Secret Pop

Nov 26, 2006

Repetitive Motion Injury

Although it comes but once a year, it isn't lost on me that it comes every year, this Thanksgiving business. And that each new one I celebrate is piggybacked on all the rest that preceded it. And that maybe I'm getting tired of having all these milestones to mark my progress. Or regress. Or no-gress, as the case my be. Maybe it's just "gress" at that point.

Often with the hope of not being extremely redundant -- despite the fact that eating a turkey dinner every year at the same time seems prone to a redundancy that even Kurt Vonnegut couldn't dress up in disguise -- I end up reading over my previous writings on this subject. Now that I've been writing in this venue for over five years, there's more to pick through and more to tiptoe round. It wastes a bunch of time. And usually leaves me with the feeling that the thing I wrote last year or the year before was better than whatever I'm going to say now, and why didn't I ever get paid to write when I was saying clever things like that? And why doesn't it result in any palpable satisfaction to read something I've written and like it? Why isn't that ever ever enough? Anyway. I went back is my point.

I began my holiday on Wednesday, leaving town at precisely the stupidest possible time and having already been warned that there was some shitty-ass shit going on on the 405. But surprisingly, I really didn't suffer much. The big hubbub in El Segundo was still there, and many lanes were closed, but I probably had to slow down for ten or fifteen minutes, and then once I was through it, I was flying along at 75 the rest of the way. So I got to my parents' house with time to heft all my junk in the house, write my annual Thanksgiving email, feel very tired and contemplate not doing anything social, and then get myself into the car and on my way to Ono Sushi, where a typically super duper dinner was had. After sushi, I visited Nunu's, where I was treated like a princess -- as usual. I had hoped to stop by Jivewire at The Casbah, but the ranks of enthusiastic compatriots had thinned, and I guess I was tired enough that dancing would have done me in. So I'm glad that Nunu's was where we landed. My mom didn't even hassle me about not getting home until well after her Thanksgiving day preparations had begun. That's unprecedented.

Come to think of it, this year was different than previous years in a few ways. But it was also very much the same. Maybe with deliberation attached. Like my annual Thanksgiving nightcap at Nunu's. I've come to look forward to that, so I make a point of perpetuating it. This year, there were so many people there with me and other people there that I knew, it really did feel like it's own special holiday thing. And after a dinner of turkey and lobster -- yes, LOBSTER -- and more things than can be artfully put on a normal-sized plate at once without layering and overrun unless you serve your cranberry relish and yams and stuffing in tiny little tablespoonsful, like they might do at a chi chi restaurant. With like cilantro oil or a vanilla-infused truffle and balsamic vinegar reduction drizzled on the plate and a garnish of something like star fruit or caviar. That gives me an idea. Would anyone mind if I started calling poultry eggs caviar? I will serve turkey caviar at my next Thanksgiving dinner. And see if anyone notices. And if anyone wants to try and fit it on melba toast.

If I can recall properly, here was our menu:

Cheese Platter
- Aged Mimolette
- Huntsman (Stilton layered with Double Gloucester)
- Wensleydale
- one other one I didn't try
- every possible kind of cracker
Fresh Fruit
Marinated Mushrooms
Kalamata Olives
Picholine Olives
Wine: Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

Roast Turkey (specially brined and cooked to moist perfection)
Broiled Lobster Tails with Clarified Butter
Mashed Potatoes
Jansen's Temptation (a Swedish potato casserole, apparently secretly including herring -- yum)
Chestnut Stuffing
Mashed Yams with Apricots and Almonds (?), Topped with Bruléed Marshmallows and Coconut
Cranberry Relish (a special recipe that causes all others to be deemed inferior)
Green Beans (I almost called them Haricots Verts. And I can't remember if they were Amandine.)
Corn (It wasn't fancy, but it's still my favorite.)
Gravy (duh)
Wine: Stag's Leap Merlot and Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

Side by Side Pumpkin Pie and New York Cheesecake with Raspberries
Apéritif: Sambuca

I hope I've managed to make it sound fancy and perfectly planned and brilliantly executed. Because it was. And I noticed how proud and happy it made my mother to have everything go over so well. Big success. Big success.

Friday night, I went over to Beulah's, and we went shopping for groceries and treated ourselves to a variety of artery-clogging snacks. A lot of cheese and crackers and apples and pepperoni and stuff. But also Totino's Pizza Rolls. In case anyone was wondering if I've ever eaten poorly. Believe me. I have. And I do. We also watched The New World on pay-per-view. Essentially only because it's another flick Christian Bale is in, and Beulah is devoted as the day is long. We didn't like it. It was the slowest movie I've watched in a long time. Perhaps ever. Unbelievably slow. And the dialogue was so soft and so ickily poem-like that I often had to stop chewing and lean in to try and hear what was being said, only to find that what they were saying revealed nothing at all story-wise. The only way Beulah and I were able to enjoy it was in being so disappointed in it. We began to sarcastically wish it could just be slower. That Christian Bale and Pocahontas would just TAKE THEIR TIME. I once heard a comedian say that he was surprised that Finding Neverland had been nominated for Best Picture; he said the movie was so slow it should have been nominated for Best Photograph. I liked Finding Neverland, but I thought that joke was funny. Even funnier, however, was Beulah's exclamation during one of the sequences of inanimate objects being shot for long silent moments for no apparent reason: "This movie is a screensaver." It really is like a two-and-a-half hour poetry reading. And if you're into that, we probably shouldn't go to the movies together. Incidentally, Beulah's never seen Reign of Fire and was concerned that it, too, would suck. But I maintain that Reign of Fire is a terribly underrated film. As long as you let yourself buy into the whole dragons thing -- and as long as you can bear to watch Matthew McConaughey playing an insufferable wacko, which I further maintain is less insufferable than watching him play a love interest or a looker -- and if you allow that these kinds of grandiose fantasies might call for some grandiose acting, it's perfectly entertaining to watch. And it contains one of my more favorite Star Wars references. Which will do nothing to help Beulah want to watch it, I realize.

I performed in a couple of improv shows on Saturday night, spent the night at Beulah's place, then drove home to Los Angeles today, with not much traffic to grouse about, bookending a relatively painless travel experience. And while I was driving up today, I listened to nothing but Beatles music on the radio. First it was just Beatles Beatles Beatles, and then it was an hour-long tribute to George Harrison, the fifth anniversary of whose death is this Wednesday. Which made me sad, and made me marvel at how long it's been, because I distinctly remember when I heard he had passed. And the night it happened was an awful one for me, through no fault of George's. Golden Slumbers made me think of Tasha, which made me cry a bit. The rest of it made me think assorted things. I never give you my pillow. I only send you my invitation. And in the middle of the celebrations, I break down...Lying there and staring at the ceiling, waiting for a sleepy feeling...You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.....Everybody had a hard year. Everybody had a good time. Everybody had a wet dream. Everybody saw the sunshine...Bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer came down upon her head. Bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer made sure that she was dead...Will I wait a lonely lifetime? If you want me to, I will...Boy, you gotta carry that weight, carry that weight a long time.

Very little Guitar Hero was played. Very little sleep was had. There was an unfortunate -- and perhaps statistically unavoidable -- falling out with my mother. She was so happy with me for two straight days. That couldn't possibly have continued without somehow triggering the onset of Armageddon. I had a lot of work to do. I squeezed that in where possible. I edited and posted photos, despite drooping eyelids and flagging spirits. I didn't get to eat Thanksgiving leftovers even once. And I didn't bring any home, which is usually the case and an unfortunate one. I drove home wondering why I allow things to matter, particularly when I am doing it alone. And I felt thankful for a sense of history. Even though it's a sense of history that most often prevents me from ever having a sense of present.

Everybody had a hard year. Everybody had a good time. Everybody had a wet dream. Everybody saw the sunshine.>

Nov 23, 2006

You know what I am thankful for? You, et cetera.

Reprinted from an actual email.

Dearest email recipient,

Please consider this my heartfelt request that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I guess you could choose to not have a wonderful holiday, and there's nothing saying that what I want is atop your list of priorities, but if saying so makes any difference, I'm pulling for you in the great battle of enjoyment of the holiday versus glaring at people who look to be happier than you.

So, let it not be left unsaid that you are awesome, and I applaud you for having the temerity to share your email address with me. I even applaud the apathy that has kept you from changing said email address or -- in the event that you really need to keep it -- creating an email filter just to weed out messages from me. No one would blame you. Even I know that.

But consider doing a few things for me this Thanksgiving, if you would.

1. When the "what are you thankful for" thing is making the rounds, think of Mary Forrest. Just for a second. You don't even have to say it out loud. In fact, it's perfectly acceptable for you to think, "What am I thankful for? Not Mary Forrest." As long as I'm on your mind.

2. Don't tell anyone about how bad the holiday traffic is or why the city you live in is better because it is not Los Angeles. (This means you, San Diego.)

3. Let someone else have a turn at Guitar Hero.

4. Tell the people you love that you love them, and make sure to point out that you're only saying it because it's expected of you.

5. If you have a dog, make him or her wear a humiliating outfit.

6. Don't get murdered. I ask this of you a few times a year, I know. But my stalwartness is unwaveringly vigilant. If you can do everything in your power to not be murdered this Thanksgiving, you will have given me yet another thing to be thankful for. Thank you in advance.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and know with great certainty that I am thankful for you. Even if you are receiving this email in error.

Mary Forrest, thanksgiver

Nov 20, 2006

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

I drove down to San Diego early yesterday morning to sing in church, as I had promised my parents I would. I learned the song I was going to sing as I was driving, and I was not optimistic that I would perform it well, as the service went on much longer than I expected. The Spanish-speaking congregation was joining the regular congregation and the entire service was being done bilingually, which means in any language: TWICE AS LONG. I was playing hangman and madlibs with Sarah. By the time the pastor was beckoning me to come forward, I suddenly realized I no longer knew the words to the song.

Fortunately, that's when my performance auto-pilot kicks in.

My dad cried a great deal, apparently. And at the potluck after the service, some old guy said to me, "Mary, I think you're losing your touch. Your dad didn't look to me like he was crying." I relayed this to my dad, who cried out vehemently, "I was weeping! I was weeping!" And then he had Dolores tell me about how, while I was singing, she was shaking and felt as if God put his arms around her and made her feel warm. And another woman in my father's Bible study told me that when she saw my father in the morning, she had teased him. "I told him,'I know what you're going to be doing later, Sam. CRYING.'" But then she said she felt bad because she ended up crying, too. And one member of the congregation paid me this compliment: "I loved your song. It was so beautiful. If you are around when I die, I would like you to sing it at my funeral." It was all very nice and very embarrassing. And I was glad to get back to my parents' house and have a nap.

Best moment of the day. We were singing the hymn Count Your Blessings, and there is a verse that essentially admonishes you not to count your riches on earth, because you will have riches in heaven that are greater, including a house and land. And my mom leaned over to me while we were singing and said mirthfully, "I don't think so."


Nov 18, 2006

I don't have it in me to write this with the flair I would wish.

I went to see Stranger than Fiction last night. Here are the things that occurred to me to write down in my little Moleskine notebook, presented in a less than fully fleshed-out manner.

"Wednesday" has a "d" in it.

If Amélie had been an American film, it might have sounded a lot like this film at first. I loved Amélie. So this observation makes me angry.

There's that Fractured Fairy Tales sort of vector animation again.

And there's that guy from the Sonic commercials.

By simply not getting any more or less attractive, Linda Hunt has now surpassed Tom Hulce in attractiveness. Which is thoroughly dismaying.

The fat people sitting to my right laugh at all the most obvious and disappointing places. I'm sure they go to Ren Faire. I'm sure of it.

They cast Will Ferrell to play alongside every short actor in Hollywood, it seems.

"It's been a very revealing ten seconds."

Who would sit on the buckle of the bus?

Spoon soundtrack. Yay!

"Aren't you relieved to know you aren't a golem?"

Smoking in the rain gives the appearance of ruling.

Hey, look. A Moleskine notebook.

"Who in their right mind, when given a choice between pancakes and living, chooses pancakes?" Me, probably.

And then it went and got life-affirming. I hate that.

The apple on the ground reminded me of The Great Orange Adventure.

Why does my dad love Queen Latifah? I hate her.

Sue Grafton in plastic.

What would have killed me is reading that manuscript on a moving bus.

Heart-shaped cookie provokes "awwwww" from Ren Faire folk. *Shakes fist.*

What do you want to bet this ending was a compromise?

"Even if you avoid this death, another will find you...It's the nature of all tragedies."

Memory Makes Mincemeat

Today makes ten years. Tomorrow makes six.

We get to decide what is and isn't meaningful. If everything I remembered was worth remembering, the rest of the world would be at a considerable deficit. As it is, recall is just a habit for me. A valueless, hindrance-prone habit. And a constant reminder that one recollection is not as powerful as two.

Elusive Villainy
Note: I'm not going to assume I need to provide a spoiler alert. I read Casino Royale when I was in grade school, so I already knew a lot of what was going to happen. But if you are fearful that you will not be able to be authentically mystified if you have read any plot points before seeing the film, I encourage you to read this entry later. Cool? Cool.
I got to see the press screening of Casino Royale on Tuesday, which should have resulted in a review of some kind, but I forewent promptness for truly skillful procastination. Partially because I was supposed to go see it a second time on Friday and partially because I am unreliable.
I think I shared some misgivings with Bond fans the world over that Daniel Craig was too thuggish to play the smooth operator with the casual aplomb that made the previous good Bonds good and the previous less than good Bonds less than. But with just the prologue and the opening titles and a few minutes of the first scene behind me, I had already decided. Daniel Craig is no Sean Connery, but he's no slouch. And David Arnold is almost John Barry, and that's saying a goddamn mouthful.
I was really entertained by the opening titles. Even though I am being made to feel a little antsy by the sudden fashionability of vector animation in live action features. Maybe it started with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Or with a commercial for a breakfast cereal. I don't know. The fact that it seemed derivative kind of rankled me at first glance, but then I decided to lighten up and appreciate the witty image transitions. At one point, I thought, "Spirograph?" But the rest of it went down pretty smoothly. Especially at the climax. By the end of the opening titles, I bought Daniel Craig as Bond. Blue-eyed thuggery and all. And then that first action sequence. An ambitiously choreographed chase/fight scene that was so action-packed, so intense, and so mostly free of Bond witticisms that you wouldn't know you were watching a Bond film were it not for the David Arnold score, which reminds you that music in action films is seldom as good as it could be, especially when you weigh the impact of techno music against a full orchestra. And in this first scene, Daniel Craig is so tough and so sure. So rough and tumble. In a way, it felt like a deliberate attempt to unseat the notion that this is a guy who cares about his shirts. His pursuit of his quarry is so comparatively unballetic, it recalls that moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy stops that Cairo swordsman with his pistol instead of his whip. Just a lot of "to hell with this." This Bond is deliberately rugged, deliberately more of a bleeder, and deliberately less wry. And for my part, I like it.
Some of the shots through the latticework of the cranes and the construction site reminded me of a documentary I once saw about William Wyler, who noted I think it was William Wellman and his habit of shooting action and dialogue through deliberate visual obstructions. I doubt it was any sort of homage. But it proved that I am never not thinking about everything else I've ever seen or heard. Annoying.
There are times the film feels like an outright Sony commercial, with VAIO, Sony Ericsson, and Cyber-shot product placement that receives better framing than some of the featured actors. The second movie -- the one that begins right when the movie should have ended -- is where this is most prominent. There are times when I wish my comfort with technology didn't make it so difficult to sell me on fictitious application interfaces or make it so hard for me to ignore the preposterous notion that MI6 computers actually sport military intelligence wallpaper. But I'm learning to be less of a pain in the neck in this respect. I can't, however, be less of a pain in the neck when it comes to wardrobe. I have never seen uglier dresses in a Bond film. Not even in Live and Let Die. Just plain abominable. So, in addition to the fact that I didn't find either of the Bond girls especially compelling, every time they came on screen, I scowled at their low-budget couture and -- in Eva Green's case -- the low-budget way they wore it.
The Body Worlds exhibit is prominently featured early on in the film. I chuckled to myself, remembering the time Beulah and Justin and I visited the exhibit during its visit to Los Angeles. I remembered all the installations that prompted Beulah to snicker and say, "Look at the anus."
Daniel Craig doesn't walk well. There is something overly erect about his posture. Something forced and unnatural. It's not a deal breaker. But I can't not notice. Especially when the hallmark of 007 is his appearance of being at ease in even the most harrowing situations. He's got an unmistakably excellent physique. But it's a shame he can't appear a little more relaxed in it. Also, you can totally see his package in every outfit they put him in.
A Photoshop reference? *shakes head*
I have two big complaints about this movie. One is the clumsy narrative exposition that kept making me want to cry out, "I get it! Stop telling me what's going on. I'm on top of it. Seriously. Shut up. Honestly. Christ." I just think that if you constantly have to provide a play-by-play, maybe you're not doing your job directorially. It's like being made to read the libretto before going to see an opera if you've any hope of knowing what's going on. In movies, everything you need to know is supposed to be right there. If you're constantly having to be reminded what to notice and what to pay attention to, the cinematic storytelling is failing. And the filmmaker thinks you're probably a low-scorer on your various standardized tests. "I'll stake you. And by that I mean that I will put up the money for you to play. And by that I mean that I will transfer money into your name so that you can stay in the game. Get it? No? Okay, let's try some other synonyms. P.S. Guess what. I'm with the CIA."
The second complaint is the overly sentimental and inexplicable affair between James Bond and Vesper Lynd. I never bought this for a minute. She is obnoxious and unappealing from the outset, and she never does a thing to redeem herself or to win him over. So the fact that they fall in love at all is implausible. And the way they fall in love -- essentially all verbally and without the slightest shred of real sexual combustion -- is just plain nauseating.
Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Le Chiffre, was pretty great, if you ask me. And I noticed that, now that my sister is dating a Swede, I can spot those Scandinavian and Danish accents right off. And it occurs to me that this is what the sum of your life experience gets you. There are things you know and things you don't. And there are things you will know because of things you just found out. And you should never wish you could go back to some other time in your life, because -- if nothing else -- you wouldn't have been as quick to notice when a guy probably speaks fluent Danish.
Ultimately, I think the movie was twenty minutes too long, and the clarity of the story was irreparably fractured by the unfortunate abandonment of the original story line when it neatly wraps itself up, leaving ample (and awful) opportunity for the exploration of a pasty, wooden love affair between two people who have no reason to smile at each other. I also think that the movie spends too much time trying to analyze James Bond as a man, providing unnecessary and in some cases illogical back story to his character. I don't want to know why he is cold or why he is suddenly no longer cold. I don't want to know what makes him tick. And I certainly don't want to see M mothering him over the telephone. I want to see the mission. Period. That is the directive I would give if I were making this movie at my imaginary high-budget film studio. Show me the mission. And that is not a reference to Jerry Maguire.
So, yes. As was foretold, this film takes a much less refined and much more sober view of the work of the secret agent. The pugilism is more brutal, the victories more costly. This is not the James Bond you fell in love with, if you fell in love with any of the others that came before. But it is James Bond, in the end. It's a movie about a secret agent, and that was always all that mattered to me.

Nov 13, 2006

I play my red guitar.

I don't often go on and on about how nice my weekend was. But this past weekend deserves laudatory distinction. On Friday, Beulah drove up to see me do stand-up at the Comedy Store. She was one of twelve friends who showed up, but she drove the furthest. I was not horrified at my performance, but I was sapped of energy by the time I got to go up, which was hours after I got there and the third to last spot in the line-up. And I never even got a drink in me. Never not one.

After the show, a handful of us went over to the Dresden and then to Fred 62. So I got drinks and breakfast in my gullet and cigarette smoke in my lungs, and I went home very late feeling very pleased. Because I have lovely friends and an extraordinary sister, and the stress of doing a show was well behind me.

In between snatches of sleep and the odd meal and Borat and running lines with Jessie for the sketch we're doing at Garage Comedy, I spent much of the weekend playing Guitar Hero II and watching the Star Wars Marathon on Cinemax. I do love a marathon. Especially the kind I can leave on all night. Even while I'm sleeping. When I turned on the television on Saturday morning, the end credits for The Empire Strikes Back were rolling, and I was disappointed, but then Return of the Jedi came on, and I was actually able to pique Beulah's rather geek-hating interest when I pointed out that Han Solo is very clearly modeled after Rhett Butler. We had just watched Gone with the Wind a week or two ago, and she ranks it among her favorites. So when I pointed out the similarities between Captains Solo and Butler, it pleased me that she seemed marginally swayed into believing maybe -- just maybe she might be able to enjoy Star Wars after all. Those similarities, by the way, are as follows:

smuggler:blockade runner
not loyal to either side:not loyal to either side
thinks Leia wants to kiss him:thinks Scarlett needs to be kissed (and often)
handsome man's man:handsome man's man
competing with girlish boy:competing with girlish man

Mark Hamill went to my high school. In Japan. I stole the copy of the yearbook with him in it. I have it somewhere. I think I had forgotten about it entirely, but Beulah was telling Kerstin that fact, and it reminded me. And I furrowed my brow and wondered how many other little stories worth a "wow" I've failed to keep from being sloughed away in the great brain cell holocaust that occurs whenever I'm at a bar. Lots probably. It's dismaying. Also dismaying is how different Mark Hamill looked after all that reconstructive sugery. Poor guy.

I'm kicking the ass of Guitar Hero II, by the way. I'm good at less and less, but this is one of the things at which I am goodest.

I didn't get to do a number of things I had planned to this weekend. I missed out on parties and plans that I'm sure would have been worth the effort. But in the end, I had a lovely time. I even got to make use of my fireplace for the first time this season. And I had an egg nog-flavored something at the Coffee Bean. These are a few of my favorite things.

Nov 10, 2006

Catching Up with Mary and Her Mom
I was watching the election returns with my mother on Tuesday night, and I saw that Jerry Brown had won, and I said, "Yay! Jerry Brown! Yay!" (I wrote a blog decrying Chuck Poochigian's awful campaign commercial, so I feel slightly responsible.) And my mom said, "Jerry Brown is a crook." And I said, "No, he isn't. What are you talking about? How is he a crook?" And she said, "I don't know. You'll have to come down to San Diego and ask your dad." Apparently, she had once said she thought Jerry Brown did a pretty good job in Oakland, and my dad said, "He's a crook." And she said, "Oh." So I said, "You know, just because you married him doesn't mean that you have to accept all of his political views as gospel." And she shrugged and wondered aloud when Dancing with the Stars would be on.
While we were watching Dancing with the Stars, a commercial for a Nivea body lotion aired. I wasn't even really paying attention and didn't look up at it (I was reading), but I gather that it features a girl smoothing lotion on her legs and a guy later showing up and making out with her. This is what I heard my mom say: "Hm. Her leg is ugly. Short and not good. And he looks kind of gay. He doesn't look good enough to kiss girls. I wouldn't buy the Nivea."
Later, we saw Diane Keaton doing a spot for Loreal skincare. My mom commented on how wrinkly she is, and I said, "She doesn't use that. I'm sure she uses La Prairie. Or some other $200 a jar cream." After a beat, my mom said, "She should use more cream."
No one is immune. This may give you some idea of what amplifies the voice in my head that is always telling me what's wrong with how I look.
Finally, I was sitting on the couch with my mom, and Audrey was between us, and my mom leaned forward to reach for something on the coffee table, and Audrey freaked out and barked and lunged at her. My mom threw both her hands up and said, "Sorry!" I grabbed and scolded Audrey. And I said, "Mom, she looked like she was going to bite your face. You don't need to apologize to her. You should protect yourself." And she said, "No. If she would have tried to bite my face, I would have picked her up and thrown her over the couch." Audrey is a little six-pound thing and would probably have broken two of her legs if thrown in that manner. So that's awesome. When I told Beulah this story, she laughed and laughed. But now that I'm writing it out, it seems less funny.

Nov 9, 2006


I was driving back from San Diego the other night, and Adam and I were chatting about the upcoming mid-term elections. We were agreeing on the importance of electoral reform. I think that -- if we are ever going to make a real dent in the problem of voter participation and also begin to undo some of the disillusionment created by the last two presidential elections -- the electoral process needs to be overhauled so that it is possible for a layperson to actually understand how it works. The way we do it now, I don't think I would be able to audit my precinct, much less a national election, even if I was given the chance to do it. I don't really know what's supposed to happen. I think Adam agreed with me, if I recall correctly, and he went further to talk about the problem of disenfranchisement among the poor and immigrant populations. He was talking about how requiring a driver's license would disenfranchise the very poor in particular, as they are less likely to have such identification (correct me if I'm wrong, Adam), and that previous leadership would never allow such a requirement to be imposed. And, while I completely agree that we need to make certain that one party does not seize or maintain power expressly by keeping the groups who are likely to vote against them from getting their ballots in the ballot boxes, I had to admit to him that I'm growing more and more tired of being a member of the party that relies on the poor and immigrant populations to win. Because like it or not, the poor and immigrant populations are generally less educated and have less influence, and needing them to come out to the polls en masse in order to win has begun to make me feel like we're riding some sort of Democratic short bus. What we need is for the white, affluent, English-speaking citizens to vote on our side, too. What we need is for more people to give a shit about more than just themselves and for Democratic campaigns to call out and trump the six-year-long keg stand that has been taking place in the Oval Office since the hanging chad became a part of the cultural lexicon. Because that seems to be the key policy-making difference between Republicans and Democrats. Republican policies -- that decimate social services, line the pockets of the richest of the rich, foresake the environment, protect the assets of the largest corporations, chip away at healthcare and educational infrastructures, and pay the robber barons of the war machine instead of the soldiers at war -- seem to have one overarching value, and that is that these policies are plainly shortsighted and don't consider the plight of future generations at all. And Republican voters have gone to the polls repeatedly and reiterated this value. "I don't care about the environment. Let them worry about it when I'm gone. I don't want the estate of my wealthy family to be taxed. Let me spend that dough now, and fuck you, schools. I don't care what the rest of the globe thinks of us. I won't be alive to need their help in the next international crisis. Plus, when am I ever going to France? I don't want to pay teachers a decent wage or give public schools the funding they need. I won't be around to be robbed, raped, and murdered by the kids who don't get the proper education. I don't want women to be able to have abortions, because that makes me feel bad NOW. Instead, I want to force them to have their babies and then just not fund the social programs that will help them raise those babies with the proper healthcare and education, because that will happen LATER, and I won't be watching when it does. I'll probably be in Montserrat."

And then the election happened.

And I'm happy to say that I'm encouraged today. For the first time since November of 2000, I'm encouraged. I'm hopeful that a Democratic Congress can restore some sanity in a system much in need of it. I was never terribly partisan before the 2000 election. I never felt I had to be. But I almost feel as if the divisive partisan tactics of the Republican campaign engineers backfired on them this time. Because I would have voted a straight Democratic ticket, no matter who had been running, just to try and restore the balance of power. Which means the issues are lost and the conscience of the voters is lost, and that is a scary precipice to be perched on. I voted this time in the spirit of triage, but I really look forward to being able to vote one day soon armed with just my intellect and powers of reason.

I don't think the mandate of the voters can be selectively honored. But I wouldn't be surprised if Republicans choose to instead find another way to say "mandate."

I echo Adam's sentiment: "I haven't been this hopeful since Bill Clinton."

I'm happy for my party, and I pray they don't fuck it up.

Nov 7, 2006

I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

I voted. Did you? If you did, (a) bravo, and (b) send me a photo of your "I Voted" sticker presented in some interesting fashion. I will do something with it. And maybe reward you with something for your participation. Maybe.

P.S. If you're the sort that expects access to private photos, you'll have to specify that. And I will take any such notification under advisement.

Nov 4, 2006

Epicurean Exercises

I don't cook as often as I should. I really enjoy it. And I'm not bad. In recent weeks, I've played in the kitchen a few times. But tonight, I really went to town. I had shopped yesterday with the intention of making risotto, and I did that. But I also had some chicken breasts to cook, so I made something up for those, too. I didn't name my dishes; I'm not some affected egomaniac and/or professional chef. But I can tell you what I put in them, if you like.

The risotto contained crimini mushrooms, radicchio, and asparagus with parmigiano reggiano and a Dutch cheese called parrano. Onions, garlic, butter, salt, of course. And organic free range chicken broth. I used champagne instead of cooking wine, Italian cream instead of half and half. And I made far too much, which is something I do.

I cooked the chicken with onions, garlic, butter, olive oil, salt, a little bouillon, and balsamic vinegar. After cooking it all down to mostly caramelized, I added chopped tomatoes and crushed red pepper. I don't even know what I intend to do with the chicken dish, but I tasted it before putting it in plastic storage, and it was super great.

I sipped champagne while I was cooking; I didn't have an open bottle to use, and I don't endorse waste. The Fugitive was/is playing on the television, and I am happy to report that this film still holds up, if you ask me. And it's also a fine example of a successful feature film adaptation of a beloved (and good) television series. Which teaches me this: Not everything has to be ruined.

I haven't actually written much lately. Here anyway. Just a lot of list-making and filling in of blanks. Maybe I will write something tutti frutti before I turn in. I have a lot of champagne to drink.

P.S. I'm drinking Veuve Clicquot from the bottle. The only thing more ghetto would be drinking it with a crazy straw. And I don't have one.

Another conversation with Simon.
I was chatting with my brilliant friend Simon from Australia again. See?
Simon: We have the worst national anthem in existence. Mary: I don't think I know it. But ours is pretty crap. Simon: No way! Yours rocks. Mary: Bah. You're just used to it. Mary: Nearly no one can sing it well. Mary: And the words are lame. Simon: Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, Simon: What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Simon: Genius. Simon: Germany, Germany above all,           above everything in the world,           when always, for protection,           we stand together as brothers. (Germany)           Let's go children of the fatherland,           The day of glory has arrived!           Against us tyranny's           Bloody flag is raised! (France) Simon: Australians all let us rejoice,           For we are young and free;           We've golden soil and wealth for toil;           Our home is girt by sea; Simon: ^ crap Simon: Nobody even knows the words to it. Mary: Yeah. I guess we rule. But the clauses are all over the place. Simon: At least it's poetic. Simon: Ours is just bureaucratic. Mary: I guess. That's true. Most anthems sound like college fight songs. Simon: probably because they were composed during wars. Simon: I learned today that "slogan" is gaelic for war cry. Mary: So was ours. Simon: Ours was composed when we stopped being a British colony, so it was probably written by a committee. Simon: If they replaced it with a new one, it would probably have something about fully sick Mazdas. Simon: Iraq's is pretty lame in English. Simon: I heard Germany's national anthem used to be a drinking song. Simon: they removed the verse about booze, women, and singing.
I always learn so much.

The cream on the mashed potatoes.

A few weeks ago, Sarah and Paul were in Anaheim and wanted to visit Disneyland, so I drove down to shepherd them around on a Saturday night. It would have been much more fun had it not been Gay Days. Not because we have any problem with gay people, make no mistake. But because I have never been to Disneyland that late at night and seen it that crowded. As a result, we didn't really get to do much but wait in line and elbow our way through red-shirted crowds. But we still had a good time. And while we were waiting in line for Space Mountain, Paul was teaching me some of the idioms that the Swedes have that approximate ours. For instance, where we would say "bite the bullet" to reference the act of enduring something painful or unpleasant, Swedes would say the equivalent of "bite the sour apple." And where we might call it "icing on the cake" when something great comes after something already very good, Swedes would call that the "cream on the mashed potatoes." I love this. And I loved the fact that, even after our somewhat stressful Disneyland visit, Paul sent me a lovely email and told me that I was in fact the cream on the mashed potatoes.

While I'm on this language instruction kick, here are some additional Swedish idioms you can use at your leisure or when you're hanging out with Paul.

"The important thing [here] is to get away alive."
Det gäller att klara sig undan med livet i behåll.
It shrieks to clear one self out of the road with the waist intact.

To totally abandon someone.
Lämna någon vind för våg.
Leave someone wind by wave.

A cheerful expression of surprise.
Hej hopp i blåbärsskogen!
Hello, jump in the blueberry forest!

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
Bättre en fågel i handen än tio i skogen.
Better a bird in your hand than ten in the woods.

"Don't count your chickens until they hatch."
Ropa inte hej förräns du är över bäcken.
Don't yell hi until you're over the stream.

A party that got out of hand.
Det var ett riktigt sjoslag.
It was a real sea-battle.

"You're in deep shit now."
Nu är det kokta fläsket stekt.
Now the boiled pork is fried.

"Run like hell."
Lägga benen på ryggen.
Put your legs on your back.

To make things worse
Att lägga lök på laxen
To put onion on the salmon

"Calm down."
Kiss och gå lägg dig!
Pee and go lie down!

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
Det är skönt med den goa värmen, sa kärringen när stugan brann.
It is nice with the heat, said the old woman when the house was on fire.

"Now, you've done it!"
Nu har du trampat i klaveret.
Now you have stepped into the accordion!

To come into a lot of money
Lägga rabarber på klöver.
Lay down rhubarbs on clover.

Talking nonsense
Han pratar i nattmössan.
He is talking in his nighthat.

"Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades."
Nära är bara bra med en atombomb.
Close is only good with an A-bomb.

"Good gracious!"
Milda makter!
Mild forces!

"It doesn't work."
Den är paj.
It's pie.

"Fat chance!"
Inte en sportmössa!
Not a sportscap!

"You'r talking out of your ass."
Nu är du ute och cyklar.
Now you are out and cycling.

"Caught with his pants down"
Med skägget i brevlådan
With his beard in the mailbox

"No kidding!"
Dra mig på en tallpinnevagn.
Drag me on a pine-twig wagon.

"You've really made a fool of yourself."
Nu har du skitit i det blå skåpet.
Now you've shit in the blue cupboard.

I love etymology. And vulgarity.

I guess I say "skeevy" a lot. According to Rob. I hadn't noticed. Maybe I've just been telling a larger proportion of stories lately with skeevs in starring roles. But I thought about it today, and I wondered if "skeevy" comes from the Italian "schifo," which I understand to mean "disgusting." So I put the Internet to use -- and counted myself briefly grateful that I no longer live in the days when wondering something like this might force me to (a) go to a library, (b) ask a friend who would know the answer, or (c) call a radio station -- and didn't really find my answer but did find giant pleasure in reading the various insults, swears, and narrative declarations of vulgarity that it made available to me. (In that last clause, "it" meant "the Internet," as previously referenced, but the long, emdash-encased section may have made that ambiguous.) See for yourself.

Andate tutti a 'fanculo!
You can all go fuck yourselves!

Nessuno me lo ficca in culo!
Nobody fucks me up the ass!

Tua madre si da per niente!
Your mother gives it away!

Te lo tronco nel culo.
I'll fill in your ass.

Vaffanculo a Lei, la sua moglie, e' la sua madre. Lei e' un cafone stronzo. Io non mangio in questo merdaio! Vada via in culo!
You, sir, go fuck yourself--and your wife and your mother. You are a common turd! I'm not going to eat in this shithouse. Fuck you!

Ti metto il cazzo in culo e te lo faccio uscire dalla bocca.
If I put my dick in your ass, it's going to come out your mouth.

La tua madre puzza di pesce.
Your mom smells like fish.

Caccati in mano e prenditi a schiaffi.
Shit in your hand and hit yourself.

Il tuo cazzo รจ un brufolo.
Your dick's a pimple.

Sei una busta de piscio.
You're a fucking piss bag.

Sei una bolla de sborra.
You're a sperm-ball.

Cachi il cazzo.
You're shitting on my dick.

Uno che va in culo a sua madre.
That one ass-fucks its mother.

Non vale un cazzo
Not worth cum, i.e., useless

Female masturbation, i.e., finger banging

Ciuccia cazzi
Dick sucker

Cazzo di cane
You did that work very badly. (literally: a dog's dick)

Porca la Miseria/Porca Miseria)
Pig Misery!

Boia faus!
Dishonest executioner!

Mille cazzi nel tuo culo
A thousand dicks in your ass

Se il cazzo avesse le ali, la tua fica sarebbe un aereoporto.
If a dick had wings, your pussy would be an airport.

Gesu e un cornuto.
Jesus is a cuckold.

Va funcuolo Dio and tutte e santi.
Fuck Christ and all the saints.