Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lesser Known Disciples

This is one of those theology posts, so those of the readership who find them a big snore can scroll on to something else.

I am going to come down on the side of “not surprised” and very nearly “of course” on National Geographic’s recent fuss over the discovery of a Gospel of Judas. I am a big fan of found gospels – the fact of them, that is, because I have to admit I haven’t read any of them in whole. Most of them have not been translated in whole, but even the Dead Sea Scrolls, which I have (translated..not the jars themselves..) but also haven’t read.

The life story of this particular one is even more interesting than The DiVinci Code (in that it takes place over a normal time span, minus the albino).

In sum: The text was first identified in 1983 and viewed by 2 scholars for about 30 minutes. They were certain of its true age, and suspected its importance, but wouldn’t (couldn’t) pay the 3 million being asked by the broker. He and the book disappeared in a fog. The papyrus ends up in a bank vault (I think I saw this movie) until 2000, when a dealer in France purchases it for well under the asking price.

Not much of the manuscript has been translated. It is very brittle, has to be read with tweezers, and large chunks of it have crumpled to dust. The publicity-grabbing headline, that Jesus is reported to have asked Judas to do the deed is supported as much by the accounts we already know (…the hand of him who betrays me is on the table…) as by the line in the Judas text (you will sacrifice the man that clothes me).

I can’t say I am surprised there is a Gospel of Judas; I’d wonder if there were not. What would shock me would be a Gospel of Thaddeus, invisible disciple mentioned only twice in the canon (Matt 10 & Mr 3 – here at Drawing In, we do the work for you).

Judas, on the other hand --- mentioned 33 times. Someone call Dan Brown.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Happy Birthday

I had once been afraid of growing older, as I had watched my sister’s arms and face grow long, her feet and legs fall out of her control. At eleven, her hair had grown wild and was rarely combed, but always held back in a fat elastic band so your attention was drawn immediately to her ears and nose, then to her wide mouth and full lips. Adults remarked that she looked like Barbra Streisand. They thought it was a compliment.

I discovered the horror of 11 was only temporary, and that there was a great payoff waiting ahead. My sister’s body was filling out to catch up with what had grown first. Her spreading hips had tamed her legs, and made her her new height respectable now that she carried it well. Her skin was tight on her cheeks and pink from the sun, not as freckled as it used to be. She smelled of green apples, and kept her nails clean and grew them out a little, until our piano teacher made her cut them if he could hear them on the keys. I looked at my own nails at the end of my fork and pondered where the dirt had come from between the kitchen and the dining room.

She had sent away for a plain metal bracelet from the back of a magazine. It was engraved with the name of a prisoner of war and the date he was captured or reported missing. A lot of the older girls wore them, with pieces of colored string holding them secure through holes in the bracelt’s two ends. She explained to me you were never supposed to take it off, even when you were sleeping or in the shower, to make you remember that they are prisoners every day.

I was my own ghastly version of 11, and she was 15, and life was colored red-white-and-blue in celebration of the Revolution, as if it could make the war that had just ended go away. It was the last time the 4 years between us seemed like a chasm; over time, the gap was smaller and smaller. These days we're just the same age.

Except today. When I get to gloat. Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dear Almira

"We agreed, that since we must work for a living, the mill, all things considered, is the most pleasant, and best calculated to promote our welfare; that we will work diligently during the hours of labor; improve our leisure to the best advantage, in the cultivation of the mind, -- hoping thereby not only to increase our own pleasure, but also to add to the happiness of those around us.”

Almira, The Lowell Offering, 1841

Dear Almira,

Spring is slowly arriving around the mill pond. The trees are in bloom, and the sky was a perfect clear blue today. The dark red bricks popped with color against it, and the pond was as still as glass, so that when you looked into it, it appeared to have no edge – like you might fall into the sky if you leaned too far.

As I climb the narrow stairs, worn by thousands of high-buttoned boots, then by wingtips, then high heels, now by sneakers, I pause on the landing – admittedly to catch my breath, but also to marvel at the orb spiders, such as you may remember from mornings in Maine, that take up residence outside the arched windows. Fat as mice, they spread all their long legs across the products of their engineering. I meet one eye-to-eyes, and I think she is the spirit of you.

This old mill is inhabited now by nature’s spinners, who remember the women who once did real work here, and were glad to have it. You lived alone together, saving money to send back home, flirting with the salesmen who came to call, meeting up for lectures and magic lantern shows at the library. You ran down these roads holding bonnets on your heads, and every morning – just as I do – you made this long climb to the top floor.

We complain that the meeting rooms are too cold, though I know you walked this floor in 3 layers of wool between rows of steam-driven machines. We have “white noise” machines to distort the distraction of voices, but I don’t forget the deafening scream of the looms that greeted you.

I try not to.

When that last flight of stairs starts to get the best of me and I think it would be easier to just turn around and go home, I remember. And this work really isn’t so hard. As I watch a spider repair an anchor on a perfect latticed circle, I remark that nothing I do all day is that hard, nor that beautiful.

We miss you, Almira.
Your loving friend,
Carrie

Friday, April 21, 2006

Modern Day Rituals


Some years ago I was invited to attend a House Blessing – combination housewarming/2nd marriage celebration. As I have perhaps mentioned before, most of my New England friends, if they practice a religion at all, are either Catholics or Unitarians, so I am often observing rituals which are not of my own culture . I should acknowledge the one bris I have attended, which was quite moving, though I haven’t seen that boy since. Perhaps it’s just too awkward between us…

The House Blessing was also moving in a surprising way. In its UU way (with the emphasis here on the 2nd U) it involved a smudging, some holy water from Lourdes, a Sabbath prayer, and a folk song that wasn’t CSN&Ys “Our House,” but so for the sake of poetic license, let’s say that’s what it was.

I mention this now because today I received an invitation to return to this same house to celebrate – as the professionally printed invitations announce – “The Divorce is Final!”

Dear Reader:
Please advise.

I take these things quite seriously – these inner circle, family prayer, recitations of community hope and feeling things that are supposed to affirm our humanity and the heritage of our societal condition. M’yow m’yow metaphysics of being m’yow. We smudged. We read responsively. We invoked “our creator,” which by the way mine does not like to be roused in vain. Now you want me to stand.. where – on the holy water stain? On the ashes of the sage or whatever it was we had to disconnect smoke detectors for? And say, “well, thank God that’s over.”

Ethical dilemma.

Quite happy to see a bad match dissolved. Not opposed to divorce in and of itself. He was a pig and she is better off. But no takebacks on my blessing. Consider your house blessed. So blessed, perhaps, that it could not contain the stink-evil that was that marriage. So blessed that you get to keep it instead of he, because the native spirits and the Virgin of Lourdes, and Stephen Stills knew the whole time we were singing that we liked you better.

Mazel Tov. But Miss Bender regrets.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Worst Songs Radio

111 of them.

Since I discovered XFM Radio on AOL, the work day passes a little more quickly. And I will listen to just about anything, including the Gregorian Chant sampler that comes loaded with the Windows Media Player. I was in a decades cycle -- 40's one day, 50's the next -- then AOL sent a pop-up window that said "111 Worst Songs Ever."

What sparked my curiosity was... EVER? Because ever is a long time, and The ballad of Barbara Allen has got to be one of the worst. But they probably mean "in pop music."

Ditto "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," or as I call it, "the song with no bridge."

So I write as I listen to Achy Breaky Heart. How obvious. This might just be a drunken turkey shoot. But I throw out a few challenges to AOL as this experiment begins. I am looking specifically for
Curly Shuffle
Toad Suckers
Keep Yo' hands to Yourself (poor Georgia Satellites)

and anything that is truly "of all time"

This is Countdown Format, and we are already in the Top 20, so I may not hear them all. Please forgive; I am at work, after all.

Where we Disagreed
MMm Bop - that is a damn catchy song and you know it
Let Her Cry - Hootie? Really? We totally dug that sound in 92. Don't rewrite history.
Here Come the Hotstepper - Me lovin the reggae, mon

Pleasant Surprises
Ebony & Ivory - forgot about that. pass the treacle.
Jenny from the Block - song structure: my resume - I'm rich - you're not - but I'm real.
Ozzy and Piggy sing Born to Be Wild - who let that happen?
Once Bitten - ooo....Great White. They are big news up here, but I had to admit I had never heard of them. I would never ever crowd into a bar to hear more like this. It's like... if they were good, they would be Meatloaf.

Easy Targets
Hollaback Girl - Gwen Stefani always looked annoying, but I wasn't sure. Why is she spelling "bananas"?
David Hasselhoff - that's just mean
USA for Africa - "there comes time... when the 80's ate themselves...."

Challenge Met?
I missed the #1 song. 111 was Rock Lobster. I take some issue.
Radioland should blame itself -- this is really the list of 111 most overplayed songs. And this is really why we hate them.

What We learned
I have very unsophisticated musical tastes.
And my left headphone is busted.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance

(excerpt)

In May, just before the term ended, a student named Miranda Fontera was killed by the E-train while doing a car making an illegal left turn off Huntington Avenue. The Herald had identified her as a Yates College student. When the Dean of Student called his staff together, it was confirmed that no one had ever heard of her. She was a part-time student, in her late twenties, who had registered in and out for a number of years, on her way to a med-tech certificate. Her file in the Admissions Office contained her application, and essay entitled “How I See Myself,” and a photocopy of a cancelled check. The Saturday after the accident, the Dean of Students and the President attended Miranda’s wake, and invited her family to attend a campus memorial service on Wednesday.

A voice-mail to the Assistant Dean on Monday told her to put the event together. She forwarded that message without additional instruction downstairs to Karen. When the Dean called back and added they would build a pedestrian safety component into next fall’s Orientation, the Assistant Dean agreed to take that on herself.

By Monday afternoon, fliers were posted for the yet-to-be-designed service, and a room had been reserved near the faculty dining room, in hopes the proximity would encourage attendance. Karen solicited the reluctant help of Miranda’s academic advisor, who fondly remembered the student as “enthusiastic,” but declined to say so from a podium. The student government president volunteered the officers and student congress to greet people at the door. In the end, 10 of them showed up to fill in a row of chairs, though two were from the student paper, and one was from the yearbook. Karen wrote a eulogy, quoting heavily from “How I See Myself” and delivered it reverently from the front of the room.

During the silent meditation, Karen looked at Miranda’s family, and the row of student leaders Miranda hadn’t known, and the empty chairs, and found it in her heart to grieve. She grieved for the woman nobody knew, and for her own soul, which had given to so many, but which felt nothing for this one who had gotten away.

Afterward, as Karen unhooked the microphone from the podium, and folded the metal chairs, the Dean of Students had thanked her for putting it together so quickly. Surprised, Karen stopped her work and nodded a response, feeling her taut cheek muscles as her neck moved up and down.

“It’s important that we show a sense of community,” he said.

Now, at her desk, Karen rests her forehead on the heels of her upturned hands and feels tears soak her eyelids. It’s a lifetime since she’s had a good night’s sleep. Pressing her face into her hands this way, she is able to hold in that thing that knocks against her from the inside, trying to get out.

When she has collected herself, she express-messages the Dean’s Office, and tells his secretary’s machine that she needs to get in his schedule as soon as possible Monday morning. She cocks her head to hold the receiver on her shoulder as she loads the paper tray of her printer. In four quick lines, as 65 wpm, she types her resignation. She spends the next hour completing her files for the new year, alternating the clear window file tabs like little steps, from the front of the drawer to the back.

At seven o’clock, Karen locks her desk and walks to the end of the hall, toward the one door that leads outside. Walking west on Huntington Avenue, she squints at the low-hanging sun, and wonders how it will feel on her face in the morning.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Noodling

We were talking about the hierarchy of pasta. It is not all the same, it is not all a matter of shapes, I said. They are clear and distinct separate foods.

I have tried to be open-minded, I said. I have sampled nearly all of them – except the orecchiette, which just creep me out, and the alphabet letters, because why would you cook up a pile of them for a snack? Maybe for a soup -- I suppose that’s what they are traditionally for -- and not for forming Bible verses on squares of felt, which is the association they will always have for me. I do not think of them as food at all, but as craft, which is why I have never purchased them.

At the top of the line are your strands – angel hair, vermicelli, spaghetti, fettuccini. Pasta that holds up another dish without getting in its way. A foundation food, such as starches are meant to be, and not something that competes with a fine cut of meat or vegetables for position of main dish.

Next comes filled pastas: ravioli and tortellini, specifically, though I admit I can not abide gnocchi and don’t consider it pasta at all. Too pasty, too dense. Now come tubes. They sound good when you say their names; they look appealing in the photo on the box, but they take too long to cook and never hold up the next day. Ziti, elbows, manicotti. Shells are more tubes than filled, no matter what you put in them. Tubes aspiring to a higher station in life.

I put the twirls and spirals next, though some are more tolerable than others. The rotini is nice, for a salad. Holds dressing well, and comes in different colors. Fusilli is as appetizing as so much boiled rubber bands, and those short squat wagon wheels are completely useless. And at the bottom of the whole heap are the shapes, allowing for a certain amount of stars and alphabet letters before a gulf separates them from wagon wheels, whimsical holiday icons, and panting to the finish line dead last…the bow tie.

I had said “What are you cooking,” and he said, “Bow Tie Pasta.” I pictured the words in those capital letters, like a challenge– a representation of everything I can not stand. That he would cook a ridiculous waste of some factory worker’s time like a bow-tie noodle, which will slide around a plate not holding up its main dish, not pulling its weight, just running around ahead of a fork wearing its stupid crimped expression, then cooking itself to a crackily crunch tomorrow afternoon in the office microwave.

Bow-ties know their place in the world and they don’t expect to rise above it. We only tease and confuse them by encouraging them to think as the shells do, that they can move up the chain and re-categorize themselves as something decent people will eat. They have neither the humble purity of polenta nor the audacity of gelatin-turned-aspic to move beyond the lot cast to them. They are the pariah of pasta and should be left alone in their bone-dry misery.

That’s what I said. Dead silence from his end of the phone.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Duck Soap

On the porcelain tray above the sink, Randy Tanner keeps a small rubber duck, encased in a square of soap. He stares at it as he brushes his teeth. Only recently one of the painted black eyes became visible through the yellow film. At first, Randy thought he could wash it free if he just used the soap enough. But the cube is hard to handle; it’s not really meant to be used for washing. But each time he showers, a little bit more melts away from the steam. He knows he could cut unto it, have it all done at once.

But he’s afraid of hurting the duck.


Friday, April 14, 2006

1.3 idle hours left or...

....things to do while Google is indexing your desktop.
An essay lacking all the conventional forms of expository discourse.

I work for a pack of Microsoft missionaries, who love their desktop gadgetry, and Office tools (capital O office, italicized tools). We have been mandated to attend a day-long class on the effective use of Outlook, which is ironically called "Take Back your Life." After which we will work all night to make up for the lost day.

I promise to let you know how that can fill 8 hours. By that time, I may be fully indoctrinated and the name of this page will have changed to Bill'sBabe.com I shudder.

Downloading the Google desktop search tool is not mandated, just a make-nice for the New Boss, who gets very excited when I take his suggestions. He nearly burst into the tears yesterday when he wandered by my desk at 7pm and discovered my partner teaching me how to read the daily Pulse report. I would love to attach a screenshot of the daily Pulse, because it looks like the kind of WENUS that you would Alt-Tab to as a cover-up for the fact that you are actually bidding on eBay. But sadly, it is proprietary, and I would certainly be fired for displaying it. So trust me. It's a rainbow of data tables, including one chart that is actually lines OVER bars, so you can see why it required education.

New Boss digs the Google desktop search, and I have to say I've been impressed by its speed. Certainly I am forever losing something I was just working on, and can only locate by recalling some of my typical key words in the text, such as "appalling," "formidable," and "why don't you
Super Size that big cup of shut the **** up?"

Free software? On the company computer? that the Boss recommended?
well, sign...me... up.

I forgot I dial-up. I dial-up because it is the Company's laptop and the Company's ISP. And I am a cheap bastid whose cable comes with the condo fee.

Here's a story while we wait. In a conversion of wierd events, the building we work in is shutting down its power for some sort of outage drill for the weekend, but we were prepared to send our calls to our center in India during this outage. Then rioting broke out in Bangalore during the funeral of beloved movie star and national icon Rajkumar.
(You may read that again; I'll wait. And PS: I just linked you to Al Jazeera)

And now we are not so sure the operators will be at the phones if they ring."Thank you for calling MegaCo. The estimated wait time is 2 days while we burn down our city."

The phone agents have made much sport of this "national event." How soon we forget.

Google desktop comes with an annoying news alert pop-up box, which has just shown me a story about Nicole Richie. I will not click to learn more, I believe.

I will come out in favor of Google Earth though I agree it is a little creepy, and one night with friends we discovered the pictures of Crawford, TX are suspiciously blurred. But such hours of fun to fly around the world to every street you have ever lived on and try to find your house. I found this completely entertaining.

My index is now 92% complete. I'm a little afraid that this ease of search may cause me to forget more things. The learned helplessness of the mechanized age. Next thing you know I'll no longer know embroidery or butter churning.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How I worshiped with Lech Walesa


10 years ago today

4/12/96 – In which we attend morning mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa and meet Lech Walesa. It doesn’t count as a travel tale, officially, but it suits this [journal] better than others, and makes for a travelogue of sorts of a 3-hour visit to a little piece of Poland, congregated as one nation in the pews of Dorchester.

Our Lady is an urban neighborhood church of the finest European Catholic variety, with high muraled ceilings and an altar guarded not by an imposing crucifix, but by an icon of the Black Madonna herself. Jesus hangs to one side, and to the other, the flickering candles of those who ask for prayers.
The mass, in Polish, was an interesting sociological experience – not because everyone else knew what to do and say…. But because I did not. I had only the cadence, tone, and resonance to tell me of the mood. I was disappointed that the high soprano voice in the choir behind us was not a boy’s, but the music was beautiful – sometimes chanting, sometimes celebratory, and one song for the Madonna was private and prayerful, even when sung by 200 worshippers.

Later in the school hall, President Walesa made some welcoming remarks, accepted flowers from the youth, and invited dialogue with the crowd. As Poles will do, they debated immediately, with people asking challenging questions which the crowd recognizes as controversial. Walesa answered in impatient and defensive tones, gesturing, making lists, questioning back. Like peers in Parliament, the crowd would ripple and murmer – support for the questioner, discouragement of the question, reinforcement for Walesa…

A woman next to me took me into her confidence, nudging and commenting snidely. We traded winks and nods, but not ideals, because I had no idea what she was saying. A snatch of English occurred when an Albanian began to tell of his own strife, and his admiration for the Polish spirit, and his hope that Poland could inspire Albania. If he expected to be welcomed into the fold, he must have been surprised to be politely applauded, then shouted down. Walesa himself instructed the man to speak in Polish, then, if he admired them so much.

The priests and nuns took the first row of seats. A line of black and starched white, they were expressionless through the entire speech. Until it appears in the papers, I won’t be completely convinced that we did it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Why is this film not like other films?


While TBS is showing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy all weekend long, ABC outdoes itself by showing The Ten Commandments three times – 2 parts of the new 2006 version, starring Dougray Scott as the reluctant prophet, followed by Cecil D DeMille’s 1956 version. If you’re reading this, you have already missed part one.

But that’s what I’m here for. We’ll hit the highlights. There is so much story here – nearly 60 pages in my Book – that it really has to get moving, but I think it went by too quickly in this version.

Dougray. Sillier name than Charlton? Only when you know it pronounced DOOG-ray.
Now, if Doogie played Moses… I guess I would not tune in.


What’s the same:
Biblical people still speak with British accents. And Hebrews are cockney.

All women still look alike. And now all the men do too.


New interpretations:
This voiceover narration is obviously added in, as if we are at the museum of Bible-ology. That is just the mark of a bad screenplay. Or bad editing in need of help. Hard to tell.

When the voiceover returns in the 2nd hour, it has the strange Roger Miller quality of a Disney wildlife documentary.

Are we to believe that the child Moses was aware of his heritage? Moses as Anakin. I feel a chariot race coming on. Oh, that’s the other movie. Now that’s what ABC should do – Ten Commandments followed by Ben Hur.

Moses’ crime happens too fast to make any sense, or allow us to care – about him or the murdered man.

Moses got princely hightops.

Whispering I Am. Nice. He really ought to whisper if he is going to sneak up on you like that.

Vague I-Know-God-Eyes are so Max von Sydow. I prefer the kick-ass glare of Charlton “You’ll get this staff when you pry it from my cold dead hands” Heston’s Moses.

Ooo, but this feisty Aaron…he’s interesting

The bones of Joseph. Ok, why not?


SPFX wins and losses
Mummies! – winner, 2006.

Sets – winner, 1956. Why is everything brown? I miss my Technicolor.

Midian oasis – a draw. 2006 is certainly more realistic looking, but 1956 looks more refreshing.

Burning bush – a draw. Nearly shot-for-the-shot the same sequence.

Staff-to-serpent – same

Court of Pharaoh – winner, 1956, for joy and pageantry. 2006 Rameses, as played by James Mitchell, is sort of constipated Best line from 2006, “Despite all appearances, Rameses is a weak man.” Despite?

Brick yards – identical, except for the fabulously fey Vincent Price

Plagues – winner, 1956. The bleeding Nile was suddenly interrupted by a cereal commercial, which undermined the whole sequence. Then the frogs come, not at all scary. You lose, 06.

Angel o’ Death – winner, 1956. The new Angel, played by a smoke machine, moves too fast. Though the actors die with a little more horror, the slow green claw of ’56 has made me hold my breath every time -- for 35 years. When Yul Brynner lays that boy on the stone eagle’s arms, well it just breaks your heart.

Exodus – winner, 1956. The departure from Egypt, as framed by DeMille, is one of the great crane shots since Fleming’s Atlanta train station in Gone with the Wind. 2006 does not come close.

Red Sea – winner, 2006. No surprise that this would be more artful, and I like the idea that the undersea floor is still a hard climb. You need not fear evil in the valley of the shadow of death, but you do still have to walk through it. The atomic cloud cut-in was a little heavy-handed, but perhaps no one noticed.

The Egyptians will not drown until Tuesday night, which gives everyone a second chance to see the big set piece. Give this version a try if you like, but my heart still belongs to Moses…Moses..Moses.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

You will never encounter this question in college

Directions
The following sentences test your ability to recognize grammar and usage errors. Each sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. No sentence contains more than one error. The error, if there is one, is underlined and lettered. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence is correct, select choice E. In choosing answers, follow the requirements of standard written English.


The (A) other delegates and (B) him (C) immediately accepted the resolution (D) drafted by the neutral states. (E) No error


Recently, I mentioned that I had been reading the study guide for the new SAT. This article addresses the topic I originally wanted to discuss, before I was distracted by researching Maude Adams. (if you want to be distracted too, click here, but not now. I am talking).

You may have heard that the SAT has become longer, and in many ways more subjective, in that it has added an essay portion and a greater emphasis on writing rather than reading.

The directions above refer to the section called "Correcting Sentences for Errors," in which the student encounters a series of unrelated sentences, each of which contains (perhaps) one error. The student is instructed to select an error as the CORRECT answer.

This sort of twisted pedagogy as been going on since I was in school, and the SRA test contained a list of spelling words from which we were to circle the misspelled words. Imprinting like this is the reason Americans can’t spell such everyday occurring words as schedule, definitely, balance, and occurring. Or misspelled.

Even before that, we learned "one of these things was NOT like the other," and could we tell which thing before "I (whoever you are) finish my song"?

Some of my best friends are college-level instructors -- I have been one myself -- and I can tell you that they never ask for the incorrect answer. Argue the opposite, yes. Compare and contrast, certainly. Find the error, no. Students will come up with those on their own, easily enough, perhaps from years of being asked to select it.

These SAT directions actually end with "follow the requirements of standard written English." "Not that we did, we brain trusts of Princeton."

In the interest of full disclosure, here come my hard facts:
I did not break 1000 on the SATs. The 2nd time I took them, I did worse.


fork:spoon as Heracles:
a)Clytemnestra b) Euripides c) Vulcan c) Rameses
d) shut up

Which triangle is larger?
I got yer triangle...

I did not take the ACT at all, though I was signed up for it, and I don't remember what I did that day, but it wasn't that.

You may correct the preceding sentence for errors. They involve semicolons and comma splicing. In choosing your answers, follow the requirements of the Dewey Decimal system.

PS: the SAT is taken on a computer now. I hope the kids can type. Though if we let them take it on their cell phones, they might do all right (U gng 2 sat? C U @ *bux)

Do you know that scene in Stand and Deliver where dreamy Andy Garcia is the guy from the College Entrance Examination Board who shows up to convince the barrio girls to confess they cheated on their tests?

Do we believe this is what they look like? Because they don't.


"The College Board recently discovered that a technical processing matter affected a very small percentage of October 2005 SAT test takers. As a result, approximately 4,000 students (0.8% of the SAT Reasoning Test takers who tested during that administration) did not receive credit for some correct answers; therefore, their scores are higher than originally reported." source

You're clicking the whole time I'm talking to you, aren't you? You will never find your way back here.

Shocking as the news is, note the correct use of affect AND use of a semicolon followed by the conjunctive adverb therefore. I'm a little choked up.


Study hard, little dudes and chix. It is a rite of passage (a rite. not a right. read more, would you?) that really might determine the course of your future. It also gives you something to rant about 25 years later. But please don't confuse it with college coursework, because no one will ever give you a test like this again -- until you want to go to graduate school.

As the Board said last month, “We very much regret any further worry or inconvenience that this problem may have caused students, families, schools and colleges.”

I'm just so glad they didn't say farther.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Armchair Traveler

I recently learned that the FBI has indefinitely suspended its public tours "until further notice." Extensive renovations... they said.

So I'll give you the tour: pure Armchair Traveler style.

On a list of the 10 Cheesiest Tours available in these United States of ‘Mairca, I have reached permanence on Graceland, the Stone Mountain train tour, and the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

My traveling companion thought it would be cool to get her brothers FBI caps (never analyzing whether it was likely that the FBI sold paraphernalia to the public), and that there must be a gift shop at the end of that tour. Bear in mind that there had indeed been such a shop everywhere we’d been in DC, including the Holocaust Museum, so this was not a wild idea.

We sat in line for a group tour for half an hour, then 2 feet inside the door, we knew we were in for a smirkfest. If there is a shortage of brown vinyl furniture, hotel curtains and walnut veneer paneling in your area, it may well be the fault of the FBI.

With serious expressions, our tour guides (all female, people-of-color, or disabled, including combinations of each – how diversified and enlightened is our Bureau!) marched us around, telling us when and where we could use the bathroom, turn corners, touch things, even lean toward or point at display cases. I wondered (aloud) if we had mistakenly waited in the new recruits line.

Our tour guide was Jack – deadly serious in his presentation, which he was memorized well, but when situations required him to stray from it, he got a little flustered. Favorite tour phrase: “To the best of [one’s] abilities.” Also featured – use of the emphatic mood, most successfully employed by flight attendants, and raised to an art form by Graceland Guides. “I would like to point out that we do employ these weapons in a variety of situations, which are monitored by our trainers.”

The FBI presentation is almost performance art in its reverent treatment of such banal artifacts as simulated heroin, and fur coats purchased with drug money . The closing firearms demonstration is also sadly dull, until the demonstrating agent pulls out all the stops by firing his weapon...... UNDER LOW LIGHTING!

Extensive renovations, indeed.

PS: no gift shop.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Well, now I have to know more about THAT


The scene opens in a sound booth at Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic where I read textbooks onto CDs. As it happens, tonight I was recording the study guide for the new SAT. I get a lot of grammar and writing books assigned to me because I can read very poorly written sentences as if they are perfectly normal: "Everybody thought he should of threw the ball more harder to Jane and I."
Ouch.

And I have more to say about the new SAT on another day.

This is the story of how I came across this sentence in the reading comprehension section:

Maude Adams, after her spectatcular triumph as the original Peter Pan, went about heavily veiled and was accessible to only a handful of intimate friends.

Now you know I stopped what I was doing to write that down.

Here's what I've learned, as is my duty to you to share what is in my head, and your sad fate to be interested in such things. Let us deconstruct this fabulous sentence.

Not Maud Adams. That's very different. Though if Octopussy had played Peter Pan, I am sure she would have triumphed.

Maude Adams -- born 1872, did indeed play Peter Pan in 1905, but retired from the stage 10 years later.

spectatcular triumph? -- played 1500 performances, considered her most famous role, for which she made $20K per month

original Peter Pan - true.

went about heavily veiled - To the contrary, she went to work at General Electric developing lighting for filmmaking and spent time as a college professor. But, she may have worn a veil when traveling ( to prevent Hook and Smee from recognizing her?)

accessible only to a handful of intimate friends - specifically, the sisters of St Regis in Lake Ronkonoma, Long Island. Though she never married (and you know what THEY are like) it is not apparent that she became a nun, or that the Sisters of St Regis are a veiled order.

She may also have disappeared Somewhere in Time after meeting Christopher Reeve at the Majestic Grand. [That is still a great movie. The penny! Not the penny! ]

For proof that there is everything on the Internet, here is a long, unnecessarily dense, 100 year old biography of the actress.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006


The following is a recording.

"OnStarbucks. This is Jeannie."

"Oh my God! Please help me, my commuter mug is empty."

"Ma'am, I am showing a quarter inch left in your mug. Can you confirm that?"

[sobbing] "It won't... it won't..."

"Just try tipping it, ma'am."

"It's so {bleep}ing tall! I can't see -- I can't see if I tip it!"

"All right, ma'am, I understand that. You're safe. I am showing that you are about 2 miles from the next Starbucks. Would you like me to stay on the line with you?"

"Two miles?"

"I'll stay on the line, ma'am."

"Jeannie, I don't -- I don't know how to get there!"

"Try to stay calm, Miss Bender. I show you as driving 45 mph, which means you should be approaching a right turn onto Greene St."

"I see it!" {gasping} "Ok, I turned."

"Do you---"

"I see it!" {sobs, laughing} "Thank you, Jeannie! Thank you!"

"Thank you for calling OnStarbucks."

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Are you there God, it’s me, paunchy

Margaret Simon, narrator of the ground-breaking novel by Judy Blume which blew the lid off of “menstroo-ation,” was 12 years old in 1970. I channeled her the other morning while plucking my chin.

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. I looked for you when I was awake at 3 this morning, but you must have been comforting the sick or stilling the waters, because I didn’t hear back from you. Now I’m a little sleepy, but I have that presentation this afternoon, and I’ll never get through my email if I don’t get in early.

I feel like a balloon. And what I wonder, God, is if you realize that I just had my period. There is little use in having it at all anymore, so twice in one month is just overkill. If you will.

There is a fishing line growing out of my neck, which I can feel, but can’t find. The line in my bifocals gets in the way the closer I get to the mirror.

It seems like my navel is much lower than it used to be, and maybe that is supposed to happen. Except Nancy’s seems to be in the middle of her chest. Gretchen says it was lifted, but I’m sure that if Nancy had a lift, we all would have heard about it.

Please tell me I have at least 10 more years in cue shoes, because I bought a pair yesterday. I put up with the wicking nightgown and I am grateful for the hidden elastic waistband, but if I could just keep my pumps a little longer, I’ll never ask for another thing.

Well. Yes, I will. But I am not being hysterical.
Thank you, God.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

She paid too much for that clock

There are not many clocks to reset, most of them being embedded inside machines that reset themselves, but the Seth Thomas on the mantel needs winding. Again.

She had a number of requirements for the mantel clock, and waited a long time to get them met, not willing to settle for what she didn’t really want, even if it meant not knowing the time in the living room for over a year.

It needed to be small, because the mantel was; and short, because the chimney wall flared as it rose. It needed to be key-wound. Though she was content with battery-operated clocks in other rooms, even one electronic, whose primary job was being a radio. The universally connected ones in the thermostat and alarm box and TV and VCR are a convenience to her, but must annoy consumers in Arizona. And it must fit the room d├ęcor, an eclectic arts & crafts/deco of clean lines and dark woods. Very little falderal and a lot of deep wine colors.

In an antique shop on the road to Bennington, VT, she encountered the tiny Seth Thomas with a slightly cracked face and a very loud tick that almost ruled it out of the running. But weren’t the little old couple so nice, weren’t they so fascinated by the Internet, which allows them to do business “all over the world”? Weren’t they willing to knock down” the price they had probably increased when her Massachusetts plates pulled up to the door? And weren’t they willing to old it for her until a check could be sent (because who carries a checkbook except a couple this old)?

But she paid too much for that clock.

The tick, most days, is maddeningly loud, and the “8 day” quality means that every eight days, after it has sped itself up an hour per day, it simply stops. When it is wound, the front glass must be held still to prevent the numbers from spinning with the key and ending up all cockeyed.

Now it is sprung ahead, chattering like the old man who sold it, and somehow just as charming.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

The Conclusion of “Lost”

I already know the ending of ABC’s Wednesday night hit “Lost”, because when I was 10 years old I wrote a rapture novel called “Who is The Master” in which the cast of characters survives a shipwreck on an unknown island where they are tortured by an unseen entity (who speaks in CAPITAL LETTERS because I was that subtle) who is called The Master.

And when ABC reconciles this whole adventure by having the principles realize they are dead, or in Limbo, or the world beyond their island has been destroyed, [you see, once were Lost… but now are Found…] I will show up in the courtroom with my typewritten (erasable bond) pages and demand restitution. If Dan Brown can be held accountable, then so can Touchstone Television. [Touchstone? Was Alpha-Omega taken? ]

I have always referred to WiTM as my first novel, though neither word in that phrase is true. [I have never before referred to it as WiTM, but it is just too embarrassing to continue to write the title]. In fact, it was the 2nd of my long-form attempts, and is only 30 typed pages.

It, and all its drafts, reside in a plastic covered clipboard/folder that the 3 Spirit of ’76 guys in a Peter Max-y kind of design, and the dates 1776-1976 in Continental CongreFF font. Looking at it is both delightful and excruciating. I reworked this minor opus until 1978, according to “4th edition” notes in this archive. After that I began a modern John Jakes family style epic I can not speak painlessly about.

Our story takes place in 1991, which was, like, way in the future – a place I knew only got worse, even though I hadn’t yet seen the fall of Saigon, which kept me awake most of the summer of 75.

Real line: I was captured along with other men and women of all races. [how Noah’s Ark of you. This ought to be good.] There were whites, blacks, mexicans [small m], Europeans, Russians, Indians, Asians, Australins. [you heard me.]

Here, then, I build my plagarism case:
Our narrator is Jim [as in, “dammit, Jim!” On Lost, this is Dr Jack Sheppard, our eyes and ears. Our shepherd…for the first 40 days… does your head hurt from being hit yet?].

WiTM’s Jim is 25, in that knack I have for always writing beyond my own life experience, guaranteeing that the later read will be cringe-worthy. Touchstone is wise enough to know that 25 year old boys may lead on the gridiron, but on the desert island, it turns all pig heads on sticks. You need an older leader.

Jim is an existentialist, who has daydreams that he calls “flashbacks.” He says Everyman things like, Excitement doesn’t come often around here, but when it does, it’s usually good.

He was traveling with his childhood friend Brian, who will lose a leg later in the story. We learn his father used to beat him up all the time, so, you know, he’s used to it. I can’t decide if he is Sawyer or Sayid. He is dark brooding boy-with-secrets, also my obvious Christ figure when he consents to an amputation with “It’s all right with me.”

The surgery is conveniently performed by Dr. Rocque, played on ABC as Libby (Are you REALLY a psychologist?) There is some element of Locke, though, as well, as the Dr. is the wiser older man among the youngsters. [Rocque/Locke – you see how they did me?] My child’s vast medical research: “You see, if the bullet stays in there any longer, it may corrode. Then the lead will go into your bloodstream and you’ll get blood poisoning."

What's funnier: "You see..." or "corrode"?

Dr Rocque also gets to deliver Cathy’s baby. She is the only woman in the story at all, and has the annoying useless female habit of showing up pregnant when you’re stranded on an island. (Claire, this means you.)

In a Pulitzer speech-ready paragraph, Jim describes the arrival of the story’s anti-hero Mason: Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. His terrified eyes searched the camp.

Mason's Lost counterpart is Michael, once rival/now friend of Jim [Jack]. (Michael the archangel, slayer of dragons and such) It is Mason who is determined to find out the Truth. By the way, if you ask who The Master is, as Mason does, they beat you in the face with a bullwhip. I had a Louisa Mae Alcott streak cum Alfred Hitchcock & the Three Investigators.

There is a sympathetic guard named Solomon, who may be Mr. Eko, but this is where I admit I haven’t actually watched the show. I must keep my experience pure in order to successfully score my nest egg from ABC and its co-respondents.

And once I prove any one of them went to Virginia Avenue Elementary, it is Go Time.