Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thee, Thy, Thine

In a previous post, I mentioned briefly but then never came back to my mother's "thee and thy-ing." I think it's a cool thing, so I just want to take a minute to explain it.

My mom, grandmother, aunt, and an assortment of other relatives, all say "thee" and "thy" amongst family. This is referred to "plain speech" in academic and theological writings on the matter, but I've never actually heard that name used in discussion. I also have not heard thee and thy being used outside of our family...we're not talking about common Quaker stuff, here, but it's rooted in formerly-traditional Quaker practice.

In Quakerism's childhood, there were still some pretty strict social norms related to class. Titles were always used, and one was supposed to take off their hat when greeting someone of a higher social class. You were also supposed to use ye/you/your when addressing anyone above your class, and thee/thy/thou with people your class or below(think back to some Shakespeare you've read for excellent example of this kind of Class Confirmation By Pronoun). The Quakers, ever dedicated to equality, didn't buy into these social practices, and thus began using thee/thy/thou with everyone, refusing to doff their hats, and didn't use titles. They also appeared to basically think using you and ye to refer to single people was dumb, since you and ye at the time were strictly plural forms (obviously, you has sort of singlularized itself...I am guessing this is an evolution of the popularity of using you to refer to one person we're talking about here. Language is so neat).

I think I have also mentioned that Quakers were a lot fightier in earlier eras? Founding Quaker George Fox is quoted as having said that using thee and thou as "a fearful cut to proud flesh and self-honor," in a tone that seems to indicate he might have taken a certain ornery joy in taking the residents of the upper social strata down a peg.

That's the deal with the thee and thy business with my dad does not use it, but mom does. Both my mom and grandmother say that they started using the terms when they had children, but haven't elaborated on why. I think it's just What Was Done, something they accepted about the parent-to-child relationship in our family. I like it all the more for the egalitarian (and fighty!) sentiment behind it, as well as for years of awesome facial expressions when friends of mine first meet Mom. It's totally fascinating, because no one wants to come out and say, "how come your mom talks funny?" On the other hand, you know that they want to ask so badly, so the tug of war on their face is usually primo entertainment.

What's the matter, son, can't handle a little plain speech??

Books, Books, Glorious Books

I am, as I have said before in this space, a reader. A hopeless one, at that, enslaved by the printed word, and wildly possessive of books. I have traditionally had a horrible time giving books away, and let's not even THINK of throwing them out, because that would never ever happen. That being said, whenever I have given books away, giving them to people who I know will read and appreciate them really takes some of the sting off. To that end, I have two book disperment agents that I use and hope to pass on to you.

The first is Book Crossing, which I am renewing my love affair with. When I was at school at American, I used this pretty frequently, trailed off, and have now gotten back on board. This is more of a sort of social experiment, kind of like tracking the movements of...I dunno, moose across Canada. You go on to Book Crossing and register your books, and that will generate a little label that you tag the book with, kind of like an ex libris tag. (Much better than clipping a metal tag onto a moose's ear, no?) You then release the book into the wild, noting on the website where it is. Then, one of three things happens. One, someone picks up the book, thinks "woo! Free book!," sees the Book Crossing tag in the front cover, and reports to Book Crossing to punch in the ID number and say where they are, etc. Two, someone goes on to Book Crossing, looks up a list of released books, and goes to FIND your book at which point they report in accordingly. Three, of course someone sucky could pick up your book (or it just gets ignored and wanders the Earth homeless) and not follow the directions on the tag. That would suck. But isn't the coolness of the first two options worth the occasional douchebag?? I used to dump books off on the Metro, but now I am going to start with Charlie's on campus, commuter rail, and maybe even in the DCU Center. I'll post updates here, just in case anyone's interested.

The second Cool Book Thing is something Celia turned me on to a while back but I am just now signing up for, because I am a bad person. It's called Book Mooch, and is less social experimenty than the Book Crossing. You go onto their site, punch in a bunch of books you'd like to get rid of and pass along, and then, people can request your books. You pay postage, and each book you send gives you one point (three, if you send overseas), and these points entitle you to request books from other people. It's also got a kind of eBay-style feedback system. Neat system, and my books are waiting to be claimed online!

To close, here's a wonderful ad that I think really speaks to what reading is all about. It's a PSA from the Ad Council and the Library of Congress to promote the Lifelong Literacy campaign. Needless to say, it's aimed at young readers, and has a couple different incarnations - same basic theme of the train station, but in the end the kids go to different places, like Narnia, Hogwarts, Oz, etc. Really well done, I think, and moreover, a neat enough looking ad that kids might actually tune in, rather than ignoring it or feeling talked down to.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Walmart: Not So Smiley

There is no time left in the history of the world for me to thoroughly enumerate the reasons I hate Walmart. I don't shop there, and quite frankly, there aren't that many entire retail locations I'll boycott on principle. However, when confronted with a store that's the moral equivalent of a building completely consumed by flames with some dude dressed in a red outfit with horns an a pitchfork trying to get you to come in and check out their blow out sale on locusts, I'm sorry, but I'll take a fucking pass. Just a brief rundown of assorted Walmart fucktardery...

  1. Their track record on treating women like the 19th Amendment ever happened is fucking abysmal.

  2. They violate child labor laws, which again might be an issue with the space-time continuum.

  3. The conga line of general worker abuse is eleventy billion miles long...starting with some relatively minor shit like not meeting a minimum wage and continuing on to deciding it was cheaper to wash injured workers' blood out of manufactured clothes than get the proper safety equipment.

  4. Did I mention the whole "flexible scheduling" thing, where Walmart basically was trying to force all its full-timers into the part-time job from hell?

  5. Not to mention the shitty healthcare, which is...inadequate at best.

  6. If you're a right of contract advocate and don't care what Walmart does to its own employees, you might also want to note that they don't particularly care about the quality of what they sell you or whether it will give you horrendous chemical burns on your feet.

  7. I personally just find the overall aesthetics of the stores so gross that even if they weren't the Corporate AntiChrist, I just don't like being in there.

I won't say that today's little piece of karmic bitchslap makes up for all Walmart's sins, but I certainly know how devastating the loss of a trademark or logo can be to a company...and I'll take any retribution I can get.

Kiss your smiley face goodbye, Walmart!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pick One

My Constitutional Law professor walked in the door the other day, five minutes late as per usual, plunked his stuff down on the desk, and then turned around and began writing on the board. While he wrote, my fear that he was putting quiz questions up there battled with the amusement of watching him know how some left handed people have not figured out how to write without putting their elbow, like, in their nasal cavity? When these people write on whiteboards, the effect is even better.

In any case, here's what he wrote.

1. South Boston fight club
2. g.s. ski race
3. overpowering girlfriend
4. Easter Bunny jab

He then turned around and said something to the effect of "one of those is the reason for my black eye. I'm not telling you which." Apparently he thought this would put an end to speculation, which is of course crazy talk. If we all hated him, we'd probably just spend the class silently imagining horrible but cathartic scenarios to explain the eye, but generally everyone likes him, so we were bound to discuss.

Needless to say, one person, who we'll call Thing 1, immediately said "overpowering girlfriend" and Thing 2 said "South Boston fight club." The response?

"Mr. Thing 1 loses 10 points off his midterm. Mr. Thing 2 gains 10."

High five!

Monday, March 24, 2008

I See Your Weirdness, And Raise You Dementia.

So, the State sponsored gambling concept is dead in the water. Too bad, given the jobs it would bring to Massachusetts (fact, though how many jobs is of course unknown) and the money it would bring to Massachusetts' beleaguered finances (fact, though the amount is of course unknown).

So here's the gambling is coming to Our Fair Commonweath, no matter what Speaker Sal DiMasi has to say about it.

The Wampanoag tribe, having gotten their paperwork in order with the Feds, can now open casinos. They've already gotten the ball rolling and are looking out in Middleborough (I think?) for a location.

Did you catch that?

There are going to be casinos, but instead of reaping the lion's share of the benefits, the State would prefer to spend its time inhaling the fumes emanating from the casino. HIGH FUCKING FIVE, YOU IDIOTS.

Look, I understand the arguments that DiMasi's been pushing, and a lot of people seem to think that the second a casino opens its doors, we're all going to start drinking from 9 to 5, driving like assholes, raping, killing, looting and pillaging. Plus, apparently the Scourge of Addiction will get all of us - even the CHILDREN oh God won't someone think of the children and the old people with their Keno - in its clutches and squish us until we are nothing but goo.

Does this happen, like, anywhere in the world, ever?

And furthermore, how about some fucking personal responsibility? Can no one think for him or herself any more? Have we really sunk so low that the mere existance of a casino unleashes all the lurking vices in our souls? And are we to presume that within all of us, there is a teensy little gambler, banging their fists on our spleen, waiting for that precious day when the casino arrives when it can be free to piss away our savings and fuck some prostitutes? Do we really need the government to save us from the big bad casino so we aren't tempted by vice? If that's what DiMasi and his supporters think about me and the people in my life - that we're a bunch of weenies just chomping at the bit for a chance to break under the pressure - then quite frankly I think DiMasi and Co. are a bunch of presumptuous douchebags, is what I think.

And Jesus, Mary and Joseph, am I really supposed to buy that the potential danger of the casino seriously outweighs the danger of a budget about to crumple under the weight of No Child Left Behind's unfunded mandates, out of control healthcare and pension benefit costs for State employees, a budget that would probably get on its knees and start weeping if handed the proceeds of a Kindergarden bake sale?

I just think this is an utter disaster, infantilizes the entire goddamn state, and is horrible financial policy. And as soon as the Wampanoags' open their doors, I'm printing up a "This One's For You, DiMasi" shirt, and taking my ass off to blow what I SHOULD be paying in state taxes.

And then I'll pee on his shoe.

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh today between errands (Work Friend, New Reader and Fellow Wonk The Swedish Pirate Captain is probably rolling his eyeballs onto the floor all "ENOUGH with the Rush, Jos, holy crap.") and I wound up thinking, as I so often do, about how damn disappointed I am with him and those like him.

Let's have it said...Rush himself is an obnoxious blowhard who purposely avoids engaging with sane liberals and at this point in his career can't escape the crushing weight of his own ego.

That being said, I came out of the Post Office today, and he was saying that the reason America and Americans are great is that people here care - deeply and for their entire lives - not just about the present day state of the union, but about how things will be in the future, and thus stay engaged and concerned with politics. That is 100% true...that is one of the greatest things about this country and its people, and while (as even Rush said) it's likely not a trait exclusive to Americans, it's a defining one, and essential to our entire political theory.

PRE Post Office, he'd been talking about how James Carville had called Bill Richardson "Judas" and explained that this meant that Carville thus thought Bill Clinton (never mind that Carville was referring to Richardson having betrayed Hillary) was Jesus. Apparently Rush has never heard of hyperbole.

And that's what irritates the shit out of me, quite honestly. Rush Limbaugh is a fucking smart guy. He's created a towering career for himself built exclusively on vitriol and spin, and to do it so long, and so successfully, is really remarkable. The problem arises when people forget that's what they're listening to and accept what he's saying as the gospel truth. Take the above piece of retardery...first of all, I have a deep and abiding love for James Carville. The man is brilliant and might be the solution to the Wussy Liberal Syndrome. That being said, I also acknowledge (and somehow also cherish) that he is absolutely batshit crazy and just LOVES serving up that Cajun Word Salad of his. Second of all, to pretend that Carville's use of "Judas" to describe Richardson (for those not paying attention, Richardson, much of whose political success came from Bill Clinton, announced publicly that he was backing Obama instead of Hillary, thus the Judas) comes complete with the belief that Clinton is Jesus is utterly absurd, and ignores not only hyperbole as mentioned above, but also the massive influence of the Bible on the way we speak and write. When Carville called Richardson Judas, people everywhere knew what he meant - Richardson had stabbed the Clinton Camp in the back. For flunkers of English classes, we use Bible references (amongst references from many other famous books and stories) as a shorthand. Like I said, Limbaugh's no dummy - there's no way he somehow missed learning about this shit.

My main complaint with Limbaugh is that he only takes shots at the complete nutcases. Again, not dumb, so he may start by mentioning a more sane liberal writer, but before you know it, he's swerved into talking about the "far left blogs"...dude? I think those writers are douchebags. It's established fact that there are some crazy-ass people out there, and since the Internet is the new Utopia, they can all spew their crap all over the joint. In my very own beloved hometown of Worcester, some dipshits recently got seriously upset that there were plans to mess with a small square in front of the Brand Shiny New Hanover Theatre. Why, you may ask? Well, you see...the homeless people sleep in that square, and the new plans would disrupt their sleep. There is no discussion here, people...the discussion is: "these people are crazy, small in number, and do not involve logic." That's the level of discourse that Rush points to as indicative of the feelings of the entire left. I just do not belong in a bucket with the people who think that cultural development should accommodate the homeless instead of, you know, help them. No thank you. And moreover, come on, Rush! You KNOW that liberal does not automatically mean crazy, just like conservative doesn't automatically mean douchebag.

I know why Rush does it. If he spends his days engaging in serious discussion with folks like, oh, I don't know...say, a 18-25 year old blue state female who is socially liberal but financially conservative and thinks green energy is the way to go just so we don't have to breathe smog in LA, people might realize that there's more to liberalism, more to being a Democrat, more to being on the lefthand side of the aisle than being a crazy weirdo in a bunker, he'll be out of a job. Rush's job depends on an adversary, and his is The Left. The best adversary is the most frightening sounding one, so he gathers up the nuttiest offerings from the Internet (a place where one can freely find animated porn featuring demon octopi, lest we forget...oh, Japan.), the most deranged ranting of lame-ass Congresspeople and Senators who most thinking liberals think are dipshits anyway, and presents it all as representative of the whole. Brilliant, really...and clearly it works, considering his unbelievable ratings and listenership. Listen, from what he tells me (constantly) (forever) (until he's blue in the face), Rush has a lot of expensive shit, so he needs to keep his job to fund that lifestyle.

The problem arises in said listenership. I don't know if you've noticed this, but many people with access to radios, TV and voting booths are kind of stupid. Even if they aren't stupid, it's rare to find a voter who does their homework before they vote. I've talked about this before, so I won't get too into it, but we're stuck in a rut dug by two issues - one, the media has grown monstrous, bombarding us equally with Britney Spears and Mideast Peace Conferences, all in the tiniest of sound bites that could not POSSIBLY explore the depth and myriad views of any issue. It skews our understanding of importance (Britney vs. Hamas), and gives us the illusion of having received the story ("It's on the evening news!") when in reality we have only the title sentence of what's often a complex and various issue. Secondly, back in that whole period of figuring out what the hell we were going to do with the newfound independence we'd gotten from England, a "large, commercial republic" was formed. That guaranteed we'd always care more about making money than voting. Today, in conjunction with the decay of the media, it also means that we care more about being at work on time and over time than researching to the best of our ability the candidates and issues in front of us. There's just no time...we have mortgages and gas bills and phone bills and groceries to buy and then it's Christmas or someone's fund our lives and subsist with only the barest of support from the government (for instance, in the case of health care), we must stay at work through polling hours, and through the evening news.

So when Rush replaces actual research and actual reporting, and presents it all in his bombastic, entertaining style, why wouldn't a certain type of less politically aware person rely on his rhetoric instead of taking time off from their life to probe more deeply into these often convoluted and confusing areas? The worst of this is not just that Rush KNOWS what he's doing, but that it is all so polarizing. I'm sure we've all had the experience of arguing with someone whose views are the direct opposite of our own but don't really know why they hold those views. It's infuriating and useless, leaving you with nothing to do but walk away (usually with anger on one or both sides of the table) or devolve your argument to their dippy level. Can't we do better than this? Seriously. It seems that modern political life has been wholly consumed by this polarized, middle-ground-denying, bickering, and this is why nothing gets resolved or accomplished. That is lame. It's lame and it's just not right. I don't know what else we can do but insist on maintaining a high level of discourse in our personal lives, and to do the political homework we should do to make informed choices. The answer is absolutely NOT to kick Rush and his ilk off the air (Fairness Doctrine = horseshit), because to do that is to allow the dissolution of our First Amendment rights, which fucks us all.

I guess the answer is to do the best we can, and demand the same of others.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bryant Park Collections: Sweet P

Okay! So I figure that in order to draw this out and thus shorten the PR offseason as much as possible, we could go collection by collection.

First thing I want to say overall is that I was kind of surprised how dark everything was in everyone's collections! Everything was really sad looking. I expected a lot of color and joy but there was really none of that to be had anywhere.

So here's Sweet P's final collection (if you think I'm not doing all of them you are a crazy person).
To me this has some fit issues in the bodice and generally a lot going on. That being said, I like the colors, though I'm not sure if I'm ready to sign on completely. The buttons can take a hike, and I think I hate the neckline, but somehow I don't hate the whole look. It's a weird sensation and I'm not sure what to do with it. I do kind of dig on the colors, but I think the gold that she used it a little too dark. I love the purple though. It is weird, but as you said, not terrible. I'm having a hard time finding words to describe this.
Unfortunately I can't really see what is going on with that jacket, because what I CAN see of it looks cute, but the dress is nice. I like the dress' piping, and this is the most I have ever liked those funky pockets (I THINK they're pockets anyway) she does. It's an unusual silhouette and a cute look overall, so I'm down. It's really cute, and even the pockets don't make the model look huge. It's well made and is using that pretty purple again, so I'll give it a thumbs up. Ditto on the jacket, but what's with the weird yellow again?
Wow. I'm not ready to sign off on the stripes, but the pants seem remarkably well made for what we've seen from Sweet P. I think the jacket is actually pretty cute, and the ruffly thing is fine, though I would prefer it in more of a creamy shade with the colors she's got going on here. I like the hat, but not with the outift, and I am not having the socks/tights with open shoes. If you want to work that combo, they'd better be tights, and they'd better be a spicy color or pattern, otherwise you're just another Dad In Socks and Sandals. I like this suit. It's really funky. I think that the combination of items here makes it way too busy. The shirt, the hat, the shoes and the socks make it all too much. She could have made this look really chic and I think she tried to make it kind of edgy but it just doesn't work.
Now THIS I like. The stripey fabric looks great here and the shoes/tights/whatever issue has been resolved. Not sure I love the lower sleeves but it's not enough to make me hate it so that's a plus. Pretty cute overall, I think. I really like this one too. See how much prettier it is when it's kept simple? I don't like the lower sleeves either. I think this is a stunning look. I would love to wear something like this to work.
I'm definitely not ready to add THIS variety of cape to my wardrobe, but as a complete look I weirdly like this? The use of textures between the cape and dress is really nice, and I bet this looked really great moving down the runway. I am having hat issues AGAIN with this, although this time I think I hate the hat qua the hat also, rather than liking the hat but not with the outfit. Yikes...a little costumey to me. I wish I could see more of the dress because the fabric looks really pretty. The cape is a little too much. The way she's pulling these outfits together is a little schizo, no? The hat killed this, I think.
I really love the styling on this. I don't know how I feel about the tights...they aren't really doing it for me. But I like the slightly punky but polished effect of the dress, and with the shock of blonde hair up top it's a super cute outfit. The gloves make sense, though I think I would pass on them personally. I agree about the's an awesome look. I don't like it, particularly but as a look it's dead on. (FYI - I absolutely HATE plaid in any way, shape or form.)
Okay yeah no. Those two fabrics do not make sense. I have 2 words for this outfit - fucking stupid.
Kind of hard to see any detail, which I assume is there. The silhouette looks fine, but the zipper or piping or whatever the hell is going down the middle there reminds me of old people's velour leisurewear. I can only assume that's not what she was going for. It's a little weird, boring and dark for me. I can't really say anything else about this.
Again with the hat!! I'm not sure I totally love this dress but it's definitely something saleable and cute, and yet HERE WE ARE with the stupid hat. It's a little like Kara Janx's insane knitted/felted/hairballed hats. It's a sophisticated dress with a clunky weird hat on top, and it's not working. The dress is pretty boring. The accessories are terrible. Do you want us to look at the dress or the hat? Yuck.
THIS I think is totally cute, even the color, which is in a family I don't usually go for. The shape is interesting and the detailing at the neck really makes it. I also like the shoes particularly with this, though she used them a lot and I enjoy them in general as well. Ok, this is so pretty. It's easy, feminine and very polished. And look, no stupid fucking hats or gloves!
I feel like she's ON to something here? But there's too much looseness in the skirt to highlight the cool print, which I think is the way to go. That kind of straight-lined, vaguely deco-y print needs to go with a structured piece, not something that's all floaty. Hate the gloves with it, but cool neckline/bodice. I kind of like this one too...I think the problem is that the piece of fabric that's attached to the bodice is too wide. It's very boob-dividing which isn't good. It throws off the proportions. Lose the gloves, keep the tights and this is almost a winner.
Where the hell did this color set come from? Did it mosey over from Christian's show? Pretty blah to me, nothing special. ZZZZZzzzzz...oh wait, this is the last piece? Uh, um...zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Cavalli Descends From The Heavens, Judges Fashion

I must say, they have really done a fabulous job this season of matching judges with challenges. I mean, they hadn't even finished saying Richie Rich's name before I sat right up and went "Heatherette! Oh my god, OF COURSE!!" Then we had to have a time out so I could show Rich why they were perfect for the WWE Challenge. Cavalli was perfect for the art challenge, I get the sense that he approaches design in EXACTLY that same way - as art first and body covering second. Fabulous.

The judges this season have been perfect. As you said, Cavalli's presence on the show made me nearly shit myself. For someone who has the absolute right to be a complete fashion snobbish bastard, he totally endeared himself to me by being complementary and sweet. I now love him with every fiber of my being.

The Challenge: Go to the MFA and get yoself inspired, art style.
Winner: Christian
Aufed: Sweet P
Christian...boy that sucker is fast. MAN. For the detail and sheer VOLUME of his designs, I have no idea how he manages to get it all together so quickly. This, once again, was not really up my street so much, but was total Fashion and looked fantastic. And jesus, what was it, a million pieces?? Two seasons in a row with people who have a total mastery of skintight-but-not-raunchy pants...why can't this be made to happen on a mass market scale? I assume because fit like that is a bespoke area and because people cannot be trusted, but still. Damn. Fantastic, really reminiscent of the painting without being derivative, and as usual, flawlessly executed. Well, Christian proves again that he can do just about anything. I love that he has the speed and talent to detail his clothes so much. The shirt was fantastic! I also love it when he wears the things he makes. It's adorable. He's my favorite to win at this point. The cape type thing was so cool, and yeah, the pants are magical. Go crazy boy lady!
Rami...this dress is beautiful. It is also 100% an example of why Rami should and can not win this competition. They are looking for an innovator and someone who is fairly revolutionary...and Rami cannot haul his obnoxious self out of his little draping box. Again - this is gorgeous! The color, the styling, the whole affect of it...fabulous. He just can NOT get himself out of the same gear he is always in. This was clearly the challenge to amp up whatever you usually go nuts and completely over the top. However, this is exactly the same amount of dressy, exactly the same amount of drama...he doesn't put out a single different thing! I nearly shit kittens when he wasn't aufed. When they called Chris as in I shoved my fists in the air and yelled "YES," half because Chris was in and half because Rami was out. Well, we were all so thrilled that we thought Rami was out that we actually missed the part where they said he wasn't really out because we were cheering so loudly. True story. While I do love the color and agree that the dress is pretty, I can't help but be a little worried about the way the fabric drapes on her hips. I'm sorry, but if you manage to make an itsy bitsy model look hippy, what the hell am I going to look like in your clothes? Rami is a good designer, but he's truly a boring one.
Sweet P...another case of Not Enough Drama. This was a total free pass for these guys, and again, we get a kind of hippy-ish, unfinished looking schlump fest. I don't know if I just have developed some kind of block on Sweet P's stuff, but I really don't like it, and this was weird and lame. I can't even get a good hate on though. I don't know. Blah. Oh Sweet P, WTF? I just don't get it. When she picked the peacock painting I was like, "Oh man, she can create so much drama with that!" And then she did this. Buh bye, Sweets.
Jillian...I am now so sick of those shoes I cannot BREATHE! God. Loved this look though..the jacket as always is fab, and the gold dress is just perfect. Again, representative without being derivative. It also kind of carried the military feel in a modern way while still being a close relative of the actual armor in the painting. I just think she really did a great job. I would shank most of my family gladly for one of her coats. They are magnificent. Jillian is phenomenal...I really loved this look. I was kind of worried when I saw all that gold lame but she really made it look classy. So pretty. I am in total agreement with you about the coats too. They are always gorgeous.

Chris...I thought this was just beautiful, though I would have liked to see more color. I know he was going for the same vibe as the portrait, which I think he did perfectly, but it just doesn't fill my need for color! This and the en garde dress, I would have really liked to see in some amazing color. I mean, imagine if the Chris/Christian dress mated with like...Jay McCarroll's final Bryant Park dress in the graduated pinks and purples. Heaven. I get what they were saying about the similarity in shoulder...brackets or whatever the hell, but I also think that a.) this is different, though related, and b.) it perfectly fits the portrait. It really seemed to to me that this looked like an updated version of the dress in the painting, and I think that's cool. It also shows that Chris can do sophistication, which makes me happy, since you KNOW they have not been able to rid themselves of the idea of that portfolio of his. I kind of felt as though they were unfairly picking on Chris because of the couture look. If you look at the picture that he chose, this certainly echoes that. It's not like he chose something unrelated and then knocked off the couture look! I do see the similarities, but there is a reason for it. I actually kind of like the muted tones on this one. It is absolutely stunning and I lurve it. Also, trying to forget a large man in drag is kind of hard.

What Am I To You?

Two roads converged in my life this past year, and as a result, I've been doing a lot of thinking about my religion and what it means and what my relationship with God is like. My family is Quaker, I'm Quaker, and I am pretty happy with it. This is my first experience with Catholic education, and definitely my first Theology course I've had to take, and it's really a unique experience.

I am taking a class called "The Bible," which I bitched mightily about and did not want to take, mainly because I was concerned that there was an invisible subtitle that read "and how it says you should be Catholic." However, I got to the class and it was exactly about the stuff I think is cool...the historical context and symbolism and all kinds of good stuff. The professor also has a realistic approach to the Bible, i.e. "the Bible is a thing that was written by people...people who may have ganked some stories from elsewhere." For instance, we read the flood story from Gilgamesh recently, and drew comparisons between the Gilgamesh flood and that other flood story people talk about. The professor pointed out that likely, whoever was jotting down the Bible took the Gilgamesh story and co-opted it, and added a twist to make it more about God being merciful than the gods being jerks. To me, that kind of realistic attitude adds VALUE to the Bible, though I know some people would think it gives it less credence.

I feel like religion - all religion - is at its core about living a good life before you kick off for parts unknown. Once you die, you're no longer calling the shots, but when you're on earth, you have free will to do whatever you want. Religion comes in to give some guidelines, which vary to a certain extent but in many cases are similar. To quote one of my favorite movies, "Do not kill. Do not rape. Do not steal. These are principles which every man of every faith can embrace." There are basic principles that hold true throughout the vast majority of religions, and they all mostly boil down to "don't be a jerk." Good concept, one I think everyone can subscribe to. Now, beyond that, moving into the minutae of specific religions, there you have some disparity...once you leave the standard "no killing/raping/stealing" area, you get into direct deity-pleasing territory, and that varies. I personally think it's fairly cool to see the similarities and differences between the religions.

So, as I said above, I'm Quaker. This causes a lot of confusion for people, so the easiest thing to begin with is a list of things I am and am not. (Sadly, these are all things that people have asked me if I am or declared me to be.)
  • I am not "just like" an Amish person.
  • I am not "just like" a Shaker.
  • I am not "just like" a Jehovah's Witness.
  • I am definitely not "just like" a Mormon.
  • I use both electricity and the Internet.
  • I do not "dress like that."
  • I do not know any one who "dresses like that."
  • I am not atheist.
  • I do not say "thee" and "thy," though my mother does (more on that later).
  • I believe in Jesus.
  • I have read the Bible.
  • I went to Sunday School.
  • I go to Meeting, not Church.
  • Oatmeal is not somehow relevant to my religion.
  • Meeting is not the same as a meeting at work.
Here's the basic deal on Quakers. Quakerism is also referred to as the Society of Friends, which derives from John 15:14, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." We refer to each other as "friend," though normally it's just first names. We ain't fancy, at least at Worcester Meeting. We believe that the "tiny voice of God" speaks to all of us, and that it is our duty to listen and try and live in accordance with God's guidance. You also hear people speak about the "light of God" in which we live (or endeavour to live)...whether it's proper or not, I hear these two concepts used interchangeably. There are two kinds of Meetings, programmed and unprogrammed. I attend an unprogrammed Meeting, which means that we sit, for one hour, in group silence. There is no intercessor, priest, pastor or otherwise. If someone has something that they think will help people better focus their thoughts on what God is trying to say, they will stand up and say it. Sometimes Meeting is very talky, sometimes very quiet. Programmed Meetings have more structure, often a sermon, etc., and are more frequently found out in the Midwest.

QUAKER TRIVIA ALERT: There have been two Quaker Presidents (....I KNOW!), one of which was Nixon, who attended a programmed Meeting and did not attend a DC Meeting at any point during his tenure in office. Let me tell you that the DC Quakers are still actively pissed off about this. The other Quaker President was Herbert Hoover, but as far as I know no one is holding a grudge against him. Not surprising, since he was really a kind of fabulous guy, and as Close Personal Friend (in an "I wish" kind of way) Bill Bryson said, "perhaps the only man in history for whom attaining the White House was a retrograde career move."

Quakers are also huge into pacifism, which is one of the places I have minor difficulty with the feeling of the group. The feeling is (which I think makes sense) that you should revere God's creation, and obviously if you're killing God's creation, you're not respecting it. Though I am a huge proponent of diplomacy and am a dirty, dirty hippie in many regards, I also acknowledge that some situations cannot be solved through diplomacy. I refuse to accept any form of "-ism" that involves me standing back and letting someone kill me dead. Sometimes you need war. You just do. This war? Largely crap, and diplomacy was not exhausted first. But there are some cases where you have to engage and you have to defend yourself. I don't know that all Quakers disagree with this, but many do (like for instance Mormor, who is not having it with war).

The key thing that keeps me in the Society of Friends is the personal responsibility and lack of an intercessor. I don't feel that I need a specific building to honor God in, nor do I feel that only some people get to talk to God. The beauty of creation is all around us, there for us to touch and mess with and think about, and that, to me, is an indication that God wants to have a chat every now and then. Right now, I'm at work, and there is a little garden on the way in. No one put up any markers to delineate the garden during winter, so these poor little bulbs have been shoveled into and snowblown around all winter. Many of them are exposed and look pretty sad. But when I came in today, almost all of them are sprouting little shoots. They've been kicked around and the earth around them eroded and snowed on and naked...but they're growing. How can you look at that and not feel the hand of God just as much as you would sitting on a pew in a glorious church? Those bulbs should be all rotting and dead. Not so. Come on! That's fantastic! I like being able to just be still and listen and know that He is there if I need him, and that He provides support and advice. That is a pretty good deal to me...when I'm having a rough day or am confronted with a difficult situation, I like not having to think about calling or going to a priest or pastor to "truly" communicate with God.

Obviously, other denominations feel that they can communicate directly with God - see bedtime prayer, for example - but I enjoy the entire communication being independent of a third party at all times. It's a good fit for me.

It is interesting, though, to be on a Catholic campus and take Theology classes, and just generally be on someone else's turf. Gives you a lot to think about.

College Sports

I like sports, and every now and then, people try and get me all excited about college sports...usually football, hockey or basketball. I'm not really sure why I don't care about college sports - sports is sports is sports, no? - but for whatever reason, I just can't get into them. I like going TO college sports games...I still remember going to my first basketball game at American on a whim with one of my friends and how both of us spent the first half being all "oh my GOD why don't we do this more?!?" Those basketball games and the time they showed Old School out on the quad were the most unified and happy I think I ever saw AU's population. This is not to bash's just got a really unique personality and the way it is kind of fragments the student body. Hard to explain. In any case, at one point when I was there, AU beat Cross to get into the NCAA tournament (I think...DON'T EMAIL ME), and it was exciting from a "something I don't care about on campus is doing well" standpoint, like when the curling team makes it to the regional championships and you kind of don't get curling, but since they're wearing AU jerseys you're willing to get mildly pumped about it and maybe engage in some three-martini shit talking on a Friday night.

However, I don't think I'm very good at picking schools with hardcore sports teams, and I'm not sure how to feel about that.

Would it be cool to go to Duke or UNC or some other ridiculously hardcore school where sports are a religion? Probably. But the schools I go to are usually the ones whose basketball makes it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, faces someone horrifying like Tennessee (AU this year), promptly gets knocked out, and then goes back to pretty-good-but-not-phenomenal basketball. It's exciting but kind of anti-climatic at the same time. Assumption seems to be about the same...they made the tournament and then lost to Bentley.

A lot of people have responded with incredulity when I tell them I've never attended a school with a football team (Assumption is the first), and I get the sense that having not done so really has made for a different timbre in the schools and their populations. There was no quarterback to idolize, the cheerleading squad only worked basketball, there was no all-consuming Friday night game...I think, too, that football, with its high equipment costs and massive popularity, tends to eat the rest of a high school's sports. I mean, people routinely turned up at my field hockey games (TWB FIELD HOCKEY WOO) for fun, and stopped by the soccer games to watch those, and it was just a more casual, universal sports interest. It's probably best to note that the school I attended was pretty small, with only about 500 kids in the building between grades 7 and 12, and it's tough for me to tell how that factored into the whole sports "thing." Part of being at a small school meant that everyone did everything...when I was in high school I played hockey, was in band and chorus, did Odyssey of the Mind, was in National Honor Society, joined the Physics and Science Clubs (yeah....there were reasons at the time), and did all kinds of other cross-extracurricular stuff. While this solidifies my nerdiness, it's also indicative of how the school was. With only 500 kids and a whole bunch of teams and clubs to populate, everyone did everything, and their friends did everything, so you wanted to check out more than just one sport. It's interesting stuff, and frankly I think is a lot of the reason I got in to good colleges.

In any case, March Madness is this week, and it should be...fine, I guess. Since I'm only at work a couple days a week, no one asks me to embarass myself by joining office pools or anything, but invariably, someone will ask me who I like, and I'll say American, because I am a jerk, and that's just how March Madness works for me.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Justice of the Snowy Kind

Dear Poop Colored SUV,

Remember this morning when it was all picturesquely snowy and slippery on Route 31 in Holden, and you decided to celebrate the glorious weather by riding my ass and honking at me?

Remember how I pulled over to let you pass me, and you gunned it, then skidded, careened across the street, bounced off the opposite curb, and then fishtailed your way back to the right lane?

I totally agree, that was awesome.


Silver Stratus with Driving Skills

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In Which I Am Extremely Pissed

Let's talk about things I do.

I go to college full time. I take 5 classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all of which have reading I have to do on Tuesday, Thursday and the weekends, along with any assorted papers and presentations.

I also work on the aforementioned Tuesdays and Thursdays, where I always THINK I am going to get reading done, but rarely do. I work in Westborough, which is 30-40 minutes from my house.

I work out twice a week for an hour with a trainer.

I have a knitting group after work on Tuesdays.

I do a bunch of stuff for the Sharks Booster Club, and that's what I'd like to talk about today.

I really love the Sharks. I love the people in the front office, they get it, they know hockey. I love the Boosters, for the most part, and enjoy spending time with them. I love seeing Fiona and Shrek and our section family and all the other people around the arena. I like the DCU people and the interns and the games. I love the actual Sharks themselves - by and large, they are just a good bunch of guys, personable and funny.

When the Icecats left, it...sucked. I grew up there. I made friends there, I met throwaway boyfriends there, I had a handful of Christmases at the Centrum with my former section family in 117...I met Speed there. I knew all about the guys on the team and the teams in the league, all of that. It was like a second home. There was a year after they left where there was no team, and that was just horrendous...the upside, I guess, is that it gave Speed's and my relationship a chance to gestate, but hockey. Speed basically strongarmed a new team into town, and that was good...the Sharks seemed like a good group and in the inaugural season, they proved it. We joined the Booster Club, Speed became President, and at the end of the year I'd somehow managed to be named Booster of the Year.

It was also the first time I'd had the weird sensation of enjoying losing. This is not to say the team sucked and lost all the time. They were kings of the comeback, though, to the point that they'd be down by 2 and we'd all start joking about how they had the other team right where they wanted them. And kind of not be kidding. It was thrilling...they were a dynamic team and even watching them lose was more exciting than half the wins I'd ever seen. They made the playoffs, and that was great.

This year, while it's mathematically possible for them to qualify, they're not going to do it playing like this. And that is not fair.

I don't really know who to blame. These guys, by and large, do not suck. There are some guys who could be phenomenal with some polish. When Lukas Kaspar hits the afterburners, you just straight up cannot catch him. When Mike Iggulden decides to show up for a game, he's fantastic. When the defense is cranking and Thomas Greiss and Dimitri Patzold actually have some crease to play with, they are unbeatable.

So why aren't these things happening?

I don't have a solid answer. I put a lot of it on the coach, but not being in the locker room, I don't know that I can point that finger. I DO know that sometimes, no matter how much of a big kid you are, you need a kick in the ass. I don't see that happening on the ice, and quite honestly, I think that's usually where you need it most. When you're not playing, you have plenty of time to work up a guy's motivation and psych him up. But let's have it said...20 minutes isn't long. Not at that pace. There's definitely not time to dick around and wait for the guy who's dragging ass to come to his senses, adopt a heroic pose and Do It For Love. Sometimes when you're in the shit, you just feed on your own frustration and keep screwing up. I also take serious issue with the moronic line changes and the coach's total inability to take a goddamn timeout. Look, this is basic logic.

Point of hockey = putting small rubber critter past a large man with mattresses strapped to his legs and into a net.

Method of acccomplishing above goal = guys with sticks and knives strapped to their feet do whatever they can to push it in.

Ergo, if there are no goddamn PEOPLE in the FUCKING RED ZONE, how in the HELL do you think you're going to get the puck in the goddamn net??? And yet game after game, night after night, this guy changes up as soon as the puck crosses the blue line. WHERE DID THIS GUY LEARN HOCKEY?

And with the time outs...he just doesn't call them, and often this falls into the same angry space with my motivational issues. Look, sometimes a goalie lets in two in a row, and it doesn't mean he needs to be pulled. Sometimes he just needs a slap-around. Sometimes a team needs the same. In either case, just CALL A DAMN TIMEOUT, give the peptalk and the game plan, and move on. Don't just let it drag on and hope something good will happen - be proactive.

I guess I should note that the reason I'm all hacked off is because they lost 3-1 to San Antonio last night in the most boring fucking game ever in the world without a HINT of fighting for the win.

I'd also like to talk a little bit about Jamie "Motherfucking" Koharski.

My first concious knowledge of Jamie Koharski was last season during a game against the Norfolk Admirals, and that game managed to get so fucking far out of his control that someone wound up being taken off the ice on a backboard. The Admirals were an ugly, fighty team last year, and the Sharks certainly were taking the bait, but there was no reason for a game with paid officials to get that out of hand. Since that game, he's been a consistently shitty referee...missing calls, ignoring calls, being oblivious, being an asshole...while variety may be the spice of life, no one needs a variety of ways to suck at something you get paid for.

Last night, Riley Armstrong, who, let's have it said, is a shit-stirrer to the core, got knocked down in front of the net, and some shitheel on the Rampage just started crosschecking him over and over and over. Where, you may wonder, was Koharski? Fucking nowhere to be seen. He finally tuned in by the 4th or 5th crosscheck - for those who don't know what I'm talking about, the Rampage player had his stick with a hand on each end of it, and was ramming the flat of his stick down repeatedly on Riley's shoulders, neck and back - and slapped the guy with a 5 minute major and a game misconduct.

Look, part of being a ref isn't just calling the right penalty, it's keeping the game safe. It's a violent game, and sometimes people just need a goddamn timeout. In this regard, Koharski has failed over and over and over and over, and that is fucking reprehensible. That man is going to be responsible for someone getting seriously, permanently hurt one of these days, and that is fucking terrible.

He should be out of a goddamn job.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Electoral College

I'm taking Constitutional Law this semester, and have declared war on it. Usually when I haul out the war declaration paperwork, it's because I hate the class, but in this case, it's because I cannot seem to get my law brain engaged; I know how to read for Law Knowledge...paying attention to everyone who says anything, reading for concept AND opinion, etc., but for whatever reason, I cannot seem to get going, so I declared war on it.

Seriously, people, I got a 30 on my first quiz. Raise your hand if you think I'm actually that dumb.

The course is kind of a "Constitutional Law...with a twist!" kind of scene. We're going to be looking at the Constitution and how it's shaped law and government, then seeing how all that good stuff syncs up with current Constitutional issues like those at hand in Guantanamo Bay, with wiretapping, etc. The Professor is interested in that stuff, and it shows. Today, he handed out an article about how Democrats are squabbling (...I KNOW! So unusual and exciting!) about the superdelegates. For those who have been under a rock or just in a closet, twitching with election fatigue, the Democratic party has two candidates pretty close in delegate counts, and it looks like it will all come down to the votes of superdelegates, who are party muckety-mucks and have a full vote at the convention. Both the HRC and Obama camps are complaining about how this isn't fair, for varying reasons, and basically I think it's all stupid.


Look, here's my deal with the electoral college. In theory, I'm down with it. I'm okay with a representative democracy, that's fine, delegate it up. If I had my pick, I'd make it a national primary, over, done, no Iowa, no New Hampshire, no SuperTuesday, just everyone voting, minimal angst. However, in the current system, I really think we'd all benefit from switching to having the same system in both parties, by which I mean I think everyone should have primaries, NOT CAUCUSES (which are stupid), and the hell with superdelegates. The Democrats are supposed to be the party of the people, yet they integrate backroom smoke-and-mirroring into their candidate selection right out in the open! Reason I am totally making my own political party #98456265874658917659.


In any case, I got to thinking about the genesis of the American electorate, and how the past three cycles have involved this kind of very close contest. It's been most notable in the Bush election cycles in 2000 and 2004, but has seeped into the primary process this year. I wonder if this closeness is an inevitable result of Constitutional structure or just a flukey coincidence. I think it's tough to say definitively.

Personally, I feel like it has a lot to do with the decline of voter turnout and the rise of "specialized" voting blocs, i.e. evangelicals turning out for Huckabee, anti-gay marriage blocs turning out for Bush. This might fall into that black hole of inevitability. The Constitution lead to the development of a capitalist society with a screening process for participation. Doesn't this make it seem like we were bound to wind up at this point? There's no national holiday for election day...people are reluctant to take the time off. Further, this means that the worse the economy gets, which most would agree is a good time for people to tune in and participate, the less likely people are to participate, because they can't afford the time off and corresponding hit in pay.

Though the above problems seem very modern, they're also a by-product of the society with which the Founders endowed us. When you read the Constitution and consider what has sprung forth from it, the document itself seems so...vague. It almost seems like that boss who gives you the employee handbook with a bunch of rules about what time to show up and how to avoid sexual harassment, then immediately starts saying things like "I want to make a rocket for lunar travel...and let's involved a kids' charity" before leaving the room and letting you figure out what the hell he's talking about and where you're going to get a rocket. It laid down fairly basic ground rules, but since then, we've developed a gigantic government and a sprawling legal system. The things that WERE specified formed a commercial republic, guaranteeing people would always be capitalistically driven and constantl held at an arm's length from actual political engagement.

With all that in mind, where are we now? Were we destined to wind up voting as blocs and electing Presidents by a hair's width? One of the great concerns of the Founders was the nefarious encroachment of factions...did they actually manage to develop a system that would eventually blur or erase the lines between factions?

I don't really have an answer for all this, I just think it's interesting to think about and couldn't raise it in class because it wasn't really germane. But it's interesting to think about how one document, written hundreds of years ago, could develop into the current society and government.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I Want I Want I Want

I want a sandal that... not made by the Crocs people. not made for surfers.
...does not have a platform three inches tall. not a flipflop.
...does not have seventeen pounds of spangly shit on it.
...maybe has SOME spangly shit on it. not a flipflop PLUS a four inch heel. (Dude WTF?) not a uniquely hideous color. not black. not white.
...does not take twenty minutes of strapping to put on.
...will not fall off when walking is attempted.
...does not go all the way up to my knee.
...has a heel JUST enough to make my calves look good. with at least 50% of my dresses.
...whose deployment can be figured out by looking.

Why is this so hard? I just want a cute fucking sandal!

Things That Are Great

There are a lot of things that are crappy in the world. There's no shortage of bad stuff going down, at home and abroad, stupidity is eating the collective American mind, people are poor and frustrated and pissed off and fighty.

However, there are also lots of good things.

One of those good things is the chance for car phone salesman with funky teeth and a phenomenal voice to get heard and get signed to a contract for one of the biggest labels in the world.

The Plant People Are Taunting Me

Every year around this time, the usual stash of catalogs gets infiltrated by devious, devious nursery catalogs, and every year around this time, I immediately start planning how best to turn my back "yard" (for which read: jungle) into an American Garden of Versailles.

There are not enough machetes in the world.

This year, I am happy to report, I actually managed to have my act sufficiently together to get some bulbs in the ground, so I look forward to seeing how THAT experiment works out. I also just finished giving our wisteria tree a vicious pruning, and hope that it flowers this year. For something that left to its own devices will haul your house off into the wilderness to digest it, wisteria sure is pissy about being moved. Last year was its first year in our yard, and it just refused to bloom. Ingrate. However, I think all of my perennials came back, and my clematis geeked out, so hopefully that extravaganza will be repeated.

Hoped for Results from Things Currently in Ground
1. Clematis blooming and accepting a transfer to the lightpost.
2. Wisteria blooming
3. Rhododendrons finally achieving inner peace after years of neglect
4. Bulbs blooming without incident
5. Sweet Bay Magnolia surviving the winter and flourishing

Okay, so some things are in motion, and the front yard is mostly in good shape. However, the back yard still has miles to go, and I need to fill in the front gardens a little. When I started out with the front garden, I left some pernicious spiderwort to its own devices because it was clumpy and fleshed out the spaces between what I could actually grow. I have since ousted it from the yard, and let me tell you - if you have spiderwort, just get rid of it. Holy CRAP. If that stuff wasn't plotting a takeover with the wisteria, it was in cahoots with the Soviets.

So there's the layout - the blob with a dot in it at the end of the driveway is a kind of scrungy dirt patch with our giant oak tree in the middle (the blob). When we moved in, there were two beautiful but ailing rhododendrons on the property, one at the bottom, near the oak, and the other up near the steps to the front door. They hadn't been pruned or...dealt with in general until we got there and I gave them a violent but effective pruning. Now, they seem much happier, and the one from the bottom of the driveway is now on the other side of the steps with it's cousin, and we put two more really stunning rhodies in this amazing reddish-purply color I'd never seen before, a red azalea, and a smallish pine tree in the same bed. Right now, there are some daffodils gestating in the same bed, as well.

The floating garden in the middle was a huge project - it was a weed factory when we moved in. I ripped almost everything out, and we regrettably had to take down a totally glorious and wonderful Japanese Maple from the same area. I still am sad about that - we would have moved it, but it was dripping water onto the roof, and it was also where the carpenter ants lived, so it had to go. Totally sucks. However, I got some edging into the defoliated garden, used the rocks I found (NB: Holden is made mostly of rocks) to edge the back of the garden, and planted a bunch of perennials, which seem to be happy. We also put the wisteria in the vicinity of the Japanese Maple's previous spot.

This year, I'm comin' for the backyard.

Here's the grand plan for the Total Garden and Yard Makeover. I want to get a tomato plant cranking from the little hookie-do I mounted on the garage, because it's supersunny and the tomatoes will love the heat from the blacktop. I want to put some kind of bush at the bottom of the driveway with the oak tree. The front garden needs to be filled in, hopefully with some nice perennials, including a sorbet peony, which is gorgeous.

In the back, I want to install a shade garden in the back behind the shed attached to the garage, and in so doing remove the random rubbermaid bins that are back there for no reason. On the opposite side of the house, I want to put in a nice garden that will detract from the bulkhead (hate!), and use a birdbath for both cat entertainment purposes and space filling purposes. In the back corner of the yard (read: the only section thus far cleared of brush), I'd ultimately like to put down a stone patio, with corner pieces drilled with holes so I can set up the cabana back there in summer. Finally, I want to deal with the heinous AquaFresh-green chain link fence. I'd REALLY like to get one of those white picket-y fences that are made of plastic so you can just hose them off, but since they're freaking EIGHTY DOLLARS A SECTION I have to wait until I hit the lottery. In the meantime, I think I'm going to spraypaint the current fence black, then plant some lilacs along it so we don't have quite as clear a view into the nice people next door's yard.

All that being said, here are a bunch of pictures of pretty stuff I hope to put in my garden this year.
This is a ground cover rose called Apricot Princess (I think they should have the OPI nail polish people start naming roses, because it's seriously getting there any color on earth that someone hasn't slapped a "princess" at the end of and called it a day?). It's low to the ground, it's orange, the colors change as it matures, and it's pretty. Plus, Speed loves orange, so this should get a thumbs up from him.
I hope to put a couple of these suckers along my hideous fence in the backyard. This particular color is the Beauty of Moscow lilac, and I just love it. I also should admit here that if you make a Russian Connection to anything, I'll probably at least try it. I am cheap.
These are Green Envy Coneflowers, and let me tell you, the picture here is doing them zero justice. I don't really love coneflowers as a genre, but I think the green with red is just so interesting and pretty that I'm totally won over.
I love how a lot of flowers sound like horrible, usually venereal, diseases. This one is an Isaac House Scabiosa. "What'd you do this weekend, Jos?" "Oh, not much...picked up some scabiosa." "*hushed voice* Oh my god, are you okay? Did they give you medication?"

I am not a hosta person. My mom is MUCH more into the foliage Thing than I am, and she LOOOOOOVES hostas, as do many people in this area particularly, but I have never really gotten into them. I mean, they're...fine, but boring. THESE, however, are fabulous. I love how clear the contrast is between the green and white. They're called Loyalist hosta.
When I was little, we had this random kids book called (I think) "The Lupine Lady," which involved a woman who went around flinging lupine seeds all over the place, and then one day the lupines all bloomed and she had single-handedly made the world more beautiful. It was a really beautiful book, and I loved the idea of all these lupines springing up everywhere, so I have totally romanticized them by now and thus very much want this mix of them. The Magic of Google tells me that the book was actually called "Miss Rumphius" (...obviously) and was based on the author's great aunt, which is cool. Oh and PS she totally spends her life traveling and being fabulous and not fitting gender stereotypes, so y'all KNOW I just ordered that shit to put in my Pile of Potential Kid Books That Mostly I Read Because They Are Great.
Eeeee ranunculus! So pretty, no?? I TOTALLY cannot grow these in zone 5. That sucks so bad. Actually, I should consult Mom the Green Thumb, because she's always coming up with zone-defying tricks and calling shenanigans on assorted nurseries, so there could be hope. I just adore these...the bi-weekly floral arrangement at work today has yellow ranunculus in it, and it is MAKING my day. I might use some of these in my wedding flowers, especially since they come in every color ever.
This is apparently Thomas Jefferson's favorite plant, if the Spring Hill Nursery people can be believed. Well, I'm with ya, TJ, this is good stuff. I just think it's so interesting and funky, and it's definitely one of those "does as advertised" type's called a shell plant.

THESE are the glorious sorbet peonies I mentioned above. I have had good luck with peonies, because as I said previously, Holden is made of rocks. This is great for peonies, because they apparently hate...nutrients. When I told Mom I was putting a couple in, her first comment was "okay, well don't put any manure near them." EVERY OTHER PLANT IN THE WORLD is all "yo, give me some of that good shit" but the peonies are like "I am rugged and independent. Keep your manure and leave me to produce giant, glorious flowers." No problemo, my surly friends. If you're going to bloom like this, that is a-ok with me.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The During and the After

I'm watching A&E's show Paranormal State, which I enjoy mostly for it's status as pure comedic gold. The show tracks Penn State's Paranormal Research Society, a ghost/spirit/energy hunting group headed up by a kid named Ryan, who provides most of the humor. Apparently, when he was younger he had some paranormal experiences, and carried an interest in the subject through to college, where he managed to found this society, which allows him to make every case and bump in the night about him. I do actually find the subject matter interesting, but it's this kid's approach to it all that kind of removes it from the possibility of getting too serious. One thing that it does sweetly remind me of is just how much a college environment becomes your oyster if you're a bit of a force of nature yourself, which this kid clearly is.

That being said, the subject matter is fascinating to me, not only from a Where We Go When We Die perspective, but also from a more mystical place. I feel like much of Christianity doesn't quite deal with the afterlife or lack thereof in a manner that covers the paranormal activity that goes on. (For more on why I swear I'm not nuts, hang tight for a paragraph or two.) The general understanding is that you die, and you go to heaven, hell, or purgatory, according to your mileage/doctrine. There's relatively little said about people who just...hang. Generally, I find that Christians of any stripe, pressed for explanations, will say that any paranormal "stuff" is evidence of a demon or angel making a quick stop in. That doesn't really jive with me. I dunno. I'm sure there are mundane angels and average demons, but I've always kind of thought of angels as exceptional souls, elevated to a position of glory in heaven, and vice versa for demons. Maybe it's more adversarial than others would like, but I like to think of angels as my backup, in case the Divine Shit ever hits the Divine Fan and all that Armageddon jazz actually goes down. I want someone special weilding the flaming swords, you know? Not...well, not, frankly, the etherial version of myself. When I went out shooting with my friend the Marine, I could sorta deal with a Glock 9, but a .45 caliber gun was simply beyond me, and this is the kind of stuff that indicates that I should stick with not joining the armed forces. Does that make sense?

What about people who just hang around and knock wine glasses off tables or make rapping noises in the middle of the night? Shouldn't angels and demons be occupied with more pressing matters, be it a boring staff meeting with the Lord or some kind of Hellblazer style war of good and evil? And in most descriptions of heaven and hell, your soul goes SOMEWHERE, leaves the earthly plane, and has a bunch of stuff to do. Well, okay, so where does moving people's shit around come into that agenda? I'm not really sure if any religion has come up with an explanation for that level of petty participation to my satisfaction. Most non-Christian religions either have a similar if-you're-good-you-go-here, if-you're-bad-you-go-there concept, or else say something to the effect of your soul's energy dispersing or being recycled, in which case there's still not a lot of hang time for people to chill and pester their relatives.

When I lived in Bethesda, I lived in a two bedroom apartment with a friend of mine. We had this bathroom that for all intents and purposes we should have loved, but...I didn't, quite. It was all retroed out, and we painted the walls hot pink, which looked SO fly against the black and white tile that was there, but I still didn't particularly love being in there, and I am totally a bathroom hang-out person. Even with the nice decor, I just didn't get the chill out vibe in there, and I didn't spend any more time than I needed to in there...for instance, I tended to do my eyebrows in my bedroom with a handheld mirror. Weird, but not too weird, I mean...who contemplates their relationship with their bathroom?

One night, my roommate and I were both in the bathroom for some reason. But all of a sudden, we got this overwhelming feeling that someone was in there with us - I couldn't even bring myself to turn around and look at the shower because I was SO sure someone was going to be there. We both stopped what we were doing at almost the same moment, looked at each other, and my roommate said "someone's in here." The VERY SECOND she said it, all the lights went out, throughout the entire bathroom.

I don't know if I've ever felt so terrified.

We shrieked, grabbed each other, and sprinted into my roommate's bedroom, where we lit every candle we could find, jumped into bed, and stayed fucking put for the rest of the night. We decided after much discussion that something bad must have happened in the apartment, in the bathroom, or someone must have been very sad or angry, just all of the time. It was just such an intense feeling, for no reason whatsoever, that I can't explain it, and I've tried. So the short story is that I believe in ghosts, though I might not understand in a theological sense how they "work." After that night, there's no way I can't believe in them.

And to the man - because it was a man - in my bathroom in Bethesda...I hope everything is okay for you now.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Plague

I am no longer sick.

I'm quite excited about this, because I am not a fan of my body's platform on disease. Most of the time, I don't have anything to worry about outside of self-inflicted injury, chapped lips and sporatic allergies. Then, once or twice a year, my body basically decides to reject all of my white blood cells and antibodies at once, and posts an "Open House! Today Only! Bring Friends!" sign on my head, at which point a collection of virulent and fighty diseases come by to scope out the place and see if there's any good stuff to steal.

Oh. My. GOD you guys.

I had a sore throat, which, okay, but I also had a cold and a cough, which as many of you may know, means that every time you use your throat-and-nosal regions for coughing or sneezeing, it feels like someone is trying to rip the lining of your esophagus directly out of your body like some kind of messed up torture porn movie. This year's version also had some exciting mucus features, so every now and then I would start coughing, become totally unable to stop, choke for an exciting couple of seconds, and then expel something that looked eerily like a member of the slug family into whatever unfortunate cup or sink was on hand.

Yes, I realize that is disgusting but frankly you didn't have to experience it so I don't care.

Needless to say, I also spent the last couple days sounding like an eighty-year-old, thirteen-pack-a-day-smoker. It was a charming time for all involved. That all being said, I am announcing this illness now so that you can all write Speed and I permanently off your social calendars for the next three months. You see, we believe that SHARING IS CARING, and thus when one of us contracts the Annual Disease Fest, we pass it joyfully along from one to the other, back and forth, for a good couple months.

At least we're stocked up on cough drops.