Sunday, April 30, 2006

Mom in Movies

Mother's day is coming.

I'm not a fan of mother's day. I think some people might see this as being directly because as an adult, I have chosen not to have a relationship with my own mother. However I would argue that this lack of relationship as well as my dislike of mother's day, although certainly correlated, are not causally associated with each other. They do share a common cause, which is that my mother was a difficult person to be close to. The closer you were, the more difficult it was. And on mother's day, it was just that much more difficult.

I have a personal history of mother's days and mother's days' presents that were never enough to make up for all the mutual disappointment and animosity that colored my childhood relationship with my mother. My siblings and I were raised in an iconoclastic intellectualist household where an attitude of derision of gender stereotypes was a natural outcome, and yet at some point in my later childhood, our mother told us (sobbing and probably drunk) that it was clear we didn't love her enough. One of her examples was that none of us ever got her mother's day presents like one of those crappy gold toned "#1 Mom" key chains. We bought and made her numerous presents each year. The problem wasn't a lack of presents. The problem was that no one bought her the #1 Mom presents. We thought she'd want the ones that were from us as individuals, the hand made cards, the candy that we know she likes, shit like that. Who knew she wanted a #1 Mom mug to drink her bourbon out of?

All this adds up to a perspective on mother's day that is a bit cynnical.

I know I am not alone in disliking mother's day. My sister and I have both noticed that during the run up to mother's day, the card section of stores is a rather emotionally charged place to be. Hence, I write posts about ruined mother's days and mom's beef log basket. I also write posts about movies I watch around mother's day as my tribute to the social construct of "Mom".

I know there are more movies than those that immediately come to mind. Some I can't recall right now (but will add when I do) and some are obvious ones I didn't include (Mommy Dearest) because I didn't find them all that entertaining. My life and work are challenging enough. I like my entertainment to be entertaining. So for your mother's day entertainment, I present a list of movies featuring mothers, motherly gender role bullshit, or mother/child relationships. Enjoy!

Serial Mom (1994) Comedy. It stars Kathleen Turner as a Stepford Wife soccer mom type gone very very bad. Over the top satire of "perfect" suburban lifestyle and lives is director/writer John Waters' favorite subject. If you aren't familiar with John Waters, be warned. He's a peculiar one. It's kind of gross in parts and has some violence, but really it's worth it to see Kathleen Turner made up à la June Cleaver snarling "Pussy!" into the phone.

Throw Momma From the Train (1987) Comedy. Directed by Danny DeVito. It stars Billy Crystal (it's ok, his character is supposed to be annoying) as Larry, a frustrated writer teaching at a local college while trying to write his second great novel. He swears his first great novel was stolen by his now extremely successful ex-wife. Danny DeVito is Owen, one of Larry's students. Owen is a strange literal man who lives at home with his nearly demonically cruel elderly mother. Larry suggests Owen go see a Hitchcock movie to improve Owen's horrible mystery writing skills. Owen sees Strangers on a Train, gets the wrong idea, and believes Larry would like to switch murders - Larry's ex for Owen's mother. Criss-cross!

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Drama/Thriller. It's not really a mother movie, but Angela Lansbury plays a just plain wicked mother that is too awesome to pass up.

The Stepford Wives (1975) Mystery/Drama. Oh this is just such a classic. I know they remade it but they took the camp angle. The campy of this original is so much more pure, and it is a little creepy. I included it because the hallmark perfect mother's day is so Stepford.

I Heart Huckabees (2004) Existental comedy. Lilly Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman play detectives who assist people in solving their existential mysteries. While not presented in a smack you over the head mainstream hollywood way, family relationships are the key to the main character's plight.

MirrorMask (2005) Fantasy. Writer Neil Gaiman (one of my favorites - thanks JT for the reference) who is always strange in a pretty good way, brings us a children's tale. Awwww. It's sort of like if you took Siouxsie (with or without Banshees), Jim Henson, and a CGI Edward Gorey and hit "blend" for 1 minute. Dark, deep, sarcastic, and a little freaky. The story begins with 15 year old artistic Helena having a typically ugly and quickly out of hand 15 year old clash of wills with her mother. Soon after, her mother falls acutely ill. While waiting to hear her mother's fate, Helena is drawn into (no pun intended) a world which resembles her own odd sketches. Mother themes abound, and it's a very stylish movie.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Puoi vedere?

My father's father was from Italy. Well, his parents and siblings were. I've never been sure if he was born in Italy or in the North End of Boston. My grandfather's siblings used to speak Italian. Of course, they rarely addressed me and didn't repeat themselves when they did, so they kept their strange northern Italian hybrid dialect mainly to themselves.

My father's mother's parents were Irish immigrants. Her father was a fireman who died three days before Christmas when my grandmother was young. She was raised in a convent after the authorities removed her and her siblings from her mother because her (then single) mother had been accused of making a living in a non-wholesome manner. And the kids lied to the cops about it. This is how the story goes at least.

Why am I telling you all this? Because the discussion about this country's more modern immigrants is disturbing to me. It has stirred up thoughts about my own family's rather recent immigrant roots and reminded me of the fact that all of us are "immigrants" here. Even the first immigrants - who have, I believe, the distinction of having been of extremely wide scale annoyance to their original countrymen. The pilgrims were what could be described nowadays as militant religious extremists who felt that living and worshipping with non-exteremists would contaminate their salvation. The legacy of the character of that first wave of immigration? A belief that relation to this particular set of immigrants granted exclusive god given rights for dominion above everything around them. That philosophy can easily be seen as a core element in a culture and belief system which eventually allowed (and promoted) the organized practice of land grabbing and genocide "real americans" euphemistically refer to as our nation's expansion and reform period.

I would not condone someone living a life of true luxury on the hard work or suffering of other people, a charge that is often brought against immigrants. But in my experience, via my family's heritage and what I see of modern immigrants to this country, these people are hardly living in luxury when they come to the US. Moreover, they KNOW that they will not live a life of luxury here. And yet they come anyhow. Despite the hardship that you can be assured of here in the US if you are not a member of the small luxury class, apparently the opportunities here are still better than those available in modern immigrants' countries of origin. That is hardly surprising. Many of them come from countries where corporate interests have used up or enslaved local resources to maintain the privileges of the luxury class here in the US (and other "first world" countries) .

From this perspective, the ire that immigrants to the US are here only to take advantage of our resources, to take jobs away from Americans (ahahahahaha!), and to increase the tax burden on the middle class would be much better (and more legitimately) directed at people who live in these zip codes or who benefited from the 2004 corporate tax break bill.

So what drives the ignorant "This is america. Speak american!" and "America. Love it or leave it!" people's immigrant-phobia? I'm not sure really. Their rhetoric has always annoyed the shit out of me. It just annoys me more so during times when the issue comes into the national debate arena.

And this is one of those times. Is it just me, or does anyone else have the strong feelingthat this issue is one of those "Look a pterodactyl!!!" kind of things? NOT that the lot of non-citizen/non-registered residents in this country is a trivial issue, not that the myriad of labor issues woven throughout the whole of the immigration one are minor. But I question the timing of this recent incarnation of the ageless Immigrant Problem, and I question the motivation for it's being thrust into the national spotlight so close to legislative elections. Oh there are so many other things we could be considering when we go to the polls.

What got me on this kick? The last straw was a news item about reaction to a spanish language version of the star spangled banner. This bothers me for two reasons:
1) Spanish speaking does not equal immigrant, immigrant does not equal hispanic. That these equivalencies are held is proof of a set of annoying stereotypes that I'd like to see dispelled.
2) According to the news story, people aren't happy about the song being sung in anything but English. Yeah. Bush was quoted as saying: "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the anthem in English." Does "learning English" mean using grammatical sentences and real words? If so, then Bush just questioned the validity of his own claim to US citizenship.

In response to all this, I've decided to translate the US national anthem into Italian, the language of one of my family's countries of origin. The Irish, well, that's gonna be a bit harder but I do have a friend who speaks it so I'll ask her.

I'll be working on "Eh, Puoi vedere?" (a casual voice seems to have the correct tone for my intentions). I'll provide a full translation if and when I can. My reason for wanting to do it is entirely to antagonize anyone who really is already bothered by the spanish language version of the star spangled banner. It's gonna take a little thinking because I haven't used Italian in years and the song's lyrics are a bit archaic. Meanwhile, I encourage others to do their own translations.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


So it is that time again. When I consider which is worse in terms of housing - the devil I know or the devil I don't know. The place I live in now has some serious pros and some serious cons. Hence, I've been ambivalently browsing the classified sections every so often the last few months, wondering what to do, when to do it, and whether or not to do it with someone or on my own. That is a whole other post. For now, I wanted to share some of the absurdities I have seen in my searches. This is a composite, taken from real housing ads in my area:

Unexpected summer vacancy in much sought after campus area! 1 and 1/2 bedroom historic cottage (i.e. some slanting floors, low doorframes in places, etc.) on owner occupied property available in May at earliest. Possible extension for year. Walking distance to woods and cows. Newer carpeting. Paritally furnished. Kitchen opens into eating/living area. Full bathroom w/antique fixtures. $950 a month. Security deposit $2000 and $75 non-refundable application fee required in advance. No smoking. No pets. No subleasing.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

For mom

I just got one of those annoying e-mail ads. This was from a department store where I think I once ordered christmas presents for my ex's family. The line was "Find the perfect gift for mother's day!"

Out of curiosity, I clicked to see what this store thinks people who care deeply about their mothers would be interested in giving mom for mother's day. It seems mothers would like to be treated as if they were Hello Kitty characters or oversized Barbie dolls.

Tell mom she's special.
Buy her pink kitchen stuff.

A quick search of Mother's Day in google turned up some interesting gift sites. You know, all the online merchants package stuff for each gift buying holiday.

But here's one I really wasn't expecting:
Nothing says "I love you mom"
like a beef stick basket.

All better...

One of my brother's frequent quotes is Mommy's gonna give you a mint and make it all better. This is said as a sarcastic commentary on a token usually trivial action proposed in response to a massive, complex and quite serious problem.

The phrase sprung instantly to mind when I read this little bit of a news item on Bush's solution to the latest round of speculation induced oil and gas price hikes.
From the story:
"President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline, making it easier for refiners to meet demand and possibly dampen prices at the pump.
Easing the environment rules will allow refiners greater flexibility in providing oil supplies since they will not have to use certain additives such as ethanol to meet clean air standards."

And in other news, President's rating drops to 24 percent:
"A Hartford Courant/Connecticut poll shows that President Bush's job approval rating has dropped to 24 percent among Connecticut residents."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mother's Day 2000

"Number 20!"

The numbers are not in any particular order, just given so that when the party’s table is open, the restaurant manager can yell the number out and not have to try to pronounce a possibly difficult last name.

I had too much wine last night at the wedding and too little sleep. My hair is held back by a handful of multicolored butterflies, flowers, and a leopard print clip barrette. I will not take off my sunglasses in the super bright Sunday morning Bickford’s. Not only is it Mother’s Day, it is also (the newly wed couple just informed me) First Communion Day. But so far I have not seen any cherubic children with pious parents. Just lots of women with flowers.

Bob is doing better than I am. He wasn’t as bored as I was at the wedding so he didn’t drink as much as I did. Also, he didn’t have nightmares about tornadoes and other natural disasters. After we’ve been seated and ordered our coffee, he asks me what kind of jelly I want then he diligently searches through the stacks for the strawberry. The table is a little sticky we notice as we choose our breakfasts. I watch the families around me. I build a fortress with menus to sheild myself from the glare of the sun reflecting off the shiney SUVs and minivans in the parking lot while I wait uncomfortably for my omelet.

No one has flowers at that table. The mother has dark brown hair and a thin mouth that looks accustomed to scowling. The father has a striped shirt, big oversized stripes, and short sandy hair. He likes to point and gesture. Right now, he is pointing and gesturing at his daughter. The mother accompanies his motions with deeper degrees of frowns, and the occasional quiet word of parental support. “If you don’t want them, then why did you order that?!” the father is practically shouting. Or maybe it’s not the volume so much as it is the manner, his face looming too close to the girl’s as he barks his rhetorical question. She is flanked by her brothers, a little one on her right and a slightly older one on her left. All of the kids’ backs are to me, but I can see the slightly older brother’s face from the side as he is at the end of the booth. He is drawing on the placemat with crayons. The mother smiles warmly at this boy for a moment then resumes frowning when she returns her attention to her daughter. The waitress finishes taking their order and the table is relatively quiet for a while.

The girl and the older boy are playing some game, heads leaned close together over the placemat and crayons in hand. “You’d better think of something, or he’s gonna hang you!” the mother says smugly to the daughter, beaming a smile at her son, who I am thinking is probably cheating or misspelled the word. More silence. The newly weds are seated far away from us , me, Bob, and the unhappy family. They are poorly matched and I wonder how long it will take for this to dawn on them. Bob and I chat about various forgettable topics while my attention wanders over to the claw machine, trying to imagine what it would take to actually snag one of the tempting beanie baby prizes.

What am I thinking? I hate beanie babies.

The waitress has staggered up to the table bearing a tray full of fresh and fruity breakfasts. A moment later, the father addresses his daughter in an exasperated tone, “You’d better just eat them. You can scrape it off, but it’s too late now to change it. Why didn’t you ask before you ordered them?!"

I inspect a menu but my attention is drawn back when I hear the father’s disgusted voice, “Are you crying?! Are you crying? Great, now she’s crying,”

I can’t hear the daughter’s voice at all although I know she is speaking. Her head is down and her posture is more defeated than defiant. I wonder if her disappointment at the mile high pile of whipped cream on top of her waffles might have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for her parents’ scrutiny. "You’ve ruined mother’s day. You’ve ruined everything!” I hear her father say.

And so another perfectly good mother’s day is ruined.

I am happy for my sunglasses, happy that they are hiding the direction and nature of my gaze. If the mother and father saw it, it would only serve as further evidence for how much their daughter ruined the day by drawing unwanted negative attention to their otherwise perfect family. I fight the nearly overwhelming temptation to ruin it more by flinging an open grape jelly at the man. I want to see jelly oozing down the father’s face. I want to pour my pulpy orange juice over the mother’s head for crippling her daughter. I want to make the daughter laugh, send back the waffles she felt pressured into ordering, and tell her to order whatever the fuck she wants. I want to dance on the table and kick fruit and whipped cream onto the father’s LL Bean jersey. I settle for stabbing jellies with my fork.

Friday, April 21, 2006


I noticed this headline in Yahoo - Cardinal: Condoms 'Lesser Evil' Than AIDS - and I just had to read it. This part jumped out at me. "While there is no specific, authoritative Vatican policy on using condoms to protect against AIDS, the Vatican opposes condoms because they are a form of artificial contraception."

I didn't realize it was artificial contraception the church has a problem with. What might artificial mean if it is meant to put condoms in a class which includes the forms of birth control that are not condoned by the church (surgical abortion, hormone birth control, and IUDs)? In this use, stuff like the rhythm method, prayer, and the old standard "pulling out" would be not artificial methods presumably because they are condoned and advanced by the church. It's a strange delineation though - and it does leave open the question of whether or not hurting yourself or having others hurt you during an unwanted pregnancy in hopes that you will miscarry* is considered "artificial" by the church.

When did artificial become the key component in any sin or vice? If artificial is that bad, is the pope going to ban Easy Cheese and Poptarts? I think he ought to start with twinkies if he's going to begin an evil artificial snack food campaign. A friend and I once super glued a twinkie to her dorm room ceiling in the Fall. In May it was stil there looking as fresh as the day it came out of the wrapper. Now that is definitely eeeevillll.

There are some outspoken members of the high up clergy who apparently do think that sometimes it would be ok for condoms to be used, artificial or not. Later in this same news story, we are told that at least one other cardinal has said that "condoms could sometimes be condoned, such as when a woman cannot refuse the sexual advances of her HIV-positive husband." Let me break that down. When someone's HIV positive husband exercises his church condoned right to make his wife have sex when she doesn't want to, it would be ok for him to use a condom.

* = This is, where I grew up, termed an "irish abortion". A nasty term for a nasty practice. The reasoning behind it is that it is seen as an alternative to ending a pregnancy without committing the "sin" of having an abortion (or the sin of using birth control to prevent the pregnancy in the first place).

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Isn't oligarchy a great word? And doesn't it feel very appropriate when you think about world governments? I'm sort of thinking Bush family and the Saudi Royalty are some good examples.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Lie lady lie

Lie across my big brass bed.
This is how the song SHOULD go if it were grammatically correct. Alternatively, it could be "Lay yourself lady lay yourself, lay yourself across my big brass bed", although that certainly ruins the meter, doesn't it?

This topic arose out of a conversation I had today with my fella, A___. I wanted to pick a music bed for a public service announcement that I'm planning on doing for the radio station. The music needs to be something suggestive and somewhat schmaltzy. After a moment of thinking, I said "Hey how about that 'lay across my big brass bed' song?"
A___ said "What?"
I sang him a few lines. And sang the bendy guitar part too. While this was very amusing, it did not provoke recall. So then it was on to itunes, where we discovered that many many people have covered this song. Among the artists covering the Dylan ditty were Ministry, Duran Duran, and Isaac Hayes. We were in the middle of playing samples of various versions when my good friend R___ (cjblue) called me to say hi and to wish me better moods. I answered laughing and explained what was going on (then I played the clip from Duran Duran's version which just made me laugh harder).

R___ reminded me that in fact this song is grammatically incorrect. "It should be 'Lie lady lie' because 'lay' is the wrong verb," she explained, adding "You're the one who told me that!"

I was a bit horrified to think that I might have been seen as that annoying person who goes around pretentiously lecturing friends on verb usage, but I know myself well enough to realize I probably I wasn't a total tit about it. I'm not a language nazi. And I guess it has served her well because she said she has always remembered since which word to use when.

In case you're interested in correct English usage (as trivia or self edification), you can use the Dylan song to remember when to use lay and when to use lie.

If you're speaking in the present tense, lay is a transitive verb - it takes an object. You lay something (like a book) on a table, on a shelf, or on a bed (big and brass or not). You can lay yourself someplace, as in "now I lay me down to sleep". There's the slang version of lay which is transitive as well, but which isn't so casually confusable with the use of lie since you can lay someone standing, sitting, or reclining.

is intransitive - it doesn't take an object. It is what you do when you recline, as in when you lie on the beach, on a big brass bed, or perhaps in a nest of pillows on the shag floor in the back of a van. Here's where the confusion comes in - lay is also (unfortuately) the past tense form of the intransitive verb lie, as in "Last night, as I lay in his big brass bed, I had strange dreams about the members of Duran Duran dressed as hippies trying to coax me into a van with a shag interior." I'm sure there is a good etymological reason for lay serving double duty as a verb in its own right and as the bastard past tense form of lie, but it's best to just think of the unfortunate past tense of lie as an accident, like George Bush being president of the US or the sound similarity between the words "sum" and "some".

So when you hear "lay across my big brass bed" remember that someone is, grammatically speaking, asking that woman to do more than simply recline.

Our operators are standing by...

I have had a busy phon-a-licious morning! Today I have talked to my school's Financial aid department, Graduate school, Registrar's office, and the education loan company (Sallie Mae) for a sum total of about 2 hours. And I managed to only kind of sort be testy with one person. She said "Oh you're from (town name). I'm from there too" when I gave her my phone number to have someone call me back.

I said "Actually, I'm not from here. I live here now, but I'm from Boston. Hence the attitude about my having to deal with Financial Aid's mistakes." It's not that people in CT don't get annoyed, or that they don't get irritated easily. It's that they tend to hold it in, all clenched up and whatnot. Not so with someone where I'm from. Nope. And I've become not only aware of this cultural difference but aware that others are aware of it as well. I figured maybe she should know I'm not from Tightasswaspville CT so she could place my apparent level of irritation in the proper social context.

I consider this relatively mild, given my impatient mood and the numerous phone trees, hold music sessions, and gate keepers I had to talk to in order to fix a computer based error in my record. I think I am actually getting better about not blowing up on people who happen to stray into my warpath. Whoopie! If I keep this up, it could mean I won't be reincarnated as a dung beetle.


Well it's too early for PMS, but good lord do I feel like I have it. I was going to say I'm not sure why, but I guess all I'd have to do is go back and read my blog to see that life hasn't been super lately. Funny how good we sometimes can be at forgetting the causes even while we experience the effects.

I try to remind myself that it could be worse. This worked well for me in the Fall when I'd have an attack of people hating moodiness. I'd think about the massive regional devastation and the staggering personal loss people suffered from the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and all of my shit seemed pretty damned small. Unfortunately, right now thinking about anything like this makes me more bummed out and cranky though. My reaction starts and ends with something like "...What the fuck is wrong with people?"

I think I need to take some time to sit down and seriously count my blessings. I'm not one of those "focus on the positive" types of people. I just can't be. It is completely against my nature. I don't always see only the negative - I'm not a pessimist. I was judged too cheerful for my goth friends when I was younger. However, I've come to learn that I am the kind of person who, if life gives me lemons, turns them into projectiles to hurl back at life.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Tick check

Spring is in the air here in New England. Of course, thanks to our changing climates, spring has been in the air for periods in October, December, and a brief burst in January as well. But Spring is officially in the air now, so says the calendar, the big digital thermometers outside banks, and the mushy ground beneath my feet.

This means one very significant thing to me - It's time to start checking for ticks.

Deer tick on finger, from the ALDF site

Some people would call my tick awareness paranoia. I suspect those people have either not had Lyme Disease or have been the lucky ones who respond immediately and thoroughly to the short course of oral antibiotics that the insurance companies advocate as sufficient treatment for everyone. For many people who catch Lyme Disease, it is anything but that easy.

I also was once very ignorant about this disease. I had heard about it. I even remember knowing implicitly that there was some stigma attached to it. When I realized I had it, I thought "Well that sucks, but Ok. I'll call my doctor, get medicine, and it will go away. End of story." This was not the end of story for me, and it isn't for many many people.

The stigma is quite real. I blame it mostly on greed based treatment protocols put forth by insurance companies, on doctors who work for those same insurance companies (as consultants) and who then engage in Lyme research as if they had not conflict of interest, and on the overall deterioration of medicine in the era of managed care. I do think some of the stigma results from the unfortunate fact that Lyme can have some pretty messed up neurological manifestations (e.g. "musical hallucinations"and schizophrenia type behavior). This makes Lyme patients easy to dismiss for some health care providers because they sometimes commit the deadly sin of ACTING IRRATIONAL when feel they are being treated negligently, callously, dismissively, or disrespectfully.

The controversy comes out in blazes when it comes to the set of people who experience symptoms of what is called either "chronic Lyme" or "post Lyme syndrome". These people are anything but a homogenous groups. Some are treated but continue to suffer symptoms of Lyme. There is research suggesting that these people have certain genetic differences from others who respond to the antibiotics. Some people affected by the "chronic Lyme" controversy receive late and disputed diagnoses, which gives the disease time to become neurological. In that set are people like the American author Amy Tan.

Lyme disease can affect your joints, your nervous system, your eyes, and your heart. If you acquire Lyme disease, you should be prepared to educate yourself and possibly your physician, and to advocate for yourself to get the treatment that you need as soon as possible. The best way to deal with Lyme disease is NOT to catch it. This is hard if you live someplace like New England or Pennsylvania, where Lyme is just about everywhere. But to help reduce the risk of acquiring Lyme and all the rotten stuff it entails, there are some facts you should know and precautions you should take.

Where can you catch it?
You do not have to be Nature Boy or Girl to be at risk in a Lyme area. I caught it patting a cat on the front lawn of my apartment building. I've been on Lyme message boards and groups with people who caught it in the suburbs or on a short trip to the country. This map (from the CDC website) shows US occurences of the tick that carries Lyme disease - anywhere there are mice, squirrels, birds, or deer is a place where you can encounter ticks carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme (yeah, they're called "deer ticks" but they aren't that fussy about their hosts). If you want to see the CDC's stats on Lyme by state, you can go here. Or you can take my word for it that if you live in the Northeastern part of the US, you should assume you live in a Lyme heavy area and that even sitting in a landscaped suburban park might expose you to Lyme carrying ticks and hence Lyme disease.

If you are concerned now, I have done what I set out to do. My goal is not to scare the shit out of you but to alert you like I wish someone had alerted me before I caught Lyme. Here are some precautions any sensible person should take.

If you are going to be in areas with tick risk, wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be spotted more easily and removed before becoming attached. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and tucking pants into socks or boot tops may help keep ticks from reaching your skin. Hats or kerchiefs over the hair are good if you will be in an area with lots of tree cover. Ticks are usually located close to the ground, so wearing high rubber boots may provide additional protection. Before coming into the house or car, pat down or shake out your clothes (pants especially) to knock off any ticks. You should also change your clothes after being outdoors.

Use insect repellents containing DEET (n,n-diethyl-m toluamide) on clothes and exposed skin. Supposedly, DEET can be used safely on children and adults but should be applied according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines to reduce the possibility of toxicity. It's your call. I try to be environmentally conscious, but I do use DEET on my pants, socks, and shoes if I'm going to be out.

Your pets can catch Lyme. Your vet can recommend tick and flea prevention products and advise about Lyme testing for pets. Combing and/or toweling the animal outside before it comes it is a good idea too to keep them from bringing ticks into the house.

Perform tick checks!
You really do have to get totally naked to do this, preferably with a partner because trust me, it is not easy to see all your parts. If there's no one you want to play doctor with, you can use a hand mirror.

Where to look:
Ticks often climb until they hit a barrier. With me, it stopped at my bra strap. When you do a tick check, make sure you look especially around areas where socks, underwear, hair lines, or skin folds make a likely tick site.

What to do if you find a tick on you:
The website I took some of this information from has instructions on how to remove a tick. It can be summed up easily: You do not want to punish the tick, just remove it. Use fine tipped tweezers, grab it as close to your skin as possible, and pull gently and smoothly. If you can't get it off easily, you can go to your doctor or urgent care and have them take it off.

Most websites say you don't need prophylactic antibiotics if you find a tick on you. This one actually mentions the "cost effectiveness" as a consideration of treating prophyactically with antibiotics, so at least they are honest about the reasoning behind the recommendation. Honestly, and I don't say this lightly, If I were to find another tick on me, I would seriously consider killing myself. My asshole landlord said if he got it again, he'd shoot himself. My opinion on taking three weeks worth of antibiotics if bitten by a tick? HELL YES. If I had to blow Donald Rumsfeld to get the antibiotics, still HELL YES.

And now, the Lyme Photo Album:

Here's a "group of ticks' picture from the American Lyme Disease Foundation. It's a family portrait of the Deer Tick (larva, nymph, and adult).
Here are some examples of Lyme rashes from Dermatlas.
They can be subtle:

...or not:

Friday, April 14, 2006

A fundy by any other name...

I am hoping the not totally insane citizens of America are paying attention to Moussaoui's testimony in his own defense (as to why he does not deserve the death penalty for his conviction of involvement in the September 11th attacks). If you've been following this story at all, you have to pretty much assume Moussaoui wants to die.

"Moussaoui said he didn't think his previous testimony on March 27, in which he said publicly for the first time that he was to have piloted a fifth plane on 9/11, would hurt him with the jury....Moussaoui said Allah will protect him as long as he tells the truth, no matter what the jury thinks of him."

"Pressed by defense lawyer Gerald Zerkin if he thought he was helping his case, Moussaoui responded: "I was putting my trust in God, so from an Islamic point of view, yes," acknowledging that non-Muslims might view his testimony as harmful...During his 2 1/2 hours on the stand, Moussaoui offered a lengthy explanation of why he hates Americans. Islam requires Muslims to be the world's superpower, he said as he paged through the Quran."

In a 1988 interview (long before he was running for public office), Randall Terry described how he justified breaking the law in his actions as founder and member of Operation Rescue: "When God's law and man's law conflict, Scripture clearly teaches that man is not to obey that law. Some examples are when the three Hebrew children were thrown into the fire, when the apostles were jailed for preaching the Gospel, and when the stone was rolled away from the Lord's tomb. That was in defiance of a man-made law. God never gave the government a blank check to do what it wants to do. It is a heresy to teach Christians to obey a law which runs counter to His law."

I am sincerely hoping the parallels are not completely lost on the general public. I don't have high expectations. I don't believe Moussaoui's Quran thumping coutroom proselytizing will result in explicit and wide spread recognition of the similarities it bears to US homegrown christian fundamentalist rhetoric. But I am hoping, at least, that it will make an impression in a more subtle way such that people will feel less comfortable with the spooky christian fundy zealotry that has made its way into the mainstream at every level of government and administration in the US over the last decade.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How (not) to pill your cat

My cat does not want to take his pill. I tried a device my advisor suggested, a pill dispenser that is sort of like a syringe that you put the pill in and then pop it way far back into the cat's throat. My hope was that it would spare my fingers from Max's sharp pointy teeth. We don't both need to be on antibiotics.

This is a deceptive picture from the back of the package the device came in:

If only it had been so easy. Tonight's earlier attempt ended with Max fleeing the room in great springy leaps, saliva foaming in streams from his mouth. I tried to explain to him that the placid cartoon cat had no such problems, but Max wasn't having any of it. He stayed in the little cat cave* for at least an hour.

He has come out and finally allowed me to pat him again. Little does he know the pill is still on the on table waiting for him. And there's a bottle of amoxicilin chilling in the fridge for our midnight rendezvous.

* Something useful I've learned: As most of us cat lovers know, when Kitty is sick, he will hide. I have found it is best to make the cat a hiding place. Somewhere with easily (re)movable "walls" on all but one side and a cloth draped over the front as a curtain works extremly well as it will give you access if you need it (better than lying half under the bed trying to coax Kitty out). Max's current spot is an area of about 1.5' x 2' of bare floor against a wall between my filing cabinet and a large cardboard box. I put down a towel and I hung his favorite blankie over the top to make the ceiling and front curtain. He digs it. It's crucial that when Kitty is resting/hiding in his spot, you respect his privacy unless there is an extremely compelling reason to intrude. Occasional quiet peeking is usually ok.

King Bush

Am I on crazy pills? My country is very very creepy, spooky, and ugly lately. If these headlines don't make you want to throw open the window and yell "SOMETHING IS VERY VERY WRONG HERE!", then get a load of this. A bunch of rich assholes have gotten together to make GW Bush's childhood home a historic site. According to the AP story I just read, the Bush's humble home has been renovated to its 1950s' glory. "First lady Laura Bush's mother, Jenna Welch... donated a greenish-blue 1955 refrigerator from her home for the renovation."
Well that makes it really entirely authentically fucked up then, doesn't it?

I grew up outside Boston. We had museum sites made of the homes of people like John Hancock, the Adamses, and Paul Revere (I passed out in what is called Paul Revere's house during a field trip in 6th grade). We had the Bunker Hill monument, we had Walden Pond. Where I live now, I am quite close to the Nathan Hale Homestead.

Now, with that type of precedent for historic homes and sites, I have a hard time understanding exactly why anyone should go or would want to go to the Bush house, what with his approval rating at a whopping 35%. Oh wait, unless it's like why and how I went to graceland - because tacky shit that transcends all definitions of taste is damned funny when you're having that late 20s existential crisis (Warning: I do not recommend doing something like this without the proper medication, as Hunter S. Thompson might have said).

From In the Colosseum by Tom Waits:
No justice here, no liberty
No reason, no blame
There's no cause to taint the sweetest taste of blood
And greetings from the nation
As we shake the hands of time
They're taking their ovations
The vultures stay behind
In the colosseum, in the colosseum
In the colosseum tonight

Kitty update

Thanks for the kind words and hope for my kitty. Max is showing signs of improvement, the most notable one being that now he is fighting HARD when approached with his antibiotic pill. He managed to spit it out twice tonight and get a claw into my wrist when I was forcing it into his throat. It's a nasty bitter pill that apparently makes cats foam at the mouth if it doesn't go right down right away. I'm glad they warned me of that. Aside from being strong and vital enough to put up a fight on the pill, he's more alert and acting much less sad and lethargic. Still a little under the weather, but definitely better.

The giggling vet who has been in charge of Max (and whom I've never spoken to face to face) has decided that it is probably an infection that is affecting his liver. Or an infection in his liver. I'm not sure which, and I'm not sure she is sure either. So it's more antibiotics for Max. I'm hoping that will do the trick and that he'll keep improving.

Meanwhile, the combo of the vet's inappropriate mirth and the office help has made me consider if this animal hospital is the best place for us. I had to deal with the other receptionist, who never fails to do something to remind me why I don't like her, when I picked up my partially shaved and very displeased cat Monday evening. I called them at about 5 to get info and they said he'd be ready to pick up at 6:00. I got out of work late and called at 6:00 to say so, and the receptionist told me I HAD to get there by 6:30. When I came in at 6:20, she was having a conversation about what she usually eats for breakfast with some people already in the waiting room. Bacon and oatmeal. Ooh but they're all overweight so they had to cut out the bacon! Tee hee hee!

I waited. Finally, the receptionist turned her attention to me and I gave her my name. "For Max. You can pick him up in back. There are a few people ahead of you," she told me without looking up. As I was asking if she could let the people in back know I needed more food for Max, she cut me off saying curtly "I SAID they'll take care of you IN BACK." This pissed me off because I was quite sincerely trying to avoid causing confusion and delays IN BACK by giving her a heads up on the food. While you don't need to be a sweetheart to to be a good medical professional, having been raised in a family of nurses, having worked in hospitals for years as a younger woman, and having been married to a doctor has convinced me that rotten people make rotten doctors (and nurses and receptionists and techs) . So that's about it.

I am VERY happy my cat is doing better. I don't think it is due to any great effort on their part. I've had problems with them before when I first took Max there. He had a bad reaction to a vaccine that he never reacted to at his other vets. I figured it was bad luck. It probably was, but, well, this is my kitty - the light of my life. I'm looking into taking him back to the former vet for follow up on this. I liked the former vet, they have an all night emergency clinic, but we moved back in 2000. My nomadic grad student existence has brought me back to where I started out in CT, so the old vet is local once again.

I'll post a picture of Max with his bare midriff soon (his belly was shaved for the ultrasound). He looks cute but terribly undignified. My fella promised me when I came home tonight, he and my cat would be sitting together on my couch with their hands draped over their bare bellies - trailer park style.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Like music? Go here and check out Pandora. You can type in a song name or artist and it will create a playlist of related music for you which you can listen to as streaming audio. As you rate songs and as the creators of this project add new music, the list will evolve. There's no downloading, it's not one of THOSE sites (not that there is necessarily anything wrong with those sites, but the bad press has some folks nervous). Pandora is just something very neat created by The Music Genome Project, and is a truly excellent way to explore new music.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Stoic Kitty

So my cat is sick. This has been one shitty weekend. On Thursday at Max's appointment, the vet had sent us home with one can of special "won't make the cat sick" food to try. Max friggin' loves it, so I went back to get more on Friday. While I was there, I asked "So someone will call me today with the results of Max's bloodwork?" You'd have thought I asked the receptionist to wash my car or something.

She looked bored and said, "Well.....Dr. Somethingoranother drew the blood and he's not in again until (she pauses to look at something)...Monday. So he'll give you a call sometime on Monday." This was not the right thing to say. Not to me, not to anyone really, but definitely not to me.

I am very proud of myself that I didn't reach through the window and throttle her. I didn't even get hostile. I have a sort of history of not reacting well to people like this. I've told myself over the years that that sort of reaction is counterproductive. I try to keep a lid on it and Friday I was successful. I did get very mad, and I think obviously mad. But it was apparently an effective kind of mad since it caused her to scurry about trying to get my cans of cat food, change for my $20 for the cans of cat food, and a pen (that works...heh heh this one is broken oh on...bang crash boom) to write down my cell phone number all at once and all right NOW while I waited looking like god only knows what outside her window.

As I was leaving the garage on campus about a half hour later, a different doctor called me to give me some not good news. Max's labs came back screwy. She told me Max has an elevated liver enzyme (three times normal, which is pretty elevated I guess). They scheduled an ultrasound of his liver for Monday.

Max is not acting like a terribly sick cat. He's acting like a sort of sick cat. Max is a tough guy, doesn't let on when he's sick. Years ago, when another cat used him as a chew toy and he got an infection the size of a golfball in his face, he purred the entire time my ex (the doctor) examined him. Sick kitties with abscesses don't usually purr when you palpate the area. I blame Max's first year outdoors for this. I think it's a survival thing. So he's pretty lackluster, but still wants food and catnip, and even showed interest in a lovely green ribbon today.

Unfortunately, I am not at all stoic. I am totally devastated when I think of him not being ok. I keep hoping the doctor who called me with his lab results read the wrong chart. I am very attached to my cat. He's been with me through 6 moves and going on three serious relationships now. He outlasted my marriage. I'm pretty sure I have more pictures of him than of anyone else I know.

On top of my shitty weekend waiting on my cat, I found out today that my brother, who got out of the hospital just this past week, has apparently disappeared again.

At least I am no longer menstrual. If I were, I would need a thorazine and possibly some shackles to keep me from harming people like the receptionist. And life is full of people like the receptionist. Stuff like the unconditional love of my kitty keep me happy and relatively sane. Thinking I might not have that in the not distant future makes me not.

Wish us good luck for tomorrow. I want my kitty to be happy and healthy again.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


That is the sound my cat Max makes when he is sick. It's like the vowel in "boat". Today, he crouched outside the litter box and said "mwoh...mwoh...mwoh", then puked. He's been a bit trepid about the litter box in general lately. He gets in, but is less than enthusiastic and vocal. He doesn't usually chat while he's in there.

I had been thinking perhaps he was a little off his game this week. He's been sleeping in odd places and was alternately extra licky and spontaneously bitey during patting times the last few nights. He demands food, but when I put down wet food, he won't eat it. We play the "how about mixed grill/savory salmon/tender beef dinner/turkey giblet entree?" game until he eats some of something. This morning, he wouldn't eat more than a bite of wet food, but eagerly scarfed down some deli meat turkey breast I offered him. Of course, this is the cat who, years ago, had a huge abscess on his face from a bite but was purring and playful even when being examined by my (ex) husband.

I guess I knew Max had been acting a little odd, but until this morning's colorful cat box serendade, I thought it might just be dispositional. Now I feel bad for thinking that.

The upshot of this all? He's won himself an all expenses paid trip to The Vet today. I think the primary concern is a urinary track problem, so they are rushing him in for an 11:45 appointment. I fucking HATE taking him to the vet. Tricking him into the room with the cat carrier, stuffing him into it, driving with him yelling in the backseat, watching him crouch on the table all wary and freaked out. I feel like a bad pet mommy.

Max lounging

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Career opportunity

I was just looking over the Phoenix website for stuff to do in Providence RI when I go this June for a conference. It's months off, I know, but I don't get out much. I really want to make the most of this trip to a BIG CITY! Out here, it's just cows and stuff.

Across the top of the website was a banner saying "Auditions - Student Performers Needed" in this sort of tech fried font. I'm not looking to audition for anything and I'm not a performer, but something about it made me curious. This should probably be a warning to me that it is definitely time to get the hell out of grad school.

I clicked. Here's what it was:
The following Entertainment role is available as part of the Disney College Program at the Walt Disney World® Resort. The description below provides an overview of the responsibilities included in this role. It is important to note that this role may include, but is not limited to, the description below.
Oh yeah, I'm thinking fuck grad school, I want to spend a luxurious year in "prolonged exposure to outside elements, including heat/humidity, cold temperatures, and/or wet conditions"

It got better:
"Special consideration will be given to Disney Animated Character "look-alikes"..."

I'm reading this and having thoughts of someone people stop on the street to say "you know, you look exactly like a tea-cup!"

I guess it's not that odd. I think my mother looks sort of like Lumiere...

And my ex husband bears a resemblance to Flounder, through the face at least.

Please note: My ex husband did not ever look this wide or greasy when we were together. He has, however, always looked like Flounder.

Is PFG...
Trying out for a Disney role?
Responding to a first year grad student who thinks that, when he runs out of conversation topics, asking about PFG's dissertation reseach is a good idea?


Tom DeLay is quitting.
According to DeLay, his reason for quitting is because of his "love for the republican party" and because he doesn't want to see his seat go to a liberal. This seems like a candycoated way of saying "My corruption scandals have piled up so high that even I have to admit I've become a liability." Fans of the Tom DeLay show will not have to do without the soon to be former Texas representative. He will quite likely be seen in court along with the rest of the legislators suspected of involvement in the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

How are your senators and representatives doing? It's a good time to go and check in on that, see who they are, how they voted on issues that are important to you, what corporate sponsor they have, and who's running against them...

On a side note, wouldn't it be great if it were like little league baseball, where businesses who sponsor the team get to put their names on the uniforms? As in "This US Senator brought to you by Exxon!" It sure would put it all out there in the open. Then maybe we can start lobbying corporations instead of our elected officials, since corporations have more influence in our government than individual citizens do.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

morale booster

I wouldn't consider myself an optimist. But I am a survivor, and so I look for things to boost my spirits when I am down. I've moved past wanting to throw dyed uncooked eggs at um...stuff (that was a thought on Friday - it was a bad week) as a festive way to release some of my inner demons etc. Today I stumbled across something that is much more wholesome. It's from my favorite advice columnist, Dan Savage, who also brought us Santorum, a largely scatological term named after US Senator Rick Santorum (etymology is here).

Savage's newest and less excretory political dig is called Impeach The Motherfucker Already. Here's what Mr. Savage has to say about the Impeach The Motherfucker Already campaign:
Spotting an ITMFA button, bumper sticker, or lapel pin will serve as a morale booster for folks who are despondent at the prospect of three more years of Bush—and those folks, recent polling shows, amount to 67 percent of the country. Hell, I know for a fact that it will be a morale booster: I gave a speech last week at the University of Missouri and folks showed up wearing ITMFA shirts and buttons that they had made themselves, which boosted my morale.

Visit to see pictures of men, women, cats, and babies sporting ITMFA gear, order your official ITMFA buttons and lapel pins (for yourself or send one to your congressperson!), and help spread the meme.