Sunday, December 30, 2012

Always Hang the Golden Apples; Plug in the Pig.

I expected the tree would be a lot smaller, and it was; a happy little table top fiber optic model which sparkled a shifting rainbow of colors through its branch tips. It was duct taped to the side table at its base (to foil human clumsiness rather than any felines, who, friends tell me, feel compelled to scale such things). From my childhood, I remember the annual Wrestling of the Tree Box from attic to third and second floor, to first. It was a frustrated affair, with shouted invectives preceding and following the sound of corners banging into walls; though naturally there was a happy ending. It was understandable when at some point, my parents abandoned the practice of bringing the entire tree down, in favor of erecting only the topmost section of the tree. I'm still sorry that I never actually witnessed this intermediate step, but happy for them that they eventually settled upon a more feasible solution. This shift probably happened years ago, but you know how it is -- when you're not present for the evolution, you tend to freeze things at various stages.

The ornament box naturally also shrank. What surprised me was how delightful it was to rediscover ornaments I grew up with -- shiny baubles from the 50s, small "stained glass" ornaments that my sister baked in the oven (which foretold her stained glass making in college), and tiny little figures which seemed to have always existed.

First and best! Little pine cone elf! With his feather quill!
The angel, oh my goodness! Can you believe it, people?
Some things remain relatively constant: my father spent most of the time pouring over a transit book, as his preferred manner of interacting is to read nearby, and occasionally insert a statement, pithy remark or rhetorical question. MSNBC was featuring video snippets from a "rogue internet videographer," who chronicled his outrage over police officers parking too close to fire hydrants, alleged prostitute activity, and other various infractions of the law. "Who IS this pain in the ass?" wondered my father, barely lifting his eyes from his book.

Added since I have been gone. Birds are always nice.
One of the best of the old ornament boxes! Always loved the color and shape.
Meanwhile, my Mom was delivering hanging guidelines, with a sense of foregone conclusion, though I had no memory of these preferences. I learned that one of her oldest friends had originally given us the two pine cone elves and that they are always hung together, a practice which I had failed to pick up on. But now that I knew that, it seemed only right. I gestured to various boxes: Should we hang these? Oh, yes. The golden apples have to go on! Oh yes, we always hang the white hearts. The gold pears, too: a must.

I commented on an ornate painted wooden ornament hanging from a nearby lamp:
"That's from Andy*!" my Mom exclaimed: "Don't you remember that??"

"Oh! Really? Nope, I don't remember that at all...

Mom shook her head. "I have always loved the drummer, I hang it every year! He fits very nicely into the lamp base. But then you gave Dad those little wooden birds and I like to have them nearby as well."

*An ex boyfriend from -- no exaggeration -- 20 years ago.

We finished the little tree over a couple sessions, with my sister also adorning it. A much more mellow affair. And on Christmas Eve there was such a nice sweetness to opening my shipping box and distributing presents; and then seeing the folks disappear to their separate hiding places and emerge with variously colored boxes that were then sprinkled around the base. Happens most everywhere, I know; and to all the parents out there, present distribution is old hat -- but somehow, the pooling together of presents, as seen activity, as adults -- struck me as lovely. Christmas afternoon, my sister and her boyfriend easily doubled the present mass with their festive offerings. There was much admiration of thought(fulness) and thing; warmth, affection, and laughter; and confections at every turn. Hope Everyone's holiday season has been as lovely!

Parting note: bonus lights tour, courtesy Sister. Here's a smattering of shots, more of which can be found here. The Tuckers and Valenzas don't fool around!
Tuckers: Firefighting and Cartoon Love, in a Small Front Yard
Valenzas: Lit-Up Winter Wonderland.

Snowman, menacing visitors with his broom.

Rarely seen Porcine Claus, on side street.

Closer to home, but not home. Parents say it grows each year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On Cupcakes, Cookies and the Latest Dance Moves

After many Christmases away, am currently in my Pennsylvania stomping grounds. Got in Saturday, spent a lovely Christmas Eve afternoon with my oldest friends and her family; followed by a cozy, laughter-filled Christmas with my family. One day later, we are off to get our first-ever family portrait (!), so now we are biding time. CNN is on the TV (blizzards, tornadoes, fiscal cliffs!), Dad is pouring over one of his many new books (locomotives, Asian Art, Lyndon Johnson!) and Mom is perched on the arm of the (favorite) overstuffed chair, drinking her most recent cup of tea. It's blustery outside, hopefully tomorrow's flight won't be delayed. 

So, hmmmm.... sounds like a good time for a cupcake visit. I had the happy errand of delivering cupcakes to the home of ThreeorFour, Five* and their parents, following a potluck last weekend.

{*Okay, lazy, but I'm just going to provide age progression right now -- >FourorFive and Six}

When I showed up FourorFive hailed my name, from the kitchen "Mmmmm! Mmmmm!" She still pronounces her Rs as Ws. I will mourn it when this pronunciation goes away. She launches herself at me for a hug. Six begins to feign an embrace, before stopping short: "Did you bring the cupcakes?" K rolls her eyes cielingward, as she often does in  the presence of her offspring. We hold off from the cupcakes for a spell. The girls play next to us on their ipads, as K and I endeavor to communicate in that hampered little-pitchers-have-big-ears way that adults perforce become used to.

"You know, they're friends," I say."But now they ARE FRIENDS, really. good. friends.~~" I swing my head up and down, eyes widened: "So."

K scrinches up her mouth in sympathy. "Watch me M, I'm stuhwing the battuhr~" says Four, twirling her fingertip across a wee kitchen on her screen.

"~~Watch me, I'm winning," Six cuts in. "I always win." Six almost intuitively corrals attention back to herself. "I win: every time." Four falls silent, continues twirling.

"So...Thanksgiving? How was that?" I ask K.

"Better than last year." She gazes above the girls' heads. We try lowered voices, but they are immediately next to us. I'm sure there are tales! We briefly venture into lip reading, but sadly our shadow play lacks nuance. B came home, luring the girls out by lighting the porch Snoopy. K and I shifted to the kitchen island while K readied some child-friendly dinner plates (a.k.a. base layer for cupcakes). Regardless, there is dawdling and negotiating around the table, as Six (vocally) and Five (quietly) do the expected jockeying for nutritional control.

Finally, it is cupcake time: K does the evil bait-and-switching of half-for-whole cupcake, which is protested, before the girls settle in. "I thought this was CHOCOLATE," Six says, frowning at the chocolate-apricot glaze.

"It IS," I say. "It's chocolate and jam." She recovers enough from the initial horror to eat it. Meanwhile, Five has done a cupcake dance in her chair, but has grown uncertain. She peers closely at it: anything edible is potentially dicey. How exhausting, to continuously protect one's borders against these oddities introduced by adults!

Six pops up at my side: "What is your most favorite food??"

"Umm, I don't have ONE~~"

"~~Cheese? Do you like cheese??"

"I LOVE cheese~" This segues into a three-person food conga line around the island, with myself at the head. Six is in charge of the song. "Woohoo! CHEESE!"  A splashy finish.

"Gravy, do you like *gravy*?"

You see what's coming. Six giggles and calls out to B. This is a big booyah! to Daddy, who does not love gravy. He takes this in stride. The final conga line celebrates chocolate muffins, before the girls peel out to other rooms. It's not long before they round the corner again, like high-stepping ponies; Six seems to be lassoing something. They cross their wrists and call out in concert before dissappearing.

"I'm sorry, that was NOT--"

K sighs. "Yes...A 4th grader likes Six and showed them at recess."

From the living room: "Gangnam Style!"

       At a slight delay, from Four in the hallway: "Gangnam Style!"

From Six: "Got no style!"
      "Got no style!"

Six, standing before me, "Can you do this?"

I raise my arms. I can, indeed, do this.

"Can you do this?"

I can. I had not anticipated: conga lines or dance lessons. And this? And this? And this?

"Now let's put it together!!"  The adults watch Psy's dancefloor infection spreading.

Six is displeased. "Now you can JOIN me," she urges. I demure, she frowns and gallops away. 


Back on the homestead, the TV is urging us to buy gold and silver; we are, instead napping, and eating cookies.

Hope Everyone's holidays were warm, relaxing and storied (in good ways...)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Less Skull, More Lion (Shanghai minority gallery)

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: doesn't raise one's faith in humanity, but definitely the best part of this week's Monday...In other words, if you don't have something nice to say, it's time to post some pictures.* 

*Hmm, that really sounds like an intro to internet blackmail//online shame and humiliation, doesn't it? Sorry to disappoint. I've got the goods on exactly: no one.

In lieu of that, let's take the escalator to the third floor of the Shanghai Museum. You almost missed the National Minority gallery, you barely looked at the map! And now you're tired, are too lazy to take notes on the (scanty) placards, and damn if your picture taking skills are falling short. But look! Welcomed with a dragon! How could you resist its lure?
If you are sensible, you can not. And look, birds alight on its brightly lacquered, noble snout.

The main gallery is lined with mannequins in native traditional/ceremonial dress. Tibetan, Mongolian, from far reaches; I tended to think that the flip side of such gorgeously intricate robes were rather difficult existences, or at the very least, lives lived amidst battering elements. For the garments which were not donned for specific rituals, how many days, weeks did one inhabit them? Some garments looked to easily add 20 pounds to the wearer. Still, hard not to romanticize the people from these museum artifacts: walking through halls to the tinkling of myriad silver cones dangling down your front; beaded strands dangling from the crown of your head to your waist; the common white four-holed button, appropriated for much snazzier fare.

More photos here.
The room to the right of the gallery entrance is a wall of deity masks for cham dances in Tibet and elsewhere. Though not blue or many limbed, they call Kali to mind, with their ferocious gaze and crowns of skulls. I am easily drawn to the morbid anyway, so they suck me right in.

A guard approaches me. As with most museums, guards are everywhere. These however, I couldn't help noting, did not stop people from touching the sculptures in the sculpture gallery, which just about gave me a conniption. Most did not speak English, so I couldn't get the nice little asides from them that I am used to.

He eyed me and tapped the glass: "BYOOO-ti-ful." He nodded.

"Scary!" I said, "but yes, Beauutiful."
"BYOOO-ti-ful," he intoned and tapped again. He told me something doubtlessly edifying and completely unintelligible to me. I nodded. "Very. Old." He added. We nodded.  I found it interesting that he enthused about beauty before the grimmest, most ghastly pieces in the place, rather than strolling over to a ceremonial garment to intone the same thing. Was he testing the tourists? Challenging us to protest or grimace? Was he perversely setting up an "If I say the sun is the moon, it is the moon" beholder scenario? Or did he feel protective of the misunderstood beasties, with their gilding and their power?

Traditionally, deity masks like the ones above would be stored with their eyes covered, until a monk or lama chanted or prayed over it, prior to a ceremony. Makes sense to me. They seem just a bit to powerful to be just hanging around. Though clearly museum glass is created with all kinds of barriers in mind...

More photos from the gallery here.

And much more exciting -- process shots from Travel Lust, of monks preparing for a cham dance, in Ladakh, India. Plus even more great shots, from the same source!

I was initially googling cham dance videos, but wasn't so happy with the results I was finding. HowEVER, as you are sooooo aware, it's like a field of flowers, the farther from the path you go, the prettier the blossoms. To wit, don't pass up the Tibetan snow lion dance!  Based on this, I'm thinking Tibet figure in Barkely's heritage. The things you learn. Ayyyyand last stop on the random train, we have this. Who has Joi Ying Lion Dancers at their wedding? Darren & Tracey! Aside from a few cheers and claps, the banquet goers are disappointingly unastounded. Half a dozen metallic red and purple shaggy lions have entered your midst, people! Jaunty backsides, waggling tails, leaping and unfurling gold and red banners, as only the most literate of luck bringing/wealth bestowing lions will! Can't imagine how much money they would cost, but really, dancing lions would be *the thing to have*, to usher in an exciting life of connubial bliss. Am I right or am I Right??

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Part the Second: DO go see Appleseed Collective

So, um, now we arrive at what I meant to share, in case one of my local readers may be persuaded. If you have been this patient, maybe you will also be swayed. Mwahaha.

A few weeks back, I met up for friends at the most pleasant Midnight Madness in my recent history. It's one of those nice buy local, get festive events, which I often wander about, but am (apologies) rarely inspired by. I usually have most of my present by then and it's usually (like last year), frigid cold and one is huddling and irritable. If you're me. But this time around the weather was perfect: cold enough to be brisk, not so cold that your forehead wanted to clatter off your face like a rock ledge with a pivotal crack.

And Chris Roberts-Antieau had a pop-up gallery on 4th Avenue, with the fresh-faced Appleseed Collective playing in their store window. Somehow it's even more fun to swing by this Michigan-based globally known textile artist's place once you have also had the opportunity to check out her gallery in News Orleans (photos still on my little ole laptop which oh-so-thankfully does not eat every third line of text, much less hundreds of photos). It behooves me to mention this NOW, because the Appleseed Collective was ever so fun in a nice Django Rheinhardt kind of bluegrassy way and is playing AGAIN tomorrow night -- which is to say FRIDAY night, for free at the popup gallery on 4th -- from 8:30-11 PM. Lucky you! Go see them! They are playing a group Holiday Show this Saturday at the ark, but it is already SOLD OUT, so clearly, you should just saunter on down. Sine the artist has a love of mixing high and low art, the snacks followed suit, It was surprising how I took to red wine and cheetos. Cheetos, how I have missed you and your glowing orange detritus! 

next store at Aunt Agatha's

Before the place got hopping.

Bird bones in foreground, Humanzee and Killed by Their Creations in the background.

Bonus treat: the artist left her sketchbooks out. I leafed through but felt like I was spying.

Nightmare tree, made of exploded Xmas dreams past
Bad Dog Art Gallery

Lincoln Corner in Back!

Appleseed Collective in Front

Great voice + gorgeous steel guitar
Yay, washboard!

More than a passing resemblance to Andrew Bird, non?

Love this one. But my FAVORITE is this one.

Everyone's lunchbag puppets should be so festooned.

Everyone's address book should be so festooned.

...And outside, we had a fire thrower. Associated with Tickled Fancy, who also performed?

We worried she would set her hair on fire.

She did. But she was blase about it. Her relations, less so.

Let's end on an incendiary note, shall we? No fireworks, to report otherwise...