Saturday, April 21, 2012


I got some good pictures of an Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) yesterday. We call them scaleybacks, but based on searching the internet for that name I think that might just be something my family made up.

There's a photography lesson in here if you're interested. Compare these two pictures (Not retouched or adjusted, straight out of the camera).

The first one is the camera on auto everything. I just aimed at the lizard on the tree. The camera chose 1/60 sec exposure with aperture 6.9. The second one I turned on the flash and aimed at a bright spot on the tree and set the exposure by holding down the shutter button. Then I reframed the shot and pushed the button all the way down to take the picture. The camera chose an aperture of 7.7. That means the little opening that lets light in is smaller. It also makes the depth of field longer. More of the picture will be in focus. (I think 1/160 sec is the standard shutter speed with the flash and nothing changes that.) Messing with the aperture is the only way to manipulate the exposure with fill flash on full auto. The flash from the camera location makes the underside of his throat extra bright but shadows still come from the direction of the sun off to the left. This trick is good for subjects that are fleet of foot because you don't have time to fool around with the manual settings. He could be gone in a second. You can't look away from a lizard long enough to find the buttons to push to do any extra stuff. Hard enough to just find the menu to turn on the flash before he gets away.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wet Birds

All these neat birds just showed up at my birdbath at the same time. Wet birds are so funny lookin'!

In order of appearance:

Summer Tanager
Eastern Bluebird
Pine Warbler
Rufous Sided Towhee
Tufted Titmouse

How many of these birds are male?
How many are female?
How many are ambiguous?

First answer in the comments wins at the internet.

(Sorry that slideshow is Flash. Here's a plain link to the Picasa album)
Wet Birds

Monday, April 16, 2012

Leave me alone little chiggers!

@RojSmith sent me this link on Twitter. This song was the first he ever heard of chiggers. That's adorable. I had to make a poem.

Oh, British Isles with your meager diversity
How do you ever learn to cope with strife and adversity?
With no gators, no chiggers, and no giant fangy snakes?
At best you get a fright from an ill-tempered drake.
"Hey! I saw a lizard!" Well, bully for you.
I can't open my door without seeing two.
Wasps fill my extension cord holes in a concerted attack
Armadillos dig holes and won't put the dirt back.
Everything around me is a threat or annoying
The woods are chaos. The greenness is cloying.
Without mowers and fortitude our existence would be futile
Because nature in the South is vigorous and brutal.

Aliens vs. Chiggers

I fell asleep early but then the hydrocortisone wore off. In a haze of sleep I felt around in the tray by my pillow for the tube of ointment and rubbed some on my elbow, my forearm, my knuckle. I managed to get the top back on the tube before lying still again in the dark under my thin covers. 

I woke again in a sweat, kicking around for a cool spot. I knocked something off the loft and heard it crack apart on the floor. I was resigned to just let it go when I heard a voice. “Should we lower the partition of privacy around her? Is she disturbing the others?” but no answer came. The speaker got distracted and wandered off.

Glossy white robots were sleeping in their white mesh chairs while tall creatures that resembled them, only fleshier, stood in white coats around carts of computers. It was like an office on moving day, either before or after the cubicle walls had been taken out. I couldn’t tell if they were coming or going. Could’ve been both. They looked like they didn’t really want to stay if they did just get here.  They were worried.

“It seems to be affecting everybody. The itching, then the bumps appear. Then they stop itching after just a day, then another appears. But it’s not like a pox. They should all come at once and then fade together,” said one man to nobody in particular.

The others were tending to people on gurneys who all seemed to be just waking up, like me. They were confused and acting like typical loud Americans. A lot of them were finding out about the partition of privacy, which apparently was activated from the gurney itself, making a wall of darkness and quiet so the person inside could watch videos and nobody would care. 

The random arrangement of the large white room grated on my sensibilities. There were no aisles, no rows. How could they get anything done like this? I got up and went over to the pensive man at the computer. I was relieved to see I was wearing a compatible white outfit. Just the same it was clear I was neither a robot or one of these aliens as I was easily a foot and a half shorter. I felt kind of rough and ruddy compared to these pale, smooth skinned creatures. Still, I was curious and wanted to know what was going on. “Hello,” I said. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, hello,” he said. “It just itches SO MUCH! Please, can you tell us what it is?”

“I wish I could,” I said. “It could be anything. Tell the whole story and let me see what I can figure out. When did you get here?”

“Just a few days ago,” he said. “We started exploring away from your civilization. We took samples of the plants and rocks and water. We observed the wild creatures for a while. After a day of that we moved to a small installation of human living quarters and collected some specimens. They didn’t do anything interesting to watch in the field. They stayed in such a limited area we thought we could easily observe them here without disturbing them. It appeared all they needed was the invisible electromagnetic signals and these devices to stimulate their eyes and ears. But then the itching....”

He turned back to the computer that had completed a task. It flashed up some results I assumed were negative based on his crestfallen expression. “Anyway we did a search to find a creature of intelligence who shared our symptoms in the hopes we could find out what this is. Please, what is it?!”

“Chiggers,” I said. “Setting aside the astronomical odds, you are, in fact, delicious. Apparently. You got them from the woods.”

“What? Where are they? We’re being EATEN? But we designed countermeasures for all pathogens!” He exclaimed.

“Apparently chiggers punched a hole in your defenses,” I pointed out obviously. “Chiggers are not bacteria or viruses. They are animals, with legs and everything. They are insidious in a whole different way than the microbes. They are too small for me to see with my eyes. And mine are likely able to focus much more closely than that multiple lens system you’ve got going on there. You’re going to have to use some of this technology to get a look at them. Have you got something like that?”

“Yes, of course. Let me retune the ship’s monitoring system. How big am I looking for?” he asked.

I snatched a hair out of my head and held it out. “Try from this size, up to about 10 times that size. 8 legs. Looks like a ghost crab.” He  couldn’t care less what a ghost crab looks like. He stopped scratching at an unnameable joint to yank a drawer out of the cart and hold it out to me. I dropped the hair in. He jammed it back it the machine and twiddled around with some controls.  

“You have to try not to scratch,” I told him. “It doesn’t help. It makes it itch worse.”

He ignored me but his focus on his search took his mind off scratching for a minute. He found chiggers. “Let’s go!” he exclaimed and grabbed the handle to the cart and ran off through the higgledy-piggledy mess of white office furniture and hospital drama set pieces. We went through a door to another room full of samples they’d collected. There was a big door open to the woods. There was a ramp down to the ground. I couldn’t help laughing. A ramp. There’s always a ramp. “It’s not funny!” he said miserably.

“Sorry,” I said. “Inside joke.”

He’d pulled the cart up to a bin containing a bunch of bracken fern dug up and wrapped in wet spanish moss. “Oh no, seriously? You poor bastards.” I said. “You didn’t stand a chance.” The cart beamed a bright light on the moss and a little pair of forceps and scissors reached out and snatched a piece of moss and disappeared inside the machine. As it started making noise my desperate itchy friend backed away from the samples and consulted a heat map on the screen to find an area to stand that was less intensely colored than the rest. Waiting made him want to scratch. 

“You guys must have skin as thin as a middle aged woman. If their tiny mouth parts can reach through to the meat they inject an enzyme into your flesh. It dissolves the meat into a liquid that they suck up through a straw made of your own hardened tissue. The longer they sit there feeding the longer it takes to heal and the more it itches.” He was horrified. I could see the tension building in his... whatever they call that.... He leaned into the handle of the cart and spoke into it. “Clear the ground! All hands report to stations! Raise the ramp! Seal the ship!” he announced. All his people started scrambling to follow his instructions.

The computer cart went “Bing!” and we turned to look at it. There was a wireframe model of a chigger on the screen, rotating like an ad for a new car. It looked exactly like a ghost crab. The itchy stranger jabbed at it with his... appendage. Figures appeared at the intersections of the lines, and he fiddled with this and that and hit something that seemed to run a lot of macros. As judgmental as I was of their interior design sensibilities they were really efficient in their use of software.

“Let’s go!” he said again. We took off for the far side of the field lab and into a windowless room with noisy machinery not even aligned with the walls. That is so hard to deal with. He reached down to the bottom of a thing that looked like a white Coke machine and pulled out the trough where the cans drop. It was full of what looked like vermiculite. We ran back to the field lab. He asked his computer cart if the ship was sealed. Confirmed. He flung the tray of vermiculite stuff into the air. It came apart like a million tiny drone helicopters. “That should capture all the chiggers,” he said. 

“Chiggercide!” I exclaimed, delighted. 

He was already back at the computer. Doing that thing with the few choice decisions then a lot of other stuff happens. “Let’s go to the infirmary,” he said. He was making an effort not to run and not to scratch. He walked fast. We came to another room with another white vending machine in it. It dispensed a white tube. “Hydrocortisone?” I asked, hopefully.

“It’s a topical pain reliever, yes,” he said, “Specially formulated for the nefarious work of this foul beast.” He took off his white coat and started rubbing that elbow thing with cream. And then his knuckle, and his head stalk, and every other red welt with a ball of puss on it. He handed me the tube and I treated my own arms.

“Well now,” he said, finally able to relax a bit. “What kind of countermeasures can we come up with for these? Let me consult with my people. Please, come back to the main room and wait for me.” We went back into the hall of white Herman Miller Aeron chairs and I sat down next to a shiny plastic robot with her head down and her hands on her knees. She woke up with a start and looked at me. “Oh!” she said. 

“Hi,” I answered. 

“I’m sorry, I was startled by the nanobots. I’m being cleaned of foreign organisms,” she said. “What are these? What are they looking for? You’re the one we found to help the soft-bodies. Are they ok now?”

“I think they will be fine. They had chigger bites. And they kept getting more from messing around with the plants from the woods. They just have to heal,” I explained.

“Oh, that’s good. They were so distressed. I am programmed to feel itchy when I have a dry joint, but a little lubricating oil and the sensation is relieved. I felt so sorry for the soft bodies. They couldn’t get any relief,” she said. This was a very empathetic robot.

“There is no torment like it,” I stated matter-of-factly.

“I think they’re done with me now. They found some chiggers clinging to my less glossy parts. They were unable to get a purchase on my main outer coverings. That is useful,” she said hopefully.

We carried on a pleasant conversation, discussing ways to design a moveable frame that would have no part capable of providing traction to chiggers, ticks, or other unseen riders. The robots were supposed to do field work without carrying any species from one location to another. They were aware of the risk of invasive exotics. That’s why they were collecting specimens. They were studying ecology with actual control groups. It sounded like a giant endeavor. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. Applying technology to things with free will is complicated.

My original friend and his trusty cart rolled up to us soon. He handed me a locket on a chain. “Here. Wear this. It contains nanobots that will search and destroy any chiggers that get on your skin or clothes. There are a few kinds. The monitors form invisible rings around your wrists, ankles and other key points. If any chigger crosses the line the attack bots come out of the pendant to deal with them. Before you take off your clothes or shower you must squeeze the pendant to call the nanobots home so they won’t be washed away with the chiggers.”

“Thank you!” I said, “That’s fantastic!”

“Unfortunately our lack of preparation for the small scale creatures of your planet has made us rethink our exploration. We’re going to keep the plant samples we have and go back to our quarantined orbit to study this. We’re going to put back the people for now. When we have redesigned our countermeasures and have new field robots we may come back for more research,” my friend explained.

“Well it was nice to meet you! I’m glad I could help with the chiggers. These nanobots are going to make all of my dreams come true. Let me know if you need a consultant. I’m always looking for work,” I said.

“You too,” he said. “Thanks,” and he and his cart took off for the field lab again.

I rubbed some more ointment on a new itch as my robot friend escorted me back to one of the hospital props they had scattered all over the big room. I curled up on my side with my head on the pillow, trying not to scratch, wondering if my nanobots would last until the aliens came back the next time. 

I woke up again early in the morning. My hydrocortisone had worn off. I drew a bath and added a packet of colloidal oatmeal and a few drops of lavender oil. As I soaked in the soothing waters I contemplated how I keep getting all these chigger bites on my arms. What have I been picking up that is covered in chiggers? I wish I had some technology to deal with this.

-- Author's Note --

This is my first short story about alien abduction. I actually had two dreams last night. This one with the good aliens who had the technology to stop the curse of chiggers, and another one with bad aliens who weaponized chiggers and used them to defeat all their enemies. I choose to repress that second version.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Extreme Foul and Incredibly Gross

I spent the weekend tearing out cabinets from the Slab Spartan. I want very much to get the floor out of that thing because it is nasty. I think it was parked somewhere very damp for a long time. The people of low standards who owned it just kept using it, patching up the floor enough to not just fall right through when they went to get another can of beer. There were dozens and dozens of those pull tabs on the floor, under the linoleum, everywhere. The modern kind of pull tabs that are meant to stay attached to the can, a special invention for that sole purpose. I don't understand. Why did they pull those off? Why did they throw them on the floor? They didn't want to be told what to do by The Man? It's really pretty weird. I've also found a dozen .22 bullets, 2 buckshot cartridges, 2 wheat pennies, an articulating plastic toy wolf, a German five cent piece, and a Pink Floyd Animals CD. Can anybody identify this wrought iron spoon shaped thing?

The floor in the Spartan is a patched together disaster of boards from old pallets, scraps of plywood, and disintegrating particleboard. I hate peed-on particleboard. It is my mission in life to ban it from my property. The horror of what I cleaned up in my shed after it was abandoned for 20 years is far greater than what I face in the Spartan, so I know I have the strength. Just the same, repressing revulsion takes conscious effort. The unfortunate side effect is terrible nightmares about filth and horror.

While I was taking out cabinets I wantonly destroyed two fiberglass mouse nests in blatant protest of the fertility festival going on in the rest of the world. Rabbits reproduce quickly, but I prefer mice as a symbol of fertility. My sentiments toward them are more in line with my views on human reproduction. I have never hated a rabbit for eating my leather driving gloves right out of my glove compartment.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Friday I was walking along the path I mowed through the woods to my dried-up pond and saw fern fiddleheads. Most of the bracken fern is full grown already, but because I mowed that path it had to start over. I decided I should pick the sprouts and eat them. There's only a split second of time between rhizomes and full grown ferns and I missed the first instant. I'd been meaning to try fiddleheads ever since I caught some Asian women in my woods picking them. Nobody locally considers them food. My research says they might even be poisonous. It's possible the woman picking them had them confused with a similar looking fern back home. But maybe not, maybe they knew something. I had sort of romanticized the memory in my head and convinced myself that they would cure "woman's troubles." I thought maybe I'd eat the fiddleheads and like magic, all the windows in my house would be clean.

Alas, that didn't happen. They made the water I cooked them in a lovely shade of green. They had a nice texture, like very tender asparagus, and almost no flavor. I put butter on them so they mostly tasted like butter, and that's always good.

After I made my video just now I wondered if I documented the original inspiring event at the time. Seems like something I would do. I searched this blog and my tumblr blog from before I had this one but found nothing. So I searched my email. Good old Gmail. I found this account of that day, 3/18/08.
I forgot the keys to the work truck this morning so I had to come back home to get them. To my surprise I see a car parked there. What the?! Nice shiny Acura. I'm jealous. So I pull up and open the locked gate and go in the driveway. I see two people in shiny visors and particle masks with plastic grocery bags tiptoeing through my woods. I took a picture of their license plate and then went to chase them away. They didn't see me as they were focused on the ground. I had to walk through the briars and bushes to get their attention. The first one I approached off her particle mask and waved her hands. She was an Asian woman, didn't speak English. She motioned to the other one. She comes over and I explain this is private property and they aren't allowed to be here. She said "Oh, we ahh picking (holds up bracken fern fiddleheads). Good foh women!"

"I'm sure, but you can't pick them here. I'm not insured against you getting snake bit!"

"Solly, solly, we go." And they walked slowly towards the gate, looking at the ground. Whenever they saw a fern sprout they'd bend over and pick it and put it in their bag.

I told them to try the Apalachicola National Forest.

Now I'm sort of sorry I was so mean. Maybe I should have made them show me how to prepare these fiddleheads! What exactly do they do "for women"?

Maybe I should start locking the door to my house when I leave. I'll come home and there will be a crew of Asian women with osteoporosis and cramps in here crowded around Mr. Induction stir frying all the new growth in my woods.

Black Racer

This looked so much better on my phone and computer. But I'm doing a Small Year. I can't rationalize paying for Vimeo Plus so I can have more HD videos.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How The Blue Man Group is like my spinster aunt

"Free ladder!" I said out loud to myself when I spied this run-over aluminum ladder in the right of way by my mailbox. I climbed across the ditch and picked it up and left it in the firelane that runs perpendicular to my driveway. Then I went on to see my dad to return his pressure washer. He told me there was a new scrap metal recycling place in town. I went by it on my way home, convenient location, and decided to take them that ladder the next day along with whatever else I could find that would be worth money.

I went up the driveway in my car and got the ladder and brought it back to the shed hanging out the back. I cut it into pieces that would fit in my car with my reciprocating saw. I pulled all the pieces of plastic off it. Cut the steel rivets and removed the rubber and steel feet. Then I went through my collection of brass faucets and copper pipe, cutting the brass from the copper. I cut the steel junction boxes off all the house wire I recovered from the burned down house and loaded up the car. It took me most of the day. It was hard to let go of this stuff. The copper flashing I pulled out of the roots around the old slab was so pretty to me. The copper wire had a lovely color. I stripped the insulation off the 1/2" thick cable that I pulled out of the slab when I put up the mini-shed and thought of all the neat things that could be made from that. I was unable to stop myself from saving the handles to the sink faucet that was on my wall mounted shelf sink when I got it used from the salvage yard. I can put them on a drawer one day. But the burned up faucets from the fire and the extremely heavy but out of fashion faucet from my house in Atlanta, I could let them all go.

Well my dad would be proud. I got $276 for that stuff. I was glad I took it in when I did because starting this summer there's a new law in Georgia making it illegal to buy burned copper. I'm sure they didn't mean to punish people cleaning up burned down houses like me. I assume it has to do with the practice of burning insulation off copper wire instead of cutting it off like I did. That releases chlorine gas and is really bad. I hope they don't have a rush of people coming to the emergency room with gashes from trying to use a knife to strip wire. I used a bench vise and thick leather gloves. Most people won't bother with that.

The next day I told my aunt that I got a lot of money for my scrap metal and she got mad at me. "You sold all your art supplies?! Why! You could have just left them in the woods out of your way! You could make a lot more money selling it as art than as scrap!" I wish that were true. She is confused by the presence of art at my house.
I have this really cool three-legged sea turtle and his jelly fish meal behind my Spartan on the old house slab. He's made of some scrap pipe, wire and flashing, plus some silver plated serving trays and brass light fixtures, all stuff I saved cleaning up the burned down house. What my aunt is forgetting is that I didn't make that turtle. All I did was recognize what an artist could do with that old copper and brass. 
My friend Ronnie made that turtle. My contribution was just putting him up on those concrete blocks and propping his head up with a deer antler so it's easier for me to use the leaf blower on him. Ronnie only made this copper thing for me because I asked him to make if for me special. He usually works with steel. I save him all the interesting steel things I find, including the compressor out of the refrigerator I disassembled yesterday.

Sunday I read Penn Jillette's story about getting The Blue Man Group on Celebrity Apprentice. I've never seen celebrity apprentice, so I was glad he explained it.
The Celebrity Apprentice is all about watching people argue and lie while they covet money and success. Those are the artistic ideas. Donald Trump scowls and passes judgment and we all suck up and rat out to win more time on TV and get money for our charities.
No wonder he says he didn't watch the episode. Penn Jillette has an amazing ability to participate in reprehensible stuff without getting any of it on him. I admire the hell out of him for that.

Anyway, the story is about art. But Celebrity Apprentice is about money. Penn decides to ask his friends The Blue Man Group to give some money to his charity.
After weeks of sitting on "boardroom" sets pretending to do business, I really wanted something beautiful.

"Can you deliver the money in a fun way?" I asked them.

That was the problem. In the Blue Man world, money doesn't exist. For the Blue Man money means nothing. The values that they've established in their art don't include avarice. The Blue Men donate tons of money out of the blue make-up, but in it, well, they're not above money, but they're beside it. It doesn't exist. They asked me to give them some time to think of something beautiful. A couple days later they sent me a video of them filling a balloon with tens of thousands of dollars in tens and blowing it up with a leaf blower. It was beautiful and it delivered money, without the Blue Men having to respect it. It was so beautiful.
Penn describes the scene as it played out with a parade in the park. You really should read the whole story. It culminates with the final tally in the boardroom with Donald Trump and Clay Aiken, who was furious that the attempt at art had compromised his goal of getting the most money.
Clay said that the Blue Man Group's money that Clay wanted to go to our TV charity had ended up going to some homeless people. Trump joined him, disgusted by the idea that some of the Blue Man Group's money might have gone to people who needed it instead of the people Donald Trump would get credit for giving it to who needed it. Trying to explain to Donald Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money is like trying to explain to Donald Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money.
Now I'll be honest with you. The idea of loud leaf blowers and money blowing around and people scrambling to grab it makes me squirm. I would not like that. But I get what it is about it that made Penn cry. But that last sentence in that block quote? That is art to me. We all have our art form. Blue Man Group and Teller are silent and use props. Penn Jillette uses words, and he uses them well.

My art form is dwellings, repurposed objects, things that had a job and now have a different job. I'm a painter, but the kind that's really good at cutting in, not making five swipes of a sable brush look like a bird. My talent is looking at something and seeing the potential. I hope I can strike a balance between my dad and my aunt, between Donald Trump and the Blue Man Group. Selling art is so much harder than making art. But they make it so easy to sell scrap metal.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hard to be pretty

There's a Daily Mail article making the rounds on the internet today. Samantha Brick is explaining how hard it is to be pretty because men are always buying her things and women hate her. The article is full of pictures of her to "reinforce" her point.

I don't get it. None of that stuff has ever happened to me. I guess I'm not as pretty as Samantha Brick. But I have it on good authority from a small sampling of men who happened to be online this morning that she's kinda funny looking. (That's why I put "reinforce" in quotation marks. It's like the pictures are there just to make us realize she's not that pretty at all, which makes the article seem weird and a bit off.)

So I have a couple of other hypotheses. How you are treated is not as much about how you look as how you act. If you wear nail polish and a dress and do girly things like use an exercise machine to keep slim instead of dragging General Motors refrigerators out of aluminum trailers by yourself men will treat you like a lady.

If you work in offices with insecure women they might get jealous. If you work only with engineers they don't act like that at all. The women engineers are cool, and the men engineers are way too shy to ever do anything as overt as buy you a drink.

I've kind of always had a hard time enjoying spending time in public. Nobody ever tries to be friendly to me. When I was in my early 20s and went to bars with my college friends nobody ever tried to pick me up. I figured I was emitting that go-away vibe that came from spending all that time at Georgia Tech. Nobody wants to talk to you because they are afraid you'll say "thermodynamically irreversible" at them. There was a TV show back in the 90s where they did an experiment with a girl wearing different wigs, blonde and brown. It showed how men treated the woman differently at a bar. When she was blonde they stared at her but that was it. With brown hair they went up and talked to her. I once got a red Cher wig at the costume shop and wore it out to the bars with my friends. Random men just came right to me! "I just love red-heads! I just had to say Hi!" they would say. Then walk away. It was bizarre. It got hot and I took the wig off as the night wore on. My real red-headed friend Patrick stuck it down his shirt and let the ends peek out. He didn't have as much luck with the red chest hair, but it was sure funny to me.

A few years later I actually dyed my hair brown and went to the bar to test that out. I got hit on A LOT. It was quite gross. A guy who rode to the bar on his bicycle because he had a DUI tried to get me to give him a ride home. He volunteered all this information, like having a DUI wouldn't make me think he was reprehensible. He was also rather fat and sloppy. I decided that with blonde hair, looking exactly like Princess Di, men felt like I was out of their league and they would leave me alone. Of course it could also be any number of other factors, like I am clearly having a bad time. Who wants to talk to somebody that grumpy? It's just that most people in bars talk about the most asinine and crass stuff. They tell racist jokes and expect you to bow to peer pressure. They get mad at you if you talk about something like how to convert a bathtub enclosure into a subwoofer. They just want to gossip about other people and complain about their diet.

I think I have qualities only appreciated by a very few people. I got this in an email this morning from my artist friend who is doing a commissioned piece for a marketing firm (a graphic logo of an implausibly shaped character turned into wood, pipe, and paint):
I don't care how much they're physically more attractive or whatever, the dippy yuppy asian chick from the marketing firm and the derpy yuppy white chick from their customer are both losing 30/10 attractive points over you for being too stupid to realize you can make something that looks bad look good with good knowledge of how to work materials and knowledge of material science. Meanwhile you're debating the merits of having someone help you drive aircraft rivets vs using pop rivets and scrapping vs repurposing old refrigerators. Those two bimbos would be lucky to hang a wind chime without having it catch fire.

I think the men buying Samantha Brick bottles of champagne would find it adorable if her IKEA bookshelf collapsed under the weight of her framed pictures of herself.

Anyway, Samantha Brick, congratulations on having people give you special treatment. Too bad about women being jealous of you. I'm glad you have it all figured out, because I sure don't.

*Update* Wed April 4 I guess a lot of people weren't just puzzled by Samantha Brick's kind of naive interpretation of her own lot in life like me, they were downright incensed. She published a follow up.
While I've been shocked and hurt by the global condemnation, I have just this to say: my detractors have simply proved my point. Their level of anger only underlines that no one in this world is more reviled than a pretty woman.
With even more pictures of herself. Seriously, what are all these pictures doing there? The one of her in a purple dress and her husband all in camo holding a gun?! WTF? Her own publisher is mocking her. I hope this is a lesson to other women who are way too into pictures of themselves. I know a few. Just like I don't flaunt that I'm an atheist you might want to keep it a secret that you are in love with pictures of yourself. It's great you don't want to be a hypocrite and you want to be true to your personality, but it is really going to make people uncomfortable. I understand I'm unusual. I don't like pictures of ANY people, especially myself. I watch cop TV shows. In every episode they pick up a framed picture off a shelf at a crime scene and pick out which of the victim's relatives killed them. That's why I have two pictures of people in my house and one dog, and they are all dead already.

Yesterday some people asked me, "Who is Samantha Black?" So I googled her and found her website. Each tab has a different picture of her with a description of herself in the third person. She was a TV producer in the UK responsible for people like Russell Brand, then that business flopped around 2007 so she married a French carpenter and left London for France to try to be the blonde Peter Mayle.

She is clearly struggling to find herself. She is clinging to the simple explanation that everybody hates her because she's pretty because it leaves intact the part of her personality she values most. She isn't really a master of subtlety and nuance -- Russell Brand. The difference between appearing easy and appearing pretty is lost on her. She has relied on social reinforcement of her value for so long she doesn't know how to deal with the loss of it. I kind of applaud her attempt to regain the melodrama she craves by writing this story. She may have given herself the kick she needed to withdraw from her old community in media. Hopefully she will spin herself a cocoon of delusion there in France with a small community of her husband's dirty-old-man friends leering at her  daily to make her feel good about herself through old age. France is a great place to look easy at eighty.

Lindy West at Jezebel also got the feeling that the Daily Mail was messing with Samantha Black. She accuses them point blank of trolling. I think she's right and I feel bad for any additional traffic I might have given their site.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

English is a Protist?

I just finished reading David Mitchell's column in the Guardian and clicked a link to another story that caught my eye. The corrections and clarifications column editor on… grammar and spelling
We all know English is the vampire amoeba that never sleeps. That is, our reasoning brains know this; just as they know all languages absorb and mutate over time.
After stepping over the bad metaphor in the first sentence I got stuck on the second one and had to read it three times before I figured out what "that" refers to. (The wide-awake make-believe single-celled organism. I'm pretty sure nothing in Kingdom Protista ever sleeps. Ironically, though, sleeping sickness is caused by a kinetoplastid flagellate.)

I think the message here is that someone who knows the grammar rules can still be a bad writer. I almost stopped reading at the first paragraph but I pressed on. It got worse.
When we watch a word lose the precision of meaning we were taught... perspective can fly out of the window and emotion rush in, often under the banner of Defending Civilised Values as We Were Taught Them at an Impressionable Age. Possibly by someone rather given – breakfast table? schoolroom? – to fulminations of a superior sort.
I think she's talking about my mama. My mama taught me to rewrite an awkward sentence. She also taught me not to pile on the unusual punctuation. You can use it here and there when things are getting boring, but if you try that shit in every long sentence you look like an ass.
Where we do aim to correct spelling errors in online pages is in headlines, or the names of people, places and organisations. We don't pretend to have the resources for micro-fixing every their and they're, or it's and its, or led and lead.
Really? That's depressing as hell. The Guardian doesn't have the resources? Why are they hiring writers who don't type that correctly themselves? Proofreading your own typing is allowed. So is correcting it after you publish. I do it all the time. I was kind of hoping that my ability to put apostrophes in the right place might turn into something like a paying gig. I guess that skill is about as useful as lamp lighting. In this ruined world you can be a terrible writer who isn't even willing to fix the most embarrassing homonyms and be an Associate Editor at The Guardian.

I wish I had just stopped reading after the David Mitchell story. Here's my favorite part.
With greater demands on their time and physique, it's no surprise that the sportspeople of today can seem one-dimensional – and I don't just mean they're thinner.
That's a beautiful sentence. See how he used the dash and the em dash correctly? And "they're" is not "their" or "there"? He even got "it's" right. And it's a great joke! The Guardian does apparently allow a columnist to get things right themselves, they just won't help an incompetent improve.

I suppose the lesson for me is to aspire to be more like David Mitchell than Leslie Plommer. Easy.