Don't try this at home, heh heh

I was tickled when I read that the Asian Times had issued this marital precaution:

Chinese doctors have warned moviegoers not to try some of the more ambitious sexual positions featured in the uncut version of the Ang Lee film "Lust, Caution." Most of the sexual maneuvers in "Lust, Caution" are in abnormal body positions, said Yu Zao, a deputy director at a women's hospital in southern Guangdong province. "Only women with comparatively flexible bodies that have gymnastics or yoga experience are able to perform them."
Oh really? They looked pretty normal to me. Hmmm.

If you haven't seen Lust, Caution this "report" will likely entice you to rush right out and do just that. Unless of course, you're offended by full frontal nudity, explicit scenes of sexual intercourse or hot, steamy, passionate film-making.

This is a powerful movie. It's set in WWII-era Shanghai, not a great time for the Chinese. They've been overrun with Japanese and they're fighting for their freedom. This movie has love, sex, intrigue, guns, sex, great acting, believable characters, great costumes, sex.

I love Ang Lee: Eat Drink Man Woman; Brokeback Mountain; Sense and Sensibility; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I suspect actors love him too, they do such a fabulous job for him and seem willing to do just about anything on screen. Amazing.


Florida stories: Mailboxes

Well, we're coming to the end of Florida stories. It won't be long and there'll be no more from this part of the country. But hey! You're going to love Oregon stories.

There are so many things that seem peculiar to me about Clearwater. High on the list is the Department of Sanitation and that would include the "recycling" program, of course. Hah! What recycling? Ok, yes, we're given yellow bins to put out paper, aluminum, tin and that's about it. No cardboard, no glass. Some plastic. Oh well. And then there's what we started calling Tuesday pick-up. That's when you can put anything out on the curb and the city will cart it away. No kidding. It's a fantastic service. Needless to say, with two houses needing major renovations, we took full advantage.

But today we're talking about mailboxes. Some of the Florida stories could have taken place anywhere. But I never saw mailboxes like this anyplace else. Certainly not in San Diego. They're almost cute.

There are fish mailboxes. They look like a kit you put together and then paint.

Other aquatic creatures.

A couple of hand-painted beach scenes and a few with just ordinary contact paper stuck on.

Some appropriately tropical birds.

And finally, a fishing lure, a school bus and...a yellow submarine.

The Hawkins family, starting with Jefferson

I am incredibly blessed to have married into such a phenomenal family. The Hawkins' are a lovely, rowdy, smart, funny, and oh so talented bunch. I've mentioned so many times already how creative Kim is and it turns out his big brother Jeff is too. It's really hard to know where to start, Jeff's talents are very diverse. He is the go-to person if you have a product that you want people to know about and desire. He is the absolute bomb photographer. And most recently, he's taken up 3D modeling software -- completely self taught.

Jeff is one of the reasons we want to live in Portland. He's been there about a year and is loving it. We visited last August and were sold immediately. Kim has two sons living there as well. And we're hoping Slayde will move there when she's finished law school. (My not so secret wish is that Allison and Carl will want to move to Portland some day.) I'll be telling you more about sons Abe and Shue in another post. Also, more about Slayde and her lovely grandmother Evelyn, later.

This is one of my most favorites of Jeff's photographs. Yes, it was PhotoShopped. And what a great job of it! The woman and the outfit are real, Jeff took out all the people around her and put her in the sky.

On Jeff's main blog, he posts a lot about his travels around Portland, over to the Oregon coast, San Fransisco and Texas. His photography is simply awesome. Here's the underneath part of St. John's Bridge, one of the most beautiful bridges in this country, IMHO.

Here is Jeff's take on what's happening to $cientology. It's a project he's doing to teach himself the 3D modeling software. I love it.


Shouting from my soapbox: I'm sorry, okay?

Did you ever have somebody bring up something mean or stupid that you did years earlier? How did that make you feel? Certainly you didn’t intend to do harm…well, okay, maybe you did once. But let’s all just admit that we’ve made some mistakes, yeah? That seems like a good place to start.

In the last six months I’ve been reminded by 4 people of things I did years ago that were hurtful to them.

In one case, the event was 42 years ago. I will admit that what happened was pretty bad and that the injured party really suffered. I do understand. I truly fucked up.

Number two was a chatty letter I got from a relative. He recounted, between innocuous personal stories, some genuinely awful things I did or said to him during a visit he made to our house. That visit would have been, umm, let’s see, about 10 years ago. And, again, he was right – I had been very thoughtless and cruel.

The third reminder was in an email from one of my new “old” friends. I guess I was rude to her too. Apparently, in my youth, I had cussed her out. In this case I can’t say that I actually remember what happened. I recall being mostly a wuss at that age and not the sort of person who would go off on someone. I didn’t have that kind of bravado, in my recollection of myself at 17.

And last, but not least, a recent email reminding me of an insensitivity 5 years ago. That was someone I snubbed because they made some remark about $cientology. And you probably thought I was exaggerating about dumping people who didn’t like my “church?” Nope, did it all the time. But in this particular case, I probably would have snubbed that person anyway. He was hard for me to get along with, I didn’t have anything in common with him and he’d moved far away. It’s this damn blog. I’m so easily found. I should have left well enough alone. I could have ignored his email, but nooo, I’m trained to be polite.

Which brings us to one of the points of all this: How to handle other people’s upsets when they’re old news. I have no problem with apologizing and I certainly have been doing a lot of that lately. That’s completely fine with me. And I’m not glib about it, I feel their pain, I hear that I’ve done damage. I sincerely wish I could take it back, have an undo or a do-over, or something so that that thing never happened to them. But I can’t.

Here would be another point of this rant: What is their reason for telling me about it now? Have they been waiting all this time for that apology? Is there more I should do to make up for my screw-ups? Now, see, I feel pretty strongly that holding onto old hurts is counter-productive – I can’t think of a way that it would help a person, can you? To me it comes under the heading of “get over it.” I was trying to think of things that family or friends had done to me that had upset me, hurt me, pissed me off, etc. I was able to remember a few things, but nothing so huge that I thought I should bring it up in the now. Nothing. Maybe this is one of the important variables here: how big was the hurtful thing? Wouldn't that have something to do with whether or not you held onto it? And for how long?

I have to say here that I know this is a complicated issue. I think “getting over it” and “moving on” are very important. I believe that holding onto old hurts just makes a person sour, unhappy, a sad sack and someone who cannot trust others. That said, here’s a story about my own experience on the other side: I was an abused child, from age 5 to age 12. The abuse was at the hands of my father, who died when I was 12. I tried once, when I was in my early 20s, to talk to my mother about what had happened. I really had to work up my courage to have that conversation, trust me. So I carefully brought up the past, carefully said something about feeling damaged by what had happened, carefully, walking on eggshells here, tried to engage my mother in the conversation. She had two responses, neither of them an apology. The first was, “It happens to all little girls,” and the second was, “Can’t you just move on?!”

An apology at that moment would have helped me move on, would have helped me heal. An apology would have said to me that she knew she was partly accountable and that she didn't take it lightly. It certainly would have been a step in the right direction. I can see how that apology, even decades after the fact, is crucial.

Unless, of course, it's something little. Then, if someone's hanging on, waiting for you to grovel and whip yourself, it's a whole different story. Then it's their problem, I think.

All of this raises many questions for me: What about the moment the hurt occurs? Isn't that the best time of all to say, "Hey, asshole, get off my foot!"? But maybe you, like me, aren't the brave sort of person you would like to be. I may be able to rant, especially here, where I have lots of time to write and rewrite. That's not the same as having the guts to tell someone that I feel hurt. And how about this: Do you always know that you've been hurt, right at the moment it happens? I have a delay thing -- it may take a while for me to catch up, so to speak. I may not know for a week that I should have stood up for myself. And if I had known right at the moment, would I have been up to the task?

It is a complex thing, human nature. There's all the stuff we're taught about "please" and "thank you" and being polite. There's all the stuff about being female and not feeling entitled to throw a punch occasionally. There's all the stuff about being male and not allowing your feelings to show, or, for that matter, to be known to yourself.

I believe we must have conversations with ourselves about these things. And somehow, we have to find our own balance, what are the lines that we will not cross and that we will not allow others to cross with us. And once we've figured that out, how do we communicate those things to others? If someone is standing on your toe, is smacking them upside the head the first thing you would do? I know people who are so angry most of the time, that that is what they would do. But if you've "moved on" from the hurts in your life, wouldn't you be more inclined to say, "Excuse me, would you please get off my toe?"


Florida stories: The best plumber

We moved into a house, here in Florida, that badly needed renovation. We gutted almost every room in this house and started over, ceiling to floor. We did an incredible job and now this house is gorgeous. As I've said many times before (and of course you're really tired of hearing it), we moved here to do bigger and better things in our "church." So, naturally, our first contacts were other $cientologists. Kim and I needed massive numbers of recommendations for people to help us with contracting, electrical, masonry, plumbing, etc. We had so much work to do and we only trusted $cnists to tell us who to hire. Interestingly, some of the recommendations were for non-$cientologist tradesmen. Okay. We'll take a chance. We'll try them.

To be perfectly honest, some of the worst work was done by $cnists and some of the most irresponsible tradesmen were $cnists. One electrician (who was a $cnist) started the work we contracted for and then disappeared without a trace for about 2 months. Then he just showed up one day and asked if we were too mad at him to have him finish the work. Right. That's a good way to do business.

Of all the people we met through this process, the most marvelous one is Eddie. He is a first-rate plumber and a glorious human being. He's in his 70s and can still do the work of a much younger man. Yes, he is slowing down now. We called him this week to take care of a few things that came up on the inspection and he said he couldn't crawl under the house. He also wasn't going to let me pay him for the two things he did fix because of our long term relationship. Eddie told us a few stories of his dealings with $cnists -- they weren't happy stories.

I cried when Eddie left the other day. I know I won't see him again. Even though we weren't "friends," I feel a loss and I will miss him.

Other people's lives

I think I have the most amazing friends. Haven't I said that a few thousand times? No matter. I will say it and say it and then I'll just say it some more. I'm very lonely here in Florida. The "friends" we had were $cientologists and they're not allowed to speak to us any more. We had great friends in San Diego -- many who had nothing at all to do with $cn. And we have sorely missed them. I also have fantastic friends from when I lived in Arizona.

As Kim and I have worked through our disconnection from $cn and made our plans to relocate to Oregon, a remarkable number of people I'd lost track of started to surface. Or, in other cases, stronger bonds were made with friends who had been shunted aside because they weren't interested in our "religion."

Well, all this is just prelude to these fabulous photos that three lovely friends have shared with me and I am now sharing with you.

Lois visits a Caribbean island.

Haris dresses up Sadie.

Lauri zooms down a slide carved out of ice.

Have I mentioned that we know a lot of people in Oregon? It really boggles my mind that we're going to have so many friends the moment we move there. It's awesome. In fact, we already have our first dinner invitation!


I'm just trying to distract you

I usually put up something like these cartoons or a video when I'm trying to figure out what I want to say next. Just relax.

This is another wonderful funny from xkcd.

I popped this out of an email with a bunch of Easter stuff. I liked it the best.


March 19, 2008 End the War in Iraq Blogswarm

Jim Barron, 80, poses at his home in New Haven, Conn., Thursday, March 13, 2008. Barron, who wears hearing aids and has a pacemaker, says he plans to risk arrest by participating in an act of civil disobedience next Wednesday, March 19 on the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Barron served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the 1950's. (AP Photo/Bob Child)

War: the ignorant against the innocent.

Bush is not the son who's gonna tote the gun.

Loyalty to my country: always.
Loyalty to my government: when it deserves it.
~Mark Twain

Many years ago, when I was working at University City High School, a war called Desert Storm started. The students were electrified and could talk of nothing else. UC High is in very conservative country, for the most part, but there were quite a few kids who understood that going to war for oil was insane. The students who thought it was great came to school wearing red, white and blue top hats, little pins with pro-war slogans and waving baby American flags. They'd ask, "Aren't you so proud to be an American?" They were baffled by my negative response. I always added, "I may not be proud to be an American, but I am always grateful to have been born in America."

I've tried to reconcile my various feelings about war. What would have happened if the different armies that stood against Hitler had stayed home? It is truly unacceptable that a madman with genocide on his mind is left to his own devices. No good. So, then come people with guns. I'm not good with this issue because I tend to be too narrow in my thinking: all war is bad. It is likely true that all war is bad, but some wars are not wrong.

If you would like to find all the blogs who participated in this blogswarm, go here.


Musical Inspiration UPDATED

It turns out that I know more musicians than I thought I did. I introduced you to Haris a while back. And I recently received two MP3 files in emails, neither one from Haris.

The first one is from Bruce. I've known Bruce since the mid 1970's -- we worked together in the AudioVisual Department at Arizona State University. He's always been a brilliant sound engineer and was part owner of a recording studio in Phoenix for many years. He was the producer on Killer Pussy's first album, Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage. He's also a respectable musician himself.

(There's a picture of Bruce and Celia getting married over on the right side. See if you can find it.)

Bruce writes:
"Attached is an mp3 of my latest musical endeavor with my friend Chris. Recorded on an old souped up Mac G4 with Protools. Shows what a coupla middle aged guys can do with a computer in the spare bedroom."

Chris Daly is an actor and a bad magician (as he demonstrates here with his disappearing brick trick). Heh heh.

The tune is called Empty Space. Enjoy.

And here's another one of those weird re-connecting things that's been going on with me: I got an email from Carl, who was my boss at the last place I worked in San Diego. Carl was writing to let me know he'd found me through this blog and had passed along the contact info to John Frazer, a former co-worker who wanted to talk to me. So. Now I'm back in touch with Carl and Harmonica John, as he's known in the music biz.

Here's the tune John sent. It's called Help Me. Enjoy.


Six month anniversary

Today marks six months of no cigarettes.

I've done my share of whining and complaining about not smoking, but I must say it's getting easier and easier to ignore the little urges I still get. Fortunately, I have vivid dreams of smoking and when I wake up, I feel satisfied. How odd. I wish I could learn to do that with food. Oh well.

image by duchesssa at sxc


Florida Stories: Why do we want to get out of Florida so badly?

To answer that question, I must explain how we came to be here in the first place. Since Clearwater, Florida is definitely not a place we would have chosen to live, what in the world would make us move here? Well, brainwashing is the simplest answer. We were "good" members of $cientology and we did what was expected of us -- and we didn't think about it. We sold our house in San Diego and moved to Florida. We didn't like it much at first and we hoped that it would get better. It didn't.

Here's what we didn't like:
The heat.
The humidity.
The bugs.
The mold and mildew.
The humidity combined with the heat.
The rats.
The really stupid people.
The ugliness of the town of Clearwater.
The deadness of the town.
The humidity.
There are no freeways.
There's nothing pretty or beautiful to look at (okay, there must be something.)

Once we woke up and knew that we were not $cientologists any more, all that was left was selling this house and getting out of here. The waking up was in the summer of 2006; the selling of the house was last week.

So, of course, one of the reasons we want to leave is that Clearwater is buried in $cientology. The biggest of their organizations is here and attracts people from all over the world. They've bought and renovated several of the historical buildings in Clearwater. And of course, there's the Super Power Building, which they've been working on for ten years. They hit up $cientologists for the money to build this monstrosity to the tune of $142 million. The building is not finished and the thing that it was built for isn't finished and the city of Clearwater has been fining them for being so overdue on finishing, but they don't care. They can't finish the building because they have nothing and no one to put in it.

There are also many businesses owned by $cientologists -- I worked for one until we were declared "suppressive persons," at which time I was fired. Our tax preparer was a $cieno and now she won't do our taxes. The contractor who did all the major projects on our house is a $cieno. I ran into him at the market, he wouldn't look at me. The $cieno friends we had likewise won't acknowledge that they know us. They are very weird.

$cientology casts a pall over this part of Florida. Clearwater is a dying town and many long-time residents believe it is directly because of the presence of $cientology. You can look up all the awful things this "church" did when they arrived here. Just Google Gabe Cazeres.

But the really good news is $cientology itself is dying. There have been outspoken critics for years and they've chipped away at the cult while being targets of harassment and worse. Now comes Anonymous. I'm so happy they're here. They're like the calvary arriving in the old westerns. They've put together an excellent video. It's only 14 minutes but will show you why they're involved. We didn't join in the protest on February 10, but we will tomorrow.

We haven't enjoyed living in Florida, and it's possible that we came here just so we could wake up from our nightmare. We are so happy to be out of the cult of greed and power. We are so happy to be moving on.


How would you meet the news of your impending death?

This video is Dr. Randy Pausch's last lecture to his students at Carnegie Mellon. Randy has cancer and was told last September that he had only a few months left to live. Want to be inspired (even as you sob)?

It's 12 minutes. I think you'll like it.

I just want to mention also, this is how Kim sees things. He's been helping me get to this place for the past couple of years and I'm very grateful.


Florida stories: Lions and tigers and panthers, oh my!

But they're all in cages. It's very hard to see beautiful wild animals cooped up. It's so wrong, every bit of me cries for them and the injustice that brought them to this point.

I have always admired people who work for important causes like Big Cat Rescue (BCR), who give selflessly of their time and energy to help. The woman standing in front of the cage is Jennifer, the volunteer staff member who gave us our tour. She knows her stuff and she made our visit really wonderful.

This is Shaquille, a male leopard who has been at BCR for 12 years. He came from a Vegas circus act where he was brutally beaten. His partner in the act didn't survive the cruel treatment.

Caracels can perform unbelievable acrobatics -- jumping high enough to swat birds out of the sky. There are two at BCR, both born there.

There are several leopards at BCR: the black Shaquille, some spotted leopards and an amazing snow leopard (we'll get to her, don't worry). They've been rescued from breeders, the entertainment industry or private owners who figured out that they weren't pets.

"At Big Cat Rescue our philosophy is that NO wild animal should be bred for life in a cage." Bred for life in a cage is how Hercules started life, but because there was a "surplus" of his blood line, he had to be taken out of the mix of animals used for breeding. He now spends his days at BCR with Cloe, a female who was purchased as a gift and then abandoned.

Here ends part one of our adventures at Big Cat Rescue. More later.


Miracles do happen

Back in January, Stephanie told me that our house would sell on March 5th. I thought, "Wow, that's so specific. How can she know that?" I think she said she dreamed about it.

And yesterday, our house sold. We've had it for sale since last July.

We're moving to Oregon. Finally.

This is so silly, but don't you love it?

(click the image, it'll get big enough to read)

It's a site devoted to pictures of people flipping off Hummer2s. It just feels so right. And I'm not apologizing to any owner of one of these beasts. Getting the finga is only fair.


Birthday bowling

Allison recently celebrated a birthday -- she turned 28 (just kidding). She and Carl and a bunch of friends went bowling. Yes, bowling. I haven't done that in years. My mom was a bowling champ; she was in a league and everything. I might get a little yelled at for putting these up here, but oh well, what are kids for? (I did, after all, put up a picture of myself vacuuming the yard.)