Saturday, September 30, 2006

Three Haikus on Home Improvement.

Renovation work:
Ultimately a good thing
But, oh, the upset.

The sun beckons me
But plaster dust imprisons,
forces me to mop.

The old rug is out
As celadon does not go
with pumpkin orange.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

No rest for the weary.

I've been moving away from posting here for some time as, in addition to my feeling that this venture has gotten pretty stale over the past year or so, life been awfully trying lately.

This spring, due to a few too many life crises, I ended up having to take a leave of absence from work. After a few months dedicated to quiet and to taking care of myself, last week, I found myself back in the same unhealthy work situation. Though I'm coping much better than before, am still very drained due to the loss of quiet at home. (What timing to start ripping the bathroom apart the same day I returned to the office.)

If I can survive the next week or two (hopefully not more than that), perhaps I won't feel like I have the world on my shoulders. Perhaps I'll feel more like writing. Perhaps not. We'll see.
Pattern Recognition.

Photo via Reuters.

It's not an exact fit, as Beavis and Butthead could be funny from time to time and weren't heads of totalitarian regimes in countries with big oil-economies.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Cauchemar is French for Nightmare. The two terms are closely related, too:

couche = sleep; mar = horse/mare.

The shared etymology can be traced back to the myth of Tristan and Iseult: Le Roi Marc was the older man that Iseut was sent to marry; Tristan was her protector on the voyage. Marc was reputed to be ugly and horse-faced, hence the term nightmare/cauchemar for ugly things that come in the night.

I had three nightmares on Monday night, none that I could remember on Tuesday night (though I woke up with a clenched jaw) and one that I could remember last night. This tells me that perhaps a few things need to be changed or are lacking right now. What comes to mind? Perhaps:

1.) more time with the shrink
2.) a new bed
3.) a new job
4.) hope
5.) a goal or future to work towards
6.) to not eat marinated mushroom pizza an hour before bedtime

This sounds a bit like an action plan. Maybe I should treat it as such.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Am I feeling lucky?

Yesterday was my first day back on the job after a three-month hiatus.

How did it go?

Well, one of the first things I did on the way to work this morning was buy a lottery ticket.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

L'affaire Dreyfus, II

This shares a number of classic themes with the original story: institutional and popular anti-semitism, a public institution (I would never want to be tried in the French court system) that is so ripe for reform. This time, however, everything is playing on a much grander scale (a defamed people, and a falsely accused group as opposed to an individual) and with much less press than the original (not surprising, given how the press is involved).

Though I don't know that I have much hope for a just outcome to this, I'm going to be watching with great interest. I want the French system to do the right thing now, just as they were capable of doing at one point, long ago.


Yes, it is early yet, but this is promising.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later.

The people who died in those planes and buildings are still dead; we're still at war. I see neither of these situations changing in the foreseeable future, and there's really nothing I can say or do that will change any of this. So, I'm just going to remain quiet on the subject.

Have a peaceful day.
Another (small) milestone.

It just occurred to me that my blog turned three on the same day that Aunt Jeannette turned 90. Imagine that.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Onward, To Buffalo

three sisters

A small souvenir of Aunt Jeannette's Russian adventure, some 30 years ago. The poem? Roughly translated: "three young women gazing out the window spinning their flaxen thred." Family signifigance? To honor the bond between three sisters - three powerful, outspoken, true to their viking origins sisters. As a child, I would bring it out of its hiding place in Grandma Double-vey's hutch, tracing the raised letters covetously. Now it hangs on my "wall of fame," the kitchen trivet display.

Off to Buffalo for a few days to fête the birthday of Aunt Jeannette, who turns 90 on Saturday. As much as returning to the Heimatstadt stirs up conflicting emotions in me, I'd not miss this shindig for the world.

More when I get back. Until then, enjoy your weekends!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"Qaddafi, he’s not just the despot, he is the Arab Superfly, White Shaft in Africa! And, and you, you’re just the crazy Mr. Ahmadinejad, the scourge of the first period homeroom."

-Lessons in Dictator Chic from Manolo

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Moules Marinières.

Mussels, or poor man's oysters as they're called here, are a staple of just about every coastal café, hotel restaurant, or brasserie menu. In Fort-Mahon alone, just about everyone had a mussels-special of the day (ten different flavors, all for less than ten euros!...a relative bargain, that.), and that got me to wondering where all these wonderful shellfish were coming from.

One afternoon, while walking down the beach past the next resort town of Quend, my question was answered: mussel farms. Rows and rows (km upon km?) of posts were set up in the tidal area, and these supplied a good number of restaurants in the region.

For a girl who is accustomed to picking enough of her own shellfish off the shore to make a small dinner for herself and others, the scope of this enterprise was astounding: how many thousands of dishes are sold each summer? How much production is necessary to keep the restaurants supplied? How long did it take for the mussels to reach maturity?

On the menu front, too, I got to wondering: what exactly were these ten flavors of mussels we saw advertised? Mon ami and I tried to enumerate: marinière (white wine), cream, roquefort, curried, provençal (tomatoes and garlic), flavored with dijon mustard...with those, we'd prettymuch exhausted our imaginations.

When I make mussels at home (and I only do this if I can collect the shellfish myself), I opt for simplicity - white wine, olive oil and fines herbes.

Moules Marinière (serves 3-4)

1/4 cup olive oil (or butter)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
chopped, fresh herbs to taste (usually what's in the garden: thyme, tarragon, oregano)
a small bucket (3-4 quarts) of mussels, scrubbed and bearded
a handful of minced parsley

In a deep skillet or pot, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until transparent. Add wine and herbs, then cook for two or three minutes. Add the mussels, and cook, closely covered over high heat for six to eight minutes. Shake the pan enough during this time to cooke the mussels evenly, but remove from heat the minute the shells are open. Pour the whole kit and kaboodle into heated bowls (mussels, then broth) and serve garnished with parsley.

The classic accompaniment to this dish is a plate of fresh, hot french fries, crusty bread and a cold glass of beer or cider. I like my mussels with a green salad and a glass of white wine. (Bon appétit!)

Lights, Camera, Action.

In my job, I'd occasionally been called upon to misuse set theory principles. It's good to see these tools being used by one of the Good Guys.
I am a very angry person. I don't like that; it frightens me. I don't want my rage to eat me alive. I'm afraid that it will, though.

I think that part of why I keep myself away from others is because of the fear of hurting them. I hate this aspect of me, and just don't want to inflict it on anyone.

I wish I could be better-balanced. I try, but often I fail. Am not about to give up just yet, but I do get so damned tired sometimes.
"And don't look back."

I see the hand writing on the wall. But where to go?

I have some ideas. Part of me, however, the part that likes to stay put, that seeks security in anticipating the moves of Known Devils, doesn't like any of them.



We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.

Your analyst is
in on it,
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective.

-Philip Loprate, quoted by Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird.

As my friend who passed it along mentioned, what a way to shape one's paranoia into something artistic, funny and true.

I've a long way to go to in that area.

(From Grimpen Mire)

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I'd seen many wonderful things these last few weeks. However, in this place, for the first time in years, I felt peace.

Late afternoon light at play in the basilica at L'Abbaye St. Fleury.

The basilica tower.


The Loire.

Years after having first seen Ugetsu, I still dream of ghost ladies and boats gliding in the fog.

Sadly, not too surprising.

My experience is more with the French media than with the British, though most of it does come from roughly the same sources. Granted, I've not done any great amount of research into this - just reading a few headlines here and there and hearing from one source about the apparently 'major' problem of militant Jewish groups in France. However, my strongest impressions are of serious media bias against Israel and of a fair bit of denial as to the actual scope of antisemitism (both Muslim and non-Muslim).

Also visited the Chartres-inspired 9/11 memorial a short wander away from the museum. Would like to do so again next weekend.
"Many people think that Islam prohibits figural representation, but this is not true."

-Velvet Lady in a niche (detail), 17th century, India or Iran. On display over at Boston College's McMullin Museum of Art until December 31st, 2006.

"The Koran, the Muslim scripture, bans idolatry, or the worship of images, so images are not found in mosques and other religious settings. But many Muslims-like people everywhere-enjoyed pictures of people and animals in their everyday lives."

-Figures from the Cosmophilia exhibit brochure.

As with all the exhibitions I've seen over the past several years at the McMullin, this was impressive, both for the works displayed and the curation. Cosmophilia (love of ornament) was divided into five areas: Figures, Writing, Geometry, Vegetation, Hybrids. Each section was thoroughly explained, as was each illustratory piece. Ordinarily, I'm not a fan of such text-heavy displays, but BC's curatorial staff do such a good job, both in the writing and making allowances for necessary low-light conditions, that I couldn't imagine an improvement on what they've put forth this time around.

Am probably going to try to see this again at least once more (possibly more, if it means dragging everyone I know who might be interested along).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Not this again.

How much more guilt money is "the west" supposed to hand over now? And why isn't anyone asking for money from Riyadh since they came, enslaved and colonized way before the Evil West ever did?

As for the whole slave thing: why is it that two countries that still have more or less government-sanctioned slavery are on this continent and nowhere else? How is this our fault? Last I read, it was westerners (Think Enlightenment era principles and evolved Christian thought) who came up with the notion of slavery as an evil, rather than any from the victims' side of things. What am I missing here?

(Guess I'd feel a little more likely to ignore this outburst if I knew what the speaker's view was on her country's spending habits and how much that little misunderstanding with Eritrea's got to have cost them by now. As for Mugabe and Zimbabwe? Let's not go there.)
Auberge de la Dune.

A room with a view.

Despite its name, our little auberge found itself nestled between cow pasturages and wheat fields rather than at the shore. It was a clean, small place with good breakfasts (two kinds of homemade jam!), hot showers and so-so other meals. I wonder if my travel partner wasn't a little disappointed by the place, as we weren't right on the beach. Myself, I grew to love the transition of the landscape in the evenings as we moved from honky-tonk resort towns to our little rooms in the countryside and the lowing of Normandy cows rather than crashing surf as a lullabye.