posted 05.22.06

A new era dawned! I'm posting on the new site now, so come on over and join the fun.

A New Era Dawns...

posted 05.13.06

They said it couldn't happen, but lo! A new era has come to pass... Folks - with one click, I give you the new, improved, Celestial Buffet!

"What's so new and improved? Fraud! Cheat! It looks exactly the same!"

Calm your savage breast, kind reader, for in the new era there are no ads. It's true, look about, see any? If you didn't click the previous link, give it a try and see for yourself. Take a deep breath, not all change is bad - go ahead, click here, and you too will be swept away to a new place.

"But why, Brulee?" You plead. "Why change something that was working so well?"

Basically, I was approached with an offer I couldn't refuse (by a kindly someone, someone sick to death of the ads...) - and so, it's a done deal. Enjoy the ad free space.

And if you'd be so very kind and tell your friends that I'm uprooting, it'd be much appreciated. If you know anyone who bookmarks or links to the Buffet, if you could give them a heads up, I'd be grateful - as precious as you all are, don't want to lose not a one of ya.


I've been bested by a hem! How distressing... It's a so-called "invisible" hem, so I suppose I oughtn't feel too down about it. I mean, invisible hems are like the defcon 4 of hemming - really advanced and whatnot. My sister-in-law told me that I should just use hemming tape, "You fold the hem over, slip the tape in there, iron it, and you're done." Sigh, where's the romance in that?

In a world where craftsmanship has been done in by the bottom line, I feel an obligation to uphold tradition! It's a heavy burden, I know, insisting on maintaining the integrity of the sewn invisible hem - but by god, I'm going to do it! And it's costing a friggin' ton - but no matter, price is but a trifling concern where integrity is concerned (hah!). So I took the pants in to the tailor and you know how much I love doing that.

I know someone who wore a Rolex for ages. She wore that watch all over the place, every day, and one day when I asked her for the time she said she didn't have a clue. "Could you take a look at your watch for me?" I asked, understanding this sort of lapse well - half the time I'm not sure I've got one on until I check. (This morning, I poured my cereal into my tea mug... so yeah, I'm understanding enough about this sort of thing.)

"It doesn't work, we'll have to ask somebody," she answered.

"Oh no! Your favorite watch? Bummer, you'll have to find someone to fix it."

"It's never worked. It would cost me about $500 to get it fixed and there's no way I'm paying that kind of money on a watch," she assured me.

"Um..." I said, buying time while I tried to compute this puzzling statement.

"It's a *Rolex, Brulee, they're very expensive. I wear it as jewelry."

"Oh!" I said, getting a little mental traction on the matter.

"Yeah, I live in fear that someday one of my clients will ask me the time."

She worked in an intensely status-oriented industry in New York City (is there any other kind in NYC?). She'd once maxed out her credit cards buying clothes for meetings. "I had no choice!" she insisted. "If you can't outdress the receptionists at these places, they won't even talk to you. And the receptionists shop at Bergdhorfs!"

"Maybe you ought to be talking to someone else for sympathy..." Was my infinitely unhelpful response.

And look at me now! Paying obscene amounts of cash for an invisible hem... Where have my standards gone? The world was a much simpler place, back when I felt free to sneer and make judgments at folks who did anything that ran counter to my finely honed view of authenticity and the American way... Okay, maybe things haven't changed all THAT much. <snicker>

In the news

It just gets better and better...
Report: NSA Collecting Domestic Phone Records (NPR, 05.11.06)

Bush's "approval" ratings hit an all time low...
Bush job approval falls to 29 pct in new poll (Reuters, 05.12.06)

And better...

"President Bush has asserted the right to ignore numerous sections of laws passed by Congress. The scrutiny prompted Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) to call for June hearings to investigate the matter."

Bush challenges hundreds of laws (Boston Globe, 04.30.06)

Interesting, and chilling, book discussion about Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism
New Book Examines Christian Nationalism (Fresh Air, 05.11.06, audio)


posted 05.06.06

So there I was, deeply entrenched in a standoff over a matter of great import... I would not give in (born right, as I was, I come by this attitude honestly). My relentlessness on a particular point was causing no end of amusement and a bit of petty delight in the quarters of my dearest enemies (I have, like, several - see previous parenthetical statement).

A shot flew over my bow in the form of an e-mail from the dissenting faction. I opened it. It had an attachment (nothing like making the opposition stoop to opening attachments when you can damn well say what you have to say in an e-mail...). While opening the attachment, a previously opened doc was momentarily visible on the screen. It was only one word long (I'd been using my word processor to spellcheck something earlier). That one word caused me to pause - a light went off in my head and I laughed. Some air entered my lungs, my mood shifted instantly - the word was, "concede".

I love when I send myself messages. Especially crafty ones. Nothing quite like giving one's opposition whiplash. Leaves 'em wondering what's coming next...

A Day Without Immigrants

There was that huge boycott/demonstration Monday - "a planned work boycott by immigrant workers seeking legalization for undocumented aliens." A bit of muscle flexing to tell the bigots in Washington to back the hell off. In your face, Bill Frist! Guess you and your cohorts will have to go back to picking on gays for your political easy points.

Part of the fight for immigration rights is the new Spanish version of the national anthem... Sigh. The lyrics are different - a bit, dare I say, socialist in their flavoring. Bush thinks the national anthem should be sung in English - I nearly fainted when I heard that. "But M. Bush, you and your party (except for Bill Frist, apparently) are eagerly courting the hispanic vote, no? Why on earth would you hold such an opinion openly? Worse yet, why on earth would you hold an opinion that I agree with?" Nearly fell off my chair when I heard that there's something that he and I could possibly agree on. But it's not really the national anthem, not technically - it's a song that uses the tune of the national anthem to make a statement.

My liberal pals are all into multiculturalism and so saying that I feel that we shouldn't have a bilingual country is like saying that I think Dick Cheney's cute in shorts. I get frosty looks, like they wonder if there isn't an itty bitty fascist lurking somewhere just behind that perky liberal veneer... Maybe there is, maybe there isn't, I'm not telling - but I will tell you this, it's something I've believed for years. Not sure where it started... It's a sometimes delicate topic between Ume and I - Ume, being as she is part hispanic, and a former ESL (English as a Second Language) tutor/volunteer.

"Look, I don't care if people want to speak Spanish at home, or among friends, actually being bilingual is excellent for brain development and all that, and I'm all for it, totally. But as a country, if we want a little cohesion, people should bloody well speak English at work - or at least make some effort. If it's your second language, fine, dandy, marvy, go for it! But speak it." I huff, prompted, no doubt, by the second all Spanish billboard that's appeared at the top of our street this year.

Ume's all compassion and practicality in the face of my most conservative type position, "And most would, but there aren't enough classes offered for people who want to learn! The waiting lists are endless!"

"I know," I concur. "But it's not like I haven't known and worked with people who've lived here for years who haven't bothered to learn squat." Memories of snippy co-workers giving me grief for not knowing more Spanish float piquantly to the forefront of my mind... And it's not like I didn't try, I did learn some, but I insisted that it was more important for them to learn English, than it was for me to pick up Spanish. They chose to take this, not as a practical career suggestion, but as inexcusable cultural snobbery. People can be so touchy...

I'm all for preserving cultural heritage. And in however many years, when there's a hispanic majority in the US, and Chinese has become the language of international business - I'll want to continue to speak English at home and with English-speaking friends, while maintaining my quaint WASP holiday traditions. And when they make Spanish the country's official language, I hope to have the equivalent of the Babel fish to manage the switch. Until then, you'll have a tough time convincing me that people here, even in places like Little Havana, shouldn't have at least a passing acquaintence with the language of the country in which they've been born, or chosen to live.


posted 04.08.06

So I get handed some paperwork - what's new? Thing is, I'd come in there for a massage - I wasn't there to have physical therapy, but you'd be hard pressed to tell that from the stuff on the forms: "On the figure, indicate points you're currently feeling pain..."

"Maybe I should circle the head," I thought - "'Cuz this is giving me a headache."

You see, I find this kind of paperwork before a massage to be somewhat absurd. Okay, okay, maybe it's for legal purposes, after all, this is the "home of the free - to sue you at the drop of a hat". (Where, by the way, we are about to be mandated by the great state of MA to buy health insurance. You don't want it? Too bad! You'll be fined for not buying it. Now there's a solution to the health care crisis! Why didn't I think of that?! Just make people buy it, and if they don't, it's their own damn fault for not having it. Pats on the back, all 'round the legislature! Oy. And they wonder why we're one of, like, two states that lost population in the last census? Note: I know dink about the actual merits of the legislation, this is just my knee-jerk reaction after superficial exposure...)

So where was I? Oh, right, paperwork. So, I find it wary-making when I get handed a form that asks me where it hurts before they know why I'm there. I mean, it kind of sets a tone, no? A tone, like, say, you might find in a doctor's office? Hmm... Lemme see, why might that be? Hmm... Because massage people aren't allowed to be massage people anymore, no, they have to be healers now. Gag. You can't swing a lively cat in this neck of the woods without smackin' it into a "healer" of one stripe or another.

But I just wanted a friggin' massage! I wrote on the form that I wanted a massage to relax. In the lengthy list of conditions and prior injuries, etc., I checked a box or two, handed it to my "practitioner" and walked into the massage room with her. I was ready to get on with the relaxing, but she said, "Before we get started, I just wanted to go over this with you." At which point she wanted to discuss the injuries I'd had. I didn't. I wanted a massage. But she was like a dog with a bone! "So you've had problems with your arms, tell me about that..." Nothing drives me to tick quite so fast as people trying to get me into their healer schtick - "They hurt for a while a-ways back, but that's not what I'm here for, I want a massage to relax."

"But we could work on your arms, if you'd like." (It would also cost more, being a special kind of massage, but she doesn't say that - very much like the considerate wait person who pleasantly asks everyone at the table if they'd like to start off the meal with a drink...)

"I know, but that's not what I want."

"Oh, I thought because you'd noted it on the form, you wanted to focus on that today." (See what she did here? Who do you think she's placing responsibility for this little "misunderstanding" on...)

I don't have a lengthy fuse when it comes to mind-fucking and bullshit - but I needed a massage - "I'm stressed, I want to relax. I want a massage that will help me relax. Is that a possibility?"

It took her a while to deal with the fact that I didn't see her as an all powerful healer, but a masseuse (What the hell is wrong with being a masseuse? It's bloody awesome! But I guess if you've got a grandiosity complex, it might challenge your high and mighty view of yourself as - healer. Ack - spare me.)

As it turns out, she was competent at the relaxing kind of massage.

At this point, if you've been reading my bloggage long enough, you might be wondering why I don't just go see the chap I usually get a massage from. Funny about that - it would make my life a whole lot easier, for sure - he was super competent. Only, well, you see, he started commenting on the softness of my skin... and then he wanted to have frank, open, adult conversations about sex. I made it clear that I didn't. He made it clear he didn't mean anything sexual by it, he just thought that two mature adults ought to be able to discuss this sort of thing openly... Lying nude on a massage table with a man touching you who's talking about your skin, and wants to talk about sex, might be someone's idea of relaxing, but it's not mine.

And because I like you...

Here's Marjorie's last part:
Marjorie Humboldt: A Revelation in Several Parts: Part 7 - The Final Part

In the news...

Quelle suprise!
White House Authorized Leaks, Libby Says (NPR, 04.06.06)
W. House does not dispute leak claim (Reuters, 04.08.06)

And this is where it lead:
Blasts Kill Dozens at Shiite Mosque in Baghdad (NPR, 04.07.06)

Catching on?
Bush poll ratings hit rock bottom (AP story, 04.08.06)

DeLay calls it quits (Reuters, 04.04.06)

Afghanistan Drops Case Against Christian Convert (Reuters, 03.28.06)

'Sleeping on it' best for complex decisions (NewScientist, 02.16.06)

Fossil Called Missing Link From Sea to Land Animals (NYTimes, 04.06.06)

Viruses 'trained' to build tiny batteries (Reuters, 04.07.06)

We'll never hear the end of it if this proves viable:
US company claims to make stem cells from testes (Reuters, 04.01.06)

Cultured Meat Straight From The Vat (

Mayan underworld proves researchers' dream (Reuters, 03.28.06)

Spring forward

posted 04.03.06

They call it springing forward, but this year it feels more like a stagger. Oy, I'm pooped.

To perk myself up lately, I take a look at George Bush's approval ratings (!) and watch the Republicans scrambling before the mid-term elections, "No, really, we're not a bunch of corrupt bullies, we're a bunch of immigrant hating, gay bashing, entrepreneurs..."

Nothing like a little schadenfreude over breakfast to get the day started.

The crocuses and the trees blooming is a welcomed sight! Feels a bit early to have seen the first forsythia bloom, but it sure looked perty.

I've been very popular with the lads recently; I mention it because it feels spring related. The other day, a nice one handed me a box with a bit of technology in it, and said, "Just don't tell anyone I gave it to you."

"But I don't want it if it's going to get you in trouble," I said, forever carrying that weighty burden of goodness and light.

He looked back over his shoulder into his truck, which was piled with cables, tools and every imaginable scrap and said, "Honestly, I'm trying to get rid of them. Everyone wants the wireless ones now - I've been carting these around for ages, you'd be doing me a favor. Besides, they're giving the wireless ones away free with the new packages. You might as well have this one."

Put like that - how could I say no? I shrugged, "Alright then, if you're sure."

"I'll ring you later to be sure it works."

I knew there'd be a catch! But mostly, he was just being pleasant. It happens. Go figure.

Lines crossed...

So. I caught myself petting my CPU today. Do you think I've crossed a line?

In the news...

Welcome home.
Jill Carroll (CSMonitor, 04.02.06)
Carroll disavows statements against U.S. (Boston Globe, 04.01.06)

You must take care...

posted 03.12.06

I nearly lost Ume! It's true.

You're thinking some wily bookseller lured her into the depths of her bookstall and entranced Ume with early editions of her favorite tomes. NO! It's nothing quite so banal as that. Besides, I've told you, I do not fear the wily booksellers of this earth, not where Ume's concerned - she's got allergies - they've got mold. So no, t'wazn't a bookseller.

Did a woman of great physical beauty, bearing and accomplishment try to sweep her off her feet when I wasn't looking? Even if I was looking I wouldn't fear much from that. Ume would be all like, "I'm prone to motion sickness. Unless you don't mind me making a mess of your outfit, I suggest you put me down - gently. Brulee?"

"Yes, my Delirium?" I wouldn't be too far off...

"Could you fetch my hot water bottle? I think I'm going to lie down for a spell."

"No worries, Pet," I'd say, with emphasis on the endearment - so the interloper would get the drift... "I've already fixed it up, Ume-style."

"You spoil me," she'd say.

"Too true," I'd reply.

So no, some lesbian over-achiever did not arise out of the ether and try to beguile my beloved. (Which isn't to say they don't take a shot from time to time - have to beat 'em off with sticks, I tell ya.)

What happened was this... Ume came home recently, looking unnerved.

"Whatever's the matter?" I asked.

Slowly unbuttoning the buttons on her coat and staring off into the distance she said, "I now know what it feels like to be a small insect. Never startle a South American tree frog. I could see right down it's throat. It's tongue flew out and smacked into the screen on the top of the aquarium."

I could see she was still somewhat dazed by this traumatic encounter - I was shaken myself. "E-gads! Where is this rapacious beast? I'll box its ears."

She gave me a dubious look. "I'm not a small insect, so I wasn't in any real danger. And it's not a terribly large frog, so neither are you. But it did startle me."

With care, I took her hand, "Come Tulip, let me make you a cup of tea."

You see? One can so easily lose one's beloved - you have to keep a close eye on them!

In the news

What a joke!:
Senate Intel Committee Votes Down NSA Spying Investigation (Reuters, 03.07.06)

Week in review (you scare people to death about terrorists - then you approve a deal, with perceived security implications, with an Arab country - and you expect the people you've been pounding fear into for four years not to get a little frantic?):
Milosevic, Ports Deal (NPR, 03.11.06)

More info on that Mexico story:
Mexico Confronts Woman's Right to Abortion (Day to Day, 03.10.06)

Suit may prevent maternal deaths during childbirth (Reuters, 02.28.06)

Automakers look to plants to increasingly fuel cars (Reuters, 03.01.06)

No surprise:
Bush Science Push Fails to Transform Critics (NPR, 02.28.06)

So that's how it went...:
Failure to Court Faculty Dooms Harvard President (NPR, 02.22.06)

Kiss it goodbye...

posted 03.07.06

Still enjoying this little sojourn back to the 1950's people? Are you really that eager to return to the status of possession my fellow American women? Must be, you voted for George W. Bush, and all that imples...

It's fascinating - the minute he was elected (note, I do not say "re-elected"), I began the greiving process for Roe v. Wade - if you have a brain, you knew this would come to pass (and anyone reading this bloggage, has a brain, so you knew too). Still, even with a big head start on the grieving process, the news this week makes me sick.

They don't give a shit about when life begins, about the sanctity of that life - they care about dominating women's reproductive organs. About regaining control of the little uppity woman - "You think you have power? We both know what I can do to you, don't we?"

"Brulee," you say, in calming, reasonable, and somewhat worried tones... "They're not so craven as that, they do care about us too."

Bullshit. The way they see it, the only women who would have abortions, even in the case of rape or incest, are the kind of women who need to be controlled by laws - because the men in their lives are obviously not doing their job right.

Excerpt: Proposed amendments to the law to create exceptions to specifically protect the health of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest, were voted down. (South Dakota passes abortion ban, Reuters, 02.22.06)

It's a basic power issue - and the fragile male ego can't contend with women having any control over what might turn out to be theirs.

"But there are a lot of women in the anti-abortion movement," you say. "They're not all pawns, you know. Women do care about the sanctity of life."

Oh sure they do - that's why so many anti-abortion people, women, support the death penalty. "Oh," you explain, "They care about the sanctity of the lives that were destroyed by criminals, and therefore, they want the people who trespassed against that sanctity to be killed by the state as retribution." I suppose there's consistent logic in there somewhere... But to me, what comes across more clearly is this - they want to use the government to impose their (fundamentalist Christian) moral beliefs on whoever's standing next to them. It's their attempt to create a Christian equivalent to Sharia Law.

If you're like me, and you believe the government can play a significant role in the public sphere, but are also realistic enough to know that it has trouble purchasing a toilet for a reasonable amount of money - you're not going to eagerly hand it control of your reproductive organs and imposing the ultimate penalty of death. But a slim majority of Americans, in red states, has done just that. We're going to be living in a Hawthorn novel before you know it. Only the scarlet 'A' will be sewn onto women's clothing for having had an abortion.

What letter, I wonder, will they come up with for people like me?

Would it suprise you that they're willing to set bad precedents in their zeal to undermine Roe?:
The Battle Over Abortion in South Dakota (Marketplace, 03.06.06)

South Dakota bans most abortions (Reuters, 03.07.06)

This is how they want it to work here:
Mexico rape victims often denied right to abortion (Reuters, 03.07.06)

Excerpt 1:When Sandra Rodriguez, a mentally handicapped maid, was raped by her boss and left pregnant in 2002, Mexican courts stopped her from having an abortion although it was her legal right.

Rodriguez, 30, had the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, court-ordered evaluations showed, but prosecutors questioned the claim she had been raped. They later admitted their error but by then it was too late for an abortion.

Excerpt2: Mexican law often works against victims. Many states codify incest as consensual sex, even with girls as young as 12, so a victim can be denied an abortion and face incest charges if she is raped by her father, brother or other relative.

One teenager was repeatedly raped by her father and became pregnant, but prosecutors convinced her to charge him with incest instead of rape to reduce his sentence, precluding her from having an abortion, the report said.

...She now lives at home, with her father and the child she bore.

Don't ask...

MILITARY -- 'DON'T ASK' POLICY HURTING MILITARY READINESS, COSTING U.S. TAXPAYERS: "The financial costs to the U.S. military for discharging and replacing gay service members under the nation's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy are nearly twice what the government estimated last year, with taxpayers covering at least $364 million in associated funds over the policy's first decade." A University of California Blue Ribbon Commission, headed by former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry and other military experts, conducted the study after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a February 2005 report that was based on questionable data and methodology. GAO's estimate, the Commission found, was 91 percent too low. "The real issue here is that you have a policy that is costing us money, hurting readiness and is really not fulfilling any national security objective," said Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a member of the commission. "It just doesn't make sense now, particularly when you're having such a hard time getting people to join the military and retaining them in the right skills." APA 02.14.06

Okay, so when will they segregate out the first gay-only platoon? That way, we can prove ourselves in battle. And in years to come, they can make a movie about the first well turned out platoon that served honorably, earned the respect of their peers - but returned to a country that didn't yet appreciate their contribution to the cause of freedom. It's a time honored right of passage for minorities. Of course, gays have been serving since the Revolution, but never mind that... I want a movie with well turned out men and gritty women in it!

As promised...

posted 02.14.06

The link to the Academy of Bards' Valentine Special. Enjoy!


posted 02.12.06

Ladies, gentlemen and those in between - the proprietors of the establishment would like to thank you for participating in their survey...

Now that's what I'm talkin' about! Feedback. Or even snarkback. I'll bloody well take it. You people think I sit here whining because I like the droning fan sound emanating from my cpu? Hell no! I do it so that I can get jolly little notes from the likes of you. Naturally.

Good to know you're surviving the weather in your parts! Presently, we've got about a foot of snow outside our windows... From the notes, looks like sex and romance is the main interest for you lot.

So okay, here's the deal - on Valentine's day - there'll be a bit of fluff posted on the Academy site (I'll provide a link, when there's one to post). And sometime after that, you'll get the rest of Marjorie's parts, promise. Major changes are afoot in the Bruleedom, windows of opportunity for perpetrating this sort of indiscretion are narrowing - so I took your pulse, I read your words, urgency did not characterize the response, which is all well and good, as I've pressing things to attend to.

<turns in a pronounced, flouncy sort of manner, comme Eloise in boots, and exits stage left>

Kisses and such.


Untrustworthy Narrator

Lots of fuss in the media recently about James Frey and J.T. LeRoy - two people who lied, lied, lied and got way caught. Frey, as everyone must know by now, wrote a memoir... that turned out to be more of a novel, really. And J.T. LeRoy wrote lurid novels, supposedly informed by his tragic and tortured life as a drug addict and prostitute, which turned out to be as fictional as, well, him.

There was a good discussion about these goings on and this phenomena in general with Simon Dumenco on Studio360. Thomas Hoving is also a guest on the show, he's annoying in that macho aesthete way, but especially in the know.

This all reminds me of an experience I had not too long ago when I stumbled across an untrustworthy narrator... She wasn't underfoot, so much as she was in hand - I was reading. It was a memoir of sorts... two guesses where this is going?

I got three chapters into the book and an uneasy feeling began to creep out of my subconscious, "Psst! Psst! There's something fishy goin' on here." I read on, with an increasingly wary eye to sentiment - to the underlying tone. You see, the overall tone was meant to be cheery, sensitive and uplifting - and yet, there was a striking undercurrent of nasty. This cheerful woman had an axe to grind, only, she was grinding it in between the lines, sly like. By the end of the book, I came to believe that she wasn't even aware of it. Not all nastiness is intentional.

Funny how you can come across this kind of thing in books... It's kind of like when you meet someone who reminds you of someone else you've known, but you can't quite put your finger on who it is exactly... until that person screws you over in exactly the same way someone else once had, and you say, "Right! That's who they reminded me of!"

One of the benefits of age (if you weren't born with bullshit radar) is that you pick up on this sort of thing faster. There are, of course, people who remind you of, and are like, the pleasant folks you've known too - which is super and a terrifically important thing to pick up on early in life, as to surround yourself with folk who can positively reinforce why it is that spending time with people can be less than a painful exercise. But just now I'm not on about positive and super folks, I'm focused on this untrustworthy narrator I stumbled upon. I've come across them in fiction before, being, as they are, a classic literary device, but I don't think I've had the necessary experience or insight to spot such ingenuousness in memoir. Not until this lady with her axe.

Perhaps experience has made me wary... You see, I was once burnt rather badly by an untrustworthy narrator in non-fiction. I was young and impressionable, and a friend who was Guatemalan and had come to the states as a political refugee recommended a book to me - he wanted me to understand the plight of his people - the book was Rigoberta Menchu's "I, Rigoberta". It's a gut wrenchingly tragic telling of her family's suffering at the hands of the military in Guatemala during the long-running civil war there. It tells of the suffering of the native population of Guatemala, the Mayan Indians. It's a nightmarish accounting of torture and degradation. It burned a hole in my head. It burned a hole in a lot of people's heads. Rigoberta Menchu won the Nobel Peace prize in 1992.

There was just one problem with her book - it wasn't true. The degrees to which it was and wasn't true are in dispute, but the dispute is real - as is her relationship with some very savvy political activists. She claims that the stories in the book that didn't happen to her, but that she told as happening to her, did happen, they just happened to someone other than Rigoberta Menchu... so, it's sort of a collective memoir... representing the spirit of the truth.

Was the situation in Guatemala nightmarish? Yes. Did Rigoberta Menchu's book bring a lot of attention to it? Yes. Does that justify her lies?

Nowadays, I tend to be wary when reading accounts and tales and such. Two films that explore the untrustworthy narrator superbly are: "Joe Gould's Secret" and "Shattered Glass". Good flicks, especially "Joe Gould's Secret". If you've ever been lied to and/or been made to feel like you're nuts by a charismatic and charming psychotic, you might find "Joe Gould's Secret" interesting. It's a darned good film in any case. "Shattered Glass" explores the journalist Steven Glass' rise to fame, and fall from grace, when he was exposed as an untrustworthy journalist/narrator - he'd fabricated tons of his content for his articles in "The National Review".

It's fascinating, really, that line people cross - the how and why of it. Are the untruths circumstantially, willfully or psychotically induced? Is it a combination of these things? Is it something else? Gives the little gray cells a stir.

In case you're wondering, dear reader, about the quality of my narration, I wish to assure you that my untruths are fabricated with the utmost care and consideration to your gentle dispositions. As narrators go, I'm, like, most untrustworthy and whatnot. Quote me at your risk - believe me at your peril. Fact check me baby, I'm lyin' like a rug.

In the news

And so it goes...
The Cheney Factor (American Progress, 02.10.06)

This librarian has been publicly attacked hereabouts for having the unmitigated gall to ask the the FBI to follow the law... Gah!
Newton library forces FBI to get warrant to seize computers (Boston Globe, 02.26.06)

Odd headline...
Bush rallies scandal-rocked Republicans (Reuters, 02.11.06)

Nigeria tests children for bird flu (Reuters, 02.13.06)

For a comprehensive week in review, give Harper's a try:
Harper's Weekly Review

Or Scott Simon and Dan Schorr on NPR:
Week in Review: Cartoons, Gonzales, Patriot Act (NPR, 02.11.06)

Bizarre, in so many ways...
Pregnancy test may lie behind deadly frog fungus (Reuters, 02.02.06)

Google Copies Your Hard Drive - Government Smiles in Anticipation (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 02.06)

Can I sign ours up? I'd fly them there free!
Pigeons get backpacks for air pollution monitoring (Reuters, 02.01.06)

No such luck

posted 02.05.06

It's me again. You were expecting someone else, perhaps? No such luck.

Given that I'm about to spoil you people rotten one day soon, it's probably not such a bad thing it's me. Someone else might not post whatnots the likes of mine... They'd post them as theirs and then where would you be? On someone else's site mostlike... but then, let's not get overly technical.

Speaking of spoiling, I think it's time you people did some spoiling of your own - oh yes, me thinks so! I want to hear what it is you'd like more - a new story, or the rest of the old one. And tell me what you'd like to hear more, and less, of in the Seen. And tell me about the weather in your neck of the woods while you're at it. E-mail your response through my super-duper spam-killing form thingy on this page...


Oy! Oy! Oy!

Listening to Nora Vincent (rumored to be a conservative lesbian columnist...), author of "Self-Made Man" talk about her 18 month experiment passing as a man, I had a moment... Sort of a twitch, really. She spoke about how when she approached women, as a man, she was treated as less than human, and she lamented about how women treated men so poorly - she spoke about how suspect she felt as a man...

A little something for you to consider Nora...

"Women make up 3/4 of the victims of homicide by an intimate partner. Actually, 33% of all women murdered (of course, only cases which are solved are included) are murdered by an intimate partner. Women make up about 85% of the victims of non-lethal domestic violence. In all, women are victims of intimate partner violence at a rate about 5 times that of males."

Use your brain! It's a pretty basic survival issue. How many women have I been sexually harrassed by? Hmm, let me think on it a minute - um, NONE. Can't say the same for men. Gee, maybe if I'd been dressed and passing as a man I could have gotten an inside view and better understood, even sympathized with that old guy who got his jollies out of grabbing at me in the hallway at that one job... Perhaps we could have sat and chatted about how much it sucked that young women weren't as interested in us anymore (when we gave them a choice... heh heh). Yeah, maybe I wouldn't have minded his groping and wouldn't have threatened him that time - wouldn't have gotten up in his face and spit cold fury at him while he tried to twist my arm - maybe I wouldn't have - if I'd had more sympathy for his waning virility...

I'm not saying, by any means, that women don't harass or assault one another, or men, sexually. I'm also not saying, certainly, that all men are out to assault women. That's not what I'm on about. Women can be nasty and mean and despicable and bitter and predatory and cold and superior and excessively competitive and all the rest. Neither sex has a monopoly on human shortcomings or frailty. But statistically, we're not as physically threatening - snottier, possibly, sure, but when's the last time that landed you in the hospital?

Funny thing about that old creep at that job - everyone thought he was this sweet guy, a guy's guy, a real charmer. When he died, people sat around talking about what a good guy he was and how much he loved his wife... People are multi-dimensional, he was probably a nice guy in some respect, to someone, but to me, he was a pathetic asshole.

It's tough not being one of the boys... it's especially difficult for some non-traditionally feminine lesbians - but the reality of the matter is, unless you're Daddy's one unusual human being, Daddy just isn't going to accept you as one of the boys. No matter how well you can change a tire or fold a map - it just ain't gonna happen. Ya gotta let that one go. You're not his son, you're his freakish daughter - he may grow to accept it, sorta-kinda, but he's not going to see you as one of the guys (unless, as stated, he's an exceptionally evolved freak himself). Neither are the guys going to see you as one of them - 'cuz you ain't one. By and large, guys treat guys as guys - women are from Venus - or wherever - and we treat one another with a suspect eye. (In my limited experience, this seems to vary between ethnicities and cultures.) Someday, many eons from now, people might learn to treat one another as people. However lovely that will be, we don't live in that world today.

In general, I'm suspect of women in media who solicit my sympathy for the male condition. Why? Because, when I've encountered it in the past, there's been an underlying misogyny in the complaint about how we treat men. Does that mean that women in media can't speak out on behalf of men without an underlying misogyny or conservative agenda? Of course not, it's just that in the media, a lot of this sort of thing is designed to agitate the feminist nerve and stroke the male ego.

While I'm less interested in the goings on of the opposite sex, I'm very interested in exploring the cross-section of culture, sexuality and gender. Even so, I'm not as interested in focusing on the rituals men share with one another, as much as I'm concerned about, and directly effected by, how they treat women. Perhaps if I were more interested and engaged, more sympathetic to the dilemma of their being the recipients of higher salaries, of being the larger, more aggressive and violent sex, of being the ones who shoulder the responsibilities of nations and history (throughout much of which our sex has been considered property...) - they'd be liberated from the confines of cultural expectations by my deep appreciation of their hobbled condition...

I had a conversation with a male co-worker once whose feelings had been hurt by a woman - he was totally pissed off. So pissed off, he told me about it (me, that not-male, but different enough somehow from other women that things get talked about in my presence...). They'd driven to her apartment, she had to run in and grab something and would come back to the car. He moved to accompany her. She asked if he'd wait for her instead. He did, and realized that the reason she'd asked him to was that she wasn't comfortable - that maybe even she was worried he might assault her. True, they didn't know one another all that well, "But hey," he fumed, "That was rude! "

"Let's put aside the possibility that she might have left dirty dishes in the sink that she didn't want you to see - let's say that had nothing to do with this and you're right, and she really was being cautious because she doesn't know you well. You'd have preferred that she invite you up, just to spare your feelings?" I asked.

"No - so I wouldn't have felt accused of being a rapist or something."

"Okay, so if you have a daughter some day - god forbid - and a guy she doesn't know well offers her a ride, then wants to come into her apartment with her, she should do it, let him in. And if she gets assaulted, or raped, then, oh well, at least she wasn't 'rude'? What kind of a doink are you? Why should this woman put her personal safety before your easily hurt feelings? And maybe she did invite a guy up once, and had a bad experience - ever think of that? It's not such a far fetched idea - it has been known to happen."

"But I wouldn't do anything like that!"

Sigh - I didn't say he was bright. He also had trouble understanding why it was I'd asked him to stop touching me (something he did casually several times after we'd first met). "But I'm a touchy-feely kind of guy!" He'd grinned.

"But I'm not a be touched and felt kind of gal," I'd replied.

"The other women don't mind it," he whined.

"Have you asked them?"

"Well, no, but I figure they'd say something if they had a problem with it."

"And you'd tell them that you were just a touchy-feely kind of guy, and the other women didn't mind it, so they should get with your program and accept your harmless idiosyncrasy. Regardless of the fact that they don't want your hands on them. Has it ever occurred to you that the fact that you're their supervisor might make them hesitant to say something? Come to think of it, I've not seen you touching Janice [his female supervisor]"

"Oh come on! Everyone knows I don't mean anything by it!" He exclaimed.

He dated several of the women he supervised...

So yeah, women treat men who are strangers as suspect, Nora, with good reason. Maybe as a 5'10" dyke, you've not been privy to the treatment that some of us shorter, less brawny, women have been - maybe you should try wearing dresses and slouching for 18 months and report back to us on how that goes.


Note: Am I saying don't read her book? I've not read it, and have simply jumped all over a perceived sentiment that was formed by a strongly conditioned mind - so I can't really say what you should do. You're an adult, in any case, so make up your own damned mind. I will note, however, that since I've typed this, I happened across this very book in the bookstore. "Gads!" I thought, and picked it up - "Let's give it look-see." To start my perusal, I turned it over and glimpsed the first publicity blurb, before even finishing it, my eye was drawn to the name of the blurb writer - Camille Paglia (another conservative lesbian media provacatrix). I returned the book to the shelf. And rested my case.

And believe it or not... on my way to that self-same bookstore, I passed two young men engaged in heated conversation. "All a woman in this state has to do to get a restraining order is ask for one - do you know what implications that has for the man?" The other participant in the conversation, let's call him Harold, said, "But if she's asking for one, she's probably got a reason." The crusader for male justice, let's call him Bly, said, "Oh sure, at the drop of a hat, she can legally mandate that he can't come near her. You think all of these women have pure motives?" Harold, obviously not brushed up on the topic, wasn't entirely won over by Bly's impassioned reasoning, "Well..."

Me, I picked up my pace. If I didn't get away from Bly, I was going to have a hard time not asking if he happened to know one of the primary causes of death for women in this country - right up there with cancer, Sweetheart. Then pin his scrawny little law school ass (did I mention I was near a law school at the time?) to a nearby post and tell him that if he wanted more attention from women (sounded like he had some resentments buried in this department), this probably wasn't the way to go about getting it.


posted 01.14.06

The news is all kinds of overwhelming recently, notice that? And still, our little corner of the world muddles on. We wake up, imbibe our morning ritual, head out the door... or not.

If you're outside you may encounter conundrums, like this one: how many people does it take to help a man having heart pains in the street get help?


Or at least that's as many as it took on a recent morning. Two to stop on their bikes and inquire why the man was partially reclining in the middle of the somewhat busy street, clutching his chest. Two more to walk up and ask if they should go for help. One to walk up, lift the man by his arm and guide him out of the street, while telling him to lay off the alcohol. That lifting man said he had to go off to work. The two on foot went to call for help as the man was still saying his heart hurt and he needed a doctor. "Heart hurt, doctor..." The two on the bike rode away.

Looking back as we turned into the store that was open (and would hopefully let us use the phone), I noted the bikers were gone and the man, assuming he'd been abandoned, had returned to the middle of the street...

We called for assistance, assistance was dispatched (unusual group of people - no one had a cell phone). We returned to the man who was again on the sidewalk, flanked by two new concerned parties. One had gotten out of his car, the other had been on foot. We let them know that help was on the way (neither of them had a cell phone either). Ume and I stood, debating whether we should stay, or depart - we weren't being any great help by simply standing there... The man who'd gotten out of his car said he was staying, "I'm bringing my kids to school, but I see someone who needs help, I help them - that's what I do, I help people." Feeling ineffectual, we stayed too - as did the other man on foot. The man with the kids in the car told the somewhat bewildered convalescent that he needed to lay off the alcohol, "That stuff will kill you, you have to stop drinking it." The convalescent shook his head adamantly and mumbled, "No, no!" in the most pointed show of emotion during our brief acquaintance with him. "Doctor," he mumbled again, "Heart hurt, pains, doctor."

"Take even breaths," the man said, "try to keep your breathing even." He demonstrated and continued, relentless, "My uncle drank himself to death, he was 57 when he died. You've got to quit it." The convalescent looked at him in wonder, seemed to struggle to focus in on him. "You've got to quit, man, that stuff will kill you."

He was saying all of this while half propping, half holding the guy up. He didn't need to be touching him, but he was - half touching, half holding, as you would a close friend. I kept thinking how thankful I was that he was able to offer something so simple, so essential. Had I tried that, it probably wouldn't have been so effective... The man still clutched his chest, but was notably calmed.

The paramedics arrived, and we departed - stunned at what it takes to get attention and help - and a little compassion. We walked a bit in silence, then Ume said, "That makes you think."

It sure does.

Not a month ago, at a busy intersection, I came upon a man lying on the sidewalk - his pants half down. What to do, I wondered? Being more in my head than in the moment I asked him if he would like some help. Through bleary eyes he looked up at me and mumbled something. I repeated my inquiry. He replied more clearly, and forcefully, "No." And then looked the other way as though he'd misplaced an interest he'd never really had for me. "Are you sure?" I asked him, feeling like a complete idiot - he obviously had no clue what he needed, and me, well, I was fielding my own qualms. "Yes," he slurred. I walked on.

Now, in general, I don't walk on - as today, I usually walk to the nearest responsible party and ask for assistance on behalf of the person in need of it. It doesn't take a great deal of time or emotional investment to do such a thing... but that day, I walked on. You see, it wasn't the first time I'd seen this man on a sidewalk, hereabouts...

I've encountered more of this sort of thing recently, people adorning the street and sidewalk in various degrees of distress or discomfort. We think this may be due to the methadone clinic that's opened along one of our well beaten paths. And so, in order to get about my business, I've adjusted my level of engagement with the folk strewn about the environs. Sigh...

Something is busted societally, something in the system is amiss... It's something ambiguous and unwieldy. It sometimes boils down to these bewildered exchanges between folks on the street. "Shouldn't there be someone else doing this for you? Family? An agency? Someone? Surely not a stranger, and certainly not me." Truth be told, some people with severe mental and addictive illnesses reject or burn through their immediate familial support, and then - the precipitous gap opens - a societal gray space envelopes them. These folks I've been passing - they seem adrift in that space. No one to feel especially responsible for or to them - for whatever reason. Which was why I'm sure that man was so comforted by being touched - seems so simple, but to someone who's in that gray space - I'm guessing it's not.

It's such a complex and distressing issue, it's no wonder people don't want to have to grapple with it and feel resentful about being confronted by it and ignore it as best they can. But if someone asks for assistance, is disoriented and in need of help - even if they're drunk, be safe, of course (especially if you're alone!!!), but help if you can...

A fun little pick me up

Of 'A Million Ways' to Be Popular, OK Go Finds One (audio, and video)

And a little humor, because we could all use it... Three Minute Management Course

In the news

Republicans spent the week tripping over themselves to usher in lobbying reforms (thank you Jack Abramoff) with loopholes just small enough for large trucks of money to squeeze through... And Bin Laden wants a truce? Me thinks not...
Week in Review: Bin Laden, Iran, Iraq Vote (01.21.06)

Signs of a Wider, Deeper Scandal in Congress (NPR, 01.06)

Maryland Judge Rejects Ban on Same-Sex Unions (NPR, 01.20.06)

Thugocracy alert:
Group Offers Money for Reports on Left-Wing Faculty (Morning Edition, 01.19.06)

The Valerie Plame case rolls on...
News Catch-Up: Stories Off the Radar (Day to Day, 01.19.06)

Ooh-la - you GO girl!:
Liberia's Johnson-Sirleaf sworn in, to fight graft (Reuters, 01.16.06)

An utterly depressing and thorough review:
What I heard about Iraq in 2005 by Eliot Weinberger (London Review of Books, 01.05.06)

Ira Flatow on Science: The Power of a Pretty Face (Day to Day, 01.19.06)

Sad, and given our present "leadership" inevitable... this is a good discussion:
Internet Censorship and Surveillance (OnPoint Radio, 01.20.06)

See above (who can argue with protecting children from pornography? only the truly wicked (read: liberal)... of course, once they've got that access to search engine databases to protect children (who, last I heard, had parents that were supposed to do that), what's to stop them from collecting information on, say, whatever the hell they want?):
Privacy experts condemn subpoena of Google (Reuters, 01.20.06)

Nigerian militants say will resume attacks shortly (Reuters, 01.20.06)

Now this, we would never have guessed...
A difference between men and women (Reuters, 01.19.06)

Gore's Challenge to Congress and the Media (The Nation, 01.17.06)

Yay, Ang Lee!
'Brokeback' wins top Golden Globes (01.17.06)

Nikon reels in film cameras to focus on digital (Reuters, 01.12.06)


posted 01.14.06

A new year... hmm... how's it feel? Not sure yet, kinda like last year so far, only warmer - it was 60 degrees (15C) here today! In New England! In January! It's been in the fifties for a half a week! So me? I'm pretty pleased - big ol' smile plastered on my face. Oh sure, it'll be frigid tomorrow, around twenty degrees (-6C) - but for a few days in the middle of winter, it was balmy. Sigh.

Attitude is key

I was walking down the street yesterday and a man offered to sell me a copy of "Spare Change". For those not in the know, this is a newspaper sold by the homeless, or those at risk of homelessness, to make money. (It's a cool enterprise, you can read about it here.) I wasn't in need of a copy, so I did what I do when people on the street offer to sell me something that I'm not in need of, I looked him in the eye, smiled, and said, "No thank you." He smiled back and said, "You have a good day, and may I say, your hair looks beautiful today." I thanked him for the complement and moved on, wondering how often people paid him for the compliments, and not the paper. Still, it was a pleasant sentiment and nice to have, as I was on my way to a meeting that I wasn't excited about - not in the positive sense.

The meeting went fine, as I guess they usually do (I just hate them so much...). The most unpleasant part of it was the receptionist. It's been a while since I've had to deal with one with so little charm... Where do these brats come from? Shouldn't she be working in a coffee shop with that attitude? Look, I'm sorry you landed what you apparently feel is a crap job, in a crap place, but you don't look like anyone's been hitting you, or denying you food - so save the attitude for your pals back at Starbucks. Ya little snipe.

Receptionists are a funny lot. I mean, who grows up saying, "When I grow up, I'm going to answer phones and greet people!" I sure didn't, and yet, at the ripe young age of something just north of twenty, I found myself doing just that - again. You see, I'd done it once before, just south of twenty as well. Near killed me - dealing with the public gives me a rash. So I've been one, a receptionist. And since then, I've dealt with a few. I've dealt with one's who were true gatekeepers - and one's who thought they were, but were in fact the meet and greet kind. For me, being a meet and greet kind of receptionist meant smiling (or at least not baring my teeth and foaming at the mouth), greeting - and facilitating the person's getting out of my face asap so I could get back to the book I had tucked under the desk. Pleasant and efficient, that was me. Okay, not everyone can be born with a southern mother (primes you for superficial social interactions), but come on! Try a little.

Leaving the building after the meeting (having passed and ignored her ill-manneredness), the man on the street offered me a copy of "Spare Change" again (forgotten so soon!). I smiled and said, "Sorry, no thank you." He smiled back and said, "You've got beautiful hair." And even though I'd passed him, he asked, "Did you say you were 'sorry'?" I looked back and said yes. "Don't be," he said. "A woman as beautiful as you are should never be sorry." I gave him a smile and a wave and wondered if I shouldn't recommend him to the office I'd just been visiting - he'd make a way better receptionist.

Sing Jack! Sing!

Can we say, "We told you so" yet? Republicans wanted to clean up Washington... They had a Revolution... They're so much more moral, so much more responsible (they have a credo of personal responsibility, no?) - any surprise that they turn out to be as corrupt as they come? Gah!

Abramoff Makes a Deal (OnPoint Radio, 01.04.06)

Breach of Contract (American Progress, 1.13.06)

Other doings...

Texas court denies DeLay bid to quash criminal case (Reuters, 01.09.06)

Great update (try to ignore the host...):
Bird Flu Moves West (OnPoint, 01.11.06, audio file)

Good talk:
Economic Growth and the Good Society (OnPoint, 01.11.06, audio file)

Clinton announces Aids drugs deal (BBC, 1.13.06)

Boggles the mind...
S.Korean clone scandal is a tragedy: scientists (Reuters, 1.12.06)

You needed to know this:
Taiwan breeds transgenic, fluorescent, green pig (Reuters, 1.12.06)

New Orleans unveils controversial rebuilding plan (Reuters, 1.11.06)

Ooh - E-ink is here!
Sony Reader targets book lovers (BBC, 01.06.06)

Ya think?
2005: A Year of Challenges for President Bush (NPR, 12.27.05)