Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gold dust and denim

Broke Ass Stuart can sometimes be a little cutesy in his bar reviews, but I liked his piece for 7x7 on Tosca. Here's the best part:
In a time where San Francisco was just declared the most expensive city in the US, and The City’s artists and working class people are being quickly replaced by boy faced millionaires who care more about reaching their IPO than creating A-R-T, places like Tosca allow us to romanticize this beautiful city. They allow us to remember that this city was built on gold dust and denim, union organizers and poets. They allow us to remember that, for much of its history, San Francisco has been a place to fit in if you didn’t fit in anywhere else. What’s important about Tosca is that its sheer existence reminds us that San Francisco is not like everywhere else.  

Fairy tales

Via Brain Pickings (which you should check out if you haven't already), here are some absolutely gorgeous fairy tale illustrations. They're Art Nouveau-y, and therefore have some Japanese elements going on, but also remind me a little bit of some pre-Renaissance paintings. If I were going to get a tattoo, this is what I'd use for inspiration.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

As previously stated, it's been a big week for capital-f Feelings (mostly anger). I say that as a caveat for the rest of this post, which is sort of related to my last few posts and sort of not. Hopefully you'll see what I mean.

Early Monday morning my parents' closest neighbor was shot to death at home. Her name was Kristina, and she was 29, just like me. She had a little house at the bottom of my parents' hill, and they shared a driveway. Their orchard is practically in her backyard. Kristina was extremely kind to my parents. She was from their small town in Pennsylvania, and worked with her mother and grandmother at Peck's, the local grocery store. Her house was on her grandmother's property, the grandmother who my parents bought their land from. She had a dog, but I don't know his name.

She was shot and killed by her mother's boyfriend, who also killed himself. He killed her because he was angry at her mother, who had just broken up with him. He was mad at the mother, so he killed the daughter. He also shot Kristina's boyfriend, who managed to stumble a half mile to a neighbor's house to get help. The news reports had photos of the blood spots all over the road (a slightly outdated video is here). I wish he had come to our house, my mom said, but someone who is shot doesn't want to climb that steep a hill. The neighbors took him to a hospital and he is fine. But Kristina is dead.

It's a horror, my dad kept saying when I called him Monday morning. He sounded awful. He said she was very warm, and sweet, and everyone in town loved her. He said it doesn't matter what kind of person she was, though, because no one deserves that.

I've been thinking about this all week, a few things running over and over through my head. I hate that there was gun violence so close to my parents. I feel ill when I think of bullets flying so close to them asleep in their beds. I hate that they can see her house from theirs, that they'll have to drive and walk by it every day knowing what went on there. I hate that they might feel guilty, that they might think they should have heard something and woken up. I hate that this was the result of a sick act of revenge, and that Kristina's mom is left to deal with the unimaginable wreckage. And, of course, I am sad that Kristina was killed. Her obituary is here. I don't know if the town will fully recover.

It's a horror. That's all I've got.

Case in point

In a similar vein to my mansplaining post below, I read this fantastic Paris Review interview with Annie Proulx, an author that my entire family read obsessively. I loved this bit from it, on her story Brokeback Mountain:
And one of the reasons we keep the gates locked here is that a lot of men have decided that the story should have had a happy ending. They can’t bear the way it ends—they just can’t stand it. So they rewrite the story, including all kinds of boyfriends and new lovers and so forth after Jack is killed. And it just drives me wild. They can’t understand that the story isn’t about Jack and Ennis. It’s about homophobia; it’s about a social situation; it’s about a place and a particular mindset and morality. They just don’t get it. I can’t tell you how many of these things have been sent to me as though they’re expecting me to say, Oh great, if only I’d had the sense to write it that way. And they all begin the same way—I’m not gay, but . . . The implication is that because they’re men they understand much better than I how these people would have behaved. And maybe they do. But that’s not the story I wrote. Those are not their characters. The characters belong to me by law. 


I love this essay by Rebecca Solnit. It's about the tendency of many men to explain things to women even when they have no idea what they're talking about. The comments on the article are really interesting too. There's a few men in there bitching that it's not fair to make generalizations, but I think that while of course not all men engage in shameless mansplaining, many do. And it's bullshit. It's annoying and disturbing, and it's a sign of male privilege, of growing up believing that you know more than the person you're speaking to, that your opinion is fact and will be respected by everyone, regardless of their view on the matter.

I get mansplained to all the freaking time, particularly at work. Whenever it happens, I get a flash of jealousy - what must it be like to be so in command of the facts, so sure of what you have to say?! The jealousy is then replaced by shame at being wrong, and being so so wrong that I have earned a good five minutes of conversational steamrolling. Then, when I look up what was being discussed and discover that I was actually correct, I get angry. Mucho angry. I'm not always right, of course, especially since I am not a detail-oriented individual (read: I often talk out of my ass, a fact that contributes to the fact that I always back down when interrupted), but I'm no dodo.

I make an effort to take a balanced view of things, to understand all sides of a story as best I can. But I am having some serious righteous one-sided anti-man anger these days, the likes of which I have not experienced since college. Part of it is the elections stuff (all dumb and shouty), the fact that the Republican party has gone threateningly wackadoo and is hatefully anti-woman. Part of it is  this week's shitstorm on "legitimate rape". That deserved attention, sure, but mostly it drew attention to semantics rather than the fact there is a LONGSTANDING AND ONGOING GLOBAL EPIDEMIC OF SEXUAL ASSAULT. And that is the all of it.

I try to explain this to the men in my life: look at me. You love me, yes? Do you understand that I believe I will be assaulted in my lifetime? That the odds are decent that I will? That I have to take a deep breath and look behind me before I open my front door at night, muscles tensed, that I do the same before I walk down a dark block, before I take a beer from someone I don't know at a party? (Ok yes I know I'm not supposed to do that one ever, but sometimes it just happens.) And I'm a lucky person - lucky! - for not yet having been sexually assaulted. That is seriously messed up. There are many messed up things in the world, and I get hepped up about many of them (the murder rate of young black men in urban areas, the suicide rate among veterans, the neglect of LGBTQ youth), but more than anything I get hepped up about this.

And I have no answers or solutions. Who does? Those lesbians who create communes in the woods where men aren't allowed? It's not a terrible idea, but I have many wonderful men in my life, one of whom I very much enjoy sleeping with, so backwoods communal ladyloving is out.

Anyway, this post could go on forever and ever because my anger will perpetually unspool. But it is real, it is strong, and it is a constant thing in my life. In short: Dudes, get your shit together. JUST F***ING STOP F***ING WITH WOMEN. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Deep freaky fried

The NYT has an article with the idiotic headline "State-Fair Calories: Do They Really Count?" It contains gemlike sentences such as, "The streets at the Iowa State Fair are crowded with booths selling a wide variety of food, much of it served on sticks. The fascination with food on a stick is difficult to explain, but it usually means a 30 to 40 percent increase in sales."

The accompanying slideshow is magical, including a step by step tutorial of how fried butter is made. Ok so I'm not a big fried food fan, but I have definitely scarfed some fried Oreos on the Santa Cruz boardwalk and found them delicious. But fried butter? Blurgh.

My favorite part of the article was this image from the slideshow.
Caption: Ruth McCoy owns a concession stand that offers the only vegetarian corn dog at the fair.

Ha ha ha. Of course. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Kirby Cove dinner party

This past weekend I threw a party at Kirby Cove, the beach at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Kirby Cove, in all its damp foggy glory

The idea came from the blog Oh Happy Day, and I ran with the concept of a formal outdoor dinner. How could I not? I had the reservation for the day use spot, I had white tablecloths, and I had friends that are up for some adventure.

The reason this turned out to be a slammin' party, I think (by which I mean I had happy full drunk guests), was that it combined the fun of a casual bbq with the specialness of a sitdown dinner party. People were as goofy as ever, but they also felt like they had been given a gift - they commented on the food, the company, and, of course the setting. It also didn't hurt that my friends are charming wonderful people who got along famously, even those who hadn't met before.

I've discovered two things about myself recently: I love planning parties, and I really love doing so using spreadsheets. Give me a way to keep track of everything I need and everything I have to do, and I'm a happy, minimally anxious planner. And so it went with this party: I couldn't plan for everything - I didn't realize that we'd have to haul the supplies in from the parking lot into the site with wheelbarrows, for instance - but everything that was in my control was fully PWND.
The picnic/prep area

Despite some of the thickest fog I've seen, a ton of guests (25!), only 4 parking passes, and a good amount of chaos, we pulled it off. Boy howdy did we.
See the dinner table away up on the right?

I got to Kirby Cove with a car full of supplies early on Saturday afternoon and started setting up. At the top of the Marin Headlands it was epically windy and foggy, but the cove was protected. A few guests tromped in - I had told everyone we had the site for the whole day - and we prepped food, sang along to 90s R&B, and drank cocktails. Even better: over the course of the afternoon, many many oysters got shucked and slurped.

The view from the dinner table

As more and more people showed up (some hiked in carrying wine bottles!), we set out the first nibbles. Some people wandered the beach, others took pictures or stood around and chatted, and I made a brief foray into the water (just up to my knees - this is the Pacific after all). We discovered that the battery powered lights I had were too short to string up, so we wore them on our heads like fairy crowns.
Fairy lights, a puppy, and gorgeous floral arrangements

Finally I ushered everyone up to the bluff where the dinner table was set up. I was too overstimulated to do a good job of taking photos until just before we all sat down to dinner, but I think you'll get the idea. I had hauled in my jadeite salt shakers, a cake tray, ceramic serving dishes, etc. A friend put together beautiful white flower arrangements in mason jars, and my mismatched cloth napkins somehow came together.
A table with a view

During the picnic portion, we ate:
  • oysters, raw and barbecued
  • caprese salad (with a friend's ridiculously good homemade herb salt)
  • grilled peaches and halloumi with honey
While seated:
  • watermelon, mint and feta salad
  • lentil salad with tomatoes, jalapeno and fresh corn
  • quinoa salad with shrimp
  • grilled asparagus
  • eggplant, tomato and zucchini tarts in three iterations: vegetarian, gluten free, and with bacon (guess which was best)
  • grilled flank steak with chimichurri
  • coconut layer cake
And, of course, lots of wine. 
The foghorns went off every few minutes, and we were so surrounded by mist it was like eating in a cloud. Of the lovely thank you emails I got the next day, the most common description was "magical". Fog, I owe you one!

I hope it's ok for me to say so, but it was a damn fine party.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

No Chia for you

I just moved desks at work, from one side of a cube wall to the other. I am literally sitting two feet from where I was before, but everything is different. I'm closer to the printer, and hear it go off all the time, which I hate. I'm farther from the air conditioning vent, and no longer get a blast of cold air as soon as it turns on, which I like. There's a guy with a huge jug of water that he refills into a glass every few minutes. I call him Cleanse Man.

The topography of cubeland is, apparently, quite complex.

I also have to get used to a whole new set of voices that used to be mostly blocked to me. One aging fratboy (you know: fitted pink button down, dark jeans, ridiculously pointed shoes) is, apparently, the PC police - and I like it.

Generally Nice and Funny Gay Coworker Man: Remember, loose lips sink ships.
Frat Dad: Just so you know, the origin of that phrase was very offensive.
GNaFGCM: What? No.
Frat Dad: Yup. During World War II, it was used to remind people that their Japanese neighbors might inform on them to the enemy. It was supposed to spread paranoia and distrust. [Side note: I didn't realize it had this connotation, and I didn't find corroboration in a quick search online. But I believe in California, home of the internment camps, that could have been the case.]
GNaFGCM: I had no idea.
Frat Dad: It's ok, I'm not super sensitive or anything. Just thought you should know.
GNaFGCM: Well, I am sensitive to this stuff. I have a dog named Gypsy and I apologize all the time. I'd understand if people punched me in the face.
Frat Dad: Oh, and also your Obama Chia Pet. That's offensive too.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Your happy Internet for the day

I have a very deep love for Beyonce - I think Halo is one of the best pop songs of all time. But there is a kid named Ton whose love for B is so much deeper and better than mine that he has made magic.

Behold, his version of the Countdown video:

Also required watching - the side by side comparison:

Someone get this kid a medal. Or a college scholarship. Or, at the least, the thanks of a grateful Internet nation.

Healthy Spirits profile in Haighteration

Check out my new piece for Haighteration: a profile of Healthy Spirits, a kickass beer and whiskey shop near my house. It was fun to write, and it's even more fun to obsessively check how many Facebook likes and retweets it's gotten.

Other stuff I've written for Haighteration: a preview of a new neighborhood restaurant and a profile of two local backyards.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sky Crane!

How awesome is it that we've got a robot on Mars? I was following it all on Twitter last night while watching Melancholia, which is sort of vaguely relevant, and also very depressing. The pictures look almost fake (I don't mean that in a fake-moon-landing sort of way), and I can't wait to see more.

It's so fun to see people get excited about science.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Casa de Suenos

Last week I got back from almost a full week on the Russian River in the company of some very fine people. We rented a house, which we lounged about and cooked in. There was a deck surrounded by a redwoods, a hot tub from which we could see shooting stars, and, of course, the river.
The Russian River  area is so very Northern California. It's 90 minutes north of San Francisco, and is a hot sunny place to escape the fog. The river winds its way through huge redwoods from wine country inland to the coast, where it splashes into the Pacific in a pool where seals play. The heart of the area is the small town of Guerneville, which all hicks and bears, according to the dude that runs the canoe rental shop. On a run one morning along the river I saw only four people, and all were big old men with long grey hair and grey beards down their chests. Bearsssss.

The purpose of the getaway was an unofficial Wellesley reunion, and we had a fab crew of Wellesley ladies and their partners, all of whom were game to cook big meals, kayak, sun on pool toys in the river, and drink beer at a table that we had dragged into the shallow water just off our dock. I can't wait to do it again.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ich habe genug

I think Maira Kalman is awesome (get her book if you haven't already - I love giving it as a gift) and this video on Brain Pickings is a good example of why she's so sublime. Anxiety provoking and calming and delightful at the same time.