Little Baby Something Else Entirely

A friend of mine who has been a big Manics fan for years just posted this cover of “Little Baby Nothing.”

I don’t know why I always liked this song. It’s not like the lyrics are terribly sweet, they’re actually a little fucked up, with lines like “Your lack of ego offends male mentality/They need your innocence/To steal vacant love and to destroy/Your beauty and virginity used like toys,” “We are the useless sluts that they mow,” or “Hopelessly passive and compatible.” But something about it hits my happy trigger. It’s partly a nostalgia thing, but partly the fact that the song has some great anthemic qualities.

I tried to find a video of the original to put up, but failed, so you’ll just have to imagine.

Thing is, the original has Traci Lords (yes, THAT Traci Lords) singing the female parts. And when it’s a successful porn star (in the process of trying to break into legitimate showbiz), the lyrics I mentioned above simply read differently than they would when someone else sings them. But then to have a cover with an Asian female singing it in broken English just takes that idea to such an extreme, it messes with my head. Apparently the band is known for playing with erotica, so maybe she was trying to do the same thing as Lords, but the reality is most Western audiences aren’t going to know that, and are only going to read it in the context of Asian female sexual stereotypes.

Or am I just geeking out too far on this and should just judge it on the merits of whether or not it’s a successful cover? If nothing else, it sure made me think more than I would have with any other kind of band doing the cover…

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Easter feast — with pictures!

Happy Easter, for all the Easter celebrating-type peeps. I’m not religious at all, but I grew up Catholic, and went to a Catholic university, so Easter get-togethers with uni friends and their families are kind of a nice thing to do.  If nothing else, it’s a super fun excuse for me to cook for a big gang, which I rarely get to do! I couldn’t decide what to make for the Easter feast, because what actually is traditional Easter food? Sure, I get the idea of ham and/or lamb, and I love me some lamb, but someone else already had the ham covered, and it was meant to be a picnic, so between the expense of lamb (not to mention two meat dishes that rhyme) and the difficulty of cooking and then transporting, I went another way.

Eggs seemed both appropriate and picnic-worthy, and I’ve never done deviled eggs before, so that was a fun project for me. I ended up going with a horseradish version to make it more fun, and they were delicious and got completely eaten — although I did learn the importance of cooking with eggs that aren’t too old. Peeling old eggs is all kinds of no fun! Here’s what I used:
A dozen hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup mayo
2 T horseradish
1 t dill weed
½ t ground mustard seed
1/4 t salt
Black pepper to taste
2 small green onions finely chopped

I used a ziplock baggie with the corner cut off to pipe the mixture into the egg whites, and garnished with a dash of paprika and more finely chopped green onion. Look, they came out pretty!

Less appropriate, but something the host was very interested in, was my spicy asian slaw. I’ve done this a few times before and it’s always been good, but this one worked extra well. The dressing is a mixture of soy sauce, plain white vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, ginger, and some chili garlic paste to give it some heat. I play around with it till the ratios taste good, then mix in some olive oil. Before the oil goes in it also makes an excellent marinade for tofu, and I suppose other things as well. Plus, it’s vegan, yay! Here’s what else to do:

Shred 3-5 carrots

Slice 4-6 mushrooms

Shred about ½ head cabbage

Slice and quarter one cucumber. Realize at this point that a much larger container is going to be necessary, even though this happens every single time and I still always start it in the same bowl.

Chop 2-3 green onions

And then the secret weapon, toast sesame seeds to mix in, yum!

It’s best to make this a few hours before serving, so the mushrooms have time to get “cooked” by the dressing (or at least I like them that way). However, because the cucumbers tend to suck the flavor out over time, if you make it too far ahead it won’t be as good. Or you could always just add the cucumbers at the last minute. And I’m sure yellow and red bell peppers would look and taste lovely in this, except I don’t really care for them so I left it out.

For dessert, I made something kind of as a joke because the recipe I had seen looked terrifying yet delicious. It is known by the disturbing moniker of “pretzel salad,” and you can find tons of recipes online. I combined several for my version. Basically, you start with a bottom crust of crushed pretzels baked with sugar and butter.

You then add a middle layer of cream cheese and cool whip and more sugar.

For the final layer, frozen strawberries are suspended in double-strength jello.

Look, layers!

It was surprisingly good, as one might expect for a salty-sweet-fruity dessert, but I don’t know that I’ll make it again, except maybe by request. A salad it ain’t, but at least it was quick and easy!

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Bittersweet birthday

I made some great food for Easter this year, and even took pictures, but I will save that for later, because there’s something more important I have to do. Today is my brother’s birthday. He died in the summer of 1995. His birthday and that day’s anniversary can be rough for me, though usually it’s not a big deal. But this year it hit me hard, so today’s post is for Jack.

Golden boy: smart, athletic, good-looking, a great artist, great singer, charismatic, kind, he was the kind of person everyone wanted around. Oh there were problems; he wasn’t the perfect guy he appeared to be, but he kept his demons to himself as much as he could and tried not to make his problems be anyone else’s. I know I loved him, wanted to be like him, to be around him and his friends.

People talk a lot about families and unconditional love. My family’s a little weird, and I didn’t necessarily feel that stuff from my parents; Jack was where I got that, and when he died I lost that safety, on top of losing this amazing person. I miss him all the time, he’s so much a part of the fabric of my life. Almost every story I tell about my childhood involves him in some way, and I have been so much influenced by who he was and how he lived, good and bad. It was a devastating loss, and I don’t know that I’ve ever really recovered from it.

There’s so much more to his story and mine and how I feel about all of it, and so few words to adequately capture everything. I don’t really talk about it except with the people I’m really close to, but it’s with me every day in some way or another. Some days I may not think about those bits of him that follow me as I go about my life, and some days the emotion and reality of it washes over me in an uncontrollable wave. Today’s the latter kind, obviously.

I love you. And knowing how you loved me allowed me to be the person I’m most proud of, and for that I am forever grateful. I was so lucky to have a truly amazing brother. And there are no words to express how terribly, how desperately I miss you. And today it needed to be said.

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Notes on Netflix and its notions

Netflix amuses me. I recently watched Notes on a Scandal, which was excellent, and now it’s trying to match me with other movies. It has decided that the two relevant categories are unrequited love and forbidden love. I’m not going to spoil the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it — I’ve had too many enjoyable movies spoiled for me by thoughtless people so I try pretty hard not to do that — but I will say that those are *not* the primary themes of the movie! It’s definitely dark and disturbing, but I still highly recommend it: beautifully acted, really thought-provoking, and I love me some Bill Nighy.

And while I’m there, can I just say that I refuse to believe in unrequited love? If it’s one-sided, it’s simply not love! Infatuation, a crush, an obsession, affection, sure, but not romantic love. Because at the end of the day, wanting to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you? Not a healthy way to be. And probably a really good indication that it’s time for some reevaluating. That’s why when two people break up it’s not good for one of them to beg to get back together. Because even if the initiator of the breakup capitulates, the other person is admitting they’re okay with being with someone who doesn’t want to be with them. Everybody deserves better than that. Everybody deserves to be with someone who wants them, and who doesn’t have to be convinced or bullied into it. So unrequited love? Just means you don’t respect yourself enough to admit you deserve better.

But I’m not this much of a hardass on other days, so it’s possible my view may be softer next time I think this one through.

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workout woes

Exercising this year has been so rewarding and so frustrating. Tonight I tweaked my shoulder climbing on the ceiling at the gym (it’s a very low ceiling, but that kind of climbing is still a tad above my normal ability level) and while I think it’s going to be fine, it’s just reminding me how much my body has not been cooperating with my plan of getting into awesome shape this year.

I realize that I’m closer to 40 than I am to 30, but I’ve been smart and careful about my exercising. I eased into things, I did extra workouts at home to prep for the harder stuff like rock climbing, I’ve been doing extra home workouts to build up my abs and shoulders and lower back to stave off injuries, and still nothing seems like enough. I’ve already had to quit running this year because of a mystery hip problem. (This may be related to my previously broken ankle; otherwise I’ve never had any joint issues before.)

The shoulder thing seems minor, and I don’t think it’s going to be an ongoing problem. I torqued it when my feet dropped off the horizontal surface I was climbing on, and it’s a pretty unnatural motion. It felt like my feet were wrong when I was going for the hold, so it’s comforting to know that my instincts count for something. And my hands are good, my arm and upper back muscles are building, as are my leg muscles. But I’m still unable to tame my lower back pain. I stretch at home, I do mild exercises to build up some strength without hurting anything, and nothing helps!

I’m simply not willing to admit the possibility that I might have to forgo climbing any overhang routes until this gets better, because those are the routes that have made me a better, stronger, and more confident climber.

I need to find something good — and free or nearly so — that can supplant the running (biking simply doesn’t offer the same impact) and until I can find a decent gym I can afford (more stories about this later), I need to find a good way both to get me some regular exercise and help complement the work I’m doing in the climbing gym. Aerial doesn’t count, because I know from past experience that this back pain will keep me from doing anything fun on trapeze or fabrics until it’s better. Any suggestions?

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Chasing simple pleasures

Sometimes it’s all about the pleasures of simplicity, like enjoying a perfectly crusted grilled-cheese sandwich in bed whilst comforting a cat made nervous by thunder.  Or at least, I’m trying to convince myself right now that simplicity is pleasurable. I’ve given up caffeine. Some time ago I had cut down to a single cup of black tea per day, because any more becomes an unmanageable addiction when one has a schedule to keep that may not revolve around kettles and available bathrooms. I would wake up, drink my tea, use the bathroom a few times, and be ready to go off and conquer my day.

Then something new happened. On a few occasions, I had an extra dose of caffeine. Maybe I was craving a soda to have something extra to do sitting at the laundromat. Maybe a chai seemed like a great idea walking around with out of town friends on a chilly day. Maybe those wonderful evil Clif bars with caffeine were the extra boost I needed on a hard climbing day. Whatever the reason, I did it.

And I was flying. Such a delicious feeling, energy coursing through me, like being on drugs but in the most. fun. way. ever. And I suppose it is a drug, just one that most of us are so inured to that we almost never get to experience it that way.

I decided I wanted access to that feeling all the time. Which of course meant that I needed to get rid of the base levels of caffeine in my body so that when I consume it, it has that instantaneous, magical effect that excites me so much. Which of course meant that I would have to quit drinking caffeine, and break my addiction. This, as you might imagine, has been no fun whatsoever.

After a week or so of drinking green tea instead of black, I decided to simply get rid of all of it, and picked a weekend where I had nothing else to do but catch up on the last season of Doctor Who and read the internet. Yesterday’s headache was unbearable and I fear I was quite unpleasant in the grocery store, but today was slightly better, and I’ve been smart enough to stay locked in my room most of the time lest I bite the heads off any unsuspecting roommates or passersby. I’m almost up to date on the Doctor’s adventures, have watched a couple movies, and have been giving serious thought to my wardrobe and personal style so that my sewing experiments may be fruitful ones.

Interestingly, I found that I still (emotionally, intellectually) need a cup of tea in the morning, at least for the time being. I also generally have one at night, but that’s always been herbal. It doesn’t seem right to drink chamomile or peppermint or otherwise bedtime-appropriate teas upon waking, so I’ve got myself some red zinger (a perennial favorite) and something called AM detox tea, which I’m still on the fence about. The vanilla covers some of the less savory flavors in the herbal blend, except I’m really not terribly fond of vanilla. But tea companies don’t seem to cater much to the decaf market beyond zingers and bedtime teas. Or decaf versions of classic teas, but who wants that?

I can’t wait till the detox period is over and I am fully and completely rid of the caffeine, just so that I can experience the high in its pure, unadulterated form. I’m going to Florida in a few weeks, and I can guarantee one of the first things I plan to do is get a bottle of Barq’s root beer (which seems to be unobtainable in NYC) and go running off into the city with my old friends. Hooray for the fun of legal drugs! Simplicity at its finest.

Or at least I hope, because this process had better not have been for nothing!

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I learned something important today. That lesson is: I should not go rock climbing in shorts. This shouldn’t have been a huge surprise; my inner knees and shins tend to be permanently covered in bruises of varying shades ranging from purple to green to faded yellow. What I didn’t realize is that the knee bruises tend to be collected not by clumsily knocking my knees against the wall, as I would have expected (after all, I’m the girl who regularly whacks my shoulder on doorframes because apparently I can’t aim my body), but by actively using my knees as a sort of camming device against the wall while repositioning. The bad news: bare knees + concrete stucco walls = bruised knees now covered in a lovely patina of red scraped-off skin. Yum!

Shorts was kind of an odd choice anyway, as it tends not to be something I do terribly often. I had a favorite old sleeveless tshirt that tends on the short side — as tops generally do when one is tall, narrow, and very long-waisted — and my climbing jeans have started to sag considerably as I lost a bit of weight this winter, so I needed something appropriately high-waisted. Enter the olive drab cutoffs that evoke every female character on M*A*S*H*, and I wasn’t running around with my belly hanging out plus I felt cute. Fashion-wise, it was a win, but next time I’ll just wear a different shirt, it’s not worth the scrapes!

I have half a mind to give up on shorts altogether. Ever since the long walking shorts (Bermudas? whatever) were all the rage in 1988 I’ve felt like shorts do strange things to my body proportions that make me uncomfortable. The only exception to that was a pair of denim cutoffs that I wore to death in the latter half of high school and part of college. They were what came to be known as daisy dukes, only not tight anywhere but the waistband, and as a Florida girl spending my days on the beach and a bike in a bikini top, I lived in them. Sadly, I no longer have the thighs I did at 19 (I know, shocking), and I think my days of short shorts are over, no matter how many boyfriends tell me different.

Even in the hottest Georgia summers when I spent at least an hour every morning riding my bike flat-out around town, guzzling lemon water all the way, I still didn’t wear shorts, opting instead for jeans rolled just below my knees. I don’t care how many Brooklyn hipsters are doing it now with their painted-on skinny jeans, those short-rolled jeans have been my uniform for almost a decade, and I like the look and the feel on me, and they sure beat shorts! No uncomfortable back-of-thighs-sticking-to-chairs feeling, no worries about temperature changes going from indoors to outdoors in scorching heat and freezing air conditioning, and they still show off my cute flats and bare ankles. Now I just have to find a way to dress that up so it’s office-appropriate, if I ever get a job. Or I could just start wearing skirts all summer, which is a very high probability since I intend to spend spring and summer sewing as many skirts and dresses as I can manage with my limited skills.

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