Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Access Brain, Press "Play"

KEXP and the iTunes music store have conspired to introduce me to more good music this year than I can ever remember being exposed to previously, bless them. They have also compelled me to buy more music than I used to, damn their eyes. Yesterday morning, for example, I happened to hear a song that caught my fancy on my short drive to work. (Of course, that in itself never used to happen, since before I found KEXP I would likely spend my entire twenty-minute drive hearing only commercials, relieved only by perhaps Yet Another Repetition of whatever Dave Matthews song was newest.)

When I got home that evening the song had lingered sufficiently in my memory that I remembered to go to the KEXP website and look at their playlist for that hour to get more information about the song. Artist and song name in hand, I toodled over to the ITMS and bought it. 99 cents later, I have a new song. Granted, I'm sure the artist only got about a penny of that (if they even saw that much), but that's a penny more than they'd have got out of me last year. And I now have the eerie, sexy catchiness of TV on the Radio's Staring at the Sun to listen to.

Speaking of new means of delivering media to my eyes and ears: Firefly. Firefly, Firefly, Firefly. Please allow me to just gaze off into space and dream about this fictional universe. See, I never heard of this show while it was actually, briefly, on the air in 2003, since it only ran for about ten episodes. But a few months ago there was an outburst of excitement at Making Light about an upcoming movie called Serenity. Upon investigation I found out the movie had emerged from the ashes of the short-lived TV series Firefly, and put the whole series on our Netflix queue. Thanks to the magic of Netflix, the DVDs arrived two days later. We waited until Friday night to pop in the first episode, curious as to what all the fuss was about.

We ended up watching the entire season that weekend. Instantly hooked.

Spaceships, lost causes, terrifying invasive technology, bitter ex-soldiers, clever dialogue, wonderful character development--I love this show. I watched the trailer for the movie Serenity after watching the show, and how much do I LOVE Malcolm Reynolds when he says darkly over the intercom, "This is the captain; we have a little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight...turbulence, and, uh, explode."

Um, so anyway, the SciFi channel is airing Firefly on Friday nights for the rest of the summer, to lead up to the movie's release on September 30th. We had some friends over last Friday to watch the first half of the first episode, since SciFi couldn't manage to arrange their schedule well enough to fit the WHOLE first episode into one showing. It was fun! We had people over, and we didn't melt or accidentally insult them or anything! See, we can be social.

Here ends the lesson.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Perfect Saturday

I strolled up my recently-discovered "secret" pedestrian/bike trail through the blue heron habitat to Discovery Park on Saturday. I was feeling restless enough to walk to the park, hike the 2.8 mile loop trail around the park, and back home, a nice little five-mile trek. Not as good as going out and doing an actual hike, but better than playing on my computer all day.

This is a shot across the field of my favorite part of the park, the South Meadow. The "Bike the Bluff" route took the bicyclists on a paved trail through this area of the park while I was lazing in the meadow. A few rode past me, and I nearly shouted encouragingly at them, "Allez! Allez! Allez! Allezallezallezallezallez!" to help them pretend they were riding in the (ongoing!) Tour de France...but I didn't want to alarm them, and so refrained from bellowing at them as they passed.

The sun was high and bright by this time in Seattle, but wisps of clouds still clung to the trees on Bainbridge Island. "Ha, ha, Bainbridge Island," I thought smugly. (I mean, "How lovely," I thought contemplatively, and took a picture.)

Yeah, it was a good day.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


I took a mini-road-trip on Saturday to meet my new niece.

On the way back, twenty miles from home, I found my right lane turning into an exit-only lane, and put on my blinker to move left. The big van to my left graciously slowed to provide a gap for me, so I glanced over my shoulder to make sure I had enough room and began to move left, waving my thanks. As I eased into the lane, though, I happened to glance left again; to my horror, a car two lanes to my left had decided to dart into the same gap and apparently hadn't seen me. I instinctively swerved right to avoid a collision

and my view of the road abruptly yawed back and forth as my car lost traction and fishtailed across the right lane. I tried to steer through it, but after a few seconds of swerving I lost it and spun once, twice? which way am I going?, rubber burning, bracing myself for a collision, smacked into the guardrail (oh my neck that's gonna hurt), spun again, slowed now, bumped off the guardrail again and came to a rest facing the freeway with me on the side of oncoming traffic aw fuck I'm about to get pulverized dead on.

But my car was almost completely on the shoulder, just the nose of the car barely jutting into the right lane, easily avoided by traffic that continued to whiz past, uninterrupted. I jammed the key forward and the car started instantly, so I pulled it all the way onto the right side of the shoulder and turned it off again.

I sat there shaking for a few seconds, moving all my limbs, unable to quite believe that I'd apparently hit nobody else, nobody else had hit me, and I wasn't, I don't know, on fire or something. A white car had pulled off behind me, and I waited for a break in traffic and bolted from my car to meet the black woman driver who was now running toward me. "Girl, are you okay?" she asked. "Somebody hit you, it looked like!"

"No," I said; "I'm okay but I don't think I got hit." We inspected my car together, finding a gash in the front bumper where I'd hit the guardrail hardest and another in the back bumper. (She kept finding additional tiny damages, but I had to keep saying, "No, that was already there, it's just an old car...")

"I can't believe nobody hit you!" she exclaimed after we'd looked at the whole car. "God was really looking out for you!"

I didn't respond to the God thesis (although I seem to be just enough of an obstinate ass that even at that moment I thought, "Hm, so God didn't give a shit about everyone else who died today?"). I just nodded and asked dazedly, "Can I hug you right now?"

She laughed and hugged me. I thanked her again for stopping, and we got back in our cars and drove away. And that was it.

My neck hurts like fuck today, but, well. I'm lucky to be alive to have an aching neck.

I've always hated driving on the freeway, and had a deep dread of meeting a bloody death on the pavement. This is actually the second time I've been spun on the freeway without colliding with another driver, although I was a passenger the first time, nine years ago. I'm sure this latest accident will be a big help in improving my paranoia. What, the third time is going to be Death's charm? Fan-fucking-tastic.

Seriously, I have enormous gratitude to that lady for stopping. And to everybody else for the defensive driving skills that apparently allowed them all to avoid me while I was spinning across I-5--well, thanks.

Friday, July 08, 2005


OF COURSE I am following the Tour de France again this year. Thomas Voeckler as adorable as ever (and who's surprised?), and Lance Armstrong/Discovery Channel Team are, as Mr. Thel pointed out, somewhat comparable to the Yankees..."of course the team who can throw the most money at the sport are going to do well."

I find the names ringing in my head after watching the Tour coverage: Thor Hushovd! Robbie McEwen! Jose Luis Rubiera! Jose Azevedo! Jan Ulrich, Floyd Landis, Ivan Mayo, Ivan Basso! I don't know enough about cycling to know their histories, but hearing Phil Liggett's melodious voice calling out their names for an hour or two is enough to imprint them in my ears.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Boy, the decision to pretend that Saddam Hussein was the biggest threat to the world's security really just looks smarter and smarter, doesn't it?

This only deepens my fervent desire to return and spend some more time in London as soon as I can, flight phobia be damned.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thel vs. Thel

Here's a discussion I've been having inside my head lately: -Hey Thel, what's up with the church thing?

-The church thing?

-Well, you don't take any of it literally, right?

-Not for a few years, no.

-A few years?

-I guess so. Sometime after college.

-Okay, so...? If you don't believe it's necessary that a person must base their morality either on the patched-together religious texts of an old Middle Eastern tribal community, or on the confusing and contradictory hearsay record of what an itinerant Israeli might have had to say a couple millenia ago, then why do you still head over there every Sunday to hear all about it?

-Look, it's not like it's some fundie place. Nobody is interested in shoving anything down anyone's throat. They're all about the peace, love, social justice, taking care of each other, that kind of thing--they couldn't care less whether eveyone's matching up their innies and their outies correctly, or any of the other inane shit that seems to pass for Christianity half of the time.

-But you already know all that. You don't need them to validate what you know about living well and doing right. You wouldn't change your mind or your convictions about right and wrong even if they said God told you to, right?


-So why go?

I haven't come up with a good answer even for myself yet (so naturally I'll drag the issue out into the blog). It's something blurry like, "I like the people there; I've made friends there; they give me hope that people of faith are not necessarily small-minded and afraid, that many of them are expansive and generous to a fault. Plus, they're a more-or-less organized and optimistic group of liberals--how rare is that?!"

(It doesn't hurt that the pastor lets us borrow his canoe.)

Last week I stumbled a little closer to the answer when I got back from a trip to Value Village. We'd taken over a carload full of stuff to donate--old vases and candle holders, knick knacks and random clutter that's been shuffled from place to place with me for years. I got tired of griping about all the useless crap we have lying around and made good on my lazy vow to throw it all out someday.

One bag that we left at Value Village was full of old stuffed animals. I rescued most of them from my parents' house last year when they sold it. For eight years an assortment of lumpy teddy bears and threadbare dolls sat quietly in the tiny closet of the upstairs bedroom my sister and I had shared, the same bedroom my mom had lived in when she was in high school. (She had painted the walls a brilliant groovy aquamarine color sometime between 1968 and 1972, and they stayed that color until my sister and I moved in in 1994 and painted them an extraordinarily creative and daring shade of white.) I went through the closet last summer and took a few of the stuffed animals that held the most sentimental value and evoked the most vivid memories, leaving the rest for my parents' Goodwill donation.

I brought the scraggly things back up to Seattle with me, but they just sat on the dresser looking foolish for a year. Really, what use does a 26-year-old woman have for a collection of stuffed animals? With less than 700 square feet of living space...well, I had to admit that the floppy creatures were not paying their share of the rent.

I had to do it fast, once I'd acknowledged that getting rid of toys was not the same as throwing away memories, because if I let myself I will always get maudlin about change. I knew that if I had a chance to sit down and reminisce about how I carried Tizz the fuzzy dog with me everywhere I went for a year or so, or how my sister and I set up elaborate housing developments for our animals, sentiment would prevail over reason and I would end up dragging a motley set of raggedy-ass creatures with me for another few years until I once again got sick of the clutter and let them go.

So, out they went. Quick and painless. But sure enough, about a week later I found myself regretting it. I thought about that floppy-eared dog, Tizz, and how soft she was when I'd cry into her, and how much life I'd imagined into her, and I suddenly felt like I'd abandoned a real pet. I imagined her staring at me reproachfully, unable to believe that I could cruelly let her go without so much as a goodbye, and I got myself almost worked up enough to shed a tear for Tizz the poor abandoned puppy.

This is ridiculous, I thought. She was a childhood friend, in a way, but you outgrew her a long time ago; and then I thought, This feels familiar.

It took me a few seconds to place it, but I got it. It's the same feeling I get when I think about what my youth group leader used to gravely call, "Leaving the faith." When I think about openly acknowledging the fact that I don't see religion as a core part of my life anymore, I feel that same guilty pang. There was a picture of a doe-eyed Caucasian Jesus in the children's illustrated Bible I had when I was little, and I always start to feel like I'm abandoning him--the invisible friend who promised he would always like me, regardless of my current rational beliefs about his existence or lack thereof.

It's exactly how I felt when I returned from dropping off my old friend Tizz at Value Village.

On the other hand, the stuffed animal was, finally, just a representation of a few good memories. She was an object that evoked a certain thoroughly rose-tinted picture of my childhood, but leaving her at the thrift store was a relatively painless act. Me and Jesus, though...I mean, he represents an entire worldview, one I lived in for most of a quarter of a century, and I went through a lot with him. I've spent a few nights talking things over with him, sniffling snot all over, and I've done my share of snarling and swearing at him, too. We're past all that: I feel like I've made a kind of peace about him, now, and I don't have a lot of strong feelings left one way or the other. But, man...it's still pretty tough to think about leaving Jesus at the Value Village, and that's how I feel when I think about identifying as an atheist.

I guess I'm just not up to it yet. I can't be sure I ever will. That's about as honest as I can be about it.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Independence Day

"The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?"
-Pablo Casals

"God upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but God frustrates the ways of the wicked."

-Psalm 146

Friday, July 01, 2005

Ivy Creeps Up a Rusting Fence

I Bit My Tongue So Hard It Creased

One of my friends at work just moved to Seattle from Florida a bit less than a year ago. We've become pretty good friends despite being on opposite sides of the political divide (see, it can be done!), mostly by avoiding political conversation as much as possible--although we have had one or two cautiously polite discussions about such things without ill effect.

Anyway, she's not much thrilled with the Seattle summer weather. She was complaining about it again today, grousing that it just doesn't hold a candle to a Florida summer. I gently pointed out that, after all, we are about as far from Florida as you can get within the continental U.S., but of course that was little consolation to someone missing their regular hot summer.

I sympathize with her, really; it must be difficult to adjust to such a completely different climate. But I still wanted to say, "Well, what's that line Republicans are always trotting out whenever anyone has a criticism of the U.S.? Oh, that's right: 'Love it or leave it.'"

I decided to make more sympathetic noises instead. I do try to be diplomatic.