June 29, 2012

wild and precious life.

everyone's favorite Mary Oliver poem, hand lettered by Lisa Congdon

June 27, 2012

Ear on Arm

photo from here

at first i thought it was an unusual tattoo. Nope. it's a prosthetic shaped like an ear that was surgically implanted into his arm:

His Ear on Arm project began in 2006 by using a skin expander to create excess skin on his left forearm.  A biocompatible scaffold was then surgically inserted into his left forearm and the skin suctioned around it to create the shape of the ear.  After all of these years he’s still perfecting the shape using stem cells and surgery to make the ear more prominent. Eventually Stelarc wants to insert a Wi-Fi enabled microphone in the ear of which he says, “if you’re in San Francisco and I’m in London, you’ll be able to listen in to what my ear is hearing, wherever you are and wherever I am.”

more from the Street Anatomy post quoted above, and a longer Wired article from May.

June 25, 2012

The Devil All the Time.

this book is dark. really dark. i should've known when i noticed the first author blurb on the back cover was from the author of Geek Love, probably the most disturbing novel i've ever read before this one. i finished it though- the characters, as depraved as they were, were also somewhat compelling and i wanted to know what happened to them. whatever list i saw this on billed it as a neo-Southern Gothic tale, but the evil is so heavy-handed, so relentless, it goes way beyond Southern Gothic. can't say i would ever recommend this one to anyone, unless you're into violent religious and/or sexual themes with basically no redemption at the end. it didn't feel as bleak as the end of Bright Shiny Morning, but i think it's because i just didn't care as much about the characters. Josh Ritter's NYT review is exactly how i feel about this one:

The West Virginia and southern Ohio landscapes of this book seem riven by one long, coal-smeared and hell-­harrowed gash in the earth, and the stories that vent from it file past in a crimson procession of evils so brutally creative, and so exactingly and lovingly detailed by Pollock, that over the course of the novel it becomes unclear whether they’ve been spawned for the purposes of plot or purely for atavistic pleasure.

i mean, i had to look up "atavistic" but afterwards i was like, yeah, EXACTLY.

June 22, 2012

crocheted things.

a couple days ago, i had to run over to Matt's studio at lunch to get his signature. we're refinancing the house and we missed one of the spots on the loan application that we needed to sign. normally i would have just forged it, but we have to sign with our first names, and as much as i tried, my "Robert" was pretty terrible. (i can sign a great "Matt" though.)

i stopped at SIP for a latte on the way back and saw this super cute bike with crocheted spoke thingys on the side, and immediately reminded myself, "see, this is why you need to keep your iPad with you- for photo ops just like this!"

the next day i get an email at work from Matt entitled "thought of you" with just this picture:

also, crocheted spider web? amazing! (seen on tumblr so of course no source)

June 21, 2012

The Night Circus

"Stories have changed, my dear boy," the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. "There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister's story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. and is not the dragon the hero of his own story? is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act?"

the Night Circus is about a traveling circus.... that (surprise!) is only open at night. it takes place at the turn of the 20th Century, so it felt very much like a Victorian version of Water for Elephants. it's a magical circus, with unexplained elements. (entire tents made of ice, it travels by train but hops from Europe to North America, etc) at the center of the story are 2 individuals who posses the magical powers that make the circus what it is. they've been trained their entire lives to be in competition with one another, but instead (surprise!) they fall in love. the circus was created solely to be the venue for their magical duels, but it grows to become something much more than that. people devote their lives to it, following it all across their continents. in the end, a decision must be made regarding the competition between the 2 magicians and the fate of the circus, and ultimately everyone connected to it.

i'm surprised to say i enjoyed this one as much as i did. it's a bit fanciful for my usual tastes, and the romance passages definitely had me rolling my eyes, but ultimately it's a well-crafted story with enough interesting elements to keep my more practical mind engaged. it was totally an exercise for my imagination, as the author created an incredibly detailed magical world that requires a little mental effort for it all to come to life. the visual elements are stunning to ponder and kind of begging to be made real, and partway through the first chapter i thought, "hmm, i wonder who's purchased the movie rights?" Surprise! Summit Entertainment did, the production studio that rocketed to fame with the Twilight movies. so i imagine i have a year or two to cast the movie in my mind and then see how the real version stacks up against my recently tuned-up imagination.

June 20, 2012

Why Cats Paint.

reason #851 i love our library... months and months ago i came across this photo somewhere on the internet:
...and saved it to my hard drive because hello, that's hilarious. while cleaning up my desktop today, i came across the photo and decided to see if the library had the book, just for fun. and guess what? they have 4 copies, one of which will soon be coming to a hold shelf near me. can't wait!

June 19, 2012

attention doggie lovers.

...you probably want to read this blog post on Manhattan Nest, another design-y blog in my Google Reader. it's written by an early twentysomething named Dan who lives in NYC with his boyfriend Max and their sweet puppies. i love his style and his writing even more so- he's hilarious & sarcastic, but also heartfelt and genuine when it matters.

anyway, they recently adopted this pit bull girlie and his blog post about it literally brought me to tears. i read it out loud to Matt later that day and teared up again. it's just such a wonderful portrayal of the connections between animals and their people, the inexplicable bond and love. he wrote it over 4 months ago, and i've gone back to it several times to re-read. i'm such a sucker for happy endings/beginnings like this. i'm also a sucker for all the Instagramming he does of Mekko, she's a beaut.

oh, and also! last month Dan found this poor little guy running from the police in Brooklyn:

he scooped him up, took him home and 6 hours later, the pup was reborn:

he has been named Linus and has since become part of the family. i mean, really.

*amazing before & after photos by Daniel Kanter via his Instagram feed.

June 16, 2012

The intelligent invertebrate.

this article on octopuses is amazing. the author chronicles meeting Athena, a very smart octopus, and the recent realization by scientists that octopuses have developed intelligence, emotions, and yes, individual personalities. they have the capacity for forethought, use of tools (some can open childproof caps on Tylenol bottles), and use items for play- one octopus made a game out of "bouncing" the pill bottle in her tank. they are also apparently quite the troublemakers when it comes to research and would often escape the research workers in hilarious ways- jumping out of the tank and literally running away, sometimes hiding on bookshelves. one was found in a teapot. lots of fun little details like that hidden in this science-y article.

June 12, 2012

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend

i think i heard about this one from an NPR interview with Susan Orlean. i've never read any of her books; i only know her as the writer Meryl Streep played in Adaptation. so, a 317 page book about a puppy dog seemed like a good place to start.

similarly, i had heard of Rin Tin Tin before but really didn't know any of his story, which is pretty incredible. his owner Lee Duncan was a soldier in WWI and was sent to examine a bombed site in France. being the dog lover that he is, he immediately recognized the destroyed dog kennel and investigated... to find a lone German Shepherd mama and her babies in the wreckage. he brought them all back to camp, where most were adopted by other soldiers. he kept the prettiest boy & girl, naming them Rin Tin Tin and Nanette, after the popular French good luck charms. Here's Lee and puppy Rinty:

Lee had his own childhood abandonment story, so he felt a special kinship with Rinty. (Nanette sadly died of pneumonia after they all arrived in the States.) he thought his dog was exceptional and would be great in the movies, so he began knocking on the doors of the new & fledgling movie industry. through a series of mostly-believable events (it was hard for Orlean to separate fact from lore), Rin Tin Tin landed a part in a silent film, and a star was born. he quickly became the most famous actor in Hollywood and basically was Warner Brothers' meal ticket for many years. in fact, for the first Academy Awards, he was voted Best Actor, but the Academy wanted people to take them seriously, so they gave the award to a human instead.

both photos from the book
he was highly intelligent and exceptionally trained, able to perform difficult & complicated tasks and maneuvers. seriously, the dog could fake a limp. but what really got people was his expression- he always held a mournful, knowing gaze that enraptured audiences. he became a true celebrity, with people clamoring to see him, meet him, and learn as much about him as possible.

the story of his & Lee's life together is a roller coaster, and it continues just so after their deaths. Lee believed there would always be a Rin Tin Tin, and after #1's death, many successors followed- some from the original Rin's bloodline, some not. the story weaves throughout the entire 20th century and involves epic highs and lows for the people involved.

what i loved about the book is how tenderly Orlean treats Lee and his relationship with Rin Tin Tin, and the broader sociological tangents she indulges in. She investigates the evolution from dog as farm companion to city pet- how the Industrial Revolution elevated their status from working animals that slept in the barn, to beloved family members. other topics she covers extensively are the use of canines in wartime, the genesis of obedience training- a path mostly trail blazed by women, and the rise and fall of particular breeds based on prevailing public opinion. all in all, a fascinating look at an "immortal" star, the individuals drawn to the dog and his legacy, and the larger story of how we as people relate to animals. highly recommend.

June 11, 2012

(sweet) potato salad

we eat a lot of sweet potatoes in our house. i can't remember the last time i bought a "regular" potato. one of our favorite recipes is this one from smitten kitchen, and my newest creation is basically the exact same thing, just re-configured to look like a traditional potato salad. it makes a good, hearty one-dish meal for us, and it's equally good hot or cold.

(Sweet) Potato Salad

4 small or 2 large sweet potatoes
handful of craisins

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, whatever you have
1-2 celery stalks (if you have it- i usually don't)
1/4 of a large yellow onion
olive oil
honey mustard
apple cider vinegar
crumbled goat cheese
kosher salt and black pepper

*use measurements as a starting point- i didn't measure anything the other night and am trying to go by memory/visualization. oops!

1. pre-heat your oven to 450.
2. dice the sweet potatoes into 3/4-1" chunks, toss them with a splash of olive oil, and spread them out onto a baking sheet. sprinkle kosher salt and pepper over them.
3. put them on your lower oven rack for about 12-ish minutes. after that, take them out and turn the chunks over- they should be browned and a leeeetle puffy/crispy on the bottoms. sprinkle a little more salt & pepper if you like, and stick them back in the oven for another 8-ish minutes.
4. dice up your onion and saute with a little olive oil.
5. chop walnuts & celery to desired size.
6. in a small mixing bowl, pour a little olive oil and a tiny amount of apple cider vinegar. plop in a little honey mustard and then whisk the three together into a dressing. (i have no idea on measurements- i just eyeball it. the smitten kitchen recipe uses 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon mustard- maybe start there and see how it tastes?)
7. when the sweet potatoes are done, take them out and dump 'em into a large mixing bowl. add the walnuts, celery, craisins, and onion and stir together.
8. mix in the dressing gradually- too much can be kind of overpowering.
9. scoop out into small bowls and sprinkle the goat cheese on top of each serving. add a little pepper on top 'cause it looks pretty.

June 9, 2012

Garden update #2

the backyard is coming along nicely, and both Matt and i have discovered the enjoyment of puttering around in your own dirt. here are some photo updates!

we've put in borders around all the garden beds (still need something to go in that open spot):

the hydrangea, doing just fine in its corner:

our variegated hostas have grown big stalks with multiple blossoms:

this rhododendron is by far the "happiest" plant:

bleeding hearts growing bigger:

i made that trellis out of branches from the trees we chopped down! we planted Boston Ivy to grow up it and over the fence:

honeysuckle to cover the random bit of chain link by the garage:

we can't keep up with the basil and rosemary! we've had caprese bruschetta many times already. and i found a little lantana for the turtle planter:

lilac still hanging in there, leaves still look funky. matt made brick borders for both the lilac and burning bush:

burning bush, with just a tiny bit of growth on it:

matt made a little patio in the middle of the yard for the fire pit/furnace thingy:

the best addition recently was a birthday gift from my folks- a genuine Pawley's Island Hammock and stand. my family went to Pawley's every summer; it is my favorite place on earth. i've been to the Hammock Shop and seen them being made, and we always had one in our backyard growing up. having one up here in my own backyard makes MN feel just a little more like home. this is where i've been spending most of my backyard time:

not pictured: the bluer hostas are still doing great. the ferns, sadly, have been mostly trampled by now. i even bought stakes to prop up the branches, but they were no match for the squirrels who burrow in the mulch to keep cool. i'm hoping they will still survive to the next year and multiply. i've since seen yards with a thick line of ferns and it looks SO pretty. time will tell!

June 8, 2012

Summer plans y'all.

photo from here
Summers in Minneapolis are glorious. people pour out of their homes into the greenest city i have ever seen. Planning a city around lakes and rivers ensured that every metro dweller lives within 6 blocks from a city park. (stat from '08 but i'm sure it still stands.) we pack a LOT into our short summer, and the only downside is that you simply cannot get to everything. there's too much! every night of the summer, there is free live music in one of the parks with a movie afterwards. there is a festival nearly every single weekend. it's nuts! last summer i think i got a little overwhelmed & paralyzed by all the options, so this year i am planning ahead. i've made a list of things that jumped out at me, and we're going to try and make it to as much as possible without it feeling like a chore. behold, the list as it stands now:

May 19: Art-A-Whirl

June 2: Edina Art Fair
June 3: Grand Old Day
June 9-10: Northern Spark
June 11: The Goonies at Lyndale Farmstead Park
June 15-16: St. Paul birthday getaway at the Covington Inn, w/lunch at W.A. Frost and Wits!

June 19: Celebrate NE Parade, 6:30pm
June 21: Super 8 in Powderhorn Park
June 23: Summer Solstice performance at Stone Arch 8:30pm
June 24: Pride Parade in downtown Mpls
(& fun run beforehand)
June 28: Greycoats EP Release at the Kitty Kat Club

June 30: Time to Fly 10k at Harriet Island in St. Paul
June 30: The Bad Plus at Mears Park, 8:30pm

June 15-July 15: Broken Crow exhibit at XYandZ Gallery

July 3: Romantica at Nicollet Island Pavilion, 7pm
July 4: Firecracker 10k at Lake Minnetonka; Fireworks downtown at 10pm

July 5: Slovczech at Minnehaha Falls Bandshell
July 6: Greycoats at Wabasha Days, Ecolab Plaza in St. Paul
July 13: Willow at Lake Harriet
July 13-14: Z+L wedding weekend

July 15: Color Run 5k at State Fairgrounds
July 15: paddleboard demo at Lake Calhoun
July 18: Footloose in Matthews Park, Torchlight Parade downtown

July 19: Ferris Bueller in Powderhorn Park
July 20: The Sound of Music at Lake Harriet
July 21: Art Car Parade, Rose Garden at Lake Harriet; Aquatennial fireworks; Greycoats & Jeremy Messersmith at First Ave

July 24: Say Anything at Father Hennepin Bluffs Park
July 27: The Sixth Sense at Lake Harriet
July 28-29: Red Hot Art at Stevens Square Park

July 21-September 9: Artists in Storefronts in the Whittier neighborhood
July 30-August 5: vacation in Asheville, NC

August 8: The Muppets at Johnson Square Playground (for Matt)
August 13: Rogue Valley at Loring Park, 7pm

August 16: Greycoats at MMAA Patio nights
August 17: Wayne's World at Lake Harriet

August 18: Greycoats at West Bank Music Festival
August 24: S. Carey and O Brother Where Art Thou at Lake Harriet, Greycoats at Amsterdam Bar + Hall
August 30: Cat Video Festival at Walker Art Center, 8pm

August 8, 15, 22, 29: Mill City Live, $5 admission to concert and museum
August 18- September 30: Renaissance Fair. i've never been- could this be the year?
August 23- September 3: Minnesota State Fair

other fun things for any day:
Foshay Tower observation deck
hike the bluffs in Red Wing
Afton State Park
Franconia Sculpture Park with burgers & beer at Al's Saloon

Beach shot

by Dabito on Old Brand New
while i still pine for the beach, i'm thrilled summer has hit Minnesota full force. here's to a balmy weekend....