Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Year of Changes

It is amazing how I can just stop blogging. Log off one night, no intention of being gone, and then, zap ! eight months gone. Eight. Reader(s), I apologize. I don't know what got into me. Nothing is wrong or was wrong, though, I admit, as summer approached and my joy and relief at having finally secured a position in a place the likes of Greenhouse City took hold, I began, for the first time in about four or five years, to be able to rest, really rest, and to let my tension-filled body finally sink into bed, onto couch, in chair in the sun, the fatigue leaching out in a slow ebb that left me realizing how much, emotionally and intellectually, I'd kept a bay from myself during non-Greenhouse City years. The end of exile, sort of, but in a new place. Of course, post-exile, there is a lot to do. My new circumstances have been a return of the deepest magnitude, and (but ?) I began to realize that I felt, if not out of practice, unpracticed: having arrived, after the initial set-up and transition, there was a deeper kind of setting up to do, a re-establishing of myself in that world, and ---what I think I had not anticipated, at least in terms of its depth--- a re-establishing of myself in me: I have found myself returning to both projects unfinished and desires left unfulfilled; I've travelled more than I have in a good four years, professionally or personally, and the professional travel and projects that went with it at first left me feeling shakier than I'd like even to admit to myself self. Nostalgia rewritten: nostos means return; algia, pain/longing, so "nostalgia" is normally, of course, a longing to return; I have had a case of the pain of return (there does not seem to be a word for that, though I am mindful that the nostoi of the ancient Greeks, of which we really only have the Odyssey in its fullness, are very much about both, the heroes battling their way toward a home, they and it forever changed). On the first few trips out, my knees were weaker than I would have thought, even to myself. But all went well, even better than well.
I have come "home," to realize, what I thought I already knew: I am older, I am behind in terms of the things I would have liked to have accomplished by now: perhaps it is only middle age setting in in earnest, one of those factors I did keep at bay, either simply through my attitude toward life (my older relatives tend to be surprised that they are as old as they are and just keep going: I am much the same), or because I could not bear that time was passing and I was no longer in the world in the way I wanted to be. Even now, I tend not to think about it (Greenhouse City is, happily and remarkably, full of "returnees" and refugees of all sorts), until I meet friends from old or talk with colleagues during these aforementioned travels, who talk about their careers having peaked or retiring at sixty (the latter seems impossibly young to me to do that), and I think, or rethink: is life really that far along ? Is life really that close to.... what ? A limited number of choices ? I tend to reject that out of hand. I wonder, if my life had been the sort where I stayed in one place for quite some time, if I would have evolved into the kind of person who has, what I call for lack of a better understanding of it, a life plan, and one that cooked along accordingly, at that. I am at the point where peers talk about x number more of projects, then that's it, they'll stop, career done, move on. And I wonder how they view me: am I the flexible one, or the one without a plan in a way that is daunting to them, off-putting ? Perhaps, I also think, during exile years, I stopped making certain kinds of plans, so strong was my sense of disappointment and despair, so estranged my exile from the world that was my home.
Whatever the case, here I am: returned, now toughened back up a bit, back. And now, having arrived ---how did I know this would be the case ? because when life was good before, this is often what happened--- and now life is good again, so: other things have opened up, and these are the sorts of things that would entail tremendous life changes on my part. I greet these with enthusiasm on the one hand and, upon reflection, pause on the other, wondering if, deep down, this option, to which I am powerfully and emotionally drawn, is opening up a fuller existence, or might foreclose upon the very things, rooted and dormant in me for so long, that are now just again flowering in the light of this new day and place, so long sought and so hard won ?
In short, and, in keeping with the tenor of this blog, I apologize for its obliqueness when it comes to specifics, I am (and how can I be ?) so happy and so uncertain suddenly and all at once. I am, though, once again back to this blog. I thought about it often, but the energy it took to restart and reintegrate left me no extra time for more writing, and I have missed it. So hello again, out there, whoever has come and stopped by.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ha. Another One

Some of you may recall that in the summer, inspired by Carbon Trace, I began to hunt (cyberly) Academics Who Bike. Got another today, by the usual method, aka, not looking. I was looking for information on Toronto and biking, and, lo ! Stylocycle came into view. She explains herself in this post. I'm adding her to my special category sidebar.
On another note, I've finished The Glister. Hmmm... still pondering.

Add to list of books not to forget about reading:
Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, Telegraph Days; Reread Lonesome Dove
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Jeanette Winterson, Weight
Steven Sherrill, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break


I'm behind as far as The Road goes, I know. A lot going on these past few years.

The 2009 Pulitzers are out, but I am very underwhelmed at the moment. I hadn't been paying much attention, but in the fiction and poetry category at least, even the finalists seem weak. Not undeserving at all, but perhaps safe or too mainstream/ establishment (?). Elizabeth Strout's "novel in short stories," Olive Kitteridge won for fiction, and WS Merwin for poetry (The Shadow of Sirius). Worse, Drew Gilpin Faust's brilliant book on the civil war, This Republic of Suffering, was pitted against Annette Gordon Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello, to which it lost. Tough call. Both are extremely important works, and both so extremely deserving. I presume Pulitzers cannot "tie," but I haven't looked into this. Faust's is really the better book, though: better written, beautifully researched, intellectually captivating. I must be in a very contrarian mood, sitting here arguing with the Pulitzer committee in my head. 'Nite.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lists

Steph, in a meme of some sort, posted a list on her site: a three year reading list of books that she wants to read, should read, never got to. Here's her explanation of the whole project and where she found it:
Project Fill-in-the-Gaps was created by Moonrat on her blog Editorial Ass: fill in the gaps in your reading lists of classics and contemporary fiction. Make a list of 100 titles, give yourself 5 years to complete reading the list, and give yourself 25% "accident forgiveness" - consider the task accomplished if you achieve 75 titles in the time span. I found this via some blog or other..."
I'm not big on those group lists like "the best 100 books" or projects like "the big read" --- not a communal reader, I'd guess, or not a book club sort. So my reaction to the project, understandably, was no reaction. Without getting into the specifics of my education, I've done my time with multi-year reading lists of inordinate length. Appeal of repeating this experience: zero. I do carry around lists like this in my head, but they change or emerge by happenstance, say, when I come across a title consciously forgotten but now on view in a bookstore or library, and then I remember that I've wanted to read it. And so I usually buy it/check it out on the spot. But I think we all have similar lists, of symphonies unheard, recipes untried, places to visit, etc. Will the naught decade be the decade of lists ? I blame that book, which seems still very popular among, hmm, I'll stretch it and say the 32 and under crowd, but I've mostly heard it mentioned by people in their twenties: One Hundred Things To Do Before You Die. It seems to have spurred a whole movement of "life lists," (or "Bucket Lists," based on the movie). The worst ? The writer of the original book, a travel book, died at the age of 47, list unfinished, not eaten by crocodiles or anything exotic, but from a head injury suffered in a fall at home. Enough to put one off the idea entirely. But it hasn't. The idea spawned (I mean this in the demonic sense) an entire industry ---and maybe a generation--- of people who see life as a hop from one bullet point to another (was this inevitable after Power Point ?). I wonder if their lives will pass them by while they are busy checking off events and experiences... On the other hand, like titles that I suddenly reapprehend as desirable reads, perhaps the lists are a way of holding up our true self(ves) to the mind's eye, so that it doesn't get lost in the daily routine that keeps offering up the "someday" that will be different. All of this is getting philosophical and far from my original purpose for my entry, which is not a three year reading list, but one formed in the now of the latest NYTimes Book Review today. The first three are not in it; it is that when I read the review, I remember them. Every week, I tuck it aside and later in the week, I recycle it, and only if I am very organized have glanced through it again to remind myself of what I might like to read. Dear Reader(s ?), though I mention this newspaper quite a bit, it is not my only source. I also feel, for example, that I need to listen to the Wrens, but this impulse did not come from the Times. Aside from any other books I may have mentioned, which I may or may not have read by now, these are the books on my mind:
  • Current Read: A Meaningful Life, LJ Davis finished, 4/13
  • Keep Forgetting, But Really Want to Read: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  • The Age of Shiva, Manil Suri
  • More Jonathan Lethem (I loved Motherless Brooklyn)
In the Book Review this week (children's books caught my eye this time around, mostly, I notice):
  • Amiri and Odette, Walter Dean Myers, illustr. Javaka Steptoe : "the legend of Swan Lake moves into the projects."
  • The Yggyssey, Daniel Pinkwater, illustr. Caleb Brown (why hadn't I heard of Pinkwater before this ?). The main character is a girl named Yggdrasil Birnbaum, presumably after the great ash tree stretching from beneath the earth to the heavens in Norse mythology. I wonder how accidental the last name is: it means "pear tree" in German.
  • The Graveyard Book, Blueberry Girl and Coraline, all by Neil Gaiman
  • It would also be hard to pass on CAT, "written by Matthew van Fleet and photographed by Brian Stanton. All kinds of cats, in motion and rhyme." Why should the "2 and up" crowd have all the good cat books ?
  • The Glister, John Burnside. (finished, 4/19) Scottish fiction, teenage boys vanish in the woods for years until another teenage boy begins to realize what is going on. Read the review. My potboiler plot description does not capture what intrigues me about it. The review does.
Well, off to listen to the Wrens, finally, via the link I created here. Happy Easter, for those of you who are celebrating today.

Image from "Amiri and Odette" lifted from NYTimes Book Review website.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"Call it a field..."

I've finished Dogs of Babel. While I write, I'm making a version of a recipe I saw in the newspaper today, a kind of breakfast-for-dinner meal, poached eggs atop peas. The peas should be sprinkled with bacon, but I don't have any in the house, so mine will be plainer: I have some cornbread, I'm thinking about sprinkling it with Parmesan cheese. I'm sure it's not supposed to be a full meal either, but eggs, peas, and cornbread sound fine to me.
Parkhurst's novel is written in stunningly beautiful prose, the tale of a man, told by that man, the husband of a woman who is found dead at the foot of an apple tree in their backyard, their Rhodesian Ridgeback nosing the body and yelping out the cries to neighbors, one of whom finally looks over the fence. In the UK, the book was more precisely titled Lorelei's Secret, since the dog, Lorelei, was the only witness to what happened. The words "elegiac" and "parable" have been frequently applied to this novel, and when it sustains that tone, which is most of the time, the novel shines, the prose is a glimmering field of love and grief, the ineffable and the unknowable. "Babel" is a reference to the husband's profession as a linguist, and his growing obsession, which he pursues in the name of research, of teaching the dog to talk, or at least to communicate, because he is convinced that Lorelie can make sense of what happened: why was his wife, Lexy (there are elements of allegory here), climbing a thirty foot tree in the first place ? Police forensics determine quickly that Lexy did not jump, but, Paul wonders, did she "let herself" fall ? [Fall. From an apple tree. Reference to Babel. Are these allusions clear enough ? Apparently the apple tree and the fall were not enough for the publishers who changed the title: the story of Babel is not mentioned in the book.] The novel retells the story of how Paul and Lexy, who owned Lorelei before she met Paul, met and married. Lexy is a mask maker, an artistry that takes a macabre turn when she is commissioned to make a modern day death mask of a teenage girl who has died of cancer. Contrary to what Paul expects, the mask, while limning the girl's features, is full of life: "She had painted the face white, a stark white background, with a field of bright flowers that stretched from cheek to cheek. The colors were vibrant --- no soft pastels, no pinks and baby blues. There were stems and leaves in bright, vivid greens, topped with blossoms of read and purple and yellow and teal, their petals touched with gold like a glint of sunglow. There were not the kind of flowers that would have been sent to the girl's funeral... These were wildflowers, windblown and growing every which way." It is one of several crucial moments in the novel where Paul is taken by surprise by Lexy's work, both by its nature and execution, and his inability to fully comprehend the artist in her and the mercurial emotions that reside behind her own mask of everyday self burn away, like a purifying flame, the glinting, sunlit elegy of his narrative of their romance. But there is no purifying flame: as do many in grief, Paul eats out of cereal boxes, lets the laundry and dirty dishes pile up, and pursues his project with Lorelei. In this world, which is like our own but is not, there is a "famous case" of a French talking dog from the sixteenth century, followed by another famous case, in Paul's own time, of a criminal who altered the anatomy of dogs until he succeeded, we're told, in getting it to talk. It is a criminal case, with the mad doctor now jailed, the dog having testified in his own words. When Paul finally does encounter the dog, we will find that it is not clear at all that the dog can talk, putting the idea that "everybody heard it" back into proper context. As his sane department chair and colleague remarks, "whole courtrooms in Salem were convinced they'd seen witchcraft performed." It is this off the cuff remark that leads to the oddest and least successful aspect of the book, a shame, I think, because the author uses it to create a very plotted climax that feels out of place. (For those of you as sensitive as I, nothing that horrendous happens to Lorelei.) Paul meets up with the followers of the criminal who altered jaw after jaw of dogs, cruelly, to create his talking marvel. Paul has contacted the man in prison, and is properly horrified by the sketches the man sends him, yet goes, when invited, to what might be termed a hell's den of hobbyists, all of whom are pursuing the same gruesome practices, and who have kidnapped the famous talking dog, Dog J[ob ? he started with "a" we're told, and had worked his way through eight other dogs, "A" through "I", hacking and sawing in his apartment until he "succeeded"]. It is in this underground den of the Cerberus Society that Paul realizes his friend may be right. To add angst and horror to the tale, it turns out that Lorelei, who had turned up at Lexy's door as a puppy, bleeding from the neck, had escaped from this society's kennels, and after a predictable police raid, Paul returns home to find Lorelei gone. So the reader must wait as the plot moves toward Paul's discovery of the truth, incomplete, until Lorelei is found, not outwardly maimed, but with her voice box removed ---an unnecessary bit of horror and overdetermined symbolism--- a truth it will not require Lorelei's "voice" to solve, merely and instead, Paul's simple recognition of the nature of a loyal animal. The weakness is not that the book shifts its mythologies from biblical to Greco-Roman (that trick has been easily managed in many a book), but that this section's desire to drive home the monstrousness of the project, the crime against nature, if you will, of physically altering the dogs, does not really reflect anything in Paul's yearning or his methods (he imitates sounds, tried to get Lorelei to nose at picture cards, has a symbolic computer keyboard built), and except for the fact that every epic journey requires the hero to descend to the underworld (and Parkhurst has this in mind. Paul narrates toward the beginning: If I could, I would begin the way poets used to do.... I sing of a woman with ink on her hands and pictures hidden beneath her hair. I sing of a dog with a skin like velvet pushed the wrong way."), these moments in the basement and the authorial decision to maim Lorelei, feel contrived, are contrived, as is the odd scene where Lexy climbs atop Paul in bed wearing the one death mask that parents of a deceased child had rejected: a cherubically happy face painted atop the outlines of her actual features in death. You want to hold up a hand and say, we know, we know. No need to harm the dog, to set the mask scene in New Orleans: the grotesque and its surreal quality don't heel well [thought about it: sorry, "heel" is the right word here] to elegy and the clean lines of parable, it doesn't make it more complex; it pulls the plot too far in an unnecessary direction. It is part of a parallel in the narrative where both Paul and Lexy (Paul after Lexy's death) have engaged in different kinds of magical thinking, a thinking of which each is disabused by the intrusion of reality (if Paul's trip to Hell can be termed that), but taking the knife to Lorelei's throat [the surgery is not described, O Dog Lovers], only grinds away at an awareness that has already permeated the whole text, and by this point in the narrative, Paul's conscious and intellectual self as well. I wondered, half aloud while reading, if Parkhurst had become nervous about momentum, and hence, a last minute, toward-the-end-of-novel dognapping. The novel recovers well enough at the end: we see that we, along with Paul, were staring right at some clues we could have deciphered, and the one remaining mystery to Paul (why Lexy fed Lorelei a whole steak on the day she fell) is, I'd guess, already clear to the reader. The story of how we never really know each other, innocent before the Edenic Fall (when, a philosopher named Vasil ---who exists only in the novel--- supposed animals lost their ability to speak), and how we do, self consciously, carnally, and imperfectly after, how the climb up the apple tree mirrors the attempt to restore that perfection by building a tower to heaven, is all beautifully and subtly drawn. The dogs of Babel, to follow out the metaphor, are at as much of a loss as their tower-building masters. It is only when Paul is able to think like a dog, outside of speech, that he is able to solve the final piece of the puzzle by understanding ---and experiencing--- the instincts of Lorelei. It is a beautifully and originally imagined piece of work, one I hope no one passes up because of its flaws. Billy Collins once wrote these lines to describe poetry:
Call it a field where the animals
who were forgotten by the ark
come to graze under the evening clouds.
In the end, the novel is Lorelei's field, her space under the apple tree; she, forgotten by the human arks that were supposed to keep her safe while they, if only for a moment, but with irrevocable consequences, pursued their own rescues. Lorelei, the silent dog in the evening of her life, who, as instinct would allow and demand, ate a tempting morsel, oblivious to the loss that would follow, but finally, in the end, by sheer force of life and that same instinct, by being only a dog, and not Eve, keeps her master from falling too, and returns him to himself, to her, once again on solid ground.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Steampunk in Progress

Raw notes instead of a post. From a 2008 New York Times article:
"...steampunk, a subculture that is the aesthetic expression of a time-traveling fantasy world, one that embraces music, film, design and now fashion, all inspired by the extravagantly inventive age of dirigibles and steam locomotives, brass diving bells and jar-shaped protosubmarines."
Steampunk Cat pictured here, is sold by Citrus Tree on Etsy. What's funny is that, in general, in its literary manifestation and in all of those blog sites where young men are wearing bowler hats and vests, steampunk is not an aesthetic that appeals to me ---though I like the cat a lot--- and I'd guess that if I had to name the quality that limits its appeal, it would be weightiness: the encumbering gravity of the diving helmet, the Victorian petticoat and boots, the frocks (not all steampunk aficionados are into the dress up end of this). In the article, Jake von Slatt, the proprietor of something called The SteamPunk Workshop, says that steampunk "is the intersection of technology and romance," but this doesn't quite do it, because the Romantic aesthetic and the steampunk mise-en-scène do not quite coincide. But the connection to the victorian era is obvious: HG Wells, Verne, the steam engine, in short, the age of industrial marvels, beasts of machines that snorted, clanged, and and changed the view of the landscape forever (dirigibles, trains, and the diving bell all had profound effects on how one could experience the landscape, and so, one's sense of existence). There is an old book, part of a PBS series, Shock of the New (now revised), that talks about this, but it is about modernism, the antithesis (at least on the surface) of the aesthetic of steampunk. Not to overstate the obvious, but steam is the crucial element here, bespeaking all manner of archetypes of the elemental (fire and water), the transformational (the evaporation of water into hot steam), breath made visibile (and so, the life force of human and machine is linked), obscurity and loss/being lost (fogged mirrors, engine rooms, factory floors, all full of steam pouring out everywhere, mmm... Toni Morrison would have a field day with this, given what she wrote in her Nobel Lecture on whiteness and the literary imagination. Note to self: think about this, seems very fruitful). And of course, the beasts, black against their white breath, the iron horses of the rails, grey dirgibles with flame in their bellies. Most of the reading I've done seems to claim that steampunk rests on one contrafactual: the internal combustion engine is never invented; everything else, though, is fair game. (But does this really mean that we'd all still be in hobnail boots ? What of the women of steampunk ? Back to the corset and bustle ?) The answer, over at a blog I found while pursuing these musings, Daily Steampunk , is, to my despair, yes, if you take the corset pictured here to be typical, as also the unfortunate term "steampunkettes." So I need to do some serious research, that is, for any of you twenty-somethings and below reading, from real databases not found via Google, sources from vetted journals and articles, and see what's being written on this. To my mind, "steampunkettes" not withstanding, this seems to be a very male place to play, very rigid, very heavy. Maybe this is not being fair to the second half of the compound, the "punk," which is often an autopilot signal for subversive or counter-cultural, but it seems there is a lot of reinscribing of norms here. This is not polished thinking at all; writing late again, too late to read the book I bought when I thought I'd have time to read (sigh). Finally reading The Dogs of Babel. Seven pages in.
PS I like the cat because it is not Victorian. In fact, it has the feel of Newark, NJ, when you fly in over all those flaming and smoking oil refineries at twilight. It has that feel, a different one, to my mind, than corsets and pocketwatches. Is anyone still with me ?

Monday, March 30, 2009

An Extremely Short Bedtime Story

...Once upon a time, we all walked five miles to school, uphill in the snow, dodging the velociraptors while reciting the names of state capitals...
At my place of employment, now known as Greenhouse City (because it has one, not because I have anything to do with it), a young woman of twenty listens to some of us (with hyperbolic references to mastodons roaming the earth) reminisce about typewriters, carbon paper, etc. Jokingly, I say, only two 'fonts:' pica and elite. Yes, chimes in another colleague, until the IBM selectric ball. Then we got rid of the return, too. She looks at us, suddenly very serious. You know, she says, I've never seen a typewriter. I mean, I have, you know, in the movies and stuff, but, not an actual real one. [Silence. We all require coffee before speech returns.]
Let's leave it at that. I cannot bear to repeat the conversation she has a bit later with someone else on this same ancient implement, when she learned that hitting a key used to make type strike ink and paper. Perhaps if she were into steampunk ?
In fact, no typewriter could be located within the building for a show and tell. I have one, though, at home: my father's Remington, green, in a hard case. Does anyone remember that aroma when a typewriter case is opened ? The must of ink, eraser dust, metal ? I also have some things to say about steampunk, but that's another post.

Photo of modified mac via http://bifsniff.com/technology/steampunk-brazil-computer-i-want-one; other examples can be seen at "The Seventeen Hottest Steampunk Computer Creations"
A good list of Steampunk Books can be found here. It all really started with Gibson & Sterling's
The Difference Engine, but, right, another time, another post.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Take A Cup, Drink It Up

...and let your neighbors in, I think the children's rhyme goes. Tonight's koan: when is your neighbor not your neighbor ? Answer: When his house has disappeared from Google Earth.
video
John Stewart's Interview with a Vampire (Cheney, in absentia).
My feelings exactly. I also just wanted to move on from my silly night of anagrams. Much to do at work these days. All good, but more than humanly possible, it feels. I'll be working the weekend, too, it seems, so enjoy this clip for now.

Video downloaded from Raw Story.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Enamelled Fin Hop

That four hours of sleep thing is not good. It was a busy day at Greenhouse City; I could not get out of there when I had planned to be long gone, and can't say tonight has been very productive. I drank coffee, not espresso, but coffee, at the office, which I never do, and my cup of tea is going to toddle me off to bed in a minute, just fine. So somehow, I think via following links out of Crooked Timber (sidebar), I found a site of "Anagram Poetry" (all the poems have titles that are anagrams of the poets' names, absolutely hysterical). Who knew that TS Eliot was "Toilets ?" Okay, I guess if I had ever gone to the trouble, it would be obvious. but the imitation is of high quality, which makes it even funnier:
Toilets
by T.S. Eliot

Let us go then, to the john,
Where the toilet seat waits to be sat upon
Like a lover's lap perched upon ceramic;
Let us go, through doors that do not always lock,
Which means you ought to knock
Lest opening one reveal a soul within
Who'll shout, "Stay out! Did you not see my shin,
Framed within the gap twixt floor and stall?"
No, I did not see that at all.
That is not what I saw, at all.

To the stall the people come to go,
Reading an obscene graffito.

We have lingered in the chamber labeled "Men"
Till attendants proffer aftershave and mints
As we lather up our hands with soap, and rinse.

The take on "The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock" is pitch perfect. WC Williams becomes "Islamic Owls," and so on. So, I wondered, what could I do with the title of this blog ? I am too tired to think for myself (or for anyone else for that matter), so I turned it over to the brain of hive mind, an anagram generator found here. Some results are nonsensical, but others, such as "Enamelled Fin Hop," have a poetic appeal. I left out the definite article for the first try, and some other favorites are: "Leafed Helm Pinon;" "Flanneled Pie Ohm;" "Headline Men Flop;" and "Heaped Felon Limn." I added "the" and asked for the first 100 results (55,556 found, it claims). With punctuation added, some are even funnier: "A defilement ! Help, Hon !;" and "A Helped Feline Month; along with "A Hinted Phoneme Fell," seemed catchy. Well, I told you this was a silly post.

Very Lazy, Very Late Night Post

I haven't even just added her to my blogroll yet, but Chiara Kael's blog, Coffee Cycle Chic, lines up three things of which I am dearly fond, and basically in the order that they occur in my life (it is iffy as to whether the third element is ever achieved, but it is striven for. Not in a Manolo Blahnik kind of way, more in a "to thine own sense be chic" sort of ethic). But I can linger over her blog, clicking links, and with its beautiful graphics and caffeine-imbued sensibility, it serves as a kind of virtual café, complete with posters (links) for good causes lining the walls. So I've swapped in the graphics from her blog header in lieu of any thoughtful content but by way of sincere introduction. I'm already dreaming of the coffee... I have to be up in four hours. All my fault. Coffee has been seen around here before. 'Nite.

Monday, March 09, 2009

This Will Be A Home Study Course

Via the Where Blog , comes this post, "Introducing the New Urbanism," which aims to provide a basic reading list introducing the concept. I've copied below the top five here directly from the post, all, I think, good reads, though I don't know number two at all, and am only vaguely acquainted with number five. "Urbanism," of course, is a very restrictive concept, and [yet ?] I find myself wondering how the ideas in these books might intersect with the ideas from places like Complete Streets, the burgeoning discussion on Carbon Trace of what one means by "bike culture," and the idea of the "1 Mile Solution," also found there. Cities and towns tend to get conflated in discussions of urbanism, new and old, and suburbs and exurbs become really, really annoying places that many theorists would seek to banish, connect, or reconstruct (so that they are cities or towns). But I digress a tad. Let's say that I'm waiting for the New Oppidism (see why it will never catch on ? Because the Latin word for town, oppidum, does not make a pretty word), as distinct from the NU. There is a very thoughtful secondary list in this post that includes some interesting and/or classic picks, such as Mumford's The Culture of Cities (1938) which opened up the conceptual framework for many other writers, and Will Self's oddity, Psychogeography: Disentangling the Modern Conundrum of Psyche and Place (2007). I'll be working my way through the secondary list for some time to come. Three other books came to mind, though only one of them has to do with urbanism qua urbs: A Pattern Language (1977), by Alexander, Ishikawa, and Silverstein, a book that has had a growing influence on, among other things, small (not micro) house design (see Susanka's The Not So Big House); the children's book, out just last month, beautiful graphics (I cannot bring myself to say "graphic children's book"), My First Book of Urban Planning," by CJ Hughes; and, for extremely un-thought out reasons, what we call a gut feeling, DeLillo's Underworld, whose barren landscapes strewn with the refuse of human existence (Fresh Kills landfill and the airplane grave yard ---"The Boneyard" in Tuscon, AZ are prominent) and sly cuff, with "under," at the "sub" of suburbia ought to haunt any new urbanist. Only the second is "about" urbanism, but it would be fun to add them to the list. For those whose interest in vehicle graveyards has now been piqued, try this post on Mental Floss.

Here, finally, is the list from The Where Blog:
The Top 5

1. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (1961). At about 450 pages, “concise” is probably not the most apt description of this book. But, as this is the single best written, most accessible, most compelling book I’ve ever read about cities, I’m willing to forsake the concision criterion even in my first recommendation. If you want to know what can make cities pleasant, safe and interesting places to live, read this book. If you want to read one of the best non-fiction prose stylists of our time, read this book. It’s a classic, and deservedly so. As one Where reader put it: “It’s a great book for explaining why we care about all of this.”

2. The Option of Urbanism by Christopher Leinberger (2007). While not as fun to read as The Death and Life of Great American Cities or The Geography of Nowhere (see below), this slender volume briskly highlights difference between drivable sub-urban development and walkable urban development, and does a good job of explaining the benefits of walkable city neighborhoods. It’s good primer on the basics of density, zoning and the hidden subsidies fueling drivable sub-urban development.

3. The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler (1993). This book is an exploration—and excoriation—of the rise of suburbia and sprawl. It also explains how the more traditional patterns and places of city life and country life are superior to the “geography of nowhere.” Accessible and ferocious.

4. Cities Back from the Edge by Roberta Gratz, with Norman Mintz (1998). According to a Where reader, this book is “in the spirit of Jacobs” and discusses “how existing cities can be improved with citizen participation in contrast to destructive master plans.” The book is filled with lots of specific ideas about how to improve downtown areas, all of them lavishly illustrated with real life examples from successful efforts in dozens of cities.

5. How Cities Work by Alex Marshall (2000). Squarely aimed at the lay person, this book seeks to discover what forces shape places and cities—and finds that one of the most powerful forces is political choices, particularly those having to do with transportation policy. A Where reader gave this recommendation: “It’s not comprehensive, of course, but it’s a good snack, possibly the kind that could interest a person in a larger meal.”
Image taken from the review of My First Book of Urban Planning, from which the NYTimes reprinted the image. The NYTimes review is linked to the title above.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Lazy Sunday Afternoon Blogging, II

Reading about nutrition, food, limited budgets and what is good for us. Isn't it the same with books ? I do not mean that physical hunger is a metaphor, or ought to be made one, but I was reading this post from Unlimited Magazine about The Canada Food Guide (to compare it to the infamous US pyramid, if you must know what I was doing while about the blogosphere). But the mass marketed, over processed overpriced "bad food" seems akin to the mass marketed, over processed, overpriced forms of entertainment we indulge in, including all of that cable and gaming, etc., when a good book, a really good book, will set you back much less. Overpriced junk vs. truly fulfilling nourishment, for body and for soul. Since this is a lazy Sunday afternoon entry, no conclusions or analysis are on offer. Let's just think about it. Here is the post from Unlimited, which is all about food and poverty, not books:

About a decade ago, while I was wandering in and out of the shops in Provence, I noticed that the really crappy foods – the sodas and candy – were markedly expensive. The “good” food – you know, the dark leafy vegetables and other organic matter that forms the girth of the food pyramid – were, well, dirt cheap.Back home in Canada the inverse was, and is, still true: bad food = cheap; good food = expensive. In Avignon, I found a perch near a carousel in the town square to people watch. I saw a man walk by, ripping the knob off a baguette. Someone else passed by talking on two cellphones at the same time Michael Pollan, a consummate food writer and a kind of agro-activist through journalism, has pointed out the skewed value North Americans put on food in the Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and countless articles for the New York Times Magazine. Charge more for the crappy food and less for the good stuff, the reasoning goes, and we’ll consume more of the good stuff. Kind of like with gas: high prices force us, more than environmental conscientiousness, to re-consider our consumption habits.The issue is more complex than this – subsidized farming, for starters – but you get the point.The flip side is the person who can’t afford to pay more for crappy food, let alone an organic chicken breast served with 100-mile asparagus and potatoes you grew yourself. This is where two friends, Tracy Hyatt and Jennifer Windsor, came up with a social experiment: With agflation shooting up like mortgage rates, the pair wanted to see if they could each eat for $80 a month. And eat healthy. Thus was born the Working Poor Diet, which raises funds for the Edmonton Food Bank.You can follow their hunger pains and mood swings online. There are rules, including no free food, including handouts from friends and family. The Canada Food Guide is gospel—though oatmeal, rice and tea from the Dollar Store have become staples and a bounty of bruised apples from Save on Foods were a bargain.

For comparison, here is the US Food Pyramid.

Lazy Sunday Blogging

Since today is literally short of time, I thought I'd play at the meme that has been going around the net, but that no one has seen fit to tag me with. I don't know if that is a good or bad thing. And, I didn't realize until I signed in this morning that my last post was my hundredth. Considering how long I've had the blog, this is nothing to be proud of, but still, I'm glad I'd put some effort into that one. Numbers have an irrational hold on us, and somehow, a hundredth post sounds as if one ought to do something to suit the occasion. So I'm glad I wrote about Gertrude, cats, and the Gerbil News. Okay, the meme:
Here are the instructions.
1. Put your music player on shuffle.
2. Press forward for each question.
3. Use the song title as the answer to the question even if it doesn’t make sense. NO CHEATING!
I am worried in advance. I have a lot of Christmas music loaded onto my ipod. I really fear the worst. But let's give meaningful randomness, or accidental meaningfulness, a whirl:

The results are below. Eh. Not as funny as the "______ needs" Google search that was going around. Then again, that "shuffle" algorithm is an odd one. None of my my recently added music appeared, such as my Miranda Lee Richards album. Numbers 11,12, and 15 are, I suppose, the funniest to me because they seem apt (11 and 12), or just amusing (15), and I'm really glad that the answers to 13 and 18 did not appear as the answer to 19 ("How will you die ?"). It also seems that everyone's blog has a different set of questions. I'm looking for the definitive ten or twenty questions. Anyone ? Now, I suppose I should turn these into a playlist ---I'm skipping the Christmas songs--- to see how it all sounds, but the hours are burning away today. Back to laundry, lunch, and a little less randomness.

1. How do you feel today ? Secret O'Life (James Taylor)
2. Will you get far in life ? Breakdown (Jack Johnson)
3. How do your friends see you ? Blue Christmas (Elvis) I knew it...
4. Where will you get married ? Hoy No Quiero (Julieta Venegas)
5. What is my best friend's theme song? Between the Bars (Elliot Smith)
6. If someone says, "Is this ok ?", you say: Winter Wonderland (Aimee Mann)
7. What would best describe your personality ? These are the Days (10,000 Maniacs)
8. What do you like in a girl/guy ? Empty Frame (Eno and Cale) Funny.
9. What is your life's purpose ? Reckoner (Radiohead) Ooh. Hits very close to home.
10. What is your motto ? I Wish I Felt Nothing (Wallflowers)
11. What do you think about often ? Relax, Enjoy Yourself (Randy Newman) True
12. What is your life story ? Eisenhower Blues (Elvis Costello) Also true !
13. What do you want to be when you grow up ? Fiery Crash (Andrew Bird) Ouch.
14. What do you think when you see a person you like ? Soul Searchin' (Solomon Burke)
15. What will they play at your funeral ? Feed the Tree (Belly) Hysterical. I'll put it in my will.
16. What is your biggest secret ? Got a Feelin' for Ya (Kelly Willis)
17. What do you think of your friends ? The Living (Natalie Merchant)
18 What's the worst that could happen ? Set Yourself On Fire (Stars) That's pretty bad !
19. How will you die ? Beachcombing (Mark Knopfler & Emmy Lou Harris)
20 What is the one thing you regret ? The First Noel (Bing Crosby) Fail.
21. What makes you laugh ? Say Yes (Elliot Smith)
22. What makes you cry ? You Got Something (JJ Cale)
23. Who is your secret admirer ? Reunion (Stars)
24. If you could go back in time, what would you change ? The Eyes of My Beholder (Lucy Kaplansky) Sounds deep. What does it mean ?
25. What hurts right now ? Into My Arms (Nick Cave) No, no, no.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I am taking full advantage of this snow, ice, work at home thing to browse about the net on a snowy day, extra cappuccinos in hand. Why had I not found Gerbil News before ? It is hystericalIy funny. My eyes hurt from reading too many entries. I was going to save this for a post on Saint Gertrude's Day (March 17th), but this lovely mock epyllion by Con Chapman (take that name for what it's worth...) cannot wait. Saint Gertrude is the patron saint of cats, and it was in quest of some information about her that I found The Gerbil News. I am not Catholic, but a patron saint of cats, especially one who has a mouse running up her staff in her traditional iconography, is too good to pass up. According to several blog sites, in addition to being the patron saint of cats and those who love them, Gertrude of Nivelles also looks after "gardners, travelers in search of lodging, and the recently deceased," the last of which, I suppose, are merely travellers in search of lodging in a different realm. She is invoked against "rodents, fear of mice and rats, and fever:" all sorts of reasons for this come to mind by implication, e.g. fever and diseases carried by rodents, etc., but no one seems to say why she negotiates these particulars of human existence with the one Almighty. In pictures I've found of her, she is often surrounded by mice. Not merely the mice on her staff, but rather contented looking creatures who seem to have mistaken her for their patron.

The website from which this image is taken explains that mice are christian symbols for souls in Purgatory, and this may explain it. Mice do not appear to have a patron saint of their own, but my research consists only of several search engines' first page results.










By James C. Christensen


Other images, such as the one on the left, do surround her with the furry ones themselves. Good night, all. I shall be setting up a small suitable shrine for Saint Gertrude, or thumbing through my Sylvia books and imagining what one might look like from my non-traditional and quasi-polytheistic approach religion and the numinous. But go and read "A Band of Feline Brothers."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Snowbike and Poaching, Part II

I know I said I was going to get rid of it, but I cleaned it up first, then looked into making an Xtra-Cycle out of it (feasible), then took it for a spin once and a while (the new bike is better, but the steel frame on this one is X-tra tempting...), and now look at it:

Meanwhile, I have been very tempted by Bullitts from Larry vs. Harry, but they cost more than Xtra-Cycles and, I think, would have to be imported. Hmmm. With the new job at Greenhouse City, it is possible that I could end up in Copenhagen for a weekend this summer. Time to test ride a Bullitt ?
Meanwhile, via Carbon Trace (for a great entry photo, cut the /bike out of the url and just go to http://isocrates.us), I've found the PPE Blog, a wonderful account of a biking Englishman in acquiescent exile ---so he says--- in the Netherlands. The photography and descriptions of biking around towns and country places are wonderful. And I have a soft spot for any self-declared exiles out there. Time to clear off the car before the next round of snow (we're up to a foot, but in a break at the moment), and shovel out from what the snow plough left banked up in front of my front tires.

Poaching

It appears that the entire eastern seaboard is shut down, closed, at rest, quiescent because of snow. It's funny; it doesn't feel like a raging storm or blizzard, but all of the schools are closed, according to the radio, and many businesses aren't exactly encouraging people to brave the conditions to get to work. So I am working (ahem) at home. I've discovered this, via The Tidings of Magpies, an absolutely lovely poem:

What I Believe
by Michael Blumenthal

I believe there is no justice,
but that cottongrass and bunchberry
grow on the mountain.

I believe that a scorpion's sting
will kill a man,
but that his wife will remarry.

I believe that, the older we get,
the weaker the body,
but the stronger the soul.

I believe that if you roll over at night
in an empty bed,
the air consoles you.

I believe that no one is spared
the darkness,
and no one gets all of it.

I believe we all drown eventually
in a sea of our making,
but that the land belongs to someone else.

I believe in destiny.
And I believe in free will.

I believe that, when all
the clocks break,
time goes on without them.

And I believe that whatever
pulls us under,
will do so gently.

so as not to disturb anyone,
so as not to interfere
with what we believe in.

Posted here

Friday, February 27, 2009

This Breaks My Heart

This story, reprinted here from the BBC without permission, broke my heart the first time I read it, and I've thought about it so much since that I went back to the story to see if there had been any kind of an update. It doesn't look as if there has been. Imagine having a companion for 54 years taken away like this. I hope this old sailor gets his pal back. I'd buy the thieves another bird if they'd just give this one back. Standing offer. Does anyone out there in blogland have any more on this ?
Cockatoo, 54, stolen during raid

Cocky might have been at sea for years, but he does not swear

A 54-year-old cockatoo called Cocky has been stolen from his owner who bought him as a chick from a market. Former sailor Leslie Proctor, 86, said he bought Cocky, thought to be worth £1,000, back with him on one of his last voyages and wanted him returned.
The lively cockatoo, which can squawk its name, and say "ta-ta" had been asleep at Mr Proctor's home in Blaydon when he was snatched on Tuesday night.

Police said Cocky might have been stolen to order.

Mr Proctor said Cocky had "quite a temper" and was "a handful". The former Merchant Navy sailor who was at sea for 22 years, bought the bird as a chick from Paddy's Market in Sydney, Australia. He said: "I brought Cocky back with me on one of my last voyages and he's been with me ever since. He's good company and I'd very much like him returned to me."

Despite the bird's seafaring ways, he was never taught to swear. Instead, the great sulphur-crested cockatoo can say his name, "Cocky Proctor", "cup of tea", "good night" and "ta-ta".

Pc Anthony Holliday feared Cocky might have been stolen to order. He said: "The thief or thieves seem to have known what they were after. After getting into the house they went straight for the bird cage, removed the padlock, and stole the bird." A police spokesman confirmed it was the only thing that was stolen in the burglary.

Ah, Mr. Proctor, my heart aches for you and your little friend. May he find his way to you again soon.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time To Read

I found this lovely blog, Lotus Reads, in the "Blogs of Note" section, a place that has some interesting writing, but not the kind of thing I'd bookmark or check back with. This one, though, and all of its linked blogs and literary reviews, is, in contrast, a kindred spirit. How do all of these people out there find time to read, write so articulately, and make their blogs so beautiful ? I find myself, at least lately, barely able to read the people who are wriiting about reading. How to get any real reading done ? From this blog alone, I've already found a long list of books I'd like to spend time with. This must be my most inelegant post to date. Very tired. Too many books, too little espresso, even less time...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Now, This Was Fun

Is this a meme ? I suppose it is. I found this on Steph's A Commonplace Book:
"DIRECTIONS: Type your name and the word NEEDS in quotes (e.g., "John Needs") into Google and see what comes up." For hers, click the link here.
Here are mine, all of the first page search results. They're almost poetic. Few of them are true (of me, anyway, but I suppose numbers 2-4 could always come in handy:

Cordelia needs girls/models
Cordelia needs a touch of luck
Cordelia needs omnipotent control
Cordelia needs more than $1400
Cordelia needs a home
Cordelia needs closure
Cordelia needs 2 stop getting drunk
Cordelia needs to hear and Fred hangs up
Cordelia needs someone to treat her fair

Thanks, Steph ! That was fun !

Addendum: Not content to leave well enough alone two seconds after posting this, I decided to find out what "Cordelia doesn't need." Remarkably, only one page of search results was returned, but there's almost a theme here, if we forget about the incongruity of the last one:

Cordelia doesn’t need the gods
Cordelia doesn’t need to show it off
Cordelia doesn’t need to save her soul
Cordelia doesn’t need enemies
Cordelia doesn’t need him anymore
Cordelia doesn’t need me to be strong
Cordelia doesn’t need diapers

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's On The Pod

I'm a bit under the weather (literally, too: waiting for rain to turn to pretty white snow), so here is what is currently on the pod, which is in turn coddled by some very nice speakers:

You can click on the image to blow it up. I'm undecided about the REM, but it does seem to fit. I'm enjoying the list, anyway.
Here's the itunes/imix link, which makes a prettier cover, but won't let me copy it.
I updated all of my links last night, but still hope that the Marmot and Underground Ozarks will make a comeback. So they're still here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Res Novae, Urbes Pro Populo (New Things, Cities for the People)

Repurposing Urbanism:
I've been enjoying The Where Blog while on my extended blogging hiatus (the hiatus applied mostly to writing, not reading), a blog that I think brings together ideas about the new,or as I like to think of it, the "repurposed" urbanism, one that grapples with the reality of surburbs that have no urban hub ---they are housing developments built out on what was farmland---, megamalls, and all things decidely non-urban. I often think, especially when I read the blogs of our cycling academics (see sidebar), that many of us envision an urban infrastructure of sorts for transportation (or should I say locomotion ? walking, cycling, public transport), local shopping, and community,while hanging onto gardens, yards, and less costly square footage. It's this complex and potent brew that seems to thrive in our imaginations and our websites, something post- the urban-suburban, beyond the town and country binaries that simply keep swapping out elements from each other to build a better version of what they already are (vs. transforming them all together). The Where Blog keeps track of many other fine blogs, many expert at paying attention to things we ought to notice (or to tell us to give them more than a passing shrug of the shoulders). Here is one such analysis, reminding me of John B's exercise over at Blog Meridian, trying to get his students to grasp the importance of describing ordinary things. Well, here you go:

from a blog called Pasta and Vinegar, quoting a book by someone named Rob van Kronenburg:
“Just think back a decade or so. Did you not see cars on pavements and guys (mostly) trying to fix them? Where are they now? They are in professional garages as they all run on software. The guys cannot fix that. Now extrapolate this to your home, the streets you walk and drive on, the cities you roam, the offices in which you work. Can you imagine they would one day simply not function? Not open, close, give heat, air…

As citizens will at some point soon no longer be aware of what we have lost in terms of personal agency. We will get very afraid of any kind of action, and probably also the very notion of change, innovation - resisting anything that will look like a drawback, like losing something, losing functionalities, connectivities, the very stuff that they think is what makes us human.
(…)
If as a citizen you can no longer fix your own car – which is a quite recent phenomenon - because it is software driven, you have lost more then your ability to fix your own car, you have lost the very belief in a situation in which there are no professional garages, no just in time logistics, no independent mechanics, no small initiatives. (…) Any change in the background, in the axioms that make up the environment has tremendous consequences on the level of agency of citizens. They become helpless very soon, as they have no clue how to operate what is ‘running in the background’, let alone fix things if they go wrong. As such, Ambient intelligence presumes a totalizing, anti-democratic logic.“

Who's Your Best Friend ?

This is a just in case post, info found via Blog Meridian. Neko Case, alt-country singer extraordinaire, had offered to donate five dollars to an animal rescue organization, Best Friends Animal Society, for every blogger who reposted the link to a free download of a song from her forthcoming album, Middle Cyclone. Now, here's the thing: by the time I'd found my way back into the blogosphere and had caught up to my reading on John's website, the offer had expired (Feb. 3). Yesterday, however, the New York Times magazine had an article on Neko Case and mentioned the post a song/donation project. I know all about real time vs publishing time, but in hopes that the offer will be revived and extended, I'm posting the link here: People Got A Lotta of Nerve.

The free download still works, and I left a query on the blog site.

Of course, you can always just donate to your local animal shelter or rescue group. Believe me, they need anything you can give, and it need not be money: old towels, household cleaning supplies, old blankets, spare cat litter, etc. Just call and ask. Most organizations have a wishlist, and there is bound to be something you can give.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Buttons, Beans, and The Blogosphere's State of Investigative Prowess

My inner etymologist surfaces: the movie Coraline has apparently flooded the internet with questions about the origin of the word for "fear of buttons," koumpounophobia. The biggest question is what is its origin and is it a "real" word or something that Neil Gaiman made up ? It's real: it comes from the modern Greek word for "to button," κουμπούνω, (koumpouno) which comes from the ancient Greek word for "bean" (κύαμος, kuamos), which makes sense, because the ancients didn't have buttons, but some buttons resemble beans, + πονέω (poneo), "to work hard." So you can see where the modern Greek word comes from. Check any modern Greek dictionary, attach "-phobia" to the noun form, and you've got yourself, well, a legitimately rooted word. I wasn't going to write a separate entry, but this got to me, reading the silliness out there. I fear for our nation if people can't do basic research. Goodnight.

Monday, February 09, 2009

It's So Bad, We're Starting to Want to Help People

I read so much, info glutton that I am, I have just spent half an hour trying to retrace my steps to find where I read (but I did read it) that things on Wall Street are now so bad, the article baldly went, that an increase in grad school applications is up, especially in MPA (Masters of Public Administration) programs, aka the gateway to civil service and non-profits. Cynics. Ironic, of course, that the world of high paying sector jobs would crash just as the new social idealism that swept Obama into office has also taken hold. No segue, just links:

The New Service
Idealist.Org/Action Without Borders
The American Red Cross
US Department of State/Jobs (with links to more opportunities)
Organizing for America (MyBarackObama.Com)

My we all find a way.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Not Shuttered For Good

I wondered if I'd be able to start up again without remarking, or rather lamenting, how much I'd let go unsaid, but not unthought, in between. Too many long days at---- what to call it besides "the job" or "the option," as I've been doing ? Every morning, where I am now, and it has been frigid, I walk past a little greenhouse appended onto the back of a larger building. Inside, beautiful cacti and succulents fill the glass enclosure with their climbing greenery, and I love to look at them. Their safety reminds me of my own luck. Housed in their proper environment, they thrive, they produce, they breathe. It is not as if I have need to grasp the fact that I was unhappy before; I think that was obvious, in many ways, the catalyst for this blog. Now, once again, too late in the evening to give this its due, I will try to get at something complicated. I had not led a charmed life before I came to that point that I have called "exile" in this blog, but I had led a fairly consistent professional one, no scratch that--- I had had a consistent professional identity. Even I did not know how much I needed it, or how, when outside of it, how difficult the ideas and ideals that I had often drawn upon and assumed I lived, such as Berry's "Be joyful though you have considered all the facts." would find their limit. I knew, these past few years, that I had hit up against a new kind of limit, one where the facts, considered, vanquished a good portion of joy, taxed and even defeated my ability to be playful and creative, because, frankly, the intellectual and social life I had had, vanished behind me. And, after it seemed that that kind of life was gone for good, I was able to step back into it again, but picture the action movie where the parking garage door may clamp down before the protagonist can get the car through, the air running out before the astronaut can back in the airlock, Jack Bauer looking for the truth, and then you will have a sense of how singular, narrow, and unlikely the chance that this would happen. There were, you know, interviews and such, and I remember at one point, after learning that I had been recommended to go up the next level, lying in bed, and literally picturing a barred gate swinging open onto a green field, and willing myself away from the cliché and the hope all at once, knowing that I just could not continue doing what I had been doing. And now I am back in a world I know, and, unfortunately for this blog, so fully engaged with it that I let many posts written in my head slide by with a cup of tea at the end of the day or evening. I had a few, including what I was going to ominously title "The Dead Guy's Desk," which is my desk. I can't call the person who used it before my predecessor in any real sense, and, worse, he is only metaphorically dead. Maybe I will still post it, in some form: a discussion of what happens when your phone number and desk were previously assigned to someone who came to a controversial end. And so many thoughts on Obama and the inauguration. But all that will have to wait. I wanted to open back up again, so to speak. I'm even set to travel again soon. And that's the news from Greenhouse City. Ah, there you go: perfect, we'll keep it at that: I work in Greenhouse City. Good Night.