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Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Protest: An Annus Horribilis in Review

2011 was a Hell of a year. From start to finish, I can think of no one year when so many awful things came one after another. This was the year of Just Keep Going.

January: A close friend suffers psychological trauma while staying with her only child, who later disowns her. Side effects and new regulations make taking the pain prescriptions I use intolerable. Cairo begins uprising. Unexpected deaths of acquaintances shocked us. It was a very long month in general; dark, snowy, wet and cold.

February: I decide to quit the opiates altogether and do it Cold Turkey. There follows 3 weeks I barely remember (except for the hallucinations and accidents), a broken collarbone, and a fresh appreciation for Zep and ELP. My oldest living brother Tommy becomes more ill every day. An apartment opens up at Melrose Terrace and I'm beside myself with the prospect of moving. Friends having rough times all around me, if not financial, familial. Still, there's hope that things will get better. But the winter seems endless.

March: Unbearably, still snowing, still winter. Fukushima. My brother Tommy dies. There is no way I or my now last-living brother can get to the funeral. Terrible guilt. My friends descend into dark depressions. I pack to move. The detox continues and I spend half my days in the bathroom. Arab Spring begins in earnest after a street vendor kills himself in protest. So does Mud Season, right at the end of the month.

April: I move into Melrose with a lotta help from my friends. My brother Beery's wife begins hallucinating at home; my brother is beside himself. I'm still in a detoxing state but it's not quite so bad. The apartment house I just moved out of burns down, making 50+ people homeless and belonging-less and taking our community radio station out. Then Strider and Ems the Wonderdog come to stay for my birthday, a happy respite and a really good time. Spring breaks with plenty of rain.

May:  Osama bin Laden is killed. My SIL has "wet brain" and is hospitalized just in time to save her life. My new neighbor is driving me nuts. The rain now seems endless. I get sick. I get randy. Germany announces dropping nuke power. The first predicted End of the World/ "rapture" date of 2011 comes and goes.

June: My nephew has major surgery and comes out fine. Grotke and I enter (and our entries are lost) in the Great NE Sandwich Contest. Clarence Clemmons dies. Greenery is in full bloom but it starts raining nearly every day...

July: A great 4th of July Post-Parade Party. Murdoch scandals are exposed. The last Potter movie finds old versions of Harry, Ron and Hermione (Stevil, Paul and me) going to the Latchis, which has just been hit by a truck and lost its original marquee. I try to take up drumming again. A very wet, hot summer makes misery. Kick marries a guy she hasn't seen in 28 years. The Murdoch hearings are revolting to hear and ol' Rupie gets a pie in the face. John Boner shows his heartlessness. The Occupy Wall St. movement is announced. And then the Norway massacre and bombing breaks the entire world's heart.

August: Melissa of Frankie's is shot dead by her boyfriend. It's insanely hot and humid. England's cities riot following a young man being shot dead by police. People die in the riots. Many neighborhoods are looted and burn. A former co-worker of mine shoots and kills a manager at the store we worked in. He snaps under the pressure of many changes and demands, and kills "the king's henchman". Billy Bragg comes but I can't go. It gets chilly. I get a summer bug. It rains and rains. And then Irene comes to town and we're evacuated. In the HS gym on a cot, Muffinpants comes to collect me.

September: I'm homeless after Irene causes floods all along the Whetstone and our buildings are closed indefinitely. Belongings get sent anywhere we can get storage and I go stay at Aunt Nancy's ashram. A young local man goes missing on the day of the storm. The 10th anniversary of September 11th passes and we're still at "war". I work on The Ladies of the Lake website. We're given several false hopes to move back home. Occupy Wall Street begins. My friend is still delusional and goes in and out of psychosis. After much aggro with FEMA I'm finally registered. An author working on a book about Bratt's terrible year comes to interview me. The News of the World phone hacking scandal fills day after day of news. Troy Davis is executed amid a lot of doubt and protest. I love Aunt Nancy's ashram but I'm making the place crowded, so Strider takes me in and off I go to her beautiful house in Maine.

October: After I begin working on the Gimp's Guide I have a huge emotional meltdown and can't write. Soon after, my right hand can't hold a pen or pencil anyway so I begin blogging and activising to go home. Strider takes good care of me, bringing chocolate home. We have a remarkable understanding of each other. On yet another "you may be coming home next week" I order a bed, which ends up stored in a pod apart from everything else I have stored in 5 different places. The media gets involved in what's going on at our housing development. I spend a lot of time online or cooking. And falling in love with Strider's animules. One of her cats lays claim to me and gets mean to the other. While the businesses and many of the private homes that were flooded are cleaned and reopened, we and our homes stay in limbo. The Occupy movement spreads all over the world. The second predicted End of the World/"rapture" comes and goes. General strikes and riots break out in Greece and the Arab Spring is now the Arab Fall. Moammar Gaddafi is killed after 40 years of dictatorship in Libya. Tunisia has its first election. Protests break out in China. Police seriously injure a protesting vet in Oakland's Occupy site. My brother finally retires. A BHA property for the old and disabled has a fire, killing an old woman I once knew. The northeast gets a big early snow at Halloween.

November: Another Oakland protester is put in the hospital by the cops. Occupy is everywhere, and the London crowd is firmly entrenched at St. Paul's Cathedral. The DRB meeting okays my building to reopen but no date is set to move back in. Strider drives me back to Bratt to stay with the Muffinpants family and that same evening I get the news to move back in the next morning. In a last-minute scramble, many of the old faithful faces help me get back into The Shire. The fate of the other buildings stay undertermined. Thanksgiving is thoroughly felt and we have a lovely day.

December: Occupy sites are dismantled by The Man. Struggles still continue around the world, with protests in Russia making headlines. The remaining closed buildings here are okayed by the DRB to be rehabbed but appeals may still happen. It's a contentious issue in our town. Strider brings Hildebeest to move in with me and I become the Beestservant.  Daryl and I get back to the Heat Fund Recipes. Many of my circle strive for the Christmas Spirit, which seems harder to have than usual. Greg Lake announces a 2012 tour, the publishing of his autobiography, and does a live chat online. I resolve to see him and have his autograph tattooed on me. The winter holidays are a mixed bag. Except for me- I am gifted extravagantly. Time Magazine names Person of the Year is The Protester. Strider surprises me by buying our tickets to see Greg in April. I decide to lie low for the rest of the year and prepare for the Alka Seltzer Party I'm throwing on New Year's Day.

That, in a nutshell, was the year that was. I've omitted some things for brevity's sake. But it's all in the blogposts in grueling day-by-day recapping.

Now we face 2012. May we be hopeful, brave and kind, and make it a good year to remember.

a challenge, allright...

good thing i got all the end of year blogging done ahead of time. today i find part of my keyboard fried. no cap ability either. i'll have to get a keyboard on tueday. joy.

it'll make me nutty to have to accommodate not having letter, o i'm not going to try. i'll be back hen the ne keyboard i hooked up.

happy ne year, everyone. peace, love, joy to you.

Alex Owns It, or Should Anyway

Ah, he's the best Tzigane I've ever known (broken toenails aren't everything, Herman). And I'm delighted to know there are only a handful of peep who'll get that reference. So many have died, which isn't a source of delight. What they knew is valuable now.

Thank you for opening my eyes, Alex Gyori. For stripping away the illusion that co-operatives in the USA were better than corporate Waldemorts. Now, long after you hired the union-buster-bragging-specialty law firm (who sponsors "Public TV"- Downs, Racklin, Martin), and then years later Richard lost his grip and killed your appointed henchman, well, I see clearly. I think a lot of people do. But it's too painful to talk about.

Happy New Year, Alex. Hope you can sleep. Hope someday you join us. It'd be great to have your brain on our side. I've known you 17 years. Ya can't be happy being you. And I have no designs on you; you're no Ian and your 'charms" don't impress me. But I'm willing to tell you where you went wrong  We're very different, but that's an opportunity. I really just don't want to have to believe you're evil and hate you. I always want to like smart people because I flatter myself thinking I have a differently perceived understanding of things. And if we have some non-stressful interaction we'll always connect on human levels.You're intelligent, but the kind of public character that always pissed me off; the savvy-manipulator-survivor-martyr-charming to a lot of women but not me- with a guilty conscience type. You've seen more than enough to know pain. There's still time to change the road you're on.

you can evolve to
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRhq-yO1KN8

Everything is a choice.

To My Country's Government on New Year, 2012

I'm a radical Lefty. I want the basic needs of our citizens to not be a nightmare to obtain. I want us all to have prosperity, not just the rich. I want our Freedoms to be secure and forever lasting. I want every child to have every freakin one of the opportunities possible, and good teachers to help them. We are the symbol, the measure of what people want everywhere and have been for ages. I cannot let, will not let, stupid and greedy people besmirch my country any longer. We are the 99% and we're better than our politicians. Our individual income levels don't matter, it's what's in our hearts that matters. And what's in our hearts is a call to help our fellow countryfolk. Drop the BS. We aren't stupid. Stop screwing us while we're willing to work it out. Or you'll have the passion of every Patriot and the compassion of every Liberal treading on you. We've elected you to help us, not yourself. There'll be no god nor devil to help you when the people unite.
I will ask you once again.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWTLINTfVUo

and we can't keep living this way:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01UipbZL3ww

Things I Love About My Daughter

1. She's not my birth daughter, but she's the daughter I asked Santa for a long time ago.

2. She loves me.

3. She is entirely her own person. She knows and is always looking to know herself better.

4. She'll tolerate my assholiness.

5. She knows I love her.

6. She is the most trustworthy person I know. Even if she thinks she's fucking up, she'll tell me, eventually, if it becomes a problem. There is nothing I hide from her, either. And I have a weirdass life. You'd be surprised at what she can take in stride. Hence, Strider.

7. We both know we're entirely in each other's corner. Which is the coolest thing in the world.

8. Anytime I think I'm cool, I only have to look at her to shut up. She is the Coolest Woman I've Ever Known. Up yours, Dos Equis old man.

9.  There is nothing, nothing I wouldn't do for her. The only other person in my whole life that I ever knew that about was my husband. I can leave things to her discretion because I trust her. If she'd brought me the pitchfork I'd never say she had and she knows that. But she didn't because she knew I'd use it.

10. She's beautiful inside and outside. If you can stand the honesty of her eyes you'd know.

11. I get to be Mama without the physical disruption. Though at this age it probably doesn't matter. I just wish someone made a boobholder that didn't kill your shoulders.

12. She's always inspiring. She's a force. Ya gotta know her. And I'm so very happy I got to.

13. She opens my rusty steel door of a mind. With music, with books, with movies, with her knowledge. She has a Big Brain. That's the biggest Santa wish part in a daughter. I can let her in with all good reason.

14. She is The Bravest Heart I know.

This is the 17th year I'm privileged to know "my little girl". We're going to have mindblowing times together. She jumped the gate to make sure one of my dreams comes true. We're gonna meet Greg together this year, just for a starter. I can't freakin wait to see what other dreams come true this New Year, and how much more I can bust with pride for her.

Happy New Year, Strider! Here's to 2012! Who knew we'd still be here!? I love you!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Isn't That Lovely

The mail came today at almost 4 p.m. Ya never know when it'll arrive around here, sometimes 10 a.m., sometimes as late as 6 p.m. So I opened it after dinner, and there was a notice from the State of Vermont. I must present my papers (again) before January 4th or never darken their doorstep again. I must call between the hours of 8:15 and 4 p.m. but they aren't open Monday. Which means I must call Tuesday the 3rd, and make arrangements for them to have copies of:
- Identification- SS card, state ID card, birth certificate AND driver's license.
-All wages received in the last 30 days (none)
-Income statements from everyone who's giving me money (none)
-Statements from all unearned income
-my phone bill with my name on it
-expenses for being a boarder or paying child support (??? did they read my paperwork?)
-statements from all bank accounts (I have one account- checking- which I already declared)
-stock and investment statements (oh sure, I'm the Monopoly man)
-car payments (right, one of my legs doesn't work but it's not bad enough to get a disability car)
-Receipts for my current paid rent or mortgage coupon book
-property tax and fire insurance premiums

Well, isn't that special. What miserable virgin nerd made these requirements? I've worked and paid and supported this freakin country since I was able (at 14) and stopped when I wasn't able anymore (at 49). Believe me if I had my druthers I'd still be working. Even with the Chauvinist Born Again Christian Rubberhead I had for a boss and all the hell that place put us through over the union drive, I'd still be there. I never thought my body would quit on me, I was always so physically strong. I've been an elected and appointed political office holder in 2 states. And this is the treatment I get. Like a common suspected criminal. Welcome to Amerika. Where are your papers?

It reminds me of a few years ago- an article in the local paper about Little League applications. They asked for so much ID that the pointed question, "Are you now or have you ever been a second grader?" has become a catchphrase.

Headway and Footway

It's been a good day. Getting my bedroom into being a functional space is key to everything around here. The HUD inspectors will be here in 4 weeks and with the regular stuff going on it could take that long to fix it all. We made good progress today. Thank gods for my Gal Friday. She isn't supposed to do heavy lifting or moving of furnture so that's still on me, but I can do that as long as there's no walking at the same time or I can lean on what I'm moving while doing it. She shoves things out of my way and I move things into place. It works. I just curse like a stagehand and it gets done.

Sunday is the Alka Seltzer Party. There's not a lot of cooking to do for it, just mac salad, meatballs and soup. The rest is self serve- bagels, cake, nutbreads, cheese, chips, pretzels, etc. I'll do mise en place for all that and make the mac salad tomorrow. The ladles are still MIA; I'll have to ask someone to bring one. The Beest gave me dirty looks for moving her catbox into the storage room. Oh well. Now I can get through the kitchen without squeezing my walker by. And there's room for people to mill around. She'll just have to get used to it.

Speaking of the Beest, she's been very amenable with everyone who's come by. I have to wonder what she's up to.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

End of the Year Conspiracy Theories

There are more conspiracy theories than jobs these days. I've noticed that there's more outspokenness about them at this time of year for a while now and this year's no different. I'm a bit surprised at this particular proponent, but he does have good points. It is strange how many lefty South American leaders are all coming down with cancer. And we never know about anything going on in this country. Sometimes 50 years later we hear something. Hell, we don't even know what goes on in this town. Lately several people with power I thought I knew have boldfaced lied to me or done things that shocked me. What's to think? If a small amount of power corrupts, does absolute power corrupt absolutely?

So here's a conversation starter for New Year's parties:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/29/hugo-chavez-us-cancer-plot

2012 Predictions

It's that time of year again. I've just reminded Lise to start a thread of Predictions for 2012 on iBratt, but I figure, why not right here? I've got a few...

-Scandals pile up on Republican hopefuls and Obama wins again.

-The Occupy Movement comes back to life in a slightly changed form in the Spring.

-Maggie Thatcher dies and people throw parties. And lumps of coal at her funeral cortege.

-The rich get richer with no end in sight.

-December 21st comes and goes and nothing of import happens.

So do you have some thoughts on what'll transpire in the New Year?

Aisle of View

Even if we try, sometimes we just can't see things as they are. The brain tends to make order out of things according to what we expect to see. And some thngs are just nature's surprises.

Enlarge this photo and stare at the red dot. Then look up at the ceiling and blink your eyes several times:
http://twitpic.com/7zfz6k/full
Thanks to Stephen Fry for that.

Here are a bunch of optical illusions. Some are bogglers
http://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/illusions/lots_of_illusions.htm

and some more tricks of the eye
http://brainden.com/optical-illusions.htm

The horses one irritates me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Put People First Rally in Montpeculiar

From an email:
On Tuesday, January 3rd, the first day of the legislative session, Put People First will rally at the Statehouse in Montpelier, delivering the People's Budget Report and petition signatures and demanding that Vermont's budget put human needs before any other priority.
See People's Budget Report and Petition here: www.workerscenter.org/peoplesbudget
 
The rally will take place from 12 noon - 1 p.m. in the Cedar Creek Room

After the rally, there will be two workshops from 1:30-3:00 p.m. in the Kellogg-Hubbard Library, 135 Main St., Montpelier.

Put People First! The People's Budget (Hayes Room): We will discuss the role of grassroots organizing and the framework of human rights in our movement for a new rights-based approach to budget and revenue policy in Vermont. This workshop will also explore the links between our struggles for health care, housing, education, and dignified work.

Put People First's Working Group for the Right to a Healthy Environment & Livable Planet (East Montpelier Room): This is a workshop for people interested in working on developing the Right to a Healthy Environment & Livable Planet component of the Put People First initiative.

We are organizing carpools from Brattleboro!

Please contact Kiera Lewis if you want to carpool to this event: kiera@workerscenter.org

For Wayne

My old friend Wayne left a comment on the post below with good news in a link. Which made me think, why so serious? There's good news, funny stuff and things that make you pause out there. Spread it.

Here is a clever bit about the new catchphrases birthed in 2011:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/28/charlie-brooker-guide-2011-buzzwords

There are still honest people:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/holiday-hope-b61-bus-driver-finds-returns-woman-2300-xmas-cash-article-1.997036

And brave people:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/bravest-races-burning-s-i-home-save-couple-article-1.997057

And love:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/sister-brother-spend-christmas-65-liver-article-1.995050

And gaffes
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/dec/28/did-i-say-that-gaffes-year?INTCMP=SRCH

And unforgettable scenes
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2011/dec/27/photographs-of-the-year-2011#/?picture=383721306&index=0

These are the days of miracles and wonderment. It's all around us if you stop and look for a moment.

Temporarily Out of Service

This week while social things go on and nothing of import happens in my personal world, is a sort of Gap Week. I've got a holiday sugar glaze going on and find I can't get worked up or even very interested in what's going on in the world. I sit at my desk, Hildebeest on the leaf, both of us watch the wind whip leaves around outside and that's the extent of my interests. It's kind of zenlike. With donuts.

I'm still reading the news and the world keeps making it. But I find my mind wandering halfway through an article and there's no "What? WHAT?" reaction anywhere. This week, I can't work up a good goddamn. Very unusual, but a welcome respite.

So unless and until something jolts me into a "What? WHAT?" mode I think I'll just relax and enjoy this. Peace doesn't come by that often and I have a hard time finding it when I want it most. For now, I'll embrace it. The tsuris will be back soon enough.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We're Almost There

There are 4 days and a few hours left to 2011. In catching up with folks in the post-Christmas daze, it's been a tough holiday season. Lots of sickness, depression, wrecked plans... makes mine look like a Hallmark channel movie. I'm just damn tired and want it all overwith.

Ah well, it will be, soon enough. Next week I'll start undecorating. It took almost a month to put up, it'll take that to get it down and packed. No hurry. Back when I whirlwinded and got everything down in a day the house seemed so stark I'd get sad. Now that it takes a while I'm glad to see it go when the last doodad goes in a box.

And the snow will come. A hush will fall over the Shire. Visitors will be few and far between. There will be cuddling with cat and books and cocoa and soup. I'm so happy to be at home and with the Beest that I don't care about the rest of it. What happens, happens. I don't want to think or talk about it now. Even while in the back of my head I'm working on the survey for the Hobbits.

There are 116 days left til the Greg Lake concert.
 

Christmas is Good

Now that I've had a day to recuperate and get my brain back, I see all the terrific stuff Santa's helpers gave me. On top of the Greg concert, which is in such a class of its own I can't quite fathom it yet, I was spoiled this year. Stellar stuff. Too much to list everything but some of very special note. Stevil had made for me a t shirt and coffee mug set with a picture of Bilbo's door and garden and "austanspace" in LOTR font. And he gave me a digicamera, which I'll get set up (probably not until the end of the week) and with which I'll post pix of the Beest and various other things. Kathleen gave me lovely and useful things but what made me cry was a tiny set of red Ludwigs, like the ones I used to own. They hang on my tree now and will, always. And Lise made a teeny ornament in half a walnut shell, a Christmas scene, like a diorama, and a wonderful cashmere cowl. Grotke baked his yummy cookies and burned a cd of unusual Christmas tunes. Paul gave me a funny book about getting along with your cat. Yes, I made out like a bandit. And so did the Beest, who's got enough catnip and toys to keep her busy and stoned for a year.

And now it's make lists and get ready for the party on Sunday. My aide will be here later to lug out all the recycling and do the last of the shopping. And I have to set the place up to accomodate a dozen people. It's fine for a couple of people, but things need to move around if  I'm gonna fit everyone in here. It's still a Chinese box puzzle. We'll have to get chairs from the community room, too. It'll happen, it always does.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Princess Industrial Complex

Judging by this little girl, tiny consumers aren't buying gender stereotypes anymore:
http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/girls-buy-pink-stuff-young-girl-rants-viral-video-article-1.996768

Pink Stinks says PinkStinks:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/18/campaign-against-pink-toys-for-girls
http://pinkstinks.wordpress.com/

And this story has Legos:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn-woman-starts-petition-girl-themed-lego-friends-article-1.995939

to sign the Lego petition:
http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-lego-to-stop-selling-out-girls-liberatelegos

*LOUD SCREAM*

I got a cryptic phone message just now as I sat here with a cuppa recuperating:
"Check your email!" a low voice said. Nothing else

I checked my email.
It said,
"Dear Mama:

Happy Christmas and Birthday!! Love you

Your Ally"
It had an attachment:
 
We're going to see Greg.
And now, I cry.
I have the best daughter in the world.

Recovery Day

Tis the day after Christmas and all through the Shire indoor lights are turned on and outdoor lights are turned off. It was a good holiday weekend. Nobody ended it in jail or the hospital, nobody got sick, everyone gave and was given fun and useful stuff and we ate well. Even the Beest behaved herself.

Today is gray and overcast. A soft light, welcome to tired eyes. If my back could handle it, I'd go back to bed. but it's still hurting from last night's long sleep. The starvation diet went out the window for the holidays, but it'll be back after Sunday.

Ah, the sun's broken through.

And here's some news:
Scotland needs Vitamin D?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/dec/23/vitamin-d-scotland-food-multiple-sclerosis

The nuke industry lies? Impossible.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/26/fukushima-investigation-reveals-failings

Pakistan's rising political star
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/25/imran-khan-rally-karachi

Bombs away:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/26/iraq-car-bomb-interior-ministry
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/24/ban-ki-moon-syria-peace

Would you like to see a panto? Look behind this!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/video/2011/dec/26/hansel-und-gretel-part-one-video

Seek and ye shall find
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/dec/25/scour-moon-ancient-traces-aliens

Let's start up the world slowly this Boxing Day.

New Year's Bells

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go.
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For these that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife,
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out, my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite,
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease.
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold,
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand,
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Today and tomorrow are full of Stuff To Do. I'm delaying doing the rest of the clean up from last night's prep. There's time. The lasagna is in the fridge waiting to be cooked; my pal Kathleen will be here later and we'll holly jolly it up. Tomorrow Stevil will be here and we'll have our White Trash Christmas Dinner. I don't go all-out as I used to; there won't be cakes on cakestands and a bowl of punch. Funny how as I get older I do the shortcuts my Mom did, buying a cake and letting guests assemble desserts themselves, simplifying the fare. But you really must as abilities and energy lessen or you won't do it at all. Good thing our appetites decrease, too. I'm not up to cooking multiple-course anything these days!

It's clear and sunny today and seasonably chilly, 24'F right now. Doesn't look like snow, again this year. Last year we got a white Boxing Day. Fine by me. But I do kind of miss it.

The weirdest thing this year is the decrease in Christmas cards. Only a dozen hanging on my doors. And many of the ones I got have somber notes in them. Seems it was a tough year for so many. No funny stories, no bragging or big accomplishments. As people die, contact falls away with their spouses and children. Many just stop writing out cards. With no contact, their fates remain unknown. Yet I'm cheered by the phone calls. My mother's best friend Rosa, whom I've known since I was 13, just called. She was an opera singer back in the day, a Julliard graduate. I remember seeing her sing at the Met when I was a teenager and how thrilled I was, like it was just last month. Going backstage there for the first time was so exciting I hyperventilated. She's in her 80s now, widowed, but her children stay close even though they're scattered around the country. It's good to keep those ties. And there's Bruce, an old family friend who was the perennial card-sender, who now just sends emails. Things change, we must roll with it.

Okay, I've put things off long enough. There are dishes to wash and things to finish. Maybe I'll get back here before it's all over, maybe not. But I wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and I hope Santa is extra good to you this year. Have fun, relax and enjoy it, whatever shape your holidays take. I'll be toasting you. xxx

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Beestly Holiday

The Beest is having a very good time. My friends Paul, Lise and Grotke came by yesterday and she was too happy to get full attention from someone other than me. Last night, to celebrate Yule she had a can of white tuna for dinner. It settled very well with her and she has been her most charming self since.

My Neighbor stopped by bringing me watermelon today. The one thing she knows about me is that I love watermelon. And while we stood (well, I sat) there blabbing, The Beest ran over to her side and went on an investigation. Neighbor took it in stride, fine by her. When she wanted to go lie down, I kissed for The Beest, she came running and made for our side like an obedient child. A very good visit altogether. I'm bringing the Neighbor lasagna tomorow night.

Then her new human assistant, Lise, knitted and brought over a catnip-filled mouse. She has been beating the hell out of it, only taking a break for dinner. Ten minutes ago she hopped up on the sofa and is now snoring. Such is the life of a stoner.

It's not over for her, either. Though she found and broke into the little "stocking" of cat toys she didn't get them all out. She'll get those Christmas morning. I'll be tripping over and kicking plastic balls that jingle and small stuffed things from here on. No matter, she's a happy cat. They don't just fill your heart; they take up a lot of floor space.

Things To Do In the New Year

Haven't called them resolutions in years, but I do try to elect for changes when facing down another Winter. For one thing, my abilities are always changing and in order to carry on, one has to adapt themselves or live a lesser life. I'm not willing to do that. My right hand has been a problem for a long time but has recently been an outright bastard. For now I won't be doing any pencil work. It sometimes looks like that portrait of GL may be the last I do. But I have to make art to stay near sanity. There are times when nothing else will do. Carving is still a challenge. What I need is a hanging Dremel, but they're expensive. And the new hi-tech sculpting mediums are tres cher.

The other day I took a look at bazza's blog
 http://todiscoverice.blogspot.com/
and saw the most remarkable watercolor by an artist named John Yardley, from which bazza kindly provided a link to a series of Yardley's paintings. And I fell in love. I have two sets of watercolors. I have the paper. I have the brushes. All these years I haven't explored watercolor. 2012, I will.

Drumsticks are out, too. So this Winter I'll buy a djembe and find a new way to drum.

And that bedroom has to be made functional. I think I figured out a way to do it, but it means I won't be able to get into half the closet directly. It's weirdly designed and has only one full wall, the short one. I think it was meant for a single bed shoved into the corner. It's damned near impossible to imagine what they were thinking. So there's a project.

This will be a busy Winter. I'm looking forward to it.

Presenting the World's Hardest Quiz

This one is a real humdinger. A nightmare. 180 questions, most of them obscure bits of knowledge. For the first 30 questions I had only 4 answers. It's the 107th King William's College general knowledge paper.

About it: "Pupils at King William's college on the Isle of Man have been tormented by its annual general knowledge quiz since 1905. Until 1999, the quiz was compulsory, with 300 pupils aged between 11 and 18 having to answer the 100 cryptic questions in a set time - the average score being two. Do you think you can score more than two?"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/dec/22/king-williams-college-quiz-2011

The answers will be published sometime in January.
Old King William Quizzes and their answers are here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/series/king-william-s-college-quiz

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Song Memories

A lot of sentimentality comes up around Christmas songs. I think only smells can evoke more particular memories. For me, anyway. This post is more a present for myself (though I really made out presentwise today!) than a post others will find interesting.

"That Spirit of Christmas" sung by Ray Charles. Reminds me of the Great Christmas Triathlon of 1989. The best of the Philly-South Jersey-Staten Island holiday runs. It was nice to be middle class. And one of the Best Christmas Movie Scenes soundtrack songs, when Clark is stuck in the attic watching home movies.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsMf-6F1aVM

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". I can still hear Poppa singing this, the only one he sang here and there throughout every Christmas season. My dad was never averse to a Rheingold, and after the first there would be music. He really put himself into a song, too. It always surprises me when people say their family didn't make music together. We sang all the time and most played instruments. The immortal Johnny Cash sings it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcP8xvgwucs

"Little Drummer Boy". My Mom had a lot of standards that were played over and over. Anything on the Harry Simone Chorale album this is from is Mom at Christmas.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT1fA59oH7Q

"The Carol of the Bells". Reminds me of my brother Tommy. He was the only other Progrocker in the family. And also Joe Crompton, who calls it "Sinister Bells", which has made me appreciate it in a whole new way:
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLNhxKldCf0

"FONY". Someday, we're singing this on air, Stevil. Seth and I tried singing this many times and he never got through it without cracking up. This is more than worthy of watching; the whole documentary is great. It is Shane MacGowan, so be warned.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SW_WSQpewNY

"Jingle Bells". I think it's the first song I learned. We sang it in goofy voices, yelled it like in "A Christmas Story", imitated Bob Dylan singing it. When Billy came home from Vietnam he had new lyrics which I won't repeat here. In this vid, the dog at 1:23 looks just like my bff Blackie, who took off into the woods of PA 32 years ago next week and disappeared.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRzhd3eUyO8

And last but not least...
"O Holy Night". Christmas Eve, 1969. My soon-to-be stepfather has the day off and takes me to the movies, and we buy white chocolate which I'd never had before. I am to sing this solo at the 7 o'clock service at CCBR. We've been rehearsing for weeks. I eat a boatload of the chocolate, which makes me so sick I spend the night in bed, missing my one opportunity to sing this song.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5n6X9sUznI

Sweetness and Light

Just like any day, there's all kinds of bad news, but today I'm ignoring it.

The Hobbit trailer is out- ignore the anal retentive reviewer:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2011/dec/21/hobbit-unexpected-journey-trailer

Here's a grumpy smile:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/21/grumpy-guide-to-christmas

Sweet with an edge:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/15/2011-in-lego-your-pictures
Need accompaniment and lyrics?
http://www.carols.org.uk/the_wassai1_song.htm

Some Winter Tales for kitchen time:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018jdvl

One of the funniest shows ever:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnwb

Relax and enjoy as much as possible. Don't let the stress carry the day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Here Comes The Sun

Tonight, the longest night of the year gives birth to the return of the Sun in our part of the planet. The infant Sun is tended by Mother Nature, who, busy with her babe, lets the world fend for itself with all she's provided the rest of the year. It's the beginning of Winter here, where the white of the snow  will help make days bright until Spring brings us light and warmth again.

Some religions celebrate it as the Birth of the Sun King or the Oak King, some as simply the turn of the Wheel of theYear. Yule is the Festival of Light to me. Here's a nice summary, for the curious:
https://www.msu.edu/user/rohdemar/earth/sabbats/yule.html

I have traditions, some taught, some adapted, some straight out of Christmas traditions. The tree must be up by St. Lucia's Day, the first day of the coming of the light. An advent, if you will. From then until the Solstice (Yule), decorations go up, lights are added and they're all lit on the Solstice night. What you don't have done by the Solstice must be left undone, itself a reminder of preparing for the barren season and the consequences of inaction. Symbols of light and survival, celebration and silliness, the importance of laughter in the darkness, kindness and charity for those not so well-prepared, are all part of Yule. Hope and faith are in there, too. Hope that the Great Good (as represented by the Sun) will come back, faith that it always has before and will return this time as it always does. Reassurance that nothing, good or bad, lasts forever.

In this darkest night of the year, I wish us all light. In these uncertain times, I wish reassurance. And in the sadness, joy.

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDW1U8PyAXo

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6j4TGqVl5g 

Solstice happens at 12:30 a.m. EST tonight. Happy Solstice, fellow babies. ;)

Here We Come A-Wassailing

Of all the festivities we used to do and don't anymore I miss caroling the most. There's something wondrous and silly about wandering around a neighborhood in a group, singing. There are still groups singing holiday songs but at stationary events that you go to see, they don't come to your door. Sure, it's more efficient that way but it's much less spontaneous and joyful.

Our carolers were mostly choir members. People used to singing together with well-rehearsed parts. Carolling was our play time. Strangers would join in. Between stops songs would be suggested. There wasn't a set list; it was gloriously impromptu. And as the night went on, the adults would get louder and merrier after sipping from flasks they had in their coat pockets. It was about fun, and nothing but fun.

And the people we sang to loved it. Never once did anyone close a door. People would hang out of their apartment house windows, some throwing coats on and joining us. I don't recall anyone offering treats or money, but that's not why we were out there anyway. No wassail or figgy pudding could've made it any happier or better.

Every year I hope for carolers. That's what the seasonal celebrations are about; hope.

Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too, and gods bless you and send you a happy new year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vermont, Left of New Hampshire

I LoVermont. Really, I do. In my last 2 years of living in New York City I felt the pull to the north. My husband and I had friends up here and came up for vacation. It felt like home. So I loved the place from afar for a few more years. Now, 16+ years of living here later I see its faults. But like a good marriage, it's become dearer to me with time, and grew more valued by my being away from it a couple of times.

Vermont is certainly Yankee country. Not Yankee as the rest of the world uses the term; Yankee as we define it ourselves. To Southerners everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line is a Yankee. To those north of that line, Yankees are New Englanders. And among New Englanders Yankees are divvied up by state- Massholes, Connecticu*ts, Vermonsters, New Hampshits and Mainiacs.

New York, where I grew up, had an attitude about New Jersey. So much so that New Yorkers didn't care what New Jerseyans thought of us. We made up songs like "Go Back to New Jersey". And even each borough of the city held the others in contempt. I remember being ashamed to tell my friends I was moving to Staten Island. And proud to tell the world when I was finally living in Manhattan at the ripe old age of 25. I'd finally escaped being "Bridge and Tunnel" or an "OB" ("Outer Borough"). It never occurred to me that other states would have an attitude about neighboring states. They do.

Around here there is a definite line, called the Connecticut River. On the right lies New Hampshire. Radically Right. On the left, Vermont. So Left it gets called Socialist. And at times not Left enough for me. Still, in comparison to other places it's quite Liberal. We were first in legalizing same sex Civil Unions, and now have same sex marriages (I've always said why shouldn't they suffer just as much as us). We are actively working on universal healthcare for everyone in the state. Our children have full coverage. You can see it in their teeth, so much better than my generation. There is thriving, sometimes over enthusiastic activism here. I've met many of the best people I've ever known here. We have the best man in the US Senate, Bernie Sanders, a fellow native Brooklynite. There are a lot of transplants here, too. Others who had the same feeling I did about the place. And I imagine the natives here have the same feeling I did for all the transplants who came to NYC. A slight annoyance, a touch of smugness and a bit of not understanding why the hell anyone would purposely move to my hometown. But a pride, too. And all of us defend Vermont together and tell the disgruntled to move to New Hampshire, just as we New Yorkers told the New Jerseyans to get out of NY.

It isn't perfect. Anywhere there are people isn't perfect. But it's damn good. Pretty, too. You should come visit. We're just above Massachusetts, and left of New Hampshire.

Fun and Games

It's as important to play as to work. 

Norad has a fun site with seasonal games and puzzles, and you can watch where Santa's going on Christmas Eve there too:
http://www.noradsanta.org/en/countdown.html
Daily crossword and sudoku, mazes and jigsaws for downloading
http://www.ibrattleboro.com/staticpages/index.php/puzzlepage

Here are some real brain puzzlers
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/dec/20/royal-statistical-society-christmas-quiz

The Mensa Workout quiz (it's easier than it seems)
http://www.mensa.org/workout

Yahoo games
http://games.yahoo.com/

I'm all done

Tore apart the storage today. Finally looked at what happened in the move. Mrs. Claus of the S&P set is a widow. The old "NOEL" candleholder set is missing the N. The little snowglobes and the skating bears are history. And the stockings I made for Stevil and Katleen are MIA. I give up. It's Miller Time.

With today, I have joined the pissy. Time for a hot shower, a cold cocktail and Attitude Adjustment.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Gripless Hemorrhoidal Part

Some time this afternoon the inevitable shift to the Hemorrhoidal Part of the pre-Christmas week occurred. Almost indistinguishably, like a silent but deadly, moods tipped to edgy and irritable. An icy slip of bitchiness here, a little acting out there, agreeability turns on its heel and swiftly walks away: we are in The Christmas Rush.

Since I don't deal with anyone unless I choose to, I choose not to more often this week. There is always the unavoidable, but really, the rampant emotional swings are so unnecessary. In a few days it'll all be overwith and I carry the slim hope that next year it won't happen. It's tough to keep an even keel when you're stressed and tired. But come now, if you've seen more than 50 Christmases you should have a grip on what goes on.

And so I step back and wait for the pissy parade to pass. It will. On the 24th, as it always does.

Meanwhile, Greg has made a Christmas card for us all
http://greglake.com/Christmas2011/index.html

And there is silly joy out there
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrNcD34KFhM
And I thank whoever first invented Irish cream for the twinkle in my eye and my ability to brush off the fallout.

A Winter Tale

Abroad on a winter's night there ran
Under the starlight, leaping the rills,
Swollen with snow-drip from the hills,
Goat-legged, goat-bearded Pan.

He loved to run on the crisp white floor,
Where black hill-torrents chiseled grooves,
And he loved to print his clean-cut hooves
Where none had trod before.

And now he slacked and came to a stand
Beside a river too broad to leap;
And as he panted he heard a sheep
That bleated near at hand.

"Bellwether, Bellwether, what do you say?
Peace, and huddle your ewes from cold!"
"Master, but when we went to fold,
Our herdsman hastened away!

"Over the hill came other twain,
And pointed away to Bethlehem,
And spake with him, and he followed them,
And has not come again!

"He dropped his pipe of the river reed;
He left his scrip in his haste to go;
And all our grazing is under snow,
So that we cannot feed!"

"Left his sheep on a winter's night!"
Pan folded arms with an angry frown.
"Bellwether, Bellwether, I'll go down
Where the star is shining bright!"

Down by the hamlet he met the man.
"Shepherd, no shepherd! Thy flock is lorn!"
"Master, oh Master, a child is born
Royal, greater than Pan!"

"Lo, I have seen; I go to my sheep.
Follow my footsteps through the snow.
But warily, warily see thou go
For child and mother sleep."

Into the stable yard Pan crept,
And there in a manger the baby lay
Beside his mother on the hay
And mother and baby slept.

Pan bent over the sleeping child,
Gazed on him, panting after his run.
And while he wondered the little one
Opened his eyes and smiled.

Smiled and after a little space
Struggled his arm from the swaddling-band,
And raising a tiny dimpled hand,
Patted the bearded face.

Something snapped in the breast of Pan;
His heart, his throat, his eyes were sore.
And he wished to weep as never before
Since the world began.

And out he went to the silly sheep,
To the fox on the hill, the fish in the sea,
The horse in the stall, the bird in the tree,
Asking them how to weep.

They could not teach, they did not know;
The law stands writ for the beast that's dumb.
That a limb may ache and a heart be numb
But never a tear may flow.

So bear you kindly today, O Man,
To all that is dumb and all that's wild;
For the sake of the Christmas Babe who smiled
In the eyes of the great God Pan.

-Frank Sidgwick

Mixed Bag on Monday

Once again I take a couple days off from the news and everything happens. Boy oh boy does everything happen.

Sometimes a cop is your best friend
http://news.yahoo.com/told-her-stay-hero-police-officer-crawls-under-172204802.html

Oh, Egypt...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/18/egypt-military-beating-female-protester-tahrir-square

Out of Iraq and back to Kuwait
http://news.yahoo.com/last-troops-exit-iraq-subdued-end-9-war-194001791.html

Space beauty
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world-amazing-outer-space-discoveries-gallery-1.7271

Kim Jong-il dies
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/19/kim-jong-il-north-korean-leader-dies

Desmond Tutu speaks up
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/16/desmond-tutu-occupy-movement-trinity-church

Big Brothers make a Big Difference (Big Sisters too)
http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site04/story.php?articleno=4586&page=1

Killer tap water
http://news.yahoo.com/brain-eating-amoeba-fatalities-linked-common-cold-remedy-160603508.html

What Would Jobs Do?
http://news.yahoo.com/apple-onshored-ipad-production-create-67-000-american-155546407.html

Morgan will have to testify about NoW
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/piers-morgan-testify-news-world-ethics-inquiry-britain-article-1.993552

There's much more, but personally I think that's more than enough for a Monday morning.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Pre-Christmas Cold

It seems to pop up in particularly heebie-jeebie years when a lot has happened. While in the race you go, and the minute you sit down with a cuppa to gaze at the tree (and I've noticed, following a week or two of not much sleep) you fall apart. If the usual follows, I'll have 2 or 3 more days of feeling like crapola and then rally in time to finish decorating, clean and cook for The Day. Glad it's mostly done- the pressies are wrapped, just some few things to finish setting up, still have to find and fill stockings- and all the holiday food is in the house. It's good timing to crash.

This is one of those colds from schooldays. The low fever, sore throat and disgusting nose kind. The Dennis Nolan Nose, the kid on our block who spent all winter with a steady stream of snot flowing freely down his face and sometimes his jacket front. Disgusting.

So out comes the chicken noodle soup fortified with spinach and garlic,on with the flannel pjs, and off I go for lots of sleep. It's nice to have a kitty whose main interest in life is sleeping beside you and snuggling some part of herself under a hand. I'll be back when the fog lifts. Sweet dreams.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dear Santa

Since there are seven billion people now, I'll keep it short. I know you're a busy man.

For Christmas this year, I'd like events in 2012 instead of regular things. You're a magickal being; you can do anything. So:

A memorable and fabulous time with Strider at a Greg concert. Don't let me faint or be a babbling fool.

A visit with my brother Billy, here or in Joisey, and with no crisis involved.

A visit with the Indiana branch. I haven't seen them in too long.

A successful end to all that's happened in Hobbiton; everyone comes back who wants to and we can save this housing.

Marble Arvidsen is found. And while I'm at it, Tina and Bethany too. These families need their hells to be over.

And finally, that whatever happens, I don't lose it and will stay in the game so I can be of help instead of part of the problem.

That's a lot to ask, but I've been pretty good this year. I hope you'll grant my wishes. 
Thank you, Santa.
Merry Christmas, and my best to Mrs. Claus and the elves and reindeer, especially Donder and Blitzen.
love,
Laura
 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Greg on the Radio

Radio station KMMT/KRHV is broadcasting a 4 hour special featuring Greg Lake in music and interview.

http://www.greglake.com/news_news.html
It's streaming live but I'm enjoying the station's broadcasting beforehand:
http://www.kmmtradio.com/

Nice to have something good to listen to on a not-so-great day.

Note: in my ongoing failure to understand time zones as everyone I know seems to be in different zones, I incorrectly gave the starting time as 4 p.m. EST. We are 3 hours ahead, so it'll start at 10 p.m. EST. Sheesh. It's still better programming than anything around here. ;)

Christopher Hitchens 1949- 2011

On May 2nd, 2005, we lost my brother Seth to esophageal cancer. The two cancers I've yet to know any mortal survive are esophageal and pancreatic. Both swift-moving, both too deadly for our attempts at treatment and often too late diagnosed. This morning I went to the Guardian website and saw a photo of Christopher Hitchens up top. I thought before saying it, "Oh, no." But yes. Esophageal cancer has killed him.

Of course I didn't know him. I've read his writing. I've seen his debates and lectures. Hitchens was a thinker, that rare bird so maligned these days. His opinions and deductions were well-founded though I didn't always agree. It's a wonderful thing to take one's wits out for a walk and Hitchens was always a good walking companion.

In his last days, strung up with IV leads in a hospital room, he continued to write at a desk by a window. His last column appears in January's Vanity Fair:
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/01/hitchens-201201

He was 62 .I shall miss him. And am profoundly saddened by his death.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/dec/16/christopher-hitchens-obituary

Thursday, December 15, 2011

YouTubian Talents

In the vast world of YouTube are many talents. I've promoted Rachel Flowers several times because this blind high school girl is mindbogglingly talented.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j5sWfp9mnM

And she's not alone. Below is a feast for the ears, talented musicians alone or in collaboration performing covers of wonderful music and playing and singing their hearts out:

all i want for christmas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1mxLBjv-aI

crazy train
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdhnuBwTJLA

harvest moon
 
liar
 
I hope to keep shining a light on the nonfamous "unknown" talents out there and will post when I find new ones. The music industry is only about packaging these days; we can find fantastic musicians on our own without being sold a bill of bads, thanks to such things as YouTube. Enjoy..

Later As The Mirror Told its Tale

Another productive day but I'm pushing it and getting cranky. Boy do I pressure myself, and for no good reason. When you curse at condensed milk because it's pouring too slowly, it's time for a mental health check. Or a drink. Or both.

Accident that turned out good- I grabbed a bottle that I thought was vanilla (I buy things in bulk so no labels) and poured some into the Irish cream mix in the making. Not vanilla, almond! And good. Not the same, but good anyway.

It seems crazy that it's past 4 and already getting dark. Wasn't it 9 a.m. like an hour ago? I look around and see what's done that wasn't done this morning and it's good. Presents are almost all wrapped and the tree is near done (why can't I ever leave it alone?) and there's still 9 days to go. It just seems closer than it is. When we were kids nothing at all would be this close to finish so early. We wouldn't even have a tree yet!

It's gonna be an early night if I have any say.   

Hildie's Busy Day

Get up with new human
Jump off bed and stand in front of walker til she yells or bumps me
Jump up on bathroom sink and demand running water
Follow her to kitchen, run between her legs
Eat
Use litter box
Walk across desk as she's doing something
Sit in window and have minifits for a while
Demand scratching of head and butt
Walk across desk, stand in front of big glowing thing, jump down and go nap on sofa
Wake up when she gets up from desk
Follow her to bathroom and demand running water
Go to bedroom, nap lightly
Hear noise in kitchen so go look
Scratch around in litter box
Eat
Wait for prime moment to jump on her at worst time
Walk away indignantly after being pushed off
Doze on table in window, check out neighbors, tap tail
Follow her to bathroom and demand running water
Race her to desk and sit on leaf in window next to her
Stand up and shove butt in her face
Walk over keyboard
Act scared when she yells, jump down but stay right next to desk
Clean self, give her dirty looks
Eat
Use litter box
Go back to bed
Wake up when dark outside
Find her in bathroom, demand running water
Go to food dishes
Stare alternately at her and where dish of good food should be
Make noises until can is opened, food is mashed and my face is in dish
Eat as much of entire can as possible
Use litter box
Clean face
Jump across her lap to desk leaf, use back claws to launch
Ignore her cursing and look out window
Demand head and butt scratching
Hop across desk quickly making sure to hit many keys
Nap on sofa
Stretch and twist body, look at her upside down
Go use litter box
Follow her to bathroom and demand running water
Eat
Use litter box
Sit on table in window
Sink down and lay there
Go back to sofa for more comfort
Nap
Wake up sometime later
Follow her to bathroom and demand running water
Eat
Begin new clawing project or work on same one
Stare at her
Follow her to bed
Walk across her a few times
Knead something
Go to sleep
Snore like a Stooge
Repeat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

For the Girls' Holiday Hoohah

It's been years since I had girly nails. 20 years, in fact. It's unsanitary in food service and impractical in my life to tend painted nails. But I remember them fondly and used to make art projects of my nails and eyes. Rarely do I wear makeup anymore. When in hippieville....

I still do the hair though. My hair's been many colors and cut in a lot of ways. It's been butt length with bangs (early 70s) permed (75), Dorothy Hamill (to get rid of the perm), butt length again (late 70s), Mohawked (1980), Chrissie Hynde (early 80s), Working Girl (most of the 80s), Laurie Anderson (91), respectably midback (90s-09), Alannah Currie tribute (09), and now I'm growing it back to butt length with bangs again.   

For those who still do it all, I salute you. Here are some fun tutorials on holiday cosmetics:

beautiful Christmas tree nails
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wexy3OvtbuY

Bumble nails
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYztCj3U-iY

Lauren Luke's must-haves for the holidays
 
 

The Heat Fund Recipe Rides Again!

My friend Daryl Pillsbury is a tenacious do-gooder. He's far from rich and used to be our State Legislator. Some years ago he and a nurse, Richard Davis, saw a need for help with heating fuel. Vermont is normally a cold place in winter and with the cost of every fuel- oil, wood, electricity- zooming, they founded the Windham County Heat Fund. It's an emergency service. If you run out, or even get so low that you're buying a gallon at a time at a gas station (people do it) they get on the horn and get you some fuel. But it takes money. A lot of money.

They have fundraisers and some local businesses help, but there's always more need than money. Daryl also appears on our friend Steve West's radio show every month and chats up his projects. Since I'm a cook and want to help, I started cooking and offering the recipe to anyone who makes any donation. Daryl picks up the food on the way to the station and they eat it on air while talking about the Heat Fund. It works. Last year we got a $100 donation for a single recipe. But we're good with sending every recipe ever used for any size donation.

Today's recipe is from Strider, sweet potatoes with black bean chili. There have been Swedish meatballs, NYC- style knishes, cranberry crunch pie, Riva's Q-Bossy, classic meatloaf, chili (with my late brother's award-winning spice mix recipe) and scones. If you'd like to get some tried and true recipes and help out a worthy cause, send a check of any amount to

The Windham County Heat Fund
 679 Weatherhead Hollow Road
Guilford, VT 05301.
And include a note that you'd like the recipes. We'll get them out to you pronto.
And yes, it's tax deductible!

Done and Done!

Well, it looks like I've pulled off another Christmas. It's not extravagant, no scenes from Christmas Present in "Scrooge", but it's covered, right down to stockings. Good presents for 13 people, Irish cream, cards and postage, a big dinner and most of the food for a party, all for about $350. And all my bills are paid with a (very) little left yet.

Must be the poverty I was raised in, or the Scottish and Swedish genes. :) I'm so careful with money, so budgeted and strict that I can tell you at any moment exactly every cent I have to my name. Every buck I spend is in a running ledger in my head that I tally several times a day. Always have, going back to high school. Do other people watch every cent so closely? I don't know. It's how I've survived.

My husband would get twisted that I'd leave for work with only a quarter in my pocket, but I didn't need any money. I don't make impulsive buys, never have. Don't see things that I 'must have right now;' I'm not self-indulgent in that way. Maybe a candy bar once in a while, but I'm an ant by nature. I'm more concerned about my obligations than my wants. The worst fight I ever had in my marriage was over Ian wanting new head shots that would make us 8 days late on the rent. My parents must have beaten fiscal responsibility into my head with a club.

It pays to be a careful spender. Especially when you have no resources to fall back on and you have to be. I know that if I do anything off-budget I have to balance the books elsewhere and do without something else. And I make my choices accordingly. Takes planning. It's not easy to stay so on top of things but I'm not willing to go through tsuris because I've been careless.

Wish I knew how I do it so I could teach others...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

There's a Bathroom on the Right

There's a tv commercial with people muddling the words to "Rocket Man". That's not been an indecipherable lyric to me but there have been many others, and I'm not alone.

Throughout my life much of what Mick Jagger has meowed out has evaded me. And I can't even be bothered deciphering what Mariah Carey yodels. I have bastardized many Dylan/Stones/Aerosmith/anyone who sings rock that way's lyrics. And for years I thought it was just me. Then one evening someone brought up wrong lyrics and everyone chimed in with what they've been mishearing all these years. There are whole websites devoted to this:
 http://www.kissthisguy.com/

http://www.amiright.com/

And notes on commonly mistaken lines:
http://funnies.paco.to/songs2.html

http://newslite.tv/2010/09/22/top-20-misheard-song-lyrics-an.html

But my personal favorite was from a guy who said he'd always thought the words were, "The girl with colitis goes by", in "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds".

Mail Call, Hairball, Presents Pile Tall

With enough caffeine, anything is possible. Today seems to be Perpetual Motion Day. It's good to sit for a bit.

The craft package Lawless offered at http://mybabyjohn.blogspot.com/2011/12/aborted-craft-project.html
arrived today and has much more in it than I thought- Lila may be able to make something for all her grandparents as well as for Mommy! Thanks, Lawless!

Some stocking stuffers got here too so Project Xmas is well underway. I still haven't done my cards. That's on today's list.

The Beest had a huge hairball fit this morning. I've never seen a cat get so fully involved in gakking as Hildie does. She puts her all into it, a full body effort. She's fine now.

I got a bunch of little things for people. 20 or so little things pile up and I'm in a wrapping production line here. I don't think there's much outside of nature that's as pretty as a tree with presents under it. There are still a couple of gifts to get. 11 days left to pull it together! 

Have to say, Amazon has been a godsend this year. Not one problem, everything arrived in perfect shape, and fairly quickly. I just have to keep in mind that objects on a website may appear larger than they really are.

Okay, can't sit on my butt all day. Back to work.

Tuesday, Tuesday

Feels like Friday to me. I've been up for an hour. Seems a good thing to hit the news when you're still in the morning fog. Things don't hit you as sharply in the head. Here then, the news.

The "god particle":
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/dec/13/higgs-boson-seminar-god-particle?intcmp=122

Occupiers shut down west coast ports:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/13/occupy-protesters-shutdown-west-coast-ports

Danube low, power slows:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/13/drought-in-romania-threatens-danube-power

Saudi Arabia "executes" woman for sorcery; yesterday it said she was beheaded:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/12/saudi-woman-executed-practising-sorcery

Shoes fly again:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/iranian-man-throws-shoes-president-mahmoud-ahmadinejad-article-1.990614

"Squid!" is an old Brooklyn insult:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/17-arrests-occupy-wall-st-protesters-march-goldman-sachs-article-1.990555

Man goes nuts in Belgium, killing at least 4:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16161746

Is Buddy bi?:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16153511

Scotland moves right along toward independence referendum:
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/two-thirds-of-scots-back-independence-referendum-within-two-years.1323778379

One couple's story of homelessness:
http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site04/story.php?articleno=4589&page=1

One More for the Road

Well that was stupid. I drank 3 pots of coffee yesterday to keep going and I'm still going. Tried to lie down, my legs won't relax. But I got a lot done today/yesterday. The tree's close to done, most presents are wrapped, the stuff for Strider is ready for the PO, the house is getting decorated and I went through the whole bedroom closet and part of the storage. I'll pay for it but oh well.

So Gal Friday will be here early afternoon, her list is ready. I'll get to the news in the morning. I can't believe things that are going on.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Der Christmas Cookies

My Dad was big on Christmas cookies. Shortbread, pepparkakker (sp.?), those lacy deep-fried ones you make with the snowflake shaped iron, vanilla sugar cookies, molasses cookies, Lucia bread. Throughout the holidays there was an ever-present plate of cookies around. He bought them (I never once saw him bake anything) from a Danish bakery in Bay Ridge. When I started cooking I made Christmas cookies but they didn't compare. Dad joined the choir eternal before anything I made was very good. As time passed I played with the recipes. No matter how good the cookies I made were, they still weren't the originals. Memories of good things can screw with what you've got in the present too. But then the internet came along. And today I found this article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/11/nordic-christmas-baking-recipes

And holy cow, there they are, most of the Christmas cookie recipes I've been working on for so long. And there, right there, are the little tweaks in ingredients and method that make a huge difference.

I don't know if I'll get to them before Christmas. There's so much to do. But I'm thinking a couple will make it to the Alka Seltzer Party on New Year's Day.

Best News Story of the Day

The Guardian is collecting the silliest and weirdest stories of the year. They're calling it the "WTF News 2011"
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/dec/12/wtf-news-2011-nominate-silliest

I've got a full day ahead; will be back later.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Cat is At Home

Hildie is quite adapted. She is jumping up to drink at the bathroom sink. She hissed at me tonight for scratching her butt one scratch too many. I hissed back at her and she took off.

And she walked across my keyboard twice and now my email page is stuck in a blown up state with no browser, tool bar, foot or tabs. I don't know what she stepped on and I'm not that computer literate.

I have a cat. And I'm going to bed. Maybe this will fix itself by morning. If not I'll have to push everything back and find out how to fix it. She's a Beest. And I'm sure it's because I hissed back at her.

That Was Enlightening

4 hours later, Greg signed off. It's just amazing how many people participated and how long we were all on there.

As expected, Greg talked a lot about his upcoming tour (and I'm relieved that he plans to play Boston too, just in case CT sells out before I have the bucks to buy tickets) but he also announced that his autobiography will finally be published this winter. Before the tour. He just kept saying to watch for announcements about his book, no title yet. But the tour will be called the "Songs of a Lifetime" tour and he'll tell stories from his life and take questions from the audience. And he's not just hitting the states. It's a world tour. No band, just him and his guitar up there. He'll follow his life story song by song.

Through the whole thing I was wondering what it must be like to be him. People asked a lot of personal questions. He was diplomatic as can be and only got pissy once- at a ridiculous request. Under the circumstances and for that length of time in dealing with us fans, I was impressed. It was 9 p.m. GMT when it started and after 1 a.m. when he bowed out. He's 64. He's had 47 years of dealing with fans. I can't imagine. Everyone wants a piece of you, everyone wants special attention or information. People know so much about your life and you don't know any of them at all. Something like that chat makes it easier to see why the famous may lose their way in life. When everyone tries to take a slice of you, what do you have left?

Reminds me of the infamous Judy scene:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GirOMCxZSm4

It's a miracle any of them have any sanity left.

So I have a new appreciation for him. It can't be easy to live his life. But it was terrific and a thrill, and Eileen and all did a great job giving us an early Christmas present. I can't wait to see him next year.

20 Minutes to Greg!

I'm such a freak. Greg Lake goes live in 20 minutes and I'm actually nervous. I had a bunch of questions to ask, didn't write them down and now they've all flown out of my head.

If you want to participate or just watch, here's the link:
 http://www.greglake.com/interact_live.html

OH MY GOD IT'S GREG DAY!

Sunday News, No Dondi

We need comics these days:
http://www.gocomics.com/explore/comics

Here's a stunner:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/news-world-hacking-scandal-hit-800-victims-british-police-article-1.989919

Imagine there's no hunger:
http://www.hardrock.com/Philanthropy/Imagine/imagine-2011.aspx

But it's not really over:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/iraq-war-final-stages-u-s-troops-prepare-home-8-years-shock-awe-article-1.989246

Activism is an education unto itself:
http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-12-07/news/to-the-barricades-variously/

Okay, we won't eat Jay-Z:
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/jay-z-president-obama-raise-taxes-congress-debates-extending-payroll-tax-cut-article-1.989669

Good for the Russians!:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/10/russia-protests-election-vladimir-putin

Is Gingrich as stupid as Palin?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/10/palestinians-gingrich-history-invented-people

I can't pick just one article so here's the whole site:
http://bigthink.com/

There are some nice final tributes to people who died this year:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/series/obituaries-of-2011

The Reds take over Manhattan:
http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/manhattan-red-sea-santacon-town-article-1.989771

We Need a Lotta Christmas This Year

Christmas movie time is here. I've already seen several. And yes, I have favorites. 6. And 3 of those are Scrooge based. In no particular order:
the 1951 Alistair-Sim-A Christmas Carol-Scrooge (in the UK)
Scrooged
Albert Finney the singing Scrooge
A Christmas Story
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
It's a Wonderful Life

Beyond those, I've grown to love Love Actually for those mixed-emotion Yuletide moments. The Bishop's Wife is part of my family traditions and I've given it to my brothers. We watch it every year. Along the watch-it-every-year line, there's Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone, The Polar Express, The Santa Clause, all the Rankin-Bass stop-motion specials, the Twilight Zone Art Carney episode, at least one Honeymooner or Father Knows Best, the Mary Tyler Moore where she works alone Christmas Eve, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I'd say that probably means a yearly ritual of watching Christmas programming for at least a full 36-hour period over 4 weeks or so. And that doesn't count the shows that play as background noise while doing holiday things. At least 2 channels on my cable system are pretty much All Christmas All The Time, have been since after Thanksgiving, maybe 3 or 4.

Do we need so much? I think maybe. We're in interesting times and more than a few of my friends and family are PTSD and shellshocked. It takes a lot to get thru that density of emotions til you feel anything, much less holidays. So maybe repetition is good in that case. Seems to be working for me this year.

We also all just need a break. This has been an outstandingly awful year for a lot of people. How great is it to throw everything to the side for a little bit and step out of Hell? It doesn't hurt. In fact it helps. The last week I've been blogging like mad about the holidays and I ain't the only one. We need a lot of Christmas this year. I'm not even a Christian but I'll  never give up Christmas. They'll pry Santa out of my cold dead hands. : )

"Outsourcing Ignorance"

Here's a good summary of why we are where we are. Leave it to a Guardian writer to spell it out:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/09/change-life-outsourcing-ignorance

Food for thought for a Sunday morning. I've got a tree to trim. And The Hobbit to listen to (thanks Paul!). Then holiday cards. Then Greg Lake's live webchat. Tough day. :D  I'll be back at coffee breaks.

Oh, if you want to join in Greg's live chat:
http://greglake.com/news_news.html
it's a 4 p.m. EST. Register ahead of time via the site..

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax

We sat around yakking a lot today. Manning is one of those people I can yak with for hours. Strider always has been, but it's good to mix it up. The convo went all over the place and through all kindsa topics. At one point I told him about going to see Zep one month and ELP the next. And for just a split second I felt what I felt those nights. The rush of a huge live concert, those minutes before the band appears where the anticipation, hormones and recreational substances combine in an energy that fills the whole place.

And damn did I remember it.
A Zep concert was like going to a religious rite. The smoke was so thick you barely saw the gods from afar... the people danced and sang with abandon...there was joy and hope in the temple of Led Zeppelin. I miss those rites.

An ELP concert was just as heady but different. For one thing, there were way fewer women, ever. Two or three times as many guys as gals. And lots of nerds. At a Zep concert people dressed for sex. At ELP concerts people dressed for anthropology class. ELP had an audience. We weren't there to go wild, though that happened; we were there to hear and see them play. The rest, the showmanship and the crowd, was gravy. The playing of this complicated and surprising music was the focus. People would shush you at an ELP concert, however wasted you or they were; that never happened with Zep.

Zep can never reunite. Now it looks like ELP won't ever again. That time is past, at least we have the memories. It really stinks that there are so many who would've grooved just as righteously as we did, but they were babies or weren't even born yet.

From another part of the convo, we may see time travel in our lifetimes. If at all possible, I'm taking Strider and Manning back to the summer of  '77. Maybe I'll be one of those old people I saw there in MSG and thought, "Why are old people here?"

New Beginnings

Had a really fun afternoon with Strider, Manning and Ems. They headed home a little while ago. And now the Hildebeest is mine. She's made herself at home and is under the desk with her butt on my feet right now. There's really nothing better than a furface. If I can't have Ems the Wonderdog (Strider would kill me if I ever kidnapped him), I'm glad I have Hildie. She is my cat. She picked me as much as I picked her, with Strider as the matchmaker. It's that weird animal sense Strider has. Hildie's personality is much like Sputzelda's was, my old and dear Russian Blue. All good.

But I miss Strider and Ems (and Manning, I like him) already. At least I didn't cry this time.

While here, Strider hung my paintings. The place is looking like home. Not bad for 4 weeks back in. Tomorrow I'll finish the tree and start wrapping presents, as a bunch of them came in the mail today. It's full-production Christmas now. Keep your hands and feet on the sled til we get to the bottom of the hill. It'll be a fast ride.

Yay!

Just got the email from Strider saying she's got the car loaded and they're on their way. She's stopping in NH to collect Manning, so they'll be here around noon. Very excited.

My day will be full. I have yet to make the soup for lunch and make myself look less like a banshee. Don't want to turn Manning's hair white on first sight. But I have time. Still haven't created a place for The Beest's litter box... hmmm. I'll get my derriere in gear after the second cuppa.

Will be back to brag tonight. ;)

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Man in the Moon is a Lady

When I was very little I wanted to be an astronaut. I fell asleep at night imagining me in a spacesuit outside a rocket ship. The Earth from up there was green and brown and you could see clouds floating around down there, through my big helmet visor. Years later when I saw the Big Blue Marble it is, reflected in Alan Shepard's visor, it was a surprise. Part of me expected it would be green and brown. But most water was brown to me; I lived by the NYC harbor in the 60s.

Anyway, my first treasured book (I still own it) was Tom Corbett's Trip to the Moon. It was a 50s thing. Tom Corbett was a handsome astronaut. Brewster Rockit but brainy. And he was very kind to children. The space program was huge and miraculous when I was a kid. Every kid I knew was into the space thing. Some of us wanted to be astronauts. After a while I stopped saying it because every single person I said it to said, "Girls can't be astronauts!" and laughed. Every single person. When people say the world hasn't changed, I think of that.

So that's where my love affair with the moon began. If you pay attention you can see how the moon affects weather. And we all know about the tides. The moon is a magnet in the sky for us, gently shaping and moving our world. An amazing part of our system. It fascinates me.

And then I began reading moonlore when I was in junior high. Native Americans gave the full moons names which I find very cool:
  http://www.moonphases.info/full_moon_names.html

Around every 2.5 years there are 13 full moons in a year. The 13th moon is called the Blue Moon, and falls as a second full moon within a calendar month. Hence the saying, "Once in a blue moon" which refers to something rarely happening. But there are about 4 times a century when we get 2 months in a year with 2 full moons. This most often occurs in Januarys and Marchs, leaving February without a full moon at all. And I've never heard anyone name that odd 13th moon that is a second Blue Moon. I nominate it be called Tom Corbett Moon.

Here's a Blue Moon calculator:
   http://www.obliquity.com/cgi-bin/bluemoon.cgi

Over the years and cultures the moon has been perceived as either a man or a woman. Jackie Gleason's face fit in pefectly. Personally, I think the moon's female. A big round woman sitting cross-legged and laughing, in a big white dress with long white hair.

Tonight and tomorrow the Cold Moon is full. Give the Lady a smile.

Confessions of a Tired Cook

This morning's post by Delores over at http://mybabyjohn.blogspot.com/2011/12/where-have-all-he-turkeys-gone.html inspired me to confess what we're having for Christmas Dinner this year.

In Christmases past I've made everything from turkey to lasagna, roast beast with Yorkshire pudding to crown roast of lamb. This year I'm throwing the classics and all good taste to the wind. We are having a White Trash Christmas Dinner.

Oh. I know what you're thinking, "That's nasty."
Well, yes, it is. It's also fun. And easy. And yummy, too.

There is such an assortment of foods to work with for one thing. As a main course I debated fried chicken, meat loaf, chili mac, franks and beans, baked spaghetti, all kinds of casseroles and even chicken 'n' dumplings. But the best and my favorite, is ShakenBake pork chops, so that's the winner. Side dishes abound and you can't get away from casseroles here. We will have The Green Bean Casserole. Add to that tater tots, candied carrots and baked beans and you've got a feast of good old American cooking.

And for dessert? I flirted with the idea of what is called "Ambrosia" in these parts but was called "Watergate Salad" where I grew up. This is tinned fruit salad and mandarin oranges combined with Cool Whip, nuts, tiny marshmallows and Jello powder. I can't make myself do it. So we're having box brownies with ice cream and Cool Whip.

Arguably White Trash-ish is making your own Irish cream. It's cheaper, easy and more potent to make your own. Traditionalists make it a month ahead of time and let it "cure". This has led to multiple batches being made over the holiday season in my house. It's too good. Once you have the first taste it just sits in the refrigerator calling your name. So I'll be making it tonight and hopefully it will make it to next Friday, when I'm sure a second batch will have to be made.

Here's a recipe:
750ml (3 cups) Irish whiskey
8 oz. dark chocolate chips
28 oz. sweetened, condensed milk
24 oz. evaporated milk
20 oz. heavy cream
1/4 tsp. dry instant coffee
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Melt the chocolate chips in a heavy pot. Turn off the heat, then stir in the coffee, vanilla and milks. Stir until totally blended. Let cool. Stir in Irish whiskey and heavy cream. Refrigerate. Shake or stir well before serving.