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Saturday, August 30, 2008



I taught Steven how to make popcorn tonight.

He is beside himself with pride. He has forced me to admire the beauty of the popcorn several times, how none of it went unpopped, how none of it is burnt.

His satisfaction is really something to see.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:47 PM



This morning:
Him: [puts a CD on in the living room, cranks it so he can hear it across several rooms]
Me: I hope you don't mind if I shut myself up in the study, so I can have some peace while working on [deadline art project for review by people in the outside world].
Him: Because music is so terrible.
Minor revelations today: my sabbatical was so outrageously productive because I had about 9 hours daily to work in silence, and to consider what I'd learned/accomplished each day before stopping to make dinner (and not necessarily for myself); my sabbatical was not as productive on weekends.


I am REALLY starting to understand the "art studio separate from where you live" concept.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:23 PM

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Thoughts on content: Facebook.

I have played with Facebook quite a bit since I signed on many months ago, when it became the favorite "time suck" of my work peer group in their idle hours. Despite earlier recommendations from trusted friends, I had previously avoided Facebook because I feared it had the flaws of overtly awful MySpace, where users collect "friends" they don't know and will never meet, who are then responsible for leaving inane comments on users' profile pages, which often form the bulk of the "content" there. So you can have 800 friends and a page full of remarks like, "I would totally have come to ur bday party, but, like, I live in frickin' North Dakota. Oh, and I'm, like, so grounded, LOL." But without punctuation. From someone using a photo of a hamster to represent themselves.

Facebook seems to be better than MS for several reasons. The top two: the tools are better for posting photos and notes, sharing links, and adding comments to such content posted by others, and people limit their friends to people they actually know.

Also, Facebook has toys that delight me because of their pure senselessness. For example, there is a program that announces to you friends that you have thrown sheep at them. This has become my favorite thing. My delight in this type of non-sequiter is considerable: there is something about acknowledging the frivolity of on-line social networking in it, which pleases me greatly.

But yes, Virginia, it is possible to use Facebook for content sharing. Several of my friends are using it for posting announcements and invitations to political fundraisers and advocacy events; post links to films they've made and invitations to screenings; to centralize an index of links to their blogs; to post photos, including photos (1) of subjects other than themselves and (2) photos of themselves and their friends doing something other than drinking!! (If there is one truly oppressive convention in Facebook, it is the 'I consume alcohol' photo. I've joked about it, I've tried it, and I'm glad people I know are finding a wider range of events to post. There is more to life!)

As of when I first drafted this post, my own Facebook profile page contained: links to a McSweeney's H. P. Lovecraft parody; my new UnScene gallery; Facebook In Real Life by idiotsofants, a video sent by Maryann; four haiku status updates (via my Twitter feed); 28 imported notes (all from this blog, replacing my photoblog); several comments on other people's photos; 20 or so photo uploads from some of my five Facebook photo albums (Things that can poke you (other than me), Softly Wander, Oh, the horror! Zombies roam the Streets of San Francisco! (photos by Steven), Pretending I leave the house to socialize, and Mobile Uploads); and a list of 11 other minor Facebook application actions (writing on walls, sending good karma or virtual drinks, etc.).

Most Facebook users I know use it more for exchanging messages with friends and acquaintances than posting items to share (go figure - it is a 'social network'), but it is pleasing that it has decent content sharing functionality.

I need to let my friends know I'm thinking of them by throwing sheep now.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:06 PM

Saturday, August 23, 2008



Law firms in San Francisco have many charms: aside from the many gilded-cage elements (how I used to sing!), nearly every firm has an abundance of quick-witted, lightning-tongued colleagues who immediately 'get' the most obscure play on words. The slightest polite dish can start a long, stimulating exchange of terse, cutting humor.

It's been a while since I was immersed in such an environment for most of my waking life, and it is showing in the worst ways. I'm not saying I regret ensconcing myself among sweet young people at a fruit beverage company; I'm just saying my wit is now dull enough to be safe for small, clumsy, unsupervised children to run down rickety stairs with, point up.

I have conversations with my colleagues that go something like this:
Me: He's such a surfer.
Her: Dude!
Me: [blank look]
My brain: Error 404, File Not Found.
Her: [Looks at me with concern, pulls thermometer out of her pocket and sticks it in my ear, writes prescription for a clue.]
I can't just blame my young colleagues for taking me so literally that I have learned to speak that way (!), and who instead reward my completely inappropriate honesty with peals of laughter. There are other influences. My home life, for example, provides a tough schedule (being woken up at 5:20 a.m. on weekdays is not conducive to sophisticated thought) and various discouragements from reading, writing, or other solitary pasttimes which make my brain go... I've been adapting to my circumstances, but not well.

I'm (somewhat) aware of the problem, and am trying to find new ways to remind my brain of the oddball directions it used to use to avoid banal thoughts. I might be able to get there again.


posted by Arlene (Beth)5:04 PM



I bought two packages of miso soup "filling" when I went to that Japanese supermarket. Both packages contain shredded dried seaweed; one had a bonus red-purple seaweed and dried tofu, the other has green onions and little wheat cracker/noodle things.

The only problem is that the seaweed expands in hot water like a rock star's ego in front of an audience: a few tablespoons go into the water, and suddenly there is no room in the pot for a ladle, my kitchen smells and feels like Monterey Bay, I'm pulling seaweed out of the propellers, and otters are running off my with sesame crackers.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:59 AM

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Another way to throw words at you.

Larry has talked up the mass-text-message service Twitter ( for some time, but I didn't pay any attention until I needed a text service to keep me in touch with other factions of the zombie mob. (We all have our priorities, right?) So I caved and signed up. And once I was following the zombie flash mob, it made sense to start posting my own sound-bite like messages, right?

You don't need to answer that.

There are FOUR ways to be irritated by my new Twitter feed:

-I am using it to update my status on Facebook: if you are friends with me on Facebook, you'll see my posts there, either in your newsfeed or at the top of my page.
-I have a script running near the bottom of (the splash page), which posts 10 or so recent twitterings.
-You can go to Twitter / mobilelene and read my posts on the web.
-You can follow me on Twitter with your free Twitter account (a sign-up page).

Yes, I want you to be able to CHOOSE the manner in which I can irritate you with my text-message frivolity!!

Added bonus: right now, I am only posting my thoughts as (especially, though not intentionally, bad) haiku.


I'm experimenting with both Twitter and Facebook as alternatives/supplements to posting content on my websites and blogs.

I've always been kind of content-obsessed, and have dedicated readers (thank you, readers!), but also have friends who don't have many other web-publishing-friends and don't use readers to condense feeds. They will ask me over and over where they can find my website... But can, and do, regularly comment on things I post to Facebook, since those things come up in their newsfeed.

That isn't what I was expecting, but there it is: a pleasant surprise. These friends also post photos and links that on Facebook that they have nowhere else to post, (and so would have to e-mail out links to some pay-service for), which I otherwise wouldn't see, so it is a fun exchange.


As of today, I am going to use this blog to feed Facebook also: these entries will be imported as notes, in place of my photoblog at While my photoblog has uploaded reliably, the images aren't previewed or stored with the other photos, and so aren't frequently viewed by my friends there. If I do import photos, I'll do it manually, so they'll show up in a "mobile upload" gallery. I will still use the photoblog regularly, just not as a direct feed to Facebook.

If you subscribe to my feed for this blog, you probably still should, since your reader is surely more sensible than the newsfeed in Facebook. Unless it isn't.

Facebook has already retroactively imported about 25 of my most recent messages into my "Notes," all without titles for some reason, so it's playing catch-up. [Postscript: my style sheets don't utilize class to indicate my post titles, which is why Facebook considers them to be untitled. I've made a note to upgrade my style sheets the next time I can't sleep.]

This may mean some redundancy if I share links both on Facebook and here. I may post in both places when it will be formatted better, and delete any redundant entries later. For example:

My UnScene Photo Gallery has been posted!!

UnScene Tour - Elizabeth Graves, UnScene Winner is something I posted a link to earlier today, and this entry will also appear in the notes... You see where I'm going. Sorry in advance.

It's a nice gallery though, isn't it?


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:47 PM

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Insomnia and Returning from the Dead.

eatbrains08, SF Zombie mob, photo by Steven P.I have looked exhausted lately, largely from an unusually severe, multi-day bout of insomnia.

Only some of this insomnia is induced by Peet's products. I swear. Peet's soy chai induces the tastiest insomnia anywhere!

But I don't look as bad as I do in this photo. (And I hope not to for about 60 more years.) This was an outtake from photos Steven took of me participating in the San Francisco Zombie Mob (, which is how I spent my Saturday afternoon. Yes, I was a zombie, a member of the undead, and I wandered through downtown SF with about 350 of my closest undead friends, crying out for fresh brains.

It is terribly... liberating. We are told to look "nice," to dress tidily and modestly, not to stand out, not to make noise, not to be weird (as if I have ever listened to that), and suddenly we get to set all of those silly rules aside and roam, dripping blood, to maul our happy (and clearly marked) victims whose silly drama in their futile resistance matches our own silly drama in mauling them.

It is delightful, in so many happy ways.

Special highlights: an early victim, looking so innocent with his (empty) paper coffee cup, milling about, waiting to be mauled... The victim with an armful of balloon animals, and the fabulous faux-horror facial expressions he made as we converted him to one of our kind... The group in Chinatown that attempted to fight the zombies off with toy swords... And the best part, the absolute best part, was the meeting of the two zombie groups on Grant Avenue in Chinatown. Oh, the sound!! The happy, happy, happy sound! We took up the entire block. It was truly beautiful.

Tourists loved it. Tour bus operators loved it. Passersby faked screams and ran away, smiling. Non-participants feigned attempting to defend their storefronts from us. The people who couldn't deal with it were also a riot: there is something so inherently ridiculous in pretending not to see hundreds of passing zombies and making tight-lipped little frowny faces of disapproval and scurrying off. The people who demanded rational explanations were just as funny. Must everything have a rational explanation? I've seen television: I know people are willing to suspend rational thought for vast periods of time.

Flickr is filled with pictures tagged "eatbrains08," many of which contain gloriously ghastly images of me. My favorite video of the zombie march so far is Zombie March, August 16, 2008, by ( I'll post a link to Steven's photo/video montage when he has it posted.

I posted a small set of images to, yes, of all places, Facebook: Oh, the horror! Zombies roam the Streets of San Francisco!: photos by Steven, cropped and posted by me. (You can view these without a Facebook login.)

The event was delightful, and I believe I've recruited many people to participate next time, when it will be even more gory and grand.

Zombie Beauty Tips:
-a clay and avocado mask turns you a truly alarming shade of gray-green, and leaves your skin soft and pleasantly scented. Be sure to put some on your lips: zombies have dead-looking lips.
-that dark eye makeup that you regret buying, the nearly black one with red glitter in it, is PERFECT for making your eyes look sunken-in. If you have an eye-shadow primer, use that to ensure that it doesn't wipe off unintentionally.
-cheap, nasty lip gloss makes good blood-substitutes, despite the nasty bubblegum scent. Smear some down the side of your face, and onto your shirt.
-clothes that don't fit well, which can be hacked at with dull scissors without any regret, looks best on zombies. I'm sure you have some around.
-rely on other, organized zombies for high quality, washable blood.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:41 PM


Corny theory.

Upon reading the ingredients for yet another box of candy that exists to adhere to dental work, he said:
If there were animals, like deer, made of corn syrup, they would poop Dots.


posted by Arlene (Beth)2:17 AM

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Random encounters.

The tough-looking Pacific Islander boy, with his hoodie and his "hard" facial expression, sat playing a ukulele. I couldn't stop smiling over it. He looked away quickly, so as not to loose his tough expression.

A bookish woman in the suit did a completely uncontrolled, joyous, leg-flapping happy-dance upon meeting a friend in the train station.


posted by Arlene (Beth)12:00 AM

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Tomato love is a beautiful thing.

Heirloom Tomato Farmer Finds Beauty In The Ugly : NPR (, 8/8/08). I love the idea of planting thousands of baby tomatoes indoors, and THEN trying to figure out what to do next.

Not that I would ever do that. No. Why are you looking at me that way?

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Skin and destruction.

So, two different women at the same place gave me facials. The second one disputed the advice the first one gave me. They also sold me rival products.

One of the products makes my skin clear of blemishes, smooth... and red, and wrinkled.

The other removes the wrinkles and redness, but doesn't make my skin smooth or clear.

I considered mixing both of these alarmingly powerful, expensive products, but I've been led to believe that, if I do that, I will not only upset my skin, but will also create anti-matter and destroy the universe, all over my own vanity.

There's got to be an easier way to appease my vanity, which does not put the universe at risk. I just haven't found it yet.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, August 10, 2008


The last night of this year's Zeitgeist International Film Festival is Monday, August 11th.

poster for Zeitgeist International Film FestivalZeitgeist International Film Festival 2008-MAIN (overcooked has the program details up. Yes, it's late on a 'school' night, but Frank's film, Since You've Been Ong ( is screening there, and I've never been able to watch it with a live audience before, I'm going. Assuming I can get in: I've heard it's a zoo.

Be a local: wear/bring LAYERS. (Gillian thinks I'm going to freeze. Gillian doesn't know how much synthetic fleece I own.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)4:07 PM

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Farmers' Market.

heirloom tomatoesIf you are like me, you cannot live without heirloom tomatoes. Or, at least, you've persuaded yourself this is true, and treat it as if it is true. So, off I went to the delightful Parkmerced Farmers' Market (, with its wonderful booths, nearly each featuring a great diversity of tasty, lovely summer produce. (I've mentioned before that the big farmers ' markets sometimes have a booth which will sell just one thing, but the smaller markets have booths which each sell a dozen things, as if from more sensible, diversified farms.)

Today's haul:

-Beckmann's Big California sourdough and strawberry-ollalieberry pie. This is a bakery out of Santa Cruz, and when I buy pre-sliced bread, it is usually theirs. I hadn't even realized that they made pastries until we spotted the pie table. Yes, a table of pies. Yes, that is a lovely thing.
-Blackberries. Three baskets for four dollars. I'm not kidding!
-Pluots. These are my favorite fruit this week.
-Tomatoes. I was impressed at the selection of heirloom varieties across the stands. We eventually chose our tomatoes for completely artistic/aesthetic purposes, but got the haul of gorgeous yellowness for just $1 a pound, and you can't beat that, so it was wise overall.
-Lemon cucumbers.
-Green, seedless grapes.
-Mixed lettuces.
-Enormous, organic, purple onions with fresh, crisp greens.
-Globe eggplant: smooth, tender, shiny, purple goodness.
-We also bought prepared foods from East and West Gourmet Afghan Food: lentil curry, cilantro pesto, and spinach bolani. If you'd have parathas, you have had bolani: they are just like tortillas stuffed with a thin layer of filling. They are soft and moist, and lovely topped with a cilantro sauce. The lentil "curry" is tasty but very mild.

I wanted basil, but there was none to be had. I'll live, I suppose.

[The big tomato in the photograph is REALLY REALLY big. Enormous. Multiple pounds. The other tomatoes are "normal" in size. They are intimidated. Trust me on this.]


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Places to Eat in Emeryville.

This isn't a list of every place in Emeryville: it's just the places I like. Which all happen to be veg-friendly. (Go figure.)

Veg Friendly Eville Dining.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)6:03 PM


Best new item at McSweeney's Internet Tendency.


My favorite news feed item: "Ophelia joined the group Maidens Who Don't Float."

Stellar. Absolutely stellar. Thank you, MacKenzie, for sending this link!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)4:06 PM


Strangeness on the movie screen.

We wound up seeing Dark Knight, the latest installment in the Batman franchise. We hadn't planned on it: but we were passing the theater, and it was going to start in 15 minutes, and so we went.

The film was typical: big budget, pretty to look at, taught us that violence solves all problems, etc. It barely hit my "minimum named female" qualification - barely. I don't really have much to say about the film: mostly, I was intrigued by the previews and pre-film ads.

There was a recruiting ad for... the Border Patrol. Seriously. And until about halfway through, I thought it was a parody. I wasn't alone: a woman walking into the theater, who couldn't even see the screen yet, was making comically sour faces just at the voice over that went with it. When we realized it was a REAL ad, intended to actually inspire people to want to join the border patrol... I was baffled. I don't think that was their goal.

Then there was the least sensible cross-promotion I have yet seen in this life: a special-effects filled extravaganza combining a promo for the latest Mummy film The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor with... the Beijing Olympic Games!! YES! Yes! Yes! Running mummies... turned into running Olympic athletes!! Diving monsters... turned into gymnasts!! A fight scene... turned into Olympic boxing! I am not making this up!!

A mild wave of hysteria broke out through the audience. No one could figure out WHAT, precisely, the message was. I came up with a few possibilities:

-The Olympics would actually be a lot more interesting if the undead could participate.

-The Olympics could currently be staged entirely in CGI, and we might not notice.

-China is currently being run by the evil undead, and this spot was intended as commentary.

-Brendan Frasier is good at playing masculine, hapless heroes... and might also make a good, goofy commentator at some of the more dry Olympic events. He does hapless well.

-I am uncertain if advertisers are being infiltrated by bitter, cynical, deadpan subversives, or if they are just so desperate that they do ads like this unintentionally.

To top it all off, there was a preview that I don't think I even need to describe. I'll just tell you the name. The name is... Jurassic Fight Club.

How could Dark Knight live up to all of this?


posted by Arlene (Beth)3:47 PM

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