Monday, August 31, 2009

Photography I love: Jetty Koloboric

Despite the fact that the classic carnival tune (hear, in high speed - doo doo doo doo-loodle doo doo doo doo...) usually brings to mind my incapacitating fear of clowns, I find myself loving photos of carnivals, first, Tim Irving's "Carousel, 1970," and now Jetty Kolobarić, who has a shop here on Etsy. I love the colors and the aged appearance and the stories that seem hidden inside each shot.


Carnivale 2

Carnivale small set

And the vibrant colors of poppies:

Pink Poppy

Jetty's Etsy profile explains:
I have a variety of tools, I either use separately or combine together.
You will find work produced on film,in that case the films were scanned in a high resolution before digital printing, or work caught with my digital camera.
Ttv’s were made photographing through the viewfinder from my old Anscoflex or Kodak duaflex.

Either way, the outcome is the same. All my prints are archival (Museum standard). It means they last at least a lifetime, since they are printed on premium Hahnemuhle archival artists papers with a thickness of 310 gsm and with archival Epson ultrachrome K3 inks.
I use a professional Epson printer and work in my own studio.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Demotivators from

It's funny, 'cause it's true.

Check out Despair, Inc. for calendars, BitterSweets (for that special valentine: "Sub Prime" "I Got Sober" or "Call a 900 #), pessimist's mugs (always half-empty) and more demotivators, including:

Though this one didn't go over too well with some of my colleagues in the "Be Cool" production office.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Getty Center in summertime: Van Gogh, Degas and iced coffee

After just an hour bus ride to the Getty Center, Dad and I arrived as it opened, and jumped on what is possibly the slowest tram in the world up the hill. We had plenty of time to peer into the backyards of Bel Air, wonder about what looks like a backyard vineyard and the world's largest deck before we disembarked and began our day of art.

We split up, having learned at LACMA that our tastes differ considerably, but after I ditched the first tour (a summary of the Getty's collection and current exhibitions led by a teacher who talked a bit too much like he was addressing a group of 2nd graders) my dad and I met up at the exhibition "Capturing Nature's Beauty: Three Centuries of French Landscapes." As a landscape painter, Dad had looked forward to this all week, and it did not disappoint. One of my favorites was "Landscape with the Château Gaillard."

Jean-Jacques Boissieum France, 1796, pen with black and gray inks, brush and gray wash, heightened with gouache and watercolor.

The card explained that "a trip to Italy inspired his practice of illuminating his compositions with bright sunlight." Having grown up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, under the same kind of constant cloud cover that I've heard Parisians experience, I can only imagine that the sunny side of Italy was extremely inspiring. A little like how I feel about California, though I'd move to Italy in a heartbeat.

And another, "Shepherdess and Her Flock."

Jean-François Millet, French, Barbizon, 1862 - 1863, black chalk and pastel.

And "Landscape with a Bare Tree and a Plowman."

Léon Bonvin, French, 1864, pen and brown ink, watercolor, and gum arabic.

Moving away from that exhibition, I came across the sculpture, "The Vexed Man," which I loved at first sight.

"The Vexed Man is one of a series of 69 portrait busts or "character heads" made by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, an eighteenth-century German sculptor active in Austria. Messerschmidt sculpted them during the last thirteen years of his life, while apparently suffering from mental illness."

Speaking of mental illness (and I don't say that lightly, the subject of artists and depression is near to my heart and fascinates me - I recommend the book "Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression") the next painting that stopped me in my tracks was Van Gogh's "Irises."

I am so accustomed to seeing Van Gogh's work, on post cards, posters and in Hallmark stores, that I didn't expect to be overwhelmed by his work. But standing before an original is a much different experience. It seemed everyone thought so -- the room was crowded and people lingered in front of Irises for a long time.

The description detailed that Van Gogh painted Irises "in the garden of the asylum of Saint-Rémy, where he was recuperating from a severe attack of mental illness. ... Its energy and theme -- the regenerative powers of the earth -- express the artist's deeply held personal belief in the divinity of art and nature."

I found myself absorbed in "The Milliners" by Edgar Degas, about 1882.

Degas "rethought and repainted over the course of twenty-five years. ... Degas's process here was to continually reduce anecdotal details down to the looming hat stands and vibrant ribbons."

From the Getty site: "Discoveries made upon x-ray examination of this painting reveal that the milliner on the left originally wore a hat, had ruffles at her wrists, and wore a scarf around her neck—details indicating that the artist initially conceived of her as a customer. Degas's reworking of the picture and altering of the identity of the figure from bourgeoise to laborer reveals his process and his characteristically modern commitment to portraying the working class. Degas's compositional choices—the dramatically angled worktable, the looming hat stands, and the vibrant ribbons—underscore the painting's remarkable modernity."

I had my hopes up for the photography exhibit, "In Focus: Making a Scene," but was disappointed by the one-room exhibition, and didn't stay long. After a salad of fresh veggies, sundried tomatoes and olives for lunch, I found dad in the garden, sitting and sketching beneath the bougainvillea (climbing up sculpted stands of rebar).

Later we headed back up to the main level for an iced coffee, to read and people watch.

Car-free in L.A.: Metro to the Getty

If I ruled the world, you could buy a Metro day pass as you board the bus, a week pass any day of the week and age without aches or pains or wanting to eat an early-bird dinner. That, health care, world peace and a mani-pedi for all and I'm happy.

After my dad and I were foiled in our attempt to buy a Metro week pass on a Thursday, informed that it would expire that Saturday, we boarded the bus on Wednesday with high hopes to buy a day pass for $5, to save $2.50 a piece. No such luck. Boarding the first of our three buses en route to The Getty Center that tops the hill overlooking the 405, the driver informed me a week pass is purchased at a store prior to getting on the bus.

Let me get this straight. We're supposed to spend bus fare to get to a bus-pass selling store to buy passes to save us on bus fare? This, and the limited week pass that only works Sunday through Saturday, seems to miss the point of customer service. Though I appreciate Metro's online trip planner, easy and intuitive and wildly improved from five years ago when I ended in tears trying to read a jumble of a route map, I'd like to suggest to the current king of Metro to change the day and week pass rules.

The driver eyed my dad's white hair and asked, How old is he? Rude, I thought and calculated, 63. He only pays a quarter, driver said. Metro's senior fare begins at age 62. Trouble is, I don't think of my dad as a senior citizen, until it can save us $6 a day. My dad is a tweener, reaping the benefits of senior citizen life but not yet leaning on a cane. He walked our six miles a day with no problem, and is now living in Tokyo, where he jumps on trains and buses to navigate a city in a language he is still trying to learn. He talks about organic food and health products. How is it possible he's a senior citizen? Dad did, however arrive at my apartment at 3:30 in the afternoon, asking about dinner, presumably to eat at the geriatric hour of 5:30. And he's not about to turn down a dollar discount.

If you're visiting L.A. or going car-free for an afternoon, learn from my mistakes. Check for all the reduced fares and benefits, as well as to find a store near you for the rules of day and week passes. For the trip to the Getty Center, simply type Getty Center as the destination address.

Though it took a total of six buses, the ride to and from the Getty from West Hollywood was only two hours round trip, the buses clean, on time and filled with students, professionals and tourists. We rode opposite two Japanese women from Westwood to the Getty, and ended up boarding with them the same bus back at the end of the day. The Getty was fantastic, (see my favorites here) and free. The parking fee is now $15 per car, which makes the $7.50 bus ride all the better. I do love L.A.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Book recommendation: There Is No Me Without You

"(In 2000) I read, for the first time, the United Nation's description of Africa as 'a continent of orphans.' ...More than thirteen million children had been orphaned, twelve million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. ...Who was going to raise twelve million children? Who was teaching twelve million children how to swim? Who was signing twelve million permission slips for school field trips? Who packed twelve million school lunches? Who cheered at twelve million soccer games? ...Who will tell twelve million bedtime stories? ... Twelve million birthday parties? Who will wake in the night in response to 18 million nightmares?

"... Who will pass on to them the traditions of culture and religion, of history and government, of craft and profession? ... Well, as it turns out, no one. Or very few. There aren't enough adults to go around. Although in the Western industrialized states HIV/AIDS has become a chronic condition rather than a death sentence, in Africa a generation of parents, teachers, principals, physicians, nurses, professors, spiritual leaders, musicians, poets, bureaucrats, coaches, farmers, bankers and business owners are being erased." ~Melissa Fay Greene

File this under "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention." Before we left for Ethiopia in May, Justin, the director of Life In Abundance International, suggested I read the book There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children. I tried to hurry through it, and even packed the hardback, hefty 470 page book with me to Addis Ababa, but just finished it this week. It's a compelling read, full of facts that engage and enrage you, but humanized by the individual stories of the main subject, the author and her experiences, and the children and people of Ethiopia.

From Publisher's Weekly: "Journalist Melissa Fay Greene explores the AIDS pandemic and an unlikely woman who became a local savior — in Ethiopia with candor, insight and personal attachment in There is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children.

"Not unlike the AIDS pandemic itself, the odyssey of Haregewoin Teferra, who took in AIDS orphans, began in small stages and grew to irrevocably transform her life from that of "a nice neighborhood lady" to a figure of fame, infamy and ultimate restoration. In telling her story, journalist Greene who had adopted two Ethiopian children before meeting Teferra, juggles political history, medical reportage and personal memoir."

The heroine Haregewoin, who passed away suddenly in March of this year, is not a Mother Teresa figure. She is joyful, frustrated and troubled and finds trouble with the government, and she could not turn away a hungry, needy or sick child.

"But calling a good person a saint is just another way to try to explain extraordinary behavior," Greene writes. "She must be sick! She must be righteous! Whatever she is, she's moving on a different plane of existence from the rest of us, which means we are off the hook. Since most of us onlookers are neither one nor the other -- neither saints nor survivors -- no one will expect us to intervene."


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What I did this summer: Picasso, Magritte and how to walk like an Egyptian at LACMA

If I'm allowed back into the Los Angeles County Museum of Art after swinging my bag and knocking over a "Quiet, please" sign and my father's comment "He's a little guy!" just as a rather short security guard walked by us and the statue of a diminutive monk, I'm going to spend more time with Picasso and Magritte. LACMA is just a 2 1/2 mile walk from my house, or a 25 cent DASH ride from West Hollywood.

I found my favorite wing where I nearly passed by Pablo Picasso's "Woman with Blue Veil" (1923), but the woman's eyes caught mine, and suddenly I realized I was about to cry. This small image does the painting no justice.

It is amazing that with what looks like a few strokes of a brush, Picasso captured the woman's expression that to me seemed like despair or pain. (I hope I'm not just projecting. Therapist, party of one.)

As I moved through the room, I discovered one of Picasso's earlier works, "Portrait of Sebastian Juñer Vidal" (1903), and this time it was the man's eyes that stopped me.

And René Magritte's "The Liberator"

Inspiration! I don't paint but I love photography, and I can't wait to invest in a great SLR digital camera and play more with the medium. I'm excited for our trip Wednesday to the Getty Center to see the photography exhibit there, In Focus: Making a Scene, using darkroom trickery to tell a story.

I returned to the 3rd floor of the Ahmanson Building for the tour "Heroes, Gods, Myths and Legends." A docent who occasionally mixed her pronouns and confused mother and daughter of Greek mythological characters led us through the art of ancient Egypt, where I learned what it means to walk like an Egyptian, to Assyria, Greece, Rome and the Christian Crusades. Pointing out how each culture incorporated, rather than eradicated the myths and art of previous cultures, we examined the hieroglyphs and images on an Egyptian sarcophagus.

As The Bangles song played on repeat in my head, the docent pointed out that the images of the Egyptian shows the face in profile, but the eye faces us as if facing forward. The feet are also in profile, but the body faces forward. (Go ahead. Dance.) She explained that the more you see, the more you get an idea of who the person was. I learned a great deal about the Greek culture, how the Romans revered the myths and repaired many of the statues they discovered, while renaming the gods. I have to admit, one fact that stood out was the Greek-named Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, grain and fertility, was called Ceres in Rome, and that is where our word for cereal comes from.

More culture to come as we visit the Getty.

Colossal Head, circa 1560-1585 - Baccio Bandinelli (Attributed to) Italy, Florence

Monday, August 24, 2009

Photography I love: Tim Irving

I just discovered photographer Tim Irving's Etsy page - here are a few of my favorites.

Carousel 1970

Lone Parent

French Landscape with Poppies

Take a look at Tim Irving's Etsy shop - what's your favorite?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Car-free in L.A.: Gary in Wonderland

Though I have shared the bus with the occasional crazy off his meds (one man smacking his gums in between the repeated chant that he belieeeeeeves that Ruth is the mother of Jesus) I often see the more beautiful side of humanity, the side you don't see if you're alone in your own car.

The DASH Fairfax bus didn't live up to its name today. We waited out a couple of Metro buses before jumping on the shorter, wider bus blasting its a/c. The driver was young and friendly, taking time to talk to people on the curb, helping them with directions. At one stop, an Aussie struggled to find her 25 cent fare while an older lady nearly beaned my dad with her cane as she lurched through the moving bus. Seated safely, the woman dug a quarter out of her coin purse and handed it to the younger woman. Here, she said, I have tons of them. The girl smiled, and awkwardly accepted the gift. If you don't need it, the older woman said, pass it on to someone who does.

Taking a quick tour of Melrose, Fairfax, 3rd, and the giant Alice in Wonderland chair on 6th & La Brea (a mere $799 or best offer!) we made it to Ralphs to buy our Metro weekly passes. My plan fell through (passes are made for Sunday through Saturday -- ONLY -- so we have to return Sunday) but as I'm learning more patience scheduling my life around public transportation, I'm learning to go with the flow. And to pass on that quarter if you don't need it.

House of adventure

I think if I get my dream cottage, I'll name it House of Adventure. The phrase was part of my horoscope for today, and while I don't believe horoscopes foretell the future, I love when they're close to what the day holds, but even more when they poke and prod me to dream, create and plan for adventure.

For fellow Sags out there:

Today's fiery Leo New Moon activates your 9th House of Adventure. This might stimulate your imagination and wanderlust, even if you have set aside your globetrotting desires for a while. Maybe you cannot take enough time from work to go exploring the Amazon or climbing mountains in Tibet, but you can aim high and start visualizing your ideal journey. You could even begin with a course of study about your geographical area of interest. ~ Beliefnet

I'm not globetrotting anytime soon, sadly, but want to look at each day as an adventure. I'm trekking by the metro blue line down to Long Beach (always an adventure) to catch a ride down to Huntington Beach to spend the day with old friends. I'm leaving my dad in L.A. for the day to explore and find his own adventures. The rest of the weekend and week we have chock full of artsy adventures to different museums, the beach, to hike at Griffith.

"Aim high and start visualizing your ideal journey..."

hmmm... that's a good goal. I would really love a round-the-world ticket to explore, well, everywhere. I had a dream that I was back in Kosovo, and I miss my friends there. I never got to the coast of Croatia while I was over there, though I had hoped to visit Dubrovnik, I ran out of money. Guest blogging on The English Muse, Tina Tarnoff posted photos and info about the lighthouses you can stay in on the Croatian coast. Gorgeous. There's so much about the Balkans and the history there, both beautiful and tragic, that keeps drawing me back.

Where would you go on your ideal journey?

(Dubrovnik, Croatia photos from Rafal K photo blog)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Waiting for the rain to stop - optimism in adversity, living with duality and paradox

Looking for cottage photos, I came across this photo on alixbw's flickr page,

titled, "Waiting for the rain to stop."

I like the warmth of the light inside the kitchen, the grey soft light of a rainy day outside and the title that reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend Becky last night.

Talking about some of the painful parts of life, we agreed how hard it is to live, joyful and optimistic, in the midst of circumstances that are unexpected, unknown and sometimes frightening. Especially in America, where we're taught that life should be easy, we should expect good things, and if something unexpected happens, it's a problem, and we often look for what went wrong, what we did wrong. (And as any good student of Buddhism will ask, who are you to define whether an event is bad or good? As my friend Aqeela says, look for the gift in the wound.)

Even though religion should challenge one to live in the present moment. to accept mystery and paradox, many people use their faith as a guarantee for security. Spirituality becomes westernized with the American constructs that we should stock away to always be prepared, putting more faith in a retirement fund that in what we can do, today.

In other countries I've visited, people seem to face challenges, the good and the bad, with more acceptance and optimism. Not to say injustice or war is natural or good, but in the midst of these things, people still have hope, and can find thankfulness. While living in Kosovo I was told by many proud people that their small nation was ranked one of the most optimistic in the world. These are people who have seen so much tragedy, lost so much, and yet, in the 2008 Gallup Voice of the People poll, were once again the most optimistic.

I hope to learn from my friends in Kosovo and Africa, that in the midst of confusing events and all that is life, the unknown future, the frustrations of not being able to control choices loved ones make, I can find joy and peace in this moment, with optimism. To appreciate the rain and all the good things that come from it. Not that all will be fixed and happy, but that by living in the present moment, I'll be changed.

"Through the present moment, you have access to the power of life itself, that which has traditionally been called "God." As soon as you turn away from it, God ceases to be a reality in your life, and all you are left with is the mental concept of God, which some people believe in and others deny. Even belief in God is only a poor substitute for the living reality of God manifesting every moment of your life." ~ Eckhart Tolle

(Umbrella - Dancing in the Rain from Photobucket)

Cottage life - porches, flowers, cats and coffee

After a few days of unusual August gloom in L.A. -- cloudy mornings burning off by noon and cool nights -- I feel ready for fall, for sweaters, boots and scarves. Also ready for a change. Even though I'm a city girl, there's a part of me that dreams of living in a cottage in a small town, where my porch is filled with flowers and chairs with plenty of funky tables for cups of coffee. Writing from home, working at a local bookstore.

Through a twisty blog route following a link from one of my favorite blogs - Apartment Therapy San Francisco, I found the Paris Hotel Boutique blog (full of fun ideas) and finally, on the Romantic Homes Magazine site, this list about cottage life.

  1. You may find a pair of shoes in the bread drawer.
  2. Feather dusters are only useful as an accessory with a French maid's costume. Otherwise they are just displacing dust.
  3. You learn to live with less.
  4. The outdoors and indoors are one and the same.
  5. There are certain times of the day when the sun casts its rays on every corner—a perfect time to sweep.
  6. Friends and neighbors will stop by and stay awhile.
  7. The kitchen stove is always being put to use.
  8. Castaways will find a home somewhere.
  9. Neighborhood pets sometimes consider your home their own.
  10. There are no rules for how to grow the perfect garden.
And if there's a way to find this cottage on a lake?

These eclectic patios are more my style - the lanterns, antique birdcage (sans bird, birds and I don't do well in captivity) and mismatched furniture: (

It's fun to dream - but if anyone has tips on how to make this life a reality, I'm open...

(Cottage photo from Susie,, lake photo from Greg Gladman, flickr)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Etsy finds and favorites

If you don't know this site for handmade, local and vintage finds, you may not want to discover, if you like to save, not spend. But some of the deals are fantastic, which is the very danger of Etsy. You can sign up for daily emails of Etsy finds, chosen by themes, such as Mad Men, travel, vintage and more.


Here are some of my favorites that, in this time of tightening budgets, remain part of my wish list:

I'm loving over-sized accessories -- like this gold beaded butterfly band from byme. I'm tall with a relatively large noggin, but not sure I could pull this off. It's all about wearing it with confidence, right?

Some of the items, like this Raku vase set by artbywinona, have sold out, which makes it so much easier to resist, but fun to plot and plan my dream decor.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Free and car-free in Los Angeles

My dad's coming to town for almost a week before he moves over to Japan. Thankfully, he's used to running for trains in Tokyo, so it won't be such a stretch for him to embrace my car-free life in L.A.

We're on a tight budget as well, so after purchasing Metro week passes for just $17 a piece, we plan to bus and rail it all over town. His request? The Gene Autry Museum, which I must admit, I've never seen. Dad's an artist, so we'll also hit the Getty Center. (Admission is free, but parking has been hiked up from $7 to $15 -- another reason to love the Metro week pass.) I know he'll love the current exhibit -- Capturing Nature's Beauty: Three Centuries of French Landscapes, as well as the one I'm most excited about -- a photograph exhibit titled In Focus: Making a Scene, using darkroom trickery to tell a story.

We both love wandering Griffith Park and the Observatory, and recently my favorite hiking route was reopened post-fire. It still breaks my heart how much damage was done, but there's some surreal beauty in the regrowth next to the burn victims of blackened branches and chalk white remains.

I'll be posting photos and stories of our time walking L.A. Anyone have good suggestions of free events or venues for the next week?

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Power Surge" - fear vs. love

In another moment of synchronicity, after an email conversation with my sister about being aware of and facing the fear that holds us back from living the life we want, I got the new Oprah magazine in the mail and read the first feature, entitled "Power Surge."

Disclaimer: I have to admit a little bit of embarrassment that I receive the subscription, there's something about Oprah endorsements that suggest mob mentality, and the independent inside me wants to run. It was a gift from a friend, who also felt this, but explained that there are often really great articles.

And there are, especially this piece by Martha Beck. As a life coach, she describes three women and the powerlessness they feel in their lives. Beck writes, "The most common reason we stumble into the delusion of powerlessness is that we're afraid of what other people would do or say or feel if we were to act as we wanted. ... The way we can allow ourselves to do what we need to do, no matter what others may say or do, is to choose love and defy fear."

She goes on to give a quick guide to recognizing the difference between acts of fear and acts of love: "Fear: motivates grasping. Love: motivates liberation. Fear: insists on certainty. Love: Accepts uncertainty." She gives examples of a young college student who stood her ground after being detained by police for anti-apartheid activities and how her clients chose love and power over fear and immobility. "The process of spotting fear and refusing to obey it is the source of all true empowerment."

Her story continues, describing dealing with her beloved dog's cancer and baking for her son's 21st birthday, a child born with serious birth defects. "Real power is usually unspectacular, a simple setting aside of fear that allows the free flow of love. But it changes everything."

"Power comes from actions like these, and the infinite small choices between love and fear," Beck writes. "Today, pay close attention: Are you following the gripping energy of fear or the liberating energy of love?"

Reading that led me back to my computer, to share this with you, and then to get back to my own writing, something that often strikes fear in my perfectionist monkey-mind, that it won't be enough, won't be right. I have to remember, acts of love are liberating.

(Photo: A girl I met in the Mercato in Ethiopia; somehow she speaks of possibilities, life without fear.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ayurvedic oil pulling -- just add oil and swish

This month's Whole Life Times magazine has a feature on the Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling, promising treatment for "everything from gingivitis and receding gums to allergies, headaches and general malaise." According to Rachel Dowd's "Oily to Bed, Oily to Rise," "the idea is to put two tablespoons of oil in your mouth first thing in the morning before you brush your teeth or drink or eat anything. For the next 5 to 30 minutes, you roll the oil gently around in your mouth, coating the tongue, mucous membranes, gums and teeth. During that time, you create a ball of phlegm, which you spit out when you're done."

Stick out your tongue and don't say ahhh... instead, take a look at it. If you've ever been to a practitioner outside western medicine, she likely examined your tongue to learn more about your overall health. During a detox, a friend told me, her tongue turned different colors and at one point was fuzzy as the toxins cleared from her system. When it was done, she had never seen her tongue so vibrantly pink.

"While oil pulling functions locally as oral hygiene, it also works systemically to release toxins throughout the body by stimulating the tongue," Dowd writes. Valencia Poter, M.D., M.P.H. says that "where in Western medicine the tongue is a block to seeing the back of the throat, from an Ayurvedic perspective it is a map of the body. Individual areas of the tongue correlate to the heart, lungs or other places."

The article provides some answers to frequently asked questions, including suggesting organic, cold pressed and untoasted sesame oil, as well as switching oils to see how they perform differently in your body.

Overall health not enough to tempt you to try oil in the morning? The author discovered a beauty benefit as well - whiter teeth without the Crest strips. Read the whole article here.

Has anyone tried this?

(Photos: baby tongue courtesy Corbis, Morning coup o' oil courtesy J.Garcia / Corbis)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jury duty gag rule

If the lawyers and judge like my impartiality I'll be on jury duty this week, but not able to blog or take pictures / tell the stories of my fellow jurors until the story comes to an end. There's one somewhat minor celeb in my group, an actor I couldn't place until someone else did, loudly. Gotta love L.A.

But, unlike a lot of the potential jurors sharing tips on how to get dismissed, I wouldn't mind serving on a jury. I'd love to see the process in person, as all who know my years of "Law & Order" addiction will understand.

Sadly, I saw not one who resembled Jack McCoy.

Anyone have any good jury duty stories?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Remembering John Hughes: thoughts from a teen-aged pen pal

I'd like to add my voice to the chorus all over the web and world of how John Hughes captured adolescence and helped us through it with humor and hope. A friend shared this blog post, written by a woman recalling her pen pal relationship with John Hughes when she was a teenager. Sincerely, John Hughes is beautiful and gives a glimpse into who he really is for those of us who know him only through his amazing movies.

Photo from the post at We'll Know When We Get There: Sincerely, John Hughes

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New blog name - "The Butterfly Effect"

I've long wanted a different title for my blog than my name, though I thought that might be more easily searchable for friends and family. I first learned about the concept of the butterfly effect from Madeleine L'engle (shocking, I know) who used it in a story to illustrate the idea that one small action, such as the flutter of a butterfly's wings, may seem meaningless at the time, but could affect the world. I've blogged before about the symbolism of the butterfly and metamorphosis. More and more I see the interrelatedness of life and think this best explains how important it is that we choose positive responses, even in the smallest moments of life.

In A Stone for a Pillow, L'engle writes:

"In a recent article on astrophysics I came across the beautiful and imaginative concept known as 'the butterfly effect.' If a butterfly winging over the fields around Crosswicks should be hurt, the effect would be felt in galaxies thousands of light years away. The interrelationship of all Creation is sensitive in a way we are just beginning to understand. If a butterfly is hurt, we are hurt. If the bell tolls, it tolls for us."

(Photo courtesy GlossyEye,

Monday, August 03, 2009

David Sedaris speaks, I listen (laughing): Stories can save you

On my recent road trip to Sonoma, I learned that books on CD + passenger's seat + long drive up the 5 = Rebecca passing out after the first few sentences.

However, when David Sedaris was telling the story, I was wide awake. It's hard to fall asleep mid-laugh. Sedaris compiled some of his favorite short stories and authors in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. His introduction to the anthology alone is worth the trip to the library or bookstore, with the added anticipation of stories from writers including Flannery O'Connor, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, Jhumpa Lahiri, Dorothy Parker, and Alice Munro.

Talking about his love for the short story, Sedaris kept me alert and introduced me to the magic of Alice Munro, whom I'd never read.

"Once, before leaving on vacation, I copied an entire page from an Alice Munro story and left it in my typewriter, hoping a burglar might come upon it and mistake her words for my own. That an intruder would spend his valuable time reading, that he might be impressed by the description of a crooked face, was something I did not question, as I believed, and still do, that stories can save you."

It's funny because it's true. And the next day I purchased Selected Stories by Alice Munro and was not disappointed. Her characters are unique, colorful, real and memorable. And in case a burglar should interrupt my blogging, here are two passages I'd like him to read to give a glimpse.

"The force did weaken with distance. It was as simple as that, though the distance, she thought afterward, would have to be covered by car, or by bus, or bicycle; you couldn't get the same results by flying. In a prairie town within sight of the Cypress Hills she recognized the change. She had driven all night until the sun came up behind her and she felt calm and clearheaded, as you do at such times. She sat at the counter looking at the usual things there are behind cafe counters -- the coffeepots and the bright, probably stale pieces of lemon and raspberry pie, the thick glass dishes they put ice cream or Jell-O in. It was those dishes that told her of her changed state. She could not have said she found them shapely, or eloquent, without misstating the case. All she could have said was that she saw them in a way that wouldn't be possible to a person in any stage of love.

..."On the Hope-Princeton highway she got out of the car and stood in the cool rain of the coastal mountains. She felt relatively safe, and exhausted, and sane, though she knew she had left some people behind who would not agree with that."
~ from "Simon's Luck"

" 'Life would be grand if it weren't for the people,' says Valerie moodily. 'That sounds like a quotation, but I think I just made it up. The problem is that Kimberly is a Christian. Well, that's fine. We could use a Christian or two. For that matter, I am not an un-Christian. But she is very noticeably a Christian, don't you think? I'm amazed how mean she makes me feel.' "
~ from "Labor Day Dinner"

Time to curl up with another story. What are some of your favorite short story collections?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

What makes you laugh out loud?

This month's issue of Ode magazine (for intelligent optimists) is The Laughter Issue. The cover shot is Sarah Hussein Obama - our 44th president's grandmother.

Ode's editor-in-chief Jurriaan Kamp wrote that he chose Obama's image over that of a giggling baby because adults, especially in Western culture, laugh too little.

"(John) Calvin probably had the best intentions, but his legacy still hangs like a haze over many Western countries. How many people do you see laughing while wandering the streets of New York, Amsterdam or London? In our daily lives, everything has to have a purpose and lead to concrete results. A bit of laughter is quickly considered a waste of time. Meanwhile, photos abound of radiant faces in the midst of abject misery in Africa, Asia and Latin America."

"The articles in this special issue show how Calvin was wrong: laughter is by no means a waste of time. It's healthy, relaxing and essential. ... May hearty laughter help lighten your load. After all, when it comes down to it, as Mark Twain said, 'The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.' "

The issue has articles ranging from laughing meditation (check out John Cleese reporting on laughter yoga on youtube) to "Lighten up for Enlightenment" and awakening to joy. In "The Medicine of Mirth," exploring some of the health benefits of laughter, writer Mary Desmond Pinkowish attends a practice of laughter yoga in Manhattan, where you will be encouraged to "fake it" until it becomes real. "Laughter blunts stress and pain; hearty chuckling increases levels of the 'happy' brain chemicals known as endorphins. ... It reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that's tied to several health problems."

This doesn't mean you have to be happy all the time, which is not realistic. Life throws you reasons to be frustrated, angry, and sad, but laughing daily will help you deal with the stress and negative emotions when those waves threaten to knock you off course. According to psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, interviewed for "The Science of Happiness" in The Sun (another fantastic magazine), "positive emotions tell us not just what the body needs, but what we need mentally and emotionally and what our future selves might need. They help us broaden our minds and outlook and build our resources down the road. ... If you focus on day-to-day feelings, you end up building your resources and becoming your best version of yourself. Down the road, you'll be happier with life. Rather than staring down happiness as our goal and asking ourselves, 'How do I get there?' we should be thinking about how to create positive emotions in the moment."

Laughter is contagious, so I can understand how the yoga laughter practice works. Even looking at this photo I found on flickr, I start to laugh along with this complete stranger.

It helps to laugh with someone, as I learned early on, sitting in church with my sister, shaking with suppressed laughter. I'd just have it under control, but if I glanced her way and saw her shaking, holding back the belly laugh, I'd be off again.

Lately movies haven't been doing it for me, I walked out of "Baby Mama" and "I Love You, Man." Fart jokes are too obvious, I like to be surprised by a guffaw. I love physical comedy and word play. Some of my favorite laugh out loud moments are from television, and thankfully most of them are online. The Carol Burnett Show never disappointed, and one of my all time favorites is the Tim Conway and Harvey Korman dentist sketch. Conway is a genius here; and watching Korman crack up is half the fun. I love it when the improv gets away from the actors and they can't stop laughing in the scene.

30 Rock is hy-lar-ious -- one of my favorites is "Apollo Apollo," where we see how Kenneth views the world. But I don't know that anything tops The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode, "Chuckles Bites the Dust," where Mary loses it with inappropriate laughter at the funeral for Chuckles the Clown. I can't find this clip online, if anyone knows how to find it, let me know!

What makes you laugh out loud? Please share! I need to laugh more.

(Photos: Ode Magazine and Harishaa,