Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mrs. Dalloway's

[Photo is from the store's website]

This bookstore's name is inspired by the first line in Virginia Woolf's 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway.
I walked over there all the way from the Rockridge BART station last night. The rain had ended and I took the chance to get some exercise and pick up a few gifts.
I'm never disappointed there. The store has an interesting combination of gardening titles and general interest/literature.
They also have fine art prints, as well as wonderful potted succulents that make perfect splurge gifts. And, the space is beautiful. One of those stores that make the small neighborhood shopping areas in the East Bay so much fun.
I bought a handmade wooden ornament. A little squirrel. It will be a reminder of Christmas 2007.

Mr's Dalloway's
Literary and Garden Arts
2904 College Ave (Elmwood)
Berkeley, CA
http://www.mrsdalloways.com/

Friday, December 14, 2007

Joseph Cornell at MOMA

San Francisco's MOMA has a nice show up called Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination.

He is best known as a reclusive artist who created "boxes" containing collages. These boxes are essentially display cases that provide frames/borders for the work. Although related to the surrealists and Dadaists and maybe other sub-isms of modernism, his work doesn't seem to have anything to do with instruction or programs.

This is not to say he did not have something of a theoretical basis for what he was doing: the work is very much intentional. There are wonderful series where an idea or motif is explored repeatedly, such as the wonderful palace boxes that evoke both the 18th century and fairy tales.

One of the boxes in the show has an image of an owl in a tree. Originally it was lit constantly by a small internal bulb. To save the material of the piece the conservators have set it up so that you push a button below the piece to light it. Dave had fun sitting nearby on a bench and hooting softly whenever someone pushed the button. (We were surprised how many viewers did not push the button.)

The show is up through 1/6/08, at SFMOMA: http://www.sfmoma.org/.

Here is a website from the museum where the show originated:http://pem.org/cornell/.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What is Christmas?

"It is a time for opening your heart and your home to others."
This perfect jewel came from Esme as we were ringing off the phone last night.
Christmas is simply an end of the year festival, a time to spend some of the surfeit (even if there isn't any, alas) and to be glad you have made it through to the end of another year. Even if it truly were a religious observance, do you think Jesus would deign to care about the material aspects? Christmas is for us, not for him.
Today is the holiday party for work. Then we will play hooky and go to MOMA to see the Joseph Cornell show. More on that later.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Greece Photos




K. sent our shared photos from our recent vacation. They are so beautiful I had to post a few. These are shop windows in Oia, Santorini. Suddenly, I am missing Greece and it's only been 2 months since we got back.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pizzaiola

We went to Pizzaiola Restaurant in Oakland's Temescal district this past Monday for Dave's **th Birthday.
As I waited in front a car pulled up to the light and a woman called out: "Teach me a move!" So I jumped out onto the sidewalk and did a kind of hip hop meets Norma Desmond thing. She loved it.
The restaurant is very popular; if you go call ahead for reservations. We had a sausage and rapini pizza and a Caesar salad made with chicory. The pizza is Neapolitan style and quite good-- fresh ingredients done simply and deliciously. You can tell the restaurant is in the Chez Panisse lineage at first bite.
The ambiance is on the rock and roll side, which I liked. A pizza place, no matter how upscale, should not be a Food Church. For more, go to: http://www.pizzaiolooakland.com/

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Illuminations

During this season we are quite naturally drawn to the comfort and warmth of light. If you think about it, most of the holiday season festivities are built around the concept of sustaining ourselves during the darkest time of the year. Of course, many take the comfort to extremes, but that is a discussion for later.

The other night (really only 5:30 pm) I was walking down a darkened street in Sacramento's Midtown district and came upon my favorite lighting store, Lumens. The large windows were filled with wonderful, colorful, unusual and beautiful lamps, light fixtures, and chandeliers. The store is design oriented and also carries household items by Alessi, Chillwich, and many others. It is high end, but most of the stock are things you'd keep for many years, and maybe even pass down. For more, go to: http://www.lumens.com/.

If you are into design, I recommend Metropolis magazine. They have a straightforward practice of including all the design areas, from urban design and planning down to lighting design, in their palette. Always something interesting there to check out. For more, go to: http://www.metropolismag.com.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cranberry Sauce!

[Cranberry Harvest in New Jersey, photo originally from USDA, Wikimedia Commons]



Don't waste another Thanksgiving Day eating that jello from a can. Make your own sauce and be the envy of all. It's easy.



Ingredients:

12 oz. fresh cranberries (wash and remove any bad berries)

1/2 cu. sugar

1 tsp. ground cloves

zest of one orange or tangerine

juice of one orange or tangerine



Combine the sugar, cloves and zest with 1/2 cu. water in a small to medium saucepan.

Place over medium to high heat.

Stir as the sugar melts.

Add the washed cranberries to the saucepan.

Stir continuously as the mix begins to simmer. The berries will begin to pop. You will notice the liquid getting redder. Stir for a few minutes. Take off the heat when it starts to look wonderful. (You will know.)
Tip: Leave some berries whole.

Set aside. After it cools for a bit, stir in the juice. Put it in the fridge. It will keep for 2-3 days.



Variations: use cinnamon, ginger, allspice alone or in various combinations with the cloves. Stir in chopped persimmons.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crab Season In Limbo

The boats are in the docks, waiting to see who will go first. There is a prohibition on crab fishing in the inner bay and within 3 miles of the Pacific shore, but what about crabs that were (or will be) supposedly caught outside the restricted area? For now, the Bay Area has collectively lost its appetite.

We are all still in shock in the aftermath of the Cosco Busan accident at the West Span of the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge. The response phase is still underway, and is getting more complicated as time passes.

For articles and photos, go to: http://www.sfgate.com/.

I have lived in California for exactly 20 years this week. For years, I've marked time largely by disasters, both man-made and natural.

Will I be buying crab? Yes, from my trusted local fish market. Also, I hope that two good things will come out of the accident:1) a concerted public-agency effort in preparing for oil-spills in all of our coastal waters, and 2) more awareness in the general public about how fragile the oceans really are. (Climate change is only part of the discussion that needs to happen.)

On a lighter note, it is time for Beaujolais Nouveau. Will you be drinking some this year? TODAY is the yearly release date for this fresh wine. For more, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaujolais_nouveau.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Time Change/Family Guy

As of last week, we are back under the wing of darkness for much of our waking existence. Oh my, that does sound dramatic. It's just that daylight savings time has ended and it's often dark when I leave work. Hate it. Then again, maybe it's just cranky pants due to the biological shift. I've heard it takes a week or so, so be careful out there, especially driving.

My newest bad habit is Family Guy, which is now in syndication. I have been working on my Stewie impression for months. Take care, and I promise to write something more edifying soon!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_Guy

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Visit to Cafe Gratitude

Yesterday, Cristin and Mariam and I drove to Berkeley for lunch at the Cafe Gratitude.
It is vegan and mostly raw food, which is not heated above a certain temperature. My entree was a thai-inspired dish made with quinoa. It came covered in watercress and smelling (pleasantly) like a pasture on a summer day. It was delicious.
I like the idea of raw food and will return. The funny thing about the place is that it seems to have borrowed its aesthetic from several infamous brainwashing cults of recent decades. You must order your food with its menu name. If you say, "I'll have the thai, " the server will rejoin with, "Oh, you mean you are graceful." Umm, OK. I guess I am graceful. Fun for five minutes.
The art on the walls has the saturated colors and sloganeering of some of the best propaganda art of the 20th century. I suspect they don't realize the irony of this. Irony has never been a strong suit among the nuts and berries crowd, and it is slightly surreal to see it so jarringly unacknowledged here.
But the food is yummy...and they do seem to mean well. But someone is no doubt gathering wealth from this elaborate exercise in new age branding.
Go to: http://www.withthecurrent.com/ds/

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It Was Ever Thus




[London fire of 1666, unknown artist, Wikimedia Commons]




One morning last fall Dave and I found ourselves in The City--the part of modern London that lies within the Roman wall and is the heart of the financial district--staring up at the London Monument. The Monument, as it is commonly referred to, is a massive Doric column, designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, commemorating the fire of September 1666.


The fire, which displaced most of the 80,000 residents, began in a local bakery after a period of drought. One reason the fire was able to overtake the entire area was the density of the wooden buildings--many in which projecting upper stories almost met in mid-air. And there was a dry easterly wind. The official casualties were very low, although it is now believed that many deaths went unrecorded. For contemporary accounts of the event, we are fortunate to have diary entries from both John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys.



Now, in 2007, what are probably the worst firestorms in California history are flashing across our television screens. Every casualty is a tragedy, but we must be thankful that measures adopted after the 1991 Oakland fires and 2003 Cedar fires have saved many lives this time around.


For up to date information, go to the CA Office of Emergency Services website: http://www.oes.ca.gov/.

There are thousands who need help in the wake of these fires. Go to: http://www.redcross.org/.


For information on a current restoration project at the London Monument, go to:http://www.themonument.info/index.html.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Philosophy on the Radio

What is philosophy? Well, in Greek it means a love of wisdom. The contemporary definition is not so easy to summarize. I would posit that philosophy is the practice of asking, "Why is it this way?" in regards to how we perceive life and the cosmos. See, it's getting complicated already...but not really. Another way to put it might be: "What are my assumptions, and how did I get them?"

If your brain is booted up by 10:00 on Sunday morning, and you are philosophically inclined, tune into PHILOSOPHY TALK on KALW (Bay Area) at 91.7 FM. It is held by two Stanford philosophers, Ken Taylor and John Perry. Here is a blurb they posted for yesterday's show:



October 21: Predicting the Future. People who predict the future well are sometimes said to be psychic. But we all make predictions about the future, with more or less success. We confidently predict the sun will rise tomorrow, that ice will be cold, etc. But maybe we're not quite as good at predicting the future as we think. Is the stock market predictable? The weather? Political upheavals? Or is life just too random to make good predictions? John and Ken predict that Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, will join them to consider the extent to which we can forecast the future.



I was particularly interested in this show, since I had read Taleb's book this past summer. Taleb's book is concerned with how the direction of life/society has (in his theory) become increasingly ruled by unpredictable developments "Black Swans," such as the rise of the Internet and companies such as Google. He calls this phenomenon "Extremistan," and maintains that biologically we are adapted to less frequent discontinuities ("Mediocristan"). The most interesting part of Taleb's thesis for me was about how financial markets cannot be predicted using the Gaussian bell curve and that most stock predictions are at best pseudo-science. He's getting a lot of press on this.



For more on Philosophy Talk, go to: http://www.philosophytalk.org/.

For more on Taleb, go to: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/taleb.html

Friday, October 19, 2007

Adio to Greece, for a While



[Chania, Crete, from Wikipedia Commons]
We've been home for two weeks, and the disc with my photos is running late. Guess I will put them up on Flikr when they come, or at least the ones of note.
The trip is settling into memory for me. I'll journal one more time at home and that will be all for this year. Since blogs (I surmise) should be current, this will be the last posting on the trip, with one more photo from Wikipedia Commons.
I was walking the other day to Whole Foods with Cristina. Talking about Brazil trips for her and Greece trips for me. Is it really the magic and wonder of these places that is so invigorating or does a large part of it have to do with being away from the office and calling your time (and money) your own, if only temporarily? I am sure it is a bit of both. If I were working in Greece, the daily impediments to sanity would wear on my brain, I'm sure. And yet...
When I think about Greece it always comes back to the people. Sure, there are bad Greeks and good Greeks, just like anywhere else. But on a daily basis it seems you are presented with people who are simple in the very best sense of the word: warm, hospitable, without guile. There is a Cretan word for it: philoxenia, the love of strangers. It is considered an honor in Crete to host a traveler in your home, give them the best chair and the best from your table. It is humbling to be received by such people as these.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Art is Not a Hobby

This was printed on a bumper sticker on a locker at the CREATIVE GROWTH ART CENTER, located in Uptown Oakland, just a few blocks from my office. I've known about the Center for years but had never ventured in until just this week, when my friend Peter took me inside. There is a commercial gallery/store, which is open during the week after 11:00 am, showing their artist-clients' work and also putting up curated shows with art from artists with special needs as well as allied artists from the greater world of art.

I must thank Brendan, of the Center, for showing me around and answering all my questions. Today I got a hall pass and got to walk around and visit as the artists were finishing lunch.

Creative Growth is a non-profit, serving artists with physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities. It has been in operation for 30 years and is arguably the first and best of its kind, anywhere.

The work on view (and under production) defies easy description, because the artists themselves are so varied. I will leave that exploration up to you. I did feel an immediate affinity for the work of William Tyler. His beautifully crafted drawings often combine texts with images of the artist and his twin brother as they navigate through a life that requires both ordering strictures and accidents of whimsy in order to progress. I am a lover of drawings and these are dazzling.

The gallery store also sells cards, t-shirts, multiples, and other wonderful things. For more on upcoming programs as well as special events for the holidays, go to: http://www.creativegrowth.org/.

Creative Growth Art Center
355 24th Street (at Valdez)
Oakland, CA 94612

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Morning Walk in Akrotiri

When I am in Greece I have no trouble getting up in the morning. Unless they have to be out and about for work, the Greeks are prone to stay close to the hearth in the morning hours, so it is usually quiet--wonderful for walking and observation.
A few weeks ago, while staying near Akrotiri, Santorini, I got up at dawn and walked through the old hill town. On the way, I met a big yellow dog who decided he wanted to be friends. We walked together up the hill toward the lighthouse, looking over the cliffs to the caldera and to the town of Oia and Thirassia Island in the distance.
I should say I was looking. My new dog friend, really a very large puppy, was chasing birds and the occasional cat who crossed our path. On the south side of the road there was a magnificent set of new houses going up. They looked like second homes for wealthy people.
The present-day town of Akrotiri is set on a promontory at the southern tip of the island. It is dense and typically Cycladic in its organization. We walked to the top and then wound our way down to the main road through the maze of lanes. In the cool morning air people were just beginning to stir: hanging out laundry or starting out on an errand. In the labyrinth of Akrotiri our hushed greetings felt almost conspiratorial.

[This and the previous photo are from Wikipedia Commons.]



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Buying Poems on the Street

Last weekend I met ZACH HOUSTON, who was amiably hawking his impromptu poems at the Rockridge Bart Station in Oakland.

He writes them on what appears to be an Olivetti portable typewriter from about 1974. I paused when asked for a subject, and then blurted out, "cubicles." Here is the resultant poem, which appeared pretty fast.



roofloor

or sealing

the deal

between

an official

legally un

documented

declaration

of war or at

least gentle

ideological

hostility to

repeating

myself at

least not in

euclidean

space rather

the fractal

which doesn't

have any walls

just cloudsoftoday@yahoo.com

look up



Zach is an artist and writer living in Oakland. His ephemeral poetry project intrigues me. I don't think I could let my poems fly away like that; guess I'd need a carbon sheet in the typewriter.

For more on Zach, go to: synthesize.us/Zach_Houston.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Looking Back: Santorini




As I said below, I will be posting some things in retrospect over the next few weeks.



I am so glad we went to Santorini this time. It had been four years for me and I had begun to miss it. Greece is a place where, if you are alert and do a little reading beforehand, you can be rewarded with the sense of living both in the present and in history at once. Nowhere is this more dramatically played out than in Santorini, where signs of the Minoan, Classical, Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian, Ottoman and modern areas abound.



The most famous of these, besides the crater that silently witnesses the blast that destroyed it, is the Minoan (or Minoan-related) city of Akrotiri, which is being slowly being excavated in the south of the island. See http://www.santorini.gr-santorini.com/museums/prehistoric_museum.htm for more.



We stayed nearby in a beautiful, spotless hotel, called "Kalimera."



More on Santorini next time.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Safe at Home

We are back!
I was on the road for almost 24 hrs due to a layover in Newark. At one point I was standing there in the airport and realized Henry Winkler (of Fonzie fame) was standing near me. Gradually the airport staff realized it too and started taking his photo with their cell phones. He seemed like a very unassuming and kind person, surprised by the attention.
Look here for some retrospective accounts of the trip. I should be getting the photos soon and will post some of those.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Theleis Ena Kafedaki?

Would you like a little coffee?

Here in Greece, where a cup of coffee is more expensive than anywhere else in Europe, where you choose to drink it means a lot. Each cafe bar, expresso joint, kafeneio--even Starbucks in down town Athens--has it's own particular personality and its own set of devotees.

And would you believe it, decaf is now available! I guess it is a case of the market demand by those of us who like to get up in the early morning for a stroll in the cool and quiet before all the madness begins. Can't do this if amped up at 200 am with a frappe...

Here in my "hometown" of Paleochora, Crete, there are so many choices for coffee that it would take three weeks to exhaust them all. In the evening, such as now as I am writing in an internet cafe, the main street is closed off and the cafe tables are brought into the street. It seems that EVERYONE in town, tourists and locals alike, is out for a stroll and something to drink. It is wonderful to walk the friendly gantlet and run into a distant cousin. We'll walk together and greet the townspeople, talking about family history, politics, or maybe remembering the red-haired Barbarossa, who ruined the Venetian castle here so many years ago.

The town has gone through many successive eras since then. A few days ago the local troupe of traditional singers and dancers paid tribute in the main square to those killed during the Nazi occupation and near destruction of the town. Now there is cheerful prosperity everywhere you look, but as in all of Crete, the memories run deep.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Here in Athens

The flight always seems too long, but when you think of how far you've come, almost halfway around the world, it seems more like a miracle has happened.
We are here safe, and enjoying the AVA Hotel after a good night's rest. The buffet table was wonderful, with more than enough food for anyone's taste. One highlight was the peach juice, made here in Greece. It is perfection, and even if you have sworn off juice, you'd have to try it.
By the way, we are staying practically in the shadow of the Acropolis. Today we will go to see a show of Praxiteles' scultures at the National Archaeological Museum. There is a fresh breeze through the window this morning, just slightly laced with diesel fumes. It is like Greece; it revives you with a sense of wonderment but sometimes on the periphery there are troubling things, such as uneven sidewalks, that can bring a slight sense of peril. But siga siga! We will be fine...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not in Greece just yet...


This vine might look like it is from Santorini but it is right in my back yard in the East Bay.
A few years ago, my friend Mara installed a garden where before it had been all concrete. She and her trusty assistant dug out a crater in the concrete and used the pieces to build a rock wall around a circular plot where now there is an olive tree and other plants.
Beside this is a california wild grape, planted in a vertical ceramic pipe and climbing on rebar and over wires to make a shady area for a table. It has come a long way in two years...

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Poem in Question




THIS is my letter to the world,

That never wrote to me,—

The simple news that Nature told,

With tender majesty.


Her message is committed

To hands I cannot see;

For love of her, sweet countrymen,

Judge tenderly of me!



The first line of Emily Dickinson's famous poem seemed like a perfect name for a blog. The common image is (I suppose) of the shy but redoubtable Emily standing in a gabled window and shouting silently to the world: "Here it is, and there's lots more!"

A simple reading of the poem belies this. The "world" here is clearly the unvoiced but active world of nature: apprehended by the senses and then, for her, almost always stretching out to an infinity that borders on the abstract. And yet it's as present as the echo of a footfall in the hallway.

The last line is important to me. What lover, parent, child or friend has not pleaded this at one time or another, if only in the privacy of the heart?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Better Late Than Never





This is my first posting. (Thanks, Cristin: we set this blog up in under 5 minutes!)


No, we are not in Athens yet. This is an old photo of me in front of the Parthenon. But we are going to Athens in a week. (Katerina and Mom are going with me.)

Right now I am in the throes of getting ready. Actually, I am taking a little breath after scrambling to get most of the details worked out with an agent in Athens.

We are going to posh out on our first leg. Staying at the AVA Suites. Check it out: www.avahotel.gr