Monday, September 15, 2008

Swimming in it

I feel like I'd have nothing at all to blog if I didn't read Jay's blog, but hey, such is life. I'm moving Friday. Life is insane, but in a good way.

So yeah, Jay linked to David Foster Wallace's 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech, and it's quite brilliant. Go read it. It starts like this:
Greetings and congratulations to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.
The rest of it is just as great. And if you're still hungry for more, Harper's has a DFW archive online.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Q: What do Lysistrata and Little Red Riding Hood have in common?

A: They were both on the wanna-be-banned book list from our favorite Alaskan, Sarah Palin. By now you've no doubt read about Palin's failed attempt to purge unwholesome influences such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Whitman from the Wasilla stacks. You can read the full list here and join me in a full-bodied sigh.

(Thanks to Jay Bushman for the link.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

So much work to do

And yet, I cannot pull myself away from the train wreck.

This must be how Republicans feel all the time.

More on the kakistocracy's femme du jour

Thanks to Colin for the link to Sam Harris' op-ed piece on Palin in the LA Times. I know I should just tell you to go read it, but I don't trust that you will, so here is the part that made me guffaw:

McCain not only has thrown all sensible concerns about good governance aside merely to pander to a sliver of female and masses of conservative Christian voters, he has turned this period of American history into an episode of high-stakes reality television: Don't look now, but our cousin Sarah just became leader of the free world! Tune in next week and watch her get sassy with Pakistan!

Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.

This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism. Let me put it plainly: If you want someone just like you to be president of the United States, or even vice president, you deserve whatever dysfunctional society you get.
That line, "This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism" is certain to recur in my consciousness more times than is healthy.


Everyone else is already saying what you know I'm feeling about McCain's running mate choice--that it's delightful to watch the Republicans making ridiculously stupid choices.

So just to lower the level of discourse a little more, here are a few linguistic notes:

  • Yesterday during a conversation about Palin's pregger daughter, Nick let me know that "Bristols" or "Bristol City" is Cockney slang for "titty."

  • Then later in the day, my sister sent me an email telling me that she went to a neighborhood party and was surprised to discover her neighbors were all Democrats. "We had a blast Palinizing," E wrote.

  • Stephanie Miller is Calling Palin "Caribou Barbie."

Best knitting project ever

Craftzine's How to Knit a Dissected Rat
(This almost makes me wish I could knit.):

Via tinyblip

Friday, August 22, 2008

Words and images

While I'm sort of anti-word tattoo, strangely enough (I am generally a word person), some of my best friends favor wordy ink. This recording has a nice mini-spread, which I link to if for no other reason than I know Lulu will like it so much.

For my part, several of my fabulous friends gave me some money toward my next, which Lex is drawing for me. The idea is a hamsa but with a realistic looking hand in graytone and a cartoon-y looking blue eye in the middle of the palm. Probably I won't have time to execute the plan until after I move, but if I could have it emblazoned on my neck/back before I go east for the family get-together, more's the better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The brutality of fact

The Guardian has a nice short piece about Francis Bacon (the painter not the philosopher)--Damien Hirst on Francis Bacon actually:
He talked about the brutality of fact. It's incredibly brave to take that on, to face up to the horror and stare it down. Over and over. I mean, I've made maybe four good pieces and the rest are, you know, sort of happy. He wasn't like that. He was his own worst and best critic. He pushed himself to the edge every time. They give you the shivers, his best paintings. He looks into the room that no one wants to look in. He looks in the mirror and he sees meat. He shuns tenderness. He wants to sleep on a hard bed.

Perhaps it's my moroseness about the impending birthday, but the piece really resonated with me and reminded me of how much I love Bacon, the painter and the meat.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Slavoj, circuit board car, and the Carpenters

Here is a nice triad of yummy links unrelated except that they all came through my magic portal today:

1. The best interview ever(!) courtesy of our friend in Dublin.
Though it's hard to choose, because there are so many good ones, I think my personal favorite line is:

Q: What does love feel like?
A: Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite,
a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.

And yes, of course, that makes me think of Gang of Four. What of it?

2. The ultimate geek cars, courtesy of someone's Twitter feed, but I cannot remember whose.

3. The first birthday present I've received this year (thank you, Spence). And yes, this is a passive-aggressive way of letting you know my birthday is Thursday. Feel free to send gifts or simply shower me with admiration and virtual cards. Or not.

Finns and pop

While I am most decidedly a word person, I do like maps. I think they appeal to the control freak in me. I like to think of the world as organized. Here are two that landed in my in box this week.

First, the genetic map of Europe which is explained in the NYTimes article of the same name:
The map shows, at right, the location in Europe where each of the sampled populations live and, at left, the genetic relationship between these 23 populations. The map was constructed by Dr. Kayser, Dr. Oscar Lao and others, and appears in an article in Current Biology published on line on August 7.

Having been to Finland so recently, what this map says to me is, "Yes, the Finns are an odd bunch." (The Times explains that the Finns' oddball genes are due to the fact that their population grew from such a small number of people.)

The second map is the pop vs. soda map from one of my favorite sites, Strange Maps. Really I just offer this one because it's kind of pretty and it gives me an excuse to point to Strange Maps. (And I was in Minnesota a few weeks ago as well and so the pop vs. soda linguistic rivalry is still fresh in my mind.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I wouldn't call it a *fear* of commitment per se...

I think "resistence to" or "skepticism toward" might be better ways of putting it.

Backing up a bit: Last week I moved offices down the hall into a larger, less centrally located office. My old office was right at the top of the stairs by the spot my boss calls "the water cooler" even though there is, in fact, no water cooler there. People naturally stop at the top of the stairs to congregate, and everyone feels rude if they don't subsequently poke their head in my office and 1. ask how my weekend/evening/day was/is, 2.compliment me on my hair/outfit/whatever, 3.ask for my thoughts on Obama/McCain/the Griffith Park fires/the latest Hollywood overdose... You get the picture. Given my naturally misanthropic personality, it's not a good thing. I have worked hard to try to develop my superpower ability to strangle people from across the room, but I have been unsuccessful thus far. So now I am down the hall in a new office that's big and has a nice red wall and is far away from "the water cooler."

Somehow it just felt wrong to move my crappy chair down here. The chair I have been sitting in is the kind of furniture item that you could easily recover from a dumpster. In fact, my old task chair from home was a dumpster discovery, and it was a far better chair than the one I have been using lo-these-many years. So this morning, I went to the office furniture place and sat in dozens of chairs until I found the optimum price-meets-performance keyboard jockeying saddle.

Know that I have been meaning to buy a new chair since I took this job.

Know too that I have worked here since January 2002.

What I realized is that having invested the time to shlep my books down the hall; go through my files to at least some degree and determine what to move, what to toss, and what to archive; and box up all my snowglobes for their journey to their new home, I am now maybe ready to actually settle in here. Ready enough to buy a new chair.

One doesn't want to rush into these things. Yeah.

I remember one time I went to an ACOA meeting (Adult Children of Alcoholics) many years ago, and someone there shared about finally throwing away her packing boxes. After living in her house more than five years, she said, she was ready to think about herself as staying there and not needing to be ready at any moment to uproot. And I was like, "Doesn't everybody keep their packing boxes?!"

I'm not judging...I'm just saying...

Of course, all of this comes just in time for me to move houses next month. (More on that front as there is news to report.)

Friday, August 15, 2008


If you're like me, you're a last-minute citizen when it comes to some local elections and ballot measures. I vote and I try to remain educated, but I usually find myself "cramming" the night before I go to the polls to try to figure out what exactly is on the ballot and where I stand about the initiatives. In California, in particular, I've been challenged because we seem to vote so often. (In Wisconsin, if you know where you stand on Indian gaming rights and spear fishing, you've pretty much covered 75% of the initiatives in any given year.)

So today I came across this new wiki on elections, Ballotpedia, and it looks like it's going to be a real boon for me. I've only just glanced at it, but I was impressed enough to pass it along. Tip o' the hat to Resource Shelf, which remains one of my favorite sources for discovering new online goodies.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Moving pictures! GYWO goes animated

Get Your War On is now an animated series on Yippee. I was going to embed the first episode here, but it doesn't want to embed, so here's the link. Some day I will return to blogging that involves something more than "hey, look at this," but in the meantime, you can check out my post today on Metblogs about the reading I went to Saturday if you're really yearning for some yapping from yours truly.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Site of the day

A sent this link to me with a note that said, "That this made me laugh out loud is indicative of degree of pms, I think."

Oh yes.

It's hard to imagine that malaise and homocidal tendencies can coexist so well in one body, and yet...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Best music video ever

Zombies, twinkies, and Soviet posters--what more could you possibly want?


Friday, July 04, 2008

In honor of Independence Day, an oldie of mine:

Break-up Poem for America

(with apologies to Walt Whitman)

Oh America, you sad failed experiment,
It was lovely while it lasted.

People tried to warn me
They said that you were faithless
Professing everything
Remembering nothing
Fueled by lust and self interest
Always afraid of commitment

They said you were heartless
At your worst, you were violent
Your sweetest words coming
Just after the black eyes and broken jaws.

But I loved you anyway.
I thought they were jealous of us, America
You were young and impulsive
This time it would be different, I told myself

Because I could see the wild beauty
In your grain fields and skyscrapers
Your railroads and ballot boxes
Plates of hominy and cowboy boots
Even your corruption

I remember the good times
Shay's rebellion and the liberty tree
The New Deal
Apollo Eleven
You were the cool rebel
But I knew you would protect me
I dreamed we could go anywhere together

We did have our moments
Even as the firehoses blasted blacks
Marching for a seat at the front of the bus
You told me about the view from the mountain top
And I could see it then

It's been tough between us, America
But I always believed your promises
That you would settle down to your responsibilities
As you got older
Try to love your huddled masses
And it is hard to contain multitudes
I told myself

But it's been bad for so long now
Iran Contra
Florida, Ohio
There's nothing left to believe in

You've watered the tree of liberty
With the blood of so many patriots
The soil can't hold the roots
And it's a truism:
The ones who can't keep plants alive
Make lousy marriage material

I have to finally admit
It’s over between us.
I tried, America
I really did
But in the end, it just didn't work out
And I don't think we can still be friends
Because it's not me; it's you.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Site of the Day

I know it's been two weeks since I have posted a peep here and I should be giving up something more meaty than a site of the day post, and for that I do apologize people. But life has been super busy and I was sick as a dog last week. So those are my excuses. In the meantime, enjoy Will's turtle cam. The time lapse video of Buster and the nomming is totally great.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Five songs that always make me happy

So the other day I was in one of those moods where I was once again wishing for my as-yet unrealized superpower--the ability to strangle people from across the room. I was on my way to run errands at lunch (picking up probiotics for my insanely high maintanence cat, if you must know) and it was all I could do not to just ram into the Lexus in front of me when it was too slow off the green. And then the Bad Brains "Pay to Cum" came on the stereo and *snap* like that the day got better. And that got me thinking about the songs that, no matter what, never fail to fill me with joy, joy, joy. Top three:
Bad Brains: Pay to Cum
The Damned: New Rose
Black Flag: Nervous Breakdown

Never fails--no matter how crappy I'm feeling, when those songs come on, I get a little restored (to what I can't say exactly).

It goes to my theory of congenital punkness I think. To some people, it's angry, upsetting music; to those who are congenitally punk, it's come-in-off-the-ledge music.

Of course, as I'm blogging this, I'm listening to Leonard Cohen, so there's a severe disjunct going on in my brain, but whatever. I've never claimed consistency as a strong character trait.

Update: It's been called to my attention (thank you, Bob and Colin) that while the post title says "five" I've only listed three joy-inspiring songs. I think what happened is that I started with the idea that I would list five, but it gets harder after those first three. Wire's entire Pink Flag album is a contender, as are any number of Gang of Four songs (yes, including "Love a Man in a Uniform") and all of Killing Jokes' first album and What's this For. I used to have a complete school girl crush on Stiff Little Fingers and so whenever I hear them, I revisit the best parts of being 15. And I'm not ashamed to admit I always sing along with those Grand Master Flash hits from the 80s.

So I don't know folks. I'm just not as sure of those last two to round out the greatest five, but for now, I'll say "Annalisa" by PiL (which I know is a perverse and weird choice but that song never fails to make me smile) and Xray Spex "Oh Bondage Up Yours!" is a fav because who doesn't love the punk rock sax?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Site of the day

Scary stuff:
Via BoingBoing:


I grew up thinking about my body as a large inconvenient container upon which to carry my brain around, and while I've largely made piece with the container, even grown fond of it, at times it's just a big obnoxious machine. This week, I am plagued by bodies. First, there is my own, which been subject to a severe case of vertigo for about a week now. It is better today thanks mostly to doing precious little save sleep yesterday. But life is still a little rocky and rolly. It was so bad Monday that I went to urgent care after losing my train of thought at work and then getting anxious about not being able to focus, which then led to a minor anxiety attack, causing my brain to shut down even further. At least, that's what I figure happened. At the time it just felt like I was having some major cognitive malfunction.

Waited in urgent care for almost three hours, saw the doctor for maybe seven minutes. He prescribed sea sickness medication, which I'm now taking four times a day. I think it's helping. Certainly it is making me tired and giving me the worst cotton mouth I've had since quitting drugs.

Then I took Nic the cat to the vet yesterday and found out he has diabetes. Truly, that is better than the alternative diagnosis I'd worked out for him which was kidney disease, but it still means he has to go on a restricted diet, shed about 40% of his body weight, and get insulin shots twice a day. So yes, I was in Walgreens last night on a minor nod, with total cotton mouth, buying a box of syringes. Fun.

None of it is the end of the world. The vertigo will subside eventually; I have faith. And Nic the cat is in good hands. I'll do my best by him. But sheesh. Stupid bodies. As I have mentioned before, mine clearly came with a forty year warranty.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Overheard at the Getty

Man One: You used to see so much new age stuff. People wearing pyramids on their heads and such.
Man Two: But not so much any more?
Man One: Not any more. You know what's really popular in LA right now? What's really popular is Kabbalah.
Man Two: Well people need something to believe in.
Man One: How about reality?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy birthday to my blog

I just realized that last week was this blog's fourth birthday. [I'm sorry, I just can't make myself type something beginning "blog" and ending "versary." Eradicate ugly neologisms!] That means it's also the fourth anniversary of my PhD-hood. I started this blog immediately upon finishing the PhD because the thought of life without feeling guilty because "I should be writing ______" was too much to bear. (For those of you still in the grad school life, I offer one of my favorite posts, Top ten reasons blogging beats writing a dissertation. Screenwriting bloggers might appreciate it as well.)

I blogged pretty randomly and occasionally until November 2004 at which point political outrage took over and I started blogging all the fucking time. I guess Bush was good for something after all.

Now I'm at a point where I'm tired of ceaseless political blogging. I get my dander or despair up from time to time, but in general I'm just tired of posting the same things over and over. I feel like I need autotext entries that say: "Oh and by the way, the government is making a mockery of the Constitution," or "Did anyone else notice how stupid the President is?" or "Gosh, that guy/woman really is a facist."

I have mildly resisted blogging about myself a lot for a variety of reasons--first, who the hell cares, and second, who the hell cares? But I seem to be doing more of that lately and when A's mom died a handful of people got in touch with me after reading that entry so I am now aware that at least four people care at least some of the time.

I guess that's a long way of saying the focus here is evolving a little and after six years in LA perhaps the transition from Washingtonian to Angeleno is complete and I will now write more about Me! Me! Me! and lament less about Them, Them, Them. We shall see.

In the meantime, yeah, happy birthday to my blog.

(The birthday cake eating child has nothing to do with me whatsoever. It's kk+'s image used through a Creative Commons license.)

Morning video pleasure

I love cheese rolling. I really do.

Monday, May 26, 2008

bad timing

XKCD has been pretty brilliant lately. First the Stove Ownership comic, now this one, which totally spoke to me.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"The years teach us much which the days never know"

A's mom died last night. I am on a plane to DC tomorrow. The funeral will be Tuesday. I have cried more today than I care to in a month. I am so sad for A and her sister--the whole family of course, but especially A and J. For me the death of my mother was The Primal Loss--like the Platonic Ideal of loss, where everything else, every other particular loss was a facsimile or a shadow of that one. It's an entirely different thing to be motherless in the world.

And of course, I'm emotionally reminded of my own late teens when I thought grief would just swallow me. It felt unsurvivable. I truly don't know how A managed to stay friends with me through my parents' illnesses and my rage and sorrow and self-centered death-wish years. I know she wasn't the picture of mental health herself, but surely there were easier friends to have than me. After my mom died I could barely feed myself. If it weren't for A I don't know what would have become of me.

I remember the night that horrible summer that my high school boyfriend broke up with me. My despair was crushing. And here's the thing: It's not like I was so damn in love with him. But he was a way to be somewhere other than in that house. He would come pick me up and we'd go downtown and drink ourselves into sweet oblivion, a paradise compared to the present reality. I came home and called A's house even though it was around midnight. Her dad answered and I couldn't even speak. I just cried into the phone and he put A on. She just said, "Are you home? I'll be right there." I went outside to wait for her but I had already woken my mother. I was on the front step just weeping, disconsolate. And my mother comes to the door and sees me so upset and starts crying. "I wish there was a way I could make this less hard on you," she says. (And here let me say that while my mother was not exactly mother of the year most of the time, this memory still astonishes me for what it says about her capacity to love and her particular love for me--to be so selfless that you wish your terminal bone cancer was not so hard on your daughter. No greater love.) Anyway, so A came and she had a bottle of tequila in her trunk and I sat in her car and cried and drank every drop. Thank god we do not have to do any of these things twice--be teenagers, bury our parents, bottom out on drugs...

I'm really grateful I could find a flight and that I have the best job in the world that will not just let me miss a three-day meeting off-site but encourage me to go support my friend and say goodbye to her mom.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"You begin with the possibilities of the material"

I will miss you, Robert Rauschenberg.

Video of the day

Despite the fact that I am super-grumpy today, this clip (thank you eecue) made me laugh out loud.

There's much other news to report really, but I haven't had much will to write.

I was supposed to be away this week, but the fates seem to want me in LA. First I'd planned a trip to Spain with the bf, but then that fell through ("that" being a deliberately unclear referent in this sentence). Then I decided to make the best of it and go to ABQ for a week, but A's mother got really ill and A had to go east suddenly. So I am having a total busman's holiday.

A's mother is still in the hospital but is, as of today, what they would call stable except they don't call you stable if you're on a ventilator.

A says, "When god gives you lemons, it's time to get a new god," and I'm pretty on board with that.

More good health news: L's chest CT shows no sign of cancer (yay!).

It's going to be an autumn of great shows. Got tix to Nick Cave in September and My Bloody Valentine in October.

Am contemplating another tattoo, though given that I just spent the equivalent of two car payments on new glasses I think it will have to wait.

There's a spray of bullets for you. Randomness.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cheering oneself up

Today I
1. bought two pairs of shoes
2. shared a bowl of microwave popcorn with Nic the cat
3. bought tickets for Albuquerque and investigated flights to Minneapolis

I'm still not exactly chipper, but hey, I have new shoes and I'm leaving town in a few weeks. I realized that when I feel low, I usually head right for Travelocity. I guess it beats surfing porn or online gambling.

Work has actually slightly mellowed in prep for next week's conference. We have all been working like sled dogs and it's coming together. Tonight I left by 6pm(!) I'm starting to get very excited about the conference. I move into the hotel Saturday and leave eight days later. That's a long time to live in a Marriott, but I have my coffee supplies and my bath salts. I've hired the cat sitter and I pick up my dry cleaning Friday. By this time next week, the project I have worked on for five years will have been voted on and we'll be on the downhill for the conference week. Sort of hard to believe.

I'm starting to get genuinely excited.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Don't mistake my silence for lack of outrage

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been promoted here at work to "Director of Communications," which is a very nice way of saying "King of the S*** Pile" it seems. Anyway, that accounts for a great deal of my silence lately. Our biennial conference is next month and it's definitely felt like "there must be a pony" time here for me.

Then of course, there's the travel. In the past few months I've been to Florida, DC, Denmark, Hungary, and Albuquerque.

And as for the personal life, as they say around here "life has shown up."

All of that said, I had to interrupt my radio silence to share my outrage and disgust about the freshly declassified torture memo. You can find parts one and two in .pdf form here and here. (Thank you Chicago Tribune.) I myself have neither the time nor the emotional stamina to read the whole thing. But here are a couple of snippets for you, courtesy of ABC news:

First this stunning logic which basically amounts to "because these people are not subject to standard law, they are not covered by the Constitution." Or put another way, "Having eliminated Habeas Corpus, we are now moving on to use the Bill of Rights as toilet paper.":
"Unlike imprisonment pursuant to a criminal sanction, the detention of enemy combatants involves no sentence judicially imposed or legislatively required," the memo said. "Accordingly the Eighth Amendment has no application here."

And then there's this:
"If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network. In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions."

"This national and international version of the right to self-defense could supplement and bolster the government defendant's individual right to self-defense could supplement and bolster the government defendant's individual right."
National self defense my ass. What a crock.

I swear to god this kind of thing makes me want to drive into oncoming traffic.

Thanks for letting me share. I will now return to the pony search.

Friday, March 07, 2008

What is wrong with this passage?

From a NYT article on the Democratic primary in Florida and Michigan:

Mrs. Clinton won the most votes in primaries in Florida and Michigan in January. But the states held their contests earlier than allowed by the Democratic National Committee’s rules, leading the party to strip them of their delegates to the nominating convention. Neither candidate campaigned actively in the two states, and Mr. Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Random shots from Budapest and Copenhagen

My favorite shot from the trip:

No matter where in the world you are...

Conor's author picture

St. Basil's in 80 kg of marzipan:

My relationship to time right now

You know when you're almost out of toothpaste and you have to squish the tube with all your might to try to get one more day's worth out of it because you forgot to stop at the drugstore on your way home?

Well, that pretty well describes my relationship to the hours in the day right now.

(Thanks to Hamed Saber for the Creative Commons licensed pic.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Facts about Budapest you may not know

1. Everything is so terribly overheated that it's impossible to sleep with the windows shut.
2. Construction people begin work at 6am.
3. Construction crews enjoy singing rousing Hungarian songs in time with the clanging and banging of their work.

It's my last day in Budapest and I feel a bit murderous. Clearly I'm going to need to learn the phrase "SHUT THE FUCK UP" in Magyar for my next visit.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It's such a perfect day...I'm glad I spent it with you...

Any day that includes exploring a castle, getting a 90-minute Thai massage, and going to the marzipan museum is, by definition, a great day.

We get to sit in a conference room all day for the next six days. I'm glad this one rocked hard.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The virtues of untidiness

All in all, we had a wonderful time in Denmark. Though the coffee--as the Swedes will tell you right off--is not the best in Europe, I defy anyone to find a decent cup at a meeting in the states, so that hardly seemed a point of argument. The workshop was a success. I think the Danes who attended learned a lot and feel more connected and while there were fewer than they had anticipated (around 50 at any given time), I think our being here will make some difference. I feel like I have made some friends and yesterday we got to have an unwind day that ended with a transcendent piece of strawberry tart.

Today we flew to Budapest. Here is a poster from the airport:
The small print you may not be able to read says 54% of Republicans favor foreign investment, while 45% of Democrats do. So I guess CNN at least is still arguing that the world is catching cold when we sneeze.

We have only been in Budapest a few hours, but I am already won over. Copenhagen was very nice and I expect the people are the sort that make me feel right at home right away. I think I must have been a northern European in my last life (are you reading this Trond?) because the manner and reserve most places in Northern Europe where I have been suits me so well. But for the city itself, beyond the people who made it, I am really loving Budapest already. It reminds me of New York in that you feel like you could discover something new and exciting or mysterious around the next corner. And there are trees. Even in their sad, leafless state I appreciate them. Copenhagen had precious little greenery in the city center.

We had goulash for lunch and it was delicious.

The word for the day is the small red hot pepper, which in Hungarian apparently translates quite ideosyncratically. This is from the magazine on the airline:
Should we prepare something even more Hungarian, we can improve the flavour with the addition of cherry paprika or the small pointed capsicum, which in our way of speaking was named after the most characteristic part of tomcats.
There you have it folks. Cat dick. Love it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Observations after spending a day wandering Copenhagen

1. What the Danes call "a beautiful day" wouldn't make the cut in LA. "Beautiful day" in Danish translates to something like "not cold enough to freeze your tits off." Also it has been so dark and cloudy for so long that any day with the sun shining is by definition "beautiful." Who knows, if Kierkegaard had grown up in LA maybe he would have been a motivational speaker or something.

2. How can you go wrong visiting a place that has an entire category of tasty breakfast food named after it? There's a reason why they call them "danishes." What do we have in California? Rolls with fake crab in them and ginormous beds. Give me the tasty breakfast pasteries any day.

3. Europeans have much nicer winter clothes, especially boots.

4. Nobody here got the PETA memo about fur.

Greetings from the land of cheese, depressing philosophy, and fairy tales

I arrived last night in Copenhagen for a two-week, multi-workshop trip for work. I'll be here until Tuesday and then it's on to Budapest for two more workshops. I'm very excited to be overseas again. I haven't traveled internationally in a couple of years--not since Dublin. And I've never been to Denmark or Hungary so that's particularly exciting. Copenhagen seems a really interesting mix of old Europe and, well, Danish modern. In fact, much of the city looks like it could have come packed in flat cartons in the back of a hatchback. It is, apparently, the first sunny day in about six weeks, so we are looking forward to taking advantage of that in a little wander today. Our hotel is, I am told, around the corner from Copenhagen's red light district ("addict street" it was put to me), so that should provide for some interesting scenery. Perhaps I'll be able to post some pictures later in the week.

Other than the trip, much has happened in the past few months. I've been to Florida (December) and DC/Virginia (January) for family and work trips.

I was promoted at work. I am now "Director of Communications." I tried to convince my bosses that the position should be called "Communications Tsar," but they were unwilling to consider that, alas.

I joined a writing group, though you wouldn't know it from the amount I've been writing. I haven't even posted for in forever.

Another friend of mine at work died at the beginning of January, and his memorial was two weeks ago. Last week, I went to a memorial for Bobby, a guy who is very central to my community and much loved and missed by many. It's been a real season of loss for us at the office (where we have had three coworkers die since September and another who is terminally ill) and in general in the larger community.

So lots going on. More from Copenhagen soon.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Story of the day

What if Howard Stern turned to a life of crime? That's what this story makes me think. Running across that story and then being treated to Will's yard art picture this morning made me think it's bound to be a good day today.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Site of the day

This just totally cracked me up so I have to share it. A just forwarded me an email thread between herself and her cousin about mohels, and within it was the URL for Dr. Diamond's site (he is the mohel of choice appparently). His slogan, of course, is "Nothing cuts like a diamond."

I'm beginning to believe bad puns are a genetically linked disease not unlike Taysachs.

And another thing: NOAM, the National Organization of American Mohelim, really sounds like an organization from a David Foster Wallace novel.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

2007 Darwin Awards

They've announced the Darwin Awards for this year, and I really think the wrong entry won. The winners of this years' Darwin Award were a couple who apparently died after falling off a slanted roof upon which they were doing the nasty.

But the second place guy is a class by himself in my book:
Michael was an alcoholic. And not an ordinary alcoholic, but an alcoholic who liked to take his liquor... well, rectally. His wife said he was "addicted to enemas" and often used alcohol in this manner. The result was the same: inebriation.
The machine shop owner couldn't imbibe alcohol by mouth due to a painful throat ailment, so he elected to receive his favourite beverage via enema. And tonight, Michael was in for one hell of a party. Two 1.5 litre bottles of sherry, more than 100 fluid ounces, right up the old address!

When the rest of us have had enough, we either stop drinking or pass out. When Michael had had enough (and subsequently passed out) the alcohol remaining in his rectal cavity continued to be absorbed. The next morning, Michael was dead.

The 58-year-old did a pretty good job of embalming himself. According to toxicology reports, his blood alcohol level was 0.47%.

In order to qualify for a Darwin Award, a person must remove himself from the gene pool via an "astounding misapplication of judgment." Three litres of sherry up the butt can only be described as astounding. Unsurprisingly, his neighbors said they were surprised to learn of the incident.
Now that's commitment.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What we talk about when we talk about copyediting

The New Yorker has published a copy of Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" including Gordon Lish's copyediting. Pretty amazing stuff. Lish turned a good story great. If you've ever doubted that truism, "Everyone needs a copyeditor," have a look.

Friday, January 11, 2008


"It's not uncommon for hunters to be shot by their dogs."

Help me out here people

I'm trying to think of an occasion where having the capacity to play .mp3s on your taser might be important, useful or convenient but I just can't come up with anything.

I will say if I had such a device, I'd be sorely tempted to load it with tunes like "Shock the Monkey" and Lou Christie's "Lightning Strikes."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

If you can't say it, you can't bomb it

As I've noted here in the past, at some recent time "nu-cu-lar" became an accepted pronunciation according to Merriam-Webster (and others, I'm sure). Still, I'm old school and every time our frat boy leader says "nu-cu-lar" it grates on me. Of course, the whole "shucks, I'm just a country boy" routine makes me want to projectile vomit after my head spins around a little. (And is it just my imagination or is Edwards leaning on that southern drawl more than he used to?) The American anti-intellectual spirit that goes something like "We're so busy setting fence posts on our ranch we don't have time to worry about book learnin'," is both embarrassing and infuriating. Reagan and Bush have both managed to push their homespun images to a point of near parody, and the country as a whole seems perfectly willing to go right along with them in their pork-rind-eating, cowboy-boot-wearing, hayseed-chewing matter of fact feeling that we can't be burdened by the hifallutin business of learning the law or consulting the Constitution. Common sense (read ideology) trumps all that intellectual stuff.

I made the great mistake of listening to the news this morning which is what inspired this post. Generally I try to just read the news so that I don't have to actually listen to Bush's voice at all. I tuned in toward the end of Olmert's long intro piece that was being simultaneously translated, and at its close, Bush pipes up, "The interpreter got it right," which was another but apparently funnier way of saying, "I'm a monolingual idiot and this is all over my head." Jesus, could we just elect someone that doesn't generate the same sort of shame that the drunk relative at the party engenders? Even if I don't agree with him (or her) I'd just like to have a president that I didn't feel like sending apology notes to other heads of state about.

So I decided this morning, while listening to Bush yap about the middle east, that one shouldn't be allowed to declare war on (or invade) a country unless you can pronounce its name right. So no war on "Eye Ran" or "Eye Raynians." Sorry.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Never mind cats and dogs

It's raining gazelles and giraffes out there. Bison even.

Couldn't get through the pass tonight to get to K's house. Went part way and then quailed and made a shaky waterlogged u-turn to come home. To the guy who powered by me in frustration burying my car in a zero-visibility wake, thanks buddy. Luckily for me I managed to not drive into opposing traffic even though I could see less than nada and the road was submerged under feet of water.

In short, it was a scary ride. I am still jittery from the adrenaline. I had to park on the street because the water in my space in the lot is more than ankle deep. It's about a hair's breadth from the door crack. Another hour of this rain and my carpets would have been sloshy.

It's supposed to continue through the weekend by which time everyone in Malibu will be living in a houseboat I suppose.

Anyway, I've set all of my soaked clothes out to dry and am happily tucked in bed with my computer, my fat cat, and the last book of the Harry Potter series (finally, I know). Happily I have both popcorn and ice cream on hand.