Saturday, December 30, 2006

Elvis, Rudolph & the Xmas Cat

See, I did do some holiday decorating! It took me a bit to get these pix uploaded because I've been laid low with a stomach bug for the past couple days. Before I got this nasty little virus, I also managed to get all holiday gifties finished and wrapped, although not entirely distributed. But I forgot to take photos of my creations before wrapping them. I'll just have to snap the lucky recipients wearing their swell gifties.

Excellent stuff arrived from Spooner today! A hefty box contained McVities HobNobs and Ginger Nuts (biscuits from the UK), some Pope John Paul junk he picked up in Italy, two Jesus shot glasses, a book of London street art, and -- from his recent visit to the Reagan presidential library in sunny southern California -- a Ronnie Raygun pencil and a postcard of all the living first ladies. Cool! Apparently his brother lost the package of gifties I sent him. If it ever surfaces, he'll see that we were thinking along similar lines in choosing meaningful items to give each other this year (hint: Jesus and writing implements).

Happy new year, y'all!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I'm with Jinx the Cat

(Note: If you're a serious vegan or some kind of animal rights nut, I suggest you stop reading right now.)

As far as I can tell, there are few good things to be said for living with another human. Fobbing off pest eradication duty on that other person is one of them. My pal ST has learned much about getting rid of mice in the years that she's lived alone, and she's passed her wisdom on to me. I know that I have mice in the basement but, without someone to assign to mouse patrol duty, I generally ignore them. A couple years ago they decided to nest in my kitchen towel drawer and that put me in serious trap-setting mode. ST's technique is to put the trap into a paper bag which is laid on its side, so that all you have to do when you've caught, i.e. killed, one is pick up the bag, fold the top over and toss it in the trash.

Recently, I've seen meeces in my garage when I go out there in the morning or open the door to drive in at night. They must be getting in the wall between the garage and the house because Florie often sits in the hall and stares at that wall. They're nesting in a heating unit that's suspended from the garage ceiling. Needless to say, I'm never going to turn that heater on! But the sight of them running up and down the wall was getting to me, and I put a trap-in-a-bag in the garage a couple weeks ago. After about a week without finding a mouse in my trap, I had almost given up on it. Then one day I looked in the bag and the trap was gone! No sign of it anywhere. A mystery. Slowly the realization of what I'd done sank in -- the mouse had no doubt been caught by the trap, but not killed, and carried the trap off with it, to die a slow death somewhere. There's now a faint odor of rot that greets me when I open the door to the garage, but I'm not going to move everything in search of the putrefying mouse carcass.

This brings us to yesterday, a Saturday afternoon of chores and pre-xmas tasks. I'd brought a bunch of wrapping paper down from the storage room, and was planning to sit on the living room floor and wrap gifties but got sidetracked by another trip upstairs for something. When I next came downstairs, what did I see but a MOUSE among the rolls of wrapping paper and Florie circling around it! With the horror of what I'd done to the garage mouse still weighing heavily on me, I didn't want to kill this one. (Anyway, how could I do that without making a mess on the carpet?) I shoved Florie aside, grabbed an box that was in the hall and put it upside down over the mouse. That bought me some time to think.

Now what? Get the mouse out of the house. Catch and release. I carefully slid the box across the carpet to the edge of the lino in the front hall. Not quite sure what to do next, I saw the carpet doormat -- flexible yet sturdy -- and slid it under the box. Then I slid the whole assemblage, with mouse still inside, onto the front porch. Lifting the lid, I saw the mouse lying on its side. It didn't look dead, though, so I ran back in the house and turned off the porch light. I wanted it to leave, but I really didn't care if it did that under its own power or if it was taken away by a neighborhood critter.

Five minutes later, I turned the light on and saw that it was sitting up, looking out towards the steps. Another five minutes passed, and I checked again. It was gone, probably to creep back into my garage and start this whole thing over again. I hate those meeces to pieces!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Season's Greetings

What with Thanksgiving being earlier this year, the xmas decorations were up in Florence before one single flake had flown. I've been a busy little elf the past week or so, working on this year's crafty gifts for my pals. Can't give any clues or post any pix because the recipients may be reading my blog, but suffice to say that my fingers have been flying.

Season's Greetings, originally uploaded by trailerfullofpix.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

More on Banksy

There's been some heated discussion of Banksy lately in my Flickr groups, with threads like Is Banksy Rubbish? and Is Banksy's Work Art or Vandalism? Yes, he's a vandal, and yes, his work is overrated, overexposed and overpriced. But that doesn't excuse this recent act of vandalism down in Brighton, where his kissing coppers have been blanked out with black paint by person or persons unknown, which seems not only anti-Banksy but anti-gay as well. I hope they nick the little wankers what done this.

Despite all the ranting (mine included), I still love those rats. And I envy anyone who bought prints for £95.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Top 40

In recognition of the 2000th viewing of my Flickr photostream, I created a new set of my Top 40 most interesting photos. I'm still not sure how Flickr determines "interestingness," whether a bunker full of people troll through each and every photo that's uploaded and then rate them, or whether there's some kind of bot that gives points for color, contrast, composition, etc. The neat thing about my new set is that I used a set generator widget to create it. Here's how it works: First you give the widget permission to access your Flickr account. Then you set up the parameters of your set -- number of photos, sort criteria, tags, etc. You can even have your set refresh daily so that pictures come in and drop out, like with my Top 40 which presumably changes every so often. When you've got it all determined, which literally takes 20 seconds, the set will magically appear on your Flickr page. You gotta love it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Danger Global Warming

This is one of the stamps of mass destruction by James Cauty. I just scored this print on eBay. Cool, huh?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Rise and Fall of Banksy (in my eyes)

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It seems like such a short time between my initial enchantment with Banksy and his fall from grace in my eyes. I first stumbled upon pictures of his street art on Flickr when I was doing research on London and Brighton for my trip. I thought he was great -- his biting social commentary, amusing and/or powerful images, the subversive way he worked (stenciling on walls by night, sneaking his own works into museums and hanging them by day).

When Spooner asked me this summer what I wanted to do when I came across the pond, my immediate reply was "Look for Banksies." "Banksy," he growled. "What's Banksy?" I explained and the next thing I knew he was sending me a link to a front page article in the NYTimes about the opening of Banksy's
show in Los Angeles. Clearly, my say-so that something is cool means nothing, but the NYTimes has all the cred in the world.

We did have a great time looking for Banksies, and we found three -- one in Southwark, one in Chalk Farm, and one in Brighton. We also discovered a gallery in Brighton that sells limited edition prints. The three ghetto rats that were on display in the window drew us in and we talked for a while with the gallery owner. He told us that a Banksy print that went a year ago for £95 would fetch over a thousand quid today. Unbelievable!

In the gallery, we also looked at prints by some up-and-coming graphic artists. When he saw me looking at several postage stamp prints, the gallery guy told me about James Cauty, a musician-turned-artist. He creates stamps of mass destruction -- satirical pieces about the war, the monarchy, global warming, and the roles the US and the UK are playing in All Things Evil. He's run afoul of the Royal Mail with his stamps depicting Queen Elizabeth wearing a gas mask. One of his series is about 5/ll, the day Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament. Another, called America Self Destruct, shows Bugs Bunny with dynamite strapped to his waist and a detonator in his hand. Dolk Lundgren, a Norwegian street artist similar to Banksy, has done a great print of Prince Charles wearing a Burger King crown. All brilliant stuff, and still (somewhat) affordable.

So, what's my beef with Banksy? He started out as an artist of The People, going about at night with spray paint and stencils, giving the masses of London something to look at, think about, or be amused by on their daily journeys around the city. Now, he's the darling of the celebrities, and Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie pay tens of thousands of dollars for his works, which they will hang on their private walls in their guarded homes, kept far away from the grit of the streets and The People. But the power and the joy of his images comes from seeing them in the context of those streets. These aren't so much fixed images as they are temporal and transitory ones. How they are seen and perceived varies with the day, the weather, the traffic, the news, the crowds. The images change over time as they fade, are painted out by building owners or tagged over by other graffiti artists. Hiding Banksy away in the homes of the stars is just wrong.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

An Unresolved Journey

I had a bit of a problem with my Oyster card today. As Spooner would say, I "didn't understand the system." I knew how to use it on the Tube: when you enter the station, you tap the Oyster card on the yellow touch pad at the front of the cattle shoot. The gate then opens and a screen tells you how much money you have left on your card and/or how much will be debited for this journey. In order to leave the station at your destination, you must tap your card at the exit cattle shoot/gate. If you transfer to a different line at a station, you don't have to touch your card. You only use it when you enter or leave a station.

So, I had no problem taking the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf. It was my transfer to the Docklands Light Rail to go down to Greenwich where I got screwed up. I got off the tube and followed the signs to the DLR, assuming this would be like other transfers, but before I knew it I was going through a cattle shoot and I was outside. The signs to the DLR pointed me through a plaza, across the street and down a block. When I entered the DLR station, I looked for a cattle shoot but didn't see one. Signs pointed to an up escalator, so up I went and found myself on the platform. Thinking something wasn't right and maybe my Oyster couldn't be used here, I went back downstairs to look for a ticket agent, but there was just a ticket dispenser machine with nearly incomprehensible instructions and some indication that Oyster cards were okay on the DLR. Back up the escalator to the track, where the train was arriving and I got on.

When I reached Greenwich, I saw a sign that said that failure to tap Oyster card when entering and exiting would result in a £20 fine. Yikes! Then I saw the yellow Oyster tap pad mounted on the wall. I tapped and I exited.

Periodically as I walked miles and miles, uphill and down, around and through Greenwich and the park, I worried about my Oyster card and whether I'd be stopped as I tried to get on the return train. Worse yet, I worried that I'd be alright today but would be docked the £20 when I took the tube to Heathrow at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Maybe I could get Spooner to switch Oysters with me, so he'd get stuck with any fine when he next used the card. This probably isn't a realistic plan.

Dead tired, I got back on the DLR in Greenwich at around 4 p.m. and was thrilled that no alarms sounded when I tapped my card to enter. Exiting the DLR station on the other side of the Thames, I then noticed at least half a dozen wall-mounted tap pads that I must have walked right past on the way in this morning. Still mildly worried about the whole thing when I entered the Canary Wharf tube station, I saw a ticket window with a real person and decided I should get over any of my usual shyness and ask for assistance.

"I think I did something wrong with my Oyster card," I told him. I explained that I'd missed a tap on my DLR ride.

He read my card and said, "Yes. It seems you have an unresolved journey. I'll take care of that. No extra money will be taken off your card."

Whew! I got on the tube and rode to St. John's Wood where I met Spooner.

My journey on the DLR may have been temporarily unresolved, but I'd say that, on the whole, my trip to London has been fully resolved. I've done nearly everything on my high priority list (the Pearly Harvest Festival, Brighton, a few new markets, some Banksy sightings, dinner with Jamie H-B), and much of my medium priority list (Charles Dickens' house, a return to Frognal in search of the house with topiaries, a few new museums). I've had some favorite Brit foods (fish and chips, Indian take-away, tuna and sweet corn sandwich) and found some excellent new ones (Wagamama noodle dishes, veg burgers at Red Veg, veg pie and mushy peas, HobNobs digestive biscuits). I took a ton of pix, some of them pretty good. And I got around just fine on my own, despite my little Oyster screw up.
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Greetings from London

I've made it to the UK and, except for a to-the-skin drenching on my first day when I was locked out of Roger's house on account of having a bogus key, things are going great. We've walked miles and miles and I have blisters on my feet to prove it. Thankfully, they have special plasters for blisters here.

Here's a quick list of what we've seen and done so far:
Today and tomorrow I'm on my own. The weather has been most cooperative, but today's it's raining again so my plan is to do some museums. Tomorrow the sun should be out and I'll be taking the Docklands Light Rail down to Greenwich.

Further reports to come.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Gift from America

Spooner Marley Holmes receives the offering of Zud, a most powerful substance brought from the States. He is wearing his Marley's Ghost scarf knitted by moi and examining the Zud through the magnifying glass he purchased when we went to Portobello Road Market. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"You can never have too much Zud"

That's what Spooner says, so at his request I'm taking a can of Zud to him in London. Mind you, when he was here in July, we went to the one hardware store that sells it so that he could stock up (see Adventures in Spoonerland). I suggested two cans, but he only bought one. I don't know if he's hording it or if he goes through it really quickly because he cleans the tub after every shower. "Out, out, damn lime scale!"

Rosenbeans says, "Pack your underwear in a mesh pouch. You don't know whose hands will be going through your luggage when they inspect it." I've done that. And, at her suggestion, I didn't just throw a handful of Tampax in my bag, but put them in a zip lock baggie instead.

I've taken a picture of my packed suitcase, but Blogger won't let me upload it right now. I'll try that again later.

Other things you might be wondering about: The plumber came today and installed my new kitchen faucet. It's the kind with the faucet and the sprayer integrated into one unit (the sprayer pulls out). Where the old sprayer used to be, there is now a liquid soap dispenser. Fabulous! As for the toilets, they still run intermittently, but I'm content to just jiggle the handle when they do. Sadie is cured of her most recent UTI. Her second urine sample was all within normal limits and she was, for the most part, a good girl about having antibiotic liquid squirted into her mouth twice a day for three weeks. That second urine sample was really hard to get. I pleaded with her for 13 or 14 hours to pee on the plastic liner in her litter box before she finally gave it up. That's probably way more than you wanted to know.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Let's Get Caught Up

It's all about me and what I've been doing, right? I've haven't blogged much lately, but I have been busy. I'm trying to plan for the upcoming trip to the UK, but I'm afraid I've done more research on luggage than on the sights of London. My new Travelpro Crew5 Rollaboard has just come in at Harlow's (the owner's very nice and helpful, and they now have discount coupons on the WRSI website) in Noho and I'll be picking it up tomorrow. It's the first wheelie bag I've ever owned. I usually use really cheap nylon travel bags for air travel or my ivory marble vintage Samsonite luggage from the 1950s for car travel -- it's very stylish and mod, and has great features like places to hang actual hangers; I feel like Gidget when I travel with it. I'm a sucker for features, and my Rollaboard is chock full. I'll try to post some pictures of it, empty and packed. Mine's ivy -- I wish it came in orange, but no luck. Orange would have looked so nice with my new pale lime green microfiber hooded raincoat with zip out lining.

As my travel anxiety creeps steadily upward, I'm focusing more of my energy on the actual trip planning. I'm now deep into Eccentric London and am just beginning to read about the walking tours in the book. Yesterday I discovered via Flickr (yeah, Flickr! I use it for research almost as much as Google) that there is a self-guided walking tour, endorsed by Michael Palin (step aside, Rick Steves -- Michael Palin is the travel god), of Belsize Park. So now I have my first activity on my first day planned.

Oh, yes. You've all been waiting for my report on the North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival. Let's just say that I haven't seen so much tie dye or dreadlocks on white people since the last time I was on the Hampshire campus. It looked like Spring Jam, except the bouncy castle and the cloud of pot smoke were missing. All the new age-y, crunchy granola folks of Franklin County had rolled down from the hills to taste the garlic treats (the pesto was really good, but I thought the pickles made without vinegar were suspicious), engage in non-competitive games, march in the Garlic City parade with the mayor (photo above), or try out some expensive hula hoops. I didn't engage or march or hula, but it was a good opportunity to replenish my garlic arsenal since I had depleted it in the war with the red army (see Tomatoes! below).

Between all the tomato freezing, trip planning, and garlic festing, I've managed to do some photo shooting as well. See Flickr for the latest.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I feel like I need to be treading very lightly these days -- leaving a soft footprint on the earth and all that ecologically-minded stuff, and, more importantly, avoiding any more accidents or breakages that end up costing me money or causing pain and suffering. Here's how things stand this week:

Replaced: 21-year-old garbage disposal
Recovering: Sadie (from her urinary tract infection)
Bruised: The instep and ankle of my left foot (tripped on tomato support at the Food Bank Farm -- don't ask)
Broken: The ancillary speaker of my Proton stereo clock radio
Awaiting repair or replacement: Dripping kitchen faucet
Acting up: Both toilets are occasionally running

At this rate, I could end up with a home equity loan to cover all these plumbing repairs. In the meantime, I'll flush less frequently and try to pick up my feet when I walk.

Fall Foto Ops

Staying indoors yesterday to freeze more tomatoes would have been just too boring and a waste of a beautiful autumn day. Blue sky, crisp air and nice light made for good photo ops. ShadowbrookShutterbug and I drove up Rte. 202 from South Hadley, took lots of pix in Granby, and then cut over to Rte. 116 to see the goats, pigs, sheep and chickens at the Hampshire College Farm Center. On the way to Hampshire, I was yammering something about how, given my choice of squirmy creatures to photograph, I preferred critters to kids. Now I'm not so sure about that. At least you can suggest to kids that they hold still or do that [whatever they just did] again. Critters don't pay a bit of attention to anything you say. But you don't have to ask their parents for permission to take their pix, and you can post the pix online without anyone thinking you're a weirdo. My Granby and Amherst pix are up on Flickr, along with a few artsy-fartsy ones that I took in the center of Florence.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Back to work

With the Labor Day weekend added in, my week of vacation actually totalled up to 10 days off. It was great to have that much time to lounge around, but the overly-responsible compulsive in me feels like I need to account for how I spent my time and to have something to show for it all. It was a mixed bag and the weather wasn't entirely cooperative. When the weather sucked, like when Ernesto blew through, I froze tomatoes and managed to get entirely caught up on donor database stuff for the abortion fund. (Don't tell anyone, but I had gotten three months behind on entering donations and doing address updates.) When it was nice (3 days, I think), I went to the pool, listened to my mp3 player, read parts of two books of secret and eccentric things to see in London in preparation for the upcoming trip, swam some occasional laps and worked on my tan. Also, on the rare afternoons that there was some blue sky and nice light around 5 p.m., I grabbed the camera, jumped into the MINI, and drove around the Happy Valley taking pictures. One exception to the blue sky/nice light thing was a mid-day pre-Ernesto mission to the laundromat in the Florence Mini Mall combined with a walk around the block avec camera while the towels were drying. The product of all of this pointing and shooting is now up on Flickr. Oh, yeah -- I broke the garbage disposal and Sadie got another UTI and has to be on antibiotics. (That's a picture of Sadie above when she was just a wee thing. The day after Labor Day is the anniversary of when I got her in 2002.)

I have an idea for a photo shoot project with a pal or two. This involves parking our butts on a bench somewhere in downtown Noho and taking pictures of the town scene as it passes by. No date has been set yet. Let me know if you want in.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I'm going back to my tried and true method of putting up tomatoes. In my search for a method that both minimized time/effort and maximized product quality, I first tried blanching, peeling, and halving the lovely Romas that I picked at the Food Bank Farm. I put the peeled halves into quart-size plastic freezer boxes, squishing them down as I packed in each layer. This is a pretty good method except that all of that peeling took forever and was a real drag. I'm sure the product, however, will be mighty fine.

The next method I tried was one that came highly recommended by Farmer Michael of the Food Bank Farm. This involved cutting the tomatoes in half length-wise, placing them cut side up in a glass baking dish, putting a blob of crushed garlic and a leaf of basil on top of each one and drizzling the whole red army with olive oil. No peeling!!! The pans (I did two of them) then went into a 220 degree oven for twelve hours, in my case from 8 p.m. to a little before 8 a.m. The final product is a little strange. The pan on the top rack looked good -- the Romas still have some red tomato juiciness to them, although the basil leaves got toasted. The bottom pan, however, looks like a tray of dessicated cockroaches. I transferred all of the flat blobs to a cookie sheet and froze them individually, then packed them into baggies for their return to the freezer. The jury is still out on the taste and consistency. I think the juicier ones will be good to pop into sandwiches, and I'll try putting the cockroaches into soups or stews this winter.

Tomorrow's batch will be done in the old fashioned way. I plan to halve them (still haven't decided if I'll blanch and peel first), put them in a big enamel pot and simmer them for a while. This will make the house reek of tomato-ness, like when my mother was in Major Canning Mode when I was a kid. The sauce will then be cooled and poured into plastic freezer boxes. I'll just keep picking, saucing and freezing until the freezer is full or I run out of containers. There's going to be a lot of minestrone in my future.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

To beta or not to beta

I'm a little frustrated with Blogger. They're gradually rolling out a beta of the blog management program (the "dashboard" where you write your posts, configure your template, etc.). Since Blogger is part of Google, they are integrating it with all their other Google products and one username/password will work for all. I use lots of Google products, and I keep my fingers crossed that my measly number of shares of Google stock will soar in price. I really like the way you can one-click from Gmail to your custom Google homepage to Google calendar to Google spreadsheets. And I use Froogle and Picasa all the time. I've drunk the Google kool-aid. So, when I logged into Blogger one day last week and the invitation to migrate to the beta was sitting there, I clicked. So far I like the new dashboard -- publishing is instantaneous now and you don't have to wait while some icon goes round and round telling you that you're 25% published, 67% published, blah blah blah. But something is screwy with the feed for my blog now. My new posts don't show up as new in Bloglines under the old feed. I seem to have a new feed, and I guess that means that my 4 or 5 loyal readers will have to update their blogrolls in order to get notification of new posts. I've changed the "Sub with Bloglines" button on the bottom of the right panel on this page so that it points to the new feed. Or you can use the "Sub with Bloglines" icon you may have on your browser toolbar. Blogger support has not responded to my e-mail asking for assistance. I guess this is what you get for trying to be an early adopter. Yeeeesh.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm high speed ... and wireless!

Sometimes I'm an early adopter (like having a DVD-recorder when everyone else was recording their favorite tv shows on VHS tape), but other times I have a hard time giving up my old ways. For the 10 years that I worked at Hampshire, I had free dial-up internet via their PPP server. It was painfully slow (28.8 most of the time), but you get what you pay for and I was content. So, last summer when I had to find a new ISP, I went with RCN since it was the cheapest at $11.95/month if you prepaid for a year. At first I was pretty pleased with the 53.2 connection, but the service got worse and worse as time went by. Either I'd have trouble connecting, or I'd connect at a really slow speed, or my connection would be dropped. Their tech support was entirely useless in all regards -- anytime I called them, they told me the problem was my phone line. Needless to say, this crummy connection wasn't good for uploading photos to Flickr or downloading music.

My prepaid year just ended and so did my patience with RCN. Last Friday, Comcast came to the house to install high-speed internet, and I installed the wireless router and adapter. The process wasn't without its hassles, however. First, try getting someone at Comcast to give you complete and/or accurate information. It's not going to happen. Second, I found out when the tech guy arrived at my house that I'd have to lug all the parts of my desktop computer to the basement where the modem is mounted in order for him to do the installation. We set up the computer in the dim and the dank, on top of my foot locker. He commented that the basements in my complex are usually finished (mine isn't). Excuuuuuuuse me! That would involve money, and as you may have guessed, I'm incredibly cheap. Why should I pay a couple thousand bucks to finish a basement that's really just a storage room for Spooner's stuff? (BTW, Spooner, the Comcast guy had his eyes on your aqua beauty parlor chair and asked if I'd sell it!)

Aggravation aside, I'm now happy as a clam and zipping along at lightening speeds. The first thing I did was upload a photo to Flickr. Next, I bought a couple mp3s from Musicmatch. Uploads and downloads that used to take a half hour or more now happen in 1-2 minutes. Diggie-do!

Oh, yeah. Here's something to ponder: If the internet was invented by Al Gore and/or the Defense Department (on company time), wouldn't that mean that it's owned by The People? I think the government should therefore provide The People with universal, free internet access. Ditto health care.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Protocol

In Spooner's screed (see comments to post below), he neglected to mention one of the important MINI protocols: MINI drivers wave to each other. This protocol isn't universally followed, but MINI and I have several pals with whom we always exchange waves: the cute red MINI with white bonnet stripes in So. Hadley, the aqua Cooper S with black top in Noho, and the other purple-blue MINI with white top (no sun roof like mine) in Florence. I always wave to the lime green MINI grease car (I think it lives in Leeds), but it doesn't wave back (yet). I'm not sure if this is a Happy Valley protocol, a MINI-USA one, or what. I'll bet MINIs in the UK don't wave at each other. The Brits would probably be unnerved by that. I'll research this when I'm over there in the fall.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Adventures in Spoonerland

Posted Tuesday: There's a story here, but I'm too exhausted right now to write about it. Stay tuned. Meantime, look at the Flickr page for pix of our Holyoke Canal and Chesterwood adventures.
Updated Wednesday: I've now had a day of R&R, including swimming, lounging and cocktails, so I'm ready to tell the tale of Spooner's last day in the Tofu Valley.

We took his laptop, with the new airport card, down to the Haymarket so that he could get online and find a rental car. The car places in town wouldn't rent one way, with drop-off at Logan, so he reserved a car at Hertz in West Springfield for pickup that afternoon. While we were online, we set up a Flickr account for him (screen name = exspatula).

That done, we did various errands in Noho. We went to the hardware store where he purchased two cans of Zud. Apparently this cleanser is uniquely powerful enough to tackle the lime scale that adheres to any surface touched by tap water in the UK. When Molly and I went to London to visit Spooner two years ago, we each had to take a can of Zud in our carry-on bag. The expressions on the faces of the two baggage inspector women as they looked at the Zud, at each other, then at us, were priceless.

Next stop was the storage facility at the Industrial Park. I love watching Spooner open the door and set his eyes on some crap that he hasn't seen in the past year. "Look, it's my _________!" Even though he threatens repeatedly to take a match to the whole pile, he always finds something that he just can't live without and must take back to the UK with him. Last year it was pots and pans and a kitchen scale. This time, the first thing he spied was his Webber grill. He pulled it out from under some old boots and picture frames and said he could really use it in London.

"What? They don't have grills in the UK? Can't you buy one there?" I asked.

"Yes, but not like this one. And I already own this one."

Sanity prevailed and the grill went back into the storage unit. But the carpenter's level and the vintage tin Rainbo Bread sign went into the MINI.

Back at my house, the packing commenced. Spooner rounded up all his stuff from upstairs and added it to the pile in the living room. Not only did he have the things he flew over with -- laptop, external drive, camera, books, clothing -- but he now had the things he had acquired at the factory outlets and the crap -- er, I mean precious stuff -- that he had pulled from various storage spots around Massachusetts: the John Lennon-esque portrait of himself done by a former student, some photo albums, and a salad spinner.

"What? They don't have salad spinners in the UK? Can't you buy one there?"

"Yes, but not like this one. And I already own this one."

The photo albums and the salad spinner disappeared into my cellar where they joined his other precious possessions, packed three years ago into boxes labeled "Treasures" and "For Future Antiques Roadshows." The other stuff, including the portrait, carpenter's level, Rainbo Bread sign, his new Randy Deihl painting and 3 bottles of some nasty Magner's cider, went into the MINI. We headed off to West Springfield so that he could pick up the car. That's when the nightmare began. Long story short: Hertz wouldn't let him put the car on his debit/credit card because they said it was a debit card even though it is both debit and credit. I could rent the car and put him on as the second driver, but he'd have to pay for insurance and that would bring the cost (highway robbery) up to $400+ for 3 days. Fuck that.

We activated Plan B, which involved him taking the Peter Pan bus to Newton where his friend Jen would pick him up and drive him to pal Steve's in Billerica. In the parking lot of the bus station in Springfield, we pulled all the stuff out of the car and consolidated. It was quite amazing to watch the bottles of cider, can of smoked almonds, books and whatnot disappear into his suitcase and backpack. When it was all done, three things were coming back to Northampton with me: the Rainbo Bread sign, the carpenter's level, and the portrait of himself.

That's the story.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Over the Andes to Peru

I should have handed him the keys to the MINI. Instead, when Spooner suggested that we drive back to Northampton via a different route, I gave him the book of maps of western Mass.

The drive to the Berkshires had been normal -- a gentle uphill climb on the Mass Pike, exiting at Lee to hit the factory outlets, then an easy cruise through Stockbridge, ending up at Chesterwood where we saw the contemporary sculpture exhibit. We had fun pretending to be all artsy-fartsy with our cameras. There weren't many people on the sculpture walk in the woods, so no one looked at us like we were crackers.

It was the return trip that quickly got hairy. Spooner thought it would be good to go through Becket to Washington. He navigated, and I turned left onto Summit Hill Road and suddenly found myself driving up a very steep hill, like a 50 or 60 degree angle.

"You didn't tell me we were going over a fucking MOUNTAIN. How long are we on this road? The sign said 'Summit.' Are we at the summit yet?"

"Stop your bellyaching. Do you want me to drive?"

"No. That would mean I'd have to stop. I'm not stopping on this hill. No way."

We went through Washington, turned onto Washington Road and crossed the line into Peru.

"Is this the Andes? Where's the continental divide? When is it downhill to Northampton?"

"You're perseverating. It's the Berkshires -- you know, the Berkshire Mountains. Just keep driving."

We were on East Washington Road for a while and then turned onto Smith Road, for no good reason other than that Spooner's last name is Smith. It was a gravel road, the steepest road yet, wide enough for the MINI but that's about it.

"'Road Closed.' Did you see that sign? What are we going to do? I can't turn around."

"That's only in the winter. We're almost to Peru Center. Just keep driving."

In Peru Center, we got onto Route 143, a proper state road with lane lines. Next came Worthington, which looked like a real town, and Chesterfield with a traffic light! And at last we were going downhill.

"Where's the sandwich shop? You promised me a sandwich shop in Washington. I still haven't seen one."

"We're almost to Williamsburg. You'll know the way from there. Just keep driving."

We finally got to Burgy, and I did indeed know the way but there was still no sandwich shop. We stopped instead at Mad House Minis to look at all the old Astin and Morris Minis that they're restoring. My MINI had been very brave on this mad adventure, braver than I. From now on, I'm hiding the map book.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Spooner Has Landed

My pal Spooner has been stateside for a week now, mostly in VT taking a course, and has dropped in a couple of times. Tonight I'm to drive to Ashburnham and fetch him and then we will have four days of adventures. We're thinking of going to the Berkshires one day to look at sculpture at Chesterwood and to shop for bargains at the factory outlets in Lee. I'm sure that we'll have to go to several of his storage spots so that he can visit his things and see what crap he needs to take back to England with him. He still hasn't located his prized Madonna and Barbara Streisand CDs anywhere, and I know that this is cause for high anxiety on his part. We'll also be doing some photo shoots, so watch for new things on my Flickr page. So far, Spooner hasn't broken anything and the cats don't seem too traumatized. Whew! Stay tuned for further updates.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The (Quarter-Baked) London Plan matter how long you stay in London, London will wear you down and wear you out. London is intractable, insuperable, inexhaustible; the tourist is hapless, cowed, puny, and ultimately penniless. -- Joe Queenan, Queenan Country

I'm starting to plan my fall trip to London. It will be the third time I've been there. The first was a one-day lightning-round on a double-decker tour bus. I got off a couple of times to see a few sights and some less-popular (i.e. no queues) museums -- The Museum of London and the Design Museum. I discovered Postman's Park all on my own, WAY before anyone had seen Closer or heard of Alice Ayres. On my second trip, I was there for a week and saw a combination of tourist traps (Windsor Castle, the Cabinet War Rooms, the National Portrait Gallery) and low-cost, no-cost oddities like the Museum of Tea and Coffee, John Soanes Museum, the Geffrye Museum (housed in an old alms house), and took a trip to the end of the Victoria Line to see the William Morris Gallery and an old workhouse museum in Walthamstow.

The Queenan book is the first thing I'm reading as I begin my research for the upcoming trip. It's rather funny, but the thick overlay of crankiness that he's trowelled over everything is a bit much. He recounts his day trip to Liverpool, where a cabbie drives him around to see various houses and clubs associated with the Beatles, while avoiding anything to do with Sir Paul who both Queenan and the cabbie agree is overrated, treacly and full of himself. The cabbie tells Queenan of his friendship with John Lennon who was his best man at his wedding. Queenan has a fabulous time, but his bubble is burst when he returns to London and learns from a friend that the cabbie's stories couldn't possibly hold water. Quickly recovering from the disappointment, Queenan realizes that, truth or no, it was still a great day with marvelous company. The lesson here is this: England is a land of a thousand tales, many of them contradictory, apocryphal, or downright lies. This doesn't matter, however. Tourists need only find the stories they love, then immerse themselves and savor the experience. Who cares if it's shite!

Here's what I'm thinking of including in my itinerary:

For further research, I'm planning to order a couple of books of walking tours, and I've joined the London-alt Flickr group (lots of interesting pix there). I'm open to all suggestions, tips, advice, etc. Leave them in the comments, okay?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mass MoCA

ST was visiting from Philly this past weekend, and we drove to Mass MoCA in North Adams. (Sorry, Spooner. I went without you this time. But we can go again when you are stateside in a few weeks.)

Any trip to Mass MoCA must include a stop in the basement bathroom, a spiffed-up version of the Sprague Electric Company (Mass MoCA's previous incarnation) employee's washroom.

The main exhibit right now is Ahistoric, in which artists take historic material and refashion it or create anachronistic juxtapositions that have new meaning. More info on Mass MoCA's website.

In the gigantic space in Building 5 is Carsten Hoeller's Amusement Park, an eerie recreation of a broken-down amusement park. The space is dark and quiet, and the five rides periodically light up and begin to come to life with slow, jerky movements. The exhibit description says that the speed changes daily, and I think we must have been there on a very slow day. It's supposed to give you an altered sense of time and space. I've put pix of the Twister and the Gravitron Thriller on my Flickr page.

Another installation is a whole bunch of mirrored doors, at different angles and assembled in a circle so you can walk completely around it. It reminded me of the fitting rooms in old-fashioned department stores. There's a photo of that on the Flickr page as well.

Before we left the complex, we wandered around in back of one of the buildings and found lots of rusty relics of Mass MoCA's industrial past.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Here's a great little article, complete with audio slideshow (a must-see, but alas, Gina isn't featured), about the Hackneyed Portraits exhibit at MOBA: So bad, it's good

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Gina Unveiled (Part 3 of the Saga)

Erin did a fine job of representing us at the gala opening of “Hackneyed Portraits” at MOBA. She also provided the pix below. I interviewed her about the experience.

M. J.: Set the scene for me. What was the event like? Who was there? What was happening?

Erin: Curator Mike Frank, wearing a tux, Louise Sacco, the Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director, and Garen Daly, Director of Special Events, were there and all were very welcoming. I think there were maybe about 20 other patrons of the bad arts milling about the gallery and looking at the works. Mike had chosen some great background music for the event – instrumental jazz accompanied by loons, and yodeling of the classics. As I made my way around the room, I definitely caught wind of the buzz in the air, “We have a donor here!” Tee hee!

M. J.: What’s this I read about “traditional MOBA snacks”? What did they serve?

Louise supplied the purple and green Kool-Aid and cheese curls as well as other chips and fruits. It was all very colorful and festive, in a garishly neon way. I stayed away from the cheese curls – I assumed that they weren’t vegan, but come to think about it, they may have been made with a chemical cheese food substance that wasn’t a dairy product at all.

M. J.: What about our painting? How were people reacting to it?

Erin: Well, when I got there, I immediately began searching for Gina, but I didn’t see her hanging among the 20-some other portraits. Turns out she was covered with a burgundy cloth. When the official part of the ceremonies started, Mike called me up and asked me to read the description as he unveiled the painting: "Frightening non-kosher demons haunt this blonde, blue-eyed beauty in a see-through blouse." Some people gasped, others laughed, all applauded. I felt so proud and honored. A woman came up to me later and asked if I’d be putting on my resume that I’m a patron of MOBA. I think I will! Woo hoo! (Blogger’s note: Erin was raised among mild-mannered Midwestern Episcopalians, and she never uses salty language or is the least bit sarcastic. “Tee hee” and “Woo hoo” are genuine indicators of great glee and enthusiasm.)

M. J.:
What have you learned about the bad arts as a result of this experience? Do you have any advice to pass along to other would-be patrons?

Erin: This whole saga, from the acquisition to the unveiling, has taught me to trust my taste in bad art. I was telling Curator Mike that, when we first saw the painting at the flea market, we recognized its elements of badness but didn’t know if it was MOBA-worthy. “How could you not know?” he asked me repeatedly. I can now say with confidence that I will truly know bad art when I see it. As Mike says, “I don’t let good technique stand in the way of bad art.”

500 Hits!

I've been on Flickr for almost five months now, and as of today my photostream has been viewed 500 times. The picture with the most views is the one of the factory wall (see 3/13/2006 post below) with 51 hits. This picture of the stairs at the end of Green Street is currently in second place with 26 hits. All of this is small potatoes compared to some people on Flickr, but I'm pretty pleased with myself. I now belong to 10 groups, including ones for Mini Coopers, Roadside America, Found Art Still Life, Northampton, Pioneer Valley, flea markets and factories. I even have a few Flickr contacts who, in addition to my pals who are compelled to say nice things, have left complimentary comments on a few of my pix. Much as I hate to admit it (see previous rant), I am participating in social networking of a sort. But it's for art's sake.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More Knitting Projects

I've been a busy little knitter lately. These are two wee sweaters I just knit for a pal's new twins. Not knowing how long it would take to get them done, I knit them in 12-month size. I also knit a potato chip scarf that everyone tells me is weird and a dead brilliant present to take to Spooner in London in the fall (Hint: if we go on the Dickens walking tour, I'll make him wear it). Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 08, 2006

MOBA report delayed (but on the way)

I know, dear readers, that you've rushed with eager anticipation to my blog this morning to read the full account of the unveiling (yes!) of The Id and Ego of Gina (official title) at MOBA. After the gala reception ended last night, Erin phoned in a gleeful, albeit brief, report. But now she's off to Atlanta for a conference and the full report, with pix, will have to wait a week. If she has decent wifi access where she's staying, we may be able to get some work done on it sooner. In the meantime, you can cool your jets by reading Anju and Rahul's blogs of their summer adventures in India.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

MOBA exhibit opens June 7!

Below is the blurb about the new exhibit at MOBA. Unfortunately, they've scheduled the gala opening for a Wednesday evening -- a bit hard for me to drive to Dedham and back that night. But Erin will go and send me a full report.

The other world-famous art museum in Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts, recently closed a popular exhibit, "David Hockney Portraits". As a tribute to our downtown neighbors, and in recognition of the importance of portraits to their collection and ours, MOBA announces the opening of: HACKNEYED PORTRAITS: IT LOOKS JUST LIKE HER!

We'll include many new MOBA acquisitions along with a few of your old favorites. One is:

. . . By Anonymous
. . . 12"x15", oil on canvas
. . . purchased in Jamaica Plain by Mike Frank

. . . Rising from the murky depths like Nessie, this mysterious
. . . beauty from the underworld haunts the viewer with her
. . . piercing gaze from eyes both blue and brown.

This show opens with a gala reception at MOBA's permanent gallery on Wednesday, June 7. Please join us at 7:30 pm and bring your friends. Arrive early and enjoy beer or wine in the refurbished lobby of the Dedham Community Theater. Traditional MOBA refreshments* will be offered at the Opening Reception.

If you can't make the opening, then come and see this exciting new exhibit when you can.

* Traditional MOBA refreshments often include brightly colored KoolAid and cheese curls.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A tank full of gas, a clean windshield and a shoe shine

Ok, so I didn't really get a shoe shine. But I wore my new Simple sneakers for three days in NY last week. The first day we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw a play. We walked every street of the Lower East Side and had a tour at the Tenement Museum (highly recommended) on Day 2. On the last day, we toured Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown. So, we saw two very different sides of life in America in the early 20th century -- the cramped quarters and extreme poverty of the immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street and the lavish wealth and palatial digs of the Rockefellers. Many pix are now on my Flickr page. Take a look and let me know what you think of them.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mad Rush to the PO

I was on a mission to get both of these items in the post today. First was this excellent, mint condition, vintage Kake-Toter by Everedy that I got for ST at the flea market. The top turns to attach to the bottom plate. Brilliant! And it's clearly been hanging around unused for 40-50 years. You just can't beat that. Second, I had a request from Spooner that I send Pepto Bismol tabs to him in the UK for him to take along on his upcoming trip to Mexico. He is hoping to avoid -- or at least lessen the impact of -- the bugs that distressed him on his last visit south of the border. I included some Immodium caplets as well. But what's wrong with this picture? I paid more than $6 to mail over-the-counter meds across the Atlantic Ocean so that he can fly back to this continent with them in his suitcase. I thought it was better to do as asked than to ask questions, but I'm curious to know if the UK is really a land without PB. What does the Queen carry with her when she travels abroad to visit her subjects? What does she do if she eats some bad fish in France?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Farewell, Gateway PC

These old components had been strewn all over the floor of my study for the past 9 months. Together, they probably weigh the same and occupy as much space as I do. My plan all along was to recycle them, but I hadn't quite figured out how to do that. Dell would take them, but I would have to pack them into the box that my new computer came in (one look told me they wouldn't fit, or if I could get them into the box, it certainly wouldn't fit in the Mini) and ship them back to Dell. I sent e-mail last fall to the Five College recycling coordinator, asking her how I could recycle computer components, but she never replied. The college where I work has a recycling program, but only for college-owned computers. The UMass recycling facility will accept personally-owned computers, but you need a UMass ID to get in (mine expired in 1988). I gave the old ink-guzzling Epson printer away last fall, sold the external CD drive (the best of the lot) for $20, and tried to no avail to find a buyer for the speakers and subwoofer (old, but still sound good).

Then this week I saw a post on Usenet -- someone wanted an old PC. I wrote back, he called, we arranged a place to meet, and the components shifted the next day from my car to his. His plan is to rebuild an old computer for his sister. He didn't ask any questions, so I didn't have to tell any lies. I did tell him in advance that the hard drive was about to die (true) and that I would be pulling it out (easier than trying to permanently delete -- if that's even possible -- all my personal stuff from it). So, there was no mention that the monster monitor spazzes out periodically and that the power switch is temperamental. Apparently he didn't need to know. He promised to recycle whatever bits he couldn't use, and that was all I needed to know. I'm thrilled that I can see my floor again.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Hand-Off (Gina, Part 2)

This part of the saga seems a bit anticlimactic, especially following last week's gripping tale of the acquisition of Gina's Fever Dream. I've watched enough episodes of Antiques Roadshow to know the importance of provenance and an unbroken chain of possession, so I provide this as documentation: The painting, wrapped in a black garbage bag to seal it from today's torrential rains, rode to Jamaica Plain in the Mini Cooper, from which it was transferred to Erin's Toyota Echo and transported to the home of Mike, MOBA's curator. As Mike wasn't home, we left it on his porch and left a message on his voice mail to tell him of the delivery and to caution him not to mistake the black plastic bag for trash and put it on the curb on collection day.

We also made a visit to MOBA's permanent home in the basement of the Community Theater in Dedham. In my mind's eye, I had pictured the gallery to be a bit bigger, brighter and cleaner. It's somewhat dim and dank, but endearingly so, despite the pooling water on the floor that emanated from somewhere near the men's room or perhaps from the week of precipitation. I've posted some pictures on the Flickr page. It will be a proud day when we see Gina's portrait hanging beside those of George, Lucy, Pablo Presley and the others in MOBA's fine collection.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Teaser to Gina, Part 2

We heard back from Mike at MOBA the other day:

Dear MJ,

We would like to open our next show "Hackneyed Portraits From Our Collection" sometime in May. It may not happen until June but it would be nice to have the painting earlier if possible. You and Erin would be honored guests at the Opening - whenever it does occur.

Michael Frank, Curator-in-Chief
Museum of Bad Art

I'll be taking the painting to Erin's house this weekend and she'll pass it off to Mike as it turns out they live quite near each other. We can't wait for the grand opening of Hackneyed Portraits, and I'll be sure to post pix and all the details when it ever does happen.

In the meantime, here's an article about MOBA for you all to read while you anxiously await the next installment of this tale: In Dedham, this museum is exhibiting 'bad' taste

Monday, May 08, 2006

Gina's Fever Dream, Part 1

This still-unfolding story had its origin last Sunday at the flea market. I was the first to see this painting, but it was Erin who voiced the question -- "Do you think the Museum of Bad Art would want it?" -- that was the true beginning of the saga. "It's bad," I replied. "But is it bad enough for MOBA?"

We asked the vendor what the price was. "Somewhat less than $20," he said. "That's about $15." We continued our horrified viewing, debating the cost, while the vendor teased Erin that she looked a bit like the girl in the painting. I took a picture of it and we walked away, still mulling over the possibility of purchasing and making a donation of it.

For the next few days, the painting haunted me. I showed the picture to a few people who shared Erin and my simultaneous attraction and repulsion. I went to MOBA's website to find out about donations of art, and learned that they accept only about 10% of what people offer and that they encourage a letter of inquiry as the first step.


Dear MOBA -- Last weekend at the flea market in Hadley, I saw this untitled painting by Gina. The vendor was asking $15. I'm not sure how that compares to the going rate for such a unique original work, or whether MOBA would be interested in having this work in its collection. If the painting still available next weekend, should I buy it and donate it to MOBA? Please advise.

M. J.

The reply came back the next day:

Dear MJ,

I'm like "Hello"! You should run back to the flea market and scarf this piece ASAP and submit it to MOBA, where I will be awaiting its arrival at our loading dock.

As always I remain,
Michael Frank, Curator-in-Chief

Next came the period of anxious waiting. Would the painting be at the flea market the next Sunday, or would some other patron of the (bad) arts have scarfed it before me? I forwarded Mike's e-mail to Erin, who confirmed that she was earmarking $7.50 for her portion of the purchase price. I woke up early on Sunday. No rain -- a good sign. I thought about lighting the Powerful Elvis Prayer lucky candle for good fortune at the flea market, but decided that, as the candle's had a very successful run of luck on job offers for my friends and me, it is best used for Big Things. So I consulted the online Magic 8 Ball. "Will I score the painting?" I asked. "You can rely on it," said the 8 Ball.

It's amazing the number of people who get up at the crack of dawn on Sundays to worship at Our Lady of the Field of Trash and Treasures. The place was a sea of cars when I got there a little before 8 a.m. I went down three rows before spying the vendor. The painting was still there! "I was here last week," I started, as he interrupted me with, "Oh, no." I think he thought I wanted to return something. I went on to explain that my friend and I had looked at the painting and that I'd come back to purchase it. "The price is somewhat less than $25," he said. I reminded him of last week's $15 price tag. We exchanged money for art. He told me that he felt badly about teasing Erin about her hair. "Tell her the old guy says he's sorry," he told me. "No problem," I said. I asked where the painting came from. All he could tell me about it was that it came out of a house in Springfield and that his guess was that it was painted in the 1960s. Then I cautiously told him about our plan for it. "I've been coming to this flea market every Sunday for the past 25 years," he said, "and no one has told me anything as funny as that!" He called his son over and made me repeat the story of my contact with MOBA. I told them that they'd be able to visit the painting in the museum sometime in the near future. "See you in Boston," the son said as they waved me goodbye.

Dear Mike -- I returned to the Olde Hadley Flea Market yesterday and I'm happy to report to you that Gina's fever dream is now in my possession! My friend Erin and I would like to make the donation jointly to MOBA of this unique work. I'm thinking that we could deliver it to you on the loading dock one weekend in June. Please advise as to your availability for the hand off.

As I spend more time with this work, I'm haunted by the juxtapositions of innocence and menace, the waking and the dreaming, the dark and the light. I trust it will find a welcome place at MOBA.

Looking forward to meeting you and making the donation.

Your friend in bad art,
M. J.

The next chapter in this story promises to be just as gripping as the first.

To be continued.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Weekend Update

If I were a better activist, I'd have gone to NYC to the anti-war demo this past weekend. Instead, I cruised around the Tofu Valley where there were bargains galore and the weather was glorious.

Saturday started out with a stop at the Pioneer Valley Roller Derby's tag and bake sale at Sacred Heart
Church on King Street. As the team members skated around the wooden parish hall floor, Erin and I checked out the clothing. I passed up a pink handknit cropped cardigan with angora trim and went for a simple gray skirt that I can wear to work ($2). Erin got a vintage skort dress ($5).

Our next stop was Shelburne Falls, where the first thing we saw when we started walking around was a disconsolate Moose Boy sitting on the curb. A camera crew of teens was shooting (and reshooting) photos of a girl running down the sidewalk towards him. We couldn't figure out what it was all about. After looking at the crafts at Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom, crossing the Bridge of Flowers, noodling around in a bunch of shops and taking many pix of the glacial potholes, we had tapas and cocktails at Tusk 'n' Rattle, a great little subterranean restaurant recently purchased by my pal Yanina. The place is warm and cozy, the service was friendly, and the food was fab. (Erin had lentil cakes with a mango salsa and I had grilled shrimp with cilantro lime sauce -- yum!)

The day we'd long been awaiting was Sunday, the opening of the flea market season. It couldn't have been a nicer day for exploring the trash and treasures. And what a great haul: Erin got a cast iron skillet ($2), two mid-century shallow stainless steel serving bowls with wooden handles ($1 each), a plastic necklace ($1), and a ceramic floral wall plaque circa 1940 ($6). My flea market finds included four generous bags of vintage buttons ($1 each) and a lime green and blue necklace ($2). We ran into Amy and Baby G there, and had a swell time looking at the wares.

See my Flickr page for more pix of the weekend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

1000 days -- and counting down

According to the Backwards Bush Countdown Clock, there are now 1000 days left of George W's presidency. He could still do a lot of bad shit in that amount of time. That's the storm cloud. The silver lining is that 1000 days is the maximum amount of time that we'll have to put up with him. Maybe he'll be gone before that. Look what's been happening to his evil little pals lately: Card's gone, Rove's been demoted, Rumsfeld's under the gun, and Cheney's running around with a gun. George W. could be impeached. We can dream.
(The photo isn't mine -- I got it by e-mail sans credit)

Friday, April 21, 2006

I'm not hallucinating

Yesterday morning on North Maple Street in Florence, I saw a car with a McGovern-Shriver bumper sticker. It was a newer model minivan, not a vintage car from 1972 that had been taken out of mothballs. There was also a Kerry-Edwards sticker and one that said "Yankees Suck" on it. If I see the van again, I'll try to get a picture to prove I'm not making this up. What's the message here? That McGovern-Shriver are better than anybody the Dems will be able to put forward in 2008? I don't want to be that cynical. But they are definitely a whole lot better than the gun-loving pair who are in charge now.

Friday, April 14, 2006

I need some new pals

Don't get me wrong -- my current pals are swell. I have a small cadre of all-purpose pals, and then there several music listening pals, flea market shopping pals, knitting pals, and reproductive rights activist pals. But I don't have a group of photo pals. SBSB and I took the digicam class together recently, and we've been thinking that we'd like to find 4-6 other people to go with us on photo shoot adventures every so often. The group could pick a western Mass scenic destination for each outing, and then we could look at each other's photos afterwards and give feedback and advice. I'm imagining that the group would probably be mostly women, but we would invite Spooner to come along when he's stateside. One other pal who is more novice than SBSB and me has said she might be interested. We need to find a few more people, and it would be great to include a couple of digital photo mavens who don't mind traipsing around with a bunch of newbies. Let me know if you're interested.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Factory Photos

My group photo shoot with the digicam class the weekend before last was a bit disappointing. The sky was overcast, the grass was still brown and the trees were bare. Of the 60-some pix I took, only 3 or 4 were Flickr worthy. This past weekend, the sun was out and the sky was blue, so I went to Easthampton to wander around the factories and take pictures. The Easthampton Industrial Properties, One Ferry Street, is a wreck of a building. It's in the process of being gutted, but I'm not sure what it will become after renovation. Maybe loft spaces, in which case I'll let my expat pal Spooner know. He's making noise about wanting a loft to store his stuff in.

I just put four of the factory pix on my Flickr page. Although I'm not much of a joiner, I've become a member of two Flickr groups -- Pioneer Valley and Noho -- and have posted a couple pix on each. So far, no other members have reached out to say, "Welcome, comrad." I guess that's the difference between an anonymous online community and the Socialist Party. I think I'd actually like to be part of a photo group, the way my quilter pal is in a quilting group. It would be fun to do occasional group photo shoots, then look at each other's pix over beer and snacks.

 Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 31, 2006

What's in a blog?

Rosenbeans asks, "Why blog?" The subject of blogging is all over the place in the media right now. Even the recent issue of my alumnae magazine has a feature article about six alums who blog. I immediately felt slighted when I saw that my blog wasn't among those featured, and then I was pissed that my entire decade was overlooked. The article spotlights blogs by alumnae from classes of the 60s, 80s, 90s, and 00s. I'd always thought that those of us who came of age in the 70s were a pretty interesting group -- certainly much more so than those born in the 80s and raised under Reagan. And we have much more to blog about than driving around listening to the Indigo Girls (00s) or hot flashes and widowhood (60s). I digress. Rant over.

Why am I so attracted to blogs and blogging? In part, it's because of the technology (see my first post about my former aversion to WYSIWYG). It's so easy and accessible (and free). While the same essential technology is used across a variety of venues -- Blogspot, Typepad, LiveJournal, MySpace (owned by Rupert Murdoch) and its evil Microsoft twin MSN Spaces -- people seem to separate themselves into different venues based on form and content, some of which I find more compelling than others. When I talk about blogs, I generally mean the sort on Blogspot or Typepad -- written for a public audience, usually centered around some sort of theme or purpose, aimed at attracting the attention of others who share those interests or appreciate the writer's craft. Private writing tends to be on LiveJournal. This genre seems narcissistic to me, and voyeuristic for those who the journaler chooses to allow to read the journal. Not that there's anything wrong with private writing -- it's just Not For Me. Those Space places are just about self-promotion and aren't worth discussing. These distinctions probably aren't as rigid as I've laid them out, but ask yourself this: Would Sarah Vowell or David Sedaris (or anyone else whose writing you like) have a blog, a LiveJournal or a Space. I think blog. (Do they?)

I went to part of a symposium on women's public voices the other day. I knew that women's voices, and women as subjects, are in slim supply in the media, but the stats are really dismal (see Global Media Monitoring Project). So, I'm all for using the technology as a means of getting more women's voices into the critical discourse. Blogging is a great way to do this, but so much of what's in the blogosphere isn't worth the bandwidth it's written on. But maybe everyone has to start somewhere, and those who post drivel today will go on to be tomorrow's Katha Pollitt.

To answer Rosenbean's question, I blog as a way of getting my creative juices flowing, to keep my pals informed on what I'm doing and thinking without having to write the same e-mail message over and over, and with the fantasy that I'm guessing many bloggers share: that some day my writing or my photos will find appreciation or acknowledgement in a larger arena.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Portable Applications

Portable applications are little programs that you can run directly from your flash drive without actually installing them onto a computer. They are a great addition to the files you carry around on your flash drive as you go from home to work, internet cafes, computer labs, business centers, etc. The great thing about having your own portable apps is that you can see and use your files your way, without having to worry if the host computer has the program you want or the setting you prefer. Here's a short list of the apps I've recently tried and like:

  • Portable Firefox - This is a stripped-down version of the browser that lets you carry your bookmarks and passwords with you without worry about leaving a trail of your info behind on a host computer. The cache and history are set at 0 so that you don't write a lot of web pages to your flash drive.
  • Portable Sunbird - Mozilla's little calendar application. This is a stand-alone version; there's also a version that installs inside Firefox.
  • Coolplayer - A very small mp3 player. The default skin is really ugly, but there are other skins you can download.
  • Xnview - Lets you view, convert and do some editing of graphics files. It supports many, many graphic file formats.
  • PStart - A launcher program that doesn't have to be installed on your hard drive (follow the directions for portable installation). Allows you to set up a handy launcher panel for all your portable apps and favorite files.
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Monday, March 13, 2006

Photo shoot

Factory Wall
Originally uploaded by trailerfullofpix.

I'm taking a four-week digital photo class with a pal. The best thing about it so far is that it's given me the kick in the butt that I needed to take my camera off AUTO and play around with the manual settings. On Saturday, JJ and I went out to take pictures for our first assignment in which we were supposed to choose a composition and photograph it at three different f-stops to show how the depth of field increases as you stop down the lens. But the experiment was a big bust. I'm not exactly sure what we did wrong, but all of our pictures in the sets of three looked essentially the same, so we'll need to go out and do the assignment over again. In the meantime, I took this shot of the brick wall of a factory in Easthampton.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Knitting Project #3

This really didn't start out to be a knitting blog, but here I am posting another one of my projects. I just finished knitting this sweater for a pal's baby's first birthday. This morning I sewed the buttons on, picked as much of the cat fur off it as possible, put it in a gift box and was about to wrap it when I remembered -- just in the nick of time -- to take a picture for the blog. It was a really fun sweater to knit. It's done by knitting back and forth on circular needles, starting from the collar and working down. At the bottom of the yoke, you put the first sleeve onto double-point needles and knit down to the cuff. Then you knit across the back and do the second sleeve on dps. When the sleeves are done, you knit the rest of the body, so it's all in one piece when you're finished. Brilliant. I want one in my size!
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Monday, February 27, 2006

The Internet Wayback Machine

Remember Mr. Peabody, his Wayback Machine and his boy Sherman on The Bullwinkle Show? Mr. Peabody invented a time machine, and he and Sherman would travel backwards for historical adventures. Now the web has The Internet Wayback Machine. This is the front-end to an archives of zillions of pages that are no longer shown on the web. I did a search for my old site that used to be on the Hampshire College server (Hampshire deleted my webspace when I stopped working there). The old site is in the archives! Not all of the pictures are there, but the text is, so the story of my roadtrip to see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota lives on. One photo that wouldn't load is the one of the larger-than-life chicken somewhere west of Minneapolis -- that's the photo I use in my profile on my Frappr map, which at the moment looks like I have no pals so you all should add yourselves pronto.

A possible downside to the Wayback Machine for all you LiveJournalers -- that trashy stuff you post may live forever in Cyberspace.