Friday, May 31, 2002

Computer Knows All

So I got up this morning feeling utterly dreadful (after tossing and turning for hours, I finally got to sleep at 1:30am, only to be woken again at 4 by, shall we say, a Spectacular Gastrointestinal Episode...must have been something I ate...after which it took another hour to get back to sleep, and then I was awakened again at 8:20 by my alarm clock), the first thing my Grandmother does is challenge me to come up with a most obscure piece of trivia.

"Do you remember that song," she launched into me without so much as a Good-Morning, "that goes 'I was strolling through the park one day, in the merry merry month of May'...?"

"I was taken by surprise," I completed the line, accessing the information from the Warner Brothers cartoon songs in my head, "By a pair of something-something eyes."

"That's the part I can't remember...what kind of eyes? It's been running around in my head all night."

"I don't think I've ever heard the song sung legitmately," I ventured, sipping my coffee and thinking about it, "I only heard Daffy Duck sing it in a cartoon, and he said 'gruesome eyes' because he'd just run into the Tasmanian Devil."

"Darn," she frumped, "I was counting on you to know what kind of eyes."

"Hang on a minute, I'll find out," I said, anxious to defend my position as the Manners Family Living Encyclopedia.

Of course all I had to do was go into the kitchen and turn on Computer, go to Google, and type the first line into the search window. As bizarre and arcane as that song is, the lyrics popped right up (though without the sound, since I don't have a sound card on my home system).

"'Roguish' eyes," I called to Grandmother in the next room, "I was taken by surprise by a pair of roguish eyes, in a moment my poor heart was stole away."

"Oh, okay..." was all she had to say, but I could hear the satisfaction in her voice...there was one set of lyrics that would no longer plague her sleep.

Thank you, Computer!

Today is going to be another double-entry blog day...I have more to say, but not just now. No Friday Five, and I'm not ready yet to do the other survey. I have completed the Accursed Binders Project at last (though naturally I suffered an extremely painful lower-back spasm while I was bent over the kitchen table inserting the last few documents). And now it's time for lunch. I think I will try something new and different, maybe a salad? I'll think about that as I choose some eye candy for you...

I just uploaded a lot of Versace ads, of which this is a definite favorite...for obvious reasons.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Just Checking In...

Hi, friends! Today it is still hot, but I am cool in my office (dreading to leave). The Saga of the Accursed Binders Project continues to plague my I had to go through that whole pile of documents to find new exhibits for the second section of the binders, as well as wrestle with editing the Boss Lady's prose. Not much else of great interest has happened today.

But I feel that I ought to take up some space on the web anyway, so I am going to give you a survey I borrowed from William, who got it from Kat, who got it from Smitha, who got it from Ginn, who got it from Wogs (who probably got it from somewhere else, but I couldn't find out...)

I. Stats

1. First Name:
Robert (or Marlénè)

2. Hair Color: Medium ash brown with grey streaks.

3. Middle Name: Eugene...for which I have yet to forgive my parents.

4. Hair Style: Sort of a short shag, parted on the side and layered all around.

5. Eye Color: Bluish grey.

6. Height: 6'3"...unless I'm in heels...

7. Location: Beautiful Lake Merritt, Oakland CA.

8. Birthday: December 27...I decline to state which year.

9. Zodiac Sign: Capricorn with Gemini rising and Scorpio moon.

10. Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?: Nope. Well, I have lots of 'girl'friends...

11. Do you have a crush?: Not at the moment...unless we count celebrities...

II. Favorites

1. Favorite Animal:
Men...they make absolutely awful pets, but they're just so darned CUTE!

2. Favorite Sport to watch: Pairs figure-skating and Greco-Roman wrestling (preferably nude).

3. Favorite Color(s): All of them.

4. Favorite Friend(s) Offline: Uhhhh...Caroline, Dalton, Joanna, Shiloh, but not necessarily in that order (whichever is reading this right now is my favorite).

5. Favorite Friend(s)Online: You are!

6. Favorite Song(s) of the Moment: I don't have one. But I've been singing "Stardust" a lot lately. It's so pretty!

7. Favorite Movie Quote: "Everybody has a heart...except for some people." Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve.

8. Favorite Store: Uhm, gee, I don't think I can choose just one...does eBay count?

9. Favorite Feeling: Orgasm.

10. Favorite Shoes: Canvas sneakers, in light khaki Bass tennis shoes to be specific.

11. Favorite Fragrance: Bergamot.

12. Do You Wear Make-Up?: What do you think? Not daily, though.

13. Which is more important, personality or looks?: Uh...both? Personality without looks is okay, looks without personality is okay...but one really ought to have both.

14. What kind of personality do you like in a guy/girl?: Easy-going, intellectual, humorous.

15. Do you move fast or slow in a relationship?: I fall in love fast, but act on it very slowly.

16. What is your idea of the perfect guy/girl?: If we're aiming at perfection, let's see...six feet five, muscular but not too much so, a dancer's physique; either blond hair with brown eyes and gold skin or black hair with blue eyes and pink-white skin; face that could launch a thousand fashion magazines; large, elegantly attenuated hands and feet with a great manicure; high IQ with distinct sense of humility; musically talented, well-read, with good manners; rich as sin and deliciously generous; completely besotted with me; oh, and a REALLY BIG...

17. Would you ever ask someone out?: Someday I will ... someday.

18. Do you prefer blondes or brunettes: I have a weakness for blond boys, but brunets are by no means discouraged!

III. Love, Life & Friends

1. What is the first thing you notice about someone?:
Clothes and general appearance.

2. When's the last time you cried?: Real whole-hearted crying? Or just water coming out of my eyes? Both were at movies...I wept quietly at the end of House of Mirth last week; I sobbed openly at the end of Billy Elliot last year.

3. What do you want to be when you grow up?: Omnipotent.

4. Do you sleep with stuffed animals?: Only the one...

5. Do you want children?: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!.

6. How far have you gotten?: With what?

7. Do you like someone right now?: Not somebody in particular.

8. Do they know?: If there was someone I especially liked, he'd be the very last to ever know about it.

9. Do you have a best friend?: Yes.

IV. Within the last 24 hours, have you...

1: Had a serious talk?:

2: Hugged someone?: Yes

3: Gotten along well with your parents?: I emailed my mother this morning...

4: Fought with a friend?: I can't even remember the last time I fought with a friend.

V. Do you like to...

1: Give hugs?:

2: Give back rubs?: Not really, it hurts my hands.

3: Take walks in the rain?: Yes, if it's warm out.

4: You ever have that falling dream?: All the time.

5: What is on the walls of your room?: Let me think...wallpaper, of course...bookshelves...two mirrors...I took down most of the pictures...two Aahmes Lodge commemorative plaques (my late Grandfather's)...a peacock-feather fan and a painted Chinese paper fan...some necklaces hanging from a hook...and a Joe Phillips calendar.

6: When you chew gum, what kind?: I don't chew gum.

7: Do you use ChapStick?: Yes...vanilla mint flavor with vitamin E. I think I'll put some on right now.

VI. In the last month have/did you..

1. Drink?:
No (not for seven years!)

2. Smoke?: No (not for almost four years).

3. Drugs?: No (last drug was prescribed Vicodin, about six months ago).

4. Have Sex?: Every day...oh, you mean with other people? Then, no, 'fraid not (in six years).

5. Made Out?: No.

6. Go on a date?: No.

7. Go to the movies?: Yes...I last saw The Cat's Meow (loved it!); before that I saw Nine Queens (interesting, great ending, but it was in Spanish so I didn't get all of it).

8. Go to the mall?: Yes, three of them...Bayfair, Southland, and Hilltop.

9. Eaten an entire box of Oreos?: Over the course of four days, but yes, I ate the whole thing (editor's note: Oreos come in packages, not boxes).

10. Eaten sushi?: Gack. But so many of my friends love it, I always have tempura when I go.

11. Been on stage?: Yes!

12. Been dumped?: No.

13. Had someone be unfaithful to you?: Uhm, obviously not...

14. Watched The Smurfs?: Are they still on? I used to collect Smurf figurines, but that was before they were a cartoon.

15. Hiked a mountain?: Why the hell would I do that? Unless the guy from Question II.16 was up there...then I'd think about it.

16. Made homemade cookies?: No (but I made cobbler!)

17. Been in love?: No. Not this month, anyway.

VII. More stuff...

1. Are you popular?:
I'm world Poland.

2. Are you pretty?: I'm drop-dead gorgeous...but only in full makeup.

3. Do you have your own phone line?: No, I share with the Grandmother.

4. What is your favorite word to say?: "Crapomatic."

5. What is your favorite phrase to say?: "Flippety Flappety Floop."

6. What are you doing right now?: Avoiding going home and cleaning the dining room.

7. What song are you listening to?: I've got the radio on, and their website says it's William Boyce (English, 1711-1779), Symphony #7 in B-flat, Academy of Ancient Music recording.

8. What are you wearing?: Blue-and-white-striped Perry Ellis cotton shirt, tan Gap easy-fit chinos, navy Bass deck shoes, burgundy Calvin Klein midrise briefs, Citizen gold and brushed steel watch, Suzanne Somers sterling trilliant CZ bangle.

VIII. Preferences-pick

1. Cold or hot?: can always put more clothes on.

2. Lace or satin?: Satin. Lace always gets caught on my rhinestones.

3. Blue or Red?: Can't I have both?

4. New or old?: Old. Except for boys and clothes: those I like fresh and shiny and new.

5. Rain or snow?: Rain!

6. Give or receive?: That depends entirely on the context. But I like giving things to people.

7. Wool or cotton?: Cotton (wool is so smelly when it gets wet).

8. Rose or Daisy?: Daisy Wynan-Roses. I guess that's both?

9. Private school or public school?: To go to? Or to cruise? I went to public schools. But I guess I like secular private schools, they have a sort of WASPy cache about them.

10. Chocolate milk or plain milk?: Everything is better with chocolate.

11. Celsius or Fahrenheit?: Farenheit. I strongly dissaprove of the Metric System.

12. Spring or Fall?: Fall.

13. Inny or outty?: Inny.

14. Now or then?: Now.

15. How many fingers am I holding up?: All of my fingers are on the keyboard. Where are yours?

16. Scent?: I currently smell mostly like April-Fresh Downy, with just a hint of coffee on the breath.

17. English or Math?: Anglais, bien sûr.

18. Bath or shower?: Showers are so much easier, but baths are so much nicer.

19. Bedtime phrase?: Mmrphlphghm.

20. Self-stick or lick?: What? Oh, I guess you mean stamps. Do they still make licky stamps?

21. Cursive or print?: I usually write in cursive, but if I want somebody to be able to read it later, I have to type.

22. Do you like surprises?: Not really...unless they're quiet, pleasant surprises.

23. Paranoid or Cautious?: I tend to be cautious, but optimistic.

24. Heights or Crowds?: God, talk about the lesser of two evils! I think I'll go for heights, they're only scary if you look down, while crowds are scary no matter what you do.

25. Half-full or half-empty?: Neither. All things are exactly as they should be at this moment.

26. Top or bottom?: Top or bottom of what? you mean sexually? It depends on the other person.

27. Do you/Would you dye your hair?: I've rather outgrown caring what color my hair is...I spent my entire twenties pretending to be blond, and then I went from sunny-blond to platinum to cerise when I was living with an amateur hairdresser (and my nephew's kindergarten class laughed at me), and then I stopped coloring altogether.

28. Speeding or running red lights?: I love to speed.

29. Gold or silver?: Gold.

30. Bad habits?: No thank you, I have plenty of my own (procrastinating, withdrawing, and road-raging being the most prominent).

31. Piercings?: Earlobes.

32. Erogenous Zone(s)?: I'm sure I have some, but I've forgotten where they are.

33. "Maybe" or "Mebbe?": Maybe! Geez.

34. Snore or talk?: Neither. I am quite silent in my sleep (or so I've been told).

35. What do you wish you'd done?: Taken better sexual and educational advantage of my youth.

36. Fetish?: Effeminacy.

37. Do you have one of THOSE voices?: Huh???? Yeah, I probably do.

38. Jammies or naked?: I prefer to sleep nude, but I do love to wear pajamas around the house.

39. Neurotic or psychotic?: Neither. I am quite well-adjusted, thank you. Stop laughing!

40. Do you talk to yourself?: All the time...that way I never have to explain what I mean.


Well, that was fun. I hope the Friday Five tomorrow is fun. I haven't done it in a couple of weeks. But if it's boring, I'll just use the next survey I've found, back at Let's Try This Again. In the meantime, try this on for size (it's after Memorial Day, we can wear white pants again...though I rather wish he would take them off):

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Soooooo Sleepy!

Well, though it's still springtime everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer seems to have landed here in the Bay Area. It's been hot for the last two days, and looks as though it is going to continue to be hot for the forseeable future.

Hot weather is nice, I guess, as it induces the shedding of clothes...and though one pays the price by having to see people unclothed who should, in all fairness, remain eternally behind closed doors (and brick-&-mortar walls), one does get to see the occasional hunk wandering around shirtless...or better yet, in satiny basketball-shorts and a low-cut peekaboo tank, with a glowing sheen of sweat on his tight ridged flanks and sturdy gold-dusted thighs...oooohhhh...mmmmmmm...

Pardon me a moment while I compose myself.

Unfortunately, my Northern European blood just can't take temperatures very far above 70°F. As soon as the warm weather starts, I slip into a cranky stupor. I feel sticky and stupid and (I think it bears repeating) cranky. And oh, so sleepy! I've been ready to fall asleep all day, I was nodding over my lunch and had to prop my head up at my desk to keep it from crashing into my keyboard. Of course, once I did manage to get home and horizontal on the couch, I couldn't sleep, or even rest—I just feel too itchy and yucky and hot. I know that my body will acclimate eventually, probably just in time for Winter, but until then I am just absolutely suffering agonies in this heat.

What I really need right now is a nice shower, and freshly-laundered sheets on the bed, and a bowl of ice cream. And a good book, an electric fan, and satin pajama-bottoms. I have none of these things, at the moment. I can get the shower pretty easily, once I finish here at the computer (I'm sure the warranty doesn't cover immersion); the fan just needs to be plugged in, and the satin jammies are right there in the closet...but I don't have fresh sheets (I only have two sets, and the other set is still in the hamper since my last aborted laundry-day), I don't have a good book (I haven't been book-shopping in weeks, perhaps even months, certainly not since I became addicted to Suzanne Somers bracelets), and we're out of ice cream (we used the last of it on the peach cobbler, see below).

Oh, well, I guess I'll just have to improvise. Shower, fan, jammies...and Melatonin. That ought to do the trick. Nighty night!

Oh, wait a's only 9:15 pm. That won't do at all. Not at all. I wanted to watch Six Feet Under! And if I go to bed now, I'll wake up at like 5 am, and I won't have anything to do for hours and hours (except of course clean, exercise, meditate, go to work early, or anything else useful)! Oh, well. I guess I'll just have to suffer a little while longer. In the meantime, I can glance at cooling images like this one:


Odious Malefactors of My Serenity

I'm submerged in this project that I thought would take me a couple of hours, which I figured would feature having to walk back and forth from the kitchen table to the copy machine as the hardest portion of the task. But now I discover that the project is actually cursed...and has taken me two days so far.

The project was to create four binders containing all the documents pertaining to a member's case for use in an appeal. No big deal, I thought. Then all the little problems started happening. First, I didn't have four matching two-inch D-ring binders. Then I didn't have enough dividers to separate all the sections of the documents (it looked like about ten or twelve).

So, when I got back from the Office Supply store with new binders and dividers, I discovered that the documents in question were not arranged in numbered sections, after all: they were arranged as lettered "exhibits"...twenty-eight lettered exhibits (so I still don't have enough dividers). And then I discovered that the 'exhibits' weren't in alphabetical order, either, they were just sort of piled, some of the stickie-notes labeling the exhibits were missing, so I had to read the master document to discover what the exhibit was supposed to be. Then the copier started misfeeding and screwing around. All I want to do now is cry.

Oh well. Small price to pay, I guess. After this is over, I will be almost entirely project-less. Summer is really here, finals are over, most of our membership is on vacation to points unknown. Oh, blessed Quiet! Yay! I can clean my desk (yeah, right), catch up on my filing (oh, that'll happen), and spend more time on the internet! With you! And with these guys:

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Whatever is that delicious smell?

Brace yourselves, children: today I have been (gasp) domestic. I have cleaned. I have watered the lawn. I have shopped for groceries. I have baked.

I am scared.

The cleaning is something I've been trying to do all weekend, without much success. I'll start on one seemingly simple thing, and then it takes so much out of me that I lay gasping on the carpet (with the TV on) for the rest of the day. Yesterday I washed all the pots and pans and non-dishwasher-safe kitchenware; and by the time I finished that, it was all I could do to make myself continue to breathe. Today I dusted the living room, including the cathedral ceiling, rafters, Venetian blinds, and windowsills...I concurrently watered the front and back lawns and flower beds, and the two activities totally wiped me out (I also watched The House of Mirth with Caroline and played Goldeneye on my N64). Tomorrow I have to do some organizing in the kitchen, pantry, and dining room, while concurrently catching up on my laundry. During the course of the week, I have to vacuum the furniture and visit a few delicatessens. I hope I have the stamina to make it through.

I am not a house-cleaning type of person in the best of situations. I would rather stub my toe on a brick than wash dishes. I'd rather chew on my tongue than do the windows. I'd rather sit through a tax audit than clear a flower bed. I usually find it best to just keep all the mess in one room and let the other rooms quietly assemble a layer of dust that will be removed when it starts bothering my allergies or when we are going to have company.

And that, of course, is what all this unwonted domesticity is meant to serve: I'm having a few people in next weekend, and I have to clean first...not to fool my friends into thinking that I actually live in a clean house (anybody who knows me at all knows better than that), but rather to provide them with a filth-free environment in which to interact socially. Though all of my friends know (and hopefully accept) that I am an utter slob, good manners dictate that I present an atmosphere in which they, accustomed as they no doubt are to living in somewhat tidier surroundings, will feel comfortable and at-home.

Actually, most of this cleaning is for the Grandmother's sake, to let her save face a little. I mean, I dusted the ceiling! I never even look at the ceiling, and don't expect anybody else in the world will. But I know that Grandmother is embarrassed by the very idea that somebody might look up from the sofa and see a tiny cobweb in the apex of the fifteen-foot cathedral ceiling. So I got out the little dusting thingy on the telescoping rod and cleaned the ceiling and everything else in the room (I drew the line at dusting the plants or pulling the books out of the shelves).

The yard-watering was for her sake, as well. She insists that our lawn be green, where I am simply happy that there are no old cars or refrigerators on it. I was telling Grandmother this morning that the reason I don't ever remember to water the lawn is because I couldn't care less about the lawn. If it were up to me, we wouldn't have a lawn. Which prompted her to ask, "Well, what would you put there instead?" (These conservative types always want a replacement theory before they will accept that the current theory is wrong.) I thought about that a minute, considering miniature ivy, or evergreen groundcover, or moss, or colorful stones, or a water-fall, or a regiment of pottery gnomes, or overlapping piles of Persian carpets...and then realized that I wouldn't want a lawn because I wouldn't want a yard...if it was up to me, I wouldn't even live in a house unless I could afford live-in help.

And that's the rub...I'm an apartment-dweller by nature, and would simply prefer to leave all lawns and shrubs to the Parks Department. Grandmother, on the other hand, is a farm-girl by nature, and feels limited by only having a lawn and a couple of square feet of flower beds to plant and cultivate. If it was up to her, and if she had the energy and nonarthritic limbs, she would live on twenty acres of manicured grounds and get down on her hands and knees every day to potter about in the begonia-beds and cucumber-frames.

But we live here in this house (moving is out of the question, I'm afraid), we have a lawn, we have flower beds; she has arthritis and old age, and I have absolutely no interest in living objects that can't take care of themselves; and so we have our dilemma. We've solved some of it by hiring a gardening crew to mow and trim, but the watering I have to do. And I don't remember, so it's a bone of contention.

I shop for groceries all the time, so I won't dwell on that. I actually like shopping for groceries. Hell, I like shopping, period!

And then to top it all off, today I baked. Yesterday my cousin Jamie came over, and she called ahead to see if we had the makings for Peach Cobbler...she has been baking Peach Cobbler lately, it's her new hobby, so she was going to make one for us. Of course, by the time she got here from San Ramon, after having spent the day shopping for furniture with her rather-too-aesthetically-astute husband, she was a little too worn for Cobblering. But having introduced the thought of Peach Cobbler into my mind, I was unable to dispel it...and so I made a Peach Cobbler. It's actually quite easy, one of our famous ancient family recipes (which we got out of a cookbook from the Associated Women of Pepperdine College circa 1962...all of the Famous Manners Family Recipes come from amateur fundraising cookbooks and the backs of ingredient packages), and one of my favorite dishes to bring to potlucks.

And just to make the whole thing scarier, I am going to share the recipe with you, my faithful reader, so that you can revel in my domestic bliss.

Manners Peach Cobbler

    Melt 1½ cubes of butter in a 10"x14" glass pyrex dish, in a 350° oven. Mix together a batter of the following: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 1½ teaspoons baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt; pour over the melted butter. Mix together one large can (29 oz) of sliced peaches and ¾ cup sugar, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange peel to taste; spoon this into the pan on top of the batter. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg evenly on top. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool twenty minutes, serve warm with cream or vanilla ice-cream.

Got milk? Put it on your cobbler!

Saturday, May 25, 2002

Try to Remember...

...the kind of September, something-something ya-da-dum-de-dum-dah...I hate when I can't remember song lyrics. They're the only things I really ever do remember, so when I forget them I get very upset...the way most people get when they can't remember why they came into the room, or can't remember people's names, or can't remember their own phone numbers (all things I routinely forget). In fact, the best way for me to remember anything is to set it to music. Like Schoolhouse Rock...I remember the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America word for word, just because it was set to music:
    We the People [of the United States of America (omitted for rhythm)], in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility (yeah, yeah), provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, ah-and secure the blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our posterity do ordain and esta-a-ablish this Constitution oh-oh-of the United Sta-a-ates of America-ah-ah.
Well, anyway, Memorial Day is sneaking up on us. And I don't remember what it's about. I mean, I know we're supposed to honor the memory of those who died in the defense (or offense, as the case may be) of the United States via the Armed Services. I have not been personally acquainted with any such persons, and the last person in my known family to die in battle was my Great-great-great-(etc.)-grandfather, Zadock Woods, who was killed in Texas (but not the Alamo) during the Mexican-American war. Several family members were in the Armed fact, my own father was in the Army during the Vietnam Conflict (though he was stationed in Germany and Fort Ord, where I was born, the entire time)...but all us Mannerses contrived to survive the various wars of our time.

So we celebrate by having big-Big-BIG sales, huge barbecues, plenty of drunkenness and death on the roads, and taking the day off from work. And we get to wear white shoes and pants again (though I wear them all the time...or at least shoes and pants which used to be white). Somehow I don't get the connection there. But then, there are so many things I don't understand. Like sports. And SUVs. And ambient music. And heterosexuality.

Oh, well. Here's something I do understand: the above doesn't make any sense at all. I think I may just be losing my mind.
    The sun comes up, I think about you...

    The coffee cup, I think about you...

    I want you so, it's like I'm losing my mind...

    The morning ends, I think about you,

    I talk to friends, and think about you;

    And do they know, it's like I'm losing my mind?

    All afternoon, doing every little chore,

    The thought of you stays bright...

    Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor,

    Not going left,

    Not going right...

    I dim the lights, and think about you;

    Spend sleepless nights to think about you.

    You said you loved me...

    Or were you just being kind?

    Or am I losing my mind?

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

A Show About Nothing

I sometimes wonder if New York City (or, more accurately, Manhattan) is actually full of people like the characters on Seinfeld. I hope not. I hated that show SO MUCH...and, since it's in rabid syndication, I still hate it SO MUCH...It's FLAMES...around my face, flames coming out of my ears...

All of these people with whiney voices, with the manners of demented baboons, with the social skills of learning-disabled paramecia, with a complete lack of discernible morals and ethics...really, without any apparent redeeming qualities whatever. Even that strange bass-line that announced a change in scene is unbelievably irritating. I never understood that show's popularity.

On the other hand, Friends doesn't bother me at all, and it drives some people I know straight up the panelling. So there's no accounting for tastes. But at least we all know that Manhattan is not "as seen on Friends."

I've never been to Manhattan, of course, but I feel like I know so much about it. So many movies, so many musicals, so many novels, so many magazines, so many television shows are set in Manhattan. I could rattle off a dozen songs I know that are specifically set in or sung about the Isle of Manhattan. I've studied maps of Manhattan, the architecture of Manhattan, the museums and shops of Manhattan. I know how to get from the corner of East 90th and Fifth Avenue to Port Elizabeth, Maine (I had to plot that for my novel...for even I, who have never been there, have set stories in Manhattan).

And if I ever discovered that it was really all full of Jerrys and Elaines and Georges and Kramers, I wouldn't be caught dead there. I'd much prefer it to be full of Sex and the City characters, or even, in a pinch, Damon Runyon characters.

Nothing, of course, is set in Oakland. There was a sitcom called Hangin' with Mr. Cooper that was set here, but they only used Oakland exteriors in the intro credits...the show was shot in LA, as are most TV shows. There was another sitcom on the WB starring two guys with whom I went to high school, but that predictably didn't last long. And of course one often spies Oakland exteriors in TV shows set in San Francisco (like Nash Bridges, which used the old Liberty House building as a set for a few seasons, and often had recourse to the Dunsmuir House...which bad horror movie fans will recognize as the house in Burnt Offerings).

So...where was I? Oh, yes, rambling incoherently about Nothing, Seinfeld, Friends, Manhattan, and Oakland. Why don't I just quit now, while I still retain some reputation for intelligence?


I have no idea what city that is...

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

I'm Living Alone and I Like It

Or so I often tell myself. Of course, I don't live entirely alone, having to share accomodations and a certain amount of my time with the Grandmother. But sometimes I get that old mating urge, and have to wonder where in my messy, lazy life I could fit another person, a man of some description, someone to have sex with and go out with, but who will invariably come equipped with needs and wants of his own?

My father once passed on to me a piece of wisdom that the Grandmother gave him a long time ago: never sleep with a girl you wouldn't marry. It must have cost her a lot to say such a thing, to admit out loud that people do indeed have sex before they get married, and often with people they wouldn't ordinarily want to look at in a lighted room (much less over a breakfast table for forty years together). But the subtext of her statement was, "be sure beforehand that you wouldn't mind being married to her, because she might just get knocked up and you'll have to marry her." That's the way things were done back then: men went around sticking their dicks in to places without thinking about what might come out (and they still do, to this very day), and girls who wanted husbands often used that particular ploy to get them. That is, in fact, exactly how I came into being and why my parents married in the first place.

Somehow that little nugget of wisdom found its way into my psyche and took root, even though the practicality behind it doesn't apply to me. And nowadays the first thing I ask myself, before I start pursuing a man for even the most casual purposes, is whether or not he seems like he'd fit into my life as a mate. Will my Grandmother like him? Will my friends like him? Is he in recovery or at least generally sober and familiar with substance abuse issues? Will we have enough in common to have something to talk about for the next twenty or thirty years? Does he have good enough taste to get good birthday presents? Can he cook and clean, and does he seem like he'd expect me to cook and clean? And most importantly: How would we look together?

This mostly comes up in relation to my height. I never pursue men who are shorter than 5'11" because I feel like a pituitary freak when standing next to such men for very long at a time. I also never pursue men who are noticeably more masculine than I, for fear that I will look even nellier than usual by comparison (actually, the same applies in reverse...I'd really hate to be noticeably more masculine than my mate). I wouldn't want to live with a man who was prominently better- or worse-looking than myself, fatter or more muscular in any really distinctive way. And yet I don't want him to be just like me, either ("book-end" couples are so boring). And all this rather severely limits the number of people I am likely to pursue.

"Why are you telling me all this?" you must be asking yourself by now.

It's all something to do with Jeff, the sammich-man at our local luncheon spot. I find him very attractive, and seeing him at lunchtime is often the highlight of my workday...but I have absolutely no desire to date him, and this confuses my coworkers. He has hot brown eyes and the cutest little smile and nice hair and a tight figure...he's also obviously handy around a kitchen, and his pastries are utterly divine. On the other hand, he's around five-nine, a little too short for me; he's also very outdoorsy, enjoying such inexplicable sports as snowboarding in winter and mountain-climbing in summer—these two things alone put him right out of the running. But my two coworkers (JB and BB), happily- and rather recently-married women, feel that I ought to be mated somehow, and BB in particular feels that I ought to pursue Jeff (mostly, I think, because he's the only available gay man we both know).

But I don't want to marry Jeff, I just want to watch him make my sandwiches and get the occasional heart-fluttering smile from him. And so I won't date him. But BB keeps asking "WHY NOT?" and so I have to sit and think about The Why Not. Whenever someone challenges my indirect or automatic decisions, just as when someone challenges my automatic or innate beliefs, I have to defend them in the usual scientific-method academic manner. And so this is the scientific conclusion: I want a husband, or at least a steady boyfriend, not a date; I understand that one must date in order to find a husband, yet I do not have room in my life for a husband right now, and do not intend to settle for something more casual as a time-passing measure. And so I remain a solo act, despite society's and my coworkers' and my body's multiple urgings.

So I can tell society that, and I can tell my coworkers that. But how do I convince my body? The best I can do is keep it distracted with things like this:

Monday, May 20, 2002

My Messy Little Life

My room is such a mess right now that I can't find a foothold between my door and my bed, nowhere I can stand safely without stepping on some piece of clothing...which might or might not conceal a CD jewel case, a sharp instrument of some kind, a stray piece of jewelry, an open book, or money. I have plenty of clothes to wear, but I have to smell them to know if they are clean...after my last laundry run, I didn't fold all my clothes, and then didn't put any of them away, so the clean are scattered all over along with the dirty. Every book or magazine I have opened in the last two months is still opened and lying in the place I last looked at it. There are boxes of stuff I have to sort through before I can store them away, but they have been there so long that they have developed an alluvial deposit of dry-clean-onlies and blankets and empty mailing-boxes from eBay and HSN. And, horror of horrors, the whole place is starting to smell a little naffy.

When I leave my room (the rest of the house is comparatively quite tidy, with the exception of the closets and my Grandmother's end of the dining table), I get into my car...the car where there is still a small pile of broken glass from two months ago when someone broke my passenger window to steal my $17 portable CD player, along with the leaves and dirt and wrappers that cling to my shoes when I enter the car; there are hundreds of ATM receipts, empty water bottles, crumpled napkins, discarded Dorito bags, CD cases, fashion magazines, a complete change of clothes (including shoes, all dirty) scattered around the backseat and trunk, and a big box of envelopes that I keep meaning to bring back into the office and put away, but don't.

Then I get to work, and sit in the middle of this sty:

I'm amazed that I know where anything is. What amazes me more is that I am almost fastidious about personal cleanliness and tidiness. People never realize what a frightful slob I really am until they get a gander at any of the mises-en-scènes where I live and work.

So anyway, I took the above picture around Christmas time, I was thinking of using it as a graphic on this page..."Where Mannersisms Are Born." When I was reading Ernie's page earlier, I followed a link to see pictures of other people's desks, and was quite impressed by how tidy and trim people's desks were...and reminded yet again that I am an unregenerate jackdaw and should be walled up where my mess can't escape and ensnare innocent passersby. I thought about sending in my desk picture, but to scale it down to the required size made the picture look kind of icky and pixelated (if I may coin a word...or if I may not, I will anyway...YOU CAN'T STOP ME!)

So anyway. It's a quiet afternoon, all our members are busy with their finals and so the phones are silent. I can utilize this time to either clean up my desk, or go look at porn. Guess which one I'm gonna do?

Thursday, May 16, 2002

She's at it again...

Despite my best intentions to be frivolous, I'm starting to really enjoy these discussions of politics and morals and what-have-you. I have been in correspondence with Scott, the very nice gentleman who left a comment a few days ago, and he has forwarded very intersting links to me from various places in his reading. Today I had some more time and a little more mental agility than I've enjoyed lately, and so I was not only able to read the articles referred, but also to then give some good solid thought to those readings and formulate a response to them. And Oh! how I've enjoyed it. It's like being in college again...without having to worry about tuition or GPAs.

One of the articles, an Opinion piece by Tal Ben-Shahar in the Israel National News, was beautifully written and pointed out some home truths about the failure of pacifism in Western dealings with the Islamic world. I and other pacifists are coming to realize the painful truth that Pacifism, like Portuguese, is only useful when dealing with other people who speak the same language. If you speak Portuguese to a man who only understands Cantonese, you will get nowhere; when you speak Peace to someone who can only think War, you cannot reach accord. This is a valuable point, and one we cannot overlook when we ask for peaceful solutions.

On the other hand, Ben-Shahar characterized pacifism as inherently dangerous...I don't know if that was his intent, or just the result of an indistinct phrase. I think the problem with clinging to pacifism when you know it won't work is the same problem as clinging to war when you have no good reason. It's the clinging to an idea past the point that it is reasonably practicable (in the case of pacifism) or absolutely necessary (in the case of war) that I think is dangerous, not the idea itself.

I find it interesting, though, that Ben-Shahar was notably silent on the fact that Israel is trying to expand its borders into Palestinian territory. Correct me in the comment window if you have better information, but it is my understanding that one of the main points of the Geneva Convention and the United Nations is that no nation shall be allowed to annex land or territory from a neighboring nation. By trying to annex Palestinian territory (from which sovereignty Israel was initially carved in 1948, and one wonders what Palestinians at the time must have thought of that), Israel defied the conventions of its own allies and benefactors and posed as the aggressor. While that does not excuse Palestinian terrorism, it does put Israel in the wrong as well, and makes their position considerably less defensible.

Another article, submitted by Anatole Kaletsky to an AOL homepage devoted to patriotic issues, presented more immediate problems. In his first paragraph, he used two phrases to describe war that I find difficult: "unavoidable" and "morally justifiable."

(WARNING: PERSONAL BELIEFS IMMINENT) I believe that things are either moral or immoral; if an action harms another person, it is immoral. I concede, though, that for humanity to live in societies, some immoral actions must be undertaken for moral reasons. But the moral reason does not make the immoral action moral. If you have to justify something, that means it is not just and must be made to seem is therefore quite probably immoral, no matter how necessary you think it is.

Further, all things are avoidable. Unavoidability is usually an excuse, like saying "I didn't have a choice." But there is always a choice, there is always another path...but these choices and paths are often unknown to us, or ineffective, or impossible, or simply not what we want to do. Take as an example the old moral-justification hypothetical question "If someone was holding a gun to your head, would you (insert hypothetical atrocity here)?" People often say, "Yes, of course, I wouldn't have any other choice." But death and defeat are always choices; the destruction of our homes and our families and our belief systems are always our choices...just not choices that are the easiest to make.

I find it difficult to believe that destroying one group or another group, reducing one government to ashes or one nation to ruin, will solve our problems. But I must admit that I don't see any other path to take in this current situation. What worries me, what makes me stand up and say NO WAR, is the fear that our government will not be able to see a better path, will then justify the expedient solution, and then will stop looking for that true, moral, peaceful path...that we will convince ourselves of how effective war is, and forget to look for peaceful solutions. If that happens, we will be returning to medievalism ourselves, and will become worse than our enemies.

A lot of parallels are being drawn between the September 11th attacks and Pearl Harbor, between the bombing of Afghanistan and the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Articles I've read lately have said that the best way to a lasting peace is to defeat the current regimes of our enemies and help the survivors rebuild on a better model, as happened with Germany and Japan.

What worries me are the differences between World War II and now. For one, the end of WWII was overseen by one of the greatest minds, greatest diplomats, and greatest leaders of this century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt; on the other side of the Atlantic was another great mind, diplomat, and leader, Sir Winston Churchill. Loads of really brilliant people were involved in doing everything possible to create a lasting peace, learning from the mistakes of the past to ensure that the horrors of another war would not be the natural result of the current war's end (as was the case with World War I).

But we have George W. Bush at the helm. Again, this is only my opinion, but I do not trust Bush. I think he is a corporate stooge and a mindless tool available to the highest bidder. He is allied with some of the worst loot-and-burn industries in our nation and has not demonstrated any remotely impressive statesmanship during his term so far. And on a more personal note, he has beady, empty little eyes. He looks like an idiot, and people who look like idiots quite often are.

For another difference, in WWII we were fighting (for the larger part) Europeans with whom we had something in common, a common culture and history and motive that we could relate to and understand; for the lesser part, we were dealing with the Japanese, who we did not comprehend in any way...and we were forced by expedience to commit the greatest atrocity of our national history, the atomic-bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, in order to defeat this incomprehensible enemy. Now we are again faced with an enemy that is completely and incomprehensibly alien to us, and I fear that we will find ourselves committing an even greater atrocity before we are through.

In these articles I've been reading, from Scott and from other sources, there are also a lot of comparisons between the Clinton and Bush administrations concerning foreign policy. Though I tend to be more leftish than rightish, I am not a big fan of Clinton's. He got off to a rousing and admirable start, but underneath those lofty ideals and the great speeches stood a coward and a weasel; his foreign policies were wishy-washy rather than diplomatic, ineffectual rather than pacific. Much of those policies can be blamed for the current problem. But previous decades of bad foreign policy can also be blamed. The situation in the Middle East has been brewing for a lot longer than Clinton has even been alive.

As far as I have been able to discern, Bush's foreign policy isn't any better than Clinton's. He strikes me as not being possessed of a diplomatic mind. I don't know how Bush will behave and react when this war is over, or at least when the Afghani portion is over: will he be an enlightened figure of democracy, as Roosevelt and the Allied leaders were at the end of WWII when they helped rebuild Germany and Italy and Japan? Or will he be a jackal of war and force our defeated enemies into trade agreements and false democracies that will plant the seeds of future terrorism? It remains to be seen, and I find myself feeling trepidatious, to say the very least.

I firmly feel that if we do not keep a sharp eye on our government, if we do not question war and demand peaceful solutions wherever possible, we can very easily tip ourselves into a terrible era of American bellicosity where we run around fighting wars just for the fun and profit of it, and truly become the Evil Empire our enemies accuse us of being.

Finally, this morning Scott sent me a quotation from the 19th-century Utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill:
    War is an ugly thing, but it is not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made so by the exertions of better men than himself.
That's fine, except for one thing: fighting does not have to mean killing. Killing should always be the last possible resort, a distasteful expedient to be put aside as soon as the destructive force that threatens us is defeated. Fighting for something that isn't threatened is mere belligerence; belligerence carried to the degree of killing is evil.

I fight for my beliefs every day, in my writing and my speech and my refusal to be silenced or hidden. We should of course never cease to fight for our beliefs. Because then we do become decadent and degraded, and anyone who comes by to destroy us will be hailed as a hero by history.

On the other hand, one has to judge whether or not what one is defending is worth defending. To say that "nothing is worth war" is as extremist (and therefore illogical) as saying that "all my things are worth war." The paradox is that those who have the least material property to defend are more likely to become warlike; those who have the most are more likely to be pacific.

When I hear people say that "We are defending our way of life," I never hear a definition of what elements comprise "our way of life," nor how that way of life is threatened, exactly. My way of life demands maximum civil liberties, availability of information and the arts, opportunities for material prosperity in a thriving consumer-driven economy, and physical that order. Only the last two seem to me threatened by outsiders; the others are often threatened by our own government and my fellow citizens, and so I find I must speak out.

Well, anyway. Here I go speaking out all over the place. To a limited audience, I know, but truth spreads like a mind perceives it and passes it on to another mind, who finds truth somewhere in that idea and passes it on to another. Eventually the truth becomes known. I know that what I perceive as the truth may not be the truth. But the truth is, it is absolute, and is contained within the lies we tell ourselves. As Michelangelo said of his sculptures: they're already there in the marble, it's just a matter of getting rid of the excess.

Thanks for hanging out with me on this verbal voyage for truth. Here's you own little "sculpture" to enjoy:

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Frivol, Frivol, Little Czar

( with Links!)

After all the political and moral issues I've been belaboring the last few days (with the brief intermission to discuss my looks), I feel like I ought to write about something unspeakably frivolous. Unfortunately, I have been too busy the last couple of days to really set my mind to it. Who knew that frivolity requires so much time? I guess that's why only people of leisure are really good at being frivolous.

Take Czarist Russia for an example. Only in a place where the blood and sweat of a vast peasantry was spilled for the benefit of a tiny and oblivious ruling class could such exquisite nonsense as Fabergé objets d'art be created. Or the Ancien Régime, for another example: only in a place like the France of the Louix, where the monarchy and aristrocracy overtaxed the people whenever they felt a little cramped and needed a new palace, could such delightful fripperies as Fragonard paintings and Sévres porcelains reach full flower.

And we Americans who live in an age of freedom and plenty, the best frivolity we can come up with is television. Kind of makes you think, huh? I don't know what it makes you think about, but it should certainly make you think.

Oh, yes, let's not forget our other grand frivolity: fashion photography! Like this lovely old Versace number...what exactly is being advertised here? Are we supposed to buy the armoire or the shirt? I guess it doesn't really matter. One probably came from Baker, the other from International Male, and nothing Versace was involved. We're supposed to be buying some unattainable Versacean idea. What could be more frivolous than that?

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Miss Marlénè Regrets...

I wasn't going to write any more about this issue, but I keep getting these responses to what I've written: some, like the gentleman who left a comment three posts down, were quite interesting and challenging; others, which came directly to my email, were grossly insulting. Both forced me to think about what I believe and why I believe it. Both forced me to search my own opinions for the grains of truth that I seek in this life. Both made me even more determined to not be silenced.

My carefully thought-out belief is thus: if a thing is wrong, it is always wrong. Killing is always wrong, theft is always wrong, fraud is always wrong. No matter what. However, oftentimes these wrong things are necessary. If one has a choice between either killing someone or letting a destructive force continue unabated, then doing wrong in order to prevent further wrong becomes necessary.

But necessity does not turn the wrong thing into a right action. Allowing a wrong thing to become right-in-certain-circumstances opens the door to flimsy justifications. Is it wrong for a man to steal a loaf of bread to feed his family? Yes, it is, no matter how necessary that theft may seem...for it is only a short step from the loaf of bread that will feed your family this morning to the diamond necklace or Jaguar convertible or computerized bank transaction that will feed your family for months.

When a murderer is caught and brought to justice, justice demands that the one who took the lives of others should be deprived of life; but then who shall deprive that person of life, without becoming a murderer? The government exists to protect society from its own members, and government must take on the guilt of doing wrong actions for good reasons. But it is a short step from taking a life in order to spare other lives to giving the government the right to take lives, a fatal step from democracy to dictatorship.

That short step is the breeding-ground of hypocrisy. If you represent a wrong action as a right action, you have engaged in hypocrisy. And if you can extrapolate that hypocrisy into a fairly believable dogma, you can gain the power to do evil.

The phenomenon that I speak out against when I say that this War on Terrorism is wrong is the phenomenon of hypocrisy. I never said that the United States Military should not be in the Middle East hunting down the people responsible for the terrorist attacks against this nation and attempting to ensure our future safety. That is their function. What I said was that the propaganda that is being generated by the military and the government is a hypocrisy.

Certain less-than-scrupulous politicians have used the terror and upset that followed the September 11th attacks to push legislation through Congress that may not have passed if people were paying attention to them. Policies are being made in a time of unrest that will have damaging repurcussions when peace is resumed. While we are busy flying our flags and buying our Franklin Mint commemorative plaques, civil liberties that took decades and centuries to achieve for our citizens are being undermined. These things frighten me. And when I am afraid, I must speak out.

As an American, it is my right to speak my mind in public. Without that right, hypocrisy and fascism have their greatest opportunities to prevail. But when speaking my mind is represented, by people who disagree with me, as a hatred for my country, I become enraged. When people tell me that I have no right to my opinions and feelings, I become enraged. If I give up my right to free speech, I negate the sacrifices made by my ancestors and the founders of this nation who had to take on the guilt of killing in order to ensure the success of democracy.

I hope that anyone reading my words will be inspired to sit down and think about what they believe and why they believe it.

But to return to my regret: I regret that I shot off my mouth without making absolutely sure of my information and studying the issue closely. The fact is that I don't have a very clear understanding of what is going on in Afghanistan. I doubt anybody in the general public does. But I have made a choice in my life to not pollute my brain-space with poorly-written journalistic accounts of an event that can only sadden and anger me. Similarly, I do not follow the doings of our government very closely. I learn a little something, and if I investigate it, almost invariably I find myself getting enraged, and then not being able to do anything about it, which only serves to frustrate and enrage me further. I have therefore chosen a form of ignorance to ensure my own peace of mind. I can only put my faith in our Constitution and hope that everything will turn out OK without my interference. And since I have chosen this faith and ignorance, I do not have the right to represent myself as an authority on any of the above. I did not intend to represent myself as an authority, but then I never start off with disclaimers anyway. But here's my disclaimer: these are my opinions and my beliefs. They are not facts.

I also regret having written to Eric in response to his website advertisement...I don't regret that I sparked off this controversy from which I have grown and learned, but rather that I apparently upset people. All of the unpleasantness of the last few days has sprung from that one moment of indignation where I hoped to plant a seed of understanding in the mind of a stranger. He has a right to his opinions, and the lady whose opinion is that I should go fuck myself also has a right to that opinion, and we all of us have the right to our own opinions...thanks to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

God Bless America.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Beauty is in the Eye...

So here's my it possible to be nonphotogenic? Or do ugly people just tell themselves that so they can disbelieve the photographic evidence? I've pondered this question before, and at that time I came to the conclusion that I simply do not photograph well because I tend to freeze up and look constipated when someone is trying to take my picture.

That is true to an extent, but I was playing with my camera a couple of weeks ago, getting to the end of a roll of film so I could develop it and find out what else was on it, and took some pictures of myself using the timer. So, since I had no idea when the picture would snap, I simply stared at the camera until something happend...curious what my face looked like as a total blank. And here is the result:

Then I wondered how people see me when I'm not I turned three-quarter profile and tried on a few smiles and smirks and such, until the camera flashed. It caught this one:

Also on that roll of film was a picture my sister took of me at Christmas:

Not as shudderingly ugly as I first thought, now that I really look at them. I can blame a lot on the camera (AutoFocus never focuses exactly right, and the flash isn't nearly as flattering as natural room-light). It helps that I cropped out the messy rooms (my bedroom is an utter sty). But still, the skin-tone, the painful-looking razor bumps, that alarming sag in my chin, the thickness of my cheeks, the completely unnattractive set of my glasses, the rather porcine look in my eyes, the striking resemblance to Charles Nelson Reilley. Very disturbing. It makes me want to run and put on some makeup. A lot of it. Or maybe start investigating costs for plastic surgery.

I don't really know why, but I have never quite been able to adjust my mind to the fact that I am not devastatingly gorgeous. It's not like I used to be gorgeous and became plain through age or accident. I was a fairly homely child, quite plain as a teenager, and not terribly pretty as a young man. Now I'm somewhat less pretty than I was, with more weight and less hair and a couple of wrinkles and sags here and there, but it's not a major difference. It's not like you would look at the above pictures and compare them to my high-school photo or pictures of me at twenty-six and scream "What the hell happened to you?"

And it's not like I'm drop-down-and-cry ugly, either. I'm just a little blah. Average-looking. My face wouldn't launch a thousand ships, nor would it stop a clock. It's just kind of there. And for some reason that really pisses me off.

Oh, well, all grist for the mill whenever I get around to getting therapy. I'm sure I can find some way of blaming my mother.

Speaking of which, I quite forgot to call my mother yesterday. I wanted to send her a gift, like chocolates or something, but my poverty and my lack of a credit card prevented me. I will send her something eventually, but it will have to wait until my new card comes in the mail. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold (after getting very little sleep, I took the Grandmother out mall-shopping and completely exhausted myself in the presence of five million strangers and twenty-seven fragrance-sample-sprayers), but still had to get up early and dress myself in a suit and drive to Chinatown and eat a huge Chinese lunch with my family and then drive my Daddy back home to the time I finished that, all I could do was sleep and suffer.

I'm still suffering, too. I've managed with the help of Sudafed and Advil to sort of quell the pain without making me especially dopey, and the beef lentil soup I just ate had a very reviving effect. Oh, but I hate being sick! One would think I'd be used to it by now, as often as I catch colds, but it's just one of those things to which I can never quite accustom myself. Like not being beautiful, not being rich, and not being horse-hung. I've had all this time to adjust to these simple facts, yet they still rankle in my bosom.

At least I know where to get some beauty when I need to look at it. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so here's some beauty for your eye to behold.

If You Ain't Got Elegance...

So I got an email back from that website guy to whom I wrote yesterday (see below), and am absolutely crushed. His admirable grasp of the English language and his eye for web design masked an unfortunate but all-too-common sloppy mind. He used phrases like "people like you" and "your ilk," and then had the effrontery to call me (and my ilk, one assumes) a pseudointellectual. Of all the nerve! I'll have you know, I am a bona-fide dyed-in-the-wool real live actual intellectual, thank you very much. I spend most of my day thinking, and I do a great deal of reading, and I think about what I read...most importantly, I apply scientific method and ethical theory to my thinking, rather than arranging my thoughts to match my beliefs.

And I never let anybody tell me what I think, which is becoming rather rarer these days. I guess it's so much easier to let other people think for you. Then you can just tuck the thoughts into whatever part of your brain makes speech, and start blathering away to your heart's content. I'm not saying that my America-Lovin' correspondent doesn't think his own thoughts: but he displays the sloppiest thought-process of all, lumping people together into one-word groups as if America were one single-minded entity and My Ilk were a separate and mutually exclusive single-minded entity. And people who are capable of that sort of sloppiness are usually the same people who stand up with rakes and torches and storm the castle whenever somebody with a ringing voice stands up and tells them that the perfectly innocent Monster is evil.

I'm currently trying to decide whether or not to respond to the website guy again. He was awfully rude to me, returning my attempts at courtesy with accusatory statements. He obviously doesn't benefit from rational discussion, he only responds with his own set piece. I don't see what will be served except me getting something off my chest. On the other hand, I just hate letting anybody get the last word in. Well, I'll think about it a little while, anyway (speaking of thinking...I just now thought of the last scene in Mommie Dearest, which was of course on TV today; at the end, Christina and her brother Christopher are in the lawyer's office, learning that Mommie left them absolutely nothing in her will; Christopher said, "Well, she always has to have the last word"; to which Christina got all mysterious and looked straight into the camera and said "Does she? Does she?" at which point one assumes that Christina ran home and started jotting out her novel)

But to return to the sloppy thinking...the website guy wrote: "It's interesting that people like you always want to blame America for the attacks. The fact is, there is no justification for terrorism"...I don't remember saying that America was to blame...I believe I said (let me check) that America is not entirely blameless. There's a world of difference. And I never said there was a justification to terrorism...though in fact, one can justify almost anything if given the opportunity and a serpentine mind. That's what really ticked me off about this guy's was clear from his comments that he hadn't read my letter, he had just sought out buzzwords and formed his preconceived argument around them.

He went on to say "It is also interesting that your ilk never has an intelligent solution to the terrorist problem. I suppose you think you think we should sit back and let them attack us again"...which is the sheerest balderdash. There is no intelligent solution to terrorism, because it is not an intelligent phenomenon. Nobody sat in a think-tank library poring over Santayana and Spinoza while sipping a cup of tea and listening to Vivaldi, then suddenly decided that the best thing to do would be to fly hijacked commercial aircraft into populated buildings that are completely unrelated to the entity you are supposed to be fighting. That just doesn't make sense.

But here's an intelligent solution: make sure everyone in the world is fed, clothed, housed, and comfortable. Quietly murder everyone who seems dangerous or violent, for the good of the people. Constitutionally meek people with food in their bellies never, ever start revolutions or join terrorist cadres. Simple. Intelligent. Expensive. Immoral. Requiring sacrifices of the people who are already in control of the world's wealth. Ain't gonna happen.

I also never said that our military should not have attacked Afghanistan or sought out the terrorist strongholds...though I believe they should have concentrated on the latter, instead of the former, which was of course easier...I only objected to calling it something else. Operation Enduring Freedom, or whatever piece of crap euphemism the Bush Cabinet has come up with, is a simple case of misnomy. It means nothing and diverts attention away from the fact that we are engaged in seeking retribution. Nothing wrong with retribution, except that it is ineffective (you kill guy A, and guy A's people kill one of yours, and you kill one of his, and they's terribly inefficient and circular); but there is something wrong with pretending it's something else, some noble crusade to make the world a better place.

War and killing are mere wastes of time. For everyone involved. Nothing enduring can ever be accomplished through violence. As Will Cuppy said of Alexander the Great, when summing up what happened to the greatest empire the world had yet seen, was, "and after he was gone, the only thing that remained of his work was that all the people he'd killed were still dead." This is a gross generalization, but gross generalizations seem to be the order of the day.

Which leaves me and the website guy with this same question: what do you do about terrorism? I don't know. He doesn't know (though he thinks he does). Bush sure as hell doesn't know (I'd be amazed if he could fill an 8x10 piece of paper with everything he knows). I'm inclined to do the proper Miss Manners thing: ignore it. It won't go away, death and evil never go away; but then at least you wouldn't have wasted your time on it.

Instead, let's think about this:

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Opinionated? Moi?!

So I'm reading the one pitiful email I recieved today that wasn't trying to get me to come look at sorority girls in the shower or telling me to add 1-3 inches to my was from someone who had launched an AOL website and was advertising among other AOL website owners. One of those "I looked at yours, come look at mine" things. Well, I figured it was somebody with whom I had something in common. Maybe even someone gay, cute, and available (hope springs eternal in the heart of man, and in drag queens the hope just spurts all over the place). And so I went and visited his website.

Hmmmm...another War on Terrorism/God Bless America thing. Yippee. As if I didn't get enough of that at home. But I went and read it, anyway, since I don't believe in condemnation without investigation...but I do love to condemn, so I am therefore forced to investigate.

It was fairly typical except that its web design was quite handsome and the text wasn't rabid and idiotic. The webmaster presented some very clear opinions and some very interesting links to other articles. But in the "You Can Help" portion of the site, he made the mistake of characterizing dissidents as "America-Haters." Being a dissident myself, but also someone who loves my country, I took exception to that characterization. And since me taking exception to something always involves writing a lenghty rebuttal to the offender, I spent an hour or so responding to some of the site's assumptions. And since I love my own writing and love to share it with everyone, here it is for you!
"Thanks for the link, Eric. Very interesting insights, and a lovely design, but I'm afraid I disagree with your stance; I guess I'm one of your so-called 'America-haters.' I don't agree with what our government is doing with this 'War on Terrorism,' and it galls me that my desire for a peaceful, thoughtful, considerate, diplomatic, and responsible America is labeled as hatred for my country.

"Let me state at the onset that I do, indeed, love my country. My ancestors fought for and settled in and immigrated to this land, same as yours no doubt. I think America is the greatest of Nations and a leading example of Democracy. It is, moreover, my home.

"However, what makes the Democracy possible is an atmosphere where dissent is not only allowed, but necessary to the running of the nation. And while in times of national distress it is laudable to support the activities of one's government, it is also very necessary for that dissident voice to be heard as well.

"In this Information Age, we must be very careful about what we believe. We must be vigilant in scanning the statements of our government and our military, our media and our opposition. We must understand that the "spin-doctors" who are presenting the news and information we digest are trained the same way as advertisers are...we must understand that much of what we hear is, in essence, propaganda. And we, as Americans (educated more often than not at government expense), must always be aware of propaganda and not allow our personal beliefs to be ploughed under in times of fear and bloodshed; we must always decide for ourselves what we think and believe. When we give up our right to freedom of thought and expression, we undermine ourselves.

"What I see in our War on Terrorism is a brand of hypocrisy. If the Bush Administration came on the news and told me that they were going to attack Afghanistan in retribution for what a terrorist group, residing in it's borders and supported by members of it's government and people, did to our nation and its people, I would have understood...I would disapprove, which is my right as an American, but I would understand. The people involved in terrorism should understand that attacking a powerful giant such as the U.S. has grave consequences.

"What makes it hypocrisy is that we are not fighting a war on Terrorism, we are fighting a war against one of America's many enemies. Are we engaged in punishing Israel or Palestine for their terrorist attacks on each other and their neighbors? Are we punishing Ireland for its terrorist attacks on England? Are we punishing all of those little Balkan and African and South American countries who have been terrorizing each other and their own people all along?

"No! Nor is it our right or responsibility to do so (if Vietnam taught us nothing else, it was to mind our own business). But to wrap our bloodthirsty revenge in a glorious banner of Eradicating Terrorism Itself, that is hypocrisy and propaganda. Just like the Gulf War, which was presented as a righteous crusade to protect the weak little country of Kuwait from the big bad wolf of Iraq, but was in fact a war fought solely to protect our oil interests in the Middle East. This is a perfectly reasonable reason to fight a war, I have and had no objection to it, as oil is one of our most necessary resources and our access to that resource must be preserved; but to wrap it all up in the pretty paper of propaganda and a bow of righteous gallantry is just hypocrisy, and it is that hypocrisy that I speak out against.

"The thing is that the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks firmly believed they were punishing us for our wrongdoings. And America is not innocent of wrongdoing...our government is not innocent of wrongdoing, and our military is by no means innocent of wrongdoing. Much of our foreign policy and our trade policies have been exploitative and immoral for years and years.

"Some of these terrorists have righteous gripes with the U.S., just as the long-oppressed Ireland has a legitimate beef against its oppressor, England. Yes, the IRA and the Al Qaeda and the other terrorist groups are morally wrong to hurt innocent civilians instead of standing up in an honest battle; but they are not without motivation, and that motivation is often based on something the attacked nation did wrong. To use a Biblical reference (though I am not a Christian, also my right as an American and one I value), America is engaged in pointing out the splinter in our neighbor's eye while ignoring the plank in our own.

"Thank you for an intelligent insight into an opposing opinion and the opportunity to respond. As I quoted Frank A. Clark on my homepage, 'We find comfort among those who agree with us--growth among those who don't.'"
Well, that was my hackles smoothed down, anyway. I think the best thing about the United States of America is the freedom of thought and expression. And I do hope that the men and women currently fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere emerge victorious and not too much the worse for wear (though, really, that is the job they signed up for...nobody forced them). And I hope that you will feel free to express your own thoughts right down there in my comments. That's what they're there for! And on your way to that, have a look at this:

Friday, May 10, 2002

Random Asinine Mannersisms

Another Friday-Five-less Friday! Heather at Smattering has been having some trouble with the server, I now whatever shall I do? I guess I could do as suggested and visit the archives for an old Friday Five to resurrect. Maybe I will. Later.

For now, I have a few things I need to get off my chest.

Why do Spring/Summer Fashions suck so bad? Every month I go through the Fashion Magazines (Vogue, W, In Style, etc); in the late summer I revel in the skin, in the autumn months, I revel in the fabulousness, in the Holiday months I revel in the glamor and gift ideas; in the late spring months, I wonder what happened to the designers and editors over Easter break?! Were they collectively dropped on their heads? Did each and every one of them eat bad oysters and spend two months in hallucinatory comas?

I was just flipping through this month's W, and am horribly disappointed. When a magazine is that big and heavy, you get really ticked off when it wasn't worth the effort. Too many boobies...and not even nice ones. Too many shredded gauzes. Too many too-dainty-for-me jewels. Too many puffy lips and frazzled hairstyles. Even Countess Louise Esterhazy's column at the back made no sense and wasn't funny.

Maybe it's just W this month...the latest Vogue was pretty good, actually, with Natalie Portman on the cover and more than a few hot guys scattered amongst the ads. Vanity Fair was pretty interesting, too, if I remember. But after the W fiasco, I think I won't pay any attention to this month's Elle, Bazaar, or In Style.

But in general, I find that the late-Spring fashion lines aren't very nice. Not even the menswear is interesting (note that GQ and Details didn't even rate being complained about, too boring to even consider). It seems to be the time of year when designers dip into the "Fashion Don't" files and see what they can salvage. And then, next thing you know, Sarah Jessica Parker is seen wearing it on Sex and the City. Or they'll replace Marc Jacobs with Tom Ford at whatever fashion house, and things get even worse (rule of thumb: never wear a male designer who wouldn't look good in drag, and never wear a female designer that looks like she's capable of giggling...I don't know why that would be, but all the really great designers are either girly men or ungirly women).

Doing a Google search just now, I am shocked to discover that the Hungarian Countess Louise Esterhazy has been dead for eons and that the humor column credited to the Countess Louise J. Esterhazy is written by John Fairchild, the former publisher and longtime editor of W and its mother publication, Women's Wear Daily. Well, I never!

That doesn't forgive that it wasn't funny or sensible or even interesting.

Oh, well. On to other problems in the world today.

Why do human beings never tire of complaining about the weather? I myself often indulge in this pointless pursuit. But it seems that we always have something negative to say about it, even when it's lovely out. It's always a little too hot, a little too cold, a little too sunny, a little too damp, a little too windy for someone.

I've decided, though, that this is why we have weathermen: not to tell us what the weather is going to be like, but so we have someone to blame when the weather isn't what we like. "Gee, it's cold out here, the weatherman didn't say it would be cold"..."What a nice day! The weatherman said it was going to be cloudy this week"..."The weatherman said it was going to rain, but my lawn is wilting"...The weathermen are the scapegoats of the modern world. As if the poor twits actually controlled the weather, rather than just reporting on what they and their equipment are guessing the weather will do.

Why do people drive slower than the law or their accelerators allow? If you can go faster, why don't you? I don't get that at all. I just don't.

Why ask why? Here's a sample of questions that plague me daily: why are rubber ducks yellow? why was I born to poor people when I so clearly exhibit a talent for being wealthy? why does my television recognize channels 0 and 1 when there are no such channels anywhere in the world? why are sock-monkeys so appealing? why are people so damned ignorant on purpose? why are teenagers so much prettier than old people? why is everything a matter of process? Why do most leafy green vegetables taste so vile? and on a related topic, who was the first person hungry and desperate enough to discover that artichokes are edible?

Okay, those are my thoughts for today. I never did find a Friday Five I felt like answering (I've been hunting through Smattering's archives, all the while doing research on Louise Esterhazy and writing this blog and answering the phone...what I like to call "multitasking"). The last phone call was the boss-lady, and she's on her way in. I guess I'd better look busy, so I'll just end now with the usual slice of yummy beefcake:

Why is the penis considered obscene, but beer-bellies aren't?

Thursday, May 9, 2002

Remind me...Why am I here?

Today's one of those days where I wish to hell I had chosen a different field of ditch-digging or taxidermy. The phones are ringing off the hook, sometimes three calls at a time, there are letters coming down the pike fast and furious, people are showing up at the door, there are copies to be made, things to be mailed, mail to be opened, people talking all over the place in seventy directions. EEEEEEEEEE!

It's almost funny how much I loathe the telephone. Every time it rings, I forget what I was doing and get all discombobulated; if I wasn't doing anything to interrupt, I still cringe a little, fearful of the unknown quantity at the other it someone angry? is it someone stupid? is it someone trying to sell me something? Every time I have to dial, I worry about what's going to happen when I'm done...will I have to talk to someone? will I have to listen to a cutesy answering machine? will I misdial and get the wrong party, totally upsetting some random stranger who had to get up out of her chair and schlepp across the house to pick up? It's like having a loaded pistol on your desk. Too many possibilities, many of which can be deadly.

So why did I become a secretary, for pete's sake? Not only do I hate the phone, but I absolutely loathe filing and making copies. So what am I here for? Oh, wait, now I remember: I'm a whizbang word-processor, that's why. I can churn out utterly gorgeous business-form letters, throw together fliers and newsletters without breaking a sweat, merge documents into form letters and mailing labels, and write anything that needs to be written, from agendas and minutes to financial statements and fee-payers reports.

I can also maintain a database and manipulate spreadsheets with a certain finesse. I can also do two or three things at a time, so long as they are in the reading/writing the last two hours, I have produced four letters while simultaneously reading all of my morning blogs. Easy breezy! The only thing slowing me down is having to answer the damned phone, which always makes me lose my train of thought.

Oh, well, at least it pays the bills. Or most of them, anyway. Today is payday, and I have to get the check into the bank ASAP so I can shop again! I have a bunch of auctions I'm watching at eBay and a bracelet at HSN that I have to have, and I can't have them if I can't pay for them! Thank God I don't have to pay rent or anything like that.

I often wonder what those poor people with children and houses do for fun. I guess they must live on credit. That must be an unpleasant be so far in debt that you can't ever afford to quit your job? I mean, some days the only thing that keeps me here is my shopping addiction, and since I don't have any real credit cards (I use a check-card, it works the same way but won't sink me up to my earlobes in debt), I don't have to worry about having bills I can't afford to keep up...all I have is my cable, car insurance, and student loan payments to keep up, which are only about $300 a month, easily covered with Unemployment...but I can't bear to interrupt the flow of jewels into my coffers long enough to look for another job.

Besides, looking for a job is more fraught with peril than being near a telephone. Every time you turn in an application, you are inviting rejection. And if you don't get rejected, every new job comes with a zillion unknowns, from Byzantine office politics to freaky neurotic coworkers. I mean, I do have other reasons to stay here. My coworkers, with whom I am very good friends; my casual office, in which I often have time to spend on personal projects, where I can websurf and email and blog to my heart's content anywhere I like so long as I get my work done, where I can dress any old way I feel like, from suits to sweats to drag if so inclined; the sheer convenience of the location, only three miles from the house. And let's be frank with ourselves, where else could I earn the hourly salary I currently get, considering the shoddy state of the economy? It's not a lot, but it's a lot more than is being offered for starting salary in similar jobs.

But today, it's the bracelets that are keeping me here. And the shoes, the sweaters, the magazines. Working sucks, but poverty sucks much, much worse.

And with that warming thought, I will be able to get through the day, taking solace in my two Suzanne Somers bracelets and my new DKNY powder-blue boatneck sweater and tan Bass deck shoes (I finally found a place to buy canvas sneakers) and the latest issue of W. And let's not forget this particular fringe benefit of my job: