She'll get in

posted 08.28.05

I was leaving the post office (long live snail mail!) and this glowing young woman bounding up the steps stopped me and beamed, "Are they still open?"

"I'm not sure," I replied - there'd been a guard at the door as I was leaving, preparing to lock it as the second hand ticked past five. "But give it a try."

"There's still a line in there, you'll get in," said the guy who'd walked out of the building just after I did.

"Thanks!" And off she bounded toward the door.

I shrugged, and went on my way.

"Don't worry," the guy from the post office was now walking next to me on the sidewalk. "She'll get in - she's blonde."

I smiled and said as how I hoped she would.

He chuckled at his humor and walked on.

Stamps are a matter of great import and I wouldn't want another citizen to go without, so I do hope she was able to get in... But it got me thinking... How is it that I could go so long without running into such a glowing, healthy specimen, and then, in the space of two weeks, meet two, who looked so much alike? What's afoot here in New England? Are we being invaded by tall glowing blondes?

You see, Ume and I were at a gathering sitting among friends recently, and a rather large, energetic creature came up and asked if she could join us. Being polite, we said as how she sure could. No idiots, we.

Over the course of our conversation, this woman proved an asset to the company, and a lot of fun besides. Afterward, Ume said, "What fun for you!" <Ume's a total sport> See, I was seated next to this frisky young pup and we chatted a good part of the time - having, as we did, a certain aggressive streak in common. She's way more aggressive than I am though, and as the evening drew on I did worry once or twice if she wasn't going to bite me or something. It turned out alright.

There's no getting around it, some people are physically appealing. Their eyes are just the right space apart, their features have a certain symmetry - everything seems to line up in a manner that makes them easy to look at. So they get looked at more easily, hired more easily, talked to more easily and married to their choice of mate more easily. It may not be fair, but it's fact. We're wired that way.

When someone with these apparent advantages also happens to have something going on upstairs, and is even, dare I say it, a nice person - it's easy to hate them. It's also easy to sit next to them at dinner and chat, and as I prefer chatting to hating, I chat. There are so many people to hold grievance with in the world (my new neighbor with the motorcycle, for instance), why pick on the beautiful people?

Aren't I tolerant and large of heart? Ume thinks so and teases me about it, "I mean, it's really kind of you to make her feel so welcome in our group like that. You're the soul of selfless hospitality. A real credit to your southern heritage."

Recently, while attending a talk, I realized that the woman giving it (in her early forties), had breast implants. It wasn't hard to spot them as she wore a skin tight v-neck top. She was grasping at what the two young women I've recently run into have in spades. People like it, are drawn to it, we want to embody it and/or possess it in some way... and some ways are a l-e-e-t-t-l-e more extreme than others...

Part of that shine is, of course, youth - and there's no gettin' that back - I don't care what the commercials say - it's over when it's over. Get on with life - there are some pretty damn cool things about growing up. Besides, Ume likes my wrinkles, I like the gray showing up in her hair, and I think older women are just wicked sexy. Always have. Ume acknowledges that she's terribly vain and isn't at all interested in aging any further, "I'm going to end up looking like my father. It's bad enough I had to be related to the bastard, now I'm going to have to look like him, too?"

Me, I'm going to look like a wizzened sprite - Ruth Gordon-esque. It could be worse, I suppose - a wizzened gnome would likely hold less appeal.

In the meantime, all I have to worry about is being bitten by frisky young blondes on my way to the post office. Life's little challenges...


Ooh, ooh! Rickie Lee Jones has an anthology out! Ooh, ooh! La.

Now here's a talent. I saw "Subway" years back - the stylin' French film that wasn't "Diva", but was fun anyway (don't ever watch the dubbed version if you want to hold onto your sanity - ack!) - anyway, one of Mz. Jones' songs was used on the soundtrack and I was charmed.

It wasn't until a few years ago, when I saw her perform live (Ume dragged me) that I realized that she's not just a pretty voice, but a damn good artist.

Hot ticket alert

Kayla Williams. Heard of her? Check out her book, "I Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army". Good interview with her on Fresh Air too.


posted 08.20.05

Ume got back into the car.

"How'd it look?" I asked.

"Like the waiting room at a Methadone clinic."

So we headed off, again, in search of a more palatable dining atmosphere. This sometimes proves difficult in small towns on the Maine coast.

"But it's Maine! Can't you simply walk to the shore and pluck lobster off the rocks, Brulee?"

No, you can't. It requires boats and boxy looking traps and a salty demeanor - minus that equipment, you pay for it in restaurants. One restaurant was charging $19 a pound (in the shell) - and selling lobsters that were two pounds and up (kinda funny, when the best tasting ones are one and a half to one and three quarter pounders... and even more curious that the lobster tails they were serving were obviously from small lobsters...).

Other than lobster pirates trying to scalp us on the Maine coast, we had a wonderful time up there. The Maine coast is something special, something spectacular. All of that pink granite and basalt with water crashing all about makes for some dramatic views.

In the pirate vein, we had a good time clambering about on the rocks wondering what it must have been like to live in one of those villages that were on the rougher bits of coast that made their money off of shipwrecks - accidental, and deviously brought about.

The birding in Maine wasn't all that exciting, but we did see seals and I spotted a porpoise. Lots of wildlife on view this summer - we saw an otter in a pond on the Cape - it snorted at us a lot... And a befuddled looking juvenile mink scampered up and stared at us momentarily at our campsite before bounding off into the woods. And then there was the giant snapping turtle that loomed large before me in the pond I was swimming in... that got the blood circulating! Thing was five feet in front of my nose. Ume said, "One minute you're paddling along serenely, the next, it's all splashing and waves."

"I didn't see you jumping in to rescue me or anything."

"There's a giant snapping turtle in that pond, so I don't swim in it."

Logic, ain't it grand?

I had fun swimming anyway - but I'm kind of glad I didn't see the otter until I was out of the water. Not that they're known for attacking swimmers... neither are snapping turtles, actually, but they can do you a serious injury if they're feeling provoked, so I make a habit of avoiding them face to face while swimming.

Anyway, I saw a gang of ravens hopping around on a rock by the shore up in Maine - that was cool. Ume says she's not certain that they were ravens, but I'm saying they were - because it's a more picturesque memory that way. A bunch of crows on a rock on a foggy afternoon - that's kinda dull, but ravens... Besides, we'd seen a few ravens flying overhead (can't miss that call) not far from there, so I'm saying ravens.

We heard something funky calling in the distance somewhere on Schoodic peninsula, sounded like a rusty hinge on a swing set - never saw it though. Isn't that birding in a nutshell? That's why it would drive me 'round the bend to take it seriously. Like diagnosing a car problem, "Well, it came from the front right side and sounded like a cat being strangled..." I've not got the patience for that kind of thing. And I think it's healthy to keep it basic - I've met some folks who take birding seriously and they scare me. I mean, I'm used to people being snotty about food, art, books, clothes - but birds is a new one on me. You can wander up to folks to chat while birding and if you've not seen at least three of the hardest to spot birds on the planet, they don't have time for you. I've heard more people name dropping while birding than I have at parties, "We were just down in the islands and saw..." Something that's also curious to me is the number of times I've heard Harvard mentioned while peering through a pair of binoculars. What is it about birding that compels people to mention Harvard University? It's not that these people attended Harvard, but they seem to know people who know people at Harvard, and for some reason birding compels them to mention it. Could it be the fresh air, do you think?

Ume says it's because there are well known naturalists at Harvard and so mentioning Harvard lends a certain amount of street cred to whatever it is you have to say... making me feel that much more concerned for my personal safety among this odd life form - the birders.

Which isn't to say that I'm not tickled to see something wild and beautiful. We turned the corner up at Plum Island and standing in a marsh, like it was the Everglades or something, were six Glossy Ibises. Now there's a funky lookin' bird - about the size of a great blue heron! So odd to see something like that in New England - seems much too flamboyant and tropical for our staid shores.

I shouldn't be surprised that exclusivity and a certain haughty disposition lurks in the heart of some serious birders. It would be odd if it didn't - they are human, after all. What I've found, more often than not, is that people are pleasant and generous with information about what they've seen and how best to go about seeing it. And if you're in an Audubon preserve, the volunteers (some with spotting scopes) are generally knowledgeable and awesome. They'll fill you in on all of the likely suspects in the area, etc. Our favorite Audubon spot is in Wellfleet, MA, on the Cape, naturally.

So let's see, other than eating sea bugs and not seeing much in the way of birdage we also managed to spot a wide variety of moths - who knew Maine was so well endowed? On our PM treks to the bathroom, we'd speculate on the chances of running into yet a new specimen. I'd love to see a luna moth - they're nifty looking, and huge! We didn't see any, but we did see some weird-ass looking critters and that's always nice.

And I played with a couple of bats, which Ume thought not quite kosher in that one-with-nature kind of way, "Why is it that you think nature is there for your amusement? Why do you always have to harrass it?"

"Um... Because it's fun?"

When I was a kid, we used to go out in the field down the street at night and throw tennis balls into the air. It was a simpler time... Actually, we were attracting bats - they would swoop down after the tennis balls. We would scream and laugh. We thought it was fun. (It was a simpler time...) I still think it's fun (minus the screaming), so I showed Ume on one of our PM treks to the banoir. She enjoyed it in a guilty sort of way. Next day I postulated on the chance of contracting rabies if a bat happened to nick you as it swooped past. Not amused, was Ume. It's a remote chance (I didn't throw the rock straight up and try to catch it or anything), I suppose, and frankly, where's the fun in living if you can't play with bats on your way to the bathroom at night?

Other than staring off over the great expanse of the waves at the horizon, trying to fully appreciate the moment - we didn't do a whole lot else on our vacation. Which was what we dearly needed and happily got.

Hope you all have gotten the chance to enjoy some down time this summer too!

Bumper sticker

I spotted a bumper sticker in Maine that I liked a lot. It was nestled among several vehement anti-Bush slogans,

"If you're not appalled, you're not paying attention."

In the news

So much has gone on, eh? And Israel, wow.

Patience is a virtue

You've been ever so patient this summer - and no good deed should go unpunished - so, I'm going to give you Seen reading folks a sneak peek at Marjorie's latest adventures.


Nipple trend

posted 08.04.05

One recent afternoon, we were driving along quietly and Ume asked, "What's with this nipple trend, anyway?"

After I'd stopped laughing, I said that I wasn't quite sure. As people who spend too much time together often do - I knew what she meant. We'd just seen "Batman Begins" - there are at least two scenes where the lead female's nipples steal the show. I suppose their obvious display was meant to wratchet up the tension of the drama a notch...

Batman's costume, I'd like to note, had no scene stealing nipples at all. Was this an oversight on the part of the costume people? We thought so... I mean, come on! Equal opportunity and whatnot! Why should her nipples get all of the attention? I'm sure whassisname has smashing nipples too.

The movie was silly, but entertaining enough, despite the fatiguing idolized lost Daddy schtick. Mom, apparently, was a secondary figure in the Bat's psychobiography... living up to Daddy's expectations and Daddy's sense of social justice - now that's something... (oh, and by the way, Mom believed all the same stuff Dad did, and was just as compassionate, insightful and golden of heart and intention, yadda, yaddah - but back to Dad...).

When did I become such a bitter feminist film reviewer? Well, it started a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away - when I met Princess Leia, the titular head of the Resistance, and she had this stupid-assed wussy gun and I was like, "Girlfriend, you're not impressing nobody with that sorry excuse for a firearm! Was this film made in America or France? That's not supposed to be an accessory to your outfit - come on!" But I digress...

Anyway, we've noted the nipple trend in a couple of films we've seen recently. Sitting in the car, Ume and I discussed the possible doings on film sets to bring about this perky happenstance... "Now Gertrude, just hold this bit of ice just so..." or "Oh Mary, just keep rubbing them, they're bound to respond... okay, maybe not... Well, just look at Dirk, doesn't that do something for you? Okay, maybe not... How about Ken? He's a fine specimen... No go, huh kid? Tanisha, bring me that still photo of Brad Pitt! Always does the trick. Thanks Tanisha... Oh hey! Mary, you're there! Now we're talking! Didn't even need Brad - good for you! Okay! Action!"

I'm not overly alarmed by the nipple trend, as silly as it is... What's of more concern is the tattoo trend. It's been going on a good while now and as I left the supermarket yesterday and saw a blood-red-ugly gash in a man's leg, then realized it was a fresh red tattoo... it got me thinking... is that red cadmium based? Cadmiums make super reds, they make lots of super colors and lots of artists prize them for the intensity they give to colors. Lots of other artists avoid them for their adverse health effects. It would be pretty amusing if people were shooting this stuff under their skin - "Here, let me inject poison straight into your bloodstream - you weren't planning on having normal-type children, were you? Good, 'cuz this doodle of a quasi-spiritual and super meaningful Celtic knot design <obligatory gag motion> that you think makes you look hip, it's worth a birth defect or compromised health, for sure!"

Aside from the health issues, which may or may not be of concern, I have an aesthetic issue to raise (oh come on, you saw this coming miles away) - which is - desecration of the lower back of the female person. I've noted (as the New England summer reveals all manner of things that would generally be concealed beneath piles of material - oh, cruel winter!) - anyway, I've noticed that many young women are tattooing their lower backs. This is a mistake - an error - a grievous mis-step. (I hold views on the matter - can you tell?)

When I'm walking down the streets of, say, Provincetown, and I find myself behind a young back of the female persuasion and I happen to glance down and see something scribbled on it that looks a lot like a doily that my grandmother would have used on an end table or the lacy bits on the end of one of her table runners - I worry. Yes, I worry. "Does this young woman realize that she's walking around with my grandmother's lacy bits scrawled just above her ass? And furthermore, does she realize that the overall pattern is an arrow that's pointing down at that ass? I'm not sure my grandmother would approve of this use of her doilies."

It's as if the young woman thinks people are going to have a difficult time spotting her ass and she's providing a little assistance... Or maybe her boy/girlfriend is just stupid and needs visual cues beyond the obvious ones nature has provided. I just don't know, it'll have to remain a mystery for the ages...

The lower back of the female person is a thing of perfection and ought to remain free of additional signage - that's my provincial view. It's awfully kind of these ladies to provide visual cues to up nature's potent ante, but I don't feel I need them. I know how to find an ass when it's put in front of me - I don't require a doily arrow, a faux-celtic knot arrow, a cartoon hand arrow... really, I don't - ask Ume.

Connect the dots

George Bush (the guy with the lowest of low poll numbers) thinks that intelligent design should be taught in science classes. Why? He says, so that students can understand what the debate is about. Surely, Mr. President, that's what Sunday school is for.

When asked if he believes the mental gymnastics that the proponents of intelligent design are pushing - he wouldn't respond. He has said that it's a valid theory, and students should be exposed to both "schools of thought". I'm guessing no one's told him that intelligent design is not a theory, so much as it's a belief system...

This, in the same week that one of the new Pope's henchmen came out and endorsed intelligent design (not exactly by name, but look at who got the Cardinal's letter into the Times) - thus aligning the Catholic Church with the religious right wing of the Republican party. And the head of the Republican party responded to this invitation to the dance through the media - nicely done.

Catholics have historically voted Democrat, as have blacks - but, because the Republicans have pushed a bigoted agenda against homosexuals and for embattled (ha!) religious values, some have decided that, well, maybe the Democrats aren't all that great - 'cuz they've been, well, sort of wishy-washy on how much they dislike homosexuals... and have upheld the separation of church and state. It's kinda like when the Dixiecrats abandoned the Democratic party years ago, because of the party's support of civil rights (how hot is it in hell Sen. Thurman?). Or it might be, we'll have to see if this wooing is successful - I kind of think it will be - I mean, I know people are supposed to vote their pocket, but bigots stick together.

Also on the wooing front this week, Rick Santorum <hiss> blamed the liberal atmosphere in Massachusetts for the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. That's rich. A bunch of criminal cardinals and bishops throughout the US systematically enable the biggest ring of serial child molesters in history, and somehow the liberal and academic atmosphere in Boston is responsible? Surely you jest, Mr. Santorum. Perhaps you've not heard the name Cardinal Law? Pretty conservative guy, used to be in charge of the church's pedophile ring hereabouts - now has a cushy job in Rome - why don't you look him up if you want some insights into what went on in the Catholic church in Massachusetts.

Just for the record, you pustulant boil on the ass of the American body politic -

Based on statistics publicly reported by many of the country's 195 dioceses, the Boston-based lay activist group has calculated that the highest percentage of abusive priests from 1950 to 2003 was in the diocese of Covington, Ky. Boston was among the 10 worst dioceses, but several other cities commonly regarded as liberal culturally and politically had relatively low rates of abuse. Just 1.6 percent of San Francisco's priests have been accused of abuse, for example, compared to more than 4 percent nationwide.

"The reason we know so much about Boston is that Boston is the diocese where the most church documents have been released," said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the group.

From: Kennedy Rebukes Santorum for Comments: Republican Repeats Remark Linking Scandal to Boston 'Liberalism' by Alan Cooperman (Washington Post)

With labor in disarray and a full court press on for the more socially conservative elements in the Democratic Party's voter base, what will Democrats do? I await the answer with baited breath...

In the meantime, fundamentalist Christian radicals are going to flush our already lamentable science curriculum down the toilet. Bio-tech companies will be outsourcing their higher level science work to India any day now...

Some debate, some background:
Legislating Science (The Connection, 05.10.05, audio file)

NABT Statement on Teaching Evolution

An oxymoron, if I've ever heard one:
Bush's Thoughts (Here and Now, 08.02.05)

From the Skepdic's dictionary: Intelligent design

Letters in response to an article in NewScientist on intelligent design...

A little pick me up

You'll have to actually do a little bit of scrolling to enjoy this program (I know you can do it! It's so hilarious and well done, you've just got to.) There's a half hour excerpt of Julia Sweeney's play "Letting Go of God" on the This American Life Show, "Godless America" - it aired in June - and is totally worth a little scrolling (it's a Real Audio file, once at the page, scroll down to the show, "Godless America", Julia Sweeney's bit is in the second half hour). The rest of the show is fabulous also. Very perceptive snapshot of religion and politics in the states today. Enjoy!!!

Silly as they are, I always enjoy these reports...
Science Explores Meditation's Effect on the Brain by Allison Aubrey (Morning Edition, 07.26.05)

I've been surfing the powers of ten, it's a fun ride - I'll drop you off at 10 25 meters = 10 Ym = 10 yottameters (~10 9 light years). It's simply a question of scale...


How'd you like to be in Eileen Collins' seat this week? Not! Sure, she's got a great view and everything, but as the commander of the shuttle Discovery, she's probably got other things on her mind.

They're reassuring everybody that all's well up there - meanwhile, the shuttle crew is sitting in billions of dollars worth of equipment that I doubt NASA's going to want to abandon up there. I bet there's some group think going on there - probably goes something like, "Holy shit! I thought this was fixed? Didn't we spend a couple of billion dollars on this problem?"

Warm wishes and best of luck to the crew of the shuttle.

Spacewalking astronaut repairs heat shield (Reuters, 08.03.05)

Mad as a Hatter

Why are they mad? Hatters, I mean... Turns out, mercury. Hatters, the folks who make hats, used to use mercury to treat the felt they used in the course of their trade. And mercury isn't the kind of element you want to go messing with up close and personal... lest you want to be mad - as a hatter, that is. This, according to John Emsley, author of The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison. Good to know...

In the news

Bomb kills 14 U.S. Marines in Iraq (Reuters, 08.03.05)

Shifting Language: Trading Terrorism for Extremism (Morning Edition, 07.27.05)

Excerpt: Administration and military officials seem to be moving away from the slogan "Global War on Terrorism" to "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism."

I guess after that bank heist they don't need the guns anymore?
IRA move spurs efforts on Northern Irish political deal (Reuters, 07.28.05)A New Food Pyramid