Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The hardest thing about being him... moustache.

Surrealism or, I'll never know how they figured it out.

The Hag by Robert Herrick (1648)


The Hag by Robert Herrick (1648)

The Hag is astride,
This night for to ride;
The Devill and shee together:
Through thick, and through thin,
Now out, and then in,
Though ne’r so foule be the weather.

A Thorn or a Burr
She takes for a Spurre:
With a lash of a Bramble she rides now,
Through Brakes and through Bryars,
O’re Ditches, and Mires,
She followes the Spirit that guides now.

No Beast, for his food,
Dares now range the wood;
But husht in his laire he lies lurking:
While mischiefs, by these,
On Land and on Seas,
At noone of Night are working,

The storme will arise,
And trouble the skies;
This night, and more for the wonder,
The ghost from the Tomb
Affrighted shall come,
Cal’d out by the clap of the Thunder.

The Raven - Halloween 2007

A big thank you to Oimoi for inviting me to take part in his interpretation of The Raven:

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Obviously, I submitted two versions - one with Rags, and one without. See my previous post for the Rags-flavored version.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rags is famous on teh interwebs.

I was recently asked to participate in a community reading of sorts, of The Raven, in video form. I hope to be able to post the finished product later today, but in the mean time, here's my portion:

Monday, October 29, 2007

So, you think you had a busy weekend?

My weekends are usually rather uneventful. Typically, I go to a couple/few restaurants, catch up on my sleep, run some errands, etc, etc. This past weekend, however, I had not one, but two special events and am now tired and a wee bit cranky because I missed the whole "catch up on my sleep" part of the weekend. That, and my allergies are driving me freaking insane but I can't take a Benedryl because it will make me even sleepier. I love Fall and I hate Fall. More love than hate, but allergies are a bitch. Anyway...

Friday night I left work and headed 100 miles north toward Albany, Missouri to attend Sue's (my ex-stepmom) 50th birthday party. The party was held at the Spitfire Grill, one of a handful of restaurants in Albany. Since Sue's birthday is on Halloween, the birthday party was also a Halloween party/costume contest. Sue and the Spitfire went all out with Halloween decorations and the place looked incredible. There were pumpkins on all the tables, and lots of cobwebs and bats and hay bales and ghosts and witches and even an inflatable spider and an inflatable Frankenstein monster.

I didn't dress up for two reasons. One, I had to drive an hour and a half to get there and didn't want to wear a costume for that long, and two, I don't know what I would have been, anyway. My sister and her friend dressed up as Wayne and Garth.

Overall, the party was a huge success and everyone had a great time. Thank you Sue, for turning 50 and throwing a heckuva good party!

Now on to Saturday. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm a sucker for So You Think You Can Dance and was so excited to get tickets to the tour stopover at the Sprint Center. We began our evening with dinner at Eden Alley, where I had the best curry dahl I've ever had. As we left the restaurant, this was going on across the street:



Yes, those are bear and cat costumes. Yes, they were dancing. No, I don't know what in the hell they were doing there.

We headed to the Sprint Center and parked for $5 in a well-lit garage two blocks north of the venue. So much for the parking worries. Being close to the Sprint Center, I felt like I was somewhere other than Kansas City. The light shining from within the structure is quite striking:



I didn't see much art inside the building, but this was really impressive:



As we entered the arena, I was surprised at how the place felt big and intimate at the same time. We had really good seats for the show, but I think that 90% of the seats could be considered really good.

My favorite part of the Sprint Center is something I forgot to take a picture of, probably because I was too excited. There are food counters all around the arena, most of which serve the typical overpriced arena fare - for example, $3.50 for a cup of hot chocolate or chocolate chip cookie. I'm not gonna pay that unless I'm literally starving to death. But the good people at Quik Trip understand me, and that's why there's a Quik Trip in the Sprint Center. Instead of spending $7 on hot chocolate and a cookie, we got a cappuccino and two donuts (really good donuts, I must say) for $2.72. That made me so happy!

My happiness continued as the show began. As I said, we had good seats, and could see the dancing really well. All of my favorite dances from the 2007 season were performed, and overall, they were more impressive in person. Some of them lost a little without full make-up (like the Wade Robson choreographed good/evil number for Neil and Lauren) but others, like practically every Danny number, were better than on the original show.

Only flash photography was prohibited, so I got a few pictures. Here's most of the cast, minus Jesus, Hok and Shauna, who were waiting in the wings:



Here's Neil and Sabra during their amazing pasa doble:



Friday, October 26, 2007

Spooky crafts.

When I was a kid, my great-aunt Betty taught me how to make potpourri sachets using small sewing hoops, lace, potpourri and a glue gun. One summer I made dozens and dozens of these, decorating each one with ribbon and little silk flowers. I sold several of them at the Albany, Missouri Frontier Days craft fair, and felt quite pleased with myself. My stint as a crafter didn't last long, however. I became bored with it, and didn't really find anything else along those lines that sparked my interest.

That doesn't mean that I still don't get the crafty bug every now and again. Today, I made paper craft Halloween decorations for my office.

I made a skull:



This was assembled using only ancient (i.e. clumsy and dull) office scissors and the least-sticky tape in the world. I tried to glue the skull with super-glue, and while that seemed to work, I still have dried glue on my fingers, hence, the switch to not-really-sticky tape. I think these would have been much easier to assemble if I had a decent pair of smaller scissors and some Elmer's glue or a glue stick.

Yamaha (the same company that makes the motorcycles) has an amazing collection of free paper craft patterns free for download. Some of these are really incredible - it's hard to imagine that they are made with just folded paper. I think this panda is especially cool.

They also have patterns for motorcycles, other animals, and seasons. I may give the pumpkins a try before too long, although I must admit that they may be way out of my league.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Semi-Literate by Joyce Sutphen

Once I had no sense of the alphabet's
Song, of its long train that wound along
The top of the chalkboard in the schoolroom.

I was anxious about little pairs of letters
That seemed to hold hands and go off into
The woods together: c and d; e and...

F(that’s right!); h and I (hi!); j and k.
And then there was the caterpillar of
l-m-n-o-p. What could that be?

I was sure it meant something, something
Important, but I’ve never met one yet.
Q-r-s was curious, that was certain,

T-u-v I liked because it reminded
Me of a little cabin by a lake
Where waves crashed on rocks all night. W.

Was that only one letter? One piece
Of the alphabet? Or did it come apart
To make another u and v? X, oh

Yes—that one made sense, but Y didn’t
Sound the way it looked, and when you asked
"Why?" that wasn’t it, but z was something

I could love: a little striped horse, gazing
Out the window, longing to go home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Passages.

Everyone say "thank you" to Bookpusher for linking to what may be the most incredible collection of photographs I've seen in a great while:

A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries

I've always had a love affair with books, and these photographs are like pornography for the book-lover. There is so much power and beauty wrapped up in libraries like the ones pictured - volume after volume of knowledge so gloriously displayed, in a manner fitting the contents of the collections. I am fascinated that such places exist at all, especially my own country, where it seems many people seem to be devaluing scholarly pursuits as of late.

A while back, I came upon a poll that asked whether or not it is okay to write in or mark up books. I fall squarely on the YES side. I have a tangible relationship with a book, and underlining passages and taking notes in the margins is part of that relationship. I find pleasure in picking up a book years after I've originally marked the hell out of it, and seeing what I found interesting about it during a long-ago read-through. Many times, what interested me then isn't quite the same as what interests me now, and I find myself rediscovering parts of me that have faded in favor of more contemporary leanings.

This physical interaction with a text is hampered quite a bit by my Sony Reader. No longer can I take scribble my thoughts in margins for posterity to discover. Instead, I can carry 50 books with me at a time, which, to me, is its own benefit. I hope that an electronic reader is in development that allows for more interaction, because I really do miss it. Since not all books are available for the reader, however, I still get the chance to put pen to margin on occasion.

I don't know if I can quite convey the attraction that books and libraries and bookstores hold for me. A gardener who feels a connection to the earth when they hold soil in their fingers, a baker who feels a connection to hearth and home as they kneed bread - these are what I imagine to be similar feelings as the connection to knowledge and history and humanity I feel when I hold a book. It's as if I'm part of something very big, and at the same time, incredibly personal. All readers who take part in the same reading experience share a common consciousness, and this connection is something that is greater than just the author and the reader and the publisher and the supplier. This connection is the sharing of wisdom through the ages, and every time I pick up a book, I become timeless.

A cold day, a warm robe, a steaming cup of coffee, and a good book - for me, very few things come as close to absolute perfection.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It get it now.

So this is what the abortion debate is all about.

Cold comforts.

Elam [1:57 PM]:
I hate staying in hotels. I'm to the point where I want to bring a sleeping bag if I have to stay in one.
Mr. Awesome [1:57 PM]:
i always bring my own pillow and i get rid of that nasty ass comforter ASAP
Elam [1:58 PM]:
yep
Mr. Awesome [1:58 PM]:
wtf do i need a blanket for when someone else is paying the heating bill
Elam [1:58 PM]:
hahahaha

Delusional.

The myth of Middle America (hint: we're not farmers, so quit pretending you're any different from the software engineer down the block). Bonus: WoW discussion.

deConstruction.

The clean-up effort along Brighton north of Vivion has been slow going. Many of the disheveled houses that butted up against the road have been knocked down, but the area still looked dumpy, thanks to the pawn shop that took up residence in an old strip mall about two years ago.

Pawn shops have their place in society, but my limited experience with them has given me an impression of clutter and desperation. The one that moved in had a constant supply of cars, trailers, boats and whatever else couldn't fit through the door littering the parking lot. The windows were painted with florescent paint decrying that week's bargains of game consoles, jewelry and musical instruments. I'm the type that can't help but think of the poor soul so in need of cash that they have to pawn Billy's trumpet or Sara's Gameboy or else go without food or electricity for the month. The steady stream of clientèle has done little to break this impression.

A few months ago, the businesses in the strip mall all closed up shop, each one painting a passive-aggressive goodbye note on their windows. Late last week, I noticed this on my drive home from work  - the dilapidated strip mall, an abandoned car wash, and the old spaghetti-and-catfish-joint (most recently a drive-through coffee shop) were all reduced to a few angular piles of rubble.



These businesses have been cleared to make way for a new CVS pharmacy. While a part of me is a little sad that something more home-grown isn't building on the site, I can't help but celebrate the clean-up of what is really an area in desperate need of new business life. Recently, a CVS went up on the site of the old ASAP gas station on N. Oak. ASAP had been a local high school hang out back in the day, but had fallen on hard times and had sat empty for a couple of years, its bleakness seeping into the area surrounding it. Then CVS went in, and suddenly the area looks bright and shiny and new. I hope the same happens to my corner.

Monday, October 22, 2007

3 random thoughts.


  • I'm completely addicted to pumpkin scones from Starbucks. They are the perfect this-time-of-year food. This site claims to have the exact recipe, so I think I might give it a shot. I've never baked scones before. In fact, the most creative baking I've done involves chocolate chip cookies and one particularly difficult (but delicious) carrot cake.

  • If you aren't watching Dexter on Showtime, you should be. It's suspenseful, smart and creepy, with just enough gore and humor to make it really interesting. Michael C. Hall is the most likable sociopathic serial killer in TV history.

  • I don't know what I would do without clear fingernail polish.

Shoe fetish.

As if I needed another reason to buy shoes from Zappos.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lunch 'n' Learn.

Elam [3:10 PM]:


I left my sandwich on the windowsill in the conference room. Could you please stick it in the fridge?


Mr. Awesome [3:10 PM]:


is it a flavor i'd be interested in?


Elam [3:11 PM]:


It's a subway club. If you want it, it's yours.


Mr. Awesome [3:11 PM]:


I'll just pick the meat off, but I'll save the rest for you. 


Elam [3:11 PM]:


If you eat any of it, you can just throw the rest away.


Mr. Awesome [3:12 PM]:


whatever dude.


Mr. Awesome[3:12 PM]:


i'll stick it in the fridge.


Elam [3:12 PM]:


haha


Elam [3:12 PM]:


ok


Mr. Awesome [3:15 PM]:


I put a sign on it - "This is Elam's sandwich don't F@$K with it"


Elam [3:15 PM]:


cool

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Orly?

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His mouth can hold more than his belly can,
He can hold in his beak,
Enough food for a week!
I'm damned if I know how the hell he can!

- Dixon Lanier Merritt

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back on the bookshelf.

I finished a couple of books recently. The first was Marilynne Robinson's Gilead: A Novel. This book won the Pulitzer prize for literature in 2006, which is the primary reason I chose it. The premise is that a 70-something preacher with a failing heart is writing an extended letter to his seven year-old son, as he knows the boy will most likely grow up without him. We learn about the preacher, his family and friends, and the life he had in the past and currently with the boy's mother.

Given that Gilead, on the surface, appears more or less religious in nature (and here I will take a very short tangent - I'd like to say, for the record, that I am an agnostic. Swearing up and down that you know for a fact that there is no god is as silly as swearing up and down that you know for a fact that there is one. The simple fact of the matter is that we don't know - period), I thought I would read a few lines and put it down, never to finish it. Instead, I found myself settling into the pages like one finds ease on a hot day with a glass of lemonade under a shade tree. The pace of the story is slow, but so is Iowa, where the story is (mostly) set. This slowness was surprisingly soothing and comforting and familiar, and as I've spent a little bit of time in Iowa with my father's family in the past, the familiarity returned me to a simpler and more easy-going place in time.

This brings me to the other book I finished (just the other day): Toni Morrison's Love. Love is also set in another place and time, although I don't know if it was necessarily simpler. Morrison is one of my favorite authors. I've read and re-read Beloved, and was memorized by The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon. I liked Love, but I didn't love Love. I liked what I always like about Morrison's writing - the way she can say in a sentence what many writers can't say in a page. Her writing is both easy and challenging to read - the sentences are easy enough to read and understand, but each word is chosen so very carefully that it often takes a much closer read to really get what she's saying. Her books appear short, but take every bit as long to digest as novels twice the size. I love that, because when I do finally get what she's doing, it's like finding a $10 bill on the sidewalk. Overall, though, the story of Love didn't grab me and shake me and leave me wanting more like some of her other novels. I recommend it for Morrison fans, but if you've never read Toni Morrison, read Beloved. Now.

I'm currently reading a short story collection compiled by David Sedaris called Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. Sedaris says he chose the stories in this collection because they have stuck with him, whether they remind him to be a better person, or take him to another place and time, or make him laugh or cry or both. I've just finished the first story in the collection, a story by Richard Yeats called, "Oh Joseph, I'm So Tired." Like so many short stories, this one starts out going in one direction, but ends up in a completely different and more creative place than I could have imagined.

Discovery.

What am I after all but a child,
Pleas'd with the sound of my own name?
repeating it over and over;
I stand apart to hear - it never tires me.

To you your name also;
Did you think there was nothing but two or three
pronounciations in the sound of your name?

- Walt Whitman

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lawlgiver.

I am the lawgiver!

Like A Beacon by Grace Nichols

In London
every now and then
I get this craving
for my mother's food
I leave art galleries
in search of plantains
saltfish/sweet potatoes

I need this link

I need this touch
of home
swinging my bag
like a beacon
against the cold

Monday, October 8, 2007

Free to good home.

Mary [2:44 PM]:
I have a kitten in my armpit
Lynn [2:44 PM]:
You might want to get that checked. That could be a sign of something... sinister.
Mary [2:44 PM]:
I felt a lump...
Lynn [2:45 PM]:
And you pulled at it and a kitten came out?!?
Lynn [2:45 PM]:
THAT'S AMAZING!
Mary [2:45 PM]:
So... you need a kitten by any chance?
Mary [2:45 PM]:
We caught him in the bushes... about 5-6 weeks old, charcoal with green eyes and white paws
Mary [2:46 PM]:
likes armpits and tuna
Lynn [2:46 PM]:
Everyone needs a kitten. I, however, am all kittened-up. I'll check around and see if anyone is lacking in their kitten quota
Mary [2:46 PM]:
Cool, thanks
Lynn [2:46 PM]:
He sounds adorable. Maybe you can keep him in your desk?
Mary [2:47 PM]:
Too tempting.
Mary [2:47 PM]:
Work is better with kittens
Lynn [2:47 PM]:
Everything is better with kittens.

The Railway Children by Seamus Heaney

When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
We were eye-level with the white cups
Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.


Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
East and miles west beyond us, sagging
Under their burden of swallows.


We were small and thought we knew nothing
Worth knowing. We thought words traveled the wires
In the shiny pouches of raindrops,


Each one seeded full with the light
Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves
So infinitesimally scaled

We could stream through the eye of a needle.


When my mom was growing up, she and her brothers and sister used to play by the railroad tracks that ran near to their house. I remember hearing stories of the hobos who would hop off the trains looking for a hot plate of food. Once, a man with only one arm came up to the house and scared my mom and her siblings so much that they ran away from him. My grandma gave him food, and gave her kids a lesson in compassion.

This poem reminds me of my mom and her family, and what it must have been like to play near the train tracks. It also reminds me of the old wooden bridge that runs (ran?) over the tracks off of 50-somthing Terrace in Raytown. The bridge is massive - designed to hold cars - but was so old and scary... it's been about 10 years since I've been in that neck of the woods, so I don't know if it's still standing or not. My cousins and I loved watching the coal trains pass underneath, and would toss trinkets and candy and whatever else we thought might want to ride the rails into the cars as they went by. When I got old enough to be frightened of the possible collapse of the bridge, I stopped playing on it. My best guess is that the bridge is still standing strong and will be for years to come. I'm still not going anywhere near it, though.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Love affair - tv, noodles and camera accessory edition.

Things I love right now (besides the obvious):

  • The new show Pushing Daisies (ABC, Wednesdays at 7pm Central). The writing and casting are brilliant, and it's visually gorgeous. Think Big Fish meets Amélie, with some zombie action thrown in, and you'll see why I am loving this show. The bad news is that, like all other quirky shows I loved (Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Wonderfalls) this one is too good to last. As this is a post dedicated to things I love right now, I'll refrain from cursing about the fools who won't "get" this show and will condemn the rest of us to more garbage like "Everybody Loves Raymond." I hate that show so much, I won't even assign it a link. Okay, enough hate. Back to the love.

  • Noodle Shop - This lovely little place on 59th Street and Holmes in the Morningside Place shops has won me over this week with its scrumptious and simple noodle bowls.

    The menus are place mats on which you mark what you want in your bowl with crayons. I've not strayed from the #1 - Udon (like thick spaghetti) in a broth with veggies, chicken, pork and something called a fish cake, which I describe as one of those gummi fruit slices, only instead of orange or cherry flavor, you get fish flavor, and my friend Mary says is more like fish salami. I've also tried the pickle plate, and determined that I like the carrot and raisin, and the egglplant, but I am not a kim chee fan at all.



    The noodle bowls are filling and comforting and utterly delightful, the decor is simple, but comfortable and inviting, and the service is friendly and helpful if you're not sure what to do with the bowl of stuff placed in front of you. You may be interested to know that it is perfectly alright - nay, encouraged - for you to tip up and drink from your bowl as you desire. Also, it's an exercise in patience (and fun) to eat your noodle bowl with chopsticks.

    Mary drew this doodle while we were waiting for our meal. She said the child on the left is a little vampire, but I said it's The Little Prince and his sheep. So she added a rose. The image on the right is her personal reminder to check out the Blue Bunny frozen yogurt I recommended to her (it's delicious for fat-free).

  • Our new Manfrotto monopod, which makes taking photos at Nate's games so much easier.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Peaceful Waters - Variation by Frederico Garcia Lorca

Peaceful waters of the air
under echo's branches

Peaceful waters of a pool
under a bough laden with stars

Peaceful waters of your mouth
under a forest of kisses

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Scarry world.

When I was a child, I, like many other children, had a copy of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. The book was apparently revised in 1991, and significant, yet subtle changes were made. Some of the changes aren't so bad (like changing out "firefighter" for "fireman"), but others are just plain disappointing, like the elimination of "handsome gentlemen" and "pretty" ladies.

Thanks to the generosity of flickr member kokogiak, we can compare and discuss the differences between the two editions. I particularly enjoyed reading the comments left by others, who, like me, remember the Scarry books fondly and are a bit saddened with some of the changes. Richard Scarry's books, while aimed at children, had just enough kitsch and cutesyness to be appealing to the adults who had to read them to said children.

Here's a comparison of the page describing fire fighters. The 1963 edition is on the left, and the 1991 edition is on the right:



Personally, I liked the "pretty screaming lady," "brave hero" and "jumping gentleman." It's interesting to note that the fire fighter is no longer a brave hero, but is just a fire fighter. In the wake of September 11, 2001, I imagine subsequent reprints will restore hero status to the ascending pig, but the other changes will remain intact.

The elimination of these creative, yet simple labels removes an element of storytelling from what is essentially a rather bland list of words kids should know. A pretty screaming lady being whisked to safety by a brave hero, while a jumping gentleman flies through the air is so much more evocative than "cat in danger" gets rescued by fire fighter. No mention of the raccoon in the purple shirt.

There's an argument to be made that there just aren't enough jumping gentlemen in the world anymore.

Bitch slapped.

Dave does Paris does Dave.

Good advice.

If you lose your job, sleep 'til noon.
If the news is bad, watch cartoons.
If your house burns down, you'll have lots more room
and a much better view of the moon.

- From the song A Much Better View of the Moon by George Wurzbach and Karen Taylor-Good

Monday, October 1, 2007

She's like the wind.

Dirty dancing.

Travelougue, part two.

Thursday night my travel companions and I went to a Columbia sushi joint for some spectacularly awful sushi. It was so awful, in fact, that I ate one piece of the roll I ordered and called it quits. We went to Panera afterwards to get some treats to cleanse our palates. Later, we played UNO (which I swept), following which I retired for the evening for some reading and Grey's Anatomy. I enjoyed the reading more.

On Friday, I got to see how a campus with money runs their IT facilities. This was one of those occasions where I was both elated and totally pissed off at once. On the one hand, the possibilities in my industry are seemingly endless. On the other, I and a handful of others here are the only ones who see any value in any of it. I sometimes feel like I am at the bottom of a very deep hole, shouting the benefits of throwing money down the well. No one can see me, they can barely hear me, and they don't think there is any tangible return on their investment. If they only knew that if they threw me some coinage, we could give so much more back.

Friday night, after a long but talkative ride home, I bid adieu to my companions and went for some real sushi at Sakura. Okay, so one of my companions went along, too, but this time we were with our significant others and not so much out together. I have to pause here to say just how much fun I had with the two people who traveled with me. We were perfectly suited to each other and had terrific conversation.  We've got to remember to go out more often.

Saturday was football day, with the 5th - 6th grade Chargers losing to the Jets. The game was at the Jets home field, which is just awful for visitors. There are two sets of bleachers on the home side, and none on the visitor's side, so we were stuck bringing lawn chairs. I think we need to block off our visitor bleachers when they come to play at our field. Let them feel that pain. Saturday night, I was all set to watch The Office on the DVR, but Time Warner decided to fuck us by cutting off the recording halfway through. I think I know what happens - the DVR gets filled up,  and shows need to be deleted. But - the software isn't smart enough to figure this out ahead of time, so it gets halfway through recording a show, sees that there is no space left, and freaks out by stopping all recording and deleting what it needs to delete. This pisses me off to no end, especially since we never had this problem with TiVo.

Sunday was pretty much a day of rest, although I'm still tired today. Today I'm back at work, trying to make sense of all the information I gathered. My trip gave me many ideas, some of which I can work on, some of which are pipe-dreams. I can't tell what is what at this point. I do know that I have two better friends than I had before. I know that if I want to hear a poem recited, one of them has a bank of them memorized and can rattle them off for my listening pleasure. I also know that if I need to know where local Lakota shamans hold their drum circles, I have a contact who can give me that information. It's good to be connected.