Saturday, December 10, 2011

the virtuosity of his goofiness, i miss it

The old admonition is whining at me again today, the Stones, being all truth-telling and such.

You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need
Oh, why not?  Take a moment for the music.

Uploaded to YouTube by mariule2 on Apr 21, 2010
The uploader notes:
Probably their pest performance of the song. It [was] recorded in Brussels in 1973. 
Fantastic solos from Mick Taylor and Bobby Keys.

I passed a difficult night, one that culminated in slumber among spilled (or spilt, depending) popcorn kernels.  I don't know that culminating works well, as a word, to convey that itchy, fibre-filled quilt of a slumber-fest, but what the heck?  It's very much a "why not?" kind of a day, as a result.

And, of course, I can hear all you Smarty-Panted Ones out there, crowing:
"How else would culminating work, if not as a word?"

Peppered with Kettle Corn, dosed in sucralose, I dreamed, and also dreamt, about John Hartford.  Not in passing, not in a cursory fashion, no.  He came alive again, he stood profiled against the setting sun, hat cocked -- and that's not a bicorne reference, not even inadvertently, since I'm refutin' it as you read,. before your very eyes!

He shuffle-danced, way more nimble than he was at the end, though the fool kept dancing, didn't he?

A fool, in the fool tradition, that's exactly what John Hartford was in my dream, and is, in my narrow understanding of his genre.  A banjo-picking fiddler, and a shuffling fool.

Here is a sentence I love, written about the English Medieval fool tradition: "The rigid social hierarchies of medieval society relied on these reality maintenance constructs which were closely related to traditional inversionary re-enactments of mis-rule to create a sense of release for and in the population." You gotta admit, that's a sentence that means to pack a wallop.

I'd give you the reference but it's an unpublished document and I'm unsure that the author, one "Bob," would appreciate it.  Also, I think Bob may have picked it up off the floor at some SCA swap meet, or whatever, as his phrasing is rather... errrr, popular. For what it's worth, Bob is part-and-parcel of the San Francisco-based industry of good will Fools For Hire, sort of a project affiliate of the aforementioned Society for Creative Anachronism.

I know, I am bleeding all over the page.  But so it was as I slept, and therefore, so shall it be here.  Lots of grandstanding, and stuff.

Right.  So... John Hartford.  The quality of my mind's reproduction of his music may safely be filed under "Q" for Questionable.  I wonder how the brain manages a trick like that?

Right.  So... John Hartford.  Skimming over the YouTube videos in which he figures, I wanted one with the Aereo-Plain Band, because my wrecked memory keeps telling me that the John I dreamed was that John, of that era, with hair everywhere and aviator goggles. Newgrass, and all that, too, I suppose.

Of course that was the John Hartford of my dreams;  I lack a knowledge base of the Mississippi River Basin.

Here's John at the 30th Anniversary Reunion Concert with the Aereo-Plain Band, November 11, 2000, in Albany, NY. He was pretty doggone sick at this point but the performance warms the heart.

Theme song of my dreams.

Uploaded to YouTube by AcousticBoxOffice on Jan 16, 2009 "...In addition to John Hartford, Tut Taylor, Norman Blake and Vassar Clements [there] were special guests Sam Bush, Chris Sharp and Mike Compton..."

Steam-Powered Aereoplane

by John Hartford

Well I dreamt I went away on a steam-powered aereoplane.
Well, I went and I stayed and I damn near didn't come back again.
I didn't go very fast on a steam-powered aereoplane.
well the wheel went around and up and down and inside and then back again.

Sittin' in a 747 just watchin' them clouds go by,
can't tell if it's sunshine or it's rain.
I'd rather be sittin' in a deck chair high up over Kansas City
in a genuine, old-fashion, authentic steam-powered aereoplane.

Well I dreamt I was a pilot on a steam-powered aereoplane.
I'd turn that pilot wheel around and then back again.
I'd wear a blue hat saying "Steam-Powered Aereoplane"
with the letters go 'round the brim and then back again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Coach K and Pat Summitt: Sportspeople of the Year

Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Coach K of Duke -- the winningest women's and men's basketball coaches in the history of the NCAA -- are the 2011 sportspeople of the year, courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

Krzyzewski joins former UCLA coach John Wooden (1972) and former North Carolina coach Dean Smith (1997) as the only other men’s college basketball coaches to win the award. Summitt, the all-time leader in women’s college basketball wins (1,075), is the first women’s college coach honored.

Passing the Duck Test

Late last week, I opened a blog post with those impossible to live down words:  "i'm sitting here weeping." 

Those words don't cause me shame, that's not the problem.  The lack of capitalization?  No, that could be readily fixed (I'm told).

Once again, it's the absence of heart, or as some WizKid might recast it all: my hopelessness.

Between you and me, I've been sitting around weeping a lot lately.  Of the twelve things most likely to be happening in our bedroom here in the Easternmost of the East Wings of Marlinspike Hall, me sitting whilst weeping is in the Top Four.

It's disgusting and not inspirational of anything except, perhaps, a triple-dose of nausea medication.

I saw my MDVIP Go-To-Guy on Monday, and left his office very confused, for he assured me that I made sense, thought logically, and was not being overly-demanding in my health care requests.

He intimated, even pretty much said, that my reactions, too, were not over-the-top, and that references to the Book of Job were correct within his understanding of the Biblical literary tradition.  Because I am not the type to interrupt my Physician while He is trying to speak, I thought -- demurely, quietly -- to myself, alone: "Doubtless the edition illustrated by William Blake!"

Lo, let that night be solitary, let no peaceful voice come therein (Job iii: 7).

Let the day perish wherein I was born (Job iii: 3)

So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great (Job ii: 13).

In other words, he did the old "if it quacks like a duck" routine in reference to my suspicions that my left shoulder prosthesis remains, or is once again, infected.

He is a kind man, is my MDVIP Go-To-Guy, an excellent doctor, and I am glad we scrape the underpinnings of the more modern furniture, mostly reproductions, in The Manor's public vending areas and grateful that the miniature families on the domestic staff willingly sift the silty bottom of the moat for spare change.  We split the haul, fifty-fifty, because square is square.

You'd be amazed at the number of people who think that throwing things into the moat is an acceptable romantic substitution for tossing pennies into a well or euros in the Trevi fountain.  Of course, given that we sometimes attract a crowd heavily into the religious life, here more for our next door neighbors, The Cistercians, or equally heavy into heroin, hoping to score an inpatient bed at the posh Haddock Family Enterprises Addiction Center, headquartered in our barn -- we don't always come away rich in cast off coinage.

I didn't want to confuse you with haphazard detail, but most of those who drop by the Haddock homestead are also somehow related to the carnival, and are, in fact, often carnies.  Fred thinks its because we exude some sort of Rabelaisian exuberance, that we are, in short, relentlessly robust.  Fred obviously knows nothing of my time spent weeping and the suggestion that that might be one of the chief occupations of his boudoir would shame him.

Fred likes the more complicated explanations.  Me?  I'm all about Occam's Razor.  We attract addicted Catholic carnies because the Haddock Corporation opened a detox/rehab and decided to headquarter it in our barn, next to its tantalizing rope structures (connecting to the Manor proper via the Computer Turret), which fairly sings to those with gymnastic training, which is most everyone.  Oh, right, and we are smack dab next to Abbot Truffatore's Internet Office Supply Center, cleverly disguised as a rather ancient monastery.

Forgive the sarcasm, Abbot!

Anyway, I put every bit of money that we earn, find, and grow on trees into my MDVIP fund each year.  Even when I did not have the money for health insurance, at least, not at the rate charged by BCBS of Tête de Hergé, a cool $1513 per month -- Even then, I found the odd pile of silver so that I could continue under the care of an excellent physician who knew me well and was absolutely dedicated to keeping me out of the hospital and well, if the fates were so inclined.  Now that I have a PCIP health insurance policy, thanks to President Obama's Affordable Health Care Act For Expats Lost In The Heads Of Dead Belgians, I continue the tradition of remaining remarkably poor and still spending money I cannot spare on a boutique-type doctor.

Studies show that my method is both madness and cost-effective.  My MDVIP Go-To-Guy affords me the knowledge base and the organizational support I need as we go tripping and skipping around to the specialists, trying to keep the various disease conflagrations under control.

Like I said, he's a kind man, and an excellent doctor.  He answers his own phone, is forthright, and from what I hear around the custom coffee centre, plays passable tennis.  Add to that list of positives that his nurse has a superb head for politics and can always find a vein, and you've got overwhelming indicators for a fine medical practice of personalized primary care.

Monday afternoon, he was probably thinking, "Don't make any sudden moves... Smile a lot... Support her in her delusions..."

I felt about that crazy.  It's tiring, being led by the nose from one appointment or test to another, believing against the available evidence that you are following some master plan for a return to health, only to have that psychotic rug pulled out from under you.

It can lead to things like a bedroom dedicated to weeping and not wanton pleasure (or, if you cannot sleep, sex).

He carefully went over my lab work from the week before, and after pointing out the abnormal infection indicators, affirmed that I had, indeed, passed the Duck Test, and that he would call my orthopedic surgeon that very afternoon.

[The peculiar reason for which I was weeping in the boudoir last Thursday morning was an early morning call advising me that there was no need to keep my appointment with the surgeon that afternoon, as the (failed) aspiration of my shoulder had grown no pathogens in the lab.  "Great news," was the message.  "Great news, my chapped ass," was my ladylike response.]

Believe me, I know how strange it is to actually want surgery!  I feel downright odd fantasizing about ripping this bloody prosthesis from its slipping anchor, mwa ha ha!  If there were a home-based, non-surgical way to get rid of the infection, we'd have done it... three years ago.  If you are new to the Shoulder Saga, it is best summed up that way:  an infection of my bilateral shoulder prostheses that we are unable to eradicate or control, which is causing much pain and decline in quality of life.  Also, I am not serving anywhere near as many blistering aces as I oughta be.

The damned microbes refuse to show themselves when so invited by certified laboratory personnel.  They're exceedingly shy or something.

You may have noticed, as I sure had, that today was Wednesday.  There's been no crying or gnashing of teeth, but there has been a lot of pain and existing under cover of soft, worn quilts.  A quieter depression instead of a theatrical meltdown. Lots of pain and fever.  When I saw Go-To-Guy, I was at 100.5, and that's after I had taken a pound of Tylenol.  I have been hitting 101 most every afternoon, and feeling charming through chills and sweats, snarling with hypoglycemia, dry as a bone from dehydration, drifting off into polyuric dreams when the blood sugars climb too high from infection and steroids.

In all of those good times, I kept hearing him promise to speak with Surgeon ShoulderMan.  Bless the ShoulderMan's heart -- the infection persists in spite of his great skills.  He did my replacement on the right, then three years later, did a series of seven surgeries, yanking prostheses, putting in temporary spacers, regifting me with new prostheses, all the while managing my several sidetrips to Respirator Land.  It has been nothing short of a miracle, and my gratitude knows no bounds.  Unfortunately, neither does the infection in my left shoulder.

Monday afternoon, Tuesday, Wednesday.  Wednesday afternoon.

Yay!  MDVIP Go-To-Guy's nurse called this afternoon and I answered the telephone as if it were my greatest friend and not the object of my phobia.  She knew to cut to the chase, so she did: "Doc spoke with ShoulderMan.  His office will be calling you later today to set up surgery."

It made no sense that I was tongue-tied, but I was, and still am.  Of course, it is now 8:30 pm and nary a soul from that office has phoned, but maybe they are flying around the world backward on a rainbow jet stream of surgical gel and are experiencing a different time zone.

Maybe Buddy the Freakishly Large Kitten chewed through the landline phone wires again... Hmm.  (Nope, they're okay!)

If the past holds true, scheduling an infected joint "clean out" can be a bear.  They want you to be their last case of the day, so that the surgical suite can be thoroughly disinfected before they operate on anyone else -- but these are kind people and they know that sitting in a waiting room for hours, waiting to be called for major surgery, is stressful, too.  Factor in that it is the holiday season ("We celebrate them all!") and that they have a few gazillion other patients clamoring for action, as well... and it may be Friday before they call with info.

[How's that for pretending to be cool, calm, and collected?]

But there you go, Dear Readers, we are off on another surgical tour of the gunk inside these necrotic bones.  There is, literally, no other option that makes any sense, and even though we've failed in subduing these tiny forces of unrepentant evil thus far, this time we are gonna prevail... or I will come out of the experiment sans shoulders.  At least I know what that is like, now, and am not afraid of living without that thing defined by the area between the arm and the neck.

It's not like my brain is involved, duh.

Thank you so much, MDVIP Go-To-Guy.

No more sitting weeping from frustration.  Maybe I'll give fearlessness a try and give hopelessness a rest.  It could happen.

Pineapple Valances

Am I the same person who recently claimed to be eerily non-responsive to discussions about abortion and the death penalty?  You know, someone "too cool for school," above it all, so right that there just is no point in engaging in discussions that continue to entertain differing (i.e., wrong) points of view?

My reactions to some news stories are surprising me, their author, their source. I refer to the reactions, of course. I haven't made the news, thank goodness, in years.

(Ah, italics.)

Today, for example, I've been foundering (and, yes, floundering, as well) in the shallow end of the rage pool...

Just to reassure some of you who have been wondering whether I am still in here, somewhere, whether I merit your continued faith? You betcha, I am, and I do! Proof positive? Would anyone else interrupt a rant over the failure of HHS Secretary Sebelius to advance reproductive options and choices in situations inherently imbued (even *fraught*) with the worst of pregnancy's circumstances... with frilly pronouncements about stuff best left to Dictionary Geeks?

Because I gotta tell ya: founder is one of my favorite verbs!

How can you not love an action word that means "to fill with water and sink," or, if you prefer, and if circumstances merit, "to become wrecked, fail utterly."

It's a wonderfully adverbial verb, furiously conditioning itself before your lips even hit its final frenchified lip-pursing action, all that indefinite -e-r-r-r-r.

In a pinch, this verb-that-was-clearly-made-for-moi can also convey "to stumble, break down, or go lame," with an option for becoming "ill from overeating."

One verb that alone is able to cover my entire day thus far?  That even has a fair grasp on my week as a whole, and, for that matter, gives a pretty darned fair representation of the last decade? I love it. You've gotta love it. Or at least respect the hell out of it.

I stumbled, 
broke down, 
and went lame. 

I filled up with water;  
I sank. 

I was a wreck; 
I failed utterly.

I became ill from overeating.   

Over at RH Reality Check, Jodi Jacobson has my outrage covered, and thank goodness for that. Lord only knows what transitive, intransitive, regular, and irregular garbage I'd make of it.

The Editor-In-Chief wrote:

In what can only be called an astounding move by an Administration that pledged on inauguration day that medical and health decisions would be based on fact not ideology and for which women are a major constituency, today Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) overruled a much-awaited decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make emergency contraception (EC) available over-the-counter (OTC) to women of all ages.

According to the New York Times, "no health secretary has ever [overruled an FDA decision] before."

EC has been available over-the-counter for women ages 18 and older for at least two years. The FDA has been further reviewing data on whether the method should be available OTC without a prescription to those age 17 and younger at risk from unprotected intercourse.

In a statement this afternoon FDA underscored that it "had been carefully evaluating for over a decade whether emergency contraceptives containing levonorgestrel, such as Plan B One-Step, are safe and effective for nonprescription use to reduce the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse."

Experts, noted the statement, "including obstetrician/gynecologists and pediatricians, reviewed the totality of the data and agreed that it met the regulatory standard for a nonprescription drug and that Plan B One-Step should be approved for all females of child-bearing potential."

"I reviewed and thoughtfully considered the data, clinical information, and analysis provided by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER)," wrote Dr. Margaret Hamburg, head of the FDA and author of the statement, "and I agree with the Center that there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential."

However, she wrote:

[T]this morning I received a memorandum from the Secretary of Health and Human Services invoking her authority under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to execute its provisions and stating that she does not agree with the Agency’s decision to allow the marketing of Plan B One-Step nonprescription for all females of child-bearing potential. Because of her disagreement with FDA’s determination, the Secretary has directed me to issue a complete response letter, which means that the supplement for nonprescription use in females under the age of 17 is not approved. Following Secretary Sebelius’s direction, FDA sent the complete response letter to Teva today. Plan B One-Step will remain on the market and will remain available for all ages, but a prescription will continue to be required for females under the age of 17.
Read the rest of Jacobson's article HERE.

Now, this is an occasion wherein argument and discussion among people of open minds and good heart will yield helpful discussion. Of course, that was also the case last year, yesterday, and would still have been true tomorrow had Secretary Sebelius allowed the FDA's studied opinion to go unchallenged... you know, as a scientific, studied opinion.

I guess that my essential self remains relatively stable and unchanging, because I am more than happy to have the hypothetical conversation flit from civility to shock and back again, without me.

I want to say two things:

1. You made the wrong decision, Secretary Sebelius, and
2. As I tweeted you upon hearing of your unwanted intervention, "[k]nowing the emergencies 2which this contraception is a response, how dare you contravene the scientific opinion with... moralism?"

Apparently, folks don't give much thought or credence to the situations in which a female child "of child-bearing potential" needs emergency contraception. It's much easier to imagine a twenty-something woman who enjoys sex but who failed to "protect herself" before some ill-advised sexual encounter that took place somewhere badly decorated. There were probably bedbugs and unsavory viruses involved, as well. Really, sniff, pregnancy is the least of her worries. And furthermore: harrumph.

Or maybe folks envision a tramp-in-the-making, the bright, shining daughter, somehow, of vested, puritanical virgins.  And maybe, just maybe, experiencing motherhood at 16 -- unprepared! underage! -- will teach that thoughtless girl a lesson she'll never forget.  Sniff and harrumph, squared.

No, I don't think that you think that way. I don't know, frankly, how you think, though I would hope that only people of a certain Ilk come to congregate at The Manor -- and that once you got here, you'd hang your Ilk at [one of] the door[s].

We all know it's true, be we liberal on this issue or conservative, that an Ilk really just gets the old foot in the old door.


The conversation needs to be ugly, as ugly as the circumstances of emergency contraception. Ignorance is ugly, and I don't pretend to disagree that some of those who need EC are ignorant, maybe stupid. Even so, I missed the commandment where we punish the ignorant and, in our perfected authority, deny their choices.

Uglier still? Rape by stranger. Rape by a familiar, rape by the trusted, rape by authority. Rape and no one with whom to talk, no one to tell, no one to help. Rape in an atmosphere of total fear and distrust, or worse, an atmosphere of cheery imploded values, a crisp, freshly laundered valance -- a pineapple motif, I think, pineapple for hospitality! -- on the kitchen window, a casserole in the oven, male kin in the den, rooting for State.

So start a conversation, or instigate one like you're committing arson, but also, go to the pharmacy and pick up some EC. Show it around, be flashy. Make fun temporary tattoos for the
kids out of its logo. Teach the rug rats how to form the letter B in American and International Sign Language. Leave the package of EC on the kitchen counter, maybe with a red bow to go with the bowl of shiny apples. Say its name. Announce that you have it, should there be a need in your general environs to prevent pregnancy. Maybe say where you plan to store it -- which, and I am just guessing here, is probably best somewhere cool, dark, and dry.

I do pity the pharmacists in all this.
I do, I really do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

" support of libraries, books, words, ideas...(& against their exit)."

The mystery of the paper sculptures left in Edinburgh's libraries, at book festivals, and even tucked away in book shops, has apparently been solved by Mr. Garry Gale, the former music librarian to The Edinburgh Evening News ("Sculpture whodunnit solved").

Solved -- but not revealed.  Readers were asked whether or not they wanted to know the name of the artist... and the readers said "no."

You may have followed the story on NPR, as it was reported by Robert Krulwich in his blog, Krulwich Wonders with the posts Who Left A Tree, Then A Coffin In The Library and The Library Phantom Returns.

As Krulwich notes, there is a "picture-rich version of this tale at This is Central Station, an Edinburgh-based website that features many more photos... from photographer Chris Scott."

photo by chris scott
The last sculpture found, though perhaps not found in order:
 "...a sculpture propped atop the donations box in the Robert Louis Stevenson room.
 It was a street scene, with birds, people, cobblestones, all under a dangling moon hanging in the sky."