Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Man converts plastic into oil

We just KNEW this already had to exist, right? There ARE answers out there, just something of a challenge to get the info out over the din of Big Oil's hogging the microphone. It's astonishing this hasn't been on 60 Minutes or Bill Moyers. Maybe someone should bring it to their attention?

thanks to Av for the link...x

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hooker Pup?

Someone who is fond of animal videos (aren't we all, secretly?) sent me the YouTube below. It's cute, a wee bulldog rolling down a hill and variously flinging herself about a grassy knoll on a sunny day just for the helluvit. Or so it would seem. As I live a hermit's life in Nowheresville, Maine, I occasionally fall prey to temptation and browse the comments sections of various sites, you know, see what's out there, who's out there, even though experience has often proved this a fraught activity. Sane people know comment browsing, especially on YouTube, is never a good idea if one hopes to carry on believing the world a livable place populated by reasonable folks. Still, it surprised me to see a heated exchange had developed on the subject of this apparently fun-loving doggie. Assertions by various posters, arguments really (into which I've noticed most comments sections seem to inevitably devolve), ran along these lines:

What appears to be a pup having fun is a cruel lie, or as a politician might put it, misleading –  some asshole has straightjacketed her in a wee sweatshirt and she's doing everything she can to get the damn thing off. Oh! cruel humanity!

People are "trolls" (what on earth does this mean? Have folks taken to lurking under bridges? Are they homeless? Apparently it's an insult, judging by the bitter knee-jerk response of accusees).

English Bulldogs were bred (by aforementioned cruel humans) to flat faces and short stature in order to maintain a low profile and take some of the "bull" heat off matadors in the ring.  Hence "bull" dog. (This may be true, but for my money, it's the most absurd, not to say exploitative, notion, and the one for which humans should be tried and hanged forthwith. By animals, of course, a la Animal Farm?)

Bulldog births frequently require C-sections because humans have so contorted (read: bioengineered) the breed's appearance and shape for their own sadistic amusement that flat wide head just won't make it through mum's wee vagina.

One commenter found the poor doggie's T-shirt "disturbing" but refused to explain why (someone should probably check up on him, and soon. Not me though, you do it.)

Further assertions abound, to wit: Idiots love idioms; "adorbs" is the new "adorable"; people like animals better than people; bulldogs are known to skateboard, solo and voluntarily; dogs become morose if their master's videos are neglected by the viewing public; this video is doggie porn, this pup no better than a common whore, and her master a low life pimp.

I am reminded of an episode of West Wing when Josh can't resist commenting on his own fans' website, believing his eloquence will set them straight, and lives to regret kowtowing to his ego's need not simply to express itself but to dominate the commentary. Isn't there some Aesop Fable about this?

We report; you decide....  Is this cruel and unusual?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bad Hair Day, Maine

The Most Godforsaken, Furthest From Everything That Matters, State in the Union.


It's not enough that winter never ends until long after the wood disappears. That I have to travel and hour and a half to buy fresh burdock and lotus root or good olives or reasonably priced cheese or fish, or experience anything that even vaguely resembles civilization.

It's downright Godforsaken when it comes to hair.  Do you feel me?

After years of tragically disappointing pricey salon cuts in this supposedly high-class town, (even the barber! sure sign of desperation), long ago I took to regularly chopping away at my own hair. Undeniably the best result. But recently, in some rapture of hopeful longing to be normal, I defied negativity and followed my (rod- straight-haired) daughter's advice to try her new salon. To have a SALON EXPERIENCE!  No more standing before the bathroom mirror, trying to imagine what the back of my head might look like. I will trust someone. I will go for it! I will look fabulous!

Now, be aware. Experience has engendered caution in this area and the firm conviction that there isn't a haircutter worth her scissors in this entire state. I've tried dozens. Not one has proved me wrong. The whole damn geography that calls itself Maine is utterly devoid of a single human being with the skill and imagination to cut anything but rod straight locks. Unless you want the standard "Maine Man Cut", which most women up here seem fine with, to my neverending horror. Do they not know that's a man's haircut? I just want to look and feel like a woman. That means sexy. My hair is not straight, it has body and, cut correctly, it curls in a wonderfully natural feminine way I relate to. I like the "fresh outta bed look", kinda wild and easy. A hard thing to communicate to a hairdresser who may lack a point of reference, god help her (and may indeed feel such a louche look belongs on no one's head.)  Point of order: gay hairdressers, I've discovered, are more likely to empathize, but not always.

Heedless of the odds, I made an appointment – weeks in advance, mind you. It's de riguer  among the more soignee Maine salons, those pretending to, um, a more upscale cosmopolitan vibe, (bring a little class to the locals, you see) to perpetuate the impression they can't possibly book you today or this week as their gifts are so much in demand. The gal my daughter suggested I see did a decent job on her, as I mentioned, rod straight hair, so, ever hopeful she might perform adequately, I donned my Parisian cashmere for luck and ventured forth. (How bad can it be? Ah, how quickly we forget. After all I HAVE A PHOTO OF PRECISELY WHAT I WANT, emailed to the gal in advance.) Instincts at a high pitch, vibrating "no, no, not good, not good, bad idea",  in complete denial, I sashayed into the salon. I had washed and "defused" my hair so she'd get the wildly blown concept I like and to demonstrate how it might curl naturally if cut well. I needed some length taken off, some thinning in back, a few layers maybe in the parts I can't reach myself. I lugged along a laptop with the full screen size photo of the BEST haircut I've ever got.  I want this, said I.

But wait. Why you might ask, not just head back to that salon?  The one where I got the good cut.

Because, dear reader, that would involve a round trip ticket to France, a few nights in hotel, a goodly number of pastry shop visits, an appointment with Monsieur Leo in the 7th arr, Paris. and various other liquid 'outlays' not at my disposal just now. Well, I s'pose I could, so let's just say I was shopping local. Willing to believe the impossible. It's so.. American.

Sucker!.... my head is a disaster. I look like someone's bedraggled, underpaid, furtive and possibly illegal alien housekeeper.  No, too mild. Reflecting on my mirror image just now, I look like a defeated woman being herded to the "showers' in 1944. Utterly shorn and Truly tragic.

Here's how that came to be:

The gal was sweet, two years experience at the scissors bar (I came to discover after the fact), she offers me water with lemon (how chic!), gives me a "tour" (while I'm thinking: is this really necessary? I mean it's like 20 by 20 feet! I think I can find my way to the ladies') of the wee salon, its various areas dedicated to such specialities as the "color corner" (three hair dryers, Darth Vader black heads languishing over pleather chairs), the "color bar" (basically a shelf unit with containers of, one assumes, color), the "washing area" (where special chairs accommodate your neck angle), and lastly her chair, the one in front of the mirror where she will eventually do to me what Delilah did to Samson. But let's not get ahead of the story.

Before proceeding I fill out a 'form', like in the doctor's office. On it I'm to write about my worst haircut ever and why (I stated there were too many to elucidate), and information pertaining to my shampoo preferences, water temperatures, use of hair dryer, my 'feelings' about my hair. (Seriously?)

That she wanted to assess my hair, cut it "dry" a bit before washing, sounded an optimistic note with me. I glanced at the scissor holster suspended from her waist, exploding with chrome utensils. The sight of this gave me pause.  M. Leo only used one pair – but whatever. I showed her the Paris photo, she glanced at it briefly while I described in as much detail as I recalled the minimalist technique Monsieur Leo used to shape the cut (NOT many layers, and "this length",  I demonstrated). She insisted she 'got it', we agreed on a length, I was very clear on where to cut the sides, the back, cautioning her against 'too many layers' as that would leave my hair (please, trust me) flat rather than curly. Oh, yes, she gets it, lift, curl, etc. We proceed to the hairwashing area, I get a brief whiff of head massage (she's young, has no idea how women d'un certain age crave this). Once back in the chair she reaches into her impressive waist 'holster' with a dozen different scissors, takes one to the left side of my face and HACKS the hair so short I thought I'd have a heart attack. At this point, judging from the look on my face, she asks, "Are you about to have a heart attack?" and smiles. I insist, no no, carry on, but isn't that a bit short? OH, sez the gal, this will give you the LIFT you want, short underlayers LIFT the longer layers. Well., okay. Proceed. (God help me. God lift me!)

Our conversation went back and forth with every few scissor snips, I tried to be helpful while she insisted it would, in the end, be what I wanted. but the way she was cutting, I'd seen it before, waaay too many layers, nothing like the Parisian experience. Do remember... I've waited years to trust my head to anyone. This was a leap of faith. In addition, I have a reputation for being, well, not picky so much as DEMANDING, when it comes to spending money and getting something fairly close what I pay for. I mean, if I buy  bag of oranges, take them home, peel one and it SUCKS, all pith, no juice, I take the damn bag back to the store. That seems only right to me. Whatever... so I have this particular reputation. No, I exude it. Ditto re being frank, although I do feel my skills in the diplomacy department are highly underrated.  No one ever pats you on the back for shit that doesn't happen.

Anyway. Despite my rising panic and conscious of the above referenced 'reputation', I absolutely "maintained low tones" as I attempted to make suggestions, all ignored. She did not, as they say, hear me, she had her own ideas of how this was going.  I even tried to sound sympathetic, understanding. She just kept snipping and snipping and snipping and snipping and promising and promising as though CUTTING MORE HAIR would FIX IT! Okay... Not!!!

 I finally had to say, "Just stop, please, it's okay. (My heart sinking, my rapidly aging face sagging with it. This is So NOT okay. My brain shouting, "Red alert! Dyke cut! Oh, Nooooo, Mister Bill!")

"How's that?" she asks brightly. People, – I've suffered in silence too many times not wanting to 'hurt feelings. Now I refuse to lie. How is it doing anyone a favor if I do? Why perpetuate the myth/tragedy? "I hate it," I said quietly. "It's too short. It's not curling. It's not your fault, you tried your best,"  and carried on voicing every palliative thing I could think of because – and here's a prime example of what's WRONG with young America today – she actually believed in her little Mainer, never been anywhere heart that she could pull this snappy French haircut off with two years experience and a couple days at Sassoon. I mean, what the...? Where do people get the notion they can do great work without the correct training, skills, information and experience? The salon owner haughtily attempted to stress the Sassoon experience later on as I lingered hopefully at the register, thinking: Shouldn't someone apologize for this?  Sassoon cut no mustard with me.  Sassoon? WHERE THEY SPECIALIZE IN STRAIGHT HAIR. DO YOU THINK I'M AN IDIOT? The whole useless shebang took two hours, TWO HOURS! As though more cutting time miraculously translated into a better cut, the logical conclusion being: you're better off totally bald? This longtime-is-better crap is a snow job. Anyone with experience knows that if someone can't give you a good cut in twenty minutes or less they should not be wielding scissors near your head and most certainly not be charging you good money for it.

You know, I felt for the kid.  But I was heartbroken – and I was pissed.  When it was all over, despite her obvious distress, as she seemed sincere, I felt obliged to tell the young woman that Leo gave me that great cut in 20 minutes flat. She recoiled as though struck. Twenty minutes! But I'd done her a favor, and I knew it. I set a standard before her, whether she chooses to aspire to it is on her. With any luck she wasn't one of those unfortunate children raised to expect praise, "Good Job!" for, you know, brushing their teeth! On the way home (raging to self in the car) I recalled that, reviewing decades of haircuts, every good cut (alas, too few!) I ever got took no more than 20 minutes, that's it. So... New Rule: when making hair appointments, insist they only last that long. Set a timer when you sit down and tell them "Okay, I'm outta here when that goes off, so get to it, and don't screw it up." Bet you get a better cut. (Note to self.)

Poor thing,  25 and a haircutter in Maine, the Godforsaken State, probably trained at one of these beauty schools that are stuck in the 70s or some time warp I can't actually pinpoint.  The poor girl didn't want me to pay her. I insisted, and I tipped her too. But the best tip I gave her was this:

Honey, You wanna be a good hair cutter? Save your money; go to France; spend three months there at Monsieur Leo's knee, sweep his floors if you have to, but learn something! Spend days at the Louvre! Walk the streets, notice the women. Learn how to see, how to listen to your client.  Come back to Maine with a coterie of gay hairdressers from Paris and open your own salon. People will flock to you, you'll make a pile of dough and live happily ever after. And the women of Maine will be grateful. So grateful.

Til then, No, I won't be back so you can 'get to know' my hair. I'll cut it myself. It didn't look this bad when I walked in.

If I can white out my mug, I'll post both photos later..

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Man for All Seasons

Okay, this is the coolest story I've read this year. Read background story here, from BBC today. Just amazing. someone give this guy a MacArthur grant; where's Melinda Gates when you need her?