Month: November 2010

Cyber Monday, communicatrix-style


Just because they're pretty!

Am I still doing my heavy lifting? Yes, I am! Is it still kicking my ass? Yes, it is! Did I let that get in the way of posting today?


Because today is everyone’s favorite shop-on-yer-ass day, Cyber Monday. Deals galore, and all from the comfort of, well, your ass! But where to start?

You probably have some ideas of your own, but in case you don’t, or you’re looking for a little sumpin’-sumpin’ different, here’s the best of the best stuff I found this year which would also make good gift-y stuff.

Some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, because Colleen is going to get herself a NEW Kindle 3 and would very much like to fill it with books for her travels in the coming year. As always, I appreciate when you shop through my general Amazon link, because MONEY is AWESOME.


Books to give for the holidays

Tiny Art Director, by Bill Zelman :: [art/humor] An artist’s young daughter gives him directions on what to draw. Charming and hilarious, two words that don’t often nestle up together in a review. After the blog of the same name.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb :: [spiritual/graphic novel] Probably not for your super-religious Aunt Adele, but quite wonderful for almost anyone interested in “cover” versions of things, especially the graphic novel enthusiast on your list. (My full review here.)

Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern :: [memoir/humor] Beautifully written and quite endearing, this collection of life lessons disguised as personal essays showcases a very different (although still hilarious) side of everyone’s fave Twitterdad, Sam Halpern.

All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost, by Lan Samantha Chang [fiction] :: You would not think that a story about the lives of two poets who meet in an MFA program could be so utterly engrossing, but boy, is it ever. About success and failure and the meaning of life without ever, ever being schmaltzy, trite or pretentious. Also, great characters. This may be my favorite book I read all year; it’s certainly the one that still haunts me.

Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen :: [fiction] Sweeping, epic, incisive, laugh-out-loud funny and utterly engrossing tale of modern-day America and how we got there from here.

Food to send for the holidays

Flan King makes the best flan I have ever had, EVER. I told my friend, Greg (a.k.a., “The King”) that his tagline should be “Even people who don’t like flan love Flan King flan.” He has still not taken my advice, but he is now shipping in the U.S. So. There you go.

Meadowfoam honey from the Bee Folks tastes like marshmallows. Let me repeat that: honey that tastes like marshmallows! Even if you are not on the SCD, this is probably a good thing. But if you are, and you can’t eat Flan King flan anymore? It is dessert, baby. This honey costs a bazillion dollars a pound, and is 100% worth it. The site is a little ’90-retro-fabulous, but everything works. And Lori, Chief Bee Folk, is good people.

Miscellaneous gift-y stuff

Nikki McClure’s 2011 Calendar is so great, I buy them three at a time. My obsession is your gain: Buy Olympia now offers a “three pack” because of my polite haranguing. You can see how I use my three calendars here, but hey, if you’re a normal person, you can buy ONE calendar for yourself and have TWO to give as gifts. Lucky you!

Pacifica Candles are made in Portland, OR, which is where I discovered them this year, on my last trip there. They smell super-delish, and are all crunchy-delicious and stuff. My favorite scent is the Mediterranean Fig, which is, most conveniently, green, so you can burn it during your hoodoo moneymaking ritual-type stuff. Or just make things smell nice. (P.S. The roll-on perfume is great, too, and very travel-friendly.)

Field Notes make you want to write stuff down. They are simple and perfect, which, as anyone who knows anything will tell you, is the hardest combination in the world to pull off. They are the perfect size. They have the perfect weight and grain of paper. And (oh, joy! oh, rapture!), they feature the perfect grid: not too light, not too dark, just enough to give a little shape and order to your crazy-brilliant mental meanderings. (Apparently, they come in plain and lined version. Whatever.) I bought a subscription this year and I am a bit embarrassed over how happy it’s made me, those little three-packs showing up in the mail once per quarter. But just a bit. Because hey, THE PERFECT GRID.

The Bird and the Bee (A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates) was eeeeeasily my most-played CD of the year. Insanely great covers of Hall & Oates classics, these hip arrangements with sexy chick vocals work for parties, singing in the car, cleaning the house, and, I’d imagine, seducing pretty much anyone with good taste. So, yeah, pretty much the perfect gift. (And since I know you’re just going to buy it for yourself, here’s the direct link to the insta-download MP3 version on Amazon. It’s the cure for all that crappy Christmas music that ails you.)

SodaStream makes things that let you make soda water at home. I sampled the goods at my pal Heather‘s place, and can give it an unqualified thumbs-up. Given that seltzer delivery ain’t comin’ back anytime soon and I’m starting to wake up to the horror that is “recyclable” (hahaha) single-use plastic, one of these is in my future. This would make an awesome household or everyone-chips-in gift, I think.

Image by Robert McDiarmid via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #28

boy blowing out bday candles, pushing younger brother out of frame

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web. Keep up with them day-to-day on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my daily travels. More about the genesis here.

Post of the YEAR: a bunch of rich people petition for HIGHER tax rates. Yay, rich people! [delicious, via Dave Greten on Facebook]

I’ve had rewriting on the brain lately, so I very much appreciated Delia Lloyd’s concise but helpful list of editing tips. [Google Reader-ed]

Nothing sez “Happy Holidays, dammit!” like Andy Ihnatko’s annual Amazon Advent Day Calendar. [Twitter-ed]

Pixar employees contribute possibly my favorite entry thus far to Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project. (Warning: have tissues handy.) [Facebook-ed, via everybody]


Image by TimWilson via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Some small magic is making your life possible right now

two young brothers hugging and smiling in a car

If you tell me miracles do not happen
I will not contradict you.

I cannot point to precise amounts of money
showing up in time
to save the curly-headed ingenue lashed to the tracks
from the fiery vengeance
of a foul-breathed dragon.

I do not believe
in spontaneous healing
or insta-overhauls
and I am pretty sure
that if Jesus showed up again today
it would not be
on a waffle.

But if you ask me about magic,
well, then,
I am all in.

Not cruise-ship illusions
or witchy incantations
but real, homemade magic.

Time, for instance,
imbued with tincture of patience,
okay, oceans of patience,

Time works wonders
more amazing
than that big wall in China
and a couple of pyramids
put together.

Laughter, obviously.
Like a light switch,
that laughter.

And let me tell you:
if you have not stood
on the razor’s edge
between dark and light
and had the perfectly-timed,
impeccably-turned line
flick you nimbly from one side
to the other
while you weren’t even thinking,
much less looking,
and felt the tears that soaked your heart
suddenly pouring down both sides of your face
with laughter,
well, then, brother,
I submit
you have yet to live.

And love,

Well, where do we start
when it comes to love?

Love is a magnet
and a builder of bridges. 
Love keeps feet
on the ground
and launches otherwise logical heads
into the stratosphere.

Love can stitch two hearts together
patiently, bit by bit, 
over sixty-five highly improbable years
and krazy-glue others together
so swiftly
and permanently
that the word “excruciating”
works equally well
to describe the coming together
or the pulling apart.

Love is making something possible
right this very second
and third
and so forth.

Love is so amazing
and enthralling
and uplifting
and empowering
I would live in love all the time
if it didn’t scare the shit out of me.

It takes muscles
to live in love
not just a heart of fire
and a head for poetry.

But I will get there.
Just you wait.

Until then,
I practice.
I exercise.
I make what joy I can,
and take what time I am able to
without tripping over my own two feet
like the jackass I am.

May this day
and every other
bring a little more magic.

May I make a moment indelible
by standing still in it.

May you heal or be healed
by some flavor of joy.

And may we both do one tiny, terrifying thing
that nudges us gently
back to the love
we have been standing in
all along.


Image by comingstobrazil via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Little fixes between the heavy lifting

dog looking up at a treat


I have been doing a lot of walking lately.

I try always to do a lot of walking, but since I have been hard at some gnarly change-making, I have actually been doing a lot of walking. When I feel like it, I take a walk. When I don’t feel like it, I take an even longer one.

No matter what kind of walk I take, though, I try always to walk with a purpose. I know, I know, walking should be purpose enough on its own, for the mental health benefits, let alone the physical ones. But I still associate walks sans errand with my Crohn’s recovery, and sorry, I just don’t want to be reminded of that right now. I have made a small concession to non-utility by walking sans headphones, but that’s as far as I’m prepared to go right now. So to speak.1

Anyway. For today’s walk I decided to drop the Netflix envelope in the corner mailbox, so I might get Disc 4, Season 2 of In Treatment a wee bit faster. (Hel-lo, Gabriel Byrne, and Gabriel Byrne’s sexy Irish accent, and Gabriel Byrne’s sexy Season 2 haircut!) It wasn’t a long enough walk, so I brought along a book to return to the library. It was not due, but it would do.2

As I walked, to double-dip, I thought about what I might write about today.

Then I thought, “I’m tired.”

Then I thought, “I’m a baby for being so tired when there are people in the world who have REAL troubles making them tired.”

Then I thought, “Damn, I’m mean to myself. If someone else said this to anyone, even me, I’d give them a piece of my mind.”

Then I thought, “I really hope I’m not saying too much of this out loud.” Because I have been doing that a LOT more lately.

Then I stuck the library book in the return slot and it struck me: I clean my library books; I wonder if anyone else does that.

I do clean my library books. Each one of them, after I get them home and before I read them. I take some window cleaner, spray it onto a paper towel, and wipe all the schmutz off of the protective covers. Because (sorry) I have found a few things lodged inside of library books that made me wonder about the hands, the dozens and dozens of filthy hands, touching the outsides of library books. And even though I know that by the time the next patron who actually checks out any of the books I’ve checked out finally touches the book, it might be contaminated again, at least I know it will look nice. Nicer. That there may be a germ or two there, but the crusts of filth I found it with will not be there.

It occurred to me, in other words, that I do a (very) small thing that makes life nicer. For other people, I hope, but definitely for me. Which got me to wondering whether there were other little “hacks” like this that I had come up with which I could share, so that maybe people who hadn’t heard of them could use them, or that maybe people who had could say, “Hey! I do that, and I also do this….” Because you know me: I like a good hack.

So here is a very short list of things I have done that have made my life nicer far out of proportion to the amount of time, money or effort they took to implement. I only wish I’d learned them earlier in life.

  • I carry dog treats. I recently bought a bunch of Charlee Bear liver treats which I parceled into little baggies (previously purchased! I’m repenting!) and distributed in the pockets of my jackets. I like saying “hi” to dogs on my walk, and if the owner is amenable, I will give the dog a tiny treat.
  • I bought two dozen each of my favorite pens and pads, and stuck them everywhere. I still end up without one or the other at times, but far fewer times. They’re both more expensive than such things need to be, but it finally occurred to me that when I did have them around, I used them more because I enjoyed them more.
  • I wear a vest in the house in cool weather. I’m actually wearing a cardigan right now, because I had it on under the vest while I walked, and it is a little chilly. But I love the freedom of movement and air flow afforded by the vest (nylon, quilted) compared with another set of sleeves. I also wear a very old cotton jersey scarf from the moment it gets at all cool in L.A. (under 75ºF, for me). If you are a weenie, or have throat issues, you might find it comforting, too.
  • I put a tiny bit of water at the bottom of the votive receptacles. My sister taught me this, I think. She is a retired professional candle expert. Makes the melty stuff at the very bottom pop right out. Pop!
  • I keep an extra set of Tweezerman tweezers in the change drawer of my car. Believe it or don’t, the rear-view mirror is the most awesome thing to look in for eyebrow plucking. In daylight, when you’re parked, and hopefully no one is looking. Fantastic quality glass, and you can really get in there. When you have a big honker, this is an issue.
  • I also keep about five neatly folded up dollar bills in there. You see people at off ramps all the time here in L.A. Lots more, recently, it seems, although maybe that’s Yellow Volkswagen Syndrome talking. I used to stress out about it: what do I give them? Will the light change? Do I have small enough bills? Will they be offended if I just give them parking quarters instead? Now I just roll down the window and hand them a dollar bill with a “Good luck.” Easy-peasy.
  • I keep “enh” food on me at ALL times. I learned this on the SCD. If you have non-awful food on you, you will be less likely to eat crap food. The Apple Pie and Cherry Pie flavors of LaraBars are “enh”–palatable, but not so delicious I will eat them out of boredom. If I carried the Coconut Cream Pie ones, on the other hand, I would weigh 200lbs. Holy fucknuts, are they good.

I could go on (and I might, later, if the Heavy Lifting Phase continues). Instead, though, I will take my leave with a final “ask”: looking over this list, are there things that you’re thinking of that you do that offer such a high ROI on enjoyment and comfort without being totally jackass?

Because really, I would love to soak in a bunch of those right about now.3


Image by emdot via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

1Oh, god. You have no idea how off my game I am these days. Puns. Ugh. And too tired to fix them. UGH.

2YOU SEE? Ugh. Sweet Mother of Pearl, get me through this Heavy Lifting Phrase before I accidentally kill myself with blunt wordplay.

3And I realize that to a degree, this is what Lifehacker and similar sites are all about. But I’m looking for serendipity, not a long wade through a swamp. What have you found, O Wandering Fellow who has landed here?

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #27

alissa walker at disneyland looking through viewfinder

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web. Keep up with them day-to-day on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my daily travels. More about the genesis here.

Lessons on the nature of modern business abound in this honest post-mortem from the folks who beat to market and still lost. [delicious, via Daring Fireball]

Regrets of the dying, a very short list. [Google Reader-ed, via Ben Casnocha]

Juicy series of video interviews with artists and designers. [Stumbled, via Scott Simpson]

The story of Jim Swilley, the Georgia megachurch pastor who came out to his congregation, is extraordinary enough. But this interview with him on CNN, where he discusses (among other things) his wife’s influence in the decision to do so, is truly inspiring. [Facebook-ed, via Roger Ebert]


Image by gelatobaby via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: The whole point of it

baby looking up from bottom of a large plastic tube

Take yourself back to first grade
or kindergarten
or nursery school
or wherever you first learned
how to really learn:

One thing at a time.
One fascinating thing
that intrigued you at first
pulling you in,
with its shiny
and newness.

Your shoes,
the first time you pictured
them going from untied
to tied
without grownup

A carrot,
lumpy and long,
with delicate hairs
someone showed you
how to shave off
in curls,
onto a paper towel.

You whittled at least one
down to nothing at all
I’ll bet.
You put your left arm 
into your right sleeve,
at least a hundred times,
maybe more.
You made your “e”s backwards
and your grass purple
and your shoelaces, knots.

Again and again,
a thousand times
eleventy-billion times
you did it

And now you say
this is hard?

This omelet?
This iambic pentameter?
This 1040EZ
bar chord
mea culpa

Of course it’s hard.


Image by Beth Nazario via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Derailment, deconstructed

diorama of alice chasing white rabbit down hole

1. Launch writing program to begin rewriting work for the day.

2. Work on rewrite for 10 minutes. Hit snag, and decide I need grounding exercise writing buddy created for me last week when I hit previous rewriting snag.

3. Open email client to track down writing buddy’s note, because I appear to have willfully refused to keep the usual three or four redundant copies handy, and email is the only place I know I can find a copy.

4. Note new email in inbox!

5. Read first new email. It contains a simple request for information, accompanied by a factual error. Rather than fulfilling request (which could be dispatched in roughly 15 seconds), I fixate on factual error, moving swiftly from assessment of my history with correspondent (contentious, fraught) to speculative analysis of his intent (passive-aggression? none?) to my own response (judgmental, assumptive). Briefly reflect on the subject of mirrors. Succumb to mounting moral indignation over misguided accusation of imprecision, and begin hashing out a reply.

6. Catch myself acting like horse’s ass and save email to “drafts” folder. Win!

7. Read next email. It is an autoresponse from a company whose product I downloaded for trial yesterday during a promotion. Robo-mail notes that I have not replied, and extends grace period of an additional 24 hours, but at what looks like a reduced percentage off. Simultaneously pulled toward the deal and suspicious that it is less of a deal than offered yesterday. Consider going through “Trash” folder, then realize I emptied it last night in obsessive-compulsion-fueled panic attack.” This series of thoughts apparently creates just enough distance to remind me that I passed on deal yesterday because I’d realized I had zero immediate/projected use for the product. Determine that these needs have likely not changed overnight. Delete email.

8. Open last new email, which contains references to a “branding expert.” Briefly wonder why sender of email does not consider me a “branding expert.” Tar-pit balloon of mixed gases (anxiety, hurt, anger) bubbles to surface. As it swells, I consider clicking on outbound link to view further information on “branding expert.” Miraculously, it pops, covering me with filthy shame, but allowing the clearheaded realization that I have no extra time, ever, to view videos of any “branding expert.” Wipe shame from battered psyche. Delete email.

9. Close email client. Win!

10. Find myself staring at browser window previously hidden by document and mail client windows. It contains Amazon affiliate income information. Wonder why Amazon affiliate income is so low. Wonder where I have failed to provide sufficient value for hot clickthru action. Wonder whether, if I do empty my affiliate income stash to buy that Kindle 3G I’ve been wanting, I will ever earn enough affiliate income to fill Kindle 3G with books. Wonder where my privileged life has gone off the rails that I am spending perfectly good (re)writing time wondering about jerkoff assclown B.S. like Amazon affiliate income and overpriced digital reading devices. Remember that I am supposed to be (re)writing right now.

11. Minimize browser window and maximize document window. Stare at rewrite. Realize I have forgotten to retrieve my writing buddy’s notes.

12. Decide to transcribe rabbit-hole behavior, because unpacking things and examining them is only way I have ever learned how to change patterns. Recall Beverly Sills quote I am forever spouting off to others. Sigh inwardly.

13. Decide to post rabbit-hole experience to the blog, after rewriting it.

14. Finish rewriting original rewriting chore, sans writing-buddy notes. Note that the Earth appears to be turning on axis.

15. Post to blog. Wonder if post should have been rewritten further.


Image by Smath. via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.