Saturday, December 30, 2006

You, sir, are no Gerald Ford

some seemingly disparate objects, examined side-by-side

From this morning's presidential radio address:
In his two-and-a-half years as President, Gerald Ford distinguished himself as a man of integrity and selfless dedication. He always put the needs of his country before his own, and did what he thought was right, even when those decisions were unpopular. Only years later would Americans come to fully appreciate the foresight and wisdom of this good man.

From Ford's interviews with Bob Woodward:
Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people... [but I don't know] whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest...And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.

From Robert McNamara's In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam:

1. We misjudged then — and we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries … and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.

2. We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.

3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.

4. Our judgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.

5. We failed then — and have since — to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine…

6. We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.

7. We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement … before we initiated the action.

8. After the action got under way and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course … we did not fully explain what was happening and why we were doing what we did.

9. We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose.

10. We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action … should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community.

11. We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions … At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.

From History Land:

Friday, December 22, 2006

God Bless us Every One

Jean Z---, 87, passed away on Tuesday, December 19, 2006. Mrs. Z- was born on December 20, 1918 in Erie, Pa., she lived on the East Side of Erie, her home being on East Fifth Street. She attended Wayne Grade School and East High School. She attended Wayne Park Baptist Church. She was very active in activities in both school and church. Jean attended Edinboro State Teachers College and was certified to teach in 1942. She taught for grades at Espyville. Later in 1968 she returned to Edinboro to earn her BS in Education. When she later resided in Fairfax Va., she taught kindergarten in the Fairfax schools for sixteen years until 1984.

Where I'm going with this:

Mrs. Jean Z was in fact, my kindergarten teacher, in 1969, the first of her 15 years in that school system. And this is the story of how I found out that she had passed away. It is a glurgy sort of Christmas story that mixes the speed of modern information-sharing with the ancient practice of human connection. Tell it around your turkey dinners this weekend when there is a lull in conversation.

This is not the first time I have written about this unexpected relationship, so I'll try not repeat myself and get right to the climax, blog-style.

I have a history of crushing hard on schoolteachers, which kicked off that late summer with the first of them. I had never had an adult I could have my own relationship with -- not a family member, not someone from church, but my very own grown-up who "got" me. Got me for me.

At the end of the year, she gave me a copy of Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins as a sort of graduation gift. It was a used copy, had her daughter's name right inside it, but I didn't care. She had stricken Donna's name out and written mine, in that fine round "this is how we write your name" kindergarten teacher penmanship.

Years later, as a high school newspaper editor (like Blogging... with galleys) I wrote an editorial about the giving of that book in a "please thank your teachers" theme that reinforced my Bard of the Nerds status and was a big hit in the Faculty Lounge. But I did mean every word.

Which brings us up to 10 o'clock today. And this email... from my college alumnae office.

Dear [Caroline],

I am forwarding this e-mail to you from [DMcG] regarding the sad news of her mother passing and her desire to get in touch with you. I will let her know that I have done so. It is up to you, of course, to respond to her at this point. I hope you are doing well and have a wonderful holiday season. If I may help in any other way, please let me know.

Sincerely, [put-upon Assistant to the Director] Alumnae Relations

And that draws in that email, written 5:30 last night:

RE: Looking for [Caroline Bender]

Hello. Sorry to use this forum, but I am looking for a [Caroline Bender]. I think she is an alumnae. When she was in high school , she wrote a column about my mother's influence on her life. This week, my mother passed away, and we read that column at her memorial. I am hoping to tell [Caroline] of the blessing she has returned to our family.

Thank you for your time.Sincerely, Donna McG--

Merry Christmas from the cast and crew of Drawing In. Love ye, one another.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Panda Out. Dolphin In.

2 stories on the AP about China's compassion for the dolphin:

BEIJING (Dec. 02)A team of 30 Chinese and foreign scientists have failed in a 26-day search for the rare white-flag dolphin in the Yangtze River, raising fears of imminent extinction, state media said Saturday.

BEIJING (Dec. 14) - The long arms of the world's tallest man reached in and saved two dolphins by pulling out plastic from their stomachs, state media and an aquarium official said Thursday.

Important point of information: the 2 saved by Bao Xishun were not of the rare whiteflag variety. More's the pity.

What an amazing coincidence, you might say. Not so fast, America.

The country getting press for clubbing dogs on sight may be able to erase that horrifying image by embracing the dolphin, "symbol of kindness and play energy."

Crystal Links review of totem animals writes:
"Dolphin tells us to move with the ebb and flow of life, and not to search for brick walls to smash
into, for to spend our energy fighting the current gets us nowhere."

Oh,damn. "smashing"again.

August Pfluger, the Swiss naturalist who led the expedition for the thought-extinct baiji dolphin commented that China's Agricultural Ministry hoped the baiji would be "another panda," [quoting AP, paraphrasing Pfulger, sounding like the Diamond Exchange] "an animal brought back from extinction in a highly marketable effort that bolstered the country's

You won't see a country embracing the ugly nearly extinct animals, will you? You know what are cute, China? Puppies.

Anyway, which brings us to the tale of Bao Xishun, another endearing creature helping to market the image of a cuddly China.

Bao Xishun is 7'9'', which doesn't really sound all that tall. Manut Bol is 7'7". But let's not get distracted. According to the story(which was "Top News" on AOL all day until a guy ran over a deer with 7 legs. That is, the deer had 7 legs. The guy ran over it with a truck), "Attempts to use surgical instruments to remove the plastic[they had ingested] failed because the dolphins' stomachs contracted in response to the instruments...the shape of the dolphins' stomachs made it difficult to push an instrument very far in without hurting the animals."

Try sedating them.

So - "Veterinarians then decided to ask for help from Bao Xishun, a 7-foot-9 herdsman from Inner Mongolia with 41.7-inch arms, state media said."

Inner Mongolia is only about 6 hours from Beijing, so this is very fortunate for the dolphins.

The director of the aquarium where they lived said, "People with shorter arms could not reach the plastic." I am going to blame this on the translators. Because everyone knows you would just send a 4th grader down there and hold onto its legs.

So China cares. Please go to their Olympics. Without your rabid dog.

By the way, the plastic removed from that dolphins contracting belly?

Oh, Fa does love Pa.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

How to Waste an Evening on the Internet

I must credit my circle of friends for fiendishly showing me many of these. The ones that were my own idea are fairly obvious.

1. Google people you know. Now combinations of people you know. Combinations of people you know and Kevin Bacon.

2. Try to outlast the Amazon Recommendation engine. The game is to keep refreshing your recommendations by marking what you own or are not interested in until you are offered a page where you don't refuse anything.

3. Try to stump Netflix. I'll give you a safety: they are not stocking Carl Sagan's Cosmos. But Amazon is.

4. Look up "Jodie Foster" on YouTube. Watch long interviews in French even when you can't understand a word. [this is 20 minutes long. Vous avez été avertis.]

Discover that she gave the same interview on Ellen and you didn't miss much.

5. Translate phrases into Japanese, then back to English. Get childish giggles

6. GoogleEarth. Damn, that's entertaining. Fly from your childhood home, to college, to your first apartment. Try to spy on the Crawford Ranch. Does it seem pixelated to you?

7. Dial-up blogs on the Blogger Randomizer

8. Library of Congress Memory Page

9. Browse movie gaffes

10. Make this list

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Could this be satan’s footprint?

On the state road I drive to and from work, one house has displayed a 4ft diameter peace symbol, outlined in white lights, since about 2001. It is not a holiday season decoration; it is up all year round, and always switched on by nightfall. Farther east on that road, also on my commute, is a white sound-proofing fence on which the homeowners have painted a bright blue peace symbol. I don’t know how long that has been there. Longer than I have been driving that road.

I like seeing them on my daily route, like little prayers for our best efforts to get through another Worldly day. Like… “wishing you peace.” “Hope today is peaceful.” “Dude. Peace, right..?”

When you live in a part of the world where you will not likely be raided by bordering warlords and left to die on the savannah, you may not think of having someone send you such a wish – “Peace,” as equal to, “make it home alive,” --until you make yourself read it that way.

So I was flummoxed by the story of the Colorado woman who upset the neighborhood equilibrium by displaying a peace wreath on her front door. Have you seen it? It’s about the size of a ottoman (the footstool, not the muslim. Don’t get distracted by theological puns). What would this neighborhood association have done with my neighbors?

I am thankful to my Quakerish friend for providing some of the research here. We do not share a general theology, but both of our ancestors were thrown out of Massachusetts, so I think this helps maintain our open exchange of spiritual ideas. With her help, I bring you the “more” you have wanted to know about this story.

The rule she broke was about displaying “divisive” flags or signs.
Most likely meant to read “Pride” and “Vote Democrat,” respectively, in the county where Bush/Cheney took over 60% of the vote.

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Lk 12:51) snap.

Reputed peacenik Lisa Jensen was formerly president of the home owners’ association’s 3 member board.
Don’t you already sense there is more to this story than we will ever know? And that it involves the kind of property-line, dog-poop, loud stereo, easement abuse skirmishes of your own neighborhood?

Notice that Lisa is listed as the homeowner in most stories and yet Bill Trimarco lives there too. A clue?
One theory: they took the 2nd place white wine ribbon in last year’s Archuleta County Fair Beer/Wine/Spirits competition (it takes an Internet to raise a ruckus) and I think we’ll find some bad blood there.
Or is it their unAmerican practice of Aikido?

“If you let one go up, you have to let them all go up.”
One of many comments of the currently serving board president, Bob Kearns. This argument was less successful at removing the confederate battle flag from the South Carolina state house.

“It’s an anti-christ sign.”
Prince of Peace.
Peace that passeth understand.
Peace be with you.
The peace I leave with you. That Christ, you mean?

Here’s a whole lot on that topic.

Here is another history that identifies Bertrand Russell as the initiator of the contemporary symbol, such as that on Lisa Jensen’s house. Bertrand Russell, of course, also wrote Why I am Not a Christian, which might be what has people confused. Or just Bob.

While we’re listing non-christian symbols, let’s add
Christmas trees

How does this neighborhood get through Halloween?

“Some people might have kids in Iraq…”
When I support the troops – should I pray for peace, or continued roadside bombing?
I’m only the daughter of a veteran. Perhaps their parents feel differently.

“Some people complained.”
Apparently, there is no proof of this. According to the Architectural Control Committee, there had been no complaints except from the Board Chair. The entire committee was fired by the board chair.

The Board has since backed down.
The Board has 3 members, 2 of whom would not comment during this story. I think they got to Bob with a sock full of pennies.

Oh, my, now that ain’t christian…

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dispatch from the Front

Product Marketing is apparently harder than you think.
"...designed with children in mind..." my ass.

The Baronness sends this photo from a recent conference.
These people should send me a cease and desist any minute now.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ned Nickerson, Emersonian

Nancy nodded. "You know that my friend Ned Nickerson attends Emerson College. The safari has been organized by some of the professors. Boys who are majoring in botany, zoology, and geology are making the trip. They're being allowed to ask friends to go at the students' rate. Bess and George and i have signed up. Burt and Dave, their dates, will be along too."

How did I live so long and not know that Ned was an Emerson man? Ok, not that Emerson. As evidenced by the majors in botany, zoology, and geology. Or that Ned is a football star. Or named Ned.

Through my current immersion in Nancy (see reading list sidebar) I have have come to enjoy her "chums," as they were once called back when she drove a roadster and wore a cloche.
These poor unsung Pips of youth literature, always dragging around stupidly after our heroine, while marvelling at the exotic wonders of the world, like Indian elephant trainers and opera singers. Nancy, who spoke French and reasoned on her feet ("Somebody must have put acid on the handle of my suitcase! It's eating into our hands!") tolerated them for reasons that were never clear. I think because they provided easy exposition.

"When you're with Nancy, interesting things always seem to happen," George frequently declared. Every heroine needs a lady-in-waiting. God bless you, George. Marcie. Midge. all the Heathers... George does all the hard work, like rowing the boat and carrying the suitcases, whenever Ned isn't around. Which is most of the time.

George's unnecessary cousin. Her purpose seems to be to be "cute," only she isn't cute, and "Carolyn Keene" (you have to read Girl Sleuth to learn more about "her") seems to put her there just to call her fat. Bess opened her handbag and brought out a box of crackers and a candy bar.
She plays the role Ice T does on "Law and Order," which is to talk a while so Mariska Hargitay can catch her breath. George would totally be hot for Mariska.

I wanted to find proof that Nancy ever refers to him as her "boyfriend." I couldn't, but there are more than 50 titles. Besides being some sort of science/football all-around Emersonian, he is also a fraternity man, who meets Nancy in book 7 just in time for the big dance.
When he goes missing in #45, at the hands of a villain called Swahili Joe (oh my), Nancy enlists the chums to his rescue just as his dark wavy hair is becoming disheveled. Fetch the pomade!
He neglects to thank her for untying him, or Bess for the crackers. Ingrate.
See if I buy anything from him at The Wall.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Can't talk now -- renouncing satan...

Miss Bender will be out of the office for the next week, as she is off to meet her goddaughter.

We have discussed before my tendency to stumble into other people's religious ceremonies (here, here, and here). In this case I will be speaking for an infant I will have just met (future perfect - that is soo hot) , so I hope she's ok with it. When you are only a month old, and haven't really met a lot of people, you might want to withhold judgement on some, but I know her parents, so I will do them this thing.

I will try to leave you with some distractions in my absence. So many things to link.
You should occasionally check out the links to the left; they are frequently updated to keep you interested, and there is a lot of new material on the blogroll.

Also, enjoy a few places I like to play between fresh material. Pace yourself. See you on the other side of the week.

Urban Legends reference pages - good for keeping up with which celebrity is currently reputed to have said "Get on the floor Lady" in an elevator.

The Etiquetteer - extracurricular to the Business Women's Finishing School

PostSecret - the purest thing on the Internet. I hope it never turns out to be fake

Librivox - free audio books. There is more in the public domain than you thought. And you can literally read The Riot Act.

Ok enough linking. I think you must have a deadline or something to get to.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Acceptable spellings until the steno pool catches up

Live steno-captioning is much more difficult than you think, and after the midterm elections there is bound to be some lag. Here are the new spellings I learned at the bar the other night.

Oh Peck: How much gas you can buy for a dollar. (Oy! Ill!)

Con ceed: to give up. (Con carne... with meat)

Win es: people who win. In New England.

Caswulltees: What happens when we're hunting Iwackees. heh-heh-heh

Pee lowsee: The Speaker's name. Until we upgrade.

Speaking of the Speaker, enjoy this SNL opening, while the link lasts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Merck is trying to scare you


At least 3 times a week in the local paper (and perhaps every day, but these are the days I read it) there is a full page ad trying to convince me I have shingles. Or I would have shingles... if I were just more cutting edge.

Herpes Zoster is our friend chicken pox all grown up. (Herpes Zoroastra is chickenpox that serves the Seven Bounteous Creations, but that's not important right now.) And Merck would like you take Zostavax for it. They would also like some help coming up with more creative names for medications, since "pox-B-gone" and "shinglex" were already spoken for.

So let's play... scare vs. care.

Merck: 90% of adults are at risk for shingles.
Fact: true, but according to this logic -
People who have had chicken pox are at risk for shingles.
90% of US adults have had chicken pox.

You are also at risk for a rhinovirus. 61 million of us will get one this year; only 1 million will get
shingles. 60% of them will be in their 80s.

Merck: "You should know that there is no way to predict who will get shingles, or when."
My God, it's like Communism!

Don't make fun - isn't it serious?
When you are 80, everything is serious. Shingles can also be life-threatening if you are immune-deficient. So is the rhinovirus. And a plate of eggs.

It hurts, though. I've heard that.
You have heard that from Merck: "The shingles rash can be painful"
NIH: "For most healthy people, the lesions heal, the pain subsides within 3 to 5 weeks, and the blisters leave no scars." Chickenpox wouldn't have either, if you had left it alone.

So what does the vaccine do?
Key point about vaccines - you have to get them before you have the condition. Otherwise, it does nothing. And since shingles reputedly comes like a thief in the night, you are thinking you'd better get it NOW.

What you want to do is measure your odds against getting shingles (3 in 1000 in the 40 age group; 10 in 1000 over 80) against your odds of getting vaccine side effects
33.7% redness
33.4% pain
25% swelling
painful skin rash

painful skin rash

I like this section:
"Zostavax is used to prevent herpes zoster virus (shingles) in people age 60 and older...Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. " He would like to write a paper about you.

Moreover, the people most at risk for a life-threatening case of shingles (or, as your Aunt Betty is determined to call it, "THE shingles") can't actually take the vaccine:
Do not receive this vaccine if you have:
leukemia, lymphoma, or other cancer affecting bone marrow;
HIV or AIDS, or an infection related to either condition;
active untreated tuberculosis;
or if you are receiving medicines that weaken your immune system, such as steroids or cancer treatments.

"There may be other drugs that can affect Zostavax."
Old people don't take a lot of those, do they?

And.... and... it is not covered by Medicare.
"In the absence of injury or direct exposure, preventive immunization (vaccination or inoculation) against such diseases as smallpox, polio, diphtheria, etc., is not covered."

$150 bucks for the one time shot. Or, get to your doctor within 72 hours of attack for anitviral medications.
Call it a gamble.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Things to love and miss about Ed Bradley

That voice
What is that accent? Broadcast speech by way of Philadelphia. All the 60 Minutes guys have such distinct voices, like old radio men. They also have...

Vietnam cred
Click here and play "Oh God! They're Going to Cut My Arm Off" You'll need sound.

Journalist and Jazzman

It takes some finesse to diversify the 60 Minutes magazine without being the guy who interviews all the Black people.

That earring.
Here is a man not of the generation of men who got pierced, unapologetically sporting his earring while confronting the corporate bigwigs about where they hid the money. One source says that Liza (with the proverbial Z) gave him his first stud. This deflates the story somewhat -- I would rather know that he got it in the Navy when crossing the equator -- but then he would not be the first man I fell for who was inspired by Liza.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Fireside Chat

What really happened:
Deval Patrick left a message on my answering machine, first acknowledging that automated campaign messages are annoying, then encouraging me to vote, and for him if I could. And I probably will.

What I imagined happened:
Half an hour later, the phone rings and it is Grace Ross -- not a recording of Grace Ross, but actually her.

"Good Evening, this is Grace Ross, candidate for Governor."

I pause from stirring the bechamel sauce -- because in my imagination I am cooking a proper dinner instead of eating Cape Cod Cheddar/Jalapeno chips -- take a sip of wine (really, beer), shrug, and say, "Well hello, Miss Ross. This is a surprise."

"Is this Caroline Bender?"

"Let's keep things formal," I say, because I've had a little wine. And it's my fantasy, so we'll do things my way.

"Of course, Miss Bender. Is this a good time to talk?" She doesn't wait for reply. "Our records show you're on the fence."

"It's true. Can you help me out with that?"
"Is it because you can't imagine 2 women in the State House?" she asks.
"Your records are lacking some key information," I say.
"Not because I'm gay?" a pause. "Or my running mate is disabled?"
I sit on the kitchen stool, all Dick Cavett-like. "I really don't worry about that," I say.
"What's holding you back??"

I get what the Green party is, and in spite of the slang meaning of rainbow party, I suppose its political meaning is also obvious. And the "Wildly Left of Most of America" Party is probably too on the nose. But wouldn't it be something if they could make it happen: fully funded education, universal healthcare, protected wetlands, reduced sprawl, not to mention a governor who wrote position papers that don't try to be all things for all people.

I tell Miss Ross that I worry that the legislature won't respect her, that the crony-ism of Massachusetts politics will keep her administration spinning in paperwork for the next four years. I tell her that I trust her activist leadership, but that I think she is better placed in the legislative branch, not the executive.

I am not sure where Deval Patrick is best placed. I don't know that one's first public office should be the Massachusetts state house. I am still looking for the proof that he has any idea how to go about, for example, "stimulating investment in and relocation to Massachusetts." No doubt he will be lead by the senate as well, but toward a place (one hopes) they both want to go.

Christy Mihos should just stay as he is - local entrepreneur annoyed that he is the last native-bawn Bay Stater in politics. I am not sure how long 2 45 year-old Harvard graduates have to be considered "outsiders," but apparently until they learn to say "jimmies." Christy should be happy 2 Harvard graduates decided to stay. But that almost sounded like something nice about Kerry Healy.

Grace is a sensible woman. As we hang up, she tells me she just wanted the ideas raised, and to be taken seriously, and to represent the working people, and I thank her for that. She asks if I have her vote, and I say I don't know.

At 7:12am, I don't know. I have no problem with the symbolic vote, especially in a state where another Deocratic vote carries little weight. I haven't voted for Kennedy in years. I don't vote against him; I just don't vote for him. I resent that he takes my vote for granted. And I voted Green in the last governor's race because Democrat Shannon O'Brien showed her true colors in the end, and that wacky gun-totin' Libertarian candidate whose name I can't even remember gave me the full-on heebie-jeebies. And there are those who say Mitt Romney won the day because I didn't vote Democrat. I say Mitt Romney won the day because Republicans actually vote.

Get out there. And be glad you are not in danger of being inked or shot.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Makin' Pies

This is the kind of entry that interests me a great deal, and you maybe none at all. But I don't charge you to this read this, and there are no intersitials, so skip it if you want.

Earlier I criticized the Union Products website as being inferior, and was going to make a point about other locally-owned industries of common household items (I myself have never bought), to prove that you don't have to be Nabisco to have a fancy-pants website.

"America's favorite pie." Really?
Then again, this is America's favorite sport, so I shouldn't be so skeptical.

18 flavors of 4 inch pie.
"A leader in the 4” baked pie category..."
Is Table Talk in fact America's FAVORITE?

Ladies and Gentlemen.... Pie Statistics.
You don't have to click that just yet; I'll do that for you. (Suburbia says this is my gift to society and that I should hire myself out to read legal documents and summarize them)

Table Talk is, in fact, the #4 best seller, according to the 2005 Census of Manufactures -- 5.6M in dollar sales that year -- hugely ahead of Krispy Kreme, which is not even Top 10.
Table Talk is a "snack pie," like Hostess and Entemanns and Little Debbie. The census distinguishes between snack, fresh, and frozen.

This would seem to challenge the claim of favorite, so I next visited The American Pie Council - "The country’s only organization dedicated to preserving America’s pie heritage and promoting America’s love for pie, year-round."
(italics mine. Is there is some organization doing it only part of the year? We must find them and rub them out)

topics from this year's Pie Council Seminar:
Sales in Today's Industry
What the Market Wants Today
Nutrition in Pies
Pie As a Marketing Idea
Ingredients for Today's Pies
Pacakaging Innovations
Shelf Stable Pies
Oh my, what are the unstable pies? Mmmm...neon and cinnamon...

Don't underestimate the power of the pie publicist, who can get 2 full morning zoo minutes of pie talk. I once knew an ice cream publicist. She'll back me up on this - morning radio is all about product payola. But for all that, the Council won't endorse a favorite.

I wrote to the fine people at Table Talk, to find out how many of America's favorite snack pies are made every day, but the sales coordinator did not reply. Perhaps I should have pretended to be a 7th grader writing a report for school. Or Opie and Anthony.
I was also unable to confirm the number of employees down-the-Talk, or any real business facts about the company at all, but leave it to eBay to once again have the last word on any web search.

Pie tins are collectible! One yankily-frugal description reads, "You are bidding on a vintage pie tin. The bottom of the pie tin says New England,Flaky Crust Pie,Table Talk,5c deposit." One must add, by necessity, "Oooo... haaaah?"

PS - this is a great song. If you're the downloading type, get this one.

One slice of pumpkin left.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Flight of the Flamingos

Union Products of Leominster went ahead with production of the 50th anniversary gold-version lawn flamingo. But the factory won't be open much longer.

In 1957, when things "tropical," and "Polynesian," were popular, when even kitchen appliances were available In Living Color, Fitchburger Don Featherstone shaped the phoeniclpteris ruber plasticus (in collectors' circles, called p.r.p) into the lawn bird we know today.

Union Products has fallen into hard times, and will close its plant Nov 1.

Production of the birds (and other unnecessary yard crap) shut down in June. Though Union used to produce a 1/4 million birds per year, and required wholsalers to buy in minimum orders of 500 units, production costs just got to be much, says Chief Exec Dennis Plante.

Sources say that 2 companies have expressed interest in purchasing the molds (standing up bird... head down bird...) complete with Featherstone's signature (the mark of the real deal), but those bids are still open.

No doubt, Union Products' poorly designed website is getting a multitude of hits, from links in articles, not to mention my own dozen visits to it while writing this post. Here, click it a whole bunch of times.

Leominster, MA -- The Pioneer Plastics City -- remains solid despite this loss of kitsch kred. After all, this is the city that survived the departure of Foster Grant and Dupont and the autism cluster they [allegedly] left behind.

The National Plastics Museum will no doubt score a few of those gold flamingos. Perhaps even the Smithsonian will want a few. They could stage a special Central Mass cultural contribution exhibit, including Harvey Ball's smiley face, Tupperware, and Agnes Moorhead.

Next time... Table Talk Pies, which you wouldn't think would need a website. stay tuned.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"I’m a Christian for a variety of reasons. Maybe because it’s easy."
~~ John Ashcroft

May I suggest, sir, that if it is easy, you might not be doing it correctly.

For a certain generation, of a certain background, Christianity was tangled in their formative years into an amalgam with patriotism, citizenship, and good grooming -- what "decent" people are. And what is easier than being decent?

Certainly it is easy to have your religious holidays federalized, especially the easier of the two, all mangers and drummer boys and Judaen snow.
Easy to have it secularized, so you don't need permission to wear its symbols or vestments, even on Halloween.
Easy to find a church on every corner, even if you don't really go.
Easy to defend a nation that does not designate a state religion and still holds Mass for the Supreme Court.
Easy not to worry about being thrown out of your country for following it.
Easy to believe in a granted Grace, just because you're you, ya little scamp.

Perhaps what he meant in that statement is "it's easy to say I'm a Christian."
Living a Christian life takes a lot more effort.

It is not easy to believe
Nearly every Christian I know has struggled (or does) with the Creed itself --
sometimes unable to actually say parts of it. It's no oversight that there is no handle on that door Jesus knocks on so politely. You have to invite him in to dine.
Look at this one, with the apprehensive knuckle scratch. Meanwhile Elijah strolls right in to a warm plate waiting.

It is not easy to understand
Christian theology can be academic to a crippling degree, (perhaps because so much of it is in Latin), and lingers on topics that have few practical applications: baptism controversy, dialogical personalism, the doctrine of salvation. Revelations.

It is not easy to practice
In many ways it goes right against human nature (forgiveness? sacrifice?) and certainly American nature (humility? poverty? whatever...). Even the Peace that Passeth Understand can not keep me from saying, about 10 times a day, "I could punch that guy right in the head." But I don't punch him, so I've got that working for me.
Our well-groomed crusading lawmakers must have noticed The United States is the only self-described "christian nation" that practices executions.

It is not easy to defend
I won't. The agreement is, I don't ask you to change your life; don't ask me to change mine. But understand that our expectations of the World are profoundly different.
Rev Phelps, pedophile priests, the Inquisition, the guy with the pamphlets at Park Street station... I can't explain them. They don't define my reationship with God any more than the Federlines should define your marriage.

"He’s so simple. His simplicity and just he’s like a boy. He just, you know, and he cares. He cares so much and his—his heart is awesome. He has a really big heart and I love that."
~~ Britney Spears

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Return of the Yellow Jackets

Perhaps I have written about the yellow jackets here before. They moved onto the deck over the summer. On a work-at-home 80 degree day I noticed outside the deck window. This is how I know they were entering and exiting through a seam on the door framing, to go who knows how far deep into the walls of my house. Yadda Yadda traps and spray.. they were dead and the crack was sealed and the trap full of dead bodies -- their little heads on little pikes I made especially for this purpose to deter others.

Yesterday one appeared inside.
By mid-October in NE, certain creatures are expected to have gone back to their winter lairs until the sun comes back: the buskers, the Red Sox, and the yellow jackets.

This is how I know you should not use wasp spray indoors, because it comes out like a firehose, and blew back the sheers before it even dripped on the one yellow jacket I was trying to kill. But I hadn't used it before. I had had a vision of being on my deck with no means of escape except the sliding door they lived under, which would have to be kept closed to keep them from escaping inside.

I'd been meaning to wash the sheers anyway.
This is how I know you should dry-clean your sheers instead of washing them.

But it's a gentle cycle, and a front-loader. Minimal stress to the fabric, and I've seen what goes on at the dry cleaner. And I'm thinking, this is one of those Great Moments in Homeownership, where not only do I have sheers, but I am actually going to clean them. I wouldn't have taken them to a laundromat any more than I would send them to the cleaners.

This is how I know that there is not enough fabric in a load of eight sheer panels, or enough water in a front loading gentle cycle to justify the amount of Woolite I used. This is also how I know that even though yours is a privately owned washer, and not really locked when it is running, and you can stop it whenever you want... you really shouldn't open that door.

So one spin cycle later and the water is drained and the floor is mopped (as my own husband, I chose to use the bath towel that was in the laundry anyway), but the machine is full of suds, and so are the curtains. I unsheathed them from layers of puffy bubbles into the bathtub while running the wash cycle again without anything in it. I recalled that as a apartment dweller, I belonged to a gym that had a swimsuit spinner that would take care of this easily, and imagined myself sneaking down there with a dripping gym bag. How many panels would I get through before someone came out of the locker room? And this is how I know you can't tumble dry anything that wet. And that wicker laundry hampers don't hold water. But that the Kenmore is still a very efficient machine.

Another wash for the curtains, again without soap, and they were not actually this dirty.
Now they are drying on racks. Stupid yellow jackets.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Speaking of Netflix

Speaking of Netflix, I came onto something interesting recently while not being able to access my Friends list (for DAYS, and whatever feature upgrade is going on better blow me away). As you recall, the DVD rental company settled a class action suit after it was proven by the most voracious users that there was in fact a limit being enforced behind the scenes that deliberately slowed down users’ delivery dates once a certain monthly limit was set. This became popularly termed “throttling,” and Netflix admitted that it was true.

They can still use the term “unlimited,” and they explain it like this: “In our unlimited plans, we do not establish a monthly limit on the number of DVDs you can rent, however, the actual number of DVDs you rent in any month will vary based on a number of factors.” These factors are explained in great detail deeper in the Terms & Conditions, where in sum they say “unlimited…except for… when you are being greedy.”

But Netflix Friends, the joke’s on us. Because while they settled for a paltry “free 1 month upgrade” (costs them nothing because they intend to throttle you – enjoy the upgrade), they get the last laugh.

The throttle is patented.

No. 7,024,381. US PAT OFF calls it “Max Turns”: “In this situation, up to a specified number of total items are simultaneously rented to customer 102 and up to a specified number of item exchanges may be made during a specified period of time.”

You’ve got to admire that.

You might be surprised to hear what I think about the throttle, as a customer who gets throttled hard around the 20th of every month, and has adjusted my consumption to compensate for it (Max Flix, if you will). When the “scandal” began to break that Netflix were not unlimited, I thought, “well of course they didn’t really mean unlimited.”

One pictures those canvas-bag toting cinemaniacs – so devoted to the movies that they can’t hold down jobs. (put that movie in your queue. Pray you are not one.)

Instead I thought, “that’s fair.” Then I found out it is actually formulaically designed, and even plans in a hedge against “rollover.” That is, they allow 3 flips per film, or nine films in a calendar month for the basic subscription, but the system doesn’t bank your flips if you don’t use them. So even if you have been their patsy for 6 months, sitting on the same films you started with, once you get wise and start flipping…. You don’t get any bonus points.

You have stopped reading, haven’t you? Everyone has politely coughed and slipped out of the auditorium except for the product designers and system engineers, the movie geeks, and my mother. Well, as long as we are alone….

I can’t say I have beaten the throttle, but I have learned to alternate feature films (say 2 hours in length) with series and mini-series (sometimes 4 hours) which maximizes the viewing time without over flipping.

I have a chart here somewhere. Hand me that canvas bag.

Monday, October 9, 2006


Here's what's happening in our corner of Blogland. Suburbia's network began to challenge each other to post yearbook photos. I was so moved by her bravery, I couldn't say No. And where her network intersects our network... well here you go.

Let me provide you with some responses, as I can see your mouth is hanging open:

1. If those glasses were any bigger, they would be a space helmet.

2. If Vermeer had painted this, it would be called Brawny Girl with Drape.

3. Drapes: a staple of Southern portraiture, and only 1/3 of the Senior portrait trilogy -- the others being "cap and gown" and "formal." What is more formal than a drape, you are thinking? Or perhaps you have just politely averted your eyes.

4. The necklace is my Newspaper Editor pendant. When you are not quite cool enough for Lettering.

5. The Dorothy Hamill took more work than I could commit to.

The better portrait is this one, since this is really more what I looked like, then and now, only now with less cheek-chub and much smaller glasses. This is Miss Bender's expression in dull meetings right before she decides to say what everyone is thinking.

That is Dr. M behind me, she of the Christmas pickle mythology. Notice how she looks bored in Trigonometry class, while I look about to vomit. She, of course, became a SuperGenius and is about to retire at 42. I wrote a clever poem parody about Trigonometry instead and got out of there with a C. Thanks to the miracle of "electives," I still managed to graduate 5th in the class. Dr. M was 2nd, but it's a very touchy subject.

If you are on my Blogroll, you are Double Freeze Tagged/No Take Backs. Cough up your photos.

The floor is now yours. Comments are un-moderated.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Inexplicable Clip Art

I was writing something more meaningful this morning -- perhaps too meaningful for 7am, but I had to take this turn instead.

Does the dog need AOL? Is that the distress on its face? Or just that it's sitting dangerously close to Sterno? Or is it his companion (who, judging by her hand is too old for that outfit) who is home alone eating cheese fondue with her dog because she just can't reach out to her friends who have connected via e-mail to eat at a trendier restaurant?

AOL has been rotating this "for god's sake, get AOL" ad for some time now. The art has never made me think, "Yes! That is me! I feel just like that, and it's because I don't have AOL Mail!" The one before this was a guy blowing bubbles under water: ("I don't know why I can't get the Internet down here!") Another was a happy couple joining hands and jumping for joy in a wilderness meadow. Perhaps they had just thrown their Treos over a cliff.

The strangest part is that one is "served" this ad (you know who I work for) on the AOL email log in page. "Huh. Wonder if I have an email account." [click] "Man! I don't. Awww, look at the dog. " [chuckle] "That's cute. I should get AOL. Honey? Why don't we ever have fondue?"

I invite the advertising/PR wing of the Readership to explain.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Christmas Pickle Debunked

In response to the Native-ity scene, Dr. M requests clarification of the Christmas Pickle, which her catalog claims is "an old German tradition," and she suspects is... not.

Miss Bender gleefully rubs her hands together (you know perfectly well Miss Bender's alter ego could never perform such an act, but she will let Miss Bender do so for poetic license), cracks her knuckles (oh yes, she does indeed do that) and grabs the threads.

Terry's Village writes, "European tradition dictates that the pickle is to be hidden in your decorated Christmas tree, and the first child to find the pickle is rewarded with an extra gift from Santa."

1. You would think Europe's track record on dictating would be a turnoff
2. You are perhaps thinking of the Afikoman.
If you hadn't been so zealously dictating things, Europe, you might know that.

Anyway. contains an article called "German Misnomers, Myths and Mistakes." Myth #11 is Die Weihnachtsgurke. You almost want it to be true, don't you?

Unfortunately, this tale can not be validated by actual Germans. Glass pickle ornaments can be traced to FW Woolworth, who sold them as early as 1880, and they were imported from Germany, where the fashion in glass-blowing also included fruit and bread-shaped ornaments. This being a peak period for Victoriana in the US, when most of our Christmas traditions were defined (thanks for the trees, Prince Albert), it is highly likely that the "German tradition" just made them more marketable.

The Terry's Village pickle is under $5. So start a tradition.
Please also enjoy the Torah Tots webpage of Chanukah games.
Enjoy everything about Torah Tots. Enjoy saying Torah Tots.

Also on the myth list
#10 - Hilter and Jesse Owens - Hitler wasn't there that day.
And FDR didn't invite Owens to the White House either.

Now to unravel that Peppermint pig... (note: "also available - replacement pig" excellent)

Sunday, October 1, 2006

I can save your Netflix marriage

As a self-appointed ambassador of the Netflix experience, I must implore you: Flip your lists. You are not getting your money's worth.

My informal polling shows much of the problem stems from single-spouse domination of the queue. This is not a male/female issue; you know who you are.

She uses up precious queue space with "Get Fit Fast," which somehow never sees the inside of the machine. He discovers the entire Dr Who series and loads every one.

He can not comprehend flipping an unwatched (perhaps unOPENED [ I gasp ] ) disc despite having paid for it 3 months over. She discovers the entire Land Before Time series and loads every one for the kids. (Really, after #1, Land Before Time becomes a merchandising vehicle. Don't ask how I know).

He likes bitchy cable network comedies; he likes soft-core porn.

She likes 70s foreign films featuring fields of wheat; she likes 70s sit-coms.

So here's the secret, in 2 steps.
Step 1: Up your membership to the 4 level.
It is only a few dollars more than 3-per-month, and you are already losing money on that. Four per month gives each of you 2 films and sets you up for...

Step 2: Get your own Queue
This is quite simple to do, and costs no extra scratch. In fact, if you have kids, get them one too.
While logged into your account, go to the Queue tab, then click "Add Queue."
Take it from there.

You can even get the discs addressed to yourself, in case there is any confusion about whose are whose. Not to worry, though -- Netflix remembers, and replaces returned discs with the next in that queue.

Single queue owners: you can use this too.
Keep a 2nd queue for things you don't want your Friends list to know about. I don't suggest to know what that means for you. Maybe it IS The Land Before Time series. None o' my worry. Mine is the workout discs. And I'll tell you that "Get Fit Fast" only works if you exercise.

General tip about clogging your queue with complete series. Unnecessary. You can replace the returned Disc 1 with Desc 2 etc. But the queue does hold 500 titles, so maybe I am just talking about myself again.

By the way.. this man and I have run off together. Separate queues, of course.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Philadelphia Freedom

Something amazing is happening to Bruce Jenner.
Lest you mistake the figure on the left for your RA from freshman year, or your TA from sophomore year, that is indeed Bruce Jenner on too much Botox and silicone.

The Decathelete is beginning to look like a lesbian.

And not just any lesbian, mind you, but one unflattering tennis skirt away from Billie Jean, which is certainly aiming for the stars. Let's give him credit for picking a powerhouse role model.

20 Wimbledon titles
4 US Championships
The public humiliation of Bobby Riggs

For his own trophy case, Jenner just has the Olympic gold medal, the Wheaties box ,and Can't Stop the Music.

And he looks cute, too, in a clog-and-fleece, horseback riding, women's college poet, organic farming, alternate Saturdays at the co-op kind of way. You might chat hir up at the bookstore reading or the public parks clean-up day. (The trannies tell me we are spelling it hir now. One must keep up-to-date. You see how I didn't say "abreast" just now?)

He is not fierce , or even camp. Just a girl next door trying to make it in a world that must not judge her love.

And while we're celebrating everyone's right to do their own thing, please support this guy.
He makes Wheaties display boxes.

And that, my friends, is what we mean by drawing-in.

Friday, September 22, 2006

6 Degrees of the Internet

It started with a link to Hawthorne Village for the image below, and I began to free-associate-link through a subculture:
People who shop for the native-ity scene also like
Precious Moments, who like
Thomas Kinkade, who like
Dale Earnhardt, who like
NASCAR (natch), who like
Lifelike scuptures of their own pets ("purr-fect," says the link), who like
Collectible plates, who like
Clocks that make animal noises, who like
Charms, who like
Poems on placards...

and I began to wonder if I could prove a link between this group and their antithesis, the Northeastern liberal pencil-neck intellectual, whose link chain looks like this:
People who buy Bill Clinton's My Life also like
Bumper stickers, who like
Keith Haring, who like
Rainbow flags, who like
Organic produce, who like
Solar panels, who like
Revisionist history texts, who like
Herstory, who like
Storytellers, who like...
Native Americans!

and iPods.
and homeschooling.

I need more paper.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The past 2 years just got away from me

When you receive a birth announcement from a friend you didn't realize was pregnant... and whose first child you haven't yet met... you have lost touch with your friend.

As my office mate says, "You guys are tight, huh?"

Um, yeh. Sorry. I'll get right on that.
Jill B, from the Factory, readers. If you didn't get the announcement, I'll send. And thanks, Jill, for keeping me in your address book, even though I so clearly suck.

Ryan Joseph at 1:31PM today weighing in at 8 pounds and 1 ounces and 20 inches long

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I must give J---e B--u full credit for making that joke, but damn I wish I had.

I do not read Parade magazine for the celebrity gossip bet-settling, or the arthritis advice, or the Howard Huge cartoon. I read Parade magazine for the jaw-droppingly bad collectible art, and regularly exchange finds with several friends.

Headdresses off to the household that sent Nativity of the Christmas Star.

I have no beef with the multicultural Jesus. Here's a nice one (beautifully titled "Jesus at the Door, Black." As if Jesus at the door is not stunning enough.). The one I keep in my own sightline is fairly unorthodox. I like that he looks happy and well-fed. Don't go to Jerusalem, Josh!

Christians are not offended by Nativity of the Christmas Star, but certainly Native Americans are. Qutes below are actual ad copy.

"Creche Lights Up!"
And why wouldn't it? I love the Hyacinth Bucket pomposity of the word creche, which is certainly used only by people who collect them. It is so much icing on an already damp cake.

"Share in the spiritual bond between Native Americans and the miracle of the Holy Night..."
You weren't aware of that, were you? That's because you have never searched eBay for the phrase "native nativity." You must do that live.

"...inspired by the Native American art style."
You know the one: the tourquoise-on-beige one.

"For it's been said that because of that wonderous night, the Native American lives everyday in the giving spirit of Christmas..."
Holy Macanolli! Who said that, William Henry Harrison?

"...including two fully sculptural lambs..."
Honestly, I don't know what that means.

"...strong demand is expected."
Not according to eBay

"Meticuously painted..."
by shut-ins

"...sculpted faux beadwork..."
Cletis! Wut's fee-oh?

Hawthorne Village also made an Irish nativity -- which means green and white, with Celtic symbols (you know, the knotty looking things).

Oh, and didn't the Celts love when the Christians moved in? Almost as much as the Native Americans did.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Need to Believe

NPR had the scoop: LonelyGirl is fictional. The 15 year-old video blogger, intellectually stifled by her parents, is the concoction of a pair of amateur screenwriter/filmmakers, as interpreted by actress Jessica Rose.

Just another Gotcha from the culture that brought you James Frey, John Karr, and Chapacubras of Maine.

We do love a good story, especially a too-good-to-be-true story. We speak of people being "in character," "acting out," "editorializing." We "enter into dialogue." And more than anything, we want "closure, " which the Journal of Nervous Mental Disease recently defined as “the desire for a definite answer on some topic, any answer compared with confusion and ambiguity.” (I can link you to that article, but you won't really read it) Perhaps the Journal could get the delusion-prone together with the pathological liars and they could form a salon.

"There I was: surrounded."

I've been thinking about this need to believe since viewing The Night Listener, a new film based on Armistead Maupin's book of the same name. This story of a man desparate to prove a lie, and terrified of succeeding at it, may itself be a lie -- as Maupin claims it happened (or is "inspired" by something that happened) to him. In an important scene in the center of the story, the lead character finds how easy it is to fabricate one's story, and how good it feels to give a listener something they want to hear.

James Frey claims that when he submitted the manuscript of A Million Little Pieces as a novel, publishers were uninterested. When he resubmitted the material as his memoir, it got immediate attention. He presents this as a "what-ya-gonna-do" apology, but he certainly enjoyed the marketing campaign and book tour that came with it.

But he picked the wrong victim when he hoaxed Oprah -- quite the storyteller in her own right.

Now John Karr may fit the JNMD profile when he simply scarificed himself to provide the closure we all needed (or maybe just him) to the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder. When he first confessed, I almost posted a piece called, "I was wrong about you, Patsy." But I took too long. Now I can go back to thinking it was her again. Fewer plot holes.

It's interesting how quickly we embrace the original story, then immediately reject it when the truth comes out... but we only fall for that once. That is, if the hoax is itself revealed to be a hoax (he did not have sexual relations with that woman) we just won't buy it.

Deep Throat really should have been George Bush. Or even Diane Sawyer. Much more interesting. Having Mark Felt walk in out of nowhere was like those expository last 15 minutes of every Mystery! episode where it's not even the butler who did it, but a footman who only had one line in the opening credits, when the camera lingered on his gloves.

Speaking of expository writing, I find I have no conclusion to this post. No closure, if you will. No summary, no Jerry Springer parting thoughts, no benediction. But I'll keep typing until it looks like I do.

Let me close with the reminder that everything on the Internet is absolutely true.
like this maybe
or this
or, I certainly do hope this. Because that's a great story.

Monday, September 18, 2006

It is a Summer of White Wisteria...

...growing on a short vine around the oak trees in the front yard. It is a vine we never expected to see again, because last summer there had been no rain, and most of it had dried up, even baked away in places where buds should have appeared. But it is raining today, and has been raining since Wednesday. It is hot in the car waiting behind the school bus, watching the blinking red lights, listening to the fans blowing in the dashboard. Stopping at every corner as the kids get out.

Sometimes it is a small one -- t-shirt and jeans, camouflaged knapsack over one shoulder, androgynous from the back. Youngish teenagers, arms and legs too long, hide cigarettes in their palms and take quick drags as if biting their thumbnails.

There is only one bus. The big teenagers ride in the back. Walter Marlin has stretched his arms across the back seat, one reached around Patricia, and his shoulders make little hills beow his ears. He is wearing his cap backwards. There will be no football team next year, and Walter feels cheated. He's waited a long time.

He has to ride past the last corner of what can be called Town, the corner where Patricia gets off. They kiss as if it will be months before they see each other tonight. She takes his cap and puts it on her own head, brim-front. The cap is bue and white, reading Spartans on the front, 40 on the brim. She points to the wisteria vines, but Walter doesn't see what she means. He is reaching for his cigarettes in the pocket of his shirt. The driver lets him smoke this last half mile because he is the only one left, and because he wants one himself.

Patricia has two blocks to walk, but her mother is there with the car to pik her up, an umbrella over her head and plastic scarf on her hair. She is waving, partly to Walter, but he doesn't see. He is striking a match.

The rain comes in waves, slowing a little, then heavy again. The bus turns around on the Marlins' land and waits for stray traffic to pass before it heads back to the other end of the road to park behind the elementary school until morning.

People like to argue doesn't it get hotter every year, but then someone says, no it's just that when you get older you feel it more. Someone says, no you remember more summers, just like you think the winters are different because there are more to compare. Polar ice cap, someone says. Someone who subscribes to National Geographic. Does that substantiate the heat or the cold? There is a clap of thunder and the dogs get scared.

That road the bus is on, that's Juniper Street for a about five miles. The rest of the time it is Rt. 17, going down toward Van Doren in one direction and San Bernardo in the other. "Directly between Van and San," someone tried to coin. It's not accurate, but that "directly," made it sound better. We are closer to Van Doren, where the 3M plant is, only about 20 minutes from the northside of town. Most of the citizens of Fulton work there, making tape. But the videocasette business is nearly dead and the Van Doren plant may have to switch to the transparent kind. Fulton worries about this, and for good reason.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sheela Na Gig

Drawing your attention to traditional celtic music as performed by Sheela Na Gig, from Chicago. Link to them from the blog roll on the left and you can download samples of their music.

You may recognize the whistle player, if you can see behind the titles. Drop by their page and tell them how you like it. Remember you read it on Drawing-In.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hey There

I purchased the Sony CD changer for 2 reasons, and the lesser of the two was to get rid of CD racks and jewlcases 4-eva. The greater reason was because it allows you to categorize (oh, sweet list making) your discs and then play them by category. You can also play the whole crazy collection, on shuffle, and enjoy the randomization that puts Tory Amos right after Robert Goulet.

What I have observed, sitting here for the past 2 hours listening to showtunes while updating the website, is that I own enough covers of "Hey There," that it plays about every 5th song. I can't itemize which versions they are, but it's not because you are not worth the drawing-in. It is because the changer is downstairs, and because (remember) I got rid of the jewelcases. But I am fingertips away from

"The most comprehensive music reference source on the planet" (their copy) lists 194 versions, but most of them are Rosemary Clooney, and hers is still the best.

There is a Kathie Lee Gifford version. She can make anything sound like the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. And I don't mean that in a good way. It's like she doesn't really know what the lyrics are; she just likes to sound BIG. In 4 notes.

Better forget her.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

That is not what an engine looks like, by the way

When the boys at the dealership greet you by name, it might be time to get a new car. Bob, the Service Manager, gives me a once-over and says, "Are you here for service?"
I say, "Oh, I just come from the coffee now."

When I think of how a month ago I panicked (literal heart-pounding "better pull this car over" panic) when my Check Engine light came on while driving, I have to laugh at myself. Now I am one of these people . What we call... Known Issue.

And Mike the mechanic, with whom I am practically having an affair (or at least he is certainly getting the bulk of the entertainment budget) agrees with Johnholl of this discussion group, who says "vent valve." And says, of course, one can not replace the valve alone. It is part of some gigantic assembly that is still 1/10 the cost of a new car. So what do you think I'll do?

The engine is fine. It should be a "check valve" light. We used to drive around coughing leaded emissions without being nagged by our dashboards. I'm for the environment, I promise you. But if it weren't for the inspection requirement, I would probably black tape that little light, and feel not the slightest twinge.

After all, I got started driving an IED. Sometimes it would stop on highway on-ramps. Takes more than a drawing on an engine to worry me. Click here, Pinto lovers.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Explicating Anonymous

The half-crumpled paper towels are crimped in the middle, where they have gripped the bathroom door handle before they were discarded to the floor. There are usually 3 or 4 by the end of the day, though one afternoon there were more than 10. Apparently someone isn't feeling very well.

Someone we work with thinks we are all so germy she should not touch the door handle, but that her litter could not, -- in any way -- contribute to the germ problem in the bathroom. She must be the same woman who uses a seat cover, but doesn't discard that either.

I wonder at the shock of discovering who this is. It wouldn't take much effort, just a lot of time, and a lot of fake primping in the mirror as the regulars come and go. What if it's someone I know? Would I simply blurt, "That's you?! what the hell's wrong with you?" Or would I try to protect her dignity: "Oops, you dropped something there"? Am I person who says oops?

I am not a person who puts up bathroom signs, though I certainly think of them. I edit and rework until I find the succinct language I think will do the trick.

Inconsiderate people do not change their behavior in response to a sign, as if they didn't know that eating other people's lunches, dropping paper towels on the floor, or leaving their dishes in the sink is "not done." "Oh, no?" they would say, blinking with wonder, "Why didn't someone say something?"

Some sign writers appeal to this stranger in our strange land with gentle pleading language like, "We must all share this area. Please keep it clean." (In truth, that sign would be comma-spliced, since the gentle sign leaver tends toward the ungrammatical: "To whomever use's this bathroom please keep it clean, it is everyones.") Laundromat missionary types.

Others know that bathroom slobs simply don't care. The party who puts up signs to them wants the populace to know that they do care and it isn't them. "This is not a trash can," they may post, above the towel pile. Perhaps just an arrow, and the word "Pig." Borderline graffiti, really. And a little brown-shirty.

I tend toward prag-castic. That is, a sign that suggests you would if you just knew how, but left to your own devices, you made a wrong choice. The typical adjective for this style is "bitchy."

"Please discard paper towels in the trash can." Ooohhhh. I see now.

So while we are at it, the receptacle inside the stall is not a trashcan. It is a holding bin for the wax disposal bags. Take one bag out, put your personal refuse in it, close the bag, bring it out with you, and throw it away. (please do not drop it behind the door). When you wad it back into the receptacle, or put your refuse directly into the receptacle (assuming there is a bag in there to catch it all, and of course that would be the better design) you remove all desire for the next person to reach in and take her bag.

If all of this is disturbing the male readership, here's one for you: stand closer please.
And get out of our bathroom. We'd like you to think we are as clean in public as we complain about at home. We are not.

Two Canada bathroom stories: Canadian bathrooms had a syringe disposal receptacle, usually near the sink, but sometimes in the stall.

My favorite bathroom sign was on Peggy's Cove, where potable water comes from one reservoir, and non-potable from a cistern. This is a paraphrase, but quite close: "This water is clean. The previous water did not neglect to flush. This water comes from an underground cistern, which discolors its appearance. Our drinking water comes from a different reservoir and is filtered. Thank you for your concern."

Read: Don't complain, and don't put up your own sign. And have a nice day.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2001

real journal entry

Wondering if I will regret more that I did keep a diary of these days, or that I didn't. Not knowing what the future will bring, I don't know what comfort words will bring now, or what purpose they will serve in the distant years.

It is nearly 11pm now. The newscasters are exhausted, but not relieved by any of the anchorwomen who could take their places. The images are overplayed and only Fox is brave enough to say that they have others, but we don't want to see them.

The facts will be well recorded, and perhaps as this is read, uninteresting. Here are the human interest stories of my day.

25 ear-old men have no frame of reference for what they are facing, but they know it looks cool on the Internet.

If I strap a ceramic blade to my leg and board a plane, is that a breach of security?

Would I have the courage to crash a plane rather than let it be hijacked? How could I be sure this is a better choice?

At this time, everyone seems sure the mastermind is bin Laden, because we can't think of anyone else.

George W looks like a chimp.

The sky without planes is eerily quiet, and empty looking. In the deep silent night, every passing car sounds like an approaching jet. I slept some on the couch, some in my bed. But always with the lights on and only fitfully.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Highlights from Clinton Day

The arts.

Perfect weather for Clinton's Olde Home Day. In New England, Home Day is what your town has if it is not rural enough for a fair. If you are in the city, and not a town at all, you have Freshman Move-in. You leave for a good Town Day or county fair.

Here are yesterday's observations:

Something for everyone, if you put "Photos with a Princess" across from The Travelling Reptile Exhibit and the state police rollover crash demonstration. She was clearly Disney's Cinderella, but not Disney-sanctioned, so just "a princess." Girls were invited to wear their princess gear, and they did.

My townfolk are game enough to catch flying $1 bills in a plastic booth and stage a pie-eating contest. But not at the same time.

The one boy in the Irish step-dancing troupe has grown and seems a little less self-conscious about being the one boy in Irish step-dancing troupe.

Puppet shows will still draw a crowd. Ditto the kids' tae kwon do demo. I also learned that boys will twirl batons if they think it is a martial art.

Highlight from the library book sale was a children's book called You Can Be Liked which had the added bonus of its cover stamped in red ink, "Discard. Discard. Discard."

Basket Beanery makes a first rate lemon slushie.

Really, nothing beats the Agnes Moorehead sign. This was just an excuse to post it.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Men's Favorites

Finding the current guest-blog A Perfect World - premiere source for proof of the Lemon Frog - is one of my favorite threads we've drawn-in recently. Not only did the hilarious presentation of the Sears 1971 catalog kill an entire hour, but blogger "Toonhead" also has a section devoted to the Betty Crocker recipe card file.

I am not ashamed to report that at one time I could recite this entire info-mercial, as presented by star of stage and screen Miss Nanette Fabray. It started with her blowing an over-sprayed curl off her forehead and back onto her helmet of hair and declaring, "Cooking Can be a Bore!"

The Betty Crocker recipe card file had saved her sanity, thanks to its Budget Casseroles and Children's Parties categories, all pictured in glorious technicolor (and stereophonic sound. That... is a very obscure Nanette Fabray joke that one other living person will get, which brings me to...)

Introduction of Dodie to the drawingin site. Dodie is not her real name -- it is her childhood family nickname -- and it does not hide her identity anymore than I hide mine, but I figure if I get a pseudonym, she should too. I think she misses my being able to perform the Fabray monologue much more than I do, since for years she could call it up like I was a jukebox.

Even today, she will call just to quiz me on specific recipes/per-category, especially "Mmmenn's favorites," which you must say with a lot of M (sounds like YUM, because the way to man's heart...etc). So here, for you Doe, are Wakiki Meatballs.... and Cranberry Puffs.

We had the card file in our house, of course. Doe and I would study them like flashcards, and I can guarantee we learned these recipes more successfully than the French Revolution or A Separate Peace.

A word about These Cookies. Known in my household of origin as the worst cookies ever made. They are actually quite good, in spite of this photo, where they look like poo frosted with more poo. They are banana-clove cookies with a lemon icing. My sister baked these for any occasion, and I would complain about how awful they were, then eat half a dozen (perhaps this is the lemon the frog refers to). When you serve them, you must say, "No one likes these."

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Lands End, Lemon Frog, like it matters...

No one thought at the time that Lemon Frog was a poor choice of name for the husky-girl boutique section of Sears. Certainly when I shopped there, I didn't think so either (quite sure I had the blue one), but every time I have tried to tell a Lemon Frog story to someone since then...they can't get past the name.

Names Sears rejected:
Li'l Woman
Groovy N Curvy
Hip Chix (get it?)

That isn't the story I'm telling.
I thought of the Lemon Frog today when my hunt for new jeans had taken me through Eddie Bauer (as if that isn't humilating enough) where nothing on the rack of Mom Jeans fit properly.

Full disclosure: 30 " waist; 25" thigh.
I am always one season away from reinstating suspenders.

The woman at Eddie Bauer said, "How do you like them to fit? Fit to the thigh, or roomy?"
I said, "I like them to fit my thighs; therefore, they should be roomy. Get me?"
In my day.... you bought a 501 28/31 and you liked it.

Moment of silence for the sky-blue cord: the jeans that broke the dress code.

She was very nice, taking me through the relaxed fit, and the classic fit, and the boyfriend fit (I didn't ask. they were $65. Remind me to blog about that and the right hand diamond some day.) But we got nowhere, and I trudged toward Sears ~~ toward the Lands End, toward the Lemon Frog.

I still tried on the Levi's, but I have not found a fitting pair of Levi's in over 20 years. They do not size them "waist/length" anymore. You probably knew that.

Gloria Vanderbilt, now captioned as "Anderson Cooper's mother," has a line of colored denim that look exactly like Toughskins, only with a swan. Swan = ugly duckling

Lemon Swan.

2 excellent ToughSkins sites: here and here.

I bought Lee's. And not for the first time. And not from Sears. But from Penney's, so this is not better and I should have left that part out.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Marks on a Lifeline


Inside the Biddle Street Laundromat, Azma Badeau sits with her back against a washer and her feet stretched out toward the soda machine. The spin cycle massages her shoulders and loosens a knotted muscle she earned carrying in a full basket of clothes. At forty-either, Azma does not consider herself too old to do these chores without help, but neither is she strong enough. These sudden knots of pain take hold of her more often these days.

Not that she has any shortage of help at her disposal. Any man in Jordan Creek would lean out a window to offer a hand. Just this afternoon one pulled into the parking lot behind her. “No, of course,” she’d said, with a gesture toward straightening her hair. “I expect I can still haul my own dirty clothes.”

Women look out for her, too, in the concerned way young wives have toward any unmarried woman. Every Jordan Creek matron is entitled to speak authoritatively toward her, even if she is nineteen, and panting behind her enormous first pregnancy. On the other hand, they do not doubt that she possesses the powers her highway signs speak of. They offer her wifely wisdom, but cautiously and with respect: “Miss Badeau, you nearly left your umbrella, and the radio swears we’ll get rain today.” Azma smiles and pretends she needs their help because it amuses her. The muddier she appears on a daily basis, the more her sudden bursts of insight impress her neighbors. They sit in groups on their porches at night, telling stories about Azma’s dalliance with the occult.

They use for evidence Nevlin, the 15 year-old Negro boy who lives with her, and for whom she has never offered excuse or explanation. In few parts of the country would it be acceptable to say “Negro” in any context, but Jordan Creekers have never used any other word to describe Nevlin. Even the Blacks in town say it, since in spite of his wooly hair and wide African face, he is not at all black. He is a translucent mother-of-pearl, with a rabbit’s pink eyes.

The men who think of Azma living alone, and the women who sigh that she has never had a child, are wrong on both counts, because they do not count Nevlin. To them he is less a human member of the community than a curiosity which, as far as they know, Azma conjured up out of an incantation and a full moon.

The truth is nothing so spectacular, which is no doubt why they choose not to remember it. Nevlin was born the child of Azma’s college friend Cessie Hornsby. Another thing Jordan Creek has forgotten is that Azma got away to college, for a little while, even if she didn’t stay. She won a scholarship to a state college in Kentucky that was giving tuition to kids from Appalachia who had the gumption to fill in the application form. Azma didn’t have the gumption, but her teacher did – a mannish looking thirty year-old from the Virginia Tidewater who later married, and never knew that Azma didn’t go back for a second year.

Fifteen years after that, and fifteen years ago, Cessie came for a visit. She drove a Volkswagen beetle, and carried a pathetic-looking infant. It was no more surprising than Cessie showing up in the first place, with her shag hair cut and clove-smelling cigarettes. Azma took it in stride. When she went to the back porch to fetch a jar of tea that was brewing in the sun, Cessie left through the front in her Beetle without her baby. Azma sat down next to him on the kitchen table, and asked him what he wanted for dinner…

Azma has been watching the lines develop in Nevlin’s hands since he was a baby. It is through them, and not from his mother, that she has pieced together Nevlin’s story. Marks on his lifeline tell her how he lost a parent very early, and lead her to believe that he is not Cessie’s child at all, but someone who was passed along to her, and who she quickly got rid of. When he was a year old, she saw a sign of ill health – impending heart trouble – and took him to a pediatrician in the city who was able to draw up exercises she could do with Nevlin to make him stronger. The doctor had a hard time believing Azma had read signs, though she was absolutely honest with him, and the baby did have a high pulse for his age.

She delighted as his fingers grew long and thin, symbols of his spirituality and his potential for intellectual achievements. When he was seven, and his bones had settled into their permanent positions, she had him trace his hand on a piece of paper and study the shape of it. She explained that the spaces between his fingers and the way his thumb dropped away from the rest of his hand were special signs that he would do great things in the world.