Not My Blog
Friday, June 28, 2002
So I have been, well, remiss in not mentioning a recent victory, and this rare omission was brought to my attention by the very person who made it possible: Rory. A week or so ago Rory sent out an e-mail requesting submissions for a newsletter name for Wordfest, the yearly literary celebration that makes Rory work much too hard for not nearly enough money. So I sent in a couple of names, and to my delight, one was chosen: The Latest Word. In reward, I was given a choice of free books [I picked "Microcosms" by Claudio Magris] and a bookplate signed by Carol Shields, the Pulitzer prize-winning author. Both delight me to no end. As does the irony of Rory bugging me about not blogging about it, since her blog frequency is roughly equivalent to that of Comet Hale Bopp entering the solar system. But still! Thanks, Rory! For the opportunity and the ass-kick! And hey, you know...blog or something.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
That someone considers her freedom to worship infringed by not being permitted to wear a veil covering all but her eyes in her driver’s license photo is funny enough. Somehow, the civil libertarian lawyer disputing the state’s case for photo identification that shows, you know, the person’s actual face, saying that “his client had offered to provide fingerprints, DNA or other information that could be used to verify her identity” is even funnier.
Because when you’re pulled over by the cops, everybody knows they can cross-reference your fingerprints or DNA on a database, but they’re just too lazy, that’s what it is, too shiftless to do more than look at a photograph that instantly identifies the cardholder. Those bastards. [Full story available here, requires free log-in and password.]
Of course, I’m not letting the feds off the hook. I have two beefs about driver’s licenses here in Alberta:
Oh, all right, all right. My obligatory G8 comments are coming up: Protesters in Canada seem to comprise a few groups: the smallest and smartest section of people like Grant Neufeld [check out his site at www.nisto.com] who do their research, work tirelessly, and can offer actual, viable solutions for reform. The earnest rhetoricians, who cover their lack of knowledge with stilted phrases such as “we need to start a dialogue process,” or “we need to humanify Africa NOW.” The anything-for-a-change group who seem to attract the most coverage; I particularly enjoyed the local TV reporter talking to two people howling and yelling at The Gap protest who had to have it pointed out to them that they were, in fact, wearing Gap shorts at the time. The angry louts: enough said. And then I guess there’s people like me: not liking the government crackdown on free speech; bored by the rhetoric of both sides; irritated by the louts; but, lacking the knowledge to devise viable ways to get G8 nations to spend more on social programs in underdeveloped countries and at home, determined to shut up until we can make a reasonable contribution, rather than add to the noise.
But hey, you protesters, you! Two days in a row I was able to get into work on time. No traffic snarls, no sirens, not even a human blockade. Thanks a hell of a lot.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Ah! Not only has Duane blogged twice within the last week, which should shake up some of the cobwebs and tumbleweeds on Spikebelt, but he also gave me a link to the Italian knock-off of lawn-bowling, bocce. Thanks, Bad Man. See you next month.
Which reminds me: in answer to the people who've asked about my volunteer efforts around town, no, I do not mow the lawns of geezers from any charitable instinct. Nor do I do it solely because I dig riding that big bad John Deere mower and brandishing the outsized weedwhacker. The lawns that I mow are lawn-bowling lawns. The people I mow them for are killer lawn-bowlers who may not be able to pull the starter cord on the gas mower without leaving their arm behind, but who can throw a 2-lb bowl to touch a small target 30 feet away. And lawn-bowling is, simply, the most fun you can have without putting your beer down. Easy to understand. Impossible to master in under 40 years. I'm currently in my second season as a member of The Inglewood Fraternity of The Bowls & Cups, a completely bad bunch. In 24 hours I and the rest of my team, The Myrmidons, will rage upon the green and continue our Wednesday night tradition of "Shame or be shamed." Myrmidons toss the jack scornfully past the hog line. Myrmidons know that sometimes a mere lifted eyebrow is enough to finesse the bowl past an opponent, closer to the gleaming jack. Myrmidons get their asses handed to them by 80-year-olds who can put enough backspin on a bowl to go back in time. Don't ask me what the difference is between lawn-bowling and bocce and petanque. I only know that lawn bowls are wooden and weighted to one side, whereas petanque "boules" are metal. And bocce players call the jack the "pallino." It's a sport that's played all over the world. And it's thousands of years old. Just like the players.
Monday, June 24, 2002
What I like best about summer barbecues is staying late enough for the guitars to come out. By then people will usually have drunk enough beers to get over themselves and sing in public. And so it was at Bryce and Tabitha’s barbecue on Friday night. Two guitars and three musicians. And somewhere in the bass and baritones of Bryce and Sheldon, the lilting tenor of Sean, there was me in the background, grackling like the magpie I am. Of course, it could have been the cigar I was puffing away on. I didn’t inhale but that’s not good enough for the wheezy lunch sacks in my thorax. Whine whine whine ever since.
Those are the best memories of summer, the unexpected moments. And I don’t think I committed too many breaches of Yetiquette, apart from mauling the pots of mint and other herbs, and possibly turning the other way when Theo spotted a snack or two just sitting there, gawdsakes, it’s already got a bite out of it. Oh, and staying way too late. Heh.
However: I have a horror of potluck gatherings and songfests when I don’t know the participants personally. So I was fine, in fact, extremely well fed, at Bryce’s bash on Friday, because I know all the guests and believe they are sterling folk who would not knowingly poison me. But last night there was the condo barbecue, arranged by a neighbour, “Kenny-not-Ken”. Kenny has a new boyfriend these days, so his attention is somewhat diverted. He did a fine job of inviting people, buying a gift for the guest of honour and wrapping it artistically, and even supplying paper plates. But he neglected to ask us what we were bringing. Confused, we all brought meatballs. There must have been one moment on Sunday afternoon when we all thought, “Oh, everyone always brings potato salad to these things. I’m going to do something different.” Dish after pot after tray of lumps of meat with sweet and sour sauce, chunks of pineapple, lego, etc. I piled one or two lumps on my plate and covered them with chips, hoping no one'd notice.
And more singing for me, backup this time, for the guest of honour, the former president of the condo board. Dan the guitarist and treasurer had rewritten the lyrics to “Secret Agent Man” as “Super Condo Woman.” Yeah. “She’s solved all of our problems, and taken away our cares.”
So I was thanking God for two things, or to be more precise, thanking Richard. First, for his having a senior jazz recital that was the perfect excuse to take off from the condo barbecue before the guitars got picked up again, and second, for performing the most enjoyable senior recital, ever. Superb saxophone playing. As soon as the first jitters were out of the way, and Richard settled into some serious playing, I had a permanent grin on. As I’ve said to other people, it’s not that I only like cool people, but just that so many of the people I do like are so cool.
Friday, June 21, 2002
They couldn't believe that the name wasn't taken? I couldn't believe it wasn't taken, either. They being Nucleus, my new ISP. After six months of frustration with the Telus/Cadvision "Wow, Have We Got Great Service, Unless You're on a Mac" switchover, I dropped them in a disdaining manner. Muddy clods splatting on concrete. Manure from an impossibly tall horse. That sort of thing. Just for the sheer hell of it I asked Nucleus if I could get "jane@nucleus" as an e-mail address. Apparently I could, which surprised not only me but everyone at Nucleus. The tech support rep said "No, I need your full e-mail address, not just your first name" when I called for help. After I told him that "firstname.lastname@example.org" was indeed my new address, I could hear keys tapping in the background as he double-checked it, the skeptical bugger. But there you go. The one name e-mail address. Neat, huh? So why not write a pal? Note: owing to current deadness of my home Mac, please enjoy the irony of me having an easy e-mail address and being unable to use it.
I decided that what was lacking from this year, what’s making it seem battier and darker than usual, was a noble quest. Something to achieve. After all, look at the Mango, off tinkering with Balinese glockenspiels, or bravely hammering at keyboards. Or the Saint, brandishing a gleaming saxophone before thousands. But although I can read music, I’m really no musician, and so have opted instead for the music of the Spanish language. This has been an ambition for years, but it was lately revived by seeing “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” which reinforced my desire not to have to rely on subtitles any longer.
Last night was the third session of online Spanish lessons, which I’m practising at work as my home Mac is all dead right now. And I was in the middle of the oral exercises, fiercely concentrating on trilled “rr” versus “slightly ‘d’-sounding r,” hard “d” versus “sort of ‘th’-sounding d”, saying “Pero!” “El Perrro!” “El Destornillador!” “Nada!” when suddenly, I hear delicate snickering outside my office. The two janitors, who are Central American ladies, are standing in the corridor [“Corrrrithodr!”], thoroughly entertained by the big old gringa singing out “But!” “The Dog!” “The Screwdriver!” “Nothing!” When they master their giggles, they’re quick to say that they think it’s great that I’m teaching myself Spanish, and if I need any help, they’d be only too glad etc. And would I mind saying “Perrrrro” again? Come on, just once?
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
While hosting the impromptu bridal shower for a woman she's known professionally for four years, friend La Vin in CA discovers that the bride-to-be is, genetically speaking, the bridegroom-to-be. So what! It's Los Angeles! Transgendered weddings are nothing new. As part of the festivities, Vin and the other guests, under the direction of an art therapist (again, common as dirt in those parts), inscribe arty bits of paper with advice for the newlyweds, which bits are then lacquered to a tall glass candleholder. A child was present and, as children are gifts of the future, was encouraged to contribute to the proceedings. Each bit of paper was lacquered and affixed as soon as it was completed. And so it befell that amongst such gems as "Total Honesty" and "Be true to You," there appears "Mom I have to pee" as a connubial blessing. Vin then looked around the room and realized that the crowd of people offering advice on marrying a guy consisted of herself and 19 lesbians.
I think it's cruelly unfair that entire chapters of novels keep playing themselves out in Vin's life. She once tutored a loutish teenager whose mother had an uncontrollable Spock fetish, but have I seen this episode in print yet? No.
Monday, June 17, 2002
O clever alchemy... Just reading the recipe made both eyebrows disappear into my hairline. Went straight to market and picked up the simple yet seemingly discordant ingredients. Yesterday afternoon, toasted almonds, pistachios and pine nuts. Ground them finely with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Added a handful of spearmint and peppermint leaves and mashed further. Tossed all in a bowl with sliced cherry tomatoes and a little of the water in which the noodles had been cooking. Added the drained noodles and mixed and mixed. Finished with more torn mint and a few chopped nuts. DIED AND WENT TO HEAVEN.
Friday, June 14, 2002
The ugly side of Not My Dog is prone to emerge whenever I see an abuse of knowledge, a lazy use of authority, or my beloved lingo festooned with inappropriate apostrophes. I was just on a friend's blog that linked to a site on Jewish history, compiled and written by Rabbi Ken Shapiro. So it's an overview, obviously, the Reader's Digest view of history, and I'm not exactly expecting a glowing example of scholarship. Even so, I was unprepared for the following parenthetical statement:
"Incidentally, the Crusader cry of "Hep! Hep!" originated at this time. It was an acronym for the Latin of "Jerusalem Has Fallen." With time it became "Hip, Hip, Hooray!" -- a cheer that Jews never use.Gee, says the big-bummed cynic, that sounds a tad convenient. "HEP" as an acronym of "Hiersolyma est Perdita" ["Jerusalem is lost/has fallen"] I had read about years ago -- in fact, it even shows up in a James Michener novel, The Source. And if you think I'm about to embark on a lengthy argument as to how Jews were never really persecuted, you can forget that noise. There is evidence to support "Hep" being used as an anti-Semitic rallying cry in 19th-century Germany and Russia. But there's no substantive proof that "Hep" became the "hip" of "hip-hip-hurray." I will also point out that the word "Hup" was used as an encouraging cry: picture circus acrobats using the common cry "hoy-hup-holla" as they launched each other through the air. It's just as likely to have evolved into "hip."
So what irks me here is Shapiro's readiness to pass off conjecture as fact. Because a lot of people are going to assume it's true. Hey, the guy's a rabbi, he must know what he's talking about, right?
I beg to differ. If Shapiro had even done two minutes worth of research on the Net, he'd have seen that the folks over at The Straight Dope and Take Our Word, not to mention the Oxford English Dictionary [which says that it's a 19th-c. term of unknown origin] have discovered that no one is 100 percent certain about the origin of "hip hip hurray." Coulda' come from livestock herders yelling "hep" and "hip hip" to hurry along the cows and sheep. Coulda' come from the circus. To further muddle things,this guy presents opposing points of view, albeit incoherently and in an appalling colour scheme.
It's a shame that Rabbi Shapiro couldn't have shown a more scholarly approach to etymology. True scholarship demands objectivity, the willingness to reveal data that may contradict what you hold to be true. The HEP/hip-hip-hurray theory makes an interesting story, but it's still only a story, not fact. If he had only said "Some people believe that 'hip hip hurray' originated with the anti-Semitic chant 'HEP,' " I wouldn't be so disappointed, or so likely to view the rest of his scholarship with suspicion. And to say that no Jew says "hip hip hurray" is a bit of an overstatement, and an insult to non-gullible Jews the world over.
Perhaps, you say, I'm overstating the issue. But over the past few years as a copywriter, meaning someone who's had a lot of experience creating buIlshit from innocent words, I've encountered people who think that the terms "picnic" and "monkey bars" are racist, based on what they've read on the Internet. Their rationale goes like this: it's been published online. It must be true, right? Without ever considering that there are a lot of pranksters on the Internet. And sadly, even the intelligent and well-meaning among us can be led astray by people like Rabbi Shapiro who pass along fascinating surmise rather than sound research. Bet he thought that Nostradamus really did predict the September 11th attacks, and if he passes the e-mail to five other people, he'll get a certificate from The Gap, too.
Thursday, June 13, 2002
I make out like a freakin bandit: Eight books, two CDs, two bottles of wine, a Folk Festival Pass, and three brassieres. Okay, everything but the wine, the two CDs and one of the books, I got for myself. But hey, I know what I like. And thanks to Fearless for the beauty deal on the Folk Fest pass.
The birthday was starting to look unusually subdued yesterday, with a lunch-hour staff meeting preventing my beloved colleagues from stuffing me with sushi and saké, and a meeting of the condo board nixing any Bacchanalian doings after work. Like that's going to stop me. Somehow I con Jon and Rory into coming to see Star Wars with me at 10:25 and we have the whole place to ourselves, nearly, two other people not being polite enough to leave once they realized they were in MY theatre on MY special day.
So, movie. The clanky dialogue caused inadvertent chuckles throughout the movie, but it was way, way better than Episode I. For one thing, I didn't fall asleep. However, after seeing it, I am more than ever convinced that a new style of acting needs to evolve for all this CGI bluescreen stuff. Staring at a fixed spot during blue-screening results in actors staring fixedly at an animated figure in the final product. Filmmakers are going to have to find a way to encourage actor's eyes to move as they normally would when watching another character in action. Finally, was mildly amused to see George Lucas putting homages to himself in his own movies now: the café scene in Episode II was Mel's Drive-In from American Graffiti, right down to the rollerskating waitress.
So thanks, all, for making another birthday pass painlessly and enjoyably. [Oh! And the books are: London, A Biography (Peter Ackroyd); How Buildings Learn (Stewart Brand); Collected Poems 1956-1997 (Wislawa Szymborska); Italian Country Table (Lynn Rossetti Kasper); The Hornblower Omnibus (C.S. Forester); History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters (Julian Barnes); Stet (Diana Athill); and "Manual", which is a PDF rather than a book, featuring my favourite Web writers and bloggers, and which I was damned glad to get in printed form.]
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
Its my party and Ill quote poetry if I want to:
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
What the welts have taught me: Not a hell of a lot, actually. Here's what my kind of urticaria has been looking like over the past couple of weeks:
Yet, the moment I manage to get a doctor's appointment and actually strip down, this is what she sees [minus the watermark]:
So here's the upshot: Claritin® is the ticket, though it takes two to three days for noticeable effects, and if you take it before going to the doctor, you may be surprised to find the doctor giving you the stink-eye, and labelling you as a whiny waste of time.
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
To copy a line from a recent e-mail: The only thing to fear is Veer itself. Congrats to you all. And thanks for the free font. [And while Im at it, thanks for the link, Issa.]
Scratching, scratching, scratching: Oh, great, a rash. I look like Ive been staked out in a tank of mosquitoes. I dont usually get rashes, despite my hypersensitive skin, but lately somethings convinced every histamine in my system to go for the gusto. It started, oddly, on my ears, then branched out to the backs of my hands, both arms, back, chest, neck and face. I look loffly, dahlink. Of course its hilarious, I mean, two days ago I was in the mountains on a client visit, walking the site of a future real estate development for the fiendishly rich, and kept lagging behind the group to rub against tree trunks as unobtrusively as possible. I catch myself grinding away at my ears as I try to write headlines. And the home pharmacology is no screaming hell: Hydrocortisone cream, hah! Baking soda, hah! Antihistamines -- well, besides knocking me out and putting electric currents through my scalp, they have me convinced that I really, really understand the cat, and I suppose I dont scratch as much when Im unconscious. Oh, see a doctor, you say. Love to -- but theres a bit of a waiting period, doncha know. Meanwhile Im going to teach myself Braille so I can read the welts and figure out what the hell my skins trying to tell me.
Tuesday, June 04, 2002
Verbatim: "A flag don't flutter where there ain't no air! So why the Yankees got a flag on the moon, tell me that! It don't flutter! Never happened! Just a setup. It's all about oil. That George W! Ralph's in his pocket. Bush wants Alaska. And the National Geographic wants him! It's just money and women --white slavery! They'll do anything to anyone for money! Drugs! --" and the bus doors wheezed shut behind him.
Monday, June 03, 2002
Whadja do on the weekend? Yesterday afternoon I saw a local, young theatre troupe perform a very ambitious play, which is my tactful way of saying that I kept falling asleep or losing interest in the amount of fierce ack-TING that went on. Still, if no one supports local theatre, we'll be left with Anne of Green Gables - The Musical! and warmed over Ayckbourn until the end of time in this town.
Afterwards had a very long and serious conversation about the play with two friends, during which I pontificated more than usual. Yipped on and on about how and why one of the actors in the play was stellar in comparison to the rest of the cast, simply because he was utterly unself-conscious. [Is that a word? Anyway.] He had his character down to the toes, and acted the part with more than just his head and arms. But as I say, it was a young cast, and speaking from experience, back in the dim times, it takes a lot of it to overcome the habit of equating emotion with volume. And it's hard to believe that you need to build the character first, before memorizing and barfing forth your lines. But no less true.
Other than that, mowed lawns for old people on Saturday, and spent the evening with some of the nicest and most interesting people around, celebrating the birthday of that music junkie and cereal-chomper, word freak and racquet smasher, He Who Does Not Blog, Jon. Another sign of being a good human being: having good people as your friends, people who may never have met one another but are interesting and congenial and can carry on without having to be stage-managed through conversations. It's a rarer gift than you might think.
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