Monday, August 31, 2009

Hawaii sighting

Artifacts from my home state just keeps popping up everywhere I go in the Big Apple. Here is some guy from Queens rocking the Local slippahs at the Magician Bar on the Lower East Side. After squealing and insisting that he let me photograph his footwear, I had to explain where I was from and why it excited me so. To his credit, he rolled with it. Look at that grin! For all I know, it's the not the strangest request made of him by a stranger in a bar.

I really enjoy finding little reminders of home like this.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Weekly roundup

So ends another week in the service of my robot overlords, or Robolords, as the brain implants instruct me to call them on casual Fridays.

I usually don't post on the weekends, so to keep you occupied while I'm away, here is a roundup of things that made me smile while toiling in the rare metal mines.

On my recent trip to Spokane, I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of the trailers and RVs in the Walmart parking lot, which is apparently an acceptable home address in today's economic climate. Fortunately, there's, because you should feel superior. (Seriously, look at the grill of that woman to the right. This planet is just begging to be destroyed!)

For a brief history of human awesomeness, here is a video making the rounds on the netterwebs, chronicling 100 years of special effects in films. Visual Effects: 100 Years of Inspiration.

And now for a bit of local color. This is a recently completed mural in Bedstuy that I saw on my way to work. I think it adds a bit of much-needed Mother Africa-flair to the area. Sadly, these may be the only rolling hills and huge, benevolent water goddesses many of the people in Bedstuy will ever see.

Next up is the Surreal Temping portion of the post. A coworker at the office had a bike custom made for her. Needless to say, she doesn't leave her new toy chained outside to to a lamp post during business hours, but instead, brings in inside for all of us to envy. Check out the handlebars.

For those strange people who mysteriously decided NOT to live in Hawaii, Kona is the name of a town on the Big Island, and Primo is a famous brand of Hawaiian beer that disappeared in the 80s and recently reappeared in every Longs and 7-11s from Honolulu to Waianae. How my coworker from Brooklyn ended up with the phrase "Kona Oh Primo" on her handlebars, I'll probably never know.

And finally, everyone's favorite game, What the Hell is That?! Whoever can guess the identity and/or origin of whatever the hell this is gets an extra ten-minute bathroom break between scalvaging copper wiring in the E-wasteland and quietly weeping into the daily ration of protein meal our Roboverlords so generously give us in return for complete obedience and adulation. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Participate in the New Literacy Revolution!

Clive Thompson has a great article in this month's Wired magazine about the New Literacy. You should read it; it's awesome. People of my generation are writing more than any other generation, and we're doing it online for audiences on a scale that is simply mindblowing.

I say "we" in the royal sense, of course, because the scale of my audience is actually pretty small at this point. Still, I pretty pleased to be participating in this New Literacy Revolution with these lunch break blog posts, and I'd like to remind all of my readers that by reading Rachel's writing (isn't that fun to say?) you, too, are contributing to the cause and helping make our society more literate, one :) at a time.

As a reward, here are some singing kitties. Soldier on, comrades!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Happy Women's Equality Day!

On August 26th, 1920, the United States passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. And in 1971, Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY) started Women's Equality Day, also on August 26th.

So, if you're a woman and you engage or have engaged in any of the following behaviors:

1) Voting

2) Working outside the home

3) Wearing pants

4) Getting painkillers during childbirth

5) Earning a living wage

6a) Getting divorced

6b) Giving birth out of wedlock

6c) 6a and 6b, and still educating your children

Then you, my friend, are a feminist in the style of these brave, strong women with fabulous hats. Take a moment to reflect on all of the freedoms American women enjoy thanks to them, freedoms that are sadly still unavailable to many of our sisters overseas. We in America, who have voted, gone to college, and raised our children under the banner of "liberty and justice for all" for several generations, sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. We forget that feminism isn't about beauty pageants, nipple slips, or who gets to open the door for whom on a date. Feminism is about the the Afghan schoolgirls who get battery acid thrown in their faces, and the 95% of Malian women who undergo genital mutilation. It's about bride burnings, honor killings, rape as a war tactic, and gender-specific abortions. And ultimately, it is about hope: hope that someday, every woman everywhere can speak her mind, get an education, marry if and whom she chooses, have control of her own body, and make her own destiny.

Nicolas Kristof, one of my favorite NY Times writers, and Sheryl WuDunn wrote a wonderful article, The Women's Crusade, making the case that achieving equality for women is the solution to far-reaching and pervasive global problems, from poverty to economic growth to terrorism. An expert:

"IN THE 19TH CENTURY, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape. Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater."

It's a fascinating article, and I urge all *let me think, one, two, three* four of my readers to check it out.

And don't forget to get your daily dose of girl power at my favorite feminist website, Catch the fever--vagina fever.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crunchy Specter of Doom

Oh sweet boa of Western AND American Samoa--winter is coming.

There are brown leaves on the sidewalk in front of my office now. They weren't there yesterday, and definitely not there last week. Three seconds of dorkishly pleasing leaf kicking were all I had before I felt the icy chill of realization: these are autumn leaves. AUTUMN LEAVES, people!

Behold the crunchy specter of doom to your right.

Do you know what this means? It means walking through a slate-gray Central Park at noon and crying. It means simultaneously sweating and shivering under a wool coat. Dragging the laundry cart through ankle-deep puddles of slush. Enduring crappy Mexican and Chilean produce. Getting shocked by static electricity whenever you touch the cat. Six hours of sunlight a day. Flat hair. Chapped lips. Swine flu. Wind chill!

At least I have cute boots.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Your Monday Freakout

I read the New York Times years before I ever thought about moving to New York. The combination of a stellar reputation and somber, no-nonsense layout puts some real heft behind the paranoia it causes in its readers. Sure, the Post has the good headlines--see right--and the Daily has an easier crossword, but nobody beats the Gray Lady for sheer panic-inducing respectability.

Take today's Room for Debate series on bedbugs. Room for Debate is a lovely little blog where six writers expound on any given topic using university-level language that makes even the most inane subject feel as important as a United Nations report on global poverty. Seriously--bedbugs? Yeah, they're icky and hard to eradicate once they're in your house, but they don't carry any infectious diseases, like mosquitoes, nor do they affect the integrity of a building, like termites or neighbors who don't pick up their dogpoop and vacuum naked with the curtains open.

At least, that's what I had to explain to myself after worrying said Self into a stomachache over the Times, certain that my secondhand clothes, my habit of scavenging furniture from street corners, and my recent trips in airplanes would all turn my apartment into a massive explosion of bloodsucking bedbugs that I couldn't escape even if I shaved my entire body, abandoned all of my possessions, and hitchhiked across the country wearing nothing but cling wrap and tissue boxes on my feet. They would still find me!

Yep, the Times. Read all about it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Virtual Farming

My mother lives on a five-acre farm in Kailua-Kona, complete with Kona coffee, avocado trees, mango trees, lychee trees, lilikoi, macadamia nuts, chickens, pheasants, wild pigs, and cows.

She's also lured the neighbor's cat into her house. As a family, we're divided on the ethics of this cat appropriation.

Despite all of this land, all these plants, and all these animals, Mum also has a Facebook farm, with 2 virtual trees, 6 virtual plots, and a virtual chicken.

She doesn't yet have a virtual cat. That would cost extra.

Of course, I shouldn't judge her. I'm blogging about my family and skyping them at the same time. So who's really blurring the lines between actuality and virtuality here?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ambivalent Statehood Day!

Fifty years ago today, Hawaii became the 50th State. And like an Upper East Side socialite about to turn 50, they don't intend to celebrate. Honolulu Advertiser has a good article about why the state didn't plan any public celebrations. The short version is that they didn't want to offend anyone. A gung-ho, hurray-America party would result in anger and protests by the Native Hawaiian population, who are still kinda pissed off over that whole, illegally-overthrow-your-democratically-elected-monarch-to-protect-American-business-interests thing. An anti-America, hurray-sovereign-Hawaii party would upset, well, Americans.

Not that Native Hawaiians aren't Americans--or that people who support America aren't ignorant of history or unsympathetic toward Native Hawaiians--or that either group is totally cohesive in their opinions--or mutually exclusive--argh! It's too complicated! No party for anyone!

Of course, the decision to let the day fade quietly into just another long weekend perfect for a campout on the beach makes perfect sense to me. "Come from away" people (thanks to my Canadian coworker for providing me with this new phrase) often try to pick apart Hawaii's political attitudes and get frustrated when nothing we do or say fits into their preconceived notions of a region's political life. Hawaii votes Democratic, but its citizens are deeply religious. Hawaii opposes gay marriage but embraces pro-environmental legislation. We care deeply about local political figures but could give a Spam musubi about national politics. Heavily masculine in culture, but more than willing to have women in control of businesses and government. Disdainful of military presence, but respectful of the warrior spirit. Contemptuous of tourists, but renown for our friendly demeanor and Aloha Spirit. More ethnically mixed than almost any other place in the country--excluding New York--but gosh, do we love our racist jokes! I learned most of my dumb-Portagee jokes from public school assemblies and Frank DeLima.

Paul Theroux, who is my least favorite come-from-away person in Hawaii ever since I read "Hotel Honolulu," nevertheless wrote a good op-ed in the New York Times about these seeming contradictions that define the nation's 50th state.

Of course, most people here in New York City don't often have a reason to throw a Hawaii-themed party for fear of looking unhip. (Even I don't wear Aloha prints in Brooklyn, and I was born in the islands.) But politics aside, it IS Statehood Day, and massive amounts of tourists are learning hula in Times Square as I write this. So I'll end with an article by my friend Margot Seeto, published in Honolulu Weekly, about how you can throw your own Hawaii Statehood Day party and eat pineapple 'til you puke.

Actually, I'll end with the state motto. Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. Ambivalent Statehood Day to all!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guns and Guitars

Apple polly loggies--and a shiny gold dubloon for whoever gets that references--for the delay in posts, but I was busy hanging out with my parental units, which meant I indulged in some questionable behavior: shooting, dancing, drinking, raising hell, making an ass out of myself--basically all the stuff that makes my family awesome.

For example: this is my Daddio. This is his bear skull. I look just like him (Daddio, not the bear), minus the cigar. He taught me everything I know about shooting a gun, catching a fish, foraging in the woods, and singing the blues. I just got back from a trip to the inland northwest to visit him, and true to form, we did all of the above on a weekend excursion to Priest Lake, Idaho.

I could talk about the pleasures of shooting a gun--the way those explosions just drive the frustration over being broke right out of you--or what it's like to pick huckleberries in the woods, or even about listening to Daddio's band playing the blues at the Elkin resort. But to really get the feel for my Daddio and what kind of guy he is, I think I said it best in my G.A.N. (Great American Novel) in progress. Please enjoy this exerpt from the chapter, "Ocean View on the Rocks."

"My father is the coolest guy I know. He’s so cool Nai’a and I don’t even call him Dad or Daddy or Papa. We call him Daddio.

My Daddio is a blues musician. He likes to hunt and fish and shoot guns; he likes Muddy Waters and B.B. King and nonfiction books about the beauty and savagery of pre-Western contact civilizations of South America; he likes to make his own bullets and sausage, preferably as two parts of the same project.

When I was four, I perched on a stool in his workshop in the big house on Bamboo Lane and announced, “I’m going to be a writer when I grow up.”

“A writer?” he repeated with a grin, our matching blue eyes gazing at one another. “I thought you wanted to be a seashell scientist.” An academic pamphlet on seashells had recently appeared in our house, who knows from where or when, just another piece of flotsam washed up on the Heap ‘O Crap that used to be the dining room table. I’d found it underneath a pile of disposable chopsticks and paper plates that Daddio bought so he would never have to do dishes, and it had become my latest favorite book.

“I want to be seashell scientist or a writer,” I clarified. I already had a small collection of cowry and puka shells at the other house, my mom’s house, in an old jelly jar, but I wanted better shells, like the fantastic pink and purple creations I saw in the pamphlet. If I was a scientist, I could get all of the seashells that I wanted—whole rooms full of shells! Shells big enough to sit in!—and if that didn’t work out, I had writing as my ace in the hole. As soon as I learned to read and write, I knew I’d be great at it.

Daddio wrote down a measurement on a sheet of paper and carefully filled a bullet cartridge with gunpowder. Of course he knew all about guns and bullets and gunpowder, because he was manly and strong and that’s what manly, strong men know. When he told me to cover my ears, step back from the dog, or don’t touch that, I obeyed instantly. As long as I obeyed instantly what he said, then I wouldn’t be hurt. He knew exactly how to keep me safe.

Today he was making bullets for his Molokai deer hunt. I’d overheard him talking to his best friend, my Uncle Billy, complaining that the bullets he’d made for his rifle weren’t getting the distance he needed for deer, so we were in the workshop today, trying out different combinations of powder, bullets, and cartridges.

Daddio measured gunpowder on one of the little scales you could find in high school science labs and kitchen counters all over Ocean View. Then he took a used cartridge—the metal cylinder that falls out of the gun when it fires a bullet—and put it in the press. Because I’d been a good girl and hadn’t wet the bed last night, he let me pull the lever that forced the bent and twisted cartridge back into its proper shape. It was set high because he was so tall, so he had to pick me up and hold me there, my legs dangling in space. I was allowed to pull the lever again once he’d filled the cartridge with gunpowder and carefully balanced a metal bullet on top.

“The hammer in the gun falls and ignites the powder in the cartridge,” Daddio explained, holding the new bullet horizontally and demonstrating the mechanism with his huge, wide fingers. “The explosion of the gunpowder shoots the bullet up here through the gun barrel. Now, the barrel—” He hoisted one of his rifles up off the ground and pointed it toward the open garage door. “—contains the explosion, so the force is all focused in one direction.”

Standing behind me and holding the weight of the gun in his arms, Daddio placed the butt of the rifle against my shoulder and gently pushed my head down so I was staring down the sight with his big, soft belly against my back. I imagined what it would look like, if there was a deer at the other end. I wondered would happen when I killed it. I didn’t think I could.

“We’ll start you off on a little .22 when you’re older,” he said, propping the gun against the wall and going back to the press. “Something light. A Winchester. How about that?”

“Ho-kay,” I agreed, telling myself to imagine a Hunter Rachie, with big boots and a big gun, creeping through the misty forest at dawn with Daddio. The lava rocks crackle under our feet with a sound like glass breaking, and Daddio whispers, Hush, sheep ahead. Through a gap in the trees, I see a herd of mufflon, their horns glowing gently in the early dawn. Daddio falls back so I can make the kill, and I inch forward, squatting on my haunches. Then I raise the gun to my shoulder, fitting the butt into that groove between shoulder and collarbone that God made special just for guns—

His watch beeped. “Time to pick up your sister from the bus stop! Let’s go, Nana-buggah, I wanna get to the cinder cone to test this ammo out before it gets dark.”

The mufflon sheep leap away down the lava flow and I scrambled to the floor, clapping my hands to wake our three-legged guard dog, Malia, who would have to protect the guns and guitars while we were away. I was relieved; now I could daydream again of fairies, tree spirits, and magic things, and forget about death for a while.

Daddio put on a baseball cap with a Kona marlin stitched on it to protect his perfectly bald head against the Hawaii sun and stood, big and solid as a tree, beside the Jeep so he could strap me into my car seat. We were in no hurry. No one is ever in any hurry in my Hawaii."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Farewell, my ring

It's with a certain amount of shame that I relate this next little story. A few weeks ago, right around the time I was celebrating my one year anniversary of moving to New York, I sacrificed a ring of mine to the subway gods and almost lost a finger.

The C train arrived at my stop just as I was running down the stairs to catch it. Normally, you can tell right away whether or not you can make it through the doors. Either the train has just pulled up as you reach the bottom of the stairs--in which case, go go go like a 1960s cage dancer--or the doors are closing before you get through the turnstile--in which case, bad luck and misfortune will infest your pathetic soul for all eternity and you have to wait for the next train.

This time was different. The doors were standing open when the BF and I went through the turnstile. It was a cruel invitation from fate to either wait like a cowardly sucker for the next train, or make like Urban Ninja and leap through the doors just as they closed. Being a 1-year-New Yorker, I went for the latter and thrust my hand into the doors to hold them open.

Subway doors aren't like elevator doors. They don't open automatically when something obstructs them, not unless said something has enough leverage to force them open again. As the glass and rubber maw closed down on my soft, fleshy fingers, I could hear BF crying out behind me, "Let it go! Let it go!" As though I'm in control of this situation. Admitting defeat, I tried to withdraw my hand and let the train go, and then--my ring got stuck.

It was the oh-shit moment of the century. For two horrifying seconds, all I could think about was my Girl Scout horseback riding instructor, who told us on the first day of classes to never wear jewelry to the ranch and drove her point home by showing us the stumpy gaposis on her hand where her ring and pinky fingers used to be before her ring got caught on a gate.

That was going to be me: Ole' Subway Stumpy, missing my middle finger because I didn't want to miss the train.

Thank the subway gods that my ring was a big, plastic novelty ring and not a skinny little gold or silver ring. As the train started to pull away from the station, I yanked hard and felt the whole thing slip off, mercifully without my finger still in it. The train picked up speed and I bid farewell in my heart to its pretty blueness, sliding into the darkness of the underground.

The BF, seeing my face, actually took a few steps after it, obviously intending to pace the train and pull my ring out of the door. "You can still--!" he began.

I grabbed his arm. "No," I said firmly. "Let it go."