Today’s paper

The Professor thinks I’m hilarious.

She says I should tweet. Others would enjoy what I have to say, she tells me. I set up an account, but having all that random stuff streaming towards me was overwhelming, so I quit looking. I am perhaps becoming a curmudgeon? Besides. She gets the benefit of all my odd and witty thoughts, and she’s the one I really want to entertain. Most mornings, we read the Seattle Times in print. I provide a running commentary, because I think out loud. Who knows what the Professor thinks most of the time; she’s an introvert. But without further ado, today’s paper. (Doesn’t it make you a little nervous that nothing is done with further ado? I feel like I’m missing some ado.)

Have you seen the Pumpkinstein? Awesome! The Whole Foods reference later in the linked NYT story is somehow disquieting, though. The hippie co-op movement of the ’70s—the one that aimed to bring power over their food to the people—offered visions of reasonably priced basic foods, like TVP in bulk bins, scooped out by women smelling of patchouli. Somehow, over time, the commercial descendants of this effort grew to offer the overpriced to the upper class, as well as the opportunity for those who can afford it to feel like their food is holier than Safeway. Different post. And I do like the salad bar. Oh right. Pumpkinstein.

“Ask Amy” is so much better than when she first started. I think she’s growing in wisdom, perhaps from all the flack she got from her horrible answers early on. I was also pleased to discover that she’s very funny and clever as a panelist on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Marie Osmond turns 55 today. Over the years, do you think that she’s come down on one side or the other? Everyone grows and changes over time. I wonder if by now she has decided that she’s just a little bit more one than the other—country or rock ‘n’ roll.

Jimmy Carter’s grandson is running for governor of Georgia—or actually, as the typo in our print version would have it—”George governor”. President Carter recently spoke on his behalf at a black church in Albany, where he apparently said that that they should vote for Jason Carter to help his grandson “make Martin Luther King’s dream come true.” Um….OK. I have no context for the remark, but I’m thinking that MLK’s dream might have included, rather, a black governor of Georgia. Still, if you have to pick, you wanna go with the candidate in favor of expanding voting rights.

Some guys in Mogadishu blew up a café, killing 11 and wounding 8. It is suspected that this is the handiwork of a group who is avenging the death of their leader, killed in September in a U.S. airstrike. So…were there Americans at the café? Was that the point? I’m having a hard time seeing the connection. Regardless of that, is he avenged now? Is 11 good enough? I am pissed at my neighbor whose dog pooped on my lawn. I’m going to go bomb the pound.¹

They couldn’t be out : Ike Jones, an African American film producer from the ’60s, passed away at 84. He was married to a Swedish-born actress, and they had to keep the marriage secret. The interracial closet. The two issues have so much in common.

OMG, doesn’t Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman look in this picture like a blonde version of Frasier Crane’s evil agent Bebe Glazer?? (She was such an enormous presence. I can’t believe Bebe was in only 11 of the 263 episodes.)

There were two pictures of female CEO’s on the business page today. The other was Yahoo exec Marissa Mayer. I think this means women have equality now. Kinda like a black president proves we have racial equality! Do you think Whitman and Mayer got where they are with good karma?

And that’s how it is at my house in the morning.

1 Disclaimer. This statement is to be interpreted only as sarcastically demonstrative. We don’t have a lawn. We have native landscaping. I also don’t have a bomb, and I don’t plan to use the one I don’t have for anything, either. Recently I was dropping The Professor off at the airport. I told her she was the bomb. Reply: “Don’t say bomb at the airport!” Fortunately, there were no TSA agents in earshot.

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Memory Lane

I am watching that episode of Cheers where Diane meets Frasier’s mother. And Mom is not in Seattle, and she is not married to Marty, and she is not dead. My head is about to explode. Ironically, this is also the episode where Norm gets hit in the head with a champagne cork, and his head almost explodes! I feel one with the universe.

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TV and shame

Are you sometimes ashamed of the guilty pleasures you watch on TV, or at least how much time you spend at it? Do you feel that watching TV is a guilty pleasure in itself? Or maybe you fall into the camp that feels slightly (or greatly?) superior because you have no TV, or at least no regular TV watching habit.

I watch plenty of TV. Sometimes way more than you’d think, for a clearly busy intellectual like me (CBILM). It’s 99.5% on Netflix, because I hate commercials. While I’ve often worked through many seasons of a show I never watched but always wondered about (Grey’s Anatomy, Brother & Sisters, How I Met Your Mother), I’m currently working on Futurama, Forensic Files and Glee, all of which I’ve seen almost every episode of before. I also like documentaries, mostly about historical or archaeological topics, and sometimes educational stuff like Ted talks. But I’m certainly given as well to junky TV like American Idol, or The Glades, a lazily formulaic yet strangely compelling (even to a CBILM) detective show set in Florida. The protagonist’s investigative technique consists mainly of pushing things around in the dirt with a golf club, having hunches, and going around accusing different people of the weekly murder based on some hunch, until someone fesses up. He’s hot though. The actor, Matt Passmore, is Australian, and he has that swagger. You know—that Aussie one. It’s like the Texas swagger, minus the parts that make you want to throw up (gun rack, misogyny, tea party politics). In any case, ask me about my viewing list in two months and the titles on it will be totally different.

Friday I attended a production of The Invisible Hand at Seattle’s excellent ACT Theatre. [Note: I attend almost all their productions. Check out the ACTPass! Best entertainment value in the city.] Written by playwright Ayad Akhtar, the show is described thusly on ACT’s website: “When Nick, an American financial guru is captured and held by a militant Islamic organization in Pakistan, he is forced to raise his own 10 million dollar ransom. In his desperate quest to gain his freedom, he warms to the task, as does his captor and avid student, Bashir, with terrifying results. An important new voice in the American Theatre, Ayad Akhtar delivers a chilling examination of personal and political responsibility, and the shifting sands of the global power structure.”

Now that sounds more like the sort of entertainment a CBILM would spend time on, doesn’t it? Still, if you’re buying into that idea, I’d like to refer you to this excellent short essay I saw there in Encore, the arts magazine with the program in it that they hand out before the play—the one that gives you a little something to do so you can avoid chatting with unknown seatmates until the curtain goes up. So please, please, go read Lauren Hoffman’s piece, “On TV and Shame.”

Really, go read it.

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Ding dong, bullshit calling

A few days ago, the Professor went out to get the paper in the morning, and she found in a little bag on our driveway not one but two! Avon catalogs. One says it is Campaign 18, and the other, Campaign 20. I start out right away feeling a little slighted, wondering what I might have missed had I not been deprived of Campaign 19. After a moment’s thought, I jump right to Campaign 20, assuming that, as in all of American commerce and marketing, things are continually improving over there at Avon, and that therefore anything 20 must be a couple of orders of magnitude better than anything 18.

Avon has apparently changed a LOT since I last knew anything about it, which I’m pretty sure was when I was in high school and my mom was buying Skin So Soft for bug repellent. In addition to cosmetics, they have kids’ stuff (pumpkin trick or treat bag), seasonal stuff (pumpkin spice lip balm), kitchen stuff (pumpkin-shaped cappuccino foam stencils), home décor stuff (whipped pumpkin scent candles), bras (for pumpkin-sized boobs, just kidding), and a variety of other clothes and jewelry. One of the lines of jewelry raises money for their anti-domestic violence initiative, so kudos there.

The catalog gave a lot of food for thought. For example, Clearskin Professional Liquid Extraction Strip goes on as a liquid and peels off dry. It “strips away pore-clogging dirt & oil INSTANTLY!“—except that the fine print reveals that it takes 20 minutes to dry. In what universe is 20 minutes “instantly”? C’mon, Avon, we live in a world where Google is concerned about a 100 millisecond delay in results return time! Also, the extraction strip’s instructions say to use it “around nose, forehead, T-zone and chin.” Last I heard, the T-zone was composed of the forehead, nose and chin. Does this mean I am supposed to apply it twice everywhere? (BTW, the Professor had never heard of the T-zone. She’s so butch.)

The products aimed at middle agers are the most fun, though, if you are in our kitchen on a Saturday morning and laughing at an Avon catalog. (You’d be surprised what passes for laughs around here.) ALL-IN-ONE DAY MOISTURIZER IMPROVES the appearance of (the typesetters are given toward caps and bold, you will have noticed, followed here by this bullet point list): • fine lines & wrinkles • loss of youthful texture • dry skin • loss of resilience • large pores.

First of all, given its name, do you have to use the entire 1.7 oz., airless pump bottle of youth restoring multi-purpose lotion, all in one day? That seems like a lot. You’d be surprised how much even an ounce is if you’re putting it on your face. And besides, if a product improves the appearance of things like wrinkles or large pores, doesn’t that seem like it would be making them bigger?

Perhaps you’d be interested in the Anew Clinical line’s Absolute Even Dark Circle Corrector. You will “see dark circles virtually VANISH.” With its “SHADOW ERASE COMPLEX and Self-Adjusting Sheer Optics, EYES LOOK INSTANTLY BRIGHTER.” A helpful illustration demonstrates the clinically shown 31% IMPROVEMENT “in the look of under-eye dark circles over time.” (Self-Adjusting Sheer Optics—what the hell does that mean?)

The Anew line reduces the look of all kinds of things. Anew Ultimate reduces the look of under-eye bags. Anew Platinum reduces the look of a sagging jawline. Anew Genics (the MULTITASKING miracle collection that DOES IT ALL) reduces the look of wrinkles, age spots and discolorations.

In case you are too thick to have picked up from the above what it is you should be concerned about, there is a helpful AVON SkinCare centerfold that lays it out for you by age group, with, of course, the corresponding “products that address your concern.” 40+, your concern: fine lines and wrinkles; 50+, your concern: loss of firmness and deep wrinkles; 60+, your concern: sagging skin and loss of definition. I’m guessing here that after 70, you are beyond Avon’s help.

Of course, women don’t need a catalog thrown on the driveway to tell us we should be suffering from angst due to sagging and wrinkles. The message that aging is ugly has come toward us from every conceivable direction for as long as we can remember.

About five years ago, I remember looking in the mirror and suddenly realizing that I just looked like sort of a different person than I was used to seeing. I thought to myself, “Oh. I’m beginning to see what my old lady face will look like.” Isn’t that nice that I live in a culture where I can pretty much assume that I’m going to get to be an old lady? I obsess about many things, but I’m fortunate that this isn’t one I spend much energy on.

Afterword: If you are interested in the pumpkin spice lip balm or any other product mentioned here, please message me privately so I can direct you to the distributor whose name is on the catalog. She deserves the business after providing us with such a wealth of humor.

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A title meant to be ambiguous, or, Marian’s Curse

Librarians. 90% of the time, when we disclose our profession, the response is, “Oh! So you know the Dewey Decimal System.”

Well, no. Like many librarians, I don’t know the Dewey Decimal System, beyond knowing it places topics into a numerical scheme so that items on similar subjects are in physical proximity to each other. That is what all classification systems do. Or most. Some classify via issuing agency regardless of subject matter (like government documents), or strictly chronologically (item #2 on the shelf was issued/received right after item #1, etc.) There are other schemes. In all cases now, a computer helps us find what we need within them.

What librarians have, outside of some of those who do cataloging full time, is not memorization of the details of a system, but the ability to assess a body of information and figure out how best to help users find the information they need.

If you think that what librarians do is look for books in the stacks, guided by their superior Dewey knowledge, no wonder you think the profession must be dying—another comment heard in the “So you’re a librarian” conversation. If what you think librarians do is select, organize, teach about, and advocate for robust, unfettered, and uncensored access to an ever morphing type and amount of information, then you will understand that they are doing now the same thing they’ve been doing for over a century.

So try THIS system!

I am reading Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, a title I found on a list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. The book is a head trip, and I recommend it if you like incredibly self-referential, Escherian novels–if not, best stay away. Calvino lists (or you list, depending on one’s interpretation) the following sections of a bookstore that he/you visit(s). I am tempted to reorganize my goodreads shelves in this way:
Books You Haven’t Read
Books You Needn’t Read
Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading
Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written
Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered
Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback
Books You Can Borrow From Somebody
Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You’ve Read Them, Too
Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages
Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success
Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment
Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case
Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer
Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves
Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread
Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them

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