Monday, June 25, 2007

Legitimate beef

What the heck is the deal with corn these days?

Food costs are skyrocketing, and I haven't read much about inflation, but I know it's impacting my own budget. Particularly annoying is the rising cost of corn and all things corn-related.

The big yellow corn disaster a couple years ago (genetically modified yellow corn proved not to work out... too bad that's all we planted and we didn't bank adequate seed for UNMODIFIED corn. Whoops.) was enough.

(Okay, off the topic for a second. I don't fear genetic modification as much as many health conscious foodies... for the reason that all of the food we eat is modified heavily by selective breeding and other natural means of major genetic manipulation. So, we do things differently with bioscience "FrankenFoods"; we're doing the SAME things differently. On the other hand... Monocropping is bad. If you get one little blight or fungus, it might wipe out a whole, unexpectedly fragile, staple crop. Like, say, yellow corn. And I don't like modifying for indigestibility, as with Olestra and Splenda (I know they do it after the fact... some genius will get the OTHER idea sometime and raise non-nutritive plants.) And I am not very keen on selecting for nasty characteristics, like "does not rot but tastes like wallpaper," or like "is always the same size." Select for flavor and nutrients, you bastards.)

Back to the topic. Cost; all things corn-related. Take birdseed, for example.

"Birdseed?" You might ask.

Birdseed. Wild Bird World sent us a flyer stating that the cost of some bird foodstuffs, like, obviously, cracked corn, but also such treats as sunflower seed and niger thistle, will skyrocket; this affects the policies they must have regarding seed banking (different meaning than the usual seed banks, meaning supply from which we can preserve a species; in this case it means buying large portions and picking it up a little at a time) like putting shorter deadlines on pickup dates, etc. Why?

Because many farmers who produce corn are now selling it for ethanol production. Not for birdseed; more importantly, not for cooking oil (where sunflowers and niger comes in, as they are healthy trans-fat free alternatives and are therefore otherwise threatened as birdseed)! And not for cattle feed, so the price of beef, milk products, and cheese are soaring. (If you were ever considering giving up the biggest darkest sin in American politics, the beef and milk lobby-- which is another whole source of rage and ranting for me but I will get to it later, now is the time to give it a go.)

The world's gone mad. For one thing, a lot of this stuff is rank opportunism; cows eat a hell of a lot of other stuff than corn (e.g. cows! Okay, not so much anymore, but perhaps other ugly things... certainly soy. Know something about soy? Tofu is WAY down. I've bought it for a dollar a tub the last 10 times I've bought it.) Look that horse in the mouth. The reason costs are up is because supply and demand say you'll pay more for your corn; any other reason offered is padding.

Corn, as in cornmeal, chips, and cooking oil, is off the chart. And yet the bigger-than-you're-supposed-to-eat-for-a-dayburger is still under $1. To quote Yakov Smirnoff... what a country. Birdseed goes up, but beef stays on subsidy.

Fuel costs are up? Well, obviously the answer is to raise food costs, not to stop producing Hummers and start MANDATING hybrids, or at least fuel efficiency. /sarcasm

My 1980s self is still disgruntled not to have a hovercraft, let alone an electric car. Bah.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Scents I'm wondering...

Fragrance is really important to me. It evokes more of my memory than any other part of my sensorium. I am fascinated by the way single fragrance notes blend to create accords that don't resemble their components. I should have been a "nose"; I've got a mad love of scents that doesn't match my perpetual budget.

I wear "foodie" scents really well, so even though they are offensively trendy at the moment, I am usually happy with them. I am trying to experiment just now with other fragrance palettes: green, marine, floral.

I adore Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Amour de Cacao. It is gorgeously chocolatey and not at all cheap or synthetic smelling, which makes me very happy.

Lately, I've been wearing Pilar and Lucy's The Exact Friction of Stars. It is both more fabulous and slightly cheaper smelling. But it evolves all day, blooming with different notes that delight my nose. Chocolate, orange, cinnamon, vanilla, and stuff like that. Foody. Very foody. It has its cheap candle shop moments, but that's all right.

I just made the mistake of putting on Pilar and Lucy's Tiptoeing through the Chambers of the Moon. The moon in question is menopause. It smells like Tabu, only, if possible, more horrible... incensey, with a sneaky patchouli backing that only creeps out after an hour. I loathe patchouli on my skin, loathe it! It takes scrubbing to remove.

Even more lately, I've been wearing the girlishly tacky Monyette Paris original fragrance oil roll on. It's not as disgusting as it sounds, but florals are not for me. It's crazy with jasmine and magnolia, and a little vanilla in the drydown... so girly it freaks me out.

I just discovered Calypso Chretiene Celle's The - a pure, tea aroma that smells positively drinkable, yet isn't foody in the "heavy baked goods" way I have been so into. Love it.

What are you wearing?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The nagging question

I've been sick for about a week, and took two days off work this week. Dizziness, nausea, tiredness, elevated blood pressure, and aches and pains. Annoying. Pretty much over with, too, thank the Maker.

No, I am NOT pregnant.

Sheesh. Get sick with symptoms of dizziness, nausea, tiredness, elevated BP, and aches and pains, and the whole world asks you one question. "Are you pregnant?"

Invariably, I say: "No. I have an IUD."

Almost as invariably, they respond: "Oh, girlfriend, I have known so many people..."

And then there you are, awash in naked fear you feel guilty for experiencing. Fear of ectopic pregnancy and its symptoms, fear of losing a fetus you did not plan and suffering the grief and guilt because you use mutagenic medicines and drink a lot of caffeine and, face it, have a copper deedle-bopper impaling the neck of your uterus, fear of having a child, mutated flipper-baby with copper deedlybops or otherwise. The worst thing is that you are reduced to a sliver of your identity, not even the feebly individual bastion of gender, but just plain old ineradicable biology: not a career person, not a hobbyist, not so-and-so's friend and so-and-so's loved one, not an educated person of integrity and courage... no, you are, at that moment, rhetorically demoted to a uterus and a sack of helpless hormones. Because you know that's how they see you, with a glee half joy and half malice.

I love you all, but hey-- my eyes are up here.

Fine. I peed on a stick. And as expected, I am not pregnant. Which is just as the Emperor had foreseen... because I do have an IUD, I do use a mutagenic medicine (my rosacea ointment), I do intake mammoth amounts of caffeine, I am haphazard about my nutrition (not like most Americans, but still, not like an expectant mother), and I am a citizen of the First World who is sure she is not (quite) ready (if she ever will be).

[Now might be a good time to mention that I fully admire people who choose to have kids and who raise them with attention and care. I just don't think the automatic assumption that "you're pregnant" needs to follow any dizzy spell... hell, it could be a brain tumor. Here's hoping that doctors are more scrupulous than co-workers in their characterizations.]

I've been exceedingly pissed off at the excellent (if only because it does not charge the dunderheaded audience to vote) reality TV show, On the Lot, for similar reasons.

Many of the eighteen junior directors spotlighted in competition therein are remarkable. Many are just not there (yet if ever, like me and parenting): immature social vision, mawkish plots and characters, distracting cinematographic decisions. Unfortunately, two of the worst are women-- and that's two out of only six women included in the original eighteen. Two of the original six/eighteen women directors are already off the show... and they are not the beastly ones.

Every time Garry Marshall opens his big fat mouth to talk to a female director (or the show's female host, or about a female actor) he annoys the daylights out of me. "You bring a female vision to this field and I, for one, want to see more women directors-- but maybe this was too much like a feminine hygeine ad or a Hallmark movie. Proceed directly to Oxygen!-- do not pass Go, do not collect $200." (Okay, so he didn't say it, but by God, it's what he's been saying.)

And it's not just him: Carrie Fisher, who ought from hard experience to know fucking better, does it too. "You're going to have to try harder than that to make it as a woman in this business."

And one of the rather good ones has already been stereotyped: "You make sexy films." How much shall we blame her if she wears scandalously low necklines and calls Garry Marshall "big daddy?" Grrrrrrrr.... there's a point when "what's a girl to do?" is too easy.

Goddamn it. As Mims might put it: They suck because they suck. I would personally like to posit the idea that it is because they just aren't good at story or characters, and not because they have a certain chromosomal morphology. Or they are good because they are good. Can't it be that simple? And why not?

Maybe they are trying too hard to bring a fresh and gendered vision to the screen: that would guarantee its suckage, because diagetic art is always strident and grating. Quite probably gender inequality is at the top of their minds as they produce these short films. But why should dismissal be that simple and that independent of our taste as an audience? I think that's the logical extension of the gender approach to critiquing their art.

Certainly the sucky ones have pissed me off with their self-presentation: Hilary Weisman Graham's "look at me I am a Jewish stay at home mom," and Jess Brillhart's "oh it's so hard to be a woman director, aren't men stupid?"

Anyway. Do someone a favor and forget about her uterus today. Even if she's you. It'll keep me from going round the bend, which is a definite possibility.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mutual admiration society

So... who wants to form up and be in a writers' group?

This is a serious request. If it's not you, but you know somebody, please do refer them.

I don't have all the kinks worked out on how one can do this long distance, but I notice that many of my lovely literary friends are also lovely authors. I am devouring the startling page-turner that my dear Pathogen has kindly let me read, and I have handed him my (still very incomplete) science fiction draft in return. Robert L. writes eloquent, deep, pellucid poems. My brother Robert, Pat, and I have an action-farce screenplay in the works together. While the styles are distinct and the genres wander with our tastes, I cannot help but think that we could be of support to one another... either through honest and constructive critique, or through simply keeping one another on task.

We can bring our diverse backgrounds to the table. I can offer something beyond an earnest desire to discuss the beautiful things people write: I was a writing center tutor for two and a half years. It has been forever since then, but I hope that some of that constructive collaborative goodness sticks with me.

I leave it up to you. Also, if you're on the fence but looking for a trove of references, spiky advice, and brutal peeks into the working world of a literary agent, I recommend the brilliant blog by Miss Snark, which has come to an end but whose back archives are pure, bad-tempered gold.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I didn't write this.

But I wish I had. is the source from whom the person I cribbed this from originally cribbed it. Credit where credit is due.

Now read their wonderful parable:
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar...and the beer.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes." The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions--things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else--the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. "Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers."

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Life is contagious. That's a good thing, generally speaking. But it is a contagion... I've been idly wondering how it works.

But think about it... the miracle of a body learning how to function from another body. A child forming from a union of cells, but more than that... the strange fact that it will probably know how to simply be alive, heart pumping and lungs inflating and deflating and cells moving oxygen and energy and who knows what. Holy. Cow.

We did a picnic yesterday with our friends, who have a 3-year-old. Camped on a blanket under a wind-gnarled eucalyptus tree festooned with long leaves, some of them as broad as my hand, and sworled strips of its own peeled bark, I listened to frogs and shallow surf, and breeze through bushes and eucalyptus stands, and smelled the bituminous salt of my beloved Pacific in the sampire grasses, and watched brown pelicans and marbled godwits and sparrows and a 3-year-old human. It was cool and foggy and the hills and city across the (incredibly shallow) bay looked like something out of a movie, fake, a matte painting. Vegetarian food (very eclectic... spanning from fake ham and cheese on wheat to marinated eggplant to sushi rolls stuffed with cream cheese and cucumber to home picked blackberries from our friends' yard) and tree climbing. And laugh at the graffiti of the ejaculating penis on the tree, and please dear God don't touch the semen-stained cheap blanket tucked up in the branches, thinking it is a garment of your friends. Dammit, some forms of contagious life ought not to be shared... I suppose the spray painted "KEEP OUT" on the thickest bole of the tree should have warned me. Thank goodness for alcohol gel... plentifully and immediately. Shh, yes it does, yes it DOES work. La la la la, can't hear you, la la la.

At home, today. I have so much to do. I elected to pick what would make me happy, and did my chores, and fed the birds. Again, the teeming magnificence of life. We have a wealth of young birds coming to our backyard to be fed. Young goldfinches, woodpeckers, scrub jays, and what we expected the most... ducks.

There are seven baby ducks coming to our cafeteria. Three "half ducks" that are almost-grown and starting to feather up, and four itty beige and brown peeps. They are gorgeous.

We went out tonight to fill the thistle sock and seed feeder, to put out new blocks of suet, and to feed the ducks. A beaver pulled down a sapling and dragged it into the creek not far from our house (and me without flood insurance... I begin to worry.) Sir Max-a-Lot and Duckira, the highly recognizable and ubiquitous domestic/mallard hybrids that come to greet our car with begging expressions every evening, mobbed us and made their little "wheepling" noises until we gave them a big scoop of hen scratch. Mama-Duck and her four littles came to eat, and she lowered her head and charged impressively at Enemy Duck and Enemy Duck's Mottled Mate every time they came to eat, ignoring all others. Runty the Half Duck came and hoovered up as much scratch as she could. Her speculum (the white and blue patch on a mallard's wing) is starting to show and she looks a little less runty than heretofore.

Pat took pictures of the goldfinches and woodpeckers and Scrubbles sat on our plastic picnic table and grabbed peanuts by the twos and threes, preparing to bury them in the bark that now comprises most of our front yard (bark shreddies, with weird oases of tall grasses and flowers... our landscaper's weird idea and it looks wonderful, except that it is pocked with peanuts.)

I cleaned my fridge out. It had contained strawberries and peaches gone very syrupy and embellished with green fuzzy things. Definitely not good eats, as Alton Brown would put it.

All my laundry is done.

How was your weekend?