Thursday, July 31, 2008

In case you ever doubted it...

After reading this sweet little article, how can anyone deny that our love of books holds us all together?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.

{image from the "dirt divas" article (the oregonian)}
THE DIRT: Farming ladies are currently the toast of the town, both locally and nationally. I end up reading about their adventures everywhere. Rather then regurgitate why these women rock, and dominate fields with rocks, I'll just point out some of the current pieces out there. So put down that awesome organic peach you're eating, and thank them, because they probably grew it for you. Eat it! Read it!

"Dirt Divas: Meet the new farming faces in Oregon," MIX: Portland's Magazine of Food and Drink. {in the new AUG/SEPT issue, not up on the website as of 7/30}
Would you believe it? She used to do communications for Nike. Well, maybe not, but this farmer left urban Portland, noisy happy hours and all its loveliness for the simple life, and she's blogging about it. The real simple life, not the one starring Paris Hilton.
Eat.Drink.Better blogs on women farmers and why their population is swelling. The Oregonian does, too.
The New York Times Magazine did a photo spread (not a fashion photo spread, mind you. That would have been totally retro journalism) on women farmers of New England. This other article, from 2005, is dated but has good info and hints toward's the femme de farming phenomenon.

And, as always, I must betray my women's studies training and remind you all that we'll be truly equal when the job title is just "farmer" and not a "woman farmer". They're not freak shows in a circus act, people! As one dainty lady farmer notes: "Women farmers aren't a special-interest group," she said. "Our issues are the same as all American farmers - we all want to keep our farms, and we have to make money from them. But women have come up with a lot of the new ways of doing it."

Graphic designers make the best ______.

Three nights ago I rented Helventica (2007), a documentary on - you guessed it, the Helventica font that is the default type on Macs everywhere. Including this one. Now, I'm lazy. But I'm also, in theory, creative. So I rented it (look at me, I thought to myself, I'm so artistically sensitive, renting a movie on something so diminutive. I can't believe there are thugs who aren't interested in learning where their type was born, who the forefathers of Helvetica were, how they slaved in their little Swiss sweatshops until they got that "A" just right.) I thought this, and then did everything possible to put off watching Helvetica for three days. Gossip Girl, America's Next Top Model, even an episode of a reality show that I can only hope wasn't called "I'm Fifteen and Knocked Up" all beat out Helvetica. Last night the due date for the movie was imminent, so I sighed and resigned myself to being an "intellectual" for a few hours (or at least winning back a few of the braincells I lost with Gossip Girl).

Here are some quotes from prominent graphic designers featured in the movie, about how the presentation of something (in this case, the type) affects the message. These quotes, sometimes contradictory, could easily be applied the the creative process in general, and writing specifically. Stay sharp!

-> In a sense [typography] is like music; it's not the notes it's the space you put between the notes that make it music.

-> The meaning is in the content of the text, not of the typeface.

-> The way something is presented will affect how you react to it.

-> Don't confuse legibility with communication.

was ok. It was cute to see the graphic designers get all huffy and excited about the influence and dominance of Helvetica. Clearly, they'd thought about this A LOT. It's like seeing Nascar fans meet Carl Edwards, or tweens and Miley Citrus. You're not quite sure what's going on in their heads, but you're happy they're happy.

Review in the New York Times, here.

Helvetica trailer:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bowl Full of Cherries?

Mind the Pits.

For three years I've lived in a shared house on Belmont nicknamed Mouse House (mostly a sentimental title). Today Mouse House picked a new roommate. How this will end is anyone’s guess, but last night a non-resident remarked on the funny roommate stories that have come out of Mouse House in the last few years. Other friends have suggested that "if I didn't know you I'd think you were exaggerating." I wish. Not-quite-funny-to-me-yet are the following housemates. Some highlights:

A) The roommate who screamed when I cleaned and slammed doors so heavily that the house shook to its core. It’s rumored she even showered noisily. She blamed it on her spatial sensory disability. She wore giant owl-eyed sunglasses when it rained (due to her hipster fashion, not spatial, disability). Twenty-four years old, her parents still drove 30 minutes to picked her up and drive her to work each day. Now in an MFA program at an undisclosed location.

B) The hippie 23-year-old roommate-turned-lesbian, J-. Adopted – er, I mean dated – a homeless jobless 40+ year old butch named Y- who moved in (uninvited) with her unstable pit bull Athena (yup, after the Goddess of Wisdom). They enjoyed loud sex (J & Y, that is). Often while I was in the kitchen making dinner. As for the things we could expect at 3 A.M.: Marathon sessions of Zena: Warrior Princess and/or Wicca drumming circles and/or more loud sex.

Ah, well. Wish us luck with this one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall


Bailey gets a bit freaked out when she sees herself in a mirror. She barks, and seems to wonder whether her image is a friend or foe. She wags her tail and MirrorBailey wags her tail back. But until she gets distracted by a slipper or the new deposit in the kitchen garbage can, she's visibly on edge. Today's New York Times science section had a fascinating article on the use of mirrors in science to learn about human and animal behavior. Responses to your literal self-image - when you're staring back at yourself in a mirror - show, in short, what a tool you are. Or I am (I'm not thinking the article wasn't talking to me too). The real ego-bruiser was the study that suggested people were quicker to identify themselves in a crowd of similar-looking photos only if the photo of them was enhanced to be more attractive looking. Oh, sexy? There I am! The news wasn't much better for Bailey, if she stops sniffing other dogs' behinds long enough to care: it suggested that only animals with very "sophisticated social lives" readily identify themselves in a mirror.

UPDATE: For a less PG-rated account of Bailey's social life, click here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thing From Another World

I was going to remark on the lovely cauliflower I came across at a farmer's market in southeast Portland last Thursday, but found the topic pretty unsexy. So I googled "scary cauliflower," trying to give my culinary report an interesting National Enquirer tabloid edge. Surprisingly, I couldn't dig up much more than this clip from an old 1950's cult film. So, for you dear reader, a before-its-time film that hints at the sinister potential of bioengineered produce and a recipe that celebrates those pretty (and reassuringly organic) little purple, yellow and snowy white heads of cauliflower from your local farmer's market that are just happy being a delicious dinner ingredient...

curried cauliflower and peas
(from deborah madison's vegetarian cooking for everyone)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. toasted ground cumin*
1/4 tsp. asafetida*
1/4 cup peeled and finely diced ginger
4 tsp. toasted ground coriander*
1 tsp. ground mild red chile or 1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. turmeric*
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 large cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces, including the stems
1/2 lb. sugar snap peas, strings removed
2 tsp. ground amchoor (green mango) powder*
1 tsp. garam masala*
*Or, be lazy as I am and use premixed curry powder

In a wide pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and asafetida and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the ginger, coriander, chile, and turmeric and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the onion, lower the heat, and cook until limp, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Next add the cauliflower and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Mix everything together, then pour in 1/2 cup water, cover the pot, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about ten minutes. Add the peas and cook for a few minutes more, until they're bright green. Add the amchoor powder and garam masala, stir together, taste for salt, and serve.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Dinner That Did Not Happen

My kitchen, 7:35 pm yesterday.
"Dictionaries are always fun, but not always reassuring."
M.F.K. Fisher

Last night I promised to make my house guest (who eats like a bird) dinner. She provided the cold beer and post-dinner cookie dough in return. I was determined to make it something that would cause her to fall all over herself when she tasted it, something that would contrast with the uninspired, delicate portions of lettuce leaves and hummus she eats now, offending my need to play Martha Stewart to a receptive guest. I also needed to be reassured that the vivacious eater I knew in college was still there somewhere: the girl who once sat and consumed an entire plate full of bacon during weekend brunch at college. (Note to perspective college students: consider a women's college if you want to eat a giant plate of bacon for breakfast without having to explain yourself or look unfeminine.)

Thus determined, I purchased 3 artichokes at a quarter apiece at the farmer's market on Sunday, intent on making a grilled artichoke, capers and shrimp linguine. That I had never actually held an artichoke in my life? Inconsequential! I pulled up the Epicurious recipe on my MacBook and flipped open my copy of The Produce Bible to "A" for Artichokes and proceeded. I skipped the first part, about the history of the beast, and proceeded to the cheerleader-like instructions:

"Casual cooks tend to shy away from preparing raw artichokes, but the process is quite straight forward, even if it takes a little extra time to prepare."

Time? No problem!

Twenty minutes later, up to my elbows in gnawed bits of stem and stalk (our house is a humble one, and knives don't cut so much as gnaw at their targets, the fanciest being ones our parents purchased for us in pity, or plastic-handled knives from the 15-piece knife collection I got at Kmart for $15.99, knife block included). Note to self: Get a decent knife. Or a gun.

I decided to take a break and read the history bit of "A" is for Artichokes that I had originally skipped over. Hmm. With grave seriousness, the article suggested I should never confuse the Globe artichoke with the Jerusalem artichoke, because one isn't even an artichoke. It suggested that some varieties of artichoke are fairly impossible to cook and are only good for extracting the heart. Taking inventory of the artichoke plumage surrounding me, I suspected I had my hands on that variety now.

And, dear God! How did I not realize these beasts are some kind of primitive, un-bloomed dinosaur flower? And why would I want to have something so creepy for dinner? As my bloodied fingers and dull knives worked to pull bits of the flowery fuzz out of the middle ("The choke" the article suggested, "can be removed with a teaspoon." Or gun.) I considered all the warning signs I had blindly ignored to get to this point: picking a cheerless, leathery, scaled ball of a vegetable (what costs a quarter these days?), thinking it would cook down to something soft and tasty with a little TLC...that the culinary vocabulary used to describe the beast are "heart" and "choke" and, now, may I suggest, gun.

Anyway, the cookie dough was tasty.


Out on the streets of Portland you're bound to find the beautiful and unusual (sometimes packaged together, sometimes not).  I hit the Mississippi Street Fair in North Portland with my sister on Saturday and - despite it being in the high nineties - we lingered for quite a while, only stopping to refresh ourselves with thyme iced tea at Fresh Pot. Here's a recap of the sights, if you missed them:

Street fair goers cooling their heels under the facade of the D.I.Y.'ers dream, 

The bumble-bee was really rocking out.

Mississippi was packed. 
A big crowd favorite was the guy trying to work his way out of a toilet seat.

There were lots of fancy booths devoted to keeping Man's Best Friend cool, but my favorite was the simple dish outside one of Mississippi's gardening shops. 

The end.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Limited Edition: Eden from Sweden

I promise that this post will not turn into a sappy love letter to Portland. That said, I - who loves arts and crafts, and carving my signature into anything I can - am in love with the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC). I finally hit the new members orientation tonight, after three years of empty promises to myself that I would go. After taking Introduction to Letterpress at the Oregon College of Art and Craft last fall (where professional graphic artists envied my writing skilled and pitied my spacial sensibilities) , I knew I had to get my hands on more pretty. Of course I love the written word, but something about making it aesthetically pleasing - oh, my. I've got the rest of my summer plotted out: Print Gocco Basics, followed up with Intro to Hot Stamped Foil and...oh, MAYBE the 3-day print camp that covers letterpress, print gocco, mimeograph, relief printing, paper making and bookbinding. Could anything be more heavenly?

Flashy communication options for the proletariat at the IPRC, above the equally lovely indie store Reading Frenzy...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Salmon and Solstice, Oh My!

Seward, Alaska

Brooklyn and NoCal contemplate the Alaskan yurt lifestyle...

Exit Glacier, outside Seward

A little over a week ago, I traveled to Alaska for the first time. A good friend from college was getting married to, we all agree on this point, the perfect guy. The wedding was one-of-a-kind, looking out over the soaring mountains, and because it was on the summer solstice, the sun didn't set until well after 1am. Then S. and I headed off to Seward for a few days, to check out the glaciers and wild life...a lovely, lovely experience, every minute of it. I was so happy to see my dear Smithies again - of course, I miss you more than ever now...

What are you looking at, Tourist?

Flamingos roaming the shore of Seward, Alaska

Seward Marina, Seward, Alaska

There was a ridiculous amount of gorgeous pictures of the bride.
This is my favorite, though.

The beautiful and happy couple...

The breathtaking view coming into Homer. We couldn't believe that each summer, K came home from college to a place like this - wow.

Thanks to K & D for the lovely time!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One of my short stories as art...

Go to to get a new perspective on whatever words inspire you...

Fools in Love

Images from Kate Hutchinson's photo project, "why am I marrying him?"
Marriage has been on my mind lately. Mostly because I'm so very far from it, and all my friends ("all" might be a bit dramatic, but "almost all" certainly is true...) have been falling in love, and soon after or soon to come, marriage. And as I laid awake last night around 3am, after being rocked out of sleep by a screaming couple on the sidewalk (or maybe, less romantically, it was a prostitute and her pimp... I feel like the human connection on Belmont at 3am is especially suspect) I had to wonder: Why are they together?

Not being in a serious relationship makes me examine relationships I encounter like I would a bug under a microscope. Horribly romantic, I know, but I still think it's a fair game: Why do we love who we love? More practically, what would make us seriously commit? Apartment Therapy just blogged on the artist Kate Hutchinson, who has done a photo series of candids of her husband-to-be. Clicking through the thoughtful photos, I was reminded that what makes you commit isn't something that can be easily pinpointed, especially not under a microscope. The fondness she clearly has for "her subject" is present, but oh so undefinable.

...much like love itself, I guess is the answer.