Monday, August 29, 2011

Plastinated Emotion ...

Leave it to me to cry in the Museum of Science and Industry.


The second time was while watching footage of the moon landing, seeing people from all around the world, then, cheering, and regretting that the world today seems a million miles away from that global camaraderie.

But the first time was in the Body Worlds exhibit.

Have you been?

It's fascinating. And while some may find occasion to be squeamish, there's really nothing to be squeamish about.

Yes, they're real bodies, real muscles, real organs, real bones. But the plastination process makes them look like, well, plastic.

So you have to remind yourself that you're looking at what remains of people who once were. Interestingly, their eyebrows are included. More interestingly, you have a sense of what they looked like when they were alive.

My mom and I were looking at a woman in an artful pose, with pretty eyes and an elegant nose. "She was beautiful," I said, and mom agreed. Not even the loss of life and skin erased her beauty.

Beyond the bodies are many organs, in cross sections and whole, displaying various diseases (the lungs of a smoker really do turn black) and deformities, and other parts of our anatomy. And I was fascinated to see them, to recall what I learned in anatomy and pre-med, but also to learn so much that was new.

And then, there, in the middle of a case, was an example of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a massive rupture in the body's largest artery.

The cause of death of my friend Dave.

I could only stand there and stare and remember. For what felt like a long time.

And then I caught up with my mother and my brother, stood aside them and read what they were reading, wiped the tears away, and tried to be discreet.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Response To A Certain oDesk Poster ...

Once upon a time, I wrote this open letter to those who post openings for writers on Craigslist.

This morning, on oDesk, I spied a posting for a freelance writer which earned the designation "Absurd Freelance Listing of the Day." I don't hand out that honor daily, but I probably could.

If I wanted to spend the time looking for listings that would crush my soul.

The poster of the listing I spied today is looking for 200 articles, 500-1,000 words per.

The budget? $200.


Yep, that's right: 200,000 words for $200.

But wait! There's more!

The poster of the gig wants someone to write "hot personal experiences under different profiles" for an adult dating site.

In other words: porn.


A standard manuscript page contains about 250 words. Which means that 200,000 words is the equivalent of an 800-page manuscript.

For $200.

The least they could do is throw in dinner.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm Weird: Musical Edition ...

Tonight, a Facebook pal is asking folks to name their favorite songs.

Huh. I don't think I have one. I love too many songs to pick just one.

The first song that sprang into my mind when I read her request was k.d. lang's "Save Me."

I don't know why. I rarely listen to that CD, much as I love it.

I do love her cover of The Hollies' "The Air That I Breathe." I'd like to record that someday.

But favorite song? I couldn't pick my favorite Springsteen song, let along my favorite song of all the songs I've heard so far in this life.

I suppose I could go with the song that's garnered the most listens on my iTunes, but that wouldn't necessarily be my favorite song. Sometimes, I put a song on repeat and listen to it over and over again. It may be my favorite song right that minute, but it's probably not my favorite song of ever.

I own a lot of Springsteen. I own a lot of The Police and Sting. I own a lot of Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder. I own a lot of Clapton/Cream/Derek and the Dominos. Hell, I own a lot of James Taylor. U2. A fistful of Coldplay. The entire Beatles catalog, remastered. Soundtracks and scores. I'm a sucker for soundtracks and scores.

But one song. Hmm. One song, one song ... .

Nope. Nothing springs to mind as the song I would want to listen to for the rest of my life.

Patty Griffin's "Rain" would be nice.

Or Shawn Colvin's "I Don't Know Why."

I love Miles Davis's "Blue in Green," but that's not a song.

I love "Now We Are Free" from "Gladiator."

I love Ennio Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe" from "The Mission." If I ever get married, that's the music to which I'll walk down the aisle.

Favorite song, though? I have no idea.

Do you have a favorite song? What is it? What makes it your favorite?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Makes Beth Happy, August 21 ...

The Makes-Beth-Happy Word of the Day is:

Today is National Spumoni Day! Really, I like the pistachio part of spumoni more than the whole spumoni, but I love the word "spumoni" fully!

The Makes-Beth-Happy Recipe of the Day is:


Look at them! They're little streussel-topped kolacky buns!

And the Makes-Beth-Happy Objet of the Day is:

Jill Mirror

I am a sucker for eyebrow-arch windows. I love them. I love them. I do not have them, but I love them. So, I also love this mirror because, if I were to buy it, it would allow me to bring some eyebrow-arch architecture into my home without cutting new openings in my walls. Love it. Love it! It makes me happy. And, when it comes to these posts, that's the whole point.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kathryn: Artist ...

My friend Gretchen came by today with her daughters.

Kathryn, the big sister, arrived with a fish, one of her many art projects that she had selected for me. I added it the art grouping on the wall in my dining room.

And while she was here, she created more art. These, in case you don't know, are purple spiders.

I Eat A Lot Of Salad ...

Genetically, I'm part rabbit.

Because I am my mother's daughter, and somewhere along the line, my mother must have been bitten by a radioactive rabbit (like Spiderman, but with a bunny) and suddenly, a sandwich wasn't a sandwich unless it contained a three-inch stack of lettuce.

OK, yes, I'm being absurd. She doesn't make sandwiches with three inches of lettuce. It's really only about two. Two inches. But that's the God's honest truth. We don't understand people who put one forlorn piece of iceberg lettuce on sandwich. We pile up romaine until the bread falls off.

Anyway, suffice it to say, I grew up eating a lot of lettuce. Iceberg, yes, back in the day, because that was what was done. Actually, I should buy a head of iceberg every now and then, if only for the satisfying WHUNK! of slamming it down on the counter on its core. What? How do you core a head of iceberg lettuce? Do you use a knife? Or do you just pull leaves off of the core and leave it there? Oh, no. No, no, no, people. Grab that sucker with two hands, core to the bottom, and WHUNK! that bad boy down on the counter – hard. Turn it over, grab the core, and it will come right out.

These days, I buy a six-pack of romaine hearts at Costco, which lasts me a few days. And I make salads far bigger than my head. But veggies are mostly water. There's not a lot of there there. At this time of year, either from my mother or my neighbor, I have a constant supply of cucumbers and tomatoes on my counter, so into the salads they go. And I give 'em a good drizzle of balsamic dressing and toss in a ridiculous pile of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a healthy handful of chopped, toasted walnuts, and then I plop myself on the couch with a napkin and a fork and I cram my face full of salad.

It's not pretty. But I don't eat that way in front of others. In front of others, I take bites that fit into my mouth. Hey, my mother raised me right. Mostly.

Lately, I just don't have a taste for anything else. Maybe it's the heat. Maybe I'm just boring. But last night, I hopped in the car to go fetch dinner. (I had nothing on hand and didn't feel like cooking anyway.) And I drove around for about 20 minutes, waiting for something to appeal to me, gave up, came home, put the car in the garage, and headed inside to make a giant salad.

At the moment, I'm having iced coffee. But I'm not above having salad for breakfast.

But not today. Because I'm out of stuff.

Time to head to the store.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Raising $50,000 + In 50 Days + To Celebrate Turning 50 = 150,000% Awesome!

I love this woman.

I don't know her, but I love her.

Her name is Colleen Wainwright, and to celebrate her upcoming 50th birthday, she is raising $50,000 in 50 days for WriteGirl, an L.A.-based nonprofit that mentors girls and teaches them to express themselves with words.

You can help her meet her goal. Hell, you can help her exceed her goal. Right this minute, her total stands at $28,657. But she'll happily accept a $50,000 contribution from a very generous benefactor.

Please consider helping this amazing woman achieve this amazing goal. Contribute if you're so moved, or share her story.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fleeting ...

Well, that was a pretty shadow. I'm glad I looked up when I did. It's gone now.

Good Times, August Edition ...

The August cookie installment for the angelo:HOME blog features Drumstick Cookies. Like the chocolate- and peanut-coated ice cream cone, but in cookie form.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Thrill Is Gone ...

'Round about the time it became clear that the digital conversion would mean that I'd finally have to bite the bullet and get satellite or cable TV, I wondered how I would manage to get anything done in a home with access to the BBC.

I needn't have worried. My love for BBC America had vanished and I hadn't even noticed. Somehow – subconsciously, perhaps – I knew that my favorite shows had gone away. I'm rather fond of Gordon Ramsay, actually, but I don't want to watch him 20 hours a day.

No, my attention turned instead to HGTV. Design shows became my new love, the food for my visual soul. And "Holmes on Homes" with Mike and his integrity-fllled guns tearing it up and making it right.

But that was then.

And now?

Oh, HGTV, what are you doing?

First of all, "House Hunters," "House Hunters International," "House Hunters on Vacation," and "House Hunters Great Escapes"? This isn't "CSI," kids. This ain't "Law & Order." Stop it with the franchises already. Just stop.

And then there's "My First Place" and "Property Virgins" (that one I like because Sandra Rinomato is adorable), but my point is this: There are too many shows that involve people looking at houses. "For Rent" works because it's part apartment search, part design show. But honest to Christ, if I see one more person walk into a room of a prospective home and whine, "I don't like this paint color," I'm going to hurl a brick at my TV. No, I don't keep a brick handy. But I'll find one. Kindly tell your producers to tell would-be homebuyers to find something valid to criticize. Anything that can be fixed for $20 or less should be off limits. For the love of God, people, buy a freakin' can of paint.

Oh, and while we're at it, people who say they want an older home with character and then complain that the master bedroom is too small need to shut up, too. Guess what? Once upon a time, bedrooms weren't big enough to house an airplane. Do you know why? Because people used their bedrooms for sleeping. In their beds. And maybe to store the sane amount of clothes they used to own. Maybe the problem isn't that the room lacks a 300-square-foot closet, lady. Maybe the problem is that you own 200 pairs of shoes.

"House Hunters International" holds a bit of appeal because I like to see different cultures and parts of the world, but similar rules should apply to that show, too: If an American couple wants to buy a home in another part of the world, they're not allowed to complain that the new space is nothing like the space they're leaving behind. In my book, the realtor has permission to smack them and say, "You want an American-style bathroom? Don't leave America."

You know which shows I like best, HGTV?

The ones produced in Canada.

Uh oh.

As for most of the homegrown fare?

No, thanks. I'm not hungry.

Now, mind you, I know I'm not a designer. And I know it's far easier to criticize than to do. And I know that my tastes are my tastes and that other tastes may vary. But this is my blog, my take. And you, of course, are free to disagree.

But oy. Just ... oy.

"Home by Novogratz"? First of all, could the name of the show be more boring? I know that there's nothing catchy that rhymes with "Novogratz," but surely something could have been brainstormed that rolled off the tongue. Though beyond the name of the show, what are those people doing? Does anyone truly want to live in rooms that look like that? And how about scale? Does it not apply if your last name ends with a Z?

"Room Crashers"? Oh, Todd, yes, you were the hunky surfer dude on "Design Star" who filled the shirtless void left when David Bromstad decided to stay dressed. But for your final challenge, you put a giant cut-out of an octopus on the wall of what was intended to be a hotel suite. How did the the powers that be decide to give you a show after that? What was that Moroccan-themed living room about? Aside from not Moroccan? Why were there little benches on the wall on either side of an armoire? Just to fill up space? To provide seating for guests who don't want to interact with each other?

"My Yard Goes Disney"? Sigh. Aren't we hated enough already for our conspicuous consumption in this country?

"Secrets From a Stylist"? Emily, do you believe that anyone – anyone – who is not on your show is going to do every room in their home twice? What is that about? I'm sorry but "I painted this wall orange, but now I'm going to paint it blue!" is just stupid. Have you ever watched "House Hunters"? People don't want to paint a wall once, let alone twice.

And soon we'll be treated to "Donna Decorates Dallas." OK, I know that I was griping about the lack of originality behind "Home by Novogratz" but I have to ask: Was someone just going for alliteration here? Or are they intentionally playing off the title of a famous porno film? Earlier today, my mom asked me if I'd seen the promos for the show. "Donna's Floofy Bullshit?", I blurted out. Really, people? Really? Who lives in a home that looks like that? And, more importantly, why?

I do watch "Dear Genevieve," and I'm grateful that the letter-reading and thank-you-note-writing aspects have been cut from the show. Those were hammy. And I like "The Antonio Treatment," but for me, that's like watching an art program more than a design show, because his rooms are cool but beyond the limits of what I expect most people call "home." "Colorsplash" is fun and I'm glad that David was able to return to Miami. I like most of his designs and I marvel at the paintings he creates. I could watch him paint for half an hour. After all, Bob Ross is gone. And I tune into "Curb Appeal: The Block" from time to time because I like John Gidding and because the front of my house could certainly use a spruce.

But at this point, I've seen all the reruns, and four, 30-minute shows adds up to two hours of programming a week.

I need more from you, HGTV. We can't make this relationship work if you're never around.

It's like I hardly even know you anymore.

Later: I just saw a promo for "Dina's Party." Yet another show I won't be watching. Is it supposed to be celebrational or aspirational? I'd wager most people aren't blowing that kind of cash on parties in this economy.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Nothing Says 'Procrastination' Like Tomato Art ...

In The Shape Of A Heart ...

For my friend Paul, who suggested that I bake something in the shape of a heart in lieu of walking the 3-Day this year.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Breaking My Stride ...

I should be asleep.

I should be asleep in the Renaissance in Northbrook.

I should be expecting a wake-up call at 4 a.m.

Because that is what I've done every year right around this time of year the past six years. I've walked that many 3-Days in a row.

My first event was in Atlanta, in 2001, three weeks after September 11th.

And then I didn't walk again until 2005. I had met an amazing woman in 2004, confined to a wheelchair since she was 11 years old, and I vowed to walk every year for the simple reason that I am able to walk.

So I did.

In 2005, I met Catherine.

In 2006, I met Erin and Shel and Mike.

In 2007, I met Jen and Tina and a whole gaggle of gals who adopted me as part of their team.

In 2008, I met Amy, who became my "Aimes."

In 2009, I met Rhonda, Amy's friend who wanted to experience the event for herself. And I wore the Cubs hat given to me by the family of L.A. Dave.

In 2010, I met Michael and his wife, Monica, forces of nature both.

I saw Barry in event after event. He sprays his beard pink. He is hard to miss. And he is very dear.

This year, I will not walk. And I will miss it.

I signed up with all the usual and best intentions.

But fundraising and circumstances didn't gel. And I don't believe in coincidence, and something very important arose that I need to attend to tomorrow, so not walking makes sense.

And while I will miss the event and the friends I've made and the energy and the laughter and the tears, perhaps it is best to recharge, to get truly excited to do it again.

A friend's sister has been diagnosed. She is 37. Next week, she will have a double mastectomy. My friend wants to walk next year, for her.

So we will walk together.

And I will be able to see the event through his eyes, experience it as someone else experiences it for the first time.

And he will have a friend to hand him Kleenex at opportune times, not that any walker wouldn't do the same.

And he will have someone to hug, along the way and when he takes his final step, 60 miles from where he started, but so much more.

I've said over and over that the 3-Day will change your life. And it will. It does.

So I'm excited for all those men and women who are trying to sleep tonight, who are unaccustomed to going to bed at this hour and who are nervous for what tomorrow holds.

And I'm a little sad not to join them.

But Paul, one of my contributors this year, suggested that since I won't be walking this weekend, I should bake something in the shape of a heart instead.

I have no idea where that idea came from, but I love it.

And so I shall. In honor of those we've lost and in honor of those who fight and in honor of those who love all those men and women, I shall bake something in the shape of a heart.

And then I will go for a walk.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

My Inner Chef ...

I love food. Over the years, I've toyed with the idea of becoming a chef. But two days in a professional kitchen years ago quickly taught me that the chef's life is not for me. It's too harried. It's too "good enough." I don't like "good enough." I like "as good as I can possibly make it." I prefer "perfect," but sometimes "perfect" gets in the way.

So I content myself with having friends over for dinner, planning menus, shopping, prepping, cooking, serving. I derive great joy out of feeding those I love. There is little I enjoy more than watching someone savor something I've made.

And the experience is even better when the person I love is someone I haven't seen in far too long.

And so it was with tonight's guest, Brian. Nearly five hours of grazing and sipping and eating and resting and eating and sipping.

Oh, yes, and catching each other up on the past couple years of our lives.

What's that? The menu?

We noshed on shavings of Parmesan and toasted walnuts and red grapes, little tastes. A small platter of little tastes. Which we finished.

The entree was linguine with white clam sauce, because I'd had a taste for it, and a guest provides a good excuse to prepare it.

After a rest, dessert was sea salt-caramel gelato (I'm in love with it) and dark chocolate-espresso biscotti and coffee. Brian is a grown up. He takes his black.

I'm sure we could have talked for much longer. Coffee and biscotti could have sustained us. Alas, he had to leave.

So now, later, the dishes are done and bed is calling.

Tomorrow, pasta for breakfast. Because it's even better reheated the next day.