Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I Have Done ...

OK, I know I just said I didn't feel like blogging, but this doesn't feel like a blog, it feels like fun! I found this meme at MauiGirl's Meanderings.

Try it while you're laying there on that couch, after having consumed more food than is possible to fit in a human stomach, and debating whether to watch more football or try to swallow one last sliver of pumpkin pie.

To participate, just copy and paste the list in your own blog, and color all of the things YOU have done (mine are in red, but you can use any color you want). Things you haven't done will be in black. Happy discoveries!

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Wow! only 52 out of 100 -- so many things still to do, though I don't really want to be transported in an ambulance (#46), or kill & dress an animal (#87). I'm sure singing in the shower wouldn't count for #10, nor would those old family home movies count for #55 (though I did give the royal wave in many of them, to my imaginary fans, huzzah). I decided, based on absolutely nothing, that if you can't say you've done at least 50, you need to get out a lot more.

Re: #36, I didn't answer "I have" because I took spanish in high school ... but isn't it really your own effort that actually teaches your brain another language? It's not like a teacher can just force-feed it into your brain! Still, the way it was worded, I couldn't answer "I have". I think most of the things I have NOT done reflect a lack of wordly travel (which I hope to remedy someday) and/or chickenness (which may have no cure, brroccckkukuk).

If you like David Sedaris, be sure to see/hear the sad romance of The Squirrel and The Chipmunk (posted below) .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Squirrel and The Chipmunk

Today was the last sunny day I will see for awhile. Our first big winter storm is due to hit the SW Wednesday. Rain and wind, mudslides in So-Cal, maybe even snow up here. So much for our Thanksgiving camping plans! Forget that Thanksgiving BBQ, too!

Instead, we might see a movie or a play, anything where we won't have to drive too far. I might be forced to cook (ackkk, run for the hills!), but it won't be turkey (Sarah Palin has wrecked that idea completely). I will also be using the long weekend to catch up on some indoor projects. All boring stuff, nothing to blog about. And I'm not much in the mood for politics right now.

So until I can think of anything more to say, I'm posting one of my favorite readings by David Sedaris, from stories of Hope and Fear, This American Life series on NPR. I saw David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell performing live together in California a few years ago -- a thoroughly enjoyable evening of understated wit. At the time, I had only just read Barrel Fever, so I had NO idea what to expect.

This is the story of The Squirrel and The Chipmunk, a romance killed by miscommunication. Hint: JAZZ and bigoted family members are involved. No visuals, so you can listen while you work. This is one of many of his own short stories Mr Sedaris has read for NPR.

Does anyone else love David Sedaris? I'm planning a David Sedaris Christmas blog. You will have to stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone! I suspect many of us will be giving thanks for the same thing this year -- i.e., that our presidential election turned out as it did. What are some of the other things you are thankful for this year?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Seventh Grade Memories

For me, seventh grade was a watershed year. Here are a few highlights and lowlights, a brief snapshot in time:

Junior High School was a world away from my Elementary School cocoon where I knew every student and teacher.

It was a tough adjustment to suddenly find myself in a sea of strangers, many of whom seemed dangerous. There was the unaccustomed movement of students from classroom to classroom. The whole arrangement seemed so impractical. It necessitated hauling around books & sweaters & coats (we were not lucky enough to have an indoor mall-type school). It demanded student lockers to store what wasn't needed for the next class. It created great swirling masses of kids scurrying between classes. I thought it quite inefficient & disorderly, compared to the one-classroom/one-teacher elementary school system.

Unlike Elementary School, there were different teachers for every class. I recognized that each teacher had their specialty, some seeming to enjoy their specialty more than others. I liked the teachers that liked what they were teaching. For instance, my English teacher obviously hated both his subject and his subjects (us students). The first day of class, he told us we didn't need to bring our school-issued textbook to class since he didn't intend to teach from it. We spent the rest of the year listening to him recount his travels to Portugal. Interestingly wierd. My favorite teachers that year taught seventh-grade science as a pair. I don't know why it took two of them, maybe because of our large class size, but they were so engaging, it was a pleasure to hear they were actually engaged, and planning on marrying over the summer break.

These were baby boom years, so all the classrooms were very crowded. Unlike Elementary School, I never knew even a small percentage of kids in my Junior High classes. If pressed, I could barely name any of them today. As I said, some students seemed dangerous, but that may be more the perspective of hormones, because the hormones were definitely hitting all of us at different levels of intensity. Phys Ed was where the rubber met the road in the physical maturity dept. Always a scrawny girl, I blitzed through the mandatory group showers, hoping to wrap up in a towel as quickly as possible, lest someone should notice that the boob fairy had not visited me yet. I even developed a convoluted way of getting partially dressed with my towel still wrapped around me. Later that year my mom bought me a glorified elastic band known as a "teen bra" which was a tremendous confidence builder. She also showed me how to shave my legs, so I could wear nylons. woo-hoooo, the whole womanhood thing seemed fascinating!

At the beginning of each school year, the school nurse gave the students a vision test. The kids would sit on benches waiting our turn to go behind a curtain and read the eye chart. All through Elementary School, my eyes were good, at least 20/20 as I recall. But in Seventh Grade, the nurse had so many kids to test, she got sloppy and left the curtain partially open. As I was waiting my turn, I noticed something had happened to my vision ... I could read the eye chart perfectly with my right eye, but hardly at all with my left eye. For some reason, the thought of eyeglasses terrified me (the popular rhinestone catseye style was particularly horrifying), so I took advantage of my waiting time to memorize the eye chart, top to bottom, left to right, right to left, row by row. When my turn came up, I aced the vision test, but who was I really fooling? I later learned that many kids have vision changes associated with puberty. This would finally catch up with me in high school, but by then, glasses were kind of cool, especially the frameless "granny glasses" style.

Junior High was my first experience with lunch time cafeterias. Our school was an older one with an outdoor cafeteria, so it was usually a miserable time, either roastingly hot, freezing cold, or raining. We were herded outside into a fenced off area with long tables. They locked the doors to the school behind us. This must be what prison yard time is like. The cafeteria was also my first experience with "cliques", where I found out that you couldn't just sit & eat at any table of students and expect them to welcome you. Being pretty shy, it was pretty painful. Every lunch time, I couldn't wait until they unlocked the doors back into the school area proper, so I could escape the cafeteria nightmare. Some days I stayed in the school library and didn't eat lunch at all. No wonder I was so scrawny.

For some reason, I ended up with a music class elective. This was a massive screw-up on my part. I thought we'd be studying musical theory, or maybe dissecting the influences of the classical composers, or something. It turned out the class was just a bunch of kids singing or messing around with some ancient and none-too-clean instruments for the entire classtime, while the teacher constantly fiddled with a broken metronome & tried to instill order. After the teacher found out I couldn't sing or play an instrument (actually I could play the accordian, but I would never reveal that in public), I ended up banging some cymbals or tinkling a triangle for the rest of the semester. The teacher never even wondered why I could read music or why I'd sometimes play one-handed piano as a joke (this is the sure sign of an accordian player).

There was one teacher at the school who went nuts or had a psychotic breakdown. I did not have any classes with her, but had heard from other students that she was "a woman on the edge". Here's all I know: I had only just gotten used to the P.A. system (we never had that in Elementary School). At first it was quite jarring to hear music blasted at us over loudspeakers at the end of each class and accompanying us down the corridors between classes. Even more jarring was "Home Room", the first class of the day, where we would have to sit quietly & listen to some school administrator babbling incomprehensibly over the P.A. about upcoming school events (think Rydell High) -- incomprehensible because the P.A. speakers were so scratchy, you could never be sure what exactly was being said. Anyway, the teacher who had a imminent date with the men-in-white came on the P.A. speakers one day in the MIDDLE of one of our classes. That had never happened before; the speakers had never crackled to life in the MIDDLE of a class. We were all treated to a great whooshing sound, then banshee-like wailing, then finally these words I've never forgotten, "I am Casper the friendly ghost. wwwooooohhh", followed by a great THUNK, and then the mike was switched off. WTH? It was all very strange and scary! Later that day, we found out the "woman on the edge" had been taken away in an ambulance to the Psych Ward. I had to ask my parents what all that meant. I guess if you ever find yourself thinking you're Casper the friendly ghost, better just check yourself into a sanitarium right then, so you don't scare the kiddies.

But the defining moment for my Seventh Grade year, indeed for the rest of my life in ways I couldn't possibly fathom at the time, happened on November 22, 1963. If you've read this far, you know exactly what I'm talking about. For me, it happened while I was in Science Class. Once again, the P.A. system crackled to life in the middle of class, so naturally we all thought, WOW, which teacher has gone nuts this time? But it wasn't a teacher talking over the P.A. No, no, no, this time it sounded like someone on break in the Teacher's Lounge had accidentally turned on the P.A. system while they were listening to the radio. It wasn't music, though, but what with the crackly speakers, we couldn't make sense of what was being said. Really, it seemed like a welcome disruption, an excuse to resume the non-stop gossip-fest that students so enjoy, since it was so loud, the teachers couldn't conduct classes until whoever turned it on figured out their mistake.

After a few moments, one of the Science teachers (remember, we had two), yelled at us to STOP TALKING AND LISTEN! The other teacher ran out of the classroom (we assumed he was going to the Teacher's Lounge to rectify the situation because someone was obviously asleep at the switch in there). But we quieted down enough to hear what was being broadcast. That's when we heard that the President had been shot.

Now it's very hard for most 12-year olds to really grasp the true meaning of those words, but I think we all grew up fast in those few moments. We listened as the radio announcer gave details about the motorcade in Dallas. We watched our teacher put on the kind of stoic face that scares kids more than anything. Her face told us that this is serious, that the world has just changed completely.

Then the other science teacher came bursting back into the classroom and nodded his head. They both sat down at their desks and put their heads in their hands. I remember looking around and seeing many other kids doing the same thing. No one said a word for the remainder of the class.

But time did not stand still. Science class ended and off we went to our next classes. My next class was Home Economics, an all-girl class because at that time, boys would never consider learning how to cook or sew or organize a household budget. During the break, the students were all walking around like zombies, straining to hear every scratchy word coming out of the P.A. speakers. Some of the kids who lived nearby left school at that point. That frightened me because I'd heard other kids talking about foreign military assassinations and war. Up to this point in my life, assassination was only a word I'd read in history books.

We had been in the midst of a sewing project in Home Ec, so we all took up positions at our rows of sewing machines, still listening to the P.A. system. We heard that President Kennedy had been shot in the head and that he had been taken to the hospital. We heard that Jackie had been in the car with him, but she was unhurt. Naturally, we began speculating. As we worked our sewing machines, we speculated about being shot in the head. I remember saying I'd never heard of anyone getting shot in the head and surviving. Someone else mentioned the word, vegetable. Oh yeah, like we were all suddenly medical experts!

That's when the radio announcer said it had now been confirmed that President Kennedy was dead and that Lyndon Johnson was being sworn in. Our sewing machines were all stunned into silence. The next few moments are etched into my brain.

There was a very pretty blond girl named Joyce who was at the sewing machine in front of me. I watched her head pitch forward and hit the sewing machine hard. She then slumped to the floor. I and a couple other girls helped her back up to her chair. She was crying so hard, we all started crying just watching her cry. Crying can be contagious!

And that's when the ugliest girl I have ever known, folded her arms across her chest in a defiant way, and said, "I don't care that he died; my family is Republican!" ... Her name was Brenda.

I have recounted that incident many times over the years, and every time the girl in question becomes uglier and uglier. Was she really physically ugly? Or was it her inner ugliness that has made her so ugly in my mind? All I know is that I was so horrified by her statement that she has become the most hideous visage in my memory.

The rest of the day is blur. I do remember watching TV coverage, but no one seemed to be talking about what it all meant. It really did seem like the world had changed. I was no longer an innocent babe, and we as a nation were in mourning over both the tragedy and for what might have been.

That was 45-years ago.

John F. Kennedy was 46-years old when he was killed.

He may not have been a Knight in Shining Armor, but he was a Beacon of Hope the likes of which we had not seen.

He provided a glimpse of what a smart, capable, charismatic president might do, given the chance. I hope some part of his spirit still resides in the WH.

If you're in the mood for some Billy Joel, "We Didn't Start the Fire", click here (5-mins). A fire was lit 11/22/1963. It has sputtered many times since then, but it truly feels like it reignited this year.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bliss was it to be alive ***

OK, so I'm still obviously on a high. You wanna make something of it?

Here's Bill Maher's post-election NEW RULES (6-minutes). Some humor hits, some misses ... a nice tax plan for Joe the Phony Plumber, a beautiful Saudi goat, and some advice for us all ...

Even though it's a horribly dreary day here, dark and rainy and nasty, I can sense sunshine just around the corner. It feels so good to know that things do change ... that we are finally heading toward something positive. Who knows, perhaps we might even flourish instead of just trying to cope, for the way in which we tackle the immense problems that lie ahead may provide a path toward greatness.

*** "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven" -- penned by William Wordsworth, about the commencement of the French Revolution. Click here for full poem.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shhhh ... Secrets of the 2008 Campaign

Newsweek has published a seven-part in-depth look behind the scenes of the 2008 presidential campaign. Their reporters were granted year-long access on the condition that none of their findings appear until after Election day.

While I do not think details that would be important for voters to know should be kept secret, I am enjoying reading about these details now. And I am wiping my brow with relief that the election turned out as it did!

I contemplated printing out all these to read later, but then I got the bright idea to link them on my blog, so I can read them at MY leisure ... and so you can read them at YOUR leisure, if you are so inclined.

The links below are to the "print version" of each of the seven parts, which is the way I like to read long articles. Even though print versions don't have all the linky-links, each part is all on one page instead of having to click forward through page after page. If you want the full linky-linked multi-page versions, click here & follow the chapters listed near the top, under the heading "Secrets of the 2008 Campaign". Otherwise, here ya go:

HIGHLIGHTS: Hackers and Spending Sprees (this is just an overview which you can skip if you intend to read the whole series anyway) ...

PART ONE: How He Did It (how Obama grew as a candidate)

PART TWO: Back From the Dead (how McCain's campaign made a comeback with a new narrative)

PART THREE: The Long Seige (Obama and Clinton's primary battle)

PART FOUR: Going Into Battle (the McCain campaign's best hopes for bringing Obama down)

PART FIVE: Center Stage (last minute worries and an impulsive veep pick for the base)

PART SIX: The Great Debates (different strokes for different folks)

PART SEVEN: The Final Days (the path to victory) ...

CHANGE HAS COME TO AMERICA, yes it has (or will, beginning 1.20.09)!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

President-Elect Obama

Today has been the oddest day. Floating on Cloud Nine, with only intermittant thoughts of the storms ahead. Thinking how beautiful it is to have a President actually Elected, not Selected or snuck in by hook or by crook.

But it was while watching scenes of the global celebration of President-Elect Obama that I finally understood an underlying truth. It was not America the world hated. It was our president and his insane agenda. It is him and his cronies and enablers that are despised worldwide. Whether we deserve it or not, we have been given another chance.

I like the way Paul Krugman summed it up today, short and bittersweet ...

The Monster Years (by Paul Krugman) :

Last night wasn’t just a victory for tolerance; it wasn’t just a mandate for progressive change; it was also, I hope, the end of the monster years.

What I mean by that is that for the past 14 years America’s political life has been largely dominated by, well, monsters. Monsters like Tom DeLay, who suggested that the shootings at Columbine happened because schools teach students the theory of evolution. Monsters like Karl Rove, who declared that liberals wanted to offer “therapy and understanding” to terrorists. Monsters like Dick Cheney, who saw 9/11 as an opportunity to start torturing people.

And in our national discourse, we pretended that these monsters were reasonable, respectable people. To point out that the monsters were, in fact, monsters, was “shrill.”

Four years ago it seemed as if the monsters would dominate American politics for a long time to come. But for now, at least, they’ve been banished to the wilderness.

***** And if you're a Michael Moore fan, like me, click here to read his message today.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Democracy is coming to the USA

As usual, Leonard Cohen says it best. Here is the 3.5 minute version:

If you're a Leonard Cohen fan, click here for the full 7-minutes ...

"It's coming from the sorrow in the street, the holy places where the races meet; from the homicidal bitchin' that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat. From the wells of disappointment where the women kneel to pray for the grace of God in the desert here and the desert far away: Democracy is coming to the U.S.A."

If you haven't already voted, stop everything else you're doing,


While you're at it, drag a few friends with you.

This day is what DEMOCRACY is all about, the peaceful transfer of power. This is what our ancestors fought and died for.

Monday, November 3, 2008

one more thing ... Joe the Lieberman ... updated

Click here for a pretty good voter guide for watching the election results, especially for those of us who will be watching from the far western states.

And can I just say one more thing?

If the Democrats manage to end up with 60 seats in the Senate, can we finally strip Joe the Lieberman of any committee chairs and other important positions he holds due to his pretense that he "caucuses with the Democrats"?

I am so sick of him being a replicant toady, smiling like the Cheshire Cat at McCain rallies. Bust him back down to the lowliest most unimportant committee position possible, like wiping the sweaty ass stains off the senate leather chairs!
UPDATE! Reid meeting with Lieberman 11/6/08. Doesn't look good for Joe, boo hoo. Go away, Joe!

odds and ends

I've been so unproductive in blogging lately, I thought I'd share a few odds and ends of my week.

New Eyeglasses: For some time I've been trying to find new glasses that look decent on me and yet allow a large enough field of vision. Many lenses of the newer styles are smaller than my eyeballs! Kind of defeats the purpose, in my opinion. See photo above for my final choice. What do you think? They were my second choice. Here is the story of my first choice:

My husband was checking out the sunglasses while I was trying on eyeglass frames. One style in particular seemed perfect, so I put them on to check the look. I thought I looked great in them, so I called out to the husband to get his opinion. He turned around, took one look, screamed and ran out of the store! WHY, you may ask? Because they are the exact same glasses that Sarah Palin wears! I tried coaxing him back into the store by pointing out how perfect they were & how great they looked on me, but he wasn't going for it. What cinched the deal was when I noticed the Sarah-frames were $395 (vs $150 for the ones I finally purchased).

Early Voting: check! done and done! The poll workers said they've never seen anything like the turnout this year. I must admit I wasn't too reassured when I saw the DIEBOLD name stamped on the back of our voting machines, but there is a little roll of paper that runs alongside the screen which allows you to verify the paper trail is correct. I hope it isn't printed with disappearing ink.

Wal-Mart Women: this is a phrase I've been hearing this week. It has Karl Rove written all over it, doesn't it? Just remember the previous phrases of "soccer moms", "security moms", and "values voters" -- all used to justify why exit polling did not match election results for Bush. I have a feeling Tuesday is going to be an allnighter, possibly even an allweeker.

W: We finally went to see the movie, W. Now I remember why I hate going to movie theatres. If the endless commercials and previews weren't enough to keep me at home, the deafening sound system is. If this is what is being installed in expensive Home Theatre Rooms, I want no part of it. But we wanted to see W before this election, just to remind ourselves of what we are voting against. In that regard, the movie was a great success. Unfortunately it was not a great movie. However, it did capture the cockiness of W, the toadiness of Rove, the yes-womanliness of Condi and the shadowiness of Cheney pretty well. If you saw it, do you think Colin Powell ever really told Dick Cheney to fuck off? I hope he did, but I have my doubts. There's also a good scene with Tony Blair that shows him being double-team bullied into supporting our effort at Empire. I choked up over the footage of protestors around the world, because of course none of it ever made one bit of difference to the people pushing U.S. into Iraq. The callousness of these war thugs is astounding!

Democracy: Democracy cannot survive without an informed and motivated citizenry. The U.S. has a dismal record of voter turnout. Other democracies regularly see over 90% voter turnout. If you don't bother to vote, don't be surprised to find many more W's in our future -- a prospect that almost defeats the word "future".

Massive Voter Turnout: watching the scenes of long voter lines on TV fills me with a renewed sense of hope. One of the biggest crimes of the last 8-years has been to make people believe they have no power. That is a bogus argument designed to suppress the vote. We have ultimate power. We always have. It starts with voting, of course, but it does not end there, especially if we see another stolen election. We just have to decide to exercise our power.

We have the power -- People Have the Power (Patti Smith):

Click here for the complete lyrics. It's full of inspiring images, but I think my favorite line says "the armies ceased advancing". I saw Patti Smith some years ago at the Belly-Up Tavern in Solana Beach CA. She became my hero when some young guys in the audience yelled at her between songs, "Just how old a woman are you?"... She responded, "Old enough to know better than to answer fools like you"! BTW, she is even more intense in person than on camera.

Drill Here, Drill Now: In case you missed it, Prez Bush has started his end-of-term enviromental deregulation. 11 Million acres of federal land in Utah will be open for oil and gas drilling interests, as well as off-road vehicles, risking priceless artifacts and some of the most breathtaking open spaces in America if the Bureau of Land Management, guided by Dirk Kempthorne, the interior secretary, has their way. About 1 Million acres near the Grand Canyon will be open for new uranium mining, without any environmental review of potential damage to air and water. This same type of deregulation has to be going on in many other states, too.

Well, I'm sure there were many other odds and ends this week, but I'm also sure that these have been amply covered in the news and on the blogs. If I don't make it back before Tuesday, let me say once again, that in this election, any non-Obama vote is a vote for McCain. You don't need me to do the math for you. This is not just a hope-filled dream; it is the most important election in all my voting years. It took 40 long years to come back to the place we once were and recognize it for the first time (click here for link to T.S. Eliot). Sorry, I cannot be cynical when so much is at stake.