Postings are in chronological order, with the most recent entry at the top.
I've been surfing up articles and trying to make some sense out of all of the hell that's broken loose around us. I'm consolidating the links I've found onto a separate page...
Click here for info links
I went to pick up Ume's birthday cake. There's only one place we like to get a birthday cake. You have to drive through one of those odd urban zones - a place that's essential to every city, but seldom visited by the lay folk. The wholesale food warehouse district. It's an odd place. A place of signs and trucks and of course, the obligatory trailer renting adult videos to truckers. Is there a subgenre of trucker porn? Wait, no! I don't want to know.
On the other side of this otherworldly place, is a bakery. It's in a bustling little downtown neighborhood. Not the most sparkling shiny place, it's seen better days... But a respectably gritty urban place.
Anyway... This bakery is situated at the back of a building behind some other stores. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing location from which to purchase a confection. If you want aesthetics you have to go to their other store. More conventional over there, they even have windows. I kind of feel like I'm going to pick up something illicit when I go to this place. Like the cake I'm getting isn't just a cake, but a hollowed out receptacle for something less than legal.
I got the cake. There was nothing suspicious looking about it. The shy fifteen year old in attendance wrote the standard whatnot on top, took my money, and scribbled on it with a pen. I paused.
"Why did you write on the bill?" I asked. That used to be a felony or some such, yes?
She replied, in broken and muffled English, telling me that she was checking to see if it was fake.
Fake? Do I look like a counterfeiter, I wondered? Intrigued, I asked to see the pen. It was a kind of marker that said, "Counterfeit Detection Pen" on the side. She explained that if the bill had been counterfeit, the mark would have been dark. I thought it worthy of note. She thought it odd to make note. Or so I gathered from the puzzled look she was giving me.
As much as I enjoy the idea of someone thinking of me as a slimy counterfeiter, I'm sure most counterfeit bills are passed by unsuspecting rubes. So she probably didn't think I was anyone special, or criminal or whatever, just a another daft pawn. I wonder if she checks bills passed to her by really big, mean looking guys? Do really big, mean looking guys frequent that bakery for their favorite confections? Do they smile and wait patiently as the young girl writes on their bills? Do they get hollowed out cakes with things less than legal inside? I don't know, I just went there to get Ume's cake. And besides, it's a Cambodian neighborhood, most of the guys are short.
Big, mean guys aside, I'm fascinated by forgery and the circumstances surrounding it. Counterfeiting is kind of a no brainer. You make money off of the product. It's forged art objects that get my attention. The techniques used to make them and how they're marketed.
If this kind of thing interests you I have two recommendations. The first is Orson Wells' "F for Fake". Excellent film. The second is Thomas Hoving's book, "False Impressions : The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes". You have to be interested in the topic to enjoy the Hoving, otherwise you may be put off by his overwhelming passion: himself. The guy who ran the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was the editor of "Connoisseur" magazine is bound to be a little pretentious, no? It's a superb account of several forgery cases. He purchased a lot of artifacts for the Cloisters - the MET's uptown medieval collection (one of my favorite places!). Purchasing Medieval stuff is tricky, you can check out the book to find out why.
My father met Hans van Meegren's son once. van Meegren was a forger who sold fakes to many people, but most notably the Nazi, Hermann Göring. Another interesting forgery story - kinda glam, mostly seedy. It's very much like those guys who do magic on city sidewalks. They can hide and move crap right in front of your nose - there's something... unsettling about it. They screw with your perception of reality. Forgers do that too, only they end up screwing with a cultural perception of history as well. It's way deep, I'm tellin' ya. Anyway, van Meegren's son hung out in Parisian cafes and traded off of his father's dubious reputation. Or so my father has claimed...
Nifty Van Meegren page with Hoving excerpts, even a bit about technique: click here
They say that no one has gumption anymore. We're all slackers and whatnot. Not true. Someone out there is being mighty persistent. Really applying themselves. I've gotten several messages so far. All of them with the same goal in mind. Problem is, I'm not sure what the goal is, but the messages keep coming.
To my secret admirer in New Zealand, Australia, or the UK (wherever and whoever you are) get some virus scanning software or I'll never get your messages - only notes that say you tried to send me a message with a virus in it. And if you're trying to send me a message with a virus in it intentionally, get a life instead.
For the digital antibiotic info that'll clear your system of the W32/BadTrans@MM virus: click here
For the rest of y'all, don't open any e-mail attachments unless you know who sent them, okay? Especially attachments titled: news_doc.DOC.scr Go to the link above for more info.
Or, for the techno dyke in all of us, you can visit technodyke.com
Here is an awesome lesbian site, DykesWorld - deserving of many kudos: click here
Louis Lapham, Harper's Editor - on the Connection 11/27
Great conversation on patriotism and democracy. Excellent discussion! Again, you need RealPlayer to hear the program. But it was so worth it.
And so, the holiday passes. One down.
Fallout minimal. Result good.
Seems the biggest problem, I caused all by myself. Ume read my last entry. Ume took issue with my last entry. Ume believes that I falsely represented her family in my last entry. If you want to understand this entry, read the one below it first (right there after the double lines).
"But it's humorous, beloved. A little poetic license, you see?" I argued.
"No, I don't see. My family is not gravy averse. They like gravy, fine."
Apparently, I'm not even allowed digital liberties in this relationship.
And to prove the extent of my unjustly taken liberty... I walked into Ume's mother's house and after asking how we were, the very second question Ms. Boshi asked me was, "Would you make your gravy for us?"
I'm not swift on the uptake, so it didn't occur to me immediately that Ume might have rigged this request. She hadn't. I know she hadn't because I ambushed her in the laundry room and interrogated her - thoroughly. Turns out, Ms. Boshi, having enjoyed my gravy last year, wanted a repeat performance - unprompted by my concerned partner. So you see, I'd rushed to judgement.
And so, I'm posting a correction: last year at Thanksgiving, I converted a family of Jews to WASP gravy.
Happy beloved? <ducks head to avoid the latest projectile thrown by mate>
Oh! And Ume wants y'all to know that she isn't sauce averse, just roux-based sauce averse. I never realized she'd be so sensitive about the whole thing. Very touchy, my Ume. Must tread lightly, on gossamer winged feet, around the gravy issue from here on in (snort).
Just so y'all know, I made rice to go with.
Hey, it's holiday time!
A wise person said, "Keep your expectations very low and tailor them to the capabilities of the people you have them of."
Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday. In my book, it's about food. Therefore, I like it.
We have a schism in our relationship. I know, this is probably difficult for you all to hear - us being so harmonious and all (ducks head to avoid the latest projectile thrown by mate) - but it's true. I figure all great relationships have friction. Ours is centered around a vital essence (oh, just get over yourselves), gravy. Ume has no appreciation of or for the finer points or any other points of gravy.
One of my sisters asked me if Ume's family were a rice or potatoes family. It's a crucial question, even in a southern family one generation removed from actual southern soil. I sighed and told her that it didn't really matter.
"Of course it does!" she said adamantly.
"No, it really doesn't." I answered, resigned. "They don't make gravy."
"What!?" Outrage shot through the wire.
You see, the only real point to the rice/potato debate centers on the fact that those starches are the optimal vehicles employed in the plate to mouth gravy transfer (we're WASPs, drinking it from the serving dish isn't acceptible - when anyone's looking...).
The gravy debate is heartfelt in my family. Ume's family finds this amusing. Last year I even made gravy for them, expecting instantaneous conversion and much discussion of rice and potatoes to follow. Didn't happen. They humored me. This may be a Jewish thing (not the humoring, but the gravy thing), I don't know. I only know that it's a lonely feeling I get when the subject of gravy comes up at her mother's house.
We have gravy talks in my family that go back generations.
"Remember Nana's gravy?" Snicker, snicker.
"You could stand a fork up in it even before you mixed it with the rice."
"If you left some of it on your plate for a minute, you could make better sculptures with it than you could with the wax from the candles."
"As long as she didn't catch you."
If my grandmother caught you at anything, you'd wish she hadn't. As much as her gravy would give people pause in today's grease averse climate, I loved it.
My mother made excellent gravy. It didn't have the versatility of my grandmother's, but it tasted wonderful. This too, is a quality that we hold dear.
My father makes a fine gravy. But he's such a blow hard about it that we try not to encourage him.
My gravy's pretty damn good. It failed to convert a family of Jews, but I hear they're a tough lot where conversion's concerned, so I'm not entirely discouraged. I have managed to get Ume to eat foods with sauce and admit that she liked it. This, I consider, a great accomplishment. I also consider it to be the next step on the way to the inevitable question, "Which do you prefer? Rice or potatoes?"
Have a great day and regardless of your mode of celebration, stay sane.
I've watched the X-Files. Not something I generally do, but with Lucy Lawless guest starring, I'm making an exception.
Best I can tell, the director advises the cast to act sleepy and kinda pissed off. Like when someone calls you at 4:30 in the morning and it's a wrong number, but they sound like nice people making an honest mistake and so you want to bite their heads off, but you don't. Like that.
And soon I'm gonna start worrying about L. Lawless' mental health. I mean, that woman's either getting nekkid or dead, no matter where she shows up. I'm not complaining about the nekkid part, but I'm hoping the poor thing's got someone telling her that she's more than the sum of her defrocked parts. And I'm really hoping she's not paranoid like me. She'd be thinking, "Why do they want to kill me off all of the time? The naked thing's a no brainer, but why dead too?" I'd be lookin' over my shoulder on the set and giving the writers the squint.
Again, it's good to be less than famous. Even the imaginary stress would age me prematurely.
P.S. No, I don't think the super-nasty-death-machine-killer-lady with a conscience is really dead. Again, this is Lucy Lawless we're talking about here. She's got a reanimation clause or somesuch in her contract, I just know it.
Okay, this time I didn't just get link lost, I got link lust.
I did a search - sounds innocent enough... I wanted to find a site that might have some information about one of my all-time super favorite books. Never, in my wildest dreams, which admittedly in this context are fairly tame, did I think I'd come across the FULL text. I did. What I also found was a string of fun sites. Before I give you the link to the man behind the madness, let me tell you a wee bit about Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions, by A. Square.
It's amazing. It's one of those rare books that gave me a vivid sense of connection. It's also a wonderful explanation of geometric space. Euclidean space? Well, it's that too.
It was written in the latter half of the nineteenth century by Edwin Abbott. When I was a misunderstood youth I was told that I ought to read this book by the wild and wonderful woman who taught me geometry. She was a self-proclaimed witch. I think she self-proclaimed herself that in self-defense. She was a small woman teaching an unruly horde of teenagers. I think it helped keep the more fractious of us in line. That and her freakishly accurate throwing arm. The woman could hit an unruly teenager with an eraser anywhere in the room. Thus, enhancing her mystique. Bam! Chalk cloud - stunned student. She's probably in jail now... which would be eerie, synchronisticly speaking (but you'd have to have read Flatland to know what the hell I'm going on about).
Without further ado, I present you with the link to the full text of Flatland. Start with the introduction, but feel free to skip the preface - it's not the original and it can get in the way of the story - go back and read it afterward.
Flatland: A Romance in Many Dimensions by A. Square
This Erik Max Francis has several sites that are interesting and fun to explore. Here are a couple of links if you want to make your own inquiries:
A little humor... this is for all of those gaming nuts among us: http://www.worldrps.com/index.html
Had to make a whole 'nother section for this link that I found through Erik Max Francis's site. It's a link that got me all bubbly and whatnot. It's the link to the Gutenberg project. Here, you can access full texts online. They're older - mostly public domain - the mother load of electronic texts.
Put your thinking caps on. Ume's birthday is fast approaching...
Help me out here would ya?
Y'all know I'm like a brain spewing random nonesuch, so I can't resist telling you one of my, "I'm a total geek and I'm reveling in it", stories. This is about how I was a wee geek.
The funky geometrix who introduced me to Flatland (see above), challenged her students each year.
"For any of you who can solve the Pons Asinorum, I will add five points to your final grade."
The catch was that we had to prove it the hard way - like Euclid did. I was never a math brain. I appreciate math and wasn't even allergic to it in school, but I'd never felt the affinity for my math and algebra textbooks that I did the moment I opened my first geometry book. "Pictures! An entire discipline based on pictures!" my little visual learning mind cried with glee.
I didn't look forward to geometry class or any class I had that year as I'd decided not to talk to anyone unless it was absolutely necessary. Teachers and class were necessary, other students were not. What can I say? I was an odd specimen. My classmates certainly thought so. But... I looked forward to geometry homework.
The Pons became my pet project. How could I resist something with the title, "The Asses' Bridge"? I belonged on that bridge and I damn well knew it. With the help of some dusty books that I found in a private library, I managed to stumble my way through the proof. I don't remember dink about it now except sitting hunched at a desk in this library looking at a bunch of scrawl that made little to no sense. Eventually, I came to something that I thought resembled an answer. So did the witch geometrix. I got the extra points. When she handed the notebook back to me she had an expression on her face I'd never seen before... kind of amused, kind of afraid. She hadn't ever given anyone a grade higher than an A plus in geometry. I told you, I liked geometry.
I went on to prove that I was less than perfect in Algebra/Trig. I think she was much more comfortable with my performance there.
If you'd like to look at the original proof to the Pons you can download an elegant .pdf file from the Mathematics Department of King's College, University of London by clicking here.
And because this is the internet, I can link to quasi-related and nifty extraniosities like this: click here.
Moderate physical pressure? I think this used to be called torture. I think our country used to tell other countries that employing such practices to gather information was repugnant. This, along with the military tribunal issue, are discussed on "The Connection" (11/15/01) (yeah, yeah, more Real Player stuff from NPR - you're so shocked): click here
While I'm on about the issues... How about those aid-workers getting free? Unbelievable. Must be a group of the luckiest people on the planet. Cheers to them!
Ume's got an admirer. This is a pesky type problem that crops up from time to time. There's probably a spray or aerosol for it, I just haven't looked into it. I mean, there's all kinds of chemical applications for all manner of pests, I'd think this kind would be fairly popular.
Excellent show on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on theories for rise of western power with Jared Diamond and Victor Davis Hansen.
It's another Real Player thing, click here.
Karen Armstrong is making me feel almost sane. If you have one of those obnoxious Real Player things installed, you too can listen to her latest interview (11/06/01).
K. Armstong on "The Connection".
Click on the "Listen to the show" link up near the top left corner of the page.
I've been curious about fanfiction. I mean, I write it, I read it, but do I know anything about it? Not really. So, I started poking around...
And I found this very helpful explanation...
What is Slash?
"Slash", who knew? Did you?
I remember hearing about Kirk and Spock a ways back, but I had no idea... Starsky and Hutch? Most of the writers are women? Mary Sues? Nobody tells me nothin'.
This site takes an academic view of the Xenaverse...
Xena: Warrior Princess, Desire Between Women, and Interpretive Response by Kathleen Bennet
You can find lots of slash links listed here.
New York Times article by Jared Diamond, "Keeping Panic at Bay". (10/21/01)
If it's true that people and their pets develop similar personalities over time, I wonder what you'll make of this...
We once had a cat. I love cats. I talked my partner into getting a cat. "Fine. But it's your cat," she said.
As a kitten it was an adorable little thing that showed real promise. It had spunk, it did. And as I'd pry the spry little demon from my face, carefully removing its little needle-like claws from my flesh, I'd say, "That's sweet. And the hissing is so cute!"
She grew. She grew beautiful, too. What amazing markings. What gorgeous lines. A stunner. Still, even a beautiful cat's claws are painful to pry from your face.
And it wasn't just my face that she was intent on mauling. It became routine for me to have to bend down, grab her by the scruff of the neck, and pull her off of my calves. Where she was attached by her teeth.
I took this behavior personally. "Why?" you ask. "She was obviously a cat with a chemical imbalance who needed to be let out of doors. She had to let off steam somehow," you say. Oh, sure, sure, take her side. Ume did too. But that's because Ume rarely suffered this animal's wrath. No, me, cleaner of litter boxes, feeder, and general purpose scratching post- I got the special treatment. Ume got cat snuggling in lap while she read, friendly brushing up against type behavior and even more remarkable, purring. The only time that cat purred around me was after she'd drawn blood.
Why keep such an animal? I can only say that she fit rather well in the twisted routine that was our lives at the time. And I guess I was in need of a nemesis. Always a handy thing to have about. She was an admirable foe. We plotted against one another incessantly - I was determined to prevent her from running my life or stealing my partner. She was, after all, a cat. I was fairly sure of that fact, though I had gathered some evidence to the contrary. And while I refused to let my imagination get the better of me, I took some notes...
Tag. Cats, at least in my experience, do not play tag. She did. And for the record, she liked to be "It". I think she liked being It because she could get away with hitting me. Peversely, when we played tag, she didn't use her claws. And I admit, maybe I liked being It too because I could get away with batting her one on the butt. I'm completely serious.
Fetch. I guess there are cats that fetch, but she did it in ways I'd never seen. It was beautiful to watch her leap into the air and catch paper balls. She didn't bat them, she caught them. And depending on her mood, she'd bring them over to you to throw again. Or maybe she'd make a run at your face, it really depended on how she felt at the time.
Frog paramour. I suppose it all could have been worse, I could have been her frog. Her frog was a bright pink stuffed animal, almost as large as she was. Frog got dragged everywhere. It would have been adorable if it weren't also kind of creepy. She did things to that frog that we don't discuss in mixed company.
Obsessive-compulsive. Those of you out there snickering, "Projection, much?" Stuff it. One of the cat's more interesting compulsive behaviors was her door/window ritual. It was wrapped up in her unnerving time-based compulsive behaviors but I'll leave those scars, I mean, stories for another time... In the afternoons, she would sit in the second story window facing the street (with her frog sidekick) and watch for me. If I was late (heaven forbid!), she'd jump down from the window sill (leaving her patsy frog as watchout) and trot to the apartment door that lead to the outside hallway. Ume would often sit in the room reading and watch with detached amusement as the show began...
We had a strip of bells hanging from the doorknob (I have no idea why, but we did). The cat would get on her hind legs, bat the bells, then sit and wait. When this action did not cause me to materialize... she'd go back to the window for another minute. Eventually, the cat's batting of the bells would produce me... I'd cautiously open the door and she'd make a dash at me. For a while she'd rushed the door in an attempt to get out, but she'd given up that goal for another opportunity to maul me. There were times when she'd dash to the door and purr as she rubbed up against my legs, then she'd bite me.
I tell you this story to illustrate not only how fiendishly clever she was, but how egomaniacal she was as well. She'd figured out that when the bells rang at a certain part of the day, I would appear. But the egomaniac also thought that by ringing the bells herself she could make me appear. The nerve.
Water. Cats don't like water, right? The shower was the one place I should have been assured safety, right? Picture my surprise the morning I stepped backward in the shower and felt the wet matted fur of a feral animal brush up against my naked leg. The shower scene from "Psycho" flashed through my mind. Surprisingly, she didn't shred me. She was having too much fun hiding from the water by staying behind me and occasionally jumping to the side to bite at the spray.
By now you're undoubtedly wondering, "What happened to that cat?" Let's just say that she overplayed her hand.
We had friends who wouldn't visit, because they feared her. I was developing scars (and while they may be a turn-on in fanfiction, I'd hardly be impressing much of anyone by telling how I got 'em). I'd begun to suffer from sleep deprivation (she'd scratch at the door of the room where we kept her at night in a way that made a shrill screeching sound - even after I'd carpeted the door). And finally, I was forgetting why exactly it was that I didn't hit animals.
I found her a home in the country. It was the best I could do and Ume insisted it be the best, otherwise, I would have been rid of her sooner.
As I packed her into her traveling box (no simple feat, I assure you), Ume cried. I tried not to gloat.
I told the people who adopted her to keep an eye out for missing livestock in their area. To my knowledge, that cat's alive and well to this day. We haven't heard a word from the owners though...
I think about her from time to time. A ray of sunlight will fall upon my hand just so, illuminating the fine scars that criss cross my tendons there. I'll hear the deep intake of breath as Ume administers a puff from an inhaler (you see, cats can cause asthma in some people...). Mostly, I prefer to think of more pleasant things.
Have I mentioned that we're thinking of getting a bird?
David Sedaris is brilliant. This guy's got a handle on things, maybe not on himself, but on things... I listened to him on tape reading from his book, "Me Talk Pretty One Day".
I called my sister, who loves D.S., and read this quote from the book:
My father always placed a great deal of importance in his daughters' physical beauty - to him, their greatest asset - and he monitored their appearance with the intensity of a pimp. What can I say? He was born a long time ago and is convinced that marriage is a woman's only real shot at happiness.
We laughed, then my sister told me of a recent visit she'd had with our Uncle (my father's brother). He met her at the door and said, "You look great! I'd heard you'd gained a lot of weight and were unhealthy."
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