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.


  1. Milena,

    About the commercials, here is what John Updike had to say:
    [the programming – sports and comedies and talk shows] It’s slop. And Leno and Letterman, more slop. But the commercials, they are fantastic. They’re like Faberge eggs. When somebody in this country wants to sell you something, they really buckle down. They get intense. You watch the same commercial twenty times, you see how every second has been weighed out in gold. They’re full of what physicists call information.

  2. I love children's books and literature, one of my favorite were the Wizard of Oz series, 13 volumes that created an entire world beyond the gates of Oz.

  3. Ron: Imagine that. Updike stated the way I feel about commercials exactly. It's nice to know I'm in such stratospheric company in terms of how we think about this. Thank you for yet another great quote.

    Suzanne: Book sellers always look at me weird when I squeal over yet another find and walk out of the children's book section with tons of books but no toddler in tow.

  4. Dallas Clayton has a fun website, too: http://dallasclayton.com/

    It's easy to remember.

  5. I'm pretty sure I'm getting a vacuum cleaner (or the engine-less kind of quiet alternative for which I've forgotten the name), this year. It will just sum it all up for me. Tie it up neatly. and I won't feel so bad about sending him to the doghouse forever. Thanks for sharing a laugh.

  6. Thomas: I know! I've put links to it in this post. I love the place. What an interesting guy. How did you find out about it yourself?

    C: You will not girl. He can't be that clueless. All men need a bit of doghouse in their lives. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I thought it was great myself.

  7. That commercial was hilarious, and it told a good story as well. If all commercials were that engaging, people wouldn't mind them so much. I also really appreciate the clock-word artwork. That's pretty impressive!

  8. A belated merry Christmas to you and yours Milena, and a happy and successful New Year from all here in Carmine Superiore Italy.

  9. thanks so much for the offer of the books, but i couldn't wait. i've read them all now. so good. so sad they are done. can't wait to see the movie. i hope you had a fantastic christmas and happy new year to you!

  10. Just wanted to stop by and wish you a very happy New Year's! Big hugs!

  11. Happy New Year, my dear Gypsy!

    May you be blessed with much happiness and many joys in 2009!

    May the world be blessed with Peace & Justice in 2009!

  12. Loved the commercial! Am I crackers or were there a few quotes from One Flew Over A Cuckoo's Nest in there?

    Happy New Year, Milena!


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