Monday, December 29, 2008

Cat of the Week Update
Yufi and Dean, the pair that was my "Cat of the Week" for December 12th have been adopted (yes, together)! Several other of my favorite have also gone to their forever homes. Lucille, a sweet gentle girl who used to hang out in the same condo as Tiger; Phoebe, a quirky little cat who loved to sleep under her blankie; and Cricket, a one-eyed sweetie (she had a cataract) with tons of personality.

Obviously I went into PHS today and had my usual fabulous time. I even helped point one sweet lady to one of our shyer kitties and they were going home together when I finished my shift. Happy, happy!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Me and the blues
So yesterday was the 2008 KZSU 24-hour blues marathon. Of which I did 9 hours. Solo.

I did the 3am-6am slot early Saturday morning and then went back at 6 pm and closed us out until midnight. From 6-midnight I played a record (for me) 71 songs. Have I mentioned how much I love the blues? For me it's all about the deep down, low down type of music. No soul. No R&B. No borderline rock. It's the back porch, life sucks, i'm miserable kind of music that means the blues to me. I love the classic crew: Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, BB King, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson -- that crowd. But I covered from the 30's up until releases that came out two months ago. And it was, if I do say so myself, kick-ass fabulous.

And today.....I'm pooped.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cat of the Week: Motley
Meet Motley, a sweet, loving 7-year old domestic short hair with a gorgeous "plaid" coat. She's a born lap-sitter. When I went into the condo that Motley shares with 4 other cats one of the others claimed half my lap, and Motley took the other half. She purred non-stop (until she fell asleep) and she's a face-licker. (And hand, chin, ear, and anything else she can get her tongue on.)

Motley is amazingly mellow, loving, affectionate and gentle. The only time she showed any bad-temper is when I had to physically lift her off my lap and she complained, vociferously. She curled up with the other cat and the two of them molded themselves into my arms. And they fell asleep. Talk about melting my heart.

If your lap needs some warming, please stop by the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA and meet Motley (her ID # is: A209641). She'll melt your heart too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

You say it's your birthday? Well it's my birthday too, man
Yeah, it is. It's midnight here at Helen Manor which means it's now December 23rd, my birthday. I'm getting to that age where birthdays don't really make me happy -- they tend to make me a bit blue. Not that I'm getting old. I mean I am, but it beats the alternative. But I get all guilt-ridden about not having done more to save the world and then all mopey because I have so little to show for my life. (And by "so little" I mean I'm the only one of my friends (and the oldest of my friends) to not own a house. That always upsets me when I think of it because it's the one thing I've always wanted.

But I also try to make birthday resolutions. Since mines so close to the end of the year I don't bother with New Year's resolutions. I just do ones for me, for the coming year. Nothing huge. No "I'm going to learn how to speak Chinese" or "I will train for a triathalon." Usually it's to do or try one thing I've always wanted to do/try but never have. It's to go someplace I've never been. And it's to make at least one new friend or to deepen a relationship with a casual buddy. I've manage all three.

This year I finally took the step towards working with animals, which I've always wanted to do. After a summer spent taking care of kittens I'm now a cat TLC volunteer and I love it. I went in today for nearly 3 hours and was so happy to be there, to help the kitties, to talk to people looking for a new pet an being able to point them to my favorites. It's a wonderful thing and I am getting so much personal satisfaction from it all. And I am so grateful to Husband for giving me this opportunity.

We also went to the New Academy of Sciences. OK, we were going to go on our cruise of a lifetime trip to Greece, Italy, and Turkey -- which would have been amazing. But I got sick and we cancelled. So we stayed close to home and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and saw the beautiful new Academy. Not the Parthenon, but gorgeous nonetheless. It reinforces how lucky we are to live in this area where we have such gorgeous places to visit within an hour's drive. Half Moon Bay. Golden Gate Park. The zoo. It's a fabulous place to play and I loved going tourist in our backyard.

But the highlights of each year's goal is always the new friend. I think the wonderful surprise for this year is Mama D. Thanks to our bookgroup we've become closer to each other and every new interaction just knocks me sideways at how cool she is. She's a fabulous lady, a great mom, a wonderful friend and someone that I am grateful to have in my world. Which, of course, makes me think how grateful I am to have all my amazing friends. The Foreigner and The Lurker, Mama D and S de M, Finny and Bubba, the Colorado Contingent, The Belle of Belfast City and her handsome guys, my ex-hubfiend, and those at KZSU that are special to us. All of them/you enrich my life in ways you may not even know of. But you do. And I am daily grateful to you all for being there. Especially this year, when I needed lots of support, you always made me know I had people to lean on. Thanks to you all, for everything.

As for me, I'm planning on spending the day in bed. In my jammies. I want movies in bed. I want to read in bed. I want to nap in the afternoon with my cat curled up on the bed. I want dinner in bed. I may get out to take a decadently long, hot bath -- but then it's right back into bed. With an interlude for cake. But that's all I want. A day alone with Husband. He's been working crazy lately and I want some time together. Sounds like a perfect day.

Or maybe I'll treat myself and go into the shelter for a few hours and work with the cats. They're low on volunteers this week since people are traveling so they could probably use an extra hand. I think it would be a wonderful gift to myself to do something that makes me so happy. And then dinner in bed...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Name that poem...
The recent cold spell has put in mind a poem that captures chill quite well...

St Agnes' Eve---Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:

And on it goes. Anybody know who/what it is? Guesses?

There is something about winter, Christmas, and my approaching birthday that always makes me poetic. I read it. Hell, I even write it. I wonder why? I don't get poetic in the summer. But the cold makes me all lyrical. Today I paged through my favorite contemporary poet, Billy Collins and loved every minute. Tomorrow I might get into some other favorites. Neruda. Auden. If I'm feeling strong, The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde.

Does winter put you into odd moods? For me it's baking and poetry. What is it for you?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cat of the week: Mr. Peabody
Meet Mr. Peabody, he's black and he's proud! Mr. P is all about the love. I opened his cage and he was instantly in my face with a "hi, hi, pet me, hi, hello, hi" greeting that was completely endearing. He's 9-years old and extremely gentle, sweet, and affectionate. All the get acquainted rooms were busy so he and I hung out at his cage, playing with pipe cleaners and butting heads.

This cat has that spark of something extra. Charm. Savoir faire. Whatever you want to call it. And yet he manages to be both mellow and memorable.

It's a sad fact that black cats are often overlooked because many people are superstitious about them. Personally, I think anybody who adopted Mr. Peabody would be in for some great luck.

You can find out more at the Peninsula Humane Society website. Mr. Peabody's reference number is A435841.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No, I'm not ignoring you
Just haven't had much to say. Plus I was on the radio for 5 hours today, 3 hours yesterday.

Actually, in spite of the fact that I did a totally kick-ass show today, I've kinda got the blues. Today would have been my beloved best friend/brother Steve's 45th birthday. Only he's not around for the whole cake and presents thing because stupid ol' AIDS done him in. (Sorry, black humor is my personal savior.)

I tend to get sad on his birthday. My birthday is next week and he and I would always get together between our days and celebrate together. This typically involved lunch at the Patio Cafe on Castro Street (where I would pay because Steve would never have his wallet). I miss our lunches. I miss getting catty over the camp waiters, going window shopping for things we couldn't afford, and then splitting something gooey for dessert. Basically, I just miss him. Stupid AIDS.

It looks like I'll be taking over the airwaves again on Friday morning, filling in for Husband from 6-9 am. Then next week I'm off until the big KZSU blues marathon on the 27th. (If you've never heard me play the blues, tune in....I do a seriously fucking great blues show.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More about PHS
I love volunteering at the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA. It's the most fun and most personal satisfaction and fulfillment I've experienced in about 10 years. Every day that I go in I find myself loving it more, and spending more time there. The average shift is only 2 hours but yesterday I was there for 3 1/2 because I kept telling myself "just one more kitty." That's why it's so hard to leave -- there are always more cats who need attention.

I have to think they are desperate for cat TLC volunteers because on Thursday only 2 cats got out of their cages and I seemed to be the only volunteer on Friday. The shelter is so overrun with cats that they are asking people to foster them for a few weeks to free up some space. In fact Lily/Smith was gone to a foster home. (Poor thing, she keeps getting moved around.) I saw two adorable kittens get adopted yesterday, which was wonderful. But then a litter of 6 came in -- we can't seem to get ahead of the cat curve.

Every day there brings its own joys and surprises. From my favorite pair Dean and Yufi (see post below) who were so cute with each other to Blue, a sweet little cat who is very scared of loud noises and needed lots of patience, love, and attention. There was the huge 18-pounder who was a total lump to try to pick up but incredibly curious and fun in the GAR (get acquainted room). There was the cat condo, where Tiger lives, where my lap was the best seat in the house. And there was one little charmer who sniffed every corner of the GAR and then spent about 5 minutes attacking a ribbon with a dedication that would make a lion proud.

It's so hard to see so many amazing animals desperately in need of loving homes. All they want is a person or a family of their own. And they give so much in return. There are some where as soon as I walk up to their cage they're right there, saying hello, eager to play and so happy to get the attention. Some want a mix of petting and play. Others just want the love. And each one has his or her own personality and I'm loving getting to know them. I just wish I could do more to help them find their forever homes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cats of the Week: Yufi and Dean
Dean (top photo) and Yufi are a bonded pair. Two domestic shorthair sweethearts that would like to be adopted together. Their video shows how great they are as a pair.

I took Dean into the room first and he sat at the window and stared, with great concern, until I brought Yufi in. Then they had a ball. They politely took turns sitting in my lap; first one then the other. When one was in my lap the other was either playing or sitting close by. They groomed each other, had a great time attacking a ribbon, and were both purring up a storm.

Many people say cats are happier in pairs. If you would like to adopt two cats that already adore each other, Yufi and Dean might be just the right duo for your home. You can find out more at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA website.

(Their ID#s are A437013 / A437015).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

CD Pick of the Week: Masters of Chicha
Masters of Chicha by Juaneco y Su Combo is oh, so cool! Chicha is a Peruvian blend of cumbia, Andean folk music, rock and roll and a bit of everything else. A blend of instrumental and vocal tracks. Think Amazonian surf guitars, R&B organ, and the house band in the coolest, grimiest dive bar in the jungle. All with a retro 70s sound. Love all of this. Totally fun.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Cat-proofed and Santa-ready
We're ready for Christmas around our homestead. We put up our tree today. It's gorgeous. A bit shorter than we usually get, but Husband found this one an it had such a perfect shape that we couldn't resist. I indulged in my tradition of watching White Christmas while decorating it and now our stocking have been hung by the chimney with care.

This year we by-passed the whole problem and didn't put ornaments on the bottom part of the tree. OK, there are 2 or 3, but they're all non-breakable and cat proof. If this year is anything like last we'll end up with nothing at all on the bottom and everything crammed onto the top. Hey, Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) can't resist the shiny.

Happy ho-ho, everyone. Now, bring on the hot cocoa with Bailey's...

Friday, December 05, 2008

My eyes! My eyes!
Check out this stellar gallery of Swedish dance bands from the 70's. You have never seen this many bad outfits and big sideburns in one place in your life.

Cat of the Week: Tiger
Because each time I'm at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA I meet yet another amazing cat that just steals my heart, I've decided to start a Cat of the Week feature here at Myth-Taken.

My first COTW is Tiger. He's a handsome 8-year old tabby (a vintage cat) who will sit in your lap until those metaphorical cows come home. He even has his own video. Tiger is living in a kitty condo with 8 other cats and when I walked in and sat down he immediately claimed my lap as his sovereign territory. He sat there, purring happily away, for 20 minutes while the other cats made do with random pets and scratches behind the ear. My lap was his.

Tiger was such a love that I went back into the condo at the end of my shift and exactly the same thing happened. I sat down, he curled up, and we stayed that way for about 10 minutes. It was actually painful to push him off and leave.

If you want a gentle, affectionate animal -- and the ultimate lap cat -- this charmer is your boy. We have unfortunately already ascertained that Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) is a one-cat only pet. Otherwise I honestly think Tiger would have come home with me this afternoon. He is beautiful, sweet, loving and (amazingly!) available.

To find out more visit the PHS website at Tiger's ID number is A436762.

Somebody PLEASE give this guy a home. He's a total love bug.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The return of Smith
So Smith/Glory/Lily has popped back into my life. Not at our house, thankfully, unfortunately, but at the Humane Society. I had some free time this afternoon and went to the shelter to be with the kitties. And there she was.

She recognized me before I even saw her. I walked into the room and I hear this insistent meowing and saw a little white paw poking out through the cage. So I squatted down to see who was making all the noise and it was Lily. I was so happy to see her, but I think she was even happier to see me. When I opened the cage door she leapt into my arms and immediately began rubbing her head against me. I took her into the get acquainted room and we spent about 15 minutes together. She sniffed, she explored, she sat in my lap, she shed a lot, she explored some more, she attacked my shoelaces. I loved seeing her, knowing she was doing well, and knowing that she is in the perfect place to find a loving home.

I was concerned about seeing her again -- wondering how I'd feel. I'm surprised I don't feel as guilty as I thought I would. It was just a happy thing to be with her again and to know that I'll be able to take care of her until she finds her home.

The other highlight of my day was being covered in kittens. But I won't tell you because that will just make you jealous.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Radio Goo-Goo
Next week KZSU starts its interim schedule. This is the time between academic quarters when we toss out the regular schedule and it's all sort of up in the air. People leave. Other people take extra slots. Some do several shows a week. Some DJs break out of their usual genre and do completely different types of shows.

I'm one of those DJs.

Next week I'll be doing my regular Tuesday night world music show At the Cafe Bohemian from 6-8 pm. But on Wednesday (December 10) from 2-6 I'll be doing a show I'm calling Bathysphere Blues. It'll be blues so down deep that you'll get the bends if you come up too soon. The following week I am not doing my Tuesday night show, but from 2-5 on Wednesday the 17th I'm hosting Cipher's Crop Circle which will be a mash-up of soul, R&B, blues, jazz, and world. (Heavy on the Motown.)

Tune in, lovies.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

World AIDS Day
December 1st is World AIDS Day. There will be events and ceremonies around the world. Close to home there is always something going on at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. It's a place that's special to me and my friends. The names of "the Steves" are part of the Circle of Friends, each has a tree planted in his honor, and it's where we gathered to commemorate 10 years since we lost Steve.

It's one of those days on which I cannot help but reflect. I miss them all the time, but every year on AIDS Day I think of them with love and sadness. And it inspires me to appreciate how lucky I was to have had them in my life. Steve, especially, was a huge part of who I am. I still cannot believe he's been gone so long, or that I shall grow old without him to lean on.

In honor of the day I urge you to do something sloppy, like tell the people in your life that you love them. It helps me to miss them less if I let their loss inspire something good.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Where do I pay?
So today was my first official shift as a cat TLC volunteer at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA. I'm surprised they don't charge people to volunteer there. It was the most fun, and coolest thing I've done in ages. If you like animals and have a few hours each week, I urge you to get involved.

It was really crowded today (who knew that Black Friday applied to shelters?), which was nice. But it meant I wasn't able to take any of the kitties out of their cages. But they all got lots of love, petting, and play inside their homes. And they were so happy to get the love. Some of the poor things hadn't been socialized at all since last week -- so it's no wonder they were eager for attention and affection (which I was happy to give).

Each cat was different, with a distinct personality. Some were eager for love. Some wanted to attack pipe cleaners. Others made it very clear when they had had enough. There was one biter. A couple of shedders. A lot of purrers. And one that I especially wanted to take home (his name is Reno).

It was a fabulous two hours and I didn't want it to end. In fact, if I didn't have to come home to cook my 15 pound turkey, I'd have stuck around to cuddle a few more.

Honestly, a wonderful, wonderful thing to do.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank you
Today, for those of you either outside the US or in a cave, is Thanksgiving. Which means it's the appropriate time to be thankful for all the wonderful things in our lives. Yeah, it has something to do with eating too much, making polite small talk to relatives, and going into a turkey coma. But thanks is what it should all be about. So....thank you to:

- Husband. Above everything else in my life is this wonderful man who puts up with my moods, my health problems, my white trash family, and my addiction to British mysteries. And who loves me in spite of everything. And for those of you not married to Husband (that would be everyone else)...nyah, nyah....I got the best guy.

- The most amazing friends ever. I think the universe is compensating me for my atrocious family by giving me a family of friends to make up for it. And I love each and every one of them. I'm not sure if I deserve them, but I'm keeping them nonetheless. They are smartest, coolest, funniest, sweetest, most generous and loyal group of people I know and I am so lucky to have them,

- KZSU. The little station that gave me so much. If it weren't for KZSU (and Foreigner and her husband) I never would have met Husband. But each week it gives me something. My show. I love being on the air. I love finding wonderful new World artists to play. I love pulling old favorites out of the library and giving them some love. I love having the freedom to play whatever I want. I love having been part of such lunacy as the short song marathon (as many 1-minute songs we could play in 24-hours) and the 60th Anniversary Special. It's a fabulous place and I'm so grateful to have been part of it for 8 years. I am also grateful to everyone at KZSU who works so hard to keep it up and running; especially our Chief Engineer, our Program Director, our Music Director and all the other genre directors.

- The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA. Not only did they give us Cipher (the World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) (for whom I am also incredibly thankful) but they let me volunteer there. And every day their dedicated group of staff and volunteers save the lives of animals around the Bay Area. They give life and love to so many deserving critters, keeping them safe until they can find families to love them. I am so proud to be a part of that organization.

- Obama won the election! Enough said.

- Health. After being mysteriously sick for about 18 months they found what was wrong with me and fixed it. I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to not be sick. I can eat. I can get out of bed. I don't have to worry about going to ER every other month. And while I miss the fun IVs of pain meds, I'm so much happier having my life back. It's not something I take for granted. Every day I wake up smiling, enjoying the simple pleasure of eating a bowl of corn flakes and knowing I won't throw it up. (Hey, it's the little things in life.)

- Safety. I'm safe. The people I love are safe. We don't live in a war zone. We have enough to eat. We don't have to worry about being shot when we go out of our houses. We don't have to live in fear that we'll be hauled off mysteriously in the night because we wrote "I think George Bush is an idiot" on our blog. We have freedom and security. And that means so much, especially considering so many people in the world don't have that.

- The people who fight. Not just the armed forces. (Regardless of how you feel about the war, you have to feel gratitude for people who do the hard jobs....because hell, I'm not going to.) But also the people who fight to give us all that wonderful safety. Organizations like The Southern Poverty Law Center, Amnesty International, and Doctors Without Borders. Thank you for fighting the good fight, for helping the world, and for having your hearts in the right place.

- Simple joys. There are so many things in life that make me happy. Stupid, little things that make life good. Reading a good book while taking a hot bath. Making cookies from scratch. Watching old movies. Having a cat curl up next to you in bed and start purring. Watching sports (when your team is winning, of course). Great music.

- The people I've never met. People whose work or life has affected me somehow. Who make my life better and who I'll never be able to thank in person. Barack Obama, Sanseverino, Judi Dench, Arturo Perez-Reverte, Lila Downs, Jon Carroll, Patrick McDonnell (creator of the comic "Mutts"), and way too many other musicians to name.

- You. Thanks for reading. I know who most of you are. I'm sure there are a few I don't know. But I thank you for giving me a venue for my occasionally dull thoughts and but taking the time to comment when I say something you like, don't like, or that makes you laugh.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kitten smitten
Today I was shadowed on my first session as a cat TLC volunteer at the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA. It was wonderful and I start my first solo volunteer shift this Friday afternoon.

They are really in need of volunteers, so if any of you like cats and have time to kill -- especially during the weekdays, I urge you to come down and volunteer. The shelter is overrun with cats -- so many that a few are only getting out of their kennels once or twice a week. That's not nearly enough. Cat TLC volunteers take cats out, play with them, give them love, and generally make them happy while the kitties wait to find their forever homes. It's so hard not to want to adopt a few myself, and each time I go in I fall a little in love with one or two. I just wish they all had the love and comfort of a family like Cipher (the World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) has with us. They all deserve a family. And if you want to get involved in an incredibly worthwhile organization, I can't recommend PHS too highly. Everyone I've meet there has been wonderful, warm, and kind. I'm really looking forward to getting more involved and am so thankful to Husband for giving me this opportunity to do something I love.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Now taking reservations for leftovers
So every year when I have to drag poor Husband to my mom's for a stomach-churning white trash Thanksgiving, we compensate the next day by having our own Thanksgiving the next day. We do the whole meal over again: turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, pie, you name it.

Well, yesterday I went shopping for our provisions but when I was looking at turkeys they didn't have anything smaller than 12 lbs. So I decided to try a different store later in the week and buy just a turkey breast. Then I went to the checkout. Because it was both bookgroup night and I was shopping for Thanksgiving, it was a pretty hefty grocery bill. And at the checkout, the nice lady said that this week, if you spend over $100, you get a free turkey. "Well, why not?" I asked myself. I hadn't bought one yet and this would save us some money. So I accepted. And off the bag girl trots to the free turkey bin and comes back with a fucking 15 pound frozen monstrosity. Really, the thing must be part ostrich. Or mastadon.

I couldn't actually refuse at that point (mostly because it was immediately put in a plastic bag and dumped into the under part of the grocery cart) so off I go with the Turkey That Ate Montana.

So now Husband and I, in our Thanksgiving dinner for two, now have about 7 pounds of turkey each we have to get through.

I am hereby inviting all our friends to join us on Friday for Thanksgiving, Part Deux. Seriously, if any of you want to come and hang out, have some dinner, play some games, listen to great music, and help us get through this mega-bird, we'd love to have you. Please. (Please?)

I shall now start clipping recipes for turkey soup, turkey pot pie, turkey tacos...

Fifteen pounds?!?!?!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sorry About Those Treaties
So I'm on the air twice tomorrow. From noon-3 I'll be hosting a show I call "The Rent Party." It's a mix of blues, jazz, world, and bluegrass. Not my usual fare, but hopefully enjoyable.

Then in my regular spot, 6-8 pm, I'm doing my 8th annual Thanksgiving week Native American music special. This time around it's entitled "Sorry About Those Treaties." It'll be a mix of traditional and contemporary music from a variety of First Nations artists. I'm sorry it's not a full 3-hour slot, but it'll be damned good anyway, I promise.

You can listen to KZSU online or via iTunes. (Radio -> College -> KZSU). And I'll be updating my playlist as I go on our wonderful friend Zookeeper.
I miss Freddie
It doesn't seem possible, but it was on this day way back in 1991 that Queen front-man Freddie Mercury died of AIDS. I've always thought he had one of the best voices in rock music and I'm a huge Queen fan. I recall years ago walking by one of his panels when we went to the display of the AIDS Quilt in D.C. and feeling tremendously sad.

AIDS isn't in the news much these days. It's been supplanted by breast cancer as the disease of popular consciousness. Nothing against breast cancer, it's a horrible disease and deserves as much attention and research as possible. But I wish the tragic urgency of the 80s hadn't faded so much. I don't miss the pain, but I do miss the money it brought in.

It's hard to comprehend how long The Steves have been gone. I still miss them every day. After cursing the fact that AIDS has faded from people's minds, I have to confess that I'm one of the guilty. I still write the checks (though not as much as we used to since we're living on one income) but I don't give my time the way I did. Illness kept me from AIDS Walk this year for the first time in, what, 15 years? And i don't give my time, or my heart, like I used to. These days I volunteer with kitties, not the dying. Easier on the soul but I do feel the "I'm not doing enough" guilt. And I do the old "if not me, who?" trip on myself to try (and fail) to convince myself to go back. But I honestly don't think I can.

But what I can do is let today's sad anniversary inspire me send a bit of money to the American Foundation for AIDS Research. And maybe play "You're My Best Friend" and hope it doesn't make me cry.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quantum of popcorn
Today Husband and I saw the new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. First the good: Daniel Craig is very sexy, Jdudi Dench is a goddess, Jeffrey Wright is back as Felix, and there is a bit more (though not much) human than Casino Royale.

Now the bad: Some of the scenes were edited with such quick cuts that my brain couldn't register what I was seeing before the next shot came into frame. I know I missed things (especially the opening car chase and a scene of the famous Sienese horse race, The Palio), because I just couldn't grasp the shot before it was gone. The plot is as incomprehensible as most recent Bond films. (Something to do with water, a secret organization, personal vendettas, and lots of who can you trusts.) And there weren't any really cool gadgets.

I enjoyed it, but the one things that's missing from a lot of the recent Bond movies is that they aren't films I want to watch multiple times. The Bond classics, like Dr. No, You Only Live Twice, and Goldfinger I could see over and over again. But I doubt I'll want to curl up with Quantum of Solace because it's not much fun. Sure, it's a good action flick with lots of loud noises and macho shootings and stuff. But I miss Q, and the sly humor Bond used to have, and there wasn't even a good sex scene. Plus we seem to have regressed in terms of what Bond girls can do. Remember how cool Michelle Yeoh was in Tomorrow Never Dies? She was a woman who was completely Bond's equal and could literally kick ass as well as he.

Well the most recent Bond chick, in spite of being part of her country's secret police, needed Bond to tell her how to kill someone, fell apart at the end, and was generally wimpy throughout. Luckily Dame Judi (as M) was around to show just how strong and fabulous women can be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

God on Trial
So most of today's TV programming is total crap. But every so often something comes along to remind you of what a powerful medium TV is. One such event is God on Trial on Masterpiece Contemporary. It was on PBS earlier this month and I hope you haven't missed it because it truly does live up to the "masterpiece" billing.

The story is that a group of prisoners at Auschwitz put God on trial for breach of contract; basically breaking his covenant with the Jews. Whether or not this actually happened is still a debate but it's entirely plausible. How often, in times of crisis, do people ask "how could God let this happen?"

What makes God on Trial so amazing are the performances. , Stephen Dillane, Stellan Skarsgard, and Rupert Graves play the tribunal...a rabbi, a professor of law, and a young man at odds with his more religious father. The other prisoners cover all walks of life, from a Polish glove maker who wonders why his mother had to suffer to a French physician who argues against the existence of God from a scientific point of view. But it's the wonderful stage actor, Antony Sher (who I had the privilege of seeing as both Richard III and Shylock with the Royal Shakespeare Company) who makes the most dramatic impression. He doesn't even speak until over an hour into this 90-minute film but when he does you can't take your eyes off him. He makes the most brilliantly-written argument against a benign God that I've ever heard and his performance is passionately perfect.

God on Trial is not easy to watch. For anyone with a heart nothing about the Holocaust is. The fact that, at the end, half of these characters we've come to know and care about are herded off to be executed only adds to the sense of pain that you feel. But it's worth it. It's powerful, thought-provoking, and one of the finest things I've seen on TV in years. I'll be thinking about this one for a while.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Silhouette Masterpiece Theatre
That Wilhelm Staehle is one weird guy. Funny, too.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meanwhile, back in the 1600's...
A "cousin" (the relationship is too complicated and dull to explain) went to the village in France where my ancestors are from. And, while there, received a copy of their genealogical research into our family. Another cousin (see previous parenthetical comment) gave me a copy and I now have my father's family back into the 1600's.

It's both fascinating and strangely anticlimactic. I didn't do the research, so I don't feel that sense of discovery. And the historian in me wants to know the documentation. It's just a list of name that I can't collaborate. I can't find records to substantiate the tree, so I'm not certain where the French cousins got the information. A family bible? A private detective. I suppose living there they have access to French records that I can't access from California. But I wish I had the evidence to back all this up.

There's a lot of information to copy onto my version of the family tree; a process complicated by the fact that I'm working from a copy of a copy of a copy and some of the writing is both small and faint. A magnifying glass (shades of Sherlock Holmes!) helps, but there are a few names and/or dates that are infuriatingly undecipherable.

But I'm learning a lot. For example, all of my male relatives seem to be named either "Jacques" or "Jean" and the women are heavy on the "Catherines" and the "Maries." They also seem to be impressively long-lived. Many into their 70s, which was unusual for that time. One of the things that really makes me wish for documentation is that the family tree lists exact birth and death dates for many of these long-dead grandparents. So how do they know that someone was born on July 17, 1684? I want to see the proof myself. (Maybe I'll just have to go back to France and this time actually get out of Paris.)

Husband got out the atlas and we found the series of little villages where they were from. They seem to be within a 30 mile radius, which makes sense as people didn't travel that far afield in the 17th century. All from the Pyrenees, not too far from the Spanish border. (Tour de France country.)

It's a fascinating set of documents that will take me ages to get through. In addition to the printed materials from the French cousins, the American cousins have hand-written notes from members of my grandmother's generation. These detail the family after they came to the US and are about as easy to read as hieroglyphics. Luckily I learned how to read hieroglyphics when I was a Classics major.

Anyway, it's a huge breakthrough in terms of family research. I wish I could have made the discoveries myself, but it's wonderful to have so much information going back so far. Apparently I have no famous relatives. I'm not the long-lost granddaughter of Charlemagne or Napoleon. (Husband has famous knife-wielder and Texas freedom fighter Jim Bowie on one offshoot of his tree.) But it's wonderful to know who and where I come from.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am the worst human being on the planet
Yesterday we took Smith back to the Humane Society. After a sleepless night and an awful morning, Forrest and I realized it wasn't going to work. I know we didn't give it much time -- but we know Cipher and she was miserable. We've never heard her hiss, snarl, growl, or spit before, but put another cat in her territory and she turns into Satan's pussycat. Both she and Smith wanted to be Alpha cats and there was no negotiation between them.

I think the big problem was that Smith wasn't our choice. We might be OK with another cat, but one we chose because we liked him/her and because we thought he/she would be OK with Cipher. This cat was kind of an accident, we took her because my mom changed her mind. And we thought it was worth a try rather than just taking her back to the shelter. But it was a huge mistake. And Fo and I just weren't that committed to having her that we were willing to put up with a few weeks/months of fighting and upsetting Cipher.

And, now that Smith's gone....we feel awful. Relieved, but guilty. I cried when we left her at the shelter and feel like I'm the most heartless human ever. We know it's for the best, that in the end she'll find her perfect home. We just feel awful that it wasn't us and that the poor thing had to go back into a kennel. Being a volunteer at the Humane Society I know she'll be taken care of, will get lots of volunteer love, and will one day rule her own household (like Cipher rules ours), but I still feel bad. It's also going to be hard going to the Humane Society every week and see little Smith in the cat room and know I brought her there.

Like I said, intellectually I know it was the right thing to do. But emotionally I'm a wreck. I couldn't shut off my brain and sleep last night....I just kept seeing that cute little pink nose and those sweet green eyes.

So, I'm the worst human being on the planet.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cipher vs. Smith - Round 2
Is this the cat my mom was talking about? The scaredy cat that hid all the time? Cause she's nothing like that. Smith is curious (she's sniffed the entire house), active (she jumped up on the kitchen sink), and actually quite aggressive (taking the hissing initiative at poor Cipher).

Husband and I are nervous wrecks. They met. (The cats, not us.) And circled each other like prizefighters for two hours. Cipher stalked her so low to the ground she wouldn't have cleared a speed bump. Smith staked out every room in the house, hid under the sofa, crawled under the bed, tried to pee in Cipher's box, and generally raised hell.

There was hissing. There was growling. There were noises usually associated with Linda Blair's head turning around.

And through it all, we were freaking out. We've never seen Cipher like this. Our sweet, playful, loving kitty became sullen, nervous, and angry.

We know it's natural. We've heard from the experts (Husband's folks who have 5 cats -- my ex who has 4) about integrating kitties and how it takes time and patience. We're just not sure we're brave enough.

Smith is a really sweet cat, and we'd hate to have to bring her back to the shelter. The poor thing must be so stressed and mother only adopted her a month ago, then she's here, and next....? But it's so hard to be strong in the face of our Cipher being upset, our not being sure we want another cat, and Smith causing havoc in the house.

God do I need a nap.
Cipher vs. Smith - Round 1
The new cat is in residence. We've tentatively named her "Smith." My reasoning is the poor thing has had 3 names if 3 weeks so she's in need of an alias. The name might change as we get to know her better, but for now it's Smith.

And Cipher and Smith are both in the process of being miffed. Smith is in the office with Husband, with the door closed and his fingers crossed. Cipher is sitting right outside, sniffing and meowing. They had a brief interlude, which involved Smith hissing at Cipher and Cipher puffing up her tail to approximately the size of an adult boa constrictor. Smith has made several alien noises, none of which were met with anything like approval from Cipher.

I'm in the living room, hiding, having taken an Imitrex due to a severe cat-induced stress headache. Cipher, by the way, hasn't stopped meowing in about 10 minutes. It's going to be a seriously long night.

Are you sure none of you want a cat???

Academy of really cool things
Today Husband and I went to the beautiful new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. And holy cats, is it cool! Thanks to advice from Finny, we went directly to the Planetarium after entering and began our day with 30 minutes of stargazing. (And planet gazing.) (Creationists beware!) Then into the gorgeous rainforest, where all these shots were taken.

This was easily our favorite spot. Full of wonderfully colorful butterflies and birds. A few tiny, sneaky frogs. Lots of plants, leaf-cutter ants, moths and, down below, eels and fishies. It was the kind of place where you could easily spend an hour or more walking around and saying "look over there!" to anyone who will listen.

Many years ago Husband and I went to a butterfly exhibit in Philadelphia and it was similarly wonderful. What is it about butterflies that turn you into a kid again? All those amazing hues flitting overhead, catching your eye and making Craola look like they don't know shit about colors.

We were amused an how many people walked through without stopping to actually look. There was this one huge moth that only Husband and I seemed to notice. That's the thing about places like this -- you really have to take the time to see in order to appreciate what's around you. You'll miss half the magic if all you're doing is heading on to the next place.

As an aside, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish The Lurker a very happy birthday. For a large chunk of my life, all my closest friends were men. I didn't really have many female friends. But now, thanks to The Lurker, The Foreigner, Finny, The Belle of Belfast City, Mama D, and SdeM I find myself surrounded by smart, funny, sexy, amazing ladies -- each of whom inspires me in some way. I love you all and I'm so lucky to have you as my family.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Temple of Aqua
Today's trek took us to our two favorite used record stores where we went bankrupt. But at least we had some lovely (blessedly free) scenery along the way.

The Pulgas Water Temple, o the peninsula, is a hidden treasure. There's nothing there but this small structure, a pool, and lots of lawn. But it's a beautiful place and quite peaceful.

Tomorrow we try the Academy of Sciences again. And we might (might) pick up the new cat.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The bridge walk
Today was day 1 of Husband's vacation. We went to Golden Gate Park to visit the new Academy of Sciences....but it was packed. We hit traffic as soon as we turned off 19th onto Lincoln but when we got to the Academy at about 11 am there must have been 300 people waiting out front. And that's not an exaggeration. It was a mob. So we went to plan B and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Husband had never done this before, and I hadn't in years, so we decided it was a perfect day for it. And it was. Clear, cool (but not too cold) and (thankfully) not too windy. It wasn't too crowded either. We sort of laughed at the irony of several hundred people at the park and practically nobody on the Great Highway or on the bridge. I took the above shot (plus a few of each other) and then we drove down the coast and had lunch in Half Moon Bay. We even found a little music store in HMB where Husband scored two of the five jazz CDs he doesn't already own.

Not sure what we're doing tomorrow, but today will be hard to top.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The new cat has been postponed
Just an update to say that Lily/Glory/Cat-X has not moved into Chateau Cipher. Husband and I are on vacation this next week (No, we're not going anywhere. We're gonna play tourist in the Bay Area. Tomorrow, the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.) But we will be out most days and would prefer to be around for the great introduction.

We're still accepting applications to be Lily's new parents (so far we've been inundated with a grand total of none) but are pretty much resigned to being a 2-cat family. Keep your fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Christmas is coming
And I'm sure you're scrambling for gift ideas. In an effort to be extremely helpful, here are two suggestions. First is this lovely Sumo Wrestler table. Suitable for any decor (in a house owned by a blind person) it features a glass top supported by a crouching wrestler (complete with extra large butt hanging out). Imagine the look on your mother's face when she unwraps this beauty.

Mom not a sports fan? Perhaps she likes movies. Show her your love with this homage to the most famous movie mother of all.

It's too bad my mom has a shower door and not a shower curtain.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Anybody want a kitty?
My mom has decided she doesn't want to keep Lily/Glory. She's a very sweet cat but very shy and she spends most of her time hiding under large pieces of furniture. My mom isn't the most patient of pet owners and keeps looking for her, rather than leaving her alone to come out when she's ready. So she wants to give her up.

I just don't have the heart to take her back to the Humane Society so we're going to try her here with Cipher But we're not too certain that will work out. Cipher's a pretty rambunctious cat -- not the best companion for a kitty that's afraid of an 84 year old woman. Plus we just adore Cipher and don't want her to be unhappy sharing her life with an upstart. Since we're naturally a bit concerned, I thought I'd ask if any of my friends would be interested in a little furball. So if anybody is in the market for a new pet, please let me know.

She's a really lovely animal. Small and charming. I've always found her to be rather affectionate -- she seems to love my lap. I think she'll be a great animal for someone who doesn't mind being patient with a shy little critter who just needs a good home and a loving owner. I feel responsible for her since I took my mom to adopt her and I also feel very protective of this cute little thing that completely endeared herself to me. All I want it to know that she's safe and loved.

But since I doubt anyone will raise their hands in the next 24-hours, I hope you'll at least wish us luck. We're going to pick her up tomorrow to introduce her to Cipher. I may never sleep again.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Little House...the XXX version
In order to get out of paying to have the entire Little House on the Prairie series watched and OK'd by the censors in Finland, the distribution company is releasing it as banned for under 18s. At last, we can find out what "Half Pint" was really up to in that hay loft.
Holy no hole, Batman!
Today I had my post-ulcer-diagnosis endoscopy which revealed (drum roll...) that my ulcer is gone!!! (I shall now pause for suitable huzzahs and handsprings.)

The meds have done their magic and my stomach is now intact. I get to cut back on the drugs to every-other day and have to stay off aspirin and Motrin indefinitely, but I'm doing great. I made it through the entire month of October without one episode of zarfing and I honestly haven't felt this good in ages. So, for now at least, I am no longer on the list of the walking wounded.

Ladies and gentlemen, the bitch is back!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Duck and cover
You know it's a weird day when you look out your front window and see this coming towards you.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An unbelievable night
I cried when I heard the news. I am so proud of every person who voted for Obama. For saying "enough is enough" and voting for change, for hope, and for our future. Never in my life have I ever seen such joy at the outcome of an election. There are tears, there is singing, there is dancing in the street. And, in our house, there is champagne.

Today was an odd day. I have never been so careful filling out a ballot in my life as I was this morning. I slowly clicked through to the name Obama and then just stared at it. I clicked, and stared again. I double-checked to make sure I voted right. I actually checked each line on my ballot before submitting it. Then I checked each line on the paper print-out. Then I went home and began to pace. I couldn't concentrate on anything for more than 5 minutes. I baked brownies (my new passion is baking). I surfed the web. I tried to read my book. I put it down again. I channel surfed on TV. I panicked. I hated that I had to do my radio show tonight because I wanted to stay home.

And I still don't feel like it's real. We made our first donation to Obama the day he announced his candidacy. We've been with him the entire time -- which is usually the kiss of death for our candidate of choice. And we've obsessed, and we've worried, and we've gotten more and more excited about the prospect of this man actually becoming our next president. And now it's real and yet it feels so unreal.

There are rare times in each life where they feel like they are actually part of history. For me I've had two of those. The candlelight vigil in San Francisco after Moscone and Milk were killed, and the AIDS quilt display on the mall in Washington. An now I've had a third moment. I was part of this tidal wave that voted for Obama. I took part in the election that captured the eyes of the world. I was inspired to stand up with everyone who hates where the Bush administration has taken us and did my part to help bring about a victory.

There is no possible way I can be eloquent enough to capture what today has meant for so many. And I know the web will be filled with poetic personal reflections, witty observations, and intelligent commentaries about the day. All I can say is that for the first time in a very, very long time, I am proud to be American.
Happy anniversary
In my continued family tree search I found that my paternal grandparents, Elizabeth and Lloyd, were married 92 years ago today. November 4, 1916.
My New York Times Debut
The NYT has a fascinating gallery of citizen photo-journalists capturing today's election. My photos can be found here and here. It's surprisingly compelling to see how American's have captured their own small parts of history in their snapshots. Everything from lines and actual ballots to more whimsical depictions of the day.

If you haven't voted yet (and why haven't you????) I urge you to take your camera along. (Be careful, though, in some places you're not allowed to photograph the actual polling place.) But there are plenty of opportunities for other types of pictures.
Too scared to sleep
No, not because I watched a scary movie or read some Edgar Allen Poe. I'm too scared to sleep because it's 12:06 am, which means election day is upon us. And I'm terrified. I have so much emotion invested in this one. So many people do. We've given our money, our time, and our passion to make sure that this time, the right guy is actually declared the winner.

There's just so much riding on it. And for those of us in California, it's not just a matter of making sure the right guy (and, therefore, the American people) wins, it's about ensuring marriage equality. It's about voting for fairness and not discrimination - about giving our friends, our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, the right to wear white, throw rice, register at Williams Sonoma and have the same kind of loving, lasting, legal marriage that those of us who "choose" to be heterosexual have.

And so I can't sleep. I'm already counting the hours until I can cast my vote (at a local retirement home where they serve cookies and juice to those of us exercising our democratic rights). And I'm wondering if it's too late to take up God so that I can actually pray that Mister Self-Proclaimed Maverick and Mrs. Scary Mom have a truly awful election day.

Monday, November 03, 2008

About those relatives....
Thanks to the kindness of strangers (or a way long-lost, very distant 15th cousin twice removed) my family tree search has had a breakthrough. It turns out that my great-great grandfather and her great-grandfather were brothers. She's done a fair amount of research and thanks to her contacting me and sharing that research I'm now back to one set of great-great-great grandparents.

Unfortunately that leads me to yet another dead end all the way around. I've searched and searched, in vain, for the next set of ancestors in all directions and haven't had any luck. But I have found a few mysteries. For example, who was Jeanette? According to one document she was the daughter of my grandparent -- but my mother never mentioned having a sister named Jeanette. I have her listed as having been born in Canada in 1911 and dying in Detroit in 1952. My mother was born in Michigan in 1924. But in the 1920 census there's no record of a Jeanette living with my what happened to her? She obviously didn't die young. In fact, the record shows she married and had 3 sons. Is she my mother's sister? Did I find a record for another Frederick & Violet Campbell (not my grandparents) that have led me down the wrong path?

It's a fascinating search, and wildly frustrating. Where do I go when every road leads nowhere? On one side I have a John Campbell coming over from Scotland in the early 1800s. Unfortunately every other man who came over from Scotland was named John Campbell and there's no telling which one was my g-g-g-grandfather. On three other sides I have families whose names nobody knows how to spell. For one family alone (my paternal grandmother's) I've found no fewer than 7 different spellings of a last name.

So I dig on. Frustrated, but fascinated. I just wish it were a bit easier...

Friday, October 31, 2008

KZSU goes international
One of my favorite sources of music at KZSU is the Francophonie Diffusion Network. They have a website where radio stations can obtain the latest singles from France and French-speaking countries.

This month I am interviewed in their "closer look at" feature on their website. Each month they focus on a different radio station around the world and KZSU is the latest feature. My English is a bit "quaint" as the contact there got rid of my colloquial speech, but it's a nice write up of the station and even includes my photo.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The curse of Halloween
The curse of Halloween is not headless horsemen or wayward ghosts....nope, it's mini-candy bars. You know you have to buy them, because the gremlins are coming and they don't want that bag of pearl barley you can't remember why you bought. They want candy.

So you buy candy....and then the candy calls you from the kitchen. Candy. Not something we usually have in our house. And now there are bags of Snickers, Milky Way, and Hershey's with almonds just sitting there. And you know I have no willpower. But if I give in I'll gain back all that pre-zarf weight, and I kinda like being skinny. (Well, skinny for me anyway.)

I can hear you being the voice of reason "why didn't you buy candy you hate, and then you won't be tempted." Yeah, not going to work. The only candy I hate is the candy that kids also hate. And I just can't bring myself to give kids those wierd suckers that only show up in bags of 300 for $5 around Halloween. Nope, for someone who is not really a kid-person, I still want to give them yummy candy because that's what's Halloween is about. When I was a kid, we hated the house that gave us raisins -- and we'd always toss out the Abba-Zabba (what the hell is Abba-Zabba anyway?) But we were big fans of anyone who gave us really good candy. And not just one each -- people who'd give us a handful were our best friends.

Back when I did AIDS work and got free condoms I also gave them out on Halloween. No, not to the 5-year olds. To the junior and high school kids who'd come around after 9, barely bothering with costumes, jonesing for some free M & Ms. Surprisingly enough, the condoms were quite popular (and yes, the got candy too). But now it's just candy....and it knows my name.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The "C" word...
On Friday I was at the Stanford Shopping Center where I passed by a store that already had a Christmas tree in their window. Good lord, it isn't even Halloween!

And yet, in spite of my annoyance at people jump-starting Christmas earlier every year I started my own shopping in August.

Yeah, I'm one of those damned people who gets there shopping done early. I'm always done by shoot me. I think it comes from having worked in retail for so long. I hated being in stores between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The crowds. The insane lack of parking. The waiting in line forever. All to prepare for an event that everyone knows is coming but nobody seems ready for. So I got into the habit of shopping early.

I suppose it's easier now that there's this crazy thing called the Internet. Not having to go into a mall is a good thing. But I still try to get done before turkey day. Now it's more a case of not wanting all the Visa bills to come at one time. If I spread it out over a few months then it doesn't seem quite so painful. I know it's a stupid fake psych out, but do what works.

So I've already got a stash of gifts, but very few ideas for the majority of my family. I'm trying this year to shop with organizations that do some good in the world. My favorite is Serrv International which sells fair trade gifts and helps support artisans in developing countries. I highly recommend them. I've been a customer for years and have always been increased with their products and service. They have a wonderful selection of gifts, especially baskets and jewelry, from around the world. I have several of their African baskets in my home and they're really beautiful. Anyway, if you have lots of shopping to do, you might want to check them out. Since we all have to spend money, it helps to know you're spending money for a good cause. update....

So "Glory" (see below) is back to being "Lily" again. My mom can't really make up her mind. But the cat is doing well. She spent the day out in the open, mostly sleeping on mom's sofa. Unfortunately she still seems to prefer me to mom. When I went over this evening to check up on them I went to the sofa and sat next to Lily. She immediately woke up, walked over to me, curled into my lap, and went back to sleep again. She stayed there for almost 90 minutes. She really seems to have taken to me -- I just hope she's as affectionate with my mom and my sister.

Also, knowing how much trouble Cipher (The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm) can be in the middle of the night, I'm hoping she's not too annoyingly nocturnal. I can't imagine either mom or sister being as tolerant of feline insomnia as Husband and I are. If she's too much trouble I can easily picture mom wanting to give her up. If that happens I have a feeling she'll end up here. And, as adorable as Lily is, I don't know that we want another cat.

OK, I won't borrow trouble. But I am concerned.

Cipher's cousin
So yesterday I took my mom to the Humane Society and she adopted "Lily". (Although my mom has changed her name to "Glory.") She's a small, shy, white calico with a sweet disposition and an off-key meow. Apparently she spent the night under my mom's bed but she's slowly coming out to explore her new space. I helped get her and mom settled yesterday and went back today to see how they were getting along. My mom's not big on patience so she's a bit bothered that the cat is still hiding, but I told her to leave Glory alone and that she'll come out when she's ready.

Oh, and the cat seems to like me more than my mom. When I went into my mom's room, the kitty came right to me and curled up in my lap. I must have animal magnetism.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Support your local independent bookstore
My favorite is Kepler's in Menlo Park, an amazing place that I love to death. The only problem is that I can't ever get out of there without spending close to a hundred bucks. I had occasion to wander through today before having lunch with a dear friend (thanks, Foreigner, it was great!) and, once again, I walked out $80 lighter and several books heavier.

Being there, though, reminded me of the simple pleasure of wandering through a bookstore. Aside from the next book group selection, I had no specific books in mind. And yet I found 5 other books that intrigued or enticed me in some way. And the joy of finding new books is amplified when I think that I'm supporting a local, independent bookseller. Considering that I worked in chain bookstores throughout high school and college (B. Daltons, Waldenbooks, Brentanos) I suppose it seems odd that I'm such a champion of independents, but I love them. I love booksellers who actually read and love books. Who write recommendations that show they have the same warped affinity for words that I have. Who have those quirky titles you don't even know you want, and would never find if all you did was visit (nothing against Amazon, I give them a lot of business too). But it's those tables full of wonderful new discoveries that get me every time. And that's what independents do better than anyone else -- they take the trouble to find unloved treasures. They give attention to local writers. They sell the books that you're not going to find on the "New Fiction" shelf at your local B & N.

So do yourself a favor and visit your favorite local independent bookstore. Drop some cash. Keep them in business. And make yourself SO happy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Facing your fears
With Halloween fast approaching (and what are you giving out this year?) we seem to be surrounded by ghosts and other things that go the proverbial bump in the night. Last night, TCM had a Val Lewton film festival, including my favorites of his movies I Walked With a Zombie.

But all these TV specials on the paranormal and scary movie nights have got me thinking about fear. I know that I joke about being terrified by Celine Dion, but that's not what really scares me. Like most people, I have my share of phobias (not too crazy about heights. I'm OK in tall buildings, I just don't like heights I might fall from, like being on a ladder) and my share of things that just cause me stress (I hate going to parties where I only know 1 or 2 people).

I remember when The Blair Witch Project came out and everyone was saying how scary it was. I was a combination of bored and car sick. I think that's because scary movies really only work if they tap into some sort of fear that you have. I don't have a fear of being lost in the woods -- because when the fuck am I ever going to go into the woods? So the whole "trapped and hunted" thing just didn't get to me. But I give it points because it tried to have a scary premise, and didn't base its whole fame on "boo scares" (things jumping out at you unexpectedly) or on being just gross. I haven't seen many modern horror films because I really don't want to spend 90 minutes looking at exploding spleens.

It's interesting that some people are terrified by one thing that doesn't faze another. For instance, I have no problem speaking in public, being on stage, or generally making an ass out of myself publicly. And yet I know many people for whom this would be a pee-inducing fear. I'm also not afraid of spiders and snakes (aside from my hatred - not fear - of ants). But (and this is weird, I know) I find certain types of flowers (especially little ones) to be creepy. Don't ask me to explain it, I can't. It's not a fear, I just think they're gross. I don't want to touch or get near them. And dead flowers are the worst. Husband knows never to give me flowers because either they'll creep me out when they're still fresh, or I'll throw them out days before they wilt because I don't want dead flowers hanging around. Totally irrational, I know, but there it is.

I do, however, have certain legitimate fears. For example, I'm terrified that in the upcoming election McCain will win and we'll have 4 more years of incompetence, compounded by the Queen of the Idiots - Palin. I also fear that Prop 8 will pass and Californians will outlaw same-sex marriage. I am not, however, afraid of ghosts. I think I might have even seen one, once. Or maybe I just like to believe I did because I find the idea of ghosts to be kinda cool.

I'm not afraid of being chased into a dark basement by a serial killer (because who, in California, has a basement?) but I am afraid that I will never own my own home -- which is the one thing I've always wanted. I don't fear mummies, zombies, werewolves, vampires, or other undead demons, but I am afraid of not living up to my potential. When my first marriage broke up, and I found myself single (and, apparently, completely unattractive to the opposite sex) I was afraid of being lonely for the rest of my life. Not alone, because I was OK alone....but lonely. Since I'm not really close to my family I would often find myself by myself on my birthday or other occasions and it sucked. But then I met Husband and my life changed completely.

But I still have odd, irrational fears that, while completely unexplainable, are real to me. For example, because I feel we'll never be able to afford a house here, I have this terrible fear of ending up broke, living in a dilapidated Airstream on the edge of the Mojave Desert. No, really, I do. I have a fear that my brain will erode if I stop reading and learning all the time, so I find myself picking up books or watching documentaries on things that might not necessarily interest me just so I can do something more productive than watch I Love Lucy or read a cheesy romance novel. I worry that I'm not a good enough friend, that the people I love won't know how much they mean to me -- even though I try to tell them because I know how fragile life is and how important it is to tell people how you feel. I'm afraid that I don't do enough for the world at large, that I'm not making a big enough difference -- either monetarily or through volunteering. And I fear that the world is falling apart because more people aren't even trying -- that we'll lose our polar bears and our rain forests, that we'll keep killing each other in the name of religion, that we'll keep dying of starvation, AIDS, and genocide. That while the majority of solvent Americans are still counting their stock options and driving their Hummers, the rest of the world is in crisis and in need of us to open our hearts and our wallets.

But, after all this gloom, I find consolation where we started -- in old horror movies. Movies that aren't scary in the lest, but so much fun. Movies with the aforementioned zombies and mummies that demand a dark room and popcorn. The kind of good, escapist, pleasure that they don't seem to make anymore. You can keep your knife-wielding-psychotic-killers-in-a-sorority-house films. I'll take Boris Karloff anytime.

Feel free to share your fears. After all, I fessed up to little flowers.

CD Pick of the Week: Lila Downs
One of my top 3 of 2008 (so far). Lila Downs Shake Away.The delicious Mexican-American-Mixtec singer dishes up yet another seriously good release. There’s fire and fun in equal blends with a solid band and great material, everything from mystical folk-based tunes to political commentaries to covers of songs such as “Black Magic Woman.” Great guest stars. In English and Spanish. This one rocks, folks, and it’s fabulously good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meanwhile, back in Kosovo
What did we do before YouTube? This one cracked me up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ginger for President!
Need a laugh? Check out An Engineer's Guide to Voting. It'll make your day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

CD Pick of the Week: Chiwoniso
Check out Rebel Woman by Chiwoniso. This Zimbabwean/American artist is a delicious female vocalist & songwriter who is backed by mbira, guitars, percussion, horns and other wonderful sounds. Her voice is soulful, soaring, warm, lyrical and powerful and the music is fresh and captivating. Everything is so good. This one is delicious!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The cat's pajamas
Thanks to Husband I can share with you my favorite photo of Cipher, The World's Most Amazing Cat, Screw You if You Don't Agree tm. At the moment she's sleeping like a feline angel on the back of her favorite chair. In a few hours, she'll be making sure I don't get any sleep.
Song, Theme Song
With the new James Bond film set to open next month (the thickly-named Quantum of Solice), there's already hype and hoopla.

This article from the London Times about Bond movie theme songs provides some material for debate.

It's tot to be hard to write a Bond theme. There are so many expectations, and so many inescapable comparisons. I mean when you go to a Bond movie, you expect certain things from the time to sit down with your popcorn until the time the final credits run. It has to begin with an exciting pre-credits thrill. Then a catchy theme song illustrated with silhouettes of naked women dancing with guns. Then the real fun begins. Even in the more serious Bond movies (the first Daniel Craig outing was one of those films that demands to be called "gritty.), you go in knowing you'll have that opening to hold on to.

The really hard part for contemporary Bond-theme-composers is that you'll never live up to Goldfinger. I know some people might argue for Live and Let Die but to me, Goldfinger is the best Bond theme ever. You just can't beat Shirley Bassey defining "over the top" with that final note. It's got everything: a catchy sound, lots of drama, great kitsch value, a solid tie-in with the plot of the film, and just great music. The worst Bond theme is more debatable. But I vote for All Time High the hideously drippy theme from the equally drippy Octopussy.

Of course, you're hampered when the title of the movie doesn't lend itself to the title, or even the chorus, of the theme song. You really couldn't have a song called "Octopussy." (According to the article, the new film has the same problem. Nobody's gonna hum a song called "Quantum of Solace.") But considering how many films there are in the Bond franchise, there are impressively few clunkers. (One disagreement I have with the article is they put "For Your Eyes Only" in the bad category and I rather like it.)

So, what's your favorite and your least? Debate people, I need a drinkie.

Friday, October 10, 2008

CD Pick of the Week: Acquaragia Drom
People, get this one. Rom Kaffe by the Italian band Acquaragia Drom. This is feisty Italian gypsy music featuring vocals, strings, horns, clarinet, accordion, and more. It’s crazy and fun, like the weirdest circus to ever come to town. You’ll peek through the shutters of your window as they pass through the streets, playing their music. And before you know it, you’ll be part of the parade. I liked every track, each one leads to some sort of surprise. These guys must be fabulous in concert.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Get out of our politics
Yeah, Mormons, I'm talking to you. According to this San Francisco Chronicle article, out of state Mormons are being recruited for a telephone campaign in support of Prop 8.

First off, I'm just pissed that non-Californians are trying to dictate our state politics. But I the only one who sees the irony in the Mormons (of all groups) trying to legally define what marriage is? This group was persecuted, exiled and, at times, killed for their non-traditional marriages. (Yes, I know that plural marriages was a long time ago and it is no longer part of the Mormon religion.) But the fact remains that, historically, one of the reasons why they ended up in Utah is because they got chased out of everywhere else because non-Mormons didn't like plural marriages.

And here they are, trying to inflict the same prejudice they experienced on another group.

People, don't vote for hatred. Don't discriminate against an entire section of society just because you don't "agree" with how they live. They're not asking for your approval, just looking for equality.

No on 8. Or don't you be coming back here...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Watch out for that pipe wrench!
In my ongoing attempt to embarrass myself in public, I will admit to liking the 80's A-Ha hit "Take on Me." And yeah, I like the video too. Which is why I found Take on Me: The Literal Video Version to be hilarious. (Thanks to Husband for pointing this out to me.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In praise of Colma
One of the most pleasant film-surprises of the past year has been Colma: The Musical, a delightful independent movie filmed in, you guessed it, Colma. I recently saw it on the Sundance channel and Husband and I were both smitten.

It is a musical, with clever lyrics and delightfully inventive direction, not to mention some very strong performances. For me the stand-out was the incredibly talented H.P. Mendoza who stars as Rodel, a young gay man and aspiring writer with some serious family issues. Mr. Mendoza also wrote the screenplay and the music (don't you just hate people who can do everything?).

We finished watching it a few days ago and there are several scenes that really stick in my mind, including one beautiful number featuring couples waltzing in a graveyard and a solo number featuring Mendoza singing about his "happy place."

If you have the chance to rent, buy, or watch this one, I highly recommend it. It's especially captivating for those of us who grew up on the Peninsula and know exactly where (and what) Colma is.

Monday, October 06, 2008

So I'm searching my family tree. It's fascinating, and harder work that you'd think. So far I've hit dead ends on both my mother's and my father's side of the family. On my mother's side I'm hampered by the fact that her maiden name is maddeningly common and that her mother's family has a last name that nobody knows how to spell (seriously, I've tried every spelling I can think of to no avail). On my father's side I can trace his maternal side to the first ones to come to the US from France, but on his father's side I can't get past my dad's grandfather. But I shall keep searching.

It's peculiar how interested I am in my family history, considering how I'm not the most familial of creatures. But I really want to know where I come from. Unfortunately my father is dead and my mother's memory isn't too sharp these days so I'm running out of people to ask for details. We have some of them written down from years ago, but nobody has done anything to document it. So I am. It's both intriguing and infuriating that each new discovery only raises more questions. For example, I found a census with my great-grandmother (on my mother's side) on it. It says she was born in Canada (but doesn't say where), that her mother was born in Ireland (doesn't say where) and her father was born in Scotland (again, doesn't say where). The big problem is that the men in my mom's family have names that are the Scottish equivalent of "John Smith." Do a search for my grandfather's name and you'll likely find a thousand men.

I'm working on Husband's family as well. In actual fact his family tree is more interesting than mine (including a great-great grandmother with the glorious name of Araminta), but here too I can only get so far. It's an exercise in patience and research (I love to research things, but I haven't much patience) and I know I'll eventually make breakthroughs (at least I hope I will). I have no visions of tracing either family back to William the Conquerer or Charlemagne, but it would be nice to have more information about who we come from.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Who says science is dull?
The Ig Nobel prizes have been awarded.

Stop presses! Fleas on dogs jump further than fleas that live on cats. String will always get tangled in knots. And something really weird about lap dancers and, well, why spoil the mystery?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Oh the horrors!
I have a very dear, living-too-far-away friend coming to stay with us in two weeks and since he's rarely here in the Bay Area there are a lot of people he'd love to see. I'm having a few of "the group" over for a brunchy-lunchy-type gathering and I'm already freaking out.

Now there are some people who are born entertainers. (By which I do not mean Groucho Marx.) I mean Martha-esque type entertaining. Many of my friends (including The Foreigner, Finny, and the Lurker) are wonderful cooks. I, on the other hand, am not.

I come by my lack of cooking talent through genetics. My mother is a notoriously bad cook. Not only can I not cook well, I don't even know where to start in terms of what to serve. I mean I realize that my friends love me anyway and certainly aren't coming over here for the food. They're coming for a reunion. But I have to serve them something. I can't just hand them a bag of chips and a Coke and say "enjoy!"

Which leaves me wandering aimlessly through recipe sites and cookbooks. And wondering why I missed getting the chef's gene. Some people (Finny, I'm talking about you.) seem to naturally be able to imagine how food will taste. "Hey," she'll say, "let's combine home-grown tomatoes with bacon and pine nuts." And voila! she's got a yummy salad/bread/main course that looks and tastes delicious. "Hey," I'll say, "I'll follow this recipe exactly and voila! it looks and tastes like doggy poopy."

So in addition to the fact that I really (REALLY!) need to clean the house, I have a week to figure out what to cook, how to cook, and what the hell this little shiny thingy is in my utensil drawer. It's gonna we a long week...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

CD Pick of the Week: Ayombe!
Ayombe! The Heart of Colombia's Musica Vallenata. Totally fresh and fabulous. Four types of music: puya (feat. lots of accordion), Merengue (upbeat & catchy), son (slower) and paseo (light & lively). Great performances throughout, you can’t go wrong with any track. Everything is SO good! Great notes too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A fascinating look into the past
Can be found at the wondrous Daily Scrapbook. It's a glorious wander through history courtesy of the website (and book) by Jessica Helfand. I want some of these for my own collection...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Celebrate a banned book
According to the American Library Association September 29-October 6th is "Banned Books Week". They have suggestions on how to celebrate, which includes a list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000. I'm sure you've read at least one, because titles include the Harry Potter series, Of Mice and Men, The Catcher in the Rye, James and the Giant Peach, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

And, as Sarah Palin has so frighteningly illustrated, people are still trying to dictate what we can please don't take reading for granted.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

When your past is on DVD
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Invasion Stanford. (I just wish I could give you the actual movie.) Turns out Husband was in a student film while a student at Stanford. He recently obtained a copy of the DVD and we started watching it last night. Actually, it's not a movie -- it's a 4-part sci-fi/comedy miniseries. Husband plays "Arthur" the apparently insane RA who has (in my opinion) the best lines in the script.

Wow....Husband at 19. With hair! Not just hair, a ponytail! It's the oddest thing seeing him on film. I mean it's one thing to see photos of someone you love before you knew them, but it's another to see them walking, talking, and being....well....a college student.

So far we've watched 2 parts and it's proven to be an amusing experience. Invasion Stanford has some clever moments, and it's VERY Stanford. It also has a spaceship that looks like the Satellite of Love from the old MST show. Plus aliens, an anti-road-reflector movement, and actual footage of KZSU. It's pretty funny...and, for me, highly surreal.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The coolest...
Last weekend Husband and I watched the classic '60s cop flick Bullitt. I hadn't seen it in years and I'm happy to say it seriously holds its coolness factor.

Was there ever any actor as cool as Steve McQueen? Those steely, ice-blue eyes. The strong, silent stare. That sexy macho-ness. In retrospect I think he had all of 10 minutes of dialogue in the movie, but it doesn't mater. His presence is magnetic. And the famous car chase just plain rocks.

I love seeing movies shot in San Francisco. It's always cool to be eating popcorn and say "hey, I've been to that cafe." Or "my best friend used to live a block from there." Well the classic chase in Bullitt is geographically impossible (from the Mission to the Marina to San Bruno Mountain) and they do pass the same little green VW bug three times, but it's just so damned cool you don't care. Tires squealing, hubcaps flying, bouncing over hills and screaming around corners.

So the plot manages to be both thin and hard to follow, it's still a great film made even better by the sexy Mr. McQueen and an uber-hip '60s score by the genius, Lalo Shiffrin.