January 10, 2009

For Pig's Sake!

No doubt much ado will be made this year about The Simpsons 20 year long run. When the show hit the airwaves in 1989 it was intended as adult prime time entertainment. (That made even more bizarre, the explosion in popularity of children's "Eat my shorts!" t-shirts). Groundbreaking cartoons by Warner Brothers as well as the Rocky & Bullwinkle, and Fractured Fairytales series were also adult shows. Of course they're embedded into the fabric of our childhood memories, aren't they? Such has been true of Anja and her connection to The Simpsons.

How amazing that the relevance and genius of Matt Groenig's expression has endured without having become a fade-away of itself.  After all these years Bart, Lisa & Maggie remain children, just as a part of us does each time we settle ourselves on the couch to watch The Simpsons.


December 24, 2008

The Hallelujah Child

In pulp fiction you hear cliches like, "time stood still".  The moment, perhaps, when the hero recognizes a twitch in the face of an enemy, reaching for his gun. Or, a moment of love at first site. 

One morning last week as I headed out the door for work, Anja asked if she could come with me. (Actually this has become a routine. I crouch down to hug and kiss her, and she begins to whimper. "Pleeeeease? Can I go to work with you?" I want to take her with me, I do.).  On this particular morning, after I'd told her that I wanted to bring her with me and just couldn't, she sighed and said, "Well take a picture of us to work with you".  I couldn't think of which picture she was referring to...

Anja raced to her bedroom. I looked over at Daddy as if to say, 'Help, I'm going to be late...'
She returned with a small card in her hand. She looked up at me and handed me the card.  "Here Mommy, here's a picture of us to take with you."  

Time indeed stood still. It was a card I bought in Slovakia with the image of Madonna & child.  

For some strange reason...

... the folks at Dreamworks included Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" on the original Shrek soundtrack.  One afternoon while listening to Jeff Buckley, his rendition of the song came on. Anja's head popped up.

"Hey! The Hallelujah song!"  She wanted to put my headphones on and sing along. 

I never thought I'd see the day that a 3 year old would be getting down to Leonard Cohen.

December 13, 2008

Gruβ vom Krampus! Hope You've Been Good.

Krampus is an ancient tradition in rural Bavaria, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Northern Italy. It's been described by some as the evil alter-ego of Santa and by others as one in the same tradition of Christmas, in it's earliest forms. The version that I heard, while writing an article about Krampus in 2002, was that the tradition's origins were purely Pagan and there were no Santa figures in the parade (Sankt Nikolaus) until the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries.

In the coldest, darkest days of winter, young men would don furs and sprigs of wheat, 50-60 pounds of cow bells on their back and would smear themselves with charcoal. The most flamboyant part of the costume involves large wooden masks, handed down in families for hundreds of years. The masks depicted demonic spirits who would chase down young maidens and give them good lashings with switches (to ensure fertility in the spring of course!) The legend also goes that demons would devour badly behaved children. 

When the Romans brought Christianity to the regions, they thought it would be wise to have a delegate of the church round up the savages. These celebrations were, and still are, accompanied by hedonistic behavior and heavy drinking. In the video, above, you'll see a Catholic-like Santa. I have heard that the lesser populated valleys have kept their Krampus a little more traditional. Berchtesgaden and Salzberg are said to have some of the best celebrations.

There seem to be many variations on Krampus throughout Europe: there's Krampuslauf (the Krampus Run parade on December 5th - primary function being to scare children into being good) and the Perchtenlauf (Demon's Run, sometime in early January - for driving out the evil spirits of winter). I'm not sure how Jesus entered the picture. He was born in the spring. Nativity scenes on the lawn should include daffodils. I was surprised to learn that St. Nikolaus, patron saint of children, was a Bishop in Asia Minor at about 300 A.D.

I'd recommend Krampus for the toughened traveler.  I read on a blog that a woman consulted her attorney after being chased and whipped by one of the demons. I wonder if she'd considered retaining an attorney prior to joining the Run of the Bulls, too. If you can sue a Krampus, why not a bull?

More on this little known tradition:

However you celebrate, have a beautiful Holiday. Don't forget to flog the one you love.


December 02, 2008


One of my favorite sensations in life involves barreling down a snowy slope in a blinding storm. Thick gloves cover your hands and fingers, your feet are weighted down, your body in Goretex, your head and face wrapped tightly. Your already narrow view is made further surreal through fogged goggles. It becomes essential to rely on the feel of the terrain. You keep your body slack to absorb the shocks and bumps. Initially, you want to fight the elements to stay upright. Allowing yourself to flow with it is actually the better way to go. Allowing gravity and momentum to take you on its ride is one of the purest experiences there are.

Sometimes, lately, the current economic climate reminds me of this experience. The world wrapped around us seems chaotic and yet, keeping an open mind and staying flexible may allow something unexpectedly wonderful to happen ... to have a vestigial part of yourself awaken.

Making your own holiday traditions is very American. One of mine, although not very social, is to sit in a hot tub for an entire day. Good beer, my doo-wap albums... this is holiday bliss!

What happens is that, well, nothing happens. You think. And put into perspective. You come out as bright pink as the day you were born. Mentally rejuvenated.

Cliche as it might be, this year I couldn't stop thinking about all I have to be grateful for. Things might be falling down around us, but we're healthy.  I've got Anja.  We've got beauty.  I got out of bed on my own two feet today. 


October 12, 2008

Love, and Limbo

Anja got into Mommy's make-up.

I've cast my vote by absentee. Now is the waiting game. I hope the candidates are kind enough to address our economic situation during this week's debate after tap dancing around it. It would be nice.

September 27, 2008

Who Won The Debate?

Two of the scariest economic weeks in our history since The Great Depression have just passed.  Colleagues and friends watched their nest eggs plummet before their eyes after having been the responsible ones. 

Our President hasn't the slightest notion what to do, but I'm certain the Bush family isn't overly concerned. They're set for life on the ranch.

Jim Lehrer, moderator for last night's first debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, was diligent and emphatic that the next President will inherit a desperate economic environment, possibly spelling the worst. Neither candidate's responses were clear or specific enough for me. Suffice to say I can only vote against what has not been working. 

Next Thursday 10/2/08 the debate between Joseph Biden and Sarah Palin will take place in St. Louis. This should make for great entertainment. We could use some humor about now.

Salinas, California, 1935. Photographer: Dorothea Lange

Who is Sarah Palin?  So far, what I know is that until last year, she'd never traveled outside of North America. Her budget cuts included a measure which bills victims for their own rape kits. She's never had to return to work from maternity and pump breast milk in the lady's restroom. She and her husband have been spending tens of thousands in public funds for personal use. She said that our national leaders are "sending [our armed forces] out on a mission that is from God".  She appeals mostly to white women. Could our core values as women be undergoing a historic and divisive split? Sometimes I think I have more in common with women in Sudan than in conservative circles in America. What happened to standing by one another?

I expect a lot from women in Leadership. Sadly, Sarah Palin will prove the critics correct; she does not have what it takes to be Vice President. She will create a barrier for women who want the position in years to come, as well as to set the cause of Feminism back.

Five weeks from now I'll be casting my vote for the lives of two women, not one.

August 24, 2008

Getting Old-er

Suddenly 40

If ever there was a protocol for what one should be, do, wear, say, or how one should carry themselves when they hit middle age it has been fashionably, conveniently forgotten. Thank god.

There's a fine line between age-appropriate, and settling. Finding a sweet spot has been key for me. I've tried to keep and rekindle the elements of my life which have always been important, such as creative projects. And even though this is San Francisco, where a 70-something co-worker streaked her hair to match her outfits and her moods, there is something in my head saying, "Mmmm... not me." On the other hand, my 20 year high school reunion made a powerful impression. People of my same age, with similar life experiences, had allowed themselves to manifest into who they believed they should be at their age. I felt puzzled by this and still do. Should I conceal my taste in music, or desire to dance until dawn? Will friends and co-workers silently wonder about me if I don't fall into expected patterns? I don't think I will surprise anyone by concluding that I'm unconcerned.

What I learned as I hovered around my 30th birthday is that there is a time and place for all things. Sometimes we tackle projects with seemingly insurmountable challenges and distractions, with Doom waiting in the wings. Sometimes we have to jump up and down on our beds to blaring disco, waving a sparkly baton. For the record I've never tried this.

On my birthday a few weeks from now I plan to do South Beach Diet approved jello shots and crawl from one nightclub to another. My head will throb for days after but I'll forge onward. Flintstone vitamins, jog-walking, turkey bacon, salads, high fiber, espresso with Splenda. Yeah. That's how we roll.

Wonder years; 1971 to be exact