Remi has decided that we don't have enough togetherness, enough closeness, and seems to be brainstorming ways to improve the situation.
The last two nights it involves yoga. She plants herself on the mat, just as I make to do the sun salutation. So when I'm doing Down Dog (hands and feet on the floor, butt high in the air), she's the dog beneath me.
And when I go to do the counter-position, she scrambles out from getting squashed like a windshield bug, and climbs atop my calves for a snuggle and snooze.
Talk about separation anxiety.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Remi has decided that we don't have enough togetherness, enough closeness, and seems to be brainstorming ways to improve the situation.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
It's quite clear that if Cookham needed calypso for anything, it could only be used as some sort of weapon of mass destruction. I was so utterly destroyed--completely crippled--I could certainly not hold the camera steady during the school assembly, and breathing was hard. Nearly split a rib. My nephew is singing here, along with the other sad group of whities--who all seem to be suffering some form of group paralysis.
Kids: Here's what happens when you move your arms and legs. When you find the beat. Or when you acknowledge that there might be a beat.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Wendy, Wendy, Wendy. We know those little butterflies on Grandma's glasses really piss you off, but must you sharpen your fangs on her soft skin?
And Grandma... wake up! Ain't no time for sashaying in your pretty new dress. Run!! Hoof it!!!
I wrote on the Thanksgiving email that accompanied this photo that she got all muddy out chasing a turkey. But she was chasing deer. A gorgeous family of them out in the fields. She caught sight and took off. They, too--and must have been shocked, as I imagine they'd never been run down by a Jack Russell before. They ran so fast and were so beautiful and elegant. Her beauty was in her joy, her rabbit-quick legs not failing her. Run. Run. Run. She got smaller and smaller, until she was a dot. Then she was nothing, and then a dot again as she emerged back within sight. She sprinted the entire way, having chased the deer back into some shallow woods and then come back to report to me.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm re-running Part I and II of the obese turkey story from last year.
I'm in the back seat heading downtown while Nadir (interpreter) is in the front seat discussing with the driver details about the turkey. Jim and Shari are having Thanksgiving at their place and have given the driver the task of getting a turkey.
Jim said he wanted a big one ("and dead and plucked--you have to be specific here"), so the driver is explaining to Nadir that he got a sort of big one, and thinks it should be enough.
Nadir turns to me: "It's 20 kilos. Do you think that will be okay?"
20 kilos, 20 kilos. Sounds like a lot. I start to calculate. Let's see, 1 kilo is slightly more than 2 pounds, so that's.... that's....
..."What?!?!?! You're buying a 45 POUND turkey? Is that even possible?"
Yea, sure, I hear from both in the front seat. No sweat.
"Forty five pounds. Forty. Five. Pounds. In one turkey?"
Yes, this is nothing, Patricia. We eat this all the time. You know, especially after Ramadan when we are very hungry from fasting.
I ask Nadir if we are talking about the same animal.
"Are you sure this isn't an emu?
Or an ostrich?
Or a sheep? " I say.
Nadir starts to laugh while I get on the phone to my sister in England.
"Hi Joellyn. It's me. Have you ever heard of a 45 pound turkey?"
While Jo is huh-ing and what-ing, and expanding her brain to fit the cartoonish idea of a turkey the weight of her 9-year-old kid, I lose the connection.
Having stunned England, I call Jim.
"Hey Jim, it's me. Nadir and the driver are talking about the turkey. They are saying it's 45 pounds."
Jim yelps "WHAT?!?!?!" so loudly they can hear it in the front seat.
While Jim and I discuss the possibility of cutting the turkey in half so that we'll have half a bird at 22 pounds, the driver jokes that Jim could put the turkey in the washing machine and shrink it.
In the front seat, they start miming about shoving an obese bird into a small oven, while Jim and I ponder the mechanics of how one would go about stuffing half a turkey.
Shari, meanwhile, remains unaware of the giant, jurassic beast which is about to enter her kitchen. I imagine it arriving on a Harley, leathered and tattooed all around, with a marlboro hanging out of it's giant beak.
We want to save Shari from this horror.
"Nadir, tell the driver that we don't want a big bird, we only want a small one. Something around 10-12 kilos."
The driver is skeptical that he can get one that small.
He calls a few hours later and says he can get a 10-kilo bird (about 22 pounds), but that it'll have to be delivered in the morning, as it is still unaware of the fate that awaits it, and the duty will not be performed until this evening. Plus, the farmer is in the countryside, and it takes awhile to get it into Algiers.
But this won't do because of the timing (needs to go in the oven pre-dawn).
So it just may be, that when we sit down to our Thanksgiving feast, the silence of thanks will be shattered by the sound of the table cracking with the strain of the heavyweight centerpiece.
TURKEY SAGA, PART II
Back in his hometown, Nadir was regaling all of his friends with tales of the American lady chasing after him in Algiers, asking about obese turkeys.
A friend chimed in, joking about the bird, suggesting it wasn't a turkey after all, but an ostrich. That being said, his English vocabulary failed him, and "ostrich" unwittingly became "hostage."
So while my evening ended with the delivery to friends of a 45-pound, partially-plucked turkey, Nadir's friend was going on and on about Americans accidentally ordering "hostages" to eat for dinner.
"Yea, they probably ordered a hostage, and didn't know it. I'm surprised it even fit in the baker's oven!"
Nadir reports that even after three days, his sides still hurt from laughing.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Not long ago Remi and I taxied over to the cafe in Sir George. Once we got settled--me with my beer and her with her, I dunno what, pig's lung or something--a man sitting nearby came over and introduced himself to us. He was British, and wanted to know about my London Taxi.
So we got to talking. He said he lived in Germany maybe 20 years ago, and had a German girlfriend.
"I really should have learned the language, though," he said. "When we were intimate, she'd shout 'noch einmal, noch einmal! I always thought she was saying Not bad, not bad. But it turns out, I was a better lover than I give my credit for."
What was she really saying? More! More!
Friday, November 16, 2007
When I was in Saigon last month I went to a hair salon, which I found via a YouTube video. It's got something like four floors, and these computer-simulated images of what you would look like in various hairstyles.
I didn't need the simulators because I knew what I wanted, which was just a trim.
I was shown to my seat, and three people stepped forward to assist me, not including the stylist. They were like my little ladies in waiting.
One presented herself as the interpreter and asked what sort of haircut I wanted.
"I just want a trim."
"My hair is bobbed, so I want it the same, just shorter."
"I want a bob."
The self-appointed interpreter gets in a huddle with the stylist. The other ladies in waiting also join in. My hair is often referenced via gestures, with a few stroking of my locks. But no one seems to agree on what is needed.
The interpreter exits the huddle and turns to me to ask me a question.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The theory goes that the more sex you have, the less neurotic you are.
Controversial Austrian/American psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich claimed that, in essence, the number of orgasms you have in your life are directly proportional to how much you really care about anything else.
But maybe too much puts you over to the Other Side: According to Wikipedia, he "claimed to have developed a form of energy, which he called "orgone," that permeated the atmosphere and all living matter, and he built "orgone accumulators," which his patients sat inside to harness the energy for its reputed health benefits. It was this work, in particular, that cemented the rift between Reich and the psychoanalytic establishment."
He was pretty much disowned by the psychiatric community. He fled Nazi Europe and ended up in the US, where he was convicted of ---to the best I can figure--fraud, or quackery--over his orgone accumulators. He died in jail.
A Vienna museum is holding a retrospective of his work. Get your orgone accumulators now, while they last. Or make your own "orgones."
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I was happy to get the checks, but honestly. I didn't understand why they were coming.
I SMSed my insurance agent three times to get to the bottom of it and, voila, got an sms back four days later saying he was sick and he really wanted to be left alone and he was going to turn the lights down now, so pls. SMS with a quiet whisper next time, because, really, he's sick.
We settled for a meeting on Monday.
Monday he wasn't in.
Tuesday. 830am. Jackpot.
Turns out, I'm getting these checks because I no longer have health insurance and they are therefore reimbursing my monthly payments. I signed a one year contract and, baby, that contract was up two months ago, and no, we don't send out warning letters here.
I have private insurance here, since I don't qualify for free medical care under my residency terms.
Or, wait. I HAD private insurance here. Now I have nothing.
Sicko calls a main office to find out about a new contract.
A lot of doodling numbers on the desk blotter, lots of listening to Hold muzak, and then this question for me: Haben Sie Sozial Versicherung in den USA?
Well, there's a loaded question: Do I have socialized medical care in the USA that covers me?
I scan my German vocabulary to see if I can come up with any of the following: biggest scam against the American people, the welfare state is highly debated in the US, Medicare is broken and corrupt and Medicaid is useless, and anyway, I don't qualify for either, and it wouldn't matter anyway since both are useless.
I think maybe I should ask sicko if he saw Sicko, and then think again about asking me such a stupid question. Europe: Socialized medicine. America: Hamburgers.
I settle on "Nein."
And the real thing that makes me sick? The monthly payment under the new contract is double the cost of the original one.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Remi and I went and did some drive-by hunting this afternoon, a technique I employ when it's too cold/wet/snowy/rainy out.
I drive really slowly on the dirt farm road (averages about a tractor every two hours), and when either of us spot a grouse or pheasant, I stop the car and she gets out and runs her butt off in pursuit of them. She comes back to the car panting, hops in, and continues her scan of the windows for another chase opportunity.
Friday, November 09, 2007
This clip shows broadcaster Giorgia Targamadze of Imedi TV, describing the takeover of the station by special forces. As he describes (there is English translation), journalists were being arrested and held at gunpoint as he was speaking. Once the cameras went off, he was also arrested. The TV station is located on the outskirts of Tbilisi, and people in the neighborhood gathered outside the station to protest the arrest of the journalists and the shutdown of the media.
The following clip backs up a bit and includes what preceded Targamadze's breathless final announcement that Imedi TV was going off the air, and his plea for help from embassies. I think this is interesting because, although it's in Georgian, you can clearly see the stress in the body language of the reporter on the right. And, after viewing the first clip, you know that just seconds after they left their chairs, they were arrested at gunpoint. Really unbelievable.
This account of Nov. 7 events was published by Transparency International, an NGO (non-profit) in Tbilisi:
Throughout the day, journalists were vulnerable to attack. Many journalists, both local and international, have reported being physically assaulted by the riot police and regular police force and have had their equipment and material confiscated or broken. A little before 9 p.m. on November 7th, Imedi TV, the most popular television station in the country, and Kavkasia TV, went off the air. Before losing the signal, Imedi’s anchorman reported that the riot police had surrounded the building and were entering. At approximately 10:30 p.m., Prime Minister Noghaideli declared a state of emergency and subsequent restriction on the dissemination of information. When the government was asked why TV stations had been taken off the air, the response was that it was a state of emergency, even though the two channels had gone off air at 90 minutes before the announcement of a state of emergency. Just as other TV stations are now complying with the order to not broadcast news, so could Imedi have complied.
Next month the newest EU members will have fully open borders with Austria. Nothing like using this as an opportunity to scare the bejeezus out of an already paranoid and leaning-toward-xenophobic provincial population: This mailer advertises deals on security alarms of all races and creeds, sizes and shapes, so YOU don't become the victim of those vicious Criminal Tourists!
I can see it now: busloads of retirees stopping at the cafe, getting a tour of the town, going on their robbery sprees, and then boarding the bus again in the evening after a long day of sightseeing and muggings.
There is nothing that I can find that would substantiate the alleged 25-30% rise in crime that the ad cites. There has been some increase in car thefts and break-ins since the borders first became more porous, but those are largely attributed to the mafias, said to come from Ukraine.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
My friend Margie started the J school in Tbilisi, and I worked with the program for a few months the first year (visual journalism), and have been back nearly every year since then to work with each year's new crop of students.
The school has produced what are now the leading journalists in the country.
The following are email excerpts from Anna--a former student who is now a teacher in the school--- about the events that unfolded in Georgia today.
"Right now... special forces have just entered Imedi TV and supposedly arrested (journalist) Giorgi Targamadze"
"but who the hell knows what is going on in this country, you can read about the events that have been happening all day online, but right now they've cleaned up the territory of Imedi - haven't arrested any of the (other) journalists, but broke the equipment and they are not broadcasting anymore. Misha (Saakashvili) issued a decree declaring a special situation in Tbilisi, prohibiting demonstrations and limiting announcements in media, etc...
"President's decree says that during the next 15 days none of the media outlets except the public broadcaster is allowed to collect or disseminate any information, no CNN or BBC on TV, but I still can read online the Post and NYT. During the next two days the Parliament has to pass the president's decree and they say, maybe it won't be necessary to have the state of emergency last 15 days if during the next two days everything and everyone will calm down."
A former student, Leli Blagonravova, who is now a teacher at the J School in Tbilisi, has some photos online (Brosse Street Journal) of what she shot yesterday of the protests there (she was a professional photographer before she began her studies in the MA program).
This interview with Charlie Rose took place just after Saakasvili came into office about four years ago. His comments are eery. When speaking about Shevardnardze, he complains that Shev refused to listen to the people when they said they wanted a change in government.
[Shevardnardze squandered] "a great opportunity to be a founding father of a new nation..."
And he goes on to say this: "So what happened to Shevardnardze. His reputation is ruined. It's a very terrible end to a person who had such brilliant conditions.... and it's a good lesson, also for us."
What I wrote just two days ago for The Guardian website is hopelessly out of date this morning. Of course it's breaking news, but it's also so unnecessary. Nothing to say, except how to do you prepare J students to deal with state of emergency press bans... most of our students are in high-level positions now and are faced with this unexpected turn of events.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Every now and then I work with the Media Diversity Institute, founded by Serbian tv journalist, Milica Pesic, who was run out of Serbia during Milosevic's reign.
Milica (Meleetsa) and I were working together in Tbilisi and there was a hotel clerk struggling to pronounce her name.
Milica said it reminded her of a time when she had organized a seminar for international journalists.
One guy came in from abroad, and spoke only broken English. The staff had picked him up at the train station or airport, I can't remember which, and transported him to the hotel. They got him checked in, got his room key and passport back, walked with him to his room, and in parting, said: "Milica will come for you in the morning. Goodnight."
When she arrived the next morning to fetch him, the guy was terrified; had sat like a stone all night in fear. Turns out he thought "Milica" meant "militia" and that the police were coming to get him in the morning.
Monday, November 05, 2007
(Republic of) Georgia is on my mind. I've been emailing back and forth with a former student (now an editor in Tbilisi) about the rallies going on there (I've spent a significant amount of time there--and got Remi there!).
Anyhow, she's very nervous, of course, since Saakashvili doesn't appear to be listening to his increasingly angry and frustrated constituents. I asked her why Georgia always has to vote by revolution rather than by referendum... I'm preparing a piece on it and it's really making my head swim.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
My friend Bobbie has two little granddaughters. The older one, Katherine, spent the night at her Omie's house this weekend, and in the course of their conversations, Katherine reported that her little sister was just a bit of a tattle tale.
Yesterday when it was time to go home, Katherine's mother came to pick her up, with little Olivia in tow.
Bobbie greeted them at the door, and lightly teased Olivia. "Are you a tattle-tale, Olivia?"
"Don't be silly," said the little one, "I don't have a tail!"
My sister in England keeps up her American traditions with her kids, including Halloween. The top photo shows her youngest, Ethan, in the middle, next to two of his friends.
They carved pumpkins, as shown below, and Ethan--a.k.a. Mr. Haunting Death-- is posed next to one of the jack-o-lanterns in the third photo. I've cropped the last image to see Ethan just on his own.
I dreamed last night that I was walking up the stairs while a stream of Hara Krishnas--some naked, some not, paraded down. The naked ones had little doohickies covering their doohickies, and there was one H.K. that was shouting like a Frat boy.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
It's fantastic how powerful writing gets when you have only one sentence to get the point across.
Here are a few good ones from the one-sentence story site:
"I sat in the last row of the crowded plane, realizing I had gotten on the wrong flight."
"I've stopped dancing on my work desk after hours ever since I learned anyone can see right through the blinds."
"On graduation day, I gave my worst enemy since sixth grade a two-page poem that explained I hadn't ever really hated him."
"I find it ironic that each night I drive home to you, I pass the exit of the man you left me for."
"It went against all my 8-year old instincts that chocolate brown pants don't match fire-truck red shirts, but the animals were the same, dammit."
...and the most endearing:
"The first time I saw her put maple syrup on her popcorn I knew I loved her."
Posted by Patti McCracken at 8:33 PM
In the Saigon newsroom, I turned around to the part-time copy editor, a Canadian, and asked her how a headline sounded--just wanted to bounce something off of her.
"Do you think it's hokey?"
"Yea, it might be kinda cheesy."
My wunderkind starts clicking through his online Vietnamese/English translation dictionary.
No definition for hokey.
"Cheesy: That which is made of cheese."
Friday, November 02, 2007
A while back, someone I know commented that Vienna wasn't as sophisticated as they imagined it would be. Not sure what they were thinking they'd see---women doing their shopping in ballgowns, perhaps?
I thought about this when I was in town a few nights ago and someone had rolled an upright piano out onto the street and was giving an impromptu Strauss performance.