Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's

I doubt that the clouds will part long enough in my corner of the world to allow us to view this unique sight tonight. Hi there crescent moon and Mercury and Jupiter. Greetings and happy New Year from the blue marble!
Just in case the heavens do open for us, I'm loading some 1600 speed film in the camera and setting up the tripod.

United States of Tara

Well, dammit, I'm going to have to get Showtime. Currently I have HBO, and I refuse to pay for more than one premium channel, which means that I'm going to have to shit can HBO and switch to SHO. I did that a couple of years ago so that I could watch The L Word in real time, and I'm not going to rant about TLW, but Jesus H. Christ on a raft, that show sucks. It's so in love with itself that I just want to bash it with the claw end of a hammer. I realize that as a lesbian I'm supposed to ignore all of TLW's shortcomings and embrace it like a kitten, but as a human being with functioning neural pathways i just can't drink that much.
Anyway, I had the pleasure of viewing the pilot episode of SHO's new comedy, "The United States of Tara". Let me tell you, I have never, ever, seen anything like it. And in this case, that's a good thing.
Diablo Cody is back, writing up a storm, and Toni Collette sinks her teeth, nails, and inner dude into the titular role of Tara (is that redundant?) with amazing results. Tara is the married mother of two, and she has a couple of multiple personalities. Now, I've only seen the first episode, but thus far this show is the freshest take on family dysfunction since "Arrested Development". Definitely check this show out when it premiers, Sunday January 18...I mention the date only because it happens to also be my birthday! Yes, I was born on a cold, unforgiving winter evening. Slipping into the world while my mother lay hypnotized (really) on a gurney in the hospital and my father chain smoked in the waiting room. While I remember a lot of the events of my childhood, sadly, I don't recall my birth at all and have to rely on what I've been told.

Atom Age Vampire

Do you know what's better than cheap? Free! Thanks to the immutable laws of public domain and, that's the cost to view "Atom Age Vampire", a film about neither the atomic age nor vampires. This 1961 Italian horror gem tells the tale of a mad scientist who treats a severely scarred auto accident victim, falls in love with her, and then has to kill to keep procuring the unnamed human gland needed for her treatments.
The plot is utter nonsense, driven by dialog that sounds as if it was lifted from various other works and then just patched together with nary a backward glance at cohesion or cogency. It's brilliant! The funny thing about really awful movies is that you can't set out to make a terrible film, it has to evolve and emerge that way completely unintentionally. And that is why we love them.
Happy New Year, peoples!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Wishes

MK made this snappy graphic on JibJab. If only Bela would actually wear an elf hat we could farm her out over Christmas (Nov. 1 through Ground Hog's Day) and make a buck or two.
Anyway, Happy Holidays to one and all! I don't care what I get for Christmas because I know for a fact that MK got me the German military parka that I wanted, so everything else will just be gravy on the cake!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hello Kitty

The other day I had to cable guy sit for my sister and she left me this note. It was thoughtful for her to leave a note, and I did make myself at home (I ate all of her holiday Hershey Kisses, mixed a greyhound with the good vodka, and watched the Lost marathon on the sci-fi channel).
But, what got me, and why I saved the missive...a Hello Kitty note pad? Seriously? It's like finding out that my parents use sex toys, only the opposite. Hello Kitty stuff is like for the suicidals, the delusional, the crazed who can't even feign indifference. It's what comes in the gift bag when you check out of the mental ward after electroshock therapy (along with a box of pantyliners, two disposable enemas, a pint of Old Harper whiskey, condoms, and illegal fireworks*).
Of course I asked Junior about this Hello Kitty phase and she said that the note pad isn't hers. Yeah, like the shark-ling in the jar of formaldehyde on the mantel isn't mine.
Liar! I know, and she knows, that she bought this thing at the dollar store (they really don't have a good selection, but sometimes you get lucky and there's Spongebob themed stuff, which is troubling on a different 'I can't face reality' level). And if she didn't buy it for herself, then why is it there? Hmm? Did she buy it for me and chicken out presenting it to me at the last minute? Thinking that I would react poorly to such a strong and damningly innocuous affront to my subconscious manifesting itself in my day to day life? Is that what she thought? Giggling to herself madly while she doled out the dollar and six cents tax for this note pad!!!!! Is that what was going through her head?!!!11!!1
*Courtesy of The Simpsons

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Buffy #20

Coming on the heels of the delayed and vague Time of Your Life arc, this stand alone issue is primarily light fluff with an underlying deeper meaning. Kind of. If you stretch the whole 'you can't change the future' tidbit tossed in.
While we had to cope with Buffy traveling into the future with ToYL, in After These Messages we find Buffy either in the past or dreaming herself in the past. Is it real? Does it matter? I suppose that it matters very much to Buffy in that she has an inescapable destiny, and going back to her first year at Sunnydale (post the pack of hyenas eating Principal Flutie because we've got Principal Snyder) only serves to reaffirm what she already knows about herself: Being the slayer supersedes everything. Family, friends, the love of her life, all of those things teeter precariously on The Chosen fulcrum. Of course After These Messages doesn't quite address these issues because it is a single issue, but it does touch upon them lightly.
I'm really looking forward to the next five issue arc starting with the Jane Espensen penned issue #21, Harmonic Divergence out on January 7. The series seems to need a shot in the arm, and if anyone can deliver, Jane can!

Monday, December 15, 2008


Folks, it was bound to happen, or it was simply meant to be. Princess Unicorn has her own website now. Look how majestic she is! You can learn about the legend of Princess Unicorn (she is the daughter of the King of the Unicorns and the Queen of the Princesses, and she was doused with radiation by the evil Sorcerissa, which didn't harm her, but did give her magical powers), you can read the fan testimonials of the greatness that IS Princess Unicorn, and you can buy a t-shirt of Princess Unicorn. Sadly, you can't buy an actual Princess Unicorn doll as the whole thing is made up make believe by those goofy geniuses on The Office.

I've hated dolls my whole life (why won't the italics thing turn off!!!!) and somewhere there is a shallow grave full of naked headless Barbies to prove it, but I want this damn doll. Just looking at her makes me dream of a land where Unicorn Princesses and My Little Ponies frolick and play all the live long day in fields laden with chocolate drops instead and of poop and where the trees are the good flavored lollipops instead of lemon or grape.

So, to those wily marketers over at GE/NBC, in a downturned economy, you've got a real winner on your hands with this Princess Unicorn doll. I mean, if you can make ME want one, then surely there are millions and dozens of others who are willing to risk losing an eye to own their very own Princess Unicorn doll.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fringe "Safe" 1.10

Best Walter line: "Are you stoned, Agent Dunham?"

Whether or not Nina Sharp is pure evil or just garden variety evil, did you see the look on her face while her techs were attempting to extract memories from mostly dead Agent Scott? She's like the female version of Dick Cheney. I'd shudder, but I'm shivering from the draft wafting up the stairs from the Spider Kingdom.
We're beginning to glimpse the full impact of Dunham's Altered Statesesque mind meld with Agent Scott in that she's begun to think that his memories and past experiences have actually happened to her. Which, of course, begs the question: What will it seem like to her once a sexy-time memory creeps to the forefront? Say she bumps into a hot number (other than herself) that Agent Scott got deliciously nasty with and all of the events in regards to that encounter not only emerge in her thoughts, but emerge as her experience? She even affected a certain typically male swagger when talking about how she knew Raoul Lugo, the dead man encased in the safe door. How much of John Scott is now embedded into her psyche and gleefully manifesting itself in her persona? Oooooh, the possibilities are endless!
Physically, Agent Scott is on ice over at Massive Dynamic. I have no doubt that MD plans to re-animate his corpse fully into a lumbering, barely verbal, brain dining denizen of the undead. It happens all the time. Who do you think works the phone banks during NPR pledge drives?
Moving right along...What is Mr. Jones in that German prison for? Were we even told? No matter, he won't be in there for much longer. A team of former special-ops forces turned mercenaries (or whatever you call former military personel who turn to the darkside to make a buck, besides a Blackwater employee) led by the parasite-hearted Agent Loeb are breaking into bank safe deposit boxes around the rust belt (Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and soon coming to a town near you in you live in Rhode Island) to retrieve components of a machine that Walter built decades ago that would transport a person from literally any time to any place. It does expose the user to high levels of radiation, but then the universe must exact its due on those who dare to defy its immutable laws of physics.
Also, how refreshing to see that the Fibonacci sequence got properly pageant walked out. About time too, I thought we'd see it in the episode from two weeks ago, "The Equation", via the Golden Ratio (aka, the divine proportion) given the shared mathematical and musical applications for same. But no. Still, the fact that the safety deposit boxes were all following a Fibonacci sequencing, this led to Walter's realization that the boxes are his. Which, ultimately clues the FBI team in as to which bank in Providence will be the site of the next heist.
Oh the suspense! Will the white hats get there in time to thwart the black hats? As gays used to say, Better latent than never, as even though Dunham's team is a tad late on the bank job, they do nab one of the radio active baddies as the get away van gets away.
Mr. Jones prepares for his great transmutation escape! Drammomine, sun tan lotion with SPF 10,000, and the 'lucky' suit of his hired man servant. We saw that killing coming from across the room and behind the bookcase when Jones asked him what his suit size was. Never disclose personal information to a smiling devil holed up in a German prison cell! Never!!!
Sigh, and anyway, Jones instructs his henchmen to abduct Dunham, which they do, which then poses the question: Was this orchestrated with Massive Dynamic (who also want Dunham for Agent Scott's memories), or are Jones' people working alone, rogue mavericks gone totally mavericky in their rogueness? The many and varied possibilities have my phase harmonics in a variance.
Next up: Uh, stuff!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Buffy #19 Time of Your Life

After a two month and three week wait, we finally got the final issue in the Time of Your Life four issue arc. Was it worth all of the delays?
Simply, no. Less simply, the premise of the arc, a Buffy/Fray crossover, presented some problems that were not only not resolved, they were inexplicably poorly handled. Inexplicably because Joss Whedon himself wrote this arc. But then again, he's dealing with the television production of his mid-season show, Dollhouse, so if the comic book tentacle of his usually reliable genius seems a bit distracted (if not distracting) it's because it (he) is.
The number one pitfall of employing time travel in any storyline is the clear and present danger of jumping the shark. I don't believe that Buffy season 8 did jump the shark with ToYL because honestly, despite the death of future Evil Willow at the hands of Buffy, this beached whale couldn't jump a phytoplankton submolecule. It's merely horrible, not antithetical to its own mythology.
What went so, so, very wrong?
Let's examine, shall we? The Fray series was exciting in its own way and right when it first came out. I've read the entire collection, and despite the annoying lingo employed, it was a fun slayer foray. Not nearly as fun as the Tales of the Slayer series, but then what is? And Part 1 of ToYL laid a good foundation for what was to come, but the problem turned out to be what was to come. Parts 2&3 of ToYL were, dare I say it, vapid. There were pages and pages of drawing and stuff happening, but none of it seemed to lead to much of anything, except Future Willow's afroementioned death. FWillow lies to Fray, she lies to Harth, she manipulates everything so that what? Buffy either gets killed or kills her? It just seems ridiculous that it took 4 issues, not to mention a last issue that was severely delayed, to tell so little of a story. And the b-storyline of Dawn becoming less a giant and more a centaur and Xander rallying the slayers at the castle to fight the thingys that Warren conjured for Twilight was adequate, although to be honest, had I not just reread the whole arc I probably wouldn't even have mentioned them because it was that forgettable. Especially the tree people.
On the plus side, we did learn that Riley is NOT Twilight, but he is in bed with him...probably not literally, but you never know. There's been a lot of speculation around the internets as to whether Riley was Twilight, given the military involvement, and to a certain extent, those wild specualtions weren't entirely off the mark. But still, who is Twilight? We know that he knows Buffy from the past, and doesn't like her much, which leads us back to the initiative from season 4. Graham? Col. Mustard, or whatever his name was? A rebooted Adam?
The best thing I can say about the ToYL arc is that Jo Chen's cover art is brilliant, as always.

Monday, December 1, 2008

House Hunting

MK and I are, have been, looking at houses. It started last summer, kind of an off shoot of my tendency to read the real estate section of the Sunday paper. There were some open houses and we started going. But the thing is, with MK, you can't just look and get ideas, you have to act at some point. Me, I'd drift along like all of that garbage caught in the Pacific gyre. Slowly degrading, strangling turtles, mutating the plankton.
So, I think we've found a place, in total need of remodeling, in Ben Avon Heights. Great yard, fireplace (two of my criteria so that I can garden and let the dog run loose, and have a fire), and the taxes are doable. Of course the house is owned by old people, so nothing's been done to update, let alone upgrade, since the 70s. You know, I'd rather deal with 50s crap than 70s crap. Anything pre-shag carpet is preferable to the post shag era.
MK has talked to the realtor a few times and the old woman who owns it is willing to deal on price. I have some mixed feelings though, about all of the work this place needs. I tend to do as much work on a house myself as what I am capable of doing. Electrical is beyond my means, and major plumbing is too, but that leaves a whole lot of other work that I can do. So I ask myself, do I want to do this? Go from fixing up one house to another? Basically I just want one house that I'll stay in and that's it. Let someone complain fifty years from now when they buy it from our estate about how it needs to be updated because of the old ladies that lived there.
We'll see what happens. MK has her house on the southside of Pgh and I've got this fossil of a house in Zelienople. We're planning on living with each other full-time after my youngest finishes his first year of college (just so that I can keep an eagle on him - he's smart, but lazy). I'm more than willing to move to MK's place. It's spacious, beautiful, and in the heart of the southside. Her moving to my house is out of the question because it's too far from her work, although I love Zelie. I always have, ever since I was a kid and my mom would take my sister and me to the A&P with her. That smell of freshly ground coffee...
Anyway, yea or nay, we'll probably be making a decision soon about whether this is where we're moving or not. MK is nesting mode, because of the dog, and being in Ben Avon is closer to Zelie than she is now, so Bela and I would down there more often.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow I won't have time to post anything. Not that I'm cooking. No, we go to my brother's house at 1pm and eat, then we lay on the floor and swill wine while football plays across the massive screen.
Later we go to MK's parents' house. This actually is the best possible scenario for us because my family will have a traditional Thanksgiving and MK's family will prepare a bird, no stuffing, no gravy. The starch for the meal will be the dinner rolls. It's completely barbaric. There will be plenty of meat and veggies and two fruit salads, but no yams, no mashed potatoes, and worst of all, given all the veggies, no green bean cassarole.
Fortunately we'll be stuffed from the previous meal so it never seems that bad.
And now my stomach is growling in anticiaption...for the first meal, not the second.

Fringe: The Dreamscape 1.9

Best Walter line: A shame I don't have a lab. I'd like to examine him.
Oh but Walter, you do have a lab, famously so in the cellar at Harvard, with a cow and a piano.
So, we open with Mark Young, a big shot at Massive Dynamic about to give a presentation. Skip the presentation. Afterwards when mark is alone in the conference room gathering up his stuff, he spies a beautiful butterfly flitting about. It lands on his finger and he studies it, but then it cuts him. It flies around and slashes him some more. The butterfly effect teetering on a razor's edge. The butterfly lands on the table and Mark rolls up a magazine. Funny, isn't it, how we feel compelled to sneak up on insects before we overkill them. I once shot a garden spider with a BB gun. Mark smashes the butterfly, but more appear, and more, all slashing at him relentlessly until he takes a header out the window and falls to his death.
Agent Dunham is getting ready for a party when the call comes about the case. Even as she resists attending to her duty, she wipes off her lipstick and that reveals everything. Dunham, the Bishops, and Astrid all go to the scene. Later, Dunham ends up at Young's apartment. He had a flight out on Oceanic Air, a not so subtle nod to the lost flight on LOST, but more interestingly, he was a lepidopterist, a collector of butterflies. The mounted, and presumably dead specimens flutter before Dunham's eyes, and she sees the word 'MONARCH' written in Young's day planner.
The b-story in the episode was that Peter Bishop's past is catching up with him, but honestly, who cares about Peter?
That night, at home, Dunham gets an email from Agent Scott, directing her a basement somewhere, where she discovers crates of frogs that turn out to be toads with psychoactive venom. The world is a wonderous and glorious place, is it not?
Dunham decides to go back into the isolation chamber to retrieve more of Agent Scott's memories. By reconnecting with his dead, nondead, mostly dead consciousness she's supposed to merely be a viewer of his memories, not an active participant. But, at some point during the 'dreamscape' he looks directly at her, leading me to believe that he's not all dead. Also, while in the dreamscape, Dunham sees Agent Scott, a black man, a latino, and a man who turns out to be Mark Young all in cahoots concocting some scheme. When the latino and Young depart, Agent Scott viciously knifes the black man and Dunham freaks and yells for Walter to end the session.
So, the toad poison is being used as a weapon to manifest your fears in such a psychosomatic (a term out of favor I discovered and a condition now referred to as psychophysiologic, which just trips off the tongue) manner that you die. Apparently Young carried quite a bit of guilt about his butterfly collection, since that's what lead to his death.
Anyway, Dunham figures out that the MONARCH in the day planner corresponds to a telephone number. Hmmmm, who is still alive? That's right, she dials it and gets the latino. Of course he flees, but they capture him when he gets hit by a car. At the hospital he begs Dunham for protection and to be moved, and says that he can give her all the information she'll ever need to bring down massive Dynamic and it's founder, Something Bell, or Belly, as Walter refers to him. That Dunham believes him is obvious, but not eager. Still, dude, you are sooo dead. In fact, the very first injection that went into his IV, before Dunham even entered the room, was nothing but uncut toad spit. His fear? That Agent Scott will slit his throat, which is exactly what happens as the attending nurse watches (and screams) in horror.
Next Up: Looks like Agent Scott is still on ice over at Massive Dynamic. God I hope they make him a zombie!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dog and Cat Show

It took a long time for Whitey to get used to Bela. Of course Bela loved Whitey, and indeed all cats, from the very start. But Whitey looked at us like we were out of our minds getting this puppy.
Now I have both of them under foot when I'm in the kitchen, begging for scraps and fighting over every crumb that falls to the floor. They romp around the house together and often sleep together on the couch. It's really sweet, and quite a relief because the pets have to get along, ya know?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fringe 1.8 "The Equation"

Best Walter line: These medieval cracks are more proficient at phrenology than psychopharmacology.
Best Astrid line: What's up, Chachi?

With Fringe you never know if something just is something, or if it's something more, or something else entirely. That said, I caught the whole windshield wipers-as-metronome before the kid, Ben, mentioned the tempo of them to his father. But wipers are like that anyway, back and forth, back and forth, almost hypnotic. Not unlike the hypnotic effect of sequentially flashing red and green lights one often finds under the hood of a car when a strange woman is in distress along side a darkened country road on a rainy night. Yes, Ben's dad, whatshisname, stops to help a stranded motorist and regains his senses later only to discover that the woman and his son are gone.
When Olivia, Peter, and Walter are brought on the case we learn that this has happened three other times in the last ten years. All of the abductees were subsequently released, but were rendered totally insane!!!! The same woman was the abductor in all of the cases, and all of the previous victims were academics, geniuses. Ben was a normal kid before he and his mother were involved in a fatal (for the mom) auto accident. When Ben, after 6 days, emerged from a coma, he'd become a musical virtuoso. Initially I thought that we were going to trot down fribonacci lane with math and music, but they didn't address that at all. I was both relieved and disappointed. I didn't want the story to be that predictable, but I still thought that it would be a fun mental exercise to see where they might go with it.
Anyway, Ben's own repetitive composition is the musical equivalent of one of Walter's former mental patient friend, Dashiell's, unfinished equation. I saw this coming, and felt a little smudge over it.
So, Agent Dunham goes to talk to Dr. Sumner, head of the insane asylum, to get permission to speak to Dash. Sumner is not unlike Dr. Chilton in The Silence of the Lambs. Part meglamaniac, part asshole, he runs the place like it's his personal lab and all the men and women merely rats. He's chilling in that "I know best" kind of blind way. Sumner only will allow Walter access to Dash, which begs the question, What is this mad doctor up to? It's just so manipulative, and more than a little sadistic. Still Walter agrees to the terms and venture back into that dark place to interview Dash and hopefully gain some info that will help rescue Ben and save him from losing all of his marbles at such a tender age. Where are my aggies! I want my aggies!
Sorry for the lame ass joke.
In an effort to get Dash to reconnect to his former obsession, an unfinished equation, Walter begins scrawling the equation out on the table with a blue crayon. I mention this because...why a blue crayon? Why not red or yellow (if we have to stick to primary colors)? Dash insists that he doesn't do math anymore and becomes angry and hostile. Walter becomes mixed up in a melee and ends up sedated, at which point Dr. Sumner refuses to allow Walter to leave and Olivia has to get a court order for the following morning to get Walter out of the mental hospital.
Meanwhile, Ben is being pushed by the woman and a virtual reality version of his dead mother to finish the musical score. The kid is at a loss on how to finish it until the woman makes his mother start to degrade into a severely injured accident victim. Ouch! I loved my mom desperately when I was a kid, so I would've figured out how to finish the thing too.
Back at the asylum walter approaches Dash once more about his won kidnapping. The only thing that Dash can offer is that he was in a dungeon in a red castle.
With Olivia out in the field canvassing, Peter shows up to pick up Walter. Dr. Sumner definitely turns nasty, throwing Peter's past back up at him and threatening to petition for guardianship over Walter. Well, this dude is definitely working on some agenda. Is he on Massive Dynamic's payroll? Does he want to be? The whole thing reeks like a self serving self serve buffet left out in the noonday sun in Miami in August.
Finally, and a little conveniently, Olivia stumbles across the red castle. A former carousel of the future damned, she finds Ben...but then the woman who took him, Ritz (or some such ridiculous hotelier name...why not just go for Hilton? Marriot? Red Roof?), tries to prevent Olivia from taking him. Girl Fight! Girl Fight! Rinse, repeat. Of course once the green and red lights start blinking we know that this isn't going to go as Olivia planned. Ritz escapes, but Ben is left behind and eventually reunited with his dad, which makes Olivia smile and I just want to cuddle her, give her a cup of coco with a big shot of Jack Daniels in it, just like what my mom used to give me when I had a rough but gratifying day at the playground.
Ritz pops up in a warehouse lab with Agent Loeb. They plug in Ben's finished composition, and voila! Loeb reaches through the solid wall of a safe and extracts an apple. While he chews on that, he kills Ritz. We hardly knew ye, Ritzy! Where's Blair Brown? You just KNOW that she's got to be behind some of this crap. She's like a female Cheney, the great puppet master pulling the strings from an undisclosed bunker.
Next Up: Peter's past catches up big time and Olivia risks the Altered States isolation chamber again to get into the mind of Dead John.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Musings

Here I am trying to look not dopey at the pre-rally gathering. MK was chuckling on the other side of the camera.
MK: What are you doing?
Me: Concentrating.
MK: On what?
Me: Not looking like an imbecile.

I think I ended up looking like I'm holding in a fart.
But that's neither here nor there. In the end, I hope that all of the energy and goodwill generated on Saturday around the country continues to build and we realize our goal of equal rights for gays!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Prop 8 Protest Pittsburgh

This afternoon MK and I joined about 500 or so other people at Schenley Plaza, between the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University campuses in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, for the National Protest March against Prop 8. I have to disclose one thing about my personality: I'm not a joiner. I'm not antisocial, I just don't enjoy being part of something big, or organized, especially if bylaws are involved. But I thought that this was important, and I want to marry MK one day, preferably legally right here in Pennsylvania. So, I stuffed my dread of being an active participant in anything (including my own fate) down into the same dark hole that harbors the vestiges of my Christian upbringing and off we went!
Even though the meteorologists all predicted meteors, I mean rain, all day, it was clear for our entire rally and march. See? Some aspect of god loves us :) It was exhilarating! The people were not only hopeful, but ENERGIZED. The coattails of the Obama presidency spread wide enough for us all to believe that change not only can come, but will come. A woman somewhat older than me sidled over to us at one point and said, "I never thought that I live to see this day...But, here we all are." Yes, indeed. All of us. Gay, straight, white, Asian, Indian, Hispanic, African-American. All there, chanting and marching down Forbes Avenue, up Craig Street, down Fifth Avenue. Over and over chanting, 'What do we what? EQUALITY! When do we want it? NOW!' My throat was raw by the time we wound things up. Drivers on the streets beeped their horns in support, workers came out of businesses to cheer us on and wave their arms in collective solidarity. It was a powerful experience. I am so glad that we attended.
The photo accompanying this post is of one of the many families attending. The sign reads: Focus On Your Own Damn Family. Heh, Dobson and his Focus on the Family minions will be getting an email from me shortly relaying the message.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Graphicless Update

Sorry for the lack of posting, particularly about the latest episode of Fringe, but the entire family has been down all week with a wicked stomach flu. Better now, but still kind of beat.
I'll be back next week with whatever strikes my fancy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bela Update, 11/5

After last night's election watching, I'm exhausted today. So, I'm offering up a beagle update. This past weekend Bela figured out how to jump up on the table out back on the patio, but then couldn't figure out how to get back down.
She's a sweetie, a bit nebby, but still a sweetie. She's almost entirely moved out of her puppy biting phase, and our fingers and ankles are grateful for that. Lastly, she is a bit of a tudball, so I guess I'm going to have to cut back on her morning eggy (typically a soft boiled egg like my mom used to make for me when I was a kid).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Voted!

This morning at 6:50am Cree and I walked down to our local polling place and stood in a line about fifty people deep and then voted. I'm wearing a little 'I Voted' sticker on my flannel shirt. Of course it wasn't easy for me because I have a hyphenated last name, it took the poor old lady looking me up in the register forever to figure out that I'm listed under 'R' and not 'M'. Biggest mistake I ever made (and I'm being facetious here) was to tack on my exhusband's last name on the end of my own. I had resisted doing that clear up until my second son was born. Now I've got this awkward, cumbersome name trailing behind me like toilet paper stuck to a shoe. It's a pain in the ass, this name o' mine. I really need to get it legally changed back to just the 'R'.
I'm so glad that we were able to get out early this morning and cast our votes for Obama and our US Rep, Jason Altmire. I hope they both win and I can finally give up this anger I've harbored ever since Gore lost to Bush in 2000. I for one would like some sun to break free from this awful dark cloud we've endured for lo these eight long years.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Revisiting an Angel, somewhat obsessively

I've been tinkering with this image lately, blowing it up to 11x14, trying to figure out if this is something I want to hang on the wall. The snow and the patina on the angel kind of appeal to me, yet I don't know why. Maybe it just seems cold and harsh, starkly aged, brutal solitude. I dunno.
Anyway, here's an interesting tidbit for horror and cemetery fans alike: H. P. Lovecraft's headstone reads, I Am Providence. He was a life long resident of Providence, RI, and for all I know that's what he meant with that, but it's eerie nonetheless, no? Anyone who has read his work knows that to think of Lovecraft as actual 'providence' is unnerving. I think the duplicity in meaning probably appealed to him.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Keen Critic

On the inside cover of the Top Flight Chub notebook that I carry with me is written: Be a keen observer, a critical thinker. I need the reminder most of the time. Yesterday I was reading a book review of Michael Brooks' The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of Our Time on and the reviewer made a comment that made me chuckle. "Choose carefully, researcher: You are deciding whether posterity will view you as a visionary, reactionary, or crank."
I'm not a scientist, so any whiff of crankism around me is not only allowable, but expected if not preferred. Still, being out in the world and experiencing it demands that I pay attention. Hence my reminder to observe and think. Weather permitting this weekend, MK and I plan on getting out into the world and hopefully discovering a few natural gems here and there. I've been boning up on the geology of Pennsylvania. It seems to make the hikes more exciting.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I'm a couple of days early, but Happy Halloween! Plans, anyone? Surprisingly, despite my fondness for ghoulish things, I'm pretty nonplussed by Halloween. Maybe it just tries to hard to be scary. Want something really terrifying? How about election night! Even the thought of another Republican administration has me peeing myself a little. *shudder*
Now, back to the salt mine that is this floor project...

Monday, October 27, 2008

House Work

No, not the blog. Worse. My house. And by construction I mean remodeling. My oldest son and I are ripping out all of the carpets and trying to figure out what to do with the hardwood floors underneath. This house is really old. REALLY old, so there are good maple floorboards underneath the carpets and padding, but they've got a lot of age and wear on them. Meaning, we're going to have to rent a floor sander and completely refinish them.
What a headache this all is! But it has to be done, and it should've been done right after we bought the house. I hate wall to wall carpeting. I don't know why, maybe because it's soulless, but that seems too pat an answer. I love any kind of natural flooring: wood, cork, stone, the bones of someone's enemies. But carpet, it just bothers me.
So, please to forgive if I'm a little behind on blogging because we have to get this done. Half the livingroom furniture is crammed on one side of the room, and tomorrow it will get shifted to the otherside so that we can tear up that carpet. Then back and forth we go as we sand, refinish, etc. All with a curious beagle chewing up carpet strips and tacks. I bet a magnet would stick to her belly at this point.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dumb Ass

Sometimes I have The View on. I don't know why, Whoopie is no Rosie, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck is a talking points moron with nary an original thought cruising around her skull.
Then, what did EH pull on, what?, Tuesday? She wore a McCain shirt during the show. How desperate are these McCain supporters? Does she realize how idiotic she looks? I mean, let's just throw whatever whisp of credibility she ever possessed to be objective out the window.
As full disclosure I admit that I am an Obama supporter, and I became one late in the game after Hillary tanked. For ten minutes I did seriously look at McCain as an alternative. But then I sobered up. After the Palin pick as veep, well, what more can be said about the validity of this ticket? Palin sounds every bit as duplicitous as Cheney, and Cheney's the most hated VP in my lifetime (and I was around for Agnew).
I'm guessing that EH's gambit will backfire, just as every stunt that the McCain camp has tried so far has. I just wonder how much that shirt cost. If the RNC paid for it, probably 45K.

The Road

Spoilers! I don't reveal all, but I am chatty with the facts.

I finally read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road". It's difficult to compare this post-apocalyptic work to any other in this specific genre because of the immediacy of tone and unflinching realism. So I give Cormac an A+ for originality, which as we all know, is not an easy feat.
The book is immensely readable and compelling, seeing as I read the whole thing in one day. Yes, no, I could not put it down. I carried it with me to the bathroom, I kept it propped up while I made sauerkraut and sausage, with mashed potatoes and green beans, and I read it while I watched the Phillies beat the D-Rays, that's how vested I was in the story.
Yet and still, it is by far not a perfect novel. I particularly did not like the extremely brief appearance of the Man's dead wife. Who, or what woman, I should say, claims to have a 'whorish heart' to justify their suicide? Nobody, that's who. Perhaps that seems nitpicky, but since her death, or more importantly, her absence, seems like a pall that hangs over the Man and the Boy while they travel on the road, I feel that her character needed something more. Anything more than really the nonsense that she was given.
Also, I found myself wondering how in the world these people have survived this long - 7, 8, 11 years? - with no food. Scavenging for canned goods would only last so long, and I'm betting that it wouldn't be this long. Of course we've got the cannibals. Real cannibals, not zombie cannibals, but the Man and the Boy are not cannibals. All vegetation is dead, the animals are all dead, and the Earth is blanketed in a nuclear winter. Sounds cozy, no? I also wondered why they didn't dig up grubs and earthworms. They'd still be in the ground, eating roots and dirt. Speaking of roots, why weren't they digging up roots and eating those? Probably the survivalist in me couldn't resist picking up on these flaws.
In the end, I would still recommend the book. Especially with the movie coming out soon, or not so soon, as I read somehwheres that the release date got pushed back again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Veal Recipe

Ok, anonymous, here's the recipe for the veal dish I made last night:
  • 1lb veal scallopini
  • 1 C red wine (I used merlot)
  • 1 C beef stock
  • 2 C sliced baby portabello mushrooms
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 TBS flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large pan combine the wine and beef broth, heat to a simmer on low heat and reduce the liquid by half.
In a frying pan heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the veal and quickly sear on both sides, about two minutes.
Remove the veal from the pan and set aside. Heat 2 TBS butter in the pan and saute the mushrooms until tender.
In the large pan with the reduced wine/stock mixture, add 1 TBS butter and 2 TBS flour, heat until bubbling, stirring constantly. The mixture should thicken into a gravy. Add the mushrooms and veal to the gravy, salt and pepper.

I served this with sliced parsley potatoes and steamed spinach. My one kid said that it was the best thing I've ever cooked!

Lemon Balm Tea

Several weeks ago, while walking the dog, I discovered a patch of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) growing wild. I picked some and took it home to make tea. Then I went back later with a pot and a trowel and dug some up so that we could have some in the house over the winter for tea. MK immediately got hooked on the lemon balm tea. It's very refreshing, and it's supposed to be a stress reducer. I'm having a cup of it right now and feel completely relaxed. So relaxed that I could go back to bed, if I didn't have a mountain of work in front of me.
Anyway, lemon balm is easy to grow and maintain, the tea can be made from either fresh or dried leaves, and the medicinal claims that it aids in everything from painful menstrual cramps to lowering a fever to soothing the bronchial tubes, make it worthwhile addition to the home herb garden.
I didn't mean to sound so rah-rah in that last sentence, but I really do love this stuff, and can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I know, I'm crazy for this show. Bear with me. I mean, the Buffy comic is over a month behind on releasing the idiotic arc ending issue for the Fray crossover. Man, I can't wait for that to be over. I think the storyline never fully meshed in Joss's humongous brain. It's not hard to follow, almost nothing has happened so far, it's just - dare I say it? - poorly conceived. Like somebody spent too much time at the Double Meat Palace.
Anyway, look what's on the cover of the new TV Guide!!!! I picked up a copy while standing in line at the supermarket, buying the stuff I needed to make veal w/ mushrooms and wine gravy. I found this recipe and I thought, wow, this sounds edible! So I went to the store at some point today (my sister called while I was gone) and bought food and TV Guide.
I'm soooo hopelessly hooked on this show. It's not like crack, more like crack on crack.
I haven't read the article yet, but that's only because I've been cooking, and talking on the phone, and now blogging about something I know nothing about. Life is good.

Happy 250, dammit

The city of Pittsburgh is awash in colored light (courtesy of Lucette de Rugy) to celebrate its 250th birthday. Once a muddied outpost controlled by the French(and burned to the ground when they abandoned it to the Brits and colonists), Pittsburgh has remade itself countless times over the centuries. Once an important boat building center for river travel, then the largest glass manufacturer in the country, and of course the steel behemoth.
Now Pittsburgh in once more finding its identity. I don't know what that identity is or will be, and I don't care much because I'm too distracted looking at the pretty.
MK and I were in the Oakland section of the city Friday night to catch the Squonk Opera, "Astro-Rama" being staged outdoors at Shenley Plaza, across the street from the beautifully lit Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus. The sci-fi-ish opera had some good moments, but was desperately in need of some editing (not to mention better scoring, and some cogency), so MK and I wandered around to look at the shiny and the pretty.
It was a mighty chilly night out there, my friends. I hate to say it, but I'm going to have to break out the gloves and scarves.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Power Hungry, Fringe 1.5

Fringe really keeps my synaptic relays on their toes. Did you notice the bald dude from episode 1.4 exiting the elevator right before the big plunge? Nice touch, J.J. It was so perfectly executed as pure throw-away that I completely missed it the first time around, and it was Cree who picked up on it. Good one.
Also, the continued use of older technologies (homing pigeons, tapes) really resonates. Call me a luddite, but this oddly appealing. It factors into the eldritch-like atmosphere and nuance...I was going to say without missing a beat, but it's so off-beat that it's a tattooed rhythm that is entirely unfamiliar to me. How would I recognize a missed beat? Genius!
I can't say yet what I think of the Vulcan mild meld connection between Liv and Dead John yet. Initially when he popped up I was hoping that he was a Massive Dynamic bio-engineered zombie, preferrably a nonbrain dining denizen of the undead, but really, either way is five by five with me. That issue though is largely moot because he's merely a cacophony of thought vestiges rattling around Liv's consciousness. Darn it.
I'm still loving Walter. Best line of the show belongs to him: "There was a test subject, everytime she hiccuped the lights would dim." He's a wealth of non sequiturs. Gotta say that I barely notice Pacey, but that's as it should be, which is cool. I'm hoping that they give Astrid something more to do than aid and babysit Walter.
Lastly, I really love the basement laboratory, although I really wish they were somewhere other than Harvard and Boston. Stick 'em in Cleveland, or better yet, Buffalo, or even better still, Carnegie Mellon U in Pittsburgh! That's just me idly dreaming...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Visible From Outside Space

I hate weddings, I really do. I do look forward to someday legally marrying MK right here in PA, but that's different. Let me clarify: I hate other peoples' weddings. They suck with their Queen For A Day mentality, dried out chicken and rotini buffet, and watered down whiskey (the whiskey HAS to be watered down or I'd be under the table sooner than I am, cheap bastards).
As I've previously complained, next month one of my nephews is getting married and it has caused a big rift in the family. Now, to those regular readers of this blog you know that my family is crazy. But crazy in mostly an amusing way, putting the funk in dysfunctional. Maybe because we're all getting older and crankier, everyone's eccentricities are less endearing and more of a pain in the ass. Case in point: My niece, TAS, is not invited to my nephew's (TWR) wedding. My sister, Junior, is LIVID and is now saying that she won't go to the wedding either. It's all I've heard about for the past two days. Our mother, who is keeping all of this from Dad, has been sneaking, or skulking, around her basement making calls to all of us, which no one can hear because she's whispering into the mouthpiece. Dad's almost deaf, so this is useless. Really.
Anyway, here's what happened, at least this is what's being bandied about: Four years ago one of my other nephews (AWR) got married. TAS RSVPed that she'd attend the wedding, but was pregnant at the time and got ill and at the last minute and couldn't go. Well, apparently my sister-in-law has been harboring a grudge lo these few years and now is having her revenge by making sure that TAS is not on the guest list. My mother tried to intervene, in her typical dumbass fashion ("I just want everyone to get along, and it all blew up in my face."), to no avail. So, my other sister-in-law got involved and discovered that it's all over the fact that TAS is seen as unreliable, and if she says she's going to attend but then doesn't, like before, they have to pay the caterers regardless. So then Junior went ballistic, I mean, if this is all over a plate of food, and was screaming in the phone to such an extent that I set the phone down and got a shower with her none the wiser. When I got back on the line she was saying something about how TAS is now going to boycott all family funerals. Some of our best family moments have been at funerals! I'll never forget Junior's rambling eulogy at our grandmother's funeral. No one has ever teetered to a podium and spoken less eloquently about someone's life and death. Ever. I told Junior that TAS is a fool to boycott funerals. She should just wear a red dress and a hat with big feathers stuck in it. Nobody wants to be upstaged at their own funeral, so this would piss off the dead. It's the ultimate 'gotcha'.
Where was I going with all of this? Oh yes, the stupid petty family crap over a wedding that I don't even want to go to. I am going. I sent the RSVP back last week. MK has to go, she's the designated driver, and both of the kids are going. But Junior and her boyfriend aren't going, and neither is her son, because of TAS's exclusion. I feel torn. I feel as if I should call my brother (HUD), but he's not very accessible. He hates talking, and hates even more referring to 'feelings' and shit. So I'm at a disadvantage from the get-go by having to talk and having to mention that people's feelings are hurt. Of all my siblings I am closest in age to HUD, he's only 15 months older than me, but he's not much like me, personality-wise. We've worked together on family matters before, and have worked well together, but this is different because his wife is fucking nuts and vindictive. I don't know what to say about her, or to him about her. I'm not good friends with his wife, and I have in fact avoided her for decades. She talks too much about people behind their backs and it makes me feel insecure and sleazy, and not in way that I like (Hi MK!, you shameless hussy, you).
Sigh. I'm sure I'll have more to complain about before the actual Big Day arrives. Oh, and is it tacky to buy a gift not on their registry? I like to buy fire extinguishers as wedding gifts because nobody ever considers how much they need to have them on hand until they need one on hand. I figured I'd get them a couple of fire extinguishers and some gas masks, in case of a bio attack.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Glorious Philly Boo Birds

There's not much love lost between the City of Brotherly Love and the Steel City. In fact, around Pittsburgh we joke that Philadelphia is where our tax dollars go to die. That seemed funnier before the Honorable Mayor Ravenstahl started bankrupting Pittsburgh, but you get the idea.
Much of how I view Philly changed over the weekend when veep hopeful (heh) Sarah Palin ceremoniously dropped the puck before a Flyers - Rangers match-up and the Wachovia Center crowd roundly booed her. Thinking about it brings a tear to my eye. Never have I been so proud to be a Pennsylvanian. To my eastern PA commonwealthers, I say thank you. Being a Penguins fan, I am sworn to despise the Flyers, but that's going to be tougher now since your fans have the good sense to loudly and longly boo this tool.
And I can't help but wonder if she was needling Tina Fey a bit with her visit to PA, because Fey is, afterall, from the Philly suburb of Upper Darby. Naw, it couldn't be anything that petty. I mean the McC/Palin ticket trails Obama/Biden in the polls by over 14 points. Surely someone wouldn't be poking around here with only a little over three weeks left in the campaign to try and swing us in their direction when there are other battleground states where the numbers are within reach, right? No one is that base and stupid, right? Right?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Worlds Always Collide

Nothing like reading a Buffy comic while standing in the shadow of The Bard.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Art, O! Cruel Mistress

Art. The embodiment of truth and beauty, even and especially terrible truths and horrible beauty. How could it be otherwise? Art reflects the world. Here we have Can of Shit No. 5, created - or produced - by the self-taught Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni in1961. Of the 90 cans that Manzoni originally made and sold, 45 have exploded due to the extreme pressure manifested by the build up gas sealed therein. Having been subjected to shitty modern art, I find Manzoni's intent here to be a bit whimsical, especially since he sold all 90 cans at the going rate of gold per gram. I wasn't even born yet in 1961, but even tooling around the ether waiting to take corporeal form, I was amused by Manzoni's chutzpa. There is no more literal statement about what constitutes "art" in modern terms than a can of shit that costs as much as gold. More, now, as both museums and private collectors buy the stuff. I wouldn't pay a dime for it, but I'm artistically pedestrian that way. I'm a Philistine. A hack poseur floating around the periphery of the real geniuses tearing them to shreds with my exposed kitty claws at every opportunity!!!111!
And now, through time constraints, as I near my point, there's a difference, both artistically and intellectually between what Manzoni was attempting to do and what mindless shlock Jeff Koons exhibits. Am I angry and offended by Koons' boorish crap? No. There is nothing in his work to elicit much of a response from me. I mean, if I paid money to see it, then I might get angry and yell at one of the prison, er, museum guards, but just reading about him online and looking at pictures of his creations makes my inner Hello Kitty weep for all of the lost opportunity in his work. Unlike Manzoni, he seems to lack outrage, humor, and originality, not to mention theme. The best I can I surmise is that he's narcissistic (big surprise!), but not particularly self aware. At least not self aware in a useful way. Through my research into Koons I discovered that he's been sued, particularly by photographers, for artistic infringement several times and has lost most of the cases. I especially liked the cases he lost and then appealed only to have the Judge admonish him further when he lost again. I'd love to see Judge Judy rip him a new one!
NPR did a story on Koons' exhibit at Versailles today on Morning Edition. Two museum goers ended up in a heated argument in French over whether it's plastic garbage or brilliant modern art that challenged perceptions. It's been my experience that when someone in an argument over art condescendingly tells you that you simply don't know enough about art to recognize what you're looking at, and thereby are completely incapable of appreciating anything beyond four dogs playing poker with Elvis holding the baby Jesus, has lost the argument already and is afraid their dick will shrivel and rot unless they dismiss your entire existence and opinions out of hand. I call this theory: The Jennifer Gambit.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I feel really, really stupid that I didn't figure this out the very first episode of the very first season, but Peter is a total asshat and must die. Not just future Peter must die, but present Peter and it might not be a bad idea to kill past Peter, even toddler Peter. So far, every time he has set out to Save The World (tm) he's been the one that the world's got to be saved from. He's a willful buffoon who should be, I don't know, frozen in a block of ice and jettisoned to one of Jupiter's moons. Ganymede sounds good to me. Send that world killing fucker there. I'm sick of how he heaves and sighs and believes that only he knows best, when he knows almost nothing and learns not a single lesson from his mistakes. I say kill off Peter. Can we start a campaign? I hate Peter more than I do villainous Sylar. Sylar at least is honest. Peter's just one big dumbass lie dangling out there like a drunk's peen on a street in Paris. BTW, ever notice that Paris smells like pee? It was a major disappointment to me when I was there, and really explains why Germany invades it every so often. I mean, someone's got to sanitize those streets.
But I digress. I like where the Villain Chapter of Heroes is going, it's re-energized the show as a whole, but Peter...just the kill the fucker already. The character is a stone who drags down the storyline, and the actor who portrays him, Milo V-whatever, just heaves and gasps his lines to such an extent that I want to give him an oxygen mask (and strike a match at the same time).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Top Chef 5

Next month season 5 of Top Chef will begin, without Ted Allen as a judge. I've been spending some quality time this morning scrutinizing the new spate of cookie hopefuls on the Bravo website. It's so hard to glean anything about a person from a short, and not particularly snappy, bio and accompanying pic.
This is not to say that I didn't notice anything. Jamie, a NYC native and SF sous chef transplant, exudes an interesting (queer friendly-ish) vibe. But you know what? As I am no longer 12, I care less and less about those finer points. Other things engage me much more, like the actual food and whether Bravo has started to infer with the judges to such an extent that the elimination table is no longer unbiased. Case in point: Last season's Lisa and claims that the producers wanted her kept around because of the conflict she provided. Now, I have not the first clue what sort of chef Lisa is in reality, having never actually eaten anything that she's prepared, but the girl was before the judge's table more than anyone else, barely scraping by for weeks on end, yet she made it to the finale. It just seemed hinky, you know?
Also in the new season there's a local chef, Jill, from Latrobe, PA, who has relocated down the Cumberland Valley to Baltimore. Why go there? Why? She could redeem herself by still being a Steelers fan. If she's a transplant Ravens fan...I guess I'll have to get out my sewing kit and fashion a voodoo moppet. But and still, Jill, I'll be rooting for you early on, so don't screw up!
And one last observation: NO FAUX HAWKS this season at all :D That 'do is so over and done, so dead that I marvel anyone would still gel it up. It doesn't look cutting edge. It looks like a midlife crisis.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Banned Book Week

I just knew that there was something special about today, it's the beginning of the American Library Association's Banned Book Week! So, in honor of an oldie but a goodie, I'm highlighting "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", one of the most challenged books of 2007. First published in the US in 1885, it's caused controversy since the outset with some communities and their libraries. Notably banned at the time in the Concord, MA library, Twain, never the shrinking violet, famously commented to his editor, "Apparently, the Concord library has condemned Huck as 'trash and only suitable for the slums.' This should sell us another five thousand copies for sure!"
So, what's all the fuss about? Namely the character of Jim and his minstrel-esque portrayal, the lavish use of the N-word, and whether the book is racist or anti-racist. There are strong arguments on both sides of the aisle on this one. The thing is, you can never truly know someone's intent. What did Twain actually intend with Jim? I can't answer that. No one can. Ultimately, it's a conundrum. Which, considering what a smartass Twain was, doesn't surprise me in the least.
I'm against banning books. We're all grown ups, aren't we? Fahrenheit 451 is always right around the corner, is it not?

When Weddings Attack Your Wallet

My mother drives me around the bend. It's not just her job, it's her career. Her calling, as it were. In her own defense she usually offers up, "I just want everybody to be happy!" If that were true she would have stabbed dad in the chest instead of the arm that time he was strangling her. But hindsight is 20-20, so I won't belabor that detail.
So, the latest tizzy she's in is over my nephew's impending nuptials. A rare nonshotgun wedding for our family. Just as Dante ascribed levels to hell, so do weddings provide a glimpse into the eternal suffering locked therein. And right now, my mother is the ringleader. No, I'm not comparing her to satan, although in a way I am. I mean, she's not that bad, she's just got herself all worked up, and she's got a telephone, so, you know, we've ALL got to hear about it. The wedding is six weeks off, and mom wants to coordinate who is giving what gift. Well, I am fundamentally against being forced to spend BIG $$$$$ on gifts. If I want to do it it's one thing, but to have someone tell me what I have to spend? It gets my dander up. I'm refusing to commit to a dollar amount, and if mom keeps this up, I'm going to stuff twenty bucks in an envelope with a homemade card. Is that petty of me? Sure it is, but I've done worse and I have no problem sleeping at night. In fact, MK marvels how I can have a screaming match with my sister-in-law and then take a nap. It's because I sleep the sleep of the damned, or the unfettered. I imagine my sleep to be a lot like the sleep that limbo babies enjoy.
Anyway, I've calmed down now so I guess I better call my mom back and apologize.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lez Zeppelin

Last night MK and I had the drummer for Lez Zeppelin, Helen Destroy, over for dinner. Helen's a true vegan, so Wednesday evening I did a dry run dinner of stir fried veggies and marinated tofu. Cree declared it perfect, so of course for Thursday night's dinner I tinkered heavily with the recipe and preparation. It must've been ok because I'm now 785 days and counting without poisoning anyone.
I can't tell you what a treat and thrill it was to meet Helen, one of the best drummers I've ever seen live. She pounds, and I mean pounds, such a thunderous beat that it throbs through you. Last night's show at Diesel in Pittsburgh was no different. The crowd, primarily straight white male ranging in age from barely legal to drink to 60+, just went wild for these musicians and there interpretations of the Led Zeppelin classics. The radio staples were all in the set list: "Whole Lotta Love", "Ramblin", "Kashmir", you name it. Everything except, oddly, "Immigrant Song", which is one of my favorites, so of course I noticed its exclusion.
But no matter, the night was every bit as fun as the first time MK and I saw Lez Zep a year and half or so ago. Helen informed us that the band is leaving for a tour of Japan in a couple of weeks, and I just cannot imagine what it must be like traveling the world, playing the music that you love for frenetic - and almost creepy - adoring crowds.
Really, I'm just so glad that we got to spend a couple of hours with HD before the show, break bread and chat. WE'd never met before and had only talked briefly online, so all three of us got to basically lay the ground work for what I hope will be a long friendship. Oh yeah, Bela really loved HD! Because we all know that if you can win over the dog, you're golden.
One last footnote: Right before the first encore Caty and I made a dash for the restroom because it seems our tiny bladders cannot hold even one beer for more than an hour and a half. When we reemerged from the tidy row of toilet stalls, we didn't want to force our way back through the throng of seething mass crushing the stage, so we hung back. Right outside the men's restroom, as it were. There are no extras in the women's room, no attendant spritzing you with cologne or offering you a soft towel to dry your hands. But in the men's room, from what we could see, you could buy Doritos to enjoy while you stand at the urinal, or maybe you're in the mood for a lollipop. The attendant had so much stuff on display that I couldn't even register it all. And he kept shooting me dirty looks everytime he caught me staring. It's not like I could IN the men's room, I could only see the display of goodies. Of course there were the condoms, cigarettes, and little packets of Tylenol that you would expect. It was the individual serving bags of chips that threw me, and the candy and lollipops. Would you buy food in a public toilet? Even if it is all wrapped up. It just seems antithetical to the whole purpose of the toilet, not to mention the issues of hygiene and sanitation.
Ah well. Now that I've got that out of my system, I highly recommend to my Japanese readers out there they catch a Lez Zep show while the women are on your Godzilla shadowed shores!
And hey, Helen :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fringe: Ghost Network

How good is "Fringe"? To quote Dr. Walter Bishop completely out of context, 'You may also experience an involuntary bowel movement.' While I did not soil myself while watching last night's episode, my whole brain was so excited that it had to walk around the block a few times to calm itself down.
I don't know if the writers and producers can sustain this level of believable intrigue for years and years, but so far they've got me in their hip pocket.
Some cool highlights:
  • Astrid's mad linguistic skills. I just love a woman interpreting Latin for the masses.
  • Sanford Townsend Band's lone hit from 1976 "Smoke From A Distant Fire" playing while Peter and Walter are at the diner. I always loved that song!
  • Can Blair Brown be any more chilling? That faux smile of hers makes me want to hug a kitten.
  • Cool cranial halo seemingly wired with twinkle lights and pixie dust...and how about that bit with the lost freshman interrupting just as Walter was about to drill into Roy's brain? Great stunt that effectively built the tension even more.
  • Anna Torv is the best thing to happen to television since the advent of the remote - or as we say in these parts, the clicker.
  • The evil dude purposely stepping back into the path of a transit train that we never even saw coming. Watching this show is like being a roller coaster!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vampire McCain

Everything is always open to interpretation, except when it's not. Art, in my humble and autocratic opinion, is definitely best when the viewer can take from it what they will.
But sometimes the artist is crazy in a nonfun way and they simply careen wildly off the deep end, taking no prisoners and leaving the casualties to heaven.
So, who has gone nuts? Apparently Jill Greenberg has. I'll be honest, until this brouhaha erupted over her cover shot of John McCain for The Atlantic, I had never heard of her. Then when I visited her site I knew why. Her brand of photography is not engaging to my brain. If anything, I find it thoughtless and trite. Oh, and please wait a moment to savor the effect....pedestrian. And staged. Big time phony crap. Glorified snapshots that are about as challenging as errant toenail clippings littered on the bathroom floor. Perhaps I'm being harsh, but given that she's a remorseless hack version of a photographer, I feel that I must stand up for my fellow shutterbugs. Thanks Greenberg. You've really advanced photography as art by employing cheap gimmicks and getting your ass forever banned by The Atlantic, and probably every other publication in the world. Sheesh!
Wanna see what all of the fuss is about? How about this massively photoshopped likeness of Vampire McCain, which has since been removed from her website. The internets are a glorious place...nothing ever really goes away. What was she thinking? Yes, we have freedom of speech (expression), but it seems as if we've completely lost our way when it comes to appropriateness, professionalism, and dare I say it? Decorum.
Edit: I forgot to point out the obvious....Vampires don't cast a shadow, dumbass.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Beagle News

MK and I removed Bela's stitches yesterday. She is now free and clear of the spaying. You should have seen those stitches. Like something out of Frankenstein's monster. Huge thick black Xs bisecting her entire abdomen, Shakes the Vet really out did himself this time. Bela's vet, an elderly man with a great reputation, is, how shall I say, nervous. None of the assistants will even assist him anymore, and I know why. Before MK and I left for vacation this year I took Bela in to the vet's office to get her rabies shot and a nasal spray for kennel cough. Shakes had himself so worked up that he sprayed the kennel cough stuff up MY nose (I got a terrible headache, but my sinuses were insanely clear) and he almost jabbed me with the rabies needle. When I went out to the front desk to pay for the visit I mentioned that I almost got a rabies shot, and all three of the women out there said that he's stuck them with needles. Hence, why Shakes is on his own. I have an irrational fear of rabies anyway, stemming from a raccoon bite when I was a child that I never told my parents about because my oldest brother had me convinced that mom and dad would kill me anyway if they found out that I had petted a wild animal and it bit me, so better to get the sympathy by dying the horrid death brought on by full blown rabies and hopefully be remembered fondly. Asshole.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bad Poetry Friday

As much as I'd like to say that I'm starting a new weekly feature wherein I will post my bad poems every Friday, we all know that I'm not that reliable.
So, without further ado, the first and perhaps last poetry installment:

Hold dear the vestiges of fleeting dreams
impassioned pleas and declarations reiterated
Everything has to be as it seems held within a dream
It is the lone demand
along with suspension of belief
A relief, really, of command

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When You Are Ungulfed In Flames

The other day I was at my sister's house and she thrust David Sedaris' most recent book at me, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames" and bade me to read it. Read it now! One of her clients had given her the book and she read the whole thing in one sitting, something it soon became apparent that she we wanted me to do too. I've been busy this week being sick, and while typically reading is a good activity while ill, not so much if you have a head cold. There just seems to be less clarity than usual rattling around upstairs. But my sister did convince me to read the chapter "Cry Baby", which is third to the last in the book.
Then she called yesterday.
Sister: Hi! Have you read the book yet?
Me: No, but I did read the chapter about the guy crying on the plane.
S: Isn't that hilarious?
M: Eh, it was ok. It made me think of that time I was on a flight to Philadelphia and the woman sitting next to me with a baby on her lap and she let the baby hang all over me, drooling on my shirt.
S: What does that have to do with it?
M: Nothing, it just made me think of it.
S: Well, what did you think of the chapter on such and such (truly, I forget which chapter she was referring to)?
M: I haven't read it yet. I read the crying chapter and then I walked the dog.
S: Wait until you read the chapter about quitting smoking!
M: Wait. You mean he quit smoking?
S: Yeah!
M: I'm not going to read that part.
S: Why not?
M: It's too much pressure. I decided to quit smoking myself. I just haven't done it yet and I don't want to internalize his account of the process.
S: That's idiotic. What kind of logic is that? He quit smoking two years ago, so it's not like you're quitting smoking with him and he's succeeded and you've failed.
M: I can't cope with someone else's smoking cessation success, regards of when it happened. I'm skipping that part.
S: Maybe you should give me the book back.
M: No! I want to finish reading it! MK wants to read it too.
S: Are you going to allow her to read the smoking section?
M: I don't dictate what she can read and can't read. She can read whatever she likes. She can read Japanese anime tentacle porn for all I care!
S: Tentacle porn? Is that what it sounds like?
M: I think so, but I can't be certain. I mean, I've never looked at it, I've just heard about from other people.
S: Not your kids, I hope!
M: No, they don't talk to me about porn, tentacle or otherwise.
S: That's a relief.

I really enjoy David Sedaris' work. MK and I have gone to see him read his work, which given that we had seats with a partially obstructed view, wasn't all that different from listening to him on NPR. Because of the nature of Sedaris's observations, it's almost impossible to not use that same eye and method when assessing what he's got to say. While the absurd is showcased, it's his position at the center of the ridiculous universe that gives it all perspective. I'm beginning to find this annoying. Nothing is simply presented as it is/was, instead it's all littered with his touchstones - some amusing, some tiresome.
But I'm going to keep all of this to myself because my sister won't lend me a book ever again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cough Syrup Update

As far as I can tell the stuff works. It both soothes your chest and makes your cough productive - without making you cough your head off.
Here's how you make it:
Gather some chokecherry or wild cherry branches. Peel the bark off (Cree and I used knives to whittle it off). Once you've got about 1-1.5 ounces of bark, put it in a quart jar and pour boiling water over it. Put a lid on it and set aside for 8-10 hrs. This will serve as the initial infusion.
After 8-10 hrs, strain the liquid through a coffee filter and pour the infusion into a pan and heat on the stove over low heat. Reduce the amount of liquid by half, producing a decoction.
That's basically it. I added 2 TBSPs of honey, but you don't have to, the syrup doesn't taste bad on its own. It's just kind of thin. Since both of the kids have this same cold I had them take the medicine too before they went to bed. So far it seems to have not killed any of us! And I really do feel a lot better than what I did yesterday.
One last footnote: When gathering anything for use in an herbal remedy always make sure that you can properly identify the plants. Otherwise, you can inadvertently poison yourself and others, which is never any fun. I have a cousin, Jimmy, who ended up hospitalized after picking mushrooms that he was sure were edible, but then not so much. Chokecherry trees are pretty easy to identify, you can either pick up a book or check it out on line. The bark is distinctive, as are the leaves and tiny little black/red fruit. Still, it's always best to be sure of what you're doing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jennifer, the Herbalist

Yes, I really just referred to myself in the third person. That's what happens when you've got a ridiculously common moniker. So, anyway, I'm a certified herbalist. Bet ya didn't know that! I only practice on my family and friends, so it's not some big career path. I'm simply too cheap to run to the doctor unless I think that whatever is wrong with me might kill me. Then I grudgingly go. Otherwise I'm out in the fields and woods gathering stuff to cure what ails me, and everybody else in my small circle. Today, to treat my horrid cold, I cut some chokecherry branches and I'm making real cherry cough syrup, nothing like that chemical crap you get at the store. Oh noes, this is the real McCoy. I've never made cough syrup before, usually treating a cold with lots of tea liberally doused with homemade brandy. But, I'm all out of brandy, and I don't like that fake flavored stuff they sell at the liquor store. Sooooooo, I'm making cough syrup and cherry brandy. The cherry brandy won't be readyl for several months, so that's just me planning ahead, which I should have done last year. Damn me in the past! A pox upon my shadow self!!!
Anyway, the syrup will be ready later today and I'll post tomorrow whether it works or not. If it works, I'll include the recipe for it. If it doesn't work you can send cash in lieu of flowers to MK to defer the cost of my impending cremation. :) I have a feeling it'll work. I mean, it was used to treat everything from whooping cough to emphysema in pre-WWI North America (waves to Canada).

Thursday, September 11, 2008


This is the former Dixmont State Mental Hospital. Opened during the Civil War and shutdown forever in 1984, I had the opportunity to tour the facility on a field trip my senior year of high school in 1980 with and for a psychology class. A couple of things stick in my mind about that visit: The building was in severe decline and ruin, and the young schizophrenic I spoke with knew more about flatworms than anyone else I've ever met. He carried with him a detailed notebook on all things flatworms. His pencil drawings were meticulous and precise. The simplicity of flatworm anatomy and function had him in its thrall. For the life of me I can't remember what that young man's face looked like, but I can still his hands moving over the pages of that notebook. Of course he asked me for matches. Everyone we encountered asked us for matches. Most of the patients smoked, but they weren't allowed to have lighters or matches. The staff would light their cigarettes, but they still all wanted their own matches. Sometimes I look at a book of matches as representing a little freedom. Not in a pyromaniac sort of way, but like how you strike a match and light the way through the darkness.
Anway, Dixmont was torn down and Wal-Mart meant to build a massive superstore on the site...but the hillside wasn't stable and resulted in a massive landslide onto Rt. 65 below. After further landslides Wal-Mart gave up on developing the site. There have long been rumors that Dixmont was haunted...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Deep down, I'm a skeptic who loves conspiracy theories and is a little thrilled by fringe science. I can't help it. It's like eating Funnyuns, or chocolate, or drinking cheap vodka and Tang: You just can't stop!
The new Fox show from J.J. Abrahms, "Fringe" is almost too good to be true. I didn't trust my initial assessment on the first viewing, so I watched the whole 1.5 hr premier again. I was even more blown away by the set up and premise, owing in no small part to Anna Torv's turn as Olivia Dunham. While other people are in the cast, and they are capable enough to deliver their lines, it's Torv as Dunham that sets the pace and direction of the show. She's an absolute joy to watch. She's not afraid to show emotion and go the extra yard for something that is close to her heart, but when push comes to shove, she's all FBI all the time. A weird balancing act, but Torv pulls it off.
So, I'm committing to this show. Despite how I felt about J.J.'s other show, "Lost", I'm going to stick with "Fringe" for at least the full season.
As a footnote, the show I've given up on - "The Sarah Connor Chronicles". One big WTF? Nothing but extraneous filler for an outcome that we already know. Yes, I love Lena Headey (what lesbian doesn't?), but the show itself is dreck. Too much tension is built every single week and the show just can't sustain that. It feels forced because it is. Maybe if they could've just had some more down time funny moments, something relatable, I would've thought that there was hope. But no. I'm outta there.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Buffy 8.18

I love the Buffy Season 8 comic, a do, I really, really do. But I'm getting more than a little put off by this arc. Here we are, three issues into it, and I'm still waiting for something to happen. Maybe I've got unrealistic expectations, maybe I'm a demanding cur barking at the darkness, or maybe we've all come to expect excellence from the Joss Whedon camp because that's almost always what we get. Who knows?
The issues I take with issue #18 revolve specifically around Willow literally evolving into someone I no longer recognize, and Buffy purposely not saving some people screaming for help from a cadre of vamps. When did Buffy start ignoring the slaughter of innocents? And Willow with the weird orgasm visit to the tentacle porn creature...? And, and, and future Willow, the sad mad woman, is about as prophetic, or dark, or darkly prophetic as a cardboard cut-out of Callisto. Wait, I take that back, Hudson Leick was able to master a menacing and withering leer.
Maybe it's me, maybe I'm missing some brilliant subtlety with all the clobbering of Willow and Buffy not acting like Willow and Buffy. Maybe it's all a bait and switch, which will kind of suck if the nonsense of the last three issues are all tied up overly neatly in #19.
When's Jane Espenson going to write an issue? The strength of the show BtVS was that a lot of the shows were penned by women. So far with the comic we've had only guys writing it, and it is really starting to show in the voice of certain characters and the overall tone and direction that they are taking. We really need a breath of fresh air in the slayerverse. I also wouldn't mind having Brian K. Vaughn come back to write some more issues...and let him bring Faith along with him! That's by far been my favorite arc. It was complex, problematic, and a joy to read, and reread, and reread, and reread...
What's really disappointing is that I was really anticipating this issue, hoping to get a colossal set up for the finale. Wow, did it not deliver. It's not like I'm going to quit reading or anything. I mean, I stuck by The X-Files through the Doggett years, so clearly I'm loyal, if sometimes critical and disgruntled. I'm in for the long haul, wherever that may lead.