Friday, July 27, 2007

The inevitable remorse

I used uncommonly sharp language to express my frustration. That makes what I said not only shocking and potentially unpopular, but mean.

I grew up in California in the 80s. We are Oscar Wilde's legacy in a sense... rattling off quips is often a substitute for real thought or intelligence among my peers (and myself.) We are gifted with extraordinarily vicious tongues, and we are trained to use them.

Why would I call domestic animals "crap machines?" Why would I ever elect to use the word "blather?" So unkind... and I apologize.

You may gauge by the language I chose how strong was my reaction. Oh, I was furious.

Let me explain, in brief, and while someone will inevitably be implicated, I hope it doesn't make them unhappy.

You wouldn't know it from that last post, or maybe not at all. But... I have eggshell-thin emotional skin, and it's fragile. People with whom I identify, or those with whom I sympathize, are so close to me that I feel shame if they say something I know is foolish, and pain if they suffer.

I have watched with increasing dismay as my community has gone through several conversations that I felt were amazingly dangerous.

The first that got under my skin was a thread about somebody's health. Essentially she could not void, and had serious edema in her legs. She had had this condition for several days. Her legs would hold the impression of a hand and they were bruised.

What was her solution? Glad you asked... she went to the health food store and bought herbal water pills.

Some of us advised her to go to the doctor. By far the majority of us gave her unqualified medical advice and/or approved or suggested herbal expedients.

Good. Lord.

Then there was (I think this is the same person, but I am too lazy to verify, how shameful of me) the person who pitched a fit because her neighbor called the police when her dogs got too noisy or stinky. She was fussing because she had "had to" adopt another dog to avoid putting it into a shelter's custody, and her resources and her neighbors' tolerance was stretched to the limit. Nobody (including me) spoke up to say, "your neighbor is RIGHT. You are not zoned for that, and feces is a dangerous risk. Also, your post leads me to infer that your animals are not spayed, neutered, or in receipt of immunizations... you are creating a health risk for the animals in question as well as your community."

Le sigh.

And then there was "My baby is starving to death, and I refuse to feed him what my doctor suggests. I am not going to get a second opinion from a vegan-friendly nutritionist; I am going to ask you lot for your unqualified medical advice." The response? "You go, girl." Not, "maybe your child needs medical help," nor "maybe now is the time to consider being flexible about the stringency of your criteria."

Perhaps the most troubling are the multiple current forum threads about vandalism of Hummers, ways of vandalizing/pranking "hateful" neighbors who disapprove of some exhibit of deviant behavior (and I am not talking about dietary preference, I am talking about openly baiting the neighborhood), etc. As a moral community, and it is, it really is, I think the forum participants should express more outrage. As things stand, it's divided; many objections (thank goodness) but also many gleeful suggestions (ugh.)

And of course the subject of my last rant, "I freed a cat from the Animal Control live-trap set up in my community, and turned it loose without a moment's thought to its survival in the urban wilderness and its many potential progeny, please worship me." And we all stood up and applauded.

Now, I do applaud any movement toward animal welfare.... but cannot animal control be a part of animal welfare? Particularly where the bigger picture, the ecology, and wild animals' welfare is concerned? The best thing we can do for our domestic animals, in the long run, is prevent them from making more. Those of us who worry about shelter overcrowding do know that. What is scarier than the needle, the gas, or the KFC employee's boot is the institutions that promote such callousness and such dreadful exigencies.

It goes on and on, and essentially it is my own cowardice that enrages me. Why I do not speak up and go "oh my goodness, NO!!!" I don't know. That is what my conscience tells me to do, but the courtesy of the community and my desire to be a part of it often keeps me silently queasy.

And I'm kicking myself. The world isn't that scary a place. For instance... at work, a few weeks ago, I refused to falsify a document in order to keep someone's policy valid. I wasn't asked to do so, but I was scolded** (in text, in our virtual file cabinet) about not having done so. I responded with a flat, "I will not perjure myself in order to cover a client." I wondered where that would go... and a co-worker who discovered my note gave me a big hug and told me she was "So! Proud! Of! You! I am just so proud! Good for you!"

(** Not by my boss.)

Any place but the Internet (and possibly California), it is easy to stand up and dissent without offending... or it used to be. But tempers flare and resentments are so serious... we fall into such immediate intimacy with our compeers online. I am timid to offend. And you know what? I'm nurturing ruffled feathers, too, about this whole thing... if someone had any of these conversations with me face to face I would tell them "I disagree," but I'm torturing myself because I do not dare to do it in print.

Anyway. I am sorry if I offended... and I am sure I must have. I offended myself. But it twists me in knots to watch people make choices like "health food store water pills, not doctors," "hate my neighbor, not moderate my behavior," "let baby starve, rather than continuing prescribed treatment" (mind you, this one is fraught and complex and I am on the fence about parts of it, so don't be mean to me), and "how can I damage my fellows' property without going to jail?", and "I abandoned a feral cat! Hooray!" And I have a feeling that not watching is just not the answer I am looking for.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You kids get off my lawn!

It may be time to tell my vegan forum community goodbye, before I become intolerable to them through having a meltdown.

I love them... they are moral people (though we may differ in the specifics on many points), they are sensitive people, generally speaking, and they share a food aesthetic with me that goes pretty deeply into my everyday preferences.

They have gone from thrilling me by loving animals and each other, to boring me bugnuts by blathering about their pets, to driving me out of my skull by their stupid decisions about animal protection. Not everyone in it, mind you, but as a community. The forest, not the trees.

Listen to me.

If you rescue animals, good. If they are WILD animals, even better.

Cats and dogs and such are very nice, yes. Spay or neuter the little bastards and keep them inside. This is what they do outside: They make more predators. They murder the wildlife. They cause property damage. They devour toxins and die. They get hit by cars. They are a nuisance, they are a drain (and when Animal Control rounds them up on my dime and with my heartfelt and sad blessing, if you turn them loose, you are the enemy of my pocketbook), and they are living shorter and sicker lives than they would indoors.

All this talking head blather about "rescuing" animals by freeing them from Animal Control live traps, or cramming your backyard with still-half-feral crap machines creating a noise nuisance and a stink that can be tasted for blocks, or any of that kind of misdirected moral smugness...

Go. Find out what they do to wild animals with nowhere else to go, whose fragile ecosystems have already been crushed beyond survival threshold by the same idiots (us) that imported the cats and dogs you are "saving."


Yes, I know most of them are like 13-17 years old and are probably surviving anorexia or suicide because having other hammerheads to snuggle with is cushioning their fragile, eggshell sensitive egos, so brutalized by the mean horrible world.

Nature is red in tooth and claw. Put Fifi outside and she will either feed on, or feed, someone else--if only roadside crows. She will not go purchase her own gourmet vegan dog food. Put Felix outside and he will kill hundreds of animals before succumbing to some form of organ disease (or vehicle) that he would never have encountered inside. At least he won't go blind from being denied taurine by a "well-meaning" vegan owner.

I'm all for morality, all for it! But shouldn't we have a requirement alongside to be oh, say, at least marginally smart about our endeavors?

Le sigh. It's largely my own fault and the fault of people like me, for nodding my head and making polite noises when people tell me they did something morally sterling but totally incorrect... such as, say, "rescuing" a baby bird because you believe its parents won't take it back once it's been handled (such birds almost always die, and the parents do take them back... most birds lack a sense of smell and if you don't fuss around giving them a nervous breakdown, they will come right back for baby if you put him in the nest or on the branch.)

I should tell people on the spot: "nice thought, but your cat will probably live a much shorter time since you let him outside, and he will kill hundreds of animals. Cat spit and claws are toxic: even "barely scratched" animals will die. Also, his many kittens will glut the shelters."

How do I become this person? And will it help?

In my own backyard

The last couple days have been the days for weird surprises in the backyard.

Night before last, we were coming home and saw a SOMETHING. It wasn't a cat, it wasn't a fox, and it looked (to me) a lot like a marten. It had a pointy face and rounded triangle ears back and high on its head, long legs (this is where marten breaks down a bit), long tail, relatively uniform color with more variation (pale buff chin?) on the face, and ran front-back-front-back, not deedly-deedly-deedly like a cat. Don't know what it was. I do know a whole list of what it was not.

Last night, a mantis lunged up out of my carrots and beets when I watered them (and it). It watched me quizzically, no doubt wondering if I was danger or food, while I talked to it. Lovely, pale brown thing. So very welcome in my yard... eat pest bugs, little mantis. I'll be careful of you when I pick beets.

I didn't get a picture because we have 1 MIA camera and 1 broken camera (due to be repaired free of charge by Canon, because it is a known error). We searched high and low for the missing one, but it never has worked too well and who knows where we put it when we moved?

(I am also missing a Very Important Cable, but that is neither here nor there. Obviously. Or I wouldn't be missing it. Last move, it was, somewhat bizarrely, a huge box of baking trays (cookie sheets, muffin tins, cooling racks, etc.), my salad spinner, a few utinsils, and suchlike that went over the wall.)

Then, near twilight, Pat called me into the kitchen to look out at the feeder. A pretty little rat was sitting on it, nibbling. Not greedily like the accursed squirrels, but very daintily.

Bizarrely, I had found woodrats online earlier in the very same day when googling for California wildlife. Otherwise I would never have remembered them. They have sleek hairy tails, not scaly icky tails like a Norwegian ratty-rat.

We have a woodrat.

He is exquisite, soft brown with curled-forward dark whiskers, bright eyes, and plush tail. Pretty. Gentle looking. Polite. Not entirely unwelcome at my feeders.

Nonetheless, he is not welcome in the house... he must stay Out There.

What's new for you?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Be careful what you wish for.

1. We have a Red-Shouldered Hawk who sits on our trees or the back fence, stalking the wily ground squirrels. Evidently ground-dwelling rodent is a gourmet feast for her kind, and she is less interested in both the amphibians who inhabit the creek-lake-cum-pond behind the house (ribbit) and the little birds whose feeders she hunkers amidst.

2. The splinted sunflower looks pitiful. All its petals dropped off and fled. It would give me no joy, except that the birds like it now better than ever. About a third of its seeds have been eaten-- neatly, as humans would harvest an ear of corn with their teeth!- and its leaves are tattered lace. I love the disfigured thing better than ever I did its more beauteous aspect. Not content with that, the tiny finches have discovered the seed heads forming on my dill plants (we decided to let them go to seed). Watching them naively and determinedly try to perch on a spinning seed head while devouring it is one of life's chiefer charms.

3. Pat has two jobs opening up -- one next week, one in mid-August. Famine to feast, scraping by to planning for alternate futures.

Blundered onto a delightful blog post...

...on one of my favorite perfume-related blogs. Oh, my. How evocative, how captivating this topic is for me. And I have so much to say about it... and I thought you'd all like to share.

Now Smell This featured a post on one's earliest fragrances, and the memories associated with them. It invites readers to write about their own earliest experiences with perfume. Me, I remember several episodes... the pretty scent my Grandma Rose wore, which was almost certainly by Avon, and the very pretty folk bug repellent Skin-So-Soft she swore by. Grandma Red let me play with a little scent bottle that once held something sweet and powdery-smelling, which was empty in my childhood... I filled it with water and wore the faintly scented water over and over and can still smell the fragrance in the empty bottle now that I have inherited it. The neighbor girl, Katrina, had a "perfume factory" play kit of some kind with various fragrance notes and small funnels and droppers... we created what we thought were very rare, costly, and unique scents that were naturally rather well circumscribed by the creators of the kit. I think it was probably Avon, too, looking back; her mom sold Avon products. My mom and I discovered Love's Vanilla together and were devastated when it was discontinued. It seemed to us to be quite the perfect single-note vanilla scent, and we wanted more. Mom's Babe, which her chemistry made just divine: spicy, etherial, and fresh all at once. My mom's racy best friend Betsy's Youth Dew and Estee Lauder and other powdery sweet nectars. Auntie Avanell's boudoir dresser, bejewelled with numerous glorious bottles of middle-cost-to-first-rate perfumes: she wore L'Air du Temps and it was heavenly. The sweet peas, Cecil Brunner mini-roses, irises, and orange blossoms in Grandma Red's yard; the oh-so-edible honeysuckle in my playmate Jeffy's side yard.

Nice memories of my grandfathers by their scents and the feel of their whole-body-envelopingly-huge hands (hey, both passed on before I was 2 1/2). Smoke, iron, sweat, rain, pipe tobacco, musk, leather, tomato leaves, man.

And other scented memories. The time my dad left bait squid in a raincoat pocket tucked into an inaccessible cupboard of the camper for ...I remember this as 2 weeks, but it can't have been. The stink of a skunk that let go in Sharon's back yard-- her much older, glamorous, never-deigned-to-utter-a-word-to-me-before sister Trina came out and said with a wink, "If you open your mouth, you can taste it."

What was the first perfume you wore, and why did you wear it? Or what smells come to mind when you think about scent and early memories?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Uh oh.

So, Pat -- ahem, MC TV's Frank -- has gotten us back into making electronic music.

...If you want to call it "music." I love it -- but undoubtedly some of you will have reservations about applying the term to such a set of mad creations.\

We are Deep Hurting.

Much of our stuff
is up at AcidPlanet, stinkin' up the Internets. Not all of it and it's not always the most refined version, as we have had several computer changes, moves, software upgrades and downgrades, etc., blah dee blah blah. Mercifully, atrocities such as "Alpha Complex" (sung by yours truly to the tune of "New York, New York" -- "they're such pro-duc-tive cit-izens, Al-phaaaah Com-pleeeeeeex") have been lost to time and not yet unearthed.

We are currently re-emerging and noodling with various styles/songs. Our older stuff fell into a few phases, which Pat charmingly describes here.

One thing is for sure. There is more to come.

--DJ Darth Continent

Monday, July 16, 2007

Evil fashion I found through a hotlink somewhere

Combining all the evils of rent-to-own properties and fashionista must-have-it:

Bag, Borrow, or Steal

Holy cow.

You join a membership thing and can rent designer handbags, jewelry, etc. by the week or month.

Did I mention it's evil?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Greedy Ducks

Ducks are greedy.

They just are.

Remember feeding them stale bread at the park or pond when you were a kid and watching them squabble over every morsel? Yes, greedy.

Since my Blogger name is "Ducks" I can admit to being just that-- a greedy duck.

I troll every once in a while through perfumery blogs. It started with an interest in the fragrances themselves but, as with everything I look at, the interest transformed itself into something more social. The language people use when they describe scents (which are themselves metaphors... more in a moment on this), when they describe the luxuries they crave and marry their self-concepts to, when they converse in a flashy, online fashionista civility that many of them may not inhabit in their day-to-day lives.

Moreover, the culture of "I want this! It will transform me!" that exists in fashion reviews. And there is something richer to the perfume fashionistas' dialogue (in my opinion) than in that of other fashion addicts (handbags, shoes, etc.) because of two factors:

1) Socially, a perfume is thought to be a part of oneself, expressive of the very essence of a person, rather than a trapping for the exterior. It is a cosmetic for the soul.

2) There is a depth of knowledge and a premium on the sensorium that is only matched in the evaluation of other luxury consumables, such as wine or caviar. The perfumers are "noses," and we develop a "taste" for certain fragrance notes.

Still, as in other fashion movements, if someone likes a given element in composition (or in some shallower cases, a fashion house), they will collect that item greedily. "This oudh," or "the newest amber fragrance," will call to them and they "must" have it.

I think most people have one or two bottles of fragrance, which they replace when it runs out or becomes intolerably rancid. These people have twenty, fifty, seventy, more. And they do not toss it out-- because they store it out of dangerous light and warmth, and they conserve it so that they have the "old version" when it is revised. This is not just snob appeal; it is also connossieurship. And they budget for it... they will live on ramen to buy a full bottle of something that they adore the sample of.

I have to confess, I am not one of these folks. I'm an intermediate creature, with three or four fragrances... and LOTS of samples (although I am aware this might be how it starts). I love to smell things, to change my scent "outfit" with my moods, to see what the twitter is all about.

Anyhoo. I happened upon an offer to celebrate Andy Tauer's two years as a blogger, in which he is giving away samples of his latest unreleased creation. He is a very renowned independent Swiss perfumer with a taste for scent notes I love, although I have not smelled any of his perfumes (they sound too floral and romantic for me, but as I am learning to like florals on my skin, we shall see) and seems to be a buoyant soul in the online world.

I jumped on it. I shall have one of 70 samples he is giving away.

I feel a bit like an intruder -- half excited, half guilty. Greedy Ducks.

This isn't even fully my world, and I loathe shopping and (traditionally) all things fashionable. But it sounds delicious and I am very curious, and pretty delighted to have the opportunity to smell this avant-garde secret before the official release.

I will tell you how it is when it arrives.

About fragrances being metaphors... perfumes are crafted to capture different scents. The smell of jasmine is composed of several chemical elements (including the infamous indole, which smells fecal as all get out on its own, but when combined with others... gorgeous jasmine.) The smell of gardenia is an artificially composed approximate, because it does not extract well through any traditional means. The smell of musk is a fake -- because moral outrage and dwindling animal populations have made the real stuff prohibitive.

So we trick our noses with many dissimilar and partial chemical fragrances, added up to become something resemblent of something that evokes our memories, our emotions, our pleasure. (Think about your senses for a minute: what you smell --like the smell of gardenia-- is something your brain is composing of chemical signals in combination --or olfactory phantoms as in the case of the smell of burning cigarettes that still haunts me for most of the day. What you see is a series of still images processed in such a way that you think you can see movement. And things like color, which we traditionally think of as empirical, are culturally determined: one man's blue may be another man's black. Or even more radically, in the case of the colorblind, the brain itself can choose some categories: one man's red may be another man's gray.)

Then, the resultant odor of "raspberries" or "gardenia" or "musk" is mingled with one or two other scents to become an accord. An accord is a mixture in which the notes are present but intermingled together to transform into (supposedly) a single harmonious note.

Fragrance notes and accords are mixed to form perfumes. In these perfumes, there are top notes (the bright ephemeral aromas that catch your attention at first, then fade as your nose stuns or they evaporate), heart or middle notes (which you smell during the first half hour to two hours or so in which you are wearing the fragrance), and base notes (or dry down) -- the deep ones that linger in your skin hours and hours later.

So there are several features to a perfume: the "single" notes themselves may be composed; the accords are certainly blended compositions; the evolution of a perfume over time on the skin is also composed of the foregoing.

And all of it is a trick of how your neural cells interpret a whiff of chemical. Metaphor. Alchemy. Wizardry.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I smell LIKE dead people! Argh!

I gave myself a little treat and got three of the solid perfumes from Crazylibellule and the Poppies: two (Ginger & Coconut and Encens Mystic) from the Shanghaijava Collection, and one (Aux Anges) from les Divines Alcoves Collection.

They're cheap and had hugely successful reviews so I got a couple to play with. Also, you can take 'em on a plane, which is nice.

I very much like Ginger & Coconut... it's subtle, milky rich, and surprising all at the same time. I have never tried a perfume with cumin in the top notes and it's shocking-- I imagine you'd either love it or hate it. I do love it. On me it's spicy, natural smelling, and with the also shocking curry note, it provides a little grounding for the otherwise positively etherially sexy brew of kaffir lime, ginger, coconut, precious woods, amber, etc. Yum.

I also like Aux Anges, which I wore to bed last night. It is jasmine, ylang, a little citrus and bergamot, and white flowers. It smells like summertime when I was a kid. I can't put my finger on it, but I think it is a memory of eating honeysuckle blossoms with Jeffy when we were little, surrounded by white flower aromas from nearby jasmine and magnolia blooms. It's very girly, but still a pleasure.

Encens Mystic is the best reviewed of the bunch. It's incense with clove and vanilla... which SOUNDS a lot nicer than it IS, on me. It smells like a funeral home. Old lady perfume and a tang of urine, musty furniture, church incense, and candles. And not in a good way.

I sniffed it, in the package, where it smells a lot nicer, and thought "hmm, I'll give it a try for the afternoon."





Now I have to smell like this til I go home. >.<

Update: I scrubbed the berjeebers out of it with a damp paper towel, and now the faint reminder of what was on me is actually quite pretty. Not at all me, but I don't loathe the (scrubbed) dry down the way I loathe the top notes. I do not foresee putting it on again, but I might make it through the day without gnawing off my arms at the shoulders so I can get away from my wrists, now.

For Pathy and April

This link about freelancing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I smell dead people.

Two posts back to back, I know. I'll go back to sporadic updates after this.

Thanks to for this prize.

For five days (ever since the 4th of July party), I had a phantom smell in my nose. Burning and cigarette smoke, so strong it was like being in the Lima bus station, only without the watering eyes. Absolutely unmistakable. Nothing it could have been but cigarette smoke.

The only problem? Nobody else had it.

Yesterday, finally sick with the virus I'd been nurturing since the party, I gave up and Googled "phantom smell." I was going out of my mind, crazycrazycrazy. It's amazing how much torture one little sensation can be when it just... won't... fuck... off.

If you Google phantom odors, you find a lot of forum posts telling you to seek the help of a neurologist, ASAP! Because you have a brain tumor, or epilepsy at best. Maybe brain damage. The people who have this strange symptom for those reasons are understandably urgent in their exhortations that you get to the doctor RIGHT NOW and it's a little overwhelming.

Scary? Sure. Coupled with the dizzy spells that plagued me for almost 2 weeks LAST time I caught a bug (I wonder if I ever even got over that?) and the vision problems that worsened suddenly and radically when I had an oxygen crisis a year ago (I had pneumonia, maybe-- blood work say yes, X-ray say no). Could I have brain damage? Could I have a tumor?

I did what I always do when a bunch of unqualified, anonymous people tell me something. I looked for a qualified one. A paper on phantom aromas by a doctor.

Ohhhh, and it also occurs from viral infections or migraines. Thanks, doctor.

The same article told me that people sometimes kill themselves because of phantom smells. The smells can be anything-- smoke, often, but also flowers, or vile things like rotting garbage, or shit. Okay, I hate smoke, but I got lucky.

Why do they kill themselves? Because eating becomes torture.

You do not taste all the things you perceive as taste. What you REALLY taste is salty, sweet, sour, bitter, pungent (maybe--might be sensation + scent), and umami (maybe--might be snobbish perception of saltyness). EVERYTHING else is smell.

So if everything "tastes" like shit... yeah, that'd do it.

They cure it by cutting the nerves. Sometimes it works.

I made a weak brine of salt water and snorted it. Stunned out the chemical perception and proved to me that it was in the nose/sinus, NOT the brain.

Thank you, doctor.

Now it's coming and going, but it's not as death-grip as it was, and I know it could be worse. Anyway, fascinating thing, the body... and that's even without my usual prurient spin on that.

Eulogy for a sunflower

It survived my brown thumb. It survived opportunistic ducks. It survived the half-barrel of doom. It survived my desire to cut it down before I knew what it was.

And yet it is no more, my yellow friend.

I planted a lot of sunflower seeds in peat pellets and let them sprout. They grew strong and swiftly, delighting me. When they were big enough, I transplanted them to out of doors.

The ducks ate their tender shoots within the hour.

One sunflower was slow to rise. When I transplanted it, later than the others, to the half oak barrel that had been there since before we moved in, which was volunteering some hideous profusion of wildflowers that choked out my lemon cucumber plants (drying up now with fruited vines for reasons I cannot diagnose, although everything around them thrives), slaughtered one of my two hot pepper plants, and stunted my eggplant.

I forgot about it because it seemed to die. Possibly it did die, and the one that grew was a seed that hadn't sprouted at all when I transplanted the peat pellet.

A horrible yellow flowering weed shot up on one side of the pot. We cut it down because it went mad and started killing the other flowers. It is growing back.

At about the same time, a fleshy, hairy, big-leaved thing arose in the middle of the barrel.

"It's a thistle" we told each other as it sent up a fist-shaped green, scaly pod. We considered cutting it down along with Old Yeller, but left it. "I want to see it bloom," I said. "The little birds might want the thistle seeds," Pat said.

It turned that pod inside out and became a sunflower. The bees loved it. It smelled gorgeous. Every day it changed.

The little birds-- fledgling goldfinches, and their parents, song sparrow fledglings and adults-- loved to land upon it. There is nothing more adorable than a baby bird devouring the leaves of your favorite surprise blossom, inches from your kitchen window... unless it is two, or three.

We could not look at it without thinking of the goldfinch babies.

Yesterday, when I came home for lunch, our yard was swarming with baby song sparrows, house finches, house sparrows, and goldfinches. The scrub jays were active and noisy. "The sunflower is drooping more than usual," Pat said. "I think it must be getting too heavy for itself."

"Nah, it's the little birds landing on it," I said. "We ought to splint it."

"Probably," Pat said. We'd had exactly this conversation before. It was a very droopy sunflower.

We watched wildlife. There were two ground squirrels in our little fenced back porch.

"I hate the squirrels," I said, as I always say. (Like many mammals, squirrels are dicks... they ruin it for everyone. They will ... well... squirrel away any food you put out for the birds. They don't eat it. They just steal it and hide it so that nobody else can eat it. And tree squirrels don't even remember where they bury their snacks! They have a host of other evil behavior, like faking the act of burying something, so that other squirrels starving for a nut and trying to dig up something someone else buried won't get anything at all. They're jerks.) Then I softened. "Ohh, he has speckles. Look at his white eye-ring! Look, that one's a baby-- he's got such a ratty little tail!"

Papa Bastard Squirrel had brought his more-than-two-but-who-knows-how-many offspring to our yard. What we did not know was that they were planning a route to the suet feeder that Pat had hung from the eaves in an attempt to allow the birds to get a little bit of it, before the Bastard Squirrel got it all.

That route led through my cucumber plants (okay, they're deceased but they are a labor of love), up the sunflower, and, as any mammal that could use its brain for anything but evil could tell you, right back down the sunflower as they bent over the stalk.

They did nibble it where it broke. They also ate some of the disk-like center of the flower and its ripening seeds, on the outside where they ripen first. They dug out petals and scattered them around the porch, like long yellow fairy canoes.

We splinted it, too late.

Now it's got a tangle tamer cast with plant stake splint, taped with red botanists' tie-tape and bright scarlet Duck Tape. We don't think it'll make it.

I hope the little birds won't stop landing on it just because of the splint. It will probably die and dry there, but maybe they can eat the seeds.

We loved our sunflower. Next year we must plant more and put the suet farther away. Nothing can take away the magical memory of baby goldfinches regarding us from the top of a flower inches from our window, but those durn squirrels sure tried.

What am I going to do with them?

* None of these pictures are mine... I'm lazy and bad and they're pretty, so there.

Friday, July 6, 2007

One of these things is not like the other...

I don't think I'm still hung over but I feel that way, and increasingly filled with impotent rage about the blowful morality of the Decider.

I'm in a very kindergarten mood right now. Let's watch Sesame Street together and sleep off our Independence Day.

Manah Manah

Do doooo de do dooo.

Manah Manah.

Do dooo de doooo.

Manah Manah.

Do doooo de doo dooo, de doo dooo,
de doo doooo,
de dooo doo,

Squeedly bop do do be bah... bah do bee doodly bah dee pah... bedah la la... bedah la la...

Manah Manah...

Do doo de do doo.

Sorry, toots. I guess money won't buy you everything...

But corruption will.

Here's something that makes more sense. Piero Umiliani, you were a genius.

For more combat scat, I highly recommend the Home Movies episode "Hiatus." In the opening scene, conversation breaks down into something Kafkaesque, and then into a kind of scat freestyling dozens match... something so wrong it makes the brain bleed. Brendan Small, you are a freakin' genius.

Oh, and never, EVER Google "Home Movies" and "scat" together.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The old spirituals work best

There is no finer way to spend the 4th of July than surrounded by friends, drinking beer or soda, and stuffed with fine food, and playing Guitar Hero. It's better yet if you are all bellowing "Sweet Child O' Mine" at the tops of your lungs, so that neighbors cannot help but join in in their own yards, as they barbecue and light fireworks.

"Sweet Child O' Mine" has a special place in my heart. I hated it when it was out because ... well, c'mon, it was Guns N Roses. It was on approximately every 2 minutes and you never got it out of your head and it suuuucked.

That, my friends, is the stuff of memory. The stuff of legend.

David Wong at Pointless Waste of Time has forever corrupted my brain with a gleeful and perverse love of this song by naming it (and by extension, all those horrifyingly saccharine hair ballads) "one of the old spirituals" in his brilliant (GO READ IT) John Dies at the End.

I said, "so, what do you suggest?"

"We screw them as much as possible. I am a retired priest. Did you know

John asked, "are you one of those priests who can shoot lasers out of their
eyes? Because that would be really helpful right now."

"No," he said. "But I can bless water to make it holy." He held up his
flask and shook it, letting the liquid splash around inside. "The ice statue, I

John's face brightened, and he said, "that's perfect!" He thrust his index
finger into the air. "Then we just have to somehow get all hundred or so of
those monsters to go lick the statue!"

I stared hard into the face of the older man, said, "okay, there is no
possible combination of English words that would form a dumber plan than that."

"We'll need to buy time, of course," he said, undeterred. "But if I'm
right, if they're doing what I think they're doing, it's most likely the only
hope we've got. The travelers out there... they do have a weakness."

John said, "we know. Chairs."

"Uh, not exactly. They're natural dischordians. It's a product of where
they're from, you see.

When you live in a world of black noise, melody is like a blade to the
ears. Angels and their harps and all that."

I said, "what does that have to do with-"

A hole exploded from the center of the door with a spray of wood splinters.
A little pink fist and a segmented leg curled through, reaching around between
John and Big Jim. John grabbed it by the wrist, pulled it straight, Jen stepped
forward with Fred's switchblade. She severed the arm to the sound of a
feline-shriek from the other side. John held the detached arm in his hand for a
moment, then turned and shoved it back out through the ragged hole.

Marconi said, "I see you have your instruments. Can any of you sing? The
old spirituals work best."

John said, "I can sing."

I said, "no, you can't, John."

"Well, I play the guitar."

"So can I," said Big Jim. "We have two guitars."

I said, "this could not be any stupider."

John said, "Dave here can sing like Axl Rose."

"Ah, once again, you prove me wrong, John."

Marconi looked down at the two carts stacked with amps and cables and said,
"I need several minutes, so play something long. Like Sweet Child O' Mine."

I smell good. Today I have barbecue smoke in my hair, all charred oak -- and am wearing Comme des Garcons' Leaves series: Lily. It smells like a lily of the valley plant, green and ozonic with sweet lily freshness brightening it. It's too sparkly and teenaged without a tiny touch of the star jasmine, magnolia, and vanilla from Monyette, so I've got on a dab of that, too.

I feel like a slightly scorched dryad in this combination of aromas, which is something, when I'm sitting at my desk trying to sort out billing snafus and talk people into maintaining their insurance policies. Unsinkable! Which is not a bad thing, when you're mildly hung over and would rather be singing Axl Rose.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Please make a few phone calls... urgently

There's not much time left, at this writing.
The new regulation that has dramatically hiked music use fees for this form of broadcast only (not, say, radio) is an absurdity and an anachronism that will kill one of the most functional, egalitarian, small-scale, legitimate uses of the Internet without beginning to address the very real piracy issues that it distracts from.

Neither does it do anything about large-scale corporate music use/resale/broadcasting. It actually harms the artists, in many ways, including -- at the most basic level -- removing a powerful vector of advertising their product.

If you haven't already, go call.

And thank you.