Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Baby Alive is reALIVE




One Christmas, when I was about 7 or so, Baby Alive was on top of my Christmas wish list. Baby Alive was a doll that you could feed and then it would pee and poop. You looked in its diaper to find out which surprise Baby Alive had left you. Somehow this appealed to me, and I wanted Baby Alive more than anything else that year.

Much to the chagrin of my parents, Santa brought her to me. However, I quickly lost interest when I anxiously searched for realistic urine and feces in the doll's diaper and found only the water and yellow goo I had fed her only moments before. ("What? No poop?!") I think that's when I learned an important lesson about human anatomy. Also, Baby Alive smelled like plastic. She was really disappointing.

For some reason, Hasbro brought back the pissing and shitting doll for this past Christmas. In retrospect, I don't think Baby Alive is such a great product. Originally debuted in 1973, they seem to bring it back each generation, for a new group of parents to be disgusted anew, and for their innocent girls to demand it from them.

As one of those girls, I feel for the recipients of this year's Baby Alive scheme. Even though the 2008 model comes with ethnic options and green beans, they will inevitably be failed by the doll's lack of an intestinal and rectal system. If a girl unwrapped Baby Alive for Christmas, by this time, or perhaps in a few days, the gift will be abandoned. However, the girl will be endlessly amused by the word "poop" for many, many years.

On an unrelated note: Last night, in a random search, I learned there's a band named Poop. Listen on Last.fm!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who is: the Smoke Duke of Durham?





My new love: NYPL Digital Gallery

He is a nobleman who knows that mannish children love tobacco; not candy, cakes, or pie.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My common cold

I've had a bad cold this week. Tuesday was the first day of my (still short) professional working career that I've ever called in sick. I laid in bed and finally gave in to watching Sex & the City: the movie. It was even more vapid and materialistic than I thought it would be. I couldn't help but wonder, Carrie Bradshaw-style, could this movie have been released after we've declared a recession and articles are citing cutbacks at luxury labels? Maybe men are like bound-to-be-outdated movies, after all.

Anyhow. The cold hit my office pretty hard. Today, my first full day back (between going home early, staying home late, and taking a disorienting nap in the Relaxation Room aka quiet room with a couch), I found this article:

Hot Drinks Help Fight Cold and Flu

The research was done by Cardiff University's Centre for the Common Cold.

Published in the December 2008 edition of the clinical journal Rhinology, the research compared the effects of a commercially produced cordial apple and blackcurrant drink either 'hot' or at room temperature in 30 volunteers with common cold symptoms.

The Centre's Director, Professor Ron Eccles, is urging people suffering from colds or flu to have a hot drink to help reduce their symptoms.

Professor Eccles said: "It is surprising that this is the first scientific research on the benefit of a hot drink for treating cold and flu symptoms."



Seriously? A whole center focused on the common cold and this is all they've come up with? Hey, Professor Eccles, maybe there's been no scientific research because benefits of hot drink seemed like common sense?


I'm drinking some Lemon Lift right now, and I got started on it before I even saw the scientific proof that it might make me feel better. Sadly, I've also seen scientific papers saying that homemade chicken soup is indeed good for your cold (and the soul) because it's made with love. Science said that. My mom, on her frequent calls to check in, kept telling me she wished she could make me some chicken soup. "I feel like I'm in second grade," I told her.

As a mark of my growing up, my boyfriend brought me carrot ginger soup instead, because I said no chunks and he really likes carrots. My contribution to the meal was to be some toasted French bread - until I noticed smoke emanating from toaster and my toast seriously on fire. It was a two alarm toaster oven fire. Having spent all afternoon unable to get out of bed, I got an adrenaline surge which allowed me to jump up and down and yell, "Marshall! My toast is on fire!"

He ran to my aid and demanded a fire extinguisher. I got it out from under the sink and handed it to him. Then he stood trying to figure out how to work the thing while the toast continued to flame. "Marshall, decisive action!" I yelled, cowering behind him. I've seen many a cockroach scurry away while he considers what to do with his shoe and I hide under a blanket.

Eventually the toast burned down, due to lack of oxygen in the toaster, and then Marshall blew it out. The toast looked like it had burned through a few layers of bread epidermis. We had survived.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The circle is complete

I am, right now, eating a child's Halloween candy. The child, and the candy, belong to a coworker. As I picked through the five pound plastic bag of unwanted Whoppers, M&Ms, mini Tootsie Roll Pops, and High School Musical 3 milk chocolate flavored Strawberry Rockin Pop (artificially and confoundedly flavored) candy for a 3 Musketeers bar, an early and traumatic experience came to mind. My parents taking my pillowcase full of Halloween candy by force, to the office.

"Adults don't like candy!" I protested, gripping the bag into my body.

It was useless (and untrue). All my hard-earned, delicious loot went to the bland, tasteless place called "the office," realm of adults who don't earn candy for themselves, and don't appreciate it.

Years later, that candy has returned to me, in the office. And it's true, I don't appreciate it as much. But I still feel the sting of my candy being forcibly taken.

I told this to my boss. She said, "Oh, she [co-worker's daughter] doesn't care, she probably doesn't even want it."

"That's what my parents probably told their co-workers," I said. I felt eerie.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guess who hop


Guess Who from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

I guess there's just something about hip-hop remixed with childhood nostalgia and brilliance.

Also from the same filmmaker is the sweetest story ever told by food... and the hottest cupcake/gourd sex scene on film. Seriously, watch it.


"Sweet Dreams" (2007) from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

Friday, November 14, 2008

So cuddly, yet so lonely


Hipster Runoff named this, "The Electroest Couple Alive."

I don't think this couple has good communication in their relationship. She looks utterly indifferent to anything but bright colors and whiskey, and he has clothed himself in comfort objects, eyes pleading to the camera, "When will I have the love I deserve?"

This must symbolize the erosion of the human interface platform by different types of media.

That's okay. Because I think all I really need is Dinosaur Comics. I'll see you there, after I get back from human interfacing in Denver this weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Childhood reading

I loved the Redwall books when I was a kid.



This reminded me of my favorite warrior mouse in literature. I think my brother and I named our hamster after another Redwall character, Mariel. Mariel drowned in the basement. I was blamed for allowing her to escape from her cage. I still feel guilty. (If it had been a dog it wouldn't have happened, why couldn't we ever have a dog?)

Now I'm reading If on a winter's night a traveler, by Italo Calvino. I like it quite a lot.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Commons love

Bookplate from the Brooklyn Museum

I'm still in love with Flickr Commons.

I'm still loving Michelle Obama.

I also love winter squash and summer squash and nice earrings.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

OBAMA!

This morning, I did not wake up to feelings of anxiety and disappointment. A turning point in my political life - measured optimism for the presidency. Obama won!

I watched the election at a friend's house. He brought his big flat-screen TV outside and had a keg and set up lawn chairs. It was like tailgating the election. I got a mosquito bite on my forehead. We watched the coverage on Comedy Central with Stewart & Colbert when the flashy, confusing graphics and over-the-top maps on cable news got to be too much. It was comedy. So when Jon Stewart called it for Obama, after the West Coast came in, no one quite believed him. We all looked at each other. Is this for real? we asked ourselves. It was only 10pm (CT)! Was it really over? I mean, it's a national election and voting is a messy process. The American people have to have a contested state, a recall, or at least some chads hanging around. We need that.

But holy cow, it was true. McCain gave a very gracious speech, then flip to Chicago, where I had seen the tents set up this weekend, on the way to the Field Museum. The political commentators back on MSNBC pointed out that there were black people in the crowd. And the nation suddenly got a lot more diverse.

I think it only hit me when Obama walked out with his family. Because, gosh darn it, I love Michelle Obama. She is so awesome. I feel giddy when I imagine her in the White House. No, seriously, could she be more awesome? I don't know! I feel like she could! And that would be more awesome!


I'm just really, really happy that there will be a smart, strong woman in the White House to be a visible role model. I mean, think. Michelle Obama in the White House..... Cindy McCain in the White House.... big difference. What Barack Obama will be able to do as president versus what John McCain would have done as president? Not so clear.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pictures of real dead things

This weekend I went on a whirlwind trip to Chicago, the great city of the Midwest. We spent most of our time with Marshall's family, and I got to tell my "babykilling ant nanny" story a bunch of times. People love that one, and it makes me seem interesting.

The one thing I can say I saw in Chicago was the Field Museum. I'd been to the Field Museum a couple of years ago, when I drove cross-country to school. I was super psyched at the prospect of seeing Sue again.

Sue gets invited to more black-tie museum benefits in death than in life (scientists believe). That night, she would be attending a gala for excellence in Illinois masonry.

The Field Museum has a lot of stuffed animals. These furry rodents were involved in mortal combat - wait! It's too late! They're already dead! And one is forever placed in an indecent, and unflattering position!

Dead things can also be aesthetically pleasing.

Marshall eats the last of the passenger pigeons.

We spent a lot of time in the Natural Disasters exhibit. It's pretty awesome of how museums have become so much more than, as Marshall put it, "putting some shit in a box." We jumped up and down to measure our seismic impact! We created our own volcanoes and watched them grow and explode! We stood in the middle of a tornado! Like the real thing, but on screens, in a museum, and not dangerous. The only thing the exhibit was lacking was a taxidermized critter or two. Gotta have it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Your love hurts - the planet and everything on it

So says Slate, making "The environmental case against long-distance relationships."

It's the same GHGs and airplanes thing, just calculated out to show the impact of your relationship on our atmosphere. Which is to say, your cross-country love sucks! Our local love is superior to yours, because it's eco-friendly! (So what if he beats you? It's better for the environment.)

This is what I hate about "green." The merging of environmentalism and popular culture creating superficial data sets and superficial solutions. "Date local!" Slate cries, thus trivializing everything I believe about sustainability.

Earlier today I was thinking about how I dislike the now-popular word, "locavore." "Locavore" smacks of elitism, something Whole Foods would use in its branding materials. A word that's sure to disappear with the end of whatever era we're in. But eating locally produced food should be as cheap, easy, and accessible as growing a garden in your yard - and not hiring a hipster to do it.

To me, the concept of "green" is a paradox between popularizing environmentalism and slowing climate change, and fueling a slightly softer form of yuppie consumerism. In other words, American life as normal, but with some well-deserved guilt.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wanna-be emperor has new clothes

I'm kinda grossed out by the Huffington Post. What with their classless impact headlines, and general disdain for design and good taste in favor of highly partisan politicking. I just read the New Yorker profile of Arianna Huffington and was additionally turned off by the air-kissing self-promotion. But anyhow, guilty pleasure: This article and slideshow of Sarah Palin's post-nomination shopping spree.

I love the comparisons made:

...it was revealed that Palin's fashion budget for several weeks was more than four times the median salary of an American plumber ($37,514). To put it another way: Palin received more valuable clothes in one month than the average American household spends on clothes in 80 years. A Democrat put it in even blunter terms: her clothes were the cost of health care for 15 or so people.


It's as if pundits check off the buzz words of the past week. "We gotta get a plumber reference in there, Sam," the editor says. "And the health care. Can we find a Dem to say that? Tell them we definitely don't attribute quotes." (But does the PuffHo have editors? I think probably not.)

I'm still feeling conflicted about media coverage of Palin. She's awful and I can't bear to put my mind in a place where she would be vice president. But those pictures of her bare calves leading into her sexy new shoes? You want to say she's asking for it. That's what they say about rape victims. Not good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Something of the Mondays



Au pied du pic du Milieu, BĂ©raldi, 1900



Vase avec bouquet

I wish I could crawl into Flickr Commons and live there.

Hey, did you know that there are catastrophic frog die-offs occurring all over the world? I didn't, until today. Our poor little amphibian friends! Never again will I get pissed off when I hear a bullfrog burping and screaming outside my window. Instead I will find him, pin a green-and-brown ribbon to his chest, and call him a survivor.

Also, this: It feels good when a Harvard scientist asks you for help.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My friend on reality TV



Christina is my best friend from college. She's been a ski patroller for the past three years. This summer, when I visited her in Peru, she kept mentioning how she is a star in a reality TV show about ski patrol.

I did not believe her. Christina has a long history of bullshitting me. Claiming she was on a reality TV show seemed a little audacious, though.

She's like the girl who cried reality show.

I said would not believe her until I had evidence. The above video is evidence. A video and a website seems too complex and time-consuming a ruse for a person who does not have a computer. It's true (tru!): I have a friend on reality TV.

I love how in the video she says "dramatic" like, five times. Makes me want to hug her.



awww! so cute! Nini in Peru:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Larval fish & VP Debate drinking game



Bloated much?

These whimsical baby fish come courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's flickr set of Belize Larval Fish. Every time I see something cool and science-y like this, my first thought is, "What can I do to watch people do this... in Belize... and have someone else pay for it?" That's journalism, right? Someday I'll crack the code.

So the vice presidential debates were last night. I tuned in with hopes of seeing Sarah Palin lose it - and by it I mean her last meal - on the podium, out of nervousness and insecurity. And, does incompetence make you hurl? Unfortunately, she held it down, kept it together, and exceeded everyone's expectations. Which isn't saying much. Expectations are at a historical low these days. In every sector.

Anyhow, if you were clever, you totally could have gotten wasted during the debate, by playing:

THE GREAT VICE PRESIDENTIAL OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DEBATE DRINKING GAME!!!!

The rules are DRINK when:

  • When a candidate blatantly evades the question
  • When the moderator calls the candidate out on evading the question
  • When a candidate utters "maverick"
  • Palin drops the 'g' on the end of her words
  • Palin says somethin' unbearably folksy
  • Palin mentions that she knows a thing or two about energy
  • Palin winks directly at YOU
  • Biden looks like he's tearing up
  • When Wall Street and Main Street are mentioned in the same sentence, in opposition
CHUG when:

  • Palin loses it on the podium
Sadly, the chugging opportunity never came. Not to mention I did not have a beer at hand during the debate. I was reduced to looking over Marshall's shoulder at some weird animation representing the Cubs game on the laptop, to alleviate the boredom of talking points and politics in general.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Happy New Year: A celebration of Jewishness in my family

Cute old Jewish people run in the family.


My great-grandmother and great-great-aunt.




In Springfield, Massachusetts. Our family is Russian/Romanian Jews.



My great-aunt. The women pictured above are her mother and aunt. Here, she's trying to look like a drunk old man while thoroughly enjoying her chocolate martini. If all goes as planned, I'll look like this when I'm 90, and be at least half as happy with my life.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Beautiful green babies


These are the first tomatoes on our plants in Marshall's garden. I got so excited when I discovered them, I felt like a proud parent. I've never had much faith in my ability to grow tomatoes, so the presence of these perfect green spheres feels like a vote of confidence in my gardening skills. Hooray!

Another thing to hooray about: Last Friday I bought two separate plane tickets to Denver and Chicago, respectively. After I got my receipts from Priceline, I felt flush with purchasing power and the excitement of increased human mobility. (Let's not talk about my carbon footprint, okay? I'm excited.) I'm having an influx of disposable income via my freelancing piece mentioned below, so I decided it was time to do the things I've been wanting to do. Which means seeing friends dearly missed in Denver and looking at and hopefully experiencing some nice mountains again. And visiting Marshall's family in Chicago: how couple-ish. I think visiting one another's family over Halloween is the alternative to dressing up in complimentary costumes to cement this status. My parents will be visiting Austin the previous week so it will indeed be a family bonanza. Yeehaw.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Happy Friday

I found this video in a collection of videos to make you happy. It's a perfectly synced Bert & Ernie rap video. It's awesome.



And then there's this. I can't really explain why I searched for a review of the 1998 Carrot Top vehicle, "Chairman of the Board," except to say it involved a long internet trail of procrastination. What follows is perhaps the only funny thing to come out of Carrot Top's prolonged career. The review is viciously hilarious, and almost lyrical in its utter hatred for what Carrot Top has brought upon humanity.

It is blood in your stool on the eve of your wedding day. It is an unaccounted-for prosthetic eyeball swimming languidly in your vegetable pad thai. It is happiness itself blotted forever from the cosmos.


It's completely brilliant and you need to read it.

113 out of 128 people found the following comment useful :-
The end of decency, 15 June 2004
Author: tbreuer from Appleton, Wis.

A few weeks ago I watched Carrot Top's Chairman of the Board on HBO.

This is not just the worst movie I've ever seen, it's the worst movie that's ever been or ever could be.

There's a notorious scene in John Waters' Pink Flamingos where the drag queen Divine picks up an actual piece of dog feces and eats it. That is a Capraesque delight compared to the moment in COTB when Carrot Top leans in to kiss actress Courtney Thorne-Smith. Indeed, Thorne-Smith deserves an honorary Oscar for not vomiting her small intestines the second Top's fish-underbelly skin came within Taser range of her lips.

I have spent the better part of my life a happy-go-lucky atheist, endlessly circling an epistemological cul-de-sac, foolishly content in the delusion that naught but unremarkable randomness and the caprice of evolution govern our planet and our lives.

I write this now as a careworn and grudging theist, cursed with the metaphysical certainty that God exists and that there must indeed be a reckoning. Only a literal hell can restore to the universe a sense of order and return to our souls - souls thirsting for justice for humanity, for cable subscribers everywhere, and not least of all for Courtney Thorne-Smith - a small measure of peace.

Indeed, Mr. Top's crushingly unfunny "film" is a long, jagged scar across our collective unconscious. It is your hopes and dreams replaced by a dying, weeping child crushed and all at once bereft of breath in your unconsoling - and inconsolable - embrace. It is blood in your stool on the eve of your wedding day. It is an unaccounted-for prosthetic eyeball swimming languidly in your vegetable pad thai. It is happiness itself blotted forever from the cosmos.

Carrot Top is the worst human being who has ever lived or ever will live. Stalin? What's a pogrom here or there? Pol Pot? The killing fields are the sweet songs of seraphim heard within the fragrant bosom of your lover compared to this dread offering. Hitler? Europe, she recovered by and by. There is no Marshall Plan for the pain and ruin we Chairman of the Board survivors must endure the sad remainder of our now-squalid lives.

Not only are there no - no - laughs in this movie, this film will steal laughs from the rest of your life. It represents a debt that can't be repaid - not now, not here, not in Superman's Bizarro World, not in a far, future galaxy run by countless trillions of nanorobots singularly programmed to wipe away forever the stain of this film, a film that is now irretrievably etched in thousands of banshee-screaming layers of space-time.

What's done is done. Though every cell of your body may cry out in anguish and every ribbon of DNA struggle mightily against an unslakeable urge to rip itself asunder, there can be no peace - not for you, not for your children, not for your children's children. Satan, to put it all too bluntly, has won. The collective efforts of millions of preachers, doctors, philanthropists, inventors, kings, queens, philosophers and humble servants of God throughout history are but piffle and dreck.

At Carrot Top's official Web site, www.oh-my-god-why-am-i-typing-this/someone-please-take-my-e yes-out-with-a-melon-baller/and-fill-the-raw-moist-sockets-with-m olten-pig-iron/lest-the-next-thing-i-see-be-carrot-tops-shiny-disgus ting-head.org/index.html, Carrot Top offers 8-by-10 glossies of himself for 10 bucks apiece.

If deep within the 342 pages of legislation comprising the USA PATRIOT Act there had been a provision for abolishing the civil liberties and reproductive rights of all purchasers of the graven image of this execrable amalgam of Ed Gein-lampshade skin and circus peanut-colored horror, I for one would have been happy to donate every last dollop of fat and tallow in my belly, buttocks, thighs and shanks to grease the skids for fascism once and for all.

But alas, the right to be screamingly unfunny and to slobber to horrifying effect on attractive blond actresses is a long-recognized pillar of our democracy. The right to enjoy watching this sort of thing is similarly entrenched, as is the right to watch dwarf-tossing, to view pornography in which midgets peeing is the central theme, and to stare at the noonday sun.

Still, though I've never met a Carrot Top fan, they are presumably out there. According to his Web site, he performs in Las Vegas a lot. Believe me, I would prefer to see a Siegfried and Roy show in which their tigers break loose and devour half the audience and the better part of my lower torso.

In fact, Carrot Top came to my home town earlier this year. Some poor reporter at our local paper had to write a feature story on him. Knowing that writing anything about Carrot Top that doesn't completely savage him is akin to being one of the PR flacks assigned to spin the Bhopal thing for Union Carbide, I can sympathize with this poor fellow. But not that much.

For when it comes to Carrot Top, his stupid AT&T commercials, or that steaming pile of offal Chairman of the Board, you are either with us or you are with the terrorist. Suffice to say, you're better dead than red.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blinds and bailouts

"I never wanted to take them off, though I would have needed a federal bailout after buying them."

- The New York Times, in reference to a pair of leather riding leggings

Last night someone finally came over to install blinds on my windows. Since I moved into my apartment in June, I've likely exposed myself everyday to my neighbors through two sets of bay windows. I finally wrote a letter to the elderly landlords about how I was going to buy blinds and take it out of my rent, because this really would not do. They were so impressed with my handwriting that they wrote back in old-peoples' fancy script, "Of course you need blinds. (P.S. You have lovely print.)" And they basically gave me a blank check to do it.

So six trips to Lowe's and a dozen phone calls later, I had some nice faux-wood blinds in my posession. The guy who called me to install them said he was a student. I expected a 20 year old kid from UT, but he arrived (after trying to cancel and reschedule) as a 40 year old perpetual student. He was going to community college and planned to transfer to UT and major in Radio Film and Television. He acted like a 20 year old college student. I stuck to my original conclusion that the reason he tried to reschedule on me was to hang out at a friend's house and get stoned.

We listened to NPR on my clock radio. The news is nothing but the federal bailout. The guy who was installing my blinds started to bitch about it. "Man, I can't believe that we're doing this!" he said. "This is socialism!"

"I know," I said. "It's like the least Republican thing ever."

"It's practically fascism," said the guy, drilling holes into my walls. "But my Republican friends in Wimberley think fascism is something on the left. Did they ever take a civics class? Everybody should take a civics class. Do they even have those anymore?"

"The thing that's most ridiculous to me is that they're talking about whether or not CEOs of these ruined companies should get huge severances," I said. "I mean, that shouldn't even be a question. I can't believe we have to talk about it."

"I know, man. It's ridiculous."

A commentator on NPR said people might riot.

I felt doubt that anyone would riot about anything national, and then a moment of hope that they would.

And by the way, what is all this Wall Street versus Main Street talk? I'm assuming that the campaign's Main Street/ Town Hall Meeting/ small town archaisms that don't exist in any salient meaningful form has transferred over to this bailout debacle. But look, I don't live on Main Street. I don't think Austin has a Main Street? I am not relating to this phrase. For some reason, it is beginning to make me angry.

Anyhow, the guy installing my blinds finished doing it in half the time he had estimated over the phone. In the meantime we talked about why he moved apartments, the time this lady he was installing blinds for made him stay for her kid's piano lesson to play, "Maybe I'm Amazed," and China. At the end, I was very pleased with my blinds. And went off to dig a new guerrilla garden on the east side.

We are going to have a Garden Posse documentary after all. My favorite comment of the night, from a white girl who drove up to our traffic triangle in a largely black neighborhood: "Some people knocked on my door and said, 'There's a group of white people digging down the street. Are you associated with them?'"

Friday, September 19, 2008

What have I been doing with myself?

I've been ignoring this blog, that's for sure. I've never thought of myself as a "blogger," per se. It's a label that I reserve for people who design their own banners, aren't really put off by Twitter, and have an estimated readership of more than two.

And then one day you look around, take stock of things, and realize that you currently possess three blogs. And then you must admit that blogging is maybe a part of your life right now. You too, have been swept up in the progress of communication technology, via the internet.

As for this blog, I'm afraid I've lost my two readers over a summer of neglect and the possibility that they have better things to do than check a consistently static website. But I like having a place for personal rambling. I mean, not too personal. I think it's very dumb when people air all their gossip and negative feelings about people in their lives and then act surprised when those people want to alienate them from their lives. And then commentators have another golden opportunity to talk about how self-indulgent and stupid my generation is. (I'm referring to Emily Gould's cover story in the NYT magazine this summer, and this stupid web series I've been watching, quarterlife.)

I will instead take this opportunity to be self-indulgent in a positive way, and write about what I've been doing since I have not been writing in this blog.

Working

I've been hammering away at my bizarre science beat on Earth & Sky. Each week I think to myself, what science story can be more weird and gross than last week? This week I got away with saying, "Babykilling ant nannies" on the radio. And doing away with a script. I'm excited about that.

And today, my product of blood, sweat, and.... well, not blood and sweat, but long scheduling conflicts and file uploading frustrations, my piece with Jeff Lieberman talking about Arthur Ganson is finally on Studio360. Here, I am trying to upload the audio:



Yay! I think it worked. The piece is a very heavy edit of my interview with Lieberman, an incredibly smart and talented man for whom I will one day buy a beer. And then we will watch his TV show together.

I have to figure out how to use my recording equipment properly before I freelance again, which I am keen to do.

Guerrilla gardening

After returning from Peru, I organized a guerrilla gardening group. We're called the Garden Posse. We have a not-neglected blogspot blog in which I've chronicled all of our adventures and gardens as of yet. Guerrilla gardening is even better than I thought. It's wonderful that so many people are excited about it and show up to dig, people that see us doing it come over to watch, and we've been receiving a far amount of attention just for posting craigslist ads. A film student wrote me yesterday to ask if she could make the Garden Posse the focus of her documentary. Sure, guerrilla gardening is interesting, but I don't see a compelling narrative. Unless we got arrested. Which is unlikely. Because people like gardens.

Loving


I like this picture because it looks like Marshall's mustache is making a comma over his mouth. I don't know what to say other than we're both really, really happy, and there are many, many reasons why, and we intend for it to stay that way for a very, very long time. Such things have been agreed upon.

Also, Marshall's band has a new EP and it's gotten nice reviews around the blogosphere (see, I use that word casually, I must be a little bit of a blogger). For example, See what you hear, said the gramophone. I love it and you will too.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Things I don't get

  • Little bikes ridden by grown men
  • Why you can't eat okra after it's bigger than your pinky
  • Sarah Palin's support for abstinence-only education after her 17-year old daughter became pregnant, and her hesitant belief in global warming when the ground beneath her Alaskan feet is melting
  • Why I might interview Bruce Springsteen
  • People who continue to drive Hummers
  • Why the people selling us office furniture say "We hate kittens." on their business cards
  • Women wearing uncomfortable shoes with high flimsy heels who look like they are in pain/about to fall over at any second
  • How Marshall got to be so ridiculously wonderful
  • Why I am so lucky

Friday, July 18, 2008

Satire: Always hitting the nail on the head

In my vast wanderings in the music blog aggregator Hype Machine, I often come across a brilliant blog called HIPSTER RUNOFF. HIPSTER RUNOFF sometimes posts mp3s, but it's largely dedicated to mocking hipsters on Myspace and party photo sites. It's also conducting a social survey of all things "alt" - the "alt bro" ("I am a bro with facial hair. This is me."), the perfect alternative breast (which size is most alt?), and alt-cities, such as the one I call home.

And I quote:

I'd say Austin, TX is pretty good example of 'shitty city who is gimmickifying it's underwhelmingly-alternative brand', too. Most of the music in Austin, TX is more approachable indie fodder than the Portland concept crap, so I'll give the edge to Portland when it comes to 'moderately alt cities that major-city-alts-want-to-move-to-bc-they-think-their-life-will-be-simple, yet-authentic,yet-still-as-alt as they feel comfortable with.' No matter what, we all need an alt-city full of alts to feel comfortable around without the high-cost-of-living that major metropolitan areas have. Don't you feel like you have met a lot of people who have idealized Portland and Austin as 'heaven on alt-earth'? Like they imagine settling down with a humble-&-emotionally-connected trophy alt who is done with his/her 'partying phase' and ready to start buying well-designed carriages for their newborn babies (lil alts).

Common traits of overhyped 2nd rate alternative cities:
  • Perception of being 'green'
  • Perception of a bustling 'local economy'
  • A high 'basically unemployment' rate (this figure represents people who are over 30, but still have the jobs a 16 year old would have)
  • An excess of corporate and independent coffee shops
  • An excess of people with too many tattoos working in independent coffee shops
  • An excess of coffee shop employees playing RLLY gimmicky 'interesting' music in coffee shops during their shifts/playing the albums of their friend's band who sound exactly like _______
  • Overhearing the 'future plans' of people who work in these coffee shops to start their own business in design/food/recordstore/boutique/other alternative biz idea.
  • An excess of people in bands that have shows in an excess of venues
  • An otherwise stable maintream economy which allows the alternative population to work in the service industry. While this usually happens in all cities, the minorities in the service industry are replaced by these aging alts.
  • Overhearing all of these people talking about stuff that was cool between 2 to 40 years ago. They basically have a 2 year delay on 'what is currently cool' and usually just rely on 'liking aesthetics/bands that are from before 1985.'
  • A handful of decent bands, a few imitators, and a bunch of krappie bands that have tied their identity to their home city and guilt their friends into attending their show/post a lot of myspace bulletins to impressionable local-17-year olds.
  • They attempt to assert their city-wide inferiority complexes by having excessive representation when it comes to liberal activities, particularly 'marches.' Examples include Gay Pride Marches, Anti-Racism Marches, Marches Against 'The War', and general Marches Against Stuff That Exists Because of Conservative People.
  • These cities have significant populations of 'cool dads' and 'free spirited moms' by choice/believe in their personal images, as opposed to the real-city versions of these parents who are simply 'participating in a gimmick which they have no control over.'
  • A lot of these cities have a major university or a well-branded liberal arts school with a progressive identity which the 'hip side of town' feels like they need to cater to in order to keep up sales of vegan wraps, pizza-made-from-only-organic-ingredients, and interesting t-shirts.


Living in alt-heaven feels so right.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Today's favorites

Bumper stickers sighted:

"Pro-Accordion & I VOTE!"

"At least we're doing well with the war on the environment."

Pixar movie that "everyone is talking about":

Wall-E, of course.

I saw it last night, and you know how I'm a sucker for robots in love. I kept thinking how the robot love message would prime a whole generation for having weirdly intimate relationships with robots. (Sci-fi is near reality now, folks.) I also kept thinking that the post-apocalyptic Earth Wall-E lives on is scarily realistic. Abandoned by humans, with giant towers of waste lining the sky. Waterways disappeared, a barren planet. Kudos to the people at Pixar for impressing those images on the minds of children, even those with conservative parents.

However, with my characteristic environmental pessimism, I disagree with the optimism of the latter half of the movie. It gives the message: So we'll fuck up the Earth, but at least we can escape on our giant spaceship, and then recolonize later. Even if we've gotten far stupider and fatter in the seven hundred years in between, and appear to be in no condition to do any form of work. For example: All of humanity claps when the spaceship captain manages to stand on his sausage feet and determinedly waddle forward. Then he speaks of growing "pizza plants." Perhaps there is a hidden seed bank of Domino's GM crop?

Regardless, if I had a child, I would let him watch this movie repeatedly. It's definitely cute. But the cutest part (for me) was when Marshall yelled out at the robots, "KEEP THE PLANT IN THE BOX!" and kind of thrust out his hands as if to take the plant from the screen. It was a very dramatic moment in the movie, and the plant held the future of humanity. But meanwhile, the 5 year old sitting next to us managed to contain himself.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The third annual owl wall

Yesterday, my collection of kitschy owl memorabilia was arranged upon its third kitchen wall. This is becoming a ritual in my life: Move into a new place, put up the owls, and I'm at home.

This time, I'm living alone and I have the walls all to my self. So the owls decided they wanted to stretch out a bit. The original owl (from the late, great, Springs landmark "The Theater of Mankind") is the wise centerpiece of the largest kitchen wall, looking skeptically (or coyly?) to the right.


The counter wall is lined with the all-natural material owl tableau, and the cluster of three owl shaped hot plates.



The rusty Las Vegas stained glass owl looks out the kitchen window.


And thanks to Sara Rubin, who subconsciously knew my life would not be complete without owl salt and pepper shakers.



That said, please do not give me more owl stuff. While I adore the owl wall year after year, the contemporary owl market has become oversaturated. You cannot turn a corner in a clothing store, a toy store, or even on the internet, without ramming your face into the large eyes of an owl. And the stuff is not as cool as hot plates.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I want to be him

Or maybe I just want to hop in a wicker basket and float my cares away.

via the Smithsonian Institute's Flickr stream.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Scooping the New York Times

Today's Science Times featured an article called, "Plants found to show preferences for relatives."

Last August, I did a radio show titled, "Plants appear to recognize own kin."

From the Times:

“I’m just amazed at what we’ve found,” said Susan A. Dudley, an evolutionary plant ecologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who carried out the study with a graduate student, Amanda L. File.

“Plants,” Dr. Dudley said, “have a secret social life.”


From my show:

Susan Dudley: Mostly we think about plants as passive, just the victims of their environment and just growing in response to the physical environment. But they actually actively sense and respond to the environment, including what is specifically the presence of other plants, and I think that’s a really neat thing.

Why so long to break this exciting plant story, NYT?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hummer bites the dust?

I screamed with delight this morning when I heard that G.M. may discontinue the Hummer. Finally! G.M. is closing down four truck and S.U.V. factories in favor of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, just as we near the $4 a gallon gas mark. I guess this is the turning point where economics meets the environment. People are making actual lifestyle changes based on fuel economy. More and more I hear people say they don't want to drive somewhere unnecessary because of gas. My co-worker is buying a motorcycle to commute to work. A friend of a friend is moving closer to the city. This is all good news. I just wish that we had an infrastructure to support the alternative fuel vehicles people would buy, and the affordable, higher-density living choices people want to make.



So for a hopeful farewell to the Hummer, here's a haiku from a website dedicated to giving the finger to the H2.

Haiku by Tim

Hulking black Hummer
Purchased in rank atonement
small peckered driver

Monday, May 12, 2008

Damn

This is the best beer bread ever. Make it now, if you know what's good for you. Because this - this is good for you.

It would also be good for a potluck, and I've been invited to about a zillion of them in the past few weeks. I do not exaggerate. In fact, I'm going to one tonight (and making some focaccia). And during a long-planned potluck last Thursday, the Garden Posse decided to stop maintaining a garden, and focus on potlucks. Basically, a garden is lots of hard work, and after a year of that, we'd rather just eat. Also, community organization is a huge drag. We're having a Malcolm X birthday/full moon potluck celebration next Monday and inviting Austin's radicals, plus a bunch of random people off Craigslist (my job). Come! We'll talk about anarchy. And in today's political climate, who's not up for that?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rejected science questions

We're doing this series called, "Ask the Scientists," in which we solicit science questions from children around the world. Right now we're in the process of going through the lists and looking for the questions that you can ask a scientist without laughing. That should be the subtitle - "Ask the Scientists: With a straight face, please."

These are not those questions.

Fern, in Lao PDR, wants to know:

Could we create a living pom pom – moving breathing talking naturally?
Is it possible to create a functioning cross between a wombat and a caterpillar?

Her classmate, Osvaldo, wonders:

How do plasma TVs work?
Why do plasma TV still work after water is poured on it?

Sounds like Osvaldo did some science on his own.

Friday, May 02, 2008

World's Largest Dog Museum

In an antiques market north of Waco, Texas. I'm skeptical of the "World's Largest" claim, but personally, I have never seen so many dog collectibles in one place. My favorites were the celebratory poodles.





Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The neighborhood

I've lived in my house in Austin for nearly a year now. Which means it's time to start looking for a new place - since I moved out of the parent nest, I've moved every year. As I grow older, I keep hoping this intensively time-consuming tradition will end, but to no avail. I've decided that I need to spread my wings and fly, sans roommate, to a one bedroom apartment.

My current place is a lovely little house, which has been divided into two apartments. I live in the front, with a friend from college who agreed to live in the overheated loft, sight unseen. The street is very residential, and inhabited by UT law and architecture students, and Bruce Sterling, the very well known science fiction writer.
He has this huge, sprawling, out of place yellow and stone house that has utterly ignored the idea of landscaping. Something refreshing - yet confusing - for a rich person's house. Some sci-fi fanzine guys I ran into at a zine fest told me Sterling left his family in Austin to marry a Philippine woman and live in Hawaii or something, but I see him reclining on his hammock on his laptop and teaching his daughter to ride her bike on the weekends. I've checked the book jackets many times. I swear it's him. I think sometimes about going over and asking to borrow an egg or something, but then I recall that I don't associate with the neighbors across the street.

For to the left of Sterling's house is big sprawling Victorian house that has intimidated me since the day I moved in. It's lived in by a young hipster family, and a rotating cast of aging hipster friends. And a friend who stops by with her Hummer to water the lawn. (Of course, I want to pee on it and chide her for her consumption. Which reminds me of the time I looked outside and saw a Hummer speeding by my house, with a man hanging on the outside, yelling at the driver, "You're selfish! You don't care what anyone thinks!" I hoped he was just a random man, who goes around jumping and yelling on all Hummers, but he was probably a friend pointing out what the Hummer is compensating for.)

Anyhow, I'm intimidated by the house across the street because the house and the peoplelook like they stepped out of an issue of Ready-Made. I receive Ready-Made at home, having subscribed at the cost of $5 a year at the MAKE festival last fall, and never in even my wildest, most handy dreams would I do any of the projects in the magazine. On the cover of the last issue, the headline read, "Make this space age bench! Not as impossible as you think!" Inside, the main instruction was, "Call your local welder." Lesson learned: I should be friends with local craftspeople, and it's a point well taken. But really? No one can make this. So when I see one of the house people spending full weeks laying their own brick wall, plumb line, cement mixer, and all, I wonder what their deal is. Do they work? How do they own this house? And then I see a flyer for an art party at their address. I decide I'm going to work up my courage to go, with the aid of my more confidently artsy boyfriend. But he falls sick and I decide to cook him dinner instead. An easy out. When I come back, it looks like the party wasn't terribly well attended, but it was well lighted - round white paper globes are hanging tastefully from trees. And there's an antique car with balloons on the side windows, which hasn't moved since then. And there's a cellist playing on the porch. I sit on my steps and listen, and watch a skinny man in a three piece suit and hat stand silhouetted in the doorway, glowing in his own hipness. And then I go inside to my roommate getting high on the couch.

I actually do talk to the neighbors on my side of the street. The neighbor to my left - living in the same 1 bedroom + loft arrangement as me - has begun hosting a series of parties. It's called "Mondays with Miah." That means on Mondays, there's a keg of high-quality beer ("I refuse to drink shitty beer," he says) and good food only steps away from my porch. Last night it took until 10 pm for a giant vat of pad thai to be ready to be eaten. This is after I had been gnawing on Marshall for about an hour and a half. I've threatened to eat him so many times that he's begun to call my bluff. "I don't think you could do it," he said. "You would get grossed out at the first sight of blood." He'll see who's crying wolf - when I eat him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In which I am insulted from the back of a Hummer limousine

So the other day I was riding my bike out from the parking garage under my office. Usually I pedal into the far left turning lane, but on this particular day, a giant white Hummer limousine was crowded into my spot.

Let me say this: I don't like to think of myself as an environmental extremist, but I think extreme thoughts about what I'd like to do to Hummers. I would like to tag them with bumper stickers that say "CO2," or pee on them. I'm not kidding. I have thought very hard over the past few months about how I would accomplish these actions while avoiding repercussions. So far, I haven't had the balls to go through with either idea. I fall back on either giving dirty looks or pretending like I'm vomiting when I see one of these gas-guzzling, egotistical monstrosities on the road. Needless to say, I think Hummer limos are the pimp-my-ride of the Devil.

So there I am on my eco-friendly mode of transportation, headed straight for the Hummer, no turning back. The back windows of the limo are open, and the people inside are sticking their heads out, waving and yelling at every car that goes by, kids clearly psyched that someone paid for them to be in a Hummer limo at 5:30 on a Friday. When I approach, they yell out at me, and what do I do? I give them the nastiest look I have ever given a Hummer vehicle. It's a combination of disapproval and strong disgust, with some serious eyebrow furrowing action. And they see it.

"OH YEAH?!" they yell. "WELL, YOU'RE STUPID! WE DON'T LIKE YOU!"

I turn into the center lane, where I'm in front of the Hummer, and it takes me some time to comprehend what was said because the insult came out high-pitched and hysterical. Like the shouter had just gone through puberty. The light for the turning lane goes green first, and as the Hummer passes me, I hear,

"AND YOU'RE UGLY, TOO!"

And then, as they turn onto the main road, a girl's voice out the other window:

"THEY DIDN'T MEAN IT!"

Awesome, I think to myself, and pedal on.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Garden time



One of the best things about Austin is that you can grow your own food all year round. Since last July I've been a founding member of a beautiful communal garden on the east side of town, abutting the river. The garden has been through a few transitions - the idealistic dream of my friend Megan, a part of the plan for a sustainable community center, the focus of a group called "Urban Evolution." Then finally we realized that the property owners were too drunk to negotiate a proper land agreement with, and we decided that it was best just to deal with the garden as long as it could last. And we adopted my original name suggestion, "The Garden Posse." And by "posse" I mean me and two other people. We're really... fearsome. We have hoes.



In trying to run a communal garden, there's trials, and tribulations, and frustrations, and plenty of conversations with drunk people during the middle of the day. And I always end up far more tired than I think I ought to be after working in the garden for a couple of hours. But it's worth it when you pull more food out of the ground than you think it's possible to eat or share.



This past weekend we did a major harvest: Broccoli, kale, cabbage, mustard, carrots. The carrots were my favorite. They pretty much sat around for a couple of months, quietly growing and avoiding the Great Deer Decimation of January. Then, pulling them our of the ground: It was a miracle. These perfect, sweet, orange babies hiding just under the ground. I wanted to cuddle them. They were tiny because we didn't thin them out, but live and learn, I guess.



This carrot snail grew into a shell.



This is the dual carrot. Not pictured: The tri-carrot, picked by Megan.



I thought I would have enough carrots to eat nothing but carrot-centric dishes for at least a week, but not so. They were so tiny, all of them lost their lives to this carrot soup last night. Quite good, though.



Next up is the mighty cabbage. I'm planning on making cabbage soup tonight. Because, yeah, I like soup. Even though it's about 80 degrees outside today and seasonal foods include sno-cones. Yesterday I went swimming in 68 degree water, and let me tell you, it was refreshing. Just add that to the list of good things about Austin.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Study shows nature not appreciated as much as YouTube

From a press release via the University of Illinois - Chicago:

"Pergams and Patricia Zaradic, a fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program, Delaware Valley in Bryn Mawr, Pa., had previously reported a steady decline in per capita visits to U.S. national parks since the late 1980s -- which correlated very strongly with a rise in playing video games, surfing the Internet and watching movies. The researchers call this recent shift to sedentary, electronic diversions "videophilia." And they don't see it as healthy progress."

I'm all for studies that point out the flaws of our nature-isolated culture. But this study is really very dumb.

My first objection: What are biologists doing, making up a term for a human condition? "Videophilia" seems a thinly veiled scientific mask for saying, "You people watch YouTube too much."

My second objection: It's pretty obvious that sitting around and watching YouTube all day is not as healthy as mountain climbing, gardening, or even walking aimlessly around a field somewhere.

The third objection: They use arbitrary data to tell us so. According to the press release, "The biologists examined figures on backpacking, fishing, hiking, hunting, visits to national and state parks and forests. They found comparable reliable statistics from Japan and, to a lesser extent, Spain. They found that during the decade from 1981 to 1991, per-capita nature recreation declined at rates from 1 percent to 1.3 percent per year, depending on the activity studied. The typical drop in nature use since then has been 18-25 percent."

So what does this tell us? What we've known for the past twenty years - not only are human activities ruining nature, we're also using it less. In the way of justification, the authors say, "We don't see how future generations, with less exploration of nature, will be as interested in conservation as past generations."

WTF? Nothing looks good for getting people interested in anything proactive anymore. Join the interdisciplinary choir, kids.

[Full disclosure: My own nature recreation has dropped 75 - 80% since moving to Texas. The reason? Well, I'm still working on my data sets and compute models, but the conclusion I'm aiming for is that I live in Texas.]

Monday, January 21, 2008

A blog is somewhat narcissistic

Tell me: Am I self-centered? Last week, everyone on the NYT website really enjoyed emailing this story about "Generation Me." It said, that years of our baby boomer parents telling us that we are special snowflakes who can be whoever we want to be if we just believe in ourselves, have spoiled us for the workplace where older employees get all pissy about our cocksure attitudes and desire to be rewarded for our awesomeness.

First of all, whatever. Second of all, these kind of articles are bullshit. It's based on the idea that if enough people bitch and moan about a certain population, it becomes news to point fingers. People write books about it. People do stupid studies about it, asking "Do today's young people really think they are so extraordinary?"

What kind of question is that? That's not scientific. Nor is it scientific to open a press release with a quote from Jimmy Carter:

“I’ve been a professor at Emory University for the past twenty years and I interrelate with a wide range of students...I don’t detect that this generation is any more committed to personal gain to the exclusion of benevolent causes than others have been in the past.”


Thanks, Jimmy, for interrelating to me.

These scientists were unable to find support to the claim that high school seniors were any more narcissistic than students the past three decades. "...It appears, at least for now, that the youth of American have won a reprieve from being scolded as more aloof and self-involved than previous generations," the press release summarizes.

There are enough assholes in every age group, and there are also enough good, kind people. The thing that annoys me about my generation is that we don't have a proper name. We keep getting labeled in reaction to other generational names. Generation Y and The Echo Boomers sound like crappy bands. Or we get called Generation Me, which is insulting. Because I don't think our parents were wrong to tell us that we're special snowflakes, or that it's good to have high self esteem. I watched "Free To Be You and Me" ten times and it was great. People are different, and people complain about other people. Let's stop the vicious cycle and not write any more articles or books or fund studies about it, okay?

Of course, that will never happen. Because people lap up stories about themselves with a spoon.

Anyhow. In other travels across the internet, I found this chronicle of a motorcycle trip through Chernobyl. The author describes the town as a frozen Soviet history.



It's like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - except with radiation instead of insanity. Having been only two years old when the disaster occurred, and now that people are promoting nuclear reactors as a solution to our energy problems again, it's pretty incredible to think it will between 300 and 900 years before the radiation disappears from the area. Nice place to visit, though.