Posted on September 27th, 2015

Today’s reading was about campfires, how we stay close to our campfires, and how their light blinds us to the world beyond.
My little voice whispered, wolves.


Salt & Spray

Posted on April 7th, 2015

These days, when I look at pictures of myself, I see age etched upon it, which I don’t think I mind very much. And, maybe I’m not pretty after all, but actually sort of funny looking, what with the thin, thin lips and the funny nose? It only makes me laugh. It’s interesting to see myself weather.

My 16 year-old self would look upon me now and think she was destined to be a badass. I know this because I actually spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d be like when I grew up. I remember thinking about the idea of being nomadic and independent back then, like, “wicked cool…” which I suppose would comfort me more if my 16 year-old self wasn’t such an idiot.

* * *

I’ve done a good job these last years in gathering around people who care about me and about whom I care deeply. It’s gotten to the point where they have a vested interest in whether I am always cheerful, as though… well, as though they’ve a right to it. It’s certainly more manageable when my mood is no one’s concern but my own. But too much independence is hard on the soul, so what is one to do? Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to master the balance of taking as much as one gives, and I am a terrible liar, and I get tired. I withdraw or fall apart. I stop being cheerful. How I wish that wasn’t the case! People. But they care and fuss, and I am grateful about it.

I suppose the situation would be comical, if it didn’t pain me so much to watch unfold. Should they leave me alone? Heavens no, how heartless. Should they smother me with well-wishes? Dear God, please get off me. Should they worry about me until they themselves are miserable and then get upset with me for upsetting them by being upset? Ha, I haven’t the slightest idea. I have watched people fumble it all. I try, too. I’ve fake laughed my way through months of overstrain at a time, I’ve given myself timeouts when needed. I have, throughout, resisted the idea that people are just doomed to play out certain dynamics, because to admit that would be to admit a lot of cynical and heartless suspicions about human nature. No, better to simply try a new approach, again, and again. Try again.

So I am going to try again. I am just. I am going to try again. And it will be fine. It has never once been fine, not ever, not even once has it been fine, but this time it will be fine. Because if there’s one thing that my years in hiding have taught me, it’s that I can define some boundaries. I can protect me, enough to allow a certain amount of exposure. See if there isn’t a way. So sure, ok. I can try again. I can do better. Here we go.

Anyway, that is the difference between a 16 year-old’s version of “badass” and a 44 year-old’s version, right there. You want to talk about me and my awesome, you got to start with that.


The libelous display

Posted on April 7th, 2013

Considering how much intervention is required to germinate seeds at home, it’s a wonder that the earth manages every spring. One would think, looking out over the yard at high summer, that the work required to create life would entail some good soil, and a nice window, and that’s about it. But one would be quite wrong.

Seeding takes place eight weeks before the last killing frost, — as though I have the ability to predict the weather. This rule of thumb also requires me to do math, which I resent. For most of us, start in early March. Simple as that.

So, in March, it’s time to assemble your equipment. And oh! So much equipment! There’s the heating mat, the adjustable light, and the tray, not to mention the pots, the soil and the seeds. Thankfully, there are several resources online to show you how to make your own pots, which helps with the expense.

Consider it; quite honestly, garden flowers are expensive. They really are. A bed of annuals will set back a frugal person around a hundred dollars, and if you’re like me, more. Much more. So, despite the cost and inconvenience, this should actually be cost-effective. The only recurring expense are the seeds, soil and pots. Making your own pots reduces it even more (plus you get points for recycling).

You can go crazy, and fill your house with sprouting seedlings as some lovely people do, but I decided to go small, and bought a 2 foot Hydrofarm JSV2 Jump Start T5 Grow Light System. Then, I ordered a heating mat from the same folks. It is the warmth, apparently, that really gets the seedlings going. I’m told the soil should be 10 degrees warmer than room temperature, somewhere around 80 degrees. Some people put their seedlings on their refrigerator or a laptop, any appliance that generates a significant amount of heat. If you’re not too fussy about the looks of things, consider using an outdated PC desktop computer — those things are like radiators — if you have one around.

So, I’ve got my equipment and I’m feeling pretty good about it. Looking forward to a world of little sprouts; time to decide on seeds.

You’d think this would be the most exciting part. I have been known to spend days reading seed catalogues, garden diaries, and browsing online. And it is fun – they’ll tell you the height of the plant, how much sun it needs, and so on. But they don’t tell you, like they’ll say “blooms in pink, yellow or blue” which is… disconcerting. You mean you don’t know what color this one is? Is there a good chance I’ll have one yellow seed and one blue seed? Do yellow flowers drop seeds for blue flowers? What the hell is going on here?

So there’s a certain amount of anxiety. If I get 30 seeds then hopefully I’ll get 10 of those grown enough to transplant, of which a certain percentage will be a hideous pink. Sigh.

That aside, it feels sometimes like the seed business is a whole world I have no comprehension of. The history of the industry is about as long as you can imagine, though — being a floral gardener rather than vegetables — I’m most attracted to the turn of the 20th century, with its charming illustrations and aspirational tone. But a lot of the modern designs are fun and engaging as well.

This is the most attractive product in existence, really. Flowers and vegetables aren’t tough to sell. And, as a result, I wish more time was spent on information design. Seeds are complicated. The whole thing is actually quite ridiculously complicated. In addition to the height and sunlight needs of the adult plant, I need to know whether the seed should be on the surface or under soil, how long it will take before it’s ready to harden, how much hardening is required before transplant, its natural predators (and whether there are homeopathic remedies), and if you want to score huge points, what other flowers are compatible. “People who grew this flower also grew.”

vintage illustrated seed packet

Vintage illustrated seed packet

You’d think that would already exist. But no, or at least not in a format I’m willing to invest in. Oh my god, gardening sites and resources are maybe the ugliest of ugly circa 1998 websites imaginable. They can barely build a site, let alone data architectures. And it makes sense; I mean, this isn’t a high margin industry, so I get it. But it does make things difficult, when you’re trying to decide, from thousands of options (many of which are a hideous pink), which seeds to buy.

Stay tuned for part 2: the sowing.

The Unattainable Prince

Posted on March 4th, 2013

I have a connoisseur’s appreciation of shoujo, both Japanese and its increasingly popular Korean counterpart. I enjoy them, I understand them, I appreciate them. They are extremely predictable, but that can be part of the charm. Within shoujo, there are genres. My favorite is the worst of the lot: the high school romance.

girl blushing

How I feel, enjoying shoujo.
(Source: “Nineteen, Twenty One”)

In this, the high school girl aspires to capture the attention of an unattainable prince. His journey of self-actualization leads him to trust her and eventually to love her. The end. Despite being told from the girl’s point of view and being structured around the girl’s quest, actual character development happens to the boy, and it’s his story I enjoy most, just as it’s his story she  enjoys. In truth, I relate to her relating to him.

She doesn’t doubt; she doesn’t grow in a different direction. She doesn’t struggle with conflicting priorities or desires. She spies on him and is caught, accidentally knocks him over, causes embarrassment, has to be saved, invariably shames him in front of adults, inadvertently propels him into conflict with himself. She is the audience watching, and also the catalyst, witness and pawn. It’s the prince – a scholar and athlete, sometimes president, good-looking, tall and adored – who struggles through his doubts and grows and, in doing, realizes his feelings for her in the sense that self-realization is instrumental to his life. When men don’t understand what attraction the “bad boy” holds on women, it brings to mind these stories.
The Unattainable
At this point, most would point out that gender dynamics in the East are very inequal, and that’s reflected in a bias toward traditional gender roles. But these stories appeal to women from the West, too, and it’s not because we all secretly want to give up feminism. There’s something universal that makes it worth understanding.

Step 1: Infiltrate. The wisdom is, that even hate can grow into a kind of fondness through familiarity. Most of these stories design circumstances that allow the protagonist prolonged periods of shared time with her prince. Granted, it’s usually awkward time shared with someone who doesn’t want to be there, but it’s time nonetheless.  Sometimes circumstances lead to them living together, sometimes they get locked in a building all night; and there’s invariably a day at the beach.  Much togetherness.

Step 2: Interest. There’s the ugly subtext that the unattainable prince comes to trust the undeserving protagonist simply because she offers no threat, being so far beneath him. Usually, it’s her steadfast heart that ends up deciding the matter, but this would imply that the unattainable prince has never met anyone with a steadfast heart and, while I’ve seen it done, it doesn’t ring true. Sometimes, it’s her predilection for disaster that makes her stand out. As I’ve mentioned before, they don’t do a good job with this.

Step 3: Chemistry. I have to confess, I have strong ambivalence toward the idea of “chemistry,” outside of a known physiological tendency to be attracted to those that share a common genetic background. It’s too wishy-washy, too much like “magic.” When we use words in that way, we’re usually simply too subjective in our readings of what’s happening emotionally and physically to be able to articulate what’s actually going on.

If falling in love was a permanent state, then I’d be more inclined to waft in the poetry. And perhaps to a certain degree, one doesn’t fall out of love with certain people. We hear stories of people who live and die so much in love, and certainly there are plenty of instances where unreciprocated love haunts people forever. But those are rare.

More often, we fall in love and then we stop being in love, or we replace that love with affection and children, all of which is fine. But I can have affection and children with anyone I’m moderately compatible with. Only infatuation requires “chemistry.” So, given sufficient time and tiny steps forward, who’s to say the prince might not have ended up with anyone in the same circumstances? Why does it have to be THAT girl?

She is the audience watching, and also the catalyst, witness and pawn.

Well, so, the best shoujo justifies the prince’s interest in the protagonist by demonstrating that she brings out the best in him. She says the right thing at the right time. She reacts or doesn’t react with uncanny intuition. The two of them just work, when no one’s watching. I wish they were more clear about why she succeeds when so many others failed, and why personal growth isn’t more notably mutual; after all, choosing a prince implies an aspirational ambition. But I appreciate the fact that at least some thought was put behind it, some reason why the pairing is anything other than arbitrary. It’s far more sensible than the more typical western fare: that it was love at first sight, or that she won him over.

The end of these stories are what you’d expect. Once the air is cleared, love paves the way to a moment of happily ever after. What these stories lack, of course, are sequels. In a lot of ways, I think that’s their fatal flaw. Would it even be possible to structure a sequel that remained true to the original, without turning unspeakably grim?


Posted on February 16th, 2013

“Amaluna” is Cirque du Soleil’s recent circus, now showing under the Big Tent in Redmond’s Maynoor Park. It seeks to “honour femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance” and, to their credit, 70% of the performers are women. In particular, all the music is performed by women. But it’s not all flowers and Sarah McLaughlin, if that’s what you’re thinking. In fact, the first half made me genuinely believe this would be a great work. There was genuinely strong portrayals of feminine forces, aggressive sexual impulses, playfulness and confidence. If only it stayed that way.

Opening set of Amaluna

Opening set of Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna”

The main problem I had with the show was the simple fact that it needed to be spelled out. It was Cirque du Soleil doing “The Tempest” only – wait! wait! they reversed the genders of key characters! The performances included new interpretations of what you expect from the troupe – strength displays, acrobatics, acts that focused on speed or dexterity, and a bold new interpretation of “balance” – but this time, done by women! And so on.

It would be more elegant to simply do all those things without the exclamation points. Female participation alone doesn’t make this show a tribute to “femininity” – not unless they’re saying that all their other shows (in which the proportion of men to women are inverted) are to be understood to be a tribute to masculinity. It also opens them up to criticism by idiots. Quite honestly, it reduces what should have been a complex exploration of what “feminine” means into something any Women’s Studies undergrad could tear to pieces in under a minute.

However, to view it simply from the context of equality is to diminish what they were trying to do in the first place. It’s no “honor” to show that women are capable of performing on equal terms with men. There would have to be an unstated assumption that they could not, and one well entrenched before such a contradiction would have any power. No, to honor femininity, you have to actually celebrate femininity in its own right.

So must we always reduce “the feminine” into reproduction? It’s tiresome to be forever told that the part of you that matters is your ability to produce new people. Perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps most women embrace that as their only singularity worth celebrating, but I admit that sometimes I feel like a little attention could be paid to other characteristics.

Photo from Amaluna

You n me and baby makes three

That said, the visual symbolism and choreography with which this pat and predictable theme was expressed were stunning. Miranda, the daughter of the goddess Prospera, swats away the advances of her shipwrecked suitor until he accepts the clear glass globe, given to her by the moon, which looked in their handling like water, reminiscent of the womb. Once they exchange and share it, of course, their love is sealed. It was nice, not too subtle, not too obnoxious. Of course, it does reduce romance into a negotiated settlement over child care, but then again most of the data says that’s ultimately what romance is, anyway. The clowns in the show acted out the more comical attributes of mating and made childbirth a funny-ha-ha, and I’m sure there were many parents in the audience that related to them best of all.

By the midpoint of the second act, I saw all the traps of the undeserving princess. It went without question that the most handsome and brave of the sailors would fall in love with Miranda at first sight without the mucky muck of getting to know her qualities. Shortly thereafter, Cali, the male influence in her life, would be flooded with jealousy and attempt to separate them out of love for her. Everyone’s in love with this girl, though there be birds galore, all over. Everyone’s hopelessly devoted to this girl alone. Why?

And, of course, both White and Black Swan make their appearances.

I feel like I’m being overly critical. The show is great, and I am a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, period. If anything, it’s because they tend to have interesting ideas, even to the extent of making me think about old ideas simply by presenting them in a new light, that I found this to be so ultimately disappointing. If it hadn’t been presented to me as some kind of feminist statement, then I’d be nothing but poetic about its virtues. So let’s talk about a couple things they did right.

Photo from Amaluna


Lara Jacobs is capable of assembling, with only balance and self-control, an enormous skeleton made from a dozen progressively larger palm leaf ribs that resemble bones. The act takes ten full minutes, during which the audience is expected to suffer through the tension and listen to her breathe. There are moments when her position is so perilous that Lara can only use her breath to blow an errant piece into the correct position. She does this whole thing, you see, while slowly spinning. It’s the highlight of the show, and it cleverly represents a feminine ideal — patience and self-control in the service of nurturing the creative process — in a way that tossing around a clear globe does not. In the end, with some regret, she removes the smallest piece from the end of the now-standing form. It falls apart in a perfectly sequenced cascade too beautiful to bear.

When Miranda reaches puberty, she has an acrobatic dance with the moon in a ring that swoops between the ceiling and a large glass pool of water below. After the moon grants her a womb, Miranda performs a display of strength. Traditionally a male or male/female act, the strength performance is always a jaw dropper. It was genuinely wonderful to see pure strength and absolute physical control performed by an unmistakably female form, celebrating of all the parts of that form. It was positive, sexy, and as elegant as any I’ve seen.

Contortion reigned this show. Even the safest dances were made interesting by the extreme forms they took. From a stunt and choreography standpoint, the show maximized the physical capabilities of its female majority. So, you see, they did deliver.

Modern living.

Posted on February 1st, 2013

Modern life is dirty work.

Modern life is a dirty business

I travel for business 25% of my time, so getting in and out of airports is a big part of my life. I have it down to a clean, efficient process. Like, here are some basics:

  1. Find an airline you like and stick with it. Southwest is my carrier. The frequent flier miles I accrue pay for most of my personal travel. Unlike others, they use the same aircraft model for all their flights, so the space available overhead (and under seat) is predictable and consistent. The time waiting between “please turn off all electronic devices” and 10,000 feet is typically tight. For an extra $10, I’m guaranteed a window seat. Their pilots know how to land a plane. I love Southwest. I am baffled by people who don’t love Southwest.
  2. Never check your bag. It’s not worth the time, ever. Of course, that comes with a slew of other skills – getting a piece of luggage that maximizes space/weight proportional to the overhead, packing like a ninja, keeping your liquids under 4 oz. It requires some discipline, but in return you don’t spend your time standing in line or waiting in the baggage area.
  3. Wear the shoes you’re going to wear. Travelling ladies don’t pack shoes. Shoes take up far too much space. Travelling ladies wear shoes they can wear every day, which are work-appropriate and extremely comfortable. Invest some money, get some Clarks or Sofft in black.
  4. Bring things you can wash. It’s less about what you wear during the day (as business casual isn’t always an option) and more about what you wear at night. Some comfy PJs, cozy socks… these make your evenings more comfortable and provide essential mental “downtime,” but they take up space. Thankfully, most hotels have laundry facilities on-site. Worst case, wash your socks with soap in the sink and lay them out to dry each evening before bed. The point is: pack 1 pair, not 5 pairs.
  5. Security line preparation. For the love of god, don’t wear jewelry or wear shoes that lace up. Pack your toilette liquids in a plastic bag, not a makeup bag, and always put them on the top of your luggage, so you can unzip just enough to pull them out at a moment’s notice. After the first checkpoint, put your license back in your purse or wallet and put it away first, then remove your shoes and jacket. Put those in a bin, pull out your toiletries and add. Grab another bin for the stupid laptop. The stupid laptop must be in its own bin.
  6. The second bag. Because I have a stupid laptop, as do most people who travel for work, I need a second bag. In the past, I put the stupid laptop in my luggage, but it makes it unwieldy to hoist into the overhead bin and getting it out during security is too much of a hassle. So I carry it separately. But I can only reasonably manage two bags and two bins with two hands through security, so I trade my purse for a backpack when I travel. I’ve tried bringing a purse inside the backpack, so that I don’t have to carry around a backpack at my destination, but I’ve found that:
    1. Extracting a photo ID from a wallet inside a purse inside a backpack is harder than it sounds, and
    2. I lose track of what’s in what bag.
  7. TripIt is your friend. I don’t have the Pro version (yet), but this wonderful mobile app is all you need to keep track of all the damn details – your flight confirmation code, your hotel’s address, your rental car, blah blah blah. It actually crawls your email box and grabs the information for you. Otherwise, you’d find yourself at the kiosk scrolling through past emails trying to find the confirmation email and just believe me, you have better ways to spend your time. There are other great apps, like GateGuru, which supplies maps of all the vendors in an airport, so you can choose where to have lunch while waiting, or where you can get a battery for your headphones, etc.

In addition to this, there’s extra credit: I know the particulars on how to use public transportation to get from the airport to Denver, which is much less expensive since I tend to stay downtown. As a result, I always make sure I have the $11 needed in cash, just in case my ride doesn’t show or something unexpected happens. I know that the only Starbucks in DIA is at the far end of terminal B. I have a pocket where the parking stub for my car goes, and a pocket where my car keys go, and a pocket where my receipts go. I have a system.

But it is not perfect. There is one problem that vexes me to no end, the one unsolvable problem: I have too many damn devices. More on that later.

The Undeserving Princess.

Posted on January 19th, 2013

If drama is the judge, then successful Korean men are brutish, self-absorbed, and rude. Or, rather, they’ve been trained to be, but they’re not very good at it and so their pure hearts (hidden under delightfully tight white shirts and lean pectorals) invariably lead to crisis. Society females fare hardly better; far better at being vicious and catty, they too end up betrayed by their better natures; compassion leads to feelings of protection and idealism. This genre is seriously optimistic about human nature.

The Greatest Love

Typical obnoxious behavior from Korean drama, in this case, “The Greatest Love”

Maybe that’s what I like about it. I’ve been watching a lot of Korean drama lately. In fact, I’ve consumed a solid 29 hours of the stuff over the last week. I’m not going to say I have a problem. I prefer to think of it less as a binge and more of a crash course.

Of course, it is ridiculous. It is all ridiculous – the lost prince, the good-hearted girl, the hi-jinx and slapstick, but frankly, I don’t care because it works. It’s grown impossible to immerse myself in subtle stories the way I did as a child. When I first realized that my ability to fall under the spell was rapidly diminishing, I scoured eBay for copies of all my favorite books and read them all greedily, hoping that it was the stories and not a change in myself. But all I accomplished was to realize that the books I read as a child were universally awful. My lord. Even the beautiful ones felt like a lie, pathetically naive. Fitzgerald, in particular, was a heartbreak. The disappointment hit hard and it’s remained hard. Now, to attain that lofty feeling of a stranger immersed in wonder, I find myself embracing Asia. First it was Japan, and now Korea.

The language barrier is a blessing; I know that there’s so much more going on. The cultural differences are delightfully mystifying. The great ones, the princes in particular, are absolute lunatics. For someone who comes from a cultural heritage in which power and wealth are associated with restraint and forbearance, the choice to make heroes self-indulgent and personally chaotic is… well, it’s entrancing.

The President is evil!

The President is the Devil! from Cheongdam-dong Alice

I’m sure there are many undergraduate papers dissecting the tensions of class in Korean melodrama as it reflects and contradicts Korean socio-economic dynamics, and I imagine at some point I will go on the Internet and read all of them because it’s all right there on the surface and fascinating, really, but for now suffice it to say that the Korean elite are presented as horrifying monsters into whose company everyone inexplicably wants to be elevated, but that it is their interaction with the moral integrity of the struggling classes that unlock their potential to be truly great.

Anyway. Beyond that, romance is a romance, and the art is in prolonging the emotional tension for as long as possible. A woman does well to study Korean drama from this context, ignoring pat and obvious advice (when offered money for sex, flee!) in favor of the truth that distance and self-reflection is the only way to navigate the madness of infatuation and be made better for it. But the value of the lesson to wait is undermined by the desires of the audience. Indeed, we don’t want to become special. We want to be special.

Men can certainly be attracted to integrity and kindness, but in truth, the only way the story flies is if kindness is rare. So the only way to make this particular brand of romance work is to make every one in upper society wretchedly awful, enough so to allow the existence of basic virtue to outweigh some pretty hefty counter-arguments: different background, different values, different culture, even different language (in the form of identifiable regional accents). A woman who aspires to attract and keep a man greater than herself needs to be, in fact, greater than ourselves. Romances do not teach us how. They only reinforce the fallacy that a good woman will be loved regardless.
Romances are almost always conservative, and I appreciate that it affirms the cultural values – that, if you’re a “good” girl, then things will work out for you. That is generally true, in my experience. But the lessons being taught should be rather more interesting, and there is so much to explore. For example, what if there actually is something edifying about the girl? I would rather watch a romance that entailed the slow realization of what makes a woman valuable. Not the usual scene where the homely girl gets a stylist treatment before the ball, but a real characteristic. What if it’s charisma? What if it’s extraordinary empathy? What if it’s her intelligence? What if, honestly, we got a romance where the girl is extraordinary and the tension is the birth of her self-confidence?

The truth is, it wouldn’t sell as well. There’s something about women; we must have this need to redeem everyone around us in order to find self-worth. So instead of a balance of personal aspiration to complement the growing intimacy, the focus is only on the male and his growing emotional accessibility, for which he eventually compensates her with status and wealth. Having redeemed her man by being an unattainable object and now duly accepted in high society (to a greater or lesser degree), the romance ends. It’s insidious, because in the end the payoff it promises is infinitely more impossible than simply becoming rich. Instead the payoff implies that a good girl deserves and can expect unrelenting, lifelong devotion without any additional effort on her part. She just has to be good, and the rest will take care of itself.

Only dogs can hear it.

Posted on January 14th, 2013

Twitter made me watch the Golden Globes but then Twitter went to bed, leaving me to deal with this room of increasingly intoxicated celebrities, most of whom have wheeled in the kaleidoscope background of my life, none of which are bothering much to differentiate themselves from the rest of us. Indeed, they are people, too. Sometimes sweet, mostly embarrassing.

Jodie Foster is not yet 50. She is 48, the same age as my sister. Her acceptance speech for Lifetime Achievement was peculiarly rambling and fierce, a love letter to a universe about which she feels very ambivalent. She said:

“I can’t help but get moony, you know. This feels like the end of one era and the beginning of something else. Scary and exciting and now what? Well, I may never be up on this stage again, on any stage for that matter. Change, you gotta love it. I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world. It’s just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick. And maybe it won’t be as sparkly, maybe it won’t open on 3,000 screens, maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle. But it will be my writing on the wall. Jodie Foster was here, I still am, and I want to be seen, to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely.”

Afterwards, the press asked whether she was retiring from acting and directing and she laughed at the idea. Is it so much to ask for people to get past the gossip and listen, for even a moment?

Alas, Yorick! She is grown old, in an industry that abhors older women. As you get wiser, you know that such things as “achievement” in Hollywood are ultimately disappointing, the smallest sparkle of a diminishing moment in an endless sea of time. But as you get wiser, you also know that all this was more, more than you deserve. This is true of Jodie Foster as much as it is true of me, and most smart people I know, true of all who aspire.

I think it was made a moment of singularity for Jodie Foster by her own hand, in choosing to speak from the heart about what it is like to be alive in the time when she embraced the possibility that her career was in twilight. They were all going to go on without her. Which is fine, because she didn’t like them, anyway. Only, she kinda did. So hold on for just a moment, just a moment, to talk about what’s being lost, before she recedes to find what’s being gained. Is it so much to ask?

Jodie Foster at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards

Jodie Foster at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards: bad hair, lovely speech.

Everyone has a legacy. My own legacy hasn’t been direct attributable, but I’m proud of it nonetheless. I’m a major actor in the story of several people’s lives, a daughter who came out well, and have served as part of the bedrock upon which the next generation grows. But mine isn’t the conventional legacy. I’ve no body of work, nor bright-eyed progeny. I won’t be in any books. There was a time when I thought it might make for a good story, and perhaps it would have, if I’d written it down before I came to realize that all our tales are universally common. Sometimes sweet, mostly embarrassing.

In fact, Jodie Foster isn’t old at all. It’s just that she’s no longer young. The sea of faces the represent the next generation of actresses is definitely a mixed bag, but not unfamiliar. They’re perfectly capable of repeating all our mistakes.

Tomorrow morning, everyone will be talking about Jodie Foster’s sexuality, and whether she admitted she was gay or just bisexual, and in doing so, will have missed her point or proven it. And while this won’t surprise anyone, least of all her, I think it’s touching that she knew it would happen, and spoke nonetheless.


Posted on January 2nd, 2013

Happy New Year.

Now, we settle into the long haul of winter. The days are short and dark, and the wind bitter. The Pacific Northwest is kissed with more rain than snow but we, too, have an acquaintance with Jack Frost, enough to make the outdoors seem  undesirable. The garden is deep asleep, and the indoor plants stop responding, too starved for sun. It’s enough to drive a girl stir-crazy. But we can cook, and craft, and bake.

Let’s start with something simple.

Shaved Macadamia nuts

Because of their high oil content, shaving macadamias is surprising easy.

Macadamia Crisps

6 cups marshmallows
4 cups rice krispies
2 cups macadamia nuts, shaved
3 tbsp butter

Most of the work in this is in shaving the macadamias. I’ve seen variations that call for coarsely chopping the nuts and that’s fine if you prefer the texture of bits of nut in your mouth. I prefer to enjoy the sweet nutty flavor without the bits. Macadamia nuts have a ridiculously high oil content, so much so that attempts at a fine chop usually result in shaving anyway.

Another benefit of shaving the macadamias is that they’re quite beautiful. If you plan to top these with any fondant or chocolate, then shave a little extra macadamia to sprinkle on top as garnish. I think that would be beautiful.

The rest is simple and typical. Melt the butter, then mix with marshmallows to coat. Microwave for 45 seconds and stir. Microwave again until marshmallows are fully melted, about 20-30 more seconds. Mix with rice krispies and macadamia nuts, then press into a pan and refrigerate. Cut ‘n serve.

Shawn suggested that I roll balls instead of cutting rectangular fingers, but I found the marshmallow was so sticky that I only made a mess. It was only later that I slapped my forehead and realized that I needed to coat my hands in confectioner’s sugar first! Like flour, confectioner’s sugar can help reduce the surface stickiness of a recipe for easier molding. You might bear that in mind as you’re pressing your crisps into the pan, should you struggle to extract yourself. Believe me, it makes the whole thing much more manageable.  Next time, I’ll try my hand again at making little balls. I think that would be adorbs.

Optional: I dipped mine in two chocolates this year: white and then tipped in milk. They turned out very well, but it was fun and challenging trying to get the consistency of the melted chocolate just right. Straight up was way too intense, and so I thinned them with Crisco. Not proud of that, either; If I’m going to go old-school, I prefer to go pre-1950s. But, in truth, there is no substitute I can find for Crisco. Yet.

Besides, this whole recipe is right out of Betty Crocker. I mean, you use a microwave for heaven’s sake. So in the end, I shrugged it off and added the Crisco. I do wish I could figure out a substitute, though. After all, this recipe could easily be made with a stove, and not a microwave, and while marshmallow and butter and oil aren’t the most healthful of ingredients, at least we know what they are and what they do to our bodies. Microwave heat and Crisco, though, not so much.

All lined up like soldiers, ready to be tucked into treat boxes and given away.

All lined up like soldiers, ready to be tucked into treat boxes and given away.

I also wish I had taken more time to really temper the chocolate instead of being half-assed and lazy about it. Tempering chocolate entails melting it to a high temperature (~115 degrees) and then letting it cool to a warm temperature (90 degrees) and then heating it up again. It stabilizes the cocoa butter or something, and allows the surface of the final product to achieve that glossy shine you see on really good chocolate dips.

Anyway. I will tell you that these things taste delicious and they take so little time to put together. Even if you don’t got all decorative on them, the macadamia gives them just a little extra something to elevate this traditional child’s treat into the realms of grown up.


Way over yonder.

Posted on December 10th, 2012

I am home, after five days out of town. Tomorrow, I celebrate the anniversary of my first year in Seattle. Now, I can plan my immediate future: I know to brace against the creeping darkness, which won’t lift much at all until May. I know to expect a week or so of ice, perhaps even snow, but that wool will otherwise suffice. I know that the air will stay mostly soft and damp. I know that the people around me will get quiet, and then lethargic, and then grouchy. I will likely enjoy this season as I enjoyed the last.

On the way back from the airport, the radio was playing “Navy Swings!” featuring The Dave Brubeck Quartet, from the early 1950s. I’ve always been such a fan of old time radio, and the advertisements to join the officers in the Navy and become “a man of daring” seemed impossibly romantic and quaint when viewed through a modern perspective. I wish the world could ever live up to our notions. I wish the good guys really were good.

It occurred to me as I was listening to it that these old radio shows are like treasure, full of delight. The only source of exotic wonder remaining is our own romanticized past. I mean, I’d watched a program on TV just this morning about Ben Affleck’s efforts to solicit Western investment in the Congo, and felt it was more of the same bullshit. All the usual warning bells went off: that it was intrusive, probably condescending, likely to end up a misguided mistake. I’ve grown so certain that good intentions lead to bad ends on the world stage. But a rapturous narrator of radio from 1951 spun yarns of dream-like optimism in my imagination, describing how young college graduates would find themselves “in the thick of world affairs,” serving as “ambassadors” in the Navy. Honestly, Ben Affleck is probably the better choice. He may not embody our American ideal, but at least he’s less likely to rape and torture the locals.

Sigh. These are abstract worries that have nothing to do with my here and now. Here, I have a cat curled against me in the warmth of my own wonderful bed. I have fog flowing lazily outside my window. Here, it is quiet, dark, and comfortable. I wish only that I had more time to spend here before the more banal stresses of my life and work intrude. It is silly to dwell on the evolution of philanthropy in American culture, or lament an innocence that quite honestly hid as much evil as it supposedly battled.

It is enough to be home, to be grateful for this last surviving innocence. Home is wonderful. Home is where the good guys really are good.