Skeletons in the closet (Office revamp – the unabridged version)

At present, joyous times are being had with our houseguests (my in-laws) from France, who will stay with us a few more days yet. All manner of general housecleaning needed to be done before they arrived, but I spent the better part of last week taking apart my office, sorting through unwanted miscellany (“garbage,” “recycle,” “Goodwill”), and putting the room back together.

Most of the action took place beneath the surface in the closet and drawers, so the room itself doesn’t look much different now than it did last week. Even so, it’s different to my eyes, which had beheld the spectacle of the room’s innards strewn about on the floor and piled up on furniture over the few days it took me to analyze it all. I felt like a forensics investigator. What has been seen cannot be unseen, as they say. It was a lot of crap.

The terrain of my desk changed slightly when I added a lamp, which makes all the difference. This is now my full-time work environment, so my office needed a desk lamp more than the dining nook did. (Another lamp has taken its place in the dining nook, anyway.)

You knew where this was leading… I’ve got the photographic tour here for anyone who may be interested, such as you fine readers who’d asked about my Table of Death when I mentioned it a week ago. It started as a raucous, dark joke with a friend when I showed her the table and realized just then that a Dia de los Muertos bag hangs in that corner (pure happenstance, which prompted the hilarity – you had to be there). Laughing about it helped to mitigate the somberness of that part of the room, but it helped further when another friend asked to see the table and called it a “Table of Remembrance.” So, yeah. I like pairing that brighter perspective with the dark humor one.

Enough about that. 360 office tour ahoy!

As seen from the doorway:

 

inside left corner (desk)

inside left corner (desk)

 

Desk (top view)

Desk (top view)

 

Desk corner detail: Valentine's Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan "not cal" by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

Desk corner detail:
Valentine’s Roses 2014, original art by Callaghan
“not cal” by Not Cal, California ex-pats in Arizona

 

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

Long wall to the left (with tapestry and twinkle lights)

 

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

Window wall across from the doorway (with futon)

 

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

Far right corner (Table of Death/Remembrance)

 

Wall to the right (closet)

Wall to the right (closet)

 

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

Behind the door (Lucha Libre poster, boxing gloves, bags, hats)

 

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

Door-frame (pull-up bar overhead)

 

This concludes our tour. I won’t be needing to cover a door window in this office, but the door here stays open, anyway.

French art in Haiku (Haiku 3: Cromagnon, La Tour Eiffel, Les Fleurs, Absinthe)

Food poisoning this week. No details necessary… just to say that yesterday, I rose from the wish-I-was-dead and went around my house taking pictures and writing haiku.

These haiku were inspired by some of the art on our walls at home. The pieces are from France, except the one that was done by Callaghan, who is French. You get the common theme.

 

Haiku 3: Art

(by Kristi Garboushian)

1.

Déjà vu hunting

blind, agnostic galleries –

counting hours.

 

Cromagnon detail (original art by Callaghan)

Cromagnon detail (original art by Callaghan)

 

2.

Insurmountable:

vapor of millenniums,

vaporous château.

 

Eiffel tower pencil sketch

Eiffel tower pencil sketch

 

3.

Rapidly displaced

spectra: brook waters culling

hand-painted headstones.

 

Watercolor flowers

Watercolor flowers

 

4.

Slanderous tom-tom!

Axioms, acknowledgments

feigning percussion.

 

Tin painting

Tin painting

 

Here’s to a healthier week ahead for us all!

The New Reacher is Nigh.

Today is September 4. This means that we’re T minus four days from the tentatively scheduled release of Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, Make Me.

You regulars here know how I feel about Reacher.

Last summer, I so eagerly counted down the days until 2014’s new Reacher novel appeared in stores that its release seemed almost anti-climactic, though admittedly this may have been related to the fact that we were frantically preparing to move. We moved almost immediately after I picked up Personal. It was the end of August, and I had very little time for reading in the month of September, as unpacking consumed the entire month. (We’ve been in our house for a year now? What?!)

Non-stop domestic activity kept me from such tantalizing pursuits as pulpy reading, but even when I did find time to open the book, moving-fatigue dulled the experience. I remember reading two pages at a time before passing out late at night, and that was only once or twice a week, if that. I was tired, busy, distracted. I finished Personal with little enthusiasm, and I may have mentioned to Callaghan that the story seemed somewhat… reduced to its formula. I liked Personal, sure, but it just didn’t thrill me. Again, I’m not sure it wouldn’t have been different had life been routine and uneventful at the time.

This year, though? The cells in the part of my brain responsible for escapism have been salivating since I read the synopsis for the 20th Jack Reacher novel. Methinks that Make Me will be a super intense ride, and life circumstances right now are ripe for it!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-LeeChildMakeMe

 

In honor of Reacher’s return, I present the reappearance of Callaghan’s drawing of Reacher (this is becoming an annual tradition):

 

Callaghan's drawing of Jack Reacher, as described in the novels.

Callaghan’s drawing of Jack Reacher, as described in the novels.

 

So let’s raise our glasses, fellow Reacher fans, because may we all remember that blond, blue-eyed, NOT-handsome, NOT-glib, super tough, tall and inhumanly strong BADASS Reacher would toast us with a whole pot of coffee. We’d say, Tchin! with respect to his French mother… but Reacher would say nothing.

Pieces of Elvis, and other… packages.

In the last year, Callaghan’s drawings have taken a turn for the dimensional. Using ink on a particular type of plastic sheeting as his medium, he’ll do a drawing in parts, cutting everything out, applying color, and then positioning the parts like puzzle pieces, overlapping them in some places and gluing it all together. He gives the resulting “assemblage drawing” a kind of 3-D effect by stacking layers of small pieces of the plastic and strategically placing them beneath various components of the picture, creating differing heights throughout.

He did a brilliant portrait of my parents using this method, as well as my Valentine’s Day red roses and a stunning tribute to French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, among others.

 

My Valentine's Day roses

My Valentine’s Day roses

 

But allow me to arrive at the point, lest you think this post is nothing more than a shameless plug for my husband’s art!

Callaghan recently completed and submitted his designs for the 2015 Carnaval of Nice float competition, an annual project of considerable effort and magnitude that takes place in the spring of each year. As I’ve mentioned here before, the Carnaval team creates its parade floats based on the themed designs of the winning drawings. This year, Callaghan employed his new assemblage-drawing method, which meant that when he called me into his studio to check out his progress, I often only saw parts of the completed pictures.

He started with the King (there’s always a King and Queen of Carnaval leading the float parade). He dressed the King as Elvis, since the theme of Carnaval 2015 is “La Musique.”

He drew a few pieces of the King, cut them out, and then called me in to show me his work.

“Oh, cool… Elvis is coming along nicely!” I commented. Then my vision focused on the pieces of the unfinished Elvis and my brain made a connection (as it does sometimes, eventually). “Wait… is that his package?” I asked.

“Hell yeah it’s his package!” Callaghan declared. “Tight white pants.”

 

Pieces of Elvis.

Pieces of Elvis.

 

Of course it’s normal. It’s just that, for one thing, I was surprised because Callaghan doesn’t usually draw male genitalia. Also, when you see a floating leg sans torso, an exaggerated crotch bulge acquires an identity of its own. “Elvis the Pelvis,” I guess, right?

A few weeks later, Callaghan started to work on the L’aigle Niçois (“Eagle of Nice”), another important standing character in the parade, since the Eagle is the symbol/mascot of the city of Nice. Again, he called me in to view his progress.

“No way,” I said, cracking up. He’d drawn the Eagle’s lower half like this:

 

Pieces of Eagle.

Pieces of Eagle.

 

“That eagle… it has an actual camel hump! Hahaha!”

I could see the point where Elvis was concerned, but the eagle? Quite a package, indeed. I guess that’s one way to wrap up a big project!

Jack Reacher Day Approaches!

It’s nearly May. Summer’s coming fast, and I’m so excited because August 28 is coming fast, too, and August 28 is JACK REACHER DAY 2014.

By that, I mean, it’s the day on which Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel will be released!

Needless to say, I’m grateful to belong to a fandom that’s spoiled rotten by a prolific author who works hard to ensure that we “Reacher-Creatures” get our Reacher fix on an annual basis. (I’m not sure how I feel about that nickname for us, but I don’t mind it.) I’m truly grateful to Lee Child for his solid work ethic.

I wait almost a year for a book I’ll read in a few days, after which I spend the next 360 days or so anticipating the next one. I don’t take Lee Child for granted, though. He’s not a book-producing machine. He’s human, and life happens. He could decide to go on hiatus for a year or two, and one day he’ll retire and kill off Reacher or otherwise vanish him somehow. The end of Reacher is inevitable.

I already know how I’m going to handle Reacher’s demise or ultimate disappearance into the ether: I’m going to celebrate him by reading the whole entire series of novels all over again, and in chronological order this time.

To paraphrase Doc Holliday in Tombstone, “My obsession knows no bounds.”

 

Callaghan's drawing of Jack Reacher, as described by author Lee Child.

Callaghan’s drawing of Jack Reacher, as described by author Lee Child.

 

Jack Reacher intrigues with his complexity; over the arc of his 17 Reacher novels, Lee Child created a fictional portrait tight with detail resulting in a dimensional and well-developed action character who embroils himself in situations ranging from tricky to cataclysmic everywhere he goes. Reacher’s physical characteristics are explicitly defined and described consistently throughout the series – which is important to the stories, as Reacher needs that specific physique in order to do the things he does – and Reacher has a complete background with life details and personality traits from childhood on up.

 

Jack Reacher's "CV" appears at the front of many of the Reacher books I own, and it came in handy. While reading, I often had to refer back to Reacher's physical stats as cited on this page in order to gauge whether some of his more outrageous "activities" could be humanly possible.

Jack Reacher’s “CV” appears at the front of many of the Reacher books I own, and it came in handy. While reading, I often had to refer back to Reacher’s physical stats as cited on this page in order to gauge whether some of his more outrageous “activities” could be humanly possible.

 

Did you know, for instance, that Reacher speaks fluent French, because his mother was French? And that she lived in Paris, where he went to visit her on a few documented occasions? True story, as far as fictional stories go. Reacher is half-French, and he enjoyed dining with his maman and brother at the Restaurant Polidor, a Parisian eatery that was established in 1845 and still, to this day, won’t accept credit cards.

Actually, I discovered Reacher while living in France. I spent much of the summer of 2012 wandering alone through le Vieux Nice (Old Nice) and the surrounding streets, and one day, it occurred to me that La Fnac, a French counterpart of the States’ Barnes and Noble, might carry some books in English. I wanted to read. Moreover, I wanted the instant gratification of plunging headfirst into fiction and losing myself in its depths. Struggling through French text with a dictionary in one hand and a fistful of my own hair (clenched tightly by the roots) in the other would be educational, but it wouldn’t suit my purposes. Or my hair. I wanted escapism.

I was happy to find an abundance of Alice Munro, T.C. Boyle and Joyce Carol Oates, all of whom I adore – Munro’s short stories, especially – and then I wanted some fun pulp fiction to round out my selection. Action, thriller and horror (as well as any hybrids of the three… and if we’re talking fiction genre hybrids, you can throw some science fiction in there, too) are my favorite pulpy genres, and I had no idea where to begin looking. I’d already read all of the available Stephen King, who works masterfully at the intersection of literature and pulp fiction (like no one else does, in my opinion), and I wasn’t familiar with any of the other authors on the shelves. So I started picking up novels at random and reading the blurbs on the back, choosing, in the end, The Affair by Lee Child.

That’s where I met Reacher.

It turned out that The Affair was a good place to start, because it’s one of just a few Reacher novels written in the first person. The majority of the novels are written in the third person. I felt like I got to know Reacher through the lens of his own perspective.

It took a few pages to get acclimated to Child’s writing style, but he had me hooked in no time. I finished the book in three days and headed back downtown. I knew La Fnac had another Lee Child novel on the shelf, because I’d deliberated between the two before selecting The Affair. I went back for Gone Tomorrow, and then I embarked on a Reacher search expedition wherever I could find books in English throughout the French Riviera, including Virgin Records (also in the Le Vieux Nice area, on la Rue Jean Medecin), and Les Galleries Lafayette (a French equivalent of Macy’s) located in Cap 3000, a mall at the end of the Promenade des Anglais between Nice and Antibes. I also scoured the Nice Etoile, a much smaller mall located down the street from Virgin Records on la Rue Jean Medecin.

Somewhere in there, Callaghan picked up one of my books (Gone Tomorrow) and got hooked on Reacher, too. We needed to find more!

Back in our little wilderness corner of the world in le Vercors – we divided our time between Rhône-Alpes and la Côte d’Azur – we searched for Reacher in La Fnac in Valence, as well as in Cultura (similar to the States’ erstwhile Borders).

Out of all of those places, we were only able to find one more Reacher novel, at Virgin Records in Nice, I believe. Bad Luck and Trouble.   

But – surprise! – we found many more at the Frankfurt airport in September, when we stopped over in Germany on our way to Los Angeles. Of course! Reacher novels aren’t just great pulp fiction – they’re great airport pulp fiction. With plenty of time to enjoy some good German beer and browse every newsstand we could find, we ended up boarding the plane with something like seven or eight Reacher novels. When we got to Los Angeles, we went to Barnes and Noble with The List and picked up the remaining six or seven. We headed back to France with 14 Reacher novels in our suitcase, then in possession of all 17.

The following summer – last year – we were in Austin, Texas when Child’s 18th Reacher book hit the shelves. I was thrilled to be right there!

That brings us to Child’s 2014 release. August 28. I’m waiting patiently, only glancing at the calendar every other day or so.

I’ve been asked which Reacher novel is my favorite, and that’s difficult to answer. I’d say it’s a tie between Gone Tomorrow and Bad Luck and Trouble. Persuasion would probably come in third.I also really enjoyed the three most recent titles, those that chronicle Reacher’s adventures post South Dakota debacle: Worth Dying For, A Wanted Man and Never Go Back (last year’s). It’s difficult to say, though. They’re all fantastically entertaining!

I can’t wait to see what Reacher gets himself into in this year’s installment of the ongoing adventure….

What I’m Digging Right Now – March Favorites

It’s the first day of April! It’s time to show you some of the things I loved last month. There was an abundance of “little things” treasures in March, but I chose nine for this list.

Without further ado:

(ahem)

1). A new phone, which means a new camera… and it’s an Android, which means Instagram. Yes! I’d thought I’d forever avoid Instagram, but I actually really dig it now that I have it. I haven’t been that active on it yet, but I will be.

 

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan's portrait of my parents, and it's my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it's 82 degrees outside.

Thing 1: That picture in the middle of my Instagram collage is Callaghan’s portrait of my parents, and it’s my favorite work of his. Thing 2: Yes, I took this photo at 11:00PM, and yes, it’s 82 degrees outside.

 

The reason for the new phone was the fact that my camera died at the end of February. I needed a camera, and Callaghan and I both needed phones, and Verizon was offering a Buy One Get One Free deal on Samsung Galaxy S4s, and I had additional perks due to my “loyalty status” from my former years with Verizon… so it just made sense. Now I have a camera. It’s good enough for what I like to do with a camera, which is point and click.

 

2). Flowering cactuses!

 

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

Complete with a Southwest Airlines plane in the background, equally colorful. In fact, they match! haha

 

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

Here are some of the emerging blooms closer to the ground.

 

IT HAS BEGUN. Between now and mid-June, the desert flora will display its myriad of flowers – the different species bloom at different times. Many pictures will be taken. How I’ve missed spring here! Our two visitors from France (one is coming in April, the other in May) are in for a treat.

 

3). New glasses.

 

New glasses. Not BCGs.

New glasses. Not BCGs.

 

These are not the ones I got from the V.A. in Austin. Those turned out to be a disaster in every way, starting with an inaccurate prescription and ending with that wrong prescription being put in the wrong frames that didn’t fit. Long story short, I couldn’t wear them. This is why mall optometrists exist. I walked in, made my appointment for the next day, went back for the appointment, and walked out with this new pair of glasses that seem to be perfect. Instant gratification glasses! I mostly just wear them for driving and watching T.V. and movies.

 

4). Body Combat class at the gym.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-BodyCombat

 

Over the last few months, I’ve had to face the fact that I’m just not as self-motivated at the gym as I used to be. Add to this the fact that when I join a group training situation that carries even the slightest semblance to martial/fighting arts, I feel as at-home as a bat in a cave… my so-called muscle memory knows what to do, and how to do it… and voilà! Body Combat is an ideal group fitness class for me. The instructor’s mission in life for that hour is to kick our butts. I don’t have to do anything but show up and follow along.

The Body Combat classes incorporate techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, capoeria, karate and MMA, all of which my muscles know and enjoy, even though they haven’t trained in years. The fast-paced classes focus on cardio rather than on form, but I’m loathe to execute the moves sloppily, so I end up getting a fantastic workout as I concentrate on form while trying to keep up (to the extent that my out-of-shape self can safely do. I’m careful to not exceed my limitations). We leave the class completely elated, worn out and drenched in sweat. I love it so much I can’t even tell you.

 

5). True Detective, season one (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-TrueDetective

 

Simply stated, this new series right here rather blew our minds. That is all.

 

6). Hannibal, season two (T.V.)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsMAR2014-HannibalS2

 

As The Following continues to hold our eager attention, we’ve added Hannibal to our current series line-up, as the second season began on the last day of February – meaning, we picked it up at the beginning of March. It’s just as darkly sick and warped and luscious and richly textured as season one. What is this fascination with serial killers? Hannibal is so beautifully done. It’s mesmerizing.

 

7). Stila Smudge Stick Waterproof eyeliner in Stingray.

 

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

Stila smudge stick waterproof eyeliner in Stingray

 

Finally, I’ve found a retractable black eyeliner pencil capable of drawing a line that stays where you put it! I’d thought I’d also be able to appreciate it for its status as a cruelty-free product, but when I got home and got online, I found that Stila Cosmetics has been struck from the list of cruelty-free cosmetic companies. The reason? “3rd party animal testing.” *sighs*

 

8). Tourni, our new sunflower.

 

Here's Tourni! It's hard to see him in this picture. He's the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

Here’s Tourni! It’s hard to see him in this picture. He’s the slender, yellowish stalk with two little leaves on top, rising up from the center of the pot.

 

I met a new friend for lunch one day in March, and she surprised me with a thin, pale greenish-yellow stalk from her garden. Loosely wrapped, it appeared to be quite frail. She told me that it was a sunflower. Un Tournesol, I thought immediately. His name is Tourni! “Tournesol” is French for sunflower.

I left the restaurant with little Tourni hanging limply over the side of a plastic water cup, his vestige of a root-ball submerged in two or three inches of water. I pondered what to do with him. He looked so fragile. Our balcony is completely shaded; we have no real direct sunlight in which to grow a sunflower.

By the end of the day, Tourni was looking pretty lifeless and pathetic. Unsure of what to do, I left him in the drink holder in our truck for the night while I figured it out.

At the end of the next day, we went to retrieve Tourni from the truck, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. The scant amount of dirt in the cup had absorbed all of the water, and there was little Tourni, upright, happy and spry! He looked like a completely different plant.

 

Alive and proud! I should have taken a "before" picture!

Alive and proud! I should have taken a “before” picture!

 

We brought him in and put him in a pot with some potting soil, both of which we happened to have on hand. He loves the close heat of the truck, so we set him in there during the day. At night, we bring him up to sit on our balcony with the other plants in our growing (ha!) collection.

 

9). Oil-pulling

 

Unrefined, organic coconut oil - the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

Unrefined, organic coconut oil – the remaining two jars of the three my parents sent home with us at the beginning of March.

 

At some point over the winter, an enormous can of unrefined, organic coconut oil appeared in Mom and Dad’s kitchen in California. Dad stirs a teaspoon of it into his coffee every morning. I noticed it when we were there at the beginning of March, and I was intrigued… I’d been reading about the Ayurvedic practice of oil-pulling, and contemplating starting it.

The morning we left, Mom and Dad generously tucked three jars of the oil into our luggage. Dad started oil-pulling that morning, Callaghan started that night after we got back to Arizona, and I started the following morning.

It’s now been three weeks, and so far, I’ve noticed the following two effects: 1). I haven’t had a problem with insomnia since, and 2). my teeth, while never horribly discolored, are indeed much whiter now; many people who do this practice report whiter teeth as a result.

The whiter teeth thing is great, but the sleeping thing? Incredible!

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but what an odd coincidence it is. From Day One of swishing coconut oil around in my mouth for twenty minutes as a part of my morning routine, I’ve been able to drop off to sleep effortlessly. This is unheard of, and it’s been consistent. The only thing I’ve been doing differently is the oil-pulling, so I’m thinking there’s a reasonable chance that there’s a connection.

Whatever the case, I’m going to keep doing it. It’s relaxing, and the whiter teeth are definitely a bonus!

On Callaghan’s part, he says that the quality of his sleep has improved greatly, and his teeth are definitely whiter now.

Okay… that’s it for March favorites! Here’s to spring. =)