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Monday, April 30, 2007

Betraying the Reader into knowledge of the shop where the best Puffs and Powder are to be sold.

Extracts from Samuel Johnson's
The Idler, 1759
One of the oldest articles written about advertising.

The practice of appending to the narratives of public transactions, more minute and domestic intelligence, and filling the News-papers with advertisements, has grown up by slow degrees to its present state.

Genius is shewn only by Invention. The man who first took advantage of the general curiosity that was excited by a siege or battle, to betray the Readers of News into the knowledge of the shop where the best Puffs and Powder were to be sold, was undoubtedly a man of great sagacity, and profound skill in the nature of Man.

Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic.

Promise, large Promise, is the soul of an Advertisement. I remember a Wash-ball that had a quality truly wonderful, it gave an exquisite edge to the razor. And there are now to be sold, for ready money only, some Duvets for bed-coverings, of down, beyond comparison superior to what is called Otter Down, and indeed such, that its many excellencies cannot be here set forth. With one excellence we are made acquainted, it is warmer than four or five blankets, and lighter than one.

The true pathos of Advertisements must have sunk deep into the heart of every man that remembers the zeal shewn by the Seller of the Anodyne Necklace, for the ease and safety of poor toothing infants, and the affection with which he warned every mother, that she would never forgive herself if her infant should perish without a Necklace.

The trade of advertising is now so near to perfection, that it is not easy to propose any improvement. But as every art ought to be exercised in due subordination to the publick good, I cannot but propose it as a moral question to these masters of the publick ear, whether they do not sometimes play too wantonly with our passions...

There are men of diligence and curiosity who treasure up the Papers of the Day merely because others neglect them, and in time they will be scarce. When these collections shall be read in another century, how will numberless contradictions be reconciled, and how shall Fame be possibly distributed among the Tailors and Boddice-makers of the present age?

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Small blessings after the storm.

I'm starting to recover from a really rough weekend; it coupled a wonderful annual gig with terrible, almost unbearable old memories. I dreaded this weekend for weeks and was so anxious Friday afternoon I had to take a nap.

By late afternoon today the rough stuff was over; in celebration I spent a happy hour and a half at my favorite Mexican restaurant, eating a late lunch and reading on the patio.

The wind was blowing like crazy, napkins were flying everywhere, but I wasn't cold; I'd had the foresight to - well, not enough foresight to bring a jacket from home, but enough foresight to stop first at Ross's and buy a new sweater - on clearance for $5.46, and it even matched my skirt! I deemed it a harbinger of good fortune.

Soon I was the only patio customer. I felt hardy.

The book I was reading has been on my nightstand, mostly neglected, for about a year: La casa de los espíritus by Isabel Allende. I read it in English, and loved it, many years ago.

When I started it in Spanish last year, I read with the English-language paperback in one hand and Spanish in the other. I proudly realize my Spanish has improved enough that I can now read and enjoy it on its own. I just ignore the sporadic gusts of wonderfully obscure words, promising to look them up later... maybe a lot later...

Anyway, while I was eating and reading and grinning one of the waitresses came over and said, "you're really enjoying your book, aren't you?" So I showed her the book and she said she hadn't read it, another came over and said she'd loved it, and we talked about it a bit (in Spanish)! I used to be terrified and blush beet red when I tried to speak Spanish, and this time I didn't - another harbinger of good fortune.

I have a pink index card in my nightstand, given to me by a psychologist seven or eight years ago when I was trying to get through some awful times. It says:


I hope this mantra helps somebody else; it's helped me at least a little...

On a happier note, I write every morning out on my patio and the birds are putting on a magnificent spring show. Suddenly this year red finches have learned how to jam their nests onto the impossibly narrow ledges at the top of my siding, right under the eaves, and they've stuffed a ridiculous number of nests up there, and they're yakking and flapping all day. I don't have a Carolina Wren in my nail bucket this year, but the hummingbirds are back and at their nasty wars already (they surely expend more calories trying to defend the feeder from each other than they get from actually sipping), and the male bluebird is sitting on top of his house, usually a sign that eggs have hatched.


Chemo Brain: not just a slogan on a t-shirt

This article focused on breast-cancer survivors, but chemo brain is a fact of life for many other survivors as well...

Extracts from
Chemotherapy Fog Is No Longer Ignored as Illusion
by Jane Gross for the New York Times April 29, 2007

On an Internet chat room popular with breast cancer survivors, one thread — called "Where's My Remote?" — turns the mental fog known as chemo brain into a stand-up comedy act.

One woman reported finding five unopened gallons of milk in her refrigerator and having no memory of buying the first four. A second had to ask her husband which toothbrush belonged to her.

At a family celebration, one woman filled the water glasses with turkey gravy. Another could not remember how to carry over numbers when balancing the checkbook.

Once, women complaining of a constellation of symptoms after undergoing chemotherapy — including short-term memory loss, an inability to concentrate, difficulty retrieving words, trouble with multitasking and an overarching sense that they had lost their mental edge — were often sent home with a patronizing "There, there."

But attitudes are changing as a result of a flurry of research and new attention to the after-effects of life-saving treatment. There is now widespread acknowledgment that patients with cognitive symptoms are not imagining things, and a growing number of oncologists are rushing to offer remedies, including stimulants commonly used for attention-deficit disorder and acupuncture.

"Chemo brain is part of the language now, and just to have it acknowledged makes a difference." Anne Grant, ... who had high-dose chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in 1995, said she could not concentrate well enough to read, garbled her sentences and struggled with simple decisions like which socks to wear.

Virtually all cancer survivors who have had toxic treatments like chemotherapy experience short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating during and shortly afterward, experts say. But a vast majority improve. About 15 percent ... remain distracted years later, according to some experts.

Most oncologists agree that the culprits include very high doses of chemotherapy ...

The new interest in chemo brain is, in effect, a testimony to enormous strides in the field. Patients who once would have died now live long enough to have cognitive side effects, just as survivors of childhood leukemia did many years ago, forcing new treatment protocols to avoid learning disabilities.

"A large number of people are living long and normal lives," said Dr. Patricia Ganz, an oncologist at U.C.L.A. who is one of the nation's first specialists in the late side effects of treatment. "It's no longer enough to cure them. We have to acknowledge the potential consequences and address them early on."

As researchers look for a cause, cancer survivors are trying to figure out how to get through the day by sharing their experiences, and by tapping expertise increasingly being offered online by Web sites like and

...approaching a doctor does not guarantee help. Susan Mitchell, 48, who does freelance research on economic trends, complained to her oncologist in Jackson, Miss., that her income had been halved since her breast cancer treatment last year because everything took longer for her to accomplish. She said his reply was a shrug.

"They see their job as keeping us alive, and we appreciate that," Ms. Mitchell said. "But it's like everything else is a luxury. These are survivor issues, and they need to get used to the fact that lots of us are surviving."

Among women like Ms. Mitchell, lost A.T.M. cards are as common as missing socks. Children arrive at birthday parties a week early. Wet clothes wind up in the freezer instead of the dryer. Prosthetic breasts and wigs are misplaced at the most inopportune times. And simple words disappear from memory: "The thing with numbers" will have to do for the word "calculator."

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Remember"

This is part of my continuing project of an album cover for a cd of murder ballads...

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Mike does Illustration Friday: "Remember"

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

[Hannah]: Toxic Ant Salad

Our apartment was recently infested by ants. It was totally gross, even though they were only the little black ones.

How do we get rid of ants? I called Ma. She said to use Raid and then use vinegar because it confuses their little ant noses so they wont follow the trails of their dead comrades up onto your bedroom floor.

Heedless of the danger of a fatal Raid-vinegar chemical reaction, I applied first Raid and then vinegar to my bedroom floor. The ants disappeared.

One of my roommates just got her own ants. I gave her this solution, but being a tender hearted vegan she was not keen on the Raid, so instead she used *her* family's folk remedy (or maybe it was a vegan folk remedy): Black pepper all over the floor! I guess this would follow the same "confuse their noses" theory.

So at this point, our living room floor has both Raid and black pepper all over it, and one roommate or another may put down vinegar shortly.

WE HAVE CREATED A TOXIC ANT SALAD! All we need now is a little crushed garlic, and, uh, some Mace.

I told my roommate that my feet feel gritty, and I'm a little afraid I'm going to get chemical burns.

He glanced up at me thoughtfully. "Don't lick your feet."

[Hannah]: Melina's Odyssey


I kind of miss my alter ego name! I have gotten very attached to it.

Here's where I'm going to be the next few days. This used to seem like it was an "efficient" plan but now I feel like it's probably more like "stupid":

Renting a car tomorrow morning (in Newark, because it's cheaper if you're underage there than in NY) and driving into the massachusetts mountains to a place where I have never been. Then, driving from this unknown place to Boston, dropping off the car at Logan airport, taking the T to the house of a friend of a friend, spending the night, going to two different boston libraries where I have never been before, spending the night again, leaving super early for the airport, flying to LA, going to a conference for two days, staying in a hotel, visiting family, staying overnight with family, then going to two more meetings in locations TBD, spending the night in a different hotel, then flying home.

The end of my ATC project

I got the last seven "Artist Trading Cards" in the mail yesterday for the project. The last batch was "famous bad people from history" and here are a few of them (Billy the Kid, Vlad the Impaler, OJ, a generic king, and Boss Tweed). Click for a life-size view.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

... and one more.

Quotation #633 from Michael Moncur's (Cynical) Quotations:

Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf.

Lewis Mumford

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My three best friends and I: providing mental health for twelve other people.

Quotation #1380 from Michael Moncur's (Cynical) Quotations:

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you.

Rita Mae Brown

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Something most teachers thought-bubble at some point...

Quotation #689 from Michael Moncur's (Cynical) Quotations:

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.

An English Professor, Ohio University

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

[Hannah]: Looking Out of my Right Eye

When I was in elementary school, my teachers thought I had a vision problem, because when I was stressed out I looked at things out of the corner of my eye (scary movies, scary teachers). My right eye. Apparently, this isn't so uncommon.... except I've got it backwards from the dogs.

Vanishing honeybees

Extracts from
Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons
By Alexei Barrionuevo for the New York Times, April 24, 2007

BELTSVILLE, Md., April 23 — What is happening to the bees?

More than a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost — tens of billions of bees... So far, no one can say what is causing the bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.

As with any great mystery, a number of theories have been posed, and many seem to researchers to be more science fiction than science. People have blamed
  • Genetically modified crops
  • Cellular phone towers
  • High-voltage transmission lines for the disappearances. Or was it
  • A secret plot by Russia or Osama bin Laden to bring down American agriculture? Or, as some blogs have asserted,
  • The rapture of the bees, in which God recalled them to heaven?
Researchers have heard it all.

"Colony collapse disorder" [is] the name given for the disappearing bee syndrome.

The most likely suspects: a virus, a fungus or a pesticide.

Genetic testing at Columbia University has revealed the presence of multiple micro-organisms in bees from hives or colonies that are in decline, suggesting that something is weakening their immune system. The researchers have found some fungi in the affected bees that are found in humans whose immune systems have been suppressed by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or cancer.

So far, colony collapse disorder has been found in 27 states... A recent survey of 13 states ... showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March.

Honeybees are arguably the insects that are most important to the human food chain. They are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts. The number of bee colonies has been declining since the 1940s, even as the crops that rely on them, such as California almonds, have grown.

Bee colonies have been under stress in recent years as more beekeepers have resorted to crisscrossing the country with 18-wheel trucks full of bees in search of pollination work. These bees may suffer from a diet that includes artificial supplements, concoctions akin to energy drinks and power bars. In several states, suburban sprawl has limited the bees’ natural forage areas.

... Researchers emphasized today that feeding supplements produced from genetically modified crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup, need to be studied.

Mr. Hackenberg, the beekeeper, agreed to take his empty bee boxes and other equipment to Food Technology Service, a company in Mulberry, Fla., that uses gamma rays to kill bacteria on medical equipment and some fruits. In early results, the irradiated bee boxes seem to have shown a return to health for colonies repopulated with Australian bees.

"This supports the idea that there is a pathogen there," Dr. Cox-Foster said. "It would be hard to explain the irradiation getting rid of a chemical."

Still, some environmental substances remain suspicious.

Of greatest interest are the "systemic" chemicals that are able to pass through a plant’s circulatory system and move to the new leaves or the flowers, where they would come in contact with bees.

One such group of compounds is called neonicotinoids, commonly used pesticides that are used to treat corn and other seeds against pests. One of the neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, is commonly used in Europe and the United States to treat seeds, to protect residential foundations against termites and to help keep golf courses and home lawns green.

In the late 1990s, French beekeepers reported large losses of their bees and complained about the use of imidacloprid, sold under the brand name Gaucho. The chemical, while not killing the bees outright, was causing them to be disoriented and stay away from their hives, leading them to die of exposure to the cold, French researchers later found. The beekeepers labeled the syndrome "mad bee disease."


Saturday, April 21, 2007

The double-violin stand I built for $3.56

PVC pipe and coat hanger: put them together with duct tape and you have an unbeatable combination. I am so proud of this invention. It comes apart for easy transport. My dad would have been pleased (but if he'd done it, it would have looked a lot better).


Why we had no power for two days.

"Wind." Can you see the lines down under this, my next door neighbor's oak tree? (Click it for larger view.)

If Duke Power had buried the lines decades ago, we would have been spared, well, decades of having to throw our food out when we have the frequent 1-10 day power outages.


Some new slogans for Durham from a rude new blog.

I don't know who is behind this blog but I'm going to keep an eye on it.

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A most embarrassing moment

Thursday night I was late for the Duke Collegium dress rehearsal. I hustled into Nelson Music Room and discovered that, in front of an actual audience no less, the singing had already begun!

The stage is up two tall stairs and I was wearing clogs. I hurled myself towards the music. I tripped on the first step, then on the second step, fell to my knees, kind of bounced, and helplessly rolled over on my back between the conductor and the other singers.

In my younger life I would have died of embarrassment. In this, my second-half-century, I merely mouthed "sorry" at the astonished (but smiling) conductor, assumed my position, and joined the already-in-progress 'Jesu meine Freude.'

"Nice full-body roll" whispered my friend in the tenor section behind me.

Not only did I not die of embarrassment; armed with my second-half-century mantra, Nothing Is Wasted, I thought it provided a memory which would amuse me in days to come. As it has. And though my back hurt the next day, it proved I am built of sturdy stuff. I bounced but I didn't break.

Extracts from the New York Times article:
Sometimes Not Just Curtains Fall Onstage

Martha Plimpton heard a thud. When she turned and saw her "Coast of Utopia" co-star Richard Easton prone on the stage floor during the second preview, she presumed he had merely tripped. But Ethan Hawke, who had seen Mr. Easton collapse, said he "thought Richard had passed away." The Lincoln Center audience that night in October did not respond, thinking that the moment was part of the show, especially since Mr. Easton’s character had just finished a fiery diatribe that ended with "That is my last word."

In "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" when [Cerveris] slammed a door on a night with member of the press in the audience, a huge chunk of the back wall suddenly collapsed.

"There were loose wires and Christmas lights and debris with nails sticking out," Mr. Cerveris recalled. But Hedwig’s life was "a catalog of disasters, anyway," he said, and the intimate, campy show had room for ad-libbing. So after ascertaining that the musicians onstage had (barely) escaped injury, Mr. Cerveris turned to the audience and deadpanned, "If I could survive the Titanic, I certainly can survive this."

Some performers take the "show must go on" attitude no matter what: Eylon Nuphar, a creator of "Be," the new "Stomp"-with-dancing import, says her show always goes full speed ahead — as it did in Madrid, when she was briefly knocked unconscious in a collision with another actor ("the cast improvised around me") and when fireworks set the curtain on fire.

"We didn’t stop drumming for a second," she said, "even though the audience wasn’t looking at us anymore, and the plastic smell wasn’t excellent."



Friday, April 20, 2007

Catching up.

Funny how a small change can lead to a big one. A few weeks ago I discovered that my morning backaches were being caused by - blogging in bed! I had developed a bad habit of waking up much too early and then hauling my laptop into bed.

So I stopped doing that - but that meant I also stopped blogging.

It's hard to find another time for cultivating Pratie Place. Now the sun rises so early, and I'm eager to be up and away. My projects are engaging me very deeply...

Yiddish class, for example, is delightful beyond words. It's just four of us: my teacher, Sheva; her husband Sandy; and her gorgeous and ridiculously amusing daughter Mira. Sheva is very serious, and so her husband and daughter have an ongoing project to amuse her and, if possible, to crack her up. In all the years I've known her, I don't think I ever saw her laugh until I saw this tag-team in action. They can get her to dissolve into helpless giggles. And in Yiddish, no less! For some reason, this makes me want to study all the harder.

The project of collecting, arranging, and in some cases writing music for the Pratie Heads' upcoming cd of murder ballads (and other songs of people behaving badly) has also sucked me in. It provides cathartic release of my disgust for the modern world. Wednesday at our monthly "Whole Foods" evening (we play there for two hours once a month) Bob and I tried out three of these new songs. One of them was a dud, but the other two had our audience unexpectedly enthralled. Heh!

(That same night another excellent thing happened - a woman bought one of our cds during a break and then left. She reappeared about 40 minutes later - because she had been listening to the cd on her way home and liked it so much she decided to turn around and come back to buy the other one!)

My telenovela blog, Caray, Caray! was short one recapper so I'm doing two nights a week now. That wouldn't be a problem, except I got hooked on the second show and now I'm watching two hours of Spanish melodrama every week night.

That's tiring, and ridiculous, I know, but at least my Spanish has taken a sudden turn for the better. You know how I know? Yesterday I had a house-painter come give me an estimate. He's the same guy who painted my house five years ago and I liked and trusted him and his team. Five years ago I had never spoken a word of Spanish in my life, and he didn't speak a word of English - his eight-year-old daughter translated for him. I remember wondering how on earth he could run a business that way. This time, I could speak with him completely in Spanish and we had a long, excellent conversation! Then I suddenly realized that, during these five years, he had learned English! So after a while we were switching back and forth from Spanish to English; it was extremely satisfactory for both of us.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Perplexing sign seen on a roadside church.


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Sunday, April 08, 2007

So here we are in April...

I'm in Connecticut visiting my son at Wesleyan. It's so cold! Hard to believe it was 90 degrees back home a couple days ago. Reminds me of this English song ...


So here we are in April, in showy, blowy April,
In frowsy, blowsy April, the rowdy dowdy time
In soppy, sloppy April, in wheezy breezy April,
In ringing, stinging April, with a singing swinging rhyme.

The smiling sun of April on the violets is focal,
The sudden showers of April seek the dandelion out;
The tender airs of April make the local yokel vocal,
And he raises rustic ditties with a most melodious shout.

So here we are in April, in tipsy gypsy April,
In showery, flowery April, the twinkly, sprinkly days;
In tingly, jingly April, in highly wily April,
In mighty, flighty April with its highty-tighty ways!

The duck is fond of April, and the clucking chickabiddy
And other barnyard creatures have a try at caroling;
There's something in the air to turn a stiddy kiddy giddy,
And even I am forced to raise my croaking voice and sing.
Ted Robinson

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Joshua Bell, too, was playing real good for free...

Somebody sent me this article the other day and it sent waves of realization - and sadness - through my body.

Extracts from the Washington Post's article:
Pearls Before Breakfast
Gene Weingarten set out to discover if violinist Josh Bell -- and his Stradivarius -- could stop busy commuters in their tracks
Sunday, April 8, 2007

He emerged from the metro at the L'Enfant plaza station and positioned himself against a wall beside a trash basket. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by.

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet?

No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made.

Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience ... but on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.

A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.

In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

A senior curator at the National Gallery ... thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station.

"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'"

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

-- from "Leisure," by W.H. Davies

The cultural hero of the day arrived at L'Enfant Plaza pretty late ... Picarello hit the top of the escalator just after Bell began his final piece, a reprise of "Chaconne." In the video, you see Picarello stop dead in his tracks, locate the source of the music, and then retreat to the other end of the arcade. He takes up a position past the shoeshine stand, across from that lottery line, and he will not budge for the next nine minutes.

Like all the passersby interviewed for this article, Picarello was stopped by a reporter after he left the building, and was asked for his phone number. (Like everyone, he was told only that this was to be an article about commuting.) When he was called later in the day, like everyone else, he was first asked if anything unusual had happened to him on his trip into work. Of the more than 40 people contacted, Picarello was the only one who immediately mentioned the violinist.

"There was a musician playing at the top of the escalator at L'Enfant Plaza."

Haven't you seen musicians there before?

"Not like this one."

What do you mean?

"This was a superb violinist. I've never heard anyone of that caliber. He was technically proficient, with very good phrasing. He had a good fiddle, too, with a big, lush sound. I walked a distance away, to hear him. I didn't want to be intrusive on his space."


"Really. It was that kind of experience. It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day."

On the video, you can see Picarello look around him now and then, almost bewildered.

As it happens, exactly one person recognized Bell ... she had been in the audience three weeks earlier, at Bell's free concert at the Library of Congress. And here he was, the international virtuoso, sawing away, begging for money.

Furukawa positioned herself 10 feet away from Bell, front row, center. She had a huge grin on her face. The grin, and Furukawa, remained planted in that spot until the end.

"It was the most astonishing thing I've ever seen in Washington," Furukawa says. "Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him!

When it was over, Furukawa introduced herself to Bell, and tossed in a twenty. Not counting that -- it was tainted by recognition -- the final haul for his 43 minutes of playing was $32.17. Yes, some people gave pennies.

"Actually," Bell said with a laugh, "that's not so bad, considering. That's 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn't have to pay an agent."


Playing real good for free (Joni Mitchell)

I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels.
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
and the children let out from the schools.
I was standing on a noisy corner
waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood, and he played real good
on his clarinet for free.

Now me, I play for fortunes
and the velvet curtain calls.
I got a black limosine and a few gentlemen
escorting me to these halls.
And I'll play if you have the money
or if you're a friend to me.
But the one-man-band by the quick lunch stand,
he was playing real good for free.

Nobody stopped to hear him,
though he played so sweet and high.
They knew he had never been on their TV
so they passed his good music by.
I meant to go over and ask for a song,
maybe put on a harmony.
I heard his refrain as that signal changed,
he was still playing real good for free.


Friday, April 06, 2007

More pictures from the Jane Filer painting workshop

Hannah, me, and our fearless leader Jane Filer, who was working on her own paintings. (The second picture is one of hers.)


[Hannah]: Why You Should Never Trust Street Performers

Last night I was at a bar with some of the Urban Caballero's actor friends. One of them is a crazy Australian guy who is currently training to be in the flying Karamazov brothers (a juggling show). One of this guy's friends was complaining that he was spending countless hours hogging her living room for his juggling practice, because his own living room didn't have high enough ceilings.

He began to explain to us how to juggle chainsaws. Apparently, you have to replace each chainsaw's circular handle with a stick handle, so that it juggles the same way a bowling pin does. You then have to reverse the direction of the engine, so that it provides some backspin against the direction of your toss. Then, um, you just juggle it.

Then he began to reminisce about his days as a street performer in Australia. "I had this trick where I'd lay people down on the sidewalk and walk between and over them while I was juggling chainsaws," he said.

"Oh, yeah?" we asked. "What's the trick?"

"Oh, there's no trick," he said. "You just have to not drop the chainsaws."

We thought about this for a moment, and he began explaining his other trick, which was to have a volunteer hold an apple in his mouth while he wrote his name on it with a running chainsaw.

"How could you be sure the volunteer wouldn't flinch?" we asked.

"Well, my mate would stand behind him and wrap his arms around him to prevent him from moving... but basically, we just had to tell him he really should do his best to stand still."

What they're saying over at 'Caray, Caray!'

The folks at my telenovela blog (on which I now have a team of about two dozen recappers and many enthusiastic commenters) like it when I post some of their "good ones" over here. I haven't had the time to choose any lately, so this batch is mainly courtesy of Marcelis.

[About an obscene painting of a conch shell.] I will never be able to look at that painting again without imagining 1920'ish lacy giant bloomers covering that gaping pink whatever it is. And I can just see Luigi waltzing in wondering if Lety will let him borrow them.

Nurse Susi's outfits just keep getting tighter, shorter, and lowercut. Evidently, as long as she wears that tiny white nurse's cap, ANYTHING passes for a uniform. I am expecting to see Good Nurse Susi in a white bikini in tonight's episode. That poor actor who plays Angel must be damaging himself with all the fake coughing. It's like when you call in sick to work when you are actually as healthy as a horse and on your way to the movies/beach/baseball game. ''I can't ... COUGH ... come in today ... COUGHCOUGH ... because I have .... COUGHCOUGH ... this really bad cough ..... COUGHCOUGHCOUGH.''

Meanwhile, inspired by George W. Bush's manhandling of Angela Merkel at the G8 Summit, Aldo continues to grope Lety about the arms, shoulder, and neck. Why doesn't he just pee on her to mark his territory?

NN is in the background and she looks concerned (because she's the one hiding the slave inside the convent). They ask if they can check the pantry (perhaps they are hungry?).

Bernardo meets Diego in the Bat Cave and gives him the key (don't even get me started on where did he get this done, this time of night….I guess we can assume that Bernardo has some excellent metalworking skills…..I suppose we all need skills to fall back upon in hard times---or maybe the Los Angeles blacksmith gets to pull in some overtime, helping out Zorro at all hours of the night)

Also I gotta say, these actors with agave machetes are not believable. Are you guys remembering to hold them with the sharp side down? You look like you're dabbing at those plants, not hacking at them. Well, maybe the props guy said "Be careful, don't wreck them, they have to last all week, agaves don't grow on trees you know."

Sylvia~~`About Gav's headress [what is up with that??? Was she like ''Miss Agave 2005''??]--Anyway, would you settle for one of those foam Statue of Liberty headpieces?? - I could pick one up for you the next time I am in NYC !!^^^susanlynn, always trying to help make dreams come true

Also, it seems that our hunk of love should've given his fiance a little more than a watch before he left for a year. I mean, a phone number, phonecard, or even preposted envelopes would've been thoughtful. You know, in case of emergency, or pregnancy. For being so smart, he couldn't figure a method of communication with the love of his life -- just see ya in a year. Sheesh....

We open with Gaviota singing a good song and Rod gazing at her with intimations of impending turgidity. "What I feel for Gaviota is LOVE!" he explains to himself. Heh heh. Where was he when he was 16 years old?

He tells them he will marry Tropy Whore Barbie very shortly. They are just totally gleeful at the thought: she is their kind of people, rich and vapid.

You can see an anvil falling: the Nun has one of those "You're so cute, but good luck with that marriage thing..." looks on her face.

[About a cast member suddenly replaced...] What is the deal with this new Hugo, anyway?! I have enought trouble telling apart the servants on this show as it is. I was pleased to have figured out that Hugo was the guy who always wore a bandana. But New Hugo doesn't wear a bandana! How am I supposed to recognize him now? Plus, old Hugo was 20 years younger and 20 feet taller than New Hugo. He reminded me of Bluto. The new Hugo doesn't even look like Popeye! This is a travesty!! OK, back to the recap.

Whoaaa...he has a fuzzy white fantasy that they are getting married. He gives her a gross lamprey wide-mouth bass kiss. Oh wait, no...It's Flor's dream. She mumbles his name. Bleh.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's not that I can't do it by myself, I'd just rather not have to.

My lifelong caterpillar phobia has abated in recent years but I still don't like to see or think about or be anywhere near the nasty creatures.

Walking out to the mailbox yesterday I saw an ugly writhing mass of tent caterpillars in the crook of a little crabapple tree I planted a few years ago. They were writhing so vigorously I couldn't ignore them.

I remembered reading once that the way to get rid of tent caterpillars is fire. A torch was recommended, and in fact there used to be an oxyacetalene torch at my house (back when Mike and I were welding together on Sunday afternoons rather than painting) but it's gone now.

There also used to be a little torch for starting fires in the barbequeueueueue (I was just going to keep putting e's and u's on that word till it looked right, but it never did...) but I couldn't find it and I was getting impatient.

So I rolled up some newspaper and went over to the little tree and tried to light my newspaper torch with some old, tired matches. The whole thing was a bust.

So I got the gasoline I use with my weedwhacker and poured some into a jar and soaked the end of my torch. I realized I was getting into guy territory - in fact, teenage guy territory - in fact, I reminded myself of Zed's friend who onced asked me if he could throw aerosol cans into my bonfire...

It's because the tent caterpillars were writhing away and I was getting a little crazy.

My gasoline-soaked newspaper torch exploded with satisfactory drama and I applied it to the nasty webby tent. The writhing intensified, and bulges full of caterpillars hit the ground and sort of imploded into gooey black little masses, and I torched the tree till the caterpillars were all gone.

Then I realized I was about to set my own self on fire because the torch was much shorter than it had been previously, owing to the fire and the gasoline and everything...

... So I dropped the torch on the ground. Too close to my sandal! So now I have a little burn on my foot.

Then the wind picked up, and there were flickering flaming spots all over the place for a while, but I whacked them into dead ashes with a stick.

Then! I saw some survivor tent caterpillars re-ascending the tree! That was completely unacceptable! But my torch was incinerated. So I cut the buggers in half with my stick as they wriggled back up the trunk.

It's making me sick to recount this, so I'll stop now.

But it did occur to me: this would have been a good job for a guy. I wouldn't have minded just going "Eew!" and retreating to watch from a distance.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Hannah: Wise Thoughts Upon Planning a Road Trip Out Of Manhattan (And Also On Planning a Career Change)

Several summers ago, I spent a weekend hiking by myself in the Yorkshire Dales. I made friends with a seventy-year-old guy who was staying at the same youth hostel as I was. I asked him advice on walking directions, and we compared notes. At the end of our conversation, we wished each other luck, and I must have looked like I wasn't sure if I could remember the directions he gave me. His face suddenly wrinkled into a grin, and in an almost unintelligible English countryside accent he reassured me:

"The hardest part of any trip is getting owt o'the village!"

Experimenting with light from below

As you know, I'm doing studies for the cover art for the next Pratie Head cd, which is going to be songs of murder and people behaving badly. I went to the Jane Filer workshop with this project in mind: to experiment with theater uplighting. Here are my three best shots.

I called this next one: "Republicans Eating Popcorn" even though the guy looks like he has his fingers in a big bowl of Cream of Rice.

This last one is a picture of my grandfather with his mother, Imogene Burt Hodges. It was a perfectly pleasant/bland picture I'd done a few months ago. I took it out to the beach and worked it over so it would be Scary Mother and Baby.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Hannah's paintings from this weekend

This doesn't include her still-life: "Wine Bottle and Bowl Full of Bags of Doritos" which was incomplete when we had to leave.

I'll post mine tomorrow.

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Art Retreat with Jane Filer at the Trinity Center

I picked Hannah up at the airport Friday morning and we drove down to Salter Path, to the Trinity Center. There were 30-some participants; we unpacked in our dorms-by-the-lagoon, then took our art supplies to our working room. Hannah and I shared a table and set up our stuff and left it there untouched for 48 hours, bliss!

Here we're listening to Jane Filer give a talk as she painted on her canvas-in-progress.

It's amazing that she can talk and paint at the same time. Sometimes the messages her canvas is sending her are very loud and she has to stop talking and listen to them.

Little zots of communication travel back and forth between her eyes and the surface. I guess you could say the paint she has laid already laid down is communicating back to the mother ship.

Below: Hannah at our station.

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Some views at the Trinity Center, Pine Knoll Shores

This is where Hannah and I had our painting workshop this weekend. I just left her at the airport and got home, happy.

The Trinity Center is really big. We were there at the same time as other groups including one whose members were wearing name tags that said "FOUR DAYS PRAYER WITHOUT CEASING." They stopped at least long enough to eat their meals in a happy, garrulous fashion.