cross the palm with silver

In the WSJ, front page, there is an article about Siemens getting caught in bribery scandal.


A good portion of the world uses bribery as a matter of course. We, the “western democratic” countries, say that’s bad and we can have no part of it.

Shame on Seimens! Don’t they know, they are supposed to hire an intermediary company that does the bribery for them? Then the intermediary can disband before they get caught, re-form as a different company, and do the whole thing over again.

Hypocrisy makes the world go round. How many times has the world changed because someone wagged a finger at it and said “Shame! Shame!”

I have long thought that any MBA that includes international business should have a Bribery 101 class.

Strong women and men

It is a constantly running train of thought, but here lately it’s been on my mind—the difference between men and women.

I love men. And I love being a woman. It seems to me that these two, when done right, are very complementary.

I know Chris and I work together very well. We have great love and respect for one another, and we manage to do really well on the various projects and entertainments we take up.

There are other men I have known on the job, who I can really click with, who give me respect and collegial affection. I’ve love working with them and miss them terribly when I’ve had to move on.

What is it that men and women give each other? It’s so much more than just procreation. We are broader than that. What, really, do we need each other for?

Of course, need is relative. Do I NEED to go to the gym and work out in the morning? Not really. NEED is for survival. Food, shelter, air.

But perhaps I am too stoic. Perhaps, for the time being, I can count the survival as a given, and set the bottom standard a little above DEATH.

About 8 years ago, I came to the conclusion that it is best not to need anyone for anything. That I am responsible for myself and myself alone. I wanted to be independent and able to get whatever I needed. I didn’t want to have to wait for someone else to get me what I needed.

It turns out I was very able. I pushed my abilities and pruned my wants appropriate to my circumstances. I learned how to be independent and not need things.

But that opened up other questions.

During our first year, while trying to figure all that out, I asked Chris, “If we don’t need each other, what will keep us together?”

He really didn’t understand the question, but he answered: “We will love each other.”

At the time, it was hard for me to understand how he would stay—how could I be sure?—if he wasn’t dependent on me in some way. He should need me.

I’ve learned a lot from trusting his love.

It turns out that instead of being dependent on someone, you can value them highly. In the same way that you would be unwilling to part with an object of value and beauty, you would be unwilling to part with a person of high value and beauty.
And knowing what I value in him, I can try to foster those same things in myself. When I look at myself honestly, I can see that I am of high value. And I can feel confident that he would want to be with this good stuff that is me.

Okay, that’s the micro. What’s the macro? What do men and women need from each other? What desirable thing is it that we are particularly suited to give to each other?

Earlier this summer, I had that highly annoying conversation with a co-worker. You know the one.

“Men and women cannot be friends, because men only want to sleep with the woman.”

Basically, this argument means that men have no use for any part of a woman except…well, you know what I mean.

He brought it up, because I’d met someone who I thought was interesting but who obviously was attracted to me. I’d hoped that he might get over it and be a friend.

“OH no,” co-worker said. “Let me tell you something about men: they never want to be your friend.”

I brought up examples and hypothetical situations. It was a slow day, and we were getting into it. But he was adamant. Friendship was impossible.

I threw this back at him, “So what you’re saying is, while I want to be friends with a guy, he has no interest in my conversation or friendship. Since I am nothing to him, the only thing I’m going to get out of interactions is whatever entertainment I can create….So I should be the biggest possible bitch so that I can get maximum entertainment value.”

The rest of the guys were laughing, but he wouldn’t back down. “I’m telling you, guys do not want to be friends. Ever.”

Well, that made me depressed for a few days afterwards. Upon reflection, I took away two things:

Guys who have that conversation with females are hoping for something. Note to self: avoid that sort of discussion. It’s just an excuse for guys to talk about sex. I thought I had learned that lesson my first year in college, but I guess I forgot. Or hoped that maturity was more widespread than it is.

Guys who hold that belief have no clue what to do with the huge amorphous feelings they have about women.
Women are highly desirable, but barely understood. The desire they feel is so scary, they try to cover they metaphorical nakedness with this little insufficient scrap called “sex.”

If they have an answer, they can stop asking the question. It matters little that the answer is wrong (or at the least, insufficient). They can put to rest the discomfort of their ignorance with it.

So that leads to another question. What is it that women give men?

I once knew this guy. He was a friend of my ex. He was the most misogynistic young man (~26) I have ever met. He literally had no interest in anything I had to say. I was a woman, and did not count.

It was kind of stunning to realize this. He was never rude, but he treated me as if I were his friend’s cat–simply not a source of intelligence.

He had been dating a 16 year-old (get this, ASIAN). Typical stereo-type. How much more controlling can you be? It was a half-step removed from a mail-order bride. He got married her when she told him he’d gotten her pregnant.

I’d never met her, even though we knew this guy for years while they were dating.

Long story short, after baby boy was almost 2, turned out that wifey had had a boyfriend they whole time and the child was his. She left Mr. Misogynist. He was devastated.

During this bad time, after his wife and erst-while son had left him, he called to talk to my (then) husband. When I told him I was the only one home, he wanted to talk.

I thought he had brought this disaster on himself somewhat, but I felt bad for him. I knew he was hurting.

But the amazing thing is, he wanted to talk to ME.
The woman he had no use for. The female who might as well have stayed in the kitchen and walked three steps behind for all he cared.

He really wanted to talk to me. He really really wanted to hear words from a kind female. That was all. We talked about small things for maybe 45 minutes.

He needed what I had. He needed womanhood.

I don’t know the boundaries of what masculinity and femininity are. I suspect they are not hard and fast.

But we need each other. And we need each other to be strong and independent in order to receive the good stuff from each other. I think that if we could learn to work together like that, the whole world would change and be beautiful.

Potty dance


It’s happened. Missy Puppy has found me. As soon as I came through the door and leaned over to look at the collection of female puppies, she put her paw out to me.

As consideration, it turned out that she was the prettiest, softest one. And she had the biggest paws.

Lucy really wanted to be with me.

She has come home and the cat is mostly avoiding her. Which is good.

She likes her cage, she loves the backyard. She likes to chew things, and she likes her toys. Frog and Ball are very popular.

She is learning what we expect from her, and we are learning the subtleties of the puppy potty dance.

Nothing new under the sun

This week, I read an article about General Eikenberry’s plans to get Afghanistan on track. He wants money, not men.

Eikenberry is in charge of the occupation of Afghanistan, and he has to figure out a way to do that. His proposal is to build a highway system. As I recal from the WSJ article, he says “where the roads end, the Taliban begin.” He believes that having a roads to the different Afghan cities will make it easier to get to them, and therefore eaiser to rout the Taliban from them.

ALSO: the roads would be built by Afghani people. That means that instead of taking up arms to fight americans troops, the young men could be building a better afghanistan by making roads that will allow communication and commerce. They could have some money in their pocket and the satisfaction of a hard day’s work.

This is GENIUS.

Remember the movie A Bridge on the River Kwai ? I’ll never forget the part where the guy in charge say, “If there wasn’t a bridge we’d have to invent one.” He was saying that the troops needed something to DO, to keep up their morale and stay sharp.

Unemployement for young men…for anybody, really…is a terrible thing. People were meant to have something to do. And we are happiest when we are doing something we are proud of.

The ideological call (in the form of religious extremism) toward war and destruction will be a lot quieter if there is another voice in the room. The voice that says ‘Get up and get to work!’

I don’t know that much about Islam, but I’ve spent a little time thinking about destructive ideological extremism. Do you know that about a hundred years ago, the Western world was terrified about terrorist extremists too? They were suicidal too.

At that time they were known as Anarchists, and eventually Communists. And they were no joke! One of them even assasinated President McKinley.

Think about that. What would be the reaction in America if our President were killed by the current brand of terrorist? In my way of thinking, it is comparable to the 9/11 attack.

so…what was the response to the terrorist threat of the anarchists? Reading Marx and the people who were revolutionized by the message of anarchy, I see that they weren’t kidding about attacking the foundations of power. In fact, they were ruthless in their assesment of who was evil and deserved to die.

They had their eye on King Humbert of Italy.

Humbert was a nice guy. He was a decent king. In them minds of the left-wing Anarchists of the time, he was all the more dangerous for that very reason. They felt that any kind of monarchy was evil, and the fact that he made monarchy look okay made him the more reprehensible.

They assasinated him.

[the reason I learned of Humbert is because he is obliquely referenced in Nabokov’s Lolita. Humbert Humbert is the main character. Nabokov being from Russia and active in leftist circles, he couldn’t resist this jab]

Well, back to the reaction of this extremely dangerous ideological movement. What should be done about them? What did America do in reaction to these murderous extremists?

History tells us. It’s been more than a hundred years. We lived through the Pinkerton oppresion of the unions (a leftist-anarchist movement!).

And then the McCarthyism HUAC: “Are you now and have you ever been a member of the communist party?”

and, most overarching…The cold war

Have we not already been living in an ideological war for decades and decades? Didn’t we use the methods of capitalist colonialism to further our ideology?

My parents tell me of living in Tanzania during the 60s…They saw the battle of american democracy vs. socialism on the ground.

Kingsolver tells the story so well in The Poisonwood Bible.

We did that. America did that, in some kind of tussle with the ideology that began with the anarchists. Ideology is not a light thing. The footprints of the steps taken seem to deepen as the history accumulates.

and there is a tendency towards overweening despair when I look at it.

But let’s not get too excited. We are where we are. We stand on the ground. What does our hand find to do?

Exactly. What can we do? What can everyone do?

get to work. Build a road.

57 South before the 10

I am quite familiar with the problems of thinking too hard. And the best remedy for that abyss is a project. Hard work.

Gives you something else to think about.

Go Eikenberry Go. That’s a brilliant Idea. I really hope that he gets to do it.

Marx and Metropolis

The first few scenes in Metropolis show the working classes at the moment of their shift change on the Machine. The shabby black coveralls sagging on the human frames that render them indistinctly craven—one phalanx shuffles off while the next shuffles in.

But the sons of the ones profiting from these wretches are up in the light, healthy and robust. Naturally, one son is inspired to descend into the depth to find out who is paying the cost of his privilege.

With him, we see the men working on the machine. They are stacked in alcoves up and down the sheer face of the machine, bouncing off their walls, lifting, bowing, turning wheels and pulling levers.

But when the hero rushes to his father to confront him about these horrible conditions, he bursts in on his father in his office.

The men in the office are actively hunching over their desks, and bobbing up and down to see and compare the numbers scrolling on the wall. Their clean and well tailored suits are not distinct enough to really tell them apart.

The movie is an extremely unsubtle call to leave behind amoral capitalism for a kinder more humane approach to industry.

It’s a really old movie. Silent, even.

It’s quaint, because work doesn’t look like that anymore. I guess maybe it used to, back when men lined up next to a machine for their 8 hour (if they were union) shift.

But my job looks more like the guys in the suit next to the ticker tape walls. Communism didn’t really win, but this is the face of capitalism I see as a wage monkey.

The news is full of how this is the year everyone is going to get a new job. Or demand better conditions. We are never so well off that we could not be better off.

What is it we want? I guess some people are okay with spending the time it takes to get their office chair to accept the exact contour of their buttocks.

I’m not so okay with that.

What stories are we telling ourselves about what this work is for? Should it be enough that we eat and stay warm? It’s not enough for the people I know. We want more!

A car! And not just any car…A home…a set of fancy matched mathoms.

…I don’t think this is what Marx had in mind…

But who is Karl to tell us what we want? Maybe Karl Marx is not so relevant as other Karls .

all the leaves are brown

Andthe sky is blue.

It’s winter in LA and we are in a cold snap. So cold, in fact, that it got below freezing.

Which means that many many plants are having a lot of trouble. It just doesn’t freeze here. It hasn’t been this cold since the 30s.

So, beware. Citrus fruits are going to be expensive soon. Stock up on marmalade.

As for me, I hope my hibiscus make it.

a tufa on modernism and marriage

Hmmm…thoughts are floating around in my head today.

On the way in to work, I listened to Instapundit’s podcast on Marriage and Caste. Ms. Hymowitz has a lot to say, and talks about how marriage is a very valued institution in America.

She also mentions that in the 50s, people got married even younger than ever before. Younger than now, that’s for sure. My best research says ladies got married at age 20, on average.

Now…about the 50s…I spent this week sick at home in my cute house.

That house that I love so much and am renovating to look modern, just like the time period it was built, in 1950.

It is staggering, how much was changing in the 50s. They talk about the 60s being a time of revolution, but that was just the people catching up with…well…everything!

okay, the teens and 20s were wild and crazy and full of ideas and wealth. Yes, the wealth and ideas were churned by the Great War, what we now call world war one. Hopelessness, the Flu that killed almost anyone that was left standing after the trenches were abandoned.

Meaning? God? What did that mean to anyone at those times? Wild and free to be…wild and free.

But then the depression knocked the wind out of everyone. Resources? Invention? Everyone was too busy making sure they could eat.

Well, Hitler came along and saved us all by being as evil as anyone could be. Hooray! Let’s fight him. Let’s everybody fight him.

And in doing so, the economy got back on it feet. There was fighting to be done. And work to be done at home, Rosie. There are ships to put together, and enough work for even the ladies to have paying jobs.

They worked, and they worked together. Everyone sacrificed for a reason. We won the war, evil was smashed and the world was once again as it should be.

But all the pressure that the century had put on people up to that point exploded into the 50s.

It’s hard for me to understand how modern the Modern age of 1950 was. How very very much had changed as how fast.

I was researching paint. They said that there were colors that were invented for the first time, because they had the chemical know-how then. That the pinks and pastels and bright colors finally got to be used.

The war had rationed even colors.

And the depression…well, that was entirely in Black and White. Like Fred and Ginger.

Refrigerators and washing machines. And those incredible cars! Modern and sleek and dreamy.

And what did people want to do with this beautiful new world of promise?

they wanted to get married. and live in little houses with a yard and a garage.


and as soon as possible, thank you very much.

We look back at these stories. Ozzie and Harriet. Leave it to Beaver.

I’ve always thought of them as traditional. But they were not. They were very very modern.

which is kinda blowing my mind right now.

On the other hand, why not have a cute little family in a safe little house that has every comfort in it? In so many ways, isn’t that the pinnacle of what we could wish for?

Not the 60s kids, though. They had to tear it down. They wished for anything but.

maybe because they already had it.


marshmallow man gives us a mean look

Well, this is Death Valley after all.

if anyplace gives you a reason to look tough, Death Valley should be one of them.

I am wishing that I were tougher than I am today. My tonsils are sqeeaazing my voice into a small whisper or squeak.

I am pale and mostly weak. Which means that all the things I would like to be doing, I must forgo. No more working on the door refinish project.

I must REST.

and no cleaning out the house in preparation of the puppy.

I must REST.

“Can I take a rest from resting?”


but I can, while on hold with the telephony people here at work, admire the face of marshmallow man, making his tough I’m-a-cowboy face.

I can imagine that he will turn around and say “Howdy little Lady…” in his I-was-raised-in-L.A.-but-born-in-Texas accent.

It makes the hold music more bearable.

“…Thank you for calling the helpdesk. Please be prepared to provide your national user ID, a description of the problem, your computer ID and any error message on your equipment. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order recieved by the next available help desk representative….”

At least it’s not the same hold music as they have for the conference-call line. This is classical music; the stuff from the conference calls is new age electronic music.

Well, I’m prepared, but the hold lingers on…

Why does nobody listen? Why does nobody care?

Christmas was great this year. Chris raided the rubble of Tower’s fall and came up with some good CD stocking stuffers.

But he also asked me for an obscure import he’d heard about:

Labrador “Instamatic Lovelife”

…proving once again that I will never ever be able to reliably guess what sort of music this man likes.

Basically, Labrador sounds a lot like the pet shop boys if they were from Denmark and hadn’t mastered English. There’s something abba-esque about the lyrics. And the pronunciation.

“…that you will try to listen…that you will try to see…all the things I stand for…’cause I know you’re fond of me

Fond of me

Why does nobody listen? Why does nobody care? It’s love and disaster…”

When we sat to listen to the CD, I poked Chris and said, “You’re fond of me…”

“Oh…” he said. “When I first heard that I thought he was saying, ‘I know you from the Flea’…I thought the Flea might be some local nightclub.”

John Donne and the metaphysical poets ran through my head. “The Flea!” I giggled.

The next day I said “Don’t I know you from somewhere? From the Flea?”

The Tower liquidation had some good stuff, too. Remember Toad the Wet Sprocket? “All I Want”? That video is one that I got to see on Asian MTV when I lived in Mirnyy.

Well, the lead singer for Toad the Wet Sprocket has a solo album: glen Phillips “albulum”

It’s alright. Of course, it’s a little moody and college (following the steps of TTWS). The song “Fred Meyers” brought back fond memories of that Wal-mart-type store that I shopped at in Alaska–exactly the opposite of the intended effect of the song, which was meant to be a railing against big box stores.

But the big winner was Dar Williams’s new one “My Better Self.” Chris introduced me to Dar a long time ago, and we even got to see her in concert at the Warfield in San Francisco.

The first song ‘Teen for God’ was so chillingly dead on that it’s hard to listen to. That’s Dar for you:

“Dear Lord I plan each day
the things I will not do or say
But I’m driven by a passion—is it only there to tame?
It fills my heart and it calls my name, and
This world that you made for us,
I know I know it’s dangerous
So I ride a lot of horses I never even swear
It’s sort of like praying I’m just not there”

Bone on bone…that’s how she can hit you sometimes. Probably good PMS music, when you need something to cry about.

There is another album I didn’t get yet. I found it on a commercial, one of those geico caveman commercials. The group is Royksopp and the song is “Remind Me

I’ll be ordering it soon, but check out the link. I think the video is way cool.

Footnote: I just watched the whole Toad the Wet Sprocket video again. Holy God, they are so young. _I_ was so young..a 19 year old zygote. I shudder to think of that time. I will never be that young again. Thank God for that.
Yay and Amen