Monday, August 25, 2008

Fall Fashion

A recent article and photo featured on the MSNBC website argues that Katie Holmes has brought men's jeans back into women's fashion.

Along with the article was a photo of Frau Cruise herself, sporting her husband's jeans with a bulky, tightly-cinched belt.

But the article fails to mention what is, in my opinion, the biggest bit of news to emerge from this photo:

The tight-roll is back, baby!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Fever: Catch It

This would be more humorous if it weren't so eerily plausible.

Chinese Officials: Deadly Virus Sweeping China Is Just Olympic Fever

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Behind the Scenes

The highlight occurs around 07:15, if you want to skip ahead.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Italian Sausage Sunset

You tell me.

Did I take the picture because of this...

...or this?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Still Further Proof that the Man Upstairs Hates Me with an Unabashed Passion

After penny-pinching for a few months and holding out for the best price possible, I recently bought some much coveted airfare at surprisingly low rates.

But necessity also compelled me to purchase a couple more outfits for work (figured "business casual" didn't call for holey shirts and frayed pants bottoms), which I did whilst enjoying a friends and family discount for the Republican Banana.

I even started shopping for a new wireless phone, as my contract was about to expire and it was time for an upgrade.

But God would have none of that.

Oh, no.

Rather, Maude has been suspiciously lazy and keeps adding on weight (not to mention, urinating in weird places), and a routine exam at the vet revealed that she most likely has a rare (though not entirely unheard of) condition that causes cysts — and secondary infections — to form in the bladder. What's that mean for me?

X-rays. Blood cultures. Urinalysis. Antibiotics via oral syringe. Temperature taking by means I'd rather not describe. Needing to add two more litter boxes to my one-bedroom apartment. Dietary supplements she turns her nose up at.

And lots and lots of money.

But oh, no, that's not all!

Of the two new litter boxes, the vet insisted one NOT have a lid.

So can you guess where Maude and Guest Cat both prefer to do their business?

Yes. That's right — number one and number two... from both cats... in the same, unhooded box.

That means litter all over the floor, occasional spill-over, and a smell that no amount of Glade Plug-Ins can erase.

The other two bigger, prettier — and most importantly, covered — boxes remain pristine.*

But that, still, is not all.

I went in for an oil change and found out my car was due for much more costly maintenance. So I paid the price, only to have them say, "Everything looks good."

But, hey, they topped off the windshield wiper fluid, and we all know how expensive that is (SMIRK).

In other words: I paid almost $200 for a few ounces of something I had a whole container of in the trunk of my car.

But wait — there's more!

Early this week, my cell phone (which is my main phone) went from old-but-functional to doesn't-hold-a-charge-overnight.

In other words: the battery is shot. As is its car charger, the bluetooth that goes with it, and the corded hands-free set I purchased to try and replace the latter on-the-cheap.

So I can replace the battery, bluetooth and car charger for my current phone at full price, or renew my two-year contract and get a new, better phone at a discounted rate.

OK, OK. I'm complaining when I shouldn't. But here's my real beef with the powers-that-be.

(And in this case, I mean Warner Bros).

The next Harry Potter film — originally slated to release this November — has been pushed back EIGHT MONTHS.

That's right. No more witches and wizards until July 2009.

That sound you hear — shhhh... — that's my heart dying.

A moment of silence, please.

*My priority, of course, is Maude's health — and I don't care if that makes me a crazy cat lady. Of course I wouldn't gripe about the money if I suspected she wasn't going to be OK. I'm taking donations all the same.

Georgia On My Mind

Apologies for two political entries in a single week, but I need a forum to sort through my confusion in regards to the Georgia / Russia conflict.

Maybe I'm not following the timeline properly, but I'm pretty sure last week Georgia tried to deny South Ossetia (by force) the independence it's been vying for since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and Russia (by force) told Georgia to leave South Ossetia alone.

And then President Bush steps in to tell Russia to end its Georgian aggression, asserting our allegiance with Georgia and calling Russia all sorts of dirty names.

Seriously, Bush? Seriously?

Is it just me, or wasn't Georgia the initial aggressor here? Or to rephrase the pop-lingo: "Georgia shouldn't write checks its military brass can't cash."

Essentially, the skinny kid punched the much-bigger-kid's little friend, and now the skinny kid is crying foul.

I mean, I'm as concerned about Russia as the next person. After all, the new Russian president was essentially appointed by the former Russian president, and the former Russian president is the new prime minister.

If that doesn't wig you out, allow me to rephrase:

Something is rotten in the state of the Kremlin, and it ain't the old potatoes outside the vodka distillery.

Even still: does that give the United States the right to tell Russia to leave Georgia alone when, in fact, Georgia "started it"?

Or is this all a microcosm for what we've done in Iraq?

Yeah, Bush, that's just what we want. As though our military isn't spread too thin already, let's add Russia to the playing field. And once this whole Olympics thing is over (oh, what ironic timing!), surely we can continue the international competition by inviting China to join in.

And, oh — oh! I hope North Korea wants to play too.

Now here's an idea: let's do the democratic thing and take a vote: all in favor of using our words to diplomatically (rather than offensively) tell both sides to chill, say "I."

And if that doesn't work — and Bush continues with the heated name-calling — here's a tip for Russia.

Say it with me.

I'm rubber, and you're glue...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Commune / Commute

"drive through hell"
by charles bukowski

the people are weary, unhappy, frustrated, the people are
bitter and vengeful, the people are deluded and fearful, the
people are angry and uninventive
and I drive among them on the freeway and they project
what is left of themselves in their manner of driving—
some more hateful, more thwarted than others—
some don't like to be passed, some attempt to keep others
from passing
—some attempt to block lane changes
—some hate cars of a newer, more expensive model
—others in these cars hate the older cars.

the freeway is a circus of cheap and petty emotions, it's
humanity on the move, most of them coming from some place
hated and going to another they hate just as much or
the freeways are a lesson in what we have become and
most of the crashes and deaths are the collision
of incomplete beings, of pitiful and demented lives.

when I drive the freeways I see the soul of humanity of
my city and it's ugly, ugly, ugly: the living have choked the

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thought Police: Concerning the Beijing Olympics

"Most of the people see the fog, they say it is pollution. But we know here it's not pollution. It's mist, a fact of the nature."

I'll be the first to admit that our government is corrupt — the current regime; those before it; and all of those to come.

That's perhaps the darkest secret of human nature: even with the best of intentions, our secret thoughts and actions often undermine the very best of ourselves.

Which is to say: we're far from perfect. And, in large numbers, we're actually quite dangerous.

But I maintain that democracy (in various forms) is the best of all possible governments. Don't believe me? Just pay attention to the Beijing Olympics.

If what you see doesn't make you burst into the chorus from "I'm Proud to be an American," then you're not looking closely enough.

Most of what we've seen in Beijing so far is benign on the surface. But like that proverbial tip of the iceberg, it's something I'd prefer to never run into.

A fireworks display so impressive that even the live audience thought it was real (it wasn't). A six-year-old girl told she wasn't cute enough to appear on stage, though she was asked to sing while another, "cuter" girl lip-synched. Or even better? That China rationalized this decision as being a matter of "national interest."

Just imagine if the U.S. didn't allow the unattractive to perform — what then would come of the Steven Tylers and Clay Aikens of the world?

(OK, so maybe this one little quirk isn't such a bad thing.)

And let us not forget the stone-faced police terrifying tourists; the underage gymnasts; China nearly reneging on its promise to allow uncensored media coverage; the thick smog and how offended the Chinese government became when some American athletes wore masks; or the alarming lack of protesters since the torch relay (particularly when you consider China's reputation for killing and imprisoning dissidents)?

And this is on an international stage, with the whole world watching. Just imagine what they do when we're not paying attention.

Tibet, anyone? Anyone?

I understand that "when in Rome" it's wise to follow protocol. But does that mean if the Olympics were held in Sudan, we'd be free to kill by the thousands, and then tell the international media that the population drop was due to climate change?

Or, excuse me, isn't this why some places aren't selected to host the Olympics?

But far be it for me to tell the IOC how to do their job.

I realize the United States is far from perfect; we're a bully in our own right. Our current administration has manipulated information, misinformed the public, and started unjust wars with unprepared (and under-supplied) soldiers, many of them fresh out of Folsum.

And we didn't just vote in this administration once... we did it twice.

So we're culpable, in a way.

But there's a reason organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union — who I never in a million years thought I'd jump to defend — make such a stink when the government starts tapping our phone calls or holding people without due process.

Because the loss of civil liberties is a slippery slope — one it's best to not start treading.

So... say what you will about the United States.

You're allowed.

(The CIA will just be sure to add it to your file.)

Photo by Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

True Love Will Find You in the End

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Day in the Life, Part VII
"There's No Place Like"

Maybe it's because my parents were always moving. Maybe it's because we're nomads by nature.

Or maybe it's just me.

But I have honestly never felt content enough to hang my hat anywhere. The best places I've discovered are far away from family, and a healthy amount of guilt compels me to strive for proximity.

(Unless wealth were to afford me to the luxury of flying anywhere on a whim — thus far a dream and not a reality).

I do feel, at times, that Thoreau had the right idea; just... an undermining level of hypocrisy.

I've struggled with Walden ever since I first read it in high school: a man endeavors to turn away from society and live alone on a small farm. He praises the virtues of nature — and solitude — all the while downplaying the visits he paid to his benefactors (the Emersons) and ultimately abandoning his experiment after 2 years, 2 months and 2 days.

He said it was time to return to civilized life though, in earnest, he'd never left it. He'd just... changed it, in a way... only to realize he needed it in its entirety more than he'd ever care to admit.

But I think I understand him now. I understand the desire to be at two places at once; the desire to give everything away and retreat within oneself.

And yet: I want all of the things I enjoy in life, without the hardships that pay for so many them.

Gas to travel. Photos and cameras and music and bicycles and books and concerts and plays.

And yet: no more traffic. No more construction or 8-hours-a-day without the smallest slant of sun.

A week ago I was in one room, with the TV on in another. Through the hall I heard words I'd written (spoken by another) — a fairly rare occurrence for me, given the medium for which I normally write.

And I thought: well, my job isn't so bad. If only I could do it from home.

But where is home? My apartment with leaking walls, mold, and a landlady who lets herself in, unannounced?

The city where I live — the horns, the drunkenness, the middle fingers... and bicyclists who ride 3 in a row, blocking traffic either to prove a point or through sheer ignorance of the world around them?

The place where I grew up, where nearly every visit is marred with frustrations too personal to list?

And I think... I know the answer. Home is anywhere for me, so long as I maintain the freedom to pack my bags on a whim. In my dream world, I keep my job but have the ability to do it from anywhere: my apartment, my hometown, internet cafes on remote islands. Campsites in the Pacific Northwest; trails in Appalachia. I pack a single bag and move, but always with a home to return to.

But right now? Right now... I feel stuck. There are cars and pink fabric walls everywhere I turn.

They are closing in.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

For the Two People in the World Who Haven't Seen This Yet

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Day in the Life, Part VI
Sweet Home Chicago?

And then:

The anti-climax.

A return to the city with the highest sales-tax in the nation; the worst postal system of all major cities; and government corruption that serves as a backdrop for Gotham City.

[Not to mention, the astoundingly empty apartment.]

But it's not all bad. There are free festivals. Bike trails galore. Forest preserves, a beautiful skyline and storms powerful enough to transform downtown into a land of Oz.

Monday night, for example, the Lightening Detection Network — who knew such a thing existed?! — recorded 90,000 bolts of lightning in northern Illinois (essentially, the Chicagoland area).

That's a year's worth of lightning in a single night. And I'll tell you — it was an amazing sight (terrifying, even) to witness.

But this summer, otherwise mild, has had its share of freak storms... including one early June that ruined countless pieces at the Printer's Row Book Fair and sent a friend and I running for cover (but not before we helped a few sellers try to protect their goods).

Sirens were wailing all around us,

And by the storm's end, sellers were offering books as discounted prices — or discounting them altogether.

And I thought there was something strangely... poetic... in this juxtaposition of a syllabus and a trash can...

and a mysterious foe.

Particularly in a land I can never quite call home. A city I at once love and hate with equal ferocity. A land I refer to, in my loneliest moments, as the city of Cold Shoulders.

(With apologies to Carl Sandburg.)

But this is it. This is where I have been, and where I am. It's where I go at the end of the day, and where I return after vacations and camping trips and — yes — a 3,000 mile sojourn to the Pacific.

But, why, then, cannot I not refer to this place as "home"

And actually mean it?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Thoughts Concerning My Benevolent Nature

Some call me generous; others, thoughtful. And if both camps agree on one thing, it's this:

I'm always looking out for other people.

That's why I don't want you to torture yourself when it comes to selecting the perfect Christmas gift for me this year.

I'll tell you.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Everywhere Signs

And so ends the first major event of my summer, though I have much more to post about once I recuperate from this most recent bout of writing and photo uploading.

Until then, I give you sundry images from that 3,000 mile road trip — mainly, funny signs and other oddities that didn't jive with any previous entries, though I wanted to post them all the same.

But first: best to step back a rung or two on the maturity scale before scrolling down.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Day in the Life, Part V
"Washington becomes Oregon"

There's something altogether humbling about turning the page on a calendar.

I did that today for my home and work calendars (all five of them), amazed to realize the summer is nearly gone.

Next will come autumn, and then winter, and then spring, and then summer.

You know the story -- it neither begins nor ends, it just... keeps going. Sometimes considerably faster than we like; and some days slower than we ever thought possible.

But enough of that; you're probably wondering why one person would need so many calendars, in which case I feel compelled to say the quantity has more to do with an obsession with art, rather than an obsession with time.

Though it is most certainly both.

Every time I turn one of those pages, I'm as eager to see the next month's artwork as I am disturbed to see the previous one pass.

And I cannot help but think, too, how ironic it is that days drag on whereas years pass in a proverbial blink.

A marker of a life wasted, methinks. A failure to enjoy the moment and the desperation that comes when you realize months upon months are full of wasted days.

So stop wasting them.

I am reminded, too, of a recent communique from a friend, asking who the real me is -- the words and pictures he knows from this fiber optic anomaly, or the girl with an off-color sense of humor who takes pride in her life's misadventures (not the least of which involved getting lost in the hills of New England).

I've been thinking about that question, and now -- days later -- my calculated response is the same as my immediate:

I am both.

Look at it this way: we've all heard the tragic tales of our favorite comedians. These people who -- on stage -- made us laugh so hard we cried, though their personal histories were often of a much darker ilk.

I won't at all profess to contain that level of tragedy or propensity for fame -- because I don't -- but the comparison remains the same:

I'm the reverse, in a way.

Roughly half of the people who read me have never met me. And so, all they know is this... melodramatic voice.

Though in person, I'm full of jokes, terrible puns, and stories of woe that nearly always have a humorous spin.

I'm the girl who cackles with glee when she realizes a simple word has been transformed either by time

Or some like-minded imp.

The girl who thinks this street name -- in hippie city, USA (i.e. Eugene, OR) -- is too fitting to be an accident.

The girl who mispronounces a name she's known all her life when it's out of context, and realizes just how unfortunate (that is to say: humorous) it really is.

And so on and so on, for days upon days.

But you know what I most liked about Eugene? This statue, which seemed more alive to me than most of the people I pass on any given day.

It's the first little boy that most stood out to me. Because for all of my love of literature, and movies, and plays... I understand and appreciate his desire to turn away from the speaker.

It's not so much that he's adverse to fiction.

(In fact, I imagine the converse to be true.)

But that he's immersed in life.