Wrigley Field Demolition/Renovation

Wrigley Field is having major demolition/ renovation work done on it, and when I was in Chicago last week, my brother took us to go look at it. It looks pretty seriously awesome: you get a good look at the skeleton of the structure, in a way that you pretty much never do. I feel like I should make some sort of deep philosophical social commentary about destruction and reinvention and the cycle of architectural life and so on. But really, the pics are just cool.

Wrigley Field repairs 1 [Read more…]

The Chicago Bean, and Some Thoughts on Geographical Icons

chicago bean 01

When I first started seeing pictures of the Chicago Bean, and started seeing it described as a Chicago icon, I was irritated. “How can that be an icon?” I thought. “I don’t remember it! It wasn’t there when I was growing up! It just went up in 2006! That’s not a Chicago icon — not like the Sears Tower, or the Picasso sculpture, or…”

Oh. Right.

The Sears Tower and the Picasso sculpture were new when I was a kid. The Picasso sculpture was dedicated in 1967; the Sears Tower was completed in 1973. They both became Chicago icons almost immediately — they quickly started showing up in postcards, in travel brochures, on book covers about Chicago, in vacation photographs of visitors from around the world. And to me, that seemed totally reasonable. Of course they were icons! I’d seen them dozens of times, hundreds of times, I’d been seeing them for most of my conscious life — it made perfect sense that they were icons. [Read more…]

Architectural Boat Tour of Chicago, Part 3 of 3 – Pics!

When I was visiting my brother in Chicago last week, we did a boat tour of the architecture and architectural history of downtown Chicago. I’m posting my favorite pics, in three separate posts so the posts aren’t super-huge and hard to load. Part One is here: Part Two is here; this is the last set.

chicago architecture boat tour 18

Another little bridge house! They’re so awesome!

chicago architecture boat tour 19

According to the docent, this building was inspired by champagne bottles. Normally I don’t like architecture that looks like things — “It’s a milk bottling plant, and it looks like a milk bottle!” — but I have to admit that this is pretty cool.

More after the jump. [Read more…]

Architectural Boat Tour of Chicago – Pics!

When I was visiting my brother in Chicago last week, we did this somewhat touristy but seriously cool thing: a boat tour of the architecture and architectural history of downtown Chicago. Chicago architecture is world-renown for its beauty and innovation: it’s been that way ever since the Chicago Fire of 1871, when architects zoomed in for the chance to rebuild the great city from scratch, and it’s lived up to that reputation ever since. (Well, except for the same bad stretch of boring glass boxes that every other city went through…)

I grew up in Chicago, but have never been on this tour before. Here are a few of my favorite pictures.

chicago architecture boat tour 01

chicago architecture boat tour 02

chicago architecture boat tour 03

(More after the jump.) [Read more…]

A Woman’s Room Online: Misogyny, and the Idea That the Internet Isn’t Real

Content note: misogyny, harassment, threats of violence and rape and death, images of same

Here’s the thing. For hundreds of millions of people, the Internet is our workplace: we go there to collaborate, to do research, to promote our work. The Internet is the place where we meet our friends. It’s where we get our news. It’s where we organize charity activity, or political activity. For hundreds of millions of people, the Internet is a central hub of human activity.

Now. Think about what it would be like if every time you went to work, every time you went out with friends, every time you went out to get a newspaper, every time you went on a charity walkathon, every time you went to a neighborhood meeting to plan the new public park, you had people screaming at you how worthless you are, how ugly you are, how much they hate you, how much they want to torture and rape and kill you.

Think about showing up to work at 8:30 in the morning, and sitting down in this room.

A Woman's Room Online 23 [Read more…]

A Woman’s Room Online: An immersive experience of the daily harassment women face online

Content note: images based on threats and harassment

A Womens Room Online photo

This art show by Amy Davis Roth sounds hugely powerful. If you’re anywhere near the L.A. area, I strongly encourage you to see it.

I am building a free standing 8ft by 8ft office space, from the ground up on, the 2nd floor of The Center For Inquiry-Los Angeles. The room is intended to be an average office that a woman would work in. It is simply a normal office space, with a door, desk, chair and a computer and other small objects that one might have in a workspace, but this particular room has been transformed to clearly show the viewer what it can feel like to be targeted in your place of work, over multiple years with aggressive online stalking and harassment.

The room and its objects are blanketed with actual messages sent to, or publicly posted about the women who have contributed to the exhibit.

The messages are all real and were sent to or publicly posted about the women from July 2nd, 2011 up until now.

It’s your turn to read them. What has been sent to us, will now be on display for you.

And yes, before you ask, some of the images for the show come from my own files.

More information about A Woman’s Room Online: An immersive experience of the daily harassment women face online is at the link. The exhibit will be at Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles (2nd floor) 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Sept. 13 – Oct. 13. The opening reception is on Sept. 13 at 7:00 pm. See it — and please spread the word about it. If you know media people in the L.A. area, please let them know.

Blogathon for SSA Week: Imaginative Star Tattoos?

SSA week Page Banner

This post continues my leg of the Blogathon for SSA Week! From now until 9pm PDT, I will write one new blog post every hour. Plus, for every $100 raised during that time, I will post one new picture of our cats! And all donations will be matched by SSA Supporters Jeff Hawkins and Janet Strauss — so whatever you donate, it will be doubled!

As of 3:02 PDT: 436 Donors, $70,488.02
As of 4:03 PDT: 438 Donors, $70,573.02

So I’m thinking of getting another tattoo. A set of them, actually, to commemorate my surgical scars (five of them, I had laparoscopic surgery, so I have five little scars instead of one big one). I’m thinking of getting stars, one on each scar, so the set of them looks like sort of like a constellation.

Five pointed starBut I don’t want the stars to just look like regular five-pointed pentagram stars. I want them to look more interesting than that, more imaginative. I’m not a designer, though. So I’m crowdsourcing this: Does anyone with tattoo experience — or heck, without it — have ideas on how to do a star tattoo, or a series of star tattoos, that are clearly identifiable as stars, but don’t just look like pentagrams?

If it helps, you can see the scars (four of the five, anyway), and where they’re situated on my body — not great, but you can see them — in this picture. It’s the one where I’m half-naked with the word “MINE” written on my torso in lipstick, the one I did in support of Tunisian anti-theocratic activist Amina. They’re in an arc across my belly and above my belly button, with one more dipping down just below my waistband.


If you like this post — or indeed, if you don’t — please donate to the Secular Student Alliance!

Street Art: “Picturesoteric” by Sirron Norris

So I was heading home today from a couple of pre-surgery errands. (Yes, I know, I have friends who will run errands for me right now… but I wanted the exercise and the outside time, especially since I have a stretch of house-bound boredom and cabin-fever ahead of me.) I was feeling tired and worried, sad and shut down, wanting nothing more than to be home on my sofa watching bad TV and turning off my brain.

And I saw this.

"Picturesoteric" by Sirron Norris

"Picturesoteric" by Sirron Norris

"Picturesoteric" by Sirron Norris

"Picturesoteric" by Sirron Norris

"Picturesoteric" by Sirron Norris

And I thought: I get to see this.

I get to be alive.

It sucks that I have cancer. It completely sucks that I got diagnosed with cancer two weeks after my father died. And it’s okay for me to feel shitty, to feel tired and sad and like I need to take a brain-break from everything.

But I get to be alive, here, and now.

And I get more than to be alive. I get to be alive in this neighborhood: so alive and so freaky and so very much a neighborhood. I get to be alive in this city, where art like this is welcomed and celebrated and has a home. I get to be alive in this century, when I have have a life expectancy of 80 and not 35, when endometrial cancer can be caught early and doesn’t have to be a death sentence.

Richard Dawkins said it really well:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

I get to be alive. No, I don’t get to be alive forever: this cancer is very treatable and will be behind me pretty soon, but mortality is going to catch up with me eventually. But I get to be alive. And I get to see huge, expansive art that is entirely made of joy.

“Picturesoteric,” by Sirron Norris. Corner of 18th and Bryant in San Francisco. Lots more details from the mural after the jump. Click. It’s worth it. [Read more…]

Grief Diary, 10/7/12


Ingrid and I went to the Cindy Sherman exhibit today. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t have been the day to go see a challenging and disturbing art exhibition: we just got back home to San Francisco yesterday, and in a perfect world, this would have a day to rest, play with the kitties, maybe take a gentle little meditative walk. But today was the last day of the exhibit — we’ve been meaning to go, and things kept interfering — and I knew if we missed it, I’d hugely regret it. I’m feeling very “carpe diem”-y right now, very conscious of missed opportunities, and I didn’t want to miss this one. Very glad we went. It was somehow both cathartic and distracting: the exhibit was intense, on themes that resonate very strongly with me… but mostly not the themes I’ve been obsessing on in the last week. It was kind of a relief to be having intense, challenging, unsettling feelings about something other than loss and grief and paralyzing meta-meta-meta self-consciousness. (Although there was one photograph that was very close to home, one I kept returning to and flinching from and returning to again: one of the “centerfolds,” the one that to me looked like an entirely exhausted and defeated woman on the verge of finally falling asleep but with shell-shocked eyes that won’t quite close.) And I went out of my way to walk on the top-floor walkway, the one where you can see straight down through to the four floors below you. I think I wanted to have the experience of the ground not seeming solid under my feet… and experience it as adventurous and pleasurable, and know that it was actually safe. And the long walk to the museum — an hour, maybe a little more — was excellent, and much-needed.

Speaking of which: Memo to self about long walks. During this stretch of grief and depression, I’ll often have a moment during a long walk where I’ll think that I’m exhausted, a moment where I’ll think, “I can’t keep doing this, I have to stop, I have to sit down right this second.” It usually comes early on in the walk, not even fifteen or twenty minutes in, long before the time when I would actually be physically tired and needing to stop. Memo to self: I am not actually exhausted. Not physically, anyway. I am fully capable of continuing to put one foot in front of the other. And if I push through it — if I continue to put one foot in front of the other for a while, even if it’s in a zombie-like daze — I am always happy that I did. I push through it emotionally as well as physically, and feel more awake and alive.

Oh, I remembered what it was! The thing I wanted to say about ways that self-interest and compassion intertwine, the thing I wanted to say yesterday but couldn’t remember or put into words.

It’s this: I’ve been resisting, somewhat, the idea of letting people take care of me. (Except for Ingrid.) Lots of people have been saying, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know” — and I’ve been feeling reluctant to take them up on it. I’m somehow afraid that it’ll suck me into a vortex of self-involvement, that I’d be taking unfair advantage of their kindness. Or something.

But something occurred to me. When people in my life are grieving, or are otherwise suffering, I want to help. It’s not that I think I should help, that I feel obligated to help. I want to. I feel better if I can. I feel helpless and shitty in the face of suffering and grief, especially the suffering and grief of people I love — and being able to help, even a little, makes me feel better.

So letting people help me isn’t just self-involved or taking advantage. I mean, it wouldn’t be anyway, that’s dumb, my father just died and it’s okay for to ask for help. But letting people help me is also, in this complicated intertwining of self-interest and compassion, a way of helping them. My friends want to help me. If there’s a way that they can, I’m doing them a kindness by letting them. Besides, the help isn’t just about the practical help. It’s about the connection being created by the act of helping, and of accepting help. I’m reminded a bit of one of the vows Ingrid and I wrote for our wedding: “I promise to give you my help and support, and to accept help and support from you.” The second half of that is as important to the connection as the first.

Have been having thoughts about atheist views of death and meaning, and how we create our own meaning instead of persuading ourselves that it’s handed to us by God. But Kanani gave me her old Kindle today (she just got a new one), and I bought “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan, and I want to get into it. I’m feeling slightly less frantically and obsessively driven to record every single thought and feeling every single day in this diary, slightly more willing to let things simmer, and I want to go with that. The atheist meaning of death is not time-sensitive. It can wait until tomorrow.