All Things Bright and Beautiful: A Eulogy

To many people – most people, probably – the death of a goldfish is a small thing. You get a goldfish for a quarter – maybe three dollars, if you like the fancy kind – and put it in a $5 bowl, and if it lives more than a week maybe you get it a little plant or something. Otherwise, burial at sea in the porcelain ocean, and try again. Right?

When our goldfish CJ passed away this weekend, however, it wasn’t such a small thing.

Ryan and I rented for our first year together, and couldn’t have pets. It was a rough transition for me, raised by wolves as I was, and so we looked for small ways to compensate. We were on the 28 Days plan: first there was Cat and Dog, a pair of $5 houseplants in handpainted flower pots. Then there was Rigel, a small but personable stuffed moose. When none of them immediately kicked the bucket, we began investigating the addition of an actual animated critter to the household. We bought a tank, passed up two different tanks of diseased fish, and finally found and bought CJ.

CJ, a fantail goldfish, was bred at a goldfish farm in Arizona. A short while later (I’m not sure how long it takes a goldfish to mature) he was shipped to the PetsMart near the Boise Towne Square Mall. On February 8, 2005, he was slipped into a plastic bag, wrapped inside my sweater for warmth, and relocated to a prism-shaped desktop aquarium in Boise’s North End. Ryan and I named him in honor of a goldfish-loving character on our favorite television show. He immediately took a dislike to us and spent the next week hiding behind a plastic reef.

As time passed, CJ acclimated to his new home and warmed up to Ryan and I. He came to recognize us and would flit to the nearest side of the tank when we entered the room, would follow our fingers if we rubbed the glass. When we realized that his long, beautiful tail was snagging on the coral we replaced it with a soft plant, and he became even more comfortable in his home. I tried in vain to get a good picture of him – he was so animated, and the reflecting edges of the tank distorted him and ruined his good looks.

He was a bright and friendly addition to my desk. We couldn’t take him for a walk, pet him, or hold him in our laps, but somehow just having that extra heart beating in the apartment made it feel warmer, homier.

north wall

CJ’s color and the long, silky lines of his tail astonished me with their beauty – I’d had fish before, but somehow CJ was different. Shockingly perfect for a $3 fish. He’d been sold to us as a fantail goldfish, but I came to believe that he was more likely a veiltail – his long tail draped and billowed in the current, brushing the tank bottom like a princess’s train as he swam. At the time I was really into haiku and was much better about updating my Daily Haiku Xanga. One day I gave tribute to the latest member of our family in seventeen syllables:

orange silken sail
dances (like children with flags);
floats in the current

We moved that summer to our own house, and decided that if we needed more room to spread out that our growing goldfish likely did as well. We moved him from his 1.5-gallon tank to an 8-gallon aquarium, furnished with Roman ruins. In one day, CJ went from common fishy to Emperor of the Living Room.

Now that we had our own home and could make our own rules, we moved fairly quickly to add a furbaby to the family. When we brought d’Artagnan home, it was clear that both of the “children” took after me in the coloration department – redheads, all of us. While he was a kitten, d’Art spent happy hours watching – but never harassing – CJ as he glittered back and forth in the water.

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CJ wasn’t always an easy fish to live with. His new tank got infested with unbeatable algae, and then sprung a leak along one of the seams. We thought about spending $7 for tank sealer but ended up spending $20 on a new tank – a ten-gallon, this time – in the hopes that starting from scratch would kill the unwanted plantlife. The new tank had a better filter and – much to CJ’s delight – a bubble wall. Now Ryan and I were like d’Artagnan, sitting there watching CJ as he wove in and out through the bubbles, letting them tickle his underbelly. You can say that fish are cold and boring, but this fish had a personality and, I daresay, a sense of humor. CJ’s new tank was furnished with a sunken pirate ship to reflect his new career as a buccaneer (hey, if you don’t have a kid to dress, at least you can have a fishtank to decorate) and he seemed to enjoy swimming in and out the artful holes in the hull.

As he grew older, CJ suffered from episodes of swim bladder disease, and I thought sure we were losing him a couple of times before Memorial Day 2007. The day before, I found him lying on the bottom of the aquarium, his tail draped gracefully across the gravel. I tapped the glass, and on the second tap CJ turned a fraction of an inch toward me and wiggled a fin. It broke my heart, and I felt no shame when my eyes burned as I told Ryan that we were losing our fish.

The next day, CJ was in the back of the tank next to the bubbles, and now he was lying on his side. I didn’t need to tap the glass to tell that he was gone; the color was gone from his scales, and there was a different angle to his tail. It was over. On the day Americans set apart to remember their glorious dead, our first pet left this world.

So on Tuesday, I bought a little wooden box at Michael’s on my lunch break, spent my afternoon “cigarette breaks” painting orange and copper accents on it, and lined it with paper that glimmered like a golden fantail. I wrote “CJ” in gold on a little heart on the lid. While I was in class, Ryan put the tiny body into the tiny box. And at 9:30 that night, we laid our first pet to rest under a juniper bush. It wasn’t what I would call a funeral; it’s hard to wax too religious over a goldfish and keep a straight face… but as darkness fell over our back yard, Ryan set aside the shovel and hugged me, tears in his eyes, and we took a minute to mourn the passing of something so insignificant, and yet so important.

CJ Baker was, to my best estimation, nearly three years old. He lived a good life. He was a blogger, a novelist, a friend, a cat toy, a jewel. Sometimes it is the small things that really matter, the bright and beautiful creatures that remind us that love is not limited to species, size, even physical contact. How God can take something as small and inhuman as a farm-bred goldfish and pack it with so much beauty is a glorious mystery, and if the roads of Heaven are paved with gold then I can only imagine that the celestial ponds sparkle with good goldfish like ours.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Rest in peace, best fish.

Memorial Day

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
Photo (“Victory”) taken by me, atop the Idaho Veteran’s Memorial, last September.

Eight "Weird" Things About Me

Tagged (kinda) by 50Books.

Because I was asked this yesterday: I own six trench coats – possibly more, I may be forgetting something. One is black; the rest are wholly impractical colors which is, I feel, the only way to roll. Although I would like a tan one someday.

I’m on YouTube! This probably isn’t very odd or exciting to most people, but it’s very new and different to me. Also, uncomfortable. I always feel weird seeing/hearing myself on tape.

If there was an “eight weird things about my feet” meme, I could probably do it. For example, I clothe my feet in this order: left sock, left shoe, right sock, right shoe. I’m told this is weird. I also have an “eccentric shoe” fetish, which evolved from my earlier “crazy sock” fetish. I won’t wear shoes that don’t feel good, which apparently means I’m not actually a woman.

I’m moderately obsessed with things that have wings, particularly if they’re not supposed to have wings. I quite like birds, but they’re trumped by pegasi, dragons, flying pigs, angels, etc..

When I was in sixth grade, I typed 106 words per minute with 90% accuracy. I’ve gotten better since then.

I like dinosaurs. A lot. I was going to be a paleontologist when I grew up. I read the entire Field Guide to Dinosaurs when I was in first grade, and by third grade I’d memorized it. My favorite dinosaur is the stegosaur, although I’ve always enjoyed saying (and spelling) “pachycephalosaurus.”

If I could, I’d redecorate my entire house constantly. I have virtually unlimited contradictory tastes and love to experiment. I’d make a helluva interior designer, I think.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’d like to think I more or less know, but the jury is still out…

It’s Raining Books, Hallelujah!

The Book Fairy has been hanging around my house lately, waving her magic wand and making books appear in my mailbox. It’s like Christmas, only booky, and really hot outside! (Well, except for today, which is rainy.)

First, my Buddy Rabbit (hee hee, I came up with a new goofy nickname for you!) sent me Kelley Armstrong’s Stolen, the sequel to Bitten. I haven’t yet read the first one; at first I was holding off because I was fiddling around with a piece of werewolf fiction and didn’t want to taint myself, and then I got into a heavy work and school load and had to heavily curtail my pleasure reading. Anyway, I was so excited to get book #2 that I had to physically restrain myself from starting book #1.

Then, over the weekend, book #3 showed up. Broken, in which – the back cover reveals – the world’s only known female werewolf discovers she is pregnant. Buddy Rabbit, you are the devil herself! I don’t know how much longer I can resist the lure of this juicy trio of paperback goodness.:)

(Am I the only person who finds the cover art on the first two books really amusing? How much is that illustrator getting paid, anyway?)

Those who know and love me know that I’m a sucker for that particular vein of fantasy (currently quite popular, to my eternal downfall) that combines strong women, sexy mythologically-inspired costars, mystery, and humor – the Charlaine Harris/Katie MacAlister/Kelley Armstrong sort of books. Total crack – SO much fun, so (hypothetically) bad for me. And did you know that Katie has a blog? I haven’t yet figured out the first thing to say to her, but I love knowing that the person who created the devestatingly addictive Aisling Grey books is a real person with a (gasp) Livejournal. 🙂

The fun didn’t stop there. This morning as I was leaving for work, I noticed a nondescript manila envelope on the mantle, postmarked from Virginia. I promised myself I’d wait until my lunch break to open it, but my resolve proved weak. Jackie of TJBookArts (and the Book Arts Forum, which you should TOTALLY join if you make books or are interested in doing so) sent me a fascinating book: The Bookbinder in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg: An Account of his Life & Times, & of his Craft. I can’t wait to sit down with it… it’s only 32 pages long, so it actually might get read before July. No promises, though – I’ve got seven weeks left in which to master educational psychology and classroom management… whoo hoo!

UPDATE: ::Squee!:: Did anyone around here know that Emma Bull had a blog? You did? And you didn’t tell me? Shame on you.

I Didn’t Forget, Honest

Remember how, a long time ago, I was all “I did interesting things last weekend and I’ll tell you all about it soon,” but I never did?

Well, the time has come. It is time to share the saga of my brief and illustration career with the Canadian Mafia – or, as we prefer to call it, the

canafia logo

You know me as QBobicus, but my name is actually Julia Hosencrantz. I’m what they call in the business a mafiosa. I have kind of a knack for it, and made it pretty far in the organization. Would have made it to the top, probably, if I’d been wearing more practical shoes. This is me:

Julia

The problem two weekends ago started with the guy pictured below with his secretary – clearly a sleazeball accountant.

Boob Pic

We made the mistake of trusting him with our tax records. He was supposed to make the parts about our maple syrup smuggling operations disappear. Instead, he snitched. Worse, he brought me into it. This had less than desireable results.

julia mug front - edited julia mug side - edited

A man like that can’t be allowed to walk the streets. He’s got to be held accountable for his debts. That’s why I got in touch with one of our little men, a man named Rousseau.

rousseau

I thought he could take care of our little problem. I wasn’t accounting for – shall we say – human error, however. But maybe I should let Rousseau tell the story for himself.


“Canafia” was created for the i48 film festival and competition (news article here). Nick Kovach, pictured below, is a friend and a Brother (and a student filmmaker with a real future, if you ask me), and when he asked Ryan and I if we’d like to be considered as possible actors we said something along the lines of “uh, sure.” I’m glad we did, because it was an awesome day. As you can probably tell from the below photo. Because if shooting footage from the trunk of a moving car doesn’t spell a-w-e-s-o-m-e, I don’t know what does.

nick

Basically, i48 starts when the contest organizers hand each team a genre (sci fi, action/crime, experimental, silent, documentary/mocumentary, music video, Western, movie preview, and film noir, I think), a choice between three props (bubbles, a red bouncy ball, or a copy of the Boise Weekly), a character (Dr. Paul/Polly Tanner or Robert/Roberta Sloan, adventurer), and a line of dialogue (“Don’t bring it up,” in our case). You then have 48 hours to plan, write, shoot, and edit a 4-7 minute film. All of the films showed at the Flicks, a little local theater, this past Saturday; the finalists played at the Egyptian, a big local theater, Sunday evening.

I don’t doubt that we would have done very well except for some technical difficulties that resulted in A) our film being turned in slightly late and B) some “minor problems” with the soundtrack. As it was, we had a blast.

You know that scene where I’m running through the Canadian forest and fall? Yeah. That was unscripted. And real. On the plus side, I can now add “Stuntman” to my resume. Or would that be Stuntwoman? Stuntperson? Klutz?

Anyway, I would have shared earlier, except I wanted the video, and we weren’t allowed to post it on YouTube until after the screenings. So… here you have it. After you watch the video, click on the logo in the lower righthand corner and leave some YouTube love for the people who did the really hard work, okay? 🙂 That would be these guys down there:

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(BTW: I totally deserve an Oscar for Worst Foreign Accent in a Short Film. Of all the shots where I just left it out, or was halfway believable, they had to use that shot… ;))

Thursday Things

Other than thinking about my travel journal challenge entry (or entries?) and reading other peoples’ blogs, I haven’t had hardly any time to do anything bookly. For the next eight weeks – well, a little over seven, now – I’m going straight from work to class. I’m taking an educational psychology course for three weeks, followed by a curriculum and classroom management course for five weeks. Hooray for the whirlwind graduate program! This is leaving me very little time to read anything other than textbooks, and even less time to write or make anything.

So… I hope you’ll forgive me if I post a third entry in a row with just links and stuff. Many thanks to Neatorama, How About Orange (who wins my Favorite Blog Name Award), and Cuteable.

If you like robots, monsters, and/or art, and would like to donate to a good cause, you might look into Joe Alterio’s project. You provide him with three descriptors (mundane as color or abstract as you’d like) and a donation, and he’ll send you a 6″x6″ piece of original art depicting a robot or monster (your choice) bearing those characteristics. Proceeds support the San Francisco AIDS Marathon this July.

Speaking of robots… here’s another thing that makes my inner (oh, who do I think I’m fooling?) grrlgeek swoon.

I love what designers are doing with bookshelves these days. This skyline shelf probably wouldn’t look nearly as cool with books on it (well, it would be cool in a different way) but it’s still pretty fantastic.

I’ve really been thinking about the different things a person could use to make a book. I’m textile-impaired, fabric challenged if you prefer, so I’m constantly on the lookout for alternatives. Teesha Moore doesn’t have that problem – check out her amazing fabric journal! Color me jealous…

Sorry, kids, it’s not magic: how an Etch-a-Sketch works.

I’ve been invited to the Facebook, Xanga, and MySpace groups called “I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar,” which is sad because I don’t, except if you say “funner,” which automatically puts you on my “person of questionable moral fiber” list. (If you’re an educator or, God forbid, someone who studied English, you get an automatic notation on the Red Crayon List.) Anyway, they’ve got some fun swag in three different styles. I like the first one.

Eduardo Recife has some beautiful freeware typefaces that I’m eager to play with in future bookworks…

It’s things like these adorable biplane spoons that really make me wish I had a baby. RIGHT NOW.

It must have been amazing to live in a time and place when random people owned lions and kept them in public places.

Of course, if I didn’t live in THIS time and place, I wouldn’t have the option of a really snazzy looking electric bicycle for my commute. Anyone want to give me $1,500 for a bike? As Hank Green of EcoGeek (and Brotherhood 2.0, which I love – go nerdfighters!) points out, that’s not bad for a new car.

Fun craft projects for people who have more time than I do: small paper boxes, decorative envelopes, and pinwheels (my husband NEEEEEEEEEEDS one!). There’s also this website with its beautiful little origami projects. I’m utterly fascinated by origami, and utterly hopeless at it. The byline for this site is “Origami Designed to Be Better” – maybe that means it isn’t so impossible to figure out!

These remind me of my Sock Creatures book (I’m determined to make them some day!), which in turn remind me of Uglydolls (I love Icebat). There’s something very endearing about stuffed animal monsters. Don’t like the ones with the wrong number of eyeballs as much, though.

And finally – and we’re burying this at the end because it’s the coolest thing ever and I don’t want to share because I want to be the only cool person on the block who does this – let’s talk about customizable Kleenex boxes. Oh yeah. You heard me right. DESIGN YOUR OWN KLEENEX BOXES.

Cute

It’s a reading light. Ack. The sheer cuteness of it all is totally overwhelming.

It gets better: this little light comes in blue and orange. Well, and translucent, but that’s basically white. It’s like they designed this light just for me. 🙂

It’s not, despite appearances, a book light – it’s six inches tall and five inches wide, too large to prop on a book IMHO. But wouldn’t it be cute on a bookshelf? Or next to your favorite reading chair? Of course, you’d have to resist the urge (or not) to name the little fella…

So if you’ve got $44 sitting around and want to blow it on me – and on something I totally don’t need – you can find this here. Shopmodi has a lot of really cool things, I recommend it…

Another cute thing:

So, What’d You Do This Weekend?

I…

  • had my mugshot (yes, as in jail) taken
  • gave my husband permission to ogle another woman’s cleavage
  • developed a very bad Canadian accent
  • contracted a hitman
  • called my husband a sleazebag
  • ran through the underbrush in impractical shoes
  • wore a fedora
  • hid another man’s cell phone in my cleavage
  • eluded the (mounted) police
  • fell, on my face, into a log, in a very public way
  • pulled every muscle in my right leg
  • drove backwards through a park
  • helped rough up a bum
  • broke a nail

So what’d you do?

Friday Fun

If you’re reading this blog, then you probably like books. And if you’re a typical person, you probably need clocks. Why not, then, have the best of both worlds by combining the two? And if that’s too bland or minimalist for your decor, it comes in cheerier shades as well.

Next time you need a notebook or a pen, I’ve got some recommendations for you. I actually own that pen, and love it. Great for fidgeting.

How geek (in an awesome way) would it be to own a hard drive solely dedicated to The New Yorker magazine’s entire archives? It’s on sale! (Although I really can’t imagine it… when it comes to magazines, I’m totally a print-edition gal. How else do you read them back-to-front and make your husband crazy?)

Things like this personal library kit always look appealing to me, but I know I’d never use them. For one thing, what would any self-respecting bibliophile do with thirty book pockets? That wouldn’t even take care of one shelf!

These really do smell good. The cherry one is particulary nice.

When you’re just too lazy (or busy communing with your books) to be impatient your own self…

I’ve always liked this style of bookmarks, and this website has one for every taste. They even do custom hookmarks – what I wouldn’t give to have an excuse to make custom bookmarks like these!

For the really smart woman in your life – oops, and there’s an expansion pack!

I’m a music person in addition to a biblioperson, so I was pleased to see this kit for inspired music composition. Not especially practical, but a beautiful gift. This, in the other hand, is eminently practical.

I could almost like this product, but the first sentence of the description just turned me off. Yargh!

Ten Books

classroom edition

Well, I finished my classroom edition. Ten copies of Chains, each weighing over half a pound, each 5.5″x4.25″, each painstakingly hand-bound. (The “painstaking” part of that sentence is completely literal – my triceps and forearms still haven’t forgiven me.)

title page

Chains is a book about emotional abuse. Over a third of all women who have had serious relationships have been the victim of emotional abuse (obviously men are victims as well, but most available statistics deal with women in heterosexual relationships).

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It’s a nasty thing. Because there are no outward physical signs, it can be very easy to ignore or dismiss emotional abuse – to believe that it’s all in your head, or your own fault, or “not so bad.” The problem is, it is so bad. It does seriously bad things to your mental health, is a major predictor of future physical abuse, and is a major warning sign for murder and murder-suicide.

9

This book is about the chains of abuse that bind us, and the chains we bind around ourselves under the mistaken assumption that we are in a loving relationship. It’s also about the chains we lock around that part of our lives so that we don’t have to think about it or talk about it.  

12

Chains is difficult to open, reflecting on how hard it can be to open up about abuse, and once you’ve got it undone, the chains make it hard to handle – just as we can find it difficult to get a grip on our feelings as we try to process them in the aftermath of an abusive relationship. Finally, once you’ve got Chains open, it is difficult to close back up – a reminder that we shouldn’t try to lock up these things inside us but should expose them to the light so that they can heal and help others.

detail

I’ve decided that multiple editions are the devil. It took me so long to do all of these. On the other hand, there’s something deeply satisfying about having an entire little stack of the same book – being your own publishing house. I am so impressed with “real” book artists who do editions in excess of a hundred books… how do they do it? I guess maybe once you’re good at this it becomes like knitting, and you can do it more automatically. That, or they use slave labor.

cat

Chains is a multiple-signature book with medium-weight hard boards covered in heavy textured paper (I’d categorize the paper as handmade, but that would be deceptive as I purchased it… somebody had to make this stuff by hand, though) and tied shut with metal chain. The pages are printed on Astrobrite paper using Pharmacy typeface and graphics adapted from a Photoshop brush by Obsidian Dawn. The text block’s design is inspired by the zine aesthetic. And yes, I used tacky glue – I experimented with a lot of different kinds of glue, and Aileen’s worked best with this paper.