Thursday, April 30, 2009


I long ago realized having a California drivers license meant being able to wear flip flops year-round. This is one of the few benefits I saw in a So Cal residency, so I did my best to wear open toed shoes every single day. All day. Without fail. I met my cousin for dinner in Santa Monica one night and my teeth started chattering and he was like "why the hell are you wearing FLIP FLOPS, it's cold out?!" and I was like "::chatter:: my right ::chatter:: as a Californian ::chatter::". But today I forgot my sandals and my feet feel so confined-- so bound to these things they call sneakers. How does the rest of the world do it? I won't miss much about LA, but foot freedom... I'll miss that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On the Classification of Spiders

There was a daddy longlegs in my shower yesterday morning. It was the third species of spider I found in my apartment in three days. The first two were tiny and easy to kill.

Let me stop here. Normally I don’t kill bugs, I transport them. I am very soft-hearted, and since none of these bugs hurt me aside from psychologically, I try not to murder them without provocation. However, when your apartment is the spider capital of the northeast, you learn quickly that you must kill anything you have the stomach to kill, or you will be overrun. Spiders that are smaller than a pencil eraser fall within this category.

Category one: Pencil-Eraser Spiders
Size as expressed by what comes out of your mouth when you see it: “Oh, hello. You are going to die. Sorry.”
Action: Heartless kill mode.

Tiny spiders are not a problem. But a daddy longlegs is a problem. Especially if it is huge. A mother of a daddy longlegs, if you will. The chance of accidental contact is too great to attempt murder. Also, they have a plaintive, harmless look to them. They belong to category two.

Category two: Pitiable Spiders
Size: “Great, now I’m going to be late for work.”
Action: Transport.

Also, they have a great name. Daddy longlegs. The harvestman. Points in their favor. So I got my handy bug-catcher (an old frosting container and cardboard from a box of Cheerios - a winning combination I should probably patent and sell to people who have no common sense) and I caught him and put him outside.

Then I thought, maybe I should spray my windows with spider-cide RIGHT NOW before this becomes a real issue, because I know from experience that it will be as soon as summer hits. So I spray one window. Success. I spray another window. Success. I spray a third window.

Category three: Fat Orange Spiders with Striped Legs that are on the Wrong Side of the Window Screen
Size: “Ohmygodohmygodohmygod YOUARESOBIG ohmygodohmygod WHYAREYOUSOBIG? ohmygodwhy.” [multiply times ten]
Action: Panic. Transport while whimpering. Recover with head between knees.

I would Google this monster that came scuttling out from the window jamb, so I could tell you what it was, but I can’t stand to look at the pictures. I was able to employ my Insect Removal System (yours for three easy payments of $19.95) only because I felt bad about having sprayed it with a substance specifically designed to kill it. Had it not been in distress, I would have stood there saying “oh my god” until one of us died of old age.

You may think this is the highest category of spider. It happens to be the highest category residing in my home as of this morning, but it’s nothing compared to the fourth category. I met a category-four spider during my sophomore year of college. Stop me if I’ve told you this story already.

In the fall of my sophomore year I lived next to a charming fellow who I shall refer to as Hartford, because he was from there, and he loved Hartford like other people love New York or Paris. I have never been there, but apparently it’s quite the place. Anyway, one evening as I walked by Hartford’s door, I saw that he had written something peculiar on his message board:

When I saw this, what did I do? Did I immediately run to Hartford’s aid? No. I took a picture of his hilarious message. Check out the smiley face on the body of the scary, scary spider. I laughed for a while, then I found Hartford and persuaded him that he could not sleep in the lounge for the rest of the semester. The spider had to be dealt with.

When I uttered those comforting words, I didn’t realize that his drawing of the spider was life-sized.

Category four: Stuart.
Size: This is the kind of spider you invent new expletives for.
Action: Get someone else to deal with it.

Hartford had, hiding somewhere in his room, the biggest, fastest, hairiest, nastiest spider I have seen to this day. It was so big it could have enrolled in classes. It could have gotten an A. In biochemistry. It could have gone on all the rides at Six Flags. It was so big, we could read its lips, and it was saying, “I’m big enough to wrap you up Frodo-style and scarf you down like a burrito.” Okay, that movie hadn’t come out yet, but retrospectively I believe that’s the general idea of what he meant.

When we finally found him, and when we were done screaming, we named him Stuart and tried to make ourselves feel sorry for him. Stuart was really down on his luck. Stuart had lost his job. Stuart had no family (we hoped). Stuart was on the brink of psychological meltdown. We had to save Stuart. Hartford wanted to overcome his fear of spiders, which meant transporting Stuart to the outdoors rather than killing him. I was not interested in overcoming any fears, I think some fears are there for a reason, but I felt that Stuart was so big, smushing him would have been like smushing a small child. So we saved him.

We fashioned what else but an Insect Removal System, literally duct-taped it shut, and learned the number one most important thing about an Insect Removal System: do not use the clear bottom part of a sandwich container. When you turn it over, and you clearly see a primeval arachnid scurrying frantically beneath your fingers, gnashing its teeth, trash-talking you, you may scream like a girl and barely be able to resist the urge to throw it as far from yourself as possible. Because that is a blar-garving durm-jurpling crodding big spider. (Yes, my new expletives would be poetry to Vogons.)

Probably half an hour after the drama began, Hartford and I watched Stuart gallop on his stallionesque legs into the dark, wet graveyard across the road from the dorm. We hoped he would find employment other than scaring arachnophobes half to death when they wanted to be sleeping. We were glad we had not killed him. We did not wanted to be haunted by a category-four spider.

So there you have it. Kingdom: Animalia. Phylum: Arthropoda. Subphylum: Chelicerata. Class: Crodding Big Spider.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Proof is in the Padding

Tomorrow I will be visiting the vet to pick up a signed piece of paper that says Gilbert P. Kitten is in good health and that he is over eight weeks old. I understand the airline's need for proof of immunization, but I'm traveling with an alternate light-weight carrier just in case the bigger one puts him over the "less than 20lbs" requirement-- proof he's over eight weeks old? They don't get to be 16lbs over night.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Kitten Chaser

A pack of kitten stickers came in the mail yesterday and I have decided to decorate my edit bay with them. The constant stream of ESPN and low quality YouTube rap has made this the least feminine place on earth, and I have decided to reinforce gender stereotypes by combating sports with kitten stickers. If I could think over all the basketball I could probably come up with something more subversive and less passive aggressive, but I cannot. Game on.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Serious Business

In May 2003 I was studying abroad in England. England may be a first-world country but in 2003 most students couldn't get the internet in their rooms, and if they could, they had to pay for it themselves. I lived in Goodricke A Block, where we were lucky to have an algae-ridden electric teakettle bolted to the wall of our criminally undersized kitchen; I did not have the internet. To get the internet, I had to go over to the math building to use their computer lab. One lovely spring morning I went to check my e-mail and found copies of this scattered all over the tables.

Some politician was capitalizing on high levels of anti-American sentiment to get people to vote for him so that he could get the UK troops sent home, or something to that effect. Kind of a cheap tactic, and an argument with no nuance whatsoever, but nevertheless, when I saw it, it was impossible to feel patriotic outrage. I thought, "Yup, we deserve that." And then I went back to my room and wrote a fairly scathing poem. O what a radical.

I didn't fully understand at the time what that photo actually meant. Not the photoshopped one, but the actual photo of the prisoner on the box who's been told he'll be electrocuted if he falls off. Things seemed so hopeless in 2004 (and in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008) that it was sort of just one more horrible thing no one would ever have to answer for. I assumed three things: (1) This had always been happening. (2) After mild liberal outrage, these practices would be accepted. (3) Once they were accepted, there was no going back.

Happily, I was wrong on all counts. Unhappily, Bush and everyone working for him turned out to be worse people than I thought, and I was already convinced that they were inconceivably horrible. It's like I had been measuring them on the Celcius scale and someone just introduced me to the concept of Kelvin. What I thought was freezing is actually lukewarm in this new context. People should not be able to survive at the temperatures that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld operate at.

I am going to stop writing now and refer you to this clip of Rachel Maddow from two days ago. I hate it when blogs link to other stuff but I feel this is justified because until I had all these "torture memos" explained to me, I didn't understand, and if I hadn't happened to catch this episode I wouldn't have put all this together on my own.

The first six and a half minutes of this clip provide the clearest explanation I've heard of what all this information means.

Then watch this, which explains why torture doesn't even work, which you would think would be reason enough not to do it. (Assuming you are a practicing member of the human race.)

All the other clips are good, too, although I use "good" here to mean "deeply upsetting, provoking feelings of revulsion, and creating an unpleasant turning of the stomach." If you have just eaten, wait half an hour.

Next time I'll try to post something uproarious involving kittens and rainbows.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Soundtrack to My Ride

This is what I was humming as I caught the curb and did a face plant into the sidewalk somewhere around Pico and Prosser. End result: actually reaching the corner of Pico and Sepulveda felt like crossing the finish line of the Tour de France. Tomorrow I will try not bleeding on the way to work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things My Parents Have That I Do Not

She wanders the house at night going clicky-clicky-clicky with her nails on the hardwood, and makes me think of Samuel Beckett's mother. I do not sleep.

James Bond's iron.
I have not yet discovered the button that shoots bullets, but I know it's there. I iron carefully.

Doctor Who with good reception.
I have a new theory about the Doctor's hair. It goes like this: they sculpt it upwards for hero shots, and downwards for underdog shots.
The Doctor's level of concern changes little in either case. Sometimes I want Daleks to show up just so he'll make his Death-eater face.

[Picture not available. There was nothing on.]
Every ten months or so I spend a few days here to verify that there still isn't anything good on. Conclusion this time: Same. Thought: TBS would go under if Sandra Bullock stopped making movies. Thought: I wish Sandra Bullock had a Death-eater face. Thought: 72 hours of cable exposure; brain already rotting.

Monday, April 20, 2009


My Botflies are getting WORSE and though I've experienced some very, very satisfying itch sessions, I am perplexed. How is it still appearing? Is it on my clothes? In my car? Is Gil coated in poison oak? Is this really from my initial exposure two weeks ago? What a wretched, wretched plant. I wish nothing but the worst on you, Poison Oak. May you be plagued by drought and then eaten by an alpaca.

Summer in the City

took this picture at the beer garden and titled it "this is what summer looks like" and I am inclined to agree. Summer does indeed look like sunshine and beer on a back patio by the beach.

Friday, April 17, 2009

He Was Not Actually a Governor, That's Just His Name

Ivan told me I could post a really old picture and it would still count as blogging, so I picked this picture from a trip to Gettysburg with Christi and her dad in 2003. The gentleman above in the great hat is Gouverneur Warren, overlooking Little Round Top. Gouverneur Warren was a Union general in the Civil War. I find maps of battles for some reason nearly impossible to understand, but I gather he basically saved the Battle of Little Round Top before it even started. This battle is described as both "dramatic" and "irrelevant"; not being very well-informed on battle tactics, I have no idea how important it really was. However, I am going to take a wild guess and say that when Warren spotted Confederate bayonets at the bottom of the hill, it probably seemed pretty important that he hold his ground.

Unfortunately, later in the war, he came to be seen as unfit to serve and was demoted by General Sheridan. Sheridan got the OK to do this from General Grant, who later noted Warren's grave deficiences as a commander:

"He could see every danger at a glance before he had encountered it. He would not only make preparations to meet the danger which might occur, but he would inform his commanding officer what others should do while he was executing his move."

Myself, I see his point. The last thing you want in a war is a person who continually insists on planning ahead. Warren later asked for an inquiry regarding this whole matter, but Grant was too busy being one of the worst presidents ever to get it going. Meanwhile Sheridan, having burned down much of the South, moved on to destroy the Native American population by killing four million bison for that express purpose. Warren was not exonerated until after his death.

This all merely goes to show that I'm absolutely one of those people who thinks that touring Civil War battlegrounds would be a really fun way to spend a summer.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Realm of Possibility

I have blisters, itchy, itchy, blisters on my arm. I have a strong suspicion it is poison oak, but it could be schistosomiasis or botflies. Reasons I think it is Poison Oak: I walked through a lot of it while I was hiking. Reasons it could be schistosomiasis or botflies: It is not outside the realm of possibility.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Candy Canes and Inexpressibly Bad Jacket Design

Today we're having another flashback to December, but this one isn't because I'm lazy, it's because I'm not sure the topic on which I'm posting is quite done yet. Here's the thing: the Christmas before last, my aforementioned deranged friends and I tried out this cookie recipe that involved ruining a perfectly nice chocolate cookie with what essentially looked like candy cane puke. We quickly decided the mint topping was a bad idea and did not use the remainder of the the candy canes -- which then resurfaced this past Christmas much to everyone's surprise and general disinterest. No one wants a year-old candy cane.

Somehow, and I'm not sure how this happened, I left the room for five minutes and when I came back, I discovered that my dear friends had hidden the candy canes all over my apartment as a kind of fun Christmas prank, so that I would find them in the days/weeks/months to come. Reconstruction of the conversation that immediately followed:

Me: Ha ha ha ha! Oh, you're all too funny!
Friends: Ha ha ha ha! Aren't we though?


Me: Hey, does anyone remember how many there were?


Friends: Ha ha ha ha! You should blog about this!

There's really nothing to do but blog about it. I have found four so far.

This one took about four minutes to find:

This one about four hours:

This took a few weeks and was genuinely surprising:

Incidentally, yes, I do keep those books in a desk drawer. I'm all for sunlight but not when it will fade precious items. That copy of The Princess Bride, it will interest you to know, actually switches to RED TYPEFACE during the parts where William Goldman interrupts S. Morgenstern. Needless to say most paperback versions do not possess this excellent feature. While we're here, shall we have an interlude in which we look at Simon's Princess Bride memorabilia? Yes, I think we shall. Check out these super-awesome buttons that Adam picked up for me. (Adam gives me super-awesome things. The Guinness bread was also from Adam, although in the excitement I forgot to mention it at the time.)
My favorite part (excluding the buttons themselves), is the high-contrast picture of Westley and Buttercup on the packaging. Stylish! Unfortunately there is one button missing, but I have dutifully reconstructed it for you here:
I'm not sure why this one was left out. I think it shows her lovely teeth to great advantage.

I also have a rather adorable keychain, as well as a letter from the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich telling me how it would violate Westley and Buttercup's privacy if they sent me the reunion scene as directed by the author in the middle of chapter five, but it's getting late so I'm skipping those in favor of dwelling at length on the monstrosity below. This is a 1974 paperback edition of a book that bears the correct title and what can only be described as the incorrect cover illustration:
I'll give you a moment to recover.

I have examined this closely, but I can't figure out how it's supposed to relate to the book. I'm guessing it's some kind of dark-arts interpretation of the Zoo of Death. It's hard to see from the photo, but along with several tiny faces, some larger upside-down faces, a few skulls, a castle, and the naked lady, there are a number of snakes -- those snakes are my sole evidence for the Zoo of Death theory. And also that unmissable bird on the naked lady's head. Oh, and in case you missed him, the single identifiable character, of all the characters in the book, is the guy on the right with the rosary beads. That's got to be the "mawwaige" chap. Strangely, he is also mirrored in less detail on the left. Why him? Why not Noreena-with-no-hair or the stepmother, or for that matter the actual main characters? If you're going to ask that, you might as well also ask, why all the boobs? And that is a question no one can ever answer to anyone else's satisfaction.

Not only does the illustration not match the fairy-tale quality of the title (not to mention the story), it does not look like the kind of thing you'd find at a library booksale, where I saw it, and where I was urged by my sister to buy it on the grounds that you can never have too many copies of this book, especially one as bizarre as this. Needless to say, there is no cover credit.

Another amusing feature of this cover is the synopsis on the back:

Thank goodness they changed it to "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." because I would not read the book described above. I conclude that the cover designer either (1) thought they had a sense of humor but were tragically mistaken, or (2) had a sense of humor that was ahead of its time. I can't tell whether the person who made it was incredibly earnest, or whether it is yet another brilliant fake-out.

Well. I've been saving that for ages, just waiting to spring it on you all, and I must say it's a big weight off my shoulders. It's been hard to bear the brunt of that poor marketing (or unrecognized genius) all alone.

Anyway. Back to the candy canes. This one was hiding on top of my bookcase in plain view...
...for three months.

There may be more. Maybe two. Maybe three. Or maybe none. I have no idea. I only have two rooms, so there can't be all that many. RIGHT, GUYS?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Swear, He's Just Big Boned

A long, long time ago I adopted a kitten. Gilbert P. Kitten. He was tiny and fuzzy and utterly adorable. And then I fed him and he grew (as cats often do). But you know your cat has surpassed an acceptable weight when your french vet opens the animal carrier and exclaims "ooooo! I looooove zee fat kitties!" and runs off to find a picture of his 23-pounder. Gilbert P. Kitten only weighs in at 16, but some would argue that's large.

And now that I have to get Gil to New York I realize he's not easily transportable. Delta's guidelines for cat carriers involve a lot of math and measuring (the length of the animal from nose to root of tail divided by half the height from ground to elbow joint, the width across the shoulders times 2) and I went to a university with an optional math requirement (yet an exceptional hockey team!), but I think I'm going to have a problem passing him off as carry-on baggage.

I tried to put him on my bike to show you how much he's grown, but the bike fell over. This doesn't mean he's fat... just that bike seats aren't build for big-boned kitties.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cute as Buttons

These are the ginger cookies I made from the recipe Simon P. sent me which I demanded from her after eating the ones she sent me at Christmas. They are both adorable and delicious.
Considering who we're dealing with here, I feel I must add that no bacon was involved at all--yet they're still good!

And because yesterday was Easter, I shall share this story: a couple of days ago I was watching some clips from The Vicar of Dibley because sometimes I'm just in the mood for that guy who always says no no no no no no no no yes, and because of that, I had the beginning theme song of the show stuck in my head. It's the choral version of the 23rd psalm, and it was going round and round like a broken record: The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want he maketh me to lie down in green pastures the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want he maketh me to lie down in green pastures, etc. etc., because that was all I could remember. And while I was thinking about that infinitive, "to lie", and whether just "lie" would be incorrect, and about the fact that the music does not reflect the pause you would normally take after a semi-colon, suddenly I remembered what I used to think that song meant: "I do not want the Lord to be my shepherd because he makes me sleep outside." In my defense, growing up in a place where it might well snow on Easter really made that a reasonable concern.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Slightly Itchy Easter

It's Easter Weekend which means nothing to me aside from dying eggs with my cousin-- and really, it's not so much the egg dying as seeing how much food coloring we can absorb into our skin. If you ever wanted to know how you'd look with a horrific skin discoloration, stop by the Inland Valley tonight! While achieving that "moldy hands" look is first and foremost on our list of things to do, my interest in the food dye is two fold. With any luck it will also act as a salve for my poor poison oak covered arms. Fun fact: Poison Ivy doesn't exist on the west coast. Fun Fact number 2: This just leaves more room for the poison oak. So yes, Happy Easter-- and here's hoping that my blisters will blend well with my Easter dress.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

This post is better than the commercial I'm watching for a movie with Russell Crowe with long hair and a southern accent, that's all I can say for it.

This is the post that is going to make you ask yourself, "Why do I read this blog?" The answer is because no other blog offers the kind of hard-hitting coverage of the important issues that we do here at Simon & Ivan. The most important issue I can think of facing us today is this: which of Simon's mugs hold the most tea? This is a question that has puzzled me for some time. It has long seemed that some of my mugs are employing some strange alien technology to allow them to hold more tea than seems possible. That, or I am shrinking. I choose to believe my mugs are alien; it makes me feel better.

To prove this I compared my estimate of how much these mugs should hold, according to their appearance, with the amount they actually hold.

My guess is shown in this delightful picture in which I have arranged the mugs from largest to smallest:

And here is the order according to how much they hold:

Oh my goodness! It's so different!

It turns out that innocent-looking pine-cone mug that Meryl gave me seven years ago is And also alien.

I had absolutely nothing to blog about today.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My New Favorite Text Message

Some days I wake up and I look at my phone and I think "wow, I have some strange friends".

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lecture Disguised as Book Review

So I’ve been thinking a lot about books lately. Partly because I’ve just quit my job to write one, partly because I recently discovered The Guardian’s Books page, which is an inspiring haven of literacy, and partly because I’ve just finished reading Michael Largo’s Genius and Heroin (and other variations including pills, absinthe, crack, hash, martinis, bourbon, and sex): The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages.

Today I’m going to talk about Largo’s book. It contains brief biographies focused on the self-destructive tendencies of various writers, artists, musicians, composers, actors, etc., detailing whatever lurid facts are known about the deaths. It took me three months to finish because it was so depressing I had to read it in small doses. Gosh, these artsy folks are really messed up. It was certainly intriguing, though frequently appalling and sometimes plain awful. The upside was that I learned about a lot of interesting people I hadn't really known anything about, and more that I didn't even know existed.


I have three serious problems with this book, the third of which, I warn you, is very detailed:

1. Yes, it’s true, this catalogue is illustrated, but no explanation whatsoever is given for the illustrations, many of which are rather obscure. The credits are listed at the back of the book, separated by semicolons, with no page numbers for reference. What?! What kind of book design is that?! Also, I desperately wish there were not only an index of the unfortunate people who made it into the book, but an index of demises, too. Not just because I have a dark sense of humor and would find it funny, but because it would be useful when you’re going back to look for examples and you can only remember the manner of death, not the name.

2. A lot of these people were not really self-destructive. Emily Dickinson probably had some kind of social anxiety disorder, but she didn’t get it on purpose, and it didn’t kill her. Marcel Proust, likewise, did not die of a fear of germs, he died of pneumonia. Ironic, but not suicide. Also, if the Emperor of Rome tells you he’ll kill you if you don’t kill yourself, and you do it, that doesn’t really seem like suicide either. More like murder by proxy, in which the proxy just happens also to be the victim. In summary: I don’t believe that just because you were artistic and died means you were necessarily tortured by your genius. As far as I know, mortality rates remain at 100% for people in all occupations.

3. The introduction left me deeply irritated, and this sentence had a lot to do with it: “The fact that five of the seven American Nobel Laureates in Literature were alcoholic becomes hard to ignore for a young writer who sets out to create work equally memorable.” OH BOY do I have big issues with this.

First, those numbers are weird. I suspect Largo got them from Donald W. Goodwin’s book, Alcohol and the Writer, which was published in 1988. At that time there were nine American citizens who had won the award. One of them was born in Canada, and two were born in Poland. I think Goodwin discounted the Polish ones and counted the Canadian as American (Saul Bellow evidently moved from Quebec to Chicago when he was nine). And of that group of seven “Americans”, it’s true, five were alcoholics or as good as. But between 1988, and 2008, when Genius and Heroin was published, Toni Morrison won the award as well. Toni Morrison, to my knowledge, is not an alcholic. So there are in fact eight more-or-less American laureates, five of whom drank too much, and then we have these two Polish writers who did not drink too much, who are American citizens but whom we are not counting maybe because they make the numbers look less bad? I find it suspicious when someone wants to draw a scientific conclusion from a sample of fewer than ten people.

Second, any writer who is specifically setting out to create “memorable” work rather than just writing what they write should stop writing.

Third, being a writer is not like being an actor; it’s such a solitary activity that the habits of other writers are not likely to rub off on you. You do not hear that Hemingway was a dedicated alcoholic and say to yourself, “Oh, so that’s how it’s done,” and go buy a bottle of whiskey. Michael Chabon tried that, and I take his word for it that it only worked for Hemingway; and moreover, I might even suggest that Hemingway probably could have written just as well if his crutch had not been drug-related.

Fourth, and I stand by this firmly, writers’ lives should be considered separately from their work. Following the from the last sentence I quoted, Largo says, “Poets such as Keats, Byron, and Shelley made their young deaths part of the poignancy of the work.” Probably he means other people made their deaths a part of the poignancy of their work, because the poets, being dead, were not capable of making anything of it at all. Let’s take Shelley as an example: Shelley drowned while sailing in Italy when he was 29. He didn’t know he was going to die then and in that way. He did not write any poems about it, because once it happened, he was dead. The fact that he was young when he died makes no difference to the meaning of what he wrote before he died. If you’re going to consider his death when reading into his poetry, you’d also have to consider his life, and he was kind of a jerk. He left a trail of suicidal women behind him and is the only man I’ve ever heard of who had children whose maternity is in doubt. Not poignant. Moreover, there is some evidence that he did not so much accidentally or purposely drown as get murdered, so I don’t buy any tortured genius theories about him, nor the other two: Keats died of tuberculosis and Byron got a cold and was bled to death by his doctors. That’s just bad luck.

It seems to me that Largo is just sort of guessing at this theory that creative geniuses are more likely to be self-destructive because anecdotal evidence suggests that it should be true. He has a book full of people who were creative and who, either directly or indirectly, killed themselves—but if he wrote a book about people who were creative and died of natural causes, it would be twice as long. I suppose my complaint is not that there’s no credibility to the suggestion that creativity and madness are somehow related, but that it’s the wrong way of getting at the wrong question. This book wants to know about a particular group of screwed-up creative types—“did genius create their torment, or was it their anguish that created their genius?” I would bet all those people’s addictions and vices and mental illnesses came from a combination of genetics, personality, and circumstance, just like with everyone else. That isn’t the interesting part; that’s the mundane part of human existence. The interesting part is the quality and variety and interpretation of the art that all those people came up with, and what it means to be a creator, not just a sufferer.

Monday, April 06, 2009


I work in post production. I love the computers and the dark edit bays and the fact that I don't have to interact with very many people... but it's a male dominant profession. And boys don't eat very well. Our version of craft services is 30 bags of potato chips in a bottom drawer and some strawberry poptarts to meet the fruit requirement. And of course when such lovely snacks are around, I am inclined to eat them. So, in an attempt to be healthier I joined a website that lets you log your food and exercise. I like this method because if you exercise, you get to eat more strawberry poptarts... I understand this isn't actually healthy, but it's the sort of rationale I can get behind.

This weekend I went backpacking and when I got back on Sunday afternoon I logged all my exercise-- and let me tell you, hiking for two days with a 30lb pack earns you a lot of calories. Like, more calories than I could eat in a week... and instead of saying "wow-- look at how heathy I was this weekend! I should celebrate with some carrots!" I did the math and said "wow-- I could eat an entire can of Pringles!" And when I logged that logic into the food calculator it gave me a little sad face.

I guess its cold computer heart doesn't understand what it means to EARN 200% of your daily intake of salt... but being in post production, I get it. And I think the boys would be proud.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Monster Cookies

Tonight I am baking ginger cookies. Why? Because I have 3/4 of a jar of molasses to use. (See post on Guinness bread.) At a quarter-cup per batch, I estimate that I will still have this jar of molasses in 2011. It originally made its way into my home through Matt, who bought it so we could make gingerbread men a year and a half ago. But we did not get around to gingerbread men until last Christmas, at which point I believe Matt made the dough at home and therefore failed to use up my molasses for me. Which was actually his anyway.

What you are currently mistaking for a not very interesting story about molasses is actually the scintillating introduction to this post, which is about cookies; namely, the deformed and deranged cookies that my friends enjoy making at festive holiday get-togethers.

Back in December, I had the aforementioned friends over for a cookie-baking and -decorating party. There was much fellowship and good cheer, which somehow resulted in some seriously troubling cookies.

For example, this is an angel. On fire. Please don't fail to notice the cookie peeking into the frame on the right; it is wearing an egregious amount of makeup.

Left to right: Ghost of Christmas future, another cookie with fake eyelashes, and a cookie that appears to be desperately upset. You would be saying OMG too if your eyeball were that badly swollen.

This cookie is covered in a thick layer of green goo. More to the point, its leg seems to be bursting out of its chest for some reason.

Oh, dear. This cookie has had a smaller version of itself pop out of its stomach and make a terrible mess.

One of these cookies kidnaps women, holds them captive in his underground lair, and makes them sing. Yes, you're right, it's the one who's blushing.

One of these is an alien and the other is a DAMN FINE CAMEL if I do say so myself.

The enormous goose shown here has unfortunately contracted the pox, the plague, or something else wretched.

This cookie has had an accident.

This cookie has been MURDERED!

And this cookie, last but not least, vants-a to suck-a your blooooood.

For us, Christmas and Halloween are more or less interchangeable.

Unsolicited Advice

As some of you may know, there are big changes coming to Simon and Ivan. I'm planning to move across the country this summer, and in light of this decision, I've been getting rid of stuff. It's amazing how much junk you can acquire in five years... and how much cat hair can collect on the couch... but if you receive a package from me with say, a Christmas card addressed to someone else instead of a proper Hallmark Greeting, it's not because I don't love you, it's because I'm trying to slim down on the amount of crap that I have to put in dear Friday the Honda Civic's trunk... and every unsent holiday card counts!

Putting things to good use is something I should be doing, but far too often I find myself hoarding "the pretty". Simon sent me the most beautiful package of treasures for my birthday and I didn't want to use any of it. I had several lovely flower shaped tea lights, an adorable saucer and a bar of soap on display in my bathroom because looking at them made me happy... but yesterday I ran out of hand soap and decided it was time to use the Simon soap. It weighs more than a greeting card, so it's officially excess. I unwrapped the shiny green ribbon and set it aside and tore through the thick green paper and smelled the soap-- and then I saw the inside of the ribbon

Thank you, Soap! I needed that reminder! I usually get my advice from the inside of beer bottle caps, but this smells different! So I'm going to keep this in my medicine cabinet right next to my other piece of unsolicited advice (courtesy of a magic hat #9).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Biker Girl

I've been riding my bike to work and with this goes a fine sense of moral superiority. I feel so eco-friendly as I coast along next to the gas guzzlers... BUT, it also scares the ever living crap out of me. Biking through traffic is terrifying for so many reasons, most of which involve how much of me would survive a confrontation with a Hummer. I like my legs and I'm fairly certain they wouldn't make it out in one piece.

But I've been braving the mean streets anyway and yesterday I had my first fall. I suppose it's a right of passage, but I was really hoping it would be from dodging a door, or a gigantic pothole I couldn't avoid. As it was, I didn't tie my shoelaces tight enough and one of them got caught in the pedal. There's nothing as graceless as slowly pulling to the side of the street as your pink Converse gets sucked into your wheel, trying desperately to kick your shoe from your foot and coming to a halt at the corner of Pico and Overland where you let your bike fall on top of you, in a messy heap of girl and cycle. I must have looked like a circus act gone terribly wrong. But as I picked myself up and double knotted my shoes, I still felt it-- that fabulous sense of eco-superiority. Los Angeles may be laughing at me, but somewhere out there, a Polar Bear is smiling... and wishing I would tie my shoes tighter.

Joke's on Me

Sequence of thoughts while baking muffins just now.

I wonder how old this Crisco is.

Oh good, March 19. Close call.

Wait. It's April 1.

Proceeds to use Crisco anyway.

Ivan's so lucky, she gets to post on April Fools' Day.

Wait. April 1 is an odd day.

But I posted yesterday.


I was not prepared for this!

I can't believe it's 2009 and we don't have a decent calendar that would prevent this kind of thing.

Is it even 2009?

I just wanted muffins.