Some Want To Fly Isn’t That Crazy

My co-worker whom we Poor Impulsives call Chuan was born in Singapore and emigrated to New Jersey as a small child. A few weeks ago, Chuan and his two sisters spent two weeks visiting China, where one sister works. It was, judging by the pictures, a grand adventure. Here, Chuan kicks up his heels at the Hall of Supreme Harmony, which was under construction. It’s quite possible I might be a little jealous, but of what? Maybe the once-familiar escape from the iron grip of gravity.

Today, my dear friend Lala forwarded a reminder that history is nothing if not a bitch.

The women were innocent and defenseless. And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”

They beat Lucy Burn, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the “Night of Terror” on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food – all of it colorless slop – was infested with worms. When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

I don’t know who wrote that, but it rang a distant bell for me. I’m ashamed to say it but I’d forgotten who Alice Paul was, so I looked her up. Imagine my chagrin:

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it passed in 1972. During the 1940s, both the Republicans and Democrats added the ERA to their party platforms. In 1943, the ERA was rewritten and dubbed the “Alice Paul Amendment.” The new amendment read, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Fuck! I forgot Alice! Did you remember Alice? This is a blog post about Alice. Back to the letter of unknown origin about HBO’s Iron Jawed Angels:

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

This would be an excellent, life-preserving moment to remember the unbelievable courage that brought us – all of us – to where we stand – or fly – now, because our politics have gone crazy.

This Is For the Discotheque

Saturday afternoon, I found my sister Corinne staring at the shelves in the family toy store, conversing with a teenager whose resemblance to the fair Georg was startling. The teenager was an acquaintance of Corinne’s, which was news to me. The question at hand: birthday party, present, another teenage girl nobody really knew well. Suggest a gift. Ready….go. I made a long, long list.

Block of Velveeta. Dryer lint. A pineapple. A bag of cat litter. All the colors of PlayDoh conveniently pre-mixed, which would save lots of time. Pot pourri and a broom – for parades. Like on Fractured Fairy Tales. Safety matches. You could need those! A snow shovel. It’s, like, an investment. For an hour, I babbled about gifts because that’s what stores are for when I’m in them. The whole time I was thinking about this Barry and Levon bit, because the best gift I ever got was in three huge Korvette’s bags: enough boxes to make 240 lbs. of banana pudding.

Aw yeah.

Some things, kids have got to discover for themselves.

And Things Were Looking Like A Movie

A little while ago, Pete walked out to the fence to take that nightly picture we’ve neglected for the last week. As he framed this shot, he heard people talking, then saw them and their sleeping bags in the dark on the other side of this fence. Startled, he turned and walked back. Just then, a cop car materialized in the cul-de-sac and Pete waved. “There are people sleeping behind that fence,” Pete said.

I wouldn’t have done that, but Pete did because his tiny, middle-aged girlfriend sleeps 20 yards from this fence and he’s alarmed. The river people were down closer to the bridge and at river level a few days ago. I haven’t worried about them, but with a third night of rain predicted, I’m worried for them.

If they’re still there tomorrow, I should make them sandwiches.

Know Where We’re Going To

The juxtaposition of these two items on RawStory is alarming.

VA official denies cover-up of veteran suicides

A top-ranking official at the Department of Veterans Affairs defends the agency’s treatment of disabled veterans and denies the agency has tried to cover up the number of veterans committing suicide.

Dr. Michael Kussman, a department undersecretary for health, testified during a trial in San Francisco federal court that will determine whether the VA is shirking its duty to provide adequate mental health care and other medical services to millions of veterans.

The two veterans groups suing the VA want U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti to order the agency to dramatically improve how fast it processes applications and how it delivers mental health care, especially when it comes to preventing suicides and treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

The groups contend that veteran suicides are rising at alarming rates in large part because of VA failures. In court, plaintiffs’ lawyer Arturo Gonzalez clashed Thursday with Kussman over how to compile and report the suicide rates.

For instance, VA Secretary James Peake told Congress in a Feb. 5 letter that 144 combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide between October 2001 and December 2005.

But Gonzalez produced internal VA e-mails that contended that 18 veterans a day were committing suicide. Kussman countered that the figure, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, included all 26 million veterans in the country, including aging Vietnam veterans who are reporting an increased number of health problems.


Joint Chiefs chair: US prepping military options against Iran

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon is planning “potential” military actions against Iran, reports The Washington Post.

Mullen criticized Iran’s “‘increasingly lethal and malign influence’ in Iraq,” writes Ann Scott Tyson for the Post.

Addressing concerns about the US military’s capability of dealing with yet another conflict at a time when forces are purportedly stretched thin, Mullen said war with Iran “would be ‘extremely stressing’ but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force,” Tyson notes.

“It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability,” she quotes the U.S.’s top military leader at a Pentagon news conference.

If you follow veterans’ affairs, you must be aware of how seriously this will fuck up the active military and wounded veterans in the future. We must prevent this madness born of hubris, thoughtless cruelty and greed. Please speak up and don’t shut up.

Crossposted on Brilliant@Breakfast.

Friday Cat Blogging: Crazy Diamond Edition


Pete has, as a reporter once remarked of Olga Korbut, a metabolism like a raging wildfire. After those three meals most of us eat, Pete scavenges a fourth around 9:30 or 10 p.m. Two days ago, I threw a cloth napkin on the floor and made a ruling: all dinners made must include sufficient vegetables and meat such that a fourth meal may be easily prepared for him. Also: roughing the kicker. Five yards.

Sleepy Topaz.

In an effort to enforce my own ruling, I made tortellini and opened a can of petite peas. Opening a can of peas at my house is like Christmas morning and Chinese New Year rolled into one. Topaz spins around at my feet, chirping gleefully. Drusy stands on the washing machine, breathless and alert. Suspense is killing them! I pour the water into Topaz and Drusy’s bowls, which is tougher than it sounds because now both cats are trying to climb into the can with very sharp edges – but I prevail! Water in both bowls, both bowls placed on the floor. The pussycats rejoice! The pussycats drink deeply! Tonight, pussycats feast on the water of their enemies, the petite peas.


A funny thing happens when either Pete or I gets down on the floor: Drusy gnaws on us. It’s quite adorable and doesn’t hurt a bit unless she gets overexcited and uses her claws on your un-fur-covered thigh, but such is life! The cats come running now if Pete grabs the camera and sits on the floor. As you can see, Topaz is exhausted after mere moments of tousling with Pete. She claimed the box and nodded off.

Craaaaaaazy Drusy.

Drusy claimed Pete and did the backstroke; everyone was happy.

Last night, I baked pumpkin bread. Turns out the pussycats are mad for canned pumkpin, too. Yes, I used canned. It was on sale for like a quarter and it didn’t have dents or anything. Don’t go all “A Mr. Death is here from the village. Something about the reaping?” and “It was the canned pumpkin” and “Oh, I’m most dreadfully embarrassed.” I had some this morning. It was very tasty with a moist crumb. Also: holding. Five yards.

Flash At the Sound of Lies

Blogger is once again a mattress pea to your pretty principessa. While I’m here muttering, “Gimme strength! And coffee! I’ll settle for coffee…” please note events, they are eventing.

The Independent:

The global price of wheat has risen by 130 per cent in the past year. Rice has rocketed by 74 per cent in the same period. It went up by more than 10 per cent in a single day last Friday – to an all-time high as African and Asian importers competed for the diminishing supply on international markets in an attempt to head off the mounting social unrest. The International Rice Research Institute warned yesterday that prices will keep going up.

The buffers stocks of staple foods that governments once held are being steadily exhausted.

This morning, the Today Show reported that the big club retailers are asking customers to limit purchases of rice. The financials lady I’d never seen before says in many countries people are going to die but in the US, hey, it’s all hype. I was plotting and scheming a crazy plotty scheme to hoard Quaker Instant Oatmeal when I saw the How To Of the Day – How to Make Dandelion Wine. Yippee! Let’s mow!

* 1 package (7 g) dried yeast
* 1/4 cup (60 mL) warm water
* 2 quarts (230 g) whole dandelion flowers. Using 2 quarts (160 g loosely packed, 200 g tightly packed) of just the petals can make for a less bitter wine
* 4 quarts water (3.785 L)
* 1 cup (240 mL) orange juice
* 3 tablespoons (45 g) fresh lemon juice
* 3 tablespoons (45 g) fresh lime juice
* 8 whole cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon (1.25 g) powdered ginger
* 3 tablespoons (18 g) coarsely chopped orange peel; avoid any white pith
* 1 tablespoon (6 g) coarsely chopped lemon peel; avoid any white pith
* 6 cups (1200 g) sugar

1. Put the yeast in the bowl of warm water and set it aside for it to dissolve. (Option for prepared yeast)
2. Wash and clean the blossoms well. Think of it as a fruit or vegetable; you don’t want bugs nor dirt in your food. Remove all green material.
3. Soak flowers for two days.
4. Place the blossoms in the four quarts of water, along with the lime, orange, and lemon juices.
5. Stir in the ginger, cloves, orange peels, lemon peels, and sugar. Bring the mix to a boil for an hour.
6. Strain through filter papers (coffee filters are recommended). Let the wine cool down for a while. While the wine is still warm, stir in the yeast mix.
7. Leave it alone and let it stand overnight.
8. Pour it into bottles, leave them uncorked, and store them in a dark place for at least three weeks so that it can ferment.
9. Optional: Rack the wine several times. Racking means waiting until the wine clears, then pouring the liquid into another container, leaving the lees (sediment) at the bottom of the first container.
10. After that time, cork and store the bottles in a cool place. Allow the wine time to age. Most recipes recommend waiting at least six months, preferably a year.

I get confusd between step 1 and 3. Am I really proofing yeast for two days? I doubt it. Maybe georg or minstrel will straighten us out on that score. The idea of storing liquid uncovered in my basement sounds like a recipe for sticky varmint-related disaster. Ooh! Tips, etc.:

* It may take more than three weeks for your wine to ferment if your home is cold. Try putting the bottles on top of your hot water heater or behind your refrigerator for faster fermentation.
* This recipe will produce a light wine that mixes well with tossed salad or baked fish. To add body or strength, add a sweetener, raisins, dates, figs, apricots, or rhubarb.

* Avoid using dandelions that may have been chemically treated. Also, try to stay away from dandelions that have been graced by the presence of dogs, or that grow within 50 feet of a road.

Graced by the presence of dogs? Also: I’m in New Jersey. There’s not a speck of lawn further than 50 feet from road. Five blocks from my house, people grow pre-smoked tomatoes in postage stamp-size gardens on the curb. Bon appetit!

To sum up: while famine is spreading and white lightning is now $4.25 a gallon, lawn debris is actually foliage and you can brew up your autumn entertainment now. April and May are prime dandelion picking season, but it’s never too soon to plan ahead.

Days Are Lit Like Everyone

Pete and I have had a tough time remembering whose shoes are whose, let alone remembering to go outside and pad back in with pictures and shoes on our paws. Such pressure! It’s so silly to fret when sun dapples our afternoons and yellow pollen coats our cars, which means that spring in the air and a rising prices at the pump turn a middle aged lady’s fancy to hoofing it to work. And hoof it, I do! I should start carrying a camera, shouldn’t I? I certainly thought so this morning, as I loped across the Albany Street Bridge over a Raritan River so smooth a single duck’s paddling strokes rippled gently from center and side to side. So let’s talk about space.

Our model is some sort of reality TV personality. Please don’t tell me who because I promise not to care. No, what’s important here is that our model’s spine looks like a spiral staircase and her toes could only be closer together if they were webbed. Women: I’m about to say something important. This momentousness may never happen again so please take note of both the date and what follows. Here goes: nothing says, “Infantilize me!” like standing around pigeon-toed and helpless. No man with a pulse and a say-so about your raise will take you seriously if you think this is an excellent posture to work, supermodel, work in your workplace, as in life. Strike this pose and you are toast, professionally.

It doesn’t matter if you agree with me. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. You will not be respected if you make yourself look feeble. Don’t bother exclaiming, “That’s how the models all stand now!” Despite our darling’s musculature, her feet make her look like a 98-pound weakling, unable to get out of even her own way, let alone up a flight of stairs or down to business.

Women, Miss Lynda Carter knew something thirty years ago working femmes may or may not know now: if you’re going to bump up against big boys you’d better take up some space. Think I’m kidding? Let’s experiment:

1. Sit in a booth with three male persons. No matter how big you are or how small they are, the menfolk will slouch, knees wide. If you cross your legs they will spread out wider. It doesn’t matter if these are your brothers, cousins or James Brown’s horn section; they will assume you are much smaller than you are, and the space under the table belongs to them.

2. Walk down a hallway where you know men will be walking in the opposite direction. Pretend for a moment you’re fully human and walk straight ahead. When a man walks dead into you and looks surprised, say, “Excuse you” and walk on. Another man will thump into you. It’s as if you’re only visible to special people, possibly with night vision goggles. Try not to act shocked. Back in film school, you saw Delicatessen, and somewhere deep down you know you’re edible.

echidne is in a bit of a mood, and as a no-wave feminist, I understand. Probably. My parents were feminists. My daughter is post-post-feminist. It’s all so very over in a time when girls grow up and skip off to corporate jobs without a moment’s thought as to what happened to both allow and force them to do so. In fact, we live in a time of enormously unexamined behavior, and for the most part, it’s up to each of us to give ourselves a vigorous look-see. Though I’m no expert at anything other than looking or seeing, I’ll help you get started. Stand up straight, shoulders back. Plant your feet parallel about shoulder width apart. Wear shoes that make you able and not unable. You’ve got to get some ground and stand it. Woman, take up some space.

The Story Of How We Begin To Remember

Tristero at Hullabaloo published a blog post the other day that made me frown.

Al-Qaeda As Catch-All Term

by tristero

Glenn Greenwald rightly takes Kenneth Pollack to task for this idiocy from the NY Times:

Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain’s portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a “perfectly reasonable catchall phrase” that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, [emphasis: Greenwald’s] a place that “does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

What Glenn doesn’t realize is something that Pollack surely knows, which is that Philip Bobbitt is trying to make the catch-all “al Qaeda” academically acceptable as well. From a review of Bobbitt’s latest:

Bobbitt’s central premise is that today’s Islamic terrorist network, which he calls Al Qaeda for short…

I frowned because a few weeks ago in conversation I heard two adults discussing how sane and level-headed John McCain was and I said, “No, no. He’s batshit crazy, which will be unmistakable at some point soon.” MaCain had already begun conflating Sunni and Shi’ite, Madhi Army and al-Qaeda, which is inexcusable but sounded like a mistake the first time, the second time, even the third. Twice, Joe Lieberman whispered in McCain’s ear and McCain corrected himself. The sixth and seventh time the candidate misspoke, it was apparent to keen observers a pattern had developed. Hopefully, I thought, a good night’s sleep and a little gingko biloba might fix up the old coot. He’s disqualified himself from serious consideration for the office in question by virtue of being unable to state who’s the actual enemy we’re pretending to fight, but maybe he’ll be okay at dinner parties. Except, that’s not what’s happening here.

This morning, Pete turned on CNN while we did that daily How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up? ritual. While I was in the “Three – no, two!” phase, our blond newscaster talked and talked and talked. Each story seemed unbelievable to her. The sound of her voice reminded me of Drew Barrymore’s Jillian on Family Guy, which is already annoying before coffee. Then our story turned to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – that’s who we were looking at – but the broadcaster talked about “al-Qaeda in Iraq.” I sat up straight and growled. She went on to say al-Sadr had indeed warned the Iraqi government to cut out what it’s doing. I have no opinion about who is good or bad in this situation, and I won’t be drawn into discussion of it.


What pissed me off beyond the ability to speak was the presumption that I, CNN viewer coming to on Sunday morning, don’t know that al-Sadr is Shi’ite, allied with Iran and al-Qaeda is profoundly, deeply Sunni, allied with Saudi Arabia, and these two groups are not fucking conspiring. They hate each other so much, so thoroughly and for so many hundreds of years they haven’t joined up to destroy the occupation.

Sure, it’s all about me, and by me, I mean news-watching registered voters. Here is a related CNN story that is more clear about who’s who, but not by much.

CNN has some explaining to do. Care to ask them to try?

Update: Crooks and Liars takes up Intellectual laziness and the ‘al Qaeda’ shorthand as our chief diplomat calls al-Sadr “coward.”

I Was Not Ready For the Wnter

Today marks the fourth anniversary of Poor Impulse Control as a blog Paulie Gonzalez set up in self-defense. Well, sort of.

Paulie: It’s called blogging and you should do it.
Tata: I don’t know. It’s a new medium. I can’t write anymore.
Paulie: You’re going to write again because when you don’t you go crazy.
Tata: It’s that bad, huh?
Paulie: I priced a woodchipper.

Domestic violence is no joke but the mental picture of smiling Paulie returning rented equipment dripping with blood and a hearty, “I had to compost a wildebeest” is hilarious. I gave in and agreed to blog, but I had no idea what I was doing.

Ever get so sick of yourself you think ‘If I don’t start doing something new and different there’s going to be an Unfortunate Incident at the Kentucky Fried Chicken, with film at 11’? Yeah, me too. If we pass one another on the way to making this terrible mess, let’s double-park on Easton Avenue, exit our vehicles and incite onlookers to riot. But with music, so technically it’s dancing.

Fortunately, the Kentucky Fried Chicken burned down and took two businesses with it, then I moved back across the river to the town that hugs Route 27 like a swollen prostate. Decorative pear trees line the main drag and today I’m soaking up sunshine at the family business as the pear trees snow white petals on traffic. It looks like a sunny blizzard out there. That guy driving the Lexis convertible looked a little perturbed.

I still don’t know what I’m doing but check out the archives. I sure have done a lot of whatever it is.

You Can Only Train Elephants

Meet Zaidie.

Wendy, whom I’ve never met and no, we have NOT practiced this trick in front of a mirror ten thousand times, sent along this picture of her new puppy. If you’ve missed reading the comments here for a few months, Wendy worked up the nerve to acquire a pup. Zaidie is an impetuous fellow with a great deal of energy, which is a great combination in all one’s closest wild animal friends outdoors. Indoors? Hide your shoes. And the couch. Everything’s so delicious! How can he be blamed for the deliciousness of EVERYTHING?

I love stories about people acquiring animal companions. The shelters are full of people disguised as dogs, cats, ducks, reptiles – you name it – waiting for people to love. Our homes are happier and we’re happier when we find the right companions. Look at that face! That little guy is so cute I made the “nom nom nom” noise. I’m deeply ashamed!

But really. That is one adorable puppy. Congratulations, Wendy!