26 October 2007

You May Be Suffering from a Condition Called "Life"

I used to have a Callahan cartoon hanging on the wall of my old cubicle. It said: "You may be suffering from a condition called 'Life'... ask your physician about a new treatment called a swift kick in the ass..."

I think it might be time to get in touch with my doctor. I have a lot on my plate this next month. I've also been trying to grapple with how my life has been going over the past few weeks, and the results are not so pleasant. Many of my internal monologues are beginning: "If only I had... I wish I would have..." I feel like someone put the Pluperfect Subjunctive lesson of a Spanish for Dummies tape on a permanent loop.

Obviously, I've had a lot on my mind. To add to my list of complaints, things around me aren't quite working right. For example, my alarm clock is a paltry little travel alarm. I've had it for years and it serves its purpose well, despite the years of sustained abuse that has left its plastic frame cracked and dented. One of my favorite features of this clock is a temperature display. Currently, the thermometer on the clock reads 93.5 degrees. That can't be right because if I were to venture a guess, I'd say that the temperature in my drafty old apartment is pushing 50 tops. It's really cold in here. I'd turn on the heat, but the noise is really distracting.

Okay, so an alarm clock isn't a big deal, especially considering that the time is correct. I probably need to replace the battery. But I am continually running into a number of snafus- some of which are probably imaginary. The clock is a good example. When it comes to dealing with the problem, I can identify a potential remedy, but I can't find the impetus to take care of it.

Instead of mustering any sense of urgency, I've been retreating into myself. This must be a hazard of living alone. I don't think the shyness I've exemplified lately is naturally occurring. Something has turned up the amplitude of my introversion. The fact that my work has (temporarily) been largely independent in nature hasn't helped much either, I'm sure.

I probably need to give myself more credit. Let's hope a self-congratulatory pat on the back does the job of a swift kick in the ass. I won't be headed to the doctor anytime soon... who thinks up these atrocious health insurance plans?

22 October 2007

Death of a Cat

When it comes to discussing work on this blog, I try to follow the old Internet adage of "Be ye not so stupid." (a doocery, perhaps?) This is fine by me. Typically, nothing much happens and my fellow employees are good folks who drink a lot of crappy coffee and are mildly amused by the daily useless fact I post outside my cubicle. (Today's: Jupiter's moon Io has over 300 volcanoes.) But this issue has been bothering me is a way much akin to an itchy tag in a new garment. I might as well bring it up in this forum as an attempt to cut out its irritation on my psyche.

Theoretically, the following scenario could happen anywhere. Or, at least any place where people routinely congregate for hours on end; just as long as it was a place where people come together with familiar strangers on a daily basis. It has nothing to do with my j.o.b. It has very little to do with the well-caffeinated cohorts on an individual level. My point, I hope, has very little to do with the event itself and more to do with how we treat one another in social situations. So I'll give this one a go, and hope for a modicum of success.

Last Wednesday, one of my co-workers parked her car in the on-site parking lot. After a few minutes upstairs in her cubicle, someone from the smokers' crew informed her that her car was meowing in the most terrible way.

Recently, this lady had been pleased by her two newly acquired kittens. They were to help as mousers in her rural property in a town named after a local volcano. One kitty had crawled up into the engine block. The cat was very much alive, and very cute, despite the fact that one of its front legs had been partially amputated. By which I mean to say that part of its leg was completely missing, but the entire appendage was not lost. It was a gruesome injury, and there was quite a bit of blood in a non-hemorrhaging sort of way.

I do not brag McGuyver-like veterinary skills, so I knew I would not be able to cauterize the bleed with a Bic lighter and a staple remover. But I also knew that the kitty would bleed to death if someone did not do so within the hour. I thought it was quite an intrepid little feline to have survived being mangled and to balance itself in the engine block of a vw bug for a 30+ mile commute. I was sure it could probably live a pretty decent life as a three-legged cat.

The woman was understandably shaken up. She called her husband (he was home sick with the flu) to figure out what to do with the cat. She spent quite a while deliberating. Several co-workers stepped up to the plate: they would help the lady take her kitty to the Dove Lewis emergency animal hospital. When the woman voiced concerns about financing a visit to an emergency clinic, one man even offered to cover the expense up to $5000.

But the lady decided that an emergency clinic would not do. She decided to make the return trip to her home 30 miles away in order to pick up her husband before bringing the cat to her local veterinarians office. The cat did not make it to the vet.

Now, almost a week later, people are still talking about this kitten incident. Perhaps I bear the brunt of the gossip because of I am situated between the office supply cabinet and the fax machine. This, oft to my chagrin, seems to be the prime place for folks to shoot the breeze. Or perhaps they are drawn in by the trivial ditties on my whiteboard (Friday's: Queen Elizabeth I was obsessed with her hands.) and feel that I might be perceptive to their commentary. It could be that I have developed a talent for listening.

People have come to me with a barrage of complaints against the woman. Mostly these people are critical of how she handled the situation. Inevitably, they bring up the issue of accepting help when it is granted, the financial obligation of pet ownership, or codependency. Everyone has some sort of opinion about the situation. It seems unprecedented in my work environs, but people are coming to me hoping for my hermeneutic viewpoints.

I am trying to remain neutral. Yes, I have very strong opinions about what it means to be a responsible pet owner. Yes, I wholeheartedly throw my hands up in celebration of independence. But is it really my place to critique this woman because I may have made a few different choices? Absolutely not.

When all is said and done, this event was purely an accident. This woman had to make a choice under trying circumstances. There was no black and white answer.

02 October 2007

Leavin' on a midnight plane to Brooklyn.

I'm headed off into the wild blue yonder this evening. Wish me luck on the red eye! Tonight's flight is the start of a whirlwind adventure that I hope to chronicle here in the near future.

I still have some last-minute frayed ends to tie up before I leave. In my rush to get stuff done, where am I directing my misplaced anxiety? Forthcoming library fines. They are as yet non-existent, but I fear that I'll misplace some materials I borrowed in my furious wake. Ridiculous!

01 October 2007

The Hunks of PBS

A few weeks ago I was (rightly) accused of watching too much PBS. Many people have argued that my affection for its wonderful programming was just and appropriate as there is no such thing as too much public television. I beg to differ. I realized I had a problem waiting in the queue at the grocery store. I caught a glimpse of a gentleman in line ahead of me who was wearing a plaid flannel shirt. This conjured fond memories of watching This Old House; the mere recollection of which made me salivate. I think that spells serious conditioning, if not a serious public broadcast consumption problem. If bell is to Pavlov's dogs, then plaid flannel is to me.

Though I admit I have a bit of a problem with the PBS viewing, I have no intention of giving it up. After all, the station regularly affirms that the problem is brought on by viewers like me. I am very much looking forward to a winter of evening Sunday evenings curled up on the couch with some mulled beverage and Masterpiece Theatre. It's an exciting life I lead.

So, by special request, I present to you THE HUNKS of PBS. It's a list of twelve, just in case my local affiliate wants to turn it into a calendar for their next pledge drive giveaway. I tried my darnedest to stick to current or upcoming programming. In lieu of naming specific months (i.e. Mr. March), these gents are listed in order of preference.

12. Rudy Maxa

Aw, Rudy's trying to give us a big hug! Mr. Maxa hosts Smart Travels: Europe with Rudy Maxa. He was previously known as The Savvy Traveler on NPR. I am relatively new to this show, but Maxa makes his way onto this list because he gives me the pleasure of watching a travelogue sans Rick Steves. I appreciate the vantage of an experienced traveler, but Steves' has afflicted the American tourist with an unfortunate dependence upon money belts. Mr. Maxa's show is one of the first PBS programs to appear in HDTV. Way to be ahead of the curve!

11. "Everyman"- The PBS Logo

Never underestimate the value of a silent partner.

The PBS "Everyman", deigned by the infamous branders at Chermayeff & Geismar, is one of the most infamous insignias in television. It's meant to imply that Public Broadcasting Services puts people before profits. It suggests that we are all a part of PBS, one phoned-in-pledge at a time. Sure, Everyman has had a few nip tucks since his inception, but like fine wine he improves with time. He sits in the bottom corner of my screen as like a good friend. He has a discerning eye and usually has unquestionable good taste. His androgynous appearance evokes thoughts David Bowie's gender bending days. Delicious!

10. Christopher Kimball

Chris Kimball of America's Test Kitchen is one of my personal favorites on the list. His wit is dry and tart, and his looks are classically geeky. He has more charisma in his bow tie than most of the chefs featured on the program possess collectively. Sometimes he acts like an erudite jerk, but this only adds fuel to my fanatic fire. He samples pies, beans, pork tenderloins and other delicious fare, but viewers remain hungry for him. In one of my favorite episodes, he tests white wine vinegar with no chaser. If that's not living on the edge, what is?

9. Alan Alda

Former M*A*S*H star and king of the crossword puzzle clue makes a crossover to Public Television as the host of Scientific American Frontiers. Alda tours around, giving viewers a peek at the exciting world of scientific progress. Alda is a standout host, with an enthusiastic and genuine interest in the subjects he is covering. Most notably, Alda asks terrifically astute questions. Good show, Hawkeye. I watched an episode about mechanics over the weekend. It featured the World Cup of robot soccer, self-propelled submarines and sundry other projects. An M.I.T. professor equated the elation he feels at his anual mechanical engineering contest as a "geekgasm". I'm relatively certain a spontaneous geekgasm happens to viewers like you every time Alan Alda appears on this show.

8. Jim Leher
Oh, Jim Leher. Now that Lou Rukeyser is gone, you are the shining beacon of the older generation of PBS hotties. You bet I'll tune in to your News Hour. Eat your heart out, Paul Kangas in Miami.

7. Norm Abrams

Plaid shirts, works with his hands, Bostonian accent. The Master Carpenter on This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop must have a long line up of hopeful apprentices.

6. The Ninth Dr. Who

There have been 10 incarnations of The Doctor in the BBC's seminal sci-fi time travel drama. Chris Eccleston was the ninth doctor, and he's currently gracing the airwaves as Dr. Who thanks to the lag that occurs when PBS picks up British programming. I've never really been able to jump on the Dr. Who train before. Perhaps this is because my perferred science fiction falls well within the dystopian literature vein (think: Brave New World, The Handmaids Tale, et al.) Or, perhaps it is quite simply because Dr. Who has never been much of a looker until no.9. Eccelston's Doctor is broody and tempermental. He is quite simply the most luscious gent to step out of the TARDIS.

5. Ken Burns

I've caught several episodes of the latest Ken Burns series "The War" and not just because Oprah told me to watch. I find this to be a fascinating era unblemished by my academic traditions. You see, I always had the history teacher that would spend hours prattling off figures on the Revolutionary War before "jumping around a bit" in the curriculum to make sure we knew about civil rights during Black history month. By the end of the year, we were are far as the Empancipation Proclamation. I also learned that for decades Americans believed Commies were bad, but let's face it, I figured that one out in English class.

I've been really impressed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's new series. Of course it doesn't have that simple and powerful throughline of "The Civil War", but it is a great piece of work. It's collage of wartime propoganda, news reels, and layman's commentary makes a very tangible example of the American experience in all theatres of the war. I think it's especially harrowing to see how drastically America at war has changed. Now back to your regularly scheduled escapism.

4. LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton actually left the Reading Rainbow series earlier this year after the rights to the program were bought by a big education conglomerate. As a proud member of the first generation of Reading Rainbow viewers, it's impossible for me to imagine the show without LeVar. PBS likes to keep production costs low and production quality high by airing a lot of repeats, so I'm sure we'll see him again.

Burton actually installed himself quite high on the list because he gave the keynote address at my college graduation. His speech was memorable for two reasons:

1. He appeared to be genuinely greatful for the honorary degree from a tiny little liberal arts university. Most keynote speakers I've seen could care less, but LeVar seemed really proud. He left college for a little acting gig as Kunta Kinte in Roots, and never officially graduated from USC. He was so pleased by the honor, he brought his Momma along to see him "graduate".

2. He lead everyone in attendence in a spirited version of the Reading Rainbow theme song. A tent full of graduates belted out "Butterfly in the sky/I can fly twice as high!" as their parents looked on somewhat bewildered by the fact that we knew all the words. I think there was an overwhelming sigh of relief from the parents camp. It was tinged with echos of, "We installed our children in front of the TV, but yet they still managed to become literate, college graduates! Yessssssss!"

I CAN DO ANYTHING! Thanks, literacy. Thanks, LeVar!

3. George Page

You may not recognize this face, but certainly you will recognize his voice. The late Mr. Page was the host and creator of the Nature series. His voice is like a little slice of heaven, even when he is talking about animals ripping each others flesh off.

2. Oscar the Grouch

Surely Kermit the Frog is the forerunner in the Sesame Street beauty pagent. Kermit's got it all: the looks, the talent (banjo ballads), the humanitarian world view. Kermit would take the cake.

Oscar, meanwhile, may not even qualify for runner up. He's definitely running on the underdog ticket, and that makes my heart pitter patter even more fervently. Besides, everyone loves a misanthrope.

This grouch has a lot going for him. It's not easy bein' green for Oscar, but he doesn't whine about it! He gets cranky and then takes pleasure in his rotten mood. If you're still not convinced of Oscar's prowess, consider this riveting rendition of his song "I Love Trash" which proves that he fits a rather antiquated mold of being a catch:

1. He owns real estate, albeit a trash can.

2. He's fond of his mother, who gave him the tattered old sneaker

3. Oscar was an early pioneer in the sustainability movement: reusing and recycling before it was cool.

4. If he's that enthusiastic about trash... well!

1. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

Mmmmmm. Mr. Darcy...

I can say no more, except to add that Masterpiece Theatre is going to broadcast all the complete works of Jane Austen in 2008 . I'll be watching Mr. Darcy will bells on. Just don't expect me to wear anything else. Ring-a-ding ding!