Monday, June 29, 2009

To Inform and Delight

Instead of the Woody Allen movie we went to see the Milton Glaser movie To Inform and Delight and I'm still enchanted. It's almost midnight and I'm in such a trance that I haven't even begun to get the garbage and recycling together for pickup tomorrow. The movie's playing at the Roxie in the Mission; the evening light in the Mission on 16th Street was intoxicating to begin with.

Milton's love for New York City brought my love for San Francisco to the surface. I walked out rejuvenated and full of love for my work and my surroundings. Not only does Milton live for his work, but he loves eating lunch too. You get to meet his wife Shirley in the movie, and also Jean Michel Folon.

To give you an idea of what he's like, here are Ten Things I Have Learned from a talk he gave in London. (Thanks, Meg.) Here's #1. Do you agree?

This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because in fact at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn’t particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially. Then some years ago I realised that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Earth to NASA

e-mail from Aggles:

Unkay. New job for you.

October 9th of this year NASA is bombing the moon. I love NASA and I love space exploration but does this plan not sound a little off-base?

Why do we have to bomb everything in sight? The desire to colonize the Moon and outer space doesn't make sense when we can't even keep our own planet clean.

I think you should stop what you're doing and start working on some adorable protest t-shirt, messenger bag, and coffee mug designs.

I just can’t believe we are bombing the moon.


I agree. Don't we have enough things to blow up here on earth without picking on the moon? The rocket will crash into the moon at 5,600 mph, creating a new "crater" 5 miles wide.

I designed the shirt. You can buy it at our Earth to NASA shop. We've only marked them up $1.00, but still they cost an arm and a leg. Aggles, you may have to come and set up a t-shirt operation in our basement.

Wait. I just set up an economy site. The shirts are white and not so eleganté, but you can buy the value t-shirt for $9.99 as opposed to $19.99. Or the classic thong for $8.99.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Off the Trail

We fell into step with a Heffalump on the Coastal Trail this evening. Have you ever been loping along and suddenly find yourself right in front of, then right behind, then right in front of, then right behind, somebody very large with a voice like a foghorn?

Finally we slowed way down and stepped off the trail. We walked 20 feet down a little path, and came upon this room, straight out of a fairy tale.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Three Tiny Good Things

from Trader Joe's this evening:

1. Organic Strawberries

2. Old Fashioned Salted Blister Peanuts

3. Valrhona Dark Bittersweet Chocolate 71% Cocoa

One Tiny Not-So-Good Thing

1. Another pair of Bjorn Børg underwear dried beyond recognition

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Other People's Mail

Subject: Happy Sunday, Mom!
From: linda
Date: June 19, 2009 9:27:18 PM PDT
1 Attachment, 29.4 KB

Enjoy your big Sunday paper, and don't forget snacks.
(And water!!)

Love, Linda

The last thing I do every night is e-mail Mom a picture and a note. She gets it at 8:00 the next morning on her Presto machine. I title the notes something like Happy Wednesday, Mom! or Have a Great Thursday, Mom! Her memory isn't working and a title that includes the day of the week confirms for her what day it is when she wakes up.

The day after I sent Mom the e-mail above, Aggles called.

Aggles: I just talked to Mom and she's confused.

Me: I know. She lost one of her Prestos.

Aggles: (long pause) Linda, what day is this?

Me: ... Saturday.

Aggles: Do you realize what you put on Mom's Presto last night?

A sick feeling came over me. I can't tell you how bad I felt about telling Mom to enjoy her big Sunday paper on Saturday. Not only did I feel bad about confusing her, but I also felt embarrassed. The person helping Mom dress probably saw it, and it would be easy for her to guess who would be moving into the memory unit next.

Yesterday morning (Monday) Aggles sent me a concerned e-mail with the day of the week and the date in gigantic red letters. She reminded me to relax the muscles around my eyes and to relax my jaw, and she mentioned meditation.

This afternoon I talked to Mom:

What day is today? Let's see. Is it 265-1411?

Me: It's Tuesday, June 23rd. I know you'll never trust me again after what I did last weekend, but I know for sure that it's Tuesday, June 23rd because that's what my computer says.

Mom couldn't remember what I did. I reminded her that I had told her to have a happy Sunday on Saturday.

Mom laughs: That's all right!

Me: It may be all right with you, but I don't think Aggles or I will ever get over it.

Oh well. Aggles is a perfectionist.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Neighborhood Beat

Rosalie across the street broke her arm. It happened Saturday at the Y. She was using the elliptical machine.

This evening she opened her refrigerator. No sour cream. She had to have some! She could not drive with one arm.

I jumped in the Nebulous and headed to Safeway. We needed chips and salsa anyway. I delivered the pint of sour cream to Rosalie and with her one good arm she handed me these roses.

Call again tomorrow if you need anything, Rosalie!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Six Tiny Good Things

1. Vacationing next door neighbor's garden got watered before plants died.

2. Seconds before running out of coffee completely, Tom brought home three bags Peet's Major Dickason's Blend (on sale at Safeway).

3. Mom went to Dink's birthday party and had great time.

4. Not necessary to have latest iPhone for new 3.0 software to work. Cut and paste! Simple Simon "tape recorder" hilarious.

5. Did not get blown off Coastal Trail in gale-force winds.

6. Clean sheets.

One Tiny Not-So-Good Thing

1. Woody Allen movie Whatever Works did not open in San Francisco this weekend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Interview with Janet Schulman

I have an irrational curiosity about people I work with, made worse by the fact that 99% of the time I don't meet the people I work with. I wonder all kinds of things about them. Not only about their work, but what they have for dinner, what kind of music they listen to, whether or not they like cats. This summer I'm illustrating a children's book by Janet Schulman, and it's only natural that she should be my interview victim today.

Are you reading a book now? What is it?

Last night I finished reading Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo which is a kind of warm-up for his Pulitzer Prize novel, Empire Falls. Am about to start I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. Both of these are books my husband and I pick up for next to nothing at sidewalk vendors of used books on Broadway or as re-cycled freebies in our apartment building lobby. We re-cycle most of our books in the lobby. That's where I discovered Dona Leon about six or seven years ago. Now I'm so turned on to her that I actually rush out to buy her latest novel in hardcover the moment it is released.

You told me that you go into the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What do you do on the days when you don't go into the office?

There is almost always some Random House/Knopf work that I have to do at home. But I start each non-office day by reading the entire New York Times, then working out at my nearby health club. In good weather I walk and read in Riverside Park. Often I go to a museum, occasionally an afternoon movie or theater. I do a lot of reading. I like re-reading classics that I read years ago and also reading classics that I should have read years ago. Even though I'm still involved in children's and YA publishing, I seldom read those books. I no longer feel that it is my duty to keep up with what is being publishing in that genre.

You wrote about your role in fighting for women's rights in the "The 1974 Macmillan Massacre" last year in Publishers Weekly:

"I had always suspected (correctly) that I was being paid far less than male vice-presidents or male marketing managers. The final straw was my discovery, after I had a baby, that maternity medical benefits that were denied me were given to the wives of male Macmillan employees. I joined the Macmillan women’s group and was subsequently elected co-chairperson."

In the piece you say at four o’clock one afternoon, after 13 years of service, that you were given one hour to get out along with your staff of five. Were you frightened when this happened, or were you too angry to be frightened?

I wasn't frightened. I half expected it. But I was angry that my staff became scapegoats because of me.

You fought a hard and ultimately successful battle. What was the best thing that came out of having to go through this ordeal (aside from the obvious benefit for women, for which we thank you)? What was the worst?

When I was fired I began freelancing as a marketing consultant which then led to some editorial assignments. I also had the time and the wherewithal to write a number of children's books, most in the learning-to-read genre, that were published by Greenwillow and Dutton. I think I owe my 31 year career as an editor and writer at Random House to having been fired and forced to do something different, something that I had always wanted to do. That was the best thing that came out of it. The worst? Well, we were just about to buy a co-op apartment for $55,000 and had to give that up. (The same apartment--it's across the street from where we live-- went for $2.4 million last year.)

I admire people who are good parents as much as I admire people who fight for causes like the one above. Are you a good parent as well as a valiant fighter?

What a question! I guess I was a good enough parent, even though I went back to work when our daughter was eight weeks old, something that was not usually done in 1968. She turned out quite well and we continue to have a loving relationship. She dedicated her doctoral dissertation to me and my husband for allowing her to be herself.

How many children do you have? What are they like?

I have just the one, Nicole. I'd say she is the most intelligent, caring, and moral person I know, and I know a hell of a lot of intelligent people, not so many who are also caring and moral. I am very proud of her. She gave up a tenure track job as a professor of medieval history at Ohio Wesleyan University because she couldn't stand living in Ohio or in America during the Bush years. She immigrated to Toronto and is now married to a Canadian, has a little boy, and holds dual American/Canadian citizenship.

In illustrating the big purple apartment building for your story, I wonder what kind of house you live in. What is your favorite room and why?

My husband and I have lived in the same apartment for 43 years. It is a 15 story Riverside Drive yellow brick building with early Art Deco architectural trim and our apartment would be described as a "classic six with 2 1/2 baths and fab views of the Hudson River." As for favorite rooms, like a cat, my feelings for the rooms change as the sunlight moves from east to west.

Do you have any pets?

Yes, an extremely neurotic but lovable tabby cat who was named Sunni at the adoption agency but we mostly call her Kitty. We've always had cats--a pair of Siamese for 19 years, Lady Brett Ashley and Natasha, named for characters in The Sun Also Rises and War and Peace; then for 14 years a Siamese we found on the street named Mystery because we didn't know where she came from; then a Russian Blue that was given to us for a few years named Tamara who died of leukemia; then a beautiful little rescue cat that looked just like a miniature tiger, all orange and black stripes, but was so gentle who died of a heart attack at about age 12.

Do you collect anything?

I used to collect antique tools that I would pick up at flea markets in upstate New York and Connecticut and in London and the south of France. But I put a moratorium on this hobby a year or so ago until I can figure out where to display this stuff. I'm now looking for the perfect display cabinet which I fear does not exist.

Do you have a computer at home? Do you have any feelings for your computer?

Yes, I am typing on it--or is the current nomenclature "keyboarding"? My only feeling for this computer--also the one in my office, even more so because it has a million Random House programs on it--is one of fear and loathing. I rage at it at least once a week when it does something--or, more usually asks me something--that I don't understand. However, I do recognize and value the computer. I don't think I could write a literate sentence without the computer, though I used to (I think). It is so easy now to correct one's mistakes/typos or totally re-write something. You would not know how difficult it used to be to correct typewritten mistakes. Going back even further in time, it baffles me how authors such as Charles Dickens--and all of the 19th century writers for that matter--could hand script a novel without nary a change.

I know one thing you love about your computer: following the Urban Hawks blog. You wrote a children's book called Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City about the adventures of a red-tail hawk who lives on a Fifth Avenue apartment building. Do you ever catch a glimpse of Pale Male, other than on the blog? Were you a hawk enthusiast even before Pale Male landed in New York City? How exciting about the three red-tail hawk chicks that hatched in Riverside Park a few weeks ago!

I didn't know anything about red-tail hawks until I went on an Audubon Bird Walk through Central Park in 1995. It was the first year that Pale Male had built his nest on the posh apartment building on Fifth Avenue and the Audubon people pointed it out to me, commenting on it being the first time one of these very shy wild birds settled in a busy, noisy city. I began following Pale Male year by year after that. I see him in the vicinity of his nest, via binoculars, each spring, but ever since his nest was destroyed in December 2004 and then re-built over a steel platform (presumably to catch the hawks' garbage of rat, squirrel, and pigeon carcasses and bones) he and his mate, Lola, have not produced any chicks. We think the steel platform allows too much cold air under the nest so the eggs don't incubate even though Pale Male and Lola are wonderful parents and sit on the eggs endlessly. He and his mates (he's had four but he never finds a new mate unless the old one dies or is "damaged", i.e. one of his mates got into a fight with an owl and lost one of her eyes, thus making her not very good at hunting) have had 23 chicks that have fledged. There are now quite a few red-tail hawks living in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It is not for certain, but it is believed that most of them are progeny of Pale Male and his mates. The web site is strictly about the Riverside Park hawks. There is a web site that has fabulous photos of Pale Male.

Do you have a fireplace in your home? What is on the mantle?

No, alas, there is no fireplace in our spacious apartment. Our first apartment which was George Gershwin's studio in his house on 103rd St. (two blocks uptown from where we live now) had a decorative fireplace, but I have always wanted a wood burning fireplace or, as they print in classified ads, a wbf.

What is your favorite piece of jewelry?

Not worth answering. Do you really ask this question to others for your blog???

What did you have for dinner last night?

Another pretty weird question, but since I do eat dinner every night as opposed to not wearing jewelry to the degree your previous question implies I'll tell you that we had a very good dinner last night of stuffed cabbage, green salad, fresh cherries, and a bottle of Cote de Rhone wine. I might add that we eat at home almost every night. My husband does most of the cooking. Last night the stuffed cabbage was bought at Zabars and heated up chez Schulman. We always have a bottle of French wine with our dinner.

Do you listen to music? What is the last piece you listened to?

I don't listen to much music now days, but the last I heard, just a few hours ago, was at my friend Eden Ross Lipson's memorial service. It was "12 Gates to the City" by the Weavers, a group of folk singers from the 1950s and 1960s, Pete Seeger was one of them. I came of age on this type of political folk music and I still listen to it occasionally.

What are you most excited about now?

Well, if you are really interested in what I am most excited about right now, I'd say it is visiting my three-year-old grandson in Toronto. As for my life in children's books, I'm publishing this month a picture book The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra with illustrations by Melissa Sweet that I'm excited about. Happily, so are a lot of reviewers. . . imagine getting a starred review from Horn Book Magazine for this book! And an Oppenheimer Toy Award.

You were Ted Geisel's editor. (Dr. Seuss, that is.) You said that often you had no idea what he was working on until he would fly to New York to present you with a polished manuscript and finished art. Did you ever take him to lunch? If so, where did you go and what did he like to eat?

He didn't like going to fancy restaurants, but his wife did. At lunch he usually ordered scrambled eggs--not green and no ham--regardless of what class restaurant we went to.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gardening Tip

Sally told me that if you like cut flowers in the house, that you can cut poppies and singe the very end. She said they last for a few days.

So when Deb and Eric were visiting, I decided to impress them. I wanted them to think that gardening was second nature to me. I was sure the plants out front looked like they had been there forever, when in reality I had planted them in a panic 2 weeks before.

I cut a poppy and singed the end. "What are you doing?" they cried, as I held the stem over a gas burner on the stove.

Alas. When we got back from Pt. Reyes that afternoon, the poppy had pooped out (exhibit 1). Everyone laughed at me and I was more than a little peeved at Sally. Soon as Deb and Eric and Tom were behind the door, I e-mailed Sally and demanded: When you singe a poppy to bring it inside, are you supposed to put it in water?

Within seconds I received a reply: yes, you cut it, singe the cut end, put in water. If you don't it doesn't last at all.

Ok, everyone. Have a laugh at my expense. But I want you to know what happened next. I added water to the vase with the dead poppy. Then I went to lie down on the couch while the others drank champagne and had fun. In ten or fifteen minutes I heard gasps and cries from the kitchen. I jumped up and ran in. They were staring dumbstruck at the poppy which over the course of a glass of champagne had resurrected itself (exhibit 2.)

I know you won't believe me, even though I documented it below. You'll think the poppy was switched out. But this really happened and it's something you can try in your own home.

p.s. Since this incident I've learned that if you cut a poppy, singe the end, and put it in water immediately rather than waiting 8 hours, that it will last much longer inside than it would have outside.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Charlotte and Agnes

Charlotte Cain Kautilya #20

There was a woman sitting at the other end of the table Thursday night that I never got to talk to. Her name is Charlotte Cain. Her husband was sitting beside me and mentioned her paintings. They've recently moved to this area and she already has a show set up at room for painting/room for paper (49 Geary) for January.

Today he sent me a link to her site. I've spent all morning looking at her paintings.

There's one series called 16 Kolams. I wondered what a kolam was, so I googled it:

Kolams are thought to bestow prosperity to homes. Every morning in Southern India millions of women draw kolams on the ground with white rice powder. Through the day, the drawings get walked on, rained out, or blown around in the wind; new ones are made the next day.

Decoration was not the sole purpose of a Kolam. In olden days, kolams used to be drawn in coarse rice flour, so that the ants didn't have to work so hard for a meal. The rice powder is said to invite birds and other small critters to eat it, thus inviting other beings into one's home and everyday life: a daily tribute to harmonious co-existence. It is a sign of invitation to welcome all into the home, not the least of whom is Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity.

The patterns range between geometric and mathematical line drawings around a matrix of dots to free form art work and closed shapes. Folklore has evolved to mandate that the lines must be completed so as to symbolically prevent evil spirits from entering the inside of the shapes, and thus are they prevented from entering the inside of the home.

Charlotte said she was inspired by a friend of hers named Agnes Martin, so I had to google Agnes.

GASP!!!! Another whole new world opened up. Here's a magnificent 8-minute interview with Agnes, who died in 2004.

Agnes Martin, Stars

Friday, June 12, 2009

Some Enchanted Evenings

Just in case you've been wondering what happened to my blog for the past few days ... we've been eating like there's no tomorrow. Wednesday Emmy and John took us to Pagan for our birthdays. Angry prawn! Yellow curry! My favorite was the crispy catfish stir-fried with basil, Kaffir lime leaf, red bell pepper, and red curry paste sauce topped with crispy basil...

The next evening Bob introduced us to Serge Tcherepnin. Not only did Serge develop the synthesizer, but he treated eight of us to dinner at Thep Phanom. (That's Serge with Bob's wife, Harriet.) Serge and his wife Giselle just moved back to San Francisco from Paris.

Can you imagine this? We talked for 4 hours, and I never got around to my main course. That means I had an incredible lunch today of salmon in spicy basil sauce.

This evening we were back on the Coastal Trail, followed by a dinner of beans and tamales in our own kitchen

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

Shiny New Paint

Oil-based enamel paint is much shinier than latex. But it smells really bad! For two weeks.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Check It Out, Man. At Your P.O. Now!

Warning: Don't try to print these out and stick them on packages or you'll get sent to the principal's office.

p.s. Another great stamp available at your P.O. now:
art by Jeanne Greco; design by Derry Noyes

Friday, June 05, 2009

Shoe of the Day

Spotted this afternoon at Little Fish Boutique on West Portal Avenue. Unfortunately, it doesn't come in any of my sizes. (My sizes FYI: 7, 7 1/2, 8, 8 1/2, 9, and 9 1/2.)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Eight Phone Calls

What I love about Facebook's Graffiti is that it feels like you're drawing on Post It's. If you get stuck on the phone, you can open up the program and doodle to your heart's content. Take a guess which phone conversation went on the longest.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Yes, go for a walk and take your camera!

That's what Aggles said to do, so I followed her advice.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Just Landed

That's my mouse, Fritzy, and this is the 3rd DVD he's starred in. It just came out and it's my favorite one by far. The songs and the kids are adorable and the animation is by Linda Davick. Have you ever heard of her? She did the backgrounds, too.

We won't look too closely at the animated purple bowl that Maria waves around while searching for Fritzy.