Friday, January 23, 2009


It is looking to be a perfect weekend for snuggling up and reading. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

duckweed and other houseguests

It may be the case that I'm in the midst of looking for a roommate, but that's not to say I'll welcome just any old denizens into my midst. Icksquiggly critters have lowered themselves into the merry, murky waters of our fountain in the backyard and an all-out bacteria war was at the brink of a violent outbreak. It was time to TCB.

First, we had to flood out the gooky bits. That's scientific language, my laypeople friends, for yukky stuff. Also take out the grapefruits and oranges that had the tough luck to fall into the rainwater. I've salvaged most of the other fruits from this yard, but even I have limits as to what I'll eat. Floating fruit is, in general, a no.

More gooky bits work:

Then came the organic compound to lull the mean bacteria to sleep and send them to the cesspool in the sky.

Sleeping potion close-up:

Then came the magic yukky-water-filtering plants! That's duckweed. What a great name. (Better than magic yukky-water-filtering plants anyway.)

Pretty duckweed unfurling in the light:

Canna plant likes water. See all those baby duckweed bits floating around? Fun!

Happy canna:

Artsy canna:

There were other plant pictures, but I don't have them here. But I do have pictures of my dirty gardening nails. This is the solution to carpal tunnel syndrome and mild depression: get your pinders in the dirt. Or in my case, in the duckweedy waters.


Monday, January 19, 2009

temporary service interruption

I've been doing massive drill-sargeant variety training with my dog lately. She's working toward her Canine Good Citizen. So in the meantime, I offer you this video/audio mashup I stole from another site.

Open two windows. LINK A is the soundtrack. LINK B is for viewing.

So play LINK A (make it loud!) in one window in the background:


And as that plays, watch the video at LINK B on mute instead:


Sadly the video at LINK B ends much earlier than the motown magic that is LINK A. But fear not. Just switch over to LINK A and enjoy the complex choreography and electric purple skyscape of the Altantic Starr show. Tremendous all around. I encourage you to hold on all the way through to get to the narcoleptic mumblings that once constituted a Soul Train interview. Incredibly acute sartorial analysis.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

a mother's eyes

I suppose someone, somewhere will likely see my serial life revelations as provincialisms--these disclosures about my exhilarated love floods, the overblown changes of heart, the books I've read and reviewed, the detailing of my dog's days, the mad sporting, all my expectations, experiences, and intentions candied with such rich sentiment. Provincialism because it may have all been said before. But I prefer to see that as my commonality with you. It must be why you're here, to see something of yourself in another's personal pageantry, to hear your pleasures and pains set to someone else's music.

Now rest, gentle reader: this is not a dog blog in which I liken your hopes to my dog and her food bowl. In fact, I won't even talk about Stella here again (in this post, I mean--be reasonable). And guess what, I won't talk about civil rights either. Or my bicycle. Or training in the morning darkness. No. This is fresh territory, people. This is a shameless, off-key aria about the families we do not choose, the ones we're born into, and my witness to the ways we pay back the love parents give as we grow.

I recently attended the book launch of an obstreperous, exacting author of mine, Casson Trenor. We were together, a small tribe of thirty or so, to celebrate Sustainable Sushi, his noble and fine must-have book, an equal triumph in aesthetics and ethics, if I do say so myself. And here was this author outside the editorial office, in his element, a peer with whom I'd wrestled at every single stage of the book process--each of us as aggressive, articulate, and unaccustomed to surrender as the other, and both steadfast in the commitment to improve the book in ways we insisted were vital to the project. And how lovely it was to be taken by surprise by that stealthy sylph, sincerity. One would not be out of line to suggest the friends and family seated around me were visibly flush in the significance of Trenor's moment: the realization of a goal they'd seen him working toward for so many years, well before his proposal ever crossed my desk.

And with each course that came out from Tataki's extraordinary kitchen, Trenor navigated the room, hovering over one of his comrades--this one in the striped tie, that one in the dotted dress--and he thanked them one by one, each member of this gathered Algonquin clan a contributor in some way, a league that raised their sake glasses like sailors, a jostle here and there to roast and recognize in turns, shades of rosy pink warming all faces in the place. And I gotta say, it was pretty beautiful to see--tears, hugs, Golden Globes gratitude and all. It was one of those uncommon nights that shimmers with enough fair goodwill to mend personal rifts and plumb the bonds deep, deep, deep. And as I walked by the watered bamboo and tea lights, a bit high on all the rarefied levity, a hand sliced the air in my path. That outstretched hand belonged, it turned out, to Deborah, Trenor's mother. And she intended that we were to meet that instant.

Now as an editor, for better or worse, I rarely slow down my machine long enough to revel in the achievement of the book once produced. And in an era when slapdash products are flung onto the Amazon floor only to extinguish themselves some months later under the embers of their own outsize ambition, it is a grace for the heart and spirit to be genuine in my enthusiasm for a project, to be given the chance to say aloud, "Yes, this one will rise." And Sustainable Sushi is nothing if not the consummation of that endangered species in our consumerist culture: a singular expertise distilled in clean concentrate.

We spoke fleetingly. Trenor's mother. His father. His sister and his cousin. All in town just for this night. But the communion spoke volumes about the author, how pleased this family was, not unlike the in-group wonder felt when every child is miraculously born into the world. The book was here! A necessary, cogent, beautiful guide to a little mercy for our depleted seas and oceans. Something to slip into your pocket and use to buy sushi that doesn't destroy the planet on which all those little miracle children will be trying to live after you're long gone.

And I realized, really only half-listening to the family, that the years we spend devoted to causes, chained to the brutal wagons of our developing ideas always out there ahead of us, they're not actually spent at the expense of the ones we love. Because if you'll forgive the presumption in such a personal assessment of a woman I'd met only a moment before, I swear the look of pride in Trenor's mom's eyes as she declared to me with that forceful hand--"I just had to meet you. I'm Casson's mom."--well I'll tell you from experience: nothing can really begin to characterize the pride that emanates from a mother whose son has accomplished something great.

And I know: visit any old blog, any parenting magazine, periodical, even the sweeter game shows out there on TV, and you'll hear a mom enumerating the unique wonders, the treasures within her child's bright being. But let me tell you this: to see it first-hand, in the eyes of a woman I never expected to meet, whose son I came to appreciate first through his work, well however many times it's been said, a mother's pride is something singular. And I see how it makes it all matter.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

a message from the dean of vista street

Oh friends. I have a cat. And I have a dog. This you know because I have surrendered my life entirely to their development and therefore am no longer capable of discussing anything else, it seems. So here is, with a half-hearted apology for my topical degeneration, another pet column.

I moved into this lovely home and adopted my dogbeast on August 1st. Since that time, there has been the Stella wing (dog sorority) and the Maude wing (feline dean's office) and no coed mingling between the two. See, if there were, the sorority girl would eat the dean. And we can't have that. But I am pleased to say we are making progress.

My cat is mightily vocal. And though she is a ragamuffin, she meows like a Siamese. If you've had a Siamese, this needs no explanation. If you have not had the pleasure of cohabitating with such a strange little animal, try to imagine their noise as something akin to a cow-moo with a dash of lemon and vinegar stirred in. And as Maude has gotten more comfortable over these last ten years, she has begun expressing herself with more vigor. Nonstop. This is not so good for my sleeping patterns (nor is her habit of walking across my chest, but I digress), but it's great for dog training.

And I can now hold Stella's attention as Maude stands behind the couch and around the corner warbling her bitter banshee's rites. Listening as I work with Stella, I have suspected she may be trying to kill the dog with her song, just like the Fugees did. It is really full of spit and sorcery.

But murderous intent notwithstanding, we depend on Maude's lively chatter to bring the two animals closer together. And as Delta Delta Delta Stella proves she can handle the responsibility of a cat in her life, I bring you this commercial break, a video of some other cat entirely, relevant only because I believe with a sincere fear that it is a near-approximation of what Dean Maude is saying from just around the bend.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

my new car

It would seem I am the unwitting driver of Porsche. Read the pullquote in the LA Times.

Monday, January 05, 2009

gateway to health

I commit to eat doughnuts and work out at a reasonable, sensible pace in the new year. Read all about boot camp at The Monthly.

Next up: Wildflower Triathlon