Friday, May 29, 2009

More Free Fruit

Niagara grape vines, a sweet white table grape. Not really suitable for wine, though people make it. A seedy grape with a tough skin, you suck the meat of the fruit out and then strain the seeds out between your teeth. It's a pain, but worth it. Then Bela eats the cast off skins. No wonder she has to go out fifty times a day come fall.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Completely ridiculous name for a town, and why I love it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Birthday Wishes

This is sort of a crappy old picture, but it's the only I could find (quickly) of my mother. Here she is with my kids at a special matinee program presented by the Pittsburgh Symphony probably eleven or twelve years ago.
Anyway, today is my mom's 70th birthday, and even though she's not online and will never know that this is out there on the internet tubes, Happy Birthday, Mom!
She was the best mother that a kid could hope for. Smart, compassionate, loving, a great cook and better baker, she could ride a horse and shoot a gun too. She was always up to any challenge and the year she almost burned the house down roasting a wild goose is testament to same.
My sister and I used to call her the Italian Tornado :D The littlest woman but a force to be reckoned with if crossed. She's not so fierce now, but then we're all responsible for our own sorry asses and she doesn't have to chase us down with a fly swatter to punctuate anything anymore.

Finding Free Fruit

The peach tree on the backside of the parking area at MK's has fruit forming! You know my mantra: The only thing better than cheap is free. Last summer I picked bags and bags of peaches from this tree and Cree ate so many that he made himself sick. I look forward to doing the same this year as well with a similar outcome.
Down the alley there's a Damson plum tree and I picked those last summer too. Then, along the river there's an endless stand of Mulberry trees. Bela and I stood under them last summer eating berries until our mouths were stained purple.
I am relentless in my foraging! It's how I found the clutch of lemon balm growing under some mutant jumble of a once shrub-like growth. It's also how I discovered some lovage growing wild, which I initially thought was some sort of wild celery because of how it smelled and its deeply ribbed stalks, but no.
If civilization collapses we'll at least eat, and probably have really crappy homemade wine to wash it all down with.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Time is a lot like this. Just when you think you've got yourself in the moment... You realize that you're just not using fast enough film, or a tripod, at night.

Bittersweet Nightshade

Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) is a xenospecies native to Europe and Asia and invasive everywhere around here. It kind of creeps me out, primarily because all parts of the plant are poisonous. Often this plant is misidentified as Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), which is found in Europe, North Africa and Western Asia and is even more poisonous.
The thing is, when you're out foraging in the wild identifying stuff for possible consumption you have to separate the edible from the plants that'll kill you. That's like, rule #1. Night Shade is pretty easy to pinpoint and avoid for the salad bowl, stew pot, or tea ball.
Not to entirely demonize Bittersweet Nightshade, there are also purported medicinal benefits associated with the plant. All are external applications, and not particularly substantiated by studies. I'm not endorsing any use of this plant and continue to cringe a little inside every time I see it pushing up through something innocuous like a bramble of blackberries or a hedge row.

Beagle Update

Bela, our beagle, is doing really well. Too well, in fact. The vet put her on a diet. It's a battle of wills now. The first week Bela sort of went along with less dog food and no table scraps, but now she's fighting back, scavenging high and (mostly) low for any crumb that could even remotely be construed as edible.
Things she's eaten: Sidewalk chalk, the paper wrapping off a cheeseburger, the corner of a towel, dead baby birds, cat poop. There's more, but those are the highlights.
I'll be honest, it's my fault that she's fat. She sits with me in the kitchen when I'm cooking and I throw her all kinds of stuff. Chicken skin, pasta, pieces of cheese. Sometimes I fry her up an egg. But no more! Of the 10 pounds that she has to lose she's lost 2. Not bad for one week, but it's been hell. She bit me last night when MK and I took away a snack that she'd ferretted out of MK's niece's school backpack.
The vet said to give her 'filler' snacks, like carrots, green beans and canned pumpkin. She only chainsaws carrots, leaving an orange mess on the floor, she'll eat low sodium canned green beans but not fresh or frozen, and the pumpkin has to be room temp or she won't touch it. Only the green beans seem to her to actually be a treat, the rest...well, she's not a happy camper. She won't break me though. Sigh.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What You're Not Watching, But Should

The NBC replacement show for ER this midseason was Southland. For some reason I'm really into this show. Maybe it's because I can catch up with it easily on hulu, the best thing since the microwave oven.
I just finished watching the latest episode, "Derailed" and Regina King as Detective Lydia Adams literally made me sweat. Entrusted to protect a teenage witness set to testify against a drug cartel, Adams takes on the men sent to kill them in her home. The extreme realism and claustrophobic atmosphere as they were being stalked in the house drew me immediately in.
And, are you looking for a hero? The real kind? Then King's Adams is your woman. She clearly sends out a warning of intent when she chambers the first shot gun shell, and then blasts the first intruder trapped in the stairway. She kills another just as he's prepared to shoot the witness. Effectively that chases off the other three guys.
All I can say is those two minutes were so tense that they over shadowed almost everything else that happened in the show. Almost, because the last scene encapsulated a tragedy that has become all too common in an economy turned to ashes.
If you need an excuse to give this show a shot, let it be Regina King. This is not the first episode that her character has stepped up and done the extrodinary, and it's not just the character, it's how King moves through her. It's not to be missed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Birthday Presents

MK's oldest sister has a birthday right around the corner and MK asked me to make a print for Sue's new gameroom. This is it, or mostly it. It's a shot I took of a stained glass window in Vilnius, Lithuania. This doesn't really capture exactly how vibrant the colors are in the print, but it's good enough.
The print's pretty big, 11x14, and in the margin I included a Lewis Carrol quote from 'Alice in Wonderland': Begin at the beginning and keep going till you reach the end; then stop.
Any thoughts?

Don't Stop Believin' Won't Stop

Two eternal nights ago I watched the premier of Glee, the new fall Fox show that was in the Fringe Tuesday night slot. The show was ok. I didn't hate it, but I don't feel compelled to look forward to it either. Let's put it this way: If I was passing the show on the street I wouldn't say either: Hey, how ya doin'! or buzz off.
The thing is, ever since Tuesday night I've had that awful Journey song, 'Don't Stop Believin' stuck in my head because of the song and dance at the end of Glee. It's driving me crazy! The more I try not to have it in my head the more it's there. It's like hiccups, only different and worse. I think that I may have to avoid this show from now on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How I Spent My Evening

Bela found a crow's head and I've had it staked out on an ant mound in the yard for a couple of weeks. Those ants work slow, let me tell ya. They've cleaned a bit of the crud out, mostly the brains, but a lot of skanky ass shit is still hanging on.
So, I got out my science pan (the pan I use for noncooking related potential bio hazards) and boiled that puppy right up. It's cooling now so that I can finish cleaning it up.
Do you know how difficult it is to find a bird skull in the wild? They don't last long when left to the elements. A paper thin skeletal structure can be like that.
For the curious: I'm not morbid, I just love comparative anatomy. Paleontology would be nowhere without it!

Not A Painter

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait. Awhile back someone asked me what initially drew me to photography. I'm terrible at answering questions that demand real answers and not some idiotic or glib response. In fact, I would say that I provide an entirely unreliable narrative to almost everything about my life.
But, and as far as I can reckon this is the truth about why I am a photographer, it's because I cannot paint. I can't draw at all.
I was exposed to drawing and painting at a young age because my mother is an artist. She would sketch endlessly on pads, often of us kids. She tried to nurture in each of us anything even remotely artistic.
Despite her efforts, my hand remained clumsy. I could see in my mind what I wanted to create, achieve, but I could not get it from my head to the paper. The disconnect proved simply too vast between conception and execution. Eventually I quit and picked up my trusty secondhand kodak. Then when something caught my eye, my brain could snatch it before my hand could somehow ruin it. Works for me.
I started thinking of all this while staring at this self portrait of Gentileschi. I like the perspective of it, not just the angle but the action. Plus I couldn't help but notice that she gave herself absolutely no cleavage with that plunging neckline.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oh Noes!

Just yesterday I was feeling a little smug because I've been able to avoid jury duty for almost thirty years. Well, that must've roused the karmic arm of the mysterious universe because today in the mail guessed it, a notice for jury duty. They don't want me! #5 on the questionaire (Do you have any mental disability that would interfer with or prevent you from serving as a juror? Include medical verification.) illustrates just exactly how much they should not want me. I don't have anything that's been diagnosed, but I must have something. Everybody has something wrong with them, it's a mad, mad, mad, mad world, afterall.
Damn my apparent sanity.
Anyone know what jury duty pays now? The last time I checked it was about 7 bucks a day and 10 cents a mile.
Hopefully there will be something hinky about my answers and they won't pick me. Maybe if I fill out the form in crayon...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pittsburgh Passion Game 4

May 16, 2009
Pittsburgh Passion v. NY Nemesis
Wexford, PA
Look at that sky. Look at it! We're lucky a tornado didn't touch down and whisk us all off to somewheres we can't want to be.
We were a tad late getting to the game because we invited MK's parents to attend with us and when we showed up at their house the Preakness was just getting ready to go off and we were all rooting for Rachel Alexandra, so we couldn't miss that. Then her parents ate a very leisurely supper.
Anyway, we got to the game just as the Passion scored their first touchdown and we were walking in right at the moment that they missed the extra point. I kept checking over my shoulder to the west because the sky was a massive heap of fast approaching doom. Sure enough, the second we sat down the heavy downpour unleashed. MK and I sat huddled under a borrowed rain poncho struggling to keep our camera equipment dry while her parents crammed themselves under a single umbrella.
Then, the lightning started. The PA announcer informed us that we would have to vacate the stadium as we're all sitting on metal bleachers. I haven't felt this much like a target since co-ed dodgeball in high school.
When we exited the score was Passion 6, Nemesis 0. I honestly can't tell you one damn thing about this game apart from the final score: Passion 41, Nemesis 0, giving the Passion a 3-1 record thus far this season. Sadly we couldn't stick around because we were literally soaked to the bone. My waterproof boots were soaked through! MK's dad could barely keep his pants up, they were so water heavy.
Lastly, MK's mom entreated us to come home with them and let her run our clothes through the dryer. I was able to nix that idea when I confessed that I wasn't wearing 'accident' underwear. You know, good underwear in case you're in an accident. I couldn't walk around in those panties I had on that night, the waistband was hanging on by sheer will. Don't ask me why I'll hold on to ratty skivvies, I just do. I keep thinking: I can get one more day out of these.
Next up for the Passion: At the Detroit Demolition. The Demolition are legendary in the IWFL, and their coach has coaxed back a couple of players who had retired to raise their level of play. I don't expect that we'll walk over them like we did in week (Passion 29, Demolition 6).

Random Old Photo

Gotta love those old grainy black & white pictures. I think this was taken in Florida by my grandmother, probably in the 1940s. Although, I can't be certain. This is why it's important to catalog and identify even simple snapshots. I should take my own advise because I have an enormous inventory of photographs with only a small portion of it properly labeled. I'l try to remedy that before the inevitable dementia sets in.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Al Mercur's Nut House

Apparently I've been spending more time with my parents as I've got even more old photos now. As indicated on the print, this was taken at Al Mercur's Nut House, probably sometime between 1937-1942. I have no idea where the Nut House was located (google turned up nada), possibly in the Beaver Valley of western PA, because those are my father's parents seated in the bottom right hand corner of the photograph and those were their stomping grounds.
Good to know that it wasn't always bitterness and acrimony between those two before their divorce.
But anyway, old photos offer such a unique window into a time and place that we can barely even dream of. The first time I was really struck by that thought was while looking at some of Mathew Brady's work of the carnage at Gettysburg. I couldn't let go of the thought that once this was reality. That a man stood there with a camera and plucked these scenes from the world and preserved them in a way that a drawing or a painting could never achieve. Photography doesn't echo us, it is us.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Fringe ended it's freshman season last night and I'm still reeling from all of the revelations. The final episode, "There's More Than One of Everything", does more than peek through the window pane at an alternate reality, it throws up the sash for all to feel the breeze. Funny thing is, the sash is spring-loaded and when it snaps shut again, anything caught in the nexus becomes parsed, as in parcelled, in two worlds. Dead, cleaved in twain, guillotined by the closing portal. Thrilling stuff, from a safe distance.
With the return of a bandage swathed David Robert Jones, and the shooting of Nina Sharp, Massive Dynamic has no choice but to work with Agent Dunham and the FBI to thwart Jones' attempts to cross-over to the neighboring alternate reality and confront William Bell. Jones was let go from Massive Dynamic, and interestingly when Dunham asks why, Sharp brushes the query aside with, 'Details are not important.' Oh, c'mon now, everyone knows that both God and the Devil are in the details. She should've just said, 'Don't question me!', which what she really meant.
The FBI tracks down the porous point where Jones will ininiate a cross-over, and with not only the FBI there to stop him, but Walter and Peter weilding the 'plug' for the portal, Jones meets a fate straight out of 13 Ghosts.
Then something happens that has been hinted at all year. Walter has told Peter over and over again how very sick he'd been as a young boy, how worried Walter had been about him. While looking for the portal plug he admits to Peter that 'something was lost to me here' without saying what...Then after the demise of Jones we see Walter standing before a grave, Peter Bishop 1978-1985. Peter is otherworld Peter! Walter passed through himself to steal another Peter! Holy cow and then some.
But there was promised for stopping Jones, Nina Sharp delivered Agent Dunham to Willaim Bell. While in an elevator Dunham crossed-over, was taken to Bell's the World Trade Center! Double Holy Cow and then some! And that's how it ended.
Whatever direction this show takes next year when it resumes, I will so be there.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Birthday Part 2

Here's the birthday girl taking a break on one of the large boulders that litter the Slippery Rock Gorge.

Happy Birthday!

Today is MK's birthday! To celebrate I will make her favorite dinner, baked macaroni and cheese, served with whatever red wine is on sale, and I will present her with a thoughtful gift that hopefully she likes. What more can anyone ask for? Oh yeah, foot rubs :)
To kick off the specialness of the day, a little poem* I wrote for her:
Slippery Slope at Slippery Rock

Standing in the sunlight streaming
wondering if I might be dreaming
fishes swam up through the channel
your shoulders draped in plaid and flannel
you are the one, I knew it then
saw it sure as a nesting wren

*Clearly I am no poet, but I never let that stop me ;) We hiked early on during our courtship at the Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. The path was narrow and we had to walk single file, and the creek was thunderous at times so we couldn't talk much. Staring at the back of her head and shoulders, left to the fertile plains of my own thinking, I began to fall in love. Best hike of my life!
Happy birthday MK! I love you like how a cat lady loves 100 cats!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Walking in Pittsburgh

Following my horse theme of the day: MK and I were walking the dog and discovered a disturbing, and disemboweled, stuffed horse in a tree. A large stuffed horse, a child's toy, or not, tossed up in a tree where it hung like a pall. Another passerby stopped and asked us if it was real. Depending on what you mean by 'real', then yes, or no. It's not Flicka up there because Flicka weighs 1200 pounds, but it is a Flicka dummy with its innards showing.
It was disappeared by the next day.

Big Girl

The Preakness will have a filly in the field this Saturday. Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Kentucky Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths, will race against the big boys and I can't wait! A filly in the field always makes a race just that much more thrilling, especially if she wins. When Rags to Riches took the Belmont Stakes two years ago I literally was so excited that I ran circles around the diningroom table trying to calm myself down.
Still, despite the promise of glory, I can't help but think of Eight Bells, the filly that broke down at the end of the Kentucky Derby last year and was euthanized right on the track. An unfortunate flashback to the fate of Ruffian in 1975. There's long been the argument that fillies can't run with the colts, but statistically more colts have to be destroyed than fillies (Barbaro, anyone?), so it's not a question of sex but the issue of training methods and the physicality of the thoroughbred horse. The stress placed on their matchstick thin metacarpus is literally crushing, often shattering their cannon bone and/or fetlock. These injuries pay no heed to whether or not the horse is male or female, there is no dimorphic anatomical weakness inherent to a female horse. That argument is nothing more than anthropomorphic sexism.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Being One On Mother's Day

Mother's Day is almost over and man, am I ever glad. My mom used to call it 'black sunday' because she never got the appreciation she sought when we were kids.
As for myself, being a mother, I've lowered my expectations and they have always been exceeded! Actually, I never cease to be amazed that I have children, that I am a mother. This was never the road I saw for myself when I was young. I *knew* in an inherent way that I would have children, but I never sought this family ideal of marriage and children and being a MOTHER.
I can't say what any of this means, but I do know what I love most in this world are my kids and MK. Shamelessly I have tears in my eyes as I type this because I feel as if in the last half of my life I finally got it right, found what I sought, show love the way I should, and everyone seems ok with it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Terminal Velocity

I'm not very political. This is not to say that I don't vote, because I do, or that I don't hold strong opinions and convictions, because I do that too. But I don't blog about politics because there are those who do a much better job of it than I ever could. My two personal favorites are pamshouseblend and crooksandliars. When do these people sleep? They seem to cover every aspect of everything 24/7. I marvel at the wealth of content, pertinent content, that these two sites generate daily.
I'd have a nervous breakdown, but that's just me.
Still, I've been watching the implosion of the Republican party with more than a little interest. How has this party fallen so far so fast? The laws of physics dictates that at some point you achieve a maximum terminal velocity, depending on resistence and the object itself and how it is positioned. A skydiver jumping out of plane spread eagle travels at approximately 120mph, while a head first jumper will exceed 200mph. I'm guessing that the Republicans have taken a header. If they're in a form fitting body suit and are bloated on their own crapulence, then they're descending at an even higher rate of speed.
I'm sure this analogy means nothing to the Republican party as they've been attacking any sort of science for years, decades even. But yep, can't deny that those old boys have taken a header off Oceanic Flight 814.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

To Have Faith

Over the past several months, traceable to the "Time of Your Life" arc in the Season 8 Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic, I've become convinced that Faith needs her own book. We've had precious little to sate our thirst for the disgraced slayer; last month's one-off stand alone "Safe", and the series early (issues 6-9) and brilliant arc "No Future For You". It occurs to me that Faith has a lot of untold stories, while Buffy's story has become tired. Worse, the Buffy comic has now introduced that the world in general is fully aware of vampires and slayers. Of course everyone thinks the vamps are cool and the slayers a bunch of senseless kill joys, but that's the least of the problems with this storyline. One of the great things about BtVS, the show, was that the slayers and the vamps and demons were all covert, with the public largely blissfully ignorant. Occasionally someone, say, Joyce, would comment on how many people died in Sunnydale of 'neck trauma', which just added to the fun. Why they, Whedon and Co., would choose to remove this from the Buffyverse and 'out' both vamps and slayers is a mystery to me, and not working all that well from my perspective. The current loose arc, "Predator and Prey", isn't as horrid as the Fray crossover "Time of Your Life" but it's damn close. The portrayal of Harmony is spot on, but it's Harmony we're talking about here. Not a deep well to plumb, more like a one trick pony drinking from a mud puddle. I can't help but think that it's all senseless, directionless, just plain old less.
I won't be giving up the Buffy Season 8 comic anytime soon, but I no longer circle the release date on the calendar and plan my day around stopping at New Dimensions Comics. I would go back to doing those things if Faith had her own book. Faith and Giles toiling in anonymity, righting wrongs, fighting the good fight. Faith seeking atonement for her past evil self, always a bit haunted by her dark side. See how gloriously problematic her character is? She's the hero that I can relate to. She seems more real. While Buffy, I dare say, has become a caricature, if not dangerously close to a Mary Sue. And where's Twilight? Season 8's supposed Big Bad. Where's he hiding? Didn't Buffy used to take the fight, sometimes foolishly, to the baddie?
I don't know what's happened, but season 8 meanders more than a run through a hollow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not This Year

Well, I did it again. I missed the chance to sample fiddlehead ferns before they opened up. A clutch of them grow at the west corner of the porch and ever since I found out that they're edible I've wanted to try them steamed with a little butter and salt and pepper. I started watching them a month ago, but not much was happening. Then I got my period last week and forgot about everything. When I checked on the fiddleheads on Sunday they were all opened, rendering them bitter and considered inedible.
Dang! They're supposed to be delicious and a delicacy. It just figures. Now I have to wait until next year.


I saw something today I haven't seen in a long time. Someone smoking while pumping gas. This is not her. In fact, this is a man. At the Valero station on Main Street in Zelienople an old woman was filling up her Buick at $2.09/gallon with a butt dangling between her fire engine red lips. I had to look at her twice to make sure. She's either an idiot or a rebel. Let's assume that she's a rebel, and no little sticker on the side of the pump with a red line drawn across a smoldering cigarette is going to tell her what to do. No sirree. I wonder if she smokes in the bank and the library. At church and in hospitals, in line at the Post Office, picking up a slice of pizza at Monte Cellos. She lights up where she damn well pleases! Rules be damned! She'll set the world on fire!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Edward Burne-Jones and Butts

The only pre-Raphaelite artist that I gravitate toward is Edward Burne-Jones. His work is lovely, fun, disturbing, and vivid. But what I also notice about much of his work is that his female nudes are slim-hipped. Purportedly his mistress, Maria Zambaco, served as his muse and model, so that's her ass we're staring at here. Quite nice, but I prefer a girl with more happening on the back end of eternity. In fact, I would dare say that I am an ass woman (if not simply an ass). It's the thing that registers with me. Sure, I look in someone's eyes, notice their hair and all of that stuff too, but wow, the butt really sets my mind on a one way track to gutterville. MK can attest to this, which is why I always let her walk in front of me.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Portrait, Self

For an upcoming exhibit I was tasked with producing a self portrait.