Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Edith Emery - Artist

My Nana Emery (to distinguish from my other, Sicilian Nana) was an artist, as much as being a full time mom allowed. She and Grandpa had four kids (my Dad is number 2), and they were a handful. They started having those kids during the Great Depression. Nana and Grandpa had eighth grade educations (a pretty common stopping point back then). They worked hard, and did well (Grandpa was ultimately an engineer with IBM, and retired in his 50's). They lived to be over 90, and were married over 70 years. And Nana learned to draw and paint, taking some lessons, as I recall her saying, and won awards for her work. The paintings are scattered around the family. Some were sold, as well.

The drawing here was sent to me, frame and all, by an aunt who married into the family and then divorced. She and my uncle divided three Nana artworks. When Nana passed away, a month ago, the aunt thought maybe one of us might particularly like the drawing. She found me on the web, saw my work, and offered it to me. I was happy to accept such a generous gift. So this piece now hangs in my office at work, where I also have a few of mine up (mine rotate as I paint new ones). It's wonderful, to me, to see Nana's artistic legacy spread over my walls there, and it will remind me of the aunt, as well.

This scene was drawn (oil crayon, I think) from a photo the uncle had taken on a trip in Idaho. I love the way Nana's lines in this drawing make the land (under snow?) appear stretched over the bones beneath. I sense the thrust of the mountains, and of the trees. It's a pleasure to look at it while I'm on the phone, and to see it first thing each morning when I get to work. She was a bold, fun loving, laughing person, with boundless energy. I recall that their visits to us, usually staying a week or two in the summer, were fun but exhausting, because Nana never stopped moving, talking, doing... Grandpa also had to be always busy (or he'd fall asleep in a chair, "Just resting my eyes!" he'd insist). I see Nana's vitality and confidence in the way she handled her lines, her darks, her contrast. She was a bold painter, and a bold person. She's a good example for me. I plan to learn a lot from this drawing. Click on the image for a larger view.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<<

The subject is in his kitchen, playing with his food. This is Chef Etienne. Would you eat food prepared by this man?

Consider with caution...

Au revoir,


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Campaign Signs

Our daughter recently put forward her "mushroom theory of campaign signs." Once they pop up on a street, they spread. Overnight two Obama signs sprouted on two neighboring lawns. They went unchallenged for several days, until during the following rainy Saturday (mushrooms love damp conditions) a McCain/Palin sign and a McCrory sign (candidate for NC Governor) popped up on another lawn. Daughter was happy to see the diversity on our street, and the confirmation of her mushroom theory. I was happy to see the signs spreading their Democratic or Republican spores from the expected yards, as I like to think I understand my neighbors' points of view. On our street we have a nearly miraculous harmony, and nearly every house has children in it. We get along amazingly well, and look after each others kids, cats, dogs, etc. But we amicably agree and disagree on politics, and we have just about every part of the spectrum, except the extremes.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille <<<< Voila! This illustration is from the start of my performance art titled "The American Presidential Election." I roll the dice, colored for Republicans, Democrats and Independents, off a table. I lose some of the dice between the floor boards. I total the results, with some dice counting more than others. The independent dice are left until the end, for tension. Le news reports the results too soon, and incorrectly, and this causes late dice to materialize to change the result. And for the finis, when the vote is all counted, still we are uncertain who has won. Et encore, et encore.

I welcome your critique.

Au revoir,


Saturday, September 27, 2008

DC - National Cathedral

We spent the bulk of a whole day, on our recent Washington DC trip, at the National Cathedral. It's overwhelmingly large, and overwhelmingly beautiful. We're just the sort to want to wander all over it for hours and hours not missing any detail. And we did. And it's just the sort of place that's quiet and contemplative in a way that rests our souls. So we were stimulated and rested simultaneously. We were there so long, and so unwilling to leave yet, that we inquired about food and were guided to a small snack shop in the crypts. We ate among the restful departed, with Vivaldi and Beethoven playing quietly around us. Somehow it seemed ironic and yet perfectly natural for us to feed our bodies among the remains and memories of those who no longer need food.

The stained glass alone is worth an hour of careful examination. There are windows about so many different things. Never before have I seen amphibious landing craft in a church window (in the military shrine, a beautiful tribute and prayerful place for those we've lost in wars). I've certainly never seen a moon rock in a church window before. More on these in a later post, I think. I took lots of photos of the windows.

The vault is amazing, like the big cathedrals in Europe. And, with the bright sun streaming in the colorful clerestory windows, everything was bathed in complex colored light. Abstract banners hung against the massive piers, giving the place more warmth than I've seen in other Gothic structures like this. The space is awe inspiring, huge, stony, yet still inviting. Notre Dame, in Paris, had the same effect on dear wife and I.

And outside, with the bells ringing wildly for a wedding that had just finished, we passed through this magical gateway into a side garden. I could have stayed there for hours, too - as it is I think we were there for nearly an hour. It wasn't a large garden, but it was nearly perfect, and cascaded down the hill, with breathtaking views of the cathedral over the tops of the trees and flower beds.

I experimented with my camera's panorama feature. This is my favorite attempt.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #41 <<<<

I am tres fortunate to have good friends around me. Here I am perched on my sweet quiet singing friend, Debbie. Some days she is a fountain. Beneath us, in the perfectly round pool, is another grenouille. Small, black, pensive, and tres tres retiring, we do not see it much, but rather the splash of it's leap from stones at the edge. Debbie sits so still that she sees more of the grenouille than I. I have not that sort of patience.

And Etienne has his best friend with him, as well. I am consoled that I am somewhere on his list, and not jealous that his dear one is his first and best friend. In preparation for a coming trip, and knowing that there is usually an explosion in these days, the two of them have been trying to schedule the argument. They have been trying to get in fighting pose for days, poking and joking each other to goad and ignite, but rien. They are too close and connected this year to have the quarrel so far. Perhaps the packing will do the trick? It is not the favorite of anyone in the house.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Emotions - Part 2

I find it difficult, with work and travel, to stay in tune with my emotions. I believe this is particularly difficult for men, and in the company of men, but easier in the company of women. Maybe this explains my preference, all my life, for the ladies.

I was telling daughter yesterday that she probably sees more of the real, the complete, me than anyone except my dearest. "More than son1 and son2?" she asked. I said I wasn't sure why, but yes. Then it struck me that it might have to do with gender, and the fact that I have always felt more relaxed and able to expose more of my heart to girls and women.

The kind of painting I long to do comes from a fantastic peaceful place in the core of my heart. It's a long journey there from the outside world I have to live in every day, and it takes a long time to get there - too long to go most evenings after work. Or so I've thought.

But recent correspondence with a new online friend, who is also an artist, has pointed me in a new direction. She (yes, once again it's the ladies who "get" it the way I need to hear it) suggested that I have this inner world tightly contained and protected in an inner box, walled off for safety from the outside world. So I'm caged there, too. I have to turn this inside out, and put work inside the box, and let the rest of me rove free. I'm learning this, living with the idea, feeling it sink deeper and deeper into me, until one day I think it will turn me over and outside in (right side out). Then the painting will be easier to do, because the glee will be in the garden instead of in a box in the back of a closet, and I'll be the gentler soul I long to be. Then my inner peaceable kingdom will be my outer reality.

And with this post and the last post (part 1) complete, it's time to go back to the world of A Summer Day.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #40 <<<<

Feelings are hard to express directly. Sometimes our hearts require poetry, or some picture. Perhaps at other times they are carried best by a simple sound.

au revoir,


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Politics and a Meme

Liberality tagged me and has asked that I answer these questions. And I'll do so because she asked me this directly, and because this is a good post to do from the road. But...

You may have noticed, if you've read my blog for long, that while I'm a fan of some very politically outspoken blogs (Politits, Liberality, OKJimm's Eggroll Emporium, etc.) I'm not one to discuss my practical political decisions on my blog. I'll comment on theirs, where the subject is already in play, but I don't tend to get into it on mine. Why? I'm not totally sure.

I think, though, that it's something akin to my "cow in pasture" status where my religious convictions and practice are concerned. I've been an active evangelist in my time, protestant and Roman Catholic, and I know what it is to have a cause and to crusade for it - door to door. But I am currently quite disillusioned about human organizations of many kinds, especially churches, and I recall my brother-in-law's father's comment about the horrific politics in the Baptist church he attended with this wife: "I feel a lot closer to God standing here watching my cows." I'll go him one further and say I feel closer to God when I relate as if I were one of his cows, escaped from a closed, claustrophobic, confusing, evening frightening place (church community), to the crisp frosty air of my open pasture. This "hands off; not sure where I am; don't presume to tell others" thing extends to some ethical issues, too, at the moment, and it's not much of a walk from there to politics. Not much of a walk at all. So I tend to watch from the side, and shake my head a lot before going back to chewing my cud.

But since Liberality asked, I'll see what happens if I work out some replies. And it isn't as if I don't have some strong opinions - I just hesitate to presume they're what others should believe. The answers below represent what I see and how I think about this - but others have different information, priorities, and contexts. I get that. I RESPECT that.

1) What is your name (nickname, whatever you're comfortable sharing), your age (range), gender, occupation, income bracket (range), how you identify (gay/straight/whatever)? Married/Single/Divorced? Kids (how many)?

Steve (my neighborhood poker nickname is Squidward, after the character on Spongebob Squarepants, when one of our other poker regulars commented that I sounded a bit like him, and everyone laughed and the idea stuck - you don't get to pick your own nickname...), I'm 47 years old for the third time (last year I mistakenly said I was 47 all year - I did 37 when I was 36, the same way - I seem to have some mental block about the "6"s - and while my birthday is in December, and some regaled my turning 47 (again, in my mind) in 12/2008, I had declared to immediate family that I was tired of my birthday landing in the ridiculously stressful days before Christmas, and in the darkest 6 days of the year, and I was moving my birthday to April. So I did it again (that makes three if you've been counting) in May (April didn't work out and the convenient thing about a birthdate by fiat is you can then do it whenever you want - so I did.), I'm male, I'm in the healthcare software industry, I make in the upper 5 digits, I'm as straight as anyone can be without the slightest discomfort with others being otherwise (no interest, fatasies, attraction, or inclination toward men whatsoever - and I find nearly all women attractive in some way), ecstatically happily married to my highschool sweetheart, and we have three kids.

2) What are the most important issues to you in this presidential election and why?

Being extremely aware that the President will largely control foreign policy and our current wars, while only having influence and veto power over nearly everything else (the rest is for Congress to do), I am looking for the right influence on Congress (and use of veto power) and someone who will mend our fences with the rest of the world and get us correctly out of Iraq and (later, I think) Afghanistan. The Supreme Court, and who the President might appoint in the next 4-8 years also matter to me. Finally, both candidates are, unfortunately, in greater than normal risk of not surviving their term(s), so their running mates matter to me more than in any prior race since I turned 18.

3) Why do you think voters should vote for Obama/Biden, what differentiates this ticket from McCain/Palin?

I wonder what I would have done with this question (and the rest of this meme) if I were leaning towards McCain? I think McCain's policies are less a result of careful thought, and his decisions are dangerously capricious. I think Obama has the right frame of mind and has run his campaign in a way that persuade me that he will choose wisely the Cabinet that will advise him, and will actually run the Executive Branch of our government. An awesome amount of practical power and capability for real good or harm is in the hands of the non-elected people who actually make our government work - this is true for all three branches. Our shadow government. So those good choices are some of the most important events for tens of thousands of other little decisions that actually add up to the real impact on the environment, statecraft, energy policy, handling of our national lands, border control, defense, and on and on. I also think Obama is far more in touch with the complex new world we live in. Finally, I think Obama is less influenced by the mess already in Washington (which is not to say he is not a political animal, with connections and success based on one of the most organized political machines in the country - Chicago, IL) and that he truly represents more chance for real change.

4) If McCain/Palin wins this election, where do you see our country going in the next four years?

I see the country headed for more of the same, which would be bad for statecraft, environment, our military, freedoms, even our safety, which the war on terror has not increased (au contraire, as Grenouille would say). I also think McCain will surround himself with people who already think as he does, or will reflect his views (and we have way too much of that already), and if he fails to survive his term, Sarah Palin is in no way prepared to be a good President, and would be even more inclined to surround herself with "yes" people. Frankly that was a concern for Hillary Clinton as President, as well. These people have a reputation and history of not liking dissent. That does not build strength into a team - just uniformity of word coming from the White House. A little confusion of message would be preferable to monolithic opinion when the views held are one dimensional and damaging to the world and to the country. Finally, I think McCain is likely to be capricious in his decisions - standing firm where he ought to listen and consider changing his mind (this is a Bush hallmark - he calls it leadership, I call it mulishness) - and bending to public opinion where he ought to stand firm (largely in response to opinion polls). I think Obama is more likely to listen to diverse opinions, be honest about changes of course, and steer a course based on conviction and intellectual consideration. His experience as an academic helps with all of that. I could be wrong, but I think it more likely with Obama.

5) Economically, where do you think this country is today and how do you think Obama/Biden can make a positive impact?

I think the country is teetering on the edge of a serious economic downturn. Probably not as bad as the Great Depression of the 1930s, and probably not as mild as the dot com bust of 1999/2000. I'd bet we'll still be feeling its effects five years from now. If it adds significantly to the national deficit, it will have impact for far longer. I believe we ALL got ourselves there by (like before the Great Depression) creating a lot of fake wealth through financial instruments and use of credit that amounted to pyramid schemes on an international scale. Someone has to pay the bill - it will be all of us, in the end. And, as with all pyramid schemes, those who got into the game last will suffer the most - I mean people who bought houses at the end of the boom, for overinflated prices, with credit instruments that should never have been in use, in order to purchase much more than they could really afford. I do believe some of the interventions being done now to prevent collapse of large institutions, which are essential economic pillars, will keep the economic slump from more disastrous fallout, but it means that some of the worst perpetrators of the mess will not get their just deserts. That's life - it ain't fair. I do wish the CEOs getting away with big golden parachutes could be stripped of them. I do hope we do something for many people who will lose their homes - not people who bought homes to speculate, or bought McMansions instead of something sensible for their income bracket, but ordinary homes in markets that were artificially inflated due to speculation. How we can separate the innocent victims from guilty speculators is beyond me - I don't trust government to do a good job discerning that - we may just have to save them all or none. Again - it ain't fair, but...

I believe the President has minimal impact on the economy and the economic policies of the country - that's Congress' purview (laws and regulation, taxes, protectionism, repealing regulations, etc.) AND mostly the work of forces in the economy itself (individual fiscal habits of every American, market forces, collective attitudes about value and the state of the economy, etc.) I believe Congress' actions on the economy in the past, and regulation of the economy, cause larger unintended consequences than intended consequences, and in general I think legislation in economic affairs is like swinging a bag full of cats in the dark while blindfolded. The economy is huge, made up of incredibly complex energies and impulses (because they are inside billions of individual people), and NO ONE really understands it well enough to know what will happen if we put a big hand HERE and push JUST SO. Neither candidate shows a compelling grasp of the economic reality we are in - and both are suggesting a mash-up of odds and ends that is likely to do as much harm as good. Both are playing to their constituents with little risk of having to deliver, since Congress has to actually do any of the things they are proposing and the President (whichever) can just toss up his hands in dismay if it doesn't happen.

I'm more concerned about Congress and the Fed than I am the President, where the economy is concerned. And I'm not sure intervention will help or harm.

6) In the past 8-years, how do you think this country has changed under the Bush regime? Have you been affected by these changes? If so, in what ways?

I believe the country has lost ground on our relationships around the world, environmental efforts, education (No Child Left Behind is just pushing our educational system even more towards testing, and testing is not a good motivation for real learning OR teaching), and other fronts. But the big issue, and it might have happened under ANY administration after 9/11, is that we have lost freedoms. I would like to think that under a different President we might have done less to damage our reputation for Justice... I am referring to what I believe will be our current administration's most remembered historical legacies, fabricating whole cloth out of minimal evidence in order to justify a preemptive war, the prison in Guantanemo, and the lack of full respect for human rights for prisoners. We have repeated, on a smaller but meaner scale, the mistakes of the Japanese internment during WW II. We let fear over-rule our respect for human beings, and we have played into the hands of the very enemies we feared (Al Quaeda et. al.) while eroding the respect of the rest of the world for our political system. Democracy is a terrible system of government, but all the other forms are even worse. Democracy needs all the help it can get, especially in the third world, but the Bush Administration has given democracy a black eye by making it look more like a sham - only something we practice when there is little cost or risk to certain Americans, and something to cast aside when we feel threatened. We changed the rules in the middle of the game when we felt we weren't winning anymore.

Personally I have not suffered under the Bush Administration, other than consequences we will ALL suffer due to our reduced reputation in the world, and reduced safety due to an increase of enemies. But personally I also feel soiled and dismayed, as if our team had been caught cheating, or were guilty of being bad sports.

7) I have read that Palin is considered the new voice of feminism, which is offensive in my opinion. Of equal concern are her views on abortion and the removal of books from libraries. I'd like to know what you think about all of that and how you feel about McCain choosing Palin as a running mate. And what kind of message you think that sends to women?

I do not propose to understand feminism, even after hundreds of hours of very open conversation with my brilliant wife, who is deeply read and deeply thoughtful on this topic. I consider it to be like many issues facing the Gay and Lesbian members of our society. I sympathize, I will speak out for their freedoms, but my position of privilege (white heterosexual male) makes it impossible for me to presume to understand their position. I'm standing in the wrong place to see it clearly. Again, that doesn't lead to a passive view of their rights - I'm relatively fierce about freedom and equality under the law for everyone. I just don't have a clue what Palin means for feminism or women. I'm not either one.

But I am deeply uncomfortable with many of her convictions, as I see evidence that she will follow them to the harm of people and to the loss of individual freedoms. I also have a hunch that she will confuse personal preference and taste for moral absolutes and political necessities, as Bush has done, only even more blindly and stridently. There is a general lack of thoughtfulness that I find deeply disconcerting. She grossly oversimplifies things. Oversimplification, plus strident beliefs, plus power tends to equal autocracy. I've seen it dozens of times in my personal/work life, and history abounds with examples, as well. Autocrats hate freedom (for anyone else).

I believe John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin is the act which most disqualifies him for the Presidency. She is not in any way experienced enough for the top job (it has nothing to do with her gender, though due to history there are probably far fewer women with the right experience as yet - that's changing, thank goodness), and he is being naive or stupid to think there is little or no chance that she will get an unelected crack at it. His choice shows a willingness to risk the welfare of the entire nation in order to play long odds to win the election - and if that's how he values the country, he's got too low an appraisal of all of us to sit at that desk in the Oval Office.

And if we elect McCain/Palin, we might deserve that appraisal... but our kids don't.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Emotions - Part 1

I've been on the road for much of the last eleven days, and I go for three more starting tomorrow. This morning I'm feeling very emotional in a way that seems to need words, so I'm not drawing or painting yet this morning, other than my Morning Pages.

I'm listening to the soundtrack from the Miyazaki movie Spirited Away. It's an incredible movie, visually, and musically - animation taken to a level we seldom see in the West. It reminds me of when I started painting again.

When I began to paint again, after the first careful work with kites, I was trying watercolors for the first time. My first piece came out of wherever. I sensed that there was something important going on, something emotional. While I was painting it I was calling it A Summer's Day. It has kites, which had opened the door a crack the week before. I was over the moon with how open I finally was, and how well the painting was going. My inner artist seemed engaged. I had terrible brushes which made the work tough, and the paper was rumpling up badly, but none of that mattered. The place in the painting was from inside me, and that was a revelation. And I can't describe how it felt to be creating images again.

That evening, during dinner, I told everyone how it was going. For the first time in over a decade I was painting again. Music was playing in the background, on our CD mixer. Daughter had slipped in her new soundtrack to the Miyazaki film. I'd not heard any of the pieces since seeing the movie, and had never looked at the soundtrack. One gentle, lovely number started and I turned, enchanted, to daughter and said, "What is this?" She said it was called One Summer's Day. I began to weep uncontrollably. Everyone was alarmed until I explained.

I'm weeping again now, recalling it. That's what kind of day it is.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #39 <<<< Oui, c'est moi in that Summer Day painting above. Two times. Etienne is realizing this morning that part of his dream for painting is contained still in this work - he wishes to return to the way this was done. He must dream again like this, and paint like a little child. It is his deepest wish. It is why he so admires the paintings of Jane Filer and Hundertwasser. The first time I am in this painting is tres grande, oui I am an entire hilltop. Voila, my broad green back bears trees and a road. Click the image to see it better. I found this amusing, but it also began my secret life in the mind and heart of an artist. It began my life. Prior I had been a knick knack.

The second appearance is tres petite, smaller than the fly before me. Etienne insists this is a cicada, une cigale, as we say it. I cannot believe they are so grande, regardless of the enormous racket they create here in Caroline. So I think this portrait of moi is the size of a bean, beside that petite fly. Perhaps we are having a conversation. Perhaps we are more of the Peaceable Kingdom which Steve loves to create - leon lying quietly with the lamb, grenouille discussing the lovely weather with the fly...

Au revoir,


Saturday, September 20, 2008

John Mayer's Belief

I've been listening to one of my new CD's and I've been struck by the words of John Mayer's song Belief. Here are the lyrics:

Is there anyone who
Ever remembers changing there mind from
The paint on a sign?
Is there anyone who really recalls
Ever breaking rank at all
For something someone yelled real loud one time?

Everyone believes
In how they think it ought to be
Everyone believes
And they're not going easily

Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you're trying for

Some need the exhibition
And some have to know they tried
It's the chemical weapon
For the war that's raging on inside

Everyone believes
From emptiness to everything
Everyone believes
And no ones going quietly

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this
If belief is what we're fighting for

What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand
Belief can
Belief can
What puts the folded flag inside his mother's hand
Belief can
I've been saying for years that ideologies are the death of human beings. Maybe I should call that ideolatry. When concepts, rules, ideas, etc. get in the way of seeing and acknowledging real people, then the concepts, rules, ideas have been taken in the worst possible way. I'm certainly not opposed to belief - and I don't think John Mayer is, either. But when belief has a society or individual people by the throat, it's wrong. Even if the ideas have some kind of right on their side, if they are running over people (if people are using them to run over people) they are being misused. Jesus pointed to the Pharisees as examples of people who were practicing the Law to the harm of people, and he condemned them roundly and repeatedly. The Taliban and Al Quaeda are using belief for the destruction of people, especially women. McCarthy used ideas and rhetoric to destroy much of America's freedoms and many individual careers and lives during the Red Scare. The French Revolution was a vital step for democracy in France, until the idea of THE Revolution brought them Robespierre and the Terror.

"Belief is a beautiful armor / But makes for the heaviest sword / Like punching under water / You never can hit who you're trying for." This is true of nearly every misuse of belief I mentioned. The ultimate victims are not the real villains, if there actually were any. And often the result merely strengthens the cause of the supposed enemy (like the recruiting efforts of Al Quaeda). When you destroy your friends with that sword, then your enemies are made stronger.

And it's interesting to me how often a belief is used as a weapon or a war cry AFTER a group of people is struck with fear. Often fear becomes the underlying energy driving the misuse of the belief, and driving the rhetoric of the believers. We're afraid of each other, and of what we might do to each other. Or we're made to feel that fear by the shouters. Are we changed by what someone yelled real loud? Should we be?

"We're never gonna beat this if belief is what we're fighting for." Beliefs are not what we should be fighting for. Even the ideas of freedom or rights are not worth fighting for. People are worth fighting for, and people's freedom and rights. Real people, not some abstract concept of the people. And it's usually people we must fight against. Maybe we need to make sure they're real people, too, not some abstract those people.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rooster CD Covers

Here's how they turned out as covers. I've already burned two CDs for these - the others will wait until there's more to burn.

CD 4 contains:
Cold as Ice - Foreigner
Bridge over the Stars - Keiko Matsui
February - Dar Williams
Send Her My Love - Journey
Belief - John Mayer
Oh L'amour - Erasure
Nasty Naughty Boy - Christina Aguilera
Don't Waste Your Time - Kelly Clarkson
Looking for a Stranger - Pat Benatar
Hot - Avril Lavigne
Love Me Like That - Michelle Branch
Dance Inside - All-American Rejects
How You Survived the War - The Weepies
Love You Madly - Cake
Remember to Breathe - The Water Callers
U & Ur Hand - P!NK
I'll Never be Your Maggie May - Suzanne Vega
Fences - Paramour
Here I Stand and Face the Rain - a-ha
I'm Still Remembering - The Cranberries
I Want to Break Free - Queen

CD5 contains:
What Are You Gonna Do - Nelly Furtado
So Far Away - Dire Straights
Who Knew - P!NK
Stagefright - Def Leppard
Dance Floor Anthem - Good Charlotte
Going down to Liverpool - Bangles
See You - Depeche Mode
Riga Girls - The Weepies
When it Rains - Paramour
Everything back but You - Avril Lavigne
Judas - Kelly Clarkson
Rio - Duran Duran
The Sun Always Shines on TV - a-ha
Drugs or Me - Jimmy Eat World
Thanks for the Memories - Fallout Boy
Time and Confusion - Anberlin
Bought and Sold - Dar Williams
Dance Inside - All-American Rejects (I see I repeated this one)
Good Girls Don't - The Knack
Long Long Way from Home - Foreigner

I've been really enjoying the naughty-confident-bratty-hot sounds of Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics, Avril Lavigne's The Best Damn Thing, and most of all, P!NK's I'm Not Dead. These have all been great to paint to, particularly the P!NK. If these are supposed to be girl albums, the guys are missing out if they're not listening. These are sexy albums, as well as sexy ladies, and a lot of fun. All three are break-out albums, where the artists did exactly as they pleased. But it takes a confident guy to listen and laugh along with these.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #38 <<<< My reading friends, I have meant to ask each of you to comment on a recurring nightmare. What dream taunts you in your sleep and remains when you awake? I will tell you mine. I dream that my favorite food has grown tres grande, so grande that it might now consider moi to be on the menu... I always wake as it is looking at me and rubbing it's front legs together, like insect ablutions before a meal. Bon appetit, I think, smiling, as I awake, hungry for breakfast.

What nightmare visits you?

Au revoir,


Thursday, September 18, 2008


I'm going to start at the end of our recent family trip. The last time we went to Washington DC we had learned about an extension of the Air and Space Museum out at Dulles Airport, but we didn't get to see it then. It's called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The website doesn't begin to do it justice.

This time, on our last day, we made it a point to visit. We were there for three hours, and I think our youngest and I, who spent the time together, could have spent several days. We bought the book that goes with it, and I regret that it doesn't go over every single aircraft in the place. I've left a lot of these photos larger than usual - click to see the full size.

First of all, it's an enormous hangar - one of the largest built. Then it's brilliantly arranged, so the planes are accessible and also very dramatically displayed. I took panorama after panorama of the place, trying to capture the breathtaking jumble of craft above us and around us. Some of the planes are large, like the Blackbird stealth jet, the Concorde, the Boeing 707, and the B-29 bomber. There are craft from the last two World Wars, including German, Japanese and French fighters and bombers. They have helicopters and autogyros (attempts in the 40s and 50s to create planes for the family to use from their garage). The Space Shuttle Enterprise is the centerpiece of the large gallery devoted to rockets, missiles, and space missions (a separate short post coming on that).

The elevated walkways create dramatic scenes, and the ability to look at some craft from all sides, including from above. The inside of the building itself is dramatic, because of its size and the way the construction is all open to view. Everything is well labeled, engagingly described, and most of the vehicles have fascinating stories about their design, their use, their flights, or their inventors. I never imagined there were so many different ways people have created to fly.

And some of the craft are so beautiful they are like birds or sculptures. Several of the gliders were completely made of varnished woods and cloth, and they looked like antiques from another time (which, I suppose, they are). The biplanes, as well, are so obviously hand made and lovingly finished. One was completely made of white cloth, like a giant ribbed kite - even the propellers were stretched cloth. In the center of it was an outlandish looking Victorian engine.

There was even one stout stunt biplane in a color very close to my favorite orange, and I was aware of it's location around me the entire time we were there. It was my aeronautical muse for the day.

I want to go back. I didn't get enough. That's a great way to end a trip.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #37 <<<<

I looked at Etienne's photos from the trip. This plane made me think of mon ami the shark. Don't let the grande teeth frighten you, the plane was on our side, and mon ami is also a friendly.

But rather than flying I prefer to cruise just above the surface of the water. Oui, I am fascinated with the light on it, and boats upon it, and fish in it. The proper place for a grenouille - pondering above it all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Big Easy

Big gap in posting for the last week - due to two trips. One was to DC (more on that in later posts) and the other was to New Orleans on business - my first time there.

The back end of Ike was still overshadowing the Delta when we flew in, and the start of my time in the Hilton, down on the riverfront, felt more like night. I can't recall darker daytime sky. The first thing I saw of downtown New Orleans was the Superdome, which I knew by sight from all the horrible stories after Katrina. It didn't help that I was tired (I'd gotten up at 3:30 AM), not particularly encouraged about the turn out at the conference, and the hotel was depressingly empty. I wanted to go home before I'd even checked in.

But by 5:00 PM the sun had come out, the breeze off the Mississippi was refreshing and brisk, and everything looked different. I began to see some charm. That night I was one of a foursome, including a client, that went out for dinner at the Commander's Palace, a fancy but very authentic New Orleans spot, which our cab drivers both told us was one of the best choices possible. The dinner was amazing, and took over three hours. France is the only other place I've ever been where food and conversation is done in such a leisurely fashion. Good wine, good talk, excellent food. The turtle soup (with sherry) and the oysters were heavenly, and the New Orleans style bread pudding, with some type of spiked cream over it, was like a cross between the richest mousse and gourmet French toast. Our cab driver back to the hotel was 76 years old, born in New Orleans, and had some personal or family story about nearly every building on the several mile return to the Hilton. His accent was indescribable. He told us about serving in the army in WW II, being in Alaska at the time of his discharge, and being taken by limo to the airport to return home. On the New Orleans end of the trip the limo was for the white soldiers only.

I was only there 28 hours, and had only an hour and a half between the end of the conference and the shuttle taking me to the airport. I walked up Canal St. to Decatur, and into the French Quarter. Here was some of the real New Orleans, rather than the chain driven, sanitized business district down by the Hilton and other big hotels. It included strip clubs, bars, tacky stores of all sorts, and plenty of neon light about mardi gras, alligator tail, and jazz. But it also includes beautiful Jackson Square (with the colorful and slightly scary people that called to me from the benches, or tried to bet me six dollars to guess the city and state where I bought my shoes), the lovely wrought iron work, and flowers all over. I bought a French farm house cook book in a used bookstore on Decatur. I drank an absinthe (though it was 11:00 AM) in the Old Absinthe House on Bienville and Bourbon (very weird drink and strange preparation, with a sugar cube lit on fire, etc.). I walked some of Bourbon street and tried to imagine it crowded, at night, with a party atmosphere. It would not have been my kind of thing, and I enjoyed the quiet - but I sensed the depressing struggle to keep things open, the lack of patrons, the way the Quarter is gradually being taken over by boutique hotels, chains, and expensive clothing stores. I fear it may someday be just another ritzy shopping district, as the market area in Charleston is becoming, with some New Orleans flavor, but without the deep local personality that made The Big Easy special.

I flew away with a very complex mix of feelings. I had been turned off, pissed off, rained on, led on, over charged, over fed, alarmed, disarmed, charmed, and finally won over by this gumbo that is New Orleans. Things don't get thrown away in New Orleans; they get repaired over and over again because they're part of the story. The barge traffic on the river is exciting to see and lends some bustle. The accents, the creole French you can hear in the streets, and the sway of the ladies walking beneath the wrought iron or the palmettos all set your heart moving in a different way, a Louisianna way, that makes Jazz and Blues seem like natural outcomes. I had found myself walking back to the hotel whistling jazz improvisation to the beat of my footsteps. There is deep magic in New Orleans, in the air, the light, the water - but mostly, I think, in its people. Those people still struggling three years later to bring back what they love.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Spokane in September

I had to fly to Spokane, WA for business. It was a good trip, and even the traveling was uneventful and pleasant enough. The four hour flight from Chicago (glimpse of O'hare out our plane's window before we pulled back from the gate - being in Chicago made me think of MathMan and DCup) was the hardest part. I hate to sit still that long, and I'm uncomfortable with so many people in close quarters, but I read, did Sudoku puzzles, sipped tomato juice, and daydreamed about the silly things I might do with the items in the Skymall catalogue. I got to Spokane at 1:00 in the morning, my time, but 10:00 local time - so I had a good night's sleep.

Out hotel was right down on the Spokane river, and I walked the paved walkway to Riverfront Park as often as I could get outside. I'll let the photos speak for themselves - it was a beautiful area, and much of this part of the city, with the many bridges, is made for walking, jogging, and biking, with separate lanes laid out for "wheels" and "walking." Click on the images to view larger. The long photos are panorama's my camera assembles from three separate shots. I like that trick.

I liked Spokane - it felt like a real place, like many of the mid sized and small towns in the middle of our country. Things aren't for show, but they show well. Everything neat and clean. People friendly and serious at once.

The security staff at the airport, for instance, were cordial, but I had the strong impression that they caught more and did their jobs better than any similar group I'd seen at larger airports back east. I also felt that you wouldn't want to mess with them. But they would smile while they put you on the floor and cuffed your wrists, and they would look you right in the eye. No coastal lack of commitment or less than good manners here.

On each of the flights back I had a nose bleed, happily unnoticed by my seat mates on either side, who were asleep. The drier air out west set me up. I flew back through Minneapolis/St Paul, which turned out to be a good move, since I heard that O'hare was shut down for over two hours mid day due to a storm system. I'd have been delayed or worse if I'd gone back through Chicago.

A week later, and I'm still recovering my equilibrium from the three day trip.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #36 <<<< We adults prefer not to make a fuss of ourselves where others might see. We speak of guilty pleasures and self indulgences, preferring to keep them secret from all but a few friends or family. We are serious how we clothe ourselves. We work hard not to stand out or rise above. We claim to love liberte and fraternite, but above all, egalite.

Well I say there are times when we should pipi on sameness and fitting. My inner polywog craves foolishness and pampering. I wish to stand out and be crazy. Peel a grape pour moi! Vive le Roi Grenouille! I want to sit on a grande pomme d'amour in the bright sun du jour and reign with laughter and pomp over all I survey. Build me a palace!

This is not to say we should neglect our duties. Noblesse oblige! But we should sing out and raise our voices above the clamor, and not fear sounding selfish or silly. Steve speaks above of work and duty, but what he recalls most of this trip to Washington is how much he laughed with the new friends he made there, and how much he enjoyed making them laugh, too, watching the laugh lines around their blue Western eyes. Oui, that same sound of laughing, with elan vital, is how his cherie first heard him.

So, voila, here am I living my harmless tomato throne craving. What petite inconsequential things do YOU wish? How can you DO them?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Glee 2

I know, Glee 1 has not been shown yet. It's not even drawn. Well it was drawn, and then it got covered up with a lot of paint. See, it was on top of this large lioness which I really didn't want to do (but she would but in), and then I decided I didn't like the composition for Glee 1 which I had drawn on top of the still showing lion, and so I whacked them all with paint and scribbled all over it with Prismacolors. Neon Prismacolors: gorgeous badly behaved colored pencils, carnival barker loud, in your face and poke you in the eye but in a nice way, grab you by the collar and make you wish you had had half that much whiskey yourself, police whistle right in your ear starting the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and all the biggest and most garish balloons are all bunched up in the front. That sort of color. I love them like a puppy licking up a fallen ice cream cone. They make me drool (I've gotta watch that; it ruins the artwork).


This is Glee 2 and it might be the most straightforward of the forthcoming Glee paintings. This is how glee makes me feel, when it takes me over and I feel something between a belly laugh and a giggle, that punchy feeling you get when you can't stop laughing, and you don't want to.

This is another of the 19x19 (well, 19 and 1/4 vertical) that I like to do. It is just watercolor. The original is a bit more yellow (birds and his top hair locks) and the blue is deeper (it's French ultramarine!).

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #35 <<<< This provocative jar rests on the grande pine bureau where Steve keeps his socks and numerous T-shirts. The jar was a gift from his cheri. If you lived through the 1970s (congratulations, or commiserations) then you perhaps recall a song which was considered naughty at the time, but would be nothing now compared to P!NK or Christina Aguilera, much less the talking music without music. But I digress.

When you open this jar, which all the little children of this house used to do on the big bed between the parents, so the parents could prolong their rest, you will find it is innocently complete with pebbles. The light colored, less shiny stones (which Steve would call rocks in his tous tous charmant American accent - exactly the way he also says socks) he picked up on the beaches of North Carolina. The light can shine through them. But the others were purchased by Steve especially for this containeur, many years ago, because they are tres jolie and because they were polished to this lovely shine by being washed up and down on the sands of Hokaido. Objects tres belles, brought half way round the globe just to please the eyes and hands. Delightful.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Chef Etienne

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #34 <<<<

Tres bien. Today we will demonstrate the technique gastronomique of Chef Etienne, who put down his drawing pencil at 1:00 this afternoon, in order to cook a dinner for his family. This notorious chef creates meals from passing fancy, or what he sees while passing the front door, as in today's meal, which began with these pods rouge, grown in the Italian pot by the front porch.

After hollowing out the pods, le chef prepared a filling for them. By great good fortune and fore thought, boeuf, ground et browned with onion, was frozen in packages for the main filling ingredient. Le chef thawed and combined these with things found in the ice box, including Pace salsa (medium), and ricotta cheese. When I asked the correct portions to use, Chef Etienne simply replied that he planned to use what was left in each container. He hates to measure ingredients.

Mire poix was the next concern of le chef, to create sweet subtle under flavors in the filling. Again, happily, the onion and celery had been chopped previously, and were frozen. Some finely chopped fingerling carrots and, voila, mire poix. This is saute'd in butter for fifteen minutes and stirred into the filling with cilantro, sweet basil, and a heaping teaspoon of garlic. The herbes are simply sprinkled in until they look tres bon. He hates to measure ingredients.

Chef Etienne prefers to create dishes which overlap. Here, for example, is the side dish le chef created and consumed during preparation of the main dish. The lime was to be used in the filling of the main course, and some went into the neck of this gourmet bottle, brought to le monde gastronomique by Jacques Buffet. Le chef noted that, bon chance, the beer was already pre-measured to the precise balance required for the slices of lime inserted.

The other side dish was the family's favorite maize, which comes from Trader Joe's. These frozen kernels are the best available off the cob, says le chef and his youngest son. They were tres froid beneath my petite grenouille toes. Chef Etienne cautions that no salt is added to the water for the cooking of this maize amazing. The adding of salt will bring out the starch, instead of the sugar. Not adding salt suits le chef, for he hates to measure ingredients.

Here, ready for the oven, is the final dish. The pods are stuffed. The remains of the lime were squeezed and stirred in, as were two eggs (another happily pre-measured ingredient which le chef uses with liberalite). And salt, which le chef sprinkles from a large jar, without any of the hated measuring. Part of this dish is free from pods in deference to the youngest eater, who will not want one in his portion and looks gravely on the plates of his siblings, who gladly consume the result, which was baked in a 350 degree oven for half an hour. The pods retained some of their crunch. The youngest son was concerned that one of the pods did not seem completely ripe, but Chef Etienne reserved that one for himself and sounded appreciative when he consumed it.

Bon appetit!