Saturday, June 20, 2009


Somehow the telephone always ends up under my pillow, so that the ringing encourages my seizing, jerking body to become one with the ceiling.

This morning, the crisp, businesslike woman calling informed me that I was not who I thought I was, and that she intended to get to the bottom of my problems with her auto insurance company. The company was called The Auto Insurance Company.

A few months back, I turned over a new leaf.

I'd become increasingly rude. I excused my rudeness as being the inescapable result of being in constant pain and seemingly always febrile -- both of which contributed to my being perpetually sleep-deprived. Poor me. Who would not be abrupt or rude, given those conditions?

Oh, shut up, you!

But then, one evening, a meek and mild, indeed a rather *milky* telemarketer gave me a call. He was supremely polite, apologetic almost for his mere existence. After our brief confab, I found myself imagining what his work day was like. The result of these imaginings was the aforementioned leaf-turning.

I mean, really. Eight-to-twelve hours of talking to people like me?

After The Auto Insurance Company Lady informed me of my true moniker and of her intention to ferret out my various wrongdoings and, most importantly, my non-payment
to The Auto Insurance Company, she wanted some information about Sonia, the person to whom I might have sold the vehicle in question. Her address, phone, email addy, anything. It was simple: either I turned state's evidence against Sonia or The Auto Insurance Company Lady was going to bring me down. Way down.

Patiently waiting, at the first break she took to avoid oxygen debt, I reassured her of my name and of the well-insured status of My Darling Ruby, the Honda CR-V, with State Farm. As I geared up for a gracious dénouement, proud of my stellar even-keel, wondering just how hard it could be to embroider the Golden Rule on my poly-blend pink pillowcases, The Auto Insurance Company Lady interrupted me...

And put me on hold.


I just got a telemarketing call from a guy who said he was with an organization representing the local police departments in our area. I politely told him that we handle our own business donations and that I wouldn't be interested. His response was "I don't care if your interested, I'm asking you to try thinking a little differently. Now can I speak to someone in your organization who can actually make a decision." -- DOGZA

I really hate the way that you can't argue with them.
There should be some way to bind them to what they have said.
Countless people have phoned me to offer a free mobile handset. I've accepted every single offer, but not one of them has delivered.
-- vincevincevince

[Poor Vince!]

I used to own a telemarketing firm - the staff were a bunch of freaks.
One used to dress like an undertaker and smoke from a 1930's cig holder, another was arrested for murder, another attempted suicide in the womens toilets, another was a satanist and would keep reminding you of the fact, another would engage in bizarre behaviour like throwing his coat out of the office window.
odd bunch, im glad I dont do that anymore.
-- Essex Boy

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Wearing of the Green

A few unoriginal thoughts before I refer to someone else's blog post about how to follow developments in Iran using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, dedicated blogs, etc:

Mir-Hossein Moussavi is not exactly the candidate that Westerners, as well as a good many expat Iranians, would love to see in terms of a -- well -- *westernized*, progressive, freedom-loving, liberty-worshipping, anti-cleric type dude. What seems to be emanating among some of the more reflexive and reactive news folk is the heavy gloss and high sheen of the Conservative Myth of Mass Protest, whereby any demonstrative undertakings resulting from stuff like voting causes Right Wing Dumb Think.

I mean, seriously, the Republican ditto-heads that have graced some of the news shows are waving the United States of America Freak Flag as if Mir Hussein Moussavi were the *point* of these protests, these protests even unto death.

If people are willing to die in protest -- manifestly* -- surely the act merits more serious consideration than application of a Party Line, an ideological agenda, yes? Or, at least, we ought to get the Party Line right.

Mousavi does have, as is repeatedly repeated, a reputation for honesty and competence (and even, in several articles, a reputation for being "soft-spoken"). This is how he has recast himself after twenty years of political truancy. A lot can change about a person and his politics in two decades. Still, it is important to always remember ("...and never forget!" -- Dwayne F. Schneider) -- what was the case before the miracle of re-invention:
As Iran’s prime minister during the Iranian Revolution’s most formative years (1981-1989) he was a hard-liner closely allied with then-president Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader, and a “firm radical,” as The Economist described him in 1988...

In [a] 1981 interview, Mousavi defended the taking and holding of American hostages by Iranian militants for 444 days as serving the revolution’s purpose. “It was the beginning of the second stage of our revolution,” following the overthrow of the shah, he said. “It was after this that we rediscovered our true Islamic identity. After this, we felt the sense that we could look Western policy in the eye and analyze it the way they had been evaluating us for many years.”

In terms of more immediate issues, Mousavi has stated his support of Iran's nuclear ambitions, adding only that he would like to make it less "costly," a word open to careful interpretation. A reference to the burden of sanctions. A reference to near worldwide disapproval.

I believe that he truly is a reform candidate -- I believe it, especially, since the massive demonstrations and worldwide scrutiny following these fraudulent election results dictate that he toe that line. "The eyes of the world," and all that.** Among Mousavi's stated goals are the privatization of some media and putting the police under the control of the President (and therefore, purportedly, under the control of the people, since the President is elected... or is supposed to be, anyway!). He accuses Ahmadinejad of economic mismanagement. He makes further gains as a reformer thanks to having served as "adviser" to Khatami.

One of the most interesting things to watch, at least here, deep deep in the Tête de Hergé, where all is well, is the stance of the clerics in all this -- where will they place their approbation, and why? Will they lose influence --have they already lost a significant amount of power? What exactly is the relationship between Mousavi and the theocrats. Like him, they are caught by circumstances that may well dictate a less severe future course; They are also trapped by the immediacy of events transmitted to the interpreting world by a new technical age. Of course, they would most like to suppress the demonstrations and the demonstrators, but Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, supreme leader, who controls everything from the judiciary to the Republican Guard, is an astute politician.

Ah well, this post has wandered far from its initial intention, which was to share some recommended means for following the events in Iran in real time. All I meant to say was that the situation calls for us observors to do our due diligence. A dear friend, The Iranian Lesbian, developed ulcers after years of explaining that there were, indeed, paved roads, traffic signs, and some guarded evidence of a civilized past back home in Tehran.
While she smiled sweetly and fielded idiot questions, her thoughts strayed -- to her uncle, once the theoretician for the Communist Party, who was imprisoned for many years, finally beheaded; to her mother, a well-known Sanskrit scholar; to her father, a well-appointed judge under the Shah, who daily expected arrest after he simply stopped showing up for work; to the many friends she left behind when her parents forced her on a flight to France at the height of the revolution; to how she and her sister would manage to send enough money home that their parents might continue to live according to their custom.
I think of her and am ashamed at how much I have never bothered to learn about her country, her family, her exile.

Ah well...

"How to follow the Iran protests: Twitter. blogs and more," over at Open Salon offers some informed choices among all the photo-blogging, noteworthy Tweeters, and video selections floating around out there.

Yep, that's all I wanted to say!
*MANIFESTLY -- I note the usage because it is the first such adverbial usage in my long life. Tapping my brilliantly white and obsessively straight teeth with a number two pencil, spaced out, thinking of Iran -- and what very little I know about the country and her people -- I started thinking in French and quickly hit upon the word "manifestation." Hence and ergo, this:

man - i - fest  /ˈmænəˌfɛst/

–adjective 1. readily perceived by the eye or the understanding; evident; obvious; apparent; plain: a manifest error.
2. Psychoanalysis. of or pertaining to conscious feelings, ideas, and impulses that contain repressed psychic material: the manifest content of a dream as opposed to the latent content that it conceals.

–verb (used with object) 3. to make clear or evident to the eye or the understanding; show plainly: He manifested his approval with a hearty laugh.
4. to prove; put beyond doubt or question: The evidence manifests the guilt of the defendant.
5. to record in a ship's manifest.

–noun 6. a list of the cargo carried by a ship, made for the use of various agents and officials at the ports of destination.
7. a list or invoice of goods transported by truck or train.
8. a list of the cargo or passengers carried on an airplane.

1350–1400; (adj.) ME <>

**The eyes of the world:
"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world." -- Gen. Eisenhower, June 6, 1944

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Courtesy of zenosaurus via Ian's blog:

He was born by caesarean section on December 25th, 1918, in Madison, Wisconsin. Nearly institutionalized at an early age, he surprised doctors with his above normal intelligence, unusual in such cases. He attended public schools in Madison. His bizarre appearance led to his being ostracized by fellow students. Outside of school one day, he was struck by an open beer can flung from the window of a passing car by some high school bullies. Slowing down, they taunted him with jeers, insults and threats. Speeding off, the car unexpectedly veered to the left, and struck an ancient Oak, killing three of the occupants. A fourth occupant became severely agoraphobic, and confined himself largely in his bedroom closet for the next 41 years. After this, he was left alone by other students. Three days after graduating from high school, he forgot to turn sideways while walking through a door (as he was forced to do his entire life) at a local candy store and knocked himself out cold. He was in a coma for three weeks. When he recovered, he was able to speak fluent Swedish. Doctors never resolved this mystery. Although he had a multitude of eyes, he was blind in two of them, having shot them out with a bee bee gun as a child. As a young adult, he dabbled in painting, and was barely able to make a living by selling his paintings on street corners or at local festivals. People purchased his paintings out of pity or because they thought it was cool to have a painting by that weird looking guy. Unfortunately, no surviving paintings can be located, and no image was ever recorded of them. However, it is said they were all signed with a one inch brush, dipped in Cadmium Red Medium, in Swedish. Andy Warhol is said to have purchased one of his paintings. When he was 25, he inherited a large sum of money from an uncle. He lived with his eccentric mother until her death a few years later. At this time, 47 cats were removed from the home by local authorities. He continued to occupy the house, until his own death in 1972. After his death it was discovered that he had a collection of 1,756 vintage ladies compacts kept in a shopping cart in his bedroom. He had apparently collected them from the local St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift shop over the years. He also had accumulated another 17 cats, one of whom had two tails, and another one of whom was probably half-dog. His body vanished from the funeral home while it was being prepared. Years later, a bizarre skull, matching his unique characteristics, was confiscated during a drug bust in Madison, apparently having been converted into a bong. It wound up in the possession of a distant relative, who had it restored, and then tried to sell it on Ebay. However, the relative forgot to indicate that it was being sold for educational purposes only, and the auction was cancelled. It was later obtained by the Anthropology Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and added to a large collection of pathological specimens in the Social Sciences building. At this time it was photographed. When an inventory was conducted on the collection some years later, the skull turned up missing, along with the skull of the half dog/half cat. The skull clearly shows the ravages of his habitual candy consumption.

::in the inbox::

In the inbox this morning:


A co-worker got a pen stuck inside our printer. He started to try and remove the pen, but I told him: "We don't have time for that now, just put a note on the printer telling folks not to use it and then report it to the Help Desk."

So he grabbed a piece of paper and scrawled on it. I left before he finished the note.

About 20 minutes later, one of my techs comes in laughing and says he was just in the lobby, saw a piece of paper on a printer and went to investigate.

This is what he found. Sometimes things don't always come out the way you want them to...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Gentle Sandpiper

I've sent La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore off on a sort of Snipe Hunt this morning, just to get her out from underfoot.

There really is such a thing as a snipe -- a "shorebird," Wikipedia tells me. Plovers, godwits, ruddy turnstones. I even ran across the creature named for the famed attributes of my blueblood birding family: the double-striped thick knee.

I am a sucker for a sandpiper. When I was in high school, my stepmother, a great gift-giver, got me a little sandpiper statuette -- ah, I just found it: the Gentle Sandpiper Sculpture from the Smithsonian Store. Why don't I still have it? Where and when did I choose to leave it, break it, whatever I did with it? Could it be that the bill broke off, that it would not accept my sad efforts at repair?

I am known for the destruction of my own property. Fits of pique, whatever. Photographs, term papers, dissertation chapters. My hair. Gifts from stalkers.

So what is The Castafiore out looking for, what fruitless quest have I set her? To find and purchase the ingredients for injera, a type of Ethiopian bread.

The Castafiore neither cooks nor bakes. She does not grill, steam, braise, fry or parboil. The Chaste White Flower, the Milanese Nightingale does, however, love to eat and enjoys exploring the myriad of ethnic cuisines.

The Fredster lived several years in Ethiopia -- the origin of his passion to end hunger.

Strange, then, that we are celebrating the very paucity of ingredients that has made round and empty so many distended little stomachs.

He misses the bread, the coffee, the large soupy mashes of vegetables and tough stringy goat meat. Eating with the bread as utensil, the act of sopping. Tossing out the odd gem of amharic.

No doubt he also misses the beautiful woman with whom he lived (along with several members of her family) but with whom he could barely communicate. I've seen her picture and she is lovely, brown, placid, thin but also round.

Anyway, after years of harrassment, Fred is cooking an Ethiopian meal for us but is demanding (being demanding) authentic, fresh, quality ingredients.

I suppose it once was impossible to find teff flour, properly ground, to make the spongy sour injera. No more. And really, it is not far from being an unleavened sourdough -- if that makes any sense whatsoever. We go through spurts of drinking a variety of Ethiopian coffees that are readily available at a local international Farmer's Market. Even here -- deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé -- there is diversity.

When all the right makings are purchased, when the stars are all aligned, Bianca and I will clear out and leave him to it.

For today, though, the stuff of his meal is serving me as snipe, for I am in a mood.

This business of little sleep is wearing me down, eating at my sanity. Last night, I managed to sleep from midnight to one, then three to four-thirty. I feel like taking a carrot peeler to my eyeballs.

I am waiting for my surgeon to get back in town. I want to get this second left spacer out. And at the same time, I am tired of trying. Fred and I keep going over the opinions we were given last week. They still don't make sense to us.

Bloomsday 2009

Street marker, Dublin: "You're in Dawson Street, Mr. Bloom said. Molesworth Street is opposite. Do you want to cross? There's nothing in the way." Photo credit: Brian Cormack

"Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves," notes Joyce's Stephen Dedalus.

And as someone else once noted: Meeting ourselves might mean meeting the occasional asshole.

In the pre-dawn hours -- before those rosy-fingers deigned to stretch out pink -- I checked my often over-wrought social calendar, only to discover that today has only one goings-on:


Hmmm. Ulysses on the brain! What are the odds, d'ya think, that vague electrical shorts of memory are what caused me to inexplicably go Homerian a few days ago?

All part of a desperate attempt to remember Bloomsday, 24 hours of anacoluthon, achoo, bless you!

Today, June 16, is The Day which takes place within James Joyce's Ulysses: it is a Dublin-y Day in the life of Leopold Bloom.

Remembering was easier a few years back, in the excitement of the centenary. No, that's not it. Remembering was not so lonely, is all.

Anyway. For a few of the very weird, Ulysses by Joyce shadows and minnows The Odyssey; It out-homers Homer.

And were I feeling collegiate, or even convivial, I'd lay out the correspondances between Dedalus and Telemachus, Bloom and Odysseue, and, of course, Molly and dear, dear Penelope.

But that is not how the feelings are splayed out upon the page, today.
It's more offal. Sweetbreads.
It's downright gamy -- that celebrated taint:

"Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods' roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine."
All that grease on the linen napkins!
So hunker down in your body, be as corporeal as can be. Raise a glass, it's the centenary and a few, but more than that -- it's the same day, all over again:

"Think you're escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home."