Archive for November, 2005

Oh Canada

29 November 2005

As further evidence of my dorkage, I was watching C-SPAN’s coverage of the Canadian House of Commons last night when the vote of no confidence was passed. Not because I knew it was coming, but because I happened upon it and the proceedings of Canada’s Parliament are infinitely more interesting than those of the US. And then the Government fell.

It’ll be interesting to watch these elections, since they’ll be critical to Canada’s future, but they’ll be taking place over the holidays and in the dead of winter, two major obstacles to voter interest, especially in a place like Canada where winter means a descent into a place where your snot freezes inside your sinuses. Blech.

I’m a little frightened that the Conservative party will win, if not a majority, then a controlling interest in another coalition government, which opens the door to all of Canada’s wondrous advances like universal health coverage and equal access to marriage going straight out the window. Aside from bringing Canada in line with its derogatory image of America Junior, it would also mean that I’d have to set my sights even further afield for my exile from the country when they start hunting down the liberals. It will also be interesting to watch how well Bloc Quebecois does in the election, since a strong showing would both weaken the Liberal Party and advance the Quebecois nationalist agenda.

In other news, is it just me, or did Canada copy their Parliament building from Georgetown’s Healy Hall?

Healy Hall, completed in 1879:

Canadian Parliament, completed 1922:

Bah, those Canadians!

Crónica de una Thanksgiving Anunciada

26 November 2005

They wonder why we drink.

For once, I got started early on my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner, a pumpkin cheesecake with a cranberry glaze. It’s something of an old standby, can be made the night before, and I get better at making it every time. And this time, since I wasn’t running around like a panicky ferret, it came out spectacularly: the dough for the crust was even and smooth, the filling mixed right up and set evenly in the pan, all was well in Chris-world. Then I made the glaze, which contains gelatin to harden it up. It’s supposed to harden within an hour after you pour it on and throw the whole conflagration into the fridge.

It didn’t. Around 2 AM (four hours after putting it in the fridge), I started to panic and poured myself a Manhattan. It helped, and by helped I mean put me to bed. By morning the thing had congealed nicely, so I threw it in an insulated tote along with a few bottles of white wine and we headed off to Orange County around 11. Every year I swear we eat earlier. We used to eat at 5. Last year, it was at 3. This year it was scheduled for 1 (a slow-roasting turkey delayed it till 2 though). If it’s at 11 AM next year I think I’ll need an extra bottle of champagne.

It was gorgeous weather, as usual, although it was a bit hot. It got hot enough that my aunt went to turn on the air conditioner, forgetting that it was broken. It’s been broken since the summer, but in her infinite logic, she has resolved to wait until the dead of winter to get it fixed, reasoning that nobody wants their A/C fixed in January. That may well be, but I’m pretty sure plenty of people want their heaters fixed in January, and since they tend to be the same repairmen (all A/C and heat in California is electric…we don’t have separate gas or oil heaters), I just sighed and took a swig of wine. ::glug glug::

The reluctant turkey finally got up to 165 degrees and the dinner began. There were 12 people at this year’s Thanksgiving, and for once, we were all scattered around the table, when usually all the “kids” are at one end and the “adults” at the other, to facilitate each group bitching at the other. This may have been prompted by my cousin’s baby, which made it impossible to keep up the pretense that we’re all still 6 and drink Martinelli’s sparkling cider and not Veuve Clicquot NV Brut. Said baby is an absolute delight. She never cried once, only pooped once, and eagerly ate anything mushy we pushed in her direction. She was particularly fond of Jell-O, which is nice because it takes the Jell-O onus off of me. You see, I’m picky about my Jello. Some lazy people shortcut the Jell-O making process and throw ice cubes into the mixture to speed up the setting of the gel. When this abhorrent shortcut is used, the last little speck of ice remaining from the cube leaves a hard little nodule in the middle of the Jell-O, so you’re eating Jell-O with a bunch of little hard specks in it, which drives me batty. Ever since I was a child I exasperated my relatives by exposing their slipshod Jell-O making. No one was safe. So still, every time there’s Jell-O in the same ZIP code, I’m asked if it was made with ice. This still happened this year, annoying me into taking another swill from the champagne bottle. ::glug glug::

So I was throttling through my first glass of bubbly and my cousin M was drinking a glass of Riuníte. My mom gets mad at me for bringing champagne when that side of my family thinks Riuníte is the bee’s knees. I admit I love Boone’s Farm and Paul Masson as much as the next wino, but I can’t abide having roasted turkey, real mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, homemade rolls, and 6 dollar fruit punch wine. But, to each their own. So M was on her second half-glass of Riuníte, when her grandma starts in on her. As a side note, Grandma T is a miserable old bat who complains non-stop and probably has a brain tumor, given that she gets vertigo every 3.5 milliseconds. That being said, T announces loudly to the table “Look at Michelle! Drinking wine like there’s no tomorrow! She begged me and begged me to quit smoking, so I did, and she’s over there getting drunk! {Did I mention Riuníte is like 5% alcohol?} I shouldn’t have quit smoking cause she’s not worth it!”

Now, since I’ve been admonished by mom to keep my trap shut in all matters T, I couldn’t say either of the things going through my head, one of which was “She didn’t want you to stop smoking for her, T, she wanted you to stop smoking so you could be healthy. If you’re too selfish to realize that, maybe you should start smoking again,” and the second of which was “If we all make your life so miserable, T, why don’t you made good on your semi-hourly threats to die and then won’t we be sorry?” But I couldn’t, so I poured myself another glass of champagne.

Then mom decided to make fun of Uncle B, which is something of a tradition among mom and her sisters (one of whom is married to B). Now, B is a wonderful familyman, excellent provider, brilliant businessman, and all-around amiable guy. But in terms of common sense, he couldn’t find his way out of an empty room. He has no idea where glasses or silverware are in his kitchen, he has no idea what light switch controls what light, and so forth. So we make fun of this. This time, mom chided his vanity by saying he has a bald spot. That got T (B’s mom) even more mad at our side of the family. Ma tried to backtrack by noting that she’s getting a bald spot too, and hey, Chris has one and he’s only 23! At which point all heads turned to me, as if expecting a bald spot to materalize on my forehead due to the sheer heat of their gaze. I think that one prompted a shotgunning of that newly poured glass. As I was refilling with red Zinfandel, I turned to Michelle and noted, “and they wonder why we drink.”

After dinner, we went upstairs to see Uncle B’s holiday train set and Christmas scenes. They set it up every year in their game room, and it gets quite elaborate, requiring a week or more to build and electrify fully. Ma and cousin M and I were sitting on the couch watching, with our wineglasses in hand. Uncle B wasn’t listening to his wife (Aunt B), and asked her to set up some part of the scene on which she had just delivered an extended lecture on how she was going to put it up last. She threw him a withering glance and snapped a salute, a rare show of ire from the Stepford Wife (which is why she had a heart attack at 47). Ma and I exchanged knowing looks of “trouble in paradise”, and had another slug.

From this small sample of anecdotes, you can see why it’s entirely necessary to bring four bottles of wine to a family function at which only four people drink. It’s all about bottling up the feelings that they might explode in some inappropriate manner ten years down the line. Despite how this may seem, I really do love my family. It’s just a love that deepens with vine-ripened ethanol.

Bliggity Bloggity Bloo

23 November 2005

Running on 3 hours sleep. Just baked cheesecake for tomorrow’s eatfest. Enjoy.

The result looked like some weird combination of dismemberment and a circumscion clinic run amuck.

She wouldn’t have known who everybody was talking about, either, but at least she would have convinced the listening audience she was drunk and topless.

“Sesame Street” is not the type of show that would discuss the private bedroom activities of its characters, although you know that when Bert and Ernie aren’t on camera they are living out chapters one through five of R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet.”

It is true, however, that my intake is less frequent and less copious nowadays, as long as you keep in mind that one woman’s “less” is another woman’s “pre-rehab-Metallica Party Bus.”

I hope he isn’t embarrassed that he’s been identified as a mollusc porn provider

But it turns out that when you have ass blood it kind of moves you to the head of the line.

RENT: The Movie

23 November 2005

Get thee to the cineplex and see RENT. I caught the 12:01 AM showing at the Arclight in Hollywood, and it is abso-bloody-fucking-lutely brilliant. Yeah, they cut some of the play, but Jonathan Larson’s vision is still entirely intact. This bitch doesn’t cry ever, let alone at movies, but at Maureen’s “You were wrong, baby; we’re the lucky ones”, well….just see the movie already.

Oddly, the Fraternity Lodge tie, custom created for Fraternity Lodge and available to no one else, was on the evil landlord at the protest and the Life Café. I’m gonna hafta figure out how that one happened.

No day but today.

Poking my head up…

21 November 2005

…to say that Praise Jesus! My syntax term paper is written! Now I can have Thanksgiving in (drunken) peace. If you watch Gray’s Anatomy, I’m Sandra Oh’s character, hunting down the liquor with reckless abandon at all family holidays. It keeps me from opening my socialist mouth in Red Orange County. I’m gonna go pour myself a Dancing Team (Jack & Ginger [ale]). Perhaps I’ll post again later.

Doug to the rescue…

9 November 2005

Once again, Doug sums up the problem nicely: “I live in a cornfield, science scares me!!” Hopefully you realize Doug isn’t criticizing farmers.

Res’ comment below nicely sums up how the Dems can, uh, get their asses in gear: “offer a way out of this quagmire of declining wages, outsourcing jobs, and slumping standards of living that the GOP and the so-called New Democrats have dug us into.” (Although, jiminy, based on Adorable Girlfriend’s description of his weekends, I’m considering boiling that comment and burning it in alcohol for my own protection.) And you know, it wouldn’t be that hard, either. “We’re the party that doesn’t hate you!” would be a nice starter slogan. “You might pay more in taxes, but at least you’ll have an income to pay them with!” would be another. As it is, we’re struggling to play fair, which obviously isn’t the way to go in modern politics, as evidenced by today’s big oil testimony on the Hill. The Dems wanted to, you know, swear the boys in so they didn’t have free reign to blow smoke up the nation’s collective ass. Sen Stevens (from Alaska, one of the biggest oil producers in the world, natch) wouldn’t even entertain the notion. In my view, the proper course of action wasn’t to sit down and shut up like the Dems did, it would have been to go on C-SPAN and scream from the mountaintops, but hey, we must be nice. Senator Reid did something similar to that when he put the Senate in secret mode, thus alerting to all and sundry that something wasn’t right. And it worked! Lo and behold! The killing light of day!

Anywho. Moral of the story: they don’t call it populism for nothing. God bless Molly Ivins. Although usually I can’t read her columns, since they’re printed right below Ann Coulter’s and by the time I finish hers I can’t see straight.

In other news, my pinko side came out again today in school. I took a survey the sociolinguistics course put out about last names and how they should/n’t change after marriage and what the kids’ names should be. To the question “Did you/do you plan to change your name once you marry?”, most people whose surveys I saw responded “Yes, because it’s traditional,” or “No, because I like my name.” My response: “No, because I don’t believe in subverting identity for the benefit of the patriarchy.” I love widening the eyes of prim and proper international students.

In the seminar on language contact, we were discussing the studies of creole languages and one of the discussion tangents went onto how notions of inferior language (as Creoles were held to be until the last 20 years or so) were used to justify denying signed languages recognition as actual languages. I had a little “a dim bulb brightens” moment then, realizing the different way progressives and reactionaries see evidence: progressives formulate hypotheses based on the data. Reactionaries find data to fit their preconceived hypotheses. Damn the man, indeed. I also exasperated the interpreter by making her fingerspell “disestablishmentarianism.” Hee hee. I must be hell to interpret, since I speak mostly in figures of speech, hyperbole for effect, and I use unneccessarily long words. Not deliberately, mind you. Just happens.

Lordy, I cannot wait for this weekend. I can feel my brain’s fuses hissing already, and it’s only Wednesday.

The Votes Are In

9 November 2005

And it seems we may be seeing the creeping end of the GOP hegemony in the United States.

Arnold had his ass handed to him on a platter. Any newspaper bold enough to use eight “no”s as a headline with reference to the Governator is a-okay in my book. Some of these were nail-biters, especially Prop 73, which would have established a notification requirement for minors seeking abortions. For a while, Prop 73 was passing, as were some of Arnie’s juvenile bits of legislation. But, as it turned out, all turned out as it should. Granted, I wish 79 and 80 would have passed, but their defeat is a rather small price to pay for the other six going to pot.

The Democratic revolution is also being seeded in New Jersey and Virginia. Although in both states the incumbent Governor is a Democrat, the victory of moderate and even a smidge progressive policy is a good omen for the Dems, especially in Virginia. I mean, Senator Corzine has more money than the Treasury does, so it wasn’t altogether surprising that he won the election. But Virginia is one of the redder of the red states. Not quite a Utah or Wyoming, but still much redder than anyone should have the right to be. Being the old capital of the Confederacy and still the border between North and South, the old Southern prejudices run strong in Virginia. This is a state that passed a law that (according to the strict constructionalism advocated by the Religious Wrong) bars gays from entering into any contract. Like Texas’ gay marriage ban that unwittingly outlawed any form of marriage, gay or straight, it’s unlikely that it will be read that way since, you know, Republicans are hypocrites. Strict constructionalism when it serves our hateful agenda, loosey goosey when we’re so retarded we can’t even amend our Constitution properly.

Case in point, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Republicans are for small government and keeping the government’s hands out of state/local issues, right? Right. But then, there’s DCA Airport. After Reagan left office, the Religious Wrong held a circle jerk in his honor and renamed Washington National Airport, just over the river from the Capitol in Virginia, in Ronnie’s name. Now, since there’s a Metro stop at the airport, it became necessary to replace all Metro signage in that stop and every Metro map systemwide to reflect that name change, to the tune of quite a few bucks. Normally, Metro signange is replaced every few years, and all updates are done at once, unless the local governmental authority requests a special change. Arlington County, not exactly a White Republican stronghold, didn’t request such a change. But the GOP-led Congress, affronted by this display of fiscal responsibility, threatened to de-fund the entire Metro (Congress holds the DC purse strings) unless the change was made NOW. Being a pragmatic bunch, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority acquiesced. So, once again, the GOP says “We’re all for what we say we’re for, except when it becomes an obstacle to the progress of our asshattery.”

But getting back to the Texas sitchyation. In contrast to the rest of the country’s remarkable display of functioning synapses, Texas voted to outlaw all marriage, and a town named White Settlement (named because a bunch of white folk moved into an Indian area) overwhelmingly rejected a name change to something, you know, not unbelievably racist. Res over at The Republic has an excellent post on why we shouldn’t simply dismiss Texas as a bunch of asshats with the occasional normal thrown in. I agree with his assertion that Texas’ politics has as much to do with Democrats abandoning the state and not suggesting any worthwhile alternatives to the GOP asshattery as it does with the GOP asshattery itself.

I do, however, have to add a couple of cents of my own to the politics of the South. As Res notes, up until 1979 Texas hadn’t had a GOP Govna since the end of the Civil War. However, 1979 also coincides with the completion of the frame shift of the two major political parties. Beginning with the Civil Rights Movement (or the Depression, if we want to include the New Deal), the Democrats moved away from being the party of the South, keeping the old ways intact come hell or high water, and moved toward being the party of inclusiveness and rationalism. This movement came to a peak with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which, as LBJ presciently noted, lost the South for the Dems for a good long while. At the same time, the Republican Party (neither Republican nor a Party; discuss) moved away from its roots as the party that freed the slaves and campaigned for social justice to the mouthpiece of the Religious Right that it is today. So we might not see Texas’ long prior record of Democratic governance as a sign of changing political attitudes of the people, but rather a change in the political attitudes of the political machine, resulting in the people casting their lots with the new party that now holds their same old beliefs.

When you get right down to it, the political and policy attitudes of the South/Midwest haven’t changed much in the last 140 years. Granted, black people got that last 2/5 of personhood accorded to them, but that and just about any other advance from 18th-century attitudes was forced upon them, begrudgingly. I’m aware of the straw-man bent of this argument. After all, there are wonderful people who live in the South and Texas and other Red strongholds, like Res and Twisty and Gwen and Ann Richards. But there are also millions more outnumbering them, so that To Kill a Mockingbird could just as easily take place today as it could have in Harper Lee’s heyday. If we needed any more proof of the intolerance of rationalism, we need look no further than the latest example of idiocy handed down in Kansas. Nothing like a schoolboard rewriting the definition of science to fit their wild hallucinations. Jesus H. Christ.

Note that I don’t think this is the exclusive provenance of the South or the flyover statesMidwest. As Jonathan Kozol points out in his new book The Shame of the Nation, Northerners and Westerners are perfectly content to keep their head in the sand as segregation reemerges and opportunities once at the hand of minorities are swept away once again. But, I think the dominant, hegemonic culture extant in the Bible Belt/Confederacy goes a tad beyond that, to active support of blatant hatred, discrimination and the remarkably Tom Cruise-like denial of reality. And this isn’t the fault of the political parties. This is the result of the normative culture that continues to be handed down in these areas. It is slowly changing, as it must, but for the time being, it’s still a dangerously ignorant culture we’re dealing with. In the immediate term, we must focus on political strategy if we want this country to avoid the fate of the Roman Empire. But in the long run, we must focus on the culture, on education (and intelligent design doesn’t fit the bill), on spreading the “disease” of critical analysis to these groups if we hope to accomplish anything meaningful for our society.

Recipe Corner

6 November 2005

Ma’s on a business trip, leaving me with the run of the house and the responsibility for feeding myself. So that I have some food pre-made when I come home from class late at night this week, I’m making chili. Amy used to make this recipe for us at GU. It’s delicious, and has the added bonus of being vegetarian, so you PETA or healthy types can have ear-melting chili too. In a spirit of spreading the love, here’s the recipe.

NB: As a convention, when talking about hot peppers I spell it “chile”, as is done in Spanish. When speaking of the stew-like concotion that includes beans, sometimes meat, and lotsa other ingredients, I use “chili”.

Amy’s Vegetarian Chili

2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion (big white or 2 medium yellow), diced
12 oz boca fakeburger or equivalent
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 15.5 oz cans beans (habichuelas, great northern beans, etc), rinsed
1 medium tomato, diced (optional)
2 bell peppers, deseeded and diced
1-2 jalapeños and serranos, each, diced (optional if you’re a wimp)
1 Anaheim chile (long, fat green pepper), diced (seeds removed if you’re a wimp)

Coat the bottom of a large saucepan with olive oil. Sauté the garlic and onion together over medium heat until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the bocaburger, about 1 tablespoon more oil and stir to distribute. Add crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Rinse and add beans and tomato (if using). Add bell peppers and chiles. Stir all together to combine. Add whatever spices you find and/or feel are appropriate, typically chile powder and cumin, but I find ground chipotle, cayenne pepper and a hint of allspice also go nicely. Simmer over low heat until it smells so good you can’t stand it, and serve, possibly with shredded cheese on top. Shredded cheese would destroy the vegan-ness of the recipe, though.

I cremated those little sonsabitches

2 November 2005

Ask anyone who knows me well, they’ll tell you. I don’t hate many creepy crawly things. The exceptions I can think of are cockroaches and crickets, cause those little critters are big enough to have a noticeable weight and sturdy enough to make a nauseating crunch underfoot when you send them to the RAID Motel In The Sky. Spiders I generally don’t mind, because they eat other annoying little buggers. But the one spider I will not abide on my property is a black widow. And tonight, two of them declared war on me.

Thursdays are trash days, which usually means late Wednesday I can be found swearing at the trash cans as I endeavour to fill them up and put them out in the alley. Tonight was no exception. But as I prepared to pass the garden (from left to right, you have the garage, a path, the garden, a path, and a tool shed, so you have to walk along the narrow paths to get to the trash cans and alley), something told me to bring a flashlight and look for spiders. Cause I hate walking into spider webs and then for the next hour jumping in fright whenever anything brushes your skin, anticipating the cool burn of a black widow bite. So I did, and I found a little spider web low to the ground on the left side of the garden. No problem, I thought, I’ll just go around the other side and kill this one later. As I went around the right side, I came face to face with an enormous black window finishing up a wrap job on a fly caught in its net, which was about two feet wide and centered at eye level. Now that pissed me off, so I retreated to the house to ponder my plan of attack.

First, I thought I’d just spray them with alcohol and torch them. Turns out webs and spiders don’t absorb enough alcohol to become flammable.

Then I dug around the junk drawer and found my old Fisher Price Baby’s First Blowtorch (a little mini blowtorch, not much more than a nozzle and a small tank, about the size of a Sharpie). But, time had corroded the seals, and when I filled and lit it, little flames escaped from the valve and I was suddenly conscious that I was holding a tank full of compressed, explosive butane, so I threw it in the pool and let it bubble itself out. Hunk of crap.

By then I was really pissed, because these little shits were keeping me from my nightly beat off watching Family Guy, so I decided they couldn’t just be killed; I had to make an example of them for any other critters that may dare to venture into my backyard. I finally caught each under a glass with cardboard, and assembled the makings of a full buddhist cremation. I found a pottery shard big enough to hold them both, doused it and the concrete slab I put it on with alcohol. Then I dropped the little 8-legged freaks onto the pottery shard, and tossed on a match.

My intellect knows that the sound I heard was of liquids boiling and escaping as a gas from their bodies, but my animal brain insisted the arachnids were screaming. I did a little dance as they shriveled and blackened, and eventually became one with the pottery shard.

Satisfied in demonstrating my masculine abilities to any surrounding females of the species, I took out the trash and went on my merry way.