Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday book blogging

Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of StyleNot a lot of reading happening these days for whatever reason, so I'm glad for a book with lots of pretty pictures.   Namely, Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style, written by the former editor of Harpar's Bazaar.

I'm actually reading it thoroughly, however. The text is insightful. As a severely fashion-impaired person, I find the argument that "style" does not negate "substance" very compelling.

Here's a teaser:
The fact that Michelle Obama does not see style and substance as an either/or choice is a powerful indication that the underlying assumptions about women's roles and images have changed. Embodying the confluence of substance and style, she has reconciled the long-standing antagonism between them. She has, in some sense, made them one and the same.
A bit over the top, I know, but it is making me rethink my own assumptions. It's also a fascinating look at the peculiar role of the First Lady, and the kind of messages that fashion conveys.

It seems silly to post this without another picture. The caption, in case you can't read it, says:

The right to bare arms: When Michelle Obama revealed her sculpted biceps in Congress in February 2009, she prompted New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks to write, "Put away Thunder and Lightning." But when Jackie Kennedy wore a similar sleeveless shift to her husband's State of the Union address in January 1963 (above) it was no big deal--perhaps because her arms didn't convey the same message of strength and power.

You can see Jackie seated on the aisle in the lower right corner of the top picture.

(Teaser Tuesday is sponsored by MizB at Should Be Reading where you can find the details of this weekly event.)


In other book news, Ta-Nehisi Coates, whom I cannot go a week without referencing, had a kick-ass response to the Esquire list of 75 books men should read--a list that includes only one book by a woman author.

Put bluntly, if you call yourself a reading man, but don't read books by women, you are actually neither. Such a person implicitly dismisses whole swaths of literature, and then flees the challenge to see himself through other eyes.

This is not a favor to feminists. This is not about how to pick up chicks. This is about hunger, greed and acquisition. Do not read books by women to murder your inner sexist pig. Do it because Edith Wharton can fucking write. It's that simple.

What he said.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Coming home past the cemetery yesterday, every grave marker covered with a flag. There's something sad to me about that--that we cover these lives with a flag and call it remembrance. It seems to me that remembrance is not about country, but about people. The country is here, and people fought for it. But I believe it's a day for remembering the people more than the country. How do you do that?

San Francisco National Cemetery

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Harper Lee
who is a 9-week-old liver Flat Coated Retriever.

She joins Andy, Jed, Jack, and Charlie and adds a feminine touch to the menagerie.  So far, Andy is dubious, Jed is doting, and Jack and Charlie want to know why this cat has such terrible manners.

I'm sure you'll be seeing more of her.

Garden update, May 28--the front yard

It's been almost a month since I've done a full-on garden update. As you can imagine, lots has been happening. Let's take a look.

Sweetpeas with sunflower

I'm really happy with how this is turning out. The picture doesn't do justice to the colors--or, of course, the scent!  You walk down the street and you pass through a curtain of sweetpea perfume. And then there's the sunflower peeking out behind (and more to come). In between the sunflowers and the sweetpeas, I've planted black beans, which are coming along nicely.

Here's the view along the fenceline:

The main things you see are the purple wallflowers and the white rock rose.  But there are a few others things I'll show you.

The peach-colored flower is the Chantilly Lace, a non-snapping snapdragon, and next to it a pink Penstemon.  We're kind of sorry now we planted them next to each other since the flowers are so similar.  And next to that:

More snapdragons, which are just now beginning to pop out.  These red ones are called Defiance.  It really is too bad, design-wise, that we put all these things in a row, but, eh.  There's next year.

The Alstroemeria (which I always have to look up) that we planted last year is blooming up a storm!  I'm not totally sold by it, but it looks really good mixed in with the rocket (below).
I must say, despite my quibbles, that's a mighty pretty yard.

A couple more photos and then I need to get to work digging in the back (photos of that another day).  Here's what's going on along the house:

The smaller Pink Cupid sweet peas are blooming nicely, as are the Rose Chiffon poppies.  Behind them, you can see some dahlias making their move, and behind that gardenia bushes with their first white flowers.

Further down, we have violas and some "Rozanne" geraniums in pots on either side of the door (another design error; wish I'd had contrasting flower colors) while the hydrangeas once again try to eat the house.  How far back do I have to cut those things???  In the white basket, I've started some Baby Blue Eyes, but they're taking their time.

The hollyhocks are all caddywompus.  I had to strap the middle one up; it was plopping out into the middle of the yard, apparently thinking it was a vine.  Posture, people! Posture!

And finally, the veggies:
Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, and in the right hand bed, jalapeno peppers in front, peas and beans in back.  And some boysenberries (which we didn't get into the backyard in time) in the wooden planter behind.

And now I'd better get myself in the backyard where there's lots to be done!  Hope you have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Various & Sundry, May 27: Rhetoric, charity, social media, zombies

The week has flown by! I have been marking things of interest right and left, and I'll be curious to see if any themes emerge.

Let's see...Under the heading of rhetoric, two items:

Andrew Sullivan draws attention to this post explaining the erroneous use of the argument of "purpose" (e.g. "The purpose of marriage is..."). The author points out: "No thing has a purpose; people have a purpose for things. It’s an easy and honest trap door if you find yourself in a rhetorical corner." So the next time you hear "the purpose of" argument, you know there's an agenda.

The always awesome Ta-Nehisi Coates goes a little crazy in this post on the first paragraph of Moby Dick. "This is the greatest paragraph in any work of fiction, at any point, in all of history. And not just human history, but galactic and extra-terrestrial history too." He goes on to prove it.

Under the heading of charity and international aid, two items:

A rather painful read on why that fair trade coffee may not be so fair. Something at least to consider as we mark World Fair Trade Day tomorrow. (h/t The Lead)

Katherine Wertheim, guest blogging at Good Intentions are Not Enough, gives advice on how to research how charities spend their money and some warning signs that a charity is fishy.

Under the topic of Social Media, two things:

I loved this rant about "social media 'experts'". If you're thinking you need to hire someone to do your social media, read this first! Or if you want a summary, here it is:

Social media is just another facet of marketing and customer service. Say it with me. Repeat it until you know it by heart. Bind it as a sign upon your hands and upon thy gates. Social media, by itself, will not help you.

Amen, amen!

Although apparently, you can still use social media when you're dead. Obit Mag highlights a trend of adding a QR code to gravestones. Not as big as that, but you get the idea.

Also from Obit Mag, this Advance Obituary for the NY Mets 2011 season. "The cause of death was yet another botched save opportunity by its Scotch-tape-and-spit bullpen exacerbated by offensive anemia."

FINALLY (whew!) in the Garden and Zombie departments, Michelle Z. pointed me to the "highly addictive" game Plants vs. Zombies.

A mob of fun-loving zombies is about to invade your home. Use your arsenal of 49 zombie-zapping plants — peashooters, wall-nuts, cherry bombs and more — to mulchify 26 types of zombies before they break down your door.

Sounds like my kind of game!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Obit du jour quote of the day

From the obituary for surrealist artist Leonora Carrington:

Their life was complicated — [Max] Ernst was still spending time with his wife — but Leonora plunged recklessly into Surrealist Paris life. At one smart party she arrived wearing only a sheet, which she dropped at an opportune moment; she sat at a restaurant table and covered her feet with mustard, and served cold tapioca dyed with squid ink to guests as caviar. Visitors to the rue Jacob might wake up in the morning to a breakfast of omelette full of their own hair which she had cut while they slept.

It gets more interesting from there.

UPDATE! A video of her art:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday Book Blogging

The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir (P.S.)A quick teaser before I have to get going, from The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell:

While Brent talked with Doug, I was already imagining my life at the Beekman Mansion. I concluded that Brent and I would probably be known as the Beekman Boys. Or at least I hoped so. It would be far better than, say, the Fag Farmers.
Well, yes, I suppose that would be worse. I'm enjoying this book greatly.

What are you reading?

Teaser Tuesdays hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sorry we missed you...

Too good not to share.
h/t MD
Posted by Picasa

Would you like a dozen roses?

Or maybe two?

Sunday Funnies, May 22

from The Onion:

Load Of Mulch Dumped In Kind Of Ballsy Location

For whatever reason, I thought this was hilarious.

Here's an excerpt:

ST. CLOUD, MN—Onlookers expressed shock and grudging admiration Wednesday after noticing a full load of mulch had been dumped in what all agreed was a pretty ballsy location.

The 50 pounds of compost was reportedly shoveled onto the extremely unorthodox spot either Monday afternoon or early Tuesday morning. Though the identity of the individual who dumped the mulch there is not yet known, sources confirmed that whoever he is, he's got a real set of stones down there.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Various & Sundry, pre-trib edition

That would be a Rapture reference, in case you don't know. And if you don't know, well, then, don't expect to be caught up with Jesus in heaven this weekend.

So much fabulous mockery at the doom-mongers' expense. You can get rapture T-shirts; professors are offering FAQs on how to handle finals in case of the rapture. To wit:
Q: What if my instructor is raptured?
A: None of our instructors bear much chance of being judged worthy. However, on the off chance your instructor is chosen, an army of unemployed secular Marxists is waiting to take his/her place.

And MadPriest suggests the following explanation for all the hoopla:

I'm sure he'll feel much better once that's fixed.

In non-rapture-related news, a couple of images that have stuck with me that I wanted to share. This first is a picture of the Space Shuttle take-off, taken from a plane.

Here's another Photo of the shuttle from my plane.  on Twitpic
Isn't that amazing?

And I also loved this Dance of the Pendulums.

Full description of how this works here.

Have a great weekend, rapture or no rapture!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May is Zombie Awareness Month

Why didn't anyone alert me to this important information before today? Perhaps it is because, as the Washington Post sagely says "the impending Rapture distracted us from our duty in informing the public on what they should do in the event that zombies attack."

Luckly, the Center for Disease Control is on the case with a "Better Safe than Sorry" list, applicable in many emergency situations. In case of a Zombie emergency, they recommend that you have on hand:

* Water (1 gallon per person per day)
* Food (stock up on non-perishable items that you eat regularly)
* Medications (this includes prescription and non-prescription meds)
* Tools and Supplies (utility knife, duct tape, battery powered radio, etc.)
* Sanitation and Hygiene (household bleach, soap, towels, etc.)
* Clothing and Bedding (a change of clothes for each family member and blankets)
* Important documents (copies of your driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate to name a few)
* First Aid supplies (although you’re a goner if a zombie bites you, you can use these supplies to treat basic cuts and lacerations that you might get during a tornado or hurricane)

And how clever are they for getting that information in front of people!

The Bloggess, in an interview with the Washington Post, notes that that their list does not include the very helpful item swords, fleshing that out further (so to speak) on her own blog, saying " Most of [the CDC's] tips are fairly good but their list of suggested supplies are embarrassingly silent on the need for riot guns, swords, suspenders, and flame-throwers."

It's good to know an expert is on the case.

We should also acknowledge the fine work of the Zombie Research Society which (I believe) established Zombie Awareness Month. Thank you for keeping us prepared and vigilant!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Book Blogging: the stuff I'm not reading

Let's take a look at all the books I've checked out of the library that I haven't even started yet, shall we?

Swan for the Money (Meg Langslow, No 11)Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews, number 11 in the Meg Langslow mysteries. You know it's bad when I don't even have time to pick up one of these light-hearted reads.

Groundswell, Expanded and Revised Edition: Winning in a World Transformed by Social TechnologiesGroundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I hear this is a good book for learning the underpinnings of social media, not just "how you put an ad on Facebook."

Assassination VacationAssassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. I would like to think that with my obsession with obituaries and Sarah's obsession with political assassins, we could be friends.

LifeLife by Keith Richards. I heard him being interviewed on Fresh Air, and he sounded interesting. Plus he called Terry Gross "darlin'" in an off-hand way.

The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir (P.S.)The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. Recommended by a friend and it sounds like a blast. May want to follow up with Kilmer-Purcell's first memoir about his days as a drug-addicted drag queen. But first, the part where he and his partner leave Manhattan to become gentlemen farmers.

Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of StyleEveryday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style by Kate Betts. Lots of pretty pictures. I'll probably start here first.

What's piled up on your bedside table?

Obit du jour: The Earl of Onslow

Let's start with a quote, shall we?

"Two years later he moved into insurance, signalling his arrival in the City by losing his pet monkey by the Underground line at Aldersgate, from which a policeman retrieved it."

Piqued your interest, haven't I? "Character" is the word that comes to mind upon reading his obituary.

Another satisfying paragraph:

"Onslow brought hip hop, acid house and thrash metal to Radio 3, in a series of programmes explaining them. Twice – in 1999 and 2007 – he appeared on Have I Got News for You, holding his own against the resident satirists. But he never fulfilled his ambition of declaiming Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in instalments on Radio 1."

We should all have such ambitions. Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sermon, Easter 4, May 15, 2011

A friend of mine pointed out to me that this Sunday is not so much “Good Shepherd” Sunday as “I am the gate” Sunday. I think that’s accurate. I can’t remember have a Good Shepherd Sunday in which shepherding made such minimal appearance, but then maybe I’m just blocking that out of my mind. Good Shepherd Sunday so often seems to be a day when I want to say to Jesus, "That metaphor’s just not working, dude. You’re getting all tied up in knots there. Who are the sheep exactly? Who are the thieves and robbers?" So just a couple of words to get this passage in context before actually finding some reason for this metaphor.

Do you remember a few weeks ago during Lent, hearing that really long gospel reading about the man born blind?

It ends with Jesus saying he came so that “those who are blind may see and those who see may become blind,” which makes the Pharisees perk right up and say, “You’re not saying we’re blind, are you?” And Jesus saying, well, um, yes (though not in exactly those words).

There’s a reason I’m telling you all of this. And that’s because today’s gospel picks up right there and is actually a continuation of that narrative. Jesus’ audience is these spiritual leaders who had kicked the man born blind out of the synagogue and the man who had been kicked out.

And that’s why I think the metaphor of the gate is an important one. Jesus is saying to the people who drove this man out of the synagogue, "You’re not the ones who determine who’s in or who’s out. You may think you control that, but you know what? You don’t. I am the gate. I’m the one who determines that.

"And here’s what else: 'in' and 'out' isn’t even where you think it is. The locus is somewhere else entirely. You think you’re kicking someone out, but you don’t even know where the sheepfold is. And I tell you what," Jesus says, "it is not determined by membership in the synagogue."

As best I can tell looking at the text, the man born blind is still standing there during all of this. And I can only imagine after this traumatic day, unexpectedly seeing for the first time and being subject to an interrogation by religious officials who harangue you and won’t believe a word of what you say and being driven out of the synagogue…it must have been a balm to hear that this insult of being “driven out” didn’t matter, that there was somewhere else, and in this somewhere else, He. Was. In. And no one could take that away from him. No thieves and bandits could take that away. He had been given life, abundantly.


There are two things I think we can take from this story for ourselves. The first is a caution, and the second a joy.

The caution is this: We are not the gate. We don’t get to determine, in our great wisdom, who is in or who is out. Though we may establish levels of behavior we want to see lived out in our churches and communities, we need to remember that these levels are based on our personal taste and comfort and have little—-maybe even nothing to do with where someone stands in the kingdom of God. And they certainly have nothing to do with anyone’s intrinsic worth or value.

And the joy is this: If Jesus says we’re in, then we’re in. We’re not out just because someone says we’re out. No one has control of the center but Jesus, and the center may be far from where we are told it is. Being in the sheepfold may have little—maybe even nothing to do with the standards of proper Christian behavior we have set for ourselves. Being in the sheepfold instead has everything to do with where Jesus is.

Jesus is the true and only gate. All our other petty rules and standards are unimportant. If you feel you must guard the community against incursions, remember you are not the gate and the locus of community may not be where you think it is. And if you feel you are an outsider, know this: the people around you who tell you you are an outsider, they have no authority to do so. In fact, they may be wandering lost in the wilderness somewhere. The center is where Jesus is. That is where you will find abundant life. That is where you want to be.