Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nonlinear Advice (How to Say No)

I performed my friends Ellen and Jiro's wedding this summer. Although I worried about it, I got a lot of positive feedback afterwards. The only one to criticize it was Jiro's uncle Morty. He walked up to me and said that the ceremony was nice, but it had one problem.

"Oh, what's that?" I asked.

"Not enough Morty."

In a similar vein, Jiro recently mentioned that he thought my blog was suffering from a lack of Jiro. Although I do mention him occasionally, I agreed that I could do more. To address the lack-of-Jiro problem on the blog, I am instituting a new occasional segment, in which Jiro offers readers advice.

There is precedence for this, as Jiro and I once had the idea to turn a philosophy PhD, yoga-practicing, mountain man turned sheriff's deputy friend of ours into a guru for the rich and gullible. I had read an article about wealthy people paying crazy sums to attend retreats at which they were served starvation diets, made to sleep on boards, and exercised to the brink of exhaustion. These "spiritual vacationers" apparently attend and enjoy such retreats because their real lives are so luxe that privation seems novel and exciting. Jiro and I planned a retreat center built around our friend and his mountain home. We'd feed them a macrobiotic diet, make them sleep in the dirt, and have our friend lead 20 mile hikes and marathon yoga sessions. Jiro's slogan for our program was "Have life whys? Visit Lifewise."

We never got around to setting this up, but I know Jiro still wants to mess with people's lives offer people useful advice.

** ** ** **

Our first question comes from a dear put-upon friend, DS. I'd tell you her real name, but since her question is about how to say no, I am afraid you'd just take advantage of her. DS asks Jiro how to respond to her friends, relatives and neighbors, who are constantly asking for things. They ask for help, for her skills, for her time, with no expectation that they will pay her back or respond in kind to her assistance.

Jiro, please help DS, how can she say no?

The wise and powerful Jiro replies:

Do you have someone asking you to do something for them and you want to say no, but don’t know how?

Let me run you through a visualization. Imagine:

Your child is about to put the phone in the toilet.

Your spouse puts their cold feet in your crotch as you try to go to sleep.

Your father asks you to check if he has hair growing out of his ears.

Your neighbor is practicing the tuba at 6 in the morning.

Dick Cheney naked.

Basic instinct 2.

Feel the word “no” flowing from deep in your soul. Or just check the caller-id and don’t answer your phone until they ask someone else.

** ** ** **

Our second question came from another friend, and is in a similar vein. A friend from Iowa asks how she can gracefully host a dinner party for 3 that has turned into dinner for 10.

Jiro suggests:

Provide two squares of toilet paper to each of the first four people to arrive. The others get nothing.

** ** ** **

So now it is your turn. Have any burning life questions, need help from a (self-appointed) authority? Want someone to tell you what to do? Jiro can help. Email me at nonlinear.advice@gmail.com, or leave your question in the comments.

Jiro is here, Jiro is listening, Jiro can help.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

One Year Old

No, not Ada. She's nineteen months, for those who care about such things. No, I'm talking about the blog. The blog - my time sink, my indulgence, my vanity project...

To celebrate, well, this thing, this piece of me, I dug into my archives to see what I've been doing here the past year. After looking back through a year's worth of posts, the thing that knocks me out is not how much I have learned, or how much better my writing has gotten (oh, I wish), but how much more hair Ada has! Wow was she a baldy!

At first I thought this thing would be about Ada, a record of her development. But eh, that gets boring. How often can I write (and how often can you read) about her poop or what she's just learned to say? (Well, maybe you can take it once in a while. How could I not tell you that this week's word is Zamboni?) But rolling ice smoothing machines aside, it didn't take me too long to realize what I wanted to say was really more about being with Ada, being her parent.

I started out not really knowing which of us is the nonlinear girl - Ada or me. I am still not sure. We are both wandering, not following a plan. Maybe one side benefit is that when she's older she can see what I was thinking about, know it is okay not to have a plan. It took me so long to figure that one out for myself; maybe I can make it a little easier for her. Even if it does not mean anything to her later, it is still fun for me now. That should be enough for a little vanity project.

What the hell does that mean, nonlinear girl?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Open letter to Baby Gap

Dear Corporate Headquarters Brand Development Gurus:

My 19 month old and I took a trip to the mall this afternoon. While this is not usually my favorite location for a post-nap excursion, my daughter got a mess of pink Gap brand items this holiday, and I finally got off my butt about exchanging them for something (anything) else.

While we were at Baby Gap, I saw that you are selling skinny jeans... for babies. At first I thought I'd seen things wrong, perhaps something got misplaced, and these were just jeans for older girls mixed in with the toddler clothes. But I double checked, and found skinny jeans in toddler sizes 2T and 3T (and I'm sure you make them in 4T too, but the store must be sold out of those). I can not express exactly how horrified this makes me. I'll admit to thinking that skinny jeans are a bad idea for anyone, much less for children. How can a style that looks good on no one be so popular? But that aside, because a consenting adult can embarrass herself in public if that's her thing. But children? Toddlers, especially? Such a "body conscious" style is just not meant for children, especially ones at an age where round bellies and roly-poly shapes are the norm.

While I'm never buying my toddler skinny jeans, I guess you've done your research and have found that parents across the continent are clamoring for this look for their short ones. So maybe I can't fairly complain to you, but I do wish you'd held back from this one, allowing kids to run and play, rather than encouraging them to slouch and pose.

Nonlinear Girl

Mama, what's a skin knee jean?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

He came home. Said nothing.
It was clear, though, that something had gone wrong.
He lay down fully dressed.
Pulled the blanket over his head.
Tucked up his knees.
He's nearly forty, but not at the moment.
He exists just as he did inside his mother's womb,
clad in seven walls of skin, in sheltered darkness.
Tomorrow he'll give a lecture
on homeostasis in metagalactic cosmonautics.
For now, though, he has curled up and gone to sleep.

Wislawa Szymborska
Going Home

Monday, January 22, 2007

Dog Friend

Among the many toys, books and clothes Ada got from her family and admirers during the recent gift-accumulation season is one that no parent on vacation wants to see: a three foot long plush dog. This dog was a gift from my father's office staff, who believe that Ada is theirs. This group of five women in their forties to sixties routinely scold my father for not bringing in pictures of Ada, forcing them to look at her pictures online. They waited patiently for 18 months for us to visit, and when we finally got to town there was no way not to make the trek to the office to see them and parade Ada in all her toddler splendor. It worked out well, as I got my father to give me some free medical treatment while the ladies cooed over Ada, who obliged by laughing, talking and running up and down the hallway eating saltines.

Ada loves her big dog. She's always been a fan of dogs, and approaches real ones with cautious fascination. I am amazed to see her crouch low when she sees a new dog, instinctively moving into a non-threatening position. (Of course, at just under 3 feet, she's pretty non-threatening to most dogs anyway.)

Her interest in dogs reminds Chris and me of a story that our musician friend Ron tells. Ron was visiting the web site of a Swedish musician. The site includes some writing about a song by the Swede, inspired by the man's dogs. For many years the Swede had two dogs. Eventually the older dog died, and the younger dog was left distraught, wining and howling his loss. The Swede decided to incorporate the dog's sad cries into an avant-jazz piece he was writing. Ron read this story and contacted the Swede, saying he'd like to work with him and commiserating about the loss of the dog. The Swede wrote back to Ron, telling him how glad he was to know about Ron, that like him "you too are dog friend".

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

One of the delights of Gabler's book is the roster of proper names, many as rubberized as cartoons: Earl Scrogin, Friz Freleng, Grim Natwick, Pinto Colvig, Hardie Gramatky, Dr. Rufus von KleinSmid, and the Dr. Seuss-worthy Gus Van Schmus. Ubbe Iwwerks changed his name to Ub Iwerks, which didn't exactly help.

Anthony Lane
Wonderful World: What Walt Disney Made

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The talent, oh how it burns my eyes!

And now for the scoop on two real life friends I'd like you to meet, because they are creative and awesome and I'm trying to get over being jealous of their talent:

The first you probably already know, since she is a big bloggy star and all. But months ago (MONTHS!) Debbie gave my daughter a cool pirate balloon shirt. I struggled mightily to photograph Ada in this shirt, and despite her best efforts to evade me, I got a couple. So behold, the coolness that is fadiddle, on a real child to boot!

Check her out. The genius behind fadiddle makes some mean designs. I saw a melee break out over some adult-sized shirts she mocked up for practice. Really, I didn't know my friends could bite and scratch with such abandon.

And on to new blogger Stephanie who has also given Ada a wonderful gift - a hat of her own design. (Stephanie's design, not Ada's.) Dr. Stephanie has also given me a number of cool things, like delicious heaven-and-hell cake and those little stickers you use to reinforce hole-punched holes. Not only did she give Ada the hat, but she just had the pattern accepted for publication in some crafty-knitty magazine. In addition to being the proud owner of a willie warmer, she almost knit a thong made of licorice but then (foolishly) thought better of it when she realized that it would be displayed in front of a room full of strangers. Pity.

Come to think of it, I'm kind of bummed she has a blog. Now she's going to keep things like the willie warmer for her own blog, instead of passing on gems like photos of Briny the Clown's car, she'll be holding them back for use on her own blog. Crap and double crap.

Nonetheless, if you are a knitty type you should check her out and give her some love. Her sleeves are too short, but her heart is in the right place.

Monday, January 15, 2007

And all this time I thought she was saying "more"

Two Piece Reclining Figure no. 3
Henry Moore, 1961

Anthony Caro, 1971

L'homme qui marche (Walking Man)
Auguste Rodin, 1905

Oval Form (Trezion)
Barbara Hepworth, 1962-6

Richard Serra, 2006

My sister and I learned to roller skate in this sculpture garden. We rode our bikes here. Some of my favorite family pictures were taken here. Seeing Ada take such delight in the space and the art was fantastic. Even better, she made me look at the place in a new way, as she investigated things I had overlooked and played on and around modern masterpieces that I'd thought of as just background to my childhood memories.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Always the last to know

I've been working this week, for a change. So I was a little slow to notice that it is National De-lurking Week (which feels both like a thinly veiled cover for me to root you out, and like a fabulous way for me to root you out, dear reader!).

Even if this is your first time here (but how likely is that?), even if you got here by googling "how to make my husband do all the cooking" or "fearful, crouching masturbators," even if you never ever comment or are still pissed off that my daughter called you Tito, now is the time! Comment. Let me know something about yourself. Where are you? Who are you? How did you get here?

Don't make me beg.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week, classical edition

The birds die of jealousy and the owl does not care.

Inscription above a scene tiled into the floor of a bath complex in Thysdrus, A.D. 300

Monday, January 08, 2007

The best gift I didn't get this season

Dr. Stephanie and her husband were over recently, and as a special treat Stephanie did a little show-and-tell about what happens when you attend a white elephant gift exchange with a bunch of knitters:

For those not familiar with this particular chroched novelty item, it is known as a Willie Warmer.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tell me, I want to know

And now for a nonlinear public service announcement:

I just spent a lovely morning with some kids and mamas. After carrying Ada from the car to bed, I dealt with her diaper and then glanced up into the mirror over the sink. There I saw a big black circle, a mascara smudge, below my right eye. How long it was there I do not know, but since my eyes have been bothering me and I have been poking at them more than usual, I figure that at least one of the four moms I just saw noticed.

So for future reference, please tell me if you see something amiss on my face. Or really, tell me no matter where the mess is. Toilet paper on the shoe? I want to know. Sauce on my shirt? Yes, tell me!. I do have a small scar on my cheek that people often think is food, but other than that, if you see something on my face, in my teeth or hair, or on my clothes, please let me know. I'd rather know and fix it than walk around with spinach poking from between my incisors, feeling happy as a clam until I get home and see how I looked.

Overheard in LA

At the park:

"Let's pretend I'm getting a pedicure."

On Santa Monica Boulevard, the 40-something balding man with the iPod waiting for the bus, while doing a little dance step: "get down with your bad self!"

At the fish store: "Is it some particular fish that smells, or does the whole place just stink?"

At the Santa Monica Whole Foods:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

Is gharsly.

Ogden Nash
Further Reflections on Parsley