Friday, May 30, 2008

at it again..

There's a new story at Adventures Ink and I hope no Providence purists come by to argue with my memories. You have yours and I have my own. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the story..

Friday, May 23, 2008

something's fishy

Crow here with another report from the perch in susan's kitchen. Since it's Friday and she's a bit of a traditionalist I just got reminded of a weird story.

For two years, Larry West's company trucked fuel directly from Mississippi River barges to convenience stores between Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas. He didn't pay a penny in tax, claiming he was distributing "petroleum distillates,'' not gasoline.

The judge didn't buy it and now Mr. West is in jail.

"With the price of fuel going up and people getting more desperate for it, everything we've been finding since the mafia days, we're going to see that again,'' says a motor-fuels tax associate who represents state revenue agencies in Washington.

It could be argued Mr West is just trying to make a moderately dishonest living but he has nothing on the real criminals our society tolerates. I'm talking about the corporate types who have a charming facade but are basically socially inadequate sharks whose real place in life is mugging pensioners by jumping out of the commercial equivalent of dark alleys. Never get beholden to people like that because they will piss on you and then charge you irrigation fees.

My friend James Howard Kunstler says it better so I'll just paraphrase his excellent Alternet article which you can read if you want:

Personally, my theory has been that the specter of peak oil pretty clearly implies the inability of industrial economies to continue producing real wealth in the customary way. In the face of this, either consciously or at a more mystical level, the worker bees in banking recognize that, in order to maintain their villas in the Hamptons, money has to be loaned into existence some other way (than in the service of industrial productivity).

We've tried just about everything. There was the so-called service economy, an attempt to replace manufacturing with hamburger sales. Then there was the information economy, in which work would be replaced with knowing about stuff. Then there was the tech thing, which was about bringing internet companies that existed only on the back of cocktail napkins to the initial public offering stage of capitalization -- which allowed a few hundred or so 30-year-old smoothies to retire to vineyards in the Napa Valley while hundreds of thousands of retirees lost half the value of their investment portfolios. Then there was the housing boom, which was all about the creation of more suburban sprawl under the theory that houses (or "homes," in the jargon of the Realtors) represent an obvious sort of wealth, and therefore that using houses as collateral would allow humongous sums of money to be loaned into existence -- along with massive fees for structuring the loans into bundles of bond-like thingies.

This has all failed now because the racket went too far. Every possible candidate for a snookering got snookered.The important part of this is that the money is gone. What makes matters truly eerie is that the "bubble" in suburban houses has occurred at exactly the moment in history when the chief enabling resource for suburban life -- oil -- has entered its scarcity stage.

Certainly the political fallout of all this will be awesome. But it's not about politics, really. It's about the entire society's inability to form a workable new consensus of reality.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

I said I would

If ever there was a dog who belonged to himself it was Garth. Grown up in a time before leash laws and scooping he was happy enough to accompany us on our walks around town but if he sniffed something interesting in the air he'd say his farewells and be off like a shot.

...and so begins another story. If you'd like to read more it continues here.

riff on splotchy (with apologies)

I had been shuffling around the house for a few hours and already felt tired. The doorbell rang. I opened the front door and saw a figure striding away from the house, quickly and purposefully. I looked down and saw a bulky envelope. I picked it up. The handwriting was smudged and cramped, and I could only make out a few words."(Splotchy)

I waited, rooted to the spot. Still I stood waiting. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. The knock became louder, more insistent.

Suddenly, the room was flooded with bright light.

Good-bye, I'm going to New York and I may wake up in a strange bed with Suzanne Pleshette. (Dcup)

The only question going through my mind at this point was, “Who else knows, and what am I going to do about Elizabeth in the meantime?” (Actually, that’s two questions) I thought parenthetically.

“Forgive me Elizabeth, but if anyone in this world understands what I must do, it’s you. No one can know about my secret or my career as an Underwear Model is over, and I’m just not ready to hang up my Drawers.” (fairlane)

I considered my options and once again they were all too few. For 500 years I'd lived in the wilderness with sand, rock and water my only companions. I'd grown a bit thin but other than that the centuries had been peaceful. Perhaps the right decision was to return to simpler times. (susan)

(For those of you who wonder what this is all about I was infected twice in 24 hours with the same story virus by two people I like a lot. I promise not to re-infect.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

dog days in May

Never, ever go to the animal shelter just to look around because you've got nothing better to do some afternoon. It was February, deep winter in Toronto and we were expecting a child in the Spring so I have to give myself the excuse of extreme broodiness. It was nearly closing time at the shelter when we found a tiny six week old puppy sitting all by himself in an elevated cage looking very sad. The attendant told us his two sisters had been adopted that morning, that he'd never been alone before and was refusing to eat. What would you do? Okay, you'd probably have made the sensible decision to have gone to a movie instead but there we were. I wrapped him up in part of the big scarf I was wearing and off we went with just about as much of a clue about having a dog as we did about having a baby - little - but life is essentially about taking chances in the name of love. The happily anticipated big change was still a few months in the future and we figured having a puppy would be good practice. Besides, he was very cute.

Since he was obviously a benighted canine prince who'd been exiled from his proper home we gave him the exalted name of Garth Cold Nose Strong Heart in honor of his lineage and bright future. Naturally, he was known as Garth.

He got paper trained because he refused to pee when we put him down on the ice and snow and became so comfortable with the arrangement that by the time winter ended he'd relieve himself if he saw someone reading a newspaper. That was when we insisted he learn the difference between inside and outside. He chewed shoes, socks, clothes and once stole an ounce of hash which he kept hidden for a weeks' worth or surreptitious licks (what had been a large cube was a little sphere when we found him with it). He was a happy pup.

His favorite sleeping spot was my lap until the lump started practicing football moves and kicked him off one day. He looked so shocked I wondered if the two of them would ever be friends but I needn't have worried. One day in May, right around this time, we brought our son home from the hospital, sat with him on a low couch and invited Garth over to look. He sniffed, wagged his tail, went to the next room and lay down under the cradle. Sleeping under the boy's bed became a lifelong habit and once the beds got lower, he slept on a rug nearby.

The photo was taken in RI when he was about sixteen. Soon - maybe tomorrow - I'll tell you a story about Garth in Montreal which I'll post directly to Adventures, Ink.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

we interrupt our regular programming for this important message...

a few words (by request) from susan's worser half:

i began playing computer games in the early 80's, & switched over to consoles/handhelds (thanks primarily to ico , the single-greatest video game evah!) in the early 00's (sony/nintendo - no xbox/360, thank you). as well as having a helluva good time, i've learned a lot from gaming over the years. one thing i've learned is: never, ever pay any attention to what the msm has to say about it. with the rare exception (see n'gai croal), they don't know their sunni from their shi'ite about actually playing games, & basically exist only to stimulate sales &/or stir up controversy. & another thing i've learned is, there's more to video games than the gameplay: good games, like good movies, are a dense collaboration involving a number of talented people, many of whose other, unrelated work is well worth checking out...

which brings us to grand theft auto 4 (aka, gta4), & the above video. i'm a gta noob, btw - i'm not all that fond of driving irl, &, therefore, the idea of doing it in a game has never really appealed to me. but, hey, metal gear solid 4 (aka mgs4) isn't due til the middle of june, there's little to come between now & then, everyone on the game board i frequent's raving about gta4, the story actually sounds kinda interesting for once, & so, for right now (until the driving missions become too much for my lamer skills, anyway), i'm playing gta4...

now, one of the cool features about the gta series is the radio stations you can listen to while driving - lots of all kinds of music (i was pretty floored when, at one point, i switched to the ambient/electronica station & out came some of phillip glass' koyaanisqatsi soundtrack(?!)), along with lots of bogus ads, talk, etc. anyway, my favorite station has turned out to be 'radio vladivostok' (which is included, i'm guessing, owing to the east-european origins of the game's hero & early cast of characters). & my (& a number of other players) favorite song on 'radio vladivostok' is the song in the video, 'schweine', by 'glukoza' (aka, 'glykoza' & 'glyukoza'), who turns out to be an extremely young russian pop star, surrounded by an apparent army of very clever songwriters/musicians/artists (check out some of her other videos - they're equally awesome, & even include a live-action, 'some like it hot' parody!)...

so what's my point? (help me out here, susan...)...

i guess it's that... there's more to gta4 than running over pedestrians?... there's more to manufacturing a pop star than short skirts?... i can be happy to see you and have a ds in my pocket at the same time?...

actually, most likely, i suppose it's that there's more to gaming than meets the eye...

but don't just take my word for it. if you haven't played a video game in a while (or ever), i strongly urge you - get yourself a ps2 (they're pretty cheap right now), a copy of okami, & be delighted, entertained, frustrated, amused, & amazed by the power of a medium that's waaay too much fun to be just for kids :) ...

we now return to our regular programming...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

thoughts while flying

Crow here and this is the mother-in-law. She came to visit a week or so ago - didn't like my friends, didn't like my opinions, didn't like the nest, didn't like my wardrobe, offered the wife a free trip to Vegas and off they both flew. Can't say I'll miss either one of them.

I got back here just in time to find Susan flat out on the floor since she'd just heard that John McCain may be considering offering the vice-presidential slot to a lady named Condoleeza Rice. You may know more about that than me but I sent the girl off for a little lie-down. It's all too much for her, poor thing. When she wakes up I'm going to tell her she's best off keeping her political opinions to herself. Too much time thinking about the election makes her a bit nutty and then she forgets all about telling me stories.. and I love stories. People are soo weird.

Anyway, I've heard a few disturbing things too that I thought might interest you:

Shell and BP between them recorded profits of $28 billion in the first three months of the year -- or $6 million an hour -- on the back of rising oil prices. You want to go somewhere this summer you better get a bike or a horse or a new pair of shoes.

The prices of wheat, corn and rice have soared over the past year driving the world's poor -- who already spend about 80 per cent of their income on food -- into hunger and destitution. Your loaf of bread is either 30% smaller or 50% more expensive but that's nothing compared to what's happening to many.

Monsanto last month reported that its net income for the three months up to the end of February this year had more than doubled over the same period in 2007, from $1.44 billion to $2.22 billion.

Cargill's net earnings soared by 86 per cent from $553m to $1.030 billion over the same three months. And Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world's largest agricultural processors of soy, corn and wheat, increased its net earnings by 42 per cent in the first three months of this year. The operating profit of its grains merchandising and handling operations jumped 16-fold from $21m to $341m.

People impoverishing themselves with money just doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? What we see here is a small group of rich psychotics, scatological vultures (apologies to my distant relatives) feeding off a world they're actively trying to annihilate.

I don't understand why they don't recognize the wealth they already have. Money is a form of rationing. There's enough food in the world for people to eat so they should be fed. That also goes for shelter, clothes and education. Once the necessities are taken care of then perhaps people could sit down together to watch a sunrise, a flock of birds, stars in an endless night sky. Perhaps they could count their blessings and work together to make the world a better place. I don't know of another one. Do you?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

multicultural celebration

Partly because I'm Canadian and unlike President's Day, Memorial Day, the 4th of July and American Thanksgiving which I'm used to, Cinquo de Mayo just appeared full blown out of the blue one day when a Mariachi band came to play on the big cafeteria patio outside my office window. Maybe it's a west coast thing or maybe it really is a new celebration but whatever it is I do enjoy the concept.

What I like even better though is 'The Day of the Dead' with all the little skeleton images.. skeleton weddings, skeletons dining, skeletons at school and skeletons dancing around in graveyards. The 'Day' arrives every year on November 1st - after Hallowe'en and before the traditional Election Day.

A couple of things are becoming very apparent to me but maybe I'm just being weird and you can correct my perception if you like. You see it appears to me that the next President is never pictured or spoken of. We don't know who will be our glorious leader two years from now because they haven't been formally introduced. 'What is she talking about?' you may well ask. Let me briefly explain.

I think Barack Obama's just about done. Like it or not Reverend Wright has done him wrong (it almost looks deliberate) and I don't think there'll be a remarkable recovery. There's a subliminal racism extant in this country that the press enjoys tickling. People are just too damn depressed to get too hopeful anyway and if you look around there's not a lot to be done in the short term. Once the front of the train has hit a brick wall at speed what will happen to the back end is inevitable.

Hillary Clinton is not the last great hope of female emancipation. Her candidacy has no solid roots in firm ground and once she realized she was in the swamp up to her neck the only thing she found to do was to sling mud as far as she or her 'advisors' could pitch. It wasn't far.. only as far as the shoes of her Democratic opponent. Plus, she carries the burden of Bill Clinton's less than exemplary presidential history.

Last, we have John McCain. He won't allow his medical records to be released for review to a friendly press. Cancer, heart attack? Oh yes, but those are relatively common knowledge and although we have no way of knowing his medical prognosis, the man doesn't look well nor does he sound sane.

Nevertheless, I think he'll win the election both because the media refuse to criticize him and his lame ideas and because the Democratic Party just can't get their act together. We don't know who his vice president will be. What we do know is that Dick Cheney has revolutionized the position. So the unknown VP will be the power (Huckabee ?... oh no, please no). That person is likely to inherit the main job sooner or later. That's what I was thinking. Please tell me I'm wrong.

"It's a dead man's party. Who could ask for more? Everybody come and leave your bodies at the door. Leave your bodies and souls at the door. Don't look away. It's only me."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

hot fashion story

There comes a time in every girl's life when the Dr. Scholl's or the genuine Swedish clogs simply don't provide that certain je ne sais qua required for full enjoyment of modern life. Sometimes you just have to ditch the jeans (or the overalls), put on the cute little dress and step out in something fancy. Let the world know when it comes to style that you set the trends and not by buying the season's latest as dictated by Sears or JC Penney.

Living on the east coast clothes were not the problem. Several times a year my friends and I would head to Filene's Basement Store in Boston early on a Saturday morning. They had clothes from all of the most expensive and exclusive stores in the country with the incredible benefit that the minute an item went on sale there it was already marked 50% off.. and there was a little date sticker on each price tag. Every day the price dropped by another 10% so it was easy to buy a lot of very cool clothes for a small amount of money. We'd dive into the chaos of the double deep Basement with the plan to meet at a particular spot some hours later. To give you an idea how big the place was (and may still be) we hardly ever met each other while there. The other weird thing was there were no changing rooms so you had to try things on in the aisles and hope nobody took the clothes you'd arrived in as a particular great bargain. People (well okay, men) would stand up on the balconies just to watch the women shop. The lingerie department was always well observed.

Shoes, cool shoes, were harder to find and percentage wise as expensive then as they are now. Plus, there were no Manalo Blahnik's or Roger Vivier's even if you were crazy enough or had a serious enough foot fetish to consider spending thousands for a pair. Nevertheless, shoes can make us feel beautiful and when you've just bought a little red silk dress for $15 instead of the original $300 asking price, it would be neat to have a pair of shoes to show it off.

In downtown Providence I found 'Adele's' - a store that had been opened in 1932 - and one look in the window was all it took to know I'd found the holy grail of fancy shoedom.

There were some odd things about the store once you went inside, the most noticeable of which was that they appeared to have shoes dating back to when the place first opened. Shelves of shoe boxes stretched to the ceiling and there were shoes on tables, under tables, in cartons, racks and stacks everywhere. There was even a floor above used as a warehouse for the overload. Two nice young men, her nephews, were always pleased to help but there was something funny going on too. You see, tucked away among the shoe boxes, there was a very old lady sitting on a little platform. If you liked a particular shoe (and you could only ever find one of a pair) one of the men would take it over to her and a quiet conversation would ensue. If the woman liked the way you looked or behaved or whatever, then the guy would go off and find the matching shoe. If you wanted to buy a pair another private conference took place about the price. She must have liked me because I bought a collection of antique shoes from the 30's, 40's and 50's for about $2 a pair. Most were Italian made and a few were snakeskin and alligator - platforms, wedges, maryjanes and 3+ inch heels. I was a tall, sexy lady in those shoes.

Wearing our designer dresses, garters, bustiers, seamed stockings and fine shoes we were a party waiting to happen and happen it did. I have this good friend, really good friend, really really good friend I've been living with for a long time and among his many talents is being a musician and song writer. At that time he'd written some new songs and was planning to perform them in front of a genuine audience - on a stage, with lights, with microphones, with a sound system. I mean REALLY.

For a very brief time we were a band - kind of like a reprise of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. We were the Andrews Sisters, Tina Turner and the Lickettes rolled into one tight little group singing backup and playing percussion. Everybody should get to have that much fun at least once.

Like innocent bystanders watching our time go by we witnessed the day when a local cooking school bought up the block in downtown Providence where Adele's store sat. Deals were done and everybody moved out - everybody but Adele who owned her building and refused to sell. So far as the school was concerned plans were far advanced with construction scheduled, students accepted and one little old lady with a shoe store was in the way of progress.

Funny how these things happen but one night the building caught on fire. Nobody was hurt but the building, shoes and all, was gone by the next morning when the fire marshall declared it a total loss. I've always wondered about those two nice young men..