Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Work has been hella busy lately. Plus, I'm feeling all weird and floaty and trembly this afternoon, possibly due to my allergies starting up, taking Sudafed, too much green tea, and the funky-ish Thai food I had (not so great, that Siam Square).

Everyone should try to catch the Daily Show tonight, since Richard Clarke is going to be the guest. The teasers for this show have a "I know, we can't believe it either" tone, since Clarke is like the number one newsmaker this week. Anyway, they'll rerun it tomorrow at 7 p.m. if you're too busy boogieing at the Fawns show at the Iron Horse tonight.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Photoblog time. Saturday was frickin' perfect outside, our first great spring day. Naturally I did my favorite hike on Mt. Tom in Holyoke, taking the M-M Trail to the Beau Bridge Trail (I found out that it's not actually named for the c-list actor). And I brought my dog. And my camera.

On the summit, taking a little rest:

Signs of life up here - very green moss!

The M-M Trail meets the Beau Bridge trail here:

Beau Bridge scenes:

A sapling arch:

root writing:

Oak leaf:


The dog dries off, and it's time to go:

Friday, March 26, 2004

Thanks, Gawker, for printing the Best Craigslist Ad Ever:

"I have four free dogs. Two of them are large sized, about up to my waist. One is brown and the other sort of milky grey, with a large black patch of hair on his belly. The 'black hair patch' dog has a limp, as it was stepped on by a truck driver doing a delivery one day. But he's very kind. The other two dogs are about the size of a bowling ball, but not round like that. One is more round and the other pretty skinny. I don't know the breeds, but they have scratchy hair. You may have seen me with them because I walk them all together usually from Lexington to Central Park and I like to go down 80th street. I also have a monkey but he looks sort of sick. I think you'd need a vet for him. I got him in New Jersey about three years ago. All of these are free and I have individual bowls for the dog and a leash for the monkey. I have to get rid of them because I need an operation in a week that's pretty serious and I don't have anywhere for them to stay. They all get along great except for the monkey and the larger small dog. But I'd hate to split them up. Serious inquiries only. I would rather that they didn't go to the Bronx or Staten Island. Nothing personal."
A few years ago at a flea market in Chelsea, I found a pile of 1960s-era inspirational posters for GM factory workers. They were five bucks each, so I bought two. They're colorfully-illustrated mod delights. One says "Who wants reliable products? EVERYBODY!" and shows a crowd of big-headed people in suits raising their hands. The other features bees with sideburns buzzing a feminine-faced daisy, and says "Quality attracts customers - and keeps them coming back." They hang in my living room, urging me to strive for perfection and productivity.

A couple of days ago our corporate overlords sent us a couple of inspirational posters for our office. To my horror, the office manager hung them up. They are a far, far cry from the quality of my GM posters. In one, three people crowd around a computer, their faces beaming with glee and satisfaction. The text says "Our [company] team: One connection ... one community." That's it. What does that even mean? How does this lift my spirits, or make me want to produce high-quality, reliable things?

Anyway, the three people in the photo are nicely diverse - an older white guy, a middle-aged white woman, a middle-aged black woman - but they each have something in common: an extra 50-60 pounds they really should try to lose. This is not something I normally take notice of, but seriously - it jumps out at you. I even mentioned it, gently, to a couple of coworkers, and they said, "Yeah, I noticed that too! Weird!"

So what the hell? Is this the new normal? Now that we're the fattest nation ever on this planet, the model they use for the average Joe has to have a big ass and a puffy face? I admit, I'm one of those feminists who believe that the saturation in the public sphere of images showing impossibly skinny models makes girls anorexic and self-hating. But is the cure showing doughy office drones who can't climb stairs without getting out of breath? There has got to be a happy medium. Aren't we supposed to see ourselves in these advertising models? Because I don't see - I don't want to see - myself as a part of this group. Who would?

Confusingly, a second poster has the exact same text and the same scene, except the three have been joined by two slender ladies, who also hover with bright smiles. Depending on my mood, I like to imagine the third poster, which would either have just the three original people, slightly fatter and blotting bits of thin-girl from the corners of their mouths, or the two skinny people sitting at the computer, the larger trio grumpily standing in the background and out of the spotlight, looking sadly resigned and a bit betrayed at being picked last yet again.

Of course, in real life, they should all feel sad and betrayed for being roped into such a lame-ass production.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A few days ago the excellent dooce wrote her baby delivery story. It reminded me of my sister's, and I got a little choked up at the end. I'm a sap. Dooce is a great writer, though, and her baby was born two days after my sister's, which is neat.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

[warning: major bitchery ahead.]

I guess spring really is coming, despite the freezing-cold nipple-shattering wind chill, because I keep getting harassed by various panhandlers/people wanting my money. There are these guys who lay in wait off to the side of the sidewalk on Main Street; depending on where the sun is, they're either in front of Faces or Thornes. They have three-ring binders, and always start a conversation with you as you approach, by complimenting you or blurting out something about the weather, and once you answer it means they've made contact and they swoop in, wanting to take just a few minutes of your time to explain why they need your money. I do not begrudge them their right to do so, and I think that (unlike the actual panhandlers) it's probably good to give them money. But I work and live here, man. I can't stop every frickin' day to talk to them, and I can't give money every day, in fact I really shouldn't give much of anything at all, and 99% of the time I can't spend the time it would take to give them the money, since I'm either on my way to work (today was the first time I've been waylaid on a weekday morning - it was about 9:15 a.m.) or on my way to grab lunch and get back to the office, or I'm on my way home. Yesterday during lunch there were two 3-ring binder guys and thirty feet away were two MassPIRG girls. Both pairs asked me to stop and listen and I had to be an asshole and say no thanks, doing the cold New York City no-eye-contact glare-at-the-sidewalk as I hurried past, my body language saying 'can't you see I'm walkin' here?' I'm not a tourist, I'm not wealthy, I don't own property here, I'm not in town to shop, I'm just living here, pretending Northampton is a town where people actually live and work and not just a quaint historic shopping center.

I hate saying no to the binder guys, though. It makes me feel like an asshole. It's way easier for me to turn down actual panhandlers, since I have a very strong feeling that they are, in the vast majority of the time, going to spend the money on Bad Things. I actually once saw this in action, when I accidentally came upon Annoying, Loud, Bad-Guitar-Playing Guy getting high with a couple of buddies on the old canal tow-path (the one from the Roundhouse lot to the Felt building). (This is the same path where a dog walker found a dead homeless guy a few months ago...)

I guess I'm just kind of a bitch. I'm a Quaker, so I should be all generous and giving, but instead I act like a cornered wolverine, snarling and snapping and hoarding my tiny stash of acorns. People, don't be like me. Live Simply, So Others May Simply Live.

Friday, March 19, 2004

My coworkers and I are professionals, but we tend to lack decorum. It's not all that noticeable, except when we have conference calls with other departments in the company located in NY and Cali. Today someone in CA was pitching a story on a man whose first name is Dick. After a couple of minutes spent discussing what Dick was like, a few of us were snickering behind our hands. But the corker was when someone said "No, Dick is never stiff!" We giggled silently so the conference call mic wouldn't pick it up. Then a clueless coworker on our end said, "Let me work on him, I'll loosen him up!" Har har har. After the call had ended, we all recapped the funniest lines in the conversation, clueing in clueless coworker, who also laughed.

The thing is, it wasn't even funny, really. It was just a geniune pleasure to act like 11-year-old ne'er-do-wells sitting in the back of the classroom, all the while conducting business with actual professionals who have to wear nice clothes to work every day. Inappropriate laughter is the sweetest kind of all.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Our huge multinational media behemoth is in the final stages of switching over to a massive new, online, "self service" system. All employees are required to take tutorials to use the new system. Unfortunately the tutorials - and the system itself - seems to have been written by a bunch of hermetical uber-geeks who are incapable of speaking like normal human beings or writing without numerous grammatical and spelling errors. The tutorial seamlessly combines intelligence-insulting, time-wasting exercises ("You started your business trip in Cleveland. Write "Cleveland" in the "destination" space, then press the Tab key to continue.") with incomprehensible corporate gobbledegook, often in the same paragraph. The graphics and fonts would look innovative ? if it was 1989. They make it impossible to actually select and save any of the tutorial text, but I just had to copy this one thing down longhand:

Cost center: Code (cost object) representing a department within the company in which to enter an expense against.

And don't get me started with the other undefined acronyms and jargon they lazily toss in there, like we give a crap enough to learn their preferred terminology. Instead of simply saying "you" or "the employee" they say "the CM/EE", because that's much clearer!

I need a drink.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


My soft-foods friend says no thanks to the party, mainly because he's doing fine with the huge selection of soups and such he got from Our Lord and Savior, Trader Joe's.

My neck thing went away a few days ago. Blood pressure was fine (I checked it for free at Stop n' Shop); I think I just pulled a weird muscle somehow.

I haven't yet heard either way, but now that it has begun snowing, it is possible the Shape Note thing tonight may be cancelled.

I'm on the Northampton snow emergency email alert list, and I just got one for tonight. And the full list of recipients was attached to the email, which isn't very considerate. I only saw one name I recognized, Dan G.

Last night I went to the open mike at the old Bishop's Lounge space. (What is that place called? It feels like one of those finished basements-turned-rec room-and-bar that your friend's dad had when you were a kid.) Kevin O'R was the m.c., and sang some lovely songs, as always. I was there with new guy to see some of his friends. One of them played (Kt, who I met pre-new guy) and was very good. Onstage she needs to be more confident in her song-writing/playing ability, since she is very talented. I liked her songs.

When we first entered the place, there was a ruddy middle-aged guy sitting in the shadows with his guitar strapped on and a harmonica, on one of those neck holster things, stuck in his mouth. He wasn't playing it, just sitting patiently, waiting for his turn, very, very prepared. Then when he got up to play he didn't even use the harmonica until the third song. K was way too generous and let Harmonica Guy play five songs.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Fuck you, snow. Fuck. You.
Hi. Hi hi hi. I'm here. I went to the Sacred Harp convention here in Northampton. There were 300 singers there, singing from 9:30 to 3:30 Saturday and Sunday (with an hour for potluck lunch). It was pretty frickin' great. I have had shape-note songs running through my head all day. Right now it's the good one that was in Cold Mountain (And am I born to die? To lay this body down?). I managed to make some small talk with people during the many breaks, though there were times I just kind of didn't talk to anyone. Which was fine. I'm adverse to small talk, what can I say. Anyway, if any of you readers out there are interested in this shape-note singing thing, there's going to be a singing lesson this Tuesday at the Hartsbrook School in Hadley, from 7 - 10 p.m. No experience neccessary. The first half will be the lesson, second half will be straight-up singin'. Talking like an impoverished Appalachian is optional.

In other news, a good friend of mine had to have mouth surgery recently, and as such can only eat soft, lukewarm or cold foods for two weeks. Anyone have a favorite Jello salad recipe? I want to throw a soft-foods party for my friend, but he may not want the attention. In fact, this post may be too much...

Friday, March 12, 2004

Sigh. My car is in the shop. It will be there until late Monday. So now I have before me a weekend of being nearly house-bound. (I can walk to town, but I can't leave my dog alone in the apartment. I know, it's a huge problem.) It sucks balls. I could rent a car, but I'm already feeling pinched for paying $650 for repairs on a car I want to get rid of in a few weeks anyway. I will probably get barely anything in trade for it. Pretty damn depressing.

Time to hit up some people for dog-sitting so I can still go to the Western Mass Shape Note Singing Convention this weekend.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Okay, I gots some pictures! These are from Sunday. First of all, here are some pretty flowers at the Smith Botanical Gardens bulb show. The hyacinths smell very nice:

This kid would not talk to me. Stony little dandied bastard:

This is just a very pretty tulip:

And last but not least, here's my poncho I knitted, modeled by a 7-year-old girl!

Monday, March 08, 2004

I'm kind of freaking out right now. There's a vein or something that keeps pulsing and fluttering in my neck, which feels constricted. Meanwhile my ear feels kind of tight and tense, as does the shoulder below the weird vein area. (Don't worry, I'm not going rushing off to the doctor because my ear "feels funny" - tm, Roz Chast.) This doesn't mean anything, right? Or do I have terminal cancer? P had a landlord who died of too many tumors, some of which restricted the blood flow to his head, making it look like he was constantly tensing his neck muscles, making the tendons stand out. This was right before he died. If I die from this, say it's a stroke or something, everyone will read this and be wowed at the power of the immediacy of the internet or something. Maybe I'll even get a mention in the next Times article about blogging.

The very bad part about living alone is that if I collapse or something, and I can't get to my phone, yet I need emergency medical treatment, it's all over. I'm dead and gone, baby. I think I need one of those old lady alarm things that automatically call 911 for you.
I watched about 8 episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm this weekend, as my boss lent me the DVD set of season one. Larry seems much more a victim of circumstance and of speaking before thinking than he does in the current shows, where he just comes off as a complete bastard. Also, the endings of the episode one shows are abrupt: Cheryl takes off her seatbelt in order to give Larry the in-the-car blowjob he won from her in a bet; Larry walks slowly up the stairs to where Cheryl is waiting for her anti-itch prescription cream. I like it when it ends with a bang, like when Jeff's parents come upon Larry watching porn in Jeff's bedroom.

Anyway, besides all of the TV watching, I also had some fun times outside of the house. I went to Harry's for the first time since they remade the pool room into a smoky fishbowl. I went to a party at an apartment of people I'd never met. I went to the Smith botanical garden's bulb show, which was gorgeous. Their jungle room is all high-tech now, with water misters on timers and piped-in rainforest sounds. It's actually very nice. I also went to the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, which I'd never seen. It's kind of a slightly-shabbier version of the Prospect Park carousel in Brooklyn. It's very nice, still, though, and at a buck a ride, the price isn't bad.

I also did my favorite trail loop on Mt. Tom; a section of the M-M trail that forms a circuit with the Beau Bridge trail. The roadway was open for the first time in a while. They did, however, close the Rte. 141 entrance at 4:00, which I had assumed was a bluff. We just drove through the park to the Rt. 5 exit instead, which was closer to where we wanted to be anyway. I just love that park. I visited there with my aunt when I was a kid, so there's a nostalgic connection, but I also just like the slightly aged, user-friendly feel to it. Plus, the loop I like goes through pine forest, up to the peak with a great view and benches to sit on, through stands of mountain laurel, winding down to an area criss-crossed by streams and waterfalls girdled by wooden footbridges. And it ends up back in the same place you parked your car. Just don't go in the beginning of mosquito season, as I was once nearly smothered by them there. Ugh.

Spring is here, is what I'm trying to say, and just ignore the stupid snow currently falling from the sky, because it's melting as soon as it hits anything important. The snowdrops are up, the crocuses aren't far behind (they're up and blooming outside near the botanical gardens), and stupid people are buying forsythia for $5 a bunch at Stop and Shop when they could just cut some from their neighbor's bush and put them in water for a few days and get the same flowers for free. Things really are going to be okay.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Listen, I know posting has been light the past couple of weeks. Work is being ass lately, and it may continue like this for a while. It's not that I don't care about you; I do. But I also need to get my work done, you know?

Monday, March 01, 2004

It looks like Tallulah enjoys the sweet songs of Queen, at least when sung by her parents. But they have failed to sing the most obvious, best Queen song for a baby girl.

Are you gonna take me home tonight
Ah down beside that red firelight
Are you gonna let it all hang out
Fat bottomed girls
You make the rockin’ world go round
Hey I was just a skinny lad
Never knew no good from bad
But I knew life before I left my nursery
Left alone with big fat fanny
She was such a naughty nanny
Heap big woman you made a bad boy out of me
Hey hey!
I’ve been singing with my band
Across the wire across the land
I seen ev’ry blue eyed floozy on the way
But their beauty and their style
Went kind of smooth after a while
Take me to them dirty ladies every time
Oh won’t you take me home tonight?
Oh down beside your red firelight
Oh and you give it all you got
Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round
Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round
Hey listen here
Now your mortgages and homes
I got stiffness in the bones
Ain’t no beauty queens in this locality (I tell you)
Oh but I still get my pleasure
Still got my greatest treasure
Heap big woman you gonna make a big man out of me
Now get this
Oh you gonna take me home tonight (please)
Oh down beside your red firelight
Oh you gonna let it all hang out
Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round
Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round
Get on your bikes and ride
Oooh yeah them fat bottomed girls
Fat bottomed girls
Yeah yeah yeah
Fat bottomed girls
Yes yes

Some may find this inappropriate, but to them I say nay.