Friday, December 31, 2010

Reposted, Sort of...

A photo I took of a piece of street art of Wikilinks head honcho Julian Assange was posted (after a kind request for permission) on Scatter/Gather. There is a fitting irony in a picture of a picture of Julian Assange by someone named Junk Thief being the lead image of how public and viral our lives are these days. Maybe it will inspire me to post more content here in 2011!

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

MAGPIE TALE: Mary and Strange Gloves

Here it is after a bit of an absence: our last
Magpie Tale of 2010. The rest are here.

Sylvia Anh-Krasny usually showed up at her shop, Dr. Strange Gloves, at the corner of Chervil and Castner just before noon. The shop opened at 8 a.m. and had a surprisingly brisk early morning business from the commuter crowd since they were just two blocks away from the Castner-Grand Army Circle subway stop.

It was Sylvia's idea to have the large portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln in the window, draped with a black, sheer veil through which Mary's penetrating gaze was easily visible. Sylvia could speak endlessly and authoritatively about Mary and would sniff dismissively at those who chuckled and called Mary the "Patron Saint of the Shopping Addiction Movement."

"And what's wrong with that?" Sylvia would ask. "Are you opposed to capitalism?"

The exact stories about Mary's excessive consumption during her White House years vary, but it is generally said that in 1863 she bought over 300 gloves, mostly in New York and most of them were never removed from their packaging. Accounts vary on whether this happened during the course of three or four months, but most recount it with disdain and judgment as if there were something wrong with Mary buying something she loved and in mass quantities.

"Many people want to call Mary's fondness for gloves a 'sickness' and warning sign of her eventual institutionalization," Sylvia would tell a customer considering a $1,700 pair of silk and gold thread embroidered mittens. "Well, consider this: what would have happened if Mary hadn't bought those gloves? Yes, her mental health was fragile in the middle of a civil war, a troubled marriage, a recently deceased child and mounting public opinion against her. This was an age before Zoloft, before Freud, before women's spa retreats in Baja California or the Mediterranean. Mary bought a lot of gloves which grounded her through that fragile time. And consider this: most of those gloves cost $30 or more -- more than a month's salary for even middle class Americans in the mid-19th century. And these gloves were made by local artisans, women and men with many young mouths to feed during a time of war and scarcity."

Sylvia brushed back her flawlessly coiffed silver and eggplant rinsed locks. She looked heaven-ward and let out a wistful sigh. "Mary Todd Lincoln was, in a word, a patriot and the proto-feminist. Each of the purchases of those 300 gloves represented a brighter day in some micro-entrepreneur's household. She knew that most of those glove-makers were women, women dealing with the realities of a war-torn nation. Yet people choose to judge a woman who did no harm, caused no pain and relieved hers by injecting money into the fragile economy. If that's crazy, then send me to the asylum."

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Bitter Buttons

Bitter buttons and crooked corners.

Scrapbooks slathered in regret and remorse.

Spider cracks along the laugh lines and cockroach coughs.

Lemon drops. Apple pops. Grape gravy. Plum aspic.

Pruning my plum and lowering his raisin.

Sun kissed and moon slapped; whipping up a froth of metallic whiskers.

A band plays corncob harmonicas with odes to muskrats and kittens.

A crown of thorns and a throne of beige snow.

Long johns pulled down market by a Macaw named Fresca.

Fuzzy peaches envying sleek melons thumped with pride.

Foul language and fowl words aped by a choir of parrots.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Perfect Song to Sing in Your Black and White Pant Suit

Hold out for the sax solo. It's mighty cool.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

It's Bow's 8th Birthday!

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

MAGPIE TALE: Concepcion's Legacy

Another contribution to the Magpie Tales.

The peaked tip of the porch light told you everything about whose home this was at 13014 Traverse Circle. This was the Baumgartner home. Everett Baumgartner made a name for himself in Fond du Lac, a city with a French name filled with German Americans and a fondness for fast food.

Baumgartner's father immigrated there in 1904 from Munich and opened a small doughnut and ale house at the corner of Jervis and Grande. It was the pine cone gnomes or elves that people most remembered and the tamales made by the house maid Concepcion. When Concepcion delivered a blue eyed, blond haired son named Hans, it was clear that Everett's stated devotion to Lotte was filled with protocol more than passion, and soon Concepcion became the official mistress of the house.

Theirs was a marriage of weaved a curious fabric of diverse cultures long before the word "fusion" entered the American psyche and vernacular. It was only fitting that little Hans would soon be playing the music of Reynaldo Hahn on his pink toy piano imported from Japan and resting on a Ecuadorian rug. Hans would go on to learn Hmong and follow the dictates of Tristan Tzara before moving to Tacoma where he became a respected sculptor.

It was in 1937 -- at least a decade before the founding of McDonald's in San Bernadino -- that Concepcion and Everett launched what they called "America's first automotive aggregated auto mat", later being shortened to "Drive Through". People would speak into a remote speaker and seconds later Concepcion would deliver them sauerkraut in a taco shell or bratwurst wedged into a bed of beans, kartoffelbrei and flour tortilla. During the holidays, Concepcion introduced Comidas Felizadad when a pine cone elf was put in the sack with the meals.

Speculating that they would soon be millionaires, Everett built his stone castle on Traverse Circle, its peaked turrets echoing the hats of his beloved pine cone elves. Rumors suggested that it cost somewhere between $500,000 and $800,000, a staggering sum in Depression era dollars.

By 1942, when America was far more pre-occupied with the war than German-Mexican meals, the fledgling franchise entered Eau Claire and Madison under its new name -- Taco Schnell. Its motto -- muchos kraut and beans in a hurry -- might have been catchy in less German-phobic times, but its potential was never realized.

Sadly, Everett died in 1943 and never fulfilled his empire's promise. Concepcion soldiered on, but mounting debt forced her to shut down the last franchise in 1948. She continued to make the pine cone elves and bratwurst fajitas well into the early 1960s. She died in 1971, found in her kitchen holding a forked spoon where seconds earlier she had been stirring a pot of black beans and sausage.

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