The Evidence Is Strong

Yesterday, Panky turned one.

This is the first time I see Miss Sasha’s face in Panky’s. I have a picture of her as a two-year-old modeling purple pajamas with a face covered in chocolate that looks a lot like this little guy. Maybe if he did a little more food-based comedy I’d have seen resemblance sooner.

A Need For Each Other Anytime

Tonight, Pete and I had dinner with Pete’s friend Angela who lives in Los Angeles and takes care of a blind friend in Allentown. Angela’s so stressed she may snap like a twig underfoot if something doesn’t change. By the time we were finished eating, I said, “Pookie, you are too nice. What you need is a club. When people steal $10,000 from your blind friend, you club them. Bonk! Discipline is crucial at this age.” Still being too nice, Angela said, “You have to understand they’re genuinely stupid. They’re not malicious.” I said, “I don’t have to understand anything about thieving relatives. If they steal again, will you call the cops?” I mention this because one day I was avoiding doing something about something really important when I found this gorgeous image of Russ Tamblyn sailing through the air. See, I remember Russ Tamblyn most vividly as the odd doctor on Twin Peaks, and despite my early fixation on Hollywood musicals, I had forgotten Tamblyn in West Side Story. That brought me up short. Sometimes, you remember how things turned out and not so much where they started.

Her birthday’s coming up. Can you get a club monogrammed?

A Pickup Truck And the Devil’s Eyes

I’ve been thinking a lot about compost. Though the Solstice is behind us the dead of winter lies ahead. Our composter feels very full and I wonder how much decomposition takes place inside the barrel on these cold days. Even so: it’s easy to find other places to put coffee grounds and asparagus stems, so I don’t really worry. Thus, I am thinking now about paper, especially paper that comes through the mail, now that seed catalogs have begun to arrive. I heard a rumor weeks ago that recycling was unprofitable in the current economy but today we see proof.

People are still putting their bins of recyclables out on curbs. But the recyclable materials market, which was booming only a few months ago, has dropped sharply, along with the worldwide economy, creating a backlog of materials at processing plants.

Reduced demand for used paper, plastic bottles, glass, and metal cans has caused prices to plummet, surprising even those who have followed the ups and downs of the recycling market.

“We have seen drastic changes in market values, faster than I’ve seen since I’ve been in industry back to the 1980s,” said Foster, who said the value of recyclables was about 70 percent less on average than two months ago. “A lot of it, you can’t move right now.”

Foster said the recycling plant is still sorting and bundling about 400 tons of paper per day, but it’s more difficult to sell.

Now is the time then to insist on products from recycled materials. I have a game I play now: How Can I Reuse This? Sometimes I win, like when I buy eggs in recycled cardboard containers, then pulverize eggshells and cardboard for compost. Sometimes I lose, like when I buy something in that plastic packaging that might actually prevent me from using what I purchased. You know what I’m talking about. On late night commercials, hucksters hawk gadgets to get you into that plastic packaging, creating an odd circle-of-life that ends with you doubling the stuff in your whatsit drawer. Anyway, if I wash and reuse Ziploc bags once each, I cut my use of bags in half. I’m still adding stuff to the landfill at an impressive rate. So what about all this paper that comes to the house, if recycling is going nowhere? Can I compost it? Some of it, yes.

Shredding and composting documents is a great way to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands and it can help soak up excess water if the compost heap is too wet.

Shredding paper that has been used for bedding for small pets such as hamsters is ok to compost too.

Avoid shiny paper or shiny coloured prints though.

It had never occurred to me until today to buy a shredder, mostly because I don’t own much of anything and thought municipal recycling would take care of paper. Now I see that envelopes and notices could be useful in our attempts to fertilize the soil in which we’re growing our vegetables and herbs. Hmm.

Everybody’s Got A Little Light Under the Sun

Why does this manicotti look different from all other manicottis? Because I made half the crepes with whole wheat flour. The stuffing for the whole wheat crepes includes sausage and wild mushrooms, to capitalize on the nuttier flavor. I liked the image of the manicotti on the stove in the apple-green kitchen. It’s kind of pretty, which strikes me as a very funny thought.

In other funny thoughts: people have different philosophies about gifts. Some folks say gifts should be things you wouldn’t buy for yourself. My favorite gifts are the ones that I use in everyday life. My brother Todd gave me an insulated jacket I’ve worn for twenty years now and it’s got one frayed corner. That’s a good gift. Pete feels pretty much the way I do, and for Christmas, he wanted a wheelbarrow. Last Sunday, he picked out the component parts at Home Depot. As we went through checkout, I said, “Shhh! That’s his present and it’s A SECRET!” The cashier lit up.

So, yeah. I gift-wrapped a wheelbarrow. Thought I wouldn’t? I had to call Daria and tell her: “Dude, I totally gift-wrapped a wheelbarrow.” Daria said, “You…Tyler! Domenica gift-wrapped a wheelbarrow! How’d you do it?” “I am a geeeeenius,” I said. “That is how.”

I figured I should take a picture of this pretty quickly because the cats were very interested in helping me by eating the ribbons and subduing the paper and will probably help us unwrap the moment we leave the house. Happy Christmas Eve, if you celebrate this. Happy Hanukkah, if you celebrate that. Happy Wednesday, if you don’t. I mean, who can live without those?

Too Much Heaven On Their Minds

Johnny, our Southwest Bureau Chief, reports from the house of his father-in-law’s swift decline.

Jesus! You’ve started to believe. The things they say of you. You really do believe. This talk of God is true!

We were sitting around, deafened, going through motions. I sat in his chair to keep it from sitting empty and becoming the ghost at the feast. We turned on the teevee, just to do something, and what was on OnDemand but Jesus Christ Superstar. Because it had Jesus in it, that’s what she wanted to watch. The Crucifixion was a bit much, under the circumstances, but it comforted her to know that he was in the arms of Jesus. It struck me as it never did, of course, when I was a child and still somewhat Jesus-centric in my thinking, that the show was about Jesus only peripherally, that Jesus here is spoiled and given to tantrums, that Judas is the star and by far the more interesting character, that Christ’s agony in the garden was as nothing next to his, that Judas was crucified as surely as Jesus was. It also struck me what a parody the seventies were of themselves. The show is set in the modern day of its time, but even then it seems like they’re spoofing some earlier generation’s excesses, like sychronized swimming movies.

What then to do about this Jesusmania? How do we deal with a carpenter king? Where do we start with a man who is bigger than John was when John did his baptism thing?

I can’t get the songs out of my head now, of course. I’m going to have to get the record on and listen to it two hundred times in a row to get it out of my head, like I do with ABBA and Tony Orlando and Dawn when I fixate on them.

Did your family get into Superstar? In mine it was dynamite. We played the record and acted out the parts by the hour, wrapping a towel around our shoulders to play Pontius Pilate, whose name always confused me when I was a kid because I didn’t think they had airplanes then. My mom was in love with Ted Neely. My cousin Bubba’s high school put on a production, lip-synching to the record. I’ll bet they couldn’t believe their good luck that they had a black dude to play Judas! I didn’t of course put two and two together all at once that, as the song goes, He’s just a man (and I’ve had so many men before, in very many ways!), but it struck me even as a child that until then all the nuns and the priests ever told us about Judas was that he got up one day and sold Jesus for thirty pieces of eight. I can’t claim I was so wise that I figured out then I was being had. But the bomb started to tick in the back of my brain that the greatest story ever told wasn’t the whole story.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, a few seasons before Johnny and I met, a traveling theater group did Superstar at my school and we were invited to be the crowd. During the crucifixion scene, my feet grew roots and I forgot myself, there in the aisle of the auditorium. I suddenly understood why people prayed, even if I couldn’t buy the to whom. Someone put arms around my shoulders and walked me through a door, which I could not have done myself. Sometimes, the light shines through me, but I don’t know from where.

Ted Neely? Ian Gillan. Yes, that Ian Gillan. All other Jesuses just don’t do it for me.

The play has its faults, but its treatment of Judas is what makes me love Jesus Christ Superstar. He’s human and heartbroken, loved and betrayed himself. The stakes are unbelievably high for Judas; it is truly important to observe and understand: Jesus is not Jesus without Judas. Judas must love Jesus more than life itself. There can be no Christianity without Judas.

In all the commotion Johnny has forgotten I have this tattooed across my back.

His Car Is Warm And Dry

Behold! Princess Drusy has subdued the sapphire tissue. It marauds no more! Note that the pink rubber ball cowers in a corner, fearful that the brave hunter will give chase. She is a fury, a blaze of claws and incisors. The ball, observed, doesn’t stand a chance, though for now the hunter has other interests. You, for example. You might be delicious.

Are you, in fact, delicious?

The Garden Where Nothing Grows

Tata: I’ve been weighing my compost, which is just quirky enough that I thought I should mention it.
Daria: What? Yes…
Tata: It’s unscientific because the scale belongs to Ted, the tenant who is also Mom’s chiropractor and who is wrong about everything, and the scale cannot be calibrated.
Daria: What do you mean he’s wrong about everything?
Tata: We go to Wegman’s and buy vegetables that cost a fortune and when we see him at the house he says, “Oh! Wegman’s! Everything’s so cheap there!” And let me tell you, he’s got some very stinky ideas about women.
Daria: He’s a good chiropractor, though. Mom says he really helps her.
Tata: Yeah. So weighing the compost is like performance art with broken numbers and an audience of mushy pineapple.

In the space of four days, I took outside 5.09 pounds of compostable material. That included two cardboard egg cartons I shredded by hand while I was steaming mad about Ted’s generic bitter pronouncements about the nature of male-female relations. The pieces are very tiny. They’ll turn into something useful a lot sooner than Ted’s bullshit will.

The giant kitten, whose name this week is Lulu, is very pushy. She wants our attention a lot of the time, she wants the good scratchy-scratchy nails and she’s first to the food bowl, which is working Topaz’s last nerve. Working Pete’s is finding cat yak all over the place. “Whoa!” he says, “Help!” It doesn’t stink, so clean up is easy for me, but the downside is: it doesn’t stink, so sometimes we don’t find it right away. Last night, the kitten lay between us on the couch as we watched TV, then went off on some urgent kitten business. Some time later, I noticed she’d left us a surprise. A pile of cat yak between us. Surprise! We both sat there for a moment, staring, because neither of us heard, saw or smelled a cat tossing her waffles between us on the couch, so it was impossible for it to be there. It was so impossible, Pete couldn’t see it for a moment because the colors of the regurgitated cat food matched the Mexican blanket on the couch, which was a thoughtful touch on the kitten’s part, really.

Unto Others As You Would Have A Turn

Sometimes it’s hard to feel fucking peaceful.

Insurance loophole claimed in fire deaths
Company says smoke that killed 3 was ‘pollution’

Wha – wha – what?

An insurance company with a potential $25 million liability from a 2007 Houston office fire is claiming smoke that killed three people was “pollution” and surviving families shouldn’t be compensated for their losses since the deaths were not caused directly by the actual flames.

Great American Insurance Company is arguing in a Houston federal court that the section of the insurance policy that excludes payments for pollution — like discharges or seepage that require cleanup — would also exclude payouts for damages, including deaths, caused by smoke, or pollution, that results from a fire.

Here is a brick.
Hold onto that. You might need it.

Before we go on, I’d like to make a point: we will all be dead a whole lot longer than we are alive. I assume you’re alive, but you know what they say about assuming. A lot of people in every story believe in an afterlife in which they will have to explain their actions. Okay, continuing then –

Great American has asked U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal to find that the deaths caused by the smoke, fumes and soot from the March 2007 fire set by a nurse working in the building will not be covered by the policy because there is a specific exclusion for pollution and it mentions smoke, fumes and soot.

“Listen, Saint Peter, I couldn’t not do it, right? Millions of dollars were at stake, not to mention our S&P rating. Plus, it had the merit of being practically diabolical – oops…”

In October, vocational nurse Misty Ann Weaver was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of felony murder and one count of first-degree arson for setting the fire to conceal that she had failed to complete paperwork on time.

Great American’s legal request, filed in late November and set for hearings in February, notes that there are four pending lawsuits against the property owners for wrongful death and injury, and contends that the insurance company should not have to pay on any of them.

Kevin Sewell, the Dallas lawyer who filed the request, did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon. Great American spokeswoman Diane Weidner said company policy is to not comment on pending litigation.

“I can explain! Let me explain! See, the people were already dead, so it wasn’t like we were hurting them or anything, and who knows, maybe they really liked smoke. It’s tasty on ribs, am I right?”

Seth Chandler, a University of Houston Law Center professor who teaches insurance law, said while the insurance company’s maneuver wasn’t out of bounds, it will test the limits of the law.

“This is pushing the boundaries of the absolute pollution exclusion,” Chandler said. “We’re going to have a battle between the literal language of the policy and the way people speak of pollution.”

A question of semantics
He said the issue is an ongoing conversation between the courts and the insurance industry. Chandler said he doesn’t know of any other Texas cases on this issue. Nationwide, he said, even carbon monoxide poisoning has been found to be covered by insurance despite a pollution exclusion.

Despite this slightly-less-evil fucker’s assertion that it’s all words it is NOT all words. This is a question, as so many are, of common decency. That insurance companies employ vicious bastards is one of the main reasons insurance companies cannot be trusted, and there is nowhere where they prove it day in and day out like on the issue of healthcare. Frankly, the whole premise of health insurance doesn’t make any sense when insurance companies are for-profit since there’s no incentive to provide decent healthcare. There’s plenty of incentive to deny claims. Every denied claim is greater profit. We’re in sad shape, but there’s a glimmer of hope: the incoming administration has promised reform.

The Obama transition team is having people organize house parties to give their thoughts on health care reform. They are open, deliberative processes. So of course the insurance industry is seeking to sabotage them.

Now, about that brick…