on a lighter note...

I don't want to turn into one of those crazy cat ladies that devote post after post to their cats, but if for nothing other than documentation, I thought I'd share with this blog and its readers the latest in a four-year-long battle between us, our cats, and their food.

It's been so long and taken so many turns that I'm honestly not totally certain how it all started, but about four and a half years ago our two cats were on separate diets, fed just twice a day. Xander began to meow incessantly for food, sometimes as early as 2 or 3 in the morning, so we shut them out of our room at night. Sophie, the partner of this dynamic duo of feline neurosis, hates being confined or barred from any space, even the built-in cabinets in the hallway, opening them at random from time to time to simply peek in and walk away. So that when we closed the bedroom door on them, even if we couldn't hear Xander's meowing, we'd definitely wake up to Sophie's scratching.

Eventually, this led to a routine of one of us waking up around 5:30 every morning to feed them. The last year or two we lived in Oakland, during the week at least, I'd get up at 5:30 and stay up, sometimes going for an early morning walk that would end with a scone run at the Arizmendi Bakery on Lakeshore Ave. I convinced myself I was a morning person and actually felt better on just seven hours of sleep.

When we moved to Boston, we felt lucky to have found an apartment with the option of confining the cats to a portion of the apartment at least one room away from our bedroom door. This worked pretty well for awhile and I discovered that I don't, in fact, naturally wake up before dawn. The only problem occured when guests would visit and stay overnight, since the door to the area that would become their bedroom each night was right next to the guest room. Sometimes we'd make guests suffer; other times we'd relinquish our bed for the futon and deal with it ourselves.

But lately, in addition to this occasional dilemma, Xander has started to meow for food every few hours. In response to the afternoon meowing, which would usually start two to three hours before their typical evening feeding, we started to give them a "snack" of dry food. After a few weeks all this had done for us was to bump Xander's meowing up a few more hours, starting as early as noon some days, five or six hours before dinner. All this meowing was driving me crazy, especially with several weeks at home at the beginning of summer, as I searched for a summer job and tried in vain to work on my thesis, having moved out of my studio in May.

I shared notes with other cat owners and we eventually decided to try an automatic feeder to dispense dry food once or twice a day, hoping the feeder-bot would dissociate us from the food. We even tried letting them sleep with us again, realizing the confinement was probably adding to their neuroses, setting the feeder to dispense a little night-time snack around 3 a.m. Xander seemed to do a little better with his newfound freedom but still began meowing for food right around the time sunlight poured into our kitchen and bedroom windows, which, in the summer months at least, can be as early as 5 a.m. On top of all this, with the feeder just around the corner from our now open bedroom door, we quickly learned that a quarter-cup of dry food pouring out into a plastic bowl is wicked loud at 3 o'clock in the morning.

While we decided what our next move would be, the cats returned to their nightly confinement, allowing me at least a week or so to catch up on sleep. We put the automatic feeder in the living room with them, dispensing food three times throughout the day and night. But when I was home, I noticed Sophie would bully Xander away from the food, meaning our hungry cat was actually eating less and meowing more.

To distract them from food, I tried to deal with the problem in a few different ways as well, purchasing a Feliway plug-in for an outlet near their food, and putting on the "Video Catnip" DVD in the afternoon. The Feliway - which is supposed to emit "friendly facial pheromones" to ease a cat's daily stress - doesn't seem to do much of anything to calm my crazy cats, but they are downright captivated by that video catnip!

For awhile, I felt committed to the $50 feeder. But a week or so ago, I decided to try one final thing, certainly not the healthiest option, but it just might be the sanest. I got one of those non-automated feeders that provides a never-ending flow of kibble. I put it out for the first time last Friday morning and watched Xander, in particular, gorge himself. He'd just had breakfast a few hours earlier, but he must've eaten for a solid twenty minutes or so. And then proceeded to drink all the water and lay on his back for the rest of the day.

One week later, I think he's gained easily 20% of his body weight, but he's quiet and peaceful and I think finally slowing down a bit on the amount of dry food he's taking in. If nothing else, we can take pictures of him for one of those fat cat calendars.

who does he think he is, Christo?

I've "shared" a few more items from my various blog subscriptions recently (even a few about SYTYCD) but this particular thread deserves a post of its own. I suppose if I was a die-hard Rhizomer I'd comment on the thread itself, but then only other Rhizome subscribers would see it. And part of the irony of this artist/art institution battle is that even if you make it to Mass MoCA to see the odd installation, you'll probably have no idea who the artist is or the history of his relationship to the museum because they can't use his name thanks to the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, protecting artists from bad publicity. But you should know about this guy.

To be fair, I've only skimmed the various articles about the controversy, and I don't know why I tend to side with the big bad institution. Maybe because artists are spoiled brats?! Granted, I'm sure the Museum is guilty of many of the claims in the artist's long list of demands, but dude, get over yourself! For starters, I don't think it's fair that only the museum be flexible and accommodating in its collaboration with the artist. Why are artists allowed - even expected - to be "fussy"? The Boston Globe's op ed piece by Ken Johnson basically rests its argument, in favor of the artist, on the artist's right to fall anywhere he or she chooses along a continuum of fussiness.

One would hope that a museum thus engaged in artistic collaboration would understand and adapt to what kind of artist it is dealing with in any given project. Some artists are less fussy than others about how their concepts are executed. What may seem to museum workers a perfect solution to a given problem may not necessarily be acceptable to an artist who has an extremely exacting vision of what he is trying to achieve. Anyone familiar with B├╝chel's past work might guess that he would be one of the fussier, more demanding artists.

That's like repeatedly excusing the jerk at work doling out the sexual harassment day after day because, well, "that's just the way he is." The museum obviously should've known it was dealing with one of the fussier artists out there and expected their budget to be exceeded by over double the amount originally agreed upon. Duh.

Christoph Buchel is known for incorporating found objects into his massive, crazy-ass installations. Okay, but how is a house, purchased for $100,000, a "found object"? Man, I'd like to find me a $100K house...

Johnson goes on to describe the quasi-legal unveiling of the unfinished installation as:
A show that admits no responsibility for the project's failure on the museum's part and that affirms popular perceptions of our most innovative contemporary artists as frauds and charlatans?

Yeah, but isn't the artist affirming popular perceptions of contemporary artists as spoiled, rotten primadonna brats, crazy geniuses that won't take no for an answer?


waiting on the world...

...to realize how amazing Sara is! I've finally found my top gal on SYTYCD (with Sabra at a close second). I thought there was a really nice energy to her rendition of Wade Robson's routine (and another great couples routine). I didn't care for many others; I felt like Lauren and Neil were trying too hard. I don't know, maybe that's good contemporary technique, but it felt awkward and kind of jagged here and there. And as much as I like Sabra, for some reason I'm a little annoyed by the embarrassingly glowing reviews week after week.

As for the guys, in general, by golly, I think Danny's my favorite. I think Dominic and Pasha will be the first two guys to go. And I feel equally enthusiastic about Kameron and Neil. But that Danny...Man, as soon as he breaks through whatever it was between him and the audience those first few weeks, he's a freakin' rockstar!

And how great were Lacey's wristbands? "Dancey"...I love it.

On a final note, I pretty much never want to hear that song again. I think it was an interesting experiment to have all the dancers dance the same solo routine, but I hope they decide never to repeat it.


best M&Ms ever

I'm back from my Vegas-style family reunion adventure. My red-eye flight last night was delayed several hours due to an impressive thunderstorm that hovered around the airport for about an hour. So I'm mostly useless today, but I thought I'd share a couple of images taken Saturday night, when I tagged along with one of my aunts and her crew to check out the Bellagio fountain show and the M&M store.

Wait a second...Did I really pay $9 for a pound of M&Ms? But they were "aqua" M&Ms...



That I do still make stuff! I'm in this "students curate students" show at the MFA in Boston in September called Rerun, curated by this gal, also a fellow student and part of the December thesis group. There are nine or so of us - all printmakers of some variety - printing repeat pattern wallpaper that'll be installed in the MFA's Courtyard Gallery. The show's overarching theme has to do with advertising and repetition and mass media-generated imagery. I'm not totally sure what I'm going for in this work, but I chose a couple of stills from Marie Antoinette, specifically the part where she's reading the letter from her mother about how her brother and sister-in-law (I think) have, uh, already consummated their union. She's standing against some pretty ornate wallpaper and it's a moment in the film where she's almost completely blended into her new French surroundings (literally and figuratively), just before she begins to kind of redefine herself (or maybe just mature as she would've in Austria). Technically speaking, I'm separating the CMYK layers and shifting them, repeating them, and covering them, in some spots, with silhouettes and names. Hopefully those formal qualities and the nature of screenprinting will lend itself to ideas about the complexity of character...or something...I don't know. Here's a detail:

Anyway, I'm still working it out and I'm sure I'll blog more about it in the future, especially as I finish the work and the show nears. In the meantime, I've got a flight to catch. I'm headed to Vegas for a family reunion!


tell me why I don't like Thursdays

Once again, I find myself at a loss for words. As Cat put it, "I hate Thursdays." I don't know how she maintains her composure. For another reality t.v. tie-in, like Big Brother's Amber, I'm a bit of a cryer.

That said, I wasn't terribly surprised at tonight's results show on SYTYCD. I was pretty certain Hok would be going home, unless for some reason he got enough votes to keep him and Jamie in the top three. He'll be fine. After all, he has his art to fall back on.

As for Anya, again, not surprised with the judges' decision to send her home, although I do think that was a pretty great solo (how perfect was Tina Turner for her dancing and those legs?!). Jamie is, in my opinion, the best of tonight's bottom three, but I thought Lauren had a great solo, so as much as I've enjoyed Anya, I thought she was the right gal to go. Sigh.

I must get tickets to the top ten tour!


I love the 80s

Vulnerability...now there's a new word to add to the arrogance/confidence/humility debate. Props to Wade for his contribution to the panel, on that note and beyond.

Other thoughts on tonight's serving of SYTYCD:

Sabra and Dominic are definitely in my top...8 or so (still having a hard time not loving almost all of them)...but I think their jive was set to music just a tad too fast.

Hok and Jamie's routine was pretty mellow (for Broadway, especially) but I kinda liked it. Of course, I couldn't take my eyes off Jamie, but even if she finds herself in the bottom three, I'd be surprised if she went home this week.

Sara and Pasha's Mandy Moore 80s-inspired routine was so freakin' excellent! From the music, to the colors of those leotards, those suspenders!, that side hairdo on Sara...OMG, I love, love, loved it! Dare I say that was my most favorite SYTYCD routine ever?!

I always enjoy a good Mia Michaels routine, and usually appreciate her use of props, but I wasn't really connecting to either Lauren or Neil because of the glasses, I think, as Mary Murphy pointed out. Also, as I've noted before, when a routine relies heavily on the dancers being synchronized, it really distracts when they don't.

Danny and Anya worked it out, what more can I say.

And I was pretty pleased to see Lacey get something other than ballroom or a more-or-less partnered dance style. I thought she did a pretty good job, but I gotta say, Wade was right on, once again. Who knew he was so wise?! That said, I enjoyed the routine overall (always a fan of Dan Karaty...is there any choreographer I don't like?), but wasn't digging the end.

Oy vey, who to vote for?


so you think you're an expert

You may have noticed I didn't blog about last week's SYTYCD results show. Mainly, that's because I was crazy tired after the show ended. I had good intentions to blog about it the next day but never got around to it. In a nutshell, I was only half-surprised with the judges' decision to send Cedric and Shauna home and there's nothing terribly revealing to say. If you watch the show, you probably agree with me.

Also, I've been totally engaged in my first fan blog, about the show, of course. I enjoy the diversity and frequency of their posts and I can always count on the reliability of their pre-show spoilers (which I never read but appreciate), their live-blogging and post-show recaps, and countless other goodies in between. I've noticed, however, on this blog and elsewhere (i.e. places and people they link to from time to time and related comments), a pretty clear division in fandom: those who know how to dance (or at least think they do) and those who just like watching. I clearly fit into the latter category so what I'm about to say is obviously a bit biased. Dancers appreciate the technical nuances, which explains the outrage they express on blogs and elsewhere when a less savvy writer props up another, less technically superior dancer as the favorite to win, or points out Danny's, uh, confidence level. I really could care less whether or not the energy extends from his fingertips; if he can't communicate the absolute joy he must be feeling when he moves the way he does, he's not going to win the competition. I'm sure he'll have a long career in dance (well, long for such a physical career choice as dancing), but at the end of the day, SYTYCD is a t.v. show, and there are a lot more factors in determining a winner than technique alone. All that said, I'll be a little annoyed if another Schwimmer wins, mainly because they've already eliminated several dancers I liked better.

Related to all this...Oh, how validated I felt when Entertainment Weekly gave the show a B+! I love, too, how on their blog, Adam Vary spells (occasionally though not consistently) Shauna and Anya's names as irresistible hostess Cat Deeley prounounces them, i.e. Shauner and Anyer.

A final note to dancers: Not to be snippy or anything, but you should really come up with a more unique online handle than "dancer" or it's ever so slightly varied rendition "danser" (is that French for dance?). I always say, there's only one thing more obnoxious than an art student, and that's a dance student. Or is it drama?..


not a girl/unicorn, not yet a woman

Now that I've finally finished my London-Athens/Parthenon travel diaries, for now at least, I wanted to add a couple of posts about random references and influences that got me here or popped up along the way. The trip inspired a desire to watch a number of movies, including Clash of the Titans and, as I mentioned briefly on day 5, The Last Unicorn. Interestingly, the two films were made just a year apart (1981 and 1982, respectively). I found Clash of the Titans a little difficult to get through, in part because of the visual effects, which are downright clunky compared to today's technologies, and in part because I found it a little boring, actually, although I did enjoy spotting Athena and her owl. The owl-bot she later creates for Perseus is totally Greek mythology's R2D2.

The Last Unicorn is similarly clunky, visually, but I had no problems getting through it, this umpteenth time many, many years after my initial memories of it. I felt like I needed to watch it again to try and figure out why I kept thinking about it on this trip. What on earth could The Last Unicorn have to do with the Parthenon? On some level, I think it's as simple as a weird connection between memories associated with the time this film came out and my experiences watching it as a 5, 6, 7-year old girl, and qualities inherent in the history of the Parthenon that attracted me to it for, initially at least, inexplicable reasons. But watching the film again, making notes and capturing stills, did illuminate some details that I think just might be relevant.

In case you're unfamiliar with the story, let me break it down for you. The film begins with two hunters making their way through a forest, where the younger hunter wonders, "Why do the leaves never fall here? Or the snow? Why is it always spring here?" The answer, of course, is that this is the forest where the last unicorn lives, keeping her "trees green" and her "friends protected." The hunters leave, knowing they'll never find prey here.

Next we meet the Last Unicorn herself and a very obnoxious, annoying butterfly, who's clearly been sampling the wild mushrooms. The unicorn, having heard a little of the hunters' conversation, tries to get some information from the butterfly (since he's been to other forests, etc.). Finally, after much singing and a few riddles, the butterfly insists, "You can find the others if you are brave."

Unicorn sets out on her journey after that (it dawned on me at this point and a little later in the film that this movie totally qualifies for my chick flick series started last summer). We are treated to one of several songs performed by the group 'America.' "For in my heart I carry such a heavy load, here I am on man's road...It will be a long time 'til I find my abode." Foolishly, Unicorn falls asleep on the side of the road, where she's put under a spell and captured by Mommy Fortuna and displayed in a cage as part of the Midnight Carnival, where "beasts of the night are brought to light."

The magician Schmendrick recognizes her for what she is and asks her what she sees in the cages around her. "Illusions, deceptions, mirages," she cries. "Your Mommy Fortuna cannot truly change things." Schmendrick agrees, and this is probably the best, somehow most relevant part for me: "That's true, she can only disguise. And only for those eager to believe whatever comes easiest."

And yet, as I noted originally, there's something different about the visitors' experience when they come upon Unicorn's cage. Can they sense her authenticity or is it just the strong symbolism associated with a magical creature of her kind? I'm not sure, but children fall silent, innocent maidens cry, etc.

Schmendrick helps Unicorn escape, and Unicorn in turn frees all the other beasts, including the only other authentic, magical creature, the Harpy, who immediately devours Mommy Fortuna. It's okay, though, because Mommy Fortuna was content simply to own Harpy, to have captured her. "You're mine. If you kill me, you're still mine." Having held an immortal creature captive provides her with some sort of immortality.

Unicorn continues on her journey, with Schmendrick as her new travel companion. Shortly after escaping the Midnight Carnival, they come across a group of...nomads? I don't know, maybe that's just how people lived in the time of unicorns, in the forest, making rat soup for supper. Anyway, after magic tricks involving Robin Hood and an amorous tree, they're joined by scullery maid Molly Grue.

I've never quite understood the scene where she initially gets mad at Unicorn for coming to her so late in life, as an old maid, rather than when she was a young maiden, as unicorns are supposed to. Even as a five-year old girl I remember being really perplexed by what that meant? Is it a coming-of-age thing? A symbol for innocence? At any rate, Molly quickly forgives Unicorn and they become fast friends and confidantes.

They carry on closer to King Haggard's castle, Unicorn having pieced together most of the puzzle by now, until the Red Bull gets a whiff of her. He chases her around a bit, until Schmendrick changes her into "a hot anime chick," as Neal described her. As a human girl, the Red Bull has no interest in her and so leaves them. Unicorn, soon to be renamed Lady Amalthea, is confused by her new form, not a girl...er, unicorn, not yet a woman. Or something like that. She can already feel her mortality setting in. Later, in the castle, she sings a song about it: "I was innocent and wise and full of pain. Now that I'm a woman, everything is strange." I hear ya, sister.

The whole castle bit is probably my least favorite part of the film for some reason. I'm completely uninterested in the romance brewing between Lady Amalthea, as she continues to lose more and more of her immortal, unicorn self, and Prince Lir. How can you possibly fall in love with a freakish, mute girl so quickly? I always did like the cat character, though. So wise...and a tad ironic. "Oh, purr, purr." Anyway, just in the nick of time, before Lady Amalthea completely forgets her unicorn roots, the group discovers the Red Bull's lair and Schmendrick returns Unicorn to her original form. The Red Bull runs down a very valiant Prince Lir. Clearly fed up (that's what happens when you get turned into a woman), Unicorn drives the Red Bull into the ocean, making it possible, at last, for all the unicorns previously driven into the ocean by the bull, to escape and return to their forests. King Haggard falls to the ground as his castle collapses...I assume because of the stampede of unicorns, but it's not totally clear.

Having been mortal, she's the only unicorn who knows love and regret. As she says goodbye to Molly and Schmendrick, she reflects, "I'm a little afraid to go home. I'm no longer like the others." Even though the movie ends on a mostly happy note, with the forests re-populated with unicorns, I guess because I identify with the Last Unicorn's character, I always feel really sad for her. She's still singled out, first as the last, now just...different.

In a weird and unexpected way, this movie touches on both bodies of work I've had going this past year or so, about both travel and the uneasy relationship between authentic objects and their copies, and about coming-of-age. Unicorn's journey is a success, in the end, but she's forever changed, not unlike myself after my recent travels.


bird is my middle name

I've been thinking about my website for awhile. I don't really maintain the cafe or gallery (or reading room) portions and there is the whole artist website convention (firstnamelastname.com). I've been torn about the latter part of this dilemma for years...In fact, that's how wazocafegallery.com came about back in '03 (for those of you who've always wondered, "wazo" is the phonetic notation for the French oiseau, which means bird). There's another Rebecca Bird, who just happens to be an artist as well and recently snagged the matching domain name. And I have to admit, her existence is part of the reason I decided to tag Grigsby to the end of my name when I got married. Not that both of us are necessarily ever going to be wildly famous artists, but you never know...

So what to do? rebeccabirdgrigsby.com is too long, but I don't want to lose the Bird and just go with rebeccagrigsby.com. So I came up with an even longer, but I think slightly cleverer, solution: birdismymiddlename.com. In honor of the late Lady Bird Johnson, I decided to go ahead and make it official. For now, it will redirect you to my existing website, which I think I'll keep in case I ever do open up a cafe gallery kind of establishment, but hopefully by summer's end, birdismymiddlename.com will be home to my take on the artist website.

When I first came to Boston and began my graduate studies, just a few months after getting married and changing my name, I used Lady Bird Johnson as an example, as in, "Hi, my name's Rebecca Bird Grigsby, like Lady Bird Johnson." If I could, I'd go stand in a field of blue bonnets right about now.


that's all I got to say

Shane Sparks returned to SYTYCD to whip up some hot, hot, hot choreography for Sabra and Dominic. Come to think of it, all the choreography was pretty good tonight. Creative and inventive without being...weird. But, I don't know, Wade Robson's choreography is just a little too stylized for me.

Some other thoughts...The hustle is basically ballroom. I don't want to vote for Lacey until she gets contemporary or hip hop, at least, but damn, that was pretty good. This week's guest judge rocks! He's totally right about Danny. And again I say, "too much ballroom." Couples I enjoyed most include, reluctantly, Lacey & Kameron, Anya & Danny, Sara & Pasha, and Sabra & Dominic...Hmmm, that's still over half the couples. Oh well.

And that's all I got to say.

one more thing

Hey, check it out! You can now subscribe to my blog via e-mail (if you're not into the RSS thing). See the form to the right...

neither here nor there: days 9 and 10

Alright, enough already. Let's finish this thing.

On our third of four travel days we opted to sleep in rather than attempt to see anything else in the short time we had left in Athens on Monday before flying back to London. We took a shuttle to Syntagma Square, and picked up the metro from there, using the 24 hour ticket we'd purchased the day before, which, according to my guidebook (that should send up a red flag for any regular readers of this blog) was also good for a single trip to the airport. See, the Athens metro works on a sort of honor system. You buy your ticket, validate it at the entrance to the subway station, and get on the train of your choice. Theoretically, I suppose, a ticket agent might hop on the train from time to time to check tickets. And that's just what happened about three or four stops away from the airport. I felt confident in displaying my 24 hour ticket, still valid for five or six hours, but apparently, they've changed the rules a bit since my guidebook was printed and the 3 euro, 24 hour ticket is no longer valid to the airport. You have to buy a special one-way ticket at 6 euros, or a combination ticket for ten. I whipped out my guidebook and explained my confusion, making it clear I wasn't trying to cheat the system, but was simply a clueless tourist, but of course you can't actually pay these people. All they can do is issue you a fine for about ten times the required ticket price.

I'm embarrassed to admit that all this is written in fine print right on the ticket (although there are some discrepancies in the description of the airport route). All together now, the guidebook is not your travel bible. I've learned from this trip (hopefully) not to assume anything. Check multiple sources and ask lots of questions. In Greek, of course.

We arrived at the airport without further incident, checked in, and headed straight for the gate, not realizing our only option for breakfast and coffee at the gate would be an illy cart. I think we shared a candy bar for breakfast...During our short layover in Zurich, we didn't even have enough euros leftover to buy ice cream for lunch. I think we shared another candy bar for lunch before boarding the second leg of our flight.

We landed in London a bit early, but used up most of that extra time on the replacement bus service between Camden Town and Tufnell Park. After we checked back into our B&B we made a run to a local grocery store for an indoor picnic of bread, cheese, strawberries and quite possibly the least expensive Nutella I've ever purchased.

On day 10, our final morning in London and our final travel day, we enjoyed a full cooked English breakfast one last time before making the most of the few hours we had before we had to head to Heathrow again. We walked from the B&B to Hampstead Heath (getting a little lost on the way, of course), allegedly the inspiration for The Chronicles of Narnia. At the top of Parliament Hill we took a few photos, before heading back down to the subway via a walk by John Keats' house, which was closed at the time.

We took the tube to Notting Hill Gate and walked to a relatively quiet Portobello Road from there. Monday morning's probably not the ideal time to visit but we did enjoy some fancy cupcakes before heading back to the tube to go back to the B&B to pick our bags and head back out to the airport.

After we checked in, we enjoyed the leftovers from our indoor picnic the evening before while filling out last-minute postcards I'd picked up at the British Museum. While we waited for our gate assignment, I bought a few souvenirs in the duty-free shops with the ten pound note I'd found on the street the night before.

The flight back was uneventful. I watched two movies - Catch and Release and Stomp the Yard - read a bit, enjoyed lasagna for dinner and a snack pack at about 1 a.m. London time, and slept the last hour or so of the flight. We landed about a half-hour early and spent most of that time waiting on the runway for a gate to become available, then another 30 to 40 minutes inside for our bags, with absolutely no explanation. The security personnel basically grunted at us as we made our way through customs and such. Welcome home!

And that's about it...until Nashville next month. Stay tuned...