Friday, October 31, 2008

discovery channel for a day

Happy Torture Your Dependents with Ridiculous Costumes Day!

Rarely captured close-up of the Galapagos Living Room Komodo.

Otherwise known as Kermit's circuit-boy cousin, Stella.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

right and wrong

Oh and by the way, while I am staking political claims, I am against the use of impact as an adjective (impactful) and foreground as a verb. ("We are foregrounding this important issue.")

Thank you for doing your part to protect parts of speech as God intended them to be.

that part about personal responsibility

I made the mistake of reading another earthquake-scare article in the latest East Bay Express. The Loma Prieta faultline is raring to go, ready to take down 2.5k of us at minimum with the next rattle and roll. I know this. I have known this. So why do I still live here? I often answer this question with a reference to the Berkeley Bowl and the farmers' markets. I'm something of a hedonist with at least a faint conscience and while I like good food, I need to know for the most part it's local, sustainably raised, and, if it was once a critter, humanely treated. All of this is easiest to pull off--I don't see this as debatable, but I am up for being informed--here in Northern California, much more than anywhere else in the world.

However, a large part of living near the bohemian love-peace-acceptance dreamzone of Berkeley, California, has also been the appeal of what many of us conversationally refer to as "the bubble." It's edifying to live in a place evolved enough that gay folks, much like persecuted interracial couples in our country's history, can show affection without fear of hostility and hate crimes, and for the most part, can live in a society that esteems equitability and respect in policy and practice.

But as the real estate market and global economic crisis have shown, bubbles obviously pop. And as I drove past a throng of cheering teenagers waving "Yes on 8" banners with the same innocent, young enthusiasm for which they probably advertise their bake sales, I felt disconsolate, just devastated. So I suppose it's time to see about mending some patches in my local bubble wall, if you will.

I am putting my money where my mouth is for once and venturing out onto the streets, the phones, wherever I'm told to go and whatever I'm told to do by the good folks behind the "No on Proposition 8" campaign working hard to defeat a proposition that would eliminate same-sex couples' established right to marry in California.

I hope, particularly for all of you--and I know many of my friends say this--who have historically said they "don't like to get political," that you'll do something, whether it is donate, volunteer, or vote, to defeat Proposition 8. It would mean a lot to me. It's not so much getting political (though I don't see that as a bad thing) as it is being just plain civil to your neighbor.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

female fury: a fairer song than peace?

I do moderate work here and there--not enough--to determine for myself when pacifism amounts to provincialism, to rethink my alignment with the irresponsible, ignorant, commercial feel-good isolationism of some factions of peace activists, and to suss out by extension what it means to live a life committed to peaceful nonviolence with eyes wide open. I feel anyone earnestly interested in peace is responsible to determine just when a globally informed citizen's stance becomes less about nonviolent disengagement and more about blind-eye complicity to violence.

Living in the community I do forces me to decide hypothetically every day when I walk my dog to what extent I'd commit acts of aggression to protect those I love. And I then begin to ask the obvious, more abstract (to me, anyway) questions: what lines might I draw when it comes to police or military intervention in response to local battery, abuse, or endangerment, and on larger scales, civil strife and genocide. These are the most difficult questions for me to answer.

What should, by contrast, be easy to answer, is blood sport. It seems like just so much wanton violence and sadism for the glory of the ego, right? And it's silly to pay money to watch people beat on each other. But as my three-times-a-week jog got more frequent and longer and the sports more varied and taxing, I ceased to see the bright line between pleasure and pain; I'd done a number of endurance events and part of the pleasure was definitely in the power of my mind over my body, the fact that I could continue through mile 24, 25, 26 simply because I had decided that I would.

And let's face it, ring sports bring with them the floodlit spectacle of competition. When I back a competitor, I participate viscerally. And this is where we leave the hypothetical violence behind. I just bought a ticket to watch my first boxing match. Muay thai, to be specific. And it's women doing the fighting, not men. Considering one of my favorite movies--it's true; I can't help it--is Rocky, I suppose I should be less surprised just how excited I am to attend this event.

In fact, it marks a real departure from the frame of my consciousness just a few years ago--forgive what seems the non sequitur here for just a sec--when reality TV made its debut with Survivor, I dismissed it disparagingly as a new incarnation of the Roman Coliseum.

And now I find myself poised to sit in the coliseum bleachers, up for the cheering and jeering. Clearly something has changed. I could say I am attending Female Fury simply because someone I hold very dear fights with Pacific Ring Sports, one of the participating gyms. And I am supporting her passion, just like she has when I've signed on for various races. But if honesty is a virtue and we're on this hike to find our way back to that hollowed ground of virtue and grace, then I confess there is extraordinary appeal to orchestrated violence, the prospect of a thrown punch, the visceral thrill of a good kick to the head, the anticipation of the physical maneuvers that I will commit to memory and replay.

My grandfather was a boxer. He believed in a good fight. But he also believed in a good war. And a good country. All unapologetically. The hitch is, of course, by extension, he also believed in real-life heroes, villains, nations of good people, and well, those nations that the good people fought. Me, I've never enjoyed the clarity he did. I dwell in ambiguity and I think I'm pretty glad about that.

All I know is I am looking forward to this and though the sweetest, gentlest voices in my head are shrieking in dismay, I'm afraid I can't hear them over the drumbeats right now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

won't you be my neighbor?

Please feel free to steal this image and paste up on every imaginable surface you can cover between now and November 4th. Extra points for visibility on the telephone poles and front lawns on Sarah Palin's route to church.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

new word alert

It's one of life's expected pleasures, the new word nestled into a fine book. The best contemporary authors place them so subtly we don't even look twice when that Rolls Royce glides through the ghetto sentence. I can read right past the mot juste when it's worked in well enough.

In popular culture, by contrast, I'm not without appreciation for the good linguistic skillet across the face. I back shock by ostentation 100 percent. And the best example of late is Little Prince Harry, who got bored with military service and set out with his brother on an African adventure (and 80 other apparently irrelevant riders), and in his obligatory pullquote for whatever his promotional charity might be, he actually said this will not just be any old bimble.

Well heavens, no, old chap. Pukka, pukka, old lad, no bimble by far. Your motorcross will be a right lovely jubbly to be sure--so let's don't pass this off as an advert for any ordinary bimble, boys. Mercy, no, and God save the Queen.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

flower-free pizza

All right, everyone. The good folks minding the till over at 800 Flowers have decided to boost sales with the clever invention of yet another holiday, this one hilariously billed "Ex Day."

No, your Lasik is not doing you a disservice of pixel distortion. That's "Ex Day," as in an opportunity to ill-advisedly revisit the emotional killing fields of your failed intimacies. The way I look at it, the developer of this marketing concept deserves a raise for big-picture strategy. Think about this. Seen in the long view, the folks at 800 Flowers are losing out when 50 percent of the population is NOT getting divorced. I'm sure someone discovered that gays are getting divorced at the same rate as everyone else and just panicked. "God damn it! Something must be done. Because 50 percent marital success, well that's just too much by half!" So they had to find some way to wreck the unions. It's a massive loss of market share if half your customer base is too inured to a comfortable life with the significant other to do the little things, like buying flowers.

So why not get Margerita thinking about Burt, how lovingly he used to wax her Karmann Ghia on the weekends. Maybe just a little bouquet of stargazer lilies. What's the harm? And before you know it, Margerita will be hot on Madonna's heels toward divorce, making way for the ARods of the world to once again rejoin the ranks of puppy-loved-up flower buyers. Because it can safely be said that more divorce means more relationships and more new relationships mean more flowers. Hence the raise advocacy. Not that I condone it, but you gotta hand it to them, this corporate creation is a wiley yenta maneuver of tremendous magnitude.

You, married and partnered friends, can sabotage this. First off, we all know the return to the ex is just a mad notion. So forget that. Now. Your significant other would probably like flowers, sure. But better yet, why not forgo the flowers (take that, MBA) and instead make her dinner, like a homemade pizza? (Mmm, I love pizza.) Keep the TV off, light a room full of candles, and read something to her, for god's sake. Don't be the statistic 800 Flowers wants you to be. Be radical. Stay married. We'll admire you for it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

there are worse things i could do

I am reading this charming, thin thing recommended by Sister Rye called The Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches. And in a blissful pocket of free time last night, it was just the book, my dog, my cat, some candles, a salad, a tall drink of water, and me.

We were a perfectly perfect set, when as I lie on the couch, I spied with my little eye one junior chocotankgirl named Stelladog staring at me. Not pawing, not whining, not fidgeting, not fussing, not shoving, just silently, patiently, and stolidly stare stare staring. Well I couldn't ignore that.

But I was not about to stop reading. We reached something of an impasse in our relationship right there, didn't we, dear reader? And I immediately thought of you because you are always so instrumental in helping me sort out my fascinating personal dilemmas. (You're such a good listener!)

After all, I am not one to neglect. Stella had had her walk, her training, her playtime with the two neighbor dogs Patch and Preston, who are both enamored with her, of course--who isn't? She'd been lavished with love, in other words. Heck, she'd even had a bath. I'd given her a toy. Fresh water. Peanut butter goodies. I was Mom of the Year, and Mom of the Year was going to read her book, dag blast it.

But the mutt-minded among you know that patient pup behavior needs to be rewarded if it is to continue (lest dogs get it in their heads to move onto obnoxious pawing or insipid whining tactics), so I just decided to read aloud to her. And she stood there. And eventually, she snuggled down at my feet. She was listening. I was reading. Two-for-one, my friends. I was as happy as an Angelina with her global baker's dozen. In fact, happier. With this kind of arrangement, I wondered, who even needs children?

But that "who needs children?" smuggery got me thinking. Maybe this marks the official crossing of the line, that moment that my childless friends and I recognize so well among the now-parental friends. It divides along one line: kid-free on the sane side, the now-parentals on the unthinkably generous side of selflessness. You know this trend. I venture you've seen it yourself.

It starts when the bliss-glossed parents begin to get that sleepless, cracked-out look to them, like they're half here and half-jacked on a lucid dream they've roped you into. They show up at the office or worse your house and carry around the wee alien, subtly prompting you for useless comments--my best is usually something like "Oh, look at his feet! They're so small!" This befuddled commentary is the gamey effort among the kidless to congratulate disinterestedly, to grin and bear the crying bundle until we can revert to previous discourse, perhaps discussing the effing awesomeness of our PS3 victories or the effing awfulness of the trillion dollar liability we now call our federal government, all the while intersplicing the talks with our archival knowledge of this "amazing" Oregon Shiraz being shared in unquantifiable excesses of enablement.

Parents, bless them one and all, then move into the era of narrative exposition, only fomented by technologies like Twitter or Myspace or Facebook, through which they can exclaim things like, "Marcie can't believe she drives a minivan!" or "Blake is psyched that little Merv has learned to wield baby's first nine-iron!" And so it goes that our Plimptons become Spocks, that the once-convivial raconteurs become babygated themselves, able only to expound on Junior's "hilarious" exposure of his privates on the school playground, the "adorable" kitten sounds he makes when the neighborhood stray walks by, or that "promising" profundity he dropped on you when you were talking about lightbulbs and energy conservation.

Alas, I trace back through the blogs of friends who've had kids and note with regret the changed tide--that deep, dark, and moon-dragged current of love that somehow sucks every single parent from the boat of cultural currency into the deep, narcotic abandon of parental rapture. I don't condemn it. It's charming. And understandable. And selfless. And admirable. And sure, parts of me (small, crushable, impetuous, fleeting psychological parts) envy the sense of purpose it must instill.

But I'm not here to riff on the outward appeal of family, however dangerously I skate that rink. No, no. Or am I? For you see, as megalomaniacal as I am, and I'm nothing if not that, I do have glinting moments of self-awareness, sudden recognitions of the screechy err of my own egotastic idiocy. And so here we have it. I think I owe an apology for my own analog to this cocktail-party offspring-adulation habit.

Because let's be honest. It's okay. You can tell me. You don't really care about my dog, do you? You don't really think she's all that cute. Nice coat, sure. Funny eyes. Impressive proof of motherhood on her part. And ooh, look at her little dog feet! They're so small! Yes, yes. A good dog. With much promise and a sweet-as-pineapple soul. Fine downstay. Wow, she can high-five. Awww, she listened to you read a book. Again, with feeling: wow!

But really, your praise is as obligatory as mine. You are, for example, not nearly as beguiled as I am by this "Bark Obama" photo taken by a friend on a message board I visit daily. It is tribal. I am on one side of a line, you the other. I understand.

Likewise, you do not delight in the prospect of my teaching my dog to do handstands just like BAD RAP's about-to-be-adopted Neuman Marcus.

I offer you a deep, heaving, moon-dragged sigh. What use should I make of this startling revelation? How dare you not admire the way the sun shines in my dog's eyes!

Will I post less about my dog? Maybe. Will I write more about what I said I would--books and film, food, exploits? Yes, cross my heart. But it also says dingoes up there. And if I'm going to read stories to dogs, I don't see why I can't write stories about dogs. There will always be more--and less--interesting stories to be told. And I'm realizing at a certain point, the audience will either love it or leave it and dag blast it, before I'm dead, I'ma tell the stories I want to tell.

Monday, October 13, 2008

not kosher: bacon bullet burger

So I get hassled all the time for not having comments on my site, but I've seen too many sites blown up by spammy streams and I'm so not administratively organized enough to approve comments at this stage in my life. I can't even find time to reorganize the pictures I have on the site (sorry--the Harmaudicon pix remain on my to-do list).

*However,* I do try to share the good ripostes as they roll in. And this one was in response to my "Donuts and Bacon '08" post a few days back. Man, it stopped me cold, apt seeing as it would also stop blood flowing cold too with artery-blocking cholesteroid nodules. I think I have finally met a doughnut I could not love. Oy, tough even to look at them.

oak and ash to dust

My new dream home has a wood-burning stove and any time the temp has dropped below, oh, say, 70 degrees, I've suggested it may finally be time to light a fire, only to be roundly corrected for my zealotry by whoever is at hand at the moment. "Elizabeth, we're wearing shorts." "Elizabeth, you are sunburned from the day." "Elizabeth, your dog is panting in this heat." So fine. No fire. Yet.

However, last night, we sat watching a movie. The window was open. And I smelled a fire from someone else's house. Someone had lit a fire! I stood on the couch. (Okay, I didn't, but I like the story better that way.) And I shouted (said--actually, thought), "Well if someone else is doing it, this is justification by proximity. They're cold. I am too. Let's make like Al Green and light a fire!"

Met with roll of eyes and adjustment of movie volume (up, up, up).

Just as well that I did not get my fiery wish, as it turns out the air here has had to absorb more than its share of woodsmoke these last twelve hours. This was no rosy, cozy chimney smoke, but an entire body of land ablaze a few miles away. Poring over the photos of Angel Island's massive fire this morning, I cannot help but feel that, however destructive it is to this local uninhabited state park, the conflagration is beautiful.

You are wise to the world, though, and so this is no news to you, is it? Destruction is gorgeous. Behold, my doomed brethren, the glory of Megiddo.

adjective envy

I've been an early reader of all Emma Donoghue's work and The Sealed Letter is no exception. But I could never quite pin down what it was that appealed to me about her writing; sentence by sentence, it can be downright ordinary and the subject matter, while pleasant and provocative, was never so revelatory. Well god bless Susann Cokal, whoever she is, for throwing the mot dart in the most recent NYT Book Review.

Donoghue, says Cokal, at her most fun is "cozily lurid." Ah yes, well who doesn't love these qualities combined? No wonder I open the sealed letter with verve!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

what a gift

Whoever created this for me, I am in your debt. You have so handily merged the core pleasures of my life into one besprinkled silkscreen. I feel faint. What a rush. I may expire from the ecstatic shock of it all.

I believe in you, Donuts and Bacon maker. And clearly--clearly!--you believe in me too. It is so reassuring to see that my dearest interests are in fact represented. Thanks so much for stepping up the game and giving us a little unhealthy competition outside the two-party system. Taste we can believe in!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

birds, bees, benevolence

If you're thinking of picking up a costume for you, your pup, your cat, or the one your grandfather still calls your "special friend," you might consider supporting the folks at Costume Studio. Apparently 100 percent of their proceeds above cost go to giving second chances to kids in the effed up regions of Uganda.

They are at

It's a partnership among a number of groups, including InvisibleChildren, which does work akin to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, and GoodSociety, a crew of trendy, sulky model types who actually do important work, including big intervention in the sex traffic market.

All that just from buying Bruno a bumble bee costume. Nice.

Spoiler alert for the masses who care: I am considering the cute pet costume below for Stella. Maybe we will go as the birds and the bees. Hilarious, I know. It was Stella's idea. (A breathable mesh bee! C'mon ... who could resist?)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

did eleanor gambol around in a tankini? no.

If I've not made it apparent by reviewing titles like Encyclopedia of Third-Wave Feminism, Bitchfest, or Female Chauvinist Pigs, I am all for women in the spotlight. I support gals doing just about anything they want to do: politicians, forklift drivers, top chefs, ship captains, anarchists in retail, architects, web nerds, CEOs, CPAs, MDs, beauty queens, whatever. Like I said, I'm all for it. Any of it.

However. There is always a however. I want you to appreciate that I have waited all my little life to see a woman vie--with a realistic chance--for White House digs. And while I did not vote for Clinton and sure as hell am not voting for McCain/Palin, I still believe given the gender ratios that this should have been an American era lit by at least a few heraldic moments of women inspiring women. Alas, my sisters of perpetual dismay, we do not appear to be in for such oratorial treats.

Instead, we relive the--I'm sorry to say it--total asshattery that has become the American political parade since Bush got out his fiddle and tinderbox. The bar of our discourse has dropped so low even the most spineless opportunists could not limbo below it as they recite jumbled soundbites. I'm sorry. But really. Can we no longer even name our newspapers, let alone determine whether we agree with what's in them? This is shameful. I feel I am having capsaicin rubbed into my eyes every time Palin gets on what she justifies my calling the boob tube, as if I've got stabbing ghost pains in what was once my hopeful heart. I am not entertained. I am not laughing.

Now I'm not saying a leader has to have nursed political ambition at her mother's breast, nor spied political destiny through the crib bars. Her political trajectory ought not trace back to age six when she first won a Merrick medal precociously debating the South African trade deficit in the Wee Model UN and tasted glory, later winning landslide support for the coveted Junior Statesmen Debate Director gavel.

No! What the hay, friends? Let's do things a little differently this time around. Let's go to the other extreme and elect a liberal-arts dabbler who has no idea what she's doing. That sounds fun--someone with a colorful background, with street creds, sure, and lots of different experiences--a little more attorney, governor, grassroots organizer, senator, or something-something-committee chair woulda been nice mixed in there somewhere, but hey, I'm easy--just assure me she's woven it into a singular vision, much of which we can feel represents our values and hopes and needs.

But even then, some things cannot be woven. Like bathing suits. And what I cannot brook--permit me redundancy for emphasis--what I will not abide, is a vice president who has strutted across the stage in heels and a red bathing suit. This is my limit.

I do not want to be watching a debate, all the while recalling another view of the candidate and considering how very different she looks from that fembot strut she did in the beauty pageant, the spitting (and sipping and smoking) image of Aunt Sandy on the Carnival Freedom cruise to Cabo, you know, with the flirtatious prance around the cabana boy on the lido deck and the downed martinis on karaoke night. Oh yes, you know the one.

Now bring me a sack to put over my head tomorrow, god damn it. I simply cannot stand much more of this.