I've been saving up for a massive "things I like" post (read: I haven't had time to actually put it together), but I decided this was too important to wait.

Steve McCurry, the man who shot that iconic photo of the Afghan girl with the green eyes for National Geographic, has a blog. He just recently made an entire post on Afghanistan, and the photos are incredible.

The story he tells is nearly as moving as the pictures. I'd strongly recommend reading it.


black friday

So I'm not a Black Friday fanatic, but this is the second one I've shopped with some intent, and made out pretty well. (I went out at about 9 am - early enough to get the deals, late enough to avoid the rabid crowds.) I was going to share my Black Friday tips, but then realized that there's no point now that it's over.

Suffice to say: I spent $85, and saved $42. I'm quite pleased with myself. And that's not even counting the pre-Black Friday coupons I used earlier this week.

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, in which I am also partaking, but of course it is now also too late to register your AmEx card for the $25 refund.

I do wonder about the ethics using a big corporation to refund me money to show support for small businesses, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, either.

Hope everyone had as lovely a Turkey Day as I did. <3


a sunday dinner

Insalata Caprese; prosciutto, salame, and capocollo; kalamata olives; garlic and thyme bread. Accompanied by the Arizona Stronghold Site Archive '09 Sangiovese (only 99 cases made).



So I spent the latter half of the summer and into what passes for autumn here listening to Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks," and feeling like it was very beachy and laid back and sort of exactly what I wished my summer had been.

At some point, I finally (finally!) looked up the lyrics:

Robert's got a quick hand.
He'll look around the room, he won't tell you his plan.
He's got a rolled cigarette hanging out his mouth, he's a cowboy kid.
Yeah, he found a six shooter gun
in his dad's closet hidden with a box of fun things, and I don't even know what.
But he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you.

All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
you'd better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks
you'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet.

Really?! And now when I hear it, half of me still loves the sound of the song and the other half is saying, "those lyrics are really fucked up."

So I just end up feeling vaguely uncomfortable when it comes on. The video, unfortunately, sticks with the mood of the music and so does nothing at all to enlighten or resolve the complete disconnect between the lyrics and the song.

Then there's Bruno Mars' "Lazy Song." I heard it awhile ago, because someone showed me the Leonard Nemoy version of the video (hilarious, by the way, and much better than the official one).

I realized yesterday that the song basically outlines the symptoms of clinical depression, again while sounding incredibly upbeat:

Today I don’t feel like doing anything
I just wanna lay in my bed
Don’t feel like picking up my phone
So leave a message at the tone
'Cause today I swear I'm not doing anything
Nothing at all

Someone needs to start telling these people that dark lyrics and upbeat music do not go together unless you're purposefully being ironic.


a sunday secret

(inspired by PostSecret and the lack of any significant contribution I could make to the website)

I choose which of our three bathrooms to use based on where the magazine I want to read is located.

feel free to share your non-so-secrety-secrets in the comments.


autumn grows, autumn in everything

Everything feels autumnal, lately. The weather has obligingly cooled off, and I am craving the color orange.

Luckily, that's not so hard.

Second fire of the season.

Crackling fire accompanied by pumpkin pancakes, applewood smoked bacon, maple syrup, eggs over medium, Arizona Stronghold's Tazi, and coffee with a dash of Bailey's.

I'm going to say this only once, so pay attention: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix is divine. Bless yourself and purchase it immediately.

And Tak, who is gorgeous in all seasons, but seems especially so now, given how she matches.


things I like: poetic tattoos

Lilies, laurel, roses, and the refrain from "Dirge Without Music", by Edna St. Vincent Millay:
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

The full text, by Margaret Atwood.

(both via The Word Made Flesh)


all souls procession

This is my second time at the All Souls Procession in Tucson. It is based on the traditional Mexican Día de los Muertos processions, and honors the spirits of those who have passed away. It has been put on every year since 1990, and is one of the largest in the US (at least, that's what I've been told. I can't find any sources that support that). There were 20,000 people at the one last year.

I first went to it two years ago. We took Joley and just watched the parade go by, our faces unpainted. I took some awesome photographs, and loved the entire experience. Because J was so young, though, we didn't say around for the finale.

Last year, I was so busy we completely forgot about it. This time, I was determined to go and see the entire thing.

I thought that especially my out-of-Tucson readers might enjoy a bit of a montage and explanation, so that's what you're getting.

Preparations. I decided to go with a more realistic depiction because those have been my favorite ones in the past; plus, the lack of hair made doing a full skull too cool of an idea to resist.

It was a bitch and a half to try and do the back by myself, though (and an unanticipated problem when I dreamed the thing up).

These are good examples of how artistic and colorful other people's renditions can get.

Something about the attitude of this woman I loved. She walked behind us for quite awhile.

Kites in honor of the 116 transgender deaths this past year (presumably to violence).

She had a little maraca that looked like a skull.

So beautiful.

This girl was so gorgeous, standing on the railing on the side of the tunnel and leaning against the pillar. She'll be my inspiration next year for a more artistic rendering of the skull face paint.

My friend Diana, who we were walking with, told me that going through the underpass was always her favorite part. I didn't understand why when she said it, but she was totally right - something about being able to hear everything, and the intimacy of it, was really cool. You could also, when standing on either end, see the mass of people before or behind because of the curve of the road; even though it was just a fraction of the procession, it seemed like an immense number of people.

I had a couple clearer pictures of the crowd, but I really like the blurry ones - it makes the figures look so much less human.

The moon as seen while emerging from the underpass. It was obligingly half-hidden by clouds the whole night.


Cowgirl dead.

I love this picture. There were two little girls, and I had to run to catch up to them to even get this shot - and they were even more ethereal from the front.

You'll notice that there are no ropes, no police to keep the crowd on the edge of the route from merging with those walking. It's an incredibly peaceful event; I didn't see anyone acting raucous or disrespectful, and there was something significant about the unpainted alive merging with the mass of walking dead.


A giant silk puppet. The simple skeleton ones are my favorite.

The dancing dead.

A Joley skeleton and a Mommy skeleton, at the finale, before I realized that I wasn't strong enough to hold her on my shoulders until something decided to happen.

I held her on my hips for nearly the entire finale once it started, though. It took place in a giant dirt field at the end of the parade route, and there were thousands of people there.

The urn. It had a metal frame and what appeared to be semi-sheer fabric sides; people put prayers and things they wanted to let go of into the urn. Before the performance started, when the crowd was waiting for things to get set up, someone got on the mic and asked that if anyone had anything else to add, if people would please pass the prayers forward through the crowd.

I loved that.

Beneath the urn is a Mariachi group from a local middle school, and stilt walkers with torches.

I don't know how this shot came out so perfectly.

There were three women (I believe) on that ladder + silks apparatus, being swung back and forth by the crane about 100 feet in the air (or at least, that's my imprecise guess). Shortly after this shot, one of them climbed down onto the silks and started doing those impressive drops they do. The other two were on the circle just above the silks, balancing her out.

Prior to this, the urn was unlit. You can just barely make the dancer out halfway down the silks in this shot; it appeared that she dropped something down into the urn to make the whole thing catch fire.

After the urn ignited, there was a ton of incensed smoke. Down at the bottom are the stilt walkers, who were dressed in bird costumes (they were Joley's favorite part).

The beginning of the long walk back: Amanda in the Tunnel of Questionable Enlightenment.

This wasn't the angle I wanted, but people kept walking between us.

A very sleepy bitsy on the way home. The flowers were given to her by a man standing behind us in the crowd at the finale. She was a pretty good sport - she walked almost the entire length of the two-mile parade route on the way back before Diana picked her up.

I love the halos on the people in the background.

It was an incredibly good experience. The energy in the air, although there was something strange and otherworldly about it, was positive. This parade is one of the reasons I am going to really miss Tucson, if I ever get around to leaving.