Friday, July 29, 2011

win a trip to Burning Man

My theme camp is raffling off a ticket to Burning Man. Ten dollars enters you into this raffle... which is a pretty damn good deal as the tickets are sold out and are currently selling at well over a thousand dollars a piece. This online raffle will shut down in one week, and there are other fabulous prizes as well.

Help the poor old Drunken Housewife's cohorts. We're trying to raise money to add on to our bar, transport our camp to the desert, and improve what was already last year a lovely oasis. Our camp is based in part on the World of Warcraft, and we'll be giving out quests again this year. Earn fabulous rewards, drink intoxicating cocktails... it's all so damn magical and gives yer Drunken Housewife a rare opportunity to abandon her children, husband, parrots, and cats for a moment of irresponsibility and joy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

yet another parroting fail

I read recently that a good way of disciplining a parrot is to flick the parrot on the beak with a finger. The rationale is that in the wild, the alpha parrots bite the other parrots on the beak to express disapproval of their behavior. I was happy to read this tip, as disciplining parrots is very difficult. The sorts of disapproval so potent to the children (particularly forceful stares, pointed remarks, threatening the withdrawal of video privileges) are meaningless to a parrot. Shouting at a parrot is stupid, as parrots love nothing more than noise. Swearing at a parrot is a terrible idea, as parrots who learn to swear are unpopular and often cannot find new homes if need be.

The only real parrot-discipline tactic we have is time-outs in the cage, and that only works if you and the parrot are both near the cage at the moment of parrot naughtiness. If you're upstairs when the parrot misbehaves, plenty of time elapses before you get the poorly behaved bird downstairs and into the time-out, and with a less-intelligent parrot like Piggle, it's dubious she understood what caused the confinement.

Another technique for getting parrots to submit to a person's authority is to physically tower over the bird. Like flicking the beak, this is also based upon the psychology of the species, as parrots perch according to pecking order, with the alpha bird always up top. But again success is dependent upon where the parrot misbehaved. While I have been known to climb on top of a chair or even a table to make a point to our green parrot, there isn't always a suitable piece of furniture nearby.

So while I would never strike a pet (and I've never spanked either Iris or Lola), a flick on the hard shell of the beak struck me as potentially a good idea, and I resolved to try it. This morning Piggle flew from her tree over onto the bed before I'd gotten up. She was rowdy and unpleasant, being a bit rough, and I flicked her on the beak with my finger. She immediately pecked me on my nose. I flicked her on the beak again. She pecked me harder on my nose. There was then an unpleasant standoff, both of us glaring at each other.

Evidently parrots do indeed naturally bite each other on the beak to express disapproval, and evidently Piggle thinks I'm in need of some beak-biting discipline. This all reminded me of a bad parenting cliche, spanking a child to punish them for having hit another child, all the while shouting, "I don't know where you picked up that behavior!"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

a conversation with Lola is like being on drugs

"My breath smells like Izze," said little Lola pensively as she finished her Izze mandarin soda. She blew out her breath in a gust. Her thoughts continuing on this track, Lola babbled happily: "You know what? Izze smells like Izze!"

Lola's older sister and mother were happy to humiliate poor little Lola for this rather obvious remark, and Lola defended herself. "It's the perkiness! I'm suffering from perkiness! It's making me say things like that!"

a day of British culture

Here in San Francisco, everyone but us regularly flocks to Stern Grove for free entertainment on summer Sundays: concerts or dance performances. In particular the annual ballet and symphony performances are insanely popular. In the past I'd brought up going to Stern Grove shows, and the Sober Husband was always dismissive. "Save those seats for people who can't pay to go," he said. But on Sunday it was one of my favorite bands from the eighties, the English Beat.

There was a considerable lack of enthusiasm in the air when I suggested a trip to Stern Grove. "Who is this again?" and "I wanted to go to Harry Potter today" were the main responses. Lola had a better offer, to spend the day with her best friend from preschool.

Rallying the troops, I bullied them into getting dressed and packing up a blanket, some books, drinks, fresh bread, and some nice Havarti. Poor Iris was discovered moping in front of a computer, sadly reading online reviews of the new Harry Potter film, and I energized her only by going on Fandango and buying some tickets for an evening show.

We got to Stern Grove long after much of it had been occupied by the more industrious. We climbed up the hill behind the performance lawn and scrabbled for a bit of dirt to call our own. Feeling optimistic, I called a steeply slanted spot with a nice view, but the more realistic Sober Husband refused. "It's too angled. We can't sit there." We found a surprisingly flat spot no one else had taken, right behind a huge tree. What no one else had realized is that if you just leaned a bit, you had a fabulous view of the stage. We were happy.

The hours went by, with more people streaming in. Iris was deeply envious of a man down the hill who'd brought a hammock and tied it to some trees. Soon we were packed in solid. Finally the English Beat took the stage. They had a set which refreshingly included each and every one of their hits, unlike other bands who refuse to play their most beloved songs on the grounds that they're sick of playing those same damn songs over and over again, year after year. But the man on my right, who'd been drinking wine all afternoon, was crazy-making. He sat, silent and perfectly behaved, between each and every song, but inevitably during each and every song, he'd start lifting a nearby toddler up repeatedly, shouting to the toddler every time he swung him up crazily overhead. So every time a song started, I would recognize it and be filled with joy, relax and smile and relish the music... until this annoying man started shouting to his toddler. Then I would grind my teeth together in silent rage.

"This is why we don't come to this," I hissed at the Sober Husband. "Here we are sitting in the dirt, with this drunken guy making a hellish racket during all the songs!"

"That doesn't happen at the ballet," he agreed.

"Yes, and there, you get a seat all to yourself, and a little piece of paper proving it's yours in case someone else tries to sit there. And a little zone of space."

"And you don't have to go hours early."

During my very favorite songs I hopped up to dance, and oddly enough my getting up caused my annoying neighbor to hop up to dance, along with a friend of his (while meanwhile their wives sat, talking, sometimes quite loudly, to each other and ignoring the show for the most part). Of course the Sober Husband and Iris stood up as well to humor me, so this meant every time I was moved to jump to my feet, a big clot of us in that section were dancing on the slanted hillside. "Look," I hissed at the Sober Husband. "I control them! They don't get up and dance unless I do."

He pointed out another phenomenon. "Look over there. It's other middle-aged mommies making their tweens enjoy the music!" He was right. There were a sizable number of women in their forties, who had obviously loved the Beat back in the day, and many of them were actually forcing their own reluctant daughters to dance. Somehow it was a female-only phenomenon: there weren't any middle-aged ska dads or male tweens partaking in this odd parent-child ritual. We watched one gray-haired mother, who was obviously extremely happy, forcibly waving her miserable tween's arms to the music. "I don't insist Iris like this," I said in my own defense. "As long as she's not actively complaining, that's all I ask."

"You bribed me with Harry Potter tickets! That's all I needed," said Iris smugly.

Later I mused, "It's our day of British culture. First the British music of the eighties, and now some current British cinema. Maybe we can watch some 'Dr. Who' later to top it all off."

"Yes! And we need some British candy!" agreed Iris, who is an aficionado of European sweets. "I've been very good, I need chocolate!"

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wow! what a great haiku man! (by Iris)

So I'm going to this really awesome art camp, which is two weeks long and on Friday we go on a field trip to some destination in Golden Gate Park, and this Friday my group went to the Japanese tea garden, and we sketched different stuff we saw. I wanted to sketch the koi pond (duh) and it doesn't have any benches around it so I went to the top of the moon bridge to get the best view. The moon bridge is one of the biggest tourist attractions in San Francisco, so there are always tourists climbing it. In case you have not heard of it; here is a picture.

As you can see, it is "quite tall." (English accent deployed)

While I was sitting there, three English guys who must have been in their early 20's who must have been high on something were "inspired" by the beauty of the park. So inspired, in fact, that one decided to write a haiku--

Weird English guy #1: I am on a quite tall bridge. It is cold outside. The End.
Weird English guy #2: Whoa, dude, that's awesome. What a great haiku, man!
Weird English guy #3: Wow, you should be a poet, man, wow!

You'll notice it isn't even the right number of syllables. More proof they must have been high on something.


Passive agressive notes is arguably the funniest website of all time. The funniest thing on there must logically be the arguably funniest thing on the internet. So look at this!!!!!
Ted's goddamn fucking rice! Stay the fuck away from my goddamn fucking rice! HAHAHAHA

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the more things change

I just finished reading "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" by Daniel Okrent, a meticulously researched and sprightly written history. I learned so much from this book (did you know the Founding Fathers were sots? Jefferson, Washington and the rest drank like fishes. Did you know the oh-so-Puritan Pilgrims drank heavily and brought more alcohol on the Mayflower than water?).

But what struck me the most was how, due to a lack of education, I have been misperceiving American politics. I went to school in a very rural school district, where our "social studies" education covered the same limited ground every single year. Every September we opened a new social studies text and started reading about the Pilgrims, and every June we stopped midway through the book at Reconstruction. Never, never, never did I hear a word about either World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, or even suffrage or Prohibition. None of those topics were ever raised. I often think of my own education when I hear other countries criticized for what they leave out of their education (I have repeatedly heard Japan harshly ripped for failing to teach its children about the wartime excesses committed in China, but meanwhile in my American school we never studied how we dropped not one but two atomic bombs on Japan).

Anyhow, beyond learning how closely suffrage and Prohibition were linked (I had no clue that the great suffragettes were Prohibitionists and indeed some of them turned to suffrage after being rejected, on the basis of their gender, from the Prohibition movement), I was most spellbound by how much the politics of that age reminded me of current times. I have for some time been deeply concerned that politics have become too religious and that the far right is moving into new territory, injecting religious doctrine into textbooks (and again I note about my own childhood: the word "evolution" was never spoken in my school. We never learned a thing about it), making "family values" a fetish. It turns out that there is no new thing under the sun. American politics were just like that back in the 1910s and 1920s. Schoolbooks contained horrible, morality-based, science-be-damned falsehoods about alcohol, such as the "fact" that a single sip of alcohol tears flesh off a drinker's throat and that all habitual beer drinkers die of "dropsy." Religion and arguments about the family, the poor, beleaguered, threatened American family monopolized public discourse. It was all so very, very familiar.

I feel considerably educated now about an era of time I knew so little about, and I feel reassured, in an odd way. Our current "culture wars" are nothing new. As a nation, we've bungled and bumbled through much the same thing already.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

anonymous children, saying unattributable things

Today the children and I were hanging out on our deck, enjoying a rare warm San Francisco day. A child, who wishes to be anonymous for this, asked the other child in all seriousness, "What is the best way to sit in these chairs without hurting your butt and having your feet on the ground?"

I couldn't resist teasing her. "Seriously? You have to ask how to sit in a chair? Do you think, 'Hey, SHE looks like she's good at dealing with these flat surfaces on four legs; I better ask for advice!' It's that hard?" The child was offended by this and attempted to explain why these chairs, perfectly normal chairs, are so much harder to sit in than other chairs. The explanations seemed lamer than the original question, and soon I had laughed so much that I was in tears. This caused the affronted child to draw herself up. "Momdude! You are not very supportive!"

Later we were discussing the children's afternoon art class, wondering what the theme would be. Another child, similarly one who prefers a lack of attribution, said direly, "I bet it's medical-dental week. You know, drawing doctors, dentists, offices, medical things." This child put her head in her hands and sighed sadly. "I hate doctors and dentists."

"What?" I said. Usually the theme is something like "mermaids" or "fluffy animals."

"I read it in the brochure," the child said. "Medical-dental week!" Then, after a moment, the child relented. "Okay, I lied."