Saturday, December 29, 2007

rubber ducky

Neither Teddys nor buggies enjoy baths. Ridding shelter kitties of Shelter Funk is not a fun or easy process, but i've found its easier to take Teddy in the shower with me than to try and bathe him in the sink. We're taking him to the vet this upcoming week to introduce him to her and get a prescription for Frontline or something. He's about 9 weeks old and in ostensibly good health (read: he's a complete nut, which is perfect for kittens) so he should be a fine candidate for a de-bugging goop. Boots did fine with it for at least 10 years (i can't remember how long she wore a flea collar, but bugs never seemed to bother her. in any case, Boots was an indoor-outdoor cat who remained healthy and happy for at least 17 years (read: nearly 3x her life expectancy) with regular flea gooping. i don't know why some people are so freaked out about it. She got worms occasionally from eating rodents but she went crazy if we kept her from going outside.

We're trying to keep him clean and keep bugs out of his fur until we can get him some goop. It doesn't help that this is the weekend and the year-change holiday is monday and tuesday, so there's not much chance of getting a vet appointment. Oh the paranoia of knowing your pet plays home to bugs! I keep thinking i see them everywhere. Poor kitty. When he's properly insect protected i'm going to wash every item of clothing I own. Bleurgh.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Welcome Home, Teddy!


Teddy Kitty, born around October 8, 2007, moved into my parents' household December 20, 2007 weighing about a pound and already litter box savvy. Prior to joining our family he had been at the York animal control center for 2 weeks, so we don't know anything about his family or background. He is healthy and happy, incredibly friendly and playful, and cute enough to get away with murder. For now he lives indoors, but once he's big enough we'll start letting him play outside with the neighborhood feline gang.

I hadn't posted this till now because we spent several days trying to think up a good name for him. He seems pretty cool with Teddy. He loves pencils, laps, and laser pointers, sleeps through the night, and cries to be picked up when he's tired. In all I think he's a very good kitten and he is welcome. We're trying to discourage people food and toilet drinking from the outset, but we'll just have to see what happens. We're suckers when it comes to a cute kitty.

Note: Teddy is Not the cat we took from the hospital parking lot. That cat disappeared the first night he was here. No idea where he went, but i hope he's okay. He was just too wild to settle into living with humans.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I can has pardon me?

Has anyone not encountered the “I can has cheeseburger” website? Home to those lovely people who paste captions on their cats? I assumed, wrongly, that the interesting phonetic spelling and garbled grammar of the captions was a joke of some kind--perhaps a suggestion of how a cat might approach the English language. It was only later when I began reading photo comments that I realized this has escalated into a much larger phenomenon. Readers post paragraphs of this free-written drivel, comprehensible only if you sound it out like a first grader. It is no longer a joke or even a code for finding other like-minded web surfers--it is a full written dialect, in the vein of French Creole or Gullah, but without the regional, cultural, or lingual backing to categorize it as much more than a fleeting pidgin. This is not the truncated text message speech so readily popularized by 125-character limits and inattentive keystrokes, but rather a popular rejection of the constraints of standardized spelling and grammatical form. It is likely a natural derivation of English--much as French and Italian wandered off from standardized Latin--but it has emerged and evolved far more rapidly than previous dialects on account of its birthplace--potentially millions of people recognize it as a legitimate means of communicating online.

"Yes," says my reader. "You've not said anything I haven't read or thought before. I'm rapidly losing interest."

The reason it occurred to me that this may be an issue warranting some concern is it dawned on me just how much of my communicating I do online. The majority of my friends live in jarringly different time zones from me--from KST clear on through GMT, the rotation of this planet makes it very inconvenient for me to keep in touch with the people I care about. But the trusty Internet has come to my aid. I am in daily contact with friends across--or even straight through?--the world, without stamp, surcharge, or the hours of waiting endured by lonely World War girlfriends as the lines were slowly connected by hand, region by region, across the globe until their loved ones' voices trickled back to them like the last, dying ripple of an echo.

erm. I lost my place.

My point is, my intense exposure to internet-based linguistic variation has certainly impacted my relationship with my language, from casual exchanges with friends to the very format of my thoughts. And I'm not alone. Millions of people spend at least a few hours a day glued to their computers, interacting with humans and robots alike in an endless quest for information and entertainment. And this truly bizarre interpretation of an established language, made available to them, has ballooned into usage well beyond the niche group of photo caption writers who birthed it--in under two years. African American Vernacular English (AAVE), on the other hand, has been developing for centuries, providing linguists with endless glee as they discover root pronunciations and grammatical characteristics in it from all over the world and all over the timeline. Millions of people communicate effectively using this dialect all over the world, whether or not their parents use it and even if they're not a member of an AAVE-speaking community. As media technology has facilitated the introduction of AAVE to people outside its cultural community, and vice versa, the dialect has adapted and its influence has expanded, particularly since the 1960's. In the 50-some-odd years since the federal repeal of segregation law, to varying extents this dialect has become common in around half of American households.

Now, though, out of the blue and without much cultural influence, a group of--apparently--kids have coined a dialect for the purpose of anthropomorphizing cats, and in less than two years millions of educated humans around the world have taken to writing, speaking, and even thinking "Lolcats-ese."

I'm wondering, then--what does it take to make a dialect legitimate? How long will pre-teens have to practice this forced colloquialism until "i wuz en ur compootur, fixin your memorys" becomes your office's standard tech support memo? How long before grandmothers, smiling warmly as their families kick snow off their boots, hold up a dish and announce "o hi, ah made u a pie but i eated it."? The Oracle says an ongoing project exists to translate the christian scripture into Lolcats--are these the tireless monks of our age, the scholars whose pens scratch into the night over smug little treatises on the value of coherent theology? Is Lolcats-ese the common tongue of the future?

It is easy to learn and use--past tenses of all verbs are the infinitive plus "-ed," plural nouns are all the root noun plus "s." All spellings are the phonetic equivalent of a shot in the dark and need not remain consistent within a sentence. Zs and Ss, Cs and Ks, and most vowel sounds are interchangeable, and punctuation is creative at best. The easiest way to use Lolcats-ese orally is to pretend you're a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe, which could be a helpful stepping stone for actual immigrants. All in all, its a far simpler, far more forgiving variation of my native tongue that could see expanded use in the near future. I don't know if this is a good idea, how long it could be expected to last in its original incarnation, if more books would eventually be translated, or really anything about it (as i'm not a linguist and i'm hesitant to use any lingual form that could hinder my job opportunities) but the questions arise--is it likely we will see more and faster language decay as the internet increases in popularity? will we be able to keep up with the kids' ever evolving jive? how much meaning is lost in translation? how much difficulty will speakers of these new colloquial tongues have in school, college, and their careers? are we witnessing the conception of a universal language? How can that ruin life as we know it?

abduction update

And the aforementioned F.D. has managed to utterly vanish. Mom inspected her car thoroughly before going out, and nobody saw any four-legged renegades darting out of the garage this morning. I don't know of any cat-sized routes into or out of the house from there. Could be anywhere. Delightful.

abduction

There is a very scared, confused, but warm young cat hiding somewhere in my garage. It was living in some shrubbery outside the hospital where my mom works, and out of concern for its well-being now that it regularly drops below freezing at night around here, we lured it into a carrier, zipped it in, scared the tar out of it, and let it loose to make a nest for itself somewhere under the bonnet of my mom's car. Brilliant. nothing like killing an idiot feline with a fan belt to get your day started right.

I didn't want the cat to freeze out there, but I'm really not ready for another bewhiskered addition to my household. Especially not one so timid and apparently brainless as this one. I don't know. Its really adorable--no more than a few months old, from the look of it, most likely male, mostly white with grey ears and occasional splotches, and ostensibly in good health. (not trying to advertise, just sayin.) In the next few days we're gonna see how it/if it settles in, and if it comes around to the idea of hanging out, we'll take it to the vet and get those hateful necessities taken care of. Right now i'm pretty sure it thinks i want to eat it, but it was very friendly at the hospital--almost too friendly. It had that "rub all over the legs, trip the human, eat its brains" technique down pat. (why else would they make figure-8s all over your feet?) We'll find out if its inclined to not run away in terror after a few days. I'd hate to wind up with one of those cats that you only know exists because the food dish empties and the litter box fills. damn useless pets who never leave a safe closet.

urgh. i don't know. i miss Boots.

In other news, can anyone explain to me the purpose of religion-themed billboards? They're obnoxious and pointless--avid believers may see them and feel smug, but non-believers are going to either not see them at all or see them and find them annoying. They're hardly an effective outreach campaign. your cheeky billboard is not going to break down the barriers to my psyche and get my ass in a pew--if anything its just going to encourage rebellious youfs to tag it or light it on fire. you're not going to change anything with it--the religious zealots will continue to be zealots and the educated elite will continue to think. Why waste the money? Who are you trying to impact?

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Joke with no Punchline

Two factory employees are sitting at the workbench. One puts down her brush, stretches, and looks to the girl next to her.
"Good god," she says, "we paint knickknacks for a living."
"So?" says her benchmate. "Its a living."
"But they're useless. They're intended to be useless. They're highly-detailed, hand-crafted, hand-painted useless pieces of crap."
"But people want them. If they didn't want them we wouldn't be selling them in bulk."
"But is it really worth it? We toil our lives away, painting every individual shutter on these little plastic houses, so that they can be boxed up, put on trucks, put on huge boats, shipped to America, put on trains, put on trucks, distributed to a thousand little boutiques, and eventually find themselves collecting dust on some little old lady's mantle piece? I mean what's the point?"
"Does there have to be a point? We work. We get paid. At least we know that somewhere out there, there's a little old lady who'll get excited next week when the new ones arrive, so she can add to her collection."
"But for every excited old lady, there's at least one entire case of these stupid little villages that gets thrown out because one magnetic ice skater got broken in shipping," says the painter. "I mean, sheez, our work gets thrown away because some cargo attendant in Los Angeles throws his back out and drops the box."
"It doesn't come out of our paycheck. We can still provide for ourselves."
"Yeah, tell that to the new girl--or did you forget, the girl who used to occupy her bench got fired for using the wrong shade of yellow on her windows? She used "smoky autumn firelight" instead of "cheery holiday firelight."
"Be thankful you don't paint windows. Are you going to get some tea or not?"
"I just wish I could find, I don't know, a purpose."
"Yes, well," says her benchmate. "I realized a long time ago that life has no meaning."
And the girls get back to work.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Farfalle and Purple Shrimp


Instead of pinot grigio, try adding a cup of pinot noir to your garlic sauce for a bold flavored, slightly disconcerting seafood dinner. (note: i pulled the dish out of the fridge for the photo. it looked more appetizing when it was hot. just as purple, though.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Assorted Airline Musings

I tend to get introspective and stupidly philosophical on airplanes. whether this is brought on by the noise, vibration, or the subtle nausea that goes along with air travel, i invariably find myself writing deep thoughts in the margins of my Sudoku puzzle book. most of them are completely stupid once i get back on the ground, but i don't really want to keep this tattered volume on my shelf indefinitely as a reminder of the inaneness of pseudo-intellectualism. So I guess i'll put my pointless thoughts here to share.

I gaze down upon the distant land, all distinction blurred so that entire cities become blobs of blue and green, through the most delicate filigree of ice crystals visible to the unaided eye. What a beautiful juxtaposition.

Comically wiggly rivers squiggle across the landscape like so much dropped pasta, then peter out into nothingness with seemingly deliberate intention--as though drawn by an overzealous fourth grader.

You there! Yes you, you winking reflection of sunlight speeding down a motorway 30,000 feet below me. Who are you? How do we relate? Were you looking up when I looked down? How many degrees separate us from Kevin Bacon?

Do river systems look like neural systems, or vice versa?

I attempted to avoid allowing my mind to go numb as I watched the vast expanse of my planet's surface crawl along in miniature; all of human existence reduced to infuriatingly redundant straight lines and uniform seas of both shingled roofs and soybeans. The more I looked, the less I cared to see--it is all dirt and water, just rearranged. Often poorly. Is life so remarkable? All surfaces are made up of something--is it relevant that the surface of my planet bubbles and mutates and even occasionally moves around on its own accord? What difference does this make in the long run? I am the surface of the earth.

The only thing Elite about Elite Access is the font. How is it that Elitist, a synonym for Snob, has an overwhelmingly negative connotation, but Elite is a desirable adjective?

I don't like the idea of "meal time." Meal time is any time you are hungry enough to eat more than a snack. In this age of 24-hour business, it is baffling that any industry would find it justifiable to uphold the antique concept of food hours. If your pilot is flying, he's at work. It is business time. He gets lunchtime, even if it falls at four in the morning. How Dare you use the excuse of meal time to starve me! Do you have any idea when any of your passengers last had a chance to eat? My answer is Thursday, jerks.

I love "emergency feeds" on paper towel dispensers. For when the fate of the world depends on dry hands.

Helplessly inane airport "special announcements" required by the FAA:
Don't take stuff that isn't yours
Don't leave your stuff laying around in public
Keep an eye on your kids
Tell the police if someone tries to hurt or harass you
--all things people are going to do anyway, unless they're up to no good. In both cases, the statements are falling on unreceptive ears. Shut up. If that's all you're going to use your PA system for, maybe you should donate it to an underprivileged school system.

The government is really getting their money's worth out of that reflective street sign paint--it's visible from cruising altitude.

Heh. I wonder if the camera operators had a good time making the safety video section on seatbelts--this one has no fewer than 3 crotch shots.

Interesting--our species has lived under the same sun for millions of years, yet we still can't look directly at it.

The cars on the Speedway are the only visibly mobile things on the ground from my vantage point--and even then they're crawling along.

Oh, screaming toddler. Life not all you expected? You bought the same sales pitch as the rest of us, and now you've come to regret it. Nobody blames you. We do, on the other hand, blame your parents, sitting there in comfortable numbness, inflicting you on the rest of us. Parents--if your brat has figured out how to pretend to cry, your brat is ready to learn there are consequences for being a pain in the ass. It is in your power to shut them up. Do us all a favor and do some parenting.

In other news, my sister's radiator sounds like it's flooding the kitchen. And I saw Avenue Q last night--downright hilarious. Broadway almost justifies the rest of New York's existence.

Monday, November 26, 2007

just over a week

It finally happened last night--I saw a bookbag on the floor out of the corner of my eye and thought it was the cat coming to check on me. So far I'd been so conscious of Boots's absence that the force of that habit was overwhelmed--all book-bags were just book-bags. But i guess as my focus drifted, the old habits returned. I wonder if i'll ever reach a point where i don't apologize when i trip over my sneakers.

In other news, a household plumbing project required me to cut away a sizable portion of my laundry room wall yesterday, reminding me forcefully of just how much i loathe sheet rock and Fiberglas insulation. urgh. but the removal went smoothly and promises an equally smooth re-installation. unfortunately, now that the hole is there, my dad is eying the aging linoleum in that room too. I hope he'll let me rent a compressor and just brad the baseboards back on once its tiled.

In still other news, i'm now certified as an advanced-level autoCAD operator. Hooray me. Now, to get a job on a sailboat.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

gobble!

As a registered vegetarian, the concept of Thanksgiving comes as a bit of a challenge. How to not impose upon your family to make accommodations for your silly eating disorder, while not being caused to chow down on all that unappetizing mass-produced, hormone-packed animal flesh. Thankfully, a reasonable, easy solution came to me this morning, in the form of the breakfast drink of orange juice and champagne.

Of course! Replace every potential slice of turkey meat with a tasty mimosa. By the time people think its time for the bird to reach the table, they're so tanked they don't notice its absence. That way your money doesn't wind up supporting cruel, eco-unfriendly, disgusting mass-feeding operations, and your family can tuck in early after a short day of pleasant intoxication. I expect to doze off here around 5pm, full of green beans and good cheer. Now that's a happy, healthy holiday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Boots Kitty, 1990-2007


12:25AM, November 18, 2007 saw the passage of Boots Kitty, aged approximately 18 years, into eternal rest. She is bitterly missed by her human companions, several of whom have scant memories without her. She quietly slipped away, surrounded by her family, after a full and happy life, spoiled rotten by all who loved her. She was an affectionate and patient kitty who tolerated all of the silly ways we tried to show her we cared, and who communicated with ease so much that words fail to fully express.

I'm glad I could be here for her as her time drew near, and I believe she spent her final days in peace. She handled her descent with the dignity and grace she brought to all aspects of her life, and for that I am grateful.

She is buried and memorialized in the back yard she reigned over all the days of her life.

Farewell, dear friend.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

step over the velvet rope

So I spent the past week in Key West, Fla and i gotta say, that's one tourist town that you can really get stuck to. I don't know how i managed it, but somehow I saw through the sales pitch and in a lot of ways found it very real. I don't think most people do, though, and I think I figured out why.

Many tourists approach the Keys and really any island area with the idea that it was somehow built especially for entertaining them--that it is in fact completely artificial and safe, like a theme park. Of course, cruise lines would like you to believe it is, as you're more likely to buy passage on their cruise liners if you do, but the sad truth of it is if you approach these places with the mindset the brochures want you to, you'll only go see what is built there For the tourists. Which means, of course, that you miss out on everything that drew tourists to the area in the first place. You'll see plenty of clear chlorinated pools, planted palm trees, narrated train rides, and expensive food. Adults may even get to try some fruity drinks served in coconuts or see naked people relaxing at the clothing-optional bars. Everyone can enjoy the 5-alarm sunsets and watch the tv screens atop the cruise ships...but they're missing something. The people. The people i met who live and work there are really, behind the eat-shit-and-die smiles and the exhaustion with the tip-based economy, some of the most pleasant folks i've encountered in a long while.
See, when I visited the Garden of Eden bar, I didn't stay with my group. I didn't cower behind a protective shield of chaise lounges and peep at the nudists behind forked fingers. I didn't gasp or giggle every time a new unclad belly appeared at the bar. I didn't, in short, treat the situation like it was some sort of Naked Human Revue. I made some friends. I didn't strip down, as my mother was there, but I found the occasional bar patron's nudity inoffensive and clean. Indeed, it was one of the most relaxed two hours I had on the island, chatting with a regular, getting hit on by the barmaid, sipping on a beer and taking in the lifestyle. Of course, it was one of the least comfortable two hours my mother had on the island, as she stared helplessly from the safety of tourism while her twenty-three year old baby got to know a very interesting blue-eyed man who happened to be nude. I obeyed their rules against cell phone use and didn't even think to bring a camera. For all too brief a time, I felt local.

The same went with the dinner cruises, the lunch restaurants, the cab drivers, and even the tourist attractions. If you spoke to these real people as though they were individuals, with opinions and emotions and education and even some self-esteem, their facial expressions and even voices would change. Young men with salt-bleached dreadlocks and sun-browned backs would visibly relax as you discussed the Berkeley lifestyle or recycling incentives in Mexico.
Tour guides would surprise themselves by allowing their smiles to reach their eyes when you made an inquiry that wasn't on the FAQ list. Then another patron would walk over and the guard would snap back up--sir and ma'am would be addressed and tended to efficiently, thoroughly, and courteously with practiced smiles and live-to-serve eyes.
Maybe its because I'm used to being a smiling serf, but my best times on the island were spent in communion with the real people who lived there. I don't mean to imply that every local suddenly melted and became my best friend, as most didn't, but the folks who made the trip worth it (read: i went along to a ParrotHead convention, which is a massive, multi-national club of 50-something aged drunks, addicts, and assholes who started partying in 1970 and haven't taken care of themselves since. I didn't know such a wide variety of skin disorders and bermuda shorts existed.) were the people who didn't treat me like a tourist. So thanks. I had a blast.



p.s. the man-eating flower above grows in Berkeley, too. Any idea what it is?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

beep

Today i was nuking some couscous and wandering aimlessly around my kitchen when i stopped to wonder--why does every appliance these days beep so damn much? In my kitchen alone there are at least 6 things that beep and holler at you--the phone, the answering machine, the oven, the microwave, the toaster, and even the damn refrigerator if you leave the door open too long. The microwave in particular is an offender--it beeps when you turn it on, input each number, start it, and then it beeps no fewer than 4 loud obnoxious times when it finishes. That's unacceptable. And the refrigerator needs a "i'm putting in groceries, asshole" function so it doesn't holler at me every time i leave the door open longer than 8 seconds. (my fridge at the Regent Hizzle in Berkeley used to slam the door on you unless you propped it open with a chair. One time it got a particularly good swing and caused me to hit my head on the frame.) The answering machine and phone beep loudly too, especially after the little arrogant computer voice tells you "end of messages"--you could have said that OR beeped, but oh-ho, how fun, you do both.

What's really irksome is that these bastards can't be reprogrammed not to. there's no "shut the hell up" user function. You can't even make the beep quieter--which seems ridiculous with the answering machine, as you Can set the playback volume. You can make it play as quiet as you want, but when its done it still screams like a dern banshee. Which sucks in my house, as someone is always sleeping on account of our diverse work schedules.

Maybe there's better answering machines out there, but mine is a bastard. When it picks up it plays the greeting aloud--like that's something you need to hear. And of course it beeps loud enough to rouse the dead to prompt the caller to speak, and repeats the din when they're done. It also doesn't help that we get called every morning by the National Pro-Life Alliance, who play a recorded message if you answer, dont' answer if you call them back, and their website is less than useless, so you can't even tell these anti-choice assholes to get off their collective high horse and leave you the fuck alone.

I guess my point is i'm tired of beeping. Come up with a new noise or shut up. Being beeped at all the time makes me wonder if i'm using the appliances or if they're using me.

On that note, thank you, Macintosh, for making your OS so readily adaptable. It was very easy to reset my computer to not make any unsolicited noise, show me any unsolicited notifications, or warn me not to touch things. unlike the copy of NannyState XP i use in class.

Monday, October 22, 2007

sheez dummy!

I know a deer in headlights can be paralyzed with fear, but what about when a deer decides he's seen headlights one too many times tonight and runs at them? A few minutes ago i was driving the speed limit, minding my own business, when this cloven-hoofed ruminant proffered me its ample backside as a live road-target. I slammed on the brakes and sounded the horn, but what did this walking barricade do but give me an innocent, confused look, shift to the driver's side and start running along next to the car, trying to get back in front of it. Apparently if a moving object occupies the space between you and the area you were once in, to a deer, it'll disappear unless you cross in front of it instead of behind. I screeched to a halt and my respected also-ran scampered off, followed by a friend from the other side of the street.

I can't help but wonder what effect the automotive industry will have on the evolution of these moronic animals--if somehow, by killing or incapacitating enough pre-reproductive deer, we'll eventually weed out whatever gene it is that makes them so vulnerable to traffic fatalities. This one got lucky and may live to pass on the Stupid Gene to its young, but someday the term "deer in headlights" may only remain in use as a reference to an obsolete situation, like Ring Around the Rosie or "one horse town." I say, what would the world be like if a generation of wildlife emerged with an innate wariness of long black tracks and yellow lines?

I suppose the Bayou Buffet would go out of business, but the rest of us might enjoy lower insurance rates.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

23

In honor of my birthday today i offer you, the reader, a celebration of sorts. Presenting: Rats!


R. norvegicus

poofy rat

pain-in-the-rat

feathered rat

flying rat

dumb rat
big-eared rat
seriously annoying rats

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

food mumblings

I think the only way you could truly be a chocoholic is if you were addicted to creme de cacao.

--

The difference between "made of" and "made with" is very subtle, and marketers use that to their advantage.

--

I stopped consuming corn syrup a long time ago. At first i thought it was for my health. After a while, though, i realized it was because i'm a food snob.

--

I like going to Starbucks and ordering a small black coffee. On some level I think this is an act of quiet rebellion.

--

There are many plants that, if i didn't see them in the grocery store, i would never imagine they were edible. Like bell peppers. I can only assume ancient man chomped into one of those on a dare. Why he kept eating after the first bite is anyone's guess. Honestly I think i'm wired to be more inclined to eat flowers than most vegetables. Like potatoes. When has the phrase "hey look at this brown lumpy thing I just dug up!" ever made you salivate?

confuse yourself!

Right Brain vs. Left Brain

After a while i could switch her direction on command by simply looking at opposite sides of the page, but this doesn't work for everyone. Don't try too hard though--at present i can't spell or type 'cos my brain is dizzy.

I think this explains why i get lost so easily.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

on blogging

The tone a blogger adopts for writing often is interpreted by readers as an indication of how the blogger is doing. Interestingly, though, i don't think i'm alone in that I'm generally only inclined to write when i've been feeling negative and screwed over by the Man, man. Blogging is a means of letting off steam in a less harmful way than throwing a fit or breaking things. So based on tone and subject matter, this may appear to the casual observer to be the blog of a fairly grumpy, put-upon, and socially intolerant atheistic liberal.

Ben, before you comment--it so happens that for a good chunk of the day I am not grumpy, nor do i feel put upon. a lot of the time i'm quite complacent. Indeed, i'm the kind of person that could screw up a sociopath's road to sanity as i, when nobody else is around, might as well not exist. I read, do some cleaning, work out a bit, occupy my mind with crossword puzzles, and for the most part ride around in autopilot until someone shows up to engage my attention. Only then do i become the opinionated, anti-religious, slightly sadistic tirade generator you've all come to know and be slightly annoyed by. When nobody else is around, i'm as happy as a clam.

Then again, i'm not alone all that much, and when I am i often seek out company.
...
Okay fine, this blog is a pretty accurate representation of exactly who i am most of the time. Happy?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

alumna

All Right USC, knock it off. You can't seriously believe that after costing me $30,000 that i don't have I'm gonna be willing or able to turn around and immediately start donating to your alumni association. I don't even make enough money to bother to file my tax return, let alone seek out deductions. No, USC, you did not get me the career of my dreams--in all honesty you didn't get me anything. I owe you nothing, I don't want to get hot tickets to home games, and i Certainly don't want to give you any reason to harass me even more. You must be incredibly arrogant or incredibly stupid to think that your students--the majority of whom attended because it was in-state, not because its where we wanted to go--would feel the urge to give you even More money, especially now that we've been out a while and seen exactly how useless that piece of paper we earned is. I could be here, now, doing exactly what i'm doing, with a GED. Instead i've got a BA followed by some latin gibberish and a debt that'll see me through the next decade. I know I should have taken it as granted that my school would start bugging me from the moment i walked off campus, but i had no idea you'd do it with such vehemence. The calls, the postcards, the fat envelopes full of worthless incentives and photos of smiling happy paid models...soon you'll start ringing the doorbell wearing skinny black ties and carrying a battered copy of the Carolinean Creed to ask me if i've embraced the joy of school Spirit...and just like all good proselytizers you'll never take "no, and please leave me alone." for an answer.

In other news, my cat has been gradually scooting closer and closer to me, so that a moment ago I went searching for my mouse and found it--not surprisingly--between her furry paws. She seems intent on getting as close as possible to me before passing gas, which is distinct in that it smells slightly worse than her food. Thanks, Boots.

In other other news, i went this morning to the clinic to start the HPV vaccine series and found, much to my chagrin, that i went to the wrong office and missed my appointment. I tried to reschedule and found that I must wait yet another month to get that ball rolling. As the two private doctors' appointments i've tried to have since arriving here the first of September will have taken 3 months to materialize and cost well over $300, I must pause to wonder what the same would have taken in a country with socialized healthcare.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

psychic

So I turn on a little NPR today and what do i hear but This, a brand-new story on who else but Joni Mitchell's recent artistic activism. Yep. New protest songs. I think I must have had a premonition yesterday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

searchin'

I've been searching for hours for a song that i know that i know, but i've since accepted defeat and mellowed out with some Joni Mitchell. She makes me lonely for Berkeley.

What happened to the worthwhile protest song? The radio seems unwilling to play any "government, pull your collective heads out of your mass rectum and heed the will of the people" music, either that or nobody's really writing any. Are we really jaded, or have we just realized that nobody's listening? I'd write a song, 'cept i can't sing and you can't really make a statement on the oboe. that and i'm sure the republican rumor mill would churn out bullshit claims about my past and get me blacklisted. Okay, yeah, i guess its the 'jaded' option.

I'm gonna vote for whoever has the best idea when it comes to affordable public healthcare. Not because i believe anyone's going to do anything about it--even ducklings aren't that naïve--but just so, when everything goes to shit, as per usual, i can quell my frustrations with the reminder that i voted my conscience. Its either that or try to move somewhere that i can afford treatment, and frankly Canada is just too damn cold.

Not to rant excessively, but the concept of insurance has pissed me off ever since i learned how it works. "okay, so a company makes money, somehow, by gambling that most of the people who pay for their services--services they don't actually provide upon receipt of payment--won't need their services." They freely take your money and are not expected to give you anything in return unless there's a catastrophe. "so...i'm paying you...to do nothing, just in case something goes wrong." what gets me is that everyone goes along with it. and if you cancel your policy, they don't give you your money back, even if you never filed a claim. they just take it. friends, this is what we call "theft." The only insurance plan i'll ever support is socialized--a system where the poor still pay for the masses, yes, but where nobody's profiteering off of other people's misfortune. Or driving the public into paranoid hysteria in order to get customers. (have you Seen those fear-mongering Allstate ads? "this pretty house seems safe... until our pyrotechnic team burns it to the ground! Safety has a price. that's Allstate's stand.")

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

wire and dance

We gave my dad a light fixture in the shape of an airplane for his birthday. I installed it in the bathroom ceiling downstairs. its cute, and goes with the décor on that floor. (if you look around the room you'll see airplanes, cars, airplanes, airships, airplanes, spaceships, airplanes, and a desk) Photo will follow if i remember.

The song "Nice Weather for Ducks" by Lemon Jelly makes me happy. its just the sound. i don't know if this version is a series of samples of other pieces, as the vocal refrain obviously is, but the whole composition makes me dance around and smile in a vague, stupid way until an outside force reminds me not to. You can listen to it Here, though the trippy flash animation that goes along with it tends to distract me from the piece itself. For some reason "Sticks and Stones" by The Divine Comedy has a similar effect on me. maybe its the key signature.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

bad dreamer

i've come to realize that my subconscious generates certain trends that are almost embarrassing in their regularity. You'd think i would pick up on them by now, in my sleep, and be able to trigger a lucid dream from noticing them, but somehow i continue to be taken in every night and blindly follow my erratic (and sometimes masochistic) inner self through a maze of personal issues I didn't even know I had.

For instance, a big trigger i'm dreaming is that my hair has suddenly grown about 8 inches. I tend to look in the mirror in my sleep and see, not the self-styled twentysomething i embody by day, but the awkward fifth grader with a long blond rat's nest of a mop and mom-cut bangs that i tried to bury deep in history. This image should be stored in the auxiliary broom cupboard of my memory--behind the cobwebs, behind the futon in the musty spare bedroom of the beachfront time-share of my mind. But somehow this pint sized sci-fi dweeb in ill-fitting hand-me-downs and a day-glo pink windbreaker emerges on a regular basis to lead me traipsing through a remembered and imagined wilderness on all sorts of nocturnal adventures.

Another big hint that i'm out cold--i start bumping into people I've thought about recently, but haven't actually seen in years. Now i know a lot of people encounter this in their dreams, but what gets me is the utter dorkiness with which I approach these situations. Some old friend or historical figure will be sitting on a park bench, minding their own business, and my socially awkward avatar will pop up next to them and exclaim "oh my god! i was just talking about you not two days ago. When did you get back from the dead?" Even in my imagination Thomas Jefferson endures me with a sort of executive patience.

A clue i noticed recently is that I tend to show up in my dreams wearing whatever it is i wore to bed. In winter this is only mildly embarrassing as the wealthy patrons of my nightly floor show attempt to look away from my purple duckie pajamas, but at other times of year, when i've thrown off the covers and a warm summer breeze reminds me exactly what is exposed to the elements, i entertain all sorts of visitors i'd normally not invite to my private nudist beach in Cassis. I spend most of these dreams searching for a towel or something opaque (i distinctly recall finding a flattering open-backed hospital gown in one) and upon waking realize i've burrowed so far under the covers that i resemble a gyro and it takes a team of twenty bulldozers to excavate me.

Maybe writing this down will make it easier to spot tonight when i again find myself as a nasty-headed ten year old standing in the middle of a shopping mall wearing nothing but my Saturn-shaped earrings. Oh please.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rain!

A little moisture has graced my county this evening--not much, but enough to make the flowers perk up a bit. (normally even the hardiest of plants are bowing their heads, muttering about gloom and doom.) It was odd to come out of a restaurant and smile at the prospect of getting wet on the way to the car.

Trader Joe's built a branch just north of my house! Its a little more expensive than Oakland (Charles Shaw is $2.99 here) but still cheaper than anything else around here. hooray food! Unfortunately the locals have already figured out that the Jaipur Vegetables and the High-Fibre Joe's O's are the best so i guess i've gotta get there early from now on. One of the cashiers suggested I apply for a job there and i think i would if i were planning on staying in the area for a while. Part time employees get in on the group health insurance, which includes vision and dental, but it doesn't kick in until after 100 days.

Yeah, I need a job. anything at this point, just so long as its not embarrassing for them to call my references. "Hi, this is Nancy with Wendy's restaurants, i'm calling in regard to Kristen, who has applied to be a Fry Cook--do I understand you were her professor?"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

tri-podiatry

I've come to appreciate that there are a few benefits to having a cat with three legs. While I'm sure Ms. Boots would disagree as she's lost much of her independence, agility, stamina, and self-esteem, her amputation has nevertheless led to a couple of upshots.

For instance, she's become more "affectionate"--that is, without her hind leg to scratch her neck and the back of her head, she calls upon human assistance to hit those hard-to-reach places. And its absolutely adorable how she goes about it. True, in cat-language she's saying "you, yeah, the one with opposable thumbs. pet me. here." but it comes across as a very sweet snuggly behavior.

She's more inclined than before to be picked up and held, probably because standing can be tiresome. In wanting to be held, then, she has resigned herself to tolerating all the bullshit we put her through while holding her.

She's never too far away--she likes to be within earshot of her humans, probably for safety. While she still never comes when she's called, she can be found if you go looking for her.

While this isn't necessarily a good thing, she's gotten more talkative. She announces her presence when she enters a room, or when you do. Not sure why. But she has gotten more communicative in other ways, somehow--she uses direct eye contact, touch, sound, and nasal indication (i.e. pointing at what she wants with her whole face) to get your attention and get what she wants. She's a simple creature--she wants to be let in and out, wants food (my cat is a bit of an oddball in that she doesn't eat if you don't follow her to her food dish. she doesn't expect you to feed her there, you just need to watch her back. That's not age or senility talking, either--she's always done that.) She also, when lonely, will wander around the house, yowling pathetically, until someone comes and talks to her. (I don't appreciate this at seven a.m.)

In other news, i learned how to cast off my knitting last night. Its delightfully easy, i just hadn't bothered to learn (i've been knitting and re-balling for about six months now.) huzzah--something to show for my work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a clean photo session

After my family elected to punch holes in my bathroom walls this summer to install a wall-mounted ironing board in the laundry room, its been my task (odd, seeing as i did it the first time too, when there weren't holes in the walls) to fix the place up. I guess this is my parents' idea of "earning my keep" while i'm home. It was some pretty straightforward plumbing, painting, and wiring work. could have done it all in one day but i'm lazy so it took about four.

Note that the tap matches the stopper. The packaging didn't mention a stopper unit at all so I went all through the hardware store looking for them and eventually gave up. Turned out it was included.

Much brighter than my old 2-fer brass fixture, with lower wattages. I'm not sure how.

Look! The fixture matches the tap! Cute!


New hanging fixtures to match. Oh yes.

Not the best shot I'll admit, but its a very tiny bathroom.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I should go to bed

I wonder what it says about me that i realized tonight that my favorite Beatles track is, hands down, "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" from the second Anthology album.

I'm nearly 23 years old and i still subscribe to MAD magazine.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Kansas

While driving through a beautifully terrifying lightning storm on I-70 in Kansas, i found myself thinking this way:

Maybe the reason there are so many fanatical religious people in this state is because Kansas really has a god--a wrath-filled, old-testament sort of god, who hates everyone here.

----

All of my fingers have been tingling nonstop for about six hours. I did just complete a drive to and from the beach, so i figure it might be from prolonged contact with a vibrating steering wheel, but would any reader have any other ideas as to what could cause me to frequently encounter this?

----

I saw a production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch recently in Charlotte--pretty well done but obviously with a limited budget and for a limited, fringe audience.

*interestingly, Charlotte made a real ass of itself ten years ago when they decided to cut (and nearly eliminate) arts funding after disapproving of a local production of Angels in America for its apparent endorsement of homosexuality. The Tony Award-winning play was described by council members as depicting "perverted forms of sexuality" and the board, ignoring public outcry, decided that they couldn't endorse this sort of depravity and voted to only allow funding to approved theatres on a per-production basis. (see Britain's 1737 Theatre Licensing Act) This move, naturally, most directly harmed theatre education programs and deeply impeded the city's progress toward recognition as a "world class" metropolis.
Seeing as Hedwig not only ran, but ran without stirring up an angry mob, I think Charlotte's come a long way recently toward joining civilization.*

The show's performers were quite talented, but the production quality was diminished by inexpert sound mixing and equally amateurish lighting design (really, people with lines ought to be visible unless there's a good reason otherwise). While i feel no compulsion to try and spark interest in Charlotte theatre (honestly, around here, the folks who have any desire for entertainment where no helicopters blow up and no gigantic, sweaty men bash into each other while chasing a ball around are already In the theatre seats) i nevertheless feel bad for this area's pathetic audience size and negligible public funding. Increased public involvement would improve production quality as more money attracts more professional designers and technicians.

----

I've been typing for a while now and the tingling has abated. Comments?

----

The links referring to Charlotte's 1997 Anti-Gay legislation are old news, yes, but are still worth reading. If anything, they're a benchmark for progress, though the fact that politicians felt comfortable publicly announcing that "if I had my way, we'd shove [homosexuals] off the face of the earth" as recently as 10 years ago is so appalling its funny. The theatre referred to in the articles, Charlotte Rep, folded in 2005 from lack of funding. Banking capital of the south can't afford a decent arts community.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

sticky

I'm back in South Carolina and damn, i forgot what 100°F, 100% humidity felt like. and what it looks like when bugs kamikaze-dive into your windshield. and how Loud nature is. did you know bugs make noise in their spare time? I'd gotten so used to the high-altitude cool dryness and quietude i completely forgot that the south is absolutely not at all anything like that.
I got out of the car and my eyes immediately started watering and my sinuses stopped up like they were desperately trying to close the blast doors against invasion. There's all this...flora here.

On an interesting note, all of the sealed bottles in my luggage crunched and squished on the drive down from 9,000 feet to sea level. the altitude change did a similar number on my ears. I wonder, if you dropped a lightbulb out of an airplane at cruising height, how long would it fall before it popped?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thor's Back Yard

Today i went to Garden of the Gods, a truly beautiful rock formation near Colorado Springs. It was most tranquil. And to think, until i was invited, I'd never heard of the place. Next time i'll come with climbing gear.

"Balanced" rock. Looks crazy precarious, right?
Until you notice that some poor park manager has to come out on a regular basis and maintain its natural majesty (and keep it from rolling away) with a bit of concrete as erosion tries to take its course. Several large rocks were also supported with brick columns where people tended to walk. I felt cheated.
Some big rocks, some clouds. you know how it is.
We made a friend on the drive down along a dirt ridge road through a national forest. Click to enlarge.
Some more crazy geological balancing acts--though these ones looked genuine.
A small shrub-growing sunflower. It was posing for me.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

wikisurf

last night I started digging through the archives of the webcomic XKCD in Firefox, one tab on the comic, one tab on Wikipedia, and every time i didn't get a joke, i looked up the reference. as of now, i'm 120 comics in and i've looked up about 15 science, math, and computing terms, people, and processes and have a vague notion of what they are. I'm fairly certain my notion will remain vague, too--i don't think i'm going to to enroll in grad school just to get a few jokes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

piave vecchio

Everyone has their own quirky relationship with food. i was considering my own at the grocery store today and i decided that food makes me happy. but more than that, the very prospect of food makes me happy. i enjoy driving home with a trunkful of edible items, knowing that they are mine and i can eat them whenever i want. and that's not to say i then go home and gork out on everything i bought and lie around the rest of the day in a food coma--i put everything away, taste the dairy products to make sure they're good, and then typically walk away, safe in the knowledge that i will not starve for another week. i like Looking at the food. i'll spend any number of minutes looking at the grocery store displays of imported cheeses and gourmet olives...and buy neither. i'll compare the labels on two different types of pasta sauce and put both back. i could wander the aisles for days, without even bringing my wallet, and just appreciate what i see.

well, i could if i had access to a Trader Joe's or a store with an appreciable organic section. most of the time i spend reading labels its out of sheer curiosity--what kinds of chemistry went into this? how many ingredients can i pronounce? how much effort went into making this look, taste, and smell like tomatoes without actually using any tomatoes? what's the point?

i don't take comfort in eating, but for some reason, i really like groceries.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Local Adventure

“Gin tonic?”

“I forgot my wallet.”

“I’ll start you a tab. C’mon.”

“Nah, not tonight.”

The bartender looked hurt--an expression he’d mastered through years of practice on suckers who tipped well after just one more drink. Still sulking pointedly at me, he began to twist the lid off a coffee carafe.

“Oh fine. A cup of coffee. Black.”

“Bailey’s?”

“Black.”

He grinned then, his dark eyes twinkling, and began to slowly release a dose of hour-old java into a tumbler. He leaned in, conspiratorially close, and spoke in a rushed whisper while he poured.

“So i saw you with--”

“Bo, we Work together.”

“Come On, you know she--”

“I promise, there’s nothing going on between us.”

He winked, disbelieving, and said for the company at large, ”Sure you don’t want a shot of something in this?”

I rolled my eyes and looked over at a couple a few seats closer to the door. I recognized the girl as a bartender from the only other joint in town that wasn’t predominantly a casino. Her left ear had been tattooed uniformly blue, though she was known to claim for anyone who asked that it was marbled with patterns in green and turquoise. The guy i didn’t know, but from the fact that she was hanging off of him like a loud, wiggly leech, i guessed they were involved. He glanced toward me, a look of resigned tolerance in his eyes, and I smirked sympathetically.

Blue-ear turned round, grinned drunkenly at me, and shouted as quietly as possible, “we’re crashing a party. You’re coming too.”

My smile of greeting quickly dissolved into the furrowed brow of confusion and embarrassment. They have parties in this county? What on earth is this girl’s name?

“Oh yeah? Where is it?”

“Up the mountain. In the campground. Friends of mine--good people.”

“Then why do we have to crash it?”

She smiled knowingly and turned away, regarded the lit cigarette in her hand with some surprise, and took a drag. Bo offered me an olive, but a quick estimation of the manner in which its briny flavor would mingle with the coffee on my palate led me to hastily refuse it. The bartender again pretended to take this personally and wandered off. I sipped my drink.

A hand grabbed my wrist and a drop of lukewarm coffee flew out of my glass. My self-proclaimed hostess had upended her martini into her mouth and, slamming down the empty stemware, tugged my hand and hollered, “Come on!” Seeing little choice, i drained my cup, waved to anyone who might be nearby, and followed my arm out the door.


We all climbed into the guy’s jeep, her clutching a brandy snifter that she’d filled with flowers plucked from a window-box to “make it legal.” The front passenger door was broken, she giddily explained, because she had been holding it open while he backed up and it smacked into a street sign.

“Its up here a ways,” she said, gesturing vaguely toward the windshield. We followed a main road up the mountain until it turned to dirt, then dropped down to one lane. The headlights illuminated nothing but trees and the next hairpin turn as the jeep trundled around the mountain in a generally upward direction. After listening to a few minutes of her of idly chattering with herself, i picked up that her name was Cheryl, and his Justin. After taking enough left turns to convince me we’d gone in a circle twice, we passed two campers and rolled to a stop.

When I opened the door I was taken aback by the utter darkness and quiet we’d driven into. I gave my hand an experimental wave in front of my face and found it invisible. Only when i walked around the back of the vehicle did i see the modest campfire a few dozen yards away, illuminating a few human forms.

“Fuck you! Fuuuuuuuuck yoooooooou!” came from my right, and startled, i turned to see the dim outline that was Cheryl making lewd gestures and pelvic thrusts toward the small knot of people by the fire. She would continue with outbursts of this kind throughout the night, each one met with a grim sort of resignation on tolerance. A small, round figure detached itself from the picnic area and bustled toward us, but not before I heard the comment, “oh god, she found us.” from the table.

I was introduced to a forty-something mountain woman named Heidi who smilingly offered me a drink and tried to ignore Cheryl while she shouted profanities into her ear. She ushered us toward the campsite, where I was introduced to Dinah, Betty, and John, all somewhere between forty-five and seventy, who graciously offered me the remnants of their spread, a space at the table, and drinks. I could tell that the party had been winding down for quite some time--the food had been put away, the fire had not been stoked, and i saw the remains of paper plates smoldering near the edge of the pit. Our arrival was, quite obviously, not entirely welcome.

I tried to make the best of it. Dinah, a smallish curly-haired woman who seemed jovial, struck up a conversation with me. After the usual pleasantries it was only a matter of time before I mentioned I worked for the opera, which elicited a groan from the party at large.

“We don’t Like the opera. Its why we’re all up here in the summer.” she explained.

My look of astonishment prompted her to explain further.

“You’re noisy, you’re rude, you take our parking spaces and take over our bars. You invade our town, and we don’t enjoy it. But we know how much money y’all make for the town, so rather than get y’all out, we leave.”

Fidgeting with my jacket, I muttered something about how that wasn’t necessarily true for everyone--there are some nice people down the hill, but she waved it off.

“Honey, I’ve been living up here for fifteen years. After the first summer we learned to just head for the hills until y’all go away. No offense intended.”

Offended, I attempted to change the subject, but was left at a loss. Cheryl took the quiet moment as an opportunity to shout obscenities at the world, breaking off near the end into a bloodcurdling scream. I covered my ears. Catching Dinah’s eye, I commented, “and I thought the sopranos were bad.”

“What, don’t you sing?”

“Oh no, I work in props.”

“Oh! Why didn’t you mention it?” she smiled and gently scolded, “i don’t mind working people.”

I smiled and nodded in what i hoped was a friendly manner while she nattered on about the value of a day’s hard work. Next to her, quiet until now, John piped up.

“Where’s the rum?”

I spotted it in front of me and handed it over before starting to pour myself a vodka-lemonade. He took it without looking at me and cradled it in the crook of an elbow.

Dinah and I got on to chatting about local events and music while Betty fussed over the table, putting pickles and olives in baggies and stacking paper plates. Behind me, Heidi and Cheryl cackled, Cheryl somewhat hysterically, while Justin’s presence was only noted by the glowing orange end of his cigarette.

“Where’s the rum?”

John, still cradling the bottle and beginning to look indignant, gave me a meaningful look, as though I was hiding it from him.

looking straight at the bottle, I replied, “Oh, I thought I handed it to you. Is it not on your side of the table?”

Dinah patted his arm and said, “oh look! Here it is!” She pulled the bottle out of his arms and placed it on the table in front of him.
He stared at it, dumbstruck, before turning to her and asking where the coke was. I winced when i saw he had an unopened one in his hand. Dinah, smiling, patted the top of it and offered to open it. As she was getting her fingernails positioned, Betty came behind her and tersely shook her head.

“My husband is done drinking tonight. Isn’t that right, hon?”

John seemed not to hear her and grabbed the rum bottle again.

I began to sip my drink rather quickly.

The conversation turned to me--Dinah seemed genuinely interested in where I came from and what I did. After explaining the rather transient nature of my lifestyle and emphasizing the fact that I was an honor graduate who spent a good chunk of her time sweeping floors, John piped up again.

“Well no offense intended, but you’re just a baby! Moving all around, workin, when you should be growing up, with your momma.”

Offended again, I changed the subject to Cirque du Soleil and hoped it would stay there. Cheryl began throwing random items into the fire. Heidi’s smile looked painful. Justin seemed to be absorbed in studying his burning tobacco. Dinah became excited at the mention of Cirque and began describing the set to me, moments after I mentioned that I’d not only seen it, but had a backstage tour.

“And the stage is set up so that its right in the middle of the tent--the audience is on both sides. Crazy.”

“Yeah, that’s called a Courtyard stage. You don’t see it very often.”

“Yeah! And they did this thing with a midget and balloons...”

“Where’s the rum? My wife hasn’t fed me all day. Said she was gonna make chicken. Never had no chicken.”

Betty, sealing up a bag of sliced onions, said, “chicken is tomorrow. Tonight we had pork.”

“Well why didn’t you give me any?”

I glanced toward the fire where a badly-thrown paper plate still bore the residue of a barbecue picnic--a greasy spot with some gristle, a few neglected baked beans in their brown gravy, little smudges of cole slaw and corn. I thought of my grandfather and looked away.

“We’re going!” A yank on my wrist. Cheryl held me at arm’s length while i downed my fairly weak drink and tossed the ice in the woods. Heidi hugged me, saying “it was very nice to meet you, um... Girl.”

“Heidi, it was a pleasure.”

I followed the dynamic duo back to the jeep, Cheryl screaming like it was going out of style, and hoped we’d be off toward town. Halfway out of the campground, however, Cheryl told Justin to head toward Nevadaville.

“I wanna show her my parents’ house.” she said, as he turned away from the light and comparative civilization of Central City. “I lived there for two and a half years, eleven years ago. It doesn’t have power or water, but my parents asked me to keep an eye on it after it was broken into. So I moved in. I moved in with my dog, two cats, and a sawed-off shotgun. And yeah, I didn’t have a shower so I took a bucket down to the culvert some days and used a sponge and yeah, i didn’t smell great, but, y’know, if you’re gonna judge me on that i don’t have any patience for you. And I Know they told me not to use that culvert water but what was I gonna do? I boiled it before I drank it, anyway. I didn’t see what the big deal was. Justin baby, gimme a cigarette.”

Central City’s streetlights now hidden by half a mountain, the only proof I had we were still on a road was the occasional glimpse of a upward curve from my perch in the back seat. The jeep was tossed around by the haphazard arrangement of clods that made up the only link between Central and this ghost town. My tolerant smile briefly turned into a grimace as my imagination suggested that they weren’t just taking me out into the middle of nowhere to show off a house. I was trying to reassure myself that this Penn and Teller-esque duo was the harmless kind of crazy when Cheryl became coherent again.

“Justin’s daughter died recently, so if he seems like he’s being a jerk that’s probably why. If it bothers you, though, just kick him in the kidneys. Baby, gimme a cigarette.”

She wedged her toes into the space between his chair back and seat, causing him to jump and nearly drop the car’s lighter in his lap. He passed her the lit Parliament and she rolled down the window, rested her smoking hand in the corner, and promptly forgot about it.

“The house is just around here. Slow down. Off to your right. Stop--look.”

Justin held the brake but, to my relief, did not park the car. We peered out the passenger side at a surprisingly beautiful two-story Spanish-style house. The windows and doorways were all arched, the roof was tiled, and I saw what could have been a balcony overlooking the overgrown gardens in the moonlight.

It took me a moment to realize Cheryl was actually speaking to me when she pointed past the line of the chimney at a small rectangular structure that could only be an outhouse.

“And that, see there? That’s where they found a three year old girl after she’d been missing for a month. Of course nobody used that anymore at the time so nobody looked until the bugs showed up. Even I didn’t use it when I was living here without plumbing, not after that. Its probably haunted, y’know? Hell, the whole town is haunted. My dog was always seein’ things, barking at nothing out here...” my attention trailed off.

Justin put the car back in drive and it was only a few feet before I recognized where I was for the first time in two hours. We rolled toward town and a part of me was prepared to tuck and roll out of the back seat if it came to it, but Justin spoke for the first time all evening.

“You live in Opera housing?”

“Yeah--Parish.”

“I’ll drop you off.”

He pulled up outside of my house.

“it was a pleasure to meet you.”

“You too.”

Cheryl hugged me like i was an old friend she hadn’t seen in decades and called me a whore.

“Fuck you too!”

I jumped out of the car and waved while they slowly rolled away.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

puffed sleeves

I haven't worked in the prop shop in a week. Now that all the shows are open that gig seems to be over--notes and repairs are now to be taken care of by the union guys. I'm more than a little miffed--that means my job from here on out includes little more than cleaning the opera house, answering phones, driving people around, and wearing my adorable little uniform with the high collar and puffed sleeves to usher elderly, feeble, angry, cantankerous, foul-smelling, wealthy patrons around. This place is like a historic, tradition-rich, chandelier-studded day care center.

Starting Linebacker for the 1876 Central City Opera Powder Puff Football Team



Because what outfit is complete without a sewn-on broach and a visible hook and eye closure? The flap conceals over 20 tiny, fiddly snaps.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lop

I feel like me again.



Congratulations, Kent Uni graduates! Get a job! Get a haircut! The fun's over!

Props update: today i "blinged" handbags for our quasi-modern production of Cendrillon, which opens Saturday. The idea behind these is there are 4 "modistes" who come in to dress the Stepsisters, and their image is 19th century Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I just work here, folks.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Quirky Old Houses

This morning (okay, afternoon, but its my only day off, gimme a break) I was rudely awoken by all of the doors on my floor of the house suddenly blowing open. Seeing as three of the seven doors on this floor lead to my room--hallway, kitchen, and cellar (i'm pretty sure this room was originally intended to be a kitchenette) --it came as a bit of a nasty shock. Particularly the cellar bit. There's nothing quite like waking up and seeing immediately into the gaping black maw of your own personal portal to the underworld. Not that i've got a George Denbrough-esque terror of cellars. Its just a bit daunting when that's the first thing you see upon being snapped out of a delightful 12-hour reverie by the sound and feeling of your house landing in Oz.

Now, none of the doors in my room actually latch. Typically they stay closed fine when you wedge them real good into their frames, but you don't have to turn the knobs for access. Occasionally someone in the kitchen will bump one open with the refrigerator door if they let it swing free, and stepping in just the right place in the hall with just the right amount of weight will release the other one. Naturally, the cellar door opens whenever the spirit moves it. I'm generally okay with this, as they can all be explained by natural pheonmena. (weight, impact, ghosts) But what boggles the mind is when the front and back doors open spontaneously, as both latch securely. The front door in particular can only be opened from outside with a key. It is possible that it was not actually closed this morning, and when the wind picked up it just swung and banged into the wall, but the back door needs some explaining. Nobody uses it. After I closed it, i tried bumping and pulling and shimmying it about to get it to overcome its latch, but to no avail. It's one firmly-closed door.

So i guess the only thing it could possibly be is the house felt stuffy and opted to get some fresh air. I figure, once a house gets to being about 130 years old, it can make that call for itself.

Monday, July 02, 2007

power tools

Working around unions is frustrating when you are not a member. Certain divisions are lain out in my workplace to ensure that the union members are able to do all of the work they are entitled to, which of course means that non-members get the dregs, basically, of their task list. In the central city props department, there are 3 union workers and 3 non-union. The union guys work in the opera house itself while the rest of us work up the street a ways in a small room filled with furniture and fake flowers. The idea is they do the big jobs--furniture construction, major upholstery, welding and major repairs, in addition to running shows--while we do the smaller jobs--hand-prop construction, minor upholstery, minor repairs, flower arrangements and the like. I'm okay with that division most of the time--though i'd love to get my hands back on a welder--but the irksome part is the means we have of doing our light-duty work.

The small props shop does not have access to or license to use large scale power tools. While we have no real need for table and band saws as we're not building furniture or scenery, when push comes to shove it'd be a real asset to have a portable compound-miter saw off in a corner somewhere in our shop. Hand saws, macho as they may look, are the most inefficient tools for achieving small cuts besides perhaps spoons. Moreover, when you're cutting things like dowels and flag poles, no matter how well you clamp that somebitch to the table, your hand cut is going to go wonky somehow and look rough. When we need a cut to look nice, we have to take the project down the hill, hand it to a union guy, show him the mark or measurement, and let him take it inside to cut it. Nope--we can't even just run down the hill and borrow their tools.

I'm sure folks who've worked within or around unions before are quite used to this, but as a neophyte in the whole union-house business this came as a distinct frustration. My progress is impeded--A 20-second job takes 15 minutes around here in order to maintain the integrity of the union contract. That's a waste of everyone's time, particularly under the time crunch of summer stock. I understand the usefulness of labor unions--particularly in theatre where there's never enough money to go around and everybody wants to cut corners, resulting in the desirability of slave laborers (*ahem*interns) and the inability of unrepresented workers to make a living wage--but you've got to cut the rest of us a little slack. Afford us the tools we need to do our jobs too.

In other news, i have grey feet today after an afternoon painting a floor with a push broom.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

rope, styrofoam, and a touch of love

100 Delicate Chocolates: Ingredients: 1 10"x 10"x 1 1/4" block of blue foam, 1 tub sculpt-or-coat, brown, black, red, white, yellow, and purple paints, and 2 artificial flowers.
Serves 0

Cute oversized lollipops: yep, they're cotton rope.

"wickering" an aluminium table. note the unpainted yarn.

Before: yes, the clorox was necessary to kill some of the mold that had been growning in this chair for the past few years. Each of the little buttons had to be individually prised off. the red material behind them was some horrible version of pleather.


And After: the Prince's vanity chair for Cendrillon. The director hasn't picked out the edging yet (no, it will not go into performance with exposed staples.)

Just a taste of what i've been working on lately.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

the Organic conspiracy

I think I'm onto something. The other day i was at Safeway, comparing breads, comparing prices, and I came across an odd dichotomy. For those readers who may not be aware, Safeway has its own organic food line, called "O" Organics. For organic its mediocre, but at least they're trying. Anyway, I picked up a loaf of the Safeway Selects brand whole grain bread and looked at the ingredients list. After "enriched bleached flour" there wasn't actually anything I could pronounce. All sorts of "partially hydrogenated" this and "high-maltose" that, with plenty of Xs and Zs to baffle the vocabulary of even second-place spelling bee contestants. I put it down, disgusted, and picked up the O Organics variety, and found an ingredients list I could appreciate. Whole grain this, all-natural that...for twice the price of the other subset of the same parent company.

which got me thinking.

Does anyone else suspect that food manufacturers are doing this on purpose? Making the "regular" type of food so jam-packed with artificial ingredients and petroleum-based emulsifiers that its Entirely inedible, so as to force the consumer to purchase the higher-priced natural or organic option? There's absolutely no reason for bread makers to put That much garbage into their dough except to make another option more attractive. Its like selling pantyhose with runs in them for what you might consider a reasonable price, while selling the intact version for double. It generates a feeling in the purchaser of "well if that's what it costs broken, i guess its not unreasonable to pay a bit more for something useful." We assume, wrongly, that the corporation is willing to sell the holy pantyhose at a loss in order to get rid of them, and the good tights are sold for suggested retail value. But they're selling the trash for a reasonable price so as to justify the mark-up on the products we actually want!

I admit. I lived in Berkeley for a while. Everything in that area is organic, or at very least natural, and if its neither its sold in the trash grocery stores that nobody really shops at. Good local produce is reasonably priced and bountifully available. All-natural bread is sold by the heap for a pittance. Cereal doesn't have to include high-fructose corn syrup! There are options besides $4.00 tofu and stale granola! But now I am in the middle of the country where nobody expects that, and if you want it you've got to be willing to pay to ship it. People pay hard-earned money to buy canned stench that makes my nose bleed because some asshole company's marketing department has convinced folks that they want it. People buy mononitrate diglyceride sodium laurel and/or laureth sulfate partially hydrogenated cottonseed and/or canola oil-infused breads because for some bizarre reason its cheaper now in our better-life-through-chemistry economy. And the folks who actually bother to read the back before they bite in are going to just have to pay more for being a smartass. Well excuse me for not wanting to eat soap. The Man wants me to pay more to not store non-digestible plastic products in my abdomen? When did THIS become a concern? WHEN THE HELL DID REAL FOOD BECOME A LUXURY ITEM?????

No, thank you, i don't want day-glo orange lab-created UHP artficially flavored dairy-free powdered cheese product on my chlorine-bleached wheat-germ-extract-and-talc-based French-style bread product, nor would I like any 0% juice blue raspberry flavored high-dextrose corn syrup sweetened beverage to go with it. I just want a beer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

yesterday on I-70...


(click to enlarge)

. . . While listening to Pearl Jam. Rock the Rockies.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

its just too pretty out here



In other news, i swore at my boss today after he knocked an artificial tree onto my head and, in lieu of apologising, said "well i warned you." (he didn't.) i may have upped the already teeth-grinding tension in my shop. the social friction in there is so intense the lights flicker. i have a bruise now.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

switch, bitch

Three weeks ago my job involved creating things such as this:
(note: the yellow cart, not the welder itself.)

but since i got out here my job involves projects more of this flavor:


Er...yeah. I have no idea.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Bar

I'd never had a regular hangout before I moved to Central City--a cafe or bar or park where I would arrive and expect to bump into people I know, where the bartender would know my name, and I could even leave an outstanding tab for a number of days 'cos they know i'm good for it. Sure there have been pubs and coffeehouses that i've frequented and the barista or staffer would smile with vague recognition, and occasionally i'd run into a friend, but up until now I'd never actually had a bartender look up when I came in and say "Evening, Kristen--the usual?"

Its quite nice, actually--knowing there's somewhere I can go when home gets too cubical--like Cheers, or Moe's, or the Drunken Clam... it does mean i'm showing signs of alcoholism, true, but it also means i'm getting out more. I've lived here two weeks and i've already established my social position--not just the crowd I run with but i've picked out bosom companions and a couple of mortal enemies. Elsewhere its taken me months or even years to get my societal bearings (and in instances such as middle school, i never actually landed a place at all) but i figure that in a situation such as summer stock every aspect of human interaction has a certain rushed quality to it. In the backs of our minds we all know that our likelihoods of encountering one another anytime soon after the close of our contracts are fairly low, so we work to have a well-rounded three month social experience that can end cleanly when the theater shuts its doors. We meet in a large heap, we get a vague notion of one another's interests, experiences, and qualities, we evaluate one another based on those impressions, and from there we branch off. some become cliques, some date, some fight, some never cross paths, but at the end of the summer we all feel that everything--not just the theatre season, but the friendships, the brief loves, the teeth-gritting feuds--are over and moot. After a few months we forget everyone's names and are only reminded of each other's continued existence by the occasional Facebook post and the random search through one's phone book. Just the other day i came across a name in my cell phone which prompted the thought "oh yeah! he was...er...i know i know him..." and it took me a while to realize he was once my boss. But that's the lifestyle.

so yeah. the bar. Its fun to realize that you can look over at a friend and ask "you going to the bar tonight?" and both of you know exactly which bar, at exactly what time. (partly because there's only one real bar in Central, but it's run by good people and the mayor makes pizza on weekends so we don't mind.) I like this concept--my home bar.

In other news, i wrenched my back this morning and may have to seek out a chiropractor. I'm walking like C-3PO.