Thursday, May 28

non-sequiturs, for sures.

The national spelling bee is tonight!

Normally i don't close on Thursdays, but a co-worker is enjoying a much-deserved vacation in Costa Rica, so it's off to work i go, in just a few minutes here. If i manage to close at 8:00 on the dot (basically impossible), and pedal home furiously without hitting any red lights (also impossible), then i will only miss about 20 minutes or so. Hmph. Right now i'm kind of wishing that Costa Rica didn't exist.

Found a 'y' in a small branch on the sidewalk; it looks just like a snail's adorable eye stalks. Also, there was an "x" in two cast away palm frond leaves at work the other day. Perfect as can be. i was tempted to stand on them, but sometimes when "x" marks the spot, it is not in a good way.

Found out i am an "eternalist", which means that i believe the past, present, and future are all true and real... unfortunately, i realized afterward that i don't really believe in the measurement of time at all, so this label is basically null.

Once, in middle school, i noticed a weird smell emanating from the kitchen. It was coming from the big, low, sliding drawer where we kept all of our potatoes. i went to check it out, because i hadn't watched enough horror movies yet.

i slid open the drawer carefully. It was very heavy.

i opened the hinged top.

And then my world was only fruit flies.

A great, disgusting swarm of them streamed out, heading right for my eyeballs, nostrils, and other soft places. i gagged at the smell and ran screaming into the backyard with my arms waving maniacally. Turns out some of our potatoes had gone rotten, and were just sitting there in that dark drawer, deliquescing. A lone fruit fly must have discovered this treasure, and thus the Great Fruit Fly Army was born. Just thinking about them down there, replicating, really skeeves me out. It also makes me think that we probably just should have eaten more goddamn potatoes that week. Ever since that day, i have had a huge problem with fruit flies... i would rather have my kitchen overrun with ants, or even tarantulas. ::shudder::

So i am reading The Kite Runner (fabulous book, so far!) these days. When the light from our star lamp hits the title words on the book's cover, it creates an amazing, otherworldly red. It is as if the letters are suddenly made of neon, or volcanically lit from within. As if the book itself was filled with bright, red-hot magma. i swear i must have sat there for five minutes, ruminating on this. Where is my mind? To be fair, it was past one in the morning, and tired is as tired does.

Bye for now.

Thursday, May 21

Aaron Koblin

Take a gander at Ten Thousand Cents.

Using Amazon's Mechanical Turk service, Mr. Koblin has digitally rendered a one-hundred-dollar bill by parceling it out to be drawn by ten thousand random people in one tiny increment each, with fascinating results.

The end visual aspect is quite pleasing, especially if you have done this sort of artwork yourself (block-by-block type of stuff; not knowing what the finished product is supposed to be). The bill looks pretty great. But take a closer look, and you will see the variety within: the spot-on squares, alone with the mistakes.

Some of the participants took their work very seriously, considering the penny they were paid for their output. They went for color gradations, texture, scale– the whole shebang. Others almost seemed as if they couldn't be bothered to finish their tiny square: either they gave up right away, or even after what seemed like a solid initial effort. At times you may wonder what led the person to put down the mouse. Did their boss walk in? Teakettle begin to boil? Internet connection severed? We will never know. But watching these squares (okay okay, rectangles!) take shape before your eyes offers some interesting insights into human behavior.

If you are like me, you'll go for the (seemingly) blank, beige areas first, and marvel at how far some people go to get it just so. Then start clicking on each obviously-errant block to see why and how the mistakes were made. Watching as some folks take the hardest path possible can be maddening, indeed. It is balanced by the ones who take their time, consider the brush shape and size they will use, and then if they make it to a 3rd color, you know that they are in it to win it.

Have fun!


If you have a few moments (okay, more like half an hour), sit with a cup of coffee and listen to some music while you watch the slideshow of winners' shots from the 2009 New York Photo Festival.

Just to give you fair warning, there is some unpleasantry. Birth defects, homelessness, stark death. But you will find joy, along with the pain.

My favorites were Elliot Ross's Animals series (those eyes!), Tyler Brown's single shot "Filamentis" (if anyone can tell me what this is a photo of i will love you dearly), Ernesto Bazan's photo book Cuba (multi-faceted wowness), and another photo book called Strangely Familiar: Acrobats, Athletes, and other Traveling Troupes.

i was also quite struck by student Ed Ou's honorable mention piece for the "Social Documentary Essay" category, Under a Nuclear Cloud. As i mentioned above, these are a bit hard to look at, but i have always been intensely drawn to the ramifications of the human race's development (and eventual use and misuse) of nuclear energy. Lastly, student Patrik Budenz's photo book Post Mortem knocked my socks off. At first i could barely look at these clear, intimate portraits of bodily death, but then i realized that this is a basic truth, pure and simple. So i began to see them through another lens, a photographer's lens. They are great shots, no doubt about it. The subject matter is (for me, at least) hard to grapple with, but i was able to set it aside, for the most part. There is still mystery in the simplicity of it all.

One of the truly amazing things about photography is the ability for those images to grab more than one individual and join them together somehow, even though geographically (and spiritually, socially) they may be thousands of miles apart. i don't doubt that there were others around the globe watching these same images along with me, and feeling their minds open up as their thoughts began to travel..... to travel..........

Anyway, here is a nice image of some daffodils (narcissus?) to make everything better. Toodles.


Tuesday, May 19

( ( (:vibrations:) ) )

So there was an earthquake 'round these parts on Saturday night. A magnitude 4.7, which is certainly not a whopper, but enough to make you look a little more closely at how secure your bookcases are.

We were out having dinner at the time, with a group of fine feathered folks, to say goodbye to a dear friend who is leaving the country. At one point i noticed something odd hanging from the rafters above a fellow dining-companion's head.

Allison, i said, if there's an earthquake, just make sure you move backwards really quickly!

She looked up and laughed. An odd, wrought-iron candelabra of sorts was dangling a few feet above her, holding two spoons and two (rather sharp-looking) forks.

When we found out later that night that there'd been a tremor around the same time we'd all been having dinner, she and i looked at each other immediately across the room.

What in the...?

Later, at an apartment gathering (the natural extension of many dinner-parties), i was outside on the back porch having a cigarette with friends, admiring a particularly robust and delicious-looking basil plant. Inspired, i pinched a leaf off, rubbed it between my fingers a bit, and threw it into my vodka-and-guava juice cocktail. Success! The basil flavor was not quite as strong as i'd hoped, and my explanation was offered up as we headed inside: well, it's not muddled, but it'll have to do.

Now, the very minute Nat's head popped into the living room through the sliding glass door, the first words he heard were "muddled basil". He stopped short, looked back at me with wide eyes. Entering the room, i asked the guy who'd uttered the phrase if he had just seen me drop the basil leaf into my drink.


i don't even think he knew there was a basil plant out there. We were all a bit mystified, to say the least. i already have the crystal ball and the Tarot cards, now i just need to work on honing my skills.

(unless word gets out, and someone decides to persecute me for being a 'witch'. that would certainly put a damper on things.)

Saturday, May 16

the tang of memory.

well, well!

Nat's mom bestowed upon us a couple of lovely little treasures, the Book of Trees and Wild Animals of North America. Both are diminutive in size, the latter no bigger than a postcard, and the bindings have begun to crumble away, revealing old stitches and yellowing glue. A (rather naughty) boy named Phillip William Knight was presumably the original recipient of these two teensy tomes; he has scribbled over more than half of the pages in Wild Animals, including the (now faded) color illustrations, but thankfully left the nicer color plates in the Book of Trees untouched.

The Book of Trees appears to have been published in 1939, and features such informative tidbits as: How a Twig Grows, Cross Section of a Leaf, How Fruit Trees are Grafted, and White Pine Board (showing grain).

Front and back covers:

Inside pages:

(i chose the paper birch for you guys because it is maybe my favorite tree. When i was a kid i would collect the catkins and sprinkle them as fairy dust into my multitudinous potions.)

Wild Animals of North America is much more basic, but no less enthralling. i can't find out when this one was published, but if you ever needed a basic run-down on the Ocelot, Marten, Chipmunk or Alaskan Fur Seal, this is your go-to guide.

(i decided upon the musk-ox here because, well, just look at the drawing! Outstanding.)

We can forgive them their mouldy odors because it is so stirring to imagine all of the eager pairs of eyes that have pored through their pages. Young, impressionable brains, hungry for knowledge, back in a time when the natural world was more revered than it is today. i only wish we had kept sacred much more of that respect, but one can always hope for a resurgence?

('scuse the weird image-editing. i'm not so great at this yet.)

Thursday, May 14


Sweet Jesus, what is it with me and cover songs?! It's becoming a borderline obsession.

In searching for the Jesus and Mary Chain's lovely track "Just Like Honey", for a Song of the Day in the last post, i happened across this quite fetching video for a cover version sung by Headless Heroes. i still long for the original JMC tune, but this one enthralled me nonetheless. She has a rich, clear voice and the visuals are cute as can be. Enjoy:

Intrigued, i played the video for their cover of Philamore Lincoln's "The North Wind Blew South". Just beautiful, with amazing tilt-shift photography, which i am an absolute fool for. Watch:

..alrighty then! Happy Thor's Day, y'all.

Getting all existential and junk.

It's settled, we're going to see PJ and John Parish!

Humphrey's by the Bay, i know nothing about, but it won't even matter because i will be in the same room with a woman who is practically my idol, if i even have such a thing. The talent will ooze. i can't wait :) i feel very fortunate to be able to attend, even as i am bristling inside because i can't travel to Geneva with Nat this summer. Switzerland is somewhere i have always wanted to go, but it's just not in the cards this time. By "in the cards" i mean something much more like "in the bank account".

In other news, our 9th anniversary is coming up! Feels like it was just yesterday... not sure what (if anything) we should do, especially considering that the 10th will probably feel more like a big one, and we should definitely do something wild. i do have some tentative Super Special Secret Plans for this year, actually, but since Nat reads this blog sometimes (hi!), i have to keep mum for now.

Wow, could this post be any more boring for you all? Let's see what i can do.

Cigarettes are creeping back in to our diet. This is not good. :/

i want to take a photography class.

i recently got back in touch with my old best friend from childhood, and i could not be happier. The floodgates have opened, the memories are a torrent. Let's just hope i can close it back up again before i get washed away.


The other night i was bicycling home and suddenly had a 3-second epiphany. i was listening to a track i'd downloaded onto my iPod (an original song from a now-cancelled TV series, Life On Mars), which is interspersed with some dialogue from the show. At one point a character says: we live, we die; nobody knows why.

And that's when i suddenly tripped out. As i explained it to Nat: it was like a simultaneous expansion and implosion of my brain, my knowledge, my perception, everything. Kind of like, all of the cells in my body took a collective deep breath and almost... jumped. Like that feeling you get right before you dive into a body of water. A sort of "oh boy, here we go!" type of sensation. A massive sucking, channeling feeling. Meanwhile my feet kept pedaling, my arms steered me true, but i wasn't really there. My eyeballs stared at the streetlights, the rows of cars parked on the side of the road, the silhouettes of eucalyptus trees against the blocky edifice of a nearby middle school. And i just... lost it, for a second. It dawned on me that things really were incredibly strange, and just how in the hell did the human race get to this point? When does "advancement" cease to be actual advancement? Why do things come and then go? And why do some things stay? Everything is echoes.

and then snap, i was back in my form, standing up to pedal furiously through the yellow light at the intersection to make it home.

So then Nat and i were talking last night about memory, and spacetime, and the old 'Why We Are Here'. i tend to think about memory as a sort of archaeology of one's life. i feel it is essential to be able to celebrate the past and remember what it felt like to be you, at any and all possible times that you were you. Because we change a little every day (even despite that some of us never really change, in a sense), and our sense of self is constantly meandering.. swelling and imploding. We are ourselves, but we are always someone new, having new thoughts and feelings and observations, at every next moment. This reminds me of my favorite "philosopher's quote", from Heraclitus, who said that you cannot step into the same river twice. For some reason i love that. It is perfect for life, the universe, and everything. For instance, you can stop at the same coffee cart on your way to work each day, and be helped by the same old man, but just as much as everything is the same, everything is also different. The sun is in a different position in the sky. The cars passing by are not the same (and if they are, they might be in a different lane, etc.), the carton of milk you pour into your coffee is different, (or if it's the same one, then the measurement of milk itself is not the same milk as you used the day before), the sounds are different, the clothing you (and others) are wearing is different, your body is one day different, etc.
i guess what i am saying is, you have the ability to make your life (your memory!) what you want it to be. While you wait for your coffee, you could look up. Check out the clouds, or the tops of the buildings. You could look down, count how many wads of gum are on the small piece of sidewalk you are standing on. You could look across the street. You could ask the name of the guy who is parceling out your beverage. You could even chose this particular morning to skip the coffee cart, and try someplace new. Or maybe you bring your own cup of joe this time, so you wave to the coffee cart guy as you pass and maybe catch the florist down the street opening up the doors to their shop, which is usually through by the time you get there. i'm definitely rambling now, but the possibilities are endless. You just have to take them and run with them. A new perspective is almost always good.

Is the past real? Is the future real? The past is as real as you are.

As long as i am here, for example, living this life, then the line of "what has happened to me" streams out behind me, like a wake. Angles of light falling on someone's face, the temperature of a snowbank, the smell of frying potatoes one particular morning, the sound of Nat tuning his violin, that time i broke my elbow. These "snapshots" contained within will always be "true", and "real", for as long as i am here to remember them. Once i am gone, that wake will diminish to a size consisting solely of other people's versions of those same memories (people who were there with me when they happened, e.g.). And when they, too, are gone, it continues to diminish. But when i keep thinking about it, following it to its end, there must be enough connections between people that these things never truly end or cease to exist. That they all morph and homogenize into a collective human experience consisting of truth, faith, suffering, elation, anger, wonderment, and letting go. Because eventually that's what we all have to do.

Fake Philosophy 101 is now over. Class dismissed.

Wednesday, May 13


Finally! Mother's Day week is over. Man, that was a blur. i came out of it completely (mentally and physically) exhausted, and sick to death of flowers, for once. Although i must say that it gladdens my heart to see how many people–young men, especially!–come out of the woodwork to drop some cash for Mom, without blinking an eye. Because we all know they're worth it. :)
And it made the endless toil seem worthwhile, as opposed to, say, Valentine's Day. Ugh, there's a floral holiday i could do without. Usually you get about one customer with a really sweet or interesting story, and who doesn't want the standard dozen roses. As much as i hate this expression (which is Nat's fault, by the way), can't we all just think outside the box a little more, people?

In any case. As i was counting the drawer on Sunday night, my co-worker was doing the last little bits of tidying up before we went home for sleep, glorious sleep. Then suddenly, there was a large, bloody-faced man. He was holding his shirt in one enormous hand and seemed to be missing his shoes, but thankfully still had on his cargo shorts. Blood had exploded from his nose (and other wounds on his face) and streamed down his face and bare chest, a few drops landing on his beer gut. It was still bright red and wet, so all i could think was that he'd recently been in a very bad (bar?) fight. He was drunkenly asking us how much farther it was to Mission Blvd. When April explained that he was going the wrong way, he seemed at the end of his rope and began to trudge off. i was busy trying to cover up the fat stacks of cash i was counting, because, well– you never know. And i hate that we have to count the cash like that, out there in the open, but thankfully it was a holiday and i had someone else there with me.

April asked if he needed a paper towel, so he stumbled back over. She ran some water over it and handed it over. He wiped the stiff (even when wet), rough brown paper over his face as we averted our eyes. Swaying, he tried to toss it in the garbage can but missed. It hit the ground with a wet smack. He rudely asked for another piece, and April told him to pick up the other one first. She walked over in my direction because the sight of him was a bit too much. He proceeded to walk right on up to our sink and begin washing himself off, spitting and hawking bloody loogeys onto the brushed stainless steel surface and using mile after mile of paper towels. Fairly delightful.

"You know, there's a bathroom right inside [the grocery store]..." April offered.
"Don't worry about it, dude." Oh, really, guy? You're gonna be an asshole, now?

Soon after, he began to sob and sob, presumably because "Forever Young" by Alphaville was blasting from my iPod. April was thoughtful enough to turn it off, because i couldn't hear him crying but remember thinking how strangely bittersweet and out-of-place the song was for the scene. i figured later that he was probably crying because his life sucks. Here he is, on a Sunday night, broken and bleeding and wandering down the road. Poor dude. April bleached everything he touched and we tried to wash away the bloodstains on the sidewalks. ::shudder::

So yeah! That was the cap to our crazy week... hooray. Hopefully work today will involve nothing more exciting than that.

Wednesday, May 6

cream in my coffee, sugar in my bowl.

You know what sucks? When you crunch down on some sand in your morning oatmeal. Oh who am i kidding, it's almost noon. That's lunchtime for most people. But seriously: what was that grit i just chewed on and where did it come from? Nails on a chalkboard ain't got nothin' on what i just went through.

In other news: go, Maine! i am so excited about all of this. (uh-oh, the record is skipping at the radio station i'm listening to; there we go.) It's funny– it seems like all the states were just waiting for a trend to catch fire, so they could follow suit. No one wanted to be the trailblazer, especially with such a sensitive issue. Except Massachusetts. They just rock, apparently.

::patiently waits for California to get its shit together::

Sunday, May 3

real life, and the escapes thereof.

So, we recently happened upon some beautiful and cleverly-crafted, highly imaginative games which help keep the doldrums away.

The first of which is the Graveyard, which i found through Hip.Young.Thing. Very slow and thoughtful and beautiful... more of a short "scene" than a "game", but a virtual reality which i found extremely relaxing and a bit hard to leave. Truly realistic atmospheric sounds (dog barking, birds chirping, wind rustling) and a gorgeously realized bright-then-dark cloudy sky. Only wish there was a bigger area to explore. i could go at that pace forever! Shifts your brain into a different gear. Definitely hang in there for the macabre ditty that comes out of nowhere at the midway point.

Next up was Windosill, another amazing visual journey from Vectorpark. i cannot recommend this game enough– lots of intuitive problem-solving, simple but unique artwork with hushed and dreamy tones, and a pretty spot-on physics engine. Very captivating and wondrous! Just like being a kid again. Makes me want to say "sublime", even though i (recently, eep) discovered that i've been using that word incorrectly. i always thought it meant sort of subtly amazing, or possessing an understated brilliance; turns out that the word is a little more overt than that. But either way you slice it, it's still the word i choose here. Fun, fun, fun. The first thing we'd seen from these folks was Feed the Head, which is a decidedly sillier game, even though the overall tone is similar. There is a head. On the screen. Click it and see what happens! With Vectorpark, please don't hesitate to click absolutely everything, more than once, even. You won't be disappointed.

Lastly, the super-cute platform game Paper Moon. Graphically, it resembles a cartoonish pop-up book brought to life. The music fits well, and the game itself is fun enough. i mostly enjoyed it for the art and the genius interactive effect (the spacebar!), and hopefully you will too.


Unrelated: It's Mother's Day week at the shop. When i take my clothes off at the end of the day, little bits of eucalyptus and rose petals fall onto the floor, from don't ask me where. i can't open my hands all the way because they are so tight from being wet all day, and also covered with painful cuts and pricks. i can only imagine what our farmer friends are going through. Good luck to you all.

In addition, today was Cinco de Mayo, the most recent Excuse-for-bored-and-overpriveleged-people-to-drink holiday 'round these parts, the last being St. Patty's Day, of course (green beer!). So the sidewalk this afternoon was filled with drunk idiots in sombreros careening by on bikes and shouting at their friends as to when and where the next Happy Hour is. i saw a 50-year-old guy wearing a shirt that said Strippers Love My Pole, and witnessed another older man ask some ladies to "show [their] tits", because "it's Mardi Gras! WOOOOOOOOOOO!!", while motioning in a painfully awkward "raise-the-roof" fashion. The clouds of cologne were practically deafening, and the click of high-heels ever-present. Garnet Avenue has become wearisome, indeed. It's fuckin' sordid, really. Apologies for the language. i'm working on my sailor-mouth, but old habits die hard, don't ya know.

In the end, it was Cyndi Lauper and the Everly Brothers who saved the day. Thanks, guys.

and a bonus, from Tommy James and the Shondells:


Mayday, mayday!

So Nat had a birthday. on May the first. His mom and pop and sis drove down from L.A. and we all went out for Indian food. it somehow happened that i ended up paying, which caused a bit of a snafu. Turns out the 'rents wanted to buy their son's birthday dinner... who knew?!

They showed up around 8, at which time i was in the kitchen up to my elbows in raspberry filling, 4 layers of chocolate cake, almond/vanilla custard, and a huge bowl of frosting made from whipping cream and powdered sugar. There was no way i could assemble everything in time for us to eat dinner, so i stowed the cake half-finished. We got home rather late, 11:30 or so, and regaled Nat's dad with some Muay Thai fight scenes (from the movie Chocolate; i give it a 5 or 6 of 10) while Nat opened his last few presents. His total loot included a deluxe DVD of Labyrinth, a lavender tie, 2 books (one on physics and one on the search for El Dorado), a Jeff Buckley CD, and a Batman toy from Long's. What?! It was a joke. Besides, we're totally passing it on to a friend who turns the ripe old age of seven this month. At which point said Batman toy will become far from a joke- it will become The Most Important Thing in the Universe. At least for a little while ;)

Um, in any case, the family drove home, and i went back to The Cake. The modified Black Forest Cake, the one i bought fancy piping tips for and everything! Here's a tip for all of you new to the layer-cake thing: make sure you put the top parts of each cake round (the curved bit) upside-down as you stack. That way the filling won't just fall right off the sloped sides, the way mine did. Which, believe me, ain't no fun at one in the morning. Also, be sure said filling is thoroughly chilled, or else your kitchen will end up looking like the Raspberry Massacre took place in it. ::sigh:: Remember the cake-baking scene from Sleeping Beauty? Well if you don't, watch away:

Let's just say that i got in a little over my head, but i finally got it finished. At one-thirty a.m. We each ate a slice for breakfast ;) Totally worth it. And now that Nat's 34th is safely behind us, i can look forward to freaking out about my 30th. (ouch!) Not looking forward to it, i can tell you that much. But at least there will definitely be cake!

p.s.) here is the (finally) finished Cake. Fancy!