What It Is

After a really wonderful morning (a running session, a walk over to the farmer’s market, a stroll home while eating a vegetable empanada, the breeze blowing and the sky almost entirely clear), I’ve found myself with a distinct lack of energy. I suspect the number of early mornings this week (including having to be up in Emmitsburg, MD by 8:30am yesterday, ugh) has finally caught up with me. (Which also kind of stinks because I have a birthday shindig on the calendar tonight and I don’t know if I have the energy to go.)

So I’ve been sitting home and reading Lynda Barry’s brand new book What It Is for the fourth or fifth time this week and it’s amazing how much this is resonating with me. I loved her book One Hundred Demons (it suddenly opened my eyes to what an amazing writer she is) but What It Is goes above and beyond that, talking so much about creativity and imagination and how we often self-censor ourselves. There’s a page in which she’s talking about how she started changing her behavior around other people, that really struck me.

By the 6th grade I stopped doing ordinary things in front of people. It had been ordinary to sing, kids are singing all the time when they are little, but then something happens. It’s not that we stop singing. I still sang. I just made sure I was alone when I did it, and I made sure I never did it accidentally. That thing we call “bursting into song.” I believe this happens to most of us. We are still singing, but secretly and all alone.

And that’s when it suddenly hit me that it’s one of the things I love so much about Charlie. I don’t think he ever censors himself that way. When he and Julie and I drove down to the Outer Banks Marathon, within about 30 seconds of us all being in my car he’d suddenly burst into song, and I remember Julie saying something along the lines of, “Oooh, this is going to be a fun ride.” And I always groan a lot when he does it, but you know what? I really rather envy his being able to do so, and most of the time it makes me smile.

Anyway, I’ll have a review of What It Is run later this week on Read About Comics, but I’m going to give everyone a sneak preview right here: BUY THIS BOOK. I suspect it’s going to be my favorite book (drawn or otherwise) of the entire year. It’s about creativity, and ourselves, and the world around us, and everything in-between, and it’s fantastic.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch…

It’s been a while since I’ve updated about life in the Wild World of Greg. Well, aside from talking about photos or nasty sugar-substitutes.

My work computer bit the dust big time last week. Now I’m on a replacement Lenovo, which has some things which are better than my old HP (for starters, shutting the laptop doesn’t turn it off, and since I use a large monitor at work this is a good thing), other things which drive me crazy (it’s a bit slower and is most noticeable by the 3-second pause before it will open a new browser window).

Artomatic seems to be going well. I set up a guestbook after the first weekend and there are a couple of comments in it that made me smile. No sales, alas, but hope springs eternal. I do think I’m going to run out of business cards before the end, so I decided to give Zazzle’s cards a whirl and printed some out. They should be here at the start of next week, which is good.

Charlie and I saw the Israeli movie Jellyfish last night and both loved it. It’s co-directed by the husband-and-wife team of Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, and written by Geffen. If I didn’t know better, though, I’d have thought it was written by Keret. I first discovered him through his graphic novel Jetlag (drawn by the Actus comic collective in Israel), and love his short stories—and while the film adaptation of his story “Kneller’s Happy Campers” (which he had nothing to do with) is reportedly awful, I think Asaf Hanuka’s graphic novel adapation of it into Pizzeria Kamikaze is great. Anyway, it’s a good, solid movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome; I was impressed with not only the script that alternates between dreamy tableaus and harsh reality, but with the visual stylings of Keret/Geffen. I’ll keep an eye out for their next film project.

The Capitol Hill Classic 10K last weekend was a blast, both for running it (I’d missed it last year thanks to an injury) as well as seeing old friends. It made me really appreciate both the work I’d put into exercise and running since mid-April, as well as all the people I’ve met through the sport over the years. Good times, good times. Even if I am starting to look like Paula Radcliffe and her hideously bad form when it comes to running, it seems.

Remember how I said I had three things I would think about buying if I sold things at Artomatic? Somehow I’ve ended up with two of them. Thanks to a gift card for my birthday back in March, I picked up Mario Kart Wii, which is so much fun it’s mind-boggling. I even got Charlie to play it and he, too, is all over it. Super, super fun, I cannot recommend this highly enough. (Also on the Wii front is Wii Fit, which I set up this morning and used for half an hour. I got it primarily for the balance and yoga exercises, and I love how well it analyzes my form. I think Fred will be delighted with the end results of me using this on a regular basis.)

Also, I was looking at the laser printer that I’ve been eyeing and the price had suddenly dropped $60 due to an instant rebate. Well, clearly it was a sign that I should buy it now. So it arrived today and I will set it up this weekend. I’m also quite pleased that it’s wireless, so I can set it up across the room and have it out of the way. I haven’t had a home printer in over a decade. What a strange feeling!

Last but not least, it is a super-small world. A week ago, on my way home from work I got trapped on the GW Parkway for 2 1/2 hours due to an accident in the southbound lanes that made the police completely shut down the entire parkway. Eventually everyone shut off their cars and walked around a bit, talked, and so forth. (I took the opportunity to read almost all of Tithe by Holly Black, which is also this month’s book club selection.) The entire time, though, I kept looking at the guy in the car behind me because he looked so very familiar. It wasn’t until afterwards that it finally clicked, though. It was my good friend Jon‘s cousin David, whom I haven’t seen in a decade. Bizarrely, he looks completely unchanged. (No doubt there is a portrait aging away in his attic.) Meanwhile, I look pretty radically different than I did in the late ’90s (much less weight and much less hair) so it didn’t surprise me that I didn’t look at all the same. But still, how funny is that?

This weekend, I am looking forward to not having to go away for Memorial Day weekend in, well, quite a while. Perhaps I can finally photograph some of Rolling Thunder? That’d be nice.

Greg vs HFCS

So, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the past couple of years (or are merely very adept at avoiding the media), you know about the evil sweetener used in so many US food products that’s called “high fructose corn syrup” and which converts to fat much faster than sugar, doesn’t stimulate insulin production (which means you don’t feel “full” as fast), and also kills small kittens simply by being within a 5-foot radius.

Now, ever since I spent most of 2004 on Weight Watchers, I regularly look at the packaging of what I eat; calories, fat, ingredient listings, and so forth. So while I knew that I don’t eat many things that have HFCS as an ingredient, when Butch and Chris mentioned they were cutting it entirely out of their diet I found myself a little curious as to what I still ate that had it these days. (It does help that I’m not a big soda person.) So, I went through the fridge and pantry, because there’s a certain appeal in the idea of striking the last bits of HFCS out of my life. (After all, if it’s easy to go from “some” to “none” then why not?)

The end result? Only a few things, happily.

  • Box of individual Kellogg’s cereal servings
  • Pepperidge Farm 100% whole wheat bread
  • Kudos granola bars
  • 100-calorie snack packs
  • Gatorade

The nice thing is that all five of those are pretty easily replaced. The other cereals in my house (Kashi Strawberry Fields, and various varieties of Puffins) don’t have HFCS and I really eat them more often these days, anyway. Bread is easily switched back over to Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat, which I used to buy anyway but had only hopped brands because I could get the Pepperidge Farm bread at CostCo. The Kudos and 100-calorie snack packs are a little frustrating to go because they were also regular CostCo purchases, but similar alternatives from Trader Joe’s are a-ok. And with Gatorade, I switched over to buying the powder (which doesn’t have HFCS) and am going to just keep a pitcher in the fridge. Less plastic being used that way, really.

It does help that I shop a lot at Trader Joe’s, don’t really drink soda (happily my one occasional vice of Jones Soda Cream Soda uses sugar cane), and also enjoy doing some shopping at H-Mart/Han Ah Reum where the products just don’t seem to use it.

Do I think I’m going to magically drop weight from eliminating HFCS? Probably not. (Besides, I still have to eat what’s left of those snacks. That may take a month or so. But as they run out they aren’t getting replaced.) But it is nice to know that it’s pretty easy to cut that substance out of my home. It does make me wonder how easy it is for others to do it, too. And I do plan on writing letters to the makers of the products I will miss (Kudos in particular (*sniff*)) to let them know that I’m not buying their stuff anymore and why. Hey, it can’t hurt, right?

(And no, I’m also not going to go crazy about this. I know that sometimes you’re out and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. I’m not worried about that.)

Just don’t tell the corn farmers about this. Between talk about switching ethanol from corn to things like sugar cane or switchgrass, and now this, they might get a little pissy at me. I promise that I’ll buy a lot of corn this summer, though. Mmmm, black beans and corn and avocado and tomato… Now I’m getting hungry.


Two quick items of note!

First off, I now have an official “these are some of my better photos” website put together. I think it’s a pretty nifty site, and I’ll be adding to it as I finally get my new camera up and running and it takes pictures worthy of going there. Consider it a “best of the best” selection, and it’s at http://photos.gregmce.com. Very exciting! (Well, for me.) It’s the closest I have to a portfolio online.

And second, for those in the DC area, Artomatic opens today! It’s running through June 15th, has free admission, and is one block from the New York Avenue metro station. (There’s also some street parking, and I think also some pay garaged parking available.) It’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the rest of the week has some pretty reasonable viewing hours. (Wed/Thurs: 5-10pm; Fri/Sat: noon-2am; Sun: noon-10pm.)

So if you’re interested, try and head on up to the 9th floor and check my stuff out! And then check everything else out while you’re there; there’s a lot of really interested and neat art being exhibited this year, and I’ve only seen a small fraction. This year was a big learning experience for me and hopefully the next time the show comes around my stuff will be even better. But I had fun getting things ready.

End of self-promoting plugs! (Next time I’ll talk about something riveting like high fructose corn syrup. Mmmmmmm.)

I feel the earth move under my feet

I’m sure there must be a “You can tell you’re an East Coaster when…” list out there that includes the item, “You get excited over a 1.8 magnitude earthquake.”

It certainly wasn’t as strong as the one a few years ago (that was around, what, a 3 or a 4?) which was piddly in its own right, so this one was even less so. With the previous one I at least got up out of my chair and stuck my head into the hallway to see if others felt it. With this one, the best I could muster was an instant message to Karon saying, “I swear I just felt our building shake.”

I’ve been feeling a little bleah for most of today, so it’s good to get excited about something. I skipped my run this morning (one of my legs was feeling stiff and tight this morning and even after several stretches today it’s still a bit that way) and I haven’t decided if I’ll attempt one this afternoon after work or not. (I am unfortunately leaning towards no.) I certainly didn’t sleep well last night, which didn’t help matters, too.

But on the bright side, my labels for Artomatic are printed and sitting on my desk, so I just need to pop by this evening and then I am completely done. People keep asking if I’m excited and the answer has been, “Not yet.” Maybe it’s because it was all so new and a learning process for me this year; I’ve already made a lot of decisions for potential future exhibiting on ways I would do it different. Hopefully once it’s all taken care of I will be a little more jazzed about it.

On the other hand, I have decided that if I sell some of the photos (which would be awfully cool) that I get to reward myself. So items I’m looking at include:

Mario Kart Wii just looks amazingly fun, plus there’s the online play aspect. I would sure like to experiment with a “prime” lens. And I haven’t had a printer for over a decade, since the infamous moment where Kate sent me a cursed manuscript and my printing it out literally destroyed the printer. (It started printing jibberish about 2/3rds of the way through—and no, it was not the manuscript’s actual text—and never recovered.) So for those, I am excited.

(Not that I’m actually expecting to sell any photos, of course. But the thought is pretty fun to think about.)

Overall, though, things are good. I have some friends moving into the neighborhood next month, some beautiful orchids blooming in my office, we had salsa lessons in the office yesterday for Cinco de Mayo (which was fun), and an older gentleman at the gym yesterday asked if that was indeed me at the opera last week—and that he and his wife also left before the end because they couldn’t stand it. Hee hee hee.

Hopelessly busy, but making good time

Phew! April is finally over, and I think with it, the busy time is starting to wind back down. The past two weeks have felt like anything and everything was just crammed into it all at once, between returning to a full running/exercise schedule, book club, opera, an anniversary, Artomatic, reviews, and a billion other things that are temporarily escaping my mind.

That’s not to say it was bad things, of course. (Well, the opera was dreadful and we left after the first act.) Just everything happening at once. But it felt good after work yesterday to accomplish a lot of things off my list; stop by Michael’s and get some replacement frames, cook dinner with enough for leftovers, go running with Pacers in Arlington, eat dinner, feed Karon’s cats, head over to Artomatic and check on painting situation then clean everything up, and get home with enough time for Top Chef, Lost, and 30 Rock.

But anyway, after next weekend things are looking much calmer. Saturday has two birthday parties, Sunday is going to be hanging all of the photos at Artomatic. Then next week shouldn’t be too crazy, just finishing up my Artomatic set-up on Tuesday (labels for the photos, figuring out how to put a business card holder in my space, that sort of thing), dinner plans on Monday, spinning on Wednesday, running with the group on Thursday, possibly a 10k on Saturday and then a volunteer shift at Artomatic, and working at the store on Sunday.

And then… quiet time. It’s been surprising to me how much time Artomatic has taken up, especially as it gets closer, but it’s a good learning experience for me. If there’s another show in 2009 and I partiicpate, I will certainly be better prepared. And the next couple of weekends are much more open and free than mine have been as of late, too. So that will be nice. I want to just spend some time finally learning how to use my new camera (which is gathering dust on my desk because of everything else), that sort of thing. And as the days get longer, it somehow just feels like there’s more time to do things. That mental block that hits when the sun goes down can really slice into one’s day. Having my tv shows all come to a close again helps, too. (Although as of tonight I am now three weeks behind on BSG, plus two weeks behind on The Office and Ugly Betty.) I don’t watch that much these days but there’s only so many hours in the day.

Still, I feel like I’ve been accomplishing a lot. So it’s not a bad sort of busy. Just one with a lot of things getting checked off. I’m ok with that, for a while. I just need to keep the list from growing as fast as I remove things, that’s all.