Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Friedl Dicker Day

Today would have been Friedl Dicker’s 110th birthday. It would also have been my 14th wedding anniversary.

We didn’t discover the coincidence of dates until long after Friedl had become our household saint (a Jewish saint being somewhere between a cause for controversy and a contradiction in terms, and thus peculiarly appropriate to our union). As I remember it, she came into our lives by a fluke in 1994 or 1995, when we were both studying art history at SUNY-Buffalo. James was writing a paper on women weavers at the Bauhaus, and one night, procrastinating on whatever paper I was supposed to be writing, I started leafing through his books. Her name caught my eye.

“Friedl Dicker?” I said, displaying all the maturity for which I am even now renowned. “You should definitely write your paper on Friedl Dicker.”

James, being similarly dignified, let out a snort and grabbed the book from my hands. “Let’s just see what happened to Friedl,” he said, flipping to the short artist biographies in the back. “Hmmm…established a design studio in Berlin…moved to Vienna…forced to close her studio there in 1934…moved to Prague…married Pavel Brandeis…moved to Czechoslovakia…deported to Terezín in 1942, where she gave art lessons to the children in the camp…transported to Auschwitz…died in Auschwitz in 1944.”

“Oh, no. Poor Friedl,” I said.

Somehow, from that moment on, she became a part of us in both comic name and rich, complex, tragically truncated life. Even now, hearing her name reminds me of the best parts of the life we had together--the robust and resilient humor that transcended whatever circumstances we found ourselves in. That quality, I am glad to say, survived our transition from spouses to friends.

Friedl’s work and her story have become more widely known in recent years, largely a result of the efforts of Israeli art teacher and scholar Elena Makarova. A selection of the 5,000 children’s drawings Friedl hid at Terezín shortly before her transport to Auschwitz were published as I Never Saw Another Butterfly in 1964, and a children’s book about her work with the children in the camp, Fireflies in the Dark, was published in 2001. That same year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance organized a traveling exhibition of her and her students’ work; a biography by Makarova (Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, Vienna 1898-Auschwitz 1944) was published in connection with it.

In 2004, the Jewish Museum organized a celebratory exhibition of her art and correspondence. Might I suggest you visit the exhibition site in honor of Friedl Dicker day? My favorite piece reproduced there is the Atlier Singer-Dicker “Phantasius” toy kit design.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Human Mirror

Go read this (and make sure to watch the video).

Note that Swedes were among the first to notice. Swedes are smart.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cute and Deadly Slugs

...can be seen here.

The above link has been shamelessly stolen from my friend Alex's blog. It was wrong of me, I know; I can only hope she'll remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and forgive me.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Speaking of "Shouts and Murmurs..." should read this.

Metro Loves You


A rough transcription of the outgoing message you'll hear on Metro's Lost and Found Office phone line if you call when there's an overflow:

"Thank you for calling King County Metro Transit's Lost and Found Office. All of our representatives are currently assisting other customers. Your call is NOT in queue and will NOT be answered, and this is NOT a message line. You may call back a little later today or visit us online between the hours of two and five..."

There's a "Shouts & Murmurs" piece in there somewhere.

In Metro's defense, you get this message only if you're unlucky enough to call when they're completely overloaded. There is, as I eventually discovered to my relief, a first-tier overflow message ("Thank you for calling...there is currently one caller ahead of you")--and when you are at last granted an audience with the staff, they are very nice and can generally find whatever you've lost.


Don't drop your cell phone on the bus as you leave. If you do, and you hear it drop, don't check for your wallet and your camera and then decide not to slow down the bus any longer because you can't imagine what else it could have been.

Note for the Concerned:

Some nice person did turn my phone in to the Lost and Found.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Better Living through Technology

I woke up this morning to discover a spider in my bathtub. As faithful readers of this blog may recall, such discoveries are not simply resolved chez Howard, the smush-and-flush approach being admired but not practiced in these parts and the cats being no help whatsoever. And so this morning, lacking time for an elaborate spider-relocation ritual, I heaved a sigh and trudged off to work showerless.

It wasn't until I returned home that I remembered last year's favorite Christmas gift leaning neglected in the corner--my very own spider-relocator! My Christmas-day experiments with the plastic dummy spider had been promising; nonetheless, now that the time had come to put it to the test with a living, scuttling arachnid, I was plagued with doubt. Would it be too forceful, leaving me with a gruesome lump of ex-spider mashed against the filaments? Or, worse, would it be too weak, letting a live and angry spider escape unexpectedly?

I should have had more faith. The device worked beautifully, scooping up the spider in one neat whoosh, holding it gently but securely all the way through the apartment to the hall. (This was helped a bit by the poor spider's instinctively rolling itself into a defensive ball.) When I released it, the spider scampered off toward my neighbor's door, presumably a bit stressed but otherwise unharmed. It was nothing short of amazing. I almost wish there were another spider in the bathtub so I could give it a second try.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


As I stumbled through my front door tonight, I realized I was murmuring, "Okay, I really need to stop talking to myself."

(I also need to start writing longer blog posts, but that's a different matter.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Eavesdropping on an Epistemologist

"You know, I only know what I know, you know."

Source: cell phone conversationalist on Metro Route 43 (toward downtown) this evening.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Not a Hallucination

This morning, shortly after making my groggy way in to the office, I realized I needed milk for the thermos of coffee I'd thriftily brought from home* and made my groggy way down to the cafeteria. I stumbled over to the milk case and grabbed a pint--which promptly shrieked, "OUUUUCH! That HURT!"

The food service worker in the area behind the case was, fortunately, not seriously injured by the can she'd dropped on her toe.

* Yes, I should be praised for this. Coffee from home is much cheaper than coffee from the cafeteria!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


So, last night, I'm lying in bed and I hear a large number of footsteps and a loud voice coming down the street. I heave a great sigh and am mentally preparing to restrain myself from sticking my head out the window and scolding the miscreants like the crazy old lady I am--when the footsteps draw nearer and I hear a much quieter voice say, "Damn, man, why are you so loud?" This statement was followed by a murmured chorus of support involving a fair amount of profanity and words such as "embarrassing" and "disrespectful." I looked out just in time to see the chastened offender and his crowd of keepers disappear around the corner.

I'm pretty sure it wasn't actually a dream.