall story, but in the end it was only a part.

The theme of performances ran throughout -- the choirboys, solo singing, the filmmaker, the drag theatre. With all of these performances came costumes -- the priest's vestments, the altarboy's robes, the drag. For a while, it was hard to tell what was a performance and what wasn't. I've always been obsessed with masks and constructions of reality, so I found it all captivating and fascinating.

On another note, I can understand Spain-Spanish easier than other dialects. The hot lead actor, who is Mexican, did a really good job of faking a Spanish accent, because I could understand him more without reading the subtitles. I couldn't in some of his other movies.


I now have Firefox at work! It rocks. I've been using it exclusively at home for months and months, but now I can fully convert in all my browsing areas.

Ctrl+T, Ctrl+T, Ctrl+T . . .


During an interesting conversation last night, I found out that little mixed kids in Japan are called "doubles." (So --ahem!--some people will need to have twins to fully utilize the term!)

Also did some post-conversation research (it's vaguely work-related, so I don't feel guilty doing it during the day), and found out that Japan legalized abortion (1948) before the birth control pill (1999). And now I have another book on my list of stuff to read.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Without a Shadow

After finally finishing the entire series of the excellent Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, I got around to watching Finding Neverland from my Netflix queue. I really liked it. I wasn't expecting it to be as sad as it was -- so I wasn't expecting to sniffle and snuffle as much as I did. (But it also reminded me that I got all sniffly while watching two other Kate Winslet movies -- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Titanic. Yes, Titanic. I was 18.)

It seems that a lot of movies that take place in the Edwardian era seem to have that haunting enjoy-the-innocence-because-the-Great War-is-coming feel to them. They usually feature soft lighting, period costimes in flowing white lace, edenic gardens or pristine houses, idealism, and the upcoming irony of global disaster known only to the audience. And Finding Neverland was no different.

The story deals with how kids don't lead the happy oblivious lives adults want to think they do, that adult drama and issues like death affect children, too, and that imagination and creativity lets children (as well as adults) laugh, and transcend and help cope with life. There's even a scene with orphans to subtly underscore that point. It takes place in 1903. And for the entire film, I couldn't get it out of my head that in 11 years, the fictional characters would be facing an entirely different set of traumas and heartbreak, this time on a more global scale. Especially since the children in the movie are all boys! (It might be the Anne of Green Gables syndrome. At 11, I was particularly concerned that Gilbert would have to go off and fight for the Empire, even though there was no date set for the earlier Anne books.)

Anyway, I really like the film. It wove together complex issues of death, marriage, divorce, work, and class, from the point of view of both children and disillusioned adults. It illustrated how notions of childhood innocence can be constructed -- and that such notions can often be coping mechanisms for adults or sources of frustration for the kids they're trying to protect. Beneath all the emotional drama was an underlying statement about hope and fun and creativity.

Friday, August 18, 2006

No Comment

"The accident involved dark chocolate."

From the BBC:

US man survives chocolate ordeal
A 21-year-old US man ended up in hospital after spending two hours trapped in a vat of chocolate, police in Wisconsin said on Friday.


Comment made to me last night: "You're cool. When I first met you, I thought you were crazy and weird. And you are. But you're cool."

That cracked me up.

And now I have my current favorite song stuck in my head.

P. Diddy was probably a campaign manager

It's 4 weeks to the state primary! Sometimes when you have friends who are campaign managers for state House seats in a competitive legislative race, they make jokes about not giving you a ride home from a mutual friend's Hurricane Katrina fundraiser unless you vote for their candidate. And you know they're partly serious.

I usually throw myself into ballot initiatives, not candidate races. But I can still relate to the countdown mode.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Desperation is the sistah of invention

Companies frequently send gifts to clients as a thank-you note for doing business with them. Case in point -- a printer might send a certain nonprofit organization a styrofoam box of popsicles and ice cream bars, as a gesture of goodwill (or a bribe, depending on your level of cynicism).

Due to the injury described below, the arrival of the icy treats was practically an answer to prayer. There being towels in the kitchen, I made off with the block of ice and am now sitting blissfully at my desk with my makeshift injury-relief pack.

Luckily, half the floor is out today, so there are few people to witness this strangeness. It could be interpreted as . . . how do we say in the Dub-C . . . très g-fab.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Crouching Tiger, Limping Dragon

There is a video game where you're an American cop, ridding Japan of predominantly Chinese gangsters. You stand on a mat and under a bar, and the game detects your movement. When the gangsters shoot at you, it gives you cues like "HIDE," complete with arrows. It's pretty cool -- you dart behind telephone poles, walls, cars, trash cans and whatnot, in order to reload your gun and take shelter. Fooling the sensors doesn't work (I tried) -- you really do have to squat, bend, and crouch to avoid getting shot and ending the game.

It took me 22 minutes to complete the 7 courses, round up all the crime lords, and learn that it counts against your score if you accidentally hit a police officer or innocent bystander. Then I got uber-competitive with myself and wanted to beat my own best time. And I did: I got it down to 21 minutes, then 20, then 19 minutes. So in all, I got a good 2-hour squat-bend workout.

Which means that, for the second day in a row now, walking is extremely painful.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Yesterday, I welcomed myself home with the best-ever ice cream. It's satisfyingly creamy but doesn't feel like it's clogging my throat afterwards, which is usually the case with ice creams (and why I prefer sorbet and some gelato). Two small scoops were enough to satisfy my sugar craving. And pomegranate-flavored foods and beverages seem to be the latest trend.

So since the Dell recall doesn't affect me, I might as well celebrate some more.
The sunny weather might not last much longer, either.

I can find more excuses....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pre-Magna Carta

One problem with being introduced to a book series with Book #3 and then going back and reading Books #1 and 2 is that you already know what happens, since in each book in a series the author tends to give a synopsis of the important developments from the previous books. But because you're addicted and need the escapism, you read them anyway.

So after the fiasco at at the St. Louis airport, I got re-hooked on medieval murder mysteries. (Originally addicted in high school, when my French teacher introduced me to the Brother Cadfael collection.)

Anyways, so now that I already know what happens to certain characters, reading the first two books is kind of anticlimactic. I already know the main plot twists as well as any character developments. So since I read #3 first, I already know that the detective's romantic interest in #1 turns out to be a spy and that the seige of the castle in 1193 in Book #2 turns up a double agent. (It's a little like watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom first and hating Kate Capshaw's character, and then watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and knowing Karen Allen is infinitely cooler, but that she doesn't make it to the next installment. Seriously, the women in Indy's life went downhill with every sequel. But I digress.)

Why do I always manage to find time to read fiction when I'm not in my home state?
At any rate, it's been years since I've spent a Saturday night engrossed in a made-up world until the wee hours of a Sunday.

And I still need to find a good bio of Eleanor of Aquitane!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Choosing a fight song

So the college food isn't fantastic, but it's decent. It's also socially responsible -- I'm mightily impressed with the food management company's kitchen principles. In ye olde Waterville, I think we had Sodexho-Marriott doing our food , raising the spectre of prison-industry labor.

Reading the "kitchen principles" placard in the dining hall --as well as getting a general feel for the campus environment-- my initial reaction was "I would've loved it here! I should've gone here!" However, that's not entirely accurate. The "me" I am now would choose to go here, if I were 18 all over again, but the "me" I am now would also be entirely different if I actually had.

I don't think I completely agree with the saying "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." In most cases, it makes you either bitter or indifferent. Spending four days at Reed for a social justice organizing conference, I think if I had gone here in my oh-so-younger years, I would have had a lot more free time to... have a life, relax, not go to so many meetings. But I think I'm indifferent to the alternate-reality "me" I could have become. In the end, there's still a world to change.

The keynote speaker tonight was energizing --not inspiring, which sometimes implies over-reliance on rhetoric and emotional manipulation, but energizing. He was blunt and truthful. Basically, he talked about burnout and breakdowns. (Apparently he had one a while back, and his key points were lessons drawn from the slow emergence from the abyss.) It's one thing for a few friends and family to take you aside and tell you to take the time to eat, sleep, have fun, smell the roses, etc. But when an articulate, intelligent, and analytical stranger says the same thing to 200 overly-active people just like you because he's been there too, it makes a different impact.

Friday, August 11, 2006


The workshop I'm in at the conference was supposed to be "Organizing for Immigrant Rights," and I assumed that meant developing skills for building bridges between communities, overcoming language barriers, adjusting to work with different cultural leadership styles, etc. What it turned out to be was a "sharing our personal stories and feelings" fest. Maybe it's the Asian or the WASPy background; either way, I am not a "sharing my personal stories and feelings" person. I am a "here is the problem, how can we fix it" person. And the consensus "fix it" strategy seemed to be more sharing and emotional understanding. Not that that's not valid, I just don't think that does anything on the large-scale strategic level. Telling more compelling and emotional stories might help me understand individuals and the human experience better, but it's not going to stop the Senate Judiciary Committee from tacking a national ID requirement onto an appropriations bill when Congress reconvenes. But maybe that's just me. I wrote that on the evaluation form, too. As my sister told me the other day, sometimes I don't know how to be unblunt.

Anyway, during the workshop, we watched Uprooted, a documentary put out by the National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights. I thought it was pretty well done, even if the discussion moderation afterwards wasn't. Short, too. Basically it followed the lives of three workers whose lives were altered for the worse by NAFTA, FTAA, and other trade policies. Obviously, it's biased. It comes down pretty hard against "fair" trade agreements. I learned a few things, though: I didn't know that the Philippines has the highest percentage of workers overseas, in part to pay off an IMF debt. (During "sharing time," I did not reveal that Grandma left more so that she could get a divorce than because of the Marcos regime and economic or political reasons. There seemed to be some internalized stereotypes about immigrants in the room.) Anyway, it was a decent documentary. Depressing as hell, but well done.

And the "fun" activities for tonight were a roundtable discussion on anti-immigrant sentiment and a viewing of the film "The Landless: Through Latin American Paths." But I felt like my duty stopped at 5 p.m., so I went wandering around downtown Portland, browsing the sales-tax-free shops. Mission accomplished, too. Got a small laptop bag. Tax-free! (So I saved what, $1.99? Guess that's enough to pay a sweatshop worker in LA for making the bag.... Damn. Sometimes organizing work makes a basket case out of the organizer. Where's the booze on this campus???)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Same tune as the Canadian national anthem!

Thanks in part to Torgo, this week has been filled with flashbacks.

Am at a conference in Portland, on the Reed College campus. It resembles almost every other small, private liberal arts school. And all that that implies.

I'd forgotten what it's like to be surrounded by manicured lawns and Georgian architecture.

Improvement from last year's same conference: they now let guests use the wireless network. =)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Play it, Sam

So I gave in. I bought it. I'd been looking at it for while. It appealed to me because I'm obsessed with the concept of Time. There's a W.H. Auden poem I've loved ever since middle school. The poems I like best of e e cummings, Frost, de la Mare, and Byron are all about time (anyone lived in a pretty how town, The Road Not Taken, The Listeners, To Thomas Moore.) Even in Sunday school, Ecclesiastes 3:1 was always easy to remember (that song by the Birds notwithstanding). Then of course, there's the history degree. Oh, and time-travel stories. No matter how cheesy, I'm a sucker for them.

All this to justify a blatantly materialistic, hipster purchase.

Woooooooo, wooooooooo

From the irreverent and hilarious Onion: Illiterate Spirit Frustrates Ouija-Board Players
I guess ghosts from cultures with oral traditions rather than a written language either learn the Roman alphabet or communicate in other ways. And we thought death was the great equalizer --ha! Social stratification continues in the afterlife! But sheesh, why does English get to be the preferred written language of the Other Side? Are there Cyrillic ouija boards?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Quirky quirks

Weird movies are great to watch while unpacking and catching up on household chores. For some reason, the last three movies I've watched were kind of oddball. In each, one of the main characters had some weirdo flaw: Matchstick Men had the OCD character (the one my sisters claimed strangely resembled me), Punch-Drunk Love's Adam Sandler had behavioral issues as well, and Big Fish was basically the story of the maybe-tall tales of one person.

I think I liked MM best, just because I appreciate believeable plot twists at the end. The OCD kinship helped, of course. PDL I thought had very realistic and insightful scenes of sibling interactions. BF was the typical parent-child alienation-and-reconciliation-at-deathbed movie; but the colors and visuals were excellent. The two that take place in LA have particularly desolate character maps, but that could be either a coincidence or my own bias.


Story that I find funny only because I can relate:

Virus Program Incurs Church Wrath
Vicars in the UK are up in arms after parts of a program they use to organise church services were branded spyware.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

There is no frigate like...

I rediscovered fiction! I was stuck in St. Louis, my flight delayed by five hours; the TVs at all the gates were showing nothing but stories from Lebanon, and I was still reeling from the previous day's state supreme court ruling. I stumbled into the chain HMS bookstore, wanting escape. But all the books there were either Dan Brown or Danielle Steele, or similarly marketed. I didn't want anything that could remind me of current events or politics or anything else that would make me have to think. And on the other hand, I didn't want to be seen buying a trashy romance novel.

Luckily, Lambert also had a non-chain bookstore, with a used book section. It rocked. So while being delayed as well as during the flight, I read a medieval mystery and a collection of Agatha Christie's short stories.

It was awesome!

Medieval history was a minor requirement for the history major, so unlike everything that happened after the late-15th century, I have no personal interest in it. I could get caught up in the made-up intrigues without overly critiquing the historical accuracy. And really, I did get caught up in all the drama. I couldn't put Dragon's Lair down. It also reawakened some memories of a particularly enthusiastic course discussion on Eleanor of Aquitane, and on my trip back I tried to find an airport bookstore with a biography, to no avail.

I used to love mysteries, before I ran off to college and got politicized. In middle school I read most of Agatha Christie's books and many of her short stories. But I don't remember coming across this particular collection, so it was a great find for $2 in the airport I wasn't scheduled to fly through initially.

And I didn't know what was going on in the world for five days. That was the best.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lambert and Logan

Typing this post happily from my new laptop. Now I can join the trendy hordes in coffee shops.

Am also typing happily from the never-humid region of the country. I escaped the Northeast just in time. If I could barely stand a normal east coast summer, I don't know what I'd do in extreme conditions.

As with most trips, there are small lessons to be learned amidst all the fun, revelry, and mischief-making.. Mine were all airport-related:

* There is an airline I will never fly again, due to delays all around, unmentioned itinerary changes, and really rude employees (not the plane crew, they were all great).

* If your carry-on luggage is a bag you haven't used since last October, check the side pockets before boarding the plane. You just might re-discover 3 articles of clothing you never knew you lost, but since they're "unmentionables," you can't explain your elated "Whoa, cool!" to your nosy seatmate.

* The St. Louis airport has better bookstores than JFK. Go figure.

* If you wander around JFK trying to find a biography of Eleanor of Aquitane, you might accidentally go past the "No Re-entry" zone and get yelled at by the security guards for trying to re-enter. (But since there were also cute Italian tourists trying to re-enter, it wasn't so bad.

* It is possible to outgrow getting sick on planes due to reading.

And the last lesson, which only dawned on me today, after noticing a certain recurring theme in all the photos:

* Make sure the other people in the picture knows it's a "crazy pose" shot, too.