Sunday, March 30, 2008

Stuck at the Airport

Whoops! My relaxing weekend in Marin made me a little too relaxed and I missed my flight home.

I'm now on stand-by for the next two flights so we'll see how far I get. Thank God for wi-fi and for my big, juicy issues of Vanity Fair and WIRED.

Still, it was worth it. It's official - my heart and soul live in two places now and the time will come when I have to decide. God, it's such a cliche but I think I may have left my heart in San Francisco, or more specifically, Sausalito.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Back in the Valley

Behold, my favorite hotel breakfast - the grapefruit juice and yogurt/granola/berry parfait provided by the Santa Clara Hyatt Regency. Yes, indeedy, it's a glamorous life I lead ... Tonight, I may even watch TV ... IN BED. Exciting stuff.

I did attend an interesting event last night hosted by the Churchill Club. The panel topic: "Silicon Valley Fights Back Against the (Information) Monster It Created." The conversation reflected the frustration many of us feel in our inability to keep up with the constant barrage of email, IMs, twitters, blogs, meetings and all the distractions that go along with cell phones and Blackberries. At its best, technology makes you feel connected; at its worst, it makes you feel FRIED.

Speakers included: John Poisson, CEO and Founder, Tiny Pictures (he's a pretty big camera phone expert); Ellen Siminoff, Chairman of Efficient Frontier (also a founding exec at Yahoo!); Jonathan Spira, CEO and Chief Analyst, Basex and Tony Wright, Co-founder and CEO of RescueTime. (Poisson and Spira argued quite a bit, so that was great.)The panel was moderated by Matt Richtel, reporter for The New York Times and author of one of my favorite reads, "Hooked." He's a funny guy and kept the conversation lively.

The gist of the conversation was, "Technology - Too much of a good thing?" There was some disagreement about the maturity of human beings and how we are not designed to handle our own obsessions. Also, the generations behind us and how they are wired differently with their ability to multi-task. All admitted that they had to set boundaries with the technology in their lives or the matters of real life - breathing fresh air, loving their children, connecting with their spouse, having real-time conversations - get neglected. (I'm sure if I had a personal life, I would agree.)

I relayed to the group the observations of Dr. Temple Grandin, the lecture I'd attended the previous evening, and was surprised when, after the event, five people approached me with questions about autism and AS.

Overall, it was good to hear true dark confessions of SV types, "Sometimes I check my Blackberry just because everyone else in the room is doing it" and "Staying connected online makes me feel less lonely" was very refreshing. There was also alot of great data about how many technology-based interruptions we deal with on a daily basis and how long it takes to re-focus and subsequently, how much time gets wasted.

Someone even uttered the phrase, "I think the first step is admitting you have a problem ... " to which Matt playfully corrected, "Or rather, I think the first step is admitting you have a modem."

It reminded me of the time Dennis Kneale of Forbes accepted the challenge of The Today Show and went without technology for a week. Or rather, he tried. He eventually broke down in tears and they let him off the hook. It was pathetic. Makes me wonder if we as humans are evolving or if we've just found a new method of distraction.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Allan McClaren Day!

I explained this holiday in great detail last year but in an election year, celebrating the Average Joe is even more important. Buy him a beer. Or better yet, take the time to hear him out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Autism, Animals and Design

This evening, I was fortunate to catch a lecture by Dr. Temple Grandin, a noted author and professor of animal science widely known as "the highest-functioning and most successful autistic adult in the world." She is a livestock consultant in high demand for her humane designs of slaughterhouses around the world.

Curved chute and race systems she has designed for cattle are used worldwide and almost half of North American cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system of Dr. Grandin's design. Her goal is always reduce stress on livestock animals during handling. We may get uncomfortable with the idea of slaughterhouses - god knows I do - but the reality is, they exist, so why not make them kinder if at all possible?

Dr. Grandin also developed an objective scoring system for assessing handling of cattle and pigs at meat plants. This system is widely used by many large corporations to improve animal welfare and decrease the stress in their lives.

The good doctor is a tall woman with a loud, twangy voice who has an awful lot to say. Her experience as an autistic child in the 50s, before autism was widely recognized as such, presented a number of problems, mainly sensory and social. She discussed different types of thinking and her epiphany in college, when she realized that her thought process was more like an animal's - without language and based in visuals - than a 'normal' human.

She sees a troubling trend in design students these days. "Many of them are so accustomed to drafting on a computer that they do not know how to draw, they can't locate the center of a circle, have never used a protractor and do not know how to measure shapes. As a result, many mistakes are made, such as gates swinging the wrong direction or over-sized gates or walls. It's very worrisome," she said. "Students are losing their ability to do anything with their hands, other than type," she said. "It is also affecting their tactile perception of shape, depth, angles and traffic flow."

When it was time for discussion, I was the first to raise my hand (Kiss ass!) to share a similar observation. In the early 90s, I was an art model hired by several animation studios, such as Warner Bros. and Disney, to pose for their animators. Seems that the artists had grown so accustomed to 'drawing' characters with their computers that they were losing their sense of 3-D form and basic human anatomy - they needed a refresher in Drawing 101.

I recall standing before 50 or so WB animators and listening to them talk. "Whoa. Weird," said one, "When I make a mistake, I keep reaching for my mouse."

"Yeah," said another, "I SO needed this. I had no idea."

I'd attended the lecture to gain insight into animal thinking, a pet (!) topic of mine. Dr. Grandin thinks in pictures, as do animals. She talked about how a horse will fear black cowboy hats if a previous abuser wore a black cowboy hat. A dog might fear yellow doors if that's the last thing he saw before getting hit by a car. Cattle (horses too) do not like multiple shadows, reflections and flappy movements.

She relayed the memory of being flown in to a big ranch to determine what was scaring the cattle. Within five minutes, she found the problem. "Well, that big flagpole out in front with the American flag is too bright, casts weird shadows and flaps around - that's scary," she said. The ranch removed the flagpole and the cattle were calmed.

Some quotes from tonight:

"My brain works like Google images - I don't think in terms of words, only pictures. And categories. Lots and lots of file folders in there."

"They used to be called just 'geeks' and 'nerds' but now it's all Asburger's Syndrome, often called 'Autism-Lite.'"

"Silicon Valley is a great place to have Asburger's Syndrome - it's like they almost have an apprentice system."

"There is an awful lot of research into why so many engineers are autistic or have AS."

And my favorite ...

"Wal-Mart is a sensory overload nightmare. When I am talking to parents to help diagnose children, my first question is: 'What happens when you take him to Wal-Mart?'"

A-HA! I knew it! Mall-Wart is a certain kind of Hell on Earth ... and not just for me. She also confirmed another fact I already knew to be true: Fluorescent lighting is THE DEVIL.

Under softer lighting, check out Dr. Grandin's books:

Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism

Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals

The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism

Insight To A Legal Mind

"If I could just say, and I understand that others may not agree, but…I think (and I know this is just me) that, given the various possibilities that exist (and I may not be aware of or have thought of all of those), it may make sense (not that it does, but it might), that one could conclude that, for this one time, Carrow’s might be better for breakfast than Denny’s. But either is ok with me, truly.”

--sent in an email today to a mutual friend

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I just returned from my Aspen weekend where I took a BUTTLOAD of photos. But I wanted to post this one before it got buried under scenic shots of streams and mountains.

I snapped it while waiting for a red light on Friday on my way up the mountain. I just love all the characters. I assumed the blonde dude was selling these crazy ass motorcyles but it may have been the chunky biker couple, not sure.

One thing I know, the silver fox dude with the giant crucifix necklace was verrrry interested. Do you ever make up stories about strangers just for entertainment? No? Just me? Well, in my mind, the guy is a crazy punked out preacher and needs a sweet ride so he can continue to spread the word of God. Next stop: The leather store!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Almost-Easter!

I've been lugging this cartoon panel around for years and I never seem to tire of using it once a year. It still cracks me up.

Whatever your plans are for this fine Pagan/Christian holiday, I do hope it involves lots of chocolate and maybe even some adorable young 'uns looking for eggs ... and finding them before they rot. My parents used to take us out to the desert of Twentynine Palms for Easter and then place eggs in and around the cactii, which seems pretty darn risky when I think about it now ... hey!

As for me, I'm frantically trying to wrap up the loose ends of daily life and head West into the mountains. Beanie has convinced me that I need to see Aspen. "It's gorgeous there," she assures me, "plus, they have the best thrift stores 'cause of all the rich people. We could really score on their leftovers." Ah, the thrills of middle class in a downturn economy ...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Has Sprung

BOING! And just like that, Winter is over. How will I celebrate, you ask? By slogging in the corporate salt mines, visiting the doctor and doing my taxes, what else?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy 5th Anniversary!

'Twas just five short years ago today that America, for the first time in its history, invaded another country. At the time, the excuse was to locate WMDs that the evil Saddam Hussein was building in, dunno, his garage? The UN asked Bush to wait six more weeks to complete their investigation but Bush ignored them because ... um .... wait, SEPTEMBER 11TH! Yeah, wasn't that awful? Aren't you mad? I am! Let's get 'em! Somebody has to pay!

Okay, um, so no WMDs. Heh. Oops. Well, while we are here, let's take down this awful dictator who was just so darn mean! Oh, he was just awful! Did you hear what he'd done to his own people? Terrible. Never mind about 70 other heinous dictators in the world, this is the motherfucker we want because ... well, we're already here and didn't he talk once about hurting Bush's Daddy? That's reason enough to dig a crazy old man out of hole and then string him up like a pinata. Because um ... SEPTEMBER 11TH! Yeah, wasn't that awful? Aren't you mad? I am! Let's get 'em! Somebody has to pay!

Never mind that Saddam and Osama bin Laden (remember him? Now there's a blast from the past!) didn't like each other and refused to work together - even to battle an enemy they both hate - The West. Turns out, crazed ego-maniacal homicidal dictators don't always make the best buddies - funny that. Still, they look alike and sound alike so let's get in there and kick some ass because ... um ... SEPTEMBER 11TH! Yeah, wasn't that awful? Aren't you mad? I am! Let's get 'em! Somebody has to pay!

NEVER MIND the fact that 11 of the 19 hijackers on 9-11 were from Saudi Arabia not Iraq. After all, that's where we get all our oil and hey! We can't rock the boat because how else are we going to fill up our SUVs? I mean, where else can we put our 'Support the Troops!' magnetic ribbons? On the fridge? Pppppppft.

I have been enraged so long about this war based on lies that it's simply part of my daily emotional make-up. We've now got the finest men and women of this country giving their lives and limbs for a mess that has no end. Remember that when the first George Bush was asked why he did not invade Iraq during the Gulf War, he said it was because they had no viable exit strategy. Of course, neither did Bush II but there was no time to think about that. The guy who barely showed up for his own military service had a hard-on for war. Now we have lost nearly 4,000 of America's best - not to mention those who have lived but still suffer physically and mentally.

Protests are planned today from San Francisco to DC, North Dakota to New Jersey but will it make a difference? Despite the noble efforts of our military who make daily sacrifices I cannot even fathom, we are stuck in Iraq for the foreseeable future. The Iraqi civilian body count now stands at 82–89,000 and our reasoning for war - which has changed with the wind - is that we are there "to help."

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Izzard of My Dreams

Good news is that political let-downs have left my subconscious and been replaced by multi-talented transvestite comedians.

The bad news is I woke up to the huge disappointment that I am not, in fact, Eddie Izzard's lover and confidante as my brain led me to believe sometime between 4:20 and 7:30 this morning.

DAMN. And Mondays are harsh enough as it is.

I know what happened. I've been gorging myself on Season 1 of the FX show, "The Riches" that stars Izzard and Minnie Driver as husband and wife Travellers - a real-life culture of grifters that live off the grid. Along with their three kids and an RV, they opt to "steal the American Dream." It's brilliant.

I love the characters, love the writing, love the actors but most importantly, I get to take in Eddie dressed up in man clothes. With facial hair, even. Since he is a tried and true transvestite or "male lesbian" as he explains it, the image of him in a suit and tie only intensifies my crush. The fact that he and Minnie have random, sweaty sex at least once every episode doesn't help my condition.

If I can just hang on until July 30, when I (along with a few lucky others) will be sitting mere feet from my dream boy at the Paramount Theater in Denver. I may need to wear some type of restraining device over my muzzle, like the dogs in Wash Park. Maybe I should get a pink one with rhinestones ...

I love Eddie. I want to stick a flag in 'im.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Desert Christ Park

Back in early November, I visited the family cabin in 29 Palms with the tribe. Before leaving, I mentioned the trip to my pal, Heidi.

"Oh, you have to visit Desert Christ Park!" she said. She then described a bizarre place that features bigger than life-size statues of Jesus, Mary and The Gang all placed eerily amongst the Joshua Trees. "You'll get some great photos!" she said. She was right.
"Dedicated to 'Peace on Earth and the Brotherhood of Man,' Desert Christ Park overlooks the high desert town of Yucca Valley in southern California. Here the visitor may find more than forty snow-white statues and images portraying scenes of Christ's life and teachings."

When I mentioned Desert Christ Park to my mother, she rolled her eyes at me. "You don't remember?" she said. "Your grandfather loved that place. You've been there many, many times, though mostly as a child." Evidently, I blocked it out and after my recent visit, I can see why. The place is overwhelmingly creepy. Oh, its heart is definitely in the right place but vandalism and years of weather abuse have left a sad mark on this unique place.

Here's the story: Desert Christ Park is the creation of Frank Antone Martin, who was born near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1887 and orphaned at an early age. Though he lived with a series of foster parents, he ran away at the age of 12 and basically raised himself. While Frank did have any formal education (as in, zero) he managed to educate himself in matters of the mind, the hands and, clearly, the heart.

Audience members of the Sermon on the Mount.

Frank was known as "an author and poet, talented public speaker on the scriptures" and had an "insatiable thirst for knowledge." Though he was a slight man and stricken with numerous ailments, Frank dedicated the last 10 years of his life to creating Desert Christ Park. A humble yellow pamphlet we found on-site described Frank's devotion:

"He became exhausted and worn by his toils with the many hundreds of tons of concrete that he personally prepared and carried. His devotion to this final project, combine with his frailties, resulted in his illness and subsequent death on December 23, 1961 at the age of 74."

So, the place basically killed Frank, which what I get from that. Still, I was impressed. Not with the statues themselves (the 'children' had freaky oversized adult heads) but with the man's inspiration, his undaunted faith and his vision, not to mention the grit and commitment to see it through. We should all be so moved.

The pamphlet says that the park is operated and maintained by an all-volunteer staff through the Desert Christ Park, a non-profit foundation. It was created as a "World Peace Shrine" and considering everything that Frank went through in his life, I think that it's pretty damn remarkable.

"All of the statuary is made of steel-reinforced concrete, hand-finished with a white paint/plaster mixture. The individual figures weigh anywhere from three to sixteen tons each."

You may not be able to see it, but in the hand to the right - the hand of Jesus in the 'Children Come to Me' sculpture - someone has placed a can of pork and beans. This is not necessarily vandalism - seems more like commentary to me. Christ offering food for the soul? Jesus was a man who enjoyed campfire cuisine? Little kids are drawn to franks-and-beans? I like to think it's all of the above.

To me, this was the saddest photo of all - the mutilated hands of Jesus as he offers a 'Blessing to Mankind.' There's an unsavory statement in there but I try instead to think about Frank, who was bursting with so much faith and love that he just HAD to share. Frank reminds me of another friend who had the same spiritual love. I'm sure not a religious gal but folks like these should not be forgotten in their efforts to lift up all of us. We need it.

For more of my photos from Desert Christ Park, go here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Angst and Disappointment

I’ve got all kinds of weird feelings today. First of all, I debuted as a storyteller last night, warming up for the Rodents show. I think it went okay. I was relaxed and had a good time and that’s what matters, right? So, you think I would have slept soundly, right?

Not so much. Instead, I had this horrible dream where I was escorting my boss through some massive and mostly empty hotel. She wasn’t feeling well. Next thing I knew, she'd had a heart attack and collapsed. At this point, I realize that my boss is Hillary Clinton and she’s now lying at my feet, alone. There are no cell phones in the dream and as I run to get help, I realize that no matter what human I approach for help, they either don’t have a face, don’t have a voice or don’t give a shit.

I’m sure there’s a message in there somewhere about the mood of my country but at the time, all I could think of was, “Holy shit, why did she have to have a heart attack in the five minutes I happen to be alone with her? If she dies, I’m screwed.”

Toss, turn, toss, turn, toss, turn, and wake-up. Eventually, I go back to sleep and have this dream:

So, I'm having an affair and/or intimate friendship with Elliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner, who is really Eliot Spitzer, played convincingly by Eliot Spitzer. There was no sex action but clearly we are close and having a heated discussion. He is sad and out of a job but I got no love for him in the dream and instead am beating him up with words and fists. “I mean, what were you thinking? Who the fuck do you think you are? What are you going to tell your teenage daughters?” On and on and on. He just stands there and looks exasperated. His giant blue eyes (when he’s Eliot and not Kevin) keep welling up and he says very little.

Toss, turn, toss, turn. Oversleep. Late for work.

I’m not sure what the Hillary dream is about but the Spitzer dream is pretty simple. I’m appalled and surprised at the depth of my own disappointment in the man. Admittedly, I’ve had a crush on ES since he appeared on the scene a few years back to heroically save us all from corporate greed and those insurance motherfuckers. He was a breath of fresh air and I remember thinking, “Finally, a fearless dude with principles on OUR side.”

I don’t care that he had sex with a prostitute – that’s between he and his wife. What I cannot grasp is how someone in power gets so delusional that they fuck up their own lives. From an AP story on the Spitzer mess:

"There's the psychology of the exception," said Leon Hoffman, former chairman of the American Psychoanalytic Association's public information committee. "People in power sometimes feel they can do things that us, mere mortals, are forbidden to do. There's a sense, as with adolescents, that 'I won't get caught.'"

Jesus. I even heard on NPR that the reason he got caught was because banks now check high dollar withdrawals but they only check $10K if you are a private citizen. If you are a high profile politician with access to public funds, this amount is much lower. Who is the crazy person that put this trip wire in place a few years back?

The then Lieutenant Governor of New York … Mr. Eliot Spitzer!

For some great man/woman-on-the-street interviews on this whole mess, check out "Client #9 Gets 86 ‘d for 69" - entertaining stuff.

And please enjoy this spot-on editorial from MobTV’s Lindsay Campbell called “Bitch, Please” which wonders why the hell women like Silda Wall Spitzer stand by their cheating political spouses on national television when they really should be somewhere else – anywhere else - that day.

Anyway, I'm pissed at ES because his wayward free-spending penis has made us all vulnerable once again and Wall Street celebrates his downfall. He may have resigned but he'll have to turn in his superhero cape too and that's such a tragic waste. America needs all the heroes we can get. So why can't they just live up to the decency they demand of others? It's not rocket science.

Is it too early for cocktails?

The only good news in all of this is David Paterson, who will now be the first black governor of New York and definitely the first blind governor EVER. From what I read, it sounds like everyone - both Democrats and Republicans - respect the guy. Good luck, David. Keep yer pants on!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Apocalypse When?

Amazingly, this image is not an ad for upcoming film directed by Michael Bay or produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it's a fancy flyer I recently received in the mail last week. I should have tossed it days ago but it keeps hanging around on my desk, entertaining the hell out of me ... so I'm sharing.

The large colorful pamphlet invited me - or whoever lived at my address - to attend a three-day seminar focused on the End Times. I thought about going but that would require fancier drugs than I have at my disposal and at least one inside partner willing to come along and keep me from being kicked out.

So, here was the agenda:

1st Dynamic Night: What Does the Future Hold?
"Come and be amazed as you see how God outlined the world's history in one incredible dream! Discover the dramatic climax of human history ... all on opening night!"

Wait ... dreams? Climax? Damn. This sounds HOT.

2nd Dynamic Night: Revelation's Rapture: What to Expect?
"Are we in the last days? What does the Bible say will happen next? When and how will Jesus come? Night 2 will answer all these questions!"

So, they revealed when Jesus is coming? Hmmmm, I didn't see any resulting headlines ... and I'm pretty sure Steve Jobs would have let us know ...

Here's my favorite ...

3rd Dynamic Night: Anti-Christ Exposed!
"Is the Anti-Christ alive today? If so then (sic) who is it? You will be shocked at the answer!"

Too late guys, I've got this one covered.

But my main question in all this "Surviving the Terror!" propaganda is, for the love of God (literally), who is their graphics person???? Do they even have one? If so, they are not helping. In fact, they might be a spy from The Onion staff. Exhibit A:

This is the image chosen to represent the idea that "killer nations (are) coming": a seven-headed red dragon ridden by a some Medieval party chick wearing a purple satin dress and a mullet? Hmmmm, is this supposed to invoke Iran? Scotland? Canada? New Jersey? ComicCon? I don't get it.

Then there's the calm assurance that all types of folks are welcome.

Hey, lookie! You can be black! Or white! Or Asian! Or Latino! You can even come in your overalls! Or without your spouse!

It was put on by Bible Prophecy Seminars and they've threatened to stage more of these events with exciting topics like:

How to Achieve Success
The Antichrist and 666
Left Behind and the Rapture
The Mark of the Best
American in Prophecy
Armageddon and the Seven Last Plagues

Please note that the secret to getting rich is listed right next to Satan.

I'm not sure why I'm so entertained by this flyer. Maybe because it never would have made its way to my San Francisco mailbox. Or maybe it's because I forget stuff like this is fairly normal in some parts of the U.S. Mostly, I think it's the layout and language of the flyer itself and how it smacks of desperation and fear, which is why the mullet girl is drinking, I guess.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely think the world is going to end, I just don't think it will come with the high production value that this crowd is hoping for. They want a summer blockbuster but I think it's going to be like a sad, little independent film with an angsty soundtrack. I think God might need to hire Bruckheimer or his Final Act might be a quiet letdown.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Karl Rove (Finally) Taunted Publicly

Now THIS is how to kick off a great week!

Former top Bush aide and annoying fat fuck, Karl Rove, spoke at the University of Iowa yesterday and was openly heckled by the audience of about 1,000 students and faculty.

My favorite Rove quote from the day: "You got a chance to ask your questions later and make your stupid statements, let me make mine."

Yeah, let the idiot talk, people! Sheesh!

Evidently, the cops were also brought in to remove two people after they tried to perform a citizen’s arrest on Rove for what they said were his crimes while a member of the Bush Administration. And, at one point, someone asked Rove if he'd ever shed a single tear over the war in Iraq.

Rove replied: "I shed a lot of tears and I have been inspired by many of the people who feel their son or daughter should not have to die in vain."

The taunting just continued from all different areas of the room. At one point, someone pointed out that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann named him the "worst person ever."

"Ever?" said, Rove. "Yea, worse than Hitler, worse than Stalin, worse than Mao and worse than the person who introduced aluminum baseball bats."

Um, yeah, pretty much ...

Best of all, toward the end of the speech, someone yelled, "Can we have our $40,000 back?" (This is what Rove was, amazingly, paid for his appearance.)

Rove replied, “No, you can't.”

No surprise there. Seems like the university could have better spent their money to stock up on things like, I dunno, aluminum bats.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Happy Birthday, Rob!

My brother, Robert, turns 46 today and he's pretty much the coolest guy you'd ever want to meet. When I'm around him, I really struggle to NOT turn into the same 7-year-old who desperately wanted to follow him around everywhere and do whatever he was doing.

I don't always succeed because, as I mentioned, he's The Man.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Inspiration for the Next Generation of Sex-Free Leadership!

So, I'm cleaning out my files these days and excavating the damnedest things - like a set list from the time I saw Dylan in Chicago in 2004, a list of '10 Things You Don't Know About Women' that I'd sent to Esquire, the guest list for my 40th Birthday Extravaganza and, um, this ...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Go-Go Dancer Days

Hey, lookie what I found! Video evidence of my Devil-Ette days in San Francisco. See if you can recognize me in here. Folks in Denver may have trouble since I'm wearing make-up and not in clothing made of fleece ... y'know, like a GIRL.
(Hint: My character's name is a tribute to my favorite President of all time.)

The San Francisco Chronicle described us as "The Rockettes meets John Waters." Ah, good times!

Land of Extremes

Before I forget, I need to offer a quick illustration of my new exciting weather life here in Denver for those checking in from elsewhere:

Last Saturday, it was 74 friggin' degrees in Denver. Picture scores of people running around in shorts, showing off their pasty white legs, and delirious with joy. The freakish warmth of the day actually broke records. In nearby Washington Park, it looked like this:

(Photo Credit: Andy Cross/Denver Post)

Come Sunday, this is what it looked like from my balcony:

Duly noted in the Denver Post headline: "Sun screen Saturday, snow shovels Sunday"

March: In like a lamb, out like a lion - all in one weekend. 'Twas the best of both worlds - I LOVED IT.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Leaning, leaning, leaning ...

... towards Obama.

Especially after I read things like this - Marc Andressen's happenstance meeting with the Senator in early 2007. He, and a few lucky others, had Barack all to themselves for an hour and half and peppered him with questions. It's the last part of the post (and Barack's answer) that impresses me most.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New Month, New Confession

Well, kids, my attempt at vegetarianism is a blazing failure. I was doing just fine until the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) came ‘round and, well, there aren’t a ton of vegetarian options when you’re hanging out with cowboys and ranchers.

Okay, that’s a cop out. I could have had corn on the cob and funnel cakes repeatedly but the intoxicating aroma of Bubba’s BBQ and my ultimate weakness – the pulled pork sandwich – overcame me and, well … I walked away, day after day, with brick red BBQ sauce under my finger nails and not near enough guilt to overcome my sensual pleasure. What can I say? I have the willpower of a spoiled house cat.

When discussing my attempts at this leafy green lifestyle, I tried to be respectful around those who make their living raising cattle. I stated that my attempt at v-ism was for “health reasons” which is only 50% true. (Check out “Fast Food Nation” – scariest fucking book you’ll ever read.) Truth is, I love animals and would like to be a better friend to them.

I truly admire full-time vegetarians and vegans but try to avoid the type that passes judgment while eating their salads with an air of supremacy. If you are going to give up eating meat because you are humbled by animals then, for god’s sake, stay humble all the way through the meal, is how I feel about it. Zealotry – no matter what your mission – is not an ideal conversion tool.

Of course, I have my V-heroes like Susan Voisin (a vegan in the Deep South!), Dr. Trillwing, my pal, Jamie Lee, who does great work for PAWS and finally, a semi-famous actor I’ve never met. His name is Peter Dinklage (“Station Agent”, “Nip/Tuck”, “Death at a Funeral”, etc.), a dwarf who happens to be super talented and very sexy. When someone asked him why he was a vegetarian, he responded simply: “I like animals, all animals. I wouldn't hurt a cat or a dog - or a chicken or a cow. And I wouldn't ask someone else to hurt them for me.”

The simplicity of Peter’s personal philosophy was the catalyst that pushed me into this inner-debate. Especially that last part about having other people do it for you - seems kind of cowardly and shady from that angle.

It was similar to the epiphany I had on the death penalty. I’d been carrying along my pro capital punishment-stance for so many years, I hadn’t bothered to update it until one day I asked myself a hard question:
“Holy shit. So, I agree with George W. Bush on this issue and disagree with Johnny Cash???? Is that who I am? Really?”

It caused me to investigate the issue (shocker: it actually costs more to keep an inmate on death row than it does to keep them for life due to repeated appeals) and I officially reversed my stance, I’m against the Death Penalty. I’d rather save tax money and let some sorry sicko rot than give them the peace of death.

Then, three incidents at NWSS gave me further pause:

A young man handed out leaflets entitled: “From a Philosophical Perspective: Common Questions About Animal Cruelty.” No organization was named on this sheet but it didn’t feel like PETA – too calm and ponderous – but perhaps Friends of Animals. The flyer posed questions such as, “Can animals truly feel pain?”, “So, am I morally obligated to prevent all other beings from feeling pain?” and “As a Christian, I believe that God put me in charge of all other animals. Doesn’t that give me the right to do with them what I please?”

The first question was a no-brainer to me – why wouldn’t an animal feel pain? All living organisms feel pain; it is a natural part of self-preservation. The second one is a bit tougher but I personally feel that one should try to avoid inflicting pain on other beings – be they animal or human, hence my struggle here. The last question doesn’t even work for me as I am not a Christian and do not believe God put us in charge of anything. If so, than it was a bad managerial decision ‘cause we’re fucking the place up like The Who at the Hyatt.

The flyer closed by inferring that since equestrian sports, the circus, rodeos and, yes, the NWSS aren’t really necessary for our well being, we should give them up seeing how God would not support them and Nature does not benefit from them. To be honest, I was pretty grateful for the flyer (I still have it) as it is helping me keep this inner dialogue alive.

Then came the January 26 Denver Post headline “NWSS: Prod prompts complaint” about a behind-the-scenes video that showed cowboys using shock tasers to jolt the horses just prior to bronc riding. I watched it and felt sickened; the men’s shady body language and shifty eyes said it all – they were doing something they were not supposed to. Also, at the time the video was being shot, I was working just a few feet away, behind the chutes. Was I okay being a part of all this? The debate was getting louder in my head.

Finally, a third incident: I loved hanging out in the livestock area – cows, chickens, goats, sheep – everybody from your favorite childhood story books was there. I was visiting the sheep and, as sheep do, they kept to their tight flock, shrinking away from unnecessary human contact. Sheep are not especially bright or known for their affection so no surprise there.

But there was an exception. One big sheep hung out near her gate, away from her flock; we made eye contact. I approached, expecting her to cower in the corner with the others but she stayed. I scratched her head, stroked her soft face and if she could have purred, she would have. Her eyelids drooped just like mine do when I’m getting my hair washed at the salon. I was entranced and soon realized nearly 30 minutes had passed. People walked by and commented how odd it was that a sheep – especially in such a raucous environment – seemed so calm.

Finally, I had to use the restroom so I left her, reluctantly. I felt a little tingly from the experience and once finished with my biz, headed straight back to her only to find another woman in my place, doing the exact same thing. The woman turned to me, smiled and said, “Isn’t this amazing?” We immediately began discussing the animal issue and she said a bunch of stuff but the only thing I remember is, “Well, I’m a vegetarian and this is why.” Ack! The pain of guilt! Why couldn’t I be better at this? To make matters worse, lamb is my favorite meat though the last time it was available to me, I managed to refuse.

Finally, the woman moved on and I took my spot back and spent another 20-30 minutes there, rubbing Sheepy McLovey’s face and head. Before I left, I snuck in a kiss on her forehead and looked into her eyes. She looked back and I mean looked; her eyes were not empty pools of blackness but eyes that conveyed emotion, specifically, gratitude and a weird sense of understanding. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that animals have emotions as we do but honestly, I wasn’t expecting to emotionally bond with a sheep when I got up that morning.

Honestly, I can still see her face and it made me think about reincarnation which I don’t fully believe in BUT I do believe in recycling. She clearly had a next step lined up for her – perhaps a happy and loved dog, a free roaming lizard, a wise old tree or a super cool human type, like one of those Doctors Without Borders people. The experience affected me deeply and I will never look at sheep the same way again.

So, I’m an imperfect human with selfish eating habits, I get it. Still, I am a more mindful eater. I buy free range eggs and rarely include meat (with the exception of fish) in my groceries. However, the other day, I bought 100% natural bison burgers that are ‘range raised’ with no antibiotics or hormones. (Also, the USDA does not even permit the use of hormones in the raising of bison.) Best of all the company is based in Golden, CO.

Bottom line: I still haven’t sorted through all this – still digesting, so to speak. I read what I can and highly recommend the book, “When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals” by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy and the recent National Geographic cover story, “Inside Animal Minds” where you’ll meet an African Grey Parrot named Alex that will blow your mind, with his mind.

I welcome all suggestions, guidance, hate mail and personal stories on this issue. I do have a dog-eared (ha!) cookbook, “The Clueless Vegetarian” that is helpful for aspiring types like myself. I’m reading up on tofu, something I have never purchased in a grocery store, and generally trying to match my primitive appetite with my modern-day philosophies.

Well, I guess every day is another chance to try again.