Thursday, April 30, 2009

Graduation

It's been an eventful set of days.

This weekend we flew down to visit my brother in New Orleans and see the Jazz & Heritage Festival. Monday and Tuesday I suffered a sore throat, and yesterday I called in sick to work. Tonight I graduated from college, with honors, and have to update all my online profiles to reflect a Bachelor's in Creative Writing.

I did it. It's been 18 grueling, on-and-off years, but I finally got my four-year degree. I'm a little embarrassed about my slackitude, but more than that I'm ecstatic about achieving this landmark event and I don't consider it over: my sister and I have announced an informal race to our Master's degree.

I got to sit with my friends during the ceremony, so I was surrounded by writers I've respected and enjoyed these past few years. We riffed on the ceremony, joked around with each other, knowing full well anything we said or did was ripe material for written projects. And I think my dream-team for a writers' group is beginning to foment. We'll see. I just don't want to stop writing, and a group of writers I respect and feel mildly competitive with would spur me on.

This is a bigger night for me than I had imagined. I was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, didn't care to arrange a party because I didn't imagine anyone else was interested, and there was no precedent for it. I blew off my A.A. degree, and was surprised to learn that a group of friends had shown up for the ceremony in anticipation of cheering me on. I had no idea. I reluctantly agreed to do the cap-and-gown thing for this one and I'm glad I did. It really meant something to me and even though it's been 18 long years (I started college as soon as I got out of active duty Army in 1991), it's finally done.

The Bachelor's is done, anyway. There's more to go.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No, It's Not Swine Flu

Today I am sick as a dog. I guess when people picture animals afflicted with illness, dogs evoke the most pathos and revulsion. Think of a sick deer: you've probably never seen one, but you can imagine its neck droops, its feet stumble, it stands unsteadily. That's about it. But with a dog, you've got a full range of facial expressions and non-verbal communication. Yes, the two things animals can do to ensure their protection and cultivation by humans is to master a range of non-verbal communication or be tasty.

The cats are curled up on the bed with me. Toki is a black pool of licorice at my feet, while Bella is spooled up on my right. Occasionally her head shoots up and she glanced with concern at some noise (real or imagined) that has occurred either in the house or outside of it. Toki is not prone to sudden gestures or alarmism, though he did snap out of his slumber to lick off his left shoulder with some urgency. Once the three licks got it clean, he went back to sleep. What the hell.

I called my supervisor and e-mailed her with my Gmail account, so she can send me any pressing jobs to be edited. If I'm asleep she can call my cell and I can attack the document with suitable concern and attention. I think it's awesome that I have a job I can largely perform from home. I would rather go into the office because my coworkers are freakin' awesome and I enjoy my time there, but this is the next best thing. I've put on a kettle of hot water for tea and should think about making some kind of grain-based hot cereal for nourishment, or at least to fill my grumbling tummy, even if I have no appetite.

And while I'm not asleep, I will use this time to get some serious writing done. Short stories, and working on the chapters of my novel. I only have one more class session left for Writers As Readers, which means my Advanced Creative Writing class is also winding down. I've got some work to do for the latter. The issue has been raised, in the former class, of forming a writers group. I've had bad experiences with this in the past. One group was unwilling to challenge themselves and we did not actively critique each other's work. The next group had one good writer and a couple people who just wanted praise, and one guy who only based his work off of the good writer's work. It was irritating and it left a bad taste in my mouth, much like when a cute girl ends up in a crappy AD&D group and assumes for the rest of her life that the game itself is faulty so you can't talk to her about how cool it really is.

My instructor has suggested that some of us form a couple groups of no more than five people total and meet no more than once a month. There are definitely some people in this class I would love to connect with, though I wonder how committed they would be to such a group and doubt whether they may be interested in working with me. I know that I write well, when I do write, but I have a hard time with motivating myself to write. I did pretty well last week, once, when I ritualized the writing experience so maybe that's what I need to rely on for the time being.

I just woke the cats up with a sneeze, but they've nestled down again. Time to make some tea.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Based on a True Story

"Hello, may I speak to... Christie-ann... Fredrickson?"

"This is he."

"Hi! This is Evan with Sierra Club, how are you this evening?"

"Pretty good."

"Good, good! Look, I don't want to take up much of your time, I just wanted to thank you for your support of our work and let you know that your dollars are going to good use. Is now a good time to talk?"

"Well, the first time you called I was hosting fourteen family members for Passover dinner, and the last time you called I was in New Orleans for the Jazz & Heritage Festival. Right now I'm only sitting on the toilet and pushing out an extended poop, so yes, right now is the best out of these three opportunities for me to sit and listen."

"Uh... lobbying against... uranium mining..."

"Yes, that's good, go on."

"Sir?"

"Oh, sorry, wasn't talking to you."

Friday, April 17, 2009

More From the Diner

I got a late lunch today--honestly, I prefer a flexible schedule for arriving, leaving, and taking lunch. You meet different people all the time, you don't fall into a rut. I just tripped around the corner to Downtown Diner, my regular place.

Today the manager had some good news: he's planning a trip to Egypt! He hasn't seen his family in almost a year and a half, and rates are pretty cheap right now, around $500. If it works out he could see them next month. I was genuinely excited for him, and inwardly I'm wondering how I could hook him up with a price deal from Travelocity, Orbitz, or Kayak or something good like that.

He said he was making more Egyptian food today and he could share a little. He set me up with a large quarter of flat bread and a thick sauce he only called "beans." By my non-culinary estimation there were pinto beans, onions, and a tomato sauce in it, and I could easily envision lentils going in there. It was tasty and I like interactive foods where you're tearing something off, dipping something into something else, and such.

Today, also, I finally learned his name and happened to learn his birth date. This is a big day, indeed. I won't post that stuff here but it's definitely going in my hardcopy record. We chatted about my wedding anniversary--Rebecca thinks she may come over to meet him next week--and how we like to cook.

On the way back to the office, it struck me as a little weird that we can accept food from people and put it into our bodies, on the inside where we're most vulnerable, and it's prepared by people whose names we never learn and who we couldn't identify in a crowd. Well, now I know who's making my lunch and I'd recognize him anywhere.

Zero Learning Curve

Last Monday I was waiting for the 61 bus in downtown St. Paul, at the dicey 5th/Cedar stop. In the bus shelter were two women and a toddler, a cute little boy with a smile for everyone.

Well, his mom was smoking a cigarette, so he thought he'd learn from her. He bent down and picked up a discarded cigarette butt and tried to put it in his mouth.

His mom yelled at him and smacked it out of his hand. Then she finished her cigarette and tossed the butt to the ground.

Oh, the cycle of life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Downtown Diner Experience

Soooo...

No requests for any stories. Fine, I guess.

Well, I'm befriending the guy who seems to manage Downtown Diner. He's behind the counter all the time, anyway. I don't know his name but he's from Egypt and I gather he's Muslim. I'm trying to update my hardcopy journal with the highlights of our conversations.

He smiles whenever I come in, or gives me a double thumbs-up if I'm just walking by on my way to or from work. He's from Egypt but has lived in Minneapolis for nine years, sharing a downtown apartment with a friend. His wife, mother, and three children are back in Egypt. Usually he visits them every three months, but work has been difficult lately and he hasn't seen them in 14 months. Once, I asked him how his weekend was and he said he couldn't think of anything else but how badly he misses them.

I asked if there were any plans to bring them to the States. He said they couldn't get visas to live here, but he wouldn't want it anyway. He wants his children to finish high school and college before they move to this country, if they do at all. Here, his religious morality showed: he expressed concern over the sexual promiscuity of young adults here, and he didn't want his children to get mixed up with that. I wondered briefly whether he were as adamant and fundamentalist about this as what we hear in the news, families that stage "honor killings" when a child interacts too wholly with Western culture. I had to wonder, though I couldn't imagine him ever doing anything like that.

His children are 15, 14, and 12. He talks with them on the phone and they want things: cell phones, laptop computers. His youngest wanted a phone, "so I do some research. I find dis, uh, Nokia, is good phone. But she say, 'No! I want best phone!'" He shook his head and we laughed about child politics.

Recently I told him about my weekend, about hosting Passover dinner and going to my mom's for Easter. I wondered what opinion he would have about my mom being Catholic and my wife being Jewish, but he was completely unphased. He said they have a tradition around this time in Egypt: the children dye eggs. I have to research what holiday it is that occurs around Western Easter. I said we do the same thing, our children color the eggs and we hide them for the kids to find.

"You hide de eggs? With de fish?" He wondered whether I was describing a strange tradition in which we conceal entire cooked meals under furniture. Apparently they don't hide their eggs. As for the fish, he opened the oven door and I saw a couple large pans covered in foil. "Is holiday meal," he said, "fish and rice. I'm making a lot!" He closed the door and looked at me. "Is ready in maybe an hour. You come back."

Dead curious, I worked at my desk, trying to focus on my editing but so anxious about this treat! An hour later I ran back to the store where he was having a late lunch, sampling his own creation. He saw me, waved quickly and darted into the back, and after a couple minutes handed me a large to-go container. I thanked him profusely and carried it back to the office like it was a shipment of gold.

It was a whole fish, head, tails, and all, coated in spices and served with a bed of rice. I lifted a panel of crispy skin and scales, and it opened as cleanly as a door. The meat slid gently away from the spine and bones, and it was so tender in my mouth. I forked in some seasoned rice with it, and savaged about half of it in this way before packing it up--I had already eaten a full lunch and was now stuffed, and I wanted to bring some home to share with Rebecca.

The next day I complimented his cooking and thanked him very much for the gift. He said, "No problem. You are a good man." I'm trying to think of something nice I could present him with, and I'm leaning toward a photo portrait with the Holga. It's impossible to get a clear shot of the front of the restaurant: even when the LRTs aren't parked there, there's all sorts of signage sprouting from the platform. But I could get a nice shot of him behind the counter, get it enlarged and printed. After that's done I'll write up a nice article about this for Open Salon and maybe the New York Times.

But I've got to find out his name, first. I don't even know what to call him.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Moleskine Volant

Combining my love of Moleskine products with my affinity for antiquated language: the Moleskine Volant. Rebecca got me a couple of these for my birthday. The cover is durable enough to protect the booklet as I continually keep it on me in my jeans pocket.

If I knew how to design a logo, I could generate stickers and plaster the Moleskine Volant with Sweven Volant.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Can I Complain About Facebook Here?

Can I? Can I do that thing? The complaining about Facebook thing, here, in my blog?

Sure, why not. No one's reading anyway. I might as well run down a list of my sexual fantasies. I won't, but I might as well.

And that is not the vodka and gin talking.

So, Facebook. Constantly, it has this list of People You May Know, and I check out this list, and people fall into three categories: People I have no freakin' idea who they are (80%), People I'm aware of but do not wish any contact with (18%), and Oh awesome I remember them (2%). Regardless of who these people are and how far removed from me they are, Facebook continuously brings them up to my attention, clearing its throat softly, and asking whether I'd like to be friends with them now.

NO I WOULD NOT.

I would have Friended (thank you, Living Language) by now if I did. In all likelihood I would have remembered their name from my dimly perceived past and sought them out of my own volition. I don't need Facebook's self-serving obsequiousness suggesting, "Well, you know, like, 20 of your friends know this person, maybe you should be friends with her too." Totally neglecting the fact that I tried to meet her while I worked at the Renaissance Festival and she totally dissed me. She totally let me know that I was beneath her station, and now she's all "we should be friends," and I'm all, "whatever, you're the obese vampire from Renaissance Festival." You know? I'm not into bandwagoning, I don't buy into it. Just because over 20 of my friends experienced a lapse in judgment or found it momentarily profitable to encourage rather than dissuade a shallow acquaintance, Facebook, that does not mean I wish to establish a connection with this person.

Man, I got some good vodka. I'm recommending Death's Door Vodka. It mixes well, but by itself it's slightly salty or beefy, so I think it would be an excellent component of the Bullshot, which is vodka and beef bouillon. It is the delicious, non-sweet, anti-girly drink you've been craving. You can't--or shouldn't--pour the booze straight into the beef stew, but you can mix yourself up the tasty little Bullshot. And then my friends Nick & Molly got me Crystal Skull Vodka, modeled after the very same mysterious crystal skull that haunted my imagination when I was a friendless, loveless teenager in high school. It's a beautiful vessel and the vodka is light and tasty to boot. And Eric and Suzanne got me Beefeater Gin, which is just a good, solid, upright staple of the liquor cabinet, so I did pretty well this birthday season. I also have a lot of wine and I'm not a big wine drinker but it's important to be able to drink any alcohol in a pinch.

As it is, it's Friday night and I've had a good, solid week of work all day and domestic labors at night. My birthday's been postponed until the beginning of May, when it will coincide with my graduation party, but I had my wedding anniversary and two Passover dinners, one of which was hosted at my house. Oh man, Clear Water Action (or whatever) called me on the phone and they're all, "We just wanted to tell you that your money helped scrub oil off of little duckies and we preserved a section of pond and all this good stuff," and I tried not to yell at the guy but sternly informed him, "Listen, I'm trying to serve fourteen people for dinner," and he apologized and hung up. Later, I realized I meant to say, "I'm serving dinner for fourteen people." The way I said it makes me sound like one hungry, hungry cannibal, and that would make the second cannibalism joke I've made at a political canvasser's expense. The first was when this guy from Second Harvest came to the door and I invited him him and he said that was friendly and I said it wasn't every day free-range meat walked right into my house. He laughed a little but he stopped blinking and kept his back to the wall.

I might as well complain about Open Salon since I'm in such a complainy mood. It is such a freakin' clique over there. There are certain authors that everyone links to, and they're on everyone's Friends pages, and they're not even that good. Yes, I said it. I'm not even talking about typographical errors and punctuation: their ideas are BAD. They have terrible ideas! They phrase them poorly and back them up even worse. And then the most surprising people agree with them. There's this one guy who's all "men are only allowed to do what I think is right and everyone should oppress everyone who disagrees with me, oh, and women shouldn't have jobs and should only cook and wear skirts." And intelligent men are saying, "ha ha, yeah, you're totally right," and altie-chicks and pagan chicks are saying, "I've missed you so much! I'm so glad you're back!"

And I'm all, "Hey, wait a minute, that's a particularly unevolved take on gender roles, and who the hell are you to tell people how to live? Who are you to advocate violence over a matter of aesthetics?" And everyone's ganging up on ME. Also, he used a word very wrongly and I corrected him on it, and he claims he's right but the OED says he's wrong, and he also says he didn't say any of the things he wrote. It's a profoundly frustrating conversation, but that's what you get when you mix it up with Republicans and Conservatives. The best thing to do is open up a bottle of gin and one of Orangina or blood orange soda and just play World of Warcraft until two in the morning.

Well, to hell with it. I went through and cleaned out my Contacts list of all the detritus, and now I'll post whatever crap I feel like on Open Salon, not just my best material or most considered reflections. I mean, anyway, I can pour my heart and talent into a post there, and it totally gets overlooked. What gets the votes and viewings? Some sub-literate rant about cats or Satan or something. It drives me nuts, and I have to learn not to care. It's just another clique.



Update: Comments closed because this post is attracting a lot of idiots. Facebook is a free service and I say, "You get what you pay for."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Question of Technology's Impact Upon Language

In another blog, user:navelgazer asked me a complex question, the nature of which resonates with me personally.
It's been said that our language is the truest reflection of our culture. What are your thoughts on how technology has changed our language? It has been argued that symbols, such as emoticons, have enabled us to communicate across cultures and languages. How do you feel it has influenced writing in general? Is honing language down to a single word or image more or less precise?
In this blog, I'm going to attempt to organize my thoughts for an answer.

I'll start off by referencing John McWhorter's book The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language. It was such a significant text that I will have to read it at least one more time to fully appreciate the overarching lesson in it, but one thing I came away with was that there is, technically, no such thing as language as most people conventionally understand it. In any given region, during any given era, what we conceive as language is actually only the most popular dialect. Language exists in a state of continual flux, modified by a staggering amount of influences which directly impact it or which impact each other and the results of that collusion in turn impacts dialect. Some of these influences include education, finances, popular media (also affected by financial interest), contact with other cultures (both recreational and military), isolation from other cultures, political agenda, and so many others.

In particular, the technological developments of the 20th century accelerated, I think, the morphing of dialects around the world by dint of rendering geographical borders irrelevant. Phone calls, radio and television broadcasts, and finally the adaptation of ARPANET into the Internet put far-flung territories of the world in touch with each other. A renaissance on a global scale, we exchanged ideas (motivated both by peace and hostility) and we were all at the very least subtly, but indelibly, altered. I fought in Panama and as we flew in Blackhawks over the lush, dense jungle and coffee-colored rivers, once in a while a clearing would reveal a tiny village of several huts, and indigenous Panamanian Indians would creep out to look at us. You could tell which boy in each village was the alpha male, because he was the one in blue jeans.

Language functions just like that. One culture brushes against another and catalyzes change. The slang expression skotch (pron. SKOH-CH), meaning "a slight amount," is a regional term, not ubiquitous throughout North American culture. Those familiar with it may think of farms or carpentry--"Slide that beam up just a skotch."--but it's quite a telling term. The father of the person using that term probably served in the military and was stationed in Japan, where he heard the word sukoshi (pron. "SKOH-SHEE"), which means "a little bit," as in nihongo-ga sukoshi wakarimasu, "I understand a little Japanese." Why did sukoshi take off but chotto never did, when they're as common as each other and mean essentially the same thing? Fate and chance.

Many of our slang terms come from the military as well as other specialized occupations. Language also evolves when a disenfranchised minority group develops its own vernacular to contribute to a sense of community and exclusivity. It evolves further when the majority class decides those phrases are hip and cool. It evolves still further when marketing agencies package this edgy new slang and distribute it for sale around the nation, around the world. And though an English major disciplined in the ways of the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition may experience a cardiac arrest to hear egregious grammatical abuses attain popular coinage, it's still incorrect to call this a "devolution." In the context of language, all change is a form of progress, an evolution--even when a generation emulates the clothing and language of generations in the past. It is impossible for language to backslide, even when its "progress" is declining toward self-defeat. Not so with technology, where it's conceivably possible to abandon the path of nanotechnology and go back to simple machines and iron weapons (but why would we want to?).

That was a considerable tangent. I wanted to talk about the impact of technology upon language, as per my limited education. That's why I'm hacking this out here, to organize my thoughts and see, physically, what's more important to mention since it all has equal weight in my head.


In our thirst to learn and experience more, seek out new stimuli, telecommunicative technology has evolved rapidly. I couldn't type at all until I got my first e-mail account through St. Cloud State University, in 1993, and my desire to jump into messaging and Web browsing prompted me to learn. Within two years I could type 110wpm with 98% accuracy. I think this is analogous to most people's relationship with technology, be it online access, telephones, or all the expensive little appointments with which we have laden ourselves. Someone made a compelling argument that "cyborgs," cybernetic organisms of both humanity and machinery, were not the exclusive domain of sci-fi literature, but they are currently present and among us. We are already cyborgs, denoted by our reliance, our dependence upon the Internet and cell phones. What a blow our business, entertainment, and social cultures would take if we were abruptly robbed of these tools!

But when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you. We can't avail ourselves of this flashy, convenient technology without "flashiness" and "convenience" embedding themselves in our DNA. To satisfy the first, we pick up and abuse the latest in slang, whatever we glean from movies and music; for the second, we simply become lazy and demand that technology accommodates our need. In fact, the advance of technology has conditioned us to demand further advances faster than technology can supply them. People thought nothing of sitting down for hours and composing a thoughtful, well-worded letter, dipping quill in ink and working by candlelight, to communicate with friends and family. Now, the concept of taking 20 minutes aside to scrawl out a note in our deplorable handwriting is an inconceivable labor. "It's so much easier to send an e-mail," we whine. The exasperated rejoinder to this is, "Fine, whatever. Send me an e-mail, then, I just want to hear from you." At this, we sigh heavily, roll our eyes, and mewl that even writing an e-mail is too hard.

Google's recent April Fool's joke was based on this premise: Gmail Autopilot was designed to compose an e-mail or respond to received e-mail, for the user's convenience. They took it to a ridiculous length, but it really is a service people want. It wouldn't be long, however, before they required another service which would summarize the protracted exchange and interpret it for the them. There is a logical disconnect between the obligation people feel to maintain social relationships and the motivation to expend the effort necessary to do so, and people expect technology to fill that gap.

I'm getting farther and farther from my point, from the original question. This was a useful exercise, in that I hope I've unloaded boxes of clutter and cruft from my head, so that I can make a later attempt to actually answer the question. Jeez.



I did end up composing a response in Open Salon. It didn't make much more sense, though. And I'm terrible with titles, so when people see the headline, it doesn't hook them. I actually enjoyed composing it, though it forced me to admit to a few inelegant truths, but I have to accept that idiots do rule by numerical superiority.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Hills are Dead With the Sound of Teen Spirit

I don't know what's going on in popular culture. I don't care to, either. If there is a skilled actor in circulation, s/he will announce him/herself eventually. The rest is detritus and fluff that accumulates in the gutter and is washed away in time. I don't buy into celebrity, I don't admire people who are famous because they're famous--I am a Meritocrat.

That said, events conspired to make me watch The Hills on MTV. It was in the break room at work. I went for my afternoon coffee and emptied a carafe in pouring my cup. I am not the sort to flee from the scene (unlike everyone else around here) and brought the carafe into the back to fill it up, and it was there I found the other carafe. We have one for regular coffee and one for flavored coffee, and both were drained.

I was going to be here for a while.

The TV was playing a show I'd never seen before. There were young women talking with each other. They did not appear to be acting, so it seemed like a reality show, but the cameras were not all up in everyone's grills either. The script was empty and clichéd and the acting was vapid. I wondered briefly whether it was a serial that presented itself as a reality show, whether these were actors instructed to limit their vocabulary and waver between two closely related facial expressions: "happy" and "confused." If this was acting, every single one of these women deserved all the Oscars. No one was ever more convincing and true-to-life in any portrayal, ever.

It was not a serial. It really was a bunch of unintelligent, shallow young women with way too much money, protracting their adolescence with starkly juvenile political scheming. This was The Hills.

The name of the show has skirted the periphery of my consciousness. I've dimly perceived its mention on rare occasions, usually associated with other offensive and easily dismissed material. But here, as my good conscience compelled me to refill two carafes of coffee for the rest of the office, I was stuck watching an episode. I tried to change the channel but, astoundingly, someone was TiVo'ing this show. My good conscience bade me to respect this faceless, tasteless individual and I let it go. I began to resent my conscience.

The dialog was banal to the point of near-randomness.
BLONDE #1: "You two are like little sisters to me."
BLONDE #2: "I am your little sister!"
(I'm serious, this is an actual quote.)

It's like stage techs were pulling little strings in their lower backs and activating sound-boxes to spit out non sequiturs and clichés. "I think he will always be there for you." The girl who said that originally heard it in a number of throwaway Top 40 songs and it stuck: now she can bring it up in casual conversation, prefixing it with "I think" to pretend it's actually her opinion--indeed, pretending she thinks at all. If there were a script, every scene would look like this:
"Well, he did this and she did this and I think [INSERT T-SHIRT SLOGAN]."
"Well, I think [BUMPER STICKER]."
"[CO-OPTED BLACK SLANG]!"

Oh yes, everyone here is young and very white, and almost everyone was female. Some girl was out with a creepy guy. They were having pasta. She ventured a couple clichés at him and he generally responded with contempt. She looked alternately delighted and confused, but overall she considered herself to be having a very special night with a very special guy.

Apparently she works for Epic Records, or knows someone who does. She was in charge of organizing a publicity event for a band. The band were a bunch of soft, young white men with expensive clothes and tattoos and piercings. Their music was highly polished, though they tried to portray themselves as an AngryTM "punk," somehow. The audience, homogeneously white, waved their hands in the ai-yah and gently swayed to the music. They were not punk either, but they acted as though they were moved by this highly polished, AngryTM music.

So the girl from the dinner, she's flitting around in the background (need to find a better word than "flitting," as that implies a life-like quality) and chatting with her friends about how this great guy she had dinner with will be there. He's not there yet, but he will be. Oh, the editing is sculpting this to try and draw as much dramatic tension out of this as possible. The girl's face is in "happy" mode. At the end of the sequence, when the band's done playing and everyone's getting ready to leave, he still hasn't shown up and the girl's face is in "confused" mode. ("Confused" is the same as "happy" but with a slightly weaker grin.)

Seriously. Everyone, everyone on this show presents as unintelligent, illiterate, and emotionally regressed. These are profoundly uninteresting people being filmed while doing extremely tedious things. The fact that no one resembling these women (and man) is in my life to any extent is one clear indicator of my success.

But this is a show that is being broadcast. The advertisements said its new season begins tonight. That means that people watch this show, it has an audience.

I'm at odds to begin to comprehend how sad someone's life must be, that they feel a desire to keep watching this show.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sweven Volant

Changing the name of my blog.

For one, I think I found a better name (using it for my Open Salon blog); for two, "Breaking Down" is sending people to my blog for the wrong reason. It was fine at first, but now I'm turning up as a result for kids' Twilight searches: "what chapter in breaking down dose [sic] bella turn in to a vampire."

I will not be associated with Twilight.

If you have my blog bookmarked, note the new name. "Sweven" is Old English for a dream or illusion, and "volant" means capable of flight. That is to which I aspire.

I've also discovered a new reaction system for the blog. Now people who can't muster up full responses can at least anonymously click on a reaction.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Peace Through Really, Really, Really, Ridiculously Good Looks

What a piece of work. This is all over the Web/news, but Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza (22 years old, Miss Venezuela 2007) recently visited Guantánamo Bay and was quite impressed with its beauty. She found her hosts friendly and entertaining, and... well, we'll let her describe it in her own words.
This week, Guantánamo!!! It was an incredible experience.

We arrived in Gitmo on Friday and stared going around the town, everybody knew Crystle and I were coming so the first thing we did was attend a big lunch and then we visited one of the bars they have in the base. We talked about Gitmo and what is was like living there. The next days we had a wonderful time, this truly was a memorable trip! We hung out with the guys from the East Coast and they showed us the boat inside and out, how they work and what they do, we took a ride around the land and it was a loooot of fun!

We also met the Military dogs, and they did a very nice demonstration of their skills. All the guys from the Army were amazing with us.

We visited the Detainees camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how the recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting.

We took a ride with the Marines around the land to see the division of Gitmo and Cuba while they were informed us with a little bit of history.

The water in Guantánamo Bay is soooo beautiful! It was unbelievable, we were able to enjoy it for at least an hour. We went to the glass beach, and realized the name of it comes from the little pieces of broken glass from hundred of years ago. It is pretty to see all the colors shining with the sun. That day we met a beautiful lady named Rebeca who does wonders with the glasses from the beach. She creates jewelry with it and of course I bought a necklace from her that will remind me of Guantánamo Bay

I didn’t want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful.

- found on Talk Islam

Awesome. Of course, the Miss Universe organization pulled her little revelation down but swiftly, and we see this instead:
March 31st, 2009 - Statement by Paula M. Shugart, President of the Miss Universe Organization regarding Guantánamo Bay blog entry by Miss Universe, Dayana Mendoza:

The Miss Universe Organization has had a longstanding relationship with the USO (United Service Organizations). All three titleholders (Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA) have participated in many USO goodwill tours to visit the men and women in uniform who serve our country around the world.

As part of the USO’s entertainment program, which boosts the morale of U.S. troops, they have traveled to many locations and many bases around the globe including Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Korea and most recently, Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, where the U.S. has maintained a naval base since 1898.

Dayana Mendoza’s comments on her blog were in reference to the hospitality she received while meeting the members of the U.S. military and their families who are stationed in Guantánamo.

The Miss Universe Organization echoes the mission of the USO, which is to lift the spirits of U.S.troops and their families wherever they serve. We will continue to show our appreciation and express our gratitude to the military personnel who serve our nation.

Posted by Dayana

Yes sir! This, as part of her agenda to travel the world and lecture on humanitarian issues.