Wednesday, July 30, 2008

AV: Dang!

Truly Amazing!

Please scroll down to the black background MySpace video. (especially if you thought I was making it all up. you know who you are ...)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

AV: My Eyes Have Eyes

I actually got a ticket for Comic Con this year. It was a Friday-Only ticket, but as luck would have it, that's exactly the one I needed.

I was even able to find parking in time to make it to the only presentation that I really wanted to see: Lynda Barry. The. Goddess. Of. Alternative. Comic. Poetry. Genius.

She of the Freddie Stories, Ernie Pook's Comeek, and All Things Marlys. She regaled a room with her extra geeky charm (and a special ability to sing "You Are My Sunshine" very articulately - with her mouth closed! Dang!) and stories of how art, music, and play are NOT ELECTIVES. Nope, they're not. But I'm preaching to the choir here, I know.

She also said she really likes attending the Comic Con, that it's like the Cousin Picnic.


She was nervous and read her index cards and slides (from her new book, "What It Is"! See a whole 14 page preview in PDF!) and told stories about little kids she's met and how creativity and play doesn't come from within. It's an external force.

To wit: at a restaurant, a small boy's piece of bacon unexpectedly came to life and engaged him in a drama of life and death.

Boy (holding bacon aloft): I'm going to eeeaaaaat you!
Bacon (tiny voice): No!! Don't eaaaaaaat meeeee! Please!
Boy: grrr! Yes, you're mine! Grrr!
Bacon: eeee! No, pleeeeeeaaassssse!!!
Mother (suddenly finished with her phone conversation): What are you doing?!?!?
Boy: um ... (looking dazed at the bacon in his hand as if awakening from a dream ... what *was* he doing???)

Who knew the bacon was going to come alive so suddenly? Unexpectedly? And to play out such a primal drama as that?

Her book is about writing and play and making room for the image and the specialness of everything you already are. It lives up to its press!

Just buy the book, okay? You will be so sorry if you don't. Okay?

For extra measure ... if you don't know her, or her characters ...
AND ..
(copyright by Lynda Barry for all time forever and forever)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jayne Relaford Brown

Dispatch from Downunder II: Word-Love

For a word junkie*, Australia provides particular pleasures. Just as my EFL and, more sadly, my EF&FL (English as both First AND Foreign Language) students distract me from despair with their analyses of "Escape goats" (which actually do provide a nice way out) and "back rounds" (when I would be happy if they could analyze the fore round of what they read), being in a place with a different English keeps my monkey brain happily entertained.

I don't mind at all the signs telling me to "mind the step." In fact, I'm tickled. I was tired enough in the Brisbane airport that I couldn't find the elevators. I thought the "Lift" signs might be where you take off, or where you could get a beer. When i pass what I would call a "popsicle truck" and see it sells "Waffles and Fairy Floss," I'm thrilled, even if the floss is bags instead of freshly spun. Instead of looking at the sights, I read the signs.

Some, like the announcement of the "Debutante Ball" this weekend at the Pioneer Valley H.S., are startling for their content--we seem to be out in the boonies and it is 2008--but most are pleasurable for the words themselves. You don't yield when driving, you "Give Way." In front of busy Woolie's, crossing pedestrians are aided by an "Island Refuge." More startlingly, down the way in front of the senior housing complex, is the "Aged Island Refuge." Double the points? I'm coming to terms with terms like "mature" and "senior," and if the teenage clerk at the movie theatre thinks I should get the senior discount (here it's a "concession"), I'll take it, but I'm not ready to think about becoming "aged."

Here, you call phone numbers with "Enquiries," which seem so much more sophisticated than questions. And the ubiquitous "No worries" when you thank someone here seems so much more philosophical and generous than the grudging "No problem" from the servers in the restaurants back home.

*"Word Junkie" is not a term I use lightly. Growing up, my sister Nancy and I were language sponges. We developed British accents, or at least a Victorian syntax, when we read British novels. When we got together with our Texas cousins, within two days we said you-all or y'all and answered "Ma'am?" or "Sir?" when we were called, instead of "Huh?" On long station wagon drives, our father read the funny-sounding names of towns out loud, a (probably annoying) habit I continue to this day. He would also lead us in thematic runs on puns: "Lettuce get married," said the eggplant, "if you care at all for me." But she was only interested in his celery. Wendy knows I mean no disrespect when I appropriate a word or phrase; in fact, the opposite--there is no WASP equivalent for "Oy!" Though I did hear a new usage for the word this morning when I walked down Dave's block and his neighbor hollered "Oy!" to stop his yapping dog.

Guest Blogger: Jayne Relaford Brown

Dispatch from Downunder: Welcome, Home

I really didn't want to go this time. I know it sounds like whining ("whinging," they would say here) to complain about having to go to Australia AGAIN! It's so many people's dream, and a seemingly impossible one. But to put my body in a tin box and travel halfway round the world, step out of my life and into another, to step out of time when I was already counting down how few weeks remain until the semester starts again--and I know there is no sympathy for someone who has the summer off whinging about that! But I wanted those weeks to go on puttering in my garden, to get to eat the heirloom tomatoes I've been nursing along, and the twenty blueberries on my baby blueberry plant. I wanted to see if the gladiolas would bloom, to watch the progress of the morning glories along my fence, to eat a peach from the backyard tree.

What set me right was Janice passing along a message from Dave that he'd bought and washed new towels for us, gotten a new mattress top, and if we weren't comfortable with that one he'd bring his out to the granny flat for us. And I remembered him setting out a huge bowl of fruit for us last time, and a bouquet, and the fully stocked fridge--how much it means to him to have his sister travel from the states, and how welcoming he's always been to me.

That's why we put our bodies, and our finances, through this: to hang out on the veranda having a beer with Janice's "baby" brother, to watch his daughters Katrina and Danielle, now 18 and 16, transform in two-year increments, to celebrate the amazing thing of two siblings surviving and re-finding each other as family. Mackay's a little berg that doesn't seem so different than Berks County, PA--just substitute sugar cane and pineapples for corn and soy beans. The little art centre in town has a gallery you can go through in an hour and be done with. But this isn't "Been there, done that": it's "Be here. Do this."

So here we are, hanging out in Dave's granny flat with our legs up the wall to recuperate. The eucalyptus trees outside make this Southern CA girl feel at home, but last night on the veranda there was the sound of a bird that really was a gecko, and Katrina said the fruit bats are scratching and all the mangos before they can get to them. There were fresh bouquets everywhere to celebrate our arrival, and large bars of Cadbury Dark with liqueur centres, and the wonderful mattress, and the incredible fruit platter. Dave taught us how to eat lychee nuts, and it's crunchy apple season in the other hemisphere. It's good to be here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

SS: Our New Baby

James and I have added to our brood. Presenting...Matilda Marie Stanfield-Murray. Yes, I have fulfilled the dream I've had ever since I saw "Milo and Otis" in sixth grade. I have a pug. A pug puppy. There was never a happier woman...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

WC: Weird Medical Definition of the Day

fetus papyraceous

a twin fetus that has died in the uterus and become flattened and mummified

Sunday, July 13, 2008

AV: Mongols

Seems that the 4:30pm Friday showing at the local multiplex isn't quite the matinee anymore. It cost me $10.50 to watch a couple of hours of men behaving badly. And then, disatisfied with the ending (which I won't spoil for anyone who's gonna go see this movie), I spent an hour or so on Wikipedia looking up Genghis Khan.

Did you know he supposedly had red hair and green eyes? Either that, or his dad did. Something about the "sparkling ancestor." Geez, I can barely manage metaphor in my daily life when I'm looking for it. I certainly can't negotiate it in what's supposed to be a history lesson.

These days I'm much too literal.

That said, the landscape and the story (for what it was) was beautiful and entertaining (respectively).

Tonight I'm sitting in the chair next to the bed again and Aida is sleeping deeply an arms length away from me. Today she had her radiosurgery treatment. This was after she had a haircut and before we went to the wedding of her niece Marcy to her fiance Jeremy.

Beauty, blessings, and an open bar.
We left early.

More later, my friends. Here's hoping you all make the matinee of your choice.

Friday, July 11, 2008

HC: My Upcoming 3D Journey

Today my kids, husband, and I are going to the movies to see Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D. It's a remake (sort of) of one of our most enjoyed family movies. The 1959 version starred James Mason, Arlene Dahl, and Pat Boone, and had huge lizard monsters--you know the kind, with the fin glued to its back. By the way, did you know that apparently there's an ocean in the center of the earth? Pretty cool, huh?

I rarely go to the movies any more. It's just so expensive. Netflix costs $18 and I can see 10 movies, TV shows, and documentaries a month. Today's trip will cost $44. But I feel the 3D thing is certainly worth seeing in the movies.

Do you remember when some 3D movies were shown on TV? I think it was in the 80s. One of the films was Gorilla at Large, with a very young Anne Bancroft. I got my free cardboard glasses from a 7/11 store, and got my headache as soon as the movie started. However, you could really see that one person was behind another. I don't love the "let's throw things at the screen and make the audience duck" stuff, but I do love the depth. I realize that Brendan Fraser and his costars are very likely going to be hurling things at me on a regular basis. If the 3D is as good as it is in some films at DisneyWorld, I'll be ducking a lot.

At DisneyWorld there's a 3D movie about Donald Duck conducting an orchestra. I don't remember why, but the instruments come to life and inhabit clips of other Disney movies, such as Peter Pan and Aladdin. The 3D was amazing, and I had a jolt not just from the front of my head: the little girl in back of me reached out to grab whatever 3D thing was in her face, and grabbed the back of my head!
I'll write a review when I come back from the movie. Fingers crossed it's a lot of fun!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

DW: Nuclear Family Weapons

The last few months have been very turbulent vis-a-vis my extended family. All kinds of stuff has come up around loyalty, honesty, and most of all, authenticity.

A cousin of mine is going through a divorce, and it has triggered all sorts of things for me, primarily the "original" triangulation of my parents and me. The current stand ins are my cousin and his wife, who I've been very close to for a long time. There is a strain of Jewish histrionics with a touch of Sicilian justice embedded in my family's world view. Blood is blood, family is family, and there's . never a question of who you support when it"s family vs the "other." Except, there IS a question, at least for me. Why do I have to choose? My cousin's wife is someone I truly adore--and I cannot shun her. I realize that my affection for her might feel offensive (at this moment) to her soon to be ex-husband, but I can't "cancel" a friendship of 20 years because my cousin has decided that he needs a new life.

God, there's so much to say that it exhausts me just thinking about it. This is a very big topic and I need to think about it some more. My cousin's sister (who is like a sister to me) summed it up best: being authentic means revealing the in-authenticity of it all.

And when that happens it feels like everything can blow-up and dissolve. 40+ years of shared birthdays, holidays, weddings, and funerals can go up in smoke. What is the fear residing inside of all of this? Abandonment, the loss of love, the icky-ness of feeling disloyal. I find my lack of being able to be direct and open with my cousin (regarding my feelings) utterly unbearable. Ironically, I was on a conference call the other day, and one of the parties called me up immediately following the call. He said, "I'm in awe of how direct you are--you just put it right out there. I could never do that." How funny is THAT? A former friend used to talk about my "miserable introductions"-- the excessive prologue I tend to give before delivering the punch. I feel like I'm never direct when it counts. Ram Dass once said "if you think you're so evolved--go live with your parents for a week." That's kind of how I feel about this relentless emotional stammering that comes up when I'm speaking with my cousin.

There's a hefty co-pay here no matter what side of the street I'm standing on, and it makes me both angry and sad.

I'm leaving for Vienna tomorrow and all I can think about is siting in a cafe, drinking a great cup of coffee, and having some distance from all of this, at least for the next few days. I'll try to file some reports from the field.

AV: Trees Falling in the Forest

I can't decide if it's more or less liberating that no one seems to be reading this blog. On the one hand, that almost makes it easier to write about the realities and vulnerabilities of daily life on planet earth.

On the other hand, how pathetic is that?

That said, I've always considered myself somewhat of an idealist although that seems to express itself more often as naivete. That, and idealism seems to be what I have energy for since cynicism is way more exhausting.

So ... here goes. Between posting stuff from YouTube, I've been knee-deep in the local campaign committee for the No on 8 effort. "8" being the number of the Proposition that will ban marriage in CA for gay and lesbian couples if it passes in November. I agreed to co-chair the local effort while the state campaign and steering committee plugs in and oils up the efforts in other cities all over the state. Heady stuff and lots of work ahead.

There's all the other politics too. City Council and Congress and State Assembly races and the perennial attacks on a woman's reproductive rights.

And next to me in the shadows of our bedroom, Aida is sleeping. She's a little restless as she tries to find a comfortable place ... some elusive spot on the bed that doesn't cause her joints to ache.

Last night she dreamed about her doctors, all three of them. I asked her what the dream was like and she simply said that they talked about things all night long. She said that she had gifts for them in the dream, but couldn't remember what they were when she woke.

She usually brings acorns.

Tomorrow morning - early- we meet with her oncologist (aka "Dr Cutie") for the monthly gabfest. He will ask her how she is and pay rapt attention to her, laughing at her jokes and loving her in his own doctorly way. He has no choice, really. She does that to people. You should meet her.

He will also ask if we've heard when she's scheduled for another treatment of the stereotactic radiosurgery. That horse nudged out of the barn about a month or so ago when her bi-monthly MRI showed another small tumor that had set up shop next to the one they treated in January.

We will tell him that we haven't heard yet. But, we will report that she had her pre-treatment MRI and mask fitting and that we're ready. Or rather, she is.

Last night another friend passed over. We wave to her from this side of the river, assuring her of a visit, but later. Later, Janelle, later. Just keep singing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

WC: On the Edges of the Big Leagues

A movie is being made of a short play of mine. I haven't written about it for fear of jinxing it (konohurrah, poo, poo, poo). I started working on the screenplay last year, I think, and tomorrow we are having auditions. I'm thrilled.

And among the people we are auditioning is someone I saw on Bdway in a Sondheim show. So, at least for the length of the audition, someone will be speaking my words who has sung Sondheim's. Wow.

WC: Freedom of Speech?

For two minutes of your time, you get to see a truly amazing example of just how much republicans respect the constitution: click here

I found the website's insistence on mentioning the woman's age--as though a 61-year-old was automatically a sweet innocent person who couldn't possibly be guilty of anything--to be a tad old-fashioned and condescending, but . . . oh well.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

AV: A Ladybug Picnic!

a giggle good time from my past. Maybe yours too!

Monday, July 7, 2008

HC: No Fireworks This Year

On July 1 I was in Victoria, Canada. Turns out July 1 is Canada Day! Who knew? I bet lots of people knew, but not me. We signed on for an orca watch followed by fireworks viewed from the boat out in the harbor. However...on the return trip after orca watching I've never been more nauseated in my life from the motion of the boat and the diesel fumes. I kept my head down, eyes closed, and knew if I moved my head I would just die.

I was so sick on the boat that I didn't notice that three of the other people in our party of six were also really queasy. When the boat docked, we escaped. Only the hardy non-nauseous 16-year-old boy stayed, alone, for the fireworks. As I fell into bed, not even daring to brush my teeth--after being guided from the water to the hotel by my lovely daughter, only occasionally opening my eyes and seeing my feet moving on the Canadian cement--I heard the fireworks outside my window. I'm sure they were great.

On Whidbey Island off Seattle, fireworks went on display on July 3. By the time they started, I was in bed, exhausted from a long day in Victoria, followed by an hour and a half ferry ride, an hour car ride, a 20-minute ferry ride, and another car ride.

I wasn't home to see any New York fireworks for the actual July 4 festivities. I was having a quiet, peaceful day on Whidbey with my cousins.

I didn't miss the fireworks...I was too busy visiting newly found beloved relatives, having a great time in another country, relaxing, etc.

It struck me as appropriate, too, as my patriotism at this moment is on hold. Next year I hope to be cheering the fireworks and waving my Obama flag.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

AV: Cool, huh?

I just purchased a guitar and mandolin (Together! On Sale! Only $99 from! Free shipping!) and, even though I played night and day in high school, I can't manage to tune the guitar quite right. I think it goes like *this* and then, ack, play a chord (from the chord chart I downloaded from and .... uh uh. nope.

Then, a simple google search on How To Tune A Guitar and ... viola!