Friday, February 27, 2009

Myrna the Jetsetter

We are now back on US soil, after one long, long day. Myrna was a doll, a great blessing. Here are the stats...

4 - the number of new iPod headphones we found while packing.

2 - the number of people on our street we had helping us to get a taxi, after the one we had ordered still hadn't shown up.

113 - total weight (in Kilos) of our 5 checked bags. That's about 249 lbs. Thankfully, they calculated our weight limit as a total sum (ie 250 lbs was our limit and it was okay one suitcase was 56 lbs)

10 - the number of baskets we filled going through security in Köln (and they don't make you take off shoes or belts) plus a stroller.

2.90 - the price (in Euros) of a half liter beer in the Munich airport. (We didn't have any, but we couldn't believe how cheap it was for an airport.)

0 - the number of complimentary bottles of beer, glasses of wine and cocktails we consumed on the international leg of our flight.

8 - the number of flight attendants cooing over Myrna.

8 - the number of diaper changes (about half of which were in flight)

0 - the number of loud outbursts by Myrna that made her parents want to hide.

MB in BE: Gent Edition

Our last stop on the Belgium tour was Gent. We enjoyed some wonderful lunches at little bakeries and had two scrumptious dinners. All told, Myrna managed to do six nights out and about letting her parents dine free of fussing. We finally checked the last belgian treat off the list, sampling some gourmet chocolate pralines. The weather stayed somewhat nice, and we took lots of long walks around town. On Monday we wandered around one of the three Beguinages in Gent. Myrna was a tad disappointed, thinking the Beguinage would look a bit more like Beyonce's Single Ladies video.
Tuesday we headed back to Karneval-hangover Köln. The train ride from Brussels to Köln was a nice cap to the trip, since we took over the Kleinkinder room on the train - our own sealed-off sanctuary with seven seats and our baggage strewn about the room, where Chris could tell his daughter all about the different spiders in Oklahoma. If only we could have this set-up on the plane.

Quick update: I wrote this before we left Köln, but just now am posting it now that we have finally arrived safely in Seattle. More about our fun adventure, but let's just say it's 2 am and we (and by we I mean Myrna, who slept most of the time) are all still thinking it is 11 am.

Monday, February 23, 2009

MB in BE: Antwerp Edition

Friday and Saturday was our whirlwind survey of Antwerp. Lodging in the shadow of Antwerp's single-spired cathedral, we toured a 16th Century printing press where we saw a bunch of Rubens' work AND the earliest known depiction of a potato plant (boo ya!), had some rather exceptional broodjes and some gorgeous baked confections, drank a 27-year-old beer (no foolin'), subjected Myrna to her very first shopping mall, and enjoyed many lazy strolls through the old town. And we put 5 carats in our baby girl's ear. Well, maybe not that last part, but you hafta admit, it woulda been pretty funny.
We had some trouble escaping on Sunday morning, the elevators in the central train station in both Antwerp and Ghent (our next destination) squirreled away and, in one case, simply too confusing to operate. When this girl learns to walk, she's on luggage duty. We've lugged her stroller up and down all nature of staircases now.
Speaking of Myrna, she's been quite the Chatty Cathy the past week. When spoken to, she returns smiles, laughs, and long sing-songy "ooohs." We have several five- to ten-minute conversations with her each day. We're not sure what it is we're discussing, but I'm pretty sure that verbal agreements of this nature aren't legally binding in Belgium. Much of the time, though, she naps.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Brussel Sprout Invades Brussels

On Thursday at 11:11 am, Karneval broke out in Köln. We escaped the city the day before for a six-night tour of Belgium, starting with Brussels. After a minor setback Wednesday morning (our train had inexplicably been canceled with the back-up plan being a chartered bus - not something we were prepared to do with Myrna - so we had to wait for the next train an hour later) we arrived by lunchtime. We had a fun jaunt around the city, then returned to our hotel for some "playtime." If we keep Myrna in her stroller or sling all day, she'll sleep the day away, and we'll pay for it later. Playtime is greatly enhanced, though, by the delicious Kaffeebaum coffee we packed along with a french press and a hot water maker. Below is a picture of Myrna in Brussels - looks about the same as the pictures in Köln, with the notable exception of the hotel insignia on the pillow.

We hit most of the Belgian treats that day - a snack of waffles and later we dined on mussels and fries and tasted some delicious Belgian beer. Only the chocolate was missing.

Our second day in Brussels we visited the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art to take stock of the cultural contributions of Hergé and the Ligne claire aesthetic, to survey the history of "the Ninth Art" in Belgium over the past fifty years, and to melt before the more of-the-moment work of artists like Lewis Trondheim and Anouk Ricard. Then it was back to the hotel to get Myrna giggling again and the parents recaffeinated. Oh, and to watch a little Murder, She Wrote, of course. Finally, we capped the day by reacquainting ourselves with an old friend, the Westvleteren 12.

Next stop: Antwerp.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Who am I?

Myrna's dad had a little trouble getting her hat on correctly.
I thought she looked like Martha Washington (got President's Day on the mind). Chris thought she looked more like some character from one of those Star movies (Star Wars or Star Trek - they're the same, right?) Any other suggestions?

As you can see, it looks a little bit better when it's on correctly.
This hat is great. She usually objects to any Mütze, but this one isn't so tight and it isn't so big that it falls over her eyes. Though, she is still happiest when it is about to come off.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Myrna's Big Week - Part Zwei

Myrna's week is continuing to be exciting. Thursday she met with her Kinderartz - and was as happy as could be until the end when she got her first wave of vaccinations. Thankfully she forget all about them by the afternoon (as she took a very long nap). Myrna now clocks in at 57 cm (22.4 inches) and 3500 grams (7 lbs 11.5 oz). We are well aware lots of babies are bigger than that when they are born, but we have trouble fathoming that. She is a long one though, as she now is too tall for her "newborn" clothes and has moved on to the "3 month" size (at least for clothes that have feet - she's still wearing her preemie/newborn size onesies). These larger pj's have the same number of snaps along the legs as the smaller ones. This means that the gaps between the snaps are bigger, and Myrna has already figured out how to get her skinny little legs through the holes.
And a big Happy Valentines Day to all! Ours, as you can imagine, was a tad different this year, though we did celebrate with a delicious dinner. Myrna had no sweetheart, but to celebrate, she did decide to wear a pink outfit.
And there are more pictures up on her February Picassa Page. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Myrna's Big Week

Myrna's week has been quite exciting already - and it's only Tuesday. Monday morning started with a visit from the "Kinder Willkommen" brigade. We got lots of great information about classes we could take with our baby - sadly we won't be in the city long enough to take advantage of them. But we could enjoy the blanket bedazzled with Köln's Football logo.

Yes, the mascot of Köln's Football team is a goat. This blanket may have fulfilled the need to get a tacky Köln souvenir for Myrna. Flip the blanket 90 degrees, and we find the Köln Karneval logo. This is about as close as she will get to Karneval, as we are escaping to Belgium next week when the madness starts here.
Today, Myrna had another sonographie. Previous ultrasounds have resulted in one loud crying baby, but this time she thought sonagraphie time was playtime - cooing and giggling as cold gel was applied to her legs. I hope she doesn't expect us to have such expensive toys at her disposal. On Wednesday she will be twelve weeks old. Thursday she'll see her Kinderarzt again and we'll have her current weight and height. But she already has grown quite a bit. Remember when Pig had a few inches on her?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"I Went Away To See An Old Friend Of Mine..."

Tuesday, after a stop at Kaffeebaum of course, the three of us caught a train to Düsseldorf, where we took in a Kunsthalle exhibition dedicated to art, documents, and objects from or affiliated with Sonic Youth.

By age 17 I had officially adopted Sonic Youth as my All-Time Favorite Band, and four of their records were in my Top Ten Albums, as handwritten lists from the time attest. I'd like to at least hope that I'm not one of those guys whose tastes petrify in their graduation year, but my feelings for Sonic Youth have never changed. And, after all, why should they? Through Sonic Youth I discovered... everything. It isn't much of an exaggeration to say that the films I watch, the art I love, the books I read, and certainly the records I listen to can overwhelmingly be traced back, directly or indirectly, to a point when I wanted to know where the band were coming from and, library card in hand, followed Sonic Youth's expressway to erudite esoterica.

The Kunsthalle show wasn't enormous, but one could certainly fill an afternoon there. Included were works by Mike Kelley, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham, Jutta Koether, Cindy Sherman, Christian Marclay, Vitto Acconci, Rita Ackermann, etc., etc., etc. Lots of video works from 1980s New York too, like from Tony Oursler. Myrna had, I believe, her first brush with avant-garde film, watching some - and nursing through more - of a Lee Ranaldo piece with shades of Stan Brakhage. She was more interested in the multiple projection installation down the hall, perhaps because of the bright psychedelic colors. Sadly, we couldn't get any pictures of Myrna at the exhibition. A particular loss was the doubtless-incredible photo we might have taken in the room blanketed with a deep sediment of 33-rpm records.

As always, the baby distracted visitors and made new friends and, this time, that included a television camera crew documenting the exhibit. She and I were pulled from the Claire Denis video we'd been watching for a short man-on-the-street type of interview. They asked if Myrna was the world's youngest Sonic Youth fan. Then they asked why I liked Sonic Youth, and to give my perspective on the general cultural fascination with Sonic Youth. It would take a monkey and a typewriter an infinite amount of time to chance upon a reply to this question dumber than my own. All stammering inanities about Steve Reich and KISS, all incomprehensibly bad German, Myrna all shooting a glare at me like she'd never been so embarrassed in all her life. In fairness, I was caught off-guard and not speaking in my mother tongue, and anyway, asking me to explain Sonic Youth is effectively like demanding that I tell you why I find hands useful, or to justify education, or to describe what I like about bread or shoes or sunlight.

I had to work in the evening, so after a short wander through the Altstadt, we made an early retreat back to Köln. As best we can tell, the Düsseldorf air didn't have any overly adverse effects on Myrna's kölsch blut.

...I'll make this a multimedia post. Back in high school and very much under Sonic Youth's influence, I took an interest in John Cage. Aaron, as I recall, found something particularly puerile about Cage's "4'33"" composition, and would rant about it with an excessive rancor that betrayed curiosity. Today he can quote Cage at length, and plays several of his pieces on the piano, though I doubt he'd align himself with all of Cage's ideas all the time. Below is a clip from 1960 of a young Cage performing "Water Walk" for the game show I've Got A Secret, which played at the exhibition, and which is a well worth a watch.

And I should post a Sonic Youth track, oder? I don't think Myrna has a favorite SY song yet. But this morning EVOL is sounding good to me, so here's a live recording of "Expressway to Yr. Skull," from 1986 at Austin's Continental Club. Enjoy.

Sonic Youth - Expressway to Yr. Skull (Live at the Continental Club)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pic by Pic and Bric by Bric

Myrna's twelfth week begins today, and I think it's time to start a new album! Myrna's February exploits - which promise to take her into Belgium and beyond - will be scrupulously documented on a new web page linked below.

Myrna - February 2009

Unrelated, known associate Devon Jenkins tipped me to this link to Christoph Niemann's blog, and I recommend it to all and everyone. Lovely, clever stuff.