Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Budget Cuts, Halloween Version

          Some of you will have seen this cartoon before. My apologies. It's been a bit…fraught chez BanksWrites this week, and as my posting deadline looms, my mind is not so much blank as disinfected entirely of ideas.
          So, in honor of the season, here is a groaningly awful pun, recycled for your viewing pleasure.

Budget cuts forced the cemetery to reduce
its groundskeeping team to a skeleton crew.
©Nancy E. Banks

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Because It's That Time of Year

          I've been waiting months—months—to post these photos, taken in Paris early this spring.
          I've noted before that the Père Lachaise cemetery is a rationalist cemetery, not much given to chills and creepiness. However, even Père Lachaise can rise to the occasion, delighting those of us with a macabre turn of mind:

Cheerful devil, isn't he?
(Monument to Victor Schoelcher and his father, Marc Schoelcher)

Kind of like putti…only creepy.
Monument to Etienne-Gaspard Robertson
Best bat in Paris, wings down.
I neglected to record the family name on this tomb.
          And finally, the photo I've been trying to get ever since I read about it in 2000 or so, but it was always being cleaned or restored or dusted or somethinged when I visited the Louvre to see it:

          This is the excellently keen alabaster statue of Death that used to live in the Innocents cemetery in Paris. The cemetery, a pestilential curse of the first order, is no longer there. Its inhabitants were removed and it was paved over to make a thoroughly dismal plaza that I hate to visit, although removing the residents and paving it did solve the stench problem.
          Happy Hauntings.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Douglas Adams Says Hello

Eddies in the space-time continuum.
©Nancy E. Banks
          So last Sunday, the dogs and I are on our usual walk in our usual park, when we happen across this highly un-usual sofa. Just sitting there, invitingly, as if any random sitter who chanced upon it would be enfolded in its velvet embrace…
          …And transported to "the middle of the pitch at Lord's Cricket Ground, St. John's Wood, London, toward the end of the last Test Match of the Australian series in the year 198-, with England needing only twenty-eight runs to win."
          Any fan of the immortal Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series will of course greet the inexplicable apparition of sofas at large in nature as a sure manifestation that Douglas Adams says hello from beyond the veil—and will remember the famous Chesterfield Scene that takes place in chapters 2 and 3 of Life, the Universe and Everything.
          If you are asking yourself, "What famous Chesterfield scene that takes place in chapters 2 and 3 of Life, the Universe and Everything? And what, by the way, is this Life, the Universe and Everything? And what does cricket have to do with any of it?"—allow me to give you a taste, and to recommend the entire Hitchhiker's series, as well as everything else Douglas Adams ever wrote (including, if any have been anthologized, his grocery lists—because the man turned everything he touched into brilliant insanity):

          "'There!' said Ford, shooting out his arm. 'There, behind that sofa!'
          "Arthur looked. Much to his surprise, there was a velvet paisley-covered Chesterfield sofa in the field in front of them. He boggled intelligently at it. Shrewd questions sprang into his mind.
          "'Why,' he said, 'is there a sofa in that field?'
          "'I told you!' Shouted Ford, leaping to his feet. 'Eddies in the space-time continuum!'
          "'And this is his sofa, is it?' asked Arthur, struggling to his feet and, he hoped, though not very optimistically, to his senses."

           As I approached the sofa, hoping that I, too, could hitch a ride on it to the pitch at Lord's Cricket Ground as Ford and Arthur had done, with such disastrous results, and wondering how the dogs would feel about hurtling through the fabric of space-time back to before they were born and if that were even possible or if I would just appear at Lord's Cricket Ground with dogless leashes and what would happen to the furry ones in that case—the sofa winked out of existence.
          So long, Mr. Adams, and thanks for all the books.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The ABC of Loose Park

Click on the image to make it bigger so you can see the letters better.
©Nancy E. Banks

          Three mortal years ago, I saw a wonderful post on The Panopticon. Franklin Habit, whose blog The Panopticon is (and whom you really should follow, as he is an excellent essayist, and an all-round treat to read), had just been to London, and he had photographed typeforms in London and Windsor. Go look at them now. I'll wait.

          It was worth the detour, wasn't it?
          That post inspired me to do my own little typeform photography project, in one of the jewels of Kansas City, the Jacob L. Loose Memorial Park. I decided not to photograph any actual typeforms, but instead look for letterforms hidden in plain sight—an "A" in the vest and coat of the statue of Jacob L. Loose, a "J" in the curve of a sidewalk, and so on. Every letterform is photographed exactly the way I found it; I didn't reposition sticks or leaves or pine needles to make them read better.
          It took me two months to find and photograph all the letters of the alphabet in the park. The easiest letter to find was "O." They are everywhere. "K"—not so much. I'm still looking for a better "K."
          I had intended, when I conceived the project, to make a poster of the full A-Z, just to put a "Finished" stamp on the project. Unfortunately, projects undertaken here at Short Attention Span Central tend to…languish, unfinished, because there is just so much pretty shiny distraction in the world. And who am I to ignore it?
          The good thing about being so distractable that a sparkly piece of tinfoil can hijack my entire To-Do List, not to mention half my day, is that eventually I will be distracted by a project I've started and left languishing. And in the fullness of time, as they say, it will get completed. As the Loose Park ABC project finally did. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


No, that's not snow.
          K made bread the other day, and I noticed that he shook out his floury rising cloth on the baby redbud right outside the back door, making a pretty pattern on the leaves.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Never let be said that I am afraid to smash colors right up next to each other.
          Every so often, I piece a quilt. There are always scraps left over, which I can't quite bear to throw away. A couple of years ago, when the leftover scraps were starting to take over the spare bedroom, I decided to turn them into a quilt. I didn't use a pattern; I didn't try to match colors; I just sewed scraps together, higgledy-piggledy, then sewed those bits to other scraps, and so on until, finally, higgledy-piggledy, I had a quilt.
          I thought parts of it were strikingly pretty and well-designed. I thought parts of it were Absolute Design Fail. And ugly. I wondered what angel of bad taste had compelled me to buy some of those hideous fabrics.
          Didn't matter. I didn't edit, I just put everything together, quilted it, and threw it on the spare bed.
          It is my favorite quilt ever. It makes me happy every time I walk by the spare bedroom. I love the clash of colors. I love the random ugly bits, which, surrounded by nicer bits, have somehow become interesting instead of awful. I love how it is bursting with color and movement. I love how it looks like life itself.
          When I was quilting it, Casey slept on it. Now that it is on the bed, she still sleeps on it. She thinks I made it expressly for her. She believes she is the luckiest dog in the world. She may be right.

Casey and her quilt.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

To Autumn (A Poem, But Not by Me)

Because sometimes we need reminding that
John Keats was a poetry god.
You're welcome.
©Nancy E. Banks

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
  For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
  Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
  Steady thy laden head across a brook;
  Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse Handbag Redux

          So now my niece has me fretting about the zombie apocalypse. And how we should be prepared for it. By having large fabulous handbags. That are stuffed with random items certain to be useful in the zombie apocalypse.
          I believe I have the fabulous part well in hand. Also the assorted random items part. My handbags routinely exceed the Minimum Daily Allowance of random items. The thing is, how does one know which random items are the proper random items for a zombie apocalypse? Will—just perusing the current contents of my handbag—a tape measure be useful? Dog treats? Light bulbs? Ticket stubs? Lipstick? Hex wrenches?
          I was pondering this question recently as I packed for a trip, trying to get all the necessities from my Inevitably Your Plane Will be Delayed For a Minimum of Three Hours kit into my Apprentice Zombie Apocalypse Handbag (not nearly as large nor as random as M's, alas), while at the same time keeping the total weight to under 50 pounds. And then, as I was trying very hard not to work up to my usual frothing hatred for the TSA in general and each and every jack-booted agent of the TSA in particular, the light dawned, and I realized I knew exactly which items would be most useful in a zombie apocalypse.
           Look around you next time you're sitting in the waiting lounge in an airport. Observe your fellow-travelers. Notice the slack jaws? See the vacant stares, the shambling gaits? Hear the moaning? Note the odd bit of drooling, the annoying tendency to clump together in large mindless hordes?
           The zombie apocalypse is here, my friends. It is among us, insinuating itself into the very fabric of our lives, sucking our brains out even as it tells us to remove our shoes, our jackets, our scarves, and turn out all our pockets for good measure; even as it announces that our flight will be delayed for yet another hour. The zombie apocalypse is here, and I have my handbag packed.

Zombie Apocalypse Handbag, with Interminable
Knitting Project. Because come the zombie apocalypse,
you'll be wanting something to beguile the endless tedium.
Also, mints.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse Handbag

          "There's some breath mints in my handbag if you want," my niece said, gesturing with her phone to a rather large bag with stylish horizontal stripes, which was sitting on the floor by the sofa.
          "What have you got in here, M?" I asked, struggling to lift it. "This bag weighs more than my car."
          "Oh, you know—just my stuff."
          Giving up my battle to hoist the bag off the ground, I sank to my knees and started fishing for the mints. I pulled out a makeup kit. A flat iron. A HUGE bottle of aspirin.
This handbag contains a surprising variety of items.
You may need all of them sooner than you think.
          "That's a lot of aspirin," I said, putting the bottle on the floor beside the bag.
          "Come the zombie apocalypse, you'll thank me," M said, without even looking up from her phone.
          I reached back in. A mateless earring. A packet of Kleenex. Several bottles of nail polish. Scotch tape. A catnip mouse. I fished deeper. Assorted washers. A paintbrush. A towel.
          I held it up. "You carry some random towel around with you?" I said.
          "It's not random. It has large friendly polka dots on it. And come the zombie apocalypse, you'll be grateful I have that towel."
          "Ooooo-kay," I said, pretending to humor her, and reached back into the bag, still searching for those elusive mints.
          Another catnip mouse. A serving spoon. A dented brass doorknob.
          A brace and bit.
          "Do you even know what this is, M?" I demanded, waving the brace and bit around.
          "It's one of those things like Gramps has. And I think that, come the zombie apocalypse, you'll be begging me for it." She still hadn't looked up from her phone.
          I set it down next to the handbag. I supposed it was always possible that, when the zombie hordes were attacking the living and sucking their brains out through their noses, I would indeed have some extremely pressing holes to drill by hand,  but it just didn't seem like the most likely of all scenarios. I sighed and fished back in what by now I was thinking of as the Zombie Apocalypse Handbag.
          A thumb drive. A leaking tube of lip gloss. A mateless mitten. The U. S. Military Pocket Survival Guide: Plus Evasion and Recovery.
          I waved the Pocket Survival Guide at M. "You're not thinking about joining up, are you?"
          "I'm a high-school student, Aunt Nancy," she said in her explaining-the-spectacularly-obvious-to-the-shockingly-dimwitted voice. "It's worse than being in a war. The chapter on camouflage alone is worth the price of the book. Plus, come the zombie apocalypse, I think you will be wanting to borrow it."
          I sighed and stuck my hand once again into the Zombie Apocalypse Handbag. Bingo! Finally, the mints I was looking for. I took one, and put the container back in the Zombie Apocalypse Handbag.
          I'm sure I'll be grateful M has them, come the zombie apocalypse.