Monday, April 30, 2012

Grody Fascinating

I have a fascination for things that some people apparently find gross or disturbing or unappetizing or smelly or awkward or impolite.

 Like, all things gastro-intestinal. Like, big spiders. Cool bugs. Snakes, lizards, frogs, banana slugs. Decomposing vertebrates on the beach. Bodies: The Exhibit. Taboo body functions. Supportive communities for stigmatized activities.

So when we swerved around this former raccoon over the weekend, I nearly rolled out of the car with camera in hand before we'd even come to a complete stop. I've seen plenty of roadkill and ravens, but I've never seen a turkey vulture so close before. They're not particularly attractive in flight, and even less attractive in person. This one looks like he's wearing a black sleeveless turtleneck, but it turns out that's just the way they're colored.

Man that is one cool, ugly mother.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I just learned that "tidepooling" is a verb. Actually it's a gerund. But either way, it's an activity that people do. People meaning someone other than me. I used to think I was the only one who had ever wandered along rocky beaches and discovered the great secret about tidepools: Each one contains an entire universe of life.

When you think about it long enough, it's humbling.

What's happening in this bustling tidepool?

It's hard to tell from a still shot, but this tidepool was a hotbed of hermit crab activity.

Our stubborn starfish friend, latched on tight.

Photos taken at MacKerricher State Park, Mendocino County.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Random Garbage I Found In My Fridge

Some of the best meals come from my deep sense of urgency about rescuing old food from the back of my fridge. I didn't grow up during the Great Depression, and neither did my parents (though they did grow up fleeing to the mountains to escape Japanese bombers during World War II), but I have a strange Depression-era anxiety about wasting food. Don't ever do it. Something was born, grew up and died so that you could take pictures of it, post it on your blog, and eat it.

I tried this amazing-looking dino kale and quinoa salad recipe I found here. It's crisp and refreshing, though you'll need a bit of a taste for mildly bitter kale. You know quinoa has hit mainstream popularity when my disdain for hippie-wannabes isn't enough to stop me from finding it delicious.

Quinoa and kale salad: Two days in the
fridge and it still looks delicious.

I also had a chunk of beef in my freezer for months, so I used it in one of my mom's specialties, Taiwanese beef noodle soup, or hong sao niu rou mian. This recipe is the closest to my mom's. She doesn't use any of the chili ingredients because she has never liked spicy foods, so for years I thought this was a savory but not spicy dish. Also I've never seen tomatoes used, but for some reason the recipe calls for it. Strange and unnecessary, in my opinion.

The key flavor in beef noodle soup comes from Chinese five spice powder, a very standard flavor in many Taiwanese dishes. In terms of my list of comfort foods, anything with Chinese five spice ranks up there with fresh ginger and scallions, and sesame oil.

Any kind of mild leafy greens can be used in the soup, though bok choy is the most popular. I found some Swiss chard wilting in the fridge so I used that tonight, but I've also used spinach, napa cabbage or watercress in the past.

Finally, I boiled up a few eggs and threw them into the soup, then let them simmer on the lowest flame possible for about 45 minutes. We called them "brown eggs" just because they turn out brown, but I guess they're actually called lu dan, or soy sauce braised stewed eggs.

My rendition of beef noodle soup, with Swiss chard and a braised egg.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My New Favorite Blog

I just discovered this and will be spending the next few days combing through the archives:

It's a collective of over 20 writers, journalists, grad students, academics, music and culture critics and others who share their views on current events, sports, art and pretty much anything else coming out of Africa or relevant to it.

Their Facebook page says, "Beyond the project of ‘re-imaging’ Africa, the blog is a project of re-imagining a nation-ness that exists outside the borders of the classic nation state and continental boundaries. While counterproductions like ours are hardly ever ‘networked’ within existing power structures, we use the image field of the blogosphere to construct a new vision of self vis a vis networks outside the mainstream."

I have no idea what any of that means. Clearly, there are some academic types involved here.

Basically it sounds like they try to share, discuss and analyze news from Africa that represents the diversity of the continent, in an attempt to show people that it's not just a land of AIDS, famine and genocide. The guy who started it is South African and is now a professor at The New School in New York, and most of the contributors are somehow connected to Africa or have a strong and informed interest in it.

So far the content is fresh, intelligent and inspiring. Far better than the pseudo-analysis that shows up in The Economist and even less informed publications. Don't get me wrong, I love me some of that Economist, but it's still only a slightly more educated, British version of Newsweek.

Oh man, I feel like I just sliced a hole in a canvas sack full of beans. Through the first blog I just found another Kenyan blogger, who guest-blogged a wonderful article about the Kenyan presidential campaign at Africa Is A Country.

His own blog is here, and I love it already. Here's one of his posts, called Things That Bug Me about Kenya(ns) that I relate to both on a personal level and through many of my Kenyan friends, who expressed similar frustrations.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

75 Degrees

Post-ride pulled pork sandwich
and Prohibition Ale. Perfect.
I'm always more appalled than impressed by people in San Francisco who wear mini skirts, shorts or tank tops when it's 50 degrees and foggy outside. I see it more among women than men, which I suppose is  unsurprising yet puzzling, since women are usually the ones that want the thermostat turned up.

Personally I'm too curmudgeonly to put up with even a few minutes of feeling like a popsicle for the questionable satisfaction of showing off questionable assets to questionable audiences. Nothing makes me more cranky than being cold.

Except maybe being hungry. Or being subjected to loud motorcycles roaring past my window at three in the morning. Or slamming doors. Or 2-year-old future dictators of East Africa screaming until blood vessels pop in their forehead. Or people talking in shrill voices. Or entitled New Yorkers. Or trendy dance clubs full of drunk people dropping drinks on your feet.

Well, so lots of things make me cranky. Curmudgeon, that's me. The point is, in this town I like to stay bundled up most of the time, both to protect against the cold weather and to protect against the colder weather moving in later in the day.

But about once a year, San Francisco is sunny and 75 degrees for almost six hours in a row. Today was that day. I busted out a tank top and shorts, packed an extra hoodie, leggings, wind-proof jacket and beanie for later, and set off to Speakeasy Brewery. The entire city was outside in sundresses, shorts and wife beaters, all the tattoos on their arms exposed. There were lots of sunburns by dusk. Who thinks about putting on sunscreen when most days only your face and hands are exposed?

Warm weather somehow flips the gratitude switch to high. For those few hours of cloudless blue skies, I was in love with everyone I knew and everything I had and everything I was. I was accepting this magnificent gift from the universe. I had a beer in my hand, friends at my side, and sun warming my skin. I was joyful, breathing. Smelling, laughing. Present.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Good Racism, Bad Racism

 Some days are just a treasure trove of fascinating news items.

There's a new Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia that just opened in Michigan. It sounds like it's not for the easily offended, or for anyone who is unable to understand the educational value of displaying artifacts (and not-so-old artifacts like an "Any White Guy 2012" election t-shirt) with cultural significance in the context of racism against African Americans.

I don't know if I'll ever find myself up in that neighborhood but if I do, I plan to visit.

Yikes. Just yikes.
Then, the flip side. There's the photo and news story from Sweden so appalling that it even managed to make me cringe.

It's the story of an Afro-Swedish artist who staged a performance in which Sweden's (probably soon-to-be-former) Minister of Culture, Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth, is asked to slice a piece of cake shaped as the body of an African woman. And she is asked to slice the vagina. And as she does, the artist, Makonde Linde, whose head and face is painted in blackface and poked through a hole in the table to appear as the head of the African-woman-cake, begins to scream as if in agony. The intent is to portray female genital mutilation. Then the Minister feeds the cake to the artist. And the audience of white, blond Swedes laughs and cheers. Admittedly, the fact that it is a crowd of blonds only makes it that much easier for me to write them off as stunningly idiotic racists.

It's true you can't assume too much about people you don't even know, but the fact that this crowd thought laughing was an appropriate response says a lot about what they know about racism: nearly nothing.

Some have come out in defense of the Minister and the audience, saying they are most likely "kind-hearted, noble-minded people who oppose racism." Yes, they probably think they are. But what does it mean to claim to oppose racism when you have such a poor understanding of it that you laugh and cheer when confronted with it? These are probably the same people that will then vehemently deny being a racist if you suggest they are. At best it's absurd; at worst, it's the worst brand of ignorance. Sweden is an overwhelmingly ethnically homogenous society. It's largest minority are Finns, who make up 5 percent of the population. I frankly doubt many Swedes have ever been challenged by race.

Racism is such a complex and nuanced concept that outrageously overt displays like blackface really don't go very far to show that someone understands what it is. It's far more than disliking someone because their skin is a different color than yours, or they have a different faith. More importantly, these days it's usually far more subtle, allowing people who know nothing about racism to claim they they're not racist just because they've never burned a cross on someone's lawn.

So our kind-hearted, noble-minded anti-racists mean well, but they don't really know what it is they mean well about? I'm profoundly unimpressed.

The end result of the performance, I assume, was to open up discussion about female genital mutilation and race. The story has gone wildly viral around the world but people seem to be talking more about the arguably poor execution of the performance than the bigger issues it meant to highlight.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Broccoli Rabe

It's convenient that leafy greens are highly nutritious, low in fat and cholesterol free. Because I love me some dark green leaves all of the time.

When we were kids my mom cooked lots of Asian vegetables, quickly stir fried with garlic or ginger, lightly salted and planted on the dinner table piping hot. Our favorite was kong xin cai, which some people call Chinese water spinach and other people call morning glory and other people call eng cai and other people call pak bung.

We grew up appreciating the subtle flavors of all sorts of green leafy vegetables in a way that my mom claimed "normal" Americans didn't.

"Americans don't know how to cook vegetables to make them taste good," she'd say, spooning more bok choy or Chinese mustard greens or broccoli onto my plate. "They just boil them until they're mush, so of course they don't like them. That's why Americans are fat, because they don't eat vegetables."

Well, Americans are fat because they eat fat, not because they don't eat vegetables. (And also because they don't exercise enough.)

Anyway, I have a long list of leafy greens that I love, but at the very top of the list, perhaps in the #1 slot, in a close race with kong xin cai, is broccoli rabe.

I discovered broccoli rabe when I was living in New York and it showed up next to some pasta I ordered. It made an impression so I looked for it at the grocery store. I was disappointed when I realized that it was only in season for two or three weeks, around early spring. Because there was such a tiny window when I could find them, they became this rare commodity in my mind, which of course made me savor them even more when I had them around. It's probably a big reason they rank so high on my veggie list.

In California broccoli rabe seems to stay in season longer, or we've just had two great broccoli rabe growing seasons in a row. This year, I spotted them in early March at my Lucky Supermarket and they appear to be going strong yet. I still can't get over the idea that at any minute they'll disappear from the produce section, not to be seen again for ten long broccoli-rabe-free months, but I may be a bit less anxious about it after this year's long residency in the produce section.

Here's some broccoli rabe deliciousness I made for dinner:

You can google all sorts of fancy recipes, but a simple sautee with garlic, olive oil and a pinch of salt is about as perfect as it gets. Broccoli rabe can be slightly bitter, so sometimes I blanch it in boiling water first, then lightly sautee as mentioned. I like my leafy greens to be slightly crisp in the stems (to avoid the dreaded American mushiness my mom warned us about, as if it would signal our failure as true vegetable connoisseurs) so it can be a bit tricky to get the bitterness out without letting the mushy in.

Other amayyzing greens:

beet greens
brussel sprouts
jungle fern

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bearded Lady

Did she look like this? Maybe not exactly.
But the goatee and hair are spot on.
I saw a bearded lady on the bus this morning. It was actually more of a goatee, though. A pretty cool one. And I started thinking that if I could grow a beard, it would be cool to go around with a beard.

I don't imagine many people would agree with me. But think about it. Men who can grow hair on their faces like to landscape it. Why not women?

I was a bit surprised that it didn't take much for me to decide that gal-beards might be cool. This woman had her hair cut short and spiky. The goatee matched well. It didn't say feminine, to be sure. She wasn't really going for feminine. But it did say, "I've thought about it, and the goatee works. And I don't really give a shit what you think, so stop staring, you rude freak."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Yeah, so it's a cliche to say that sunflowers make me happy. Of course they do. They're so sunny and bright and big. Sunflowers are what you get when you plant laughter in cool black soil. Wait for a bit and a bunch of silent, fat smiles pop out of the ground.

Must be at least this tall to invade a field of sunflowers
I found this photo in one of my Kenya albums. I think we drove by a bunch of sunflower farms on our way to Mt. Elgon. The plants were so gigantic that we had to stop so we could pile out of the car and stand next to them in awe. Those guys look like they could uproot themselves, start running up to people like us and laughing in our faces as if they were Hafiz of Shiraz.

and I have become
like two giant fat people living
in a tiny
keep bumping into
each other

- From "The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Going Back To Sleep

I'm the worst at waking up in the morning. I could probably give some reasonably plausible explanation for it, maybe going back to when I was in elementary school and my Mom would roust me from sleep really early in the morning in her bossiest voice, instilling a lifetime of resentment about having to wake up on anyone's terms but my own.

Whatever the reason, it turns out that now I can't get out of bed without first going back to sleep. There's something so satisfying about crawling back under warm blankets to savor a few more minutes of sleep, burying my face into my pillow, heavy with the smell of recent dreams. There's something satisfying about knowing I snuck in a few more ZZs when I wasn't supposed to. Every morning I get out of bed with the knowledge that I defied the rules just a little bit, if only for an extra eight or 16 minutes.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

No Dumping, Says the Pretty Sign

A friendly watercolor to remind you not to dump toxic crap into the sewer. Corner of Wildcat Canyon and San Pablo Dam Roads, Oakland.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lightning Storm

 I got caught in the rain on my way home from the gym yesterday evening. We're having some late season precipitation this year, perhaps to make up for a rare dry winter. It's always a bit inconvenient to get rained on when I'm on the bike. Brakes start squealing, pants are wet, the mud stripe gets painted on your back.

Last night though, there was lightning. And about ten seconds later, thunder. According to those kiddie science books, that means the storm was ten miles away.

It has been a long time since I've seen rain with lightning and thunder. That kind of drama is rare in the Bay Area. Winter and spring rains are pretty much a cold, steady drizzle for days at a time. Except this year, when it was cold and steady for a few hours at a time.

Lightning hitting the Bay Bridge, April 12, 2012. Photo by Phil McGrew.
Growing up in semi-monsoonal Houston, Texas, where every summer afternoon at exactly the same time the sky would crash open, explode in violent flashes of light, and dump sheets of rain for about 30 minutes, I used to think that rain always came with lightning and thunder. Our street flooded on a regular basis. The gutters on our roof would pour water like a pitcher. Then like a temper tantrum tapering off, as if the weather got distracted by something more interesting and shiny, the storm would roll away.

When I was a kid the thunderstorms were terrifying. I thought the thunder would rip the roof off our house, and the lightning would fry our TV and electrocute us while we were watching afternoon cartoons. Somehow, summer after summer, our house withstood the onslaught.

Now that I'm old enough to know that thunder and lightning can't do any of those things, but that lightning can still strike you when you're standing on a treeless plain, or when you're sitting helpless on a plane, thunderstorms are pretty damn cool. As long as I'm indoors, and I have a place to hang my pants to dry.

Scale of the Universe

This is amazing. It's an interactive Flash animation called "Scale of the Universe 2" that lets you see the size of a bunch of different objects in our universe next to each other. You can use the scroll bar to zoom from the smallest to largest things in our universe. The smallest thing that appears in the animation is a string -- the string theory version, not that thing that keeps your teabag accessible in your mug -- which is 1 x 10-35 meters. If you scroll to the opposite end of the scale, the size of the measurable universe is 1 x 1027meters.

You can also click on each object to get a description and size. Clearly these folks have a sense of humor - click on Pluto and it says, "Pluto used to be a planet, but now it's not. Why do people feel sympathy for it? It has no feelings. And if it did, why would it care what the people way over on Earth thought about it?"

Relative sizes are pretty fascinating. A human egg appears to have the same diameter as the width of a human hair. A Japanese spider crab, if it were to hold its legs out as far as they'll go, appears to be as wide as a human is tall. How delicious.

As I was zooming out to objects in our solar system and beyond, I started to get that anxiety I get whenever I think too hard about things that are too big to comprehend -- death, infinity, time, chance. It reminds me of this Calvin and Hobbes strip, which always somehow manages to re-ground me, if only in the knowledge that for now, while I'm alive, I'm not alone.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Trumpet Kid

I've seen this kid in front of the Ferry Building on weekends. Personally I think he's a great entertainer. He tap dances, he spins his trumpet, and he plays fun tunes. Puts a big smile on my face every time.

He was first featured on SFGate a few months ago. Yesterday there was a followup blog post about him being invited onto the Ellen Degeneres Show. When I scrolled to the bottom, I was bit disappointed to find a lot of not-so-flattering reader comments about the Trumpet Kid.

A lot of people have a lot of unkind words for the 12-year-old. They think he's being exploited by his mom, they think he's not that talented, they think he's only trying to rake in tourist bucks, they think he should be in school.

I haven't seen him often enough to have a sense of how true any of those things are. I'm generally pretty cynical, but I can't deny that this kid's performances make me really happy. I actually gave him a couple bucks and a compliment once, and anyone who knows me knows how hard it is to squeeze even one crumply faded dollar bill from my hand. So that has to count for something.

Whatever else people say, I love him. I hope he dreams big, and I hope those dreams are filled with trumpet-playing. The dude's got his whole life ahead of him and none of the nay-saying accusations should hold him back from what he wants.

Watch him on Ellen and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hunky Jesus

I'm not sure how I've passed eight Easters in San Francisco without attending the annual Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence celebration in Dolores Park. Every year the "leading-edge order of queer nuns" hosts all-day events for kids and grownups including an Easter egg hunt, an Easter Bonnet Contest, a Bring Your Own Big Wheel contest where you try to fly down a hill on a plastic tricycle faster than everyone else on a plastic tricycle, and my favorite of course, the Hunky Jesus Contest.

And more photos here.
This year, like the last seven, I missed the whole event. I had already spent the week before pestering Amir to let me hitch a ride with him to visit those ghost towns on the Delta on Sunday, so when my friend reminded me the Dolores Park festivities were the same day, I decided I'd have to wait yet another year to be a Hunky Jesus spectator.

While I personally find the irreverent themes witty and fun, I don't imagine most serious fans of Jesus do. I don't care enough what the perma-frowners think to spend any time trying to "defend" Hunky Jesus or cross-dressing nuns though, as if either of those were somehow morally corrupt and needed defending.

What appeals to me about The Sisters and their Easter party is that it's a celebration of the freedom to be who you are, or to dress up as someone you're not just because you want to, a chance to have fun while rejecting the idea that everyone should be the same, that if you're somehow different from the statistical or social norm by choice or by birth, than you are also somehow inferior or wrong. These kinds of iconic San Francisco events (gay pride, Folsom Street Fair, How Weird Street Faire, Bay-to-Breakers, Halloween in the Castro to name a few past and present) also represent safe havens of accepting and diverse communities for those of us who have ever felt marginalized.

I find it difficult to believe that anyone -- even middle-class, white, straight, non-immigrant Christian men -- could have gone their entire lives without at some point feeling disregarded or persecuted, part of an outnumbered minority unfairly judged or discriminated against by those who simply belonged to a bigger group or who had more power or wealth or who embraced a set of values most easily palatable to the average majority.

Which is why I find it hard to understand that anyone wouldn't relate to the spirit of these kinds of events. I say that, but at the same time my own experience has proven repeatedly that those who are mostly never marginalized rarely seem to remember the few times when they have been, and therefore are rarely willing to acknowledge they have anything in common with people who've chosen to transform their oppression into something positively joyful and inclusive.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Penguin Cam

The Cal Academy has a South African penguin exhibit with a live penguin cam. Hands down insanely cute every time.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Stumbling Upon A Secret

So many places in this massive state that I didn't even know existed.

The California Delta? Apparently it's where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers flow together, creating a vast estuary that carves through Central Valley farmland.

Spent the afternoon poking around some of the ghost towns along the Delta waterways. Not sure if it was because of Easter Sunday or because of economic depression, but they were mostly deserted save for a few bars and restaurants.

We started out in Locke, a town built in 1915 by Chinese levee builders who wanted a place to call their own after their homes in nearby Walnut Grove burned down. Most of the original buildings still stand, giving it the look of an old Western movie.

After a beer at the famed Al the Wops, we wandered downstream looking for dinner and happened upon Isleton. You can still see remnants of the old Chinese communities in many of these towns, though most of the original residents have moved onto more happening locales (China being one of them, apparently).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Best Minds of My Generation

Last night we were in a dark meadow in Golden Gate Park, a hundred or so bikes sprawled across the lawn with red and white blinking lights, someone blasting dance beats into the night, everyone dressed like animals. Bats, unicorns, pigs, owls, giant bunnies, horses, cats, bears and for some reason, lots of cows.

Someone got on a megaphone and said, "I'd like everyone to pause briefly and look at the moon." We all turned to look through a stand of eucalyptus trees. The moon was full and gigantic. "Now let's all take a moment to howl at it."

Now. Don't knock it until you've tried it. There was something very satisfying about howling at the moon. It made me laugh, but it also felt very primal, as if the human howl is some vestigial call that our ancestors used to navigate safely through the forest and back to the cave with the wild boar they killed for dinner.

Also, it just felt ridonkulous, and sometimes ridonkulous is exactly what you need.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bike Party!

SF Bike Party is tonight, the first Friday of the month. When people ask what it is I say, "It's like Critical Mass but awesome."

I sense that most people don't catch the commentary because they just hear Critical Mass and bristle. And I don't really blame them. The spirit of Critical Mass is more of a protest and a political statement, but it's often delivered in an inflammatory way -- people on bikes harassing, taunting and provoking drivers just because for once bikers have the numbers to do so with relative impunity. It never really felt good to identify with a community that unofficially condoned that kind of action.

Apparently lots of people agreed with me, and a much more peacin'-lovin'-dancin'-San-Francisco style community ride called SF Bike Party was born. We dress in costumes, we play loud music, we follow all the traffic rules and let cars pass. We're love-makin'-not-war-makin' on bikes.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wallpapering and Some Grammar

When I started my job back in September, I went a-googling in search of wallpaper for my desktop at work. I came across a wonderful artist named David Lanham who creates magically brilliant and whimsical wallpaper images that you can download or purchase from his website. I have them shuffling on my desktop every 20 minutes.

Every once in awhile I'll flip to my desktop and be amazed by some new detail I never noticed before, like how the blob's belly is translucent so you can see the people he's already eaten, or that there are flies buzzing under the lamp, or that the dog and the bone cast shadows on the moon. Genius.

Download your own here.

Tea for Two by David Lanham
Blob Attack by David Lanham
Space Doggy by David Lanham

Grammars is a few of my favorite things. I was reading an article for work and this sentence caught my eye:

"Interventions included in this review were those that showed evidence of reducing HIV incidence or risk behaviours likely to effect horizontal and vertical HIV transmission."*

I had to reread it because they used the word "effect" as a verb. No one ever uses "effect" correctly as a verb...except these folks. Yes! They really did mean to say "risk behaviors likely to result in horizontal and vertical HIV transmission."

The difference between using "affect" and "effect" here is subtle, and "affect" would have been grammatically correct as well, though possibly not exactly what they meant to say.

If they had used "effect" incorrectly though, for example, if the sentence were "risk behaviors likely to [effect] an individual's chance of acquiring HIV," which is often the way "effect" is used, it just wouldn't make any sense:

"...risk behaviors likely to result in an individual's chance of acquiring HIV." Huh?

Correct use of somewhat obscure grammar rules is so satisfying.

* From Pattanaphesaj, J., & Teerawattananon, Y. (2010). Reviewing the evidence on effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of HIV prevention strategies in Thailand. BMC Public Health, 10, 401.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Old But Not Expired

Yue, Pearl "Guitar Solo" 12 x 16, $350
Old people are pretty great. I like being in the locker room at the gym listening to saggy old ladies chat with each other about their kids, their illnesses, their plans for yet another carefree day of retirement. Not that being old is particularly carefree. So it always makes me happy to see happy old people. And it sort of makes me laugh to see grumpy old people, even though I sense that underneath the crankypants, that person is wearing a lifetime of sadness.

This art exhibit is on display at my gym. The exhibit features 90 works by elderly students of Art for Elders, an art program offered to residents of long-term care facilities in the Bay Area, through the nonprofit Eldergivers.

Many of the pieces are quite spectacular. I can't locate any artist bios on the website -- I think you have to attend the exhibit to see those -- so it's not clear exactly how functional many of the artists are. But our world is so focused only on what we can see, on these deteriorating minds and bodies mumbling on MUNI, heaving through a crosswalk with a walker, staring off into space because they can't hear what people are saying around them, that most of the time we forget all the quiet, hidden away places where beauty and talent linger on, refusing to let go just yet.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Today is the start of something new-ish on this old, old blog. Starting today, the theme of my posts will be, "Oh boy, look what I saw that made me smile today."

I say this is new-ish because my old "Laff of the Day" posts used to serve that purpose. And anytime you're feeling wistful for vitriolic old Mama Kelele, just click through my old posts.

Anyway, the goal of all this is to notice one thing each day that makes me smile, feel grateful, or laugh inappropriately loudly, because our world is crammed full of joy. But if you're anything like me -- or at least if you're not a self-righteous know-it-all with no self-awareness -- you're too busy, too distracted, too self-absorbed, too anxious, too worried about the future, too obsessed with mistakes of the past, to even notice most of the time. Somehow, I woke up in the middle of the night last night in a panic, because I realized that a lifetime of failing to notice would be a tragedy.

So, once a day we do this, me and myself, with you watching (and leaving comments, please!), until I slow down and it becomes every few days, or every few weeks, or every few months. Let's face it, I know myself too well.

But the whole idea is that noticing takes practice. I'll try to make it a daily practice, the way more spiritually evolved people make meditation a daily practice. And like in meditation, the point is to shift my attention to things that bring me those elusive, fleeting moments of joy. With practice, the moments become less fleeting and more MO. And when my mind wanders, or in this case when my life wanders, and I miss a day of paying attention to the happy-worthy gifts I receive every day, I simply bring the focus back. Pick up again, no judgments, no self-flagellation.

And now, for the first happy on record:

Click through the entire wonderfully photographed duck drama here.