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Friday, October 31, 2008

[Hannah]: Happy Halloween from California!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

[Hannah]: On Politicians, and Talking

From Robert Draper, at GQ, musing on kindly old blowhard Joe Biden:

Sometimes as a reporter, a question falls out of your mouth like a gumball tumbling out of a machine and there is nothing you would not give in this world for the opportunity to take that question back. In this case, the question was something like, “Senator, what informed your decision to support the congressional resolution giving President Bush the authority to invade Iraq?” Which, in its inadvisability, was akin to a question I believe I asked George W. Bush in 1998: “Governor, what exactly is wrong with our educational system in Texas? And be sure and include everything you know about phonics in your answer.”

I popped this Iraq question to Biden just as we were boarding a train in Union Station. By the time we disembarked in Wilmington seventy-five minutes later, he was still answering it. He continued his explanation in the car, then in a restaurant, and I believe he would still be nearing his peroration had his wife Jill finally not arrived on the scene. So I’m with the Washington Post columnist: Watching the leonine Biden confined to the teleprompter, you want to bust out into a mournful “Boooorn Free…as free as the wind blows…”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Obama Raleigh Rally

Paul said let's go, so we went, my first political rally ever. It was loads of fun.

WRAL says there were 28,000 people. A friendly, happy crowd.

Handing out "Real Americans for Obama" buttons in front of the Super-Walmart in Hillsborough.

A friend of mine from college has been creating his own lawn signs, and this is his last attempt - he posted it on our class list-serv.

I love his signs but I'm not sure they'd help here in North Carolina. The people who believe in science are already voting for Obama.

It's certainly a hopeful sign that around 20 percent of registered voters have already voted, and that early voting is going two to one in favor of Obama.

As a campaign contribution, I had 300 of these "Real Americans for Obama" buttons printed and rushed to me (that's on top of the 50 or so I made by hand with my Mr. Button machine).

Instead of handing them out in Carrboro or Chapel Hill, which will already go to Obama overwhelmingly - remember Jesse Helms' remark, 'no need to build a zoo in North Carolina, let's just put a fence around Chape Hill' - Ezra and I took a basket of buttons and stood outside the Hillsborough Super-Walmart where the die-hard McCain supporters shop. We thought we'd put some heart in the voters of northern Orange County.

A lot of folks swept by us, scowling, saying, "Never!" or "Not gonna happen," but a surprising number took buttons. Old people, young people, black and white. We convinced some folks to vote early, told them where the polling places are, wheedled and joked.

One old guy told us he would never vote for Obama because Obama is for abortion and "when I retire, there won't be enough people to pay for my benefits." In case you don't understand his point - he told us that those millions of unborn babies were supposed to be putting money into the Social Security system. He wasn't any younger than we are. There's something wrong with the math.

Another old guy, a black man, said he wasn't going to vote because "I already have everything I need - I raised my kids and even put them in college, and I own my own house." My son said, "think how proud your grandchildren would be to know you voted in this election." I don't think we convinced him but you never know.

One guy missing his front teeth and wearing a NASCAR jacket walked by saying, "I never vote, haven't voted in 24 years," but came back a few minutes later and asked for four buttons, "my family will wear them."

One guy said, "Wear a button? No way, I kaint hardly tote maself."

There were normal cheerful people too, it was way fun.

I'm going to the Obama rally in Raleigh today and volunteering for a few shifts during the few days before the election.

Maybe Ez and I will go work the Super-Walmart again too. We feared we'd be thrown out but the lady watching the door was black and she snuck out to get a couple buttons and watched over us approvingly.

Another anti-multi-tasking article.

The older I get the more I detest multi-tasking. I now prefer silence as a backdrop to all my activities - even listening to music takes away from their savor.

Extracts from
Multitasking Can Make You Lose ... Um ... Focus
by Alina Tugend for the New York Times, October 24, 2008

As you are reading this article, are you listening to music or the radio? Yelling at your children? If you are looking at it online, are you e-mailing or instant-messaging at the same time? Checking stocks?

While multitasking may seem to be saving time, psychologists, neuroscientists and others are finding that it can put us under a great deal of stress and actually make us less efficient.

"You sacrifice focus when you do this,” said [the] author of “CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap!." "Multitasking is shifting focus from one task to another in rapid succession. It gives the illusion that we're simultaneously tasking, but we’re really not. It’s like playing tennis with three balls."

Think even of the days before the cordless phone. Those old enough can remember when talking on the telephone, which was stationary, meant sitting down, putting your feet up and chatting — not doing laundry, cooking dinner, sweeping the floor and answering the door.

We can do a couple of things at the same time if they are routine, but once they demand more cognitive process, the brain has "a severe bottleneck. ... when there's a bunch of visual stimulants out there in front of you, only one or two things tend to activate your neurons, indicating that we’re really only focusing on one or two items at a time."

Participants [in a multi-tasking study] lost time when they had to move back and forth from one undertaking to another... it took significantly longer to switch between the more complicated tasks.

Reaction time [during driving] was around 35 percent slower when writing a text message — slower than driving drunk or stoned.

A study published last April, "The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress," found that "people actually worked faster in conditions where they were interrupted, but they produced less," and found that people were as likely to self-interrupt as to be interrupted by someone else.

“As observers, we’ll watch, and then after every 12 minutes or so, for no apparent reasons, someone working on a document will turn and call someone or e-mail,” she said. As I read that, I realized how often I was switching between writing this article and checking my e-mail.

Her study found that after only 20 minutes of interrupted performance, people reported significantly higher stress, frustration, workload, effort and pressure.

"As our minds fill with noise — feckless synaptic events signifying nothing — the brain gradually loses its capacity to attend fully and gradually to anything ... we "feel a constant low level of panic and guilt."

"We need to recreate boundaries,” training yourself not to look at your BlackBerry every 20 seconds, or turning off your cellphone. Sleeping less to do more is a bad strategy, we are efficient only when we sleep enough, eat right and exercise.

So the next time the phone rings and a good friend is on the line, try this trick: Sit on the couch. Focus on the conversation. Don’t jump up, no matter how much you feel the need to clean the kitchen. It seems weird, but stick with it. You, too, can learn the art of single-tasking.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

[Hannah]: On a Sad Day, Here's Someone with a Lighter View of Mortality

Meet Jeremy Bentham, English philosopher guy (1748-1832):
Bentham's position included arguments in favour of individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the end of slavery, the abolition of physical punishment (including that of children), the right to divorce, free trade, usury, and the decriminalization of homosexual acts. He also made two distinct attempts during his life to critique the death penalty....

Also, he apparently took a fairly light view of his own mortality:
At the end of the South Cloisters of the main building of University College London stands a wooden cabinet, which has been a source of curiosity and perplexity to visitors. The cabinet contains Bentham's preserved skeleton, dressed in his own clothes, and surmounted by a wax head. Bentham requested that his body be preserved in this way in his will made shortly before his death on 6 June 1832. The cabinet was moved to UCL in 1850.

Not surprisingly, this peculiar relic has given rise to numerous legends and anecdotes. One of the most commonly recounted is that the Auto-Icon regularly attends meetings of the College Council, and that it is solemnly wheeled into the Council Room to take its place among the present-day members. Its presence, it is claimed, is always recorded in the minutes with the words Jeremy Bentham - present but not voting. Another version of the story asserts that the Auto-Icon does vote, but only on occasions when the votes of the other Council members are equally split. In these cases the Auto-Icon invariably votes for the motion.

Bentham had originally intended that his head should be part of the Auto-Icon, and for ten years before his death (so runs another story) carried around in his pocket the glass eyes which were to adorn it. Unfortunately when the time came to preserve it for posterity, the process went disastrously wrong, robbing the head of most of its facial expression, and leaving it decidedly unattractive. The wax head was therefore substituted, and for some years the real head, with its glass eyes, reposed on the floor of the Auto-Icon, between Bentham's legs. However, it proved an irresistible target for students, especially from King's College London, who stole the head in 1975 and demanded a ransome of £100 to be paid to the charity Shelter. UCL finally agreed to pay a ransome of £10 and the head was returned. On another occasion, according to legend, the head, again stolen by students, was eventually found in a luggage locker at a Scottish Station (possibly Aberdeen). The last straw (so runs yet another story) came when it was discovered in the front quadrangle being used for football practice, and the head was henceforth placed in secure storage.

Many people have speculated as to exactly why Bentham chose to have his body preserved in this way, with explanations ranging from a practical joke at the expense of posterity to a sense of overweening self-importance. Perhaps the Auto-Icon may be more plausibly regarded as an attempt to question religious sensibilities about life and death. Yet whatever Bentham's true motives, the Auto-Icon will always be a source of fascination and debate, and will serve as a perpetual reminder of the man whose ideals inspired the institution in which it stands.

So ... oh man, this is so gross... but pictures of Jeremy Bentham and the surplus head in his Eternity Closet are all over the internet.... ew! I'm not posting the picture out of respect for this family blog, but if you want to take a look - and Bentham would have wanted you to, he didn't think there was a need to take death so seriously.... it's here. You know you want to click it! See? Gross!!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Repair," aka 'Art for the New Depression.'

While Mark worked on his projects, I sat and tried to repair the 28 impressions I had pulled from my four block prints. I couldn't get even one perfect print. Some were over-inked and the ink oozed into the little valleys; sometimes I pressed too hard with the press and ink squeezed all over the place.

It was extremely disheartening. On the other hand, I'm a rank beginner. Surely things have got to look up.

I like the idea, though, of these postcard-sized (4x6) pictures with proverbs suited to the new era. They have always been my favorite sayings. I think maybe I'm psychically more suited to a Depression than to flush times.

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Mark does Illustration Friday: "Repair."

A Simple Repair

(Acrylic and modeling paste on plywood.)


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Theodore Roosevelt in the New York Times today.

I know I'll be talking about this piece so I might as well post a link to it (so I can find it again). Blog as filing cabinet. By the way, I understand McCain has been saying former President Theodore Roosevelt is his model and political hero...

Just a few bits from
Theodore Roosevelt, Pundit
By Edmund Morris for the New York Times, October 27, 2008

THE former president, born 150 years ago today, was interviewed ... His statements below are drawn from the historic record and are uncut except when interrupted by his interviewer.

Q. Happy birthday, Mr. President! Or do you prefer being called Colonel?

ROOSEVELT I've had the title of president once — having it twice means nothing except peril to whatever reputation I achieved the first time.

Q. "Colonel," then. Do you think the Congress elected two years ago as a foil to the Bush administration has fulfilled its mandate?

A. I am heartsick over the delay, the blundering, the fatuous and complacent inefficiency and the effort to substitute glittering rhetoric for action.

Q. Do you blame the House Democratic majority?

A. A goodly number of senators, even of my own party, have shown about as much backbone as so many angleworms.

Q. Does [McCain's] vow to give Joe the Plumber a tax break remind you of Reaganomics?

A. This is merely the plan, already tested and found wanting, of giving prosperity to the big men on top, and trusting to their mercy to let something leak through to the mass of their countrymen below — which, in effect, means that there shall be no attempt to regulate the ferocious scramble in which greed and cunning reap the largest rewards.

Q. In Washington today, Colonel, you're increasingly seen as the father of centralized, executive, regulatory control.

A. Great corporations exist only because they are created and safeguarded by our institutions; and it is therefore our right and duty to see that they work in harmony with these institutions.

Q. Especially now that we've seen the end of another age of laissez-faire economics?

A. These new conditions make it necessary to shackle cunning, as in the past we have shackled force. The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital —

Q. Even vaster in your day! John D. Rockefeller was richer than Bill Gates, dollar for dollar.

A. Quite right. (He dislikes being interrupted.) And please, let this now be as much of a monologue as possible.

Q. Excuse me, you were saying that vast combinations of capital ...

A. ... create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of the state and the nation toward the rules regulating the acquisition and untrammeled business use of property.

Q. So you approve of the federal bailout?

A. I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.

Q. Should we condone the huge severance packages paid to executives of rescued corporations?

A. There is need in business, as in most other forms of human activity, of the great guiding intelligences. Their places cannot be supplied by any number of lesser intelligences. It is a good thing that they should have ample recognition, ample reward. But we must not transfer our admiration to the reward instead of to the deed rewarded; and if what should be the reward exists without the service having been rendered, then admiration will come only from those who are mean of soul.

Q. So we should withhold our envy of Richard Fuld, the chairman of Lehman Brothers, for taking home half a billion before his company went down?

A. Envy and arrogance are the two opposite sides of the same black crystal.

Q. Extraordinary image, Colonel. What's your impression of Barack Obama?

A. Unless I am greatly mistaken, the people have made up their mind that they wish some new instrument.

Q. You're not afraid that he's primarily a man of words? Like Woodrow Wilson, whom you once called a "Byzantine logothete"?

A. It is highly desirable that a leader of opinion in a democracy should be able to state his views clearly and convincingly.

Q. [Obama] doesn't have Mr. McCain's foreign policy experience. As president, how would he personify us around the world?

A. It always pays for a nation to be a gentleman.

Q. There'll be Joe Biden to counsel him, of course. Assuming Mr. Obama can keep track of what he's saying.

A. (laughing) You can't nail marmalade against a wall.

Q. Talking of foreign policy, what do you think of Mr. McCain's choice of a female running mate?

A. Times have changed (sigh). It is entirely inexcusable, however, to try to combine the unready hand with the unbridled tongue.

Q. How will you feel if Sarah Palin is elected?

A. I shall feel exactly the way a very small frog looks when it swallows a beetle the size of itself, with extremely stiff legs.

Q. What's your impression of President Bush these days?

A. (suddenly serious) He looks like Judas, but unlike that gentleman has no capacity for remorse.

Q. Is that the best you can say of him?

A. I wish him well, but I wish him well at a good distance from me.

Q. One last question, Colonel. If you were campaigning now, would you still call yourself a Republican?

A. (after a long pause) No.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

And these guys get paid?

Several oil analysts who predicted earlier this year that oil would reach $200 by year's end have recently said oil could drop to $50 a barrel. (CNN headline)

Heard on the radio: "This should be a good time to buy stocks if the market recovers soon."

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Fix it!

Hannah pointed me to this Saturday Night Live segment saying, "I think this is actually a very accurate reflection of how most people feel about the economy."

Fix It!

New bumpersticker: "Real Americans for Obama"

I painted this over a blank bumpersticker from Office Depot, then I varnished it and stuck it on my car. There isn't time to get real printed ones before Election Day.

If you want to do the same, feel free to download my jpg file; if you click on the file, a much larger image will appear which you can save onto your computer. If you want even higher-res, email me. You can use your inkjet printer to copy the jpg file onto the blanks.

Or you can do your own version. It's not too late!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

We go to the North Carolina State Fair 2008

No visit to the State Fair would be complete without some shots of the All-American foods and their special food group. Note All-American flag, indicating that it's patriotic to eat deep-fried pecan pie...

...note the effect on the customers.

I am very partial to Hot-dog Man.

Our actual primary destination was "the Village of Yesteryear," a strange round brick building full of craftspeople.

It was there that I ordered my settee in 2005. I received it in October 2007, two years later, the wait was totally worth it.

This year I liked the Haliwa-Saponi pottery of Senora Lynch ...

... particularly the pot on the right here.

I would happily pay $2.00 to get rid of him if I had him.

Spider Girl was only 50 cents. The only cheaper thing I saw at the fair was the incredible tiny horse. Well, I didn't actually see him (the tiny horse) because I didn't pay my quarter. He was hidden behind a hay bale.

I saw Fran Martin's special painting pig, Smithfield, who is also renowned for having recovered from cancer after many radiation treatments and chemotherapy. There are bleachers so you can sit and watch him create his masterpieces.

You can buy his paintings, and there's also a calendar for sale. He was on NBC's "America's Got Talent," but the judges didn't think Smithfield's paintings were very good, so he didn't make it to the semi-finals.

This is the self-image of the marines?

We ran into a young man from Channel 11 News interviewing an extremely tall woman and I, inveterate eavesdropper, crept as close as possible to hear her. She was pointing out that times are hard and the fair is expensive, as are the sandwiches (mostly $8), the funnel cakes ($5), and most of the other things (but not the spider woman, see above).

Since I'd crept in so close, I was the next target. "What do you think of Bobby Flay being paid $100,000 to come cook at the State Fair? What do you think about the fact that the Fair lost $45,000 on him? Audience members paid $32 to see him: how much would you have paid? Why do you think the Fair spends so much on marquee entertainers?"

I said I wouldn't have paid anything to see Bobby Flay because I don't barbeque and besides, I could see him free on tv; that probably the uncle of somebody on the budget committee is the agent for all these acts and gets a cut, that's how things work in North Carolina; that maybe, anyway, Bobby Flay was worth it because he generated a lot of publicity -- after all, consider the $150,000 spent by the Republican National Committee on Sarah Palin's clothes, it was probably worth it, everybody runs pictures of her, she's foxy.

The guy laughed and said, "I had a feeling you were gonna go there," looking at my "Real Americans for Obama" pin, which I hope makes it onto the news.

We looked and looked and looked for the Democrats' booth and finally gave up and asked, and after we got the directions we STILL had trouble finding it. See how tiny it is? And wedged between "King Size Soft Pretzels and Eggrolls" and "Nature's Best Muscadine Grape Diet Supplement"? I asked them and they said: "We don't have any say about where they put us." I gave them all the "Real Americans for Obama" buttons I had managed to make this morning with my Mr. Button machine.

In a much more prominent position, in a nice big easy-to-find high-traffic center corner booth, the McCain/Palin - Elizabeth Dole folks were doing a roaring business in buttons, t-shirts, and stickers.

These ladies were in the breezeway between two buildings. I told them they were extremely natty and they admired my button and the fact I made it myself. Red and purple, I love the color scheme, but, is this some kind of cult?

UPDATE: Science Goddess informs me these are members of the Red Hat Society for saucy older women. Thanks!

This is why real women don't stand a chance. I guess (see above) I should get myself a red hat and join the ladies on the bench.

My final shot was taken at the traffic light at the exit. Really, this is the dumbest men's fashion ever devised, and it's been hanging on (so to speak) for so long!

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This is why we need "Real Americans for Obama" buttons

Extracts from
Confessions of a Phone Solicitor
by Gail Collins for the New York Times, October 22, 2008

Word comes from Wisconsin that a telemarketer named Ted Zoromski quit his job this week over John McCain's message. Zoromski was prepared to interrupt people during their dinner hours to encourage them to vote Republican. But when he got the script saying "you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home and killed Americans," he packed it in.

Opening for a McCain rally in North Carolina last weekend, Representative Robin Hayes said he wanted "to keep the crowd as respectful as possible."

Hayes then announced that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God."

All this was a direct outgrowth of Sarah Palin's own comments in North Carolina, in which she praised the "pro-America" areas of the country.

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota suggested that the news media should investigate "the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America."

The tone of this campaign has given some of the Republican faithful, even those who are members of Congress, the impression that questioning the patriotism of large groups of the population is now O.K.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Real Americans for Obama" campaign buttons

Hannah and I had our first election politics conversation tonight. We're trying not to get our hopes up too high about the election. I had planned to go far out of town, out of reach of the radio, and not come back till it was All Over. However, I just volunteered to work for Obama Saturday and Monday before election day so I guess I'm sticking around.

Paul (aka Uncle Shlomo) and I are going to the North Carolina State Fair tomorrow, to look at the crafts in the "House of Yesteryear." Remembering that the fair is a dishearteningly hearty bastion of Red State conservatism, I stayed up late making these buttons for us to wear as we promenade alongside our fellow Americans, ogling the blooming onions, deep-fat-fried Twinkies, cotton candy, and gigantic turkey legs.

(I finally found a news source I can tolerate - the Daily Show - and was incensed to see its clips of Sarah Palin talking about "Real America" and "Real Americans" and McCain's press secretary saying they would win "Real Virginia" as opposed, I guess, to "Commie Virginia," or perhaps, as Hannah proposes, "Real America" is simply a vile code phrase for "America where everybody is white.")

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Sarah Palin: an earmark unto herself

Hat-tip to my son Ezra, who pointed me to this article. Lifted in toto from Wesleying's Sarah Palin: an earmark unto herself:

John McCain talks a lot about his zeal for cutting earmarks. But, could his running mate be an earmark unto herself?

As governor of Seward's Icebox Alaska, Sarah Palin not only billed the state to live in her own house, she also "charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business," reports the Associated Press.

The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.
As if treating her kids to a week at the Ritz while they watched daddy race a snowmobile wasn't enough, the spending blitz continues: this time, on the RNC's dime.

Politico reported yesterday that the Republican National Committee has funded Palin's haute couture since she appeared as numero dos on the Republican ticket. While it's definitely made her the sexiest vice presidential candidate I've ever seen, it sure has sapped some cash from the RNC's campaign funds:
The Republican National Committee appears to have spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The Republican National Convention also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.
If John Edwards' $400 haircuts were excessive, and McCain's $520 leather shoes were over the top, how does $150,000 fit in?

McCain prides himself on cutting wasteful spending... maybe he should take a look at the $49,425.74 outfit on the woman campaigning at his side.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Mark does Illustration Friday: "Late."

Snow Monkey at Dusk

The old snow monkey
Resting late in the pool
Recent aches forgotten


Acrylic on Canvas 9x12

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Late."

It was nuts, trying to do a woodcut for Illustration Friday. I can't get it finished. But it's a good start.

I had to "flip" this scan of the block itself, because you have to carve the words inside out for them to print correctly.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Paul S. Gentry wood engraving: "The Steel Bridge."

I bought two wood engravings lately. This one should arrive in the mail on Monday, I'm so excited.

You can see the artist's work here.


Menticia and I visit "Free Press Day" at 311 West Martin Street

Last week I endeavored to lure Menticia into enjoying my new hobby of printmaking. She chose a Sachel Paige quote in a modern incarnation and cut it into a linoleum block and we rubbed a print.

I was searching online for printmakers in North Carolina and found, at the North Carolina Print Network blog, that there was an open house and hands-on demo today in Raleigh at Judy Jones' 311 Studio, so Menticia and I went over.

I did an "intaglio" print on plexiglass while Mentica worked on a collagraph made from old embossed wallpaper and other found objects.

Here are some pictures of her manning the press, and the very helpful printmakers, members of Printmakers of North Carolina, who rent space from Judy Jones and who were on hand to show all and sundry how to do it!


Pictures from the first annual Hillsborough Handmade Parade, October 11 2008

It was themed: "The Waters of the Eno and Her Creatures" and the deluxe mammoth paper-mache-and fabric creatures (which made me nostalgic for the Bread and Puppet Circus) were made by the folks at Paperhand Puppet Intervention.