Monday Magpie: Iris Dement, Atul Gawande, cool art projects

Things I’ve liked recently on the internet:

  • Just today I started listening to Iris Dement. I was raised on country music and can’t believe I missed her entirely til now. This one made me tear up– I feel like I know several people just now who are feeling diminished, but who mean so much to the people who love them.
  • An interview with Atul Gawande by economist Tyler Cowen that’s not in the New Yorker, so maybe you missed it? Has sound (which I haven’t tested) and transcript. I liked this bit:

COWEN: Do you feel you’ve underachieved in life?

GAWANDE: That’s a hard question. [laughs] I know objectively that it’s kind of ridiculous that I would think I’ve underachieved, and that I’m proud of all the random things that I’ve been able to be part of. But I bear a kind of chronic dissatisfaction and sense that I’ve got much more to follow through on than I’ve managed to. So yeah, I think “underachieved” is the wrong word, and yet I don’t feel I’ve achieved nearly enough, and that half of what I’ve achieved, I wish I could go back and fix.

yesterday’s photos

a trailer hitch with a knitted cozy in rainbow colors

A cozy hitch.

tub of buffalo cheese dip labeled "MAN DIP"

I thought stuff with dip was already a Canonical Man Food?

Commute Not-Graffiti

Funny how many things almost count, or sort of count, for my commute graffiti collection.

sign in pickup bed reads THE KIDS ARE ATTEMPTING A CIVIL DISCOURSE ON CURRENT AFFAIRS

cardboard letters on sidewalk I P

A Happy Series of Events

  • Shellynoir leaves Sang and me six tall IKEA bookcases when she moves to Brooklyn. They take up a whole wall of the living room. But
  • for several years they are mostly empty, because it is vexing to figure out how to attach them to the wall so they won’t kill us in an earthquake.
    • old-school lathe and plaster wall in which it is difficult to find studs
    • baseboard that keeps the shelves from standing quite flush with the wall. It doesn’t seem right to remove and saw up the baseboard for shelving if it’s not built-ins. But!
  • for my birthday, Sang Does The Thing!
    • buys boards to affix to the wall, solving the baseboard gap problem, and even paints them to match the wall, with paint the previous owner left behind for us in the basement in 1996
    • gets toggle bolts to fasten the boards to the wall, even though making 5/8″ holes in the plaster is unnerving
    • fastens the bookcases to the boards with L brackets.
  • We go to IKEA for a few extra shelves. And breakfast.

IKEA breakfast with eggs, sausage, pancakes, potatoes, and jam. Cup of coffee and juice box behind plate.

Two dollars! excluding coffee and elderflower drink.

Things that now have a designated place on the living room shelves:

  • current household files
  • shoe box of correspondence to be saved
  • my university library books
  • my TBR that are not library books
  • my borrowed-from-individuals books
  • footstool that Bookherd made
  • art supplies TBD – colored pencils and sketchpads?
  • picture books
  • OED, Oregon road atlas, Sunset Garden Book, Chinuk Wawa dictionary, and a few other reference books
  • the globe
  • comics
  • poetry
  • coffee table books
  • empty shelf for the kitty
  • Legos, Zoob, K’Nex
  • games
  • art and photos from friends
  • pop-up books
  • Sang’s research project books, mostly from university library
  • Sang’s Holmesiana
  • yoga mat, foam roller, rollout-stick

Now, in addition, the mostly-fiction in the other room won’t be so overstuffed, and shelving will be easier there too. I am very, very pleased.

signal

My morning walk commute sometimes takes me down Clinton Street, where at 19th Avenue there is a preschool and community garden before you get to the car-traffic diverters at 17th.

Twice a guerrilla crosswalk has been installed, pleasing the preschool families, and twice the City has removed it. So this was here on Monday:

painted mandala with bike and bee at SE 19th and Clinton in Portland OR

Seeing such a graceful solution– no liability for an unsanctioned crosswalk, yes painted reminder for drivers– made me feel hopeful all day.

piece of cake

shed decorated to look like birthday cake with sprinkles

My morning walk took me past this little wooden shed on campus. It wasn’t open for business, but the sign says it’s called “art is a piece of cake” and is an art thesis project by Daphne Lyda. Fill me in if you know what’s inside!

A.S. King at Taborspace

wooden door at Taborspace with a conical May basket tied to the latch

Yesterday morning I just happened to see on Facebook that the public library was sponsoring An Evening with A.S. King that same night! And at Taborspace, a really nice comfy space attached to a church, in my part of town. Eeeeeee! Her breakout book was Please Ignore Vera Dietz, which hit my Lifetime Best list as soon as I read it a few years ago. I don’t love all her books equally, but each one is different from the others and I admire that. And her kind of weird often does it for me. So. I caught the late bus home from work by the skin of my teeth, had a few minutes to dine on crackers and chocolate milk, and drove over there.

There were May baskets hung on all the doors, and still plenty of seating. In fact, when someone who wasn’t there for the reading cleared out, I slid into a comfy armchair about ten feet from the lectern! Sara Ryan, the YA author who also runs YA for the library, did introductions. Laini Taylor was there too. And a mix of teenagers– mostly girls but some boys too– and gray-haired ladies with glasses like me.

A.S. King goes by Amy in person– she published under A.S. King from the start because there was already at least one Amy King publishing, and she chose that form because it spells Asking. In her opening patter she said she likes Portland because everything is made of wood. “I mean, of course other places have lots of wooden things too. But in Portland the signs are wooden, the steps are wooden!”

It turns out the first draft of Please Ignore Vera Dietz was written in 36 days. She is a total pantser, and is a little worried right now because her current novel is over 400 pages and not resolved. Someone asked how many drafts she goes through in revision, and she estimated a hundred to a hundred and fifty. She compared it to combing long hair–there’s no way you can yank through it all at once. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up little by little.

She reminded me a little of Lynda Barry. Maybe a little more extroverted– it felt like she could sit and shoot the breeze for hours (and I would be totally up for it). And she read a bunch from Still Life wIth Tornado, which is on my TBR stack and I’m pretty excited now to read it. So glad I made it to this event!

author A.S. King in flannel and jeans, reading at a lectern

silly things

1. Because sanguinity and I watched Yuri on Ice a couple of weeks ago,

anime Yuri ice-skating, subtitle "I'm a pork cutlet bowl fatale that enthralls men."

yesterday we met after work for a pork cutlet bowl. I got tonkatsu and she got spicy pork bowl, both tasty but neither quite like the show’s:

anime pork cutlet bowl as served on Yuri on Ice

I may or may not feel compelled to keep trying.

2. I went to my first Zumba class, at the community center this morning! My plan to hide in the back didn’t work out, as there were only two students including me. But my 1980s high-school aerobics chops got me through.

3. Two audiobooks on my phone and neither one really doing it for me. So I’m downloading I Woke Up Dead at the Mall.

cover of I Woke Up Dead at the Mall by Judy Sheehan, image of escalator with a girl in a prom dress

It’s set at the Mall of America. For those keeping track, I was not a finalist in their Writer in Residence contest. Well, onward and upward.

Friday Five

Remember the Friday Five questions at LiveJournal? I haven’t done those in ages. (ETA: they’re also posted at Dreamwidth.)

1. What was your favorite pastime in high school?

Reading books, same as now. I wish I had booklists for those years; lots of Madeleine L’Engle, lots of rereading.
I was also playing the piano and clarinet a lot, though clarinet especially was more a well-rewarded chore than a pastime.
I listened to more music and watched more music videos than I do now. MTV at shellynoir’s house and Channel 12’s Teletunes at Jenny’s.

2. What is your all time favorite board game/card game?

My most ardent love for board games was probably around age 5, so Candyland and Wildlife Lotto. But that aside, my longest-lasting favorite is Pictionary. It’s so fun! Come play Pictionary with me without keeping score.

3. What is the last movie you saw at the theatre and what did you think of it?

The Arrival. I liked the visuals a lot, and I liked the concept and storyline except that in the end it all came down to being about love interest and kid, like it couldn’t possibly suffice for it to be about a female scientist’s unprecedented discoveries and, you know, alien contact.

A few months later I read the novella it was based on, Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life.” I got a lot of pleasure out of noting the differences, where the novella had more nuance and where the film had pumped up the drama. (And I’m not knocking that– the pumped-up drama is where a lot of those visuals I liked came from.) Like, in the novella, there is no drive out to the huge alien monolith and suiting up and all that– they just step in front of an alien video screen in a canvas tent. I’ll say it: the book is better. But the movie is good and has charms that the book doesn’t.

4. What is something (no matter what kind of mood you’re in) that makes you happy the moment you do it, see it, or hear it?

Seeing a happy dog go by. Especially if I get to meet the happy dog!

5.Do you believe that crop circles are made by human or alien?

I don’t have specific beliefs about crop circles because I know almost nothing about them. In general, I believe our understanding of natural phenomena and of ancient history is incomplete, and I look to that before ascribing alien agency.

three things make a post

  1. Primroses in pots are for sale at the grocery store, and skunk cabbage is up in the canyon. Daphne is on the verge of blooming.

skunk cabbage up and starting to bloom, streamside

2. I’m reading Esther Hautzig’s The Endless Steppe. I don’t think I read it as a child after all; it was one of those books that was always in the background, at the school library and classroom collections and garage sales. Strawberry Girl was another one, maybe I should try that next. Anyway, The Endless Steppe has the fascination of autobiography combined with the comfort of knowing it’s also a middle-grade book and there’s a limit to how terrible things will get in it. A limit lower than the one in Between Shades of Gray, which surprised me a couple of times with character deaths.

A browse at Wikipedia told me that Esther Hautzig’s daughter Deborah Hautzig wrote a novel I liked in junior high, Second Star to the Right— a fictionalized account of her anorexia. She’s written an afterword–1998 but new to me– that I’m going to read as soon as I post this. I do appreciate it when authors make new forewords and afterwords available online.

3. I was in a “must under no circumstances run out of tea” mood and placed an order at Stash, my hometown tea outfit. I tried Black Forest Black Tea and have come to the conclusion that cocoa shells do not provide what I consider to be a chocolatey flavor. It’s earthy and not terrible or anything, but not what I had in mind. I still have high hopes for Breakfast In Paris– black tea, lavender, bergamot, and vanilla.