Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gone to Be Snakes Now... Sure, Why Not?

What you see in the photo is my new obsession. I found it in my stocking Christmas morning (well, fake Christmas morning. I had to work on Christmas so we celebrated a day late) and all I can say is: Santa must know me pretty darn well. I mean, look at that cover! The triptastic patterning surrounding and penetrating the reproachful elderly gentleman... To say nothing of the brilliant title! It's the title that really gets me, of course. Is it a colloquialism? A warning? Kidspeak? I'm only halfway through, and I still don't know. It seems to be all of those, and more, and decidedly less.

For, you see, this book is awful. I mean, really, really, no holds barred, gloriously awful. I don't think the author even intended kitsch. The story seems to be meant as allegory more than actual science fiction. And I think this book is the real deal, somebody's heartfelt look at the "modern" era, and growing up. There are girls who are sexual and mysterious and know things about the "outside". There's a rebellious boy who's still a virgin but doesn't want to be. There are lots of trouser snakes. There's a hyper-sexualized mutated creature who haunts the town, killing men and taking willing girls back to his cave. No one can remember what came before their grandparents got to the town, or knows how they got there.

Oh, and did I mention that the town is named Exxon? And that the only other towns are named Mobile and Texaco? How about the part where everyone lives in giant, non-functioning gas stations? We learn early on that the main character is the "heir to the pumps of Exxon". And for some reason there is lots of talk about Henry James, despite the fact that few of the characters seem to know what books are.... Oh, and don't get me started on the play that some of the kids decide to put on in the swamp. It involves lots of poetry, and sex, and a girl dressed as a mushroom as other kids lift her into the air while intoning "boom, boom, boom". Really!

So, of course I had to do a little research to find out who this mad genius of an author might be. Turns out that Neal Bell was just a youth himself when this book was published in 1974. He did, in fact, receive his MFA that year! Aha! I think that may explain an awful lot here. Today he is a professor of Practice of Theater Studies at Duke University. He has a ton of produced plays to his name, as well as many television credits, including stints as a writer on One Life to Live and Knots Landing. Which somehow makes perfect sense... As does the fact that Gone to Be Snakes Now is his only published novel.

Thanks, Santa!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Book Blitz! Volume 1

I don't know about the rest of the world, but in this house the New Year always starts off with a lot of new books. Christmas here is definitely book-giving season, and so is my birthday. I'm something of a book pack rat: if I don't have a backlog of reading material several months long I feel insecure. What if our bank account was hacked and emptied and I couldn't buy books? Better have several dozen waiting to read just in case...

One book that I only just got around to is Swimming in Stone: The Amazing Gogo Fossils of the Kimberley by John Long. My husband and I saw Dr. Long speak at Cal Tech University several months back and I was impressed enough to pick it up.

Although "Gogo fossil" sounds like some sort of 70's slang it in fact refers to amazingly well preserved Devonian era reef remains in Western Australia. This area was once covered in a shallow warm sea, and, lucky for us, many of the details of the ecosystem that thrived here have been preserved. Unlike many sites where long-dead animals have only left impressions in the rocks, here whole skeletons still exist. This is important because it was during this time that fish were making many of the evolutionary steps that would someday lead to us. Steps like jaws, for instance. Not to mention limbs, and lungs.

Dr. Long does a nice job of outlining the importance of the fossils, the infighting that can stymie research, and the personalities of the major players. I find myself awed by the shear weight of the ages that separate us from these amazing animals and amazed that we can still learn so much from them. It must caution you, though: if you have no interest in fossils, fish, or evolution you may find the going a bit dry. Dr. Long does not shy away from technical terms or latin labels.

A completely different reading experience can be found in the pages of Jason Little's Motel Art Improvement Service. It's the rare graphic novel that isn't afraid to depict banal settings, trusting that the protagonists will make the story interesting. And here they do. Motels both cheap and slickly corporate are imbued with suspense and pathos through Little's clean art and masterful narrative structure.

I should issue a warning here too: this is not a kiddie comic. Anyone too young to understand the menstrual cycle as a plot device should definitely stay away: if they persist they will only be met with sex, drugs, and complex ideas about the role of art in society. Folks old enough to enjoy coffee should find it a definite lark though.

So, that's what I've read so far this year. What's on your bedside table?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Frog Bag Photos: Volume 1

Since I actually remembered to take my camera to work with me this morning I thought I'd post a few photos here... so...


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Of Hawks and Doves

Let me tell you a little story:

I'm at work, minding my own business, when someone from another department approaches me. They're out of breath. It's an emergency!

What happened? Did an animal escape?

No, they say. It's that damn hawk! It caught another pigeon! Come quick!

Okay, I'll say. There isn't much we can do. It's just nature taking its course.

At this point they stop and stare at me. What? How can you say that? It's hurt!

I've had this scenario repeated with doves, pigeons, even a wild duck which I saw plucked from one of the ponds by a huge female red tail. All of which brings me to my point: it sucks to see animals harmed, and killed. But, the hawk's gotta eat too.

(Full disclosure: I'm a vegetarian. I'd never eat a dove. Or a duck. Or a hawk, for that matter. But this is a choice. I'm human, and one of the benefits of this condition is that I can make choices. The hawk can't. Even if he could reason out the implications of a vegetarian diet, he's an obligate carnivore).

And the pigeons? They want to stay alive. They don't want to be eaten... But there are a lot more of them in the world than there are hawks. They thrive in an urban environment. Often the hawks are just hanging on.

So, you may be wondering, what happened to the pigeon that was caught by the hawk? Well, as luck would have it, the hawk was startled when my co-worker approached it. He dropped the little white bird and flew off. The pigeon ran under a bush, and from there I cornered him. He wasn't too badly hurt: nothing was broken and the wounds were superficial. I cleaned him up, patched up his cuts (I'm a certified wildlife rehabber) and placed him on "cage rest" in a clean crate with plenty of warmth, food, and water. In a couple of days he was good as new, ready to face off against the hawks of the world again.

So, my advice to anyone who comes across a similar situation? Let the hawk be. Turn away if you must. But don't scare the hawk away from her meal. You will be left with an injured and frightened victim who's suffering has just been prolonged, and who will often die of an infection later if his wounds aren't treated. The hawk will have to spend extra energy hunting, and her babies may go hungry.

Of course, if you find a bird who has been injured by a now-departed hawk, please get him help. All animals feel pain and the lowly pigeon is no exception (personally, I love pigeons, and doves in general, having worked with scores of them). If you don't know bird first aid, find a local wildlife rehabber.

And to everyone who cares enough to worry about doves, hawks, and wildlife in general... THANK YOU!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

From Randomness, a Winner!

And the winner of last week's giveaway is... Number 15, Michelle! That's right, the universe has spoken. I used a random number generator and, to my surprise, it picked the very last entry. How's that for random?
Congrats to the winner! She chose the Elegant Daily News Bracelet as her prize, and will be getting it as soon as Upcycled Stuff digs out from the monster snow storm that has blanked the south east. 
Many thanks to everyone who entered. I'll have another giveaway soon (I have something good planned for when this blog reaches 500 followers. Shhh!) but in the mean time, stay warm out there avoid driving on that black ice!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

Amazing that we are already eight days into 2011, or as some would have it, the Year of the Rabbit. Of course, around our house every year since 2009 has been the Year of the Rabbit. That's when we adopted Shallot... Or started to foster him. It wasn't supposed to be permanent. Yeah, right! You can read more about him here. He's a "special needs" bunny, but I'm happy to report that several days ago he was given a clean bill of health at his yearly physical. He'll always have to have his teeth trimmed every two weeks and his veggies chopped up for him, but he's come miles since we adopted him.

Marshmellow Garden
So, without further ado, I dedicate this blog post to bunnies everywhere. Want to do a little Year of the Rabbit shopping? Here are a few pretties I discovered while browsing Etsy...

First up is the unbearably cute "Marshmellow Garden" by Krisblue. I wonder if Shallot would feel calmer with this hanging near his hutch? Then again, if he were any calmer he'd be asleep. Never before have I met a bunny that wanted to be friends with a manic cat.

Hares Tshirt

Then there's this stunning Tshirt by NYhop... And it's even on sale! If only it were my size.

Rabbit and Carnelian Earrings

I'm not immune from making rabbit-themed things either. These earrings are new in my shop, The Frog Bag.

Rabbits - 1920s Illustration
But the cutest thing I found had to be this set of illustrations, rescued from a damaged childrens' book from the 20s, in Ephemera Obscura's shop.

Want to do more for domestic bunnies this year? Check out Bunny Luv for lots of tips, resources, and ways to help your favorite hopper. Another good resource is the House Rabbit Society. I hope everyone is having a fantastic Year of the Rabbit so far!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Giveaway! Featuring UpcycledStuff!

Happy 2011 everyone! Want to celebrate by winning something cool? Of course you do! 

Elegant Yellow Pages Bracelet
To kick off the New Year, The Frog Bag is having a giveaway featuring UpcycledStuff, a fabulous new Etsy artist who, you guessed it, upcycles stuff.

Her name is Tricia, and she has agreed to do talk with us a bit and give away some pretty nifty swag. So, before we get into the nitty-gritty of the contest, let's hear from the artist:

Why the passion for upcycling?

In 1996 I took a zoology course at the local community college with the most amazing instructor, Cassie Carter. It was all quite by accident, but what a happy accident it was! This course got me involved in volunteering at the local zoo. I was quickly sucked in by "all this conservation stuff" they were all talking about. I had no idea the profound impact it would have on my life. I've spent the next twelve years working for zoos and aquariums. While I recently left the field, I still carry the most important lessons with me. Perhaps the biggest lesson is that we are all connected. What I do today really does impact the future of the environment and the animals that I so deeply treasure. While I may not have the hands on contact that I once had with wildlife, upcycling gives me the feeling that I am contributing to their well being.
Newspaper Bracelet

Do you draw a distinction between upcycling and recycling?

Absolutely! Both are important, but even recycling has energy costs associated with it. So how great is it that we can take once virgin materials and reuse them once or twice before recycling them? Some of my favorite upcycled items to work with are those that can be tossed strait in the recycling bin once their usefulness has come to an end.

I know you've rescued quite a few animals. Tell us your favorite animal rescue story?

Teeshirt Reusable Shopping Bag
I have so many animal rescue stories that mean so much to me personally, but I would have to go back to my first, Destiny, the wild and chatty cat who still shares my home with me today. She was my first rescue and at that time I thought that I would one day run a rescue shelter, hence the name. She sat outside the window of my apartment howling one night; it was loud enough to wake the dead. So I jumped out of bed and opened the door only to see that she did not look well at all. There was goo coming out of every orifice, she was dirty and coughing. Yet, when I opened the door she walked right in. With two other cats in the house I knew I couldn't let her roam around until she had a vet visit. Together we spent the rest of the night on the bathroom floor. As she lay curled up on my lap I kept thinking "it can't be this easy to rescue a cat". I learned that it isn't easy, but Destiny is one in a million.

Tell us an interesting fact about you, the artist behind Upcycled Stuff?

The fact that I saved this question for last and then fell asleep trying to think of something worthy should tell you something.

Okay then, how about a boring fact?

I've lived in seven different states and made two cross country treks in my 38 years. I won't even tell you how many times I've moved in each of those states!

Magazine Wallet/ Business Card Holder
Anything else we should know?

Perhaps it's because I'm a Scorpio, but I love a good challenge. Some call it stubbornness, I just call it determined. So if you're looking for a way to upcycle something in your home, drop me a line. I would love to help you turn your trash into an upcycled treasure!

Thanks so much for your time, Tricia, and for telling us a bit about your new upcycling venture!

Now, how about that contest? And what do you win?

You can win either the Elegant Daily News Bracelet, pictured below:

Or the Elegant Daily News Necklace, your choice!

Entering is easy!

1. Leave a comment saying what you like best from UpcycledStuff's etsy shop.
2. Or "like" her facebook fan page.
3. Or share this blog link.

Just be sure to leave a separate comment for each of the ways you've entered, and a way to get in contact with you if you're the winner. A random number generator will be used on Sunday, January 9th, 2011 to pick the winner. Thanks so much for entering, and Happy New Year!

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