She's a Real Mother

Mutha's got eyes in the back of her head.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cake Me

I make it a habit to ask people about their favorite birthdays and also their favorite birthday cake. My husband's was from childhood and featured plastic depictions of the Beatles. How cool is that? Drum set and all.

When I was little, I remember being in awe of a classmate who had a Barbie cake. For those of you who have never seen such a thing -- it involves placing a Barbie in the middle of a dome cake and then icing it to look like her ballgown skirt. When I asked my mom to make me one (Barbie cakes were not available in bakeries back in the day -- although I am told that now they are) she told me, "No way." My mom was really not the baking type -- and she also thought it was a little gross to stick a doll in a cake.
So I settled for the traditional one with the frosting roses, white cake and white buttercream on the outside. What is strange though is that very cake is now my favorite kind. Interesting what adaptation can do.
My favorite birthday has multiple answers -- which I allow in my version of this game. One was when I turned nine and my father returned from Japan with a beautiful geisha doll for me. The other was when I turned thirty and many friends celebrated with me at a since-demolished but wonderful dive called The Ratskellar (The Rat to us regulars). There was a great live band, a lot of beer, and a biker who wanted to kiss me.
What was (were) your favorite birthday(s)?
What is your favorite kind of birthday cake?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Really Love Your Peaches, Want to Shake Your Tree

I have stumbled upon a surprisingly interesting book, The Botany of Desire which explores our relationship to plants. It asserts the uncommon question: Do plants exert an influence of humans rather than humans only exerting their will over plants?
This requires a real shift of lens. For instance, can we consider the survival of some domestic variety of plants to be solely the work of man or can we credit the uncanny "ability" of some plants to push themselves to the front of the class, demanding to be taken in, fed and nurtured? Think of which animals have become domesticated. Did they get there by being unattractive, undesirable, useless? In this way, dogs and cats are brilliant as is -- say -- the apple.
And speaking of the apple -- isn't it interesting that the apple should be the symbol for desire and temptation in the Garden of Eden? Which leads me to my question:

What fruit would you assign as the symbol for desire and temptation? Why?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Massachusetts 9*1*1

I heard a story on the radio recently about an effort to establish a law in Massachusetts regarding the abuse of 9*1*1. In short, it will be against the law to harass a 9*1*1 operator.

Hmmmm...harass? I thought. What is involved in harassing a 9*1*1 operator?

I imagined people calling up and freaking out about ambulances that hadn't arrived yet -- kind of like bitching at the cab dispatcher. But, no. The radio story asked the same question and went on to play clips from actual calls as examples of what crossed the line.

One man yelled at the operator because traffic was really bad on the Mass Pike.

One woman called to complain that the local weather forecast had been wrong and it was raining hard.

I wish I were kidding.

This made me wonder about what people are thinking. When did 9*1*1 being only used in case of emergency get lost? When did the concept of emergency get lost? Apparently these people felt the need to talk to someone -- okay vent at some one -- but since when did personal frustration prompt a call for municipal help? I can understand calling a spouse or friend to blow off some steam during a traffic jam or unanticipated weather experience. My sainted husband has supplied a sympathetic ear through my years and years of commuting. But all I expect from him is an understanding, "Sorry -- that sucks." What do these callers expect from 9*1*1?

The only answer I can come up with is that driving alone in your car can be a very isolating experience. Why not call someone who is paid to answer? It is a community resource after all.

Well...I didn't say it was an answer that made sense.

Monday, January 07, 2008


I have been thinking a lot about graffiti and I've found some company in it. The novel The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, the film Bomb the System, and the television documentary NY 77 all explore the practice and the meaning of painting or writing on the property of others.

It has helped me to remember the graffiti of my youth; a time when it seemed all the trains in New York City were covered from top to bottom, inside and out, end to end. It was a time when a debate raged in many cities about whether the stuff could be called art. Some argued that it was white snobbery that refused to admit this new form of expression had merit. Others suggested that to recognize it as art would rob it of it's true mysterious identity as "underground". Others pushed the notion that graffiti was simple cowardly vandalism and to allow it was to support a general sense of lawlessness -- something the urban areas of America did not need more of in the late '70s and early '80s.

The Fortress of Solitude and Bomb the System present a different part of the story though. They do not spend so much energy debating whether graffiti is art -- as they do exploring the power of the act of making one's mark. To put down your symbol, to tag, is to take possession of that space. The more you do it, the more you own. The tougher the place you tag, the higher your esteem. Graffiti artists of the late '70s in New York vowed to keep coming back every time their work was covered up or wiped away, painting in increasingly dangerous situations, and tagging objects of much higher risk but greater power -- such as police cruisers. This was the tactic taken instead of quitting -- this was bombing the system.

In real life, it took some concessions from both sides of this war for it to simmer down. In many cities, programs would be developed to give space and credit to young urban artists while police focused on cracking down in specific public areas. Interestingly, both of the young men in the novel and film reach a point of loss and frustration. Both reach a place in which the act of tagging no longer thrills them; no longer lights within them a sense of power.

Thinking about graffiti makes me notice it more. I find myself wondering, as I did when I was little: How did they write that way up there? How did they paint that so perfectly when they must have been hanging upside down? How could they create pictures with such amazing color while painting in complete darkness? And why?
It makes me acknowledge someone who cut out the middleman and decided for himself whether his work deserved public exposure. I believe what matters is that I saw it at all.