Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Evidence Is Strong

Yesterday, Panky turned one.

This is the first time I see Miss Sasha's face in Panky's. I have a picture of her as a two-year-old modeling purple pajamas with a face covered in chocolate that looks a lot like this little guy. Maybe if he did a little more food-based comedy I'd have seen resemblance sooner.


Monday, December 29, 2008

A Need For Each Other Anytime

Tonight, Pete and I had dinner with Pete's friend Angela who lives in Los Angeles and takes care of a blind friend in Allentown. Angela's so stressed she may snap like a twig underfoot if something doesn't change. By the time we were finished eating, I said, "Pookie, you are too nice. What you need is a club. When people steal $10,000 from your blind friend, you club them. Bonk! Discipline is crucial at this age." Still being too nice, Angela said, "You have to understand they're genuinely stupid. They're not malicious." I said, "I don't have to understand anything about thieving relatives. If they steal again, will you call the cops?" I mention this because one day I was avoiding doing something about something really important when I found this gorgeous image of Russ Tamblyn sailing through the air. See, I remember Russ Tamblyn most vividly as the odd doctor on Twin Peaks, and despite my early fixation on Hollywood musicals, I had forgotten Tamblyn in West Side Story. That brought me up short. Sometimes, you remember how things turned out and not so much where they started.

Her birthday's coming up. Can you get a club monogrammed?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Or In A Suit And A Tie

My brother Todd's wife Bette, as photographed by Daria last summer in the Cape house. Plainly, Bette benefits from the black and white setting on the camera and a surfeit of grapefruit.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Pickup Truck And the Devil's Eyes

I've been thinking a lot about compost. Though the Solstice is behind us the dead of winter lies ahead. Our composter feels very full and I wonder how much decomposition takes place inside the barrel on these cold days. Even so: it's easy to find other places to put coffee grounds and asparagus stems, so I don't really worry. Thus, I am thinking now about paper, especially paper that comes through the mail, now that seed catalogs have begun to arrive. I heard a rumor weeks ago that recycling was unprofitable in the current economy but today we see proof.
People are still putting their bins of recyclables out on curbs. But the recyclable materials market, which was booming only a few months ago, has dropped sharply, along with the worldwide economy, creating a backlog of materials at processing plants.

Reduced demand for used paper, plastic bottles, glass, and metal cans has caused prices to plummet, surprising even those who have followed the ups and downs of the recycling market.

"We have seen drastic changes in market values, faster than I've seen since I've been in industry back to the 1980s," said Foster, who said the value of recyclables was about 70 percent less on average than two months ago. "A lot of it, you can't move right now."

Foster said the recycling plant is still sorting and bundling about 400 tons of paper per day, but it's more difficult to sell.

Now is the time then to insist on products from recycled materials. I have a game I play now: How Can I Reuse This? Sometimes I win, like when I buy eggs in recycled cardboard containers, then pulverize eggshells and cardboard for compost. Sometimes I lose, like when I buy something in that plastic packaging that might actually prevent me from using what I purchased. You know what I'm talking about. On late night commercials, hucksters hawk gadgets to get you into that plastic packaging, creating an odd circle-of-life that ends with you doubling the stuff in your whatsit drawer. Anyway, if I wash and reuse Ziploc bags once each, I cut my use of bags in half. I'm still adding stuff to the landfill at an impressive rate. So what about all this paper that comes to the house, if recycling is going nowhere? Can I compost it? Some of it, yes.
Shredding and composting documents is a great way to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands and it can help soak up excess water if the compost heap is too wet.

Shredding paper that has been used for bedding for small pets such as hamsters is ok to compost too.

Avoid shiny paper or shiny coloured prints though.

It had never occurred to me until today to buy a shredder, mostly because I don't own much of anything and thought municipal recycling would take care of paper. Now I see that envelopes and notices could be useful in our attempts to fertilize the soil in which we're growing our vegetables and herbs. Hmm.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

He Knows When You're Awake

Merry Christmas, Panky!


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Everybody's Got A Little Light Under the Sun

Why does this manicotti look different from all other manicottis? Because I made half the crepes with whole wheat flour. The stuffing for the whole wheat crepes includes sausage and wild mushrooms, to capitalize on the nuttier flavor. I liked the image of the manicotti on the stove in the apple-green kitchen. It's kind of pretty, which strikes me as a very funny thought.

In other funny thoughts: people have different philosophies about gifts. Some folks say gifts should be things you wouldn't buy for yourself. My favorite gifts are the ones that I use in everyday life. My brother Todd gave me an insulated jacket I've worn for twenty years now and it's got one frayed corner. That's a good gift. Pete feels pretty much the way I do, and for Christmas, he wanted a wheelbarrow. Last Sunday, he picked out the component parts at Home Depot. As we went through checkout, I said, "Shhh! That's his present and it's A SECRET!" The cashier lit up.

So, yeah. I gift-wrapped a wheelbarrow. Thought I wouldn't? I had to call Daria and tell her: "Dude, I totally gift-wrapped a wheelbarrow." Daria said, "You...Tyler! Domenica gift-wrapped a wheelbarrow! How'd you do it?" "I am a geeeeenius," I said. "That is how."

I figured I should take a picture of this pretty quickly because the cats were very interested in helping me by eating the ribbons and subduing the paper and will probably help us unwrap the moment we leave the house. Happy Christmas Eve, if you celebrate this. Happy Hanukkah, if you celebrate that. Happy Wednesday, if you don't. I mean, who can live without those?


Monday, December 22, 2008

Too Much Heaven On Their Minds

Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, reports from the house of his father-in-law's swift decline.
Jesus! You've started to believe. The things they say of you. You really do believe. This talk of God is true!

We were sitting around, deafened, going through motions. I sat in his chair to keep it from sitting empty and becoming the ghost at the feast. We turned on the teevee, just to do something, and what was on OnDemand but Jesus Christ Superstar. Because it had Jesus in it, that's what she wanted to watch. The Crucifixion was a bit much, under the circumstances, but it comforted her to know that he was in the arms of Jesus. It struck me as it never did, of course, when I was a child and still somewhat Jesus-centric in my thinking, that the show was about Jesus only peripherally, that Jesus here is spoiled and given to tantrums, that Judas is the star and by far the more interesting character, that Christ's agony in the garden was as nothing next to his, that Judas was crucified as surely as Jesus was. It also struck me what a parody the seventies were of themselves. The show is set in the modern day of its time, but even then it seems like they're spoofing some earlier generation's excesses, like sychronized swimming movies.

What then to do about this Jesusmania? How do we deal with a carpenter king? Where do we start with a man who is bigger than John was when John did his baptism thing?

I can't get the songs out of my head now, of course. I'm going to have to get the record on and listen to it two hundred times in a row to get it out of my head, like I do with ABBA and Tony Orlando and Dawn when I fixate on them.

Did your family get into Superstar? In mine it was dynamite. We played the record and acted out the parts by the hour, wrapping a towel around our shoulders to play Pontius Pilate, whose name always confused me when I was a kid because I didn't think they had airplanes then. My mom was in love with Ted Neely. My cousin Bubba's high school put on a production, lip-synching to the record. I'll bet they couldn't believe their good luck that they had a black dude to play Judas! I didn't of course put two and two together all at once that, as the song goes, He's just a man (and I've had so many men before, in very many ways!), but it struck me even as a child that until then all the nuns and the priests ever told us about Judas was that he got up one day and sold Jesus for thirty pieces of eight. I can't claim I was so wise that I figured out then I was being had. But the bomb started to tick in the back of my brain that the greatest story ever told wasn't the whole story.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, a few seasons before Johnny and I met, a traveling theater group did Superstar at my school and we were invited to be the crowd. During the crucifixion scene, my feet grew roots and I forgot myself, there in the aisle of the auditorium. I suddenly understood why people prayed, even if I couldn't buy the to whom. Someone put arms around my shoulders and walked me through a door, which I could not have done myself. Sometimes, the light shines through me, but I don't know from where.

Ted Neely? Ian Gillan. Yes, that Ian Gillan. All other Jesuses just don't do it for me.

The play has its faults, but its treatment of Judas is what makes me love Jesus Christ Superstar. He's human and heartbroken, loved and betrayed himself. The stakes are unbelievably high for Judas; it is truly important to observe and understand: Jesus is not Jesus without Judas. Judas must love Jesus more than life itself. There can be no Christianity without Judas.

In all the commotion Johnny has forgotten I have this tattooed across my back.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

His Car Is Warm And Dry

Behold! Princess Drusy has subdued the sapphire tissue. It marauds no more! Note that the pink rubber ball cowers in a corner, fearful that the brave hunter will give chase. She is a fury, a blaze of claws and incisors. The ball, observed, doesn't stand a chance, though for now the hunter has other interests. You, for example. You might be delicious.

Are you, in fact, delicious?


Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Garden Where Nothing Grows

Tata: I've been weighing my compost, which is just quirky enough that I thought I should mention it.
Daria: What? Yes...
Tata: It's unscientific because the scale belongs to Ted, the tenant who is also Mom's chiropractor and who is wrong about everything, and the scale cannot be calibrated.
Daria: What do you mean he's wrong about everything?
Tata: We go to Wegman's and buy vegetables that cost a fortune and when we see him at the house he says, "Oh! Wegman's! Everything's so cheap there!" And let me tell you, he's got some very stinky ideas about women.
Daria: He's a good chiropractor, though. Mom says he really helps her.
Tata: Yeah. So weighing the compost is like performance art with broken numbers and an audience of mushy pineapple.

In the space of four days, I took outside 5.09 pounds of compostable material. That included two cardboard egg cartons I shredded by hand while I was steaming mad about Ted's generic bitter pronouncements about the nature of male-female relations. The pieces are very tiny. They'll turn into something useful a lot sooner than Ted's bullshit will.

The giant kitten, whose name this week is Lulu, is very pushy. She wants our attention a lot of the time, she wants the good scratchy-scratchy nails and she's first to the food bowl, which is working Topaz's last nerve. Working Pete's is finding cat yak all over the place. "Whoa!" he says, "Help!" It doesn't stink, so clean up is easy for me, but the downside is: it doesn't stink, so sometimes we don't find it right away. Last night, the kitten lay between us on the couch as we watched TV, then went off on some urgent kitten business. Some time later, I noticed she'd left us a surprise. A pile of cat yak between us. Surprise! We both sat there for a moment, staring, because neither of us heard, saw or smelled a cat tossing her waffles between us on the couch, so it was impossible for it to be there. It was so impossible, Pete couldn't see it for a moment because the colors of the regurgitated cat food matched the Mexican blanket on the couch, which was a thoughtful touch on the kitten's part, really.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Unto Others As You Would Have A Turn

Sometimes it's hard to feel fucking peaceful.
Insurance loophole claimed in fire deaths
Company says smoke that killed 3 was 'pollution'

Wha - wha - what?
An insurance company with a potential $25 million liability from a 2007 Houston office fire is claiming smoke that killed three people was "pollution" and surviving families shouldn't be compensated for their losses since the deaths were not caused directly by the actual flames.

Great American Insurance Company is arguing in a Houston federal court that the section of the insurance policy that excludes payments for pollution — like discharges or seepage that require cleanup — would also exclude payouts for damages, including deaths, caused by smoke, or pollution, that results from a fire.

Here is a brick.
Hold onto that. You might need it.

Before we go on, I'd like to make a point: we will all be dead a whole lot longer than we are alive. I assume you're alive, but you know what they say about assuming. A lot of people in every story believe in an afterlife in which they will have to explain their actions. Okay, continuing then -
Great American has asked U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal to find that the deaths caused by the smoke, fumes and soot from the March 2007 fire set by a nurse working in the building will not be covered by the policy because there is a specific exclusion for pollution and it mentions smoke, fumes and soot.

"Listen, Saint Peter, I couldn't not do it, right? Millions of dollars were at stake, not to mention our S&P rating. Plus, it had the merit of being practically diabolical - oops..."
In October, vocational nurse Misty Ann Weaver was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of felony murder and one count of first-degree arson for setting the fire to conceal that she had failed to complete paperwork on time.

Great American's legal request, filed in late November and set for hearings in February, notes that there are four pending lawsuits against the property owners for wrongful death and injury, and contends that the insurance company should not have to pay on any of them.

Kevin Sewell, the Dallas lawyer who filed the request, did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon. Great American spokeswoman Diane Weidner said company policy is to not comment on pending litigation.

"I can explain! Let me explain! See, the people were already dead, so it wasn't like we were hurting them or anything, and who knows, maybe they really liked smoke. It's tasty on ribs, am I right?"
Seth Chandler, a University of Houston Law Center professor who teaches insurance law, said while the insurance company's maneuver wasn't out of bounds, it will test the limits of the law.

"This is pushing the boundaries of the absolute pollution exclusion," Chandler said. "We're going to have a battle between the literal language of the policy and the way people speak of pollution."

A question of semantics
He said the issue is an ongoing conversation between the courts and the insurance industry. Chandler said he doesn't know of any other Texas cases on this issue. Nationwide, he said, even carbon monoxide poisoning has been found to be covered by insurance despite a pollution exclusion.

Despite this slightly-less-evil fucker's assertion that it's all words it is NOT all words. This is a question, as so many are, of common decency. That insurance companies employ vicious bastards is one of the main reasons insurance companies cannot be trusted, and there is nowhere where they prove it day in and day out like on the issue of healthcare. Frankly, the whole premise of health insurance doesn't make any sense when insurance companies are for-profit since there's no incentive to provide decent healthcare. There's plenty of incentive to deny claims. Every denied claim is greater profit. We're in sad shape, but there's a glimmer of hope: the incoming administration has promised reform.
The Obama transition team is having people organize house parties to give their thoughts on health care reform. They are open, deliberative processes. So of course the insurance industry is seeking to sabotage them.

Now, about that brick...


Shiver I Feel So

Dear Lou Dobbs,

One of these days, because you don't seem to be stupid, you may realize how much damage you have done to America. On that day, your racism and class issues, which you've been playing out in public for a very long time, may finally be clear to you. You've been biting the hand that feeds you. I mean that literally. You castigate the people who grow and raise and slaughter and transport and prepare everything you eat, and clean up after you. Are you aware of them? I suppose not. But you are violating a very important little rule: Don't screw with the people who take care of you. That can't end well.

It's time you started looking up the economic ladder for the causes of our current economic armageddon. Only there will you actually see what's happening, though I doubt you will ever look. If I were you, I'd start overtipping everyone in sight, because it's completely impossible no one's spitting in your dinner.

Bon appetit,
Princess Ta


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sway Through the Crowd To An Empty Space

Set your recording devices: our friend Minstrel Boy plays Jeopardy Wednesday night, which is tomorrow. I personally do not own a recording device, though I hear they're the bee's knees. Twenty three skidoo, you know! Anyhoo, MB - the fellow on the right - enjoys military history, making chocolates and lapsing into French. The fellow on the left, well, I don't know. I think he was on The XFiles or something.

A few days ago, the woman who buys paper towels for our department bought a bale of 'em in a brand that wasn't recycled. I growled. Then I growled some more.

Tata: Have we given up on buying recycled paper towels?
Joanne: They weren't on sale.

Every so often I receive a gentle reminder that I am a space alien. Look! Here is one! Watch, as I do not switch to my native tongue:

Tata: W - what?
Joanne: We run out of paper towels at sometimes inconvenient moments and the brands we like are not on sale, so we go with a different brand. It's just timing.
Tata: I'll get coupons.

Yesterday, I left coupons for Marcal products on her desk. She's a nice person but we share a cubicle wall and the sound of her voice makes me mildly homicidal. Every afternoon, she eats 10 baby carrots, which I know because everyone knows.


By the fourth carrot, Lupe and I are emailing each other from ten feet apart.

Tata: Kill me.
Lupe: Got a carrot costume?


Tata: Why haven't you killed me yet?
Lupe: Oh no. We survive this together.


In the silence that follows, we mourn the little carrots that fell victim to the day's carnage. We know that if not for their sacrifice, untold suffering would visit our basement office. Or maybe she'd bring celery. In any case, yesterday, Joanne approached me, coupons in hand and a new plan in mind.

Joanne: Thanks for the coupons. Is this the only recycled brand?
Tata: No, there are quite a few now.
Joanne: Does Shop Rite carry them?
Tata: They should. If they don't, you could make a fuss. I do.
Joanne: Does Wegman's?
Tata: Wegman's certainly does.
Joanne: What about the prices? Are they so expensive nobody buys them so the stores don't carry them?
Tata: No, stores carry them. And if you buy them, the stores will carry more. It's too late for us to say this doesn't matter.
Joanne: Have you seen them in Shop Rite?
Tata: I don't have a Shop Rite, but they must carry them.
Joanne: Thanks for the coupons. I'll watch for the sales.
Tata: This for me is putting my money where my mouth is. If it's a couple of dollars more, then fine. I'll live with that. I'll try to keep you supplied with coupons, okay?
Joanne: Okay.

This conversation boggled my tiny little mind until I realized: she's a New Yorker, and not just any New Yorker. She's from Queens. She knows where her grown children are at every moment. She knows which doctors practice which specialties. And nobody is going to beat her for a dollar. So not only will I keep her in coupons, I will find out which stores she shops in and scope their merchandise. She will appreciate my ability to eviscerate a grocery bill for the Common Good.

Before we bought the composter, I was uncomfortably aware of how much compostable material was going out in garbage. Yesterday, I tossed 12.5 oz. onto the pile. Yes, I weighed that. I'm easily amused. Though it's winter, the temperature changes have been frequent and crazy; material inside the composter continues to degrade nicely. In addition to this, Pete set up a large square pen like this image except that it is small, round and I pinched it from Our leaves are turning into mulch and they need lots of air to do so, giving us the opportunity to spend an hour playing with pitchforks. Our neighbors must enjoy this. I know that if I weren't me but saw me flinging piles of decaying crap with a pitchfork two-thirds my size, I'd microwave some Orville Redenbacher and summon the kids. "Children," I'd say, "some lessons must be learned through experience, but some - yes, a special few - can be learned by watching others make exciting mistakes. Please pass the popcorn."


Monday, December 15, 2008

That Borders My Back

In the words of the great sages A Halo Called Fred, the finest band that ever let me play guitar without injuring myself on the strings, "Have you ever woken up in the morning, having had a little too much to drink the night before, and said to yourself these magic words?" I say, don't limit yourself to hangovers. Sometimes, you just feel like -


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Blues, The Reds And the Pinks

Detail. Light Bulbs, 2008 72x96" Depicts 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours of electricity wasted in the United States every minute from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.).

Though I am a delighted homebody who weatherstrips windows and doors for fun, I can judge with the gimlet eye of an art critic. This exhibit is worth your time and consideration. Now please excuse me. I've got to help install something made of rubber, foam and recognition of the obvious.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Bit Of What Is All Around You

Looking back on her career, she told Playboy in 1998: "I never thought it was shameful. I felt normal. It's just that it was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous."

Thank you, Miss Bettie.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

You Might Be the Sweet Unspiteful

AFL-CIO NOW BLOG/Tula Connell, quoted in full:
For more proof that the Republican opposition to the auto bridge loan is ideologically based class war against workers and their unions, look no further than yesterday’s comments by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who wants to force the American auto industry—at the cost of 3 million to 5 million U.S. jobs—to its knees:
I'm not trying to get rid of the unions but I am saying that they appear to be an antiquated concept in today’s economy and if a company cannot be competitive with the union structure that they have then we need to recognize that.

…Most of this is being done to protect unions. It's not to protect the workers. What I want to do is make sure we have jobs for these workers and we have first-class American auto companies and we're not going to do that with the barnacles of unionism wrapped around their necks.

The media is abetting the corporate-instigated class war, by endlessly repeating the falsehood that UAW members make $70 an hour—when, in fact, their salaries are close to those of workers at foreign automakers—and by otherwise blaming workers and their unions. Media Matters has been relentless in tracking these lies and sums it up here:
Even though the crises facing the financial and automotive industries were born primarily of the actions (or inaction) of those in positions of power in private industry and in government, many conservative media figures have assigned blame to specific groups of less wealthy or less influential people—the poor, minorities, undocumented immigrants, and union members, among others—disregarding the facts that belie such assignments of blame.

The media also is abetting the reactionary spin that has renamed the Big Three the "Detroit Three." By regionalizing the crisis, opponents of a unionized auto industry hope to divide and conquer workers from the primarily unionized North from the "right to work" for less South.

Fight back by urging your senators to vote for the auto bridge loan.

I was a Teamster in the eighties and I'm a member of the American Federation of Teachers. This bullshit about unions ruining the lives of working people is nothing more or less than your elected officials telling you to go fuck yourself. You don't deserve a living wage, decent working conditions or retirement. These elected officials are in several cases from states where foreign automakers receive big tax breaks and workers have no ability to organize, so not only are you invited to go fuck yourself but you get to help fuck over lots of other people you'll never meet. So what do you care? You have to care. Because these elected officials are about to send the country you live in into double-digit unemployment and a genuine depression in the name of union-busting and a failed ideology.

Fuck THEM. Write that letter, please.


Like Play Has People

Pete's a bit of a chiachiarone, which is funny because most people wonder if he can talk at all. He doesn't say much except after 8 p.m. It's like a timer goes off somewhere, and when I'm watching TV he's quiet during commercials, then talks through the shows. He's talked through entire episodes of The Daily Show and into Colbert. Who was on? I don't remember. Pete was talking. During the first part of this interview, I was losing hope - again - that Jon would open up with both barrels on someone he liked personally, but then Jon came through.

Meanwhile, at my house, Pete was talking about widening a doorway in one of the apartments and I was shouting at the TV, "GET HIM, JON. GET HIM. FIVE THOUSAND YEARS IS A LIE AND HE KNOWS IT. NOT EVERYONE GETS MARRIED TO PROCREATE. GET HIM, JON!"


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Knitting the Book And the Broom

Oh, for fuck's sake.
Please resign, Bush tells political appointees

Historically, you didn't have to tell political appointees to resign when it was someone else's turn to make political appointees. But these fuckers are special.
The White House has a message for its political appointees: Go home.

White House chief of Staff Joshua Bolten sent a memo Dec. 1 to all of President Bush's political appointees asking them to tender their resignation effective Jan. 20 - the day President-Elect Barack Obama is sworn into office.

Just days ago, one of these valiant prayer warriors declared she would not, in fact, vacate her office, though she must've gotten Bolten's memo.
Despite a new administration coming into power, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said she plans to stick around.

"It doesn't serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time," she said yesterday.

U.S. attorneys serve at the discretion of the president and may be hired and fired at will, although their appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. When a new president is elected, U.S. attorneys of both parties generally tender their resignations.

Instead, the Republican said she plans to continue her work in the Western District of Pennsylvania. More than that, she said she would consider working in the Obama administration. She would not discuss what her future might hold beyond the U.S. attorney's office.

"I am open to considering further service to the United States," Ms. Buchanan said.

She's a toughie. Not to worry, that memo may still come in handy.
Should they not be sure what to write, Bolten gives appointees a sample letter.

"Dear Mr. President," it reads, "I hereby tender my resignation as (title). I anticipate that my last day of service will be January 20,2009, and I understand that you will act on this offer no later than noon, January 20, 2009."

"Sincerely, Name and title."

I see. We've found the only person in America who's never written I QUIT across her boss' windshield in ketchup. Well, lucky us.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Smiling Close Like They Are Monkeys

The wolves who raised me were tough, practical people. For instance, my grandmother Edith's motto was Eat it or wear it. Don't kid yourself, my impatience with wastefulness was learned at an early age. Where dinner was concerned: at least once or twice, I wore it. I wrote a performance piece about food, frustration and love called Eat It Or Wear It, which I adored doing but it was hard not to look especially menacing as I dismembered vegetables in libraries and museums.

Miss Sasha mentioned in comments the current tendency to hide vegetables from children inside palatable, common foods. I hate that, actually. Edith would have cut us out of the will if we'd picked at a plate of vegetables. I'll make one dinner, and children can eat it or not, but they shouldn't bother complaining. The rule: you must taste everything, and if it contains something you need, you should find a way to learn to love it. Thus, the iron-deficient women of my family make kickass chicken livers.

Chicken Liver Pate

1 lb. chicken livers
1 medium white onion, diced or 2 healthy shallots, diced
some red wine, optional
salt, pepper
whole grain toast or really good crackers

Got herbs you like? Toss 'em in. Basil and parsley are great here, but don't let that limit you, you mad thing!

2 hard boiled eggs
1 red onion, sliced

In a frying pan, dollop piles of butter. Melt. Calories are unimportant. Add onions and stir until caramelized. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add raw livers. They look gross and smell vile. Stir constantly. Chicken livers are small and cook through quickly. You should break them into smaller pieces as doneness permits. In other words, when the livers start looking like cooked meat, you will be able to break them into pieces with the edge of a spatula. Please do. Splash with wine because no one wants thirsty livers or you do, in which case don't. When the livers are completely cooked and not a moment later, remove from heat. Place in a food processor. Add eggs or don't. Puree CAREFULLY or you're going to the hospital. Chill until cooled through. Taste again and add a bit more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with toast or crackers, and red onion slices and a really long spoon so people on the outside of the crowd can reach without injury.

Further: a lot of people turn up their noses at liver but they'll eat cheap bologna. They must be crazy. That shit'll kill you. Anyway, it's December. It's easy to feel depressed and overwrought. Chicken livers are very, very inexpensive (a pint goes for about $2 near me) and a good source of iron, which is better absorbed by bodies through food than vitamin pills. Plus, I'll eat it if you won't. But you will, and you will feel exotic and interesting. Be sure to eat with the whole grain crackers because iron can bind up your intestines and that's not glamorous.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Expecting To Grow Flowers In A Desert

Have you seen this commercial?

YouTuber impossiblefunky:
Early this year Creative Director Tom Koh teamed up with our NY office to launch a fresh new brand spot for Astra Zenecas pharmaceutical product, Symbicort. It being the products first broadcast ad campaign, the expectation was for these spots to not only establish a memorable image for the brand but to set them apart from the competition. Expanding on the existing brand element of the human silhouette, Blind created a world rich with color and dimension to bring the spot to life.

The talking silhouette freaked me out so completely the first time I saw this commercial it took months for me to watch it all the way through. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's not. The image is familiar, yes? I see people like this in dreams, so the ad caused me a kind of instinctive fear response.

Good job, ad men. I am breathless.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Learning How To Jive And Wail

Charles Ray. (American, born 1953). Family Romance. 1993. Painted fiberglass and synthetic hair, 53" x 7' 1" x 11" (134.6 x 215.9 x 27.9 cm). Gift of The Norton Family Foundation. © 2008 Charles Ray

The size disparity between the kitten, whom Pete decided to call Daphne today and who knows what tomorrow, and the older cats reminds me of this sculpture. It's not a well-known work, but it sure is startling. Agggh! Giant, hulking baby! What does it want?

That's kind of how I feel when the giant kitten, who is only now learning table manners, makes a dive for my scrambled eggs.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Lost My Harmonica, Albert

You remember Topaz, don't you? She of the brilliant orange eyes and prickly disposition? I tell her every day I couldn't love her more or I would asplode, and that is probably true, and who would mop? Topaz more than the other cats acts like a human person, as opposed to a cat person, which is to say people who are disguised as cats. Unfortunately for us, the kind of person Topaz has most resembled for the last few weeks is a wretched, angry teenage girl, complete with screaming and recriminations. Omigod, she is SO GROUNDED.

Days before the kitten arrived, Drusy was in a mood. The girls were fighting and I was tearing my hair out. Then we got the kitten and despite safety precautions, the level of kitty hysteria bordered on intolerable. Then the fire went out of Drusy's tantrum and the whole house calmed down. Drusy plays with Topaz sometimes and with the kitten sometimes, and this is good for everyone because all the cats want to play. Except Topaz, who keeps telling us, Jan Brady-like, that she's much too mature now to play, which reminds me of high school and the Monteglio sisters, who hated each other so much they cut each other's hair at night, and, if you can believe it, sliced up their Styx posters. I mean, how could you?

For the most part, the kitten is sweetly affectionate and even tempered - mostly. You can't tell from pictures because we have a hard time getting the cats into the same frame without lascerations, but the kitten weighs now between 10 or 11 lbs., while Topaz is probably 8 at the most, and lanky Drusy feels to me like she might be down to 6.5. If Drusy's fur weren't vibrantly shiny and she weren't playing, we'd be at the vet's office in a flash, but it is and we're not. The other day, I awoke from my nap nose-to-tiny-nose with Drusy, which meant to me that the worst of feline roller derby was over and we were lovey-dovey again. For now, the house is full of lovely cat people and the stampeding of tiny feet, which constitutes relative peace. I can't wait until Topaz wakes up in a pile with the kitten and doesn't try to Zorro her way out.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Why She Was Totally Chenille

I can't contain myself even a moment longer. Don't try to stop me! I have to say it! Neil DeGrasse Tyson is completely, totally, undeniably, hilariously, 100% scrumptious.

That is all.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Eyes Saw Red When My Life Turned Blue

Sometimes in my office conversations go horribly wrong.

Terry: I knew you would have something to say about this.
Tata: Nope.
Terry: It's a tennis ball and a dog toy.
Tata: I see that, yes. Nope.
Terry: It says "Tough Ballz."
Tata: I see that, yes. Nope, still nothing to say.
Terry: It's one ball, really. For ninety-nine cents, it was well worth it.
Tata: Do you have a dog?
Terry: No. Yes. Maybe.
Tata: Few things on earth could entice me to discuss this object in my place of employment.
Terry: "Tough Ballz."
Tata: Not those neither.

Sometimes they go right. Lupe's children fuss about eating vegetables. I offered her a really cheap, simple recipe taught to me by an ex-boyfriend who should boil. Slowly. But the recipe is good.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Acme had a sale on root vegetables. These sweet potatoes were 10 lbs. for $10, so four tubers came to about $2.38, if I remember correctly. Stop laughing! Now I am about to say something with which people will take issue: candied yams are yecchy and sweet potato casseroles with marshmallows are a shitty waste of good food. Those are technical terms, so tag me in comments if you are confused by complex professional jargon.

Cut off the ends. You're not going to eat the fibrous ends and though you should floss, I recommend you do that with waxed string from free-range floss farms. I peel the sweet potatoes because Pete is delicate and hates to think of the poor little vegetables and their furry little faces. Your sensibilities may vary. The peels are actually good for us but they do change the flavor of our dessert topping or floor wax. It's up to you.

Slice them at least an inch thick and as evenly as you can. Perfection is not aesthetic: your concern is cooking time. I like to cut them into healthy slices that remind me of filet mignons, though for the life of me, I cannot remember the last time I ate one of those. Forging ahead, then: you can slice them thinly if you like but the outcome will not be the same. Thick slices, my darlings! You will not regret it, or maybe you will, but if you do, please seek professional help.

Drop your sliced sweet potatoes into a big honking bowl. Here's the fun part: have a look at your spice rack or cabinet. Chances are really, really good that your spices and herbs are aging gracefully. You probably like the spices you've got, so get 'em out and sprinkle them generously onto your potatoes. Add some salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over your potatoes and toss them. That mess smells good, doesn't it?

Lay the potatoes out on a cookie sheet. They're going to stick, so line it with foil. These are sitting on a Silpat, which I inherited from Dad's kitchen and love with my whole black heart, but they are expensive. Bake for an hour or so. After a fork inserts gently and easily into the largest slice, remove from the oven. Let the sweet potato slices cool a little or you risk a trip to the hospital. The outsides of each slice will be crisp. The insides will be naturally sweet and custardy. You should figure one sweet potato per ravenous adult, and that will seem like a lot of food right up to the moment you don't put any away for later.

In other news: the farmers market by Siobhan's house evidently sells red batatas, which form the basis of my Rwandan co-worker's cooking. I can't wait to try them.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Twisting Round To Think

Part One

Yesterday, Pete and I got a thank you note from my cousin Sandy and her hew husband. Let's call him Jason, since he's been Sandy's Boyfriend until now. Sandy and Jason thanked us for our gift, mailed to their house in a town that starts with a U.
Thank you for the sewing kit and the 15 pound weight. I guess I know what we're doing tonight!

We've done our part to keep America safe from these rabid heterosexuals.


Monday, December 01, 2008

The Nights We Harmonized 'Til Dawn

I never settled into November. It seemed kind of makeshift this year, what with the strange weather changes, unexpected events and that wedding smack in the middle. I'll get back to that. It was packed with pathos and mortifying eighties music, and my relatives, who are very funny with mini quiches and an open bar. Anyway, November came and went and I can't say I'll miss it. Our backyard is full of muddy leaves. One of the tenants is moving out today so the front yard is full of broken mattresses. Over the long weekend, I had two whole days to rest, launder and mediate between warring cat factions. All of these things are small, vanishingly small.

Today is World AIDS Day.