Saturday, August 30, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake

Me, old pal John, Marz

House sitting this past week, I've made BLTs and strawberry shortcake––foods my Missouri mother always made in the summer. My versions are never quite quite as good: I think I am too Northern [restrained with ingredients]. Her BLTs were so drippy, for instance, you'd best eat them over the sink.

For strawberry shortcake, she sprinkled sliced strawberries with lots of sugar far in advance, so they'd make their own syrup, and her shortcake was fluffier than I ever manage---maybe she used lard?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

bink's train trip out West

I'm house sitting bink's dog while she takes the train out west. 
She sent me this amazing photo she took out the window 
while the train was moving.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

At the Fair

I did not try the mini-donut gelato, or the beer gelato either; I had the mini-donut beer. But not until after I went on the Giant Slide.

Marz and I also rode the Skyride, which is kind of scary.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wind Chimes and Blow Torches

Those're some of the things reps were peddling at the convention center yesterday when I worked a big trade show. Also Western wear, pet and stock feed, work boots, power tools... The sort of things you'd find at Farm and Fleet stores.

I commented to a coworker on the unusual number of handsome men. 

"Just imagine them in baseball caps," she said.

Ha, good one! She was right--lots of the men were wearing cowboy hats, which  are exotic up here. 
In baseball caps the reps would've looked like average guys.


 The STOP sign on the corner, by the house next door to me, 
has become a memorial to the man murdered there last week.
The candles are burning still, and fresh flowers appeared today.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


My little brother, five years old in 1975, 
and my Star Trek Explorers Set.
 What a cutie he was. And still is, I think; we haven't seen or talked to each other in years--part of the fallout of my mother's death.

I came across this photo because I'm weeding my photo albums:
in pre-Internet days I used to cut out newspaper articles about things like Hubert Humphrey's death and Princess Di's wedding and glue them into my photo albums. 

It's good stuff, but it's bulky, it's crumbling, and now I could find it all online.
I suppose working at the Thrift Store is making me think about what I am hauling around: do I want it? For how long? 
Not really.
Not anymore.
So I'm pulling up and throwing away clippings and also photos of out-of-focus Christmas trees. 

Of course I'm saving this photo and also the plastic Star Trek communicator you can see on the table--amazingly, somehow, I saved it all these years.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What Songs Will We Remember After We Forget Our Names?

Just got home from seeing Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory [link to preview] with Laura and Marz--a documentary about a man who works to get iPods to people with memory loss.
Each iPod carries a playlist of songs from the person's life. (If the person can't choose the songs, their families help).

I loved this movie--I've experienced the truth of how music runs deeper than other memories:
I've written before about singing "Daisy, Daisy" at a dinner table of three women otherwise barely able to communicate.

Afterward I got talking to Laura about what songs we would want on our personal iPods, if we end up with Alzheimers or something. 

Laura right away named Shenandoah, which I said I didn't know. When I looked it up, of course I did---it's also known as "Across the Wide Missouri." (Links to Arlo Guthrie's version.)

Here are 10 off the top of my head... not necessarily my favorite songs, but  songs I bet I could mumble along with,  even if/when I ever forget my name:

"Thunder Road", Bruce Springsteen
"I Want to Hold Your Hand", Beatles
"Oklahoma", Rodgers and Hammerstein
"Shall We Dance", from the King and I
"Look for the Silver Lining"
"Jackson," Johnny Cash
"Edelweiss", from Sound of Music
"Sweet and Low" (Wind of the Western Sea)
(You Make Me Feel Like) "A Natural Woman," by Carole King
"Be My Baby", The Ronettes

Marz chooses "Bye Bye Bye" by 'N Sync

What song(s) would you choose?

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),

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.