Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My favorite video (for this week)

When you Twitter, Twitter smart, y'all...

Say What?!?

I found these signs in a Japanese restaurant in San Diego (which shall remain nameless because the food is really good and fairly priced, and I would hate to discourage you from eating there but these signs simply scream for comment).

If toilet paper is not supposed to go into the toilet bowl, then where is it supposed to go? The trash can? Out the window? Your pockets? To hell and back? (Just in case you were wondering, I used a disposable seat covering in lieu of the forbidden t.p.) Are the signs supposed to encourage use of the bidet? If so, where was the bidet???

You have to love those signs that make you think...

Tiny food (and food containers) from Roscata

I took a few pictures last week and I'm just now doing blog catch-up. I ordered these earrings and charm from an artisan called Roscata:

Roscata creates tiny foods from polymer clay and upcycled materials (such as miniatures). The baked goods look good enough to eat, don't you think? I can smell the chocolate when I wear the cupcake. And I am a particular fan of miniature food refrigerator magnets. (I can't wait until my full-size refrigerator and I are reunited!)

When I recommend a merchant on this blog, I do so with trust that you will be happy with the product and service. It's my way of spreading the wealth, so to speak.

Why it will take more than higher taxes to move me from California...

I took this picture on Sunday, March 22nd, near the surf at La Jolla -- one of the best places for surf-watching in the world:

If only I could make the photo look bigger on the blog! You can at least click on it to see it at its best.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Laundry Pause

I have mixed feelings about going to the laundromat.

I don't like it because I go in the evenings after a long day at work.

I don't like the proximity to large families and their crying children.

I don't like taking the chance that all the top-loading machines will be filled, forcing me to use the more expensive front-loading aluminum machines (some of which actually look smaller).

I don't like walking home in the dark. Even though the laundromat is not very far at all from where we live, I pass by some spooky dark spots. I keep my eyes wide open, but dark and spooky remains dark and spooky.

(I know I can solve this problem by returning to the habit of doing laundry on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately, that would steal precious weekend time. Besides, the wash costs more on Sundays.)

I don't like the fact that doing our two weekly loads takes ninety minutes total, and that's ninety minutes away from Two Dogs on a time-pressed weekday evening.

I like going to the laundry because it gives me a chance to read (and write) while the washers and dryers do their work. (That would not have been possible a hundred years ago, but that's a post for another time.)

I like enjoying my laundry soda -- Diet Coke by day, Fresca by night (as it almost always is now). Soda tastes better in the laundromat. Maybe it's because it's a treat in the middle of work. All laundromats should be near stores where you can buy drinks, or at least have a soda machine inside. My laundromat has no food stores where you can walk to quickly, but it does have a soda machine. Unfortunately, the machine doesn't have Fresca, so I just bring it from home.

I like the brief escape from an apartment which is way too small to hold our lives.

I like the feeling of soft, warm clothes that have just come from the dryer, and knowing that, for this week, laundry is done.

A laundromat can be dingy, dull, and disheartening, and I have been in my fair share of those places. A laundromat can also be a place of cheer.

When I was in college, I would pick up my red vinyl travel bag filled with dirty clothes, hang it over my shoulder, and walk to the laundromat only a block from Venice Beach. I spent many a happy hour basking in the sun that streamed through the windows, enjoying books that I would not touch today (such as scandalous autobiographies of baseball wives), and pondering the posters which urged gay men to practice safe sex. I'd walk across the street to the brick-walled liquor store for a cold one -- Diet Coke. Always Diet Coke.

Another cool laundromat I can think of is one in Mission Beach in San Diego County. I remember that it was covered in vines on the outside, and had tall windows that were rounded on top. Inside, it was filled with plants, and bulletin boards blossomed with colorful flyers. I will take some photos when I return there.

I also remember a laundromat in Las Vegas which had (past tense) two bearded dragons in a glass tank. I think I would enjoy washing clothes with a calm, silent reptile presence around.

That's a good idea -- a lush, jungle-like laundromat, with green plants creeping everywhere and no room for children to play, but there would be a fountain with a koi pond which disguised the hum of the dryers and one perfect seat for a mouse with a book (or notepad) to sit.

I like writing essays about the laundromat.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Support Your Local Craftsperson

I walked down the street to a crafts fair this afternoon. I would not have heard of it except for the colorful handmade signs pointing south. After unsuccessfully trying to get Two Dogs to come along (he was busy practicing his music), I went by myself. I'm glad I did.

It was a treasure trove of colorful, well-made, beautiful, one-of-a-kind items. Unfortunately, I was low on funds today, and this was all I could buy:

A bookmark from Hearts and Laserbeams and a small map print from Fred on Earth 1128. I got the map print because it shows Manhattan Island, where Two Dogs was born:

It's more important than ever to think about where you shop. If you feel the need for jewelry, cards, knits, bags, baby clothes, wall art, etc., don't, I say DON'T, go to the soulless big box store or mall. Go straight to online stores such as Etsy, Cafe Press, Buy Olympia, and Greeting Card Universe, among others. You will be supporting hardworking artists who love what they do and want to do what they love. Some of them might live in your own neighborhood!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Are You Ready for Your DST?

About a week ago, I glanced at my calendar and noticed that Daylight Saving Time (DST) was going to start on Sunday, March 8.

If I was a cartoon, dancing hearts would have blossomed around me. I love Daylight Saving Time, and I am glad that we've had three extra weeks of it since 2007. I love being able to take walks after work, and lingering longer on the balcony, and having extra daylight to do the things that look best in daylight.

Tomorrow is DST Day, and I hope you all remember to "spring forward" one hour. The missing hour of sleep is balanced with the extra hour of sunlight - a small but worthwhile trade-off!

Ironically, I also love drive-ins, and drive-ins do not love DST:

What is "natural time"? Aren't all time measurements unnatural? I remember going to a drive-in during the summer of 1975. When the movie started, the sky was still light but I didn't have any problems seeing what was on the screen.

Here's a charming website, complete with white fluffy clouds, that presents the history of DST.

DST! DST! I love, I love my DST!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why I Stopped Reading Romance Novels

In the winter of 1992, I picked up a flyer at Waldenbooks (or was it B. Dalton?) which advertised the latest romance novels. For reasons that I can’t remember – curiosity, maybe? – I bought several of the books in the flyer. I remember two of the books I bought, Trilby by Diana Palmer and Angel by Johanna Lindsey.

I read them at my (now ex-)boyfriend’s home in Walnut, CA. I was mighty pleased with what I read. The books contained what I needed during that time -- reliably happy endings (after years of Shakespeare and dour classics at UCLA) and generous heapings of sex (I will never forget the line "that part of him that was all male, threateningly male" in Trilby -- and no, "that part" was not the elbow). It was the start of a connection with romance novels that lasted more than a decade.

In the spring of 2007, as gradual as the start had been sudden, my romance with romance novels came to an end. The last romance book I read was Simply Love by Mary Balogh.

This conclusion coincided with my meeting and moving in with Two Dogs, but a happy love life was not the reason I stopped reading these books. The idea that romance readers are trying to make up for the lack of real love in their lives is tired (not to mention false) pop psychology. I read romances when I was happy in love and when I was alone.

I stopped because the books had changed…and I had changed.

I have read good romances and mediocre romances, serious romances and silly romances. I have found that the best romances are good books first – that is true for all genre fiction. Of all the romance writers I’ve read, I can name three -- Mary Balogh, Mary Jo Putney, and Justine Davis (writing mainly for the category publisher Silhouette) – who have been delightfully consistent in the high quality of their work.

As time went on, the good, serious romances became harder and harder to find (most of those were now referred to as “women’s fiction” or “contemporary fiction”). The genre became overrun with all sorts of fantastic creatures, from ghosts to werewolves to aliens and...(long pause -- I'll give you one guess)...vampires.

This paranormal invasion turned me off big time. I wanted to read stories that could take place in the world that we live in. Yet even without paranormal elements, romances spiraled further and further away from reality. They piled on the suspense, the wealth, and the testosterone – even the women started packing heat. Ludicrous titles like “His Majesty, M.D.” and “The Italian Billionaire’s Pregnant Bride” marred category romances. Harlequin even has a series of books based on NASCAR (?!?). It was time to run, mouse, run.

Yet the books themselves were only half the reason. I just got tired of the formula – man and woman meet, bicker to stave off their intense sexual attraction, end up in bed, have a Huge Disagreement, separate, realize that they were meant for each other after all and then begin their Happily Ever After with marriage and a bun in the oven. Exposure to formula time and time again eventually weakens its impact, and I went in search of the plot variety found in literary (that is, non-genre) fiction.

I have no problem with love stories. I have no problem with love stories that end with the couple happily together. But these love stories must respect my intelligence, be grounded in the real world, avoid ridiculous tacked-on conflict (often coming in the form of bickering), and contain good characters that I can care about.

I have been wisdom-hungry since the beginning of the year, and have gone in search of beloved books that I own but are now in storage (until Two Dogs and I find our real home). One of these books is It's My Pleasure by Maria and Maya Rodale (2005). It’s an exhortation for women to seek pleasure without guilt -- given the guiltload that weighs on women (both inner-and-outer-inflicted) when they don't put other people first, it’s a message that needs repeating.

Mother Maria and daughter Maya continuously point to romance novels as sources of pleasure and beacons for liberation. They point out the cliché that romance novels are “trash”, but in the midst of pointing out the critics’ broad brush they wield one of their own:

“In the publishing world, of which I was a member, [romance novels] were considered trash, drivel that was beneath the nose of anyone who had any intelligence or sophistication. If I had had any taste I would have been perfectly happy reading stories of rape, murder, incest, the meaningless and inhumanity of life…much of which is called literary fiction.” (This is Maria writing in the introduction, page xxi.)

Not all of literary fiction is that pessimistic. I have found hope and meaning, people who have been tossed downhill but stand up and keep moving forward…for to stop is to die before death itself. Hopeful literary fiction that I have read lately include The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway and Kyra by Carol Gilligan (which is also a great love story!) I can add a few more, but this post is long (and linky!) enough already.

P.S. I am a fan and regular reader of Diana Laurence, who writes what she refers to as “romance fiction”. I just received her latest work, “Soulful Sex: The Darker Side” in the mail.

I would include Diana’s books in the “high quality” romance section, but when I refer to “romance novels” in this post I mean mass-market paperbacks that are easy to find in bookstores, grocery stores, drug stores, airport newsstands, etc.

P.P.S. I went to Barnes & Noble after lunch today, looking for Romantic Times Book Club magazine (just to confirm my reasons for not reading anymore, natch). I didn't find it, but I did find this book by Maya Rodale, who has become a romance author herself:

I did something I rarely do these days: I bought a book on impulse. I will have to discover for myself if I can still get a thrill from a mass-market-size romance novel. But first I have to finish SSTDS.

To the bathtub!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Almost Spring

Today, I took a walk in my neighborhood, looking for tiny light green leaves emerging from tree branches. This is one of the most exciting sights of this time of year.

These little green leaves are heralds of hope. Every cold, rainy day of winter, every gray cloud of melancholy, every season-related calculation -- winter's one-third over, only one month more, this is the month that spring begins -- they are all worth it to see the glorious sight of the green.

And the pink:

I found these white and yellow flowers at an apartment building:

California is a state of many troubles, and I know Two Dogs and I can pay less for housing in other states, but would I be able to find such flowering in another state on March 1st? Would I be able to walk under sunshine that warms me to 80 degrees Fahrenheit?

Speaking of flowers, this is a photo I took a few weeks ago of a gathering of pansies:

The pansy is a symbol of freethought, according to Wikipedia:

The pansy is the long-established and enduring symbol of freethought; its usage inaugurated in the literature of the American Secular Union in the late 1800s. The reasoning behind the pansy being the symbol of freethought lies in both the flower's name and appearance. The pansy derives its name from the French word pensée, which means "thought"; it was so named because the flower resembles a human face, and in the month of August it nods forward as if deep in thought.

Look at these pansies. They do have the "faces" of serious, pensive thinkers, don't they?

Spring will officially begin in about three weeks. But most of you will start seeing the signs now or soon, in the melting snow, the chirping birds, the spots of color rising from the earth and the trees. Cherish this time of year. Don't let it pass by without noticing.