Sunday, December 31, 2006

Who Says There's Nothing Good On TV?

The Python Channel.
(broadcast in high definition and 3D)

Contact your local cable provider for details.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Back From My MFA Residency

I just spent ten glorious days as a writer. Not a legal secretary who manages to squeeze in writing when she has the time and energy, but a writer. Considered so by other writers. I did a reading of one of my short stories, workshopped some essays, and got some really amazing feedback.

I got the mentor I wanted (Rob Roberge), and my co-mentees are some of my very favorite people in the program. I have to spend some time on my long (25 pages) critical paper, but I have a topic about which I'm very enthusiastic, and I hope to use it as the basis for my final grad lecture that I'll be giving in December '07, as a condition of my graduation from the program.

I can't believe I only have a year left of this. I was once so anxious to get it over with, but now that people that I've gone through the program with are starting to graduate and leave, its becoming clear how much I'm going to miss this when its over. Ah, well... still two more project periods to go, so I'd best not be counting chickens before they hatch and then get eaten by coyotes (sorry... went to the dark side for a minute).

Good to be back. I've got a ticker up top that's counting the days until my next Residency, specifically so I don't have to.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Christopher S. Lister, Where Are You?

Listen, bucko. I've got three words for you.... CHANGE OF ADDRESS!!! Okay? Got it? I realize that being a lousy letter-writer comes with the mitochondrial DNA, but enough is enough, kiddo. We may not have been raised together, but I'm still your big sister, and I can kick your ass! (And I believe that there's a section in the Bill of Rights that gives me express permission to just that. I'll have to look it up.) Now, in my profile at the right, there's an e-mail address. I've checked. It's good.

Now, write me. Or I swear to God, I'll hunt you down and give you an Indian burn like you won't believe!!!!



Monday, November 13, 2006

Goodbye, Old Friend

"I have studied many philosophers and many cats.
The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior."
- Hippolyte Taine -

1997 - 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

We Interrupt This Blog to Bring You...

... a very important message.

Mary-Mia and Rod from Do They Have Salsa in China* are finally, definitely, really parents. They are pictured in the post by Mary-Mia's dad (happy grandpa) holding their 1-year-old twins, Rose and Marie (they're identical, so please don't ask who's who), and have already spent a near-sleepless night. I think they're already earning their chops.

Congratulations to M3 and Rod and their new (enormous) family. May their "trial-by-fire" be swift, fair and relatively painless.

*Ending months of speculation, Mary-Mia was able to obtain these shocking photographs that prove, once and for all, that they actually do have salsa (and tacos, if you can believe) in China.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Beauty is Pain -- But It Doesn't Have to Be

Ever since Dove put photos of real, untouched, unairbrushed women's bodies on their posters a few years ago, I've watched with cautious optimism to see just exactly where their so-called "Campaign for Real Beauty" was going. I have watched other media try and tackle the monsters of our twisted American perception of beauty, and have sighed with disappointment as the attempts fizzled in the face of "Extreme Makeover" and "America's Next Top Model" (two of my favorite shows, I confess). The message usually ends up being diluted back into, "All you chicks really could stand to lose ten pounds, cuz you'd just be so much happier, and so would we."

But Dove has surprised me at every turn. The first was their decision to shift focus from grown women to the self-esteem of the American girl, aged 8 and upward. This moving ad actually appeared during this year's Super Bowl, and has run sporadically since, as the opening volley to help little girls learn to love themselves (as Bridget Jones would say) "just as they are." Later this year, the slightly more alarming, darker interview style ad where high school girls discuss the pressures and uncertainties they feel at the hands of their peers, was a more graphic, grittier display.

Now, YouTube is all abuzz with Dove's latest effort -- targeting females of all ages, called "Evolution" which graphically demonstrates a young woman's transmogrification from very pretty and freshly scrubbed to cover girl material, by virtue of hair, make-up and Photoshopping techniques.

Bravo to Dove for taking on our deeply ingrained, perverted ideas of what beauty means, and let's hope that their fund, which sends counsellors into schools to help coach young girls about more positive body images, keeps rolling along.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Who'd Have Ever Thought...

... that we'd see the day when it was actually better for us to eat a Big Mac, fries and a Coke than a salad?

Two words, man...



Monday, September 18, 2006

Friendly Landscapes

My friends, Valerie and Matthew, spent 18 months landscaping their backyard into a gorgeous little oasis in the midst of a San Fernando Valley suburb. You can watch it all for yourself (compressed into an amazingly deceptive 26 minutes) on this Wednesday's episode of Landscaper's Challenge on

Watch it.

No, no.

You don't understand.

I'm not asking.

I'm telling.

Watch it.

Or else.

I know your secrets, and I will reveal them. All of them.

Don't make me prove it.

Have a nice day.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Mary-Mia's Twins Aren't the Only New Babies Around

Okay, so Rod and Mary-Mia have an adorable set of twin girls waiting for them in China. And, yes, we all agree they're pickin' adorable.

BUT! Not to be upstaged or outdone, their house is not the only one that has a new baby (or two) to brag about. We have a new baby in our house, too. And she's every bit as cute as the twins, PLUS... and this is a biggie... she has a tail! Can Mary-Mia's twins boast a tail? Surely not. Not one tail between the two of them. And what about whiskers, dammit. Any whiskers on those round, apple cheeks. I dare say not!

So, while the Chinese twins are, indeed, precious and bitable, in our house, we're preoccupied with our own little baby. She was found by Savannah and her friends, under a bush in a BMX park, screaming her lungs out and a little dusty, but otherwise no worse for wear. We suspect she's about five weeks old or so (her eyes are still very blue, and she's obviously new to solid food). As you can clearly see, at the moment, she could fit quite comfortably inside a No. 10 business-sized envelope.

She remains unnamed as yet, but we're still trying to get to know her. If you guys have any suggestions, please feel free suggest any names if you can think of them. We only just named another kitten a couple of months ago, and we're fresh out of fresh ideas.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Big, Honking Congrats!

After a year and a half of waiting, stressing and doing unspeakable things with Mentos and Diet Coke, Mary-Mia and Rod over at Do They Have Salsa in China have finally received their adoption referral.

The Naked Voodoo Chicken is dancing up a storm to celebrate not one, but two gorgeous baby girls, Rose and Marie (middle names are kind of in a state of flux as yet). Here's to a speedy travel date and to having the little girls home before (or at least very close to) their first birthday, sometime in October.

The best of luck, Mary-Mia and Rod. I can't think of a better reason to lose sleep than these little cuties.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Motherhood: The Real Skinny

My friends know me. They love me for who I am. And my friends who know and love me know better than to expect me to sugar-coat my opinions, even for them. So my friends do not come to me if they want to be in denial. They come to me if they want the straight scoop. Because that's what I'm going to give them. I'm going to tell them things they might not want to hear, but that will do them a world of good in the long run.

I have a problem wiht how America markets stuff -- the Iraqi war, the current gas crunch, our political candidates, the Democratic party platform -- but, first and foremost, motherhood. You know what I mean. You've seen the commercials. You know which ones... those Johnsons Baby Lotion commercials with the mother all dressed in a flowing, white organza kaftan, whisking her impossibly adorable, clean, happy baby, clad only in a diaper, over her head, while the window sheers behind them billow with a heady Spring breeze and the cat looks on admiringly?

Forget it. In real life, a minute later, the baby spits up and her flowing white organza kaftan is splattered with pre-digested baby food and/or breast milk. I'm sorry. But that's the real story, and every mother reading this knows it.

Here are a few things that women who long to be mothers but aren't yet don't want to hear about motherhood from those of us who've been there:

1. It's really hard work.
2. The first two years are pretty much body effluent. From every possible orifice. After that, it's just them doing thing you really wish they wouldn't do.
3. You don't always like the kid.
4. The kid doesn't always like you.
5. The first two to three months are the hardest, least pleasant time.
6. Sex is never the same again.
7. Your partner will probably not be as much of a help as he has said he will -- mostly because he didn't know how hard it was going to be.
8. The kid doesn't alway look good and smell good.
9. There will come a moment at some point in the process -- perhaps even several moments -- when you will wish you'd rethought the decision to have unprotected sex -- even if the pregnancy was well-planned. Most of the time, this feeling passes quickly if left alone and ignored.
10. You are not June Cleaver. Your husband is not Bill Cosby. This isn't a sitcom. It isn't a diaper commercial. It's real life. Let it go, for God's sake.
11. Did I mention the "hard work" part?
12. You don't deserve to get anything out of the experience. It's not your childhood, it's the child's. You better take your pleasure in the giving and the growth and the progress of your child's childhood.
13. And while we're on the subject -- Giving birth to your child is not your birth experience. It's the baby's birth experience. Quit making it all about you. (I hate that American women prance around like they freakin' invented childbirth.)
14. The work is really hard.
15. No. I mean, really hard.

Motherhood is not an Olympic event. It isn't a pageant or a contest. Even more than the military, motherhood is the toughest job you'll ever love. Babies ruin your life. If you're ready for them, and you've wiped the freakin' stardust from your eyes so you can see real-life, they do it in the best possible way. But get this, and get it good. Remember that story that women-who-wanted-it-all always told us about the women in China giving birth in the beanfield, then going on picking beans as if it were nothing. Forget about it. You're not a Chinese beanfield picker. That life that you love, full of weekend getaways and blissful Sundays lolling in bed, pouring over the Calendar section of the LA Times? Gone. Dinner parties? Gone. Every journey out will be chaperoned by a tiny, bald person with appallingly bad manners. Goodbye, Ma Maison and House of Blues. Hello, Bob's Big Boy and House of Pancakes. And, bear in mind, won't you, that each journey with your new constant companion will approach a complexity something akin to a NASA launch.

"Diaper bag?"
"Five changes of clothes?"
"Baby wipes for the baby, and small, mini-bar sized bottles of hard liquor for us?"
"Check, and double check."

I believe that the current wave of post-partum depression is not just hormonal. It comes from this frilly, florid imagining of what we think our experience will be raising our children. Then this mysterious little larval creature arrives, and we have no idea who he or she is, or what he or she is thinking, or "for the love of God, what do you want from me?"

That's when the depression hits. We are the end of the boomer generation, after all. There's nothing we can't market for our own edification. We came in fully prepared to "reinvent" motherhood. No, sir. Motherhood is way too old and way too set in her ways to be reworked by the likes of you. You don't reinvent her, she reinvents you. Understand this, accept the changes that it makes in you -- your body, your mind, your relationship with your significant other, your priorities -- and your path will be filled with little adventures and casual surprises. You can't imagine the simple, commonplace miracle of arriving in the nursery in the morning to a beaming, slightly damp ten-month old who has pulled herself to a standing position and is so happy to see you that she's rocking from side to side in a celebratory little crib boogie. It will shock and amaze you how having someone spontaneously hug and kiss you because you helped them into a fresh diaper and a clean, dry t-shirt can utterly melt your heart. But mostly you can't imagine before you become a mother -- no matter how hard you try -- just how much you will love your child. As much as you think, in your present anticipation of motherhood, that you think you will love that child, it doesn't even come close to the real thing. "Love" is, in my belief, a pathetically inadequate word for the feeling a devoted mother has for her child. It's far too common to sum up the emotion.

And its that love that makes it all possible. The giving. The thanklessness (newborns rarely say thank-you after the 2 am feeding). The drudgery (diapers after strained squash -- 'nuff said there). The imposition on the relationship with Mr. Wonderful (and my wish for every woman is that he truly is Mr. Wonderful). Those little miracle moments when it suddenly occurs to you that you've contributed a strange, relentlessly independent human to the world, and no one could have done it the way you did -- those moments make you happy and at peace.

Motherhood may not always be easy, and it may not always be as pretty as commercials, movies, and television paint it, and you can rest assured you are going screw up more times than you get it right. But, big picture, its a blessing and a joy and if you cut yourself some slack, and don't buy into the bill of goods, you'll never be sorry you did it.

Now then. Isn't that better than the mass-marketed crap you get from pregnancy and women's magazines?


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Join Us At the Buffet

Today's post is in Pink.... and nothing could be more appropriate. Best Available's Deirdre and I have conspired to bring the unbearable cuteness of toenails to the blogosphere.

Please, join us at the Buffet of Cuteness.

You won't be sorry. Well, you might be. But we won't... and that's the most important thing, isn't it.


Monday, August 14, 2006

The Worst of Times

The end of July and beginning of August are always difficult for me, but I always forget why until long after I've melted down. July 20th is the anniversary of my beloved godmother's death from lung cancer. July 23rd is her birthday. August 9th is the anniversary of my own mother's death, from a cerebral hemorrage in 1991.

Sometime around mid-July… like, say, the 17th or so, I begin to get a little edgy and unsoothable. No amount of anti-depressants helps. By the 19th or 20th, I'm fully on edge and ready for trouble. I spend the next two weeks in a state of mood fluxes and surges that last until sometime around mid-August, when it dawns on me why I'm getting this way, and I'm able to pull it all together.

This month, I figured it out by August 13th, after I'd experienced an emotional meltdown in the middle of Hollywood Cemetery after a screening of the movie "PSYCHO" (no, neither the locale nor the thriller were to blame). I won't delve into the immediate causes, except to say that they surrounded the current stress I'm experiencing in my home life involving family and physical and mental deterioration (only partially my own).

Usually, though I complain a lot about it, I manage to handle the emotional upset of the situation I'm in quite well. Saturday night, standing in the cemetery, I simply fell apart. I did NOT want to go home. I did NOT want to deal with anything any more. I did NOT want to keep doing this caregiver thing.

Sunday, a quiet day of cleaning, grocery shopping and reflection, I realized why. I want my mommies. I want at least one of my mommies, preferably my godmother, Linny, who was infinitely wise about human beings and their weird-assed behavior, and had the patience of a saint. I need her now. I need her ability to be loving and kind in the face of hostility and anger.

I hate that she died so young (three days short of her 65th birthday), when we all thought she'd live to a ripe old age. I hate that she never got a chance to fight her cancer, because secondary physical complications from the disease and chemo kicked her ass too soon.

But more than that, and this is the part that's really kind of sinister and makes me disappointed in myself, I think I'm resentful that now, when I need mothering the most, the one person -- Linny -- who proved up to the task, has taken a cosmic powder (not her choice, I realize, but still... grrrrr....). I suppose this is just something I'm meant to figure out on my own. I suppose that all the answers to my pointless questions would be just as pointless if I got them (which I won't).

Still, knowing that this time of year is difficult for me, knowing that I'm a little emotionally raw, I have to remember that next year, so that I'm not so knocked for a loop. I wonder where I'll be next year. Another pointless question. Today is what I have to work with, so I guess I'd better get cracking.

But here's a little toast with Newman's Own Lightly Sparkling Lemonade to Linny, whose love -- I'm going to have to assume -- has given me the strength to get through this with my spirit intact.

}( clink ){


Monday, July 24, 2006

We Didn't Start the Fire

Ever heard of Catherine Sanderson? No? Me, neither. That's her picture on the right. Recognize her now? Yeah, neither do I. I sincerely doubt that Ms. Sanderson's own mother could make a positive ID from this photo, but for now, we'll let that go. According to this article, Ms. Sanderson was recently given the sack from her administrative clerical job at the Paris office of conservative British accounting firm Dixon Wilson when her bosses discovered she was the blogger behind "La Petite Anglaise."

Though Ms. Sanderson identified neither herself, nor the firm, about which she wrote occasionally unflattering things, she was terminated for what Dixon Wilson called "gross misconduct." They told her that, by keeping the online diary of her daily experiences at the firm, she was potentially exposing the company to defamatory and damaging publicity. Ms. Sanderson disagrees, and is suing Dixon Wilson for two years' wages (the equivalent of roughly $98000).

I wish her luck, as I'm afraid that the days when executives could keep their bad, unseemly behavior, which they seem to save especially for their underlings, a secret. As long as an employee refrains from revealing actually company secrets, I think he or she should be perfectly free to write whatever they want, in the same way that journalists can chronicle their adventures, as long as they follow basic journalistic rules of truth, nonmalicious discretion and respect for the privacy of the nonfamous. It doesn't appear, given the CNN article, that Ms. Sanderson did much more than ruffle some twead-clad male egos. Many of her posts are personally driven -- about her life as a single mother, recently separated from her French lover, and raising her young daughter, whom she calls "Tadpole" in the blog. Her blogging about work seems to be particularly self-referential -- in the selected posts I perused, she doesn't seem to to intentionally set out to "out" negative executive behavior, short of how it affected her personally. Just the way a good online diary should be, actually. Everybody has a pseudonym, nobody is described too fully, except by their actions. All pretty clandestine, actually. I daresay, given the publicity generated by her firing and subsequent litigation, the disgruntled executives seem to have drawn more attention to themselves by firing her than they might have by giving her a stern warning and letting her appeal to her 3,000 regular readers. I guarantee you more than 3,000 people read the CNN article, and that those personally familiar with the executive line-up at Dixon Wilson know precisely who had the "plumby Oxford accent" and who the boss was who committed the "unforgivable faux pas" of releasing a Christmas popper before a higher-up.

Ms. Sanderson's plight does, however, reveal an interesting side of what we do here on a regular basis. I have written about work and work-related problems, both here and on the Chron. Sometimes, the things I've said have not been flattering. Could I be let go for the things I've written? I have never named names, nor been too overly specific about issues that roil up at work. But I've bitched about them, certainly. There are others, like Deirdre of Best Available, who have blogs specifically devoted to certain professions (which I would too, if I actually had an interesting profession. See? There I go again!). Deirdre's revolves around being a VFX coordinator. For those of you who don't know what that is, you'll have to click the link (when you're done here that is) to find out. For now, though, trust me. It's a cool gig.

Deirdre is very circumspect about where she works and with whom she consorts, and sticks primarily to discussing the ins and outs of the visual fx biz. But occasionally, even Deirdre has a rant... okay, more than occasionally -- and usually justificably. But since she's anonymous and she has revealed nothing personal about herself, do her rants count as being "defamatory?" I'm a fairly open blogger, in fact. But could my occasional blog blabs be considered "gross misconduct?"

Granted there's a world of difference between the movie industry and the world of high finance. It's a little difficult to fire me for gross miconduct when they're busy courting Roman Polanski, the convicted child rapist, to direct their next film. (I mean, what's a little under-aged sex between top level male movie mavens?) Still, it seems ironic that Ms. Sanderson should be punished for NOT saying who she is, where she works, and with whom. I wonder how a French civil court will find on the issue. You can never tell how they're going to go.

So, the best of luck to one of our own, who is still up and blogging (last I looked). Stop by and push her hit counter through the roof and show those stuffed shirts who's boss. Stick to The Man (or, more appropriately, L'Homme).


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tradition? You betcha.

My former musical theatre director's husband sent me this today... (thanks, Matt).

Never let it be said that the Japanese can't dance a mean Horah.

(For the record, I think they're actually quite good, especially since it appears that this is only a rehearsal.)

And... by the way.... What DON'T we love about, I ask you?


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Spatulas in Space

Is it just me, or is this of some concern? I mean, what if beings from another galaxy -- with higher intelligence than ours, but with heads shaped like a stack of flapjacks -- should happen across our lost spatula? What if they completely misunderstand that the spatula on this planet is a universally peaceful implement, signifying love, brotherhood and chicken quesadillas? What if they misinterpret the existence of our spatula in space as a challenge -- a gauntlet, if you will -- to be taken up and volleyed back at us, in the first salvo of a cataclysmic intergallactic war.

Oh, sure... mock me if you dare, but mark my words. The careless act of losing a spatula in space could be nothing more than a blip in a footnote in the annals of this space mission. Or, it could be the beginning of the end of humanity as we know it.

Or... maybe its just me.


Friday, June 30, 2006

The Hands We're Dealt

When my father was at home, working on a big project with an imminent deadline, he would occasionally stop to relieve his stress and freshen his mind with a game or two of computer solitaire. Every now and then, I would catch a glimpse over his shoulder and I began to notice a pattern. If the hand that the computer dealt was particularly lop-sided -- three of a kind, too much of one color, too many high value or face cards -- he would simply click the "New Game" button and start with a fresh deal. I asked him once why he did this.

"Because that kind of game is impossible to beat," came his reply. "What's the point of even starting it if you're probably going to lose?"

But that simply wasn't true, and I knew it. In my illustrious solitaire career, I have won many games that seemed to start as lost causes. Three of a kind would pop up, and I'd have to be really careful as to how I played them and what I sent to the suit stacks. The thing about solitaire is that winning is more about dealing with what you don't know than what you do. The up-facing cards are right there; you can see where you stand with them. They weren't going to get any better or worse than they already had. But the unrevealed cards on the board and in the draw stack -- those were the ones you had to count on. They had to arrive in a certain order, have a certain number, be a certain color, and be the right value.

A lot of times, when you got a bad deal on the first hand, you lost. But sometimes, even if the first hand gave you what seem like insurmountable obstacles, you managed, through fate and perseverance to beat it anyway. Those were moments when you figured you'd lose, but you played the hand because that was what was in front of you, and you had to play it -- probably lose it -- then move on to the next.

I was at his computer once, using one of his programs, when I decided to take my own "mental health break." As I was playing, it was my father's turn to watch over my shoulder as three 7s dealt out. It drove him nuts that I wouldn't just hit "New Game" when the situation looked hopeless. I kept playing as long as there was a move. Click, move, click, click, move, move, click, move. Until at last, I had put the last King into the last suit stack. The little suit stacks went wild, and the cards danced triumphantly across the computer screen. I had won. I had conquered impossible odds. I had snatched victory from the jaws of… well, you get the idea.

All of which is a long, roundabout way of saying that you have two different people, with two wildly different ideas of how to approach a seemingly "no win" situation. One bumps up against an obstacle, throws up his hands and hits "New Game". The other looks at the situation, assesses it and plays the cards that are dealt.

Because in Life, there is no "New Game." In Life, you get what you get, and you can either sit in the chair and mope about it, or you can play the cards that are dealt you to the best of your ability, until you have no more moves left. Then and only then is the game over.

I've told this story for years now. It used to be a little story I told about my father's peculiar solitaire habits. But more and more lately, it seems that solitaire is really beside the point.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Discovering Rilke

I have been exploring poetry lately, mostly on This week's poet is Rainer Maria Rilke. I thought this was especially poignant in light of Memorial Day.

Again And Again

Again and again, however we know the landscape of love

and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.

(Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Rainer Maria Rilke


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Anniversary Gift

I was halfway through May 16th, and suddenly it hit me. Yesterday would have been my 19th wedding anniversary. Nineteen years ago, I did something amazingly brave and courageous, or apocolytically stupid and ill-advised (depending upon your vantage point) and married a man I'd known less than a year. And by "less than a year," I mean half a year less than a year.

I was 27 at the time, and I wish I could tell you that I didn't know better. But I did. I knew it wasn't a good idea. I knew it would be difficult. I knew we didn't know each other well enough. But I was certain that what I thought was love would be enough to carry us through.

It wasn't.

It is the height of youthful arrogance to think that you have the resilience to withstand a knowingly bad relationship choice for the rest of your life, without it damaging you in psychological and emotional ways. No one does. No one gets out of an ill-conceived relationship without being scarred for life.

I was talking to my friend, Deirdre, just today, in fact, about the 80's. Deirdre isn't a big fan of the 80s. She's on location in... uhh... New Dehli... (yeah, that's the ticket), and she and I have taken to IMing between the time she gets back to her hotel and the time she goes to sleep. Television in... uhh... New Dehli... leaves a bit to be desired, especially at night, so she was subjected to having to watch Pretty in Pink while we were chatting on AIM. Between Molly Ringwald (one of my LEAST favorite parts of the 80s) and Jon "Ducky" Cryer's Flock of Seagulls haircut, Deirdre was puzzled when I told her I loved the 80s.

"What's to love?" she asked.

"I loved everything about the 80s. Torn t-shirts. Dancing welders. My stomach was flat. My ass was small. I loved the music. Then, I got married. And that pretty much sucked the joy out of everything."

(It bears noting -- not to out Deirdre or anything -- that she was in a fairly lackluster marriage herself during most of the 80s, which could explain her aversion to the entire decade. I have no direct clinical proof. My theory is based solely on anecdotal data.)

My marriage, which, like all marriages do, began on such a happy, hopeful note, quickly deteriorated into one person trying to recreate his birth family, and another trying to resist this with all of her might. What began as a sweet, optimistic, ambitious experiment to start a fresh, new family ended with two angry people who never really knew each other trying to find a way to part without damaging their toddler beyond repair.

Sad, really. I just wanted to start a family -- not replay someone else's. He just wanted to be the head of the house that he grew up in.

I was so sure we'd straightened it all out. I was so sure I knew what he wanted and what would make him happy. He was probably just as sure that if I could only succumb and let him build the family unit he wanted, I'd be happy, too. Of course, we were both wrong. I didn't realize that it wasn't my job to make him happy, and he didn't realize that trying to recreate his family was a futile (though common) effort.

Cross purposes....

So, I live alone, and he is remarried to someone who better suits his idea of family (though he is, at present, not speaking to his parents). Its better this way. Truly.

But I do wonder if I have it in me to make something different. Something better. Maybe the key is choosing a man who, like myself, has no discernible family model (single mother, disinterested absentee father). Or maybe I need to find someone who is mature enough to realize that every relationship wipes the slate clean. The only thing you should be bringing from the past into the present are lessons that make you kinder, more compassionate, a better listener, a better partner, a better lover. Anything from past relationships about the other person -- whether they abused you, lied to you, cheated on you, stole from you or snorted cocaine off your grandma's heirloom marble-top dresser -- is useless in this relationship and should be jettisoned at once.

So it wasn't a total loss, my marriage. It gave me some insights. It gave me my daughter. And it gave me the appreciation for holding fast to who I am as a person and not allowing myself to get lost in someone else's vision.

So, Happy UnWedding Anniversary to me. May I live to have 50 more....


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Math and Art (Again!)

Somebody's been playing in the 3D again!

Where Math and Art Collide


Sometimes, Things Just Go Right

This week, somebody got a new computer at work, and a new coffee mug from WaiterRant (and two nifty free WaiterRant ballpoint pens to boot).

Who could that be, I wonder? Who could the lucky person be who got all those wonderful things?

Oh yeah.


(Life is good. Very good.)


Friday, May 12, 2006

When a Door Closes...

... a negotiation opens...

It seems that there could be a bigger future for Chris Daughtry than winning American Idol could ever have afforded him. Apparently, since lead singer Brett Scallion left the band, Fuel, the boys have been looking for his replacement. Daughtry's rendition of "Hemorrhage" didn't go unnoticed among the band's remaining members. They tested the waters back then to see if Daughtry might be interested in taking Scallions' place.

Now that Daughtry has left Idol, the offer was made, publicly and in earnest, when Fuel bandmates Jeff Abercrombie and Carl Bell appeared on "Extra" and made Daughtry another pitch to join the band.

Daughtry has also expressed interest in launching a solo career, and his wife, Deanna has said she's not even sure which road Daughtry will pursue. Let's face it -- the guy's exhausted. The schedule for performing in the last legs of the American Idol competition are grueling, and no one can expect Daughtry to make career decisions that affect the rest of his life -- at least, not until Sunday.

If I had a say in the decision (and frankly, I'm stunned that he hasn't called me to ask), I'd tell him to take the Fuel gig and wipe the stain of American Idol off his little bald rocker head. Then, he can launch a solo career after the band falls apart (because, don't they always?).

Well, now that that's settled.... We can all get on with our lives.

(Psst... Chris... call me before you sign anything!!!)


Thursday, May 11, 2006

America Voted And...

... proved once again that the same people who voted to make George W. Bush their president -- not once, but twice, mind you -- can't even be trusted with a simple phone-in vote for American Idol.

Idiots. I'm surrounded by idiots!

The producers have voted, and Taylor Hicks is your next American Idol (though you deserve no better than that damp washcloth, Elliot Yamin, you mealy-mouthed, lilly-livered Americans!) Just when I thought I was being too harsh on my own countrymen for wanting to go and live in England after the 2004 elections, this happens and reinforces my desire to expatriate. I'm ashamed to be seen with you, you descendants of English and German religious exiles, you! You shallow cretins who have let yourselves become so steeped in mediocrity that you don't know talent when you see it! You sorry examples of cultural bereftment!*

Go home, Chris. Get some sleep. Play with your kids. Make love to your wife. Then go cut a CD. I'll be the first one in line.


*Okay, I'll grant you -- that one may be a little like the pot calling the kettle black, since I'm admitting that I actually watch American Idol. Or, more accurately, "watched," since the show has officially been permanently banned from my house for all eternity. You think I'm kidding. You don't know me. Never. Ever. Again. Ever.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What God Hath Wrought

Today is the 18th anniversary of the day when I stopped worshipping at the Altar of the Self. It's been a bumpy road, but more than worth it. I wrote about it (complete with Pictures!) on The Chron.

Happy Birthday, kid....


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Some Folks Just Don't Understand the Meaning of "No Vacancies"

For an apartment building that's about to be torn down in a few months, my apartment building is a pretty popular place. My on-site manager actually rented the last three apartments with the full disclosure that there would be no lease, and that the plans were already in the works to tear the building down and build condos or other apartments, probably by the end of the summer. They rented anyway. So the sign outside our apartment building says, quite clearly and unambiguously, "No Vacancies."

For the last two weeks though, we've had a couple of new tenants who've decided that signs in big red letters just don't apply to them. It's not the first time that we've gotten a duck coming to roost in our heart-shaped swimming pool. Five years ago, a mother (possibly this sexy thing) roosted for nearly two weeks at the end of April with her three ducklings. Last year, another duck (again, the same femme fatale?) showed up with not one, but two drakes in tow, vying for her favors.

And this year -- our last here in the complex, sadly -- we are treated to this couple who come and go every few days, perhaps to escape the crowded filthy nearby Lake Balboa. Perhaps they've just decided that, since the management company has seen fit to lock down the pool until we're all cast out on the street, somebody should be using the fabulous heart-shaped pool. Perhaps they're on their honeymoon, and snapping pictures of them is in really poor taste.

Whatever brings them here, seeing them floating leisurely along the blue surface makes me happy. When you think of all the things I could walk out of my front door to see (I refer you to Mary-Mia's post on Do They Have Salsa in China? regarding the wildlife that landed in her backyard not so very long ago), seeing a couple of pretty ducks, cruising along the top of the water, enjoying each other's company is kind of a treat.

Ah, Spring....


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kitten Mommy Report: Small Victories

Here we are, Day 12 into Life as Kitten Mommy....

Big Cat has decided that Kitten was not brought here to eat him. He will now tolerate her presence in his immediate vicinity without growling and hissing. I have allowed Kitten to hang outside the bathroom during the day when I'm at work, but I suspect that they each go into a bedroom and sleep most of the day, because life doesn't seem to start until Kitten Mommy returns home and wants some peace and quiet. Then, all manner of feline feels the need to bounce hysterically off the walls and hang from the proverbial rafters.

I can report progress in a two areas. First, as you can see at the picture on the right, I have managed to get them eating in the same general area. This is a considerable "win" -- while Big Cat thought Kitten might eat him, he wouldn't put his head down to eat. Hunger eventually won out, and I suppose that, faced with the prospect of being eaten by Kitten or starving to death, it became necessary to take some risks.

The other area where we have achieved a small victory is in the "play" department. Kitten has her work cut out for her. I'm told that when he was adopted as a baby, Big Cat (then not nearly so big as now) was beset upon by his sister, who was adopted with him, and attacked by her nearly daily. Is it any wonder that the sight of another very small cat-like being with an enormous head and poor fine motor movement might raise an alarm in him? It all becomes clearer. Big Cat put his guard up very early in his young life, and it's stayed there ever since. He has forgotten the fine art of "play."

Kitten's task at hand is to reteach Big Cat how to play. Then she will have a playmate all day at her disposal (did I mention the world is her oyster? right... ), even when I'm at work. She seems to understand this, because she pursues Big Cat relentlessly, batting at his tail, stalking him, peaking and poking at him from under the dust ruffle of my bed. She runs at him, and leaps up in a posture of attack, then falls to the ground on her back in a thoroughly submissive posture... "I've got you... No... Now, you've got me! Oh, clever you!!" Of course, Big Cat just sits motionless, like a basque cat statue, watching her as if she is a total idiot. (Which she kind of would be, if she weren't so pickin' cute!!!)

But every once in a while, he will reach out at her, almost as if her spell is more than he can conquer, and bat at her gently, then realize what he's doing, and stop himself. Two days ago, Kitten and I were in the bathroom (she helps me blow dry my hair every morning -- an activity which both concerns and perplexes her, yet fascinates her as well), and when I came out, I caught Big Cat red-handed playing a rousing game of mylar crunchie ball soccer on the kitchen floor by himself. He's batted at things before, but he's never actually indulged in a raucous, slide-across-the-kitchen-floor, risk-looking-like-a-fool free-for-all.

Kitten is having the effect I'd hoped she'd have on Big Cat. She's reteaching him to play. She's awakening his inner-Kitten. Soon, I hope, they will be playing together like two kittens in a litter, and Big Cat will get another crack at a happy childhood. I think everyone deserves that, no matter how old they are.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Things That One Forgets About Being a Kitten Mommy

Well, after five days now, Mizz Thang is fully ensconced. Big Cat still hates her guts, but while she runs around the entire house, playing with mylar crunchie balls and plastic milk jug rings, he cowers on a chair and wishes we'd call the exterminator. They were actually nose-to-nose this morning, though he growled and hissed his way through the entire encounter. He did bat at her once, claws in, when she got a little too close to his chair -- the world being her oyster and all....

They'll get over it. I hope.

He'd better get over it, because I'm head over heels in love and she's not going anywhere. It's been about twenty years since I had a kitten in my house and there are things you forget when you bring them home, half-baked.

Here are some of the things that I've re-learned in the five days since becoming a new Kitten Mommy:

  1. Morning mylar crunchy ball soccer on the kitchen linoleum (both kitten and ball slide so effortlessly).
  2. Learning how to master retractable claws (they go out so much easier than they go in)
  3. Sideways crab walking (apparently, an effective defense against predators -- who knew?)
  4. Sudden, uncontrollable desire to sleep in odd positions (the kitten, not me... although....)
  5. Kitten Axiom No. 27: "The exact spot on which Kitten Mommy walks must be the very best spot or she wouldn't walk there. I will put myself right where she walks, when she walks, then I will be in the best spot, too." (Oddly, all danger aside, I find it difficult to fault this logic since it seems purely subjective.)
  6. Cuddle time... very important... sacred, in fact. (We've played. We've eaten. We're not quite sleepy yet. Must cuddle. Now. I said, NOW!)
  7. Kitten Axiom No. 13: "Kitten Mommy makes very funny noises when we climb her jeans leg, claws out (see No. 2)."

These are the things that come to mind right off the bat. I'm hoping Big Cat comes round. He's such a bitter, bitter pill. I don't care if he is never friends with her. I don't care if he ignores her (though she may have some very serious opinions on that point). He just can't be mean to her. That's all I ask. So far, I've just sort of stood back and let them work it out, ready to jump in should he lose his kitty mind. I think that's the best tack to take -- let them work it out, with supervision, keeping them separate otherwise.

It's only been five days, after all.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bright, Shiny Blog

I have had a blog I created impulsively, because (much like this one), I wanted to hold on to the name. I finally decided I wanted it to be a book blog, where I can write about what I'm reading, and how I like it, and what I think of reading and writing in general.

It's called Reserve Esoteric. It has three posts on it already, the self-titled first of which (March 24th) explains the origins of the name.

It's just a spot to single out my reading and writing life a bit, since I rarely share those things here or on the Chron.


Friday, March 31, 2006

A New Baby At Our House, Soon.

The newest member in our family made the "front pages" today...of A Twist of Kate, that is.... Freya, our soon-to-be-adopted kitten is pictured with her sibling, Domino, in Kate's Photo Friday post.

She's four weeks old (the kitten, that is... not Kate... Kate is way older than four weeks. Kate is all grown up). Isn't she cute? (the kitten, I mean... though Kate is cute, too, granted. But she lacks the fuzzy adorableness and the tail of the kitten, and so the judges have marked her down for that. Unfair, maybe, but there you are). Here's another picture Kate took of her, at left.

Anyway.... another five weeks or so, and she's coming home with us.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Tempus Fugit

I bought myself a little present last week, and it arrived today. For the first time in at least eight years, I'm actually wearing a watch. Isn't it cute? It's a Fossil, and had it on sale last week. I loved the color and the face style -- its just little crystals, not diamonds, so don't get all excited. And it has a little date on the face, too, though my eyesight is simply not good enough to see it without my glasses.

I didn't really buy the watch so I'd have ready access to the specific time. I carry a cellphone, there's a watch in my car, I'm usually in front of a computer where a tiny little time stares me down from the lower righthand corner, and I have a huge Wesclock institutional clock over my desk. And, as cute as it is, I am not big on wearing jewelry much, so it wasn't for aesthetic reasons that I bought it.

No, no, the reasons I purchased this watch were a bit more esoteric. Time moves. Forward. Well, maybe it moves in other directions, but the only person who is really qualified to talk about that is Stephen Hawking, and even he took back a bunch of what he said in his book, so he might not even know. Unless my theories about Douglas Adams are correct and he plans on coming back (or going forward... or... whatever....), for the moment, we're just going to have to go with the notion that time moves forward. Always. Without stopping. I tend to forget that. I tend to find myself doing something important, then getting distracted by something I think will take "just a minute," only to find that come nightfall, the whole day has been shot, and the important task has fallen by the wayside.

This will just never do, people. I bought the watch because I knew that I had to look at it, and that several times a day, I'd be forced to realize that, while organizing the spice rack is a nice thing to do, there are other tasks to be gotten to first, and nothing ever really takes "just a minute."

So I wear the watch. Today, I believe I was in fact more aware of passing time. Wearing the time on your body makes you take it more seriously somehow. Skiving becomes less of an option. "No time to waste, really. Far too precious, really. Otherwise, why would I be wearing it on my wrist?"

So, time's a-wastin'. Tempus fugit. I'd write more, but I see by the watch here on my wrist that its time to wrap it up.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Come. Join the Dark Side.

If you glance over to your right.... no, no... your other right... (sheesh!).... you'll see a new section in the sidebar called "Subscribe to the Naked Chicken". I have joined Feedburner in the face of continuing requests to adopt some form of RSS/Atom site feed function. So, there it is.... If you use site feed, you might want to update my info.

I'm still trying to figure out how to get my server dude, the amazing and miraculous JD (who keeps the server where The Catharine Chronicles is hosted up and running) of JD-DCH Digital Concepts and Hardware, to allow me to add something along these lines to the Chron. JD considers stuff like this to be what he calls "Blue Buttons"... as in "Whatever you do, don't press the..." I think that he just loathes anything fancy that means yet one more thing to break down. JD hates things that break down. Especially since when it breaks down, he has to go and fix it. Usually amidst the desolate cries and moans of those who love blue buttons.

Still... I have a plan... it involves secret mind control drugs developed by the CIA. And also cookies. Bwaahahahahahahahaaaa.....


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Here's What Your Friends Won't Tell You About "The Hitchhiker's Guide"

After years of having better things to do -- or, more accurately, having other things that needed doing first -- I have finally managed to finish Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. So, to all of my friends who cajoled, pleaded, nudged, prodded, admonished and even gave their copies to (thanks, Cindy), it is done. I have joined the dark side. I thoroughly enjoyed it, which I knew I would. And I'm already an addict, which I suspected I would become. I have moved straight on through the next book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and am currently halfway through volume 3 of the trilogy, Life, the Universe and Everything, which is proving to be every bit as entertaining. (For the uninitiated, there are actually five books, though Adams had initially planned only to write the three. When the third book was published, it came with the logline, "Third book in the Hitchhiker's Trilogy." When the fourth book, So Long and Thanks for All The Fish, was published, the logline read "Trilogy in four parts." Some printings of the fifth book, Mostly Harmless, carried the logline, "Fifth part of the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Trilogy." It is literary perversities such as these that make your friends push you to read these books.)

But here's the thing that none of my fellow addicts bothered to mention. That's the dreams. I have dreams of Zaphod Beeblebrox. I have dreams of Slartibartfast. I can hear Marvin the Robot's depressed moaning drawl, deep within my brain during the course of the day, especially in the afternoons, when the hours get long before its time to go home. I also think that I've fallen in love with Douglas Adams, based solely on his voice (these are books on cassette, unabridged and read by the author), and am extremely upset that he chose to die before we met, for I would have hatched a plot to steal him away from his wife and make him mine. It was extremely bad timing on his part, and given his obvious expertise in time travel, I fully expect him to rectify the error at his earliest convenience.

Anyway, I have joined the dark side. I am a hostage to the deadly white robots from the planet Krikit. I have fallen headlong into the long, dark teatime of the soul. I have lunched at the restaurant at the end of the universe.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the Vogon poetry, I will fear not. For I know exactly where my towel is.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

One False Move, And The Girl Gets It

I have not lived a life completely unexamined.

I start this post by making that point completely clear, because I don't want to appear to be entirely, totally lame. Not that you haven't figured out already that I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about myself. I have not one, but two, blogs in which I write extensively about the world and, more importantly, my place in it. I like to think that its because writers write what they know, and what do I know better than how things look from my perspective. But I suspect I'm merely deluding myself on this point, and am, in fact, gloriously,unrepentantly self-involved.

But I am not so blind that I can't see when a real issue raises its ugly head. I can see when I'm doing it all wrong. I'm just not sure how to fix it, that's all.

It's about me. And men. And me and men together. And this tendency I have when combining the two, which I find is quite irritating. As I beginning to date someone, or even just converse with him casually, everything starts out fine. I'm charming. I'm funny. I'm my usual irrepressibly sassy self. But as the exchange continues, I find I'm editing myself. I'm listening to what he's saying, and then trying to give him back what I think he wants. I'm terrified he'll discover something about me that doesn't match or agree with something about him. Religion, politics, basic life philosophy. One little slip that indicates that I hold a differing opinion, and I'm so off the list. What list, you ask? Oh, you know... that list. His list. His list of women he finds acceptable.

I know this is only an issue with my romantic relationships because I don't do it with women, or gay men, or married men or men I meet that I'm not attracted to sexually in the least. I only men who strike me as potential "date material" get to see this especially unattractive, wishy-washy side of me. I begin to make assessments of myself in reference to him, to decide if I'm smart enough, funny enough, liberal enough, enlightened enough, well-read enough. And I usually fall far short of where I think I should be.

The really sick, sad part is (you're thinking, "There's an even sicker, sadder part than that which she's already expressed?" aren't you? Don't lie. I can tell by your snorts of disgust), I end up weeks or months later, after things have fizzled (for how could they not when one of the parties begins to discard who she is in favor of who she thinks he wants?), I go back and do the relationship autopsy, only to discover that, as cute and great as he was, he wasn't cuter or greater than I (Well, really, who could be? I ask you. See? Why can't I have that sense of confidence with him, for cryin' out loud?).

This is, in no way, his fault. It's all me. I hear my father's voice ("No man will ever love you because you are just like your mother, and as soon as they get to know you, they'll run away"), or my ex-husband ("You were lucky I married you -- no one else would put up with you"), or some other past man in my life who was more than willing to tell me that whatever it was I had or was, it wasn't enough -- or perhaps it was too much. All lies, of course, since a couple of really good men have loved me, and plenty of people in my life suffer me with little side effect.) Still, it's those voices -- those auditory ghosts that still haunt me -- that make me feel like I'm just too much trouble as I am. So I have to change. Or be alone. Up until now, I've chosen alone, because its easier, and it isn't a lie.

I tell you all of this because I sense it happening again. I sense that as I converse with someone -- someone whom I find interesting and a little edgy and a touch neurotic, but charming nonetheless -- I'm checking his tone, checking mine, going over what he said, making sure I match it, or reflect it. I'm delving and researching, doing a little detective work,trying to suss out what he desires. And until now, I haven't even been aware I was doing it. It's one of the things that makes dating such an unpleasant experience for me. I feel like I'm being held hostage, at gunpoint, by a crazed madman. One slip of the tongue, one move out of line, and I'm a goner.

"One false move," as they say, "and the girl gets it."

So, I usually end up not calling someone back, or not following up on a second date. Or worse yet, he never asks for a second date, because the first one was made so uncomfortable by my attempt at camouflage. Of course, this only happens if I like someone, so I've had plenty of invitations to second dates with men I don't find attractive in the least. Because with men I only find pleasant, but for whom I'm not sexually attracted, I can be my usual, devil-may-care self who is merely who she is, and everyone else can like it or lump it.

What an unpleasant thing to discover about yourself! And what a challenge to keep from doing it! Because it means that, somehow, I'm going to have trust someone I barely know to have the style and good taste to stick it out and believe that doing so will be worth the effort. And it means that I have to take it as a sign, if he doesn't, that he wasn't the man I thought he was. They so frequently aren't the men I think they are. Of course, since I'm too wrapped up in pleasing them to stop and get to know them, I really can't blame that on them, can I?

Well, this has been a productive day. Paid my rent, gave the cat his medicine, returned three signed contracts to the other side, had an enormous, life-changing epiphany....

I don't know about you guys, but... I'm exhausted.


Thursday, March 02, 2006


A very close friend of mine (whom we'll call "Kim" -- because, well, that's what her mom and dad named her, for what were, I'm sure really good reasons at the time) called me Sunday in tears because she'd just learned her father had to go into the hospital for an emergency triple-bypass. I guess when you're a candidate for a triple-bypass, "emergency" is kind of redundant. Three blockages keeping blood from moving into any or all chambers of the heart would, I suppose, constitute and emergency, by definition.

There were several bits of "good news" attached to this. One, Kim's father lives in Texas, near one of the finest cardiac hospitals in the country. Two, his doctors do not believe he suffered a heart attack, even a "silent" one, so the heart muscle is in pretty good shape for a guy who's in his seventies. Three, he is, in all other respects, in excellent health. Furthermore, catching the blockages prior to an "incident" probably added years to his life. If he had to go through something like this, every single factor was working his favor.

Still, it was a tense few days for Kim and her sister, who had to leave their teenagers at home and fly to Texas and wait out the surgery and recovery. It also made my friend think of mortality -- his and hers. In the summer of '99, my godmother, who was Kim's mentor and beloved friend, passed away suddenly of lung cancer. Several months later, Kim's mother died from a heart attack so massive that she was gone before her husband could even dial "911". Now Kim's father, who lives a pretty healthy lifestyle, save his aversion to aerobic exercise, has had open-heart surgery. Kim called me tonight after she'd gotten home from work. She flew home last night, went to work this morning, came home, fixed a little dinner, and got her butt on the treadmill. Proving once again that I don't make friends with stupid people.

A close brush with a medical crisis tends to make us think about our mortality, which is something that we humans just don't care to do, unless we're engaged in deep philosophical discussions about life-after-death adventures or the Rapture. I personally have little patience for such discussion as I've always believed that, unless you are, at present -- this very moment -- coming face-to-face with your mortality (as in, you've just inadvertently stepped off the curb into the path a speeding Trailways bus, or you have just drunk strychnine, or have been recently diagnosed with ebola), there is no need to think of your mortality beyond the fact that it exists.

Knowing that you are, in fact, mortal, you can be assured of a couple of things, regardless of any spiritual or philosophical affiliations. 1) You are going to die, and 2) wherever you go after you do, you're probably not going to need to stop and ask directions. Here's what I believe about God and the Universe. God made us exactly as we are, complete with the capacity to understand everything necessary to navigate life, and the Universe reveals all to us on a "need-to-know" basis. Since we weren't born with the knowledge of what happens to the soul and consciousness when we die, my heartfelt belief is that... well... its just none of our damn business. All apologies to Shirley MacLaine (whose story, by the way, is just as plausible as any other I've heard for what happens after we bite it), it's just not our job to know.

Here's what our job is. To live. And keep on living. Right up until we're not. After that, we'll retire from the "living" thing, and move on to a career in "what comes next." Whatever that is. So my friend will get on the treadmill and start eating better and taking care of herself (as will I) because doing so means that, while we're alive, we get to feel reasonably good, and be cute, and get dates, and have sex. All of which are important.

The flip side to mortality is that, while we're being all healthy and stuff, the people around us -- especially our parents -- are getting older, and more vulnerable, and more frail. And what things like open-heart surgery remind us -- vividly and with slap-upside-the-head clarity -- is that someday in the foreseeable future, that loved one is probably going to start their "whatever comes next," and we're going to be left behind to schlepp our way through the "living" thing without them.

And this is the part where mortality sucks. Today, we're still here, Kim and I -- a 26-year friendship still alive and ticking. But my godmother isn't ticking anymore. Nor is Kim's mother. Nor is my own mother, for that matter. Only our fathers remain to separate us symbolically from our mortality, and her father's recent brush with a cardiac care unit, and my father's increasing lack of independent mobility remind us every day that someday, it's just going to be us. Two little (and, believe me, that's no euphemism -- we're short) old ladies, one on her treadmill, the other on her elliptical trainer, eating salads and boneless, skinless chicken breasts, taking our calcium and our multivitamins, trying our best to stave off "whatever comes next" for as long as possible.

Because our job is to stay here and do the "living" thing. Right up until the "living" things is done. That's what mortality is all about.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Defending James

Perhaps you remember a few posts ago, when I (finally) blogged about the whole James Frey fiasco. I sent a letter to the blog, James Frey Owes Me Money, and they published it on the site. Well, because we live in a world where a President can be a draft dodger, an unrepentant liar, cheater, ne'er-do-well, a poser and otherwise felonious conspirator, and some asshole somewhere will still make excuses for him, don't you just know an anonymous little James Frey defender jumped on the opportunity to chastise me for my failure to express harsh opinions against the war in Iraq, the current administration, genocide, starvation, etc.

  • Anonymous said...
    What is this crap? Please at least waste your life doing something more productive than whining about this book being mislabeled. You are the person in front of me in line in the supermarket bitching that you want the can of soup cheaper. This is the most laughable shit in the world. Get angry about injustice in the White House, or war, or starvation, or genocide, or anything that requires real tangible decisions.

I felt compelled to answer him... or her... we'll just refer to this pointless, nameless little fleshbag of wasted human DNA as "it".... to answer "it" by pointing it to my two blogs in which -- and I think you all will vouch for me here -- useful, pointed and topical opinions are not lacking.

  • Catharine said...
    Dear Anonymous -- Thanks for your articulate response to my letter. Believe me when I tell you that I have enough anger to go around. Hence my two blogs about things like injustice in the White House, racism, war, genocide, bad movies and cheaper soup. No, wait... I don't like soup. You've mistaken me for someone else who eats soup.This blog is about letters to James Frey, however, so I pretty much tried to stay on topic and to the point. See you in line at the supermarket. I'll wave if I see you -- if you ever lift your nose out of the latest issue of Weekly World News, that is. ~C~

I was somewhat bemused as to how a post about genocide really would have been relevant at a blog about James Frey and A Million Little Pieces, but this kind of good common sense did not deter Anonymous. I was particularly taken with it's utterly meaningless soup analogy, as I fail to see what buying cheap soup has to do with a nationally publicized book fraud. I was also a little baffled by its reference to the "mislabeling" of Frey's book, as both the publisher and Frey's agent have said that Frey presented the book to them as memoir, and, golly, you learn the difference between a novel and a memoir in English 101. Perhaps it never took English 101. Perhaps it doesn't even speak English at all, and used Altavista's Babelfish to translate its response into English, which would explain the idiotic, random soup metaphor.

Anyway, just thought you guys might be interested in seeing what happens when generations of first cousins choose to marry and procreate. I hope I didn't confuse Anonymous with my brusk editorial style; however, it's obvious to me that vital, articulate opinion is what Anonymous hungers for most. So here it is, Anonymous -- my little opinion, just for you, terse and edgy though it may be. I hope it somehow fills the ridges and cracks in your empty, dreary little life.

And I hope someday, after years of therapy, you finally find both a name and a good, cheap can of soup.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Or "Why I Think John Gray is Just a Nice Guy Who Has His Head WAY Up His Ass."

This all started with that book. That damned book. Men Are From Mars; Women Are From Venus. A seemingly innocuous little tome, written by a former monk-turned-psychologist, who was only trying to help by pointing out to us that men and women are so totally different in every way that they could have come from separate planets. And we bought into it.

No, wait. I bought into it. I won't include you all in this, since some of you had the supreme good sense to call a crock of shit a crock of shit when you saw one. I bought into it because I wanted to find the simple reason why my relationships had been so unequivocally disasterous up to that point. I bought into it because it was important at the time for me to believe that it was just a matter of finding out the right words, spoken in the right order, of understanding what my man's frame of mind was -- that he wasn't leaving me when he "went into the cave," but that he was a rubber band that needed to stretch back into shape before he snapped.

And I bought it. Hook, line and rubberband ball. Because it was easier to tell myself that I wasn't the one being abandoned. It wasn't me he wasn't communicating with. It wasn't me he wasn't talking to. He was in the cave. He was a rubberband that had been overstretched by the demands that life makes on men that taxes them so substantially that they simply cannot function without some downtime. It wasn't me; it was him. "I'll leave him alone. He's in the cave." Nothing wrong with me -- he's just a man being Martian.

Upon further reflection of this concept, from a position of advanced age and sultry wisdom, I say this: Fuck off and die, John Gray!

Sorry. That was strong. I actually think Dr. Gray means well. I don't think he ever meant to be condescending and insulting. I think he set out to explain why we weren't all getting along. I also think thatwhat he knows about women you could make dance on the head of a pin.

Here's the thing. Is there really anyone out there who has ever known a mother, working or at home, married or single, who believes for an instant that there haven't been at least fifteen times in the course of a day when she wants to pack it in and go hide in a cave, thereby being left alone to do as she pleases for a specified period of time, without being bothered by her 24/7 job of wiping snotty noses or poopy bottoms, refereeing sibling boxing matches, listening to the incessant whines from a napless, overtired, can't-sleep-now-its-too-close-to-bedtime child? Is there anyone who knows a wife, at home or in the workplace, who wouldn't at some point, like to kiss her husband good-bye and go spend a week or so away from the incredibly wearing task of bearing the responsibility for the emotional end of an entire relationship, handling the spiritual and psychological baggage, making all the excuses, looking after someone who may or may not reciprocate affection in a way that rewards her? He is leaving her when he goes into the cave, even if its just for a day or so. He's leaving her to flounder in a sea of both of their making, while he reclines on the beach and gives himself a little break from the struggle commitment requires.

Men are NOT from Mars. Women are NOT from Venus. We are all from HERE -- the planet Earth, and while it spins and whirls and tilts on its little axis, we all have things we have to do. We have jobs to go to, people to conduct business with, classes to attend, papers to write, partners and spouses to emotionally connect with, children to raise and nurture, dishwashers to load and unload, laundry to do. And it's exhausting. For everybody. And I refuse to believe for a second that the male sex is so frail and unstable that it isn't up to the task. One, because that lets men off the hook far too easily. And, two, because I have a couple of men friends who are far more capable than I of keeping all the balls in the air.

The only non-anatomical difference between men and women that I can find is that men give themselves permission to go into the cave, while women just stick around here and plug it out, because that's what we're taught we must do. We don't have permission to retreat and lock ourselves away to watch sports or play golf or nap. We're busy being okay and making everyone around us okay, because that's our job. It's what we do. It's what makes having a "wife" far more desirable to me than having a "husband" at this stage of my life (more about this in future blog posts).

So to every man who has taken to his cave, secure in the knowledge he's rightly entitled to it, then actually thrown it in the face of a woman he knows by telling her it was all becoming too much for him to bear, I say here and now, "Knock it off and get back to work, mister. I don't care what planet you think you're from, you're here now, and the trash needs taking out!"


(original artwork by Ted Nasmith can be found, full-sized, here.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

You're As Young As You Feel... On Mars.

It seems I had two important birthdays this past November. My Earth birthday, which took place on November 2, 2005 at 10:42pm, PST, rendered me forty-seven. But I don't feel forty-seven. I've been told I don't look forty-seven. I'm always appalled when 60-year-old men approach me as of I'm datable, and it feels like I'm looking at my grandfather. (Sorry, guys, but.... Ew.)

I'm thinking that, perhaps its because of the other birthday. See, if I were still living on the planet Mars, one week after my Earth birthday, I would have celebrated my Mars birthday, on November 9, 2005, at 4:31 am. There would have been a mere twenty-five candles on my little cake. Of course, due to the lack of atmosphere on Mars, they wouldn't have stayed lit for very long. But its the thought that counts. And I feel much closer to twenty-five than I do to forty-seven (though I'm pretty sure I look closer to forty-seven than I do to twenty-five).

All of this comes courtesy of, a nifty little website that computers dates and times and breaks birthdays down to seconds and minutes. I turned a billion seconds old last July... so very depressing. But not nearly so depressing as realizing that there are 1,071 days until a new President is inaugurated on January 21, 2009.*

So, go see how old you are. Maybe you're do for a landmark birthday on some other planet. (I've always wanted to see Jupiter in the spring).


* Assuming there are no Presidential impeachments, resignations, or hunting trips with Dick Cheney, that is.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

Hope you get all the flowers, chocolates, kissed and hugs you can stand.

As for me, I intend to spend my Valentine's Day evening, dining in with a very handsome fellow in a tuxedo.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Environmental Concerns - Journal Entry # 5

11/10/05 -- ENCINO, CA.

I live in a large, 2 bedroom apartment with two roommates. They are both freeloading at the moment, since I'm the only one of us who is gainfully employed. While one of them has job prospects, the other is destined to spend his days sleeping on the couch all day and being waited on by women. The job hunter is pictured at right. The permanent loafer is playing the part of a fur stole.

I moved into this apartment in 1996. Come August of next year, I will have lived here ten years. That's about twice as long as I've ever lived anywhere in my life. It is also the first place I've ever lived where I spent time actually apartment hunting, chose it myself with no outside input, and have paid the rent and the bills myself (with no help and with varying degrees of success through time). It is my home. But until last year, it was gravely lacking.

When I signed the lease, it was made pretty clear that no pets were allowed. My manager had been begging and pleading with the landlord to change the policy, but he refused to consider it. I personally feel landowners who ban pets should be subjected to any number of creative and innovative tortures (like being forced to watch every episode of all ten seasons of Survivor back-to-back). Denying someone the company of an animal is cruel. Jerry came in through the back door early this year, stayed secret for a week, then was tacitly accepted by the management in what has come to be a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

I have been raised with pets my entire life (minus the eight years I lived here under this bio-fascist regime). By rough count, the permanent pets* I have had in my life consisted of five dogs, seventeen cats, one bird (a cockateil -- 'nuff said there), a quarter horse, a couple of Oriental fire-bellied toads, five hamsters and a guinea pig. My daughter kept her iguana at her father's house, which explains why Iggy has since shuffled off this mortal coil. My ex is a nice guy, but clueless about the care and feeding of dependent, confined things. I've laid down the law in this regard: The next exotic pet my daughter acquires, she pays for, and it lives at our house (Note: Tarantulas need not apply).

Jerry is what they call an "inside cat." He used to be an "inside/outside" cat when he lived in Savannah's father's house. But we live close enough to the hills that letting him run around outside makes me uncomfortable. I've already sacrificed one cat to the Coyote Gods -- I'd rather not do it again. Even in his tom-catting days, he wasn't a hunter. His sister was. Her reputation for bringing home half-eviscerated baby rabbits is the stuff of cat lore throughout the feline worldm I'm sure. But Jerry can't hunt. Won't hunt. Shows no interest in it. Unless he's sitting on one side of the glass, and the sparrows are pecking the seeds off the patio concrete on the other. Then he becomes the Great White Hunter.

Through the sliding glass door, he stalks them, follows them, conceals himself behind the vertical blinds, and makes that noise that my ex-college roommate used to refer to as "eeping" -- his jaw drops and "chatters", while a soft, very low machine-gun sound comes out of his mouth. I can only assume that the low-frequency sound is meant to help cats in the wild coordinate their conjoined attack on the unsuspecting prey. As it happens, because of the glass that separates them, the cat could be belting a cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and the "prey" would be oblivous. But it doesn't stop him from having his little primal "lion" (or "puma" or "ocelot") take over and drive him to hunt. The cruel sadist in me waits for the day when, after I've cleaned the sliding glass door, he actually decides to throw caution to the wind and pounce.

Watching him, I'm reminded that he started as a "wild thing." He wasn't really designed to live "inside," though doing so means he'll live a longer, healthier life. He was created to hunt other wild things. The same markers that dot his DNA are the ones carried by whatever feral feline began his lineage thousands of years ago, and DNA dies hard.

What about our DNA, then? What prompts so many of us to require the companionship of real, live "wild things" (domesticated though they may be) in our dwellings? Why does that give us such comfort -- lowering our blood pressure, raising our endorphines, curing all manner of physical ailment? What coaxed the first hunter/gatherer to believe that bringing home the pups of the wolf he'd just killed, then raising them as pets was a good idea -- especially knowing what truly awful pets tamed wolves make? (How many Neanderthal toddlers went missing, do you think?) Is it the control over nature? Is it companionship they give us? I don't live alone, after all. I have a teenager at home. And she actually wants to spend a lot of her time with me, as crazy as that sounds. So why the need for a big, largely inert furball that gives very little in the way of material benefit?

I don't have an answer yet. It very well might be the subject of my final paper. Film at eleven….

*This does not include the countless fosters -- rescued litters of barely-weaned feral kittens, stray dogs and homeless cats, rats and injured squirrels which came to live for a while, then later found new homes elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I Swore I Wasn't Going to Post About This!

But, really, who are we kidding? This has been bugging the crap out of me. James Frey. Oprah Winfrey. A Million Little Pieces.

I keep thinking if I talk about that lying little sack of poo, it only serves to give him more publicity. I read the first few chapters of the book weeks and weeks ago (before all the hoopla), and found it to be poorly written and ill-conceived, even for a memoir. As a work of fiction, it's like a bad rip-off of Go Ask Alice.

I have been stewing about it for a couple of weeks. The talk all over my MFA program forums is frightening. "Beautiful, man. He was totally playing with genre." And (from an instructor, no less), "What difference does it make? Everybody lies." And from the fiction writers: "Gee, golly, but we make shit up all the time." You're FICTION writers, you idiots!!!! The moral turpitude that is alive and well and living in the American literary community is breathtaking. No wonder this generation's literary claims to fame are the Jayson Blairs and the Judith Millers and the James Freys of the world. One creative non-fiction instructor, Hope Edelman, redeemed the entire program for me, though, with her post on Huffington Post.

But I found a website that has given me an outlet for my anger. It's called James Frey Owes Me Money. I wrote my letter to James last night, and we'll see if it makes the cut there. If it does, I'll link to it here. If it doesn't, I'll post the whole thing. Not all the posts are anti-Frey, but there are enough there to make me realize that I am not alone in the world. People out there do recognize that he is a liar and a fraud and an otherwise not-nice human being, and aren't afraid to tell him so in public.

So, keep your fingers crossed that my letter makes the site, so I can finally have some closure.


Update: My letter to James was indeed posted on the website, and here's the link.