Archive for February 2006

Whole Lotta Shakin’

Today is the fifth anniversary of the Nisqually Earthquake that rocked the Seattle area and caused moderate structural damage to buildings and one very expensive stretch of highway.

When it hit, I was leaning in an office doorway talking to a client in the SoDo area (south of where the old Kingdome used to be - near Starbuck’s headquarters).  I remember thinking, “Huh.  Earthquake.”, and I kept on talking.  When it continued for 10 seconds, I started to get a bit alarmed.  When things started falling off shelves, I hustled myself under a desk in the office.  The client’s general manager, whose office it was, huddled underneath another.  I’m glad there were two desks - if I’d had a choice of whom to die in the arms of, it wouldn’t have been Jerry.

The shaking continued for what seemed like forever, although it was really only 45 seconds.  I’m the only person I know who was actually injured.  I was kneeling on something with an edge, and the shaking caused a cut or abrasion on my knee that I felt for a week or so.  And it turns out that the area I was in, on a layer of “glacial till”, was one of the most vulnerable, and I was in one of those tilt-up concrete buildings that will tilt right down again if conditions are right.

Mrs. Perils, I think, had the better experience.  She was at a salon having her hair repaired.  As it turned out, there was also a fireman being serviced there, and he marched the whole group of them, in various states of foil, curl and dampness, out into the middle of the street.  I’m not convinced this was the wisest thing to do, but I love the image.

Not sure what I’ll do to commemorate the event.  Setting my cell phone to vibrate at 10:54 am seems most appropriate, given the general lack of ordinance in the house.

Yo’ Mamet

For the past few weeks, I’ve been seeing this poster at our health club promoting a production of Boston Marriage, a play by David Mamet, at a nearby little theatre. I would encounter this poster while working on a particularly challenging leg machine (Nautilus) that brought it to eye level. As I settled into the machine each visit and set the weights and seat, I would consider that I liked what I’d seen of Mamet’s work (Glengarry Glenross, State & Main, Wag The Dog), and that I’d like to attend the play being advertised. Then, I’d launch into my reps on the leg machine, all the blood from my brain would flow to my hams and calves, and I’d forget all about more intellectual pursuits.
When I got home from Milwaukee last weekend, I again considered the play, but the poster said its run ended 2/19, so I’d missed it. Then, this week, I saw a blurb for it and noted it had been extended through 2/26. So, yesterday, I took the developmentally important step of actually acting on a thought that I’d formed, and bought tickets to last night’s performance.
The venue was a transformed bathhouse on the shores of Greenlake, so we determined to walk down there after dinner for the 7:30 performance. Since, as everyone who knows me is aware, I’m always spot-on-time for everything, we had to hurry a bit, especially since our tickets were at will-call and seating was general admission. I set a fairly smart pace and Mrs. Perils (trimmer and in better condition than I) nonetheless lagged behind a bit. I knew from long experience, however, that if I slowed down, she’d slow down, so I plunged ahead. I mean, it wasn’t exactly Olympian. We arrived in plenty of time.
I’ve never seen a Mamet play, I’ve only seen films he’s written or directed or both, but I’ve always felt like his films were play-like, in that they were centered on language, plot and character rather than the visual. Star Wars, for instance, could never take place on a stage; the films above could (and Glengarry Glenross was a play before it was a film). So, I was looking forward to snappy language and wise-guy riffs, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The basic premise of the play is the relationship of two women at the turn of the 20th century who are cohabiting in what some call a Boston marriage (first I’d heard the term). These two women, plus a maid who pops in now and then for a dose of abuse, comprise the entire cast. The elder (more mature?) partner has just apparently achieved their financial security by becoming the mistress of a wealthy patron. The younger challenges her about this, but the elder (who possesses the sharpest tongue and control of language) assures her that it’s strictly a business transaction. The revelation that he’s married, and thus won’t be more than an occasional interference, seems to assuage the younger.
The younger, it seems, has some news of her own: she’s “in love”, it turns out, with a younger woman. And, due to her circumstances (dependent upon the elder for support), needs to convince the elder to allow her new interest to tryst at their residence. This is clearly the more hurtful breach and won’t be shrugged off nearly as quickly. Much of the rest of the play involves the importunings and negotiations attendant to accommodating this tectonic shift in their relationship.
Through a combination of Machavellian scheming and genuine feeling for one another, things are resolved, but the cross/double-cross mechanics of it don’t end until the final line of the play. And you’re not sure, in the end, which motivation has had more effect - manipulative acquisitiveness or indefatigable love. There’s a case to be made for each. That’s probably right were Mamet wants us.
The dialogue is fast-paced, packed to the brim and gut-bustingly funny. The language is a sort of high-flown Victorian vocabulary and diction, with some jarring modernisms thrown in. Reviewers have compared it to Oscar Wilde meets Harold Pinter, which my functional dramatic illiteracy can’t speak to. It’s significant, though, that I find myself frustrated because I don’t have a copy of the play to extract quotes from. I mean to get my hands on one.
The social situation and sensibilities of the women were a reversal of the more-accustomed plight of a couple of rakes toying with women. If you shut out the gender references and just concentrated on the banter, you could envision a pair of 30-ish fellows in their club’s bar or drawing room. In fact, it evoked echoes of the GB Shaw play The Philanderer that we saw last year in Ashland. But the play, for the most part, is not a gay or women’s rights manifesto, it’s an excellent and witty exploration of love and the particular way these women assay it.

Random Seattle Photo Ops (Lazy Blogging)

Last fall, we passed an initiative to prohibit smoking in any public indoor venue, including bars & restaurants.  The outdoor smoking population increased quite a bit.  This fixture was on the sidewalk outside a bar in Ballard.  (click to enlarge).

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We walked down to the PCC in Fremont, and passed under the Aurora Bridge.  In one direction, you see the Fremont Troll, nestled under the bridge where it can grap unsuspecting VW bugs from the bridge deck:

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and in the other direction, the bridge recedes to a vanishing point on Queen Anne Hill.

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Hope everyone’s having a great weekend.

It’s A Dirty Business

For those of you whose financial affairs are sufficiently complicated that you hire an accountant to prepare your tax return (a minor subset of those who file a return, which may in turn be dwarfed here on Salon blogs by those who simply don’t bother to file) - there are a couple of reasons to get busy and fill out that questionnaire your accountant sends you and mail it back instead of waiting until April 14th to traipse into his/her office with your sorry box of receipts.

First, you want to avoid being consigned to your accountant’s Box Of The Damned, those that get worked on last and billed the most hours at the highest rate.

Second, there seems to be a health concern when you visit an accountant’s office.  It appears that accountants’ offices harbor 7 times the amount of germs that lawyers’ offices do, and they trail only school classrooms in the germ habitat sweepstakes.  And this from a study conducted subsequent to Sarbanes-Oxley.

In keeping with Bush administration tactics, when you don’t like the outcome of a scientific process, seek to discredit the scientist.  Don’t even need to play the theology card to discredit this one - the “study” was funded by the Clorox company, makers of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Sanitizing Spray.  Geez, next time, at least filter the funding through an obfuscatorily-named think tank.

Bedfellows Getting Strange

Here’s some whacked-out crap.  A group in Wisconsin is showing up at the funerals of servicemen killed in Iraq and staging protests.  Out-of-control liberal group with, at best, a tin ear for political theatre and, at worst, a dark and disturbing misanthropy, right.

Wrong!  They’re from the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, who contend

the deaths of the military personnel were God’s revenge on the United States for its acceptance of homosexuality…

The women held signs that said such things as “Thank God for 9/11,” and the group sang parodies of songs such as “God Bless America” with lyrics critical of tolerance for homosexuality.

The Wisconsin legislature is formulating a bill of some kind to try to keep these people at a distance from the funerals, but still be constitutional.  This has to put Pat Robertson-wing Republicans in an uncomfortable position.  They’re being whipsawed between constituencies that heretofore were natural allies - military families and the Iraq war mission on one side, and gay-hating evangelicals on the other.

It’s an unlooked-for fissure in the smugly consonant “base” of the GOP.  I don’t think it’s got legs, though.  My bet is that the Westboro Baptists are an aberrant mutation of the species and, despite Kansas’ antipathy to the theory of evolution, it will be swiftly selected out.  And, whatever happens, don’t hold your breath waiting for progressives to take any sort of astute advantage.


I get to spend another night in Milwaukee!  I’d been planning to fly back to Seattle tonight (Friday), and logged on to print my boarding pass last night.  My request kept getting rejected, so I looked up my reservation to see if I had the time right (you can’t check in more than 24 hours in advance). 

The time was right, all right, but the date of the flight was Friday the 24th, not the 17th.  When you make your reservations online, you can pull up a little calendar app to select your date instead of typing it in, and I had apparently clicked the right day, wrong week.

Despite my pleas and general likeability, the agent on the phone could not get me a flight today for less than $550.  Best I could do was a 6:24AM flight tomorrow (Saturday!) for the $100 change fee.  My client is thrilled that I can stay and work this afternoon, but it puts a bite on my weekend.

I thought about calling Mrs. Perils and telling her, but I figure she’ll read it here, so I won’t bother.

With This Bandwidth, I Thee Wed

For some reason, the only time I listen to NPR is when I’m in the car.  That’s true whether I’m at home or on the road, but I think I get more exposure when I’m working out of town.  For one thing, when I pick up my rental car, its radio is usually tuned to something so annoying that I bolt in panic for the low end of the dial, where public radio usually lurks, and start scanning.  When I find the local NPR station, I cleave to it like Ishmael’s seaman’s chest, and don’t venture from it.  In Seattle, I’m more likely to divide the time between KEXP or KBCS” and the NPR station, KUOW

Monday evening I was driving here in Milwaukee and they aired a segment by a woman named Julie Zickefoose who mused on how computers, and blogging in particular, had altered her relationship with her husband.  (You can listen to the 3-minute piece here.)  For instance, they increasingly expect the other to have read their respective latest blog entries before venturing personal inquiries.  She says her husband evinces disappointment if she hasn’t read that day’s entry before bedtime.  They also look at daily events in terms of their blogworthiness, and apparently scrap a little about who gets to carry the little nugget off into a corner and process it.

I find this piece interesting because, lately, computers have had palpable effects on our marriage as well.  Most of them salubrious, I think.  For instance, we IM during the day, not obsessively, but in a pleasant, distractedly conversational way, as if we were in the room together.

Blogging has been more complex in its impact.  I began my blog in January, 2003.  I didn’t clue Mrs. Perils in to it for over a year - not because I was doing anything illicit, but because I wanted it to take on a shape without the pressure of having people I know reading it.  Once she started reading mine, and by extension others, she was eventually bitten and started her own.  Which she eventually told me about.

Our styles diverge a bit, however, and I don’t foresee us fighting over bloggable events.  She posts daily, and you can pretty much tell what she’s been up to and what she’s been thinking by reading it.    My posting is more sporadic, and I’m trying for more of an entertainment than for anything revelatory or journal-like. (I saw you all blink with wonder when you heard “entertainment”)  I throw in the photos and jokes and clown noisemakers.  I may negotiate a little with the facts (but in a straightforward and honorable way) to make a story.  Mrs. Perils flatly says I “lie about her” here, but I deny that.  As with the people in our lives, some facts are our friends and some aren’t.  The ones that are get cosseted, and the ones that aren’t are either shunned or “rehabilitated”.  (Think Oprah would buy off on that rationale?  I might get Freyed when I get home.)

Both our blogs have, I think, enhance our relationship by bulking up the bandwidth of our personal communication, despite (or because of) the fact that the communication is not exclusively interpersonal.  The danger, I guess, would be to become so enamored of a blog that you regard it as your primary statement, and your interpersonal communications become mere footnotes or shorthand references to your blog.  For instance, I’ve been upbraided by my brother for saying little or nothing in our family emails.  “We don’t want to have to read your blog for information,” he’s said, and he’s right.  (But read the blog anyway - it’s fascinating.)

So, Ms. Zickefoose poses, in a humorous way, some interesting questions about how technology overlays our most important interpersonal relationships.  With us, as with her, it seems to be mostly to the positive side, but worthy of periodic evaluation.

Blue Motel Room (after Joni)

Well, it certainly was Valentine’s Day last night here at the Radisson North Shore, as sounds of porn-star quality sex from the next room punctured my bachelor’s repose.  I thought at first that somebody had the tv on, it was so enthusiastically, even professionally, allegro ma non troppo.  But then (and I didn’t have to put a glass to the door or anything, it was like there was a speaker under my bed) I picked up on the utter sincerity of it, and I knew it wasn’t a rented skin flick.  I grabbed the pen and pad on the nightstand and gave them a 9.7.  Even though I merely heard, and did not see, them stick the triple-axle.

Fortunately, no repechage in this event, and I was able to doze off again.

Blind Blogging

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

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Blind Blogging

Well, I boarded my plane for Minneapolis this morning, and unloaded stuff onto my seat that I thought I’d need for the trip, including my laptop, my mp3 player, two issues of the New York Review of Books, and Cormac CmCarthy’s Blood Meridian.  All of which, with the partial exception of the mp3 player, require the use of reading glasses to operate.  Reading glasses that had suddenly disappeared from my person somewhere between the terminal, where I had been using them to read the Sunday paper on my laptop, and my seat.

I searched all the pockets of my coat several times, looked around on the floor around my seat and retraced my steps up the jetway and even, with the assistance of a sympathetic gate agent, back to the terminal, where I’d last had them on my face.  No dice.

So, I’m having to improvise a bit for my onboard entertainment.  I managed to see enough of my mp3 player’s screen to gin up Thievery Corporation’s Cosmic Game album so I can at least sit here and warble karaoke if all else fails.  I can also set my Radio typefont large enough to be able to see my prose ooze across the screen like a stain, a literary toxic event.  I have a pretty good idea of what I’m writing, but I can’t vouch for perfect spelling, so please withhold your judg… whatever.

It’s also a pretty clear day so far, and the view out the window ain’t bad.  A number of Cascade volcanoes were prominently visible as we departed Seattle, including Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and the shell of Mt. St. Helens, looking like a football stadium undergoing renovation.  These things I can see perfectly - the world beyond my 24″ Ball of Blur is crystal-clear to me without corrective lenses.

Later - When we arrived in Minneapolis, I groped around in my carry-on backpack (I’d had to stow it in the overhead because I was in a bulkhead seat), and found the glasses - they had fallen out of my shirt and into one of the compartments when I was hurriedly unpacking stuff into my seat.  So, I was spared the exorbitant expense of buying a pair in the airport.  I have an extra pair, but they’re in my checked luggage. 

On to more important things, perhaps.