Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ode to Joy (Flashmob)

Today I had a joyous day, and I had a sad day today. 
Beethoven's Ode to Joy fits my mood, it's such an emotional pushmepullyou: it works for baptisms, it works for funerals.

Obviously it's joyous. What is it that makes it sad, though? Maybe just its beauty...

Anyway, I like this flashmob performance of it:

Ode an die Freude (Ode to Joy), Beethoven, Symphony No. 9

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Bonk! Bonk! On the head!"

William Shatner fell on my head last night.
As Marz was opening the screen door to escort a moth outside, she knocked into this framed photo >
of her with Bill at the Las Vegas Star Trek con '09, and it fell on me sitting below.

Last week was hard like that.

Three nights ago, a man was murdered next door (not the tenant). I've been e-mailing the absentee landlord all summer, saying I'm concerned about the verbal fights in the yard next door and annoyed by the noise. 

Sometimes the neighbor and his visitors just had a nice time, hanging out and playing dominoes, listening to Al Green on low-volume. But often, even a relaxed evening involved a heated argument.
I actually spoke and wrote these words: thankgod no one has a gun. 

Then, someone did. 

The murderer is under arrest. I don't feel unsafe and never did, in fact, just disturbed:  it's awful to see this neighbor and his visitors––all black, poor, in later middle-age–– seemingly trapped in a bad situation and hand-cranking the trap tighter and tighter.  

Then Marz and I have been having good but hard talks all week about whether or not it's time for her to move out. 
She moved here 3 years ago, just barely out of her teens. The original idea was, she'd stay with me until she found a place of her own. Living together went so well, though, that we decided to keep doing it, and eventually the landlord knocked out a wall so she could have her own little room. 

She's grown up a lot now. 
Is it time for her to leave the nest? 
After much back and forth, we've decided not, for now. We will instead try to shift more from being parent-child friends to being more like roommate friends.  
I'm glad: I trust it's a wise and good decision, but it was hard to reach. To help us shift the relationship, I think there will be some "therappy" as Zhoen calls it. [Zhoen explains therappy is from Terry Pratchett and involves hope and "prevention of moping". Just the ticket]

In the midst of all this, Robin Williams committed suicide. 
Marz has loved him since her childhood, so this hit her hard. 
I've increasingly found his work to have a feel of "I'm teetering on the edge of a vat of acid", however, so I mostly stayed away, but any suicide always calls up my memory of my mother taking her own life. 
Like the murder next door, it's a shocking reminder of how much pain people carry and perpetuate. 

Could we do this "being human" thing better? 
What might help? This is what I'm thinking about.

Some good news: 
1. I painted the deck with sealant the day before it started to rain, and rain is forecast all week. We need it badly, and I was happy to see the water bounce off the wood boards.

2. I have an informational interview with an activities director of a senior center tomorrow.

3. I began P.T. for my creaky knees. I need to build strength and flexibility to restore proper alignment. This will remove the pressure and grinding on my joints.

That's what I want in my life in general––
I know there're always going to be stresses and strains: I want to build and maintain strength and flexibility and good alignment so I can stand them.

P.S."Bonk! Bonk! On the head!" is a line from the Star Trek episode "Miri."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Power Washer, II

Marz is scrubbing with borax a couple boards I missed with the rented power washer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Power Washer

My downstairs neighbor and I rented a phaser rifle power-washer to blast her wooden deck and my back porch. I liked it.

Monday, August 11, 2014


The humidity is 87% this morning--not really shocking in August, but so annoying, like wading through wet feathers.
At least it's cool: only 67ºF, whereas last year we were waking up to temps already in the 80s. 

A while ago this Star Wars sign (below, right) appeared on the outdoor kiosk where Marz works, so she ran home and made a Star Trek version and went back and put it up. 
By the next morning almost all the Spocks had been taken.

 We watched the original Star Wars the other day and I was shocked at how overtly religious it is. I'd forgotten––since I hadn't seen the movie since it came out in 1977––that the Force is outrightly called a religion. 

This religion is mumbo-jumbo that appears to be reserved for the elite, like wizardry in Harry Potter. It's repellent (the elitism) to me now, but when I was a teenager I thought it was all very romantic.
And the "science" is just as vague and magical. I don't think it even should be called sci-fi, it's King Arthur and his knights in space ships.With terrible dialogue.

Watching Star Wars made me realize, in contrast, how the original Star Trek never offends my sensibilities about religion, not even when I was into spirituality: after all, they fully acknowledge that there are things beyond our ken––that's what they're looking for--they're out to explore, and Spock practices some kind of Vulcan/Jewish mysticism. 
But the Enterprise crew is always exposing gods as fascist agents of social control.

Kirk makes a speech defining his views to Lt. Palamas when she's lured by the offer of one of these gods. I like it.
Give me your hand…we’re the same. We share the same history, the same heritage, the same lives. We’re tied together beyond any untying. Man or woman, it makes no difference, we’re human. We couldn’t escape from each other even if we wanted to. That’s how you do it, lieutenant, by remembering who and what you are: a bit of flesh and blood afloat in a universe without end. And the only thing that’s truly yours is the rest of humanity. That’s where our duty lies!
Duty again...

Speaking of flesh and blood, now I'm off to meet a friend who has finished her chemo treatments for ovarian cancer. Leaving this blogpost kind of hanging in the humidity... 

Have a great day, humans!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday, Tove Jansson

Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, was born August 9, 1914.
 Finland is celebrating.

I love her Moomins because they are adorable and cute and acquainted with suffering.
They say things such as...
Ha, ha, no, that last one is Camus. People calligraphy that quote onto greeting cards, but not his lines from the same essay, “Yes, there is beauty and there are the humiliated. ... I would like never to be unfaithful either to one or the other.” *

Jansson, too, was faithful to beauty and humiliation.
 You could imagine her illustrating an edition of, say, Kierkegaard. 

Jansson was a painter and a novelist as well as a cartoonist.
You can see some of her work and read about her life at the  Finnish National Gallery.
You can read Camus' essay "Return to Tipasa" online here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Father's Favorite Holiday

My 83-year-old father doesn't send me many unsolicited e-mails, but I got this one today:
i don't know if you are aware that today
is the 40th anniversary of the
resignation of richard nixon.
can you believe that it is so long 
since that glorious day?
i am feeling  better just with that thought.

Nixon resigned the summer I was thirteen, my family's first summer after my mother left; a summer my father spent in our darkened living room watching senate hearings on Watergate; and the summer before I started high school, coming home after school every afternoon to watch Star Trek on our little b&w TV.

While my father felt nothing but satisfaction at the departure of a man he despised, a man who had desecrated the Constitution, I remember feeling embarrassed at the man's public humiliation. (But how could I have known the man would re-present himself successfully as a senior statesman so relatively quickly?)

Weird to think Nixon was elected president while Star Trek was running (1966 –1969)--or not so weird, really---you can see a lot of the era's issues in the show itself.

From the time of Nixon's resignation, 1974, by Karen Flanery [here]:
 And a decade later, from Doug Little [here], we get

And, using lines from the next generation (1992), I put this together:                                                                       scroll right   >   >   >   >
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth. It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based. And if you can't find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don't deserve to wear that uniform.
--Picard to Wesley Crusher in the episode "The First Duty," but best seen in the Picard Song

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Some Rocks" in Art

I've been on a blog-inspired scavenger hunt:
ever since I read about Orange Crate Art's quest to espy “some rocks,” I have been on the lookout for 3 rocks, "the mystical triad that appears again and again in Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy." * 

Turns out, in life and art there are hardly ever only three, no more, no less. I was so excited when I spotted "some rocks" in a painting at the museum the other day, I stopped and sketched them:

Romare Bearden's "Factory Workers", 1942, shows black men who have been denied work at a steel mill. 
The three rocks look ominous to me, like lumps of despair, bumps on the road, and also like objects otherwise powerless people might use as weapons.

They reminded me of the stoning of Saint Stephen, so I went looking for that and found a mother lode of "some rocks":
 "St Stephen" (1476, click to see the whole painting) by Carlo Crivelli, one of my favorite painters.

(So beautiful, but I think that top rock looks more like an Italian pastry than a lethal weapon.)
* From Scott McCloud: 
Why Nancy?
Ernie Bushmiller's comic strip Nancy is a landmark achievement: A comic so simply drawn it can be reduced to the size of a postage stamp and still be legible; an approach so formulaic as to become the very definition of the "gag-strip"; a sense of humor so obscure, so mute, so without malice as to allow faithful readers to march through whole decades of art and story without ever once cracking a smile.
And the 3 rocks:
"It was always three. Why? Because two rocks wouldn’t be “some rocks.” Two rocks would be a pair of rocks. And four rocks was unacceptable because four rocks would indicate “some rocks” but it would be one rock more than was necessary to convey the idea of “some rocks.”"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


[apologies to Dick Bruna, creator of Miffy
"I think our Family were always subject to being a little Miffy." [1]
––Benjamin Franklin, letter to his sister Jane, August 3, 1789 [2]
I've been a little miffy lately.
I yelled at a stranger today. Hollered at her in public, in fact.
Can I blame the humidity?

I was walking around Lake Calhoun with bink and her dog Alfie. We'd stopped on the walking path to rearrange ourselves so Alfie could walk between us. 
As we walked on, a woman in pink and black Lycra ran past on my left and startled me by trumpeting in a haughty, commanding voice, 
"Please decide which side you're walking on."
I was incensed. She'd pushed one of my pet peeves: people who police other people, especially in recreational areas. Plus she just reeked of an "I always have the right-of-way" attitude.
Without missing a beat, I yelled after her,  "Get a life! You can just run around us!" 
She gave me the finger behind her back.  
I cupped my hands and hollered (she was running pretty fast and was getting out of range),
"Little Miss Privilege!"

Boy, was I mad, but a couple 12-year-old boys were standing on the path ahead, rigging their fishing poles, and I felt some chagrin at the thought that the peace of their summer day was ruptured by this harridan (me). 
As we got close, I said, "I'm sorry, guys, I was shouting in your direction... I guess I overreacted to that runner..."

And they said, "Oh, she was rude! She just came charging straight at us." 

When I told Marz about this runner, she said, "I think I saw her running around Lake of the Isles too.  A group of runners passed me and one of them said to another, 'So how often do you get to see your nutritionist?'"  
[1] miff (n.): 1620s, "fit of ill humor," perhaps imitative of an exclamation of disgust (compare German muffen "to sulk").
miff (v.): 1797, "to take offense at;" 1811, "to put out of humor"
--etymology online
[2] Benjamin Franklin quote from Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (2013), a nonfiction book about the sister to whom B.F. wrote more letters than to anyone else. 
It's interesting, but I wince every time the author, historian Jill Lepore, writes a portentous sentence, which is often. It reads a bit like bad historical fiction.
You can almost hear a drum roll accompanying her chapter-ending sentences such as, "And then, she picked up her pen."  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Job Satisfaction

Today at the convention center, I told a strapping young man from Oklahoma which way to walk to get to our art museum.
It's ten long blocks away. Some visitors blanch at such a walk. He ...what's the word for when you blow a puff of air to express scoffing? 
He did that.

We were hosting 2 conferences---some international event planning group and a national Lutheran gathering. He actually wasn't at either---he was walking through the center after some conference downtown for federal agents or something.
A spy from OK?

Anyway, I was tickled at this funny little exchange, just a touch like being in of one of my favorite movies, Museum Hours, about a guard at the Vienna museum who helps out a visitor from Canada.
Just a touch like being in a painting by an old master.
Look, and "you will always see something new."

A Guilty Pleasure

Oh, my.
Zhoen introduced me to the British TV show How Clean Is Your House?

I rather object to the very idea of "guilty pleasures" as shaming and silly (oh, please, you like the Twilight series and you're over 30? so what?) but I've been watching episodes on youtube and I do feel guilty because the ladies who host the show do shame the inhabitants of these truly disgusting homes, which I think is more cruel than effective ... hence my guilt,
but the pleasure of seeing them clean up is so scrumptious!

The ladies do give serious cleaning tips too.
A lot of it simply comes down to white vinegar, baking soda, borax, and dish soap. Oh, right––and elbow grease.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Almost 89...

My auntie wrote me of her art show last weekend that it was almost unbelievable...
"to know I could do the impossible when I am almost 89!"

That's my auntie at her show,  far right >
with bink, who drove down for the event.
I think my auntie looks like a happy young girl here.
She was born the 5th of 10 children of Sicilian immigrants (my father was #7); grew up during the Great Depression; stayed at home and turned her paycheck over to her parents until she got married at 32. She married a kind man and made a good home. When he died, she was only 70, but she said she thought her life was over.

Instead, she moved to a village on the city's edge, where she had one friend. She made new friends, got a part-time job, and flourished. 
She started painting when I did, a year and a half ago. She had taken a drawing class years ago, but otherwise she is self-taught and likes it that way.

At first painting was mostly to pass time during the long, cold winter. She would put away her art supplies between projects. But gradually she painted more and more, until finally she dedicated part of the living room to studio space.

The owner of the boutique where my auntie works once or twice a week had the idea to host her art show.
Here are some of her paintings on display, mostly acrylics on paper.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Sound of One Fondue Fork

I imagine a shriek, as a lone fondue fork pierces the palm of a thrift store customer reaching into a bin of Kitchen Implements, 50 Cents.
Whoever donated the fondue fork (one, all alone) didn't worry that thrift store volunteers might skewer themselves unpacking the thing though.

No blood was lost, but I do marvel at the stuff people donate. A lot of it can go right into the Free Box, but not the dangerous stuff.

Most isn't dangerous,  it's just dirty, broken, or useless.  I can imagine the donor thinking, "Well, someone can use it."

I'm not sure who they are imagining needs...

scratched Tuppeware... with no lid
cookware with baked-on grease
picture frames with broken glass (to be fair, perhaps the glass was intact when it was put, unwrapped, into a paper bag to give away)
moldy pillows 
mildewed rugs
cat hair-covered anything
half-burned birthday cake candles
and––really?–– stained underwear

C HUCKINS, I have your pen.

I am becoming a stationery hound, sorting donations at the Thrift Store. This Sheaffer pen and pencil set was among the junk (you wouldn't, maybe, believe what people donate), and I took it home to look up. It's not special like the Lady Capri, just an inexpensive set probably from the 1970s.

What catches me, though, is that they're inscribed (sloppily), yet unused. Were they a gift? A cheap(ish) one?

I googled C HUCKINS + this city and state... 

So, if that's you, let me know and I'll return your property, though I expect, in fact, that you are either very old or dead and your relatives donated the flotsam and jetsam of your life.
Otherwise, back to the Thrift Store they go where we shall see if we can get two or three dollars for the pair. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sorry, Wrong Number

Last night I watched the film noir classic Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) starring Barbara Stanwyck and my boy Burt Lancaster.
 Through a series of telephone calls, a neurotic, bedridden wife
(Stanwyck) comes to suspect her beefy-looking but weasely-souled husband (Burt) has hired someone to kill her. 

It's ridiculously overblown, so the powerfully nasty ending surprised me ...and made it all worthwhile.

Here're the two actors on the set of the film:

Sorting paper goods at the Thrift Store today, I unpacked a vintage address book, below, with a cover of some sort of plastic (?) lacquer over gold brocade fabric.

I imagine it's the sort Stanwyck's character might have used. There's not even anyplace to put e-mail addresses... So I bought it. I'm going to use it too, because my old address book is full.

Does anyone today use paper address books ? Would children even recognize the mail and telephone icons?
     That's Alfie, the wire fox terrier ^ 
I'm house sitting this weekend.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Success! x 3

Good news all 'round yesterday!

The nonfiction books I wrote for the school library publisher disappear into school libraries, not fertile ground for authorly ego, so I was thrilled to receive my first ever fan letter for one of my books (the toilet history one) after 11 years.  

I'm going to frame it:
"Your Book is awesome!" + toilet image.

Then, the Public Health people responded like champs to my criticism of their assumption that everybody drives cars:
They added bus & bike info to their direx!  >

Wow! I could weep with appreciation of their reasonableness. 

I've written before about how I am prone to resentment, an emotion that feeds on feelings of powerlessness. So when I take action, I feel less resentful....

Instead, I feel terrified! 
Terrified of repercussions: most terrifying of all, of some kind of humiliation, of shaming. 

So I not only appreciate this civilized response, I'm deeply relieved. My fear (and so, my relief) are irrational of course, because one of the reasons I risked writing PH in the first place is because I knew they are well-meaning and reasonable people.

But still, my frightened self feared they'd write back and tell me I was a social malingerer.
 Finally, I came home from working at the thrift store and my pal who owns the house (she & her family live here, and Marz and I live in half of the upstairs), my pal was tearing up the stair-runner carpet.

The daughter of the house has a dog that dribbles, and they just moved out, so my pal is on a roll with refreshing the place. And with Marz out of town, I'm on a similar roll.

So, we pulled up the truly disgusting carpet together.

< The wood underneath is beat-up, but you can see it looks nice anyway.

I feel refreshed.