Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This, on the other hand, rocks

Poem quoted by Garrison Keillor on Writer's Almanac (NPR feature, for all you right-wing reactionaries out there).

A Color of the Sky
by Tony Hoagland

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn’t make the road an allegory.

I should call Marie and apologize
or being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I’d rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

Otherwise it’s spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.

Last summer’s song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I’m glad.

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It’s been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

(thx to Grant)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

this is not right

There's a book called The Littlest Angel. It's about a little cherub who gives a gift to the newly born Christ Child.

(Kind of like the Little Drummer Boy, who apparently thought banging a drum in the stable would make everyone happy. All night long, riling up the goats, Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum! Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum! Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum! Joseph: "Shut up, you little cretin, there's a newborn in here!" Baby Jesus: "Waaahhhh!" In real life, Mary would have killed the little drummer boy and hidden his body in the straw. But I digress.)

My point is this: I can forgive the hijacking of what is sacred scripture to millions, and the sickly-sweet illustrations, but I found The Littlest Angel to be just this side of completely unreadable.

Every sentence is a tortuous thing, full of asides, replete with commas, loaded with vocabulary only a reasonably well-read adult would understand.

It begins,
Oh, many, many years ago as time is calculated by men--but which was only Yesterday in the Celestial Calendar of Heaven--there was, in Paradise, ...

it continues
Although these flaws in behaviour might have been overlooked, the general appearance of the Littlest Angel was even more disreputable than his deportment. It was first whispered among the Seraphim and Cherubim, and then said aloud among the Angels and Archangels, that he didn't even look like an angel!

and so on
And then, in all those timeless days that followed, everyone wondered at the great change in the Littlest Angel, for, among all the cherubs in God's Kingdom, he was the most happy. His conduct was above the slightest reproach. His appearance was all that the most fastidious could wish for. And on excursions to Elysian Fields, it could be said, and truly said, that he flew like an angel!

And why do I care? Because last night I tried to read this book to an energetic, easily-distracted 5-yr-old. She made a valiant effort to concentrate, but it was rough going. Every sentence had to be explained. By the third page, I was wishing all the characters would fall down a well together and get drowned.

Who would write such a thing? I know kids in 1958 had longer attention spans, but c'mon -- Elysian Fields? [His] general appearance ...was even more disreputable than his deportment? Be serious. If this is what kids were raised on in the 50's, I don't blame them for taking drugs in the 60's -- I'd have done the same, just to escape the mind-numbing boredom of what apparently passed for children's entertainment.

Or maybe it's a really good book, I don't know...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Me being grumpy

When you order event tickets online, the ticket broker will typically inflate the price or add a service fee. This is normal and right.
What I'm not used to is seeing $56 tickets listed at $108 apiece, plus a $24 service charge plus $15 for postage.
It seems to me that it takes a lot of balls to nearly double the ticket price, then add a service fee on top of that.
Not to say anything bad about a particular company, but I would suggest that no one ever buy tickets from
I'm just saying.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

just for something different

Okay, not different after all. Nothing to post, so guess we'll return to my endless rambling about gender issues.

On another blog, a commenter said "...the idea that it is a woman’s job to take care of husband and children has got to go. That is a cornerstone of patriarchy, and it is patriarchy that could cause the demise of the human race with its focus on domination."

I think:
it's true that women-as-nurturers/homemakers has been a cornerstone of "patriarchy", and in general people shouldn't be forced to do what they don't want to do.
but i think it's important to acknowledge that patriarchy is NOT an evil construct devised to subjugate women. (not sure that was actually said here, but i've heard it enough to now hear its echo even when it's not being said.)

anyway, the "patriarchal" pattern of traditional roles is a natural development, stemming from
a) the tremendous effectiveness of biology-based role specialization, and
b) the connection between leadership roles and relative physical strength / tendency toward aggression.

as for destroying the world, that might be right -- but that's a recent development; up till now, male competitiveness/aggression is one of the things that has kept the human race from disappearing, because
a) weeding out weak men aids natural selection for survivability,
b) aggressive men push for sex, increasing the birth rate, and
c) aggressive men fight off the wild giraffes or frogs or whatever it is that threatens the tribe.

IOW, we may be ready to leave patriarchy behind, but that idea is like Disneyland; it will only be around as long as we can maintain our current standard of living/civilization -- when life becomes physically difficult/dangerous (like it was thru most of human history), we're back to traditional "patriarchal" roles before you can spit...

Monday, February 19, 2007

now that sounds like fun

David was horsing around with his buddies and got popped in the mouth by one of his friends. Not a fight this time -- just boys being boys -- but the upshot was that his tooth went thru his lip. A good time had by all...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

eye of the beholder

I think Eva Mendes is possibly the most beautiful woman on the planet.

My daughter begs to differ; below is a picture she drew for me to illustrate how she sees "Eva MANdes"...

Friday, February 16, 2007

nobody said i was quick

There was a bar&grill place in our town called Tift House, built in kind of a mountain chalet style. I figured Tift was some Swiss or Bavarian name.
Then last year the place got a new facade and a new sign and renamed itself "Pour House".

I just got the pun today.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

more racism by me

I like ethnic jokes. That is, jokes that celebrate our diversity or poke good-natured fun at cultural trends.
I don't tend to like jokes that put people or cultures down, or jokes that reinforce blatantly negative stereotypes. If a stereotype *is* involved, it has to be clear that no one involved in telling or hearing the joke actually believes the stereotype applies to anyone as an individual.
One has to be very careful about one's audience -- not to weed out people the joke is *about*, but the opposite: I don't want to tell a joke that might reinforce the bigotry of someone who hears it.
If you think all this makes me a racist, I'm fine with that.
So aaaanyway...

I forwarded the following joke to a friend at work:

Q: How do you know your house has been broken into by an Asian gang?
A: Your TV's gone, your VCR's gone, and all your kid's homework is done.

Yes, it's a stereotype, but it's a positive one*, and one with some basis in reality**. I didn't think it would be offensive.
I got the email address wrong. Instead of sending the joke to my friend and close co-worker Sean, I sent it to the only Asian-American at the entire company, my half-Japanese-half-Polish colleague Sean.

When my friend Sean didn't get the joke, I checked the address details and had a minor heart attack. I didn't know Sean #2 well enough to send him that type of joke. I immediately sent him a grovelling email apology, explaining the situation, hoping it wasn't offensive, etc.

He sent me the following reply.

I have already reported this incident to the HR department.
Actually, just to clarify:
The stereotype of academic overachievement applies mostly to Chinese and Japanese students, whereas Asian gangs tend to be made up of people from Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam, etc). I think the joke should really be:
Q: How do you know your house has been broken into by an Asian gang?
A: Your TV's gone, your VCR's gone, and the dog has been prepared in a delicate peanut sauce.


*Yes, I realize positiveness doesn't mean a stereotype wont' be offensive.

**My belief (broad brush): if you go to China, you'll find just as many stupid people as you do here. But the Chinese students you compete with at university are not your average Chinese student -- they are the top performers out of a billion Chinese people. The selection process to get to come to school here from China differs from the selection process Americans go thru (ie, got passing grades and have some money or a loan?). Add to that a potential cultural influence toward valuing discipline, achievement, family cohesiveness/support, etc, and you might have the basis for a stereotype of Asian school success. Blah blah blah.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

clearly i'm getting too many breaks today at work

Speaking of Valentine's Day...

I have a girlfriend this year. Certain things are required.

1) Flowers.
I thought "A dozen red roses, I'm good to go." Not so.
The thing is, Camila is very pretty. When she was younger, she was a fulltime model for about 10 yrs. That plus being Latina [generalization alert] contributes to her being more overtly feminine* than some other women might be. She has a sunny disposition, she smiles a lot, she loves to laugh.
Guys are enchanted with her -- in fact, she gets hit on just about every day. Guys make contrived conversation at the bus stop, at the grocery story. Men hand her their business card, guests at the hotel where she works offer to "take her away from all this", etc. She's used to it -- she likes it, but she knows how little it means, and she blows them off gracefully (or not gracefully, depending on how obnoxious they are).
One of the other things guys occasionally do is give her flowers. This week someone left a boquet for her that must have cost at least $150. It's gigantic. It's beautiful. And it means I wasn't going to be able to get away with any 12-roses-from-Safeway nonsense. Or at least that's how I saw it.
So I bought half a dozen different bunches, and put together a big boquet even better than the one she had. She loved it, but the chap that left her the boquet this week owes me some cash, that's what I'm thinking...

* I know: feminine is whatever a woman decides it is; I'm using it here in the traditional sense. Sorry, Gloria, sue me.

2) A gift.
I was looking at a pair of earrings for Camila last weekend. In the end, I decided not to get them because they were too expensive. Not that I begrudged the money, but because:
a) If I get the earrings, I'll have to get a matching bracelet later. Then the necklace. Now we're talking serious money. I'd rather get her cheaper earrings and take a vacation, and I think she would, too.
b) This is the first Valentine's Day we've spent together. If we're lucky and end up together, I've just set the bar for every subsequent V-day gift for potentially the next 20- or 30-odd years. Better to save something to work up to, rather than have her say 10 yrs from now "Back when you loved me, you used to get me..."
Is that cynical male over-use of logic, or what?

sweetie, wheah's mah white sheet? i'm goin' foah a rahd...

A few yrs ago* someone at work -- call her Rachel -- told me that so-and-so (white person) did not like me and considered me a racist and a jerk.

The jerk part I was okay with, but I didn't want to be a racist, so I asked Rachel to find out why so-and-so felt that way -- maybe I *was* a racist and didn't know it (how many times do you hear "I'm not prejudice [sic], but...")

Turns out that according to so-and-so, she had heard me use the N-word at a company function. Specifically, while mic'ed for the company talent show, I had said "I'm not your n____" to the VP of Marketing.

I knew this was utter BS, but it took me a while to figure out what so-and-so was talking about:

I was waiting to do my little song/guitar act, and the VP was helping me adjust the microphones. He was goofing around, pretending he was announcing a sporting event, then stuck the mic in my face and said "What do you have to say about that?" I was taken by surprise, and said [drum roll, please] "I'm not your color guy." **

So-and-so obviously thought she heard "I'm not your colored guy", was understandably offended, and later in her own mind converted my quote to include the N-word.

When I figured it out, I told Rachel, who told so-and-so. So-and-so laughed, and the whole misunderstanding was cleared up. No, wait, that would be the movie version. What happened was that so-and-so said "I heard what I heard."

So that was that. All's well that ends well, and you can call me the George Wallace of the 1990's.

*Thx to Extrem for reminding me of this...

** In case it's not common knowledge: sporting events are often covered by two people: a play-by-play announcer who tells what's happening on the field, and a color announcer ("color guy" before women got into the business) who gives background and extra depth to the coverage.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

what am i missing, here?

Girl: Thanks for calling XYZ Medical Care, may I help you?

Bryan: Hi, could I speak with someone in billing, please?

Girl: May I ask what it's regarding?

Bryan [momentarily confused]: Well, I have a couple of account numbers here, will that help?

Girl: Is it about your bill?

Bryan: Um, yes.

Girl: One moment, please...

[Phone goes silent for eternity.]

All in all, not my most successful telephone communication experience.

Sayings of the day

** If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.
** Don't assume malice for what stupidity can explain.
** The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
** He who hesitates is probably right.
** If you think there is good in everybody, you haven't met everybody.
** Birds of a feather flock together and poop on your car.

ranting about PC

I'm usually a fan of being considerate with language. I favor many phrasings that others consider Political Correctness. I find that when people don't want to accept a new "PC" way to talk about something, more often than not they don't know much about the issue and don't really care to learn.


Someone took someone else to task recently for using the phrase "That's the pot calling the kettle black." The concern was expressed politely:

I'd be careful about using this phrase, for reasons that are associated with modern modes of thought. When you refer to "the pot calling the kettle black," in the usual usage, you're implying that being dark-colored is a bad thing.

But to me, this borders on egregious silliness. With all due respect for this person's intelligence, class, erudition, and articulate-ivity-ness, I have to say this is waaaay too PC for me. At some point we need to move modern modes of thought out of the dark ages (ba-bump).

In the first place, the negative implications of the pot's and kettle's blackness is an extremely minor part of the metaphor; the point is they are both the same -- neither is more X than the other.

Secondly, the traditional conception of white/black as representing good/evil is emphatically NOT a racist invention. It's a natural and almost universal idea extending from the fact that daylight (the Sun) brings light, warmth, life, safety while night/darkness represents danger, cold, the unknown, the eternal sleep of death, etc.
The sky, clouds, water, etc. -- light/white things are types of purity, cleanliness, the desirable, the beautiful.
Mould, corruption, mud/earth -- dark things are easily seen as types of death and/or evil.

The racist part: For years our predisposition to think of white=good/black=evil WAS used to excuse racist attitudes and practices WRT white/non-white peoples’ place in the world. There have even been brown people who thought that whites were somehow more blessed by God.

But since most people now recognize that as nonsense, I think we can give human beings credit for being intelligent enough to understand that the life/death aspects of light/darkness
do not apply when we're talking about skin color. IMO, we don’t have to throw away a racially-neutral metaphor just because some have abused it or don’t understand it. What’s next? Should we abolish certain use of the uses of "high" and "low" (high art, high road, high achievement, high hopes, low expectations, lowbrow, low score, low class, etc) because short people might think it means they're not as good?


Expressions that your Texas clients might use, but your Seattle ones probably wouldn't:
That dog won't hunt.
We threw a shoe over that one.
I feel like I been rode hard and put up wet.

Some days you have to really reach to find something to blog about.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Madame Tussaud's

We had a lot of fun at the wax museum on our last day in NYC...

I am *tired* of these m____ tourists in this m____ museum!

Now that he's dead, I can finally sing better than James Brown...

Selma Hayek doesn't seem that thrilled to be with me...

(About like me with Hillary.)

I added the star for my pal Henry Ford...

This was going to be a clever picture of me checking Wayne Gretzky. Except that I covered up his face, so now it's a picture of me being a dork with a hockey mannequin.

"I liked you better when you looked Puerto Rican."

Me 'n Janis blaze up in NYC.

Bet I'm the first person to think of this pose...

Just like in real life...

Shakira es mi novia aunque no lo sepa...

I'm guessing this is how it would be with me and J-Lo. During the daytime, anyway.

Who needs that Brad loser?

Still not sure if they're real or not.

This guy was just another visitor, but he stood against the wall posed like a mannequin. I stopped 10 inches from his face and looked at Sam and said "Who's this guy?" When I walked on, he and his wife and kids all broke up laughing. I was so mad I hadn't thought of it...

Everybody's a critic

These guys seemed to be making editorial comments about something. Sam and I thought we might do the same.
Some of the pics are blurry because Sam kept forgetting whether it's "hold still when taking picture" or "flail about wildly". But anyway, in case it's not clear, I'll add captions...

This expression means "I have no idea what to think about this painting."

Means the same as when Ebert & Roeper do it.

C'mon, now -- two dots? I could do that.

I'm Bryan, and I approve of this sculpture.

Georgia O'Keeffe rocks.

Night at the Museum #2

"The Horse Fair" by some french guy, I think. I really liked this painting.

Ditto Salome.

There's an entire wing devoted to Arms & Armour. Some impressive stuff.

This is called "Little Wave"; I'm not sure if it's supposed to look like it's coming out of an outhouse or not. The cool thing is that it looks 3-D, but it's really flat...

I wondered if the artist was sculpting his mother-in-law. Whoever it was, it's not terribly flattering.
PS. My M-I-L (ex) was cool, and treated me extremely well. Just for the record.

The first painting is called "The Mountain".
The second is called "Summer".
I guess the woman in the red sweater died and they left her there till summer. Or something.

I thought the museum had an extremely full and well-rounded set of items for display.

And I felt this guy approves.
This is called "Therese Dreaming".
I thot it should be called "Therese Should Tell the Authorities About the Artist and the Creepy Way He Looks At Her".

Monday, February 05, 2007

Metropolitan Museum of Art

We spent two days at the museum. My thoughts:

1) The range of human artistic expression is vast.

2) People have created some incredibly impressive stuff, even thousands of years ago.

3) Some stuff was only good because it was new or because everything else being done then was so crappy; some famous artists wouldn't be considered anything special by the standards of what we can create today.

4) Some art is just crap no matter how you slice it.

Most of the Greek guys were missing their doodles. I felt sad for them.

Perseus was one of the few with his package intact, but then I think this sculpture is only a couple hundred years old.

I thought this painting was amazing. At right is detail of the right eye. Not sure when it was done, or if the artist gridded out a video picture or what, but I thot it was pretty impressive.

Marsyas challenged Apollo to a music contest. Unfortunately for him, he sucked, and Apollo flayed him alive. Looks like it hurt.

Example of art that is crap.


Sam & I spent a few days in New York City last week...

View from the observation deck of the Empire State Bldg.
Didja know: they built that tower thing on top to tether dirigibles to, but apparently forgot that it would be really really windy up there...
If you don't know much about NYC (that would be us), I recommend the little audio thing you get for 7 bucks with "Tony the Cabbie" describing various landmarks, and giving a little history of the city.

I wore my Eres Un Pendejo shirt that day, which had all the Puerto Rican girls in giggles. So I had that going for me...

Sam and I guess King Kong's little brother.

Our hotel (New Yorker/Ramada) was under construction; to get to the ground-floor restroom, you had to take a non-functioning escalator, walk thru a room with workers laying tile on the floor, then stoop and squeeze thru this little doorway. On the other hand, the room was great, the service was great, and the price ($149/night) was fantastic for Manhattan.

Ground zero.

Times Square (do I really need to be doing this caption thing?)

Me helping out in Central Park...