Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Were I a better liar, I'd consider developing a fictional explanation for this morning's wrist injury, one that was plausible yet also allowed me to retain some dignity. Having a tough time opening that too tightly-closed jar of body scrub, maybe, or swinging my bag over my shoulder at an awkward angle. But because I'm such a poor dissembler, I'll probably have to come clean from the start: I harmed myself while brushing my teeth too hard, silently but slit-eyedly fuming about my hatred of down pillows.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Enemy of the week: automobile manufacturers giving models plural-noun names. They're multiplying, these models. The worst offender, to my mind, is the Nissan Armada. Good Christ, if you're going to give a vehicle - an item sold singly, not in groups - a name like that, at least have some sort of metaphorical cohesion and don't go with a goddamn *sea-faring* plural noun. If the pluralness was so key, why not the "Nissan Convoy"? "Nissan Motorcade"?

Friday, June 25, 2004

A mid-sized jumping spider has taken up residence in my truck. Historically (and perhaps puzzlingly), I've not been much afraid of jumping spiders. There is the horror element of their jumping, yes, but their build is rather unspiderlike, and they're not . . . how to put it - skittery? They don't dart, rear up, etc. So: I've decided to put this guy to work. As a therapy aid: I will befriend him, become completely inured to him, and in this way I may be able to extend my non-fear to other, skitterier spiders. To this end, I've named him Mel. (Pop psychology holds that "naming" one's fears is helpful, a tenet I've decided to take literally.) It's going well so far. He pops in and out of vents, peering at me, and I sigh indulgently and say "Morning, Mel." I've even tried to pick him up, but he leaps away, saucily, jauntily. That funny Mel! All of these advances are heartening. And I know that I'm a habitual about-facer, capable of startling and abrupt 180s. It's not inconceivable that I could become a spider *lover*, for god's sake, so prone to dramatic reversals am I. Yet a different fear now skulks: what happens if I'm a dazzling success in this, and I become merely as arachnophobic as the average person, as opposed to being half-crippled by it? I'm starting to realize that part of my identity (yes, I realize how absurd and faintly humiliating this is) is bound up in spider-terror. This spider business has become, oh it's so depressing, part of me. Will I even recognize a new, untormented-by-arachnids Jennifer?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A word about The White Stripes: Jack White has said, on more than one occasion, that he's always thought of the band just as much as an art project as a rock and roll group. That's fairly obvious, really. But think about it: how many people could do this? How many people could form a band that's as interested in the visual and conceptual possibilities of rock as The White Stripes are and still, y'know, f*cking rock, hard and never precious? That's something I would've said, pre-Stripes, was a practical impossibility. I *did* say that, in fact - how I used to rail against bands that had a preconceived image, or even just a "look"! Yet Mr. White has done it, and in doing so I believe he's joined the pantheon. First-ever art rocker to reach it. Good on him.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

It isn't that I think The Pixies are overrated; that isn't quite accurate. There are at least a dozen Pixies tracks that I'd never turn down. But I do have a series of impressions that coalesce into something close to a sense of overratedness. And given the pandemonious clamor for Pixies Reunited! tickets, it seems timely to air them now. First, their quality was always spotty (largely due to epic self-indulgence). How many Pixies albums do you listen to all the way through, fingers never hovering near the skip button? One? Second, I believe their enduring appeal rests as much on Black Francis being an enigmatic kook as on anything else. Third, the snowballing adulation that's developed since their theatrical, sniveling implosion has almost completely obscured the fact that, when the Pixies were actually producing albums, few felt about them as is now compulsory to feel: they were, let's remember, considered roughly as important at the time as Dinosaur Jr. Yes. Dinosaur Jr. Contrasted with, say, Mission of Burma. Who have also reformed, are also touring, who have released an album 10 times better than it has any right to be, and who are enjoying roughly one-tenth the hype The Pixies are. And that, readers, verges on travesty.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Despite my several years as a resident of various lousy neighborhoods, it still never occurs to me that a young, surly man dressed almost entirely in one shade of sporty attire might have a gang affiliation. Instead, I think merely that he's using color boldly, and then I offer him silent sartorial praise or criticism. "Hmm, all white, eh? What are your dry cleaning bills like? And you look like a house painter. Why not add some focus with some well-placed grass green?" "Ooo, nice use of copious baby blue. I appreciate your masculine confidence in such a soft shade. But how about some visual contrast, some yellow somewhere maybe?" I suppose it's just difficult for me to remember that, out of necessity, gangs have moved well past the old days of blue vs. red. With the profusion of micro-turf wars, they've really had to explore unconventional shades. On the one hand, I despise their colossally pointless violence. On the other, I must congratulate an urban tough ready to go with head-to-toe pink (it happens, it truly does), from do-rag to sneakers.

Friday, June 18, 2004

From the department of Be Careful What You Wish For: just yesterday, I remarked to a friend with whom I was discussing crows that one never really sees crow chicks, does one. I realized I'd never seen even a picture, and a subsequent Goggle image search didn't turn up much in the way of visual aids. Then, last night - 2 crows, speaking to each other in quite strident tones, all night, on our roof. All night. I was awakened at least half a dozen times. My interpretation? They're nesting up there. On top of my bedroom, basically. (I remind you of the intensely urban nature of my neighborhood, and the resultant dearth of wildlife.) Meaning that I could, with my easy roof access, probably get a good gander at infant crows at some point. Meaning also, due to the incessant cawing, that my sleep will probably be spotty for a few months, because I asked of the universe, Where're the baby crows at? and the universe tittered and decided to deliver them to me.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The list of things Americans can be proud of continues to shrink, and now one of that list's most stalwart entries is gravely imperiled. Remember when only Americans (and a handful of Brits and Australians, it's true) really knew how to rock? Remember when all foreign rock bands were shabbily imitative of American rock swagger, in a way that, while faintly cute, was without fail also embarrassing for all involved? It was like an Austrian James Dean impersonator: perhaps the external trappings would be in order, but the essence, never. In those days (those many decades!), our rock crown seemed utterly safe. No more. The Swedes now rock better and purer than we do. The Swedes, of all the preposterous possibilities! How has this usurping taken place? What can we now cling to as a nation?

(At least we can still feel confident in the quality of our wildlife, however. In that realm, we're in no danger. Did you know that jaguars are back in the U.S.? Sightings are now practically routine in parts of the Southwest. Take that, Europe! What have you guys got, some wild boars? Don't even *step* to us!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I can't produce a regular post today, since all I'd be able to talk about would be Detroit's vanquishing of the Lakers last night and all I'd have to say'd be "F*ck yes!", so instead, I plug for friends: the newly retooled and reinvigorated Junior Panthers will be outclassing The Ivy Room in Berkeley this Saturday night. All, come bathe yourselves in their crunch 'n sugar.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A note to certain (all right, nearly all) of my friends: despite your shrill collective derision, I remain convinced that someday, my octopus tattoo will gain me free admission into an aquarium. I remain convinced that, someday, in some ticket-buying queue, an aquarium employee will spot the tattoo and quietly wave me through. I'll never point the piece out myself or plead; it will happen quite naturally. And I'll take the high road and never say "told you so", my giggling, stony-hearted chums.

Monday, June 14, 2004

I have another urgent directive to declare: from today's date forward, I'll expect all thoughtful Americans to give more thought to their use of "up" and "down" with respect to describing intercity socializing. No, Example Resident of Monterey: your friends from Santa Cruz aren't coming "up" to visit you. They live north of you. They are coming down. No, Example Resident of San Rafael, you aren't going "up" to Oakland for a show. Oakland is south of you. You are going down. Why so much willy-nilly "up"ping and "down"ing all the time, folks? Don't you know fussy precision and pedantry are much sexier than the thoughtless eschewing of map skills?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

"OK, so, am I following this correctly, that tripled the national debt, yes?

"The national debt? No. The deficit. You . . . are aware that those are different, right?"

"Uh . . . not . . . not in a way I could explain, exactly, but - "

"JESUS Jennifer."

"I know, I know, it's Economics 101, but I've always been very upfront about my ignorance of - "

"No. No. No. It is not Economics 101. That implies 'college level'. Debt vs. deficit is preschool Econ, not 101. It's apple juice and naptime Econ. It's felt-storyboard-Bible-story Econ. It's [etc.]"



Wednesday, June 09, 2004

As devoted to Berkeley as I am, I still have a consistent longing to live in neighboring Oakland. Perhaps it's the contrarian in me: most people, around here and throughout the nation, have a decidedly negative impression of Oakland. This impression is bogus. Oakland is a large, dare I say vibrant city with neighborhoods of every conceivable sort, many of them achingly desirable. But when people hear "I live in Oakland", they cringe. And I'm the sort of childish individual who loves getting that ill-informed cringe, as with when I say "My favorite dog breed is the pit bull."

However, I don't think it's my general contrarian streak that causes these Oakland pangs. I think it's much more specific: my envy of Oaklanders who casually litter in other East Bay towns, then say "Oakland got you again." "Oakland got you again." It should be the city motto.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Ever stage a mock-choking for comedic or self-righteous purposes, then had it turn into a genuine one? I did, last night (and not for the first time). I was viewing a press conference in which Condoleezza Rice, when asked whether she believed Bush is a Reaganesque figure, responded in the affirmative, then added that the two shared the same "willingness to tell the truth". I decided to be adorable by gagging in simulated shock on my pasta, only to indeed nearly die. Projectile orecchiette narrowly missed hitting a cat. I believe a caper remains in my sinus cavity somewhere. Goes to show: keep your indignation genuine, or risk asphyxiation.

Monday, June 07, 2004

And now, most inconveniently, the terrain becomes even more desolate and foreboding for a politically-landless reformed Republican. I can safely assume that soon, the post will bring to me an issue of National Review that is devoted almost in its entirety to our most recently-deceased former President. I will have to carry it from the mailbox, with sturdy tongs, to a vacuum-sealing waste container, taking enormous care never to let it touch my flesh.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Imagine, for a moment, being Michiko Kakutani, top literary critic at the New York Times and thus the top book reviewer in the world. Whose life could be more charmed? Can you think of any other job wielding as much power and prestige, yet having seemingly no attendant job stress? Were I, say, the director of the National Zoo, or the owner of the Yankees, I'd feel quite on top of the world, but the thrill associated with that would be seriously tempered by all the damn *work*. Michiko? What are her job stresses? Reading garbage? Hell, I read garbage for free all the time. And she has that best sort of reputation for a critic, too, even apart from her power: she's never savage for savagery's sake, but goodness, when she wields the icepick, she wields it with cool ferocity. As with this, from her review of Alice Walker's latest, um, thing, which Kakutani called "a remarkably awful compendium of inanities":

"In the end 'Now Is the Time to Open Your heart' is less a novel than a cloying collection of New Age homilies, multicultural pieties and trippy Carlos Casteneda-ish riffs, hung like politically correct Christmas ornaments on the armature of [the protagonist's] tortuous journey from self-pity to self-congratulation."


Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Frequent Owls! readers may have correctly inferred that the myriad abominations* committed by the current presidential administration have caused me to reevaluate and often abandon many of my long-held political beliefs. (*How about that recent directive, quickly & surprisingly rescinded, that blithely gutted organic food standards to allow antibiotics and growth hormones in "organic" meat? My stars, the casual perversity.) Never was this more dramatically apparent to me than it was yesterday, as I looked at a photo of Michael Moore posing with his Palme d'Or from Cannes. How did I react to his ersatz "Aw shucks, l'il ol' me?" posturing, to his blatantly triumphalist grin? Did I sneer or scowl or whistle derisively? Reader, I grinned back! Everything's gone topsy-turvy, I'm saying.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

One four-day weekend, three parties at which I created social tension for myself and others by paying markedly more attention to pets than to other people. First, the chocolate 'n' caramel Australian shepherd who could fetch in near-total darkness, and then the blue fawn Dobie who shimmered like a swordfish and whimpered for coconut muffin. Today, at a barbecue, the most acute case: in which I, cranky, sun-fatigued and dissatisfied with the company, found that the only thing that could hold my attention were the cat's pantaloons, his bloomers. Those ultra-fluffy, billowing tracts of fur on the back of a longhair's back legs? In full view of many, I crawled around after this cat, a ditzy tuxedo male, asking him "Quien tiene patalones? TU TIENES PANTALONES, los pantalones que mas grande!" etc. I was ensorcelled by his puffery, and may have apologies to make.