Thursday, November 17, 2011

Something to watch. To make you think.

The first term paper I ever wrote, in 10th grade A.P English class was on assisted suicide. That was 21 years ago. In most of the world we don't seem to be any closer to providing healthy, safe, compassionate spaces and protocols for dignified, self-determined deaths. Talking about death - real, personal, individual death - is still a great taboo, even between loved ones. Perhaps most especially between loved ones, for where else are stronger emotions and greater attachments generated? We need more conversations about death, we need better options for dignified, compassionate, self-directed deaths.

This documentary is worth your time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kangaroo briefs, rocks and eggs: A day in the life of me.

1. Public radio likes to talk about those "driveway moments" when their stories are so compelling that you delay getting out of your car upon reaching your destination in order to keep listening. This happened to me recently. The last sentence of a Vermont Public Radio on-air job opportunity ad for a producer/announcer at the station:
Announcer: "Excellent creative writing skills, a must." 

Wouldn't you expect the ad to say: "Strong journalism background a must"?  Creative News Writing. I kind of like the idea. I think I could be really good at that job. We could have a whole network dedicated to this kind of stuff. ImagiNews. I wanted to call it Creative News Network, but obviously....already taken - CNN. 

2. Also on VPR, a local announcer was reading one of the "underwriter" bits between segments (i.e. a donationally paid advertisement): 

"With underwriting support from so-and-so [I don't remember the company name, which I guess makes this a terrible ad ]. Now featuring men's kangaroo pouch briefs." 

Public radio underwritten by underwear? Weird, but times are tough. What the heck are kangaroo pouch briefs and are they really so much better than regular ones that they need a special ad? And yes, of course I googled "kangaroo pouch briefs" (and now you are too, you weirdo looking at underwear pictures. I sure hope you're not at work).  And besides, aren't kangaroo pouches only for females who need to carry baby kangaroos?  Ha! They are.  I just looked that up too. 

3. Being that this is New England, our soil is chock full of rocks. When I dig in my garden I hit a lot of them and it's pretty tedious really. So sometimes I find my mind slipping into "entertain Jen" mode and it starts imagining that my shovel might be hitting buried skulls or giant femurs from who knows what (but usually a human because that would be the most freaky). I finally get the spade wedged under an edge so I can pop the obstruction out of the soil. I feel a tiny moment of panic when something grayish white and rounded breaks the surface and then a brief moment of disappointment that it's just another damn rock. 

4. Cracking eggs never ceases to be fun. Every time I do it there's the possibility that I'll mess it up -  break the shell too hard so that the yolk gets punctured, not hit it hard enough so you have to go in for a second crack and then shell bits are guaranteed to get into what you're making. Or maybe I'll hit it perfectly.  I can tell by the sound it makes and the way it feels in my hand. I split it open and the perfectly formed insides slide out. Satisfaction. Cracking eggs, a small moment of wonder from something that seems so ordinary. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bird Brainless: An Update

First the earwigs came. Then the worms crawled in, the worms crawled out. The eyes bulged from their sockets. There was even some fuzzy mold after that.  There might have been a slight odor of decomposition, but let's not dwell on that unpleasantness.  I sprayed the skull a little with the "Jet" setting on the hose and unexpectedly excised the lens of the eye. At least, I think that's what it was. But the hose is not a precision instrument and bird skulls are pretty delicate, so I gave up the hose surgery endeavor. Still, much of the skull was covered with bits of dried skin and tiny feathers as well as the cartilaginous bits that had supported the eye (on the side I hadn't blasted with the hose).

 I decided to boil it. When you boil a chicken carcass it eventually comes pretty clean, right? And also - true story - when I told my neighbor about my cardinal head treasure, she told me about how she boiled a penguin head (super envious) she'd found on a beach years ago; that's how she got it clean. (You see why I like living in Vermont?) 

So I took my camping stove and an old camping pot that's too small to be useful and I made rotten cardinal-head soup. Unfortunately I accidentally deleted the two pictures I took of that. I did it outside so that any smells would dissipate on the wind. I boiled the skull for about an hour, maybe occasionally picking bits of skin and feathers off as I could (I wore gloves, but again, let's not discuss such unpleasantness) and then just left it in the garage for another week while I was away visiting my family near Buffalo. 

This is what it looks like now. Skulls are so cool.