2013 Year End Product Review
A few things you unearth during the year are worth mentioning to the savvy shopper, whose ears perk at the mention of a value buy. My best finds this year:
BEST COSMETIC GOO:
Burt’s Bees, an old fashioned drug store staple known for their all natural, beeswax based lip balm has put out a whole line of cosmetics, shampoos & moisturizing/repair creams. Most of these are under the Burt’s Bees label, but many of their shampoo & conditioners are manufactured under a label called ‘güd’. I had an opportunity to sample the güd hair and conditioner, both Floral Cherrynova and Red Ruby Groovy. This is good stuff! Organic ingredient based & paraben free, it nevertheless cleans hair thoroughly without leaving some of the oily deposits often left by the well intentioned ‘all-natural, organic’ shampoos. I was so impressed with the sheen & color of my hair after use, that I gave some bottles of güd as stocking stuffers for Christmas. Still curious to sample the ‘Pearanormal’ (Pear & Acai Berry) shampoo suite. I would say güd shampoo delivers a salon level performance at about $8 a bottle. 4.5/5 stars.
(This product available at Wal-Greens and in the Health section at Krogers/Fred Meyer)
BEST SUGARY DRINKABLE:
While IZZE’S All Natural Sparkling Clementine has held my heart for some time now, a new kid on the scene has certainly stirred up some lust. Jackson Hole Soda Company’s High Mountain Huckleberry has finally produced that flavor I was dreaming of every time I bought someone’s hyped up blackberry beverage, hoping upon hope that it wouldn’t prove overpowering. It always did. But Jackson Hole Huckleberry Soda, which comes in a dark brown glass bottle like an old fashioned root beer, manages to find the balance between robust and subtle while delivering a gulp refreshing enough to satisfy even serious thirst. Now the trick is finding a dependable retailer who will stock the stuff.
BEST DEATH BY CHOCOLATE EXPERIENCE:
If you don’t live in Oregon, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the Amity, Oregon order of Brigittine Monks who spend their days in prayer, meditation and candy making. Ergo, you have likely never bit into a Brigittine Monk Chocolate Amaretto Truffle. Before you fall into a spiritual panic, I am posting the website in hopes that this serious wrong may be righted. http://www.brigittine.org/index.htm
GOOD CHEAP WINE; YOU KNOW, IF YOU LIKE THAT SORT OF THING:
Credit where credit is due: I’m not a wine drinker so my alcoholic understanding is derived mainly from alcoholics. No, I mean from knowledgeable tipplers AND from Consumer Reports, who bothered to list just one cheap, sparkling white wine amongst all their hoity toity’s. Such an exception raises the old eyebrow, so I’ve carted along Barefoot’s Moscato wine to various dinner parties and nearly always been rewarded by the hostess complaining later that she got sick after drinking the entire bottle by herself. (It’s a pretty big bottle.) I’m going to call this a win in whino world, and also add that Moscato is ridiculously inexpensive, as is the award winning Red Diamond Shiraz, if you prefer your spirits red & sultry as opposed to fizzy, sweet & headache inducing.
December 22, 2013 at 2:03pm
A Very Erotic post about Pollinators
You heard me. You probably don’t want to think about it right now, because you’re paying down a mortgage or raising kids, or having love troubles, or juggling so much stress that you’re pretty sure your hairline is receding by the hour-
So let’s change *your* context a little bit, and make this feel less like a sermon of the guilt-inducing variety:
Find a minute, just a minute where the world and her harangues have been roped back, and you are the V.I.P. sitting in a sliver of golden silence. It is a beautiful, early June day. With any luck, you are outdoors & your view now includes trees or a body of water, or maybe just a few plants on the side of a hill. The warmth of the sun is very gently permeating your skin.
Mmm… nice. You blink lazily, feeling relaxed, and realize that you have a visitor. Now maybe you would tend to swipe at this little guy, or shriek and scoot away, but you’re feeling so saturated with lazy well being that you know- you just know instinctively- that this small creature means you no harm. In fact it’s trying to do a job right now, and that job includes determining that you are irrelevant to the process.
Your visitor is a bee, and not a very big one, I might add. In fact it’s so tiny, it doesn’t seem like it could possibly be old enough to do grown-up bee things yet. If there is some blossom themed kindergarten somewhere, dedicated to the education of tender young bee munchkins, this looks like one of their truant pupils.
And yet, as you watch, this bee finds a nearby planter and begins the very grown-up work of pollination.
Pollination: The process by which pollen is transferred in the reproduction of plants, thereby enabling fertilization and sexual reproduction.
Basically, bees appear to pollinate by accident. They traipse around the carnal goodies of a flower in search of tasty nectar, and get a lot of messy gunk stuck to their legs & bodies. This gunk rubs off on the next several plants they visit while they’re similarly mucking about. It doesn’t take much- pollen is pretty potent powder, much more efficient than that crap you use in your protein shakes.
But how necessary are bees to the process of pollination? And by the by- why so small a bee?
Small bees: At first glance, it seems that juvenile bees are taking on more and more of the load because fewer mature survivors are making it back to the hive, but in fact, a juvenile bee is approximately the size of an adult. They grow through their larval stage, and by the time they emerge as a flying insect, they are the same size they will be all their brief lives.
One theory about smaller pollinators holds that the bees we see now are more often “niche” species, a creature who fills in when another species start to fail. And our common pollinators are failing at a rather astonishing speed. In Wisconsin, coyotes served as a niche species until the wolves were reintroduced and effectively slaughtered them back to pre-endangerment levels. Additionally, in hope of strengthening pollinator populations, people have done what they always do, which is introduce insects from other countries. This sometimes works, but tends to do more damage than good, like in Hawaii where they brought in snakes to catch the expanding rat population that had hitched rides onto the island off of ships. The snakes sort of liked rats, but were inordinately fond of the eggs from all the defenseless ground-nesting birds, driving several species to extinction or the brink, including Hawaii’s gray Nene goose. What then? Well, they decided to bring in *more* invasive species to control the snakes and pretty much screwed Hawaii’s native flora & fauna beyond recognition.
We’re meddlesome apes.
As to the first question, “How necessary are bees?”, there is also some debate- mostly because homo-sapiens have got their shanks around the issue, and they do so adore to debate things. Unfortunately, a bizarre mechanism in the human brain likes to simplify things down to this one question:
Could people get along without bees?
Maybe… But not particularly well.
North America’s many varieties of pollinating bees are partially responsible for some of the ‘heavy-hitters’ of the crop world. Bee pollinators tend less and less to be the only means of reproduction for our crops, but rather provide a critical assist. The high yield farming methods now practiced across agriculture require more pollination in less time, and for this reason, self-fertilizing and wind-pollinating plants have overtaken crop production. It’s hard to gage just how many crops are insect pollinated in such instances, but some crops, especially nuts & fruit groves, still rely heavily upon winged pollinators.
The fact is, what looks like a serendipitous accident of nectar gathering/pollination is probably more complex than we can possibly grasp. Our methods of observation and dissection of the bee-pollinization process often overlook essential chemical interactions that don’t exist in a lab environment. Even wind-pollinating crop farmers have tacitly acknowledged the importance of bees by keeping multiple hives on their croplands. Mysteriously, the plants do better just for the bees being there.
So, I’ve been growing some tomato plants this year. (You’re probably very surprised, I’ve been awfully secretive about it.) Anyway, I’ve been reliably informed by both master gardeners and mysteriously angry comment board trolls that BEES DON’T POLLINATE TOMATO PLANTS, YOU BLATHERING GREENHORN. (According to further reading, bumblebees can and will pollinate tomatoes, but honeybees do not.)
I am not in a position to argue. I have never caught any bees trying to pollinate my tomatoes, and I doubt I’d have the werewithal to film such a process if I did. But I can tell you that bees have been generally loafing about. They’ve been *landing* on the tomato plants, right on the center of the leaves. And then they rub their little abdomens against the veins in a frankly provocative manner, sort of tapping the end of their body down on the leaf. Then they hang out for a moment, and fly off.
Am I witnessing some sort of masturbatory process? (I’m a great ape, understand, so my mind just naturally goes there.) “That little pervert just rubbed one off on my Early Arctic Tomato. JEsus.”
And what’s even *more* disturbing is that FOUR DAYS LATER, my little slut plants started blooming. They liked it! This after carefully raising even the non-heirloom varieties on NPR and a strict no-cable diet…
I don’t know what the bee did to my plant, and I don’t know how this signaled my plant to put forth blossoms, but I do know I don’t know, so that puts me a couple miles ahead of my compatriots on the garden center comment boards who seem offended when someone suggests that they may not have all the answers.
Something’s going on. Plants, even non-flowering or self-pollinating plants have evolved hand in hand with bees, so when 90% of feral bees die out, it’s worth thinking about. When 40% of domestic bee hives don’t survive the winter, and when your local pollinators show up smaller every year, it’s worth freaking out a little . We don’t know to what exact degree the world needs bee-kind, but we know these miniature components of our natural habitat provide essential services to flowering plants.
Like all non-verbal forms of life, today’s bees need advocates. So I would appeal to you to appeal to your legislature, to baffle the crap out of your kids by talking about bees, to forego the pesticides despite your gardening anxieties, and to show a little love when your little pollinating friend gets trapped in the car, or starts buzzing on the wrong side of the window pane.
Let ‘em go. There’s more than meets the eye to their small ministration, and you never know just how far a little help could matter to us all in the long run.
Does the heart really know anything about truth? Hard to say, but when she holds to her song despite the threat of looming darkness, new hope gives rise to a world of possibility.
How to Tweet a Break Down
When you go to tweet your break down, avoid the urge to ‘live tweet’, or state in real time your situation & your corresponding negative emotions. Feelings, especially violent upheavals & personal situations, are follower magnets if you go about it the right way. An effective break down is both planned & timed to maximize attention.
Some people will claim that using drama to succeed at twitter is immature, and denotes a lack of self respect. These people generally have low follower counts & should be ignored unless you are invoking them as an antagonist in your story arc. More on that later.
The first step is to determine the most effective timing of your break down, based on the estimated duration of your fit. If you are planning on a mini-tantrum, aim for early evening in the Eastern time zone or late Sunday afternoon. These are peak traffic times for rubber neckers, and you should be able to snag both an antagonist & a healing helper to bolster your story arc with relative ease.
If you’re going for more of a marathon meltdown, choose a week that does not overlap with any holidays or live tweeting events. Spring is an excellent time to schedule your break down, barring any unforeseen national crisis or Hollywood scandal. After all, you don’t want to share your audience’s attention with a natural disaster.
Maximizing your meltdown means timing your tweets so that you retain maximum attention possible without wearying your followers. Use this helpful guide to plot your tweet frequency:
Mini Tantrum: 2–3 hours= tweet rate of 1 tweet per 20 min, triple rate for half hour finale.
Mild Tantrum: 4-5 hours = tweet rate of 1 tweet per 30 minutes, plan on a four to five tweet finale.
Serious Meltdown: 1-2 days = tweet rate of 3 tweets per hour the first hour (to establish melt down status) then once an hour till climax. Climax may vary based on strength of story arc, input from helpful healer, etc., but should not exceed 10 tweets.
Marathon melt down: 1 week- 3 months (not recommended for beginners or those with 200 followers or less) = 5- 12 tweets a day to maintain story arc, bitterness, etc. Rate may double during ‘big reveal’, or, briefly, for redemptive epiphany. Twitter break of 5 days STRONGLY recommended immediately after, to stem follower drop & realign expectations.
Now that you have your tweet schedule, it’s time to draft the content of your break down. You may want to have an editor look over your episode and give you feedback on how to maximize the drama. Avoid any outright lie about your situation, as some followers may know you personally and take the time to verify your claims, but inference is a handy tool. Let it be understood that you are on the edge of some undefined precipice, about to suffer a dire if not outright fatal consequences on account of an unspecified situation, and that someone is pressing you closer to that edge.
This is when your antagonist will reveal themselves. An antagonist is simply someone who tries to talk you down from the ledge before you’re ready. This person may seem caring & concerned, but you should feel justified in lashing out at them unreasonably, because they are trying to cut short your time in the limelight. A helpful healer will wait until you’re ready to be talked down, at which point you can allow yourself to be soothed, petted & prepared for the redemptive epiphany, a logical conclusion to most meltdown story arcs.
Good luck, and may all your meltdowns be productive.
Still one of the greatest, most romantic songs of all time, whether you’re blasting it at your lover’s bower from a boombox or just dreaming alone while doing ballet in the kitchen.
The Dinner Party
I guilted myself into showing up at the dinner party, mainly because of math. Lily, though a distant friend, was an important one: Her support had opened up crucial opportunities for me at crucial times. In a small town it’s always who you know.
The math of successful friendship dictates you can’t turn down three consecutive invitations unless you return an invitation before the third refusal.
I was two strikes down at the bottom of the eighth, and anyway this was going to be one of those glitzy, glimmery affairs; easier to face than a small group of intimates + one outsider.
I said yes.
The hostess was in a flutter by the time I arrived, but I made a show of greeting her, putting in face time. Math.
The long dinner table was set so beautifully, I couldn’t help but feel a little thrill to be included. Engraved nameplates marked our spaces. I was seated halfway down the table, instead of banished to some bad friend suburbia down at the chilly south pole of pale linen & glass decanters. My neighbor to the left was a silver-haired matron in rich, rose colored silk. She was likely a donor to one of Lily’s pet projects on the Arts Council.
On the right, a reddish blonde man with an endearingly crooked smile gave me an encouraging nod.
I’m shy. Lily knows I’m shy. This shyness can manifest as an almost psychotic gregariousness in certain settings, or it can come across as a chilly, implacable reserve or even as a rough sort of back-alley bluntness. The sad part is I can’t really control which way I’ll respond to a situation, and I never know ahead of time. I gave my neighbor a sheepish little peek and then took a nervous gulp of water.
He leaned toward me and said, “Beautiful crowd, isn’t it?”
"Mm." I responded, still drinking.
"Do you believe in monsters?”
"I said, do you believe in monsters?"
His bizarre ice-breaker was helping me out. I felt Backstreet Betty rising to the occasion.
“Well sure, doesn’t everybody?”
“I don’t wanna talk about ghosts.”
“Okay. What do you want to talk about?”
I looked at the room full of people. I looked at the table full of food. I looked at the animation all around me. I had nothing. A rogue, flirtatious impulse rose inside. I looked at him.
“How ‘bout pickles?”
My companion shifted a little.
“Or not pickles.”
He smiled. “Why don’t you want to talk about ghosts?”
“Maybe I don’t care to be haunted.” I tried to give him a haunting look.
“So you think you attract things when you…”
“Obsess on ‘em? Sure.” I was winging it, but this one was true. I really do think what you pay attention to ends up shaping your world, one way or another. It’s like opening a window, in a way.
He closed his eyes. He squinched up his face. He strained like he was doing something unspeakable in the privy.
“Hey… Are you alright?”
Eyes still closed, he grinned at me. “I’m obsessing.”
“Really? That’s how you do it? It looks kinda painful.”
He snorted through his nose, trying not to giggle.
“So what are you obsessing about?”
I laughed at that one. “Cucumber karma.”
He opened his eyes. “I want to talk about monsters,” he said.
I shrugged, “Look around.”
“I mean it.”
“So do I.”
“Yeah, okay.” He seemed non-plussed.
“What would you call them?” I asked. “That woman across the table, eating her meat. She’s all fluffy and done up and shit, but look at her. She’s ripping that flank with her sharp teeth. That flank never had a chance in hell. It was A LIVING THING until we lead its stupid, mooing body to the guillotine. Look at her rip that thing apart.”
“You’re talking about cows?” he sounded incredulous.
“Yeah, I’m talking about the cow. Somebody should.”
“But it’s a cow! Are you one of those PETA people?”
“No, no… It’s just a sick way to live. Bred like that. Utterly and completely born & bred to satisfy someone’s appetite. Existing like that…” I struggled to explain what I viewed as the repulsiveness of the process.
He shrugged. “It’s a cow, though; a big, hunkering bovine. Something was going to eat it, eventually. Something in your head has got to recognize that cows were created to be an entrée.”
I glared at him.
“And… they fart methane. Bad for the ozone. Not to mention deforestation.” He took a bite of asparagus.
“So are you –for- eating the cow, or against? Its not real clear.”
“Does it matter? Tonight I’m having chicken.” He grinned.
“Okay.” Now I sounded non-plussed.
“But we were talking about monsters.”
“Yeah!” He was animated again. “Real ones.”
“People are the only *real* monsters I know of.”
He looked at me with this sort of disappointed look. When he spoke he seemed almost sad. “The beast inside. The thing with teeth. I know, I know. Again with the Heart of Darkness shit.” He put his face close to mine. “I’ve READ Conrad, I’m asking you something else, honeypot: Have you ever seen a monster? A real one?”
I pushed baby peas around my plate and thought about it. I felt that he was mocking me. The beasts I see are real. Their eyes glow red, you can see it when you develop film. I smiled. “Fuck you,” I said.
He put his fork down. “Do you want to see a monster?”
“No thank you.”
“Are you sure?” He sounded earnest.
“I know this one.” I smiled. I just kept fucking smiling. “Some Ted Bundy wannabe gets a girl all intrigued with a dope line about monsters and drives her up into the Hickville Mountains so her blood can fertilize the pansies. No THANK you.”
He shuddered. It was a real shudder. I watched his face close in and a convulsion move down his body. I felt suddenly really bad, like I’d poked a sharp stick into something to see what it was, and it turned out to be a kitten.
“Sorry.” I mumbled.
“No.” he had picked up his fork again. “No, I’m sorry I scared you. I didn’t mean to make you think that.”
We ate in silence for pretty much the rest of the dinner. He mentioned something nice about the hostess. I made a pretty comment about dessert. We both seeped disappointment through our pores as we said goodbye. I went home and took a shower.
I laid in my bed later and thought about the party. I know there were other people there, Lily had invited a room full, but it felt like he and I had been in a small, sealed chamber. I turned over on my pillow, playing through the words. I played the conversation all the way through, and replaying this way I finally thought about monsters, real ones: Things with scales and teeth and horns; things with sinuous bodies that lunge and snarl and hide. Things that can be fierce or terrible or beautiful, but cannot be understood.
He had wanted to show me something. As the night wore on and our silence descended, that thing between us grew and took shape. It had been there in the room, something- something that desperately wanted to look like a monster.
And if he had asked me again, which he wouldn’t have, because of what I said, so that’s how it goes… but, if he had asked me again, to come and see the monster? I’m pretty sure now that I would have said yes.