Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Holiday Cheer

Feeling stressed? Here's a selection of super cute animal photos taken at zoos around the world and featured on Yahoo News. Many are holiday themed. Just click on the thumbnails to see the larger versions.

Ho Ho Ho.

News of the Ding-Dong Day

Things you may have missed (because they're really not that important)...

Leading off with animal news...

And I Ran, I Ran So Far Awa-a-ay...
Like a Warrior outside of Coney Island, a young red-tailed hawk was apparently attacked by a flock of seagulls and nearly drowned. Read about the happy ending here.

I Am Going To Cry
"Imagine roaming the world's largest ocean year after year alone, calling out with the regularity of a metronome, and hearing no response..." WAAAAHHH!!!

Yet Another Reason Not To Have Children
Your cell phone is turning you into a mutant...

Besides, The Universe Is Spawning
Telescope Sees Evidence of 'Baby' Galaxies.
I have no idea what this means, except that it's further evidence that our corner of the cosmos is not the be-all and end-all of everything...

Back on track for the holidays...
"If you were Druid, I'd be wishing you a 'Scintillating Solstice,' "
Conservative Christians are mad that this time of year isn't all about Jesus' birthday anymore. Which makes sense, because historians agree his birth date was more likely around September.

Festivus 101
"In the background was Durkheim's `Elementary Forms of Religious Life,' " Mr. O'Keefe recalled, "saying that religion is the unconscious projection of the group. And then the American philosopher Josiah Royce: religion is the worship of the beloved community." Oh. I thought it was from Seinfeld.

And finally, something a bit more cheery...
This Is How Maurice Imagines Himself With The Xmas Tree

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

News of the Day - Holidays edition

I can't even think about what's happening in Iraq or with Rummy right now, so I'm dedicating this edition to seasonal fluff...

A Child's Holiday Wish: Please Click Here
Well, you've got to admire the ingenuity of kids nowadays, if not always their values. I mean, I've got a long-ass Amazon wish list, but this is ridiculous...

In more charming news, let's read about Garrison Keillor, just because I like him.
Lake Wobegon? It's Where Men Are Persistent

Happy Anniversary to the Organ Transplant
Now how'd you like to get a new... face?

O, Holy Mocha Latte...
In this holiday season, it's good to know that the Catholic church is providing what it's followers really need... more coffee.

Crouching Santa, Hidden Reindeer
For the rest of us, we can be sure to stock up on holiday gifts and decorations from - where else? - the world's largest predominantly Buddhist country...

However, if you want to be environmentally correct, don't buy anything on the WWF's list of
Ten Things Not to Buy for Christmas

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas...
Instead, buy some of these things.

As for other holidays,
Kwanzaa celebrates black heritage, culture
Which is why conservatives don't like it. As I recall from growing up with a black activist stepfather, it mostly celebrated five tons of soul food. But that was just our house.

And Hannukah may be over,
but the sun shines on in Florida for some Israeli teens...

Baby, It's Cold Outside
Lest we forget, today is the grandpappy of all Winter observances, the Winter Soltice. It's a good time to stay inside and snuggle for the longest night of the year, or start a fire at the NY piers - take your pick.

A Very Happy Holiday for Some
And finally, some good news to warm our Scrooge-ish hearts. I think thousands of homeless animals will agree with me when I say that this kind of giving is one of the best...

Merry merry, y'all...

Merry (sniffle) Christmas...

Well, we've got a beautiful tree - check, wonderful ornaments - check, presents and cards for all - check, dozens of delicious homemade cookies - check, plus one case of the flu and one case of raging holiday stress syndrome - check and check!

Why is it we women always turn into our mothers? And not the older, wiser versions, but the ones who made the mistakes we swore we'd never make? This is me at Christmas, my first one in my own home with my own significant other: trying to do 500 projects I don't have time to do in order to make Christmas "perfect", i.e. making myself and everyone around me unhappy trying to make myself and everyone around me happy.

My mom used to be that way. Dozens of boxes of cookies for everyone she knew, parties and feasts, presents and gingerbread houses and crafted wreaths and even a Christmas tree made out of chickenwire and boughs. And through it all, there was me as a kid, helping her and feeling like I was special doing it. Now, my mom was a stay-at-home mother way back when, and she expressed her creativity that way. As the "creative" child, and the youngest, what was the time of year I got the most attention and praise? You got it, Christmas project time.

So here I am, knowing my mother gave up stressing herself unduly years ago, especially when she stopped having kids around to help her and started working herself, but trying to be her at my age. Technically I know it's different: I have two jobs instead of none and no eager little fingers to help me. But there's a little girl inside of me that still wants the same safety, love and attention a "perfect" Christmas brings, with the whole family close together (not scattered around the country) and me in the center of it all, being told I was good. So, on the year I first try to have a relaxing Christmas by staying at home with the woman I love and doing our own thing, I find myself desperately trying to please... whom? Some inner critic who tells me I will not be good and safe and nobody will love me if I don't make everything just right. And, as a consequence, falling apart.

I know this now, and I'm getting a grip on it (and hey, I've finally got almost everything done, anyway), but it disturbs and fascinates me how the emotions of a three year old that I thought were well resolved can come around to smack me in the face thirty-one years later. And it's not like I can make it "perfect," anyhow - whatever that means. The stress and the weather mean somebody is always sick on the holidays - this week it's Marci, I'm hoping to squeak by without getting ill, if I'm lucky. And we're all adults now, with another generation of kids in the family and no one big enough to lift me up to put the angel on the tree anymore. I guess it's just that, despite my age, facing creating my own adult traditions of Christmas unearthered some desires unfulfilled, wishes that our nuclear family hadn't exploded before I was out of my single digits, that can't be dismissed no matter how much I want to be "healthy" or maturely blasé about them.

So, I'm working on it. And next Christmas will probably be a whole lot better - the bridge will have been crossed, and so on. In the meantime, I'm planning on scheduling a good amount of rest for myself over the holidays. And I'll put up the angel myself.

Friday, December 17, 2004

News of the Day

Things you might have missed...

Parked in Desert, Waiting Out the Winter of Life

In a fascinating study, a NY Times reported explores the lifestyles of the senior citizens living in trailers and RVs in the California desert. Take the time to read it, and make sure you take good care of the elders in your family.

How Quickly They Change Their Minds
Anti-abortionists, that is, when it comes down to really affecting them. A controversial and poorly understood new treatment is being tested in China by a doctor who injects the cells of aborted foetuses into the nervous systems of paralyzed and diseased patients. Some people are agog at the use of foetal cells, but the results seem to verge on the miraculous, and that has lots of foreigners, including this guy, rushing to China...

Among them is Van Golden, a Christian, anti-abortion Texan who has sold his house so that he can travel to communist, atheist China and have Huang inject a million cells from the nasal area of a foetus into his spine. According to Golden's doctors, his spine was damaged beyond repair in a car crash last Christmas. The damage to his nervous system was so bad that he has been in a wheelchair and racked by spasms ever since. But Golden refused to give up, even if it meant having to compromise his values. "This is the only place that offered us any hope," he says. "Everyone else offered only to help make me sufficient in that chair. But the chair is not my destiny. It is not ordained."

Read more here.

Say It Ain't So

Bill Moyers is retiring from his show NOW on PBS as of tonight. Although there have been times I could not watch the show because it would leave me too depressed, it was still an excellent, thought-provoking lonely bastion of liberal thought in today's media. I hope Moyers will continue to speak out in different ways.

The Tables are Turned
The Social Security Administration has decided it will not recognize any marriage - straight or gay - performed in New Paltz, New York recently. This is due to the big to-do that happened last winter when the mayor began wedding gay folks (to one another, that is). It must be shocking for the straight couples who now find their marriages invalid. I wonder if they'll begin to understand what it's like to be in our shoes for a little while?

Everything's Turning
Including apartments. New Yorkers hungry fo rfloor space may be amazed by what you can get in Brazil for $300,000.

Nyah Nyah-Nyah Boo-Boo
Cheers for diplomacy at its finest! U.S. Diplomats in Cuba added an interesting sign to their Christmas decorations this year: a big "75" symbolizing 75 dissidents jailed in Cuba. The Cuban government's response? A huge sign facing the 75 sign showing the torture in Abu Ghraib.

Wildlife Education That Works
The excellent IFAW found unusual help in a religious leader who has his followers treating endangered sharks like family members.

Break Our Your Mukluks!
There's a cold wind on the rise...

But Don't Worry, The World Is Going To End Soon, Anyway
What, you haven't heard?

Friday Cat Blog

Whiskers at full attention!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Educate the Masses

Seriously, if you're a liberal and can't stand dealing with family, friends or acquaintances who are wingnutters, check out this diary from Daily Kos.

And while your at it, save this information to deliver to anti-abortion types:

According to a 2000 study conducted by Finer and Henshaw and published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health concerning abortion rates in the United States, during the 1980's, the Republican leadership did nothing while over 25% of pregnancies ended in abortion -an all time high averaging 1.6 million abortions per year. In the 1990's the Democratic leadership oversaw the abortion rate go down to just over 20% using progressive, compassionate early childhood education and services to address basic social and economic problems and by creating pregnancy counseling centers in poor areas.

Sometimes, talking actually does some good...

A Video Game I Can Get Behind

Tired of supre-violent video games? Check out Super Granny, where you play - can you guess? - a granny! And what does Super Granny do? She saves kitties! My stars.

News of the Day

Things you may have missed...

Aah, Just Throw 'Em in Jail
Like they do with the rest of the nutjobs.
A Flood of Troubled Soldiers Is in the Offing, Experts Predict

It's Between Grandma and the Baby
Because it seems both of them can't get vaccinated. The federal government is using money that was intended for vaccinating children to pay for flu vaccines for adults, which means that they're trying to cover up the recent flu vaccine mismanagement (and throw a little more money GlaxoSmithKline's way) by taking standard childhood preventative vaccinations away from the disadvantaged.

Oh, and did I mention the flu vaccines are expiramental?

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!
Bush Planning Inaugural Bash Despite War
He loves him some himself.

Assuming The Inauguration Happens...
Well, of course it will, but a girl can dream can't she? Anyway, there are some investigations into possible voter fraud still going on, although, according to this excellent diary, not enough attention is being paid to black voter disenfranchisement. Food for thought.

Those Silly Brits
Britain's Highest Court Overturns Anti-Terrorism LawBritain's Highest Court Overturns Anti-Terrorism Law
Good thing we Amuricans can still disappear folks at Gitmo.

Giving is Trendy
But at least it's still good. It seems that more and more big retailers are selling products that include donations to charities. It may just be an expedient way to get customers to feel good about shopping with them, but can anything that gets Americans contributing to worthy causes be all bad?

Was Abraham Lincoln a Gay American?
I don't know where I fall on this one, but it sure is fun to read about!

Can We Have Padded Seats?
Since we're going to pay more for our Metrocards? While I'm disgusted with how the MTA has screwed up their finances, an extra 6 bucks a month for the ability to ride on the of the largest and most convenient mass transit systems in the world seems fair enough. It's still a reasonable deal, although I worry for those who are less fortunate that I am who cannot afford increases. The major problem lies in both state and city changes to the MTA's finances and how the MTA has handled them. For more information, I highly recommend

How about Toilet Seats?
I had no idea public bathrooms were opened at the Times Square station. Will wonders never cease? Of course, this article is several months old. They could have been turned into condos by now.

Well, I'll Be a Monkey's Uncle
A whole new species of primates has been found in the Himalayas! It seems there are new and wonderful things to find on the land of this old Earth as well as in the sea and air. Clearly, we'd better speed up the pollution and killing process!

But The "Geneva Dodgers" Doesn't Sound Quite Right
Some actual common sense about mass transit is spreading...
Tram Seeing Rebirth From Geneva to Sydney

Gas Gobbler?
And in other interesting, if wierd, news, the environmental solution to fossil fuel dependence might be... turkey poo?

Waiter, There's a Bug in my Chocolate
Think it sounds kooky to preserve foods in whey to save on excess wrapping? You don't want to know what's in that "confectioner's glaze"...

Quick, Cut That Teacher's Pay!
For doing something good for kids! Aw... (sniff)... I think my frozen heart just melted...

I Knew Them When

My friends are famous! Or sorta. Alice's movie should be released by Sony Classics in May and now has a review up on Yahoo!, and Betsy's movie 'do (yes, the one I got cut out of and did the Website for) just got profiled in indiewire.

Congrats to them, and I hope when they get their mansions they will let me dip my toes in the pool...

People are Okay?

Just an update on my recent eBay problem: it seems the seller who shafted me has a history of doing this. I got an email from a fellow buyer who had the same thing happen to her, and she's been in correspondence with others who are doing a letter-writing campaign to eBay about the unethical behaviour. I sent my complaint in, so now we'll see if eBay does something about it. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

People are Good?

OK, I know I just recently touted the merits of eBay in this very blog. But, after a few recent bad experiences I'm ready to bitch a bit and warn you all that using eBay does have its down side.

First of all, there's the higher chance that your financial information will get out there. I can't be sure whether my recent banking problems stemmed from transactions through eBay or elsewhere, but it does open one to a larger area of use and thus, potential fraud.

Then there's the possibility of getting shafted. People disappear or refuse to pay or send goods. It happens. Not often, but if you use eBay regularly, just as if you participate in any marketplace, it's likely to happen to you.

The problem is, for a number of legal reasons I can't really fathom, not only is there very little accountability or recourse for this sort of thing, but trying to get it fixed can cause the victim more trouble. Case in point, recently I won an item. For illustration's sake, let's say it was a 1980s E.T. Colorforms set. I did not receive the item for some time and had to remind the seller to mail it (this after I learned that a certain someone would not only not be thrilled with the gift of a 1980s E.T. Colorforms set, but find it an appallingly insensitive present that might trigger nightmarish flashbacks, but I digress). Then, when I received the item, it did not work (no stick to the forms), was dirty, and was missing one third of the advertised pieces. What was my recourse? Well, not much. I wrote a polite email to the seller asking if there was some way to clean the item and make it work. "WITH WATER" I got back - thanks. Then I wrote a polite email saying that I was considering posting neutral feedback due to the condition of the item, but perhaps we could come to an agreement (I would have settled for a partial refund). "DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO" was the reply. So I did. And the next thing you know? I get a negative rating in my feedback that simply says "THE WORST!!!" What the...?

Now buttholes are buttholes and troglodytes are troglodytes... and troglodytes' buttholes are... pretty damn dirty, you get the idea... but what can I do about this unfair treatment? Nothing. You see the eBay system is set up with feedback so that people can rate their transactions and leave comments so that other buyers and sellers can decide if the other person is a safe bet with whom to conduct business. If I get a negative comment in my feedback, I can leave a response, and technically other sellers and buyers, if they bother to read the comments, will see that this one negative rating was obviously abnormal and made by a rude and not-terribly-intelligent person. However, the rating still affects the number that shows with my name at all time - the percentage of good-to-bad feedback that I have. So, after being treated poorly and commenting very mildly on it, my record gets a blemish. And all eBay offers in terms of rectifying retaliatory feedback is the ability to mutually withdraw feedback if an agreement to do such is mediated y an outside service - for a fee.

So, that, my friends, is part of the agita you can expect now and then with eBay. Fortunately, it happens rarely enough that it is still worth it to hunt for bargains with this service, but there is a recurring nauseating feeling of uncertainty - "is my payment safe?" "will I get the package?" "can cavemen type?" that quietly pervades one's transactions thereafter. So, are the actual majority of positive experiences enough to really justify eBay's recent "People are Good" ad campaign?

Bring back the dancers, I say.

News of the day

Things you might have missed...

Free at Last?
ABC News is now featuring an article on the damage inflicted upon the exonerated, including my belove M's friend Scott. Good article - more awareness should be raised.

Meet the New Boss...
... much like Iraq's old boss, the U.S. military has been torturing civilians, as found in both a Marine study and a Navy study. Must be fraternity hazing time again.

I'm Not Sure I Want This Much Women's Lib
Meanwhile, troops are spread so thin that the U.S. armed forces are beginning to break their own rules and send female troops to the front (while claiming they're not really, of course). Not that I don't think that women can be as good soldiers as men (or better), but I'm just waiting for all the rules to be upturned and get my over-aged, fat, out lesbian ass called for the draft...

Just Buy A Burial Plot - It's Cheaper
Back at home, Retirees Are Paying More for Health Benefits, Study Says.

Oh, and Cheney is still lobbying to make the tax cuts permanent, since they're doing most Americans so much good.

And you know what else? We're still throwing millions of dollars at a defense system that doesn't work.

Duh AND Argh!
And freakin' Pataki is still trying to run for office!

No Wonder The Rest of the World Hates Us
No, really.

How Do You Say "Fuck You" in Inuktituk?
Still, not everyone in North America is an idiot. For instance, Eskimos have stuck upon the excellent idea of (appropriately)casting global warming as a human rights issue in order to effect U.S. policy.

But It Still Won't Save Us from That Giant Asteroid
...about to hit The West Wing. Some brilliant astronomers are all set to smash up a comet - and not just for special effects or missile testing.It seems they can actually learn something by blowing it up. Well, whaddaya know?

But Back to Me
I admit it: I'm one of those people buying presents for myself. Hey, you get to a certain age and who else is gonna play Santa? Disgustingly rampant consumerism aside, we all should get to treat ourselves to something nice once in a while, and if we need the excuse of Xmas in our overstressed lives, so be it. But just so we're clear, I'm not buying $200 jeans or anything.Because they don't make them to fit my overfed rump.

Where's My Advance?
To support my self-gifting habit, maybe I can join the list of bloggers who are now getting book deals.All I have to do is prove that somebody's reading this. Hello? Hello...?

The Doves of Peace Got Eaten
But at least it's because of some bona-fide good news. It seems that Pale Male and Lola are getting their nest back. Yaaaay! I'm sure the pigeons on my local traffic-post will be thrilled.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

News of the day

Things you might have blah blah blah...

Holy Frijoles!
The whole voter fraud investigation thing is going nuts, at least in the liberal blog world. Software programmer Clint Curtis testified before congress today that he had been asked by Congressman Feeney (R, FL) to create a program that could hack into voting results back in 2000. Meanwhile, David Cobb, the Green Party presidential candidate, stated at the Democratic House Judiciary Committee's Columbus hearings that a voting company representative tampered with voting equipment and attempted to plant false information into the Ohio recount. For full details, see Brad Blog Too.

No Wonder We're So Welcome There
U.S. Military 'Obstructing' Medical Care in Iraq.
Words fail me.

Got a Handi-Wipe?
Because I just threw up...
Bush Awards Medal of Freedom to Three

Why We Won't Have a White Christmas
Because of global warming, of course. And simple changes like that are decent enough evidence, WWF scientists said today. Meanwhile, delegates from more than 190 countries are in Buenos Aires discussing how to implement the Kyoto pact. You know, the environmental standards pact the U.S. of A. hasn't signed?
Even our goverment won't help the environment, you can here.

To Be Replaced by the Ford Battleship
Speaking of the environment, it seems as though Ford may actually kill off the Excursion. We'll see.

But Someone Finally Has a Good Idea for the Environment
This is awesome: Italian province uses donkeys to trim flora along highways.
And which would you rather see on your trip? An adorable ungulate, or a big, nasty mower?

Is Anyone Listening?
It may not feel like it when you look at the escalating treatment of mental illness by cruel and damaging imprisonment. But check out this editorial in the NY Times by Brent Staples.

One a lighter note...
Aren't You Glad You Don't Celebrate the Holidays This Way?
Unless you do...
Although the idea of an actual Decemberween fest is not without appeal...

And in another part of Europe...
Proud France Inaugurates World's Highest Bridge
What can I say? That's pretty cool. I just wish I could get those visions of "Galloping Gertie" out of my head.

And finally,
Oh, Baby, Oh
The London-based Literary Review has awarded Tom Wolfe with the annual prize for bad sex in fiction. Hee!

Monday, December 13, 2004

News of the day

Things you might have missed...

Happy Holiday$
Or not. Sales are slumping for low and mid-level retailers, while high-end stores are selling $1,200 massage chairs at a brisk pace. Guess those tax breaks are having an effect, after all. But don't worry, we're all middle-class, aren't we?

This is Getting Good
Startling new revelations highlight rare Congressional hearings on Ohio vote

For the "Disappeared"
and their families there is a small step towards justice as a judge in Chile declares Pinochet fit to face human rights charges.

No Dumb Bird
Think we primates have cornered the market on brains? Think again.

The Horror
And finally, the Shrinky Dink instructions will tell you that you can stop the Dinks from sticking hopelessly to themselves when the curl. I've got a painstakingly drawn and coloured Hawai'ian Christmas ornament lady with Scoliosis to prove them wrong. Curses!

Goin' Up The River...

To the hoosegow, to the clink... My beloved M is going on her first big prison visit to the scenic Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate NY tonight and tomorrow. Interestingly, she is more nervous about travelling in the currently hazardous New England weather than being in the stir, the lockup, the big house, the pokey. Have I mentioned she's going to interview prisoners in the coop, the joint, the pen and the slammer? Wish her luck and safety, and please refrain from taking such perverse delight in the slang as I have, or you may get shanked, shivved or bladed up.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

News of The Day - Saturday Edition

News of the Day Thing you might have missed...

My Tinfoil Hat Is Firmly Attached to My Head I follow the hope-in-Hell revelations that investigations are beginning into possible voting fraud in Ohio. Apparently some major shit is going to hit the fan on Monday, according to Cliff Arnebeck, who spoke about it in this interview on the Randi Rhodes show yesterday. I'm not trying to stir things up, but have you heard orange banners are on sale at Old Navy?

Pass the Fugu
It's finally been confirmed that Viktor Yushchenko, the more progressive candidate for the office of Prime Minister of Ukraine that has also been judged to be a victim of voter fraud, was poisoned with Dioxin. Shady opponents have been trying to pass off his terrible health and appearance as resulting from "bad sushi". Do they have Teriyaki Boy retaurants in Kiev?

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar
The Balete tribe in Botswana have their first female chief, appropriately named... Woman. No wonder our VP is named Dick.

How Do You Say "Oy, Vey" in Kikuyu?
Just as environmental and humanitarian activist Wangari Maathai was to receive the first nobel prize given to an African woman, she made some controversial statements about AIDS. Not that you can blame her for being suspicious...

Stay Together... for the Children
You knew it was going to happen. The first divorce cases are trickling in after the rush on gay marriage in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, the most difficult part of the first one was deciding who got custody of the cats. Don't tell M this, but just in case, I have three little carriers packed and some bus tickets stashed away...

But the Rats & Pigeons Are Happy...
Protests continue over the eviction of the famous hawks Pale Male and Lola from an upscale parkside co-op roof. Co-op board members, however, not budging, have been quoted as saying that the small ledge that formerly held the nest "could go for a few hundred thou in this market."

And finally, Julia Child is Dead
And more power to her, as she didn't have to witness the mess I made of my attempted sugarless, dairy-free egg nog. Is it supposed to come out as watery custard? Note to self: buy the box. You'll only drink half of it anyway, and if it makes you throw up, at least you can't take the blame for it...

Friday, December 10, 2004

Friday Cat Blog

Quan Yin is hiding in her usual spot!

Hellooo...? Are you looking for me?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

News of the Day (short edition)

Things you might have missed...

Viva La Revolucíon!
You probably didn't miss this, but I have to mention it, anyway.
Iraq-Bound Troops Confront Rumsfeld Over Lack of Armor

Stickin' It to the Little Guy... er, Bird
The long-time residence of Pale Male, the famous Central Park hawk, and his family was recently removed. A pox on all co-op boards!

That's all I have time for today - get your news elsewhere!

F**k Romania!

Well, it's happened again. Someone has robbed me using my debit card information. It's happened to me twice before with my credit cards, but they generally correct it quickly, and it I can live without my credit cards for a while. This time, however, someone in Romania started making charges and cleaned out my checking account.

Fortunately, the bank noticed (charges in New York and Romania on the same day might tip me off, too), and now it's being investigated. I should have my $911.20 back within a couple weeks - and you can bet your sweet bippy I'm nervous, in case there's some bureaucratic problem with that.

However, in the meantime, holiday shopping's going to be a bit stiff. I've got a wee bit of savings, and my good ol' trusty Amex, fortunately, but the whole thing makes me feel more than a little ill. Not because I'm mad at myself for not being careful enough or something - heck, this happens to a lot of people a lot of the time, and I'll just take my debit card offline for some of the automatic payments for which I've been using it. Rather, because, what the...? I mean, Romania? How the heck did that happen? And why didn't they go pick on somebody with thousands of dollars to spare in the first place?

Well, I have a very good chance at getting my money back, but the bank directly told me that it's generally impossible to find out who did these things and how. Maybe some poor family in Romania is getting a much-needed stove now (maybe if I'm lucky they'll send me some goulash), although I doubt it. The only problem in these cases is the cumulative effect on the rates the banks charge, and, if I am fortunate, a temporary spending cap for me.

Maybe this is God's way of telling me to stop buying ornaments, already...?

A Really Good Cause

A friend of mine, the wonderful Joannie Chen, has been battling leukemia for the past year and now needs a bone transplant, but she has no insurance. A group of folks has put together a foundation to collect donations to help her, and they are having a benefit concert with local bands, a silent auction and prizes at The Living Room on the Lower East Side on December 13th. Whether you know Joannie or not, it promises to be a good show for a great cause - and you could even win an animal communication session with me! For more information, check out and put it in your calendar!

The Bitterness of the Over-privileged Consumer

Isn't it crazy how the little things can get you? (And yes, this applies to my Kinder egg post, too.) Friends may know that I am an eBay addict. Well, not an addict, because I can quit at any time... okay, I'm an addict. The fact that I'm able to lull the addiction into a state of dormancy does not mean that it is gone. It is just waiting patiently, hunkered down like a cat about to spring... for THE HOLIDAYS!

Look, it's just a fact: if you live in a high-cost city and you want to buy some unusual gifts, the cheapest way to do it is through eBay. Those 1980 Burger King glasses with the Empire Strikes Back decals on them you want? $15-$20 each at Mr. Pink. You can get the set of four for that on eBay. And you're not gonna find good stuff at stoop sales or on the curb anymore, because the city (and particularly my neighbourhood) has developed a rash of "antique" and "vintage" stores where they collect that stuff and sell it at ungodly prices. Sure eBay's a gamble, but I've rarely encountered bad service. And trust me, if you or someone you love as unusual or specific tastes and you don't have a lot of dough, it's the only place to find it, without renting a truck and driving to some hillbilly flea markets.

Meanwhile, friends may also know that I have a peculiar obsession with giving the perfect gifts. I love to give presents, but I also approach it with an obsessive-compulsive approach that gets a bit scary. I have to find out just what would be the absolute best, most personal, jaw-dropping how-did-you-know gifts I can get... at a reasonable price. Sometimes I go beyond a reasonable price for just the right gift, but this time... this time I didn't. And this is why it's burning me up.

See, I like to give my beloved M something special. Over a year - maybe two, ago - I started on a quest to find the most beautiful authentic Japanese kimono in exactly her favourite colours that I could. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a vintage kimono in purple, red, orange and yellow? These are not the traditional colour schemes. Yet I managed to find it - on eBay, of course - a gorgeous purple kimono with delicate tree branches dotted with new plum blossoms and the odd butterfly spreading up the back and around the sides. I was in heaven. Until I lost the bidding when it got too expensive.

Fortunately, over a year later, I was able to find another kimono - this time a more recent vintage one in bright purple with white, yellow, orange and red-feathered phoenixes arcing up from the bottom - for an affordable price. I was so excited that I gave it to her as her birthday present over 3 months early (hey, where am I gonna hide a full-length kimono without setting wrinkles in it, anyway?). And she loved it. Mission accomplished! But not without a year of clenched teeth and stomach burning every time I thought about "the one that got away..."

Now it's almost Christmas, and already I'm on a tear bidding for the EXACT RIGHT ornaments and accoutrements for our first one spent in our own place. So, of course I'm going to look for the EXACT RIGHT present for M on eBay, too, right? And I found it. And lo, it was cheap! And I bid. And I lost it. Again.

What particularly galls me about this incident is that I could have gotten it. See, I was supposed to be at home, but I stayed late at work doing some other work and watching the auctions. But M called me all annoyed that I was coming home late again, so I decided I'd better leave fast. I could probably make it home before the auction ended, but I just wasn't sure, especially since I knew she'd be offended if I dashed in the door and straight to the computer. So, I signed up for a free trial of a sniper service. What's that, you ask? Simple: it's a service that automatically follows the auctions you're interested in, and then bids on them in the last possible seconds so you're more likely to win at a good cost. Sounds great, huh?

But I blew it. Because I didn't take the time to read the instructions thoroughly, I didn't realize that sometimes bids sent just a few seconds before the end of an auction can get tied up in other traffic, and miss the deadline. So, I didn't bid before I left, and I set my bid time to 4 seconds before the end. Which means I probably lost it by maybe a couple seconds, at most. AAARGH!

And did I mention that it was perfect? And I've never seen anything quite like it, and probably never will again?

And no, I'm not telling you what it was. M might read this, and I still have hopes to someday find her something... almost as good.

So, there you have it. I know it's ridiculous to get so het up about such little things, when there's world hunger and war and the Bush administration going on, but sometimes it's the little things that get ya, you know? Feh.

Oh, and the sniper service win another auction I signed up for, so now I know it works. If you'd like to try it out, check out the Auction Sniper site, and make sure you sign up referring to my email ( Hey, the battle is over, but my eBay campaign will go on...

Bloomie to Gays: MWAH!

It may be toothless pandering, but Mayor Bloomberg had some pretty amusing comments for the gay crowd at a recent event. Here's the article I received, courtesy of La Snag...

LOVE him.

MAYOR Bloomberg was a big hit Sunday night with hundreds of gay men at the 19th annual Toys for Tots benefit at Pier 60. Hizzoner got cat-calls when he took the stage and one guy yelled out, "What's your number?" Bloomberg laughed and appeared to blush. Someone in the crowd joked that his number is "3-1-1," The Post's Stephanie Gaskell reports.

Then the mayor displayed some of the toys he was donating. The first was a disco doll. "I had platforms just like that one time," he laughed. Next, he pulled out an Elmo dancing to the gay disco anthem "YMCA," and then, a G.I. Joe doll "for those who like men in uniform." The crowd roared.

On a more serious note, Bloomberg revealed what he wanted for Christmas: "Low crime, a better economy and better schools and seriously, a city where sexual orientation just isn't an issue, period." He continued, "On a less serious note, I would take the Olympics and maybe a convention center stadium on our West Side — absolutely not a football stadium. It is a retractably covered automated convention extension exhibition annex. It may also be used eight Sundays a year by a groups of very large athletic men wearing tight pants." The crowd absolutely loved it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Yet Another Reason to Move Out of the U.S.A.

You want to talk about unfair? In Europe, NZ, Australia, Canada and Brazil (and no doubt other places) you can get the most awesome candy/toy combination item ever - the Kinder Suprise egg. A superior grade layer of milk chocolate enrobing an excellent layer of white chocolate enclosing a plastic egg with a toy inside. And not just any toys - generally they are of good quality for theri size, amusing, and require assembly, so they double as puzzles. But guess what? They are illegal in the United States!

Why? Two stupid reasons: 1. The small parts are considered "hazardous" in that they may choke tiny children. Translated: our legal/insurance industry would no doubt be inundated by trillion-dollar lawsuits by parents dumb enough to give a small toddler an obviously labelled little toy which somehow parents in most of the rest of the developed world can keep their kids from ingesting just fine. 2. Some rule about all foods entering the U.S. needing to be approved, but this is just a cover-up for reason 1, as you can get 5 jillion other types of imported chocolates anywhere you go, nowadays. Feh.

Now, I got turned on to Kinder Surpsises some time ago by M, who waxed nostalgic about trying them in Europe. I have been lucky enought to be able to get some Kinder eggs now and then due to the fact that the Polish supermarket near me carries them illegally, and, of course, at an exhorbitant price. Even those these are generally the eggs featuring the lesser-quality toys (generally produced in Italy, rather than Germany), they seriously rock. But I can't believe what we're missing out on over here besides just that.

Special Kinder Surpise toys. Not just the maxis (extra big ones) or theme sets (smurfs and other cartoon characters), but genuine packages including chocolates, toys and games. They have freakin' advent calendars with chocolates for each day of Xmas and toy ornaments, for Chrissakes! And this, this is the one that froze my fat, geeky heart: Lord of The Ring special packages. That's right, you get 7 yummy chocolate eggs with toy LOTR figures in them, a game and booklet. And these are pretty impressive toys for being tiny enough to be shoved into bits of chocolate. Check these mothers out:

And they had sets for each movie!

Okay, so who cares but me? Lots of nerdy, sweet-toothed folks around the world, my friends. These are collectors' items, going for over beacoup buckage on the old ebay and other such sites. But I didn't even know this set existed until several years after the chocolate has turned health-threatening because WHY? Because they are not allowed in the United States!

Remind me why I live here, again?

News of the Day

Thing you may have missed...

M's Panel Event Rocked!
Even though she blackballed me from submitting my question. I think she was trying to dispell any rumours of nepotism.
Anyway, her organization also turned 160, and her boss had some things to say about the Rockefeller Drug Law reform bill being tossed around in Albany.

It's Real!
Remember that Pentagon report I mentioned? Check this out.

Teen pregnancy in the Red States
Per 1,000

As Kos so eloquently put it, "when Red States get their social problems under control, and things such as teen pregnancy down to nationwide lows, then they can try and foist their solutions on the rest of the country."

Surprising Few, But Cheering Many
Eliot Spitzer has announced he's running for NY Governor. But what substitute curse word will I use when "Pataki!" is gone?

And in Other Good News for NY...
The state senate overruled Pataki's veto to raise the minimum wage. Now maybe the myriad 99 cents stores in my neighbourhood will upgrade to $1.99 stores.

At Least We Now Know How Krang Evolved
As if the Robo Roaches weren't wild enough, in the "What the...?" of the week, scientists are training the brain cells of a rat to fly a jet fighter. No, really.

More news when I feel like it...

Monday, December 06, 2004

News of the Day

Things you might have missed...

Oil and Water
I grew up smack on the Delaware River (well, a block away on one side, about three on the other), so news of this spill is breaking my heart. On the other hand, who knew I was drinking some of the same water now from the NYC system as I was then?

Anyone Got Jets Tickets?
The Jets may not be up there with New England or Pittsburgh at this point, but it looks like they've at least made a wildcard spot. Alas, it looks like I'll have to give up hope on the bumbling Giants (although at least nobody else looked able to slow down the Eagles [shudder] this year. Hey, good thing I live in NYC - I get a backup team!

Bush to Fish: DROP DEAD
The administration is gutting more environmental protections. Check out this diary from Daily Kos.

Lawless Courts and the Death Penalty
Yet another good diary from Daily Kos about how Texas courts have been ignoring Supreme Court rulings regarding death penalty cases. These folks really do think we're still living in the wild West, don't they?

Reflections on Abu Ghraib: The Use and Abuse of Prison Power in the United States
In related news, the event my beloved M has been working on is tonight. Yay, my beloved M! Check it out.

Gay News of the Day (Because We Get Own Own Special Section)
In Boston, 12 gay and lesbian veterans are suing for reinstatement after being discharged from the armed forces under "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
Gay marriage is back up for discussion in California and New Jersey,
and in the "HUHN?" of the day, a new study indicates that women who are dieting or on thyroid medication may be more likely to have lesbian babies. So, yes, Mom - it is all your fault. M - are you listening?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

You Might As Well...

go ahead and read Jest magazine. You're going to Hell, anyway.

The Incredibles

I just came back from this movie and my mind is in a whirl. There's not much I can add in terms of adulation of the basics of the film to what the Bunche-man has already written in his review, so go read that first. However, for a biased commentary of my own take on what really got me about the movie, read on.

Most of you know that I am both a comic geek and a retro/mod/googie devotee. In The Incredibles both of my fetishes were fully fulfilled not only by the basic super-hero plot of the film, but the atmospheric set design and music that went with it. Featuring cars, houses and interiors that hark back to the 1960s and combining them with modern touches (such as computers) and music that sounds like it was pulled out of an especially saucy James Bond or Avengers episode, every note is perfect, taking the audience to an odd in-between retro-futuristic reality. There were literally times I could not concentrate on what the characters were saying because I was exclaming "look at that two-tone car interior!" or whining "why can't I have a mod couch and chairs like that?"

The flip side of this is that the characters themselves could actually have come from a 1960s movie. A typical nuclear family complete with working dad, stay-at-home mom, pouty teenage girl yearning for a boy's attention, spunky younger brother and cutesy baby actually seems less modern in ways than the Dick Van Dyke show. In fact, Elastigirl in her secret identity role strongly reminded me of Mary Tyler Moore in that show (I kept waiting for her to say to her husband, "oh, Bob!"). The only saving grace was perhaps that Elastigirl (voiced by the consistently awesome Holly Hunter) did show some initiative and kick butt now and then. That said, if Pixar and Disney were aiming to draw in the middle-American audience with charcters that were safe and familiar, they succeeded. Alas, it leaves us freaks and liberals a little disappointed that they couldn't be a bit different and more interesting. But, as I stated, the pacing and set design are so wonderful, this flaw is well covered over. And it is the one flaw that I could find, really. The writers chose to make the characters a bit simple and cartoony in order to be able to maintain a lightning-fast and easy to grasp plot. Perhaps if there is a sequel we'll get to witness more interesting developments (although not likely).

Back to some good parts that Bunche did not mention, and again this time in terms of design: hair, fabric, flames and most particularly plants are the best I've seen in CGI so far, period. When the Incredibles would up on the jungle island, the rendition of appropriate tropical plants and their movement completely knocked me out. Speaking as someone who has been to both Costa Rica and Hawai'i, I actually felt as though I were back in the jungle. I'd heard that advances had been made in technology for making movement of individual items more realistic, and I was not disappointed. At the same time, while the movement and molding were realistic enough to be breathtaking, they still fit with the shiny cartoonishness of the characters and other parts of the design. The only slightly disappointing element at times was the movement of the ocean, but that was brief. Otherwise I was so delighted by the effects that I leaned over several times and whispered to M "I already can't wait for the DVD to come out so I can see the 'making of' extras!"

Finally, I cannot let this review end without emphasizing more strongly than others have that Edna Mode is THE best character in the movie. More than just stealing her scenes, she is the most interesting, lively being in the whole film, and not just a brilliant catalyst for the other's nature, but a heroic force of nature/will in her own right. I would pay good money to see Brad Bird make a sequel or short following up on Edna's career and perhaps sending her out to do a bit of super-heroic or spy work, herself.

Now, at the end, some last random thoughts:

Is it me, or is it just a little creepy that writer and NPR storyteller Sarah Vowell provided the of the pre-teen Violet without having to change her own register at all? Vowell is a talented writer and voice actor, and perhaps her voice, much like Kristin Chenowith's, is better suited to playing children and/or cartoon characters than actual dramatic roles. Maybe I'm mean or small minded, but the childlike soprano is a little disturbing coming from a grown woman.

Again, it is just me, or did Bob Parr's boss, voiced by the inimitable Wallace Shawn, look like a diminutive, swarthier version of William H. Macy? What's up with that?

The demon baby bit? Funny stuff.

Elizabeth Peña as Mirage? Mee-rrrow! Did anyone else want to find out what happened to this character later, and what her story was?

That's it for now. In summary: go see The Incredibles now. You won't be sorry, but you will if you miss it on the big screen.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Late Edition News

Congress to Allow Sale and Slaughter of America's Wild Horses and Burros
Please read more and do something about this senseless provision by going to the ASPCA site and sending one of their letters to your representatives and senators.

Dolphins Save Swimmers from Sharks
All things considered, we're lucky animals still tolerate us. Not only do they do that, but sometimes they save our lives in dramatic ways.

Ye Olde Buggery
What may be the world's oldest existing piece of printed pornography will be auctioned off by Southeby's next month, and is expected to sell for up to 65 thousand dollars. Check it out.

Thanks to Bunche for the tips...

News of the Day

Things you might have missed...

What's All This About Cold Fusion?
An interesting explanation of fusion and the recent hub-bub.

Heh. Somebody did a good job mocking this up.

Is this for real? Stay tuned...
Congress writes to Blackwell: Voting Irregularities

Bush hasn't made it to a single funeral of a soldier killed in HIS war.
Guess who did?

Who's in the coalition?
Another good piece from Daily Kos shows which countries have committed troops to the Iraq war.

Bhopal (sigh).
Twenty years later, victims of this tragedy have still not been adquately compensated. But at least Dow apologized. Oh, wait - no, they didn't.

New Zealand Moves To Legalize Gay Unions
But can you marry hobbits?

Animal News
Things are looking up a bit for bears, but not so much for birds.

And finally, in honour of Cat Blog Friday, The Top 16 Signs Your Cat is Getting Old

Friday Cat Blog

"Wide Eyes" Edition

"What? Of course I wasn't planning to pee in your bed..."

The Crazy Bitch herself.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Quite Possibly the Best Strong Bad Email Eveeerrrr!

Strong Bad's computer gets some viruses. This one may rival the famous Trogdor episode. There are a lot of great easter eggs, so mouse around. And the next one is pretty hilarious, too!

Oh, My God... It's Heaven!

A new restaurant has opened up in Philly devoted solely to cereal. Somebody take me this instant!

News of the Day

Things you might have missed...

The Shrub administration has been working (and mostly succeeding) at covering up a Pentagon report that contains major criticisms of them, particularly concerning Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

Wondering just what all the hub-bub in Ukraine is about? Check out this excellent primer on the recent election.

Understatement of the Week Dept.
Or, "Your Tax Dollars at Work"...
Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says

Meanwhile, a number of you enjoyed my photos of fish and other creatures I encountered in a coral reef in Hawai'i a few months ago. Recent studies show that we are killing the world's reefs at an alarming rate. Would you please support organizations that try to stop us from killing our oceans?

Remember that case where a 7 year old was punished by his teacher and school for explaining to a friend that he had two mommies? Well, now it seems - get this - that the teacher is suing the boy's mother for defamation.

Oh, and just so you know, people aren't sick because they're gay, they're sick because of how they're treated for being gay.

Back in New York, Albany's fiscal problems are escalating. Seems the state has been ordered to spend more on our ailing schools and transit system, but somehow already has a huge deficit without providing acceptable services. How do they do that?

And even more locally, those of you who have wondered what shopping for a house in NYC is like might want to check out what you can get for 2+million dollars in today's city market.

And, finally, in the There Is No God Dept.
It's true. Paris Hilton is recording an album.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Political Roundup of the Day

Things you may not have heard about...

Bush tried to get Canada to back him on Iraq during his "bridge-bulding" visit. The reaction? A resounding thud. (Insert lusty rendition of "O, Canada" here.)

Closer to home, NY is trying to put out a new set of rules for riding on the subway. I'm sure the teeming masses will obey them like little angels, especially after paying more for a train that derails.

Geneticists have found that stress causes DNA to actually age more rapidly. This is probably why I feel about 75 years old much of the time.

NBC and CBS have refused to air an ad from the United Church of Christ that welcomes gay people and minorities because they deemed it "too controversial." Unlike, say, the vicious capaign ads during the election?

Meanwhile, in other homo news, the U.S. Supreme Court also refused to touch the homos, passing the Massachusetts marriage issue back to the states. Are we once again participants in the love that dare not speak its name?

And in some good (and rather amazing) news, breakthrough treatmentss using stem cells have led to paralyzed women walking in South Korea and Brazil. The Korean case involved umbilical cells, while the Brazil type is not specified. If only Christopher Reeve lived to see the day... of course, he'd have to travel to a country where it was legal to cure him...

That's it for the day. Signing off...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Alexander the Lame

Let me be brief and to the point: if you are thinking of seeing this movie, don't. Save your money and your time. Really, I nearly walked out before it was over and historical epics are normally the type of thing I enjoy.

To expand: While some of the actors have some charisma, it is all buried in confusing, alternatingly hectic then boring scripting and editing. Great chunks of plot and meaning are removed to make way for histrionic and nonsensical dialogue (and monologue) we thought when the was of 1950s B movies (seriously, I and others in the audience laughed out loud at several "dramatic" moments particularly since for some unknown reason Oliver Stone decided to make all Macedonians echo Farrell's natural Irish accent, and direct Angelina Jolie to come up with the most ridiculous evil-Russo/Slav accent since Boris and Natasha). Characters come and go and yell at each other without us ever knowing their motivation or even who they are in the first place. No one is likable, even Alexander, despite Colin Farrell's attempts, because why they do what they do is left a mystery.

The most impressive and bracing scenes are probably the battles, but even they sometimes seem filmed as if from the point of view of someone who just stumbled into the middle of them and had no idea what was going on. Sure, there may be interesting points(ever see angry elephants facing a legion of pikemen?) and a good deal of gore, rushing about and and noble posturing. But more often than not, both within and without the battles, you will find yourself thinking "the who in the what, now?" as we skip inexplicably along to a completely different plot point, time period or area.

And what of the "gay" sub-plot? With all the smouldering glances and manly hugs, you get, again, about as much action as you did in a 1950s B movie - maybe less. Alexander seems not so much gay, straight or bisexual as just asexual. He does what is scripted, the filmmakers try to feel good about themselves, and we get nothing if not a step backward in the depiction of queers.

What's good about it? Well, they tried. I mean, you can see the millions of dollars stuffed into it. There are great masses of extras, impressive sets, a lot of pretty cinematography and one extremely beautiful horse (I would have rather watched Alexander's steed running about for a couple of hours, if I could). One of the baffling and sad things about it is, that they so clearly did try to make this a good movie. You can see the earnestness dripping off the screen, and particularly flowing from Colin Farrell as he tries to portray this historical giant among mean. But, ultimately, it is not nearly enough.

So, I say again, don't bother. The only other good thing about it is that it might make you curious to find out more about just who the holy hand grenade Alexander really was, and what really happened. I don't know about you, but I'll be trying to clear up that confusion elsewhere.

Conversation of the Week

I was getting my blood drawn for some tests at the Callen-Lorde Center (for those of you who don't know, it's a medical center for the Lesbigaytranswhatever community) yesterday, when one of the nurses started looking at me like she smelled something nasty.

Nurse 1: (waving paperwork around) Is this you?
Me: Uh... (glancing at name on paper) yeah...
Nurse 1: (shoving a paper under my nose and pointing) Is this right?
Me: (scanning) Uh, yeah... (noticing an error) oh, wait - no, I'm not a male.
Nurse 2: Never?
Me: (wondering how to react, as they probably see lots of transgendered and transexual patients) Um, no.
Nurse 1: I thought so! Who put that in there? Who did your paperwork?
Me: Er...
Nurse 1: A male or a female?
Me: A guy.
Nurse 1: Umm-HMM. And you seeing Dr. W-. Well, after we done here, you just go down and wring his neck!
Nurse 2: Serious. How you going to see a GYNECOLOGIST when you are a male?
Me: Heh. Actually, you'd be surprised how often that mistake is made with me...
Nurse 1: Oh, NO! I took one look at you... you're BEAUTIFUL! What kind of fool is going to make that mistake? "Male"... hmph! When we done here, you go right down and make him correct this.
Nurse 2: For real. You look at her, you make a mistake like that? I was thinkin', "Damn! Who your surgeon is?"

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Darfurian Women Face Rejection After Rapes Make Them Pregnant

From Meteor Blades' diary on Daily Kos:

In the Darfur region of western Sudan, where the U.N. has proved incapable of protecting refugees from government-allied militias and continuing violation of the Abuja agreements yesterday spurred aid workers to flee, rape has been used as a tool of “ethnic cleansing.”

Read more here.

And to help, join Amnesty International here.

Beatify Me

I took this test to find out what world leader I most resemble: Naturally, Mother Teresa was a Virgo, too...

What leader are you?

R.I.P. Margaret Hassan

There is a special place on the other side for Margaret Hassan.

Hassan's sister has stated to the press that she believes Margaret's death was a result of the invasion of Iraq.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Friday Cat Blog on Wednesday

Because I'll be busy during the Thanksgiving holiday...

Yo ho! It is The Maya, looking most noble!

Monday, November 22, 2004

OCD - Ornament Collecting Disorder

I have a problem. Some of you may know that I tend to get a little... obsessive about whatever sparks my current interest. The interest may continue in a more latent form thereafter, but for a while there it gets all-consuming. There was the researching biblical apocrypha period, the PEZ dispenser collecting period, the Googie-Tiki period, and, of course, the e-bay period. Well, now the e-bay mania has reared its head again, but this it's in the service of a new fixation: Christmas tree decorations.

There's a valid reason for all this. After all, this is the first year that M and I will be celebrating the Winter holidays together in our own home, and thus we'll be decorating our first tree. We don't have much in the way of ornaments lying around, so we have to get some.

Then there's the fact that decorating a homey tree just makes me feel good. My family had the same types of lights, the same heirloom ornaments and the same beat-up pre-WWII wax and gold-foil angel for most of my childhood, and the older I got, the more my Mom made it my responsibility (and usually a welcomed one) to put on the lights, hang many ornaments, place just the right amount of tinsel just so and, as the youngest child, place the angel on top of the tree. Memories of doing this while listening to holiday music, sipping cocoa and munching on cookies are some of my fondest, and never fail to give me a warm, cozy, delightful inner glow. So, why not try to reproduce that in my own home?

Now, the thing is, they don't always make 'em like they used to, and if they do, they're expensive. I can live without modern tinsel so as not to have a bunch of cats using it as digestive tract floss. But I cannot countenance a tree with tacky cheap contemporary plastic ornaments, mini-lights and garland. Some tackiness is allowed, as long as it has a sort of retro-fabulous feel about it, but the over-all effect must be old-fashioned, diverse, warm and eclectic. So, I have settled on finding some Diamond Ray tin icicles to replace the tinsel, and will try to find some more modern C-7 indoor lights (to assauge M's fears about burning the house down... but I may have to buy some older ones if I can find the reproductions). But the ornaments - there's the rub. How to at least nearly duplicate a family collection that spans multiple decades of piece-by-piece collection in one fell swoop?

Well, I can't. The family collection will always be the family collection, and sacred enough in my mind that I cannot see myself raiding it for selected pieces and breaking up, much less without consulting with my mother and siblings (who might not actually give a rip, but I like to think it matters to them somewhat). And the best, most meaningful family collections are those that are chosen over time, with each piece having some emotional significance, aesthetic spark or story behind it. The stick-and styrofoam elf my sister made as a tot, carefully hung every year even as it is decomposing, the hand-painted pears and partridges my mom put together, the glass indents from way back when, even the snowflake made out of film-school outtakes I made cannot be replaced. Plus, to try to do so could be exceedingly time-consuming and expensive. So, I will do what I can.

First off, there's the ebay solution. While it is possible to find modern traditional blown glass ornaments, they tend to be expensive. Thus, I can really enjoy returning to Matt McGhee on Christopher Street year after year to bask in the twinkling reflections of hundreds of hand-made ornaments while humming to Handel's Messiah in the background, or even peruse the the designs of the diabolical Christopher Radko, who seems to have become the name in flashy, classic-style ornament "collectibles", but possibly find actual vintage ornaments in those styles at a much lower cost.

Secondly, there's the make-your-own option. My old roommate S and I had a great time several years back throwing a pajama party where everybody made ornaments out of crafts materials we provided, ate holiday treats and had a generally festive time of it. We don't think we'll have time to set up a party in time this year (plus there's always the friends-who-are-allergic-to-cats issue), but I do have some ideas in mind for a few arts and crafts of our own. I won't go into them here, because then M might read about them and I want them to be a surprise, but they could be fun. The question is will the combination of these two solutions be enough to satisfy my bring-back-my-childhood-with-glass-and-wood jones?

Maybe not. Living in the city, I can't exactly pour over local garage sales, and antique shops charge an arm and a leg, but I do think these two approaches will get me started (and, at the very least, amuse M and me as I utter a carol of exclamations and groans while trying to win an auction on particularly coveted pieces). Anyway, I do already have three things in my favour. An understanding partner (as always), a relationship that will, barring any unforseen circumstances, last the years and decades it takes to amass a truly spectacular collection and the fact that I have already purchase the Holy Grail of tree toppers. Are you ready to bow before its majesty? Here it is...

Happy Holidays!

Inside Iraq

Kevin Sites is a freelance combat correspondent who has recently been involved in some controversy over tapes he sent to NBC news. For an inside look on the issue and what it's like to be among the US soldiers in Iraq, check out his blog.

Cats, Ahoy!

The Carnival of the Cats is up, featuring Ms. Quan Yin and Ms. Maya.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Like Dominoes

… everything has been falling. WNET, the long-beloved NYC public television station, has rejected promotions for the movie Kinsey on the grounds that the film is too “provocative.” Clearly they are running scared in the face of the conservative right. Read the article here, and then write them an angry letter. Here’s the one I sent them this morning from their site:

As long-time viewers and previous supporters of WNET, we were appalled to learn that you have refused to air promotions for the movie "Kinsey" based on the "provocative" content of the film. Although we have never been a huge fan of the promotions that have crept into public broadcasting, we understand their necessity due to the current woeful lack of funding for stations such as yours. However, it is a sad day when WNET, the public television of New York City - the most open and diverse city in the world - becomes staid or afraid of the conservative complaints of a few on the far right of the political spectrum.

Are viewers and supporters supposed to sit through annoying car commercials to watch tepid, majority-approved fare? Or can we trust you to bring us what PBS has been known for: thoughtful, broad-spectrum treatments of diverse topics we can't see on network television? Your choices as to which promos you will air reflects the direction of your programming and, what's more, it suggests a creeping retreat in the face of prejudice against a demographic that has long been supportive of and contributed to your programming - the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. Shame on you.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

What I'm Watching

Since the introduction of M's new TiVo, we've been recording programs like fiends. The TiVo is mostly overloaded with exercise programs from FitTV (we're trying to work off that after-vacation flab), but other than the occasional football game and movies we want to re-watch or catch up on (The Maltese Falcon, Into the Void, Camp, Aileen - Life and Death of a Serial Killer, Paris is Burning and the camp classic 70s version of Flash Gordon), a definite pattern of our current most-watched programs has emerged. Certain changes may come into play when shows like Six Feet Under, The L Word and Carnivàle return from hiatus, but here are my recent top picks:

1. The Amazing Race - Flat out the best "reality TV" show ever and the one we most fantasize about appearing on. Basically a haul-ass race around the world with 11 couples in various relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend, father/daughter, best friends) competing for a million dollars. With a bunch of exhausting extreme sport and brain teaser challenges thrown in, it never fails to be entertaining, frustrating, enlightening and superbly edited. The recent up-tick in selecting model/actors for the teams is irritating, and the Brooklyn team lost in the first round this season, but I highly recommend it. You can also find awesome recaps by the inimitable Miss Alli at Television Without Pity here.

2. The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart - Just what is all the media hub-bub about? Comedy gold, my friend. A satirical fake news show with just a dose more reality than The Onion, Stewart and his cohorts hit just the right note of humour mixed with actually useful political information, often with more than a soupçon of "can you believe what those numskulls are up to now?" incredulity and resignation thrown in. I tell you, my friends, I have been long known for my immunity to television comedy, but this one gets me laughing every time. How much do we love this show? M & I once waited in line in a NYC blizzard to sit in the audience. Just watch it.

3. Lost - An interesting take on the stuck-on-a-desert island scenario, wherein a group of plane crash survivors try to stay alive and understand the mysteries of the possibly magical jungle island they crashed on. While it has its faults, such as the usually too-pretty leads, horde of unnecessary line-less extras and sometimes ill-used and too frequent flashbacks, at it's best it can be almost as intriguing and foreboding as Carnivàle (only replace Anti-Christ-Sorcerous-Geek heebies with Creepy-Island- of-Dr. Moreau-type jeebies). This past week's episode was particularly riveting, as a former Iraqi Republican Guard officer faced a mysterious torturer. (Shiver...)

4. The West Wing - I know, I had actually given up on this show a while ago. Just as quality suffered when Joss Whedon went bye-bye from Buffy and Angel, TWW started a descent into awfulness with Aaron Sorkin's departure. But you know what? It seems to be back. The latest storyline, with former Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (played by smart-talkin' hottie Allison Janney) becoming the first female Chief of Staff, has been great fun. I don't have absolute faith in the show, but it is a bit of a balm to at least see a fictional president with humane, liberal values.

5. CBS News Sunday Morning - watching this is a venerable tradition I picked up from my dad. The rare television show that explores a range of stories from art exhibits to personal portraits to hard news with a deft and lyrical touch, it's almost as good as listening to NPR - and it's not even on PBS! Plus, the end portion nature scenes are so soothing...

6. Dead Like Me - technically, this isn't on our TiVo, as we've been watching it on Showtime On Demand, but it's one we really like. It's had some bumps in quality and continuity (what happened to gravelings being hard to see, the alternate faces of our reaper friends and only handling accidental deaths?), but this quirky, often snide dramedy with a heart of gold about people who die and have to stay on Earth helping other souls cross over is engaging and thought-provoking.

And that's the top 6. I'm not including Queer as Folk because M programmed that in, and I actually find it rather atrocious.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...

We Are The World...

It seems some folks in Europe discovered and decided to answer with this site. Awww...

Meanwhile, Back in the U.S....

12 Million families went hungry in the last year, according to a study by the Agriculture Department. Should we really be more worried about the chances of being hit by an airplane or experimenting with forcible nation-building when we and our government aren't feeding our own people?