September 29, 2011

Being Elmo

i almost didn't click on this link. so glad i did... adding this one to the list of movies to see.

September 22, 2011


my favorite photo of Michael Stipe, and my favorite photo by Anton Corbijn

today my favorite band in the whole wide world announced that they are done.

i'm surprised by how sad this makes me. no one died, they just decided now was the time to walk away.

we were "born" the same year, but it wasn't until i was 10 years old that i was introduced to the wonder of R.E.M. it was at the annual dance at summer camp; they played "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" and it was like nothing i had ever heard before. (of course, i was 10, so my musical knowledge was, like, the Monkees, Motown oldies, and Paula Abdul.) right after i got home, i had my mom drive me to Peaches record shop and i bought Eponymous on cassette. i sat on my bed with a pad of paper and a pen, and pressed PLAY/STOP/REWIND over and over until i had written down and memorized all the lyrics to that glorious song. well, as much as anyone could ever know those lyrics. to this day, i still know the whole thing.

since then, they have always remained a part of my life. in 1995 Monster came out and they were embarking on a crazy world tour, one of the stops being about an hour away from my hometown. our previous next door neighbors were an awesome family whose paterfamilias was a bigwig concert promoter. we'd occasionally gotten tickets through him to sweet arena shows like Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. i worked up the nerve to ask him if he could get us tickets (me, my best friend, and surrogate big brother acting as chaperone). when i went over to pick up the tickets and pay for them, they literally waved my checkbook away. my parents were in the midst of their divorce, so i think they were taking the opportunity to do something really nice for me during a rough time. i was so shocked and thrilled i didn't even open the envelope.

cut to a few weeks later, we've driven to the arena and i finally open the envelope to dole out tickets. we make it through the gates and one of them asks, "hey, so where are we sitting?" all the times we've ever gotten tickets from our neighbors, they're always in the same section- lowest row of bleacher seats off to one side. great seats. that's what i was expecting, so i was taken aback when the other one said, "uh...mine says Orchestra." i was confused so we just went to an usher, who looked at our tickets and just pointed down to the floor. okay, now we're getting excited. we get to the floor at the very back, show our tickets to another usher, and he just starts walking toward the stage.... closer.... closer... until he stopped. at the 9th row. i remember we were all so shocked we couldn't speak at first. we just sat down wide-eyed, about 20-30 feet from the stage. we were so close we could see the blue eyeshadow in Michael Stipe's eyebrows. to this day, it is one of my greatest memories.

my musical tastes have run the gamut over the years, but R.E.M. has remained the strongest constant. they are my "comfort music." and now all we have is all we'll ever have from them.

rest in peace favorite band ever. 31 years is a great run.

September 17, 2011

i hate to be the angry white lady, but...

hey next door neighbors, i know it's a crisp fall night, but it's also really windy, and it hasn't rained in a month, so it's probably a bad idea- not to mention illegal- to dig a wee hole FIVE feet away from your house (and ten feet away from mine) and have a little bonfire.

just sayin'.

September 16, 2011

nice thoughts for friday


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice can speak.

Mary Oliver

September 14, 2011

where Bianca was born

have you ever seen the movie Lars and the Real Girl? if you didn't, i completely understand. it was totally mis-marketed. from the DVD cover and packaging, you're led to believe it's just another "zany" rom-com.... which couldn't be further from the truth. i would have never given this one a try, were it not recommended by one of our friends, who has impeccable cultural taste. if Jason says to read it or watch it, we do. and he has never steered us wrong.

anyway, the movie is a story about the outsiders in our world, those of us who are functional but just strange enough that people normally don't know what to do with us. Lars is one of those people, and his oddities/mental issues are enough to alienate the best of us. yet his small family, his church, and his entire town take it upon themselves to follow his psychologist's advice to completely embrace him, strangeness and all. it's one of the most beautiful pictures of community that i have ever seen, and has become one of my favorite films ever.

if you've seen it, you know how these photos relate. there is a central character in the movie named Bianca. these are pictures of her "sisters", taken at the plant where they were
manufactured. i found them haunting and kind of captivating. (some photos NSFW)

September 13, 2011

Kenyan bike taxis.

seen here, here, and here

a little more colorful than the ones we have around here...


one of our next door neighbors is a Mexican man with a wife and 2 daughters. they are a sweet family and he always makes a point to say hello and chat to us when we're out in our backyard. recently the house (where he rents the basement apartment) was sold, and he has until December to find a new place for his family. i guess he's been paying $650 for this 2 bedroom apt, but it's in the basement so it's really cold in the winter. he's been looking at other apts a little further away (we live about a mile from downtown) but the 2-bedrooms he's finding are more like $800-950/month. plus- even though they are all one nuclear family, he has to submit a rental application for each family member. $35 apiece, which means every application he submits ultimately costs them $140.

i was thinking of them when i read about this gem in the Newscut Blog. Urban Ministries of Durham created a well-designed online game where you try to make it through the month as an unemployed single parent- you start the month with $1000 and try to survive all the unforeseen obstacles/decisions to the end of the month. Bob Collins from Newscut states, "It says something, perhaps, that we need games to get us to think about these issues, but that's the way we are." definitely true, but i like to look at it as "interactive." it's much more communicative to virtually walk a mile in someone's shoes than read an article filled with their stats. this really reminded me how relatively affluent i am, and how thankful i am that my financial decisions aren't this hard or heart-breaking.

see how far you can get.

September 11, 2011

today, and 10 years ago.

i have no desire to over saturate myself with 9/11 anniversary coverage today. what i've seen online in the week preceding has been (more than) plenty, thank you. i spent That Day glued to the TV in my dorm lobby. the video footage is burned into my brain; i remember it all very clearly and certainly don't feel the need to re-live it today.

what i do find interesting are the first-person accounts. the stories about the people. those who died, and those who were just... there. that feels more real and meaningful to me.

first up, a book designer whose house blog i follow. the last line of her post is the best.

second, a NY Magazine story about the NYFD chaplain who was the first official casualty of the attacks. i imagine NYC is a lesser city without him.

and last, a first-person account of a woman living in the Lower East Side at the time who found some practical ways to help. hers is told in 3 parts:

(aside from 9/11, the Fosterhood blog is incredible. it's the story of a 30-ish, hipster-ish woman who decides to become a single foster parent in NYC. i recommend starting at the very beginning and reading forward.)

September 9, 2011

nice thoughts for friday.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver

(seen here. now i want to go read all my other favorite poems by her...)

September 8, 2011


excellent run along the Mississippi while catching up on Radiolab
goat cheese & pesto pasta with onion, tomato, and chorizo

gin & tonic

Packers vs. Saints on the tv

Bon Iver article in City Pages

kitty at my side.

goodbye Dorothy.

photo by Monica Szczupider

speaking of death and grief, this photo and
the story behind it are pretty amazing.

September 7, 2011


a friend of mine died monday night, from cancer. he had been suffering for years, so the silver lining is that he is at peace. we weren't close- he briefly dated a roommate of mine, and we were in the same circle of friends, but we didn't really spend any one-on-one time together. after he was diagnosed, he moved back home to California for treatments and had been there ever since. we occasionally corresponded via postcards, and i always replied when he sent out an email update. i hadn't received one of those since May, so the news was a bit of a surprise.

he wasn't super active on ye ole internet, but he had a facebook page, and right now it is flooded with tributes, memories, pictures of him that others are posting. it's a virtual wake. i guess in this day and age, when friends and family are so far flung, it's the one place where all can gather and remember together.

someone i don't even know linked to this post that Levi wrote over a year and a half ago. it's hard to read now, with his death so recent. but the person who posted it said he reads it often for inspiration, to make him think, "what's my excuse?" and in time i think it will do the same for me. thank you Levi, for all the good you brought into this world and all the beauty that you celebrated. you inspire me to do the same.

September 4, 2011

a tattoo of what?

i grew up in a state where tattooing was illegal (and remained illegal until 2004, although the first legal tattoo wasn't administered until 2006). obviously you wouldn't get arrested for having a tattoo, but the act itself of tattooing was illegal. it is still weird for me to go home for a visit and see a tattoo parlor a few blocks from my mom's house. coincidentally, an old friend of mine works there. he has a great blog where he posts recent work & stuff that inspires him. he is truly a skilled artist with an established aesthetic, and all of his work is incredible, but i have to admit, my favorite posts are the absurdly random tattoos requested by walk-ins. case in point:

from here

ridiculousness aside, that is a pretty amazing pizza lightning bolt.

September 3, 2011

Book to Movie: The Help.

recently a friend and i continued our tradition of going to see book-to-movie adaptations together. we started with The Time Traveler's Wife, which i read back in 2004 and have read it probably once a year ever since. it's one of my all-time favorite books and second only to the Harry Potter series as my go-to "comfort book."

(for those unfamiliar with "comfort media"- it's the same principle as comfort food. books you love and can read over & over again, movies you know by heart but watch a couple times a year anyway, music you've memorized but can't help putting it in most iTunes playlists you make. stuff that just feels good. but it doesn't necessarily have to be happy- i tear up every time i read the TTW, yet i keep coming back to it.)

we both had low expectations for the TTW movie (Eric Bana does NOT look like Egon Schiele, harrumph) but were pleasantly surprised by how faithful the movie was to the story, and how much we ultimately liked the movie. since then, we have also seen together:

Eat Pray Love: loved the book, hated the movie, now questioning if i even like the book anymore
The Lovely Bones: liked the book, liked the movie (would've loved it were it not sooo long)
Water for Elephants: liked the book, liked the movie

our most recent viewing was of The Help. in short, i loved the book and liked the movie. i grew up in the South with a housekeeper/nanny named Annie Mae, so some of the story hit close to home. Annie Mae worked for my grandmother and raised my dad and uncle, and when my grandmother moved into a nursing home, she started coming over to our house. she babysat me in the afternoons after preschool/kindergarten, where my afternoon snack often consisted of fried chicken and green beans cooked in bacon fat. it was the 80's, so the social climate was very different than Jackson, MS in the 60's. By then, Annie Mae came to our house less as an employee, and more as a family member, a third grandmother or great aunt. when she died, i was listed in the obituary as one of her granddaughters.

so, while i couldn't relate to the main plot of racism/social unrest/dangerous political climate, there were small moments in the book (and movie) that i recognized from my childhood. i had high hopes for the movie, but what could have become a classic film was way too schmaltzy and melodramatic for me. Not quite Lifetime-movie-bad, but i wouldn't be surprised if that was in the director's background. i felt like they did the story injustice by putting such a simple, positive spin on it. although, kudos for keeping in the bloody miscarriage scene. i thought for sure they wouldn't go there.

(apparently someone at NPR felt the same way. they recommend reading "Where is the Voice Coming From?" by Eudora Welty to get a more accurate picture of Jackson in the 1960's.)

September 2, 2011

Unlikely art supplies

this is an Oreo.

and that is not mold; it's embroidery thread.

Both are the work of Judith Klausner, seen here. head over to her website for more weird art, including a pretty sculpture made out of nail clippings and baby teeth...

September 1, 2011

The Waffle House Index

When a hurricane makes landfall, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency relies on a couple of metrics to assess its destructive power.

First, there is the well-known Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Then there is what he calls the "Waffle House Index."

Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.

"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed?" FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has said. "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."

- great article about Waffle House's efforts to stay open during natural disasters and other crises. as a Southerner, i have a soft spot in my heart for WH. when i was in high school, my friends and i would go to shows at a venue across town, and it was a tradition to head over to WH afterwards. it wasn't solely our tradition either- we would usually run into other concert goers and the occasional band member or two. it was a great extension of the evening and fostered this fun little community. it's funny how that happens- you wouldn't have thought to strike up a conversation with a random person at the show, but running into them afterwards creates this connection that you have to comment on- "hey, were you just at the Rocketboy show? OMG, so was i! do you want my toast?"

also, how awesome is this? the mobile Waffle House:

They are really taking this disaster-preparedness seriously.

Mom Conquers the State Fair: a bulletpoint re-cap of her visit

- early morning airport pickup
- visit at the house with house guest #1, talk shop about priests & altar guilds, consume lots of coffee
- lunch at Psycho Suzi's with Matt. first time out on the patio- much indecision on where to sit.
- afternoon naptime
- dinner with friends at the Blue Nile. Mom wanted to try something new, so Ethiopian it is!

- errands. bought Gordon a scratching post that he refuses to use.
- lunch with Matt at Wilde Roast. yay gelato (and yay for Mom whispering, "she is way too old to be wearing that" and me turning to see an older drag queen in a super tight Pucci dress)
- afternoon nap
- dinner at home, showing off some recipes i've found and convincing Mom that brussels sprouts can, in fact, be delicious
- drinks at Aster Cafe while watching Matt play with Annie Fitzgerald

Saturday, the day we've been waiting for.
*animal barns ("Now here is a cow who exudes what dairy farming is all about today.")
*cheese on a stick
*raptor demonstration
*DNR pond
*pork chop on a stick
*"If I Were Harry Potter" game at the MPR booth. I got to answer a question and received sweet HP glasses as my prize
*Agriculture building (Crop Art!)
*Farmers Union for a mocha on a stick and the Mystery Mountain Boys.
*craft building
*cheese curds
*sweet, sweet corn
*Sky Glider (not the best idea for mom and me)
*Fine Arts building
*deep fried pickles and chocolate covered bacon
*dairy building (aka, the Butterheads)
*International Bazaar, beer, Latin music and entertaining dancers, including an elderly man in a fanny pack and fisherman's cap.
- come home, eat real food, drink wine and watch O Brother Where Art Thou

- much lazing around in the morning
- mother/daughter skill share: teach mom the magic way of folding t-shirts, learn how to knit from her
- visit Northern Clay Center
- drop her off at airport, make her promise to visit more often.