Saturday, February 27, 2016

Call Me A Face-ist

The nation narrowly averted complete disaster this month with the demise of Justice Antonin Scalia. Almost immediately a low-pressure system of murder conspiracies appeared ready to collide with a strong front emanating from Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kingdom Of Coal); sources say conditions had the potential of turning into a Category 4 shit storm. But once the Fox News weather reporters, clutching their hats and any available light posts, were blown out of camera range, some of the more dangerous elements dissipated, leaving only a persistent ridge of high pressure from Republican leadership, and the nation is used to that.

It is not expected to have an immediate effect, or a long-term effect either, and the public can now rest assured that although we may experience a lot of wind, nothing at all will happen for a long time.

Senator McConnell, according to his Wikipedia entry, was "raised as a young child" in Athens, Alabama, thus putting the lie to the rumor that he was raised as a honey badger. He contracted a mild case of polio as a youngster, but his only lasting disability was his tiny sphincter of a mouth. Mr. McConnell's mouth is now so small that he can only push a "no" out of it.  "Yes" would require the extravagance of lips. When you're two Q-Tips and a wine cork away from suffocation, you learn to be on your guard. This may account for his stubbornness and intractability, now that we know he was not raised among honey badgers.

At some point just before Justice Scalia's internal temperature matched the ambient temperature of the bedroom he was found in, Mr. McConnell assured the nation that the jurist's memory would not be sullied by replacing him as though he were an old light bulb, especially given that President Obama only has the squiggly kind. He announced that the Republican majority in Congress would not consider any new nomination until the American people have had an opportunity to have their say in the November election. Not the American people who said they wanted Obama to represent them for eight years--other American people. Real American people. "We will consider a nomination as soon as we're done with Mr. Obama," he explained liplessly, "and we were done with him seven years ago."

Republicans, meeting behind closed doors, were unanimous in their agreement that the business of government should be put on hold indefinitely. Government doesn't work, they point out, so neither do they. All across the country, eager new Republican candidates are lining up to get in on the inaction. The Constitution, they say, does not require them to do anything at all if they don't feel like it.
"Neener neener," Mr. McConnell clarified.

The President responded by vowing to submit a candidate in due order, and spent the rest of the day chasing Mr. McConnell around the Senate chambers wiggling his finger. "Make him stop," Mr. McConnell said. "I'm not touching him," Obama said.

The Chair of the House Subcommittee on Mining and Undermining, responding to allegations that the Republican leadership is deliberately disseminating falsehoods about the President, issued a strenuous denial. "There has been no such activity," he said, affronted, "either conscious or musliminal."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

He Did It His Way

It was Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday a while back, and he was all over the radio, careening toward one note after another--don't worry! He didn't actually hit any of them!--and after a while I was bored in general, and real bored with Frank,  so I went ahead and typed on my Facebook page that I just didn't get what's so great about Frank Sinatra. Hey. I was bored. It was the middle of winter and there weren't any hornet nests to poke and the bears are all asleep.

It's a matter of taste. If we all had the same taste, it would be a middle-of-the-road world out there. The Velveeta Underground: all Eagles and Michael Bolton with Cheez Whiz and a side of Christmas albums. I could have written "I really don't get why anyone would put pineapple on pizza" and engendered a spirited exchange without anyone sizing me up for concrete shoes.

But Frank Sinatra is very nearly a religious figure, and that makes him dangerous.

Well, you like what you like, and I don't necessarily like the things I'm supposed to like. Like, for instance, jazz. All smart people like jazz. I like the old kind. But not the kind where a few people are playing in a room so smoky it gets pressed right into the vinyl and they're going head to head in keys they're making up themselves on the fly, and they take turns busting into a solo riff just stuffed with notes and they're hanging onto coherence by one thin opiated thread, and it's pure genius--that's what everyone says. But I can't follow it, and I feel stupid, because I'm sure they're right.

Sinatra I just don't like. I understand that he's a master of phrasing, the song stylist of all time. He has his own signature way of getting around to a note. It probably was a natural outgrowth of his early attempts to locate the note in the first place. It's around here somewhere, young Frank thought. I'll just slide around until I find it. And it will be that much more thrilling when it turns up.

Everyone agreed it was a thrill. Whoa! Did you hear how close he got to that note? That's how you style a song. But for me, even his approach doesn't make up for the actual quality of his voice, which I find unremarkable at best, and tight and annoying at worst.

This goes way back. We weren't a Frank Sinatra family. We didn't have to be--we were Lutherans. The few LPs we had included Mahalia Jackson and Odetta and Leadbelly. The entire crooner scene with its bip-bap horn section was foreign to our DNA and we rejected it. It meant cocktails and cigarettes and immodest evening wear and sly innuendo. It meant getting a new Olds every year and belonging to the country club and the Lodge and owning a fez. It meant liking Ike and not Adlai Stevenson and it meant hating commies and being okay with the Coloreds as long as they were Nat King Cole or Sammy Davis Jr.

My Facebook Sinatra thread grew longer and longer and didn't begin to fray for days. I dipped in from time to time. "You're not the right age," a few people told me. "You're not old enough."

Humph. My dad was even older than I am--yes he was--and  he didn't like him either. I began to object, and then someone tried again to explain the attraction and included a youtube snippet and something about it all began to sound familiar. And that's when I realized I had poked the very same hornet nest a few years ago and generated the very same thread involving many of the very same people. I'd done this whole thing before and I didn't remember it. 

I don't know how much older you have to get than that.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Please Hold The Assiago

Greatest news ever. Scientists have quit messing around with genomes and cancer and trips to Mars and have finally buckled down to making cheese out of feet bacteria. They're using belly button and armpit bacteria also. Some day we will be able to give our loved ones personal cheese that smells like us. I'd be interested in a cheese that smelled like my own feet, because I haven't been able to get my nose close to my feet since I was ten months old.

They got the idea because some of the stinkiest cheeses contain bacteria that are very similar to armpit and toe bacteria. And they discovered that a cheese made from an individual's feet bacteria would in fact smell like that individual. Many of us do smell like cheese, so it might not be much of a distinction.

You make cheese by conflagellating milk protein until it drops its guard, and then you can bomb it with rennet and bust it up into curds and whey. Rennet is an enzyme found in an animal's stomach, and you pretty much have to kill the animal to scrape the rennet out of it, which is one reason vegans disdain cheese, although another reason is they think milking animals is rude in general. I'm not sure it is. Milking a cow and squirting your little city niece who only wants to see what you're doing in the barn is rude, in my opinion.

You could make a cheese yourself if you had some milk and some stomach scrapings from a deceased cow. The only thing else you'd need is a nice wad of bacteria or mold for flavor. Lucky for you, you have tons of choices here, if you don't soap up much, and aren't a whackadoodle about keeping a clean kitchen. Just rub a cloth between your toes and wipe down the counter once a month or so and wring it out over your milk and dead cow bits. Presto Cheeso.

It is thought that cheese might have been discovered accidentally when someone decided to store milk in an animal stomach, as one does. The oldest preserved cheese ever found was found in China and is over 3600 years old. It was fed to a Norwegian to see what happened. Nothing happened. The Norwegian ate it right up on a cracker and asked if there was any rotting fish to pair it with, and then he took his clothes off and rolled in the snow.

The researchers involved in the Personal Cheese breakthrough first gather their bacterial jam from pertinent personal areas and then identify an individual's personal scent signature using gas chromatography, which means they detain the bacteria in a sealed room and interrogate them until they confess. Progress has been slow. In nearly all higher learning institutions with an active program for concentrating armpit odor, the laboratories have been consigned to the edges of the parking lot, and turnover is fierce. What with the researchers having to whack their way through the throng of bib-wearing Norwegians on a daily basis, most have concluded it just isn't worth it. The remainders have produced acceptable foot cheese and discovered it smells like cheese, and even so, they have difficulty getting published.

It's just as well. I'd be mildly curious to try a cheese made from Dave's footular bacteria. He walks 15 miles a day and most of his bacteria are squashed flat, but even if they could harvest some around the toe intersections, if the cheese smelled like him it wouldn't smell much at all. He is mildly salty. I'm guessing he'd make a decent mozzarella stick and that's about it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Justice Served

Well it's always shocking and sometimes titillating when someone turns up dead who used to be alive, like, a few minutes ago, but there it was: Antonin Scalia's big old face right there on the internets with X's over his eyes, figuratively speaking. And I kind of went huh and I'll be and went about my day, wondering about the circumstances (head first in a platter of manicotti?) and possibly humming Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead to myself--these things come unbidden, you can't turn them off--and maybe I was humming out loud, because I was abruptly reminded that one is not to Speak Ill of the Dead.

I don't know where that rule came from. Seems like once they're dead that's the perfect time to speak ill of them, when they can't come after you by, say, accidentally sitting on you because you're little and they haven't been able to see their own dick for decades. But even if you have been speaking ill of someone for years, once he's dead you're supposed to stop.

"I don't wish death on anyone," people will say, primly, even though that's usually followed by a big "but." I'm just being honest here: there are all sorts of people I think could improve the world by not being on it. I'd trade a thousand poachers for a rhinoceros any day of the week and consider myself money ahead. Most of us are not all that crazy about the fact of our mortality and so we get all precious about the Big D. But my goodness: there are seven billion of us swarming this marble and we can't all of us be worth saving. Nor would it be possible. I think Scalia has ceased to exist in any form but carbonaceous debris, but if it turns out he's working on negotiations for the hereafter--they can get pretty baroque when you're a Catholic--I wish him the best of luck, and a good lawyer. He knew some.

He was in the majority in the Citizens United case, touting the constitutional imperative of protecting expensive speech. Free speech, I mean. One imagines him dutifully appending his name ("Fondly, Nino") to his Christmas cards to corporations without complaint, although he probably had people for that. I believe he would have defended the rights of gay fetuses, but one wonders. He wrote colorfully. And "jiggery-pokery" came up in the Obamacare dissent, not the gay marriage dissent. (At least it wasn't "jigaboo-pokery.") He eloquently enshrined traditional (one might say hidebound) viewpoints on the basis of their sheer historical persistence, but one can't help but sense that his animus toward gays was entirely rooted in his conviction that they're icky.

Oddly enough I don't bear any personal ill will toward Antonin Scalia. I think he was pretty smart, and an entertaining wordsmith, which always puts people points ahead in my book, and he was consistent about his principles. It's the principles that need to die, and since a lot of them reside in a particular generation, maybe it's time to start getting that generation's things in order, bequeathing the china, taking a load to Goodwill, and disposing of the photos in the underwear drawer.

So it's not so much that I want to engineer anyone's death. I can't even skoosh a bug, but I'm not beyond suggesting that they've got to go sometime, and now's as good a time as any.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Boom Boom, Out Go The Lights

It's been a boom year so far for famous dead musicians, and not just the ones nobody has heard of unless they're under forty, but the real ones. Right out of the gate we lost David Bowie. He epitomized an era about as well as it can be epitomized. I can't listen to Starman without being transported to a small basement flat in London where I spent a year slowly losing my mind and also drinking Guinness (so, on average, a good year). I have an acquaintance who reportedly threw out all his Bowie albums when he found out the man might be gay, which raises several questions about my friend, including: how did that little tidbit sneak up on him? The point is, things are different now, at least I hope they are, and Bowie's been with us for all of it.  Then Glenn Frey keeled over. Then Jefferson Airplane lost two members on the same day. Then Dan Hicks. And all over the social media (or, at least, Facebook, which is the platform that gained legal custody of the old farts), people were wailing along with the equally dead Marvin Gaye: What's going on?

Sure, we lost some along the way. It happens. Especially when a generation is experimenting with a lot of drugs. The adults always called it that, "experimenting," but in reality a lot of us were way past the test ride and had bought the whole fleet. Hendrix, Joplin, Lowell George--there were so many great musicians, and also Jim Morrison. It almost seemed sort of exciting and exotic at the time. Actual cessation of life--bold move! We didn't expect people to just die. Like, ever. And there was that romantic notion of dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse. You know, if you ignore the vomit and stuff.

And some of it just wasn't fair. Zappa, Beefheart, Nyro? We wuz robbed. But now they're dropping like weighted flies. "It always comes in threes," you hear, which is true, because after the third one you start counting over, but we're getting into the serious multiples here. We feel betrayed. These people wrote the very soundtrack of our youth. They were our youth. And if they're dying, it means...wait a means...

[tension builds as the boomers begin to put the puzzle pieces together. Shark music commences, swells. There is a gasp, and, off stage, a scream.]

Who's next? we say, alarmed, as though we are in the presence of a stalker. Bulletin: we are. We're old, people. This isn't some cosmic plot. You start edging up on that three-score and ten, you're going to have to expect some attrition.

You're not really expecting The Eagles in my collection, are you?
It's not like we're wanting for evidence. The younger generation has started to mumble, and even when you can hear them, they don't make any sense. Remember when you could use nudity as both a political statement and a personal ad? Now look at you. You're completely covered in spots and speckles, little messages, like your skin has set up an informational picket. And that's just the organ you can see. Inside, all your moist, pink, baggy bits are trying to send you messages too. Your kidneys, your liver, your heroic heap of intestines have all been saving your ass for decades, and now, they've just about had it with you. They've put up with your bullshit all this time and now they're thinking it's time to send you to the Big Time-Out.

So don't ask who's next. You might not want to know. We've been on the downhill skid since John Lennon's Revolution was first used to sell shoes. Someday soon we're all going to be gone. Some of us might be able to buy a stairway to heaven, and the rest of us, grateful or not, will be friends of the devil. Keith Richards will spend a little time sweeping up after us, and then he's out, too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Raawwwk On!

Every day, as evening approaches, dozens of small airplanes fly over the house, headed northeast for the airport--package planes, Dave says. And at the same time, crows in huge numbers fly in the opposite direction. For several hours, they can be spotted winging their way southwest over our yard. Clearly, they have declined the lucrative small-parcel routes that FedEx and the like specialize in, but for a long time we didn't know what they were up to, or where they were going.

Our crows--the family we like to call the Walnut Boys, who live in the big Douglas fir across the alley--head out too. But their friends are also streaming in from much farther afield. It's a daily mini-migration. As far as we can tell, every dang crow in the metropolitan area goes flapping in the same direction at dusk.  Come morning they're all back again and ready to join the dawn raucous. I mean chorus.

We've learned that some of them convene for the evening in the larger neighborhood trees, but those are just minor cliques and outliers. Most of them are bound for downtown. Hundreds. Thousands. We happened upon them during a walk. They had settled in a large construction site. The tarmac was lined with them. It was the softest parking lot in town. Some of them spruced up in puddles and the rest hung out behind the velvet rope until it was time to hit the club. Currently they're favoring a stand of trees near Portland State University.

That's what it's all about. They're going to a roost where they can let it all hang out. It might seem like having a slumber party every single night makes it less special, but they're fine with it. Maybe there are a few introverted crows out there but you don't see those. They're nestled into their favorite conifer boughs with Jane Austen and a scavenged bag of chips.

The experts have theories about why they gang up. Perhaps they're warmer, particularly if they're downtown. Perhaps they feel more secure against the rare marauding urban owl. Perhaps they exchange information about which humans need pooping on, or about good food sources they found that day.

As if! Please. They might talk up a good dumpster find, but nobody's giving away any coordinates. They're just social. They're all about family and friends. It's hard to tell the age of a crow. The very youngest have bluish eyes, but other than that it's a sea of conformity. Everyone gets a uniform. And the kids don't leave. They'll be kickin' it with the adults for at least a year and sometimes two. But you can get clues to their maturity by their behavior, and there's no better place to observe that than at one of their sleepovers.

For a while it's all yap yap yap and nobody is really listening to anyone else. Then the old ones nod off. The teenagers stay up and flirt. Midway down on the broader branches is where they have the Twister game set up. The adolescents are playing Truth or Dare for a while until they split off into smaller groups and swap implausible rumors about where eggs come from. The second-year juveniles sneak off as soon as the adults are asleep and head over to Ross Island to toilet-paper the heron rookery.

That leaves the youngsters, egg-fresh and blue eyes fading, to hold up the banner of innocence. As if! Please. They're the ones making all those crank caws.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How To Prevent Sagging Breasts Naturally

The author, six years younger.
The following article was published in The Science Of Eating. My notes were not.

Every woman wants to have perfectly shaped breasts throughout her life. This is pretty much what we live for! Sadly, this is not possible in most cases. Just the lucky few who die before age 25. Breast sagging is a natural process that happens with age where the breasts lose their suppleness and elasticity. Not so! My breasts are supple enough that I could slather them in marinara sauce and ricotta and roll them up like manicotti and if it weren't for the parmesan on top nobody would ever know the difference. A drooping pair of breasts can severely undermine how a woman feels about herself, and may feel it lessens her attractiveness in the eyes of the opposite sex. This is because it does. Learning what causes breasts to sag and tackling this issue proactively can offer a lot of help. Or not. It might be more advisable to acquire a life.

What Causes Saggy Breasts Spoiler alert: gravity.

For starters, breasts do not have muscle, they are made of fat, connective tissues and milk-producing glands, and they need proper care to keep them in good shape. Though saggy breasts usually start happening after a woman reaches 40, it can occur earlier. For instance, say you're an 18-year-old woman who has just gotten on birth control pills for the first time. Say it's 1971 and those pills are the size of ottomans and contain enough estrogen to incite a civil war among Amazons. Your breasts are going to go completely Hindenburg on your ass and when you finally get done tearing everyone you've ever met a new one because they've suddenly become SO irritating, you go off the hormones cold turkey in favor of getting some piece of hardware that looks like a paper-clip jammed up your uterus, and then your Hindenburgs wilt into shriveled little party balloons striated with stretch marks. Oh, the humanity. According to various studies, it is understood that when a woman reaches her late thirties, the skin can become loose. Sure can. Even if you put up posters and someone shows up with your missing skin, you'll have hell to pay to get it all back in the old corral again. Apart from age and pregnancy,  other factors that cause sagging breasts are menopause, rapid weight loss or gain, strenuous exercise unless conducted upside-down, nutritional deficiencies such as starvation, smoking, over-tanning and wearing a poorly fitting bra.

Some diseases like breast cancer or respiratory conditions like tuberculosis can also cause breasts to sag. It's all the coughing. Excessive consumption of alcohol can also contribute to the problem. And the solution.

A wide variety of creams and lotions are available on the market to tighten and tone up sagging breasts. However, if you prefer natural methods, there are many simple and easy home remedies that you can try. Like a block and tackle.

There are a number of home remedies for regaining the firmness of saggy breasts, including massaging. This actually increases the firmness of the penis.

If you gain and lose weight continuously and fail to stay at a healthy optimal weight, it could take a toll on your breasts. Screw your psyche at this point. Your perkiness is at stake. This continuous stretching and relaxing of the skin makes it droop and sag over time. And also over your belly.

Drink Plenty of Water

According to experts at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals, the skin is comprised of cells that are predominantly made up of water. Pretty much all cells are. Lack of water takes a toll on the skin, and can make the skin over your breast look shrunken and dull. Shine it up with K-Y Jelly and see where that gets you. Always combine healthy eating with exercise. Improper weights such as the breasts can also cause your breasts to sag. Drastic weight loss in a short span of time would definitely cause your breasts to lose their fullness. Eat up. It's essential to eat foods that are nutritionally rich and contain proteins, vitamins, calcium, minerals, silicone, carbohydrates and essential fats etc.


This fruit is considered a wonderful anti-aging ingredient and can help prevent sagging breasts. In most cases, a minimum of sixty pomegranate seeds placed in a Ziplock bag and taped under the breasts will be required. Pomegranate seed oil is rich in phytonutrients that can lead to firm breasts. Especially if they're lined up on the driveway to the Playboy Mansion.

Massage your breasts at least 2-3 times per week with coconut or olive oil to help add firmness and increase the elasticity to the skin as well as improve the skin tone and texture. Add sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and a dash of lemon zest for a tasty summertime treat. Massage draws blood to the surface of the skin, increases blood flow, while stimulating muscle growth although we just told you there is no muscle in the breast.

Ice Massages

Ice can help tone the skin in and around the breast region. All you need to do is rub a few ice cubes over your breasts in wide circular motions. Try this massage at regular intervals throughout the day to firm your breast muscles and skin. Eventually you can get your entire body to tighten up just by walking toward the freezer door.

A wrong sized bra can make your breasts sag in no time at all. Not wearing a bra would not help as well. You're screwed.

According to the results of a 15-year study in France, bras provide no benefits to women and may actually be harmful to breasts over time. Jean-Denis Rouillon, a professor at the University of Franche-Comte in Besancon, measured and examined the breasts of more than 300 women, aged 18 and 35, taking note of how the additional support provided by bras affects the body over time. M. Rouillon notes that many more years of research will be required. Rouillon noticed that nipples gained a higher lift, in relation to the shoulders, on women who went braless. In fact, some of them could sling 'em over their shoulder like a Continental soldier. Rouillon cautioned women who have worn bras for a long time, like several decades, that following these recommendations may have less chance of seeing as much benefit. Yes. Because these women have old breasts. You're not Dr. Frankenstein; they're not going to perk up.

You know what, Petunia? Someday soon you're going to die. Maybe someone will think enough of you to throw you in a blast furnace and scoop up your carbonaceous remains, but your breasts are going to be vapor. You know when you forget the fat in the frying pan? It's all going into the air except for a nasty bit of sludge left behind. Your breasts are going to be one episode of bad odor followed by blessed nothingness just like the rest of you, so you might as well find something appropriate to give a damn about or at least offer to rub oil in someone else's breasts while they still have nerve endings. Jesus Johnson, it's not always about you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Big Pair

Well bless my heart, the city of Portland said "Sure you can take down your tree." Just like that. The email with the permit in it beat us home by several hours. We were on foot. We're analog, that way.

And now it begins. The whining of chainsaws! The screaming of hippies! Bring it on!

My niece is in the same fix. She has a tree that's going to come down, and what it would like to do is come down on her house when it feels like it and not a second later, but she was hoping to persuade it otherwise. And the estimates she got for the deed were in the $4000 range. I figured felling a tree was a scary proposition but I didn't think it was $4000 scary. That's really scary.

The other thing my niece has besides the ominous tree, which is five thousand feet tall and wide even after you strip the brass knuckles and nunchucks off it, is a boyfriend with a serious jones for taking down a tree. Hercules has been trying to talk her into letting him take down their tree for months now, and she won't let him. She likes him a whole lot and isn't done with him yet, and she'd rather take the chance of losing a couple of licensed, insured, strapping 25-year-olds in sexy safety harnesses than lose him. Apparently you can put a price tag on love. It's at least $4000.

But my tree, which we are calling the Big Easy, is a whole different matter. My tree pretends to be big but it's all hat and no stuffing. "How about," I suggested to my niece, "if we set Hercules loose on my tree, and he can get it out of his system?" The idea is that my tree might damage him a little, but not kill him outright. I get my tree down, and she gets to keep her boyfriend more or less unmaimed, and he can go on to other projects.

Done! The very next day Herc shows up at nine o'clock with the requisite splendid beard, a big pair of forearms, and a big pair of hand saws. Yes. Hand saws. It was the Stealth Felling. He sawed off the lowest branch and worked his way up. Just whoosha whoosha whoosha all day, so subtle that a flock of bushtits went in to land in their usual spots that evening and dropped to the ground like fuzzy hail. In five hours, almost without the neighbors noticing, our scarlet oak was down to a flagpole, with Herc furling gently at its top. The branches were cut up in two pickup-loads and carted away. Really, scraping the hippie out of the top of the tree was the trickiest part.

Herc thought it was fun. He enjoys the workout and he enjoys the puzzle of figuring out just how to take a tree down strategically without killing himself or, might I add, my precious shrublets. I enjoyed watching my tree come down for the price of a salami sandwich--he doesn't even drink beer--and being able to return him to my niece in shiny original condition.

But the scheme was not flawless. Now he thinks this proves he can take down her tree, and that I'll back him up on that. I think he probably can, but I'm not going to mention it.

Where did she find this dude, you ask? I'll tell you. She found him in the woods. The rest of you looking for your true love on, or in all the gin-joints in all the towns in all the world, can think about that for a while.