Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ads that bug me

First, let me get this out of the way. I think advertising is essentially wrong. I'm not kidding. Unless you're only saying "here's the product and here's where you can get it", there's always some misleading going on. But that's capitalism. So, aside from my ridiculous assumption (all advertising is wrong), I actually think that some ads nowadays are entertaining. But some ads really annoy me.

I don't know if I'm becoming overly sensitive, but there's one ad that I can't stand on TV right now. I've seen it countless times, but can't remember exactly what they're selling - some sort of mobile phone service is all I can tell you. Maybe you've seen it. A "nice family" is in an ice cream shop and someone is explaining their calling plan to them. Why that is happening in an ice cream shop is not apparent. The thing is, I think there's a subtle racism (fear of the black man)under the surface of this ad. The nice man, with a wife and sweet little kids, takes an entire glass container of sprinkles (that's jimmies to you Northern New Englanders) and dumps them on top of the counter (on top of some ice cream?) The guy behind the counter asks him, rather limply, "Would you like whipped cream on that?" Now, it seems harmless, but every time I see it, I think "fear of the black man." The guy is big, but he looks perfectly harmless in his "I'm a good guy, dressed nicely in pastels, out with my family" kind of way. But, even with his big aw-shucks smile, he can do damage, even with sprinkles. Don't let the pastels and ice cream shop fool you! So, that's my take on it. Oversensitive? I dunno. If you watch the ad, tell me if I'm crazy.

There's another ad that bothers me for reasons I do not understand in the least. It's a series of ads, actually, for some new car. It has special effects that are so subtle that you hardly know they're happening. People appear out of nowhere. Things pop up out of nowhere. I don't know what the message is, and I can't watch. It bothers my sense of reality, I think. When I say I can't watch, I mean it. I actually close my eyes.

I've been watching too much tv, I'd say. I only get one channel and I think I watch too much television! I should be more worried about my Bejeweled Blitz addiction, don't you think?

But seriously, there were eight years of my life when I didn't have a television, and I'm sure I spent more time doing things than just sitting here, watching ads and shows about serial killers. Those are the shows I watch - Criminal Minds, NCSI, Without a Trace, and The Mentalist. I also watch the Big Bang Theory, which, so far, has had no serial killers. I find the character of Sheldon to be not only amusing, but get pleasure from watching the actor fine tune his tics and such. If someone hadn't done some research on Asberger's Syndrome, I'd be surprised.

So, there you have it. My life with TV. I feel rather like Andy Rooney, which is truly horrifying, for I also still watch 60 Minutes on occasion, and I wish that they'd let Andy Rooney go. He's so out of touch, he gives elderly people a bad reputation. The man's bad graces sometimes border on upsetting. One evening he whined on about the useless gifts fans send him. It was sad to watch. He's lucky he still does get any gifts from fans.

Okay, now I'm done.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A silly addiction

It's entirely possible that my lack of blog entries has something to do with my new addiction, "Bejeweled Blitz", a one-minute game of matching gem stones that explode loudly while a voice eggs one on with self esteem boosting words like "incredible", "fantastic", and "amazing!" I'm locked in a battle of high scores with a person from my knitting group. Who knew? Two middle-aged game junkies who have better things to do with their time. . .

. . .and I was thinking the other day, "hmmm. . .does a blog have a natural life-span?" Well, "natural" has nothing to do with it, I suppose. I haven't felt inspired to expound on anything.

I'm just getting a kick out of having today's high score. Fun for me, but for you? I think not.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What I forgot about

I'm sleepy and I should be in bed. Asleep. Typing (and thinking) feels strange, like someone else is doing it (and I should not be). But I had some thoughts spinning around in my overtired brain and I figured that instead of laying in bed not sleeping (or on the couch, to be precise) that I'd write them down. Where was I? I better go read that last sentence to see if it makes sense. Hold on.

Actually, it was the sentence before that. No, the one better that one. Uh oh.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but my secret fantasy "job" is to be a stand-up comedian. The thing is, I'm not funny. I have been told this repeatedly throughout my life by my father, so it must be true. I was also told that I'm so ugly that "you should make sure you have an interesting personality or you'll never have a boyfriend."

The way some comics tell it, these types of miserable childhood messages practically insure a career in comedy. Y'know, "my parents didn't treat me right, the other kids made fun of me. . .I gotta be loved by strangers. . ."

The thing of it is, I once, by pure accident, did a stand-up gig in New York City. I didn't mean to. I went to an open mike night at a club that was open mike for anything. No music, but there were writers, comedians, performance artists, and poets. I had been doing a lot of writing and I had no idea if it was any good or not, so I thought I'd read something I liked to some people I didn't know (just in case it was horrible, so I wouldn't be too humiliated).

At this open mike, you put your name in a hat, and the MC pulled out the strips of paper and then wrote up the set list, so you hadn't any idea when you were going on. It was a surprise. It could be a good fit, or not. The worst thing for me was waiting, 'cause I have terrible stage fright. I wound up being in the second set of the night, and I was on after a funny comedian, which was horrible. The audience was still laughing when I got up there, and I was going to read a somewhat serious short story. I had 8 minutes, which is an eternity on stage when you're terrified (and you don't have a guitar in front of you, which I was used to).

This guy had made some jokes (which I don't remember) about all the ads for penis enhancements in the newspaper. I don't know what newspaper he read. Oh right, he probably made the whole thing up. Anyhow, for some reason he left the stage with hundreds of little pieces of paper with ads for these services on the stage, and there I was, shaking, holding three pages of somewhat serious writing in my hands. I'd never even spoken into a microphone before except to say "check check is this thing on?" So, I'm freaking out completely.

I think I'm going to throw up, seriously, so I tell the audience that and they start laughing, so I continue talking about how upset I am about being there while they continue to laugh. Hey - this is fun! But, I'm still wanting to read my piece. I want them to stop laughing. I pick up one of those little ads off the stage and make a joke which is impossible to describe without using my hands, so you're not going to hear or see it, but it KILLED (as they say in the biz). Man, this was feeling so good. But, no, I want to read my story! What a dilemma. I started yelling at the audience that I'm not a comedian and they've got to stop laughing. You really can't go wrong when it gets to this point, so they continue laughing. . .blah blah blah. . .I read the piece. What a weird juxtaposition.

Anyway, afterwards all these performance artists ask me where they can see me perform, and someone asks me if I'm published, and I'm so freaked out I have to take a four hour walk while I calm down and drive my one companion crazy while I keep asking "did I really do that good?" over and over again.

Then I get home and don't write a thing again for years.

But, ever since then I've always wanted to be a stand-up comedian, even though the whole thing made me sick.

Now, getting back to my father, I never told him I did this 'cause I know what he's going to say. It's, "You? You're not funny!" But hearing him tell the same joke for 40-odd years sort of got to me, and so,I made the mistake of telling him that I did this gig right before we go to a big party together. Oy. We're sitting at a table with about two dozen people, and he starts telling a joke. Then, he gets to the punch line and stops. He says, "Wait. I'm gonna let my daughter finish this joke. I hear she's a comedian." I think he rolled his eyes or poked the person next to him in the side. It was pure sadism. Thanks, Dad. I don't know jokes. Okay, I know two, but that one wasn't one of them. So, of course, I look like an idiot (or maybe he did, hopefully).

Ooh, I feel guilty about that last line.

Every once in a while I think about trying to do stand up comedy, but I can't do it here in Maine. The truth of the matter is that all my humor is totally New Yawk and ethnic. My Jewish roots show in my humor, and they're all the stereotypes, too. Yiddish accents, guilt, the holocaust, Hitler, Hitler and more Hitler, self-loathing, hypochondria, Christmas in Brooklyn. . .nothing about monster trucks and deer hunting accidents, for sure. So, up here in Maine, it wouldn't go over very well. You've got to be famous, like Seinfeld, to get over with that kind of thing up here in northern New England.

I keep could writing, but this will end abruptly. "What I forgot" is just the fact that many of my blog entries used to be as disorganized as this one when I first started blogging, and some people enjoyed them. Fragments of memories. Nonsense. Tenses scrambled. I should be in bed. So, good night (or good morning or afternoon).

Photo note: Gilbert Gottfried doing his infamous Aristrocrats routine. I was trying to find a painting and said "screw it." Hey, I've never uttered a foul word on this blog before! It figures. If you've never heard the Aristocrats routine, it's about as filthy as anything in the history of of comedy (except for some of the other Aristrocrats routines).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The end of olfactory ennui, coming soon

In my last post, I expressed some olfactory ennui. It could be remedied. There are entire lines I've never tried. There's perfumer Abdes Salaam, whose scents can be found here, and written about at Nathan Branch's site. I've never tried any Madinis, which have been written about beautifully, of course, over at BitterGrace Notes. And then there's Histoire de Parfums. . .and. . .

I don't need to go on. It is amazing that there are so many scents out there. I started out, like most people, knowing only of Chanel and whatever else was in the departments stores. The drugstore scents, with the exception of Jean Nate's after bath splash when I was very young, I've ignored (thankfully). Now, it's time to leave the Bulgari, Hermes, L'artisan, and Serge Lutens and other more known niche pefumes behind, I think. With this obsession, one needs infusions of more obscure fixes. I will have to wait. . .ahem. . .for a job.

Image note: Horrors! I don't know who to attribute this to - it's simply "girl with perfume."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The air of nothing

Yesterday I finally got a sample of Lutens' Serge Noire. It came in a spray bottle, and I unwisely sprayed it directly on wrist, instead of a piece of paper. My first reaction was "yuck" or something equally non-descriptive. It was both dry and fruity at the same time, sometime Serge Lutens can do well, but not in this case, at least for me. But, I didn't hate it, so I left it on. It was interesting enough, not offensive (all yucks aside), and I wanted to see how it developed. It developed into something I wanted to scrub off. But I didn't. I was on my way to a perfume disaster, but I didn't know that yet.

Instead of scrubbing, I put yet another unsniffed scent on top of it. That was Les Perfume de Rosine's Rose D'Argent (the rose of money?). It smelled like a light tea rose, and for some reason I thought it would be nice over the Lutens. I was wrong. The rose started to bother me, just as many roses do, and I'd really had enough of the lingering Serge Noire.

I have been wanting a new scent to love for some time now, and once I had scrubbed both the offending samples off, I reached for a scent I always like, that's comforting and totally unoffensive - Hanae Mori's Butterfly. In my haste, I sprayed on about twice what I usually do. This was a mistake.

I hated it. I felt like I was choking in a haze of Butterfly juice, whatever that scent is, so vanilla without any vanilla in it anywhere. I figured it would pass, this sudden revulsion for a favored scent, but it did not. Soon, I was scrubbing that off. I loathed the smell so much I imagined I would not be able to smell it again for months.

This morning I went scentless. It's not unusual. I don't wear fragrance all the time. But I've been hungering for a new scent. I've tired of all my favorites, not that I don't like them (except for the now offensive Butterfly). I wore Chergui last night a few hours after the offending episode and even that didn't move me. It was Chergui, again. Yawn.

I was determined to find something I liked amongst the samples I've swapped or received from lovely people such as Nika (thank you, Nika). I sat down with a dozen or more vials to sniff earlier and each one smelled worse than the other. I imagined saying to the juice, "It's not you. It's me. I'm sorry." It is me, of course. If nothing smells good, it must be me.

Right now I've got on Miller Harris' "L'air de Rien", which at first I had a wonderful reaction to (besides thinking that it figured I'd like "the air of nothing"). I like dry vanilla. I like oakmoss. Just the two would probably suit me fine. But it is a little too "nothing", after all. I don't feel like jumping up and down, not that I would, mind you, but I'm just not moved.

In the beginning of my discovering perfume, everything seemed so exciting and wonderful, even if I didn't like it. Will anything surprise me now? I wonder.

Is that what being jaded is? Definition:

adj jaded [ˈdʒeidid]
(of eg a person or his interest, appetite etc) worn out and made tired and dull.

Uh oh.

Painting Note: Flaming June by Frederic Leighton. 1895

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A part of me thinks the Federation of Planets is real

I saw the Star Trek movie. I wasn't wowed, but it was fun. What was even more fun, though, is that I saw it in a small theater. It felt like a group experience. When Leonard Nimoy appeared on the screen, much to my surprise, everyone in the theater started clapping. When he raised his hand in the Vulcan gesture and said "live long and prosper" the clapping was even louder. I looked around and could see big smiles in the near darkness.

I think the adults enjoyed it more than the kids. When the movie let out, it was raining about as hard as it ever does, and there was a small crowd under the movie theater marquee. One woman shouted to her friend as she ran to her car, "That was SO great! I feel like a kid again!"

As I said, I enjoyed it, though the plot was pretty much incomprehensible. The special effects, I must admit, were great. But, there were too many fist fights and men about to fall off the edge of things. I think it was Dick who said, "You'd think there'd be more railings in the future."

Nonetheless, I'm glad I saw it in the theater. I'm glad I saw the smiles and heard the clapping. And every time I see anything Star Trek I do a lot of thinking afterwards, though in this case, it wasn't about the movie, for I found it distinctly unmemorable. The next day, I had forgotten I'd watched it.

As the subject line says, a part of me thinks the Federation of Planets is real. I mean it. I've been watching Star Trek in all its incarnations since I was a young kid, and I've always loved it. It's a part of my inner world. I, on occasion, think about things like whether the Prime Directive is a good idea or not or if the Vulcan's rejection of emotion is truly good for them as a race. Go ahead and laugh. It's pretty funny, I know.

This entry is not really going anywhere. I'm also thinking about other things, some of them just as superficial, like how wearing Jicky really helps me out on days like this one when I've overslept terribly and can't seem to ever wake up. Another part of my brain is thinking about mattresses, having just spent hours looking at them online, and marveling at the variety, the sheer volume of unhappy customers for almost every mattress there is, the outrageous prices, and the fact that the "manufacturer's suggested retail price" is never what it's sold for. It's like shopping for a car, but maybe worse.

I was going to call this post "a mess o' thoughts" and that's what it was. So, it's another of my recent "staying in touch" posts. I hope this trend stops soon, and I find some coherence and humor to share with you. I've been scattered. So, for now, live long and prosper.

Afterthought: When I was a kid, NASA's space program was a big deal, and when a rocket lifted off,or a man walked on the moon, everyone would watch TV. They'd always show mock-ups of what was happening, and my father would joke that the whole thing was fake. Of course that wasn't true, but a part of me thought, "Well, it would save a lot of money." So, if the space program was fictional, then Star Trek could just as well have been real. And now, with the way special effects are, how can anyone tell the difference? My subconscious can't tell, that's for sure. I wonder if it's worse for kids nowadays. After all, on the original Star Trek series, one could tell that those big boulders on the planets where no man had gone before were quite fake, and weighed little enough to be blown away by a small breeze.

Photo note: The original Star Trek crew, of course. Another thing I always wondered is why every species wore a different outfit. Obviously, the real answer is so one could identify them easily. Another answer could be that my previous post where I jokingly said that Star Trek was a commie plot is true. The wearing of uniforms certainly does keep folks from gauging the class of person by their attire. But I think that the depiction of how people dress in the future was portrayed best by Blade Runner, where we saw everything from 40's retro to silver bodysuits. If you look around you in a big city, that kind of diversity of dress has become more common with each decade.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just a bit of melancholia

It troubles me a wee bit that many of my recent posts are about customer service or the lack thereof. I'm not a cranky person. I may tend towards melancholy, but I'm not cranky.

And if you're wondering what this melancholy business is, it sounds a lot nicer than "depression." In fact, I think it's more accurate. One of the definitions for melancholia is "pensive reflection or contemplation" which is not a bad thing to participate in. Another definition is "black bile", but that's been proven to not cause problems.

On the other hand, depression is most often characterized by a loss of interest in life. That, I do not suffer from. If I were truly depressed, I would not thrill to the sight of the returning hummingbirds and run excitedly to my refrigerator to write down the date. Instead, I'd probably mumble something vaguely incoherent about "yeah. . .I saw 'em last year. . .so?"

I would not burst into a smile upon seeing the rather ugly eaglets at the Duke Farms Eagle Cam. Right now, those eaglets look like the pile of dust bunnies that I swept into a heap yesterday.

I wouldn't get a big kick out of simply making a cord, as I did yesterday. Yes, the process of picking four colors of embroidery thread and knotting them into a cord is great fun, in my opinion. I really am easy to please.

But I do suffer from melancholy. My dreams are filled with sadness. I wish they would stop. Dear unconscious, do you have to torture me so? Life's hard enough. Why can't you give me nice dreams that enhance my state of mind instead of making my nights so painful?

My subconscious is not cooperating. It has crossed it's arms and refused to answer the questions. Darn that Freudian construct.

And with that, today's short entry is coming to a close. Not much to say today. Still wearing Guerlain's Shalimar Light, enjoying it greatly, and snobbishly thinking that I shouldn't like it.

Image note: 1920's Shalimar ad. Now that I've looked at this image three times, I must say I think it's a lousy piece of design. What do you think?

Monday, May 11, 2009

The leather glove story

One day, many years ago, I bought a pair of very nice black leather gloves at Lord & Taylor, which was (and still is, I believe) a moderately upscale department store in New York City. It was a cold day, and I was going to walk to meet some friends for dinner, so instead of putting my gloves in a bag, I put them on.

When I got to the restaurant, I was informed that I should go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. I had black smudges all over my face. I washed them off while wondering how on earth my face had become so dirty. Then I thought of my new gloves. Sure enough, I ran a finger over my skin, and there was a black smudge. I put them into the nice box they had come in, and planned on returning them the next day during my lunch break. I also wondered why I touched my face so much, but no good answer to that was forthcoming.

The next day, I went to the store as planned. I went to the counter where I had purchased the gloves, told the saleswoman what happened, and asked to return them and have the charge taken off my credit card. But no, it wasn't so simple. I still remember the woman telling me how these were the most popular gloves they sold and how no one had ever returned them. She said it had to have something to do with my skin. Even if that were so, what difference did it make? None, to my mind. I argued a bit, but I wasn't very good at standing up to people like that, and she just wouldn't budge.

I was rattled, for I had felt somewhat guilty about buying these expensive gloves. I tried wearing them again with awareness of not touching my face. That didn't work out so well. I still remember washing my face when I came home from work and standing in my bathroom, feeling like a wuss for not being able to stand up to that saleswoman.

So, I again went to the store. The same woman was there and she was just as nasty as the first time, but on the second occasion she suggested I speak to a manager, up on the top floor, which I did. He informed me that in order to refund me my money, they would send my gloves to a testing facility to see if they were indeed defectively dyed. A testing facility? It wasn't my skin. I knew that. I had run my fingers against the white wall of my bathroom and, yes, there was a smudge. So, to save Lord & Taylor the trouble, I ran my finger against the manager's wall. There was a smudge. Somehow that made no dent in the man's stance. They were to go to a testing facility, even if the reality of the situation was right there on his now dirty wall.

So, I handed over the box.

Months went by. I had the charge on my credit card bill, but didn't pay it, for it was in dispute. I forgot about the whole thing until the day I received a package in the mail. It was my gloves, with a note. It said that there was nothing wrong with them.

This was ridiculous. Just to make sure I wasn't crazy (at least about the gloves), I put one on and, once again, ran my finger against a wall. There was the tell tale smudge. What in the world had they tested? I had no idea. And again, I went to Lord & Taylor, performed the obviously magical wall smudge proof for a manager, and then was told that the real test proved I was wrong about reality. I said I would not pay for the gloves. I had a Lord & Taylor credit card and I cut it up and threw it away. I would not go there again. I would not pay the bill.

Years went by. My ex-husband and I decided to buy a house. We found one we liked and then applied for a loan. We were rejected. We couldn't figure it out, for we thought our credit score was fine. We investigated and it was one thing: a unpaid charge for something in the range of 60 bucks. Neither of us could think of what it was for. And then we got the detailed report - it was the Lord & Taylor credit card.

I still did not want to pay this charge. I know that sounds silly, but I was adamant about it. But, in order to get that loan, we had to. But that didn't make the black mark on our credit report go away. In order for that to happen, Lord & Taylor had to write something about the "incident." And even years later, they were being hardasses about it.

Now, my memory of this is unclear, as I still don't understand why the department store had to write something "nice" or whatever it was they were to do. But I do remember that whatever they had to do, they would not budge, once again. Finally, my ex went to the store and pleaded with whomever he had to plead with to help us out, so we could buy our first house. Cajoling, getting angry, none of it worked. Pleading, it turned out, worked. So, we bought our first house, and I still had a pair of unwearable black leather gloves in a nice box stowed away (why?) Two weeks later, the real estate market crashed hard. Our house lost so much value we were paying more for it than it was worth. We both lost our jobs, and we wound up having the house foreclosed on us. Maybe we should have let those gloves work their strange magic, after all.

Photo note: Gloria Swanson and Edith Head I think they're wearing satin gloves, but I like this photo, so what the heck. Edith Head was a fashion designer, Swanson an actress. I find them so much more interesting looking than the famous folks of today.

Customer service

It finally dawned on me why I was so incensed about the Ikea bed debacle. It wasn't so much that the bed was awful, but the terrible store experience and the almost equally terrible customer service. I thought I had posted that Ikea has offered to refund our money, which is good, but we've got to return the mattress (440 miles of driving), and there was not a word that came close to "sorry" from anyone.

Now, this would have been typical ten or more years ago. The only company that I knew of that had a really good return policy was L.L.Bean, and they were notable because of it. They took returns on items that had been used. I remember being amazed that this was true. I once returned a pair of expensive ski socks to their store because I had accidentally melted them by trying to dry them next to my wood stove. It would never have occurred to me to even return the socks. After all, I melted the silly things. I had just mentioned it in passing when I was there to buy some wool socks (which don't melt) and the salesperson said something like "you should return them 'cause you we didn't label them with good instructions." So I did.

So, besides the fact that actually shopping at Ikea for something large is an exhausting and frustrating experience, when I got home and hated the bed that was so wonderful in the showroom, I expected good customer service. I hadn't realized that things had changed so much since the days when L.L. Bean was the only company who provided such great service. It seems that nearly every company does these days, and my only explanation for it is the advent of online sales. There seems to be more protection for the consumer. There's also more competition for consumer loyalty.

I've been surprised over and again with my paltry complaints being met with service that bends over backwards to make things right. So, that's why Ikea's lousy service was such a surprise.

Today, I got a new, free roll of Kinesiotape from this Amazon reseller today. I had e-mailed them to ask if the black tape was less sticky than the beige tape, and when they sent a reply, saying it was not, they offered to send me another roll. I wasn't even complaining!

This type of great customer service has gotten to be common, in my experience. The truth is, I hate complaining, and the hassles that come with trying to get satisfaction from a company that has no interest in giving any. Some people get a kick out of the fight, but I don't. It just saps my energy.

The Ikea experience is certainly not the worst customer service I've experienced, not by a long shot. In the next post, unless something more interesting pops up, I'll tell you about the bizarre leather glove purchase that almost kept me from being able to get a home loan many years after the incident.

Image note: John James Audubon "Baltimore Orioles" Nail a half an orange to a tree if they're in your area and they'll come. We got our first ones this weekend. Their plumage is so bright and new, it looks like velvet.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Star Trek is a commie plot

I just deleted the first two paragraphs of a serious entry about Obama-hating in the countryside. I needed to find a link to the photo essay on Newsweek's site about the resurgence of neo-Nazis in America. Very serious stuff indeed.

Instead, as I couldn't find it easily, I got sidetracked. Quite sidetracked. I found a photo essay about the early days of the Star Trek conventions. The clothes of the 70's may be ugly, but they aren't as ugly as pictures of children traipsing around looking like Hitler youth.

I have to admit I didn't really want to see those beautiful photographs of such mean spirited people again. And now, I don't want to either write or think about them.

Instead, I'd rather think about Star Trek. I'm willing to admit it freely: I'm a Trekkie. No, I don't wear costumes and I know not a word of Klingon, but I loved Star Trek when I was a kid, and I've loved every incarnation of it (except the last one, but I'll save why for another post).

I'm surprised that Rush Limbaugh and company aren't yelling their heads off about how much Americans like Star Trek. Give it some thought. The world that Star Trek portrays is socialist.

Want food? Just get it from a replicator. Okay, I know one has to pay for their food at the bar on Deep Space Nine, but it's run by Quark, a Ferengi, who are identified by a Wikipedia entry as the "ultra-capitalist Ferengi", and that's an insult.

School is free. Health care is free. Capital punishment has been outlawed. In one memorable episode of Voyager (aired on the day Timothy McVeigh was executed), the crew almost mutinies when they have to follow the prime directive (don't meddle in lesser evolved species' evolution). Why? They don't want to deliver stranded prisoners who are awaiting their death sentences back to their home planet.

Shhh. Don't spread this stuff around. I don't want to hear any uprising against Star Trek.

Photo note: When searching for an image of Klingon food, I found this interesting post on The Eaten Path.
The author juxtaposes a truly memorable Star Trek Next Generation episode's dialogue with the reality of the faux Trek experience in Las Vegas (you'd think I believed that the world of Star Trek is real, wouldn't you?)

What is real, however, is the idealism that Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to convey. Here is the dialogue between Captain Picard and a man who has wound up in the future, stripped of all his status and money:

PICARD: A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of “things”. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We have grown out of our infancy.

RALPH: You’ve got it wrong. It’s never been about “possessions” - it’s about power.

PICARD: Power to do what?

and then, later:

RALPH: And then what will happen to us? There’s no trace of my money. My office is gone. What will I do? How will I live?

PICARD (amused): This is the twenty-fourth century. Those material needs no longer exist.

RALPH: Then what’s the challenge?

PICARD: To improve yourself… enrich yourself.

Pictured: A glass of Klingon Blood Draft.

For more about the food and drink of Star Trek, go to Serious Eats.

A little nothing of a post

What happened? Once upon a time, writing a post a day was as easy as pie. Some days I'd even post more than one. Well, a pie isn't that easy to bake, actually, and now thinking up blog posts is just not coming easily to me, either. I was thinking of baking a pie this weekend, and considered making a torte instead. Maybe that has some relationship to the thought I'm trying to capture in words, but maybe not, so I'll stop trying.

If you understood that, I commend you. I hardly did.

Think of this entry as a kind of "keeping in touch." I know I like blogs where there's always something new, and if there isn't, I tend to stop visiting after a while.

I wish there was something truly fascinating I could tell you. It's not that there isn't a lack of topics. There just isn't anything I feel like saying about them. The birds are all in their bright new spring plumage. The plants are growing so fast that I think if I sat down for a while, I might see upward movement. The cat next door has had kittens. My cat is enjoying life outdoors once again. I put up a new shower curtain a few weeks ago that is very cheerful and continues to give me pleasure. I made a slipcover for a chair, but I haven't finished it yet, and as I've already started using it, I'm afraid I'll never get around to finishing the project. That last one seems like something particularly un-bloggable, but of all of these things, I'm the most likely to blog about it, for not finishing projects is a problem I have developed over the years. The way time flies these days makes it difficult for me to keep up. Does anyone know how to slow this down? I think not, for if someone had, it would be on the cover of at least one magazine, or advertised all over the web along with the miracle wrinkle creams.

So, there you have it. My non-thoughts about life, as of May 8th, 2009. Once someone commented on my lack of writing about nature. I don't like thinking about nature. I like being in it. And afterwards, I feel I have nothing to say, unless something happens that's out of the ordinary, like falling into a bog or having a bird land on my head. I have no desire to describe the beauty of the outdoors, nor do I want to take photographs of it. I neither want to talk, write, or document any of it, except to note when a bird has returned to my feeder. Those notes go on my refrigerator door, and then into a book the next year. One rose breasted grosbeak has returned, but we've not seen any orioles or hummingbirds yet. The feeders are waiting, guys! C'mon back!

Photo note: I've never thought of the grosbeak as a "cute" bird, but in this photo it certainly is.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I said I'd write about stuffed animals

A few weeks ago, I woke up feeling like I was thrown out of a car. Now, I wake up in pain every morning, and it takes me a few hours to feel human enough to do anything, but this particular morning was a real horror show. I had three mornings like this in a row, and on the third day, I called my doctor because I couldn't take another minute of it. I had written fairly recently about getting over the feeling of "can't stand-itis" (which, technically speaking, would mean a swelling of can't stand, which actually, is quite apt). I thought I'd gotten over it. Ha. I was wrong. That kind of pain, well, I don't think anyone gets over it. On that third morning, as soon as I realized I was not dreaming, I started to cry.

It's okay, the crying and all, but I did go to the doctor and ask for a painkiller. I didn't want to, and I don't intend on doing this frequently. I woke up yesterday afternoon from a nap feeling pretty much the same way and I didn't need a painkiller. I've gotten into trouble with that stuff, as I'd imagine the majority of chronic pain sufferers do at some point, and I don't intend on having it happen again. Painkillers are terrible. They don't relieve severe pain until one is nearly unconscious, but they do keep you from caring about how you feel. And that leads to not caring about all sorts of other things, like doing the dishes, and getting dressed in the morning, and that leads to depression, and more pain. A brilliant vicious cycle.

But I digress. As usual.

I did get some painkillers, but I also got something else, and that other thing was a big surprise. As I was waiting for my prescription, I wandered the aisles of the small supermarket that thankfully has opened up not too far from me. There, in a big wire basket, were leftover Easter bunny rabbits. Not real rabbits, of course, but stuffed animals. Normally, I wouldn't even notice such a thing, or if I did, I'd dismiss it pretty quickly. After all, these were commercial stuffed animals, at a supermarket, and I'm a snob in certain areas. If I'm to like a stuffed animal, it's got to be an old one, or a handmade one, or something a bit off, made by an artist or craftsperson or dog eared and left behind. These were left behind, but they were 100% all fake made in China bright white creatures with boldly colored bows around their necks. But heck, some of them were cute. Really cute. I walked past them and on to the next aisle, and my heart ached just a little bit, for I felt sorry for them, past their due date and all, with no one to squeeze them to their breast and or carry them around by a hand, trailing along on a dusty street on Easter day. Poor guys. They were probably going to wind up in a carton somewhere in the dark, just waiting for next spring to roll along, or maybe they'd get shredded. I don't know what happens to generic Easter supermarket bunnies. I'd anthropomorphized the things so much by the time I got to the end of the next aisle, I didn't want to know. So, I went back and picked one up.

It was so soft I was surprised. I cradled it like a precious baby, brought it to the check out line, and bought it. And then, in the car, I gently placed it on my lap. I got choked up, felt like a fool, and drove home. The bunny had a good view of the landscape. I made sure of that.

Right now the bunny is sitting next to me. It had been sitting next to me, pretty much constantly, since that day, which was the day after Easter. When I felt badly, I held it in my arms. When I was cold, it warmed me. All the while, I felt silly and childish, 'cause what middle-aged woman cuddles a bunny in that manner? Crazy ones, that's who.

It got worse. I started sleeping with the bunny. I normally sleep with a pillow in front of my stomach. Why not put the bunny there? It looked lonely sleeping alone, after all, and besides, it was softer than my pillow. The odd thing is, I don't remember ever sleeping with a stuffed animal when I was a little kid. I surely must have at some point. I did have them, and I was a lonely kid. But maybe I didn't, or maybe it was so normal that the memory didn't stick.

The thing is, hugging a stuffed bunny is one thing, but spooning with it is another matter altogether. I started wondering if I was going overboard in my new found acceptance of childlike self nurturing. How would I know? No one talks about these things too freely.

But then I called my aunt. I happened to mention the bunny. I don't know why. Maybe it's because she's my go-to person for what's normal. She burst out laughing when I told her, but not because she thought owning a stuffed bunny was funny. It's that I had completely forgotten about her stuffed animal collection. She's got who-knows-how-many stuffed animals, and to top it off, I had just given her one for her birthday!

In my angst over thinking I'd regressed to the point of maybe needing some serious help, I had blocked this out. It's absurd, in retrospect. Just ridiculous.

I am loving the bunny. The bunny just said, "That doesn't sound like you really love me." Sorry, bunny. I'm a bit shy about saying I love you, okay?

If the bunny could move on its own, I'm sure it would turn it's back on me right now. But no, that's the pleasure of the stuffed animal. It's still sitting there, looking at me with it's endearing little face, looking for all the world like I'm it's favorite person on the planet (which I'm sure I am).

Unlike my cat, who can get up and leave my lap any time she wants, that bunny has to give me affection any time I want. It's soft and warm and cuddly and makes me feel good. If I'm in pain, I can squeeze it, and it won't scratch me, or get mad, or need to go take a pee.

It's probably good that we take these things away from kids at a certain point so they develop a need for human relationships, but I think that having a stuffed bunny to give an adult whatever kind of love that adult wants and needs, 24/7, is a great thing. I think it's so great, in fact, that I'm thinking of making some stuffed animals.

Oh dear. The minute I was near the end of that last sentence I felt guilty. What about this particular bunny's friends? All the ones whom I left in the store? What has happened to them? I don't want to know.

Go out and get yourself one. I highly recommend it.

Photo note: Obviously, this is not my stuffed bunny. I don't have a photo, so I figured I'd google "handmade eco friendly stuffed animals" and see what I got. That a "Kallisto" stuffed bear. If you want one, I can't recommend a good company, so google it yourself (or make your own).

Addendum: I've added a number of books about knitting, crocheting, and sewing stuffed animals to my LibraryThing.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

I finally got around to reading it

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember me writing about Kenny Shopsin. I had watched the movie, "I Like Killing Flies", and simply fell in love with the guy (platonically, that is). His restaurant and life philosophy makes perfect sense to me. It's odd, for Shopsin is abrasive (or at least that's what people say) and I am not, at least not on the surface. I doubt anyone would say I'm even slightly abrasive, but that's a ruse, not intentionally, but a result of my sometimes annoyingly quiet voice.

So, I've finally gotten around to reading "Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin." I was going to buy it the day it came out in print, but I was broke. Now, I've taken it out of the library, for the truth is, I don't like using recipes and I don't need to re-read it. At least I don't think so.

I am loving it as much as I imagined I would. Almost every word is a gem. And, once again, hearing Shopsin's words brings me back to the New York of my youth, and my thoughts and experiences of being a two-time small service business owner. The first time, I neither understood myself or my customers. The second time, I understood myself (most of the time), but there were problems. And some of them came from being a New Yorker working in Maine. Kenny Shopsin's rules were a bit of problem for some New Yorkers, so my rules must have been hell for folks here in the boonies.

Shopsin considers his restaurant a place where the patrons have a relationship with both other customers and the people who work there. It's a home. I felt the same way about my tattoo shop. It was my more my home than my home for some of the time, and just like a home, I didn't want people who I didn't like hanging out, nor did I want to service them. Now, "service them" is a word most often associated with a pretty awful line of business, but it's apt. That may be a key to understanding why some people throw out customers that they don't want. It's not because they're shoplifting or being belligerent. It's because servicing people you don't like is awful. Prostitutes know this, but they (mostly) don't pick and choose. Maybe that's why drugs help (and come to think of it, maybe why so many in other service industries develop drug problems).

Face-to-face service jobs are akin to prostitution, like it or not. I can't believe I'm writing this, for once my father told me that tattooing was pretty close to prostitution and I was shocked. But now, even though his reasoning may have been different, I agree.

But unlike those who walk the street, I wouldn't service just anybody.

Kenny Shopsin felt the same way about cooking.

Cooking, sex, sticking needles into people. . .well, done the right way, they are all about giving and receiving love. That's the right way indeed.

I once told someone that I felt love for my all my clients when I was working with them and it was true. If I knew that I couldn't feel that way, if I couldn't respect someone enough to work with them or they didn't respect me, I would ask them to go elsewhere. Some people balked at that, but most just left, shaking their heads. I imagine they mumbled something like "asshole" under their breath. Now, in my not-abrasive-and-quiet voice, I may have never earned the moniker "bitch" from anyone (except one disgruntled actual ex-lover), but I was a hard ass a good amount of the time.

I told people when their tattoo ideas were lousy. I teased others for wanting yet another name tattooed on them when they'd already made the same mistake before. I asked people to go think about their dumb ideas for a month before they had them permanently embedded in their skin. I treated those with low pain thresholds with jolly sadistic jokes. If they couldn't take it, they weren't my kind of customer.

And that's the stuff of relationships. I hardly ever remembered people's tattoos afterwards. I remembered the conversations. That was the important thing, for me. And this is what I loved, each individual, all different. I loved the shy young girls who sometimes cried, and the swaggering guys (and gals) in the service who sometimes passed out. I loved the folks who flirted with me and those who didn't. I loved the people who had knowledge of esoteric information and those that had barely anything to say. I never thought of myself as a "people person" and maybe I still am not, but I discovered I really loved people through tattooing.

It's possible, no, probable, that I've been depressed since I started not being able to tattoo, and certainly since I closed my business, which was at least one and a half years ago. But I had to. I couldn't do it anymore. And because I loved my customers, I just could not continue to give them less than excellent work. My hands hae been shot for years. I had hoped that that it would continue, with me working once in a blue moon, and another person tattooing the bulk of the customers, but that didn't work out. And as far as being an entrepreneur goes, and just running a big shop, well, that's not for me. I want relationships more than money. I have no idea how to really run a business. I can do it, sure, but it's all intuition and love*, just like relationships. One can't get an M.B.A. in loving people (not yet), and even if one could, there'd be no guarantee it'd be of any use.

Now, I contend that loving people has been Kenny Shopsin's real job, not cooking and running a restaurant, and he may disagree, but I can have my opinion. Anyway, I don't even know the guy.

Image note: Yes, that's bacon. Why? 'Cause last time I wrote about Shopsin I posted a photo of eggs. Bacon is the other quintessential New York diner food (though Shopsin's was never a diner). Yet, his book has some great bacon stories. And I'm not telling!

*Along with aggravation, boredom, anger, exhaustion, exhilaration. . .and all the feelings that go into relationships. No, if all you feel is love, you're probably in trouble (or have just met last night).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Cravings for a new scent

I'm craving a new scent, but what I suspect is that I'm craving the experience I had when I first sniffed some great perfumes. That, sadly, is not going to happen again. I did have that "first" experience twice, at the age of 18 and about a year and a half ago. Not wearing scent for almost twenty years turned me into a reborn fragrance virgin. Unfortunately, I can't afford to wait another twenty years, even if I come from a family of long lived people.

Lovely sweet Nika sent me some samples last week, but I haven't yet sniffed them properly. I received them when I was hanging out with an 11-year-old girl, and since I couldn't leave the package unopened, we sniffed some Liz Zorn samples together. Grand Canyon smelled "pretty nice" to Ashley, but all the rest of them made her wrinkle up her nose and proclaim "baby wipes!"

Just as Dick's saying that the new Hemp bread I purchase smells of fish and now I don't want to go near it, the suggestion of a baby wipe smell in the Zorn samples made me think I should wait a bit before trying them again. I am quite suggestible in the realm of smell. I am also sensitive. Bad smells make me nauseous, head-achey, grouchy, and sometimes they even keep me from sleeping. It's a wonder I can tolerate sampling fragrances at all, but I'm just as liable to feel uplifted, delighted, and lulled into a good night's sleep by scents I love.

I'm about to go to sleep now, but first I'm going to slather my hands with Kiss My Face's lavender hand cream. It's good stuff, and I find the scent soothing.

I got online to write about how I've stopped writing about perfume. Now, I'm too tired to go on. The truth is, I hadn't much to say. Indeed, that is why I have stopped writing about fragrance. I don't have anything to say. That said twice, I think I've gotten my point across.

Not much of an entry, but there it is.

Painting note: Nicolaes Maes "Old Woman at Prayer" 1655
No particular reason for this painting, except that I felt posting an old painting was long past due. The loaf of bread is the only relevancy (though some might recommend prayer for a new heaven sent scent).