Archive for December, 2007

not exactly a date film, unless you like your dates heartbreaking

We saw Atonement at one. I just wanted to point that out. I had read the book but had only vague memories of it; I was much more taken with Saturday. This film is intelligent, gorgeous to look at and so sad that even a tiny spoonful of it in your local reservoir would make your entire neighbourhood melancholy for a week. Consider yourself warned.

Keira Knightley is a revelation. She’s been beautiful since Bend It Like Beckham and interesting since Pride and Prejudice (by the same director, as a matter of fact); here she becomes the anchor of the film.

Everyone is mentioning the amazing scene on the beach at Dunkirk so I’ll add my voice to the choir. It looked like the end of the world, which, for a lot of people, is what Dunkirk was. The shot reminded me of some of the street scenes in Children of Men, a film I adored.

Jeremy claims there is a sibling incest subtext, but he read The Secret History at an impressionable age, so make of that what you will.

We’ve had a lucky run recently; I can also highly recommend Juno and The Water Horse.

i would have taken my time, but i was chasing my two-year-old

Today we went with the Murgisteads to SFMOMA see Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson. I went in without any expectations or context at all, a state of unspoiled grace I shall now deny to you, my beloved readers.

We walked out of the lifts into Room for one colour, a lobby lit with yellow lights, the effect of which was to turn everyone greyscale. It was eerie and awesome, like living and talking to each other in newspaper photographs or sepia prints.

“We’re in the past!” I told Jack. I looked down at my beloved brown leather bag and my brain almost refused to see that the colour had been leached out of it. The kids looked especially startling, as they had all been dressed in pink and orange and purple and blue and green the instant before. When we walked out of this room my eyes remained grateful for colour for minutes and minutes afterwards, and everything looked vivid.

Next came Yellow versus purple, a room with a white spotlight shining at a large transparent disk so that it projected yellow and reflected blue lights onto opposite walls. After that was Model room, absolutely crammed with miniatures for larger projects. Didn’t get to look at these much because the children towed me into 360 degree room for all colours in which a circular, translucent wall had been built in an almost complete circle about eight feet high. You stood inside the circle and the colours slowly shifted and changed. We started out white so everyone looked like the subjects in an Elsa Dorfman portrait. Then the colours shifted to blush and lavender and lime and sky, so the vividness of that light was superimposed on the existing-vividness of the kids and their clothes. Abundance.

Even more beautiful was a brand-new site-specific piece called One way colour tunnel, built over the bridge that crosses SFMOMA’s atrium. This had triangular glass panels in sunset colours – blue, royal purple, pink, apricot and gold – offset against each other in a black steel frame. As you walked through the tunnel you got the kaleidoscope effect of the changing lights, plus your own reflection multiplied many times and idealized by the softening and flattering effect of the colours.

I missed a bunch of stuff when Julia escaped and had to be pursued through three installations. We reconvened in Notion motion, a darkened room with a screen on which was projected the surface of a hidden pool of water. If you bounced on certain floorboards you could make ripples in the water, but the effect was subtle and obscure. Which made it insanely fun to turn a couple of corners and find the water pool and the light and the back of the screen, with the mechanism all laid bare.

Multiple grotto deserves a better name, looking as it does like a twelve-foot, three-dimensional Star of Bethlehem or similarly menacing Doomsday Device. It’s designed as a sphere made of kaleidoscopes; you stand inside it and the shiny inner surfaces of the projecting triangular prisms reflect the light of the gallery outside. The walls here were lined with Eliasson’s very disciplined photographs of Icelandic landscapes; horizons, waterfalls, islands, a single valley over the course of a day. Their formal beauty reminded me a lot of some of Jeremy’s photographs of urban and natural patterns; that probably makes me sound excessively fond, but there it is.

Next was Moss wall, exactly what it sounds like, an entire gallery wall of reindeer moss; then Space reversal, two windows, one projecting out of SFMOMA and the other inside its walls, and when you stepped or peered into the window mirrors reflected you to infinity in every direction.

My preference for interactive, witty, Burning Man-style art over the smug dreck that’s sold at auction these days is a matter of historical record. What I particularly loved about this exhibition was its combination of funny, playful installations that the kids could fully grok, with a formal and technical mastery you don’t often see in the desert but would kind of like to be able to expect from your major artists. This is a generous, insightful and profound body of work, and it runs through February 24. If I were Bjork I would totally be dating this guy instead.

just to be clear

This is not a top ten, because that would be LAME. Just some posts you may have missed, from Yatima: the early years.

They fight crime!

Quick, give her some moral guidance.

Count your blessings.

The big fierce predators are coming back.

Two three!

Peepee-you is a baby chicken.

More to the point, it loves Claire.

We really are nerds, huh.

I thought you said you were fragrant!

She is given food.

musical theater, claire-stylee

Sung by a chorus of astronauts:

“I am the king
So blue and bright.
When worlds collide
It’s so good and right.

“He wrote both of those
In Spanish and English too.
Whenever he went with both of those letters
The water horse came too.
He named him ‘Hat’
Which wasn’t that good.

“He got down his keyboard
Which had two switches
An off switch and an on switch as well
on your computer, your toy computer.

“And everyone had to

best stuffing ever

Lunch and dinner for eighteen or so, plus a midnight snack for me and Mister J. And enough left over for at least a week of poulterer’s pie.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

my first christmas present had a puncture wound above its eye. thanks, cat!

Yoz: Hi, I’ve brought the casserole!

Me (arrested beside rug, on which is displayed a dead Mouse): EEK!

Yoz: Have I startled you?

Me: No! Bebe the cat has startled me!

Jeremy: How?

Me: With a gift! Mr Squeakums! Or should I say the late, Mr Squeakums!

Yoz: Eek!

Me: Not a creature is stirring! Not even a mouse!

have i mentioned how much i heart my local library?

I can’t tell whether Armistead Maupin’s Michael Tolliver Lives is actually his best book, or only my favourite of his books. I read through the entire extant Tales of the City, along with Mirrorshades, one dark winter at Moira’s house in Newtown, indulging my customary lack of clue that it was my own future I was reading about.

Now Michael Mouse is hanging with a grrl sex journalist a la Annalee and marvelling that people are blogging about Ishi. It feels as if Armistead has walked into my world, whereas in fact it was I that walked (joyfully, thankfully) into his.

conversations with julia

“Are you my kitten?”

“Meow, meow, meow.”

conversations with claire

“Tell me about the time before you were born. When you were inside Gemma.”

“I don’t remember.”


“Do you remember before you were born? When you were inside me?”


“Really? What was it like?”

“I could hear your heartbeat.”

“Oh. Okay then. What made you choose me and Daddy to be your mum and dad?”

“Because I touched you and you were warm. And I touched Daddy and he was warm.”



After the miracle of the backpacks, my Dad wrote:

In my experience, it is more likely that other people will deal with you honestly.

He pointed out that he lost his wallet in Bathurst and got it back. He doesn’t have to convince me, though, because as well as Rajit Singh I have Suzanne I-am-so-sorry-I-lost-your-cellphone-number, who took Claire to the police station in Glebe when we lost her in January, the memory of which still makes me sick with fear at what might have happened.

May their blessings multiply like galaxies in the Hubble Deep Field.

Human beings are, yes, a savage little virus that is giving the Earth a fever. We are nasty belligerent chimpanzees. But that isn’t all we are. We are chimps that can choose to be bonobos. Human hands made Spirit and Opportunity, those brilliant intrepid travellers on Mars. Human hands made New York City, the most awesome and civilized place on Earth.

My absolute best moment at Viable Paradise was after reading Norman Wood‘s story. Norm is a retired insurance salesman from Florida. Think shorts and Hawaiian shirts. His story was an achingly sweet coming-of-age tale about a prepubescent girl. I remember looking up at him and catching his eye – he grinned at me – and thinking how easily I might have overlooked him in an airport or a mall: and yet he has this inner life that sparkles like a jewel.

I remember thinking, people are geodes. Whatever they look like on the outside, inside there is amethyst and stardust.

still here

Just tired. Lots to tell you, but it’s hard to type with cat asleep on right arm.

my best nyc jokes

“I married him for his luck. I’m a fortune hunter.”

“Remember, there’s no ‘me’ in Met.”

fairytale of new york


Originally uploaded by Goop on the lens

christmas tree


Originally uploaded by Goop on the lens

snow baby


Originally uploaded by Goop on the lens


I was happy as soon as I saw the Bay Area lights out the window. Touchdown, the parking shuttle, my car, the search for a place to park in my pretty neighbourhood, the clement 2am walk back from the spot I finally found; all these things increased my joy. Man, I love it here.

New York was glorious and it was the trip of a lifetime. And now there is wine mulling on the stove and I have roasted our Halloween pumpkin for soup. And we are all together and warm and so happy.

charlotte’s web 2.0

After playing in the snow in Central Park, we trekked out to PS1, the MOMA annex in an old public school. The art-gallery-in-former-institution vibe reminded me a lot of Kilmainham Hospital, one of my favourite spots in Dublin. The exhibitions were pretty great. One artist had some plywood gratings sitting on helium balloons, so you could walk on air. The girls liked that. They also enjoyed a couple of dark rooms with big videos playing music videos. We all danced crazy to the cancan. That’ll be one of my lasting memories of this trip.

Leonard and Sumana saw my last blog post and invited us to their Backup Thanksgiving, conveniently located near PS1 in Queens. We ate Leonard’s fantastic chicken – the Sunday night roast tradition getting an unexpected boost – then Claire had a go at Powerpoint Karaoke. She chose Charlotte’s Web as her theme.

“There was a pig called Wilbur and he lived in a red barn and he looked at the spider. He looked at the spider’s web ALL the TIME. And it was really great.

“And Wilbur had a friend who was a rat who was called TempleTON. And the goose saw that the rat had a tunnel, and he let the rat have an egg that had in it a dead baby goose. And the goose egg went in the tunnel. And the egg broke! And if you went there you would smell a smelly smell!

“And I think that’s all the time we have!”

angel of harlem

When I thought about bringing the girls to New York I had two mental images of how it would be. Claire would run around the huge gallery of the Temple of Dendur at the Met, and Julia would say “Rrrr!” to the T. Rex in the Museum of Natural History.

In fact Claire was a lot more interested in the water feature around the temple and the coins people had thrown into it. I had to explain about throwing coins into water and making wishes. Claire was very taken with the idea and demanded pennies. Four formal wishes were made:

  • Claire: “that I can keep twenty five million dinosaur models and put them in a book as BIG as the WHOLE MUSEUM.”

  • Claire again: “that an Egyptian mummy would come to life as a person at Halloween and scare everyone!”

  • Jeremy: “that we would get the backpacks back?”

    This made me smile sadly and shake my head a little. Jeremy and the girls flew in together on Thursday night. I was in Boston at a work event. Claire fell asleep on the taxi drive to the wonderful apartment we found in Harlem, and Jeremy was so frazzled trying to manage both girls and the stroller and the luggage that he left two bags in the cab.

    One was Claire’s backpack, containing kids’ books and Topaz, Claire’s beloved teddy bear. The other was Jeremy’s backpack with his camera, laptop, PSP and passport, and the girls’ passports too.

    So Jeremy in New York and I in Boston spent an anxious night calling the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the eight police precincts assigned to collect lost property from cabs. I learned more than I wanted to know about New York taxi lost property. It’s not centralized; the dispatcher can’t call the driver for you; lots of people never get their stuff back. I started making contingency plans, and tried to interest Jeremy in a MacBook replacement for his ThinkPad.

    Passports can be replaced (although being Undocumented taps into existential fears of mine, so that loss was nasty enough on its own.) And we could buy a new laptop and camera but, as Jeremy pointed out, it’s his personal kit; the lens an extension of his eye, his laptop with all his settings and passwords. Losing that is hard.

    But I didn’t believe we could get it back, so:

  • Me: “I just want Daddy to feel better.”

    The worst thing, for me, is Jeremy being upset. I was kicking myself hard for not flying down early enough to meet everyone and count their bags, but the work schedule hadn’t allowed it until the last possible minute. So I spent an unhappy night in Boston and Jeremy spent one here, and when I said “Is there anything I can do?” he said “Just come.”

    So I got to Logan and fast-talked myself onto an earlier flight and got to NYC to give everyone big hugs and drag them out for a cheering lunch at the Met. Jeremy was looking greyish and worn. I would have given a lot more than a penny to fix that.

The best part of any museum, for me and the kids, is the gift store. At the Met I found another red backpack, with a picture of the faience hippo William, for Claire, and an actual cuddly William for Julia.

And then I found a huge popup book with twenty five, if not twenty five million, dinosaur models. So I got that for Claire as well, and that was the first wish.

That evening the kids were watching Goosebumps and there was a brief flash of a mummy come to life, which was the second wish. By then Jeremy was feeling a lot better, so I got my wish too.

And the next morning Jeremy checked his mail on my Mac and saw what he thought was spam. He almost deleted it until he parsed the subject line: “stuff in cab.” The driver had the bags and wanted to return them to us. There was a number. When Jeremy showed me the mail my jaw dropped.

We spent the day at Natural History where Julia woke up just in time to say “Rrrr!”

Rajit Singh, saint of New York, returned the bags to us last night. He was apologetic; Jeremy’s water bottle had fallen out and been lost. Everything else was there. Rajit Singh told Jeremy he had felt it was his duty to get the bags back to us. He felt that he should have helped Jeremy more when he saw him struggling with the sleepy children. When he saw the important documents he was even more concerned.

We gave him a stonking tip, although I don’t feel it was enough. I say flowers grow in that man’s footprints.

Claire’s mental image of New York was of snow, and this morning we woke up to a dazzling white world. It’s snowing now and I am writing this from Jeremy’s laptop. Somewhere in New York, Rajit Singh will wake up and see the snow, and if you want to keep your feet warm, you should walk behind him, like the page walking behind Good King Wenceslas. I hope blessings fall on him like snowflakes.