Sunday, January 30, 2011

Haiku Mondays: Roots

Spinal nerves to brain:

Dude, we’re only messengers.

Can’t fix the stupid.

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Do you haiku, too? Head here and play for fun and fabulous prizes!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

360 Degrees of Uninterrupted Blue

Yesterday I drove up to Santa Fe for a meeting with a potential client. Living where I do, that means taking the "back way" up along the Turquoise Trail, a 65 or so mile scenic amble up and down the Ortiz mountains through the historic towns of Golden, Madrid, and Cerrillos before emerging into a section of short grass plains and the startling menace of the New Mexico State Penitentiary. A few miles later, the Trail terminates in I-25 and its handful of exits leading into Santa Fe proper.

The day was so sunny and so warm, I was getting drowsy from the drive and was most certainly overdressed, even though I wasn't even wearing a coat. My potential client's home, a ubiquitous several-million-dollar green-built construct situated in an exclusive subdivision made possible by the displacement of dozens of species of our state's native wildlife, was warm like a sauna and so bright thanks to huge banks of windows and skylights, we were all squinting at each other across the table.

People who make a living measuring things like this have deduced that New Mexico enjoys about 312 days a year, give or take a day or so, of clear skies. Not semi-clear, not partly cloudy, but 100 percent crystal clear blue, whose only interruption is the occasional bird or jet contrail.

I've been here all my life and all this light still has the power to amaze me on the few times a day I emerge from my office to go play ball with the dog or check the gate for a package from UPS or run the Jeep over to the mailbox. It's the retinal equivalent of a knock on the head, which probably explains why so many out-of-staters with the economic means, like my potential client, find themselves thoroughly smitten enough with New Mexico to discard their former lives and make the Land of Enchantment their new home.

All this light!

All this space!

All this cultcha!

The process of shedding their former corporate selves is accomplished with remarkable speed: off with the power suits, on with the batik and Birkenstocks; bye-bye to the crisp reliability of generations of Presbyterian heritage, hello to candles and crystals and new age incantations; see ya later 401ks, whose depths are plundered to fund magazines and foundations and holistic lifestyle initiatives that hire natives like me who try not to giggle while cashing our checks. Because these hippies? They got cash.

Which means that although my future may not be as bright, at least I gotta wear shades.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And the Winner Is!

Okay, so he's talking about sex and I'm talking about haiku, but I dig that song more than just about any other disco song ever written, so there you go. Take a moment to get funky with yourself before you hunt this long-ass post for the final winner. Just don't start dressing like the lead singer because no one is going to believe you when you claim you are being "ironic."

I'm honored to have been able to judge this week's contest because you all brought it. Big time. There were haikus here that made me laugh out loud, that lumped my throat, and that made me look at things in a whole new way. And that, I do believe, is the point of haiku, right? To encapsulate in 17 syllables (give or take one or two if you're Boxer) the essence of an idea or an experience, incorporate some aspect of the seasons and/or natural world, and bring about in the reader's mind an, "Ah-hah; I never thought of it that way!" moment.

Before I declare the winner, let me explain my process. Because if everyone brought their A game, then I needed to figure out what, for me, constituted an A+ game.

A good deal of the writers sent some very witty poleetical wit our way:

FISHY, whose "union as onion" is simple, envy-inducing brilliance.

CZAR, who in spite of his frequent, "But I'm an editah, not a writah!" protests, has contributed thus far some highly super haiku—if you didn't at least chuckle at Strom und Greene, then you're way too serious for your own good.

BUZZ, whose image of "overgrown union hogweed/ choking garden state" continues to stick in my mind as one of the most visceral of the bunch.

And our esteemed host, SEÑOR TROLL, whose paen to Secretariat is a wonderfully lilting prelude to the righteously indignant smack down of "Scarecrow senator" and "Sin City's phantom voters."

Still, given the topic (State), it seemed to me that none of these quite hit the nail on the head in the exact way that I wanted them too, that is, to concretely, unequivocally, evoke a sense of place (state) in my mind's eye. Yes, I'm whittling this down to semantics here, because I have to. Otherwise, I would have thrown a bunch of prizes at all y'all and gone screaming into the hills sucking on a bottle of 100-year-old Jose Cuervo anejo.

So, I put on my Editor's Cap and started the careful process of sussing out the haikus that most effectively achieved my judgment criteria: 1. Evoke a strong sense of place; 2. Comment on some facet of the natural world; 3. Make me smack myself in the forehead with an out-loud, "Ah-hah!"

The writers who did this most effectively were:

Ever green and damp
moss grows where flowers will not
soggy hippies thrive

Could she be describing any other place in the universe but Washington state? Sure, there are hippies in Sedona and hippies in San Francisco, hell, there are even hippies in my backyard. But these cannot be anything but PNW hippies because of all the other clues: ever green, damp, moss, soggy. Perfectly done.

KARL then echoes her sentiment with the beautiful:

So without sun, but
with deep concern for their friends
soggy hippies shine

Gah! I wish I'd written that!

KARL also gave us these gems:
Chesapeake Bay State
See her great beauty abounds.
She can be fickle.

In the Old Line State
Mason Dixon line Decree
Divides North and South.

The last line of the first haiku is a hooking-sinking ah-hah (Troll, what's the technical term?) if ever I've heard one. Anyone who's spent time in Maryland and/or the east coast knows exactly what he means here, both in terms of weather, the ebbs and flows of the Bay's bounty, the tug between old line conservativism and liberal progressiveness. And the second, well, that just about sums up a good chunk of U.S. history right there, doesn't it?

Another one of my favorite entries was down-to-the-wire-KYM, who has this to say about her native Oklahoma:

A stolen city,
meant a brand new Capital.
Oil is money.

Love that last line.

But it was Kym's mom, PAM, who got me in the end. In my gut and in my heart, with this:

Way down yonder in
Indian Nation I sing
Woody Guthrie songs

Yes, it's all one single sentence, but I'm choosing it as this week's WINNER because it carries the kind of emotional punch that I'm always looking for in good writing. It would seem impossible that a haiku could say so much about a state, and by extension an entire country, but to me, this does so perfectly and with a texture and sweep that far transcends its simple 17 syllables.

The first line perfectly sets the tone with its vernacular—"way down yonder"—then segues into establishing place (the "Indian Nation," and everything tragic and heroic that implies), which then mitigates the tragedy with two simple, celebratory words ("I sing"), which turns out to be the songs of Woody Guthrie, an Oklahoma native who learned his craft traveling along with his displaced neighbors as they made the arduous journey to California during the Dust Bowl, and who later wrote one of the greatest odes to life in the United States with "This Land is Your Land."

Simply put: this haiku took my breath away.

So, congrats, Pam! You get to choose from among the two prizes outlined in yesterday's post. Email me your address and I'll get it in the mail toot suit to you.

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NOTE: A recent development affecting our weekly contest was just brought to my attention by Pam (see comment's section) and therefore I have decided to award TWO winners this week.

Pam for the aforementioned haiku, for which she gets to choose topic and judge next week, and Karl for his Soggy Hippie haiku, for which he gets to choose from among the two prizes mentioned yesterday. Karl, send me your addy and I'll get your prize in the mail! Oh, and don't forget to nick the badge and display it proudly!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Haiku Mondays: State

Happy Monday, Party People; it's time for the weekly installment of Haiku Mondays. Because I was awarded the Great Badge of Honor last week for my musings on Arizona, the Ghost of Master Basho has decided that I shall be the guest judge this week, picking the winner from what is becoming an increasingly competitive field. Also, to give Troll a chance to snag the badge, as his 5-7-5 skills are indeed quite mad, and yet, he can't pick himself as a winner.

So, head on over there today, leave your Haiku in the comments section, and I will choose a winner this evening and post it tomorrow.

This week's theme is STATE. As Troll states in the rules: "To make it more of a challenge, contestants won't be allowed to use the name of their chosen State in the Haiku itself or the title, i.e., you can't have a line that says: 'California Sucks,' You could say, 'Land of fruits and nuts.'"

Even better, I am offering prizes! So enter now to win your choice of either:

1. The fun and fabulous freebie package that LaRue Tactical sends in every order and of which we now have THREE sets (ahem), to include: One handy-dandy Beverage Entry Tool in the shape of what I think is an armadillo (?); one pocket-sized booklet of the Constitution of the United States (you know, for when you need some light reading on the bus); two bumper stickers, one proclaiming one's extreme right-wingedness and one God-blessing our troops, most especially our snipers (won't THOSE be fun to slap on the ol' Prius whilst shopping Wal-mart?); and one 4-ounce bottle of Dillo Dust Dry Rub (which, believe Moi, tastes super duper on baby back ribs).

2. A brand new, one fluid ounce bottle of Demeter Fragrance Library cologne spray in Honeysuckle. Which you can use on yourself, your room, your dog, or the person sitting next to you on the bus.

PLUS, the opportunity to display the Chickory designed badge shown above on your blog. And wherever else you so choose to stamp it.

Now, get out there and haiku, you!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dog Day

You ever meet someone who is so incredibly charming, they seem to fill the air with something akin to champagne bubbles, drawing people into their orbit with a gravitational pull as strong the influence of the moon over the tides?

That's my dog Maddie.

In a crowd of 150 people and a good half dozen volunteers, all of whom were preoccupied with organizing their gear, staying warm, energizing up, and directing participants, she still managed to snag the kind of attention that makes grown people stop dead in their tracks and commence to baby talking. Of course, Maddie responds in kind, gluing herself to people's sides, tilting her head upwards at a flirtatious slant, and liquifying their hearts with her big brown eyes.

So about an hour later it wasn't my name the timer called when I crossed the finish line, but "Here comes Maddie's mom!"

The little slut.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Girl and Her New Shoes

I bet you all thought it was going to be something with a heel, right? Actually, these are, Scout's Honor, cross my heart, the first pair of shoes I've purchased all winter. It's too cold for anything but boots, and besides, I can't run in the snow with heels. I can barely run in the snow with these, although that's exactly what I'm doing this Saturday morning at the top of the Sandia Mountains. 5K, through the snow, uphill.

At least it's not backwards. And, there will be refreshments before and after the race. Lots and lots of refreshments. Which is always my primary motivation for just about everything I do. "Does that ass-kicking happen to come with a martini? I'll take it."

Note to Karl: the race is at 10,600 feet. I live and work at 7,500 feet. I have no idea how it is that I'm still breathing, except from what little research I've done on high altitude living, it seems we eventually become acclimated even if the blood isn't flowing as fast or as fully. Which could explain a few things.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Movie Clip Wednesdays: Favorite Fifties Flick

Oh, gosh, this is more like it. There are so many movies from the 1950s that I love that I had a difficult time deciding on just one. Some contenders: All About Eve, Suddenly Last Summer, The Searchers, Singing in the Rain, Giant, Some Like It Hot, A Place in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof—the list climbs into infinity and beyond.

The Fifties are an interesting decade for film, mostly because this was the heyday of the Hollywood star-making machine, when actors and actresses achieved not just fame, but Olympian status as pop cultural icons. With few exceptions, the heyday of the director seemed to be waning, and it wouldn't be until the late 1960s, early 1970s, before filmmakers would fully shake off the yoke of the studio system and emerge as independent artists famous in their own right.

One of those exceptions was Alfred Hitchcock. He made nearly 70 movies in his 40+ year career, and if he had a stride, I'd say he hit it in the 1950s. This is the period in which he honed the conventions of the modern thriller (conventions he single-handedly invented, of course), giving them their highest expression in movies like Vertigo, North By Northwest, Strangers on a Train, and my favorite, Rear Window. This short clip pretty much sums up the plot of the movie, but you have to see the entire thing to get the full-on effect of Hitchcock's genius. It's a movie not only about the frustrations of a housebound man trying to draw attention to a murder, but also about the emotional and psychological confines of interpersonal relationships, with crafty little digs at the institution of marriage.

Once again, Milk River Madman serves as this Wednesday meme's host. Drop by and see who else loves the movies of the Fifties.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Haiku Monday: Arizona

Flagstaff and San Francisco Peaks, seen from space.
Courtesy NASA/US Geological Survey

White girl! This mountain
is sacred. Move along, but
buy the bracelet first.

Arida zona,
thief of mountain water, blooms.
Life, where none should be.

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This weekly meme is hosted at Troll's place every Monday.

Just pop over and place your haiku in the comments section for fabulous fun, prizes (any day now), and the haiku badge of honor.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I'm not writing anything today out of fear that whatever I might say on this blog could incite someone to eventually take some kind of action that could in some way be—or be construed to be—inflammatory, hateful, violent, ridiculous, false, faulty, outrageous, ill-advised, tacky, insulting, illogical, ignorant, badly dressed, and/or illegal in the vast majority of these here United States and some commonwealths and territories (with the possible exception of South Dakota, and, perhaps, the Northern Marianas Islands).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Movie Clip Wednesdays: Favorite Fantasy Movie

I could also call this Ironic Much Wednesday, or Moi's Mid Week Oxymoron, because fantasy has got to be my least favorite genre in literature, film, what have you. Science Fiction, I'm fine with. Fantasy, that's another story. That's weird languages and whole new earths and hirsute species of sub-humans with names I can never remember, much less pronounce in my head.

I must be one of the few people on the planet who has never read The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings trilogy (although I saw the films, which I think are great, but maybe we should just put that down to Viggo Mortensen and move along), and only just recently, after spending a tense month galloping through The Girl Who Played With Fire, decided I needed something light and spotted one of S.B.'s pieces of Nerd Lit, as I call it—a book co-wrote by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I had no idea these guys were so huge.

However, there remains a handful of fantasy type movies that I like. John Boorman's Excalibur for one, because it's so seamlessly, beautifully shot. The Wizard of Oz is another. In fact, it's probably one of my favorite movies of all time, or, rather, my favorite movie of a certain segment of time: the years between when I was old enough to focus my eyes on a television screen and, say, about 13 years of age. When I was little, I would throw an all fired up hissy fit if for some reason my parents didn't get me back home in time after Sunday dinner out the one time a year it came on television so I could snuggle under my blanket with my teddy bear, my thumb, and scare the living crap out of myself.

To this day, I think The Wizard of Oz is a great film—shot in that gorgeous, super-saturated Technicolor you just don't see anymore, with wonderful music, song, and dance; some truly creepy sequences mixed in with the right amount of tear jerking; and a heartfelt theme balanced out by a wee bit of subversive thought. Plus, there were those shoes.

Unfortunately, You Tube disabled all the clips, but if you click below, you can watch one of my favorite scenes, the one where the tornado hits Dorothy's home, taking the viewer on a literal and figurative journey from her simple black and white Midwestern existence to a technicolor fantasy world that is at once strangely wonderful and downright frightening.

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To see what the other nerds, er, participants chose, click over to Milk River Madman's place for Favorite Fantasy Movie Clip Wednesday:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Haiku Mondays: Crescent

Photo courtesy NASA/JPL Space/Science Institute

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Leached from sunlight’s grace,

taunts the fulsome moon. At last,

fortnight passed. God bites.

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K9 is guest-hosting Haiku Monday this week.

Head over to there if you'd like to toss your 5-7-5 into the ring.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Double, Double, Toil For Your Troubles

Just when you think the world is getting way too 21st century pragmatic and progressive, a story like this comes along to remind us that Dark Age sensibilities still poke at the furthest corners of our civilization.

Apparently, in an effort to raise revenue to alleviate Romania's economic crisis, Prime Minister Emil Boc (how very vampirian), backed by President Traian Basescu (who names these people?), has decided to slap a big ol' tax on the income of his country's witches, fortunetellers, and fringe folk who otherwise make their living capitalizing on Romania's reputation as one of the most superstitious countries in the known universe, outside of perhaps Northern California.

Apparently, these dudes have never read Macbeth. Piss off a witch, and they strike back with a vengeance. “We do harm to those who harm us," sayeth one old gal, who goes simply by the name of Witch Alicia. "They want to take the country out of this crisis using us? They should get us out of the crisis because they brought us into it . . . my curses always work."

At last report, the witches had settled upon an ancient spell involving "cat poo and dead dog" to curse Romania's president and every member of the government. They also plan to hurl poison mandrake into the Danube to further strengthen their spell.

"This law is foolish," said another witch over the telephone to an AP reporter (apparently, her powers of telepathy were on the fritz that day.) "What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything? The lawmakers don't look at themselves, at how much they make, their tricks; they steal and they come to us asking us to put spells on their enemies."

Pass the Fresca and the popcorn, Party People, and just think of how awesome it would be if this actually worked.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Move Clip Wednesdays: Favorite Movie Set in Winter

I don't know whether it's because I was born, raised, and remain living in the West, or whether it's simply because I'm an American and therefore come packaged with a certain segment of my DNA that is compelled to long for the wilderness, but when I dig deep and really think about where I would feel most at home, the place I always come up with is Alaska.

I've never been there. I know little about it and if I ever found myself in a cabin alone somewhere on the Tundra, I just might crumble like a girly-girl and head for the nearest Starbucks and Nordstroms. But if life is about pushing frontiers, it seems to me that Alaska is the last great one readily available for exploration.

Which is why I love this movie so much. Never Cry Wolf has been called one of the best nature movies ever made, based on biologist Farley Mowat's explorations of the relationship between Arctic wolves and the caribou herds that the Alaskan government accused the wolves of decimating. More than that, though, it's a movie about being alone without being lonesome, about being resourceful instead of wasteful, and about whether or not human beings are in fact capable of existing in harmony with the wilderness. The visually gifted Carroll Ballard nears soapiness on occasion, but for the most part holds tight to a restrained documentary style that lets viewers come to their own conclusions about the themes he raises.

Unfortunately, all the clips of this movies are over 8 mintutes long; this is the only short one I could find.

Pop on over to , Milk River Madman's place for more favorite wintertime movies:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Haiku Mondays: 2010 in Review

Rehab by Mitch Griffiths

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Packaged, shilled, and sold.
Open wide. Receive, swallow.
Cured now, your disease.

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Why don't you, too, haiku? Head over to Troll's for a year end review.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

And the Winner Is!

The winner of Guess that Dish is actually a tie. Here's why. Of all the dishes, the one that was perhaps the least succinct was number six. The dish I was thinking of was Saag Paneer, but another of you guessed Saag Aloo, which is actually curried spinach and potatoes, not curried spinach and cheese (Saag Paneer).

So, in all fairness, I believe that BOTH of these contestants are deserving of a donation to their favorite charity. The first one guessed every dish absolutely correctly and that winner is . . .


The second entrant also guessed every single dish absolutely correctly, with the exception of the whole Saag thing, as outlined above. And that winner is . . .


Finally, Honorable Mention must go to Troll, the third entrant (Buzz, where were ya, dude? Karl?), whose guesses for several dishes were spot on, while a couple others were totally—but highly creatively—off the mark.

Here are the ingredients with their dishes:

Pasilla Chiles
Ground corn tortillas

Mole Poblano

Rice noodles

Pad Thai

Spaghetti Noodles

Pasta Puttanesca (Troll said pasta acciughe)

Bottom round
Red vinegar
Juniper berries

Sauerbraten (everyone guessed this one correctly)

Worchestershire sauce
Catfish meuniere (ditto)

Curry powder

Saag Paneer (Troll went neither paneer nor aloo, but Spanish curry)

Choclate cake
Whipped cream

Black Forest Cake (ditto)

Sponge cake
Ice cream

Egg whites
Baked Alaska
(Troll said Strawberry Shortcake)

So, Aunty and La Diva, send me your charity info and I'll get a $50 check in the mail to each of them in your name on Monday. Troll, I will make a $25 donation to your charity via PayPal.

Thanks for participating everyone!