Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Like A Leper Messiah

This morning, I had a fight on my hands.

Tata: I don't wanna go to work!
Tata: We're going!
Tata: I don't wanna! You can't make me!
Tata: Aw, come on, little camper! We can get some fresh coffee...?
Tata: No!
Tata: That's it! I'm throwing you in the shower!

Man, she's a BITCH! So I got dressed in the dark because Pete wasn't really asleep. I can't explain that. Anyway, some time later, I realized I was inching away from me.

Tata: What in glamorous tarnation are you wearing?
Tata: Pants. My co-workers like when I wear pants.
Tata: And what else, Missy?
Tata: I'm wearing - oh, help.
Tata: Yes, exactly. Your Inner Angry Toddler dressed you in pretty, pretty colors. In fact, all of them.

So I tried buttoning or unbuttoning, to make it look like I'd assembled this ensemble on purpose.

Tata: That shirt you gave me. I suppose you knew the buttons don't unbutton.
Mom: Are we playing Anagrams?
Tata: I cannot unbutton this shirt. You have cursed me.
Mom: Are you at work?
Tata: I am, and they like when I wear shirts. But this one, I cannot unbutton, even on purpose. It's permanent or something.
Mom: Now I remember: you didn't graduate from high school!
Tata: That was then, this is now, and I have lefthanded scissors.

I am now wearing a modified, less terrifying version of the this morning's outfit in tones of purple and brown. I've also discovered that standing in front of one's co-workers and shouting, "HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT I'M WEARING?" will produce a wide variety of responses largely dependant upon what you've shouted beforehand.

Thus, you will be surprised I had the nerve to stare at this Go Fug Yourself picture of Traci Bingham like dogs stare at ceiling fans. I'd never heard of her before, so I figure she's one of those starlets on a reality show I can't name. She's got lovely skin tone, a super shape, and she doesn't look like one of those meal-skipping waifs, so yay. Anyway, Kali knows I've put on some get ups in my day, including a gold lamé toga I should have had dusted for fingerprints, so I observed this dress with milder mirth than others might, at least until Miss Bingham turned around. Irridescent fake snake skin is one thing. Fake dress is another one altogether.

In fact, it's not a dress. It's someone's resumé.

Dear Traci's Plastic Surgeon,

Nice work.


Princess Tata
Pun intended.

I once went out wrapped in cellophane, showing less skin than this. However, on the day you issue the demand for better video of your grandson, it's mighty weird to mention your erstwhile hotness. You must trust me that I would never have mentioned either Miss Traci With An I, my closet full of industrial kitchenware and mismatched knits or my super-adorable grandbaby who now says, "Hi!" if not for the third picture, which caused me to scream, frightening my cats. My poor darlings! I simply wasn't prepared, as a gal who treated every day of her late teens, twenties and thirties as one long costume party, to meet the almost certain Guest of Honor. Said Jessica of Go Fug Yourself:
...what can I say? There are literally no words in the human vocabulary that can express my horror/glee at the fact that you have gone out wearing a dress with a giant detachable ruffle, which you, at some point, removed and presumably shoved into your purse. I am terrified, and yet thrilled to the very marrow of my bones. That is all. I have no further witticism. I am so confused/excited. I'm going to go lie down with a washcloth over my forehead and attempt to parse my own emotions. Farewell.

Bravo! This is a fashion crime on a par with the Brinks Armored Car Heist, and I say that as a little old lady with her hair in a ponytail, wearing black shoes with a brown outfit. Even I was left - briefly! - speechless by the color scheme, texture and clashing patterns when I quit screaming. This dress reminds me of the weirdest parts of childhood, like pretending to be a mermaid and not noticing you can't move. Like pre-teens auditioning for a dance troupe to "Hey Big Spender." Like at every little girl's birthday party before 1970 where Barbie stood in the center of a bundt cake, not at all like a human sacrifice up to her neck in festive butter cream. Friends, we are in the presence of greatness.

Fortunately, I smell clean.


Monday, September 29, 2008

A Kinder, Gentler Machine Gun Hand

Nouriel Roubini:

Over the past year, whenever optimists have declared the worst of the economic crisis behind us, Roubini has countered with steadfast pessimism. In February, when the conventional wisdom held that the venerable investment firms of Wall Street would weather the crisis, Roubini warned that one or more of them would go “belly up” — and six weeks later, Bear Stearns collapsed. Following the Fed’s further extraordinary actions in the spring — including making lines of credit available to selected investment banks and brokerage houses — many economists made note of the ensuing economic rally and proclaimed the credit crisis over and a recession averted. Roubini, who dismissed the rally as nothing more than a “delusional complacency” encouraged by a “bunch of self-serving spinmasters,” stuck to his script of “nightmare” events: waves of corporate bankrupticies, collapses in markets like commercial real estate and municipal bonds and, most alarming, the possible bankruptcy of a large regional or national bank that would trigger a panic by depositors. Not all of these developments have come to pass (and perhaps never will), but the demise last month of the California bank IndyMac — one of the largest such failures in U.S. history — drew only more attention to Roubini’s seeming prescience.

As a result, Roubini, a respected but formerly obscure academic, has become a major figure in the public debate about the economy: the seer who saw it coming.

Roubini argues that most of the losses from this bad debt have yet to be written off, and the toll from bad commercial real estate loans alone may help send hundreds of local banks into the arms of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. “A good third of the regional banks won’t make it,” he predicted. In turn, these bailouts will add hundreds of billions of dollars to an already gargantuan federal debt, and someone, somewhere, is going to have to finance that debt, along with all the other debt accumulated by consumers and corporations. “Our biggest financiers are China, Russia and the gulf states,” Roubini noted. “These are rivals, not allies.”

The United States, Roubini went on, will likely muddle through the crisis but will emerge from it a different nation, with a different place in the world. “Once you run current-account deficits, you depend on the kindness of strangers,” he said, pausing to let out a resigned sigh. “This might be the beginning of the end of the American empire.”


Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Tiny Insect In the Palm of History

Times Online:

McCain camp prays for Palin wedding
The marriage of the vice-presidential candidate’s pregnant teenage daughter could lift a flagging campaign

Yeah, you read that right. Stop gasping and read some more:

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

There is already some urgency to the wedding as Bristol, who is six months pregnant, may not want to walk down the aisle too close to her date of delivery. She turns 18 on October 18, a respectable age for a bride.

Hello, dahhhhhhhhhhhlinks. I'm Ta, your hostess here at flaming, shameless Poor Impulse Control. Can I get you a drink? Have a seat. Let's have a chat, but not the one I expect you're - it's okay to laugh - expecting.

As a matter of fact, I was a pregnant teen. No matter what any debutante tells you about fighting your or someone else's babyfat, this experience is highly overrated. In fact, if you must procreate, I recommend waiting until you're staring menopause in the sweating face so when you retire your children are too young to follow you to your adult community. That's for stealing the car, Junior! Fund your own tattoos!

Being a grandparent is - and I can't say this enough - made of awesomeness. Mazel tov to Mr. and Mrs. Palin! Their children and grandchildren can play together! It'll be a blast, so long as Mom and Dad remember who's who, which will be tougher than they think. We're getting to that age where finding our car keys becomes a challenge on a par with the Riddle of the Sphinx. But don't worry. Their children will pretend to "help." But it's not our recalcitrant teen's situation we should discuss. No. I am a woman close to Sarah Palin's age, I have a daughter and a grandson, and I have extensive experience with being the poster child for Maybe We Should Sober Up First, but beyond that scintillating resume, I also used to be a writer of some skill. Let's talk about me.

I was a big believer in letting characters write themselves. If you let them tell you about themselves you can't end up with Mr. Darcy playing with Tonka Trucks or anything by Jeff Foxworthy, but you're a sucky writer if you force characters to do stuff that'd be outside the range of their personality. It's a complex business because people are so complex. Learn from events. What do they mean? If you close your eyes, and listen, and let yourself feel your way around the psyche of your imaginary friend, you will be okay. This technique also teaches you - meaning me - when people are doing something outside of their ordinary behaviors. In other words, when Samantha stutters, Darren - either Darren - knows Endora's camped up in the nursery, because Sam doesn't stutter. Instinctively, you know the basics. You don't trust people who smile all the time and speak slowly, and when calm people start blinking they're rethinking a situation under stress. In other words: they're lying. So let's draw a character for a moment, remembering that there are no easy answers, and let's call her Sarah Palin.

You're a saucy damsel raised in the kind of End Of Days church athiests cross themselves and avoid, you've been married to the same snowmobiling dude for about twenty years and you have a pack of children you may or may not pay much attention to over a long period of time. You seem to believe in the fire and brimstone stuff, but you're an elected official and not home baking cookies. You believe you're on a mission from God, which means you're allowed to eliminate your enemies. They deserve it. One day, you're a free-wheeling state governor, when your political party's presidential candidate calls and asks what you're doing next week, and for the next four years. So far, I understand you as a character. As a poet or novelist, I could help you walk, talk and sign distasteful bills into law. But then something happens. Your oldest daughter, who had better knock it off, comes up pregnant and everyone, everywhere, says something stupid. Weeks pass, and the presidential campaign may be in trouble.
Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

Poor Impulse Control reader: you're a creative, empathic person. You know that most teen marriages fail spectacularly within five years, usually with lifelong repercussions. You know this is a disaster in the making. Our character did not have to agree to join the candidate on the trail, or when the rabbit died, could have retired to the governor's mansion. In a quiet moment, ask yourself this question for which there are no easy answers: what kind of mother, what parent, what human being, what psyche places her daughter's shotgun wedding in a presidential election season and invites the international press?


Friday, September 26, 2008

Drifting, Falling

This is from Politico, which is no left-leaning union newsletter. It is a conservative mouthpiece.

Consider this source very, very carefully, and the horror this portends.
According to one GOP lawmaker, some House Republicans are saying privately that they’d rather "let the markets crash" than sign on to a massive bailout.

"For the sake of the altar of the free market system, do you accept a Great Depression?" the member asked.

I have my feelings about the crisis, the negotiations, the package, the pricetag, the process, the players, the outcome and the consequences to the executives. All of these things aside - and I am not arguing in favor of the bail out - why are these employees of the taxpayers allowed within 100 yards of the Halls of Congress?

How do they show their faces in public without cream pies sailing through the air?


Thursday, September 25, 2008

That's When I Fell For

Mom would be so proud!

Tata: (Singing. As usual) La la la la la! I have soup for lunch. It will be delicious soup. I am adding canned soup to leftovers. It will be delicious! La la la la la!
Joanne: (Heating Uncle Ben's microwave rice) I like soup. I guess.
Tata: Soup is good for you. I have chicken soup. It is very chunky. La la la la!
Joanne: I wish you could get just the chicken and noodles.
Tata: Isn't that called a casserole?
Joanne: No. Broth!
Tata: (Not singing anymore) You mean without vegetables?
Joanne: I don't like vegetables in my soup.
Tata: (ZOT! Wires fried) Well, that explains the malnutrition.

Just to be sure, I called Mom.

Tata: What do you think of the prospect of soup without vegetables?
Mom: Is it a fruit soup?
Tata: Tomato soup is fruit soup.
Mom: You're making tomato soup without tomatoes?
Tata: I had a comic encounter with a co-worker who said she liked soup without the vegetables.
Mom: ...
Tata: And I said, "Uh, what?"
Mom: That's what I said, only without all the words.

She's like Miss Manners, only feral and with homemade soup stock.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Hit Before Your Mother Was Born

This is Miss Lotte Lenya singing Mack the Knife on BBC1 in 1962, before I was born. I have her autobiography, it's an interesting read. She's a complicated character and you'd like her. She married her first husband twice - the Nazis came between them, doncha know - and her other husbands once. Once of my great-grandmothers was married five times. Marilyn Monroe died six months before I was born. Neither of those things is very important but both are true, and that means they matter in some context, we just don't always know which.

Miss Lotte Lenya, as you can see, had powerful feelings about historical events that shaped her life. She was forced out of Europe by Hitler, as you may have guessed; thus her emotions make logical sense to us. We encounter this in life. Sometimes we can see why people act the way they do and sometimes we cannot. We see the emotion. We do not see the why.

Observe this Yahoo! article - and you can say that again, brother:

Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy," "violent," responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about two and one-half percentage points.

Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He's an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation's oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.

I studied this graph at some length yesterday, and I invite you to do the same. The single most important thing I can say about the image is that respondants were asked if they considered black people friendly, lazy, hardworking or irresponsible. The phrasing of these questions - I can't - I don't know how to say this, but what does one say when pollsters ask if you think all black people are stupid? "No, but I feel my IQ dropping as we speak" springs to mind. In what way is it possible to answer about any group of people anything other than, "That group of people has excellent taste in shoes," or "None of those people is holding an umbrella"? What the poll purports to measure is prejudicial feeling but where is the opportunity to express the simple truth that each individual person is different from every other person? Isn't it logical to say, "I know that within every group is a lovely spectrum of human personality traits, and I dislike shoes"?

When you answer the phone, you are, of course, free to turn the poll back on the pollster by saying, "When you are ready to ask me an unloaded question, call me again." Thus, you have context.

I am sensitive to the pressures of language. When you ask me a question, I answer the question you asked. Then the one you didn't. Then the one you meant. What did you really want to know?

Most people will say some other person should be treated harshly so long as there is no possibility they will be treated the same way. If you ask, "Should Ethnic Person B have recourse to lawyers?" the answer will probably be, "No." If you ask, "Should every defendant be given a fair trial?" bet your boots the answer is, "Yes."

A woman I know married a man from Africa and has several children with him. To people who answered the survey above her children are not white, and to some people, this whiteness business matters. It's a sickness, really, an affliction America chooses not to treat. White Americans, for instance, may not vote for a black candidate because he's black. Sometimes we can see why people act the way they do and sometimes we cannot. We see the emotion. We do not see the why.

And, sometimes, there is no why.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

High And Dry, Out Of the Rain

What the fuck is this?

Rehab is not glamorous. Rehab is what happens when you've been drunk since the baby was born and the social worker is losing her patience and the waiting list is so long you pour yourself into the bottle and someone in your family has thousands of dollars he or she spends several times over. Rehab is no picnic, no day at the beach, no walk in the park, baby. Rehab means you need new friends, a new job and a new place to live because you've fucked up so badly you need a court-ordered time out. Rehab is a dreaded ordeal and not a beauty treatment. So I thought.

Thank Christ Bioré, Paris, Lindsay, and Britney have set me straight.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Voca Teria Que Ser Un Genio

1. I Am An Idiot

Topaz disappeared one night about ten days after we moved into this house. We were a little nervous. In the middle of the night, a cat meowed loudly. Drusy often meows in the middle of the night. I called Drusy over and over. She usually jumps on my chest, keeeesses me and that's that, but not that night. Around 4:30 a.m., Pete mumbled, "What's wrong with her?" I said I didn't know but I'd call the vet. At 6:05, the alarm rang. I got up, opened the bathroom door and found Topaz crocheting an escape ladder out of toilet paper. "Moron!" she hissed as she ran past me, stopped suddenly and licked her paw. I promised her when she called I'd come running. And I'd mop the floor.

2. I Am A Genius

I forget Drusy follows me everywhere and I whirl through the house like a dervish. Two days after our mutual sleepless night, I heard a cat meowing urgently. At first, I thought, 'Oy, I'm working here' but then I remembered: I promised. At the top of the stairs, I found Topaz facing a closed door. "It's about time, duh!" she meowed. Under the door, I saw a shadow. Drusy! Topaz led me to poor Drusy, shut into one of the rooms! I opened the door, scritched the distressed pussycat and ran to tell Pete, who was not at all surprised. "Topaz is all 'C'mere, c'mere, Drusy's stuck down the well,' but let Topaz need help and Drusy's like, 'Who?'"

3. I Am An Idiot

Topaz is an escape artist. When we were at the apartment, if the door opened, Topaz was off like a shot: out the door and into the hallway, sometimes up the stairs, so before we moved over here, Pete screened off the back porch. Don't get excited. A little lumber, some screen, a few screws, a latch and - bingo! - a temporary Cat Containment Facility. Topaz sits at the kitchen door and mews, "Mama, I want to go out and play, Mama." If the latch is latched, I let her out onto the porch, where there are millions of new things to sniff. Yesterday, I let her out and forgot she was out there. Finally, I heard a bit of plaintive mewing. As I walked toward the kitchen, I could see Topaz about halfway up the screen storm door, and I have no idea how long she was hanging there, hissing, "Moron! Oh...moron!"

4. I Am A - Oh, Forget It...

Get a load of this shit:

It's election time and your vote counts! So get into the spirit of 1776 with 15 fun and classic songs that celebrate everything that makes our country great in SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK! THE ELECTION COLLECTION! Plus, keep track of the actual voting results in all 50 states with the exclusive Election Tracking Kit with stickers and experience the new to DVD song "Presidential Minute" - with two surprise endings! A generation of young Americans learned that American history and government could be fun with the award-winning animated series SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK. Now a whole new generation of patriots can be inspired by memorable songs that explain how our government is set up in "I'm Just A Bill" and "Three-Ring Government", how the electoral process works in "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote To College", and more! Your house - and the White House - are gonna rock this year!

Rock the White House? The only thing we're gonna rock this year is the poor house.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lies And Deceit

Gained A Little More Power

Pete and I just came back from the feared, loathed and loved Somerset Diner, where Sixty Minutes was on five or six giant flat screen TVs, muted, with closed captioning scrolling down the page at an energetic clip. Thing was: the transcriptonist must've been Welsh or Israeli or something where vowels were optional and word breaks were created with delicious whimsy. The result was - and I hope you saw this at home - gibberish. I looked up a few times and came within inches of inhaling french fries, which would have made me miserable because those french fries were really good. In any case, Wall Street is melting down, and anyone still advocating deregulation and socialized losses for the rich deserves not a promotion but a turn at public humiliation.

Fortunately - did I mention it? - Sixty Minutes was on, Scott Pelley's an absolute moron, and there was public humiliation for viewer, interviewer and candidate alike.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Cannot Rest, We Cannot Rest

I love Quakers. They're full of interesting ideas about non-violent interaction with the world, which is much tougher than it seems, especially if you drive and would like nothing better than to knock that MADD Mother in the noggin.

Big Guy: Ta, how can non-violence be tough? Tough guys are tough! It's tough to put on tights and crack someone's coconut!
Tata: No, I'm sorry. You've mistaken tough for sexually repressed.
Big Guy: Come on! I want pointed missiles and hard targets and men in uniform.
Tata: My friend, you are gay as Christmas.

Speaking of stocking stuffers: topping my list is a gift that gives and gives, and it came to me through the Quaker ladies' grapevine. Yes, there is one. They do too drink wine, I've seen 'em, duh!
Dear Friends:

They call each other that, and they seem to mean it. I KNOW! What's wrong with them?
We may have thought we wanted a woman on a national political ticket, but the joke has really been on us, hasn't it? Are you as sick in your stomach as I am at the thought of Sarah Palin as Vice President of the United States ?

Since Palin gave her speech accepting the Republican nomination for the Vice Presidency, Barack Obama's campaign has raised over $10 million dollars. Some of you may already be supporting the Obama campaign financially; others of you may still be a little honked off over the primaries. None of you, however, can be happy with Palin's selection, especially on her positions on women's issues. So, if you feel you can't support the Obama campaign financially, may I suggest the following fiendishly brilliant alternative?

Make a donation to Planned Parenthood or NARAL- Pro Choice In Sarah Palin's name. And here's the good part: when you make a donation to PP in her name, they'll send her a card telling her that the donation has been made in her honor. Here's the link to the Planned Parenthood and NARAL websites

Planned Parenthood

You'll need to fill in the address to let PP/NARAL know where to send the 'in Sarah Palin's honor' card. I suggest you use the address for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:

McCain for President
1235 S. Clark Street
1st Floor
Arlington , VA 22202

I haven't felt this kind of fiery, wicked desire to Do Good since the first time I zipped up a red sequinned dress to emcee a benefit show, but don't think mad advocacy is solely the province of women. Sometimes a bunch of insomniac boys can jack up a double-parked bandwagon.

Tata: That thing the town did with the bags was absolute genius.
Committee Lady: What bags? The town didn't do anything with bags.
Tata: It wasn't the town?
Committee Lady: The town didn't do what?
Tata: On the South side a few months ago we all found tote bags hanging from our doorknobs. Not a word, nothing. People just picked them up and started taking them to the grocery store. If you give them a better way to do something people adapt.
Committee Lady: That wasn't the town.
Tata: Huh. You'd think the town that positively gibbers about being green would have.

Turns out these guys sat up all night in the terrifying Somerset Diner with monstrous piles of french fries and dreamed up a scheme. I'm sure they meant to or mean to play other eco-pranks on the small town but I haven't seen any. In any case, it's genius.

Friends - I know, but why not? - it's time to pull up a chair and lay out the funny. But, you know, all peaceful-like.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trouble Is A Temporary Thing

Fuck you, Jillian. My mother can catch a football, I can catch a football, and my sister Daria would kick your ass for thinking about reaching for the ball.

Dissing other women is NOT a great way to manipulate them into doing what you want them to do.

P.S. Wikipedia - indulge me, Poor Impulsives:
The enactment of Title IX has helped increase participation opportunities for girls and women in sports. Female high school athletic participation has increased by 904% and female collegiate athletic participation has increased by 456%.[21] An analysis of NCAA data shows that since the passage of Title IX, participation opportunites for collegiate female athletes of color have increased 955% (2,137 in 1971 to 22,541 participants in 2000).

A 2008 study of intercollegiate athletics showed that women's collegiate sports has grown to 9,101 teams, or 8.65 per school. The five most frequently offered college sports for women are, in order: (1) Basketball, 98.8% of schools have a team, (2) Volleyball, 95.7%, (3)Soccer, 92.0%, (4) Cross Country, 90.8%, and (5) Softball, 89.2%.

In answer to the question "How many girls can do that?" where girls = female human beings under the age of 18, the answer is "A whole lot, more every year and fuck you, Jillian."


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Know When Or Where To Go

Jill breaks out some very exciting numbers that should make every person earning a paycheck sweat. Get ready to dab:

Many of us pay the employee share of our medical premiums with pre-tax dollars so that our taxable income is lowered by the amount of our premiums. If McCain wanted to stop this practice alone, that would be bad enough. But it goes beyond that. His "health care plan" would also treat the employer share of your health insurance premium as income on which you would pay taxes.

I just received my COBRA statement from my previous employer. The premium on my health plan from said employer is just over $1100/month for family coverage. When I was employed, I paid about $300 of that per month. Under John McCain's plan, that approximately $13,000 cost of the health insurance plan would become taxable income.

Let's say you are single, and your taxable income after deductions and exemptions is $32,000/year -- not an unreasonable assumption for many working Americans who do not live in major metropolitan areas. Under John McCain's "health plan", your taxable income, if you had this insurance plan, would now be $45,000. So instead of paying about $4400 in Federal income tax in the 15% bracket (10% of the first $8025 and 15% of the rest, so his actual tax percentage is 13.75%), you would now be in the 25% bracket, and your Federal income tax liability would be $7594 (25% of the amount over $32,550 plus $4,481.25).

Now let's take a higher-paid worker with the same plan; say, someone with a taxable income of $150,000/year. He's currently paying $35,978 in Federal income tax (24% as an actual tax percentage. Under John McCain's "health plan", his taxable income is now $163,000. He just manages to squeak in under the $164,550 limit to the 28% bracket, so he isn't bumped into a higher tax bracket. His Federal income tax is now $39,618 -- a jump of $3640.

McCain's "health plan" proposes giving these workers a $2500 tax credit to "help pay for the cost of health care", which drops the tax increase on the $32,000 worker to $694. But that worker is still paying 2.1% more in taxes because the cost of the plan is now counted as part of income. For the $150,000 worker, this credit drops the tax increase to $1140 - an 0.7% tax increase.

So John McCain's "health plan" is really nothing more than a huge tax increase on the middle class. The higher your income, the less of a tax bite you receive from having your health insurance premiums counted as income.

And that's assuming your employer decides to keep providing health insurance.

This is about as important as an issue gets. I'm in a relatively secure situation and for me, this would mean choosing between health insurance and eating. I can't imagine what it would mean to retirees on fixed incomes - or worse: I can imagine. We cannot allow this to happen.

Please read the whole thing.


Monday, September 15, 2008

And Antiquated Notions

I have no idea - zero - if this is a good idea or if somewhere, a bottle of tequila wonders what just happened. I will say that when I pestered Cablevision in vain to give me the NASA Channel a few years ago, I would have watched this all day every day just for the backup dancers.

h/t: MEW.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Burn My Shadow Away

Faster than I can hope to respond come things requiring responses. Some of these things are political, some not. I can't write letters fast enough to suit myself, and sometimes I stop. Friday morning, I lay down on the couch and couldn't get up until just about lunchtime. That's okay, I was just watching Drusy stand on three legs and scratch the back of her head and I couldn't do that, either.

It's Sunday night. I believe the fever's passed. What'd I miss?


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rockin' On the Roulette Wheel

Desire is the craziest thing. You can want things for no reason you understand, but you can't live without them. For a few days, the breeze smelled alternately like fresh air after a cleansing storm and bacon. I seldom crave anything heavier than melted cheese, which my every blood relative would eat off a garbage can lid, but a few times last week I caught myself wondering if the guy at the next desk might be better hickory or apple smoked.

Obviously, I wasn't spending enough time with my garden.

I wanted a greenhouse the way other people want flat screen TVs, and one day last spring I got one. It's like a plastic slip cover and wasn't expensive. Pete built it in a snug spot against the house. It's a lot smaller than it looks in the picture, above. Imagine our surprise, then, when we planted a few summer squash and a handful of spinach seeds in a big plastic planter, watered it between painting and moving and suddenly found THIS in the greenhouse. The dimensions of the shelf are 6' x 1'. Double that, add a Y Axis and you begin to see the FEED ME, SEYMOUR aspect of this situation. Yesterday, I looked around for Rick Moranis. I mean, wouldn't you?

All this foliage springs from this one planter. No, really! It's two or three squashes, mushrooming in size, if you will - if you won't, though, I'd get a machete. I'm not even stuffing them with plant food until they burp, but now that I've thought of it, that sounds like fun for everyone. I think I can terrify the neighbors with squash blossoms and Miracle Grow.

One point: these plants have produced more than a dozen blossoms and no squashes. We are thinking of ourselves as proud farmers of little oxygen molecules, and they are adorable.

In other news: a tomatillo plant someone gave us - was it Mom? was it Trout? - has taken over one end of the garden bed. I freely admit: this bushy giant surprises me every day. I've grown tomato plants since I could hold a shovel but I'd never grown tomatillos, so I planted this plant where a tomato would do really well. Good sun, good drainage, lots of water, but only about a foot and a half from anything else. Everything around it loves the attention of the bees but hates the bushy bushy tomatillo plant, which is threatening to out-produce the entire rest of the garden. Obviously, I adore this fantastic thing, which is now closing on seven feet wide.

I'm overjoyed! Next year, we'll plant tomatillos again, and this time, they're getting their own room. We'll teach them to smoke and drink to stunt their growth. I'm hiding the car keys.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Art In America Edition

The house needs a lot of work. I personally haven't gone more than a day or two without paint in my hair since March, but the cats are new to this process. Tuesday, I primed a built-in shelf/cabinet whatsis in the bathroom that felt unpleasant to touch and impossible to clean properly. When I climbed down off the stepstool and started cleaning up, I discovered that someone was experimenting with a new medium down the hall and up the stairs to the attic. This is an extreme close up of a detail of the artist's new work. Note the artist has eschewed classic signature technique for a more literal form of identification. Certainly, as a person who'd studied art for some time at an advanced level, I thought I would recognize the artist right away.

You know what you never want to see when you finish a project? Signs that another artist has touched your work. By the time I'd washed out brushes and put away drop cloths, I knew something was amiss. But what? I saw one experimental painting, much of which came up when scrubbed so I knew the artist was more interested in the performance aspect than the permanence of the canvas. When I examined both prospective artists and found both sporting sticky patches of art supplies, Pete said, "It's bath time for our artists in residence."

Everyone's a critic.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pressure on People - People On Streets

I've been walking to work again. It feels fantastic to get out of the car and into the sunshine. The Albany Street Bridge over the Raritan River is four lanes of car and truck traffic, a pedestrian walkway on either side of the bridge and crazy intersections on either end. The time across the bridge is probably three minutes max, unless it's rained and travelers negotiate thoroughfare. So long as no more than two people walk abreast or one person meets a cyclist on the bridge, it's fine. Fortunately, a lot of people walk and bicycle across this bridge. Unfortunately, humans walk at different paces and today, someone without a bell on his bicycle pedaled right up behind me to pass me on my right. I almost clotheslined him by accident, and I only like to be violent on purpose.

On the other end of the bridge, the messy intersection is not just dangerous, it's a completely foreseeable accident waiting to happen. Immediately in front of me is the ramp from Route 18 N to Route 27 N, where the driver manual for this state would suggest this ramp constitutes a lane of its own, and it should be, except some wiseass put a stop sign on a stick. A friend used to say, "Stop signs are for people who don't know how to drive." In this case, a number of bad things happen here structurally that are merely amusing and uncomfortable, compared with the other side of the highway, where I expect to see gravestones line the riverbank any day now. On 25 June, I wrote the NJDOT the following love note. Watch as I pretend to be a Normal Person*:
To Whom It Concerns:

I walk or bicycle between Highland Park and New Brunswick daily. Hundreds of people do, many of whom use the trains to travel on the Northeast Corridor line. During the Route 18 construction, the section of Route 27 passing under Route 18 has become a dangerous, dirty place to travel. There are three separate spots where travel is very bad.

1. The ramp where Route 18 northbound where it intersects with Route 27 south is great for drivers. Everyone on foot or bicycle is subject to unstable surfaces, bad angles and arbitrarily placed signs. This leads immediately to:

2. A single-file width channel of wildly uneven surface where foot and bicycle traffic fight road conditions and lose every. single. day. I cannot stress how much I dread passing through this fifty-foot gauntlet. Someone is going to get hurt here, if someone hasn't already. It would seem logical to try the other side of Route 27, since I have to cross to get to work anyway but:

3. Where Route 27 north intersects with Route 18 and Johnson Drive, someone on foot or bicycle is going to get killed. That stretch of road is so dangerous I wouldn't let my worst enemy out of the car there.**

I would be delighted to conduct a walking tour of this site, should the occasion arise. The construction has gone on a long time, and will continue for the rest of our natural lives, so it seems. These little matters do not generate the kind of attention five-car pileups do, but that doesn't mean a badly designed pedestrian/cycle path can't cause the same degree of injury or death. These are real situations faced by people every day. Some of them are reparable. At least one of them (#2) is EASILY reparable. I hope you will take into quick concern the people for whom you're building those sidewalks that go nowhere and put safe sidewalks where people actually travel.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I am certain I will be in contact with you again, possibly quite often.

Princess Tata

I signed the name on my passport, sheesh! But there's more: this intersection sits no more than 150 yards from the office of US Representative Frank Pallone, and in no way can the staff be unaware of this situation. I'm certain of this because, before I started the big push to move about two months ago, I called his office weekly to ask what Mr. Pallone was doing about it. At first, the staff was dismissive. Several calls later, I made them an offer: send a letter to the DOT before someone gets killed because afterward grandmothers will call CNN and say, "He never calls, he never writes, he chews with his mouth open and he fucking knew because I told him it would happen. You look thin! You should eat."

That's no threat. I'm simply not that kind of gal. On a daily basis, I see whole families walk under that bridge and women push baby carriages. A highway sign promises construction will begin next Monday but last week it promised repairs to start on the 8th. These signs must be regarded with feelings of hope and dread: one of the unnamed university's urban planners told me confidentially her department had to have a talk with the NJDOT about not closing the bridge totally because religious people cross it daily to attend services. The DOT had no idea. If not for the devout, hundreds of people who cross this bridge every day on foot or bicycle for other reasons would be out of luck indefinitely. What the hell? This has been going on for years. Seriously: what the hell?

*Stop laughing!

**And she is SUCH a bitch.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Out of Jesus You Could Make

Every Word of the Day from Wordsmith.org, which you should join and learn words because words are tasty, includes a snappy thought. Today's example:
You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet. - Hal Borland, journalist (1900-1978)

I have been suspicious of a tree. It was a particularly menacing apple tree outside my bedroom window two blocks from where I live now, and never have I seen the like of it. In high winds, it practically glowered. On sunny days, I could feel its rage. One day, my boyfriend came home from art school and found me hanging out the bathroom window, snipping away at the tree's most offending branches, though so many offended it was hard to reach highest dudgeon without a ladder.

Tata: I have to fix this so it can't touch the house!
Him: Let me get the Polaroid. The gaze is masculine but paramedics will enjoy a photo essay.

Who doesn't, frankly? Some time ago, I went looking for greener cleaning products. Larry, the little black cat no longer intent on stealing your soul, had feline leukemia and I had to be careful about in-home chemicals. Now that Larry's gone to his fishy reward, I could polish copper pipes with hydrochloric acid if I felt like it, but why repeat antics? Anyway, Pete and I use this stuff to clean and moisturize the teak furniture Pete's mom bought when he and I still had training wheels. It works fine, the scent is neutral, the wood looks content enough, but it's nothing to write home about, as opposed to this -

- which is a REASON TO LIVE. Some time ago, we bought a bottle of this almond cleaner and used it in the apartment, which was very small and had a very tired looking floor, so perhaps any attention at all was a shock. The floor looked great and the apartment smelled heavenly. Suzette tried it and didn't love the results. It seemed possible Method had reformulated - or something confusing: a second bottle we used at Pete's house smelled okay, but the unvarnished floor was dull and the scent was nothing special. Then we didn't see the product at that grocery store I terrorize and when we found it somewhere else, I opened the bottle suspiciously to smell what's what.

Rapture, that's what. Pete mopped the floor while I painted the upstairs hall on Sunday. Upstairs, I smelled almond oil, which was indescribably marvelous. I can't say why this product may be alternately so-so and a gift from the gods, but so it appears. Before you buy it, give it a good sniff. It won't make black light posters more exciting like chemical cleaners will. How does that fragrance make you feel?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Again Gonna Do It Again

Lost connectivity today, which was mostly okay because we wanted to paint the staircase hallway, straighten the screen door, sweep the foyer and the porch, air the rugs and clean up the garden generally after Tropical Storm Tillie, which tore leaves off trees and made muddy lo the bottoms of shoes. A great many of us have them, the poor, poor shoes. Though Friday night, I got some New Balance athletic scuffs with superlative arch support at Sears for 30% off.

Guess what color we painted the hall.



Friday, September 05, 2008

This Is Where the Party Ends

It's been a long time since I saw anything this vile.

That clever man is a representative of the State of Florida on the floor of the Republican National Convention. I could go out on a limb and say that suit's probably not this gentleman's favorite evening attire, but why speculate about this one fellow when evidently more than one cognitively impaired douchebag thought this was excellent party gear? What is it?

It's an alligator hat, with a likeness of Presidential candidate Barack Obama clutched between its jaws. I'll admit: at first I didn't recognize the image, since I'm from New Jersey, where we don't know the difference between alligators and crocodiles because we know herpetologists who do, and they throw some steeeamin' soirees. But ignorance of ignorance is a fleeting privilege, and this bliss left on the wings of Mercury.

I've lived in the South but I'd never to my recollection heard the words gator bait. What is this? Hunting alligators is dangerous. For a certain segment of the swamp-neighboring white population, it was a common practice to use black children to lure alligators out of hiding. How?

It is with regret and through clenched teeth that I inform you some people look upon this horror with such amusement and nostalgia that whole hosts of kitchy goddamn memorabilia exist to satisfy those longings for the Bad Old Days. And now, jackasses from Florida have aired this blot on American history as hilarious headgear. Not only am I proud to be an American in the twenty-first fucking century, but I am thrilled that no mainstream media outlet said shit about this to shame the shameless. It's a beautiful goddamn world.

By the way, I've seen the fifties health film with the lady on fire. It warns against washing your clothes with gasoline.

No comment.

hat tip: Melissa, Petulant and InfamousQBert, who presumably have better hats.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

There's A Man Hanging By His Pants Seat

In my office today, everyone was restless and no one could concentrate. My student worker, one of the few people all my life to get Defenestration of Prague humor, has taken a job as an archivist closer to his home in Parsippany, so today was his last day. As is our custom, we ate pizza and talked about matters that interested the person departing, and me, because I am a conversational tsunami headed for the tiny fishing village that is, you know, anyone else. And I wanted to talk about unicycles because I want one desperately, though I cannot juggle. Oh, how I've tried! But this did nothing to settle the mood of the office, and a short time later, Mathilde turned the corner and sulked in the doorway of my cubicle. English is her third or fourth language, so at some point this afternoon:

Mathilde: When someone annoys me I curse him in a language he doesn't speak!
Tata: From now on, no one should curse anyone in any Romance language, because I will laugh, and we will all be embarrassed. That includes Romanian!
Mathilde: I wouldn't curse you in French. You'd understand me.
Tata: Not only that, but I really would!

It should come as no surprise, then, that Mathilde's restlessness resulted in discussion of my wacky exhaustion and Mathilde's houseful of men suffering Rwandan war PTSD and DIY deficiency.

Tata: Then we painted the apartment and the next day I couldn't get off the couch.
Mathilde: I want to paint but I can't do it myself. No one will help me!
Tata: Okay okay okay - you paint what you want, then take a bath and lock the door.
Mathilde: I can't do that! I only have one bathroom.
Tata: I know. Calgon will get you a second.
Mathilde: What do you mean?
Tata: While you're in the tub, tell them to hold it.
Mathilde: I can't do that!
Tata: Sure you can! They're men. The world is their bathroom. Oooh! Build them an outhouse!
Donna: They can pee behind a rock.
Tata: It doesn't even have to be a very big rock!
Mathilde: The neighbors will call 911!
Tata: The neighbors will help build the outhouse!

Fortunately, a workday is only about twenty-six hours long.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

In the Morning, Look In the Mirror

We moved the kitties one at a time to the house a week ago Sunday, starting with Drusy. Our delicate darling travels poorly and cries piteously. We knew we were in for an afternoon of diva drama when we stuffed her in the cat carrier and drove six blocks from the apartment to the house. Drusy did not disappoint. She cried for a day and a half and had a kitty hissyfit when I took her up a flight of stairs. The cat box was in the attic. You will be pleased to hear that, unlike other disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide does not hurt and the bubbles amuse, even if the abrasions cause the neighbors to nod slowly and ring the gendarmes. Topaz adapted immediately to all the additional space, the flights of stairs, the curtains and the windowsills. I swear she took up smoking.

Here, Drusy discovers the fireplace mantle is perhaps a little higher off the ground than the pussycat who had never seen stairs before Sunday likes to leap.

Today is Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. Yesterday was Mom's birthday and I forgot to call because being self-absorbed is a calling not a character flaw, but today we talked about tomato plants and Grandpa's microwave. Pete and I have started our new life with a pot of homemade yogurt and tomatoes we grew in the backyard. Students have returned to the unnamed university and the city is overrun by police and people directed by police to keep moving. The tiny town on this side of the river is filled to the brim with cheerful persons. I walked to pilates class and encountered no end of pedestrians smiling and saying hello. Yeah, that was a close call.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Overcome Their Shyness And They're Calling

Perhaps two weeks ago, Pete sat on the couch in the apartment. Drusy assumed the Queen of the Mountain position on her favorite lap and Topaz lay next to Pete. Drusy then reached out a paw and touched Topaz. The scene was so adorable I almost swallowed my tongue. I took a bunch of crappy pictures, mostly because I take crappy pictures, but it really didn't help that I was emitting a sound that would jam radar. You probably can't tell these things from the picture but we don't live there anymore and Pete has curly eyebrows.

Last week, Pete and I painted the apartment white. The next day, I couldn't get off the couch and not the good way where I have bonbons and five hours of All My Children. Nope, I had a heating pad and a Betty Crocker-approved frosting layer of Ben Gay. Thursday, Daria and I dragged some big ass furniture out to her Ford Exsanguinator and to the dumpster. Daria and I mopped, dropped off the keys, loaded the furniture into Pete's house and suddenly we were finished moving out.

The kitchen Dad and I faux finished is now white. Breath caught in my throat a few times but I don't regret painting over because it was just paint. Plus, you know, we live in the house now, where there's plenty of room to nap.