July 31, 2002
This Is Not a Sign

Frankenstein Prohibited

Warning - Talk Radio

Seltzer Available Here

Magritte Exhibit Ahead

Or maybe not.

July 30, 2002
Poor Travis

Is it just me, or is there something a little disturbing about the CDC's Rabies Web Page That's Just for Kids?

And speaking of rabies, Old Yeller: nice, warm little film or experience of horrifying transformation and violent loss?

July 29, 2002

A mouse has the run of a dorm room (and no, punsters, that doesn't make it a dormouse). Instead of gnawing its way into a readily available box of cereal, it goes for the mystery prize that must be hidden inside a big plastic bag.

Alas, the bag is empty, and the mouse - who apparently lacks the maze-navigating skills of its lab-raised cousins - gets stuck. Eventually a biped comes in, scoops up the bag, takes it outside, and sets it down on the landing of the stairs. A gust of wind picks up the bag before the mouse has a chance to get out, and as it bumps down the stairs the mouse thinks, "I should have gone for the cereal."

"I should have gone for the cereal," thinks the patron of a restaurant who has just been served not tasty French Toast (as seen on himonkey.net), but rather freaky French Toast featuring bread stuffed with cream cheese and soaked with fruit juice. Also, it doesn't seem to have had any contact with eggs, even though being dipped in egg is pretty much what puts the French in French Toast and without that it's just freaky Toast. And in fact soaking the toast in fruit juice makes it more gooey than toasty so strictly speaking, what's being presented as French Toast is freaky unFrench notToast, or, more concisely, just freaky.

July 25, 2002
My Fair Trial

I had NPR on this morning, and I wasn't really listening, but somehow a fragment about Sally Struthers and a courthouse got me thinking about the Sacco and Vanzetti trial (okay, so it probably had more to with the courthouse than Sally Struthers). It was six o' clock in the morning - you have to expect a certain amount of free association at that hour.

Maybe it's because they were on the same high school history test, but I can't think about Sacco and Vanzetti without also thinking of Leopold and Loeb. Except that this morning my brain misfired and came up with "Lerner and Loeb". And while I bet a Lerner and Loeb collaboration would be better than the dreck from Andrew Lloyd Webber, I'm still not inspired to buy the soundtrack to The Leopold and Loeb Musical.

July 23, 2002
Houston, We Have Stupidity

Here we have a story in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle about a pack of interns at NASA who stole a 600 pound safe containing 10 ounces of moon rock and fragments of a Martian meteorite. I just don’t know where to begin with this one - do I start with the fact that the theft wasn’t noticed for two days, or with the kids getting busted when they tried to sell the rocks on the Internet?

Then there’s the man who turned them in, referred to in the article repeatedly as "the Belgian". Just who is this mysterious Belgian?

And more importantly, how do you make a Belgian waffle?

July 22, 2002
Notes from the Tourist Season

Hey, Mister -

I can almost see the necessity of carrying a map in your waist band, provided 1) all your other pockets are full, and 2) you keep it in the back of your pants.

But an entire guidebook?

July 20, 2002
Do Svidanya French Week

My subconscious must have been bothered that I never gave French Week proper closure, because last night I dreamed I was in a French class. It was the first day, and I was called on to read aloud from the textbook. As I stood up, I saw that the sentence I was supposed to read started with a Cyrillic character - the reversed "R" that makes an appearance in English text when the designer wants it to look "Russian". In fact it’s pronounced "ya", and in Russian it means "I" (that’s the first person singular pronoun, not the letter). I was flummoxed because I had no idea how I ought to say it in French. I thought about going with the Russian pronunciation, but as the awkwardness of my pause grew I realized it would be less humiliating to ask than to get the first word in the first sentence on my first day of class wrong. So I did, and one of my fellow students piped up with a condescending, "It’s ‘zhuh’ as in, ‘Je parle francais.’"

I mumbled something about confusing it with a Cyrillic character, but stopped short of trying to work in a snide comment about Napoleon’s crushing defeat in Russia, because after all I was there to learn French.

Oddly related - I once had the privilege of being scolded for not speaking French by Roger Shattuck. I was one of the dramaturgs on an adaptation of a play by Alfred Jarry, and Shattuck was part of a pre-show panel. When I defended myself by telling him I’d chosen to study Russian instead, he replied, "Young lady, Russians choose to learn French."

July 19, 2002
Help me, police

Three nights ago around 3:45 a.m. I woke up to someone shouting "Help me, police!" over and over, immediately followed by a gut-wrenching moment spent trying to figure out if I'm hearing a drunk asshole or the next Kitty Genovese. As I tried to make sense of the voice (which was of indeterminate gender and repeating "Help me, police!" at a nearly constant timbre and volume), it became clear that this person was running back and forth in front of the building.

Then I heard another voice obviously belonging to a good Samaritan say, "Can I help you?" and I felt guilt-ridden relief that someone else was handling the situation.

The first voice said, "Get away from me!" and went back to the repetition of "Help me, police!" again, only now interspersed with the occasional "Help me, Kiki!" This went on for a while, until "What do you need, ma'am?"

"Help me, police!"

"I am the police."

"No, you're not."

Oh, yes he was. Even from my bed I could see the blue and red flashing lights.

"Please sit down"

"Help me! Help me! Help me, Jackie! Help me, Jackie! Help me, Jackie!" And then cries to the police and Jackie and Kiki gave way to an almost continuous "Help me, God!"

"Do you want to go to Harborview?" That's Harborview Medical Center.

"No. Help me, God!"

"Where do you want to go?"

"Home. Home. Help me, God!"

The voice of a second police officer said, "What's that in her hand?"

"I can't tell. What's in your hand?"

"Help me, God! Help me, God!"

"Is that a knife?"

The second officer again: "It looks like a knife."

"Put down the knife."

"Help me, God!"

"Put it down."

"Help me, God!"

"Put it down."

The first officer, the one doing most of the talking, was calm and gentle up to this point, but now I heard an edge.

"Put it down!"

"Help me, God!"

"If you don't put it down, I'm going to tase you."

[I chase away the horrible thought that this entry - and by now it certainly will be an entry - could be called "More about Electricity". I am a terrible person.]

The second officer: "Put down the knife!"

I can hear a scuffle, and then a popping, frying sound, and yelling.

This whole time the second officer has been shouting, "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" and I'm almost certain this is directed at the woman, not his partner. In any case, I hear the sound of running and a quick resumption of "Help me, God!"

A second round of popping and frying comes from what seems like the next block. The voice is still saying "Help me, God!" and the tone is surprisingly unchanged from when it first started. I can hear her, quieter because of the distance, for another five minutes, until presumably she's taken away to Harborview.

Then all I can hear outside is what must be one of my neighbors watering the plants. The sound of the spray is soothing, and I can understand why someone might decide this would be a good time to take care of the garden we all share. It occurs to me that he could have been the first person who offered help, so I revise the scene I've imagined around what I've just heard to include the bystander I forgot about as soon as the police arrived. I think about the woman, and I wonder if I've seen her in the neighborhood before. And finally I'm just trying to escape my own ghoulish fascination with the whole episode when one of the police officers returns and speaks to my neighbor.

"Did you find a taser cartridge out here somewhere?"

July 17, 2002
En Garde

I bought a can of Static Guard for the first time in ages, and I noticed that in addition to the usual warnings about not using it "near fire, flame or sparks or while smoking", there was something I'd never seen before: "NEVER SPRAY AND PULL GARMENTS APART AT THE SAME TIME as this action creates static which is in itself an electric charge and may in rare instances cause a spark of electricity which could possibly ignite."


I couldn't find a recorded case of static igniting Static Guard (phew), but Mr. Static has a thing or two to say about sweaters, carpets, and the hypothetical volatility of nail polish remover.

Let's be careful out there, people.

July 16, 2002
Less French Than Yesterday

...but it does feature Marie et Louis.

July 15, 2002
French Week Continues

I was all set to write about how the day after Bastille Day is always such a let-down, but then my friend K sent me this note:

Did you hear that Jacques Chirac survived an assassination attempt during a Bastille Day parade? The guy was such a poor shot, Chirac didn't even know until after the parade was over that someone had tried to kill him. Later he publicly thanked all the parade-going citizens who subdued the gunman. One good thing about 9/11 - the new terrorism-aware mentality has encouraged complete strangers, even French ones, to pull together and subdue.

My favorite thing about the story is that when informed of the attempt, Chirac's initial response was reported to be, "Oh, really?" The latest articles are translating his reaction as, "Oh, well" - and even though my French is cobbled together from menus, cognates, and Truffaut films, that seems closer to what Le Monde reported as "Ah, bon."

Now that's aplomb, baby.

July 14, 2002
Stormy Whether

Welcome to "Choose Your Own Bastille Day" -

I would like to hear a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise.
I would rather go straight to the guillotine.

July 12, 2002

I was taking a box of waxed paper out of a drawer in my kitchen, and overcome by its usefulness I thought, "I love waxed paper." Then a few seconds later I cut my finger on the serrated foil strip and I thought, "I hate waxed paper."

Maybe one of these would help.


Oh, but I like it.

And speaking of bitter carrots, last night in a fit of distraction I made the mistake of popping a carrot in my mouth right after I'd slathered lotion on my hands. Bleh. But it got me imagining a menu for a truly atrocious meal: Carrots in Hand Cream Sauce, Boston Baked Bees, Zinc Lozengna. I haven't settled on a dessert course, yet. Perhaps something French...Custards à la Stand.

July 11, 2002
Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

Today I am interested in pirates. Yarrr.

July 10, 2002
Special Guest Jane: "You Can't Fix Dumb"

- This entry provided by Special Guest Jane K (thanks, K!) -

From an article in today's Los Angeles Times about California's state budget crisis:

While temperatures were expected to hit 105 degrees here Tuesday, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Steve Peace (D-El Cajon) experienced a meltdown with the mercury hovering only in the 90s. He showed up at the group's news conference and accused one of its organizers of lying about the tobacco-licensing bill. "You're so dumb," Peace later told a woman from the American Heart Association. "You can't fix dumb."

Although it's bad that a public official said it, I kind of like the quote "You can't fix dumb." It fits W. pretty well, don't you think? Sadly, it seems that you can elect dumb.

-Here's a link to the article, but, alas, you have to register with the L.A. Times to view it -

July 09, 2002
IOU $.02

Okay, here's the deal: I'll read Barbara Ehrenreich's Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, because a lot of my proto-thoughts are swirling around what makes individuals and families move back and forth across the line she demarcates in Nickel and Dimed.

And then I'll go see Bartleby, because I'm noodling around with what it means to have a desk job, and how that plays into the aforementioned line.

And then I'll fork over my two cents about Nickel and Dimed.

In the meantime, I just finished Aimee Bender's The Girl in the Flammable Skirt. Most of the copy on her Random House author page is a load of trite, inadequate hooey ("Aimee Bender's stories are a breath of fresh air" only if your idea of "fresh air" includes a generous helping of nitrous oxide laced with the scent of sex and decay), but the page has links to some of her stories. The first sentence of "The Rememberer" made me buy the book, and "Call My Name" made me wish I owned a maroon satin floor-length dress with a V back and matching sandals with criss-cross straps, which is saying something, because I'm not really a maroon satin floor-length dress with a V back and matching sandals with criss-cross straps wearing kinda girl.

July 07, 2002

Years ago I worked on a play with an incredibly irritating thirteen year old boy named Nat, and after a while it became strangely obvious that many of us were including a silent G when we said his name.

July 05, 2002

When I came home on Wednesday there were letters tucked under the doors of all the apartments on my floor (and presumably all the apartments in the building), and I thought, "Uh oh - someone's been too noisy on the roof again." But the letters weren't from the building manager, they were from a resident, and they were titled "The Rage of Achilles."

As the author explained in his opening sentence: "In The Illiad (A Story Of Troy known as Illium) Achilles slays the Trojan Hero Hector through accessing his tremendous rage and the help of the goddess Aphrodite."

True enough, but I mostly remember Achilles as the guy who threw a hissy fit and wouldn't leave his tent because he didn't get the slave girl of his choice when the Greeks were dividing up the spoils of war. But back to the letter:

"As you may be aware a group of evildoers has decided that our beloved corner...belongs to them. I have no goddess only rage. This must not stand. Just as we defeated the Taliban we will also defeat those minions of evil. Evil triumphs when good people do nothing."

Yipes. What could possibly justify that kind of heated rhetoric? Human sacrifice?

Nope. Noise, and drug dealing. In order of importance, as near as I could tell from the letter.

Now I agree that screaming couples, howling drunks, and loud music pouring out of cars at 3:00 a.m. are bad, bad, bad. I myself once hollered at a pack of sorority chicks and their frat beaux who were yapping loudly under my window in the wee hours. Neverthless, I'm generally resigned to the fact that living downtown means living with noise. Cities are loud - that isn't anything new. Does my neighbor think the citizens of Troy enjoyed peace and quiet? (Damn Greeks and their noisy siege! Keep it down out there!)

The drug dealing issue is more complex. The letter is trying to convince "nice people like us" (shiver) to call the police so the dealers will get off our corner and stop creating / attracting so much noise. It's not especially concerned with where the dealers go after that. Which means that eventually the good citizens of another neighborhood will rally, call the cops, and get the dealers moved back to our corner. At which point I fully expect find another NIMBY letter with racist overtones at my door.

But I'm hoping my neighbor doesn't stop with the Rage of Achilles. I'd like to see him devote his energy, concerned citizenship, and classical allusions to a whole Illiad-inspired series: The Madness of Ajax (the local convenience stores charge too much for a pint of Ben and Jerry's!), The Cunning of Odysseus (someone keeps using my laundry soap!), The Big Stinky Wound of Philoctetes (minions of evil are putting plastic bags in the glass recycling bin!!).

July 03, 2002
Amazon.completely inescapable

I was only following one little link, and then I found myself trapped in the devil's playground that is Amazon.com. The problem: I became obsessed with the "Customers who bought This also bought That" feature. It started innocently enough, with a "Huh...customers who bought Brak Presents The Brak Album Starring Brak also bought Norton AntiVirus 2002 8.0." I wouldn't have guessed that fans of the wacky Cartoon Planet songster would also be so concerned about virus protection. Hmmm...

Dozens of random searches later, a sketchy outline began to emerge: Customers who bought Raising Meat Goats for Profit also bought Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson! Customers who bought Aprons: Icons of the American Home also bought Last Man Standing. Customers who bought The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region also bought Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. Just a few more searches and then everything would come together! All things will be connected! It's Six Degrees of Amazon.com!!

In the end, a Unified Theory of Commerce evaded my grasp. But I did find what may very well be the longest title in the entire Amazon catalog.

July 02, 2002
Sleep Deprivation 1

"I feel sleepy. Was hoping to do major sleep last night after Saturday, but was awoken this morning by a yowling cat in heat. It bothers me how much they sound like humans when they're in heat."

"What, like, 'rrrrrrrrrrwwwwwwwwwwwwwaaaaaarrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiii feel like an insignificant speck in the universe so I'll try to fill up my empty life with material goods and relationships and desperate bids for attentionuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrmmmmmmrroooowwwww'?"

Sleep Deprivation 2

I stayed up half the night reading Barbara Ehrenreich's " Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" - I just wasn't able to stop until I was finished. And now, bleary eyed and fuzzy headed, I'm too incapacitated to explain why it was so great. So here's an excerpt, and I'll just have to throw in my two cents later.

"Nickel and Dimed"..."my two cents" - ugh, I need a nap.