Monthly Archives: April 2006

kill your television

Happy TV Turnoff Week! This week, Adbusters challenges you to go without the idiot box for a spell: “Don’t think you’re addicted to TV? Then why not prove it by going cold turkey for a week? You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to disconnect – and what a profound week of self discovery it can be.”
I tried it. A week led to two, led to a month, led to a year, led to two years. I’ve watched a total of three hours of television in the past two years. The last presidential election, and the second half of the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. At one time I couldn’t imagine going without my evening dose, or my regular WB injection. But it’s amazing what happens when you stop watching television. The shows are only half the problem — the other half is the advertising. We don’t realize how much a part of our schema is shaped by advertising.
My former manager looked at me like I was certifiably insane when I told her we don’t have a television. “But what do you DO?” she asked me in horror. “We talk to each other.”
I read a lot more. A lot more. I also listen to public radio more often. One of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday is listening to This American Life on the radio and making soup.
But I think the biggest impact on me was freedom from the opinions of mainstream Americans. I remember one day feeling like total shit about myself after watching Friends (I so don’t look like Jennifer Aniston), followed by Queer Eye (my Somerville apartment is so not a hip NYC loft), and Law and Order (my job is meaningless and my life is pointless). After two hours of innocent programming, I was ready to slit my throat. I was sincerely convinced that my life was supposed to be at least a little bit like those shows.
You know what got me off of Friends? I used to watch it several times a day, if possible. It was a guilty pleasure, and for the most part the show irritated me. But the irritation was so comforting. It was the episode guest starring Reese Witherspoon as one of Phoebe’s friends. Reese’s character used to have a shaved head, which branded her as an ugly weirdo. When her hair grows back, she becomes this gorgeous creature Ross is totally falling in love with, and out of jealousy Rachel convinces her to shave her head again. Instantly, she’s physically revolting and quite insane in the eyes of the cast, and presumably the audience.
I never felt a particular kinship with the characters on the show, but after that episode I felt betrayed. So I took my shaved-head self to the library and got some books. I haven’t watched Friends since. I hold a good grudge.
Anyway, my point is, you might be surprised how much free time you have to learn new things and interact with interesting people if you step away from the television for a week. Give it a shot. Just for shits and giggles. What’s the worst that could happen?

dandelions, bulletholes and salamanders

Just wanted to let you all know, I’m sitting at my desk wearing slippers as I write this.
Last night I went to see Sarah Harmer at the Tractor, in Ballard (of all places). On the way to the show (to which I wore slippers), I was remarking how I wished all shows could be at the Tractor. It is red, and warm, and well-ventilated and clean but still worn in an old, comfortable fashion. Boots hang from the ceiling, strings of lights dot the floors and faces with color. The PA is perfect, the sound meticulously mixed, the cranberry juice is $1, and the audience is… well, it’s Ballard.
Indie rock and folk shows in Ballard tend to draw an older crowd (read as: my age) than parallel events at the downtown Showbox. In general, this means fewer annoyances. Especially at a 21+ show. There is no rampant text-messaging and cell-phone-photography during the performance. People tend to be quiet during shows and actually listen to the band — at least to the headliner. There is less posturing and Look-At-Me-ism, which results in fewer faux-vintage tees from Urban Outfitters, trendy bangs, annoying overheard conversations, visible thongs and audible gripes about being stuck standing behind the twin towers (both myself and the Boy being over six feet tall). Also, I cannot wear slippers to the Showbox.
That said, older crowds definitely have the potential to become more offensive than a night with the pubescent suburbanites — mainly because of the copious consumption of alcohol. Evidence: the Long Winters show New Year’s Eve at the Tractor. Granted, that holiday has the potential to get dicey anywhere. Young drunk people can be irritating, old drunk people can be dangerous.
So last night, the crowd at the Tractor was both older and largely well-behaved, aside from the dancing bear in front of me with a head the size of Texas — I honestly couldn’t stop marveling at the sheer girth of it — but once I shuffled past him further into the audience, he was out of sight, out of mind. During the opening set, when we arrived at the back of the club, a handful of flaming turtleneck-clad interior decorators in hip glasses were trashing some chick’s coffee table selection in her Belltown loft. They were getting quite annoyed with the singer on stage who had the gall to obstruct their urgent communication, and so raised their voices significantly with each verse. But, between sets, I navigated through the thick crowd to the center area where most patrons had decent manners.
Now in between sets, a couple behind me was on their first date. Just for the record, I was not eavesdropping; they were standing six inches away from me speaking at a conversational level. Totally fair game. They were talking about shoes.
He: So wait. Let me get this straight. All those shoes you see — in magazines, on models, whatever — those are designed by men?
She: Well, yeah — I guess. Most of them. (She brandishes her pair of Fleuvog Angels adorning her feet)
He: Then these guys don’t have to wear the shoes?
She: Right.
He: What do guys know about making shoes for a woman?
She: That’s kind of the problem.
He: So why don’t you buy shoes designed by women?
She goes on to tell him that there are male shoe designers who create comfortable shoes for women, but while making her point, she realizes that she is actually wearing boys’ shoes made by John Fleuvog because the women’s shoes he designs are not unlike cloven satyr feet and quite uncomfortable.
The guy starts on a brilliant diatribe that I wish I could produce the transcript for. He wishes women (and men) had the self-confidence to tend to their appearance in a way that made them happy, and not just for other peoples’ sake. “If you want to wear lots of make-up, wear lots of make-up. If you want to cut your hair short, cut it short. But don’t do it cause somebody else said you should, you know? Do it because it makes you happy!” I want to applaud cinematically. In my slippers.
It was a fabulous conversation, and I had to physically restrain myself from jumping in, but since it was first date (I deduce) I instead counted the cowboy boots hanging from the ceiling.
So Sarah Harmer and her band came out on stage and played a generous set, including a Shins cover, and Sarah told us how she spent last summer on a salamander survey. They’re trying to tear down this natural reserve where she grew up in Canada, because it’s a prime site for mining gravel for roads. So she spent the summer trapping and counting salamanders, in search of the endangered Jefferson salamander, because that species is protected by law and if there is a sizable habitat the land cannot be developed. She mobilized a troop of nature nerds (as she affectionately called them) who did find quite a few Jefferson salamanders. How cool is that? I love when musicians, actors, celebrities, etc. have an original cause that they stand behind, something out of the ordinary that they support, advocate and build awareness about. Beyond the clichéd starving children platform. Save the Niagara Escarpment. Come on! There’s an interesting article about it here.
The show was fabulous and listening to Sarah Harmer always makes me wish I could sing. I want to sing with her — not with her — I mean, I wish I could throw on the album and sing at the top of my lungs and not frighten the neighbors. But alas, it is not my gift. So I will enjoy listening. I highly recommend picking up some of her music, particularly All of Our Names featuring the song “Came on a Lion” which she did not play last night.
She and the band finished the encore without the PA, turning off the amps and the microphones, unplugging her acoustic guitar — she just sang out into the packed club, voice echoing of the walls, her band backing her with four-part harmony. Flawless.
And not a visible thong for miles.

slipper? i hardly know ‘er!

My life changed my sophomore year of college when Catherine, who was studying to be a reflexologist, informed me that the foot is a microcosm of the human body. She pressed her tiny thumb into my gargantuan sole and asked me what I had done to injure my back. (Um… I was born?) That conversation kicked off my insatiable curiosity about Eastern medicine, nutrition and physiology. I also pledge to take better care of my feet.
I’m not just saying this as an excuse for me wearing slippers to work today. I’m serious.
I know there’s a right time and place for every mode of dress, but there is one thing in life I will simply not tolerate: uncomfortable shoes. I have never, in my entire life, worn a pair of heels. And that’s not just because I’m six feet tall. They are barbaric and unnatural. Even in the girliest of my stages, I never understood the obsession with shoes. Especially uncomfortable ones. I see women all dressed up on the street, looking like a million bucks, except they’re staggering along like an injured elk on five inch heels. How is that attractive? (Aside from the titillation of knowing she could not escape if pursued without ending up enticingly face-down on the sidewalk.)
Recent fashion trends (according to the covers of magazines in the grocery check-out line) are all about wickedly pointed shoes. Just thinking about my reflexology chart makes me wince in sympathy to people who cram their feet into elfin stillettos. The big toe represents your brain, — no wonder you’re bitchy and have a headache! And those strappy sandals are squeezing the crap out of your liver!


So, in general, I wear boys’ shoes. Mainly because girls’ shoes don’t come in my size, but men have also neglected to torture themselves with mishapen feet.
I have hardwood floors, and in the winter, they’re cold. I aquired a pair of slippers to compensate. The problem is, I haven’t taken them off in a week.
They’re black felt and they look like clogs. Just ignore the tiny embroidered snowflake on them. By accident one night, I was wearing them, and went out to get dinner, forgetting to change into actual shoes. And they were so comfortable, I forgot again later when it was time to take out the garbage. And the next morning, when it was time for work, I forgot a third time.
I started keeping a pair of respectable slides under my desk for this recurrent amnesia. Except now, I’m quite aware that I’m wearing slippers with my khaki capris and button-down shirt. I just can’t stop.
I even wear my slippers when I’m on my scooter. Riding around town, running errands? Slippers. Out to dinner and shopping? Slippers. All-company meeting with the CEO? Slippers.
They are holding up remarkably well, especially considering they’re felt, probably bound with elmer’s glue, and it’s been seasonally wet here.
I have to go to a wedding soon. If anyone sees a little black dress that would go well with my little black fuzzy slippers, please let me know. I just have to figure out how to get this snowflake off. I mean, really — it’s spring!

will the talent never cease?

Today I am becoming more acutely aware than usual of the amount of talent manifested in the people I choose to surround myself with. My friends and family are just a brilliant bunch of people, and I today I feel like it’s feeding me, carrying me forward, as I’ve started writing again — I mean, fiction — (yes, the “F” word) — and it’s like my friends are out playing in the yard and I can hear them from my bedroom window where I’ve been forced to nap and I’m like, “Wait for me! I want to come play, too!” And so I grab my notebook under my arm, and my favorite purple pen, and race down the stairs barefoot and out into the grass and daisies and flop on my stomach, feet in the air, writing furiously about the magic surrounding me. What a vibrant place to be.


One of my favorite strawberry blondes, Nathan Bright Autumn Sky, has put more of his poignant photographs from Guatemala and South Africa up for our viewing pleasure. This is one of them. Please indulge. He’s doing important work in this world. He makes me want to go out and start something good.
I have taken a million photographs over the past three days which I want to share but I don’t have uploadability at work so it will need to wait until I get home — perhaps tomorrow because tonight is a long-awaiting show of the much-adored band the Fruitbats who are playing at Neumo’s way past my bedtime this evening.
Jack Kerouac said it’s okay for me to use so many runon sentences.