vendredi 21 décembre 2012

Winter sky

Instead of complaining about the ground service at Charles de Gaulle since Delta began running the daily non-stop Paris-Seattle flight, let's focus on the winter light in the Marais.

Regarde le ciel - Look at the sky.

So my suitcase did not make my flight. It arrived two days later and I got bumped up a class.

The news of the Sandy Hook massacre broke while I was in Paris. It cast a long and chilly shadow. People kept asking me why. Why does this happen in America? What is wrong with America? Why is America so violent? Why are there so many guns? I don't have an answer. Well, yes, I do have one but it takes about three hours to lay out and it involves talking about things like the nature of American capitalism, the myth of self-reliance, the reality of what and who get left behind on the path to success and wealth.

The shadow is long.
But there is always a slant of light, however thin, however distant.
Even in the dead of winter.

vendredi 23 novembre 2012

Keeping the apple pie tradition on the table

This quarter (see photo below) of what was just yesterday a whole apple pie may not look all that impressive to you, but consider this: it was made by two people who have, up until now, left the making and baking of desserts to other, more qualified, bakers.

My excuse has always been that I lived in Paris for 20 years. And that's a pretty good excuse. When you live in the heart of a city that boasts a pâtisserie (and a pharmacie) every 50 meters, why would you ever want or need to make a dessert? The only person I know in Paris who actually has been known to make desserts for his invités is my friend Pierre, who was married to my friend and fellow translator Cathleen. Cathleen, who died a couple of years ago, was diabetic, and her husband Pierre managed her diabetes by managing her menu planning and food preparation. Pierre retired long ago from the EDF, where he worked as a lawyer. But he has never retired from his vocations, which are painting, writing poetry and cooking beautiful, elaborate meals, served in Pierre and Cathleen's apartment in the 13th. It is a magical place, literally stuffed with books, art and knick knacks of all kinds. The kitchen is so full of utensils and stuff you can't see inside. But I digress. The point is, I had no reason to ever pick up a rolling pin during my formative potential adult dessert baking years, spent in Shanghai and then Paris. I can assure you, I sampled some exquisite desserts during this period.

Walt's excuse up until recently was his mother, an extraordinary baker who excelled at all kinds of cookies, pies and cakes. She set the impossible standard for desserts, and she did so effortlessly. Well, I'm sure she sweated during the process, but all we ever saw was the result. She would sometimes engage in self-criticism, but we would shush her up between bites by waving our forks. No, we would say, it's fabulous your apple pie. Or blackberry pie. Or whatever. Jo Cougan died in mid-October, but we have had her personalized glass pie dish, with her name ("Made with Love From Jo's Kitchen") emblazoned on the bottom. When Walt said he wished someone from my family had made an apple pie for our Thanksgiving last Sunday, I sensed a wistful tone. We agreed that we would never again be the privileged recipients of one of Jo Cougan's pies and that we needed to do something to keep the tradition alive.

I suggested that we try, as a joint venture, to make an apple pie to take with us to the Thanksgiving meal we had been invited to share with friends in Anacortes. So the two of us went out in search of ingredients to bake an apple pie. We should have started earlier, but we did passably well considering the late hour. Now I know: our unsalted butter should have been a bit colder. And Christina, our hostess for dinner, suggested that we chill the bowl in which the crust is made. Fantastic idea! She learned that when she worked at an ice cream store where one of her jobs was to make certain desserts. Also, a word about the top crust. That didn't come out as I was planning. I got overly ambitious and had visions of lattices dancing in my head. But I got a little distracted by the filling, which Walt was in charge of, while making the top crust (since the pie itself was an afterthought, we had not made enough crust for the top) and, as a result, left it sitting in its rolled out state a little too long. Something weird happened to the dough and it formed little patches that refused to come together as one. So we decided to call it a "patchy" apple pie and put the patches on top. That name evolved into "Apache" Apple Pie, which seems fitting on this particular holiday, wherein America turns its slaughter of the indigenous population into an orgy of eating followed by a hysteria-driven shopping frenzy.

A word about the filling: at Walt's insistence, we used granny smith apples and one cameo. We added sugar, brown sugar, a little salt and the required amount of flour. The recipe I found online, confidently titled "Perfect Apple Pie", called for lemon juice, which we did not have on hand. So we used the juice of half an orange instead, which gave me the idea that a little grand marnier would be a nice touch. We also added cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I think that's all.

The "Apache" Apple Pie
The result: Our pie did not look like Jo's pies. The top crust looked like it had a case of shingles. But it passed the taste test. The filling was heavenly, our fellow diners all agreed it was, and our crust tasted right. But I know we can do better, with colder butter, a cold bowl and more patient rolling out of the dough. Walt is very competitive and would probably go so far as to try and surpass his mommy in the pie department. Let him dream! In the meantime, a pie "Made with Love from Jo's Kitchen" gracing our Thanksgiving table brought a little slice of Jo back.

On a related note, recently we spent a long weekend in Las Vegas, where we had the good fortune to NOT spend a minute in the casinos after one night at the MGM Grand for a fundraiser/birthday party. Our old friend Lisa Lundt lives there with her family, and she graciously offered to show us the non-casino side of LV and the area. On Saturday, the day after Dia De Los Muertos, after visiting the fantastic new neon "boneyard" museum in the Fremont section, we visited the Springs Preserve, which is both a park and a museum in Vegas. The outdoor part of the Preserve was dotted with publicly created altars and catrinas honoring the dead. And there were lots of cool sugar skulls, like the ones below. All of the alters featured the favorite food, drink and, in some cases, smokables of the departed loved ones for whom they were lovingly and painstakingly created. Anyone who has ever taken part in a Mexican Dia De Los Muertos celebration knows how colorful, upbeat and almost hallucinatory they are. I kept seeing ghosts among the living as we walked from altar to altar. I would do a double-take and they would be gone. I certainly felt the presence of Jo, and I know Walt did too. It suddenly hit me - simultaneously - that she was both gone forever and yet among us. She lives on in the pies we will make and in all the things she created and loved during her generous life. This year, I give thanks for having had the opportunity of knowing her. I grabbed a little notepad she was using when she died. On the cover and on every otherwise blank page, it says When Life Becomes a Roller Coaster, Climb into the Front Seat, Throw Your Arms in the Air and Enjoy the Ride. I also grabbed a paper weight on which is written NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT - Winston Churchill. And I can say for a fact that she never did.


vendredi 16 novembre 2012

There's a kind of hush all over the world!

Happily, I won't be giving Mitt Romney another thought, since he promised to retire from politics if he failed to buy his way into office. Well, he didn't exactly put it that way, but this is the gist of it. As everyone knows, he offered one more glimpse of the True Mitt as his parting shot, in a post mortem debrief with his biggest fat cat donors, wherein he suggested - nay, he shouted ex cathedra - that his rival won because the losers people who vote for the dems just want free stuff. Actually, Romney just demonstrated that he pays attention when Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh are talking. O'Reilly, you will recall, said exactly that in his little hissy fit on Fox, where he bemoaned the demise of "traditional" America, by which he means an America where a certain type of white male runs things. Imagine a big fat guy in a shirt with horizontal stripes that accentuates his moobs, smoking a cigar and spewing his hatred for anything and anyone who isn't just like him... that kind of guy.

So, anyway, Romney rambled on to his donors about how families making 25 or 30 thousand dollars a year are unable to resist the candidate who offers them 10 thousand dollars worth of free healthcare and about how he as a Republican just could not compete with that. What I find interesting is that he admits healthcare has a price tag that puts it out of reach for many of the very people he and his kind exploit in jobs that pay such lousy wages they can't escape poverty, let alone buy healthcare. What a douchebag! To the bitter end! And I do mean bitter. What a smug, bitter little man he turned out to be.

Enough about him already. May he spend the rest of his days riding up and down in his car elevator!


jeudi 1 novembre 2012

The Right Thing

I have posted this poem on my blog before, but that was years ago. I was reminded of it today when I read this interview, with author Cheryl Strayed (Torch, a novel; Wild, a memoir; Tiny Beautiful Things, a compilation of her work as "Sugar," an online advice columnist). In the interview, Strayed is asked what she thinks impedes or detracts from her happiness, and she says it is the tendency to say yes:

Saying yes. Yes and I have a long history. Yes is generous and open-hearted. It’s kind and fun. It’s led to so many good things in my life. But everything in balance, as they say, and I’m feeling a strong need for a bit of no. Yes has become a shackle to me. It’s keeping me from spending my days in ways that make me the happiest. I’ve been reflecting on this lately because with the amount of things people have asked me to do in this past year, I’ve realized how difficult it is for me to say no. I mean it kills me. Probably because it goes way deep into my psyche and my ancient desire to be loved. People love you if you say yes to them. It’s an incredibly effective survival technique. So now I have to learn a new way to survive. What will happen when I say no? I’m going to try it and see.

Her words reminded me of one of my favorite lines from another of my favorite poems, Theodore Roethke's poem The Right Thing: Time harried prisoners of shall and Will.

Sometimes, I am that time harried prisoner.

Yes, I memorized this poem as well, when I was about 16. I had no idea who Roethke was at the time. I did not know of his connection to the English Department at the University of Washington, nor of his struggles with mental illness and the bottle. He died at the age of 55, after suffering a heart attack in a friend's swimming pool.

The Right Thing

Let others probe the mystery if they can.
Time-harried prisoners of Shall and Will—
The right thing happens to the happy man.

The bird flies out, the bird flies back again;
The hill becomes the valley, and is still;
Let others delve that mystery if they can.

God bless the roots!—Body and soul are one!
The small become the great, the great the small;
The right thing happens to the happy man.

Child of the dark, he can out leap the sun,
His being single, and that being all:
The right thing happens to the happy man.

Or he sits still, a solid figure when
The self-destructive shake the common wall;
Takes to himself what mystery he can,

And, praising change as the slow night comes on,
Wills what he would, surrendering his will
Till mystery is no more: No more he can.
The right thing happens to the happy man.

mercredi 31 octobre 2012

Romney and Ryan: Today's Hollow Men

One of the first poems I ever memorized was The Hollow Men, by T.S. Eliot. It may seem an odd choice at the age of 13, but I won't deny that I was an odd child. I liked the cadence of this poem, which was sorrowful, urgent and incantatory, like a prayer. There is an apocalyptic weariness to The Hollow Men that makes it timely today. Even if you don't know the poem, you probably know how it ends, since the final refrain took on a life of its own that is probably eternal. It sounds more like a children's nursery rhyme: "this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper."
In other words, we all fall down.
Here is the first verse:
The Hollow Men
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

lundi 29 octobre 2012

More to life than smoothies

As we move into fall, I find there is nothing more satisfying in the morning than a bowl of hot cereal. Since we discovered Wheat, Montana, on our way back from the cabin, that's where we buy our steal-cut cereal. This morning's serving, shown here, is topped with half a banana, sliced; two fresh figs, sliced; a green grape, quartered; a handful of pomegranate seeds; a dollop of my neighbor Genevieve's plum, lime and ginger jelly; and some oat milk. As with smoothies and fashion, color coordination is the key to success when it comes to a bowl of hot cereal. Enjoy!

mercredi 24 octobre 2012

Famous Men

With just under two weeks to go until election day, I would like to crawl under a rock and hibernate. And I don't even live in a swing state. I swore I would not set foot in the US for as long as George W. Bush was in the Oval Office but ended up returning to the US to live before he slunk away, never to be seen again. It was a strange time: the entire American public seemed to have given up on or even actively repudiated Bush, his policies, his politics, his wars, his neocons... As his presidency wound down, the subprime crisis emerged and the housing bubble burst. This came as no surprise to me, a virtual newcomer to the US, where everyone I met was involved in the mortgage refi or real estate business, or was married to someone who was. This can't be a good sign, I thought. Turns out it wasn't. (Note to the 40-somethings who were riding high during that time but who have since lost jobs and extra cash: you are crazy if you think a Romney presidency will bring those crazy money jobs back. Once Romney eviscerates the mortgage interest deduction,the housing market will scream in pain.) I'll never forget where I was when I heard, on the radio, that Lehman Brothers had collapsed. I was driving south on I-5 to join my husband for a post-charity golf tournament dinner. I literally looked up at the sky, to see if it was falling. The election of Obama marked a turning of the page, symbolically, but many people seem not to have realized that the economy, in free fall, would have to bottom out before it could begin to heal. Since my work involves deciphering economic texts, I was privy to what the non-partisan economists - most of them not American - thought about the global financial meltdown. They all agreed it was a long overdue and hence necessarily brutal correction, and they all agreed that the recovery would take a long time to materialize and that it would be characterized by weak job creation. Guess what? They were right! Let's not dwell on these complex matters. Let's instead just say that, given the slow nature of the recovery and the weak net job creation numbers to date (partly due to the huge number of jobs that disappeared, see above), it is amazing that the sitting President has never fallen behind his challenger and often has in fact led in the polls. This can only be due to one thing: an incredibly weak and lunatic field of Republican contenders resulted in an incredibly mediocre, hollow and unfit candidate, the man we know as Mittens. Had the Republicans come up with a strong or even adequate Republican candidate - someone with genuine, enlightened conservative values, substantial governing experience and charismatic leadership skills - they would be running ahead in this campaign. Instead, they chose someone who exemplifies everything that is wrong with latter-day capitalism and the corporate mindset. If Mittens does end up pulling out a victory, it will not be due to his leadership, experience, genuinely conservative worldview or anything like that. He does not have any of those things because he is fashioned out of silly putty. It will be due to voter intimidation and chronic mendacity combined with that lethal, uniquely American blend of apathy, fear and greed. The stock market took a big tumble yesterday, falling by something like 248 points on worse than expected corporate earnings numbers. According to the corporations in question, these disappointing numbers are attributable to the global slowdown (led by slower Chinese growth, now at single digits) in general and the European recession in particular. Okay, this is logical: US corporations are multinational, in part, ironically, to spread their risk of exposure to economic cycles. When Chinese GDP growth is double digit, this is good for everyone who does business with and in China. When the Euro Area is relatively strong, trade is more robust for everyone. This is called globalization. As a CEO, Mittens knows all about this. Which brings me to my next question: if Mittens is elected, and after he has spent the week repealing Obamacare and rolling back a half-century of women's rights, how is he going to create 12 million jobs if America's trading partners are suffering? I'm afraid that while America's multinantional corporations can "explain" their poor performance by pointing to slower growth in Asia and a recession in Europe, American voters will see this as an excuse, and an inexcusable one at that. As a CEO, Mittens is probably used to dictating a set of "must have" numbers and then getting them. This would be a lot harder to accomplish if he were CEO of America. These days, I find myself thinking about the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. I read it as an undergraduate and have never forgotten either the austere, gripping photos (by Walker Evans) or the complex, poetic text (by James Agee), documenting the lives of three white sharecropper families living in Southern Alabama during the Great Depression. The foundations for what we think of as the social safety net were laid at this time by FDR. He succeeded Hoover, who had presided over the start of the Great Depression and who made things worse by stubbornly clinging to the idea that business would correct the economy without government interference. When that did not pan out, he said let the state and local governments take care of the problem. The problem was that they simply did not have enough money to cope with the magnitude of the misery. And the rest, as they say, is history. And as we know, those who do not learn from history tend to repeat it.
A Walker Evans photo from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

lundi 15 octobre 2012

Not about Myth Romney this time: how about Bob Dylan?

We got free tickets to the Bob Dylan concert at Key Arena last Saturday night. If I had a bucket list, which I most certainly do not, I would be able to cross one more item off. Everyone knows that Dylan's voice has.... umm, changed over the course of his long career. You can read the polemic surrounding this fact on the internets, so I will spare you. Yes, his voice has changed. Yes, it was distinctive but not great to start with. And yes, it is still distinctive but has gone from not great to truly awful. How awful? Most of the time it takes awhile to figure out what song he's singing, even if you know his music well. He has rearranged the songs, in part to work around the severe limitations of his current voice. All singers do this more or less. To cite but one case among many, we saw Joan Baez a couple of years ago at a Zootunes concert, and it was clear that her voice had aged. But it had aged well and her workarounds were as lovely as whatever she was working around. Bob Dylan is in another category altogether. His voice is a wreck, and not a fine one. Every once in awhile, he hits a note at the same time he hits a word, but most of the time he sounds like a baby who has cried its lungs out but continues to cry. An angry crying baby. There was one moment that may have made the evening worthwhile, however. It was the moment when a light shone on the dark stage and all that was visible was Dylan's light-colored hat. Then Dylan's face. And I thought to myself, behold the man: one of the most well-known names on the planet. There he is, standing before me. I also appreciated his playlist, though most of the songs were not immediately recognizable. They were only recognizable when a word and note combined with clarity. "Oh," Walt would say with a laugh, "that's Tangled up in Blue". Or "Wow, that's All Along the Watchtower". "Highway 61!" Etc. Mark Knopfler opened for Dylan. It is hard to imagine Knopfler opening for many people - Dylan is one of few who has that kind of stature. I mean, Knopfler is pretty mythical himself. I had seen him once before, in Paris. It was 1986. I was actually attending an Eric Clapton concert, and Knopfler's appearance onstage came as a total surprise for everyone. When we emerged from the Zénith after the show, exhilarated, snow was falling. It took hours to get out of the parking lot and then endure a slow crawl back to Paris. But what a night! Knopfler continues to amaze. He is certainly one of the best if not the best guitarist alive. His voice is distinctive but not great. Unlike Dylan, however, his has not changed much. It is still distinctive but not great. He seems to be just a guy who wants to surround himself with the best musicians and jam. That's what he did on Saturday. I am sure half the crowd was there to see him, including the increasingly insistent loudmouth who wanted him to do "MTV". Knopfler ignored him, though he ended with a relative oldie, So Far Away From You.

jeudi 11 octobre 2012

Elizabeth Warren demonstrates why she should be the next Senator from Massachusetts and why Scott Brown should go back to doing whatever he was doing before

"I have no doubt that Sen. Brown is a good husband and a good father to his daughters. But this is an issue that affects all of our daughters, and our granddaughters. And what matters here is how Sen. Brown votes. So he's gone to Washington, and he's had some good votes. But he's had exactly one chance to vote for equal pay for equal work, and he voted no. He had exactly one chance to vote for insurance coverage for birth control and other preventive services for women. He voted no. And he had exactly one chance to vote for a pro-choice woman -- from Massachusetts -- to the United States Supreme Court, and he voted no. Those are bad votes for women. The women of Massachusetts need a senator they can count on, not some of the time, but all of the time. [...] "I am a mother of a daughter, and a grandmother of granddaughters, and this is about their future. And I want to be blunt: we should not be fighting about equal pay for equal work and access to birth control in 2012. These issues were resolved years ago -- until the Republicans brought them back."

mercredi 10 octobre 2012

Mitt's soul

The definition of a soul: “That which crawls away and hides whenever someone mentions algebra.” (Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities)

go to elles!

I'm talking about SAM's latest exhibition, not imitating an angry Frenchman speaking English. It runs from tomorrow through January 13, 2013. The exhibition features more than 130 works made by 75 women artists between 1907 and 2007. The Centre Pompidou in Paris (home of the Musée National d’Art Moderne) curated the exhibition with SAM. Artists include Sonia Delaunay, Frida Kahlo, Dora Maar, Diane Arbus, Marina Abramović, Louise Bourgeois, Atsuko Tanaka, Cindy Sherman, Sophie Calle, Hannah Wilke, Nan Goldin and Tania Bruguera, among others. I was lucky enough to attend a special preview last night that was attended by more than 500 special guests, including the French Ambassador to the US (François Delattre, a Sarkozy appointee and career diplomat), Alain Seban (PDG of the Centre Pompidou), Alfred Pacquement (director of the Musée national d'art moderne) and Cécile Debray (curator of the MNAM). I am particularly thrilled to see Sophie Calle among the artists featured in this show. Her latest exhibition just opened in Paris (Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin) to rave reviews. Called ”Pour la dernière et pour la première fois” (For the Last and for the First Time), it features a project called Voir la mer (To See/Seeing the Sea) that took Calle to Turkey, where she captured on film three Turks discovering the sea for the first time in their lives. I think everyone remembers the first time they saw the sea or the ocean. I know I do. I don't think I really believed it existed until I actually saw it. Ah, that oceanic feeling!

lundi 8 octobre 2012

Bullshit Mitt

Everyone keeps harping on about Mitt's lies during the debate, which were delivered in a fast and furious style intended to dazzle the viewer. Apparently, many were hoodwinked. Sure, Mitt lied, in the sense that he said many things that just don't bear up to scrutiny. But I think the essence of the performance, which captures the essence of the man, is that he did not so much lie as bullshit for a full 90 minutes. And people lapped it up because bullshit is one of the most pervasive features of American life and culture, especially our political culture. Way back in 2005, professor emeritus of Princeton Harry G. Frankfurt devoted an entire treatise to the subject called On Bullshit, which begins in the most provocative and refreshing way: "There is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted." In a nutshell, Frankfurt gets at the heart of what bullshitting entails and how it can differ from outright lying. For one thing, bullshit is bullshit even if it happens to be true on some level. The difference between a liar and a bullshitter is the latter's complete and utter indifference to whether or not what he's saying has any bearing on facts or the real world. In other words, the bullshitter does not acknowledge the existence of truth at all: he ignores it. And this is precisely why bullshitters and their bullshit are more dangerous than liars and their lies. Any expsosure of the truth will just result in more bullshit. That's why Jon Stewart's Bullshit Mountain is so brilliant. Let's take just one example from Mitt's bullshit treasure trove. During the debate, he said that Obama's tax plan (which involves, among other things, letting Bush era tax cuts expire for incomes above a certain amount - for example, for a couple making more than 250,000 a year) would cost middle class folks an additional 6,000 dollars a year (or something like that). What he does not say is who he is referring to as middle class. You have to have been paying attention when he said weeks earlier that a couple making 250,000 dollars a year is middle class. It is true enough that those of us who are lucky enough to be in this category would see their tax cut expire. [My husband and I are in this category and thus would see our tax bill rise. And that's fine with us. We could never have gotten beyond high school without heavy financial aid. And we are grateful for our public school education and the everyday heroics of law enforcement professionals, firefighters and others. We think veterans deserve rewards.] It is tempting to cite other examples, in part because they are so plentiful. But I think this one illustrates the broader point. I don't think I am alone in feeling frustrated with and saddened by the inexorable expansion and rise of bullshit. How did it happen? Can it be combatted? Is a retreat into privacy the only consolation in a bullshit infested world? Frankfurt has some ideas about where the bullshit explosion originated, and his answer offers additional insight into Romney's brazen performance in the first debate. Professor Frankfurt sees the postmodern preference for subjective truth sincerely rendered over objective truth as the main cause. It is a form of narcissism, for sure. And, as Frankfurt concludes, "sincerity itself is bullshit." Bullshitters are interested in one thing only: advancing their agenda. In order to do so, they must persuade people, which they do by exuding sincerity and talking fast. One of Plato's most important Socratic dialogues, The Gorgias, is devoted to this very problem, which proves, among other things, that bullshitters and bullshit have always been with us. Socrates uses his famous Socratic method to demonstrate that the art or "knack" of the rhetorician, which produces verbal sophistry, is antithetical to both philosophy and the truth. But these days, those sound like such quaint concepts, don't they? Where have all the lovers of wisdom gone? Let's not end on a pessimistic note, though. There may be hope. The bullshit detecters may be slipping into active mode. The urban dictionary's primary definition of "mitt romney" is "to change your position in order to win favors or votes". The third definition is wonderfully apt: "Something Massachusetts is happy to be rid of", also known as "Mitt the Shit" or "Mittens".

vendredi 5 octobre 2012

Etch-a-sketch my ass! Everyone knows Mitt's Slinky!

Mitt Romney, what a concept! It took him 17 days after the tape surfaced in which he is heard stating that 47% of all Americans are the unwashed masses who think they are entitled to everything from food to healthcare to air, who see themselves as victims, and who will thus never vote for him, in part because he would never be able to convince these victims to care about and take responsibility for their lives. Okay, I doubt there is anyone out there who has not heard the tape or at least heard about it, except maybe those who think all they need to know is on Fox News. Even they know about it now, though, because that Hannity fellow asked Mitt to clarify his remark last night. You see, Mitt had memorized an answer for when he was asked about it in the debate, but it did not come up. Perhaps we should fault Obama for this oversight; then again, maybe Obama knew Romney had a canned response and did not want to hear it during the debate. Let's get the chronology of events straight: Romney made his offending remarks, which then surfaced in an uncut tape. Her Haughtiness Ann Romney made a haughty and unsuccessful attempt to claim Mittens' remarks were taken out of context. Not. Mittens hastily called a press conference wherein, looking a bit like Shifty Nixon, he said that he stood by his remarks and that they were "inelegantly stated" but basically reflective of his worldview. As the days went by, the soundbite did not go away. So Mitt told reporters he was only trying to express the difference “between a government-dominated society and a society driven by free people pursuing their dreams.” He certainly did not disavow the sentiment caught on tape. Then came the debate. Romney delivered the various zingers he memorized, along with a bunch of mostly made-up facts, in a combative, fast-talking style that many found offensive. [As an aside here, I told my husband as we watched the debate that Romney's arrogant and fast-talking bully persona is exactly the kind of alpha male behavior that most women loathe. We have all known people like this and generally try and have nothing to do with them. Ugh.] Mittens, feeling high on testosterone after that performance, called up his campaign central - Fox News - and said he wanted to deliver his memorized response to the 47% problem. Hannity obliged the boss. Mitt then said "it" was completely wrong. Notice he did not say "I" was completely wrong - the devil is in the details and that extra "t" is just one of those details. Mittens never admits to being wrong. So one might wonder - and Hannity certainly did not ask - what, exactly, was wrong? The fact that he got caught saying it? The fact that he called 47% of all Americans victims who don't care about their lives? He did say that he thinks his life shows that he has always cared about 100% of the people. Say what? Those outsourced jobs? Those shuttered factories? Those unpaid pension obligations? That sweat factory in China he mentioned on the tape? Was he kidding when he said the high fences topped with barbed wire were to keep people out who wanted to join the inmates - I mean workers - inside the factory he had acquired? Because the fact is, the people inside work 16 hour days and are paid just pennies for their pain. Does Mittens have trouble sleeping at night or is he truly a full-fledged sociopath? He sure is Slinky and if you put a t in place of the l, you have a perfect description of the steaming pile that he delivers up on a daily basis. The best thing about Slinkies, as I recall, was that you could set them in motion at the top of a staircase and then watch them flip flop flip flop flip flop all the way down to the bottom of the stairs. In fact, that's basically all they did: flip flop. Wake the f*ck up, people!

jeudi 4 octobre 2012

Mitt Romney: Home of the Whopper!

Well, sorry I have been away for the last four months. The reason is kind of embarrassing, truth be told. I lost my blog, meaning I lost the capacity to access it. After trying to fix that problem for at least ten minutes, I concluded that what I really needed was a new computer. It turns out I was right, though it took me four months and thousands of word crashes to do something about it. Having a new computer is like getting a new body. And my old computer is like a room that has become so cluttered I just don't go in there any more. If you are interested in my thoughts on certain people profiting from the murder of Meredith Kercher, I am sorry to inform you that I will have no comments on the subject. I will say this: I sincerely hope that those currently doing so or about to do so enjoy their moment in the spotlight and then crawl under their respective rocks. And to the public, I would only say that the truth lies elsewhere, way elsewhere. I don't care much for Nancy Grace's in-your-face brand of talk television, but I think she nailed it on Knox and Co: why interview people who aren't going to tell the truth? Speaking of liars, did anyone make it through last night's debate? Mitt Romney: Home of the Whopper! That's probably a company Bain acquired and then forced into bankruptcy for all I know. Anyway, I think I have figured out Romney's plan to cut the deficit. He's going to eliminate funding to PBS, generating not only a whopping spending reduction of 445 million dollars a year but also a huge incentive for all the slackers who sit around in their jammies 24/7 watching documentaries to get dressed, get out the door and get a job at their nearest Staples store. For those who live in an area where one has been shuttered recently as part of the restructuring effort required to make sure shareholders get their big dividend, the option of moving should also be taken seriously unless the local KFC is hiring. Channeling Reagan here: VOTE WITH YOUR FEET, SUCKERS! But here's the deal: Romney says he will magically raise people's incomes so they get to pay taxes (which incidentally will also reduce the deficit by adding to the government's revenue and revenue base). Does this mean Mitt's going to raise the minimum wage or somehow require business owners to pay their employees higher wages? Or is the private sector suddenly going to realize that people need more money so they can buy the stuff these businesses produce and also pay taxes? Or will Mitt's across the board tax reduction (which he said he will only offer if it doesn't increase the deficit) come with the proviso that businesses have to plough some of that extra profit back into their payroll? Mitt's detailettes (not quite enough to be called details) are intriguing but they still don't add up. Expect no explanation, however. That just leads to trouble: questions, more questions and more questions. My other thought on the subject of The Whopper came to me at 4 am: Romney figures that with so many people getting back to work under his leadership - doing all those overtime hours at Staples or Walmart - they won't have time to watch public television anyway, so why not just eliminate its funding altogether? PBS funding costs each American about one dollar a year, after all. That dollar could be added to savings and eventually get you a pack of cigarettes instead! As for NPR, same thing. Where did people get the brazen idea that they are entitled to freely accessed culture? What an absurd idea! Next thing you know, they'll think they are entitled to food! There is an upside to all this though, folks: Since there will be no pressure whatsoever on these businesses to provide health care for their employees, people will forgo health care if they don't have it through their spouse and thus not be overly healthy if they make it to retirement. Therefore, they won't miss that "free" access to culture very much if at all. And this is probably a silver lining too, since most of these fantastic new jobs will either have no retirement benefits or they'll have retirement benefit obligations which can easily be dipsensed with. All that is needed is a Bain style intervention that will force the companuies into bankruptcy when their pension obligations start to become a burden. Here are my favorite images created in response to the Whoppers that The Whopper Mitt Romney served up last night. (Although, come to think of it, the only non-Whopper last night was when Mitt looked Jim Lehrer in the eye and said he was going to defund him. I can now understand what he meant when he said he likes to fire people. The Whopper was positively giddy with delight when he fired Jim Lehrer, effective immediately. You could tell it was immediate because The Whopper stepped in and ran the debate, pretending Lehrer had already left the building.):

mardi 15 mai 2012

Memo to Romney: gaming the system does not create jobs or heal economies

According to The Wall Street Journal, of the 77 companies in which Bain invested while Romney headed it from 1984 to 1999, 22 percent filed for bankruptcy or went out of business. In addition, Bain hid its profits in tax havens. And a recent article in Counterpunch quoted William D. Cohan, a Wall Street deal adviser for 17 years, who wrote in the Washington Post: “Seemingly alone among private-equity firms,” Bain Capital under Romney’s leadership “was a master at bait-and-switching Wall Street bankers to get its hands on the companies that provided the raw material for its financial alchemy.” Cohan said Bain “did all that it could to game the system.”

Out and about

Jo Cougan and me at Peter and Rachel's wedding, April 28, 2012.

jeudi 10 mai 2012

mercredi 9 mai 2012

Mitt Romney grabs credit for auto industry turnaround that should go to me!

Since it seems to be up for grabs, I would like to take a lot of credit for the auto industry turnaround. My grandpa and my daddy and my uncle all worked in the car business, so that entitles me. I was doing dealer trades the day I got my driver's license at age 16. I worked the switchboards and made sure the vending machines were working. I ripped up hundreds of Styrofoam coffee cups, just to pass the time, and doodled on hundreds of pages of Westside Ford letterhead. And then I supervised the auto industry turnaround, just like that. I snapped my fingers and it was done. So please ignore Mitt Romney - what kind of name is "Mitt" anyway? - he's just one more opportunistic trust fund baby, taking credit where it is certainly not due. Don't let him take the credit for my accomplishment!

jeudi 3 mai 2012

Monsieur Lazhar at the Egyptian

This Canadian film was the big winner at the recent Cérémonie de Génie, which is the French-Canadian version of the Oscars. I'm not surprised that this touching and magnificently filmed story was selected as the best film or that Mohamed Fellag, the actor who plays the title role, got the nod as best actor. The delightful 11-year old who plays one of the kids in Monsieur Lazhar's class, Alice (played by Sophie Nélisse), was named best actress in a supporting role. All the kids in this movie are fantastic. In fact, I find that the French (by which I mean French, Swiss, Belgian, Canadian, etc.) have mastered the art of realism in bringing children and stories about childhood to the big screen. Etre et Avoir, Entre les Murs, the more recent Tomboy and Le Gamin au Vélo... to name just a few. Basically, Monsieur Lazhar tells the story of an Algerian seeking political asylum in Québec who steps in to take over a primary school class after the teacher, a young woman, commits suicide. Bashir Lazhar is not really a teacher, as he claims, but he manages to connect with and understand the trauma induced by this violent introduction to death, for reasons that emerge in the course of the film. Indeed, the ubiquitous violence of the world outside the classroom is one of the underlying themes of the film. The teacher's suicide inside the classroom makes a strong statement about the futility of pretending the world is otherwise. Well-meaning adults provide assistance (a psychologist is assigned to regular visits with the class), but they are both afraid to let the kids speak their minds and express their real fears and stymied by the excesses of political correctness imported from the US that have seeped into the pedagogical framework they inhabit. Parents expect school to be meaningful but also demand that teachers to teach without educating. In a telling scene with the parents of one of his students, Bashir is explicitly told to enseigner mais pas éduquer. I couldn't help but think - in light of the events that may have provoked the teacher's violent suicide - about the bill being considered for passage in Tennessee, which would prohibit such gestures as hugging at school because these gestures are considered to be "gateway" sexual activity. This is a movie that raises important issues without trying to resolve them or push a point of view. It manages to both teach and educate without ever becoming heavy handed. Seul bémol: the ending.

jeudi 26 avril 2012

John Kercher's Meredith published today

I'm reading it now on my iPad and will be back later on to share the experience. In the meantime, download the book and start reading. If you live in the UK, go out and buy a copy or two. Many people have asked how they might contribute financially to the fight for justice for Meredith Kercher. John Kercher, in an interview in The Times, says that all proceeds from his book will go toward establishing a fund in Meredith's name. He also said the family passed on several lucrative deals offered by various media. As ever, they remain classy and dignified in a brutal and insensitive world.

jeudi 19 avril 2012

Mad men

Would you buy a used car from this man? I sure as hell wouldn't!

Mitticism of the Day

Meet Ann and Mittens, heiress and heir apparent to the throne
First in a series This morning on Fox and Friends, Mittens responded to Obama's comment (which he has made several times, which is factual and which does not necessarily refer to Romney) that he (Obama) was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth by saying, several times "I'm certainly not going to apologize for my dad and his success in life," and a little further on "I'm not going to apologize for my dad's success, but I know the president likes to attack fellow Americans." But here's the zinger, the Mitticism of the day: "And if I'm president, I will stop the attack on fellow Americans. I'll stop the attack on people and start attacking the problems that have been looming over this country." Is he going to do this before or after he gets rid of HUD and whatever other federal agencies he plans to abolish when he ascends to the throne? And since no King is complete with his Queen, here's Ann Romney with a Mitticism of her own: She told Diane Sawyer the other day that it was Mittens'turn to live in the White House: "I believe it's... Mitt's time... It's our turn now," she said. But the best is yet to come! Mittens also told Diane Sawyer that if elected, he would seek to have Roe versus Wade overturned. I'm not sure he knows exactly how that process works, but it does involve the Supreme Court. He can't just issue an edict. Stay tuned for tomorrow's Mitticism. Maybe I'll revisit my personal favorite, the one where Mitt states that his wife Ann reports back to him.

mercredi 18 avril 2012

Catio: a progress report

Since you asked, the catio project is moving along at a good clip.
Thanks are in order to BIL Terry Elliott, the man behind Paradigm Builders, Inc., for designing and now bringing into existence the catio. Our cats are so excited they're throwing up, hiding, meowing and waking us up at 5 am. Well, that's what they always do, but right now they are doing all of this in a particularly intense and appreciative way. THEY KNOW.

lundi 16 avril 2012

Peter Van Sant: Worst Person in the Universe Today

Peter Van Sant has just thought fit to attack John Kercher, the father of Meredith Kercher, who was murdered in Perugia, Italy, in November of 2007. Van Sant was one of the early adopters of the Amanda Knox as Innocent Abroad narrative fiction concocted by David Marriott, the PR consultant hired by Knox's family just a few days after she was arrested in connection with Meredith Kercher's murder. The PR-driven version of events caught on with the US mainstream media like wildfire, precisely because that mainstream is dominated today by the likes of Peter Van Sant. In his most recent contribution to the hatchet job being worked on the prosecutor, the victim, her family and the latter's lawyer, Van Sant basically tells John Kercher he ought to buy into the narrative fiction Van Sant helped to concoct, insinuates that the rest of the Kercher family is not behind John Kercher, and faults Kercher for not attending the appeal. What he doesn't mention is that John Kercher has suffered a series of strokes since his daughter was brutally murdered. In addition, he and his family did not have the luxury of traveling to and fro on the dime of the big American networks. I'm not even going to provide a link to this undignified and unfair attack on John Kercher. Peter Van Sant is a disgrace to the journalism profession.

Movies old and new (ish)

We watched Woody Allen's Sleeper this weekend, which I hadn't seen since it was released in 1973. I still can't get over the fact that 1973 was almost 40 years ago. I was a year away from high school graduation. Yikes! Sleeper is one of my favorite Woody Allen films, in part because it is a perfect combination of visual slapstick and Alleneque one-liners. The visual slapstick is part Benny Hill, part Charlie Chaplin, yet somehow different from both of those geniuses. Allen's vision of the future seems to focus mainly on the absolute triumph of bureaucratic incompetence and human greed. He places the action 200 years into the future, but I guess that's because he did not anticipate the acceleration of time. Loved: the old volkswagen, the old NY Times headline from 1991 (Pope's wife gives birth to twins), Diane Keaton getting brainwashed and turning into a sort of "Tanya" figure in a nod to the kidnapping and subsequent "brainwashing" of heiress Patty Hearst, the giant banana peel... in many ways, this movie is about the very premises of comedy. Earlier in the week, I went to see Le gamin au vélo at SIFF. It is a wonderful film, deserving of all the accolades it has gotten. One quibble: I don't think the English translation of the title is quite right. It isn't The Kid with a Bike or Kid with a Bike, it is The Kid with the Bike. The identity of the bike and its symbolic value for the kid are critical to the film and captured in the French title. The kid's dad sells his bike at the same time he abandons the kid. During the first part of the film, the kid is desperately seeking HIS bike because it links him to HIS dad. And he simply cannot believe his father has sold his bike, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Even when he is confronted with incontrovertible proof, you can see him pushing it away. The filmmakers, les frères Dardenne, are known for using mostly unknown actors. This time, they took a chance on a name - the Belgian acress Cécile de France. She is magnificent in this film, in the role of a hairdresser who takes the kid in.

mercredi 11 avril 2012

Caine's Arcade

This is a great way to start the day. I want to go to Caine's Arcade. I want to BE CAINE!

lundi 9 avril 2012


One of your drivers deliberately hit my car in downtown Seattle on Saturday. The driver was apparently disgruntled because my husband pulled out from behind him when he had the opportunity and positioned our tiny car in front of his gigantic truck, giving us better visibility and not compromising his in the least. At the next light, your driver deliberately nudged my car with the nose of his truck, with enough force to startle us. When my husband got out to inspect for possible damage, the driver would not budge. As a result, my husband's head was wedged between your truck and the back of our car and he could not see if any damage had occurred. I was frankly afraid for his safety. The driver was incredibly unpleasant and refused to get out of his truck or apologize. Had it been an accident, he surely would have. He actually denied having hit us, claimed we had rolled backward (we had not and were not on a hill), and yet yelled at my husband for pulling in front of him a couple of minutes earlier. Sounded like payback to us. We later discovered that he had dented my car in a couple of places. My husband called your company today and was told that nothing would be done. We wrote down the license plate and truck numbers. We have the time of the incident and other details. It is all well and good to put testimonials on your website about how clean your trucks are, but as far as I am concerned your company is not a force for good in the community if this is how your drivers behave with no sanctions or even concern on your part. I'll probably write a blog post about it, and I won't hesitate to use the real name of your company. I think people in the Northwest need to know what some of your drivers are apparently capable of. Someone could have been seriously hurt. Our car, by the way, is a tiny mini cooper (2002). It is no match for a huge cement mixing truck. Your driver is lucky that his lack of maturity only caused us to feel a jolt and only dented our car slightly. A minor miscalculation on his part and the outcome could have been far worse. Sincerely, Margaret Ganong

Book by Meredith Kercher's Father John to be Published Soon

That's the cover, a lovely photo of Meredith Kercher, whose murder in November 2007 will perhaps never be fully elucidated. Those who know something are not talking. But books galore are in the works. I'm pleased that John Kercher, Meredith's father, will beat both Sollecito and Knox to publication. Although virtually unknown in America, probably because he is Italian, Raffaele Sollecito has nonetheless managed to find a publisher thanks to his agent, who is lately based on Mercer Island, the affluent suburb to the east of Seattle that boasts more face lifts, boob jobs and French nails per square block than any other suburb on earth I'm told. Sollecito has found a bombastic journalist to cowrite his best version of the truth, which should be out by this fall. As for Amanda Knox, the publisher is saying 2013. A co-author has to be found and there is the pesky question of how Italy's Supreme Court will respond to Judge Hellmann's perplexing acquittal. I have high hopes for John Kercher's book. After all, he is actually a journalist and has no particular agenda. He just wants to pay homage to his daughter who, in the frenzied PR-driven attempt to clear the two white kids, was ruthlessly erased. Worse than that, she has been the victim of an organized, posthumous smear campaign. She deserves better. The Knox groupies are in quite a tizzy over John Kercher's book, and have been busy strewing its path to publication with the usual trash and innuendo. If they keep it up, they could be credited with boosting sales of this book. It will be out in the UK at the end of this month. Expect no coverage in Seattle, where the media have been told to forget about the dead girl. We have a very obedient media it seems. John Henry Browne just got front-page treatment in the Sunday Times. This is the guy who defends mostly white guys, it seems, saving them from the harshest penalties for heinous acts by invoking their rough upbringings and, if necessary, brain damage - usually temporary. Sound familiar? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only high-profile case under Browne's belt that I know of where the perp wasn't a white man was the one where he defended one of the authors of the Wah Mee massacre. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think more than 20 people were killed in that horrific spree.

mercredi 4 avril 2012

Impeaching the Supremes: it can be done

Meet Sister Bernie. She was arrested back in 2003 during an anti-war protest and subsequently strip-searched. The Supreme Court has just ruled 5-4 that it is okay to strip-search people like Sister Bernie. Writing for the majority (the majority of assholes currently sitting on the Court), Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that even “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.”

The more I stare at her photo, the more devious and dangerous Sister Bernie looks.

Below, my friends at Counterpunch are selling these cool buttons. Just $8 for three.

vendredi 30 mars 2012

Chicago is my kind of town

Give me liberty or give me death!

Had we gone to Chicago the weekend before, we would have had sunny 80° weather. As it was, we got temps in the upper 50's and 60's and lots of sun, except for Sunday, which started out gloriously; then the John Hancock Tower suddenly disappeared as a thick, wet fog rolled in while we were lunching/brunching at Gibson's, where actual Blackhawks players come for pre-game dining. No kidding! We saw the stars Walt had just skated with (that's another story). Anyway, the fog rolled in on little cat feet, to quote a renowned poet who was talking about another foggy city, and that was okay because Chicago looks lovely wrapped in fog. And let me tell you, there is something eerie about going up to the top of the John Hancock building and looking out at thick fog. We did that too. Then Walt and his cousins went off to see the Blackhawks play and meet THE Bobby Hull and THE Tony Esposito (that's part of the other story), and my friend Linda from Toronto and I walked the Magnificent Mile, snapping photos and ducking into shops and generally just looking at people and buildings. This is not an original observation, but let me just say that Chicago is a paradise for those who like urban architecture and outdoor art. Everyone has heard of the great Chicago fire of 1871, after which the city basically arose from the ashes. This seems to have led to an outburst of creativity and innovation that makes Chicago one of the most visually stunning American cities I have ever seen. The great thing is seeing so many different architectural styles cohabiting without competing for attention. They seem to blend into a seemless and somehow harmonious whole.

I just had to photograph this Nathan Hale statue, which is a replica of Bela Lyon Pratt's 1912 statue on the campus of Yale University. It was erected by the Chicago Tribune and stands in a small courtyard in front of the low-rise addition to the north of the Tribune Tower. In this bronze sculpture, Hale is about to be executed. The addition, incidentally, is modeled after the Rouen Cathédrale's Tour de Beurre, which was built starting in 1488. Why is it called the Tour de Beurre (Butter Tower), I wondered. Well, here's the answer: It is named for the tax levied on people for the right to eat butter during Lent. Let them eat butter! So French, n'est-ce pas?

The Tribune Tower, at 435 North Michigan Avenue, was built in the early 1920's. It is a fantastic example of neo-Gothic design, with flying buttresses and everything. The arched entrance is carved with figures from Aesop's fables, and gargoyles grace the facade. But what most intrigued me were the rocks and bricks embedded here and there in the facade, all of them marked to indicate where they were carried to the US from by Tribune correspondents stationed abroad. For some reason, they reminded me of the cobblestone streets of La Rochelle, which are partially fabricated from the ballast of ships coming back from across the Atlantic. In fact, the early French settlers in Canada set sail from La Rochelle (including the founders of Montreal). I learned these things quite by accident one day when I lived in La Rochelle, as I was scurrying to the outdoor market and fell into conversation with a little old man who ended up taking me on an impromptu tour of the secret treasures of La Rochelle. By the way, the photo on my masthead, of the tree and the sea and the distant sailboats, was taken in La Rochelle.

Speaking of treasures, just next to the Chicago Tribune building is a giant statue of Marilyn Monroe. It almost looks like something you would find in Madame Toussaud's Wax Museum or Andy Warhol's factory. Look at all these people! Are they trying to get a look at Marilyn's crotch or get away from it? Hard to tell.

Marilyn, stuck forever in that dress

Remnants of the fog that came in on little cat feet

jeudi 22 mars 2012

Things fast and loose

For those of you who followed the Meredith Kercher murder trial, I just have one question. Does this b*llshit below sound at all familiar? I'm not just talking about the murder and the trial and the defense, I am also talking about some of the loopier peripheral events involving outsiders who became actively involved, some of them from Seattle (material below quoted from the New York Times article that appeared after Robert Bales was formally charged)*:

There’s definitely brain injury, no question about it,” Mr. Browne said.

Mr. Browne said Thursday that he expected the charges.

“I’m not persuaded by many facts,” he said. “There’s no crime scene. There’s no DNA. There’s no confession, although they’re leaking something, which I don’t believe until I see it. This is going to be a hard case for the government to prove. And my client can’t help me a lot with some of the things because he has mental problems and I believe they’re totally legitimate.”

So if Browne believes that these mental problems drove Bales to kill 17 innocent people and that they are legitimate, I'd like to know what his plan is for keeping this guy from "snapping" again and killing more innocent people? What is his plan for this in the US, where gun control is, well, pretty loose?

And, while we are on the subject of shooting people, is anyone besides me shocked to learn that 21 US states now have laws that allow anyone to shoot to kill if they feel threatened? It turns out that Florida is not the only state that has made it super easy to carry a gun and super easy to use it. All you have to say is that you were standing your ground! Just remember to shoot to kill, so that there is only one side to the story. And if there are witnesses, kill them too.

*For those who did not follow the Meredith Kercher murder case, I should explain: One of the local luminaries who participated in the shameful US media manipulation campaign, driven by the Seattle PR firm (Marriott Gogerty Stark) hired by the parents of Amanda Knox (the American initially convicted and then acquitted, whose acquittal is pending final court review), was picked up for drunk driving when the car she was driving hit a median. A local lawyer, she initially claimed that her car had been hit and that she had suffered a head injury that caused her speech to become slurred and her behavior to mimic that of an inebriated person. She did not explain how this same injury caused a strong smell of alcohol to emanate from her car... She then tried to use her media connections (and a PR advisor) to get the brain injury story out, and got a psychiatrist friend involved as well. No one bought the story. I spoke to many lawyers who generally rolled their eyes and said gimme a break. She eventually pleaded guilty to the DUI. A few months ago, I was alerted to the fact that she was able to wipe it off her record. It is apparently possible to do so if you are willing to pay thousands of dollars or if you have the legal connections and knowledge needed to do the footwork.

samedi 17 mars 2012

Neko, Munchkin, the Catio

Neko, pictured here on the cat perch, was named after Neko Case, who should feel honored by this. Neko Case lived in and has written proudly about the city of Tacoma, which is where we got our Neko. Neko is also named after the Velvet Underground Nico, but we had to choose a spelling and we went with Neko. Sometime later, we learned that in Japanese, Neko means "cat", though it is pronounced Neh-ko or Nay-ko. Our Nee-ko has been raised with cats and has learned many behaviors typically associated with cats, like climbing into very tight spots and then peering out at the world and eating cat food every time my back is turned. She also eats cat poop, which no cat in its right mind would ever do. Neko loves the kitty roca despite becoming a social outcast when other four-legged critters notice the litter rocks stuck in her chin hairs. And her breath could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon! One of Neko's favorite catty things to do is to climb up on the cat perch when the sun comes out. And believe it or not, the sun came out yesterday for what in Seattle passes for an extended period. We only caught a few drops on our walk.

For some reason, I put my coat on the floor when we came in yesterday from our walk. In fact, it was because the coat rack was full and I really, really had to pee. Munchy the wonder cat generally makes things up as she goes along, and I like that about her. Yesterday, she saw my coat on the floor and decided to occupy that space for awhile.

In other feline news, we have decided to build a "catio" for Munchy and her sister Pushkin (aka Pushy) so that they can enjoy the great outdoors without getting killed by their main urban predators: cars, coyotes and raccoons. There is a small deck off our bedroom that we don't use. It would make a perfect catio for the girls. We'll have to custom build it, but that should not be too difficult. Please note that when I use the word "we" in connection with anything that involves construction or furniture assembly, I mean Walt. I'm more of an interior design expert. I'm visualizing some dirt, some rocks, some non-poisonous plants, maybe some pieces of driftwood to serve as perches, some shelves to crawl along. Something like this:

They are going to love it. And you're going to love My Tacoma by Neko Case. This is a terrific video:

vendredi 9 mars 2012

Deep in the Heart of Austin

Sunday, March 4, 2012
Downtown Austin
Taken from the 27th floor condo of friends who live within walking distance to the ACL.

mercredi 29 février 2012

Dead Monkees and Jolie Jambes: what is the world coming to?

Jolie spoofs

Although I hate to admit it, I watched the Oscars this year. And like everyone else, I thought they were awful and could not tear myself away from the television. I needed to see every awful minute. I don't care what anyone says, including JLo, she did have a wardrobe malfunction. There was definitely the shadow of a nip that was not properly tucked. I'm not sure why she was a presenter. No one else knows either, except my husband, who at first tried to say she had had some kind of bona fide career in the movies - to which I replied "Monster in Law!" - and then, realizing the folly of that statement, he retreated, mumbling something about how it had been determined that she appeals to a certain demographic. Ah! That's more like it.

I don't know when the Oscars became a runway show, with some of the models even affecting little runway poses. It didn't used to be that way. Then I left America for more than two decades, and when I came back the Oscars were all messed up. All I know is that this is not my fault. (As an aside, Davey Jones died today, and I can hear in the distance yet another Monkees song on the radio. Enough already!) The worst Oscar moment this year, and there were many to choose from, was probably Angelina and the Aggressive Leg Shot. I think everyone agrees on this point. What was she thinking? Angelina, what were you thinking? You looked really, really stupid, even though you are gorgeous, etc. Maybe you wanted to prove that you are, after all, a mere mortal? There has to be a better way.

And while I'm on the subject of movies and the Oscars, can someone explain why Steven Spielberg's War Horse was among the films nominated for Best Picture? Is the Academy afraid of pissing him off or something? And though I think Martin Scorcese has made some great films, Hugo is not among them and it was quite annoying to hear everyone thanking the great Marty S profusely, as if they were afraid not to. You'll never work in this town again kind of thing. Just as an aside, has Martin always had those Groucho Marx eyebrows? Scary.

The real purpose of this post is to say that I've been reading so much lately I haven't had time to do much else. Latest read: L'amour et des poussières by Clémence Boulouque. Feelings: Mixed. Maybe I'll elaborate another time, if only to figure out why this book bothered me before my book club meets to talk about it.

Me in my Oscar attire,at the after party (and if you can read what is written on my t-shirt, then you do not need to feel concerned by those words for a few more years at least):