Friday, August 31, 2007

brilliant design sensibilities

This is a fucking brilliant cartoon.

Midway through, Banana wanted to know when the "real" shows were going to come back on. I told her to stop and watch. I explained that it was things like this that had taught me how to draw lines--and that it was my ability to draw lines that paid our rent. She stopped and paid attention. Together (I hadn't seen this toon in years), we oohed and ahhed over the brilliant design work in this one.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Starting Kindergarten

This afternoon, Banana went to her kindergarten orientation. Parents were sequestered off to the school auditorium for an introduction to other teachers and an extended welcome from the principal. It was an odd dynamic – realizing that even though Banana was in pre-K at the school last year, this really was the transition to being a Big Kid.

Parents do not come in the room unless they are observing or volunteering. The kids have assigned places at the tables and folders for their work rather than just for the fun fingerpaint artwork. (In fact, I don't think kindergarteners fingerpaint any more.) There is fun stuff around, but this is definitely not playtime. There is no play kitchen area. There are no toys. There are no nap mats because kids at this age no longer require downtime, apparently.

In other words, this is no longer the kindergarten we grew up with. This is not half days. This is not naptime. This is not graham crackers and milk. This is real school. They will begin to learn math. They will learn to read. They will continue to build on the Spanish, art, and music skills they've developed in pre-K – for those who went to pre-K.

I wasn't prepared for realizing how much of a transition point this will be. My little girl will be doing homework and be challenged to grow up in ways I've seen in friends' kids grow up in the last year or so. It is both exciting and daunting.

Franny's redux

Apparently I was ahead of the curve when I posted this about Franny's in Brooklyn, despite having moved away too many years ago. After getting over his silly cross-river fears, Bruni reviewed the joint and two-starred it. You can read his review here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

time off

I've taken this week for vacation--without going anywhere. Call it a home vacation. A chance to hang out with Anna, and her low-grade fever. A chance to get a few things done around the house. It's moments like this when I realize how much I need to wall off occasional time off just to maintain sanity and balance.

Honestly, I haven't even really thought about much. What a nice break. Regular posting will resume soon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

the sinking ship

Bush is a lame duck president who reportedly does not want to act like a lame duck president. Increasingly, though, his presidency looks like a sinking ship, and the rats are leaving. In the past two weeks, we've had two official announcements of resignations–Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales–and an unofficial announcement–Tony Snow. Though these may not be the highest level in actual hierarchy, they are remarkably high in the odd calculus of this administration. The man who made Bush's political career, the man who defended Bush's political career, and the man who was brought in to be the TV-ready face of the administration. Other top, long-time trustees who are still in place–Condi Rice, as a prime example, and Cheney–have been absent from the cameras and the headlines long enough to seem absent. In the headlines, in other words, Bush is alone now.

I don't pretend to understand the political or personal calculations behind these moves. I do wonder whether the Bush clan has anything to do with this. After all, it is widely rumored that Barbara, Laura, and others are extraordinarily angry with what has happened over the last few years. Moreover, the fact that the senior Bush was interviewed by the New York Times about his frustration and disappointment only a few weeks before the current run of resignations makes me wonder if the dynasty isn't playing a significant role in this shake-up. Then again, Junior's actions over the years have been an almost-Shakespearean drama of the son trying to show up the father.

Regardless, I want to believe that this regime is turning into a game of Last Man Standing in the face of a true comeuppance, but I'm also cynical enough to believe that they have a few more tricks up their sleeves.

Diff'rent Strokes and beyond

Thinking about The Courtship of Eddie's Father had spurred me on to think about other single fathers in TV, movies, and books. So far, my list looks something like this:

  • The Courtship of Eddie's Father
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Finding Nemo
  • Whale Rider
  • Diff'rent Strokes
  • Archie's Place
  • Kramer vs. Kramer
  • Punky Brewster
  • Nanny McPhee
  • Jersey Girl
  • Full House
  • Silver Spoons
  • Benson
  • Gimme a Break
  • The Pursuit of Happyness
  • Silas Marner
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Some Kind of Wonderful
  • The Ballad of Jack and Rose
  • The Andy Griffith Show
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Fly Away Home
  • Life As a House

Additions and suggestions are welcome, especially examples dealing with divorce where the father takes full custody.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

inscrutable thoughts

The last time I saw Michelle Shocked in concert was 2002, not long before Banana was born if I remember correctly. The show was at Dave's in Fayetteville, which had both a good list of people who came through and an awful sound system.

I've seen Shocked five times over the years and only been disappointed once--in 1993 when she was making an ill-advised blend of folk and funk. The other shows were stellar, from the Arkansas Traveler tour when Uncle Tupelo and Taj Mahal opened for her and shared the stage to the Kind-Hearted Woman tour when she played with the Hothouse Flowers and played one of the best, most heart-felt sets I've ever heard. In 2002, she touring for Deep Natural/Dub Natural, an album that I lost for a few years during the first divorce. It disappeared into some other things once I got it back during the reconciliation. Consequently, I did not listen to it again until I came across it during the move in May.

Since then, I've listened to it repeatedly. The album may not be her best, at least for listeners who crave her early songs. She tends to noodle around on some of the tracks, the picaresque tracks are reminiscent of her earlier songs rather than breaking new ground. Still, there is something very compelling about the album. It's clear that she enjoyed making it--something about the airiness of many of the tracks.

In any case, one of the reasons I've been listening to it more lately is that I distinctly remember something she said as she told stories while playing the song "Joy" in that concert. Shocked started talking about all the ups and downs she's been through over the years; she segued into this: "I used to think I was a glass half-empty kind of person. Then I worked at becoming a glass half-full kind of person. Then I wondered if any of us stop to think how lucky we are to have the glass in the first place."

Those words resonate.


Oddly, while I was writing this, "Sleep Keeps Me Awake" (Captain Swing) shuffled onto my iTunes.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Courtship of Eddie's Father - flipside

I was reminded this morning why I also resent the model presented by the Tom Corbetts of pop culture.

There are piles of boxes around because I still haven't gotten things in place since the move. Art is not up on the walls yet because I want bookcases to go up first. The TV and stereo are still on an old table and cords are cluttering the corner. The lighting in the place is half-assed at best. There are tumbleweeds of Reilly's hair that roll around no matter how many times the vacuum is run. There are bags and boxes of stuff for Goodwill. The kitchen floor needs to be mopped. Either I'm too busy or too distracted or too tired or too much of a slacker to take care of everything, it seems.

But what it really seems is that no matter how many lifehacks I do, no matter how organized I am, no matter how much I scrimp and save money, I am not a successful media exec character in a TV show. And there is no Mrs. Livingston to keep everything neat, clean, cooked, and in perspective.

I'll keep trying though. Since I can't afford Mrs. Livingston, maybe I can find an electric grandmother.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Stupid water advertising

Aquafina has launched a new ad spot that I will call the "Purification" campaign. What exactly they are trying to purify by describing how many times their water is purified I'm not exactly sure. It certainly couldn't be an effort to discredit the silly notion that bottled water is not actually better than most public water supplies. They couldn't be suggesting that you are pure-r if you drink their product, could they?


The Eagles

The Eagles' "Hotel California" just came on Radio Paradise. Like so many songs from the seventies and eighties, there's a bit of nostalgia that comes up--like bile, frankly. I remember thinking tracks like this were great until I started expanding my tastes and horizons in college, and until I became jaded enough to know that The Eagles were simply music biz inventions like so many other groups. Granted the version playing is a live acoustic recording, but its fidelity to the original is impressive. One thing is clear: their greatest talent is the ability to play that song (and the other hits) exactly the same way night after night. And to get thousands of cheering fans to sing along and pay lots of money to see the same thing.

I'm going to cut over to The National now. Time to cleanse the palate.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Post number 200

This post will be about procrastination. In fact, this post is extraordinarily meta, because it's subject is procrastination, and it is its own form of procrastination. I know the following about what I currently have to do:

  • Work on a freelance writing assignment
  • Finish several projects at work
  • Do laundry
  • Fold the laundry
  • Call my mother
  • Feed Leapy
  • Sleep
  • Finish dishes
  • Get ready for Banana to return
  • Coax the dog into taking a walk on a rainy evening
  • Wrap up some home administrative duties
  • Find storage for 63 boxes of t-shirts tomorrow morning
  • Breathe
  • Work on a freelance writing assignment

Full circle. I do have to do all of those things, and more. Each one is critical in its own way, but the freelance gig is the one that's causing the most stress right now. And it's the one I'm having the hardest time tackling.

It's not a difficult job--copy for a fairly simple website. The copy is somewhat technical, but that doesn't seem to be the problem. I grasp the subject matter; I even know more or less where I want to take the copy. I just can't start. It's like there's a wall between my brain and the words when I sit down to tackle it. It's been going on for more than a week now, and I'm at the point where I can't even think about it because it has become it's own self-perpetuating irritant.

So what do I do? Sit here, listen to music, drink a beer, write the 200th post in this blog. I can keep most of it under the guise of chilling out from a very, very intense period at work and lots of running around in the last few weeks. But that also seems like a red herring. The real problem–I think—is that I just don't want to do it right now. And yet I have to. We're back to the paradox of procrastinating by pondering procrastination.

What also seems tied to this in some ways is a general inability to write lately. Though I can tackle this blog–in fits and starts, albeit–I cannot seem to generate any new professional copy, and certainly not anything that is good. There have been two recent struggles at work, and both times I had to ask someone else to start the writing for me, and in both cases, the end result was still weak.

What's odd is that this is the first time I've run into this problem since I stopped writing creatively two and a half years ago. Oversaturation, maybe?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Fun

The week is ending on good notes, but — boy — has it made me loopy!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

toys, bibs, medicine

Okay, so the rest of the week has brought us word that bibs are contaminated with lead, various Mattel toys contaminated with lead or containing dangerously small magnets, and OTC cold medicines should not be used for children without a doctor's recommendation. So... happy day, calloo callay, frabjous day! One hundred years after The Jungle and the first efforts at consumer protection--not to mention U.S. government arguments that Borax was a safer food preservative than salt--corporations are still finding newer and better ways to poison people.

To wit: the FDA never tested the OTC cold medicines marketed for children's use, because the companies said the products were already too popular. Thanks, guys. I stopped using anything containing dextromethorphan on Banana after I realized it did nothing to help her symptoms, but radically affected her moods. Again: thanks, guys.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

food poisoning

I am usually very careful about how I prepare food, especially meat. Thawing is usually done in the refrigerator. Cutting and preparing are done on separate boards. I wash the knife in between uses. I cook according to what are considered safe parameters--though I will admit to a weakness for rare to medium rare on red meat. My experience in the last 24 hours, however, demonstrates why this is so essential.

The bratwursts were from sustainable farmers at the Byrd House Market. The fingerling potatoes and red pepper were also local. The rosemary was from my garden. I packaged the potatoes and pepper slices in foil at the other end of the grill from the sausage and cooked everything until it looked and smelled perfect.

The potatoes, however, were undercooked, and the sausage once I cut into it was a little under-done as well. A few minutes in the microwave would solve the problem, I thought. And so it seemed to, until 2:30 in the morning when my stomach started clenching and I made a run to the toilet. When things had not cleared up appreciably by this morning, I realized that I must have poisoned myself.

This is all a propos of nothing other than giving my vegetarian/vegan friends grist, and realizing that I need to pay a little closer attention to what I'm doing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

cheap toys, sad

The news broke this morning that Mattel will announce another toy recall of products made in China. The tipster was anonymous, and I suspect this one might be even bigger than the last one.

It is scary and pathetic that our drive for ever-more, ever-cheaper products is coming back to haunt us. That's not quite the right way to say it, of course. Maybe I'll work on a more cogent commentary later in the day.

Monday, August 13, 2007


In the last few days, I've started having recurrent flashbacks to the shooting. I see the scene again, and it is bad. Worse, however, is the fact that I've started envisioning what might have happened if the bullet had been a few inches up, over, or down. That's the chilling, unsettling vision, and I have very little control over it.

All I need to do is see the scar on my shoulder, or think very briefly about the fact that I was shot. (This happens more recently because the spot where they took the bullet out has been hurting a great deal.) Soon after, I envision the bullet hitting me in the head or the chest or the neck. And I shake. I lose my train of thought. I also lose motivation for the things I want or need to do. Not having Banana around exacerbates the feeling of directionlessness. This happened several times yesterday morning, until I simply decided to meet friends at the Carytown Watermelon Festival (more on that circle of hell later) and began what turned out to be an afternoon and evening of drinking and socialization. Read: avoidance.

I've begun to wonder if this is the beginning of PTSD.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Life-hacking efficiency

This post on Lifehacker made me stop and think about my frustration with feeling productive or efficient enough in my day-to-day life, whether at home or at work. To wit, I never feel like I have enough time to do the things I need to do, taking a couple of days to relax often means all hell breaks loose, and I'm always staring down a list that is longer than I can manage. I have battled this for months now by trying to figure out how I can become efficient enough to manage life at home and at work, while also making time for Banana and time for myself. And it never works.

It seems simple enough to say that I am overextended. Somehow, though, I have seen all the expectations as manageable--if I could only figure out the perfect answer/tool/whatever. But the reality is perfectly encapsulated by this:
My problem wasn't that I was insufficiently efficient. The problem was that I was way too overextended. I had taken on more than even a very efficient person could handle. Efficiency is great, but it can only get you so far.

End of story. I can't say it any better.

And now, with Banana off to visit mommy's family for the next week or so, I'm going to try to balance some efficiency with some relaxation. At least a little bit.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sinister Pooh Bear

New stuff at the gallery. Some of it has already been published here.


So the treefrog has been hanging out with Banana a great deal lately. She seems to like it--the frog, that is. Yesterday, when I came in the room she looked up from her perch on Banana's arm and proceeded to climb towards me. Then she climbed on my arm and hunkered down. It was odd and endearing.

Apparently Leapy has decided that she is part of the family.

sometimes you need things like this

You really do. It's been that kind of week.

music fun

I love the shots of Glenn Kotche on the drums in this one.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

vintage listening

This just came up on my iTunes. Took me right back. It seems especially appropriate for all the time I've spent in recent months trying to juggle a ton of stuff and come to terms with a couple decades of weirdness. Enjoy!

growing up

I went to Banana's last ballet class of the summer this afternoon. Because it was the last class and because there were only three little ballerinas, the teacher let us come in to watch. Banana is tall and well-coordinated, but I wasn't prepared for the little girl I saw showing off the moves she'd learned in the last several weeks. I wasn't prepared for the little girl in front of me.

These realizations that she has made another leap--gone from being a toddler to a little girl and now gone from being a little girl to being a big girl, one ready for kindergarten--hit at odd times. And when they hit, I am always amazed by the vision of delight and wonder in front of me. It's surprising and amazing to believe that I was part of creating this person. That she is a person, and that I am part of this person's daily development.

[rhapsody over]

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

all work and no play

One more project almost down, one step closer to the end of our busy season. And then I breathe. For a day.

(fragments, ahoy!)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Food Technologists?

I picked this up via Consumerist. I really have nothing to add, except that I get tired of our cultural obsession with outdoing nature. The more I read about people like Food Technologists, "scientists" who believe we can out-engineer nature and thrive on processing, the moree resolved I am to continue raising Banana to appreciate real food that is cooked at home and, to whatever extent possible, produced (not processed) by people not machines.

[vintage ad from Plan 59]


is fun. Really. I mean it.

I feel a Gaping Void moment coming on:

tree frogs

This is Leapy. She is a remarkably sociable tree frog.

She is perfectly content to hang out on Banana's arm, climb in the dollhouse, and say hello to visitors. She is not currently allowed in eating areas, but she spent a brief time in the kitchen yesterday watching the final preparations of a late dinner. (Summer seems to be the time for slipping bedtimes and later-than-usual meals.) Leapy likes to sit on or in her log, likes to cling to the tank near the light where she turns a bright shade of green, and spends part of her evenings sitting in the waterfall basin. She is not as voracious as the praying mantis in a nearby cage, but she does take care of crickets pretty handily. I'm sure she would like a tank-mate, but I'm not ready to take that step yet.

Monday, August 06, 2007

survival and stupidity

People are stupid.

I find it much easier to make it through the day if I remind myself of this fact from time to time. And, yes, I am stupid sometimes too.


Back to editing horrible client copy.

Friday, August 03, 2007


I've wanted to post several times in the last few days, but it's been a busy time. And even when I haven't been busy per se, the time still seems to slip away from me.

We're off to do a press-check on the beast soon. By hook or crook and with a bit of magic and luck, I think we may actually deliver this thing on time. [knock on wood]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

thoughts on being a hero

The other night I was walking Reilly and a large man wearing only jeans and with a bloodied face stumbled and weaved past us near my house. He was carrying seat cushions stolen from a porch down the street. After he'd made it down the block, I dialed 911 and gave them a description.

Twelve minutes later, when we came around the block heading towards the alley, I saw him on the street again. I called 911 again, then called again after he pulled something out of a garage and continued his weaving way. On this third call in fifteen minutes, I was advised a unit was on its way. I waited in the alley another couple of minutes as he cleared down to the next street before I went inside. By that point, I'd resigned myself to the fact that the cops were not going to get there in time to stop him.

Was he a real public menace? Probably not. He was more likely drunk on bad booze, but ever since the shooting I still want to draw the line. The incident explains one other fact, however: why I stood up and yelled at a man holding a gun that night.

The first thought when he began grabbing at Lindee and pointing the gun at her was that I needed to call 911. Then I realized that there was no way the police would get there before she was shot or harmed in some other way. I had to do something to distract them. That's what I decided in that split second before I began yelling at him to leave my neighbor alone. Then he shot me.

The police would never have arrived in time. Period. Last night was further proof of that. By the time the operator was done asking questions, the incident would have been (and was) played out.