Thursday, July 31, 2008

My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down

Ben Wattenberg's appearance on The Daily Show scared me. I was afraid he'd get away with saying any old poisonous thing. Jon Stewart softens his style when confronted with an older person or a genteel woman. His interview of Nancy Pelosi earlier this week contains a few Jon, did you hear what she just said? moments, for example. But back to Ben Wattenberg - or more specifically, back to me, on the edge of my seat last night: Jon lets a few very dangerous assertions get past him before he's had enough.

Let me declare, now and forever, that after 9/11 I supported the bombing of NO ONE, the declaration of war on NO ONE, no shredding of the Constitution, no denial of anyone's human rights, no lunkhead rush to vengeance, no. At no time have I ever supported the insensible and grammatically insupportable War on Terror. No. And I know plenty of people who did not lose their minds and wet their beds, plenty of people who opposed rash action and depraved indifference to genocide and torture - you probably number among those people. The media's narrative says EVERYONE supported and supports this pointless, endless, and cowardly fool's errand. It simply isn't so, and insisting doesn't make it so.

Now - with that much straight - now, we can start talking seriously.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Man, They're All the Same

It doesn't take a genius to see that the financial news is going to get much, much worse before it gets better. In fact, despite our short attention spans and denial, we may not see our economy 'normalize' for a decade or more. In this country, the lines at food banks and soup kitchens will lengthen. Around the world it's going to get very rough, and we're all going to wonder what we could have done differently.

I already wish I played games more often.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Spelled H-E-D

I've been tired and run down, and feel forced to conserve my energy. There are friends I want to talk with but just can't right now, when I fantacize about splitting in two so half of me could be sleeping while the other paints the attic. Some years ago, a nerd pile-on determined that the universe had a color that is roughly similar to a neutral bone color, though initially the universe's true hue was a peculiar light green. NASA, you vex decorators! I can't take so much into account without a roller extender. A karma-conscious gal can't tune into her aura with the spectre of future accent walls blocking her chi!

But enough about me! While you contemplate what you think of my color scheme, I'm mulling over this:
The government defines poverty as an annual income of only $16,227 for a family of three.

In 1985, I took a job at a fast food joint making $16,500. I had a baby, an employed boyfriend and a small apartment in Perth Amboy.

My current apartment, which is modest, is approximately $12,000 a year without utilities.

Where in New Jersey do people making $16,227 in 2008 live?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I've Come To Take You Home

Driving, windows open, radio playing.

Tata: There are a few things I'd like to do before I move. I'd like to bury Larry's ashes. It seems pretty stupid to carry them around with me.
Pete: At your mother's house, right?
Tata: Well, why not bury him where we live? Would you mind?
Pete: No, that'd be fine. You want to scatter your Dad's ashes, too, right?
Tata: Yeah.
Pete: Have you picked a place? You were talking about the Shore.
Tata: I think so. I think the place where his grandparents had a house. His ashes would join the Gulf Stream and he could go around the world. He loved Europe and Iceland, and Japan was really good for him.

At the first notes of a new song I burst into tears.

Pete: What's wrong?
Tata: Nothing. That's what we'll do. Do you believe in signs?
Pete: Sometimes.
Tata: I don't think you could get a clearer sign than this one.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

See Innocence Shining Through

On Planet Green, a Discovery offshoot, you can learn a whole lot in a few short episodes. For instance, since Suzette's waiting impatiently for fruit-based beauty product pointers, you can fast-forward by going positively retro.
Why go buy face masks when you can make them totally naturally yourself? Here are some basic face masks that you can make on your own, and in a matter of minutes.

All of these ingredients are simple to put together to make a great face mask. Just mash the given ingredients together and let the mixture sit on your face for 10-15 minutes.

Here are the items you should try combining:

Brown Sugar+Milk
Egg Yolk+Honey+Olive Oil
Oatmeal+Olive Oil
Blended Almonds+Honey+Egg White
Baking Soda+Water

All of these combinations make for wonderful masks and they help to green up your life and improve your skin simultaneously. Try them!

None of this is new. In fact, it's deeply old because it works. The Egyptians slathered themselves and each other, alive and dead, in fruity goo. More to the modern point: smart vain people indifferent to corporate advertising have nurtured dewy complexions with yogurt, honey, berries, olive oil, milk, almonds, egg, oatmeal, cucumber, avocado and apple since fragrant time immemorial.* In fact, I distantly recall a Facts Of Life episode where Mrs. Garrett lectured Natalie on the stupidity of buying into buying beauty, sort of. Oh, irony! The best tightening mask I ever used - and still do when I can - is an aqueous suspension of magnesium hydroxide or Milk of Magnesia. It was recommended to me by a little old lady with the tiniest pores you've ever seen. She said glop the stuff on once a week, wait until it dries and rinse with cool water. It's cheap and - bonus! - the teenage cashiers at your drugstore think you've got a glamorous eating disorder!

Back to Planet Green: some shows don't interest me. They're celebrity gossip in organic cotton, and who cares, really? But some offerings are really exciting. Renovation Nation pits host Steve Thomas against his own ideas. Homeowners are renovating green, often spending a great deal of time and money, and Steve, former host of This Old House, turns up to help and heckle. Sometimes, you can tell Steve's not entirely convinced by the homeowners' plans, some of which are really innovative - green tech is developing really fast right now in all kinds of directions. It was really exciting for me three days ago to see photovoltaic roofing heat water and collect energy for electricity. Before that episode, solar roofing seemed to do one task or the other but not both. So while engineering green moves forward in breathtaking leaps and bounds, some of the most charming developments are old-fashioned and humble.

I saw an interview with Dan Phillips on a Planet Green show but for the life of me I can't figure out which. The interview I saw emphasized the unique and totally original nature of each house, reminding me of a book Daria had when we were kids called Andrew Henry's Meadow.

If you read celebrity gossip, you know that Zach Braff remembers this book, too. Doris Burns published this book in 1965 about an intrepid little boy who gets tired of his family, takes his tools and goes for a long walk. He finds a meadow and builds himself a house. Other children see this and join him in droves in the meadow, where Andrew Henry builds each child a house suited to him- or herself with materials he finds lying around. Eventually, the worried parents find the children, see the special houses and take the children home. For their parts, the parents learn to see their children as people. The children go home, happy to be loved for themselves. When I saw the treehouse in the Dan Phillips interview my heart sang a bit. I will deny that sentimentality under oath. You're a terrible person for mentioning it.

The other day, a woman in my office made a derisive comment about "the environmental frenzy" and I stopped in my tracks. She's nearly ready to retire, which means she was born during or after WWII. Her earliest memories are of living in a 16-room house in Newton, Massachusetts, not unlike the one in current episodes of This Old House. An address like this and wasting money were signals to the community, in some way that matters to her, of prosperity, though she talks about rooms closed off and left unheated. She and I have even talked about the Newton project, which may be all about real estate for her. I'm not sure. As for the show, I recall the utter delight with which the guys toured warehouses full of reclaimed materials during the New Orleans rebuild. Reusing and recycling isn't new. It's the oldest trick in the book.

* Whatever you do, please don't try picturing Burma Shave signs in hieroglyphics. You'll be up all night with that one.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brush Me, Daddio

The aforementioned cookbook edited by Marion Howells is Australian. Sort of. The stats:

First published 1970 by Golden Press Pty Ltd
10-16 Dowling Street, Potts Point, Sydney Australia
© Australian Consolidated Press Ltd 1970

This edition first published in the United States of America in 1971 by Crescent Books, A Division of Crown Publishers, Inc., 419 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016

This edition © Octopus Books Limited 1971

I probably received this book in 1975. The recipe:

Strawberry Hazelnut Gateau

4 egg whites
pinch salt
10 oz. (1 1/4 cups) castor (superfine) sugar
4 1/2 oz. (1 cup) ground hazelnuts
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 dessertspoons black coffee


1 lb. strawberries
1 pint (2 cups) whipped cream
6 oz. (6 squares) plain chocolate)

Beat egg whites with salt until stiff; gradually add sugar; beat until mixture is of meringue consistency. Fold in remaining ingredients. Spread n 2 greased and floured 8 in. springform pans. Bake in moderate oven, Mark 4 350ºF, approximately 35 minutes; release sides of pans. Cool on base of pans.

Remove from base, place a layer of meringue on serving plate. Spread with thin layer of chocolate, which has been melted with water. Spread 1/2 in. layer of cream over chocolate. Top with layer of sliced strawberries; reserve remainder for decoration.

Spread second layer of meringue with remaining chocolate mixture; place on strawberry layer, chocolate-side up. Cover and top with cream.

Refrigerate several hours, or preferably overnight. Serve decorated with reserved strawberries.

The cookbook opens with two pages called American Weights and Measures. Even as a kid, I was troubled by these comparisons. You will be relieved to know that the answer to the pertinent question What the fuck is a dessertspoon? is A tablespoon, duh! I know I was! But the tables don't explain why the list of American dry measures includes weights without mentioning why that would be important, and did you know that in American measures a half-cup is called a gill?

I love that the whipped cream has no sugar in it. The full, rich flavor of cream is a good balance with tart strawberries, semisweet chocolate and the melting sweetness of the meringues. I've never tried it with bittersweet chocolate but I'd be very careful not to serve that to persons expecting some form of conventional dessert.

A chocolatier worth his salt reads that recipe and sees a couple of things that shouldn't work. Make it and see how you feel about it. One thing you should know: this is extremely messy to eat and you should put down a tarp in the formal dining room. It will never cut into neat cake slices so do not think this is your moral failure. Hand out your best spoons and cozy up to the scrumptious gateau.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Let's Break Out the Booze And Have A Ball

Omigod, I hate sticky, but do I love sticky?
LONDON, England (CNN) -- A protester who wanted his message to stick managed to superglue himself to the British prime minister Tuesday evening.

Dan Glass was at 10 Downing Street to receive a charity's award for his work on transportation issues when he staged the unusual protest. Just before Prime Minister Gordon Brown presented him with the award, Glass squirted superglue in the palm of his left hand. He shook Brown's right hand and then grabbed the prime minister's sleeve.

"I've just superglued myself to your arm," Glass said he told Brown. "Don't panic. This is a non-violent protest."

Glass is affiliated with the group Plane Stupid, which campaigns against airport expansion and climate change. He said he acted to protest Brown's "hypocrisy" on the issues.

"I just wanted a few more minutes of his time to get the message across, because he's not listening to communities affected by airport expansion," Glass told CNN on Wednesday.

The prime minister managed to free himself in about 30 seconds, Glass said.

"He can shake off my arm, but he cannot shake away climate change," he added.

Surprisingly, Mr. Glass was not fed to the Queen's Corgis. But we don't live there. We live here.

Since we can't shake off the hangover caused by two endless wars, the destruction of an American city, the destruction of our military, the emptying of our treasury, the evisceration of the Constitution, the absolutely avoidable corrosion of the middle class, the union busting, the jobs loss, the wholesale incarceration of the poor, the corruption of the Department of Justice, the environmental policies written by oil lobbyists, the installation of unqualified political hacks into significant positions, the xenophobic and homophobic invective and legislation, the unforgivable fleecing of the Department of the Interior, the cruel and stupid border wall bullshit, the poisoning of political discourse, the stacking of the Supreme Court, the outing of Valerie Plame, the loss of American credibility on human rights issues, the hollowing out of Roe vs. Wade, the dismantling of contraceptive and AIDS prevention programs worldwide and the unbelievably cruel abandonment of women in Iraq and Afghanistan, let's watch Beeker sing Ode to Joy. Because why not?

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Monday, July 21, 2008

I'll See You In My Dreams

For a few weeks, I've felt run down, sore and exhausted. I wish I had time to take a day off and lie still while charming young things bring me restorative chicken liver pate and tropical fruit. I don't. No matter. My co-worker got hit by a dump truck that launched his car fifty feet into a telephone pole, totalling the car and cracking his rib. He's sitting at his desk now, telling us about the Have A Heart trap that survived the various impacts that turned his car into crushed metal. It's a fucking miracle! Well, shut my mouth.

I haven't been able to bicycle to work. Yesterday was the sixth successive day topping 90 degrees, and almost every forecast contained some mention of lightning. It's raining lightly now. That's why today is the only day this summer I've worn suede shoes. Because, you know, because.

The Weavers at Carnegie Hall has been on my mind. Daria, Todd and I spent a lot of time alone together, singing these songs. In my lifetime, the way people listen to music has changed fundamentally. Let's call this American History: our parents weren't wild about television anyhow, so they'd put on records. A listener had a respectful, attentive duty to records: motion was limited to what did not disturb the needle for 24-26 minutes, and sometimes all a person did was hold still and really listen. Sometimes, we'd sing along and often dance. Sometimes we'd dance to the radio. Until we started buying our own records - no mean feat since we didn't live anywhere near a record store - we had this intimate relationship with our parents' music. Thus, somewhere in the back of my child mind, I know every note, every catcall, every thunderous cheer of The Weavers at Carnegie Hall.

Because I remember my father coughing on his restaurant breakfast and whispering, "That man over there - he was blacklisted by McCarthy" and because I've been in a foul mood since warmongers started flinging around the word traitor in 2002, and because there was never any reason to invade Iraq, I see this treachery for what it is. Somewhere, there is music and we should be dancing.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

We Didn't Have To Wait So Long

Once again, I'm working my tapered fingers to the bone at the family store. I wish I were at home, where Topaz reclines in an alcove of Dad's cookbooks, manuals and dictionaries. Pete and I refer to this as Topaz's Room. Like any girl with a jealous feline sister of approximately the same age, Topaz defends her turf. I'm sure she's going to cut up Drusy's Shawn Cassidy posters. Daria and I, sixteen months apart, were scrappers from the beginning but we knew sisters in high school who were so mean they gave each other shocking nocturnal haircuts. I've warned the cats about bobbing one another's fur.

If you can believe it, the first cookbook my family ever gave me was English. I should have sensed their hostility and run away from home immediately. This being before Google the Great and Powerful or rides to a real library, I was left to puzzle out what rashers of bacon might mean to quiche, and why the pictures made food look slightly hysterical. I'd seen desserts before, but never an emotionally overwrought Pavlova stacked with nervous kiwi.

In the first picture of lovely Topaz with her delicious new feathery bell toy thingy, the English cookbook is backwards in the stack. I still use it sometimes to demonstrate my claim that I make a gateau that'll make you cry, especially if you're wearing an expensive outfit.

Topaz is far too sleepy and too refined for such silliness.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

In Mortal Chains, Who In Power

Sometimes, I notice someone's speaking in code.

When the hair-twisting mommy says, "Like other vaccines, it's about prevention" I get out my 3-D glasses and decoder ring. Why? Leaving aside the hipster silliness of about, all vaccines prevent disease and infection. And people don't say things like "It's about prevention" unless people are talking about it being formulated to do something else. In Australia, fundamentalists say Gardasil kills girls but the data is full of holes. People can say anything, but it doesn't have to be true or useful. Could parents be confused by what something is and what someone says it does? Yep. Happens all the time. Words used and misused have great power, and words misused with ill intent are very, very dangerous.

Today on Shakesville, Mustang Bobby posted about amusing and awkward corporate double speak, and all was going swimmingly until a glib professional linguist turned up and commenters who ought to know better kissed her ass. If that's in any way an opaque description, I'll help. Ass-kissing can be defined as happens when a commentariat is cowed by cleverness or alleged credentials, rather than putting forth the suggestion that the clever, allegedly credentialled commenter is full of shit and probably disastrously bad at her job.

Frankly, the language should have turned a little Anglo-Saxon.

Look, I'm nobody. I didn't graduate from college and I won't stoop to listing off reasons you ought to kiss my ass - though I might lean over a little now and then. I'm still about to say something really important. No. Really. Ready?
Language is your first line of defense.

What people say, what words they use, how they use them - all these things are not neutral. You can learn a great deal about a speaker, broadcaster or conversationalist by weighing her words. For a simple example, my grandmother, who did the New York Times crossword in pen for fun, used to say, "Sweetheart, you made coffee," which sounds delightful unless you know my grandmother never said the word "sweetheart" without clenched teeth, and I make terrible coffee. There. Meaning has harmlessly, totally shifted, but Gram was allowed to shift these meanings because, of course, we were all grateful I hadn't made espresso and Gram, raised by Italian immigrants, spoke perfect English.

Here and now, words fly fast, furious and spurious. Honest people are genuinely perplexed by what they hear and dishonest people perplex par excellence. If you're listening, you can hear words shift in the public discourse. I recall distinctly feeling the solid ground shake under the word feminist and wondering why anyone was stupid enough to shimmy along, but people have been doing that same dance, unquestioning, for years. Words, once again, have great power: to raise up, to destroy, to inspire, to rend, but we have to listen, and we have to know what words mean when we use them. If we don't, we don't know when they're used to tear us apart from one another.

The NAACP has heard McCain's words before.

A word we hear and use and misuse is racism. Racism is a systemic power imbalance based on the dominant culture's perception of skin color, manifesting in but not limited to social, economic, educational and linguistic inequalities. It's racism when the average household worth of non-Hispanic white people is above $80,000, but for black people it's less than $6,000. It's racism when police and fire departments routinely hire white applicants in numbers disproportionate to the population. It's not at all racism when black people, speaking where white people can hear them, mention racism exists, and that it's wildly unpleasant to live with. What, then, about black people who do terrible things to white people? That's not racism. That can be prejudice, hatred, a violent dislike or a loss of composure, but in America, it doesn't have the weight and omnipresence of the system and the state. When we use the word racism to describe the actions or words of a black person, we are not only misusing this word, we are teaching people not to trust our words. And we have to know this, because people who understand the meanings of words are listening.

The issues are complex and the language is rich and supple, however loaded it might be with the tools of oppression and damage. In America, English is an oppressor language, wielded by the dominant culture against immigrants and natives alike; never mistake it for a weapon that won't be used against you. It is, every day, all the time, but it's also your weapon if you take it up and learn how to use it. People who think spelling and grammar are not important might as well be asking con artists to steal their savings accounts.

Back to the glib linguist: she remarked that it was surprising feminists resisted changes in language and all the hair on my arms stood up. I was at work, so I went and did something else, possibly involving knives. To me, that statement said everything I needed to know or will ever need to know about that person. Further, I know that if I need to con someone out of her nest egg, I know precisely who'll never see me coming.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blackjack On A Saturday Night

He's a good man, a gifted daughter.
a lovely wife, a happy home.
But speak loudly and you'll find out
he hopes you bitches leave things alone.

Where the Weather Suits My Clothes

Miz Shoes has kindly named me the recipient of an Arte y Pico award. I confess my Spanish is limited to phrases Minstrel Boy pens for me so I can order dinner without creating an international incident, so while I'm not completely clear on the whole Arte y Pico zeitgeist I'm still thankful Miz Shoes thinks that much of me. Thank you, dahhhhlink. You're much too kind!

Unfortunately, that's where murky understanding turns to mud. Rules for passing this honor on are:
* Pick 5 blogs to which you would like to award this honor.
* Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
* Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
* Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link.

I love you, Blogosphere, but if you think I'm sharing my tiara you've never seen a beauty pageant. I'm in it for the fame, the glory and the double-sided tape stuck under my armpits, keeping this strapless number from becoming a belt. Name five blogs? And have them steal my hard-fought victory, not to mention my mascara? I can't do it, not while I'm still competing at the peak of my ridiculous form. So instead of dumping ground glass into your pumps, I'll entertain you with a medley.

Recently, Greasy Tony flipped his last burger. Yes, Tony's gone to the Great Grill In the Sky, via Tuscon and Tempe, Arizona. This may come as a surprise to anyone who lived in New Brunswick during the sixties, seventies and eighties, because the hand that rocked the cheesesteak seemed ageless and ancient. Perhaps you visited town but you hadn't really lived here until you'd stumbled into Greasy Tony's after bar closing time and ate whatever Tony thought your slurred request meant.

My brother Todd and his friends should have had a plaque on the wall, so often did they patronize this fine eatery. I personally will miss watching Tony slap roaches on the counter with the same knife he used to chop "vegetables," but these memories will someday be lost on the winds of time. What is not lost is the true Jersey spirit in which Tony said, "No charge for extra grease."

A few weeks ago, the phone rang. My sister Daria hissed at me urgently from an outlet store ten miles away.

Tata: Depends on the shoes' width. My feet form amusing triangles -
Tata: Six and a half? Seven?
Daria: SEVEN IT IS! What color do you want? They have purple, blue and silver.
Tata: Both. All of them. What are we talking about?
Daria: Vera Wang flip flops are 50% off and I have a coupon!
Tata: You'd better get all three. What if my feet aren't feeling all matchy-matchy?

This is an almost criminally inadequate rendering of the purple version of the flip flops I am currently wearing, and this tries the patience of my co-workers because when sunlight catches the little silver plastic bauble - it's true - angels sing. Yes, when I'm wearing casual summer footwear I have a celestial soundtrack. We all do; it's just that I can hear this theme music. It's a talent, I guess; helps me avoid sharks. A few weeks ago, a woman I barely know asked what my blog's about. I don't know. It's possible you might know before I do.

Don't touch my bouquet, sweetie.


Monday, July 14, 2008

All My Love And You Showed No Mercy

Oh fuck this shit sideways:
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Women's rights groups and the state Attorney General's Office are preparing to challenge a judge's ruling that determined it's too easy to get a restraining order in New Jersey.

It's on my To-Do list: get a manicure, have the dog waxed, file for a restraining order. You want to do lunch? I could rearrange a few things.
Although the numbers have declined over the past five years, about 40,000 domestic violence complaints are filed annually in New Jersey. From those, roughly 30,000 temporary restraining orders are issued, with most of the rest withdrawn by the accuser. Nearly 80 percent of the complaints are filed by women.

The recent ruling by a Hudson County judge, however, threatens to make it more difficult for victims to prove they have been beaten or threatened and could scuttle the state's Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

State Superior Court Judge Francis B. Schultz found that some elements of the 17-year-old law are unconstitutional. Among them: a low threshold of evidence _ just a "preponderance" _ to get a restraining order violates due process protections. Instead, judges need "clear and convincing" evidence to issue a restraining order, Schultz said.

[Sic] and very sick. In fact, with all that spinning, vertigo is almost inevitable.
In New Jersey, about 9,000 people bring criminal charges each year that a restraining order has been violated, sometimes with tragic results.

For example, prosecutors in Essex County have charged Kenneth Duckett with murdering his estranged wife, Monica Paul, by shooting her to death in front of one of their children at the Montclair YMCA on June 26. The couple had separated in August, and Paul obtained a temporary restraining order in October. It was made final later that month, according to prosecutors.

Bruce Eden, civil rights director for the state chapter of Dads Against Discrimination, contended that such cases are rare, and that a majority of domestic violence complaints involve no physical contact. Complaints can be filed for making threats.

He applauded Schultz' decision. "This will make it more difficult for false allegations," Eden said.

I wonder if I could projectile-vomit all the way to Bruce Eden's house. It would have to be a record of some kind. Who's with me? Eat something chunky!
Michael Argen, president of the New Jersey Council for Children's Rights, said that a parent will not get custody of children once a restraining order is issued.

"If this ruling continues, it would help truly battered people more, because it would limit the resources that are being used on truly frivolous cases," Argen said.

I'm thinking gravity's a little weak at Argen's house. Either that or he's confused by pesky words like homicide and manslaughter when they apply to women.
Schultz also found the law violated the New Jersey Constitution's separation of powers mandate because the Legislature usurped the state Supreme Court's role by dictating court procedures, including what to consider in setting bail.

"If it's allowed to stand, it certainly would be a significant problem for victims of domestic violence," said Sandy Clark, associate director of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women.

"They are typically the only witnesses to the abuse. So to have to show by clear and convincing standard would certainly be challenging," Clark said.

She considers New Jersey's law among the best in the country, since it provides restraining orders of indefinite length, along with mandatory training for police and judges. Other states have tougher standards to obtain restraining orders, she said.

Prosecutors are also alarmed at what would happen if the ruling stands.

"You're going to have a chilling effect. That's the bottom line," said Deputy Chief Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Debra Cannella, who led the office's domestic violence unit for 11 years.

"We're very concerned about this because elevating the standard of proof will make it more difficult for victims of domestic violence who desperately need relief," Cannella said. "The next time that victim is assaulted, they may not come back to court because there were rebuffed."

The victim might not come back to court next time because she's inconveniently dead, but that's less important than a legislative pissing match.

Hey, girl: once again, your rights take a beating. Do us all a favor and take it like a man.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

And Around And Around And Around And

This is a dated image of Nastia Liukin, who placed second at the Olympic Trials. Her performances are always beautiful to watch and since the Olympics are mere weeks away, I thought I'd tell you something about this image you might not know: handstands are the zen position of the gymnastics world. By itself, this image looks like a person resting on her palms, but she is actually pressing her whole taut body away from her palms. Her abdominal muscles measure balance against the position of her shoulders, her hamstrings, her heels, the tops of her feet. It looks like a moment of stillness and yet every bit of the gymnast's body is stretched, is loose, is in motion, is motionless - all at once, in delicate harmony. Liukin looks frail but her weight to strength ratio would impress Marines.

There's another thing: a handstand is also a position of rest. To get there, a gymnast has just exerted some effort, especially on the uneven bars. It seems counterintuitive to say this active position is restful, but it is, and it is most restful when it is most stretched and dynamic. Below, Liukin on the first night of the Olympic Trials. On the second night, she had several problems any other mortal might have. This routine, though, flows beautifully to the funny landing and there's a noticeable rhythm break about two-thirds of the way through. Even so, the score of 16.7 under the new scoring system is fantastic. Watch, and you will see how she pushes up to move down and presses down to circle back up. She is doing so many things even slow motion won't help you see it all.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Days Are Dull, the Nights Are Long

From the Telegraph Online:
The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

If you've seen a movie in the last fifty years, you know that the gentle voice on the hotel's overhead speaker sounds a bit...testy:

Paging President Bush! Paging President Bush! There's a Mr. Gozilla here to see you at your earliest convenience. He's waiting where the lobby used to be. Paging Housekeeping! Paging Housekeeping! Please summon Mothra for backup...


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Know the Power That You Have

Get a load of this shit:

I sit 35 miles from the crater in the Manhattan bedrock that used to be the World Trade Center and even now, no day passes that is not in some way influenced by the disaster. And today I saw this commercial. Need to lose a few pounds? For full drink-spewing disgust, just let the ad at the top right run. You'll hurl all right! Note the choice of words that make it sound like you can buy this shitty product to celebrate something, and what is that, exactly?

No, really. Put a name on it. What is it?

I dare you. Speak it. Look the demon in the eye.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Free To Be Nowhere

Let's - grrrrrr! - talk.

Forgive me now and beat the Yom Kippur rush: I'm in a mood even a fresh coif and a new pair of biodegradable Vera Wang platform flip flops wouldn't fix. Not to worry, Poor Impulsives, we can blame this on a low pressure system rushing in from out west, where the deer and the antelope play canasta. As you know, I'm not much of a joiner where no solder is to be found, so you'll be as shocked as I was to learn that the local committee ladies who are fully committed to having committees and have never met me have asked me to join them in their eco-friendly bloodless conquest of the tiny town's miserably stocked ExtortionMart, by which I mean a meeting on Monday with the store's new manager. Apparently, I drove away the last manager with my insistence that recycled paper products were a perfectly rational idea. Anyway, my sister Anya, who shall hereafter be refered to as "Co-defendant," will arm me with sock puppets and a can of Spam, which in vegetarian means: "Them's fightin' words."

While I ponder this turn of events and that twist of sinus medication, feel free to ponder a lovely, wonderful song by Khadja Nin called Sina Mali, Sina Deni, a translated cover of a Stevie Wonder song in a language you don't speak, and none of that should put you off. Please press play.


Monday, July 07, 2008

I Could Get So Serious

A watchful Topaz

The weekend wore me out, I admit. This morning, I dreamed of my grandmother's apartment. In it, I found people I knew setting up a promising business. One of them was Morgan. Another was a friend who is now in the diplomatic service. Two women were friends of a friend. The decor my grandmother painstakingly put into place more than twenty years ago was starting to fall apart. In the dream, I knew this was not possible. I sat on the floor with them and made pointed remarks. When I woke up, I was sure I'd written something on the blog I had to correct, but it wasn't true.

Defenseless toy.

Over the weekend, we stopped at a pet store and bought new cat toys. The living room floor is littered with sticks inexplicably glued to feathers, which contraptions are irresistible to our cat friends. A week ago, the cats, Pete and I made a traumatic trip to the veterinarian. Topaz got antibiotics, Drusy got an anti-emetic shot to stop her from yakking. Pete got an eye-opening education about stuffing cats into boxes. I came away with scratches up and down both arms. a split lip and my confidence shaken.

Drusy, demanding I quit loafing and play with her.

So we were mostly okay until yesterday, when Drusy once again tossed her waffles twice. This morning, when I called the vet I expected bad news. I was prepared for bad news. The thing is: Drusy and Topaz were chasing each other from one end of the apartment to the other, back and forth, at top speed. While it was a little annoying to wake up to, it was an utter revelation. I mentioned this to the vet. "She's playing and tumbling and her eyes are bright." He seemed startled. He said I should keep track of when she throws up again, but unless it's more than a few times a week, I shouldn't worry. She might still be sick, but we can't know. I am still trying to calm down. My job here is scribe, not prognosticator.

You'd think I'd know that by now.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

See How the Glass Is Raised

This weekend, Pete and I pushed really hard to get the kitchen painted. This morning, Pete hung the black grids I had leftover from a play I did in 1996 and he took some pictures. The green is an intense color that matches a bottle he brought back from the Virgin Islands years ago. The silver radiator is a visually exciting retro touch, and the black shelves and grids provide a lot of storage. The ultra white trim reminds us of sun-drenched beaches. I have pictures from South Beach where the water was this green and the sand this white. The rest of the kitchen is lined with neutral pine cabinets, most of which I can't reach, so the hooks for pots and pans are a big help.

For the past week, Drusy has been throwing up, so I'm back in the position of chasing a sick pussycat with a bowl of food, asking the pussycat to take a bite. The vet thinks our beautiful, long-legged debutante has a heart condition. I don't even know what to say. I'm giving myself until tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. to develop a plan we can all live with.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pain And Truth Were Things That Really Mattered

Via Raw Story:
TALLAHASSEE - A black Republican group has put up billboards in Florida and South Carolina saying the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, a claim that black leaders say is ridiculous.

The National Black Republican Association has paid for billboards showing an image of the civil rights leader and the words "Martin Luther King Jr. was REPUBLICAN." Told about the billboards, the Rev. Joseph Lowery let out a soft chuckle that grew stronger as he began to think more about the idea.

"These guys never give up, do they?" said Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King. "Lord have mercy."

Seven billboards have gone up in six Florida counties, and another in Orangeburg, S.C., said Frances Rice, the Republican group's chairwoman. Part of its mission is to highlight what she said is the Democratic Party's racist past.

"I knew the King family well. We were all Republicans," said Rice, 64.

Oh, the hilarity of our racist present! Perhaps Ms. Rice was talking about this King Family. I bet they voted Republican.

Melanin challenged Mormon entertainment juggernaut.

Perhaps with mention of those bland holiday specials my age is showing. In other news: Jesse Helms no longer shows his. Good riddance to bad trash:
[T]he man ABC News now describes as a "conservative icon" (8/22/01) in 1993 sang "Dixie" in an elevator to Carol Moseley-Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the Senate, bragging, "I'm going to make her cry. I'm going to sing Dixie until she cries." (Chicago Sun-Times, 8/5/93)

It's a telling incident in the life of a vicious bigot whose lengthy political career harmed millions of people. There's no excusing or mitigating a moment of it. If there's any justice in the universe, that God Helms goes to meet is black, gay, female and cracking her knuckles. Black Republicans should observe: anyone stupid enough to believe that astonishing sign is probably too stupid to register and vote.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Another Life Now Edition

Monday, Darla emailed that Edgar had been killed by a fox or an owl.

These pictures were once in chronological order, but even that didn't tell the story of a sweet, sweet cat friend who would have been eleven years old next month.

Edgar loved to drink Darla's tea, sit cozily in boxes and cuddle up to Darla.

Edgar was very vocal.

If he was outside, he'd tell you he wanted in, and if in, he wanted out.

When Dad was sick, Edgar's mild complaints irritated Dad, which meant I ran around after Edgar for weeks on end.

Even so, it would have been very difficult to hold a grudge against the giant orange pussycat who wanted nothing more than to be near his persons, though mostly near Darla.

This spring, Edgar often climbed trees, then found himself in the very uncatlike position of being unable to get back down.

Darla said the first thing every morning, Edgar put his head under her hand for scritches.

It comforts her now that the other cats curl up to her morning and night.

We say goodbye now to this little one. He was a lovely companion and a charming catfriend.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

And Dream Of Sheep

If this is the best our government and the airline business can do to simply function in their jobs, perhaps both deserve to fail.

It was at this precise moment I lost sympathy for the struggling airline industry.

I don't mean workers like flight attendants, mechanics and pilots, for whom I have the utmost respect. No, I mean the policymakers who are so goddamn stupid they won't back down from red alert over baby bottles and shampoo, which could never have exploded in the first place. As a method of detonation it cannot work. And yet, in February, I was hassled about a cup of coffee. It's nostalgic to say this in 2008, but does anyone remember probable cause and the presumption of innocence?

There's so much wrong with this breathlessly stupid, alarmist, invasive scenario I can't begin to speak rationally about it. I leave the nouns and verbs to others using them far better, but I can say this: a big fucking flashing neon sign of precisely how completely and totally wrong this procedure is is that it's (more or less) introduced to the American public by everyone's pal Matt Lauer. Matt wouldn't steer us wrong, would he? And he sounds so reassuring, we won't even miss our rights protecting us against unreasonable search and seizure! Or will we? Via Jill:
The Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups.

Law enforcement officials say the proposed policy would help them do exactly what Congress demanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: root out terrorists before they strike.

Although President Bush has disavowed targeting suspects based on their race or ethnicity, the new rules would allow the FBI to consider those factors among a number of traits that could trigger a national security investigation.

Currently, FBI agents need specific reasons — like evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated — to investigate U.S. citizens and legal residents. The new policy, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press, would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious.

Among the factors that could make someone subject of an investigation is travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity, access to weapons or military training, along with the person's race or ethnicity.

Got that? Your RACE makes you suspicious. Your ETHNICITY makes you a suspect. Whatever you do, don't stand in line at the airport being brown and eating baba ghanoush!

If you read that article carefully, the verbs change. Justice isn't considering turning the FBI loose on innocent Americans. Justice will turn the FBI loose on innocent Americans in September, and it's just too bad Matt Lauer didn't introduce the press conference. He's so reassuring, you know.

Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, reports:
I'm reading about cognitive psychology and gestalt and heuristics and behaviorism and I came across the idea of causation, which posits a necessary relationship between an event and its causative agent. I don't know what any of that means, but causation seems to be the folk wisdom that everything happens for a reason. People only invoke that myth when something bad happens, to talk themselves out of the obvious truth that bad things happen to good people for no reason at all. When I was a younger man, I wanted to talk people out of their religious beliefs. I was young. What do I care what gods people worship? Still, for some reason, this really galls me. According to this dipshit philosophy, I got rear ended all those times and have tortured vertebrae in my neck for a reason. I have epilepsy for a reason. Every misfortune that's ever befallen my family and all my friends was, what, dictated by some cosmic intelligence? For what? To teach us a lesson? To make us appreciate the good times more? I swear to Christ, the next person who tries to comfort me with that foul stinking old chestnut gets a punch in the fucking head.

Don't worry, sweetheart. That misguided, compassionate person is probably being x-rayed into a stupor by Justice as we speak. Just offer him or her some baba ghanoush!


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Disco Hotspots Hold No Charm For You

Sunday, Pete was in the kitchen, spraypainting the radiator silver, while I re-tied the beans. Beans grow like you wouldn't believe unless you've grown beans and even then they can surprise you. So there I was: folded in half and playing with string.

I straightened my back for a stretch and noticed a neighbor launching himself down his back steps with a box containing a brand new push mower and headphones. The lawns on Pete's block could be trimmed with an erratic weed whacker so I was excited to see this display of common sense. Then I went back to tying up the beans. A short while later, a song echoed through the breezy backyards.


It does one's sinuses no good whatsoever to stifle a guffaw while upside down.


Pete stepped out onto his porch, where he could see the neighbor warbling unsteadily at the tops of his lungs. Pete stared, obviously very happy.


After a few minutes, Pete decided to go caulk Rhode Island or something. I was weeding and tying up more beans. Fortunately, we have a lot of beans because I wouldn't have missed this for the world.


Okay, so maybe I could have worked a little faster.


Every so often, the neighbor's young, pregnant wife steps out onto her porch, rolls her eyes and goes back inside. I am positively trembling with joy. Finally, she shouts over the locally unheard The Very Best of Asia, "IT SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING'S DYING OUT HERE."

In my own defense, I stood up to keep from falling down, but in doing so, made myself visible from the other side of the garden. Then I howled. She said, "THEY'RE LAUGHING AT YOU," and went back inside in a huff. After a minute, I went back to what I was doing, but I wasn't the only one.


I love that guy.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nothing To Say I Ain't Said Before

I stand with you, General.

In other news: stop talking about "electing a commander-in-chief." We don't elect a commander-in-chief. We elect a president, and when diplomacy fails, the president assumes these powers. This title, as it is now tossed about, should be a badge of shame and failure. Don't use these words, and don't participate in the fetishistic rightwing framing.