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Can't we all just get along?

I had the most extraordinary chance meeting last night. One of my classmates from Tai Chi wanted to meet at a local park and practice for a while. I met her there, we practiced for about an hour, and off she went. I decided to stay and take a walk around the park before heading for the supermarket. So while I was walking down the path, a young woman, twenty-something, with two small boys walked alongside. She said hi, I said hi, and that, I thought, would be the end of it. But no. She saw my Star of David and asked in a Middle Eastern accent (Iranian? I wondered) if she could ask me something. I said okay. This led to a 45 minute discussion on why the Middle East situation is what it is.

Eman is Egyptian. She's a Muslim. She was trying to understand why the Israelis hate Muslims. I was trying to make her understand that they don't, nor do I. The discussion went back and forth. I tried to tell her that her country doesn't have a free press and she's only reading one side of the issue. She said that in America, the press only gives one side of the issue, as well. She has a point about media bias. But we do have a free press, and you can get alternate views.

But to illustrate the media suppression, I asked her a few questions about things I was pretty sure she didn't know had happened. Did she know that during the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem, I asked, the Jordanians took headstones from Jewish cemeteries and built latrines with them? She was shocked. "That is not Muslim," she told me. "That is wrong." We agreed that there were wrongs on both sides that were definitely not authorized by our holy books.

She asked me if the Torah says that it is all right for a Jew to cheat, steal, lie to and kill non-Jews. No, I told her. Those are lies spread about Jews to make people hate them. She said she would try to find an Arabic translation of the Torah. I suggested she try to find one in English that wasn't written by an Arab with an anti-Israel agenda.

Throughout the conversation, the thrust of her questions were generally: Why do the Jews hate the Muslims and Christians, when Mohammed's and Jesus' teachings came from Judaism? Why do the Jews hate Arabs when we're essentially cousins, with the same roots?

I told her that first, most Jews do not hate Muslims, just as I would hope that most Muslims do not hate Jews. The hatred that exists is very recent, from the last hundred years or so, and that it all comes down to the land of Israel. When Israel declared statehood in 1948, the ensuing war drove out the Palestinian Arabs. They've not been allowed to return to their homes, as their homes are now occupied by Israelis. It's what shot down the last peace agreement. Yassir Arafat was insisting on a Right of Return for millions of Palestinian refugees to come back to the land they fled from. It will never happen. It would be like giving Manhattan back to the Indians. And thus, the peace process fell apart.

But Eman said the peace process fell apart because Ariel Sharon went to the Temple Mount. She also told me that the Israelis were digging a tunnel under the sacred ground, and that it would collapse and damage it. I explained to her that it was an archeological dig, that they were experts digging for ancient Jewish artifacts, and that they would never let the caves collapse. She didn't seem to believe me. I decided not to bother expressing my opinion that Sharon had every right to go to the Temple Mount, and that it was Arafat and the Palestinians who started the violence.

About halfway through our discussion, I realized how incredibly strong the Palestinian propaganda machine is. I already knew it intellectually, but this served to drive it home in a way that news reports simply can't.

You know what the most frustrating things were? That the two of us could have a rational discussion about our peoples' differences without the emotional level rising or names being thrown around. And that we both agreed that Israelis and Palestinians need to learn how to live with one another. And that if we two could get along and discuss things in a rational manner, it stands to reason that the Arab nations and Israel could do so, too.

And yet, last week, President Assad of Syria told the Pope and the rest of the world that the Jews murdered Jesus and tried to kill Mohammed. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the blood-libel forgery exposed decades ago, is on sale in every Arab country. Two days ago in Israel, two teenaged boys who were hiking were bludgeoned to death with rocks because they were Jews. And the shelling from both sides continues.

The hatred is getting buried so deep, I'm starting to fear it may never be cured. Sad. So sad. Eman and I managed not to hate each other.

Her name means "faith" in Arabic. Faith, I think, is the only thing that's going to bring about a lasting peace in the Middle East. Faith, and a miracle.--MAY



No, I did not slash my wrist

My oh-so-brilliant Tig wanted to snuggle under the covers night before last, since it's been kinda cool in here what with that transition between spring and summer (this week it's been generally under 68 degrees when I wake up in the morning, not so much fun). So I let him under, and then when I figured he was comfortable, I let go of the blanket, which dropped on him. Well, this time there was apparently a monster under the covers, because Tig got spooked and proceeded to exit, Stage Left, quickly. Except Stage Left only got him entangled in the blankets. So he tried Stage Right, then Stage Any Direction, leaving an incredibly jagged mark on my left wrist before I managed to untangle him. I knew I was bleeding, but hey, it was late, I was tired, and believe it or not, laughing. If you have a cat, you get scratched. No sense getting annoyed every time it happens. So I let it be, and today have a pretty ugly curved scratch on my wrist. Looks like someone was trying to carve a backwards "J" into it. Hm. Maybe it was a dead relative trying to make contact with me. Uncle Joe? My dad? Okay, okay, no John Fraudward riff tonight. And I won't pick on Andrew Lloyd Webber either, but only because I can't think of anything right now.--MAY

Okay, I can't help it. It's pick on Andrew Lloyd Webber week. But during tonight's episode of Angel, this line caused me to stop the tape and fall on the floor laughing: "I would rather watch a junior high school production of Cats than go back there." It was uttered by my favorite demon, and one of the main reasons to watch Angel (and its companion show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer): Where else can you find a green-skinned, horned demon that runs a karaoke bar, and where you have to sing if you want him to read your aura and help you solve your problems?

You won't find that on Survivor.

Survivor. That reminds me. I was thinking about the numbers, and realized that with one simple turnaround, you discover that there absolutely is hope for American culture, after all. Here are the stats: 36 million people watched the finale. There are what, 280 million Americans? That means over 240 million Americans did NOT watch Survivor. Bravo to you, America!

Tig Chi practice

I finally have a name for Tigger's determination to join me whenever I try to practice Tai Chi or Qigong. It's going to be called Tig Chi. Hey, maybe I can write a book on it like the Tao of Pooh and make some money. Hm. He's using a Tig Chi move right now. I have a double-sided water dish for my cats. Gracie drinks like a normal cat, because Gracie essentially is a normal cat, except for her insistence on being petted on the bathroom sink. Well, and her letting the water drip on her head while she's sitting in the sink waiting for me to pet her.

But anyway. When he can't drink from the sink (or from Gracie's head, from which he licks the water that's dripped on her) Tig will lie on one side of the water dish, lengthways, and drink from the other side. Or he'll hook a paw around the side of the water dish, like he's afraid you're going to take it from him or something, and drink that way. It always makes me worry when he starts drinking like a normal cat. That must be a sign that he's ill or something.

While shopping at King's last week, I stopped to talk with the rep from PAWS, the local animal shelter. Turns out she has a Maine Coon Cat, and we discovered that traits I thought were unique to my Tig are apparently breed-specific. Her Coon Cat gives hugs, too. And hers doesn't sit in her lap, but lies full-length along her torso, just like Tig does to me. The talking I knew about. Don't tell me the female is the talkative one of the species: Gracie is a Sphinx compared to Tig. Yowl, yowl, yowl, mrowr, mrowr, mrowr, chirrup, chirrup, chirrup. That's all Tig does. He's learned what "Bye" means when I'm talking on the phone; he knows when I turn off the TV it means I might pay more attention to him; and he knows that if he stands on his hind legs and pats my back through the slats on my chair while I'm online, it will generally get me to laugh and turn around and pet him. In each of these cases, a yowl or a mrowr follows the action. My friend Neil used to insist the original Tig would drag him into chat on my BBS when I wasn't home. I'm quite convinced that this Tig uses the phone when I'm not around. That would explain my long-distance phone bills. And the mysterious shipment of catnip that arrived from before it died.--MAY



Stop the presses!

This just in: Variety reports that a movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is being produced at Warner Brothers. It seems our buddy Lloyd Webber has written some new songs for the film. Think there's still time to get him to put Fish Heads into the production?--MAY

Duh moments

I was reminded of this by a Google search. Hm. Now that I'm typing "Google", does that make anyone else think of Barney Google, the cartoon character? He was a hillbilly, a cartoon that would probably not be shown today because Barney Google and Snuffy Smith were hicks. I can just visualize Barney's wife, but I can't remember her name. The cartoon was a comic strip before it was an animated cartoon. King Features Syndicates, if I'm not mistaken. Theme song started, "Uh, uh, uh, great balls of fire, goodness gracious".

Oh. Google search. I found something on a search that reminded me: I once wrote a column on really stupid questions that annoy me. The number one stupid, annoying question was, "Hot enough for you?"

I've always found that one, and its opposite "Cold enough for you?" to be the most obnoxious weather questions ever asked. No, it's not hot enough, I want it to reach 212 degrees Fahrenheit so my blood starts to boil. No, it's not cold enough, I want it to go to 50 below zero and kill off all the homeless people and people stupid enough to be out in that kind of weather. Duh.

And related to that was the recent promotion for Sunday night's episode of The Practice. "And whatever you do--DON'T MISS THE LAST FIVE MINUTES!" Every time I saw that commercial, and every time I heard that line, all I could think was, "No, I'm going to watch the entire episode and then turn it off during the last five minutes, like everyone who watches television does." DUH!

Duh moments are sometimes funny, sometimes embarrassing, but always deserving of a "Duh". Or, as Homer puts it: "Doh!"

I find I often have a Duh Moment while trying to think of a way to solve a problem around the house. For whatever reason, I'm not very crafty. I don't like to do anything that includes using tools. Changing a light bulb is really about the limit of what I'm willing to do in my home. So what's driving me so incredibly crazy is that I actually fixed something that required tools, all by myself, and I cannot for the life of me remember what I did. Which makes this a total Duh Moment. If anyone else remembers it for me, please let me know.

Normally, my Duh Moments go like this: Weeks after I bought my microwave cart, I see little plastic tabs sticking out of the wheel covers. "I wonder what these do?" I muse. I click them down. Then I discover the microwave cart no longer moves. "Oooh. Brakes! What a smart idea!" Duh.

Actually, come to think of it, about half my Duh Moments include a "I wonder what this does/is/goes to". Luckily, my Duh Moments aren't anywhere in the league of the Darwin Award candidates. I generally remember not to use my wheeled chairs to stand on when I change a light bulb.--MAY



Look Ma, I'm writing

It occurred to me today that this is my eighth blog in a row. That I have been writing, every day, for more than a week. This is the first time that's happened in years. This makes me an exceptionally happy camper.

Gawd. Diet. Exercise. Writing. What next, a love life? One can only hope.

This problem really stinks

Okay, so there's this dilemma that I have that's really extremely minor, but also extremely irritating, and I really can't think of a satisfactory solution for it, and even telling you about it seems, well, stupid. But it's been bugging me all week and I have to say something about it.

I bought the wrong deodorant. Let's face it, it's not something you buy on a weekly basis. And I thought I was buying my brand. But this time I bought the "Shower Fresh" brand instead of the "Powder Fresh" brand. The difference in scent is overwhelming, and I just plain don't like it. It smells like the inserts they put in magazines. I used it once, went "blegh!" and proceeded to buy a new deodorant, this time the right scent.

So here's my conundrum: What on earth do you do with a deodorant that you've used only once, but that you have used? You can't bring it back to the supermarket and get your money back. I don't really think any of my friends would want it. Think about it. You try asking a friend if they want the deodorant you bought. The conversation would probably go something like this:

"I bought the wrong deodorant. Would you like it?"
"I don't like the scent."
"Did you use it?"
"Only once."
"You used it?"
"Yes, but only once."
"But you USED it?"

You see what I mean... Would YOU take a used deodorant from your friend?

Blegh. I just smelled it again to see if there were any way I could stand it. Nope. And man, that scent really hung on all day.

So maybe I should ask the audience here. I know I could throw it away, but I just bought it, and I only used it once. It feels wrong to just toss it. If anyone has any ideas on what we can do with a slightly used deodorant stick, just let me know. Hey, if enough of you come up with good ideas, I'll put up a poll and we can vote for it.--MAY



It's a new week. The rest of the blogs have been archived. It'll keep this page from getting too big. I like small, fast, clean web pages that load quickly. I'm still working with a 56k modem, so I think it's a foregone conclusion that you will not be receiving any heavy-duty media files on my site. Not if I have anything to say about it, and, hey, guess what? I do!

The Fish Heads theory

I was struggling for something to write about today, and going through my email trying to find an idea, when I came upon the lyrics to Fish Heads (warning: Clicking opens new window, and I figure you're all smart enough to close it yourself) that I found somewhere on the Net. I needed them to bolster my Fish Heads Theory, which is as follows: If you can sing the words from Fish Heads to the music of any other song, that song, well, sucks.

I developed this theory while listening to a commercial for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera for the umpteenth time. To my great delight, hearing Michael Crawford singing "Music of the Night" somehow turned in my head to the lyrics to Fish Heads, and I discovered that you can sing Fish Heads to "Music of the Night." A little further research shows that you can sing Fish Heads to MANY Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes, which proves what I've been saying about Lloyd Webber for years--he's a hack. You can't sing Fish Heads to any Stephen Sondheim tune, not even "Send in the Clowns", which is probably his simplest song (melody-wise). But stop and put the lyrics to Fish Heads in "Memories" from <gag> Cats. It works. Now try them to "Jesus Christ, Superstar" (title song) and what do you get? More Fish Heads music! That's three Lloyd Webber plays right there, three of his most famous. Let me think, do I know any of the tunes to Evita? Hm. Oh, my. "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" fits "Fish heads, fish heads, roly-poly" to a T. Yup, that about says it all. Andrew Lloyd Webber's music sucks. Let's face it, how many of his songs are just repetition and lists? Nearly all of them in JCS are that, with the exception maybe of "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (which Fish Heads can also be sung to).

Heck, you can't even fit Fish Heads to "Have A Little Priest" from Sweeney Todd, and that one's also got a simple melody. Sondheim is simply Fish Heads-proof. And the greatest living American songwriter.

So there you have it. Meryl's Fish Heads Theory. For those of you who have been out of touch with me for a long time, aren't you glad to see that I really haven't changed much? And believe me, I still have that store of Little-Known Facts as well.--MAY

Sunday evening

I was playing around with the idea of writing a psychic spoof a la John Fraudward, but then I watched my tape of last night's Mad TV and I realized I didn't have to. It was absolutely hilarious. My favorite set of questions, about an audience member who wanted to talk to someone who has "passed on":

"He was a man?"
"She was a woman?"
"Yes." <much laughter>

In that one skit, the writers caught the absolute heart and soul of so-called psychics. Cold-reading is their "talent"; it's been perfected for over a hundred years. Arthur Conan Doyle, a friend of Harry Houdini, was such a sucker for the medium craze that Houdini regularly visited his friend to expose the latest set of frauds steaing Conan Doyle's money. And yet, the poor sucker continued to believe, even after Houdini showed him repeatedly that his "psychics" weren't. Sad.--MAY



Dirty, sweaty socks = cat toys

I hate running. But I did it again this morning, and this time, I decided to go down the hill instead of up it. You see, Gates Street apparently has a hill that you don't ever notice if you're driving it, but when you're running it, you wonder why you never knew that Gates has a 75% grade and no warning signs. So I ran the other way, and still had trouble with the last couple of blocks. But hey--I filled my one-mile requirement.

So when I get home, the first thing I do is throw off my cap. The next thing I do is shed my shoes and socks. They're not new socks, they're running socks, which I'll use each day only for running then wash them on wash day. Much to my surprise, my cat Gracie decided that dirty, sweaty socks were a cat toy. She smelled them. (Ew.) She rubbed against them. (Ew.) She started to play with them. (Ew.) This was too much for Tig, who then proceeded to push her away and take her toys. I told them there was no need to fight; socks come in pairs. Then I separated the socks, one for Gracie, one for Tig. As I write this, Gracie is hovering over her sock. (Ew.) Tig has moved on because toys aren't nearly as much fun if he can't steal them from Gracie.

Tig has always liked my socks, but generally the clean ones. If I leave a pair of socks anywhere he can reach them while I'm getting dressed, he picks one up in his mouth and runs off with it. It's really hard to break him of this habit, because I find it incredibly funny to watch him walk with a sock in his mouth. Even funnier is when he steals my panty hose. They trail beneath him for a couple of feet and he tries to walk with his paws on either side of them. I lose more panty hose that way, but I've found there really is no better way to start your day than with a laugh.

Impulses and outages

The power went off at 7:00 this morning. I know this because I was awake, and my air conditioner stopped. I looked at the clock, and it was blank. Er, the electric clock was. The battery-operated clock said 7:00. I went to the living room and turned off the power strips that run my computer and television, then found my battery-driven radio and found batteries and then I found that it was a localized blackout, so I called PSE&G and was told they'd have it fixed by--and I quote--"11:03 a.m." I have no idea how they knew it would fixed by precisely 11:03, but I felt that I had gotten enough information to go back to sleep, as I'd had a rotten night filled with rotten dreams and much waking up, so I did go back to sleep. And had better dreams. And when I got up around 10 o'clock, the power was on. Now how embarrassed do you think PSE&G is, knowing they were wrong about when they would have it fixed?

And now what I'm trying to decide is whether or not I'm going to hop in the car and drive to Richmond. Heidi may or may not have a houseful of Congolese visitors tonight, which would be interesting. But what the hey, I'm not working and even though things at my old company are going to change on Monday, I'm betting the earliest I'd get back to work there would be the next week--if I go back there. Well, first I have to shower and dress, then I have to run to the store to get a few things if I'm going to Richmond. Then I'll decide, I think. I'll be sure to keep you informed.

3:30 p.m.

You let me leave a typo in this blog. Shame on you all. It is now fixed.

Well, the window of opportunity to drive to Richmond today passed about an hour and a half ago. It's a six-hour drive; I'm not fond of late-day six-hour drives. Guess Heidi's going to have to deal with those Congolese visitors on her own.

Today is the first day all week that the temperature in my apartment has been below 80. It's also the first day I've worn long pants all week, except for T'ai Chi class. It is an extremely pleasant change. The windows are open, the breeze is blowing, no electrical air cooling devices are on, not even a fan. This is what spring should be like. None of that early summer stuff for me, thank you. Although I suspect those of you who worked all week were looking forward to a summer-like weekend. To you, I can only say, "Nyah, nyah." There are sometimes upsides of being unemployed.--MAY