Friday, December 28, 2007

Update on Marc Jacobs and the Swan

The Swan is gone. I was there on 12/26, and the snow has sung a swan song. I really wanted to take a picture of the pictures in the window as this was almost the oddest part, but you'll have to settle for this: the official photos from the shoot by TKE. Hundreds of people (and some dogs) with strangers, in a swan. SO weird. And Poetic & Chic weigh in, as they actually did this odd thing.

Carlos Eire: Waiting for Snow in Havana

The whole time I was reading "Waiting for Snow in Havana," I kept thinking that this was the Cuban male version of Sandra Cisneros' "House on Mango Street." Although I liked "Waiting," I liked "House on Mango Street" better. It's probably not a fair comparison, as I read the Cisneros book in middle school, with my favorite English teacher ever, but I think that in the long run, the Cisneros book, which is a novella of a young Chicana girl in Chicago will hold up longer. Eire's book is a memoir of his life in pre- and just-post-Castro Cuba and then just after he is sent to the U.S. in the Pedro Pan project. Cisneros and Eire use similar vignette style story-telling, hopping from story to story in a lose approximation of chronology. This works beautifully in "Mango Street" but falls a little short in "Waiting" as I was left wanting to know so much more about Eire's fragmented childhood.

In reading the afterward, I learned that Eire, portrayed in "Waiting" as a lizard-killing denial specialist (a man after my own heart, though only in the denial part), is a professor of religious studies at Yale. The book is his first attempt at trying to organize and deal with his past: the child of wealthy parents in Batista's Cuba forced to drop everything and become a refugee. The reader learns a lot about what it was like to be a child of wealthy (and odd- Dad thinks he is a reincarnated French king) parents, but very little about what happens next, except in fragments of memories. I found myself wishing this book was an either/or: either a memory of pre-Fidel Cuba or the story of getting forcibly uprooted. I understand that Eire was traumatized and that this book is a sort of spiritual catharsis for him, but it takes some of the power out of the book for the reader.

I liked the book and have decided it was worth reading. I have read so little about Cuba, and it seems like we're not on the fast track to getting any new personal insights, so this book was a rare gift in that way.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Since He's so Cute,

I guess I'll keep him.



Monday, December 24, 2007

Marc Jacobs and the Chihuahua Princess

I have never heard of Marc Jacobs. I do not know what Marc Jacobs is or what they sell. All I know is that if you walk down Fillmore St. right now, in SF, you will see this store with this bizarre window filled with a giant swan, and even more bizarrely, all of these pictures of people in the swan, and even MORE bizarrely, all of these people posed with the same two people in the same two costumes over and over and over. The man is in a kind of soldier/nutcracker costume, and the woman is in a kind of white ballgown. They're both kind of young- early 20s, maybe? It is very very odd. I am guessing that they are supposed to be from Swan Lake, but I don't know, and noone's talking. I have so many questions about this situation- do these people get paid to sit in the window with strangers? Do people who sit in the swan with these mystery people buy things from the mysterious Marc Jacobs? I tried to find a picture of this window online, but I can't. If it's still up the next time I walk by, I will take a picture.

Here is the only picture I have: Uma and the prince and princess.

The Heater and the Voices in My Head

I cannot be the only one who carries their parents around in their head. I mean, come on, there are whole cliches about it: "wear clean underwear in case you have to go to the hospital"- that is someone's mom or grandma talking, right? And don't forget about Freud and his decades of followers and modern pop psychology who have built whole theories and universities around the ideas of how we are our parents and our reactions to our parents. Yes, that is the over simplified version.

Anyway, the moral of the story for now, is that all winter, every winter, I carry my dad around in my head. He is the voice that says "Lauren, don't turn the heater on, it's not that cold." I don't remember what the rule was when we were growing up- was it no heater till December? No heater until it got below 40degrees? No heat at night? No heat during the day? What ever the rule was, I've internalized Dad's voice, and all it says is "No heat." And right now it's stinking cold. Ice on the windshield that takes 3-10 minutes to defrost every day cold. Need a blanket inside cold. Three warm-weather-layers outside and a hat with ears cold. And I can't get rid of Dad's voice. Even though I have this nice heater in my room that only heats my room, so it's not even that expensive. Even though my PG&E bill only hits about $35 each month, so turning on the heat would be affordable, even if it got up to the high high number of $50.

Maybe Dad wanted us to be tough. California tough. Some kids have to go camping and hunting, but we had to slog through the hoarfrost on our floors in Oakland. Maybe Dad doesn't feel acute cold the same way, and has never felt frostbite on his fingers and toes, even while sitting inside. I don't really care at this point, I'd just like to get rid of the voice in my head. Since it's Dad, though, I think I'll have to speak with some Freudians. I'm guessing it's not going to be an easy one to expunge.

The irony? I'm going to Mom and Dad's house tonight, where, so I'm told, the heat is on full blast. I'm going there a day early, partially to get warm.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

In Honor of a Lab

My best friend has finally fallen for a Lab. Normally she readily admits that labs fall right before beagles on the "no way, Jose" list. But since she is this close to bringing home Miss Holly Berry, I thought I would offer World Best Kids a chance at the current best beagle. Pulaski is house trained, knows some tricks, likes small dogs, likes cats, and will never, ever be a lab.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mac Is De-Lumped

And I am stress-free. I checked my messages after work, and there was nothing. I girded my loins (figuratively) for a day of stress carrying my phone around and waiting for the worst. Then the phone rang after 6 and it was the vet who had just heard that the lump was not even benign or malignant, it was some weird hair follicle thing that had nothing to do with any tumor or cancer or anything.

I am so relieved. This guy gets to be my cancer-free dude for another while. He threw some toys around in celebration afterwards.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A DJ After My Own Heart...

I was informed after my Chinese Children post that my best friend will no longer be coming to me for music advice. Be that as it may, I would like to commend the Majority Whip on KALX 90.7 fm, my favorite radio station, for playing three (3) straight hours of Jesus songs today from noon till 3pm. Theme playlists are right up my alley, and there is almost nothing better than a religion playlist or a Jesus playlist. I have one or two of my own, but here is the Majority Whip's:

02:55 pm Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Jesus on the Mainline" - Funeral for a Friend (Ropeadope)
02:48 pm Suicide - "Dominic Christ" - A Way of LIfe (Wax Trax)
02:45 pm Big Youth - "Jesus is a Condition" - Gathering of the Spirits (Shanachie)
02:42 pm ze keti & nadinho da ilha - "clementina de jesus" - casa da mae joana (Blue Jackal)
02:39 pm Van Dyke Parks - "On the Rolling Sea When Jesus Came to Me" - Out on the Rolling Sea (Hokey Pokey)
02:35 pm Cake - "Jesus Wrote a Blank Check" - Motorcade Of Generosity (S/R)
02:31 pm El Vez - "Lust for Christ" - Boxing with God (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
02:26 pm Flaming Lips - "Shine on Sweet Jesus" - In A Priest Driven Ambulance (Restless)
02:17 pm Robin Hitchcock - "Sleeping Knights of Jesus" - Selections from Box Set (Yep Roc)
02:14 pm Christian Death - "Jesus Where's The Sugar" - Sex & Drugs and Jesus Christ (Freud)
02:10 pm Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper - "Jesus at McDonalds" - S/t (RBI)
02:07 pm Austin Lounge Lizards - "Jesus Loves Me But He Can't Stand You" - Lizard Vision (Flying Fish)
02:04 pm Billy Bragg and Wilco - "Christ for President" - Mermaid Avenue (Elektra)
02:00 pm Woody Guthrie - "Jesus Christ" - The Songs and Story (Folkways)
01:54 pm John Prine - "Jesus The Missing Years" - The Missing Years (Oh Boy)
01:50 pm Violent Femmes - "Jesus Walking on the Water" - Hallowed Ground (Slash)
01:48 pm Minutemen - "Jesus and Tequila" - Double Nickels on the Dime (SST)
01:45 pm Big Star - "Jesus Christ" - Sister Lovers (Ryko)
01:43 pm King Missile - "Jesus was Way Cool" - Mystical Shit (Shimmy Disc)
01:40 pm Morrisey - "I Have Forgiven Jesus" - You are the Quarry (Attack)
01:37 pm Vaselines - "jesus dont want me for a sunbeam" - The Way of the Vaselines (Sub Pop)
01:32 pm Gretchens - "Phone Jesus" - Cover Your Ears (S/T)
01:29 pm Li Alin - "Jesus" - All In (Asphodel)
01:26 pm Dory Previn - "Jesus was an Androgyne" - Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign (Unite Artists)
01:23 pm Rickie Lee Lones - "Tried to a Man" - The Sermon on Exposition Blvd (New West)
01:19 pm Club 8 - "Jesus, Walke with Me" - The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Dreaming (Labrador)
01:15 pm St. Vincent - "Jesus Saves, I Spend" - Marry Me (Beggars Banquet)
01:09 pm The Slaughterman - "Jesuss Saves White Trash" - A Slab of Vic (Au-Go-Go)
01:07 pm Jayhawks - "Jesus in Driver's Heat" - Big Hits of Mid America 4 (Twin Tone)
01:05 pm RF7 - "Jesus Loves You" - American Youth Report (Thunderbotlt)
01:02 pm Suffocation - "Jesus Wept" - Live Death (Restless)
12:58 pm Ministry - "Jesus Built My Hotrod" - Psalm 69 (Sire)
12:52 pm Slayer - "Jesus Saves" - Reign in Blood (Def Jam)
12:48 pm Tom Waits - "Jesus Gonna Be Here" - Bone Machine (Island)
12:46 pm Blind Willie Johnson - "Jesus is Coming Soon" - The Complete (Legacy)
12:42 pm Congregation in Moving Star Hall, Johns Island SC - "Jesus Knows All About My Trouble" - Been in the Storm So Long (Smithsonian Folkways)
12:39 pm Swan Silvertones - "What Do You Know About Jesus" - My Rock (Specialty)
12:36 pm Sister Wynona Carra - "15 Rounds for Jesus" - Dragnet for Jesus (Specialty)
12:25 pm Lord Buckley - "The Nazz" - His Royal Hipness (Discovery)
12:20 pm Kris Kristofferson - "Jesus was a Capricorn" - Jesus Was a Capricorn (Monument)
12:18 pm Bobby Bare - "Drop Kick Me Jesus" - The Winner and Other Losers (RCA)
12:15 pm Martin Mull - "Jesus Christ Football Star" - A New Release For.. (Capricorn)
12:10 pm Prince - "The Cross" - Sign O The Times (Paisley Park)
12:05 pm Rance Allen Group - "Hotline to Jesus" - Best of (Stax)
12:00 pm Al Green - "Jesus is Waiting" - Call Me (Hi)

Philip Caputo: Equation for Evil

Although I have been straying in my project to "read every unread book on my shelves A-Z", I am really still trying. This book is still in order- I'm still on the C's, but it's another little detour- I picked it up at Red Hill Books in Bernal Heights a couple of weeks ago, even though the initial project guidelines clearly stated: "read all unread books A-Z prior to bringing any new unread books home." However, I added some fine print to the guidelines when I saw that Red Hill had a couple of Philip Caputo books that I haven't read, and decided that it was okay to buy them as long as I put the newly acquired books in the pile of "to be read next" books, which is where this one belonged, anyway, as it started with a "C". (Oh, the rules and regulations of an obsessive-compulsive... that's for another post.)

Anyway, I guess Philip Caputo has been around and writing great books for awhile. I didn't know this until a few months ago when I stumbled on his 2005 book, Acts of Faith and totally loved it. "Faith" was a fictional book with real life issues. Equation for Evil isn't quite that serious. As best as I can figure, it's a California version of Bonfire of the Vanities view of mid-90s malaise/malignancy turned into a thriller. It's a pretty great book if you, like me, don't read many thrillers. A special agent and a forensic psychologist are called in by California's state Attorney General to do a forensic autopsy after a horrible crime is committed on some kids in San Joaquin. The turn up- probably predictably if you read thrillers, but surprisingly for me- a whole lot more than they bargained for. The two are the odd couple- an assimilated 5th generation Chinese-American special agent and a down on his luck psychiatrist who is on the cutting edge of figuring it all out (in his head) about how nature and nurture work together.

The book, written in 1996, takes place in 1993, and California, especially the central valley and southern California, was a racial mess then. Caputo throws this into his thriller with charm, and doesn't hit the reader over the head with it. The crime is initially thought to be the work of neo-Nazis, but the crime fighters and the victims are dealing with much, much more systemic racism than a few skinheads.

My favorite insight is as follows, from page 194. Think about it, and tell me if there isn't something disturbingly accurate here:

Interstate-10

Christopher Coumbus Transcontinental Highway

The Sign appeared at the city limits. Nearly three thousand miles away, I-10 ended in Jacskonville, Florida. The plague seemed to have struck worst in the two states joined by the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway. Disney World in the one, Disneyland in the other, sunshine and random violence in both. Perhaps there was some mysterious connection between overbright skies and Mickey Mouse, some evil synergy between warm climates and fantasy that drove young men to kill without reason.


If that's not genius in the guise of a thriller, well, I'm going to keep reading anyway to find out, but this one comes highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Recent Favorite Pictures

(that I've taken)

It's not easy to take pictures of black cats! I took these yesterday at Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society where I once worked and now take pictures for the website. If you're in the market for cats, I would highly recommend these guys. They're even better in person.

Baby Purr (this girl loves people and shoelaces- it is so hard to get her out of your lap and into the frame!)





Ara (super playful, especially with other cats. I think she doesn't know her own strength!)



Monday, December 17, 2007

Michelle Tea: Rose of No Man's Land

I am a Michelle Tea fan and this book left me a little disappointed. She uses that gimmick "whole book happens in one day" which never quite does it for me. "Rose of No Man's Land" takes place in 48 hours, but all the good stuff takes place in a hyperactive, mood-swing kind of 24 hours, or maybe even the last 6 hours of those 24 hours. Readers also get the added gimmick of "protagonist's first drug trip" for the majority of that really exciting 6 hours, so everything kind of goes loopy during the really exciting part of the book, making it seem like an awful dream sequence from a mediocre movie. A third gimmick that sometimes works and sometimes flops the attempted use of the 14 year old's voice for the narrative. Sometimes her narrative is convincing and then sometimes she slips into adult Tea voice and I slipped out of being convinced of the narrator or really anything else that was going on.
All of this being said, I really wanted to like this book. Tea tells stories that most authors don't- of lesbians and genderbenders doing what they do- nothing exciting or abnormal, just "being". These books are hard to find.

The narrator, Trisha, is a 14 year old who supposedly has not had a single friend in her whole entire life. Her older sister has just finished vocational school and is obsessed with being on MTV's "Real World" so she follows every bit of her life around with a camera. She is the essential "girly girl" with a twist- she is the only motivated person in Trisha's life. Trisha discovers something about herself when her sister forces her to hold the camera to film key moments of Kristy's life. Tea did herself and the book a disservice by not exploring this more, but it wouldn't have fit well into two of three gimmicks: tell the whole story in 14-year old voice and sandwich whole book into three days. Ma is a hypochondriac so worried about getting ill that she can't find the strength to get off of the couch but somehow has found a boyfriend willing to live with her and help her get the welfare straightened out. (I have to admit, I frequently wondered how Ma got off the couch to pee, but again, you don't worry about details like that in a book that takes place in one day.) Then Trisha meets Rose, and for 6 hours, we go along with a totally new world.

Tea is a spoken-word artist, and it shows in this book. There are some awesome creative moments where the reader is taken outside of herself altogether and totally transported into Trisha's bizarre world. The writing is fast-paced, and the book is a fast read. The work is visual- you can totally see everything that is happening. If this were my first Tea book, I think I would be hooked. Since I've read others, better ones, I was left wanting more.

Check This Out

When I was younger, I loved those Absolut ads. I still think that is one of the most creative ad campaigns in history. It's not all about naked women and fast cars. Someone I "know" from a forum posted this- a photoshop project he did for a design class. Make sure to check out his website: Ariel Payopay. This combines this awesome ad campaign with one of my other favorite subjects- graffiti.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Am Totally Not Guilty of This

Who Invited the Dog? (New York Times)

GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER Your pet may be part of your family, but isn’t asking your hosts for that glass of wine going a bit far?

By JOYCE WADLER and ABBY AGUIRRE
Published: December 13, 2007

IT was a dark and stormy night — actually four stormy nights — when Jayme Otto, 31, and her husband, Ryan Otto, 33, drove 1,200 miles from their home in Boulder, Colo., to her parents’ house in Cleveland for Christmas.

“We traveled all this way to bring our yellow Labrador, Cody Bear, home to spend time with his grandparents,” Ms. Otto said, “grandparents” being dog-person-speak for her parents.

Besides wanting Cody Bear “to participate in his favorite yearly activity of unwrapping gifts and destroying all the boxes,” as Ms. Otto put it, they wanted the dog to meet her brother’s fiancée.

But on Christmas morning, a commotion ensued: the fiancée was allergic to dogs and broke out in hives.

“The dog was banished to the guest bedroom and we were unable to share our Christmas morning with Cody Bear,” Ms. Otto said bitterly. “The family blowup between my brother and I over the dog resulted in my mother not speaking to me for two months and my brother for four.” This Christmas will mark the first time that the Ottos will not be returning home.

Where, one might ask at times like these, are the elegantly embossed cards people really need, ones reading: “I can’t believe I could have been so insensitive.” Or better yet, “I can’t believe you could have been so insensitive.”

They might also include a sketch of a sophisticated, well-traveled pet. Something for an animal that understands, even if others do not, that it is a valued family member. And of course a handwritten note, the tone bemused but firm.

“Rex is truly sorry he sent Granny to the emergency room with the oxygen mask, but it isn’t like anyone told me she was allergic. All is forgiven, see you next New Year’s. Leaps and Gloppy Drooly Kisses — R.”

Difficult guests are no longer limited to humans. The boundaries between humans and animals have been so eaten away by pet therapists, pet designer outfits and pet bar mitzvahs, that it has reached a point where devoted owners, who treat their animals as privileged children, lose all perspective on the pet’s role in their social lives.

More American households have pets than ever — 68.7 million of them in 2006, according to a new survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association, up 12.4 percent from 2001.

Among dog owners, 53.5 percent considered their pets to be members of the family, the survey found. For cats, the number was 49.2 percent.

And the term “family member” should not be used lightly. Ari Henry Barnes, who works in a New York law firm, is so devoted to his cat, Romeo, that he wipes the animal’s behind every time he does “a stinky boom boom.”

When the cat became an extended houseguest at the home of good friends, Mr. Barnes found it stressful, because despite his wishes, the cat was allowed outside. “I think anybody who is taking care of someone else’s child or pet, they should protect the parent’s wishes.”

Many four-legged family members are routine travelers.

Derek Welsh, the president of www.bringyourpet.com, a “pet-friendly” hotel and lodging directory, estimates the number at roughly 10 million a year.

Mr. Welsh also said that in a Bring Your Pet survey of 100,000 self-selected pet owners, 38.5 percent said they had difficulty finding pet-friendly lodging.

This means there’s a very good chance they may be visiting soon. And so, for animal owners and those on the hosting end of the equation, a guide.

OMITTING THE WORDS ‘PLUS ONE DOG’ ON THE INVITATION WAS NOT A PRINTER’S ERROR

A legion of two animal experts interviewed agreed that taking an unexpected animal to a party is impolite. “You never spring a doggy or any other uninvited guest on a host,” said Claudia Kawczynska, the editor in chief of Bark magazine. “If you do get a green light, bring a lot of treats for both your dog and the human host.”

What if the owner cannot bear to leave the dog at home?

“Many pet owners exhibit hyper-attachment,” said Victoria Stilwell, the British host of “It’s Me or the Dog,” a show on the Animal Planet network. But that is not fair to the dog, she said, because it may suffer intense separation anxiety when it is left alone. Also, she pointed out, “If you allow your pets to become hyper-attached, you’d better understand that it will limit your human relationships.”

ADMITTING YOU HAVE A PROBLEM IS THE FIRST STEP

Her name is Elisabeth Montoya. She is a 30-year-old lawyer who lives in Bozeman, Mont., with her husband, Johnny, an architect, their 2 ½-year-old son, Jack, and their 88-pound golden retriever, Diego del Mar de la Joya Montoya.

Before her son was born, Ms. Montoya admits, she was “really annoying” with the dog. “We nearly expected him to be given a place setting at the table.” Even now, she remains a dogaholic.

“The first time we brought Diego to my mom’s house was a disaster,” Ms. Montoya said. “He walked straight to the white-carpeted living room and proceeded to lift up his tail.”

The dog dragged himself perhaps 6 to 8 feet. “He left a noticeable brown streak in his wake. Horrifying.”

Now, Diego is even worse, Ms. Montoya said. He even bolted off the porch and bit a passer-by the other day.

“I babied him so much,” she said. “That’s why he’s like this.”

“We used to bring him to other people’s houses,” she said, “but now we don’t bring him around. He’s the cover dog for the worst dog ever.”

BEING WILLING TO MAKE AMENDS IS A NICE GESTURE, BUT NOT NECESSARILY A SOLUTION

Ms. Montoya appears farther along the road to recovery than the couple who attended a catered dinner for out-of-town wedding guests with their puppy.

The setting was not far from Aspen, Colo., in a home so lovely it is frequently featured in shelter magazines. The name of the puppy — a truly out-of-control guest — was Dude.

“It was unbelievable that good friends of mine and good friends of the parents of the bride would even consider bringing this dog,” said the hostess, a photographer and amateur landscape gardener named Sally who, perhaps because of the trauma, would not permit her last name to be used.

“The first thing Dude did was jump into the outdoor pond,” Sally said. “He shakes off on the grass lawn, then promptly heads inside and leaps onto the white couches, leaving a trail of pond scum. Then he runs outside, jumps onto one of the dining chairs, jumps on the table and helps himself to the hors d’oeuvres and fillet.”

A week later Sally received a note of apology, suggesting that she let bygones be bygones, signed with a paw print. Sally did not respond, which, she said, very much annoyed Dude’s owner.

This happened five years ago, and they have not spoken since.

The owners declined to discuss the matter with a reporter, but sent a comment through the bride: “Dude categorically denies everything.”

NEVER ASSUME

Problems can also occur when the guests assume that if the hosts have dogs, they, too, can bring theirs. This was the case with Donna Engelson, a 65-year-old former clothing designer, and her husband, Mel Engelson, a hardware manufacturer who for a time shared a Southampton home with Mr. Engelson’s brother and business partner, Larry, along with his wife, Tina, and Tina’s golden retriever, Cooper.

Although Donna Engelson had had asthma as a child, she did not worry about the dog. Her sister-in-law kept the house vacuumed and the dog upstairs.

One summer, the couples had a big Labor Day party. Since the Engelsons had a dog, friends brought theirs. After the third dog, Donna Engelson wound up in the emergency room. “It was very scary,” Ms. Engelson said. “My breathing capacity was 65 percent of what it was.” The couples are still close, but they have their own houses.

GIVE THAT PUPPY A TREAT

There was the time Rosi Kerr, today a 32-year-old New York energy advisor, then a teaching intern in an elite boarding school, brought her golden retriever puppy, Gus, to a meeting with the school’s director, who happened to be a cat owner. Ms. Kerr wanted to extend her stay at the school, but had a feeling the director did not feel the same.

She certainly had not planned to bring her new puppy, but she was running late.

“I sat in the living room trying to keep an eye on my dog as he wandered and sniffed,” Ms. Kerr said. “Somewhere along the line, I lost track of Gus. As she described how I was not a very good listener, I frantically craned my neck looking for my puppy.”

Gus reappeared just as the director told Ms. Kerr she was being dismissed and dropped a large, kitty litter-encrusted deposit at the director’s feet.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Steve Coll: Ghost Wars

This book is so long and complicated, and took me so long to read that I cannot even begin to describe the timeline, or the key points. I can say that it Steve Coll is one of the New Yorker authors that can write a full-length book (I would go so far as to say a full-length-plus book) successfully.

When 9-11 happened, I was in college, and hung out with a group of ultra-liberals. I would say "lefties," but lefties in the sense of leftists like anarchists, communists, etc. I was the closest in our group to a conservative, and I am far from conservative. Anyway, my point is that many of my friends truly believed that 9/11 was a USA-backed conspiracy. I hope they all read "Ghost Wars," because they were right, but not in the way that they thought at the time. "Ghost Wars" follows the money and the politics through the Cold War literally to the eve of 9/11, and if Coll doesn't prove that the U.S. brought 9/11 upon itself, then I think I just saw pigs fly out of my butt.

Coll doesn't have to do a whole lot of explaining in this book- he just has to follow the paper trail that the CIA left behind. Clearly, the research that went into this book is enormous, and overwhelming, and at times I was left shouting at the book like I do at the TV sometimes: "no, don't DO that! Stop, don't give guns to that guy!" But of course the CIA sped ahead with their ill-advised course of action: arming the fundamentalists against the communists, and then taking no responsibility for the muck they created after the Cold War, which led to the upswing of the men they had armed in terrorist training camps. Hey, on the plus side, at least there are only 50 stinger missiles unaccounted for...

Coll is evenhanded with Democrat and Republican administrations- he finds factual faults with them both. He dwells extensively on the CIAs innerworkings without talking about the much-discussed failure of information sharing between the State Department and the FBI. This is really investigative journalism, and for all its length, Coll is clearly an expert in this field. I would have liked an epilogue, or some closure with policy recommendations. We know what happened, now what does Coll think? For this, it's back to the New Yorker.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Birthdays Are for Looking Back?

Well, I've looked back, and decided that we should have known.

Monday, December 10, 2007

For Those Who Aren't with Us Anymore

This could be another "look what I got" posts, but it's not, because a) I'm not really as material as I've been seeming on this thing lately and b) it's much much more than that. My awesome parents gave me a cool combo printer/photoprinter/scanner thingy for Hannukah yesterday, and my first task (besides printing out a form I need for insurance) was to scan some of my favorite pictures of my family members that aren't with us any more.

Here they are in the order that they've left.



Bernadine ("Babe") Harris aka Grandma, d. 10/23/99.

This picture was taken at my cousin's wedding about 2 weeks before my Grandma passed away. Grandma had been sick for about 15 years- she got sick when I was 4, and the wedding, also the last time I saw her, was the fall of my freshman year of college. Call me crazy (you wouldn't be the first one), but I really believe that Grandma held on to see her oldest granddaughter get married. Grandma was a fighter and never gave up- even if it meant getting out of her bedroom so she didn't have to stare that "damn crack in the ceiling" anymore. Grandma played by her own rules, for better or for worse- she was stubborn, creative, and inappropriate. And of course, a giant lover of chocolate. Thanks for passing all of that on, Grandma, I think of you daily, as I also, am all of those things.



Bert Briskin d. 7/16/04

I have always loved this picture. I believe it is from my sister's Bat Mitzvah in 1997. Bert and Jackie did not have a dog when I was a little little girl, but he always told me about his dogs- I especially remember stories about huskies. He was sure to send me all of the James Herriot books- books I treasure to this day. There was nothing like seeing him at the dog park, where I'd take him when he'd visit, or the smile on his face as he "rested his eyes" with Pepi. Bert was always watching sports- horse races, especially, and I hear he was quite a warrior on the golf course. Or something. He was of course, a baseball fan. He was an amateur photographer, and his photos are amazing- I have a few in my house now. Quietly, I think Bert affects most everything I do.



Kozi d. 9/11/06

Kozi was the beginning for me, or the beginning of the end, depending on who you talk to. She was about 14 when she died, so I think I was about 11 when she was added to the family. You can see her full story on her Dogster page. I loved this dog (except for the few weird months where I hated her- don't know where that came from) and I think it's safe to say that I would never have become the crazy dog lady that I am now without Kozi. I think it's also safe to say that I would never have become a pit bull advocate without her for two main reasons: Kozi came from an ethical breeder, so I learned early what that means. Second, Kozi loved every human she ever met, and that became the personality that I was/am drawn to. She was indifferent to dogs, but never knew she had teeth. Probably the most stable dog I've ever met, she is a standard I hold dogs to. Mac is her successor in my heart, but will never replace her (contrary to appearances).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Devendra Barnhart: Chinese Children

This is one of those songs you can't help singing and can't help wondering... what the fizzle? But I love it, and I love that if you wait long enough, he even mentions Oakland. Here is a catchy little piece of it.

Devendra BanhartChinese Children

And here is a hilarious video of a family enjoying the song. They have Chinese children, too. (Remember, singing with your family keeps your kids off of drugs):

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Look what else I got!

Well, don't look, just read. On Sunday I was taking a nap, as is normal for me on pretty much any day that I am not otherwise engaged in normal paid routine. I woke up, and my computer was dead. Off, not working, closed, shut. This was not happy. It was on before I took the nap. I called my dad, previously mentioned, as he does not like to read in translation. I did not think he could really fix my computer, because not reading books in translation does not have any direct correlation to fixing mac's, however, he got lucky. "Plug it into a different outlet," he said. I did, and it worked! Then I stepped out of the room for a second, and it didn't work any more. Once again, the machine was off, dead, not working, finished. I called my dad, who still does not read in translation, and still doesn't really know how to fix computers. He was out of suggestions. He did, however, find a number for the local Mac store, which was good, since I couldn't turn on my computer to look (were IS that Yellow Pages?)

The next step was waiting on hold. And waiting, and waiting. I won't make you listen to the staticky ugly music that I listened to. You would never come back. Then I talked to a lady in another unidentifiable country- we were definitely speaking in translation- and she informed me that most likely I had a "dead unit". She did not elaborate on the definition of "dead unit," but I knew in my gut that this was ominous. She told me to put a different plug into my computer. I don't keep extra cords with strange ends in my house. So off to the Mac store, smack in the middle of the holiday rush went me and my "dead unit."

The Mac was indeed dead. That was the bad news. The good news is that I got a new one. And it is so big. It is a 24" iMac, and she is beautiful and fast and easy to use. I watched CSI on her, and she is lovely. I turned her on, and she is quiet and zippy and once I found the disc drive, all was good. She even sometimes spontaneously takes pictures of me, which is more than a little disturbing. Spending money was also a little disturbing, but I am forgetting it now that I have this nice toy. Oh, so nice. Turns out, the Mac died due to power surges. We had another after I got home, but fortunately I also invested in a power surge protector thingy. Hopefully 5050 jules is enough. It sounds like a lot!

Ok, you can look now!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Look what I got!

A friend gave me this awesome metal ad thingy. I love it.