September Chaos

I can't believe how much havoc a simple cold can wreak with one's daily life. It's been three weeks now that the whole household has been suffering from a particularly virulent head cold. R, Z, N and I have been sludging our way through each day, hanging on until we can fall into bed again at the end of it. Pretty pathetic, eh? I started on an antibiotic 5 days ago for a secondary infection; yesterday was my first really good day. Z obtained antibiotics yesterday, so she's hoping for relief in another couple of days.

And so it goes. Hence the loooong gaps twixt posts.
I only managed one mandala again this past week, but I really like it. I based it on another of Julie Keefe's designs. It was very satisfying. I must write to thank her for her Mandala Mondays, as lately I have not had the oomph to do more than color in someone else's designs.
Reading has been my salvation, and I stayed up far later than was good for me two nights in a row reading Paul Carter's memoir, Don't Tell Mum I work on the Rigs - She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse. As he explains in a great video clip you can watch here, the title is a phrase from the 1960s, when working on an oil rig was even more dangerous than it is today, and the men who worked the rigs were accordingly even rougher than those he works with. Thus the notion that the piano playing job is more respectable than working on an oil rig.

I'm not sure that I'd want Paul Carter as a next-door neighbor - I certainly wouldn't want him as a steady influence in N's life (she's a plenty tough nut at age 7 as it is!) - but he's a pretty interesting guy, and his sense of humor is just twisted enough to make the book total escapist fare. He's also extremely intelligent, and I appreciate his take on the oil industry:

"To summarize my political opinions about oil, greed and the environment, both then and now:
-I firmly believe that when politicians aren't kissing babies they're stealing their lollipops.
-There is no oil in schoolchildren.
-Everyone in oil is a lying weasel . . . except me."

The book is not, however, a polemic against the oil industry. It's part memoir, part travelogue, part anthropological study, and just a rowdy, bawdy romp through the oil rig subculture, something completely new to me. From a bar-tending orangutan to a feud with a Brit-hating Frenchman, Carter's stories are all equally engaging. Carter doesn't have a particular gift for writing, but he's a good story-teller, with all that implies. He turns a nice phrase, too: my favorite is his comment about China, which was my experience in Taiwan when we lived there in the late 1980s, although it was not as true when we were there in 2000:

"The only thing I couldn't get used to in China was the gobbing. Everyone, and I mean everyone, hacks up a big ball of phlegm and spits it out on the street, every five minutes. Women, children, babies, monks, doddery old people who look like the next big gob could kill them - everyone has a good gob, all the time.
"Perhaps the answer to China's economic problems lies not in oil and gas exploration, but in utilizing its other natural resource: spit. It's a lot cheaper to find than hydrocarbons, all you have to do is set up millions of giant spittoons and find a way to convert the spit into some sort of industrial lubricant. They could spend the money on driving lessons for everyone, because when the locals aren't gobbing all over the place they are driving around like Stevie Wonder. (In China I came frighteningly close to getting flattened by anything from kids on rollerskates to rickshaws and semis, but that's possibly because I was too busy trying not to step in all the gobs.)"

Okay, so it sounds like Dave Barry guest appearing on South Park, but having BTDT, I had to admit that it was only slightly exaggerated.

Z & I have noticed that there's rather a lot of gobbing going on on our campus, actually. It's not a phenomenon restricted to one part of the world, alas.

Looking for something to follow up with, I picked up the Jo Soares novel off my shelf. Not sure whether I'd gotten it from a used book sale, or pbs, or where, but it felt like the right time to read it. What a hoot! Twelve Fingers: Biography of an Anarchist reminds me a bit of Woody Allen's movie "Zelig," in which Allen takes footage from old newsreels and cuts his hero, Zelig (played by Allen himself) into them, showing Zelig with Nixon, Woodrow Wilson and other real people. It also, however, reminded me of Lemony Snicket's author portraits, which always show Snicket walking out of the picture, or completely in shadow. The book features photographs of famous people "with" Dimitri, the 12-fingered, would-be assassin, but Dimitri is almost completely cut out of the picture so that only one arm is visible; or he has "just stepped out to obtain another bottle of wine"; or in one photo, only the legs are showing because the camera was wielded by a dwarf.
The humor is both understated and slapstick, if that makes any sense. It is a very funny book. Inspector Clouseau could not have been more of a klutz than Dimitri. I don't want to give anything away, so I will leave it at that.

Got to run - so many errands, so little gas. Oh - do click on the title of the post - it'll take you to a really good blog by someone else. But don't stop reading mine, please.


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