Monday, March 30, 2009

Exoskeleton and Conundrums

I found this cicada exoskeleton valiantly clinging to a wall this weekend.
Apparently it's been hanging on for dear life, so to speak, all winter. Otherwise it would mean that a cicada has emerged from the ground three to four months early and molted in March. All of which are inconceivable, except in Gilder*.
Still, I wonder. I've looked at this wall quite often over the winter, MK's neighbor Carl decorates part of it for different holidays. His wreaths are really stunning and some of his floral arrangement display a lot of flare. You can see the influences that Martha Stewart has had on him, even if he does use plastic flowers from the clearance bin at Big Lots. But that's along side the point. The point is: I haven't seen this exoskeleton before, which leads me to believe that it was recently shed there.
It's timeless mysteries such as these that lead me to the wine in a box...
*Hopefully not too obscure of a Princess Bride reference

What are you thinking

I often ask MK, "What are you thinking?"
So, what are you thinking?
Right now I'm thinking about what I should be thinking.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Reacitvated Pure Evil

Across the street from MK's there is a cut stone retaining wall that supports one of the streets that goes from the south side flats to the south side slopes. The slopes provide an unrivaled view of Pittsburgh (barring a Life Flight ride on a helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital), but some, or most, of the streets are almost unnavigable in winter, being little more than narrow ice covered goat paths winding steeply up from the river valley.
Anyway, the weather has warmed up enough to facilitate the reactivation of the spiders. Peering out from its spider lair burrowed within the unsure mortar, one of its multiple eyes catches the cleansing light of the sun. Die, you evil hearted demon, die!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Teeth and Bones

Just for fun I collect animal skulls while I'm walking through the woods. This one my son Cree found, brought home, and we cleaned it up a bit. It's still mouldering around here somewheres. It's not one of my favorite skulls. Although the dentia is fine and intact, the skull itself is a wreck.
By and large MK is a very good sport when it comes to things like this, although she much prefers fossilized remains.
I can't wait until we get to Montana this summer and we have the opportunity to do some serious fossil hunting. Shout out at ya, Gypsy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Ever since my father got the horrible, really bad, extremely dire but not without a lone crumb of hope prognosis on his cancer, I've been spending a lot more time with my folks. My mom brings out these shoe boxes strewn with old unidentifiable photographs that belonged to either my grandparents or great-grandparents. On the back of this print the only clue as to who this girl was is the number '5' jotted down in pencil. Dad feels fairly confident that the picture was taken on his grandparents farm, but the No. 5 isn't his mother. I think the reason we want to know who someone is in an unmarked photo is because we want to know what became of them. As it is now, anything could be ascribed to this girl and it couldn't be verified or refuted. She could've been a romantic dreamer, a budding naturalist, a math whiz, or just some run of the mill dumb cluck. Who knows?
And, I think that is why I become lost sometimes in old photos that have such broad meaning. It could be anything. There's a story there, we just don't have the words for it.

Monday, March 23, 2009


MK and I were walking Bela along the Monongahela River. The buildings across the way are the Allegheny County jail complex. Here MK and Bela stand on one of the many canoe and kayak launches down by the riverside. Actually, riverS-side.
I love Pittsburgh, I really do, but living on the southside comes at a might steep price:
1. The drunks. Drunk people, or I should say, young drunk people, eat pizza after too many beers and shots and then puke all over the street. Or worse, puke and crap their pants, and then leave their filthy boxers on the street, next to their pile of vomitus. I hate that shit! Literally. Bela of course loves it, which is why beagles are in charge of nothing.
2. There is no parking. If the slightest thing is happening, like say the Mayor is eating a pierogi, then all of the parking on the south side disappears. Poof! Ravenstahl is eating a pierogi! God help us if he's washing it down with an Iron City.
3. There is no three. Really, #2 is my biggest beef. I hate the no parking. And it relates directly back to #1, the out of town drunks who come to the southside to enjoy one of the 10,000 bars that we have. And boy, even in this economy, do they come. In droves from the suburbs. Unlike Ohioans, who actually prefer imbibing at TGIFridays and Appleby's, Pittsburgh suburbanites like to slum it, but not really slum it, or they'd go to Homewood. They want an authentic 'bar' experience. Like maybe where a fight might break out, or they might get lucky and can have sex in their car with someone they just met outside of the Ukrainian Club on dollar draft night.
I know. My country roots are showing. We had plenty of parking out in the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Video World Demise

The local video store has gone belly up. Video World, you will be missed. When I heard the news yesterday from the owner's wife I felt like crying. For nearly twenty years these people have provided the entire community with a vast selection of movies to choose from. Loads of foreign and indie films, not just the latest blockbuster release or major studio misstep.
Farewell, my friend. So many movies I wouldn't have seen but for you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Honor from the Honorable Sen. Grassley

How crazy have things gotten in the US government with the financial crisis?
From the AP:

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley suggested that AIG executives should take a Japanese approach toward accepting responsibility for the collapse of the insurance giant by resigning or killing themselves.

The Republican lawmaker's harsh comments came during an interview with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, radio station WMT on Monday. They echo remarks he has made in the past about corporate executives and public apologies, but went further in suggesting suicide.

"I suggest, you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed," Grassley said. "But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.

"And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."

Grassley spokesman Casey Mills said the senator isn't calling for AIG executives to kill themselves, but said those who accept tax dollars and spend them on travel and bonuses do so irresponsibly.

"Senator Grassley has said for some time now that generally speaking, executives who make a mess of their companies should apologize, as Japanese executives do," Mills said. "He says the Japanese might even go so far as to commit suicide but he doesn't want U.S. executives to do that."

The senator's remarks added to a chorus of public outrage over the disclosure that AIG intends to pay its executives $165 million in bonuses after taking billions in federal bailout money. President Barack Obama lambasted the insurance giant for "recklessness and greed" on Monday and pledged to try to block payment of the bonuses.

-Personally, I think that resigning is enough, in case we want to prosecute someone down the road. Not since Oliver Cromwell has someone been dug up and executed. Plus, I don't think these guys are suicide types. Just look at Bernie Madoff. He was the cause of suicides, sure, but killing himself? No, he'll cling to whatever life he's got left to the bitter end. We live in a time of shameless greed wed to a lack of accountability.

That's all folks!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Love, love, and more love

Anyone who says that beagles aren't love sponges has never had to sit and endlessly cuddle one. Bela's emotional neediness would be unmanageable, except I grew up with beagles. So, I knew. Oh, how I knew. Between my mother and Ponder (the beagle) it was nothing but hugs and too many kisses. I think I became physically stand-offish because of those two. Not that I'm a nondemonstrative cripple or anything, just, you know, when you show how you feel and you get the sense that a ton is never even going to scratch the surface of being enough, you give it up. You smile and wave and slowly back toward where the alcohol is. Then, if you're smart, or just a smarty pants, you find the one person in the world willing to put up with your own neediness and shower them with all of the love you denied everyone else.
Yes, it's sick, but it's familiar, and that counts for a lot once you're not 20 anymore. Or pretending to be 20 either.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Angel of Death

I previously recommended the web-movie, Angel of Death, but I wanted to reiterate how this is a DO NOT MISS thing of violent beauty. Not that I love gore porn or anything, but this film embodies a well told story that unfurls like a toxic pheromone that will not be denied. Like being a hapless Japanese beetle spiraling down the slick plastic sides of a baited bug bag. That is you and there you are, in the seething cesspool of your own kind, trying to claw your way out of the brutal decay.
By the way, anytime I mention a cesspool I'm always reminded of the best quote ever:
"He's a man standing up to his neck in a cesspool and adding to its contents." -Thomas Carlyle critiquing Algernon Swinburne's poetry. No one issues an insult like the English, or, an English. It's like they stay up nights thinking them up. They might very well do that, what do I know of their lives? It can't all be Patsy and Edina careening around wildly from one disaster to the next. There has to be some thoughtful snark in there to justify the careening, right? A bit of truth sticking in the craw and galling the gallbladder, don't you think? It's hard to be them. Such a nasty burden.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Aha Moments In The Wild

MK's colleague, DB, has a birthday coming up and MK emailed me this morning to remind her to pick something up for DB while we're at Lowes this weekend.
Now, I have long insisted that certain cliches are cliches for a reason and the lesbian couple trotting off to Lowes or Home Depot nearly every weekend is one of those cliches. Rooted not only in fact, but also compulsion, we spot more lesbians per capita at a Lowes than we do at any other place that typically caters to a cross section of the populace. Now granted, a cross section that does home repair or improvements, but still. It's not like we're at Michael's buying glitter glue or ordering custom made stamps for our scrapbooking projects, where, I suspect, our gaydar would be pinged exponentially less than at a DIY big box store.
Still, it's curious, in that 'aha' way, when you are among your people, all converging at the same point on a plane, pushing an over-sized cart with one errrant wheel.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Around Pittsburgh you can't swing a roadkill groundhog and not accidentally hurl it off a bridge. No other region in the world has more bridges than what we've got. I pity the fool that lives here and suffers from gephyrophobia. Isn't it wonderful how medical science has a name for everything? It's like a cornucopia of prognosis-es for ailments that have no cure.
Here we're beneath the Liberty Bridge, linking downtown to the south hills. I took this picture with a disposable Kodak camera. Ever since I left my auxillary camera in a train station in Italy I've taken up the habit of keeping a disposable Kodak in my pocket. It comes in handy. And yes, I only shoot Kodak film. The reason? They actually answer my emails when I bitch about their products. Fuji could give a damn, and Ilford...I had a bad experience once with their paper and they're on my short shit list. Only Kodak film, paper, and I LOVE their printers!!! Plus, I only use Kodak processing, especially for the B&W Pro film. Takes forever to get back, but well worth it.
I realize that using a disposable camera is kind of cheesy, but I don't care.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ira Glass is an Asshole, Who Knew?

Because I was reading an interview with cartoonist/writer Lynda Barry I learned that Ira Glass of This American Life fame is an asshole. Would I have stumbled upon that revelation on her wikipedia page had I not been thirsting for information about female cartoonists? Totally unknown, but the odds drop precipitously. Especially given what old news this is. Still, I have fallen across the enlightenment, and now I'm not sure that I can listen to TAL without a needling suspicion of disingenuous-ness oozing from Glass like a slug on a window.
Feet of clay and all that. Still check it out via IG's wiki:

"For a time, he dated cartoonist Lynda Barry and moved to Chicago in 1989 to be with her. He called Barry his "little ghetto girl" and she does not remember the relationship fondly. Barry is quoted in a 1998 Chicago Reader article as saying of Glass, "I went out with him. It was the worst thing I ever did. When we broke up he gave me a watch and said I was boring and shallow, and I wasn't enough in the moment for him, and it was over." In the same article, Glass is quoted on his feelings about their breakup: "I was an idiot. I was in the wrong. About the breakup... About so many things with her. Anything bad she says about me I can confirm."[10] Barry has written a comic story about the relationship, entitled "Head Lice and My Worst Boyfriend," in her book One! Hundred! Demons!."

That goddamn charmer.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I have this Soviet-era FED 3 rangefinder camera, and let me tell ya, I never know what's going to come out of that thing. The film doesn't advance properly, nothing is exposed as it should's a lot like having a baby. Is this genius or just another drain on society. With luck, it'll be both!
But honestly, I have to admit that I love this camera, for no other reason than it surprises me. How much can we say that about in our lives? Beyond the sinking economy, that is.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Houses Again

MK and I are back on our endless quest of finding a house. Her mother sends her links to houses that she thinks we might we like, but are wildly out of our price range. Yes, we find the stone tudor mansion with six bedrooms and five bathrooms aethestetically pleasing, but who is going to live here? The Brady Bunch? And who is going to clean this place and keep it up? Not to mention the property taxes on a house that size. If we lived in a house like that I'd shut off 3/4s of it during the winter to save on heat, so what's the point? Space is like time, and it should be used wisely.
Here are some things that we're looking for in a house:
1. Not ugly either inside or out.
2. Really an extention of #1, but no wallpaper. I hate wallpaper more than Bush (but not as much as Cheney). The wallpaper that one person chooses is never something that anyone else would ever choose, so then you have to rip it off the walls, which is a lot of work. Work that I don't want. One house we looked at had a very nice den, that was completely ruined by the mountain scenery wallpaper. A person could go mad looking at something like that, become like that guy in The Shining.
3. A functional fireplace. A real fireplace, not one with gas logs. Gas logs are a lie.
4. A yard. Bela needs a yard. She told me this very thing one day while chewing the hem of the curtains. She said, "I would behave more admirably if I had space to romp in and exhaust my boundless energy." She's so clever for a beagle, a breed typically not known for their vast vocabulary and reasoning prowess.
5. Related to #4, a garden. Fresh produce is wonderful, FREE fresh produce is the best thing since the glide tampon applicator. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, carrots, beets. My attempts to grow silver queen sweet corn failed miserably last year after a violent thunderstorm knocked every single stalk down.
6. A basement that isn't a spider kingdom.

That's about it. We're not in a hurry to find a new place, so MK is really immersing herself in the hunt. I'm just along for the ride, and the viewings, and to look up the chimney.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Finally, Mush

I got up this morning and thought, I'm going to make some lentil soup! In the past my lentil soup has sucked, and only recently did I discover why: I added salt to the water when I cooked the lentils, thereby rendering the wee legumes tough and chewy, when they should be veritable mush. Once a friend clued me on this grievous error on my part, I again dared dream that I could make a lentil soup as delicious as the canned Giant Eagle store brand (best canned lentil soup on Earth).
The recipe I have for lentil soup calls for olive oil, but in a fit of brilliance, I opted for butter. A whole stick of butter!
Roughly, here's what I did:

Emptied an entire 16oz bag of lentils into a large pan, covered with 5C of water, simmered for two hours (I wasn't taking any chances that I wouldn't get mush)
Added 4C of beef stock
1 can of stewed tomatoes
2 stalks of celery chopped
1 medium onion diced
2 carrots finely chopped
whole stick of butter
six leaves of baby spinach chopped
salt and pepper to taste

I cooked the soup for another hour or two on very low heat, stirring it when I got up to get more coffee. Finally, the soup was served over thin spaghetti.
I don't know why, but lately my favorite comfort food is lentil soup over pasta. Maybe it's all that butter - which I even add to the canned soups, an old trick my German Grandmother used to employ. She lived to be 90, so I'm guessing that this can't be too bad, right? One more butter fact: When I was a kid my mother used to add a pat of butter to our mugs of coco. For years I was scandalized that my friends' mothers didn't do the same. I was such a sheltered fool. Little has changed in the ensuing decades.

Angel Of Death

Holy Christ. I just watched 'Angel of Death', a web series penned by comic book writer Ed Brubaker and starring Zoe Bell (Death Trap, Bitch Slap, Whip It!), among others, including Lucy Lawless. I can't recommend this series highly enough. It's NSFW, but then what fun things are? There is a shocking scene towards the end of the first episode that completely blew my mind. Completely! Unlike anything I've ever seen before, and I am nothing if not a new and novel junkie. It's so dang hard to be original, so when someone actually achieves originality, praises should be sung.
One bit of warning: If violence, blood, and gore trip you out in a bad way, I feel your pain, but watch the video anyway. :)