Monday, December 29, 2008

Toni Morrison: a mercy

Toni Morrison is a cornerstone of modern literature, or at least, modern literature as I understand it. "Beloved" was one of the first books I remember rereading, and rereading because I knew that I would learn more from it the second and third time. OK, and because one of those re-reads was required for high school (middle school? who can remember). I have picked up various Morrison books over the years and been moved by her language, her images, her portrayal of voices that don't get voiced. "a mercy" is a disappointment in this way: Morrison seems to be feeling out some new voices, but leaves them undeveloped. We get a chapter or two from each voice, but not enough to love them or care about them deeply.

The book is just too short: barely 150 pages, in large font, and it's more of a novella than a novel. I wanted to know more about this early 18th century world Morrison has created, but there just wasn't time. Morrison unfolds an intriguing tale about a mostly woman-headed family complete with a Native American girl, a sort-of-ex-slave, an orphaned white "half-wit" and the matriarch, a happily immigrated English "mail order bride" who loves her new life. "Sir" is some kind of pisspoor farmer/trader/is he involved in the slave trade now? With "Beloved", I felt if I read and reread the book, I could learn more clues about the characters. I'd know who Lina's man was, I'd know more about Florens' "a minha mae", and about Sorrow's previous life. With "a mercy," I feel like I'd just spend another two hours enthralled with Morrison's beautiful writing, and left very short of satisfied.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rickie Solinger: Beggars and Choosers

This is the longest short book I've read in awhile. I think I've lost the ability to process "big ideas" gracefully- really, Solinger packs so many ideas in here that a few pages left my head swimming. The main "big idea" is that the struggle for women's rights has been lost in the shift towards a consumer mentality, and we now ascribe "choice" towards reproductive issues, which allows society to deem some women better choice-makers than others. This is a bad shift, Solinger argues, as young women, poor women, women of color, etc, are deemed unfit mothers, and icons like the "Backalley Butcher" and the "Welfare Queen" are used in lieu of real facts about motherhood and rights. Moving forward, Solinger argues, we need to get back to speaking about and arguing for rights, and full citizenship for all women, not just the ones who pass a financial test.

As someone who has always been outspoken about NOT wanting to be a mother, this book really points out how that "choice" is only mine to make because I am white, economically privileged and educated. Solinger describes forced adoptions for young women in the 60s and 70s and how feminists denied any links between forced adoptions and the abortion rights/reproductive rights movements. Birthmothers demanded to be acknowledged as women with rights that were being denied, and feminists refused to ally themselves with these women, refusing to claim motherhood as a feminist issue. I admit that I, too, have refused to see having children as a feminist issue, and my outspoken childless state, is a feminist issue that I need to deal with.

I wish Solinger had written this book now, as her book ends just as the Clinton years started: I don't have the brain power (or the resources) to analyze what "choice" looks like now in the current picture of welfare/adoption/abstinence education, but I know it's grim. How can we (royally) preach that adoption is a "win/win", while denying that the birthmother exists? How can we argue against welfare, and force poor mothers out of the home and into work, while looking down on women who don't spend enough time providing their children enough resources (ie: proper enrichment in the home, "good" daycare/preschool, etc.) How can we teach abstinence and avoid mentioning sex, and then frown on the "teenage mother" or the "single mother" and then cut welfare benefits? I don't know the hows, I just know we do, without the facts to back it up.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

So bad, it's good.

You have to laugh sometimes, right?

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

My Thoughts Exactly

(or at least sort of...) As usual, I'm 9 months behind on my New Yorker reading. It's timely, though, as the current (for me) issue that I just read had a David Sedaris article about spiders. His opening on spiders discussed New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina and the bizarre (to me) outpouring of interest in the animals and animal rescue after the storm. Of course, I was interested in the animal situation in New Orleans after the storm- I am a shelter worker, and was a shelter worker then.

Multiple layers of the fascination with the Katrina animals disturbed/surprised me. First, I wondered: "what about the humans?" Obviously, I care about animals. I care deeply, enough to devote my life to them. As I said, I'm a shelter worker. I don't do it for the big bucks, I don't do it for the glory, I certainly don't do it for the easy, clean, cushy job. But I still have perspective on the world (I know it sometimes seems otherwise). Really, Hurricane Katrina affected so many people- human beings, with families- old people, young people, sick people, healthy people, of all races. And yet people viewing the storm from afar were obsessed with the animals. Something seemed just off. Nothing is wrong with caring and advocating for voiceless animals, but there was a disconnect, a distorted amount of money and effort and time and worry spent on the animals, as opposed to the humans affected by the storm. The second part of my curiosity/fascination about the emotional response to the animals of Hurricane Katrina was the obsession with THOSE animals. I get it, they were displaced, which made them special. At the time, I was working at a county-run, publicly funded shelter, which was always full. We did not take any Katrina animals, but I fielded sometimes 10 calls a day asking if we had any Katrina animals and where people could donate to them. I fielded calls for months about adopting Katrina animals, and people would straight up tell me they only wanted to donate to Katrina animals and only wanted to adopt Katrina animals. This struck me as odd, and strange, and frustrating. There are homeless, displaced animals everywhere in the United States. In your city, in your county, there are displaced dogs and cats and chickens without a dramatic story. Your local shelter needs donations of money and blankets and food and would love to have you adopt a dog. But something about disaster struck a chord with many many people, and made me just a *little* bitter.

So it was timely that I returned from New Orleans, where humans (and their animals) are still very much displaced, and read Sedaris' article. I was in New Orleans working on restoration, for humans (and animals if they had them). I think much of America has forgotten Hurricane Katrina, and lots of people think this is okay. When I mention my trip to people, they say, "oh well, it (New Orleans) isn't coming back." Ok, I guess. But there are still people there, people deserving of our support. New Orleans is part of this country, a part of this country that was very let down by this government in a time of need. Why didn't we respond in with the same outpouring of support to the people that we gave to the animals? It's not too late.

Here is the excerpt from April & Paris:

People I know, people who had never before contributed to charity, emptied their pockets when a cocker spaniel was shown standing on a rooftop after Hurricane Katrina hit, eight months later. "What choice did I have?" they asked. "That poor little thing looked into the camera and penetrated my very soul."
The eyes of the stranded grandmother, I noted, were not half as piercing. There she was, clinging to a chimney with her bra strap showing, and all anyone did was wonder if she had a dog. "I'd hate to think there's a Scotty in her house, maybe trapped on the first floor. What's the name of that canine-rescue agency?"
Saying that this was everyone's reaction is, of course, an exaggeration. There were cat people, too, and those whose hearts went out to the abandoned reptiles. The sight of an iguana sailing down the street on top of a refrigerator sent a herpetologist friend over the edge. "She seems to be saying, 'Where's my master?'" he speculated. "'Here it is, time for our daily cuddle and I'm stuck on the S.S. Whirlpool!!'"

Sedaris writes tongue in cheek, in part. But this hits home for me. People care about the cockers and the Scottys and the iguanas, but what about granny? I spoke to a woman this week who relocated from New Orleans with her 4 kids after spending 2 nights sleeping under the freeway during the storm with her family, to stay dry. She told me her whole family has moved back to New Orleans but she won't go, so she is here alone, with her kids, because she knows the levees have not been repaired. Who cares about her? This is Mr Paul, whose house we helped restore. He is just moving back into his house, three years after the Hurricane, with his wife and three children with the help of the St Bernard Project.

mr paul- stranger #21

Don't worry, his two dogs from pre-Katrina are moving back with him, as is Tyson, his boxer that he acquired while living in Houston before coming home.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Prop 8, People of Color, and Passing the Buck

I hate Prop 8. I hate that I feel weirded out to live in California, and Oakland, for the first time in my life. I've always had a strange Oakland Pride- strange because this little city is famous all over the US (the world?) for being a dangerous place, yet I call it home, and return here every time I move away with a sigh of relief. Prop 8, and the vociferous, vehement, volatile supporters of a hateful bill, made me uncomfortable here for the first time in my life. It's not like I could just move to Berkeley or San Francisco or somewhere else in California- this whole state has gone the "wrong" way.

It's almost worse for me to hear friends and family saying things like "it's too bad that the Obama vote helped get this passed" or "the minority churches really helped get this passed." Sure, I was disappointed to see church groups supporting Prop 8 (from the LDS to the local Tongan church in my neighborhood), as I'm a big supporter of religious feeling being used for positive social change, and I was especially disappointed to recieve a full paged, full color, ad on election day of Barack Obama with a misleading quote implying he was for Prop 8 when in fact he had not come out for the Proposition.

On the other hand, over half of Californians voted for Prop 8, and against gay marriage. They weren't all black. They weren't all Hispanic. In fact, everyone's favorite election statistician (I hear he does baseball, too) says that pointing the finger at people of color and new Obama supporters is incorrect. What I can say about Prop 8 "yes voters", whoever they are, is that they all voted against basic civil rights, and felt that in some way, gays and lesbians are "different" or less deserving of the right to marry (privelege? opportunity? whatever you want to call it, separate and not equal). Adele Carpenter at Racialicious says it better than I ever can in Resisting the Racist Blame Game. It's old news: the feminist movement is/was historically very "white" (to be gentle) and "racist" (to be honest) (I'm going to go with is), and the LGBT movement has followed in their footsteps. It's easy to wear blinders and point fingers, but it's not productive. We have to move forward, and figure out how to make Oakland and California a place that sends the dominoes falling in a positive direction again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Vikram Chandra: Sacred Games

So, I broke my "reading all the books on my shelf before buying any more books" rule, and bought "Sacred Games." I can't remember exactly when, or why, but it was a mistake. This book was a good idea, and not a terrible book, but at 900something pages, it was approximately 500 pages too long. "Games" takes place in Bombay/Mumbai (when did I miss this name change), and boy, it was timely that I finished this book yesterday, right before the terror/hostage situation there now. I learned more about Mumbai police, gangsters and hookers than I ever even dreamed I could know, but hey, you can cover a lot of ground in 1000 pages. If you like sagas, you might like this book, as long as you are very very very patient. Otherwise, skip it. This book is too long to appreciate. If Chandra is looking for an editor, I'd be glad to help.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dogs of New Orleans

You didn't think I could go away for a week and not take a billion pictures of dogs, did you? The awesome red pit bull that makes multiple appearances is Kai, who belongs to A, who was my wonderful hostess/tourguide two days. What a lovely, stable, and generous bulldog, of course straight from the local SPCA. Charmed the pants right off of a cat-guy at the protest for gay marriage downtown. The boxer belongs to a homeowner we welcomed home with the St Bernard Project (more on that later).

I'm Back

I was away, I did not forget the blog. I was in New Orleans for a week working with The St Bernard Project, in St Bernard Parish, and taking pictures. I have (surprisingly) much to say and many pictures to post, but it's taking time to process both my thoughts and my pictures. One day they'll be here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I Can't Help It,

I love this.

I also really like this- makes me feel like maybe, one day, this won't be such a shock. (Of course, the cynic in me says by then, there'll be no ozone layer, so it will be irrelevant, but hey, one step at a time.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

And Most Creative Campaigning Award Goes To....


I have so much to say about the election, but first, I have been diligently working on my photos from the "after party." I don't really know what to call it- there were parties in the streets all over Oakland. The one C and I went to was downtown, and we were basically dancing and yelling and screaming in the street for 3 hours. In the middle of the night. And it was safe. This is momentous. I've condensed the pictures down to the following, and if you chose, you can select the captions to go along with each. Enlarge the slideshow to be full screen, and you will see a choice in the middle for "info on." This will allow you to read my description of each picture. I would recommend watching once without the captions and once with. I hope you enjoy this- this was really a wonderful moment, whether you were celebrating Obama, the first black president, or the relief of No More Bush.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Mac gets Photographed

The lovely Ms Moucri took some glorious shots of Mac last night, while I played photographer's assistant and dog wrangler. Please enjoy her handiwork, and don't forget to check out the rest of her work on flickr.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Boyfriend, My Hero

I know you thought my boyfriend was a pitcher. Ok, he is a pitcher. But he's also a slugger! (And the winner of Game 4 of the World Series.) Does it get any better than this??

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We Support Love- No on 8

Mac and Booker (and themacinator and C) attended an impromptu protest in our neighborhood today. Mac wore his Diva sweatshirt and a homemade sign provided by C saying "We Support Love." Booker wore a charming bee costume and a similar "We Support Love" sign, as well as pink toenails. Pit bulls in costumes are always big attention getters, and their appearance in the Laurel district was no exception. Mac likes to attend protests, and to wear costumes, so this was a double whammy for him. Plus, he feels that pit bulls are the recipients are much discrimination, so he likes to stand up for other unfairly maligned groups. Being a queer pit bull is just the icing on the cake...

B says no on 8

There were about 10 of us spread around the intersection and a few of Oakland's Finest protecting us. When I drove by the first time, there were a bunch of "Yes on 8" people there, being very vocal. Apparently, earlier today, and earlier this week, they had been particularly verbally abusive and confrontational. By the time we got back with our gay pit bulls, the anti-equality people had been escorted away by the judicious OPD officers. The No on 8 people were being polite and appropriate, therefore were allowed to stay.

Please, if you live in California consider voting against Prop 8. It is a hateful bill. I don't care who you marry, who you want to marry, but equality under the law is what I believe this country is about.

A shout out to purified thinking water for this awesome image:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Macscapades, or, Mac is Available for Adoption

Mac has a hard head. About two or three years ago, he broke my nose. Through no fault of his own, his hard head hit my soft nose, and well, as my dad says, "whether the rock hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the rock, it's going to be bad for the pitcher." As my sister pointed out, it's thoroughly possible that in breaking my nose with his hardasrocks head, Mac just may have straightened my nose.

Anyway, Mac's head struck again last night. Literally.

Mac does not like cats. When he sees one, he turns into The Hulk. Normally, he is a very quiet dog- rarely barks, never whines, etc. But cats bring out his inner voice. He turns into this loud roaring barking machine, which pretty much guarantees he'll never catch a cat, since they can hear him coming from a mile away. Last night, we were sitting in my car by my house, not moving, I was on the phone, and lo-and-behold, a cat dared to cross the path. Mac did his usual routine, but through in an added twist. He jumped front feet on the dashboard (he's done this before) but his hardasrocks head hit the windshield. And the windshield cracked. Seriously. This was, of course, the end of my phone conversation. This was not a tiny little slice. Nor was it something I could fix myself. No, this is a $250 window demolition. Thank you, Mac. (Of course Mac did not even seem to notice that his noggin hurt.)

I am offering Mac for free. He comes with toys, outfits, a month of meat, a freezer, treats, a clicker, and some training. He is neutered, chipped, probably semi-UTD on shots. And he has a really hard head. You could probably use it for some kind of log splitting or other backbreaking competition. Car not included.

Pictorial proof:



(no mac isn't REALLY available for adoption. i just... say that)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sam Walker: Fantasyland

I love baseball. I know that's obvious. When I was little, my dad was in a "rotisserie" league. I don't think I ever knew why it was called a "rotisserie" league- maybe I thought they made that up, since everyone else played "Fantasy" baseball, or maybe I thought they ate a lot of rotisserie chicken. I don't know, but I do know that I played a lot of rotisserie baseball with dad. I collected baseball cards at the time, so I knew a lot of the stats in my pre-teen brain, although I didn't always know what they meant, and I rarely knew more advanced (or nerdy) stats like WHIP or OPS- just thinks like strikeouts, saves, HRs, etc- things actually printed on TOPS or Upper Deck cards. (Sidenote- weren't Upper Deck cards cool? When they came out it was like baseball cards had just soared to a new level.) Anyway, Dad and his good friend Harvey were in this league of dorky baseball dudes (I don't remember any other women) and every year for a few years Dad had a team- LODI- which stood for "Long Distance" because he was always travelling, and Harvey was the "Commissioner" of the league, who we called, and still call, the Commish, and together, we'd have this father/daughter bonding experience of planning our draft in the off season, and I would go with him to draft our team. I even got to help him pick our players. Pretty nifty for a baseball dork. This was before the internet (yes, I remember that time) and we would go to get the newspaper and read the boxscores every morning to see how LODI was doing. So much fun!

Well, Sam Walker has written the book about my childhood. Or at least, why Rotisserie leagues are what they are, where they came from, why they're controversial, and who the big-wigs are in fantasy baseball. And my dad's league didn't make up the name, and they didn't eat a lot of chicken. (My family ate a lot of rotisserie chicken, but we don't get the credit here.) This is a pretty awesome book, if you care about stats, or if you like to dorkout about balls hit hard vs contact, etc. Sabermetrics vs fantasy vs scouting, etc. If this is greek, or boring, this book will not interest you. If you still want to trade baseball cards, and not just on their value as cards themselves, but on the value of the player, to help complete your little roster, then this book is awesome. It's a nice supplement to "Moneyball," which describes Billy Beane's now not-so-new method of building a successful low-budget team, using mathematics. Walker jumped into the league for the experts in fantasy ball, and expected to do well. "Fantasyland" is his story, and the chronicles of his humbling. Go Streetwalkers!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Believe It.

Your home insurance policy has a breed restriction list. Your renter's insurance has a list. Your condo has an HOA and they have a list. Your apartment complex has a list. Even if "everyone has a dog" the list exists. Even if they "told you that you could have a dog" there is a list." And this list can come back to bite you in the butt. Sure, pit bulls are on there, but so is everything else.

An adopter handed me this list the other day and told me it wasn't exhaustive, but that this was a sample. I have such a hard time convincing people of this- that breed paranoia, especially for large dogs, exists- but it's real. When bringing home a dog, it's paramount to *do your research first.* Get permission to have your dog in writing. Check with your insurance agent *first* and bring home the dog second. It's not worth losing your insurance or your new dog.

Secondly, and more selfishly, don't think that pit bulls are the only "bad" dogs out there. Or, that they're bad at all. Breed specific legislation does not work. All dogs bite, all dogs get bad reputations, and targeting individual breeds (as you see on this list) is ridonkulous. What do pit bulls, greyhounds, and bassets have in common? Well, almost nothing except that you can't live in a house owned by this company with one of them. And they usually have four legs and a tail. It's important to look at the human with the dog, and the actions that happen, not the breed of dog. Or we'll end up with draconion lists like this one, and I'm not sure what dogs we'll have left.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Robin Maxwell: The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn

I picked up this book because I needed something fast and brainless. I didn't want to think, I didn't want to be depressed (I just finished Bret Easton Ellis- enough depression for awhile), and I thought Tudor England would be fun for a minute. No. Not fun. Poorly written, tedious, and I've read this book- or a version of it- before. Only whichever version I've read before was done better. I didn't have the energy to put this book out of my sight and start another, but I should have.

The only profound insight I gained from this book (if you can call it that) is that we are obsessed with English scandals. Why? Diana is the latest Anne, or something like that. I can't stretch the metaphor too far, because I mean the "royal we," as evidenced by how little I care about this book- I don't care much about Diana and her love for royalty, either. Maxwell tries to make some profound feminist points through Queen Elizabeth and her mother Anne, "Tomorrow I die because I lusted not for flesh, but to comand my own destiny. This is not a womanly act, I know, but I have oft thought that in this way my spirit is much the same as a man's." But I've heard it before, and much more eloquently. Please, save your head: don't read this book.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Your Dog Did Not Get Stolen.

He escaped. Seriously, I hear all the time- "someone stole my dog." Ok, it's possible, I guess. But if your dog was unattended in the yard, chances are, the dog got out, and you didn't find him. Sure, maybe he ended up with someone who didn't know that the proper protocol was to bring him to the nearest animal shelter (which means you didn't have tags on him telling him to bring him back home), and they kept him, which is *technically* theft, but I don't think that's what you mean. You mean, someone came into your yard, and stole your dog out of it. I'm still waiting for a good answer about WHY someone would do this- I get the Cruella deVille theory, but really, how many people out there are wearing dog-skin-coats these days? And we've debunked the bait-dog theory (well, most people have) and if you really want a bait dog, all you have to do is walk down the street and catch one, not enter someone's private property and steal one and risk getting bitten or shot. Or maybe your dog is just SO special and SO pretty and SO unique that the only way to get one just like him is to get HIM exactly? Right, that's it. Your dog got stolen because he was him.

I doubt it. More likely, your dog got out of your yard. It might have been the easy, human-error way- someone left the gate open. It might have been the more subtle human error way- your fence was built too short, or the gaps in the fence were built too wide, or something. Or, it might have been the even MORE subtle human error way- your dog figured a way to get out of the yard. He scaled the "unscaleable" fence or dug out of the sunken fence. Why is this human error? Because you left him there unattended, and your dog was bored. He needed enrichment in his life, or he saw something more exciting on the other side, and didn't comprehend human concepts like "fence" and "property line." Can you blame him? Well, I guess you can, since you're already blaming this phantom dog-snatcher.

Thanks to Carolyn for showing me this video, which finally demonstrates my case. I'm pretty sure this would constitute an escape-proof enclosure, for most dog-owners. I'm pretty sure most dog-owners who came home to find their dog gone would blame someone else (phantom dog-snatcher). But no, it was the wiley beagle (aka subtle human error).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bret Easton Ellis: Less Than Zero

Bret Easton Ellis wrote this book twice. Unfortunately I read them in the wrong order. If I had read this before "American Psycho", I would have loved it, but this is the warm-up for "American Psycho," or "American Psycho"-junior. Not quite as startling, not quite as scary, not quite as mind-altering, not quite as horrific. The characters are teenagers and their vices haven't aged, yet. You can see where they're going, and shudder. And so very LA, which I abhorred before reading the book, and abhor even more now. If you haven't read either book, you should read both, which much time in between to get grounded first. Only, definitely read "Less Than Zer0" first.

My favorite part, worth retyping in full:

I am sitting in my psychiatrist's office the next day coming off from coke, sneezing blood. My psychiatrist's wearing a red V-neck sweater with nothing on underneath and a pair of cut-off jeans. I start to cry really hard. He looks at me and fingers the gold necklace that hangs from his tan neck. I stop crying for a minute and he looks at me some more and then writes something down on his pad. He asks me something. I tell him I don't know what's wrong; that maybe it has something to do with my parents but not really or maybe my friends or that I drive soemtimes and get lost; maybe it's the drugs.
"At least you realize these things. But that's not what I'm talking about, that's not really what I'm asking you, not really."
He gets up and walks across the room and straightens a framed cover of a Rolling Stone with Elvis Costello on the cover and the words "Elvis Costello REpents" in large white letters. I wait for him to ask me the question.
"Like him? Did you see him at the Amphitheater? Yeah? He's in Europe now, I guess. At least that's what I heard on MTV. Like the last album?"
"What about me?"
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"You'll be fine."
"I don't know, I say. "I don't think so."
"Let's talk about something else."
"What about me?" I scream, choking.
"Come on, Clay," the psychiatrist says. "Don't be so... mundane."

Monday, September 22, 2008

On Second Thought,

Mac asked me to set the record straight.

The last post describing Mac's mousecapades made it sound like Mac was a stereotypical Vicious Pit Bull Killing Machine. Mac correctly points out that the evidence is against him.

1. The flies: Mac chases flies whenever he gets the chance. Approximately one time for every 50 does the fly actually enter his mouth. And when it does, he actually lets it go, and the fly, without fail, flies away. (No pun intended- Mac is dictating, themacinator apologizes for lack of stylish prose.) Mac reminds me that I have always been fascinated with catch and release fishing, and perhaps his actions are just a different form- "catch and release flying", as it were. Once in a blue moon, a fly will die due to the activities of Mac, but never in Mac's mouth. One could blame exhaustion, sogginess (spit kills!), or a broken leg- Mac never claimed to be gentle- but definitely not "the chomp of death".

2. The mouse: The mouse was found under the bed, in the corner, almost 24 hours after the chase began. Mac could not access the mouse, as his head and shoulders are too big to fit under the bed. Trust me, he tried, he says. And tried, and tried, and tried again. Upon retrieval of the mouse, by themacinator, the mouse was found to be bloodless, and intact. Again, the mouse may have died due to the activities of Mac, but did not die due to direct mouth-to-mouse contact. Mac suggests heart attack, exhaustion (wus!), old age, or broken something-or-other. Once again, killer pit bull not at fault. (Mice are not supposed to be game animals, themacinator reminds Mac. That's his job.)

So Mac's record is clean, he hopes. He is not a zookeeper, and cannot stretch the longevity of the animals who happen into his care. He also cannot vouch for their health prior to his arrival on the scene. He apologizes for any misconceptions about him, but wants you to know that a dog this dorky could not possibly be deadly:


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mac- The Pit Bull vs the Intruder

I posted previously that Mac was not a dog. I lied. Not only is Mac a dog, he is now convincing me (after 6+ years) that he is probably mostly pit bull. Mac's background is unknown- he came from the Berkeley animal Shelter in 2002, I've always known he was a pit bull mix, but appearance-wise, he is mostly a BYB-special, and temperament-wise, he fits this part of PBRC's description to the T:

Pit bulls are very adaptable and will even do well in urban living provided they have enough exercise or other positive outlets for their energy. Many pit bulls are easygoing couch-potatoes but can also be somewhat rambunctious until they mature. Maturity can come pretty late with this breed (2 to 3 years old in some cases). Pit bulls remain playful all their life and have a great sense of humor. Real clowns at heart, these dogs will make you laugh like no other. (see PBRC Breed Info)

That fits Mac- couch potato is a nice way of saying lazy or sleeps all day, he matured early, after about 10 months of themacinator (me) figuring out what to do with him, and totally a clown. The part that I never really saw in him was the part that bulldog aficionados call "gameness" or tenacity. I've seen his prey drive come out in force- there was that time he chased the seal out in the bay half way to San Francisco- and he'll chase a ball with gusto for, oh, ten minutes, and when he really really wants to kill a toy, there's no stopping him.

oakland booty
(This picture is Mac attempting to drag me back to the car to kill that turquoise ball. He can hold that pose for 10+ minutes till I give in.)

Basically, I had never really seen this part of the pit bull personality in action before:

They are also very resourceful and driven. Determination is one of their most notable traits. Whatever they set out to do, they put their heart and soul into it...

Determination, gameness, perseverance: I believe pit bulls have it, I just wasn't sure Mac had it. Until last night. At about 11pm, I woke up to Mac running around the room like someone was throwing the ball for him. No one was throwing the ball for him, as I was asleep, and as Bill Withers says, it was just the two of us. Mac was running around the room then freezing, like he saw something to chase. Run run run, stop. Run, stop Run, stop run stop run run run stop continue. I figured there was a bug he was chasing, though it was strange that he could see this in the dark. I fell back asleep, even though he didn't. I woke up at about 1am. Mac was still at it. I'm not sure if he paused in his run stop wag run stop chase action, but he was at it again. Now he was focused on the closet. He would stand and stare at it, his tail wagging like he was so happy, then pointing up straight, like he was about to pounce, then he would freeze. I turned on the light. There was nothing there. Mac continued, I tried to go back to sleep. He started running again. This continued for so long that I couldn't go back to sleep. I turned the light back on and poked around in the closet. Nothing there. He was so focused on the closet that I decided that one of use was crazy: Mac for thinking there was something in the closet or themacinator for not believing that there was something in the closet. I took every single article of clothing off of the shelves in the closet. I was a little frightened, I admit, so I also held a broom in one hand. There was nothing there. Mac eagerly watched. Nothing. Then I picked up the blanket that was on the floor and a tiny. little. mouse. ran across the floor.

Mac started running and chasing again. I encouraged him for a minute, hoping his success with the mouse would end this nightmare. It did not. My roommate called from upstairs to ask me if someone was breaking in. I informed her someone small and four legged already had and that my terrier was failing in catching it. She offered to help shoo him out, I declined because I had NO IDEA what I was in for. The pit bull perserverence had yet to rear its ugly head. Mac chased that mouse all night long. I slept intermittently until the alarm went off at 7am. I am not convinced that Mac slept at all. The mouse, I am SURE, slept even less. I woke up approximately every 15 minutes to my dog chasing and playing with a mouse. He did not catch the mouse. I did not sleep. The mouse did not die. My dog proved himself to be very tenacious.

I went to work today, and came home, thankfully, to my dog acting normal. Oh good, I said to myself, I can sleep tonight! After our little normal routine, we returned to my bedroom. And Mac started hunting again. Apparently, tenacity can last more than 8 hours- we are now up to something like 20! Mac started to climb under my bed. I fished out a mouse. Mercifully, for everyone involved, deceased. I threw the deceased mouse out the back door. Mac did not understand, and continued to check under the bed, in the direction of the door, and everywhere else. He is sleeping now, for the minute.

Mac is a dog. A pit bull dog. A pit bull terrier. 6 years later... we're at peace with tenacity.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Eldridge Cleaver: Soul On Ice

Why haven't I read this book before? Eldridge Cleaver is hilarious and cutting in his portrayal or race issues in mid-60's America. Some of his essays deal with prison, some deal with sex, and they all deal with being black in the era of the struggle for Civil Rights. In some places, Cleaver is downright poetic: "The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less," while in others, he is almost pornographic in his metaphors of white men as the Mind and black men as the Body. Cleaver discusses why he left the Black Muslims, and apologizes to black women for 400 years of mistreatment.

This is a must read for anyone interested in race, gender, and class issues- even though I say I never want to discuss this stuff again, Cleaver is too good to pass by.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Last Game of the Year

(that I will attend) It was really pretty typical- the A's lost, F$cking Foulke gave up 3 homeruns on 3 pitches (some kind of feat), the starting pitcher (Mr Best Name in Baseball Outman) got no run support and threw too many pitches, the A's had a 9th inning rally which consisted of walks, hit batters, and an infield hit, and I was cold, because it's Oakland in September. The A's "proudly" announced that prices will not rise next year, so I may attend more games (especially if my dad continues to take me) and sit through them in stoic and bleakly amused semi-humor. Ok, I know I will attend them. I suppose they won't be exponentially worse, and now that I know what to expect (Donorfia, Cunningham, Blevins, and Patterson (are these major leaguers???)), I won't feel let down.

On to hibernation.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I don't do a lot of reminiscing. I'm not particularly nostalgic, or patriotic, so it seems particularly odd to write about 9/11. But I was thinking today about "where I was" when it happened, as people do seem to do that. I was in Mexico on September 11, 2001. I remember watching video footage of planes crashing into the twin towers on a small, black and white TV, and wondering what would happen to my study-abroad status. Our group was made up of people from all over the country and it was almost impossible to call home to find out what was happening to their families. I was ok, my family was in California, and though my family was scheduled to travel, they weren't traveling that day. It was all surreal. I remember standing at a payphone, crying, the day that I heard that Bush had decided to bomb Afghanistan. Even then, this seemed so futile to me, as it was clear to me that the Taliban had not hijacked any planes, and that so much was wrong with that government that had been ignored (or funded) for so long. And so much happened immediately after the 9/11 that I will never understand, because I missed it, while studying away in Mexico. My boyfriend at the time spent a night in jail for a peaceful protest he attended in Hartford, where he marched in the street. Marching in the street was a civil liberty no longer to be taken for granted. 13 students were in jail and faced huge, unaffordable to starving students, fines. My school was close to New York, and so many kids had ties or once-away-ties from people who lost relatives that day. And most of them rose to the occasion, and decided that war was not the answer. And apparently, for the majority of the country, while I was gone, love for the US became patriotism or nationalism in the form of the American flag: when I came home I was shocked and a little dismayed to see the red, white, and blue everywhere. On the drive home from the airport my parents had to stop me from pointing out every flag on every car, as there were just too many- flying a mini (or fullsized) flag from your car was the Thing To Do after 9/11. Slowly these have gone away, and so has the pain. The war is still here. And so is George Bush.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What We did this Summer

My family had an exciting vacation. So I prepared this report to share with the class.

My mom went on a cruise. She saw all kinds of cool things. She went to Norway (that's really far north, and cold, and they eat moose there). She went to Oslo and Stockholm and Russia. She even went to Germany. That's a lot of countries!




My dad and my sister went to China, to see the Olympics. That's only one country, but it's really far away. They saw people run real fast, jump real high, and hit balls real hard.

They saw weird buildings,

They ate weird food,

And they danced with cheerleaders.

So what did I do while my family was on this exciting vacation? I did not go far away, not to another country or even to another city. I stayed in Oakland. I did not even go on vacation at all! I went to work, class. And not only that, I didn't even get to try any new foods or watch anybody jump over anything or run anywhere. But I did catch 65 pigeons. Some with my bare hands.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Who's On First

I know you've probably heard this. But if you haven't, or if you haven't heard it in awhile, please, listen to it again. It's the story of my life.


Dang Thuy Tram: Last Night I Dreamed of Peace

Thuy Tram was a young female doctor in Vietnam who kept a detailed diary of her emotional life during her work in the South. Raised as an educated, upper-middle class Northern student, she goes South to work as a medic and becomes part of the Communist struggle until her death. The book is interesting, and different than the norm, but that's about as much as I can say about it. Not a very compelling read, and quite repetitive. Unusual subject matter: otherwise a total dud.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A's Team Photo Day

I have to laugh. I have to wonder. September 19th is A's "Team Photo" Giveaway day. The first 10,000 fans will get a photo of the A's. But *which* A's?

Some combination of the following players have been with the team this year (forget Sept 1 and the 40 man roster, I maintain that very few of these 50 players have anything to do with the 15 additional players). I don't even remember them all by name, let alone their faces. That's a lot of combos for the team picture. I'm not good at math, or factorials, I'll let someone else do it. Here's the names, have a fun trip down memory lane:

Position players:
Florentino (currently in AAA)
M. Sweeney
R. Sweeney
Petit (currently in AAA)
Thomas (60 Day DL- season over)
Denorifa (currently in AAA)
E. Brown
Chavez (60 Day DL)
C. Gonzalez (currently in AAA)
Ellis (not playing, but not on DL)
Bankston (DFA)
Murphy (DFA)
Buck (AAA)
Conrad (AAA)
Murton (AAA)
Johnson (DFA)


Harden (traded to the Cubs- i.e. the beginning of the end)
Duchscherer (15 day DL)
Calero (released)
Gaudin (traded to the cubs: middle of the end)
Blanton (traded to the Phillies- the end of the end)
A. Brown (60 day DL)
Gallagher (acquired mid-season from the Cubs, now on 15-day DL)
G. Gonzalez
DiNardo (AAA)
Hernandez (returned to White Sox- who is this guy??)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Instant Replay

There is really no reason to watch or listen to the A's game tonight. They suck. They really really suck. But they are one of three teams to be hosting games with the brand new instant replay tonight. We'll see how it goes! (Well, I'll hear how it goes- themacinator isn't going to pay to go watch the A's tonight.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Annie Dillard: The Maytrees

I actually finished this book about two weeks ago and have just been hesitating to post a review because I can't decide how I feel about the book. I think I'm disappointed, and perhaps confused. I love Annie Dillard- "Living" and "Teaching a Stone to Talk" are among my two favorite books. And I love that Dillard describes herself as a "gregarious recluse" and that I loved her even before I knew about the Wesleyan connection. But "The Maytrees" left me feeling empty, and not in a moving empty way, just empty. It's always sad to pick up a book that you're looking forward to it and have you leave you with this "what just happened" kind of feeling. It's not the same as the "why am I reading this?" feeling, but it's not great, either. I have no summary to share, because this book is not about plot, it's about mood. I suppose it would mean more to me if I were from the East Coast, and knew anything (or cared about) Cape Cod. Maybe that's what's missing? Anyway, I'll be passing this one along.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mixtape: Lesson #2- Jaded

Located this tape in the car and I *love* it. I love the theme behind it- screw "love"- these ladies and gentlemen know where it's at. No sappiness here, just straight up, it's over, or if it's still on, it's all about booty. The tape has its flaws, so I've updated it, playlist style, and annotated it with my thoughts about what makes each song so apt. Hope you enjoy!

You Had Me, You Lost Me - Eve (
This song sets the mood of the whole tape/playlist. Eve belts it out, and the title says it all. Really nice try, mister. You fucked around, what makes you think you can have me back? Seriously? I love Eve, and the way her uptempo rapping makes even me dance. I don't dance.)
Narcissus- Alanis Morissette (from one pissed off-but still laughing- woman to the next, Alanis spends this song telling dumbass man to go back to the world he's used to: the world where everyone kisses his booty. She isn't having it. It's hilarious, and so jaded.)
The World Is Full Of Bastards- Mary Prankster (Mary Prankster is the Queen of Jaded. She isn't whining, but certainly this is an Ode to Bastards, and Bad Luck.)
Deathly - Aimee Mann (This is every woman's song about the man who tries to fix us. Why do they do that? And why do we go along with it? Kindness is deathly, and Aimee Mann is done with that nonsense.)
I’m A Slut -bis (After that spin with a little softness, bis pumps up the volume and lays it out in plain English: "I'm a slut". Take it or leave it. Totally and quintisentially Jaded.)
I'll Call Before I Come -OutKast (The intro to this song is included- where a lady discusses the motherfucking minute man. He gets his, she isn't getting hers. Damn. After this, OutKast is gonna be sure to call before he comes... Damn straight we're getting cynical here.)
I Love You (Or At Least I Like You)-Princess Superstar (If I can think of one woman who defines jaded, it's The Superstar. She's too hot to handle, and in this song, she's found a male ho. That's the way, uh uh uh uh I like it!)
Certainly -Erykah Badu Baduizm (Time for a little slow down here... No permission for love, we're way too jaded for that.)
Piece Of My Heart -Janis Joplin (OK, this one is debatable- is Janis in love? Is she bitter about love? Or, in my take, is she totally sarcastic, and saying, fine, take it- this love stuff, it's old news. Jaded Janis.)
Bitter -Jill Sobule (Jill says she doesn't want to be bitter (read Jaded) like you.)
Love Hurts-Joan Jett (Love hurts. We're not doing it again. We're jaded, remember?)
Can't Cry Anymore -Sheryl Crow (Sheryl Crow can't cry any more- she's shaking love and bitterness and pain off like a dog on the beach. She's way past that. And I believe her. Really.)
Less Than Strangers -Tracy Chapman (It would be so easy to take Tracy Chapman seriously, she's so earnest. But this is another one- I'm going with the twinge of sarcasm, and bitterness. Less than strangers. Really- that's jaded.)
You're So Vain -Carly Simon (This one speaks for itself. It's a sing-a-long song for the very, very, VERY jaded.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Really? I Mean, Really?

Someone handed this to me at work today. They said they found it in their backyard, so they had to bring it to me. I've seen a lot of things.

I have never seen a kitten in a container like this.

At least there was a hole poked in the top.

Have I mentioned I hate kitten season?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Richard Powers: The Echo Maker

Apparently, "The Echo Maker" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. I'm not quite sure why- the book was good, but not that good. Then again, I don't know quite what it takes to be nominated to for the Pulitzer, so that's a topic for another day. Richard Powers covers a lot of ground in this book- families, siblings, marriage, deception, environmental destruction, and mostly, the brain and what it means to be human and to know who you are and how you exist in the world. Karin and Mark, two adult siblings, are torn apart and brought together again in new ways (do I sound like cliche back-cover copy or what?) when Mark has a traumatic head injury and develops a rare syndrome that causes him to think that Karin is a stand-in for his real sibling.

The first third of the book is mesmerizing: Karin throws her life aside to take care of Mark on his long and slow journey to recovery, and Mark tries to put his life back together with the help of "Kopy Karin." The second part of the book introduces the world-famous Dr Weber, and the book goes downhill as he drops into Nebraska to check Mark out as a case study and then leaves. The story follows the neurologist as he (and his brain) spins in unexpected circles. This part is less convincing- Powers takes on too much- in attempting to show us just how fragile and fragmented our grasp on the brain and knowledge and connectivity is, Powers loses the train of the story. In the last part of the book, Weber and the siblings are brought back together for a little bit of a Disney ending.

Even with the slow middle chunk, "The Echo Makers" is worth reading- better than vacation reading, but slightly less moving than what I would ordinarily think of as Pulitzer Prize-worthy. It is fascinating (and slightly creepy) to think how tenuous our hold on reality is, and how easily a lesion or trauma can change that. What we know, or what we think we know, is either a construction, or a biological fact, depending on who you believe, and thinking too much about it, as Dr Weber's character reminds us, is treacherous territory.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Leashes- Who Needs Them?

I really appreciate dog-friendly housing. I appreciate that the apartment building next to my house appears to be dog-friendly housing. My neighbor F**** (name altered to protect the shameless) has a very nice, very small, very fluffy poodle. He does not, however, appear to own a leash. I have asked him about this, and he jokingly makes excuse after excuse after excuse. Oh, I guess he forgot it this time. Oh, his dog is harmless. Yes, yes he is. No, he doesn't keep track of his dog, who blindly (he's missing an eye) trots across the street without F****. No, he doesn't pick up the poodle's poop, and often doesn't know where it is since the dog might be a block ahead or behind F*****. I have to be very careful when entering and exiting my house, since I might see F***** and not see the dog.

Today, I see that the new neighbor in this building has not one, but two dogs. And also appears not to have leashes. She was leaving her unit, and the dogs are with her. And they head out, but there are no leashes in sight. I guess leashes are no longer part of walking your dog (even though they are still part of the law here, and general public safety).

I believe strongly that leashes are good for people, and the dogs they walk, in busy urban environments, like where I live. I also believe that there appropriate times and places for offleashdom (for appropriate dogs, of course). These places need to be mutually agreed upon, and the public, city street, is not one of these. The law is on my side, here, just sayin'. I've always liked this simple description of the leash, and it's uses. Perhaps I will start sliding them under doors. Or, maybe not.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

It Hurts to Look

It really, really does. So they traded my boyfriend. So my ex boyfriend is bordering on double digit ERA against left-handers. So they've used about 45 players this year and it's just barely August.

But at this point, I can't even turn on the A's game without getting into a defensive crouch, preparing myself for blow after blow after blow. The Royals beat them. The Red Sox crushed them, of course. And please, let's not rehash that horrid visit by Texas.

And next year? Next year promises nothing better. The starting rotation, the A's saving grace year after year, is going to be populated by people like Greg Smith. And I would have said Dana Eveland, but he's gone. Maybe we can look forward to Dallas Braden? Oh, I'm cringing again. No, I know, that superstar, Sean Gallagher. I think I just spewed in my mouth. Maybe Mr Beane has a master plan here: soften up the Oakland die-hards so they won't mind the move to Fremont so much?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Giles Foden: Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure

Giles Foden is funny. He knows his subject, the British folly- sending two ships over sea and over land (and over railroads and over mountains) in order to sink a German ship on a distant African lake- is a humorous story, and he's not afraid to make jabs at the past. He knows his protagonist (of sorts), Spicer-Simpson, is a bumbling ne'er-do-well, and he is not afraid to portray him as such. And that is the saving grace of this book that could otherwise be a long New Yorker article. It is, as the subtitle States, a "bizarre" part of history that I was pleased/bemused/surprised to read about. But about 30 pages in, I found myself reading with my eyes closed after a paragraph of reading about it. Night after night. And then we got to the end of the story, Spicer-Simpson goes back to England, and there are still 50 pages left. I didn't really want to hear about the movies made about the event, or about Foden's travels in Africa. Separate story, really. Interesting part of history, boring book.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Booker Bobblehead

Apparently, I live with a Real Live Bobbledog. He wags so hard that he bobbles. Listen carefully, he comes with sound effects.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Know I'm Not the Only One

Who is terrified of children. In fact, I know quite a few people (I won't mention any names here, to protect the innocent) who actively dislike children. So it was much to my relief and internet amazement when Mick O sent me to this page. Thank you, thank you very much. (And for the record, my # was 15. But I think I exaggerated, because in reality I'd run far far away.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mixtape vs Playlists: Triumph of the Old

Recently, I made a playlist for a friend and then burned it to CD. The playlist was too long for one CD, so it ended up being 3 CD's long. The CDs, when played in his computer, did not have the song titles, artists, or albums encoded, so I had to go back and match up all the songs to the now numerically titled songs (which hadn't burned in any particular order) and manually type them back in. This was annoying, frustrating, and tedious. More annoying was that making a CD had become as easy as organizing my iPod into highest rated songs so that 5-starred songs appeared at the top, and scrolling through them and dragging the songs that I thought my friend would like and might sound OK together into a playlist and then pressing "burn CD." There was no fun in this process.

I used to LOVE making tapes. I use the past tense not because I don't like to make them anymore but because I don't do it anymore. I made tapes all the time, starting at about age 11 or 12. There are different kinds of tapes, and my first ones were the basic- tape-your-favorite-songs-off-the-radio-so-you-can-listen-to-them-over-and-over- kind. I listened to cheesy, awful, really, hip hop and r&b music then, and I just loved the ballady music of Mariah Carey, TLC, Toni Tone Tony, etc. I loved to sit in front of the radio on my little black boom box hoping that one of the Top 40 songs that were played at least once an hour would come on and I'd rush to push the play and record buttons simultaneously in time to get the first notes on the tape, and sit there anxiously so I didn't miss hitting stop before the obnoxious DJ's came on, or a commercial interrupted the music. There was lots of rewinding and fastforwarding and rerecording in this kind of taping.

Then, there were the pre-planned tapes, calculated down to the second to fit just right on a 60 or 90 minute tape. It was no good to have to flip the tape in the middle of a song, so 30 and 45 minute sides (or mini playlists, if you will) had to be constructed in advance, or if I really felt like living on the wild side, on the fly. I carried around a few short songs in my head that could be used in a pinch to fill dead space at the end of sides. (I remember using Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" quite frequently- 2'14" if I remember right?) I made lots of these tapes, in mood themes, mostly. There were sad tapes, angry tapes, friendship tapes, etc.

Then came the later years of mixtapes, and the REAL theme tapes. I have a couple "road trip" tapes, designed for cross country trips. I have tapes about houses, tapes about animals, etc. They're great. I remember entertaining two kids I was babysitting playing "find the animal" in my animal-themed take. They would scream with glee on hearing "crow" or "horse" or "dog" in the same way my heart would jump hearing an animal themed song and writing it down for inclusion on the tape later. This is a tape I recently rediscovered in the car (I downsized my tape collection as the computer can't play tapes, obviously, but kept some of the best ones), from 2000.

I don't remember making the tape, but I do remember listening to it. It's called "Crowd Pleasers," and it's intended to make people cheerful while listening to it. The tape works, at least for me. It also demonstrates some of the flaws and good things about my tape making skills. Complete playlist (some of the songs are on the backside of the tape cover, which is not pictured):

Video Killed the Radio Star: Presidents of the USA
Money (That's What I Want): Flying Lizards
YMCA: Village People
I Get Knocked Down: Chumbawumba
Holiday: Madonna
Closer to Fine: Indigo Girls
I'm a Disco Dancer: Fatboy Slim
We're Going to Ibiza: Venga Boys
Life During Wartime: Talking Heads
Shiny Happy People: REM
Body Rock: Moby

Joy: Simon and Garfunkel
Baby, I'm in the Mood: Bob Dylan
Date Rape: Sublime
Wowie Zowie: Frank Zappa
I Kissed a Girl: Jill Sobule
The Sweetest Thing: U2
At My Most Beautiful: REM
I Wish You Wouldn't Say That- Talking Heads
All I Wanna Do- Sheryl Crow
Beautiful Stranger- Madonna
Lovely Day: Bill Withers
Shame on You: Indigo Girls

Pluses: This is generally a very good tape. It's cheery, which means it achieved it's crowd pleasing goal (if the crowd is me) and most of the songs are known to other people which means the crowd isn't just me. The mood of the tape makes you want to roll down the windows, if you're driving, and sing aloud at the top of your lungs. On the other hand, it has multiple songs by the same artist too many times (something I try to avoid) and in the middle of the sing-along mood comes the "I'm a Disco Dancer" song, a great song, in theory but totally mood spoiling for this tape. These are things that you have to think about when you are making a tape, as fast forward and rewinding is a lot more complicated than hitting "next" on iTunes, or even on a CD player. I miss tapes. I miss making tapes. More nostalgia coming soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

themacinator is famous, AGAIN and Bad News

themacinator has been famous before. themacinator is famous again. However, I do not want to be famous in this way. Because my boyfriend, Joe Blanton, is gone. It's true, he's kind of sucked lately. It's also true that my story about him kind of sucked, and it's true that I was considering making him my ex-boyfriend. However, I didn't mean they should trade him! I just meant that maybe there was a newer, younger, (better) pitcher on the A's that I could date....

Just saying, I prefer anonymity.

Rachel Howard: the lost night

Lately, I'm skipping the alphabetical reading thing in favor of the "pick any unread book of my shelf that sounds interesting" reading thing. Sometimes it's a miss, sometimes it's a hit. Rachel Howard's "the lost night" was definitely a hit. Howard's dad is murdered in their house when she is about 10 years old, in rural Central California, and "the lost night" is the story of Howard's life of not-coping an coping with this beyond-traumatic event.

Your dad getting murdered is bad enough. Having already gone through 2 stepmoms and a stepdad, moving through bad parts of Merced and Fresno, knowing your step parents and maybe parents are abusing drugs, and feeling responsible for making your way in the world makes the murder of your dad, who happens to be the light in your life, even harder, Howard writes. As young Rachel's life falls apart, her defenses grow higher, and she is forced to play tough kid around her nasty stepdad. It's not till many icky relationships with men, a few serious breakdowns, and a move to a beach-town later that she's finally able to start the reconstructing of what went wrong a decade before, and how to make her life right in the present.

Part is what is satisfying about this book is Howard's ability to leave her search for the truth ambiguous. As she talks to her family members (and former family members) she uncovers more details and clarity about what happened on the night of her dad's death and the events leading up to and around that day that help fill in gaps and truths surrounding her cloudy and inaccurate memory. But she does not fool herself or the readers into thinking that she is going to "solve" any crime or find a killer. Her goal is to put herself back together, and help to find peace. The book is more real, and poignant because of this authentic ambiguity.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Stoner: John Williams

Ironically, this is the best book I've read in awhile. John Williams' Stoner is a low-key book: quiet, understated, and unassuming, but I could not put it down, and could not stop thinking about the story. Written in 1965, "Stoner" is the story of Willim Stoner, a Missouri farmboy turned English university professor, and his quiet, troubled life. The prose is so moving, yet patient, and thoughtful, that it feels autobiographical, or that Williams has managed to capture Stoner's voice perfectly.

Stoner is born at the turn of the century into a rural farm family and believes he will live out his life there with his traditional, detached family. He goes to college on a program to teach him new rural science, and does just enough to get by without learning much of anything, and toiling away to earn his keep with a lazy family who treats him like a servant. When he takes an English class with a cruel but passionate professor, his life changes, and he knows he can't go back to farming. Soon, he meets a bizarre, sheltered, and perhaps disturbed young lady and plunges into married life. Life with Edith is never what it should be, and though Stoner shares a few years of bliss with his young daughter, Grace, Edith is a cruel and calculating woman. She uses Grace as a weapon against Stoner, and soon Stoner is all alone in his own house, banished to smaller and smaller worlds. Even his University is soon foreign to him, the Chair of the English department finds ways to make his life miserable.

Stoner is a convincing character through the still but epic prose. This is a keeper- one I may even come back to and reread.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Soy, Moobs, and Fake Meat

I eat a lot of soy. Recently, it came to my attention that there is a common belief that men fear soy products. Soy, they believe, can have harmful (side) effects because of estrogen contained in soy beans. I did not know this, nor did I fully believe this. Soy, harmful? It couldn't be!

So themacinator and a token male, soy-fearer, did a little research. If you google "soy effects on men," the top two results are quite revealing. The first website is from "," one of my new favorite websites. Here are some highlights from reliableanswers:

A 1994 study done in New Zealand revealed that, depending on age, potency of the product, and feeding methods, infants on soy formula might be consuming the equivalent of up to 10 contraceptive pills a day

And Our Men? A Half Helping of a Man?

What are phytoestrogens doing to the men? Researcher, W. David Kubiak reports that "...because female hormones or estrogen given to men in small quantities can quickly overwhelm androgen activity, and soy produces estrogen molecules in biologically significant amounts, it might be inferred that a steady diet of miso, tofu, soy sauce, and so on might not be best for leadership trainees or aspiring Lotharios (lovers)."

Now, the second article that comes up is from an equally reliable (yuk yuk) source, "SoyQuick, The Healthy Choice." Here is one of their take-home messages:

Because the average American is a meat-eater, we have a tendency to base our ideas of what is normal or optimal based on what occurs in meat-eaters. Of course, we know that for many things this is not true. For example, "normal" cholesterol levels-the levels typically seen in meat eaters-are too high for good health. The situation for testosterone may be similar. Judging these levels based on those that occur in people eating an unhealthy diet doesn't make sense.

Of course neither of these sites settled the debate between the vegetarian, female, soy-eater (themacinator) and my token eXtreme carnivore, male friend. In fact, we agreed on the fact that soy-eating-men are highly likely to develop man-boobs, which I have now learned are most often called "moobs."

However, in the end, I think themacinator won the day. Last night, we participated in a completely vegetarian, fake meat meal, full of soy products. No moobs were seen on exit. We ate at Lucky Creation in San Francisco, where there is not one meat product on the menu. We did, however, eat this:

Deliciously meatless. I anxiously await the growth of moobs.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fair Warning

I have never been to the Alameda County Fair before. In fact, the Salinas Valley Fair in May was the first County fair I have ever been to, though it appears I forgot to blog about it. So I was inspired by dognerd's pictures a couple days ago to go to the fair and see what it was all about. Let's just say it put the Salinas fair to shame. There was about ten (twenty?) times the stuff, tons more food, way more people, more rides, etc. Everything cost more, and it was basically way more overwhelming.

One of the best things was the signs:

We found it slightly disturbing that they were jobs were available at the carnival, along with the prizes.

I learned that yes, there ARE pigs in Oakland, contrary to my claim that I'm a city girl, and livestock is foreign to me.

Like dognerd, I was intrigued by the fried ravioli. Unlike dognerd, I did not sample them.

I was bewildered by other fried foods. Really? Smoke on a stick? (Appears to be fried salami on a stick.) And if it's a normal hot dog, it's now a sausage on a bun.

Of course I had heard about fried everything. I had not, and still haven't, seen the fried oreos.

We also avoided the tacos in a bag, as well as the trans fat free foods. I mean, really, it was a fair!!

We chuckled at the misspellings.

We laughed at the horse facts, especially the fisting parties and the new knowledge that a pony is NOT a small horse. (Hay, even girls from Oakland know this!)

And of course, we stopped to enjoy the day-off-pooper-scooper-station that was Poop-Free.

We did not sit here, even though it was marked for sitting. It was just too weird.

And what happened to fairs being part of simpler times? AKA kids promote the strangest things.

Friday, June 27, 2008


So we've had firsts, now it's time for lasts. This will be the last Olympics with baseball. Apparantly, baseball and softball got voted off of the island and baseball fans who want to see something different will have to go with the World Baseball Classic.

Honestly, I'm not a huge Olympics girl, but it seemed like a big change, with potential fallout for up and coming pros.

Edith Wharton: House of Mirth

So clearly, I'm reading out of turn again. This book has been sitting on my shelf forever, and ever, and I have this weird Barnes & Noble edition that I can't even find the ISBN for online, like it doesn't even exist, and it's heavy, and I keep moving it from house to house and never reading it, and I saw "The Age of Innocence" movie a couple months ago, so I finally figured, why the hell not. As I was reading "House of Mirth," I didn't realize that it wasn't the book that the movie I had seen was based on, till, oh, half way through. Either I am even dumber/denser than I thought, or Edith Wharton has written two very similar books. I'm going to go for both options.

This is a classic, and it should be read. Is it a Great Book (at least in the eyes of themacinator)? Probably not. It tells the story of a lady, Lily Bart, who is both the star of an obscenely wealthy and distinguished turn of the century social life in New York, and the disgrace of the same social circle. She is left virtually penniless (or what stands for penniless in her crowd) and has to rely on her beauty and charms- which she is graced with in abundance- to keep up with her set. This leads to scandal after scandal and her eventual falling out with multiple sets, including her family, her main set of friends, and eventually her new groups of friends. What makes the book slightly more complex- and therefore readable- is that Lily Bart (or the omniscient narrator) has enough sense to know that maybe there is more to life than the quest for the Richest Husband and the Best Dresses. However, these moments of clarity are brief and the plot goes back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth over and over and over and over again) between Lily jumping for joy at the thought that she's attaining what she wants, realizing she's never going to get over her debts, and thinking she doesn't want these things at all.

If I were a more romantic type, or inclined to care about white dresses and slender young things, "House of Mirth" probably would have pleased me more. However, I found this pre-feminist book a little disgusting and overboard. Lily's self-stated rare moments of introspection made her a little unlikeable, and really, her whole milieu was unlikeable as well. I'm glad I read Wharton, as a well read reader probably should have a book or two on her shelf, but I'm not ready to read the other two novels contained in my bizarre edition yet.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rescue Shut Down in Wisconsin

I was tipped off to this article by the Bark Blog. Basically, neighbors complained about a woman who rescued dogs in their neighborhood, and so the city shut this "rescuer" down, and now the aldermen are considering pet limits. The full story is here:

In the doghouse

City shuts rescue business, may curb ownership

Posted: June 22, 2008

Brookfield - Every dog deserves a chance to be saved from euthanasia, no matter how apparently sick or unable to be adopted, Jean Rhoten said.

She has helped rescue more than 300 dogs from as far away as Alabama, using her northeast-side Brookfield home to coordinate vet visits and find foster and adoptive homes — “forever” homes, she called them.

But her neighbors have had enough with the number and nature of the dogs running through Rhoten’s home. After their complaints, the city shut down her dog rescue operation, JR Pups ’N Stuff as an illegal business in a residential area.

Aldermen now are considering whether to limit the number of dogs or cats that residents may have.

Volunteers with JR’s Pups, who continue to rescue dogs but do not bring them to Rhoten’s house, said they hoped to persuade aldermen to create exceptions for dog rescues.

Pet limits are common. Brookfield is one of only six communities in Waukesha and Milwaukee counties — and the only city — that does not limit the number of dogs...

Most communities have a two- or three-dog limit. Some issue animal kennel, hobby or fancier permits that allow more dogs, charge higher fees and sometimes require yearly inspections.

Menomonee Falls officials recently backed away from a plan to set limits after protests from dog lovers.

Brookfield officials are concerned that their city will become a target for puppy mills, and they want to keep large kennel-like operations in commercial areas, City Clerk Kris Schmidt and inspector Tom Beinert said.

Neighbors object

Others, including an Elmbrook Humane Society official, warned that limits would not deter puppy mills, could hurt dog-fostering efforts and would be selectively enforced in cases in which neighbors are feuding.

Neighbors, however, said they were tired of Rhoten’s dogs’ barking, defecating and leaving her half-acre yard despite an electric fence. Brookfield does not allow physical fences, except where residences abut commercial areas.

Neighbors also said Rhoten’s yard in the 4600 block of N. 135th St. has been cluttered with kennels, trailers and a large white tent. About 40 neighbors signed a petition against the rescue business.

A year ago, a then-2-year-old girl who lives next door was scratched or bitten by a dog owned by Rhoten. The neighbors disagreed about the severity of the injury. A humane society animal control official told the city that a photo appeared to show a scratch, not a bite.

Rhoten said one of her terriers knocked down the toddler and started licking her near the lot line. The girl’s parents could not be reached for an interview, despite phone calls and a visit to their house.

Neighbor Val Price said it is common sense for aldermen to limit the number of dogs in homes.

“It’s ridiculous, it’s unsanitary to have nine dogs,” said Price, who said he has not owned dogs since the death of his Siberian husky.

Rhoten said she once had 17 dogs in her home, but that was rare. While arranging foster homes, she had three rescued dogs and a litter of nine puppies, in addition to the five dogs she owned, she said.

“For 48 hours, we had 17 dogs,” she said.

Rhoten said nine dogs have been in her home recently: six she owns and three belonging to a friend who has been living temporarily with her. That friend and her dogs planned to move last week.

Rhoten, who also has two rabbits, said she has stopped bringing any rescued dogs to her house since the city’s municipal judge on Feb. 27 ordered that she stop the home business she started in May 2007.

“I can’t bring a foster dog even for an overnight, if there’s an emergency,” she said. “The judge told me I couldn’t. It has limited the number of dogs we can rescue.”

‘We rely on fosters’

Karen Sparapani, community outreach director for the humane society in Brookfield, said the issue is an emotional, complex one for aldermen.

On one hand, Sparapani said, the humane society always has room for more animals, and there is no need for a shelter-like facility in a subdivision drawing the ire of neighbors. Well-intentioned animal lovers sometimes hoard animals or take in more than they can handle properly, she said.

But the humane society depends on residents who care temporarily for dogs that need to recover from ailments or change bad behavior until the society can offer them for adoption, she said.

“We rely on fosters quite a bit,” Sparapani said. “Anyone who does fostering is a hero to me.”

The Town of Brookfield’s two-dog limit has blocked some town residents from fostering dogs for the humane society because those residents already own two dogs, she said.

JR’s Pups volunteer Heidi Van Gorder of Milwaukee said many dog rescuers and foster volunteers ignore local dog limits in their passion to save animals from being killed.

Other dog laws appear to be ignored.

Brookfield issued 1,162 dog licenses this year — nowhere near the number of dogs that likely live in the city of more than 13,000 residences, the city clerk said....

I wish I was shocked by this news article. I wish I was shocked by stories of rescuers having 17 dogs, even for only 48 hours. I wish I was shocked by rescuers having electric fences and toddlers being knocked over and "licked" and maybe "scratched." I wish I felt like blaming the media for this story. The truth is, I've been involved in rescue and animal sheltering (and the internet world that goes along with them) for long enough to think that there are a lot of "backyard rescuers" just like there are "backyard breeders." The difference is clear- byr's (backyardrescuers) get involved for much more altruistic reasons than byb's (backyardbreeders) but some of the similarities are disappointing.

I have heard this justification before: that every dog "deserves a chance"- and it's true, it really really sucks to euthanise a dog because it didn't have a chance at a foster or rescue or even straight up shelter adoption. But if a rescue is at the point where neighbors are complaining, and the foster family has an animal control history, is that a chance? It seems that it is really easy to get overwhelmed- I know of rescuers who have had dogs in UHauls, dogs in outdoor kennels, dogs repossessed by animal control. Who is being served by this kind of rescue? The dogs? The adopters? The animal shelters that have to deal with not just irresponsible owners, not just byb's, but also rescuers?

Some pit bull groups came together a few years ago and created a Pit Bull Rescue Code of Ethics. Self-selecting groups choose to follow it, and choose which parts to follow. Some feel the puppy selection process is too strict, some feel the part dealing with mixes is questionable. Regardless, these groups have come together to develop a COE that they can live with, and abide by. They hold themselves to these standards because they want to be *part of the solution* and make the newspapers in positive ways, unlike JR's Pups.

As rescuing becomes the cool, trendy thing to do, I worry that we will hear more and more of these byr stories, and there will be a rescue backlash, as there is currently a byb backlash. "Why would we support a rescue when we hear x, y, and z horror story?" Well, honestly, if the average pet owner heard all the things that I do about rescues, they probably wouldn't rescue. I hope that new and established rescuers start holding themselves to the high standards that keep them a cut above neighbor complaints and bite incidents.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sad News

Learned today that Cody's Books closed this week for good. I'm feeling a little prescient with my "end of reading" post and just generally sad and pessimistic- even the Bay Area is coming to this. My own little haven/den of denial.

The Heat. The Bugs. The A's. The Heat.

It's been really really hot here. Absurdly hot. My flickr contacts page is full of images like this:

by Gwen and

by laughing squid.

Yes, that reads 106 in Alameda and 102 in San Francisco, respectively. Yes, I believe it was really that hot, as I lived it. Today I purchased a fan for my room. We don't have air conditioning in Oakland, as triple digit weather is really not normal here. I have had the screen door open and the windows open for days and I think it's actually four digit weather in here. Okay, I don't really believe that, but you get the point. It's hotter than hell.

I went to the A's game last night, and it was a pretty good, if bizarre game. I mean, I've never been to a night game before where not only did I not need a sweatshirt, I didn't even BRING a sweatshirt. Tank top, shorts, flipflops, and out. The Marlins were in town, for I believe the first time in Major League history. The Marlins are having a great year, thanks to the long ball. They hit home runs a lot. And it was hot (did I mention it was hot?) so I was expecting a lot of homeruns. I was not expecting Huston Street, my main man, second only to Joe Blanton, to blow the game TWICE. Geren brought him in for a 4 out save, and Huston was just not the man for the job. He blew it in the 8th, and the A's took the lead. Then he let the Marlins tie up in the 9th. Devastating, really, especially since the A's bullpen was all used up with the exception of Andrew Brown and Chad Gaudin, who we never saw, for some reason. Fortunately, the A's came back to win last night.

In an interesting twist, a swarm of bugs descended on Oakland during about the 6th inning last night. I searched the internet this morning for pictures or other internet-proof, but was unable to find any. It was surreal- hordes of bugs were landing all over the crowd. We could swat them off- they weren't mosquitoes or flies and they weren't hard to catch. Sometimes you could hit two at once. They didn't bite. But they were gross. And they were there for a few innings. Some people left. We stuck it out. We are tough (and gross) that way. Hilarious to look around the stands and see thousands of people shooing away little bugs and swatting each other. Funny, and so, so weird.

ETA: I found this on Athletics Nation finally- a little snippet about the gnats:
attack of the gnats (no, not the Giants)

Okay, the warm night at the Coliseum was surprising but nice - until the gnats descended on us in the 6th or 7th or whenever that was. We were sitting in the LF bleachers and all of a sudden the gnats were all over the place… it was definitely entertaining to watch everyone do a little get-rid-of-bugs dance. Add that to the bleacher people yelling for Dibs in the first couple innings, and the hunt for the snitch in the 9th, and being only a few seats away from Suzuki’s homer - sitting in the bleachers is always an experience. (Could’ve done without the extra innings, though, Huston. A nice 4-out save would’ve been fine.)

by whiteshoes40 on Jun 21, 2008 10:52 AM PDT

It was hot today, too, so I braved another A's game. No, that's wrong. I braved the heat again today, for another A's game. I mean, who passes up an A's game?? Plus, it was beerfest- and beer+A's+summer=happy themacinator. Unfortunately, Geren brought in Huston Street again, and unfortunately Huston had not read his get-better-now Memo. He blew the save AGAIN and this time the A's could not come back. Fortunately the gnats read the go-away-now Memo, and we did not face bug-swatting for multiple innings. Additionally, at one point during the game, I was thrilled to feel goose-bumps! I think that means it's cooling down, at least outside. Upon return to my home, I was received by sweltering heat again- the new fan is not really cooling anything down. Hopefully we'll be back to "normal," soon.