Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cooking is Informative

The above image makes me feel:

a. hungry
b. aroused
c. inadequate
d. dirty
e. confused
f. confrontational
g. all the above
h. a & b
i. a, b, & d
j. a, b, & e
k. other (please specify)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"What do you DO with something like this?"
she thought as she attempted to untangle the necklaces from the mess they had lain in for months on her dresser.

Not what do you do with the mess, but with a piece of jewelry like the one that was causing most of the trouble. It was a slim gold chain—-one of those smooth ones with the tiny square links like little magic boxes—-and hanging from it was a small gold tear drop pendant with three tiny diamonds and two small emeralds.

It wasn’t her.

It never had been.

She assumed that the stones and the metal were real—-that was the sort of retarded thing that he would have done. Bought her a too expensive and not at all right piece of jewelry when what she really wanted was for him to come home from the bar after his shift. Just to come home. Not be drinking after hours with his coworkers every night while she lay awake in their apartment in the city, waiting, crying, simmering. Wearing the wrong necklace. And here, ten years later, she sat on the couch in her bathrobe, a world away from that place, that girl.

She had worn the necklace until the end of the relationship and then it had moved with her to a new apartment through a series of relationships and not-so-relationships, to a husband she knew would never pan out and who also gave her jewelry she never now wore. (What is it with jewelry? she thought. Has society just pummeled this into their heads to the point where they wandered out like robots, mechanically handing over their maxed out credit cards to suited men in malls all over the country?) She didn’t want jewelry from them. She never had. She wanted love and acceptance. She wanted safety and comfort. She wanted cookies. Like now. Pete had just walked in the door from running off to the store in the ten degree weather because she wanted cookies with her coffee.

Pete who had given her the two rings she now wore, amounting together to less than a hundred dollars and without measure in their worth.

"But what does one DO with something like this?"

If she ever got it untangled.

It was a little knot of experience. The waxed cord attached to a pewter talisman she had bought at the renaissance festival when she was in high school and interested in witches and darkness and punk rock; the recycled glass orb on the leather thong she had bought when she was working in Jackson, Wyoming; the frail little silver and green bead necklace her friend Greta had bought her "just because"; and this ridiculous gold necklace—a little reminder of her crazy period. Addled on birth control pills, migraines, and unsatisfactory attention from an unfulfilling man.

"Wear it," Pete said.

She told him where it came from.

"Sell it?"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Kudos to Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA) for pointing out that passing a non-binding resolution against sending more troops to Iraq would inevitably lead to “In God We Trust” being replaced on our coins and legal tender with “In Muhammad We Trust.” Representative Goode reveals his stunning grasp of cause and effect, logic, the powers of congress, and comparative religion in his reasoning. I’m impressed. I’m pleased to hear the Representative Goode (what a lovely name) equate God with Muhammad. That shows that he is really paying attention.

He also asserts that the main goal of Islamic extremists is to wave the star and crescent over the United States. If Islamic extremists really want to replace the Stars and Stripes with the Star and Crescent, they are going to have some work to do. They will be quite occupied for some time putting new stickers on bumpers, raising flags over malls, and replacing little nylon banners on wooden dowels sticking out of chain link fences all over America, because if Americans know one thing, it is respect for the symbol of our nation. Why, just this morning, I was behind a lovely Ford F-150 sporting a back window screen emblazoned with the red, white, and blue.

Now there's an S-Word

“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much... It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”

Never have truer words been penned.

The above sentences come from the 2007 Newbery Award winning book “The Higher Power of Lucky” by Susan Patron. I guess it’s about a ten-year old orphan named “Lucky” and apparently, some school librarians want to ban it because of the s-word.

One thing: were these people never children?
Another thing: don’t these people know that by censoring something, they make it more popular?

This book was written for 9-12 year olds. Even if I did not know what the word scrotum meant, I certainly knew to what it referred. Like the heroine of this tale, I may have thought it involved mucous. It does, indeed, sound phlegm-y. These grown ups who continually try to protect children from things seem to have no memory of being children and no frame of reference for what children know and when they know it. And from what they actually need to be protected. They certainly have little respect for children or trust in their comprehension. Personally, I think that a ten year old boy child certainly should know what a scrotum is because he probably has one.

Librarians and teachers are saying that they don’t want to stock the book or teach it because they don’t want to have to explain what the word means. I would like to point out that they probably would not have to, and if they did, it would not take much explaining. This also reveals what their true concern is: themselves and their own embarrassment over the human body. They certainly are not interested in furthering children’s knowledge.

A librarian in Durango, Colorado was quoted in the New York Times as saying: “I don’t want to start an issue about censorship, but you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature... at least not for children.”


She’s probably right. Actual men’s genitalia probably are not included in “quality” literature. Or even in quality pop-up literature. She shows the precise amount of care for literature and context that I want in my librarians.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dust up in the Dustbowl

According to an article on, God and Darwin are to “clash again in Kansas.” (February 13, 2007. “God, Darwin Clash Again in Kansas.”)

I wonder how that would go.

Because, first of all, Darwin was real, and secondly, Darwin is dead.

Perhaps the scientific theory of evolution is coming into conflict with the religious belief in creation by a supernatural god, but God and Darwin are not having some sort of brawl in the midlands.

I would imagine that in a contest between God and Darwin, some ground rules would have to be laid:

1. God is not allowed to smite.
2. The duel will be limited to the exchange of reasoned, logical arguments based on the evidence.
3. God must limit itself to one manifestation: Yahweh, Allah, Thor, and Zeus are not allowed to tag-team the scientist.
4. God is not allowed to say “because I said so” (See number 2).
5. Darwin is not allowed to roll his eyes and scoff.
6. Darwin will refrain from thwacking God on the forehead and reminding him that “god” itself is a creature of evolution, developed by the human mind over tens of thousands of years.

Religious fundamentalists (antiscientifics?) say that “evolution cannot be proven,” and that it is “not in accordance with Biblical teachings regarding the origins of life.” Well now, I would guess that they would get little to no argument on the second assertion. In fact, I quite agree with them. It appears we have some common ground! As far as the first assertion goes, making a claim of improvability for evolution does not make it improvable, and are they offering up their whole “done in seven days” idea to the rigors of “proof?” Because “The Bible says so, and we’re here, aren’t we?” is not proof.

(I can almost picture the annual meeting of these people: antiscientifics sitting around in little hysterical huddles, talking about the load of crap that is global warming, the clever diversion of evolution, and the affront to god and nature that is stem cell research, while they feed mountains of evidence to little campfires, roasting marshmallows, all the while also lamenting the decline of modern American civilization.)

But I digress.

People who accept a book like the Bible as concrete truth purely on its own merits because “God said it” and do not subject their beliefs to rigorous standards do not seem to have the right to request “proof” of anything.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Thank Goodness!

Rupert Murdoch and Fox News are going to launch a more “business-friendly business channel.” This new channel, Mr. Murdoch said, would be kinder to corporations.

Well it’s about time they got a break.

Apparently, CNBC has been too apt to “leap on every scandal.” By “scandal” I suppose Mr. Murdoch meant those messy little episodes involving homespun companies like WorldCom, Tyco, and Enron, a little-known energy trading company that had some issues a few years back.

In a country where business, profit, and the almighty dollar are certainly held in contempt, it’s good to hear that these poor and downtrodden outcasts in the competitive world of helping the little guy will finally have a voice--and an advocate other than the executive branch of the federal government.

It’s not enough that capitalism is held up by government assistance, these poor souls will really benefit from the life support that a 24-hour a day, seven day a week broadcast channel can offer.

Much like Fox News has helped to keep a poor, populist, and Everyman party like the GOP afloat and offered God-fearing Americans a choice in the anti-American field of objective news reporting, Fox Business will hopefully be a breath of fresh air in a corporate atmosphere of uncertainty and waning profits.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Twenty Demons... or so

My husband has a song called “20 Demons.” It’s a bluegrassy number about being chased by your past and by your personal issues. It’s pretty standard emotional fare in a very catchy tune. I say “pretty standard” not to diminish the impact of the song, but just to emphasize that it’s relatable.

This morning on the bus, we got a dissertation from a different set of demons.

It happens sometimes, people feel the need to talk to you on busses or trains or planes. If it’s a plane, most often it’s just a chatty, friendly person sitting next to you who does not have a hobby and wants to pass the time. Pete does not mind this—he’s a bit of a friendly chatter. I hate it. I want to be left alone. I don’t like planes, and I always have plenty to do, so I don’t need to “pass the time.” The idea of a “single serving friend” is not appealing to me. I suppose as a writer, I should seek out such experiences, but I am 36 years old, and I don’t feel like changing. Anyway, it’s not in my nature.

When you are on a bus and someone starts talking to you, it’s more likely that the person in question is a little more… interesting. Sometimes, it is clearly insanity. Sometimes, it’s more like loneliness gone horribly awry. Usually, it’s somewhere in between. This morning when we got onto the bus, I could tell that a gentleman at the back of the bus had been talking to the gentleman across from him as he was saying “All right… I’m done.” I thought about not going to the back to sit down, but I did not feel like standing. I weighed the options and decided to sit. As I suspected, the gentleman started talking to me almost right away. He was a big white guy (6’3”, 250 pounds, as he would tell us) with big meaty fingers, a little bit of a beard, short brown hair turning to a dishwatery grey color.

“That’s a girly bag,” he said, gesturing to the Hollie Hobbie giftbag I had just put on my lap.
“It’s my knitting.”
“I can see that. What are you knitting?”
“I am teaching myself to knit,” I said, “So I am making a scarf.”

He evidently thought that the green stocking cap perched on my head was an example of my knitting, as he gestured to it and said that it looked like I was doing a good job.

“My grandmother made that.”
“Grandma knew what she was doing.”
“Oh yeah, she was always knitting.”
“Well, back then, they had to. They made their stuff. Things were expensive. You couldn’t just walk down to Target and buy it.”

He had a deep, carrying, pleasant voice. I was leaning toward “lonely friendly talker” for this guy. He seemed nice enough. Not like the guy who had given a loud dissertation at the front of the bus that included his barbecue fetish (“I barbeque, get drunk, and howl like a wolf”), Christian dating experiences (The woman in question, though “some sort of reporter downtown,” nonetheless went into the bathroom and started smoking dope), and a recipe for crack (72% baking soda, 8% vitamin C, 3% ammonia. I don’t know what the other 17% is, but I suppose when you are on crack, you don’t have time for math). His tone was not angry or belligerent either, he was just oversharing. I am sure he was nice enough, too, in his way.

“My grandfather had the last outhouse in St. Paul.”

The things you can learn before 8:00 in the morning.

“He held onto it until I was 12 and then he had to get rid of it. Then he died when I was 14 and my world fell apart. See, I didn’t have a mom, and my dad worked a lot, so my grandfather was my buddy…. You ‘U’ people?” he asked, meaning “University of Minnesota. We said “yes.”

“Yeah, I got an engineering degree from the U, then I went overseas.”

“I can’t believe they are turning these into condos,” he said, pointing to buildings that were just being finished up in their conversion from warehouse to spendy “artist lofts.”

“$180 thousand for a condo. Can you believe that?”

“That’s cheap.”

“Yeah, you could pay 50 thousand for a house, back in the day.”

“My parents paid that for the house they are in now,” I observed, though they actually paid 60. Amending my statement would have been quibbling, I thought.

“I live in an apartment now. I guess it’s ok. Things are maintained, there’s a garbage unit on every floor. It’s a senior high rise over on Minnehaha. It’s quiet. Too quiet. But that’s ok.”

He was in the Marines, in Lebanon back in ’83, he said “when all that went down… Did a lot of killing that day. 267 good men lost their lives. We were somewhere else when it happened, and when we heard, all the Marines, we were all just ‘lock and load’ you know? I tell ya,” he lowered his voice and spoke out of the side of his mouth “if you were Lebanese, you were dying that day. Not to say… I mean, I love everyone, but that was our mindset, you know? But these guys over in Iraq, I mean, they don’t… We gotta get those guys outta there. They been killing each other for thousands of years. There’s been secular violence. We gotta get out and secure up our borders and settle down for the long haul or something. When I was in the service, we had Reagan, and he was military, I mean, he signed all sorts of stuff… Star Wars… it’s still up there, you know. We have it. It’s operational. The Chinese were all saying that they could blow up a satellite, and they blew up one of their own just to prove they could, but they would never blow up an American satellite. Some were saying that they hit one of ours, but no way. They would never do that because it would be all over. The things I could tell you. The things that are out there. People don’t know. I mean, people are dumb. The Feds, they’re all over this place. With the Iron Range—there were nukes on the Iron Range, we were number three on the list in the Cold War. The Feds came in, and they never left. If you think you seen guys in sunglasses and black suits, you did. The things I could tell you. The things people don’t know. You know there was a guy bought an old missile silo and turned it into his house?”

Pete said he had, indeed heard of this. I remained quiet, doubting. (It’s apparently true, and for more than one person. Just put missile, silo, and house into a search engine.

“My ma left when I was a kid. When my dad was on his second divorce, I went into the military. He and I don’t really talk. I think it’s because I am not working and I’m not ‘successful’ anymore. I used to work but now all these injuries have caught up me and whatever. Which stop is this? I need Harvard.”

We told him it was the next stop, but he got off the bus all the same.

“Gotta get my shoulder checked out. Thanks for listening.”

I turned to Pete. “Do you think it’s the personality that goes into the military, or what the military does to the personality?”

Pete said “I think it’s both. Because there are plenty of people who were in the military…”

“…who are not like that,” we said together.

It’s experience and genetics that make the demons. This is what I meant by saying that the demons in Pete’s song are pretty standard. I don’t have killing demons or exploding demons, or world crashing around me demons. I don’t have abandonment demons, or war demons, or even outhouse demons.

Paranoia, while necessarily all encompassing in its scope, is narrow in its conversational opportunities.

It’s more of a monologue.