Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My office, in a late style of flood.

So, last week, my office flooded. Apparently, in the community college micro-climate there was a perfect storm of not-quite-finished roofing work and torrential rain. I got a call on my cell phone from counterintuitive, announcing that water was pouring from the ceiling, all over the
  • desk
  • art
  • printer
  • shelves
  • stacks of crap piled on every horizontal surface
  • treasured photos of my beloveds.
Before I could make up my mind to get down there--the stacks of crap were what I thought of most--I heard that they'd shut down the building, rendering my dithering, shall we say, moot. Before they were kicked out, counterintuitive, my boss, and another friend rescued a few precious things. Then, I heard they had giant fans going, the power was shut off, blah blah blah.

Yesterday, I got the following phone calls from the historian:
  1. the Risk Management people want me to come and take everything out of my office by the end of the day. They're taking out the ceiling, which is made of asbestos dipped in asbestos, and textured in asbestos dots.
  2. the Risk Management people have already taken everything out of my office. They're in a hurry.
So I went to the big room where they'd removed all the books, furniture, shelves, desk, etc. I found, also, the stacks of crap, looking a little wrinkled for their brief sojourn underwater. Almost everything looked just fine, hurray. They're supposed to finish the ceiling, and then there will be new carpet, so it's kind of an everybody wins scenario, especially if I can get in there and toss the stacks. I think this will entail making categorical decisions, such as:
  • if it was sitting on the floor, it is categorically crap and can be tossed without further ado.
  • if it was in a miscellaneous stack on my main desk or my other desk, it is categorically crap and can be tossed &c.
  • if it was in a folder and therefore belonged at one time to a student, it is not crap, but it is nonetheless tossable without sorting or other fretting.
A fortunate accident, right? because my office will be freshly carpeted, newly ceilinged, and de-crappified when I come back to use it again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Helpful tips for better living.

I recently read in a scientific publication (Glamour magazine) that floating in a pool is good for reducing pain, healing, and inducing a deep state of relaxation.

In light of this information, you'll be happy to know that I spent some time in a pool yesterday, up in Park City. It wasn't floating so much as playing monkey in the middle with my nieces and nephews, and also helping my darling grandson to move around the pool while he was in his floating device, kicking and chatting and playing with various balls, large and small, that came his way.

There's something about being in the water--I remember being a kid, whiling away most of an entire day at the pool. I have entire narratives of my childhood and youth that involve swimming, public pools, and later, the beach. My daughter the make-up artist, mother of the darling grandson, gets this, and tries to spend lots of time every summer at the pool. I'm pretty sure it has an improving effect on her whole life. Plus, the baby loves the water.

So, it wasn't floating, exactly, or even swimming, but did it ever feel great, so I'm doing it again tomorrow, and maybe the next day, too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Museum of Technology, Exhibit 114 ½.

"He would get up, silent and remote from whoever happened to be with him, dress in a bathrobe, mix himself a double dry martini, put a cigarette in his long white holder, sit before his typewriter, grind in a blank sheet of paper, and so become Tennessee Williams." (Elia Kazan, in Legends: The Century's Most Unforgettable Faces)

If this is the kind of thing that gets you going, then check this out. Click on the "Clubs/Events" tab--on Thursdays, you can type a letter on an actual typewriter. (Read more about The Regional Assembly of Text here, on Mighty Girl.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

New forms of summer entertainment.



















Remember these?

The last couple of nights there have been awesome wind and rain storms out here, and the historian and I have taken to sitting on the patio--in the above-mentioned chairs, but under cover--to watch:






































video

Friday, July 25, 2008

Solidarity.

Last night, as I was spinning around my neighborhood on my awesome bike, I crossed paths with some girls on their awesome bikes. Two girls, maybe five and four, were riding together--I smiled as I passed them, and one of them called after me, "Hi!"

But before that, an even tinier girl was riding down her driveway on a diminutive, lavender tricycle. She smiled at me. I smiled back. She slowed down--obviously, she was too little to ride into the street. But I heard her say, "Can I be your friend?" as I passed. You bet! The question is moot, though, isn't it? because we girls on bikes, we're a sisterhood.

And with that in mind, here's something I think about a lot. A woman at the college where I work passed this along to the historian, who passed it along to me. Now I'm passing it along to you:

My cinematic education.

After a small hiatus, I have re-upped with Netflix, the better to carry out my self-guided education of the French New Wave and to fill other gaps in my movie knowledge. At the moment, my queue includes:
  • Cleo from 5 to 7
  • That Obscure Object of Desire
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
  • Breathless
  • Love in the Afternoon
  • Claire's Knee
  • Small Change
  • The Bicycle Thief
  • Grand Illusion
  • The Rules of the Game
Also, after finding The Duchess of Langeais interesting and yet tedious, I read Manohla Dargis's review in the New York Times and felt properly scolded for not appreciating the formalism and discipline of the film (still: long! tedious!). So maybe I have a lot to learn?

So, all you cinephiles: what movies shall I queue up? Any advice on particular short films or filmmakers I would appreciate in addition to films that will in a more general way improve my taste, etc.

Filmgoers: Alert! We just saw Encounters at the End of the World, Werner Herzog's newest documentary. It was amazing! Gorgeous and poetic. Do not wait! to see this on Netflix, as the beautiful images beg you to see them on a big screen. It is wonderful. Worth a trip to the theater.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Observations, details, and statistics.

Observation: The historian viewed a bit of a documentary about Yao Ming today, in which he discovered the following delectable bits of information:
  • the Chinese have been playing basketball since the early 20th century.
  • During the Cultural Revolution, when Mao purged China of all western influences, basketball stayed. The argument went like this: basketball is so much a part of China now, it's no longer western (unlike, say, Beethoven).
  • And also, the Chairman was an avid basketball fan.
However, Chinese basketball teams in the era of the Yao parents, both of whom played basketball, did not keep individual statistics, because basketball is a team sport.

Details: The 33rd South TRAX station is qualitatively different than the other TRAX stations I've frequented. Here's a snippet of conversation I overheard today whilst listening to the Gorillaz on my iPod:
Big guy (sagging pants, sharp haircut, sports jersey, smells like cigarettes and little bit like beer): [sits down by me to wait for the train].

Skinny, shorter guy (long hair, black jeans, black tee shirt, baseball cap): [comes over, stands by Big Guy] Dude, get a haircut. (feints touching Big Guy's hair)

Big Guy: (friendly) Get a haircut? Huh. You are my favorite homeless person, mother f***er.
Statistics: Here are a few useful statistics:

1. I have seen both "Mamma Mia!" and "Kung Fu Panda" twice.
2. This post constitutes my 654th.
3. I have used in excess of 1400 tags, most of which I only used once. "Cake" I used more than once; also, "impending doom."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

OMG I love my new bike!

When I was dreaming about my sabbatical, which, by the way, has not yet started--what we're having right now is technically "summer," especially since the only things I've accomplished so far are good times, y'all--I had a vision of myself riding a bike, my new bike, which would allow me to go to the library, the bank, the post office, the grocery store, and sundry other pleasant locations in my general vicinity. The only problem with that vision was the general lack of bike, at least, a bike that was mine. So I started several months ago doing research, such as desultory web surfing of Craigslist. Dr. Write's new bike was and is, of course, inspiring. Today, however, the time arrived, the intersection of opportunity and desire and, of course, funding. So I went to Taylor's, a fine bike shop on the west side, locally owned, and in Kearns. And I found this beautiful, beautiful thing:

The picture does not capture the gleam, the insouciance, the panache of this bike. But I think you'll understand how I feel about this bike when I say, this, this is how I feel:


My son helped me get it home, and by now, I have spun around the neighborhood. Twice. I took the red wonder to the post office to mail a couple of parcels. With the parcels in the basket. When I finished, a woman a little older than I said, "What a beautiful bike!" I transformed into a bliss-bomb and said, "Isn't it! It's brand new! So shiny!" I'm not sure, but I think I kind of caressed the handle bars. "I'm so excited!" I enthused. "I can see why," she said, kindly, and with a smile. And then I rode home.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Things I have put back recently.

I carried the below-listed items around various stores, but instead of buying, I returned them to their proper retail locations for someone else to buy:

1. bandanna printed shirt
2. yellow purse
3. gray suede shoes
4. navy blue dress
5. the new Beck recording
6. more organic cotton pillowcases
7. super expensive charcoal gray modal scarf from Italy
8. gray knit skirt, then a geranium knit skirt, then a black knit skirt

I did, however, download a whole bunch of Gillian Welch today. And got a haircut.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Muffin, I presume?

Recently, my daughter the make-up artist has called me twice for my muffin recipe. This recipe I obtained when I was a mere slip of a girl at age 18, when my mother sent me off to my sophomore year in college and my first experience of apartment living. I used to make these muffins for breakfast for me and my roommate, when we could roust ourselves from bed to make and/or eat them. The recipe--back to the recipe--comes from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, the one I recently recovered, and therefore I was able to go to the source for the recipe when my daughter asked for it.

Trouble was, for her the recipe didn't work. The batter seemed too dense, like the proportions of liquid and dry ingredients were radically off. She ended up adding a lot more milk, after which the muffins came out fine. I tasted one. They were good, with a refined crumb, a balanced flavor, and a judicious dollop of blueberries. The troubles she had, however, troubled me, so this morning, I made the recipe myself, just as I did when I was a mere slip of a girl at 18.

I said to the historian that I feared perhaps the recipe would not stand up to my memory of it, which was an absurd thing to say, since I've been using this recipe for about 30 years now, varying this and that but basically keeping the gist the same: 2 c. flour, 1/4 c. or a little more sugar, depending on how sweet you like them, 2-3 t. baking powder, a little salt; an egg, a quarter cup of canola oil or melted butter, depending on if you like things buttery, and a cup of milk. Mix quickly, but don't mix until there are no more lumps--there should be lumps. Bake in buttered muffin tins at 400 degrees until they're brown on top, and you'll have a dozen delightful muffins. You can add all manner of whatnot to these--cut up fruit, blueberries, even chocolate chips if you must.

Well, the muffins came out just fine and the historian and I wolfed several of them down for breakfast.

Perhaps what we are seeing here is evidence of a philosophical controversy: what is a muffin (ontology)? and how do we know the muffin when we see it (epistemology)? Moreover, what is the nature of beauty in the form of a muffin (aesthetics)? In general, I believe that the mass marketing of muffin-shaped items as muffins has confused us all, leading to general uncertainty among the people as to what we mean, exactly, when we say "muffin."

This state of affairs led me to reflect, during my morning walk with Bruiser, and thus and herewith, my Muffin Manifesto:

The Muffin Manifesto.

A muffin is not a cupcake. It is a quick bread, which means that, categorically, it has more in common with the scone, the biscuit, the rusk, than it does with any form of cake. It is a wholesome food, falling on the plain side of the plain/fancy spectrum.

The batter of the muffin is a pebbled batter, and the crumb of the muffin is a coarse crumb. The flavor of the muffin should be on the sweet side of the sweet/savory divide, but only barely.

Muffins should be consumed, if at all possible, when they are fresh from the oven. By their nature, they are not keepers. Cake keeps because there is more fat in cake, whereas muffins must be eaten or they decline.

Those items, known as muffins and sold by the giant dozen at CostCo and other supermarkets, are not in fact muffins. They are, however, cake. The acid test: can you put butter on these items? You might be able to, but you wouldn't want to, because who butters a cupcake? No one. A muffin can be gussied up with butter and jam, and be the better for it.

The true muffin needs no cupcake liner. The true muffin, in fact, will be diminished by the cupcake liner, because it doesn't have enough fat in it to pull cleanly away from the paper, and hence, you lose a good quarter of the muffin as it clings for dear life to the paper it has baked itself to. No, a true muffin falls like a champ from the buttered muffin tin.

The plain and unvarnished muffin: none dare call it cake, but cake better not call itself muffin, either, or there'll be hell to pay.

I feel quite a bit better now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Minimal/maximal.

I was looking at Middlebrow's blog yesterday (although, Middlebrow, I know you're on vacation, but when your post reads "Day 1: Driving to Blanding, Utah," you have to know your reader is going, but what about Day 2? not to mention Day 3? I'm just saying.), remarking on its sleek minimalism. For instance, he announced about the re-upping of his Flickr account, but no shiny, distracting Flickr badge. He's got his blog roll, his del.ici.o.us, a site meter, and that's about it. Middlebrow is a notorious minimalist. I think he has, like, three e-mails in his inbox at a time. He deals with things. Things have their places. He doesn't have too much stuff. I admire this quality, mainly because it is a quality that I manifestly do not have, not in the least. There is not one minimal thing in my entire life. Not my blog, not my house, not my office, not one thing.

I am thinking about this because of all the projects going on around here. The organizing of the study. The reshaping of the downstairs. The outdoor projects, front and back yards. Every room in my house has more things than it should have--remnants of all the periods and eras of my life. For instance, there are chairs outside from the historian's house, from my apartment, from thrift stores. Two lawn chairs were my grandmother's, one is from somewhere else, I'm not sure where. There's a stainless steel table of which I do not know the provenance or what it's supposed to be for. And, of course, there's the new old stuff I bought at the consignment store.

I could do the same rundown for every room in my house, but it's already freaking me out a little. What is all this stuff? What is its meaning? Sometimes I think it is a pathology, the acquisition and retaining of stuff which names me to myself and comforts me in the renaming. I'm sure there is an unattractive Freudian explanation which I shall just skip over ("denial"). Also, I kind of just like stuff. There is a certain physical pleasure I derive from just going out, looking at things, thinking of which ones I'd like to take home, put on tables or in cupboards or in closets, wear, use, handle, have around me.

I think that tomorrow, I'm going to take everything out of one half of my study and make myself be a little ruthless. Let me just say, however, that this is by no means a cure. It will, at most, deal with the symptoms. To cure maximalism, you have to believe that the stuff you have, the stuff you acquire, the stuff you keep, is only stuff, and not somehow a part of you. I don't know what it would take to believe that. I think it might be kind of like having excellent vertical leap. Some people think you can improve vertical leap, but I don't think anyone believes you can improve it much. If you have it, you have it. Of course, that's until you get older and you lose it anyway. Okay, it's not very much like vertical leap at all. Perfect pitch--it's like that. I'm pretty sure that my maximalist tendencies are related to all the good, interesting qualities about me. I just wish these excellent traits would help me to clear a path between my desk and my chair, and also reduce the stuff in my closet by a third.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More efficient living through correspondence.

July 2008

Dear Clutter in my Study:

Today, I bought you several items that I would like to see put to good use for our semi-annual "Organize the Study" project. To wit:
  • a low table;
  • several closely woven baskets
As you know, today I began the project by
  • recycling half a year's worth of New Yorkers without looking at the table of contents for each issue (at least, not every issue), and
  • shoving a bunch of stuff I don't know what to do with into the nether half of the room.
This made me sweaty and also despondent. Why is there so much stuff in my study? Why is there a "nether half of the room"? I pulled myself together and got a shower. Much better.

However, having begun the project, I expect that you can now continue sorting yourself on your own and without my direct supervision, using the above-mentioned receptacles in any way that you see fit, so long as you establish order and manage chaos. Feel free to think outside the box!

Please consider Monday the deadline for this organization project.

Sincerely, etc., etc.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The snippet, a sadly neglected literary form.

From The New Yorker, on the untenability of the lawn and the glory of the meadow:
The Freedom Lawn consists of grass mixed with whatever else happens to seed itself, which, the authors note, might include:
dandelion, violets, bluets, spurrey, chickweed, chrysanthemum, brown-eyed Susan, partridge berry, Canada mayflower, various clovers, plantains, evening primrose, rushes, and wood rush, as well as grasses not usually associated with the well-manicured lawn, such as broomsedge, sweet vernal grass, timothy, quack grass, oat grass, crabgrass, and foxtail grass.
The Freedom Lawn is still mowed—preferably with a push-mower—but it is watered infrequently, if at all, and receives no chemical “inputs.” If a brown spot develops, it is likely soon to be filled by what some might call weeds, but which Bormann, Balmori, and Geballe would rather refer to as “low growing broad-leaved plants.” (Elizabeth Kolbert, July 21, 2008)
From my French police procedural, Have Mercy On Us All, yet another reason I am or should be French:
[Inspector Adamsberg] idled away the whole afternoon on the square, alternating between coffees in the Viking, plodding around and making calls. . . . He was already ceasing to care, inflating his already considerable capacity for indifference so as to resist the rising tide. . . . Adamsberg enjoyed listening to the harmless small ads in pale sunlight. An entire afternoon spent doing bugger all except letting body and mind wind down . . . He had reached the level of animation of a sponge bobbing about on a stormy sea. It was a state he sometimes sought specifically. (Fred Vargas, English translation 2003)
Summer movie update:

Recently, I've seen Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man. I'm planning to go for a grand slam deluxe and see Hellboy II and The Dark Knight. Giving in to summer, I guess. I'm not regretting it. We saw The Duchess of Langeais last week and it was really, really long. Moreover, it felt really long, and the summer movies breeze by like popsicles and radio songs. Which seems utterly appropriate. Cheers!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Notes from a separate universe.

In the mail today, I got a little padded envelope from Singapore, with three cds inside--photos and videos from my son, the missionary. How lovely and how strange, to get a hit of six months' worth of my son's experiences in this very different place. Included in the packet is a little video of almost seventeen minutes, recording the "I can eat 15 pieces of French toast in 15 minutes" challenge (my son the challenger, his companion the chef). For the record, he was successful, and the film, despite its longueurs, offered its pleasures, too, such as seeing his long feet in their gold-toed socks, seeing a flash of his smile from time to time, seeing his humor and intelligence.

It's six months--six months, in which he began to learn a language and then went to a place where he'd need to be able to use it to function; in which he learned to live with a young man whose experiences, beliefs, and ideas about the world were very different from his own; in which he learned to love another culture and the people he met there. All the communications I get from him--and I hear from him each week--could not have given me the direct view that these images have given me. Here are a few of them.













Young man in a white shirt, between two monoliths.











Young man with a superior weapon
.











Young man whose brains are protected by a helmet.











The flora of an alien land.

And, the
pièce de résistance, young man shooting film while riding a bike,
which I'm absolutely sure is totally safe.

video

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The visits.

This summer has been nonstop fun, I've been saying, which means that

(1) I have barely written a word;
(2) I have made no little films;
(3) I have posted no podcasts.

On the other hand, I have had the chance to

(a) visit with the historian's daughter and partner in Seattle;
(b) hang with my brother's family;
(c) drive across part of this great nation with my niece;
(d) see my wonderful friend in Sonoma County;
(e) go to Idaho with the historian, and then with my auntie and niece;
(f) have lunch with my mom and sister;
(g) have lunch and/or tea with friend after friend;
(h) hang with soccer coach son when he came for a visit;
(i) go to Idaho with singing son and his wife, as well as college daughter, who came home for a whirlwind tour;
(j) go shopping and to dinner with make-up artist daughter and darling grandson, as well as to a movie;
(k) visit the new little baby of the historian's son and his wife;
(l) and other social and family engagements almost too numerous to mention.














I only wish the Scotlands were here or we were there--but then, we're meeting them in Ireland in September.

Summer will soon be over, and everyone, including me, will have to get to work. But while it lasts, life feels full, good, very rich, happy. And why not just enjoy it? What else is there to do, right?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wild Kingdom.

video

This weekend's quick trip to Idaho yielded natural wonders in spades. The moose, above, standing in the water at Big Springs, paying just the barest attention to, well, us, gawking like tourists. Woods tourists.

Also:











The spray at Mesa Falls catching the light and making a rainbow.


video

And this beautiful elk, in Yellowstone.

Enough to make the trip entirely worthwhile.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Memory Meme.

My daughters and my dear friend Jill have been doing this, and I've had such a fine time checking back to see what people have said, I have finally been persuaded that it's a good idea for me to do it, too.

Here are the rules.

1. As a comment on my blog, leave a memory that you and I shared. It doesn't matter if you know me a little or a lot, anything you remember! If we're only blogging friends, write about a post that is most memorable. If you don't have a blog and don't know how to sign in, please comment as anonymous.

2. Next, re-post these instructions on your own blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. It's a lot of fun to see the responses. If you leave a memory about me, I promise to write one about you... either on your blog, in my comment box, or I will email you back!

and . . .

3. If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saturday, or Do the collapse.

Today:

1. go to market (peas, cherries, chard, lettuce, garlic, little squashes, apricots, and the good bread from the Crumb Bros.)
2. visit the historian's son, wife, and darling new baby (via some circuitous route because of the I-80 madness)
3. buy a Coke/potato chips on the way home
4. lunch/nap
5. paint the basement (goodbye paneling, hello Saffron Cream)
6. shower (quick quick quick)
7. drive to airport--college daughter! rejoice!
8. see The Incredible Hulk (could there be a scrawnier Bill Banner to start off with? not as lame as I thought it would be)
9. eat at Wendy's and philosophize with college daughter, singing son and his wife
10. go home and philosophize with college daughter, singing son, his wife, and the historian. Not to mention Bruiser.
11. run up to makeup artist daughter's house for a quick visit with her, college daughter, and the darling grandson who can walk and say "Ball!".
12. collapse into bed (after this post).

That's two collapses, in case you're counting. Tomorrow, some of us are heading up to Idaho to collapse some more, but in the best possible sense of that word.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My bed: a memoir.

When I was in NoCal, aka Sonoma County, a few weeks ago, visiting my darling friend, I slept in a sublime bed. Sonoma County is dry and hot in the summer, and the bedroom was upstairs, so you'd a thought it would be hot, and therefore the plethora of downy blankets and throws would be unbearable. But instead, the bed was heavenly. I opened the window and the night got airier; the weird science of down inside of cotton was cool and lofty.

I got home and took a critical eye to the bed we sleep in each night. By "critical" I mean "whiny." What the hell is the matter with this bed? I asked. Why do I spring from it, insomnia-ridden and sleepless, plenty of nights, and why is it so freaking uncomfortable?

As it turns out, dear readers--and you may not have actually been in a location we call a "store" where they sell all sorts of materials called "bedding," so this may come as a shock--you can make your bed more comfortable by buying downy blankets and puffy mattress covers, and here's another tip--you can turn your mattress over.

I have transformed the daily/nightly bed into a much more splendid place. In fact, it's become a little obsession. Today, I stopped into Target (the holy city) and found 600-thread count sheets at a fetching discount. These will go with the new-ish puffy mattress cover and lovely, lightweight cotton-covered lofty down blanket. And, in what must have been kismet, these sheets are an elegant shade of bluish gray.

In conclusion, good night.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lessons you learn from your kids.

Lesson #376, 488: Let's say your son, who lives away from home, is gainfully employed, and who is in every respect doing well, happens to play a fair amount of Hearts on the computer in his downtime. There's an excellent chance that, when he comes home for a visit, he'll give you a shoot-the-moon clinic.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Surprises galore.

Bruiser and I are now taking daily morning walks. He has come to expect it, so that when I've finished my breakfast and I make any move toward my shoes, he's singing the "we're taking a walk right now, right?" song, con gusto, vivace.

So I get on my walking shoes, grab a plastic bag, clip on my stylish green iPod shuffle. Sunglasses, leash, and we're off. We have a little routine, which is helpful for us, since Bruiser now has expectations--turn left, then cross the street, then right, etc.

When Bruiser first came into our lives, he was hell bent for leather on the leash--always straining, prepared to dash off after any cat or dog, running circles around us, basically, chasing stray smells. The dog park became our salvation. But now, it turns out it's kind of nice to go for this morning walk. He's not such a madcap crazy anymore. We have a good time.

This morning, after I woke up a little bleary-eyed, and after I succumbed to a teeny post-breakfast nap, Bruiser sat on the bed by me. He looked off to the side, and then, placing his paw, rather gently, on my arm, he looked deep into my eyes, just briefly. He repeated this little routine four times. I'm pretty sure he was trying to get me going for the day. He was right--the walk was just the thing to short-circuit my weariness.

While we walk, I have the music going, an odd mix due to the fact that there aren't, at any given time, so many music files on my computer (there were too many, and my computer kept groaning at me). But the beauty of the shuffle is the chance to listen to new music, music I mean to listen to but might not bump into for awhile. I'm not sure if older generations of the shuffle had the capacity for a random shuffle as well as playing straight through the music just as it's loaded. I've been playing straight through which means I've run into a substantial hit of the following recently: Air, an early Regina Spektor disk, Apples in Stereo (awesome for working out, anyone who actually works out), Emmylou Harris, Tres Chicas, early Rufus Wainwright, gorgeous Richard Thompson from Grizzly Man, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, The Band with various guests from The Last Waltz, Dr. John, Brad Mehldau, M.I.A., the new Magnetic Fields . . . Between the music and the little dog-walk-chat I always keep going ("let's cross here, Bruiser. What a good boy! this way, Bruiser. What a good boy!"), it must be a total joy to run into me in the neighborhood.

The Punctuator.

Reading a quite good detective novel, a British one by Sarah Dunant in a so-far short series with a female detective Hannah Wolfe. It's titled Fatlands. (As an aside, apparently I could have bought a used copy on Amazon for $0.07, instead of paying whatever I paid for it at Powell's. Oh well. Support your independent bookseller.)

In any case, in my reading I stumbled upon the following sentence:
"It wasn't as good an address as her husband's: a purpose-built apartment block off Shepherd's Bush Green, with one of those front gardens that is no one's responsibility except the neighborhood dogs'."
I paused over that plural possessive, with its apostrophe right before the period. And I must say, rarely have I seen a mark of punctuation seem to call attention to itself, to its correctness and its fastidiousness, as this little, even itty bitty, mark. "How smart! how splendidly edited am I!" this bit of prose proclaims, so self-satisfied. Smug, even.

Why? Why end a sentence with an apostrophe? Why not
". . . for which no one takes responsibility but the neighborhood dogs"?
or
" . . . which seemed to have been tended only by the neighborhood dogs"?
I like the sentence ending with the word "dogs"--it's emphatic and snappy. Well-played, Ms. Dunant! And I suppose as a person who takes more than the normal amount of pleasure in punctuation, I should be happy with this flourish, this crisp yet ostentatious apostrophe. But I say, this level of conspicuous show-offery becomes no one.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Another marvelous thing.

The Twilight Concert Series at the Gallivan Center! Particularly excited about:
  • Andrew Bird
  • Josh Ritter
  • De La Soul
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  • Neko Case
Wow. Sometimes I find it a pain to schlep myself all the way downtown at night (I feel a little sorry even saying that), but this line-up is completely worth it.

One more marvelous thing: I have a new cell phone. It is very sleek and more importantly, it works. Call me!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Declension.

1. I will never have a cell phone. I just don't want to be that available.
2. "Look, Mom--look what we got you at the mall!"
3. I ♥ my cell phone!
4. Watch me blog from my cell phone!
5. Oooooh, twitter!
6. I am a txting fiend. Hear me roar.
7. My cell phone is f***ed up. Oh. My. God.
8. Whyyyyyyy won't my cell phone work?
9. My brain is broken.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Pyrotechnics.

Let it be said: you may have seen fireworks tonight in the cities where you live, but you haven't seen fireworks till you've seen fireworks sitting on a blanket in the sagebrush across Highway 20 from the Grub Stake Market (now: Mountain Deli Market) where they have, apparently, for years and years had a Fourth of July fireworks display.

Points in this display's favor:

1. It was about 2.5 minutes from where we're staying.
2. No traffic.
3. The guy who set them off had a little running patter that he hollered for all to hear--the people near the market, people like us across the road, anyone within earshot.
4. The fireworks were awesome.
5. The Island Park firetruck was parked nearby, in case of pyromania/fireworks expertise gone awry.
6. No musical overhead, unless you cared to sing a rousing anthem of "Pink Houses" from where you sat.
7. Home in 2.5 minutes from when the smoke started clearing.
8. Awesome smell of whatever fireworks are made of--sparks and gunpowder?

Drawbacks:

None.

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring any connecting things--to charge my iPod, to hook up my camera, nothing--so I can't post any pictures, which I know you're dying to see ("oh my gosh, I hope she'll post pictures! please oh please let there be pictures!"). Too bad, and sorry. And now, I am off to defend my Bacarac title. In conclusion,
Oh but ain't that America for you and me
Ain't that America somethin' to see baby
Ain't that America home of the free
Little pink houses for you and me
Happy Fourth of July!

Take that, agony of defeat!

The agony goes to the historian, my niece, and my aunt, the three of whom I bested in a rousing game of Bacarac, which is a fancified game of poker with weird betting and whatnot. Despite a ferocious amount of teasing on the part of the other players, I kept my composure and won. I would like to thank the Academy of Card Players, which includes my coaches and trainers, my children who learned to play from all their card-playing elders, my mom who taught me how they play solitaire for money so I wouldn't cheat whilst whiling away a summer, my best friend who learned to play poker from my dad when we were teenagers, and indeed, the big Dad himself, who played endless amounts of poker whilst waiting for planes to be readied during his tour in Vietnam. Out of that, this moment of victory, for which I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Idaho ≈ Heaven? An Inquiry.

According to the godweb, "There are at least four major strands of thought in the Bible and in Christian tradition contributing to contemporary notions of heaven," the four strands being: heaven is the sky, paradise, eternal life, or the kingdom of God.

Idaho has big skies and is paradisaical. I would be happy to spend an eternity near the Snake River. Idaho is arguably God's own country, and I don't mean the Republican god, either.

According to Wikipedia, "The term [heaven] is used to refer to a plane of existence (sometimes held to exist in our own universe) in religions and spiritual philosophies, typically described as the holiest possible place."

Idaho, or more specifically, Island Park, or more specifically even than that, the family cabin, is clearly a plane of existence we can designate as a holy place. Okay, the holiest possible place, I am willing to go that far.

In a class I took at BYU, we read Mircea Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane, which talked about the idea of religions having a sacred place, a world-navel, the original place. Island Park is, for me, that place. From the chapter called "Sacred Space: Making the World Sacred":




(click on it to make it bigger)

I am pretty sure I have seen a burning bush or a water equivalent of it up here, around sunset.

In other news: it can be a challenge to figure out what kind of food to buy for a short trip. We always stop at Dave's Jubilee Market in Ashton for this and that and snacks and soda and a watermelon, and always end up buying plenty more stuff (M&Ms, pistachios, Doritos, Coke, blueberries, rice). The dilemma is this: on the one hand, you want variety, but on the other hand you do not want to have to schlep too much of store-bought cookies home, nor do you want to take home the food you brought all the way from home, such as garlic scapes, beet greens, oak leaf lettuce, and spinach, because bringing food in the car is already stressful to the food, and taking it back home is cruel and unusual punishment.

Nonetheless, the historian and I had a delightful cabin dinner of brought-from-home potatoes mashed with sauteed garlic scapes, a hunk of cambazola cheese, a little butter and some whole organic milk (since we're at the cabin, fat doesn't really count--it's the altitude! and the air! we'll sleep better!). Also, broccoli, and tomatoes with a little olive oil-basil-pecorino garnish. Also, toasted pain au levain bread. Also, store-bought cookies for dessert. It was heavenly. Ergo, Idaho ≈ heaven. Or, if you like, heaven aspires to the condition of Idaho.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Figs.

If you happen to have had the good fortune to have come into possession of some figs, well, lucky you. For a long time, the only encounter I ever had with a fig was either Biblical or in the form of a Newton. Which, I hasten to say, is not so bad. The Newton is a venerable cookie, especially for a commercially made cookie, and you will not catch me saying a discouraging word about the Fig Newton.

However, when I finally made the acquaintance of a fig in its fresh form, that, as they say, was another kettle of fish. Or maybe they say, that was a horse of a different color. In any case, fresh figs are different from Newton figs, although curiously, much like the Biblical fig, in that they are delectable and possibly remind one of other fleshly temptations--but I digress.

This week at the farmer's market, Liberty Heights (or, as Middlebrow and Dr. Write like to say, Liberty Heist) had both Kadota and Mission figs. They looked lovely and, after I had a nice sliver of a Kadota to make sure they were ripe and therefore sweet, I bought a mixed pint. We've been enjoying them since. There are plenty of ways to eat figs, although generally, it's what you put them beside rather than anything particular you do to them--that's how it is with fresh fruit. I love them with cottage cheese and almonds for breakfast, and also just to cut open and eat. But if you have acquired some figs, and you have had your fill of figs for breakfast, figs to the side of a lightly dressed salad, figs eaten out of hand just for the hell of it, you might try this, which I got from Deborah Madison's The Savory Way, although I paraphrase:
Figs with Ricotta and Honey. Get your figs, preferably a mix of figs, because they're beautiful and they taste a little different from each other. Cut them into fourths or eighths. Put a spoonful of fresh ricotta on a plate and arrange the cut figs around them. Drizzle lavender honey over the ricotta and figs. Put a small handful of nuts--I used hazelnuts--to the side of all the rest. Eat for dessert and feel like a Biblical character--or maybe like one of the minor Greek heroes.
You can use any honey, of course, but I finally found lavender honey this past week, a hunt which has carried on for a couple of years now. I've looked high and low, hither and yon, in market, supermarket, and specialty shop, in villages, towns, and cities, in several states and two countries. I realized, once I'd bought the honey and got it home, that one of the reasons I was looking for lavender honey in the first place was that I had read this recipe and wanted to make it, a domestic yet still mythic quest.

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