My spirit name: Rainfoot in Mouth.

This happened yesterday.

Rain, lots of rain, lashing down on the car whilst I was sitting at the lights waiting for the green left turn arrow.  The sky, miserable dark grey, like the inside of a wet sock lost in a dark corner.  We’re all cozy in our cars though, wearing clothes that lie at the back of the closet for 50 weeks a year, finally getting some use out of the fancy seat warmers.  We’re all in muggy little bubbles, not really looking forward to the moment we have to get out of the car and make a mad dash through the wet, cold stuff.

As much as I am enjoying the bubble time, I am also on my way to work and therefore have to be on time.  The light has been taking aaaages but look there it is, green arrow.  Right let’s go!  Er… car in front, yoohoo, you’ve got a green light.  Crap now it’s yellow, go quick!  Oh, and now it’s red.  Fuck’s sake, were you texting?

Well, we’ll just wait for aaaaages, again.  Thankfully I’m right behind the first car, so I will make the light, and I won’t be late for work.  Just sitting here waiting …and waiting …ever so patiently.. twiddling thumbs… making loud brrrr noises… and jus-OH IT’S GREEN!  Go go go!

Car in front , why are you still not moving?  Beep. Beep Beep. BEEEEEEEP  BEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.  Ah bollocks, it’s red again.  What the hell are you texting that takes two cycle through the lights?  War and Peace, the unabridged version?

Here’s a thought, maybe the driver in front is not texting.  Maybe they’re passed out…. or dead.

Shit.

Right, hood up.  Get out of the car, leave the engine running – not a wise move but fortunately nothing came of it – ugh rain, big fat speeding bullets of cold water in my face.  Right what are we dealing with here?  Woman in the driver’s seat is completely still, eyes are … I can’t tell if they’re open or closed there’s too much rain on the window.  Bugger.  Tap, tap, tap.  “Hi!”  Aha!  Her head is looking at me. Make the universal roll down your window sign: rotating fist.

Window effortlessly slides down, Californians do love a Lexus.  ‘Hello?’  Curious, cautious, wondering if I am homeless or insane.

‘Hi!  Are you okay?  You’ve just sat through two green arrows in a row, is everything alright?’

“Oh.  Oh sorry.  I was listening to this song and it reminded me of my dad.”

Now, you can’t be pissy about something like that.  You can however have a superb foot-in-mouth moment.

‘Oh thank god!  I thought maybe you’d had a heart attack and died.’

Pause. 

“Well, thanks for checking on me.  Um.. sorry.”

Cool.  Cool. I’m going to get back in my car now. Byeeeeeee.”

 

 

The Cruel and Vicious Day.

Feeling the love this week what with it being Valentine’s day and all.  Not sure why I would get all happy for it because ultimately Valentine’s day has come to represent the last minute thought, and the fear of getting into trouble with your other half – hence the long lines at the gas station, hands clutching mangled bouquets and squashed boxes of chocolates.

This year one of the kids in my life had their first experience of heart-break when their school secret valentine (exact same thing as a secret santa but replace the fake beard and large kidnapper’s sack, with a deadly bow and arrow) got confused and gave a Valentine to the wrong person… and so one child skipped off to school very excited, and came home traumatized at being the only person in class not to get a Valentine, whilst some other bugger got TWO gifts.

Wow, the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s a hideous holiday.  Halloween’s not nearly as cruel and vicious as this.

There were some happier events.  NASA released a cosmic love story about the planet Hat-P-2B and its host sun Hat-P-2.  Sexy names right?  Could they not have gone with something a bit more whimsical: Anthony and Cleopatra?  Romeo and Juliet? Bill and Sookie?

Anyway, turns out the little old Hat-P-2b makes Hat-P-2’s heart flutter!  The planet’s on a very off kilter orbit meaning that for 10 days a year it gets super close to the big star, and when it does that star’s pulse skyrockets, and it gets extra twinkly.  It’s okay, you can say ‘Awwww’, I know you’re reading this in private… probably whilst you’re sitting on the toilet.

Anyway as a Valentine’s gift to you: find the heart amongst the snails in this Dudolf picture.  I love these puzzles because… well to be honest I’m normally pretty good at them and then I feel smug.  Yep, I’m that shallow.

In case it drives you crazy, Dudolf’s got the solution on his blog thedudolf.blogspot.comsnails-634x600

 

The Happy Little Instrument.

Is there a happier sounding instrument than the ukulele?  Certainly not the piano which demonstrates such a grand range of emotion, one wonders about its mental health.. can one have a bipolar piano, or maybe a multiple personality disorder?   Not the drums either, they’re a life force all of their own, but not intrinsically happy.  Percussion instruments in general can sometimes be a little sinister – imagine a single shake of a tambourine in a dark room, or the lonesome ting of a triangle. The violin gives itself to very grand emotion – melancholy, inspiration, despair.  The guitar has a dark side, full of angst and broken hearts; and the entire brass section’s happy vibe is always overshadowed by a sexy ‘come hither’ tone.  Other wind instruments can be perky to the point of annoying – yeah recorder, I’m talking about you – or just annoying without the perk.

The ukulele though, always finds its happy place.  Even when the song is of lost love, there’s an underlying optimism: rain bringing rainbows; lemonade out of lemons etc..

Last night I went to see the Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere – aaaah, now we see where this is going.

By the way, am I alone in not really thinking of the planet as having Western and Eastern hemispheres?  I get it, it makes total sense especially since we talk about countries in the West and countries in the East, and there’s no reason why you can’t metaphorically split the planet using a line of longitude.  But I always tend to think of the planet’s hemisphere as Northern or Southern.

Anyway, back to the Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere. Which, technically, is the Ukulele Orchestra of One Teeny Part of the Western Hemisphere, but artistic license is integral to names, don’t you agree baseball World Series that only features teams from one country?

The orchestra has nineteen members (I think – there’s one very tall orchestra member who may have been camouflaging one or more players), and last night they squeezed themselves onto the 15ft x 6 ft stage in McCabe’s guitar shop on Pico.  Quite the feat of spatial mapping. McCabe’s has been around since the early 1970s, and is a mecca for music-loving Angelenos.

Unsurprisingly the orchestra play ukuleles.  They also play banjos; there’s a base; they sing; they do acapela; and everything about them is warm and witty.  Their song choices ranged from Erasure’s A Little Respect, to a superb mash-up of two masterpieces: Radiohead’s Creep, and David Bowie’s Major Tom; with a classic TV theme tunes medley for their finale.

They were a joy, from start to finish.  Every song made you smile – even Creep.

 

Personal El Dorado

I have found something incredible and wonderful.  It is the treasure buried at X marks the spot.  It is the light at the end of the tunnel.  It is a mini El Dorado, or a Shangri-La.  It is my personal holy grail.

Brief segue here whilst we’re talking of holy grails.  How come Indiana Jones isn’t immortal after drinking from the holy grail in the third film?  Is this a case of, “Ah it gives you everlasting life as long as you’re in that particular temple and don’t go beyond the seal?”  Because in that case, why bother?  Why would you search for the grail to spend all your life in one room.  And does that mean that its healing powers on Dr Jones Sr. wouldn’t have worked if he’d been the other side of the seal?  Or say the injured half of him had been on the wrong side of the seal, could you have thrown holy water from the grail onto the bullet wound to cure him?  Also what happens to the immortal knight?  Does he end up wandering around the ruins of a temple for all eternity?  Trapped under piles of rubble?  And if the geographical location of where the grail is, is what makes it so special, why even bother with a grail in the first place?  Why not just venture into the temple past the seal and drink some holy water from your reusable travel bottle, or a sippy cup?  I love Indiana Jones, but the storylines always manage to pose some sort of “So…. what’s the point?” query.  I guess it goes to show he is a true academic – knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

Okay so back to my personal holy grail which, sorry to burst the bubble of anticipation, is not quite as exciting as ever lasting life.  Last week I found a cinema which shows movies a month or so after the general release date and charges a measly fee of .. wait for it… $1.75.

DA DA DAAAAAAAAH.

Oh come on, be amazed.  That’s amazing.  A ticket costs less than a cup of coffee, half a hot chocolate, a third of a cheap beer.

And where is this technicolour mecca?  Normally I wouldn’t tell you, but I don’t want this place to close down so I am sharing the love: Valley Regency 6 in Noho.  It’s small, clean, and uncrowded, with a full concessions stand, and free parking.

Just thinking about it gives me a sense of peace and well-being in these turbulent times.

Vampire Bats and Zombie Mice

I need a break from politics.  All I can see is doom and gloom, and the rapid crumbling of freedom ahead of us.

So on a cheerier note, let’s talk about vampire bats going rogue and feasting on humans.  Yep, this is happening.  In Brazil.

There are three types of vampire bat in the world, and one of them, the rather adorable hairy-legged vampire bat, primarily feeds on birds.  However its food source is becoming a bit shy these days so the hirsute limbed bat has turned to humans for a wee drinky.  This is one of those situations where we’ve really only got ourselves to blame, the birds are becoming scarce due to the construction development of their habitats ….ahhh.  Pretty shit for the birds all round: get eaten by bats versus homeless and hungry.

Nobody’s worried about vampire bats leaving a trail of exsanguinated corpses behind (they’re teeny tiny little things), but the transmission of rabies could be cause for concern.  Having said that, researchers studying the bats are quick to point out that apparently the bats don’t find us very appetizing, our blood lacks the correct fat to protein ratio.  I’m not remotely reassured by that, the foods that I crave are the ones that are nutritional hell for me.  I’ve never dragged myself from the sofa late at night due to an uncontrollable craving for radishes.  Who’s to say there’s not some addict prone bats out there?

The other piece of this story that prickles uncomfortably is the thought that somebody, somewhere is working on DNA splicing, and in an immensely inquisitive and sleep-deprived state of mind, might be saying, “You know it would be a scientifically interesting experiment to see if we could create an actual vampire, haw, haw, haw.  Only joking chaps… but coincidentally my roommate Reginald is working in the bat lab tonight…”

Ah well, what more could happen?

Mutant killer mice.  That’s what else could happen.

This is no jest.  Basically  scientists have isolated the neurons in mice that are responsible for hunting, and have figured out how to stimulate those neurons with blasts of electromagnetic waves (light rays folks).  When the neurons are exposed to the e-m waves, those mice go out of freaking control attacking and mauling everything from crickets to bottle tops.  If the mice are hungry, the aggression multiplies.

Sooooo, how long before that’s being applied to soldiers, do you reckon?  We should run a pool. A couple of years?  Couple of months?  Testing started last week?  Place your bets ladies and gentlemen.

Interestingly enough, the mice don’t attack other mice in this artificially stimulated state.  Let us hope it stays that way … Disneyland won’t be the same with Cannibal Mickey.

Ooh one tiny little thing that’s politically related.  Molester McFascist has announced  the wall is going ahead, and that at the start it will be the taxpayers who are funding the wall (Gosh, that’s a surprise.  He said Mexico would pay for it.  I am very surprised.  Are you surprised? Everyone else surprised?), but then by golly Mexico would hand over the dosh.  No mention of the taxpayers ever getting a wall-more-than-half-of-us-think-is-stupid refund……..

Anyhoo, I had this thought.  Say that this wall gets built.  Say it’s 20 feet high and made of impenetrable steel… you could put it to good use.  You could host the world’s largest, most challenging, volleyball tournament.  You could use it for handball courts, tennis practice, put baseball diamonds all the way along it.  It could become a mecca for aspiring tight rope walkers.  Make large tableaus of Humpty Dumpty and the King’s men and horses armed with tubes of super glue.  There’s a whole host of things to be done with it: vertical gardening – that’d be nice.  Or sticking with the gardening theme, on the Mexico side you could dump lots of soil, compost, green waste at the base of the wall until it forms a gentle slope down from the top, and chuck in some flower seeds… poppies maybe, are they drought tolerant?  .. and then after a few months you’d end up with a delightful garden where people could stroll up for a picnic, and have a jolly afternoon out watching the border patrol and seeing what the eccentric neighbours next door are up to.

Everyone’s Got an Opinion on the March.

Well… the Women’s March on Saturday certainly stirred up a lot of opinions.  Social media has been full of tweets and posts and blog articles, and I’m about to join in.

I participated in the Los Angeles march, and it was the most optimistic day I’ve had since Trump announced he was entering the race to be the Republican nominee.  Why the optimism?  Do I believe that Trump looked at the pictures, smacked himself on the forehead and said, “Wow, all these people think I’m wrong … maybe I should listen to what they’re saying, after all the president is a public servant,”?

No, silly.

The optimism stemmed from witnessing the crowd around me, and what a crowd – 750,000 people and no violent outbursts.  To be fair, LA is so overwhelmingly liberal minded that it was hard to find anyone at the march who didn’t share the sentiments of the other 749,999 folks in their vicinity. And so sure were we all of being amongst like-minded folk that there were loads of kids in the crowd (arms covered in sharpie scrawled phone numbers.. just in case).  Then I saw the news and realized what happened in LA, happened worldwide – millions upon millions of people marching with passion and compassion.

In fact in the thousands of signs I saw, there were only two that were anti-feminist: one that read All American Women Are Whores; the other sign was at the other end of the anti-feminist spectrum with a message that implied the superiority of women over men.  (Really sorry – can’t remember the exact wording, it wasn’t as vehement a declaration as the first sign, but I do remember seeing it as a declaration of misandry, not feminism.)  In both cases, people just left them to it, there was no hurling insults or physical assault.  Now of course I only saw them briefly, maybe there were some heated exchanges at other times during the day for them, especially if it were those two that happened to meet each other.  But it seemed to me that whilst there was plenty of passion in the march, there was no anger.  The most angry person I saw all day was the guy carrying the All American Women Are Whores sign, but that could have also been fear mixed with defiance.  I know if the tables were reversed and I was at a Trump rally, carrying a sign saying “All Trump supporters voted in a self-confessed sex molester”, I’d be speed walking through that crowd with a stay-the-fuck-away-from-me look on my face too.

There were people from all different demographics, different ethnicities, age-groups, sexual orientation and, of course, gender.  And there were so many men in the crowd.  I found it uplifting that for every man who’s ever said or done something negative to me strictly because I was female, there were another hundred out there on the march saying that isn’t fair, that isn’t right.

There were also many, many different signs (My favourite? The one that said, “LET’S TALK ABOUT THE ELEPHANT IN THE WOMB”), letting you know what was important to the person carrying the sign: climate change, Black Lives Matter; say no to the wall; I’m With Her; Planned Parenthood; no Muslim register; my body my choice; impeach Trump; LGBTQ rights; grabbing women by their genitalia is not acceptable beahaviour… yep, people are marching because there’s a lot to be said.

Which brings me to something I’ve been seeing a lot on social media from people who did not support the march.  “Why?” they ask.  “Why are they marching?  What’s the point of this march?  It’s supposed to be a women’s march but it seems to just be an anti -Trump march, or a pro-democrat march.  This march is a lie. What rights don’t women have?  Women are heard, they have voices.  They have equal pay.  Everyone just needs to work hard and get health insurance.  If you don’t want to get pregnant then either don’t have sex or use contraception.  Why are they being whining liberals.  They just need to accept the election results and get over it.  Hillary lost.”

There have been many responses to commentary of this ilk.  There have been responses to those responses.   The theme of “I’m just like you but I’m not like you because I’m better than you,” is strong on both side of the fence.  As is the theme of “How dare you use your opinion to bash my opinion!”  There are people saying, “I march for all women”, and there are women replying, “Oh no you don’t.  Not for me you don’t.”  There are people who say “You’re American you don’t have real problems like other women in the world.”  To which there are people saying, “First of all, this is a global march, I’m marching for equality all over the world.  Secondly…. are you sure about that?  The USA is ranked no. 45 in gender equality by the global gender gap report. 

(By the way, it’s all neatly hiding that today Trump said he would give tax incentives to companies that brought their industries back to American soil, and heavily tax those that did not… thereby giving his own company, oh wait – his children’s company, completely free of nepotism and self-interest- a butt load of moolah.)

One thing that really stood out to me amongst the commenters were the women who said they did not support the march but who had in their own lives been raped and abused; suffered from not being able to afford adequate health care; made a low wage, or no wage at all.  All this they had suffered, yet they did not support a march where women were saying, “Hey, we think women should get paid the same as men.  We think that we should decide what we can and can’t do with our bodies.  We think that a man who sexually assaults women – and sees nothing wrong with his actions –  should not be leading the country.”  After going through all that, and coming out strong, or still being in the thick of it… why wouldn’t you say, “Equal pay?  Making it clear that sex assault is not okay?  Having a say in what I can do with my body?  That sounds okay… I could get on board with that.” Maybe they don’t like the other reasons people are marching.

With all this in mind, I started writing a list of reasons why I marched.  I had it up to sixteen lengthy paragraphs, concerning a multitude of civil rights; and the terror of having a pathological liar, a bully, a conman, a sex molester, at the helm of a global superpower.  But basically I marched for the same reason that some women chose not to march, because I have beliefs that are important to me.  I condensed the list, you can see it below.

  1. I believe we’re in trouble. All of us.  I don’t have the solution, but I believe it involves courage, unity, and compassion.  Tremendous compassion.

 

No really children, you’ll thank me later.

Ooh gosh I have been a slacker, nearly a month since I posted.  Ah well, I’ve been busy, c’est la vie.

So one of the things that’s consumed my time is a class I’ve been preparing on the  history of fashion.  Because I’m drawn to the absurd side of life, I ignored matters such as the revolutionary invention of polyester, and instead focused on things like an out break of syphilis leading to a craze for wigs; and laws concerning the length of pointy shoes  (2ft for noblemen,  1ft for merchants, and a miserly 6 inches from the peasants…. in case you were wondering).

We covered a range of topics such as high heels and g-strings for men, Henry VIII’s outrageously over sized cod piece and demonstrating how hard it is to get into Spanx. (Oh and I also had the students bind their toes, try on crinolines, high heels and period piece corsets…. I’m expecting a phone call querying  my methods at some point in the near future.) Eventually we got to head binding.  Head binding is a method of compressing an infant’s skull so the soft, unfused cranial plates become elongated, almost cone like.  The reasoning behind it seems to be a combination of wanting to augment intelligence, and becoming closer to whatever spiritual sources you believe in.  Head binding, by the way, has been carried out in one form or another on every continent bar Australasia.

One of the students asked if the children were given a choice….given that this practice is carried out on very young children it’s reasonable to assume not.  There was an aghast silence in the room so then I asked them, “Well, how would you feel about a society that takes children around the age of 10 or 11, and attaches tight metal bindings to their teeth that they can’t take off for two years, and then every two months painfully tightens the bindings, forcing these body parts to grow in a different direction?”

There was more silence, and then a quiet, “Huh..I never thought of braces like that.”

It seems like braces for kids in the USA are almost mandatory, it’s not a question of if, but when.  People will tell you, “I need them because I have crooked bicuspid that will cause problems later on if I don’t have it fixed.”  Or they’ll say things like, “If your bite is off it can be really bad for you.”  But honestly, there’s a bit of truth stretching going on here, for the most part those problems are basically cosmetic.  A perfect bite will not stop you from grinding your teeth in your sleep, nor will it prevent you from guzzling soda and being idle about flossing.  Crooked teeth can sometimes be caused by poor spinal alignment (so an osteopath friend of mine tells me); but it doesn’t work the other way, crooked teeth don’t cause rubbish posture.  Whilst obviously there are cases where people have trouble eating, talking, excessive drooling etc.. due to their teeth, these are rarities, and the vast majority of braces are fitted in order to get perfect straight teeth when it’s not essential.

Now at this point in the conversation I normally have half the room telling me exactly why it is a matter of life and death that they, or their children, have braces.  So let me make this clear, I’m not saying braces are wrong.  I am not going to tell you what to do with your teeth, apart from keep them clean because halitosis is a problem you can’t help but share.  Ultimately they’re your gnashers, no one else’s.  Instead I’m trying to point out that today’s culture is not far removed from others throughout history and across the globe.  We put our kids through something painful because we believe it to be necessary … but it probably isn’t.

This reminds me of a conversation several years ago.  A colleague of mine was utterly shocked when I revealed that in the UK the majority of men are uncircumcised, it’s only performed as a religious practice or a medical last resort, (you know, since we don’t live outdoors in a dry desert climate with no running water and those kind of circumcision friendly environments).  Visibly disgusted he asked me how do they keep everything clean, I responded that, not being a penis owner myself I couldn’t be sure, but I’d heard a rumour that soap and water were involved.  He flared his nostrils at me and pouted, “Well it just seems barbaric!”

…call me crazy but I reckon that the folks who elect to NOT slice a piece of skin off a baby are lagging behind in the barbarian stakes.