Monday, November 24, 2008


OMG, there he is, it's EDWARD CULLEN!!!!!! He's SOOO dreamy! I just have to scream in the middle of this crowded movie theatre! OMG, new scene and there he is again! More screaming! I just can't take it! Oh Edward, walk out of the screen and come to me! All the other girls in my 8th grade class don't understand you, but I do!!! OMG!!!!

So... I went to see Twilight on Friday night. Let me tell you, watching a teen vampire movie on opening night in a theatre in which almost every other seat is filled by 13 year old girls ramped up on Pepsi, Milk Duds, and burgeoning endocrine systems is an experience like no other. I think I may have permanently lost some of the high range of my hearing.

I went with my friends T, E, and R. We were pretty much the only ones in the theatre over the age of 30. Well, we were pretty much the only ones in the theatre over the age of 14. So while the rest of the audience was screeching, I was thinking about Freud's theories of motivation and how that relates to why vampire stories are so compelling. According to Freud, eros and thanatos drive us in varying proportions through everything we do. But thanatos (death instinct) is terrifying. Vampire stories work, perhaps, because they remove some of the edge from thanatos (vampires can't die), and translate it to something else (they are compelled to kill). They are foreign creatures because they are removed from human frailty by immortality, but they are familiar and romantic because they are still driven by eros.

Or, you know, whatever.

I really liked the movie, but it probably wouldn't grab the attention of anyone who isn't at least partially enthralled by teen melodrama and the undead. I really want to read the books now. I'll have to see if the library has them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Russian Science

Every time I think I've run out of things to write about, some idiotic new idea pops into my head.

I was reading an article in the New York Times this morning about the possibility of creating a wooly mammoth. Technically, it's not cloning because the proposed technique wouldn't use extracted mammoth DNA; rather, it would compare the extracted mammoth DNA to the DNA in the egg of an African elephant, and change the elephant DNA to match the mammoth's. Anyway, the article mentioned that there have been Russian attempts over the years to get well preserved mammoth eggs to gestate, but they've failed because the eggs weren't viable.

This got me thinking. How did the Russian scientists not realize that eggs that had been frozen for ten thousand years were no longer viable? I don't think it would even occur to an American geneticist to try such a long shot experiment. Can you imagine standing in front of a funding board and asking for money to thaw out some mammoth gonads and see if they'll still produce furry baby elephants? You'd never ever get funding for that in this country. People would think you were insane. I think these Russian attempts must have taken place during the Soviet era, when there was enough bureaucracy that wild little projects could be buried in other proposals and rubber stamped.

This also brought to mind stories I've heard of the Russian space program in the 60's; big dreams, crazy schemes, somewhat (i.e., rather) lax safety protocols. I have to admit, I sort of admire that "well, it does sound crazy, but let's just try it and see what happens" mindset. Is this characteristic of Russian culture? I wonder.

Also, the idea of mammoths being brought back, of herds of pachyderms wandering the Russian steppe and the North American prairies, is just awesome.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The legend lives on

Perhaps of limited interest to the readers of this blog, today is the 33rd anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I won't go into details here. The wikipedia entry is quite a good summary. I usually mark the day by thinking about nautical disasters in general, and my father, because this is one of his favourite songs. I still haven't contacted him. I still need to contact him.

I don't know what it is that makes nautical disasters so compelling for me. I think of a line by Dar Williams: "I thought the ocean; the ocean thought nothing." Maybe it's because despite the incredible human ability to anthropomorphize and personify almost everything in our environment, the ocean resists, absolutely. It is not kind, it is not cruel; it just is.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yes We Did

I've been composing this in my mind since Wednesday, but I wanted to wait a few days for the exhilaration to die down before posting. I went to bed on Tuesday night before any of the networks had made an official prediction of the election winner. It looked promising, but I'd thought so in 2004 too. Also in 2000. So, with Amy Ray's sage advice ("Don't assume anything") thundering across my synapses, I dropped off to sleep with hope, tremendous hope, but also tremendous trepidation. I thought it would be best if I got a good night's sleep before steeling myself up to find out who won, and who lost.

Well, fate had other plans for me. Rather, my friend [J] had other plans. He drunk text messaged me at 1:20am with the following: "Fuck yes. Obama." Then he drunk dialed me 30 minutes later and left a wonderfully rambling message about love, change, and the promise of a new future. I really wish I'd saved it. I would totally turn it into an MP3 and post it if I had.

For the most part, I'm quite jaded about politics, and I usually end up pulling down the lever for the candidate I think has the least capacity to harm her or his constituents. Triage voting. This time was different. It marked the first time I'd voted for a winning presidential candidate, for one thing. In 2004, I voted for Kerry; 2000, Nader (whoops!); 1996, I wrote in a vote for Colin Powell. So I guess I've always been an idealist. Obama is almost too good to be true, even by my idealistic standards. That speech he gave on race last spring? When the GOP was slinging about all that nonsense about Reverend Wright, like a passel of angry monkeys slinging their own shit? His speech was amazing. It brought tears to my eyes then, and it still does when I think about it. I was already an Obama supporter when I watched it, but that was the point at which I realized that he was the real thing; not just play acting the role. He didn't mince his words. He didn't go on the attack, and he didn't pull punches. He said more in 30 minutes than any other leader has on that topic in decades. Look it up on YouTube and be amazed.

After the third debate, one of my yoga teachers talked about the two candidates as "warriors." One, angry, bitter, ready to attack, unable to reign in his animosity. The other, cool, calm, reserved, letting groundless accusations and false statements slide off of him like water off a duck's back. Words by Rudyard Kipling return to me now: "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools..." He bore it. He bore it and smiled. Another teacher, in Wednesday night's class, described Obama as a yogi. I don't know if he's ever been on a mat, but truer words were never spoken. As I've written elsewhere, in advanced yoga practice, the mat disappears.

Which brings me to Wednesday. Wednesday was amazing. In the morning, I watched Obama's gracious acceptance speech, and again was moved to tears. Everyone I know, everyone I ran into, was equal parts relieved and ecstatic. Wednesday night's yoga class was incredible. There were other factors involved, I know, but I was amazed at how much more open my body was than even the day before. My old practice, the practice I'd been accustomed to prior to slacking off last summer, was finally back. It's astonishing to me how much tension I was carrying in my body in the weeks leading up to the election. Do you remember the scene at the end of Return of the Jedi when the Death Star has been destroyed and the Ewoks are beating out a victory song using the stormtroopers' helmets as drums? Wednesday felt like that. Relief. Ecstasy. Release.

I will remember Wednesday as the day that I realized we'd turned "Yes We Can" into "Yes We Did." Congratulations, President Elect Obama. Congratulations to all of us, really. We've waited a long time for someone of this caliber to be elected.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Personal update

Apologies for the sub-par video quality.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sticky Squirrel

So, about six months ago, my brother in law and I were in his kitchen, cooking, and as often is the case in such situations, I was waxing philosophical (read: ridiculous). My particular rant that day was the lamentable lack of a national drink of Canada. From his vast well of knowledge, [T] offered me some simple guidelines on how to design a mixed drink, and I set myself to the task immediately. In short order, I had devised the Sticky Squirrel (the original name I gave to the drink referred not to the ubiquitous gray rodent but rather to the national animal of Canada - my finely honed sense of discretion forced me to rebaptize the drink with a less suggestive appellation.):

Alcohol: Canadian whiskey (2 oz)
Sweet: Maple syrup (1/2 oz)
Bitter: Acorns (3 or 4) (here's where my creative insanity really came into its own)
Shake like mad, and pour over rocks. Add some Canada Dry to dilute it a bit. Optionally, garnish with some pine needles.

Well, last night as part of my birthday celebrations, we finally did a trial run. I was expecting it to be thoroughly undrinkable. I was expecting that the hours I had spent earlier in the day first collecting acorns out on the mud flats of the Wallkill and then shelling them and processing them through many changes of boiling water would be all for naught. But much to my surprise and delight, my reaction after the first sip was, "Oh, that's quite good!" So let it be known that Canada now has a contender for a national drink, invented by an admiring foreigner, which seems somehow appropriate to me.

I wonder if it would be in bad taste for me to nominate myself for the Order of Canada?