rationalizing

Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s not-a-prequel to the Alien stories (but, c’mon, it’s totally a prequel) left me cranky and exasperated. Writer Damon Lindelof sets up an artificial opposition, just as he did in “Lost,” of science vs. faith, but it seems clear that he doesn’t understand, y’know, how science actually works: by wedding strict protocols and routines (to foster reproducibility and objectivity while protecting both personnel and irreplaceable samples) to unfettered creativity of intellect and appetite for knowledge.

That’s hard to reconcile that with the scientists of Prometheus, who fluctuate wildly between dull-eyed incuriosity and appalling recklessness, who seem to have little sense of the magnitude of the work they’re undertaking, and who are colleagues and equals only in the sense that they are all equally incompetent.

As we watched, I came up with several geeky [non-spoiler-y] ways to rationalize the stupidity and endless bungling of Prometheus’ entire scientific task force:

1. Realize that these people are scientists the way that Giorgio Tsoukalos of “Ancient Aliens” fame is a “scientist.” (“I’m not saying it was aliens, buuuuuut…. it was aliens!”)

2. Remember the B-Ark from Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the massive spaceship full of incompetent, inane, unnecessary, and otherwise ineffectual bumblers who were packed up together and shipped off to a distant wasteland, all the while believing themselves to be boldly striking out as the vanguard of a whole planet’s survival? Yeeeeeah, the “scientists” of the Prometheus might as well be so many telephone sanitizers.

3. Peter Weyland, the posthumous underwriter of this bajillion-dollar expedition, was the Howard Hughes of his generation: brilliant and driver, but also tragically unbalanced and fantastically wealthy enough to do anything he wishes. His obsessions were fed by the poorly researched, blinkered speculations of the archaeologists who shape the mission, and the entire scientific team is selected with the same slapdash passion-above-protocol agenda. Any scientist likely to interfere with the mission by insisting upon, I dunno, following established procedure or maintaining rigorous standards during this monumentally historic event is summarily rejected in favor of a bunch of bungling pushovers.

4. Maybe arising from those cryo-suspension pods is like rousing from an long midday nap: you wake up all muzzy-headed and disoriented, and as often as not, the rest of the day is shot to hell. (Though that doesn’t explain why the flight crew, who also underwent cryo-suspension, appear to be thinking clearly and sensibly.)

5. They have developed SPAAAAAAACE MADNESS. Or maybe just a really bad (and highly transmittable) case of space-dumb.

abundance

This small apartment is crammed full of stuff — most of it mine, and much of it so very crammed in that we can’t get at it.

I keep paring down. I dropped off several big boxes of clothing at Goodwill and still I can’t see the back of the closet. I gave away a food processor and I still have two left. If a guest admires a [book/scarf/toy/kitchen tool], sometimes I give it to them on the spot and thank them for taking it.

The place is still littered with toys, games, DVDs still in their cellophane, shoes I’m waiting to break in, shoes I stopped wearing, beautiful trinkets that we were given and don’t need, winter coats that are too fancy, winter coats that aren’t fancy enough, books jammed into boxes where we can’t read them, favorite dresses hanging in the back of a deep closet where I forget them, luxurious bath oils turning sour and stale on the shelf, down comforters balled up under the bed getting musty.

My mindset of scarcity creates so much sad waste. I’m saving those bath oils, that velvet dress, those perfect shoes, that lovely down throw, the most delicate wineglasses, the expensive bottle of spirits, the crisp linen dish towels handed down from my grandmother, the folded swath of uncut lilac fabric. I’m saving them for LATER. I’m saving them for BEST.

But if BEST never comes, if it is never LATER, then those luscious goods, those indulgences, those luxuries… they sit and molder on the shelf.

I’ve made a resolution for September: each week, I pledge to use or dispose of at least seven unused, underused, or forgotten objects: one every day, or a week’s worth all at once, however it works out. No matter how much I give (or throw) away, the count resets each Sunday: if I toss out or rehome 30 items on September 1st, I still have seven to go the next week.

Expect the updates to be excruciatingly dull for everyone but me. After all, I’m the one unearthing those velvet dresses, drinking the expensive spirits, giving away toys, and opening up space in my cramped home.

Though September hasn’t started, I have: some construction in our building forced us to clear out a long-ignored closet. I threw out a dozen spoiled, soiled, spilled, or otherwise unsuitable objects.

bright side

You know what stinks? Being awakened by the plumbers removing the toilet a day early.

You know what really stinks? Having to wake up your houseguest to break the news that there’s no toilet.

You know what’s great? Seeing how your houseguest takes it all in stride and and heads out to the local coffeehouse with you, just so the two of you can pee.

You know what stinks? Having to miss a trip to visit The Fella’s family because the unscheduled plumbers* need someone to lock up after ’em.

You know what makes up for it? Spending that unexpected free evening with your own vacationing family for one last dinner before they go home.

You know what literally stinks? The rotted subflooring the plumbers tore up.

You know what’s adorable? How carefully they tidied up after themselves, leaving just a few smears of mold.

You know what figuratively stinks? Splashing bleachy water on the floor, then tracking it all over.

You know what’s kinda fun? Putting paper towels under each foot and shuffling around the apartment like a Muppet to clean it up.

* Adding Unscheduled Plumbers to list of potential band names.

doctor’s orders

Dear Dr. Pepper,

Thanks for your recent advertising campaign letting the world know that Dr. Pepper 10 is “not for women.” Without that warning, I might have spent money on your product. Phew, that was a close call!

But now I know that Dr. Pepper doesn’t want my money, for this product or for any other.

That’s obvious, right? If you discourage women from trying your (putatively) more robust, flavorful product, then you must think that women only want insipid, flavorless drinks. Therefore, I assume that any product you market toward women is inferior; I’ll make sure to actively avoid all of your drinks! Thanks for the warning!

Seriously, y’all: I understand the marketing trend to avoid associating low-calorie drinks with “diets.” I understand that, in a sexist society that demands eternal body consciousness from women, the label “diet” feminizes a product (and puts you at risk of missing out on the vast male market). But this attempt to attract men by subtly denigrating women is both silly and not-so-subtly misogynistic.

I hope your future marketing doesn’t rely upon gendered insults. Until then, my household (which until today went through several bottles of Dr. Pepper weekly, between me and my husband) will switch to some other, less gender-labeled brand of soda. Thanks for the heads-up!

sincerely,

Elsa

spam, wonderful spam

spammer scammers, you are dumb. I suspect you could recruit more candidates for your scamtastic offers of degree completion and scholarships if you could teach your spambots that it’s not spelled univisertiy, uvernisity, or even uiniversity.

spammer scammers, you are geniuses. Today I received a scammy spam announcing an enormous cash compensation payable to previous victims of (unspecified) 419 scam, which presumably is designed to appeal to recipients who have already bitten a hook at least once. Phish in a barrel. GENIUS.

nine-finger discount

Well.

I had hoped to start the New Year with a fresh burst of blogging, but first I and then The Fella got knocked out by a particularly vicious flu.

We’re all better now.

But.

Um.

Last night, I sliced open a finger with a kitchen knife*.

So.

You won’t hear much from me for a while.

*not neeeeeeeearly as bad as it could have been: after some deliberation, the ER doctor decided I didn’t even need stitches, just bandages and a tetanus booster. With luck, the biggest danger from this injury will be the crippling boredom that sets in when I can’t [cook/ sew/ write for long stretches/ rearrange furniture/ do chores] for a few days.

magically delicious?

The corner store seems to have mixed up their coffee dispensers again.

Well, I knew that when I bought this bag of beans, which came from a bin marked with two contradictory labels. No, this is more than a mix-up. This is a travesty.

The brew I’m sipping at this moment is not either French Roast or Italian Espresso, as the two labels insisted. I’m not sure what flavor it is, but if I had to guess, it would be…

Lucky Charms.

puffed up

I spent part of yesterday and most of today grousing — or, more accurately, trying not to grouse, which is of course a lot more exhausting — about little things, dumb things, immaterial things that even I don’t care about. For example, this afternoon I walked into the room where The Fella was peacefully reading his book, put my hands on my hips, and opened with “Can I just point out one more problem with Lost?”

This is the level of irrational irritation I’m talking about.

And when I look back over the week, I see that I must have unconsciously anticipated this mood: as early as Friday, I planned to spend a couple of hours this weekend making pita bread… because I needed a recipe that would ever so subtly compound my bad mood, a recipe that is just a liiiiiiiiittle bit time-consuming, just a liiiiiiiiittle bit finicky, and that I have never ever managed to perform correctly. I’ve made pita bread a dozen times, and though the little flat rounds always taste fine, they never puff and separate enough to make a fully distinct pocket. In short, this is a recipe designed to make me grouchy. Grouchier.

But it’s amazing how one small success will buoy my mood. I peeked into the oven and squealed “It’s puffing! It’s puffing!” In amazement, I watched the little loaf balloon and lift itself off the baking stone… and as it floated up up up, so did my spirits.

new baby smell

Picking up a gift for an upcoming baby shower, The Fella and I spent an hour wandering the aisles of the local megastore (where the expectant parents registered), alternately cooing at tiny socks and cursing the shop’s Byzantine organizational system. [Author’s note: I just wrote and cut, wrote and cut, wrote and cut some descriptions of the difficulties posed by just trying to buy the specified goddamned adorable towels and socks. You can well imagine.]

As we walked up and down and all around the aisles, I had ample time to notice the wafting fragrance of Fresh New Baby throughout the store, which I assumed came from some of the baby-care goods: salves and powders and unguents. Absently, I noted that the scent came in waves: sometimes subtle, sometimes strong, sometimes unpleasantly potent.

And then I looked up.

The megastore has large vents for air circulation. The vents pump air through the warehouse-sized space.

And anytime we stood under a vent, the baby smell became very strong indeed — oppressively so, even. As we moved away from a vent, the scent diminished, then began to grow again as we approached another ceiling vent.

I’ve done a little cursory online searching with no corroborating result, but I’m reasonably sure that my conclusion is correct: the baby megastore pumps the air full of artificial baby smell.

If any readers have occasion to visit their local baby megastore, I’d love some independent verification on this.