what if snow white had halitosis?

I'm taking an online writing course this summer taught by laurel yourke based on her book take your characters to dinner. one of the first exercises is

Deconstruct something traditional.

Create something fresh from something familiar, such as Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Casey at the Bat. Revamp the opening, the ending, the conflict, the point of view. For example, how would the Big Bad Wolf narrate Little Red Riding Hood's story? What if the Prince fell madly in love with Cinderella's older sister? Unleash your imagination.

my initial response to the assignment was lukewarm. the new-twist-on-an-old-tale is almost its own genre --- grendel by john gardner, wicked by gregory maguire, ella enchanted by gail carson levine. my petulant brain responded with a vaguely pornographic twist on pinocchio. no problem, because laurel had suggested I start with the exercises in unit two, which are more relevant to building the potato palace anyway.

then I decided to include my two sentence porno-pinocchio idea in an email to a friend. by the time I finished the "email" the pinocchio portion ran at about 750 words, more than twice as long as the assignment allowed. I managed to cut my synopsis down to 600 words, 2 double-spaced pages, only 2 times too long.

The Perils of Pinocchio (synopsis)
by Ann Maria Bell

Pinocchio has achieved his dream of becoming a real boy. He quickly realizes his nose still grows when he lies. He alternates between being unflinchingly honest and completely silent. He doesn't have many friends. George Washington is his hero.

Pinocchio grows into a cranky, hormone-addled adolescent. It turns out that it's not just his nose that grows when he lies. The more outrageous the lies Pinocchio tells in his attempts to procure sexual partners, the better, um, equipped he is to deal with them. He becomes a compulsive liar and a porn star. read more...

careful readers will note that I didn't exactly follow the assignment. (just to prove I can be brief, I wrote a 100 word summary of my synopsis. it took about 5 minutes.) if I wrote more quickly, and if I wasn't in the middle of a big writing project, I think I could turn the perils of pinocchio into a funny short story. in the meantime, pinocchio motivated me to finally sign up for a creative commons license.

iraq is vietnam is somalia is bosnia is algeria is ...

an email exchange between me and a friend that spanned from ted kennedy's speech comparing iraq to vietnam to the first revelations of the abuse of iraqi prisoners at abu ghraib.


goring bush

(Iraq) is not the central front in the war on terror, but it has unfortunately become the central recruiting office for terrorists.
. . .
The unpleasant truth is that President Bush's utter incompetence has made the world a far more dangerous place and dramatically increased the threat of terrorism against the United States.

if al gore had been half as critical of g. w. bush during the 2000 campaign as he was in his recent speech at nyu, I might have actually voted for him.



it isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of kerry, but even noam chomsky has wandered into the *anybody but bush* camp:

Kerry is sometimes described as 'Bush-lite', which is not inaccurate. But despite the limited differences both domestically and internationally, there are differences. In a system of immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes.

the original interview and a brief summary appeared in the guardian. phil gasper's reply in counterpunch is well worth reading.

Whoever wins in November, we'll need the biggest and most militant social movements on the ground to fight their policies, but when activists get sucked into support for the Democrats the movements are weakened and sometimes destroyed.

I originally found phil's response at noam chomsky's official website which is extensive and frequently updated. chomsky also has a new blog called turning the tide. the eJournal critical thinkers resources website devoted to noam chomsky's politics is also excellent. check out the wikipedia article for an overview of chomsky's contributions to linguistics and politics.


lurking links

still worth reading


I gave my mother the gift of blog for her 70th birthday. she has her very own domain name, and a team blog at blogger.com (administered by me) ready to broadcast updates, opinions, recipes, and intimate details of her personal life, should she so desire, to the wide world of the world wide web.

the gift of the domain name has a satisfying pass-it-along feel --- my own domain was a more-or-less birthday present from my brother john three (or was it four?) years ago. it really encouraged me to get started down the road to internet oblivion by eliminating the first hurdle. however, it was actually my housemate carolyn who suggested that I make my mother a website for her birthday. I was casting around for a nice, new homemade gift idea, with new being the operative constraint. I'm pleased with how easy blogger.com is to use, though I admit I was somewhat dismayed to find carolyn's excellent suggestion detailed as "the last minute gift of blog" in the blogger FAQ section. mother, if you're reading this, let me assure you it was not a last minute endeavor. nor was the combined photo and quote (shown on 12 may 04) that I photoshopped into existence. I took the photo of the redwoods when my mother and I visited henry cowell redwoods state park last summer.

as for my own birthday, which falls just before my mother's, it was rescheduled this year, or at least parts of it were. last year I celebrated my 40th birthday with a 40 mile bike ride, and my intention was to up the ante another mile this year. just didn't happen --- I've only been out on my bike three times so far this year. however, the all purpose wisconsin excuse is excellent shape and ready to ride: the weather. (yeah, I know some people in madison ride their bikes straight through the winter. some people are dumb.) my resentment at the weather, cold, windy and wet all the way into the middle of may, undermined all physical activity on my part. in the winter I go to the gym to workout or hop on the norditrack at home, but I refused to do those things because it ought to have been warm enough to ride my bike. I am in considerably worse shape now than I was in the dark days of february. and the 4000+ miles of sitting in the car and the jumbo package of twizzlers that stands between wisconsin and my summer destination of california are not likely to improve the situation.

meanwhile, the construction of the potato palace is behind schedule due to unavoidable contractor delays and inclement emotional weather (which again can be blamed,at least in part, on the actual weather in wisconsin). my 40th year has expired without the completion of (the first draft of) my first novel.

so I decided to reschedule my birthday this year. my give-me-presents birthday occurred as usual on 9 may 04. my ride-my-bike-a-long-distance birthday had been moved to 9 sept 04, while my finish-my-first-novel birthday will take place on 9 nov 04.

bill applauds my "flexible approach to achieving goals."



this is what orelia is was studying in preparation for the last round of final exams of her undergrad career ... it was lost in the shuffle of packing and goodbyes ... from cognitive strategies as personality by j.k. norem ...

The defensive pessimism strategy involves individuals with acknowledged positive performance histories in a particular domain, who, nevertheless, set unrealistically low expectations whe anticipating new situations in that domain. Individuals using the strategy feel anxious and out of control, and play through a *worst case* analysis --- dwelling on possible negative outcomes --- even when those outcomes seem improbable.

Over the course of few years, the emotional ups and downs of academic defensive pessism may accumulate and take a heavy toll on well-being.

3:07 AM

three naked guys just ran across the lawn and up the steps to the front door of kappa kappa gamma, the sorority across the street from rivendell. then they ran back.

late night links

rivendell is online! see a picture of the big purple house out at http://www.rivendellcoop.org.
bill designed the website, which includes some rivenhistory and information about the openings we have for fall.

bill's song about the fourier transform,
Table 4.1: Properties of the Fourier Transform
was mentioned on a digital signal processing mailing list a few days back. he doesn't have any way to monitor traffic to his site (a good thing, perhaps, because I'm sure he gets many more hits than me) but he has gotten some email responses, including this one:

After hearing your music, I thought I'd say one of two things to you:
1) have you ever considered seeking psychiatric help, or
2) keep up the good work.

I choose: "Keep up the good work."

can I choose "all of the above"?

there was an amazing snow flurry in madison last sunday. for those of you who don't have a calendar handy or who think the previous sentence might have a typo, let me restate: it snowed in madison on the second of may this year. it was very cool (no pun intended, it's just very late, or very early, depending on how you look at it). the flakes were huge and swirled around in the wind, like being inside a snow globe. I put up a couple of movies and some pictures of the snow in madison.

3:46 AM

the fire alarm at chi phi, one of the fraternities behind rivendell, is going off. it's a series of three quick buzzes then a pause. it gets louder and softer as people open and shut the door to the building.

update 3:51 AM the fire trucks have arrived.

update 4:01 AM the fire trucks have left, but the alarm is still going.

update 4:12 AM the alarm is still going. this is not good.

update 4:29 AM still going. I shut the windows in the hall and bathroom and turned a fan on as well. back to bed.

quiz time!

know thyself, that pompous old yes-man and political hack polonious once said, and internet quizzes are probably just what he had in mind. for example: Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You? (Furnulum pani nolo --- "I don't want a toaster.") or How Old is Your Inner Child? (6 --- I want to be a fireman-princess-veterinarian when I grow up!) or Which Dysfunctional Care Bear Are You? (nihilist bear --- the most intellectual of the dysfunctional care bears.)

in the interest of promoting self-knowledge I have developed my own internet quiz. it simultaneously tests for reading comprehension and sense of humor. first, read the passage, then take the quiz. here goes:


Avis was rolling a ball of sticky brown gunk that looked suspiciously like, um, a ball of sticky brown gunk, around in a bowl of toasted coconut.

"Peanut butter, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, raisins, honey, and of course, chocolate chips," he announced for my benefit then gestured toward the plate of balls. They looked a lot more like food after they were covered in coconut.


humpf! don't know what it's about, and it's not funny.
huh? don't know what it's about, but it's funny.
humpf! it's about poop. poop is not funny.
ha-ha! it's about poop. poop is funny!

I am years old.


taking this quiz will help resolve a dispute that arose when I read the previous passage aloud. bill didn't get it. I tried to explain to bill that it was about poop, and when you're 12, poop is funny. jamie and orelia went even further, claiming that poop is always funny. then jamie said "poop! poop! poop!"and everyone laughed, which would seem to prove jamie's point. however, bill later claimed that he was only laughing because he thinks it's funny that jamie and orelia think poop is funny.

if you found this quiz to be of assistance in your journey to greater self-awareness, please email your friends and tell them to come take the is poop funny? quiz. for a limited time only!

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entries from 04.04