Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Blicky's been prancing all over the house and purring these days -- and not being very helpful with the holiday preparations I might add.  He's just so elated about a very useful award we will be receiving. Cynthia at Muse Swings has awarded us with the highly coveted A-Musing Fountain of Youth Give-a-Way! I found her blog because she left absolutely hysterical comments at another site. I always look forward to reading what she has to say because it ranges from the profound to the seriously funny. So Blicky and I will be the new owners of a little jar from the fountain of youth.

Now this news came just in the nick of time. My beauty treatments have gotten a tad costly and, well frankly a bit disconcerting...

I think we look pretty good for our ages though. I was asked to post "before" and "after" pictures. I think this is a great shot of us. We finally decided on matching attire this year:


Monday, October 27, 2008

Misaki Kawai + Art - Pretense = Pure Joy

Uh oh, are we lost again? I knew I should have hired a different guide at the ICA. This one kept on jumping on the benches, singing and trying to steal stuff from the gift shop. Was that supposed to be part of the tour? We're going on a pretend museum visit and studio tour today at Blicky Kitty, because we saw a show of Misaki Kawai's last year at the ICA in Boston and I just keep thinking about her art. OK, let's get in the time machine...where should we go? Weimar Germany to try and kill Hitler? 10 BC so we can find out what Mary Magdalene thinks about Dan Brown? 1986 and warn Geraldo Rivera not to open Al Capone's vault on live tv? Naaaah, lets go back to 2007 and see some cool art. OK, the driver seems distracted by that furry gentleman in orange -- "Sir, could you please have a seat?" OK, everyone make play car sounds, "brrroooooommm, broooooommm..." Oh that was so fast! Here we are!

Wow this is so cool! She's created a whole installation using papier-mâché, wood, fabric, and other materials like felt, stickers, and yarn. The painting on the walls of the gallery really helps suggest the playful movement of the little space cars buzzing around the station. There are so many details to explore when you peek in the little rooms. The station is inhabited by figures of the artist, her friends as well as her favorite cultural figures, like John Lennon or Casper the Friendly Ghost. Her style is so winning and joyous it made me wonder what her paintings might look like. *Rriiing rrrring.* Oh sorry, that's my cell. "Hello? Misaki Kawai? This is such a coincidence! I was just blogging about you. You what? You're a big fan of Blicky Kitty and you want us to come visit your studio in Brooklyn? Thanks! That would be so great, but how would we... Just tell the time machine driver? OK, thanks! See you soon!

OK, here we are. Oh, there's a guy from VBStv there too so we'll just go in with him (click here for video, part one). Emily Brouillet, Assistant Curator at the ICA writes that her work is part of a Japanese style coined by graphic artist Terry Johnson (King Terry) called Hetauma. The term that combines the words for good and bad. Kawai herself explains that "Everything has a balance of good and bad to it: for example, Hetauma for me is 'bad, but good'...when something looks cute but has a funny or weird aspect to it, I think it's really special." Part of what I find compelling about her paintings is that when all pretense and traditional measures of technical skill are stripped away this enables the artist to really explore compositions of forms and color in a basic and honest way. There is a fun tension that runs through her work between a serious respect for her own aesthetic vision and her disarming playfulness and irreverence.

Oh no what's going on down here? The Manhattan Project? * Note to self: maybe we'll pop in for a little talkie-talk with Oppenheimer, circa 1939 on the way back home to 2008. Let's listen in. "What don't you like about yourself Mr. Furface?"
"Meep, meep, ma-ma meep, meep, meep!"

"Your nasal-labial folds? Oh we can take care of that with a little Restylane. Oh what's that? Not happy with your inner thighs and the pilates isn't doing it? OK just breathe in deeply and count backwards from 10."
Want in on the fun? I think her work is still up in San Francisco, and Toronto, and she will have a solo show at the LaMontagne Gallery in Boston in February. You can also check here for more upcoming shows.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Welcome SITSas!

Thank you to the folks over at The Secret is in the Sauce for deeming Blicky Kitty a Saucy Blog! I'm honored and Blicky has been floating around the house saucily all morning. It's a great way to get more conversation on your own blog and find new blogs to visit. Shout out and thanks to my friend Kat at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes for introducing me to the SITSas!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Email to Blicky from the Google Word Verification Writer

Dear Blicky,

I've been cartym your blog for several muykjls now and I really find it to be quite monotenc. Your insights into the issue of kpoxdrk and eerobnj are truly unique. Thanks to you I really see bjdqirv in a completely different light. I am definitely going to yudrynk to it and I'm going to tell all my dfrewops to do the same!

As you might guess I myself am also a eerobnj writer. My career has taken an unexpected zufarc. People never seem to klopsh the words that I smwm. Some people see my capptcha talent and have tried to create a bijwurtz dictionary, but I'm sad that my work isn't more kploditsch. I always thought I had a way with mgatfflins.

I saw the picture of your sigwmb owner in real life. She is totally jhugiop. Do you think you could get me her tsayuip? Is she dgyrst? I hope not. What a podiebf of promatz!!

Spy vs. Spy

Possible macrocosmic interpretations for Spy vs. Spy:
  • The TNT detonator is Bill Ayers, Joe Sixpack, the lobster dinner, Joe the Plumber, accusations of class warfare....uh oh, uh oh BOOOOOOOMMM! Blows up in their faces.
  • The spies are Pyrrhus and Priam caught in a terrible cycle of violence.
  • The TNT detonator is the war on terror and we're winning, the surge is working. We're the good team, they're the bad team...uh oh, uh oh BOOOOOOMMMM! Blows up in their faces.
  • The monochromatic character of the cartoon symbolizes the racial tensions inherent in our culture.
The thing what make the news so hard to handle these days is that everything is presented to us in such black and white terms, as if there is ever a clear good guy and a bad guy. This time around we have a great guy (I've been an admirer of Obama since 2004) and a decent human being who just shouldn't be president now. I love to tease Sarah Palin as much as the next guy. In fact it's become something of a hobby. I disagree with her on pretty much every issue; she thinks people who hail from my state don't love America (even the long term republicans, and those who have lost loved ones in the war), I believe her rallies are coming dangerously close to inciting racial violence in this country and I think the concept of a Palin white house would be a near apocalyptic scenario. "Uh oh, uh oh .....BOOOOM!"

But should people pass judgement on her for deciding to campaign with a small baby at home? Absolutely not! We would never ask the same questions of a man. Should we judge her for the fact that her party bought her a killer wardrobe while she campaigns for Vice President? Absolutely not, because you know we'd be dissing her if she showed up wearing Jacklyn Smith's Kmart collection to her debates and rallies.

Priam killed by Neoptolemus (Pyrrhus), son of Achilles, detail of an Attic black-figure amphora by the Class of Cambridge 49, ca. 520 BC–510 BC, found in Vulci, Louvre, Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Sully wing, Campana Gallery (F 222), Photographer: Jastrow (2006)

The black and white stuff is getting the better of us. As Shakespeare's story of Pyrrhus, Priam and Hecuba teaches us, the only way out of the cycle of either violence (or rhetorical dialectics) is compassion. Hamlet should have listened and we should listen too. Shakespeare describes the death of Priam in brutal detail (Act II, scene ii), then describes the grief of Hecuba who has lost both her son and husband:

But if the gods themselves did see her then
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband's limbs,
The instant burst of clamour that she made,
Unless things mortal move them not at all,
Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven,
And passion in the gods.'

With that one line Shakespeare takes us aloft, up to Mount Olympus where can see the human struggle and the pain it causes. The difficult truth is that families feel the same pain when losing a loved one whether they are Iraqi, American or Afghani. The hard truth for me is that people who believe the polar opposite from me are doing what they think will preserve what is good and right about this country (even as part of me screams "No, no, no you stupid, decadent, greedy, warmongering, homophobic racists" and Blicky retorts "Don't you dare spread my wealth you elitist, atheist, liberal, troop-hating commie weakling). We've come to such an impasse that it's only when we can see the world with real compassion and nuance are we ever going to get at any semblance of truth. 

We at Blicky Kitty (with thanks to Katie) have found the solution. Let's just get together and have a dance party!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crack Mommy

Mary Cassatt, Child's Bath, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago

Some of you might have noticed that while I am, in fact, a parent, I haven't blogged very often about the kittens. It's not that I'm not tempted, and perhaps I will in the future, but after spending the whole day (choose one, or mix and match): 
  • using dried lasagna to create a racetrack for Matchboxes,
  • pretending that the artificial flower aisle at Walmarts or Michael's is a magical garden,
  • cleaning the vat of A&D ointment that found it's way onto the walls and forms into clumps around the dollhouse furniture, 
  • reading to them about art, mythology, opera and ancient history then enduring the blank stares of the public school teachers that don't know what to do with a child with such eccentric interests,
  • cleaning the clumps of expensive lavender hand soap that have been gauged out by a phillips head screwdriver,
  • doing the voices for various stuffed animals (which sometimes turns into a double conversation when I, Mumma, am talking to them) or conversing with my little kitten's squeaky sounding feet which she's named Susan (oh, and one hand is also Susan, but the other one is Inchy-Binchy Sfider), 
  • being the prince for Cinderella and working out a killer dance routine for their closing number,
  • doing pilates with a pretty little lump of almost 40 pounds on top of me, and then allowing the workout to degenerate into a circus routine that rivals Cirque du Soleil (sort of like Xtreme flying angel),
  • turning up the volume on the B52's, Sublime or the GoGos and having a raucous dance party with two girls and hoping like heck the 7 yr. old doesn't notice the f-bomb in What I Got,
  • and, of course, using the yoga mat to transform aforementioned screwdriver/diaper ointment technician into a mermaid,
I'm eager for some grown-up subject matter. If that need strikes me before the day is over then that probably means it's a Crack Mommy day. Crack Mommy is a term my sister came up with to describe less than perfect parenting. This was uproariously funny when we were obsessive first time moms, but now I have evolved into a true Crack Mommy. It's not that I actually do far, but I have learned to embrace my inner Crack Mommy self. Dinner is a perfect opportunity. When I announce we're going to do Crack Mommy Dinner, my girls now know to scream "yayyyyy!" and run into the tv room. They usually get to pick from cold cereal and baby carrots or surprise plates (with buttered bread, raw veggies and fruit). Unfortunately the term has degenerated a bit in our home, so it's evolved into "crack dinner" or sometimes Mr. Kitty will come home and ask "Are we doing crack tonight?" This has not been a problem so far and I think my youngest thinks it's actually Quack Mommy, but I'm bracing myself for the day that DCYF shows up on my doorstep after some well-meaning adult asks my 7 yr. old daughter what her mom gave her for dinner.

Here's my youngest kitten in St. Peter's Square in Rome last Christmas. Her sister loved seeing the opera and learning about Augustus and she just wanted to chase "chickens" and eat gelato. Let's give her the Bloggy name of Mopsy (unless I've already mentioned it in true Crack Mommy form). She's now about to turn three. Inspired by uber-wordsmiths Kat and Cynthia, here's an entry from my journal about her from last year:

You are glittering flickering movement,
You are a verb,
You are a delicious glow,
That feeds and warms those who surround you,
Curly, funny, grinning joy of a person,
My miracle child.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Step Away From the Crazy Pinko Green Dude

I came across a great article in the NY Times the other day about people who are trying to do go beyond conserving and recycling to radically reduce their carbon footprints. It describes the lifestyle of some people who are trying to shrink their family's energy use to 10 percent of the national average by growing most of their own food, spending only $1000 a year on consumer goods, air-drying their clothes and huddling together for warmth. Many people who have made radical changes to their lifestyles are often called "energy anorexics," "dark green" or put more simply, "fruitcakes". Blicky likes to call them "no good commie pinkos".

Dave Chameides, shown above, is collecting all of the waste he generates in a year in his basement and recording it in a blog. I also found a wonderful blog in Britain where a woman chronicles her attempts to create as little waste as possible in one week.

While people who are beginning to espouse a very different kind of lifestyle are derided as mildly pathological (you don't want to make any sudden movements around a dark green environmentalist), I think it's just the logical extension of recycling. I mean recycling is a buttload of work. You have to rinse the stuff so the squirrels and mice don't throw raucous parties your storage area. Then if you live in the boonies with no trash removal, you squish all of it into your (very fuel efficient Corolla) once a month because it takes that long to clean up all the property damage your toddler has inflicted while you got the last load in. You then hope that it's the stinky plastic jugs and not the jagged cans that are jammed in around said toddler's car seat on the way there. You then have to wonder if the doddering coot with the creepy toothless smile is checking out your bum while you lean in to grab the cardboard.

It's made my life a bit simpler in recent months to see where I can eliminate bringing stuff into the house. Here are a few things that I find have actually made life easier:
  • I try to make everything I can. Yogurt is a snap to make in a thermos and it saves a lot of plastic. Ditto on snacks for lunchboxes. I do a lot of homemade gingersnaps and popcorn.
  • Alright, so the homemade pasta machine I got on Craig's list for 10 bucks is still gathering dust but just think how many cardboard boxes that I will save when it works like it did in my fantasy.
  • We get our milk delivered in glass bottles.
  • I try, whenever possible, to buy local eggs and drop off the old cartons there.
  • Until I no longer suck at gardening, I try to buy from farm stands and farmers markets because it's easier to throw things into a canvas bag.
Blicky is even getting in on the act. He has decided to forgo some extra items that he usually buys.
  • His Halloween costume will be made by hand this year instead of insisting on a hand beaded one made in Thailand.
  • He is giving up 2 of his 20 daily venti chai lattes,
  • He is going to use acorns instead of plastic cutlery to pelt at hippie pinko's
  • He's will only get one $389 cat bed for his guest room, rather than the matching pair
  • He's resigned to turning the Hummer off now when it's in the driveway instead of hooking it up directly to the oil derrick in our backyard, although he'll miss the outdoor heating over the winter.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blicky Scores Interview with David McCullough, Author of 1776

I don't know why Blicky is so well connected, but he seems to know everyone. He walked in and deposited this surprising interview at my feet this morning.

Blicky Kitty: Meow just done reading 1776. Good meow.
David McCullough: Thank you Blicky.
BK: Meow, if Gordon Brown and Elisabeth get really mad at President Palin and decide to invade us and make us part of England again and call underwear knickers and dinner supper and bathroom loo and make us eat aubergines and courgettes and not invade any more countries and stuff, and we were able to reconstruct George Washington using DNA from wooden teeth, whom would he choose to help him defend this country if he could only pick two? Maybe all his men were preserved cryogenically in some magical steampunky thing and he got to pick. 

DM: Well, I get asked that a lot, and I always think if he had to pick two men it would have to be Nathanael Greene and Henry Knox. Henry Knox led the expedition from Cambridge MA up to Fort Ticonderoga to retrieve the cannons recently won there. He managed to complete the 300 mile trip in 56 days, carrying 59 cannon and mortars weighing a total of 60 tons over the winter ice and snow. The success of the expedition was credited to Knox's unflagging determination and his ever-present booming voice.
BK: Knox big stud?
DM: Well I guess so Blicky. There's no evidence that his wife Lucy Flucker thought so, but she was the daughter of loyalists and had to forsake her family to marry him.
BK: Flucker?
DM: Flucker.

BK: Nathanael Greene?
DM: Nathanael Greene was the commander of the Rhode Island regiment. He came from a quaker family and was largely self taught in all military matters. He served in the ranks briefly because he was initially denied the rank of officer because of a slight limp. The Rhode Islanders were the only regiment Washington never spoke of in disparaging terms.  Greene played a crucial role in the pivotal battle against the Hessians at Trenton which turned the course of the war.
BK: All sound pretty studly.
DM: Well I didn't come across anything in the 18th-century documents that supports studliness, but the determination that Washington and his men showed really turned the tide of the war during that pivotal year of 1776. The conditions were pretty difficult for all of the soldiers involved, and they really overcame quite sizeable odds.
BK: Thanks meow interview.
DM: OK, well, you promised to give me Doris Kearns Goodwin's number.
BK: Restraining order.
DM: Damn you, Blicky Kitty, damn you!

Bad Kitty!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Joe Sixpack, Joe the Plumber, Joe Average, Joe Shmoe, Joe Blow, John Q. Public, and John Q. Taxpayer. You can't have watched the presidential and vice presidential debates without hearing this attempt at giving the average American a name. But what does it really mean? Does this truly capture the zeitgeist of modern American life? 

What does it mean to call someone Joe Sixpack? Well, I think what Sarah Palin wanted to convey was an ordinary guy, working hard, trying to attain the American dream. Unfortunately, it also conjures up images of overweight, possibly hairy middle-aged men in their underwear sitting on their arses and swilling room-temperature Schlitz. Not that there's anything wrong with hairiness, overweight people, or middle-aged men, but could we perhaps select a more dignified image for our national Everyman? Some bloggers say that the term Joe Sixpack also carries certain cultural connotations. Perhaps Joe watches NASCAR? Is Joe a recent immigrant? Probably not. He sure as heck couldn't be Middle-Eastern because he would have to be Jusef, and the sixpack would have to go because Muslims eschew alcohol. I guess Joe couldn't be Seventh Day Adventist either. I might be wrong on this too but I don't think NASCAR has an enormous African American following. So when Sarah Palin tells us she represents Joe Sixpack, how many of us does she want to represent?

Then there's Joe the Plummer. John McCain mentioned him often in the debate, and because he wasn't quite specific on the name (and because he's not a licensed plumber) I believe he meant John Q. Taxpayer (which Joe, or Samuel, really isn't that great at either). OK, so it's silly, and a bit too easy to pick on Joe/Sam. But what does McCain want to convey through the character of Joe the Plumber? My guess is that Joe is meant to personify the hardworking guy, just trying to earn his own small piece of the American dream feels threatened by Obama's abject class warfare. When Katie Couric asked him if he made enough money (250,000) to be affected by the tax cuts he sort of hemmed and said nooo, but it's a "slippery slope." "You vote on somebody who decides that $250,000 and you're rich? And $100,000 and you're rich? I mean, where does it end? You know, that's - people got to ask that question." OK Joe, so by that same logic, let's say selling drugs is illegal and you vote on someone who decides that you go to jail if you sell drugs. And then drinking a sixpack and you go to jail? I mean where does it end ... tax evasion? You know, people got to ask that question. OK, but let's just be nice, because I do think that John McCain is an OK guy. Taxing rich people is class warfare.

But where does all this rhetoric leave us? What is an Everyman? The term comes to us from a late fifteenth-century English morality play. The play opens with a monologue delivered by God. He laments all of the trouble brought about by humans. He feels taken for granted because humans are too absorbed by material wealth to love him. God resolves to summon Death to bring Everyman to heaven for his reckoning. Fellowship, the personification of friendship agrees to accompany him until he finds out the true nature of his journey, then he bolts, leaving poor Everyman to fend for himself. He also meets up with Kindred and Cousin who offer lame excuses for why they can't go. Everyman then asks Goods to accompany him because he has given him so much love, but it turns out that would have just gotten him in worse trouble with God. He then turns to Good Deeds, but she was too weak to go with him because he just hadn't shown her enough love. She sends her sister Knowledge instead and they go together to see Confession. So Everyman goes and does the right thing, he shows suitable contrition, receives the jewel called Penence and Good Deeds becomes well enough to join him on his journey. He receives all sorts of wonderful things, but in the end it is only Good Deeds who is able to go with him all the way into heaven.

What would the modern version of that morality play be? How would Joe Sixpack fare when summoned for his reckoning by the character of God from that morality play? 
God: I see you've only brought beer and a remote control. Are you serious?
Joe Sixpack: You betcha!
God: Have you brought any Good Deeds with you?
Joe S: Well, I've just been working hard, trying to get my slice of the American Pie. I'm proud to be an American. I did pass this personification lady on the way here. She was sort of lyin' there and moaning somethin' about good deeds.
God: But what good have you done for the world? How have you shared my love with the world?
Joe S: I work hard for all the stuff I have and my country's spreading democracy.
God: Is that underwear you're wearing?

God speketh. 
I perceyue here in my maieste 
How that all creatures be to me vnkynde 
Lyuynge without drede in worldely prosperyte 
Of ghostly syght the people be so blynde 
Drowned in synne they know me not for theyr god 
In worldely ryches is all theyr mynde 
They fere not my ryghtwysnes the sharpe rood 
My lawe that I shewed whan I for them dyed 
They forgete clene and shedynge of my bloderede 
I hanged bytwene two it can not be denyed 
To gete them lyfe I suffred to be deed 
I heled theyr fete with thornes hurt was my heed 
I coulde do nomore than I dyde truely 
And nowe I se the people do clene for sake me 
They vse the seuen deedly synnes damphable 
As pryde coueteyse wrathe and lechery 
Now in the worlde be made commendable 
And thus they leue of aungelles yheuenly company 
Euery man lyueth so after his owne pleasure 
And yet of theyr lyfe they be nothinge sure 
I se the more that I then forbere 
The worse they be fro yere to yere 
All that lyueth appayreth faste 
Therfore I wyll in all the haste 
Haue a rekenynge of euery mannes persone 
For and I leue the people thus alone 
In theyr lyfe and wycked tempestes 
Verly they wyll become moche worse than beestes 
For now one wolde by enuy another vp ete 
Charyte they do all clene forgete 
I hoped well that euery man 
In my glory shulde make his mansyon 
And therto I had them all electe 
But now I se lyke traytours deiecte 
They thanke me not for ye pleasure yt to them ment 
Nor yet for theyr beynge that I them haue lent 
I profered the people grete multytude of mercy 
And fewe there be that asketh it hertly 
They be so combred with worldly ryches 
That nedes on them I must do Iustyce 
On euery man lyuynge without fere 
Where arte thou deth thou myghty messengere 

I've Been Tagged!

This new aetheric medium they call the intraweb has always proven delightfully fun, but more so recently as I've realized that it can have funny, brilliant and creative human beings attached (as evinced my new circle of bloggieBFFs). I'm surprised more people don't know about this intraweb thing, but perhaps it might catch on.

Cynthia over at Muse Swings has tagged me. I have been asked to go into the fourth folder of my pictures and select the fourth image. Well here it is.  Blicky who has been reading a lot of books on Victorian propriety by someone named Dr. West, has assured me that, no the human body is not beautiful and because I have not instilled in my kittens a proper sense of shame they will most surely and tragically fall prey to a host of nervous afflictions or the vapours. We have reached a comprise thusly. It was really cuter in it's original form. I don't really have an explanation for the picture. I think it speaks for itself. So Cynthia, does this mean that I get to tag four people?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Thanks to Cynthia at Muse Swings for inspiring a more chilling variety of narratives as the Autumn brings with it thoughts of the Great Pumpkin, candy corn, gory masks and, of course scary stories.

Once upon I time I attended an old boarding school in a small village in Southeastern New Hampshire. Yes, I know! That proved scary enough in itself, but I don't want you to be frightened yet... A friend and I decided to share a room on the first floor of an old dormitory which was built in the 1930's when the school was still all boys. The old building (seen in the bottom right) was built of brick and the interiors had beautiful wooden doors with stately -- albeit a bit shabby-- appointments and furnishings. In the autumn, the ivy on the side of the dormitory would turn a brilliant shade of red.

When we moved in some strange things started to happen. We would leave, locking the heavy door behind us and return to find things altered. At first it was a towel here, a shirt there, but after the first few days, we were greeted with increasing disarray.

Of course, we chalked this up to our imaginations and shared news of our funny third roommate with all our friends. We dubbed him Quentin. During the course of that winter of 1983-84, Quentin made quite a name for himself. We promptly enrolled him for an ambitious load of courses, and his name rang out all over campus as attendance was taken. When it came time for roll call at our dorm meetings, someone would inevitable include "Quentin" and someone else would stamp their foot or knock on a chair. Any unusual noise or creak was always a sure sign that our good friend Quentin was in for a visit.

By the time the late spring thaw arrived we had all quite forgotten about Quentin. Our thoughts inevitably turned towards the coming of warmth, and summer, and home. One day, as we returned from classes we met an older man who had come to tour the campus. He requested permission to see our room because he had lived there during his own school days when it was still a boys' dormitory. We quickly cleaned up, hiding our messy clothes, shoes and books in the closet and under beds and invited him in. As he came into our room he walked around smiling at first, then paused reflectively and cleared his throat. 

"You'll have to excuse me a moment, I have some pretty powerful memories being back here. I shared this room with a friend of mine, and he died that year. His name was Quentin."

Paul Newman

OK I finally found them. All I will say is that if I had seen this picture...

...before I took this picture

...and this picture

...perhaps I would not have survived the day with my dignity intact.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


(click image to enlarge)

Beside the laughing lake of Van  
A little hamlet lies;  
Each night into the waves a man  
Leaps under darkened skies.  

He cleaves the waves with mightly arm,  
Needing no raft or boat,  
And swims, disdaining risk and harm,  
Towards the isle remote.  

On the dark island burns so bright  
A piercing, luring ray:  
There's lit a beacon every night  
To guide him on his way.  

Upon the island is that fire  
Lit by Tamar the fair;  
Who waits, all burning with desire,  
Beneath the shelter there.  

The lover's heart-how doth it beat!  
How beat the roaring waves!  
But, bold and scorning to retreat,  
The elements he braves.  

And now Tamar the fair doth hear,  
With trembling heart aflame,  
The water splashing-oh, so near,  
And fire consumes her frame.  

All quiet is on the shore around,  
And, black,there looms a shade:  
The darkness utters not a sound,  
The swimmer finds the maid.  

The tide-waves ripple, lisp and splash  
And murmur, soft and low;  
They urge each other, mingle, clash,  
As, ebbing out, they go.  

Flutter and rustle the dark waves.  
And with them every star  
Whispers how sinfully behaves  
The shameless maid Tamar;  

Their whisper shakes her throbbing her  
This time, as was before!  
The youth into the waves doth dart,  
The maiden prays on shore.  

But certain villains, full of spite,  
Against them did conspire,  
And on a hellish, mirky night  
Put out the guiding fire.  

The luckless lover lost his way,  
And only from afar  
The wind is carrying in his sway  
The moans of:"Ah, Tamar!"  

And through the night his voice is heard  
Upon the craggy shores,  
And, though it's muffled and blurred  
By the waves' rapid roars,  

The words fly forward-faint they are-  
"Ah, Tamar!"  
And in the morn the splashing tide  
The hapless yough cast out,  

Who,battling with the waters, died  
In an unequal bout;  
Cold lips are clenched, two words they bar:  
"Ah, Tamar!"  
And ever since, both near and far,  
They call the island Akhtamar

Hovhannes Toumanian

Here's a link to a film with some beautiful shots of the church of the Holy Cross on Akhtamar. Armenia is the world's oldest Christian culture and the church architecture is sublime. The Europeans saw these buildings during the Crusades and it had an important influence on the development of gothic cathedrals. 

It was constructed by King Gagik as his palatine church in 921 AD.  The iconographical program on the sculpted exterior incorporates writhing beasties influenced by Sassanian (Persian) princely hunting motifs but a lot of the images show the influence of the medieval bestiary -- an amazing source of animal stories used as allegories for teaching the gospel to the illiterate Joe Sixpack Medieval guy. The film has some lovely shots of the vine scrolls which depict the labors of the months. The larger relief sculptures show Jonah and the whale and David and Goliath. You can also make out the Adam and Eve and the Naming of the Animals.

Here's a link to a beautiful slideshow that shows the lovely color of the stone. The is on my list of places I hope to visit before I die -- I figure I've got another 60 years. That and the 7-Eleven in Providence, RI. Oh, and I also want to attend the same party as Roberto Benigni and travel to India to get my hands hennaed. Am I asking too much?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Audacity of Fiorra

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; ....

I can't be the only one with a serious case existential angst this election year. The more I see and hear about the contemporary political landscape the more I feel as though we are merely going through the motions with our representative democracy. One might expect that most governments evolve into plutocracies to some degree as the wealthy find ways of achieving greater power and influence. But now it seems to have achieved such a pitch and frenzy that our democracy has become dysfunctional and we are actually being governed by media conglomerates, oil companies and other powerful lobbying groups. 

Our presidential elections have far less to do with statesmanship or political platforms and everything to do with imaging and marketing. They've done their job well. A cheery voice told us in 2000, "You get all this: cowboy for president, a representative of American values, ardent opponent of nation-building, who is committed to the the environment for only 19.99. Act now, and you'll receive a portion of our nation's surplus. That's right, a real money check mailed right to your door, plus a set of Ginzu Knifes." In 2004, we heard the same thing, "If you ignore the war we entered by lying to you, the torture we allowed at Abu Graib, and fall into rank and file, then by jingo, we'll throw in the Imperial Oil Protectorate of Iraq. Act now and you'll receive an additional incentive check as a token of our gratitude." Now we're hearing the familiar refrain once again "Now, from the people who brought you hits like Iraq, Abu Graib and Katrina there's the War on Money. Call now, and we'll manage your economy for only 2,319.99!"

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity...

As I talk to people I really admire I find that some of the most brilliant and clear-minded people I know are the most disheartened right now. They are not staffing the phones for their candidates, but listening to the debates and thinking "There is barely any difference. These guys sound the same." Especially since they have both served as senators, McCain and Obama volley charges about the each other's voting records, like a pair of cranky schoolboys playing badminton. But we will never find our ideal candidate. I myself would rather have heard someone support South Ossetia's right to declare autonomy from Georgia. I feel sad that when asked if Russia under Putin is an evil empire, my guy failed to muster the correct response: "Hell no, I refuse to allow Reagan's late 20th century characterization of global politics define this era." It is just plain sad to see this mess and there's so much blame to go around. I still can't bring myself disengage from the process because my candidate isn't perfect.

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Yeah the news is just plain depressing, but come on Yeats, man! It's not that bad. I'll pass along a little snippet of HOPE that I gleaned from the debate. The mere fact that this question was asked brought me so much satisfaction because it moved the debate away from talking points and towards an issue of national character.

: Sen. McCain, for you, we have our first question from the Internet tonight. A child of the Depression, 78-year-old Fiorra from Chicago:
"Since World War II, we have never been asked to sacrifice anything to help our country, except the blood of our heroic men and women. As president, what sacrifices -- sacrifices will you ask every American to make to help restore the American dream and to get out of the economic morass that we're now in?"
Fiorra, you rock! Thank you for giving the watching public one brief shining moment to remember that American life is about more than all the stuff you get.

Now I really must go, Blicky is actually being held in a little timeout downstairs since this whole Wall Street debacle. Bad Blicky! I think I hear him down there meowing "sell" into his Blackberry, so I've got to locate his recharger and pick up a few toiletries for him online.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Facebook Is Not a Waste of Time.

Here is some of the important information you might have missed:

[Insert name here] making yogurt and using a yoga mat to turn her 2 yr. old into a mermaid. only now realizing that the Jack Johnson Curious George song opens with the same percussive riff as Sympathy for the Devil. wondering if loving your own cooking is like laughing at your own jokes.

If I didn't spend time on Facebook and find out about that last link, God only knows what might have happened. Don't worry, I click on this link every day just to be on the safe side.

Addendum to this Facebook post 10/9:
I just could resist adding this posted by a grade school friend Brendan.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sara Palin: Master Rhetorician

As I watch the vice presidential debate tonight I'm slowly realizing that we deserve the leaders we get with our popular defiance of anything intelligent and substantive. It's taken me a while to grasp this because my attention span -- hey look something shiny -- has been affected by stultifying popular discourse -- wonder if there are any cookies upstairs, yummy cookies, cookies are really yummy, just like ice cream. Our leadership is a symptom of basic problems in our culture. We strive for excellence and quality in everything else; our cars, our airplanes, our factories and schools and then choose the worst possible option when it comes to our leadership. 

One thing that Palin shares with Bush is the way she wears her ignorance like a badge of honor. This allows her to parry any kind of challenge or complex idea with a wink and a cute smile that drives straight through our flaccid Joe Sixpack cerebral cortexes and right into our limbic systems. Oooo...Sarah pretty...shiny...we're good...America always right....and shiny. I think Blicky's latest plan with Rove is to engineer a way for the information to travel to the motor cortex directly and wait there until we're in the voting booth.

Every time Palin utters the names Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-il I feel like somewhere there's a social studies book inexplicably bursting into flames. It's as if she might start drifting off and talking about Padhkavilijad the Princess of Hungary and Shuskamucharad the Emperor of Scotland and hope we don't look it up. If we do, she'd wink at us and say "Joe, may I call you Joe...Sixpack?" shiny.

In the current intellectual climate, Lincoln would have lost to a Bush or Palin because real wisdom and substance gets vilified as elitist within the present system. Here's how the debate with Lincoln and Palin would play out.

Lincoln: To allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he deems it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If to-day he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade [Iraq] to prevent [al Quaida] from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, — "I see no probability of [ al Quaida working with Saddam Hussein, or the existence of WMD]"; but he will say to you, "Be silent: I see it, if you don't."

To provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This our convention understood to be the most oppressive of all kingly oppressions, and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood. (Letter, while US Congressman, to his friend and law-partner William H. Herndon, opposing the Mexican-American War,15 February 1848)

Palin: (Smiles) Can I call you Abe? Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that is not what our troops need to hear today, that's for sure. And it's not what our nation needs to be able to count on. We'll know when we're finished in Iraq when the Iraqi government can govern its people and when the Iraqi security forces can secure its people. And our commanders on the ground will tell us when those conditions have been met. [And Grand Pasha Hestashabawedacon of the Kingdom of France and the Sumerian Emperor Meshanipada] also is working with us are knowing again that we are getting closer and closer to that point, that victory that's within sight. John McCain knows how to win a war. He knows what evil is. You betcha. My Amygdala responds: Fear! Fear!...not good...terrorists will get ice cream.

It's time that a normal Joe Six Pack American is finally represented in the position of vice-presidency. I think that has kind of taken some people off guard, and they're out of sorts, and they're ticked off about it." (Pasted together from debate and pre-debate quotes) Mmmm sixpack...yummy...make me forget fear.... 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In the Mist of a Memory You Wander Back to Me

Dear Donny,

I’ve been meaning to write this for quite some time. The last letter I wrote to you was in 1977. Remember? I told you that hilariously funny joke about how you always wore purple socks. That was so funny. I was hoping you’d be so intrigued that you’d want to meet me and invite me onto the Donny & Marie Show, but I guess it didn’t work out. I know how busy you were back then. You had legions of fans and here I was, an eight-year-old girl.

I had the whole thing planned out though; I even had my outfit picked out. I knew I definitely wouldn’t wear one of those long sequined dresses like Marie and all your other guests. Instead, I would’ve have worn my best jeans, a purple turtleneck, a preppy ribbon belt with purple flowers and, of course, matching purple socks. Of course you would have been struck by my casual beauty, but my dance performance would have really revealed my special, poetic soul. The lights would fade slowly as the music started: “When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls, And the stars begin to twinkle in the sky…” I had a carefully planned dance routine with leg kicks, axles, gymnastics and pretty arm flourishes that I had learned in ballet. I practiced every night in my room with the 45. It was a little embarrassing when my brother walked in, but I was determined to impress you with how graceful I was.

I suppose our relationship would’ve been brief. I hadn’t really thought through how it would work, but I had a vague idea that we would kiss and maybe move our heads around just the way they did on the Love Boat and Fantasy Island…

Anyway, a lot of the other girls at school started liking Eric Estrada, the boy from Eight is Enough and Rick Springfield, but I remained true to us. Dr. Blakely told me that I had to let go, but I never did. My love was so strong that I had to go away for a little while, but I’m much better now. I live in a small house in northern Utah now and I work from home. I have my own taxidermy studio in a cabin out back and I spend a lot of time in front of the computer or out finding small animals. So you still live in Salt Lake City? I get into the big city every so often now that I have discovered freganism. There are some great dumpsters between East South Temple and University Boulevard.

Anyway, I never got married. I know, huh? I heard you married Debbie of course. By the way, she threw out a perfectly good loaf of wheat bread last week. There were only two green pieces! It’s too bad about your cat being missing. I read the notices your grandchildren made and it looked like Mittens’ pelt was really soft. So maybe we could get together sometime. Isn’t it OK for Mormons to marry other people? If not, maybe we could just dance or hold hands and sing or something. I’ll be on University Boulevard next Tuesday morning. Remember, “In the mist of a memory you wander back to me, Breathing my name with a sigh…”


Lorna Baker

Willow Creek Health Center

Logan, Utah