Thursday, September 28, 2006

Are you going to come quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?” - Spike Milligan

On eastbound Highway 7 in Minnetonka, Minnesota there is a sign that says “Warning: Noise Laws Enforced.” I have seen similar signs in other places, and I always wonder how these laws actually read. I imagine they refer to ordinances whose purpose is to prevent the ground-shaking stereos that some young men have in their cars, but perhaps they refer to another earth-moving event: that is, Loud Sex.

Right off the bat, I have to make clear that this entry is about women who are loud to varying degrees when they reach orgasm. I have no idea if men are ever loud themselves at this point or not. I’ve only had sex with one man – me – and I am not so loud, at least not that I’m aware of. I do talk dirty, but that is just to provide ambiance and does not occur at any sort of intense volume at all. Now that I think more about this, I find that I don’t care if there are loud men, so don’t bother telling me. This is about you ladies. Also, I should state that I’m not talking about peripheral noise here: banging headboards, squeaky springs and diesel-powered marital aids don’t count. We’re talking oral sounds only.

Now that we’ve established the ground rules, I would propose that there are four categories of women: the silent ones, the whimperers, the moaners and the screamers.

In my experience, the silent ones are often mothers with small children. I know this because I once lived in a household stocked with children. In fact, the conjugal bed abutted the TV room where the kids mostly hung out. This was admittedly poor planning on our part. As a consequence, my wife and I never really felt comfortable with drowning out the Nickelodeon Channel with screams of passion, so we worked really hard at having good sex quietly. This is because we understood the Parental Sex Rule: there is not a child alive who wants to know that his or her parents ever had sex. I include myself in this: as far as I’m concerned, the stork brought me. The alternatives don’t bear thinking about.

The whimperers are exactly who you think they are. You can pick whimperers out of a crowded room without ever having had sex with them. These women are typically the least enthusiastic partners of the four types, and tend to be the worst lovers. For some reason, the whimperers all seem to want to marry you and turn into silent ones. Go figure.

The moaners are probably the largest category of women. Perhaps this is because I use the term “moaner” loosely. For me, moaning can consist of nearly any noise, from a bleat to a growl to impassioned pleading to noises that I can only describe as unearthly. In other words, moaning is any sound that isn’t screaming, as this would put the woman in question into the last category.

If an orgasm is to be faked, this is most often accompanied by moaning. Silence means the woman has to have the skills of an experienced mime to indicate that the false orgasm has occurred in a satisfactory fashion; whimpering is ruled out because it isn’t believable enough; and screaming is seldom an option because few women have the acting talent to pull this one off. Guys, if you ever find a woman who can fake a screaming orgasm, keep her. She cares enough about you to fake the very best.

The screamers are, in my experience, a mixed blessing. Sure, your male ego inflates with pride as plaster is falling from the ceiling, but the disadvantages often outweigh the advantages. Lease violations, 911 calls by concerned Protestant women a couple blocks away, and chronic hearing loss are only the tip of the iceberg. Hooking up with a screamer means you can never have sex when you’re at your parents’ house for Christmas. Having a screamer as a partner means that you have to keep your gym socks washed at all times, because when you stick one in her mouth you want it to be a clean one. I found this out the hard way, to my chagrin and subsequent hospitalization.

Having said that, the best thing about a screamer for guys is that there is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind, yours, hers or the neighbors’, that the orgasm you worked so hard for has been achieved at last. As soon as the noise subsides to the level of a four-alarm fire at a hand grenade factory, you can hop on her and jam away with no residual guilt whatsoever. Which is, of course, why we bothered in the first place.

- Hulles

In one of his novels, I believe Love in the Ruins[1], Walker Percy has his protagonist ruminate upon the fact that he has become solely interested in what he calls “popsies”, young women like cocktail waitresses who are inappropriate to his age and station. I can relate. I have suffered from this nameless disease myself for many years. And of course, me being me, I feel a strong need to name the disease. “Strumpetitis” works for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t – well, almost never – date popsies, nor do I pursue them with the intent to commit sex upon their nubile young bodies. I just enjoy their company. The fact that many of them are gorgeous to die for is incidental. I am not a lecherous old man. Okay, I am, but what I mean to say is that I don’t believe I behave in a creepy lecherous fashion to these young women. I’m a nice guy, and I am respectful to women of any age. Really.

At any rate, some time ago when I was regular at a popular local sports bar (I know, I know) one of the wittier bartenders (Brenda) called herself my “strumpet wrangler”. I would buy some young female stranger a drink and Brenda would launch it at her, reassuring the potential wranglee that I was indeed “a nice guy”, whatever the hell that means. I never expected anything in return from the recipient, though I always felt that a “thank you” was appropriate. In fact, I believed at the time that I was performing something of a public service. This was, of course, when I had money, and probably is part of the reason I don’t now. One of the unexpected consequences of this, as unlikely as it seems, is that I made some very good friends this way.

Lauren Bacall

A notable exception to the “hands off the wastrels” rule occurred when a young woman named Lisa started working as a hostess. She was tall, her long shapely legs reached all the way to the floor, she had world-class breasts and she looked like Lauren Bacall in the movie “The Big Sleep” (but with larger breasts). As if that weren’t enough, she was extremely bright, and her sense of humor was – well, our first conversation was about vaginal secretions. How could I not fall madly in love with her? So I hit on her like a Northern.

Eventually my blandishments proved effective, and Lisa consented to go out with me for a drink. We went to the bar in The Whitney Hotel in Minneapolis, a very romantic venue at the time (and, incidentally, the place where I learned to like Scotch). As we’re sitting there making small talk, she asks me with a wry smile, “How old do you think I am?”

This is never a question a man wants to hear from a woman, particularly a young woman he is totally hot for. At the time I had not yet learned that you never, ever under any circumstances answer that question. There is no right answer, sort of like “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Since I had her pegged at about 27, I said “25.” She just laughed at me and said “19.” Oops.

First of all, the drinking age in Minnesota is 21, so I was guilty of breaking all kinds of laws just sitting there, never mind what my intentions were. Second of all, she was the age of my youngest stepdaughter Cristina (I had been divorced less than a year at the time). As you might imagine, I was nonplussed.

Lisa was enjoying my obvious discomfort tremendously. I groped for a suitable topic of conversation for a nineteen-year-old, and asked “Where did you go to high school?” Yes, Hulles is an idiot. “Heights,” she responded. “I graduated last year.”

Alas, I had not yet clinched the Stupidest Man of the Year award, so I said: “Oh, do you know my stepkids, Isabel and Cristina? They went to Heights as well.” “Sure,” she said. “I was in a couple of classes with Cristina.” After this, it is not too much to say that my words turned to ashes in my mouth. All of a sudden my evil plans for this voluptuous young woman evaporated, and I instantly became, as they say, “just a friend.”

It turned out that we did become pretty good friends. At least, I was Lisa’s go-to guy at 3AM when her car was impounded, which happened more that once. She in her turn was my “date” whenever I had an ex-girlfriend to piss off, which also happened more than once. Sadly, I have lost track of Lisa since she moved out of the Twin Cities. However, sometimes on her birthday I call up her father and leave a message on his answering machine, telling him to wish her a happy birthday for me. While I’ve never spoken to him in person, I have a sneaking suspicion that I may be older than he is.

In spite of this, I still like popsies. Lately it seems that they are all named Amber. This is true enough that I decided that one of these days when I have money I’m going to do an Amber Tour. I (and whoever ever else is game) will travel from bar to restaurant to bar, visiting all of the Ambers that I know in one night. They’re all lovely young women, but it should be a relatively safe adventure for yours truly. Except that one of them looks like Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”….

- Hulles

[1] I ran across the following phrase in an article on Love in the Ruins while I was researching this blog entry: “[T]he novel is a satire of … the medicalization of the human spirit….” Ouch.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rio Bar

In Basel, Switzerland there is a little public house called the Rio Bar. It’s located on the Barfüsserplatz (which roughly translates as “Barefoot Plaza”) across the street from another bar, the Café Des Arts. The Rio thoughtfully provides a pair of binoculars so you can check out the patrons at the Des Arts.

Caroline Haerdi

It was at the Rio Bar that my buddy Unca Don and I met Caroline Haerdi. She was a bartender there at the time. She was blonde, about my height, and looked like she never took any shit from anyone ever. One treasured souvenir I retain from Basel is a Rio cocktail napkin with an imprint of Caroline’s lipstick on it. (I asked her for it, that’s why.)

The bartending gig at the Rio was only a fill-in job, however. She was a professional knife thrower.

Now girls, if you want to be fascinating to a man, tell him you’re a professional knife thrower. I guarantee he’ll perk right up. I did; so did Unca Don. It turned out that Caroline had a nightclub act at the time called “Danger Girls”. You have to love the name. Basically, in the show she threw knives at her partner, another attractive woman. Don and I used to joke that periodically there would be an ad in the local newspaper, “Wanted: female partner for entertainment act. No experience necessary. Hemophiliacs need not apply.” Unfortunately, neither he nor I ever saw “Danger Girls” perform.

Recently, I decided to see if I could find out what Caroline is doing these days. It seems she has a new act called “Steel and Fire”. By all means, visit the web site. It’s pretty cool. Apparently she’s still chucking silverware, though with a male partner this time around. I guess “Danger People” or “Danger Units” didn’t cut it for the name of the new act.

I’m still curious about what I find so attractive about the idea of a female knife thrower. I guess I’ve always liked strong women, strong as in “don’t take no shit”, that is, as opposed to East German weight lifter strong. That’s part of it. I suppose the hint of, well, danger is part of it too. You’re sitting on the couch in Switzerland watching futbol, you yell out “Caroline, bring me a beer!”, and ZZZING, a knife is quivering next to your left earlobe. “Get it yourself, asshole,” you hear from the other room. A man could come to love a woman like that.

- Hulles

I love critters. I own a big-boned cat named Mimi. When the baby alien pops out of John Hurt’s chest, while the rest of the movie audience is screaming and puking up their Jujubes I’m saying “Cool! He’s so cute!” I wore my underwear at half-mast for days after Steve Irwin was slain by a rogue stingray. I’m madly in love with Polly Purebred in the Underdog cartoon. You get the idea – I love critters. So it was something of a shock to me the other day to find a critter I don’t particularly like.

I was looking up something else entirely when – okay, I’ll tell you. I was trying to find out if a group of eels was called a congeries or not. The answer is here, along with a lot of other interesting stuff. But along the way, I discovered vinegar eels. I was intrigued by the name: in my day, I’ve fed moray eels and seen other kinds of eels while diving, but I had never heard of vinegar eels. So I googled their ass.

It turns out that vinegar eels are not really eels at all, but tiny nematodes. I quote here from Wayne Schmidt’s Vinegar Eels Page:[1]

“Vinegar eels are actually named turbatrix aceti and belong to the [phylum] nematoda (nematodes). They are free-living, non-parasitic unsegmented roundworms and were discovered by Borellus in 1656. They eat bacteria and fungi that [grow] in unpasteurized vinegar solutions.”

See how interesting they are? I wonder what “free-living” means. Are there roundworms that are constrained by a code of ethics? Does this make the free-living vinegar eels inherently evil? At least they are non-parasitic, which means you don’t have to worry about them bumming cigarettes from you or not chipping in on the restaurant tab.

As I read more about vinegar eels, I found out that they are mostly grown by people who breed tropical fish. The vinegar eels are fed to the fry. Apparently they are desirable fry food because of their small size. Because of this, the Internet abounds with fish fanciers’ web pages explaining how to raise vinegar eels. Wayne, above, seems to have the most complete vinegar eel page, at least that I found. (This seems a somewhat dubious distinction.) I especially like the following headline on his web site: “New!!! Eel clumping picture! That is something to get excited about.

Another guy who knows his vinegar eels is the Vinegar Man. No shit. His web site is called, you guessed it, Now, if you go to this site please make sure you don’t a mouthful of hot coffee (this means you, kat). You were warned. Apparently, the Vinegar Man “travels the world studying and teaching about vinegar.” I bet it’s just a ploy he uses to pick up chicks. At any rate, the Vinegar Man has a nice photograph of vinegar eels in vinegar. Below the photo, VM says “These are vinegar eels. They help make better vinegar by eating the dead vinegar bacteria. Unless you see your salad moving on your plate, they are not a problem.” No comment; Vinegar Man nailed it.

I’m really happy I went to this web site. Not only did I learn a lot about vinegar (which I’ll be more than happy to discuss with you for hours and hours the next time you invite me to a cocktail party), I also discovered that apparently vinegar is quite the little breeding ground for critters – as VM puts it, the Vinegar Zoo. This zoo is populated by:

  • Vinegar bacteria, that transform my carefully-hoarded bottles of cabernet sauvignon into something barely fit for salad dressing.
  • The vinegar fly, the photo of which I’m going to add to my anti-horniness kit.
  • Vinegar mites, which “live in the wood of vinegar barrels”. Makes you wonder where they lived before man invented vinegar, or barrels for that matter.
  • And of course, our friends the vinegar eels.

Before we say goodbye to the Vinegar Man, I would like to point out that on the home page of his web site he has two links that frightened me: Vinegar Art and The Vinegar Museum. I did not have the courage to follow these links. If you do, and manage to survive the experience, please leave a comment and tell me if it’s safe to visit them.

In continuing my quest for vinegar eel knowledge, I came upon another interesting site called, cryptically, FDA/ORA CPG 7109.22. This page deals with vinegar law. One of the highlights is a reference to U.S. v. 95 Barrels, More of Less, Alleged Apple Cider Vinegar, (265 U.S. 438, 1924), heard by the Supreme Court. The case seems to be about vinegar counterfeiting. Dare I suppose that “more of less” is actually a typo for “more or less”? Or is it a Zen koan, hidden in the title of a U.S. Supreme Court case?

A more interesting part of the above page is entitled “II. ADULTERATION WITH VINEGAR EELS.” At first glance I thought this dealt with cheating on your wife with nematodes, but it turns out I was wrong. Quoting the page, “The finding of vinegar eels in finished product would be considered objectionable and would render the finished product adulterated within the meaning of 402(a)(3).” It seems someone is not as enchanted with vinegar eels as Wayne is. In fact, the FDA minces no words about our little buddies: “…in that it consists in part of a filthy substance by reason of the presence therein of vinegar eels.”

So it would seem that your salad won’t be moving, after all. At least, it won’t if the vinegar crossed a state line and the vinegar cops are doing their job. I hope these law enforcement officers are more diligent than their fellows the yeast cops. If they aren’t, expect every third bottle of vinegar to contain a “filthy substance”.

To wrap up our visit to the land of vinegar eels, I have to let you know that I found a downloadable eels ringtone for your cellular phone. Who knew they made noises? I thought maybe they just gurgled once in a while. So the next time you’re sitting in the airport and your cell phone rings, the people around you are going to totally freak out and think they’re about to be attacked by a congeries of eels. Be sure and take pictures; I’ll post them.

- Hulles

[1] It’s a little disturbing that apparently someone must be even lonelier than I am.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Good news! The Highland Villager, a Saint Paul newspaper of distinction, recently purchased and published a blog entry of mine, “A Poor Person's Guide to Dating.” Woo hoo! Granted, it was not a huge sum of money, but it’s my first sale, at least since I was hooking on the side to put myself through college. The money is certainly non-trivial to me, however, since I am desperately poor these (and most other) days.

Last weekend I looked for a copy (okay, 10 copies) of the Villager at a newsstand in my neighborhood. I couldn’t find one, so I somewhat sheepishly drove over to Highland Park, the eponymous home of the newspaper. I went into Barnes and Noble, grabbed a bunch of copies and slunk back out to my car, feeling surprisingly guilty about taking 8 copies of a free newspaper and not buying anything.

While sitting in my car, I leafed through the Villager for my article. I found it on the op-ed page, I suppose appropriately enough. The poor little guy seemed sort of forlorn there, however. It had been used to being in the company of other Hulles blog entries; now it seemed a little bedraggled next to serious opinions about local elections and proposed zoning ordinances. But there it was, in black and white in a publication. It was even in a gray box, which made it stand out a little more.

I read my newly-fledged article, and was somewhat nonplussed. The content had been edited, of course, and while it wasn’t exactly emasculated, the piece’s underwear certainly fit a lot tighter than they did when it left home. But no matter. I understood the intent of the editor, and I couldn’t really blame him, at least this time. Besides, I was ebullient at just being in print. See woo hoo, above.

So now that I’m published – for money! – I can put down “Writer” under “Occupation” on my visa applications. Also, now I have an excuse for being broke: I’m a writer, dammit, I’m supposed to be poor. Don’t worry, though; even though I am now a famous author I promise[1] I won’t forget you, the little people, who believed in me when I was nobody.

As a postscript, I met the Highland Villager publisher last night for cocktails (I made him buy, of course) and received my check for the article. I cashed it at 8:01 AM this morning, and now have gas (my car does, that is), cigarettes and a full belly. And my cat will eat tonight as well. Thanks, Mike, for giving me a chance. And for the cocktails.

- Hulles

[1] This promise holds good until I get my first Hollywood screenplay contract.

"Poland’s zloty has been sagging amid the uncertainty." - Economist

As I was deleting my daily crop of spam the other day, one of the email subject lines wedged itself into my consciousness: “No need to be horny and alone”.

The more I think about this statement, the more it interests me. First, for purposes of analysis, let us restate the proposition as “We (the spam senders) can make it so you are not horny and alone.” I think it’s fair to assume from the subject line that the contents of the email are supposed to reveal how to make this dream come true.

So how can the promise of this statement be realized? Since the assertion is a negation of a conjunction, there are three ways to make it true: make you be horny and not alone, make you be alone and not horny, or make you be neither alone nor horny.

Making you be horny and not alone: This is probably what the senders of the email are really promising, with a list of “nymphomaniacs new to your city” or some such scam. At least, I assume it’s a scam. Last I heard, it was only level 3 sex offenders who had to register their addresses, at least in Minnesota. Perhaps other states require nymphomaniacs to register as well, perhaps to safeguard oversexed teenage boys. At any rate, I have never checked this sort of thing out so I confess I’m not completely certain how it works, but that’s okay because this is the condition that interests me the least anyway. As far as you know.

Making you be alone and not horny: I find this one more intriguing. Perhaps the spammers are hawking some sort of anti-horniness kit, “detumescence guaranteed or your money back.” What might the kit include? I suggest a jar of saltpeter, a DVD of the entire Cleveland Indians 2005 baseball season (or any other year for that matter), a picture of my grandmother naked, and any book by Claude Lévi-Strauss. If they are especially generous, they might also include a photo of Claude Lévi-Strauss. I assure you that that alone is enough to make Poland's zloty sag.

Making you be neither alone nor horny: This is an easy one. The spammers send you a marriage license.

- Hulles

Sunday, September 24, 2006

From the mailbag:

Helen Greene of Bobcaygeon, Ontario writes:

I am an avid fan of your blog. One thing, though – in your blog bio you say you weren’t at Brookhaven for the discovery of the omega-minus particle. What the hell are you talking about?

Thanks for writing, Helen. I think I know someone who looks like you. The Brookhaven thing is a joke that only my particle physicist friends would get if I had any. When the omega-minus was discovered, the paper that announced it had about a zillion authors, so the joke is that I am one of the few people that wasn’t there at the time. Incidentally, the omega-minus particle is an isotopic singlet with spin = 3/2, positive parity, mass of roughly 1,680 MeV, negative charge, baryon number +1, strangeness = -3, and is stable to strong decay, if you’re curious.

I suppose I’ve made funnier jokes. I hope I’ve made funnier jokes.

Lars Nilsson of Göteborg, Sweden writes:

I am an avid fan of your blog. I am curious – do you have any tattoos or other body art? I do (photos attached). By the way, we are very excited here: George Michael will be perfoming in concert on 20 October. If you want tickets I will try to get them.

Lars, it seems you have the wrong idea about certain personal preferences of mine. I not only deleted the photos you sent, I burned the laptop I received them on. But since you asked, I currently have four tattoos of dragons that I had done while traveling:

Dragon 1: Pete's Tattoo Studios, Dalkeith, Scotland
Dragon 2: Basel Tattoo & Body Art, Basel, Switzerland
Dragon 3: Way Cool Tattoos, Toronto, Canada
Dragon 4: Tattoo 69, Reykjavik, Iceland

I also wear a natural emerald in my left ear.

I don't really have a cock ring, as I said I did in Not The Hot Stud She Had In Mind. That was just a literary device (i.e. a lie).

And are you high? I’d rather have my balls pounded flat with a wooden mallet[1] than go to a George Michael concert.

But thanks for asking.

That’s it for the mailbag today.

- Hulles

[1] Stolen from Tim Allen.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A couple days ago, I got tired of sitting around listening to my life suck, so I sought out some random blogs with which to amuse myself. I ran across a blog named “Eternal Bachelor” by a Brit calling himself “Duncan Idaho”. This web log is basically a staunchly anti-feminist rant. I wouldn’t bother following the link, if I were you; I include it only to give credit (or debit, in this case) where due. I’ve been a feminist for years and I’m proud of it. I’ve embraced the cause since the much-maligned 70’s, when it was actually a controversial issue. And some of my best friends are…. So I dismissed the content of “Eternal Bachelor” without a second thought[1]. However, the eerie part of reading a bit of it was that it brought to mind a posting by Midwest called “The Pussification of the American Man”. This link is worth following, by the way. I’m madly in love with Midwest, besides which her wit, intelligence and writing style are nonpareil. So go read her entry and come back.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Midwest’s blog. In the above-mentioned entry, Midwest bemoans the loss of macho in the American male (my words, not hers). Now this scares me a little bit. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this complaint, cf. the song I warped for the title of this entry. So what’s up, girls? I’ve worked hard to get in touch with my feminine side, damn it. At this point in my life, I’m pretty comfortable with the following facts about myself:

  • I am passionate about ballet (see Dance).

  • I have female friends that I don’t secretly want to sleep with.(Okay, one.)

  • I get manicures when I have the bucks.

  • I like to treat women as equals, particularly romantic partners.

  • I occasionally listen to Sarah MacLachlan.

  • I own a pair of nicely-made Italian loafers.

  • I enjoy shopping for clothes with women.
Okay, maybe I am pussified, now that I read the above list. The last entry was the killer. Shit. I was hoping I was sufficiently virile that I could speak for red-blooded American men everywhere and refute MW’s claims. Guess again, Hulles.

So apparently I need to do some more changing to meet women’s expectations. Sigh.

And of course, this is the point. I would claim that what Midwest is really making fun of is men who give in to women’s expectations, as opposed to men who stand up for who they are. It takes guts to become who you want to be, man or woman. Especially if who you want to be isn’t who is wanted. Just ask me.

Having said that, in the interest of making the American man’s blood a darker shade of crimson, the next time I am tempted to hold the door for a woman, I am instead going to slam it in her face and growl “…And that’s from Midwest!” After which I break down sobbing and give her my non-fat, sugar-free venti Vanilla latte.

- Hulles

[1] Perhaps wrongly; I only read a small part of it. Maybe the guy’s less of a zealot than he seems. I didn’t bother to find out.

This happens to be one of those entries where I came up with the title first, then had to think of something to write about it.

The title is modeled after the headlines in the Onion, as are a couple others in this blog. The Onion is one of my favorite publications. I subscribe to their daily and weekly email posts, and I eagerly await each and every one. One of the characteristics of the Onion, if you’re not familiar with it, is that the titles of their articles drive the content of the articles themselves, much like this entry. Here are some recent article titles that I really really really like:

Right Guy To Fuck With Identified

Wounded Marine: Friendly-Fire Bullets Hurt That Much More

No Leads Sought In Asshole's Murder

I think the last one is my favorite so far. I also think the accompanying article is extremely funny.

Thus, while my titles aren’t quite up to Onion standards, you see where the evil influence comes from. And now I can quit writing the entry for this title, which has caused me more trouble than it’s probably worth. I still like it, though.

- Hulles

I was looking for something else entirely on the Internet today and serendipitously found a CBBC article entitled “Woman’s Tongue Stud Hit by Lightening.” The opening paragraphs of the story:

“A woman is lucky to be alive after the metal stud in her tongue was hit by lightning.

“Becky Nyang, 26, went temporarily blind, she couldn't talk and she was badly blistered by the bolt of electricity that surged through her body via the piercing.”

Son of a bitch. Poor Becky may have stumbled onto something, however. The effects of the lightning strike sound a lot like the aftermath of having sex with Hulles. God may be putting me out of a job if this sort of thing continues.

To end on a cautionary note: you might want to rethink that genital piercing you wanted so badly. For my part, I intend to attach a ground wire to my cock ring come the next electrical storm.

- Hulles

Friday, September 22, 2006

Malo Hulles

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie “Sex and Lucia” (or “Lucia y El Sexo” for the purists among you). I love this movie. I love it not only for the fact that it has not one but two women to die for[1] in it – Paz Vega (Lucia) and Elena Anaya (Belen) – but also because it’s a damn fine movie in its own right. It is obviously a work of love for the director, Julio Medem. I completely agree with one of the blurbs from the web site,

"Blissful...seething with eroticism and gorgeous visions...."
--Michale Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

If you're going to seethe with something, I suppose eroticism is as good a thing as any. Don’t worry, however. This ain’t no movie review (or disco, for that matter). The specific part of the movie I’ve been thinking about today is the scene where Lucia does a strip-tease for her lover, lip-synching to a Spanish hip-hop song. Some time ago I looked up the song (“Yo marco el minuto”) and the artist (Mala Rodríguez) because I liked it so much. I finally found the MP3 and I’ve been playing it over and over as I’ve been writing. I’m not exactly an expert on Spanish hip-hop (or any kind of hip-hop) but I decided to find more stuff that she has done….

Mala Rodríguez

You guessed it. I’ve fallen madly in love with Mala Rodríguez as well. What’s not to love? It’s a bit frightening, however, because it seems that after a couple more blog entries I’ll be able to make a (short) list of women I’m not madly in love with. If you’re curious, the list will be headed by Jennifer Garner, mostly because she doesn’t seem to be the kind of person that would like me.

And from Germany comes…

Another musical entity from Europe that I’ve been recalling fondly lately is the group “Tic Tac Toe”. I don’t think they ever released anything on American shores, but when I was in Switzerland they were all over Euro MTV. My pal had their self-titled CD, and I ended up buying a couple copies of it myself.

Tic Tac Toe
It’s infectious German hip-hop (I guess that’s what you’d call it). The best tracks on the album are “Haste Was Biste Was”, “Ich Find' Dich Scheisse” (“I Think You’re Shit”, which would probably raise an eyebrow or two here), and a cover of “Funky”. I even own a CD single of them doing about 15 versions of “Funky”; I have no idea why I own it. At any rate, if you listen to the “Tic Tac Toe” CD once, you’ll find yourself singing these songs to yourself day in and day out and gradually learning German at the same time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Guten nacht, mis amigos.

- Hulles

[1] Najwa Nimri is also in the cast, and certainly a beautiful woman, just not to my taste. Ms. Vega and Ms. Anaya, however, both get 5 Hulles Steamy-Hot Stars. Hey, it’s my blog.

I am relatively new to blogging, so I decided I'm going to take a few minutes and reflect upon my fascination with this phenomenon. One habit I notice I’ve developed is perusing random blog entries. In the process, though, I’ve realized that I habitually skip over two kinds of blogs: cat blogs (see It’s Raining Cats on Blogs) and blogs by guys. Now isn’t that interesting? I’ve always preferred the company of women to that of men, generally speaking, but is there more there? Am I seeking a mate? Jesus, I hope not, not even subcutaneously. (I know that isn’t the right word but I liked it better than ‘subconsciously’.) If I am, however, what sort of mate am I seeking?

I decided that I really would like to meet some of the people who write the blogs I read. Pursuing this thought further, I also decided that my perfect mate could be constructed as follows, based on my blogging preferences:

  1. Take all four women who post the blogs in the “Blogs I Watch” section of my own web log -- that would be Casti, Xiao-Tin, Heart of Darkness and Midwest – and stick ‘em in a blender.
  2. Add a couple of drops of “I Adore Hull”. Hell, pour in the whole bottle.
  3. Purée until smooth and all lumps are gone.
  4. Pour into a Kate Beckinsale mold.
  5. Let set until firm but not hard.
  6. Break the mold (something I do every day, of course) and voila! The perfect woman-like creature for Hulles!
  7. Have sex with it immediately. Then destroy it before it can form any sort of emotional attachments. And don’t call it the next day.

Of course, the really sad part of all this is that I know all too few people personally who are as interesting to me as the aforementioned women. I suppose that says something about me as well as about the general quality of woman available in the Twin Cities. Maybe it’s just that I don’t meet the right kind of woman. Perhaps they don’t frequent the same places I do, like middle school parking lots, butcher shops, and the regional Microsoft sales office. Too bad; the only reason I hang around the Microsoft office at all is to meet chicks. Maybe I’ll have to rethink that.

An even sadder thought that just occurred to me is: even if I met the WLC I created above, I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it (see A Poor Person’s Guide to Dating). It would be like rain on my wedding day, free advice when I’ve already paid…. You get the idea. I can do without added shit to regret, thank you very much.

So. I guess I’ll just have to continue my lonely existence sans WLCs. Fine. I’ll just sit here and bellow “Subcutaneous Homesick Blues” at the top of my lungs while I go looking on the Internet for more interesting blogwomen. And, incidentally, annoy the hell out of everyone else in the coffee shop.

- Hulles

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

As mentioned earlier, I am a huge fan of dance. Mostly I prefer classical ballet, but one of the more avant garde troupes I have always cherished is Pilobolus. They describe themselves on their web site as “dancer-athletes”, and this is certainly the case. Their energetic style of performance is half gymnastics, half dance, half street theatre and half what I can only describe as joyous frolicking. (I was never good at fractions.) I have seen them a half-dozen times and loved them every time. See them if you get a chance.

Having thereby laid the groundwork, I can now tell my charming little Pilobolus story. A number of years ago I was working a six month contract in Toronto, Canada, and was lonely and friendless nearly the whole time. This is not because I was shy or inhibited; quite the contrary: I was “Mr. Fun” to my coworkers, if only in comparison to them. And as an aside, I’m not saying they’re anal retentive, but Anglophonic Canadians seem to leave little puckers in the vinyl of their barstools when they get up. They are quite different from the passionate Francophones, who I love and who I visit (Montréal) when I can.

So, there I am in an interesting but emotionally cold city, being outrageously overpaid and at the same time starkly alone. One weekend I found myself strolling along Queen’s Quay, which at the time was the only place you could shop in Toronto on Sundays. In the course of my meandering I happened across a poster on a street lamp advertising Pilobolus coming soon to some local theater space. I wrote down the ticket number, and eventually I called it and ordered two tickets, best available seats. (I have never ordered just one ticket for anything; hope springs eternal in the Hulles breast.)

“Hunh,” I thought to myself. “Who will I find to go with me?” This was a non-trivial question, since I knew not one single woman in the entire city of Toronto, and going to the ballet with a guy just wasn’t in the cards (then or now).

Finally, a few days before the event, I was in the cafeteria of the company I was unabashedly extorting when I overheard a woman ahead of me in line speaking English with an obvious French accent. I had no idea who she was, but I figured she must like culture shit if she was of French descent, and she had the right number of arms and legs, so I cornered her later in the day, introduced myself, and asked her out to the ballet. Surprisingly, she agreed, although I think “deer in the headlights” best describes her face when I asked her. She said her name was Danielle in a lilting French Canadian accent that drove me crazy. I somehow maintained my composure and told her to meet me in my hotel lobby at 7pm of the day of the event. Woo hoo!

Now that I actually had a date, saints be praised, I began to plot. What else would be fun to do? I spoke to a person I had come to know who owned a very nice Indian restaurant and asked for a dinner reservation following the performance. I also talked to the guy who always picked me up in a limo at the airport, and asked him if he had a stretch. He said sure, and said he’d pick me up at the appropriate time and take care of my transportation needs for the entire evening. He asked if he could bring his wife, who I also knew, and I said sure, thinking it would make the whole thing less intimidating to Danielle. Oops.

The night arrived, and I dressed up and went to wait in the hotel lobby. Danielle showed up, thank God. I greeted her somewhat self-consciously and escorted her out to the waiting stretch limo. As her eyes grew wide, I realized I had forgotten to mention the limo and the rest of the plans I had made for the evening. Cool, I’ll surprise her, I thought. We hopped into the limo, and drove mostly in silence to the theatre where Pilobolus was to perform.

Once inside the rather intimate theatre, we were shown to our seats. The theatre was one of those with seats in tiers that rose up sharply from the stage at the bottom; it turned out that “best available” meant seats in the front row, about ten feet away from the dancers! I had no idea of this ahead of time, but I was thrilled. Danielle’s eyes just got wider, and proceeded to widen even more as Pilobolus wove its magic (and incidentally showered us with droplets of sweat as they spun around). Her eyes were like saucers when the troupe performed one piece that they did in the nude. I had seen the same work performed before in Minnesota, but at that time and in that place they wore flesh-colored body stockings to avoid the otherwise inevitable puritan backlash. Like many things, it’s better done naked.

After the marvelous performance ended, I finally remembered to tell her about dinner. My pal and his wife in the limo picked us up and whisked us to the Indian restaurant. As it was somewhat later than I had expected, we were late for our reservation, but the owner had kept the restaurant open just for us! We were the only patrons, and had a very attentive staff of a half-dozen people waiting upon us as only Indian restaurant serving units can do. This was pretty cool, I thought. Danielle’s reaction to all this was hard to read, but I began to feel that she was becoming uncomfortable. Hmm. I belatedly realized that perhaps I should have told her what I had intended. It started to sink in that I was a complete stranger to her prior to that evening, and that I hadn’t even begun to prepare her for what was in store (although even I hadn’t expected the degree of decadence that we seemed to be achieving). Better do something to reassure her on the limo ride home, I thought.

When at last the limo picked us up at the restaurant, we climbed into the back, with the driver and his wife once again in the front seat. On the way home, however, the guy’s wife kind of slid over next to him and he put his arm around her and they cuddled up! At this point, I could exactly read Danielle’s mind: “Holy shit, this weird American guy certainly went all out to get in my drawers the first date. It isn’t my M.O, but such dogged determination certainly deserves something. What do I do?” I hastened to reassure her that all I wanted was someone to share the evening with, that I liked pampering myself and others, and that I would have done the whole thing even if it had been just me. This was even mostly true, as unlikely as it sounds. Imagine how unlikely it sounded to her.

When we were dropped at the hotel, she simply thanked me for the evening, said good night, and got in her car and drove away. I was ebullient when I returned to my room, however, as I had had a completely magical evening and nekulturny French Canadian girls be damned.

As a postscript, Danielle and I went out a couple more times before I returned to Minnesota, and we parted slightly more than friends and a hell of a lot less than lovers, which was just fine. I bet I ruined her for first dates from that point on, however. Come to think of it, I ruined myself for first dates as well. I haven’t had one like it since.

Maybe being a straight guy who likes dance isn’t so bad, after all.

- Hulles

Dance in one form or another has always been important to me. Growing up as I did in Iowa, we of course had our traditional ethnic dances. Participating in these stylized rituals fostered a sense of community among us Midwesterners, and also injured many of us, since we were mostly white people.

That notwithstanding, I am grateful that I grew up with a heritage of dance. As I entered my teen years, dance became more important socially. Our teen dances (known colloquially as “belly rubs”) were markedly slower than the ethnic dances of our exuberant youth, so there were fewer casualties. In fact, dancing in my teens consisted mostly of slowly swaying back and forth to the song “Cherish” by the Association, trying not to move our feet so our partners’ arches would remain intact. I am speaking of us boys, of course. Girls apparently attended secret classes where they learned to dance to fast songs without touching. Where they found time to do this in their busy schedule of not dating me I’ll never know.

Since my teens, I have continued to be enthralled with dance. I have in fact developed my own dance that I perform once a year, called My Naked Birthday Dance. This dance requires a partner who is sleeping with me at the time. The partner sits on the bed sleepily rubbing her eyes on my birthday morning while I leap naked from the connubial bed and begin stomping my feet, flailing my arms and leaping about, all the while grunting and hooting to an obscure John Cage composition that only I seem able to remember. While purists insist that My Birthday Dance is more properly called “capering”, I remain firm in my assertion that it is indeed art. In the course of performing this dance, male anatomy being what it is, there are certain slapping noises that form a counterpoint to my apparently random but carefully choreographed jerkings and writhings. The whole thing is quite primitive and suggests certain paintings by Rousseau, as well as the mythopoetic work of Robert Bly. My partners, however, invariably find it alarming. More than one has called 911, much to my subsequent consternation when the cops arrive and I’m buck naked. I persist in performing this yearly rite, however, although the aforementioned partners have become fewer and farther between for what I am certain are unrelated reasons.

It’s not all about me, however. I also enjoy ballet very much. My oldest kid spent many of her waking hours from the time she was seven until she was in high school attending ballet school. She only stopped because she developed tendonitis and big boobs, both anathema to the post-Balanchine ballet legacy.

As a result of this influence, however, I became one of three straight men in Minnesota to become passionate about the ballet. Our family had season tickets every year for the local dance season, and I have been privileged enough to see some of the best dance companies in America (New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Pilobolus, et. al.) I was lucky enough to see Mel Tomlinson dance with both DTH and NYCB. Anyone who thinks that male dancers are sissies should have seen Mel dance. Holy shit.

It is at this time that I fell madly in love with Martine van Hamel, who was then dancing with ABT. She performed the leading role in the ubiquitous “Giselle”, and though I have seen it danced many times, I have never seen it danced better. I still have a huge crush on her. Unfortunately, she still doesn’t return my calls, even though I stopped making them collect calls a couple years ago.

In closing part one of this two-part series, I want to dedicate this entry to Jill Johnston. Back in high school, when I was trying to find out what the hell was going on in the world while I was stuck in a small town in Iowa, I subscribed to the Village Voice. The whole newspaper seemed to be about some surreal frenetic universe which existed well outside the borders of the Midwest, which it was, but mostly I recall devouring Ms. Johnston’s “Dance” column in every issue. Sometimes the column was about dance, but as often as not it was switchblade-sharp commentary about the social issues of the day. Her writing served as an inspiration to me at the time, and I owe her a debt of gratitude. Thanks, Jill.

- Hulles

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Yours Truly and Lauren

A while back I met the woman of my dreams. She was working as a hostess in a public house I used to frequent, back when I could afford to be a hopeless alcoholic. The first time I met her, I had her pegged as just another cute young hostess. I introduced myself, and she told me her name was Lauren. I liked her name enough to remember it, and I liked her self-assurance and insouciance as well. In other words, I thought she had a nice ass.

The next time I saw her, I said by way of greeting, “Lauren, light of my life…”. She promptly responded “…fire of my loins,” accurately finishing the first line of the novel Lolita. To say that I was surprised is like saying that Patrick Roi was a goalie, or that George W. Bush is an ass – that is, a dramatic understatement, if you don’t follow professional hockey or American politics. On inquiring further, I learned that Vladimir Nabokov was her favorite author, and that Ada was her favorite novel. At this point you should know that Nabokov is my favorite author, and that Ada is my favorite novel, so you can imagine how thunderstruck I was. I had only ever met a couple of people who claimed to have even read Ada, let alone that it was their favorite novel.

So of course I promptly fell madly in love with her. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the aforementioned nice ass, or her sultry smile, or her smoky eyes, or the tattoos on her languid arms. (If she ever reads this, she’ll like the “languid arms” part, guaranteed.) Now, falling madly in love is something I do about every twenty minutes when I’m out in public and not at the YMCA, but this time it was special.

As it turned out, not only was Lauren beautiful and well-read, but she was a fellow Scorpio (except that she was a girl). We Scorpios know what that means: we are the best lovers ever. Just ask us. And to top it all off, she had a sense of humor to rival mine (shut up).

For some examples of her humor, consider the following:

  • She told me she had at some point subsisted on "...a diet of alcohol, flank steak and shrimp cocktails."
  • She thought it was funny that her lease “precludes pernicious behavior”.
  • Her nickname for me was “Mr. Consummation.” No comment.
  • We picked out our children’s names in advance, my favorites being Lascivia, Libertina, and Old Joe. Okay, my real favorite was one I came up with, Demi Pamplemousse.
  • On scapular medals (she had to explain to me what they were): "... then I decided I wasn't superstitious anymore and could get rid of some of the saints."
  • Apropos of socks: "All my socks are black!" I’m not sure why I thought this was funny, but I did, and so did she.

So what happened between us? We became friends, dammit. I hate that. I also understand it. Fate was cruel enough to me to create her about 30 years too late to do me any good from a “Relationship” point of view. (She was not even 21 when I met her.) If it had been 28 years, or even 29, I would not have eaten or slept until she was my lover. We would have left the U.S. to live in Andorra, she would have changed her name to Adelia, I would have been a successful novelist in my own right, and we would have had all the kids we talked about and more. Ignore the acrimonious divorce and subsequent custody battles.

Alas, another slap in the face from Dame Reality was that while I knew her she usually had at least two lovers going on at the same time.

Also unfortunately, she was enamored of Marcel Proust, a taste I have never acquired. I subscribe to the “life is too short and Proust is too long” theory.

But God willing, Lauren is still out there, wanting to be the kind of person who drinks lime blossom tea but in fact being the kind of person who drinks scotch, albeit good scotch.

And of course I still love her, if a little more platonically than I would have liked to be the case. And as you might suspect, I often judge other women by her, and the other women nearly always fall short in the comparison.

- Hulles

It seems that about one in five random blogs I find are of women celebrating their cats.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love animals of all flavors, and cats in particular. I own a cat for crying out loud, Mimi, see below. I even like photos of cats to a point. But I do not imagine for a second that the rest of the world wants to see about 50 different pictures of Mimi sleeping.

It’s not that Mimi is not photogenic. Granted, she’s let herself go a bit. In fact, some might say she is overweight, though I keep telling her she's just big-boned. It’s just that one picture of her would last most people a lifetime. They don’t love her like I do, and one picture lasts even me quite a while.

Many of the catlady blogs are updated daily with new pictures and terse kitty anecdotes ("Fluffy just loves her new piece of yarn!"). I am trying really hard to be empathic and understand the motivation behind this[1]. I know that part of it is the love the owners have for their animals. Not only do I understand this, I also feel it for my own cat. I quite literally could not have survived this long without her. But I don’t feel the need to advertise her, or flaunt her, or display her to the general public in any fashion whatsoever. Knowing her, she would only have disdain for such behavior on my part, and leave me a hairball on my pillow as a way of expressing same.

So what else is going on with the cat bloggers? Is it the same as with the “here is my brand new baby, and he does not look at all like a poached egg” blogs? It can’t be quite the same. Sweet Aunt Jane and Evil Uncle Edgar probably are interested in the baby photos, if for different reasons. Certainly the grandparents are, or else their AARP cards are automatically forfeit and they become ineligible for Medicare. But cats? Barring Siamese twins, they don’t make relatives close enough to look at more than one or two cat pictures.

I have ended up concluding that the myriad cat blogs can best be thought of as shrines to the owner’s beloved pets, and that posting to these blogs is a form of worship, or at least adulation. Thinking of the sites in the fashion has helped me reconcile myself a little to their proliferation. Everyone, including I suppose cats, can do with a little more adulation. It would just be nice if Blogger had a “Next Blog That Isn’t a Cat Blog” button.

Maybe in the new Beta version….

- Hulles

[1] I could ask the cat bloggers, I suppose, but what fun would that be?

"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ee cummings
"The most wasted of all days is one without slaughter." Hulles

Autumn is here. American football is starting, American baseball is beginning to show signs of ending, and mice are looking for nice warm buildings in which to set up housekeeping. Lebensraum, they call it among themselves, appropriately enough.

My devoted fans will recall that I have mentioned my ongoing battle with these pesky little guys before (see Mickey Must Die). Recently, I was comparing rodent war stories with a friend of mine – a new homeowner – and recalled one of the first skirmishes I ever had with unwanted mice in the house.

At the time to which I refer, I was married and a homeowner myself (you can see from this that I was still charmingly naïve in my outlook on life). We had a cat, Mikey, who turned out to be quite a mouser. The first fall we spent in the house, Mikey caught himself a little mouse and played with it for a couple hours before I finally ensconced the mouse in a peanut butter jar. This was before I discovered the virtues of (what used to be) one-pound coffee cans. At any rate, there I was with a disgruntled cat and a trapped mouse scrabbling at the sides of the jar. What to do with him? (The mouse, not the cat.)

As I mentioned, I was not the hardened veteran then that I am now, so I tried and tried to come up with a way to humanely kill the little fucker. Hunh, I thought. If I was a mouse, how would I like to die? Finally, I came up with the idea that I would drown him in scotch (albeit cheap scotch). I had a bottle of Passport Scotch lying around that would do admirably, so I poured about five fingers of scotch into the jar and watched the mouse get drunk and drown. It was sort of creepy -- he recapitulated in about 30 seconds what usually took me several hours and a lot more money to accomplish. At last, however, he was dead and not even bubbling any more.

I had a good idea where the mouse had entered the house, so I set the jar with the scotched mouse[1] by this putative entrance pour encourager les autres. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

A couple of days later, Mikey had found another little playmate. I scrounged up another peanut butter jar, and eventually trapped this mouse as well. Still trying to be relatively humane, but being unwilling to part with more scotch (albeit cheap scotch), I decided to drown this one in plain tap water. I consoled myself with the thought that he at least wouldn’t suffer cirrhosis of the liver before he died. That was a belated worry of mine with the first mouse. So, no sooner said than done. That jar went next to Uncle Lenny in the scotch.

A few more days went by, and once again Mikey came through with a mouse. I was feeling like the rodent equivalent of the Joad family was moving into my house. This time, I just put the mouse into the jar, closed the lid, and let him suffocate next to the rotting corpses of his relatives[2]. I now had three jars lined up by the hole.

Apparently, after three fatalities, the mice were finally deterred from invading our house for the rest of the season. Either that or I killed the entire clan. Whatever, the resulting mouse-free environment was a welcome relief to me and my wife (!), although Mikey was nonplussed.

Now, I’m sure it hasn’t escaped you that, over the course of the above events, I not only quickly became accustomed to killing but cared less and less about the suffering of the subjects in question. This concerned me even at the time. It seemed like a classic example of the “you can get used to anything” theory, and made me really question my own personal ethos.

I finally resolved this by claiming that I was only following orders, and blamed my wife. I still believe that this saved me many hours of psychotherapy and led directly to my divorce.

- Hulles

[1] I believe this is considered a delicacy in the UK. I’m fairly certain it was served to me a number of times when I was visiting there.

[2] Actually, the corpses were still quite well preserved, thanks to the Skippy folks. This is just a literary device – i.e. a lie -- to make for better prose.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Several years ago, I was staying in a hotel in Montreal. The hotel provided a complimentary morning newspaper, and somehow magically they knew I was an Anglophone, so the paper was the English-language Toronto Globe and Mail. I was reading that rather staid newspaper one morning, and stumbled across this article[1].

The article is about a woman named Black Diamond and her band of female guerillas in Liberia. Apparently, they are quite vicious, and widely feared “by friend and foe alike”. I have to imagine I have at least one ex-girlfriend among them. Regardless, the part I liked best about the article was the following quotation:

"These women have no pity, no sympathy," said Cpl. Thompson W. Dahn of Taylor's Anti-Terrorist Unit militia, who went up against Black Diamond's women earlier this month. "They shoot, they get naked themselves, and they drive me fearful."

Now I really like that last line. A lot. Enough to have remembered it for 3 years, so I could trot it out now for your reading pleasure. Here it is again:

"They shoot, they get naked themselves, and they drive me fearful."

Another part of the article that impressed me was attributed to Jacques Klein, the top United Nations official for Liberia:

"Women are always to be feared. Have you been to Florida? It is full of women with blue hair who have killed their husbands."

Smug motherfucker, isn’t he? I suppose it is too much to hope that Black Diamond got naked and kicked his ass into the next continent after the article was written. No wonder men get a bad rap. If he’s married, I can only imagine that his wife is thinking about moving to Florida soon herself.

At any rate, we men need to ask ourselves what we can learn from this news article. I would suggest that it teaches us a) you can only fuck women over for so long before they kick your ass, and b) if you’re in Tubmanburg, Liberia, you might want to keep your sexist comments to yourself.

As a final note, after re-reading the article for this blog entry, I decided that the next time I go out for cocktails I’m going to “celebrate with many mortars”, and drink a toast to women everywhere who shoot, get naked themselves, and drive me fearful.

- Hulles

[1] The link is to the AP article in the St. Petersburg Times, not the Globe and Mail.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

In scoping out random web logs, I often run across blogs that are not in English (duh). Since I’m a curious sort of guy, I recently installed a gizmo on my browser that supposedly translates web pages in various languages into English. This has provided me with a lot of amusement ever since. The translations are, shall we say, cryptic at best.

Here are a couple of phrases that were translated from a web log called A Luta Do Ano!, which (hopefully) translates as the Fight of the Year! It is written in (presumably) Brazilian Portuguese by a young woman living in Rio de Janeiro called windowpane.

I find the blog sort of sad, because her “fight of the year” is apparently about losing weight, unless the translation is more off than I think. Preoccupation with weight loss is something I regret very much, and I feel like I somehow have something to do with it by simply being a part of our modern society. At any rate, the blog looked sort of interesting (and so did windowpane), so I translated it.

Some of what resulted was intelligible, some was garbled, and a few phrases struck me as intriguing and mysterious.

For instance, on many days windowpane lists “2 slices of integral bread” as part of her morning meal (?). Integral bread? I fantasize about a Calculus Café in Rio, wildly popular amongst the young doctoral candidates in mathematics (both of them). When one is presented with the check, it is in the form of

, gratuity included.

I also encountered a phrase translated as follows:

“As I am abandoned of father and mother, I had that to appeal the restaurant. How drug!”

Wow. Do orphans in Brazil get a discount on restaurant meals? How do they prove it? Is there an orphan association where they get an ID card, similar to AARP in the U.S.? Do they get discounts on auto rentals as well?

And, “How drug!” I really like that saying. It implies a certain surrealistic way of viewing the world where, for example, orphans get restaurant discounts. I like it lots better than “Dude!” or “Whoa!” Perhaps it will catch on here. I intend to start using it immediately myself.

As a final note, this is not to disparage poor windowpane’s blog. I liked it, liked her, and liked her honesty in dealing with her problems. I am only going off on the auto-translation, not on the content itself. Four Hulles Stars of Approval for windowpane and her blog.

- Hulles

Music saves me. I am passionate about music, and some music can lift me out of the blackest despair, at least for a little while. I enjoy many different kinds of music, from metal to folk to hip-hop to jazz. But of all the music I have ever heard, there is one CD that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Prior to listening to Hilary Hahn’s album “Hilary Hahn Plays Bach”, I was not particularly a fan of either solo violin or Bach’s secular work. That all changed when I listened to the aforementioned CD, however. I had heard Hilary as a guest soloist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and was very favorably impressed, so eventually I made a point of picking up her (at the time only) CD. And listened to it. And caught my breath. And listened again.

Ms. Hahn was (I believe) 17 when she made this album. (I shudder to think what I was doing when I was 17….) They set up a sound stage in a church, and she managed to make a spectacularly haunting and angelic recording of a most difficult set of works, the Bach partitas for solo violin. I still get shivers just thinking about how beautiful the music is.

After listening to this CD, I became a born-again Bach fan, and went on to get the cello suites by both Pablo Casals and YoYo Ma, as well as other stuff I could find. Of course, I also acquired whatever Hilary released after that. For my money, though, “Hilary Hahn Plays Bach” will remain her magnum opus. Listen to it if you can, even if you don’t like classical music. You may end up changing your mind.

Thanks, Hilary. I might have survived without you, but it would have been a bleaker existence by far.

- Hulles