Triticum Turgidum

Lying Dormant and Waiting to Bloom Since 2005

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Location: The Prairie, Illinois, United States

I am a beauty-loving ambidextrous higher-order primate who learned transcendental meditation at 7, statistical analysis at 23, tap dancing at 30, and piano at 35. I tolerate gluten, lactose, and differences of opinion, but not abuse. Or beets.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


My Latest (and Greatest) Acquisition

Signature by VIP Room. I ordered it unsniffed from after reading that it was a leather scent. I luuuuuuurve leather.

Here's the luckyscent scoop:

Limited to 3, 000 limited edition bottles, VIP Room is a sensualist’s dream. It opens with a reserved tiare flower, vanilla and musk, and soon gives way to a butter-soft sueded leather, evoking elegant evenings leading into luxurious nights. Add sandalwood to the mix and you’ve got… utter perfection that goes far beyond the hype. Warm, chic and elegant… and just a little naughty. Notes: tiare flower, bergamot, tangerine, pineapple, sandalwood, vetiver, birch, iris root, leather, styrax, amber, vanilla, musk.

The tangerine, tiare, and pineapple had me worried. Turns out I needn't have feared: the sharp and heady notes are so well blended that together with the leather, amber, and sandalwood, they create the impression of silky soft, almost honeyed suede with none of that "masculine" edginess that characterizes most leather scents. This is truly a second skin scent, warm and elegant at once, and I think it would smell equally wonderful on women and men. (Try not to focus on the fact that the second skin in question belongs--er, belonged--to a cow and not a human, and avoid pondering what exactly it is about leather that smells so good anyway, given that the scent of leather isn't the scent of skin--animal or human--but the essence of the chemicals used to preserve it. Yum. Permanent marker, anyone?)

Anyhoo, the cool part is that my bottle is one of the 3000 individually numbered. My number is 1895. In a desperate attempt to attach some significance to this number, I dredged up my Timetables of American History (New Third Revised Edition) and looked up the year 1895. Here's a sampling of the year's events:

H.G. Wells published The Time Machine.
Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist, reformer, and orator, died.
The London School of Economics was founded.
First complete performance of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, St. Petersburg.
Wilhelm Rontgen discovers x-rays.
Marconi invents radio telegraphy.
The Lumière brothers invent a motion picture camera.
K. C. Gillette invents the safety razor.
Babe Ruth was born.
The first U.S. Open golf championship was held.

Wow! So what should I be more thankful for today, my delicious new bottle of Signature by VIP Room or the fact that I was able to shave my legs this morning without peeling off all the skin?

The world is a lovely place.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Don't pass me by

Isn't It a Pity

I'm mortified with embarrassment. I can't believe I've been maintaining a blog for over a month and haven't posted anything about the Beatles.

They look a little miffed, but they'll get over it.

The Beatles were my early childhood. I think I can trace it back to Abbey Road playing on the 8-track in my family's very own version of the "metallic pea family truckster" from National Lampoon's Vacation (1983). Ours had wood-grain sides and a baking-hot "wayback," where the adults tucked me away for long trips. (For shorter trips I occupied the hump in the middle of the back seat because my big brothers invariably called the window seats.)

Fortunately there were speakers in the wayback. Abbey Road was released two days after I was born, in the fall of 1969, and that 8-track stayed in the car for years. By the time I was four I probably knew more Beatles songs than nursery rhymes.

The cool thing about the Beatles was that they grew with you. As a kid you loved them because the songs were fun. Yellow Submarine, anyone? Later you adored them because Paul McCartney was just. so. cute. When you developed a moody, adolescent brand of pre-feminism, John Lennon was there to guide you through. Questioning your spirituality in young adulthood? George Harrison to the rescue.

Sorry Ringo. I can't find anything to credit you with.

After paying homage to the Fab Four with a visit to Liverpool in 1984 (from which I returned with a pillowcase printed with a photo of Paul McCartney's face), I became a bit less fervent in my fanship. My former Beatlemania is now a mild case of BeatleOCD. I suppose it's a sign of recovery that I went this long without honoring them on my blog. But total recovery, which I assume would mean no references to the Beatles ever again, doesn't interest me.

So--do you like the Beatles? If so, let me know. Who's your favorite? What are your favorite albums and songs?

If you don't like the Beatles, sod off. I don't trust people who don't like the Beatles, just as I don't trust people who don't like dogs.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Wearing My Mint-Flavored Shoes

Pbttthhhhmphsppbbttt... sorry, had my foot in my mouth there.

Wouldn't you know it, I had a great time in Jackson Hole. Everyone was supportive, helpful, and complimentary. It helped that our first speaker was funny as hell--she studies media and adolescent sexuality and showed a PowerPoint slide of Miss Piggy with one nipple exposed, à la Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl. Her humorous approach set the tone for the entire weekend.

Magnificent scenery also has a way of keeping the ego in check. A few of us took the aerial tram to the top of one of the mountains in the Grand Teton range. (Those are some grand tetons, ma'am.) There we were at 10,000 feet, crunching around in the snow, huffing and puffing like out-of-shape middle-aged 2-pack-a-dayers in our jeans, tank tops, and sandals. The lack of oxygen and temperature drop (from 70 at the base of the tram to 45 at the top) made me realize how thin our atmosphere actually is. I felt so small and fragile. But it was good to feel that way.

Now I'm back on the Illinois prairie, bingeing on oxygen and enjoying the view of... uh... oxygen. The upshot is, it's a very pretty shade of blue. Plus there are some white patches. Which is nice.

Monday, June 13, 2005

No, it's not a Bob Ross painting

Jackson (Hell) Hole

This week I'm going to the Snake River Lodge & Spa in Teton Village, Wyoming.

It's not what you think. There will be no cavorting or second honeymooning. I'm going to present a summary of three years of research done in fulfillment of a grant from a very generous foundation. They treat their grantees to a yearly "retreat" in a beautiful location. Last year we were in Aspen, Colorado.

Cake, right?

Not exactly. It doesn't feel like a "retreat" when you're trying to persuade your hosts that the $300,000 they gave you was wisely spent. And the spirit of the event is one of "constructive development." Since we're a multidisciplinary crowd, what this means is that you present your ongoing research and each audience member subsequently demands to know why you aren't using the key theories and methods routinely used in THEIR field. It goes something like this:

Q: "Why didn't you cite the work of Professor Rupert T. Gasbaggia?" (incredulous tone)

Honest A: "Because I don't know who the hell he is, and I don't care. The world doesn't revolve around Gasbaggia or your field. 99.999% of the people on this earth don't know who Gasbaggia is. It would have made more sense for you to ask me why I didn't cite Madonna."

Diplomatic A: "Hmmm... good idea. I cited the work that I thought was most relevant, but now that you mention it, I see it was an error of the highest order to have overlooked Gasbaggia. Thanks!" (bright smile followed by mental resolution NOT to cite Gasbaggia)

From my fear of being attacked during my talk by my pleasant but overly educated, narcissistic, and competitive companions (hey, it takes one to know one) to my fear of not being ABLE to give a talk due to altitude-induced vomiting and diarrhea, I'm a bit of a basket case.

Ah well, at least I get to wear jeans and comfortable shoes.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Prankster theory

For Love of Pranks

Pranks! by Re/Search Publications is one of my favorite books. I read it at the suggestion of an artist friend. It consists of a collection of interviews with artists, performers, and other "countercultural" individuals describing their philosophy of the value of pranks. The description of the book reads as follows:

"A prank is a 'trick, a mischievous act, a ludicrous act.' Although not regarded as poetic or artistic acts, pranks constitute an art form and genre in themselves. Here pranksters such as Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman, Monte Cazazza, Jello Biafra, Earth First!, Joe Coleman, Karen Finley, John Waters and Henry Rollins (and more) challenge the sovereign authority of words, images and behavioral convention. This iconoclastic compendium will dazzle and delight all lovers of humor, satire and irony."

And it does. But it’s thought-provoking too. What all of the interviewees seem to have in common is their regard for pranks as tools for temporarily overturning the status quo, or at least making it visible. So-called “pranks" that reinforce and maintain the status quo – like fraternity hazing – don’t fall into this category because they hurt their targets and serve no social or artistic purpose other than to remind said targets of the existing power structure and their lowly place in its pecking order. According to the folks interviewed in the book, one of the key "rules" of socially constructive pranks is that they must not harm anyone. (Mild embarrassment, alas, is not considered harm.)

One of the most articulate interviewees on this topic is Jerry Casale of the band Devo. Remember those red flowerpot hats? Are we not men? We are Devo. He describes a situation in which a bank president sets up a bookkeeper to get busted for breaking into a vacation house he thought was his to stay in. As Casale explains:

"That was a prank which I thought was regressive, an infantile prank. It wasn’t subverting reality to forward evolution. This was white jocks at play. (A good prank) calls into question every illegitimately held belief that’s really inhumane. A prank is a mirror… a prank is just a readout of the mentality in question. A prank is really an ancient form of performance art. In this society people just try to limit it to idiotic acts like the bucket of shit (over a door), or the hand in the lukewarm water. The hand-in-the-water infantile joke reflects the quality of information in all the small, tormented, repressed minds that run society. It’s the same guys who hire the naked girl to come out of the cake at their board meeting. What should come out of the cake is a transvestite who has had hormone injections for tits, but has a big cock and balls AND a blazing submachine gun."

I love the way this man thinks.

He goes on to explain that Devo itself was a prank. Casale and his bandmates would purposely book themselves in arenas that did not typically draw the electronica-nerd contingent that comprised Devo’s fan base. Instead, they would deliberately choose hair-band clubs populated with heavy metal fans for the sole purpose of forcing the electronica geeks and metal-loving burnouts to interact with one another. Fun!

My electronica geek friends and I had the extreme good fortune to be the targets of such a prank in the 1980s when we went to see Devo play at a Detroit club called Harpo’s. Harpo’s is, quite frankly, the scummiest place in Detroit. We laughed out loud when we heard that DEVO had been booked at HARPO’S! What idiot planned that? (Remember, I hadn’t read Pranks! yet.)

So we went. And we watched. The heavy-metal types who had never heard of Devo stood and glowered against one wall; the pocket-protector types with plastic flowerpot hats blinked nervously from the other wall. Would a fight break out? Would the evening’s end find the floor littered with cracked plastic flowerpots and bits of smashed calculator? Or would Burnout and Nerd look beyond appearances and embrace each other, drawn together by a love of absurd music and the gross misperception that a band named Devo must play heavy metal music? I was hoping, dreamily, for the kind of connection the high school beauty queen, nerd, jock, freak, and hoodlum made after a day in detention in the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club.

What actually happened was somewhere in the middle. The music started and the nerds rushed the mosh pit while the burnouts hung back against the wall, appalled. They were reluctant to leave because they’d paid a cover charge, so they lingered unhappily. Occasionally one would holler “Devo SUCKS!” but otherwise there were no altercations. My friends and I were up front with the rest of the nerds, dancing and trying to catch an Oscar Mayer weiner Mark Mothersbaugh had pulled from his meltdown suit and tossed into our midst. (I was this close to catching it.)

The idea that the members of Devo were playing a prank on their entire audience by forcing us to acknowledge a key aspect of the teen status quo – that metalheads and geeks must never occupy the same social space – never crossed my mind. I thought it was a colossal mistake, albeit a highly entertaining one. But I did leave thinking about how odd it was to have such socially different crowds in one space, and wondering why we had to classify ourselves so narrowly that the prospect of being in the same place together was almost unthinkable. But in the end I guess that was Jerry’s point:

"(As the target of a prank), if you end up seeing further into or through a situation, then the prank was a lesson; the prank was the vehicle for giving you a new insight. A prank only victimizes to the degree that people are attached to their level of reality—that’s what it’s really about. The more uptight and constipated someone is about their reality, the more the prank is offensive. The consequence in reality never outweighs the information gained through the prank. After all, the victim walks away. The victim is not hurt—only psychologically—but for his own good. Of course I’m thinking of good pranks, not regressive jock pranks."

Thanks Jerry. I appreciate the lesson.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Do they make anise flavor too?

For Love of Candy

I have loved candy since childhood.

My mom, bowing to the late 60s - early 70s trend toward "natural" foods--and, pray tell, what exactly makes carob (gag) more natural than chocolate?--strictly forbade candy in the house. Sugared cereals were out too. Ditto white sugar.

Mom would sling one of her giant macramé purses over her shoulder and stride confidently into the health food store in search of turbinado sugar, whole-grain bread, unsweetened yogurt, and fruit. Her favorite staple was Health Nut Bread, which, as I recall, resembled a mass of grains and nuts dredged in dirt.

Meanwhile Dad would manage to sneak a package of Nutter Butters into the grocery cart and polish the entire thing off for breakfast before we even knew it was in the house.

Dad's genes, Mom's tight-fisted dietary control, and the introduction of an allowance into my brothers' and my weekly learning-the-ways-of-self-sufficiency curriculum resulted in an inevitable pattern of lamentably delinquent, sugar-centered behaviors on our part.

First there was the hoarding. Jon--troubled middle child--would grab whatever food items had the most sugar right from the grocery bag like a little Artful Dodger and hide them in his room where Todd and I couldn't find them. On Sundays Dad might treat us to a dozen doughnuts (included the dreaded, hated-by-everyone crullers), but Todd and I would only have access to four or five--usually crullers--because Jon had already swiped as many of the good ones as his grimy hands could hold and darted off to the woods to eat them undisturbed. To be fair, the kid was painfully skinny and could not keep the weight on.

Along with the hoarding came the squandering. All three of us spent our entire allowances on candy. My own weekly allotment was $1.25. In the mid 1970s the best, top-of-the-line candy bars were $.25 each, so $1.25 could buy a few of those plus an assortment of lesser candies and even a bottle of Faygo (overly sweetened Detroit soda--sorry, pop). My favorite candy bar was the Marathon Bar. It consisted of three strands of chewy caramel, loosely braided and draped in chocolate. The ad claimed that Marathon Bars "went on and on and on..." but the real thing was only 5" long. Such a disappointment.

Other candies and sweets I loved: Sugar Babies (more caramel) , Faygo Rock 'n' Rye (hard to describe--sort of like a black-cherry flavored cream soda), Bub's Daddy gum (in wild flavors like green apple before anybody else made such flavors), Milk Duds (I obviously had a thing for caramel), and a chocolate bar whose name I forget now. It had tiny bubbles throughout so it dissolved on the tongue, like a forerunner of the modern-day Aero bar. When I couldn't find it I'd buy Malted Milk Balls because they featured a similar dissolving action. And who could forget Pop Rocks? Those were introduced in the late 70s or early 80s and were like crack to my prepubertal friends and me.

In spite of my sugar addiction there were some candies I hated with a passion. Mounds and Almond Joy: gag. Coconut? Nuts?! Disgusting. Circus Peanuts: double gag. Orange-colored, peanut-shaped, fake-banana-flavored. Who came up with that? Boston Baked Beans. This one defies explanation. It's right up there with Chick-o-Stick. I realize these candies weren't actually made to taste like baked beans and chicken, but their names were enough to make me swear I could detect their namesake ingredients somewhere in the depths of their sugary flavors. Frankly, I'd rather eat a booger-flavored Bertie Bott's Every Flavor jelly bean. I'm not sure I could be persuaded to eat a segment of Collon though.


Fast forward 30 years.

Guess who lives primarily on oats, Ezekiel Bread, lean meats and poultry, egg whites, unsweetened yogurt and cottage cheese, brown rice, Heart Thrives, soy milk, tofu, and tons of fruits and vegetables? Guess who takes daily multivitamins and kvetches to her friends about how kids are eating far too much sugar these days? Guess who ended up just like Mom in her quest to eat naturally?

I care so much about this topic that I could write 10 more paragraphs, but I've got to run to the grocery store now. I need eggs, decaf, apples, and--er, I'm forgetting the rest. Must go grab my list. I think it's buried somewhere in my macramé bag...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Double sigh......

Killing Him Softly with My Song

Poor Greg'ry. In my 3-month-old quest to learn to play piano and read music, I have tortured him by playing the SAME DAMN SONGS over and over again. Badly, I might add.

This month it's been worse than ever because I'm finally playing a REAL song, so I have to practice more than usual. It's a simple arrangement of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer." Those who were alive in 1973 will recognize it as the theme song to the Oscar-winning movie The Sting starring Paul Newman and---sigh---Robert Redford.

Robert Redford. Robert Redford Robert Redford Robert Redford.

My mom was in love with Robert Redford when I was a kid. I think it rubbed off on me. I've often wondered where I got my thing for men with blond hair that hangs in their eyes. The answer is apparent, I think, in my current fixation on "The Entertainer." I can't stop playing it because it reminds me of Robert Redford. Heaven help me if I ever get my hands on a simple arrangement of "The Way We Were."

'Fess-Up Time: This is actually the second event in recent months that hints at a latent, long-lived thing for Robert Redford. Last fall I was obsessed with locating the Twilight Zone DVD that features an episode called "Nothing in the Dark" (ep. # 81, January 5, 1962) starring RR as... get this... DEATH. Yes, the Grim Reaper. In the guise of a wounded policeman.

He was 24 years old and SO. FREAKING. HANDSOME.

Now, of course, he's in his 70s and a bit old for me, and anyhow I've already found a handsome blond of my own, so it's all okay. But those memory traces don't die easily.

Incidentally, my very first movie-star crush was Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man (1970). If you happen to know the theme music to All the President's Men (1976), please don't tell me. My head might explode.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I'm waiting...

Sanitized Sex

As a media scholar I'm constantly thinking about how much more fun television would be if things were depicted realistically.

Take sex for instance. Everything on TV and in the movies is so artificial and sanitized. As a learning exercise I have students in my Media & the Body seminar list the scripts they've observed in the media regarding various components of "the date." A script may be thought of as a series of behaviors that show up again and again in cultural outlets such as mass media. I've been doing this exercise for years and every class comes up with the following:

Man picks up woman in nice car.
Woman makes man wait downstairs while she primps.
Man brings flowers.
Man pays for dinner and movie.
Alcohol is involved. Preferably wine.
The first kiss occurs on the front porch.
If he's lucky it's followed by an invitation inside.
The woman "slips into something more comfortable."
Stereo on, lights low.
Depending on the rating of the movie, the next scenes may or may not be cut.
The next morning they wake up and stare blissfully into each others' eyes.
Playful banter is followed by breakfast.
"I'll call you."

When I ask my students how much of this reflects their own experience, they roll their eyes and laugh. Depending on the group, I might even get some details.

I once had a seminar of spring-fevered seniors at the University of Michigan. When we got to the sex part of the script they got into a heated argument over whether actual intercourse would take place, or merely oral sex, which wasn't really sex. (Clinton was still president.) They agreed more or less that the conservative route would be oral sex. A few minutes later we were talking about how unrealistic the lovey-dovey next-morning scene is. The woman's makeup is unsmeared, nobody is puffy, no one has eye crusties. Above all, I remarked, the first thing they do is kiss! What about the morning breath from last night's dinner and copious alcohol consumption? "Yeah," said one student, "and the ORAL SEX!" GAAAAHHH!

It took us a good five minutes to recover from that one.

I won't be happy until I see the real stuff romantic relationships are made of. Not just the new, superficial relationships ("Your eyes are so beautiful...") but the tried-and-true ones. I want to see someone on TV subject his sweetie to a Dutch oven. I want to see a couple speaking to each other "through" their dog. I want to see depictions of people who fall in love first, THEN have sex -- like When Harry Met Sally and The Sure Thing -- not the other way around. I want to see same-sex couples trying to adopt a child. I want to see depictions of REAL intimacy, friendship, playfulness, and love.

Is that too much to ask? Maybe so, but... I'll wait for it.