Monday, May 31, 2004

Today's WHRB orgy is devoted to the Zhdanov Degree of 1948 against formalism in Soviet Music. This decree was one that decried 'formalism and anti populism in soviet music' singling out composers whose works expemplified the 'horrors of the bourgeois aesthetic.' This was largely levelled at the works of Khatchaturian, Myaskowsky, Prokofieff, and Shostakovich -formerly revered composers, who were eventually fired from their posts and humiliated by the Party.

I've found a little snippet on Zhdanov here, along with a good timeline of events in Soviet history for all who might be interested.

It was so funny - after the relative calm of the Copenhagen Jazz Orgy - when they started with the opening bars of the first movement of Shostakovich's "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District", you should have heard the *crash* when both startled cats jumped!
Happy Memorial Day!

Lileks raises the bar for Memorial Day tributes.

Glenn Reynolds has a note and a photo from his correspondent in Afghanistan, along with several Memorial Day links.

I found this biting essay by P J O'Rourke on yesterday's Opinion Journal site. Do read it - it sort of made me think of Jonathan Swift if he were writing today as what I consider to be a neoconservative.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Woke up early this morning, decided to take a walk. I'm glad I did - the sun felt so good on me. I must've been out in it for a couple hours, at least. Good for clearing out the brain, for musing, ruminating.

The pain is pretty severe right now, feet to ankles to knees up to the lower back. Compensation and teeth-grinding leaves the neck and shoulders tensed up. I have to see my way out of this, somehow. I know I did it before - and I will get through it again. I just don't feel very strong or willing.

The relationship isn't much help, either. I feel chained to a shop mannequin or something, for all the help and support I get. Though everyone will say that you need others, there is a lot I can say for self reliance.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Just felt like doing a bit of 'spring cleaning' on the blog. They've got all sorts of nifty new templates and features over at I'll get the site links up soon, ¡ojala! and maybe even start some limited photoblogging.

Finally! a decent day outside.
Am feeling a bit muzzy headed and tired, but I think I really need to profit from this sun - it might not come back.

Lots of work needs to be done in the garden, transplanting, etc. I'm afraid that a lot of my plants got waterlogged. I hope that they'll dry out enough to actually thrive like I think that they could. The tomato seedlings are looking kind of unhealthy, but the peas are looking pretty nice. I even have four pods already!

Finished the shawl made of the cookie monster blue yarn extravaganza. I'm thinking of making one from a nice purple yarn I picked up the other night. Then I'd like to make a little something for me, for a change - nothing complicated, just something.

Feeling a bit down, as am on a love stinks kick at the moment. Not too inspired to think, to be witty, to write. Just want to work with the hands, to not think too hard. Just be for now.

Enjoy the long weekend if you have one. I'm certainly going to try.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

My chronic crankiness has more to do with the having to disinter flannel from my winter wardrobe than anything else (zen number wave and hormonal spikes included).
Seeing the department head in her bright, gladiolus-colored suit, however, brought to mind a bird of paradise sighting during my morning commute today.

A startling vision of pink confronted me on my walk up Highland Ave. As I got closer, I could make out a statuesque figure, meticulously coiffed platinum hair, perfectly tanned legs. Even closer, I noted the outfit of little substance (way too lacy and clingy for the grim, cool, damp day) and the lack of stockings. Immediately, I thought - hmm, has to be a guy. Please turn around, you vision - I have to know. Perhaps she felt my eyes, perhaps she heard my steps, but she did turn around to give me an unobstructed view of her adam's apple.

I've heard that men have a harder time telling transvestites from real women, but for me, at least, it's always been obvious: only a guy would be seen dressed so darn...impractically.

God love 'em, I guess someone's got to be able to wear those outfits.
Learned a new term from my cube neighbor yesterday: 'screw like a jackrabbit.' Since I only have what you might generously call a retro color TV (no remote) stowed in a corner of the livingroom and am too cheap to get cable, I've not been privy to such Culture as can be found in series like 'Sex in the City.'

Apparently the old screwing like the jackrabbit thing is not good. It's akin to being 'jackhammered.'

Since I have been enriched with this knowledge, I can unequivocally state that my day has not been wasted.

One thing can be said about those of us on the functional level at my organisation: we watch each others' backs or 'cosign' for each other (as my cube neighbor calls it).

Today, one girlfriend sent me a part time job posting for Yiddish instructor at Brookline Community Ed. I was a little perplexed. Explained that my grasp of that language was similar to hers of Portuguese (tenuous). Bad Jew that I am, I ended up in CCD rather than Hebrew school where I'd not have learned formal Yiddish anyway.

Girlfriend stopped by and asked why anyone would want to learn a language that is dying anyway. Why indeed (well, Bashevis Singer comes to mind as only one of many who wrote in that language). Best response I could come up with was that it was a good means of sublimation for the Brookline matrons as well as a good excuse for the men of the house to get out for a drink and a snack with their 'girlfriends.'

Monday, May 24, 2004

I'm trying to be a big girl.

For as long as I can recall, I've had this horror of thunderstorms. It feels unreasonable, and the rational part of me understands that I'm pretty safe from lightning strikes.
The emotional side, however, will not listen to reason. Friends, families, loves have poked fun at my fear. Even the cats will give me no quarter in my time of need.

About my sophomore year of college, I had a relationship with a neighbor that consisted only of his coming over to hold me during storms. Though I don't really miss him - this was a very long time ago, after all - I do miss that contact, that comfort of having someone near me who was only there to see me safe. Sort of like a dad, only different.

I remember hiding behind the door that led to our back balcony when my mom, my stepfather and my brother would sit out and watch the jagged light in the sky, 'ooh' ing and 'aah' ing at the natural pyrotechnics as though they were firecrackers. The fascination was always marred by blind fear of being struck and of the pain from the aftershocks. Everyone else seemed to enjoy these storms except me. What caused me to be so sensitive?

My mother tells me that it was my paternal grandmother who planted these seeds of fear in me when I was little. My recollections are only of staying with her in the summer and being woken up at night (she'd sleep with me). We'd move down to the parlor and sit in her red leather chair by the picture window. She'd rock me and hold me and hand me peanut cookies and tell me that we were big girls, that there was nothing to be afraid of, right? Big girls weren't scared of the night storms. Big girls didn't fear the electricity or dread the loud noise. It was only angels bowling, after all, and they could have fun if they wanted. A particularly loud crash would follow and she'd squeeze my hand tighter and repeat the same mantra faster - we were big girls and big girls weren't afraid.

I wonder if Grandma is still afraid of the storms or if she is having a ball up there bowling with the angels. I'd love to know - it would help so much. I can't though. I can only look up into the sky, cringe a bit, hug myself, wish for a cookie and keep telling myself that I'm a big girl, I shouldn't be scared.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Stuff we don't tell Mom:

Got into trouble freshman year of high school for having boys in our hotel room on a band trip.
I remember ordering a pizza, having them come over, then being raided by the chaperones. The ensuing lecture (us four sitting on one bed, the adults standing in front of us) was on 'boys and their urges.' Pretty ironic, as I'd had it on pretty good authority that one of the lecturers liked 'em young.
Late last night, I got home to find a phone message from Ness. Two words: Agamemnon. Rickenbacker.

My first question to her when I called back was - Did he get into trouble? Is he in jail?

This is one small trial when your best friend in the whole world has children: your history becomes one of those "when I was your age" stories. Vick (who is a little older now than what Ness and I were when we met) is dealing with high school crushes. Ness wanted me to tell Vick about when we were her age and how we dealt with unrequited love. Now, I'm of the mind that no one should be asking me any advice on anything, especially boys...most especially in high school, as I'd never actually dated anyone (knowingly) until after college. But, still, I was called upon and I had to deliver. I told my friend's daughter about the boy in front of me in math class - Scott, golden boy football player with the cupid's bow lips. For two years I pined over him until I heard through the rumor mill that he thought me a toad. Then, there were the brothers in our band: Agamemnon and John. Identical twins - but I could tell them apart easily. Aside from the fact that John was the drummer and Ag was a bassist, there were subtle differences in their faces. John did nothing for me, though he was the more sociable of the two. Agamemnon with his cool distance always did it for me. Never noticed me. Never noticed much, for that matter. Was a bit out there - whether naturally or through chemistry, I'm not sure.

Ness had her crushes too - one of which almost leading her to be beaten up by the object of her desires.

In the end, I just told Vick that crushes are called what they are because they always end up hurting. If they were something else, they'd be called by another name.

It was funny thinking on this after so many years. They are not fond recollections - I remember a lot of anguish. I know that despite the complications of my current life and its relationships and obligations I'm much happier now than I was then. I would not trade now for anything.
Had a Virginia Postrel moment at the Barnes & Noble that passes for my college's bookstore today. Went in to use the restroom and ended up getting sucked into the school pride apparel section. Back when I was attending, there were your basic tee shirts and sweatshirts in the white, gray or red with the university crest and block letters. Now, miniskirts, shorts with the university initials on each be-hind cheek, College Baby gear. Pinks, light blues, canary yellows-all this in addition to the basics (which, somehow manage to cost less than 12-15 years ago).

I found myself to be drawn to a tee shirt with a cute little graphic of the school mascot. I don't generally feel the need to send any money the way of my alma mater. Heaven knows they got enough from me already. Still, the variety is so appealing (never thought the standard fare was interesting enough to buy) and I guess I am feeling a bit nostalgic, it being almost 12 years to the day since my commencement.

On the walk home from Fenway (yes, we WALKED home), got to wondering - do you think that the Talking Heads song "Nothing But Flowers" (from the Naked album) is a direct reference to "Big Yellow Taxi?"
Nice, serendipitous little weekend - not much turned out as originally thought, but all of it was good.

Friday night - sat in the yard and drank a little too much with the roommate and guy. Saturday - instead of hiking or going to visit a friend up north, we got an unexpected visit from Hal's mom. Boy, do I like her. I don't think she minds me too much either, given how she just lets me prattle on like a little chicken or something. Had dinner, watched a documentary on the president of Latvia, retired early. Today - Arija had a date at the Leverett dump and Hal and I had a Sox game to go to.

The day turned out a lot better weather-wise than we had thought it would. Sunny for the first four innings (boy, you should see my face and forearms - it's like I was spraypainted red!), then cloudy and cool for the rest. About the only thing that made it less than perfect was the wind, which was favoring the defense. No one got a homerun. In the end, though - the Sox prevailed 7-2 over the Jays.

Am thinking of turning in early - tired from dehydration and from a very busy couple of days. How come these weekends have to fly by like they always seem to?
Joan McGowan-Michael does it again with yet another hot little number to knit. I don't know which would be more fun - making this or wearing it.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Not much to report. Looks like the weekend might be a literal wash. Film tonight maybe at the HFA. Probably lots of reading and knitting. Perhaps a little run, as I'm afraid to test the ankle too much.

Spent altogether too much on this beautiful handspun, hand-dyed wool/nylon bouclé that I picked up at Mind's Eye in Porter Square. Though I can't be spending this sort of money all the time, I do have to say that it is worth every penny I paid in terms of the labor involved. Watercolory shades of blue melding in to each other, soft curls held into place by a stabilizing thread. Knitting (I have this hank earmarked to be a shawl.) this is going to be an incredibly sensual experience - from watching the rythym of the color to smelling the dye, to feeling the bouclé in my hands - much like caressing a curly-haired loved one's head or a docile sheepie.

Couple new knitting magazines have me thinking that it's time to get a leg-on Christmas gifts, as well. You can never start too early on them. Do I go with trying to use up the stash, small luxury items or big, comfy sweaters for everyone? Hmm. Food for thought.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Boy, oh boy. Am I going to be in for it at work today.
Here it is, fourish in the morning and I can't sleep, no matter how hard I try.
Mamasan's been playing jump off the bed onto the computer then into the window for most of the evening. Maddening.

Monday, May 17, 2004

April and May saw an outstanding program to the Harvard Film Archive to commemorate the centennial of the birth of Japanese Filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu. A collaboration between a Harvard and the Japan Society of Boston (coincidentally also celebrating its centennial) brought us an impressive representation of this director's body of work - spanning from the silent era to the 1950s. To finish off this program, Ozu student and vanguard of Japan's New Wave movement Masahiro Shinoda appeared this weekend in order to present his first and latest films and answer questions on them in a program called "Double Shinoda."

Friday night was devoted to his first film, "Double Suicide," a modern take on an 18th century puppet theater piece. The work dealt with the tension between love and social class - a merchant falling in love with a courtesan - ending, of course, badly for everyone. I'm sure that the shoestring budget had a bit to do with the austere feel of the film. The bulk of the film took place in a closed, stage set like area, and the actors' gestures were very formal and stylized, bringing to mind kabuki or no theater. These aspects lent an almost claustrophobic air to the piece, not at all unlike how I would have imagined the social climate to have been at the time.

Although I did not care so much for the story, I did find much to get interested in in the film itself. This largely has to do with Shinoda's great interest in areas outside of film: ballet, opera, theater. The music, composed by Toru Takemitsu, played a major role. Not really Japanese (Shinoda described it as an amalgam of 'primitive' influences - mainly from Balinese Gamelon music), it conveyed a powerful atmosphere of tragedy and death. What immediately comes to mind is the scoring of the harrowing final scene which, for me, anyway, invoked Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."

Very interesting was the the usage black robed scene movers/puppet handlers to move the action forward. Shinoda referred to them as the movers of destiny. Their presence upheld the theatrical tone (a breakdown of the third wall? a reminder that this was not real life, but a story?) and instilled a slight sense of the Absurd (à la Ionesco) to this particular presentation. The opening scene showed the puppet theaterplace preparing for a performance with the director on the phone scouting locations for different scenes to be filmed, bringing to mind some of the theatricality of French New Wave.

Some other tidbits: the calligraphy on the floors and walls of the sets was actually the text of the script, painted by the director and crew. Images were copies of woodcuts taken from a book of erotic stories (interestingly enough, Shinoda mentioned that they could only go so far with what they depicted from this series without getting into trouble with the censors, yet some of the love scenes shown between the two main characters would be considered shocking even today.) Also, the graveyard scene was filmed in the actual resting place of the male hero of this story.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition between theatrical scenes and 'real life' scenes - shot outdoors. This brought to mind the Korean film "Chunhyang," similar treatment of a traditional love story between a young noble and a courtesan, but with a much happier ending. There was the same toggling between a Korean opera form and outdoors scenes. If you get the chance, do try to see this film - and be patient with the music - hard to take at first, but so worth it.

The second film was shown on Sunday night - "Spy Sorge." I heard that this is reputed to be Shinoda's last work - and what an epic. Completely different in style from "Double Suicide," this is the story of the German/Russian spy who aided the ally cause and was eventually tried and executed by the Japanese by the end of the war. Filmed in color with loud, sometimes bombastic romantic era orchestral music for the soundtrack, this work definately had a western tone to it. Most of the scenes were computer generated, as what they were trying to depict was largely destroyed during the war. CGI being what it is, you could tell that the sets weren't real, but rather than looking fake, there seemed to be a dreamlike quality about everything.

My reaction to this film was much more emotional than to "Double Suicide." Though it had plenty of espionage action to it, it wasn't your typical James Bond story. The main characters were all moved by the need to allay the suffering of the common people, by the need to avoid war. Though we know what sort of atrocities were committed by the Soviets, by the Nazis, by the ruling Japanese, I just could not dislike any of the main characters. They were human, trying to do what they thought was best, even if the ideology motivating them(Communism) was intrinsically flawed.

One of the scholars who talked about this film said that he thought it was the most accurate, the best representation of what he imagined Japan/China to look like during the years that led up to the war. Hal made the comment that the Shanghai scenes reminded him of the Tintin story "Blue Lotus." The attention to detail was impressive - I can only imagine that someone spent a lot of time poring over old photos of the represented cities at the time. Myself, I was tickled by the musical reference to the 'spheres of influence' in Shanghai by the playing/superimposing of National Anthems of the different countries as we hit their particular sphere. Really brought the concept home in a way that a visual wouldn't.

This last film was the culmination of a lifetime of learning, research, living - though I'm sorry if it is his last large work, I could understand. The frame of the story is an era - the point of view jarring in its difference from what we are used to seeing (both as westerners and standard hollywood consumers.) I don't really know what Shinoda could do to top it.
What a weekend! Beachy Saturday with the Double Shinoda event at the Harvard Film Archive as bookends. I'd like to say that everything was perfect, but, well, it wasn't. On Friday, had a horrible allergy attack that ended up causing me to cancel a date and leave work early. On Saturday, ended up injuring my foot and getting sunburned on the beach. I'll take the bad with the good, however, if it means I can have as nice a time as I did.

Plum Island was breathtaking as always. As per usual, parts of the beach were closed for the tufted plover nesting season. That still left plenty of space to wander. I'm not quite sure how far we ended up walking, but barefoot and on the sand, it gave the feet and legs quite a workout.
I'm not quite sure how I managed to hurt myself, I think it was through horseplay - but when I got home, my right foot was throbbing and continues to do so. The sunburn is cooling down and leaving patches of freckles all over my arms, neck, shoulders, face.

It was so strange being at the beach in summer gear this early in the year - the temperature hit the 90s! Pretty rare for early/mid may that far north. The water, though, reminded us that there was still a long way to go before summer. Hal and I played chicken with the waves - I couldn't stand it, it was so painful on the ankles and toes!

Oh! I saw a horseshoe crab from wash up from the sea, too, for the first time! Granted, it was only part of the crab. I'd only seen the shells before in museums.

Such a glorious Saturday. Such a gloomy Sunday, and apparently a gloomy Monday as well.
Makes it that much less difficult to go to work, I guess.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

So, while the Boston Globe gets nailed for publishing 'american abuse of Iraqi' photos that were really from a porn site and the British Tabloid 'Daily Mail' is found to have worked some photoshop magic to play up their anti Iraq occupation sentiments, I figured I might actually take some time to look at some things that have either been suppressed or buried by the media in general.

This morning, I found an article about people in my generation (the lazy one, the one with no political activism according to the baby boomers) volunteering to work in Baghdad. Remember these people the next time someone makes a comment about anyone in Iraq being a 'mercenary' or a rich crony of Bush &c out to fatten their pocketbooks:

"Gen X in the Green Zone"

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Forgot about, but then got into again the Independent Women's Forum site. Good alternative to the jargony groupthink that traditional feminism seems to have(de)volved into.

Just finished this article on Women's Studies textbooks. Very interesting.
"Lying in a Room of One's Own"(PDF)
Not much terribly new or exciting going on - just little things like getting early morning runs back into the schedule and puttering around my dirt plot. Yesterday the annuals went in - lobelia, bachelor buttons, salvias, petunias, begonias. The peas are looking lovely (Raphaella worked some miracle grow magic on them) and the tomato seedlings are holding their own. By the end of tonight, I should have the herbs started in their little pots.

I find peace in this. There are few things that allow me this sense of well-being, both physical and mental. I wish I had more time (both in the day and the growing season) and space (my plot's enough to keep me busy, but very small) to do more.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Curl Activator!

Yesterday night at CVS, I hit the 'c' aisle: cat food, crackers, cheese, condoms, (anti)cavity rinse...found myself eyeing the sad little discontinued products on the clearance shelf. Picked up a bottle of heavily discounted curl activator, as my hair's been a bit frizzy of late. What a treat! Between the Cottonseed and the Castor oil, my curls are somewhat less out of control than usual. At only a buck and a quarter a bottle (down from nearly six), it was a good investment. I'm half considering heading over again tonight to pick up what's left.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Took a short run this morning - sort of a maintenance deal, as I can't do too much right now in terms of building endurance or upping speed. It felt so good to be out and my knees don't feel bad at all.

Today found me circling Foss Park. What fun! Saw two fútbol games, a couple basketball games. One softball game, lots of tennis players and a cricket match as well.

I love the feeling of the heartrate increasing, the breath getting a little ragged. I love the cleansing sweat, the warmth and softness that permeates my body. I love the sun on me. I know I must be a fright with the flyaway hair and probably noxious odor, but the whole experience is part rush, part volupté all beautiful. I feel very in my body. Don't know how else to describe it, except that it approaches how I've felt when something clicked in my head and I was suddenly fluent in another language. Except that my whole body clicks and is fluid instead of only the brain.
Lots of weeding to do. A couple casualties of the winter's worse than usual frost to dig up and replace. I'm thinking of a holly plant instead of the poor, pathetic rhody in the front bed. Some of the stonecrop didn't make it, either, sadly. That stuff's kind of expensive. Need lots of dirt. Manure. Peat. Am not too much looking forward to Home Depot today. It's going to be like Filene's Basement on $99 Wedding Dress day.

Maybe there will be some cheap, colorful annuals - cheaper than Ricky's. We need some cheap cheer.
Yesterday had to be one of the worst days yet to be cloistered away in a cubicle. I made a point not to go outside during lunch, as I knew that it would have been impossible to make me come back in. The minute it hit five, however, I was off to Ricky's in Union Square. Decided that purple would be this year's color. Since I had done such a job on the lilac tree last fall, I figured that it might be nice to reference the blooms that we are not getting this year. Also picked up some thyme and rosemary, then made my way home.

During the walk back to my place, I think I hit on something: girls with crates of pretty flowers are like guys with babies or dogs. I got so many smiles, so many people stopping me to so as to better look at the blooms, smell the herbs. I felt like an envoi of Gaia or something.

The tomatoes I started from seed are so small compared to Raphaella's! I'm so ashamed! Put them out for a bit last night and this morning to harden.

The weekend emptied out suddenly. I'm actually very relieved, as have not been feeling much like road trips. Hopefully we'll just get some nice, quiet garden, maybe beachy time. I can really use it. I know that Hal could, too.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Three Cheers for Ness!

We have a lawyer in the family!

Vanessa Suzanne Guite, Esq.

Swearing in's in June.

I am so proud of her. She went through hell to get this.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Just like everyone has a price, everyone has a 'type.'
It's very rarely that I am confronted with mine, but today it happened.

One of my favorite field people came in and shared a bit of banter with me. Usually I don't want to say anything, just smile and nod, because I'm scared to death that I'll say something horrendously inappropriate (Can you imagine me speechless? No? Well, it happens only once in a while. Usually in the presence of, well, the type). Today, since he was early for his appointment, he stopped into my cube and examined the artwork on my walls. (I have a very visually stimulating work area.) Chatted about Egypt, our bureaucracy, how I could make his life easier, etc. I floated the notion of electronic reports delivery to should have seen his eyes light up! That alone has me with my head in the clouds, la nuque a la lune,etc.

Since he caught me between lunch and tooth brush, of course I had broccoli between my teeth. Isn't that always the case?

No peepers in Somerville. Just mockingbirds practicing to sound like peepers.
And hawks. And jays. And kitties. One guy was going through his whole darned repertoire (pretty comprehensive one at that, too). Had me giggling like a fool.
Could have knocked me over with a feather.

...and almost did! What a rush! This morning, on Highland and Sycamore (where that beautiful, arts and crafts green slate church is located), heard a ruckus in and around a tree. Suddenly *whoosh* comes a hawk within inches of me...inches, I say! I've seen these guys up close before, but have never been in one's flight path. The wing span must have been around four feet.

I always marvel at how these animals are programmed from birth to make manoeuvres so complex that only very special men with years of training and extremely expensive equipment can imitate them.
Strange Stuff #3:

Was restless last night, very restless. Knew that I couldn't sleep anyway, so took a walk. Came across someone who is a not quite dead ringer for someone else I knew in the distant past. Chatted for a bit, then started walking and talking. He was having a rough day. Woke up to discover that he absolutely *hated* his job and also had his hot water heater bust on him. I've both experiences, myself. Cosmic.

Turns out that he works for a company I'm familiar with, and have had many friends work for. Cosmic again.

Thanked each other for the walk and the talk and parted ways. I returned home and slept like I'd not slept in weeks.
Strange Stuff #2:

If someone forwards a stalker's call to my voice mail, does this mean that I'm a proxy stalkee?
Strange stuff #1:

The party machine is in full gear. Someone's decided to break out the airbrush on my boss. Had to fill out a psych (sorry, EQ) assessment on her. Scares me that there are people out there who would make career/life decisions for a person based on others' (standardized) responses to statements like "this person has had strange experiences that cannot be explained."