Saturday, May 31, 2008
a found poem
Pruning is not my natural thing.
Unlike my father
who has waged grim war
with invasive weeds, ivy and
old man's beard
I have a weakness
for the vigour
of our cottage-embracing
Forcing its tendrils
through my study window
Likewise the privet hedge
in all directions
Ching Ling silently
Am on the side
of untamed growth
On the side
Found in Harry Eyres' Pruning vines and verses column in this morning's Financial Times.
Friday, May 30, 2008
You kept hearing ‘oh, oh, oh,’ [and then the guests became] literally like wild animals, tearing apart everything on the table.
Franz Aliquo, lawyer and Supreme Commander of "flavor tripping parties" involving the West African fruit synsepalum dulcificum which "rewires tastebuds" as reported in yesterday's New York Times.
The fruit, when “you pop it in your mouth and scrape the pulp off the seed, swirl it around and hold it in your mouth for about a minute,” makes everything sweet.
I play a game when my mind starts to wander in those unfamiliar social situations where I’m surrounded by people I’ve only just met. If for some reason I haven’t yet found those few folks from whom a whole world of conversation will emerge, and I’ve grown tired of looking, I play my game.
I watch people eat and I wonder about them in bed.
Not in a naked hyper porn kind of way. I have a theory that you can tell how a person is in bed by watching them eat. By watching how they choose and handle and consume food. What they decide they want to eat; what they decide they won’t. Whether they approach it with enthusiasm or like a dentist’s chair. Whether they’re curious, selective, investigative, or simply take the first lump to pass before them on a plate. Whether they wolf it down quickly or savour it slow.
Because I think if you can figure out how a person plays in bed, you can figure out a whole lot about how they tackle life.
My data set is small (she says modestly) so it’s not a proven theory. But it keeps me occupied, because I think our relationship to food says worlds about our relationship to life.
It’s a sensuous oral activity, of course, (eating is) and it shocks me a little (when I’m deep into playing my game) that we would conduct this activity in public. The way we consume and devour; the way we tear and slice and shovel and slurp. Think about it. You may never sit down to a meal with friends again without blushing.
But it’s not just the act of eating that reveals us to others. It’s how we’re oriented to food. This meal: are we going to relish it or choke it down because it's compulsory? How do we choose our dinner companions; how do we attend to them when they’re in our company? And what about the occasional solitary meal: do we savor the solitude, use the silence to better enjoy the sensation, or do we eat quickly and furtively, hoping no one spots our onanistic moment.
(And now you know entirely too much about me.)
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Me once. And my sister, the theologian.
Central Park, NYC (or so I'm told)
long long time ago
My mom sent this over recently, for no real reason, and I wasn't going to post it at first because the facial expressions are so ambivalent -- not the sunny kid faces that you usually expect in these kinds of shots. My sister looks pretty pissed. I look like I'm about to go off on some random tangent that makes no sense to anyone but me.
And then I decided that that was what I liked about it.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I had a Shiraz from Australia that (swear to god) was called "Woop Woop" -- and lived up to its name.
Posting by cameraphone.
It’s quite important to have a direct imagery of a love scene, a passionate scene, an emotional scene between two same sex persons because that is the main problem. You can get whatever rights, you can get acceptance on an abstract level but -- they don’t want to look at us.
Artist Michael Elmgreen (I'm pretty sure it’s Elmgreen -- based on this -- but it could also be his partner and co-creator Ingar Dragset) commenting in an AP video clip on why the artists made the decision to include a video loop of two men kissing within the Holocaust Memorial that Elmgreen and Dragset designed. The memorial was unveiled yesterday in Berlin to honor the 54,000+ gays who were arrested and 7,000+ who were killed while the Nazis held power in Germany.
The Box Turtle Bulletin reports: “While the end of the war meant liberation for the much larger interned populations of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, and other undesirables, allied forces often returned gay men to post-war prisons to continue to serve out their terms. Homosexuality wasn’t formally decriminalized in Germany until 1994.”
Photos: Major Monument to Gay Holocaust Victims Unveiled Today in Berlin at Towleroad.com
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Because there's nowhere I can go online and plug-in the movies I want to see that haven't yet been released. Nowhere that will tell me once they are and have that something (that doesn't exist. or does it. does it? tell me. please. where can I find it? no, not Netflix -- they only tell me when the DVD's been released.) tell me that movie I've been waiting for? It's opening this weekend at that wonderful little indie house where, when you order Junior Mints, they ask you: "Would you like those frozen?"
Because I don't know of anything like that, I'm dropping in the Cannes winners that I want to see here. Because I want to remember.
And yes, frozen. Please.
The first issue of Joshua Heineman's AHHHHH MEGA-ZINE is available for download. I'd be pimping this zine even if it didn't lie in my own best interest (Josh generously picked up a few of mine). It's lovely and rich and alive.
The found slides alone are worth the price of admission.
And the next volume's due soon -- resistance is futile -- SUBMIT! (your own work, I mean) »
Monday, May 26, 2008
Nursing a broken heart this morning.
Sometime back my grandmother sent me a letter. It was stamped with an Audrey Hepburn stamp -- which made me smile because folks used to compare my grandmother to Audrey (when they weren't comparing her to Jackie Kennedy), and I’m sure she smiled as she licked it and affixed it to the envelope.
The letter contained another envelope -- one that her mother, my great grandmother, had given her many years ago when she visited Chicago for a Shriner’s convention in the 1960s (my Bompa was Grand Potentate of the Nile Temple in Seattle for a while -- and yes, my grandmother still has the rhinestone encrusted fez).
The envelope was scribbled with names and addresses: The home where my grandmother lived until she was three. The church where she was baptized. Notes on the neighborhood. Her old neighborhood: Humboldt Park in Chicago where her family settled after moving here from Norway. Where she lived until the family moved to Seattle, shattered by divorce, her mother a single mother now, with three children and her mother (my great-great-grandmother Ingeborg) in tow. My grandmother was the middle child who would soon become the oldest when her sister Corinne, who played violin and was thought to be a prodigy, contracted meningitis and died when she was eight.
I kept that letter in a basket for what seems like -- probably is -- years now. It was my intention to route out the addresses with my camera, visit them all and shoot them, bind them together in an album for my grandmother.
And for me, of course. Because I’m a transplant here, and feel a bit unmoored without family histories to stumble upon in the street, the way I do easily in Seattle. In Sonoma. That letter made me feel a little bit like I belong here in Chicagoland. Just a little bit.
Then I got busy with all kinds of things, and I put off shooting for another time.
Until yesterday. This being summer finally at last, the season of architecture, we headed out for an CAF architecture tour of the boulevard that runs through Logan Park in Chicago. It’s one of the last longest stretches of the boulevard system that once limned the city. Logan Square is right next door to Humboldt Park -- they’re basically the same neighborhood. It was bursting with Scandinavian immigrants the turn of the century before last.
One family of which was my family.
I went to where I stored the letter: and it was gone. Moved, I’m sure, well intentioned, to a safe place where I wouldn’t lose it.
And of course I can’t remember where that place is.
In my worst nightmare I tossed it out when I cleaned that basket last, thinking maybe it got mixed in the pile with the old receipts and expired boarding passes.
No. Please. No.
So I soaked up Logan Square without it, eyed the lavish greystones along the boulevard, enjoyed the Minnekirken -- the last remaining Norwegian language church in Chicago where the services are still conducted in the mother tongue even though all the kids have to wear earpieces to pipe in the English translation, and where the Pastor (an import himself from Norway) said, without a hint of irony in his voice: “Coffee hour is a very important part of what it means to be a member of this church."
(Was this her church? I don't know. I lost the envelope.)
Then had lunch at an amazing taqueria and loaded up at the panaderia across the street. All of this with the wondering lonesome grateful feeling that comes of knowing: They were here. Once.
Knowing that because they were -- my family, my ancestors -- because they managed to work it all out and live a good life and love some and give a little, knowing that because of all that: I am here now too.
A note on the map: It’s a fold-out map from the late 1800s delineating the entire boulevard system of Chicago. It shows Chicago before the L. Scored it last year at the Printers’ Row Book Fair for an unbelievably cheap $25. Now framed and hanging on my wall, like the treasure it is.
Video: Twisted Trailer
There's a whole debate over whether you should pump-inflate or use your mouth. We decided to leave that out.
Documentary filmmaker Sara Taksler quoted this morning in the New York Times on the controversy surrounding Twisted, a "balloonamentary" that she co-directed with Naomi Greenfield about folks who twist balloons.
The controversy surrounds "the rift between the 'gospel twisters,' who use their craft as a way to teach Bible lessons, and the 'adult' twisters, who use balloons for more prurient entertainment."
Sunday, May 25, 2008
When I was in Taos a little while ago for the Natalie Goldberg workshop I got going early, found the place where the thing was going to happen, and then just kept driving up the road. I don't know how I knew I'd find a trailhead, but I did know, and I did find one.
I took a brief and lovely morning hike up steep scree to the top of a ridge within easy reach, remembering as the muscles strained in my calves how much I need the mountains; how much I miss them, living now as I do in the flatlands; how much the mountains feel like home.
They’re incompatible with passion.
Tortured whispers from the hallway
fail to transmit
The ear meant to receive
the hurried promise
of a kiss
And this wail
All distortion your cries funnel
through the phone
details scatter like beads broken
are lost in floorboards, beneath furniture
If I am to hear you I must tell you
Drop your voice
Map out for me the betrayal
Tell me again how you wonder
About your marriage
And if it is destroyed.
But I don’t.
I let the distortion drown me like a torrent
I try to catch the words
But like salt water they swallow me
(Lean your body against mine. I will try to sponge the grief that soaks through your skin but I know, I have been here, I know that the chemistry of grief will not permit osmosis. This is your child and I am here to catch her in my arms and bring her back to you. I am here to ask you, when the pain has ebbed after some time, many years maybe, and we stare at this strange creature, her weight heavy on your chest, I am here to ask you: How will you go on from here?)
Saturday, May 24, 2008
So here's what Deanna Issacs had to say about Renzo Piano's new Modern Wing for the Art Institute of Chicago back in March of 2006:
Besides a public terrace and restaurant on the third floor, the addition has sprung a long tongue of a bridge – 15 feet wide and 620 feet long – that it’ll stick right up the ass of Millennium Park.
No one knows more about all things visual than the Art Institute, so I must be mistaken in thinking that this attenuated ramp, which rises in a straight shot at a five-degree angle from the midsection of the park to the third floor of the new wing, will be a blight on the eastern horizon. (I’m also probably getting the wrong signals from the extruded aluminum sunscreen over the east pavilion’s glass roof. Piano has dubbed it a ‘flying carpet,’ but to me it whispers ‘patio enclosure.’)
I dunno. Passed it under construction the last couple of weekends and it seems to be coming together quite nicely.
Also quizzed Blair Kamin, the Architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, about it when we strolled by it during class a couple of springtimes back, and he was all over it.
Add to that Piano's success in New York -- one of my favorites being his addition to the JP Morgan Library -- and I think we'll be (as I've learned Midwesterners love to say) "fine."
Friday, May 23, 2008
Built almost entirely of stainless steel, the Headrazor romaine lettuce harvester shined at the 2008 World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA.
The latest machine from Ramsay Highlander, the Headrazor highlighted the challenges manufacturers must overcome when creating mobile equipment for the fresh vegetable industry, while at the same time it showed off the problem-solving and manufacturing capabilities of the OEM and its suppliers.
Just the beginning of the stellar review that the trade publication OEM Off Highway lavished on the romaine lettuce harvester designed by the World's Best Mechanical Engineer.
This is just to say that you heard it here first, folks »
(So frickin' cool.)
So... If one of my pics shows up on the internal Intranet of the BBC: Can I say I've been published by the BBC?
Right. No. That's probably stretching the truth.
But I can hum the Austin Powers tune to myself, anyway.
Many thanks to Andrew of the BBC who gave me the heads up.
I’m taking a trowel to work this morning, because yesterday I spotted a series of trees that live alongside our building that are dangerously mulched. With my trowel I will reorganize their high mounds of bark, presently packed tight against the tree trunks, into a donut shapes that expose the trunks to the air.
Why? Because the Treekeepers told me to.
I met three of the Treekeepers last weekend during a Chicago Places & Spaces tour of Peanut Park -- a sweet little appendix to Grant Park that’s tucked alongside Lakeshore Drive within sight of Oprah’s building.
Treekeepers are “volunteers who have become certified by Openlands to give trees the care and maintenance they need to thrive in the urban forest.” And they train others, in workshops around the city of Chicago, in how to care for trees right.
When it comes to trees they know what’s what, and although they’re not vigilant in their evangelism I came away converted; came away wanting to carry a pruner in a holster around my waist, the way they did, pulling it out in an instant when they spotted a tree that had been poorly pruned, setting injustice right like Zorro did with a quick zip zip zip -- trimming the stub down to the nub so the tree could better heal and grow.
Like a parent placing a band aid where it needed to be and sealing it with a kiss.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Most people think America lost its innocence when JFK was assassinated. Actually, it happened four months earlier when Blood Feast opened at a Peoria, Illinois, drive-in.
With its bright colors, bubbly babes, and minimal production values, Blood Feast resembled the average nudie flick. However, the pretty young beauties in Blood Feast didn’t get naked. They got dismembered.
Yes, folks, the infamous, notorious, ultra over-the-top Blood Feast is the world’s first "gore" film. Less a horror movie than extreme exploitation, it may even be argued that Blood Feast is the first horror roadshow since 1934’s Maniac.
Something Weird’s write up of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1963 movie Blood Feast.
Best thing about this conference thing that I just wrapped up in Orlando? I opened for Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Herschell Gordon Lewis, who is known as the “Wizard of Gore” for the B-horror movies and nudie cuties that he wrote and directed in 1960s and 70s, created a successful direct response writing career for himself after the market dried up on his filmmaking. I was speaking at a catalog conference on web site design where Lewis also spoke -- because he's also known as the king of catalog copy.
On the third day of the conference he would act as Master of Ceremonies for an awards luncheon where he was hailed as a rock star.
But on the first day of the conference, after my presentation wrapped up and I was lingering by the podium talking to folks who had come forward to chat, I returned to the lectern to find the next speaker getting himself positioned, moving my gear out of the way so that he could find room for his own.
I said my apologies and proceeded to pack up. I knew of Herschell, but I didn’t know him by sight. So I didn’t know (although for just a minute I wondered...) that this courteous gentleman, who had the carriage of an old sunshine sprinkled Las Angeleno, and the stenorous voice of Edward R. Murrow, was the mind behind The Gore Gore Girls (aka Blood Orgy), Taste of Blood, and Miss Nymphet’s Zap-In.
All of which I’ve yet to see; a few of which I might.
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about the organic evolution from B-movie writer to advertising great. I'll spare you the Feminist outrage and explication -- and content myself with this small accident of history: Once upon a time I was the warm up act for the Wizard of Gore.
Update: A friend reminded me that Lewis and his films had a brief cameo in the film Juno »
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I watch the sun
trace its orange lid
along the planet's rim
in the dusk of its wake
city lights limn
the earth's crust
break like heavy
fire churned far miles
and slow from its
to scorch the plains
Posting by cameraphone.
Just touched down at O'hare.
Posting by cameraphone from Orlando International Airport.
Shot at the airport's monorail terminal.
And may I say they made me happy in ways that might even be illegal in Florida.
Posting by cameraphone from the road home.
He'll be here in an hour and a half. At which time I'll be at the Orlando International Airport, turning in my rental car and queuing up for my flight home.
Never thought I'd be this sorry to leave Florida.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Video: Ella Fitzgerald sings Summertime
Confession: When I have a client meeting, or when I have to present to a big crowd of folks, and I get all jittery and nervous, I sing.
Alone. To myself. In my hotel room. As I'm getting ready: ironing, showering, primping.
It's easier than worrying about how things will go. It focuses me better than walking through the pitch or the presentation does. And it warms up my voice so that it doesn't crack (too badly) when I first say "hello."
Summertime is the song I sing. Sometimes Blue Skies, but mostly Summertime, even if it's the dead of winter.
Because it's, well, just listen to that lyric. (And no: of course I don't sing it anywhere near like Ella. But isn't that something?)
But figured I needed to experience it for myself to be really really sure. So I snuck away for a *very* expensive lunch.
And now I'm sure.
(Imagine it would be entirely different if I were here with kids.)
Now: Back to work.
Posting by cameraphone from Epcot Center.
[The Danes] appear to underestimate the importance of floor-coverings.
An Ikea spokesperson responding in the Times Online on the research findings of a Copenhagen academic who uncovered that:
Sweden's all-conquering furniture firm quite shamelessly names its fanciest futons, tables and chairs after Swedish, Finnish or Norwegian places, while reserving Danish place names for doormats, draught-excluders and cheap carpets.
Double-posting a comment response, given the sizable social significance of this finding.
Many thanks to @dianeburnett for passing it along.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Think how people bond with babies. You would do the same things with your daemon – cuddle it, stroke it, play verbal games.
Pamela Briggs, a psychologist and computer scientist at Northumbria University, commenting on biometric daemons -- the idea that we might carry our personally identifiable information with us, in the form of a small cuddly pets, in order to keep it secure -- in New Scientist.
In the presence of its owner, those nourishing signals make the daemon "happy" and able to verify the owner's identity, just like a PIN or password.
(I want mine to look like Miga, one of the new Vancouver Games mascots. So cute!)
The idea of an animal companion is what interests me in this piece of news. The New Scientist piece credits Phillip Pullman with the idea, but overlooks the many indigenous traditions that are more common than not. The Maya still hold that we're all born into this world with a companion, and have a responsibility to care for it through right behavior in society. Failing that the animal, your Nahwal, falls ill, dies, and so do you.
The idea is fairly prevalent and extends to the belief that we share the mannerisms of our Nahwals. Traveling in Guatemala with a guide we were to meet a second guide -- a boatman -- on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The driver had never met the boatman before and so I asked him: how will you know it's him? Because he's a fox, he said. We soon found him. And he was. Not in the North American way -- but his whole carriage was like the animal.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The real traveler travels off the clock. Schedules shift from the routine and expected to the new and surprising. The heart opens. Differences dissolve. Friendship and discovery are the most prized commodities on the traveler's road, and cost only the time it takes to listen, to explore, to step from one known, well worn trail to a fresh cut path through new terrain.
A block of copy that I wrote for a client in, oh, maybe 1998? 1997? So at least ten years ago now.
A little schmaltzy maybe but I like it. It's one of my favorites among the commercial copywriting that I did once upon a time. They're still using it today.
It was for an adventure travel company and continues:
Take the time to travel with us on your next adventure. We'll introduce you to friends and fresh trails where the old rules of hospitality still apply. Where residents still receive visitors with open hearts and stories to share, and the earth gives generously to the gracious guest.
Step outside your world.