Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A new blog...

Instead of random family posts - I'm creating an online collection of stilgenbauer what-not.

Inspired by my father and his endless need to create (and my need to keep and display whatever I can), I started stilgenstories to keep it somewhat organized.

A family history through plants

My father's illness has made me ever more aware that I am the last of my family and that everything we've created, built, made or done will matter little after I quit the mortal coil.

That's a difficult reality to face.

The thing I find myself mourning most is the garden.

We get the gardening from my mother's side. Direct ancestors came to NE Ohio from England to work on the Severance estate as gardeners, and we have spectacular pictures of them on handmade grapevine furniture in an outdoor living room.

Gardening remained a deep thread through over the years. My grandfather was the son of a family with orchards. My great-grandmother died when at age 88, she was carrying 50 lbs of canning equipment to the basement to get started for winter.

Growing up, we always had a garden, and I only understand now how extraordinary their commitment was. As I help my father in garden now, he tells me the history of almost every plant:
*the boxwood they bought in Ontario when I was in high school - all the bushes around the house came from two plants.
*the privet hedge that he cultivated from cuttings made illegally from the old rose garden at the beach (only the truly passionate would sneak into a park after sunset to cut privet hedge)
*the lilac volunteer that I took from the backyard of the florist's who hired me through college - it's still in a pot, 4 foot tall, and waiting for me to set my roots so it too can be planted, once and for all.
*the rose bush that was Grandma Margie's, then planted at The Pink House in Berlin Heights, that they managed to get from current owners before they tore out the old landscaping.
*the red honeysuckle they bought in Vermont when I spent two summers working there

Tree after bush after flower represents trips taken or milestones met - many have seen four generations of my family - it's like the plants ARE the family.

So I feel a bit guilty for being the last one -

Otto Schoepfle solved his dilemma by leaving his well-curated land to the Lorain County Metroparks, but this is a house on a street in an outer ring suburb...

And I need to figure out how these plants and their stories can live on beyond the lives of those that tended to them.

I'm sorry...what was that again?

Did I just read a headline in NYT about Monkeys controlling Robots with their MINDS?!?!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What the cluck!

So this is Carl, Cleveland's blogging opera chicken.

He's got a great back story, and is surprisingly photogenic.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Parade the Circle

Ok, so every year on the weekend that coincides with my birthday, there's this big celebration at University Circle that DRIVES ME CRAZY and I usually avoid like the plague.

So why does this weekend celebration of creativity, love, music and art make me want to rip my hair out?

One word.


Goddamned artist hippies.

If you do anything - anywhere - remotely creative, you'll find them.

I didn't begin to register them as a problem until I spent two years in Phoenix in the late 1990s. Arizona is like the final rest stop on the hippie highway that leads straight to California; quite a few stop to pee and realize they're out of gas and that the yurt would look good there in the shadow of the mighty saguaro and simply never moved on. It's the desert, and there's the draw of Native American spirituality, and drugs are plentiful and cheap.

I worked with hippies, I even lived with one and her daughter. She was an artist, living in the house she grew up in that was given to her when she became a mother.

Her daughter's father was a half Apache/half Navajo guitarist who also happened to be a heroin addict - with an inoperable brain tumor. He was a ward of the state when I met her and lived there, kicked out years ago when she learned he had spent the $10,000 they saved for after the baby in a short time on drugs... and guitars.

I moved in when The Little was almost three - it was fun. We had a pool and made art and generally enjoyed life. Because she had been there all her life, she was an anchor in the artist community - meaning that there were always weird sculptures in the backyard or bands practicing in the garage.

I liked her structure (thanks mostly to the needs of The Little) and we worked together, so we kept a similar schedule and had mutual friends.

But I learned quickly that hippies don't like schedules... or checking accounts... or logic. Which is why they are HIPPIES.

She kept her money in a black cat shaped candle holder called "Cat Head" because years prior she had late fees on a bank account and refused to pay, so she couldn't get another account. Cat Head worked for her because Cat Head never said no - whereas an ATM wouldn't give her $5 if she had $14 in the bank. She often kept her daughter out late so she could hang out with her after a gig - but I don't think 3 am banana cream pie at Stucky's was the best thing for a 4 year old. And I could NEVER get her to understand that it was more wasteful to turn off the AC when it was 110 degrees than to leave it at 80 during the day.

It was a good run, my time in Phoenix, but I had to get out and return the highly-strung puritan work ethic of my people in the Eastern part of the nation.

So what does this have to do with Parade the Circle....?

I am an artist, but was always a highly strung, get-it-done, technique-driven artist. Which served me well when I worked in museum installation or profit-driven scenic studios. It does not, however, serve me well in an environment where we all need to feel the energy, hear the paint, taste the colors and smell the universal human experience.

I tried to do Parade once before with an artist - she would tell me what time to be there - and I would show up. To an empty tent.

After a week of not getting anything done and her telling me to come back at 10 pm because that's when the spirits toast her inner joy sandwich and spreads it with create-o-butter made from the love of art beasts, I decided to JUST GIVE UP.

So ever since I have had this tremendous chip on my shoulder about Parade - except I am prying it off and giving it a whirl with some friends from the UU.

Artists, both of them, but both professional and "into" responsibility.

So I'm trying this again - but I REFUSE to taste the colors.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Saturday night I went to Prom.

It was the Beachland Ballroom's third annual prom event: all the kitchy fun without the crippling adolescent self-hatred.

We had a blast - most people showed up in prom attire - I went in tails and my friends all wore formal wear from past weddings, borrowed or thrifted vintage.

D went as far as to buy a corsage - THAT is dedication.

The tunes were mostly 50s and 60s rock - the only thing missing was some 80s tunes between live sets and a blue Olan Mills style background for photos.

Also, they had this guy perform wicked yo-yo tricks, and I'm proud to show off my camera's video capabilities.
Not entirely NSFW - Lots of drunk people saying "Fuck Yeah!" everytime he releases the yo-yo.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

bad bad bad-ity bad bad bad

I canNOT make this a habit.

Deeeeelicious sugar cookie and grande iced green tea no fat no whip shake yo booty and dance dance latte.

UPDATE: For the record, I am somewhat of a sugar cookie connoisseur. It's a recent development, in the last 5 years or so, following swiftly on the heels of my new found interest in marshmallows and cotton candy (hated the stuff as a child - I was all about the savory, then).

That said, I try glazed sugar cookies whenever I stumble upon a bakery and I'm surprised and somewhat embarrassed to say that the Bucks of Star's newest cookie beats almost any I've had in recent months: Zoss, Heinen's, even Sweet Mosaic's (say it ain't so!). And I know this is a recent change. I had their penguin cookie at the holidays and it was stale and sawdust-ie with a *just* hint of cardboard. I don't know if all the internal corporate restructuring has brought about this new dawn of sugar cookies - but as they say, the proof is in the sweet sweet perfectly crumblie cookie.

I hesitate to call it "perfect," but I must indulge and say, for my own personal tastes, the texture, flavor, sweetness, size and overall product is as close to the phantom sugar cookie of my dreams as I will likely ever come.

I will, however, redeem my "buy local" and say - for the record - that Sweet Mosaic's Ginger Chewy beats all takers in all contests - except maybe their gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese frosting....

Tremont evening

Two weeks ago I came home from visiting my parents and just needed a beer.
Lucky for me, I live in the perfect neighborhood for an impromptu dinner with a neighbor on a cool spring evening.

This is why I love Tremont. I didn't need to schedule anything, move my car or get one of those buzzing pucks you get when you wait for a table at Olive-Lobster-Apple-TGIFrozenFood-igans.

St. John Cantius from a porch.

Radke Mural at on SouthSide patio (actually on Fairfield Market)

I used to work with a local iconographer - Eikona Studios - I saw the light was on and we stopped in to say hello.

Works in progress (I really miss the work - trying to see if I can come back to do some gold leafing...)

Overall a good night - a quiet night.
Sometimes it's hard to live in a neighborhood that's a destination, but that Sunday night, I remembered exactly why I've been here for almost a decade.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ick factor: HIGH

An exhibit at MoMA is exploring the intersections of art and science - one of the exhibits - a "living" and growing collection of mouse stem cells fashioned into a teeny coat - was growing too quickly and had begun clogging the incubator.

The curator decided to pull the plug - NYT article here.

I don't know how I feel about this, but if art is meant to provoke thought and reaction - they have certainly succeeded.

What's uncomfortable for me regarding this and with other similar projects (Alba the glow in the dark bunny) is the intent.
And I wonder if that's really a logical thought process.
Because my mind immediately did this when I read the article:

Experimental processes + life forms ------> Scientific breakthrough = Good
Experimental process + life forms --------> Artistic statement = Questionable

Does that mean that I think a negative outcome caused by experimental processes is less heinous if it was in the name of science than in the name of art - because I think that's what creating the high ick factor for me - the potential negative outcome.

So do I think that scientific innovation is more worthwhile than artistic innovation...? Do I think artistic innovation is for sport as opposed to true learning...?


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

An open letter to Fear

Fuck you, Fear.

Get the hell out of my life. You've caused enough damage.

You nudge your way in, find tight little places to hide and lurk in the darkest corners, so I can't see you. You arrive in stealth and justification - wearing a mantle Self-Preservation and Preparation.

But you're really just Fear.
Plain old ugly, manipulative, emotionally terrorizing Fear.

It's always the same with you isn't it. You arrive unannounced, and being good citizens, we invite you in - offer a cup of tea - indulge your whims, pamper you, feed you, let you take over our homes.
"Just be careful," you remind us.
"Don't get hurt," you whisper.
"Let someone else fail" you suggest.

It makes sense, at first. But then you always go too far. You make up stories and point out actions that may or may not be problematic. You tell lies about those closest to us and teach us to ignore the potential of those we've yet to meet with stories of unimaginable suffering. You remind us that we're not in control and blind us to the fact we are, indeed, responsible for our actions... and reactions.

But I've had it with you - too many have kept you around for too long.
You wreak havoc through paralyzing stalemates.
You hypnotize those who need a crutch to lean on in difficult times.
You're a leech - a harpy - a faceless horror that won't let things be.

Leave - NOW - and know that you are no longer welcome here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another doodle

I don't remember if I've posted this or not - but I always loved this map of life given to me about 10 years ago.

National Doodle Day

According to the good ladies at Go Fug Yourself last Thursday was USA National Doodle Day.

That said, a doodle from my notebook...

I guess I was feeling Matisse-y that day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Latitude 41 N: Detroit Shoreway

Last night an impromptu trip to Lakewood to visit friends led to dinner at one of the many new places that's popped up in the Detroit Shoreway area recently.

Latitude 41 N is at the North East corner of Detroit and 58th St. - kitty corner from the Happy Dog and across the street from the old Snickers, which was recently Cheddar's but looks to have a new name - Mac and Jac?? (but I digress).

Anyway, it's was the best new restaurant experience I've had in a long time. The menu is great - pizzas, salads, sandwiches - interesting combos - comfort food that comforts, not smothers.

You order at the counter, pay there and take a seat - which was gloriously efficient.

I started with the spinach side salad - which I was expecting to be... just spinach - and maybe some cranberries.
Instead a received a glorious archaeological dig of tasty treats. Candied walnuts... and blue cheese! And... is that BACON?! Fresh sweet onion! And, oh yes, spinach. It's normally served with a fresh mango dressing, but they were out of mangos and seeing as I was overcome with joy for all the unexpected fixin's I could care less. The oil and vinegar was delightful.

In addition to a standard issue dinner menu, they have an all-day breakfast menu as well, so I split the Southwest Breakfast Quesadilla with a friend: again, spectacular - scrambled eggs with black beans, avocado, sausage, salsa and cilantro sandwiched between 2 tortillas and lightly topped with cheese (and more salsa).

Our third had the Shrimp Po' Boy with homemade fries (served with vinegar!) and a napa slaw which was a high-end take on a salad my grandmother brings to every family picnic - cabbage and ramen noodles with a sweet dressing.

I stayed away from the Po' Boy as, alas, my greed for all things seafood turned on me one night last year following a half container of Lobster Bisque and some shrimp cocktail - all those years of raw oysters caught up with me and I can clambake no more. *sniff*

That said - Latitude 41 N - wonderful!
I can't wait to go back for more!

Oh Crap! Scarf

A friend moved to Boston last year to attend school and I SWORE I was going to knit her something this winter. She's incredibly generous (she brought me back a Sari-ish thing from India!) and I hit that "what can I possibly make her to show my appreciation" wall - which usually leads to unending procrastination.

I know it's far too late in the season (even for Boston) for woolly, but until I figure out how to make lace, woolly it is.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my own one skein wonder...
The "You mean she'll be here FRIDAY!!!" Scarf.


Lion Brand Thick and Quick
No. 17 needles
Basic cable knit

I'm still getting to know the camera, hopefully I can figure out a better balance between light and shadow so I can show off texture with more finesse.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Urban canopy

9th and Prospect

Just enough shade.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Oh and I got a new camera!

Friday I picked up the best investment I've made in a long time.
I've been looking at digital cameras, but my budget was rather limited.

I found a number of good deals at a big box office store, and researched the 4 that were in my prince range. The Canon Powershot A570 IS had the best reviews and was the best price - so I went back the next day.

I got the last one (floor model) so I negotiated an additional 15% off the clearance price.

After just a couple of days of playing, I'm VERY happy with my choice - although I'm still hoping to get a SLR at some point in the next couple of years.

Love the color, focus, handling, etc - overall, best purchase ever.

Enjoy a photo of fresh cut lilacs in my kitchen -

Day at the beach

I was in Lorain today, and took a walk to Lakeview Beach. It's recently been updated: new beach house, new gates...

The Redbuds were in bloom and beautiful against the blue sky...

And someone was taking advantage of the winds for an early season sail...

Friday, May 2, 2008

dog on an elevator

So this morning I had to share an elevator with a dog and it bothered me some.

I don't dislike dogs... on the street, in their owner's home, in a dog park, even in the workplace if it's fairly well known that there will be dogs.

I worked with a company who's director kept 2 fairly substantial beasts around, and I was informed prior to the interview about the dogs so if I didn't want to (or couldn't) be around them on a daily basis, it was my choice.

But something about a 50 lb dog in a small, packed elevator felt incredibly presumptuous and entitled - she wasn't disabled and there were no identifying markers of a seeing eye dog on the harness. How do I know your dog is trained to be in that situation?

Next time maybe wait for an empty elevator... take the stairs?
If I weren't pushed to the back corner of the car where she got on, I would have exited and gone another way myself.

And I know this a is a touchy subject, but I can't help but have a negative reaction to it... Times weighs in here.

UPDATE: I've been thinking alot this morning about why this experience bothered me so much. I like dogs. I like dogs in offices - it does tend to humanize the environment. Upon reflection, I've worked at no less than 5 places that had dogs around, and I never batted an eye. I'm not an advocate of those with allergies, or really worried about the dog's behavior - it was fine in the elevator.

At first I thought it was the slippery slope argument - "If she brings her dog and it's ok, what happens if that guy brings his, and that woman hers, then there are exponentially more dogs over time, doing uncontrollable dog-like things."

But I know that the slippery slope argument is a well known logical fallacy.

So where does that leave me... was I simply being unreasonable?
Maybe I'm bothered that she appeared to value the comfort of her dog over the potential discomfort of those around her.
What if it wasn't a dog, but a heavily laden rolling cart - I'm thinking that holding the elevator up and shoving herself in may have provoked the same reaction.

So I think my reaction is rooted in my intense frustration with those who are not aware of the world around them - and she's now lumped in with those who don't use turn signals - or the hipster man-child who parked his bike in a driveway - or the people who stop at the bottom of the escalator to get their bearings and block everyone else from getting off.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 1st Hot Chocolate

I've been good - really good.
Lost 9 lbs good.

And tonight I wanted chocolate.

So I thought a nice cup of real hot chocolate would hit the spot.

Mug of milk
1 oz. milk chocolate
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I use Trader Joe's Pound Plus)
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
Honey to taste
Small pat of butter (only if you use skim or 1%)

Scald milk, add all ingredients, stir until blended.

Top with marshmallow (or chocolate flavored bunny shaped Peep.)

Relish and smile.