Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bad Nancy!

          Oh, dear. I'm afraid I'm going to indulge in another small rant. Please indulge me for a minute or two.
          Yesterday I googled my name. I am possibly the last person on planet Earth to do this. I know there are lots of Nancy Bankses in the world, at least 70% of whom are better at self-promotion than I*, so I've never seen much percentage in bothering.
          But now I have a blog, and I'm interested in upping readership, so I googled my name to see where I showed up on the search.
          I ran out of patience before I found my actual self, but among the lawyers and actresses and whatnot I did find a rather famous Nancy Banks, MD, making the tired and erroneous old argument that childhood vaccinations cause autism**.
          So in the interest of clarity, I'll say that I never was, am not now, nor ever will be, that Nancy Banks. I was vaccinated as a child. I have never had autism. I do not now have autism. QED.
          And I'll be using my Authoritative Middle Initial from now on to differentiate myself from that other Nancy.

Oooooh! Authoritative.

*The rest? Miscreants all, wanted for various felonies and misdemeanors. I learned this while buying a house in New Jersey. Before we could close on it, I had to attest to the fact that I was not any of a long list of criminal Nancy Bankses. And don't worry, I'm not.

**The British medical journal The Lancet, where the original paper was published making the claims for a link, refuted the paper on February 2, 2010, saying that three of the paper's authors (the other ten had retracted the hypothesis of an autism-vaccination link in 2004) acted "dishonestly" and "irresponsibly" when doing their research.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oxymoron Alert!

          So Mitt Romney has a superPAC called "Restoring Our Future." And I want to know how you can restore something that hasn't happened yet.

The Mittster: a little something for everyone.
©Nancy Banks

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Curse You, Comfy Shoes!

          When we were in New York for the Westminster Dog Show last week, I had a free morning.
          I didn't feel like visiting art museums, which is my Default Touristing Mode, and, casting about for something else to divert me for a morning, I realized I was in what is likely the Last American Bastion of the Department Store.
          Now, I am old enough to remember when there were good department stores in most cities of any size, and they were Aladdin's Caves of treasures—everything you could want or need for your house or yourself. Perfume, furniture, clothing, silverware, shoes, china, and more. Quality items. Ministered to by trained salespeople.
          I miss those stores. 
          I miss those days.
          Kansas City, in its Halcyon Days of Yore, used to have more than one of those department stores. Alas, it now has only one, a lovely, exclusive place that specializes in Things For Very Singular Occasions (which are few and far between in my life) and Clothes You Will Never Be Chic Enough Or Anorexic Enough To Wear. I do like to visit it from time to time. It's like a museum of possible (but not probable) lives.
          Local department stores of the more day-to-day useful sort, such as they are, are found a 30-minute drive away, in the suburbs, and with one exception, they are—well—down at the heels. Understaffed. A bit chintzy. Rather scruffy.
          Might as well go to Target.
          So I thought I'd treat myself while in the city and visit a couple of the grandes dames of department stores. And because I knew I'd be doing a lot of walking, I put on my Comfortable Shoes.
I know; I know. My shoes are Tragic.
But comfy.
          You know the ones. With the thick, cushy soles and the round toe box. Because it is my Secret Shame that I can wear pretty shoes only if I don't have to walk more than 50 feet (and, frankly, they can't be too pretty, because it is a truism in women's shoes that the prettier the shoe the More It Hurts). 
If you are wearing these, I'm greenly envious.
If you want to wear them, click this link.
   I love shoes with pointy toes and kitten heels. I stare at them longingly on other women's feet. I try them on in shoe stores and fantasize about owning them. Yet I don't own them. Because I can't walk on kitten heels. At all. I'm hopeless. And to make matters worse, pointy toes really hurt my toes, and I lack the fortitude necessary to just deal with the pain. I suspect that this means I am an inferior sort of woman, possibly a traitor to my gender, who is unable to overcome the pain of pretty shoes, as other women seem to be able to do easily, long enough to wear them anywhere.
Very Pretty Shoe. I can't buy it,
but perhaps you could. Click here.
          And sure enough, while I was idly perusing the boots at Lord and Taylor (because it doesn't hurt to fantasize) and wishing my feet lacked nerve endings because I very much fancied an over-the-ankle black pair that was all buckles and attitude, a salesperson approached, and after a quick, derisive glance at my hideous Comfy Shoes that I'm sure she didn't intend for me to see, she asked me quite kindly if she could help me find anything. Because I was obviously having a Shoe Emergency right there in front of her very eyes. And she'd been trained to respond. I hesitated, thinking, maybe, just this once, since I am after all in department store Valhalla, I could throw myself on her mercy, and we could find a Pretty Boot that didn't hurt. Too much.
The not-without-pain antidote
to a Shoe Emergency. You
can find them here
      Unfortunately, I had misplaced my Capacity For Self-delusion just that very morning, so I smiled ruefully and said what I usually say in shoe stores, "No thank you; I'm just looking."

Monday, February 20, 2012

It Looks Better On TV

GCH Goarrhein Chateau Palos Shiraz RN TD PT (Raz)
©Nancy Banks
     We went to New York to watch two Standard Schnauzers compete at the Westminster Kennel Club show. Raz (at left) is our boy Pooka's brother, and his owner is our girl Casey's breeder. Zorro (below) is owned by one of our mentors in the breed. Aren't they gorgeous guys?
      I don't know why I wasn't expecting a dog show at the most prestigious dog show in the U.S. Perhaps the cameras and the evening attire for Best in Show judging and the fact that it is a benched* show beguiled me into thinking that there would be some quiet area where the dogs not being groomed or shown would hang out with their handlers and do the old meet and greet with adoring fans and miscellaneous members of the public. Alas, because of construction at Madison Square Garden, the benching area was also the grooming area, which at a dog show looks like a tent city minus the tents. And minus the charm.
      It was extremely tight quarters, especially after crates, grooming tables, tack kits, dogs, and handlers were shoehorned in. Everybody who came to the show wanted to see dogs and talk to handlers, of course, and the walkways were so tightly packed that in places you could almost rely on the crowd to support and carry you along.  It was the worst show venue for grooming space I've ever seen.
GCH Pepper Tree Zorro V Morgenwald (Zorro)
©Nancy Banks

      They say it will be better next year, when they move the breed competitions to another, larger venue. I'm disappointed, of course, that I wasn't able to see other breeds and talk to handlers, but it was quite exciting to watch some of the top dogs in the country compete.
      And I did get a big slobbery Valentine's Day kiss from a Mastiff. Which renders the day a success, in my book.

*A benched show, now very rare in this country, is one where entered dogs are required to be in assigned areas at all times when not being judged in the ring. This lets people meet the dogs and handlers, rather than just see them for a few minutes in the show ring.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

And Me Without My Lighter

Not likely to make you feel confident.
©Nancy Banks
           So I stopped to use the Ladies' in Grand Central Station, and when I went to wash my hands, found the sign above posted over every faucet.
          Not sure what rattled me more: the assertion that the water is "most likely" safe (which I read to mean, "You won't die if you wash your hands in it. At least not immediately."), or the counsel to try lighting it and see if it burns.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"R" is for "Repent"

©Nancy Banks

          Dateline: Times Square. We arrived in New York Friday last to discover that all electrical umbilici necessary to K's happiness and well-being had been Left Behind. So K spent some precious laptop battery power to log in to the hotel's wi-fi with the object of googling a purveyor of power cords. Unfortunately, the malware that the hotel's system immediately installed on his computer prevented googling—or, indeed, any other reasonable use.
          Events then unfolded swiftly: a call to K's tech support, who remotely installed Malware-B-Gon™ on K's computer and started the disinfecting process; a few minutes of happiness while Malware-B-Gon ™ worked its malware-slaying magic; subsequent doom and fleeting thoughts of suicide when the battery ran out of power; K's grumpy phone call to the front desk telling them they had infected his computer and we would be checking out five minutes ago and would not be staying with them ever again even if they were the last hotel left on earth and to please call us a cab; the remove to the new, malware-free hotel just off Times Square; a search for nearby power-cord vendors—and because after all, this is Times Square we're talking about—the joy of finding power cords that would indeed power all the necessary devices tempered by the This-Is-Times-Square-And-You're-A-Tourist™ prices. Which were roughly 2x astronomical.
          The good news: one power supply works, and one works well enough to meet K's needs. Oh—and Malware-B-Gon™ was able to scrub K's drive once he got the prodigiously expensive power cord plugged in and his laptop restarted.
          After spending slightly less than the average annual income for a citizen of Pakistan just to buy two power cords, one of which is only partially functional*, K needed a walk. Also a cocktail, but we decided the walk should come first.

Careful—too much Times Square makes you tipsy.
©Nancy Banks
         And Times Square is a visual cocktail. All those bright, distracting neonized colors and twinkly lights and enormous marquees with flashy-movey pictures that You Must Watch because they're Too Big Not To go straight to your head like Champagne fizz.
          We were feeling giddy by the time we turned back towards our hotel. As we waded upstream against the press of pedestrians, lightheaded with relief and sensory overload, the crowd parted, and a disappointingly unbiblical-looking fellow strode confidently through the gap carrying a sign. "The end is coming," it said. "Repent now."
          We were just giddy enough to consider it. And then we went into the hotel and found the bar. And repented it not.

*It powers the laptop but it doesn't charge the battery.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Thought My Father was God

© Nancy Banks
          When I was a child, my father was 15 feet tall. And he had a beard. And an agenda. Often accompanied by a list of jobs for us, every one of which my sister believed violated all past, present, and future child labor laws. Dad was very good at that cool foreshortened pointing thing with his hand, as that was usually the easiest way to get the grumbling children back in line and focused on doing the dishes instead of reading.
          Admittedly, he did not wear a robe and sandals. Still, when I passed this fountain in Rome last summer, my first thought was, "Dad?!"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Egrets, I've Had a Few…

          Because I'm still all a-twitter about all the cool birds I saw in Florida, I'm going to share more pix of Birds You Don't Normally See in Kansas City, More's the Pity.

Great Egret fishing for crawdads
(©Nancy Banks)

          We saw this striking egret at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a 14,000-acre preserve in the western Everglades. If you're ever in the Naples area, don't think twice—just go directly to visit this sanctuary. There is a 2.25-mile boardwalk which takes you through pine flatwoods, wet prairie, marshlands, and the largest old-growth Bald Cypress forest in North America. It is a magical place, and you will leave having seen the heart of wild Florida, some beautiful wildlife as well.
           And over at the beach, another type of egret clocked in every day and obligingly posed for tourist photos: the Snowy.

I'm enchanted by his stylish two-tone legs.
(©Nancy Banks)

On my last day there, I was walking in the surf, watching the pelicans fish, when I glanced into the shallows next to where I was walking. Swimming about ten feet away from me were these enchanting fellows:

Not possessing Peterson's Field Guide to the Rays and Skates of the Gulf
of Mexico
, I can't tell you what kind these guys are, only that seeing
them was a huge thrill.
(©Nancy Banks)
I've been on a lot of beaches on a lot of oceans, and this is the first time I've ever seen rays.
          Florida, I'm a convert.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


          In the 60s, my dad had a poster hanging in his studio: a lovely graphic-arts rendering of a pelican, with Henry Gibson's poem about their looming extinction:

          "It's not the same without pelicans
           You know?
           I mean, dinosaurs...
          Well, they're too big to miss...
          And besides, it was their own fault.
          But we all grew up with pelicans!
          I hope the ducks hold out."

          I've mentioned before how I grew up during the time when persistent levels of DDT in the environment caused shell-thinning in the eggs of many birds including the Brown Pelican, pushing them to the edge of extinction, and how I thought I would never see some of these birds when I grew up.
          Well, the ducks have held out, and the pelicans are also doing pretty well. Sometimes we do make a difference for the good. I was absurdly, big-foolish-grinningly, shooting-12-bazillion-photographs happy to see Brown Pelicans out in force on a recent trip to Florida.
          I won't share all 12 bazillion of the photos I took, but I'll leave you with a couple—well, technically three—because it really wouldn't be the same without pelicans.

These photos are © Nancy Banks

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is it Art Yet? Indeed it is.

          A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a town in Norway that had a clever outdoor art idea, and I issued a challenge to my readers to use that idea to go out and make some art of their own.
          A whopping one of you responded. And that respondent was pretty much obligated, since he's my dad. Nevertheless, art has been made, and as promised, I will now post it.
©John Banks

© John Banks

© John Banks

© John Banks

©John Banks
          I also tried my hand:
© Nancy Banks