the ornithogrinarium - Ψυχῆς ἰατρεῖον

Monday, June 30, 2008

social signals

Primarily, I bore people. I think this is what the nurse meant when she said, "it's subtle, but it shows when we spend some time talking to you." I can't banter when someone starts to talk smack, make fun of me, the feeling that there is just too much going on takes over, and I'm silent.

I'd like to think that this whole phenomena is tied to assertiveness, a "confidence game," as it were, but I can't be sure. I'll buy the "confidence game" as regards any type of writing. I suspect that actual, in-the-flesh encounters are different, though. Right now, I think, for me, the issue seems to be aught up in the balance of intellectual, creative and physical work, and the way that I never seem to be boreable (irritable, but not borable). I get recognition for the latter in my current living situation.

Secondarily, there's my bourgeois shitfaced-ness. Some people hate it.

bibliographic management

A cautionary tale.

I've been reading Nicholson Baker's book Double Fold, the part about how, during the 1970s and 80s, the Library of Congress spent millions of dollars attempting to build a machine using diethyl zinc (DEZ) to de-acidify books.

Using subcontracted thermal vacuum scientists, a modified vacuum chamber and free space at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Washington, D.C., librarians began messing around with thousands of pounds of books and chemicals. Early tests showed that DEZ left odd "'tide marks', darkened paper, and distasteful odors. ('Cause of odor a mystery since known chemistry cannot explain it,' noted the still-baffled scientists years later)."

Diethyl zinc is a pyrophoric substance, meaning that it "inflames in contact with air." The librarians in question didn't seem overly concerned that DEZ may be used, in relatively tiny amounts, as a missile propellant, or that their subcontracted employees and facilities were never trained or intended for chemical processes. The inevitable explosion happened, and the project blew up. More than once. Work went on wether gages that worked or didn't, "black goop" spurted from a valve, a copper elbow pipe mysteriously straightened, and when the entire facility had to be blown up, the librarians still didn't abandon the project.

The lesson of the day being, look out for book preservationists.

[I believe this photo is from 1914 at Ypres]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

i am

so sleepy. I made some decisions regarding a return to school, regarding which I got shored up by generous spirits. They left me with a shadow of a kind of certainty about myself. I went on a job interview and found out the company would be involved in a labour dispute, instead of hiring me. I knit and repeatedly unknit the ribbing at the top of a new sock. I colour-coded a pattern. I deposited my government "green" cheque, which will help pay rent this month. I walked home slowly, slower than I ever walk.

Last night I opened a (journal/scrap) book that I collected things for in the hospital. There are three books now, making it perhaps the best-documented period in my life (hells yeah, don't forget the binders of nurses notes collected on me), despite the lack of an overall pattern. There are recurring themes, but the timeline of entries is collapsed in on itself. At the time I couldn't tell what I was right about; I was driven by fear. I was willing to burn my own bridges if I risked someone else's. What comes across is intensity, and how hard I was trying - making notes, reading a lot, so focused on getting back on my feet, sometimes suprisingly articulate - and how drained I feel now, looking at it all.



I think goldfish are cute like some people swoon over kittins and puppies. This movie has black golfish named Icarus in it, introduced at 11:34.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

portrait of the artist as a memory machine

Was reading someone artfully sensitive, and remembered this, clipped from a newspaper seven years ago

"Mirrors are doors through which Death comes and goes [...] Don't tell anyone. Besides, look at yourself all your life in a mirror and you will see Death at work like the bees in a glass hive." ~Jean Cocteau

Bees mix mechanical and organic metaphors and in classical literature are symbolic of the work done to achieve eloquence. More on that here.

i feel bad about it

over and over and over. and then it restarts, playing on a loop.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008



Monday, June 23, 2008

i held the baby

as we walked the street party. I love the baby. When he gets excited he does a big crab dance, stretching out his arms and legs and snapping them up and down. He says "ah!", short and sharp, like he owns the syllable. He has round blue eyes like him mom. He likes to walk with me, at adult height, and I point out other kids, let him hold his hat, and put it back on. No bikes this time. He leaves me smelling like ivory soap.

"You could say 'hi' by nine months, and were walking by eleven," my mom says. He was born a tiny two pounds, only a month premature, but unable to grow for the last 2-3 months, unnoticed until the very last moment, during a regular ultrasound. He's thin for a baby, built more like a small child, and he's only just started crawling. His parents worry he will be autistic, or psychotic like me. The baby's mom is a writer, and she talks to him all the time, in jokes that are more complex and more direct than they seem, showing him where to laugh, showing him facial expressions. She was not frightening when I was psychotic, she only seemed fragile. I do not want a baby, but I like this one.

the cat

is sick. He's been sneezing, his chin is bright pink, and the pads of his paws are hot. When he jumps off my bed, it takes him a moment to orient himself. I feel bad for him and offer extra cuddles, but there's nothing I can do to make him stop crying all afternoon.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I am...

such a bitch. I can hear things dying around me as I type.

photo of Sam

Thursday, June 19, 2008

what i learned from reading my blog

-shut up. no, shut up.
-you have some seriously strong emotions.
-they're annoying to listen to. good thing they're brief.
-you're really anti-social.
-no wonder you have a headache.
-that really was that embarrassing
-you really are nuts

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Karen was the t.a. for my first year history class and the best editor I've ever met. She could read my papers and immediately tell me what was working and what would be most interesting to further consider, in about one sentence. I don't know that I wrote much about history, per se, but she and her stack of books were what kept me going through my first year of university. And now she has an art show, with a user's guide.

The User's Guide

Q: I don't get it. Isn't this an art show? Why aren't there prices?

A: Well, first off, yes, this is an art show, but it's also a history show, if you like. The photos you see are of two distinct sorts: regular-type photos, and documents. An example of a document is the image "treatment." My role was to record that statement; my role is to unerase it, so that you can look at it now. But I didn't write it, I simply saw it and luckily had a camera. It's not my business to make money from other's people's stuff.

Q: But I want to buy it.

A: Oh, capitalism. How can you buy something I don't own? So in the case of these documents, these can be purchased by donation. Contact me, and I will produce an image and charge you the cost of production. In lieu of any so-called artist fee, however, I will ask and require proof that said fee be donated to one of several local service organizations that are really working hard to address the issues raised on these walls.

Q: What are you, some sort of marxist nut?

A: Yes.

Q: What's the deal with these so-called documents? Really, aren't you just recording crime scenes?

A: Um, no. Writing on walls has a long and fascinating history. Since there have been cities, people have noted their opinions about their social and political cityscapes on their walls. And really – the question is astounding. When so much of "public" space is either dominated by advertising and other effusions of corporate and government power, it's typical of the human to speak up, and when silenced already by circumstance, to use paint, or stickers, or whatnot. Besides, some people are better with paint than with words, and that's fine by me.

Oh, and yes, I am certainly recording crime scenes, but probably not the way you're thinking.

Q: Do you really think this matters?

A: Hell ya. We need to rediscover our common humanity (we as in everybody) and recognize that we are racing down Shit River without a paddle. Hope this helps. I really do.

Documents - the initial price reflects the cost of production; and as noted, since I don't own them, you can't either. So if you're able to "buy," you're actually going to be donating some much-needed help to one of the ground-level service organizations in our troubled city. If you are on a fixed income, it's waived. Large sizes can be made to order in some cases.

11 x 14 : two dollars + $30 donation to one of the below;
8 x 10: one dollar + $20 donation

Carnegie News, CCAP, DERA, Pivot Legal Society, Atira, Vancouver Native Health, DEYAS, Portland Hotel Society, Youthco.

Return to the front page.
Check out the gallery.
Sign the guestbook.



is not right.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

if i were a rich girl sunday

No need to "if I were'... this week - I blew my bus money on a blueberry bush (we already have two but this one is covered in berries!) and a carniverous, orchid-like bog plant from a farmer's market. Got a dollar knocked off and rationalized the blueberry as "they're nine dollars a pound anyway," and, "with the money I didn't spend on beer last night it cost only $3."

Click the picture to see how frilly.

I am happy to be home where my dear blog looks pretty and I can save my plants from dying of thirst. I think I'm going to go pick salmon berries in the real bog.

Friday, June 13, 2008

pecha kucha (pe-chach-ka; chit-chat)

I just had a very fun night at the museum. At a pace of 20 slides shown for twenty seconds each, artists and designers give lightning round talks about their work in terms of what motivates and inspires them. I like gallery talks as a way to break in to new subject matter, and as a version of such, this was probably the event most invigorating and open to sociability I've had the pleasure to attend - in a notoriously clique-y and anti-social city.

Visit for one in your city, and as always, wikipedia will give you a rundown.

Maybe I'll post more tomorrow. I went with a highly anxious non-drinker so we spent the intermission locating and photographing baby ducks sleeping by the fountain.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

possibly the most boring blog ever

My city pleases me more when I have the opportunity to be out in it.

Today I forced myself to go to the knitting group I'd been passing on by reason of evening+suburbia. I went, got lost, asked for directions in a bookstore, we googled and failed, and I set off for the library to check my e-mail. I found the address (other direction down the street) and decided that while respectable people would not go because they'd be more than a half-hour late, I make little claim to respectability, and went on my way. The address was in a trendy area of town, where design glories in the artificial and too shiny, and people earn lots of money and have an obvious way of checking one another out.

I may have felt more positive were I capable of speaking in a directional sentance, but there I was with an architect, computer engineer, working designer, etc. and even as we agreed that the advantage in Apple computers is mostly that they make things look prettier, including the people who operate them, I had trouble forming a cogent sentence, as I had difficulty casting on, neither of which occurred properly in the hour and a half I was there. There was a token man and it was generally nice, so I quit while I was losing and suddenly the humid street outside felt good.

I stopped in another bookstore, empty, unintrusive and open quite late, where I pulled exhibit catalogues and made notes, gathering clouds of thoughts and directions for my not-job. Saved the night, that did.

I rode the bus not-home through Chinatown and across the railroad tracks to a garden full of lemon balm and my not-dog on the couch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

they're named t'n't

I'm housesitting on the east side with a brilliant cat who attacks my yarn as I ravel it, and a huge fuck-off pit bull cross who sleeps by my feet in a practice of pure adoration. He's the assassin I never had, and I love him too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I'm looking at my dear blog on a windows-based system and it's ugly. I hope it's the resolution.

Monday, June 9, 2008

snow in june

I was walking by the local elementary school and fluffies from some trees had landed in the garden.


A neighbour tossed some cedar planks over the fence this weekend.  I'd been surveying prices of wood at Home Depot, but cedar is so much better.  My dad is showing me how to cut and plane the wood to make a shelf.  It'll be good, if very very simple.  He can't stand nit-picky things, but I live for those sorts of details, so in making him explain, it should go well.  

My dad's good for this sort of stuff.  He didn't speak to me much as a kid, and he'll badmouth me to other people and then feel bad when I call him out.  But he always helped shovel up snow so I could make forts (sometimes in multiple), taught me how to throw a football, how to handle a sledgehammer, and how to paint houses inside and out. 

snail's eye view

Saturday, June 7, 2008

i'm an enabler

I got the cat some catnip from a sketchy Chinese hydroponics store for $1 even. The sales lady was chewing on a cob of corn and reminded me of the step so I wouldn't trip on my way out. The cat is now super mellow. I think I like him this way.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I do feel better now.

n.b. I should have gone with my gut and "only" been friends.

good work, free psychologist.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

i'm on a war path

My father has a problem respecting personal space. As in, respecting that other people don't want to spend all their down time in his presence, or might not like their shoulder looked over constantly, and most of all, that I've asked him numerous times not to hug me, or kiss my head, and he gets this bullshit wounded, "what's with that bitch" (he actually says that) schtick going, and a day later he's all over me again. The next time he does it I'm going to slug him in the gut.

after Caroline, an image pilfered from EA's photographie érotique, a site that appears to be taking a little break... perhaps awaiting "boobies for Z"?


My not-friend is housesitting in New York for a month.  Colour me puce.

I want to go, to hit the Cooper-Hewitt, the transit museum, the Cloisters again, see actual theatre/music, which doesn't happen in August, go out at night and spend more time shopping and brunching in Brooklyn, and at P.S.1, and less time eating sushi (don't get me wrong, sometimes I like sushi) while having my own dietary preferences scoffed at. Quite frankly, the last time I was there I was terrified much of the time, and I'm a girl who walks confidently through the poorest, most drug-addled and destitute neighbourhood in my country, at night. What the fuck am I doing trying to correspond with him anyway? I should be shot.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

cleaning windows

I'm doubled over keyboard laughing at the underhandedness of it all.

Sample comment: "He's ugly, he was almost illiterate, and he was charming as all hell!"

yeah, so

So today I was outside making tomatoes happy (I can't resist a tomato plant, especially an heirloom one), and a man leans over the fence and says, "you're beautiful and I like getting my hands dirty too, come here and take my number." These things are horribly awkward, and it was. I smiled, shook dirty hands, and he said, "don't forget to call me."

But really, all I want to do is play in the dirt. I gave my tree a temporary home, planted tomatoes (they like to grow in shit, er, manure), found sand to make sandy soil for basil plants. I figure the dip in my mood has to do with stopping drinking, a good thing overall, but it isn't as though I want to explain to anyone why I don't have a real job, or why I vaguely fear my emotional state, and the thought of a "relationship" makes me want to puke.

So I finished my socks (Ms Hanson, I adore them!), chose colours for my next project (neutrals), delivered resumes and volunteer application, looked at a 1966 fire map, vowed to continue reading, and generally look forward to lying low wearing my new glasses. Apparently, if I continue wearing contacts as I do, I risk ulcerated corneas. Yeah, so, it's thrilling over here in the bird house and I LOVE it. Now I want to go watch "Mad Men" and make the good psychologist some socks.

Monday, June 2, 2008

man of the hour

anne carson, from "irony, glass and god"

Everything I know about love and its necessities
I learned in that one moment
when I found myself
thrusting my little burning red backside like a baboon
at a man who no longer cherished me.

Today Ms. Carson lives by herself most of the time, but says she does not mind loneliness: "Loneliness is not an important form of suffering," Ms. Carson said. "It's undeniable, but it's just not significant."

from the article by Dinitia Smith, The New York Times, 03/27/04.

comfort reading

From Caroline, who is herself a comfort to read and to glance at occassionally on my blogroll.

1. Ernest Hemingway, The Short Stories. My favourite is, "A Clean Well-Lighted Place." I wrote an essay about its symbolism that my English teacher read to another class, and from which I learned that "Hemingway" has only one "m". As a teenager I read nearly all H's books, including "The Old Man and the Sea" all in one night, because of the way said teacher had described doing this with The Waves, but the Short Stories are what I turn to when I can't sleep.

2. Somerset Maughan, Of Human Bondage. Loaned by the English teacher mentioned above, with a rather explicit invitation to steal. I didn't, having already stolen The Portrait of Dorian Gray from another class earlier in the year. It meant a lot to me to be loaned that stack of books and old New Yorker magazines, and "gives books" became for me a rough qualifier of open hearts. A t.a. in my first year of university loaned me a stack from her desk including Walter Benjamin's Illuminations, Andre Breton's "Surrealist Manifesto," Saul Friedlander's Probing the limits of Representation, Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy and "A Room of One's Own", and I remember the the feeling of effervescence inside my skull as I fell head over heels for theory. A teacher who was a real true believer and allowed us to see the complications of that in him loaned me a documentary made by his wife. The professor I respected too much to bear asking for help writes extraordinarily beautiful and learned essays, and was notably generous with his books; doled out in one of those magical Oxford-Cambridge-Sorbonne accents. My boyfriend let me take his Autobiography of Alice B Tolkas the morning after I slept next to him the first time.

3. Patrick Suskind, "Mr Sommer's Story". This one is a novella that I haven't read in quite some time. Suskind's novel Perfume is fairly well-known, but I always liked the idiosyncrasy of his novellas "The Pigeon," and "Mr Sommer's Story." It's about a boy who watches an odd older man drown himself. Around the age I read it at a swim coach of mine jumped off a bridge, and the book was a safe way to feel out my reaction when it would have been inappropriate for me to talk too much about it.

4. Anne Carson. Ms Carson's writing draws together classical scholarship, her work as a poet and visual artist, and post-modernist play with enigmatic intelligence. I find thinking with her a joy. Her first book, an adaptation of her PhD dissertation, discussed the concept of "eros" in classical philosophy and literature, and her translations of Euripedes (Grief Lessons) and Sappho (If Not, Winter,) are worth reading for their unique footnotes alone. Decreation contains personal poems, "Every Exit is an Entrance (A Praise of Sleep)"[an earlier version was published in the journal Prairie Fire], "Foam (Essay on Rhapsody): On the Sublime in Longinus and Antonioni"[earlier published in Brick Magazine], and "Decreation: How Women Like Sappho, Marguerite Porete and Simone Weil tell God," which was staged as an opera with her students. Other of her books are, Autobiography of Red, Men in the Off Hours, The Beauty of the Husband, and Economy of the Unlost: Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan. I discovered her the year I went away to school to take part in the academic program of my dreams. I uh, quit because I was afraid of going crazy; Ann Carson was important aspirationally, providing a home for my soul so it not be crushed.

5. My journals. Totally self-serving, this one. My mom snoops, so midway through my teens I stopped writing and began keeping a collection of small drawings, photographs and collages. I've begun writing again now, but I like the way those books capture particular ways I was looking at things. A little sadly, I've managed to keep fairly good archives of friends I've lost, including essays, zines, and newspaper columns written. Having those books somehow makes me feel better about all that. I'd run in to a burning building for them.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


here is an article about J Morgan Puett.

see also, the reference to black mountain.