Pearls

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     I love pearls. They are probably my favorite gemstone.  I wear them often.  Most of mine are freshwater and some are fake, but I do have a few authentic, expensive saltwater specimens.  You may notice that my blogger avatar is a cubist (?) interpretation of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With Pearl Earring.  An admirer once told me that I had a resemblance to that girl in the face.  One of the most romantic compliments a man has ever paid me.

      The mystique of pearls–to me–is that they are formed, created, in a defense mechanism.  And that they are made by such primitive animals (like honey–such exquisite candy from the stomach of an insect).

        Beauty from Pain.

  (update: I’d like to add a caveat to the above–I was referring to the creation of pearls, and, perhaps, to my personal…interests.  Otherwise, in general, I do not believe that suffering is ennobling, spiritually refining, or beneficial to the human character.  I’ll leave that horseshit sermon to the State and the Church.) 

For Rooster, Hope Springs Eternal

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          Today when I went to feed my betta fish, Rooster, and clean his home, I saw that he had built a bubble nest!  See pic: 

 

      Male betta fish build bubble nests in the hope that when a female betta fish comes along, she will be enticed by the nest to mate with him and spawn.  

      I feel a little sorry for Rooster.  I’m sure he built his nest with such high hopes (or the highest hopes a little fish could have).  He has no idea that he will never, ever meet a female betta fish, much less spawn.  I wonder what he would say if he had an intellect and powers of comprehension.  Probably something like, “I never signed up for this, asshole!” 

The parrot is well.  I have joined a parrot forum to learn how to make her as healthy and happy as possible.  In a few minutes, I’m going to let her out of her cage to watch TV with me.  I think Gordon Ramsay is my all-time favorite TV sadist (he’ll get some special attention on this blog in time, no doubt).  One would think that after last night’s events, I would have reached maximum saturation re: sadism and suffering, but apparently my appetite for such things is insatiable.  Relentless. 

Here’s a photo of parrot eating a nut (in case you couldn’t figure that out for yourself, haha).

Miss Margo and Random Doggie Joy

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   Here’s a photo I took of myself today en route to Hoboken.  Sorry it’s so small; I must be mindful of my privacy. I love white–like to think it’s flattering on me. But it’s so difficult to keep clean–especially in NYC where the public transit is grimy! Tip for potential visitors: carry bottles of hand sanitizer!

       After I got my head examined, I took photos of random dogs I saw around Hoboken.  I am crazy for animals.  Aren’t these dogs great?  I especially love this bizarre small furry one; he looks so weird, and I like weird.  I have a special affection for mutts.  Some people get offended when I use that word, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.  Mutts are very special.  One of my favorite dogs was a mutt…actually, wait, that’s not fair.  All my dogs have been my favorite.  That is what makes dogs so special; each one is different, and you love each one in a different way–not one more than another.

 If he was my dog, I would name him…CHEWY!!!!  I bet you can guess why.
Let your freak flag fly, little dude.

Not sure–Bernese Mountain Dog pup…?  It would be so much cooler in the Alps!

Australian Cattle Dog mix?  What a handsome jack, and smart as a whip!
My mini-dachshund cuteness has magical properties.  If abandoned in the wilds of Alaska, nothing could ever bring itself to eat me, because I am too cute.  I have chewed every pair of my owner’s Jimmy Choos, and she couldn’t stay mad at me for long!  Say, why don’t you offer me a treat? 
Beagle something…?  I love his asymmetrical white socks!  He’s pissed and waiting impatiently outside of the hardware store.

        If you’re disappointed by the cutesy tone of this post, gentle reader, never fear:  I need my fix, and my friend Heinrich has invited me over for supper tomorrow evening.  Or, rather, for suppertime.  I have no idea whether dining will be involved.

       But there will definitely be something on the menu, food or otherwise (is that pun terrible?).  He has plans; detailed plans.  He is like me; there is nothing spontaneous in his character. 

      I do not think that I will be able to wear the dress I wore today on Monday.  I cannot vouch for the pristine condition of my hide.  We’ll see how it goes.  I will not show anyone else, but I will show you.

Unnamed; also: Naming as an Act of Power

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        So, this parrot came to live with me a week ago and I still haven’t decided what to call her.  The Surgeon says I should name her after him, but that is not going to happen (and if you were wondering, he was not being facetious).

       I seldom read the Bible now, but I studied it on a daily basis as part of my formal education in childhood.  One of the stories that truly touched me, then and now, is of Adam naming all of the animals in the Garden of Eden.  (Genesis 2:19-20)

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

      The scene fascinated me.  I remember ruminating about it at my schooldesk (the type of desk that lifted up on top, remember?) and thinking about my family pets.  How old was I…?  8, perhaps…?  In my mind’s eye, I pictured all the beautiful animals patiently lining up to meet Adam.  A magnificent parade.  He would stroke them and speak to them, and examine them closely but gently, like the kindest and most sensitive of physicians.  If they were small enough, I imagined, he would hold them in his lap whilst he did this.

        He could only choose names for each creature after he understood its unique nature. The name had to be appropriate; perfect. Naming was both an act of love and a responsibility (a responsibility not just to the animals, but to the Lord God, who had basically assigned Adam to this task.  God was a still a relatively chill, friendly dude at this point in the story, but Adam couldn’t have passed on this job even if he wanted to.  Even nice, approachable Eden God does not like to hear, “No thank you!”  Even in Eden, one did not complain to the management).      

       I digress.  This story was the one particular thing that impressed upon me the uniqueness and the wonder of Eden. I pictured how the animals must have trusted Adam, and had no fear of him, from the largest to the smallest.  A world without fear, without malevolence, only comradeship. ‘Innocence’ has always been a slippery, difficult concept for me to grasp, but that–Adam naming the animals in Eden–that must have been a state of innocence.

I like this imagine because it’s from the 2nd Genesis, where Eve is created simultaneously with Adam, and also because everyone in the picture is smiling and looks really happy to be there.  I would be happy, too.  Source:  http://www.artbible.net/1T/Gen0204_2ndTale_eden/pages/15%20ADAM%20AND%20EVE%20NAME%20ANIMALS.htm

    

I like this one because of the way Adam holds his hands out to them, palms open, in a universal gesture of nonthreatening greeting.  Adam is supposed to be naked, but whatever.  Source says it’s British XIII.  Sidenote: it cracks me up when I see medieval European artistic depictions of lions–clearly, they’d never seen one in the flesh.  And what is that animal second from the right with round ears?  A bear, maybe?  Print’s in the Sloan Gallery.  Source: http://www.art-imagery.com/cat.php?id=animal

        God knows what humanity has to offer the creatures of the earth today. (I am honestly astonished that the ones with the capacity for more complex emotions do not try to kill us on a regular basis, just on basic principle. Pit Bull dogs excluded; they are demented.)

       To name is also an act of power; it confers identity and acknowledges or legitimizes whatever is being named.  This is why hateful names or slurs are such effective, universal tools of oppression.  It is why I sometimes take away the names of people who want to be controlled, like No. 29.  In this way, I define their identity.

     I want to give this parrot the perfect name for her.  Usually I give my animals funny, affectionate names–my Betta fish is Rooster; I had a dog called Buddy.  I like those names, but I want to give this bird a name that conveys dignity and respect.  A human name, probably.  She already has a name which isn’t half bad, but her life has not been a happy one until recently (multiple owners, craigslist adoption–’nuff said), and I want her to have a new name to match her new life.   

     I am thinking about Lucy or Lacie.  Or Roxanne.  Petra is good, too.  Any ideas?  Send them in, please.

     P.S.:   ….but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.  With proper care, this parrot will live for thirty years.  While talking with my mother, I almost quipped that I should just name the parrot ‘Husband.’  I instantly realized that saying that to her would be unwise, so I didn’t. The thought came to me as a joke, but when I thought about it later, it made me kinda sad.

Parrot is so Beautiful
Brave Parrot Trusts Me

    
  

Bathtub Envy

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      I have been in college my entire adult life.  I also have very little material ambition.  I am trying to decide whether that is paradoxical or not.  

     This bathtub makes me think that I should have gone to law school, however. Boy oh boy.

      I’m generally indifferent to material things, unless they are of excellent craftsmanship or have some historical interest, but this was a damned nice bathtub.  Whomsoever designed this bathtub should be congratulated for his or her excellent sensibilities. 

       I think it could be larger than my first apartment.

Miss Margo Tackles 6th-Grade Chemistry; Almost Murders 40 Pets

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    This post is late because I was vacillating about whether to post this story here, or in a popular aquarium hobbyist forum.  Obviously, to protect my privacy, I couldn’t post it in both.  I decided to post it here even though the 4 people who read this blog will not give a shit about the content matter.  I figured that the aquarium hobbyist forum already has a zillion similar threads–why add another?  

      So here’s the deal:  I have this big freshwater community aquarium, and I decided that I wanted to restore it to the knockout showpiece it is meant to be.  This will take time, obviously, but there are many small steps to be taken. 

       First thing’s first: get rid of the cheesy silk and plastic plants.  I had the best fake plants in the market, but they were never convincing.  I needed live aquatic plants.  So, I put on my boogie shoes and trotted down to a Local Fish Store (LFS) to purchase some.  Amazon sword, micro sword, some crypti, java fern, a moss ball–nothing special.  Dipped em in bleach and planted them in the substrate with some fertilizer tabs around the roots.  So far so  good, right? 

     Well, plants breath CO2.  They breath CO2 and make Oxygen (how very fortuitous). If I wanted my plants to thrive, according to all the internet gurus I found whilst researching, I needed to inject CO2 into my tank.  

      CO2 injection systems cost a lot of money, so I decided to make one by myself.  There were lots of instructions on the internet.  I already had a factory-manufactured kit that was supposed to be good for tanks up to 40 gallons.  I thought:  If I double that, there will be plenty of CO2!

      I went down to the bodega and purchased some white sugar and active yeast.  See pic on my kitchen table:


    Then I moved the project to my bathtub, because I was afraid there would be some awful chemical reaction that would disfigure me or mutilate the other animals somehow.  Don’t ask. 
         In a green plastic Diet Ginger Ale bottle, I mixed 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda:

     Then, through a funnel, I poured in most of a gallon of warm water with a tablespoon of yeast.  This is where I became very nervous.  I had no idea what to expect.  In fact, I wore my sunglasses to protect my eyes, just in case something bad happened. 

   Sure enough, there was a chemical reaction.  Lots of fizzing.  Reminded me of making volcanoes with baking soda back in 3rd grade. 

I’d made a hole in the Ginger Ale cap with a power drill and sealed some plastic tubing through it with silicon, which I let dry overnight.

     
      I twisted the cap back onto the ginger ale bottle and set up the two bottles by my aquarium.  Then I rigged up the plastic tubing and attached it to an underwater powerhead (used to distribute the CO2 bubbles).

Elegant setup, yes?
     Then I let the CO2 rip!  
    These pics don’t do it justice.
     Basically, my aquarium looked like a fucking jacuzzi.  BUBBLES EVERYWHERE.  My CO2 system was massively overbuilt.  Here are a few pics (again, they don’t accurately portray the incredible CO2 infusion:
    I consulted the aquarium forum, where the members helpfully told me that my fish were going to suffocate in short order unless I stopped with the CO2.
             Whoops.
            Now I turn it on for a short time each day–maybe an hour at most.  So far, so good.  
        If you know about CO2 in planted tanks, please email me.  Thank you.

Paradoxical

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   Can’t believe I’m blogging about this; I suspect I’ll sound like a nut or a fool.  But whatever.  If I cared–truly cared–about what people thought of me, I’d probably have things like…meaningful personal relationships.  

       Tanita reported my weight this morning.  I was skeptical, so I weighed myself at the crummy gym where I pump iron with a bunch of meatheads (I am not being snarky; the gym really is crummy and the guys in the weight room really are meatheads. Axe bodyspray spiky-haired Ed Hardy gold-chained meatheads, bless their hearts. Can’t complain too much, though; the price for my membership is definitely right and it beats the university gym).

          Anyway, the scales concurred. To provide a frame of reference, I am a tall girl.  I am as tall as many men.

FYI, I think the body fat % is high here–just trust me

    
      The last time I was this slim in my adult life, I was…very unhappy. 

     Is there a word in the English language which means both satisfaction and disgust?   Not schadenfreude, which is inaccurate but springs to mind.  If you know, please email me.

       My concern with this is problematical and unhealthy.  If I was truly free, I would throw Tanita in the trash.  But it provides an element of stability for me: consistency, structure, control. I do crave to be controlled by something that does not despise me (and I am aware of how paradoxical that is, given that I am also neurotically independent–but, following Freud, fears are wishes).  It must feel, I imagine, like being loved.  Something like being loved.  

      I wish there were scales which measured other things; things which cannot yet be accurately quantified.  The intensity and quality of love, and despair, and longing, and hope, and the pain. Lust and compulsion, grief and regret. Performance indicators of the human soul. I wish these variables could be defined, measured, examined against dependent variables, used to evaluate and predict. I wish I could step on one of these magical scales and it would quantify me perfectly, and then I could know.  I could type all the data into SPSS (or better yet, Stata, even though I avoid Stata because its programming frightens me more than nuclear warfare, almost) and craft a model of myself, my brain, my heart.  Then I would know why, and what perhaps ought to be implemented; done or not done.

      I am a concrete thinker; I dislike ambiguity.

Griffins Devouring a Doe

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         Griffins fascinate me.  I’ve always been interested in legendary creatures—as a child, because of their bizarreness and supernaturalpowers, and as an adult, because I am very curious about their historical origins in human culture and what they represent psychologically.  I especially like to learn about legendary creatures who are found again and again (with some variation, of course) in lands and cultures which were unrelated, distant, and only tenuously connected to each other.  Dragons are a good example.  So are griffins. 
            Griffins are from antiquity; they guard gold and treasure.  How provocative it is that these fictive beasts are so concerned—indeed, obsessed—with things no earthly animal gives a damn about.  Legendary creatures are predicated on human obsessions; this is what gives them power and mythic resonance.  Virginity, honesty, wealth, the gratification of wishes, revenge, punishment.  Mystery. 
       I found this small print in a recent article from The New York Review of Books (a superb publication, btw, I highly recommend it).  Apparently it is a statuette; a table support or tablepiece of two griffins devouring a doe. The critical analysis I found whilst researching the statue on the internet says that the dominance of the griffins symbolizes the triumph/victory of civilization (the griffins, natch) over barbarians (the doe).  


      I have to hand it to them–the Greco-Romans were unsentimental motherfuckers.  You didn’t find any “we’re colonizing and oppressing you for your own good” horseshit.  Those cats understood power. 
      But to get back to the statue—consider what represents civilization, the powerful, and what represents the inferior. See the griffins. The power in their bodies, the wings, the muscled hind legs and long necks.  They do not really devour the doe.  They do not eat for sustenance.  What on earth could this blameless, timid herbivore have ever done to offend these griffins or justify their treatment of her? 
    See the way she lays on her belly; her slender legs flat and stretched out upon the ground.  She offers no resistance at all.  Whilst being eaten alive, she only turns her placid, delicate face up to the eyes of the creature who won’t make eye contact with her because he’s eating her neck. How terrified she must be, and how aware of her helplessness. 
     This statue is more than a symbol of political power or animal predation.  I showed it to my analyst to get another opinion.  As usual, she had an insight I missed (but it is explains why the statue was so fascinating to me):  it’s very sexual.  The power dichotomy between the griffins and the doe–the masculine and the feminine–is tremendous.  
      And that is why an elegant, educated, wealthy man wanted to display it in his home around 350 B.C.  This statue didn’t come cheap, and anyone who’d want to look at it and show it off on a regular basis must have been a sadist or political megalomaniac in the order of Saddam Hussein (or both, as is often the case).    
      It really is beautifully executed.  In fact, I cannot imagine improving upon it.  But I don’t think that I would like to look at it on a daily basis.  
      
        Then again, I have a tiny Crucifix nailed to my wall.  It was a gift at my First Communion.  I haven’t believed in God since I was 12 years old, but I keep the crucifix because it reminds me of my familial and cultural heritage.  A graphic image of a man obscenely tortured to death due in part to the negligence of the State.  An alien from Mars would look at it and see a corpse on a stick.  

       And  I am creeped out by griffins eating a doe.  Food for thought, no pun intended.

Ahh, the Phenomenon of Pocket Debris

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         Don’t you love it when you go through the clothes you haven’t worn since last season and discover random stuff in the pockets you had no idea was there? (same goes for handbags, wallets, rucksacks, luggage, etc)

        I almost never hear people talk about this–maybe it’s too mundane?–but I am certain it must be a universal experience (amongst people with plenty of clothes and bags, of course).  I’m a little fascinated by it, honestly. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt I didn’t even know I was on. 

       It’s best, of course, when you find cash!  Once I found a fresh $50 bill in an evening clutch I took to the opera in 2007.  Usually, it’s just a few crumpled dollars in the back pocket of last summer’s shorts or my winter coat.  I’ve found $10 and $20 notes a time or two.  Feels like I hit the jackpot every time, even if it’s just a few quarters! And once, I found a long-lost pearl drop earring in an old briefcase (I’d kept the mate, too, in the eternal hope that the lost one would show up somehow–lucky me!). 

         This morning, I cleaned out a rucksack I haven’t used since early Spring.  Look what I found in the various inside zipper pockets:
 

 
        Those are just the ones I can show online without threatening my privacy.  And no, FYI, none of these relate to a professional conference (believe me, the Societies of my academic discipline will not be hosting conferences at the Ritz any time in the foreseeable future). 

         I am trying to figure out how it makes me feel.  My emotions are tangled up, like the strings of last year’s Christmas Tree lights when you take them out of the box.    

Poicephalus Senegalus

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“No sooner had I arrived than Miss Margo launched a strange chemistry experiment in the bathroom.  What I managed to glimpse and hear from my perch across the room was quite anxiety-inducing.  For someone with books stacked up to the ceiling, this science project of hers seems spectacularly ill-advised.  But then, I don’t think that she went to school for Biochem.  Photos to follow.  In the meantime, God help me.  God help us all!”