Tuesday, November 17, 2009

everybody was ho-ho fighting

I loved it from the first time I saw it: catchy, flashy, fresh and joyous. A bunch of pretty kids energetically tossing themselves around a stylized white log cabin cheering in rhythmic upbeat:

2, 4, 6, 8..T'is the time to liberate!
Go Christmas, go Hanukkah, go Kwanzaa, go Solstice!
Go classic tree, go plastic tree, go plant a tree, go without a tree!

It just made me smile. How clever! How delightful! How inclusive! How...

Oh. Of course.
How offensive.

The Mississippi-based American Family Association has launched a call for a "two- month boycott (of Gap Inc.) over the company's failure to use the word 'Christmas' in its advertising to Christmas shoppers." On it's website, the AFA asserts that:

The Gap is censoring the word Christmas, pure and simple. Yet the company wants all the people who celebrate Christmas to do their shopping at its stores? Until Gap proves it recognizes Christmas by using it in their newspaper, radio, television advertising or in-store signage, the boycott will be promoted.

And yet there it is, right up front. Go Christmas! Right before Hanukkha, Kwanzaa and Solstice. Which is, one must assume, the real problem for the AFA; Christmas doesn't get sole billing but must share equally with it's brethren (and sistren) holidays.

Almost like, you know, in the spirit of Christmas.

In fact, Gap INC., with this year's Go Ho Ho advertising campaign, has taken the past complaints of the AFA and similar fundamentalist groups (as fueled by the opportunistic flames of all of Fox TV's rabblerousers ad nauseam) protesting an imagined War on Christmas and turned it on it's head.

, sing the happy Gap cherubs, t'is Christmas. T'is also Hanukkha, Kwanzaa and Solstice. And who knows what else? (Festivus comes to mind. Surely someone is out there celebrating Festivus.)

The point is, AFA, that you do not get to determine the message of my holiday. I won't tell you how to phrase your celebratory sentiments, and you won't dictate mine. Or anyone else's. The fact remains that until you achieve the theocracy that you so ardently desire, it's still a free country.

And if I have to go buy an overpriced, inappropriately youthful sweater and/or matching scarf to prove it, well, rock on.

You 86 the rules
You do what just feels right
Happy do Whatever You Wannukkah
and to all
a cheery night!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

bird flu, or much a-twitter about nothing

I've been down for the count for the last few days with some sort of bug. I don't think it's the Minnesotan Swine Flu or the Chinese Chicken Flu or anything with a ready-made vaccination and health care debate talking points attached, but it is almost certainly an animal-transported virus of foreign origin. Maybe a Peruvian Nutria Infection or the Brazilian Wax Flu, or something equally debilitating.

Or it could just be a cold. In any case,
I will no doubt be dead by sundown.

In the meantime, I've been filling my
TheraFlu and NyQuil-fueled haze with all manner of facsinating endeavor. I read six back issues of the La Times Travel sections and planned an imaginary trip to Germany for next month. I emptied my spam folder of 167 emails entreating 'Gloria' to get back in touch with 'Brian', 'William' and 'Mrs Charles Lowenhart'. I played with my Blogger template and lost my favorite 'Simpsonized' profile pic. I spent a half a day attending a virtual pagan ceremony with some passing rogues and bards, tracked a couple of vampires to their lair (only to run in panicked fear when the fight turned ugly) and joined a motley crew of Rangers attempting to guard it's borders against...well, I'm not sure what, exactly, to be honest. But our weapons are totally cool! And I finally signed up for Twitter.

I have absolutely nothing to say on Twitter, just as I have nothing to say on FaceBook, Wordpress or here, for that matter. And I know very few people who subscribe, or admit to subscribing to the site. But when I heard that Paris Hilton and Demi Moore were bitchslapping each other over the relative sluttiness of Moore's 15 year-old daughter's attire, I knew I had to be in on that conversation. Which is frankly hilarious.

I signed up, tossed out a single tweet (I forgot to include the obigatory exclamation point!) and started following anyone who showed up on the first list that appeared. I chose on the basis of those whom I thought would amuse, intentionally or otherwise ~ Wil Wheaton, Stephen Fry, Eddie Izzard among the former; Demi Moore, of course, who is
'Feeling a deep need to clean my closets out!' among the latter. Heidi Montag, whose bio reads 'I love Jesus!' next to a picture of herself onstage in some sort of gold see-through underwear is 'Getting ready for church!' Kirstie Alley cannot shut up about, well, anything: Airports: Hello Denver.. Only passing through.. Prettiest airport ive ever seen. Boyfriends: Jonny Boy didnt dump me... That made me happy... Lol Haters: Wow.. The idiots are out in full force today.... Will have to name them so that u can bop them twittet style..

It is endless, pointless and just the thing to
penetrate a fever-induced haze. I may never leave the house again. Oh, I know I'll get bored with it soon ~ okay, I'm already a little bored with it: Heidi Montag cant wait to talk to you all on#SayNow at 310-220-0244 later today! (Pimping? On Twitter? How dare you!!??) ~ but in the meantime I have learned two things.

One) That Paris Hilton, beautiful, vacuous, inexcusable bimbo that she is, is living a truly, miraculously, fabulous life:
Oct 23 :The U2 Concert was incredible!!! Bono rocks! Such a talent, inspiration and total Rock Star! Love him! Oct 24: We just had lunch with Pete Rose, the baseball legend. He's such a nice guy and such a character. Later Oct 24: Had such an amazing day today! Back at The Hard Rock Hotel, going to take a lil disco nap before the night starts :) To her credit, she seems to be enjoying this incredible life, even if not entirely understanding it.

Two) I do not need to feel bad about never having anything to say. As Mark Twain so aptly put it,
"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

Now there's a guy who would have given good Tweet.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I lost my Simpson-me profile toon. I cannot for the life of me remember what I named it and Vista, contrarian evil that it is, will simply not help me find it. Which is why I never play at changing things in here. Change is bad. Me no likey change.

D'oh, oh d'oh is me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

last of the summer tomatoes

There's a group of Daily Painters whose widget appears somewhere on this page and whose work ethic I much admire. It's astounding to me how quickly and effectively they can produce such lively small scale paintings in such a short amount of time.

Me, I tend to plod, over-think and obsess with even the simplest subjects, resulting in canvases of overwrought mushiness and confusion. Much of this is no doubt due to a lack of training on my part
, since I have no idea what I'm doing and am making it up as I go along. But quite a bit is probably due to essential personality flaws as well, as I tend to plod and over-think and obsess about everything, resulting in a brain and life of overwrought mushiness and confusion. Maybe because I'm still making that up as I go along, too. Funny, you'd think I'd have it down by now.

So when my husband came home and plopped some tomatoes down in the basket on the counter, I popped some blue hydrangeas in a vase and thought, hmn, I bet I could do this in a few hours(!) and quickly set out to try, you know, to loosen up my brain a little. When, to the surprise of no one I didn't finish that day, the canvas sat for a week, the tomatoes were eaten and the hydrangeas started turning green.

, I thought, I like that much better! More color, better contrast. Turk was promptly dispensed to the farmers' market for more fruit and I added some green to the blue.

Later that afternoon, as I noted that the flowers had started turning brown around the edges and imagined the tomatoes in a nice insalata calabrese for dinner that night, I threw a little sienna into the petals and finally called it a day. Before my bright little Still Life with Tomatoes turned into a picture of an empty basket and a couple of dry sticks in fetid water: Stilled Life: Study of a Too Literal Mind.

And I wonder why no one wants to sit for my portraits.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

summer reading

To all the slack-jawed yokels and Yosemite Sam wannabes proudly strangling free-speech and the democratic process in town hall meetings across the land, as well as to their media handlers and other mad prophets of the coming Apocalypse I would like to recommend picking up a copy of T.R. Reid's new book, The Healing of America.

I would further recommend that, rather than using said book as you normally would, say as a beer coaster or something to burn at the next Birther bash, that you actually look at the pages in a genuine attempt to discern their meaning. And if that's proves to be too difficult, perhaps a kindly visiting child could interpret them for you. That's why we make you send them to public schools. So they can help you to help yourselves.

In the meantime and for the rest of us, Reid has laid out the Five Myths About Health Care Around the World in a sensible, comprehensive and thoughtful fashion. I first heard Reid speaking this morning on NPR and was so impressed with his broad knowledge and reasoned compassion that I immediately went online in search of the book. I'd like to send one to each of my Congressmen and women as well ~ can a constituent give their legislators required reading lists? I very much doubt it. But I'm sure as hell gonna try.

Health Care: We all get it. We all pay. What could be fairer than that? Or more democratic? It's the American way. Dammit.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

why I love Barney Frank

Finally. A congressman with the cajones to speak Truth to Idiots. And obnoxious dining room furniture. Because the Nazis ~ well, they were all about the health care.

Those who cannot read history books are doomed to make complete asses of themselves in public forums.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

who will give me Xanax when you're gone? a thoughtful debate in free rant form

One of the advantages of having a blog that nobody reads is having a blog that nobody has to write. This has been a pleasantly liberating experience for me, and I have appreciated the time spent cleaning, cooking, and writing cranky letters to my reps, many of which begin with the phrase, "Dear Lame Duck Governor Schwarzenegger; I am writing to urge you to follow the courageous example of fellow LD Gov Sarah Palin and quit while you are still a viable entertainer..."

Another benefit of having a de facto private page is being able to write whatever you please without concern for diplomacy. Therefore, if you are offended by poorly written postings of a political nature that fly in the face of your considered beliefs in UFO's, the integrity of Dick Cheney or the wisdom of Elizabeth Hasselbeck, be forewarned: this is not the place for you. You will not like what you read. And if you are a member of the anti-Obama Birther movement, you will not understand it.

At long last we elected a president ready, willing and able to take on the enormous task of reforming the massively dysfunctional health care system in this country, only to see what is a truly heroic effort of monumental proportions being once again derailed by the health care industry itself. In a manufactured 'grassroots lobby', funded by the insurance industry and Big Pharma and whipped into a frenzy by a conscious-less right-wing media, pitchfork wielding citizens are showing up at town hall meetings screaming spontaneously memorized Republican talking points about roving death panels prowling the country eager to toss Granny down the shoot and faceless, uncaring federal bureaucrats replacing the compassionate and caring corporate bureaucrats currently coddling you, your family and that $200 bottle of Viagra.

Holding up copies of their own birth certificates, carefully preserved in Ziploc baggies these informed consumers of the best of American punditry demand to know why no one has looked into the fact that Barack Hussein Obama was almost certainly born on a UFO somewhere off the Beta Quadrant, the product of a human woman and an alien race of beings committed to bringing health care and gun control to a struggling populace.

As Peter Sagal of NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me put it ~ the government wants to give the American people health care. And they don't want anyone to give them health care. Motto: Give us Liberty And give us Death!

I am sick and tired of the will of the majority of the American people as expressed by the electoral process being subverted by corporate behemoths and their Republican operatives in the legislature and media. I am sick and tired of bullies taking over the democratic process. I am sick and tired of self-righteous, misinformed, hotheaded zealots shouting down any voice raised against them. Just because you're loud doesn't mean you're right ~ my god, didn't your mother teach you anything? Don't make me come back there and euthanize you.

I am sick and tired of a propaganda machine so efficient in it's systematic demonization of intellectualism, education and indeed of any knowledge based on actual proof of fact that there are people out there who honestly believe that the government of the United States of America is coming to euthanize its citizenry.

Seriously, people. Get a grip. The administration is trying...to bring you...health care. Don't let the bullies scare you. We can do it. We voted for this. Change. It's a good thing.

And I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Of people.

Where's a roving death panel when you need one?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

a long and winding road

I actually, finally finished a painting today.

I'd been working on this particular canvas on and off for, quite literally, years now. I've posted pieces of it over the centuries, I think. But it just never seemed to be finished; there was always some element, some signifier that would be missing and would not let me put it to rest, as I probably should have long ago. Until today, when I picked it up, added that which I suddenly knew it needed and voila! C'est complet. I regret that I cannot get a decent picture of it no matter how hard I try, mostly because it was, at one point in it's travels, poorly and unevenly varnished by its creator in a hurried fashion before it was ready, causing it to pick up light and reflection in unappealing ways. And then again, perhaps it won't photograph prettily because it is, in fact, unlovely, an idea which does not displease me overmuch. It always was an unruly child ~ errant, frustrating, even, dare I say it? ~ ill-conceived. But what the hell. It's mine.

I call the picture "Journey," and in the course of those long and winding years it has been on one of it's own. It has undergone considerable revision, both in content and intent, it's direction and execution meandering far and wide, gathering paint, dust and ephemera along its way. Until it emerged to become the thing that it is; dark, dense, and not at all what it imagined it would be when first conceived.
Like life, and most of our journeys. Or so I imagine. This one's mine, for what it's worth. Because I made it so. And no one chooses my path but me.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I love those ad spots for Hulu, the ones starring Alec Baldwin and Dennis Leary claiming to be aliens providing us with mindless entertainment so they can suck our mushy brains dry. "Because we're aliens, and that's how we roll." This never fails to crack me up. My mushy brain responds to humor, and the truth of the jest.

The very cool image above is of a postcard collage created by my very talented pal Robbie, and which she sent me for my birthday. Very clearly on the surface is the message, "Honor Time," while invisibly, beneath several layers, are buried the words, "Life is Messy."

I've been thinking a lot about time lately; about
how I've spent it, how much of it is lost, how much I might have left. That it was once my friend, and now very clearly is no longer. And I am forced to acknowledge that I have not always honored time, thinking, as one does, it to be in endless supply. I know, of course, that it is not. It is precious, finite in unpredictable ways and I have not been giving it it's due, spending far too much of it, in the words of my favorite aliens, in my bliggity blogs and facey spaces, cyber worlds and tweety places. I revel in a lot of pointless nonsense.

That life is messy is true as well, although I cannot in truth say mine has been. As lives go, mine has been a lucky one ~ full of love and affection, comfort and ease, often in spite of my best efforts to the contrary. This fact surprises me still, and I am grateful for it. But life is sorrow as well, and the passage of time highlights this inevitability.

I was looking for something in some old journals the other day and came across an unattributed quote (for I am not scrupulous in private diaries) "Accept sadness as a condition of life, not a transitory effect to be obliterated in a fourth act blizzard of good feelings, but something that can only be kept at bay..."

I've no idea where the passage came from, but I have always known the sentiment to be true. The older I get, the more I feel the wisdom of it. Perhaps that's what all the mindless, noisy, candy-coated entertainment is about ~ keeping the sadness at bay. This too has it's place.

I've just been listening to Brooke Shields speaking at the memorial for Michael Jackson, whose early death is a testament to the importance of honoring time if ever there was one. In memorializing her friend Brooke introduced the song Smile, written in 1936 by Charlie Chaplin with lyrics added later by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. I've always loved the song ~ it is happiness steeped in melancholy, given depth when sung with the wisdom of one who knows.

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

Thursday, June 25, 2009

silly birthday stuff

Every year on my birthday my mother would call and read my horoscope to me from the daily paper. Even when she got quite elderly and could no longer manage it on her own, my brother would dial the phone and put her on. I can still hear her sweet, clear little voice, with its faint traces of New York and ever-so-slight hint of a lisp, carefully imparting my fate for the coming year. I thought it was loving, cute and funny. I will never stop missing it.

I know I haven't been nurturing my happy little corner of Bughouse Square here lately ~ the Real World has been demanding more of my time than I generally like to give it, and the myriad domestic emergencies and annoyances have not been of the even mildly interesting kind (although I did get my first speeding ticket in 23 years - good for me!) So I thought I'd throw together a cheerful, quickie collage made up of silly birthday stuff made entirely online. You know, just something to say hi to my friends and possibly kick start my lagging creative energies. For the background I photographed the darling blouse my husband had given me as a gift ~ a frothy, filmy, girly thing, so pretty and youthful I nearly wept with delight, both at the gift and what it said about his illusions about me. I didn't even mind that it was a size too small and had to be exchanged. I combined it with textures taken from collage materials a friend had given me (thanks Robbie!) and a mountain of miscellaneous doodling, noodling, cutting and pasting in Photoshop, most of which got appropriately, but painfully, tossed.

I will not embarass myself by telling you how long it took me to come up with this bit of fluff. Suffice it to say that I could have baked the cake, drunk the martinis, sewn the blouse and woven the matted background. Then probably gone off and painted a massive oil. But I do like it. It's a collage of sorts. I wish I'd done the real, tactile thing though ~ for the life of me I don't know why I thought this would be quicker. Or easier. At least at the last moment I did think to get 'Mom's' horoscope in, which makes me happy.

I suppose I will always think of my mother on my birthday, not because it is the day she gave birth to me; she did not. That was done by another woman, a stranger to me now, and on this night I look up into the black sky and wonder if she is still alive ~ if she ever remembers the day, and thinks of me. And it doesn't really matter and never has, because as soon as I see that first shining star, I know that little Ruthie does. And always will.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

the cove

My husband regarded me with a skeptical eye. "So in your view," he was saying, "the primary purpose of a day at the beach is to avoid the sun at any cost."

I nodded. "Yes, that is the goal. Actually, if it's at all possible I would like to emerge even whiter than before. Bleaching would be ideal." I waved my sunscreen lotion at him, laughing. "Look ~ SPF Clorox!"

We had donned our bathing suits for the second time this century and, armed with an orange striped umbrella, a wide brimmed straw hat and enough Banana Boat SPF 50 sunscreen to protect us from harmful UV rays even in the face of a nuclear explosion had headed for the pristine sands of Crystal Cove State Park.

"You're already whiter than an Irish albino," said my husband. He was sprawled recklessly beyond the comforting shade of the orange striped umbrella, cap pulled low upon his brow, eyes scanning the horizon for signs of dolphin or whale. Or maybe Spanish galleon. Like an old pirate.

"Yes, well, I've done enough damage to my skin over the years to horrify many a Clinique salesgirl as it is," I replied. I thought of all the years I spent slathering my body with baby oil and going up on the roof of my Long Island home, the better to be closer to the sun. I would fry up there for hours. I had sun poisoning more than once.

"You do understand that you are still going to age," he said, grinning.

"I know," I lied.
"But you can't blame a girl for trying."

We had come to the Historic District of Crystal Cove to celebrate my husband's birthday, something we'd been wanting but unable to do for years; the cottages fill up within minutes of opening reservations, which book online 7 months in advance. After weeks of trying to snag a cancellation, we scored ~ first one, then two consecutive nights at Cottage #2, the Shell Shack. I am certain it is only due to Turk's most excellent karma. And he never doubted we would succeed for a minute.

Built in 1926, the cottage was a step back in time, a chance to experience the California beach style of a bygone, golden era. This was a community of artists and surfers, middle-class bohos and wealthy ne'er-do-wells. I've always felt I was born in the wrong time and place ~ as if, waiting in the wings to make my entrance on the universal stage I had stepped out for a cigarette and missed my cue to appear, stumbling out in some much later, less interesting Act 21. This is the scene I was meant to play in. This is the era in which I was meant to live.

Our front porch overlooked the cheerfully retro Beachcomber Restaurant, where they hoist and salute the martini flag every evening at 5:00, not so sharp, and ring the bell at the frequent dolphin sitings. The playful mammals cavort a mere 10 yards or so from shore. A waitress told us of a visiting seal pup as pelicans flew in formation over our heads. At night a chorus of frogs living in the nearby creek sang us to sleep.

And of course, there is nothing quite so wonderful, so soothingly powerful as the pounding of the surf outside your wide-open windows at night. It is, simply, bliss. From the oceans have we come and to the oceans we must return. I should live like this. We should all live like this. And if we're very, very lucky, thanks to the Crystal Cove Alliance, for a night or two we can.

Somewhere the martini flag is flying, and a very pale woman and her long-suffering, sun burnished pirate husband are making their way back up from the beach. Happy birthday, Turk. Cheers!

Monday, April 27, 2009

starry feets and lorakeets

"The time has come," my friend had said
"to talk of many things.
Of men and love and bikini wax:
Why some are just for flings.
Why some are charming, and some are not
And whether fish have wings".

So off we went to the Beach that's Long
In the land of sun so fair
Where stars have feets and lorakeets
Fly straight into your hair
Where the seal pups play as the dragons sway
And sharks cruise deep within their lair

When the sun went down, the thought profound;
"It's time to quench our thirst!"
So off we went to the Mai Tai Lounge
"We'll start with Mai Tais first.
Then a place with a view and a martini or two!"
And if I must say so as weekends go it really could have been worst.

Monday, April 20, 2009

happy shiny people singing songs

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

For the life of me, I do not understand why people seem to be so genuinely amazed that a plain woman can sing beautifully. Susan Boyle seems a lovely person; charming, cheeky and cherub-faced, her willingness to face the likes of Simon Cowell and whatever dim duo of dyspepsia he has keeping him company this week strikes me as nothing short of courageous. Because you know that they were setting her up, in the best tradition of current reality programming, for public humiliation. And she wasn't having it.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted

There was no ransom to be paid

No song unsung, no wine untasted

So what was so shocking to the judges and the sniggering audience about her performance? A woman dares to be plain and still believe herself capable of beauty. Oh, dear.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

Of course, the people who write the songs that make grown men cry are not, as a rule, the fair of face or physically blessed by birth. But performance has increasingly become the sole province of pretty people, and never more so than now. It's all about marketing and always has been, they tell me, although they didn't seem quite so slickly savvy back in the days of Ella or Janis, back when the music was the message and the messenger an artist. But it's not called Britain's Next Top Model after all, it's called Britain's Got Talent. The delightful MS Boyle will get her hair done and her eyebrows waxed; a fleet of stylists will be summoned and before you can say guest appearance on Oprah she'll be happily on her way to fulfill her dream of singing for the queen.

And we can all wipe away our tears of incredulous joy that beauty really can come from within and go back to watching glossy, witless young things plumbing their meager depths to find the meaning in songs of haunted love and devastating loss, of shattered illusions and dreams made and used and wasted. I'll pass. Give me a homely artist with soul over a pretty one with a mirror any day.

I'll see you down at the karaoke bar. Drinks are on the pretty girls.

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I love tv ~ sad edition

Oh, network executives, why dost thous torment me so?

Rumor has it that yet another one of my favorite shows, in this case NBC's quirky, clever and much under appreciated Life, is poised to get the ax after tonight's season finale. This makes me very, very sad. And frankly, I blame you.

I don't know what you're watching or doing or reading while you should be watching my...wait, you haven't turned off the TV to read, have you? What the...that is what commercials are for! I swear, I don't know what is wrong with you people.

Anyway, whatever you're up to, you're
not watching this endearing little gem of a cop show, and that is truly a shame. For me.

Damian Lewis plays Charlie Crews, a cop back on the job after having been framed for a heinous crime, and possibly the only redhead I've ever had a crush on. Charlie did some seriously hard time before his release from prison, from which he emerged a changed man, richer in both spirit (the result of Buddhist study) and bank account (the result of millions in settlement money). The mystery of who framed Charlie and why forms the overarching back
to each week's crime du jour, but it is Lewis' performance as a man torn between a reawakened joie de vivre and an equally compelling lust for vengeance that is a pure pleasure to behold as, week by week, we see the struggle play with controlled ferocity in Charlie's dreamy blue eyes. Add Sarah Shahi as Charlie's hot but troubled partner Dani Reese, and Adam Arkin as Charlie's fallen ex-CEO of a roommate in performances nuanced, sympathetic and eminently believable, and you've got one pretty entertaining hour of television. Not to mention writing that contains one of my favorite conversational exchanges on TV in recent memory:

"You can't always get what you want," Charlie tells his captain, played with schlumpy earnestness by Donal Logue.

"What do you want?"

"I want a peaceful soul. I need a bigger gun."

My sentiments exactly. I feel ya, Charlie. That's Life.

Monday, April 06, 2009

sideways mom

I spent the first couple of years of my life in foster care with a number of families, the last of whom left me alone in their house while they went on vacation to Florida. Over time I'd had enough of these 'moms' that in order to keep them straight I gave them different designations, with all the extreme literalism of childhood. The woman who finally adopted me and took me into her heart was Mommy-in-the-Kitchen, because that's where she always was; cooking, cleaning, caring.

Carol Bayer Sager has written a beautiful, heart wrenching piece entitled Anita's Girl for
LA Magazine. In it she tells of the loving but complicated relationship she shared with her own mother until her recent death. With the wisdom of pain she describes how it altered, with the fluidity and changing circumstances of time, sometimes stressing and straining but never breaking the ties that bound them. At the very end:

I now see that my mother didn’t know how to leave me. On the day before she died, she seemed cheerful. She was hungry, and although I was always policing what she ate, I decided to let her eat whatever she wanted—like giving that party we’d never gotten around to having. Toward the very end, I was lying on her bed while she ate frozen yogurt, and out of the blue she asked, “Do you want to come with me?” I knew exactly what she meant, and I said, quietly, “No, Mom, I can’t. Not now.” “I know you have Bob and Christopher to care for,” she replied, then waited a few beats and said, more to herself than to me, “But how will we ever separate?”

It broke my heart to read that last line, for I could easily have written it, so close was it to the moments that I shared with my mother at the end of her life. She passed in October of 2006, and I know that I still haven't managed to fully separate myself from her. I probably never will. When Carol writes to her mother, "You occupied so much space inside of me. To me, you were always bigger than life. I still hear your voice—I know what you would say to me and how you would say it. You are still here..." she writes for me. And I am grateful.

I started Mom's portrait immediately upon returning from her funeral. I was distraught; determined to keep her with me, I painted her as I so often saw her ~ shifting her shoulders to look up from her chair, eyes alight with pleasure at the sight of me. I know in my heart that no one will ever be that happy to see me again. The colors were to be bright and cheerful, devoid of shadow, for I needed to make her happy and safe and somehow not alone. When my brother saw the picture he called it 'Sideways Mom', and that feels appropriate to me ~ a little fey, a little mischievous, a little off. Just like Mom and I. If I had to do it over again I probably would have made different choices, but this particular picture will have to stand as it is.

When I first proposed doing a portrait to Mom the last time that she was home with me, we decided together that it would hang over a bookcase in the living room, but I may have changed my mind. I've gotten so used to having her greet me from her perch on the easel as I come into the kitchen for coffee each morning that I may have to find a place for her there instead. She can be Mommy-in-the-Kitchen again. I don't think she'll mind at all.

Friday, April 03, 2009

there but for fortune go I

Cynthia posted this little nugget of a meme and because I am lazy and in need of a giggle I tried it. The challenge was to google "unfortunately, (your name)" and post the first ten non-repetitive results. Like Cynthia, I chose instead to post only my favorite unfortunate fates:

Unfortunately GiGi was used as a brood bitch and...

Unfortunately, Gigi has become victim of recent changes.

Unfortunately, Gigi’s artist name is a bit too common, so searching for her music can be a tad more difficult than other artists.

Unfortunately, Gigi threw that menu, with most of the dishes, out the window.

Unfortunately, Gigi's magical attacks also will target your partner, so this limits her usefulness in a multiplayer setting.

Unfortunately Gigi speaks today.

Unfortunately, Gigi is in love with Gaston, and though she does not wish to become his mistress, she decides that a) she loves him too much to reject him.

Unfortunately Gigi has a point when he said there'd be alot of swearing.

Unfortunately, Gigi was brought in as an accomplice in dragging that storyline out and I've had a problem with her ever since.

Unfortunately, Gigi has a problem getting her teeth in the way, and deflating old Sammy.

Unfortunately, Gigi makes every scene awkward to watch as she continuously flirts with and teases Mouth, regardless of who's around.

Unfortunately, GiGi won the battle despite that she needed instructions to play the game.

I know. That's 12. But unfortunately, Gigi, well, see above.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

thar she (allegedly) blows

We were strolling along the boardwalk in front of the fabulous waterfront homes of Balboa Island in Newport Beach. I was trying to convey to Robbie why it was perfectly acceptable to peer openly into the living rooms of the homes' wealthy occupants.

"Will you please stop staring into people's windows!" she had requested, most unreasonably I thought. "It's rude."

"No it isn't,"
I explained patiently. "They want us to stare! Those windows are there for us, the lowly proles. They're our firsthand look into the lifestyles of the rich and not-so-famous, who are by definition insecure. We're their target audience. They need to see our soot-smudged little faces, clutching the sills, gazing upward with envy and awe at their tasteful opulence. It helps define them."

I was really enjoying waxing populist
. It comes naturally to me. Especially at sunset, after a martini or two.

"They feed on our envy," I continued. "It's how they know who they are.
They thrive on it."

"It's still rude," she insisted mildly, pulling out her camera.

"They could always draw the curtains. But you don't see them doing that now, do you?"

And indeed, there is something inherently theatrical about the Balboa boardwalk scene; designer set pieces framed by those huge picture windows, strategically illuminated from within. Recessed lights softly reflect the polished surface of grand pianos and decorative wine openers; enormous overstuffed sofas are tossed casually, invitingly, with billowy pillows of tapestry and silk. Twinkling lamps highlight gleaming telescopes on tripods, acres of hardwood flooring and etched glass. Lovely, stately, pristine. And at 6:30 pm on a Saturday evening, suspiciously unoccupied.

"You would think that at this point they'd be more afraid of a class uprising. Of the unwashed masses coming at them with pitchforks and shovels, like Marie Antoinette," she mused, snapping discreetly.

You would think. Looking around, there did seem to be a curious lack of long-handled tools topped with metal or spiky prongs laying about for a fully functioning harbor. Not even an anchor. The area had been prole-proofed. The least they could have done was provided us with nerf bats. Off with their hedgefund-happy heads!

Except these guys. They look kinda fun.

We were both celebrating and lamenting our earlier whale watching excursion out of Davy Jones' Locker, an annual event since 2004 or 05. Davy Jones guarantees their trips with free rain checks, so that if no whales or dolphins are spotted you get to sail again at any time for free. When we first started coming out, tickets were $14; today they would have set us back a whopping $30 bucks apiece. But we've been sailing free for years, and in time have forgotten about the whales altogether and just come to think of it as a pleasant day at sea. All we've ever spotted were seagulls and sea lions.

Until today.

"Whale! At 1:00!" hollered the captain. About 30 people flew to starboard at once. That means to the right, ye scurvy landlubbers. And I know right is starboard because I just looked it up.

"No! Sorry! 2:00!" shouted our I'm-pretty-sure-sea-worthy captain. We all turned our heads ever so slightly in unison.

And thar she blew.

At least we think so. Turns out, thar was pretty far. The truth is, although Captain
Don't-call-me-Ahab Rick chased her for the better part of an hour, we never got close enough to truly appreciate much of her. We did see her spray far in the distance, but then again, this is Southern California, birthplace of Hollywood and special effects; for all we know, that could have been the old shark effect from Universal's 'Jaws' theme ride, reworked into a harbor leviathan. I was once on an excursion (and much smaller boat) out of Dana Point when a California grey whale swam right up next to us, close enough to reach out and stroke, to see every barnacle on her sleek broad back. I swear, you could smell the deep sea depth of her. It was a surreal and magnificent experience. This, well, this could have been a floating log. A very large, fast-moving log.

Disembarking, we felt a little deflated.

"It's the end of an era," said Robbie sadly.

I sighed. "No more free trips. I'm going to miss Balboa."

One hour and a refreshing cocktail later, we were feeling much brighter.

"To next year, in Dana point," toasted Robbie.

And thar we goes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

dissed by the stars

Horoscope: Cancer

In Horoscopes

After years of painstaking research and rigorous clinical trials, medical science still doesn't have an answer for why you're such a jerk.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I feel like a number

Diets tend to make one obsessively numbers oriented, and for the past couple of weeks they've been much on my mind. It occurs to me that my entire life has been recorded, at least at one level, as little more than a series of weights and measures which I have allowed to create my identity as a woman and which continue to influence how I feel about myself today. I thought I was smarter than that.

I am not. I can still recall how much I weighed at varying points in my personal history with a precision lacking in any other aspect of my life. I can't remember my cell number or the name of my last dentist, but I can tell you that
I was 15 years old and 130 lbs when Seventeen magazine and the family doctor informed me that 130 was too fat for a teenager of my (disappointing) 5' 4" height. I had thought I was taller than that.

The doctor went on to tell me that if I kept it up at this rate I would be extremely overweight by the time I was 30. I wasn't exactly sure what he meant by 'extremely', but I knew that the idea of being 30 at all sounded terrifying enough. I can tell you that I went on a diet that summer and lost 16 lbs, thrilled that I weighed 114 lbs on my 16th birthday and vowing that I would weigh the same on every birthday for the rest of my life.

I did not keep that vow. And I never shall.

When my first boyfriend broke up with me at age 18 I starved myself down to 107; when my second broke up with me 2 years later I only managed a to whittle my frame down to a paltry 108. I took this to mean that my love for him was not as great as it had been for the first, a realization that added just enough regret to help me achieve a dangerously waifish 105. T
he self-induced pain of hunger masked the inflicted anguish of rejection. It felt good, regaining physical control as I imagined myself being devoured from the inside out, literally and emotionally. In the meantime, I assuaged my misery with an endless supply of whiskey sours, Virginia Slims, and Gloria Gaynor belting out I Will Survive on the jukebox at 25 cents a play. Disco Saves.

Sadly, over the years I grew accustomed to breakups and they could no longer be used as a reliable means of weight control. I learned to exercise. After I got married and the threat of a breakup became, although not impossible certainly, at least less frequent, I found that happiness was just another way of saying that I had to work out more. I thought I was more sensible than that.

5.77 miles in 45 minutes on the Precor burns about 400.02 calories, which means I'll have to do at least 2.15 miles on the tread at a rate of 4.0 mph to burn a total of 600 calories. But 45 minutes on the elliptical can vary between 5.75 and 6.35 miles depending on the pace and hits about 500 calories, meaning I can cut the tread to about 1 to 1.25 miles to burn the 600 and create a nice even mileage total as well, only if I do 6.35 miles precor I'll probably have to do 1.75 tread because I feel guilty if I do less than 1 and hate to stop at a number like 1.65 because it's so close to the end of the lap at 1.75. 1.67 is sometimes OK because it's 1 1/3, which seems more of an accomplishment and less of a wimp-out than 1 1/2, and represents approximately 7-10 additional calories; again, depending on the pace and ratio to vertical incline.

There are 104 calories in one baked potato and 200 in 2 tablespoons of butter; 30 in a cup of broccoli; 300 in a can of tuna packed in oil; 110 in a glass of Chardonnay but I like a large glass, more like 140 or so and after 2 who's counting anyway? Not I, surely. But the cardiac/sculpt instructor says it takes a deficit of 3600 calories to lose 1 pound; by cutting out 100 calories a day it will take 36 days to lose 1 pound. 36 days x 26 pounds = 936 days to achieve this particular Fitness Fetish goal, or 468 days if cutting 200 and there goes my glass of wine.

Bored? Yeah, me too.
I thought I was more interesting than that.

And of course, it all adds up to little in the end. I will be no more or less loved, less engaged in the world, no more or less likely to have left a lasting impression on the lives of the people I care about.
It is a tale told by a chubby idiot, full of math and fury, signifying nothing.

What Number Are You?

You Are 5: The Investigator

You're independent - and a logical analytical thinker.

You love learning and ideas... and know things no one else does.

Bored by small talk, you refuse to participate in boring conversations.

You are open minded. A visionary. You understand the world and may change it.

At Your Best: You are sharp, inventive, and creative. You have the skills to lead the world.

At Your Worst: You are reclusive, weird, and a bit paranoid.

Your Fixation: Greed

Your Primary Fear: Being useless or incompetent

Your Primary Desire: Being competent and needed

Other Number 5's: Bill Gates, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Bjork, and Stephen Hawking.

For the record, I am not paranoid.
Why are you looking at me like that?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

can't post now ~ gotta finish this

Meez 3D avatar avatars games

So I was toodlin' around yesterday when I should have been working/cleaning/rolling quarters/kiting checks/staring off into space. But it was actually in the course of doing some legitimate research (I swear) when I stumbled across this little divertissement and...well, a girl just cannot have too many avatars, as far as I'm concerned. They're like Barbies for grown-up geeky girls. Everyone needs a Barbie, right? No? Just me? Okay.

Sure, I know you're busy ~ like me, you're struggling hard to make up believable resumes (what year would I have graduated college if I were the 38 year-old systems engineer I am claiming to be? Where would I have gone? Is a $150k starting salary too high? Too low? Should I also be fluent in Chinese? What will I wear to my new office?) all the while upending your couch in search of loose change to pay for that last latte before the corner Starbucks closes and Armageddon commences.

Or maybe you're just energetically combing YouTube for video mix-ups of Christian Bale's rant, poo-flinging chimps and another one of those whack-job preachers calling Obama the Antichrist. All great fun, I agree. But even that kind of effort gets exhausting after a while.

It'll waste of a good hour or so of your life, I promise.

You're welcome.

I love my little avi. I think she'll get a tattoo.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

tabula rasa

Lately I've been playing around with trying to turn a few poorly written personal journal pages into a few poorly illustrated personal journal pages with predictably muddled results. In the process, I have learned two things about myself which I will proceed to put down here, as god knows I am currently unable to put them down there, for reasons which will be soon become clear.

A) I have the aesthetic and attention span of a six year old girl.

Despite having recently purchased and perused not one but three gorgeous new books on how to create successful mixed-media collages, I do not not understand these new materials at all. Acrylic paints remain an unfathomable mystery to me, and I cannot seem to grasp how to handle them without brushes drying up and the paper buckling and splotching willy-nilly while I am busily distracted elsewhere, cutting up magazine photos and gluing down pretty plastic pearls. It appears to require more organization and forethought than I am accustomed to. When it comes to the art of collage, I am still a child eating molding paste and dreaming about unicorns, gaily coating everything in sight with glitter and faerie dust, and thinking it magic.

B) I am not that bright.

Actually, this is probably a subset of A, but as I have predetermined that this should be part of an epic 2 Random Things You Don't Know About Me post, it gets its own heading. Although, come to think of it, you may already know this about me, or at least suspect as much. Consider yourself validated.

Inspired by the likes of Judy Wise, Teesha Moore and Amber Gibbs I attempted to
decorate a few journal pages of my own. This seemed to be going remarkably well, and so pleased was I with my cleverness that I even wrote a haiku to grace one of the freshly renovated pages. It was beautiful, that little poem; elegant, self-contained ~ a delicately framed image of the mountains being seduced by enveloping storm clouds. I like writing haiku because it combines two of my favorite things; precise imagery and counting to 7. Plus, they are easy to remember until I can write them down. And because I also like smooth, shiny things, I added to all my pretty pages what I thought was a light coat of glossy gel medium.

You may guess the rest.

I now have a journal full of pretty pages on which nothing may be written. They are sealed; no gel pen, no graphite, no watercolor pencil; no ballpoint, nor Sharpie, nor quill dipped in blood will adhere to the now impermeable surface of my mini masterpieces. Diaries without drama, journals without joy. It is the Never-starting Story.

Of course, I could still paste prose into them, or use acrylics and a very narrow brush to paint entries, calligraphy style, but frankly this is demanding far too much of my limited literary abilities; already there had been a question of what I could write that would be deemed pretty page-worthy. Hauntingly beautiful and long forgotten haiku aside
(verily, I swear; a brilliant addition to the art of counted syllables, it was) what was I going to set down in my Japanese garden; the daily calorie count? Miles on the treadmill? My thoughts on the president's stimulus package? Surely, painting one's daily weigh-in is going a step too far.

The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on...