Tuesday, September 30, 2008

... and it will be called... "This Land"...

Zhou World, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

That's Penguin World down in the corner, with a piece of ice for them to stand on, and that's Mommy Love World with all the hearts. My land has a Target, and my land has a church. My land has a park, and my land has a river.

You see that X on the doorknob of the church? That's for "NO THIEVES" and also "NO CEREMONIES". You know why there's no ceremonies?

[No, no I don't]

Because see, here there's a PARK next door, and people might go swimming in the river from the park, and they don't want to bump into the bodies, and swim in all the blood, cause then they'd be like, "Ew, blood, I don't want to swim here!"

[And - why would there be bodies and blood?]

From the church! See, these lines are where they get thrown out!

[From - the ceremonies.]

Yeah! You know...

[I really really don't.]

When they do the ceremonies with the dead bodies? And they burn them, and then they're on fire, and where would they go? they'd throw them in the river!

[Well... SOME ceremonies in churches are funerals, where we say goodbye to people who have died... and SOME people's bodies are... burned... after they die, but they aren't just burned, like on a campfire or something, they are burned in a... well, an oven.]

Yeah, I know, in a kind of cup thing on stilts over a fire...

[... a what...?]

But MY town doesn't have to be like REAL LIFE because it's all (whispers) IN MY IMAGINATION!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Acting teenage mucky

Well, it did rain this weekend. It rained and rained and there was no question of anyone going up on stilts, even if they weren't broken (long before I bought them on eBay, and don't think I don't have words for that seller). The neighborhood fair was beautiful in the rain, and people came anyway and huddled together and laughed, because it was LUDICROUS how much it was raining.

Our front raingutter overflowed impressively during that storm. As I surveyed the 8-foot-wide waterfall hammering down in a line 5 inches from the foundation of the house, I pictured that water seeping through the cracks in the foundation and into the basement, and, without pausing to evaluate my chosen course of action, I shucked off my shoes and socks and most of my clothes, hopped up on the porch rail and ran my hand down the length of the gutter.

This got me wet. Wet like all the water in the gutter poured down my arm and sluiced down my body. Wetter than you get in the shower, because I was (basically) dressed, and what clothing I had on was also wet, supersaturated with rainwater. What is more, I did not clear the gutter. The gutter was clear. The blockage was, not surprisingly, in the downspout.

So I hopped back up, Bob handed me a stick, and I reached up and curled my wrist around, and jammed that stick down into the downspout, and cleared the blockage. Yay me!

And then the stick broke off IN the hole I had created in the blockage, and the downspout was blocked again, and I went inside.

Last night we watched My Side of the Mountain, the so-so movie made from the great book. As I tucked the kids in, I said to Mao, "Promise me you'll never run away and go live in a tree, ok?" He said, "All right," and, as he turned over, added, "I'll start unpacking tomorrow."

Sassy little twerp. The little one is a skillful artist and (relentless) raconteur, but if this one grows up to be funny, well, hey, I'll be more than satisfied.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We are not monsters, we're moral people / And yet we have the strength to do this

Here's something my next-door neighbors seem not to know. If you aren't going to answer that phone, you know, the one that rings all day every day, the one that I have never heard you answer, even when I know you're right in the same room with it - you can TURN THE RINGER OFF.

Yes, that's what I'd say to them.

I'm thinking, instead, that I'll write a book. A book with foul and unpredictable toxic storms, thin-film solar, and a protagonist who finds mines for a living.

Yep, I've been reading MIT Technology Review again.

When my protagonist is not off reclaiming most of Cambodia and all of Afghanistan, a profession which leaves her hollow-eyed and hair-triggered and unaccustomed to the fellowship of man, she retires to her echoing wooden house, where she is slowly driven mad by her neighbors' ringing phone. That phone, like the dog in Summer of Sam, will be so relentless, so menacing, so personally intrusive that anyone who reads my book will jump and snarl at the sound of a real phone. That phone will gain a place on the 50 greatest villains in literature list compiled by the Daily Telegraph, alongside such fiends as Milo Minderbinder, the Marquise de Merteuil, and that bad rat Samuel Whiskers.

And my book will come with this bookmark.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I admit, I have been holding back

steel belted, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.


Enough with these bluff, arrogant, barrel-chested golf-playing private-school fuckers who broke the economy and now are voting to get paid for it. Because... I mean, it's the same guys, obviously. Young Ted is on the Street, and Uncle Chip is in D.C., and they have a mock tussle at Thanksgiving over who's going to carve the turkey.


Whatshisname, Henry Paulson, used to be CEO of Goldman Sachs. That's so great. Get the guys who drove the industry like they were drunk teenagers in a borrowed Maserati on prom night to oversee the rehab program. Don't forget a personal masseuse for each participant!

Nick Harkaway, in The Gone-Away World, ranks bureaucrats thusly:

... Type C pencilneck (chortling lackey of the dehumanising system, ambient golf)
... Type B pencilneck (heartless bureaucratic machine, pro-class tennis)...
... Type A pencilneck... a person so entirely consumed by the mechanism in which he or she is employed that they had ceased to exist as a separate entity... odourless, faceless and undetectable, without ambition or restraint, and would take decisions entirely unfettered by human concerns, make choices for the company, of the company. A type A pencilneck would be the kind of person to sign off on torture and push the nuclear button for no more pressing reason than that is was his job - or hers - and it seemed the next logical step.

I think I'm in love with Nick Harkaway. And he knows this shit, his father is John le Carré, who used to be MI6. Substitute "company" for "class" and that's how I feel about what's going on.

But what I DON'T get is why perfectly ordinary middle-class people support these bastards. Use the words "wealth distribution" like it's a bad thing. Vote Republican. I mean, do they think that they, too, are rich? That any of this shit applies to them? Do people defend the fortunes of the wealthy because they think it will somehow enrich them? That the wealthy will even NOTICE? It makes me very sick, to see middle class people aligning themselves with the rich, like high school losers defending the popular kids in the lunchroom. Feels like England.

In my house, we are training humans. It's hard work, let me tell you. I really believe people are not born human. Watch a two year old as he Baby-zillas through a room, trailing destruction and crumbs. Responsibility, accountability, empathy, self-discipline... all these things are learned behaviors.

And by most accounts, my children are coming along ok. Mao just was elected to be Student Council rep for the 2nd grade. Zhou is so accustomed to civil discourse that he is having trouble with the autocratic environment of the soccer team. (Poor little bugger. He just stands and stares when the coach barks commands.)

So I propose that we let ME be the one to fix this problem. In my house, when you knock the entire condiment rack off the fridge, YOU get a dishtowel and get down and wipe up the shoyu and the hot sauce. And your friends and family help, because the sooner it's cleaned up, the sooner you'll be back outside playing.

I bet you could find 700 billionaires on Wall Street, extract a billion from each of them, and finance the bailout that way. I tell you one thing, there would be oversight THEN!

Forbes lists hundreds of billionaires. Let's cold-call 'em. "Hey you! Don't walk away - clean that up!" I'll start dialling - I don't mind. Who's with me?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yo Gabba Gabba just blew my mind

Do this for like 2 minutes and you will feel like Brian Eno. Multi-colored parsnips growing Peter Max hair and making Kraftwerk sounds.

I really do need to get a job.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I was lost in France / In the fields the birds were singing

Morning, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

You know how, when it's been noisy for a while (say, seven years), and suddenly it's quiet, you can hear everything?

This is the fourth week of the school year, the fourth week that both children have been out of the house for seven hours a day, five days a week, and the first week of the four that I have not been occupied with meetings, trips to the ER, sickness, broken shit, or frantic housecleaning.

I can hear EVERYTHING. Yesterday something terrible happened to a cicada outside the kitchen window. Damn thing screamed for ten minutes. Our new, very quiet dishwasher is not so quiet that I can't hear its soothing murmur over the sounds of crickets outside and the light traffic on Harford Road.

Yesterday I went looking for the only store in town that sells the nice French stationery that I like. I drove with the windows open and the radio off. Nobody was telling me a story about a man who climbed a tree and fell down and hurt his butt. Nobody was making subvocal humming sounds or touching his brother so that the brother would assault him and get in trouble.

I got lost. I sat in a parking lot and used the new stationery to write a letter to a friend who would have been able to get me un-lost if I had had his phone number. I heard crows. I heard a train. I heard an airplane overhead.

Yes, it was overhead. Where else would it be?

I should be reviewing a foot-high stack of skinny books. Some of them are about plants, some about geography. But I cannot motivate myself. The novelty of this situation has me a little stymied.

I should probably get a job.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This is not for you

I'm reading House of Leaves. Whew. Experimental horror novel. I don't think I'm going to be able to do anything else til I'm done.

Lucky for you, W00t found these fun children's books for you to occupy yourself with.

William S. Burroughs’ The Little Engine That Shot Its Wife

Justine And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by the Marquis De Sade

How The Grinch Stole The Best Minds of My Generation by Allen Ginsberg

Read about these and others on the W00t blog.

Also, you can amuse yourself, as the Toddfather and I just did, thinking up things that Complete Idiots shouldn't attempt. We came up with:

brain surgery
and tantric sex

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

And now the backup dishwasher is busted too*

Why does buying stuff always feel so good? Why do I feel all clean and purposeful when I decide, "Yes. We need this," and click SUBMIT?

Yesterday the new washing machine arrived. It's High Efficiency. It loads from the front. It surveys the basement with a dark and all-seeing eye. It spins at speeds exceeding, as far as I can calculate... let's see here, angular velocity equals 2
π revs/second, multiply that by the radius of the drum to get tangential velocity...
(0.33 meters)((1150revs/min x (2
π rad/sec))/60) = 39.72 meters/second

Yes. Just as I thought. It spins at speeds exceeding 88.85 miles per hour. It's totally that girl in that Cake song.

(And if you think I did THAT without the help of Old Man Internet, you can hire me to amortize your student loan.)

A month ago the beautiful living room rug that sheds worse than all three of Molly's big black dogs on a hot sunny day, the rug we HAD to buy because of the late unlamented kidney-afflicted St John Bosco, arrived and made our living room look like something out of a magazine.

New vanity

And two weeks ago our friend Rich installed (oh crap that reminds me we still owe Rich money) a new bathroom vanity to replace the one that fell apart like Herbie in The Love Bug.

Just now I committed to buying stilts so I can walk with Molly again in the Lauraville Fair parade. Last year I borrowed stilts from Body Lotion John, but I broke them when I fell.

But it's not the owning, I swear. It's the feeling when you buy it. For me, it's like shucking off the past - moving forward without the broken baggage that I've been lugging through the train station the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

OHHH, I felt good when I finally decided to buy my Nikon SLR. It was like trying to make the decision had been needling me and bugging me, and once the decision was made, those bees stopped buzzing in my brain.

I am by nature a little impetuous. Impatient. I become so aggravated by 'process' that I will act a bit rashly to make the process stop. "FINE! Let's just get this one!" might be my motto. I hate seeing myself dither. Luckily, I'm also a librarian, so I am always armed with metrics and benchmarks, ratings and pricing, when I am standing on the car lot looking at two different minivans and shifting from foot to foot in frustration. DOES THE BLUE ONE HAVE THE SLIDING MIDDLE SEATS? FINE. LET'S JUST BUY IT AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE.

This weekend, gentled into it by a buy-now-pay-next-October deal at Sears, we bought a new dishwasher, after five years of dealing with the oldest, loudest, tiltiest and most particular dishwasher that still functioned as such, and three days of dealing with the oldest,
loudest, tiltiest and most particular dishwasher that NO LONGER functioned as such. As soon as we pulled that trigger, the clouds cleared and I could see flat seas and gently waving palms, and there was Johnny Depp handing me a bottle of rum, welcoming me to the Caribbean.

Seriously, Johnny Depp, right there at the Sears Scratch 'n' Dent on York Road.

*that means my husband is on crutches

Friday, September 05, 2008

"You must remember, all my men are nervous as kittens just now"

Girltwin and glow bracelet

When I sit and work at the shitty Dell desktop computer that is STILL my only option here at home, ever since the incident of the rain and the window and the Linux laptop in the night time, and come on, man, doesn't anyone love me enough to step up and buy me this wee Linux thing so that I can lay in bed while I write reviews of juvenile nonfiction botany books? I promise I won't make you read 'em!

Ok, anyway, I have limited things to look at here as my ass turns to rock on this cheap IKEA desk chair. There's a can of pens. A pelican feather. Two staplers, both out of staples. And stacked on my desk behind the monitor are two small collections of pulp paperbacks.

One is kind of random, 19 titles ranging from a 1961 edition of Tales from the Decameron, which has a pretty cover, to Everything a Woman Needs to Know to Get Paid What She's Worth... In the 1980's (ellipsis theirs). Little old paperbacks that don't fit anywhere else, or are fragile. A crazy edition of Farewell, My Lovely. Los Angeles's Big Read campaign asked to use my scan of that cover for their collateral materials. They're doing The Maltese Falcon, which is a little stupid, given that the novel is set in San Francisco and god knows there's plenty of noir fiction set in L.A., but at least they're doing fiction! Maryland's One Book is an extremely tough sell this year - a contemporary biography of nobody famous. (I ain't saying it's not a good book, just that it's a tough sell.)

The other stack is my prized collection of Ian Fleming's James Bond books. Mostly Signet paperbacks, one hardback first edition from my Great-uncle Larry's house, and the especially rare The Book of Bond, pseudonymously written by Kingsley Amis in 1965. I consult these more often than you might think. More often than the dictionary, which, actually, should come as no surprise to anyone.

When, for example, The Talented Cousin Tim told me that the new Bond film was to have the extremely unpunchy title A Quantum of Solace - I mean, come on, is that a Bond title? or the title of a geriatric love story involving a Redgrave and Kris Kristofferson? I pulled out my copy of For Your Eyes Only, which is Bond short stories (and which by the way has the most terrible cover), and sure enough, "A Quantum of Solace" is in there. I'm guessing they won't be using the story's plot in the movie. It's a story about James Bond going to dinner and being bored, and then being told a story. A woman acts like a slut and then gets punished for it (ooh, Commander Fleming, you misogynistic old pile of overentitled crap!), but still, not a plot that would make up for a title that doesn't involve the word "Die" or "Live" or "Goldfinger".

Heh heh. Goldfinger. You can't make that kind of shit up.

Anyway, why did I open Moonraker today? I don't know. I was tired of the blog tagline up there. I had a dream that I changed the tagline, but I can't remember what I changed it to in the dream. Something about art, craft, hippos. If there were anything of any of those three things in this blog, I might consider using it. But there's not.

So I found that quote you see way up there, and a paragraph later came to this.
"When they had put a hundred yards between themselves and the cave Bond looked back. He imagined himself with six tough men and all the right gear."
Yep. It's Friday all right. What do you have planned for the evening?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

For your eyes only

The last of the zinnias

I can laugh about it now. But at the time I wanted to die of embarrassment. Everyone to whom I have told the story wants to die of embarrassment for me. Including my therapist, and if you knew her... yeah.

The whole reason I'm thinking of it is because I was on Facebook this morning, and updating my Google calendar at the same time, and I noticed that it was Wednesday, September 24th - my friend Jaime's birthday. So I went to her Facebook page and wished her happy birthday. I checked twice before doing this. I have a history of getting Jaime's birthday wrong. For years I was convinced it was October 24th.

Needless to say, today is not September 24th. Today is September 3rd. I should know this, because yesterday, September 2nd, was my 8th wedding anniversary, and the day before that was September 1, my older son's 7th birthday.

So Jaime asks me, basically, "WTF? FREAK." and I'm all, "Do not F with me you meanie, I checked twice!" and then I'm like, "Whoa, it's not Sept 24," and she was like "WTF? I ASK AGAIN," and I decided that I should get offline before I really make an ass of myself. I mean, to someone who doesn't already know I'm an ass.

See, for the past two days I've been sick. The gut rot that the boys and Bob got last Sunday, the night before school started? GOD. It ripped through second grade like an electric shock. THIRTEEN out of the twenty-four individuals who spend time in that room were out at least one day vomiting, peeing out their butt, being in hell. They had to call the health department.

And I got it yesterday. I was so miserable that I couldn't even vomit; too exhausted to even read a magazine - and I had Fashion Rocks! Can you think of a less demanding piece of print? So uncomfortable that I couldn't even sleep. My guts were sore. My body was sore. Today I was still so weak that taking a shower was an extremely risky proposition.

So I really had no business being online this morning. Last time I was online when I was sick, I received an email from a prominent person in my (largely former) profession. I felt the need to comment on this email, and went to forward it to, in point of fact, Jaime. Among other things, I complained that the prominent person in question habitually fails to place any value on any person not possessed of a penis.

I had a fever of 103. I was, in fact, Hot Blooded. And then I made a mistake. I hit Reply instead of Forward.

Shit hitting a fan. Have you thought about that metaphor, ever? Shit being slung all around the room, far and wide? The sheer amount of time and effort it would take to clean all that up? Well, it's a good metaphor.

Like I said, I can laugh about it now. Heh. Heh, heh.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How to take pictures of children

There are 17 children under the age of 10 on our block. I keep trying to get them all together for a photo. Here, inspired by Pop Culture Librarian's friend Josh, who posts photo essays on Tuesdays, is my photo essay documenting my attempts to get an entire cheerleading squad worth of antsy, fussy children to stand still and look at the camera.

First, the big kids (Zhou, 5; Neighbor Girl, 7; Mao, 6; Prosper, 7) climb up on the stump. Note Prosper checking out my son's scraped hand - he's got his arm around him and everything. This is a kid whom his father says rides through life as if in a limousine, "Oh, did we hit someone? Remind me to check the tires when we get home." But it's not true. He's got tons of empathy - just maybe not for his own siblings.

Assembling for the group photo 2

Next, we parked some of the littlies (Precious and Boniface, both of whom are I think 2) on the stump, but Bon required that he be with his sister, whom I call Wendy Darling because she is almost completely surrounded by boys.

Assembling for the group photo 4

Bon was switched for Stargirl, 5, who will pose when and where you want her. It's good to have at least one of those when you're trying something like this. Wendy Darling and Bon are assembled neatly. The standing kids are beginning to rebel - we have about 10 seconds before it all falls apart and somebody gets actually pushed off the stump.

11 kids all looking at the camera

We made it! Somebody fished Garcon and Sauroboy, who are 4, out from under the climber. Sauroboy's dad sneaked behind the stump and held his daughter Baby A aloft. I hit the shutter release about a million times as fast as I could.

Assembling for the group photo 3

And as they all head off to ride Big Wheels as fast as they can down the driveway and into my neighbors' garage (sorry about that, Mrs. Peaches and Mr. Earl!), I get one last shot. Awww. And that's when I realize that we are missing SIX children: Lui and Stacy's two girls, who hadn't arrived yet; Mona and John's two boys, who had already left; Blondie Boy, and Red Man.