Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Virtue Slipped Into My Shoe

It's a dilemma in an envelope: tomatillo seeds.

Two summers ago, one tomatillo plant took over a corner of the yard. True, I didn't know how to cage and support the ginormous beast, but still. Ginormous. Seriously, every day, the thing seemed closer to demanding its own zip code. Now I have an envelope of tomatillo seeds. More than one plant would almost certainly germinate.

The garden is really small. I could plant two or three in pots and place them so they don't blot out the sun. Maybe. I could give seedlings away, too. They're like fruit-producing pets you don't have to walk.

...and hey: Monkeyfister got chickens.


Friday, March 12, 2010

With A Deck Of Fifty-One

I've butted into your business before and I will do it again, but this has to be said: make your own damn yogurt!

Recently, 8 ounce wide mouth Ball Jars changed my ultra-glamorous life. The glass jars that came with my ancestral yogurt makers have become delicate with age and I'd prefer not to take them to work. One day, I was foraging in my vast stores of Stuff Dad Gave Me and discovered the 8 ounce wide mouth Ball Jars. They fit perfectly into one of the ancestral yogurt makers and they don't break when Topaz pushes one off the kitchen counter. You don't have Topaz reorganizing your glassware, but the Ball Jars might help you carry that yogurt you're making to work with you.

Lovely Drusy cannot sniff you without playing kissy face.

Miss Sasha calls and asks questions. Is Jell-O gluten-free? This morning, one of my co-workers stepped into my cubicle and said, "You are a genius, I think. Has anyone ever said that to you before?" A couple of months ago, I was walking to the bank when a woman across the street waved and shouted to me in a peppery mix of Russian and English. From a distance she looked like Auntie InExcelsisDeo, who does not speak Russian and though she speaks no other language avoids speaking English if she doesn't have to, so I approached with a smile and realized we did not know one another. By the time I put my hand on her forearm, she had called me a genius and by someone else's name. I said, "Hello, but I am not her." She said, "I thought you were my niece!" I said, "I thought you were my aunt!" Then I laughed all the way to the bank and checked the name in my underwear - and I was only sure I was me when I wasn't wearing any. Memory can be overrated but being able to work out a problem is good stuff, so I told Miss Sasha to call the phone number on the box and ask a direct question.

In fact, my co-workers ask me questions all day long.

Beth: Can I ask you a question? I was just cleaning off my desk and I moved something and do you know what size mouse droppings are? Have you ever seen them? Are they small or big? We were having a mouse problem awhile ago, I remember, and I was just wondering -

Hmm. That doesn't do this justice. Imagine Beth, who is a gentle, lovely person, talking without taking a breath.

Beth: CanIaskyouaquestion? IwasjustcleaningoffmydeskandImovedsomethinganddoyouknowwhatsizemousedroppingsare? Haveyoueverseenthem? Aretheysmallorbig? Wewerehavingamouseproblemawhileago,Iremember,andIwasjustwondering -

Tata: You saw mouse poop and thought of me?

Beth: [Can't breathe for laughing.]

Tata: Go talk to Hal. He's lived on farms all his life.

Maybe it's the decades of working in a library, but I'm convinced that whatever the question, someone - somewhere - has the right answer. It's probably not me, but someone. For instance, someone knows why this bullshit health insurance debacle has gone so horribly wrong and I am afraid it might be Dr. Marcia Angell.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

This Monkey Wants A Word

The library at the unnamed university has always offered slightly odd folk a little leeway with social conventions. It seems likely that if I worked somewhere conformity was key I'd be tied up in a closet by now. Look, I'm just not like the other humans, I have a problem mitigated by heat and my workplace is chilly. It would be spiffy if I could heal up without sticking out like a sore thumb. Today, I bought a Sunbeam electric blanket to add to a pillow, several sporty fleeces and a soft throw. My cubicle is starting to resemble a nest.

Fortunately, most of my co-workers will consider this another antic. I turn up for meetings wrapped up from the nose down. We'll see how an electrified crimson toga goes over.

A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that the Spanish language channels must carry cooking shows and what could be more natural than for me to watch people cook and understand everything? I found one finally this morning, but I was immediately confused. The host was describing a trip along the Amalfi Coast and I still have enough Italian that I grasped his story and what he was cooking. He kept calling it polpettone, though I could see clearly it was a braciola. In Italian, a polpettone is a giant stuffed meatball. This guy was working with a flank steak. I looked at the program description again, which was in Spanish. The commercials were in Spanish. Then I realized I had everything I wanted: a chef, a storyteller, Italian ingredients, Spanish I could understand. His cooking technique was sloppy. Pete sat down to watch and listen and said, "Oh. Guess I'll make braciole."

Tonight, Auntie Mame made time on the stationary bike simply disappear. I'd forgotten how much I loved even the opening credits and how closely my grandmother Gladys resembled Rosalind Russell, which means I will. Watch, as the future arrives, shimmering softly and gliding down stairs.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Candidate For Vietnam Or Watergate

Pete's brand new antique English racer. We are willing spring to arrive.

My sisters Anya and Corinne pushed the whole town uphill through failed fire inspections, endless phone calls and dozens of rushed meetings to throw a benefit tonight for Haiti. They assembled a bake sale, a silent auction, an art show, musicians, speakers and the mayor of less than a week into an orderly if passionate response to the destruction and ongoing needs. The process was brilliant to watch. This afternoon, Anya and Corinne burst into the back hallway of the family store and blurted, "What's for lunch?" I said, "Triscuits, caponata, fresh yogurt and popcorn." They stared because they were kidding. "It's just like you to throw a benefit to feed people and forget to eat all day." Then I nearly had to beat up Corinne when grabbed the yogurt, caponata and a spoon and ran for the door.


Friday, January 22, 2010

On the Wall Where Darkness Fell

Bruschetta on the banquet at Lois's surprise party while we were hiding.

Let us say you are experiencing a context shift, by which I mean you suddenly are not where you usually are, under circumstances that are out of your control. Perhaps you're stuck in this new place for your own good; perhaps you find yourself lost and awaiting rescue. Be patient, if you can, with those who seek to comfort you. An hour will come when lightness arrives. Do not forget that someone is longing for you.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Let the Two Nineteen Pacify My Mind


The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the standoff with Iran and all the other obsessions with the mideast are at least informed, if not entirely motivated, by larger geopolitical efforts to maintain stability at a time of impending competition over resources and access to them - oil. Sure that's simplistic, but it's at the "heart" of what's going on in the leadership's "minds."

We don't talk about any of that because it might lead us to get serious about changing our way of life and evidently nobody important thinks that's the right way to deal with the problem. And frankly, among many of our elites, maintaining a military presence everywhere is necessary to preserve American global dominance. Period.

If it weren't for really good chocolate, I'd be in tears tonight.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

And I'm the One With No Soul

Violet's on the money:
I think we need to say to hell with Roe v. Wade. By which I mean, we need to take the abortion fight to a different front instead of being blackmailed into voting Democrat so that the next SC justice will be pro-choice etc., etc., etc. As long as we’re locked into that paradigm, our hands are tied politically. I think we need to put abortion on a legislative footing; perhaps the ERA could accomplish that. Simultaneously, women need to build an Underground Railroad of abortion providers and patient transportation (working with Planned Parenthood, for example) so we’re not just at the mercy of the goddamn Democrats. Enough with the blackmail!

We need to be prepared to accept the risk of Democrats losing an election. This is just basic politics, folks. The only way to swing the game is if you mean business. All we’re doing now is enabling the country and the Democratic Party to move further and further right. Think about it: the Democratic administration we have now would have been the nightmare Republican bogeyman scenario a couple of decades ago.

I turned 18 months after Reagan's election. For my entire voting life, the Overton Window has been shifting to the right and shafting women, People of Color, GLBTQs and the poor as the Democrats cowered and surrendered every bit of street cred earned during the Great Society struggles. I'm 46, and still we hear the same threadbare threat: if you vote your conscience, the Republicans win. I voted for Democrats and Republicans won and win even when they're out of power because Democrats have become spineless appeasers. Fuck them. Fuck that.

I'm done. Last week, I registered Green.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Around Me Waist A Belt

I love these people, though their website looks like my five year old niece picked the colors.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

But We'll Go Home Be Bearna

I have books and time to spend
I have soul and I have friends
I have a home and I have food and
Still I have a bad fucking attitude.

Difference Bedlam Rovers

The healthcare debate is such transparently stupid bullshit I'm practically speaking in tongues. Fortunately, while I %@%#)%&@_% and %&@)%!^% $%&!!, other people are saying doing smart things.
A Better World Cafe, housed in an historic brick church, is the fifth restaurant of its kind in the nation, which some are nicknaming "Robin Hood restaurants."

The original socially conscious eatery was opened in Salt Lake City in 2003 by a former acupuncturist and advocates of the concept hope it will revolutionize eating out.

"It’s about how we’re going to need to change our systems if we’re going to survive as a planet," said Tina Weishaus, a board member of Who is My Neighbor? The community group based in the Reformed Church of Highland Park co-owns the not-for-profit restaurant with Elijah’s Promise, a New Brunswick soup kitchen and culinary school.

Besides the lack of official prices — only suggested fares — the eatery uses mostly food from local farms and no plastic or Styrofoam. It also composts all food scraps and acts as a community forum by hosting talks and live performances by local artists.

Three blocks from my house: yay!
The Highland Park restaurant opened its doors Oct. 21. The simple dining room, with communal tables and metal chairs, has attracted roughly 50 to 125 customers a day, head chef Rachel Weston said. Three paid staff and volunteers serve food from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Advertising has been minimal: there’s no sign for the cafe in the front of the church.

Listed each day on a dry erase board is a menu of roughly a dozen items that change every week or so, with suggested prices. One item, the "complimentary community entree," is free to everyone. On Thursday the free dish was curried pumpkin chick peas over rice.

A person who can’t pay anything is allowed to eat only the "community entree," but can volunteer at the cafe for an hour to get a bigger meal with more choices. Weston said all patrons are encouraged to volunteer, to think, for example, "What if I came back and baked bread, or played the piano?"

Supper: you can sing for it!
ustomer Kathleen Logue, 49, said she has been unemployed for two years. But she still paid $6, more than the suggested combined price of $1.50 for a cup of Moroccan tomato consomme and $3 for a medium slice of roasted tomato and Swiss cheese quiche.

"There are people worse off than me," she said.

Highland Park is an ideal town to host the novel restaurant, said Weishaus, with a mixed-income population that includes residents of housing projects as well as Rutgers University professors. The borough also boasts of progressive policies such as promoting fair-trade products at local stores.

The seed of the idea for A Better World Cafe was planted in January, said Lisanne Finston, executive director of Elijah’s Promise. She was giving a talk at the Highland Park church - commenting that the richest nation in the world should not have to have soup kitchens - when someone in the audience mentioned the new dining venture in Salt Lake City.

That's the kind of concrete, direct action I need to see and support. It can happen near you, too.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why We Can't Just Hold On

¡El Gato Negro! asks you to please pass around this video.

I'm a single-payer supporter, but you public option people gotta get and keep that groove on.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No Matter Who You Are Shining Bright

This fresh hell is the oldest trick in the book.
North Carolina is poised to become only the second state to impose a fat fee on its state employees by placing them in a more expensive health insurance plan if they're obese. Smokers will feel the drag of higher costs, too, as North Carolina state employees who use tobacco are slated to pay more for health insurance next year.

North Carolina officials, coping with a steady uptick in health care costs for state employees each year, are aiming to improve state workers' health, which saves money in future medical expenses.

"Tobacco use and poor nutrition and inactivity are the leading causes of preventable deaths in our state," said Anne Rogers, director of integrated health management with the N.C. State Employees Health Plan. "We need a healthy work force in this state. We're trying to encourage individuals to adopt healthy lifestyles."

No, you're punishing fatty fat fatties and bad kids. In point of fact, 100% of state employees will suffer death. If Ms. Rogers were a little smarter, she'd realize these demographic groups are - nyuk! nyuk! nyuk! - cash cows as far as the pension system is concerned. No retirees? Ka-ching!
State workers who don't cut out the Marlboros and Big Macs will end up paying more for health insurance. Tobacco users get placed in a more expensive insurance plan starting next July and, for those who qualify as obese, in July 2011.

Nope, nope. Still going to die. The insurance company is probably a wholly owned subsidiary of Phillip Morris and McDonald's. Sure, there'll be a few surgeries to underwrite, some chemo and prolonged hospital stays, but since insurance companies have an almost magical ability to profit if customers live or die, why not hand out cartons of unfiltered cigs and coupons for Quarter Pounders and stack the deck? Come on, Big Insurance! Let's get it the fuck ON.
Some state employees, though, are criticizing the planned changes. The State Employees Association of North Carolina opposes the tobacco and obesity differentials as invasive steps that could have been avoided if the legislature had fixed the plan.

"It's my understanding they're talking about testing (for tobacco use) in the workplace which, to me, would create a hostile environment," said Kim Martin, a sergeant at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury. "And it's an invasion of privacy. This is America, the land of the free. I don't think (body mass index is) a very good measure. I know some folks who would have a high body mass index because they're muscular."

Body Mass Index is actually a very crappy measure because it assumes everyone has the same bone structure, same muscle density, same genetics, same diet, same habits. None of that is true. It's even a lie that drugs treat everyone. Hey, I liked Seldane but it apparently killed people who weren't me. Woohoo! Lucky me! Well, except that I can't have the only allergy medicine that ever worked for me because a few lightweights clutched their chests and keeled the hell over. Weaklings. Anyway, about the BMI: here's your calculator. Hold onto that thought, we're going to come back to it.
The idea of penalizing unhealthy lifestyles and rewarding healthy conduct is hardly new among insurance plans. Public health insurance plans in other states already penalize smokers or reward nonsmokers in insurance costs. South Carolina's state employees health plan is scheduled to add a $25-per-month surcharge on smokers in January. Elsewhere in the southeast, Kentucky and Georgia impose surcharges, and Alabama gives non-smokers a discount.

Alabama was out front on weight testing. Starting in January, state workers will have their blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and body mass index checked by a nurse. If they're in a risk category, such as a body mass index of 35 or greater or a blood pressure of 160/100 or greater, they are charged an extra $25 per month on their insurance premium. If they go to a health screening, either offered by the state or by their personal physician, then the $25 is subtracted, according to Gary Matthews, chief operating officer for the Alabama State Employees Insurance Board.

North Carolina will allow state workers with a BMI of up to 40 to keep the discount, although a BMI of 30 is considered obese by some experts.

Fat people know they're fat. There's absolutely no need to consult an expert. Further: that health screening thing. What is that? You go sit in a trailer parked outside your facility. Someone takes your blood pressure, tells you you're fat and takes $25 off your insurance premium? What does that even mean?
Only a fraction of employers, though, offer financial incentives for healthy behavior or wellness programs, such as gym memberships or smoking cessation, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study last year. Differences in employees' education, health literacy and access to basic health care could affect the usefulness of financial incentives in reducing health care costs over time, the study said.

The results are not yet in. The higher costs for smokers and the obese don't appear to have been in place long enough for any state to boast of a healthier work force yet, according to officials in several states.

"I don't know that any states have a lot of hard data on this," Rogers said.

And none will because punishing fat people and smokers is not intended to improve anyone's health. It is intended to divide clients into groups that will resent one another and to divert attention from the deeper truth: if we had a national health system, none of this would be necessary. If health care were the point, we would not be seeing divide and conquer. The point is that profit is most easily made when our common interests are obscured.

So let's go back to the BMI, which is as bogus a metric as it gets. We'll use me as a handy example of how this thing fails. Okay? Okay. My weight fluctuates within a ten pound range, but at the moment, my BMI is 28.9. By this standard, I am overweight. Sure, I'd like to lose a few pounds but they won't stay off because I'm a 46 year old woman. I exercise every day. In the last year, I've skipped a total of eight days. I eat two meals a day, drink lots of water, bicycle to work in good weather, eat a diet that would make nutritionists turn cartwheels, and take very good care of myself. I drink wine. So sue me. Anyway, none of that is important because 28.9, bitchez!

At the time this picture of me was taken, I was probably 16. I did 250 pushups a day and just about the same number of situps. I had and used my own chinning bar. In fact, I had and used one until I was just about 40. In this picture, you can clearly see that I was well-toned and in good shape, but not thin. Insurance charts said that someone of my diminutive stature should weigh 105-108 pounds. Even anorexic, I could never get below 119, and it was a struggle to stay close to 125. As Siobhan says when I mention my weight, "What, are you made of mercury?"

So here I am: a prime example of the BMI's shortcomings. So how do we measure health? How about we stop doing that to punish each other? How about we offer everyone health care, offer people dental care? Stop whining that someone undeserving might get something they don't desertivity deserve and concentrate on how it would change our own lives if we didn't have to worry anymore, and if the people around us didn't have to worry anymore, and if everyone had the resources to take care of him/herself? EVERYONE would be sick less often. EVERYONE could care for children and aging parents properly. EVERYONE would not have to face bankruptcy over medical bills. EVERYONE would have a better life. Even you. Especially you.

Crossposted at Brilliant@Breakfast.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

At Home They Could Be Anyone

I've let twenty years of Limbaugh's bullshit go by without comment because ignoring that noise is better for one's sanity than engaging, but after yesterday, he should be hounded to the edge of society and shunned by outcasts. Media Matters For America:
...Rush took a caller who said the local police investigating the bus assault said today the attack was not racially motivated. Rush responded to these developments put out by the local law enforcement:
LIMBAUGH: I think the guy's wrong. I think not only it was racism, it was justifiable racism. I mean, that's the lesson we're being taught here today. Kid shouldn't have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses - it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama's America.

I don't even know what to say. That's so offensive it's hard to form a sentence in response. And yet, it is impossible to let that go by, because - finally, I see this now - ignoring Limbaugh is the same as silence, and silence equals consent.

Last night, Pete and I were talking this over when one of the tenants came home. I was blathering on a bit and the tenant interrupted.

Tenant: I just wonder why Rush would say that.
Tata: It doesn't matter why. It's so offensive there can be no reason for saying it.
Tenant: But I just wonder why he would say that.
Tata: No, there is no why that justifies saying this about those kids on that bus.
Tenant: This is like that thing in - what was it? - Paterson? where the town tried to impose a curfew and the ACLU filed suit but kind of shot themselves in the foot by admitting it was the black people selling all the drugs -
Tata: No, that's not what happened. That's backwards.
Tenant: Yeah, the ACLU got it backwards.
Tata: No, I'm not agreeing with you. I'm disagreeing with you. That is not what happened.
The American Civil Liberties Union has already successfully defeated several juvenile curfews in New Jersey courts, said Ed Barocas, legal director of the state ACLU. Adult curfews are usually associated with the imposition of martial law, which typically is restricted to emergencies, wartime or military occupation, according to the ACLU.

"An adult curfew is unprecedented in our state," Barocas said.

"It's just completely unheard of," said Jon Shane, a professor of policing administration at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. "Not to mention being generally unconstitutional."

I'm speechless, but not silent. I can't ignore this anymore. Let's start with the truth.
[Mayor Mark]Eckert said the city, police department and school officials will soon hold assemblies and communicate with parents and students in many ways about "character, good behavior and not tolerating bullies."

Plans for these events grew out of the attack itself and Belleville Police Capt. Don Sax's initial comment that the attack was racially motivated. By Tuesday, the department reversed itse;f and said the attack was a case of bullying.

Eckert said students aboard the bus told police that two students were involved in the attack.

"I can tell you preliminarily that the kids interviewed are not calling this a racial incident," Eckert said. "They are calling it an attack by two boys who have been picking on kids, regardless of color, for a long time. They've been bullies."

Eckert said Sax had "made a mistake. He let the media squeeze out an opinion (about the incident) instead of saying we don't have all the facts. He made a mistake, but he's normally a really good guy."

And Sax should be fired. Kids on buses get into fights. Since we put cameras on buses we've taken all the suspense out of figuring out who threw the first punch. Yet, we still haven't learned how to see for ourselves what happened or school authorities would have seen bullies pounding on a smaller kid and Sax would've known what to do. If they had, this would have been all over but the suspensions. But some fool shot off his mouth and released video. It's all bullshit.

But then there's Limbaugh. What can done about him now?


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Faces At the Edge of the Banquet

The other night, we were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner and Pete groaned, "Oh noooo." Two bananas had turned to gooey compost and taken the Cuisinart Bread Machine recipe book with them. There was no salvaging the book. We faced the terrible truth: we were on our own.

Tata: Bread machine recipes?
Siobhan: King Arthur Flour is my go-to. I'm rocking the Ancient Grains Bread.
Tata: Why do you know this stuff?
Siobhan: Magic 8 Ball.

On Fridays, Pete and I take our time wandering around the farmers market - after we make a beeline for the bread guy, where every week we buy a loaf of garlic, spinach and mozzarella bread. It is so good the co-workers I've been dragging to the market also buy loaves they conceal from their mushrooming teenage children. A few weeks ago, I finally developed enough confidence in myself and the bread machine to suggest we make this bread at home, then I had a better idea.

Pete: I'd say we should find a recipe but you're incapable of following one.

That's not a swipe. It's the truth. Tuesday, I took this poor, defenseless recipe and made a sponge by combining the water, bread machine yeast and one cup of whole wheat flour. I covered it and left it huddled and alone in a big bowl under a clean cloth dinner napkin. After twenty-four hours, the yeast had bloomed a little differently than when I'd made sponges before, and the mixture was watery. I substituted molasses for honey, added 1/4 cup wheat bran and most of the other ingredients in roughly the correct order, with the sponge going into the bread machine last. Pete watched the dough come together and wanted to add some water, which we took from the draining spinach. In the meantime, Pete put olive oil and a mess of garlic cloves into a small saucepan to simmer gently. Then he said something terrifying.

Pete: I'm going upstairs to exercise.
Tata: What do I do when the machine beeps?
Pete: It's not going to beep for an hour and a half.
Tata: That's what's supposed to happen. What do I do when the machine beeps?
Pete: I see. The first time it beeps is for add-ins. Are you going to add anything to the dough?
Tata: Garlic.
Pete: I thought we'd put that in with the filling.
Tata: Yes, and in the dough. Cold & flu season is upon us, baby!
Pete: The second time it beeps is when you take the paddle out, but in this case, we're going to turn off the machine and bake in the oven. Got it?
Tata: I almost certainly don't, so go exercise and hurry back.

Pete retreated to the attic, which was very, very far from the kitchen, and almost immediately, the bread machine beeped. I tossed my laptop on the couch and sprinted to the kitchen as cats scattered, then gave chase. I fished garlic cloves out of the oil, mashed them into bits and tossed them into the bread machine. Pete came back down slightly fitter; we giggled like teenagers. When the machine beeped again, I tossed the laptop, cats scattered and gave chase, Pete grabbed the dough and I grated mozzarella. Pete rolled out the dough, laid out spinach, cheese and garlic, then folded the dough so beautifully I sighed. He brushed the top with the garlicky olive oil and sprinkled on kosher salt. Then we tried not to stare at the oven and growl, "COME ON...BAKE!"

We stayed up until 12:30 watching bread cool. We've become bread nerds. This summer, we started out jarring because we spent the last two summers learning how to jar. Then I dug out Dad's dehydrator and gave it a few whirls. This has not been an unmitigated success. An example: every dehydrating instruction ends with store in a cool, dry place. This summer, no place in New Jersey is a cool, dry place, so a whole pint jar of dried apples grew blue beards on their way to the compost heap. After that, we stored baggies of dried fruits and vegetables in the fridge, which was frustrating. One reason we chose to dehydrate was to build a pantry outside of the refrigerator. But, we're learning. The other day, I learned that drying parsley and oregano is a cinch, and some of those skills I learned in the seventies came in handy. Don't ask. Drying chives was much harder, and I'm considering repotting the remaining plants in kitchen-friendly, cat-discouraging pots. That will probably involve some exciting science I haven't worked out yet.

The bread is important. Spinach and cheese in wheat bread with garlic and molasses is actual food, by which I mean it's completely good for me. The other thing to consider is Pete's got thirty years in professional kitchens under his belt but not in breadbaking, whereas I am a complete idiot with or without a recipe book. This is a big step for us. It means that we are ready to take on more real-food breads. Even so, the joke's on me: next week, Pete's going gluten-free.

We will start over.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

No One, No How Or We Bust

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Reform Madness - White Minority
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

The other day, I had to explain to an adult why we wash the bottoms of plates. I am so happy when smart people are talking.


Monday, June 01, 2009

No Other Troy For Me To Burn

I've been thinking all day about why I stopped doing clinic defense almost twenty years ago. The clinic I'd devoted two years to defending was firebombed and I gave a speech standing next to the charred ruins. For me, something had changed. Domestic terrorists, well-known to the government, were allowed to carry out their threats. It didn't have to happen, but it did. This wasn't in Kansas or Texas, where you might expect women's medical care to be imperiled. No. This was New Jersey. Everyone knew Operation Rescue had it in for us, and in George H. W. Bush's America, everyone left us twisting in the wind.

Shortly thereafter, my grandmother died, I left the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) and launched my illustrious and all-consuming art career. The lessons I had learned were that my vigilance accomplished nothing; that we were each on our own and that law enforcement didn't give a shit about women. On that last point, I have never been disappointed. Instead of clinic defense, I drove women for abortions because I am not afraid to punch rabid PTA moms in the face while cooing gently to a distressed patient. That is not actually good escort behavior, by the way. Eventually, I couldn't stand even talking to pro-choice relatives who insisted Roe would never be overturned while they voted Republican. I went home. I admit this: I do not have the strength to argue anymore, and for myself, I don't have to because after the hysterectomy, I do not have to worry about getting pregnant. Believe it or not, this is not all about me.

I'm long done with candlelight vigils and patience. My standing ankle-deep in slushy mud holding a sign so I can be counted for women's organizations that care more about donations than resisting Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination is not gonna happen because fuck that noise. I'm done listening to men talk about icky abortion because do I fucking talk about my feelings about prostate treatments? I do not because there's no reason for me to have feelings about fucking prostates. I DON'T FUCKING HAVE ONE. My opinion is not needed. Perhaps 95% of men have no standing to discuss abortion, and this -
Tiller's Killer
Is it wrong to murder an abortionist?

- is so far beyond the pale that saying Fuck this fucking guy isn't fucking enough. But singling out Saletan for a verbal beating accomplishes nothing. I'm done with that, I'm done with all that. I'm done with one more thing: shame, because we can no longer afford it. I have had an abortion. The circumstances are not important. Your sympathy doesn't interest me. What is important is that I chose to have that kind of medical care, and I do not regret it. In theory, it shouldn't be any more important than if I'd had wisdom teeth removed. Further, people who think they don't know anyone who's had an abortion are fucking kidding themselves.

It's time for old ladies to stand up. No one is going to come to my house and put a bullet in me for exercising my right to chose, thus it is my obligation to defend that right I no longer need for young women who do. What I'm done with, that's behind me. I do not know what I will do, but I'm starting here.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

She Was Dark At the Top Of the Stairs

Library of Halexandria:
The earliest representations of Lilith seem to be as a great winged Bird Goddess, a wind spirit, or one associated with the Sumerian, Ninlil, Goddess of the Grain, and wife to Enlil. As the “hand of Inanna”, Lilith was notorious for bringing men from the street and fields of war to Inanna’s temple for holy sexual rites, in which the intention was to civilize the people. The sacred sexual customs were, in fact, considered the greatest gift of Inanna.

As Adam’s first wife, however, Lilith really got into trouble with the patriarchy. She had the audacity to want to be treated as Adam’s equal. According to Hebrew mythology, the Babylonian Talmud, the Zohar, and the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith refused to lie below Adam, and thus set the archetypal example for later feminists. God allegedly threatened her by decreeing if she did not submit to Adam, that “one hundred of her children would die every day.” Lilith chose exile.

Which really got Adam’s goat! Despite being ostensibly happy about having Lilith out of his life (and later blessed with a subservient, if not occasionally misguided Eve), Adam apparently never gave up resenting Lilith for having chosen exile to being with him. Not a lot has changed in thousands upon thousands of years: A woman deciding her life is better alone than with a particular man is still the height of insult to that male.

The male patriarchal traditions, therefore portrayed the situation as one in which the first woman on Earth, who was created equal to man and a free spirit to boot, would be condemned to survive for eternity as a she-devil, mating with demons and devils and bearing monsters instead of human children. “This image was to serve as a threat and warning to any woman who might consider leaving her husband or defying male authority.” [1]

But it was all to no avail.

Lilith by John Collier.

Women put up with a lot of shit every day, a goodly amount of which is so normalized few bother to mention it. Two days ago, men in my department, whom I would describe as reasonably harmless, were talking and I made a suggestion. Another woman drew near and made a suggestion. The men talked over us. I walked away. She followed me and asked if I felt brushed off. I said I would refuse to discuss the project further. Later, one of the men came to my desk and asked a rhetorical question. I said that because he didn't actually listen to me I wouldn't discuss this project anymore - and he kept talking. I said no, I wouldn't discuss this further and again he kept talking. The third time he finally got the message that we shouldn't converse. Perhaps it was the gesture I used. The reason I mention this is because it's so ordinary for men or a man to talk over women that it's barely worth a mention, like this conversation.

Tata: I want to be the little old lady on a shiny Vespa.
Guy: No, what you want to be is...

Apparently I'm so impressionable that men who are not me know what I want better than I do. Don't be surprised. It is a common conversational event, barely worth a mention. It will happen wherever men and women gather, and only women will notice.

Daily Contributor:
WFSB-TV in Hartford reported [Johanna] Justin-Jinich’s boyfriend entered about 1 p.m. local time carrying a gun and wearing a wig that also was left behind, the station said.

Yesterday, a man walked into a bookstore and shot a woman point-blank. His intention was to kill her and he succeeded. The Daily Contributor, as tepid a name as any, reported online and still reports as of this writing, that the murderer was her boyfriend. We expect that. It's so common we barely notice. These two people were not engaged in a relationship, however. He stalked her. According to NBC News while I was bicycling this morning, she'd filed at least one complaint. Yesterday, he killed her. The Hartford Courant article chooses neutral words very carefully.
"She's a really loyal friend; a really loving, passionate person about life and about her friends and family," [Leah] Lucid said of her friend, whom she affectionately called Yo-Yo.

Her passions included writing and her work in public health and women's issues, Lucid said. Justin-Jinich volunteered at various Planned Parenthood offices in her home state and in the area.

"She was the most giving and loving person I have ever known," Lucid said. "I'll remember her loyalty and her warm smile whenever I saw her and her very funny voices she would make with me."

From miles away, you can see it coming, can't you?
Ryan La Rochelle, 23, of Boston, said he was shocked. He knew Justin-Jinich from Westtown School, a small boarding institution in southeastern Pennsylvania they attended as high schoolers. La Rochelle learned about her death from the media.

"She was a very beautiful and kind girl," La Rochelle said. "I have no idea how something like this could have happened."

After [Jen] Bromley, the owner of Silk Waxing Spa, learned that Justin-Jinich had been shot, she closed the shop and drove to Middlesex Hospital with her cousin, another friend of Justin-Jinich's who attends Wesleyan. They thought she was still alive. But as they pulled into the hospital parking lot, the cousin's boyfriend called with the news.

"I've been crying and distraught all day," Bromley said Wednesday evening. "She's a really happy, really smart girl. Really intellectual...I can't imagine why any one person would dislike her and want her dead."

Beneath the simple laments, you can feel issues of class, feminism, the meaning of beauty and the same old male entitlement crap simmering until it boiled over. Nobody understands. Nobody thought anything of it. Of course, no one understands. Until our hearts break, this stuff is barely worth a mention.

[1]Demetra George, Mysteries of the Dark Moon, The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess, Harper San Francisco, 1992.


Monday, January 26, 2009

My Eyes Could Clearly See

My brother Todd, who was smart enough to tell Mom after he went skydiving, sends this along. After a bit of searching, I see it's from Seven Sunny Days.

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

I'm speechless. That's absolutely amazing.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Back Here To Repeat Until You Learn, Learn, Learn

Dick Cheney is truly the Source of All Evil. By now, everyone's read about this:
If you don't get punished, you didn't go anything wrong, right?

That's the message Vice President Dick Cheney gave in an interview with CBS' Bob Schieffer on Sunday, suggesting that a president's actions are legal if those actions didn't result in his impeachment.

Asked by Schieffer if he believed that anything the president does in time of war is legal, Cheney said there is "historic precedent of taking action that you wouldn't take in peacetime."

Cheney referenced Abraham Lincoln as an example of another president who "suspended the writ of habeus corpus" during a war, prompting this exchange:
SCHIEFFER: But nobody thinks that was legal.

CHENEY: Well, no. It certainly was in the sense he wasn't impeached. And it was a wartime measure that he took that I think history says today, yeah, that was probably a good thing to do.

Right now everyone who's ever spent time with a four-year-old is seeing stars, because this sounds like nothing so much as -

Mommy: Who broke this lamp?
Finster: Not me.
Mommy: There's no one else here and the dog has gone to Heaven.
Finster: Why?
Mommy: What?
Finster: Why?
Mommy: The dog has gone to Heaven because his little heart gave out. And you need a spanking.
Finster: Why?
Mommy: Because otherwise you won't learn to tell the truth.
Finster: Why?
Mommy: So I can spank you sooner, obviously.
Finster: Can I have a cookie?
Mommy: After my nervous breakdown, sure.

Mr. Lincoln may or may not have done the right thing when he did what he did but he didn't "[suspend] the writ of habeas corpus" he suspended the writ of habeas corpus. There's no equivocating about it. We can't spin it. It happened. And to play semantic games about the violence Cheney and his ilk have done to the Constitution, this country and the world is to make ourselves complicit. Mr. Schieffer's relatively passive acceptance of these vile assertions makes him part of the problem, whether he believes it or not.

Day after day, week after week, for the last eight years, I have heard story after story of monstrous, unimaginable atrocity from this administration. Every single day I heard a story I would not have believed even the day before. While the incoming administration gives me every reason to think the outrageous bullshit will be curtailed, House and Senate Republicans show no sign of stopping theirs. In addition, we have every reason to believe that as time passes, we are going to hear the backstories of the crimes these soulless fucks perpetrated and for which they will probably never be prosecuted. I try not to wish ill on anyone, but in Cheney's case, nothing would give me greater joy than to see him in chains at the International Court in the Hague.

The Rude Pundit makes an important point.
Let's face it: back in 2000, most of us were pussies. We knew, fucking knew, that the presidential election was being stolen as we watched. And we didn't riot - we didn't explode into the streets in a flare of anger and righteousness and shut shit down, demanding that the Supreme Court and the Republican Party back the fuck off. We didn't head to Miami to block the right wing thugs who were stopping the recount at the canvassing board. We didn't go on a general strike to say, "Count the votes."

And Al Gore fucked it up, too. He didn't tell us to do it. He didn't lead a movement. He could have said that, at the end of the day, democracy fails when you say that voting is just an exercise, not a right that people were killed for. Instead, we behaved like end of the millenium Americans, going about our business, thinking, in the long run, it wouldn't matter, anyways. (And to any conservative wad of fuck that thinks we need to get over 2000, look at your granny's retirement account.)

Jump to 2004, and second verse, mostly the same with slight variations: the Johns, Kerry and Edwards, promise to count all the votes, yet, when Ohio is a clusterfuck of irregularities that'd make Boss Tweed go, "What the fuck?" and walk away, they throw in the towel for the good of the nation or some such shit, when, all they did was consign us to our own degradation for the next four plus years ('cause Obama's inauguration ain't gonna make it all shiny and good for a long time).

Yep, I hate thinking about how powerless I have felt every day for the last eight years. It's all bad. I remember sitting in someone's kitchen after the invasions, feeling like shit about bombs falling on the heads of human beings, and having someone at the table ask, "Are we safe to talk here?" Because it was dangerous in the fucking United States of America to say, "Bombs shouldn't fall on the heads of human beings, no matter who they are - or in this case, were." While we can attribute the bullshit hysteria to bedwetters who felt violated by 9/11, the public discourse was poisoned, and it wasn't until Olbermann started shooting off his mouth on television that people felt they could fight back and not get a visit from the FBI. He may be an atrocious sexist ass, but he behaved creditably.

But what about me? Did I do enough? Did I say enough? Did I write enough letters and blog posts? Did I call my Congresspersons often enough? I doubt it. I doubt many of us will think so in the days to come. Bombs are falling on the heads of human beings again. Still.

How about a cookie?


Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Pickup Truck And the Devil's Eyes

I've been thinking a lot about compost. Though the Solstice is behind us the dead of winter lies ahead. Our composter feels very full and I wonder how much decomposition takes place inside the barrel on these cold days. Even so: it's easy to find other places to put coffee grounds and asparagus stems, so I don't really worry. Thus, I am thinking now about paper, especially paper that comes through the mail, now that seed catalogs have begun to arrive. I heard a rumor weeks ago that recycling was unprofitable in the current economy but today we see proof.
People are still putting their bins of recyclables out on curbs. But the recyclable materials market, which was booming only a few months ago, has dropped sharply, along with the worldwide economy, creating a backlog of materials at processing plants.

Reduced demand for used paper, plastic bottles, glass, and metal cans has caused prices to plummet, surprising even those who have followed the ups and downs of the recycling market.

"We have seen drastic changes in market values, faster than I've seen since I've been in industry back to the 1980s," said Foster, who said the value of recyclables was about 70 percent less on average than two months ago. "A lot of it, you can't move right now."

Foster said the recycling plant is still sorting and bundling about 400 tons of paper per day, but it's more difficult to sell.

Now is the time then to insist on products from recycled materials. I have a game I play now: How Can I Reuse This? Sometimes I win, like when I buy eggs in recycled cardboard containers, then pulverize eggshells and cardboard for compost. Sometimes I lose, like when I buy something in that plastic packaging that might actually prevent me from using what I purchased. You know what I'm talking about. On late night commercials, hucksters hawk gadgets to get you into that plastic packaging, creating an odd circle-of-life that ends with you doubling the stuff in your whatsit drawer. Anyway, if I wash and reuse Ziploc bags once each, I cut my use of bags in half. I'm still adding stuff to the landfill at an impressive rate. So what about all this paper that comes to the house, if recycling is going nowhere? Can I compost it? Some of it, yes.
Shredding and composting documents is a great way to ensure they don't fall into the wrong hands and it can help soak up excess water if the compost heap is too wet.

Shredding paper that has been used for bedding for small pets such as hamsters is ok to compost too.

Avoid shiny paper or shiny coloured prints though.

It had never occurred to me until today to buy a shredder, mostly because I don't own much of anything and thought municipal recycling would take care of paper. Now I see that envelopes and notices could be useful in our attempts to fertilize the soil in which we're growing our vegetables and herbs. Hmm.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sway Through the Crowd To An Empty Space

Set your recording devices: our friend Minstrel Boy plays Jeopardy Wednesday night, which is tomorrow. I personally do not own a recording device, though I hear they're the bee's knees. Twenty three skidoo, you know! Anyhoo, MB - the fellow on the right - enjoys military history, making chocolates and lapsing into French. The fellow on the left, well, I don't know. I think he was on The XFiles or something.

A few days ago, the woman who buys paper towels for our department bought a bale of 'em in a brand that wasn't recycled. I growled. Then I growled some more.

Tata: Have we given up on buying recycled paper towels?
Joanne: They weren't on sale.

Every so often I receive a gentle reminder that I am a space alien. Look! Here is one! Watch, as I do not switch to my native tongue:

Tata: W - what?
Joanne: We run out of paper towels at sometimes inconvenient moments and the brands we like are not on sale, so we go with a different brand. It's just timing.
Tata: I'll get coupons.

Yesterday, I left coupons for Marcal products on her desk. She's a nice person but we share a cubicle wall and the sound of her voice makes me mildly homicidal. Every afternoon, she eats 10 baby carrots, which I know because everyone knows.


By the fourth carrot, Lupe and I are emailing each other from ten feet apart.

Tata: Kill me.
Lupe: Got a carrot costume?


Tata: Why haven't you killed me yet?
Lupe: Oh no. We survive this together.


In the silence that follows, we mourn the little carrots that fell victim to the day's carnage. We know that if not for their sacrifice, untold suffering would visit our basement office. Or maybe she'd bring celery. In any case, yesterday, Joanne approached me, coupons in hand and a new plan in mind.

Joanne: Thanks for the coupons. Is this the only recycled brand?
Tata: No, there are quite a few now.
Joanne: Does Shop Rite carry them?
Tata: They should. If they don't, you could make a fuss. I do.
Joanne: Does Wegman's?
Tata: Wegman's certainly does.
Joanne: What about the prices? Are they so expensive nobody buys them so the stores don't carry them?
Tata: No, stores carry them. And if you buy them, the stores will carry more. It's too late for us to say this doesn't matter.
Joanne: Have you seen them in Shop Rite?
Tata: I don't have a Shop Rite, but they must carry them.
Joanne: Thanks for the coupons. I'll watch for the sales.
Tata: This for me is putting my money where my mouth is. If it's a couple of dollars more, then fine. I'll live with that. I'll try to keep you supplied with coupons, okay?
Joanne: Okay.

This conversation boggled my tiny little mind until I realized: she's a New Yorker, and not just any New Yorker. She's from Queens. She knows where her grown children are at every moment. She knows which doctors practice which specialties. And nobody is going to beat her for a dollar. So not only will I keep her in coupons, I will find out which stores she shops in and scope their merchandise. She will appreciate my ability to eviscerate a grocery bill for the Common Good.

Before we bought the composter, I was uncomfortably aware of how much compostable material was going out in garbage. Yesterday, I tossed 12.5 oz. onto the pile. Yes, I weighed that. I'm easily amused. Though it's winter, the temperature changes have been frequent and crazy; material inside the composter continues to degrade nicely. In addition to this, Pete set up a large square pen like this image except that it is small, round and I pinched it from Our leaves are turning into mulch and they need lots of air to do so, giving us the opportunity to spend an hour playing with pitchforks. Our neighbors must enjoy this. I know that if I weren't me but saw me flinging piles of decaying crap with a pitchfork two-thirds my size, I'd microwave some Orville Redenbacher and summon the kids. "Children," I'd say, "some lessons must be learned through experience, but some - yes, a special few - can be learned by watching others make exciting mistakes. Please pass the popcorn."


Thursday, December 11, 2008

You Might Be the Sweet Unspiteful

AFL-CIO NOW BLOG/Tula Connell, quoted in full:
For more proof that the Republican opposition to the auto bridge loan is ideologically based class war against workers and their unions, look no further than yesterday’s comments by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who wants to force the American auto industry—at the cost of 3 million to 5 million U.S. jobs—to its knees:
I'm not trying to get rid of the unions but I am saying that they appear to be an antiquated concept in today’s economy and if a company cannot be competitive with the union structure that they have then we need to recognize that.

…Most of this is being done to protect unions. It's not to protect the workers. What I want to do is make sure we have jobs for these workers and we have first-class American auto companies and we're not going to do that with the barnacles of unionism wrapped around their necks.

The media is abetting the corporate-instigated class war, by endlessly repeating the falsehood that UAW members make $70 an hour—when, in fact, their salaries are close to those of workers at foreign automakers—and by otherwise blaming workers and their unions. Media Matters has been relentless in tracking these lies and sums it up here:
Even though the crises facing the financial and automotive industries were born primarily of the actions (or inaction) of those in positions of power in private industry and in government, many conservative media figures have assigned blame to specific groups of less wealthy or less influential people—the poor, minorities, undocumented immigrants, and union members, among others—disregarding the facts that belie such assignments of blame.

The media also is abetting the reactionary spin that has renamed the Big Three the "Detroit Three." By regionalizing the crisis, opponents of a unionized auto industry hope to divide and conquer workers from the primarily unionized North from the "right to work" for less South.

Fight back by urging your senators to vote for the auto bridge loan.

I was a Teamster in the eighties and I'm a member of the American Federation of Teachers. This bullshit about unions ruining the lives of working people is nothing more or less than your elected officials telling you to go fuck yourself. You don't deserve a living wage, decent working conditions or retirement. These elected officials are in several cases from states where foreign automakers receive big tax breaks and workers have no ability to organize, so not only are you invited to go fuck yourself but you get to help fuck over lots of other people you'll never meet. So what do you care? You have to care. Because these elected officials are about to send the country you live in into double-digit unemployment and a genuine depression in the name of union-busting and a failed ideology.

Fuck THEM. Write that letter, please.


Like Play Has People

Pete's a bit of a chiachiarone, which is funny because most people wonder if he can talk at all. He doesn't say much except after 8 p.m. It's like a timer goes off somewhere, and when I'm watching TV he's quiet during commercials, then talks through the shows. He's talked through entire episodes of The Daily Show and into Colbert. Who was on? I don't remember. Pete was talking. During the first part of this interview, I was losing hope - again - that Jon would open up with both barrels on someone he liked personally, but then Jon came through.

Meanwhile, at my house, Pete was talking about widening a doorway in one of the apartments and I was shouting at the TV, "GET HIM, JON. GET HIM. FIVE THOUSAND YEARS IS A LIE AND HE KNOWS IT. NOT EVERYONE GETS MARRIED TO PROCREATE. GET HIM, JON!"


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

So You Can See What's Going On

Let's time travel a little bit. The easiest way is with wacky verb tenses. Watch!

On the Daily Show Monday night, Campbell Brown, bless her heart, said she wants to break free of the usual political bullshit, which is heartwarming. My icy heart almost warmed and everything! Then Ms. Brown repeats the modern political version of an old wives' tale: for your news sources, you can choose Fox on the Right and MSNBC on the rabid left; Bill O'Reilly or Trotskiite Keith Olbermann. The thing is: that actually is bullshit. She might believe it, too, which makes it worse. Let's talk about the political compass.

That's me, there, waving to you from the southwest of freaking GANDHI. I am unapologetic in my belief in acting for the common good and leaving people alone to make the best or worst decisions about their own lives and medical care. I am unconcerned about where people were born, what language they speak, what religion they practice or with whom they knock boots; skin color and economics need not prevent us from attending the same tea party. I have a responsibility to care for people less fortunate than myself and to do good works in this lifetime without the kibbitzing of some bearded sky god. Adequate food, housing and medical care for all people are not too much to ask. Political prisoners of the war on drugs should go free. I try to think peaceful thoughts when I want to bash someone with a tire iron. My government does not own but retains stewardship of its public lands, and I want it to take that responsibility seriously while I figure out how to afford shiny-shiny solar panels. Damn it, I want all children to have shoes and safe places to sleep. And books. And uniformly good educations. That's the lower lefthand spot from which I speak. You can find where your beliefs sit on the Political Compass Test.

You'll notice the test doesn't simply divide opinions into Left and Right. It also tests for libertarian or authoritarian impulses. I am shamelessly anti-authoritarian about individuals, which is the same reason I wish for rigorous corporate regulation the world over. It's pretty simple: one person with a bad idea can do society some minor damage, but an multinational conglomerate with a bad idea can destroy the planet.

So, in practice, I am a happy lowercase-L leftist. Socialism sounds fine to me, but I'm not afraid of a few words, either. I've got a dictionary! Have at it! But here's the thing: the closest things we've seen to capital-L Leftists in American public life in the last three decades have been Dennis Kucinich and Reverend Al Sharpton, but neither one of them is a Leftist. They aren't. They are slightly to the left of center, which you might have noticed if American political rhetoric hadn't shifted so far to the Right that housing advocates are reviled as rabid Communists. Olbermann is not of the Left or the left. Olbermann is a centrist.

I could explain to you how silly that is but it would require hand puppets and Spam.

But enough about me, what do you think of reporters who don't know the difference between talking points and facts? What do you think of people who claim to offer balance when they specifically mean they do not? What do you think of public discourse when one candidate in an American presidential election is described by his opponent through racial code words and the press takes up the vocabulary without skipping a beat?

Is winning so important we must reduce half of America to ashes?

As for Campbell Brown, I keep wondering if she simply doesn't understand what she's saying or worse: maybe she does?


Sunday, August 17, 2008

And Still My Light's On

Recently, two people I like very much and who were not addressing me at the time, said they didn't want to be lectured about dietary differences around the world or green matters, also around the world. They - you - read PIC. Buckle up, pets, because I am going to heap compost upon you, not to mention cha cha cha all over your arguments. This is going to leave a mark.

Nobody's perfect. Almost no one leaves this planet without leaving a trash pile, though there are people who do not. Few people consume less than their fair share of this planet's resources, but some do. You, however, and I and everyone reading this are making a big, slimy, toxic mess. No matter how much you don't want to hear about that mess, you're soaking in it. Your children are soaking in it. Nature is on you like white on rice, so sooner or later you're going to have to stop howling and listen. It's not even hard to do - listening and living a little greener - and nobody is demanding perfection. Besides, your argument seems to be If I don't want to think about that then I don't have to think about that. Which as circular logic goes is genius but as good ideas go: not so much.

Your children are watching you. The little devils learn from the way you respond to life's little pressures and big squeezes. Your children, who will live with the mess we're making now, will remember whether you shut off lights when you left the room or cranked the air conditioning. You already know this. So what's your job, here? Do you teach them to think clearly and act, or do you teach them that denial's a fine bet until what's undeniable comes knocking on the door?

You can make small changes now that will add up, both for that mess we're making and for the children who observe your quirky behavior. Don't believe me? How about a simple example: your morning coffee. I drink enough coffee that somewhere on a Colombian mountainside there should be a plaque with my name on it, and if there is a plaque with my name on it, that's not going to change anytime soon. But I never, never walk into a Starbuck's and drop $10 on one cup of coffee containing double my daily calorie limit, and if I march through a Dunkin' Donuts it's because I'm on a road trip and the caffeine patch is wearing off. I have a travel mug.

We are a technologically advanced society in which devices now exist to make coffee in your very own home. It's true! You can make your own coffee. Should you be one of those people in a 10' by 10' apartment without counter space, there are devices you could probably suspend from the ceiling that could double as soothing water features. For most of us, there's no reason why we can obtain one of these devices and teach those impressionable children that thrift is good. Not only that, but once you step out of line at the coffee joint and find money in your pocket, you will wonder why you were ever there in the first place.

How, you may finally be asking yourself, does making my own coffee count as going greener when it creates garbage in the form of coffee filters and grounds? This is an excellent question, and the answer is: it doesn't have to. Coffee grounds can be dumped directly onto lawns, gardens or empty lots. Got a tree in front of your apartment building? Toss down the grounds!

Some coffeemakers use filters. You're used to seeing those white ones but you can pick up unbleached filters instead. They're right there on the shelf, they don't affect the flavor of the coffee and less toxic goo was used in their creation. A small but important step, eh? You can take another one by buying these filters here made of hemp, if you can find them without incurring a misdemeanor. Or pick up a gold coffee filter and eliminate the paper filters entirely. Plus, you'd have the ruby slippers of coffeemaking devices.

A lot of people say they're trying to save the planet. That is a crucial misstatement of what is at stake here and now. The planet itself is not in any danger. The planet doesn't care, and will go on spinning. We, however, cannot say the planet's natural resources will stretch to meet our needs. It's not a matter of economics. Even if you can afford to cushion yourself against lectures, waste and the vagaries of the markets, you can't protect yourself from air, water and toxins. You know it, your lungs know it, your family's medical history shows it and your children take all this in.

So, what's it going to be: do you teach your children to think clearly and cleverly adapt or teach them that you wouldn't?


Monday, June 23, 2008

To See It Once My Way

Oh George. I miss you already.


Monday, June 09, 2008

As Close As Three-Part Harmony

I love this gorgeous image. I love the expression on his face. I love the determination in her jaw. I love the unity of purpose. I love the vivid purple of her dress. I love that they're approximately the same height. I love the simplicity of We. I love the confidence. I love their belief in one another. I love their handsomeness. I love the firmness of trust. I love this image. I love this image of boundless love.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Some Want To Fly Isn't That Crazy

My co-worker whom we Poor Impulsives call Chuan was born in Singapore and emigrated to New Jersey as a small child. A few weeks ago, Chuan and his two sisters spent two weeks visiting China, where one sister works. It was, judging by the pictures, a grand adventure. Here, Chuan kicks up his heels at the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which was under construction. It's quite possible I might be a little jealous, but of what? Maybe the once-familiar escape from the iron grip of gravity.

Today, my dear friend Lala forwarded a reminder that history is nothing if not a bitch.
The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic."

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the "Night of Terror" on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food - all of it colorless slop - was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

I don't know who wrote that, but it rang a distant bell for me. I'm ashamed to say it but I'd forgotten who Alice Paul was, so I looked her up. Imagine my chagrin:
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it passed in 1972. During the 1940s, both the Republicans and Democrats added the ERA to their party platforms. In 1943, the ERA was rewritten and dubbed the "Alice Paul Amendment." The new amendment read, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

Fuck! I forgot Alice! Did you remember Alice? This is a blog post about Alice. Back to the letter of unknown origin about HBO's Iron Jawed Angels:
It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."

This would be an excellent, life-preserving moment to remember the unbelievable courage that brought us - all of us - to where we stand - or fly - now, because our politics have gone crazy.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Know When Or Where To Go

I'm packing to go back to Virginia again. The catsitter's coming tomorrow to adore Topaz and Drusy in my mournful absence. Tonight, I went to pick up snacks at the Extortion Mart across the street from the family store while Anya closed up. A six of San Pellegrino, carrot sticks and Sun Chips later, I found myself flummoxed in front of the toilet paper again when there wasn't a single recycled paper product on the shelves I'd complained held too few. Ten minutes later, Anya met me at my car a little flustered.

Anya: Where'd you go?
Tata: I had to throw a giant hissyfit, and those take time.
Anya: What happened?
Tata: I can't believe it! In that store, in March 2008, I didn't find a single recycled paper product in that aisle - not a napkin, not a tissue, not a paper towel, not a single roll of toilet paper. In 2008, there's no excuse for this.
Anya: You're not the only one who has this talk with them.
Tata: I marched to the checkout line but two people were at the courtesy counter so I turned around, interrupted their conversation and described my umbrage. I was umbrageous!
Anya: Is that a word?
Tata: Of course not, so it's not a cliche!
Anya: Did they say anything or did they hold still and hope you don't bite?
Tata: The one guy said he was a new manager from Somerset where they have lots of recycled products. I corrected him by saying there's a recycled product ghetto that was inadequate but better than nothing. Anyway, he looked really surprised so he went to look for himself. Fortunately the Express Line wasn't moving so when he got back he said I was right but he had the decency to look confused.
Anya: Are you inhaling at all? Because I haven't seen you breathe for a few minutes.
Tata: He said it's a small store. I said that makes it worse because people walk to the store but then they have to drive two towns away for recycled paper and what's that mean?
Anya: Dead dinosaurs weep!
Tata: He said corporate in Massachusetts made the decisions. I said they'd already heard from me, and I was fully prepared to have a conniption up and down the East Coast.
Anya: We buy our Marcal products at Costco.
Tata: Really? I've never found them there!
Anya: We buy them for the stores and our houses at Costco.
Tata: I'll look again. Anyway, I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it and I couldn't even shut my mouth! Hey, did I drive by your house? I can't tell when I'm nearly hysterical.
Anya: No, it's actually two ahead.
Tata: Your block has nine houses. Yet I can't pick out the one in the middle.

My campaign of letter-writing terror begins anew Monday.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

That Endless Skyway

Recently, Pete and I watched a documentary on PBS about Pete Seeger and the sloop Clearwater. I was stunned by the story because, like many children our age, my sister Daria, brother Todd and I participated in it. Daria reminded me that we and our neighbors rode on the Clearwater more than thirty years ago. This is where we learned about basic environmentalism and took to heart a love of green places. This, I remember now, is where I became a shameless treehugger, for which I will never have even a single moment of embarrassment.

Last night, my own Pete happened on another PBS fundraiser and we both stopped what we were doing. Channel 13 out of Newark - you know, where Sesame Street came from - was running The Power of Song. Once again, I was shocked speechless by what I remember of Pete Seeger's life and what I had forgotten.

In 1952, I believe it was, Pete Seeger was blacklisted for being a communist and didn't appear on radio or television - except for PBS - until the Smothers Brothers invited them on their show in 1967 and 1968. One of his biggest legal problems is that he would not sign a loyalty oath or swear that he was not a Communist. Funny thing: in February 2008, a math teacher at California State University at East Bay was fired from her new job for refusing to sign a loyalty oath that included promises of violence.
California State University East Bay has fired a math teacher after six weeks on the job because she inserted the word "nonviolently" in her state-required Oath of Allegiance form. Marianne Kearney-Brown, a Quaker and graduate student who began teaching remedial math to undergrads Jan. 7, lost her $700-a-month part-time job after refusing to sign an 87-word Oath of Allegiance to the Constitution that the state requires of elected officials and public employees.

"I don't think it was fair at all," said Kearney-Brown. "All they care about is my name on an unaltered loyalty oath. They don't care if I meant it, and it didn't seem connected to the spirit of the oath. Nothing else mattered. My teaching didn't matter. Nothing."

A veteran public school math teacher who specializes in helping struggling students, Kearney-Brown, 50, had signed the oath before - but had modified it each time. She signed the oath 15 years ago, when she taught eighth-grade math in Sonoma. And she signed it again when she began a 12-year stint in Vallejo high schools.
Each time, when asked to "swear (or affirm)" that she would "support and defend" the U.S. and state Constitutions "against all enemies, foreign and domestic," Kearney-Brown inserted revisions: She wrote "nonviolently" in front of the word "support," crossed out "swear," and circled "affirm." All were to conform with her Quaker beliefs, she said. The school districts always accepted her modifications, Kearney-Brown said. But Cal State East Bay wouldn't, and she was fired on Thursday.

In what fucking bizarro universe does a math teacher need to defend the goddamn State of California? And - wait for it - California officials can't agree on what the problem is.
Modifying the oath "is very clearly not permissible," the university's attorney, Eunice Chan, said, citing various laws. "It's an unfortunate situation. If she'd just signed the oath, the campus would have been more than willing to continue her employment."

Modifying oaths is open to different legal interpretations. Without commenting on the specific situation, a spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown said that "as a general matter, oaths may be modified to conform with individual values." For example, court oaths may be modified so that atheists don't have to refer to a deity, said spokesman Gareth Lacy.

What the fuck is wrong with these people? The article goes on and on with the kind of bureaucratic back and forth anyone who's every tried to work with a state structure recognizes. Then she's fired, which raises the question: does anyone truly believe Medieval history and Comp Sci grad students are going to take up arms to defend anything? Of course not. That's why THEY'RE IN FUCKING COLLEGE. So what's that oath really intended to do?

Simple: to screen out people of real conscience.

"I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, that I am any less of an American than anyone else.

I am saying voluntarily that I have sung for almost every religious group in the country, from Jewish and Catholic, and Presbyterian and Holy Rollers and Revival Churches. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent the implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, make me less of an American."

- Pete Seeger before the House Un-American Activities Committee on 15 August 1955.

We have been here before. We have seen this before and done this before. It was a tragic, terrible failure. And we can't wait to do it again.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

You Should've Left the Light On

Jeaneane Brennan
Clear Channel Communications

Dear Ms. Brennan,

Greetings to you from the glorious present day, where the sun always shines, people treat each other fairly and even goth kids are happy. It's 2008! Hooray!

So why, in 2008, can I turn on Q104.3 and still hear crap like Under My Thumb? Why does Q104.3's website, which is a shrine to testosterone-soaked hatred of women, have a whole section called Babes? I realize scores of young models make a living pretending to be simultaneously anorexic, well-endowed and thrilled about both, but here in the world where we live and work with men, this is a really stupid display of soft-core porn.

To quote George Carlin, "There are two knobs on the radio and television: one turns it off, the other changes the station." Ordinarily, I'd chalk this crap up to the normal, day-in and day-out, anti-woman malarkey and dismiss it, but when I heard the intro to Under My Thumb I happened to be on my way to the drug store to buy a bottle of wine for Valentine's Day and the backseat of my car was piled high with clothing for a women's shelter that's rebuilding after an arson fire. My patience with misogynist crap may be a little thin. So I shut off the radio and today I'm writing to you, because the program manager's name isn't on the contact page and because your email address is above the words -
It is the policy of Clear Channel Radio to provide equal employment opportunity to all qualified individuals without regard to their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation or any other characteristic protected by law, in all personnel actions.

What an enlightened place to work Q104.3 must be. The faces on your gallery page are all white and mostly male, with the notable exception of a few women in some state of undress. There's some mention of oysters. Way to be equal! Way to pander to that crucial blockhead demographic! And you helped.

Frankly, I'm surprised this shining tower - woohoo! - of dudely privilege hasn't been sued into the ground in some hugely public and embarrassing employee action. Judging by the evidence at hand, I have little doubt at least karmic justice is on its way.


Yes, that is me, upper right. Did you think I was just stuffy?