Saturday, April 29, 2006

beckett at the gate

beckett @ the gate
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
"The greatest weapon the English ever gave the Irish was their own language."

Placard at the Writer's Museum in Dublin

Beckett Festival on in Dublin to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. Caught a great showing of Play and Catastrophe this evening -- also the last night of the Festival. More on that later. Earlier today read up on Beckett in the Writer's Museum and learned that, having emigrated to Paris, he had difficulty returning home to Dublin -- to the point of experiencing physical pain and sickness.

don't go looking

"Don't go looking for anything; let it find you. The people are the music."

The gentleman from Wicklow as we boarded our Aer Lingus flight bound for Dublin when I asked him, mid-way into our chat, where I would find the music in Ireland.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

random irish trivia

In Ireland, artists and musicians are excused from paying taxes. Or so a Welshman told me. (He was a musician, and a bit envious.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

easily amazed by alphabets

Speaking of puppies: My earliest memory of being amazed was when I was 5 years old, and my mom had just finished reading the Pokey Little Puppy to me in the front room of our little house on East Spain Street in Sonoma, just off the Plaza. This was in the early 70s when rents were still cheap in Sonoma -- even just off the Plaza. (Today that little house is a chichi boutique that caters to wine country tourists -- back then there were some serious hippy happenings going on.)

I probably don’t have to tell you that The Pokey Little Puppy is a Little Golden Book. This edition had an illustration on the back with all of the characters from all of the Little Golden Books doing all kinds of clever things as they more or less danced their way through the letters of the alphabet, which bordered the back cover. For all I know they’re still printing them this way.

I asked her what the letters were, and from there a conversation unfolded that made my five-year old mind explode.

I learned that they were the letters of the alphabet, and that there were 26 of them. (This was a number I could understand: I had counted to 50 for the first time not long before that.) I learned that they were not only THE letters of the alphabet; they were ALL the letters of the alphabet. And I learned that every single word inside the book we had just read had been made up of different combinations of these very same letters.

I didn’t believe her: No way could all those different words be made up of only these few letters. So I took the book outside (we were hippies: this was allowed) and started to hunt through it – trying to find a new letter; one that didn't make it to the back of the book.

Never found it.

So knowing now that I’m easily amazed, as well as a little bit of a hippy-naturalist-type, maybe you’ll forgive me for thinking this next piece is one of the most interesting things I’ve read in a while. A group of folks at the California Institute of Technology think they've figured out what all of the world's alphabets share in common -- and it's topographical:
The team set out to explore the idea that the visual signs we use [including alphabetic forms] have been selected, whatever the culture, to reflect common contours, landscapes and shapes in natural scenes that human brains have evolved to be good at seeing.
Across 115 writing systems to emerge over human history, varying in number of characters from about 10 to 200, the average number of strokes per character is approximately three and does not appear to vary as a function of writing system size. Sticking to letters that can be drawn with three strokes or fewer, the team found that about 36 distinct characters is the universe of letters in a theoretical alphabet.

Remarkably, the study revealed regularities in the distribution of (topological) shapes across approximately 100 phonemic (non-logographic) writing systems, where characters stand for sounds, and across symbols. "Whether you use Chinese or physics symbols, the shapes that are common in one are common in the others," said Dr Changizi.
They analysed the frequency of the shapes in 27 photographs of savannas and tribal life, 40 miscellaneous photographs of rural and small-town life and 40 computer-generated images of buildings. Much to their surprise, whether analysing the shapes in an urban landscape, or those in a leafy wilderness, they had very similar distributions of configurations and shapes.

Most striking of all, the team found a high correlation between the most common contour combinations found in nature and the most common contours found in letters and symbols across cultures. For example, contours resembling an "L" or "X" are more common in both human visual signs and natural scenes than anything resembling an asterisk (*).

When the popularity of each shape was plotted, a wiggly curve emerged that closely matched that of the popularity of the forms and architectures found in nature: the most common letter shapes mirrored common real-world shapes.

If you didn't catch all that (and I'm not sure I have, yet), you can read the whole write up online at The Telegraph, or you can wait until the CalTech team publishes their paper next month in the American Naturalist.

puppies sell product

I worked for a VP of Marketing once upon a time who would punctuate every third conversation with his firm belief that: “puppies sell product”.

I found it curious at the time, because we didn’t use (or have a good reason to use) puppies in our advertising. But today I’m reading Rob Walker’s column Consumed in the NYT Magazine, and it appears that my old boss would have been very successful selling wine:
According to ACNielsen, the market-research company, 438 viable table-wine brands have been introduced in the past three years, and 18 percent — nearly one in five — feature an animal on the label. ‘Combined with existing critter labels,’ the firm said in summation of its research on this matter, ‘sales of critter-branded wine have reached more than $600 million.’
I supposed they haven’t discovered anything that the folks over at Cute Overload didn’t already know. (Thanks, and eternal damnation, to litwit for turning me on to the C.O.)

For the critter-curious, here's a link to Walker’s column »

Saturday, April 22, 2006

happy earth day

FUH2 isn't a formal group at Flickr -- it's more of a tagged colony. But the contributors are passionate, and they have a point.

In honor of Earth Day, I give you FUH2 »

(mature content [sort of]. consider yourself warned.)

(photo credit: JKonig)

Friday, April 21, 2006


Originally uploaded by hyfen.
It's been my experience that each one of us is guaranteed a visit from humiliation in our proper turn. It often arrives without warning and is usually demeaning (which is why it's called humiliating).

So knowing that each one of us will get our fair share in the end, I'm baffled as to why anyone would elect to buy into it.

But there's no accounting for taste or tendencies: if you like the rough stuff, you can pay at auction for an opportunity to play chess with Garry Kasparov.

They're kicking off the bidding at $2K.

(photo credit: hyfen)

the bed wars

If you're a business traveler you've probably encountered Westin's Heavenly Bed. It's pretty comfy. I was recently holed up at a conference in Palm Desert with a lousy bug, and the heavenly bed was the best part about it.

It's done very well for Westin's business -- they sell the amenities on the side and they've earned acclaims for improving the customer experience -- I was at a GEL dinner event last year at the Rainbow Room in NY where they picked up one of the first Copernican Awards for doing right by the customer.

But it seems that all that goodness comes at a cost.

The Heavenly Bed was introduced in 1999, "touching off the bed wars. Marriott, Crown Plaza and Hilton joined in, spending hundreds of millions on mattresses, feather-filled duvets, goose-down pillows and softer sheets." (NYT, 21 April 06) Alongside this heavenliness, additional ammenities have been introduced: fluffier bathrobes, a coffeepot in every room.

And it turns out there's a lot more to schlep, from the housekeeping side -- but Management forgot to do the numbers.
The problem, housekeepers say, is not just a heavier mattress, but having to rush because they are assigned the same number of rooms as before while being required to deal with far more per room.
Indeed, a union study based on statistics provided by the hotels has found that since 2002, when the amenities race began in earnest, the injury rate for housekeepers has climbed to 71 percent more than for all hotel workers, compared with 47 percent more beforehand.

NYT, 21 April 06
Now, I love me a heavenly bed, but this makes me angry. Luxury hotels have done a good thing and created a great experience for their customers. Profits are up as a result. And yet they failed to figure out the simple mechanics: bigger bed, more sheets, feather beds, heavier comforters -- geez. Maybe, just maybe, it's gonna take some doing to turn these things around for the next visitor. Maybe, just maybe, we should calculate the human cost here and give our housekeepers a little more time to get the work done. After all: profits are up. We can cover the cost.

When did we lose sight of the space and time required to accomplish physical tasks? Has the reorientation of our working lives to the computer desktop -- where the physical clues of time and space are diminished -- wrecked our ability to intuit some simple, basic truths about the time it takes to get these things done?

But maybe this has nothing to do with that reorientation -- maybe it's just the same old story of the Man milking the little guy dry.

p.s. Full disclosure: I'm in Management.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

bill pulls a beasley


Maybe it’s unfair to draw the comparison -- I’m sure I’ll get used to Gates’ new frames before too long (they’re actually quite nice) -- but tonight when I caught a glimpse of him on the Daily Show, hanging out with Hu, I couldn’t shake the “separated at birth” moment: Bill Gates and Mrs. Beasley.

the ground under our feet

"Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone."

Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

a river runs through it

telephoneBook.jpgGraphic Designer Richard Eckersley is dead at 65.
In 1989 Mr. Eckersley made a radical departure from his signature restraint, shaking up the field with his design for Avital Ronell's ‘Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech,’ an unorthodox study of Jacques Derrida, Martin Heidegger and the philosophy of deconstruction. This was the first book Mr. Eckersley designed on the computer, using new page-making software programs to interpret the author's complex postmodern ideas typographically.

Although the stark black-and-white cover of this long vertical book was rather quiet, he radically dislodged the interior text from conventional settings, and the book’s layout sometimes upstages the text by deliberately impeding the act of reading, which is just what Ms. Ronell wanted. Throughout the book there are unexplained gaps and dislocations between sentences and paragraphs, forcing the reader to work at reading. On one page is a mirror image of the page that faces it. On another, snakelike trails of space that come from careless word spacing (called rivers) are intentionally employed. Some words are blurred to the point of being indecipherable; one line runs into another because of the exaggerated use of negative line-spacing.

Though some adventurous graphic designers were experimenting at the time with idiosyncratic computer type design, this was first attempt to apply a ‘deconstructivist style’ to a serious book.
Eleven examples of Mr. Eckersley’s book design are in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. He won the Carl Herzog Prize for book design in 1994.

If you love books, you might appreciate his obituary (from which the above is cited), published in today’s New York Times »

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

curse of the mummy

Mummy’s are back: King Tut’s coming to the Field Museum this Summer, and the Met in NY is putting on a show about Hatshepsut, the Queenly Pharaoh who met with such unkindness after her death.

Attended a lecture recently about the original dig that unearthed Tut, and mention was made of the fondness of the modern imagination for Mummy’s curses – which reminded me of one of the most entertaining footnotes I’ve ever come across:
In 1910, the British Egyptologist Douglass Murray is said to have been among the next to feel the curse [of Queen Hatshepsut]. An American treasure hunter approached him in Cairo, offering for sale one of several portions of Hatshepsut's multilayered mummy case. The American died before he could cash Murray's check. Three days later, Murray's gun exploded, blowing off most of his right hand. What remained turned gangrenous, requiring amputation of the entire arm at the elbow.

En route to England with the sarcophagus, he received word via wireless telegraph that two of his closest friends and two of his servants had died suddenly. Upon arrival in England, he began to feel superstitious, and left Hatshepsut's case in the house of a girlfriend who had taken a fancy to it. The girlfriend soon came down with a mysterious wasting disease. Then her mother died suddenly. Her lawyer delivered the sarcophagus back to Murray, who promptly unloaded it on the British Museum.

The British Museum already had more sarcophagi than it needed. Not so, the American Museum of Natural History in New York; so a trade was arranged for Montana dinosaur bones. Before the deal was complete, the British Museum's director of Egyptology and his photographer were dead. Queen Hatshepsut was beginning to lose her charm.

The curators loaded the sarcophagus into a crate and saw it lowered into the hold of a ship. And on April 10, 1912, the ship sailed -- Southampton to New York. Hatshepsut departed for America on the Titanic.
Published in Charles Pellegrino’s Unearthing Atlantis in 1991, there’s not one good reason to believe that any of this is true. But doesn’t it make for a fun read?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Gentleman, 55.

Coming from one of the world's largest coal-producing regions, you'd expect me to litter this ad with clever references to coal and the decline of the coal industry and possibly some nostalgia about my father working in a coal mine and a few anecdotes about accidents and heroism and camaraderie and everyone supporting each other in times of coal-related hardship and crisis. Instead, I'd like to talk about my cats. Gentleman, 55. Likes cats. Box no. 06/07.

Personal Ad, London Review of Books, 6 April 2006
All box number replies should be sent to Box no. 06/07, London Review of Books, 28 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HN.

The folks at the London Review give away a bottle of Taittinger to the best ad of the week; box 07/04 won this last week with a reference to a mix up with industrial cleaners. Frankly, I thought this one was better.

patriarch's passage

the cherry trees (the ones you loved)
bloomed early that year

the day before you left us

and then dropped their petals
to bid you goodbye

Saturday, April 15, 2006

pesach & tenebrae

Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
For the last few years I’ve celebrated Passover with a small group of Unitarians who grew up with some kind of Jewish heritage in their lives, or married into it. Most of the folks are humanists, in keeping with an old Unitarian tradition, and the Haggadah that’s used for the meal (changes a little every year) has a strong humanist bent.

This year the Telling focused on slavery and freedom – launching from the captivity of the Israelites in Egypt into ruminations about contemporary slavery, which is alive to this day: Figures from 2004 indicate that 27 million people are enslaved against their will. Most slaves are women and children.


The following night, Good Friday, we attended a Tenebrae service – another descent into the shadows. As a congregation we read together the invocation:
Fear, impatience, anger,
Resentment, doubt, greed,
You are welcome here.
We will hold you until you soften.
We will love you until you begin to melt.
We will sing to you until you remember peace.
Darkness and sadness,
Loneliness and sorrow, Come.
We know you well.
You are welcome here.
I’ve always enjoyed this time of year, the hope and optimism of Easter Sunday, the flowering of Spring. But this year, given recent events, I appreciate this darkness that comes before the sunrise even more than I have in the past. The shadows have been shouting for my attention for the last few months – and in truth I’ve tried not too look.

I don’t like it when people I love die. I don’t like when I’m leveled by a virus that weakens my body and taxes my brain. I don't like it when world news seems to be increasingly entropic. My impulse has been to look forward – up and out – moving through – an impulse to ignore the untidiness around me. But the last few days have given me an opportunity to reflect, frankly, on everything that sucks.

Not to wallow, but to reflect, here, in the dark and the gloom.

If you've ever sketched in charcoal you know what I mean: when shaping a form it's impossible to directly draw the surfaces where the light shines and reflects the brightest. The only way to show these things is to shade in the dark side of the form; it's then that the lit surfaces come into view. It's only by looking directly into the shadows that we can see things in their full dimensions.

There’s a beautiful Arabic proverb: “All sunshine makes a desert”. These dark times are the rains that, when they pass, will make the earth bloom.

the god box

Carr Chapel detail
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
I suspect Mies had nothing to do with this detail, but it did seem that this little decal (on the window panes that skirt the front of the building) had been around as long as his minimalist chapel, known to the students on the IIT campus as "The God Box". Light was terribly low inside so, given my aversion to using a flash, I came away with only one other usable shot.

Carr Chapel, aka "The God Box"
Mies van der Rohe at IIT
Chicago, IL

Thursday, April 13, 2006

modern living

messin' around with mies #1
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
“‘Modernism is above all a search for Utopia,’ says Christopher Wilk of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the curator of a new traveling show of designs for kitchens and cars, houses and health spas that were all part of the movement to rebuild a war-ravaged world.


“The most surprising and resonant part of this exhibition shows how healthy living became a key tenet of Modernism. Designers looked afresh at the human body and sought to turn it into a healthy machine. Architects believed that sunlight, fresh air and uncluttered living spaces would banish the contagions of tuberculosis and flu. This led to new designs for housing, clinics and sanatoria, all featuring flat roofs, balconies and industrially produced plates of clear glass to let in the light.”

From a write up in this week’s Economist re the exhibit: Modernism: Designing a New World, 1914-1939. Travels to the Germany’s MARTA next, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC after that.

saying it

daddy, please.
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
So every once in a while I take a shot that I just LOVE and, being the addicted flickrite that I am, I expect that my pals on Flickr are going to be all over it once I post it.

This was one of those shots that, when I shot it, something inside me said YES -- but it met with absolutely no response when I posted it online.

Insert sad sound of deflating disappointment.

But then last night a fellow came along and got it; faved it; commented on it with a simple "wow".

Very satisfying. And it reminded me just how far a well-placed -- even off-handed -- word of praise will go. Currency that costs us very little to give -- other than to notice and to say it out loud -- that deeply enriches the folks who receive it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


ER_200Image(07).jpgUnexpected trip to the Emergency Room this morning. Conversation that put me there went something like this:

Uh, yes, hi: I’m on the last day of a course of antibiotics to treat pneumonia and this morning, well, I developed a slight rash and I’m finding it difficult to swallow – I just want to confirm with you that I should probably skip this last dose – I think this might be an allergic reaction…

You need to get to the ER right now.

Oh. Okay. How bad could this get?

There’s no way to know. You need to get to the ER right now. And don’t take your last dose.

Okay. Thank You. (click)

Me stuck in traffic on the Illinois toll way.
Going no where fast.
It all ended just fine: All the swelling and throat closing that you see with folks who react violently to peanuts and bee stings moved in super slow motion, so I was never in any real danger. And after my two hour wait in the ER the good doc told me what I could have told that nurse on the tollway: that I needed a dose of Benedryl and I would be just fine. (And while I waited for the Benedryl to kick in I had a pair of plump and luscious bee-stung lips that the glam gals would kill for.)

Oh right: And there’s that little problem where I can no longer take two entire classes of antibiotics because the next time the reaction will be compounded. So I need to avoid getting sick ever again. No worries. (Let’s just hope this pneumonia’s gone for good, or I’m hosed.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

sitting pretty

chairgrass.jpgIf there's one feature in the American landscape that (in my estimation) takes the prize for the meaningless expenditure of time and money, it's the lawn.

I hate 'em. I won't go into it here. But I really. Don't. Like. Lawns.

But I DO really like this kind of lawn feature. Constructed from a cardboard form that's overlaid with soil and grass seed, it sprouts into a grass-covered armchair that becomes One with your yard. Kind of like a chia pet with a purpose.

Get all the details (at a peek at the cardboard form) at Treehugger »

the smell of fear

"Women can unconsciously detect the smell of fear, new research suggests, and the smell improves their performance on mental tasks."

The details of how this was determined are a bit untoward, and involve gauze and sweaty armpits. For the brave, here's the link to the New York Times article »

kool-aid acid dreams

Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Was just approached by a publisher about using one of my Quirigua images for a book on the Global History of Architecture -- made my day.

I suspect it's not that easy to find images of the Quirigua site in Guatemala (mine are certainly not my best), possibly because of the difficulty of shooting these buggers -- the stone stelaes were so roughly textured that the imagery appears highly pixelated even though it's not. And did I mention the glare? If I remember right, it was around 102° the day we visited. Whole lotta heat and light.

Here's a shot from that trip last year around this time, with my original notes:
Full-figure Mayan glyph. If Copan is the Mayan Paris then Quirigua is its Haight-Ashbury, circa Summer of Love -- a kaleidoscope of kool-aid acid dreams etched in stone. Outrageous artistry.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

crafty girls

I love crafty girls. I’m not one, but I bask in the goodness of those who knit and perl and stitch things from yarns and felts and stray buttons.

I’ve had a rough year – lost a friend, a pet, a wallet, had a bad round with a respiratory infection that just won’t die. Poured too much of my soul into a soulless job. My crafty girlfriends witnessed all of this, and knew just what was needed.

Two sent scarves. Entirely unique, utterly exquisite, wholly huggable, crafted by their own brilliant hands. Absolutely gorgeous. Another sent a felted stuffed virtual “’twas brillig” to warm the spot of the sweet grey cat that I lost. Cozy, comforting, lovely.

Not a whole lot of crying into our coffee here. Not a lick of pity. Just a notice and a nod and a heartfelt gift of goodness. A “this too will pass; and while we wait, we will craft.”

God bless the crafty girls.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

sound opinions

soundOpinions.jpgAre they broadcasting this show outside Chicago? The rock critics from the Sun Times and Trib -- Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot (and no, I don't know which belongs to which) -- get together every Saturday night on WBEZ to shoot the sh*t about music on a show called Sound Opinions. They often have musicians in the studio who shoot some more and then play some. Nice way to hear about new music.

Tonight Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins' played from their new Rabbit Fur Coat. I'm buying.

It's not clear to me what their reach is at this point -- the show only aired this last December. There's a Podcast if you're curious »

piping hot

piping hot
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Discovered I had boiled the kettle dry -- and fused the lid shut -- in one of those "do you smell something burning?" moments.

Yes: Plastic.

everyone an oakie

Nini's Travel Journal
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
What hadn’t blown away with the dust, my grandmother and her family packed into their family car and moved from Hoisington, Kansas to McCloud, California (in Northern California, near Mt. Shasta) at the tail-end of October in 1935.

My grandmother, who would grow up to become an exacting business person and a successful online trader, kept a journal of their trip. This is one spread from that journal: Day Two, on which travel expenses, including gas, meals and lodging, came to $11.42. Click here to view large »

This entry is of particular interest to me because I did a lot of my growing up in the Denver area and I can readily see the terrain that she maps out in her careful chronology: Aurora, Denver, Broomfield, Eldorado. Dinner in Lafayette. It makes it easier to see it through my grandmother's eyes, leaving everything she'd known for something entirely new, and insisting, as she did, that she wear her entirely impractical new school shoes for the journey.

I'm helping her typeset her memoirs. They should be ready for self-publication within the next month or so.

Friday, April 07, 2006

the gang

The gang
Originally uploaded by MER..
One of the reasons I absolutely love Flickr: 1) this photo 2) the attached photo notes, and 3) the comment thread that unfolded as a result.

You gotta clickthrough to feel the love »

My apologies and deepest regards to MER.

view from the throne

Guess Where Chicago?
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Tip for ya if you’re in Chicago anytime soon and you start to flag on the Magnificent Mile: One of the best public washrooms downtown (just outside the Loop) can be found on the second floor of the Bloomingdale’s Home Shop, in the renovated Medinah Temple, tucked away behind a partition on the Eastern wall.

The farthest stall, generously equipped to accommodate wheelchairs, also contains four glorious stained glass windows. And on a fine day, when the light hits just right, a routine pit stop can become transcendent.

Can't speak for the men's room.

Bloomingdale’s Home Shop
600 N Wabash Ave Chicago, IL 60610

a busy week doing nothing

This week I learned from the people I love that in their lives:

a baby was born
a middle aged man died
a woman who deserved the job of her dreams, got it
a couple separated
a malignancy was found
a trust was betrayed
three tired travelers were jetlagged
a future was somewhat uncertain
and one pink slip was received.

And this morning, instead of boarding a flight to Philly as originally planned for U Penn's Maya Weekend, I'll stay home and nurse the last bitter goo of pneumonia in my lungs.

Ironically, the papers presented at the conference will focus on Maya Shamans and Spirit Healers. I could use me some of that. (And, yes, I'm trying not to pout.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

unhappy events

grumpy fossil
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Sometimes fossils look tortured and twisted if the rock they were in shifted at variable rates over time. Sue, the T Rex at the Field, is a good example -- her skull is a bit of a mess because it was either crushed on deposit or dragged a bit.

But most times the fish fossils look serene, because when doesn’t a fish look serene? Well, when it's this fish.

Clickthrough to see this little guy large. He looks absolutely furious to be caught in whatever catastrophic onslaught just made him fodder for fossilization.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

écrit sans fin

écrit sans fin
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Was relatively well behaved at this weekend’s annual poster show at the Chicago Cultural Center, backing away from the gi-normous $2,400 Hervé Morvan that I wanted to take home and opting for a much more demure, much more affordable litho by Raymond Savignac for an old Reynolds pen ad. The tagline reads: “Écrit sans fin” Write without end. I can live with that.

The woman who sold it to me was a treasure. Her shop’s in Paris, but I could swear she sounded just like a Brooklyn girl, so I asked her if she was an ex-pat. She said “I suppose so, but I was born an American, and I’ll die an American.” Turns out she and her husband moved to France 40 years ago because they were both in the theatre and “the discrimination here was just so bad – but in Paris, they loved us.” As soon as she said that I realized she was African-American; before that moment I thought vaguely that she reminded of my grandmother, who has always reminded me of Lena Horne (it's that silver screen diva thing) and so maybe somewhere I registered her heritage – as a small tile within a much larger mosaic of this remarkable woman who was unfolding before me.

And it struck me that something that mattered so little to the encounter we were having just then, mattered enough 40 years ago that it drove her out of the country.

Racism is another one of those things that as a white girl in a white world I can never quite get my arms around; it leaves me angry and frustrated to try. It grieved me to meet someone who loves America and couldn’t live here because America didn’t love her. I want to think that it’s different today – but is it? There’s too much bad news that would seem to indicate otherwise. And I’m too far removed, by accident of my own skin tone, to ever really know what other people go through.

Regrettably that's one more big problem that I can’t solve in a hurry -- but I *can* recommend a great poster shop in Paris. I've never been there, but I’m a big fan of the proprietress. No web site, no email, this girl’s old school – you’ll just have to stop by:
Maria Carmen Salis
The Tree of Art
68, rue Georges Lardennois
75019 Paris

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

fever break

fire heals with reproach
in the woods after the blaze
seedlings hesitate

been nursing a fever for six days. finally, finally, it broke.

Monday, April 03, 2006


250_auschwitz_IMG_0615.jpgIt took me awhile to recover after seeing this image. A detail from The Auschwitz Album: The Story of a Transport, now on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, it was taken by an SS Officer on the day these individuals disembarked at Auschwitz.

It was taken before they’ve been selected for the “showers” or as laborers; before they’ve been shaved, stripped of their clothing, depersonalized. They look concerned and wholly human. It appears that the gentleman first in line may be trying to reason with the German officer who roughly handles him by the lapel, or at least lighten the moment with a comment or two.

We know, as spectators to their misfortune, that if they are selected as laborers they may hope to live another three months, in the worst possible conditions. And we know, with the luxury of history, that this is just a brief glimpse into a much larger horror that will continue to unfold for some time yet to come.

And it's likely that they know none of the things that we know about this moment in their lives. The whole exhibit is like this: shots horrifying in their mundanity.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

letter from liam

letter from liam
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Member's Night at the Field Museum in Chicago reminds me of Parent's Night when I was in Elementary School. Not only is the whole museum open after hours with special activities, but they open the top floor where the departmental offices are, and it has that cool "we'd be in trouble if we were here any other time" feeling. This letter was posted outside one of the anthropology offices. It reads:

Dear Matt,
Thank you for showing us the paleo-indian artifacts! I hope I can see you again sometime. You'r also my favorite archeologyst in the world! Your lucky you get to work in the Feild Museum. I went to a contest in the feild museum called "dino bee". I was one of the top four winners!

Liam P. Edward

Saturday, April 01, 2006

management perks

Only chiefs owned fans and fly whisks
Throughout Polynesia, fans and fly whisks belonged to none other than chiefs, and came to symbolize that lofty position. In Samoa, only chiefs of a certain rank -- "talking" chiefs -- owned fly whisks. Known for skill in oratory, a talking chief drove home key points with a flick of a fly whisk.

Display placard in the Chicago Field Museum
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