30 March 2006

Selig launches steroid investigation

CNN Breaking News: Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announces former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to head probe of steroid use in baseball.

How happy I was to read that e-mail this afternoon! I hate Barry Bonds, and I hope they kick him out of the game. I can’t stand his “it’s all about me, not the team” attitude. He was cute back in his Pirates days, but he’s a bulked-up freak now. I keep watching for an arm to rip off during a homerun swing, like a Monty Python skit; wouldn’t that be cool?

It ticks me off that Bond is just six or seven homers away from breaking Babe Ruth’s record. That big fat cheater (notice how skillfully I’m using sports lingo) is getting much too close breaking to Hank Aaron’s record. And that will be a dark day for me.

Hank Aaron broke Babe’s record fair and square. He didn’t shoot himself up with a cocktail of steroids and banned substances. He played for years, he chased the record, he earned each of those 755 homeruns. And he's a good guy — he still loves the game, and he gives a lot to his community.

Hank Aaron is one of my all-time heroes. As a kid in Atlanta in 1966, you couldn’t help but love that first Atlanta Braves team: Hank Aaron and Felipe Alou, Joe Torre and Rico Carty, Eddie Mathews and Clete Boyer. Felipe Alou was my personal favorite back then, but Hammerin’ Hank was the king — and still is. (In fact, if I ever decide to buy a BMW, I’m buying it from Hank.)

Please, Mr. Selig and Mr. Mitchell, please ban Barry Bonds from baseball. Let him join Pete Rose in baseball limbo.

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It’s a new day

Spring is finally here. The sky is blue … the birds are singing … the daffodils are in bloom … and yesterday’s grumpiness has faded away. I’m not skipping through the flowers yet — but I did enjoy a great shower dance to the Stones’ “Rocks off” this morning.

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29 March 2006

I’m so damn tired

I filed away the job folders for two huge projects yesterday, projects that have taken most of my office energy since the first of the year. So, you’d think that things would be slow at my desk, that I’d be cruising through this week, right? Hell to the no! I have tons of catching up to do, and several major projects need my constant attention through June. Stress continues to be at an all-time high.

Will it ever f*cking end? Every year, I’m given more and more responsibility — and thanked for my hard work and accomplishments with a few measly percentage points of a raise. I’m tired of pushing the achievement limit further each year, of striving to be at the top of the employee pile. I’m tired of slapping together articles, instead of taking the time to write good pieces. I’m tired of sitting in meetings, of putting together reports that are rarely read, of answering idiotic questions. I’m tired of feeling guilty if I leave before 7 p.m. I just want to settle into a work routine and do what I was hired to do: write and manage newsletters, annual reports, and communication pieces. I think I’m ready to retire … if only my 401(k) balances agreed.

It sucks being the go-to gal. And that’s my whining for the week. I promise.

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28 March 2006

May God’s love be with you always

Once every year or two, a song comes out that strikes a chord deep in my soul. The kind of song that makes me stop, shut out everything and just listen. The kind of song that must be listened to for an hour straight. The kind of song that’s best heard while driving alone on a rainy night.

This year, that song is Michael Stipe’s cover of Joseph Arthur’s “In the Sun.”

Now, you know I’m biased about anything from R.E.M., together or separately, but this tune deserves special recognition. Not only is it a great song, but all proceeds going to Gulf Coast relief. You can buy it only through iTunes, and I recommend the entire EP. Your radio station isn’t cool enough to play “In the Sun”? You can sample the track here. Great music for a great cause; is there a better way to spend $4.95?

Michael’s voice is perfect for this song, especially when it’s just him and that piano by the Fountains of Wayne guy. It’s all my soul needs. I get a little irritated when Chris Martin joins in; Coldplay bores me these days.

BTW, Joseph Arthur is a great songwriter and artist. I have a couple of his albums, including the one with his original “In the Sun." Be sure to check him out.

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27 March 2006

It was a great birthday

My birthday weekend has come to an end. It was a wonderful, joyous birthday — and I still feel 15 years younger than my birth certificate claims. I woke up this morning feeling very loved and blessed for having a great family and so many friends.

Friday night: Mom had us over for steaks to celebrate my birthday and my brother’s birthday, which is two days before mine. Happy surprise: My niece, Lauren, came up from Georgia Southern. (She also gave me a tongue lashing since I haven’t written about her, so expect a Lauren post soon.) Had fun, too, with my nephew, Matthew; we played with my new cell phone. Dinner was delish, hanging with the family was nice, and I received some cool gifts.

Saturday: Birthday!!!!! Mom and I had planned to go to Madison for the day, but she came down with a stomach flu. I spent the morning lazing around (boy, did I need it after the last few weeks at work!) and answering calls and e-mails from loved ones. I spent the afternoon bumming around — flirting with the guy-only staff at Starbucks, visiting Mom, shopping for my summer perfume. It was a beautiful (but chilly) afternoon; the sky looked liked the opening credits for “The Simpsons” (yeah, I’m an arty girl, all right). I spent an hour doing one of my favorite Saturday things: just driving around, the sunroof open, singing along to R.E.M., the Ramones, Nirvana, and Neil Young on Dave FM.

Late Saturday afternoon: Paige and I met for our semiannual birthday sushi dinner at Circle Sushi (highly recommended for those in Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and East Cobb). It was good to have just the two of us hanging, sharing sushi and beer, chatting about life.

Saturday night: We had a great time at Vinocity. (I took several photos, but every one is horrible, so you’ll have to take my word for it.) A few cosmopolitans, several glasses of great wine, yummy appetizers, fun folks. Clark selected a great syrah (Cape Mentelle winery, from Margaret River, Australia), and most of us drank that for the rest of the night. Closed out the evening doing one of my favorite Saturday night things: a late-night drive from one end of Peachtree to the other, with the sunroof open and good music blaring. In fact, while sitting at the traffic light in front of fellow March 25er Elton John’s high rise, Dave FM played — and I loudly sang — “Bennie and the Jets.”

Sunday: As covered in yesterday’s post, Dan took me to Table 120 for a birthday brunch, then we saw the Chuck Close exhibit. I can't say it enough: the new High is fabulous, and you have to plan a trip there this spring.

Sunday night: I closed out the weekend with a bottle of pink champagne and an old friend.

I received tons of great birthday calls, cards, and e-mails. I also received two beautiful vases of flowers from friends, as pictured below. Ruth sent the Peruvian lilies on the left; Karen sent the tulips on the right.

And I still I have celebrations planned for this week and next. Damn, I love birthday month!

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26 March 2006

Review: Chuck Close (High Museum of Art)

Dan and I hit the preview of the Chuck Close: Self-Portraits exhibit today. I’ve been a fan of Chuck Close since Dan introduced me to his work about 10 years ago. Close has taken the portrait to a new level. I love his huge canvases, his montage/collage portraits, his massive Polaroids, his daguerreotypes. I’ve seen his pieces at MoMA and the National Gallery, and caught a great exhibit of recent work at the Corcoran about five years ago.

The show includes some amazing pieces. My favorite was the first one I saw: Big Self-Portrait (right), a huge black-and-white portrait painting he did in the late 1960s (love his attitude in the piece). He used a very thin coat of paint to give the canvas the look of a photograph. I know Close hates to hear his work called photorealistic, but, let’s face it, Big Self-Portrait is (sorry, Chuck).

Overall, the show is good. There are self-portraits in many different media: handmade paper, rubber stamping, woodcuts, etchings, drawings — even holograms. Some wildly colorful, others beautiful tones of black and white. It's fascinating, too, to see the gridded photographs he uses to develop the paintings.

I found, though, that since you saw the same self-portraits over and over in different media, it felt a bit repetitive by the last gallery. I would have liked to see some of his other portraits, as well. But don’t let that statement keep you at home; whether you’re a Chuck Close fan or have yet to see his work, I recommend this exhibit.

My all-time favorite Chuck Close piece (and one of my favorite pieces of work from the last half of century) is Fanny/Fingerpainting, at the National Gallery of Art (since the High show is self-portraits, this one didn’t make it to Atlanta). It hung for a long time in the lobby area of the East Wing. From afar, it looks like a huge, beautiful black-and-white photograph; once you get close to the piece, you notice that this huge portrait is made from fingerprints. It gives the piece life, texture. Really amazing piece; I keep a postcard of it on my desk.

For more on Chuck Close, click here.

BTW, if you have yet to visit the High Museum of Art since the expansion opened, you’re missing a lot. It’s an amazing building. With more than 175,000 additional square feet, more of the High’s permanent collection is on display. I didn’t know the museum owned several Ellsworth Kelly pieces or a Jean-Michel Basquiat piece until the new section opened in November. Put the High on your list for the spring.

Here's the new main entrance. Doesn't the building look beautiful again our blue spring sky?

Here's the back of the original building, shot from the courtyard; Peachtree's just below the the trees.

I call this one Groovy Guy Sunning in Courtyard.

And — finally — there’s a great restaurant at the complex. I’ve eaten twice at Table 1280 — lunch with my niece after Christmas, and Sunday brunch today with Dan — and I give it a big thumbs-up. We really needed a good restaurant at Woodruff Arts Center. Make plans for the Sunday brunch buffet; the food and desserts were absolutely amazing.

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25 March 2006

It’s my birthday!

Let the party begin! It’s going to be a day of champagne and cocktails, great people and good times. Celebrate my birthday, wherever you are, by taking an hour and doing something fun, festive and frivolous. Just be sure to tell me how you celebrated my day!

Yep, today's going to be just as much fun as my 8th birthday party:

I’m the four-eyed cutie in the stylish birthday hat; even then, I was all about the accessories. That's Renae, my oldest, dearest friend, in the plaid dress. My sister Paige is next to Renae, at the end of the row; my brother Buck is the sole boy, checking out the ladies. My cousin Gina is at the end of the top row, with Jill in front of her. Holly was still living in Sagamore Hills that year, so we had yet to be blessed by her laugh (and that cool tongue!).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me and my fellow March 25ers: Elton John ... Aretha Franklin ... Sarah Jessica Parker ... Tom Glavine ... Nick Lowe ... Gloria Steinem ... Anita Bryant ... Jim Lovell ... Flannery O'Connor ... Marcia Cross ... Howard Cosell ...

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24 March 2006

A damn good recipe

This is my favorite recipe of the year, and probably for years to come. The great thing is, you can follow the recipe to the letter or give it your own spin — and it will still knock your socks off. I hope each of you try it out sometime in the next week.

Warning: Those who are under 18 or easily embarrassed should not even pull the pan out of the cupboard.

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23 March 2006

It takes a long time to grow an old friend

I received my first birthday cards yesterday. One was from Janice, who was my best friend in high school. We were inseparable from the first week of our freshman year through the graduation-night parties. After high school, we took different paths and drifted apart. We sort of kept in touch throughout our twenties, but I was living the single life and she was raising a family. By the time we hit our thirties, we were down to the occasional Christmas card. We got smart in our forties and reconnected, keeping in touch by e-mail and meeting for lunch at least once a year (we live about 70 miles apart, and she has a busy life with a wonderful husband and three boys, so it’s hard to get together regularly).

Janice made this beautiful card, with the title of this post on the front and some friendly teasing. Her handwritten note was even more meaningful, and it’s one I’ll keep for a long time because the sentiments are about real friendship.

The card got my birthday-reflective self thinking about friendship. My friends play a major role in my life. I’m lucky to have a group of cool, smart, wonderful friends. They’re flung far and wide, but distance hasn’t ended the friendships. We can pick up the phone or zip off an e-mail as if we spoke yesterday. That defines a great friendship; the real ones don’t fade over time. I love each of you dearly, and hope you know how you’ve enriched my life. As I say each birthday, this year I plan to make more time for you ... but don't get discouraged if I drop that ball. I promise to try (don't despair, Greg!).

So, the birthday celebration has begun. Well, actually, there is no celebrating going on right now — just long hours in the office. But my soul is dancing and partying.

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22 March 2006

It's uncanny!

Me & George W is my favorite blog of the week. Be sure to check it out. And we thought the Lincoln/Kennedy similarities were uncanny.

P.S. For those of you new to blogs, scroll to the bottom and read up to get the full effect of Mr. Sark's similarities to Mr. Bush.

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I love my Starbucks

I admit it: I’m addicted to my triple grande nonfat latte. It’s as important a morning ritual as taking a long shower or picking out the right pair of earrings. A workday unfueled by my latte is foggy, gray, uninspired, bland. The creative side of my brain doesn’t fully function if my left hand isn’t in the cup-grip mode from 8:30 until 11:30.

I love everything about the Starbucks part of my morning. The smell of brewing espresso as I open the door. The way the cup warms my hand. That first sip of latte. But there's more to this morning ritual than a jolt of espresso.

My Starbucks is my Floyd’s Barber Shop. They know me, they know my drink. I know it’s a chain, but the casual, friendly atmosphere has almost the same feel as Javamonkey did during my Decatur days (just not quite as funky). My Starbucks run is about more than grabbing a cup o’ joe. It's also about the connection. Marlene or Luke start brewing my latte as soon as they see me walk through the door. Cup in hand, we chat about our lives for a few minutes — Marlene’s steamy new romance … the escapades of Susan’s little boy … what Luke’s up to in school or on the golf course … my heavy workload or heavier social calendar. We talk art exhibits and arts festivals, can’t-miss movies and must-read books, cocktailed evenings and muggy mornings. At my Starbucks, I start my mornings connecting with my neighbors.

In fact, that connection factored in my decision to possibly buy my townhouse. I’ve always been an ITP* girl because I love the neighborly feel of intown areas (and I’ve lived in nearly all of them). The suburbs bored me: strip malls, traffic, assimilation, invisibility. Thanks to my Starbucks, I now know that Peachtree Corners can also be funky, friendly and my home.

*For you non-Atlantans, ITP is our local abbreviation for "inside the perimeter," or our intown section of town.

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21 March 2006

I tried to post today ...

... but Blogger is being very temperamental. You'll just have to check back to see what's on my trivial mind.

20 March 2006

My Desert Island Discs

I’m too busy at work today to come up with something witty to write, so I’m resorting to the blog copout: a list. On BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs, celebrities select eight songs they’d want with them on a deserted island, those eight songs they couldn’t live without. I can’t imagine narrowing down to eight songs — heck, I can’t even narrow it down to eight R.E.M. albums — so I’m changing the game to list the 15 artists my deserted self couldn’t live without.

This was hard, darn hard. Before I start reworking the list again, I’d better publish it:
  1. R.E.M.
  2. Elvis Costello
  3. David Bowie
  4. Ella Fitzgerald
  5. Nina Simone
  6. Al Green
  7. Prince
  8. The Rolling Stones
  9. Rufus Wainwright
  10. Beck
  11. The Replacements
  12. Wilco
  13. Johnny Cash
  14. The B-52’s
  15. TIE: Lyle Lovett or Warren Zevon, depending on my mood the day of the capsize
My apologies to The Beatles, but my soul would need Mick and Keef to keep things lively in the sand.

Who you would request for your deserted island listening pleasure? List your selections in the Comments section. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can make a list of eight DID songs.

P.S. Karen, Colin Firth has a darn good DID list.

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19 March 2006

So, it seems I’m the town whore

My morning DJs recently talked about a therapist’s book on infidelity. This guy claims that someone who has lunch or cocktails … or enjoys a movie or deep conversations … or shares jokes and e-mails with a member of the opposite sex is cheating on the significant other, committing emotional infidelity. It’s what broke up Brad and Jennifer, you know. If that’s true, then I was an emotional infidel with five men last week.

Ugh. I’ve dealt with this crap since Carl Fuqua and I shared a locker our senior year in high school. I’ve been hated by wives and girlfriends for 30 years. Why can’t a man and woman be friends without becoming sexual suspects?

I love my male friends — straight/gay, married/single, young/old, geeky/cool, arty/corporate — I collect them all. I prefer them to most women I know, which is probably why I have just a handful of great girlfriends. My guys are straightforward, honest and fun, and there in a flash when I need them. (BTW, thanks to Paul and Francesco for their technical assistance when I started my blog.)

Now, you know I love you dearly, but there’s no romance, no sexual tension between us, right? My heart’s taken. OK, so maybe we flirt a bit at times — but who doesn’t enjoy the occasional harmless, witty flirt? Are we having an emotional affair, or enjoying a good friendship? Should I think twice before joining you for Mexican food or sharing our frustrations?

To hell with M. Gary Neuman and his emotional infidelity. Let’s grab a beer and bitch about the opposite sex.

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18 March 2006

Who do I think I am — Beth Cox Chambers?

As you’ve heard me whine ad nauseam for the last few months, I’ve been working ridiculous, stressful, overloaded hours. Much of it is my own fault; great creative ideas + never having learned to say “no” = more work for me. But I’m tired. Drained. I haven’t been taking care of myself. I feel frumpy, mopey, sleepy, grumpy — all seven drawfs rolled into one worn-out body. So what’s a girl to do? I go deep and spiritual: I make an appointment to get a cute spring ‘do.

I wake up, ready for a morning at the salon. I’m going to wear my new skirt with that fabulous necklace I just got in Athens, play the girlie card today. I hop in the shower — no water (what complex shuts off the water for plumbing repairs on Saturday morning???). A cute spring skirt doesn’t go with unwashed skin, so I throw on jeans, a cami, an old beau’s workshirt, no makeup — not even earrings (which in my world means nearly naked). I dash to my salon — an upscale, yet surprisingly affordable, shop where the stylists dress in black couture — looking a bit like I’ve given up, or that I’m dating Amy Ray. And sitting in front of that huge mirror, with all that light shining on me while my shorn curls drift to the floor, I get more and more disgusted with myself.

Nena does a great job with my hair, and I feel better — but not quite cute enough. So I stop to chat with the salon’s makeup artist. Suni’s great. She has her own line, and I’ve worn her makeup for several months. I tell her I need some eye shadow, so we start playing with colors. She loves my dramatic coloring and the new cut, so we keep playing — lipsticks, bronzers, creams, brushes, the whole shebang. I’m having fun … I feel cute … the girlie genes wake up … I just got my bonus and two freelance checks … so I buy it all. A girl needs to splurge, right?

And then I hit the counter. When I heard the total, I OMIGODed at yelp level. I’m too embarrassed to tell you how much I spent (I confessed to Karen, and that’s it) … but let’s just say those funds could have bought that antique rocker. I’m standing there, looking great with my mouth agape, actually praying that my credit card says NO WAY! — but, sadly, Capital One is happy to see me looking so good. Where are those annoying Vikings when you need them?

I’ve spent the last couple of hours justifying the two bags of makeup I bought this morning. I need a girlie splurge every once in a while, right? I’ll wear all this makeup for ages, and I won’t need to hit the Walgreen’s aisle until Christmas. I want him to think I look adorable, as cute as I was 20 years ago. The lotions and creams will make me look healthy, happy, relaxed, younger. It’s fun to feel rich for a day.

But I could have bought a sofa.

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17 March 2006

And happy birthday, Karen!

I met Karen a couple of summers ago through a mutual friend, during a boozy Like Water for Chocolate dinner at Sundown Café (before it became a taqueria). We became instant buds, and have spent the last two years sharing movies and margaritas, concerts and confidences, laughter and loss. We get each other. Karen brings a lot of joy to my life.

And today’s her birthday. Hoist one tonight in honor of Karen’s birth.

How great is this woman? Check out this photo from last year’s birthday celebration (Karen’s the cutie with glasses and the curious foot):

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16 March 2006

Happy birthday, Maggie!

Ten years ago tonight, Maggie became a Coffey.

Maggie spent her first two years living the feline version of “Oliver!” — forgotten, ignored, left to fend for herself in the apartment of a wanton woman. She came home with us on March 17, 1996, and her life changed for the better. She was finally happy and spoiled rotten — playing fetch, flirting with Paul, acking at birds, gobbling down tuna, running the show.

The grand dame of bitchy kitties, Maggie has personality, attitude, intelligence and a real joie de vivre. She rarely forgives and never forgets. But if she loves you, you're blessed. I aspire to be like her one day.

Happy birthday, Maggie Cat. It’s been a great decade, and Otto and I would be lost without you.

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15 March 2006

Athens, Part 1: Come Relive My Misspent Youth

Great day in Athens! It's spring break for UGA, so the town had a slow, laidback feel. The baubles hunt was successful. Sadly, though, I didn't hear any great new music while flipping through Wuxtry; the record-store guys were cute and chatty, though, so it wasn’t a wasted trip.

I took some digital pix around town, to give you a peek at my Athens.

Here's a shot of downtown Athens, from North Campus. An adorable Irish lad first developed a crush on me down this street way back in March 1984.

My dorm, Brumby Hall; the red arrow points to my windows.

OM bought me this telephone pole for my 20th birthday, after an unfortunate incident involving our woody station wagon and a road-zipping squirrel. Did you know you have to pay for the pole if you crash into it and snap it in two? If you’re interested in paying homage to the Coffey pole, it’s just half block from Brumby.

My sorority house, home to my short-lived preppy phase. Bring on the Pappagallos and add-a-beads, and let’s shag, baby!

Renae’s Athens home in the mid-1980s. Boy, did I have a lot of good times in that place …

Here’s Five and Ten, around the corner from Renae's old duplex, in the Five Points section of Athens. Five and Ten is one of my favorite restaurants in the world; Karen and I celebrated my birthday in style there last year (just ask the folks at the next table!). If you haven’t been, make plans; it's well worth the drive. I'll take you out-of-towners the next time you visit me.

Today’s bauble haul. I can always find cool jewelry at great prices in Athens. I had just an hour to shop with a strict spending limit … so I'll probably zip back up Highway 78 in the next couple of weeks.

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Athens, Part 2: The R.E.M. Tour

OK, French, you can stop reading now.

I didn't have enough time to do the full tour (every spot where I saw them perform! the place where Michael eye-flirted with me at breakfast!) ... but I hit the highlights.

This is Potter’s House, where The B-52’s and R.E.M. and the other cool kids in the Athens music scene bought their groovy vintage clothes and party dresses. Renae bought some fabulous dresses and sweaters there; wish she still had that party dress with the black velvet top, brocade skirt and naughty, naughty rose.

The center of my soul’s universe: R.E.M.’s headquarters, on the second floor. I waved.

R.E.M.’s rehearsal space, just a few blocks from HQ. My boys are into historic preservation in the Athens area; this was an old feed store or something that they refurbished and saved from the wrecking ball.

Here are a couple of shots of Michael Stipe’s house:

Peter Buck’s last house in Athens, before he moved to Seattle and married not-Beth. It was blue when he lived there.

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I'm going to Athens today!

Sunny and 65 ... out of the office on a work day ... yep, it's going to be a great Wednesday. Of course, I do have to tour an exhibit and meet with the curator ... but I should have some time to enjoy my favorite Georgia town ... pop into a CD shop and discover some new music ... pick up a bauble or four ... have a beer on a patio. Wonder if Michael's in town this week ...


14 March 2006

Review: The BODIES Exhibition

A group of us hit the BODIES exhibition at the Civic Center Saturday night.

Now, you know I’m not one for guts and gore; the first time I watched “The Evil Dead,” it was in the morning, with breaks every 20 minutes so I could catch my breath (and sanity). My group included Nurse Karen, who isn’t squeamish about the body, so I needed to act cool. I bravely walked through the front doors, fortified by my vice of choice (three margarita swirls from Casa Grande). Who would have guessed that I didn’t need my fix?

BODIES is one of the most interesting, fascinating, educational exhibits I’ve ever seen. On display are actual cadavers, preserved using a special polymer process. There are bodies dissected so that you can see how the muscles work while running or playing basketball. There’s a skeleton holding hands with his musculature self, showing you how the two are related. The section showing the blood vessels and arteries looked like an art exhibit. There’s a display comparing a healthy lung to a smoker’s lung (toss those Camels, folks), and cancerous organs to healthy ones. There’s a room showing fetal development that I found amazing (but it could disturb some).

BODIES isn’t gross; it’s engrossing. I highly recommend this exhibit.

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13 March 2006

OK, so the name is corny

Welcome to my blog! Paul and Renae have been bugging me for months to start one ... so I'm finally taking the plunge. It's my own personal Algonquin Round Table, a chance to write Noel-Cowardish epistles on art and film and the world of politics and R.E.M. No doubt I'll write important columns, probably collected and published by a prestigious imprint. Oh, heck, let's admit it: It's a chance to go on and on about my love for Letterman/hatred for Leno, pontifications on the latest episode of Isaac Mizrahi's talk show ... and, of course, R.E.M.

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