Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Now I Get It

When I got home from the grocery store last evening, the Grandmother was all aglow with Right-Wing Rhetoric, palpitating with love for John McCain, who had just finished speaking. I'd brought home Chinese food, and she asked if we could eat in the living room so she could keep watching the RNC. I was too tired to express my true feelings about the Republicans (that they stand for social recidivism and economic exploitation but call it "morality" and "prosperity," that they talk about "freedom" but they really mean "freedom for straight white midle-class Christian Americans who think like us"), so I just told her that she could go ahead and eat in the living room but I didn't want to watch TV.

Anyway, since she was in the living room instead of her bedroom (with only a wall between us instead of a stairwell, a bathroom, and two closets to buffer the sound), and since she's been a little extra deaf the last few days, I heard a lot of what was going on while I was here in my room trying to write in Worst Luck (I wrote one word... "brusqueness") and downloading two albums from iTunes (Barbara Cook's Broadway and Great Cabaret Performances).

And from what I heard, I finally figured out why the GOP was so hot to have their convention in Manhattan: to capitalize on the World Trade Center tragedy... to remind us to be afraid of terrorism, to remind us of how great George Bush is and hopefully veer his approval ratings back toward his post-9/11 highs. It seems that everyone who stepped up to the podium gassed on and on about 9/11, and then segued to the War on Terrorism; I heard people focussing on how cool it was that we slapped the shit out of the Taliban and how great Iraq is now that Saddam is captured, singing the praises of a strong commander-in-chief but "don't look at the casualties and fatalities, all our dead and maimed. That's not important: our might is important."

It made me pretty sick. But then, I expect Republicans to make me sick, that's why I won't watch them on television, not even to find out what the sneaky little shits are up to.

But from what I saw of the Democratic National Convention, the Democrats make me sick, too... all that empty rhetoric, all that fence-riding on the issues, all that "we're not going to lower ourselves to talk smack about our enemies" and not even mentioning the name Bush or this stupid life-wasting war... the main gist of what I heard from the Democrats was "we'll believe anything you want us to believe, we'll do whatever you tell us, just please vote for us!" But as sick as this wishy-washy begging makes me, it doesn't make me as sick as the Republicans' incipient Nazïism, so I'll have to vote Democrat just to try and help keep the nation from spilling too far into the Right.

I believe in Democracy, and I believe that our Constitution will keep things from getting too bad; but friends, the USA is entering a very dark time. There is no moral center, there is no common vision anymore; I see so much corruption, so much demagogy, so much misdirection and center-seeking in one party and a strong fascist trend in the other. We'll weather through, but it's going to get scary for a while. It's so ugly, I can't bear to watch; but it's my duty as a citizen to keep my eyes open — and, despite what the Republicans would prefer, keep my mouth open too — no matter how grisly it gets.


Deep breath. The above bothers me more than usual because I'm really not feeling well today. I had a hard time getting to sleep last night, and then I had nightmares, and I woke up several times, and so I only managed to cobble together about five hours of unsatisfying sleep. And I should be heading out to the office right now, instead of writing this, but it was on my mind so I figured I'd better get it off my mind so maybe I can get something done.

So my dears, I hope you're feeling better than I am; and remember, we can keep the world from going to crap around us by being kind and good to each other. Yesterday in my "AA Thought for the Day" email, I got this really great quotation that gave me heart about the state of the world:


Throughout the entire world today we are witnessing the breakdown of "group conscience." It has always been the hope of democratic nations that their citizens would be enlightened enough to manage their own affairs through chosen representatives. But in many self-governing countries we are now seeing the inroads of ignorance, apathy, and power-seeking upon democratic systems. . .Consequently many a land has become so helpless that the only answer is dictatorship. Happily for us, there seems little prospect of such a calamity in AA. The life of each individual and of each group is built around our Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. . .An even greater force for AA's unity is the compelling love that we have for our fellow members and for the principles upon which our lives today are founded.

(c. 1962 AAWS, Twelve Concepts for World Service, p. 8.)

Monday, August 30, 2004

It's Never My Fault

I woke up this morning upside-down in my bed, with my feet tucked under my teddy-bear and my head resting on a pile of discarded blankets. It was kind of nice, opening my eyes on a different vista of room than I usually do; but it was kind of unsettling that my unconcious body moved itself so dramatically without waking me up. It makes me wonder if I should move my furniture again so that the top of the bed lies in that direction (south-by-southwest, but I always sleep diagonally across the mattress and so was pointing due south).


I've decided that I cannot blame myself for this lack of anything to talk about. I was blaming my depression for the verbal lassitude that I've been suffering all week, but I've written through depressions before, so now I think of it I'm sure it's not that. The truth is, there is nothing going on in the world that is worth my interest. Everyone is talking about things like the Olympics and the Republican National Convention, but I don't find those things interesting.

One would think that hours and hours of hot guys in tight costumes doing nifty physical things would be able to hold my interest, but it just hasn't... I watch for a minute or two, and then get bored. And one would think that all of the RNC weirdness would be worthy of comment, or at least indignation, but all it does is depress me. The USA is rapidly turning into the McCarthyist version of the USSR, which is too sad to even be ironic.

The Scott Peterson trial was supposedly rife with soap-opera happenings last week, but I've never been able to generate any interest in it... I mean, people kill people all the time, and the only reason this is getting any airplay at all is because it does read like a soap-opera, and features good-looking people. Even the weather, that old stand-by of the nothing-to-say set, is boring: it's really hot here in the Bay Area, there is a hurricane off the coast of South Carolina, and typhoons are raging in Central America... but it happens all the time, it's simply that time of year, so who cares?

Even in my own life, nothing interesting seems to be happening. At the office, we're still working on moving, and finally found an office space that I like... and then events transpired that the pigeon-coop space I hated is no longer available, and so we're moving to the space I like (the realtor was rilly cute, too). Upheaval is coming, though, and I'm not looking forward to it. But it doesn't strike me as that big a deal anymore.

There was some family drama yesterday, but I don't know how much detail I want to put into it. Basically my father and my uncle decided to have a family meeting Sunday afternoon, but they didn't organize it at all well, and somehow I got bitten in the ass three or four times over the fiasco when I didn't have anything to do with it; for example, nobody told me about this meeting until I was getting in the car to go to church on Sunday morning, and I had already committed to being at an extremely important Court function that afternoon; and then, nobody told my cousin Jamie, in whose house the meeting was to be held, so she and her husband were in Half Moon Bay. The whole thing threw a huge kink into an already difficult day, and I'm still a little too pissed off about it to talk about it calmly.

Actually, "pissed off" is too weak a word. I am enraged. But that doesn't make it easier to talk about, and I imagine that once I do calm down enough to write out the sequence of events and mistakes, they will prove too boring for even me, the Queen of Mundania, to publish here.


Well, I think I will focus on something positive instead of bitching about how boring the world is and how enraged I am over that silly Sunday fiasco. So here's some positive:

Saturday was a nice day. I got a lot done... not as much as I wanted to get done, but a lot more than I've been getting done. I got about eight new paragraphs added to Worst Luck (even though I didn't get to the end of the chapter yet, so I didn't post it; and I have introduced two new characters, describing them at some length, even though they are merely incidental to the story), and it felt really good to get moving on it again. I also, at the same time, washed six or seven loads of laundry (although I didn't get the floor picked-up enough to see the rug, and I still have another six or seven loads to go, and I don't have anywhere to put the clean clothes yet), and it feels good to have clean clothes to wear.

Sunday afternoon (aprés le fiasco) was Royal Grand Ducal Investitures, when our new Monarchs (Royal Grand Duke XIII Peter Padilla and Royal Grand Duchess XIII Ruby Slippers) granted all of their reign's titles. Caroline was made Royal Princess, and Madasin was created Lady in Waiting; I was dubbed Royal Entertainer, which is one of the lowest titles in the Court... I started getting offended, but then I realized that since I already have the second-highest lifetime title available (the only higher is Grand Duchess), it would be a waste of time to give me another crown title which would only be subsumed by my lifetime title. It also underlined my preferred role in the Court, as an entertainer rather than an administrator; besides, any possible offense was absorbed by being invited to perform at Investiture, a signal honor.

The Investiture itself ran like clockwork, no dead air and no hemming-and-hawing, and was over with in about an hour and a half (last year's took almost four hours), so the rest of the afternoon was left blissfully free. I was able to get out of face right away (the heat was crushing, and in a wig it was just untenable), and spent some time just sitting and chatting comfortably with the courtfolk.

Afterward, Caroline and Madasin and I went out for walkies ("walkies" is a pastime that encompasses window-shopping, people-watching, and chatting all at once) and had some dinner at the Claremont Diner (whose menu has become extremely gay, favoring artisan breads and pomegranate-wine sauces and feta cheese in everything, instead of the substantial and predictable diner-food they used to serve, but the burgers were quite tasty and the waiter was cute as a bug, in a quirky urban-hipster way). It was all very pleasant.

Today when I went to get my sandwich, there were two new guys working at the sandwich shop... and while I was temporarily taken aback by being denied my daily dose of cutie-pie Kyle, the two new guys are really cute, too. Not quite as cute as Kyle, but then one cannot realistically expect such a thing... nothing in the world is cuter than Kyle, except maybe a basket of puppies.

So that's the positive. Having got all that off my chest, I think I will go back to work. I have to chivvy some information out of our bank, and they're always so reluctant to give information over the phone, so I may have to draft a letter. And pretty soon I'm going to have to start going through my files and throwing out irrelevant paper... it would be stupid to pack up trash and schlepp it to our new office. Those two tasks ought to see me through until it's time to meet Caroline at the gym for our forty minutes of cardio.

Have a super day!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

How Dry I Am

Sorry, kids, but my creative cupboard is bare. The river of inspiration isn't even a trickle. The muse is giving me the silent treatment. In essence, I have nothing to write about, not even a nonsensical ramble or a vituperative rant. I've started posts every day for the last three days, thinking that maybe if I just stare at the screen long enough, something will come rushing out of my mind to fill the silence... but I can't even come up with an opening paragraph. I'm just dry.

But he isn't:

Friday, August 20, 2004


When you have nothing whatever to say, assemble a colorful phrase of swear-words; bonus points if you can incorporate an Anglicism or two. Then repeat it over and over in a sing-song voice until they come to take you away to the Nut Hut.

Do you ever wonder if, given the opportunity, you might do something really insane and wrong? I mean, do you ever get a sudden urge to do something horrible, like running over a random pedestrian or raping some passing boy or shoving a steak-knife into a dinner-companion's forearm, for no particular reason? And then worry that someday you'll have such an urge and the voice in your brain that stops you from doing such things might just be taking a little snooze? Or is it just me?

I sometimes worry that one of these days my Impulse Control Mechanism is going to get overloaded and just quit working without telling me. Like maybe someday my superego will be keeping my id from jumping on Kyle at the sandwich shop and just chewing on him (my usual struggle when confronted with Kyle's almost-unbearable adorability), and my id will just snap and slice my superego across the throat with a straight-razor, and there I'll be assaulting the poor boy and ending up with a restraining order and nowhere to get a sandwich at lunchtime.

Perhaps my problem is that I don't know how to just let loose in an appropriate manner, so I always keep every impulse under control at all times... thereby overstressing the Impulse Control Mechanism and possibly weakening it with overuse. Perhaps that was one of the benefits of alcohol, getting good and drunk so that my controls turned off and got some rest. Since I quit drinking, though, I can't think of any situation in my life where I allow myself a complete loss of control... even in sleep, my superego is on guard, keeping my dreams from getting too out-of-hand.

Maybe I was potty-trained too early.

But I guess the thing is that I'm just feeling a little crazy today... the Depression is here with me, I think (it's the usual time of year for it), and I have been experiencing odd surges of emotion — sudden anger, sudden despair, sudden sorrow — punctuating long stretches of almost oppressive indifference and mental lethargy, all overlaid by the comings and goings of various tension and sinus headaches. And when I feel this way, the suddenness of impulses takes me more by surprise, and I feel but a slippery grip on them.

The time has come, the Walrus said... I'm going to see that homeopath next week, as soon as I get paid again. I have paid off all of the big expenses that have plagued my bank-account this summer (annual gym membership, car registration, new glasses, etc.), and have rather curbed my shopping practices (increasing the strain on the Impulse Control Mechanism), so I should be able to afford it now. I look forward to a more evened-out physical and emotional state; hopefully he or she will be able to do something for me.

In the meantime, it might be wise if I avoid driving, pretty young men, and sharp objects... and maybe find a healthy way to relinquish self-control for certain periods of time...perhaps investigate a light B&D scene?

Mmmmmmmm perhaps not.

Monday, August 16, 2004


I have a dreadful headache today, and I don't know why. I woke up with it, my neck and shoulders hunched and sore, God knows what I must have been dreaming about; I almost decided to spend the day in bed on the strength of it (but realized that it would probably be quieter in the office). I took a Sudafed for sinus headache a couple of hours ago, and it helped, though it took over an hour to kick in; but there're still these two knots of tension floating around the top of my head and wandering behind my eyeballs as they shift position every few minutes.

It doesn't hurt so much when I'm eating, though, so now that I've had my sandwich and chips for lunch, I might just be lucid enough to catch you up on my multifarious and wildly glamorous doings over the last few postless days.


Thursday was uninteresting, work and gym and dining out with the Small Children. The feature of the day was renting Thirteen Going On Thirty at the repeated and unbearably annoying request of my little cousin Jessie. In her (decidedly uninformed) opinion, this is one of the greatest films of all time, she loved it in the theater and had been talking about its DVD release all week. I naturally assumed that this would be a children's film, but it turns out to be a romantic comedy... though there wasn't any sex or nudity involved, there was some rather adult language and situations that took me by surprise (I'm always dismayed that my cousin lets her children watch PG-13 romance movies... they're so unhealthy, with their potty-mouth scripts and shockingly unrealistic images of human relationships).

And of course it was a dismal film... I mean, it was kind of cute and entertaining, but I'm coming to truly loathe all romantic comedies, and this one was just the same-old-same-old about a person suddenly changing age (Freaky Friday and its recent remake, Big, Vice Versa, Eighteen Again, etc., it's practically a genre of its own). I found Jennifer Garner's blank gazes and scrunched-up grins irritating, and her hands are eye-catchingly ugly and mannish; Mark Ruffalo, though an excellent actor, always inspires in me a dreadful desire to hook his nipples to a car-battery just to get a little pizzazz into him; the magazine that provided the workplace mise-en-scène didn't make any sense at all, no business could possibly be run so badly and still survive. The writers of this dreck should all be flogged. The only person involved in the production that didn't bug me was the wardrobe mistress... the outfits were dazzling.

However, I did enjoy one thing about it, an element of story-line that didn't receive any explication but which teased my intellect a bit: in the interim between wishing to be thirty and waking up in a thirty-year-old life, the main character discovered that she'd been a total bitch during all that missed time. It was as if it were her soul that got fast-forwarded through time, skipping the seventeen years of adolescence and early adulthood, leaving behind a shell of a person motivated only by ambition.

What really teased me though, was the naturally-following question of what happened to the souls of the other empty shells motivated solely by ambition who populated this film. What birthday wishes had sent their souls off to some other time or place? Where do the souls of soulless people go? A pretty profound question from a thoroughly shallow film.


Friday was a somewhat better day; after getting to work late, I got everything done that I needed to do in just over two hours, thereby freeing my afternoon for errands and loafing... I intended to go get some new glasses, and while waiting for the glasses to be made I'd get my nails done. I have been getting my glasses in the same place for years, loving the low prices, drop-in appointments, and one-hour prescription wait-time; but when I got to Site for Sore Eyes, they didn't have any open appointments, so I made an appointment for the next day and buggered along to get my nails done. But then I decided to put that off until the next day, too, and just spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around pointlessly.

After the gym, Caroline and I went for dinner at La Mediterranée, followed by an extensive round of conversation and window-shopping that took us on a two-mile walk up and down College Avenue; aside from the pleasure of window-shopping, people-watching, and enjoying the balmy evening weather, this lengthy schlepp also allowed me to work out the quite magnificent case of gas I'd gotten from a weird food-allergy reaction I'd experienced the day before... that deadly-foul miasma wasn't something you could take indoors.

We eventually returned to my place, and settled into my room to watch Donnie Darko; I had heard good things about this movie, it seemed that every hot guy I ever browsed on Friendster listed it as a favorite film, and so when I found it on the $4.99 table at the video store, I snapped it up. I was a little concerned about the giant rabbit, things like that tend to scare me, but Jake Gyllenhaal is such a cutie-pie... I figured the two would balance out.

The movie was very disturbing, especially the giant bunny (shiver), but other images as well (Donnie's demented smile when he was having a psychotic episode was utterly haunting), and there were a few spots in the film I could have lived without (when the guy in the clown costume jumped out of the car, Caroline and I both nearly shat ourselves... I hate clowns). But it was a good film... I'm not sure I'd list it as a favorite, but it was certainly satisfying and thought-provoking.

It just occurs to me that I can't really discuss what was so thought-provoking about the film, though, without spoiling the ending for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. But I can say that I spent much of the night and all of my waking moments the next morning unravelling, in my mind, the fascinating web of actions and consequences that were resolved by changing just one thing in the past. I am going to have to assume that this thought-provocation is what makes the film so interesting to so many people... it wasn't all that exciting on the surface, but it really got the little grey cells jostling along.


So then along comes Saturday. I started writing this post that morning, but I didn't get it finished before it was time to go back to the optometrist for my appointment. Caroline unexpectedly turned up on my doorstep... her plans for the day fell through, and Caroline without a plan-for-the-day is a sad and sorry sight to see. I was glad for her company, though, since it always helps to have someone honestly critical along to help pick out new eyeglass frames; I was even gladder for her company when the eye-doctor decided to dilate my pupils so she could have a dekko at my optic nerve and scrutinize my corneas... I could barely see for quite some time afterward, and if it weren't for Caroline I would have had no end of trouble negotiating through the rest of my day.

So anyway, two hours (it took a while to pick out frames, and I had to do that before I could dilate, then wait for the dilating eyedrops to work) and $500 (highway robbery, how they can look themselves in the face after charging that much money for some bits of wire twisted together) later, I got to wander around with dilated pupils and a receipt for pick-up of a pair of squarish-looking ProFlex glasses featuring magnetic sunglass clips with a slightly stronger prescription than my current pair, which should be ready tomorrow (no more same-day service... Site for Sore Eyes ain't what it used to be).

We had lunch, then I got my nails done (I've become addicted to French tips), and then stopped off at the drugstore to pick up a couple of things for the Grandmother, and then we parted ways: Caroline had a rehearsal with Miss Daisy and Madasin for a show on Sunday, and I went home and got in bed to sleep off the rest of the dilation. I napped for a couple of hours, then tried to work at the computer to finish the post and maybe work on the novel, but it hurt my eyes, which were still dilated after six hours; instead, I read my new paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (I lent my hardback copy to my niece and haven't seen it since) under a dim lamp, and then after dinner spent the rest of the night watching five episodes of Mapp & Lucia (a very droll little British comedy based on the novels of E.F. Benson, the sort of thing only an Anglophile like me would enjoy).


(I have to note that it is now Monday night and has been several hours since I wrote the above paragraph, which I did just before leaving the office, almost four hours after restarting this post from where I left off Saturday... these long posts take an unconscionable amount of time to write when I'm having difficulty concentrating).

Sunday I didn't have to go to Church, thank God (there's an irony in there somewhere, I'm sure)... though I wish it were for a better reason than that Grandmother overdid it Saturday with cooking breakfast and futzing around in her stupid garden and trying to clean out the under-sink cupboard, and ended up hurting her knees again. Sometimes I think the woman has no sense at all. Why the hell would anyone in his or her right mind crawl up under the sink with a bottle of 409 and a sponge when s/he has the perfectly good excuse of extreme old age and a bum knee to avoid such tedious exercise? It's just not right.

But I was nevertheless glad to be able to sleep in and have a slow day: Sunday evening was "Cookie After Dark," our monthly show at Martuni's hosted by the inimitable Cookie Dough. Still, even with the extra rest, I just wasn't in the mood for it... if I hadn't promised to give a fellow performer a ride to and fro, I would most likely have crapped out and phoned my regrets. But instead, I dragged my ass out of the bed, showered and shaved, threw a couple of dresses in a bag, and off I went.

Usually when I don't feel like going out, I generally change my mind after I get there... especially a drag show. I shuffle and moan and wish I was in bed until I get that first earful of applause, until the first person tells me how fabulous I am, and then I'm happy I came. But this time, I just shouldn't have been out. Nobody seemed to notice that I was turning in some half-assed performances, I guess my accidentally well-painted face and carelessly-chosen clothes and jewelry distracted from my lackluster expressions and movements; I was uncomfortable and unhappy all the time I was crimped into my corset and pinched into my pumps and worried by my wig.

The funny thing is that I enjoyed everything except being in drag and pretending to perform; I got to spend time with people I love, I got to flirt with the cute barwaiter, I got to watch some quite riveting performances from my colleagues... if I'd just not been in drag, I would have had a great time. After I got out of drag, I felt fine, and had a wonderful time going out for dinner at Sparky's with Pretty, Madasin, Sue Nami, and a bunch of the latter's friends from work. Maybe next time I'll listen to that little voice when she tells me that today is not a Marlénè Day.


And so we come to Monday, the Day of the Endless Headache. I muddled through work, disgruntled slightly at my boss who has become obsessed and enamored with the office space I hated most in our tours last week, a little pigeon-coop of a penthouse perched atop a recently-remodeled turn-of-the-century factory four blocks away from our current location and no closer to restaurants or transportation or anything useful. Straight men can be such a bafflement, I cannot understand what thrills him so about this cramped and inconvenient space. I was just disgruntled enough that I don't feel even remotely guilty for spending time writing a letter to my nephew at boot camp, nor for spending time writing this post. I was too headachey to do much work, anyway.

After spending a shamefully brief time at the gym (fifteen minutes on the elliptical machine was all I could stand), I meandered on home... oh, the delicious echoing silence! The Small Children are gone home! I love the little buggers, but I'm just unspeakably glad they're not in my hair anymore.

I made a simple dinner for the Grandmother and myself, bringing her a tray in her room and taking mine into the living room... retreating to our separate televisions as we had before the Small Children came back. She was alternating between an A's game and the Olympics... I wish I had the patience to watch sports, especially sports with rilly-hot guys, like swimming, diving, gymnastics, etc. But I can only watch for a few minutes, filling my eyes with muscles and skin, and then I get screamingly bored with it all and have to change the channel to something else, anything else. There's something about sports that just hurts me on some level.

So instead, I viewed a new DVD that I haven't had a chance to watch since I bought it last week, The Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher. I bought it just for Ashton's face, and was quite impressed with the writing and acting... but here I found myself watching another movie about time-travel and the consequences of actions... a trio in theme, can you dig it?


Still with me? Let's see if I can bring it to a close soon so I can go to bed. I like thematic continuities, perhaps I should have only written about these three films instead of interleaving them with all that rubbish about my tiresome activities. But what the hell... I spent all this time writing it, damned if I'll erase it just because it's irrelevant.

I think it is a human trait to be fascinated with the possibility of time-travel, to want to go back and fix something that went wrong or to jump ahead out of an unpleasant present. I've seen this theme worked out in every medium, from novels and short stories to film and theatre to The Simpsons and Jimmy Neutron. I myself have often thought about what I would change in the past, if I had the chance to go back... I've lain awake nights thinking about how far back I'd have to go, positing what kind of life I might have now if I had done certain things differently.

But I have learned in the last few years that it is a crucial element of maturity to be able to accept the past instead of wishing to change it. Shit happens, and even if we could go back and change things, shit would still happen... it would be different shit, but it would still be shit.

Still, it's an interesting topic to ponder, without wishing or pretending... just an intellectual question: what would life be like today if I had done something differently. For example, what if I hadn't skived off of PE all those years, applied myself to exercise when I was young and pliable: would I now be in better shape? What if I had gotten better grades in high-school and gone straight on to college, focusing on the major I want now instead of the one I wanted then? How much of a career might I have now? I could be an established writer with a rather nice body right now, if only.

On the other hand, if I were able to go back and do my teens and twenties over again, would I have started drinking? I mean, I wasted a lot of my youth on alcohol and related pointlessness; if I could go back and do it again, knowing what I know now, would I take that first drink again? If I didn't, I wouldn't become an alcoholic and would never have had a reason to go to AA, and I wouldn't have met any of the wonderful friends I have made in the rooms. Are Miss Daisy and Shiloh and Madasin and all my other sober friends a fair price to pay for having my youth back?

It's an interesting puzzle, the interlacing patterns and paths of actions and consequences and consequent actions. It presents a fascinating study, going back and seeing our mistakes and our good luck, and seeing the good luck that came from our mistakes and the mistakes that came from our good luck. The unexamined life is not worth living, They say, and so I welcome anything that gets me to thinking about that sort of thing... unless, of course, it's a badly-written romantic comedy starring a screwy girl with man-hands. But that's what you get for taking movie advice from a neurotic eleven-year-old.


Well, if I haven't bored you into a coma by this point, I have certainly taken up all the time I intend to spend writing today... it's now half-past twelve, and I have to go to bed now if I'm going to be any use tomorrow. Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope this post has yielded some reward for you, either intellectually or soporifically.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Wedding Bell Blues

I'm having a hard time understanding the Gay Marriage Issue... what the hell are people so afraid of? When I read the other day that Kerry and Edwards are on record as being against gay marriage (but think it's a state right, not a federal one, as if that makes a fucking difference), I found myself wanting to vote Nader all of a sudden. I can imagine people disapproving, I can understand people wondering why gays want to get married, but I don't get why people are against it.

I was mulling this over yesterday afternoon, trying to understand the mindset of those opposed; I tried to think of how, even in worst-case scenarios, gay people getting married threatens the institution of marriage, and how it can possibly harm the government and people of the United States.

For example, I can see that if gay marrieds get tax breaks for being married, then it would cost the federal and local governments a certain amount of revenue; partner benefits will cost employers a certain amount, also; and then I can see waves and waves of gay immigrants getting greencards by fraudulently marrying same-sex spouses instead of fraudulently marrying opposite-sex spouses as they do now. But look at it realistically: there aren't that many of us. Nobody except gays have ever believed that 10% rule-of-thumb put forward by Dr. Kinsey (hell, even I don't believe in the Kinsey Scale anymore), and then among gays only a percentage would find someone they wanted to marry, so just how many people do they think will be taking advantage of this right?

It seems to me that if people are married in their own hearts and in the eyes of their families and their churches, what right does the Government have to say that they are not married? I understand that if the government allowed anyone to be married who said they were married, it would open the door for polygamy and other strange practices from crackpot religions. But what harm would that do?

The problem I see is that the government does not actually have a right to be involved in any way with marriage, but it is involved... so once you realize that any legal objection to gay marriage is in contravention of the First Amendment (and it is... if marriage is "sacred," as so many are claiming, then the First Amendment disallows government involvement in marriage), then the next logical step is to throw out all marriage laws on the same grounds. There is no reason based in law that Mormons shouldn't have as many wives as they can manage to support; there is no reason based in law why a spouse should have any natural rights to inherited property if a person dies intestate; there is no reason based in law why a married couple should have a different tax status than anybody else; there is no reason based in law why businesses should supply benefits to employees' spouses.

The fact is, the traditional institution of marriage as a legal entity has, over the last century, become moribund and irrelevant due to technology and cultural shifts; the government's involvement in the religious ritual of marriage has always been un-Constitutional, but now the culture of the nation has completely lost sight of the traditional purpose of marriage as a legal arrangement. And I think that is the reason people are against gay marriage: it shows the straight people that they're just fucking around and that what they believe is in many ways false... it shows that the legal recognition of a religious rite on which they base much of their social and financial status is un-Constitutional, and that knowledge threatens what they have.

I've heard that the purpose for marriage being limited to a man and a woman is to create a family in which biological offspring are produced, and so since two men or two women cannot produce biological offspring between them, there is no real reason for them to get married. But if you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, nobody should be able to get married if they are not willing and able to biologically produce offspring. So post-menopausal women should not be allowed to marry, people who have had recorded vasectomies and tubal ligations should not be allowed to marry, and people who are otherwise demonstrably sterile should not be allowed to marry. Following that argument to its end also throws out the legality of adoption, the ability of a single parent to keep his or her children, and a lot of other things as well... for if you are limiting the rationale of marriage to biological childbearing, you exclude considerably more than gay people from the paradigm.

But this is all very complicated. The fact is that there is no real reason, it's just that it makes people uncomfortable... it's a new idea, and the Great Unwashed haven't had time to get used to it. I personally think it was a mistake to start immediately in on the gay marriage thing in the current political climate; it would have been better to wait a little longer for the dust to settle from the whole sodomy-law thing. Because as far as I can tell, the biggest problem people have with gay marriage is the same problem they had with the sodomy laws... not to mention the Jim Crow laws: a phenomenon my coworker just now explained to me as "The Ick Factor"... it seems kind of yucky on the surface, in perception, and so it shouldn't be allowed.

It was The Ick Factor that forced my grandparents to go all the way to Washington state to get married in 1945 because my grandfather was of Chinese descent while my Grandmother is largely Anglo-Saxon (California had miscegenation laws on its books until 1957), and people thought interracial marriages were against God's will, biologically unsound, and simply looked funny; it was The Ick Factor that led people to actually believe that African-Americans should use different facilities because they weren't as "clean" as Anglo-Americans, as if the black of the skin would smudge surfaces and carry germs. It is The Ick Factor that makes a ludicrous controversy of something as benign as breast-feeding (I know I find it disturbing, but I am mammophobic).

And it was The Ick Factor that inspired people to deny basic human rights to sexual minorities (as well as racial and cultural minorities) for the bulk of our nation's history... when you would mention gay rights to people, they would immediately think of anal penetration and get all fidgety about it, as if anal penetration was the only thing gay people did differently from straight people, as if it were our sole defining characteristic. This is based solely in wilful (and therefore shameful) ignorance.

The final thing is this: the US Constitution was put into place to prevent Mob Rule (which is the natural conclusion of "majority rule" when there is no understanding), to prevent foreign and interest-group control of government (hence no State religion or foreign-born presidents), and to ensure the most rights for the most people... ideally all rights to all people. Passing a constitutional amendment that is inherently un-Constitutional and contrary to the spirit of idealism in which the Constitution was drafted is a serious waste of time... it's the same thing as Prohibition, which sought not to grant rights but to take rights away, and a Gay Marriage Ban Amendment will have to be negated by yet another Amendment for exactly the same reason. Constitutional Amendments are to ensure further rights, not to limit them.

One person's rights end where the next person's rights begin; there is a lot of gray area in between those two people, but if granting a right to one person does not take away a right from someone else, there is no reason to deny that right. Any activity that does not take the right to life, property, or physical and emotional safety from another person is not criminal and should not be made illegal. Granting gays and lesbians and transexuals and whomever the right to legally marry will not take away anybody else's rights, and so there is no reason to not grant those rights. It's that simple.

Any questions?

Monday, August 9, 2004

Back to the Front

After a whole week of sleeping late every morning, I was worried about getting to work on time today; that's always the hardest part of returning from vacation, getting back into the timetable routine. But for some reason, I accidentally set my clock forward an hour while I was setting my alarm back an hour (I decided to start getting up at eight instead of nine). I don't know how this was done, the buttons for the alarm and for the regular time are on opposite sides of the clock. But I was already awake and drinking coffee and reading my morning blogs before I discovered the time difference, so it gave me an extra hour to sit down and start chatting with you, and to have more coffee, and to enjoy a little more peace and quiet before going back into the fray at the office.

I spent so much time this last week lying in bed, sleeping and reading and watching videos, that my lower back is starting to ache and I'm getting little spasms in my ankles... that's a sure sign that I've enjoyed my time off. I've also got three books open and am reading them in turn, another good sign (I always did this when I was in college, so I choose to interpret it as a sign of intellectual stimulation... though it could easily be a sign that I can't concentrate on anything in particular after a week of mental dissipation).

However, I am disappointed that I didn't get much done in the way of writing, nor in the way of research, nor even in the way of housecleaning (though I did rather more of it than usual), during my week off. I've been working on that last bit of Worst Luck, rewriting a part of "Chapter One Part Three" and continuing on from the rewritten paragraphs, but it's been slow going. I never did get over to the City to check out their courtrooms, and will not have a free weekday to do so anytime soon, and may end up having to rely on video reference (I've seen San Francisco courtrooms on the news many times) and non-definite descriptions of rooms and procedures that will not show up my ignorance. And though I have washed dishes and wiped counters and loaded the dishwasher I don't know how many times, I never reached the bottom of the hand-washing stacks and the kitchen is an even bigger mess today than it was this time last week... and I didn't even think about my bedroom or my drag-room or any of the other messes in my life. All very disappointing.

But I am rested, and we shall see if that rest has prepared me for an increase of activity... or whether it has instead spoiled me for it. The whole concept of work is alien to my nature, and I get used to vacation all too quickly, mightily resenting the return to schedule and effort.

Actually, now that I think of it, I believe I should start getting into the effort now, take advantage of my serendipitous extra hour and go load the dishwasher again, and maybe water the lawn, before I go into the office. I'll post now but finish this once I'm there, or else after I get home (if it's as madly busy as I fear it will be after my week's absence).

In the meantime, try this interesting quiz, which I discovered via Paul:

The Musketeer
Category IV - The Musketeer

You have a small, highly edited social group, and you like it that way.

What Type of Social Entity are You?

brought to you by Quizilla


2:45 p.m.: Okay, so it's official: returning to work after a week's vacation sucks. I feel like I've been sitting in this chair and working for eight or nine hours straight, but I've only been here for four and a half hours. There wasn't an awful lot of extra work to wade through, my boss was here all last week checking messages and all, so there wasn't a big backlog. But I am suffering terribly from the overwhelming desire to go lay down and dip back into Gaudy Night or Wasted or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or perhaps to watch a movie, or maybe just take a nap. But I can't L!

Still, I have been productive, I've achieved everything I wanted to do today, and that always feels good. And there are people here I can talk to... people who hear every word I say, and who don't interrupt to ask what the words I've just used mean (it's bad enough having to define such potentially advanced words as 'irrelevant' to the Small Children, but when an adult and college graduate like Caroline stops me in the middle of a sentence and makes me explain the meaning of 'prudent' and how it differs in connotation and denotation from 'wise'... and then have to explain 'connotation' and 'denotation'... well, it's just too much).

So I guess I am glad to be back at work, for the most part, despite the strong desire to be horizontal: it's intellectually stimulating and is probably better for my soul than lying in bed all day. But it would be nice to have a sofa or something here in the office where one could lie down during one's little breaks. Maybe that's something we can do in our new office (whenever we find it and move into it).

Well, I'm going to close up now and get back to work. I got in nice and early due to the Clock Mystery, so I can leave nice and early, and there are a couple of things I ought to do before I go. I hope you're having a super lovely day!

Thursday, August 5, 2004

En Vacances II: Je Reste Chez Moi

Well, here we are in day four of my vacation, and I feel ever so relaxed... despite the presence of Small Children in the house. I'm getting all sorts of sleep, and am spending loads of quality time in bed with books and movies, and it's simply Heaven on Earth.

On the downside, of course, I am not getting much of anything done... even the things I wanted to do during my vacation. I tried doing some fiction-writing yesterday, but I hardly got started before I was interrupted by an overwhelming desire to lay down again and watch some more early episodes of Brideshead Revisited (I can only watch the first five episodes, the halcyon days at Oxford and Brideshead; the later episodes depress me); while languishing there, Grandmother asked me to take her and the Small Children to Beverly's to find some handicrafts that will keep the children busy during their visit; and since I was already planning to go with my Daddy to the movies in the evening, that shot the remainder of the day.

And then today I had planned to go out to San Francisco to do some visual and atmospheric research at the municipal courthouse and around Polk Street, two settings in my story with which I am not as familiar as I ought to be if I'm going to write about them; but I woke up at eleven, which kind of shoots a big hole in my plan... by the time I get dressed and schlepp over to the City, the municipal courthouse will just be closing. So I'll try and get up early to do that tomorrow, and spend today writing and washing dishes instead.

The kitchen is a fright... though I've been able to keep up with the day-to-day dishes, which go in the dishwasher, I haven't touched any of the cookwear (knives, pans, wooden utensils) which have to be washed by hand. There's a big Tupperware bowl and some baking sheets that I know for a fact have been there since the Fourth of July. I rinsed them, they don't stink or anything, but they have to be scrubbed and hot-water-washed and all that jazz.

That's something that has always irked me about dishwashers: the only things you can put in them are the things that are easy to wash by hand, like plates and glasses and forks... but the things that are hard to wash, you can't put in there. What kind of sense does that make?

But then, a lot of the non-sense of dishwashing stems not from the limitations of the dishwasher and the special needs of the cookwear, but rather with the Grandmother's bizarre superstitions and prejudices about dishwashers. She feels you have to rinse the dishes so thoroughly before putting them in the dishwasher that you can't tell by looking at them whether they've been washed or not... so thoroughly that, if you'd had some soapy water on the dish instead of just clear water, you would have washed it already.

I point out to her that my experience has always been that just scraping the larger chunks of food off the plate or the fork is quite enough, but she doesn't believe me. She claims that sometimes the food doesn't come off, and then you have to wash it again and the heat-dryer seals the food onto the dish and makes it harder to get off. "So turn off the heat-dryer," I reply, but she'll have none of that, because then the dishes don't get quite dry enough. They do, eventually, as all things do eventually dry out once you cease to apply water... it's in the physics of the thing, but she simply doesn't believe it.

She further believes you can't put wooden utensils or knives or pots or pans into the dishwasher because the heat-drying cracks the wood and the handles; so turn off the heat-dryer? No, then they wouldn't get dry. So instead, it's better for them to lie around dirty for weeks on end (oftentimes in standing water which destroys the handles more surely than the heat-drying) instead of putting them in the dishwasher.

Well, it's all very medieval, but I guess it's better than hand-washing everything. But the more involved I get in housework, the more I discover that Grandmother's methods don't make any sense. For one thing, we have way too many pots and pans in this house: I advocate having just one of each kind of pot or pan, so you have to wash what you want immediately after using it, or immediately before using it, instead of letting them stack up all over the place; but Grandmother will use one skillet for bacon and another skillet for eggs and another skillet for gravy, one after the other, transferring the same bacon grease from one to the next, instead of doing it all in one; and then she has to use one particular cast-iron skillet if she's making the eggs over-medium and a different Teflon one if she's going to scramble them. As a result, we actually have at least nine different skillets; and at the moment all of them are dirty and stacked up at one end of the sink.

I have come to believe that the only way around this irrational method is to take over the entire housekeeping myself, from cooking to cleaning to laundry to gardening. My only other choice is to do it her way, with her. I haven't quite decided which road I am going to take in the coming years: I know how deeply resistant Grandmother is to change, and I respect that resistance because I share it; but when something's not working, it has to be changed.

One of the things that Grandmother and I argue about is how to affect change in the way we do things. For example, I once discussed with her methods by which we could keep the dining-room table tidy: I recommended, for one, that Grandmother stop clipping coupons and saving the parts of the newspaper that advertise sales; she doesn't ever use the coupons, and buying things just because they're on sale is a wasteful practice that ends up costing her more than it saves (buying a $5 object you ordinarily would not buy in order to save 50¢ on it means that you just wasted $4.50). Her answer was that she should use the coupons instead of not using them... which not only doesn't solve the problem but doesn't even address the point under discussion, that the dining-room table is a mess. Whether or not we use the coupons or take advantage of the sales has absolutely no effect whatsoever on how messy the table is with all these bits of colored paper floating around all over the place.

On the same token, I advised that she not cut out gardening and cooking advice columns from the newspaper, since she doesn't have the ability to carry out the advice anymore; again her answer is "I should be able to"... which simply doesn't address the fact that with her age and weight and arthritis she simply can't, and whether she should or not is entirely moot — and furthermore that even if she did follow the newspaper's advice, that doesn't prevent the bits of paper from littering the dining-table. Most aggravating.

One thing I have done in the last few weeks, starting when Grandmother was practically bed-bound and continuing now that she can get around a bit, is taking over the production of dinner. It occurred to me lately that, cost-wise, it is not much more expensive to eat prepared food all the time than it is to try to prepare fresh food all the time... prepared food comes in these convenient table-for-two portions, and fresh food always comes in great bulk that tends to get wasted. Bags of pre-mixed salad cost about the same as the various heads of lettuce you'd have to buy, and you use the whole bag, so there's less waste. We've usually eaten frozen vegetables instead of fresh, so why not have frozen entrees as well? They taste better than anything we could make, and though they have more preservatives and salt than fresh food, they have considerably less fat and other crap in them than what Grandmother cooks.

But dinner is only one comparatively small facet of the housekeeping routines (though my method cuts down considerably on the use of non-dishwasher cookwear), and leaves the kitchen and bathroom (which I really ought to clean more often for mere hygiene's sake), the wildly untidy dining table, the wildly untidy other parts of the house, and the entire hateful expanses of the garden to deal with.

Perhaps the answer is to hire a service. We have a gardening service to mow the grass and trim the plants, but they come twice a month and don't do the watering and don't tend the plants that Grandmother in her infinite farmgirl fantasies keeps planting (she always tries to grow tomatoes, and encourages the apple and peach trees to bear; repeated failures, tiny thick-skinned flavorless fruit, and the unbelievable expense of limb-trimming and plant-buying never dim her zeal). Similarly, a cleaning service would come in to mop and vacuum and dust, but could do nothing about the untidiness of Grandmother's end of the dining table, her corner of the living-room, and her bedroom (they would not be allowed in my rooms).

But it would still be something, a move in the right direction, dealing at least with the hygienic issues of dust and toilet-bowls and kitchen grease and what-have-you. I would certainly be willing to chip in for such a service, if not pay for it myself. But then, I'd have to resolve some of my more pressing financial issues first.

I can't quite believe I just spent all this time and energy writing about housework... if I had spent it doing the housework, I wouldn't have much of anything to write about.


So anyway... the movie I saw with Daddy last night was Fahrenheit 911. It was a powerful experience, moving and affecting. It didn't change my views so much as it reinforced them; and though I know Michael Moore has an agenda and an axe to grind, and that many of the scenes portrayed in this film were melodramatic or unnecessarily sentimental, it was good to see all of the solid factual research that also went into it. Daddy liked it, too (and wonders if the soundtrack is available), though he got a little choked up at the end when that woman was talking about losing her son in Iraq; with his grandson (my nephew) possibly on his way over there, his life in extreme danger, the episode had a great deal of resonance.

My problem with this film, and films like it, is that it preaches to the choir. Nobody in that theatre had his mind changed by what he saw... those who believe otherwise from Michael Moore and Daddy and I (like the Grandmother) will not see this film. The nature of our media-driven society is that there is too much information out there at any given time; one has to pick and choose what one sees, and it is natural to choose to see and hear that with which one already agrees.

That is the secret of the success of Fox News: it convinces the ignorant, the uninformed, and the simply stupid people of this nation that they are in fact quite learned, informed, and intelligent... they present their information in tiny dramatic pieces that even the meanest intellect can grasp and remember... and having convinced them of this fictional intelligence, can tell them anything else they like, no matter how fantastic and irrational.

It is the same trick the Republicans are currently using, aligning themselves with the recidivist tendencies of the Great Unwashed: "Scared of all this progressive social change? Pissed off that you can't beat up broads or niggers or fags or even your own chilluns anymore? Terrified that you might possibly be wrong in your beliefs and traditions? Well," (says the Republican Party via the Turner-and-Murdock-strangled right-wing media), "you're right to feel that way! You may not have much book-larnin' but you have good folksy common sense: so support this other moron we put in office, who can't remember his lines and mispronounces common words, because he's just as smart as you are." And having been convinced of this, the newly-enfranchised sheep will obligingly look the other way while you rape the resources of the nation and line your and your friends' pockets with billions and billions of public dollars.

So now I'm talking about politics... somehow I felt on surer ground when I was talking about dishwashers.


Well, anyway, I had better get along with the rest of my day. I have those dishes to wash, and now I have been drafted into helping Caroline enter some stupid contest where she might get to meet Duran Duran. Like I have nothing better to do than help her find a cream-colored necktie and take pictures of her dressed as Simon LeBon in the Rio video. The things I do for my friends.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

En Vacances

I don't really have anything to say, in fact I need to leave in about ten minutes to go meet my sponsor for lunch and a good long talk, but I didn't want to leave the last post at the top any longer. I'm not angry anymore, in fact I don't like to stay angry for more than a couple of days, no matter what... anger is such a wasteful emotion. Instead of being mad at Kellie, I can take that energy and devote it to entertaining her children.

Yesterday was the first day of my official one-week-off-from-work Vacation, and I rather enjoyed it: I spent almost the entire day in bed watching videos (Chicago, Down With Love, and To Wong Foo...), reading a book (Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House), and eating (bacon and eggs served by a small cousin in bed, a bowl of lime jello, a bunch of grapes, and a handful of Brach's candy... not mentioning the food I ate outside of bed).

I would have blogged then, but I stayed off the internet as much as I could stand, as yesterday was also Grandmother's birthday (she's 86 now), and the phone-calls were coming in from all over. And though I'd like to write a little more and read a little more, I have to jet off to Solano Avenue for my lunch date... oh, I think I'm going to be late... must dash!