Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
My children were homeschooled, a misnomer, at best. I prefer to say I never sent my children to school. Sure, they did school stuff - bunches of classes here and there over the years - college classes for Julia at 15, cooking classes and adult baking for Jerzy as a 12-year-old, that sort of thing. Julia took herself off to boarding school for a year in 11th grade, returning to college classes for her senior year at home, before going away to "real" college on the other side of the country. But the actual schoolwork was secondary. I'll try to be brief, resisting my urge to talk about our walks together; the books we read and assignments we worked on; friends that came and stayed and played; travels; plans made and problems solved; applications, jobs, successes and failures; crazy pick-up softball in the rain; soccer; crossword puzzles; Family Guy and South Park and Singing in the Rain and White Christmas; the entire weekend of foreign films, Babette's Feast, with me reading the subtitles aloud; talking; sharing; caring. Suffice it to say, we know one another well. We love one another even more.
Along comes David Gilmour with his memoir, The Film Club, about his two years watching movies with his son in lieu of school. Here's a video. I can't wait to get the book.
Monday, April 28, 2008
So I was looking at Big Think. There was an entry of the day about Educating the Masses,
Making American Students Competitive in a Global Economy by John McCain. Here's how it reads:
In addition to fixing up the No Child Left Behind Act, Senator John McCain has some other ideas for helping American students get ahead:Incentivise? Huh? Is that really a word? I guess it's as good as 'em for them and gonna for going to and starting a sentence with But. (Remember when that wasn't allowed?) But incentivise. I just had to look that one up and found the following on iFractal:
"I think also we have to think about incentivizing (my bold) math, science and engineering students, because that's the need for the future economy of this country and we have a real shortage of 'em. I'd like to make education affordable and available to every single American. I'm not saying that they'd have to receive that education; but at least it would be available and affordable, and we're a ways from that. But it would start with telling math, science and engineering students that we're gonna do everything we can to make sure they receive an education in those specialties, and then broaden it out into every other."
Unfortunate coinages are turning up like bad pennies. And we seem to be making up words at an alarming rate.I looked up Judification on Grammar Girl - Your search for judification produced 0 results.
“In the same way that people in social groups tend to wear similar clothes, people create slang and new words to show that they’re all part of the same group, ” says Grammar Girl. It’s about group identity.
Can You Incentivize Someone?
My introduction to business slang was in MBA school. My classmates started saying “incentivize” to mean “motivate.” They thought it sounded cool. I had a real aversion to the made-up word. Much to my dismay, incentivize seems to have made it into popular use. I find motivate to be infinitely cleaner. In fact, I’m committed to never using incentivize in any written piece again.
Is It Wrong to Verbify?
Is it wrong to create a verb from a noun, adjective, or other word? Is it wrong to verbify? Grammar Girl says she doesn’t object to verbifications (more slang) when they’re smoother to write and they allow for cleaner sentences. In fact, I just penciled in my edits.
Is Verbification an Internet Phenomenon?
I’m not exactly blaming the Internet for another social ill. I’m just noting that there’s a rapid explosion of business slang that is related to Internet products. You know you hit it big when the name of your product becomes the generic verb for doing something. Right Google? Googling, twittering, digging – I’m even used to slashdotting. They all sound fine to me. I’m not so wild about facebooking – maybe verbification is something to think about when naming your next start-up.
Ah, give it time. Urban Dictionary, here I come.
Our Bodies, Our Blog has a great post about plastic, er, I don't mean it says anything great about plastic. It's informative, as their posts typically are. It turns out that some of the chemicals used in plastics seem to cause endocrine problems, cancer, etc. and that other countries and now California ban them. Duh. I'm shocked. You? Here's a snippet:
Last week, the National Toxicology Program released a draft report on bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical used in hard, clear plastic, such as Nalgene and baby bottles, as well as in the lining of baby formula containers and canned foods.The previous post has an interesting link to an article in the Telegraph.UK by Paul Stokes, Body absorbs 5lb of make-up chemicals a year, which speaks directly to women's make-up. Ugh.
Studies in animals have linked it to hormonal changes, and the report acknowledged "some concern" that BPA may affect neural and behavioral development "in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures."
The report "signaled a turning point in the government's position on bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical so ubiquitous in the United States that it has been detected in the urine of 93 percent of the population over 6 years of age," Lyndsey Layton wrote in the Washington Post, though it only called for more research into the health effects. --- snip ---
For more in-depth reading on the health concerns and scientific debate around BPA, check out "The Plastics Revolution," published in the Washington Post earlier this week.
The author, Ranit Mishori, a family physician and faculty member at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, also looks at the debate over phthalates -- chemical compounds that improve the longevity, durability and flexibility of plastic. In animal studies, these compounds have been linked to cancers and genital abnormalities, especially in males.
Again, the Unites States lags behind other countries, as phthalates are already banned in the manufacture of toys in most European countries. California took action on its own, implementing a ban that goes into effect in 2009 on some phthalates found in toys and teethers. A dozen other states are considering similar bans.
But it's not as easy as banning items that children like to put in their mouths. Phthlates are also found in commonly used personal care products, including shampoos and deodorants and perfumes -- for more info., see (their) previous post on cosmetics and phthalates.
And about that bottled water. I know it's old news too. I mean the article in the NY Times, Must Be Something in The Water, by Julia Moskin was written well over a year ago. Her article is quite informative, although, you don't have to read it to know that millions of plastic bottles are piling up everywhere and that the water industry is huge and getter bigger all the time. Had I read it before, however, I would have known that Dasani water, sold by Coca-Cola and "available", ie, the only choice in numerous markets, is simply purified municipal water with magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride and sodium chloride added. Just what I want in my water. Salt.
Grrrr. It must be something in the water, indeed. And btw, if you wanna see somebody who's really tired of plastic, visit Beth Terry at Fake Plastic Fish. You'll be glad you did.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Terrorized by your stings,
I took out biochemical weapons
And blasted your nest
Like it was a third world country.
I was the United States Air Force.
It felt good to be so powerful
Until I saw your family
Trailing shredded wings,
Staggering on disintegrating legs,
Trying desperately to save the eggs
You had stung to protect.
The poem is over. I am sorry to follow it up immediately with my words, so busy and newsy and non-poetic but I wanted to include a bio of Sara Littlecrow-Russell, from University of Arizona Press about The Secret Powers of Naming, (University of Arizona Press 2006), the book in which this poem was published.
This is a stunning collection of poems written by Anishanaabe (Ojibway)-Naxi Metis lawyer, mediator and political activist. Rather than actively repressing painful information, Ms. Littlecrow-Russell models the creative energy that flows from acknowledging exploitation. Her strong voice is truth-telling prophetic as she writes about poverty, death, racism, patriarchy, legal travesties, nationalist sentiments, and other issues as related to Native American life. Ms. Littlecrow-Russell is a single mother, playwright and anti-racism organizer who fills her poems with quips, sarcasm and humor. In Ojibway, the word zhaabwii is loosely translated as the act of passing through intact. She witnesses, holding out hope for the survival of the spirit and restoration of her community.Every day I am humbled by the genius, integrity and committment of others.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I want you to grow old with me
i.e. to catch up to me
as I am becoming increasingly weary
of writing poems to you
the poems have
discolored my life
I'm tired of the mysterious truth
after I touch you
I'm tired of not knowing what you think about
I'm tired of women who have the same name as you
they don't know that I'm tired of them too
I'm tired of the telephone
of its beige lips
telling me they love me
and that you don't
that you're a figment
in my ear
I don't want my poems to wear out anyone else again
I don't want to die and have this machine at
my bedside holding my hand
draping me with its affectionate black ribbon
wondering who will turn it on when I'm gone
wondering if my soul will become a kiss again.
from Frank Lima's Inventory
Friday, April 25, 2008
Amy Tan on TED. This is an amazing talk. It's not short like YouTube. It lasts all of about 20 minutes or so. Remember when sitting and watching one amazing lecture for 20 minutes wouldn't have seemed like a long time? When my kids were little I read an article about Sesame Street, the wonder show that was supposed to teach kids letters and numbers and all matter of interesting concepts. The article I read was on the printed page. The letters didn't transmogrify, an A becoming an apple, an aardvark, an airplane, all in dazzling colors. They just sat there and formed words. I thought, hmmmm, time to turn off the television. So for eight years it was off. Here it is, lots of years later and, at least around my house, we've all got our heads stuck in our computers and I think we're becoming YouTubed: Definition - unable to watch anything for more than three minutes.
Amy Tan is brilliant and funny. It's worth every minute if you can find the time to listen. If you find a transcript let me know. I'd like to read it.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
This is all new to me. I'd never heard of Sportsman Against Hunger before. I have heard of Dan Quayle. He's still a great source for the occasional joke. And I do know of Dick Cheny's prowess with guns. I encountered this article by Martha Rosenberg on AlterNet and Under the Holly Tree. Same article at both places. Now it's here.
Martha Rosenberg: Hunter Humanitarian Program Backfires as Venison is Found Unfit
When your organization promotes canned shooting of lions, elephants, zebras, and leopards in Africa, it needs a lot of PR.Martha Rosenberg is a Staff Cartoonist for the Evanston Roundtable.
That's why Safari Club International (SCI), the trophy-hunting organization supported by former President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle, and retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, created Sportsmen Against Hunger.
Dumping carcasses makes hunters look like they just like to kill.
But find someone who will actually eat the game -- staff at canned hunting clubs for example or the poor -- and you are suddenly a humanitarian.
Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting parties are known for donating the pen-raised pheasants they shoot during an afternoon to hunting club workers who presumably don't mind the cleaning and pellet removal.
And few think George H.W. Bush, Quayle and Schwarzkopf ate the lions they allegedly killed in a canned hunt in Botswana in 1999 themselves. Especially when donating the meat would increase their Great White Hunter status. (see: We're Helping Local Economies and Preserving Big Game By Killing It.)
In fact, Sportsmen against Hunger worked so well as a concept -- "hunters are doing something they love and helping others at the same time," said spokesmen -- SCI spun off a second do-good group called Sportsmen Against Cancer stumped by Stormin' Norman himself.
"I'm a health nut," Schwarzkopf, a cancer survivor, told the Fort Myers News-Press in 2006. "However, some people can't afford organic foods, and Sportsmen Against Cancer provides meat at no cost."
Hormones are not good for cancer patients, added Angie Hall of the Naples/Fort Myers Safari Club that was coordinating the program and it's "not very likely that wild animals were injected with hormones."
Until, that is, chronic wasting disease (CWD), a terminal neurological illness similar to mad cow, surfaced in U.S. deer and elk five years ago. Suddenly no one wanted to eat the meat they harvested or even clean it. Or let it in the house.
"If the hunter cuts up his/her own deer, he or she should wear surgical gloves and not have any open cuts or sores on their hands," Jon C. McCabe of Watertown, WI warned hunters in the Capital Times.
But that still didn't mean he was out of the woods. "If the hunter has the deer processed, does that processor sterilize its equipment after each deer is cut up so cross contamination does not occur?" asked McCabe.
Colorado hunter Al Samuelson wasn't afraid of contamination from the other guy's deer; he worried about contamination from his own buck when it tested CWD positive -- and the risks from blood on his steering wheel and hunting clothes that his wife washed.
Mounds of headless deer piled up in places such as Wisconsin awaiting elaborate lab tests on their brains and horrifying the public. And suddenly the tons of limp and headless game hunters tried to donate looked less like generosity than, well, dumping.
Less like helping the poor than dosing it. (see: blankets; smallpox)
Some food pantries refused the "donations" outright; others gave recipients an informed consent flier that told them the meat was probably fine but there was a slight chance it was not fine and actually lethal. Bon Appetit.
Nor did anyone want the meat in a landfill "where other animals can eat it and the blood can be filtered through the soil and enter the ground water," as McCabe wrote.
Now comes news there's a second problem with Sportsmen Against Hunger's heartfelt donations: lead poisoning.
Last week, health officials in North Dakota told food pantries to throw out donated meat after 53 out of 95 packages of ground venison revealed lead fragments from bullets when X-rayed.
Health officials in Minnesota and Iowa promptly followed suit. This leaves Sportsmen Against Hunger with 1.2 million perfectly good meals no one wants on their plate. 317,000 pounds of meat "harvested" for no reason. And looking less like humanitarians than criminals trying to find someone to dispose of the evidence.
"This is disheartening, and we certainly don't think this program should come to an end on the unscientific assessment that has occurred here," lamented SCI lawyer Doug Burdin upon hearing the states' decrees.
"Deer venison provided through the generosity of our hunters, is a highly valuable food source for some of Iowa's less fortunate citizens," echoed Ross Harrison, coordinator of Iowa's Help Us Stop Hunger (HUSH) program. "We certainly have an obligation to ensure its safety, but we also don't want to be wasteful of this valuable resource if we don't need to."
Maybe Safari Club International needs to do more PR.
The meat may contain CWD and lead fragments but it still has no injected hormones, after all. And it didn't end up in the school lunch program.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Hysterically funny? I don't think so. I must have fallen out of the loop, lost touch with the fabulous things Gucci comes up with. What better use for $3990? A new purse! Maybe if I get that $5,000 tax break for health insurance from McCain . . . More on the bag at Luxist. There's a link to Saks in case you're itching to "add to bag" as they say. Beware. No more than three of these every thirty days:
GucciCatherine Price has her hysterical take on it in Salon today: . . .
Hysteria Python Bag/Medium
Medium top handle bag in black python with double handles, detachable shoulder strap, magnet snap closure. Metal Gucci crest detail. Inside zip, cell phone and PDA pockets. 17"W X 14"H X 3"D. Made in Italy.
DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND, A CUSTOMER MAY ORDER NO MORE THAN THREE UNITS OF THIS ITEM EVERY THIRTY DAYS.
but I find the Hysteria collection, well, hysterical. Mostly, it's for an etymological reason -- the word "hysterical" comes from the Greek "hysterikos," which means "womb." Or, more specifically, "disorder of the womb," a definition that dates back to the ancient Greek belief that the uterus was a free-floating organ that wandered through the body as it saw fit, bumping into other sensitive body parts (lungs, heart) and causing problems wherever it strayed. ("The Rogue Uterus" -- coming soon to a theater near you!) Physicians thought hysteria had something to do with sexual deprivation (though pretty much any female behavior could be considered "hysteria," especially if male physicians didn't understand it), and in the Victorian era, its treatment involved "pelvic massage" with what we'd now call vibrators -- which makes me wonder if some of those distressed ladies weren't a tad bit more clever than their doctors realized.I wonder what could I get in trade for my Hysterical bag on Swaptree? (Check out the description on the Very Short List.) Dang, I forgot. They only handle books, CDs, DVDs and Video Games.
I feel a new businees coming on. Swaptree, Gucci style. Who's in?
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Many years ago I wrote a poem about the contents of my Blue Dresser Drawer. It included things like three straight pins; ticket stubs from various concerts, movies, plays, etc (described in detail, including relationship to companion at the event); seven buttons (three white from button down shirt, one faux tortoiseshell, 1 large black, 1 red, 1 small blue); matches (including description, of course); 1 black shoelace; etc. You get the picture.
Slow forward to today and I'm struck by the contents of my e-mail Inbox.
RE: [heathenhomeschoolers] Flying Spaghetti Monster in the Sky
Amazon.com Save 22% at Amazon.com on "The Joy of Retirement: Finding Happiness, Freedom, and the Life You've Always Wanted" by David C. Borchard
Raw Story Update - April 22 4:17 PM 17 KB
Are you ready to join a Major League political operation that will change America?
Very Short List VSL // STOP! Don't chuck that awful DVD you bought
NPR Shop NPR Green Gifts for Earth Day
rentalcars.com Rental Cars from $69/week + Special Offer from Alamo
SmartBargains.com Mother's Day is coming! Save on great gifts, ship for free
Victoria's Secret Make a Splash with the 2008 Swim Collection
Progressive Democrats of America [PDA] Reminder:TONIGHT, TUES 4/22 HEALTH CARE FOR ALL/SIINGLE PAYER ISSUE ORGANIZING TEAM CALL
[Fwd: FW: Advocacy Alert: Tell Your Representatives to Vote for H.R. 5613
PFAW Activist Network Tell Senate: Correct the Court, Support Fair Pay
Friendly Reminder: RSVP for Networking Dinner--Friday April 25
AlterNet Headlines Evangelical Pop Culture | 8 Reasons Environmentalism Is Unavoidable | Is Privacy Obsolete?
Doctor Dictionary lionize: Dictionary.com Word of the Day
WhiteBison.org Daily Meditation Elder's Meditation of the day April 22
Barnes & Noble 25% Off Coupon Inside
The Writer's Almanac The Writer's Almanac for April 22
Salon Newsletter Today in Salon: The epic battle for Pennsylvania
Media Matters for America Media Matters Daily Summary
Common Dreams News & Views | 04.21.08 Yesterday
Kathleen Vermazen/Women's Media Center Women Don't Ask? No, Employers Don't Pay by Ellen Bravo Yesterday
And that ain't the half of it. Yours?
Monday, April 21, 2008
A friend sent me an e-mail with a link to sign a petition. Included in the message were several photos of a dog tied to a short rope, getting progressively thinner as he was being starved to death. Wimp that I am, I actually didn't look at all the photos to see him withering away but I got the idea. And it is a bad idea. A really bad one. I decided it must be an urban legend, one of those crazy posts that gets sent around the Internet gathering a big head of steam only to be outed as a hoax. It just couldn't be true. A dog starving in an art gallery as an exhibit? It's too obscene.
A couple of days went by and the story and outrageous images started showing up in more places. I googled the artist, Guillermo Habacuc Vargas, followed a link and much to my amazement and dismay, this is looking more real by the minute. The site has several versions of the artist's statement explaining the exhibit:
We see how he is changing his statement, depending on how the public reactions are - first statement was "the dog would have died anyway" - second statement was "I cannot say if the dog died or not" - third statement was "I wanted to do it to remember Mr.Natividad Canda" [the burglar killed by guard dogs] - fourth statement was "I did the exhibition to show the terrible situation of street dogs".... etc...How can any art gallery have shown this abuse? I can't imagine who could have gone to the exhibit and walked away silently, allowing the dog to suffer. I'm certain there are many who would like Guillermo to spend a little time himself living the life of the "starving artist".
I am just the messenger. An outraged messenger. And a saddened one.
Have you read about the new children's book, My Beautiful Mommy? It's designed for little ones, the 4 to 7 year-old set, whose Mom's are having plastic surgery - tummy tucks (euphemism for having chunks of fat and skin cut out of the abdomen); nose jobs; breast implants; you know, typical Mommy things to do. The idea is that Mommy will have surgery, which could otherwise be scary, but this particular kind of surgery isn't because she's sick, it's because she's going to end up prettier, so everything will be okay.
Lots of people are writing about it. Jezebel's post is titled Our Boob Jobs, Ourselves. The Feminist Peace Network's post is titled Mommy Gets A Tummy Tuck - Sure To Be A Children's Classic. In Alex Leo's review on 23/6, she includes her own creative spin offs - My Strict Mommy, My Thirsty Mommy and My Popular Mommy, complete with pictures of Mommy with a belt for roughing up black-eyed baby; martini-glass-holding Mommy; and near-nude Mommy. She says she expecting a call from the publisher, Big Tent Books soon.
The interesting thing about Big Tent Books is that it is a vanity press. According to Making Light, the "award-winning" books that Big Tent Books publishes get their awards from their other company, Dragonpencil. But for a three-page review in Newsweek, My Beautiful Mommy would have gone unnoticed, like it's counterparts at Big Tent typically do. As it is, chances are good it's not going to end up in the classics section anytime soon, but somebody got lucky getting a review in Newsweek just before Mother's day. And it sure isn't Newsweek.
If you happen to click on the link to see what Big Tent Books has to offer, you might notice the shopping cart on the right with the words "Your cart is empty". I recommend that you leave it that way.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
I bet I'm one of the few people in your crowd to receive the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA, motto - Art too bad to be ignored) newsletter. And I bet you're glad I do cuz it means you now get to read the following excerpt from it:
I've yet to receive my copy so I can't say for sure, but my guess is this book is gonna be wonderful. As an artist I've made some pretty bad art over the years, nothing good enough for jurying into the museum. Most of my bad art is worth ignoring, or in my case, breaking up with a sledge hammer, which I gotta say, can be quite a lot of fun. I wonder if MOBA would be interested in some really bad jewelry. Last night Matt and I entertained ourselves by pawing through a drawer full of some of our creations that didn't quite make it. We also made the beginnings of glass dog bones and Froot (sic) Loops - glass that'll be too good to eat.
Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director Louise Reilly Sacco and Curator-in-Chief Michael Frank are proud to announce the release of "Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks", a handsome catalog featuring over 70 pieces from our collection.
This dignified hardcover book belongs in every library and on every coffee table in the English-speaking world. The small size (8.5”x6.25”) is convenient to carry on your person at all times, and the unbelievable low price makes it a beautiful and educational gift for virtually any occasion.
Though the official publication date is May 1, the book is now available through the MOBA gift shop. To thank you for your continued support, we have a special pre-publication offer during the month of April.
Not only will you be the first in your crowd to have this book, but your copy can be autographed by the authors at no extra cost!
And, to make it even better, you'll be charged only $3 for shipping, no matter how many copies you order. Think about that; order 30 copies and you've paid 10¢ each for shipping! Order 300 and it's 1¢ each!
Saturday, April 19, 2008
"Who Will Know?"
He wanted to stay.
He didn't ask for much.
He wanted to know what was "going on,"
He read the paper every day.
The world is like a sponge.
It absorbs us.
Mother was grieved with the nursing home.
He said, "Kiddo, it's all right."
The world goes on its way.
Now that he's gone, who will know?
by Joyce Kennedy, from Ghost Lamp © Laurel Poetry Collective, 2006
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Avery and I walked to work yesterday, her work that is. It's only a few miles but along the way we always see lots of gloves on the ground so I generally bring my camera with me to take their pictures. I'd forgotten my camera so no new glove photos although I've got some great pictures of them in my mind's eye. That's the thing about photographs. If I take the picture I can usually put the image aside, secure in the knowledge that it's locked away in the camera. If I fail to take a picture of interest it hovers about in my brain. I see a red work glove, and a black biking glove and a green gardening glove and . . . So no gloves, but I was fortunate to find two lovely cans to add to my collection. I've been known to frame rusty cans. I promised to give Avery the shiny one for Christmas.
Avery has a cough, a bad cough that's lingered for a while and apparently when walking, the act of coughing causes her to spontaneously fart. There. I said it. Fart. Farting is not something I was raised to talk about. It just wasn't done. I suspect Avery would be happier if I outed her as a lesbian than a farter. My friends and I never intentionally farted in front of one another when I was a kid, and although the boys were rumored to have tried to set their farts on fire with matches, we were not quite sure if there was any truth to it.
If anyone ever farted when all five of us kids were packed in the station wagon with my parents my mother would say, Josh!, as if he was the only one of us who could have done something so offensive. We all caught on to the trick after a while. Fart. Josh!
My boyfriend when I was 19 told me he didn't fart. You never fart? Nope. I believed him. I made sure I never farted around him either. Is it any wonder the relationship was doomed? I mean, we weren’t the most committed couple you’ll ever meet - our relatively crummy relationship probably lasted less than a year. I don’t know for sure. What I do know for certain is, we never, not once, farted in front of one another, at least not perceptively. Not living together near Washington Square Park. Not living on 89th Street between West End and Riverside. Not traveling across the country in our old van with Indian-print curtains and retreads that were always itching to explode, and an engine that could only be started by opening the big metal cover and connecting some wire to the solenoid by hand.
You might wonder (I certainly do) why I'd write about such a sophomoric, adolescent subject as gas, against the better judgement of even my otherwise often known-for-bad-judgement kids. I blame it on The New Yorker, David Sedaris and Steven Levitt, co-author of the widely popular Freakonomics.
The New Yorker showed up in the mail a few months ago (December 17, 2007, Reflections, Journey Into Night, to be exact) and, as usual, I read the comics and looked to see if David Sedaris had written anything. Aha. He had and, as would be expected, his article was laugh-out-loud hysterical. David Sedaris often writes about his family life as a kid. In this particular article there's the dinner table scene. It may not pack the wallop that it does in context but, here's an excerpt:
I don’t know why it was, exactly, but nothing irritated my father quite like the sound of his children’s happiness. Group crying he could stand, but group laughter was asking for it, especially at the dinner table.And then there's Freakonomics, that fabulous book that dazzled me with seemingly unrelated facts and amazing and improbable notions, most of them so heady that I forgot them by the next day. But for the study of gas, Freakonomics might never have been written. You see, the father of Steven Levitt is one Dr. Levitt, national expert on flatulence. Dr. Levitt contends that it is gas that is partly responsible for putting his three children through study at some very expensive universities.
The problem was that there was so much to laugh at, particularly during the years that our Greek grandmother lived with us. Had we been older, it might have been different. “The poor thing has gas,” we might have said. For children, though, nothing beats a flatulent old lady. What made it all the crazier was that she wasn’t embarrassed by it—no more than our collie, Dutchess, was. Here it sounded like she was testing out a chainsaw, yet her face remained inexpressive and unchanging.
“Something funny?” our father would ask us, as if he hadn’t heard, as if his chair, too, had not vibrated in the aftershock. “You think something’s funny, do you?”
If keeping a straight face was difficult, saying “No” was so exacting that it caused pain.
“So you were laughing at nothing?”
“Yes,” we would say. “At nothing.”
Then would come another mighty rip, and what was once difficult would now be impossible. My father kept a heavy serving spoon next to his plate, and I can’t remember how many times he brought it down on my head.
“You still think there’s something to laugh about?”
Strange that being walloped with a heavy spoon made everything seem funnier, but there you have it. My sisters and I would be helpless, doubled over, milk spraying out of our mouths and noses, the force all the stronger for having been bottled up. There were nights when the spoon got blood on it—nights when hairs would stick to the blood—but still our grandmother farted, and still we laughed until the walls shook."
Steven Levitt, in the NY Times, January 02, 2008, quotes his father, "I know a lot about gas" and links to the December 28, 2007 article in The Canadian Press "Flatulence expert defines 'normal' output rate."
Levitt is a veritable gas guru, a leading expert on the under appreciated field of flatus -- intestinal gas that escapes via the southern route. He admits his unusual expertise has put his three kids (one of whom is economist and "Freakonomics" co-author Steven Levitt) through expensive universities.Kids today fart like crazy. With abandon. They laugh and fart and laugh and fart again. When Julia was a theater student she told me that the fart is the universal chuckle-getter. It transcends language and culture, she said, and is always good for a laugh.
Levitt has gone to extraordinary lengths to plumb the mysteries of flatulence. He's captured farts in specially made Mylar pantaloons, measured the cocktail of gases they contain, even conducted a study devised to get to the bottom of what may be the most contentious question in the field: Which gender emits the smelliest farts?
So what have he and others learned about the fine art of flatulating?
It's a pretty common occurrence. Studies in which volunteers tracked their gas passage suggest people fart 10 to 20 times a day, with some hitting the 30, 40, even 50 mark, says Levitt, who is with the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minn.
Kristara throws herself across my bed and farts on purpose. I laugh and she reminds me how humorless I was when she first moved in with us and she'd fart, with attitude, in front of me. I do have some memory of that old me but I’m liberated now. I not only can fart and laugh out loud (At my age what choice do I have?), I can write about farting for anyone to read. But the truth is, with every click of the keys, when I type the "f-word", I cringe just a little bit. I’m not gonna lie.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I like this book. Here's what Haley Edwards of the Seattle Times says about it.
"If "The Vagina Monologues" could be translated into photography, that's what this book would be.See why I like this book?
Rosanne Olson's collection of photographs and short essays, "This Is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes," is an exploration of how real women relate to their real bodies — in all their freckled, scarred, pudgy and wrinkled glory. It's sometimes funny, sometimes sensual and always heartbreakingly sincere."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Several years ago my daughters got a Gameboy. (How come girls didn't get Gamegirls? I suspect they would have been pink and glittery and played non-violent games. Remember the dish scrubbing gadget, Chore Girl? Oh yes.) Anyhow, the girls played a bunch of games on their Gameboys that were beyond me and then they showed me Tetris. I was hooked. I mean hooked. I played in the wee hours of the night to make sure I retained the number one spot on the high scores. I dreamed Tetris. One night Julia and I talked all night, literally all night while I played Tetris. The sun came up and we just kept on talking and I kept on playing. Fortunately, my addiction was shortlived. But when Jerzy showed me this video I was anything but an impassive observer. I watched intently, happily, occasionally uttering a derisive yelp, Quick, flip it! Oh no! Whew. Game Over.
Usually at the helipad
I see them stumble-dance
across the hot asphalt
with crokersacks over their heads,
moving toward the interrogation huts,
thin-framed as box kites
of sticks & black silk
anticipating a hard wind
that'll tug & snatch them
out into space. I think
some must be laughing
under their dust-colored hoods,
knowing rockets are aimed
at Chu Lai—that the water's
evaporating & soon the nail
will make contact with metal.
How can anyone anywhere love
these half-broken figures
bent under the sky's brightness?
The weight they carry
is the soil we tread night & day.
Who can cry for them?
I've heard the old ones
are the hardest to break.
An arm twist, a combat boot
against the skull, a .45
jabbed into the mouth, nothing
works. When they start talking
with ancestors faint as camphor
smoke in pagodas, you know
you'll have to kill them
to get an answer.
scythes against the afternoon.
Everything's a heat mirage; a river
tugs at their slow feet.
I stand alone & amazed,
with a pill-happy door gunner
signaling for me to board the Cobra.
I remember how one day
I almost bowed to such figures
walking toward me, under
a corporal's ironclad stare.
I can't say why.
From a half-mile away
trees huddle together,
& the prisoners look like
marionettes hooked to strings of light.
Yusef Komunyakaa, Vietnam veteran. Poet.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Death Poem by Jumah al Dossari
Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.
Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.
And let them bear the guilty burden before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the “protectors of peace.”
Jumah al Dossari is a thirty-three-year-old Bahraini who has been held at Guantánamo Bay for more than ﬁve years. He has been in solitary confinement since the end of 2003 and, according to the U.S. military, has tried to kill himself twelve times while in custody.
From the University of Iowa Press, Poems from Guantánamo, The Detainees Speak:
“Poems from Guantánamo brings to light figures of concrete, individual humanity, against the fabric of cruelty woven by the ‘war on terror.’ The poems and poets’ biographies reveal one dimension of this officially obscured narrative, from the perspective of the sufferers; the legal and literary essays provide the context which has produced—under atrocious circumstances—a poetics of human dignity.”—Adrienne RichWhat a way to celebrate National Poetry Month.
Since 2002, at least 775 men have been held in the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. According to Department of Defense data, fewer than half of them are accused of committing any hostile act against the United States or its allies. In hundreds of cases, even the circumstances of their initial detainment are questionable.
This collection gives voice to the men held at Guantánamo. Available only because of the tireless efforts of pro bono attorneys who submitted each line to Pentagon scrutiny, Poems from Guantánamo brings together twenty-two poems by seventeen detainees, most still at Guantánamo, in legal limbo.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Johnny Lee has a lot of really big ideas. I saw him on TED and I can understand a little bit of what he does. But don't click away yet. Johnny Lee also has a Little Great Idea willyou that I can understand. At least I think I can. Check it out.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Today is my mother's birthday. I hadn't been gearing up to notice her birthday as it approached. It's just that I kept encountering the date today and each time I'd think, Huh, it's Mom's birthday, until I finally had to admit that I felt it. It's been a long time since she died. I know that because Duck was just a puppy when Mom was dying and now she's not. I didn't actually know she was dying but I knew she was failing and needy and clingy and unapproachable at the same time, and I felt a need for something needy that would respond with unconditional love so I got a puppy.
I miss her sometimes, Mom that is, not Duck who snores on the floor next to my bed at night and eats my animal crackers during the day, but my mother - tiny, mean, arrogant, judgemental, lonely thing that she was.
I know she wanted to be loved and touched and held as much as the rest of us. She just didn't know how to go about it. On the last night of her life I lay next to her in her bed while the music of Fleetwood Mac blared in the hospice room next door. She gripped my hand soundly and sweetly and I thought, See, it's not so bad to be held. Really, it's not so bad.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Finally will it not be enough,
after much living, after
much love, after much dying
of those you have loved,
to sit on the porch near sundown
with your eyes simply open,
watching the wind shape the clouds
into the shape of clouds?
Even then you will remember
the history of love, shaped
in the shape of flesh, everchanging
as the clouds that pass, the blessed
yearning of body for body,
You will remember, watching
the clouds, the future of love.
- Wendell Berry
This is not an endorsement nor encouragement to frequent Starbucks. The milk, if you use it, is not from grass-fed cows nor organic. I doubt the coffee is fair-traded. That said, if you did happen into Starbucks as I'm known to do in spite myself, you might have noticed the quotes on the cups, the paper cups, that is. Jerzy brought them to my attention a couple of weeks ago. Here are two:
The Way I See It #287
"There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." This from, of all people, my hero - Madeleine K. Albright, Former Secretary of State and Ambassador to the U.N.
The Way I See It #282
"Childhood is a strange country. It's a place you come from or go to - at least in your mind. For me it has an endless, spellbound something in it that feels remote. It's like a little sealed-vault country of cake breath and grass stains where what you do instead of work is spin until you're dizzy." Lyall Bush, Executive director of Richard Hugo House, a center for writers and readers.
In the fine print on the bottom of the cups was a disclaimer and web address to read more - www.starbucks.com/wayiseeit. So I guess you didn't have to buy a cup of coffee or fish cups out of the trash to read all matter of quotes. Now Starbucks has changed cup designs. The way I see it, they should put some energy into organic, local supplies and fair-trade coffee.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I would like to lay out my plan to form the Neo-Gideon Society. The idea is, that upon staying in a hotel, we each leave our own personal "bibles" in the drawer next to the bible (and in Marriott-owned hotels, The Book of Mormon) placed by the Gideon Society , not to be confused with The Gideon Project, an admirable group dedicated to a very different kind of evangelism - Justice. In their words:
The Gideon Project funds initiatives that protect the rights of individuals at all levels of the criminal justice systems. The Gideon Project's grantees move issues through research, advocacy, and direct representation. The project has three funding priorities: achieving death penalty reform or abolition, improving public defense services, and combating racial profiling.
The Gideon Project is named for the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, which established that everyone charged with a felony, whether wealthy or poor, has a right to legal counsel. The Gideon Project seeks to safeguard that right and to promote fair administration of justice. However, unequal application of laws, wrongful convictions and incarcerations, and an overburdened criminal justice system frequently thwarts the ability of the poor and marginalized communities to receive justice. Such systemic flaws compromise human and constitutional rights, while also undermine the foundation of a democratic society.
Just yesterday I received a new book which looks as if it has potential to achieve bible status in my world - Bringing Nature Home, How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, by Douglas W. Tallamy. I got it to share with Chris and when I started reading it my first thought was, Uh Oh, I don't think I can share. It's going on the bible shelf next to, duh, Michael Pollan's books, and Jeffrey Sachs' books, and Bill Thomas' and Billy Collins' and on and on.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
We Bring Democracy To The Fish
It is unacceptable that fish prey on each other.
For their comfort and safety, we will liberate them
into fishfarms with secure, durable boundaries
that exclude predators. Our care will provide
for their liberty, health, happiness, and nutrition.
Of course all creatures need to feel useful.
At maturity the fish will discover their purposes.
By Donald Hall, From White Apples and the Taste of Stone © Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007
I've always felt that Raymond Carver's (wiki) fiction was as close to being poetry as any fiction could have been. I picked up a book of Raymond Carver's short stories last week and read again some of my favorites. Each one stopped me in my path, just as a poem would. Now here comes Matt Cook in the Writer's Almanac this week and he reminds me of Raymond Carver, and I can't say why and I suppose many would disagree with me and I'm no literary scholar and I know Matt Cook is no Raymond Carver, but not in the Lloyd-Bensten-I-knew-Jack-Kennedy sense, but in the he's just wonderful in his own right way.
At the restaurant
Have to keep reminding
The schizophrenic man
That if he keeps acting
Like a schizophrenic man
They'll have to ask him to leave the restaurant.
But he keeps forgetting that he's a schizophrenic man,
So they have to keep reminding him.
Poem: "The Waitresses." by Matt Cook from Evesdrop Soup © Manic D Press, 2005.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
gawilli (Back in the Day) commented on my April 6 post about the growing demise of songbirds:
"Thanks for this post, and the links. The article also says that natural habitats are being ploughed under for corn to be used in production of ethanol/bio-fuel. The balance of nature is very delicate. What a mess we are making of things."I try not to think about corn. I mean, I like it, on the cob, popped and with butter, straight out of the can. And of course I like to make cast glass corn, to add to my collection of glass strawberries, pears, pretzels, waffles, and anything else I can get to sit still long enough. But I don't like corn to be in the stomachs of cows where it doesn't belong, nor do I like it, subsidized or not, causing the ruination of family farms and the stripping of the farmland as it proliferates across America, with its chemical fertilizers and pesticides that find their way into the Gulf of Mexico in an ever-growing algae bloom. And now we have Ethanol. It's pros and cons abound.
Paul Krugman wrote in the April 7, 2008 NY Times Op Ed piece "Grains Gone Wild",
Where the effects of bad policy are clearest, however, is in the rise of demon ethanol and other biofuels.In the Business Week, March 19, 2007 article, by Moira Herbst, "Ethanol's Growing List of Enemies"
The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a “scam.” This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly “good” biofuel policies, like Brazil’s use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.
And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.
As demand for the alternative fuel drives corn prices up, an unlikely assortment of groups are uniting with the hopes of cutting government support - The ethanol movement is sprouting a vocal crop of critics. While politicians including President George W. Bush and farmers across the Midwest hope that the U.S. can win its energy independence by turning corn into fuel, Hitch and an unlikely assortment of allies are raising their voices in opposition. The effort is uniting ranchers and environmentalists, hog farmers and hippies, solar-power idealists and free-market pragmatists (see BW Online, 02/2/07, " Ethanol: Too Much Hype—and Corn").Then one can consult Michaels Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (sometimes known as Judy's bible) by way of a fabulous (duh) article in the March 15, 2006 New Yorker, Paradise Sold: What are you buying when you buy organic? by Steven Shapin - -
They have different reasons for opposing ethanol. But their common contentions are that the focus on corn-based ethanol has been too hasty, and the government's active involvement—through subsidies for ethanol refiners and high tariffs to keep out alternatives like ethanol made from sugar—is likely to lead to chaos in other sectors of the economy.
"The government thinks it can pick a winner, but they should allow consumers to pick their own," says Demian Moore, senior analyst for the nonprofit Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Corn ethanol has failed to prove itself as a reliable alternative that can exist without huge subsidies.". . . snip . . .
If the government is going to play a role in energy markets, there are other players who would like more attention. Supporters of solar and wind energy make the case that if the government is going to hand out subsidies and mandate use, in the name of energy independence, they should get the same kind of treatment as ethanol.
"Why are we supporting ethanol with a mandate, but not wind and solar?" says Randy Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Assn. "There's a lack of consistency in policy."
"Pollan's first meal is fast food, and he follows a burger back to vast monocultural industrial blocs of Iowan corn, planted by G.P.S.-guided tractors and dosed with tons of synthetic fertilizer, whose massive runoff into the Mississippi River--as much as 1.5 million tons of nitrogen a year--winds up feeding algal blooms and depleting the oxygen needed by other forms of life in the Gulf of Mexico. Pollan then follows the corn to enormous feedlots in Kansas, where a heifer that he bought in South Dakota is speed-fattened--fourteen pounds of corn for each pound of edible beef--for which its naturally grass-processing rumen was not designed, requiring it to be dosed with antibiotics, which breed resistant strains of bacteria. Pollan would have liked to follow his heifer through the industrial slaughterhouse, but the giant beef-packing company was too canny to let him in, and so we are spared the stomach-churning details, which, in any case, were minutely related a few years ago in Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation." Pollan also follows the American mountains of industrial corn into factories, where the wonders of food technology transform it into the now ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup, which sweetens the soda that, consumed in super-sized quantities across the nation, contributes to the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes. All very bad things."So here is the only good news in this as I see it - if corn is used for Ethanol then there will be less to put in the stomachs of cows.
Phew. Corn. It is yummy. If only it were just corn.
Monday, April 7, 2008
I, like you undoubtedly, have too many opportunities to link and search and read stuff on the Internet than one can reasonably address in a lifetime, let alone a day or an hour. Today I allowed myself a tiny romp and landed upon The Tyee, a lovely and informative site from British Columbia. In describing the publication, editor David Beers says: "In November of 2003 The Tyee began its swim upstream against the media trends of our day. We're independent and not owned by any big corporation. We're dedicated to publishing lively, informative news and views, not dumbed down fluff. We, like the tyee salmon for which we are named, roam free and go where we wish. . . (snip to end) . . . As noted at the outset, the word tyee is by local current definition a Chinook, Spring or King salmon of thirty pounds or more. But more than a century ago, the original Chinook word carried even more weight. In those days a tyee meant a chief, a king, "anything of superior order" -- even an online magazine. That's something to aim for as we swim against the current."
The article in The Tyee that got my attention is all about nanopaticles. Nanoparticles? you ask. Yup. They're popping up in our socks and sheets and mattresses, bandages, washing machines and teddy bears. You can find a list of products that contain nanoparticles at The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.
So while Jeffrey Sachs goes about the business of searching for solutions to global poverty, others are working hard to figure out how to put nanoparticles in our socks and sheets and perhaps ultimately, our bodies where they can sidle up to the other extraneous pollutants and stray antibiotics that are hanging about. Er. Huh?
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Common Dreams writes about an artilce Published on Friday, April 4, 2008 by The Independent/UK
"American Songbirds Are Being Wiped Out by Banned Pesticides"
by Leonard Doyle
"The number of migratory songbirds returning to North America has gone into sharp decline due to the unregulated use of highly toxic pesticides and other chemicals across Latin America.
Ornithologists blame the demand for out-of-season fruit and vegetables and other crops in North America and Europe for the destruction of tens of millions of passerine birds. By some counts, half of the songbirds that warbled across America’s skies only 40 years ago have gone, wiped out by pesticides or loss of habitat."
Read more here at Common Dreams and The Independent.
Are songbirds the canaries in our ecosystem/coal mine? Sadly, if only we had common dreams . . .
Saturday, April 5, 2008
A POEM FOR JIM NAGATAAK'W (JAKWTEEN)
MY GRANDFATHER, BLIND AND NEARLY DEAF by Nora Marks Dauenhauer
I was telling my grandfather
about what was happening
on the boat. My father
and his brothers were trying to
anchor against the wind
I could smell him, especially
his hair. It was a warm smell.
I yelled as loud as I could,
telling him what I saw.
My face was wet from driving
I could see his long eyebrows,
I could look at him and get
really close. We both liked this.
Getting close was his way of
Nora Marks Dauenhauer published her first book of poetry when she was sixty-four.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
"Flying Spaghetti Monster Lands outside Tennessee Courthouse" according to April 1, 2008 post in Underwire or in the March 24, 2008 article in the Crossville Chronicle. Or go directly to the source of its noodleyness, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Crossville.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I was on the phone talking with Chris last night - she put me on speaker phone so she could tend to cooking. I did some internet research then went upstairs to feed the cats, clean up a bit in the kitchen and put out the garbage. I got to thinking about the good old days when telephones and the talkers on them were tethered. I remember how I'd sit for hours, absentmindedly twirling a random lock of hair, drinking a coke and crunching on potato sticks, lighting a cigarette from time to time, talking on the phone. I said to Chris, hey, I should blog about this tomorrow. I was going to but then I opened my e-mail and there was a post from Media Matters. Trumped again. You can listen to the audio here or just read the quote:
On the March 31 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Michael Savage stated, "Cops are getting knocked off all over the country because of the rules of engagement, written primarily by the scummiest class in America, the vermin of vermin, which are the left-wing lawyers who should be put in Abu Ghraib with hoods over their head, as far as I'm concerned." He then stated: "If I had the power by executive order, I would round up every member of the ACLU and of the National Lawyers Guild, and I'd put them in a prison in Guantánamo and I'd throw the key away. Or I would reopen Devil's Island and I'd put everyone in the ACLU into -- onto Devil's Island." He added, "But, you see, I fanaticize (sic). That's one of my flaws is I live in a fantasy land that can never be." Devil's Island is a former French penal colony off the coast of French Guiana.Michael Savage and Dan Savage = Chickenshit and Chicken Salad
As Media Matters for America has documented, Savage has a history of attacking the ACLU. On the May 19, 2004, broadcast of The Savage Nation, Savage called the ACLU "the most dangerous organization in the history of America" and advocated that "these big-mouthed, phony scum of the ACLU ... should be put into Abu Ghraib prison."
Talk Radio Network, which syndicates Savage's show, says that Savage is heard on more than 350 radio stations. The Savage Nation reaches more than 8 million listeners each week, according to Talkers Magazine, making it one of the most listened-to talk radio shows in the nation, behind only The Rush Limbaugh Show and The Sean Hannity Show.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
If you go to Wiki to read about Claude Pepper you'll read about this very funny hoax. It would have been great for April Fool's Day.
Red Accusations and hoax "Redneck Speech" in 1950:
In 1950 George Smathers, formerly a supporter, broke with Pepper and ran against him in the Democratic primary for Senate. The contest was extremely heated, and revolved around policy issues, especially charges that Pepper represented the far left and was too supportive of Stalin. Pepper's opponents circulated widely a 49-page booklet titled The Red Record of Senator Claude Pepper.
Part of American political lore is the Smathers "redneck speech," which Smathers reportedly delivered to a poorly educated audience. The "speech" was never given; it was a hoax dreamed up by one reporter. Smathers did not say, as was reported in Time Magazine during the campaign: "Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy."
The Smathers campaign denied his having made the speech, as did the reporters who covered his campaign, but the hoax followed Smathers to his death.
google April Fool's Day - one of the first items is the following:
Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes Of All TimeTop 100 April Fools Day Hoaxes (as judged by notoriety, absurdity, and number of people duped) Also check out: The Top 10 Worst April Fools Day Hoaxes Ever ...www.museumofhoaxes.com/top100.html - 29k - Cached
Imagine my excitement at finding The Museum of Hoaxes. So I click on it and it goes nowhere. Sweet.