Tuesday, October 31, 2006

White Halloween Cats

They say black cats are a symbol of Halloween, but I believe my white cats are even scarier.

I heard on the radio this morning, that schools are afraid to sponsor Halloween events because it’s one of those things that get idle lawyers rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a Constitutional challenge. Halloween violates separation of church and state because when a public school sponsors a Halloween party, they’re sponsoring the “religion” of witchcraft. Or, is it that they’re slandering witchcraft? One of the scariest costumes I ever saw was in law school when a female professor “of a certain age” carried a battery-powered fan from Sharper Image and wore a small sign that said: “Lawyer + Menopause = Scary Lady”.

My cats aren’t quite as scary as that, but still. The big one is a toilet brush holder, with the back open and hollow. An uglier bit of home décor would be hard to find. (It was a gift, ok?) To make matters worse, I broke the head off in a cleaning frenzy years ago, and the head is now being glued back together - masking tape is holding the pieces in place until the glue dries. The middle-sized cat is a bottle of German wine found in a package store in Michigan. I knew the moment I saw the wine bottle, I had to have it. It’s like toilet-brush-holder cat was the mother of wine-bottle-cat. Reunited at last! I bought the small cat years ago, but he just seemed to make the picture complete.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Before I Sleep

Iman Mersal In Perfect Happiness

Translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa

Before I sleep
I will take the phone to bed
and talk to them about many things
to make sure they are really there,
that they have dates for the weekend,
and enough security
that makes them fear old age
and makes them sometimes lie.

I will make sure they are really there
in perfect happiness,
and that I am alone
and that the morning is possible
as long as there are new resentments.

Source: http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article.php?lab=InPerfectHappiness

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cat Lady at Home

I make dish gardens - small plantings in shallow pots that include miniature accessories. I avoid "fairy garden" stuff - including those frighteningly cute fairies - like the plague. I don't do cute: I do miniature. In fact, I generally prefer not to include "people" of any kind, preferring to leave the small landscape open to the imagination of the viewer.

But I had to use my Crazy Cat Lady (TM) action figure in one of my dish gardens. I love that she's wearing pajamas and a bathrobe. It's this attention to realistic detail that made it irresistable to include her in a small garden.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Autumn – in the Northern Hemisphere – is a season that often leads to rather melancholy contemplation of time's passage. While we celebrate the bounty of the harvest, we are mindful of the empty fields, settling down for a long winter’s nap beneath a blanket of snow.

It must have been October when Godzilla destroyed Tokyo. At any rate, it was October when a vengeful sandal-clad goddess destroyed old Ann Arbor. So here’s my illustration to evoke a not-so-graceful seasonal allegory of the cycle of life and death.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dressed to Kill

Finished the fun stuff in the Veggie Garden. Four of us worked about 3 hours together yesterday to do all the planting of our cool season veggies. Friends contributed lettuce for raised beds. The rest are from about 5 pony-pack starts and from about 3 flats of seedling I grew.

Today, I did the fun part: the other decorations. The table on the patio has been kidnapped for other duties during the festival. The hay stack from last year is tired. I has a few new and recycled decorations, plus home-grown gourds and pumpkins. G provided the large pumpkin and the pot of live mums.

I finally carved the hollow Styrofoam pumpkin for the scare crow’s head. From his sly wink and his cocked hat, he's showing that our Veggie Garden is dressed to kill this Halloween.

Working for Free

Cool season vegetables were planted yesterday in anticipation of the upcoming fall festival. We finished the irrigation, put in my seedlings of various broccoli, cabbages, khol rabi. M planted seeds for turnips, beets and carrots. The final decorating will be done today after other festival planning chores.

It was hard work for a bunch of old ladies. We work for free, but we don't work for nothing. The seed packets promise harvests in about 60 days.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Vegetable Bulbs

This is the time of year to plant onions and garlic in my climate zone.

This year, we're trying two new crops in the Veggie Garden. We selected Elephant Garlic, an organic bulb from Territorial Seed. Although this can be used for culinary purposes, the flavor is mild and unexciting. However, the big globe flower is said to be gorgeous. So we're growing this bulb as much for it's visual appeal as for its use in food. The first week of October, we planted five cloves, each slightly bigger than the entire bulb of a regular garlic.

Next, we selected a different onion, called an Egyptian Walking Onion. Also an organic bulb from Territorial Seed, this red onion sets fruit on the top, rather than the root. While we can harvest the stalks as green onions for cooking, we selected this for its visual interest. Once the bulbs set on the top, as in this picture, the stalks tend to bend over and touch the ground, where the bulbs root and begin the growing process all over agin. Hence the name "walking" onion.

Although we've seen no sign of the garlic, the red walking onion is already sprouting.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Winter is Coming In

Autumn marigolds in a Michigan backyard. A week ago, amid crisp sunny days, the flowers glowed smugly in the sunshine. That week, we harvested the last red, yellow and green peppers. We had a word with the remaining green tomatoes, reminding them that winter was on the way.

Exactly one week later, the first wet snow began falling. With predicted temperatures in the forties, it wouldn’t last, but it humbled the marigolds. That’s the marigold bed in the right rear. The flowers are still there, but they are huddling together, an altogether whiter shade of pale. The green tomatoes are unaccounted for – probably victims of a fickle Mother Nature.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ann Arbor, Michigan

On a recent trip to Ann Arbor, I encountered this “fairy door” inside a coffee shop. Apparently several years ago, a local artist started using doll house supplies to attach these small works of art on the outside of buildings (some on inside).

Some are quite elaborate, and although they don’t lead anywhere, people started pulling off the tiny door knobs in an effort to open the doors and see what was inside (nothing.) The fun comes in trying to find some of the dozens of these doors throughout the lovely town surrounding the University.

Walking around the city we also encountered this restaurant with the sign reading “Jamaican Jerk Pit,” and despite assurances from our "native guides" (University of Michigan grad students) that the term refers to the food rather than the customers, our group decided not to eat there.

The weather for the visit was perfect. During the day we had cool autumn sun: women shopping, mums blooming, leaves falling. The chilly evenings were spent sitting cozily indoors: women laughing, dog sleeping, bird pacing (that’s a strange bird.)

We enjoyed one morning at a day spa, being pampered by the well-trained staff. We tried to emulate the well-maintained other regulars who talked about how to invest their hard-working husbands' inheritences, but I doubt we fooled anybody - we were having too much fun.

As glad as I am to be back home in familiar surroundings, there’s something therapeutic about visiting with people you love. I find that I’ve brought back a wonderful peace of mind along with my souvenirs.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Crazy Wisdom

There is a bookstore/tea room in Ann Arbor called Crazy Wisdom. Therein are non-mainstream books and magazines. The other day, I got a copy of the most recent issue of the magazine "Z". This is one of the periodicals recommended by Nim Chimpsky as an antidote to the mainstream press controlled by The Man.

Later, I took the magazine to read during the local school board meeting. Or, that’s what I meant to do. The meeting however, provided me with a rare glimpse into the ordinary life of a small community.

This being leadership month (or week, or award-category du jour) there were lots of proud mommies and daddies and digital cameras to record the reading of the glowing recommendations and award-presenting, and hand-shaking. Some of the nominations actually cited leadership among the qualities possessed by the nominated students. The community newspaper reporter on scene gathered the winners for a group photo. It was gratifying to see the back story to those bumper stickers proclaiming children as good citizens. The process not only provides an opportunity for everybody to feel good, it also seems to build a sense of community that seems missing these days from a lot of places.

There were also several teenage camera operators placed strategically around the school cafeteria where the weekly public meetings are held. The entire public proceedings are broadcast on local closed circuit educational television. Other public meeting business concluded, the board convened for an executive session. The parents and children left for home

The handful of teenagers operating the recording devices began to pack up the surprising elaborate equipment. It’s a new school year, and these kids are taking some broadcasting technical courses. Their teacher informally guided them in how to pack, load and transport their equipment back to the studio. “Let’s get this stuff back and tomorrow we can start the editing process. We’ll show them what we can do”.

I was trying to be inconspicuous, burying my face in the magazine. reading my anarchist magazine. But I was listening intently to the casual conversations of these high school students. As they packed up, stacked up, and carried the TV equipment back to the lab, they were talking to each other. The kids were not all getting along, but they were in the process of learning how. I overheard part of a conversation between two boys.

“Your definition of racism is broader than mine. Every time I say something you disagree with, you call me a racist”.

“It’s not that I object to what you’re saying. It’s that you can’t seem to voice an opinion without being rude or confrontational. Everything we don’t agree on doesn’t have to turn into a nasty argument”.

I went to the meeting expecting to be entertained. In contrast to my low expectations of local politics, I came away thinking maybe we’re not doomed after all. Crazy wisdom for these worrisome times.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crazy Like a Fox

This is my crazy cat lady action figure (TM). As most sane people know, cats do not have souls. They do, however, have superpowers, and only use those powers for good.

My sisters do not have superpowers, and they might not use them for good if they did. So, it's probably for the best.

Good day shopping, eating, gossiping and generally enjoying the company of kindred souls. Honorary crazy cat ladies all. Visiting with family refreshes the soul.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Out of Office

Ok, not really out of the office....

I'll be out of town next week. Then returning for a feverish week of preparations for the fall festival. Hope to have some nice pictures then.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

brief, dreamy, kind delight

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

William Butler Yates,
Never Give All the Heart

Monday, October 02, 2006

No, thank YOU!

Not only in Jordan are there amusing signs.Sometimes, Americans too have a sense of humor.

This sign is in the women's restroom in a large professional office complex in Mission Valley. The building houses accounting firms, tax preperation services and our financial advisor. The sign has, I presume, been carefully modified. It's been there for some time, so there seems to be an understanding that it will not be further modified.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Troubles of Human Life

The emblem here is from Alciato's Book of Emblems, Emblem 152 at: http://www.mun.ca/alciato/e152.html
The Latin name of the emblem is “In vitam humanam” or “On human life”.
The interpretation of the text is: “Weep for the troubles of human life now more than usual, Heraclitus: it overflows with many calamities. You, on the other hand, Democritus, laugh even more, if ever you laughed: life has become more ridiculous. Meanwhile, seeing these things, I wonder: how far in the end, Heraclitus, I may weep with you, or how, Democritus, I may joke merrily with you.”

Last night I watched the film clip “Manufactured Consent” a 1996 documentary of Noam Chomsky talking about how the media tends to tell us what it wants us to know and to distract us from what government doesn’t want us to know

This morning, I read a news item in Haaretz about four people arrested in Oslo, Norway and accused in “an alleged plot to decapitate the Israeli ambassador to Oslo and blow up the Israeli and American embassies in the city”.

“The evidence against the suspects was revealed in the course of extending the suspects' remand….”

What a creative use of passive voice, delicately sidestepping such nasty details about who did what to whom. Apparently, after the people were arrested, they were invited to spend the night (extending their remand) and at some point, possibly over tea and cookies, the information about the alleged bomb plot “was revealed”. Maybe they were playing Scrabble and “beheading” made a triple word score, and they got to chatting, and the next thing you know, one of the players blurted something about a bombing and beheading plot. Ooops!

Seeing these things, I wonder how much longer we can laugh to keep from crying. Our news is relayed through words tortured of cruel meaning, so we can all look away. The clown Democritus might laugh, but it’s enough to make Heraclitus cry. Life’s calamities are made to look like a sleep-over.

If you want, you can read it and weep yourself: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/766295.html