Monday, October 31, 2011

How to Recognize a Witch

From The Witches by Roald Dahl (excerpt Chapter 3)

The next evening, after my grandmother had given me a bath, she took me once again into the living-room for another story.
'Tonight,' the old woman said, 'I am going to tell you how to recognize a witch when you see one.'
'Can you always be sure?' I asked.
'No,' she said, 'you can't.  And that's the trouble. But you can make a pretty good guess.'
She was dropping cigar ash all over her lap, and I hoped she wasn't going to catch on fire before she told me how to recognize a witch.
'In the first place,' she said, 'a REAL WITCH is certain always to be wearing gloves when you meet her.'
'Surely not always,' I said. 'What about in the summer when it's hot?'
'Even in the summer,' my grandmother said. 'She has to. Do you want to know why?'
'Why?' I said.
'Because she doesn't have finger-nails. Instead of finger-nails, she has thin curvy claws, like a cat, and she wears the gloves to hide them. Mind you, lots of respectable women wear gloves, especially in winter, so this doesn't help you very much.'
'Mamma used to wear gloves,' I said.
'Not in the house,' my grandmother said. 'Witches wear gloves even in the house. They only take them off when they go to bed.'
'How do you know all this, Grandmamma?'
'Don't interrupt,' she said. 'Just take it all in. The second thing to remember is that a REAL WITCH is always bald.'
'Bald?' I said.
'Bald as a boiled egg,' my grandmother said.
I was shocked. There was something indecent about a bald woman. 'Why are they bald, Grandmamma?'
'Don't ask me why,' she snapped. 'But you can take it from me that not a single hair grows on a witch's head.'
'How horrid!'
'Disgusting,' my grandmother said.
'If she's bald, she'll be easy to spot,' I said.
'Not at all,' my grandmother said. 'A REAL WITCH always wears a wig to hide her baldness. She wears a first-class wig. And it is almost impossible to tell a really first-class wig from ordinary hair unless you give it a pull to see if it comes off.'
'Then that's what I'll have to do,' I said.
'Don't be foolish,' my grandmother said, 'You can't go round pulling at the hair of every lady you meet, even if she is wearing gloves. Just try it and see what happens.'
'So that doesn't help much either,' I said,
'None of these things is good on its own,' my grandmother said. 'It's only when you put them together that they begin to make a little sense. Mind you,' my grandmother went on, 'these wigs do cause a rather serious problem for witches.'
'What problem, Grandmamma?'
'They make a scalp itch most terrible,' she said. 'You see, when an actress wears a wig, or if you or I were to wear a wig, we would be putting it on over our own hair, but a witch has to put it on to her naked scalp. And the underneath of a wig is always very rough and scratchy. It sets up a frightful itch on the bald skin. It causes nasty sores on the head. Wig-rash, the witches call it. And it doesn't half itch.'
'What other things must I look for to recognize a witch?' I asked.
'Look for the nose-holes,' my grandmother said. 'Witches have slightly larger nose-holes than ordinary people. The rim of each nose-hole is pink and curvy, like the rim of a certain kind of sea-shell.'
'Why do they have such big nose-holes?' I asked.
'For smelling with,' my grandmother said. 'A REAL WITCH has the most amazing power of smell. She can smell out a child who is standing on the other side of the street on a pitch-black night.'
'She couldn't smell me,' I said. 'I've just had a bath.'
'Oh yes she could,' my grandmother said. 'The cleaner you happen to be, the more smelly you are to a witch.'
'That can't be true,' I said.
'An absolutely clean child gives off the most ghastly stench to a witch,' my grandmother said. 'The dirtier you are, the less you smell.'
'But that doesn't make sense, Grandmamma.'
'Oh yes it does,' my grandmother said. 'It isn't the dirt that the witch is smelling.  It is you. The smell that drives a witch mad actually comes right out of your own skin. It comes oozing out of your skin in waves, and these waves, stink-waves the witches call them, go floating through the air and hit the witch right smack in her nostrils. They send her reeling.'
'Now wait a minute, Grandmamma...'
'Don't interrupt,' she said. 'The point is this, when you haven't washed for a week and your skin is covered over with dirt, then quite obviously the stink-waves cannot come oozing out nearly so strongly.'
'I shall never have a bath again.' I said.
'Just don't have one too often,' my grandmother said. 'Once a month is quite enough for a sensible child.'
It was at moments like these that I loved my grandmother more than ever.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Food rules

I just ordered Michael Pollan's book, Food Rules. I am sure he has many interesting things to say about the food we eat, the places we shop and healthy diets. But really, I love the art of Maira Kalman, whose illustrations grace the pages. Pollan chose wisely. Maira's work is full of humor and vitality and thoughtfulness and deliciousness!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Generally, coloring books are dull. The quirky drawing 
and coloring books by Taro Gomi spark the imagination and tickle
the funny bone.

(use numbers to make pretty patterns on the dress)

(draw mosquito bites)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Silence and waiting

In his review of Paranormal Activity, the 2007 low-budget horror film, Roger Ebert mused, "It illustrates one of my favorite points, that silence and waiting can be more entertaining than frantic fast-cutting and berserk f/x. For extended periods here, nothing at all is happening, and believe me, you won't be bored."

The Shining is scariest when the Overlook Hotel seems creepy, but we don't know why.

You must first suffer with Chris MacNeil(Ellen Burstyn), desperate to solve her daughter's deteriorating condition with hapless medical procedures, before you meet The Exorcist.

Reporter Rachel (Naomi Watts) is determined to understand the connection between a surreal
video and a series of mysterious deaths in The Ring.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Photographer Bruce Davidson captures the distinctive semblance of the subterranean world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the fold

Mom didn't see the point or get the humor, but bought me comics anyway. With Mad Magazine, the descending order of interest:

Mort Drucker's spoofs of popular movies (Balmy and Clod = Bonnie and Clyde, Blue Eyed Kook = Cool Hand Luke, Rosemia's Boo-Boo = Rosemary's Baby etc.)

Spy vs. Spy

Al Jaffee's  Fold-In

Now, the attractively bound Fold-In collection is available here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Measuring True Grit

It turns out that predicting outstanding achievement is a formula much 
more complex than adding natural born genius with nose to the grindstone.

Oh, if talent were enough.

The complete test is here.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Eugene O'Neill

Jack Dempsey

Georgia O'Keeffe

John F. Kennedy

Miles Davis

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any 
other way—things I had no words for.

—Georgia O'Keeffe

Albumin, Human, Glycated (1992) Damien Hirst

Twister (1966) Hasbro

Beautiful Cyclonic Bleeding Slashing Hurrican Dippy Coward's Painting (1992) Damien Hirst

Magic Spin Art, RoseArt

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cruel irony

Atomic bomb toys for the special children in your life.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's over

I worked with someone that was just starting out as an actress. She performed in industrial films as a way to earn extra money, confident that no one would ever see the end product. You know, those awful films you're forced to sit through in Driver's Ed, or at your office so that you can recognize whether someone is harassing you or your co-worker.

Another venue that actors find work is modeling for stock photos; the photos you'll see illustrating an article, not to be mistaken for commercial or fashion modeling.

The images here are from a Tumblr-blog titled, Women Looking Dissatisfied in Bed. The sheer number of these stock images on Google, with every version of the clueless partner is surprising.  Or maybe not.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Robert Mitchum: actor, author, composer, singer

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You can run

Season 2 of AMC's The Walking Dead premiered Sunday night, watched by 7.3 million viewers, breaking the basic cable ratings record. That's a lot of zombie love.

Frank Darabont, the original showrunner (also credited as writer and executive producer) has been replaced, creating a lot of buzz about the future of the series. Fingers are already pointing to the unevenness of the first episode, What Lies Ahead, with mixed reviews on everything from the gore, to the believability of Andrew Lincoln's southern accent.

I can't think of a better vehicle for over-the-top acting, hammy accents and extravagant blood and guts than horror. After watching the supersized 90 minute episode, my nephew's response was, "too scary." Yes, and I loved it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shelf life

For several months now, I've been volunteering at a nonprofit group that provides programs to promote literacy, serving students across Chicago. In order to volunteer for the reading and writing programs, a commitment of at least a semester, though preferably one full school year is understandably expected. For those unable to devote their time long term, there are other ways to help, one of which is working in the bookstore. The pool of volunteers is an impressive bunch; many have backgrounds in teaching and business, and some are finishing their degrees in writing or education. A surprising number of them want to work in the bookstore.

I think a lot of people share the fantasy of working in a bookstore. Is it the idea of doing something small, yet brainy and noble? Or maybe there's something adorable in being bookish? Or maybe, with bookstores fading from our landscape, the experience will be historical?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Notting Hill

Funny Face

You've Got Mail

I worked in a bookstore for many years. I am now living the fantasy of working in a book warehouse.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rolling stone

Jules: First, I'm going to deliver this case to Marcellus, then basically, I'm just going to walk the earth.

Vincent: What'cha mean "walk the earth"?

Jules: You know, like Caine in Kung Fu: walk from place to place, meet people, get into adventures.

Vincent: And how long do you intend to walk the earth?

Jules: Until God puts me where he wants me to be.

—From the film, Pulp Fiction

Photographer Jeroen Toirkens follows the last nomadic people in the 
Northern Hemisphere in his book Nomad.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You, only better

It's been twelve years since Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) lost his wife as a result of a fiery car crash. After the tragedy, the distinguished plastic surgeon is determined to develop a new, more durable skin that might have saved her. If 'Dr.' means mad scientist, and 'develop' means holding a woman hostage for the purpose of performing secret surgeries, then 'determined' can surely stand-in for obsessed. Pedro Almodovar's new film, The Skin I Live In will likely be compared to the 1962 French film, Les Yeux Sans Visage (Eyes Without a Face) directed by Georges Franju. Although their stories differ, both films explore the nature of beauty, longing and revenge.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The book, the movie

Since discovering the striking work of street photographer Vivian Maier, John Maloof has championed her artistry. A documentary film is currrently in production, two gallery shows are scheduled for 2012 in New York and Los Angeles, and in November, powerHouse Books will release a hardcover monograph, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer Book Flip from powerHouse Books on Vimeo.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Listen and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

—Character Kyle Reese from the film, The Terminator

In today's news, two stories caught my attention:

 In Connecticut, the lone survivor of a home invasion stood stoically in the courtroom as the guilty verdict was read for the second of his two assailants.  He had already attended the first trial of the other offender some months ago (also ending in a guilty verdict), and listened again to the grim account of how his family was brutalized, then murdered in the sanctity of their suburban home. During their separate trials, each of the two felons blamed the other for the crime.

Jules Breton's painting Fisherman's Daughter is returning to France. The painting was stolen from the Douai Beaux-Arts Museum in northern France, among other items looted by German troops during the first World War. In 2010, it was discovered in New York when an art dealer was preparing it for auction. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who worked the case, did not provide details on where the painting was in the decades since it was stolen.

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has a long list of symptoms, including:

1)   Belief in being entitled to special treatment
2)   Expectations that others will automatically go along with whatever he or she wants
3)   Inability to recognize or identify with the feelings of others
4)   Consider themselves better than others and above the law
 5) Take advantage of others to achieve

Highfalutin language for thugs and bullies.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You're romance

While enjoying a cruise on Germany's Rhine River, Cole Porter polled fellow guests on their favorite people, places and things, managing to include an astonishing number of their answers in his song, You're the Top. The song was included in the 1934 Broadway musical Anything Goes, but its singular popularity grew and is perhaps Porter's most beloved work. Eighty years later, many versions have been fashioned, performed by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and others. The original lyrics have only a few items respective to the 1930's (Garbo's salary, Arrow collars, Mrs. Astor) assuring its timelessness.

The 1934 recording of Cole Porter singing You're the Top (also playing piano).

At words poetic, I'm so pathetic
That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting 'em off my chest,
To let 'em rest unexpressed,
I hate parading my serenading
As I'll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it'll tell you
How great you are.

You're the top!
You're the Coliseum.
You're the top!
You're the Louvre Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You're a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare sonnet,
You're Mickey Mouse.

You're the Nile,
You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!

You're the top!
You're Mahatma Gandhi.
You're the top!
You're Napoleon Brandy.
You're the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You're the National Gallery
You're Garbo's salary,
You're cellophane.

You're sublime,
You're a turkey dinner,
You're the time of a Derby winner,
I'm a toy balloon that’s fated soon to pop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're an Arrow collar
You're the top!
You're a Coolidge dollar,
You're the nimble tread
Of the feet of Fred Astaire,
You're an O'Neill drama,
You're Whistler's mama!
You're Camembert.

You're a rose,
You're Inferno's Dante,
You're the nose
On the great Durante.
I'm just in a way,
As the French would say, "de trop".
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're a Waldorf salad.
You're the top!
You're a Berlin ballad.
You're a baby grand of a lady and a gent,
You're an old Dutch master,
You're Mrs. Astor,
You're Pepsodent.

You're romance,
You're the steppes of Russia,
You're the pants, on a Roxy usher,
I'm a lazy lout, who's just about to stop,

But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Other tongues

Occasionally, I purchase items from abroad. 

I have sending for 7 days. Have a good time on earth.

—message from Germany

The online (machine) translators create some funny stuff. I think the sender meant, 'Have a good day,' unless of course, he is truly from another planet. 

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? is on my reading list.

Animation – Is That A Fish In Your Ear? – David Bellos from Penguin Books on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Living large

I modeled until I married my third husband, who was a real jerk. I took a kid under each arm and walked out into the night with just $20 in my pocket. And that's when I became an exotic dancer.

Liz Renay

A Burlesque Hall of Fame tribute poster 

Just dessert with boyfriend/mobster Mickey Cohen 

Liz Renay with her paintings

Liz Renay (1926-2007) packed a lot of living into her eighty years. She authored five books, performed onstage and in films, was married seven times and was also a prolific artist. Not just any exotic dancer or stripper, in 1950 Life magazine devoted a 5-page spread to Renay during her starlet days, and she is featured in the Las Vegas Burlesque Hall of Fame.

Concerning her sentence of 27 months at Terminal Island Federal Prison in Los Angeles for a probation violation she remarked, "It sure knocked the hell out of my career when I went to Terminal Island."