Archive for August, 2010

traffic report

Driving to the barn first thing in the morning, red brake lights and the cars slowing up ahead, flares in the fast lane. We all eased down to a stately second gear and looked left to see what had happened:

A police car.

A woman with her hands over her mouth, staring in distress at:

A deer, sphinx-like in front of the woman’s little hatchback and looking around, its ears erect, its lovely legs folded badly.

The deer was not going to be okay.

The morning light slanted through the haze, and we all sped up and drove away.

mad august

Jesus, what is it about this time of year? My ghosts walk; the past comes squirming Buffy-like out of its grave. Hand me my shotgun and swear to me, if I become one of the evil undead, you will kill me.

with great power comes great responsibility

All of which is to say: dear my Australian friends, screw both candidates and vote Independent or Green. But you were going to do that already.


not boringly so

Last night I dreamed Tony Abbott sat next to me on a train, maybe a Tangara. We were heading West. I don’t know why that was important. I do blame this hilariously homoerotic oped for disturbing my beauty sleep:

I could not fail to notice the walk – which with an obviously athletic body could only be described as unmistakably masculine. Indeed Tony must be the most masculine and athletic of Australia’s politicians, and not boringly so. I have often thought that had he been on the left he would be the media’s pin up boy.

My stars! Is it warm in here? Get a room, boys! The piece, disappointingly, does not continue with “…my heart palpated as he caught my eye. His eyes, twin flames under that stormy brow, burned as he huskily whispered my name…”

My dream also ended unsexily. I told Abbott off for his platforms and policies, although I did it a bit self-consciously, since most of what I object to in his position (he’s bad on gay marriage, immigration and the environment) is exactly the same as what I object to in that of his opponent. He’s a Catholic monarchist! She’s a centrist cipher! They fight (property) crime.

I have only theories about the right. Despite my decade-long flirtation with Christianity I always thought of myself as socialist, just a Fabian socialist. It was a shock to discover that my church was actually hard-right, anti-abortion, anti-feminist and come to that, anti-women and children, at least in practice.

More recently my theories have revolved around the Big Five personality traits – the idea that our personalities can be mapped along five independent vectors: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. This research made immediate sense to me when I first encountered it. It’s trivial to note, for example, that I score sky-high on Openness and Neuroticism, and that I am introverted as hell. In fact Julia’s the only Extravert in our little family – the only one who draws energy from company, as opposed to from solitude – and framing it in this way has helped me to accept her manic glee.

My theory is that conservative people do not score very high on Openness. Is that tautological? And it’s not even that, as a progressive, I think things are going to turn out well; it’s just that I know from bitter experience that whatever else happens, time will pass. Sometimes that’s a good thing – +1 to team White Blood Cells! go the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement! science yay science! – and sometimes it’s an awful thing – bring back the bookstores; boo to old age. But either way, there’s no point fussing about it.

I also, relatedly, subscribe to the notion that conservative religion is pretty much all about sublimating the fear of death. I know it was for me. And it would explain a lot about how conservative religious people behave; their nasty secret sins, and their otherwise weird and alien assumption that as long as their imaginary superhero in the sky “forgives” them, then despite all evidence to the contrary, no actual harm was done. They store up for themselves so many riches in heaven that they leave the earth a smoking crater. This life doesn’t matter! It’s just a starter life! Do-over! I’m not a fan. Can you tell?

Separately, I finally got a glimmer of understanding the libertarian point of view when I realized how historically late an invention the income tax is, and how little tax people used to pay:

Another income tax was implemented in Britain by William Pitt the Younger in his budget of December 1798 to pay for weapons and equipment in preparation for the Napoleonic wars. Pitt’s new graduated income tax began at a levy of 2d in the pound (0.8333%) on incomes over £60 and increased up to a maximum of 2s in the pound (10%) on incomes of over £200 (£170,542 in 2007).

Put like that, it’s obviously a shocking imposition, and I myself would far prefer not to be hurling a goodly fraction of my income at the US military establishment. But I don’t mind a bit paying for public schools; I would pay more; and I would prefer to pay for Medicare for All and a respectable public transportation infrastructure than to pay for my private health insurance or my car. My parents, you see, taught me that it is good and right to share. Because they’re pinkos.

So those are my theories: that conservatives want things to stay the same, and they don’t want to be made to share. When I think of it that way, you know, I can honestly sympathize. I don’t want to grow old and die, and I don’t like being made to do things either. But I am going to grow old and die, and I do have an awful lot of privilege while other people have far less, and it behooves me not to bogart the cash and the happiness and the, you know, access to clean water and antibiotics and so on. My ethical stance boils down to an ultra-streamlined Postel’s law: be kind and tolerant. Or even more simply, don’t be a dick (Cheney.)

Then there’s that whole weird thing about taking the Bible seriously. Or more precisely, taking extremely tiny morsels of the Bible, daisychained together with logical contortions and dubious interpretations, as an infallible guide to modern life that totally lets you off the hook for being a homophobic douchebag. I dunno. I find far more beauty and wonder and testament to the human spirit and the awesomeness of life in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. But you knew that already.

All of which is to say: dear my Australian friends, screw both candidates and vote Independent or Green. But you were going to do that already.

(At least you guys have preferential voting and won’t accidently Nader yourselves into a Bush administration, touch wood. But that is another ranty, for another time.)


Just because it hasn’t been all Bella, all the time around here doesn’t mean I am ever thinking about anything else. Oh, I know, I have children and a great job and, oh yeah, Optimal Husband, and the Legion of Optimal Friends Forever (LOFF), and yes I adore you all &c.

ANYWAY. I’ve been riding regular Sunday and Tuesdays with Hard Taskmistress Erin, who for example requires us to post to the trot with no stirrups, or transition between “crossrail two-point” and “five-foot-fence two-point”, or canter from two-point, or from the walk. God help you if you don’t have a secure lower leg, which I still don’t, despite all our hopes and prayers and wishes to the contrary.

In fact, and in keeping with my life’s generic conventions as post-slacker romcom (probably directed by Lisa Cholodenko and starring Tilda Swinton), my lower leg is now ironically inclined to be too far forward. More irony! I have a sudden and serious problem with tiny crossrails. I can jump a decent 2’6″ vertical in respectable form, and then I can drop Bella in a shocking spot in front of a jump she could step over.

This is the story arc this season. I worked on getting Bella into a more uphill canter by engaging my core muscles, and I ended up hunched and pumping with my shoulders. I wasn’t releasing over fences, and then I was throwing the contact away and leaning over her forehand. My two-point ended up all weird and crouchy. I finally figured what I was doing wrong through all of this. Dudes, I am trying too hard.

It was very clear this morning, when I was working really hard on my posting-trot-no-stirrups, and then my hip hurt so I tried to relax and just do it minimally, and Erin immediately said “That’s better.” And again, when she had us drop our stirrups at the canter, and as soon as we did, my leg was more secure. And again, when we were doing a canter pole to a vertical to a canter pole and then four strides to a crossrail, my distances and releases improved the moment I started counting strides aloud. The more I don’t do anything, the more I don’t think about it, the better it is.

I think I’m at the slightly dangerous point of having improved quite a lot, but not as much as I would like to have improved, so I am reaching for harder things and in doing so neglecting the fundamentals: breathe, sit up straight, keep still. It’s the paradox at the heart of riding – maybe anything difficult. You have to sweat to create the muscle memory, and then you have to distract yourself, meditate, transcend, absent your thinky monkey self so that the muscle memory can actually work. I get to control the direction and the pace, and then I have to let Bella handle the actual galloping and jumping over the fence. She’s much better at that part than I am.

And that’s the thing. If you drive stick, you can probably remember having to think about changing gear, and then not having to think about it, and then maybe driving along something like Highway One between Jenner and Point Arena and being the car; drinking the curves and feeling the suspension as your own spirit-level inner ear. Riding’s like that – your proprioception expanding to encompass another entity – with this exquisite refinement: you end up with two souls.

purple AND garnet yams

Claire and I had a sleepover at the Cal Academy on Friday night, which was completely brilliant. “Can I eat whatever I want?” “Knock yourself out, kid.” We staked out the absolute primo position – under the tree in the African Hall – and woke up to birdsong, and the shadow of a leopard. We had watched “Night at the Museum” to get into the spirit of things. “It’s going to be SO AWESOME,” I kept saying: “the penguins and the butterflies and the alligators are going to COME TO LIFE.” To which she replied only: “MA-ma.” No one does disdain like your seven-year-old daughter.

Saturday was nuts: we were out of the museum by 8; Claire made it to wushu, and Salome and I made it to the Farmer’s Market, but only after being distracted by two of more than sixty simultaneous garage sales on the hill. Next year we will plan accordingly. She got a lamp and a very nice grey sweater vest. I got a pink bag I am not sure about, and Mary Janes and a cardigan and a brocade cushion cover that I am perfectly sure about, all for $8.

After the market we went to Julia’s! Kinder! Barbeque! Then Claire and I battled traffic to the Container Store, where I got baskets for the shopping bags and shoes that otherwise litter our entry hall. The baskets are a perfect fit! I am enamoured of my new, clutter-free entry hall. Jan, who arrived while the girls were at swim class, only asked “Why do you have so many shoes anyway?” I came late to the stereotypical shoe love, but I am making up for lost time. The girls were beside themselves with delight at seeing Jan.

Yesterday I rode Bella over fences, and we did a big course, and rode it better than we’ve ever done before, so that was insanely great. Then Danny and Liz and Ada came over and we had roast chicken with two kinds of yams and potatoes and carrots and a salad with spinach and yellow cherry tomatoes and squash blossoms. And it was very delicious.

Danny is thinking of buying Albion Castle in the Bayview and making it his supervillain lair. I pointed out that it would be almost unworkably far away from Mission burritos, and he said that tapping the Alameda-Weehawken burrito tunnel could be his first crime.

This morning Julia started kindergarten. She was radiantly brave, and gave me a huge grin and a thumbs-up as she marched into her classroom. I got something in my eye. I have two schoolgirls now, and no more little kids.

gray lady or clusterfuck nation?

Who said it: Krugman or Kunstler?

“Was that the sound of the economy rolling over?”

“The lights are going out all over America — literally.”

“Here are some truths which I believe to be self-evident: that the USA has been running on fumes since the beginning of the 21st century.”

“…a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself…”

“America has transformed itself from a nation of earnest, muscular, upright citizens to a land of overfed barbarous morons ruled by grifters.”

“Emerging nations are making huge efforts to upgrade their roads, their ports and their schools. Yet in America we’re going backward. ”

“In times like these politics gets very crazy. The public forgets how misled and confused it is and develops vicious certainties that do not necessarily jibe with reality.”

“The antigovernment campaign has always been phrased in terms of opposition to waste and fraud — to checks sent to welfare queens driving Cadillacs, to vast armies of bureaucrats uselessly pushing paper around. But those were myths, of course; there was never remotely as much waste and fraud as the right claimed. And now that the campaign has reached fruition, we’re seeing what was actually in the firing line: services that everyone except the very rich need, services that government must provide or nobody will, like lighted streets, drivable roads and decent schooling for the public as a whole.

“So the end result of the long campaign against government is that we’ve taken a disastrously wrong turn. America is now on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere.”

When you can no longer tell the paranoid blogger from the Nobel prize-winning economist at the newspaper of record, something somewhere has gone very wrong.

also, this

Massive props to my bff Skud!

wotcha doin’?

I’m thinking. I’m thinking about women. I’m thinking about my body, about beauty, about politics, about my daughters, about the war. I am thinking about the books I want to write. I am thinking about the weekend. I am thinking about my childhood, and my Daddy, and the future. I am listening to a lot of music.