Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas!

We built this gingerbread draft house from plans provided by HouMinn Practice on Hometta.

It came out quite a bit more irregular than the model provided, but then we're pretty irregular people so it's understandable.

HouMinn's istructions included everything from eggnog breaks to candy tasting, which was extremely helpful.

Here's wishing Happy Christmas, and if you don't celebrate Christmas, a Wonderful New Year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Champagne Glögg

This glögg, untypically, is served cold.

1 bottle champagne or sparkling wine (dry or semi-dry)

1 cup apple or grape juice

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp grated orange zest

1-inch chunk of fresh ginger

1 bay leaf

3 cardamom seed pods

1 star anise

Heat juice, sugar and spices. Let steep for an hour or two. Strain. Let cool. Pour a half bar measure of spiced juice in the bottom of champagne glasses, fill with champagne or sparkling wine. (You can adjust juice ratio to taste.) Garnish with a little bit of gold sprinkle or a seasonal flower.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Non-alcoholic Blueberry Glögg

1 quart blueberry juice

3 cinnamon sticks

1 chunk of fresh ginger

dash of vanilla essence

2 cardamom pods

1/2 cup of blackcurrant juice concentrate

1 cup water

Heat juices, water and spices, let steep for an hour or so. Strain. Reheat whenever you want to serve glögg. Garnish with dried blueberries.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rum Glögg

1 bottle of white wine
1/2 cup rum
a chunk of fresh ginger
1 star anise
3 cinnamon sticks

raisins and almonds

Gently heat wine and spices, let sit for an hour or two. Strain. Re-heat, add rum, serve garnished with raisins and almonds.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Reindeer Meat on Myrtle Street

Reindeer meat is now available in the Bi-Rite in the Mission in San Francisco. Here at the Myrtle Street Review headquarters, reindeer stew is definitely going on the Christmas menu! Here's how to make authentic Finnish reindeer stew, or Poronkäristys. You can also read an article about it here.

800 gr sliced reindeer (poronkäristysliha)
50 gr butter
3 dl beer*
2 small onions
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tbs flour
½ tsp ground black or white pepper

*Instead of beer, you can use cream or water to prepare the Sautéed Reindeer Sauce.
Brown the sliced reindeer meat and chopped onions in butter, preferably in a cast iron casserole pot. Season the meat with salt and pepper and add the flour, stir. Add the beer and stir again.
Place the lid on top of the pot and allow to simmer at a low heat for approximately one hour.
Serve the Sautéed Reindeer Sauce hot together with mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, pickled beetroots and pickled cucumbers.
(From Finnguide.)

Blonde Glögg with Extra Spices

1 quart cider
1 cinnamon stick
1 chunk fresh ginger
1 star anise
4 whole cloves
2 cardamom seed pods
1 big chunk clementine peel
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 quart white wine
vodka to taste

Heat juice and spices, let steep for a half an hour. Strain. Reheat, add wine and booze, serve garnished with raisins and chopped almonds.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Apricot Glögg

1 quart apple juice
4-5 whole cloves
a small chunk of fresh ginger
5-6 cardamom seed pods
1 cinnamon stick

apricot liqueur
dried apricots
toasted almond flakes

Heat the juice and spices, let simmer for 10 minutes. You can let the spices and juice sit until you need them.

Strain spices from juice, heat. Pour into serving glasses and add liqueur to taste. Garnish with sliced dried apricots and almond flakes.

If you can't find apricot liqueur, here is how to make your own.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blonde Glögg with Cognac

1 large chunk candied ginger
3 cinnamon sticks
8 cardamom seed pods
5-6 whole cloves
1 cup cognac
1 quart apple juice or grape juice
brown sugar

Put the spices and the cognac in a glass jar with a tight lid, and let sit for at least two days. Heat the juice, pour into serving glasses, and add as much spiced cognac and sugar as you like.

Garnish with gold leaf.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Syrup-based White Wine Glögg

1 bottle white wine
1 lemon

1 cup pale syrup
12 cardamom seed pods
2 star anis pods
1 cinnamon stick
3-4 cloves

Blend syrup ingredients and bring to a boil. Keep on medium heat for 5 minutes, keep mixing. Cool the syrup and let sit up to several hours, to infuse the flavors.

Heat white wine gently. Put a tablespoon of the syrup in each glass, fill with heated white wine. Garnish with a lemon slice. Serve.

Holiday Sangria

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 bottle red wine
(3 tbsp orange liqueur)
lemon slices
orange slices
3 whole cloves
1 piece of cinnamon bark

Heat the sugar, orange juice and water. Add spices and fruit slices, steep on low heat for 10 minutes. And wine (and liqueur, if you're using it.) Strain. Serve garnished with fresh fruit slices.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Calvados Apple Glögg

  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 piece of cinnamon bark
  • 1 tbsp whole cardamom seed pods
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup calvados
  • 1 apple
Slice the apple, place slices in glögg glasses. Put everything except the calvados in a pot, heat. Strain. Add calvados, serve. Sprinkle a few cardamom seed pods in the glasses.

Traditional Glögg

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  • piece of ginger
  • 1/2 cup blackcurrant juice
  • a bottle of red wine
  • (1/2-1 cup vodka)
Gently boil the water, sugar and spices for 10-15 minutes. Strain. Add blackcurrant juice and wine. Heat the glögg again, without boiling. Add vodka, if you want to serve a strong glögg. Pour into serving glasses with, a teaspoon of raisins and chopped almonds each on the bottom.

Myrtle Street Review Declares Holiday Season open!

We will help you celebrate with a different glögg recipe each day!

Apple-white wine glögg

1 cup apple juice

half a cup sugar

ten whole cloves

one bay leaf

piece of fresh ginger

1 tbsp grated lemon peel

a bottle of white wine.

Heat. Strain. Enjoy. Serve with and apple slice and cinnamon stick in the glass.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy Finnish Independence Day!

December 6th my native Finland celebrates Independence Day. The President hosts a ball and then we argue about who had the best dress. This year we also pay special attention to our war veterans, this being the 70th anniversary of our Winter War.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Going on Hiatus-esque Slow Schedule

The Myrtle Street Review has been rather overtaken of lately by pressing issues. Otherwise known as Life.

This is not the end, but we need to attend to the aforementioned stuff and do this other project.

If you see things that strike you as worthy of our attention, or if you wan to send poetry or other observations for publication, don't be shy! The email link is right there underneath the video image.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dumpster Diving! No, really!

What do you do if you are an urban person without a beach or a pool? Drive or take public transport to the nearest beach or pool? Or take a bunch of dumpsters and build yourself a pool? These awesome people in Brooklyn did just that!

It's part of a much bigger, fascinating project: Macrosea have plans to convert entire abandoned strip malls and other urban spaces to awesome centers of culture, business and civic activity, replete with dumpster pools.

If anyone wants to start a project in West Oakland, the Myrtle Street Review is in. We're SO in.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Scandinavian Design Chant

Chairs are numberless.
I vow to know who designed them.

Bad taste is inexhaustible.
I vow to diminish it.

Designers' ideas are boundless.
I vow to understand them.

Modernism is unsurpassable.
I vow to embrace it.

(Based on The Four Great Vows of Buddhism:
Beings are numberless; I vow to save them.

Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.

Buddha's way is unsurpassable; I vow to become it.)

(Picture from Indymedia Ireland.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Horizontal Gardens are So Last Year

Patrick Blanc has designed the "vertical antigravity forest" for the Athenaeum hotel in London. His first vertical garden was in his room when he was a kid, with plant roots in a fish tank.

Wired Magazine has a story about the design and the designer. "I leave horizontal gardens to others. I only think vertically", says the intrepid horticulturist.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Words are Stalking Our Brains

Approximately 400 000 pages of different kinds of literature are printed in the world every minute. I heard this on NPR but have forgotten who said it. Words are like organisms, they are born, they give birth to new words, they merge, blend, evolve, die. They fill the earth, in myriad languages, dialects, pidgins and slangs. They are printed on paper, they fill the air, spoken, sung, blasted through loudspeakers. They make forays into the deep sea and into space. Perhaps the language crawling out of me, out of my brain, onto these electronic pages, and onwards into your brain as you read, is a parasitical life form, for the time being using us to be born and to live, all the while fooling us into thinking we are its masters and creators. Or perhaps It is God itself, taking form in human words as well as insects, rocks and wind. In the beginning was The Word. Perhaps everything else is shadow.

Concrete poetry is a term coined in the fifties and sixties, when people started using typography as a form of expression. Or perhaps when language the organism, language the monster, language the Great Consciousness incarnate, found a clever way to play a little, to express its independence of us and its ability to reshape our concept of "meaning". Ubuweb has a great collection of conceptual writing, which takes a further leap into language-for-itself, away from expressive writing altogether, revealing language as a narcissist, gazing lovingly at itself in the mirror of the page.

The South African artist Willem Boshoff has a gorgeous body of work which often takes concrete poetry as its starting point. Through Boshoff, language steps into the concrete world as shapes, objects, codes and secrets. Language is an animal of prey, stalking us in what we thought was our safely structured and manicured garden of meaning. In the late nineties Boshoff created a trilogy of works called Tree of Knowledge. One part in the series,
Letters to God, celebrates the tree in its sacrificial form - the book. The work studies the fibrous nature and structure of wood, recreating a model of paper under the microscope. The deconstructed wood pieces conceal letters of the Greek alphabet, the forbidden fruits of the tree of knowlegde. The other parts of Tree of Knowledge are Druid's Keyboard and Broken Garden. In all of these works, language lurks dangerously, as a threat to trees and to us.

Abamfusa Lawula - the purple shall govern, Boshoff gave a concrete form to slogans and chants shouted in African languages in anti-apartheid rallies. Here he celebrates spoken language, its power to transform and question. In Kykafrikaans, he uses a typewriter as a writing instrument, "a crochet needle" and a paintbrush, creating visually ravishing concrete poems. Some of them act as maps that the viewer can only get lost in, glimpsing the occasional sliver of meaning. Accompanying the works, created in the seventies, was originally a recital of words in a church. A startled audience was asked to repeat loudly words such as "church" or "sand" or to assert "peel" as a swearword. Did God hear the question behind what was spoken? Was "peel" "peel" to God, or was the intention what was actually being said? If I ask you to say "peel" as a swearword, and you do, are you swearing or am I? Is the church a church because of its name, or because of the intentions of its builders? Can the real intentions be known? Is God brought into the church with the words that are spoken in it?

In the eighties, Boshoff worked for 370 consecutive days, seven hours every day, carving a
wooden calendar detailing his goals and achievements for each day. The intricate blocks are carved out of different types of wood, and were exhibited in giant panels, alphabetized according to the type of wood. After the initial, brief exhibition they were stored in a specially made set of drawers. Part of the key to the secret symbols on the blocks is in two red notebooks, buried within all the wood chips from carving the blocks, in the base of the storage system.

The 370 Days Project seems to me a gorgeous poem about the universe, about the secrets at its root, and about what we can know. A language known only to itself can only reveal itself to us in glimpses, in segments of code, in shapes which we may or may not misinterpret. Finally uninterested in stalking us, having discovered enough entertaining ways to manifest itself through us, language retreats from the garden. We hear only a slight rustle as it, like a jaguar, softly leaps into the great jungle. The story is not something that we can even begin to know. We are left to prune our bushes, plant our flowers in rows and harvest our fruit trees, creating order instead of meaning.

(Information for this post was harvested from
Willem Boshoff's website, and the photograph of Letters to God is his copyrighted material.)

This long thing is another one in a series of re-posts from my old blog.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Hairy Ball Theorem

Someone had left this message in the real, 3D Myrtle Street Review notebook: "Suck ma hairy balls."

We would like to like to point out here that if the gentleman in question wishes to recruit someone for this undoubtedly enchanting task, he needs to leave his name and phone number in the note book. Also his mother's phone number, if he is underage. Which we would bet pretty decent money he is.

Now, we learn in Wikipedia that the hairy ball theorem of algebraic topology states that there is no nonvanishing continuous tangent vector field on the sphere. If f is a continuous function that assigns a vector in R3 to every point p on a sphere such that f(p) is always tangent to the sphere at p, then there is at least one p such that f(p) = 0. The theorem was first stated by Henri Poincaré in the late 19th century.

The hairy ball theorem has applications in computer graphics. Also, it dictates that given at least some wind on Earth, there must at all times be a cyclone somewhere.

Hairy balls are pretty important things.

As you can see, the Myrtle Street Review is following President Obama's example in turning immature outbursts into teachable moments.

The illustration, from Wikipedia, depicts "a failed attempt to comb a hairy ball flat, leaving an uncombable tuft at each pole."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Metal Humans' Metal Roses

When metal humans have metallic desires or tinny regrets or fusible fascinations, or when they experience geologic melancholy, they give each other metal roses.

Entire bushes of them grow from the debris of the metal human factory and because they emerge from the discarded pieces of emotional robots, they too exhibit embryonic feelings.

The roses may feel the very first cellular vibrations of excitement or despair, for example.

Sometimes, suddenly, for unknown reasons, they wilt.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Metal Human Crouching In Wait

This is a picture from the metal human factory at American Steel on Mandela Parkway. Metal humans are different from robots in that they have feelings. They skulk around West Oakland at night silently emoting. If you get struck by an odd feeling in the middle of the night, now you know why.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Things to consider when designing bookcases

- Do the books look happy on the shelf?

- Does the shelf appear to understand that it is holding the fruits of difficult work which requires deep contemplation and self-knowledge, and is sometimes completed against considerable odds, in great pain?

- Does the bookcase seem aware that books can reach backwards and forwards in time, some having been written thousands of years ago on clay tablets, or hand-copied in the middle ages by devout monks with secret desires, while some tell stories of distant futures; and that books also have considerable reach in space, across cities, deserts, oceans, galaxies, underground and in the sky, and to the molten core of the Earth?

- Is the bookcase capable of playfulness despite the gravity of some literature? Comedy is nothing to be frowned at.

- Does the bookcase not flinch at heavy lifting?

- Is it a bookcase that can keep secrets, hide journals and love letters, or is it an open and democratic one wishing to distribute the benefits of reading to everyone?

- Does the bookcase know what kind of bookcase it is?

- When empty, does the bookcase look lonely and bereft, happy and expectant, or self-satisfied and not in need of any content?

- Is the bookcase's main function to make us feel or think something about ourselves, about bookcases, about literature, or some or all of the above?

- Who can own this bookcase? Is it likely that person owns any books?

- Does the bookcase invite further expansion of the library, and new bookcases?

- And finally, is it a nice color?

I've decided to re-post some of my favorite things from my old blog. This is the first one. The picture is of the Bibliochaise.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Creviche Thorassic makes dessert

Creviche Thorassic kept putting her emotions away, and because she had unusually large ones, she was running out of space. Her drawers were full, her cupboards were full, she was using up space under her bed and in her crawl space. Everywhere that was out of sight, there were unused emotions. Creviche had learned that you had to rationally and carefully decide which emotions you were going to have and in what order and size, in order to fit them neatly into your schedule and the larger framework of goals that you had set for your life. If the emotions were unpleasant, there was the risk that they would last too long, and if they were very pleasurable, it was a disturbing thought that they might end, and so it was clear that it was impossible to both have all the messy emotions and cheerfully fulfill all the roles that life demanded. Snip snip, Creviche would only cuf off little samples of each emotion to try, and then she stuffed them out of sight before they got out of control in any way.

The emotions were simply lying in wait, of course. Like a cat getting positioned to pounce, they were staring through cracks and holes and wiggling their butts quietly in the dark. One day, their moment would come.

Nobody was prepared for it - not Creviche, nor the emotions - when it actually happened. On a perfectly ordinary Wednesday afternoon La Cumparsita was playing on the stereo and Creviche was making dulce de leche and thinking about how Argentinians invented it, as well as tango and matches and fingerprints, when suddenly everything broke loose at once. Creviche suddendly could no longer stand her carefully manicured life, and started pulling everything open, and the emotions started thundering out of their hiding places, and suddenly there was a storm of activity and tango and feeling and madness and dulce de leche, and Creviche pulled out long lost emotions and tossed all her boxes and drawers and suitcases and bags onto the street, and she was lost in a tornado of feeling and blown into the sky with her pot of custard, and she flew and flew for a long time and thought she might end up in the moon.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Video footage from the party

From 6PM to 8PM. Unfortunately the hard disk filled up and we had a video outage from 8PM onwards.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Aerial View of Le Bouncy Castle

It's official: we are awesome

Thank you everyone who brought beautiful energy and joy to our National Night Out Block Party: Michelle for amazing food and for organizing the beautiful dancers from the historic Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church and for total sound system rescue; Chistopher and Alex for more gorgeous food and friendship and service and graciously serving our ONE HUNDRED PLUS guests; Francisco and family for more lovely food and positive vibrations; David and Zaya for the table tennis arrangements and food and last minute ice run; Tony for the best tri tip in the history of grilling; Red for being her usual beautiful centered love energy emanator; Charlene and David and Kellie and Jean and kids and Tony again for being our anchor and the soul and history of our block; Amana for making so many little boys and girls happy with magical face paintings; Susan and family for even more food and for the most beautiful smiles and energy; the talented, gorgeous, inspiring Jessie and Eddie for performing with fire and light for us and inspiring our kids; Steven and Dwight for helping us out so generously and for being there and being gorgeous; the Oakland Fire Department for showing up and smiling and giving fire hats to the kids and setting many ladies' and some of the gentlemen's hearts aflutter; representatives of OPD and the City of Oakland for making a gracious, friendly, smiling appearance; and everyone else who showed up and contributed and smiled and shared and showed each other the real meaning of the word community. This is what it's all about. We should all be very proud of each other. Peace!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The trouble with Finnish people and American television

Americans, by and far, make very good television programs, and Finnish people, by and far, believe that they are all literally true. I know this, because when I go to Finland, people invariably lecture me on what life in the United States is like. They never ask me what it is like - never, once - and they get really mad if I try to correct something they say.

When you live in a small country, it's very difficult to imagine what life in a big country is like. If I try to talk about how there are big regional differences in the US, Finns nod impatiently and tell me they understand; they've seen it all on TV and they point out that it's not like there aren't regional differences in Finland. (There aren't. Those are not differences, they are slight variations of the same thing.) One Finn gave me a long lecture about the "Deep South", during which it turned out he had not realized that any black people live in the South.

Finns know in theory that there are African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Caribbean Americans, Russian Americans, Indian Americans, Native Americans, and many, many, other kinds of Americans. But it doesn't make much practical sense to them. There are more American space aliens on their TV than there are, say, Asian Americans or Latinos. The picture Finnish people see in their mind when they think "American person" is always a white person. A white, stupid person who has married his cousin and goes on the Jerry Springer Show to rant because she is actually a man. Sometimes Finnish people remember there are black people who work in sports or entertainment or deal drugs. One of my Finnish friends told me that as far as he knows, African American people are constantly having barbeques. I told him I know African Americans who are vegetarians, and he shook his head in dismay. This was not what he had learned from Boston Legal.

A well written TV show or movie creates a believable, powerful world that seems whole and real. A multitude of great, well written shows create a powerful illusion of a place called "the United States". It's not the real Unites States, not even close - but it shares some aspects of reality, and it's really engaging and it seems really real. For a person with no actual experience of the United States, it begins to seem like that must be what it's like to live there. If I tell Finnish people something that contradicts what they saw on fictional TV shows, they simply tell me I am wrong or my experience does not represent "real America". "Real America" is Six Feet Under and Sex in the City and Doctor Phil. A lot of people in this world believe that the '80s in the USA were actually like Dynasty and Miami Vice.

The other problem with American television is that it has turned Finns into psychobabbly whiners. Finns have this self-image of being very stoic, quiet and dignified people, but try asking one how they are doing. They simply won't shut up. They complain and complain about how difficult and challenging their life is in one of the richest countries in the world, with free health care, because they are so very oppressed by having to learn Swedish. Finns already thought they were a deeply victimized people (because Russians and Swedes used to take turns running our country until 90 years ago), and now American talk shows have given them the language to not shut up about it. At all. Especially middle-aged Finnish men, you might have guessed, have discovered that their civil rights have been entirely trampled by feminists and immigrants, and they demand therapy.

I saw a letter to the editor in a Finnish newspaper, in Finnish, addressed to President Obama. I swear some people there know more about the internal workings of the White House - from West Wing - than about the Finnish presidency or parliament. Their lives are filled with American stories and American ideas. They participate, amongst themselves, in American debates about American issues with American terminology, thinking that they actually understand America. I'm not blaming Americans for this. The program buyers for Finnish TV stations are, obviously, Finns. The journalists reporting celebrity culture as news are also Finns. The people basing their opinions on fiction and not questioning their own culture are, guess what, Finns. It's mostly the intellectual laziness of Finns that is slowly turning Finland into a cartoon version of the United States.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to talk to Finnish people about American health care

"You've been brainwashed. Your American husband has brainwashed you." So said a casual acquaintance in Helsinki after I had tried to assert that I, in fact, do have some semblance of health care in the United States. Finnish people like to believe that nobody in the United States has any access to doctors. They think that Americans are all fat, sick and dying, except the ones who are on crack, skinny and dying. This may be Darwinistic wishful thinking. Finns don't have a very big talent pool, so keeping as many people as possible healthily competing in the global marketplace is an attractive proposition, especially if the Americans are failing on that front. Finland has free healthcare and education, and Finns must put some hope in Americans messing up their people as well as their economy. I mean, how else are small countries going to compete? Luckily, Americans put their wet clothes in electrical driers bought with credit cards even though the very air itself dries laundry for free, and drive cars the size of tanks just so they can say they do it, even if it bankrupts them, while eating and medicating themselves into oblivion. So there is hope for Nokia. This I am told by all the Finns who know America better than I do, because they see these things on television all the time where things are made very clear and dramatic. When you live in the US, like me, it tends to be more confusing, and brainwashing is a definite risk, so it's a good thing they set me straight on this stuff.

Finns learn about American health care from incredibly popular American television dramas. They see crowded ER waiting rooms where dying children and raging crackheads commingle as they wait hours and hours for treatment, and that's what they think everyone here has - not just a fifth of Americans. When I tell them about the employer-funded insurance system, they shake their heads in disbelief. A bureaucrat in an insurance office decides what care you are eligible for? That's crazy! Do the bureaucrats even have medical training? Shouldn't this be a decision between a doctor and a patient, like in civilized countries? Finns' bureaucratic nightmare vision of American health care is exactly the same vision right wing Americans have of "socialist" health care. It's a perfect mirror image: left is right, right is left, but otherwise everything is the same. When I show people my elaborate, expensive dental work, paid for mostly by my employer's insurance, Finns point out that my poorer neighbors in this famous West Oakland I am supposed to live in probably don't have access to the same level of dental treatment. How can I smile with my new, white teeth in the 16th best country in the world in good conscience? I don't know what to tell them.

So I do my best to entertain Finnish people with the kind of health care stories they want to hear. I tell them about hospitals with wall to wall hallway carpeting, and they shudder in horror. (Finns regard wall to wall carpeting sort of the same way as amphetamine diet pills: fashionable in the sixties, but fundamentally toxic and dysfunctional.) I tell them about moldy waiting rooms. (Really. I've sat in a waiting room with wall to wall carpeting AND mold on the window panes.) I tell them about doctors who are not so much interested in getting you healthy and out of there, as they are in trying as many expensive diagnostic methods as possible to "eliminate possibilities." Of course they don't want to find out what's wrong with you, because then you would get cured and stop needing their care. This is how I ended up with X-rays, an MRI, medication, and an elaborate treatment plan for my knee before a physical therapist figured out the problem was in my hip and fixed it. The doctor had me convinced that my mild but consistent pain could be caused by any number of serious, life-threatening illnesses that could only be diagnosed using an MRI machine, which happily his clinic happened to have, for a special price only for your insurer my friend. I was worried, so I agreed to the tests. This was a doctor. He's supposed to know what he's talking about. But he never even took a look at my body alignment, which was off so obviously even I could see it when the P.T. pointed it out. Did I mention this physical therapist was not covered by my insurance? Finns love that story. They laugh and laugh and laugh.

I also tell them the story about our (insurance-provided) family doctor who refused to prescribe progestin for postponing my period. Why on earth would I want to do that, he wondered? Because menstruation was incompatible with my weekend plans. What were those plans, exactly? I didn't feel the need to specify - what business is it of his? - so he became increasingly suspicious. He wanted to know if my husband and I "even have sex." Here we have a medical professional who is unable to discuss a woman's reproductive system without thinking about, and demanding information about, her sex life. The doctor seemed entirely confused about birth control pills and low dose progestin pills, and about a woman's right to choose when she goes surfing. He assured me this procedure is entirely unheard-of in all of American medicine, and refused to prescribe the medication. He also refused to give me a referral to a female ob-gyn in the insurer's network, when I said I was not comfortable getting examined by a male doctor. I don't know to this day why the doctor behaved in this fashion. Maybe he felt I was being preposterous for suggesting what treatment I wanted, instead of letting him perform multiple diagnostic analyses with expensive machines and labs. Maybe I needed an MRI to determine that I in fact do have a uterus, or lab tests to make sure I don't have some chemical imbalance that causes frivolous surfing on the weekends.

Undeterred, and by now, quite mad, I booked an appointment at Planned Parenthood. It was the only reproductive health care that was available to me on the kind of schedule I was working with - and besides I'm used to same-day or next-day appointments back home so it never occurred to me that I needed to plan my menstrual cycle months in advance. Planned Parenthood, I tell my Finnish audiences, is a type of organization that provides free or nearly-free health care for people who can't otherwise afford it, so naturally those who can afford health care stand outside the clinic calling themselves "pro-life" and protesting. I exaggerate wildly and describe ducking rotten tomatoes, gunfire and hand grenades to get to my appointment with the female doctor. (In fact, at the Northern California Planned Parenthood I visited, there were no protesters. But Finnish people have seen the near-riot anti-abortion rallies on television and they would call me a brainwashed liar if I claimed there were none, so what do you expect me to do?) I describe talking with a nice doctor whose voice kept being drowned out by gunfire and angry chanting. I describe her tinkling, fairy-like laughter when I told her about our family doctor with the moldy waiting room. "Your doctor is crazy," she said, "in America we postpone our periods all the time! We like to be efficient and productive, and we're not going to let a little menstruation get in our way." Planned Parenthood had ready-made, five-pill period-postponement packets ready to go for clients. I didn't even have to go to a pharmacy. Finnish people sigh in relieved astonishment when I tell them that in America sometimes, cutting edge, modern health care is only available to those who can afford nothing else, and to those desperate enough to visit the pregnant teenagers' clinic. I say I was annoyed, yet proud to pay the full, non-insured price for my health care in support of Planned Parenthood's brave work in the war zone that is American reproductive medicine.

I get a lot of my health care when I'm on vacation in Finland, because it is simpler and faster than begging the insurance company and calling around looking for a doctor who will take me in a few month's time. The Finnish, "socialist" health care is much less Soviet than that, and also there are no wall to wall carpets. The Finnish doctors I go to listen to my cautionary tales about American medicine with what can only be described as train-wreck fascination. I do my best to confirm their existing impressions of the third world state of American health care, and they promise to never ever vote for politicians who want to hurt our imperfect, but basically sane, "socialist" system.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Critical Mass West Oakland Style!

Today at at little before 7 PM, an awesome procession of scraper bikes passed by our house. It is too bad we were not able to capture the music.

The event was called the Bikes 4 Life Peace Ride.

Thanks, guys - that was very enjoyable! We hope to see you in our neighborhood again.

Ethnic Estonian Sneakers

Indrek Kaing is an Estonian advertising professional and folk dancer, who wanted to show off the colorful patterns of the traditional outfits off stage, too. He designed a series of sneakers based on regional fabric patterns. Each pair of sneakers says which area of Estonia the pattern is from.

Traditional patterns are all the rage in Estonia right now. The sneakers - as well as mini skirts, vests, and other garments based on folk wear - are the thing to wear this summer.

You can get your pair of patriotic, ethno-centric Estonian fashion accessories from the Rahvusmeened website.

And via this link, you can watch several dozen Estonian girls inexplicably folk dancing in their underpants.

(Item spotted on Helsingin Sanomat, Finnish newspaper, where you can see a picture of Indrek Kaing which I did not post here because he looks kind of dorky.)

Myrtle Street Labs: West Oakland is full of freaks who blog

Some dangerous-sounding hippie has started another West Oakland blog. Oh, no!

(Okay it is actually my husband.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dwell thieves get National Design Award

Michelle Obama today presented the National Design Awards, and Dwell magazine was a winner in the Corporate and Institutional Achievement category.

Which basically means that I should have gotten the award. Because when I had my previous blog, I sent fan mail to Dwell, telling them I feel like I should give them an award because they are so awesome, and on my blog were posts about the Pimp My City Design Contest, and some other thing which I now forget, which topics then appeared in the next issue of Dwell, when they could have simply hired me to write for them.

Michelle Obama, award please!

I dedicate this post to Stephen Colbert.

We glow

In case you thought that not every single word here at Myrtle Street Review is true, there is now scientific proof that humans actually glow. Meaning, we emit visible light.

"The researchers found the body glow rose and fell over the day, with its lowest point at 10 a.m. and its peak at 4 p.m., dropping gradually after that. These findings suggest there is light emission linked to our body clocks, most likely due to how our metabolic rhythms fluctuate over the course of the day."

Some humans also naturally glow more than others. You know who you are.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pigeon Attractor Migrates

The pigeon attractor has been moved from its location to an undisclosed place after giant, swirling, funnel-shaped pigeon clouds darkened the skies, caused electrical blackouts, spiritual disturbances and political discomfort. Many people claimed to feel an odd ringing sensation in their tooth fillings, and some insisted they saw Jesus in the cloud of pigeons. This was not only reported by religious people; the pigeons were in fact exhibiting hive mind-like behavior and forming patterns representing images of Jesus, Marx, Engels, Freud, King, Obama, Guevara, and inexplicably, Jerry Brown and Richard Nixon. People didn't really freak out until Nixon. At that point, bypassers on Highway 80 alerted radio stations, and the media attention in turn out distressed residents, workers at CASS metals, members of the political class and police. The pigeon attractor was removed in the dead of night by unknown individuals.

The pied pipered pigeons have followed the pigeon attractor, and you may have noticed fewer birds in general in West Oakland.

We suspect the birds as well as the device are in Berkeley.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ee i ee i Oakland

In case you didn't know, Ghost Town Farm is the interesting blog of the enterprising Novella Carpenter, who wrote the recently published Farm City - The Education of an Urban Farmer. Her urban homestead is right here in West Oakland, in Ghost Town - complete with pigs, goats, bees and turkeys. Reviews are calling the book "utterly enchanting", "very, very funny", and "an engaging inquiry into our culture's complex relationship with food".

This is one of the things that continues to blow my mind about West Oakland: the multitude of creative, revolutionary, brave and righteous approaches that people are taking to food equality, nutrition, social justice, urban life and environmental protection. So many active, resourceful, inventive people who are in it with all their hearts. The City of Oakland has jewels for residents.

If you haven't yet, get the book and read about a fascinating woman's transformational life. Then have your own revolution. The personal is political, nowhere as much as how we eat and create our homes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Dumping of the Debris of Bill

On Sunday morning at about nine someone dumped a bunch of stuff in front of our door from a gray truck. It appears to be belongings of a fellow named Bill. In the following post, we will take a more detailed look into some of the fascinating specimens found among Bill's stuff.

The Debris of Bill

The condom wrapper appears to have been dumped before Bill's items, as it seems to have been stepped on and quite ground into the street. Among the recent-looking items are several real estate agents' cards, such as Ann Stanley's at First Pacific Mortgage. Is Bill planning to buy a house? He may go to rock concerts or perhaps he visits construction sites. A well worn pair of mismatched earplugs was in his belongings.

Bill appears to be planning to refurbish his bedroom. A plan is drawn on the backside of a greeting card. The colors include latte and white, and among the details are black piping and a new headboard.

On June 1st, Bill had $3616.01 in his bank account at Wells Fargo. That's pretty good, we congratulate Bill on not spending all his money.

He seems to have gone golfing at the Indian Valley Golf Club with his friends Bob, Mike and John, and checked out something at the Lexus of Marin in San Rafael - or maybe Bill Lamphert is actually his own name.

On May 10th, Bill had a dental appointment in Donald W. Guttman's office, and from the same picture we also learn that he listens to The Traveling Wilburys and it looks like his friends Bob and Tom made a mixtape for him with monkeys on the cover.

The undated card signed by Bill's friends, among them Dave Cormoran, Chad Bennett, Jeff Kline, and The Boys, tells us that Bill is a hospitable host, likes surfing, and is or was about to participate in Survivor (the TV series?) after he threw this party for his friends. Bill also appears to be a fan of the game of cribbage.

We wish Bill all the best in his endeavors and are grateful for this opportunity to get to know him better, but we wouldn't mind if whoever dumped his stuff would come and pick it back up.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Save our sounds too!

The BBC has an amazing project on their website, Save Our Sounds. Basically it's an interactive map with sound recordings of fascinating, disappearing, mundane and moving sounds from all around the world. Listeners can send in their own sounds and are especially encouraged to send in sounds that they may think are endangered.

If you decide to send some Oakland sounds to the BBC, please notify the Myrtle Street Review at myrtlestreet dot review at gmail dot com! We would love to learn how and what you hear in Oakland.

Garry Knox Bennett - for your local furniture punk needs!

Garry Knox Bennett courteously responded to my fan mail! I asked him what kind of music he listens to, if any, while he works (secretly hoping it was Social Distortion). Bennett said he listens to music continuously, Ipod and regular - across the board, from classic to country, lots of R & R ('70s) and everything in-between. As eclectic as his work.

His work is also on view locally at Tercera Gallery in Palo Alto and semi-locally at Winfield Gallery in Carmel - so hurry up and grab some if you've got the means! Or just go see and enjoy.

The constructivists are now post-minimalists

The constructivist street art exhibit on the big building on the corner of Peralta and Mandela Parkway has been dismantled and replaced with this post-minimalist piece. It is clearly meant as a commentary on the fleeting character of our endeavors and the infinite interblending of shadows and boundaries, concrete and abstract, that characterizes the human condition.
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