Thursday, November 30, 2006

signed by the artist

What do you mean: My name or my number?

What Dina Gottliebova Babbitt asked Josef Mengele when he asked her if she intended to sign the watercolors that she had painted -- under his orders -- of her fellow prisoners at Auschwitz. As reported this evening on National Public Radio.

Babbit has petitioned the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum for their return. This is their statement.


"Oh my god -- you mean she's having the baby right now? At the office? I thought she was going to take the early train?" Pause "Is she screaming or what?"

-- Lady sitting next to me on the train

presidential trivia

presidential trivia
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
President John Quincy Adams was a chess fan -- that's why pawns decorate the pediments of the Quincy L stop on Adams in Chicago's downtown Loop.

(At least that's what someone told me.)

reflections of a city

Trudy Blom


I've been trading comments on Chiapas with Lassë of The Big Thoughts, and Franz Blom came up -- the Dane who worked at Palenque and set up La Casa Na Bolom in San Cristóbol de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico. Blom’s wife Trudy is of particular interest to me – a quick google turns up nada on her work, so I thought I’d post this to at least create a point of reference in the great google-sphere – because her work really should receive more attention.

I come by what I know of Gertrude Blom through Nick Hopkins and Kathryn Josserand, both Mayanists, who I’ve written about here before, and Chip Morris, the MacArthur Genius Grantee and author of the Living Maya, who lived near the Bloms in San Cristóbol, and knew them well.

La Casa Na Bolom

Nick studied under Trudy’s husband Franz, and Nick and Kathryn stayed with Trudy at La Casa Na Bolom frequently after Franz passed away. They have some great stories to tell about Trudy and her regal ways, but I’ll stick to the ones that matter here: Franz and Trudy worked closely with the Lacandon Maya, and established La Casa Na Bolom as a research center for better understanding their language and culture – and also, as I understand it, to try to elevate the standing of the Lacandon within the Mexican context in which they live -- a culture which by and large treats them very poorly, as an indigenous people. (An ongoing trend here in the Americas.)

bridal suite
view large

Trudy’s photographs of the Lacandon are startling and endlessly appealing for their warmth and humanity. They’re also notable, of course, because they show the Lacandon within their cultural context – something that’s not readily available to outsiders (although is more so now, given the work that the Blom’s did). Trudy shot with a box camera, and some folks say that it was this – the fact that her face was not concealed when she was shooting – that made it possible for her to establish such a warm and trusting connection with her subjects. I suspect it had more to do with Trudy herself.

Lacandon Maya
view large

Not too long ago I visited the home of Bob Goldberg[1], a Chicago schoolteacher who has amassed an extraordinary collection of Mexican art over the years – every school vacation he would take his station wagon south and pile it high with goods. It’s so extraordinary that he recently donated it all to the Field Museum, which responded with the appropriate gleeful enthusiasm to have it all.

Before it was received and cataloged by the Field he invited small groups into his home to see the collection – a traditional Chicago greystone, overflowing with the colors and textures and art of Mexico – it was on one of these visits that I saw, in a small hallway, what looked like Trudy’s photography. I asked Bob if they were. His face changed immediately – melting from one of the warm, if carefully distant host, to one of recognition, excitement, and loss. (Trudy, of course, passed away in 1993.)

“You know Trudy? You know her work?” And I told him how. He took me into the bedroom and showed me where more of her work was hanging, and then he pulled out several photo albums, sharing stories all the while, of his friend, Trudy, and her wonderful photographs.

Library, La Casa Na Bolom

The only place I know where you can view Trudy Blom's photography is at the La Casa Na Bolom itself, where the walls are covered with them -- and unfortunately I took too few photographs of those photographs.

[1] I need to double check Mr. Goldberg's name -- it might be Bill.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ho ho ho, already

CTA - Holiday Train
Originally uploaded by Looper-312.
The CTA Holiday Train!

Yes, here we go with the slideshow (because I'm all about the slideshow) »

via Gapers Block, god bless 'em.

to grandmother's house we go

Through a beautiful fluke I get to see my grandmother this weekend – I’m traveling to Seattle for a business meeting early in the week, and will have Sunday to catch up with her, take her to church, run errands, have some lunch. Half a day won’t be enough to get it all done and say all the normal everyday things that never get said when the patterns of your days play themselves out hundreds of miles distant from one another.

I spoke with my aunt last night – Grama’s been seeing things. People in her apartment: throwing her surprise parties, chasing her with knives. She’ll be seeing the doctor soon, for real, to see if there’s any way this can be tidied up with chemical intervention – thoughts are that a bacterial infection may have run amok. Or maybe just the anxiety of growing old has become too much.

She’s forgetting things too, and I’m so unsure that she’ll remember our Sunday date that I’ve asked both my aunt and the front desk at the elder care facility where she lives to reinforce it, to remind her, to leave messages so that she doesn’t forget.

Talking recently with my father about the memory thing he remarked that maybe it’s a blessing – because growing old and losing all the pieces and friends and habits that make you you would be too painful if you could remember it all. If you could miss it all.

Maybe. And maybe this too is the way we mitigate the grief before it hits us full on, and this one, too -- she who has loved you long and fiercely and who has won all the affection that you have to give -- must go.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I can allege no cause

dried blossom

Better to look out the window and ponder
the weather, how quickly autumn
left, how quietly winter
slipped into town. It was looking for us,
afraid, I think, thinking the obvious.

From "Since why to love I can allege no cause" by Roger Mitchell in the November 2006 issue of Poetry.

The first part of this poem's a real weeper -- all about loving for no cause, just loving, and being carried away by strong feelings over which one has no control, with a sprinkling of "I cannot create what creates me, unless in loving, love begets love" etc.

But if I had posted the whole thing you might have thought I was a big softie, and we just couldn't have that.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I’m a miserable failure at keeping travel journals. I always start with the best intentions but they dissolve into nothingness and blank pages by day three.

On recent trips I’ve tried to redeem myself by pulling together a list of bullet points at the tail end of the trip when the memories are still fresh. They're rough impressions and incomplete thoughts but, headed by the title “Don’t Forget”, they ensure that I don't. And they're remarkably effective at bringing it all back.

Getting ready for an upcoming trip I found one of those journals, and this point on the list stood out – it refers to Pacal’s Tomb in Palenque. At the time we saw it, it had been closed to tourists for at least ten years. I believe it’s been opened again, so the night I describe below couldn't happen now -- we'd wait in the queue in the daylight, and traipse down the staircase in one big line, just like everyone else.

But this night we were with one of Palenque's resident archaeologists, and the whole thing was magical.

Don't Forget: Hiding out in the Temple 19 waiting for the park to close; sneaking through Palenque at dusk; everyone else gone and the park all ours; the mist, the toucans; climbing the backside of Pacal’s tomb and skirting the apron; climbing through the net and descending, as guests of Alfonso Morales, into the interior; the soft ocher of the interior walls, velvet to the touch, a single bat flying up from below; the turn in the staircase, and then the tomb. The triangular door pulled back; the sarcophagus lid within.

mommy's in a timeout

New blog on the block -- just a week old -- already full of heartbreak and hugs and all kinds of good mommy stuff.

Love, love, love Mommy's in a Timeout »

(If you're ready for the hard stuff, jump right to Fear.)

boys will be boys

The sociological literature contains a number of wonderful ethnographies—vivid descriptive accounts—of men doing dangerous work in such settings as coal mines, fire departments, and the military. Invulnerability looms large in all these descriptions.

Men went to great efforts to appear invulnerable in three realms—physical, technical, and emotional—in order to prove their merit as workers and as men. Men demonstrated their physical invulnerability by displaying bravado, including a disregard for physical safety, in the presence of physical danger.

In the technical realm, they upheld an image of invulnerability by putting on a guise of being technically infallible, which meant refusing to admit to or reveal evidence of failures, mistakes, or lack of knowledge. In the emotional realm, presenting oneself as emotionally detached, unshakable, and fearless was crucial for demonstrating both masculinity and competence.

In all three realms, work norms encouraged such displays, and organizational practices rewarded them.

Research shows that in dangerous, male-dominated work settings, men's tendency to gain respect by demonstrating and defending their masculinity is costly. Efforts to appear invulnerable blocked precisely the kinds of actions that encourage safety and effectiveness.

Covering up mistakes, for example, curtails learning and allows for the repetition and escalation of errors. In complex systems with high degrees of interdependence, small errors that go unrecognized can cascade into large accidents. Moreover, practices that conflate competence with toughness lead workers to ignore precautionary measures and take unnecessary risks. Thus, the costs of men's masculine striving are high, and both individuals and organizations pay the price.

Robin Ely, associate professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School, in « Manly Men, Oil Platforms, and Breaking Stereotypes » in Working Knowledge

I'm not commenting. I'm just quoting. Isn't ethnography fascinating?

getting to know you

2nd self
Originally uploaded by oskarmilde.
Thanks to Flickr I know fascinating things about people I've never met. This from oskarmilde, a breast cancer survivor:
In December, I had a prophylactic mastectomy and TRAM flap reconstruction. The surgeon replaces the missing breasts with stomach fat, so besides new breasts I got a tummy tuck too. An abdominal muscle is rerouted to supply blood to reconstructed site. August 2002, I had a mastectomy and radiation to take care of some genetic breast cancer.

I waited 3 years before deciding to go through with the reconstruction. It was scary and psychologically tough, but well worth it. I would recommend it to anyone who needs it. For those of you who don't, refrain from telling those who do how lucky they are to get "free plastic surgery".


“No, sweetie, you can only tickle people you know.”

From today's Metropolitan Diary in the NYT

Sunday, November 26, 2006

new wine in old skins

paris. once. a long time ago.

There are things people do
When they are first in love

They surprise each other
With trips to Paris
They make reservations
At impossibly expensive

They have conversations
About former lovers
While they eat

All of these things can happen
After years of marriage as well
But the chances
Are infinitely


Found in « Eat Memory: The Paris Match » by Anne Patchett in the Sunday New York Times Magazine.

Patchett's piece is a really wonderful read.

Chicago 10

When my brother was in town a few weeks back we spent an afternoon at the Chicago History Museum (née Historical Society) where one wall is dedicated to the events surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention. A video tape plays among the ephemera – footage of the protests in Grant Park, the riots in the streets, Daley’s shoot to kill order.

It was just me and one other guy standing alone in front of the exhibit, and before too long he said out loud to no one in particular “I remember that like it was yesterday.” I said “really?” and he said “oh yeah – delegates were throwing ashtrays out the windows of the Congress Park Hotel down at the protesters. You can still see lots on the South Side where businesses burned down during the riots – they’re still empty today.”

I hoped he would say more, but instead we watched for a while longer in silence until he shook his head. “I can’t watch this.” His voice broke as he stepped away. “It was a national disgrace.”

He was gone before I could ask what he meant – did he feel Chicago had disgraced itself in the eyes of the nation? That the nation had disgraced itself by the way it handled the fallout? That the war that sparked it all was the disgrace?

One clip that I didn’t see running at the museum, but did see recently on public television, was a clip of Bobby Seale of the Chicago Eight (which would later devolve into the Chicago Seven) bound and gagged in the courtroom where he stood trial. The judge had ordered it done, because Mr. Seale was making a ruckus in court.

It was horrifying, which may be why our teacher never showed it in Social Studies. I had to wonder when I did see it, just a few months ago, if the judge would have had Mr. Seale bound and gagged if he were a white man.

The point of all this is Brett Morgan’s new movie, Chicago 10, which was recently selected as the opening night feature for the Sundance Film Festival. Mr. Morgan:

has been working on his latest documentary since 2001. In the process he has amassed what he says are 180 hours of 16-millimeter film, about 40 hours of video, 14,000 photographs, more than 200 hours of audio and a 23,000-page court transcript, and has come up with what may be a new kind of nonfiction film: a work of “experiential cinema,” as he chooses to call it, a third of which is animated.

“Animation came in for a number of reasons,” he said. “There were certain moments that weren’t on film, especially the trial. We needed a way to show what was happening in the courtroom. We could have done it in re- enactments, or though talking heads, or we could have had courtroom drawings panned and scanned. But I thought animation would have served as commentary on the trial; Jerry Rubin called it a ‘cartoon show,’ and when I read that quote, the bells went off.”

Bringing a Political Trial to Animated Life, NYT 26 Nov 2006

The New York Times ran a piece on the movie in today’s paper -- no word yet on who’s distributing it. It’ll be interesting to see if they wait to release it until the 2008 Elections are in full swing.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

xmas is upon us

Total weight of the direct mail catalogs delivered today to my mailbox: 6.5 pounds.

Friday, November 24, 2006

need me one.

blink-free, guaranteed

I was volunteered by my aunt to take our family's group portrait at the reunion that we're pulling together next month. I agreed to do it in the desperate hope that I just may get out of appearing in the photo itself.

The horror lies in the fact that I have a very good chance of making my mother's family and extended family all look horrible -- which will almost certainly make them all hate me. Because the laws of probability, I’m almost certain, ensure that someone, if not most everyone, will have their eyes closed or cross-eyed when the moment arrives.

Thank god for Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, winners of this year’s Ig Noble Award in Mathematics, for calculating how many photographs a person must take to almost ensure that no one in a group photograph will have their eyes closed.

According to their calculation, when shooting fewer then 20 people in good light or with a flash, divide the number of people present by 3 – and take that number of shots. In bad light, divide by 2. For more than 20, read the paper your own damn self.

Blink-Free Photos, Guaranteed »

[Image courtesy of The Great Shädy Äcres Picture Dump]

Thursday, November 23, 2006


a found poem

Capital A will be tinged red
5 plus 2 will equal blue

One subject hates driving
Because road signs
Flood his mouth
With flavors of pistachio ice cream
And earwax

Another, hearing "castanets",
Will taste tuna fish

They cannot say why
There is no madeleine moment
The flavors just come

"Civil" to gravy
"City" to mince pie
"Confess" to coffee

Found in « For Rare Few, Taste is in the Ear of the Beholder » in this morning's New York Times.

I wonder what "synaesthesia" tastes like?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

red tape

the original red tape
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
In Springfield, IL they've reconstructed the state capitol as it stood when Lincoln was there, doing his thing, before he headed off to Washington.

The building is populated with antiques from the time period -- this is one of those -- an original stack of bureaucratic paperwork bound with red tape.

This tradition, supposedly, is where the term comes from.


hellas blue #2

A vessel is useful only through its emptiness. It is the space opened in the wall that serves as a window. Thus it is the non-existant in things which makes them servicable.

~ Lao-Tse

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

signs of civilization

It is not civilized to want other people to believe what you believe because the essence of being civilized is to possess yourself as you are, and if you possess yourself as you are you of course cannot possess anyone else, it is none of your business.

Gertrude Stein in Paris, France.

look at it this way

Hey: look at it this way. This may not be the truth, but it's the way it appears to me.

Film director Robert Altman on making art -- heard just now on Terry Gross's Fresh Air, in a rebroadcast of a 1990 interview. Mr. Altman passed away last night.

dreams are not fictions


This is the gesture that remains:
side by side
we're shuffling instruments

trying to find a home for each
their weight makes music
as they settle to the floor

rough chords that announce
what each is capable of


Your proximity is unremarkable
(standing near you
I'm home)

and I try
to call it back

the weight and magnet of your being close
the way it pulls
like the moon on the tide

about TD4 »

Monday, November 20, 2006


chill until firm

Jello didn’t figure into my childhood much at all. Sure, there were the school lunches – those glistening green squares arrayed in Pepto-Bismol pink finger bowls. But my stepmother was a secular Jewish hippie who subscribed to her own unique dietary laws: Mostly vegetarian, mostly locally produced (the Co-op was big around our house – things weren’t called organic back then, but they pretty much were), and if it was meat it was kosher, by G-d.

And Jello, that middle American staple derived from the hooves of, well, hoofed animals, was not kosher.

Which is not to say we didn’t talk about Jello around our house. My stepmom made sure we understood just how heinous it really was, and we then floated that information to the kids at school when the lunch ladies brought out the jiggling squares. This information was met with the same incredulous horror and circulated with the same glee that greeted the rumor that Bubble Yum was made of spiders’ eggs. Which is to say: It had no impact on the consumption of Jello at Slavens Elementary School at all.

Despite my early programming, Jello has always intrigued me as the stuff of wonder and legend, but that’s not to say that I ever developed a taste for it – I never have.

With one exception: That would be Thanksgiving.

It has long been a tradition, among the descendants of the house of Gooch (my maternal line), to partake of foodstuffs that not one of us would ever serve up at any other time of the year. This includes green bean casserole, cranberry sauce still bearing the ridge marks of the can that bore it, and yams topped with blackened marshmallows -- not to mention a 12 pound frickin’ turkey.

Queen of all these seasonal delicacies is The Jello. Nini’s Cherry Jello, to be precise.

Unique among Jellos for the requirement that it be dissolved in boiled Coca-Cola, Nini’s Cherry Jello was most certainly culled from one of those swank company cookbooks of the 1950s. But its provenance is uncertain, if only because I’ve never asked. Once I came of age I merely received Nini’s Cherry Jello recipe with due reverence and awe, invested forthwith in a shiny new Jello mold -- and then I made the Jello.

Because there are some things you don’t mess with -- and tradition is one of those things.

Nini’s Cherry Jello
1 small package of cherry jello
3 oz. of Philly cream cheese
16 oz dark sweet pitted cherries
9 oz crushed pineapple
1 bottle of Coca-Cola
fistful of pecans -- maybe two

Strain fruit syrups into measuring cup and add enough Coke to equal 2 cups.
Dissolve Jello within the boiling liquid.
Remove from heat.
Sprinkle in cream cheese chunks.
Cool until liquid is the consistency of unbeaten egg whites.
Fold in cherries and pecans and pineapple.
Chill until the guests arrive.

sit amet

Found this today when I was grabbing some greeked text for something or other. Who the hell knows if it's true -- but it's kind of interesting:
Contrary to popular belief, Lorem Ipsum is not simply random text. It has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC, making it over 2000 years old. Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, looked up one of the more obscure Latin words, consectetur, from a Lorem Ipsum passage, and going through the cites of the word in classical literature, discovered the undoubtable source.

Lorem Ipsum comes from sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of "de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum" (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BC. This book is a treatise on the theory of ethics, very popular during the Renaissance. The first line of Lorem Ipsum, "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet..", comes from a line in section 1.10.32.

From Lorem Ipsum, which also offers a translation of the expanded Cicero text by H. Rackham (1914):

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness.

No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure.

To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Abakanowicz's Agora

Agoraphilia - Stage XI
Originally uploaded by only-connect.
Flickrite only-connect has posted some great shots of the new Magdalena Abakanowicz installation, Agora, in Chicago.

Here's a link to the slideshow »

at the carwash (or why I love Flickr)

Before Flickr I didn't know what to do with myself during the rinse cycle.


Along the footpath through the forest, 2.32PM

after long silence

Speech after long silence; it is right
All other lovers being estranged or dead,
Unfriendly lamplight hid under its shade,
The curtains drawn upon unfriendly night,
That we descant and yet again descant
The supreme theme of Art and Song:
Bodily decrepitude is wisdom; young
We loved each other and were ignorant.

~ W.B. Yeats

Saturday, November 18, 2006

he's for the show

Just after college I lived in LA for a short while where I worked by day as a researcher and graphic artist for a litigation consulting firm run by a couple of lapsed academics. My job was to prepare documentary evidence for trial by milling it through PageMaker; I was also asked to periodically perform the questionable task of driving by the homes of folks in the jury pools of those large corporate spoiler trials for which my employer had been employed, and shooting photos of their homes, vehicles and neighborhoods.

This data was later used by folks who held PhDs to make some estimation of their annual income and political leanings – information that became important during jury selection. I called them my drive-by shootings and enjoyed them at first because, armed with only a Thomas Guide, it gave me a chance to discover obscure corners of LA, Orange, Ventura and Riverside Counties. I quickly grew uncomfortable with the work as it dawned on me how the information was being used to shape the jury in a way that was not at all representative of the folks who would be impacted by the jury’s decision – a dawning that sufficiently undermined my faith in the American judicial system.

By night I waited tables. This being LA I waited tables alongside a whole slew of folks who worked day jobs as actors, screenwriters and directors and who didn’t yet have enough work to turn those day jobs into regular things.

I worked with one sweetheart of a guy who was both an actor and gay -- and I mention his being gay only because it will provide the necessary context for the rest of this story.

He was convinced that I should become a Las Vegas showgirl – he was resolutely possessed by that certainty – and he never missed an opportunity to tell me so. The first time he mentioned it we were taking a breather between dinner rushes, and I thought he was making some kind of strange joke, so I awkwardly laughed him off.

But he persisted, and would explain to me at every opportunity precisely why. I had the height (I stand 5 foot 12 on a good day), the build, and the hair. I even had, he insisted -- as evidenced when carrying large platters across the sweep of the restaurant -- the carriage required to carry many pounds of costuming up elaborate stairways and across the stage. (You may understand now why his being gay is essential to this story – no straight man could carry forward these exacting observations without landing himself an HR violation.)

I’m a hippie chick by heritage, so the spangles and sequins that he described to me held no appeal – although clearly, as indicated by his enraptured expression when he described them, they did for him. It was the headdresses especially that captivated him – he would describe them by lifting his hands high and delicately gesturing to indicate the sweep, height, heft and curves of the ornament which I was to wear upon my head.

The whole schtick was just so not me, and didn't fit my model of what I thought a life of accomplishment would mean -- but I didn't stop him, because mostly I loved to listen to him paint that picture, and see myself in a way I never would have imagined. I was captivated by the thought that (at least he thought) I could travel to an entirely different place (different planet, really), as an entirely different person, and pass.

Weren’t bare breasts involved in all this? I’d challenge him while we were grabbing a bite together after our shifts had ended. Sometimes, he said, some shows – but you’ll do fine, he’d say, backing up a bit and taking a nice long look. (These were the days before hyper-inflation.) He never gave up on me, and he never failed to sound earnest and wistful and full of regret for the beautiful dreams deferred.

I returned to my home town of Seattle not long after our conversations, where they were laying pipe for the Internet and where I quickly found my niche. The Vegas thing never came up again, I lost touch with my friend, and I didn’t think about it much.

But lately he’s come to mind -- now that I’ve cleared that inevitable hurdle called “approaching middle age” that brings with it laugh lines and extra pounds and would most certainly limit any opportunities that I might once have had to make it in Vegas – and I wonder some about what he might have known about my life that I didn’t know.

What would my life have been if I had pulled back Curtain Number Two instead of Curtain Number Three? Not that I long for sequins and pure camp any more than I ever did (well, maybe I long secretly for a stage beneath my feet – I suspect that's why I blog), but there is that little part of me who knows with too much certainty how the road I’m on has everything to do with the route I chose – and sometimes, don’t you just wonder, what the road would have looked like if you had turned the other way?

(And of course, none of this has anything to do with Vegas. Or showgirls.)

[Photos from a Lido Cabaret program that my Grandpa Schufman brought home from Paris back in the ‘50s]

Friday, November 17, 2006

almost nothing

a found poem
The instability of human knowledge
Is one of our few certainties.

Almost everything we know
We know incompletely at best.

And almost nothing we are told
Remains the same
when retold.

Found in «Strangers in Paradise: How Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas got to Heaven» by Janet Malcolm in the 13 November issue of The New Yorker.

Janet Malcolm’s article also provided the Gertrude Stein quote, posted just before this one.

Do you think Malcolm was thinking of Mies' beinahe nichts when she wrote the almost nothing line? Well, okay, maybe not: but she made me think of him. And she made me think of a hundred other stories told to me by the storytellers -- some of them related to me by birth or proximity -- who have shaped my life through their mythologies, real and imagined.

you never do know

Life is funny that way
It is always funny that way
The ones that naturally should offer
Do not
And those who have no reason
To offer it, do

You never know
You never do know
Where your good fortune
Is to come from

~ Gertrude Stein

Thursday, November 16, 2006

where to go in new york city


Detritus had a hit from Croatia this last week from someone looking for "farnsworth house,mies,bathroom".

I love that.

(Landed them at beinahe nichts -- I hope they weren't too disappointed.)

Just for you, my Croatian friend, I'm going to offer up another Mies van der Rohre bathroom -- this one in midtown Manhattan -- and a good one to have tucked away the next time you're tooling around the big city.

ladies lounge

Tucked unobtrusively off 52nd Ave, just off the main 375 Park Avenue address for Mies’ and Phillip Johnson’s Seagram Building, is the lobby for the Four Seasons Restaurant.

When I was there back in September with my darlin' companion the lobby was all ours – the coat check was unmanned, and none of the people behind the gentle sounds from the restaurant upstairs ever ventured down the glorious travertine staircase. The restrooms were all ours too – sweet little Miesian marble stalls with their own individual light fixtures (those, too, in marble) and wide open slots where the ashtrays used to be. (Although I can't vouch for the loveliness of the men's room.)

Mies made this.

One of the best public restrooms in New York City, for my money -- if you rank public restrooms (as I do) for their cleanliness, ease of access, historical interest, and proximity to architectural greatness.

The Seagram Building
375 Park Ave.
New York, NY


blue moon

a found poem

The Moon
is pretty much
dead inside

Found in «Observatory: The Moon Sighs» in Tuesday's New York Times

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

of interest

Metadata may be associated with media objects by providing media objects for display, and accepting input concerning the media objects, where the input may include at least two different types of metadata. For example, metadata may be in the form of tags, comments, annotations or favorites. The media objects may be searched according to metadata, and ranked in a variety of ways.

United States Patent Application 20060242178
Kind Code A1
Butterfield; Daniel Stewart; et al.
October 26, 2006

Patent application for Flickr’s Interestingness algorithm, via Boing Boing.

a whole different world

a found poem

Chicago's a whole different world
at 4.30 in the morning

I've seen [it] more than once

nothing but
steam coming from the manhole covers
police dogs in the back of patrol cars
and a nice kinda quiet over everything

That's what I remember anyway
Nice place

Compiled from an email thread with my dad, talking about making an early morning run to O'Hare

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

up against the wall

on one condition

Everything is conditional. You just can't always anticipate the conditions.

Hugh Laurie as House


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
High school kids to museum guard at the Art Institute of Chicago: "We're looking for 21st Century Art."

Museum guard: "Are you sure?"

[Shown: Matisse's Apples]

people like you and me

clutch of elders
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
On a global level, deforestation will be reversed if we maintain this trend, which has involved a lot of different factors: a shift to highly productive agriculture in some places, as well as people like you and me reading newspapers on the Internet so that forest is not destroyed.

Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University in New York, one of the authors of a study just published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which his colleague, Pekka Kauppi, states: “From the new data it seems possible that we could reverse a global trend that many thought was irreversible.” As reported today in « Many Nations’ Forests Regrow, Study Finds» by Elisabeth Rosenthal in the New York Times.

To my shame I read the good news in ink. Clearly I'm part of the problem. (I can work on that.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

unmake me

Unmade bed, early morning.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Superlatives leave me cold:
Best. Favorite. Most.

But there are these:
I know.
I want.
I wish.
I will.

And for these
There is Only This.

the thing is

layered winter sun

Say baby: There ain't nothing pointless about this gig. The thing is, you see what you want to see, and you hear what you want to hear. Dig?

The Rock Man in Harry Nilsson's The Point!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

enlightment (no, that is not a typo)

Q. What does a Sun Ra Symposium look like?
A. Something like this »

p.s. ask me what I thought about in another 8 hours or so -- I need to get some sleep first.

Update: The above pic, She Sax, made Gaper's Block on 13 November. Thanks to desertson for the heads up!

Friday, November 10, 2006

the sun ra odyssey begins

Hanging at the Hideout -- the show was sold out but AMB said "don't worry about it -- Sun Ra will take care of it"-- and, apparently, he did.

Morning after update:
So here's the thing: I know nothing about Sun Ra. My brother, on the other hand, knows quite a bit -- he's just now wrapping up a Masters' Thesis on the guy, and he's come to town for a whole round of Sun Ra-ness -- including ephemera at the Hyde Park Art Center and a seminar that runs through the weekend.

We opened the weekend with a show at Chicago's Hideout last night, featuring Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and local keyboardist Jim Baker, along with a couple of Arkestra veterans. We weren't supposed to get into the show -- it was deeply sold out -- but did. No problem. Sun Ra? You tell me.

Something extraordinary happened in that room last night, but I completely lack the language to write about it -- other than to say that it was largely at a vibratory level, and that sounds just plain silly. So forget I said that.

My goal for the weekend, in tagging along to a few of these things, is to learn a little bit something more about what Sun Ra contributed to music in America. Already we have this little tidbit for Anali in Boston: Your man Deval is the son of an Arkestra member. Small world.

optimal mechanisms and the polyamorous agent

a found poem

in many situations
have strict restrictions
on their action spaces

(due to behavioral
or regulatory reasons)

for any multi-linear
the optimal mechanism
with K
incurs an unexpected loss

of O

when compared to
optimal mechanisms
with unrestricted
action spaces

Found in « Implementation with a Bounded Action Space » by Liad Blumrosen & Michael Feldman in The Proceedings of the 7th ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce.

(You think that's suggestive -- you should read the paper on Learning from Revealed Preferences. Or maybe I just want the reading to more interesting than it is -- we've just entered hour three at O'Hare, which might have something to do with it.)


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Nothing's coming, nothing's going out of O'Hare right now -- winter weather has descended with a vengence. Bless my bones I managed to snag one of those rare commodities -- a seat in baggage claim. Of course, the email update from the airline tells me that my brother's flight has been diverted to another city, so I may be sitting in the wrong place all together. (The arrivals board has a different opinion, so we'll just sit this one out for now.)

speaking of croutons

pig in a poke

Mikkel at Shädy Äcres has asked that we talk about something else – quite explicitly, he’s asked that we speak of croutons.

Fair enough. I'll speak of mine sautéed in bubbling bacon, because they’re really the best way to eat croutons that I know of, and if you only do it every once in a while you’ll only be slightly closer to that eminent myocardial infarction.

Salade á l’ail
2 tablespoons Dijon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup peanut oil (olive oil will work fine too)
6 cups tasty mixed salad greens – all your favorites – if you’re in the U.S. throw in some spinach from Salinas because that market needs a kick in the pants and the World’s Best Engineer (he of the spinach harvester) will thank you for your trouble
4 oz. slab bacon, rind removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large slabs of crusty bread cut into cubes
2 fat garlic cloves, minced

Create the dressing by mixing together the mustard, vinegar, oil and salt. It should be viscous: almost like mayo.

Place the bacon in a large skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the bacon begins to sweat off its saturated goodness. Add the bread cubes and continue to cook, stirring from time to time until both the bacon and bread cubes are browned to a crisp, about five minutes or more.

Toss the greens (which you have lovingly washed and placed in a large salad bowl) with the dressing and then top with the bacon, croutons and garlic. Serve with a few more slices of that good bread and a nice red wine (but not too much – for god’s sake we don’t want to start crying into our cup again).

Make sure that everyone in the household has a little bit of this, because that minced garlic will linger for a little while. Best to make sure everyone smells of the same stinking rose.

Freely adopted from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I’m digging through old trip photos tonight, trying to find images of a friend who passed away recently for a memorial article that will run on her soon. It’s a sad job, and it’s been a sad night.

I found these two castaway images from one of those trips during my digging, and decided to try to save them – mostly because I need a little bit of saving tonight. This year has been soaked in so much loss, and I’m so tired of missing the folks that I love. I’m so tired of feeling them gone.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

tooth fairy tracks

My grandfather took this shot, at a lovely little nothing of a weekend shack that he and my grandmother had on Discovery Bay on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

I love the light of it.
That sofa.
The memory of that place.

The thought of my Bompa pulling focus and firing the shutter.

I was probably four here and, it would seem, a mouth-breather.

My sister’s tooth was loose.

Later she would lose it and, in the morning light, my father would show us the wrinkled tracks that the tooth fairy left on the bed sheets when she visited in the night.

I didn’t know then that his marriage to my mother was on the rocks. Or maybe I did.

And maybe I was just beginning to suspect how big the world was, how impossible it would be to get my arms around it all, how vast continents would remain forever out of reach, and just how completely that would break my heart.

you're invited


The Honorable Barack Obama
United States Senator from Illinois

speaking on “Next Steps in Iraq”

Monday, November 20, 2006
Cash bar reception 12:00 noon - 12:30 p.m.
Luncheon and address 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
(Times tentative)

Hilton Chicago Hotel, 720 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Nonmembers $100
Register Now
(Price includes one-year individual membership in The Chicago Council, a value of $60.)

Advance registration is required. No walk-ins allowed.

Your registration confirmation will be e-mailed to you. For security purposes, you MUST bring your registration confirmation and photo identification.

ancient americas at the field

Super secret behind the scenes tour of the new Ancient Americas Hall at the Field Museum in Chicago tonight (with about, oh, 100 other members of the Anthropology Alliance), which is presently undergoing installation.

The exhibit is 10 years & $18M in the making and promises to be quite cool, with coverage of most of the ancient populations of the Americas-- North, South and Central.

(But sorry -- no Amazon. Seems the Field folks didn't spend a lot of time in that region picking up pots and things.)

In addition to telling yesterday's story and today's, they'll be covering that awkward breach in the middle where European settlers did what they could to obliterate indigenous populations.

Such sizable continents. You think we could have done a better job of sharing.

p.s. buffet gets full points for the butternut squash tamales and the tres leches cupcakes.

choice words

Your future is what you will choose today.

From the letter that Malachi Ritscher left behind after he died yesterday on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway.

Mr. Ritscher died from self-immolation -- he set himself on fire to protest America's war in Iraq.

kick ass red

Chicago gets so much grief for being gruff and unrefined -- this'll show 'em.

From Dr. Vino we learn that Mike Ditka has a new wine on the street: Mike Ditka's Kick Ass Red.

But lest you think he's using some of those funky Illinois Norton grapes, fear not: Kick Ass is produced by the Mendocino Wine Co., which I suspect (but can't confirm) means California grapes.
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