Monday, May 31, 2010

Therapeutic language

I love the corny slogans of Feldenkrais: Retrain your brain. Less is more. And my latest favorite, Motion is lotion. What's so nice and neat about them is that they are tiny catchphrases that are an eloquent, calligraphic shorthand for an encompassing philosophy of treatment—and life!

Boomers are a bummer

Reading and watching the news, I am disappointed that my generation, which once aspired to set new standards of generosity and altruism, has set instead new records of greed and selfishness. And it's not just a corporate thing. It's a personal thing as well. Instead of observing, admiring and emulating, people covet what isn't theirs and take it—whether it be glamorous garments or other people's husbands and wives. What the fuck happened to us?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Granular unpacketed

Every so often, a relatively dormant word suddenly erupts. There was "transgressive" a few years ago, and "bloviate." And now I'm seeing "granular"—a lot.

A few examples: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the site's privacy issues by saying "Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls." Ariel Kaminer, commenting on the plethora of cell-phone cameras in Times Square, noted, "That’s surveillance far more intensive, and more granular, than anything Walgreens or Bank of America will ever manage." And today reported, "For those of you that have been in hiding and didn’t know, Apple’s iPad launched in the UK today with granular reports from the media on who was the first to buy the device to who was the first to emerge from Apple's London store holding one (hopefully we’ll soon have details of who’s been the first person to leave theirs on the London Underground or to ask for a refund)."

I don't think they're talking about sugar.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fasting for truth

Recently I viewed PBS's biodoc The Buddha, and I was struck by the role of anorexia in the spiritual quest. For six years during his search, the Buddha led a life of extreme asceticism, renouncing almost all food, and when he began to eat again, his former fellow ascetics blasted him for giving in to worldly desires (I'm just paraphrasing here). And I wonder if there isn't a bit of pathology in the spiritual quest and a bit of spirituality in the anorexic pathology. Just wondering.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Does this hair make my ass look too big?

For anyone who doesn't understand the importance of hair, Sue Sylvester (of Glee fame) puts it well: "I have a little head, thin hair, and a fat ass. When the hair doesn't have enough volume, the proportions just go off." It's the whole hour-glass concept.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Proctology joke!

Someone gave me a Pain Quotidien gift card a while back, so I broke it out on Tuesday—and ate a PQ Cobb salad every day this week (with a fork made out of cornstarch—how cool is that!). It's not that the Daily Pain's Cobb salad is anything to die for. Rather, it's a form of comfort-food addiction: Once something tastes O.K., why take a chance on anything else that might not taste as good? Good thing I've used up the card. Otherwise I'd be eating the same thing for the rest of my life.

On another note entirely (and perhaps not appropriate in the same post as food, but irresistible): a proctology joke. I'm sure there are a lot of proctology jokes out there, but this one was uttered by an actual proctologist. The doctor who's scheduling me for an early colonoscopy said he's just being "anal compulsive."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Voicemail from the grave

The day before Other’s sister died, she left a message on our answering machine. Other listened to it and erased it. After her death, he remembered the voicemail and wanted to listen to it again, just to hear her voice. But it was gone. Ever since then, I’ve felt reluctant to erase the chip after I’ve listened to my messages. It could be the last time.

For a long time after my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law kept his greeting on her answering machine. Partly it was to ward off any would-be predators with the suggestion of a male presence. Partly it was to hang on to his voice, to hang on to him.

On our answering machine, it is Other’s voice on the greeting, although he invites callers to leave a message for me, our daughter C and our son J. My mother, who has had a stroke, always gets confused by hearing Other’s voice when she’s calling me. She says, “Oh, Other, I must have the wrong number” or “Oh, Other, could you tell Mia I called?” or “Oh, Other, how nice to hear your voice. I’ll hang up and call Mia.”

It’s funny, her confusion, because my mother was one of the early adopters of the answering machine. Back then, it was I who was confused. I’d call home in an emergency and hear her voice and start to talk to her and get enraged when I realized it was only a recording. Just another of her mean tricks, I thought.

My parents are almost always home these days, but on the rare occasions when I call and get the answering machine, it is my older brother’s voice on the greeting. He must have set up the answering machine for them and completed the task by recording the greeting. Still, it always catches me off guard. What’s he doing there? I wonder.

The perfect disease

On Friday I was diagnosed with the perfect ailment: a genetic disorder of the little finger. Called Dupuytren’s disease—and also known as Vikings disease—the condition, as I manifest it, is characterized by the inability to fully straighten my little finger because of cording of the connective tissue. I noticed it only because I couldn’t flatten my hands for downward dogs and handstands. If I weren’t a yogini, I would never have noticed. It’s that minor. In women, the disease is limited to the hands, mostly the little or ring finger, and rarely, the toes. In men, however, it can cause bending of the penis. I wonder, Does Bill Clinton have Dupuytren’s disease?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cooking by the book

Other has been so overwhelmed with managing his sister's (int)estate that I am finally trying to chip in with the household chores, including the dread food-preparation ones. Because for many years I was the main wage earner, cooking and cleaning fell to Other, but as his work hours have increased, it has become clear that it's not fair for him to be responsible for ALL the drudgery at home. So I am now a (grudging) drudge too.

I don't mind bundling up the garbage, scrubbing down the bathroom, cleaning the windows. Nobody expects those chores to yield anything but cleanliness. But the aura of creativity that surrounds cooking has always seemed to me to be a big lie. If you follow the instructions, the recipe yields the predicted results, and everyone applauds. But how is that different from, say, successfully cheating on an exam, where you take the known answer and copy it and get an A? Of course, in cooking (as in test-taking) the alternative is veering off the tried-and-true path and suffering spectacular and humiliating failure—like my infamous creamed onions (with spontaneously added cheese) that kept Other and me in our apartment with the windows open for three days.

But buckling under to the notion of fair play and practicality, I have been dutifully (slavishly) following recipes for a few weeks now. This has resulted in a larger-than-expected vegetarian-lasagna-rollup project that temporarily festooned the apartment with cooling pasta and spattered the environs with tomato sauce but was otherwise uneventful—and edible—and a curried-cauliflower dinner (I dared to serve it on quinoa instead of rice!) that met with approval, as well as some other less notable meals.

Pleased as I am that I did not have to throw these dishes out, I can't say I gained much satisfaction from making them. Where's the joy? Where's the adventure? Where's the risk? I just don't think I'm cut out for this.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I knew about the third eye, but ...?

My son often twigs me to curious wrinkles in the male psyche. He was the first to use the term MILF in my presence, for instance—horrifying a very innocent young person who was having Thanksgiving dinner with us. (In my usual incomparable way, I prolonged the horror by insisting on having the term spelled out for me, and then repeated, since I couldn't believe my ears). And not long ago, he introduced me to the concept of the belly as the third breast. He explained that contrary to what many women think, men actually like a muffin top in a woman, the spongy mass of fat that bulges out above the belt. They see it as "a third tit," as he indecorously put it. He claims this feeling is widespread. Who knew?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My dad's Sargasso Sea

Over the past couple of years, my father has asked me to order two or three dozen copies of Paul Fussell's The Boys' Crusade for him. He has written a detailed chart comparing his own experiences in World War II with those of the soldiers quoted in Fussell's book. He gives the book and chart as thank-you presents to the people who have helped him out over the past year or so, driving him to and from doctor's appointments and taking him grocery shopping.

It seems an odd enthusiasm for a guy who almost never spoke about his military service when we kids were growing up. I know the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan distress him, as did the Vietnam war. And his frequent visits to the VA for medical treatment probably keep them in the forefront of his mind.

But when I finally asked him, "Why all the books?" he described the war not as an obsession but as a random kind of interest. He said that as he's gotten older, his mind is like the Sargasso Sea, filled with bits of floating garbage. Sometimes the bits wash together and form a mass, a garbage island, and when that happens, occupying more and more space in his mind, he starts to pick through it, and uses his scavengings to form complete thoughts.

I understand completely.