Thursday, March 29th 2007

God smites me for my insolence
posted @ 10:14 am in [ - ]

So yesterday was a lovely day, windy but sunny and not too chilly. Then I woke up this morning and it had, well, snowed. Not catastrophically, just enough so I could not possibly pretend not to notice or say that it didn’t snow where I was. Also, I am having a deeply colon-punishing experience administered by the service department that still has my car. Clearly, it’s payback for talking smack on Fox News.

Wednesday, March 28th 2007

Newscasts of DOOM!
posted @ 7:55 am in [ ]

You already know that the news industry smokes my cachongas in one particular way: the fear. What’s in your bathroom could kill you! Find out what your kids could be exposed to in your own backyard! We’ll tell you when we get back from sixteen commercials what terrible thing is happening RIGHT NOW! We’re all gonna die, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Crazymaking.

Even worse, they’ll blow actual bad things that are happening way out of proportion. When Columbine happened, for instance, the way it was reported on the national news made it look like all of Denver had been shot up. I got several frantic phone calls. Were we okay? Sure, Littleton was maybe 15 miles from my apartment: close to home psychologically, but definitely not in bullet range. Also, you’ve probably noticed that Colorado catches on fire annually. Not here in town, of course, but in less populous areas, mostly in the mountains and on the western slope. On the national news, though, hell if it doesn’t look like the whole state is ablaze and we’re all fleeing to Kansas for our lives. Holy cow, are you guys okay? Yup, that fire is about 150 miles away. It’s sort of like if you lived in Boston and the fire was in Albany. (Sorry, no, I’m not going to arrange that.)

So today, I’m looking at the national weather forecast, and apparently, we’re having a catastrophic, fast-moving snowstorm here. I’m glad I tuned in, ’cause that sure is news to me. It’s 50 degrees here (even before 9:00 a.m.), and squintingly sunny. Some local stations are predicting a late afternoon shower of, you know, plain old rain. It’ll probably last an hour or less. I understand they’re working on a news story about how moisture can kill you and everything you love.

Monday, March 26th 2007

Did you do something different?
posted @ 7:21 pm in [ ]

This cracks me up. Is it really a compliment to tell someone they look great and then ask what they did differently? Doesn’t it sort of imply that they looked like ten miles of bad road before? Oh, yes, it’s time for another top 10:

Top 10 Wiseass Responses to “Did You Do Something Different?”

  1. Yes, I’m drinking a lot more.

  2. Oh, I’ve been eating bugs.

  3. Have you tried the new Ants ‘N’ Honey facial? You should! (Extra points for getting them to do it.)

  4. It’s gotta be the donuts. (It helps to whisper this one, like you’re taking them into your confidence.)

  5. No, not really. Maybe you just look worse.

  6. Well, I did stop taking my makeup off with Comet and an emery cloth.

  7. I finally accepted [Marduk, Johnny Rotten, Cthulhu, Sascha the wienerdog, Tony Danza] as my personal Lord and savior. I have some literature for you, and we’re having a rally later. You should come. (Add 50 points for each word you do not get out because they’ve already left the room.)

  8. Hot exotic younger lover. Does it show?

  9. I spent the night in jail. But I don’t recommend it.

  10. Yeah, well, there’s a picture of me in the closet that looks like hell!

Sunday, March 25th 2007

Does he really deserve a sweater?
posted @ 1:12 am in [ - ]

I knit. Yeah, ’cause it’s what’s hot in the streets. It’s also fun to make useful items in a portable format, and you know what they say about idle hands being the devil’s workshop. In my case, they’re more like the devil’s Fordist mass-production factory floor. Nothing like a nice ball of yarn and some knitting needles to push that red, candylike, conveyer-belt-halting button, keeping one out of trouble.

Like a lot of people who knit, I give away the vast majority of my completed projects, and I’m usually making something specifically for someone else. For me, it’s mostly a pragmatic choice. I knit because I like to, and I produce so much knitted stuff that if I didn’t give it away, my house would be crammed to the rafters with various knitted doodads by now, and I wouldn’t be able to get out to, you know, get more yarn. Fine, I’m a fiber junkie! Is that what you wanted to hear?! I’m hiding my yarn “problem” by making things with it and giving them away! Happy?!

Okay, me too. But seriously, here’s something that has been coming up a lot lately. My only knitting girlfriend in this time zone found a perfect sweater pattern for this guy she’s into. The thing is, though, that making sweaters can be a real pain in the ass, especially if you want them to fit well, and it can take a while — and this pattern is a complicated one. So if you’re going to make a sweater for a guy, he’d better be a.) damned appreciative, b.) around when it’s finally finished, and c.) worth the hassle. This guy she’s into? Not a.), not c.), and not even b.) in the capacity she’d like. The hell with that, I say! Make him some butch mittens or something and let him earn a damn sweater.

I am not alone in this assessment. There’s a whole knitting book called something like Don’t Knit Your Man A Sweater Unless You’ve Got the Ring, and the very book in which the ever-so-perfect pattern in question appears — the fetchingly titled Domiknitrix — tells us, “If you are seriously planning to knit something for your sweetie … Make sure he’s into you. If you have any doubts whatsoever, don’t waste a minute knitting for him. Don’t entertain the delusion that you’re weaving a spell with each stitch. If you haven’t won him yet, the sweater will confirm he’s not worthy and send him packing. … If you’re at all unsure about your fella, start with a hat. Let him earn a sweater.” I might add: Surely someone in your life is more deserving of the project you’d really like to make. Might even be you.

So how is my girlfriend to know whether Mr. Unworthy has proven himself? Hmm, perhaps some guidelines are in order.

Mr. U.: Is engaged to a girl who is still in high school, whereas he is in his 30s. Worthy: Is not trying to wedge himself into a perpetual adolescence not involving really cool cars.

Mr. U.: Wants my friend to be available whenever he needs to go to the emergency room or needs any sort of reassurance. Worthy: Needs less reassurance, fewer trips to the emergency room, and is capable of reciprocating if she would like to go to the emergency room or be reassured she’s not getting old sometime.

Mr. U.: Is apparently irresistable to text while my friend has been drinking, but not all that responsive. Worthy: Would hold her hair.

Mr. U.: Is allegedly cute and charming. Worthy: Is at least as cute and charming as her weinerdog, for whom I did knit a sweater (and am not sorry).

Mr. U.: Alternates between being passionate about her and saying he wants to be “just friends.”
Worthy: Is passionate about her pretty much all the time and not just a fickle manslut.

Mr. U.: Flakes out on plans, calling to change plans, and being a reasonably considerate person. Worthy: Doesn’t suck.

Mr. U.: Has multiple tattoos and was a junkie for a number of years. Worthy: Is more or less as non-toxic as Play-Doh (TM), rather than being a walking Superfund site.

Mr. U.: Has the dynamic lifepath of a bobbing jellyfish.
Worthy: Has an endoskeleton and a plan.

Feel free to add to these distinctions.

Friday, March 23rd 2007

Not-writing vs. writing
posted @ 12:29 pm in [ ]

I was corresponding earlier today with a fellow writer about not writing. The truth is, most of us, however accomplished we may be as writers, spend a lot of time — indeed, often the majority of our time — not writing. Those of you who followed my commentary about my process, lo, these many years, may be struck by just how much time during that process I spent not writing. Sometimes I knew exactly why I wasn’t writing and sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes when I was writing, I felt inspired and it flowed, and other times it was drudgery I had to bribe myself with treats to complete the barest minimum, but it still counted as writing.

The weird thing for me was that I had always had an easy time of it with my own writing — I could always produce for myself, or for a check. Plus, writing my dissertation was the part of my program I had actually looked forward to. I’ve never really enjoyed most of my coursework, and comps scared the hell out of me, but I was pretty sure I could write a book okay, and I thought it would be really fun to do my own work for a change instead of an assignment. The not-writing part was particularly baffling for me.

When I teach writing courses geared toward skills development (as opposed to more creative, workshoppy courses), I always spend at least a week on dealing with obstacles, because getting stuck is a reality. I like to get everyone talking about what hangs them up, because the two things that make obstacles huge and insoluble are isolation, where you feel like you’re the only one having this problem and therefore there is something wrong with you and therefore you can’t do this and are utterly unsuitable for writing or graduate work or maybe life; and habituation, or not knowing what else to do. So when we all talk about what hangs us up in a group, not only do we find out that lots of other folks have the same obstacles, but that everybody has some kind of obstacle, and furthermore, when someone is not suffering from your personal obstacle, they can often see an effective strategy to beat it. It’s like in Monsters, Inc. when every kid has his or her own personal monster, and the other monsters aren’t so scary.

I have one perennial obstacle that I have to do battle with every time I have some sort of large, time-consuming project that requires my attenion. I named it “productive procrastination.” It’s where I have this list of stuff I have to get done, and I do all these other little tasks instead of dealing with the big project. It seems to be an artifact of my personality that I want to clear out my schedule by dealing with the little, manageable stuff, and then have lots of time to deal with the big stuff. It never works that way, though. Instead, I spend all my time working on the little stuff and I run out of time for the big stuff. Technically, it’s not really related to writing per se, it’s related to large projects in general, specifically ones that don’t have immediate tangible results. It’s also related to my being more detail-oriented than big-picture-oriented. Getting fifty little things done is a lot easier for me than getting one big thing done, and it’s more satisfying, too. Generally speaking, I usually handle that by breaking down big tasks into dozens of little ones and trying to find ways to observe tangible results.

I ran into two more dissertation-specific obstacles during my process, though. The first was the practical time and money problem. I married for love and went to graduate school, and full financial support for late-stage doctoral students really only happens in some of the hard sciences, so I was obliged to work full time (sometimes as many as four or five jobs at a time) while trying to write a book, which is miserable and exhausting. If I had it to do over again, I think I would have spent some time applying for grants and stuff, or otherwise securing a little more funding. Often, the timelines for the application processes were kind of far off, and I hoped I would be finished by the time the disbursements came up. If I had been a little more cynical about how long it would take me to finish and considered fundraising to be part of my process, it might have gone a little more smoothly for me. I doubt it would have saved me much time, though, and it might have been a distraction to deal with yet another thing. I hate it when money has to be a practical concern, because, you know, I hate money. I think that’s obvious from my career choices.

The second was a new one on me: ambivalence. Why wasn’t I writing? Didn’t I want to finish? Eh. Sometimes, I just couldn’t bring myself to feel strongly about it one way or the other. Upon closer examination, there were some things I really liked about being a doctoral candidate. I liked the quality of hopeful aspriation or something that came with it. Being a student was also comfortable for me, because I had been doing it for so long, despite my growing irritation with its ever-increasingly age-inappropriate suckitude. I knew the University community well and understood how it worked. Finishing might mean moving really far away and I had developed something resembling a life in Colorado. I would lose my email address I’ve had for years and years and years. What if I couldn’t get a job when I finished and had all this alarming debt and no way to pay for it? Finishing meant inviting instability to move right in and set up housekeeping in my stable little world. On the other hand, I was not getting any younger, my friends were finishing and moving away, stuff was changing without me, I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t seem to finish up, and earning a real income is more appealing than mere deferment. Generally, I’m not freaked out about The Unknown, but yikes, finishing meant venturing into the unknown everything. I think I just didn’t want everything to change all at once.

With pretty much all these things, including the vast, gaping, directionless unknown I’m currently facing down, the most effective way I’ve found to deal with them is not to worry too much about what to do next summer or next year, but to keep the end goal in mind and just to do The Next Thing. At the moment, The Next Thing is to figure out the new goals.

Wednesday, March 21st 2007

Evil: keepin’ it fresh!
posted @ 10:20 am in [ - ]

So now that I have a little time to think, I’ve been pondering the Big Questions: Why do bad things happen to good people? What is the meaning of life? And more importantly: Why isn’t Henry Kissinger dead yet? I’m not sure, but I think it’s becuase evil is a preservative, and I think it’s a better one than Polysorbate 80. It would explain why bad things happen to good people, too: Not enough preservatives. It would also explain why evil corporations continue to thrive while good ones go belly up, and of course, why I, here in the evil lair, continue to be youthful and fabulous.

Saturday, March 17th 2007

Does that really work?
posted @ 8:17 am in [ ]

We’ve seen the scenes in movies and the cultural references to doctors getting better tables in restaurants. But does it really work? I set out to gather some empirical data about this. Making a reservation under “Dr. Spohn” at one of my favorite local restaurants, I showed up at the appointed time to be seated in a lovely room I didn’t know existed at a comfortable little table in the corner (my favorite). The owner waited on us. I am looking forward to more empirical research on this difficult question.

Thursday, March 15th 2007

Lamest spambots EVER!
posted @ 1:08 pm in [ - ]

As you know, I get a ton of spam, so I think of myself as something of an authority on the nature of blog spam. I primarily see three kinds of products being peddled. In order of popularity, they are: Porn, prescription drugs, and gambling. All of them are being peddled in their most alarming forms: Disturbing porn, drugs in no-longer-medicinal strengths and dosages, and really scammy gambling. Even if I thought y’all might be intersted in some of these products, I don’t imagine you’re interested in extreme porn, drugs and gambling, and that if you were, you are probably looking those up on your own right now and don’t need my help.

Frequently, the gambling and drugs are short posts with a single link saying something like “Buy Hydrocoton!” but the porn ones have zillions of links, many of which purport to show things the mere sight of which might scar me for life. I don’t want to see your granny doing a goat, okay? Could you not? No further details would possibly entice me to “check this.” But we’re not here to talk about the unfortunate plight of being on a fixed income and having to boink ungulates to make ends meet. We’re here to award medals for truly bad spam.

BRONZE Third place goes to the spambots that purport to be real comments but that misspell simple words: Well sayed. Hey, thanks! I know none of my friends are that moronic, so there is no chance this is anybody I know. BLAM! I delete those without a second thought, only to see the same stupid, misspelled phrases again further down the page. Thank you — how spontaneous!

SILVER The silver medal goes to the foreign language posts, because A., They’re always in foreign languages I actually speak, so I know what they’re saying, and it’s always totally inconsequential and not related to the posting; and B., The origins of these comments are in English, and they always say things like, “Big Monster C*ck.” Come on, who is NOT going to notice that? The lameness of these postings would be greatly mitigated by using more obscure foreign languages, like, say, Bantu, or Flemish, and by not sending them directly from a heavy-duty porn proxy.

GOLD The undisputed champion of lame spam would have to be the whiney depressive comments: “My life’s been pretty dull lately. I’ve just been letting everything wash over me. So it goes.” “I just can’t be bothered with anything lately. Shrug.” What?! Is this spambot channeling Kierkegaard? Am I supposed to think this is just a depressive, self-absorbed friend of mine? Lookit, two entries up is some spam for Xanax. Why don’t I put you in touch with each other?

Spam sucks. This concludes the medal ceremony.

Monday, March 12th 2007

How goes Megfest 2007?
posted @ 1:11 pm in [ - ]

Quite well, thanks! The previously reported-upon events were fun, novel, and helped remind me that I’m really into doing fun things. Repressing my instincts to have fun for months on end so I could finish a book doesn’t seem to have done any permanent damage. Saturday’s Movie Day with the Bond theme included many flavors of microwave popcorn: Butter, Kettle Corn, Buttered Kettle Corn, Extreme Butter… and mojitos. I’m not much into mixed drinks, but MAN, I love a good mojito.

One of the only things about my birthday I haven’t been crazy about is that I’ve been under the impression that it’s an underrated day in history — kind of a reporting dead zone. This year, my mom disabused me of this notion, sending me many links to exciting things and people that happened on various March 9ths. Okay, some of the reporting is still pretty sparse, here, and there is really a lot of obscure stuff. Still, some of it is pretty exciting. To that end, then:

TOP 15 MOST EXCITING MARCH 9THS (other than 1971):

15: 1987. Bow Wow, American alleged rapper and actor, born.

14: 1629. Tsar Alexis I of Russia (d. 1676) born.

13: 1945. Robin Trower, British rock musician, born.

12: 1796. Napoléon Bonaparte marries his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais.

11: 1942. John Cale, Welsh musician, (The Velvet Underground) and Mark Lindsay, American singer/musician (Paul Revere & The Raiders) born.

10: 1955. Teo Fabi, Italian racing driver, born.

9: 1918. Author of pulpy detective novels Mickey Spillane born in Brooklyn, New York.

8: 1943. Bobby Fischer, American chess player (and famous nutjob) born. Also Charles Gibson, American television journalist.

7: 1981. Ketchup is declared a vegetable, by the Department of Agriculture, to help public schools in the USA with the balanced meal. 

6: 1959. The Barbie doll debuts.

5: 1954. Bobby Sands, Irish republican (d. 1981), born.

4: 1932. The first Ford Flathead engine left the assembly line.

3: 2006. Liquid Water discovered on Enceladus, the sixth largest moon of Saturn.

2: 1964. The first Ford Mustang rolls off the assembly line. Also rolling off the assembly line was French actress Juliette Binoche.

1: 1933. Newly-inaugurated President Franklin D. Roosevelt called a special session of Congress and began the first hundred days of enacting his New Deal legislation, beginning with the Emergency Banking Act, and continuing with almost daily new bills. “Among the new federal programs created were the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which distributed half a billion dollars to the poor; the Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed people to work on forestry projects; the Public Works Administration, which employed people to build bridges, dams and roads all across the country; the Tennessee Valley Authority, which built and maintained dams on the Tennessee River, controlling flooding and providing cheap energy; and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which provided for the first insurance of banking deposits.”

Ongoing Holidays and Observances: Belize: Baron Bliss Day. Catholic Liturgical Feasts: - Saint Gregory of Nyssa
- Saint Frances of Rome - Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

Thursday, March 8th 2007

Repost: No more feminism until you eat your dessert
posted @ 11:12 am in [ ]

Note: This first appeared in December of 2004, but I had a request for a repost, so here it is. If you like this, you might also like my untitled posting of September 18, 2002, which is a rant about feminine beauty and the fashion racket.

I like dessert. Ever since I quit smoking, lo, these many years ago, I feel that a meal needs a punctuation mark of some kind that is not a proven carcinogen. A sweet is perfect. Futhermore, I believe ordering, enjoying, and yes, even finishing a dessert is a political statement. With all the body image crap women are constantly bombarded by in this culture, many women won’t order dessert in a restaurant, or will attempt to satisfy whatever longing they might have for, say flan, with a restrainedly desperate spoon-clawing at someone else’s dessert.

Ladies, I beseech you to stop it. Stop hovering over the dessert plates of others with wistful eyes and poised, trembling spoons. Stop participating in the ridiculous repression that has waiters carrying dozens of spoons to a single table of women who intend to split a single dessert. Stop pretending it’s okay because you hate chocolate when you know perfectly well you’re about to go home and cry over a Dove bar. It’s annoying to those of us whose desserts you are marring, and it’s politically and culturally pathetic. Get your own dessert.

It doesn’t make you slim or in control to blow off dessert if you want it. It doesn’t make you a gluttonous fatty to go ahead and eat a friggin’ flan. It just feeds some magazine-manufactured idea of how women are supposed to behave, and it doesn’t feed you at all. Futhermore, it is not making you more attractive to men, who are often impressed by women with healthy appetites who are not all affected about it because they are out with a man. I can’t tell you how many guys I know who are impressed when their dates order steak rather than salad. Besides, if your relationship continues, sooner or later, he is going to find out your a steakeater, or you will have to suffer a lifetime of leafy grazing. If you eat that salad when you wanted steak, do you think Cosmo is going to send someone out to interview you and extoll your virtues in an upcoming article, possibly with you on the cover in all your cleavage-enhanced, self-depriving glory?

If you don’t get dessert, you are deprived of far more than a transitory morsel. No Cosmo interview, no special award for your self-sacrifice, no freedom from what magazines tell you you should be like so you can remain shackled to the dictates of the fashion industry racket, no liberation from weird stereotypes of what is attractive or acceptable for women to do in public, no impressed look from your date that you’re not a dessert-deprived ninny, no prop with which to taunt him if you’ve decided you like him, no joyful flourish to the end of the meal, and most importantly, NO FLAN! You could make the case for no love handles, but if you’re worried about it, take a bike ride in the morning. Flan and excercise is a lot better for you than no flan and no exercise. Keeps you happier and keeps the metabolism humming. If you must share with your girlfriends, each of you get your own and share. If you want extra attention, feed each other. Drives onlookers wild.

My sisters, liberating ourselves from weird repressions is one of our major tasks in life. Sometimes this involves educating ignorant jerks, or protesting when it’s 10 below outside, or painstakingly organizing events, or being good role models, or diplomatically arguing with our bosses, all of which is draining. The suffragettes worked tirelessly for generations to get us the vote, which was even moreso. All you have to do is eat your effing flan. One flan, one spoon, one humanity. Go, my sisters, demand the dessert menu.

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