Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yes, and he's wearing a thong, too

Random lady at the doctor's office, regarding Mr. Three: That boy has nail polish on!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

8 facts

Wendy from Notes from the Windowsill got me with the 8 Things Meme. Heck, I'll bite. It's my first.

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Hard to say what to put on this list - my habits are mostly in the compulsive brand loyalty arena. I'm like James Bond that way (yeah just keep telling yourself that), his Sea Island cotton shirts being analogous to my Eddie Bauer mom t-shirts, I guess.

Besides the incessant swearing, I mean that's a habit, but anyone who's ever found themselves on this page or met me or, probably, flown overhead in a plane, knows about that one.

So here goes:

Fact: My favorite new word is "man-panty." It was coined by my husband when describing why he needs new swim trunks.

Habit: My favorite breakfast is leftover rice, plain yogurt, and Indian pickle.

Habit: I call my children "poodle".

Non-habit: I don't watch TV. Shave things. Or wear makeup, match my socks, iron, smoke dope, or change the litter box. (Two of these things I miss - guess!)

Fact: You could produce a blank, horrified stare on my face by saying "How about camping?" or by discussing shaving vs. waxing vs. Nair vis a vis one's bikini area. I got that same look when the "man-panty" thing came up.

Fact: Can't bake.

Fact: Scared of heights.

Habit: I spend money on bras, moisturizer, rice, shampoo, coffee, and perfume, but I buy cheap-ass cars, plants, soap, nail polish, beans, and pool toys. Fancy beer, the good canned tomatoes, organic chicken and shoes - I wait til they go on sale.

I tag:
Life O'Jaime
garish and tweed
Anger Hangover (who will probably kill me)
missing dust jacket
and his DW: PumpkinSpice Knits
Strange Librarian

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Are you hungry? Did you eat yet?


That's my new way of expressing dissatisfaction with something. My apologies to Angela Aylmore, the author of Blowing (Making Music) but when you give a book a title like that, you have to figure someone somewhere's going to use it as a comment.

It started when Token Boy Librarian nagged me because I was thirty seconds late relieving him on the children's desk. As I hurried to take over for his suffering self, I noticed Blowing on a display. I grabbed the book and, catching his eye, ever so subtly pointed at the cover and then at him. I totally forget sometimes that some kids can read. They should really never let me be around kids.

So today what's got me cranky is a new book called The Gulps. Written by Rosemary Wells and hideously illustrated by Marc Brown (of Arthur fame) (no, not Dudley Moore, you childless freak: Arthur, the series of books and the animated show on PBS about the aardvark who totally looks like a woodchuck or something), the book is one of those heavy-handed lessons about how delicious healthy food is and how wonderful you feel getting lots of exercise. Plus the plot is nonsense.
Synopsis: Overweight, hyper-consuming family goes on vacation. Their RV breaks down because it just can't hold their weight. They are taken in by the local farmer, and eat healthy delicious food and work on the farm until they slim down enough for the RV to start. Then they decide to take their vacation hiking the National Park instead of going to the amusement park.

Plot problems:
  1. Have you ever heard of a vehicle not starting because there was too much weight on board? A vehicle that is not, say, horse-drawn?
  2. They are staying at this man's farm, and working on it. Are they hostages? Are they paying rent?
  3. After they have lost so much weight, which presumably takes a while, they are still on vacation, and take off to go hiking.
I think there's only one conclusion you can draw here: they are the 21st century version of the Joads, obese city dwellers evicted from their apartment who take to the road in their only remaining possession, an unreliable RV. When the RV breaks down, they are taken in by an unscrupulous farmer who exploits their utter lack of ability to fend for themselves in a non-urban landscape. At last, overworked and underfed, they get the wagon going again and escape to the hills, there to eke out a living selling change purses made from the hides of roadkill to tourists (We actually knew a girl who did this, her name was Madeline but everybody called her Roadkill. Sweet nickname, uh?)

Sermon problems:

I'm getting pretty damn sick of this pious food crap. Don't get me wrong - I am all for the healthy delicious food (it's all one word now, "healthydelicious," I've heard it repeated so many times). We don't own Cheetos. We put nori and cheese and apple chips in lunches as snacks. It sucks, believe me, but it's our responsibility - Bob's and mine. I don't want my kids developing a dependence on high fructose corn syrup - that shit is nasty. It bothers me when I meet children who think McNuggets are a meal.

But let me reiterate: it's our responsibility. Man, you should have seen my kids when I read The Gulps. They started out happy, then confused, then bored. It looks like a children's book, their expressions said, but it seems to be some kind of message to mom, telling her to put more vegetables on our plates.

I think the book is meant to get kids excited about vegetables (and farm work, though how that's supposed to play out in most kids' lives I do not get). And I think the adult reading the book is supposed to feel ashamed and inspired by their children's newfound vegetable boosterism, and run out to buy kale and asparagus and show those children just how delicious healthy foods are.

But in my case, it pissed me off.

Let me tell you something. Every year I grow peas. I like peas. They come up early and they're easy to grow. And every year when the peas are ripe, my children and I sit in the back yard and eat peas. It's lovely, straight out of Beatrix Potter. We tell stories about the little pea people in the little pea boats (or rocket ships, or giraffes) and then all the little pea people meet their agonizing fate in the rocky cave (or wormhole or vacuum cleaner) of a small child's mouth.

So for two weeks out of every year, my children eat, oh, 4 ounces of peas a day, and they rejoice in it. And ALL IT TAKES is ordering the seeds, tilling the garden, adding compost to the garden, planting the seeds, putting up supports for the plants, and watering and weeding for three months. Fuck that.

Well, no. Not fuck that. I like gardening. And I have the time to do it. But if I didn't, should I be obligated to feel bad? What if I was a single mom who worked two jobs and couldn't get to the farmer's market to buy fresh local produce so my children could have healthy delicious blabla - then should I feel bad? How about if I had a large family and a few foster kids, and my food budget allowed me to buy 5 pounds of Velveeta for every pound of fresh spinach - if I chose the processed cheese, should I feel bad about filling more stomachs with less nutritious food?

Rosemary Wells and Marc Brown say yes, I think.

Fuck them, and fuck everyone who would imply that the healthydelicious food is simply a matter of "making healthy choices". Piety and sneering comments about "priorities" overlook the economic realities of food in this country.

Instead of reading The Gulps or Hubert the Pudge (not as lecture-y, but with plot holes a 5 year old could spot), try Edward Miller's The Monster Health Book, which actually explains such concepts as energy and food groups to kids, without trying to dumb it down into a clunky parable. Instead of reading Barbara Kingsolver's new book, read "The (Agri)Cultural Contradictions Of Obesity", Michael Pollan's recent article on the Ag Bill in the New York Times Magazine. It explains why healthydelicious food isn't always (or often) a matter of choice.

Dinner tonight: brown rice, peas from the garden, locally caught bluefish. God, I could just strangle myself. It's a thin line between love and hate.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy Mothers

I was over on sweetney today and saw her link to this awesome piece of tornado video awesomeness. Why do I have an irrational need to see a tornado? Maybe it has to do with the point in the video when they pan upward and you can see the giant Finger of God descend from Heaven to FUCK SHIT UP. I'm an atheist but I still have a sense of the Divine.

Anyway, it occurred to me that I've never paid credit to the online mothers who, cough, choke, there's no other word for it -- **inspire** me. Cringe cringe yeah yeah, but seriously, last year this time, when Mr. Three was finally getting toilet trained and I was finally getting a little free time, I would read Tracey and SJ and Heather and Ayun and, well I mean, goddamn, here are women who make their own jam and devise creative, educational activities to distract their children when the kids are feeling grouchy and out-of-sorts...

Yeah kidding. These are women who make fun of their children, whom they love the bejeebers out of. And I thought, "I need a place to make fun of my children! I'll make me a blog!"

Mother's Day has come and gone. I would have written about this then but I was too busy eating smoked salmon in bed and Belgian chocolate on the couch and reading Wired (this is actually not a lie).

So anyway. It's partly about the librarian, but also it's partly about the neighborhood. Thanks for the funny, guys.

Oh and. I bought me a laptop (it's all Ubuntu and everything, I feel so clickety!) so I can screw around online while I'm on the porch watching the kids while they draw with chalk and talk to any random adult who strolls by. Cause that's what being a mom is all about, right?

Confutatis maledictis

Reflections upon watching Marie Antoinette:
That Kirsten Dunst sure is pretty. Can you make a whole movie about that?

Guess so.

Marianne Faithfull and Judi Dench have the same voice. Makes you wonder what Dame M was doing in the 60's while Marianne was busy horking off Mick Jagger.

Hey, there's that dog!

I want to sing "Marie Antoinette" to the tune of "Feliz Navidad". Da dee da-da-da.

Didn't anybody consider writing down some words for the characters to say before they all got out to Versailles?

Wouldn't it be great to live in Sofia Coppola's head for an afternoon? I bet it's like Kate's Paperie in there. I'd buy some pretty crap I didn't need, then I'd switch to Kirsten Dunst's head and go to the bar.

Is there a place in the cinematic tradition for a two-hour perfume ad?

Guess so.

I should find my copy of The Mirrorshades Anthology.

That surf guitar sound in "I Want Candy" is so great!

Sofia Coppola could have been one of my campers in the summer of 1985 in Maine. Those precocious little proto-hiptards loved Gang of Four. Otherwise, she's too young for this music.

We should rent Amadeus.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Today's Tom Sawyer

To: "My Neighborhood Librarian" ynl@blabla.blam
Subject: Todays Tom Sawyer
From: bob@blabla.blam
Date: Thu, 24 May 2007 21:22:58 +0000

Shuttle bus
Little Train
SHuttle Bus
Shuttle Bus
Little Train
Big train
Shuttle bus
Other shuttle bus


Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Mr. Librarian had a rough day Thursday - meetings in Norfolk, VA and Paterson, NJ. But he still had a sense of humor and an ear for song lyrics at 9:22 that night.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The calla lilies are in bloom again!

I said to myself that if I didn't come out Katharine Hepburn, the quiz was utter shit and I wouldn't post the results.

Your Score: Katharine Hepburn
You scored 28% grit, 33% wit, 47% flair, and 7% class!

You are the fabulously quirky and independent woman of character. You go your own way, follow your own drummer, take your own lead. You stand head and shoulders next to your partner, but you are perfectly willing and able to stand alone. Others might be more classically beautiful or conventionally woman-like, but you possess a more fundamental common sense and off-kilter charm, making interesting men fall at your feet. You can pick them up or leave them there as you see fit. You share the screen with the likes of Spencer Tracy and Cary Grant, thinking men who like strong women.

Link: The Classic Dames Test written by gidgetgoes.

So... I'm not all that "woman-like"? Jeez, last time I looked... Well. Hm. Isn't that hat disturbing, though? It looks like it's woven out of her own hair. Maybe it was, maybe she was the proto-Bjork!

And I believe this is the moment to mention the new me! Over there on the right with the yellow hair! My multitalented friend Sean drew it for me and every time I see it I have to do a brief, energetic, unbelievably dorky chair-dance. And Jaime, shut up, I am aware that it's verrrrry flattering... Sean remembers me from high school and doesn't see me that often nowadays, plus he's nice.

Three times two

The rest of the photos in this batch.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

One meatball

Got a picture book I don't like. Of course, there are plenty of picture books that don't do a thing for me. It's usually not worth my time to point them out. But One Green Apple by Eve Bunting actually cracked me up with its not-goodness.

Farah is about 10 or 11, new to this country, not yet speaking English. She feels that her headscarf sets her apart from the other kids, and she wonders whether she will ever fit in. Today, Farah's class is on a field trip to an orchard. Each child is instructed to pick one apple, and each child dutifully selects a red shiny apple. Farah picks an apple from a tree that looks the way she feels - a little stunted, a little different.

The class then runs down the hill toward a crooked wooden shack. Farah wonders who lives in the shack: a goatherd, chickens? Instead, we find a metal machine inside the shack. The teacher has each child put his or her apple in the machine. Farah is last. The teacher gives Farah's crummy little green apple a slighting look, then shrugs and has her chuck it into the machine.

The machine is turned on, and hurray! all the apples are now turned into delicious cider!

This has got to be the worst metaphor for assimilation I have seen since Marlo Thomas announced that we were all "Free to Be You and Me". Put each unique child into a big guncha-guncha machine, grind 'em to a pulp, then squeeze the pulp until a thin, palatable homogeneous mixture is obtained! Give us your tired, your poor!

Eve Bunting is a versatile writer who tackles interesting, diverse subjects and has an unerring eye for illustrators: Pop's Bridge and Smoky Night are terrific books (Hell, Smoky Night won the Caldecott!). My Special Day at Third Street School is a great gift for your favorite reading teacher. But One Green Apple is, as we say, not so good.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

If you can't do the module than you'll have to try the slide

Hipster weddings. They're a dime a dozen, yeah? Gosh I'd like to be all *yawn* about that, but you know what? ANYTHING out of the ordinary makes weddings easier to take. For instance, these kids got a talented friend to make paper dolls of them for their wedding! That's pretty cool... Bob and I had a hayride at our wedding, and that did beat a unity candle.

But the question always crops up - your hip friends, the ones with taste and a few bucks? Whose apartment looks like a design museum? What the fuck do you get them as a wedding present? You could go to Takashimaya and buy something white and porcelain and perfect... but maybe you're a more personal type. Maybe white and porcelain says 'toilet' to you. But you don't want to get something that they will look at and say, "P.U!" And it happens, oh yeah. I've been married twice and I can tell you - there are gifts that you unwrap, coo over, and place gently on a high shelf to be admired forever, and then there are gifts that you unwrap, recoil from, and place gently, immediately on the curb.

Seemingly, cream-soup-lovin' Tricia is faced with this situation. And, clever girl, she hits upon A Book as the perfect gift. Here's her question...
"Do you have other recommendations for picture books that would make good wedding gifts? Something for the sparsely-decorated high-modern loft types, perhaps?"
Dude! All you have to do is ask! There are a ton of children's books that kind of you suspect weren't written for children. The art is way over the top good, or the story is clearly secondary, and I always fear that these books don't reach their intended audience. I'm always pushing the picture books on the grownups. Here are my suggestions:

If they're honeymooning in Paris: Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock. Purely gorgeous, and the precision of the depictions will warm the cockles of the slightly OCD hipster heart.

If they really do live in a loft: Not a box by Antoinette Portis (reviewed earlier). Probably the most high-concept modern book in this bunch, and also charming. Now, in the review I linked to, the astute Fuse #8 mentions Dick Bruna, the creator of the mute, staring, nightmarish Miffy. Dick Bruna's books may be in the MoMA design store (actually, they're not, although the very confusing Art Fraud Detective is), but Dick Bruna's books are also boring to the point of coma. Do not be taken in.

They love the Scandinavian design? Follow the line by Laura Ljunkvist. So high-concept, even the web site deserves a design award.

If they're honeymooning at the beach: Drawn from life, Beach by Elisha Cooper is a quiet but entertaining book full of that kind of minutiae that adults and some kids find captivating... and Magic Beach by Crockett Johnson (the Harold and the Purple Crayon guy) is kind of a children's book aficionado schmuckbait item. But I'm putting it on Tricia's list because it's lovely. See, it was an uncompleted manuscript (hence fanbait) and has been published with all the pencil lines and erasures intact (mega-fanbait, ergo schmuckbait), but... it's a lovely story. Whatever the two little kids write in the sand is washed away by the waves and replaced by the real thing. Strong stuff about possibility and dreams (and also a good early-reader lesson, but that's not important right now).

Their idea of decoration is one exquisite piece of driftwood lying on the mantel: An egg is quiet by Dianna Aston. This book is beautiful and interesting and my kids sat still for it but I can't imagine many would. One of those picture books that totally caters to adults.

Their idea of decoration is an ironic collection of sock monkeys whimsically posed on their Bertoia chairs: 10 Little Sock Monkeys by Harriet Ziefert. There are a lot of sock monkey books out there, children, but surprisingly, most are kind of blah. This one is good, and Oscar: The Big Adventure of a Little Sock Monkey is good.

Park Slope residents? Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems OR The Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews. Both have illustrations built on actual photos of actual Brooklyn.

High-modern with lots of color? Invisible by Katja Kamm. Have not laid my hands on this book yet, but I can tell by the cover and the reviews that this is one for the MoMA gift-shop crowd!

Secretly steampunk? Imagine by Norman Messenger. Oooh that's a good book. There's a lot to look at here, we're gonna buy it.

If they like puzzles and beauty: Flotsam by David Weisner. Anything by David Weisner is fascinating and mysterious, but this latest one is the best so far.

If they have a pulse: The Yellow Balloon by Charlotte Desmatons. One of the nice things about modern is that you can make what you want of it. Same can be said for The Yellow Balloon.

So, Tricia has gotten all the way through this list and she still doesn't see anything that's about, er, a wedding, I mean hello wasn't that the point?! and I have to say, Tricia is totally right. I blow. When people I know get engaged - people I love, even! people I'm related to! - I give them the not entirely lame but, you know, kind of... mass-market... Miss Spider Gets Married. And why? Because, except for 'mom and mum' and Uncle Peter, and various idiots who try to get the spunky main character to be a flower girl, NOBODY gets married in children's literature these days.

But ok, here we go:
African-American couple: Wedding by Angela Johnson.
Asian-American and Caucasian couple: Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding by Lenore Yook, good illustrations by Yumi Heo.
Jewish wedding: Beni's First Wedding by Jane Breskin Zalben. Pretty.
Navajo couple: Yes, Navajo. I told you there weren't many.
Navajo Wedding Day: A Dine Marriage Ceremony by Eleanor Schick.

And, if you are truly truly desperate, there's always kitsch to fall back on:

A Wedding Is Beautiful (a Little Golden Book, complete with big-eye kids and the creepy suggestion that 4-year-olds are getting married).

Sorry, Tricia!

A Rockers song

The Rockers are a rock and roll band that Mr. Three made up himself, and they are one of the loudest greatest bands in the whole entire world. According to him.

Nobody has a choice
I picked up so much candy
That I picked up every candy in the candy shop

Then I listened to the river,
Then I sit beside
Then I just [something] the river
Then I just tried to climb a tree

Then I be surprised
Then I put on my shirt
And then I wanted to play

Then I just joined the cables to
Put some more oil in them
I just liked that that that woman did

And I also know that I
Sang my song sang my song
And then I just know that I'm. Close. To. My. Birth. Day. Par. Ty!

Then the repeated "CFI"s gave me a headache and I thanked them for their trouble and invited them to stop singing.

"CFI" was printed in large letters on a truck that passed. Otherwise meaningless. But wow, free satellite radio and you can take your cat or small dog, plus, dental!

Hmmm... trucking! Think it's at all like Convoy?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

New picture books, May 2007

Thank you Bear is a sweet but not sugary little story with deceptively simple illustrations by Greg Foley, a guy with a lot of design cred. (Like: on the book's web site, he has advance praise from David Bowie and Iman, Chip Kidd, David Byrne, and Karl Lagerfeld. Whew, the air's gettin a little thin in here, I should probably sit down.)

The book goes like this: Bear has found something that he thinks is just wonderful, and he goes off to show his friend Mouse. On the way, all the rest of the animals tell him that what he has found is not so special. He begins to feel pretty low, until he at last finds Mouse, who agrees with him that he has found the "greatest thing ever". Simple, right? But trust me: just the thing for your friends who somehow fit a baby into their sparsely-decorated high-modern loft.

Mahalia Mouse Goes to College is the latest from celebrity children's book author John Lithgow. John Lithgow makes it look easy, with consistently decent books accompanied by fun CDs.

In this one, Mahalia Mouse loses her way while out foraging for food for her infant siblings, and ends up at Harvard University (not spelled-out in the text, but obvious from the illustrations. Lithgow dedicates the book to the Harvard class of 2005, for whom he recited the then-unpublished book as their commencement speaker).

She completes her degree, along the way participating in such extra-curriculars as campus theatricals and fencing, and is reunited with her family at graduation (as are we all). The cover illustration, of Mahalia with her tiny laptop, is especially winsome. Mahalia reminds me of Willow (if Willow were brown, and may I say - bonus! a protagonist of color in a book that's not about civil rights or gritty city life!).

Mo Willems, god of line and shape, has an I Can Read series (yay! hooray! if he can get Mr. Three toilet-trained, he can surely teach Big Man to read!). Called Elephant & Piggie, all titles are recommended. Not since Hop On Pop ("The simplest Seuss for youngest use") has there been such entertaining fare for the youngest readers.

I paged through Today I Will Fly! with one of my librarian colleagues, and she said, "This reads just like the play I saw last night."

"Which play?" I asked, thinking hey, that might be a play I'd like to see.
"It was called Betrayal," she answered.
"Betrayal? The Pinter play?!"
"That's the one!" she said.

So, happy me, I get to be probably the first to proclaim Mo Willems' dialogue "Pinter-esque"!

Then there's The Knot Fairy by local author Bobbie Hinman. It's a bit pedestrian, but I know at least two little girls and their frustrated moms who should share this book. It blames a cute little fairy for the thorny tangles that kids get in their long hair, and celebrates the resulting mess. Mine was cut super-short in second grade because my mom and I just couldn't take the fighting and the tears trying to comb it anymore. Conditioner, by the way, may have already been invented in the early '70's, and we should have had some.

Best for last! Best for last! The endpapers of The Dumpster Diver by Janet Wong are decorated with a dense print of cartoon beetles and roaches, and it just gets better from there. A bunch of neighborhood children assist Steve the Electrician in his hunt for trash-picked treasure. Then, using hand tools and the power of imagination, they transform blenders into lava lamps, lamps into tables, and "an old table plus two banged-up skateboards plus a ripped crib mattress plus a hand-held shower plus thirty-two screws and a roll of duct tape" into... well, you'd pretty much have to ask Big Man, who uses anything he can find in the back yard to make, um, I think space stations and shipyards.

I have got to read this book with that boy, to make up for the times I have come upon his creative re-use of all our bungee cords, coolers and garden stakes to make a interplanetary rat-trap, and gone all mental on him.

I often say that picture books make terrific gifts for adults. I'll give Mahalia Mouse Goes to College to our family's recent high school graduate. The Un-Wedding goes to anyone who gets divorced, and I need a copy of Miss Spider's Wedding for a friend who just got engaged. The Dumpster Diver is now totally on my list, for those innovative friends who give a giant lighted plastic goose a second life, who spend years rehabbing the VW bug; the people who find a cardboard box and half a yard of fake fur and see a giant puppet.

Love you guys.

Friday, May 18, 2007

He's got radioactive blood

I got two words for you, and for my little boys, and for every little boy everywhere: "Spider-Man pop-up".

The book is not that fantastic, as pop-ups go, but the subject matter alone has made it an object of worship in my house.

And it's not my sloppy camera work - the thing really is a trapezoid and not a rectangle.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Flying through the sky in the wink of an eye

Uncle Joe came for a visit Monday and Big Man wanted to put on a show. Asked to actually plan his show (rather than extemporize, which can, uh, drag on), he drew a color-coded storyboard and developed a plot:

After some tweaking and a discussion of blocking (believe it!), this was the result:

Big Man has lost his voice somewhat, I think it's really cute. And at the end, Mr. Three is saying, "Ha ha ha! I saved the world even though my friend is dead!"

Spotted dick in Prague

A model of the proposed Czech national library. Apparently, the Czechs hate it, but I say godspeed, you alien-infatuated Simpsons-watching slime monster architect emperors.

And when I went looking for spotted dick on the Internet, I found this bunch of hat-wearing get-a-lifers. Wow.

"I'm a vociferous reader"

Dude, me too.

The Sun's article on the new EPFL super-branch on Eastern Ave. Outside reading area, large manga and anime collection, cafe, and drive-thru. And maybe that lady can look up "vociferous" in one of its many dictionaries.

Plus, I missed this gem the first time I read through the article:

Virginia Wenth, 22, with her son 17-month-old son Daeshawn Hope in a
stroller, huddled in the DVD section. She selected "Elmo's Potty Time" for
Daeshawn."I haven't been to the library in a long time, so I wanted to get back
into reading," Wenth said. "And I want to teach him that reading -- there's
nothing wrong with it."

Well, nothing wrong with it that a lifetime of TV and poor nutrition can't fix. (Sorry, I was channeling Anger Hangover there for a second.)

"This bottle never sold"

A couple of weeks ago, we helped clean up the stream in our local park, and found a bottle from the American Brewery. Heavy and clear, deeply embossed, it is Baltimore working-class history that you can hold in your hand.

The old brewery made the paper again today - Baltimore's biggest craziest abandoned architectural landmark is one step closer to new ownership and redevelopment. Humanim, a private social services agency, is due to occupy the building after a 35 million dollar redevelopment by Streuver Bros. Eccles & Rouse and Gotham Developers.

There's some criticism of this deal in the paper, implications that Mayor Sheila Dixon (who, say what you will, she's been acting more like a mayor and less like a psychotic gangster since the elected mayor moved on to Annapolis - it's a savvy tactic, and if we could be sure that she'd act like this for another four years, I'd say let's vote for her. BUT WE CAN'T. SO DON'T.) ... errr, moving on... in the paper, a couple of people criticize the procurement process and imply that Sheila's getting something out of the deal. I suppose they think selling the building to the developers for $5000 sounds like a sweetheart deal.

The fact is, that building has been sitting vacant in the middle of one of the worst neighborhoods in the city for decades. Coaxing someone - anyone - to invest thirty-five MILLIONS DOLLAHS in there was a large piece of work. It is pretty unlikely that Streuver and Gotham are going to see that money back any time soon.

In honor of the potential resurrection of one of my favorite places, here's something I wrote about the building last year:

June 25, 06

The Baltimore Sun this morning had a gigantic, angling-for-a-Pulitzer article this morning on the neighborhood around the American Brewery. It's a great article. The reporter, Eric Siegel, has been working on it for more than a year. He explains the cyclic nature of neighborhood decay and neglect with good, simple clarity, and doesn't ever stoop to blame. The photos are very good too.

When my husband worked for the city housing dept., he was the czar of abandoned properties, and the American Brewery is a big one. He was involved in trying to tempt investment in it, and it's a tempting building - there's nothing else like it. So we ended up driving by it a lot, showing people this architectural confection smack in the middle of one of the most smacked-down neighborhoods in Baltimore.

The neighborhoods we take people - even urban design professionals and veteran social-justice types - they're appalled.

Usually, when we park opposite the building and ogle its 5-storied insanity from inside the car, I will mention, "I've been inside that thing actually." But the building itself is conversation enough, and I don't go into detail.

So here's the detail. I'm a little fuzzy, it's been a while.

Hot spring day, moving into summer. Probably June, what do I know. Before 1991 but after 1988. Paul Flinton and I were at Sisson's chatting with our friend the bartender, Scott Carberry I'm pretty sure. We weren't drinking, I think we just went in to say hi. I don't know why I was hanging out with Paul - he was one of my boyfriend's best friends and a good guy but I can't say we would have sought each other out for company. Anyway, we were talking to Scotty about buildings and neighborhoods I guess and Scott mentioned the American Brewery. We'd never heard of it. He explained where it was and told us it was un-miss-able: "It looks like the Addams Family's house on acid."

Paul and I looked at each other, hopped off our bar stools and headed out.

After tacking around in the WORST neighborhood either of us had ever seen, we caught a glimpse of what had to be it. We couldn't believe we'd never heard of this apparition, it truly was the most haunted-house looking thing ever to be built of bricks and mortar.

We parked, we looked for a way in. It was abandoned and fenced off even then, but we easily got thru the fence. Paul had a moment of fairly sensible trepidation. "Are you sure you want to do this?" Of course I was sure, why on earth not? "Um, because I don't know if I could defend you."

Defend me? I actually had to ask him what the fuck he was talking about. After all, I didn't think I could 'defend' him either. I just always forget that as a female, I have extra vulnerabilities. He was thinking about junkie rapists hiding in the building - I was thinking about giant rats. It was dear of him, and kind of naive. Junkies aren't necessarily rapists - junkies are necessarily thieves.

But we went in and he needn't have worried. We saw nothing alive in that space. No rats, no pigeons, no dogs, no fucking spiders or flies. That creeped me out a lot. There was pigeon shit, and there was one instance of human shit, but other than that the place was sterile. If a crumbling filthy building can be called sterile, I mean I wouldn't want an episiotomy there, but I'm just saying the buglessness was weird.

The building itself was amazing. One wing had wooden floors and we couldn't walk there. We could see sunlight through the cracks between the boards. The other wing had concrete floors and was sound as a dollar. The stairs were fine, the windows were big and it was such a bright day that it wasn't even dark in there. Must have been a nice place to work.

We kept climbing, and every floor was wonderful. We found graffitti that girls had left - I envisioned gangs of tough, feral girls having their meetings and rituals in this Victorian Mad Max cave, like a sorority but with cheaper liquor, and knives. The views kept getting better. The brewing machines, which were multistory iron and steel colossi, were fascinating - industrial, complex, Giger-esque, sort of organic looking.

Which was why, when we climbed a last iron stairway into the cupola and saw two old-fashioned push buttons, size of quarters and made of Bakelite, a white one labeled "ON" and a black one labeled "OFF," and Paul said, "Go ahead," I said "Nuh-uh. You."

I envisioned the brewing machine shuddering to life, tearing free of its brick housing and lurching down Gay Street toward the harbor like a clanky Godzilla. Paul laughed and said, "No fucking way!" and we marveled at the 360-degree view and Paul took a bunch of pictures that turned out pretty cool, and we made our way down out of the cool sunny dust-moted building and back into the stinking hot Baltimore day.

It felt like hours had passed, but when we got back to Sisson's, laughing with adrenaline, Scotty's shift wasn't over yet and we told him the whole story. Maybe Scotty remembers.

(5/17/07 - Scotty did remember, and got in touch, which was nice.)
Art Distelrath's excellent article on the breweries of Gay St.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ask me now before I again become sane!

I really don't do the Internet quizzes very often, despite that recent sunflower debacle, but I came across this one, and as an owner of at least two three capes (I forgot the big red sparkly one), and a regular reader of WWTT (check out Diana Prince at the laundromat in those groovy glasses!) I just had to.

Little did I know how the dark Internet quiz supervillians would humiliate me!

Your results:
You are Robin

Wonder Woman
Iron Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
Young and acrobatic.
You don't mind stepping aside
to give someone else glory.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Jeez! Why not just say "You take it up the butt!" Robin's not even a superhero, he's a sidekick! And he wears shorts! Auggh! I have to go wreck something now.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's a sound salvation

tuck jump on the trampoline

Mr. Librarian listens to me-yew-zik in the car. Music. On the radio! The college station! How the hell he stumbled upon that I have no idea.

Here it is: neither of our cars has a CD player, and I think the Civic doesn't even have a tape player, so on the road, if we want a little diversion,
it's either radio or the voices inside our heads.

The car I usually drive, a green Subaru (apparently the automobile of choice for middle-aged lesbians - this I've been told twice by two wildly different people, so either someone's made a joke about it on cable or it really is true), is tuned to NPR. I got it tuned in once and there it will stay 'til we crash that car. I don't know how to program the little buttons, and I don't remember the frequency of the station, even though, when it's on, I'm sure they remind me every 15 minutes. See, that's why I don't listen to the college station - I cannot retain the station ident for more than five minutes.

Today, however, I was driving the Civic. We switch off: whichever one of us is going to work has to do it in the weapon of the oppressor, 'cause the Subaru has the carseats - hey and let me tell you (warn you), dosing a burrito with hot sauce while piloting a manual-transmission vehicle is kind of something that I have lost my talent for. Whee!

The radio was on, and since it was the college station, Wilco was playing, and then something by that yodeler from the Cranberries (uck), and I guess I really don't listen to music radio much, because when the announcer cut in I fully expected the voice of a DJ from Oh My God the so distant past. It was such a funny feeling - like if you took a bite of ice cream and it turned out to be mayonnaise. Damien Einstein was the voice I was expecting, he was on WHFS, our "alternative" station in the 80's.

And it occurred to me, I can remember the frequency of WHFS: 99.1. "Niney-nine wuon" Damien would say. Guy had a bit of a speech delay: I was always impressed with the station for valuing his encyclopedic music knowledge and discernment over what you have to imagine was their desire to have non-garbled DJs.

I can also remember where my college station was on the dial: 91.1. "Dobleyuh Arr U dobleyuh," so said Prince, the reggae DJ to whom I was apprenticed when I started there. "You gonna be grreat reggae DJ!" he would pronounce, in his big dance-hall voice, and then, "Put on dese rekkids - I'm-a gwine out to de halll-way to smoke a liddle reefah." I was not ever a great reggae DJ, not even after he made me interview Third World on the air. In my memory, there were like 13 guys in that band, all reeking of dope and patchouli and stuffed in the air booth, and I couldn't understand a got-damn word they said. I was a teenager from the suburbs and they were genuine Rastafarians from Kingston. Prince was out in the halll-way. Smokin a liddle reefah.

Nothing goes together like radio and driving, though. Music someone else is choosing sometimes produces these moments of serendipity: the right song in the right landscape at the right speed. By the way, the proper soundtrack for trying to get Taco Bell hot sauce on a burrito while steering with your knee and downshifting is "Pop Song 89".

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Put me in, Coach

I like books. Yeah ok maybe I don't have to point that out.

But I'm not talking about reading books, though I do sort of remember what that's like and sometimes I still get to do it. Mostly books about serial killers and epidemic disease. The rest of the time I read MIT Technology Review and American Libraries and boingboing. For reasons related to one or another of my jobs, I have to keep up on certain things.

But I LIKE books, I like picking up a book and going, "OH yeah, this one will be PERFECT for Kid X." There are so many crap books out there, it feels like a gift to encounter one that was made by a person who also likes books. And who likes kids.

I'm picking out this year's books for the school library. Updating the collection and filling in holes. It's a privilege, and a challenge that I enjoy. The school librarian tells me, "We need puberty, and also some sports biographies, wrestling if you can find them. The Holocaust, and hair and makeup." and I get to ferret out new good books on those topics.

Ohhh, I can't WAIT for the kid who wants hair and makeup to get a load of The Looks Book or D.I.Y. Girl! There are a couple puberty books, notably What's Going On Down There?! that I am very happy about. Also, this year has seen some new, inspiring and beautiful books on the Holocaust.

I totally snagged Joseph Bruchac's Warriors for the little lacrosse nuts. For those of you not from around here, lacrosse is a big sick Maryland thing. It's like the hardest sport there is. In fact, I swear, if you had to play it with your shoelaces tied together, that would not be much of an additional challenge. The lacrosse unit in P.E. in high school was my springtime nightmare. The play is like field hockey, if I remember right, except you have to cradle a hard rubber ball in the "pocket" (if a 2-inch-deep triangular crotch woven of inflexible rawhide can be called a pocket) of a stick held above your head. While running. It's like an insane spoon race, with body contact. But some kids are just maniacs for it, they're NOT interested in reading about ANYTHING else, and they can't understand why I can't hand them biographies of famous lacrosse players written for kids. You know what? NAME me one famous lacrosse player. Oh, did I hear you say "Well there's Jim Brown, the famous sex machine and football player, whose natural sport is said to have been lacrosse"? Yeah well eight year olds don't know who Jim Brown is. So shut up.

Anyway. There are other sports than lacrosse, even here in Maryland, and there are kids who want to read about their sports heroes. LeBron James (him I've heard of, Mr. Librarian is a Cavs fan). Cal Ripken ("Saint Cal" for those of us who live in Baltimore). Anything hometown would be good, so I went looking for juvenile biographies of Orioles and Ravens. Hm. Huh. I see plenty of Yankees, which, uh, no, does not go over well in this town. I see players for every football team on the map, but strangely, no Ravens. I ask Mr. Librarian. He mentions some names that are familiar to me only because the stories of their arrests make the non-sports sections of the paper.

Here's a tip, athletes: if you want people to write inspirational books about you for youngsters, don't get into a car drunk. Don't buy or sell drugs. For god's sake don't stab anyone. Nobody will ever write a kids book about you.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Adages, inkjet, 6 in. x 6 in., 2005. Sarah Marshall. Used with permission. No stealing!

Taking a break from buying $2500 worth of school library books (harder than it sounds) to say hey it looks like my friend Sarah got a new press! She's a master of printmaking (mistress?) - you should go soothe your Friday eyes with her nice art. She has a verging-on-unhealthy interest in Houdini and insects and body parts, but what printmaker isn't obsessed with these?

I don't think I'm violating her privacy any by saying she lives in Alabama - although judge for yourself, this story illustrates the tininess of the world. So you probably know her already. Anyway, Sarah lives in Alabama. Teaches at University of Alabama.

Birmingham Museum of Art (in Alabama, are you getting this?) was a client of mine once, and I went there to meet with them. Really nice folks, really interesting collection. Big fucking statue of Vulcan.

Vulcan at 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.

When I got to Birmingham, I asked the museum registrar where the University was - I mean, I don't know Alabama from my ass - and mentioned that "a friend of mine" was teaching printmaking there. The registrar said, "Well, the university's not in Birmingham, it's in Tuscaloosa, but you should give her a call. I bet she'd drive here for dinner with you - she's pretty homesick."

Ok, maybe there's only one printmaking professor at 'Bama, but still! And maybe the Alabama arts community is relatively wee, but still! Oh, well actually that's probably my point. We never did get together that trip, but she's still my favorite printmaker friend. And her ma's a librarian, you know, quality comes from quality.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Or, I am chickweed

You gotta be kidding me.

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

I am the milkman of human kindness

He's great and all but.

Close the medicine cabinet door.
Close the closet door.
Close your undershirt drawer.
Close the breadbox.
Close the kitchen cabinet door.
Close the door to the basement.
Put the lid back on the butter dish.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

He's thin as a rake

asparagus!, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

You wanna know what a miracle is? A miracle is seeing asparagus growing right up from the ground in your back yard. These things are so teeny you can barely see them, about as big around as perciatelli (uh, too obscure). About as bit around as the inside of a Twizzler. Plus they look like little weird aliens. And they don't produce pollen, which makes them just that little bit less toxic.

I look like I've been smokin dope for a week, anybody got a prescription for me?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I'm gonna give you the slip

Got a new favorite children's book, yes indeedy. The last favorite was excellent, and this one is excellent in a slightly different way.

Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman. And what's so great about it? Well, it's written in a very odd voice.

There was once a boy.
Banjo, his name was, yes, Banjo Cannon.
Well, he was a little boy, this boy,
lived in a house,
slept in a bed,
wore all the usual sorts of clothes,
socks and scarves and such,
loved his cat, named Mildred...

I mean, it sounds like Frank's Wild Years, am I wrong? "Never could stand that dog." And it kind of goes on like that the whole book.

I LOVED reading this aloud - Big Man and Mr. Three stared at me, boggled, then they cracked the hell up. It's all in the delivery when you read to kids (ga-hrrr, yes). If you can do a whole batch of Louisiana accents you will KILL with Mike Artell's Three Little Cajun Pigs (although I wrecked my voice doing the alligator in that one), and if you can sound like an infant and an old man at the same time, I'm Not A Baby by Jill McElmurry will have them rolling in the aisles.

But this book, I read it like I was speaking normally to my children. Maybe my version of speaking normally isn't like everybody else's, but it was a real joy, and the kids thought it was hysterical.

And also the story is good and the illustrations are too. The art is kind of plain and naive, but that gives it a lot of room to be witty and clear.

In the end, the errant sausage's life is saved (oo, sorry - spoiler!) by the predictably prim admonition from Mom, "Don't eat that! It's been on the ground!" It usually sets my teeth on edge when Mom is the downer, the kibosh, the vaudeville shepherd's crook yanking em back when the kid attempts to reach, but in this case the happy, anarchic conclusion is reached only through the offices of Mom the Rule-maker. The sausage sets out on an exciting independent life and Banjo gets to eat his dessert without first eating his dinner. Irony for the under-seven set!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Recompense for all my crimes of self-defense

09-26-06 006 Mosaic, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

All right, that was an obvious one. Sometimes you just have to pick the low-hanging fruit.

So, photo-mosaics! So very over, until you can make them yourself, and then they're pretty cool! I used the step-by-step instructions offered by David Louis Edelman on his blog to make this mosaic of me out of the book covers in my LibraryThing catalog. Click thru to Flickr and do "All sizes" - these things are so cool when you can zoom in.

I also did some great ones of the kids out of the family pictures, but they're like 75 megs, and I subscribe to nothing that allows me to upload a file of that size to the web.

God, I am just dripping with hair, aren't I? I've had it cut since then.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter

bierce, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

This monk looks like someone. Maybe a guy in a Clint Eastwood movie? Bah. It's not coming to me.

And you know, he can clasp his hands and look furtive all he wants - I just don't think he's going to hold out against those tits. What's that dress made out of anyway? Rubber?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

You don't understand us so don't reprimand us

I got a fifty-song gift certificate to iTunes because I cancelled some American Express thing (uh, super, guys - will you give me a cruise if I tell you to go fuck yourselves?). So Woo hoo! Fifty songs!

I started out really responsibly. First I made up for CDs I'd lost in breakups and still miss - R.E.M., Flaming Lips, Stranglers, Chemical Brothers. Then stuff I'd only ever had on vinyl and cassette - the Police, the Pretenders, Todd Rundgren (A Dream really does Go On Forever, in case you're wondering).

And then it got a little hazy. I had every intention of filling in some obscure corner of the Neil Young oeuvre as a nice thing to do for Bob... but somehow I got sidetracked into the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Goldfrapp. Clap Hands Say Yeah, Franz Ferdinand, Tilly and the Wall, Fountains of Wayne - Jesus it's like college in my iPod right now.

I got k.d. lang's cover of Helpless, maybe that counts.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I never believed Tupac was dead either

Weeping a little bit over here. I have spent some time on the Overheard blog and holy shit the big penis / logic / Aruba thing nearly put me in the hospital. I laughed so hard that smoke from cigarettes I'd smoked circa 1987 came out. It's the headlines that really make it.

Also? William Gibson is due out with a new book and I am all up in line to get it. Here's a question for you: whose books will you pick up, no questions asked (until they let you down, hello Neal Stephenson and those big motherfucking 18th century science novels - god!). Off the top of my head I'd say Gibson, Christopher Moore, Michael Ondaatje, Russell Hoban. Used to be Walker Percy too but I'm pretty sure he's dead and I don't have to keep an eye out for his books anymore. On the kid lit side, I'll read anything by Anthony Horowitz, Eoin Colfer, or Philip Pullman.

Answer me! I want to know!

Our little world

Nature walk, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

We live near a nice big woodsy park. There are foxes and herons and red-tailed hawks in there - also poison ivy and thorn bushes. See the lady with the red hair leading the hike? That's our friend Molly - she was the ranger there until recently, and her daughter goes to school with Big Man. She showed the kids secret cool things in the woods, like hollow logs and interesting plants. I was at work - boo.

little snake head

And we disturbed a family of little snakes when we cleared out a big pile of sticks in the back yard. It was a good weekend.