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Saturday, August 30, 2008

This Is the Palin We Need

“I know that we shall meet problems along the way, but I'd far rather see for myself what's going on in the world outside, than rely on newspapers, television, politicians and religious leaders to tell me what I should be thinking.” ~ Michael Palin


“Armageddon is not around the corner. This is only what the people of violence want us to believe. The complexity and diversity of the world is the hope for the future.” ~ Michael Palin


Read those quotes again please.


I'd campaign and vote for this Palin in a heartbeat. Too bad he's not American. (Oh, but John McCain was born in Panama and that seems to be skirting the rules about who can run for president, but I guess that issue has fallen off the radar now.)

For those of you who might only know Michael Palin as one of the brilliant Monty Pythons, his extensive travels have been his passion for many years and he is also a witty, prolific writer.

I've seen all of his series, but Himalaya is my absolute favorite (we've actually worn out these DVDs from watching them--I didn't even know you could do that).

Palin's humility and ability to present the astounding number of cultural, historical and sociological aspects and diversity of the world's countries is fascinating, educational and eye-opening.

Part of his New Europe series (which is not available on DVD yet):

If nothing else, we already know that he can wear women's clothing, too. I wonder what his position is on intelligence and humor in the White House? It's got to be more enlightened that what we've been getting for so long (although these quotes were never intended to be funny)... (This first skit is one of my favorites, but it's so hard to choose... but very appropos for the subject matter here. )

Friday, August 29, 2008

No More Politics Tonight

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right." ~ H.L. Mencken


I just got myself all into a tizzy with my last post and now I'm pooped.

I took these photos this morning and the light was really awesome. I think I'll just gaze on these a bit and pat myself on the back for catching these shots and not worry about vice presidential candidates and sound bites and flag lapel pins and teaching creationism in schools.

The camera doesn't lie. These images are as exactly as I took them. I didn't have to make them into anything they weren't.

How John McCain Made My Day

I never thought I'd say that.


First, I was so happy to see this photo on the front page of the newspaper this morning:

And then, of all people, John McCain made my day, by doing this:

Picking as his running mate someone who's been the Governor of Alaska for two years? Guess that argument about Obama not having enough experience is going to fly out the window now. Please don't tell me that he put a woman on the ticket just because he thought he could pick up some disgruntled Hillary supporters?

From the McCain campaign: ...as head of the Alaska National Guard and the mother of a soldier herself is evidence that she "understands what it takes to lead our nation..."

(Yeah, I know it ain't over till it's over. But still...)

I'm looking forward to seeing that lovely young family in the White House.


(And someone brought donuts to work, so now I'm really stoked.)

First photo from SF Gate. Second photo from the International Herald Tribune, which BTW is a great place to get your news.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

And Not a Moment Too Soon

We saw a display of these books tonight on our evening walk after dinner. We had to laugh as we flipped through the pages. This book was too perfect and too funny and too depressing all at the same time.

The best satire usually stems from the worst predicaments... let's hope we never need to read a bedtime story like this to our nation's children again, even in jest... like the stories we've been force fed over the past eight years.

Goodnight Bush. Good riddance.

You can read the text of his historic speech here.

Photo happily taken by me, around the corner from my house, at the house informally known as the "Obama House."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bring Me the Head of Tangobaby

Today I had one of those horrible headaches (woke me up at 5:21 a.m., which I find to be extremely rude) and it is finally, finally going away.

But it was one of those mornings where it would have been very nice to swap heads (put this one in the shop for repairs, have it back next Tuesday, thanks!) or just pull a Salome on myself where I would also be John the Baptist.

And that thought made me instantly want to be in Paris (it's Tara's fault, too, with her photos today) and if I was there, I would go straightaway to the Gustave Moreau museum and dawdle because it's just one of my favorite places to be, with all of the light and the super tall ceilings and the most incredible paintings on every wall in gigantic gilded frames all the way up to the tippy top.

And then it further dawned on me that I have seen not one but two famous Salomes in my life so far: the one at the Gustave Moreau museum and the Gustave Klimt Salome at the Ca'Pesaro in Venice. Two Gustaves, two Salomes.

And that made me not want to cut off my head, but instead to plan to see all of the Salomes of the Western World, because all in all I bet Salome was a hot babe who probably looked great in a sweater and liked to dance for her own pleasure, and certainly those types of girls get a very bad rap by the boys who write the history books.

Which reminds me that if you want to read a really fantastic book about women and the history of dance, run right out and get Something in the Way She Moves, by Wendy Buonaventura, which is a fascinating, fun read and you'll learn a lot about history, dance and its place in society, and sassy, wonderful women.

I think I'm feeling better already.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Most Constructive Thing I Did Today

A first...

The first tangobaby print left the nest today, winging its way to someone special who is not directly related to me by blood and would therefore be obligated to like my photography.

A sneak peek for Jessica...with many thanks!

Yay! I'm so excited!

Who's next? Robin? Liz?


A Tuesday Thank You

My friend Abbey at indulge*laugh*create presented me with this lovely Arte y Pico award recently.

I have to say that it's such a pleasure to know Abbey. We met at the Shutter Sisters photo walk last month, and we hit it off immediately. I'm looking forward to having her come up for another visit to San Francisco, where we plan to spend the day exploring the city and taking lots of photos (we soon realized that our photo walk was not nearly long enough, and she is just as curious a cat as I am!).

In keeping with my normal procrastination mode, I did not pick up my little award right away...not because I wasn't pleased as punch, but because it's so hard to pick just five blogs to award it to (last time I cheated and picked seven).

So thank you, merci millefois, sweet Abbey, and here are my blog crushes of late, to whom this Arte y Pico is lovingly bestowed:

The beautiful photography and loving wisdom of robin bird at bird tweets.
The eclectic musings and life of julochka at Moments of Perfect Clarity.
The heartful writing and inspired images of Christina at Soul Aperture.
The sass, class and imagery I can't live without: P at what possessed me.
My muse of daydreams and talented artisan, Lala at My castle in Spain.
The impassioned writing and world perspective of Tara at Paris Parfait.
The soul-searching poetry and fresh Alaskan air from Sarah at and the ott says...

See, I did it again. I just can't do five.

ps. For my recipients, you know what to do...link to me, pick your recipients, la de da, la de da. xoxo

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Secret Lives of Flowers

"Who would have thought it possible that a tiny little flower could preoccupy a person so completely that there simply wasn't room for any other thought...?" ~ Sophie Scholl


I really am on a quest to try to go to bed at a decent time tonight, but I just had to share with you these photos I took yesterday, of a hydrangea in the Japanese Tea Garden.

Look! There is a teeny tiny flower inside the hydrangea petals. I've never noticed that in my whole life, but thanks to a macro lens, I can now see something so exquisitely formed and so easily overlooked.

I am just totally blown away by this. I am not sure why.

I also thought it was really wonderful.

I don't really have much more to share, except that in trying to think of something to add to these photos, I found this very cool interactive website about the science of gardening, from one of my favorite places, The Exploratorium.

Check out this site... it's very interesting and entertaining.

Okay, nighty nite, you all. Sweet dreams.

Home Sweet Tiny Box

Do you remember when you were a kid how much fun it was to make forts and play inside refrigerator boxes?

I remember using a serrated steak knife to cut doors and windows (did my mom know about this?!) in a windfall of cartons from a new washing machine and dryer when I was a kid. After that, it was merely a matter of decorating our new house with colored markers. We got a lot of mileage out of our big box houses. Their only downfall was that they had quite a slant to their foundations (being set upon the driveway) and that the cardboard did not survive too much hard living.

Indoors there was a constant building and rebuilding of Fort Family Room by using all available sofa cushions in the house.

And then the famous sleeping tent constructed of all of our kitchen chairs draped with velour blankets. My sister and I would sleep in our gypsy caravan tent, filled with books and pillows and sleeping bags, our blanket ceiling illuminated by a small desk lamp. In the mornings, we would awaken to being smothered in our collapsed tent, as our dog would invariably try to get into our hideout by jumping from the sofa on to the roof of our tent (she never could tell where the door was).

It's nice to know that even when you grow up, you can still have your own cardboard box or fort, if you live in San Francisco. But now they make you pay for them.


I don't know about you, but I couldn't even get my shoes into 250 square feet of living space. THERE IS NO CLOSET.

I know lots of people think that San Franciscans are crazy. I would go so far to say that someone who pays $279,000 for something you can get for free by joining a monastic order and relinquishing all of your worldly goods is getting close. The headline reads: "New condo development targets young first-time buyers without too much stuff."

This will also give you an idea of real estate prices in our neck of the woods. San Francisco is not New York, so I really wonder if these little tree houses will fly.


Photo gratefully stolen from Julochka and her lovely daughter. Other photo from SF Gate article above.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Call Me Monet Junior

Oh lordy! Why didn't you guys tell me I could do stuff like this in Photoshop?!!

I take it all back.


Today I became an Impressionist! And I can't even paint!

I took this photo today of a waterlily at the Japanese Tea Garden:

And magically turned it into this watercolor painting!

Hooray...something new to obsess about...Photoshop filters!

Making My Mark

"Handwriting is autobiography." ~ Carrie Latet


A little while back, my buddy Julochka tagged me for her handwriting meme.

Julochka, thank you for being patient. I had to get some other things taken care of posthaste. And, funny enough, I had to first find a sample of my handwriting, not an easy task.

Obviously, the meme is to share what your handwriting looks like, and in searching for evidence that I can indeed read and write, I was finding it hard to prove that supposition.

I type. I type a lot, as this blog and my emails are a testament to that fact. But apparently I do not write things down much anymore.

Realizing that I am not leaving my mark on the world came as a wierd little surprise to me.

I remember being in elementary school and loving to write with fountain pens. I even liked when they leaked and the ink oozed out and stained my fingers. I remember how fun it was to take out the old ink cartridges and snap in the new ones, pushing those new cartridges and realizing that a tiny puncture would now let the ink flow into the nib of the pen.

I loved the feel and sound of the scratch of the nib on the paper. Later, I moved on to crow quill pens and bottled ink (though not for school, just for fun). And I was never without those felt-tip chiseled calligraphy pens in different colors and tip sizes.

I used to steal ballpoint pens from restaurants and hotels and dry cleaners when I found ones that wrote in a smooth manner, dispensing just the perfect amount of ink onto the page. I had collections of calligraphy sets and took calligraphy classes.

So how did this turn into a dissertation on pens instead of handwriting? Because somewhere along the line, I think I found I could express myself more effectively through the keyboard than the pen and page. Perhaps because my fingers fly faster on keys than can push a pen across the page, and in my world of fleeting thoughts, I need to net them as quickly as I can, like butterflies on a summer day.

Or perhaps it's because I can perfect my words with the touch of a delete key without messy scratches and scribbles. I dislike evidence of my imperfection.


I finally did find some proof of my ability to write with a pen. These are samples from two postcards I sent to The Boy last year, from Venice. One postcard I wrote from Harry's Bar, where I was treated like a queen by the handsome waiters, drinking the requisite Bellini and crying silently as I wrote out my postcard, not from sadness, but from the overwhelming beauty that was all around me. I remember the tears sliding down the side of my nose and dropping onto the postcard, like tiny raindrops. (Perhaps the cute, dark-haired waiter comped my delicious croque monsieur because he thought I was going to throw myself into the Grand Canal later that day.)

The other postcard I wrote under the awning of a caffe in the Campo Santa Margherita, nursing a cappucino and eating yummy shrimp and egg salad sandwiches, watching people walk by. This time I did not cry, but it did rain. The air was chilly, and I was bundled up in coat and scarf, taking off my gloves to write my postcard.

What I realized in looking at these two images is how my writing contains and expresses my joy, in my somewhat sloppy letters because everything was so gorgeous and exciting and I couldn't write fast enough. And that is something that a computer keyboard will never be able to capture.

Perhaps perfection is a little overrated.

Julochka, in honor of the beautiful moleskine and journal you sent me, I am going to find a worthy pen, maybe one that stains my fingers occasionally but who cares, and write some words. Make some scratches.

Maybe even make some mistakes.

Thank you for the reminder. And the excuse to reminisce about things I love.


ps. One thing about Venice is that it is full of little shops full of gorgeous handmade papers and pens. For the writing enthusiast, it's a little over the top, like Disneyland. This was a shop in San Marco where I bought some goodies.

pps. I found this interesting online book about the history of pens.

ppss. Whoever would like to be tagged for this meme, consider yourself so. Just leave me a note in the comments so I can visit you and see your post!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sikke en dejlig overraskelse!

What a lovely surprise!
(I am trusting Google Translate with the above text, to say what I need to say in Danish.)


Yesterday, a white puffy envelope was waiting for me on the porch...
It had traveled far and wide, covered with Danish stamps.

The envelope contained a delightful surprise from my namesake sister-friend in Denmark, Julochka.

I don't know about you, but I think just getting something with stamps on it from another country is exciting.

And then what was inside was even prettier than could be!

The cutest notecard you ever saw, one of Julochka's own special moleskines, and what might be one of the loveliest bound journals I have ever seen.

The fabric is the most amazing blue/green linen fantasy, from her favorite place, Bookbinders Design in Oslo. The book is so pretty that I'm almost afraid to spoil it!

How DID she know that this color book would make me swoon with delight?

Because she's fabulous... and so very smart!

Here's a little of what you need to know about Julochka:

midwestern girl grows up, meets lovely danish boy in fragment of former yugoslavia (as one does), follows him home and lives happily ever after, traveling merrily around the world and writing stories for a living.

She really is all these things, and much, much more.
So please stop by her blog, Moments of Perfect Clarity, and say hello. You will enjoy your visit very much and I promise you'll visit often.


Thank you, Julochka!

Tak, Julochka!
(did I say that right?)


Friday, August 22, 2008

All That, and a Bag of Anything

I don't know about you, but this was a week where I was ready for it to be Friday on, oh... about 9:05 a.m. on Monday morning.

I hope your weekend is full of...

Fun, cute friends (with fur or without--your choice) who make you smile...

Surprises around every corner...


Bags of whatever you need for a buck!

God Bless Friday. And YOU.


(Just some crazy little photos I took today at lunch.)


Can you call something "New and Improved!" if it got improved before it even had its debut?


I've been keeping a very late schedule lately because my baby arrived this week. I was really thrilled at how bright and glossy and colorful she was, and then I started looking for ways I could make her even better.

I was lucky to enlist the help of our art conservator friend, whom you might remember from this post. T. has a weekly sleep-over at our house, since we live close to the museum and then he doesn't have to commute so far to work. I used that opportunity to get his expert advice on my book's appearance, layout and images.

With his input, I realized that there were two photos that just didn't make the cut, when compared to the rest of the photography overall. As I went through the remaining photos in my inventory, I came to the conclusion that I didn't have anything better to replace them with either.

So yesterday I woke up even earlier so that I had almost an hour in Chinatown to myself before it was time to go to the office. It was a cool, misty morning, and very few people were out. Solitary figures in Portsmouth Square, practicing tai chi. A father, hand in hand with two little boys, perhaps on their way to the playground.

What was most special about this walk were the few elderly gentlemen that seemed genuinely welcoming to me, that smiled and nodded, or waved or said "good" to me as our paths crossed.

What was also special was that I ended up with 120 photos, many of them excellent. Which meant that I had to find room for them. Instead of replacing two images and calling it a day, my book went from 40 pages to 60 because there were so many other images that I couldn't believe I got so lucky with.

My book went from being a baby to a toddler, I guess.

Which meant that I was up until midnight sitting in front of the computer. Again. Thank god for cosmetics. Otherwise I'd look like an extra from the House of Wax. (I feel like one, though.)


All of this publishing business is bringing out memories of the 8-year-old girl in me. As a kid, I was always making tiny books and laying out my version of the Macy's fashion catalogs. No dolls, no stuffed animal could hold a candle to the chance to make a book, complete with a well-stapled binding. The books were generally illustrated in felt-tip pen with great care, but the writing was often plagiarized from random portions of Little House on the Prairie or Aesop's Fables. (At the time, I was more interested in the book production process, and meeting my internal publishing deadline was more important than where the text came from.)

(For years, my parents thought I was a something of a writing savant until I finally told them that they'd unknowingly been enjoying the excerpted words of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and not my own brilliant prose. They were crushed. But the single, extant copy of Vertrud and His Friends is still a family classic. As is The Fox and the Charry Tree.)


I wonder what kind of girl-powered publishing genius I would have been by now if I had had access to blurb.com as a child.

Oh well, better late than never, right?

ps. I promise this is the last version of the book and then I'll give you ALL the details! I have to make sure that my little girl is as perfect as I can make her before I send her out into the big world.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

One of My Better Work-Related Emails

Mom strikes again (and NO, it's not my job. Supposedly we have someone employed here called an office manager).


8/22, 2:22 PM

Hi guys,

The refrigerator has undergone a massively overdue cleaning and restocking.

I am guessing that most questionable/possible Bio-Hazard items have been destroyed, including the hairy carrots (you know who you are).

The ancient yogurts (dated April), emaciated blueberries, Ming Dynasty-era Chinese food and very odd-looking shriveled Camembert (that was what the label said it was) have gone to the giant landfill in the sky.

Let’s start things anew and keep our little refrigerator pretty.


ps. If I did throw out your lunch accidentally, I apologize.


pps. I accidentally did throw out someone's lunch, but he did agree that it was stinky and gross.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Tango in My Heart

This is me (with pals), in a cab, in Buenos Aires. (I'm the one on the end. You knew that.)

We're just coming back from a wonderful class at the Dinzel's studio. This may be a capture of one of the happiest times in my entire life, one that I can remember like it was yesterday.

But it wasn't yesterday at all. It's been a while since that day.


I was awakened this morning by a dream about tango. I never dream about tango.

In my dream, I was wearing my flamenco shoes and I think I was in a hardware store (go figure), but they were having some sort of dance competition there. Some guy asked me to dance. (You know how in your dreams there's someone that seems really familiar to you, but doesn't look like anyone you know in real life? Well, this guy was like that. Upon awakening, I still don't know who he might be.)

Anyway, the song they played is the one that makes me melt, the one that draws me like a moth to a flame: Desde el Alma. In my dream, I could sense my partner's nervousness (he was a beginning dancer) but since I had more experience than him, I could feel his happiness and relief that I could follow his steps so effortlessly, and could even feel his cheek smiling, pressed against my own. I closed my eyes and danced to this beautiful waltz.

And then I woke up, that song still haunting me.


I haven't been dancing in several months now, not flamenco, not ballet and not tango. It's been an amalgamation of reasons, a snowballing effect of things I don't need to bore you all with, but to some degree a bit of this, some of this, vestiges of this, and other mundane things like being flat broke and tired at the end of the day.

But dancing in my dreams, and still having my beloved song playing on endless loop in my brain has made me remember all the wonderful things, the lovely things, the tango in my future, when I was a tango angel, and especially this memory, the tango in my past.

For those of you new readers who weren't sure where a silly little name like tangobaby comes from, to those few remaining tango-loving readers who still read my blog even though I don't really write about tango anymore, let's watch this dance together, to the song that haunts me even now, as the faint rays of the sun start to brighten the sky and I wait for the day to begin.

I need to dust off my dancing shoes already. I still haven't even worn these shoes yet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Photoshop Is Making Me Suicidal

Trying to figure out how to use Photoshop by yourself is probably something that a person who is patience-impaired should not do. Especially when that person (me) doesn't like to read tutorials or instructions.

I am not sure exactly how one learns Photoshop in one's own lifetime without taking up dangerous side exploits like playing on railroad tracks at night or drinking absinthe.

When I need to perk myself up, I do two things (they don't always work, but it's better than some other alternatives):
1. make myself a glass of Ovaltine (extra spoon, thank you!)
2. put on my Harry James CD (and sing along)

Since you probably aren't interested in watching me down another glass of chocolate malt, you can listen to one of my favorites from the CD: Kitty Kallen singing "It's Been a Long, Long Time." Plus you get to see some great footage of Rita Hayworth. Someday, I'll figure out how to put music on my blog, but first I have to get this Photoshop out of my system.

Oh, what the heck, I love this one too. Here's Harry James with Helen Forrest singing "I Don't Want to Walk Without You":

You really should give this CD a try. It's fab.

I feel better already. [please help me. *tiny scream* what the f*ck is an embedded color profile?! *sob*]

Monday, August 18, 2008

Visit to the Ghost Fleet

For those of you who wanted to see the voyage I mentioned earlier.
It was a cold and foggy morning in San Francisco (typical summer weather). We made it down to the pier around 8:30am, to see most of the wharf and the Bay Bridge engulfed in fog.

When we walked up the gangplank to board the giant ship, coffee, juice and donuts awaited us before we launched.

This guy was waiting very patiently for someone to drop their donut. Seagulls are like dogs with wings. As soon as they see food, they practically beg.
He was so desperate for my donut that he let me take lots of photos of him. Alas, I was not in the mood to share.

By 9am, we sailing towards Suisun Bay, out of the fog, on our way to see the Naval Reserve Fleet, otherwise known as the Ghost Fleet (or Mothball Fleet).
It's the people you meet aboard ship that are the most interesting of all. Many of the men served in the Navy or the Merchant Marine, and are only too glad to tell you some incredible stories of their lives at sea. You always end up so grateful that they survived to tell the tale.
The volunteers who operate the ship take their jobs very seriously, and this is a place where the older you are, the more valuable your experience is.
And then, we were past the fog and into the sunshine. Two tugboats (and assorted seabirds) escorted us on our entire voyage.
We crossed under many bridges.
And finally at our destination.
These so-called Ghost Ships are actually in better shape inside than they might look outside. They are completely sealed and waiting to be sold for scrap, or perhaps decomissioned and restored (like the Jeremiah O'Brien) or sent to museums.
From this really interesting article (text exerpted is in italics):
The ghostly congregation of ships known as the Mothball Fleet floats silently on Suisun Bay. Huddled together bow to stern, they wait for a call to duty that may never come.
The fleet may look like just a lonely, floating junkyard, but hidden among the discards are some nautical treasures and old heroes.

One is the Navy tugboat Hoga, which during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 rescued dozens of sailors, fought onboard ship fires, and pulled the battleship Nevada to safety.

The Golden Bear, a 1939 passenger liner that later became a training ship for sailors, and the World War II merchant ship Red Oak Victory also dwell in the fleet. Organizations are hoping to save all three vessels.

Every year, the number of merchant ships flying the U.S. flag shrinks. The ships kept in reserve by the Maritime Administration ensure that the country will not have to depend on foreign ships or build new ones if a war or humanitarian need arises.
Every day, 71 Maritime Administration workers inspect the ships for leaks, oil the engines and make sure only dry air circulates inside the ships' hulls. A low-voltage electrical system keeps corrosion from forming under the waterline.

They don't do cosmetic work, such as painting the hulls.
It's hard to describe how gigantic and impressive these ships are. The camera really gives you no sense of scale.
After we saw the Ghost Fleet, then it was time to head on back home.


A crew of near-ancient mariners sailed the Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'Brien out of the Mothball Fleet and later across the Atlantic Ocean to the 50th anniversary of D-Day. To date, she is the only ship ever to leave the Mothball Fleet under her own power.

I took these photos from the pier, to give you an idea of the size of this ship. Liberty Ships were instrumental in bringing much needed supplies (food, tanks, ammunition, anything really) to our forces during the war. Before the US entered the war, Merchant Marines sailed these ships to bring supplies to Britain.

Because of their size, these ships suffered huge losses crossing the Atlantic from German U-boats and enemy planes. Many, many sailors risked their lives every day aboard these ships.

The photos in this immediate section I took on the trip before this one. It's like stepping back in time, meeting the old sailors and seeing touches on the ship that would have been there since WWII.

This was the only surviving Liberty Ship that participated in the D-Day invasion to make the trip back to Normandy to celebrate the 50th anniversary.


So that was the adventure. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

If you are in San Francisco, you can visit the Jeremiah O'Brien any day and explore the entire ship. There are docents and volunteers (many of them veterans) who are happy and proud to show you "their" ship.

All photos taken by me, except for the one that was obviously taken from a satellite (I'm not that talented).