Saturday, March 31, 2007

Like a Pietà, but happy

I got boys, originally uploaded by pwilnyc.

And that's not a pacifier in his mouth, that's one of those "zzzZZ-WHEE!" whistles. Whatever you callem.

Maybe I should elaborate. Looking at this picture, I was reminded of Michelango's Pietà because the angle makes me look like I have a huge lap, massive legs and narrow shoulders. Apparently, if you measure Mary in the Pietà, proportionally, she would be like seven feet tall, with super-long legs. She's like Barbie in a hoodie.

Friday, March 30, 2007

E Belvedere Ave

Hey Mr Blue Sky

I like flowering trees, but deciduous magnolias do not a thing for me most of the time. The other kind of magnolias have those cool glossy leaves that you can make boats out of, and these things just look like sticks all winter.

But then you get the ONE DAY out of the year when they're all blooming at once, and as you drive around town all you see are these terrific mounds of pink whipped cream, heaped up against a Fabergé blue sky. It's like getting whacked in the face with three pounds of rose petals.

It's also a good time for me to be taking allergy medication.

Like you couldn't tell.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The trouble with Tribbles

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog

Well, I guess ever'body else got one.

In celebration of the forthcoming National Poetry Month (national wave a Kleenex around and make wooping noises, more like) (I'm not a big poetry fan), here is a selection from yonder blogge:

by Carolus de Bois-Quasqué

I was goinge somewhere
like chirche
but I got round to Betties and she had sum ale going
and spices and al that maner merde
and ich seyde to myself
“Swyve this”

thanks ZenFoPro for the title: for once, not an embarrassing 80's pop song

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

When I become one with the sun

I sing the praises of the Cramer Kik-Step.

It's the right height to sit on, it gives you just enough extra reach when you stand on it. It's on casters so it rolls wherever you kick it, but the casters are retractable so as soon as you step on it, it sinks solidly to the floor. It has a black rubber band around the place where it would hit things, and the treads and top are black rubber too - non-slip!.

Mine is shiny red. It lives in the kitchen, and I can look at it every day and envision what my kitchen's going to look like once we bankrupt ourselves to re-do it. Shiny red cabinets and matte black walls. We just got drawings from the architect. I can't decide whether to be excited or terrified.

(me screwing around with the IKEA kitchen planner tool)

Meanwhile, the Kik-Step rolls around like a little animal.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What not to read

SF/fantasy books with swords on the cover. They make you break out.

Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Gullible, you're feeling oh so gullible. Send me all your money in the mail...

Girls from da hood 2. It will make you pregnant.

Manga if you're over the age of 15. You'll end up with distorted ideas and will be confused when you encounter women who wear skirts past the thigh and have hair that obeys the laws of gravity.

The Shopaholic, Ya-Ya, Hot Flash Club, and Elm Creek Quilter's Society books. You'll end up with distorted ideas and will be confused when you encounter women who are not supportive or unusually funny and who don't give a shit about your problems.

A year in Provence. Next thing you know, you'll be checking out books about the funny things cats do.

The Surrendered Wife. I'd have to come to your house and kill you.

Mysteries that have food or cats in the title. You will sprout hairs on your chin and people will begin to mistake you for a nun.

Buddhism. Asking for the books of Thich Nhat Hanh will make you an asshole. It's a paradox, I know.

Left Behind. Carrying any of those books will make you look like a drooling idiot.

Oh and? By the way? My boobs may have attended library school with me, but that doesn't mean they can point you the way to Biography. If they could do that I would be in a different profession.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song

I have a friend at work who teases me about my (wide but shallow) breadth of knowledge. Yeah, ok, I know kind of a lot about Northeastern Congo, controlled vocabulary, epidemic disease, and the music of the 1980's, and I've forgotten more art history than most people would ever want to know, but mostly I know a little about a lot of stuff. Classical literature, scientific illustration, India, database architecture, old VW's, you know. I define "liberal arts major".

So my friend asks me if Bob is "as smart as" I am and I say, Oh hell yes. Bob has an analytical mind and a trove of historical and experiential knowledge that comes into play every time he reads a newspaper. Listening to his comments is like learning the hidden contexts and meanings that underlie all political acts. And yet, he's a consensus-builder who knows when to solicit everyone else's opinion and when to sit back and listen. I could never do that. Plus he plays piano and knows a lot about the movies of the 1980's, so we complement each other there.

So my friend asks, "Was that the attraction? Was that what drew you to each other?"

I laughed and laughed. The joke is that Bob and I fell in love at first sight: purely, we each thought the other was cute. We were teenagers.

We've been together ten years this month. We've been married for seven years, and we've been in love for 21 years, during which time we cohabitated with a combined total of seven other significant others (one of whom I married) in five states and one foreign country (Zimbabwe).

We finally got our act together in March of 1997, when he was in grad school at MIT and I was living in NYC. You think we're so smart? Well, consider this: after 12 years, it took geographic proximity and an incident of astonishing synchronicity to throw us together, ultimately for good - the email exchange went something like this:

To: Paula
From: Bob
I'm a little depressed this week. My girlfriend left me for a girl named Tex.
To: Bob
From: Paula
Huh. I'm "a little depressed" myself. My husband appears to have left me too. What are you doing this weekend?

When we got married, we chose to get our certificate from the Staten Island Borough Hall (I totally recommend it, it's a nice old building and the ride over on the ferry gives it a real sense of occasion) so that we could have a big ceremony with no officiant at all. Instead of vows, we read each other excerpts from our letters to each other - 12 years of pining and stupidheadedness. Then, our Best Man and our Babe of Honor held up cue cards and the entire assembly pronounced us husband and wife. We were married by acclaim.

Now, as anyone who reads this blog knows, we have found out that he's an energetic, engaged, imaginative father as well. What you may not have gathered is he lets me slack all over the place, he loves my cooking, likes the same movies as me, and mostly he doesn't mind when I get all OCD about how to load the dishwasher.

All that stuff is totally just icing though - I still love him for his body. You just have to look up what Anya says about Xander in that episode where nothing else really happens. But you might not want to.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

She's a super-geek, she's super-geeky, yeah

I know at least one person who's going to ridicule me without mercy for this.

Ok, I'm a librarian, right? In library school I learned to use WorldCat, a subscription online database of materials in libraries worldwide. It's for finding books that aren't in your library and requesting them via InterLibrary Loan.

Ever since my free library school password expired, I've been all irritated that I didn't have access to it at home. Sometimes you just need a bib ref for a book on Mycenean pottery designs, ok? Sometimes you just do.

So now WorldCat is online and free and you can even put a widget for it on your blog in the sidebar, right under LibraryThing (which is also great) and right above the badge for Mothers for Social Drinking.

Scroll down, try it out, and then mock me.

UPDATE: Jeremiah and my favorite Strange librarian: get the widget here. You do have to register, but you don't have to give the librarian secret handshake. Jeremiah, someday we'll teach you that. It gains you little, but it's fun to know. Heidi, thanks for fulfilling my prediction of mockage!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Keep on rollin'

We took a trip to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge last weekend to see the bald eagles (live cam here). We climbed on stuff and played a lot and had fun. Big Man's favorite thing he saw was "the Bay". He liked the big fallen tree but he liked the Bay more.

Click the top photo for a slideshow or click here to see all the photos. The big fallen tree was trippy.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

You scumbag you maggot you cheap lousy word-I-won't-use

(and that's sayin' something)

Not usually a fan of St. Patrick's Day. I just don't like the holidays that are excuses for dressing stupid and getting hammered. That stuff is for amateurs.

But... Bob wanted to celebrate his first paycheck of his new job by going out to lunch, and he is half Irish, and it is St. Patrick's Day, and there is this Irish place that I hang out at, uh, from time to time (hey! my prayer group meets there Monday nights, shut up!), so we went to Ryan's Daughter for lunch.

Thinking about The Troubles

It was a scene, man. Packed but we got a table anyway. Ran into Counterpoint Mary and her Bob, showed off the kids to the bartenders (I'm sentimental that way. God this post is making me sound like a sot). Ordered from the one-day-only limited menu and I have got to say, usually places totally punt on the drunken-holiday food, like you go to Fells Point for any festival and they've laid in huge quantities of the worst frozen crap you've ever blearily shoveled into your gullet (which is why we avoid that place like the clap whenever anything remotely festive is going on), but today Ryan's Daughter's food was, if anything, better than usual.

And then got home and called our 100% Irish Best Man who is in the hospital after almost dying of septicemia brought on by decades of concerted drinking. Bottoms up, folks!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Suspended in Ga-choke-splutter-@%-retch

I could be thinking about middle school fiction. I could be trying to remember that joke Mr. Three told this morning. I could be designing chicken coops in my head.

Instead I am thinking about Kate Bush.

When's the last time you found yourself thinking about Kate Bush? That witchy shriek, those undergraduate themes (love, Brontë novels, clouds), dressing up like a lion, doing mime, oh god those awful videos that ruined the few good songs she had...? The chiffon! It burns my eyes!

Look at her. I'm not English and so I'm forbidden to use the word "daft," but she is, so maybe she's working on providing a visual definition. What is that? "Here is some sand, it's so heavy I have to use both hands, but I forgot to close my fingers so it's all falling out... or... is this sand? Please kind sir I have this fistful of kitty litter and I'm not sure what to do with it..."

So, do you ever wonder what Kate Bush is doing at this moment? Yeah me neither.

Now that it's crossed my mind though, I kind of wish she has cut her hair, bought some miniskirts, thrown away the Fairlight, and learned to paint like Agnes Martin.

*tappity tap*

Oh fuck don't go find out - the birdsong alone will make you want to shatter your monitor. Although? Note to Tyler? If you're looking for a huge batch of incoherent lyrics because you have about 15 songs to finish, you could do worse than to point Ira at this.
If they find me racing white horses,
They'll not take me for a buoy.
Now there's an if:then statement that I can get behind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Slither down the greasy pipe

Mr. Three et Monsieur Trois.

This is a blog entry about the weather. I have hit bottom, I know, but I have disgusting news.

Today my children and I and the neighbor child spent the whole afternoon in the backyard, playing pirate and digging compost and tilling the garden beds, drawing with chalk. It had to be 80 degrees. We were wearing tshirts.

So, I have this friend Anton, he's a meteorology postdoc. Among other things: if you ever meet him ask him about the whole Bolivian lost cities thing, or about tornadogenesis, or Peruvian frogs. I met him when he visited my museum to look at aerial photos of Andean glaciers that had been shot in the 1950's early 1930's and never printed (god knows how he and his partner knew about them, but the partner worked for the Air & Space Museum and may have had weird government information) (that's not true). Eventually I ended up taking him to the Ornithology Dept archives, tracking down maps of remote northeast Bolivia that had been hand-drawn on some bird-shooting expedition over a hundred years ago (could have been Chapman, could have been J. A. Allen in 1889).

The kind of guy you Google and you wonder what the fuck you've been doing with your own life.

Anyway, Anton is kind of snow-mad. He sends out email bulletins whenever something intense and wintry is about to transpire. He parses the National Weather Service alerts, reads between the lines, analyzes the same data in alternate ways, and delivers a very clear, detailed, sometimes footnoted picture of just how sleety, snowy, or freezing-rainy things are going to get, along with a large dose of yay-snow-ism.

Anton has saved my husband's reputation at least once. Bob used to be in the decision chain about whether to close the city schools for inclement weather, and, armed with Anton's information, he never looked like an idiot for closing schools for a flurry.

Here's what Anton has to say about our lovely weather today:
March, ever the month for extremes, is revving up for some smashing theatrics over the next several days. Today's sunshine has many inland locations warming into the 70s all the way to southern Maine -- and even 80s down in Washington. Yet just last week we experienced record late-season cold...

It may seem hard to believe, but we're about to descend into deep winter conditions once again. A strong cold front will press southwards across the Northeast tomorrow, setting the stage for what could become a significant snowstorm for much of the region on Friday into Saturday. At this point it is difficult to anticipate how the storm will evolve, which makes discussion on snowfall amounts of little value... but what can be said is that the overall setup is certainly quite promising.

The storm will also herald the onset of another serious cold wave. Far below normal temperatures, with possible near-record lows, are likely to persist for much of next week. Daytime temperatures will have trouble getting much above freezing starting on Saturday. There is another chance for snowfall on Monday.

I'll send out an update about Friday's storm potential tomorrow.

I love this guy, really - he could dine out for decades on his Spalding Grey story alone - but that thing about the storm looking "promising" just makes me want to go back to bed.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Double self-portrait (Thinking about The Arnolfini Marriage)


I am not a "maker of objects," as they say.

Man, I had a professor at NYU who got so excited when one of my fellow students described himself as such that I thought the chopsticks would vibrate right out of her tight little bun. What a stupid term. You're an artist, you're a carpenter, you're whatever, but god knows you can be more specific than "maker of objects." Pffft.

Anyway, I'm no artist. But I sort of always wanted to give something a title like MMPI (Self Portrait in Yellow). Artists. Lord love 'em but they can be pretentious.

So I was making banana chocolate chip pancakes this morning and staring idly into this pot lid, and I found myself thinking of the convex mirror in Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Marriage...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

If passion ends in fashion

Ok just do this, okay? Right-click on this picture (it's ice tea made with passion fruit tea in a plastic cup, but that's not important right now) and make it your desktop background. Then right-click on your desktop, choose Properties, and set the background image to Tile.

Depending on how you feel about orange, this will either relieve your Seasonal Affective Disorder or give you a headache.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Eating Chex with Janet Reno

what IS that on her head?

I would have a lot less fun with my kids if I didn't have an iPod. I mean it. We have dance parties almost every day, and if I had to be putting on the same tired CD that everone could agree on, I, well we wouldn't feel like dancing. As it is, I can spin that little wheel, see what comes up, and find out whether it's good or not.

That's right - I totally believe that my kids (and to a somewhat lesser degree all kids) are the perfect judges of music. Untainted by the coolness factor, untraumatized by exposure to the taste of former roommates (Cindy), immune to inadvertent memory associations (camp, first crush, road trips undertaken with inadequate tapeage), they instinctively respond to good beats and pleasing melodies (and somewhat repetitive lyrics but what do you want, fact is we all like that). They know what they like.

And what do they like?

AC/DC. One of the proudest moments in my young life was when my two-year-old Big Man was with me in Atomic Books and Back in Black started up on the sound system. He stopped in his tracks and gasped, "Me know dis song! Me LOVE dis song!"

Chicago. The Broadway soundtrack, not the band. Kind of mystifying to me, but the songs are engaging, and their grandfather admires those Bob Fosse moves, so maybe that's where it comes from.

The All Mighty Senators. It's almost embarrassing. Mr. Three was moved to sing Flex and Release in the Hall of Mammals and their Extinct Relatives at the American Museum of Natural History. And if Three spots Landis (the band's front man) dropping off his kid at Big Man's school, he feels compelled to greet the poor man and inquire as to whether he gots the soul.

Beastie Boys. Although without exception, when a Beastie Boys song comes up on the iPod, Mr. Three will exclaim, "Landis!"

Now, and here is one of the best things about the iPod, usually I just skim the G-rated songs and put them on the Kid Dance Fiasco playlist. Some slightly filthy songs, though, are so beloved by our kids that we play them anyway, and have to kind of get creative.

Big Friend's daddy's band (which used to be called Sick and is now Pulaski) has a few songs like this. In El Camino, for example, there is a series of clever lines that rhyme with "Camino": "All dressed up like Al Pacino," "Drinking beer not cappucino," etc., including one that goes, "Having sex with Janet Reno," which we always try to yell different words to (see title of this post).

Like me, Big Friend has some hearing loss, which makes it easier for his mom to cope with, say, the line in Hulk that goes "Biggest penis you've ever seen." She just hollers out, "Biggest PERSON you've ever seen" over the music. Backfired the other day when Big Friend's smart little pal was in the car and said, "Hey wait a minute. They didn't say 'person,' they said 'penis'!" She was all, "Look over there! It's a giant, er, building!" to forestall them insisting that she back up the CD and play it again just to check.

Big Friend has discovered the Beatles, though. He still loves his dad's punk-ass music and the Ramones and wears his Weezer t-shirt to school, but he has recently been copying the album art and memorizing all the words to the music of the Western world's most beloved band.

I've heard two more votes for the Beatles, by the way, and one more for the Ramones. Same kid likes the Doors - I think that kid must be very deep.

The Monkees. Even without watching their cutie TV series. Although I played I'm a Believer after we read Gakky Two-Feet to explain that the guy who wrote this book? is in THIS BAND! and I think they processed that. Seriously, can you believe how successful Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith became - after starting out as a fake TV band?

KC and the Sunshine Band. Zola. ABBA. Fishbone. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Pizzicato Five. They Might be Giants. Squirrel Nut Zippers (without even knowing the band names of these last 5). Juliet's kids like Weezer and Pansy Division. Friend the Girl wants to hear the Smiths all the time, and little Juicy Boy will sing "I think you're cra-zay" to nice ladies who tell him how cute he is.

Oddly, the Favorite Songs Ever in our house are by local Baltimore bands - bands which I knew way back when and never really played til I put the compilations on the iPod. Giant Robots by Berzerk; El Camino by Sick; and Wink by the Senators. I wonder what would happen if I let them hear Goddamn by Pornflakes or Love is a Moron - was that Cloaca?

Berzerk, by the way (and may I say holy crap look how young Skizz looks in the picture with Shonen Knife!), is what Dingoes Ate My Baby should have sounded like. Joss Whedon missed a trick - he and Skizz might have been great collaborators.

Do they just like what we like, what we expose them to? Does familiarity breed affection?

A's little boy is a big ol' Cars fan, and believe me, A likes her some skinny white rock and roll, although A theorizes that it's that futuristic sound that appeals to her space-happy man.

Perhaps not.
Exhibit A:
My kids are violently opposed to Zap Mama, completely indifferent to M.I.A., and totally bored by both Shonen Knife and Sonic Youth.

Exhibit B. The VERY FIRST TIME I put on Appetite for Destruction, they went stock-still for a second and then went nuts, dancing and spinning, stage-diving off the coffee table. It was like someone had force-fed them all the roses off the birthday cake. They love Guns N' Roses SO MUCH.

That pure, instinctive reaction - that's what made me think of writing this.

Most compelling of all, Exhibit C: Our friend Eric's daughter, who strenuously objects to "grownup music" - woe to Eric when he tries to put on Zeppelin II - heard Dark Side of the Moon for the first time one afternoon in the car on the way home from ballet class with two of her friends (were you counting? that was 6 prepositional phrases in a row). All three girls loved it.

This, to me, is scientific proof.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Zero point energy

When I first saw a thumbnail picture of this art installation in Germany, called SPACE INVADERS by the artists Sebastian Hungerer and Rainer Kehres, I thought it was a Dale Chihuly thing, like the ceiling at the V&A. But it is a huge (14 x 11 meter) curtain of light fixtures strung in the foyer of a building in Karlsruhe.

The site has big gorgeous pictures and video too. I was looking through it with my young men, who totally responded to it. Mr. Three yelled out, "It's the solar system!" while Big Man pretended the lamps were cherries and made to snatch them off the screen and gobble them up. Well worth the click.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


A young woman came to the ref desk tonight looking for this novel. It is entitled merely Whore. We have it, oh, I know we have it. We don't have all of Edith Wharton's novels, but we have Whore. The library system does not own the entirety of Kurt Vonnegut's oeuvre, but we have Whore.

Ok that makes me sound like a big priss. "Oeuvre," I don't even know how to pronounce that. And the system I work for is proud to be very inclusive, and to carry recreational reading for everyone. We have every volume of Sin City, for example. We have Dil Aashna Hai. We have Riding Dirty on I-95, and I tell you I am PROUD to recommend Riding Dirty on I-95 to my patrons who have read Thugs Ain't No Fun At All and are looking for something new. But shit, even we reject certain titles. Sheisty. Still Sheisty.

I couldn't find Whore on the shelf, so I checked the return room. "Anybody seen Whore?" I hollered out as I entered. "We have a book called Whore, and I want it! Whore. That's it, that's the title."

I found the book and delivered it to the young woman. The cover is just breathtaking, don't you think? I really debated adding it to this post.

But then I was curious, so I looked up the book and the author online.

Annnd.... I kind of have to take it all back. The author is in JAIL. For MURDER. She doesn't get out 'til 2011 at the minimum. I read the bio posted by her publisher. Her mother was 15 when she was born, her father left before she arrived, and she was on her own at 12. Before too long she killed someone and went to jail, then she was sexually abused by prison guard(s) and spoke up about it, then she wrote a goddamn novel and got it published and it's In. My. Library!

I'm going to make everyone read this fucking book.

I'm still doing things that you gave up years ago

Like listening to ska. Like smoking. It's embarrassing.

But something I don't mind is my attachement to my boots. Here you see the originals, bought in the early 90's from a leather/head shop called Hell-Bent for Leather. Steel-toed 19" engineer boots by Georgia Boot. Men's, because they didn't used to make 'em for girls. They're still the boots I wear with skirts and gowns. Only reason I didn't wear them to get married to Bob was that I had a broken big toe. That night, I wore my Tevas.

Many years later, after having all these kids, I needed a pair of shoes I could just aim my foot at and get on, look-ma-no-hands style. And we had just happened to move to a house around the corner from Hell-Bent for Leather. I took both babies, a little trepidatious because after all it was a leather shop and I was a housewife with two little babes in tow.

Worked out ok though: as soon as the hairy tattooed owner of the shop spied my toddler boy, he pulled a basket of blocks and Thomas trains out from under a rack of black leather vests. There are so many big cream-puffs in Baltimore masquerading as tough guys.

So I bought these Double-H brand short engineer boots and loved them to death. I put a pair of orthotics in them and they ended up being my best shoes for work. Librarians are always looking for shoes that are comfortable and supportive and they always end up giving in and wearing athletic shoes.

sad old Double-H short engineer boots, RIP

But my beloved short boots have seen better days. Replacing them has taken about four months (I would not be writing about my fer-gods-sake footwear unless we were talking about a Quest, an Odyssey. I am the Ulysses of short biker boots.) First off, I found that Hell-Bent for Leather has gone out of business (weep). Then I tried all the specialty work-like shoe stores in town, the old-time ones like Dan Bros., the newfangled ones like Red Wing. Nobody had the real thing.

I ended up online at a place called The Boot Barn (Outfitters for the New West - oooh-kay...) and hoopety-joy! There they were, short harness boots called Scooter! And on sale!

New Double-H Scooter boot

They came yesterday, and they are almost as comfortable as the old ones right out of the box. I was so excited when I found them that I decided, after 15 years, to take a leap and try a new style as well.

Double-H Piper

These I'll wear with tights.

PS: And in a piece of weird seagull synchonicity, driving to work today I saw an old greaser humping it up Taylor Ave. wearing his jeans cuffed and his silly hat, and my old short boots on his feet. I almost rolled down the window and asked him where he'd found them.