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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Piddler on the Paw

In the 1980s there was a married couple of Soviet Olympians whose daily morning ritual included drinking their own liquid excreta, and though I have been told that it is seldom the transmission vehicle for parasitic and bacterial infection that feces is, I have never been a fan of extra association with urine.  The notion of brushing ones teeth with it (a fad in the Middle Ages, where it was shipped across Europe to serve as a special dentifrice), or frankly, any other ex-pissoir contact with the stuff, is truly nauseating.  It stinks.  It leaves crusty yellow residue around the toilets of men with poor aim (one reason one should never, ever, have carpet in a bathroom).  Yet, somehow, I have been trapped in the middle of a piddling contest between antagonistic felines, with my visiting sleeping futon as the battleground.  And there is little on earth that reeks quite as much as cats pee.

Pear is a late-adolescent bundle of high spirits in a furry tuxedo.  Nadezhda is a petite calico, about ten years old.  Pear is always eager to play, bounding around the house with irrepressible joie de vivre, while every time he crosses her path, Nadezhda crouches down and unleashes a stream of feline invective towards her energetic younger counterpart.  I have a feeling it is she who has been unleashing streams of a noxious nature onto my bedclothes, and, tonight, my nightgown.  It is most unpleasant to wander in from a Castle marathon to discover a mystery of one’s own with two viable suspects: a wet spot, and two inscrutable felines.  I personally favor Nadezhda as the perp, given that she is shy and resentful of Pear, while he is seldom still and seems only to want to play when he approaches her (I don’t get the impression that I’m being personally targeted, as there were signs this behavior had begun before my visit).  Be that as it may, it doesn’t keep me from having to launder an armful of whites every evening before bed, and threatening both with the doom of becoming key ingredients in a cat stew. 

The experience has made me grateful that I am not a pet owner, and be grateful that it is my sister, rather than myself, who has gone into nursing.  Blood I can deal with.  The digestive process leftovers of strangers, be they man or beast, are another matter. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Missing Things

My camera has gone missing.  It's in a little felt green and yellow zipped pouch that a friend brought back from Turkey as a souvenir for me.  I spent over an hour hunting high, low, and in between for it in my apartment and my car this afternoon, and finally had to cancel out on the job that requires me to have a camera in hand.  Which wasn't much of a misery on my part because by that time I had a gonzo headache and wanted nothing better than to curl up on my bed under my new muskrat coat and close my eyes.  I still haven't found my camera, though it did occur to me after the headache dissipated that I've actually got a backup--the camera that my mom gave me (which my father had given her) that she used for doing the church directory two years ago.  It's the camera with which she took his last picture (just six hours before he died), and when I scrolled through the memory I found the original shot, as well as other photos (which I hadn't seen before) from their last visit with my brother and sister in law and a weekend the two of them spent at the coast.  There were also some pictures of Granddaddy, which made the whole review somewhat surreal.  At any rate, the camera will do for work, though it's far nicer than my little point-and-shoot, and I am now equipped to create really artistic shots, should the mood strike.

I'm also missing a huge chunk of ambition and self-discipline.  Having a second major headache within six days has undeniably contributed, but I can't seem to make myself get busy, other than the usual work (more than 80 hours in 10 days, which though it sounds impressive on the surface doesn't really average out to much) with my creative and intellectual projects.  Have I completed any more of my pieced bags?  No.  Have I written any more cover letters or books proposals?  No.  Have I re-strung the necklaces that have been lying around forever waiting for repair?  No, again.  I made two lamps (and rewired two that weren't functioning), but sold only one at the last estate sale.  I did take in a large number of earrings and some eight bracelets to the gallery in Bethesda for their Valentine's Day promotion (but these were already long made), and I did send out an evite to a home show that I'm sharing with Anita on February 11 (something I'd been procrastinating on for weeks), and I did go over to my coworker's house last night and we outlined the novel we want to write (now, I'm just having a fit of "how on earth do I turn this great idea into a fun, readable piece of pulp fiction???"  Betwixt summarizing a storyline and coming up with believable dialogue a great gulf is fixed.).  Profound laziness otherwise.  Haven't read my Bible, haven't cleaned the house.  Dirty dishes are sitting on the counter while clean ones languish in the washer.  There's a dead poinsettia on top of my china cabinet.  I have been spending an incredible amount of time watching Castle dvds, and speculating how Nathan Fillion's chin and nose will gradually meet in ensuing decades, in a sort of mortal Pangaea.

I did attend my honorary nephew's Tae Kwon Do graduation (and demonstration) last Friday night--lots of children wearing deadly serious expressions as they moved carefully through their choreographed routines, yelling fiercely as they struck down imaginary enemies.  It was adorable.  What was sweetest, probably, was when the time came that Noah was presented with his new belt and instructed to give the old one to his family, he spotted me in the crowd and ran over to hand it to me.  After the ceremony broke up, another woman asked me, "What level is your child?"  It was a comfortable, inclusive feeling to be able to respond.  I gave the belt to his dad and grandmother, and then after his mom, my friend Leah, changed out of her own black belt regalia, the five of us went to dinner at the Asian restaurant next door. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Strange Convergences” and Granddaddy’s Memoirs

Two months ago, my friend Irina translated selections from Granddaddy’s memoirs into Russian, and sent me the translations for comments and corrections.  I’m just now getting around to it.  The first selection is about the beginning of the war in the Pacific, the infamous Pearl Harbor attack.  Granddaddy’s skipper had told the crew aboard his ship during general assembly on Saturday, December 6, that the war would begin with such a surprise attack on an American possession somewhere, and less than 24 hours later it occurred.  Historians of Russia (or readers of Japanese military-naval history, such as the captain clearly was) were only caught off guard by the location of the attack, not the expectation, the empire having successfully caught the Russian Far Eastern fleet sitting in Port Arthur some 35 years earlier—and winning strategies, as Francis Ford Coppolla’s Patton would have us remember, are meant to be repeated.  It did work like a charm the second time, at least initially.  The Americans didn't take more than a year to get around to fighting back, however, so the rest of the scenario didn't play out well from the Japanese perspective.

Curiously, also on December 6, 1941, while my Granddaddy was mulling over his captain’s words and anticipating a lazy “rope yarn” Sunday, the Japanese envoys were at a formal dinner at the home of my current employer’s grandparents.  The envoys excused themselves for a bit and asked to use the telephone, and their host showed them into his office.  I don’t know what exactly was communicated during that conversation, but the furniture used is in the library where I’ve been cataloguing—I’d been plopping books down in the chair, and occasionally using it as a sort of footstool to reach shelves (that was before they brought in the 8-foot ladder, which I needed to reach the highest levels).  I don’t know whether this is the quite the level of disrespect as climbing on the equestrian statue of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg (at least it’s not a public historic monument).

Monday, January 09, 2012

Hogan’s Heroes and Downton Abbey

The miniseries fad du jour on both sides of the pond is the castle-centered lushly costumed BBC period melodrama Downton Abbey, which began broadcast of its second season in the US just last night—these episodes are whittled versions of those which aired in Britain in the fall, concluding on Christmas Day.  Several of my friends and two of my employers had told me how good the series was, and so I watched the two-hour premier yesterday evening, thoroughly enjoying it.  However much the filmfan side of my brain was entertained, the historian in me couldn’t help noting a curious underlying similarity to another cult favorite television series, Hogan’s Heroes.   

Maggie Smith and the late Werner Klemperer might appear at first to be the most dissimilar pairing one could imagine, but they have onscreen the same great comic timing, though of course the characters of an English Dowager Duchess and the least competent Luftstalag Kommandant ever must necessarily differ in subtlety.  But what is unequivocally identical in both Downton Abbey and Hogan’s Heroes is their shared rosy rewriting of dreadful epochs—not to say that these rescriptings are unwelcome, or unenjoyable.  After all, one wants to imagine that African American radio operators were treated as equals by their fellow Allied prisoners in World War II German internment camps, and that together they were able to make fools of their captors, for instance, or that English and Irish servants were treated with identical courtesy and care by their superiors downstairs and upstairs in 1930s Britain.  Creation of these humorous or beautiful imaginary pasts perhaps allows us to cope with events that we personally endured but couldn’t necessarily articulate in their gruesome reality (Klemperer’s family had to flee from the anti-Jewish persecution in Germany—playing an idiot Nazi was no doubt a bit of catharsis) or operates to stain collective memory backwards with ideals that we now share, but which would have been truly anachronistic in the original circumstances, so allowing our pleasant little fantasies of how life should be nowadays to weave a popular tale of how life had begun inevitably to develop then. 

It makes for watchable, relaxing television and delightful characters; but from a factual point of view, to echo Sergeant Schultz, “I know nothink, I see nothink!”   

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Cat, Cathedral

Scleroderma.  I don’t know exactly what it means, but the word has been teasing the fringe of my brain with its sharp little claws, and I have to acknowledge it, give it the blogging equivalent of a good scratch behind the ears before I can go about other business.

Mr. B’s cat loves attention, which she demands with the world’s rustiest meow.  Before I went to the gym this afternoon, I walked around the building to find her meditating in a patch of clover.  Knowing me to be a total pushover where pussycats are concerned, she got up and trotted over for a belly rub and a good ten minutes of other caressing.  She’s a stocky beast, white and orange, with small ears and a short tail—there must be some Manx somewhere in her ancestry.  Mr. B. is wrapped firmly around her pretty paw, and when we come home from church in his truck she recognizes the vehicle from afar and comes out to sit on the verge, waiting for lunch.  My exercise pants were liberally dusted with short orange-tipped white hairs when I finished paying my respects to the furry one.

The concert last evening at the cathedral was lovely, although even superbly-performed medieval music (which this was) becomes monotonous after a while, and I found my gaze wandering toward the ceiling, to see that black netting has been installed from nave to choir, probably to keep any loose stones from pelting down on the congregation.  The front tower repairs seem to be done, but the roof over the front and the buttresses seem to be still in the process of being shored up after the liberal shaking they received last fall.

A former employee of Intervarsity Press, who knows several of the academic editors still on staff has agreed to read a proposal for Irina’s and my translation.  I am also looking into a professional organization for children’s book authors and illustrators, as I have several of those drafted.  About a Russian cat, of course.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Employment Doldrums

DC is cold, and dark, and not too many people are shopping or moving, which means that the consignment shop has to furlough staff (none of us are fired, we’re just on unpaid holiday until business picks back up) and our next estate sale setup doesn’t begin until February 1, because the owner hasn’t gone through her stuff yet (hasn’t determined what of the vast quantities of paraphernalia abounding throughout her house she’ll want to move across country).  My boss said she’s going to be careful not to use the word “hoarder” in conversation with my colleagues, but there’s a great deal of stuff in the place.  Literally thousands upon thousands of books. 
I am delighted to know there are other readers out there (and cheered by the prospect that even were we to sell half the volumes, many more may be left over), though I admit it’s going to be a chore making sense of it all in the near term.  Post-sale, I have a standing offer to homeowners:  I will clean out all leftover books for free, donating all the ones I can’t sell to a local library (they’ll get the donation receipt for tax purposes)—effectively, they are paying me in paperbacks to clean out that part of their houses; it benefits me (I think I usually average between $12 and $15 per hour in revenue from this practice), it recycles the books (they are either sold to university bookstores for class texts or given to the library to raise funds for local literacy; incidentally, many charitable organizations either won’t accept books at all, or accept only a few, and trash the rest—I know, I’ve talked to the Goodwill employees) and it empties the house of print material (even the most congenial of movers resents having to pack books and when they’re charging the homeowner upwards of $150 an hour for moving, wouldn’t the owner in question rather “pay” me in literature?).  So, when I lug all those hundreds of pounds of bound material to my ever-accommodating Accord, everybody wins.  I can turn over twelve copy-paper boxfuls of books in two days—I don’t have room to store them in my house, and I hate tripping over boxes in my living room, and so I have become pretty efficient in churning through hundreds of ISBN numbers.  It helps that I now have internet access a home.  When I had to sit in the dark in the Arlington Courthouse parking lot, balancing my laptop on my steering wheel and painfully punching in codes with my arm crooked sideways, it was a pain in the pit.

We set off the alarm at the house when we went over to get the lay of the land this afternoon—the realtor had given us the key (the homeowner is in California until the middle of the month), but hadn’t mentioned anything so obvious as a security system.  It was very loud, and my boss had the dickens of a time getting in touch with the powers that be to get the code.  And of course one of those men of the type I most despise came over on an ATV to see who we were and if we’d managed to turn off the system.  I hate men who ask dumb questions, then don’t listen to the answers, who condescend to women, and who act like the person they are talking to is somehow at fault for something, no matter the clarity of his or her innocence.  These guys tend to be big and beefy, walk with a swagger, and probably were the sorts who were bullies in childhood.  As adults, they are unfortunately frequently attracted to careers in law enforcement.  That’s why I have always been so grateful when I’ve interacted with a reasonable, competent, and courteous policeperson.  And why I do not buy cars from dealerships who employ these types—one reason I ended up with an Accord and not a Ford.  The guy in the customer area had been a policeman (!) and had once given my mother a ticket for running a stopsign she didn’t run.  He didn’t recognize her, but he treated us like dirt, and we took our business elsewhere.  This fellow this afternoon was of the same scumwad ilk, although the owner had already spoken to us by that time and given us the code to deactivate the alarm, and we were able to address him by name.  Sometimes I wish there were a zombie virus (a la Shawn of the Dead) and such people (clearly prone to such an infection by nature) could be put to mindless, useful work digging ditches, fed on the occasional raw chicken and housed in garden sheds.

I made a lot of pearl jewelry last night while listening to Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero, from his new series combining the Greek and Roman pantheons and an entertaining assortment of modern-day demigods.  After I attend an Anonymous Four concert at the National Cathedral tomorrow night and host what may be an engagement party (ask her, already!) for a Philosophical Friend this Saturday, it appears I will have time to sew.  Or I may go visit my niece in Rhode Island, since she’s just been diagnosed with pneumonia and might need minding while my sister tests for her nursing license—of course, since my sister doesn’t test for another ten days, I hope Rita’s well out of the woods by then, and that her little brother hasn’t decided to appropriate her germs, like Mums did mine.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy Birthday, Happy New Year

First, I need to wish my dear sister in law a happy birthday, as I slept most of the afternoon away [despite discovering Tomato, my honorary nephew's cat, had piddled on my futon (or scared his companion into piddling) while I was at church this morning--I put down a towel over the wet spot and put in earplugs, and I was gone] and neglected to phone her...

Then, it's time for my annual goals list--of last year's, I actually tried the cat acquisition, which didn't pan out, due not to piddling but to allergies, and I did see quite a few of my lamps sold in estate sales (and several in galleries) so if that counts as "artwork" that goal did get accomplished:

My goals for the Year of Our Lord 2012:

1. Since I'm no longer writing a dissertation, I want to write a best-selling novel.
2. I want to see my non-fiction Russian co-translation published! 
3. Visit Ireland, Canada, and the Czech Republic--or three other countries to which I've never been before. (This one’s a repeat from the last two years, but third time's the charm!)
4. Buy property out west for a writer's/artist's/craftsperson's retreat.
5. See at least a dozen of my quilted bags sold in a gallery.
6. Pay off at least half of my financial debt to my mom.
7. Resume my personal physical fitness training and develop decent abs and non-bubbly thighs that I won’t be ashamed to show off come swimsuit season!  Mums shouldn't be the only one who looks good in a string bikini.
8. Go out West with my mom and my brother and see the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone again.
9. Go shooting with my new pistol!
10.  Meet Stan Lee, Eric Shanower and Steve Franks (or Steven Spielberg--I'm not picky) and get their autographs.