Saturday, August 28, 2004

From the mouths of babes, part II

from a 4 1/2 year-old girl:

"What's your favourite cheese? Mine's Jarlsberg."

the hell?

Laws of Physics Need Not Apply

I have recently determined who are the best candidates for developing all the whiz-bang technoligical developments that Star Trek has been dangling in front of our noses for decades (tricorders, warp drive, transporters), but the scientific community have poo-pooed as being physically impossible: British postal carriers. Yes indeed; there is an entire army of hardworking civil servants out there who are completely immune to the laws of physics. I suggest we round them all up, put them in a room with some coffee, donuts, and random bits of electrical equipment, demand functioning transporters within one year and let nature do the rest.

Why, you ask, are British postal carriers (as opposed to American postal carriers, who are dejected, disgruntled time-bombs waiting for an inopportune moment to go off) going to succeed where the best current scientific minds (Steven Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, Marley) have failed? Because this morning there was a parcel on the floor of my hall, which had arrived there by being stuffed through the letter slot, but which could not POSSIBLY have passed, unscathed, through an opening that size. I stared at it, awestruck by the physical impossibility of the scenario. Then I tried it myself. Mr. Bean-like, I stood on the front stoop of my house for 25 minutes trying to fit the package through the letter slot again before finally carrying it back inside with me, considerably worse for wear.

I now live in constant terror of what may fall through my letter slot, which is apparently a minor tear in the space-time continuum. Today, oversize packages; tomorrow, livestock; next week, a Romulan war-bird. Oh god, where does it end?

Friday, August 27, 2004

From the mouths of babes

“I want you to be my mommy.”

Wow. I’ve been a regular babysitter for more than half my life. I’ve sat from one end of this galaxy to the other. I’ve heard a lot of strange stuff fly from the mouths of babes, but I’ve never heard anything to bowl me over and pin me to the floor like that statement did, made this evening by the 4 ½ year-old girl I’ve been taking care of this summer. That one might even slide into second place in the Greatest-Compliments-of-my-Life contest, right behind the one my dad gave me when I graduated college, which can never possibly be topped.

It hasn’t been an easy summer. The kids’ dad walked out on them in the spring, a week before I moved into the house to become the new nanny. Naturally, they’re having a rough time coping, and I’ve been uncertain as to how to offer them the best possible support for a worse than crappy situation about which I can’t do diddly-squat. We’ve had our ups and downs, our bad days and our worse days, but overall it’s been a good summer. Until tonight. Now it’s a great summer.

I’ve always know I’d want kids at some point in the future. I like the little buggers. That’s why I agreed to work as a nanny for 3 months. But this one clinched it. I want kids. I want these kids. I want any kids. I want them now! Somebody get me some sperm!

If anyone knows and eligible young men between the ages of puberty and pensioner who are honest, easy-going, creative, tall, and would like to shag me (I’m not that ugly, honest), post me a reply. I will begin conducting interviews shortly. Thank you.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The last shall be first

Inexplicably, I watched all 2 1/2 hours of the uninterrupted coverage of the women't marathon last night. Sitting alone in my living room, I scoffed out loud at the BBC's Olympic pundits who claimed that the heat would be just as trying for the Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes as the Brits .(Gimme a break. The Kenyans and Ethiopians were standing around muttering "you call this heat? You don't know from heat.") I rolled my eyes to the ceiling when the same blithering idiots swore that there would be lots of drama to come as the the medal contenders would change places numerous times on the downhill stretch to Athens, despite the significant distances separating the first four runners. And my heart broke with the rest of the UK when I saw Paula come grinding to a painful halt after just 36K. I sat there, pleading with the TV, begging her to get up and walk across the finish line for the sake of her own sanity. Finishing last is always better than quitting.

I know she was exhausted, I know she was in pain--they all were. But it wasn't pain and exhaustion that brought Paula to a halt... it was a broken heart. It's not a cooincidence that she gave up when the fourth place runner pushed past her and she lost the possiblity of even a bronze medal. Without a medal waiting, she saw no point in continuing.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not unsympathetic. I feel terrible for Paula, but I feel a lot worse for the 15 other women who couldn't finish. Women for whom there was never a realistic hope of a medal, but who showed up anyway, eclipsed by the glory of world-record holders, and gave it their best. I don't know who these women are. There was barely a mention of them in the papers. Unlike Paula, who decided after 36 kilometers that if she couldn't win she didn't want to play at all, these 15 women came armed with only a vague hope of a medal, but a more determined desire to just finish, and were ultimately defeated by the road.

I salute all the athletes who try their best. I especially bow to the last-place finishers, those for whom the temptation to quit is the strongest, and who keep going anyway. Though the offical Athens2004 website names the winner, Mizuki Noguchi of Japan, as the athlete of the day, I would like to take a moment to draw everyone's attention to Luvsanlkhundeg Otgonbayar of Mongolia, the last woman into the Panathinaiko Stadium, who crossed the finish line with a time of 3:48:42, an hour and 22 minutes after the gold had been decided.

I don't know what this woman looks like--she received no television coverage. But I imagine she was plugging along at the tail end of the pack, followed only by slow-moving police vehicles, the drivers of whom were irritated that they had to creep along behind this slowest of runners, possibly even mumbling to themselves that she might as well give up so they could go home and eat dinner. It was dark when Otgonbayar entered the stadium. She was exhaused, she was lonely (I suspect very few of the evening's road-side spectators bothered to hang around that long), and she had no hope of a medal. The temptation to quit and go home must have been overwhelming, knowing, when she was still miles away from the stadium, that the ribbon on the line was already broken. But damnit, she crossed the line under her own power. That, ladies and gentleman, is a champion.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


First day of Autumn! Whoo-hoo!. Ok, not acutally, but it's sure starting to feel like it. After the seemingly perpetual cloud-cover blew off (don't worry; the nice people at the BBC assure me it will be back tomorrow), what remained was a clear (by which I mean the English definition of clear: "less than 50% cloud-cover"), cool, crisp, dry, breezy day. It's more than enough to make me yearn for a proper Michigan fall, where the sky (all of it, not just slightly more than 50% of it) is the color of lapis, the leaves on the sugar maples are deep crimson by the trunk, becoming brighter and golder as the branches reach outward, giving the tree the appearance of being on fire, and the drone of the cicadas is almost enough to drown out the jubilant whisper of the dry grasses, but not quite. I have a craving for pumpkins and apples and hot, crunchy, cake donuts, and anything with cinnamon. I want to watch as the world brushes it's teeth, gets its jammies on, and hunkers down for that long, winter's nap. I want to take my aging and decrepit beagle (Daisy) on a jaunt through the trails at Hidden Lake Gardens and see her chase the swans in what will almost certainly be her last autumn. It's her favorite season, too.

To give you all some idea of what I'm talking about (no amount of hyperbole can do a Michigan fall justice), take a look at this photo gallery (no, there's no colour enhancement. it really does look like that):

It's funny, I complain about the English weather all the time (as anyone who knows me can attest), but the hardest days are the nice ones. When it's grey and dreary and miserable I know where I am and it fits--it's appropriate. On beautiful days such as this, it's just close enought to being like home to make me really miss it. In other words, the dramatic cultural and climatic differences I can handle. There are no comparisons to my place of origin. But when the difference is subtle, when the day is just home-like enough to bring to the fore of my brain the smell of drying leaves and rotting crabapples, it is (paradoxically) also the most striking. I'm ready to head home, at least for a little while.

note to Sal: thanx for the vote of confidence, but trust me when I say that the only being who would find the sight of the cheeks of my vuluptuous, feminine bum bouncing along on either side of a g-string attractive is the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Damn you, Jane Austen

I have a confession to make. I got distracted from my work last night by a Jane Austen novel. I told myself “just one chapter, and then back to work.” Yeah, right. Four hours, two teabags, and jar of Nutella later I was weeping and breathless as I read the words in Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne, “You pierce my soul.” Yes, I know that Austen’s novels are formulaic. They all have the same 8 characters, the same plot twists, and the same endings. But Christ, it’s a good formula. I fell asleep last night dreaming that Edward Ferrars, Mr. Darcy, and Fredrick Wentworth would all knock on my door at the same moment, simultaneously professing, in elegant, early 19th C. rhetoric, their undying devotion to my figure, sensibility, and character. And I awoke this morning to a demanding cat with a foot-fetish, a torrential down-pour, and the knowledge that my dissertation is due in, um, 20 days?, and I wasted all last night fantasizing about useless, rich, well-spoken gentlemen. Crap. Back to work.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Head Jobs

Let me preface this tirade by taking a moment to say, right off the bat, that I love England. I have had one of the most fantastic years of my life, met hordes of fabulous people, and pushed my academic, athletic, and social limits outward. It’s been a year of challenges, rewards, and satisfaction. That said, I have one minor beef (besides the weather, which naturally goes without saying): several of the members of the aforementioned fab horde have accused me on numerous occasions of playing mind games. I find this as ironic as I do irritating. Not only have I never before been accused, even jokingly, of such manipulative, juvenile pursuits, but most of my friends back in the Land o’ W have at some point insisted that the reason I have spent the last 6 years of my life in a lonely, dateless trance was a result of my very refusal to manipulate hapless men to my cave with deceptive feminine wiles and guilt-spawned mind fucks. But in America, a lone and righteous existence is the price one pays for refusing to stoop to the level of a Jerry Spring guest. So for all the men out there reading this, as well as for a certain acquaintance of mine, let me say this for the record:

Now hear this!!! Not all women are shameless, power-mongering succubi who use men to their pleasure until they’re nothing but dry, emasculated husks to be discarded with the other recylables. Contrary to popular opinion, there are a few of us out there who are dead honest, who will answer any question put to us with shocking and occasionally painful truth, who have no interest in manipulating people to get what we want, and WHO DON’T. EVER. UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. PLAY HEAD GAMES.

There is a reason for this attitude, and it goes like this. If I were to lure a man, black-widow like, to my chamber, my home, and my life under the inherently false pretenses of emotional manipulation, it would be an inherently hollow and meaningless relationship. If I become romantically involved with another person, and I hope some day that I might, it needs to be because the other person WANTS TO BE THERE, not because they’ve been duped into a commitment they don’t really feel. Head-games, mind-jobs, and brain-fucks are all, therefore, ultimately self-defeating and a huge waste of time. I have better things to do with my pathetic, lonely existence. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Final Countdown

With only 24 days remaining until my MA dissertation is due, I stumbled last night onto an article on the study of literary stylistics. Now, I’ve been fairly thorough in my research, and for the last 6 months I’ve been reading everything I could get my hands on regarding the relationship between language and literature, particularly the Medieval. And somehow, SOMEHOW, I’ve completely missed the very existence of an entire (albeit obscure) academic discipline which is just that—the relationship between a work of literature and the language in which it is written. And it’s called stylistics.

The article, dated 1976, provided some basic definitions and broke down the discipline into subcategories. To my credit (I just love tooting my own horn), I had managed to construct my diss. utilizing almost the exact same disciplinary divisions; divisions I created having spent 6 months reading superfluous and barely relevant material. What the article did do, in addition to giving me a dozen new avenues to explore, was to provide me with a whole new set of nomenclature for my work. I knew before what I wanted to say, and now I have the words to say it.

I’m completely pumped up about my work, I re-wrote my entire Ph.D. research proposal in my head at 2:30 this morning (and damn, what a doozy!), and I’ve got 24 days left for the dissertation. It’s a sprint to the finish. I’m into the last 500m, my quads are on fire, my vision is blurry, and my throat feels like I’m breathing hydrochloric acid. I was down by a length at the half-way, but I’m coming back and rowing through. I’m gonna lay the field to waste. As Herebe says, “game on.”

Monday, August 16, 2004

Olympic Glory

I love the Olympics. No matter how old I get, I never cease to be moved by the event. This year as I watched the opening ceremony I was even weapier than usual. Perhaps because the world is in a state of such total crap (maybe the world's always been this crappy, but as I get older I'm more aware of it), or perhaps I'm just getting cynical, so that when a genuine reason to have hope for a more cooperative future does come along, it seems just a little more miraculous. After all the horrors I've witnessed on the news since the last Olympic games (and lets be honest, the American media only report a very small percentage of the world's horrors), and after the realization that 99% of the world's wealth and resources are controlled by six greedy bastards in a circle-jerk, watching athletes and their supporters from 202 countries stand together in 1 staduim and applaud each other really does seem like a miracle.

Of course, my love of the games isn't purely from a bleeding-heart, post-modern hippie, world peace perspective. As an athlete I've always had my own personal ambitions of olympic glory. The conscience-cricket on my shoulder can attest that I've fallen asleep more than a few times to visions of medals and cheering fans in my head. Which is exactly how I fell asleep on Friday night. I was anticipating a regatta on Saturday, in which I was entered in 3 events, the most I've ever attempted in one day. Naturally, by the time I watched them light the torch, I was convinced I would win every event and spend the evening walking around like Mark Spitz with my flat chest obscured by a pile of gold.

The idealism and energy with which I began Saturday, amplified by the drama taking place in Athens, made the poor sportsmanship of the day's events all the more shattering. I have never before taken part in an athletic even where there was such blatant disregard for fair competition.

Now, I'm not a sore loser. If we fuck up and lose as a result, I say "well, that sucked. We fucked up and lost because of it. Now we know what we need to do better next time." If we row hard and well and try our best and get beaten anyway I say "well, we did our best and got beat by a superior crew. well done, guys. we'll get 'em next time." I do not toss about accusations of cheating to alleviate my personal disappointment. Even now I will not name names of persons or clubs involved because I am aware that I may not know the whole story. Things aren't always as they seem, and I may be (and I frankly hope I am) wrong. Still, it's hard to ignore the stories that nearly every boat from my club told as they came off the water--stories of a biased start-marshall, opponents rowing in crews where they weren't allowed, and the misfortunes of badly located waterfoul.

It's sad when kids see the example set by their selfish elders and mimick their behaviour. It's sad that we can take what should be one of the most pure, fair, and ideal institutions humanity has ever created and twist it at both the local (as I saw on saturday) and international (as the drug accusations surrounding the Greek sprinters demonstrates) levels. I wish I hadn't seen what I saw on saturday. I would rather lose a fair fight than win a rigged one anyday, and it's sad that not everyone feels the same.

But I don't run the world (one of the key global problems), and not everyone agrees with me (another serious flaw of the planet). It's important to remember however, when accusations of doping and biased judging cast a dull shadow on the shining vision of the future the Olympic Games offers, that the vast majority of athletes, coaches, judges, and fans do feel the same way. For every athlete who makes the headlines because of a cheating scandal, thousands more have gone about their business, quietly pouring their mind, body, and soul into their event of choice in complete fairness and total anonymity. It is important to remeber this because it's so easy to become jaded and cynical in the face of constant reports of cheating and corruption, but cynicism and pessimism won't bring the Olympic vision of a cooperative future to fruition. We must, at all costs, maintain the naivete and optimism we had as children. We must continue to believe in the basic goodness of humanity, greatness of heroes, and the possibiltity that the little guy can still take down the giant (WAY TO GO, PUERTO RICO!!!!!). We must continue to believe, because if we don't our own skepticism will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The world is what we make it, and a better world starts with fair play and good sportsmanship in our small, insignificant, everday lives. Let the games begin.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Celulite Liberation

I'm an old-fashioned girl. I don't wear skanky, crop-top shirts, I don't wear mini-skirts with less material than your average bandaid, I don't wear low-rise jeans that are two sized too small, thus causing one's lager-induced love handles to ooze out the top. I do sigh when I see these unfortunate young women on the street and think to myself, "Did you look in a mirror before you left the house? What on earth made you think that was a good idea?" Maybe it's my deeply burried, New England American puritanism leaking out, or maybe I just have good taste and a sense of decorum, but we all have imperfections, and part of looking your best is recognizing those imperfections and keeping them appropriately tucked away and out of sight. To this end, I make sure I cover up all the white, pastey, dimply, jiggly bits (and I've got a few) before I go out the front door.

Until now.

I would like to announce, with great gusto and enthusiasm, the purchase of my first ever bikini.
So why on god's green earth, with all my white, pastey, dimply, jiggly bits and my Puritan propiety, did I buy a BIKINI*?!? I'll tell you.

On September 10th I will be handing in to the University of Manchester a brilliant, ground-breaking dissertation (no, I'm not counting my komodo dragons before they're hatched, I'm thinking positively) which is the culmination of a year of ass-kicking (that's my ass being kicked) MA-level work. It has been one of the most academically challenging years of my life (I say 'one of' because portions of my BA degree were even scarier) and I'm celebrating with a 3-week trip to Europe, my first time on the continent. I'll be spending a week in a lakeside Italian resort town, then a week on the Spanish riviera, then stopping in Paris for a couple days on my way to Amsterdam to finally get laid (this whole trip is a series of firsts, so I figure why not go for the whole ball o' wax).

Ergo, I am liberating myself. I am completing the most ballsy endeavor I have ever undertaken. I am travelling alone to exotic destinations. I am sloughing off the shell of fear and cracking the carapace of insecurity. I am no longer allowing archaic, cultural mores to dictate my self-image. I am successful, I am fearless, I am a woman. I am wearing a bikini.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Popping the Big One

Greetings, all you losers who have nothing better to do with your sorry lives than sit around reading other people's brain droppings. This is my first blog. I was naively unaware of the existence of blogs/blogging until a friend of mine gave me the URL to read his. After months of choking down his witty and scathing observations of life, he convinced me to start my own. I hesitated for a long time because I am firm subscriber to the If-You-Don't-Have-Anything-Interesting-To-Contribute-Keep-Your-Goddamn-Piehole-Shut rule of conversation. Yesterday that changed with the bombshell my older brother dropped on me: he's getting married.

Now, the news that one's only sibling, who lived a lonely, dateless existence for so long it has to be measured in geologic time, is finally in love and getting married should be met with jubilation. I wish I could see it that way, but I have several problems with the development: First, they've known each other less than a year, during which time they've communicated almost entirely on-line. This is owing to the second reason, namely, they live in separate states. He's in Ohio, she's in Wisconsin. They've only actually met in person about a dozen times, so their entire relationship has been long-distance. Finally, they are both tied to thier jobs for at least the next year due to financial circumstances. We in the family thought this would help put the brakes on things, since it will be some time before they can even consider co-habitating.

Oh no, my friend. Rather than continuing the LD thing for the next year, then finding a new job (probably her, given the circumstances), move in, and conemplate marraige, Marley (my bro) has decided that it would be advantageous to combine the two wasted years of 1. not living in the same state and 2. not being able to get married because it takes most people a year to plan a wedding these days, and propose now. This way Miss Happy can plan the wedding while they're both suck in separate states, and the minute they're free to move in together they'll be ready to tie the knot. Damn engineers and their obsession with efficiency!

But who am I to judge? Maybe it's one of those perfect matches that happens every now and again where you meet someone and just know that it's right. (My best friend Viola and her hubby Wally had one of those, so I know they exist, albeit rarely.) Perhaps I'll feel better after I've met her.

Yes, you read that right. I'VE NEVER EVEN MET THE WOMAN! MARLEY'S GONE OFF AND DECIDED TO GET MARRIED TO A WOMAN HIS ONE AND ONLY SISTER HAS NEVER EVEN MET!!!! Perhaps my true frustration, cleverly indicated by the unnedessarily long string of capital letters, is that I feel completely left out of the decision. Granted, it's his life and therefore his decision, no question, but I was never asked for my opinion, my support, my blessing, or even whether or not I like the woman. Since I know from my own past relationships that my family's collective opinion is extremely important to me because my family is important to me, what I'm really feeling is slighted because his behavior says that my input, and therefore I, don't matter.

Regardless, they're getting hitched and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I just have to accept that I will be spending the rest of my family holidays, birthdays, celebrations, and funerals with Miss Happy of Wisconsin. Welcome to the family.