Friday, February 27, 2004

Too Much Information

It seems to me that there's simply too much going on right now... the war, the elections, the gay marriage issue, the economy, the Bush administration, controversial pop-culture happenings, et cetera ad nauseum. The events and reports come fast and furious, action and reaction, progression and recidivism, facts and fictions all pouring pell-mell into my ken like the famous overloaded closet of slapstick comedy. I feel like I'm drowning in information and opinions... but it's all interesting and important information and opinions, so I don't want to pull my usual ostrich routine and plunge into a world of books and pictures where these things can't touch me.

Still, I'm worn out. I'm not psychically built for turbulent times. Especially as I live with a person to whom I am ideologically opposed on almost every point of reference. My Grandmother is exactly as pro-Bush as I am anti-Bush, exactly as horrified by the very idea of gay marriage as I am in favor of it, exactly as informed by the right-wing media as I am by the left (that is to say imperfectly). The most innocuous statements by either of us can lead without warning into a full-blown argument.

Such as yesterday, when I was talking about California Proposition 56, and whether or not one should support it. Since the union I work for is supporting it, I happen to have a good deal of information about this particular issue. She was concerned by the proposition's reduction of the majority needed to pass the budget from two-thirds to fifty-five percent, and worried that the loss of the supermajority that was put in place by the controversial Prop 13 many years ago would lead almost immediately to higher property taxes. I told her that Prop 56 doesn't touch the Prop 13 property-tax protections, but she wasn't sure she should believe me... and then suddenly we were having one of our usual fights about our sources of information (she gets a lot from Fox "News" and the rest from the Oakland Tribune, to which two outlets she devotes a good deal of her day, while I get bits and pieces from the Internet and discussions with friends and colleagues).

Once we wriggled away from that explosive topic, we started talking about government spending practices — she sees nothing wrong in cutting funding to public services and making the administrations figure out how to get by on less, while I am in favor of administrative reform that seeks to reduce the cost of public services before reducing the funds put into them (if the funds are reduced at all, which I think they should not be). Her reaction is knee-jerk, but informed by past experience; my reaction is rational, but perhaps too idealistic.

Anyway, it's all very wearying, these arguments and upsets in the home. Divisiveness has leaked down from national politics and into society and thence into my home. I think Grandmother and I need to go on a vacation together, away from televisions and radios and newspapers, and find something — anything — we can both agree on. And then when we re-enter the world of the media and its skewed reality, we'd have this one piece of common ground from which to view and discuss things.

But I've recently realized, during an argument with Grandmother on Bush's leadership abilities, that Grandmother isn't one of those people who can "agree to disagree." She sees everything as being either right or wrong, and there's no room for discussion in such a worldview. You try to explain your differing point of view, and all she hears is that either you're wrong or she's wrong (and she knows perfectly well that she's not wrong, so it must be you).

I, on the other hand, am the kind of person who believes that only through open-minded and rational discussion of disparate views can two people (or two billion people) come at least to an understanding of each others' viewpoints, if not some form of accord. I feel that most facts are pretty much a matter of opinion, since even immutable facts (few of which actually exist) have varying interpretations depending on one's view of them. For example, I think Bush is an asshole, but I'm pretty sure Bush doesn't think he's an asshole, and his wife seems to like him okay, and then a fairly large chunk of the nation's voting citizenry appears to be pretty positive about him. It's a matter of perspective, differing values and what-have-you.

But the Grandmother can't discuss things this way. She gets upset that I disagree with her, and then her mind is so untidy that she can't ever marshal the tidbits of information that have gone into her creation of an opinion or belief. So we get into these arguments where I try to match each of her views with a view of my own, but she becomes defensive and addled and angry... at which point I get angry that she won't discuss things rationally, merely retreats to her little patch of I'm-right-and-you're-wrong-even-if-I-can't-prove-it belligerence about the issue at hand.

I guess what I find alarming, though, is that there are a lot of people out there like my Grandmother, people who can't agree to disagree, and all this divisive political maneuvering is designed precisely to manipulate people like her. The politicians frame issues in terms of Moral Right and Wrong, which are impossible to prove... one man's morals will naturally differ completely from another man's morals, even if they have a number of moral beliefs in common.

I mean, we all pretty much agree that it's morally wrong to kill people, but then there are exceptions to that belief, all of which differ from person to person — some believe it morally allowable to kill murderers, for example, while other people believe it morally allowable to kill unborn fetuses, while other people believe it's morally allowable to kill animals, and some people believe all of these things and some believe some of them, and some believe none of them.

It's all very headache-making.

In other news, I am observing Lent for the second year in a row. I have always been somewhat aware of Lent, but being not only a practicing non-Christian but also having been raised in a family whose Christian tradition doesn't observe Lent (nondenominational reform), I have never really paid much attention to it. But my two coworkers JB and BB, a Methodist and a Catholic respectively, both observe Lent and practic Lenten abstinence... and so I've started doing it too. Last year I gave up buying jewelry; that choice was prompted by financial concerns, and lasted a good long while... until I was poking around in a favorite shop and found a ring I absolutely had to possess (a pear-shaped cubic zirconium over an inch long with trilliant flanks in a vermeil basket setting). But at least I struggled with the temptation for almost a week before I succumbed and bought, terrified that if I waited until Easter someone less deserving than myself might snap it up.

Still, I find the practice of self-discipline to be always beneficial... you learn more about what you're capable of doing when you challenge yourself this way. And since misery loves company, Lent is the perfect time to inflict self-disciplinary practices on oneself... besides which, we all three gave up the same thing this year, which reduces the avenues of temptation.

This year I've decided to give up sweets, prompted largely by a desire to lose my Christmas weight. And only two days into the Lenten season I've been tempted I don't know how many times. I ordinarily sit around eating sweets of my own accord without really thinking about it; but for some reason, having given up sweets for Lent, all sorts of people are going out of their way to offer me some. It's almost funny, the offers of sweets that have been waved under my nose these last two days... the boss brought in a bag of chocolate bars, the cutie-patootie at the sandwich shop offered me a chocolate croissant that he was going to throw away otherwise, and just now Grandmother came by wielding a giant tin of Almond Roca.

Perhaps next year I should give up sex... if the pattern holds true, I will be absolutely awash with indecent proposals!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Lusty and Clear from the Goatherd's Throat

So I joined iTunes and started downloading songs at the rate of 99¢ each; though in a rare show of restraint I've only downloaded six songs so far. The experience is somewhat marred by my rickety 45.5k dialup service, which makes pre-listening a time-consuming chore when the sample plays for three second then takes thirty seconds or more to buffer, but I have nevertheless been having a hell of a blast looking up artists and albums. They have every Ella Fitzgerald album known to man, not to mention the entire oeuvre of Maria Callas, and absolute scads of soundtracks to some wonderfully obscure films and plays. I haven't branched out into the unknown yet, having only downloaded songs I knew from movies or artists with whom I'm quite familiar. My favorite download so far is "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music (you remember, the song with the marionettes), which always makes me get up and dance.

I've noticed lately that there are a number of songs floating around in my CD collection that never fail to lift my spirits. Maria Callas' "Dunq'io son" from The Barber of Seville, Sheryl Lee Ralph's "Long As I'm Here With You" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, or Murray Gold's "Queer As Folk Theme" from the British Queer as Folk soundtrack. I'm thinking I should put together a compilation CD of all my Happy Songs and use it as an antidepressent.

Speaking of antidepressants, my coworker BB gave me a little box of homeopathic pastilles called "Blues Drops." They're made of gold and cocoa, among other things, which strike me as a winning combination. I've been popping them for the last couple of days, and while I don't know if it's the Blues Drops or the Lonely Goatherd or the grace of God that's keeping me happy, I have to admit that I'm in a pretty damned good mood. Things that would ordinarily piss me off no end are flying right under the radar, accepted and passed over.

For example, over the weekend, I got a notice in the mail that Miss Marjorie, my late Volvo, had been wrecked by an unliscensed driver and subsequently towed away to a lien-sale garage in Antioch. I'd sold this car to a friend of my sister, and have the bill-of-sale to prove it; but the "friend" (who actually got the car running with one replacement part) didn't register the car in his own name, so I am still legally responsible for the car. As I perused the Notice of Stored Vehicle that was sent by the Antioch police, I noted that the new tires I'd bought a few months before unloading the car had apparently been replaced with old tires, as the report states that the front left was bald and the right rear was flat with bent rims.

But the tires are a side-issue. What remains is that I am still the owner of record and can either fork over about $600 to get Miss Marjorie back, fork over $200 to get the lien-sale garage to put the poor old darling out of her misery with a decent burial, or fork over nothing right now and allow the garage to sort out the true ownership and take the chance that it might still be me. So I will just cough up the smaller amount of cash and have it over with (though in the meantime, my sister has been alerted to the situation and will be tearing her "friend" a new asshole while trying to extract the $200 from him).

Then on Sunday Miss Jane's brakes went into critical meltdown, and I had to take her in yesterday to get them replaced. I knew this would cost something, since brakes are not one of those cheapie things, and because the grinding noise (which was so intense that it rattled the windows) sounded like the rotors and calipers damaging each other, rather than just the shoes wearing thin. But I wasn't prepared for it to cost $540. And it wasn't even partially covered by my warranty. I didn't even have the money for this, and had to put it on my credit-card... putting my load right up to the limit, and it's going to start charging interest in April and I am going to be paying out the nose for the rest of my life if I don't manage to transfer the balance elsewhere.

On top of this, according to the guy at the dealer service department, the Ford Focus is particularly liable to brake replacement, since it's front-wheel drive (he considers me lucky to have gotten to twenty thousand miles on the original brakes, mostly they wear out at fifteen thousand), and furthermore the Focus brake parts are unusually expensive. This was the first I had ever heard about front-wheel drive or potential brake problems, it had never even occurred to me to ask such a thing when I bought Miss Jane last year... but it's typical of the evil corporate mindset currently infesting the American industrial sector that someone would build a car that is liable to brake problems and then make the brakes extra costly. So I can look forward to a nice pricey ding to my account every fifteen thousand to twenty thousand miles. YAY!

At any rate, with both of these expensive automotive fiascoes hanging around in my life, I find it odd that I just can't muster up any anger. I find it unfortunate that my already shaky financial situation has been dealt this unhealthy blow, perhaps even mildly vexatious, but I'm not getting worked up about it in any way. I just don't care... or, more exactly, I don't mind. I'm just too cheerful right now for this to upset me.

I'm also having a hard time getting worked up about three or four other things in my life, and all the awful things and people happening on the world scene (Bush's war, Bush's marriage amendment, Bush's asshole corporate raider cabinet, etc). I wonder if I simply hit saturation point with my upsets and irritations, fears and anger, and the whole mechanism just blew out? Or if perhaps my Depression has wandered off? Or the joy of being able to step out of bed and walk all the way across the room on bare carpet has lifted me out of my doldrums? Or if God has done for me something I couldn't do for myself? Or if these Blues Drops really are a miracle cure? Or maybe it's just the Lonely Goatherd ("Happy are they, le-di-o, le-di-li-o"), the best 99¢ I've spent in years.

I hope you're as happy as I am, today... if not more so!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been?

I've been cleaning my goddamned room, darling, that's where I've been! And I'm still not finished. Of course, I haven't been laboring away all day every day since last I posted, but that has been the main gist of my activities this last week.

I've got quite a bit done, too. I put up some shelves, bought some new pillows, rearranged a few pieces of furniture, dusted my knick-knacks, crated up all my back issues and memorabilia, redistributed some books, washed seven loads of laundry, and extracted two large garbage bags and four large shopping bags of old (and even some new) clothes from my closets, drawers, and washpile to be donated to some charity or other. Space is emerging from clutter, order emerging from chaos... my rodent's nest is slowly evolving into a civilized retreat.

Of course, I still have to schlepp all of the crated things out of the room, finish the remaining three loads of laundry, put my clean clothes into the drawers and closet, clean out my desk and the old bookshelves, and finish dusting and vacuuming everything. But I think if I continue to chip away at it bit by bit, as I have been doing, not pushing myself too hard but not giving myself too much permission to loaf, I should have a finished product by the end of next weekend. When all is complete, I will take a mass of pictures and share the fruits of my labor with you.

So when I wasn't cleaning my room, running related (or entirely unrelated) errands about town, or working in the office, I spent a great deal of time watching movies. True to my prediction, the advent of a DVD player in my home has sparked a tiny maelstrom of DVD purchases and rentals (tiny only because my budget is rather restricted at the moment), and while I was at the video store buying and renting DVDs I also bought a handful of VHS as well. Here's what I got, in order of viewing:
  • Anatomy: This was a lovely little German thriller that takes place in the famous medical university at Heidelberg. It was a slasher flick, and a psychological thriller, and a bit of a sex-comedy, and an art-house-foreign-type film all rolled together. Caroline picked out this DVD rental, being a fan of horror films and of autopsies. It was beautifully paced, with a good storyline that kept me guessing until the very end; there were also a number of hotties involved, many nude scenes, and all that wonderful Deutschsprachen all over the place. My favorite part of the film, though, was after we watched it and then looked at the special DVD features on the disk... one of which was a dubbed version of the film (we had been watching the subtitled version). The look on Caroline's face when she realized she'd spent all that energy reading subtitles when she didn't have to! Priceless!

  • Party Monster: another DVD rental, and one that I was surprisingly reluctant to return. Macaulay Culkin was absolutely mesmerising as the affected and effete Michael Alig, and Seth Green was a comic revelation as the even more affected and effete James St. James. But Macaulay really drew me in this film... he's so damned pretty, but in such a deliciously decadent fashion, and then with the bizarre but sexy wardrobe revealing infantile white skin and those sweet girly mannerisms and the strange speech patterns and those childish little moués on his soft top-heavy lips, I just couldn't take my eyes off of him. I can't even form a clear critique of the film itself, with its jumbled timelines and hole-ridden plot, because I couldn't divert my attention from the characters and the costumes to the film itself. I'm afraid I'm going to have to hunt down a copy of my very own (if for no other reason than the scene with Macaulay in a jockstrap... O that ass!)

  • Igby Goes Down: Another Culkin, another show — in Philly, Boston, or Baltimo'... this Culkin (Kieran) is an intriguing but not spectacular young actor rather baroquely framed by an amazing all-star cast, Susan Sarandon and Jeff Goldblum and Claire Danes and Ryan Philippe and so on and so forth, in a rather sweet and funny Manhattan-WASP-coming-of-age story. Really, I had a hard time following the film, again being so distracted by the characters. I mean, if you put Susan Sarandon and Ryan Philippe in a scene together, on either side of the supposed main character (who is awfully pretty, with that creamy Culkin skin and scarlet Culkin mouth), how are you supposed to know where to look? But maybe after repeated viewings (I bought this one, on VHS for $4.99) I will be able to absorb the film as a work of art.

  • Catch Me If You Can: "I thought you hated Tom Hanks movies," Caroline said after we finished enjoying this film on VHS during a break from her eBay-ing and my room-cleaning. "But this isn't a 'Tom Hanks Movie'," I countered, "It's a Leo diCaprio movie with Tom Hanks in it, or perhaps even a Steven Spielberg movie with Leo diCaprio and Tom Hanks in it... there is no bathos. It's not sickly sweet and manipulative or heavy and self-important like a 'Tom Hanks Movie', Forrest Gump or Sleepless in Seattle or Castaway or The Road to Perdition." In fact, it was a fun and likeable movie, with great music and exquisite art-direction and wonderful cinematography. Young Leonardo is perfect for the 60s Mod wardrobe he adopts, and has never looked better to me. I'm glad I bought it! ($4.99 again, VHS is getting cheaper and cheaper as the world leans toward DVD).

  • Charlie's Angels: I've already seen this film several times, but Caroline never has and has long desired to, therefore I bought it so we could watch it. But then we didn't. But since I own it, we can watch it whenever we want. Besides, it's worth $4.99 to be able to see Sam Rockwell switch from his sweet compugeek guise to his sexy bad-guy guise in a single moment, and Cameron Diaz dancing to "Baby Got Back," whenever the need strikes. And some days you just crave a few minutes of mindless midair ass-kicking.

  • 8 Women: I didn't get a chance to watch this one over the weekend, but I saw it when it came out in the theatres. Catherine DeNeuve and Fanny Ardant are enough for a pre-viewed-DVD price, all by themselves, but the film is beautifully made and extremely entertaining. The premise is good, the closed artificial set and rigidly color-symbolic costumes, the sudden and completely unreal musical numbers, the middle-aged-sex-goddess-lesbian-wrestling sequence... let's just say I look forward to revisiting it soon.

  • Russian Ark: I haven't seen this one at all yet, but it comes highly recommended. Not only is it chock-a-block with period costume and filmed at the amazing Hermitage palace/museum, but it's all done in one continuous shot! A single ninety-minute exposure of film. I can't even imagine the amount of work required to set up such a thing... can you? I mean, if someone screwed up a line or a boom got in the frame or somebody fell down the stairs uncued, they'd have to start from the very beginning. I'm very much looking forward to seeing this one, as soon as I have the time to sit down and absorb such a thing... maybe after I finish my room!
So, that's what I've been up to the last few days. Nothing terribly exciting, but still very satisfying. It feels good to accomplish things, even if I don't finish them when I want to, and to give oneself cinematic enjoyment, even if I can't really afford the time or the money spent on enlarging my film library.

I hope your life is wonderfully satisfying today, in whatever way you need to be satisfied. Kisses!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I Wondered Where That Went

Well, kiddies, I didn't get as far into my room-cleaning as I'd hoped I would. I've thoroughly gone through everything, I've done four loads of laundry, I've put two large green garbage-bags full of trash and two quire-sized boxes of paper-recycling out of the room, and rearranged the furniture around the door for better balance and efficiency. I can see most of my carpet, I found about $20 in random bills and God-knows-how-much in loose change, and I am well-supplied with expensive lotions and unguents that I'd quite forgotten I had. But the drawers and shelves are still in disarray, I can't get into my bed for the dirty clothes on it (I had to sleep on the couch last night), and I haven't even tried the closet yet.

Ah well, a work in progress. I had hoped to make better use of my four-day weekend, but with taking the Grandmother shopping on Friday and the King & Queen of Hearts show on Saturday, after the particularly grueling week that preceded them, come Sunday I was so tired that all I could do was lay in bed and watch movies. My manic phase left me high and dry. Then, I can't just leap out of bed and start cleaning on Monday morning... I didn't get up until noon and it took me three hours to pull my shit together. But still, I managed to do more in one day than I've managed to do in the last two years... I found so many things that I hadn't seen in ages, or had thought I'd lost, or forgot I'd even owned.

Look at that: three different deodorant sticks, almost entirely unused! Look at that: a black belt with a silver buckle, and another black belt with a silver buckle, and yet another black belt with a silver buckle! (and yet I can never find a black belt when I want one, leading me to assume I haven't got one, so then I buy one, hence the multiples). Look at that: a half-full bottle of Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Moisture Mist that my hair loves and which I think they stopped making! Look at that: all of my notebooks from college! I have no memory of some of these classes! Look at that: four pairs of old glasses, all broken! Look at that: twenty different Chap-stiks, some still in their original plastic wrap! Look at that: a half-dozen bottles of 10W-40 motor oil! Look at that: several videos, CDs, and books that I never opened, still in their bags! (it was like Christmas!)

And then there were the trips down memory lane... the contents of two of my "storage" objects (my dressing-table and my Volvo) had been dumped willy-nilly into the room at various moments during the last year, so there were a lot of things floating around that hadn't seen the light of day in quite some time. Like a lot of my old jewelry, and Volvo fuses galore, audio cassette tapes, photographs and postcards, expired medications and makeup, movie tickets and odd souvenirs. I threw away everything but the photographs and direct correspondence. And the jewelry (I have no use for it, but somebody might... it will go to the same place as the clothes I discard, probably the Salvation Army). And the tapes (though I don't have a tape-player in my car anymore, I couldn't bring myself to throw them out). And some of the odd souvenirs... I kept the hotel shower cap from my first trip to Hawai'i but threw away the twelve-year-old Delta Airlines peanuts that were with it. So mostly I threw away things that I should never have kept in the first place.

Even though I didn't finish, I am very satisfied and happy with myself about the progress that I have made. I look forward to getting this room set up and clean and dusted and organized... maybe by this time next week it will be finished. I'm going to keep chipping away at it during the week, and once it's done I will do what I can to keep it clean.

In other news, I finished The Davinci Code on Saturday morning. It was quite satisfying as a read, but I'm not sure what all the hub-bub is about... though I intend to get Mr. Brown's other novels and enjoy them, too. I also watched my first-ever DVD on the DVD/VCR machine my uncle gave us last week, a silly little film called Caligula. It was... interesting. Lots of ass. It was produced by Bob Guccione, so there was a lot of tit, too. Big sets, cool costumes, much decadence, little sense, great actors (O'Toole, Gielguid, Mirren, etc.)... highly recommendable.

So anyway, that's me today, nothing profound or even very interesting to say, just checking in.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Love Goddess

There are a lot of things I really hate about Valentine's Day... mostly the frenzied retail expectations, brainwashed men running out to buy overpriced crap in order to prove their love for their brainwashed womenfolk, brainwashed women plotting out the perfect gift for their poor brainwashed menfolk (who will never understand all that the women are trying to say with the t-shirted teddy-bears and doggerel-laden cards), and the uncoupled all over the nation either pining with loneliness or growling with disgust over the behavior of the abovementioned just because they don't have the thing that the retailers have succeeded in making them believe they must have. I leave same-sex couples out of the equation because they behave with rather less predictablity than their hetero counterparts... some become all gushy and romantic, others retreat to the ivory towers of social superiority, and the rest hit every angle in between.

On the other hand, there are things I really love about Valentine's Day. Mostly the candy. Then there's the red-ness... red is my favorite color, and though I find it rather overkilled this time of year (let's not talk about the claustrophobic episode I experienced in Target the other day when Grandmother made me wheel her down the Valentine's candy aisle in order to pick out goodies for her great-grandchildren, and I was suddenly surrounded by ten-foot high walls of crimson, fuschia, pink, and mauve, all wrapped in plastic or made of plastic or covered in glitter or all of the above, crammed into this long narrow overcolored space with thirty other people... eeek). And theme parties.

I just got back from the Royal Grand Ducal Council's Annual King & Queen of Hearts Show. It was ever so much fun! And I looked fabulous. I finally managed to wear the vintage red chiffon dress I bought a year and a half ago and haven't had a chance to put on. The feathers were a new addition... one of the reasons I didn't wear it before is because one wing had been brutally scissored off, probably to remove a stain or some other damage (and reduced the price of the dress considerably), and I wasn't sure what to do about it (hem it up? cut it off? pretend it isn't there?)

But then Caroline and I were looking through magazines at Tower the other day and she showed me the dress worn by Ginger Rogers in Top Hat that was all ostrich feathers (I remember Miss Rogers talking in an interview about how long it took to film that sequence, and how the feathers were molting in the heat of the lights, and she kept getting the long strands in her mouth as she danced), and I was inspired. Caroline picked up a white ostrich boa at one of our favorite Piedmont Ave shops during her lunch break, and then tacked it onto the wings this afternoon while I was showering and shaving; the feathers absolutely made the dress, I was awash with compliments all evening.

Caroline looked lovely as well, in a dress she bought the same day I bought mine, which she also hadn't had a chance to wear yet. She ran for Queen of Hearts (the King and Queen of Hearts are year-long titles won by selling the most raffle tickets), but lost to Mama Portugal (though by a thin margin). Still, she looked adorable in her consolation-prize paper crown (which is a hell of a lot more dignified than the vast soft-sculptured Imperial-Margarine-type crowns worn by the winners).

Of course you can't have a Royal Grand Ducal Council function without the Royal Grand Duchess Angelique deVille, who got ready with Caroline and me, and was with us when we had our impromtu photoshoot in front of the County Administration Building around the corner from the Bench & Bar (where the party was held).

After the show, and getting back into our mufti, Angelique left us to go surprise her boyfriend with a Valentine's Drop-In, and Caroline and I went to find some food. We ended up eating at Mel's in Berkeley. Dating couples were absolutely everywhere, of course. It was kind of cute, though we had to wait an inordinate amount of time for a table-for-two.

And now here I am at home again, and off to bed. I have to start working on my room tomorrow, and I want to get a good night's sleep. The Day After Drag is always so boring and prosaic... but boring and prosaic are the only cures for Fabulousness, I need them to bring my ego back to Earth.

I was going to write something profound about Love, but now I haven't the energy. Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Brief Update

Just a quick note... I'm still trying to post every other day, but I'm not going to have time today to do any coherent writing at work (where I do much of my writing, as a relief from more tedious tasks), and I will be at work fairly late. And that last post wasn't the sort of thought-provoking essay that one leaves at the top of the page for more than two days. This one won't be, either.

We have two huge projects going on at once, a newsletter and an election: the former required a good deal of word processing and then about nine hours of printing (having to empty the tray every twenty-three copies, on average of every eleven minutes barring misfeeds, for 1400 copies total); the latter required a complete overhauling update of the database, checking the hundreds and hundreds of computer records against the sheets and sheets of printed payroll registers we get from the district (about eight hours of mind-numbing tedium), then printing up four sets of 600 mailing labels, and now we get to affix the labels to 1200 envelopes and stuff the six hundred #9 envelopes (along with a ballot and instruction) into the six hundred #10 envelopes, then run them through the postage meter and schlep them down to the Post Office.

Adding to the general confusion of it all, one of my coworkers is out sick and the boss left town for the weekend last night. The phones continue to ring, and people come to the door, and there were errands to run (I ordered the wrong kind of paper and had to make two extra trips to the paper store before I could start my print job) and finished newsletters to deliver to various locations, and one has to eat and eliminate and what-have-you. On the other hand, my body chose to have a manic episode, so I'm able to do yeoman's work without feeling unnecessarily depleted.

If I project today's work hours correctly (I have to leave in about twenty minutes to distribute newsletters, and will probably sit down with the envelopes and my specially-hired helper-for-the-day at about eleven, Caroline will be joining us about five-thirty, and I want to be done by eight), it's going to be another ten-hour day. I worked ten and a half hours yesterday, and seven and a half on Monday, so I'm already halfway through next week as far as hours go. Since I don't get paid overtime, being allowed (and guaranteed) sixty hours per pay period, something tells me that I'm not going to be turning up in the office at (or anywhere near) ten a.m. next week.

I'm sure everyone is terribly fascinated with my boring job.

It would be nice if this manic episode would last through the long weekend. My district celebrates Lincoln's Birthday as well as President's Day (no particular political reason, just because we needed another holiday in the Spring semester and they haven't quite been sold on César Chavez's birthday), so I am off work from Friday to Monday. I intend to use this extra free time, apart from getting my and the Grandmother's nails done on Friday and appearing in the RGDC King & Queen of Hearts Show on Saturday, working in my room.

All these days together can't be ignored, can't be slept through, can't be thrown away on trifling time-wasters. This damned room must be put together somehow or other. I must see my carpet, I must get my clothes put away (and weeded out, natch), I must make the furniture and things flow properly so I can be comfortable in my own room. Messieurs les Présidents are a perfect opportunity to get this enormous load taken care of.

So if you don't hear from me this weekend, you'll know what I'll be doing. Pray for me, my darlings.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Don't Mean A Thing...

...if you ain't got that swing, do-wa-do-wa-do-wa-do-wa!

I'm feeling particularly un-swingy today. I wonder if this is what being old feels like. I went to bed at eight o'clock last night. I'm reading The DaVinci Code because everyone else is reading it. I'm thinking about shaving my head so I don't have to style my hair anymore... and if I weren't a drag queen, I might just go ahead and grow a beard.

Perhaps I am overreacting. I mean, I went to bed at eight last night because I stayed up until four a.m. Saturday night (or Sunday morning, whichever way you look at it): I was performing in a show at Marlena's that didn't end until almost 1, and then took Angelique home and then went back to my office to change out of drag and then got home and realized I hadn't eaten anything in nine hours so I made myself a sandwich before finally getting into bed, but was so keyed up and sore that I couldn't get to sleep... and then had to get up again at eight a.m. to take the Grandmother to church, but couldn't take a nap because I was having an early dinner with Kevin and Mary Jane and then I didn't get back to bed until almost midnight Sunday, and then had to get up at eight again to go to work... which leaves four hours of unslept sleep that had to be taken care of. Gone are the days when I can lose sleep and then just forget about it; those missing four hours would have haunted me all week until I made them up. So I went to bed four hours early last night.

And I'm not reading The DaVinci Code MERELY because everyone else is reading it, but because everyone who's read it tells me it's fabulous; of course, they said the same thing about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, for which I didn't really care that much... masterfully written but essentially grim. But since it was in following the crowd that I discovered the Harry Potter books, which I loved dearly, when Everyone reads something I figure I might as well give it a shot.

Besides, I was mourning aloud the other day that nobody ever reads the books I read, and I never seem to read the books that other people read, so I never get to discuss literature in any way with anybody... leading me to fill up time talking about pop culture topics like Miss Jackson's Tit or telling humorized stories about the stupid things that happen in my life. My coworker JB is reading The DaVinci Code for her book club, so I figured if I read it also, she and I could discuss it at length, the way we discuss movies we've both seen. Maybe I should join a book club, too. I am a writer, after all: perhaps it would help my craft to discuss the written word instead of just consuming it.

But the head-shaving thing, that is age talking. I'm simply tired of hair. My hair has always been a time-consuming project; even after I've given up on coloring it (it simply won't hold color anymore) and hunting down the perfect haircut (whenever I do find someone who cuts my hair just right, s/he moves to another state), it still has to be conditioned and blow-dried and styled in order to look like anything other than a bird's nest. But I have this terrible fear that if I cut my hair really really short, I will look utterly ridiculous and will have to remain ridiculous-looking for months and months because my hair grows so slowly (I usually only get it cut two or three times a year). I have a big square face that needs softening around the edges, and I have a bony ridge running down the center of my scalp, like a Klingon from Star Trek or the Sleestack in Land of the Lost; these things are not conducive to baldness.

Or maybe all of the above is just the Depression talking. I'm simply tired of it all. But most importantly, I'm tired of being tired of it all. Shiloh has referred me to his herbalist in Chinatown, I'm going to go give that a try and see if it helps. Psychotherapy is on my short list, too, I'm waiting only for some health benefits to kick in before I commit to it. Whatever I do, I have to do something, this can't continue to spiral downward as it has been doing.

A friend recently told me that his shrink considers any thoughts of suicide, however fleeting they may be or however quickly you talk yourself out of them, to be indicative of a Suicidal Mood; and I don't know how many times I've been driving along a difficult bit of freeway, speeding just a trifle with the cruise-control on while going around a sturdily-walled inside curve or a flimsily-railed canyon corner, and thought "I could just let go of the wheel." It is possible that I'm mildly suicidal and didn't even know it.

There are also my difficulties with getting started on cleaning my room and my resistance to grooming (not only do I tire of my hair and hate shaving, I am starting to dislike showering as well) to consider: disinterest in personal cleanliness can be a signal of dangerous levels of depression. Though I don't think these mean anything yet, it nevertheless seems best to nip them in the bud. So we start looking for solutions to the problem; or barring solutions, we seek coping mechanisms. Chinese herbs or pharmaceutical antidepressants are tools to cope with physical difficulties, and so long as one doesn't view them as a cure, keeps one's expectations in check, they can be very useful.

So that's me today. I have to go to work and start two hateful projects (newsletter printing and envelope labeling) and work on two other hateful project I've already started (minute-writing and database-reconciling), and then there's the rest of the week to get through (though it will be blessedly short... we have a four-day weekend coming up). So I guess I'd better get started.

Saturday, February 7, 2004

When I Think About Love

These two songs pretty much sum up my feelings about Love right now:

The One I Belong To

One man has hands that are tender,

One man's incredibly strong.

To which one should I surrender?

My choice is bound to be wrong.

I might find my ideal lover,

If I search both far and wide.

Once found, I know I'll discover

That I'm still not satisfied.

I don't know if I'll find the one I belong to,

Or if that's who I long to find.

Most people seek one love to last for a lifetime,

But that's not what I have in mind.

The sun and stars don't only shine on one man,

They shine on whomever's their pleasure...

Their light is their own.

And like them I don't need any one I belong

To myself, I'll be fine on my own.

Some say that love is for always,

I say that love's always new.

God-sent, or sought out in hallways,

Love's fun, but love's never true.

I don't intend to be faithful,

I lost all I had yesterday.

Now I intend to be playful:

Life's less disappointing that way.

I don't know if I'll find the one I belong to,

Or if that's who I long to find.

Most people seek one love to last for a lifetime,

But that's not what I have in mind.

The sun and stars don't only shine on one man,

They shine on whomever's their pleasure...

Their light is their own.

And like them I don't need any one

I belong to myself.

I'll be fine on my own.

"Ich Weiß Nicht, Zu Wem Ich Gehöre" by Friedrich Hollaender, 1931

Ute Lemper: Berlin Cabaret Songs, Decca 1997

Gimme, Gimme

A simple choice, nothing more:

This or that, either or.

Marry well, social whirl, business man, clever girl;

Or pin my future on a green glass love?

What kind of life am I dreaming of?

I say gimme, gimme ... gimme, gimme...

Gimme, gimme that thing called love, I want it!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love, I need it!

Highs and lows, tears and laughter,

Gimme happy ever after!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love, I crave it!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love, I'll brave it!

Thick 'n thin, rich or poor time,

Gimme years and I'll want more time!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love, I'm free now!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love, I see now!

Fly, dove! Sing, sparrow!

Gimme Cupid's famous arrow!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love!

I don't care if he's a nobody,

In my heart he'll be a somebody,

Somebody to love me!

I need it!

Gimme that thing called love,

I want it!

Here I am, St. Valentine,

My bags are packed, I'm first in line!

Aphrodite, don't forget me,

Romeo and Juliet me!

Fly, dove! Sing, sparrow!

Gimme fat boy's famous arrow!

Gimme, gimme that thing called love!

"Gimme, Gimme," lyrics by Dick Scanlan

Thoroughly Modern Millie, 2002

(Okay, the last song kind of depends on the building enthusiasm of the music for its afflatus, but you get the idea.)

So what do you do when your heart is entertaining two entirely separate and mutually exclusive concepts of Love? I mean, on the one hand I am quite dedicated to the belief that I am fine on my own, that I don't need a special man in a particular kind of relationship in order to be happy. And yet, at the same time, I see evidence everywhere around me that Man is a mating creature, no matter any penchants for promiscuity or solitude... lifelong monogamy isn't necessarily the aim, but mating quite definitely is.

(When I talk about Coupledom, I don't necessarily mean two people committed solely to each other in a little house with a white picket fence and a dog and two children... being sexually active in any way is a form of Coupling, with the role of The Other being portrayed by a rotating cast instead of a seasoned regular.)

The celibate in me, despite all the terribly good, rational, well-thought-out reasons for remaining celibate (and there really are a lot of really good reasons), is also largely motivated by fear: fear of vulnerability to pain, rejection, even loss and disease. Opening yourself physically and emotionally to another human being is an opportunity to be ravaged and destroyed. Past experience has consistently shown me this side of openness, without salving the wounds with any of the supposed rewards of intimacy. After a while, I of course stopped believing in those alleged rewards, even though I see other people enjoying them every day; and whether or not they existed, I certainly could not continue to consider them to be worth the very tangible pain and suffering I have experienced every time I opened myself.

On the other hand, despite my understanding of the human need to mate, I am completely and utterly disgusted by the brainwashing frequency of social pressures to mate. It seems sometimes that you can't turn around without having the World At Large telling you that you are incomplete and pointless if nobody loves you that way, or that you're at least getting laid regularly... and preferably both.

And I don't mean just the Media, which exists to convince you that you are "less-than" in order to get you to buy the stuff that will make you "better-than"... they're pretty evil and amazingly effective in propogating the You-Must-Couple-Up mentality, deluging us with images of blissfully happy couples who demonstrate their blissful devotion to each other by blissfully buying healthier foodstuffs, sweeter-smelling fabric softeners, shoddy jewelry, fancy automobiles, and perfect holiday gifts; or else they try to convince you that you can achieve that state of coupled-up bliss by buying expensive colognes, chemically unstable toiletries, unnaturally-colored beverages (alcoholic or carbonated or both), cleverly-packaged mints, and poorly-made clothes that can only be successfully worn by people ten times better-looking than you.

But the Media wouldn't be able to use Coupledom as a tool to sell things if Society didn't fervently believe in and reinforce the idea that Coupledom is the ne plus ultra of human existence. People in couples run around demonstrating their coupleness, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, lovers and fuckbuddies, infesting the planet and making the uncoupled feel left-out. Society is built around the creation of family units, and the lone wolves, the celibates and spinsters, are gently and even subconsciously, but nevertheless firmly pushed to the edges of the pack — pitied or sneered at but definitely on the outside.

That sort of thing sparks my rebellious nature, and I seek celibacy as a defiance to the Coupledom that has been shoved down my throat by society and the media since I was an infant. I don't want to be part of anything so trite, so pervasive, so marketed.

And yet, here I am on the outside of Coupledom, not minding my own business and enjoying the unobstructed view out... I am looking inside through the glass. I'm not a hermit on a mountaintop enjoying the silence and pondering the Infinite, but a voyeur in an apartment-building parking-lot peeping at all the couples inside. And no matter how much I tell myself I despise those couples, how much I want to look in the other direction, I remain where I am, nose against the glass.

So here I am at war with myself, too afraid of pain to enter into the realms of Coupledom, too enamored of the people within to turn away forever. I feel like there must be some happy middle-ground, someplace where I can accept Coupledom on its own terms and can take it or leave it alone... but damned if I can find that ground. Maybe it doesn't exist, that you're either in our out, and peeping through the window is just a waste of time. Or maybe I'm on my way to one side or the other, and am just having a little pang of terror at leaving the familiar for the unknown.

Time will eventually reveal the answer or erase the question.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

"The Curse Has Come Upon Me...

...cried the Lady of Shalott." Good old Tennyson, always the right phrase. One might wonder at the sudden recourse to Romantic poetry, but I am trying to recover my elitist composure after those last two bouts with pop culture. Besides, I'm suffering from two or three curses myself at the moment, and the sorrows of the fairy lady with her mirror and her web and her Lancelot issues are exactly the company my misery loves.

So here it is February, time for my Antevernal Depression to take up it's usual stand. Trouble is, I haven't had any clear sensation of my Anteautumnal Depression ever leaving. It seems to me that, barring the occasional manic episode, my depression cycles are now consistently below the "normal" line. I've felt kind of low for a quite a while now, detached and listless so much of the time. I'm not excited about anything, and I don't seem to be enjoying things as much as I used to. Everything seems such an unnecessary effort.

On the one hand, it might be that I'm simply not living my life right, that I am suffering from wrong choices, and that I need to make some changes to regain my old happiness. On the other hand, perhaps the time for medication is closer than I had hoped. It's a good thing I'll be getting health benefits pretty soon... maybe therapy and antidepressants will be covered, or at least comfortably discounted.

Adding insult to injury, I seem to have come down with yet another cold, making a grand total of three this winter (not counting the stomach flu I also had). It may just be allergies making me feel congested, exacerbated by the depression making me feel tired, and a certain temper-tantrum I had yesterday making me achy; but I catch colds far too easily, so a cold is the more likely explanation.

I don't know for sure if it has anything to do with the fact that I'm short a lymph node in my head, the one under my chin having been removed after it was infected with tuberculosis from a cat-scratch on my neck; but whether or not it's that cat's fault I catch colds so easily, I still blame the entire species Felis silvestris catus whenever I get sick. The original cat has been dead quite some time, and the animosity has to go somewhere. I don't care much for cats anyway (some say because I am too like them), so they make a convenient scapegoat.

And speaking of animosity... the meeting between myself and my boss and our bookkeeper, to which I was looking forward with great hopes, surprisingly blew up in my face. Well, maybe that's putting it wrong: things did not go as I had hoped or even intended, but the only thing that "blew up" was me. Or as close as I get to blowing up, with a fury of verbal screaming and physical throttling strenuously supressed beneath the surface, betrayed only slightly by my clenched-up body language as I hastily left the room and took a long walk instead of killing the bookkeeper with my bare hands (to be completely accurate, though, my hands weren't bare, I was in fact wearing a rather chunky square-cut ring that would have left a very satisfying mark on the bookkeeper's smug asshole face).

As I wrote last week, I have been doing a lot of the bookkeeper's job (specifically writing checks, paying bills, and filing invoices) for the last year; what's more, I have done it badly, being constitutionally incapable of dealing with money, either my own or others'. What he has been doing is "monitoring" the check registers and payroll and reconciling the bank statements (for which I have to fax to him all of the check registers, payroll reports, and bank statements, often more than once); he is also supposed to print up monthly reports for the executive body, which he sometimes does do and sometimes does not. For his "labors" he receives about $165 a week, on the assumption of three hours' work. For my labors I receive nothing except the pleasure of trying to squeeze these extra duties into my already overloaded roster.

This is what we had hoped to change at this meeting: it was planned as a briefing to explain to the bookkeeper the importance of having one person performing all of the interrelated bookkeeping tasks, the importance of having somebody besides me doing said tasks, and finally how to do the tasks that were now being placed on his plate. Before I even got started into the why, much less the how, he started hemming and hawing a good deal, being the sort of person who invariably enshrouds his meanings in yards and yards of bullshit; the general thrust of his speech was that he had no intention of doing any more work than he was already doing and that we couldn't make him. His solution to our bookkeeping problem was that I should improve my performance of his job, and he would not be moved from that position.

I think he should be summarily fired, insuburdination and incompetence being but the most obvious charges; but that would leave us without a bookkeeper of any kind, which my boss does not wish to do... it means we'd have to make a big fuss to the executive body, advertise the position again (last time we advertised it, nobody responded), as well as probably running new elections for the executive body seat that the bookkeeper currently occupies and might resign if he's fired as bookkeeper. I think the boss just wants to hold his breath and wait for May, when he retires and shakes the dust of this union from his shoes forever, leaving the situation to his successor to deal with. I of course don't know who his successor will be, but I do not hold out much hope that any successor will solve the problem to my satisfaction.

The current solution is that I am going to get paid double-time for two and a half hours a week to be spent exclusively on bookkeeping duties, which is still less than the hourly $55 the bookkeeper receives for his part of the work (which I could do easier than the part I am doing... I can "monitor" and print out reports right up there with the best of them). I am trying to focus on the positive of the extra money instead of the negative of the bookkeeper's intransigence, but it's hard to do. Righteous indignation is mixed with cloudy resentments (I hate having my weaknesses continually belabored) and severe disappointment in my boss, on top of depression and a head-cold, and so I'm having a hard time letting go of the anger.

But let go of it I will, eventually. And eventually I will get over my cold. Eventually my depression will pass or be cured or be medicated. All things pass eventually. It's just a matter of waiting them out. Waiting for things to pass gets tiring, though... almost as tiring as constantly working on them. I would rather the problems just get up and go on their own accord, right now, and leave me alone. But that is not among my choices. I can only either chip away at them or sit still and wait for them to pass on by.

In the meantime I shall think about the Lady of Shalott and wonder what, exactly, her "curse" was. I think it was unrequited love, but then I might just be projecting. I am much like the Lady, you know; I see life in a silver mirror (television and other media) and weave what I see into my web (my writings and musings), but I do not come down out of my tower... and I fear that if I do, in my flower-filled boat with my name written all around it, I'll die (or at least be hurt terribly) before I get to Camelot and the object of my desire with his broad clear brow and coal-black curls.

It's better than thinking about Miss Jackson's Tit, anyway.

I was going to post the lovely Burne-Jones painting portraying the climactic moment from "The Lady of Shalott," a favorite theme with the pre-Raphaelites, but I couldn't find a copy... so instead I give you my favorite beefcake painting from my favorite pre-Raphaelite, Federick Lord Leighton

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Again with the Boob

I am amazed to find that I am still thinking about this, but the whole brouhaha about Miss Jackson's Tit is a beautiful example of the American Morality at its worst. I alternate between giggling delightedly and shaking my head in dismay. And since I had to come back and delete about seventeen modifiers from my previous post (but worry not, there are plenty left), I thought I'd take a moment to jot down some thoughts.

Instead of cracking open the Proust as I had intended last night, I went back out to the living room and played Prince of Persia for a little while (being defeated several times without even completing the one level), and in between bouts of trying to defeat my own dead father and his crack team of dead bodyguards, I flipped through the TV stations to drown my sorrows in the sweet electronic oblivion.

When I landed on Channel 2 (I think it was Channel 2, anyway), someone was interviewing a Congresswoman from Fremont or somesuch place about Miss Jackson's Tit. She was a perfect interview for this purpose: ash-blonde perm rigidly tamed into a sort of chaste helmet, dull beige suit and a cream blouse tied at the neck with a floppy Diane Feinstein bow, thin passionless mouth drawn tight in a prim grimace, slightly protruberant eyes open wide and flashing with fiery indignation. She looked like the kind of woman who would secretly cheer at an execution while pretending to pray for the convict's soul, the kind of woman who would outwardly profess compassion for unwed mothers and drug addicts and those poor misguided homosexuals while inwardly writhing with delight over the fact that all such sinners will burn for eternity in the lake of everlasting fire.

Of course, she might be a very nice lady whose appearance is against her. I try not to judge. But anyway, the thrust of her comments was that this Superbowl telecast goes out all over the world, and so now all of the world sees America as the Home of Miss Jackson's Tit... and the Congresswoman feels "we can do better than that."

I returned to the poor Prince's doomed battle after that and didn't give any more thought to the nice lady's words until later, when I was thinking about Lance's take on the Superbowl commercials and the particularly lowbrow route most of them followed, with horse-farts and unexpected bikini-waxes and other crotch-centered bits of sophomoric humor. Sophomoric humor has it's place, of course, and I laugh at potty-jokes the same as any other guy; beer pretty much goes in the same place, so it stands to reason the Budweiser would use such humor. But this is the America that the foreigners watching the Superbowl will see and judge us upon: not just the America of Miss Jackson's Tit but also the America of horse-farts and bikini-waxes and talking chimpanzees coming on to your girlfriend while your back is turned and what to do if you have an erection for four hours after taking Ciala.

And let's also remember that the rest of the world isn't nearly as offended by tits as we Americans profess to be... they get titties in their televisions and their morning papers every day. They probably wondered why in the name of God the director cut away from the first interesting moment of the whole show to bore them with yet another episode in the American Males' eternal quest for Bud Light. That is the America that was broadcast all over the world, the prurient hypocrisy that celebrates a farting horse and talks frankly about four-hour erections yet shies back in horror at an exposed breast.

But then I like to keep in mind the fact that the people in other countries who watch the Superbowl are probably pretty pro-American, anyway, so I suppose they expect such things. Or else they hate America and are only watching to make fun of us and our knee-padded, pointlessly complicated, and ultimately pussy sports that can't hold a candle to real manly sports like soccer and bullfighting and kickboxing.

I think the time has come to demystify the tit. I know I tend to flinch when one is released in my presence... but as a born-and-bred American who wasn't breast-fed and doesn't spend any time with female porn, I'm simply not used to them. One expects them to be covered up merely because they usually are covered up. But really, they're not obscene, they aren't reproductive organs, one does not eliminate waste through them, and so there is absolutely no reason to make such a big deal out of them, or any bigger a deal than seeing a man's bare chest.

So go ahead and whip 'em out, girls. You've got my blessing.

Monday, February 2, 2004

Patriots, Panthers, and Pasties

You might ordinarily think that a highbrowed literateur and drag-queen such as myself would not be much of a sports fan. And you would be right to think that. In fact, I absolutely loathe nearly all forms of sports (though I love athletes). Nevertheless, there I was, Sunday afternoon, watching the Superbowl for the second time in my life. And not to put too fine a point on it, the only football games I've ever watched in my whole life were these two Superbowls.

The last time I watched, it was a local team playing locally, with good-looking and charismatic quarterbacks on both sides — Superbowl XIX with the 49ers and the Dolphins (or more precisely Joe Montana and Dan Marino) playing at Stanford; this time, Superbowl XXXVIII just happened to coincide with my little cousin Jessie's birthday, and so we were gathered at Kellie's place with her big TV and a lot of people, watching the Patriots and the Panthers playing in Houston while noshing on birthday cake and singing "Happy Birthday" to the new eleven-year-old in our midst.

Something I managed to forget in the nineteen years between Superbowl games: I don't understand football. I mean, I get the general premise, the bent-over guy "hikes" the ball to the quarterback (who is usually the cutest guy on the team), who either throws the ball across the field to the catcher-type-guy (running-back?) to deliver into the goal area or else tries to run for the goal himself; the opposing team does everything they can to stop this or any other advance from happening; you get closer and closer to the goal depending on how far you managed to legitimately transport the ball in each scrimmage; if you drop the ball, it's a fumble; if you throw the ball and nobody catches it, it's an incomplete. I grasp the concepts of bounds and fouls, quarters and time-outs, and the difference between offense and defense. We covered all of this in Junior-High PE.

But that's about it. Point conversions escaped me. Fifth and ten, or fourth and inches, these baffled me. I had no idea under what conditions a field-goal is kicked, nor why some goals are a certain number of points and other goals an entirely different number. I never knew where on the field each scrimmage was taking place, unless they happened to be standing on top of the central logo. And to make it all the more confusing, everything happens so terribly fast that I can't tell what just occurred until the person sitting next to me explains it while the multidirectional replays repeat themselves (the announcers are less than useless, they speak in such dense jargon).

But what I did grasp certainly gave me plenty to talk about. Like the guy who dropped the ball when he was tackled... even I knew you aren't supposed to carry the ball that way: "You're supposed to carry it like a purse, not like a cocktail," I yelled at the screen, demonstrating my meagre expertise... even if you can't decipher why a man is doing something, you can certainly critique how he is doing it.

The girls and I also debated on which organization had the cuter guys, and chose our teams by which quarterback we found more attractive (I rooted for Carolina because I felt they had the greater number of hottentots overall, and because Jake Delhomme was cuter and cuddlier than the handsome but slightly wall-eyed Tom Brady, for whose sake Kellie cheered New England). To my surprise, I also found the head umpire pretty cute... he was in fabulous shape, at any rate, which one doesn't really expect from umpires.

No non-fan's Superbowl would be complete without the delicious multi-million-dollar commercials, many of which were entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the ads (I love watching people get dressed and go to work) and the various silly Budweiser bits ("Cedric's Bikini Wax" almost made me cry), not to mention Pepsi's renewal of the Cola Wars with their very funny jab at Coke in "Purple Haze"; I was irritated, though, by the prevalence of SUV advertisements and the rather long Cialis epics (instead of wasting so much time and money making pills to give old men hard-ons, why doesn't somebody develop a pill that makes people feel like they've already had sex? It would save so much time).

The opening bit was nice, too, with Josh Groban (oy, he's cute, too bad I find his music so debilitatingly dull) and that peculiar choir paying tribute to the late crew of the space shuttle Columbia (which went down a year ago yesterday), and then Beyoncé Knowles singing the National Anthem so nicely in that gorgeous suit. Apparently I missed the Aerosmith Pre-Game show... I'm all broken up about it, too.

And of course there was the "Janet Jackson's Hooter" moment, which engendered a lively debate in our family circle and completely eclipsed our horrified disdain of P. Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock: was it an accident, or was it done on purpose? We also debated on whether that glint of silver was a nipple-piercing or a pastie. I believed it was a pastie, akin to the one worn by Lil' Kim and groped by Diana Ross at the MTV Music Awards, and that the cup-removal was part of the choreography; bustiers don't come apart like that by accident, and you don't wear pasties unless you plan to display your breast in some public place... so it had to have been staged.

But I guess CBS wasn't aware that it was going to happen, and so the director cut to commercials immediately upon release of the aforementioned mammary. I'm sure that the appearance of Justin Timberlake was not the intended climax of the halftime entertainment... though not a big fan of the Superbowl, I do often make a point to see the halftime show, where all of the performers usually get together and murder some song before the final fireworks go off; there were runways connecting all five stages, I'm sure there was a purpose for them, and then all the balloons upon which words and names had been projected should have been released. Two performers and one tit do not a spectacular finale make.

I see now from doing a websearch that a huge furore has been sparked by this silly little spectacle, with threatened FCC probes and stern comments from funny-named football officials and abject apologies from Timberlake and horrible puns from all the news wires. It's just a boob, people, why is everyone getting so worked up about it? "A classless, crass and deplorable stunt," says FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Are you saying that P. Diddy or Nelly or Kid Rock weren't classless, crass and deplorable? Honestly!

But I also see from the pictures at Reuters that it apparently was a pastie, a sculptured silver star or Maltese cross of some kind, and that the cup was built to come off... and you simply don't put an uncomfortable-looking metal star on your nipple unless you expect your snap-on bustier cup to come unsnapped. Furthermore, Jessica Simpson was slated to appear, too, and I didn't catch so much as a glimpse of the little blonde doltette (though maybe I missed her while ogling Miss Jackson's hot backup dancers). And now I see footage of the moment, Mr. Timberlake definitely grabbed onto that cup and ripped it off on purpose.

So, I was right! I just hope it all does Miss Jackson's career some good... it certainly didn't hurt Lil' Kim, but then she did it first.

Anyway, the whole Superbowl thing was terribly entertaining in parts, but I certainly don't intend to make a habit of it. I mean, why should any sport be so difficult to understand? All the rules, all the confusing jargon, all the crazy ifs and ands. It's more bizarre than bridge and pinochle put together. Polo is more readily accessible, fer chrissakes. Maybe I'd have enjoyed it more if they played like this (though it would be more difficult to tell the teams apart):


I just followed a link from Flutterby to find some closeups of Miss Jackson's breast captured on digital TV: it was not a pastie, it was body-jewelry! An eight-point silver star held in place with a rod pierced through the nipple! I'm not sure what that does to my pastie-on-purpose theory (maybe there was supposed to be some bit of costume under the cup), but I do know I won't be able to close my eyes without seeing that star for quite some time... Oh, the humanity!

Meanwhile, I can't believe I spent so much time researching and commenting on this completely idiotic shredlet of pop culture. This is what happens when you allow friends and family to peer-pressure you into watching overhyped pseudotraditional sporting events. But at least I'm not alone... so many of my daily reads wrote about this today.

Still, I'm going to go crack open some Proust.