Saturday, July 31, 2010

Band Box Diner

I meet Stefanie for breakfast at the Band Box Diner--built the first year of the Great Depression--one of the few box car-style greasy spoons left.
When Stef and I shared digs back in the '80s, her (former) lover Jeff grill-cooked at the Band Box.

It's closed. Stefanie reenacts the end of The Godfather, Part III to express her grief.

But a couple fluorescent bars are on in back. A woman is pouring water into a Bunn coffee brewer. I knock on the window and she holds up ten fingers.

That's only half an hour, so we hang around taking pictures. A woman traveling cross-country waits with us. She's going to check out San Francisco, she says, where her partner's been hired.

When the door opens, we invite her to sit with us, but she pulls a fat paperback out of her shoulder bag and says she wants to read. It's the Harry Potter with the black and blue cover, the one that starts with soul-sucking dementors breaching suburbia.

The place fills up. The cook lubes the grill with oil. He keeps telling people, "Yesterday I served just eighteen people all day. Now I've probably served that many already. And I'm out of onions."

Sitting at the counter, a guy tells the cook about someone getting shot.

After we eat, we sit for three hours, drinking coffee and ice water.
"I'm really an account executive," the waitress says, "but I got laid off." She's very efficient, but she forgets to charge Stefanie for her extra egg, until Stef reminds her.

We leave with the place in our hair.

For Clowncar.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fresca's 1st GIVE-AWAY!

Hello, l'astronave nation!

Now is your chance to win BIG.
Get one of these three geography books, written by moi! and dazzle your friends with FACTS!

Facts such as, "The Republic of Finland is a country in northern Europe"!
And, "The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy."
Or, did you know, "Slovakia's average gross domestic product per person is one of the highest in central Europe"?
No? Well, I bet your friends don't either (unless they're Slovak).

[All quoted lines above are actual copyrighted material!]

Yup, copies of my geography books have finally arrived, hot off the press. (Well, they're cool now, but they do have that new book smell.)
After 15 other titles, believe me, I can't give these away.
Unless you want one!
If you do, o lucky friends, leave me a comment.
I'll put your names in a hat next week (Wednesday, August 4) and draw the winners.

You'll have to e-mail me your address if I don't have it, of course, but I promise I won't sell it to charities who will bombard you with free junk. (I've received three calendars, one T-shirt, and a Tibetan prayer flag this summer, all from charities.)
It's no problem to mail the books out of the country, if you're not in the US.

If you have a preference, let me know which title you'd like, the Netherlands, Slovakia, or Finland.
I have a few older titles too:
Bolivia, Chile, Democratic Rep. of Congo, El Salvador, Kuwait, and Yemen, if you'd like one of those. These countries still exist, so the facts you'd learn would still win you points in Trivial Pursuit.
Also let me know if you'd settle for any one, if your first choice is taken.

NOTE:I did squeeze some truly interesting facts into these books, such as the comparative value of the island of Manhattan when the Dutch bought it ($0.05 cents/acre) and now ($827,000/acre).
And, the good news that the Finns won the 2009 Wife-Carrying World Championships in Finland, after losing to Estonia for ten years.
Plus, who'd have guessed Marcus Aurelius wrote part of his famous Meditations during his down time while invading Slovakia?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Writing on Paper

I hate writing for the same reason I love it: a writer is on her own. Sometimes I wish someone would come along and direct me--a little benevolent dictatorship can be a comforting thing-- but the creative process doesn't work like that. It doesn't respond to the whip hand of an overseer, the way (maybe) the body does. It's more like a soufflé that deflates if you open the oven door.

I felt totally deflated earlier this week. After two months of reading about communications, no fluffy yet substantive ideas were rising in my brain. In the middle of the night, I was even flirting with the idea of returning the publisher's advance--a pittance, believe me, but currently invested in commodities (that is, my groceries)--return it because I could not figure out how to start writing.
Every time I tried, it sounded like the deep, soporific tone of a documentary narrator:
"From the dawn of human communications, our ancestors strove to develop faster and more efficient means to convey information across long distances. Now, in the 21st century, we are living through a revolution in..."

So, I gave up. For three days in a row, I sat here in this Ethan Allen-style (ugly but comfortable) rocking-chair and consumed three seasons of 30 Rock, Tina Fey's brilliant updating of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
All 66 episodes.
That's 20 hours of TV within 72 hours: the mental equivalent of a lost weekend of brownie bingeing. The surge, the shock, the slump... and then click on "watch next episode" for the last time all over again. I finished watching the series at 2 a.m. and went to bed loathing myself, like you do after a binge.

My brain woke me up at 5 a.m., full of ideas about how to write the book. What was my problem? How could I have missed that any historical material that includes cannibalism, even tangentially, is offering you the best attention-grabbing opener you could want? Yes, it's a bit of a stretch, but metaphors are plenty stretchy.

That morning, I wrote up my ideas in a spiral-bound notebook. Do you ever write on paper? I pretty much stopped around 2003, except to my 85-year-old Auntie Vi, who doesn't like computers. I like the way e-writing looks like it's already publishable as soon as you type it onscreen. I edit my writing a lot, but the way newly written stuff looks finished makes me feel that what I'm writing is good.
That's been helpful for a writer like me, who's constantly running interference on herself.

But I guess I don't need, or want, this project to look finished right from the start. Because it's not going to be. I even suspect that the polished look might lure me into thinking I'm done, whereas I'm nowhere near. Looking at pages on which two-thirds of the writing is scratched out isn't putting me off, as it has in the past. It looks like a messy kitchen and broken eggshells. A work in progress.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Saturday, July 24: Make a Video for "Life in a Day" Project

This looks fun. Just film something about your life on Saturday (tomorrow/today) for the Life in a Day project (clink to Kevin Macdonald giving more details about the project).

It "is a historic global experiment to create a user-generated feature film shot in a single day. On July 24, you have 24 hours to capture a glimpse of your life on camera. The most compelling and distinctive footage will be edited into a feature film, produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Macdonald."

They also ask you to answer three questions:

1. What are you most afraid of?
2. What do you love?
3. What makes you laugh?

+ Please film the contents of your pocket.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

When were you most yourself?

RIGHT: Elizabeth I, about thirteen years old, c. 1546/7, via The Faces of Elizabeth I

"The first twenty years of your life don't really count," said a fellow guest at a dinner party last night.
"Basically, you don't start your life until you're twenty."

Wouldn't this come as a surprise to many people in history? Henry VIII, for instance, who was crowned at seventeen. (Or the Virgin Mary, who was a teenager when she and gGod had a child together--whether you believe that literally or not, for a couple thousand years people accepted that the Creator thought teenagers were people.)

I'd been maintaining a politic silence at the dinner table because I didn't know most of the other guests--all of whom were middle-aged like me--but at that, I lost it.

"I totally disagree!" I said.
"If anything, I think we're at our most authentic when we're about... nine, when we've come into awareness of our selves and the world, while the layers of social rules haven't yet accreted. And maybe we're not at our happiest, but when we're teenagers we often see things more clearly and passionately than we do later, when we can get kind of worn down."

This gambit worked about as well as chopping tomatoes with a dull knife, so I went back to quietly eating the truly excellent cucumbers in sweet vinegar.

Later in the evening, someone else brought up Mary I, one of the Tudors.

"Which one was she?" I asked.

"You know, Bloody Mary, Elizabeth's sister," the guest said.

"Oh, yeah, Catherine of Aragon's daughter," I said.

"How did you know that?" the guest asked.

And I explained that the BBC's The Six Wives of Henry VIII had totally riveted me the year I was nine.

This morning, bink and I went out for coffee. She'd watched the show in 1970 too, and we can both still name all the wives (and not just because three were C/Katherines), and their fates, though neither of us have studied the Tudors since then. (I usually dislike historical fiction, so I've avoided the many retellings.)

I love who I was at nine--I'd like to be more like that girl. (Maybe I am. She was not good at polite socializing either.) I don't understand people who think children don't have intense and complete feelings, interests, and ideas.
Are these people forgetting childhood, or did they not have those things themselves?

Anyway, I looked it up, and The Six Wives streams from Netflix, so I'm going to watch it tonight for the first time in forty years.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Reflections in a Mirrored Eye

I asked bink what she'd choose to photograph in town, and she said, "Alleys." So we walked our bikes through the alley, taking photos for a possible series.
And a couple for my Self-Portraits in Unexpected Mirrors series.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Visiting the Familiar: Lake of the Isles

Blogging about London (and especially Manfred's comment) got me thinking again, how would we see our own town if we were visitors instead of residents?
Photographing or sketching an overly familiar place makes you see it anew. So I took my camera to the Lake of the Isles yesterday, for another Twin Cities photo outing. I live about a mile from the lake (it's inner city) and have walked or biked around it a thousand times, at least.

First, I went to the Uptown YWCA, for body pump class.
Then I got on my bike...

ABOVE: This is a tidy-minded part of the country, and the bike path around the lake comes with instructions. Fellow citizens will chide you if you don't obey them. (I was shocked and delighted when I first went to Italy and saw people happily going every which way on park paths.)

ABOVE: Topographical copper map mounted (in 1936?) on a granite boulder, with maple helicopter seed.

ABOVE: Bridge over channel from Cedar Lake, one of the chain of lakes of which Lake of the Isles is part.

ABOVE: Paddles stored in a canoe, upside-down on a canoe-storage rack.

ABOVE: Near the canoe rack, this Sheltie was crying for his tennis ball, floating about 10 feet out in the water. His owner, sitting on the dock, told me the dog was afraid to swim. So I took off my jeans and waded into the hip-high water to retrieve it. (I don't know why the woman didn't go get it herself, but she was happy I did.)

ABOVE: Maybe she was afraid of running into a Northern pike. They have teeth, you know.

Since I was already damp, I waded into the mucky-bottomed, algae-thick part of the lake, where water lilies grow. I'd never have been willing, if I hadn't been on a blog mission.

ABOVE: Afterward, I stopped at Isles Bun and Co., for a San Pellegrino aranciata (bitter orange pop).

It was 2:47 p.m., CST.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"I write like..."

I pasted an old blog post into the "I Write Like" site and they gave me this badge:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

While I know this is a ridiculous comparison--based, I'm guessing, on my use of lots of parentheses and dashes?--and possibly even insulting (read, "convoluted and digressive")--not to mention generated by a machine that serves a commercial, not artistic, interest, nonetheless I now have a little genius halo glowing around my head.

MacArthur grant people?
Over here!

And then I submitted a boring chunk of pedantic hogwash, written for work at a 7th-grade reading level, and the analyzer told me I write like Dan Brown.

Try it and let me know who the machine says you write like.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Postage Stamps and Cheese: Eleven Things (+ One) I Like in London

Three people I know are off to London, England, this month.
And I'm not.
To console myself, I've compiled an idiosynratic list of some things I like in central London. The list reflects my travel style, which consists of wandering around, looking for interesting places to sit down, nosh a little something, and write postcards.

1. A Place to Keep Your Cheese
The last couple times I've been in London, I've stayed in Bloomsbury at the Crescent Hotel, a Georgian rowhouse on a little crescent (the green on the map, below)--slightly quieter than some because cars don't drive right under your window. It's walking distance from the new British Library and St Pancras (the stripy Victorian building where you can catch the Eurostar chunnel train to Paris). If you don't mind staying in the maid's room at the top of three steep flights of progressively narrower stairs, and sharing a bath & toilet (I don't mind), it's 50 pounds/nite, including a full breakfast, which is pretty good for London, unless you stay at a hostel or a university dorm.

There are other hotels on the crescent too, but I like this one because the last time I stayed there, I stored my cheese on the window ledge, to keep cool (it was March), and when it fell off and almost beaned a worker repairing the steps below, the landlady thought this was hilarious, and gave me back the cheese.

2. Within a couple blocks is almost everything you need. Buy used and new books at Judd Books. (The "J" on the map above.)(They say they're an academic bookstore, which sounds like they sell textbooks but really just means they don't sell Harlequin Romances.)

3. More Popular Than the Beatles
Around the corner from Judd Books is North Sea Fish. I haven't eaten in the sit-down part, but the takeaway counter serves a fish that is almost the size of a football (American). Unless you're ravenous, I suggest a fish cake, which you can hold in one hand.
The Independent published 150 Facts about Fish and Chips, for the food's 150th anniversary, including:
"#142 Fish and chips came top of two surveys as a national icon, beating the Queen, Princess Diana and the Beatles."

4. Wash It Down
To wash the chip grease down, drink a pint at the local, across the street from Judd's, the Lord John Russell (right).
You could you do your laundry at the laundromat down the street at the same time.
Bring pound coins and, if you're the sort who thinks ahead, your own powdered laundry soap from home--soap's expensive in the 'mat.

5. Cheap Seats
Now you are full of beer and chips, you're ready to walk south a coupla miles to Trafalgar Square, on the search for postcards and cool stamps.
If your feet hurt, you could take the tube, but it's a great walk.
Take Monmouth (on the map, where the arrows point down, which becomes St. Martin's Lane)--it's nicer than the busy Charing Cross Rd.

You'll be passing many theaters as you walk south. For the cheapest deal, you can sometimes buy standing-room tickets at the theatres' ticket windows.

When you're near the square, you'll see the English National Opera on St. Martins Lane. It's in the Coliseum, the building (left) with the globe on top.

Buy a "day-of" supercheap (just a few pounds) ticket there for whatever's showing that evening. Really. Even if you hate opera, it's a trip just to see the inside of the building.
Warning: The operas are sung in English, and the seats are uncomfortable. But you can buy ice-cream at intermission, and the English is just barely easier to understand than the original, and at least you don't have to put up with subtitles.

(I understand many people do research and buy tickets before they leave home, but I like to be surprised. Like when I saw "Madame Butterfly" at the ENO: I had no idea Butterfly kills herself at the end. (Oh sorry, you didn' either?) I didn't leave until everyone else had because I was all choked up.)

6. Postcards That Haven't Been Rained On
As you reach Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery is on your right (east). Their giftshop holds the motherlode of postcards that don't show women's breasts painted to look like cute animals with nipple noses. Much better than the National Gallery itself, next door.
David Bailey's shot of Michael Caine (left) is one of their bestsellers.

And the museum is good too. Start at the top floor to meet the people from the most distant past and work your way forward in history. It's free, so I pop in a few times over my stay and see a few faces at a time, to avoid going into overload.

7. Royalty-Free Postage Stamps
If you don't want to bore your postcards' recipients with the Same Old Queen's Head stamps, there are only a couple post offices that always carry the Royal Mail's wonderful commemorative stamps.

Luckily, one of them, the Trafalgar Square P.O., is only a block or two to the west of the National Portrait Gallery, on a little side street:
24/28 William IV Street.
(The other is the City of London P.O. at 12 Eastcheap.)

Be sure you're at the little section that sells the special sets. Like this Best of British Design set (from last year, but it might still be available).

Stick the Polyproplyene Chair stamp on Michael Caine and send him to me, please.

(Note about stamps--I was confused at first because they're marked by class ("1st"), not face value. So ask the clerk how much they're worth, so you get the right amount for postcards. I often end up sticking on more than necessary because I like the stamps so much.)

8. Custard in the Crypt
Now you need a place to write the cards.
Right across from the NPG is the church of Saint Martin in the Fields, and underneath the church is their Café in the Crypt, a reasonably priced cafeteria where, if you don't mind walking over tombstones, you can get British classics like peas and lamb.. And warm custard! My favorite! (We Americans would call it soupy vanilla pudding.) I'm not sure, but it tastes homemade, not that chemically tasting Bird's mix. It's served over apple crumble, but I've asked for a bowl of it by itself.

The crypt's giftshop's postcards disappoint, but I like to buy a copy of the Church Times there. (By "church," they mean Anglican.) I suppose the paper's modernized now, but it used to read like something out of Barbara Pym.

9. Choirboys in Ruffs
Speaking of churches, though not a lot of people attend, many churches are, in fact, still functioning places of worship, and one way to see them--and to be with real people leading their lives--is to attend services, if you are comfortable with Christian worship.
After custard, you could trek all the way through the City (go to the river and turn left, or east) to Saint Paul's Cathedral for evensong at 5 p.m.
(I don't think anyone minds if you fumble and mumble.)
Not only do you get to skip paying the suggested entry fee, because you're not a tourist, but you can sit in the choir stalls (right), which gives you a view of the most amazing mosaics you wouldn't otherwise see. Also, small singing boys wearing ruffs.

St Paul's has good postcards in the basement and a nice café, where I overheard a man discussing his badger problem.

10. Cake in the Nave
Or you could go to the river and turn right (west). Keep walking past Westminster Bridge and Parliament and take the Lambeth Bridge across the Thames to get to the former church of St. Mary-at-Lambeth. The building and grounds is now one of my favorite museums, The Museum of Garden History.

Captain Bligh's tomb is in the old churchyard and garden.
(Bligh, besides inspiring the mutiny on the Bounty, was a plant-hunter of sorts, and brought back the breadfruit.)

Hm. I see the museum is now called the Garden Museum and has been renovated, which is good (it was damp). It also now says it aims to capture "the garden zeitgeist"', which is a bit worrisome.
It used to be the sort of place where I once overheard a church organist complaining loudly about the heinous taste of the modern Anglican, over tea and carrot cake.
At any rate, despite the introduction of gluten-free options, I see they still serve cake:
Chocolate and Guinness, Flourless Orange & Almond, Chocolate and Nut Brownie, Flapjacks, Hummingbird (spiced banana and pineapple), and Carrot and Coconut.

It costs 6 pounds, but go visit and let me know if the swankification has erased its shabby church-lady charm.

11. And Then, the Cheese

If you walked down Monmouth/St Martin's Lane, you passed near Neal's Yard Dairy, which sells "Farm Cheeses from the British Isles". And serious breads to eat with it.

As I've mentioned, I keep my cheese on the windowsill of my hotel room, because I'm usually there in the chilly spring;
but in the heat of summer, maybe the place you are staying has a fridge?

Stop and get a bottle of something and some fruit, and make a night of it, you and your cheese, watching telly and soaking your feet.

(These maps look confusing because the streets are a tangle, but everything's really quite close. If you wander around, you'll bump into it. Or something else.)

+1. I've never been to Verde, the coffeshop veg shop delicatessen owned by author Jeanette Winterson (right), and I'd like to.

Here's an article about it, and her, from last month in The Observer. It's in her restored Georgian townhouse in Spitalfields, 40 Brushfield Street, east London.

(And here's a 2006 interview w/ JW that I must include because of the title: "If I Were a Dog, I'd Be a Terrier".)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Super Elite Groceries

Oh man, am I glad to be back. I've been over on Facebook, learning the ways of that tribe.

Here I am jumping for joy in front of one of my favorite signs in the city. In full it reads, "SUPER ELITE GROCERIES". It's the sort of place you'd go at 2 a.m. to buy your lottery ticket and your Mountain Dew.

Actually, I'm jumping to get into the frame--the only place to set my camera was on a newspaper box, and the angle was tight. It took a few tries, and I felt a bit of an idiot jumping up and down by myself on a street corner, but, see, I'm that happy to be back in the 'hood.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Shatnerthon Offering: " I Sing the Captain Electric"

Mortmere's Shatner/Gilda poster for the Shatnerthon over at film blog She Blogged by Night dot com inspired me to play too.
So I finally made a vid out of my original macros--
lines from Walt Whitman's hymn to the male body in "I Sing the Body Electric" illuminated by young Shatner's Kirk (O Captain! My Captain!)--
by mashing 'em up with music by "another splendid bugger,"
Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man."

And here 'tis:

I added a few screencaps*, but mostly I used the stills I'd made in honor of Margaret's birthday this past spring.

To complement this vid, here's a post I wrote in 2008 when I first began trying to comprehend Shatner/Kirk's body language:
"Captain Kirk's Parted Lips".
*Thanks for the screencaps, as always, to TrekCore dot com. (Whoah. They got hacked. So they're offline for a couple days.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Shatner Blogathon!

Click on She Blogged By Night for the Shatner Blogathon, through July 9.
Mortmere's offering, below, brilliant as ever: a mashup of the Rita Hayworth/Gilda movie poster.
See the real McCoy at Mortmere's post, "A Man Like Shatner".
You may already know Mortmere by her most excellent vids.

I wasn't going to bother, but this makes me think I really better had. I have a couple more days...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Surge of Love for the Rich Soil of Blogging

I salute you, O fellow toilers in the fields of the blogosphere!(Actually, I'm shading my eyes... I wanted to get a shot of the "Captain" on the door of what I think was an old police station.)

i. Not Such a Bad Blogger After All

I've been feeling like a Bad Blogger ever since I started work on the French and Indian War this past spring. Once I'm working on some other writing project, I go a bit slack on writing posts.

Ideally, I'd like every post to be a little nugget of wonderfulness, though I accept that most of them will be merely serviceable. Which is OK, but when the ratio of brain power to available time gets too much out of balance, it's frustrating.
I've been wondering if I should just stop blogging.

Then I opened a Facebook account yesterday.
FB is okay--I'm not putting it down--it's just an entirely different thing than the blogosphere. It's like the difference between walking into a crowded party and sitting down with a friend at a coffee shop.

Facebook seems like it could be a lot of fun.
I feel like I'm confessing to heresy, here, but the thing is, for me, fun is not the highest good.
I don't really want *takes deep breath* to be entertained.

I can rev myself up to be engaging and amusing at parties. People have even told me I could hire myself out as one of those party-enliveners. But in fact, I don't much like parties, except to celebrate special occasions (especially ones that call for cake and martinis).
Socializing in groups, for me, is work. Labor. The output usually exceeds the input. Even if I have fun, and I often do, I have to go home and recover.

So, blogging fits me much better. Being on FB is like spending time someplace that doesn't really suit you: you're grateful to come home.
I'm swooning over blogging all over again. The fact that I blog at all, even at quarter-strength, seems wondrous to me. And I'm grateful for you all too, who write--and read!--blogs.

ii. Lonely

Writing comes with costs too, of course.
Like, lately I've been lonely. I'm spending all this time reading and thinking (or, staring into space, mostly) about communication history, and that means I'm alone in my mind a lot.

I meet with friends pretty often, but that's not the same as the default companionship that comes with living with someone, or with having family around you. I don't have much family, besides bink. My mother was my main family, and after her death, what remains is ... let's say, marshy ground. A marsh is a wonderful ecosystem, but you can't find a lot of places to sit.

Lonely is not a bad thing, it's just one state of being. I'm aware I could avoid it.
I spent the other evening with a single friend who is immensely social. I asked her if she's ever lonely. She got quiet.
"I think I stay so busy I never have to feel that," she said.

Facebook is so sociable and friendly--I already have 23 friends, right off the bat--I think it could alleviate loneliness.
But, I don't know...
I see a theme in this blog of me defending (to my own self) loneliness, grief, laziness...
These are low, slow, dark states of being (virtues, even). They are like compost.
I'm always defending them because around me I mostly see lauded the bright, swift, and airy-- the happy blooms in the breeze (or worse, the "you snooze, you lose" mentality)--and I thrash it out with myself every so often, feeling I'm wrong-headed.

Blogging, for me, is in the slow, low realm.
Facebook looks to me like a beach in the sun.
I will visit it, but I really work best in the dark.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Boléro" on Vuvuzela

Ohgod, this made me laugh! Shades of Monty Python.
(The vuvuzela, as you probably know, is that plastic trumpety thing that's come to the world's attention because fans have been blowing them constantly throughout the World Cup games.)

"Vuvuzela Concert in the Konzerthaus Berlin"

via Three Quarks Daily (there's always something good on this Reader's-Digest-meets-Rushdie-esque filter blog)

...And Ginga Squid sends me "Gandalf Goes to the World Cup; or, The Fellowship of the Vuvuzelas".

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Garlic Scape Pesto

I bought my first garlic scapes--the stalks and unopened flowers of garlic--at the farmers market. The farmer told me I could put them in water and they would bloom.But I'm going to make pesto.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Put your soccer cleats on, and jump up and down on:

1 bunch (6-10) garlic scapes, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/3 cup nuts (pine nuts, walnuts)
1/3 cup olive oil

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My brain is in the "puddle of glop" stage.

LEFT: A monarch butterfly chrysalis, which has become transparent after about ten days. From Bug Life Cycle.

I'm kind of sad that I haven't been writing here much (compared to putting up links;
though I do love when other people share links, so that's not all bad).
For two years, I'd wake up almost every morning with half-formed blog posts chrysalis-ing in my mind, and I'd often spend a bunch of hours putting together a post.

But now I wake up thinking about my latest research on communications. "Thinking" is the wrong word; it's more like my thoughts have dissolved into a puddle of glop. They don't have enough form to write about, really.

"Puddle of glop" is a technical phrase I got from life-coach Martha Beck's article Growing Wings. Her explanation of the science behind butterflies rescues their transformative process from the Rainbows and Unicorns category:
"I used to think... if I were to cut open a cocoon, I'd find a butterfly-ish caterpillar, or a caterpillar-ish butterfly, depending on how far things had progressed.
I was wrong.
In fact, the first thing caterpillars do in their cocoons is shed their skin, leaving a soft, rubbery chrysalis. If you were to look inside the cocoon early on, you'd find nothing but a puddle of glop.
But in that glop are certain cells, called imago cells, that contain the DNA-coded instructions for turning bug soup into a delicate, winged creature...."
Example of the sort of brain melt I've been living with:
Yesterday I was sitting at the coffee shop reading Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, by Clay Shirky, and I started to feel all emotionally shaky.

I'm practically weeping in public, reading Shirky's description of how organizations have traditionally organized themselves... and how that's all changed now.

Cause I've seen it change, bit by bit, but piecing the whole picture together can overwhelm a person.
I've been using the computer since 1992 (though not much as a producer until 2004). If I'd had a baby in 1992, this fall she'd be heading off to college, or prison, or some other legal-adulthood place.

In those past eighteen years, the norms of communication pretty much dropped their exoskeletons and turned themselves inside out, like caterpillars forming chrysalises. To try to really understand all the social changes the new technology has wrought, personally and globally, leaves me all soft and rubbery.
Hence the weepiness, kind of like intellectual PMS.

But even though our culture is morphing like crazy all around us, I'm like humans in all other times:
I can only take in so much Civilization Crumble, and then I go back to my daily concerns.

Like citizens in Rome after the 410 Vandal invasion. Some writers saw the writing on the wall and waxed eloquent, like Saint Jerome, crabbiest saint ever, who wrote,
"The city which had conquered the whole world was itself conquered."
but pretty soon everyone's thinking, you know, ... the laundry.

Which is a good thing. It's how we've survived as a species through many, many convolutions of culture. We're like:
"OMG! THE SKY IS FALLING!!! OMG, OMG, omg... Hm. I wonder, what's for dinner? Did my roommate, that bastard, eat the leftover chicken?"

So, I put down the book and go for a walk. Then I reapproach the scene and try again.
Today, as part of trying to enter into the fray of the culture, I joined Facebook ...again. I'd hopped on a few months ago and quickly got off when I had nightmares about being back in my high school's cafeteria.

I'm not sure I'd go as far as Wil Wheaton and say "Facebook is evil",
but I do share his concern "that Facebook is training an entire generation that personal privacy isn't as important as it truly is."

(I read Wil's book. It makes up for Wesley Crusher.)

Nonetheless, it is the social communications tool, and that's what I'm researching.
I'm not needing to judge it, just to understand it.
Also, since I'm not really writing much these days (I mean the real creative, sometimes wrenching, work of transformation), I may as well chat with everybody.
I trust my brain--it has always coughed up the imago cells that solidify glop into words, if I give it time. Prying open the cocoon just destroys the whole thing.

In the meantime, I don't know that I'll use it much, but if you want to friend me, please do: Fresca on Facebook.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Red Card!

What do I know about sports? Nothing. But even I have this one figured out:
Don't stamp on your opponent front of the referee.

You could use these 11 filmed seconds of such a stamping (below) to teach psychology or theology,
they so beautifully capture a demonstration of our all-too-human capacity to act against our own best interests.
(Listen to the reporter's comment: "That is..." you feel he wanted to finish, "one stupid fuck.")
The Brazilian stamper was red-carded (thrown out of the game, with no replacement allowed), and the Netherlands sailed on to win.

"Brazil's Felipe Melo Stamps on Arjen Robben of the Netherlands"

I am having so much fun watching some of the World Cup games at Global Market. Sometimes friends meet me there.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grief, Madness, & Consolation

At my mother's funeral, a woman I knew from church walked right up to me and said, "It's the shits."

I didn't like this woman, and her crude comment sort of offended me, but it had memorable punch and clarity. It stood out among the kind but hesitant, uncomfortable-with-horror responses.
Besides, it was almost physically true:
after I'd seen the mattress my mother'd shot herself on, I was violently ill all night.

My culture isn't comfortable with suffering and grief. Our gods are the Efficiency Experts. We worship productivity and optimism. Our condolence cards say stuff like, "Remember the happy times" and equivalents of "You'll get over it."
We get three days off work for the death of a relative. An immediate relative.

Where does our grief go?
Does it wash away, like too much Vitamin C? Or does it get stored in our fatty tissue, like DDT?
I look around and I wonder, is it part of our madness?

Condolence--giving the proper weight to seeing and caring for grief--is key to the Iroquois story.
Hundreds of years ago, wars were eating the nations up. A prophet called Dekanawida, the Peacemaker, tried to bring unity. He found Hiawatha wandering in the wilderness, driven mad with grief over the death of his three daughters.

With a strand of sacred beads and words of condolence, the Peacemaker healed Hiawatha.
They teamed up, like Jesus and Woodrow Wilson or something.

The duo was blocked by a powerful sorceror named Tadodaho. He was responsible for the death of Hiawatha's daughters. Hate had twisted Tadodaho's body and threaded snakes through his hair. So they went to him and cured him.
Imagine the Dalai Lama and Jon Stewart curing ... I don't know. Sarah Palin?With the sacred beads and condolence, they untwisted Tadodaho's body and combed the snakes out of his hair. They asked him to be in charge of tending the council fire.
To this day, the chair of the Iroquois council is called Tadodaho and the condolence rite opens council meetings.

What grieves us?
What deforms us?
What consoles us?

A bit on the condolence ritual here.
Picture from Getty Images.