One the master, one the apprentice



Napodog’s desire for the things others have never wanes, be it food, toys, random pieces of paper, socks, musical instruments, or the magic detrius found at the bottom of a purse or garbage can. Sometimes it’s impossible to discern what he actually wants, you can just barely hear him grinding down your willpower and your sanity over whatever else it is you might be doing. A former roommate called these his “whisper whines”. I’ve taken to automatically lifting him up to my bed every night just to stave off the pathetic cries–I know this is basically giving in to dog terrorism, but frankly, sometimes it’s just easier to let him win.

The Lights of Christmas in Warm Beach, WA

Over one million lights twinkle at The Lights of Christmas in Warm Beach, WA. Having seen a number of places tout the one million number this year, I have to assume that one million is the “stop counting” point for everyone. What I don’t know is how anyone can bill themselves as the largest light display if everyone sort of throws up their hands after the one million mark.  I need to know which is actually the biggest without doing any tedious counting myself. I must see the best, the biggest! GIVE ME YOUR DATA! Ahem.

It’s hard not to feel the holiday spirit when the night blazes bright around you, strains of music hang in the air, and all around is your fellow man filled with wonder and delight. We buy a grease-spotted paper bag filled with piping hot doughnuts crusted with cinnamon sugar and kiss the sugar off each other’s lips. A choir sings carols, conducted by a woman whose elaborate arm and body movements look like nothing so much as airbending.  Children labor as “elves” in a real workshop, and if you have cash, you can hang their fruits on your tree. One eyes me suspiciously as I take photographs. A gift shop hawks Santa-themed wares, including some cheerily painted on gourds. Trees shine so brightly that I have to turn away, dazzled, as the image hangs on my retinas. It’s a festive sort of pain.

One of the attractions at The Lights of Christmas is Bruce the Spruce, their talking Christmas tree. You may not know this, but approximately 98% of your time waiting in line to talk to a tree is spent panicking about what in the hell you could possibly say to a talking tree, and this panic is exacerbated when you overhear him asking other people to tell him a joke. Immediately, you will forget every joke you’ve ever heard, except for the ones that are entirely inappropriate to tell around children, and even then, you’ll only recall scraps of the lamest vaguely dirty Dad jokes, all the while moving ever closer to the front of the line. When my turn arrives, I manage to squeak out a question about whether he was the only talking tree and if he was “pining away” for friends, to which he responded with no fewer than three puns in a row, including bidding me farewell with “Cedar later!” I felt a deep and abiding shame that I had been beaten at wordplay by a tree, and spent the rest of the night constructing ever more contrived puns and sad jokes.

Why shouldn’t you be afraid of a talking tree? Because his bark is worse than his bite.

What did the talking tree do after he said his first word? Take a bough.

What did the talking tree do after he was getting too big for his beeches? He went back to his roots.

Why doesn’t a lumberjack make a good bedmate for a talking tree? He spends all night sawing logs.

What does a talking tree wear to Warm Beach? His swimming trunk.

What’s a talking tree’s best friend? A dogwood.

…There were more. So very many more. I stopped counting at one million.

Little Italy Festa in San Diego, CA

little italy sign

grape stomp contest sign

grape stomp contest


3d wine chalk

audrey hepburn chalk

bela lugosi

chalk art san diego

chalk masquerade

classical chalk

cupid and babe

dog mosiac

garlic goiter

giant chalk drawing

holy family chalk drawing

italian fest chalk drawing

italian greyhounds with spaghetti

lady and the tramp

lemon mosaic

luigi chalk

mangia celesti chalk

mario mosaic

mona lisa chalk

natalie portman

stallone chalk

venetian mask

water liliesOn my most recent trip to San Diego, it was really important to me to maximize the amount of time I spent with my dad, so unlike non-family trips, I didn’t have every day planned down to the minute. Instead, I played it by ear so we could do whatever the group found most appealing. As it turned out, Little Italy Festa was that weekend, so the four of us made an afternoon of it. This year marked Little Italy Festa’s 20th anniversary, and they did it up right with chalk drawing competitions, bocce ball, live music, cooking demonstrations, and tons of dining al fresco. I can’t emphasize it enough: this is an opportunity to eat as much pizza as you would like in the street while waiting in line for more pizza. It’s like a dream come true! I am not making this up: after we left Little Italy Festa, we went out for more pizza. Because while the street pizza was decent, it didn’t compare favorably with the prospect of Lefty’s, which, with its perfect thin crust, zesty sauce, and spicy sausage, is a taste of my hometown.

The grape stomp contest was highly entertaining (the young girl won, which surprised me, as I believed that she was have been at a disadvantage owning to her smaller stature) and the only thing that could have improved it would have been if there was a freshly-foot-squeezed grape juice guzzling competition immediately afterward.

Visitors were encouraged to vote on their favorite chalk art, but I couldn’t decide. I loved how many different takes there were on Italian culture, and found it both sad and beautiful that they are impermanent by their nature. It was a reminder to appreciate things while they last.

Nom or Vom: Ice Cream for Dinner

salted caramel thanksgiving turkeyPhoto via Salt & Straw

Something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: someone has finally pushed the envelope and made ice cream for every course of your holiday meal–hazelnut rosemary stuffing, salted caramel thanksgiving turkey, honey bourbon corn pudding, sweet potato casserole with maple pecans, and spiced chevre pumpkin pie. I’m only picking one for today’s poll and since we already covered Sweet Corn Ice Cream back in 2009, Salt & Straw describes their Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey flavor thusly: “A head rush of sweet and salty with a pinch of adventure. All the flavors of a roasted turkey, its juices and the caramelized onions underneath, are packed into a turkey fat caramel ice cream, then speckled with handmade fried turkey skin brittle.”

Pros: That feeling you get as an adult when you’re eating ice cream for dinner, there is absolutely no way this turkey is dry, that feeling you get when you’re eating multiple kinds of ice cream for dinner.

Cons:  So, uh, is the creamy part of the ice cream turkey fat, because I don’t know how to deal with that, and I also don’t know how to feel about fried turkey skin brittle and caramelized onion ice cream, and maybe the Thanksgiving meal flavors are just not meant to be ice creamized, or soda-ized for that matter.

Would you eat salted caramel thanksgiving turkey ice cream?

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Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Whatever you voted, I hope your meal is delicious and you’re surrounded by the best people.

Leveling the WoW Playing Field

poopstain debuff

I love playing WoW, but there are seriously some parts of it that are so terrible. On my server, there are people who sit in trade all day and talk about rape, say fucked-up racist shit, rant about politics and the n-word president, and are generally just awful examples of humanity all around. I’ve got an ignore list as long as my arm. Unfortunately, the same guys just keep turning up so I guess blocks are not permanent or they keep rerolling with very similar names. And then you’ve got the guys who will follow your low level characters across an entire zone, killing them instantly every time they resurrect and struggle to get away until you log out in frustration…and sometimes they’re still there the next day. And the day after that, because they have dedicated their shitty little lives to griefing. These people deserve one another. Decent players don’t. Please, Blizzard, give us the Poopstain Debuff.

The Battle of Five Armies and my Scumbag Brain

The third Hobbit movie comes out a month from today and I am so very very excited! I’ve been stalking the iPic website in the hopes of snagging recliner seats on opening weekend (soon, precious, soooooon). A number of my friends take issue with the splitting of a book you could read in an afternoon into three films and believe Peter Jackson desperately needs a heavy-handed editor, but I disagree because I would probably pay to watch 100 movies of this quality set in that world. If they want to make some pre-prequels, I’m in. I’ll be first in line for Lord of the Rings 17: Isildur Come Home and Middle Earth 9: Honey I Shrunk the Dwarf. Unless Michael Bay takes over on his quest to kill everything I love.

There have definitely been some unintended hilarious moments, though. I edited in what I think EVERY TIME I see this scene from The Desolation of Smaug. Every time.

Spotted on the Roadside: The Scripps Turd in La Jolla, CA

In this week’s edition of “Public Art Hated by the Public”, we have Okeanos by William Tucker, better known as The Scripps Turd. Erected in 1988 by a $200,000 commission, Tucker named it after the Greek god of rivers and oceans because he felt the form suggested a wave. And critics agreed! Michael Brenson of the New York Times wrote that Okeanos ” is a rippling curve that seems to spew out of the earth and curl up like a wave. It suggests not only water, but also clouds and vegetation and human limbs.” Also peanuts, corn, and an appropriate amount of fiber. Parked in front of the hospital as it was, it really resembled nothing so much as a robust stool sample.

Okeanos was generally hated, art critics nonwithstanding, not just by the public, but also by the philanthropist whose name adorns the hospital: Edythe H. Scripps. In 2001, Scripps flushed another $40,000 down the toilet  to have the sculpture scraped off the sidewalk and (bowel) moved to a less prominent place on the campus. It seems a great shame that they couldn’t find a business specializing in colonics to take it off their hands.

Spotted on John Jay Hopkins Drive & Atomic Court in La Jolla, CA


Nom or Vom: Extreme to the Max, Bro


This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill. PepsiCo is testing Mountain Dew flavored with Doritos at select colleges and universities, and calling the resulting abomination “Dewitos”. Also in the running must have been “Dorm Room: The Beverage”, “Gamez Quencher”, and “Malnutrition: A Portrait of the United States”.

Pros: It’s basically the college fine wine pairing but all at once so you don’t waste any time sniffing and swirling and commingling in your mouth, the fine flavor of Doritos kicking your Mountain Dew up a notch, the fine flavor of Mountain Dew sprinkled atop a Dorito without any sharp edges, saving money on buying Mountain Dew and Doritos separately so you can splurge on the fancy gum to cleanse your palate, no more tiresome chewing

Cons: My great readers have already determined the proper ways to consume mass quantities of liquid nacho cheese and none of them involved blending it with Mountain Dew, not the drink we need (though possibly the one we deserve), mentally envisioning the flavor of a soggy Mountain-Dew-logged Dorito, drinking this is like making a pact with the junk food devil: you’ll never be truly clean again


Would you drink dew-ritos?

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Queen Califia’s Magical Circle in Escondido, CA


Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, designed by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle, was first opened to the public in 2003. At some point thereafter, it became a target for vandalism by assholes who like to ruin things for everyone, and it had to be surrounded by a fence and locked. And that still didn’t dissuade the vandals–at some point in 2013, it was so heavily vandalized that it closed to the public completely for all of the repairs that needed to be done, and the city hoped to be able to re-open it in Summer 2014. I hadn’t seen any updates that the repairs were completed, so on my most recent trip, I just crossed my fingers and hoped that I might get a peek. By some stroke of extraordinary luck, my visit coincided with its grand reopening, and there was a docent on site to walk me through and tell me more about the artist, the history, and the symbolism of the piece. I still marvel at how lucky I was to have arrived precisely during the small window of time it was open: even now, the exhibit will only be open on the second Saturday of the month between the hours of 11 and 3, and only then when it’s sunny. Private tours at other times with a docent can be arranged if you make a reservation several weeks in advance.

califia entrance

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle opens with a black, white, and mirror mosaic maze. Just like the tassels in RichArt’s Art Yard, its purpose is to give you an opportunity to reflect on yourself, your place, and to invite you to be wholly present in the Magical Circle, to recognize that it’s not art that exists outside of you, but art that reflects you and is changed by you. The forms are consistent, but the colors change. When so much of the sculpture is comprised of mirrored surfaces, it’s never the same from moment to moment, taking on the characteristics of the nature around it and the public inside it: we see the art, we see the world, we see flashes of humanity, we see ourselves. Moreover, this is artwork that invites you to touch, is designed to be touched, climbed upon, and interacted with–as you act upon it, it acts upon you.

black and white color reflectionsCan you believe I missed this opportunity for a selfie, especially after all of that talk about reflecting on myself? I’m ashamed.

From the black and white world, you cross the threshold into the magical world, surrounded by vivid color, with Queen Califia rising above all else in the center, clad in golden armor and astride a 13 foot tall eagle. Queen Califia is a fictional creation, characterized as both a warrior queen and the spirit of California: it is probable, though not conclusively proven, that the state of California was named after the land Califia rules in the popular 1500s novel Las Sergas de Esplandián. In the book, Califia is introduced as “a regal black woman, courageous, strong of limb and large of person, full in the bloom of womanhood, the most beautiful of a long line of queens who ruled over the mythical realm of California. She is said to be “desirous of achieving great things”; she wanted to see the world and plunder a portion of it with superior fighting ability, using her army of women warriors. She commanded a fleet of ships with which she demanded tribute from surrounding lands, and she kept an aerial defense force of griffins, fabulous animals which were native to California, trained to kill any man they found.” 1

queen califia

califia closeup

If you walk under the eagle’s legs, you’ll find yourself in a domed temple, accented not only with celestial motifs but also references to Tarot, de Saint Phalle’s sculpture garden in Tuscany. Stepping into the cool shade of the temple from the blinding heat of the sun is like being taken into Queen Califia’s protection–while she readies for war above, underneath, you’re surrounded by calming blues and greater comfort. Inside the temple also resides a golden egg, handmade with goldleaf sandwiched glass. The egg was formerly a fountain to symbolize the waters over which Queen Califia rules, but even dry, the egg symbolism remains: birth, life, and motherly care–the role of women in society being one of de Saint Phalle’s major themes throughout her body of work.

meditation dome

golden egg

The docent invited us to note that the walls of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle were surrounded by snakes. Playful snakes, cheerfully colored, friendly expressions, and none of the imagery we associate with the dangerous snake–the forked tongue and fangs. The gaps in the snake wall also allow you to see the park outside of the Magical Circle, further entwining the natural world and the magical world. The walls are also adorned with handprints: these belong to the longtime assistants of de Saint Phalle, who completed the sculpture park under the supervision of her granddaughter after her passing in 2002. Queen Califia’s Magical Circle was Niki de Saint Phalle’s last major work, and her only sculpture park in the United States.

snake faces

handprints of artists

In addition to Califia and her eagle, the Magical Circle contains eight totems: Cathead Totem, Birdhead Totem, Bullhead Totem, Kingfisher Totem, Yelling Man Totem, Snake Totem, Step Totem, and Untitled Totem. Each is adorned with creatures and symbology native and sacred to the region. Each shimmers and sparkles and beckons you for a closer look–to marvel at its construction, to see it more closely, to see yourself. Above it all, Califia rides high, shining bright, protecting California and all its people, traditions, and history.

black and white totem

eagle totem closeup

eagle totem

golden totem


pinnochio totem


totem and snakes

totem pole back


fun in a totem

Spotted on the Roadside: Unconditional Surrender in San Diego, CA


As with other giant public art statues, there’s no pleasing everyone. Unconditional Surrender, a statue recreating the famous Life magazine 1945 WWII photograph, was placed in San Diego in 2007 as a temporary loan, which was set to expire in 2012. Critics called it an eyesore and a waste of money, so it probably really burned their buttons when the Midway aircraft carrier museum next door raised $600,000 for an exact painted bronze permanent replica to replace the fiberglass one that was leaving. I know you’re wondering, so FYI, I did manage to resist the urge to peek up the giant nurse’s skirt, because I am not a total animal. I even managed to resist a photo op that made it look as though I were being crushed below her heel. Honestly, I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Spotted on Tuna Lane in San Diego, CA.