Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Over the Edge, You Could See Them Coming

Sometimes, anger is the sane response.
Women a mystery to sex scientists

I could just fucking scream.
Researchers presenting their findings at the society's sixth annual meeting are still trying to figure out which hormones and neurotransmitters make sexual arousal possible, where in the brain orgasm takes place, and which nerves control the genital organs. Much of their work is being done in rats.

"Now we're sticking needles into different parts of the brain," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, the Boston urologist who founded the multidisciplinary group. "Whatever pharmaceuticals are proven to help ... most likely will work in the central nervous system."

Clinicians, frustrated by the slow pace of sexual science, want effective treatments for patients brave enough to seek help - a small minority.

Oh Jesus Christ, have these people never been to a frat party? And what's the first solution springing to mind for a problem yet to be defined?
Although social scientists have been studying women's sexuality for decades, medical science did not become interested until the advent of Viagra in the late 1990s raised the possibility that female sexual problems might be treated by medication. Viagra, which treats erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the genitals, does not appear to work in women. In fact, no drug has been approved in the U.S. for the disorder doctors call female sexual dysfunction. That may be understandable, given that experts aren't sure what female sexual dysfunction is - or even if it exists.

A pill? A pill! Someday, we will all look back at this and change the subject. And....go!
"Science must measure," [Dr. Stephen] Levine said, "so we measure how many times the patient said she had sexual thoughts or desired sex in the last four weeks. But we don't know what we're measuring."

To some members of the society, fearing that women's sexual complaints are being turned into medical illnesses for the convenience of doctors and the economic benefit of Big Pharma, that admission was a breath of fresh air.

"I think it's progress that we can spend two hours in this performance-driven society admitting that maybe we don't know what we're talking about," said Ellen Laan, a psychophysiologist from the University of Amsterdam.

Oh look, fifteen seconds and I was already wrong - but I have competition.
Since the 1960s, researchers have operated under a variation of the simple model proposed by William Masters and Virginia Johnson that says the human sexual response starts with desire, progresses through excitement or arousal and ends with orgasm. But experts argued that notion might reflect the experience of men more than women, many of whom don't see orgasm as a goal.

In recent years the field has moved toward a more complicated model based on the observation that many women go into a sexual encounter without being in the mood - perhaps they're seeking intimacy or hoping to please their partner- and may not really want sex until after they become aroused.

But it wasn't until very recently that anyone thought to test those theories by asking women.

Look, I don't have a Ph.D. and a lab staffed by sweaty undergraduates. I'm not a genius with a three-page list of grants. I'm nobody in New Jersey; as a person who's dated the Eastern Seaboard, I really hate that last line. For the moment, let us gently set aside talk of people injured by violence and abuse, because those are special people who need gentle care, and people experiencing the ebbs and flows of changing hormonal balances. We're talking here about perfectly ordinary people who think there's something wrong with their sex lives.

Sex starts in the brain. It also stops in the brain. Should I want what I want? Should nice people want to slick themselves down with Crisco and go two out of three falls? Should good people spend all afternoon on the kitchen floor before having a late lunch? Should decent people put on cowboy boots and play Rustler RoundUp?

Yes. Yes. Yes. To quote Molly Bloom: "...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes."

Maybe a lot of women won't come out and say, "Listen, porkchop, you smell like a fantastic night under the stars and our bed needs a seismometer but the one thing that sends me over the edge like a roller coaster car sailing off the tracks into screaming space is when I wrap my thighs around your neck and hold on for dear life" but why not? Lust is one of the most fabulous sensations our bodies offer us. Let's don't be afraid of desire. Sing out, sister! Are women afraid to ask too much? Are women afraid to ask? It's true that lots of men won't solicit the expert opinion. I find it helps if you're holding the talking stick at the time the committee delivers its findings.

People who are not women: if you want to please a woman, which you must if you are any kind of lover at all, ask her what feels good. Ask her what feels great. Ask her what makes her see stars. If she's only slept with selfish bastards, she might not know, which offers you the opportunity of a lifetime. Help her find out what makes her sing Sweet Mystery Of Life. You're a hero! Tell her what you want. Stop thinking and making rules and should should should. Pour your whole self into the ocean that is your lover and the tide will rise.

No more of this "what do women want?" crap. Get busy with getting busy. And do it for SCIENCE!


Buy the Product And Never Use It

My friend Dom says the best thing I've heard in weeks.

Dom: Come to my house Wednesday night for dinner.
Tata: Oh, I don't know. I'm tired. I probably have to work. I am randomly lame.
Dom: Dinner is at 5. If you are not here by 6, I will come to your house and kick your ass with a lamb roast, which we will then eat.

Oh, he'd do it.

Tata: Dinner it is, then. I'll wear something stuffing-proof.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Still Dream Of Organon

I have four sisters.

Daria is sixteen months younger than me. We have both parents and one brother in common. Daria and I are as different as two exactly alike people can be. You would never guess we were blood relations until we started laughing or swearing. Daria looks just like our brother Todd, so as my cousin and hairdresser Carmello recently said, "They had milkmen back then. How do you feel about dairy?"

Anya is six years younger than me. We have no parents in common. When my mother and her father got together, Anya was very young. She doesn't remember a time before I kept trying to make her hair curl. Anya's politics are further left than mine; she is a driven business owner. Men fall at Anya's feet, which amuses Anya's husband Dan.

Corinne and Anya share parents. They have fair skin and blue eyes, and yet, they resemble different parents. Anya and Corinne finish each other's sentences. Corinne is so funny you think you heard wrong. She and Anya own the family store with their mother and a toy store besides. I am so lucky!

Dara is fifteen and a half; Dad's daughter by his statuesque second wife. Dara is smart and funny and so, so teenage. Last summer, we had a big old combined family weekend and the whole family took a deep breath and turned purple when Dara put on a pink bikini. A week after Dara was born, I found Anya in a bar with a picture of a baby, "It's my sisters' sister!"

I mention this now because I'm on the verge of drawing you the character chart I always wanted when I read Russian novelists for this reason:

February 7: Dan
February 15: Me
March 1: Anya
March 16: Corinne
April 1: Todd
April 8: Miss Sasha

Daria wants things normal. Dan is surprised when people notice he has a birthday. Anya and Corinne have always shared a celebration that included Irish music and hearing loss. Each time my terrified family has tried to celebrate my birthday, something bizarre has happened. It's been almost two horrifying weeks. I'm fully prepared to let it go.

Dara's birthday is in July and by then, maybe things will have returned to some kind of normal. For now, let's skip the genoise and fall straight into industrial-strength Green Beer In A Drum.

Monday, February 26, 2007

It's Like Thunder, Lightning

Dad's in the hospital, which turns out to be a good thing because the women of my family cope best with bleach.

Miss Sasha: Mommy! My husband's upset! My grandpa's sick! My great-grandpa's sick! Gramma's sick! What do I do?
Tata: Pull on rubber gloves, darling, and scour something to within an inch of its life.
Miss Sasha: What? Why?
Tata: Because ours is the way of the scrub brush, and you have the mop-fu in your blood!
Miss Sasha: I am the chosen one!
Tata: The path of the clean oven is open to you. But first, you must snatch this chore boy from my closing fist!
Miss Sasha: Mom, you're a thousand miles and a whole time zone away. If you mail me that chore boy I might clean something by Sunday.
Tata: Right. Sorry! I'll lay off the Zatoichi films, okay?

It dawned on me the other day that three of my closest friends have lost a parent to cancer or heart attack, and Trout's S.O. is being treated at Sloan Kettering. My sisters are frantic for a variety of reasons. Daria and Auntie InExcelsisDeo drove to Virginia this morning to clean Dad's and Darla's house to CDC standards. It's hard to find people to talk with in New Jersey who haven't lost parents or close relatives to a suspicious disease. Trying to talk this over with my friends dredges up the old memories for them. So guess what?

You could build computers in my bathroom.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Say the Words That I Can't Say

Resolved: Cream cheese is Nature's most perfect food.

Tata: You will never guess - not in a million years! - what sits in my fridge. Right now! As we speak!
Siobhan: Drew Barrymore?
Tata: Maybe next week...
Siobhan: What happened? Where did you go shopping?
Tata: Costco! I love their politics! And guess what's in my fridge! GUESS!
Siobhan: A bale of crinkle cut fries?
Siobhan: You've gone too far! How dare you lie about something as important as dairy products?
Tata: I could never lie about cheese!
Siobhan: So it's real? A three pound bucket of cream cheese would be a new reason to live!
Tata: Cream cheese goes with everything!
Siobhan: Fruit? Yup. Avocado? Indeed.
Tata: It makes an excellent dip...
Siobhan: I could use it in meatloaf.
Tata: And Jell-O.
Siobhan: It might be a mistake in sushi rolls but I've seen it on menus.
Tata: It might prove a refreshing accent to an earthy liver pate.
Siobhan: Can you think of anything you couldn't find a way to use cream cheese with?
Tata: What? I quit thinking and paired it with a spoon.

Knowing the place in my heart held by cream cheese, you are fully prepared to imagine my horror, frustration and tingling joy when I discovered this product.

I may openly weep.

• With new PHILADELPHIA Ready-To-Eat Cheesecake Filling, you can make a delicious cheesecake dessert in just one, easy step - no baking or setting required!
• Just spread the filling into a graham cracker crust and you'll have a wonderful family dessert, even on the busiest weeknight.

Flavors: Classic Cheesecake

Are you fucking kidding me? I can't picture myself leaving the dairy aisle without wearing a heavy slick of this stuff down the front of me. I bet half the women I know saw the commercials, fell into a trance and picked up their car keys, which they will not remember when they wake up in rehab.

Oh, and while we're pondering desperation, it seems my brother Todd may be trying to kill me in retalliation for using him as my personal guinea pig for the first fifteen years of his life. Hey, it was for SCIENCE. And he recovered, right? So why, Flying Spaghetti Monster, why did he send this?

Bonus points for referring to Rick James as "that boy." To quote a very young Bill Cosby: "And the pain...was tremendous."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

And I'm Singing Once Again

Last night, in the Virtual Bar at Shakespeare's Sister, Marked Hoosier introduced the assembled to the utter horror that is Celine Dion covering AC/DC's You Shook Me. I responded pretty much as you might expect:



Right, so I pretended to be everyone's pet zombie, but only if I could have a pink collar with a little bell so I don't sneak up on birds. Any exposure to Celine Dion makes me want to kill myself but I forgot all about the tasty brains of the living until this afternoon, when I stumbled on a terrifying cable offering called Bake Decorate.

This is not food. This is what happens when you stop listening to your body whisper sweet nothings when filled with fresh fruit, vegetables and high quality proteins. This is what happens when you hunger for illusions. This is what happens when you think green beans come out of a can. Don't eat this! It's disgusting! And while I'm ranting, what the fuck is wrong with people that they teach their children that white flour-sugar-butter combinations are even better with sprinkles and goddamn frosting? Why not just hack open their little rib cages and spackle their arteries with yummy lard?

Some things just aren't good for us, like Celine Dion and food with all the nutrition magically sucked out and replaced with fat and sugar. That stuff'll kill ya. Then again, some thngs offer gritty nourishment and kickass sustenance, like Melissa Etheridge climbing out of her presumed deathbed to show us how hard you can work at being alive. It's just a cover song. It's real and filling and raw.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go chase some delicious birdies.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: Get A Grip On Yourself Edition

You've seen it before. You'll see it again now! I demand it! You will be cheerful and say, "Wuzzah wuzzah wuzzah moo moo moo." You will go about your day with an optimistic outlook because when you feel optimistic, you find things that confirm that you are, in fact, cheery. If this inspires you to seek out shelter animals, adopt them and treat them like the gifts from the kind and loving gods of your choosing, so be it!

Ladies and gentlemen: the Random Kitten Generator.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Music Suffers, Baby, The Music Business Thrives

If you've ever snapped a bone, split it or twisted, chances are good you have your own internal weathervane. The spot I fractured in my foot predicts precipitation fairly well, but, strangely, my sinuses are better than Doppler Radar. I can be going about my business and - whammo! - blinding, crushing pain cuts me down. Most times, if I screw my eyes shut for thirty seconds to three minutes, the pain burns off like a fog under the morning's first rays, and I know it's going to rain. I don't take anything for it. Whoosh! Gone! What happened?

Sometimes, like tonight, the rain's fallen, the clouds moved on and what Siobhan and I refer to as The Headache remains. Yesterday started out pretty well. Mom answered the phone when I called at 8:45 a.m. because the telemarketers are still annoying their own families. She was still gooey from anesthesia and Tuesday's procedure. Her friend Erin was just walking up the steps to Mom's bedroom with a book. Tom was off to work, Erin was staying. Mom wasn't supposed to be alone after surgery, which she hadn't told me. Anyway, Mom was making woozy jokes about ...something... and that was good news. I waited a few hours and called Dad's house, where his fab wife Darla answered but she was still sleeping. I promised to call back later.

When I talked to Dad after 2, he was cranky, swearing, firm in his opinions and scathing in his assessments. In other words: he sounded great. I told him if he stopped swearing I'd be really worried. We had a lovely conversation, during which I laughed a great deal. Then Darla sent out a group email stating that she'd started a blog, where you will be nice, damn it, to keep all kinds of people informed about Dad's treatment. I was thrilled. Then I read the words "[Dad's] life expectancy is between a couple of months and a couple of years, depending on how he tolerates, and how well he responds to, treatment."

I didn't take that well.

The rest of my day was pretty well screwed at that point. I lay down to nap after work and sat up straight when fear shot all through me. Later, I called my brother Todd.

Tata: You're going to work in a few hours, right?
Todd: Hey! You remembered!
Tata: I didn't until a little while ago. I panicked and went to the liquor store for a bottle of wine. While I was there, I asked the clerk what day it was. So that's the only reason I know.
Todd: Don't let go of that Slinky!
Tata: ...always good advice, but what prompted it?
Todd: I was talking to my daughter, who's got a Slinky by the end her baby brother's not holding.
Tata: Baby brothers are science projects. You ought to know that better than most.
Todd: I'll always treasure the memory of you putting ExLax in my Halloween candy.
Tata: I had to do it - for SCIENCE!
Todd: Remind me to send SCIENCE a bag of flaming dog poop.

Todd reminded me that Happy Hour comes but once a day, and we have but a short time on this earth. So drink up! This was excellent advice on an evening I felt like I'd stuck my hand in a socket over and over, and when I feel this shitty, I do something about it. So last night, like every night for over a week, I lit a candle and asked whoever was listening for fucking strength. Since I am completely aware that I know absolutely nothing, I don't want to offend anyone by calling them someone else's name, which everyone knows is terrible form -

You: Oh baby baby you really do it for me, Tory...
Pat: I'm Pat. Oh, and so outta here.
You: This here is a valuable life lesson. Shit!

- so I just ask anyone who's listening for help, damn it! Help! I put down the candle. I sat on the couch and typed something. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. A woman who rescues stray cats called to tell me she'd found two cats together, and they could be available in mid-March, and would I mind if they were both black? I burst into tears, which has become my indoor-outdoor sport, and said yes yes yes.

There was nothing else to do but stand in the middle of my living room and say, "Thank you. Thank you." So I did.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Know Your Part'll Go Fine

Yesterday, I heard today's weather with great anticipation. Since the cold snap a month or so ago, I've felt cooped up and penned in; neither cooping nor penning suits me. Thus, when the meteorologists promised I could lace up the Adidases and walk to work, though not in so many words, I considered writing them love letters. Then I thought, 'No, they're the Doppler-assisted tools of the Man! Get up, stand up! And take a leopard print umbrella.'

I got no further than thirty feet from my front door, flush with victory over mid-winter sloth, when I realized the sidewalks were frozen over in transparent, invisible sheets and if I didn't confine myself to visibly salted sidewalks or blacktop, I was skipping work and going directly to the Emergency Room. That was exciting. A few times, I nearly landed on my head, which would ordinarily be merely hilarious but yesterday, I put in a full day at the salon and bandages would interfere with my mission to beautify America one room at a time.

Anyway: hairstyle intact, I made it to work without lascerations and I can't wait to walk home. Tomorrow, umbrella in hand, I can prowl the quads and sidewalks to take pictures of black snow and torpid tree limbs. They'll perk up soon. I feel better already.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

In the Night Out Of Sight In the Day

Having the internet phone service pays off.

Dad: Happy Valentine's Day. You know how I've been seeing doctors and couldn't get a diagnosis? Now I have one. I have cancer.
Tata: Cancer?
Dad: I have lesions on several of my internal organs. We begin chemo on Friday.
Tata: You do?
Dad: That terrible taste in my mouth the doctors should have been able to identify? Cancer.
Tata: It was? And the fever you've had since before Christmas?
Dad: Yep.
Tata: Phantom debilitating pain?
Dad: Yep.
Tata: How do you feel about this?
Dad: I could be dead in a year.
Tata: You could?
Dad: It's within the range of possibility.
Tata: I am actually relieved that you finally have a diagnosis. I didn't believe it for a minute when the doctor said you, you know, just had a fever. For two months.
Dad: Oh. Also: Happy Birthday. What are you doing to celebrate?
Tata: I was thinking of drowning myself in the Raritan.
Dad: Don't be ridiculous. That river's frozen and paramedics are tougher to please than Ukranian judges.

We hang up after exhanging tender words both of us would deny under oath. I immediately call Daria, who is still sobbing. Daria calms down and tells me to call Auntie InExcelsisDeo, who is also still sobbing. To distract her, I mention the braces came off and I can't stop doing that ridiculous Pearl Drops Tooth Polish "It's a great feeling!" gesture with my tongue, which will eventually make me very popular in town. Then I call Daria back. Daria asks if she should call our mom, who divorced Dad in the seventies. I say yes. Daria calls me back later. We do this again and again for five days. No way could I afford this with regular phone service.

Thursday was my birthday, which is usually a very big deal in my family because it has for the last decade kicked off a long series of birthdays. We have a season. Every two weeks, we go somewhere and celebrate. All that festivity can really suck the life out of a clan, plus now Anya's husband Dan's birthday is a week before mine, so we're all receipts and wreckage. In any case, I could have been perfectly content to let go of any claim to birthday-based overeating but Mom insisted on taking me out to dinner.

Tata: We're expecting snow and ice like nobody's business. Are you sure?
Mom: I'm sure. Where would you like to go?
Tata: There's an excellent Thai restaurant blocks from here.
Mom: I don't love Thai.
Tata: ...Or we could go
Mom: How about the new Greek restaurant? How about 6?
Tata: Terrific. I'll be ready at 6.

At 6:30, Mom and Tom picked me up, which I knew would happen and for which I was totally prepared. It was just dinner, and ya gotta eat. They gave me a 16-quart stock pot with a glass lid and I was content to let it go, again. We keep trying to get as much of the whole family together before the next series of birthdays and it just isn't working because Mom's having her Annual Harvesting of the Melanomas. Our next proposed date is Tuesday, the 27th, and the proposed get-together is at a fondue place for cheese, meat, seafood and chocolate fondue. Last night, I told Daria if the date moves again, we'll be celebrating Anya's and Corinne's birthdays, too, and everyone will have to eat twice as much. We should just suck it up and fondue.

On Saturday, Siobhan took me to a spa in Livingston, where we got facials and massages. I'd spent five weeks crying my eyes out and I looked like it. I'll write about the facial and the massage some other time because...because. Another time. Suffice it to say that after two hours of soothing smells and gentle music and charming people saying nice things, the masseur whispered many times, "Let it go, Ta" and I couldn't. I realized I was a giant, clenched, terrified knot, which is exactly what I don't want to be, and what I know will not help. The result: I forced myself to calm down and consider a way forward.

In less than two months, my dear pussycat was terribly ill, then I put him to sleep. My best friend nearly died. My son-in-law and by extension my daughter suffered a career trauma. My father started cancer treatment. My mother's post-cancer treatment regimen has become a little less low-key. A friend moved away. Daria keeps saying to me, "I'm fully cognizant that I have Tyler and you're over there in your apartment alone."

I am fine. I have no regrets about the pussycat, the career trauma will pass, I'll get used to the missing friend. The treatment is being aggressively pursued by a family of Type-A fighting freaks with oncologist friends. And last night, I spoke with a woman who rescues stray and abandoned cats about my desire to have two feline companions. I have appointments with the dentist to get one of my teeth fixed, and this afternoon, I will see Carmello for a new coif. I'm drinking lots of broth, miso shiro soup, juice, water.

The future arrives, whether we fear it or not. I intend to greet it with composure and a healthy mix of ferocity and acceptance. My manicure will be perfect at all times. My hand will be open.

Monday, February 19, 2007

We Found You Hiding, We Found You Lying

Courtesy of Mr. Blogenfreude comes this nearly rational bon mot from Jonah Goldberg:
I don't trust Dana Priest that much, and I am suspicious of some of possible motives behind the series, so with those caveats in mind, I still think the Post's series (See here and here ) on what some of our wounded troops go through is must-reading. Hospitals for vets returning from the front should be palaces and the last thing in the world any of them deserve are bureaucratic hassles. Though I should say that I've visited wounded troops and from my very limited experience they are surrounded by people who really do care.

Still, here's an idea for Fox News. Take Geraldo Rivera off the Anna Nicole beat and put him full time on this one. I'm not exactly a huge fan of Rivera's but he launched his career exposing the scandalous condition of mental hospitals if I recall, and he has just the right amount of preening self-righteousness (see Hurrican[sic] Katrina) to scare the bejeebers out of the relevant bureaucrats and politicians.

"Bejeebers"? Jonah, you can say "shit" like other grownups now.

See, even if we spot him a few points for attempting to behave like a human, Jonah's still a mouth-breathing, basement-dwelling blob. He does, however, have a point: Geraldo's insufferable. I'm suprised those Hurrican[see above] Katrina survivors Geraldo carried out of the wreckage didn't slap him, at least a little. That, friends, is every bit as important as Jonah's trust issues and specialized language-mangling. What's "must-reading"?
On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of "Catch-22." The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.

Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.

"We've done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it," said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. "We don't know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don't have the answers. It's a nonstop process of stalling."

Soldiers, family members, volunteers and caregivers who have tried to fix the system say each mishap seems trivial by itself, but the cumulative effect wears down the spirits of the wounded and can stall their recovery.

"It creates resentment and disenfranchisement," said Joe Wilson, a clinical social worker at Walter Reed. "These soldiers will withdraw and stay in their rooms. They will actively avoid the very treatment and services that are meant to be helpful."

Danny Soto, a national service officer for Disabled American Veterans who helps dozens of wounded service members each week at Walter Reed, said soldiers "get awesome medical care and their lives are being saved," but, "Then they get into the administrative part of it and they are like, 'You saved me for what?' The soldiers feel like they are not getting proper respect. This leads to anger."

There is, once again, no excuse for this bullshit. When you consider the costs of war, you take for fucking granted you will be caring for the injured decently. If you don't, you haven't calculated your probable costs correctly. Now, tack on some bigotry.
Family members who speak only Spanish have had to rely on Salvadoran housekeepers, a Cuban bus driver, the Panamanian bartender and a Mexican floor cleaner for help. Walter Reed maintains a list of bilingual staffers, but they are rarely called on, according to soldiers and families and Walter Reed staff members.

Evis Morales's severely wounded son was transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda for surgery shortly after she arrived at Walter Reed. She had checked into her government-paid room on post, but she slept in the lobby of the Bethesda hospital for two weeks because no one told her there is a free shuttle between the two facilities. "They just let me off the bus and said 'Bye-bye,' " recalled Morales, a Puerto Rico resident.

Morales found help after she ran out of money, when she called a hotline number and a Spanish-speaking operator happened to answer.

"If they can have Spanish-speaking recruits to convince my son to go into the Army, why can't they have Spanish-speaking translators when he's injured?" Morales asked. "It's so confusing, so disorienting."

And how about some plain incompetence?
Three times a week, school buses painted white and fitted with stretchers and blackened windows stream down Georgia Avenue. Sirens blaring, they deliver soldiers groggy from a pain-relief cocktail at the end of their long trip from Iraq via Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Andrews Air Force Base.

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed's hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.

Shannon had led the 2nd Infantry Division's Ghost Recon Platoon until he was felled in a gun battle in Ramadi. He liked the solitary work of a sniper; "Lone Wolf" was his call name. But he did not expect to be left alone by the Army after such serious surgery and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He had appointments during his first two weeks as an outpatient, then nothing.

"I thought, 'Shouldn't they contact me?' " he said. "I didn't understand the paperwork. I'd start calling phone numbers, asking if I had appointments. I finally ran across someone who said: 'I'm your case manager. Where have you been?'

As if that weren't bad enough, contempt for the injured is standard operating procedure.
Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander at Walter Reed, said in an interview last week that a major reason outpatients stay so long, a change from the days when injured soldiers were discharged as quickly as possible, is that the Army wants to be able to hang on to as many soldiers as it can, "because this is the first time this country has fought a war for so long with an all-volunteer force since the Revolution."

That emphasis is mine because I just can't stand it. That is so far beyond the bounds of decency I want to sit up and bark like a dog so I don't have to share a species with douchebags like this:
Part of the tension at Walter Reed comes from a setting that is both military and medical. Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, the squad leader who lost one leg and the use of his other in a grenade attack, said his recovery was made more difficult by a Marine liaison officer who had never seen combat but dogged him about having his mother in his room on post. The rules allowed her to be there, but the officer said she was taking up valuable bed space.

"When you join the Marine Corps, they tell you, you can forget about your mama. 'You have no mama. We are your mama,'" Groves said. "That training works in combat. It doesn't work when you are wounded."

Whether you are military or civilian, you know - or you should know - that in their most vulnerable state, patients absolutely need someone watching out for them. Even the most attentive medical practioners make mistakes, let alone caregivers who can't actually find their patients. It should be the military looking out, but apparently the military cares more about keeping up its numbers than caring for its constituent individuals.

I could toss my waffles. I could just puke.


You Fail, We All Fail

This morning, my co-worker handed me a baggy of Box Tops For Education. I wish I could say the baggy was filled with something far more exciting in a socially recognized sense, like Peruvian marching powder. You'd say, "What an invigorating life Miss Tata leads, and just look at all that danger! The possibility of imminent arrest! The eventual need for reconstructive rhinoplasty! That tears it! I'm going to run right out and develop a drug habit so I can be just like her!"

Well, of course, you're dying to be just like me, and who can blame you? Today is one of those days you're going to have a new and delightful idea. Yes, you will! And here it is: despite our early conditioning that leads us to think otherwise, teachers are not actually locked in closets at night, only to emerge each morning, a little L'Eau du Mothball dabbed behind each ear, to bore us senseless. No! They're our friends and neighbors. Teachers live among us, just like normal people. There's just no shame in it anymore. And these teachers struggle with taxes and budgets and equipment-this and expectation-that more than you might realize - especially the really good ones - to educate children each and every day.

You can help, even if you can't bring yourself to go to one of those stultifying school board meetings where they're planning a universe-changing vote on chalk. If you live in a wealthy school district, you can even help level the playing field for poor districts. It is breathakingly simple: put an envelope in the corner of your kitchen and when you see this logo on something you bought in the grocery store, cut it out. Drop that little piece of paper or plastic into the envelope. As the envelope fills, you now have an exciting opportunity to be - yes! you've been so patient! - just like me.

The Box Tops For Education site offers you credit cards, if you want to go that far but I can't see how creating personal debt for public finance makes sense. You can create an account, they offer coupons. If you use a whole lot of these products: good for you! If not, you may fill up that kitchen envelope once in a great long while - which is fine. Kids will still need school supplies when you've finally finished that bag of flour in two years.

I don't have school-age children. Miss Sasha is 23, married and living on an Air Force base in the Deep South. There's nothing personally in it for me to save and send off these things in a capricious manner to a random school in a struggling school district or hand them off to friends who teach. There's hardly a stigma anymore to meeting them in public! Since I'm always in a mood to have a delightful secret, I mail them off anonymously and smile for a week.

So I'm staring at this baggy and thinking: do I send this to one struggling school? Divide it in half and mail it to two? Where can it do some good? I'm breathless, just thinking about it.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Shadows On Our Eyes

Tonight's new moon wipes clean the slate. We begin again, rewriting creases in now-smooth palms. You don't have to say anything. We have been here before, between breaths, the heartbeat drummed by the stylus from song to song. And I know you. I have always known you. This balance, this hunger, quiet inside first morning light. The blue light of centuries has been nothing but hazy dreaming, though I've said that a thousand times, in a thousand lives and in a thousand voices, and now, your itinerary is off. Write all of our names in the dust by the train station.

Come to me, while there is still time.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pulling Mussels From A Shell

Dear Accountanting Family,

How are you? I’m well. I’ve given it some thought. I’ve been your customer or client or adorable mess for more than twenty years now and you’ve done an admirable job of keeping me out of the hooskow. Everyone has a reason to be very pleased.

When we first started out together, getting my taxes done was pricey for a single mom making $5.50 an hour but well worth it, considering that gal couldn’t add and subtract. The cost of a simple tax return is still kind of pricey, but I propose we look at this from a long-term perspective. Chances are, your grandchildren will be doing my taxes in another thirty years because why mess around with success, eh? Whenever someone asks me about accountants, I send them straight to you!

Please consider charging me a bulk rate, by which I mean if we stacked up my tax returns for fifty years, that might constitute adding a wing to your office.

My proposal is very silly, but so am I, and that’s why we need each other. Happy Tax Season, friends!

Hugs and kisses,
Princess Tata


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I Am Spartacus

As Driftglass says:
1. The scripture-barking, Christ-defiling demagogies who run the show carefully and deliberately angry up the dung people.
2. They glean votes and dollars and ratings and its all a lot of fun until Tim McVeigh blows up a federal building because he took them at their word.
3. Then the scripture-barking, Christ-defiling American Taliban who run the show swear they had no idea it would ever go this far.
4. Then they do it all over again.

A great many people in the center and on the left believe that if you ask a person to stop doing something unpleasant, that person will simply stop. The lesson of the last 13 years is that no, that belief is simply wrong when mania is in play and money and power are at stake. The Right Wing Noise Machine practices a scorched earth policy its opponents either pretend not to notice or pretend won't scorch them. Well, events of the last week have demonstrated that no one is safe and for the noise machine, no tactic is beyond the bounds of decency.

It is long past time to recognize that bullies and blowhards have no power we don't grant them.

It is time to go further and treat the Christofascists to a little doing unto them as they do unto others. It's simple. There's nothing to it. ...And you've done something marvelous for free speech, for women's health and reproductive rights, for Jews, Muslims and gays, not to mention a presidential campaign that's barely started.

Whatever you do, don't just sit there and feel powerless, because if you do, then you fucking are.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Moving Under Ice

Sharks killed four people and bit 58 others around the world in 2006, a comparatively dull year for dangerous encounters between the two species, scientists said in their annual shark attack census Tuesday.

...As usual, the United States had more shark attacks than any other nation, with 38 last year. That was down from 40 the previous year and well below the 53 recorded in 2000.

I hate when sharks bite. It's so tedious. "Oh," I say, "Not again. Get your boring teeth off me. I've got dinner plans."

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Way Back To You

I get annoyed when bloggers use pictures of people who aren't, you know, them on their, you know, blogs. By this, I mean I dislike when a blogger I respect gets nervous and deploys sweet images of plastic strangers. Thus, I am a complete hypocrite this evening because that face is not my face. I am vain. Grief and stress have made me look and feel run down, so let's not kid ourselves. If you think I'm taking pictures of myself wearing an herbal masque, sipping chardonnay through a bendy straw and watching General Hospital, you are mistaken. I found that green gal in Google Images; I like her quizzical What, me wrinkle? expression. She probably even likes chardonnay and kind of resembles Siobhan's younger sister. Yahtzee!

Today, I was reading my email at my desk and heard myself laugh. I was so surprised I stopped laughing. But that's silly, so I went back to reading what made me laugh, and it was still funny.
Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

Jim Guigli
Carmichael, CA

Feel the glee! Depending upon one's taste and peculiar education, one may find the funny in some entries and not so much in others.
"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"

Stuart Vasepuru
Edinburgh, Scotland

Do I? I'm a damn blogger! The competition has interesting categories you might expect. In the category of Detective Fiction:
It was a dreary Monday in September when Constable Lightspeed came across the rotting corpse that resembled one of those zombies from Michael Jackson's "Thriller," except that it was lying down and not performing the electric slide.

Derek Fisher
Ottawa, ON

Fantasy Fiction:
It was within the great stony nostril of a statue of Landrick the Elfin Vicelord that Frodo's great uncle, Jasper Baggins, happened to stumble upon the enchanted Bag of Holding, not to be confused with the Hag of Bolding, who was quite fond of leeks, most especially in a savory Hobbit knuckle stew.

Camille Barigar
Twin Falls, ID

Purple Prose:
Her angry accusations burned Clyde like that first bite of a double cheese pizza, when the toppings slide off and sear that small elevation of the oral mucosa, just behind the front teeth, known as the incisive papilla, which is linked to the discriminatory function of the taste buds except, where Clyde was concerned, when it came to women.

Pamela Patchet Hamilton
Beaconsfield, Quebec

Sex with Rachel after she turned fifty was like driving the last-place team on the last day of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the point no longer the ride but the finish, the difficulty not the speed but keeping all the parts moving in the right direction, not to mention all that irritating barking.

Dan Winters
Los Altos Hills, CA

And my favorite, Special Salute to Breasts Category. Is it hot in here?
As she sashayed out of the police station, her high heels clicking a staccato rhythm on the hard tile floor, like a one-armed castanet player in a very bad mariachi band, her ample bosom held in check only by a diaphanous blouse, and bouncing at each step like a 1959 tricked out Low-rider Chevy with very good hydraulics---she smiled to herself as she thought of the titillating interrogation from Detective Tipple about the Twin Peaks Melon Heist.

Wayne Spivey, Major, USAF Retired
Huntsville, Texas
When she sashayed across the room, her breasts swayed like two house trailers passing on a windy bridge.

Stan Higley
Fairport, NY
Although Brandi had been named Valedictorian and the outfit for her speech carefully chosen to prove that beauty and brains could indeed mix, she suddenly regretted her choice of attire, her rain-soaked T-shirt now valiantly engaging in the titanic struggle between the tensile strength of cotton and Newton's first law of motion.

Mark Schweizer
Hopkinsville, KY

On Saturday, Siobhan and I have appointments at a spa for massages and facials. You may hear laughter from wherever you are.

Dance If We Want To

This image came from the panda gallery on, which credits Reuters. That's three degrees of separation from fuzzy panda baby happiness, which I must have. Please know that I am not stealing. I just want to play with the adorable baby pandas. Really. I think the baby pandas would make excellent playmates for me, despite their sharp claws and limited conversation. We could go to restaurants and order off the kiddie menus together. "Please, waiter, we'd like bamboo tenders, bamboo fries and bamboo shakes. And no skimping on the bamboo!" Oh, how popular we would be! Later when my panda friends grew to three times my size and reached the pedals with ease, I could teach my panda friends to drive. If my panda friends wore baseball caps, I bet they could get a job in the food service industry, perhaps bussing tables in one of the many fine restaurants in town catering to the upwardly mobile. As we lumbered down the street together, my panda friends and I would certainly turn heads. I feel extra pretty just thinking about it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A House of Hope For Me And You

I bake my own bread. This winter, I've learned to make a multi-grain loaf that I like. It's rich and dense and I like it very much. This morning, I set up bread dough, brewed some coffee and dragged myself to Sears, where I walked around and around and around the paint section like I died and went to Martha Stewart Everyday. Since Sears had just opened, I had a tough time finding an employee to help me figure out what I needed for what I wanted to do. I found a couple of people at a bank of cash registers and one came to my rescue. She limped and most of her teeth were missing, yet she took one look at me and spoke to me quietly. I said I had a dark blue closet I wanted to paint the lightest green we could find. She limped to a spot and pulled out a card to test my resolve. I said that looked fine. She told me she couldn't choose colors for customers. I said I picked it, and that happened to be the right one. She helped me find primer and painters tape. Emboldened by these successes, she asked if I wanted a plastic tray liner. I allowed as that might be an excellent idea and we added that to my merchandise pile.

Other customers appeared in the paint department, a married couple who spoke incessantly about how she was unable to keep from spending money without his help. This was supposed to be hilarious, I could tell. They were accustomed to an appreciative audience for this routine. I was busy with my welling emotions and the paint expert addressed them crisply and professionally. They bought laundry detergent while I looked away. I announced that I was off to find painters tape. The salesperson directed me without skipping a beat with the other customers. When I returned, the other customers had gone, and it was just about this time that I realized the paint expert had been treating me with extraordinary gentleness. She gave me the materials I needed, advice I needed, and told me a very funny story, which I desperately needed. When we finished wrapping up my paints - I had to keep this secret from watchful neighbors - I mentioned I needed a throw blanket. She directed me to a cart, the elevator and the basement. I thanked her. In the basement, I found a cocoa-colored throw and a small green rug for my kitchen to replace the one I recently discarded.

Tata: Guess what! I painted my bedroom closet.
Siobhan: That's great.
Tata: I dumped everything on my bed and painted the closet a green indistiguishable from white unless it's next to white.
Siobhan: That sounds...strange.
Tata: It was, but not like when I realized people at Sears were speaking to me gently. Apparently, I look really bad.
Siobhan: Remember I said you looked like you'd been punched in the face a whole lot? Well, you did.
Tata: That's what happens when I cry my eyes out for a month. But now I have a new kitchen rug. And guess what else! It's recycled!
Siobhan: Look at you, helping the environment by redecorating!
Tata: Yeah, if only I'd driven my solar-powered unicorn coach to buy latex paint.

Don't let the scale fool you: this bag of clothing and shoes on the floor is about half my size. Out it goes with no regrets. The other bag is just junky stuff I no longer need. It's a bit of a test of my relationship with the cosmos:do I believe what I say, that the lighter I travel the better? Yes. I believe that. Does it serve me well to hold onto material things I have outgrown? No, they weigh me down. They cause heartache. If I want a tranquil home, I must refuse to dwell on the sad weeks and remove evidence of suffering. If I want joy in my home, I must prepare a place in my heart for it first.

And that, friend, requires a lot more elbow grease than you might think.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Lawn Chairs Are Everywhere

I have little talks with Me about Us.

Tata: I am sad! Waaaaaaaah!
Tata: Listen, princess, how do you feel? Do you feel I Want To Die! bad?
Tata: ...No...I don't!
Tata: Do you feel It's Hopeless! bad?
Tata: I don't!
Tata: Right, then you're not depressed. You're appropriately sad.
Tata: I am sad! Waaaaaaaah!
Tata: Okay, so what do you want to do about it?
Tata: Blow my nose on Our sleeve?
Tata: Yecch. Listen, I've noticed we're currently running up a flight of stairs. If you think back, this is how we've always gotten over the bad breaks. This stairwell, lap after lap of the stairs over the last twenty years.
Tata: Sniff! ...I remember! Man, there ought to be a plaque!
Tata: And you know what else? Everyone who has ever shared an apartment with you knew that if they opened the door and smelled bleach, they should walk away - just walk away!
Tata: Yeah yeah, I used to throw furniture but polishing it is miles better!
Tata: And what else do you do to recover from something?
Tata: Start smoking?
Tata: Yeah...let's skip that one, huh?
Tata: Oh. Okay. What then?
Tata: You're an artist. Get off your ass and get to work. Your best work has always come out of surviving something awful.
Tata: Huh. So I could've spared myself the years of writing band reviews by -
Tata: Yep, one craptastic trip to a shark tank.

Siobhan, who nearly died a week ago Thursday, and whose doctor kept exclaiming like a broken cuckoo clock, "You almost bit it!" until she threatened to punch him in his mechanism, is at home, finally. Last night, I called her with a commission.

Tata: I have a job for you you will enjoy, oh Queen of All the Net Purveys.
Siobhan: I can't fucking imagine but go ahead. Try me.
Tata: Larry, the little black cat once bent on stealing your soul, peed on the couch and told me he peed on the couch. I cleaned it but this couch came from Daria's house, where children and a dog peed on it. It must go.
Siobhan: ...Bored now...
Tata: Buy me a couch.
Siobhan: ...Really bored now...
Tata: I will give you my credit card. These are the rules: it must be less than $400, it only needs to last a year, it must be delivered before St. Patrick's Day, comfortable, stain-repellant and red.
Siobhan: Hmm. That challenge is worthy! Red, eh?
Tata: It's the color of life. So said Isadora Duncan.

Even with the random bursting into tears, I feel pretty good. I'm out from under the weight all caregivers feel when a sick person or animal dies. I went as far as I could for as long as I could, and the outcome was exactly as it should have been. I loved him madly. We are free.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Wheels Go Round And Round

Every morning, someone I'll never meet does a little creative writing project and emails it to me in the form of a daily horoscope. I have no idea what it means but I don't take it seriously. The person, if there is a person, who writes these things may or may not consult the stars, the Magic 8 Ball or an Amtrak schedule. I can't know. Even so, sometimes the horoscope is 100% right, in a non-Ta-specific manner. Today, for instance, it advises that making a symbolic gesture will lead to change in real life; clean up!

I have been cleaning my apartment with extreme prejudice. Last night, it dawned on me that I should paint the closet in which Larry hid out during the difficult last weeks of his life. Since I can hardly think at this point, that idea seems like genius, and if it's not, I can blame any dumb thing I do on fumes.

Yesterday's big irrational thought was What if he weren't really dead and I left him with terrible people who would do who knew what to him? I spent most of yesterday trying to keep my hand off the phone and calculating odds. Would people who didn't really put my cat to sleep tell me they hadn't put my cat to sleep? No, of course not. Eventually, I had to remind myself over and over that they were good to him and to me, and since I trusted them while he was alive, he's dead. I have not abandoned him to - say - medical experiments. These doubts are even funny; they had their honest start in the office, on Tuesday morning:

Tata: No. Let's put him to sleep. No more tests for him.
Substitute Vet: Is there someone I can call for you?
Tata: What?
SV: Is there someone at home we can call? Someone you'd like to be here for moral support?
Tata: What?
Anya: That's why she brought HER SISTER.

I was explaining this to my mother, who couldn't stop saying, "What?" either, when it dawned on me what the substitute vet was saying.

Tata: So apparently he thought Anya was my lover and he wanted to call my husband.
Mom: Was he telling on you or caring for your cat?
Tata: Both?

A few weeks ago, a friend and I started tossing around ideas for an art project, which seemed hopeful. Georg is right: I need projects, and I've been avoiding people for about a year while I put everything into making a living and taking care of Larry. Once again: I'm not saying that was rational, but I did it. Anyway, I ordered supplies for this art project and didn't expect them until later this week. An hour after Anya and I emptied the apartment of Larry-related objects, the UPS truck delivered those supplies.

I couldn't have gotten the message more clearly if it'd come marked AQUARIUS.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I Just Have To Let It Go

This morning, we put Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, to sleep. I've been crying my eyes out for weeks, fearing this moment for myself and for him. The choice came down to putting him into a hospital to warm him up - his temperature was really low - then treatment. The substitute vet did not remember treating this self same pussycat twice, two weeks ago, and was deeply unhelpful. Anya came with me and spoke rationally and when I decided it was time, the clinic staff, which has grown attached to Our Cranky Hero, tried to talk me out of it. I wavered, then insisted. I loved him too much to hospitalize him.

This is the last picture I took of him yesterday.

My apartment feels empty. My heart aches. This person in cat form was more interesting than most people in human form. He went to sleep in my arms, then I handed him to the assistant for the last shot. I hope I forget this and just remember the fascinating, quirky character. Anya and I emptied my apartment of possibly infected cat reminders. I dragged everything to the dumpster, and it's been awful, just awful, but so, so much better than trying to decide and the agony of waiting.

So ends the story of Larry, the little black cat, no longer bent on stealing your soul.

Monday, February 05, 2007

And I Ride And I Ride

I have my hands full at home with the sick pussycat peeing everywhere, so I'll be blunt. Blunt-er. More blunt that usual. Do not mistake my refusal to touch an errant shrimp ring for virtue. I am not virtuous, but I am clear on where I end and where slimy marketing begins, and I have that luxury because I have nothing to sell. My career is not at stake when some dimwit notices me or doesn't, and neither is my self-worth waiting for someone to stare at me and calculate. Fuck that. It is important to understand I already know I don't need to be famous to create a body of work, I have and I will continue; the critic that matters is me. Currently, I'd pan me, though with one decent mssive I can win me back; but you know who should raise the bar? Colorado State lawmakers sniffing at losing all they can eat:
DENVER - One state lawmaker says he ate just one shrimp at a recent reception for fear of violating a strict new ethics law. Another says he sometimes has a bowl of cereal for dinner instead of the sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres he used to nibble at gatherings. There's no such thing as a free lunch at the Colorado Capitol since voters passed Amendment 41 last fall. Free breakfasts and evening receptions have vanished, too, in a cloud of confusion and jokes about exactly what is forbidden and what is allowed.

Dude, I hope that's tartar sauce on your lapel.
Amendment 41 bans lobbyists from giving any gifts, including meals, to lawmakers. Anyone else can give gifts up to $50 to lawmakers, other government workers, contractors and their families. Former lawmakers must also wait two years before returning to the Capitol to work as lobbyists. The National Conference of State Legislatures has called it the toughest ethics rule in the nation.

Hot dog, I want tough ethics rules - but someone's still mad about his tender wiener.
Republican Sen. Ken Kester of Las Animas - the lawmaker who said he sometimes has Life cereal for dinner - said meeting with lobbyists over lunch helped him understand the issues because it's impossible to read all of the hundreds of bills introduced each year. Like others, he was quick to say he never pledged a vote just because a meal was provided. Chuck Ford, a self-described "black hat" lobbyist who represents construction groups and the gambling town of Black Hawk, said meal breaks were the best time to talk to lawmakers because of their busy schedules. Having a lobbyist pay for that meal was a perk for lawmakers who make only $30,000 a year, he said. He recalled picking up a $500 bar tab for lawmakers because "I could afford it and they couldn't."

"The trend, what we call reform now, is toward making life miserable for everyone involved in politics," Ford said. "Politics is the way we get the job done and it works."

Oh, fuck you lengthwise, Mr. Ford. It doesn't take a genius to realize that just because something has always been done one icky way that it must ever be so - unless it's the Electric Slide. You heard me!
The inventor of the "Electric Slide," an iconic dance created in 1976, is fighting back against what he believes are copyright violations and, more importantly, examples of bad dancing.

Is it possible I liked the whiny lobbyist better than the litigious choreographer? Yahuh!
The 1998 Digital Millenium Copyright Act governs copyright infringement as well as technology whose purpose is to circumvent measures intended to protect copyrights. Under the DMCA, rights-holders can complain to services like YouTube that content uploaded by users infringes their copyrights.

But on the YouTube page Silver himself posted showing the Electric Slide, he wrote, "Any video that shows my choreography being done incorrectly is being removed. I don't want future generations having to learn it wrong and then relearn it as I am being faced with now because of certain sites and (people) that have been teaching it incorrectly and without my permission. That's the reason I (copyrighted) it in the first place."

What a dick!
"I realize that this incorrect version of my choreography has been around for some 27 years," Silver wrote, "and it seems pointless to try and correct it at this time but because of the legal ramifications, my lawyers have suggested that I take this approach."

This is all a tremendous yawnfest, except for one little nugget of corn-flecked bullshit.
[Silver] also complained that actors in those movies also didn't do the dance right. In fact, of several movies mentioned, surprisingly, Silver said only Joe Pesci, best known for his Oscar-winning role in the gangster classic Goodfellas, performed the dance correctly in the decidedly lesser-known film, The Super.

So we're back to the damn shrimp ring and selfish desires. Just because it's always been that icky way doesn't mean it must ever be so - not if we refuse to bite.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Like the Deadly Hands of the Radium Clock

Siobhan first called me at work yesterday morning.

Siobhan: Not dead yet!
Tata: If you were, this phone call would be even more interesting. Where the hell are you?
Siobhan: Hospital.
Tata: Huh. Can I panic now?
Siobhan: What time is it?
Tata: 10:37.
Siobhan: Wait until 10:38. I gotta go get a test.

I postponed panicking until such time as I knew why I should panic, since I like to plan these things carefully. Later, we agreed I'd visit at lunchtime. Then, we agreed I would not visit at lunchtime. Then I had a meeting all afternoon, and enough time had passed that Siobhan's many admirers were taking bakery numbers in the lobby. Nobody with an IV drip needs to hear my mouth on a Friday night, so we agreed I'd visit today, but that doesn't mean we haven't been on the phone all morning.

Siobhan: They did an ultrasound on my chest and apparently I have a heart.
Tata: Get out!
Siobhan: It didn't grow three sizes but it is black.
Tata: Nobody touched it, right? Your heart is pure, concentrated Eeeeeevil!
Siobhan: Right. Don't bring me flowers. I don't have room for more.
Tata: Are your admirers there now?
Siobhan: No, but I expect them any minute.
Tata: Throw them out at 2.
Siobhan: How about at 3?
Tata: Sold!

So, while we're waiting for me to finish my pre-departure routine of bathing and complaining, I thought we might also observe that things are happening elsewhere, and some might matter more than others.
Natalyn Gracia loves her pink hair and so does her dad, Ricardo, but the Dalton Early Childhood Center calls her extreme and she's missed the last four days of school because of it. Ricardo had her hair dyed for a school parade back in October. But, he said, he never got the warning letter that came two weeks later. If he had, he would not have had her hair re-pinked over the Christmas break.

A spokeswoman for the school said they are working with Ricardo to make sure the girl is under compliance with the schools rules, which means she has to lose the pink hair.

Sometimes, I can tell people are speaking in code. I can't always tell what they're really saying, but I can tell someone is stringing together words in a manner inconsistent with common usage. For instance, when I think of a four-year-old with pink hair, I think of a darling little fuzzball who asks interesting questions and trusts adults. Apparently, the Dalton Early Childhood Center thinks of this.

Apparently, Teh Gay is such a threat to civilization that a preschool has a rule against pink hair. I've had toy-pony-pink hair, and it didn't make me any more queer than usual, but it did make people nervous, so I've seen the hand-wringing up close and personal. As with hate speech problems where the answer is more free speech, I think the answer here is more pink hair. I hope all the kids' parents take her classmates for - forgive me - pinking. There's nothing terrifying about hair color, if you're not allergic, but there's a lot to be frightened of when the adults act like big fucking babies.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging: I've Got the Power Edition

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, is a mysterious political artist, perfecting techniques in a new medium. This morning, he was waiting for me in the kitchen next to the Protest Poop. Yesterday, because I was half-asleep, I failed to realize the virtuoso placement of the protest poop relative to the artist, which is to say the cat faced the away from me and toward the food/water bowl, with the poop mere inches from the kitty rump, communicating ennui, despair and almost supernatural disdain for the caretaking human. I didn't take it personally, but I wish I'd taken a picture.

This morning, when I saw the artist had again created one of his ephemeral works, I ran for the camera. Since the weekend bracketed by veterinary visits, Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has been silent. Ordinarily, a healthy and happy version of the artist prowls around the house issuing directives and leaving manifestos in the cat box, so this silence has been very odd. When I approached the artist this morning, prepared to photograph his work, the artist called me by name. At least, he called me by the name he has always called me. It sounds like, "Brrrr?" which I have taken to mean, "You there!" or "Bartender!" So I am pleased to have documented this important work, which I promptly cleaned up.

The artist needs a thorough cleansing. Perhaps this method will pique his interest.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I Am the Passenger

Sree Sreenivasan
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY

Mr. Sreenivasan,

It's hard to judge an on-air fellow's personality by his - well - on-air personality, but I would have supposed by having seen you on ABC-TV for years that you were a decent sort, an intelligent man. I was pleased for you. I like it when decent people succeed in terrible, filthy businesses, like yours. Then I sort of noticed you'd moved to NBC. I switched when ABC refused to report on the war and, after a few years, there you were again, explaining gadgets before I've had a cup of coffee. Once again: pleased for you, decent fellow, etc., etc.

Last night, I attended the blogger summit, which was among the strangest events of my illustrious and strange career. Though I handle books in a library, I was once sent into the stacks to search for bombs. When I was a radio comedienne, I duct-taped a transmission back together in a rest stop on the way to a convention. I was a Dodge poet, a model and possessed an absolutely perfect derierre; yet I have never seen the level of shameless fame-whoring and elite ass-kissing as I saw last night. It was spectacular. I'm still all a-twitter!

NBC invited bloggers without a hint as to why, and we went anyway. I have to think about that more, but the invitation said something about food and people like free food. So: not a full house but over a hundred of us lined up to clip on two IDs for no good reason except to find ourselves meeting people by staring at their breasts, which is never a total loss. After an endless series of corporate self-congratulation talks and phony thank-yous, someone finally came to the point of this summit: to get bloggers to provide NBC news with hundreds of unpaid stringers and free stories. Hey, people who write for the love of the work should do it for NBC for the love of the work. That is so shameless I felt like I drank a bottle of VapoRub, but the truly exciting development was that though the auditorium was packed with NBC ringers, some of the empty, attention-seeking fame whores in the audience didn't tell you to get bent. No. Some people were thrilled that NBC liked them, really liked them. Huh.

As a journalism professor, you must have certain ethical problems with this proposal. You seemed very surprised when I said we watch Keith Olbermann's reports in video form online. It's had to believe you haven't heard of Crooks & Liars, but that may prove the real point: NBC's inviting the bloggers in was a cynical and sinister move. Each time you said "MSM or mainstream media" it was apparent that you knew the MSM had a real problem no one mentioned, the elephant in the room: credibility. For the last six years, the mainstream media has aided and abetted the administration's ham-fisted lying, the destruction of the Constitution, the pointless corruption that has been our illegal Middle East misadventure without so much as a solid question on Meet the Press, which is a breach of trust with the public. NBC is owned by defense contractor General Electric; NBC News has served as a docile lapdog of the administration. And now, NBC News invites in the bloggers, whose work grew up around the MSM's simpering and cowardly refusal to do its job, to co-opt the bloggers' credibility? Mr. Sreenivasan, I'm an artist, a peace blogger, a progressive, and a humorist. I'm practical about paying my bills and once wanted to be the first performance artist to wear PENNZOIL on her warmups. You and I know that if there's an afterlife, Machiavelli's laughing his ass off.

I'm not joining NBC's merry band because we have nothing to offer one another. I don't generate news leads; NBC isn't about to discover the joys of recycled, solar-powered peace, love and understanding, with a side of sturdy manicures. The free food might have provided some temptation, but unlike Persephone in the Underworld, I resisted every drop and morsel. It is worth mentioning that while NBC promised to credit bloggers for their material, no one said NBC would publish that material unedited.

I wish you well, but I hope this venture fails because the bloggers appreciate their independence, their integrity, their credibility more than the corrupting attention of the thing that seeks to undo them, and free shrimp.