Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ice, Semis And Wind... Oh, My!

Evan and I got back to Lander in time to go to bed (nursing colds) well before folks here ring in 2012.

We have been in Colorado celebrating a friend's wedding, which was beautiful despite the cold temperatures, snow flurries and high winds that characterized our travels. Coming home, I was white-knuckled behind the wheel as we ran a gauntlet of overturned semi-trucks (eight in all) along the I-80 corridor near Elk Mountain. Although it's wicked cold now, it turns out we missed some exquisitely warm days while we were away-- the snow median that was at least three feet tall on Amoretti Street before we left has melted away to a strip of ice.

Our town will celebrate the turning of the year buried under ice flows.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Teacher's Role

Are fourth graders capable of solving the problems of the world?

John Hunter believes that they are. He also believes that it's an imperative they start practicing now.

He reminds me of the many inspirational teachers I have been blessed to have as mentors in my life. I owe those individuals a huge debt of gratitude for their faith in my capacity. I forever stand on their shoulders.

John Trapasso, my seventh grade history teacher:

He came back from India alight with a passion for Hindi culture and blew my mind with the concept of reincarnation. He was notorious for the hand cramps you'd get
writing essays hovering around twenty pages during in-class exams.

Victor Fink, my grade school music teacher:

I don't remember learning anything about music in his class, but vividly recall how he captivated and terrified us in equal measure with his rendition of The Monkey's Paw and delighted us with open-book tests that included questions like, "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?" and "What color was Napoleon's white horse?"
Mr. Fink taught us that sometimes the best thing to do is to flaunt convention.

Joana Bryar-Matons, my high school Spanish teacher:

The record spun and out flowed beautiful music and poetry which we would translate on the fly. If we proved distracted or slow on the uptake, she'd look to the ceiling and swear, "I shit on God!" in Catalan.

Leroy Votto, my high school history teacher:

His ability to bring history to life by immersing us in primary sources was nothing short of breathtaking. His patience and trust in our innate goodness and humanity came in a close second. His genuine curiosity takes third.

Richard Lautze, my high school teacher of many hats:

I have yet to meet anyone as committed to experiential education-- a concept that has informed every aspect of my life since my initial introduction.
I am still amazed and humbled that he saw in me not only a student, but a peer.

Lon Abbott, my college geology teacher:

His short shorts and ability to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim at the speed of light left me in awe. His skill presenting geology as a story of revolution, rich in metaphor, left me with a deeper spiritual appreciation of nature.

David Lovejoy, my college outdoor education teacher:

True to his name, his warmth made the wilderness accessible for me. He was the competent, feminine-style role model I needed in order to believe in my own ability to be a leader in the outdoors.

Mark Twain said, "Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great." These are a few of the teachers who have made me feel capable of greatness.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Jazz Age Silence

The ambitious project: a silent film made in 2011 about Hollywood in 1927.

I am über curious to see how it turned out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Holiday Card For The Ages

Mandy and Brian? Basically creative GENIUSES!

This holiday confection is simply too good not to share. It's the Winter Solstice AND the 3rd Night of Hanukkah after all.

Happy festive times, folks!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trash Transformed

In exploring the world's largest landfill outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian artist, Vik Muniz, was inspired by the catadores who sort through tons of refuse each day for recyclable materials to sell.

He took portraits of the men and women he befriended in iconic poses and projected these images onto the floor of a gigantic studio space in the city. The catadores themselves then recreated their own portraits by reclaiming garbage for the purpose.

Proceeds from the resulting art generated $250,000 USD for the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho-- a community organization and union of sorts for catadores in Rio.

This story was captured on film by Lucy Walker and turned into a movie called "Wasteland", which has made its way onto Netflix.

There is beauty to be found in transformation and reclamation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Uh, Huh...

It's the first night, people.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Domestic Partners

So today at work, Evan got down on one knee and asked me to be his domestic partner so we could save around $780 next year on health insurance. It was all very romantic.

Then it hit me (as I was in the middle of doing bent-knee wipers at the gym) that we had been blasé about a process that is as far as some couples ever get to legally go together.

A sobering thought that makes me appreciate all the more the joy inherent in the gay marriages that have been fully recognized in the eyes of the law.

These two newlywed shots are from a wonderful series that appeared in New York Magazine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Props to any artist who comes up with a solid concept and renders it beautifully.

Hence, I am a fan of Kyle Bean with his harmless weapons and philosophical chickens.

Discovered via the art + design blog, Colossal.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Struggle Bus

These superb portraits of homeless men and women by Lee Jeffries put my rides on the Struggle Bus, as Rathke puts it, into perspective.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Oh, Right. That Thing Called...

A year ago, we celebrated the Winter of Magic.

This year, we're ringing in the Winter of Stoke.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nature Deficit Disorder

Lately, I've been almost exclusively an indoor creature.

I knew things were bad when the beauty of the Popo Agie outside the floor to ceiling windows of the dentist's office proved utterly captivating as my teeth were scraped clean and then stayed with me as the most moving part of my day.

I miss the nature.

Clearly, I just need to get out more. The freezing temperatures and dearth of daylight hours, however, have got me stumped.

That said, Evan makes getting outside to play despite the desk job look easy... so there's hope! I have a lot to learn from that man.

Friday, December 2, 2011

How To Live A Life

It's all about respecting your elders...

Knowing this to be true, David Brooks

went and asked a bunch of old folk to share

thoughts on the course of their lives.

The resulting article is an interesting read.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Livin' In The Cowboy State

Yup. That's my guy... multitasking.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Say What?!

I'm grateful for bodies in lyrical motion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Sense of Color And Style

God love these classy broads from Nina Nolte's series of paintings titled The Best Is Yet To Come. In my mind, they all have accents from New York or New Jersey-- no mystery there!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

The closest I've come to understanding the experience of going to war has been through friends who have and do serve in the military... and books. That said, some of the reads have been good ones. Some have left me proud-- stories of ethical individuals demonstrating humanity while using force overseas (The Heart and The Fist). Some have left me entertained-- stories of intrigue, impressive skill and fancy toys (Rogue Warrior). Some have left me humbled-- stories of the price men and women have paid in the line of duty (The Things They Carried and Unbroken). Thank you, veterans, for your courage in the name of service.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Sister's Eulogy

Mona Simpson on Steve Jobs:

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers. When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild. This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of a Dickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif.

We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers.

I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter.

I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco.

Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.

I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.

Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.

That’s incredibly simple, but true.

He was the opposite of absent-minded.

He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited.

He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day.

Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.

For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.

He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age.

His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.

He was willing to be misunderstood.

Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.

Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, "Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?"

I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”

When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.

None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.

His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.

Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children. Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With the just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.

When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”

When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.

They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.

This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there.

And he did.

Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning.

Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun.

He treasured happiness.

Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.

Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.

Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes.

“You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other.

He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbid everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially.

I told him: Steve, this is special treatment.

He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face.

For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to.

By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.

None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.

I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple.

Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.

His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.

This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.

He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night.

He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing.

But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were:


Friday, October 28, 2011

The Sickness

That shaggy-haired fellow in the green shirt? HE'S COMING HOME FROM INDIA TODAY! The genius behind this video? One talented mofo by the name of Kyle Duba.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh, Thank GOD!

Amy is moving in.

With her, come joys like this:

Life is good.

And better for having Rathke in it

A Kanye, Adele and Jay-Z teaming up kind of happy.

That's seriously happy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Mortal Instruments

I know your streets, sweet city,
I know the demons and angels that flock
and roost
in your boughs like birds.

I know you, river, as if you flowed through my heart.

I am your warrior daughter.

There are letters made of your body

as a fountain is made of water.
There are languages
of which you are the blueprint
and as we speak them
the city rises.

by Elka Cloke

Thank you, Erin, for introducing me to my latest stay-up-till-all-hours-of-the-night-reading addiction. What can I say? I have a soft spot for the young adult fantasy genre. Apt that I am talking about a series called TMI, eh?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Playing With Food

At least by now it's clear I am on a perspective kick (binge... call it what you will). Why stop now??

Continuing in that vein, I love this series of Lilliputan scenes Christopher Boffoli created...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Orphans Preferred"

I am waiting for a letter from San Francisco to arrive at our doorstep and am reminded that mail --even overnight mail-- takes an old school amount of time to get here. Lander, and maybe Wyoming in general, is decidedly nonconformist when it comes to modern day postal service norms.

In an effort to put things into context for me, my mom sent me this old advertisement for the Pony Express that claims they could courier a letter from Missouri to the coast in ten days or less. THAT'S AMAZING and about the pace mail travels here to this day. See?! Perspective changes everything.