Saturday, October 27, 2007

the disappearing frogs

Mark Catesby

Eight years ago when I was preparing for my comprehensive exam that would determine whether or not I would pass graduate school, one of the books on the reading list was from my favorite collection, The Best American Essays. In one of the essays the writer started off with an exposition about the disappearing frogs. I was heart sick at the thought of this. Frogs were dying out? How would little children grow up without frogs? What would a summer evening be without the sounds of croaking in the air and walking through the grass with an eye on the blades, wondering if you were about to step on a mottled bullfrog? I sighed a big sigh and took this woman at her word--she'd done her research, she must have. They wouldn't have published her essay twice without a quality check, and then I tried to put it out of my mind.

John Holbrook, American Herpetology

It is true. The rapid decline of frogs began in the 1980s, and since then scientists have been trying to pinpoint the cause. Climate change looks like the biggest factor--warmer temperatures breed a fungus deadly to frogs, called chytrid. Pesticides are another factor. Atrazine, a common ingredient in weed killer, disrupts the sexual reproduction in male frogs. In truth, many factors have led to the decline. If you look at amphibians as a whole, one third of this population has been lost, gone extinct throughout the world, since the 1980s, according to the Global Amphibian Assessment. When you localize it to countries with warmer climates, the numbers are much more startling. In La Selva, a protected area in the Costa Rican rain forest, amphibians have declined 75%, according to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Beatrix Potter, Jeremy Fisher Fishing. Frederick Warne & Co. 2006

I suppose everything in the previous paragraph to be just depressing. But this summer I noticed something unusual. Maybe you noticed it too. I live in a warm and sticky climate, and this year, all of the sudden, the frogs were back. Really and truly it had been years since I'd experienced a summer with frogs. But here they were. Fat little toads were hopping around my courtyard. Gus pup noticed them first. He chased them with his nose. They were in my friend, Stephanie's yard. When my friends and I went to Rockport for our coastal extravaganza, a strange-looking sucker frog was suctioned to the glass on our back door, and the grass was filled with bullfrogs. I brought it up in conversation at a bridal luncheon, and lo and behold, in Weimer, TX, this young woman's three boys were leaping for joy upon the act of dipping their forearms through a hole in a tree trunk and grabbing frogs for play. Frogs were everywhere this summer.

The decline of a species is layered and complex. No one fully understands this frog drop, and perhaps the uncertainly offers the opportunity for unforeseen spikes, not only those but a steady rise again. 2007 was the year of the toad. Hippity hop. Yes please.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Another annual friends weekend in quaint Rockport, Texas came and went. Choice moment: spontaneous dance party in the living room while watching Saturday Night Live. Musical Guest: Spoon. Picture lots of odd side kicks and hands in the air like we were channeling the Charleston, something like that. Gone by too quickly.

It happened here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

gratitude journal

Do you know No Impact Man? I came to know him through a Nightline special that aired this summer. It was a thorough piece about his family's daily life living in such a way as to put no carbon-producing, energy-draining impact upon this green earth. They have embraced an experiment in what it would take--what kinds of adjustments would be required and what would it really be like living that way. Incredibly enough, they are successfully living this experiment amidst the urbanity of bustling New Yorkers.

No Impact Man has a fascinating blog which seems to be a major part of his commitment, journaling to get the word out there day-by-day. Tonight's entry caught my eye, this line in particular: "I sometimes despair that our state religion is consumption and our main prayer is for more," not so much the consumption part, but the prayer for more, because who doesn't want more? Not necessarily more money or things, but more experiences, knowledge, inspirations.

He says, ". . . I do feel as though we (and I include me) have come to worship desire."

And so, he has me thinking on the matter. What would be wrong with desire? With pleasure in things? It's natural.

And he says, ". . . being grateful for what I have makes me want less." He says gratitude equals kindness, "And also, it turns out, gratitude equals happiness."

I like the sound of that.

My gratitude journal for today--

I am grateful for Genevieve Moss, a lady I had just met, who walked with me across the street and into a building filled to the seams with folks I'd never met before. She had me follow her through the crowd, stopping to squeeze a few hands, and sit with her people. So nice, and it made the experience of that morning connected rather than box-like.

I am grateful for my friend Stephanie this evening. I feel like singling her out. I am accepted in her presence in the comforting way that all of us need in just that moment sometimes. I am grateful for her patience, her abounding appreciation for the people in her life, her spirit of fun. She is a beautiful lady, and I'm glad she's mine.

I am grateful for Michelle and Joel's thrilling new developments.

I am grateful for second annual friends' weekends in a beach house, with big breakfasts, white sangria, dancing on the pier, and a slumber party.

I am grateful to live in Houston, go figure, but I am. I don't know why, but I feel grateful for that.

I am grateful for a courtyard with neighbors, grateful that Sharon had me over for coffee cake the other morning. I hadn't had homemade coffee cake since high school.

I am grateful for my mom, dad, and brother, for Hector and Jackie, Peggy and the Powells, and cutest little Gus. These people are my family.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

green roofs

photo by This Old House

Starter kit.

Add water.

photo by Alycat
Lower Manhattan

The idea of a rooftop garden is the perfect combination of all that is good about materials and all of that is good about nature, namely to be in it. By the good in materials I mean the want you feel when standing in front of scored horizontal panels of porous white travertine. You have to touch it, and it is quiet when you do. Or upon seeing black-as-night hot-rolled steel flooring, you want to lay upon it, because it must be cool and soothing somehow in its sheet-cake likeness.

I am charmed by a garden at the tip top of my building. I can climb up there, like I did when I was little to our tree house. From a roof garden you have a bird's eye view. You have your head in the breezes and are safe from exhaust. You are closer to the sun and can stroll where there's traffic just below. Elevator going up!

The terminology today is simply: green roof. Chicago, Portland, Atlanta and Philadelphia all have city programs to engender green roofs to pop up all over town. There are quite a few environmental benefits, as you would imagine: less run-off from the greater absorption of rain water for one, and cooler temperatures down below. In my search I discovered that New York City is considered an urban heat island. Concrete is an impervious material that retains heat, even after the sun goes down. Flashing back to my first August in NYC, standing in the middle of Union Square dripping sweat from my legs, yes, New York streets are hot. The gardens up above reflect heat rather than retain it, so that's a good thing. Green roofs come in several varieties: prairie-like, garden-lane-strolling-like, zen-garden-like, even farm-like.

Please enjoy.

photo taken by anyhoo
London, England

rooftop in Germany

photo by dreamymo
Toronto, Canada

photo by Payton Chung
Battery Park City, New York

photo taken by jthorvath
111 South Wacker, Chicago, IL

photo taken by holdfast4
Vancouver Public Library

Chicago City Hall

photo by GreenGrid
American Red Cross Center, Chicago, IL

Vancouver Public Library

photo by Deutche Telecom
Art & Exhibition Hall, Bonn, Germany

photo taken by 天曉得。
Rogner Bad Blumau in Styria, Austria

photo by PortlandTransport

photo by identity chris is'

photo by jippolito

photo by grooble

photo by gullevek

photo by driftlessmedia

photo by Flatbush Gardener
Madison Square Garden, New York

photo by Devatar
Venice, Italy

Thursday, September 06, 2007

miser works on the walls

This Saturday night artist Rebecca Miser will be showing several paintings from her extensive body of work in Houston at an art space called Super Happy Funland. Works will remain for viewing for at least a few weeks. Becky is one of my dearest and most talented friends. She paints in abstract expressionist style, using the prominent figure to tell narratives. Vibrant color, thick outlines in black, and whimsical elements that almost look stuck on make up the foreground and background of her stories.

Please wander through her paintings here below and here.

Art Show at Super Happy Fun Land 2610 Ashland Street (@ W27th Street in the Heights), Houston, TX 77008

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"A Sunbeam in the Abyss"

Matt Zoller Seitz is a former Dallas Observer writer, Dallasite, and Wilson brothers fan. He writes a very moving article about Owen Wilson here, entitled, "A Sunbeam in the Abyss." Here's a little from the piece:

Art is always informed by life, but one doesn't automatically predict the other. Depression is an implacably private thing, a fog comprised of biography, present-tense experience and body chemistry. It's as unpredictable as the elements and as unknowable as God. It's an abyss that you fall into, and you either die there or climb out.

Owen, peace be with you.

these are the chairs

I bought my first dining room table three summers ago at this relatively new mom and pop hardware store in Austin. They utilized half of their floor for furniture that mixed a certain ranch grandiosity with Crate and Barrel contemporary. The table is a large rectangular slab made of rosewood, from the rainforest I later discovered (felt like I'd committed a sin upon learning that). The large slats are bumpy instead of smooth, and show the grain beautifully outlined in black where the mahogany stain set in. It looks a little like a farm table in that regard but with formal turned legs. I got this beauty at a sale for half its original price, making it doubly delicious.

There wasn't any way that I was going to purchase furniture showroom chairs of brown or black leather. I wanted something to contrast the slightly rustic, formal feel so that each element would stand out.

It's been three summers, and today I found them (thanks to a random blog find: Silk Felt Soil). Phoebe from that site posted these earlier this month from a fantastic design website entitled StudioIsle. The shots above are from a restaurant in London called Cecconi's. StudioIsle revamped the restaurant and how. The only problem is that these chairs are not for sale that I can see. Perhaps the designer custom made them for Cecconi's. If you know the name of the style these chairs are designed in or have seen anything similar out there I would greatly appreciate your pointers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

turn ons

Do you know what turns me on? A strapping thirty-four-year-old, former child prodigy, grown up to be geneticist, anthropologist, and master mind of National Geographic's Genographic Project.


Even though we both went to the University of Texas, and I've got a year on him, he graduated 6 years ahead of me. If I'd only known I would have studied harder and not dropped Honors Physics my senior year in high school to pursue a life of leisure.

Dr. Spencer is captivated by a subject fascinating to all of us--where we come from--and he's developed a way for us all to participate in his Genographic map making with a kit that you can send off for. The kit contains a tool, a cotton swab with which to swab the insides of your cheeks in order to get all the little DNA bits to send to the lab. After several weeks go by, you receive a report that tells the story of either your maternal or paternal ancestry (not both; men have to choose, and women have to go with the maternal strain of lineage since we are without a Y chromosome).

Dr. Spencer cautions that the project does not give percentage break downs of ethnic make-up or pinpoint a family crest. His research reveals what the project calls, "deep ancestry along a single line of direct descent," tracing your path backwards to the beginning.

It looks something like this.

There's a lot more to it than just lines and arrows on a map. I dig. To read more, click here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

one more, I couldn't resist

Black, white, and green is my favorite color combination these days. The Danish company Ferm Living (Ferm, meaning clever), has two new designs for the fall--this beautiful Cherry Tree design and another called Bamboo. Scrap booking away samples for the house purchase. More to come on that later.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

pretty things

Thank you to blog friend Maryam at My Marrakesh for adding me to your blog list! Good lady that you are . . .

So, a young gentleman named Joseph is helping me come up with a new blog header to freshen up the place. I told him that I wanted hues of orange sherbet, persimmon, and buttercream. Sounds yummy. Then I thought some more on it. It need not be too modern. I like bold graphic designs, but then, it must also convey a sense of handmade. I like designs that are layered on top of one another to create dimension, and then, I like those that are simple line drawings with a touch of whimsical yellow, like on Happy Cavalier. Oh man do I love that blog header.

I send Joseph images every week or so, a hodgepodge of others' blog heads, photographs, posters, and wallpaper snippets. And that has me thinking about wallpaper. My thoughts on it have changed from yuck to wowza like most of us who have an eye for the pretty. But even if I see the most delicate and beckoning image of a ginkgo leaf, let's say, if it is repeated exactly the same like a grid, I don't want it in my house. I would go crazy in a house of grids. It conveys a uniformity that doesn't ring true to my insides, the wandering nature of my thoughts and desires. Now here are some papers up my alley:

Oh beauty!

I detect a theme after this exercise. It has to do with night. Only one bright, sunny one in the bunch. Okay, from left to right and so forth:

Takes me into a fairy story. Midnight Butterfly. Johanna Basford Designs

Looove it! Amour Plantarum. WerningWallpaper manufactured by Boråstapeter.
You could melt into the bindweed. Bindweed 108. Ferm Wallpaper

The brightest thing I've ever seen. Leaf Turquoise/Gold. Jocelyn Warner
The green is almost neon. That does it for me. Victoria and Albert Museum. Hand printed flocked wallpaper with leather decoupage. Linda Florence

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I have a friend who is heartbroken. I saw her at dinner the other night. Three friends sat in a dark sushi restaurant next to a table of men speaking Japanese. We were celebrating a birthday. My friend looked fresh-faced with no makeup. I didn't notice the post-cry look in her eyes until she brought up her ex late in the evening. She talked about how she has no attention span, for our book club reads, television shows, movies. No patience to allow thoughts to rest upon something and absorb it. No tolerance to absorb anything new because this man whom she let know her all the way inside has taken himself away never to return.

It's so humiliating, demoralizing, chaotic. I don't want to love. I can't quite reach for it. And then, I feel like I'm running out of time. Saturday night at the phenomenal Neko Case and Rufus Wainwright show in Austin, Neko introduced one of her songs with a dedication to all those people who are never going to get married their whole lives. I stuck my arm straight into the air and "wooooo'd" with the rest of the contrarians. And then I felt funny.

I was perusing the blogs tonight and found that persisting stars recently featured a book called, Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam. I can only get to the cover, barely peek at the excerpted quotes. I feel little patience for the tedium of being a lost lover, little capacity to absorb it. Maddie of persisting stars writes, "[in] angry observations he illuminates the distance between human beings in a sparkling web of quests." I think Aslam is angry with me. He watched me raise my fist into the air, the impostor revolutionary that I am. Oh goodness me.

Friday, July 27, 2007


I've been looking around a lot lately. This new job affords me such luxuries. A work break is going some place else besides Microsoft Outlook, and there's so much to see! Tonight I have a new favorite. She's this Midwestern woman who now lives in Portland with her husband. I read that she had an accident, a serious one where she might have lost her foot, but she didn't, thank goodness. She spent a year or so in recovery at home, all the while in loads of pain. During this year at home, she took up needlework. She wrote that she did this needlework for something like twelve hours a day, and when she would stop in the evening, she noticed the pain much more acutely. It was through these experiences that she came to the conclusion that she would leave her career, her corporate job, her ball and chain, whatever you want to call it. Since then she's been tapped into one thing, her creative inklings.

I am taken by her blog, something I like to think of as a little magazine if I had one. I like to think of me as this school kid who says, if I had a magazine it would be dynomite! I'd have Kung Fu, momma's kick-butt bok choy recipe, and some slasher stories mixed in, something like that. You can make whatever you wanna make. Web master, writer, photographer. Whatever. Be it baby, be it. So this woman's blog, Posie gets cozy, is just simple, really. She writes about her days and her peeps. She is an amazing photographer. She mostly photographs food. She loves cooking, and that makes me love her. It's funny to me how she happens to have her camera with her through every meal-making experience, like it's her intimate photo shoot. You see her camera pop up at cafes too, taking the most elegant and delectable picture of a cappuccino with raw sugar crystals on top that you've ever seen. The most recent pic of sprouting garlic made me want to dive right into it. How does she do that?

Anyway, I like her. Something there you may like too. It's girly, crafty and crochety, but there's something more there I tell you. Here's an excerpt from one of her entries:

Nevertheless, I started thinking about creative blogs in general last night, and what I like about them. What I like about them most of all is how you can ultimately, eventually, "hear" people in them, maybe even hear them in a way you wouldn't necessarily hear them in real life, somehow, and watch their travels near and far. Don't we read novels for the same reason -- to find out how it was for them? To see how it was, might have been, maybe will be for us? I want to know. And my favorite blogs are not the ones that are most pretty, or informative, or most prolific -- they're the ones that have a voice. The ones where the people behind them sort of shine past the photos or the punctuation and grammar (so what about that anyway -- never let that stop you) or the crafts or any of that stuff -- I like voices. I like thinking, "Oh, she's gentle, " or "Bah! She's hilarious!" or "Wow -- how thoughtful," or "Mmm -- I see now," when I hear people -- and then I like it when those impressions grow and layer, like puff pastry, into something thrilling and full. I like watching people discover things, I like how the blog changes and develops by sheer virtue of its happening at all, those magic moments when someone discovers something, understands something.

All photographs by Alicia Paulson.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Feng ZhengJie

These paintings make me feel longing. It's the color, how they're lit up, and their vacant eyes. They pose and say look at me.

The MFAH in Houston is currently running an exhibit that they're calling: "Red Hot--Asian Art Today." Well, okay, if you want to go with that title. Here is a little about the artist. His name is Feng ZhengJie, and he is about my age. I'll call him my contemporary, but he's much more interesting. See for yourself.

from the Goedhuis Contemporary--
Feng Zhengjie was born in the countryside of Sichuan Province in 1968. In response to the explosive development of China's entertainment industry, Feng creates works that serve as a commentary on the new glamour and fashion of today's society. His works also reflect a personal ambivalent fascination with and an aversion to Chinese pop culture.