Wednesday, April 30, 2008

John Waite. Twice for Wednesday.

Just in case you were sitting there feeling like your long ago 23-year-old self, here's a reminder from John Waite that a couple decades have indeed fairly well flown by. But take heart, friends. As the esteemed Mr. Waite would no doubt tell you, were you to ask, "I may look all used up on the outside, but on the inside, I'm still here."

Or at least I imagine that's what he'd say.


Here's one from the album, Figure in a Landscape:



And one from the 2007 Borders Tour:

Borders tour? Yeah, I dunno, either.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Oh, all right. There's no such thing as a brain test.

You might remember reading here back in December about a test designed to show whether you were right- or left-brained. As it turns out, the "test" is nothing more than an optical illusion, created by Japanese Web designer Nobuyuki Kayahara (who could be either right- or left-brained; I can't tell for sure).

What you and I see when looking at the illusion has more to do with the conduit between eyes and brain than with our ability to think creatively.

From The New York Times Health Section:

“What’s happening here to cause the flip is something happening entirely within the visual system,'’ said Thomas C. Toppino, chair of the department of psychology at Villanova University. “If we can understand why it is these figures reverse then we’re in a position to understand something pretty fundamental to how the visual system contributes to the conscious experience.'’

Read the whole NYT article here.

Thanks, FJohn.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The birthday of a delicious mystery.

In a world where almost everyone else seems to be courting celebrity, it might be hard to understand why Harper Lee--having had her say--now mostly just wants to be left alone.

Wendy Bilen has a wonderful piece about this, so I'm happy to direct you over to storySouth for her article, Hiding Harper Lee.

And for my part, I'm just here to say, "Happy Birthday, Miss Lee. And even though I hear tell that you don't like folks bringing it up--thanks again for the great read."

Friday, April 25, 2008

In honor of your Friday morning commute.

The whole way in, I just kept reminding myself of this:

Well, are you?

Dragging out an old chestnut to wrap things up. Have a great weekend.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Having a REALLY good day at work.

Real life is eating into my blogging time. But here's a little something for your trouble.

For the first time in 14 years, the audience at the Met demanded and received an encore of a solo performance. Tenor Juan Diego Flórez sang the nine high C’s in the aria “Ah! Mes Amis” and then--at the audience's urging--sang them again.

Apparently, Mr. Flórez is somewhat of an operatic rabble rouser, having violated a 75-year encore ban at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan last year.

Damn opera hooligans.

Click on the pic to see the a video of the aria. Oh, go ahead. It's only 2:11 minutes.

Read the Times' review of Donizetti’s “Fille du Régiment” here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday Blog Review--Stuff White People Like

Eventually, I'm going to review a blog I don't particularly care for. For now, though, I'm happy enough to point you toward other people's blogs that make me happy.

When you read a lot of blogs and a lot of blogs about blogs, you forget that it's not always about the latest, coolest thing. Don't get me wrong--I would love to be the one who discovered today's coolest thing. Actually, I would love to be today's coolest thing. But since the likelihood of either is really quite slim, I believe I'll just continue to devote myself to sharing my favorites with you. Especially when it's something frequently funny enough to make your head explode.

From the About section:

This is a scientific approach to highlight and explain stuff white people like. They are pretty predictable.


It's not really scientific, but it is funny. Stuff White People Like is authored by a 29-year-old Los Angeles copywriter, and is devoted to the exploration of just how ridiculous we all can be.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Singleminded.

There's a young woman who stands in the vacant lot behind my house every afternoon while she practices throwing the discus. This field is overgrown with weeds and briars. It's riddled with sink holes, and one must assume, holds chiggers in fair abundance.

She doesn't seem to care about any of that.

Even in spring it can get plenty warm, standing out in a field without a tree to call one's own. And when the afternoon sun slips behind a thundercloud and the heavens threaten to blow wide open with the sole purpose of sweeping her and her saucer away into the mysteries, still she stands. And spins. And thrusts.

She stands there alone, day after day, be it warm or wet, in a field behind the homes of people she does not know--spinning and slinging that saucer out across the field, far over the weeds and the holes and the chiggers.

Step, one-two-three, FLING, step-step.

Willing it to go. And it does.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Traffic report.



Every time I'm jammed up on Interstate-40, with a full bladder and late for whatever, I think of this. Sometimes, there are things I just wish I didn't know.

It's a lot easier to wait around on the highway all day if you think there might be some sort of payoff at the end.

Like--you know--a fatality or something.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Send this to everyone you know, including the person who sent it to you.

Every day, somebody on the interweb comes up with a solution to one of the niggling problems of daily life. You might not be aware of it yet, but right at this very minute--someone, somewhere is working on the dilemma that keeps you up nights.

StopForwarding.Us lets you politely and anonymously ask people to stop sending forwarded emails to your inbox.

Just enter the offender's first name and email address. They receive the following personalized, anonymous email message.

Hi Steve,

One of your friends has sent you this message from StopForwarding.Us, a website that allows individuals to anonymously email their friends and politely ask that they stop the habit of sending forwarded emails or FWDs.

Please do not forward chain letters, urban myths presented as truth, potentially offensive jokes, videos or photos without being asked or first receiving permission. If you find something that is funny and it is clean and you genuinely think the recipient will enjoy it then foward it to that person only (not in an email blast to all your friends and family) and include a personal note about why you enjoyed it and why you think they will too. Avoid sending forwards to friends or relatives that you've grown distant with. It can be frustrating for the recpient when the only correspondance you have with someone is via impersonal, unwanted email.

For more tips on email etiquette, visit StopForwarding.Us/etiq.html

Thank you,
A Friend (via stopforwarding.us)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Time out while I drum up a little business.

If you're new here, you might not know that my daytime gig is as big-deal publishing professional. In just a few weeks, my publisher will begin production of a new Christmas book. If you're a freelancer--or just want to get your feet wet and earn some publication credit, I've got just the gig for you:

Call for Submissions
Leisure Arts, one of the world’s largest publishers and distributors of lifestyle and instructional materials, is accepting submissions for the Second Edition of our newest annual holiday publication, Christmas Traditions.

Christmas Traditions was created because we at Leisure Arts know that the personal customs of Christmas are what bring the holiday—and our loved ones—nearer to us each year. Bearing this in mind, we took extra care to ensure that every page of the first edition of this beautiful book featured meaningful ways to enrich the holiday experience.

We would like to include your uniquely personal story in the second edition. Describe for us how you create gifts destined to become treasured keepsakes or make decorations to evoke tender memories. Share with us the recipe your family looks forward to every year and tell us the story behind it. Describe the holiday traditions your family observes every year—whether the traditions are new or have been passed down from generation to generation. Tell us the story of your favorite family tradition.

Submissions should be 120-200 words, written in first person, be original and true. We happily accept multiple submissions. If your submission is chosen for inclusion in the book, you will be contacted; however, Leisure Arts cannot acknowledge receipt of individual submissions or report upon each submission's status.

Submissions accepted via email only. Send submissions to: mundanejane@gmail.com.

If we use your submission, you'll receive publication credit and one free copy of the book. No monetary compensation will be made.

By submitting, you certify that you are the creator of the material and that it does not infringe upon any third party's trademark or copyright. You retain ownership and copyright of your contribution, but your submission grants Leisure Arts unencumbered, non-exclusive, perpetual license to reuse the work, in whole or in part, in any of its publications, Web sites, or archives.

Leisure Arts reserves the right to make grammatical and editorial corrections, or to edit the work for length or stylistic requirements according to the judgment of the editorial staff.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Science nerd.

When I was in high school, I barely squeaked through my science classes. I don't believe I should have to bear full responsibility for this, however, since Muffin Uptown's dad and I were actively engaged in our own science project at the time.

I didn't fare much better in college. I probably wouldn't have passed Physical Science Lab at all, were it not for my lab partner. She's most likely still harboring a grudge against me.

It's not that I don't like science; my brain just seems to lack the sorts of slots required to stow that type of information. So I was sort of surprised that one of my favorite podcasts turns out to be all about science--WYNC's Radio Lab.

Host/Producer Jad Abumrad and Co-host Robert Krulwich explain such things as "What happens on our insides when we stand in the wrong line at the supermarket," how false even the most firmly planted of memories can be, and how an exhausted brain looks like a 14-year-old boy's room. It's just like science, only funnier.

And you won't need a TI-83 to understand it.

Download podcast episodes free from iTunes, or listen on the WNYC Radio Lab Website.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More cake.

I heard and read a lot of hoopla about happiness, contentment, and the meaning of life on the Internet last week, which should strike most of you as something of a contradiction. At least I hope it does.

Forgive me for saying so, but the longer I swim in the virtual cultural waters, the more convinced I become that this might not be the best place to look for insight as to how to find happiness or fulfillment. I'm on the internet--and I don't know anything.

And that's not all. I live alone. I have a cat. I'm middle-aged (sort of). When you put it all together like that, I look like the last person who would have a clue about being happy and fulfilled.

And yet.

I know what it takes to make me happy.

First thing every morning, I count the white eyebrow hairs. If I have the same number today as yesterday, I'm happy. (If the number of eyebrow hairs overall has decreased, however, I become concerned, since this must mean that the hairs are falling out of their own accord. I would rather my eyebrow hairs, regardless of their color, stay exactly where I left them unless I am the one yanking them out.)

The sight of an empty laundry hamper makes me glad. In order to attain true laundry happiness, I wash even the orphaned socks and the red, hand-wash only sweater that accentuates back fat and thus should never in good conscience be worn again.

Cake fills me with joy. If there is no cake, I will eat pie; pie is joyous enough in a pinch. Miserable people hardly ever eat enough baked goods.

I like buying new panties. Panties are just about the only item on earth virtually guaranteed to be yours and yours alone. No one will ever ask to borrow them for an extra special job interview; your children won't hover over your disintegrating and increasingly decrepit carcass in the hopes of inheriting them. (When you buy new panties, though, throw the old ones out. No one really needs emergency panties.)

Occasionally, even when I'm wearing my new panties, eating cake and surrounded with the smell of fresh laundry, I'm still not happy. Sometimes, in spite of having done everything I can think of to make myself glad, I'm just not.

And I suspect it's pretty much that way for everybody.

Because there is no secret. Or if there is, it can't be boiled down to a list, encapsulated into a song, or captured in a Powerpoint presentation. Nobody I know ever found happiness spelled out on church sign.

Or on the internet.

photo, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Monday, April 14, 2008

Zzzzzzz.

An acquaintance of mine brags about going to bed each evening at around 8:30. Alone.

Most of the time, my feelings about this vacillate between envy and condemnation. Sometimes--on Mondays--I look at him through bleary eyes and want to bash him in the head. Mostly, though, I just want to know how he manages. Doesn't he have chores? Does he watch TV? Who writes his blog?

I would love to be asleep by 9pm. But I have to do all these things, first. And while I'm no social butterfly, you can be sure that the few friends I have left who will still have anything to do with me would drop me like a hot spoon if they couldn't get me on the phone at night.

As it turns out, my affection for sleeping is one of the few things I have going in my favor. Despite my wanton disregard for almost every other form of healthy living, I do know how to appreciate a good snooze. Recent studies in the news last week all point to the lack of sleep as being a contributor to obesity, as well as possibly increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. People who sleep more have fewer emotional and mental problems, as well. When the rest of you are falling over dead because you were too busy to nap, those of us who just woke up are going to have the run of the joint.

I haven't been this happy since they told me that I don't have to worry about all that water I haven't been drinking.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

You've been cheated out of a post due to a great amount of Thursday evening revelry.

Take it up with my friend Fred.

Or just let me owe you one. It's entirely up to you.

photo, Tijmen Van Dobbenburgh

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Oh, don't act so surprised. I can't even keep track of the money that I've placed directly into my checking account.

One of the worst things that possibly could happen, has happened.

I've misplaced an expense account check.

First, let me reassure you (and my mother, who is by now breathing into a paper bag), that the check is not for a large amount. I think it was for thirty-seven dollars and some change. But, really, this only adds to my dilemma.

How much money would it have to be to make me willing to call the accounting department and tell the woman up there that I've lost a check? I'm on this person's list even when I haven't done anything to cause her to have to perform extra tasks.

So I was thinking that I would just eat it--just say that thirty-seven dollars (and some change) is the price I'm willing to pay for a lesson well learned.

But then Material World girl reminded me that the check would never clear the bank, and the woman from accounting would come looking for me. And then I'd have to explain why I hadn't reported to her that I had misplaced a check.

So, while thirty-seven dollars (and some change) might not be enough incentive for me to subject myself to the ire of the accounting department, I find that it is just exactly the right amount to pay me to rifle through my own garbage.

Twice.

photo by Wurts Brothers of Manhattan's Central Hanover Bank vault

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Go Mudcats! Go Lugnuts! Welcome to the big league!

In case you haven't noticed, I've been throwing you a blog or Website review about midweek. This takes some of the pressure off me to come up with so much original content, and gives you something interesting to look at while I try and cough up another two days' worth of posts. I also decided that if those sites warrant a positive review, they warrant real estate on the sidebar.

Okay, that was boring.

But not Improv Everywhere. Improv Everywhere is the antidote to boring. Improv Everywhere will mess with your concept of reality--or they will, if you happen to be in the vicinity of one of their missions.

Improv Everywhere missions represent the best possible practical joke--in that they are funny, without being mean. And they are always, always funny. But if you heard the story about the "Best Gig Ever" mission on This American Life, you know that they do--occasionally--have consequences.

But I guess that kind of thing is bound to happen, when you're dead set on messing with people.

Here's what they were doing this weekend, while I was at the grocery store:


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A prayer for bedtime.

Now I lay me down to rest,
My covers pulled up o'er my breast.
But by the time the clock strikes two
All my parts will be in view.

'Cause in the throes of the midnight sweats,
Most my parts get sopping wet.
So I pull my shirt up o'er my head;
I ditch the quilt; my clothes I shed.

I would not want my friends to see
what middle age has done to me--
When I'm so hot I do not care
what sticks out when or hangs out where.

Please, Lord, don't let me die this way,
To be found thus, the next new day,
With all exposed, and thus on view,
With nothing left to misconstrue.

I beg you, Lord, when I must go,
Give me time to adjust my clothes.
Before my last breathe takes its leave
and I'm left out for all to see.

photo, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University

Monday, April 7, 2008

Guess who finally got a new calendar?

Here are a few things I realized as I was transferring items from the old, 2007 calendar four months into the new, 2008 calendar.

1. My good friend Holly Ruth had a birthday on the 2nd of January, but because I forget her birthday every single year, she probably doesn't even think I know when her birthday is. I suspect that anyone whose birthday falls before even the most diligent of us have replaced our calendars should have grown used to having their birthday overlooked. Now, however, Ruthie will not only realize that I am aware of her birthday, she will also--within the span of a couple of paragraphs--have good reason to be offended if I continue to neglect to recognize her birthday.

2. I think I also forgot to assess my property; but then again, I may have remembered to do it, but just can't remember having done it. There's no way to be sure without calling someone. First, I'll have to figure out who to call and then I'll need to find out if they have already spoken with me. No wonder state employees are so short-tempered.

3. I forgot my friend John's birthday. I almost always remember to send John a birthday email at his office. John and Holly Ruth are married people, and as soon as she sees that I always remember John's birthday--but forget hers--I will probably have some explaining to do.

photo, Clara Natoli

Friday, April 4, 2008

Point last seen.

When I told my mother that I was dead set on getting myself a portable Global Positioning System, she wanted to know, "Why? Where are you going?"

Her response to my answer, "the Target store" makes me think that she doesn't know me at all. Then I realized that she probably hasn't ridden with me in the car since I sustained directional brain damage.

Ironically, the day before my GPS arrived in the mail, I managed to get myself so irredeemably lost that someone had to be sent out to bring me back in. Granted, I wasn't in my home town--I'm not as hopeless as all that--but I was in my work town. I'm thankful that the people waiting for me seem to have a genuine affection for me or I would have been really, really embarrassed. Okay, you're right--I was embarrassed anyway.

Since my GPS arrived, I haven't wanted to travel so far as the mailbox without it. I like that it tells me how late I'm going to be for work, and I find it fascinating (and revealing) that the interminable last bit of road before reaching the turnoff to the house measures a mere 2.7 miles (I would have supposed it to be closer to 27). I still can't see the turnoff if it happens to be after sundown, but I think having someone (or more accurately, something) tell me that I've missed it may very well have changed my life.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

An address where the sun don't shine.

Mary Richards said, "I'm an experienced woman. I've been around. Well, all right, I might not have been around, but I've been... nearby."

Recently--and completely by accident--I discovered the slang for a particular portion of the anatomy for which I was not aware slang existed.

Furthermore, I cannot, by any stretch of my by-now inflexible imagination, come up with a single instance during which anyone without a medical degree would have occasion to address this part by name.

Just when I'm thinking I've got the world all figured out, somebody goes and invents a whole new body part.

I'm not even using all the parts I already knew about.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

People are reading. Who knew?

I like to think that I am a fairly observant observer. I notice things. I eavesdrop on people. Sometimes I even take notes. I come back here, write it all up for you, and everybody goes home happy.

It's not terribly elevated, though. Most of the time, you get a conversation overheard at the returns desk or from the adjacent dressing room.

Completely unlike the sort of observation practiced by Sonya Worthy on her blog, People Reading.

In her January 20 article for the SF Chronicle, Sonya explains that having just finished writing her first book, she felt compelled "to know, really know, that people still read books." So, last July, she boarded a Greyhound bus with a plan--visit 48 states in 52 days, creating a "literary portrait" of the country in the process.

And you know what? Some people are reading. Books!

Sonya's blog chronicles readers and their books in the city of San Francisco, where she lives. A quick glance at her About sidebar will tell you everything you need to know about her motives and process, so I'll let you get that there. What I'd like to tell you here is how fascinating it all is.

Each post features a photo of a reader and his or her book. Sonya might ask the readers what they think of the books they're reading now and why they chose them, their favorite books of all time, their childhood favorites, or what they would write about if they were authors. These are not complicated questions, but the responses aren't always what you would expect.

I can't tell you how happy reading this blog about other people reading makes me feel. Happy--and hungry for a new book.

Read Sonya Worthy's San Francisco Chronicle article here.

photo, Sonya Worthy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Pure foolishness for April Fool's day.

From A Glass and a Half Full Productions, two videos that will give you something to be smile about, even if you've already been tricked on this day. The guerrilla video has been out there; the second one is new:


Cadburys Dairy Milk from infrared on Vimeo.