Go Trism

Sometimes living with a biologist leads to interesting revelations. Last night, over dinner on our new front porch, I learned that every mammal on earth has seven bones in its neck. Seven bones! Giraffes, shrews, rats, whales. I could go on. Seven bones. While I was musing about how this confirms my belief that seven is a very special number, and as I was then considering the significance of twenty-eight and twenty-one and so on, my husband was explaining why the seven-bones fact is a good argument against Creationism. "After all," he said, "what intelligent designer would be so simplistic as to give poor giraffes such limited mobility? Just so that all mammals would have the same number of neck bones? Evolution is practical. It does what's easiest." That's when I started to explain why twenty-eight was a special number (it has to do with the moon's cycle and a woman's cycle and whatnot), but he wasn't having any of it. I was just glad he was telling me about something other than the formation of cummulus clouds, which it seems like I have to hear about every weekend.


Now that I'm a homeowner, I can change things I don't like. It's a whole new world. I'm no longer just a passive agent, whirling around listlessly in space. We didn't like our bathroom sink, actually known as a "vanity top." So you know what we did last night? Bought a new one. For $60. And a cute little old-timey faucet with "hot" and "cold" lettered on the handles. It's just so cool to finally make your home into the one you most want to live in.


To already know the names of your nieghbors

It's strange how different everything feels from our last home, which was only a half-mile away. It's so quiet on our new street, and people keep helping us move things and introducing themselves. Some of them own and some of them rent. Kids play together and neighbors stand around at 5:00, in that hour between work and dinner, and talk. This morning we sat on our back porch and ate cereal, and looked up when we heard a cough. A man sat on his back porch too, with a Boston Globe and a bird feeder. I love it when people use their porches.

Yesterday I sat on my front porch and smiled at people walking by. There are dogs everywhere in the new neighborhood; a Great Dane moved his head dinosaur-like in my direction as I reached out my hand. Tiny fluffy dogs, labs and retrievers. Our washer was delivered yesterday by a backwoods kind of guy named Neil and his dog, a huge brown bear dog who sat in the front seat of an old gouged van. There's always a moment with dogs when there's a first assessment to determine who is friendly---I think it's something the dogs do more than me. This dog looked more like a bear than a dog, and as I put out my hand I wondered if he'd change after that first instant into a more fearful or dangerous animal, but he immediately relaxed and his eyes reflected a beautiful gentleness, a really happy nature, and I spent the next ten minutes petting him and talking to him, rubbing his huge head.

Right now our new place feels like home, but the electricians have more ownership than we do, at least temporarily. They set the schedule (and arrive at 7am), tell us what can and can't be unpacked, and knock big holes in the walls at will. I'm excited for the weekend, when it will be ours alone, holes and all.


This morning I met with an orthopedic surgeon to talk about my knee. He was very certain and helpful. Afterward, I stood outside his office, staring at an illuminated wall of X-rays of my knee. There were four pictures: right side, left side, front flat, front bent. I'm not sure I've ever had x-rays of anything but my teeth. It was startling. Just bone, and the faint white outline of the leg I recognize. That's the material I'm made out of, material that lasts a long time, but not forever.

I asked at the front desk if I could keep the x-rays. "We don't really do that," she said, but then told me to ask radiology for a copy. I did, and they said no, but then they said yes, and handed me four big sheets of film. I took them outside. In the car, in the rain, I looked at the pictures of my bones.


Moving In

We just did our final walk-through on the condo; we close this afternoon. The cargo van is packed and ready to go, and I was awake half the night with my stomach in a knot. When the sun rose this morning I was asleep on three old cushions on the floor, all that remains of our old couch. We biked over in the brilliant sunshine to meet our realtor at the new place. The morning air felt wet. While Blue finagled the lock a bit, I noticed that the seller, also our soon-to-be upstairs neighbor, had placed a sticker of an arching rainbow trout on his mailbox, under his name. Then I noticed it was covering his late wife's name. They'd lived upstairs together and it seemed that she'd died young, of illness.

The lock freed and we walked in. The place looked beautiful, the wood floors gleaming. Everything was finished, clean, and perfect. A bottle of good wine sat in the hutch in the dining room. Propped against it was a card addressed to us, from the seller who lived upstairs. Printed on the front was a painting of a mysterious owl, looking off into the distance. Inside, he welcomed us into our new place. I felt at home.


War of the Worlds

Perenially brilliant Frank Rich does it again today with his Op-Ed "Two Top Guns Shoot Blanks."

Nowhere is the distance between that America and our own more visible than in the hoopla surrounding the latest adaptation of "The War of the Worlds," the much-awaited Steven Spielberg movie opening June 29.

Like its broadcast predecessor, the new version has already proved to be a launching pad for an onslaught of suspect news bulletins. This time the headlines are less earthshaking than an invasion from outer space, but they are no less ubiquitous: in repeated public appearances, most famously on "Oprah," the Spielberg movie's star, the 42-year-old Tom Cruise, has fallen to his knees and jumped on couches to declare his undying love for the 26-year-old Katie Holmes, the co-star of another summer spectacular, "Batman Begins." Forget about those bygone Hollywood studio schemes to concoct publicity-generating off-screen romances for its stars-in-training. Here is a lavishly produced freak show, designed to play out in real time, enthusiastically enacted by the biggest star in the business. On Friday, after popping the big question to Ms. Holmes at the Eiffel Tower, Mr. Cruise promptly dragged his intended to a news conference.

But though the audience for this drama is as large as, if not larger than, that for Welles's, there's one big difference. The Cruise-Holmes romance is proving less credible to Americans in 2005 than a Martian invasion did to those of 1938.


The boundary between reality and fiction has now been blurred to such an extent by show business, the news business and government alike that almost no shows produced by any of them are instantly accepted as truth. The market for fake news has become so oversaturated that a skeptical public is finally dismissing most of it as hooey until proven otherwise (unless it is labeled as fake news from the get-go, as it is by Jon Stewart). We'll devour the supposedly real Cruise-Holmes liaison for laughs but give it no more credence than a subplot on "Desperate Housewives."


The shelf life of the fakery that sold the war has also expired. On June 7, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found for the first time that a majority of Americans believe the war in Iraq has not made the United States safer. A week later Gallup found that a clear majority (59 percent) wants to withdraw some or all American troops. Most Americans tell pollsters the war isn't "worth it," and the top reasons they cite, said USA Today, include "fraudulent claims and no weapons of mass destruction found" and "the belief that Iraq posed no threat to the United States." The administration can keep boasting of the Iraqi military's progress in taking over for Americans and keep maintaining that, as Dick Cheney put it, the insurgency is in its "last throes." But when even the conservative Republican congressman who pushed the House cafeteria to rename French fries "freedom fries" (Walter B. Jones of North Carolina) argues for withdrawal, it's fruitless. Once a story line becomes incredible, it's hard to get the audience to fall for it again.

This, too, echoes the history of the Welles hoax. Three years after his "War of the Worlds," the real nightmare that America feared did arrive. Yet some radio listeners at first thought that the reports from Pearl Harbor were another ruse. Welles would later recall in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich that days after the Japanese attack, Franklin Roosevelt sent him a cable chiding him for having cried wolf with his faked war "news" of 1938.

Such is the overload of faked reality for Americans at this point that it will be far more difficult for the Bush administration than it was for F.D.R. to persuade the nation of an imminent threat without appearing to cry wolf. Nor can it easily get the country to believe that success in Iraq is just around the corner. Too many still remember that marvelous aircraft-carrier spectacle marking the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq - a fake reality show adapted, no less, from a Tom Cruise classic, "Top Gun." Some 25 months and 1,500 American deaths later, nothing short of a collaboration by Orson Welles and Steven Spielberg could make this war fly in America now.
The Furniture Learning Curve

The search for a couch began months ago, in the backroom of a showroom stocking laughably modern (and very Euro) furniture. We sat on the "Indivi2," and actually considered making a purchase. But the arms weren't quite soft enough, and the material was nubby and could be pulled by our cat's stretching, scratching paws. So we pressed on, believing that probably the most desirable couches were between $1,000 and $2,000, would take up to 16 weeks to deliver, and might be European.

That's a tall order, waiting 4 months for an expensive couch, so last weekend we were thrilled to fight the heatwave and head downtown to Urban Renewal, an appoinment-only store that sells what is essentially Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn furniture on the cheap. But delivery still took four months. Spending the entire summer with no couch seemed untenable (we had no desire to move our old, heavy, uncomfortable couch into the new place). We asked about cat scratches and they recommended microfiber, but they only carried suede microfiber, which is very plush. In the heat, under the huge industrial fans of the old factory, the plush fake suede was just too hot.

On Tuesday after work, we met at Circle Furniture, which advertised a 5-day delivery time for items that were in stock. This was the moment when we realized we wouldn't have to move our old couch OR sit on the floor all summer. When we walked in, we immediately found the perfect couch. It was leather, originally an ethical dilemma for me, but we loved the fact that it looked like leather, with scars and veins from the cow. You didn't forget about the animal, as with some leather furniture polished to a gleam. The back was tight (lacking cushions, a plus for me), the arms were soft, the seat firm. Just as we were getting excited, we checked the price: $1500.

According the Internet, some cats do scratch leather, and some cats pee on it. Some leave it alone, but the idea of a destroyed $1500 couch was too much to bear.

At Jordan's Furniture on Wednesday, we learned that some couches are available within days AND less than $1,000. In fact, there were lots of $700 couches. And some of them were covered in microfiber, now apparently the only material our cat would neither scratch nor pee on. But aesthetically we missed the simple look of the Eurotrash we'd originally fallen for. We didn't make it home until 10:30 that night, but we still did not have a couch.

One place was left: Boston Interiors, which Tara had suggested months before. On their website, I found a simple, elegant, dark couch with a tight back, firm seat and rounded arms. It was in microfiber, available for delivery within days, $700, and in a color we might even both like. We both rushed out there after work, exhausted and cranky. We went in, sat down, looked at each other and smiled. That's how we ended up with the Bainbridge.


American culture works out its issues

I like how prominent & unnerving cultural fears tend to get discussed using the cult of celebrity. There was such intense interest in the Jackson trial. I think there was a reason beyond his celebrity.

Theme: child molestation.

Common people: churchgoers who entrust their children to priests.
Celebrity situation: Michael Jackson, and vulnerable children.

Theme: religious fanaticism.

Common people: "war on terror"...fear of Islam....2004 election....religious right against gay marriage.
Celebrity situation: Tom Cruise against everything that is not Scientology.
The End of the Heatwave

I know it's already being noted, but this whole Katie-Holmes brainwash thing is really getting creepy. Yesterday she announced she is converting to Scientology for Tom Cruise, and everywhere she goes she's now followed by a Scientology offical who controls her interviews and introduces herself as "Katie's best friend." Soooo creepy. As a former Dawson's Creek fan [evidence] I'm kind of horrified to see little Joey fire all her agents and have Tom Cruise take over her career (already happening). Ick. Free Katie!


I've been on the shortcake bandwagon lately. First it was strawberry shortcake from the Joy of Cooking, but the cakes were hard and flat. Last night I made peach shortcake from the same recipe and--lo and behold! Fluffy shortcakes! I guess they really mean it when they say "Cut the butter with two knives in the flour mixture" and not "mash butter with hands."

Peach shortcake is so great; 15 minutes of work and half the recipe, and it's like eating big pieces of pie. It helps that I consider real whipped cream to be one of those great pleasures.

With six days until we close and move, it was very important to make shortcake while the cooking utensils were still accessible.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith is great!



Yard Sale

We had a yard sale today. We made $22. Our big ticket items didn't move: my desk, D's old computer, the little TV, so we're putting them up on CraigsList. No one even took the free bed. But then again, someone gave us $4 for a chair we were giving away for free; "I know it's free," she told my husband, "but I want to give you something for it anyway." We originally got it off a curb on trash night, so it was pure profit, baby, 100%. And the rest we made off of items we were selling for somewhere between a quarter and five dollars. So we got rid of a lot of stuff, and it was nice to see it go to re-use. I love how things can have a life somewhere else.

I learned today that I'm very bad at yardsales. I get attached to things, and then, for perhaps a million reasons, no one wants to buy anything from me. I got inexplicably teary at the thought of selling the laminate desk I bought at Office Max, then I wanted to price it at $45. My husband gently talked me into marking it $20. Then when no one had taken it in the mad swarm of the first half hour, I marked it down to $15. And when no one had taken it two hours later, I told a passing jogger it was "$15...OR LESS!" She said she'd come back, but she never did. It was like a roller coaster. And a lot of the turmoil was inadvertent. When I was manning the yard sale, no one came stopped; when I went inside to clean up, everyone stop to chat and buy from my husband. It's actually something I really enjoy about him, his openness to people. When we were first setting up, a man stopped his car to inquire about a phone we were selling. I tried to talk with him, but it wasn't going so well. We couldn't really understand each other and I didn't know how to price the phone. So we both moved on. But as I was setting up the wedding goldfish bowls under the honey locust, I turned around to hear Blue chatting amiably with the man in Spanish. Soon the phone was sold.


Run Katie Run

Site of the Week: Free Katie

So great. I love the Internet.
Adventures in Naming

In the sixth grade, I developed an inexplicable attraction to a boy in my class named Sixten. Happily, the crush vanished after an unfortunate series of events during a class trip to Philadelphia (short version: love note; flushed down toilet; mean boys). It's on this day, during occasional years when I happen to say the date out loud, that I think of his birthday, and his parents' intriguing decision to name him after the day he was born.

Haiku for Joy

Cancelled lease hooray
hooray! a summer's rent it's
ours again. thank god!

A Short Love/Hate Letter

CSS, you are elegant solution, toying with me, resizing at will, making me beg for the right code. CSS, why can you only work with one browser at a time? Why won't you love me back? You are perfection, true beauty, if you were a dress I would wear you to a wedding, CSS, if you were a cat I would brush your beautiful fur, CSS, if you were a dog I would take you to the pond, CSS, and you would swim into the long summer afternoon. I would wait with endless love on the shore, until you'd swum enough, and you would come back soaking wet and dragging flowering lily pads from the ends of the stick I'd thrown you. I would even let you shake pond water all over the car, CSS, if only you were a dog and you loved me back.


Smells blowing through my open window
in warm stormy muggy Boston

fried dough
sea salt
fried oysters
new grass
cigarette smoke


Gwen Rox

Sure enough, shortly after I posted a grumpy treatise on how rarely I buy CDs, I bought Gwen Stefani's Love, Angel, Music, Baby at Target. I just couldn't stand not owning Hollaback Girl for another second. I did feel annoyed at how profoundly unattractive and unsatisfying CDs are, and I can never open them right (why can't that tape over the lid be removable in one piece?) plus I miss the big art and scratchy aesthetic of records. But I don't think Hollaback Girl would sound very good on my record player, even if it is out on vinyl. As it is, Blue and I quickly recognized that we need a subwoofer for this one.

The NYTimes made me giggle today with their article, "The Case Against Coldplay." Jon Pareles writes,
Clearly, Coldplay is beloved: by moony high school girls and their solace-seeking parents, by hip-hop producers who sample its rich instrumental sounds and by emo rockers who admire Chris Martin's heart-on-sleeve lyrics. The band emanates good intentions, from Mr. Martin's political statements to lyrics insisting on its own benevolence. Coldplay is admired by everyone - everyone except me.
On "X&Y," Coldplay strives to carry the beauty of "Clocks" across an entire album - not least in its first single, "Speed of Sound," which isn't the only song on the album to borrow the "Clocks" drumbeat. The album is faultless to a fault, with instrumental tracks purged of any glimmer of human frailty. There is not an unconsidered or misplaced note on "X&Y," and every song (except the obligatory acoustic "hidden track" at the end, which is still by no means casual) takes place on a monumental soundstage.

I actually like "Speed of Sound," but I like the criticism of being "faultless to a fault" even more.


Itchy ankles: the mark of a good weekend. That is, if you were in Rhode Island this past weekend, dancing for the better part of 6 hours outside, on the ocean, celebrating your friends' wedding. I could dance to the B-52s all night, every night, especially with my cute, sexy husband. The mosquitos didn't even bother me at first. Now, however, they do.


I'd like to take the rest of the month off to move. I wish I could afford that. I could find a tenant to take over our lease, order a washer and dryer online, coordinate with our lawyer, learn how to set up a secure wireless network with a printer, pick out paint colors, sew curtains, get rid of all the junk, reserve a moving van, buy a couch, learn how to repaint the crumbly walls of a basement, install a cat door, and buy a desk for myself...well, I could go on. I could be fantastically organized. As it is, I'm unable to focus on work because I have all these things to do, but then again I'm not doing an especially good job on any of the things because, well, I have to think about work.

Sigh. At least I know when it's time to give up and go to the gym.


Kitten Wars

I'm spending an awful lot of time on KittenWar this morning. Gamma is really beyond cute; all that fuzz. At first it was the moon eyes and pink tongue of Bubees that drew me in; as the hours wore on, I wondered if I preferred Stretch (perhaps a tummy even fuzzier than Gamma?). It's an emotional site that doesn't shy away from the existential; the look in Squee's eyes as he peeks out of that white paper bag, as if to say, "Who I am I? What am I doing here? Do any of us really belong in this world?"...it grabs me everytime.

And then there's the pain of rejection, also so apparent on KittenWar. Ari isn't so bad-looking, he just happened to be in a picture with bad red-eye. How could he possibly make a go of it against Bubees? And whose heart doesn't go out to ScaryCat? He just needs a can of wet food, and maybe a new, less droll attitude, and he could make a full turn-around.



In between getting crisis-ed out about renting the apartment (landlord turned down our potential subletter, we're moving in 20 days, 2 more months on this lease; according to Dr. Internet, the legal prognosis is bad for tenants who break their lease, yikes) and trying to get over bronchitis (the actual doctor said I should eat "dark leafy greens," as if I, a child of hippies, don't know when I need drugs!* However, have had 2 spinach salads in last two days and am feeling much better), I got distracted by this poll somebonnie posted. I never do these, or even read them, but she asked, and I'm grumpy enough that I thought it might make for fun results [ED: I was wrong].

Total volume of music on my computer: It's spread across three laptops. I don't know.

Song playing right now: Nothing. Still, dead air.

Last CD I bought was: I'm very conflicted and antsy about music. I have records, vinyl records. It's hard to play them on our system because the pre-amp doesn't work well and I'm using an old record player I bought from George ten years ago for $30. The MP3s aren't well-organized or accessible. And finally, music is the one thing that Frisky and I haven't really adapted ourselves to. We live together, we combine breathing room, bedspace, food at the table, but the audio component of our relationship is unresolved. Maybe it's due to a few things. Frisky likes Bjork and Radiohead, and I grew up with dominant, strange music, and have a thing about it. I like intellectual art rock and cheesy 80s music, but don't want to annoy him with the repetition of outdated synth.

Wait, what was the question? Oh, right. Kanye West, The College Dropout, about eight months ago, along with the Garden State soundtrack.

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me: Gosh, these are different categories. Since I listen to nothing except FNX, I'm going to go with "mean a lot to me." By that I mean, "remember them from my childhood and love them as an adult."

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by The Talking Heads
I Walk by Don Cherry
Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen
Primary by The Cure (not from childhood)

and that's five!

Five people to whom I'm passing the baton: hm. The Barge. Donna? Tara? And that's five!

*credit to Jessica