Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Theme for great cities

Logan Circle fountain, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

I like this picture that I took in Philadelphia the other day.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

So 'Good' - I spread it on toast!

We went to Philly today, Ac Nat Sci family field trip. Museum was terrific (even if the interactive kid exhibits were 85% nonfunctioning, dag is that frustrating), but the highlight for the boys was the gigantic smoking heap of smushed cars just as we entered the city; and the highlight for Mr. Librarian and myself was the Santorum for Senate billboard.

(Not my photo, went by too fast)
  1. Does Rick Santorum NOT know that Dan Savage has redefined his name? I mean... yummy! I mean... ew.
  2. "Good" is capitalized? Is he echoing grace ("God is great, God is good")? Is he mimicking Biblical usage? Either way, doesn't it seem like he's one letter away from stating "Santorum is God"? It kind of does to me.
  3. Furthermore, is capital-g "Good" gooder than small-g "good"?
  4. Who is the candidate here? Rick Santorum? or Santorum-is-Good? This weird construction makes it sound a little like it's Borat endorsing him.
  5. Please nobody vote for this freak.
On second thought, maybe a little santorum would be good for the Senate. In what way I can't imagine, but I think it couldn't possibly make things any worse.

George Kastriot was known as "The Athlete of Christ"

A moment of appreciation, please, for the flag of Albania:

Lucky, lucky Albanians. Oh, wait...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Vita-rays, part deux

After seeing the picture of Big Man in his friend's Captain America costume, Mr. Librarian started singing,
When Captain America throws his mighty shield
All those who chose to oppose his shield must yield!
I said, "That is not a song, you just made that up!"

Hard to believe that animation that bad ever was on TV, right?

But the song sticks in your head like a burr - and now Big Man sings it all the time. His current superhero persona is Pteroman, or possibly Terro-Man ("because hawks are terrifying and pterodactyls are, and both hawks and pterodactyls glide, and that's what I do!")...

so his version of the song goes like this:
When Pteroman-o throws his mighty shield - woo hoo!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Calculus is hard but my abdomen is not

All right, so I have always had the metabolism of a rat. Let's say mouse, I don't want the metabolism of a rat. Actually, let's say I've always had the metabolism of the American shrew-mole, "2.32 times greater than predicted for similar-sized placental mammals".

Common American Shrew-Mole, from Audubon, John James. The Quadrupeds of North America. New York: V. G. Audubon, 1854.

The point is, I've never had to watch my weight or exercise or diet or whatever. So now I'm 40 -- actually, let's face it, in a few weeks I will be OVER 40, and somehow OVER 40 is hitting me a lot harder than 40 did. I faced 40 with a certain amount of sneerage, as I was then a size 4, courtesy of two heavy children under 5, both of whom nursed for two YEARS.

Well anyway now that I've hit the uphill part of the ride, and my metabolism doesn't quite have that oomf anymore and there is no child sucking 500 calories a day out my front and I still drink way more beer than I probably should, well...

now I have a spare tire and none of my pants fit.

I know, I know! Nobody has any sympathy for me and I don't deserve any! I have had a free ride so far and now I finally have to learn, at 40, at OVER 40 god damn it, how to... how to...


It was like when I got to college and had to learn to study. Except I didn't, which is why I graduated with a 2.6 GPA. I learned to study ten years later, in graduate school, when I was paying the tuition - after I had worked a series of nightmare jobs and realized that decent grades in grad school were the only way to ensure that I never EVER had to work in insurance again. Mom, if you're reading this, that still doesn't mean I could have passed Calculus if I'd just applied myself more. Calculus is hard.

So Bob took me to the YMCA the other morning after dropping the Big Man at school. We introduced the suspicious and tentative Mr. Three to the very nice Child Watch ladies, I stowed my stuff in a locker, and Bob showed me into the fitness room. Walking in, I said, "I don't know about this..." and he said, "You and [Mr. Three], what sissies."

I pedaled a stationery bike for 20 minutes, went and got Three, and we went home. Not so bad.

Today I started kind of feeling it. Brought our bathing suits along. After I rode 25 minutes on the bike, at a higher setting, I grabbed Mr. Three (oh, who would prefer to be called Great Jeff nowadays) (n.b. his name is not Jeff) (p.s. I can't help wondering if it's some kind of Three-icization of Gurdjieff, except, like, how would that happen?) and we practiced kicking in the pool. Signed him and his brother up for swimming lessons right after.

Sometime soon my "thank-you gift" from WYPR's pledge drive will arrive - I selected the iPod armband - and I will download some audio books and attempt... the Elliptical.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Down at the Globe

1.) Do me a favor and go to the Hybrid Minivan Waiting List and add your weight to the demands for a hybrid minivan. Toyota has one, in Japan, and will probably bring a hybrid version of the Sienna to the U.S., but won't say when.
I'm tired of my cramped Subaru, people.

2.) Next, this is a product I have got to get me some of before Halloween. Cannot find it locally. It's supposed to look like you broke open a glow-stick and dumped the goo on your hair. Yeah! I want the orange, Mr. Three needs green.
God damnit, I'll bet it's at Ricky's. Yet another reason to miss New York.

3.) And in the Halloween spirit, here's another skull for you. A red colobus monkey collected in the early 1900's in northeastern Congo.

This monkey is currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, making the bullet hole in the skull a real nice touch.

Jeez, here's a funny story I haven't thought of in a long time... I used to work at the natural history museum in New York, I loved it, it was and is full of mysteries and surprises. Most storage and offices were onsite, upstairs or in weird spaces carved out behind the exhibit areas, and back then they trusted their employees. One key, which pretty much everyone had, opened most doors. So I used to skulk around sometimes and see what there was to see. Hippo skulls in the rafters. A Harry Potter-like office under a set of marble stairs. Hand-drawn maps of Peru. I used to smoke on a roof outside Margaret Mead's office.

One time, Bob was with me, and we were taking a shortcut from Invertebrates to the Library, through a set of back stairs in Mammalogy. If it sounds like Clue, it kind of was. This staircase was used to store things like trophy heads and sets of horns, and was cluttered with huge wooden crates.

For some reason (I had never done it before and never did again) we got it into our heads to peek inside one crate. It was like 6 feet long, 3 wide, and chest-high - a big fucking crate. Bob hoisted the lid at one end and I got the other. As we raised the lid, we saw that the wooden crate was lined in stainless steel and filled with preservation fluid. We had the lid up about a foot and a half when I jumped back and dropped my end. I only saw them for a second but it was about the most shocking thing I've ever seen - several large primates (my memory says chimpanzees but I could be wrong), dead and floating in the tank.

I am sure that they were collected more than 50 years ago, and I'm sure they form part of a valuable study collection. But still, I got the end with the heads!

4.) Last but entirely not least, Happy Birthday to Juliet! and cheers to the Monday night crowd!

We're quite a group, aren't we? Good hair all around. And somehow Lisa's head grew wings.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Halloween update

Gothic, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Here we are mid-spree. Big Man designed that three-eyed jack o'lantern on my right, and did a great job helping me spread the spiderwebs. That's the scarecrow we made at the Lauraville Fair behind us.

Can't find those dang flies that are so cool-looking, maybe I'll have to make a new set.

And I made my pumpkin crown out of a foam pumpkin. It looks... strange. Not exactly what I had in mind, but certainly very Halloween-y.

Big Man's art supplies costume is done and seems to work really well, and I ordered a child-size lab coat embroidered with "Dr. [TheirLastName]" over the pocket for Mr. Three's scientist costume. He also has a fright wig so that he will be a slightly unhinged scientist (not quite mad, wasn't sure he would pull that off).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Flex, baby

My esteemed husband did this even before he had kids. Like since the late 80's. It's funnier now that there are kids involved, but it was funny then too, in a kind of retarded way.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"I'll stick with the Pin, Ken"

Here's something you probably never considered doing: you could hire the Charlie Daniels Band to play your wedding! Or, if you wanted to, you could get Colin Quinn, that guy on MTV's old game show Remote Control? to tell stupid jokes at your family reunion.

It would cost less for Colin Quinn, he's just one guy. Still, $15-20K, that's not nothing, for one wannabe blue-collar who would smoke in front of the kids (Yipes he was born in Park Slope, I knew there was something faux about the guy!). CDB would set you back $35-50K. I guess depending on whether you can provide your own demon fiddler. Didn't the devil win? Don't you think? The devil totally did a better solo.

I am reading thru this price list from Clear Channel. It's fun.

Who else could we get? Ooo, wow, the GoGo's want up to seventy-five K! Dag they better have aged VERY frickin well to command that much cash... Rollins, that whore, will do it for $10. Even Horatio Sanz asks for $15, jeez Henry.

Henry in his Black Flag days, with hair, and even a neck

God, JOURNEY is on this list. A hundred grand to get JOURNEY to play your Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, ew. Hell, you could get James Brown or Skynyrd for that price. What is Skynyrd nowadays? Aren't most of those guys dead?

Nice to see women comedians are getting paid. Margaret Cho and Sarah Silverman each want $30-35K to come sling mud at, um, whomever - that's more than Kevin Nealon but less than Lewis Black. Ah the comedy spectrum comes into focus.

Best bargain on this list? Most band for the buck (although you probably don't get all 15 members, including the two dancers, when they play your kid's Sweet Sixteen party): K.C. and the Sunshine Band, for thirty-five thousand. Guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

Sound your funky horn.

She fills her head with culture - she gives herself an ulcer

The other day, I was talking to the new guy on the block. We were watching our kids and flipping through back issues of Spin and Rolling Stone (back issues from 1987 through 1991: Ma is resigning her post as custodian of the crap I have been storing in her attic for 20 years).

Chuckling over a review, Peter (who had a head of hair like A Flock of Seagulls when he was in college or I am a bald nun) said, "Remember Hugo Largo?" I remember Hugo Largo - I worked at the college radio station and lived for music and I remember Orange Juice and the Woodentops and Scraping Foetus and a million other totally obscure bands (all whom are inexplicably touring again, including Pylon and Shriekback).

Gang Green, touring again

But when he asked if I had heard Sufjan Stevens, I had to mumble that wasn't he the guy who did a record about Indiana? Woeful. What passes for new music in my house is a dribble of South African hip-hop and Indian techno. I don't know nothin about these new bands.

So tonight I spent my evening trawling iTunes, Pitchfork, and a few unnamed music blogs (ok, Jane magazine and Idolator) listening to what people like me are supposed to like.

And goddamn - I don't like it! I know that makes me old, but I am not sorry. Most of the hip stuff - Rilo Kiley, Feist, Badly Drawn Boy, the Bon Savants, the Hold Steady, the Decemberists, the Annuals - these people are all too fucking pretty sounding for me. What, are all you kids smokin DOPE? Doesn't anybody RAWK anymore? They do have nice web sites though.

I mean, I'm not stupid, there's some new stuff I like. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, yeah I'll jump on that bandwagon. Scissor Sisters I like. Goldfrapp. Bonobo. Asobi Seksu. Tilly and the Wall. TV on the Radio, so I got that from Zach Braff's playlist, it's not like I'm downloading Jack Johnson for hell's sake, god, do adults really ENJOY that stuff?


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

fur seal ILF_0012L

This is the most beautiful thing I've come across in a while. It's the skull of a Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus. If you click through on the picture, you'll get to an enormous version.

From the Dept of Anatomy (Macro), Dokkyo University School of Medicine. Species record and additional photographs.

Vamos a jugar por la playa

Hard at work playing. Making marshmallows out of sand.

Look how empty the beach is, and how big. We saw pelicans, terns, sandpipers and dolphins. We found hermit crabs, fiddler crabs, and little brown spotted crabs. We investigated sea cucumbers and moon jellies washed up on the beach. Big Man learned the difference between a gastropod and a bivalve.


Monday, October 16, 2006


As I was uploading videos from the camera, I came across this odd little clip. Bob was trying to set up the video camera in the car. It's funny and cute.

The next video, which I am not going to share, is immediately after this one. I am getting into the car, we're late. I'm telling Bob something, and Big Man is trying to get my attention to tell me about the camera. He's smiling, anticipating surprising me. And in a flash I whirl around and bite his head off. I screech, "WHAT?! WHY are you SCREAMING at me?"

Oh, god. What a monster I am. Thank god I don't see his face crumble on the video, but I'm actually just as ashamed that my screaming doesn't have much of an effect. I must be such a witch that he's used to it.

Ever since he was about two, I have been trying to come up with strategies for me to not lose my shit. I see him with the same lightning moods and hair trigger and escalating fury, and I want to model good ways to deal with those things.

Problem is, I got nothing. And I'm 40. How's he going to learn to control his boiling point? He's FIVE.

It's got to be done though. That video is the most shameful thing I've ever seen. I'll quit caffeine, I'll get more sleep, I'll start exercising, I will do it.

On the march

Create Your Own!

In the sculpture garden at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The walkway over the water is irresistable.

St Simons Island idyll

GA2006- 011, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

We are back from the beach. Oh man what a good vacation. 85 degrees and sunny for almost the whole week. Pool, beach, swamp, cousins. I don't even mind that we didn't manage to eat barbecue or Brunswick stew.

Well ok my mouth is watering, I guess I wish we'd gotten some Brunswick stew.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Emily Elizabeth, future porn star

clifford phonix, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

Emily Elizabeth has LOTS of fun learning to read. Maybe too much fun.

My friend Juliet was reading this Clifford phonics book with her kid, Big Friend. When they started sounding out the "er" and "est" words, she realized that someone at Scholastic Books intended for her five-year-old to sound like Frankenstein with a erection.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Center part, never a good look

This just isn't right.

What do you think when you first see this picture? She's his office manager? Then you read the caption and you think, aww, he's just being all team-y. Then you look at the photo again and you go, "Yeah well I don't care what you were thinking - get your hands off her, asshole."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Queen Halloween Part II - The Castle

Costumes are only the half of it. Now that we have a house, and a house with a big front porch, decorating it for Halloween is something I look forward to all year.

You know how Martha Stewart is like fixated on Halloween, apparently unaware of the irony that everyone thinks she's a witch already? You know what it is? It's the color scheme and the iconography: orange, black, devils, cats, spiders, bats... compare to red & green and angels and Santa? Halloween kicks Christmas's ass.

So yeah we put up some lights in December, but in October... we do it all. Jack o'lanterns, and rubber bats hung from the trees, and that weird stretchy spiderweb stuff... and one of these years I'm going to buy a smoke machine!

I made big scary curtains to hang in the windows (that's my Black Widow, uh, Tick - it was meant to be a spider but I forgot the thorax), and one year I did black bats on a mirror...

I think that came out really nice but unfortunately the bats weren't re-usable. My best idea ever was the Amityville-ization of the front door.

I cut some transparencies to the size of the mullions in the window and hot-glued a bunch of fake flies to them. We tape these pieces into the windows every year and take them down later, often by Christmas. The drips at the top, meant to be, I don't know, black ooze of some kind, I cut out of black contact paper. Not everybody notices the flies, but if they do, they are fairly disturbed.

I have to limit myself to buying one new Halloween decoration every year. This year I got a dozen glow-in-the-dark skeletons to hang on the dead dogwood tree out front. That should have been it, but we went to Target this weekend. Ohhhh, Target's Halloween stuff this year has a Day-of-the-Dead graphic theme, and I went nuts. They have papel picado garlands, and felt banners, and this great skull vase thing.

To make matters worse, Bob fell in love with a whole entire lamp. We justified buying it by saying that we would use it year-round.

Don't worry, we will.

Queen Halloween

Halloween, 2004.

A couple of years ago I convinced an 8-year-old girl to dress up as Angela Davis for Halloween.

She came into the library with her parents and her assignment: the kids were to pick a Halloween costume, wear it to school, bring a book about it and say a few words. So the kid dressed as a dinosaur brings Discovering Dinosaurs, and the girl dressed like a soccer star brings a biography of Mia Hamm. It's a cute assignment and I enjoy helping the kids with it.

It's not always easy, though. This little girl was looking for a book about Foxy Brown. Foxy Brown from the 1974 movie (not the singer). Did we have a book with Foxy Brown in it? Well, no.

I hate admitting defeat but I was going to have to until I got it out of them that the only reason they were stuck on Foxy Brown was because they had a giant Afro wig. Fantastic! Who was famous in an Afro? Diana Ross? They didn't want Miss Ross. So, looking the parents in the eye, I said, "Well there's that famous picture of Angela Davis in her big hoops and her Afro..."

Angela Davis, radical activist and philosophy professor. Black Panther. Communist. Feminist. Formerly on the FBI's Most Wanted List. Acquitted of all charges. The dad was like, "Yeah! Free Angela Davis!" The kid was doubtful but we got her talked into it.

So I'm kind of in that kid's boat this year. I bought a floor-length sparkly red cape at Juliet's sister-in-law's consignment shop, The Circle Shop on Belair Road, and there is no way I'm going to miss out on using it this Halloween. I have an idea but it's still cooking.

Big Man wants to be "art supplies". I don't know exactly how to do that but my god you have to honor that kind of original thinking. Last year he wanted to be a birthday cake and I figured it would be the last time I got a non-superhero out of him.

That's caulk filling in for decorator's icing, and weatherstripping separating the layers. Unfortunately, the thing was so ungainly that he couldn't make it up the porch steps when he went trick-or-treating. Won't make that mistake this year.

Three wants to be a scientist. Last year it was a dump truck:

Bob escorted him: in my commemorative hard hat from the construction of the Rose Center for Earth and Space he was Bob the Builder (it had to be done at least once). I love Halloween in general and costumes in specific, but what I love best is figuring out how to make somebody else's idea work.

One year in New York Bob and I were invited to a costume party with a couples theme. I was racking my brain, but Bob piped right up: "The Old Man and the Sea, of course." Oh, of course! Yeah but guess who got to be the Old Man (easy) and guess who had to figure out how to dress up as The Sea? Ten yards of blue and green tulle later, a bag of plastic fish and the top from my wedding dress, and it actually turned out pretty great.

In 2003, inspired by the California governor's race, we all dressed as actors-turned-politicians.

I stuffed Mr. Three's outfit with socks and he was Governor Schwarzenegger; Bob was the Mayor with No Name; and I was a very tall Representative Bono in a kurta and vest. We tried to talk Big Man, who was then 2, into dressing like a sailor so that he could be Congressman Grandy (Gopher), but he was having none of it. "I not sailor guy, I PIRATE GUY!"

So look for me on Halloween. I think I'm going to cut a foam pumpkin into a crown, and wear it with my purple ball skirt and the red sparkly cape. I will be the Queen of Halloween.