Saturday, June 30, 2007

dr. bronner's magic soapbox

It's true. There's a documentary out about Dr. Bronner, creator of the infamous, and all-purpose, Dr. Bronner's Soap. Most known for peppermint soap and insane, if strangely lyrical, religious rantings on the packaging, Dr. Bronner's Soap is also available in almond, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lavender, and baby-mild, in both liquid and bar forms. I've only used the peppermint, in liquid form, as a body wash, and can attest to it's delightful peppermintness. My friend Arielle tends to keep an industrial-sized bottle of it in her home to be used as dish washing soap, detergent, body wash, and everything in between.


"Thank God we don't descend down from perfect Adam & Eve to sinful sinner, brother's keeper, divided slave! Thank God! United, hard-working trained brave, from dust we ascend up! Thank God for that!"

"Don't Drink Soap! Dilute! Dilute! or Wet Skin Well! OK!"

"Within 9 minutes you feel fresh, mint-clean, saving 90% of your hot water & soap, ready to help teach the whole Human race the Moral ABC of All-One-God-Faith! For we're All-One or none!"

Friday, June 29, 2007


Apparently, certain parts of the great state of Idaho are the last of the great American wilderness, with the exception, of course and practically as always, of Alaska. Timothy Egan, author most recently of The Worst Hard Time, about survivors of the horrific Dust Bowl years, talks it up in his travel article today for the New York Times. Though he doesn't mention the specific town near which I spent all of my summers growing up, he does rhapsodize a bit about the St. Joe River, also known in some circles as the shadowy St. Joe, gracing many a postcard in the Harrison General Store. The St. Joe River winds its last couple of miles through Lake Coeur d'Alene, a truly wonderful place to spend an afternoon on a little boat, meandering upstream through narrow river banks, gawking at the llamas wading off the shore of the llama farm, counting turquoise blue dragon flies, watching the remnants of what was once a thriving logging region.

Frighteningly enough (according to Wikipedia at least - I have to admit I haven't done any further research in to this), the EPA considers Lake Coeur d'Alene to be polluted due to mining in the vicinity, and advises people that they should not eat fish from the lake and should shower "extensively" after swimming in its waters. Mind you, we used to eat catfish, perch, sunfish or trout practically every day during the 6-8 weeks we spent on the lake every summer, and eschewed bathing indoors in favor of soaping up and jumping off the end of the dock in the twilight hour just before the sun completely set and the bats came out. I suppose some might argue that this explains a lot about certain members of the McNeil clan.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

new things

New Zealand is all over pop culture these days, it seems. Not one, but two New Zealand movies are being released stateside: Black Sheep, a strange-as-they-come little flick about sheep gone wild, giving in to their carnivorous, man-eating desires (and in a land in which sheep outnumber people by a ratio of at least 10 to 1, it stands to reason that flesh-eating sheep might perhaps be a communal nightmare), and Eagle vs. Shark, a quirky-sounding movie about two oddballs in love. And then there are those advertisements all over the New York subway system these days touting the hilarity of HBO's next big thing, the Flight of the Conchords, which seems to be perhaps something similar to early Tenacious D, though since I don't have HBO, I really have no idea. And then of course there is the rise and fall of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I happen to be quite fond of New Zealand wines, in general, and thought that this New York Times article was slightly on the harsh side in terms of the decline of NZ sauvignon blancs. But I was pleased that they disliked Spy Valley wines just as much as I did.
I learned a new definition for "curator" the other day. Or rather, I'm sure the definition has been around forever, but it is new to me. I've only heard the term in the context of museums, but apparently a curator can also mean "a guardian of a minor, lunatic, or other incompetent, especially with regard to his or her property."

Today I learned about a new career possibility, mentioned in an article about researchers looking for Bigfoot in Michigan. Seriously. Apparently there is such a thing as a cryptozoologist, a zoologist who specializes in the study of animals that have not been proven to exist. Grover Krantz, a now-deceased professor at Washington State University, was a specialist in this field. Washington State University, as you may or may not know, is the alma mater of both of my parents as well as the place where my paternal grandfather, for many years, was a zoology professor. He was not a cryptozoologist, but rather specialized in the field of parasitology, and had the good fortune of teaching Gary Larsen in a course or two, perhaps single-handedly bringing the world of paramecium and protozoa to the forefront of the comic world through the popularity of Larsen's Far Side comics.

Josh gave me a CD for my birthday last week, Mend, a newish album by a little Scottish band called De Rosa. I'm not sure how long they've been around, but this is the first I'd heard of them, and it's a great album. Kind of in the vein of the Shins, I suppose. Thank you, Josh. You rock.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

man on the street

I was walking up Broadway this morning, minding my own business, when an older gentleman, gray-haired and slightly portly, walking in the opposite direction, said good morning. I smiled, said good morning. He stopped, turned back towards me, and said, "What's your haircut about? Are you in a play? Or is it for the every day? Do your kids prefer it this way? Are you a lesbian? Or is it just for the summer? Is it medical? Did you just get sick and tired of having long hair? What's it for?" I, stunned, mumbled something about preferring short hair and saving money on shampoo. He said, "Oh okay then," and continued on his merry way, greeting the next person with a hearty good morning. I paused, wondering if he would let fly with a string of questions for this new person, but no, it must have been my crew cut that did it. And it's funny, because I was telling a coworker about this odd little interaction when I got to the library, and this coworker was aghast at the inappropriateness and intrusiveness of the older gentleman. But I wasn't. I don't think he was trying to be offensive or rude or anything. He just seemed genuinely curious, and not very well socialized, perhaps even slightly insane, but not offensive or hurtful in any way. And I realized this is another reason to love this city. In a small town, it seems, my choice of hair style, or lack thereof, either draws curious, if subtle, stares or glares, or is studiously ignored for fear of giving offense. But here in this great city, every so often you come across a person who isn't afraid to ask a question, to satiate his curiosity about a thing that intrigues or confuses him. And all you can do is take it in stride, take it in the manner it was intended, not to hurt or to denigrate or to minimize or to criticize, but to maybe just learn a little something, and then move on through your day.

Monday, June 25, 2007

odds & ends v

A Nebraska judge banned a couple words from a rape trial recently, specifically the words rape, sexual assault, victim, assailant, and sexual assault kit. Makes you wonder what's left. Perhaps the complainant can describe how she and the defendant made sweet, sweet love.

Balancing out this insanity, the case of the $54 million pants was tossed out of court by a judge today.

On a rather exciting note, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards (not to be mistaken for my dear cousin Dirk's soon-to-be bride, an entirely different Elizabeth Edwards) came out (so to speak) in favor of gay marriage yesterday. She is quoted as saying, "I don't know why someone else's marriage has anything to do with me. I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage." Amen to that, sister.

I've seen a couple of really good movies lately. Intimate Strangers (in French, no less, with subtitles--you know it must be good if I'm willing to put down my knitting needles and instead squint at damned subtitles!), about a tax attorney mistaken for a therapist and the quirky, touching relationship that ensues; and Half Nelson, a depressing as hell yet strangely moving story of a crack-addled teacher and an amazing student. Both very odd, yet highly recommended.

Speaking of which, I was having a rather rough time yesterday afternoon, giving into overwhelming loneliness and feelings of abandonment by a certain man now happily involved with another woman, so I decided to partake in what any proper woman armed to the teeth with a pair of knitting needles would do. I ordered some Blue Heron yarn in eggplant, and also some stitch markers because I am totally and completely incapable of keeping my place in anything more advanced than knit two, purl two. Oh, the decadence and self-indulgence of it all was unbelievable. Softened, slightly, by a 10%-discount as a result of the last time I ordered from Seaport Yarns. Also speaking of which, Nathan gave me the sweetest birthday gift last Thursday, a $75 gift certificate to Yarntopia, on the corner of 108th & Amsterdam. This is neither here nor there, but does anyone else find themselves flabbergasted by the stupid names of some yarn stores? I mean, Yarntopia? Knitty City?? Ana-Cross-Stitch?!? Great stores, ridiculous names, I say. My favorite name is The Yarn Company. But The Yarn Company is an obnoxious, pretentious store, in my, as always, humble opinion.

"Art is the enemy of the routine, the mechanical and the humdrum. It stops us in our tracks with a high voltage jolt of disturbance; it reminds us of what humanity can do beyond the daily grind. It takes us places we had never dreamed of going; it makes us look again at what we had taken for granted." - Simon Schama, art historian extraordinaire

Sunday, June 24, 2007

scarf for andy

the noonday demon

"Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes, it degrades one's self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself. Love, though it is no prophylactic against depression, is what cushions the mind and protects it from itself. Medications and psychotherapy can renew that protection, making it easier to love and be loved, and that is why they work. In good spirits, some love themselves and some love others and some love work and some love God: any of these passions can furnish that vital sense of purpose that is the opposite of depression. Love forsakes us from time to time, and we forsake love. In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident. The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance."

Andrew Solomon, the Noonday Demon

Thursday, June 21, 2007

best birthday emails ever

6.21.2001 Budweiser for your Birthday
Hello Ms. Emily McNeil,

Your friend, Nathan McNeil, informed the good folk here at Budweiser that you would be enjoying Budweiser Beer for your Birthday this year. We would like to let you know that we appreciate your decision to drink our fine product. We know of no other beer that costs as much to brew or tastes as good as beech wood aged Budweiser.

Have a happy birthday and enjoy Budweiser responsibly.


Your Friends at Budweiser Customer Relations

6.26.2001 Birthday Failure
Ms. McNeil

We were informed that you would be drinking Budweiser and hence wanted to wish you a happy birthday. However, it has since come to our attention that you in fact drank no Budweiser whatsoever on your birthday. We hereby retract our wishes for a happy birthday.


Budweiser Customer Relations

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

odds & ends IV

As it turns out, it's not just women who are crazy in Texas. Yesterday, in the midst of a Juneteenth celebration in Austin, an angry mob actually beat a man to death. Read more on this story here and here.

On a side note, Juneteenth, also known as June 19th, commemorates the day in 1865 that the slaves of Galveston, Texas, were first told of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on January 1st, 1863. In other words, it took two and a half years for freedom from slavery to be enforced in the great state of Texas. Make of that what you will.

On a more mundane note, tomorrow, being the summer solstice here on the northern side of the Equator, will be the longest day of the year. Sunrise at 5:24am, sunset at 8:31pm, at least in grand old New York City.

Lastly, classic Sesame Street for the inner library geek, I mean child, in you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

oh the post office

I've been lazy about going to the post office these past two weeks. Patti, who was staying with me for a few days, asked me to ship a box of books out to Washington so that she wouldn't have to take it on the plane with her. Finally, this morning, I got my act together and lugged the box of books to the post office. Here I've always thought it was just around the corner, practically, but when you're lugging a box intended to carry about twenty Harry Potter books (this would be a box directly from Scholastic to the bookstore, emblazoned on all sides with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), the ten minute walk seems nigh on interminable.

I'm finally on line at the post office, only two people in front of me, and thinking to myself, yay, I am just so smart, getting here right when they open their doors at 8am, I'll have plenty of time to mail this box, grab a cup of coffee, and still get to the office by 9. When I'm second in line, one of the two women behind the plexiglass safety wall calls out, "Honey, are you sending that box back to the company?" I, confused, shake my head in the negative. She says, "Honey, you can't send a box like that unless it's going back to the company, but maybe you could wrap it up in brown paper." I ask if they sell brown paper. She says no, but there's a 99-cent store up the block that sometimes carries rolls of it. She then says the 99-cent store opens at 9. I, utterly dejected, turn to go. With my Harry Potter box full of books. She calls me back, says I could just buy one of their ready-to-mail boxes, and since book rate shipping is so cheap, even with the $3.19 for the box and the $.10 for the use of their tape, it won't be so bad. I say okay. She passes me a box, a pair of scissors, and a roll of tape through the pass-through. I start putting the box together. She stops me with another holler across the room. Asks if I want to just send it priority mail instead, because priority won't be too much more expensive than book rate, and minus the $3 for the box, I'll just about break even anyway. And I can use my own box, just wrap their special Priority Mail tape all around the outside of it, completely covering up the Harry Potter, don't you see. I say okay. I send her the partially-folded ready-to-mail box, the first roll of tape, and the scissors back through the pass-through in exchange for the Priority Mail tape. Post Office tape, as it turns out, is crap, and shreds like you wouldn't believe. But I persevere. I wrap up that Harry Potter box so excessively in Priority Mail tape that you would never, ever guess there was anything untoward on that box. I go back to the window. She weighs my box, does a double take at her computer screen, says, "Oh, honey, I'm sorry, I guess I was wrong. Priority Mail must've gone up recently. This'll cost you $32!" I cringe. She pulls out from behind the counter an already-used, only slightly-worse-for-wear ready-to-mail box, hands it over with the roll of non-priority-mail tape, apologetic, says, "Put those books in here instead." She can't find the scissors I just gave her. Two other postal workers help look for the scissors. They're next to the pass-through. She sends 'em on back to me. I go back to the counter by the windows, transfer the books from my originally-Harry-Potter-box, now maniacal Priority-Mail-Box, and get back in line, trying to neither laugh nor cry. Total cost: $7.23. Total time: 50 minutes. I don't know why postal workers would go postal, but I understand why the rest of us might. Patti, you know I love you.

Monday, June 18, 2007

looks, and other oddities

You say you don't look at me
I say you don't look so good
I went out in the cold to buy a paper
Pushing every button in the elevator

But I know I got my looks and you got yours
Must have learned them from a million stars
Oh looks, oh man
Oh looks, oh man

I get 'em on the bus and I get 'em on the streets
and I get 'em from you
Always looking for a reason, looking for a cure
What can I do, I'm just so tired of you

And I wish the lights would dim
'Cause I can see what this is leading to
and it looks real grim

But I know I got my looks and you got yours
Guess you just weren't what I was looking for
Oh looks, oh man
Oh looks, oh man
-Mike Doughty

I was walking east today on 116th, coffee in hand, towards my usual lunch spot on a bench under a tree on Morningside Avenue. A man, walking in the opposite direction, called out, "Hello, princess," and I found myself glancing over my shoulder, wondering who he was talking to. There was no one else around except for Lee Bollinger, looking his usual bemused self, also walking in the opposite direction, and I found this odd. I can't quite imagine the man in question was hailing Bollinger, though the only other option seems easily as ludicrous.

One of the guys on the library renovation crew has taken to greeting me every day, "Morning, beautiful," this despite having been introduced to me his first day on the job. Though I don't remember his name, and maybe he's as bad at names as I am, and just more adept at covering up this shortcoming.

A week or so ago I had to open a study room for a man from Facilities, but he seemed more interested in discussing my "creativity" than in finding the source of the leak he was supposed to be investigating. He didn't buy that I only work in the library, that I am "all business," as he put it. When I finally conceded that I write a bit every once in awhile, he grinned and chuckled and said, "Yeah, I knew there's an artist in you screaming to get out." Huh? I'd never seen this guy before, nor he me, as far as I know.

I've never considered myself to be particularly beautiful, or even the more generic pretty. I squint a lot, have an odd facial mole, slightly crooked teeth, an off-kilter jaw, not great skin, an eyebrow hair that grows to extraordinary lengths, a unibrow (according to my dearest brother, "but it's blond, so it's okay!"), and a very round face to coincide with the plumpness (some might generously say curviness) of the rest of me.

Recently, it seems that for all I'm not pretty in any typical sense of the word, there is something attractive, to some men at least, in my quirks and oddities, my crew cut and roundness. I've been wondering if some men are as disgusted as I often find myself with stereotypical notions of female beauty, the stylish hair, stylized features, thinness of body. Today there was an article in the Times about juvenile diabetics intentionally withholding their insulin doses because this makes them lose weight--always a worthy cause, certainly, even in the face of failing kidneys, blindness, death. Perhaps some men walking down the street in a city as looks-obsessed as New York are sometimes glad and pleased to see a woman of another sort.

Also in the news today, and worth being a little pissed off about:
Trojan's latest television advertising campaign is pushing the use of condoms to basically enjoy sex responsibly. This is apparently too radical for the likes of FOX and CBS, both of whom have rejected the TV spots, due to their inappropriateness. Says Carol Carrozza, VP for the company that manufactures LifeStyles Condoms, "We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can’t use sex to sell condoms." Right on.

And worth being really pissed off about:
The Supreme Court, in a depressingly predictable 5-4 decision, condemned a man to his fate based on a technicality. The lower court judge told the man that he had until February 27th to file an appeal. He filed the appeal on February 26th. Turns out, the judge was wrong and the deadline was February 24th. The Supreme Court's response? Tough luck. This is passionate conservatism at work.

And lastly, the battle of the pants continues.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

father's day

Father's Day and my birthday are always within a few days of each other. Most of the years that I was growing up (though perhaps I should qualify that statement, as some might argue I have a ways to go in the growing up department, and should not consider the whole process a thing of the past), my dad and I would go out for a special "just the two of us" dinner, usually at Paul Ma's, our favorite and beloved Chinese restaurant in Yorktown Heights. I don't remember what we talked about, or what we wore, or what we ate, but I remember feeling so very close to him on those evenings out, and treasured those dinners beyond measure.

I wrote this a few years back, not in June, but rather in February, the dead of a very cold and gray winter, but woke up thinking about it this morning.

Mourning Rituals

I woke up at dawn and watched the clouds through uncurtained
windows grow rosy and fat before disappearing
across the river to the west.
I wanted to flee west too, join that
magic disappearing act.

I got up, fed the cats, made coffee (my evil witches brew), added milk.
I sat at the table listening to the radio mumbling in another room, the
baby next door, the commuter traffic on the West Side
Highway, the Henry Hudson Parkway --
multiple meanings, multiple lives, multiple histories in the
naming of names.

I relish the fact that I live
in a neighborhood named in commemoration of an early battle
wherein those red-coated Brits kicked the fledgling
revolutionaries' pretty white ass.
It's just so thrillingly un-American.

When my father died we received an American
flag from the United States military.
My mother, when she fled New York to return
to the western frontier of her birth,
took it with her.

The biggest American flag I have ever seen
waves gallantly through sleet and through snow
above the monolithic medical complex just
north of my apartment.

I dyed my hair again this morning. Plum. I have not
worn my natural hair color other than as peach fuzz, or the
growing out of peach fuzz,
since I was 14 years old. That was in
1991. My father was scared
I'd get cancer so I only used henna (that alfalfa-reeking
all-natural vegetable dye)
at first. I didn't start smoking until
1993. I smoked mainly American Spirits (those
"all-natural" cigarettes) at first
because I thought they'd be less likely to cause cancer,
but then there was a special on Marlboros
(2 for $4) so I switched.
Economic necessity always wins out.

If I lean far enough out my window I can see the river,
gray in early morning light, and I dream of
following it all the way to its source. A girl
I once loved, perhaps dreaming of flight, years later
leaned out too far and never came back.

I put on my mask this morning, the green eye
shadow the rosy lipstick the ivory powder
(always in that order).

I walked the five blocks to the train station.
The subway roaring out of that tunnel into the dim light of the
station platform seemed a fire-breathing demon and
I wanted to ride it all the way down to the
sea. Some times I imagine drowning
in those places where land and water meet.

some of my favorite things, politically & otherwise

I got a crush on Obama

Bush's Speechwriter

Bush on the Ranch (an oldie but a goodie)

baby marmoset & papa

Strindberg & Helium

Saturday, June 16, 2007

baby shower for cyn

My friends Cindy & John are having a baby. This is thrilling to no end, the first chance I'll have, really, to play the role of the old friend who comes to visit now and then and spoil the kid rotten. I'm looking forward to making the trek up to Cold Spring, bag o' goodies in hand, to play with the wee little girl later this year. In the meantime, it's been lovely making a blanket for her and helping Jessie plan a surprise baby shower, which was today, here in my apartment. It was a beautiful day, full of good friends, gorgeous weather, and yummy food. And while the gathering was mostly for Cindy, Cindy brought a little birthday present for me, the perfect gift, a jar of ginger papaya "body souffle" and a bar of chocolate-scented soap. I almost wrote chocolate flavored soap. I have a horrible tendency to want to taste anything that smells good. Sometimes this is okay, and other times it's not. Chris gave me a jar of honey sugar body scrub a few years back, and it smelled so good that I just had to taste it, and it does in fact taste of honey and sugar. But more recently he gave me a bottle of chocolate body wash, and though it smells like something so delicious that of course you'd want to eat it, it tastes like soap. Go figure.

Friday, June 15, 2007

bridge, 5.12.07

astrid & veronika

I'm reading a beautiful novel at the moment, Astrid & Veronika by Linda Olsson, fragile and simple and moving, about two damaged women who meet, by chance, in the Swedish countryside:

Each time she looked up, her eyes set on the other house. It stared back at her through the white morning mist.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a movement. In the bleak morning Astrid was slowly walking across the field. She trod cautiously, as if afraid of losing her footing. She wore the same clothes as the day before. Veronika didn't move, just sat and watched the slow progress until she heard the steps on the porch, followed by a hesitant knock. Two quiet taps, almost inaudible. And when Veronika opened the door, Astrid had already taken a step down, her body half turned away. She stopped in her tracks and slowly stepped back up onto the porch. She held her hands clasped over her stomach, twisting her fingers.

'I thought that perhaps you would like to come for coffee this afternoon,' she said, shifting her gaze from Veronika's face to the floorboards between them, then back again. 'I was thinking I might make waffles.' She paused. 'I suppose it's the same as pancakes.' She paused again. 'More or less.' She looked up, shrugged and smiled uncertainly. 'We used to have waffles for Marie Bebadelsedag, March 25. Annunciation Day. I don't know why, but people here always had waffles that day.' Another pause. 'I don't know why I came to think of that today. And you may have other things to do...' Her voice trailed off. 'Perhaps some other day.' She took a small step back, but Veronika stretched out her hand and held on to the old woman's wrist.

'I would love to,' she said.

'Three o'clock, then?' Astrid said, and when Veronika nodded the old woman turned and walked down the steps and back towards her house without looking back.
-pg. 40-41

The music had finished and when Astrid stopped talking the room was silent. Veronika blew out the candle and they were enveloped in the nebulous light that belonged to neither night nor day.

'Time. I don't understand it,' Veronika said. 'I think I have never grasped the essence of time. Memories seem to surface in no particular order, with no time attached. Yesterday can seem as distant as last year.'

Astrid did not respond, but stretched out her hand to pick up her glass. She took a sip and looked at Veronika.

'Some of my clearest memories are of the briefest moments,' Veronika continued. 'I have years of life that have left no traces, and minutes that are so ingrained in my mind that I relive them every day.'

'Yes,' the old woman said slowly. 'I think I said the same that first day by the river. I remember looking at those new buildings. To me, they were mushrooms, surprisingly grown overnight. The flax fields of sixty years ago seemed more real to me.' She sipped the liqueur, closing her lips tightly around a mouthful before swallowing. 'Telling you about that summer has given it back to me.' She bent forward a little, her hands on the table in front of her. 'It was never lost, you see; I just refused to listen. And now...' Her voice trailed off.

Veronika shifted in her seat, put down her glass and rested her elbows on the table, her chin on her clasped hands.

'My life now consists of fragments,' she said, 'where some are so blinding in their intensity that they make everything else indistinguishable. What shall I do with these glittering shards? There is no pattern; I can't make them fit. With each other, or with the whole that should be my life. It feels as if my existence was extinguished in a flash, and afterwards my universe became incomprehensible. Just shards and particles, which I carry with me wherever I go. They are sharp and they still hurt to touch. And they are so heavy. I know there is more--there are less intense fragments that I need to make it whole. I want to remember everything. But perhaps I need to give it more time. Allow myself some rest. Distance myself a little, to see if I can make out a pattern. And face the truth about what is really there.'

Astrid's face was a white mask and her hair a halo, Veronika's a wide triangle where the eyes were dark hollows, reflecting no light. The first stirring of the breeze rustled the trees outside the windows.

'When I met James it was as if a new time began. As if all that had been my life until then abruptly came to an end,' Veronika said, looking out into the night. 'And everything I had known before faded away. I was instantly transported into a world with brighter colours, sharper sounds, more intense flavours and smells. And for a time I thought it was mine.'

-pg. 75-77

For some reason, as I've been reading this book, I've had Blind Melon's Mouthful of Cavities running through my head.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

in the news

First, Judge Pearson, of the infamous $67.3 million law suit against Custom Dry Cleaners, is in court this week not on the bench but rather representing himself in what he calls the worst case in D.C. history of "egregious or willful conduct." He has, apparently out of the goodness of his heart, reduced his lawsuit to a mere $54 million. Maybe he's slowly recovering from the emotional anguish and trauma induced by losing a pair of pants.

Just a little bit more locally, this past weekend saw the seventh annual Reacting to the Past Conference here at Barnard College. Reacting to the Past originated back in the mid 1990s in a single classroom on the 4th floor of Lehman as a new concept of teaching history, the brain child of Professor Mark C. Carnes. Mark Carnes was one of the best professors I had in my four years at Barnard, and this is saying a lot for a place so overflowing with brilliant and amazing faculty. Not that I'm remotely biased or anything, mind you. But Mark truly is an incredible individual, entertaining and yet full to the brim with a deep understanding of history; passionate about his students, about sharing his enthusiasm with his students. I was lucky to have him as a professor, a friend, and advisor, and it's great to see that what started as one lone first-year seminar has grown to include more than thirty universities and colleges.

lake cabin, refurbished!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

homophobia so awful it's almost funny

Apparently researchers in the U.S. Air Force, back in 1994, proposed funding a $7,500,000 project to make a "gay bomb." I kid you not. This potential chemical weapon, while not lethal, would merely turn the enemy gay, and make all those guys in the other uniform want to have sex with each other instead of fighting. This idea was eventually quashed, or so they say.

Also in the news this week, a paper written back in 1991 by the very man Bush has recently nominated to be Surgeon General of the United States, one James W. Holsinger. While he seems a little bit obsessed with the ins and outs, so to speak, of sex between men, he doesn't seem to have a problem with sex between women. While he was Chancellor of the University of Kentucky Medical Center in 2002, he vocally supported including a session on lesbian health issues in the fifth Women's Health in Kentucky conference. You've sure come a long way, baby.

Monday, June 11, 2007

and we wonder what's wrong with justice

This directly from Sandra Day O'Connor's opinion in some case I can't remember the name of:

Hardy indicated that seven of the jurors drank alcohol during the noon recess. Four jurors, including Hardy, consumed between them "a pitcher to three pitchers" of beer during various recesses. Id., at 212. Of the three other jurors who were alleged to have consumed alcohol, Hardy stated that on several occasions he observed two jurors having one or two mixed drinks during the lunch recess, and one other juror, who was also the foreperson, having a liter of wine on each of three occasions. Id., at 213-215. Juror Hardy also stated that he and three other jurors smoked marijuana quite regularly during the trial. Id., at 216-223. Moreover, Hardy stated that during the trial he observed one juror ingest cocaine five times and another [*116] juror ingest cocaine two or three times. Id., at 227. One juror sold a quarter pound of marijuana to another juror during the trial, and took marijuana, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia into the courthouse. Id., at 234-235. Hardy noted that some of the jurors were falling asleep during the trial, and that one of the jurors described himself to Hardy as "flying."

Makes me wonder why I was so damned grateful to not be chosen to serve on a jury two years ago...

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I got home this morning to a very irate cat howling at the door, after spending the night at Chris & Andrew's apartment. I headed on down to Hell's Kitchen yesterday evening to join them for dinner at Druids, a kind-of-Irish-though-not-really pub not far from their apartment, and then we watched Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron's newest movie now out on DVD. The boys didn't seem overly impressed, but I found it disturbingly haunting and beautiful, in its way, and have since added the novel upon which it is based to my Amazon wish list. I use my Amazon wish list more as a a way of keeping track of books I've heard or read about and might want to read some day, helpful when you have a brain as swiss-cheesey as mine. Anyway, I thought it was an excellent movie and am glad the boys were willing to indulge my fondness for dystopian, post-apocalyptic, or at least post-normal, fantasy.

Last week, I accidentally bought a half gallon of whole milk instead of my usual 1%. I don't think I've drunk whole milk since I was a kid, when my parents encouraged us to order a glass of milk with our meals on the rare occasions when we ate out in restaurants, for some reason most memorably at the Gateway in Harrison, Idaho. It's thick and rich, delicious in coffee or tea, and I've even been eating my morning bowl of cold cereal with it, and making chocolate milk (one of my all-time favorite things, only defeated in the best-drink-ever department by chocolate malted milk) with it. I can't even begin to describe the luxuriousness, the decadence of drinking a glass of chocolate milk made with whole milk. Oh my god. It's going to be hard to return to that 1% milk, even if it is healthier. Maybe in another twenty years or so I'll make this same "mistake" again.

A filly won the Belmont Stakes yesterday afternoon, for the first time in over a hundred years. Andrew and I were making fun of CNN stories on his new computer, but when I saw the Belmont Stakes headline I started shrieking a little. Chris and Andrew kind of looked at me funny. It took me a minute to realize that they didn't know what a filly was, and couldn't understand why I'd care. I don't care about the Belmont Stakes particularly, but The Black Stallion's Filly (and all the other Walter Farley books, for that matter) was amongst my favorite books as a child. It's not every day that a filly takes on and defeats the big boys in these races, and I guess I just got a little carried away.

This morning I read about a movie called The Dead Girl, which looks pretty interesting. So I went to Netflix, did a title search, and added the movie to my list. But then I couldn't help but peruse the other movies with similar titles that came up. My favorites?

Dead Girl Walking (2005), "about Sayuri, a girl who unexpectedly 'dies.' Her body starts to decompose but won't quit working, and Sayuri is fated to continue walking the earth. When her sight and stench become unbearable, her family tries to kill her for good. Sayuri escapes and runs away, only to be abducted by a mysterious stranger who forces her to perform in a freak show for other strangely clad men. Is this her destiny?"

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls (1987), "a gore fest from France, this chiller combines horror, sex and environmental disaster. Deadly waste contaminates the milk supply in a small town, and the tainted milk kills three teenage girls who drink it. When more chemical waste accidentally falls on their graves, the girls' corpses rise from the dead. Now, the zombie sexpots are determined to destroy those responsible for the corrupted milk -- along with anyone who gets in the way."

Saturday, June 09, 2007


In January of 2006, Chris and I had the pleasure of visiting our friend Maia for a week in Anchorage, Alaska. One of the most amazing things, in a week filled with amazing things, was visiting with Maggie the Elephant in the humid, heated enclosure separating her from the arctic weather at the Alaska Zoo. Apparently Maggie is on her way to a location more suited to her climatic temperament.

Also I just finished reading a lovely novel, Water for Elephants, about a young man who drops out of veterinary school in the early 1930s and jumps a train, ending up in the midst of a traveling circus trying to keep it together during the Great Depression. And Richard, who is working with me here at the library again today, just gave me a piece of dark chocolate embossed with... an elephant. I guess things really do happen in threes.

Alaska: She'll Need a Plane With Leg Room

Published: June 8, 2007

The Alaska Zoo board has decided to relocate the state’s only elephant to another state under certain conditions, the board president said Wednesday. Advocates want the elephant, Maggie, moved to a warmer location, preferably to a sanctuary where she can roam with other elephants. The board voted late Tuesday on the relocation, citing various conditions to be met, including enlisting independent veterinarians to ensure that Maggie is healthy enough to move. Possible sites must also be selected by zoo staff members and approved by the board. Air travel is the only form of transportation acceptable to the board for moving Maggie, who was put on a regimen that included having a $100,000 treadmill built.

Friday, June 08, 2007


but i hate maureen dowd

Maureen Dowd is a giantess among men on the New York Times Op-Ed Page, always on hand with a pithy comment, a scathing put-down, and sometimes even a relevant point. She wears the mantle of a liberal and routinely trashes the Right, and when I started reading the Times years ago she was a kind of hero of mine. But eventually I noticed, not being overly quick on the uptake sometimes, that she trashes the Left too. She regularly lambasted Gore and Kerry during those abysmal election years of 2000 and 2004, perhaps even more viciously than she lambasted Bush. She devoted an entire column to the fact that Wesley Clark, while still in the race, wore an argyle sweater. She went after Howard Dean's wife. She went after Kerry's wife. She reinforced John Edwards' Breck Girl nickname. She mocked Kerry for his macho posturing. More recently, she's devoted entire columns to the fact that Edwards got an expensive haircut and that Barak Obama, or Obambi, as she has taken to calling him, is emasculated by his whip-smart, beautiful, successful wife. These are not the issues that effect our lives, and these are not the reasons to trash our politicians. Now I'm not a big fan of politicians in general, and I'm sure there are innumerable valid reasons to dislike any and all of them. But their choice of hair, sweater, sports, or spouse should generally not be among them. Maureen Dowd does more to encourage the ridiculous stereotypes of the weak, if liberal, emasculated male and the shrill, if liberal, shrewish woman than anyone I can think of, and she's on our side?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

i heart mike huckabee

Best quote from the third coming of the troupe of rich white men vying for the Republican nomination:

In a discussion about evolution, Huckabee said, "If anybody wants to believe that they are the descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it." For the love of God.

Read this for even more entertainment from this venerable stable of wise men.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

further knitting on a sunny tuesday afternoon

I keep thinking I'll try to sell some of my projects somewhere, a holiday craft fair, some little boutique. I have big fantasies about this. But then I keep going and giving everything away, can't quite accumulate enough finished projects to bother trying to sell them anywhere. Oh well.
What I want for Christmas this year: George W. Bush Voodoo Doll

Planned Parenthood called me this afternoon and I gave them $25. Not much, I know, but I can't ever seem to just say no to them, despite the fact that I give them $10 every month already anyway. More oh well.


New York Magazine is a pretty ridiculous publication, I'll grant you, but Chris's grandma Jean bought a subscription to it for us years ago, when we first moved in to this apartment, and I continue to get it in the mail every Monday. I flip through it every week, read the restaurant reviews religiously for some reason, and every so often will read through a particularly scandalous cover story. This week, one of these cover stories hits a little close to home.

A few months back, a friend of mine, a strong, healthy, thirty-one year old man, was diagnosed with cancer. Bone cancer. Multiple myeloma, to be exact, a cancer that predominantly attacks old people. He and his wife live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. One of this week's cover stories? The Toxic Lake Under Brooklyn. I tend to read the news on a semi-regular basis, and yet until Alan started talking about this pollution in Brooklyn over the last few months, I'd never heard of it. Maybe I just missed it over the years, which is not by any means impossible, or maybe it's just finally breaking in to the collective consciousness.

It broke my heart to learn of Alan's cancer, Alan who is truly one of the kindest people in this world. We became friends in high school, even went to the junior prom together. Over the years our friendship developed into a deep affection for each other. He, being all of four months older than me, became something of a big brother to me. He was always willing, without a second's hesitation, to drive me to or from one of the Westchester train stations or the airport, or make the trip down to Barnard to cook me a delicious dinner of chicken parmesan. He and Ben were with me the night that I found out about a friend's suicide, back in 1997, made sure I was alright, got me back to school the next day. He has never missed any of my birthday gatherings if he was in town, despite often having to be at work later than night. He has paid for the lion's share of our many lunches and dinners together over the years, not only because he is bigger and stronger and less ticklish than I am, but because his generosity knows no bounds, is not easily contained by himself or anyone else.

Who knows if there will ever be any proof that there is a connection between this extreme pollution and the various cancers and other diseases in the area. All I know is that, as with everyone who suffers through something like this, it should not be happening to Alan, and my heart goes out to him.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

odds & ends III

Patti, owner of the wonderful Watermark Book Company in Anacortes, Washington, was in town this past week for the annual Book Expo America, mecca of the American publishing industry. I put her up for the four days she was in town, much to my, and hopefully her, delight. Though I've, for the most part, comfortably reacclimated myself to living alone, it's nice to have visitors now and then, people to chat with over a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening. Nova seemed pleased by the extra attention, too. Pictures below.

One of the nicest things about hosting Patti for a few days, other than the lovely hours of talk and the delicious meals, was that she left me a sizable chunk of Cougar Gold cheese. You probably haven't heard of Cougar Gold, but let me tell you, it's the best cheese in the world. My parents were alums of Washington State University, in Pullman, Washington, and my grandfather was a professor there for many, many years. And WSU, as you may or may not know, has amazing agricultural and food science programs. And part of this program is the Washington State University Creamery, and the creamery makes Cougar Cheese, sold there, but also at the Bookie and Ferdinand's Ice Cream Shoppe, on the WSU campus. When Nate and I were growing up, we spent every single summer in Idaho at our grandparents' summer cabin on Lake Coeur d'Alene, specifically the town of Harrison. Pullman was a two hour drive from the cabin, and at least once every summer we'd make the trek around the lake, over the Palouse (one of the most beautiful areas in the world, in my humble opinion), and in to Pullman for a couple days. And always, always, our favorite thing was to get huge cones of ice cream or chocolate malts at Ferdinand's. And always, always, we'd have to get several tins of cheese (yes, that's right, Cougar cheese always comes in a tin) for ourselves and various friends back on the East Coast. These days, it's also available for order online.

I had to work yesterday, but then met up with a few friends for dinner before heading over to Nate and Shanna's lovely new place for an apartment warming party. Pictures also below.

There's a brand new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History that I'm dying to go see, even more exciting than last year's Darwin exhibit: Mythic Creatures. I was a firm believer in mermaids and unicorns as a child, created entire worlds with my friend Amy Crow, and read L. Frank Baum's biography of Santa Claus every Christmas for years. So this sounds just about perfect, with intriguing little tidbits and historical origins of imaginary animals. Just one example, did you know that the plural of cyclops is cyclopes, pronounced sigh-KLO-peez??

"Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many wondrous and secret cell
Unnumber'd and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the lumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die."
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This past February, I joined the millions of Americans partaking in perfectly legal happy pills, specifically fluoxetine, more popularly known as Prozac. Reading the little information sheet that comes with my new orange bottle every month is a study in the ambiguity of psychiatry. Not only is fluoxetine helpful for your run-of-the-mill Depression, but it can also help with Premenstrual Tension Syndromes (that would be the pathologized version of PMS), Obsessive- Compulsive Disorders, Binge-Eating and Vomiting Behaviors, and Panic Disorder Without Agoraphobia. A veritable cornucopia of medicatable predicaments. Any possible side effects? "Shortness of breath; fast or irregular breathing; fever; joint pain; fast pulse; lightheadedness or fainting; swelling of face; hives; & itching. Also skin rash; unusual movements of eye, face limb. Also diarrhea; delayed ejaculation in males; dry mouth; decreased sexual desire; drowsiness; unusual, painful & prolonged erection (gender unspecified); headache; difficulty falling asleep; nausea; nervousness; clenched jaw and teeth grinding; visual disturbances; decreased appetite; constipation; dizziness; unusual tiredness or weakness; sweating; shakiness. " Luckily for me, I have not noticed any of these side effects, at least no more than in my pre-medicated days. The only thing I've noticed is that I yawn. A lot. It's kind of weird, and slightly embarrassing, especially during staff meetings or meaningful conversations.

Lastly, dearest Andy who stayed at my apartment a couple weekends ago left me a little thank you gift, one of the oddest and cutest things I have ever seen. It was sitting on my desk at work for a few days (left at Nate's apartment, brought to SIPA by Shanna, transferred to my office, and eventually home), but finally this morning I opened it, watered it, placed it on my window sill. Hopefully, God willing and forgiving my lack of a green thumb, I will soon have an adorable egg full of mint. How did Andy know that was just what I needed in my life? Pictures also below.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


"My movements are calculated now, instead of flailing; I move like liquid, like someone who has always known how to get up and walk away. This was not always the case. In the moments, the days, weeks after he left, I was still bed-ridden. Remarkable, I thought at the time, how love and pain leave you in the same place, prostrate and desperate, arching your back to the sky."

"Morning: open your eyes, move. Stretch, check that your limbs are still working. Open your mouth, close it. Inhale. Check that the rainbows haven't fallen off the ceiling. I forced myself, day after day, to get out of bed, walk to the bathroom, the kitchen. To pull a book from the shelf and sit on the couch. To walk outside, to the corner, to get milk. It is easy to compare this to addiction, but it is nothing like addiction. The pain that comes after is not even anything like love. With that easy plague of love you benefit, in some tiny way, a single exhalation or a smile on his face. In this, the slow recovery, there is no benefit, only the stark horror at what you have become and how much you have lost. I try to get lost in books, like before, but it doesn't work the same way."

"Today, a breakthrough. I walk across the street; drop a letter in the mailbox."

-Erica, April 2007

new favorite thing: Kiss My Face Mango Ginger Lip Balm SPF 15

Friday, June 01, 2007

lazy friday afternoon

I've been listening to Vic Thrill this afternoon, feeling nostalgic for a few years back, I suppose.
circus of enlightenment
nobody's watching the radar
hummingbird pneumonia
suddenly (with the bogmen)

A truck driver destroyed his truck last night, not to mention part of the Lincoln Tunnel. Check out the article, if only to see an amazing picture of the truck, peeled back like a can of sardines.

New Hampshire approves civil unions!