Nov 30, 2006
Your Mother Wears Army Boots, and I Smell of...
Bleah. I'm sick.
But at least it's not the flu.*
Elderberry extract seems to be the new new thing for dealing with viruses. I bought some of this Sambu Guard stuff at the Chapel Hill EarthFare.**
Of note, the Sambu Guard tastes pretty decent -- a very rich juiciness that reminds me of the pomegranate juices now on sale almost everywhere.
It's a bad time to be an oxidant, I'd say. Everybody's against them.
In any case, it's fingers crossed for me that this cold passes quickly!
*I spent 90 minutes and some cash to confirm that, this afternoon, at the clinic. And thank goodness, too -- -- I'm hosting my mom's 75th birthday party on Saturday and I need to be human.
**no longer open 24 hours a day. Now open only to midnight. Which makes a lot of sense.
Nov 29, 2006
We Are (Not) Devo
When I was a kid, my friends and I would use clay flowerpots for BB gun target practice. If we had been really clever, we would have used the flowerpot "saucer" bases as pretend skeet, but we weren't that clever.
(Either that, or no one wanted to volunteer for the throwing/walking/retrieving job. I mean, sure you could minimize your walk by not throwing the saucer very far, but that would introduce other problems which even we dumb adolescent boys could predict.)
In my current housesitting gig, I recently noticed that a couple of the plants had completely converted their soil supply into one big rootball. Thus the trip to Home Depot, and the obligatory Devo pose.
While my gardening efforts are far from substantial (cf. Sarah and Georg, et al.), I have to say that I really enjoyed repotting those two plants with new clay and new soil. Happy little plants.
Nov 28, 2006
Response and Responsibility
Lately I've been thinking about friendship and honesty, and the potential power of what friends say to each other. And what occurs to me as of late is this set of distinctions:
Take 1. When a friend speaks and asks for an honest response, it doesn't mean that I need to say the first thing that pops into my head. In fact, a honest and fully considered response may very well exclude the first thing that pops into my head.
Friend: "Hey, Phil -- what do you think of my new car?"
Impulse answer: "My God, you're a moron. I can't believe you got this gas-guzzling ego-bomb."
Possible honest and considered response: "Well, Sean -- I'm really not sure. I mean, it's obviously gorgeous and if you let me drive it, I'll confirm my suspicion that it's an awesome frickin' machine. At the same time...I'm not so sure this is the card I would have picked for you. I mean... weren't we just talking last week about global warming? That, and the fact that you might get laid off soon? And did you check the latest Consumer Reports? I'm just asking...
Take 2. Sometimes, though, the considered response would exclude something important and from the heart. Even if it's not the complete answer, it might be something important for me to express (so that I can share the full range of what I'm feeling) and for my friend to hear (so that he gets all the data available to him) and for our friendship to need sharing:
Friend: Hey, Phil -- guess what? I ran into Heather last week at a party. And for the first time since we quit living together, we had a civil and even fun conversation. So, next thing you know, we made plans for lunch and it was really awesome. I've gotta tell you, I had almost forgotten all the things that were so wonderful about her...
Impulse answer: Are you out of your fucking mind?!
So anyway. You get the idea.
And if you have any clever hints on how to quickly determine which choice needs to be made at which time, feel free to comment.
image from here.
Nov 27, 2006
Is she evil because she's heathen, or evil because she's early?
In any case, Celeste has put up her Christmas tree on Thanksgiving weekend, and you should read about that and much more at Pique and Reverie, her usually personal but never self-indulgent blog.
Nov 24, 2006
Seek first to Understand...
-- from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
I include this today because I've noticed this week that I need a reminder.
On one occasion, I was meeting with several people (including me) who were all "trying to be understood" -- something Covey calls "the dialogue of the deaf". On another occasion, I launched into commentary and advice while the person I was with still getting started with her story.
For me, what de-rails the listening? Many things, of course: impatience, arrogance, lack of consideration, fear, forgetfulness... It's hard for me to be "on guard" against those at all times, but maybe it's easier instead to be focused on what I do want instead of what I'm trying to avoid. Especially if I can say what I want in simple way: to truly be helpful (when I'm working as a consultant) or to truly hear my friend (when I'm listening to someone close).
So, in any case. Here's the blog reminder to myself. And happy day-after-Thanksgiving to you!
Nov 23, 2006
Festivus for the Left of Us -- 9 December, Saturday
Below, from my pal Lanya (pictured right, with other pal Anne during the 2006 NC Gay Pride Parade) at gettraction.org:
What are YOU thankful for? Post it as a comment here:
Our cups floweth over, and talking over turkey (or tofurkey) just won't cut it. Nope, we're celebrating this huge year by throwing our second annual...
FESTIVUS for the Left of Us!
Traction's holiday-ish party and silent auction fundraiser is bigger and better this year, and co-sponsored by the Independent!
Food, drink, and feats of strength...
Holiday shopping, cool people and a great cause...
Plus fabulous games, dancing, airings of grievances, even get your new year's fortune told!
Here are three easy ways for YOU to plug in to Festivus, and we hope you'll do all three:
1) VOLUNTEER in the planning of Festivus.
You can volunteer that day/night, but we especially love EARLY volunteers.
Help procure items for the auction, get food and drink, plan the decorations, write item descriptions for the program/catalog, try to out-do Celeste's wacky/crafty/fun party ideas (best of luck) and much, much more!
VOLUNTEER PRE-PARTY: 6pm on Tues 11/28 at the Broad St. Cafe (1116 Broad
St.) Write celeste@getTraction.org to let us know you're coming.
2) Join Casey, Raj, Patrick, Sarah, etc. and CONTRIBUTE to the auction.
You have something to give. That's not a question.
To juice your juices:
- lessons in your special skill (tennis, cooking, surfing, dancing, French)
- 3-4 hours of your time as a handyperson, babysitter, designated driver, dog-walker... (if you're REALLY generous, give 2 hrs/month for a year)
- a week or weekend at your family's getaway spot!
- a lovely item from a funky store your friend owns
- a gift certificate from a favorite restaurant
- a valuable piece of memorabilia (ask us if you're not sure)
- frequent flyer miles, for those of you who travel a lot
3) SPREAD THE WORD and bring friends!
Write festivus@getTraction.org to donate, volunteer or RSVP. Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend and we'll see you on Tuesday!
Muchas gracias, Lanya
P.S. For those of you who don't know Festivus, read about this (pop)cultural phenomenon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festivus
or watch a 3-minute video: http://www.vidlit.com/festivus/
P.P.S. We're NOT thankful for the offensive comments recently made by Michael Richards (who played Kramer on Seinfeld), who is explicitly NOT invited to our Festivus party.
= Traction =
"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."
~ Emma Goldman
Traction = a social network of left-leaning 20- and 30-somethings who are spicing up progressive activism by throwing fun, issue-based events that inform, inspire and connect us with other savvy Gen X & Yers.
Get in the loop: Write to tractivist@getTraction.org to join our email list.
Nov 22, 2006
Portrait of the Artist as Phil
Looking at this pic, today, the long hair doesn't scare me at all. But the glasses...
I took this self-portrait in my master bathroom suite which I used as a painting studio. I used the towel rack for an easel and the wall for scraping excess paint off my brushes, which explains the pseudo-peacock pictured behind me.
But never mind all that. Instead, check out yesterday's post with the glamour pic (which no one seemed to notice when I put it up without the full story!).
Nov 21, 2006
(Not the) Girl with a Pearl Earring
ca. Dec 1994
For Halloween 1994, my theme was "uptight preppy chick from New England." My housemates, Barb and Joelle, took care of the tweedy outfit, and suggested a lame Halloween lapel pin (a pumpkin with blinking LED eyes) to make people think I really was an uptight preppy chick from New England who couldn't bring herself to actually wear a costume. I went to several parties and I'm told it worked.
The above picture was taken at one of those "glamour" places a few weeks later in Durham. The staff told me that they got 1 or 2 cross-dressers a month, so it was no extra challenge to do me up. The hard part for me was dealing with the makeup. I could hardly move for fear that I'd mess it all up. Obviously, makeup isn't actually fragile, but what do I know -- I'm a guy*. The really annoying thing about this pic is that no one pointed out that my left earring was up way too high. Maybe I'll Photoshopfix it some time.
I cut the long hair soon after this pic, having grown tired of it after ~5 years of hairdom. Nowadays I keep it very short and I'm wondering why it took me this long to get to this much more comfortable place.
*who doesn't normally cross-dress.
Nov 20, 2006
"Endangered Durham" on the web
A local site of note: Endangered Durham by Sven Ryelsdorn. Above pic from same. Whether or not you agree with Rylesdorn's arguments/comments (like this post on Bill Fields and the Medical Arts Building), I think you'll appreciate that he's writing and documenting. For me, he is at the very least opening my eyes to some issues and questions that I haven't considered before. I've quoted his "Site Statement", below:
Endangered Durham Site Statement
I started this site in reaction to the ongoing demolition of historic structures in the city of Durham. I worked from within the Historic Preservation Society of Durham for 5 years to try to save many neighborhood and downtown structures - some successfully, some not. I am no longer affiliated with this organization. I believe that city/county/state policy is very weak in providing avenues for protection of property, and that the city has become particularly aggresssive in destroying such property to 'reduce blight'. There are more creative alternatives.
Given the tiresome stream of Durham boosterism and frequently misguided land use/transportation boondoggles emanating from City Hall and their paid booster organizations, I thought I would start highlighting some of the real land use/transportation problems in downtown Durham and formerly-contiguous neighborhoods, rather than the non-problems they often choose to solve. I periodically highlight some of our copious hangover from Urban Renewal and associated transportation 'improvement' projects, as well as how the ongoing abuse of private property downtown and adjacent neighborhoods by slumlords and speculators affects us all, both in our quality of life and our own property values.
However, I intend this site to be a mixture of education and diatribe. I hope that some of the more purely historical posts will appeal even to people who disagree with my opinions on Durham politics and development.
Nov 17, 2006
Georg's recent post at Mondo Mundo got me thinking about the incredible backup singers whom I crushed on back in the 80s. I didn't know the names of many of them, much less their faces. But their voices -- sigh -- their voices. And me all young and longing...
Some song-settings that come to mind as I type:
ABC's The Look of Love ("I care enough to know I can never love you.")
Joe Jackson's album Heart and Soul
Thomas Dolby's My Brain is Like a Sieve and Budapest by Blimp from the album Aliens Ate My Buick
Roxy Music's Avalon.
How about you?
Once, in the early 90s and not far removed from my 80s crushes, I was in a wedding party with an emerging professional singer/composer. Post-wedding, we were singing our way through the airport when I told her that I dreamed of being someone's backup singer.
"You can be my backup singer anytime," she said. A sweet if offhand remark, I think, but still good to hear. Now she's got a real recording career, but I think I'll back off my request. It's one thing to be a backup singer in a smalltime band -- a couple of months' practice and I could probably be passable in a baritone background. But to risk a Peter Brady* while on the clock of people who are trying to earn a living? Mmm, I don't think so.
*ed. note/correction -- thanks to Pants for pointing out that it was time for change when I mistakenly typed "Bobby" instead of "Peter". For some reason, I always get their names screwy. Maybe because I found Peter's character more interesting but Bobby's name more accessible. At least none of them were named "Sue".
Nov 16, 2006
Lee at the Gate -- Urban Ministries of Durham
Back in the 80s and 90s, he was a high-level hotel exec doing just fine until he discovered cocaine. Soon enough he was broke and close to broken -- in line on the stoop at Urban Ministries of Durham, looking for a bed.
That was two years ago. Now he's clean, living well and working full time as UMD's food and clothing services manager. A happy circle.
Click here for two audio minutes of Lee (1.8MB)* on what he's seeing and thinking today, now that he's staff and not a resident.
Thank you for taking the time.
*sorry for the file size. I'm still learning :-)
Nov 15, 2006
Seductive? Who, me?
Shout out to Joe V. for the link.
Nov 14, 2006
RSVVP Day Today, Nov 14
Thank you to those who ate out on RSVVP day, whose Durham proceeds go to the Community Kitchen at Urban Ministries of Durham. The Community Kitchen serves several hundred meals every day to anyone* who comes through the doors at the corner of Liberty and Queen Streets.
At right a pic of my friend William with whom I sometimes share a meal at UMD (or Golden Corral if we're working). We took this photo last week, three days before his 54th birthday. Click here for a 45-second audio clip of Will telling some of his plans and hopes.
*no requirements other than stating your name for general stat-keeping which UMD uses for its own tracking as well as for reporting to potential funders.
Nov 13, 2006
Dang, what a game. And perfect weather to watch it in.
With the score tied at 14 and just five seconds left in regulation, NCCU had the ball at the Elizabeth City State University 34-yard line. Time for one more play before overtime. I assumed they'd go for a long pass.
Instead it was this:
Followed by this:
Note the ECSU's unfortunate No. 34, face down on the turf. That was Brandon Fields, who had run for 29 of ECSU's 39 rushing plays (and 116 of their 149 yards). In my mind, he was the most exciting factor on the field. We knew he'd get the ball 3 times out of 4, and we knew he'd almost always get some yardage -- sometimes large. We just never knew whether and where the NCCU defense was going to stop him. In the end, they stopped him just enough.
Some interesting double-coincidences and comparisons:
NCCU's kicker, junior Brandon Gilbert, won his second CIAA championship with a final-play kick in perfect weather.
This evening, from the other side of the field, the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester caught caught a failed 52-yard field goal attempt by the NY Giants' Jay Feely. After catching the ball 8 yards into the end zone, Hester faked some quiet end-of-play nothingness before launching into a 108 sprint for a touchdown. His 108-yard return tied the NFL record for longest play, set previously last year by Chicago Bears' Nathan Vasher against the SF 49ers who were also attempting a 52-yard field goal. I guess that Hester and Vasher had a nice time chatting on the plane ride home. (NFL stats via ESPN'S game recap.)
What a wacky weekend for football, which I almost never notice. I'm lucky this time that I happened to watch when I did.
Nov 10, 2006
Happy Birthday to Me!
Surprise birthday muffin courtesy of Yvette, Erik and Noakai -- with lots of giggles.
My planz to celebrate: dinner with folks and K, bonfire and marshmallows at R & S's FND, and for tomorrow (drumroll please....) the CIAA football championship game between NCCU and Elizabeth City State University. The football game looks to be a good one but what I'm really looking forward to is the bands.
Nov 07, 2006
***Election Night Party*** Come one and all!
Election Night Party
Five Oaks Clubhouse in Durham.
My friend Pat Chu is hosting an election night party at the Five Oaks Clubhouse. I guess I'm actually co-hosting it since my name is on the party contract. Pat's hoping to see a couple-dozen Democrats cheering for blue state wins while drinking his champagne and eating his party snacks. I'm up for anyone of any stripe to come and I'll have some champagne and beer, too. (And, most likely, I'll have my laptop while I'm working on an Urban Ministries of Durham slideshow that's on tap for a 7:45 fundraising breakfast the next morning. Gaah! Behind schedule!)
So if you're looking for an excuse to watch TV (or surf the 'net) on election night in comfortable surroundings among friendly folk, please join us 6 p.m. until whenever at the Five Oaks Clubhouse in SW Durham (not far from the intersection of I-40 and 15-501). Click for approximate map or for written directions.
Nov 06, 2006
Spare a Guitar, Anyone?
My new friend Chris is in the drug and alcohol recovery program at Urban Ministries of Durham. We had a long lunch today talking about photography and music, and I think I knew what he talking about when he described his favorite book ever: a volume of guitar photographs.
In any case, one of the greatest things that could happen for his health and happiness would be if someone gave him a modest guitar to reconnect him to his musical insides. I asked what he might like and he said, "a small body steel string acoustic for picking and slide guitar. Doesn't need to be a fine guitar -- just a working guitar without a warped fretboard" I told him I'd see if I could find a donor. Anyone out there with something they'd like to pass on?
Please let me know. It would be the coolest thing ever to put one back in Chris's hands.
March update. The bad news is that Chris had a relapse with the addiction problems. The good news is that although UMD had to release him from their susbstance abuse programs (per the rules they run themselve by), two of the UMD staff are still supporting Chris and helping him "stand up" with his ongoing struggle. Also good news -- he's still grooving with the guitars and they're keeping him much closer to saneon a daily basis. Many thanks again to Fik and Carl for coming through with the axe therapy.
Nov 03, 2006
Any Mad Scientist Can Use Dry Ice,
Introducing The Bull in Full, a brand new blog from Michael Bacon, who did the genius thing earlier this week for Halloween.
Michael and are bizarro twins: both of us grew up in Asheville and went to NCSSM. Both of our parent-sets moved from Asheville to Durham. We both have goatees and a habit of acting out movie quotes on any occasion. We both play music in public (Michael more/better than I, but it's still a fact). Both of us have had a longtime interest in the UNC geography department (I wanted to get a PhD, Michael actually did get an MS.) And we discovered the existence of each other through a last coincidence of exceptional convergence, which I'll only tell you about if you email me.
So please go read his stuff and comment and such. You just might be glad you did.
Above photo from the Loco Pops first birthday party, with musical guests the Carolina Chocolate Drops, two of whom are pictured left and center. Michael (who was at NCSSM with the left-hand Drop) is the other person, which made me title the pic "Chocolate, Chocolate, and White Chocolate". Sounds flavorsome, doesn't it?
Nov 02, 2006
Sometimes it pays to remind people about little tasks that might have fallen through the cracks. Even smart people forget, as remembered this evening after finally hearing from a usually-responsive person I'd emailed weeks ago.
When he told me, "feel free to remind me if you haven't heard from me," I suddenly heard an old grandpaw voice in my head saying, "I guess it's true that 'a gentle reminder, now and then, is welcomed by the brightest men.'" I didn't say it out loud, though. Even though someone quotable said something like that long ago, I was pretty sure that (a) I had just made it up and (b) it didn't need to be mentioned.
But in any case, it did point out that aphorisms, like some jokes, can be generated in a snap if you've got a formula.
So here's today's formula, in case you want to make up your own semi- or pseudo-aphorisms. Who knows, you might come up with something that eventually gets quoted in the back of Forbes Magazine.
A little _____________, now and then,
is ____________-ed by the ___________-est men.
Feel free to tweak as needed, like "A little flossing, once in a while, is welcomed by a crocodile." I just made that one up on the spot, too. See how easy it is? Seventh grade boys could have a field day with this if you changed one of the words to "Nantucket."
Nov 01, 2006
"He Believed Her" -- Opinion from Amanda Smith
Below, an opinion piece by my friend Amanda Smith. It is scheduled to appear in today's Herald Sun but I thought I'd also run it here. The usual publishing disclaimers apply -- "does not necessarily represent the views of the Archer Pelican, etc." But the Archer Pelican is glad to run this piece which takes at least a couple of controversial public stands.
He believed her.
Not long ago rape was a word so shameful you rarely heard it, and the deed
was rarely punished. So much stigma was attached to a woman who had been
raped that she didn't report it. She often didn't even tell her husband,
for fear of being rejected as damaged goods. And if people did believe her,
the standard phrase was, "She asked for it."
I was one of many who lobbied the legislature to keep the woman's name out
of the newspaper, so that she could seek justice in a court of law without
having her name smeared in the court of opinion. (Few states passed such
laws, but to their credit most newspapers adopted the policy anyway, as did
We novice lobbyists were stunned at the level of men's fear of false
accusation. This fear made no sense to us. "Do you have any idea of the
stigma?" we asked. Not to say that a false accusation couldn't happen, but
people tended to look the other way when men were guilty, much less when
they were innocent. Compared to the hundreds of thousands of real rapes
that were reported every year, false accusation seemed like a dim
Over the years, with public forums and rape crisis centers and hotlines and
news articles, we got across a novel idea: when a woman says she's been
raped, believe her. Believe she didn't ask for it. Believe she had every
right to walk a dark street, drink too much at a party, say no on a date,
even say no to her husband. Countless workshops on college campuses
preached: No means NO. And men, we learned slowly, were perfectly capable
of believing it. Even the old saw, "Don't let him go too far, because
beyond a certain point he can't stop," turned out to be false. A man can
always stop - and good men do. Even when they are drunk. Even when she's
led them on. Even if she's a stripper.
A few months ago a black stripper said she'd been raped by the Duke lacrosse
team at a team party.
And - the District Attorney believed her. Experienced as a litigator, he
had every reason to. Since then, according to what we read in the papers,
it turns out maybe the rape didn't happen. But I can't hold the DA's
reaction against him. Because here's what else didn't happen.
The DA didn't say "She asked for it." He didn't say, "What do you expect?
She's a stripper." He didn't say, "These fine young men could never have
done such a thing."
In fact, most of the town and most of the Duke campus were entirely ready to
believe that these men had done such a thing. They were notorious for their
drinking, their sexual excess, their arrogance. They were literally a
public nuisance - the source of many neighborhood complaints. When the DA
indicted them, it would have been quite accurate to say "they asked for it."
Because they had, for years.
It's tempting to wish the DA had "believed her quietly", as a friend of mine
neatly put it, but a fair amount of good has come of the ruckus. Duke is
taking a more serious look at campus behavior than ever before. So are a
lot of other universities all over the country, because, reprehensible as
the Duke laxers' general behavior is, they are far from unique. They acted
as they did because their society encouraged them to.
If you are one who is sorry for the laxers, ask yourself how we all, through
our treatment of athletes, our embrace of out-of-control behavior, our
deathly ideas about proving manhood, contributed to their up-bringing.
But don't blame the DA because he believed her. I promise you that is a
whole lot better than what happened in the good old days.
Amanda J. Mackay Smith
Your comments are welcome and I'll pass them along to Amanda unless you direct otherwise.