Archive for July, 2009

marin baby names

At Coastal Camp Claire made friends with Audrey, Ingrid, Jessica, Olivia and Vivian. Apparently it was the reincarnation of Golden Age Hollywood up there.

two beautiful travel journals

Tasha is in Fiji.

Lucy went back to Paris. (If you haven’t read her French Milk yet, go to!

my friend pam meets an okapi

Me and Okapi

Originally uploaded by topayz4

It’s about as cool as looking at her with a photo of a live unicorn or griffin.

because i’m in love

Captain Kirk is climbing the mountain.

Jeremy: “Fall On Your Sword does live shows.”

Rachel: “We have to go.”

J: “No, they’re small and East Coast.”

R: “Not any more.”

J: “They’re On The Internet now…”

one court to rule them all

I’ve been reading Jeffrey Toobin’s fearsomely brilliant The Nine. As usual with books like this I am cast into despair, this time because I am not a supreme court justice. Nevertheless it’s a cracking read, and I’ve been staying up late to finish chapters.

It surprises me how much I knew: I remembered every case Toobin discusses in any detail. And it surprises me how much I did not know. I had quite the wrong impressions of Sandra Day O’Connor and Harriet Miers (although I was right enough on Thomas and Scalia.) Kennedy and Souter are extraordinary characters too. To change is to be progressive. Conservatives stay the same.

Jeremy jokes that I am reading a big book about ringwraiths. It’s a joke that’s been made before, but I am finding it comforting in this context. Despite my best efforts I remain a status-obsessed starfucker; that is, a chimpanzee. It’s good to be reminded that the pursuit of power for its own sake hollows people out and turns them into monsters.

it rained last night

…and now everything smells evocative. I walked into my bedroom and through the open window came a fresh blue-green breath of the year I was 24.



Originally uploaded by yatima

american dentistry

I’ve already whinged about this on the Twitter, but hey, this is mah blog and no one can stop me if I want to whinge some more.

Being a grownup sucks. Yeah, I can buy all the lollies I want, just like I dreamed when I was little, but the good stuff is all in Australia and the crap they have here – they call it “candy” – tastes like an alloy of high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and Bisphenol A plastic. Yeah I don’t have to go to school any more and can work whatever hours I want: pity those hours are 8am – 6pm most days. Yeah I could afford a spectacular horse. Pity that money is earmarked for trivialities like, you know, my kids.

It is in dentistry that these conflicts are made explicit. I never liked dentists much anyway, and after the gross dentist in the Manning Building who would make inappropriate comments and “accidentally” brush my breasts, dislike turned to something not far off panic. I do love the dentist I have now, Claude Sidi. He is an amateur Impressionist painter in the style of Monet, and he works out of 450 Sutter, a dazzling Deco masterpiece whose lobby is panelled in insane faux-Mayan bronze. The building is full of dentists, so its nickname is 450 Suffer.

And that’s the thing. I was appalled the first time I came to an American dentist. They have these – metal spikes. They use them to scrape all the tartar off your teeth, where they meet the gums. Actually below that, in what they call the “pockets.” So they dig around in there. With metal spikes. Did I mention the metal spikes? Next comes an ultrasonic tool, which whines at you while doing much the same thing. It’s not agonizing. The first few minutes you think, This is not so bad. But you’re upside down, with your mouth open and a stranger inside it, and a tiny vacuum sucking away the water and saliva and blood and pieces of tartar and gum. And it goes on, and on.

This kind of invasive cleaning has no doubt kept my teeth much healthier than they used to be, and this is the most irksome thing of all. I’m a staunch advocate of preventive health as cheaper and more effective than reactive emergency measures. Deferring present gratification for future gain is wise and mature and rational. It just sucks. I don’t like it. I want lollies. And a pony. Wah.

all my cubs

Claire, Topaz, Julia and Bess

Originally uploaded by yatima

encounters with creatures

There was a gopher snake at the farm. Jamey saw that it had eaten a mouse; there was a mouse shape halfway down its slender body. Jamey lifted it! Where I come from you do not take liberties with snakes to whom you haven’t been introduced. This snake was very forbearing. Julia did not get to pet it, though, and she wept all the way back to the domes.

When we first arrived there was a little bird peeping in the cabin. She beat herself against the windows overlooking the river until she was exhausted. Then she let me pick her up in my hands and carry her quickly to the door. Her feathers thrummed. She leapt into the air, apparently unharmed, and soared across the river to the trees on the far ridge.


We packed up the Jetta and hit the road on Friday. North over the GG Bridge to Santa Rosa, where we hit Trader Joe’s and stocked up on salad and filet mignon. North again to logging town Cloverdale then out on 128 to Boonville, funny little Anderson Valley enclave that used to have its own language. We grabbed a late lunch and I called my Dad to note that Boonville is Barraba’s Californian twin.

Up and over Mountain View Road, which predictably made Julia sick. Jeremy cleverly had her catch the product in his empty coffee cup, so clothes and car were unscathed. And then we were out in the coastal meadows, and we drove down the dirt road that leads through a redwood glen and down to Oz.

We parked on the gravel by the Garcia River and carried all our bags and groceries over the makeshift bridge and up through the oak glen. On the other side of the river, in a meadow ringed with redwoods, are two wooden geodesic domes. One dome has a kitchen and the other a bathtub, and there are five beds tucked into lofts and so on. The whole building is ringed with decks that look out on the river and meadow. There’s a hot shower out on the deck, under a tree.

We stayed there all weekend. Jamey and Carole and Rowan arrived late on Friday night, after seeing deer and a skunk and a bat and a wild boar on the drive up. We woke the next morning to hear all the children playing together happily. We made scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a huge salad, and ate it out on the deck. We swam in the river. We made a fire in the potbellied stove and read library books. We napped. We made rack of lamb for dinner.

It was heaven. I feel really human again. I have lots to blog. Watch this space.

date night movies

We’ve had a run of really lovely date nights lately, mostly because Jeremy has been letting me pick the films.

Medicine for Melancholy

Oh how I loved this little film, shot in bleached-out near-black-and-white and set in my own dear darling San Francisco. Not tourist San Francisco, where stchoopid things like Monk and Robyn Williams movies are set in Rice-a-Roni cable cars. The real place. The main characters wake up after a party in Glen Park and hike over Billy Goat Hill to Cafe XO, three blocks from my house. After a day of wandering and biking the city, from the Marina to a downtown gallery near my office, to the Museum of the African Diaspora and the carousel in Yerba Buena, they go out drinking at the Knockout, my local bar. Then they get a burrito from the taco truck.

Oh, and there’s a talky interlude at a Housing Rights Committee meeting which arguably doesn’t work, except that Jeremy and I were utterly charmed to see a cameo from our sexy and righteous Alabama Street neighbour Ondine. (Our old neighbours were awesome: Ondine on one side and Parents for Public Schools powerhouse Eos de Feminis on the other. Of course, our new neighbours rock the known universe also. I love this town.)

Would it work for someone less hopelessly infatuated with the city than I am? I’m not sure. It’s a tender, abrasive film, a love story that doesn’t gloss over the basic difficulties of real life – race, money, class, gentrification, change, geopolitics, injustice, identity. Wyatt Cenac gives a brave and accurate performance. Tracey Heggins, as his foil, has a less fleshed-out character and is a bit of a cipher, but the camera loves her and so do I. It’s been months since we saw this and I still think of it, and of the atmosphere it evoked: clear-eyed, intelligent cynics still risking themselves for their ideals. Home.

Lost in the Fog

Another ultra-local film, this one a documentary. I’d walked past Harry Aleo’s Noe Valley storefront dozens of times when I was pregnant with Claire and our birth prep class was around the corner on Castro Street. Harry, the owner of Twin Peaks Properties and a die-hard Republican, advertised himself with hand-written signs as “an island of tradtional values in a sea of liberal loonies.” He owned racehorses – of course he did. Northern California is a racing backwater, down to one working-class track from two, but Harry did well enough, until he bought the aptly-named Lost in the Fog.

Every now and then in racing there’s a horse that transcends. Secretariat, who won the 1973 Belmont Stakes by a gobsmacking 31 lengths. You watch the race now and you still can’t believe it. Ruffian, the black filly that won every start in 1974 and 1975 until the match race with Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure that claimed her life. Barbaro, Smarty Jones, and – racing right now – two extraordinary fillies, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

Lost in the Fog was one of these. From November 2004 to October 2005 he won every race. Local filmmaker and liberal loonie John Corey got interested and ended up quitting his job to make a movie about the crusty Aleo and his fabulous horse. And then the great Fog lost a race. He was given a break, and came back for a second and a win, and then he lost again, badly. He was trucked up to the great vet school at the University of California, Davis (where Ann Bowling, the brilliant geneticist, rewrote horse coat colour and Arabian and Mongolian horse genetics). Surgery revealed that Fog had a huge, rare and inoperable cancer. He had been carrying it for months. He had carried it when he won his last race. Corey got Aleo’s reaction to the news on film. It’s an amazing documentary.

Aleo himself died of cancer last year, and is much mourned by his liberal loonie neighbours.


Okay, Jeremy chose this one. I was very skeptical. It looked like there might be guns; it also looked like it might overlap with Leonard’s terrific “The Eyes of Ceres.” There are no guns, which, yay! (I have had it with movies with guns in them. They are mean and boring and rarely pass the Bechdel Test. See especially: all action films, everything by Michael Bay, In Bruges.) There’s some thematic overlap with The Eyes of Ceres but it works to the advantage of both. And Sam Rockwell hits it out of the park. It’s an incredibly sympathetic and authentic set of performances.

A gorgeous film to look at, too. There are a few nerdy oopses – gravity inside the base, but not outside it? Oh well. The plot is nonsense. And I have some problems with the use of the two female characters, who of course do not pass Bechdel and who are close to being In Refrigerators. But for beautiful, character-driven, cerebral hard SF, I will forgive a lot.

Easy Virtue

Jeremy picked this as well, mostly because I’d been feeling down and he wanted to cheer me up. This film was made for demographic: Rach. It has the divine Kristin Scott Thomas as a disapproving aristocratic mother-in-law. It gives great house and horse and frock. There are Mitford and Dorothy L. Sayers echoes galore, and the director is Stephan Elliott, whose Priscilla: Queen of the Desert remains a happy memory.

Unfortunately the film doesn’t quite hang together; is in fact, extremely silly. The foolish young man is too foolish, the American vamp too blonde and the increasingly insufferable Colin Firth is too schmoopy for words. Nevertheless I enjoyed every minute. And if I had to pick a favourite minute it would be the sight of Jessica Biel’s world-class ass tangoing in an ivory brocade sheath.

happy birthday america

Palin’s resignation: best America’s birthday present ever!

Also fabulous this weekend: riding at the barn, lunch at Mission Beach with Mr J, Claire’s last show at Coastal Camp (she was Four Insect Wings), SF Mime Troupe in Dolores Park (I got sunburnt), fireworks from Bernal Hill, riding again with Salome and a date night with Mr J: Easy Virtue and dinner at the bar at Zuni.

Palin, though. How awesome was that?