Saturday, June 27, 2020

Better Than Insomnia

I'm not sure what to make of this. A blog post, maybe. But not a normal one.

See, for someone who's been accused of being creative all her life, I have the dumbest dreams ever. If there's a possibility of something interesting happening, like flying, or having sex with handsome strangers, I don't do it. In my dream I say "No thanks, you go ahead and fly, I'll just hop up and down a little." I say, "No thanks, sex sounds nice, but I need to get my laundry off the line before it rains." Invariably I stop short of something really satisfying, and instead do whatever I would ordinarily do in my ordinary but satisfying life.

And that's if I'm not trying to figure out how many Little Things go in a Big Thing. Or if I'm not missing my flight. Or if I'm not running around trying to find a clean, private toilet.

Sweet dreams aren't made of these.

So listen to this:

I dreamt there was a big mob in the street. Everyone was yelling. They'd heard there was going to be a hanging, and they were out for blood. The person who was going to be hanged was running for office, someone like Elizabeth Warren, although in my dream she looked like Maggie Smith. Donald Trump had told the crowd she was going to be hanged from the inside of a glass elevator shaft, and the mob was gathering around the building's parking lot to watch. Donald Trump was working the crowd. "Or maybe we won't hang her after all. Maybe..." He shrugged, put his palms up, milked the moment. The crowd roared. "Maybe we'll just let her drop a couple feet. A couple feet!" He's holding his tiny hands apart. "And then maybe we'll ask her a few questions. A few questions! I don't know! What do you think?" He shrugged again. The crowd screamed Hang her! Hang her!

I'm growing more and more horrified as I realize this thing is actually going to happen. I keep thinking there has to be a way to stop it, that things couldn't have gotten this far, that they can't really get away with this. I know the building. It's an apartment tower on my mail route, and I know which floor has the access to the elevator shaft. I punch a code to enter and race up six flights of stairs and fly down the hallway. When I open the door that leads to the elevator shaft, there's a pretty good crowd there too. Donald Trump is there. He is smirking and teasing and bobbing his head. People are laughing with him, but I don't get the sense that this crowd is all on his side--that maybe they are just cowed, afraid to intervene. I had in mind that I would yell out "No! We're not going to let you do this!" and all the good people would start hollering and stomping and get the gumption to rush the guards. They just need someone to break the spell. I'm waiting for the right moment.

Just then three men start leading Elizabeth Warren Maggie Smith toward the gibbet and she looks tense but dignified, like Marie Antoinette on the way to the Guillotine, and I about lose my mind. Instead of yelling, I lunge straight at Donald Trump and jump him and put my hands around his big squishy neck and throttle him for all I'm worth. He crumples to the floor and I'm kicking and strangling and stomping and he is soft and doughy like a bag of goo and can't defend himself at all, and every punch and kick lands, and I'm thinking, Well, this is it, I'm about to get shot or hauled off to prison or both, but it doesn't happen. Trump lies on the floor curled up like a fat, damaged larva and everyone stands and cheers, even the guards. And there are more and more of us cheering and we look down and the crowd in the parking lot is thinning fast, skulking away.

I really did dream that, all of that. And when I woke up, I really did think "I'd better not put this in a blog post, or I could get arrested." Because that's the kind of world we're living in today.

Or maybe it's the dream world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Firstly, You Must Find Another Shrubbery

You act weird enough, people just leave you be.

I've already told you about the time Dave took me to the back porch to teach me how to blow a raspberry. (It was a sanitary issue. I was spraying a lot.) He was patient. I must've spent a good fifteen minutes spraying away before I got my first good fart sound out and then it was just a matter of refining the tone.

By then I was leaning over the railing so the spit wouldn't hit the porch so much, and Dave was helpfully lip-farting to demonstrate proper embouchure, and every time we looked up we could see Venetian blind slats closing, and curtains dropping.

Still, people didn't leave us alone for long. We're friendly, and we have beer and a pickup truck. But today I might have finally done it.

I was outside attending Mr. Studley Windowson with a nice tub of mealworms, and he took one and immediately started scolding, and loud. That's something, not only having a perfect bird on your finger but having him go off like that, and I looked up, and there was a scrub jay close by on a post. Mr. Windowson hates scrub jays and the boy can put out some decibels when he wants to. I admire jays, but I'm getting to where I'd prefer they go somewhere else, ever since the Nuthatch Fiasco of 2016.

So Studley flies off to a wire to scold some more, and Marge joins him, and they're both going off, and I think--recalling Julie Zickefoose and the time she won over a previously hostile family of barn swallows by getting on a ladder and scooping up an enormous black rat snake that was working its way toward their nest--I think, Watch this, Marge, because Marge still hasn't come to my hand, and I go over to the post the jay is perched on and thump it but good.

Studley visits friends too.
And the jay does not even pay me the honor of glancing down. Eventually it gets bored and goes to another post, and I follow it and thump it right up to Kingdom Come. And then I get out my hose and put it on Jet and try to knock it off, but it flies lazily upward, and by this time I'm spraying the hose straight up in the air and every which way. Any neighbor peeking out the window is now watching me spray myself, basically, and nothing else in particular, and running around in circles. And eventually the mildly annoyed jay flies off. Meanwhile, Marge and Studley are still going nuts.

Then I see the jay is poking around the neighbor's arborvitae. Marge even takes a dive at the jay, and then the arborvitae explodes with birds, all of them screaming their tiny chickadee heads off, and I see the jay is actually chasing a flying bird, and I think No, no, not Studley, and I haul ass over there--I am now in my neighbor's yard--and I see the jay actually bearing down on two flying chickadees, not two feet behind them, and I don't know if they're Studley and Marge or the junior Windowsons, and I'm chasing the jay and flapping my arms and yelling NO NO NO at the top of my lungs, and they're making tight circles so I am too and--well, basically, from the standpoint of anyone looking out his window, nobody does any of this stuff unless they're on hallucinogens.

Finally the jay decides to bother someone else and goes away. I think the two birds the jay was almost catching were Studley and Marge drawing attention away from their babies in the arborvitae, but god almighty, how long do they have to keep this up? Their kids are flying, but apparently not well enough, and the sight of a jay almost catching them in flight fills me with dread. They've already made a nest out of pretty much nothing and found food for their brood for weeks and weeks and worked themselves skinny, but the danger never ceases. When do they get to stop worrying?

I've heard it's the same with humans though.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Coming Clean

Well, here we are.

For most of us, our normal daily routines have been disrupted. We have had time to sit back and consider which aspects of our former lives were to the good and which might be discarded. It's a time for contemplation. Self-examination. Reassessment.

Questions seem to come from somewhere deep inside us, day after day. We need to get to the bottom of things. We need to take stock. And so, I know I'm not alone in asking:

Exactly how much toilet paper do we go through every day?

Don't tell me you haven't thought about it too. It's an exisclenchal question, and you're just sitting there. How much do you use?


"You go first," I hear you saying eventually, and regretting it soon after. All righty:

Four squares for the first pass (we shall call it the no-look pass), four squares for the follow-up pass (checking progress this time), a final four for the just-in-case. Three more squares for frontsies and I'm good to go again.

That's on average. There are exceptions for oopses related to texture and volume, and (more rarely) sometimes I can get by with less if the missile is intact and spit clean. There's a helpful medical chart for poop quality called the Bristol Stool Scale. Humans are wired to count everything in a one to ten scale but unlike the makers of blenders, who apparently can distinguish between grate and purée, poop scientists have managed to scrape up only seven types from One (separate small lumps) to Seven (liquid consistency with no solid pieces). I would imagine where one lands on the Bristol Stool Scale would have quite an effect on TP consumption. If you are a Type One, you might be able to get by with no toilet paper, allowing you extra time to rub your antlers on a tree. If you're a Type Seven youo're going to have to trudge to the shower anyway.

I consistently range from a Four (smooth soft sausage or snake) to a Six (mushy consistency with soft edges), generally during the course of a single morning.

That's where I go wrong, consumption-wise. I'm hardly ever Boom-Boom and Check, Please. I get a real good start right off the bat and then have to revisit the situation two or three more times, eventually accessing contents that might not have had time to set up properly. Add it all up and that's quite a lot of toilet paper, but all of it seems necessary.

That's the thing. Ask anyone how much toilet paper they use, and they'll invariably reply (often huffily) "As much as I need to." But we know this is highly subjective. There's genuine need, and then there's personal delicacy. My friend Sarah divulged that her brother ("Plunger-Boy") thunders through a half a roll every time he drops a dookie. That's the kind of thing that will get you notoriety in a family. Clearly the boy does not want to get within two inches of his own nether flesh. He's like the person who sees a spider on the wall and smooshes it with an entire roll of paper towels and runs out to the garbage can with the whole wad, emitting high-frequency squeaks all the way, and then sleeps with a baseball bat next to his bed. Me, I have been known to spot a spider sharing my pillow and just flicking it away.

But I do go through toilet paper.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Greater Force

We heard you.

Not at first, not right after the video came out, when there was no denying or spinning a murder, but soon after. It was shocking footage, so it took a few minutes for you to come around to the familiar narrative that George Floyd's death was his fault, somehow.

And then there were those protests. Many, and massive. And some looting and smashing at the edges. And you found your voices again. That is not the way to protest, you said. We write the rules on rage, you said, and this is out of line. We didn't like the way you did it before, on one knee, either. That's a shame about the man we watched get murdered, but he probably had drugs in his system. He probably committed a crime. He probably mouthed off. He probably had a preexisting condition in the form of a working carotid artery.

Somewhere in the back of your head you are able to hold two contrary thoughts at once: "I don't see color. Why does everything have to be about race?" And: "Those people have to expect that stuff like this is going to happen because so many of them are criminals." They don't act right. They've got it coming. It's a shame, but this sort of thing is going to happen, because they're either criminals, or look just like one.

That's what you saw. Criminals, arsonists, freeway-blockers, troublemakers. A criminal force that must be met with greater force.

And I agree. Force? Meet the greater force of sustained, growing, fervent, peaceful protestors marching night after night. After night. After night. They're still marching. United against terrorism.

That's what I'm calling it. Is that word too strong?

What do you do when you see a headline about a victim of violence? You scan down a few lines to see if you're safe. That's a black name. That's a bad neighborhood. That won't happen to me. But when the planes took down the twin towers, you were terrified. As unlikely as it was any one of us would be the victim of terrorist act, you were still afraid because for the first time--for most of us--you knew you were the target. And that's what made it terrorism. It was a message sent to a few and meant for many.

That's what the knee to the neck is. It is a body dangling. It's a message to an entire race: you don't matter. You are disposable, not quite human. White people know very well that this is never going to happen to them. And some of them put that down to their own virtue.

We've heard you. You like to call us snowflakes. But you are the ones who are so afraid of people that you roar for a police state, an autocracy, you cheer the leader who will build you a wall and call up the military against your fellow citizens. You arm yourself against villains that live in your own imagination. Or villains created and served up to you by politicians determined to hold their power through your fear.

But watch this greater force.

It was our dear young neighbors who first mentioned--from a chaste and respectful twelve feet away--that they were on their way to the latest march. I crumpled. How could we miss this? "Dave and I want to be there, but we're just not ready to be in a crowd like that, not now..." That's okay, they said. You shouldn't be there. It's not safe. We're taking one for the team. Don't worry. It's our turn now. They smiled. I wanted to cry.

And I did, a few nights later, when the most audacious march yet ended up a half block away. Thousands poured onto a freeway three lanes wide and marched a mile to the next exit, another two miles to our street, and farther, and there was no fatigue, no letup, just a beautiful stream of young people saying We're done with this shit now. We've had enough. This was the twelfth day of peaceful protest. I stood at the corner, a few yards away, tears seeping into my face mask.

Meanwhile, you think black people get too worked up about race, but you go all to pieces if you're accused of having white privilege. And you're right, in a way. That so-called privilege should be the default condition of all people. Everyone should have the sense of their own agency, should be able to prosper in a world that accepts them, or crash and burn in spite of a world that accepts them. And then it would not be described as a privilege at all.

But that is not the world we live in. And until black lives matter, which it is clear they do not, it can never be said that all lives matter. Unbunch your privilege panties and own that.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Two Tits Up! Way Up!

Let me get a couple of points out right up front. My brassiere needs are not all that impertant at this time of my life. We're mainly looking at a containment situation. Just trying not to scare the horses. And besides I actually did find an amazing bra made out of condensed fairy breath that I like better than not wearing one at all. You will have to take it off my dead body (bring scissors).

But perhaps because I located that little number online, I continue to see bra ads. So that is how I was introduced to the invisible Lift-up Freedom Deep V Rabbit Bra. Which does not, you'll be amazed to learn, consist of four pairs of cups running in parallel. It is called a Rabbit Bra because it looks like a bunny head, times two. And it's sticky. You stick the bunny nose on your nipple area and then you yank the ears up and stick them near your collarbone. Repeat for the other side. There are no straps, no elastic, no underwires, nothing, really, but a cosmetically more agreeable version of duck tape. They're little pancakes. Or, more accurately, flapjacks. And depending on placement, you can yank yourself as high as you'd like. You can pull those babies up until all your pencils fall out. I could yank my personal set up so far my pudding neck could perch on top.

There's always going to be some kind of innovation in the industry. There is certainly a good case to be made for proper support if you experience extreme tenderness in your breasts, which is not at all uncommon, because what is the point of being a woman if things don't hurt for no reason? I in fact had this very problem for a number of decades, and all of it cleared up at the same time God pulled the plug on menstrual periods. Ha ha, God said, haven't I been a kick in the pants all those years of cramps and pelvic pain and sore boobs? I am such a card. I wanted to see how you stacked up with that whiner Job.

But there are lots of reasons for bras besides alleviating pain. Read the advertising. Basically, ladies, wherever your boobs are naturally, they should be someplace else. So now you can slap on a sticky pad and haul them up, and then, on some models, cinch up a strap between them. It's all adjustable so you can go perky and cleavish at the same time.

As it turns out, the Freedom Bra is but one in an entire genre of so-called "sticky bras." Who knew? Cosmopolitan magazine has run a comparison test on ten brands. They run from simple nipple covers to petal-shaped lifters to wing-shaped cleavage boosters to of course the push-up combo wing bra with underwire, pocket weasel, emergency ejection button, and a slot for a playing card so it sounds like a motorcycle if you're going really fast.

There are no straps or bands around the back. Just the cups. So instead of having overflow problems at the top of the cups or the underarm area, now you have the opportunity to overflow for 360 degrees around the cups. You can have Brioche Boobs to go with your Muffin Top Heinie. Fun!

One of the Cosmo testers touted in particular the combination of a stick-on nipple cover with an underwire built in, which, I believe, she referred to as "support from boning," after which I blacked out for a bit. Fortunately I came to in time for the description of the bra that fell off during the tester's walk to work.  She didn't know where to put it, so she stuck it to the underside of her desk.

And her coworkers have to settle for tech support.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Strike A Pose, There's Nothing To It

Well he showed us! No sooner did hashtag BunkerBitch get smeared all over the internet than President Trump himself stood erect brandishing a Holy Bible in front of an authentic place of worship, proving that he is in fact fearless--fearless!--in the face of immolation by thunderbolt.

The scene was widely regarded as either a stunt or God's Word made flesh in the form of Donald Trump, depending on your news source. A large number of people were, however, offended, and even more were taken aback by the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protestors from the president's path, or to make straight in the desert a highway for our God, depending on...well. Same thing.

A reporter asked the president if the bible he was holding was his own. Oh c'mon. Of course it isn't his bible! Even I, as a miniature Lutheran, had my own bible stamped with my name in gold letters. You know the president couldn't have passed that up. He'd have a bible with TRUMP all over the front with the living hell gilt out of it. And if you opened it up, you'd find all the pages of Song of Solomon stuck together.

What really disturbs me is the number of folks, including Joe Biden, who suggested the president open the book once in a while "because he might learn something." Holy shit, people. What are you thinking?

What the heck do we think he'd learn? You think peace and love are going to waft out of it? There's war. There's rape. Execution. Incest. Child murder.

You think he's just going to somehow trip over the verse in Numbers where the Lord instructs us to give six sanctuary cities to the refugees? Highly unlikely. Even if he starts at the beginning and tries to work his way through he's not going to be able to get past the chapter where Lot's two daughters bed him, one right after the other.

The trouble with earnest liberals everywhere is they assume the bible is basically Jesus' Sermon On The Mount with a lot of filler on both sides. It's not. And there's no assurance he'd learn from it anyway. Donald Trump's random bible could easily pop open to Matthew: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." Sword! Heh heh. You should see my sword. I guarantee you, there's no problem.

Or Acts: "And suddenly there came a sound like a mighty rushing wind...and divided tongues as of fire...rested on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit." Sounds like God's Tear Gas to me.

Or Galatians: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." Hey. In the clear. I don't drink. Besides I already inherited a nice chunk from my father who art in real estate.

Or John: "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies." Like I always said. I'm a product of superior genes.

Keep the dang book closed. It's just like the internet: you can "learn" whatever you want to from it. God should sue us for slander for suggesting the thing is His Word.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

By The Light Of The Silvery Newt

Turns out salamanders are fluorescent in blue light. Mostly they glow green. What the hell.

We don't know why salamanders glow green in blue light. They are not bioluminescent; they don't produce their own light, which is the sort of thing sea creatures might find useful or decorative in the ocean depths. You have to shine a light on them to get the effect. We don't know if fellow salamanders can detect each other's glow. Basically, we don't know shit.

It might not mean anything. Many minerals glow spectacularly in UV light, but they probably aren't communicating anything by it. Probably. That's the thing. Rocks have longer stories than we do and maybe they want to tell them.

But I think it's likely salamanders are trying to get something across, if not to us. Some of them glow all over, some glow only in spots, and most of them glow brightest from their cloacal region, a.k.a. "hoo-hoo."

Something is fluorescent if you shine a high-energy spectrum of light on it and get a lower-energy spectrum back out, because some of its electrons get excited. (Nobody knows if electrons have a hoo-hoo, but don't bet against it.)

One of the first people to describe fluorescence was the Father of Modern Experimental Optics, Sir David Brewster; as usual, no one knows who the mother was. Sir Brewster also invented the kaleidoscope and it became an instant hit. Bazillions of them were sold because they were considered highly entertaining in the days before TV. Naturally, Sir David didn't get a dime off of it because he was not the kind of smart that doesn't show off the prototype before securing the patent.

This leads me to believe we are related. Apparently we are both related to the William Brewster who herded a group of pious and nauseated folk onto the Mayflower. And when I look back into the dank-spirited and homely bunch that are my most recent ancestors, they had these things in common: smart, religious, and not liable to make any money. Sir David Brewster was born in 1781 and had the misfortune of not dying before photography was invented, and a sorrier face you won't want to meet. He was brilliant, cranky, teetotaling, religious, and dour. He was considered a prodigy and sent to school where he did science (you could just Do Science back then) and they gave him some kind of license to preach along with his degree.

So he took to the pulpit. Once. According to a colleague, "the first day he mounted the pulpit was the last, for he had...a nervous something about  him that made him swither when  he heard his own voice and saw a congregation eyeing him."

I am instantly brought back to the unfortunate day Pastor Lange talked my father into delivering a little sermon to the congregation.  I don't remember the subject except that it was about Nature, or God's Works, if you prefer, and he was able to pull it off because he wrote beautifully and had a great command of metaphor, natural science and scripture (King James only, please), but when he got up to speak, his deep voice went thin and weird and he plucked nervously at his throat and shook visibly and looked like he was passing a stone.

My grandfather
Clearly he was tracking along some parallel cousin path with Sir David. My lineage is rife with intelligent, overly pious, poor, sober men with baleful faces. I would like to think that my father made that first break with the legacy by merely being smart, cranky, poor, and dour, but having a tot of sherry once a year; also, being a churchgoer but probably not a believer. Plus he actually would've been pretty if he smiled more.

I'm trying to complete the transformation by being even-tempered, irreverent, and a lush. My father and I were both maniacal salamander fans. He would've been out there in the swamps with a blue light in a heartbeat. He was not the sort of scientist who would be inclined to grind up salamanders in order to use their glowing portions in a medical device or something. He just would want to learn more about them.

Because who knows? Maybe when you shine a blue light on them, they swither.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Minnesota Burning

I've seen this before. I remember when Martin Luther King was murdered. I remember my father telling us the cleaning woman in his office took him aside and said Mr. Brewster? You'd best go home early, and lock the door. There were fires. There was broken glass. There were cars overturned. In Arlington, Virginia, in the 'Sixties, white people thought they could count on The Coloreds to stay put--in their neighborhood of Hall's Hill, in janitorial positions. Until that day.

There've been so many other times. L.A., over Rodney King. Cincinnati. Ferguson. Baltimore. And on. And on. Nothing changes. It's hard to understand why everything's not on fire all the time. There's been restraint, I tell you.

So when I watched a car being overturned and set on fire in Minneapolis, it was familiar. But there's something different going on now.

Because one thing has been clear for a few years. There are people who want a race war in America. Or any other civil war. And I don't mean the dime-a-dozen racist assholes. They're just pieces. They can be swept off the board at any time and replaced just as fast. It's the rooks and the bishops running this show. They want us to fall apart, to kill each other.

I just don't know why.

I don't even know who they all are. Certainly Russians. They'll jam a wedge into any crack they can find. Vaccination. Guns. Race, for sure. They don't take a side. They take all the sides. It's easy to see why someone like Putin wants our fabric shredded.

The President of the United States wants civil war, too, though, and that's harder to fathom. Perhaps the explanation is simpler than it ought to be. He's an insecure ignoramus with no love for anybody, even his base, but rage lifts him up, fills his sails, tents his shorts. He doesn't respect any American citizen, and black and brown citizens are merely at the bottom of his basket of expendables. He, and the daughter he finds most doable, are the only people he almost cares about. This whole damn thing gives him a little chubby.

But he's also got an entire party behind him. With their own calculations.

Somehow or other, someone is calculating that when America falls apart for good, they'll get all the money. All the rest of the money. I'm not sure how, but I am sure. Are you seeing all those memes about the "right" and "wrong" way to protest? The photos of those nasty people setting fires, the looting? They're designed to be spread far and wide by earnest progressives and bigots alike. To make sure nobody misses the violence, to assure people that their assumptions about the dreaded Other were correct all along. There are people behind those creations. And those people don't give a damn about black lives. Or poor white lives, either. They want war. They want the spoils.

But they're not stopping with inflammatory posts on the social media. They're willing to invest living bodies. They've got mercenaries on the payroll, ready to step in at any time, whenever the tinder they've spread around gets lit. Mercenaries to begin the smashing, to spark the protests, to ensure the violence.

Naomi Klein, in her extraordinary book Shock Doctrine, explained how the plutocrats have been poised to exploit any shocking disaster, from hurricane to tsunami to terrorist event, to further their own rapacious ends; they have playbooks on hand and players ready to muster. They privatized the education system during the chaos of Katrina, they privatized the beaches and evicted the native fishermen after the tsunami in Indonesia. And if a disaster does not occur naturally, they'll engineer one: invade an irrelevant country after 9/11, when people were too shocked to mount an objection, and reap billions in profits. Stage a coup in Argentina and take over all the publicly owned utilities and companies. They've got playbooks, they've got players.

And that is how they can insert agents provocateurs into the protests in Minnesota. Just like that. They have them all ready to go. To incite, to divide, to conquer. Don't fall for it.