Sunday, June 27, 2010

And now a word from...

Margaret Atwood, poet, novelist, critic, essayist, feminist:

You Fit Into Me

You fit into me
Like a hook into an eye
A fish hook
An open eye

Ouch. Didn't take too many words to see that relationship's probably not going to work out so well.
Here's what I know of Ms. Atwood:
1. She wrote The Handmaid's Tale, which I didn't really care for, and she wrote a FANTASTIC poem based on the documented hanging of a woman, for being a witch.The woman's name was Mary Webster, and she was left hanging all day and all night. Here's the kicker; she survived, and went on to live fourteen more years. Here's the other kicker (I wonder where that expression comes from....): Mary Webster was a relative of Margaret Atwood. Ooh, snap! Betcha didn't see that one comin'! The poem's called "Half Hanged Mary", and it's told from the woman's perspective. I always use it when I'm teaching The Crucible. Here 'tis:
2. She wrote another poem called "Siren Song" that I also love, and use when I am teaching The Odysssey. You're welcome, English teachers. If you look closely, ladies, you can find the key to getting any dude.
3. She also wrote lots of other great stuff. Find it yourself.
4. She's Canadian. Canadians are cool and their French is hard to understand and their Egg McMuffins have Canadian bacon in them, only they just call it "bacon", and they are real delicious, even though McDonald's is evil.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Burned again

Just a brief follow up: The Environmental Working Group rates my sunscreen, that which I liberally slather, as a product to avoid, because it is filled with retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone. Here's what they say about those chemicals:
This year, new concerns have arisen about a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate, found in 41 percent of sunscreens. The FDA is investigating whether this compound may accelerate skin damage and elevate skin cancer risk when applied to skin exposed to sunlight. FDA data suggest that vitamin A may be photocarcinogenic, meaning that in the presence of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, the compound and skin undergo complex biochemical changes resulting in cancer. The evidence against vitamin A is far from conclusive, but as long as it is suspect, EWG recommends that consumers choose vitamin A-free sunscreens.

EWG has again flagged products with oxybenzone, a hormone-disrupting compound found in about 60 percent of the 500 beach and sport sunscreens analyzed. The chemical penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream: biomonitoring surveys conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have detected oxybenzone in the bodies of 97 percent of Americans tested.

Great. That's just terrific. Perhaps it's time to rethink the burka. Find your sunscreen and more information at:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bathing is Overrated

Louis XIV, by Hyacinthe Rigaud
Guess what! I managed to work in one of the only three jokes I remember more than the punchline to into this post! Yay, me! See if you can find it!

Well, it's officially summer. Regina Spektor* sings a song about it that starts out, "Summer in the city - it's cleavage, cleavage, cleavage!" That seems like a fine "summary" (Yay! A pun!), but it doesn't quite address the other part of summer, which is MIZ-ER-A-BULL, if you live in, well, most of the continental United States.
I deliver this seasonal rant every year: Summer is so HOT! People die in this heat. It's like living on Mars. Mars is the one that's real hot, right? It's hot when the sun comes up and it's hot when it goes down, too. Birds walk with their beaks open in pathetic yellow v's; it's too hot to fly and they have to be ready, in case, inexplicably, a of drop moisture from unknown origin flings itself down their gullets. Fat chance of that, dummies. (What? Birds aren't particularly known for their intelligence, are they?) There are bugs EVERYWHERE, in the sky, in the water, even in the grass...what are those little bugs in the grass called again...Chiggers? I think they prefer to be called Chegroes, but that's not the point; the insects are crazy this year! (Did you see it? Get it? No matter how many times I tell it, it's still funny, right?! By the way, before you berate, it's not racist, it's word play, you know, like Shakespeare did! Racism's not funny, but Chegroes are hilarious!) The mosquitoes look at me as if I am their takeout order delivered. Just to go into the garden in the morning I have to cover myself in bug spray and slather on the sunscreen, which then makes the mud from the constant watering of the garden cake up all over me, especially between my toes, and, oddly, behind my left ear. When I ride my bike around the lake, even early, perspiration pours from me as if it was on tap. I'm dirty, sweaty and greasy all the time, and I'm sick of it.
I once had a boyfriend - no, really, I did!- who said that I was a closet dirty person. It's true - my personal hygiene has always been a little questionable, but nobody can ever really tell. For example, is that a lovely golden tan I'm sporting, or just a thin patina of grime? Can't tell, can ya? Well, I'm coming out of the closet. I'm not bathing for the rest of the summer. I mean really, what's the point? I'm setting my funk free. Not only that, I'm not wearing anything tight, restrictive or uncomfortable, which pretty much leaves me in a sports bra and man-panties. Grrrr! That's a whole different kind of hot, right?! It's summer in the city man; nothing wrong with cleavage, cleavage, cleavage! I haven't showered in two days, and I'm not going to start now! Join me, people! Let's not let our actions be dictated by the undeniable forces of nature! Surrender to sweat! Dive into dirt! Grime is groovy! Revel in your own rank ripeness! Who's with me?

* I believe I have already mentioned that in another of Ms. Spektor's songs, "Apres Moi"**, she gives a piece of advice I find myself revisiting surprisingly often: "Be afraid of the lame - they'll inherit your legs." I don't really know what she means, but since I'm afraid of so many, many things, I just added this to the list. Better safe than sorry, non?
**As you are probably aware, "Apres Moi"*** is an allusion to Louis XV's famous qoute, "Apres moi, le deluge," or "After me, the flood." I have always quite liked this quote, and have declared it loudly, with a flourish, to the lucky patron's of various adult beverage establishments, during festive, celebratory periods. Invariably, I get an identical response: I am stared at in an awed silence, then mocked, and subsequently cut off. I have always understood it to mean one of three things: EITHER, "after me, or my reign, there will be chaos and turmoil", which seems a little harsh to put on a bunch of happy drunks; OR, "after I'm gone, I don't give a crap if you folks are all swallowed by a flood" - again, kind of a buzzkilll; OR, "after me, everything will be different, like it was after the flood." This last one suits me, for while I am completely self-aggrandizing and self-centered, I am in no way a mean or spiteful drunk. Louis the one-five, was, by most accounts, a real jerk, but he can kind of be forgiven because he was born into it; he was king by the time he was five years old, and his dad, Louis XIV, who declared himself "the Sun King", was a real asshole. He ruled for something like 70 years and was an absolute monarch, and while he built France into a major seat of culture and power, he bankrupt the country and levied enormous, crushing taxes on the peasants while exempting the rich from payment. He adhered to the Divine Right of Kings, which says that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, and is granted the right to rule by God Himself. Louis XV's big quote is "L'etat, c'est moi," which means, basically, "Oh hells no! I AM the state, bitchez!" Rumor has it that when he gave a ball, nobody was allowed to leave the room as long as he was in it, not even to go to the bathroom. When I visited his castle at Versailles, I noticed that the Great Hall still smells like pee-pee. Still! It's been 300 years! Louis himself sat on a big throne with a hole cut out at the bottom and a chamberpot underneath. Oh, snap! Clever crapper, right?! This British tour guide I know, Michael 1 (not to be confused with Michael 2, who was also a British tour guide, but so not the same) told me that Louis XIV had hemorrhoids-probably from spending so much time on the toilet, I'm thinking - and that his doctors developed these special needle-nosed poop-hole pincers to remove them. Because everyone at court was supposed to emulate Louis, it became fashionable to have the operation, regardless of whether or not you had the 'rhoids. Gnarly!!!! (By the way, sometimes in this blog I just repeat what I've heard, without actually researching it. I just thought you should know.) Anyhow, neither of these guys was the king who hooked up with Marie Antoinette; that was the next Louis, the XVI. I don't know anything about his bathroom habits or the state of his sphincter.
***Also in the song, Regina Spektor sings in Russian. I always thought she was just repeating a verse, but, according to the world wide web, she's quoting a poem by Bruce Pasternak, author of Dr. Zhivago. Some people just make you feel damned uneducated, huh?
BONUS: No discussion of the Louis XIV, XV, or XVI, or of French History, or of monarchies, no matter how cursory, would be complete without the mention of Louis CK. Louis CK, I crown you a king of comedy. You are welcome.

This image is from Joey Devilla, at, under the title, "From Sun Chips to Sun King." I like this blog. The latest post has a teacher in Korea leading the class in American cursing. You should check it out.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Memorial Day

I keep trying to remember to write about something other than memory, but I guess I forget, because, guess what? I'm doing it again! Yay! This in spite of the fact that the only comment I got on the last couple of posts were, "I love you, I really do...but you are so weird!" When I asked my dad if he read the memory posts, he said, "Yeah, of course...well, I skimmed them...what were they about, again?" I say, "Readers' interest be damned! As long as I have that blue meanie on the blog, I will continue to get hits from around the world, making me an international success, even in places where they only like to look at the pictures, so screw you!!!"
One of the reasons memories are front and center right now is because this week brought two important memorials. One was for my friend Krissy Balhorn-Sines, who I mentioned in earlier posts
I have, sadly, been to many funerals and memorials. I am always glad to go, as I think it is a fitting way to honor the memory of a person I care about, and also to show the others who are mourning loss that they are not alone. I think it's important to show up, but, as you all know, these ceremonies can be brutal and extremely difficult to get over. Krissy's was not like that. All she ever wanted was for people to be happy, and she was tireless in helping them get that way. Her memorial was a party, a gathering of old friends, a celebration of a spirit of optimism and delight. There was a lot of drinking and dancing and love was in the air. The music was good, there was a smorgasbord of delicious food, and long stemmed Gerber daisies - the happiest flowers of them all - shared vases with pink flamingos. Here are some things I overheard:
"I swear, that girl is more fun dead than most people are alive!" This was said by a very drunk dude with the utmost reverence and respect.
"Your sister is the only woman who makes me wish I was a woman," spoken by a man who is obviously barking up the wrong tree.
"Feel of my cottony!" This was probably my favorite comment of the night.
"Relatively speaking, you are the least stumpy, thumb-like person here!" A compliment from a true friend.
"No, they're real! Big, right?! Feel 'em why don'tcha? No it's not's sheer bloat. I drink a lot." Sheer Bloat - great name for a band, don't you think?
Special kudos to Carple, who seized the day and made it a fantastic tribute to a wonderful lady. Carpie Diem!
The second memorial of the week goes to my grandfather, Pop Pop, who died this week in 1987. When I typed his name into the web to find out what cyberspace knew about him, this picture from popped out:

Needless to say, this is not my Pop Pop. My grandfather was a larger-than-life personality to me. As a child, I got him confused with iconic historical figures; he was a lawyer, and I imagined everyone in Dallas thinking of him as Honest Abe, striding through the courthouse with spurs on his boots, a la John Wayne, and law books in his hands, working tirelessly for the downtrodden like Atticus Finch. In reality he was a short man who never rodeo'd and practiced tax and estate law. I thought he was the strongest man alive. He could pull me and my sister and six cousins from a tire with a rope attached to it all around the pool, so fast that it almost made me sick, like a ride at Six Flags. He stood on his head like Jack Lalanne and once was a champion gymnast. He swam every day, long, clean strokes slicing through the pool he was so proud of, and I remember watching his brown back ripple through the blue water. He taught me how to swim, patiently and lovingly. He called my grandmother "Pud", short for Puddin', smoked a pipe, wore cufflinks, played bridge, and traveled the world. He loved football, the stock market, golf and gardening. He was meticulous in his record-keeping, and had a neat, blocky print, but a lovely, flowing cursive. He loved to eat, and chewed more slowly than anyone I have ever met. For breakfast he liked a soft-boiled egg in a cup into which he dipped his toast. At night he liked to get up and eat a bowl of ice cream with pretzels broken into it. He loved soup. Here is a piece of a poem I wrote about a dream that I had:

Suddenly, back in my grandparents' house, though it’s been seven years sold to a couple just married

Eager to start their life together, with new china and sheets

Yet somehow I live there, and I am me, but me of all ages: Infant, toddler, child, teen, woman, old

I walk through the rooms, feeling the floors beneath my feet

Cold marble, shag carpet, wood parquet, worn linoleum

I sit at my grandfather’s desk and fan crisp, white papers, sharpen pencils, twirl the Rolodex

Then to the fat corduroy chair that lays back, and then back again,

where, with my cousins, I told scary stories and watched “Love, American Style”

I stroll through the seasons of the seventies

Harvest gold, burnt orange, avocado, sunflower, burgundy

I hear family dinners, Johnny Carson, football, Everyone Knows it’s Wendy, You kids slow down!

I smell brisket and Vitalis, the white linen tablecloth, clean and pulled from the cedar drawer, my aunt’s perfume, Windsong or Woodhue, I think it was

And my cousins laugh with me, and jump on the bed, and sneak a look at the Playmates in Uncle Marc’s bathroom, under the towels, behind the toilet paper

Ghosts in the living room, the attic, under the bed, watching from the pictures in the hall

A faint wisp of Cherry Blend tobacco from a pipe long cold

One time, he was riding home from the law office he shared with my Uncle Marc. Suddenly, a foul odor filled the car.

"Pop, did you fart?" Uncle Marc asked from the front seat.

"Of course I did! Do you think I always smell this way?!"

He died a long, drawn-out, death after suffering with emphysema. He snuck smokes almost until the end, though my grandmother, his "Pud", quit cold turkey after more than 50 years so that it would be easier for him to stop.

After he died, I was so sad. My mom and sister were out of the country and my dad went on a long, solo road trip to California. I had a dream about Pop, just one, where I cried to him because I hadn't visited him often enough when he was in the hospital. He listened to all I had to say, and then replied, smiling, "Hospital, shmospital! You did everything you are supposed to do! I love you and I am fine! I played 18 holes this morning and I'm going on a cruise soon!" He laughed, ug, ug, ug-oh, like Popeye.

I woke up feeling better. Pop thought I was a good girl. Over the years, from time to time, I have wondered if he was checking up on me. Sometimes, when I was doing something bad or nasty, I became ashamed. But really, I think that's all just me. Pop would probably tell me I was just doing what I was supposed to do and that he loves me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I repeat myself when under stress

"Over and over and over/Like a monkey with a miniature cymbal/The joy of repetition really is in you"
Hot Chip, "Over and Over", from The Warning

"Any real record person knows that the number one most powerful marketing tool, when it comes to music, is repetition." Nile Rodgers, musician, producer, founding member of the band Chic, and all-around pop/rock/hip-hop legendary dude. By the way, "Le Freak", a song by Chic, repeats the word "freak" 42 times. "Le Freak" is the highest selling record ever on Atlantic records. Here is a guy playing it on the ukulele. Enjoy.

"Happiness is the longing for repetition." Milan Kundera, author. Kundera's most famous book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, deals with the concept of "eternal return", which states, as I understand it - and how Wikipedia explained it to me - that the universe is limited and finite, but time is infinite, and so everything recurs, and will continue to, forever. Frederick Nietzsche was a proponent of this theory, which he sees as possibly positive or negative, depending on how you look at it:
What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life, as you now live it or have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small and great in your life, will have to return to you, all in the same sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down, again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!" Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon...or how well disposed would you have to become of yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?" From The Gay Science
He goes on to say that:
... in order to endure the idea of recurrence, one needs: freedom from morality; new means against the fact of pain...; the enjoyment of all kinds of uncertainty [and] experimentalism, as a counterweight of this extreme fatalism; abolition of the concept of necessity; abolition of the "will"; abolition of "knowledge within itself"
from Will to Power
I've lost you, haven't I? You thought it was going to be something different when you saw The Gay Science, right? Suffice it to say that Neitzsche is probably right. All evidence points to the inevitability of repetition. Still and all, lacking absolutely everything it takes to "endure" the idea of eternal recurrence or return, I prefer to remain an 'unbearably unenlightened being' (see how I did that!), which is certainly why I make the same mistakes over and over and over, like a monkey with a miniature cymbal. (Brian Fellows of Safari Planet says: "That monkey got a crazy eye! Make it to stop looking at me with it's crazy eye! I'm Brian Fellows!")

D. H Lawrence was not overly fond of a life bound by redundancy, as evidenced by this quote:
"But better die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions."
Lawrence Durrell, poet, novelist, dramatist and travel writer, said:
"History is an endless repetition of the wrong way of living." Durrell is best known for his Alexandria Quartet, in which the first three books tell essentially the same story, but from different perspectives.* On a side note, D.H.Lawrence, who was considered to be a pornographer for most of his career was married to the same woman he married when he was 27 until he died in 1930 at the age of 45.(She was six years older - let's here it for the cougars!) Lawrence Durrell hung out with literary dirty-birds Henry Miller and Anais Nin, and named his daughter Sappho Jane, after the famous poet from the Greek isle of Lesbos - no, really! That's where she's from!- who was known as much for her sexuality as her work. There is some speculation that Sappho was bisexual, but there is a preponderance of evidence that she spent most of her time in Lesbos (insert rim shot here... on the drums, you idiot!) Sadly, Sappho Jane Durrell hung herself. Durrell married four times. There is no evidence that any of his later wives allowed him to chose the names of their children.

The last word on this subject will have to go to Donna Dixon, the actress you remember from tv show Bosom Buddies. "I'm very hard on myself because I know how good my body can look. [I have learned to] use less weight and more repetition so I don't become too muscular."
Well said, Donna.
Other last word - Remember I told you about Sum, by David Eagleman? The first story in it is about repeating every moment of your life in the afterlife, only arranged differently. It's great. This link is not it, but is the fabulous Jeffrey Tambor reading another story, "Metamorphosis", which starts, "there are three deaths"...the last one being when your name is spoken for the last time. In other words, according to this, you can't go on until there is nobody left to remember you.
*Last word, for reals! There is a FANTASTIC short story about the same event told from different perspectives by Robert Coover called "The Babysitter." When I first read it in college I thought it was the coolest story I ever read. I promptly forgot everything about it - title, author, etc. - except the plot. Special thanks to Dr. William B. Warde, who was able to find the story, based on my description, in less than a week.

BONUS for no reason at all: Cats reenacting the BP Oil Spill:

More on memoirs

"Most memoirs suck, the way most novels suck, the way most movies suck. It's just a fact of life." Mary Karr, New York Times bestseller author of three memoirs, The Liars' Club, Cherry and Lit, in an interview with Kurt Anderson.

She's a hypocrite, but she's hot!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Maxwell on Memories

Ever since yesterday, when I discovered that I am the most dedicated follower of my blog, I have been re-examining what it means to have and keep this cyber-diary. Really, why do it? It's not a way to keep up with friends and family; I see them, or call, or even write letters, and quite frankly, even though they love me, nobody is that interested in my battles with a tomato hornworm (bastards!), or my musings on duck genitalia (though it is fascinating!), or even my handy information regarding lady pirates (aaarrrgghh!). It's not really to get me to write; I keep a real diary, and I do write, lots. I can't really type, so it can take hours for just one post; it would seem I had something better to do. But here's the kicker...I don't. I like the blog. I like to write it and read and re-read it. I like using images that I find or create, and I like putting up the work of my friends and family. I think about the blog sometimes, and I go back and look up things that interest me or I get new ideas about things I want to explore or research or write about. I write for myself, so it makes sense that I am my biggest fan. Yay, me!
That being said, I have decided to dedicate the next few posts to things that other people have said that have made an impression on me. I have done this before:
and I really like these posts, especially when my friends sent their favorite quotes in, or I got to quote them. That's some good stuff. So send 'em if you got 'em, to my email or to the comments box, and if they're real cleverlike, I'll pretend like I said 'em myself.

This first one comes from William Maxwell. He was an author who died in 2000, after publishing a number of highly acclaimed novels, short story collections, children's books, and even some non-fiction, but he was also an editor for the New Yorker for forty years, where he worked with writers like Nabakov, Cheever, Welty, Updike, Salinger, Singer, and John O'Hara. This is from his novel So Long, See You Tomorrow:
What we, or at any rate, I, refer to confidently as a memory - meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion - is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the story-teller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.
He kind of looks like Sherman T. Potter from M*A*SH, right?
Though this idea -that memory is personal and mutable- might not exactly be a major revelation, I like this quote for several reasons. First off, it's well said, and I enjoy both his use of the comma and the dash. Second, I am fascinated with the moments of memory, and how they become infused, in a flash, with so many factors - mood, physicality, location, what came before, expectation, desire, age - the list of what goes into a moment is endless. Also, memories are both lasting and ephemeral, and I love how they are constantly mutating and solidifying with every remembrance. They are, almost by definition, a collage of experience; ideas, attitudes, facts, emotions, images, intangibles all juxtaposed and overlapping; layers of life compacted with alternate layers of meaning, perception and misinterpretation; and all of it simultaneously retained and discarded to emerge suddenly and unbidden from the mind's closets, maybe once, maybe again and again obsessively...well, yeah, like I said, the concept of memory fascinates me. I could go on; I haven't even gotten started on group memories, false memories, blocked memories, memory loss, muscle memory, Alzheimer's, dreams, or memes. Some people have ubermemories, some have synesthesia which gives a whole new spin to memory, and some people can't remember faces, so that they constantly fail to recognize the people they love. Dang, y'all! Is it any wonder that when I am thinking about all of this, I forget to flush the toilet, turn left, or call you back? I got a lot going on in here, people!
Third, I like the idea of a storyteller rearranging memories - even if they are not her own- so that they fit into a format that is "wholly acceptable", even if that means changing or imagining an entirely different story than what was inspired by the original moment that had to occur to set the ball rolling. The storyteller creates a new scene that will go down in the memories of the readers; one memory gives birth to unlimited possible new memories. It' so Proustian, and also so Beatlesque; after all, "There's nothing you can know that can't be known/ nothing you can see that isn't shown....", but oh, the things we can create from what we already have!
Finally, I found this quote at the front of a fantastic book called Dancer, by Colum McCann, who also wrote Let the Great World Spin. I really liked Let the Great World Spin, but I loved Dancer. It's about Rudolf Nureyev, and it's brilliant. I think McCann is such a wonderful writer. I could go on and on about him, also...he's just so good. He's also my kind of F-I-N-E, fine. Grrrr, in an intellectual kind of way. You should read his stuff, really.
The next one of his I'm going to read is Zoli, which is about a gypsy. Then the new one by DeLillo. But before all of those, my Mom's memoirs, which, as you might recall, brings us nicely back to Maxwell, on memories.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Woohoo! I just went to view my own blog - sometimes I like to sneak up on myself- and, according to my handy-dandy counter, I became the 1,001st satisfied customer- well, since I installed the official Statcounter counter - at this glorious site! Woohooo, I say! This means that I am officially a bad-ass. I am the Ali of blogs. I'm number one, you're number two, and I'm gonna beat the whoopee outta you!
But no, I must remain humble. I want to thank all of you who tune in to add a splash of color to your monochromatic lives, to press close to greatness, drawn to me like a moth to a flame, to revel in my light, my love, my wisdom, even to copy my style and wit - it really is the most sincere form of flattery, and you have my blessing. If not for you, this blog would be ...well, it would be the same, but you would not have had the opportunity to benefit from it. So thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for concretely affirming what I have always suspected...
smalleradventure rocks, bitchezz!!!!

Hmm. Upon further examination I see that my own computers, both at home and at school, the latter quite frequently during tax-payer funded working hours, are responsible for the majority of hits to this bogus blog, and that the rest of the hits come from people who went to Google Images and clicked on a picture of a blue meanie that somehow links here. Hellooooo? Is anyone out there?
One is not the loneliest number...1,001 is.

P.S. Last day of school...I'm back to woo-hooing, y'all! happy Summer!