Thursday, May 27, 2004

A co-worker - the only one I like at all, and in fact I like him quite a lot - is relocating to Berkeley. Ever a Berkeley booster, I cheerfully backed this plan and offered to be his guide to neighborhoods while he apartment-shopped. This was poorly thought through on my part. I failed to actively realize that I know nothing of street names and have no sense of where anything is in relation to anything else. I failed to realize that I would be shown maps, referred to a specific point on the map and be expected, quite reasonably, to grasp what I was looking at and correlate the map-point to a concrete impression. "OK, what about around Alcatraz and Telegraph?" How on Earth did I know myself so poorly? Oh god, the blank panic, the mute staring at the map, the quavering, inarticulate stalling sounds!

[Next Owls! will appear on Tues. 6/1.]
"Family is very important to me." One hears that a lot, eh? One hears it said by people who apparently believe it sets them apart in some laudable way. But for whom is that not true? A quite slender segment of the populace, yes? (I happen to be in that segment, but let's leave that for another time.) I'd estimate that a full 95% of Americans, if presented with "Is family very important to you?", would respond in the reflexively affirmative. So why, why, why must if be said so often, and more importantly why must it be said with such smug sanctimony? An attachment to one's mother is not cause for unctuous preening!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

It's hereby noted that I will not consort with nor tolerate the proximity of:

* people with more than one Jesus Lizard t-shirt

* anyone wearing any jewelry or other accessory that, when the wearer is approaching me from behind, makes any sound closely resembling that of a dog's leash/collar, thus making me whirl around to see the doggie

* anyone who claims that Larry Bird would not have been achieved all-time great status had he not been white

* boys who frequently mock-sympathetically explain their victory over another boy, in any sort of competitive pursuit whatsoever, by saying that their opponents "had cramps" [i.e. menstrual]

* anyone mistaking the voice of Merle Haggard for that of Johnny Cash

* anyone willfully flouting my ban on use of the word "bauble"

Friday, May 21, 2004

If asked "Say, Jennifer, what do you reckon it's like these days to be a Jewish student at Cal [UC Berkeley]?", I'd probably have grimaced and said "It's probably a form of hell." This week's issue of the East Bay Express erased any doubts I may have had. Its cover story comprises page after page detailing the more or less relentless torment Jewish students (and faculty, and speakers at events) are subjected to on campus: from pedestrian niceties like name-calling, spitting, and constant anti-Semitic graffiti, to more advanced intellectual discourse like wholly unprovoked punches in the face and death threats. Worse than I could have imagined, and my imagination's pretty pessimistic.

Of all of the emotions I felt while reading the article, though, surprise wasn't one of them. At least not surprise at the acts themselves: what does surprise me is the university's response. Namely, that there isn't one. Ordinarily I avoid parallels like this - they're too easy and superficial - but imagine for just a moment what would happen if a student demonstrator's dorm-room-made sign read "DEATH TO BLACKS", instead of "DEATH TO THE JEWS". Would this be permitted as a perhaps odious, but nonetheless permitted expression of free speech? I'm guessing no. I'm guessing most of the student body would faint when they heard of it, and that the university administration would trample each other in their rush to establish yet more multiculturalist indoctrination. And that would be for an isolated incident, not a pervasive culture of overt and sometimes violent bigotry, as evidently exists with campus anti-Semitism.

I'm not naive. I wouldn't expect the Cal administration to address this with any sincerity. But to fail even to dispense half-hearted pap about Tolerance, or A Place For All, etc.? Says to me that they ought to raze the place. It says to me that Cal has ceased to serve its purpose and has become spectacularly worse than any conservative caricature of the leftist university could ever be. The physical safety of students is being blandly ignored. Raze it. There's a difference between possibly ameliorable ethical mouldering and this kind of necrotic ethical rot, and I don't believe the latter's fixable.

(Many readers of the Express article, this being Berkeley, are probably dismissing the situation as yet more conservative crying of "Anti-Semitism! Anti-Semitism!" when what's really at issue is U.S. support of Israel, not Jewishness per se. Does that happen? Do some stoutly pro-Israel commentators accuse their critics of anti-Semitism when the charge isn't warranted? Certainly. It happens routinely (if about 75% less often than the anti-Israel side claims). But this situation has obviously long since left that realm, especially since the majority of Jewish Cal students are far from pro-Sharon hawks with an eye towards a cozy little home in a Gaza settlement.)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

All Californians live under the constant threat of a catastrophic earthquake, as is discussed half to death by worrywarts and stand-up comics statewide. For Bay Area residents, the threat can be particularly distracting, with all of our bridges, tunnels and neuroses (additionally, our local earthquake-science types give us near-100% odds of experiencing a "devastating" earthquake within the next 30 years). The threat for Berkeley residents, like myself, has an especially grim component: much of the city, including my area, lies atop what's known in seismological circles as a "liquefaction zone", which is what it sounds like. With sufficient shaking, the earth beneath our poor feet will, um, cease to be a solid. The Nougat Zone, I call it. May I repeat the critical element? The earth will cease to be a solid.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I naturally never expect to keep any of the vows I make to myself regarding things I'd like to learn about, so it's with pleasant, unfamiliar surprise that I note: hey, I've actually succeeded in getting down the basics of major 20th-century warfare. Conflicts only recently ensconced in a total, gunpowder-tanged fog for me, I can now briefly sketch in complete, if possibly muttered sentences. A colossal achievement, given my piss-poor track record with committing historical fact to memory. But I may've leaned on my own horn prematurely: listening to London Calling earlier this evening, I realized that that album contains over a half dozen explicit or sturdily implied historical references I'm distinctly, clangingly ignorant of. I feel this, uh, needs remedying. A rock & roll album shouln't be better-informed than I am. So much tedium ahead! I will finally have to grasp the Spanish Civil war, is the big one. Must I?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Regarding yesterday's post: it may have read like another bout of my ongoing mild megalomania, the idea that someone who happened to glance up at my bedroom window and see me standing there would have a thought of any kind about my appearance. A fair interpretation, giving certain of my patterns. I do have a tendency to think I'm being constantly appraised and judged. In this case, though, I'm able to offer as evidence the following excerpt from an e-mail I received in response to the post (edited only to add proper goddamn civilized capitalization):

"I did see you up there like that once, when I was crossing the street to go into Lanesplitter. You were holding Jigger. You weren't rocking back and forth, but you kinda might as well have been. You were pretty spectral, but not in a cool ghouly way, but sort of maybe like an autistic night janitor."

I'm saying.

Monday, May 17, 2004

I don't "look" or even "gaze" out my bedroom window onto the street below: it seems I'm physically able only to "peer", lurkily. I can't do it casually, idly, only with a furtive. looming intensity. I'm afraid to look like a creepy, curtain-parting recluse, ergo that's all I'm able to look like. It's my way, just like how it's when I'm most sincere that I sound the most sarcastic. Yes, add this to the list of things others have no problem doing properly that lie outside my grasp: looking out the f*cking window.

Friday, May 14, 2004

A couple of nights ago, I dreamed I owned a snake that was as much decorative object as it was reptile. It was like a peppermint stick, all candy colors, Red Hot-red on baby-blush pink. I thought about it several times over the course of the following day, dreamily re-envisioning its deliciously unnatural coloration, its milk-mild demeanor, its just-shy-of-gaudy stylishness. "What a knockout that dream snake was. Would that the world really held it," I mused.

The snake, it exists.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

As a reformed Republican, I remain on the mailing lists of myriad conservative fundraising efforts. Today I received a large, glossy photo of the Prez and his spooky wife, with my name sloppily personalized thereon, in a faux-humble, faux-clairvoyant dedication to my presumed "generous support". Witness a portion of the text of the accompanying letter:

"It is with deep personal pleasure that I present you with the enclosed photograph of President George W. Bush and Laura Bush.

I hope that you will display your inscribed photograph proudly as a symbol of the prominent place you held as a Charter member of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

And, as a close supporter and friend of the Republican party, it is important to know your photograph is suitable for framing and display.

Please take a moment now to complete and sign the enclosed Confirmation Receipt and return it in the postage-paid envelope to verify the condition of your photograph. If needed, I will have another prepared for you immediately.

And, when you do . . . will you also include a contribution for $1000, $500, $250, $100, $50, $35 or even $25 dollars?"

I thought I'd have to write some sort of joke at the end here, but upon re-reading the above I realize I do not.

[Please note: I have never made any sort of donation to the Party, despite the claims of the above mass mailing.]

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Approximately 2 to 3 times per week, I read a story about Sri Lanka's "Tamil Tigers" rebel group*. One would assume this would give me a sort of reflexive familiarity with seeing "Tigers" in headlines in this context. It doesn't. Every time - and again, this is 2 to 3 times a week - I have a second or two of bonehead confusion, thinking the headline refers to tigers of the feline, as opposed to guerrilla, variety. "'Tigers Set Peace Talk Demands'? What now?" "'Police Raid Tiger Headquarters'? Huh?" "'Free Child Soldiers, Tigers Told'?" Every time. Every time.

*one of the more tedious conditions I suffer from is an irresistible compulsion to read the entirety of the BBC's world news section each day; often this means reading articles of explosively stultifying banality (not in the case of the Tigers, however)

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I'm still trying to sift through my feelings for Russians - that curious push/pull I feel toward/from them. I've had one small breakthrough: it's not the Russians I want to make out with, it's their names. The names! Christ! I got an e-mail recently from a Konstantin Tolstikov. Can I ask a name to prom?

Monday, May 10, 2004

Each morning, I can choose not to apply my remarkably sticky lip gloss until I'm close to the office. I can choose not to apply it when I still have several windy blocks to walk. Making that choice would mean that the wind, supercharged by the height of the buildings, would not have the opportunity to 1) cement my blowing hair to my goopy lips and then 2) rip the hair off the lipgloss and drag it across my cheeks, thus transferring the gloss from my mouth onto my face. I could enter the office, then, without stripes of fuchsia adorning my visage. Perhaps someday, I will make that choice. Until then, I will evidently continue to choose to apply it on the train, thinking "Oh, uh, maybe today won't be windy." Maybe indeed.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Objectively, I shouldn't have this spider problem. I have a fierce love, no pun intended, of nearly every other extant beast that others tend to fear. My fondness for hyenas is well-documented (some might say exhaustively well-documented, emphasis on the exhaustion), for example, plus bats, snakes, sharks, monstruous deep-sea beasties, hell, even non-arachnid arthropods. But beyond my embrace of Earth's least-loved fauna, I should like spiders, past simply not fearing them. Because if spiders were people, they'd have exactly the same taste as I do. Wouldn't they? What would a wolf spider drive, were it human? A bitchin' Camaro, yeah? With an NRA sticker on the chrome bumper, and Nazareth careening from the shitty stereo? If spiders were people, they'd be my people.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

A good 12 years after I first noticed the phenomenon - and presumably at least twice as long as that - purveyors of crap R&B (know of any other kind?) still routinely "pen" songs featuring the rhyming of "hold you tight" and "all through the night". How can one consider oneself to've written such a song, rather than simply having transcribed it from memory? Astounding that a genre focused almost entirely on seduction would consist mostly of rote repetition. What lady wants to held tight, all night, by a mimic?

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

"So, have you finalized your ideal GT colors yet?"

"Um, I think so, I think I'd go for white with high-sheen silver stripes, 2 of'em, off-center, and blue interior, like a royal blue."

[hissed] "Coward."

"Jennifer, can we not, right now? I'm a little hashed. Anything else you can think of to talk about besides paintjobs?"

[still hissing] "A coward and a traitor. Fine. Uh, we booked our Hawaii trip."

"Mmmyeah? Which islands?"

"Few nights on 'the big island', which I think I'm going to just start calling 'Hawaii', like, is it really that confusing? That it's the name of the state and of one of the islands, is it just such a brain-scrambler that we have to call it 'the big island' every time, as if - "

"MmmJennifer? Can you find your way back to the track?"

"Few nights on Hawaii, then seven on Kauai, on an old plantation that's -"

[abrupt, braying laughter] "Kauai, plantation, ohhh, who, hell yes, you're gonna leave that island on a GURNEY, sweets!"


"On a gurney."

Monday, May 03, 2004

I had to be into the office by 6:30 this morning, meaning I needed to get up at 4:30 (this will probably be the case for much of the rest of the week as well). What this has meant so far: 2 spilled beverages. 4 doorway collisions (just myself and the doorway). Attempting to insert my ATM card into the BART turnstile, rather than my ticket. Nearly leaving the house unshod. Yes! Unshod!