Babysitting the Garbage at 4 a.m.

Dark Night Crescent Moon

We bought a delicious whole salmon two nights ago. Wild caught. Super fresh. Almost unheard of, from Lucky, at $3 a pound! We feasted on it with friends and family. It’s summer now; all the kids are home from school and we are spending a lot more time at home. We produce a lot of garbage.

This morning was garbage pick-up. I had called yesterday to have them take an extra bag. They charge extra for each bag that doesn’t fit into their standard gray plastic “toter.” They always come early in the morning. Last night at around 6:00, following urgent proddings from my husband, I put the overflow from our curbside can into a big black plastic bag on the sidewalk. I went out to my exercise class, and when I came back, there was a gray cat poking his paw through the bottom of the bag, pulling out food and eating it. When I came over for a look, I could see he had found the salmon remnants. I could picture where this was going: a ripped open trash bag with the contents strewn out all over the street, and the scavenger company leaving it there for me to clean up. Oh, no you don’t, my little feline friend.

It was a contest between me and the gray cat.
Who was more tenacious? Whose persistence would prevail?

He was not about to leave. I made a big gesture and he darted under the parked car near the trash cans and then became invisible. I went in to tell my husband. After some back and forth, he found another large black trash bag and we put the ripped one into it. He then brought it inside the kitchen, where it would stay until “later.”

It was a contest between me and the gray cat. Who was more tenacious? Whose persistence would prevail?

At this point, I had to make a choice. Did I want to go through all of the messy, ant-ridden trash and separate out the non-food items so that the “outside” bag would be unattractive to cats? Definitely not. Did I want to get up at 5 a.m. to put out the fishy garbage bag right before pick-up? Not really. But unless I wanted to pay the extra six dollars for nothing and still have extra garbage waiting around all week until the next pickup, the latter seemed the only reasonable option. I figured I’d go right back to sleep after depositing the bag.

It was one of those “on-call” nights—you know, when you don’t really let yourself sleep soundly because you know you have to get up at an ungodly hour and you don’t want to miss it. The alarm was already set for 6:45 for my husband. The garbage truck would be long gone by then. But I didn’t want to change the alarm time and then forget to re-set it.

At 4 a.m. I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. Dare I let myself go back to sleep? I was not ready to get up. Still, I needed to make sure to get the bag out to the corner by 5:00, as instructed by the Scavenger company. I lay back down on my pillow, not daring to lapse back into dreamland, but resolving to maintain a “conscious” rest. I looked again. It was 4:40. OK, I said to myself, it’s probably safe to put out the bag now. The cat has wandered off to molest someone else’s garbage, or gone to sleep by now. As I left the bedroom, I pulled up on the door so it wouldn’t stick on the frame, and latched it slowly and noiselessly. It was very dark in the living room. I turned the switch in the kitchen to shed indirect light on the front door. I did not turn on the front porch light. Carefully grasping the bag of fish-laced refuse, I silently opened the front door. A neighbor’s porch light faintly illuminated the parked cars across the street. Just above the black rooftops, a large, waning crescent of a moon lounged, a lone morning star floating two inches diagonally above. The world was still asleep. I would stealthily pose the bag against the garbage can and all would be well.

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded in 1772 by Father Junípero Serra in the present-day city of San Luis Obispo, California. It was the fifth of 21 Spanish missions built by the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church between 1769 and 1823 in what was known as Alta California. Named after Saint Louis of Anjou, the 14th century Bishop of Toulouse (France), the mission gave its name to both the city and the county of San Luis Obispo, on California’s Central Coast.

King Carlos III of Spain saw the missions as a means to expand and protect Spain’s interests in Alta (upper) California (especially against the Russians who were making inroads southward from Alaska along California’s coast), while the Franciscans saw them as a means to expand the influence of the Catholic Church and to “civilize” the many tribes of indigenous peoples who inhabited the various regions of California.

Along with the Catholic faith, the missionaries brought disease and cultural decimation. A thriving tribe of over 15,000 Chumash Indians inhabiting the area were considered “souls to be saved.” The Spanish settlers forbade them to speak their native tongue or practice their accustomed dances and rituals, forcing them to build the mission, while imposing their language and faith upon them.

MSLO Main Nave

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Sexist Jokes and Social Dominance

Jokes have been around for a long time. They are defined in dictionaries as little stories culminating in a punch line that makes people laugh. Psychologists have studied what it is about jokes that makes people laugh—in fact, even the physiological laughter response itself has been analyzed.

Why do we laugh at jokes?

The researchers have decided that what constitutes humor in a joke’s punch line is the perceived incongruity between what was expected and what is then stated, followed by a sudden jump in understanding (which I’ll call the “get-it” moment)—a paradox that provokes a mental somersault which re-sets understanding to a different, unexpected level. The physiological response is laughter.

Laughing at a joke implies acquiescence with the viewpoint behind it.

Why do we tell jokes?

Alright, we know what jokes are. We’ve all heard them, and we’ve all had a laugh. What I find interesting is the lingering meaning that suffuses a joke’s intent. Why do we like and repeat certain jokes, and what do they mean to us? Further, how do jokes function to define and reinforce our personal and group identity?

People use jokes as a way to state, through implication, their beliefs, group identity, and social standing or power. Through jokes, they can reach out and recognize others with similar sentiments.

Conversely, jokes are also a way to get a picture of someone else’s beliefs or viewpoint. Jokes are a short-cut to get at how people really think, feel, or identify themselves. Judging the response to a joke (the “get-it” moment), the teller can get a good idea of the beliefs and social standing of the listener.

Unfortunately, jokes can also be used to bully people: to belittle, demean, or ridicule the recipient (or a third party), in order to assert a dominant social standing. Nasty jokes, whether they are racist, sexist, or just insulting, really do leave a lasting impression of anger and frustration with the person or group that they target.

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Open Your Eyes, Kitty!

It must be summer. And I must have very strong mothering instincts. Well, I know that I do, since I happen to be a mom. Anyway, they led me to become kitten rescuer extraordinaire today.

(I should preface all this briefly by saying that I have never been a cat person per se. I have not had any personal grudge against the species (though many in my family have); it’s more that I haven’t had a lot of experience with cats.)

Somehow, I had talked my teenage daughter into washing my car (oh, I remember now: I had offered her money). As she was dutifully finishing up, I went to get a towel so I could “help her” dry. As I went to get the towel, I heard insistent mewing from the back yard. My daughter has always had a soft spot for animals, and the feral kittens in the yard are no exception. I told my daughter, and she came running. I dried the car myself.

Let me back up a moment. When I say “feral kittens,” I say it with a proviso, in deference to a tacit, but very real, agreement between this particular family of Felis silvestris and my own Homo sapiens unit. You see, the mother of this mewing kitten (the latter being now approximately seven weeks old) was once herself a mewing feral kitten, prancing naïvely between our neighbor’s front-yard rose bushes with her litter-mates, while Mom was otherwise occupied. It was cold and windy, and night was about to fall. Her mewing had triggered my (then pre-teen) daughter’s maternal reflex, and mine, too. Despite my husband’s caution (“The mom will smell your scent and abandon her kittens!”),

we scooped up the two slowest ones and brought them into our living room, delightedly stroking their tiny little heads and letting them curl up in our laps and cling to our clothing with their tiny fish-bone claws. We had serious concerns that the mom might have abandoned them. We would be the benevolent and compassionate animal welfare monitors, who would responsibly take the kittens to the SPCA to have them spayed and neutered and prevent unchecked population growth (already evidenced by a cat under every parked car on our street). I even went to Safeway and bought some kitten formula and a few cans of kitten food (they hated the formula but ate the food). We kept them in a box on the back porch with a little towel to keep them cozy, while we feverishly looked up how to care for kittens on the Internet.

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Thanks for the Sunshine Award Nomination!

Thanks to Dear Kitty. Some Blog for nominating me for the Sunshine Award. It’s my very first blogging award ever.

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I am truly humbled .. and am glad that someone finds my eclectic mix of musings noteworthy!

According to the rules, nominees have to:

Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.
Link to the person who nominated you.
Answer 10 questions about yourself.
Nominate 10 bloggers.
Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

The 10 questions:

Favourite food: Too hard to choose … but good sushi and filet mignon are near the top!

– Favourite actor: Toshiro Mifune, Tom Hanks, & Johnny Depp (sorry, I cheated)

– Favourite TV show: Sherlock

– Favourite tear-jerker: Forrest Gump

– Favourite sport: swimming

– Lucky number: Don’t have one.

– Tea or coffee: Coffee!

– Holidays – rest on the beach or active time: Travel and new discoveries.

Twitter or Facebook: Neither!!!

– Favourite Christmas movie: Hmmmm….

Here are my ten nominees for the Sunshine Award:

1. genuinepoetry

2. Zeebra Designs & Destinations

3. Everyday Gurus

4. Josh Photography

5. Dr_IQ

6. The Wandering Poet

7. chriscondello

8. Going Sideways

9. True Art NYC

10. Blue Brightly

Manatee Vanity

From Under the Pages

(A Limerick)

Pier with rain If you look closely, you can see the shy manatee lurking under the water, just above center.

A hysterically self-conscious manatee

had trouble maintaining her sanity;

She swam up to a pier,

where she looked in a mirror:

Self-repugnance gave way to great vanity.

—Dedicated to R.M., in recognition of his great admiration for large marine mammals

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Taro Aizu’s Fukushima Gogyoshi

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In honor of the continuing victims of the Japanese national tragedy in Fukushima (3/11/11), and on the occasion of National Poetry Month, here is a moving and sobering poem about those whose lives continue to erode daily from the effects of radioactive pollution.

Videos from Gogyoshi Art Project: My Hometown Fukushima
Read more about the Gogyoshi, a poetic form invented by Taro Aizu.

At the De Young

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It’s never a bad day to visit the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco. My teacher membership has been well worth the price this past year.  I was able to see Monet’s paintings along with other “Impressionists on the Water” last July, and last week I took in the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. Going to the park is an experience in itself, always worthwhile, always rewarding, no matter the season. But spring has a particular allure, with burgeoning blossoms in cherry trees, rhododendrons, and every other imaginable type of plant in flower. I can see why Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of flowers and nature are so universally liked. The exhibition covered the period from 1918 to the early 30s, when she retreated from New York City to Lake Geoge (to photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s house) to connect with nature and paint her favorite things: mostly flowers and trees.

While her style was very subjective, frequently abstract (as in many paintings of flower details), and never quite realistic, she had a very good sense of artistic composition. I particularly appreciated her paintings with a good use of contrast (Red Canna, 1919); texture (leaves, 1923); and the often exaggerated organic line (White Birch, 1925). She shared my fascination with trees. Her Chestnut Grey (1924) is particularly delightful, with its grand denuded, pruned trunk silhouetted against the sunset and distant mountains, punctuated by an evening star.

Like all artists, she experimented with different treatments of her subjects, almost venturing into realism on one end of the spectrum (Dark Red Apples & Tray, 1920-21), and bordering on surrealism on the other, in her subjective treatment of form and fluid line of natural elements (Stamp in Red Hills; Pelvis with the Distance). Many of her abstract floral paintings are strongly suggestive of female genitalia. Her visual experimentation with these forms can perhaps be understood in her words: “I feel there is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.”

A Poem a Day: National Poetry Writing Month

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Visual teaser for “The Call of Spring,” to be published on April 5, 2014 on From Under the Pages

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but April is National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). And for the first time ever, I’ve caught onto a writing challenge at the beginning! Every November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but a novel in 30 days (or even a lot more days) is still a bit daunting to me. However, I can actually commit to a poem a day for 30 days. So if you don’t see new posts here for periods of time, it’s because of the effort I’m putting into my other blog, From Under the Pages. Check out my daily poems there. Heck, if you like them, you can even follow me there! Also, if you’re interested in reading other poetry, wander over to Napowrimo.net to get daily optional prompts, and read featured poets. You can also have your blog listed on the NaPoWriMo participants’ list. Happy poem-writing! Another great source of poetic inspiration is Poets.org, the website of the Academy of American Poets.