Seen and Heard

Dual Bag for Christmas

In what probably amounts to a confession on the shortness of my attention span I have to admit that I love television commercials as a visual genre. The way I see it, a good commercial is like a perfect mouthful of chocolate truffle. It captures my attention, delights me in some way and makes me want to have another one. Or, in the case of the commercial, watch it again. Ladies, you may wish to show this one to your husbands. It is a bit on the long side. 4 minutes +. That's an eternity in commercial time but the humor carries it through.

An awesome book by Dallas Clayton

On a daily basis I normally stumble upon some wonderful sites on-line. Great blogs, great news articles, great art, great people. The other day I found a children's book that is really meant for grownups. Like all the best children's books should be. I read it from beginning to end and then read it to my kid who stopped and looked at all the pictures and seemed very engaged in the story before declaring it was a bee-u-dee-fol book. I suppose it doesn't need more endorsement than that (at least in my book), but you shall have to make up your own mind.

For if you need further convincing about why you should at least take the time to look at it, I give you the confident words of author Dallas Clayton himself in explanation.


This is all you need to know:
I make things that are beautiful.
Sometimes these things are written down.
Sometimes they are drawn.
Sometimes they are wrapped and plastic and sold in important stores
for more money than they cost to manufacture.
I am quite good at making most things.
I am most interested in making people happy.
I have a son who is nearly five years old.
I enjoy making him happy most of all.
I would like to do this more and more every day forever.
This is why I write for children.
When I am not writing for children I am writing for adults and the
companies adults run, drawing pictures for those adults, and reading things out loud to crowds of strangers.
I can do just about anything.

Time passes, and every time that time passes, something fades - Jules Romains

That phrase in the original French, Le temps passe, et chaque fois qu'il y a du temps qui passe, il y a quelque chose qui s'efface... is what "O'clock," a work designed by student Nadine Grenier displays every twelve hours when the 500 hands that compose it move into positions that allow the words to be read. The quote comes from French author Jules Romain's novel Les Hommes de bonne volonté (The Men of Good Will). I love the kind of inventiveness that marries words and mechanics. Don't you?

via today and tomorrow and fubiz

What our environment says about us...

The principal of my high school was foreign lady named Yvonne de Enseñat. She was a very tall French woman who was fond of striding about in pristine smock-like dresses with pearls at her neck. She wore neon colored lipstick in teeth-staining pink and orange hues that were carefully reapplied after every cigarette that she chain smoked. She also sported a helmet of steel gray curls that never let a hair escape even though, in the 6 years that I was a student at her high school, my fellow classmates engaged in the kinds of escapades that would have given lesser mortals electric up-dos. She ran her school with an iron fist and eyes in the back of her head and in this manner she consistently churned out A+ graduates that went into the world better prepared for having passed through her molding hands.

You may thus imagine my shock the first time I ever walked into her office. I had never imagined the like. There was no place to sit except in her own chair, and one could not view her across it for the towers of papers that rose through the smoke-heavy air like skyscrapers hidden by clouds. On the floors there were also multiple stacks piled as high as my waist, enclosing her in a tortuous maze only she dared topple. How could this be? How to reconcile my pristine, put together, methodical Madame Enseñat with the person who had obviously created and inhabited that cigarette-smelling-trash-heap of an office?

“That the neo-Babbit in the third volume contains the witness to the apocalyptic events of the second would strain plausibility did not so many peaceable citizens contain lethal soldiers, so many criminals contain choirboys, so many monogamous women contain promiscuous young things. An adult human being consists of sedimentary layers. - John Updike

Those words from Updike make me think that us growing older is similar to a process of fossilization. Our exteriors are for the record but how we came to be that way is what really tells the tale. I think that neat as a pin Madame Enseñat needed that messy interior. Somehow, it was the fuel that fed the regimented, structured and orderly life she imposed on her students. I've always loved those dichotomies in people, not so much in myself but definitely in other people. That's one of the reasons I'm always curious about the spaces others occupy. A home, and how our possessions shape its areas, is just another sedimentary level radiating clues for those who are willing observers.

Below, you will find a BBC interview with Eamonn McCabe. McCabe who was the former picture editor of the UK Guardian has an exhibition going on at the Madison Contemporary Gallery in London titled Writer's Rooms. What he has gone and done is photograph the rooms in which famous writers have penned their works. Amongst them Beryl Bainbridge of Booker Prize and putting-her-head-in-a-lit-oven, fame. Martin Amis the satirical son of Kingsley Amis, who was once dubbed by the New York Times as the master of "the new unpleasantness." Sue Townsend of my beloved Adrian Mole series and Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul (whose hand I once shook), amongst many others. Quite fascinating. Layers upon layers. Let's see what we can glean from them.

Photographer Eamonn McCabe.

Beryl Bainbridge's writing room. Please notice the gun lying next to the typewriter.


Updike quote courtesy of Ron Davison from Rwrld.


Muppetganza (Just because)

The Muppets do Bizet's Habanera from the opera Carmen

I don't think that it is ever to early to start a child on classical music. Ever since my son saw this short, funny as can be video, he's been asking for 'banera' all the time. I was age 11 and part of a children's choir when I first heard the tune myself which means, that at 4 years of age, my kid is definitely getting an earlier start on his opera.

Why is it that there is such little worthwhile musical education in our schools nowadays? My father knew the choirs to Nabucco, Aida, and many other arias from Verdi operas before he was 10 years old. There is no such thing to be said of ten year olds in this day and age. Many years ago, rummaging in old boxes I'd found in my grandmother's house, there were graying, pencil annotated librettos which my father had used during his music lessons as a little boy. This was back in the 1940's when the public parks in Panama held Saturday concerts played by National Symphony members and amateur bands. There have not been public park concerts regularly held in my country for many decades now. Such a pity. Maybe someday, when R's hands can show reverence for old things, I shall show him the one libretto copy I've kept and tell him how his grandfather held it once, just like him. In the meantime, I'll let him enjoy his 'banera.'

Buddy Rich battles Animal on the drums

On a different end of the musical scale, here you have Buddy Rich in a battle to the drum death with Animal. I've always loved Animal. He is my favorite Muppet character. Growing up it was a tossup between him and the Cookie Monster but in the end, the Cookie Monster lost by a cookie's hair breadth. Not here though. Here it is Buddy who wins.

I hope you guys enjoy these. Sorry to have been rather absent these past few days, I've been visiting my family in DC. May you all be enjoying your family time as much as I, Milena.


Should you scroll down to the bottom of the online page for the UK Guardian, there is a little tabbed section that lists the most viewed stories in the newspaper. Every day, as soon as I come into the site, I make my way there to read what others have been finding of such interest.

Today, there was an unusual article about how the Japanese seem to be obsessed with blood types. Now obsessed is a pretty strong word. Weighty enough that when used in reference to blood, I envision scenes of a Draculean nature. That blood obsessing was a craze in Japan, of all places, only piqued my curiosity further considering how I've been seriously tripping on strange stories about the Japanese. A few days ago for example, I saw this CNN clip on
Youtube about Elderly porn (strictly PG I promise). Yep. Elderly porn. As in porn by the geriatric set. Starring, you guessed it, Japanese grandfathers and grandmothers. Some sweet young things too but mostly, it's about the grandparents enjoying themselves.

According to a Time report, titles such as Maniac Training of Lolitas and Forbidden Elderly Care have proven so popular, that business is booming outside of what you'd consider its intended age market. In other words, the movies are being increasingly viewed by the young'uns for the seemingly hot, sweaty, if perhaps creaky-boned, sex.

"Director Gaichi Kono says the eroticism of elders is captivating to younger viewers. -I think that, as a subject, there is this something that only an older generation has and the young people do not possess. It is because they lived that much more. We should respect them and learn from them, - says Kono passionately." Time magazine

Then there was this reprint from the Washington Post today on BookofJoe about how theft committed by the elderly is on the rise in Japan. In 2006 on the island of Hokaido alone (population 5,583,072), 880 of them were so very unsuccessful at their shoplifting attempts, that they ended up getting arrested. Only 642 teens were hauled in for the same crime during that time period. That's a 3 to 2 advantage for the granny set. Unusual to say the least especially, as I have a distinct memory of Jane Seymour circa mid-1980's, explaining how theft was practically nonexistent in Japan in this PBS documentary. It's plain to see that much has changed in the 30 years since then. Enough so that the Bushidō code of conduct might be suffering a reversal by the generation most likely believed to continue upholding it.

All of which brings me to today's chronicled Japanese obsession with blood. Blood type to be precise. Here are some excerpts from the article to give you an idea what the hangup is all about.

Failed yet another job interview? Unable to meet the right man or woman? Don't blame your parents. Or society. The source of your suffering is your blood type.

The idea that blood type defines our personality, temperament and ability to mingle is routinely dismissed as nonsense, but that has not stopped four books on the subject from occupying Japan's top 10 bestseller list for the past year.

Blood typology has filled countless pages and a large chunk of television airtime since journalist Masahiko Nomi wrote the first of 30 hugely popular books on the subject in the early 1970s.

Daytime TV shows offer "blood horoscopes", while on sale are all manner of items supposedly tailored to each of the four blood groups, anything from chewing gum to condoms to bath salts - a relaxing, blue concoction for the sensitive type A.

Blood type-mania has a darker side. It has been blamed for bullying among kindergarten children, denying jobs to otherwise ideal candidates and ending happy relationships, all because of an imagined haematic mismatch.

About 90% of Japanese know their blood type, often before they know how to tie their shoelaces. About 40% are type A, 30% are O, 20% are B and 10% are AB.

Some experts explain blood typology's central place in the Japanese psyche by pointing to the rough similarity between the distribution of blood types and social classes in feudal Japan: the strong-willed samurai (O) and mild-mannered farmers (A), and smaller numbers of sensitive artisans (AB) and earthy tradesmen (B).

Type A Reserved and prone to worry, sensitive perfectionists such as Britney Spears and Adolf Hitler.

Type O Decisive, self-confident, curious, and ideal for sport, including Elvis Presley and the Queen.

Type B Cheerful caring, flamboyant free-thinkers such as Jack Nicholson.

Type AB High-maintenance, distant, suited to arts, such as Mao Zedong.

Throughout my life I have of course witnessed discrimination, been subjected to it both knowingly and unknowingly, and if I am honest, harmlessly engaged in some of (within my mental recesses) my own. Of all the types of discrimination I have ever considered possible however, discrimination of the blood, as due to your blood type, was not one of them.

I can just see how this might play out:

Hi. My name is Hachigoro. I saw you from over there and I thought you were really cute.

Thanks. I'm Echiko (Blushing).

Echiko, if you don't mind my asking, what is your blood type?

Echiko (all business), I'm type B and you?

I'm type O.

Oh how wonderful, Echiko says (back to blushing).

Hey, my grandmother has been arrested for shoplifting so I'm staying at her apartment for the moment. She's got some great elderly porn there. Want to come and see?


A legend plays Ping Pong?

If you consider that he was supposed to have been able to:

  • Move so fast that his scenes had to be shot at a slow 32 frames per second vs. the normal 24fps, because otherwise his lightning fast combat movements could not have been captured on film.

  • Snatch a dime off a person's open palm before they could close it, and leave a penny behind.
  • Perform push ups using only his thumbs.
  • Hold an elevated v-sit position for 30 minutes or longer.
  • Throw grains of rice up into the air and then catch them in mid-flight using chopsticks.
  • Performed one-hand push-ups using only his thumb and index finger.
  • Done 50 reps of one-arm chin-ups.
  • Broken a wooden board whose thickness was more than 6 inches (15 cm) deep,
  • and side-kicked a 300-lb (136 kg) bag hard enough to hit the ceiling...

Then I suppose you might indeed believe that this is truly Bruce Lee showing his prowess at the Ping Pong table.

Here's a clear sign I am getting way too old...

A boy I once knew is now a man full grown. He lives in India where he is currently writing his first book and at 26, is one of the youngest foreign correspondents in both the International Herald Tribune's and the New York Time's history. Go read his latest article on the Mumbai Terrorist attacks for an insightful and well documented recounting of how India has reacted to this singular event.

"For a country with no dearth of terrorism in its past, it is perhaps the fleshy immediacy of these men and their deeds that makes this a defining assault — one that separates all attacks of the past from those yet to come. In the television studios, on the roads, in the anguished phone calls of friends to friends, Indians said the words again and again: This is our 9/11."

Anand Giridharadas

They had to grow up somewhere...

Much can be inferred about a man from his mistress: in her one beholds his weaknesses and his dreams. Georg Lichtenberg

If the mistress says all that about a man, I wonder what the decor might explain about these people's music?

"We found this fascinating series of photos from the archives of LIFE magazine, giving readers a peek inside the homes of the parents/grandparents of some of the most influential musical artists from the 1970's, including the likes of Frank Zappa [above], Grace Slick, The Jackson Five, Elton John, Eric Clapton..."

You know, I had always wondered how someone could name their child Dweezil. Moon Unit comes across as mildly spacey but Dweezil? I mean, geez... it sounds like weevil and WHO in their sane, non-eggplant purple mind would want to make people think of a bug when having to address a child? At best Dweezil sounds like a close cousin to chervil. Not that putting one in mind of a parsley bush makes the name any more palatable. Watching this photograph of where Frank Zappa grew up, I can better understand how too much of a purplish upbringing can unhinge that part of your mind that you must need tap into when naming the offshoots.

"Eric Clapton with his grandmother Rose in the house he bought her in Surrey." [John Olson/LIFE]

Eric Clapton is no longer a smoking hot God. No, he's a mangranny. How awful. Even his vest has taken on a doillie-ish appearance. From here on out, I shall forever associate him with teapots, doillie wear and watercress sandwiches.

"David Crosby standing with father Floyd in father's house in Ojai." [John Olson/LIFE]

Yes, yes, I can absolutely see how someone so bookish-looking could produce a fringe-sporting, messy, hippy, probably non-deodorant wearing fellow as his son. Did you take stock of how the National Geographics next to the sofa are squared away in a stair pattern? That explains everything as far as I'm concerned. I'll bet you a quarter that Floyd Crosby was one of those people who ironed his boxer shorts. Which is why David most likely never wore any.

Photographs via Apartment Therapy Los Angeles

Were it that everyone could be this drolly humorous when drunk...

I'm just putting it up because it made me laugh a lot.

The Drunk Poem

Starkle, starkle, little twink,
Who the hell are you I think.
I'm not under what you call
The alcofluence of incohol.
I'm just a little slort of sheep,
I'm not drunk like thinkle peep.
I don't know who is me yet,
But the drunker I stand here the longer I get.
So just give me one more fink to drill my cup,
'Cause I got all day sober to Sunday up.

via c4vct.com

Gelato loves...

My taste buds have been doing loop-de-loops and cartwheels since I discovered Ciao Bella. There are not enough rapturous adjectives with which to convey how delicious the contents of these cute containers are. Rapture comes at a cost however - $6 to $8 per pint is what it'll take. Yes, you read right. That's way more than we already pay to lay our gobbledy little hands on our favorite Ben and Jerry's or Häagen Dazs ice creams. Just the price would make me swoon were it not for the fact that tasting Ciao Bella is like having edible haute couture. In my book that justifies everything because after all, no one pays $10 for Valentino ball gown and truly expect it to be a Valentino now do they? Of about the 8 or so flavors I've tried so far, my personal favorites are the Blood Orange, Pomegranate Champagne, Passion Fruit and the Valrhona Chocolate Gelatos. Ciao Bella produces about 50 gelatos, 20+ sorbettos and they also have an extra roster of ten or more seasonal flavors. You may get some provided you are willing to say ciao to your waistline by clicking right here.