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June 30, 2003

"American Traveler International Apology Shirt"

The American Apology Shirt is an example of the free-speech entrepreneurism that makes this country great! I want one-- and a bargain indeed at $16!

I have ALWAYS loved Safire

Yes, he worked for Nixon. Yes, he's a big conservative. But he has written some of my favorite books about English usage and truly, deeply cares about words and their use in politics (rather a latter-day Orwell, or at least a latter-day Orwell Lite). William Safire is also a good libertarian, as today's column points out. "Libertarian conservatives like me who place a high value on personal freedom," he writes, "consider Lawrence v. Texas a victory in the war to defend everyone's privacy." I can't believe how little I've heard on that point in the past few days!

The ending really had me cheering, for this is what I've been saying for ages:

Rather than wring our hands and cry "abomination!", believers in family values should take up the challenge and repair our own house.

Why do too many Americans derogate as losers those parents who put family ahead of career, or smack their lips reading about celebrities who switch spouses for fun? Why do we turn to the government for succor, to movie porn and violence for sex and thrills, to the Internet for companionship, to the restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner--when those functions are the ties that bind families?

I used to fret about same-sex marriage. Maybe competition from responsible gays would revive opposite-sex marriage.

Hey, will somebody help me register?

It's not that I want to become a slave to marketing. I mean, being a dog, I will always have limited purchasing power anyway, and I am basically ok with that. Mainly because the Dads more than make up for it. I don't have to go out and work all day like they do, and then they come home and spoil me, lavishing me with cool fashions like that most excellent camo collar. But I'm not sure about their taste. I mean, you look around the house and there is a certain, shall we say, lack of thematic consistency in the decor.

So I'm fairly sure it's just a matter of time until they start buying me my own furniture. The taller Dad is always talking about how I'm going to be so spoiled, so I figure that means that sooner or later, they're going to come home with a nice canine fainting couch and a petbrella for those hot Seattle summer afternoons. I just want to make sure that they pick out good stuff, furniture that really expresses the inner Dozer Jesus Portersmith. So it any of you friends of the Dads would be so kind as to help me get on Ethan Allen's pet registry so I can pick out exactly which chintz I prefer (it certainly must compliment my gorgeous red hair) and the wood for my sleigh pet bed, I'd really appreciate it.

SS+K's new website goes live

So a lot of you have expressed interest (or confusion) about exactly what it is I am doing at my new company, and what kind of company it is. Our new website should help clear that up.

I'm eager for some feedback on the design. It's definitely cool--the navigation metaphor is "microfiche, i.e., a thumbnail of all content is visible on screen at all times--but I'm not 100% sure how intuitive it is. Oh, you need Flash, but you probably already have it. Otherwise, how could you enjoy the hijinx of Homestar Runner and friends?

You MUST click through on "The Work" section at bottom and watch some of the Time Warner Cable advertising. It is just brilliant and hilarious. Or, rather, "brilliant + hilarious" as our SS+K copy style would have it.

I really enjoyed beeting my New York compatriots last week, and the 10th anniversary party was amazing. SS+K's new downtown New York headquarters is unbelievable, vertiginously perched 30 floors up overlooking South Street Seaport and all the East River bridges and Brooklyn. Our brand theme is "municipal chic," which you kind of have to see to get. Amazingly, the Bellevue office was able to pick up this theme, as both offices were being built out at the same time. If you click on the "Contact Us" part of the site, you can see a little webcam shot of each office. You might even see me once in a while!

June 26, 2003

First the good news

This is clearly the big story of the day, not to mention one of the largest milestones in the long journey of gays and lesbians on the road to full rights and protection as American citizens. Combined with the recent Canadian legalization of same-sex marriage, 2003 is turning out to be a banner year for progress among Western democracies to get over themselves and get out of the bedrooms of their citizens. Which is good, given the fact that our entire civilization is under attack from fundamentalists here and abroad; basically, the democracies seem to realize they have bigger fish to fry.

But it is not democracies that must get over themselves if we are to enjoy rights and protections in practice that comport with judicial theories of the way the world should work. The past fifty years have shown that social justice and equal rights granted through legislative or judicial process can be held hostage by relatively small minorities who focus obsessively on the issues at hand, minorities who in their fervor blunt the actual practice of freedom and chain true liberty with fear and shame. The state of the debate over Roe v. Wade is the best example of this, but surely the affirmative action debate offers another. So my question is: is today's victory one we can trust and build on, or will it become the battle whose symbolic ramifications do more to enliven the opponents of equality than the decision does to guarantee our freedom?

I do not mean to downplay or question the courage and rightness of the majority decision (or Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion that recognizes the real flaw in Lawrence v. Texas is the Texas law's violates the fundamental equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment). How could I not rejoice at Justice Kennedy's statement that gay people "are entitled to respect for their private lives"? How could it not be a major victory to have the majority of the Court agree that "the state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime"?

To answer my own question, I can because of the time I spent at Planned Parenthood. Like Roe, this decision only recognizes a set of realities about human beahvior and seeks to square Constitutional interpretation with these realities. People will have abortions and anal sex whatever the law says; the Roe and Lawrence decisions stated that government needed to vacate the territory it had claimed over these acts. It is less about protecting a right than deflecting the government's irresistable force from the plain face of that great immovable object, human nature.

But as Frost says, something there is that loves a wall. Something there is, particularly in the dark Calvinist heart of America, that loves the sound of human flesh slapped full across its face by the not-so-invisible hand of government. Freedom for me and thee, but none for those beyond the pale. (This is not, loud assertions aside, a sentimental, aesthetic, ethical, or moral consideration; the increase of freedom is quite simply a threat to the continuing power of those who have traditionally enjoyed the freedom to wield power on their terms.)

The love of this brutal sound echoes in the sound of protesters at the doors of the abortion clinic, the sound of Fred Phelps cheering the funerals of gays at the church door. Unfortunately for us, these voices are only made louder when judicial action waters these brittle causes with fresh outrage. The thought that this decision could embolden the anti-gay right in the same way that Roe whipped up the anti-woman and anti-choice movement is literally terrifying to me--thirty years from now, we could still be fighting for the rights we "won" today, and more opponents willing to resort to murder when the legislative and judiciary fail to bend to their will. My only real hope in our ability to avoid this is that the culture has far enough outpaced the law in the case of gays that the collective "so what" will provide little tender to the spark of protest.

So I'll try not to do what the German proverb calls "painting the devil on the wall." I will try to look on the bright side and celebrate this decision for what I hope it can be: an unalloyed good and the foundation for the right to marry, to serve in the military, or to adopt children freely should one choose.

So to close, a personal story. Tonight, I am having dinner with my friend Jonathan. He was in his early twenties, working for GMHC as AIDS was ravaging New York, and deeply in love. Then one morning, his partner Xavier's employer gave him two weeks notice to return to France. With no recourse to marriage, and no sure way to negotiate the legal complexities of a life together in any country, they parted. Jonathan navigated the shoals of loss, heartbreak, uncertainty, and risk admirably. But to look at his face is to see the mark of that blow, to register a great "what if" on his behalf. Loving myself a man who has been just months away from a green card for months, I can't help but shudder thinking about this story. So I will raise my glass to his and say a toast and speak a prayer that this decision will be a true and lasting victory.

I think we all have some work to do to make this true, though I'm not certain what effort will have the most impact. What I do know is that the friends and families who love us have to speak up when they hear us hated, and not be afraid to shout down the people who believe we are less than citizens, less than humans. Because that is what the Rhenquist rant boils down to: a cry to keep our backs for drums and lungs for bellows in that awful music of a dark American nightmare.

June 25, 2003

And while we're on that note

And you thought it was cute coming up with your porn star name using that formula about the street you grew up on and your first pet's name? How about randomly generating your new band's name?

I think I'm going to make it big playing in The Crystal Sheep Symphony, but, you know, if we break up over artistic differences, I'm sure I can find some more like-minded folks to join me in taking Shaved Horse or Pool of Heads right up the pop charts.

Irony for the smartypants set

The little disclaimer at the bottom of the Postmodern Generator tells you that the text you've just read (and presumably laughed audibly at) is completely meaningless and randomly generated. So it's sort of a PoMo incarnation of that saying about how an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters would eventually write A Tale of Two Cities. Some of these are a real hoot.

Actually, I can almost imagine coming across something like this:

"Art is elitist," says Derrida; however, according to la Tournier[1] , it is not so much art that is elitist, but rather the rubicon, and eventually the genre, of art. Marx uses the term 'modernist neocapitalist theory' to denote not narrative, as libertarianism suggests, but postnarrative. In a sense, Bailey[2] implies that we have to choose between modernist neocapitalist theory and the structuralist paradigm of consensus.

in a lit major's paper somewhere. Like the woman in my lit theory class who, before section one day, was carrying on the following tirade about her boyfriend. "I mean, he comes over, he takes off his clothes, gets into bed, and starts reading Proust. I mean, sure I always read Proust naked, but it's just so affected to do it in another person's bed."

June 23, 2003

Weird Science

If I had to create the perfect guy, he would undoubtedly be of the metrosexual orientation. Criticize him as the abominable construct of a marketing culture gone horribly, horribly out of control, but if he can order a good wine, appreciate the Reidel stemware into which it is poured, and compliment me on my lovely new Miu Mius, then I say we relax those stem cell laws so the marketers can clone us a good little army of Spice Boys. And then maybe, just maybe, we'll achieve a critical mass of males in downtown wearing leather jackets instead of fleece pullovers.

Oh hell, a girl can dream, can't she?

June 20, 2003

I couldn't have said it better myself

Although perhaps it's a little dismaying to learn that Joseph Conrad, author of one of my favorite novels, had some crackpot ideas, including that Native Americans engaged in various acts of raiding and headhunting because their wives were in desperate need of some home ec classes, this beautiful essay by Julian Barnes is exactly the sort of thing I was trying to get at with my food as medicine post the other day.

An example:

Philip Larkin believed "Poetry is an affair of sanity", as opposed to what he called (after a phrase from Evelyn Waugh) the "very mad, very holy" school. Cooking too is an affair of sanity - even literally so. Stella Bowen once knew a poet in Montparnasse who had suffered a nervous breakdown and been incarcerated in a clinic. After his release, he lived in a room overlooking the street, opposite a boulangerie. The poet dated his recovery from the moment when, gazing out of his window, he saw a woman going in to buy bread. He felt, he told Bowen, "unutterably envious of the interest she was taking in the choosing of a loaf".

That's what it's about. You choose a loaf. You are reckless with the butter. You reduce the kitchen to chaos. You try not to waste scraps. You feed your friends and family. You sit around a table engaged in the irreducible social act of sharing food with others. For all the cavils and caveats, Conrad was right. It is a moral act. It is an affair of sanity. Let him have the last word. "The intimate influence of conscientious cookery," he wrote, "promotes the serenity of mind, the graciousness of thought, and that indulgent view of our neighbour's failings which is the only genuine form of optimism. Those are its titles to our reverence."

Sigh. To write with such eloquence would make me very happy indeed.

Warm this, Mr. President!

Of course this first caused an increase in my blood pressure yesterday morning when I heard it on NPR but the Times' editorial on Bush's Censorship on Global Warming really got me riled up.

Even W's father seemed to realize something was up a decade ago. The Bush dynasty's slide into ignorance is an amazing thing to watch. I can imagine it now-- 20 years hence, our 46th President, Jenna Bush, will declare (margarita in hand, on board the presidential gondola moored on the Pennsylvania Ave. Canal) that we still need more research on global warming. Of course by then, "Lower Manhattan" will have a whole new meaning, Los Angeles will be a desert again, and Seattle will have replicated its long palm-lined boulevards. But some idiot congressman from East Jesus with a cheap suit and a bad toupee will still be prattling on about a "lack of scientific consensus."

June 19, 2003

Fun with Squirrels

This link is courtesy of those wonderful Madpony girls-- easily my second favorite pair of Oklachicks at the moment. Sometimes, you just need to see really cute pictures of squirrels. Today was that day for me. The horrible crunch of work that I've been fearing since SS+K Day 1 has hit, just in time for a trip to New York next week that will make it 10 times harder to be more productive. Eeek.

But I mean squirrels!

We are the trend

A good article on interest in wine among younger consumers from the Kansas City Star.

Interesting tidbit:

The Scarborough report said not only are young adults buying more wine, but they are willing to pay more for it. Wine consumers ages 21 to 24 are twice as likely than the average purchaser to spend $20 or more on a bottle of wine, the study stated. Those ages 23 to 34 are 76 percent more likely to pay for a high-end wine, while people older than age 65 are 74 percent less likely to pay top dollar, the study suggested.
Champagne purchases are more common among the 21-to-24 crowd.
Johnson said young drinkers also are risky in their wine experiences. They will opt for a bottle instead of buying by the glass, she said.

Because Seattle could use a good mob

While this article is about a mob in Manhattan, it really seems that uptight, over-rational Seattle could use a little of this craziness. I love the "rug to play on" line. Can you imagine something like that at the Bon?

I ask you, nonstrangers, should our blog invade the meatspace with something like this? I hate to be derivative, but if we hurry it would still be cool.

June 18, 2003

Sopranos season six

I suppose a headline like Producer Says 'Sopranos' Will Have a 6th Season is good news, as long as the show manages not to "jump the shark."

So Season Five will start in March? That's definitely good news-- cooking with Paulette on Sunday has made me hungry for some ziti!

June 17, 2003

Attack On Bourgeois Turns Out To Be Nothing

After a community viewing of Jay's losing—but smart and refined—competition on Jeopardy, I drove home and stopped by the ProClub for some cycling that I really should have done outside (I even had my road bike on the back of my car).

Later, driving down Broadway, just after passing the south end of Broadway Market and before the Vivace outpost, across from Bill & Ted's Excellent Cafe Adventure, or whatever that Baskin-Robbins became, I heard a loud, sharp noise on my right. Had someone thrown something at my car? It was so loud, I wondered how it could have been a human-powered shot. Was it my shiny car with the gold "L" logo that had elicited the attack?

I turned the corner and pulled into the parking lot at WaMu to inspect the car, wondering how, if I found damage, I could do anything useful about catching the culprit. I scanned the right side of the car... no visible holes in the body... one dimple I already know about... tires are fine... no cracked glass. Huh. I got back in the car, and then I saw my attacker. The parking garage at the health club was quite warm, and an hour of sitting there had caused quite a bit of pressure to build up in the re-corked bottle of Duvel lying on the passenger seat. The cork was no longer in the bottle.

I held up the bottle while I wiped up the ale with my canvas bag from Trader Joe's, and then realized how that might be perceived around here (the open container of alcohol in the hand of the driver). Canvas isn't too absorbent, so I'll be referring now to the car's "ale skin" interior.

Dozer's not the only one with a weird dad

I think my father has always secretly wanted to be a redneck. Certainly he doesn't have the appropriate pedigree--the eldest son of very literary Irish parents, born in New York City and raised in other, equally large and culturally diverse cities along the Mississippi river--growing up he never had opportunity to put a car up on blocks in the front yard or rock on a crickety old front porch admonishing folks to get off his land. (Although, I do recall that he once built a still that blew up or something.) Perhaps that is the lure for him. Or perhaps he's just a little quirky.

But really, he's got redneck wannabe written all over him sometimes. He loves those "You Know You're a Redneck If..." type emails and claims to identify with many of those things. He likes to fish, he's got a pickup truck, he's always talking about his pigs and chickens and their antics, hanging out with old farmers, claiming that one of these days he's going to make whistle-pig pie (which is apparently something like a groundhog pot pie), drinking moonshine and cheap whiskey (ok, you got me there, it's more like expensive Irish whiskey)... Ok, so maybe he's more of a metaredneck or postmodern redneck. But he likes to shoot things with an old rifle. Now that's gotta get him some RN points.

Sunday, for example. I called him to do my duties as the good daughter I am and wish him the bestest Father's Day ever. So we're chatting and it's all nice. But a few minutes into the conversation I hear a clattering on his end, which sounds like the phone dropping, followed by what sound like gunshots, and then an exclamation of "Crap!" followed a few seconds later by "Hi, sorry. I'm back."

I suppose you can imagine that, as used to him and his sometimes curious hobbies as I am, I was concerned. Hearing your father drop the phone and curse while gunshots are being fired can be a less than calming experience. And, well, to be honest, he's really pissed neighbors off in the past, so you know, you can't be too careful. So I asked him, sweetly, calmly, and with genuine concern, "What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm out in the back pasture."

Translation, he's hunting groundhogs.

Yeah, the man has some weird obsession with playing God over suburban rodentia, especially ground hogs. I remember while growing up, the crazed look he would get upon finding some new zucchini plant or row of swiss chard in the garden had been digested by a woodchuck. He tried things like bigger and better fencing and putting up plastic owls. They dug under the fence and knocked the owl on its ass. Score 1 for the groundhogs. He took it as a statement. Nay, as a declaration. If it weren't for my mother's reasoned argument that poisoning the garden would also render the carefully tended vegetables inedible to their intended audience, I've no doubt we would have been finding bloated groundhog bodies throughout the neighborhood.

I also have a memory of a post on the back porch upon which he'd drawn little pictures of groundhogs with X's across them, one for each kill. He has the mentality of the soldier in Apocalypse Now who wore a necklace of his dead enemies' ears when it comes to these critters.

So we chat more. There are many things we can talk about. He mentions again the whistlepig pie. There is some discussion that maybe the old saw that anything you stuff with cheese and deep fry is going to taste good might also apply to groundhogs.

A few minutes later, there is a similar sequence of events to the ones described above. Phone drops...shots...only this time, "Got the bastard!"

Happy Father's Day, Pa.

June 13, 2003

I lost on Jeopardy, baby...

Whoooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo.

And you can see me lose next Tuesday, June 17. Check local listings, etc. In Seattle, it will be on KOMO 4 at 7:30.

I hope you’ll all still respect me afterwards. I’ll be sure to do an extra-special write-up detailing the mortifications of seeing the show air.

June 12, 2003

Gay prom dates raise no fuss

Well, we can't get married, but if gay couples can go to the prom togethed and hardly raise an eyebrow, that's real progress. I definitely believe that social change must come first or legislative action will produce a backlash (e.g., Roe v. Wade).

The best quotes from the MSNBC story:


Allen and Misko are joining peers from Wisconsin to West Virginia in revolutionizing the traditional high school prom. More gay teens than ever are turning out for this year's big night in gowns and tuxes-- or gowns and gowns, or tuxes and tuxes. But instead of sparking controversy, schools across the country are welcoming them. "It's exploding," says Alice Leeds, a spokesperson for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a nationwide advocacy group known as PFLAG. Brenda Melton, president of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), says that it has become almost commonplace in urban and suburban areas for a student to bring a date of the same sex to the prom--and that in most schools, it's really no big deal.

Today's school administrators say they want an event that's welcoming for everyone. In fact, officials are vastly more concerned about "bellybuttons and low-cut outfits" than whether a student is holding hands with a member of the same sex.

Clearly, as we have all known, the Britney Spears look is more of a threat to family values than us gays.

June 11, 2003

This just in: I'm tired of Capitol Hill

After years of orbiting Capitol Hill, I finally drew close enough to it to say with some plausibility that I live on it. All the good reasons to be here are still here, but it no longer seems charming to me. If I could somehow turn my apartment into a house with a yard and lower rent...

Rent. Rent must be the lowest adventure-per-dollar deal one can make. Even though I can now afford rent that would have made me squeamish a few years ago, I find now that it is quite frustrating when I'm accustomed to more disposable income (and room for my feeling-based accounting methods).

I think I'm ready to share a house again. (Heh, but I have also sworn of roommates in the past.) Maybe it's time to live in the Artist's Republic. And one day, I'll say casually that I've lived in a brownstone, I've lived in the ghetto, I've lived all over this town.

Form? Who needs that?

So Pete, Julie and I did some bowling last night. I don't really know why, but I've had this urge to go lately, and so we did. None of us would claim to be experienced bowlers. Certainly none of us made enough of a showing to be asked to join a professional curcuit or anything.

So, my mom taught me to bowl, which is why I can't. Not that my mom isn't really good at bowling. It's just that I never listened to anything she tried to teach me growing up. So I vaguely remember her admonitions on form and style, where to stand when starting the approach, and what point to begin pulling the arm behind you and then forward, the importance of follow-through. But lack of practice, caring, and paying attention mean that all of her sage alley advice has been largely lost on me. So I usually score (is that the right word for this game?) under 100.

Julie, claiming not to have bowled in something like 5 years or only 5 times in her life, or something like that, scored over 100 in all of her games last night. But I noticed that her success had very little to do with the careful form that my mother taught me was so essential. No, Julie has a very different style, which is more along the lines of: walk up to the line, drop the ball on the ground, and wait for 9 pins to fall down. Sometimes all 10. But with frightening consistency, 9 would go down. Drop the ball. 9 pins fall. It was really uncanny. In 3 games, the only real variation was that the number of times all 10 went down increased a bit. Drop the ball. 9 pins fall.

Pete, on the other hand, I am thinking after last night's performance, really should do that competitive lip synching thing. Cheap Trick, Journey--whatever the hell bad mid-80s pop he was writhing on the floor to--it was worthy of American Idol, that performance.

More on Canadian marriage

So, more on the Canada marriage front.

Oddly enough, this is an article written by a guy I dated who after a couple of weeks decided I was "too gay" (upon further discussion, he was really looking for a straight guy)-- quoting a guy I dated who, though cute and smart, seemed to be looking more for a Boy Scout sleepover buddy than a boyfriend. (I became convinced me might get to second base by 2005, but only if I became an Eagle Scout.) Come to think of it. they would be a great couple. Maybe they can go to Canada together. Both of those guys made me scratch my head a bit-- but of course I didn't know what I had to look forward to.

In all serious, Jamie's quote below is intriguing--international law might provide some benefits to same-sex couples who marry in Canada.

The Seattle Times: Rulings bring marriage closer to reality for gay Canadians

Lunch with Bud

Hsiao-Ching Chou, the PI's food writer, got to live out my fantasy Mao run through Pike Place Market wtih Calvin Trillin. Sometimes life is just so unfair...

When the ice box is also the medicine cabinet

Julie Powell, authoress of the Julie/Julia Project, my favorite blog that I don't write for, has been having a rough time of it lately. Well, as long as I've been reading the blog she's had one rough time or another--not infrequently descending into bouts of self-pity that leave her screaming obscenities or banging her head against a wall. And, like all great writer/cooks, she takes to the sauce a bit when things get particularly rough, or at least when friends come over for dinner. But she's been sick the last week or so, and cooking less lately, and philosophizing more in her daily entries.

A thought from a recent post really hit me, though.

"So last night, eating fried dumplings and Szechuan beef that I can’t taste or easily swallow because of my cold, which is probably a good thing, I got to thinking about food and depression. Here’s my thought, born of some circuitous sad-sack thought patterns: I think that in order to really care about food, you have to have experienced depression, or at least great difficulties. This is not to say that everyone who’s depressed is a gourmet, of course. But most of the people I know who really, sincerely happy most of the time are also profoundly uninterested in food. Food for them is just fuel to get them through the next day at the beach. Whereas people who’ve experienced great pain, either self-inflicted or not, sometimes come to the preparation and eating of great food as both a comfort and an affirmation of life, sometimes much needed and hard to find.

Or then again, maybe everybody’s fucking miserable, and some of them also like to eat."

Ok, so I'm sure this is no new or profound thought, but it got me started on thinking about how true this is of the great food writers at least, if not of all people who like to eat. Food, at least for a food writer, is the inspiration for art, but without some connection to life, well, you're just writing a glorified cookbook or another memoir. It's the key difference that makes Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone or MFK Fisher's Gastronimical Me so moving, and Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun merely a fun read about fulfilling a fantasy about moving to Europe and buying an old farm.

Now I'm not saying that Mayes' book isn't good. I enjoyed it. It made me want to live in Tuscany for a while, and certainly to cook in Tuscany, but it also gave me the impression that it was written by a priveleged intellectual living out a dream and just sort of stating the obvious--that it's fun to do that. There are recipes throughout the book, and she pays a fair amount of attention to appreciating the local, seasonal produce available to her, but it's all in this detached cerebral way that's fine for making the point about how there are plenty of cool things about getting to live in a villa in an ancient Italian town.

Fisher, on the other hand, is a woman who did know great pain. She left a bland marriage in order to be with the great love of her life who almost immediately began falling apart--literally--from Buerger's disease. Though they had several happy years together, living deeply throughout Europe and the US, for much of it he was in an agony that eventually caused him to commit suicide. Fisher wrote one of the most beautiful and moving tributes to the comforting power of food about an event several months after this episode. She'd traveled to Mexico to visit her brother. Since her love's death she'd been unable to feel anything, and her description of the bland little packets of food that everyone else on the plane was happily munching and which she couldn't bring herself to touch highlights how without that love that she'd risked everything for, she wasn't sure she could find anything to suck out of life anymore.

Upon arriving in Mexico, she stops at a hotel for a night and decides to try to eat something in the restaurant, where they bring her tourist food, Americanized and bland, and she can't bring herself to touch that either for the same reasons she couldn't stomach the meal on the plane. Her waiter, realizing that she is so deeply sad and in need of comfort as much as nutrition, brings her a bowl of the beans and tortillas that the kitchen staff are eating. For the first time in months, Fisher tastes and enjoys.

You have to be just a little bit awed by the weight of that moment. The simplest food, the everyday staple of poor people in a poor country, had the power to bring a woman back to life.

Food as medicine is really something of a complex idea. For one thing, it is just that in the literal sense. We all need the vitamins and nutrients in the food we eat for our bodies' natural functioning to continue. And various foods that we eat do have medicinal values--ginger, for example, is good at alleviating nausea (as is the nectar in canned peaches, something I've never understood by swear by). There are even studies demonstrating the scientific reasons why a bowl of chicken soup is helpful in fighting off colds.

But te point where food becomes medicine in the figurative sense is where mom's homemade chicken soup has the greater impact in making you feel better than a microwaved can of Campbells.

It makes sense how food, and homecooking in particular, can be therapeutic to a cook. It's a creative outlet, involves a process you can throw yourself into with as much energy as you need to, and it has an immediate, tangible result to the labor, which is satisfying in a way that many other pursuits people use to lift their spirits--running, for example--can't offer.

For the eater, though, the therapeutic value of food, and even more so, the importance it has in one's ability to be happy, is something entirely different, more readily compared to activities that are based in emotion. So it's no surpise that food is used so often in literature and art as a metatphor for things that strike us deeply--love, sex, motherhood, and nostalgia, to name a few. Food stimulates pleasure on the physical level, on an emotional level, and when made with the specific eater in mind, it can stimulate on something like a flattering level.

So the question, getting back to the statement that prompted this ramble in the first place, is why certain people can be moved by tastes and others are not. Fisher things it has some amount to do with the age and experience of the person. I disagree with Fisher mostly. I've known well-traveled adults who could take or leave nearly any item on their dish, and I've known children to go into near rapture over a bowl of garlicky mushrooms. If I'm interpreting Julie's statement above correctly, she would say it has something to do with the person's ability to let their emotions rule them, that in order to allow yourself to be transported with joy, you also have to allow yourself to suffer. And by suffering, I don't mean that you need to have the most traumatic experiences, but that you allow yourself to be affected deeply by your experiences, even the negative ones. And what is more exhilarating than being lifted from the bottom of dispair to some unexpected height of pleasure?

Couple Holds Same - Sex Wedding in Canada

Wow. Couple Holds Same - Sex Wedding in Canada

Not that this means we'll ever have the right to marry here.

""He's gone to the big chookery in the sky."

I can't do better than the headline. NEWS.com.au | 'Explosive' rooster taunts cops (June 9, 2003).

Beware of roosters bearing cannisters, friends.

Whither Beckham?

Back on the theme of giving good service, I wheedled two tickets to the Manchester United v. Celtic football match here next month, after mentioning David's disappointment at the 20 minute sellout to my uberboss Greg, who snapped up a dozen tickets with which to woo clients. Now it turns out we might not get to see Beckham play if Man U passes him off to Barcelona or some other club.

It's hard to feel too bad for a guy who makes $12-18 million a year playing soccer (uh, sorry Jon, make that, "footie"), but this is pretty harsh:

"Any prominent footballer is just a share traded on the football stock market," Richmond Duff, a lawyer, told a reporter for The New York Times last night in an interview at the Builder's Arms pub in London. "This is pure commerce, and we'll easily find another handsome bloke with a ridiculous hairstyle."

At the Bull's Head pub in Wilmslow, outside Manchester, Gary Turner, the head chef, said by phone that he, too, supported the selling of Beckham. "We've been known as a one-man team," Turner said. "If we got rid of him, we'd see if we were a real team rather than a one-man team."

James Marley of the Bull's Head kitchen staff said he was a rabid Manchester United fan but seemed dismissive of Beckham, saying: "I don't think he's that good. He's more glamour than anything else."

So what, Jesse Watts said in the Builder's Arms pub. She indicated that she would be grievously sorry to see Beckham go, not least of all because of his rugged good looks.

"I think he should stay because a) he's a sex symbol and Britain needs that; and b) he's an amazing footballer," Watts said. "I hate football, but he's an amazing player."


I hate Reebok

I always have-- this is not just a side effect of Nike being a client of mine.

This new Reebok ad reminds me why. Basically, it takes the trend of signing ever-younger sports prodigies to (one hopes, lest there are fetuses out there with hoop dreams) its limit. If it were a parody of Nike's recent signings of young stars, it would almost be acceptible (though it would taste of sour grapes, as Lebron James chose Nike even though Reebok offered more money.)

Rob Walker's analysis of the ad for Slate is, as usual, dead-on:


A 3-year-old saying "I am Reebok" strikes me as just about the creepiest and most disheartening image that a company could possibly offer to society. But I suspect that many viewers will have a different reaction-- more along the lines of, "I want in on that. My boy can be Reebok, too."

Eww.

Bad news about those Baker's Cookies

Those cookies Paulette likes are a little heftier than they claim to be. I've always wondered how accurate food labels were, especially among smaller brands. But I say if you like, just toss the last bite and call it even.

June 10, 2003

"V" is coming back!

It's official. NBC is planning a sequel to the original "V" miniseries. Can it really have been 20 years ago?

Amazing Honda ad

Everyone has seen this, right? It's a simply amazing Honda ad produced by the London office of Wieden & Kennedy. Without any computer animation. Requiring 606 takes and costing as much a $6 million to shoot.

Money. Well. Spent.

Bananas not headed for extinction

David so often corrects me with citations from snopes.com that I am really glad to get the chance to scoop him on the debunking of an alarming story he mentioned last month. David (and plenty of less reputable news sources) reported that the worldwide banana population was under threat from aggressive pathogens. As cultivated bananas have been assiduously bred from a small stock, they are essentially a monoculture and thus very vulnerable to massive blights. Luckily, the experts have allayed my fears of a bananapocalypse. And they write great headlines too. Now, if someone more botanically wise can educate me: what's a "banana sucker?"

Shameless heartstring pulling

Paulette, did you get this link in an email from theYale Alumni Fund as well? Is it just me, or did you start tearing up-- and more to the point reach for your checkbook?! I suppose they just did a good job with it, but I'm kind of paranoid that now I'm 30 the long-dormant Boola9 virus has executed in my OS-- which means that the opening strains of "Bright College Years" make me go all vuhklempt and nostalgic. I'm a communications professional AND a former fundraiser, dammit-- that should really make me immune to slick marketing like this. But I'm just not.

June 06, 2003

"I like to put all my Ameraucana chicken eggs in this lovely birch basket I wove myself..."

Well, at least we beat Slate to the punch: Martha the Oracle - Four years ago, Martha Stewart warned her shareholders what could happen to her. They didn't listen. By Daniel Gross

I'm going to post the link to that photo to The Fray.

Ask and ye shall receive

Well, I can't promise that everyone else gets the same stellar and responsive service that David does, but I do try. Based on his terribly sensible request I have added a new category, lickety-split: "bon voyage/voyeur," and reclassified all the travel-related posts I could find to this new home. It's all about travel, in the real and vicarious senses. Please do travel, and write about it. If we were all half as eloquent as Paulette, the site would not be nonfamous at all. But then what would we do.

By the way, if you do want to try to get David-level service out of me (instead of standard agency-grade "return your email next week" client service), you could start by taking notes on his exceedingly skillful stroking of one of my great vanities: my near-infallible great-restaurant radar. Flattery may not get you everywhere, but it will get you on my good side.

Pete, if you're out there, I hope the "skillful stroking" image really cheers you up in the way that only my conjuring of extravagantly gay images can. If not, I can keep them coming.

Paris recommendations

A friend of mine is travelling to Paris soon, so I thought I'd send him some recommendations. And because I'm going myself in a couple weeks, I didn't want to lose the info. So here it is for posterity, my list of must-dos in Paris.

A marvellous new restaurant in Paris is:

Restaurant Le X
10, Rue Saint Merri
Paris 4e
01 48 87 06 00

Jay and I found it when wandering around the Marais back in May. Jay has a great sense for just stumbling past -- and identifying! -- the coolest places to eat. Tell them we sent you, if you go. :) It's right near the Pompidou centre. Great modern food, and an excellent value. Be sure to try "Le Romantique" platter of desserts.

X is in the Marais district which is my favorite part of Paris (Metro: Hotel de Ville). It has lots of wonderful cafes, bars (of all varieties) and cool stores to wander around.

Another good restaurant in that area is "Au Tibourg" in Rue du Bourg-Tibourg. Excellent tradional French cuisine.

And for brunch, try "Le Pain Quotidien" on Rue du Temple (might be Rue des Archives, not quite sure). You sit at bench-style tables elbow-to-elbow with everyone else, and get a great country breakfast. It's a cool place to get some conversation with locals when you travel alone.

As for sightseeing, these are my recommendations:

* Musee d'Orsay. The best museum in the world. Skip the Louvre in favour of this.
* Don't bother climbing the Eiffel tower. Go to the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. You can climb it for about 20FF (whatever that is in Euros these days) and you get a far better view of Paris ... with the Eiffel Tower included!
* Musee Picasso is also very good if you like Picasso.
* If you get the time, visit Cite du Science et de l'Industrie (at Porte de la Villette, I think). I haven't been there for about 10 years, but at the time it was the best science museum in the world.
* Take a walk to Place des Vosges and have a coffee in a terrace cafe one sunny afternoon
* Just walk around a lot. Paris is a wonderful city for walking and exploring. Walking down the length of the Champs Elysees, through Place Concorde and down to Notre Dame is a favourite of mine.
* If you need a break, go see a movie, but make sure it's marked "(VO)" -- English with subtitles.

By the way, nonfamous really needs a "travel" category.

Unbearable rebranding: Snuggle gets hip

Just when you thought consumer product companies couldn't get any weirder than the animated grannies who quilt every square of Quilted Northern toilet tissue, now we discover that Snuggle fabric softener's mascot teddy bear Snuggle is getting a makeover

I can't make shit like this up. Stuart Elliott manages to report on it with an (almost) straight face. "With a blissful demeanor, squeaky voice and high-pitch giggle, Snuggle, the longtime spokescreature for the Snuggle brand of fabric softener, used to behave like a Care Bear. Now cuddly Snuggle is getting an image update, becoming a devil-may-care bear, complete with sunglasses à la Tom Cruise, dates with models and knowing winks to the audience. What next? Mr. Peanut pitching Viagra?"

OK. So not so much of a straight face.

"We're making the bear a little more smooth, a little more suave, a little more smart, a little more hip," says the agency guy I hope I never sound like.

Lest you think this is too sudden a shift for the little bear:

"We call it `Snuggle envy,' " said Michael Baer, executive vice president and managing director at Lowe. "Everyone wants the Snuggle touch, but Snuggle knows nobody can compare to him."

Snuggle envy. For the record, the idea of a grown man talking about the "Snuggle touch" makes me never want to have children, or at least give my children any teddy bears. Eww.

What if the Marquis de Sade met the man?

I kind of hesitate to post this link because somehow it feels like I might be exposing a little too much about my particular kinks, since by now most people I know are aware of my prediliction for painfully hot foods, but this book, Mr. Chilehead: Adventures in the Taste of Pain does look like a fascinating read.

"The Return of Class War - Bush and the new tyranny of the rich."

Only if you want to be depresses, pissed off, or both: The Return of Class War - Bush and the new tyranny of the rich. By Michael Kinsley

June 05, 2003

Speaking of Chickens...

Paulette, I mostly agree with you. But how stupid to risk all her neatly arranged piles of money on a stupid $200,000 stock deal. That's almost as dumb as putting all your eggs in one basket, right on the Investor Relations page. Gads-- what worse message could they send the investors?!

Cluck, suck, pluck

Ah, the joys of chicken farming. It turns out that chickens are even harder to herd than cats, and human "chicken catchers" freak out the birds they are trying to corral. One solution the inudstry tried: a giant chicken vacuum. It didn't work as well as the prairie dog vacuum I heard tell of in my youth. Anyway, this WSJ article is funny and somewhat heartwarming... the chickens are happier, the chicken-herders are happier, and even the freaks at PETA are a little less unhinged. It strikes me as amazing that any technology borrowed from airport bagging handling systems could make anyone happy, but as long as it's not on the editorial page, I tend to trust the Journal.

An invitation for abuse?

Ok, I admit, I make fun of Martha Stewart as much as the next person, and many of you already know about my brother's and my morbid fascination with her. She's a bitch. There's no two ways about it. And she represents some weird patrician lifestyle that seems severely out of place in this day of female CEOs (of which she was until today one), online grocery shopping, and personal chef services for people who don't have enough time to stop at the market to buy the Lean Cuisine and throw it in the microwave themselves.

But then again, she built something of an empire on the whole notion of celebrating women participating in the just those homemaking activities our fair sex has tried to liberate itself from for the last several decades. On the other hand, it's never been an unthinking adherence to old gender roles that she advocated. Sure, she she might get you staying up late into the night assembling paper dahlias for your garden party, but you also get the whole scoop on the history of paper flowers and the historic meanings various cultures have imposed on the dahlia. So it's kind of fascinating.

But really, I've always been most fascinated by her show when she's got her mother on, probably the only woman on earth who can reduce Bitch Supreme Martha to an insecure child. I never quite got why she'd continue putting herself through that. I can't imagine my mom ever assenting to the filming of multiple generations of Sisinni women going at each other in the kitchen. It just so flies in the face of that veneer of housewarm perfection she otherwise seems to be going for.

Anyway, so Martha's been indicted. She resigned her post in her own company. (How do you have Martha Stewart Living without Martha Stewart to live it, I gotta ask?). And she's set up a Web site for the whole world to tell her just what they think of her. Ouch. That could be painful. Especially if her mother knows how to get on the email.

June 04, 2003

OK, I love these Madpony chicks

Check how they chastize W for ruining their Eurovacay!

Another great Adrants find--who knew Okies had blogs?!

Airlines beware: lose a bag and a cute chick from Oklahoma City will bust your ass bigtime. One of the best lines I've heard in a while:

now, i would imagine that you're the kind of multibillion dollar corporation who really wants to know your customers, so let me tell you a little about myself.

i'm 5'8, i'm a college junior, I CANNOT SURVIVE FOR ONE WEEK WITH ONLY ONE PAIR OF SHOES.

Lyndi should definitely meet these girls-- if anyone can help them replace their lost footwear, it's Ryndiberre.

Selling shoes to whom?!

This Adrants post features an actual ad for Patrick Cox shoes that ran in swanky Brit design mag iD--be carefully opening this at work as it shows two buff men in jockstraps engaged in a fair facsimile of intercourse. Behind a woman on tiptoe in a pair of Patrick Cox shoes. Clearly, it's a reference to the Puma ads of disputed provenance I wrote about a while back. Beyond creating a ruckus (which it has by getting censored), does this sort of thing really move shoes?

June 03, 2003

Lifting my leg for "Canine-one-one"

While I can't, you know, "surf the web" without opposable thumbs for that mouse thing that does not smell like a mouse at all, I can get things read to me. And when the taller Dad read me this Slate article about rescue dogs, I got a little irritated.

I am a rescue dog. The Dads got me from some nice women who run a resuce place up by Burlington; the women had taken me from a breeder in Eastern Washington who raises cattle dogs to be cattle dogs. In a snap judgment that I will work my whole doggy life to disprove, my sister Ayla and I were deemed to small to do the job. So it was either find someone who wanted a pair of farm reject pups, or kill us. (Frankly, I'm more of an urban pup at heart anyway-- I don't even like to walk on grass, much preferring the sidewalk.) The breeder also didn't do much to introduce us to people, which explains the fact that I really, really like to hang out in my crate. I'm shy, but getting better. Like Saturday, when the nice neighbors and the Dads and their friends (one of whom seems really down lately, maybe I can lick him and make him feel better) were hanging out in the back yard-- I liked being part of the pack.

So the guy who wrote this article has a bone to pick with people who rescue dogs, saying that claiming a dog was abused lets people get out of training us. This sounds like a bit of a reach, and maybe he should do a bit more research. Statements like this give me pause:

But many professional trainers and dog lovers have become wary. They often roll their eyes when people explain that their dogs have been abused, seeing that as an excuse for obnoxious or aggressive behavior and as a way to avoid the effort of training. Many also sense a need for some dog owners to see their pets as suffering victims, rather than animals.

A bit facile, don't you agree?

Take me, for instance. The Dads have a lot of work to do even before they can really train me-- I have to get less skittish before I master that whole "sit" thing. (And what the hell is "fetch" all about-- always with the ball!) And I'm sure you've all heard a bit about my unfortunate accident a couple of weeks ago... I just freaked out a little bit, had some gastroenterological issues, and really wanted to go out. I just didn't realize that Shorter Dad's patio was 50 feet up. So I can't fly-- this is the kind of thing you have to learn, but I emerged mostly unscathed and just can't help but think that it wouldn't have gone down that way if I didn't have some anxiety issues. I've never been abused, as far as I remember, but just because nobody beat me doesn't mean I don't need a little extra help. So I'm a special-needs puppy-- so bite me, Slate guy.

Neither of the dads strike me as the kind of guy with a doogie-messiah complex. (My middle name, FYI, is pronounced Hay-soos and has something to do with my birthday being Christmas.) They are busy guys with fulfilling lives-- they just happened to see me on Petfinder.com (which the Slate guy treats as somehow nefarious, like a creepy injured-dog dating service) and decided that I looked like a good dog. And I am.

I am sure there is a grain of truth to the article. There are a lot of lonely people, people who need something to love that needs them back. But how churlish do you have to be to pick on people who choose to treat this condition by exercising compassion and care for animals in need? I'm really sorry Slate guy got tackled by an over-enthusiastic rescue dog, and yeah, the dog would probably be better off with a little training. I'm sure that person will come around-- some day a shoe will be missing and the next day they'll start obedience school.

June 02, 2003

"Hail to the Thief" reviews start

This week's Breakfast Table at Slate is all about Hail to the Thief, the new Radiohead that most of the nonfamous posse has been listening to for months, courtesy of Pete. It is clearly going to be an Important Record, and I can feel the beginnings of that slight pain that comes from being an early adopter-- that need in my gut to say things like, "Yeah, I was listening that a while ago." Really, it's not my fault--I'm not trying to sound like the interlocutor is so five minutes ago, but that's indeed what I'll be thinking. It's already the music most associated with April and May, but now into June I feel like I'm just beginning to really get past the surface.

Except for the fact that I think I'll be listening to it for quite some time. Though I don't expect it to be this year's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Radiohead being less aurally cuddly than Wilco), it is already firmly implanted in my consciousness.

One of the Slate reviewers keeps going on about it being a lullabye-- if so, one meant to spawn nightmares. Thom Yorke's creepy voice keeps wheedling in with little refrains like "it's too late now, it's tooooo laaaaaate now." Of course it is, don't go reminding us.

But do, do remind us. HTTT is urgent, but its sound is such that this urgency stays in the background-- subaltern but ever-present, just as urgency should be if it is to be effective. It's in my brain, in an uncomfortable way, just like a good workout sits in your muscles.

Anyway, the Slate thing promises to be good reading this week, with an obvious soundtrack.