Friday, March 30, 2007

The Nature of the Beast

Isn't it funny that there is an inverse relationship between life activity and blogging activity? I think this creates a skewed view of what bloggers do.

When I am actually busy doing things I have no time for/interest in writing about it. When things are very slow, I love to write about that. And I have time to write a lot about it.

More of this week's realizations (and no comment, please, about any possible lateness of these realizations, nor about how young you were when you realized them):

Breathing is easy to take for granted until it becomes troublesome.

True love is almost always neither.

I like bourbon, especially Southern Comfort. I like it straight from the bottle with a bag of pretzels on the side.

Nothing says "I love you" to a nine year old like a visit to the Build-a-Bear workshop.

If I don't speak up for myself nobody else is going to.

Everyone should sing the Free to Be You and Me soundtrack at least once a week.

Families are almost always less judgmental than you think they're going to be.

I have too many belongings.

The Mall still sucks.

I miss eating Smartfood popcorn.

A good temporary remedy for low self-esteem and life difficulty is a longish car ride with the sing-along soundtrack of Ani Difranco (see also love of bourbon, above).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Using Your Power for Good and Not for Evil

Warning: Rant Ahead.

Michael Pollan is the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, a book that I have not yet read. However, I do know that the book is about paying attention to where our food comes from--for our own health and the health of the environment, as well as the taste of it. Here's what Pollan says about the book:
There are a couple of different dilemmas. The basic dilemma is: What do you eat when you can eat just about everything? There's a set of nutritional answers that people are struggling for. What are the healthy foods to eat? There's also a set of ethical dilemmas. If you want to eat ethically, should you eat organic or conventional? Should you eat local or organic? Should you eat meat at all? Those are really hard questions. And there is really no simple answer. The answer really depends on what matters to you, what your values are.
In an interview with Leite's Culinaria magazine (which I have also not read, besides the interview, but saw a link to on, Pollan bravely takes on the inherent class issues that exist within the politics of food:

AM: Is that really true, that people can do something about it? Granted, certain people can. Probably the people who are reading your book can afford do more about it than the people whose biggest worry is just surviving?

MP: There is definitely a class issue here. To do the right thing, when it comes to food choices, takes more money, there's no question about that. It's one of the biggest problems we face. But there are a lot of Americans — more than half, I would say — who have the wherewithal to spend a little bit more money on better food choices. I think, in a large part — certainly for my audience, probably for your audience —, it's a matter of priority rather than affordability. We spend a remarkably small, shamefully small, percentage of our income on food. We manage to spend money on lots of other things. All up and down the social ladder you find people with plenty of money for cell phones, home entertainment systems, all other forms of entertainment. Look at television:. 80 or 90 percent of folks spend more than $50 a month on television. It used to be free. Yes, there is a problem at the very lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. But for most of the population, there is a lot of money that could be spent, if people decided it was worthwhile.

Now here's a dilemma. The way the federal government figures out the poverty level is by multiplying the cost of a "thrifty food plan" by three (i.e. poverty = spending one third of your income on food). It's an outdated plan that was invented in the 1960's, and the economic landscape has drastically changed since then. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not sure how I could spend a third of my money on food when I'm spending half of it on rent.

Food is actually the most flexible part of the budget, because the car loan (I travel for my job), the rent, the phone bill, and the heat bill sure aren't budging (although we tried to squeeze a bit more out of that one by keeping the thermostat at 64 or below all winter). Not to mention the student loans that will come due in slightly less than 18 months.

We live at more than twice the poverty level, which is hardly the "very lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder" and our family of three spends $75-90 a week on food (that's about $325 a month). We spend over $1000 a month on essential living costs (heat, electricity, rent) and another $373 on quasi-essential costs (car, insurance, phone). Plus $200 a month on health insurance. We definitely can't afford to buy organic. We can hardly afford to buy meat (that's conventional meat, none of that free-range organic grass-fed stuff for us).

It'd be really nice if Pollan, who has the ability--the luxury--to spend more on his food and be a food activist could do something more than make ignorant statements about his perception that people are blowing their food budgets on cable TV.

I don't mean to denigrate Pollan too much. His ideas are awesome. I just wish that the foodie folks who are so concerned with this (hello, slow food) would worry about other food security issues. Hooray that your heirloom tomatoes were placed into your soft palm by the guy you know who works at the farmer's market three hours after they were plucked from the field. I'm thrilled for you. I bet there were a couple of underpaid farm interns who made that possible. And ask your farmer how much she makes each year. And ignore me counting pennies to buy the day-old kale. And buy another tomato to donate to the homeless shelter, while you're at it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mr. Saturday Night Special

I'm not really sure how I missed this:

There's a giant colon at the Maine Mall. You can climb around in it and stuff.

And you thought Maine had no nightlife.

(via Rebecca, that sicko)

UPDATE: Apparently, if you live in Maine, you've missed your chance to climb through the giant colon. It was in our fair state just for a few days. Butt (hee hee) do not despair! You can get a virtual tour here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Fine Line

Apparently everyone's talking about this article in Salon by Garrison Keillor (via kottke).

Here's a choice sample:
Monogamy put the parents in the background where they belong and we children were able to hold center stage. We didn't have to contend with troubled, angry parents demanding that life be richer and more rewarding for them. We blossomed and agonized and fussed over our outfits and learned how to go on a date and order pizza and do the twist and neck in the front seat of a car back before bucket seats when you could slide close together, and we started down the path toward begetting children while Mom and Dad stood like smiling, helpless mannequins in the background.

I read the piece at first with shock ("what? Garrison? But I thought we were friends...") and then again with uncertainty. Is this a joke? Satire? What the hell?

If it was supposed to be satire it doesn't immediately come off that way. It's only Mr. Keillor's vocally liberal history that made me certain that it must be. Divorced from his admittedly large personality, it comes off as the same as all the bullshit those conservatives are always spouting.

But I still want to argue with it, even if it's satire. Is that the point? Garrison, what are you doing?

The self-absorption of the children of that generation (GWB's!) has caused incredible pollution the earth, impoverishment a bunch of non-western countries in the cutthroat pursuit of global capitalism, and participation in 4 (?) wars! Plus a continuing self-absorption that is (perhaps?) in turn responsible for the narcissism of the children that they raised.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Navel Gazing at Its Best

Once, I accidentally saw myself in a mirror in a crowded restroom, and didn't recognize myself. It was wonderful.

I've always wondered how wide the difference is between how I see myself and how others see me. For example, I have a bit of a PR problem with my eating habits. Every time I eat meat in public, somebody says, "Oh, I thought you were a vegetarian." Which I haven't been since I was sixteen. What is it about me that says, vegetarian? Are there other things I'm saying that I don't know?

Here's how to find out. People can describe me based on a list of words, and then see how that's different from how I describe myself with a nifty graph. It's very interesting, and a little bit exposing. But what the hell... I'm feeling self-involved.

Hometown Heroes Redux

I'm home today with S, who had an alarming fever last night (104.3) and is still sick today. Thank goddess for the internet and cable tv. Otherwise I might be busy cleaning the house and stuff.

So this isn't really from my hometown, but it is from the newspaper that serves my hometown, the Kennebec Journal. One of my very favorite things to do is read the police log, because I often know people in it. Also because the things that rural police are asked to do are f'king hilarious. Like this one, in today's paper:


At 4:07 p.m., deputies responded to a caller on the Dr. Mann Road who said he was hit on the head with a microwave and was hearing voices. The caller wanted the deputies to drive by his home with their police radios to determine whether the radio was also picking up the conversation.

Can you get shit like that in a big city paper? I don't think so. I hope the poor guy got an ambulance.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hometown Heroes

Two pieces about Monmouth in the news the past two days. It makes me proud.

This one is about the former police chief, who I disliked intensely. He was one of those cops who walked around like his gun stuck out six feet in front of him, if you know what I mean. So this article from the Kennebec Journal was, sadly, was not much of a surprise:

AUGUSTA -- A former Monmouth police chief began serving eight years in prison Monday for sexually assaulting a young girl who is related to him.

Kenneth E. Latulippe, 43, of Winthrop was in Kennebec County Superior Court briefly to hear a judge impose a sentence recommended Feb. 27 by the prosecutor and Latulippe's attorney.

...Latulippe, who had been Monmouth police chief until 1998, had pleaded guilty Feb. 27 to two counts of gross sexual assault. The offenses occurred in October 2005 and November 2005 and involved a victim who was 8 at the time. The child first told her mother about the abuse this year, the mother indicated.

more here

Yuck, yuck, yuck.

And then, I saw this piece, which is about the folks who used to live across the street from me:

MONMOUTH — Police and fire crews responded to a house fire on Wilson Pond Road shortly before 8 a.m., this morning.

The home at 659 Wilson Pond Road is owned by Sterling Smith. The home, however, was believed to be a total loss. Firefighters were able to save a nearby barn that housed many animals.

Smith was not injured in the fire and was able to get his three cats and dog out of the home safely.

Fire officials said the blaze ignited in the home's chimney above the woodstove.

There is also no love lost between me and these folks (who are the ones I have sometimes described as perhaps the model for the original Beans, except not as nice).

Although when I was little we used to get milk from them in exchange for driving one of the sons to work, by the time I was an adolescent things had changed--in large part because one of the sons exposed himself to me when I was 9. Also because their doberman bit me in the head, and also the patriarch of the family got really, really upset when we left our house at anytime past 10 pm because the headlights shone into his bedroom. So upset that he had been known to shoot a shotgun, although I still don't know if he was shooting into the air or at the car.

Nothing like a little rural drama to make you really proud of where you come from, yuh?

(EDIT: I added the photo after my dad tipped me off about it. Thx, dad!)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Two Birds

Happy International Women's Day.

I'm supposed to be blogging about sexism, but honestly I'm too busy trying to make a school deadline to be very creative. Instead, here's a quote that I came across while researching for my critical thesis that I wish I had written, and we'll call my poor, queer, female self's participation in graduate school as my contribution to the cause instead.

I am the only member of my family to live an adulthood clear and free from violence in my own home. Significantly, I am also the only member of my family to have obtained a college education. I believe being a reader saved my life, for it was often even the simplest of stories that I discovered, and was henceforth able to imagine, spaces free from violence. Stories, more specifically counter-narratives, gave language to what was yet unspoken and provided an illustration of how I might begin to narrate my own experiences. To evolve from the kind of family history that makes for statistics of the culturally abject at best (and the socially dead at worst) required that I acquire new languages for navigating the world. Through the paths of recognition and revelation embedded within, stories introduced the tools necessary for me to begin emotionally and physically navigating my way through those worlds, like my childhood home, horribly saturated by violence. [Lopez, Tiffany Ana. “Critical witnessing in Latina/o and African American Prison Narratives.” p.62-77 in Prose and Cons, D. Quentin Miller, ed.]

Also, Prose and Cons is the frickin' cleverest name ever for a book about prison literature.

Monday, March 05, 2007

[Help] the Police

Parents, take heed. Your children will want to know what that song's all about. Why explain why NWA is so angry when instead you can G-rate the song on the fly. Check it out. (via

OK, there is some value in explaining why NWA is so angry. But this one is wicked funny.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Amazing Medical Mysteries

I love medical shows on TV. Real and fake stories that take place in the ER, babies being born, surgery. Until yesterday, I never really understood why people hated hospitals. As a white, almost middle-class person who has had health insurance for almost all of her life, my experiences with doctors and the medical industry have mostly been good. Sure, there was that unethical prick who gave me TMJ when he unnecessarily removed all of my wisdom teeth when I was twenty-one and didn't know any better. But I thought that was an exception.

To be clear, yesterday's CT scan wasn't all that awful. I am not maimed, scarred, or deformed, and I am still breathing. However.

First of all, it was a big-ass snowstorm. I drove, even though it's only a half mile to the hospital, because I didn't want to be damp and sweaty during this scan. But the roads were bad and my car is mysteriously flashing its emergency brake light at me every ten seconds, so I was damp and sweaty anyway.

Also because of the storm, I had to go alone. My daughter was home from school, so K had to stay with her instead of going with me.

After fasting all night I had to drink this awful Gastroview in 24 oz of liquid during a specific fifteen-minute window. Which I did, and which promptly made me sick to my stomach and prompted several hurried visits to the loo. All of which I expected.

But then at the hospital, they moved me through that place like I was a passive piece of meat, not bothering to tell me that I would need an IV, or that they would be putting drugs in me during the scan, or anything, really.

"Get naked and wait," was basically the word of the day, and I managed not to cry, but it was really hard. The IV solution dilated all of my blood vessels at once, which felt like a hot flash and also like I'd peed my pants, but I didn't. Thank goodness.

After all that I took my bruised arm and went home, and wept uncontrollably for twenty minutes because of low blood sugar, and my powerlessness at the hospital, and for fear of what the scans might find. I don't know what would be worse--if there was something, maybe it could be treated. If there was nothing--that means that there's no explanation for some alarming symptoms, and probably means either more tests or else another one chalked up to Things They Don't Know About The Human Body Yet.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Snow & Juice

So it's a snow day today for my daughter. Which means I get to stay home too. It breaks my heart. Hahahahah.

But it kind of sucks because later today I'm having a CT scan. Before the scan I have to fast, and then drink this stuff deliciously named Gastroview so that the docs can get a good look at my insides. I wish they'd give me a copy of the picture. I'd post it here.

Anyway, working makes fasting easier, because I'm not thinking about it. Now I'm going to have to watch the Disney channel all morning and try not to think about how empty the poor tummy is. And I love breakfast. I really do. Pancakes, cereal, eggs, waffles, bacon (mmm, especially bacon), english muffins, raisin toast, french toast, homefries... crap.


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