Thursday, February 26, 2009

Idol Picks - Top 36, Group 2

My favorite so far was in this group - I say "was" even though the results are not for a few hours cause he fell off the pedestal last night. Cute, dynamic, untrained Matt Giraud, with the jutting jaw and curly hair, looked great in the early footage wailing away on his piano at his night job - some kind of super campy and fun dueling pianos gig. And he picked "Viva La Vida" for last night which seemed young and current. But he ran out of breath. Couldn't support the tone. Does dude know how to use the diaphragm? Judges did not like it. I want to see more of this guy. Keeping a candle lit.

On to the sure things: Redhead 16-year-old Allison Iraheta had the girls' performance of the night. In interviews she is painfully adolescent, alternating goofy mugging and monosyllabic responses to Ryan, but she picked the right song, Heart's barnstormer "Alone," and she killed it - even the tough low beginning - and she was fun to watch.

Adam Lambert, duh. He's had a pass to the top 12 ever since they noticed on his resume that he was in Wicked. Ryan Seacrest tries to play it so cool when he talks to him, but you just know he's sweating and working hard not to call him Fiero. Maybe we'll get "As Long As You're Mine" on musicals night.

So that leaves third place. (Do you think they will evenly line up boy-girl-boy-girl, or will the judges need to even out the lineup on wildcard night?) Tonight's results will show the power of Vote for the Worst if Nick/Norman Gentle makes it through. Everybody was wondering what he was going to pull out, but he sang an old song! We've heard "And I Am Telling You" from him before, although he did add some new shtick.

I love it when a karaoke contestant takes an old chestnut and makes you hear it in a new way - like Clay's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" or most everything David Cook did or Marty Casey's "Hit Me Baby One More Time" on Rock Star... and I felt that revived freshness when Jesse Langseth did Kim Carne's "Bette Davis Eyes." It was slinky and cool and I've been humming the song all morning, but I don't think she'll make it through. Cause Megan Joy Corkrey is just too darn pretty. They're both single moms, funny. Wouldn't it be great if they both got through, as third place and as wildcard, and Norman took his show on the road?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CA Supreme Court Hears Arguments to Repeal Prop 8 on March 5

From Join the Impact:

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT Prop 8 CA Supreme Court Hearings- Please Forward!!

Hi guys!
Wanted to share this with you to keep you in touch with what's going on and also ask for help!

California Supreme Court hears oral arguments on validity of Prop 8 : How you can get involved!

On March 5th, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case to repeal Proposition 8 and confirm that fundamental freedoms cannot be stripped from minorities by a popular vote. You can show your support for the repeal of Proposition 8 in four ways:

1. Get to San Francisco

Thousands of people are expected to come from all across the state to the California Supreme Court Building in San Francisco in the hopes of attending the oral argument to repeal Proposition 8 and confirm that fundamental freedoms cannot be stripped from minorities by a popular vote. Buses of students are being arranged from Southern California so that young people can witness this civil rights moment of their generation. They created this website for the event

This is so important that I've extended my trip in California and Amy is flying down with her wife from Seattle.

You can come and witness it too -- join thousands of us in San Francisco on March 5th for this historic moment. Across the state and across the country, citizens are coming together to form carpools and rideshares. Any way that you can, please try and get to San Francisco for March 5th!

2. Help ensure that everyone can view the oral arguments

Unfortunately, there is very very limited seating in the courtroom and little overflow viewing. We will be gathering in front of the California Supreme Court in Civic Center Plaza. Only a few will be able to go inside -- but with your help, the rest will be able to view the proceedings from outside. I'm hoping you will help Marriage Equality USA raise the funds we need to ensure that everyone can see and hear the historic oral arguments together on the Civic Center Plaza on an huge Jumbotron.

We need to raise $30,000 (for the Jumbotron and sound systems for the community candlelight vigil the night before and the day of the hearing). If we can do this, we will jointly create the most incredible historic community moment of the year!

All donations are tax deductible and will be used solely for getting the Jumbotron and sound system we need to provide our community the opportunity to watch and participate as history is made.

We only have a week - can you please forward this on to everyone you know and ask them to contribute. Gifts of $20.00, $10.00, and even $5.00 will help inch us closer to our goal. All donations are gratefully appreciated!

Please forward any questions to Molly McKay at (510) 332-0872

3. Wear white

Join the Impact has called upon our community, whether you can be in San Francisco or not, to please wear white on March 5th. This can be a tee-shirt, a feather boa, or white leather or a White Knot. Wherever you are -- wear white on March 5th to show your support! Wearing white is a simple symbol of solidarity across our country.

4. Eve of Justice Candlelight Vigils

The night before the oral arguments, Marriage Equality USA is also helping to convene candlelight vigils across the state (in 20 cities and counting) in support of protecting the Constitutional Promise of Equality for All! To find a vigil near you go to or

In solidarity,

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Bath Pictures, If You're Into That Sort of Thing

And here is the grownup bath. No more sharing with the children! Mama needs her own place to primp.

Although my first priority was to go green - and we did, with recycled blue jean insulation, low-flow and double flush toilets, bamboo cabinetry and zero VOC paint - I didn't plan the baths to be literally green as well. But a honeydewish tint works well for the girls and our bath is being "adjusted" to a more sagey color called "Bali" that I probably picked because of the name. Decision exhaustion.
How do you like the mix of patterns? Is that orangey-brown tile modern or total 70's? I can't tell anymore.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bath Remodel

We started this project the week of Thanksgiving, back when I naively thought we would be finished by the new year. The major construction work, gutting three rooms and putting them all back together, is complete, but the tiny details that are left, knobs, faceplates, towel rods, curtains, and on and on, are tough to be patient about. Here's the girls' bath, with the recycled clawfoot found by our contractor on Craigslist from a family right here in Wilmette.

The girls' countertop and knob choices. Their sink goes in tomorrow.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Exquisite City

Mia admires Charlie Thorne's "My Little City." She found a tiny dog in one of the backyards.

Last weekend we took the girls to The Exquisite City installation at the Chicago Tourism Center on Randolph. Mia and Eleanor were fascinated by the tiny cityscapes. A crowd of artists, including students from Lakeview High School, created miniature blocks and tiny apartments with the great city of Chicago as their inspiration. Seeing the exhibit with kids is a great family day combo with winter playtime at nearby Millennium Park.

The Tourism Center is at 72 E. Randolph, across the street from the Cultural Center. The Exquisite City runs through March 15. More info here.

Gabriel Villa created the ziggurat above called "Xicago Memoriam" from cardboard tortilla boxes. The top structure illustrated with praying hands is a replica of the Robert Taylor Homes, a Chicago public housing project that was demolished in 2007.

Here is a city block by Jay Ryan, who also does concert posters.

Jay Ryan detail.

The singer Neko Case contributed this burning house to the Exquisite City, but you need to see the entire piece to get the full effect. She rendered the entire conflagration with beautiful detail, including flaming clothes on the clothesline. The cotton batting smoke and cellophane red flames rise up to the ceiling of the Tourist Center where they break into puffy clouds that bear words that I read as messages from those who died in the fire. "I always wanted to be George Jones," reads one cloud. "And now I am."

Beautiful Neko Case detail.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

AWP Chicago: Baby Writers, Mother Writers, Poet-Memoirists

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs held their annual conference in Chicago last week. I didn't have the presence of mind to plan for attending during the week (like my friend Ann did while her generous musician husband took over kid duty), but truth be told, these conference-thingies can be exhausting - intense and occasionally mind-numbing (not this time) lectures, a wealth of choices, miles of ballrooms and exhibition halls, endless lines .... So my single Saturday was enough for me.

I'm new to the organization so I wasn't sure what the crowd would be like - turns out the "writing programs" part means lots of baby navel-gazers. I should be understanding and patient of the twenty-something students, I should be supportive. After all, John Updike's generous advice, rebroadcast last week, was, "any life has in it enough material, enough points of departure to fuel a writer's career." But I had little patience for the lazy questions (after an informative panel discussion of small press acquisition editors, one child asks: "I'm overwhelmed by all the tables downstairs in the exhibition hall. How can I learn about small presses?")

After a reading of recent memoir work by four poets, Nick Flynn (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, ha ha), Carolyn Forche, Honor Moore (The Bishop's Daughter) and former US Poet Laureate Donald Hall, I overheard one of the twenty-somethings confess to being "humbled" - Young Woman, who did you think you were before the reading?

Sorry. Enough unkindness. My notes:

You know there is no way I could resist "The Mama Drama: The Challenge of Writing About Mothers in Creative Nonfiction." The five participants are all Minnesotans and contributors to the recent anthology Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers.

-Sheila O'Connor spoke of the loneliness and fallout of writing about family, the sense of taboo and the silence after publication. Of her mother, who ran a construction company, "My mom didn't do the things mothers care about - she didn't cook, she didn't clean or take care of us..." But in her traditional Irish Catholic family: "you don't dish the dirt on blood."

What are intended as tributes can change the family dynamic in unexpected ways. Writers can rest with the claim of truth, but the truth is a troublesome assertion... "WHAT truth would I tell?" asked O'Connor. "Whose truth is it? Was my truth enough to do my mother justice? Does putting the woman on paper diminish or broaden her?"

O'Connor's solution was direct address: she wrote TO her mother instead of about her.

When O'Connor made a strikingly true comment about how quick we are to judge women who aren't the kind of mothers who expect them to be, I suddenly thought of Nadya Suleman, the vilified octo-mom , who has been receiving death threats as well as nearly universal derision.

O'Connor ended with: Writing about our mothers' failings can make us look at how WE have failed to make our own marks in life...

-Poet Heid Erdrich, sister of Louise, asked, "What if typical narrative structure fails to describe the communal nature of motherhood? How does the 'I' of traditional narration fail the 'you of the subject, that is, our mothers?"

When she thinks of her mother, she thinks of "nesting bowls, eggs within eggs, mother within mother...we follow each other but never truly unite."

-Carrie Pomeroy shared her writing process as she struggled to understand and write about one difficult episode in her childhood. Her widowed mother had reached the end of her rope and frightened her daughters with the threat of self-violence. In writing about this, Pomeroy decided to take the anti-victim stance, following the advice of Vivian Gornick in The Story and the Situation: "I needed to be willing to implicate myself and take responsibility for my own role in the conflict." She read us an early draft, then the revised scene; the result of her work is a passage that shows compassion and understanding. Pomeroy was left "awed and humbled by what my mother had managed to give."

-Morgan Grayce Willow, from whose essay the title of the anthology was taken, is a poet whose often reticent mother was opposed to disclosure. Willow's life work with poetry and language kept her distant from her mother. In her remarks, Willow's language was often formal and sometimes obscurely technical and I pictured her mother as a woman who communicated in other ways. I was surprised to find myself terribly moved by Willow's account of her mother's last words, "have a nice life" and Willow's description of them as "awkward." She came to realize through the work of memoir that these words were a gift, but the story illustrated the miles of distance between the two women.

-I was fascinated by Wang Ping's story and the soft, off-hand way she told it: "My mother was supposed to stay with me for three months, but I started to bleed and my skin started to peel off so I could not have her stay with she traveled through the US for a year and a half working as a nanny even though she only knew "thank you" and "hello" in English...she is a tiger and I am a chicken and the tiger will eat you up...she set up a clinic in my apartment and started healing my writing friends whose left fingers were growing longer than that on their right hands...My writing is my long conversation with my mother..the irony is that I write in English which she cannot read - but Mother knows - she knows."

In the Q and A, one woman stood and asked with great passion, "Why do we write about them instead of talking to them?" Wang Ping's response included this lovely image: When we talk to our mothers, there are lots of bags and buttons.

Ha Ha!

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Idol Picks - Top 36, Group 1

The rules are all shifted this year in interesting ways. The top 36 are divided into groups of 12 each week and only the top guy, top girl and the next top vote-getter will advance. And of the 27 who are left, the judges will pick three wild cards. Or four, since we have the new judge?

This week, top girl is Alexis Grace, no contest.

For guys, Danny Gokey is a sweetheart with the sympathy vote and a nice voice, Anoop Desai didn't pick the best song, but he's really well-spoken and sounded super in all previous bits. LOVE Michael Sarver's smile and his big tree-trunk thighs.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy VD!

A rosy day. My new post about enduring love appeared on Chicago Moms Blog and the sweet feedback has been melting my heart.

This morning Randy took the girls to the Museum of Science and Industry while I hiked down to the Palmer House Hilton ("Oh the conference is at the other Hilton?"), scratch that, the Hilton Towers for the last day of the AWP. (That's the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference, although they seem to be missing a W...)

I think I'll save my conference notes for another post, but enough to say I attended three stellar sessions and still had time to shop for our family dinner of yum! Romaine salad with cranberry vinaigrette and beets and red pepper cut into cute little hearts, chili-rubbed ribeye for Randy and pasta for the girls and me and ... Chocolate fondue for dessert! With strawberries and little cubes of pound cake! The girls didn't want to eat much of it, but they sure loved stabbing the fruit and cake and dipping it in the velvety liquid. They were like little candy factory workers, only instead of putting their sweet, dripping product on the conveyor belt, they shoved them in our faces and ordered Randy and I to eat. Good times.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Momma Calls the Grammies

As I've written before, I'm not hip to the new music scene, man. I spent Saturday night sipping raspberry beer as I looked up audition clips from Elliot Yamin, Latoya London and Paris Bennett. (If you know who they are, you know who they are.) Lady Gaga Who?

So I can take a sad little pride in posting this year about Record of the Year from the Album of the Year and Best Musical Album for Children.

Heady with success, I'll go out on a limb and nominate next year's winner for something or other - an album I confess I have not yet heard, but how can Van Morrison go wrong with a live at Hollywood Bowl revisiting of the brilliant 1968 album, Astral Weeks? I LUUURVE the lilting, chanting, mesmerizing original, recorded when Morrison was a mere twenty-three years old. Here is Tribune music critic Greg Kot's review of the new album, that comes out tomorrow.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Big Monkey

Here's a picture Mia brought home from school last week. The crowded mise en scene is pretty typical of her oeuvre - note the big-eyed unicorn with a heart tattoo coming to the aid of the little girl in a sling and the fortress with crenallated walls.

I loved the curly-tailed monkeys at the side - Mia said they were "guards" - so I asked her to make me a drawing of a single monkey. "Okay," she replied. Later, when she was complaining about having to go to school after a busy morning, she remembered her monkey assignment and got all cheered up.

This is what she came up with. I so love it, especially the sweet bow on gorilla's head. It's kind of hard to see, but at the bottom right is a dachshund in a striped sweater, about to enjoy her bow-wrapped bone.

Kids Say the Damndest Things

As we drove by the Bahai Temple on the way home from school last week, Nora asked, "Is that where Barack Obama got married?" It does a bit like the Capitol Building, doesn't it?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fidelity is a Precious Thing

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

On March 15, the California Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the passage of which reversed an earlier decision to grant gay couples the right to marry and consequently, share the hundreds of state benefits and over one thousand federal benefits conferred on married couples.

Link Poaching

Spookier and sadder than a deserted woodsy road at midnight. Old cemeteries left in the middle of progress.

Silly roadside signs.

Writing in Chicago? Too poor to attend next week's Association of Writers and Writing Programs convention? Check out all these off-site programs - many of them free!

Wrote a killer blog post? Send it in to this guy and he might turn your blog into a cartoon!

We All Fall Down - now, with bacon! Go here and add some fat to your site!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


When I picked the girls up from school this afternoon, the sun was still up in the western trees so I barreled through with the plan I had concocted minutes before - we grabbed some bad drive-through to tide them over (it made Nora stop wailing to go home and tell her sister, "Now I WANT to go to ... where again?" "Mount Trashmore," we told her) and headed to the sledding hill.

It may be a landfill, but it's a pretty picturesque landfill, with mature trees and bushes growing all over, a short broad sledrun carved out of the brush on one side and a steep skihill on another.

The sunset clouds were full-on pink and fortified with my orange juice and warm in my snowpants, I said yes to everything: the girls playing on the playground for a bit first, pulling their sleds up the hill for them, tracking with Mia through the trees to get a look at the scary slant of the deserted big slope. "It's closed," yelled the only other kids sledding with us, then, "Want to race?" Oh no way - we like the smooth edges where you glide forever rather than the bumpy middle where they were flying into the air and crashing with what looked like bone-cracking slams. But everyone was laughing, Nora with a wide mouth and pink cheeks as she tried, in her clumpy four-year-old in a snow suit way, to jump in front of my sled and tackle me as I slid to a stop.

We hit the playground again for a while as I counted up the compliments I was giving Mia, part of my homework for my parenting class. (Does "That was really funny but really gross" count as 1/2 when Mia makes a joke about eating with her mouth full?) There's "Awesome!" as she slides by, half-off her sled but hanging on with jaunty style, but isn't that self-evident? And "good thinking," when she suggests a little car may have made the endless tracks a cross-country skier left, although it's only half the story. I'll get up to 17 before bedtime, but when she is obviously feeling so good, I don't feel like compliments augment her experience so much as make witness to it. Looking for a place to give her praise does keep me in the moment, though.

The west sky turns the color of a bruise. Someone has turned their car headlights on to light the slope and the white light deepens the pools of dark between the hill's icy bumps. One more run, time to go home.