Friday, January 30, 2004

Last night I dreamed that I'd begun to devote each Friday's installment of Owls! to highlighting a Seriously Endangered Animal of the Week. The tone of these posts was a discordant mixture of desperate fatalism about the survival prospects for these species and a sort of trivia-based Hey kids! liveliness. But I don't plan to feature a Seriously Endangered Animals Fridays here - except for today. Today, I beg your indulgence. Let's address the fossa. Found only in a small area of Madagascar, this sinewy heartbreaker is perhap's Earth's most feeeerocious predator, pound for pound: it's essentially a gigantic mongoose, only gorgeous, and improbably feline. Much of their hunting is done in trees, stalking poor fluffy lemurs with an absolutely startling grace and dexterity. How such a musclebound little monster flashes through the treetops so fluidly is beyond my understanding. Fossa, I adore you.

(No, seriously, I promise you I won't make a habit of this, dream or no dream.)

Thursday, January 29, 2004

A few minutes ago, I nearly lost an eye to a fellow pedestrian's umbrella, and at first thought it was merely a grim turn of black-comedy luck that it was a United Nations umbrella. After recovering from the shock of the near-blinding, though, I realized it's a startlingly apt metaphor, isn't it? This object, the umbrella, with its requisite powder blue hue, is charged with protection and benevolent oversight, yet witness how easily it can simmer with unsuspected menace. How like the UN itself!

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Elephants in eastern Thailand are hijacking sugarcane trucks. One or more bulls block the road (roads I assume must be narrow and cut through dense foliage), while the rest of the group systematically removes its cargo. Elephants, it seems, have a sweet tooth, to say nothing of their remarkable plotting abilities. I gather that, in Thailand, this is not considered hilarious, but, uh, Thailand, it is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

In what I consider a fairly striking coincidence, I'm again faced with an election dilemma based on candidates' musical tastes. A couple of months ago, it was San Francisco's mayoral election, frequent Owls! readers may recall, in which the candidate whose politics I found abhorrent had stellar taste for a politico, and the (young, "dynamic") candidate whose platform I supported was about as musically adventurous as my great-aunt in Wyoming. This time, it's the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. I learned on The Daily Show that Gen. Clark's desert island disc is Journey's Greatest Hits. Imagine, the leader of the free world, on the White House treadmill, listening to "Separate Ways" at teen-level volume as he jogs! How am I supposed to critically evaluate the candidates with that image in my head? How can I support anyone else?

Monday, January 26, 2004

I hate to break from the usual whimsical, cotton-candy tone of this blog (ha), but I'm dismayed by some journalistic terminology. A story broke locally on Friday regarding a "prostitution" bust in San Francisco, in which women smuggled in from South Asian countries were forced into sex work by their captors, who'd promised them legitimate employment in the U.S.

The coverage consistently refers to these women as "prostitutes". This strikes me as a bit like referring to sweatshop-toiling Honduran kids as "craftspeople". What these women actually are, and the word that should be used in this and similar stories: slaves. I recognize the enormous baggage that comes with that word, and thus the probable reluctance on the part of newspeople to use it, but too bad. It is the correct word.

Friday, January 23, 2004

What's rarer than a bassist who does not make bass-face while playing? What's rarer even than a person in the contemporary art world who does not confuse the preposterous with the original? The drummer who does not grimace while playing. Dummers who do not grimace while drumming, I salute you.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

This morning there was an unopened brownie in the bed of my truck. At first I couldn't think of any reasonable explanation for this, but after a few moments of reflection I hit upon a theory, one based in a hope for positive social progress. Perhaps the purchaser of this brownie, just prior to unwrapping it, realized "You know, there are walnuts on this brownie, just as there are on most of its kin. I'm not going to stand for it anymore. Walnuts, being bitter-skinned, acidic grease crayons, have no place in baking. Walnutted brownie, I cast you away from me."

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

This was recently hissed at me with stunning ire, across a restaurant table, the speaker gripping his root beer float stein so tightly I feated it would shatter in his hand: "You're not just idologically incoherent when you're talking about politics. You're incoherent when you're not even speaking. You're incoherent when you open your eyes in the morning. You're an atheist, queer Republican, technically you can't even exist."

It's not easy, I'm saying.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

This just now, with my down-the-hall enemy:

HER (careening through our door in typically stormy fashion, ersatz smile all ablaze): Hiiiiiii, I think we got some of your mail.

ME: Oh, uh, great, thanks.

HER: I figured you guys probably wouldn't come looking for it, so I should bring it to you.

ME (taken aback): Well, sure, I, we wouldn't really know to look for mail we didn't know was coming, would we?

HER: No, you wouldn't, I guess.

Friday, January 16, 2004

For my money - and I realize I'm in a whisper-thin minority here - the golden years of American aesthetics were roughly 1970-1975*. The rock and roll, the jeans, the "space age" furnishings, sweet Christ the muscle cars. Everything abruptly went to hell around 1976, perhaps not coincidentally the year of my birth. I always assumed it was disco that did it. But recently I've identified another, far stealthier culprit: the Hanes "Beefy T". Pre-Beefy T, t-shirts were thin-cotton affairs that draped awfully sexily over muscles and breasts, and were cherub-soft after one washing. These t-shirts loved you back. Then Hanes hit us with the beef. Heavy, thick cotton that never softened, not after dozens of washings, and didn't drape at all, staying hideously, unflatteringly square and bulky. Thanks, Hanes, for ruining America.

*It's important to note I don't mean these years as they played out in major cities; I don't mean, e.g., the 1972 of New York City, I mean the 1972 of Des Moines.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

If, in the United States, we're so terribly spoiled, groaning under a preposterous glut of endless consumer options, why can't we have the mint Sprite they have in Canada?

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A while back, I self-diagnosed myself with the condition known as hyperlexia, in which one is compulsively driven to read - and re-read, and re-read - all printed matter in one's vicinity. This condition requires me to keep magazines by the bathroom sink, so I can read while I brush my teeth (I try to avoid political reading matter for this, since it tends to make me brush too hard and bloody my gums). It makes me read the back of, say, a new bottle of moisturizer I just bought at Walgreens so many times on the ride home that my significant other is liable to confiscate it from me. My point in mentioning it is this: not even hyperlexia can make Tom Robbins or Anne Lamott readable, not even when I finish my book during my commute and have to read other peoples' books over their shoulders. I'll just read the emergency procedures poster one more time, or ten.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

There are some mysteries - mostly technology-based, with some astronomy thrown in - that I wonder about on a fairly regular basis, yet lack sufficient interest in to sit through or read through an explanation. An example: how are all of my old CDs, albums released on tiny labels long before music & computers met up in the mainstream, encrypted such that upon insertion into my iMac, all of the track information, titles and such, immediately pops up? How was Touch & Go records so clairvoyant when they released that Slint album (you know, the one) in 1991, e.g.? It mystifies me. And yet, when I wonder about it aloud, and someone begins to explain it, they're promptly cut off with a snappish "Who cares?" from me. From me, the asker.

Monday, January 12, 2004

The drug information I received with the medication I am currently on should be amended to include the following:

This medication may cause severe oversentimentality with respect to the NFL playoffs. Users may find themselves sliding helplessly off the couch onto their knees, their fists shoved into their mouths, strangled cries of profound grief rattling from their palsied throats. If a user is a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs or the Green Bay Packers, he or she may wish to consult their medical care provider to learn how to cope with those teams' losses. An additional prescription drug may be indicated. If the user is a fan of both of these teams, he or she should stop taking the medication immediately, as no person can be expected to cope with what happened to those teams this weekend. Warning signs may include angrily telling anyone who will listen that Packers QB Brett Favre is the only sensible candidate for the 2008 presidential election, and/or that anyone who was rooting against Kansas City should rightfully be added to federal suspicious-individual watchlists.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Whenever the topic of dream travel comes up, I usually feel my ego swell as people mention Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, the usuals, because my list is more like Nairobi, Algiers, Saigon, Mumbai. HOWEVER: when I fantasize about traveling to such locales, the fantasies involve trips with a fair amount of (relative) opulence- posh resorts, languid luxury, where no squalor is ever sighted. Isn't this silly? I realize it's silly. "Oh, he wants to go to Tuscany, how adventuresome. I'm much more daring than he is, with that 5-star spa in Cambodia I want to go to and never leave the grounds of."

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Another trait common to the very, very cool: their almost preternatural senses of direction. I don't just mean in comparison with my own rudimentary abilities, which leave me without a mastery of the layout of cities I've lived in for years. I mean something almost spooky, in which having been to a town once, and not all around it either, somehow leaves the Cool with a permanent, faultless mental map. Sickening.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Nothing quite as tedious as a clarification post, but I think I have to waste some space with one today. Yesterday's (delightfully controversial!) post was evidently potentially misleading: my objection to "Mermaids!" "Pirates!" "Indians!" hinges on our proud nation's indigenous being blithely conflated with elements of fantasy, which I find a grotesque inclusion in the commercial*. Not the fact that they were not referred to as "Native Americans". Not that, goddamnit.

*Please note that I'm not even saying it shouldn't be in the film, just that sticks out like a disease-carrying rusty nail in the context of the commercial.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I'm accustomed to having people literally scream with laughter at certain of the things I label racist, but seriously, that new, unnecessary Peter Pan retread in theaters now? The commercials should not feature the kiddies hollering, in breathless, o-mouthed succession, "Mermaids!" "Pirates!" "Indians!" I don't care how hotly loved a classic P.P. is. That shit is not cool. Tinker with it (gracefully) to bring it up to contemporary code or leave in the historical dustbin. No Red Sambos.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Garbage of various sorts, from the innocuous to the sinister, continues to be disposed of in the bed of my truck. A couple of weeks ago, it was a real estate brochure, the glossy, magazine-aspiring kind. This brochure has now been subjected to several seriously heavy rainfalls, and has spent at least a few days actually submerged. And every time the rains end, the thing dries and is good as new, save for a little crinkling of the edges. No loss of image clarity, no mushing of pages, no reduction in shine. I both respect and fear the brochure.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Boy, they weren't kidding about the nastiness of this year's flu. It's like everyone's speaking to me in riddles - pedestrian pleasantries are totally opaque. In the worst throes of the fever, I kept panicking about who'd be feeding the fish, fish I do not own.