Sunday, January 30, 2011

Live the Moment

This Sunday morning, we were surprised to find the New York Times on our doorstep rather than our usual Star Tribune. Although Boy#1 was perturbed that his  favorite comics were not available, we expect the household who received our local paper was even more put out.

We came across this ad. What the heck is going on here?

At first we thought it was an ad for medieval torture devices. And certainly the young lady was meant to be a play on Iron Maiden. 

Susan said she couldn't get the image of a tea bag out of her head.

Further research revealed that One&Only are swishy resorts for "entertaining the world's elite." 


So, is the gal in the basket one of the world's elite? If so, what sort of entertainment is this? Relax with a bamboo  grid riding up your naked bum while others watch? She certainly looks startled and perturbed that we are looking at her. Hmm...

Maybe I have it backwards. The packaged female IS the entertainment for the world's elite. The young lady is a nice goody basket dropped on the beach for a guest's mid afternoon fun. 

Fantasy Island, anyone?

"Hey, Boss, cabana six ordered the Special Goody Basket AGAIN."

I just don't know...

One thing is certain, One&Only marketing folks clearly like this image. It also appears on their website. 

What's up with that tagline?

One&Only in a nutshell.
Live the moment.

What is the moment? The moment when some paparazzi snapped his million dollar photo? Or some journalist tracks down a story about the sex trade?

Although the nutshell thing does work rather well visually. Naked, folded flesh in a basket. Walnut meats nestled in their split shell.

Boy#1 points out that the only point of any ad is to rivet our attention and make you remember the product. This one certainly worked like a charm in my household. I now know what One&Only resorts are... and I know that none of mine will ever go to one.

I, for one, can find that kind of fun right here at home.

Live the moment.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Labs Again!

The American Kennel Club released its 2010 rankings for most popular dog breeds in America. 

The Labrador retriever got the top spot for the 20th straight year. 

I really couldn't say what breeds I am. But I do see Beagles got 4th. Pointers are 111th. And who knows, maybe I am part Lab...

Labrador Retrievers
German Shepherd Dogs
Yorkshire Terriers
Golden Retrievers
Shih Tzu

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Dog Ate My Evidence

Redefining a food fight: Woman allegedly slaps man with ham sandwich

COLUMBIA TOWNSHIP — A Columbia Township couple redefined food fight Wednesday when a man was allegedly assaulted with a ham sandwich.

The 47-year-old man told Lorain County sheriff’s deputies his live-in-girlfriend hit him with a ham sandwich inside their home in the 2600 block of Royalton Road around 7:10 p.m.

Police scanner traffic indicated the man was unable to provide deputies with a full description of the sandwich, such as whether it was toasted or untoasted.

The man, who, according to a sheriff’s report, was highly intoxicated and had no signs of injuries. The man’s 54-year-old girlfriend told deputies she was going to end the relationship because of the man’s drinking problem. She also told deputies her boyfriend “smacked her in the back of the head,” the report states.

The woman told police she was not hurt and did not wish to press charges, according to the report. The man told deputies he did not hit his girlfriend physically, but rather mentally, according to the report.

The woman called a family member to pick her up.

Deputies located a slice of bread on the floor, but suspect the family dog ate the ham, according to the report.
My only questions is...why didn't the dog eat the bread too?

It makes me think it was the cat.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dog, Cat, Dog, Cat

photo: Charles Dharapak/AP
We watched the State of the Union address last night. I thought President Obama did a fine job. If he can pull off half of his plans, we'll be fine.

I heard my Susan sigh a few times at the mention of bringing ROTC back on campuses and at the absence of any verbal support for the arts or teaching them in schools -- or even important things like history, writing, social skills. Certainly math and science and technology are important. She knows this. But scientists can get pretty off-track if they skip the rest of their education. Ah well, at least it wasn't teacher-bashing night.

photo: Brendan Smialowski/AP
But what I actually loved was the seating mash-up. Seating Democrat-Republican-Democrat-Republican with the Independents sprinkled in was a great idea. Sure, it is was superficial symbol of strained unity. And everyone made sure they wore their color. But I thought mixing up the seating worked pretty well to keep the crowd mentality at minimum. No raucous roaring, less mindless leaping up with diluting standing ovations, no sea of frowns and curled lips and far less smirking whispering to neighbors. Last night, our leaders looked a bit subdued and uncomfortable squeezed together. And I rather liked it. 

Let's face it, we all act differently in packs. Every terrorist group on the planet knows the power of the pack. For better or for worse, leaders know how to tap group psychology. Packs get individuals all riled up and making choices they might not make, given a moment to think or look their opponent in the eyes. Military trainers, cult leaders, and inciters of mobs all count on our brains lighting up with excitement when we are surrounded by -- even blinded by -- people who agree with us and are united by a common purpose. Some of my least civilized moments at the dogpark have occurred when I've gotten carried away with the pack frenzy (Sorry, little yappy terrier. You were terribly annoying but you didn't deserve a whole pack putting you in your place.)

Of course, groups can do great good. The sum is often greater than its parts. But that assumes group members are listening thoughtfully and considering more than one perspective. Our nation's dear politicians struggle at all of these things. So sometimes the only way to tamp them down may be to give them assigned seats: dog cat dog cat.

This is the best picture I have of Sophie, Me, and Stuart

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Great Purpose

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Two Things I Appreciate

I should mention that yesterday was Squirrel Appreciation Day. As I said last year, I do appreciate the little fellas. One more squirrel and I'm an ace!

I also appreciate my Dave who walks me every day, feeds me promptly at 5:30 p.m. and loves me more than he ever thought possible (I think he may still think he is a cat person).

Happy birthday, Dave!!!

I don't have any cash. But here are two nice memories for you on your special day.

Our first hiking trip to the mountains!
Your favorite things...

Brrr and Grrr

I heard the other day that there have only been two days so far this January without a snowfall. Admittedly, the flakes of late have been gentle, sparky fluffs that freshen everything up. But I think folks 'round here are getting a more than a little crabby.

Double digits below zero are rough. I just thank my lucky stars that my family did not settle in International Falls, Minnesota where recent lows have been getting uncomfortably close to their record of -40 degrees F.

Minnesota winter can be a grind. Sniffly, snuffly viruses are ripping through like wildfires. On our walk Wednesday, Susan slipped on glare ice and konked her noggin on the concrete pretty hard.

Mild head trauma made her wonder if she was hallucinating when she heard Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann just might think she would make a good president. That this numbskull is even in Washington makes me want to eat icicles.

Maybe I can stay warm by getting all fired up. Here is one of my favorite Bachmann quotes (Earth Day speech, 2009):

"Carbon dioxide is natural, it is not harmful, it is a part of Earth's lifecycle. And yet we're being told that we have to reduce this natural substance, reduce the American standard of living, to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occuring in Earth."

I think everyone around here could use some spring green to roll in, some strong sunshine and a healthy dousing of common sense.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Poor Hunting Partner

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Monday, January 10, 2011

Would Twain Give a Fig?

I hear that a new version of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  will be published without the N-word. This possibly well-intentioned censorship has sparked a lively debate, as one would hope.

I must admit that my first reaction was "Oh, good grief!" Huckleberry Finn was written as a scathing satire on racism - not a rafting adventure for children. Anyone picking it up should be prepared to grapple with 19th century sentiments and vocabulary. You don't bring a little puppy to the off-leash dog park!

Also, the book is now over a hundred years old (which is why anyone can mess with it as they like) and readers should know that they can't apply the layers of modern day meanings to a word commonly used back then -- even a word that has become so currently offensive that I, as a little brown dog, won't even write it here. I don't want to attract the wrong kind of search engine traffic to my humble blog.

Every time people apply their modern sensibilities to works of art and alter them to suit their most enlightened selves, following generations eventually look back and roll their eyes. Think of all those plaster fig leaves glued to naked statues' private parts.

At least fig leaves can usually be removed and anatomy restored to former glory. I am sure I am not alone in wanting to bite the folks who went for more permanent solutions -- wielding hammers to knock off offensive bits. Sadly, what is done is done. As we dogs know, unlike silly haircuts, docked tails do not grow back.

At least they didn't blow them up with dynamite.

Buddhas of Bamiyan photographed in 1979,
destroyed with dynamite by the Taliban in 2001
because they were offensive "idols"
Thankfully, the written word is more durable than statuary. Books are rarely one-of-kind. Ephemeral as paper or pixels may seem, editions tend to proliferate like feral cats. It is difficult to obliterate every copy -- as hard as book burners might try.

Yet most words are not carved into stone. Stories are easily and often translated -- changed intentionally to suit the audience or inevitably as they move from one language to another. Literary fig leaves are applied with abandon by editors, censors and those adapting stories in the name of children. Luckily, fig leaves can be applied to one edition and not affect the original work, assuming it remains in existence.

It should be remembered that Huckleberry Finn has already been adapted many of times before for print and for the screen. Dozens of versions abound on booksellers' shelves - many abridged and edited "for a brisker read" or for young audiences. As for movie versions, I doubt that Mickey Rooney or Elijah Wood used the N-word in their portrayals of Huck. For better or for worse, people freely transform stories -- or pirate parts of stories -- to make them relevant and meaningful to new audiences and generations.

Disney's star is Elijah Wood
who later played Frodo in LOTR
Nothing wrong with a little transformation, eh? When is the last time you read the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales? They are such a gruesome gathering of characters and violent ends that few modern parents welcome them on the nursery bookshelf. They have been reworked and transformed countless times to suit just about anybody. And whether you like your fairy tales Disneyfied, reforged in the fires of political correctness, or consumed raw in the original Danish -- you get to chose. Because all the versions continue to exist, unlike those poor Buddhas of Bamiyan.

For the most part, copyright laws protect living authors and not-too-long-dead authors from people stealing or messing with their words too much. And up until the invention of the personal computer, changing words took a fair bit of effort and was mostly left to publishers. These electronic days, it is a simple thing for anyone to alter words of a story -- even personalize them -- with a few taps on a keyboard.

My Susan's sister shared this interesting example. A reader downloaded a story written by a living author. In the story, one character refers to another character as "honey." For this particular reader, the word "honey" was so offensive and brought up so many personal, unpleasant memories of her ex, that she couldn't read the story. There was also a scene of domestic violence that was very upsetting to her.

So this modern-day reader did a find/replace. She selected all the occurrences of "honey" and replaced them with "dear." She also deleted completely the passage of domestic strife. She then read the story again, fell in love with it and raved about it online -- while admitting her changes. (The author was so outraged he or she removed the story from the online world forever.)

Was it wrong of that reader to alter another's work of art for her own personal experience. She wasn't re-publishing it or making any money from it - it was just for her enjoyment. It was just an itty bitty fig leaf.

Personally, I dislike Richard Adam's portrayal of dogs as mindless, brutal killing machines so much that it is hard for me to enjoy that bunny book Watership Down. What if I just... changed it...

"There's a cheetah loose in the woods!"

"Come back! Come back and fight! Cheetahs aren't dangerous!"
General Woundwort, Watership Down
I understand the reason this new sanitized version of Huckleberry Finn is going to press is because the N-word is so problematic to current society that many people just won't pick up the book at all. They say even professors are afraid to have this great classic on their reading lists. So, is it better to get people to read Twain's story with the fig leaf word "slave" or have them avoid a great book all together?

Fig leaves certainly bring us comfort. They make the difficult easier to gaze upon. But to never be upset or challenged by differing perspectives -- never having to grapple with the layers of meaning embedded by the artist's culture, era and intent -- is like having a tasty, chewy bone delivered intravenously. It's just not that satisfying...

Whatever you or I think in the end, this new figified version of Twain's Huckleberry Finn will be released, added to the line-up of available versions, and read by many. One can only hope that this more comfortable version will allow lots of new readers to reach for Huckleberry Finn, fall in love with Twain's story and perhaps wonder what lies beneath the fig leaves. Maybe they will eventually pick up the original.

As the wise scribes of Wikipedia point out:

"The expression fig leaf has a pejorative metaphorical sense meaning as a cover for any thing or behavior that might be considered shameful, with the implication that the cover is only a token gesture and the truth is obvious to all who choose to see it." 

"Argh! I hope someone unlgues this fig leaf soon...but carefully!"
Portrait of strongman Eugen Sandow (1867-1925) 
by Benjamin J. Falk (1853-1925)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Your Actions

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Best of Show

Susan spent this morning at the school fair talking to parents about school choice for their precious pups. Then she popped into the Land of Lakes American Kennel Club Dog Show that was happening next door. She said the events were not unlike each other.

Dogs, like children, come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments, with different skill sets.

Shar Pei
As do dog owners and parents.
Standard Poodle
Russian Mastiff
Dog owners, like parents, want the very best for their pooches and spend countless hours preparing them to put their best paws forward.

What IS this dog? 
Old English Sheepdog
Dogs and children find such events involve a LOT of waiting around while adults talk talk talk. They try to be patient.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Afghan Hound
Dog shows are all about putting your pride and joy in the ring to be judged. School choice can feel that way too, Susan says.

English Springer Spaniel group
Judging of English Springer Spaniels
Australian Cattle Dog wins third place
One thing seems clear, dog owners love their children too. 

Mind you, all of the 2,000 dogs at the show were purebreds - some 150 breeds. There were no events for mutts like me. I would NOT fit in. But Susan says I am cuter and sweeter than any of the dogs she saw today. 

She is a good girl!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Questionable Characters

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Sundogs - or solar parhelia (seen here on both sides) -
occur when ice crystals reflect sunlight.
A friend remarked today that is was a good morning for sundogs. I have to admit I didn't look at the sun this morning. When it is just above zero, I make a fast dash for my morning constitutional and then fly back to the warm kitchen for breakfast. I don't even stop for squirrels.

Sundogs are named sundogs because they remind people of loyal pooches sitting by their master the sun. Huh. Other people say it is because sundogs are dogging the sun - a rather derogatory term, if you ask me. Susan tells me to quit dogging her when she walks around the house with a snack. OK, I might get a little close behind her- but I would appreciate it if she would refrain from clipping me in the jaw with her heels when I dog her going down the stairs. (She is rolling her eyes at me right now).

I tried to be a sun dog today and curled up in a tiny patch of sunshine on Boy#1's dirty clothes. The anemic winter sunbeam was less than satisfying as a heat source. But the funky clothes smelled comforting. I missed him and his brother today. School is back in session. It was pretty dull around here.

I never knew there were such a things moondogs. I think they are more rare than sundogs (which are not rare at all, but most people just don't notice them). I am not a night dog so I don't know if I will ever seen a moondog - but they do look pretty.