The Great Plotnik

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve 2006-7

For most of The Great Plotnik's adult life, he was working on New Year's Eve, playing gigs that were always silly and most often fun. Musicians get paid a lot on New Year's, so you end up being able to fool yourself that you can make a living at this craft. If you're lucky you don't look too closely at yourself wearing that blue fish hat.

In the above picture that's Schmeckl Plotnik in the white coat, wearing the late, lamented red fish hat on his head and singing doo woppie stuff into the mike, while TGP in the tux (and barely visible blue fish hat) plays piano and sings.

In the below picture the two dancers are Rafael and Juliana, two very nice people who had the misfortune, as did Plotnik (wearing a white suit and playing piano in the background), of getting hooked up with some really disagreeable and nasty people to play a gig at the Fontainbleu Hotel in Miami Beach.

There were many other gigs, of course, in fancy hotels, in country clubs, in private homes, in trailer parks, and once, Plottie kids you not, in a rented hall where the guests were all Holocaust Survivors. That gig was not a lot of laughs.

Neither was the night a guest grabbed Plottie's mike out of his hands to sing New York, New York, and threw up all over it. Ah, New Year's Eve!

Tonight, however, The Great Plotnik gets to play Papa with Team Plotnik at La Ciccia down the street. Afterwards whoever comes back to World Headquarters will share a great bottle of South African wine that has been saved for this occasion.

Plot has New Year's Resolutions! Tomorrow they start! Sort of!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam's Dead. Now It's on You.

So they hanged Saddam Hussein last night and it's front page, huge letters, so The Great Plotnik guesses we are supposed to feel good about it, or at least relieved.

Sorry. It doesn't compute. One dictator overthrown and prosecuted for his excesses, while we support dozens just like him, just like we once supported Saddam. Sorry.

The Great Plotnik sees a man in his 60s with a gray beard, whose sons have been murdered already, lying in his cell for years thinking about how high is high and how low low can get. Now he's dead. Now what?

Maybe Saddam Hussein does not deserve our pity. He was a violent man, sculpted by a violent society, and he met a violent death. Cool.

But here's the thing: The President of the United States COULD say: "OK! We got what we wanted! Saddam is dead! We win! Let's go home!"

Instead, he'll try to save face by throwing thousands more American boys and girls, kids the age of The Great BeezieWeezie, into the desert fire. Many will be turned into killers, if they are not killed or mutilated themselves. Thank you, George, but don't you dare try to blame this on Saddam.

Saddam is dead. Now it's on you.

Friday, December 29, 2006

An Early Day for The Great PD


This morning The Great PunkyDunky got up at 4AM to fly to Stiletto City on a 6AM flight to bus up to Santa Monica so he can use the day to plan his next Tuesday show on KCRW. He'll fly back tonight on the 5:30 flight. The boy is an air commuter now.

It's exhausting for him, but this way 5Head and Baby I can stay at World Headquarters today, and then the three of them can be here for New Year's Eve. For Plotnik and Ducknik, this is grand news -- a reservation has been made for the entire 5 member Team Plotnik at La Ciccia for New Year's Eve, and how many years has this happened? (Answer: Never Before). Huzzah! Baby I can come too!

Here are more neat photos from Wednesday in North Beach.


Elsu got plenty of lap time, right up to Poopalooza III.


Saint Plotniko would be a happy place with these three living here. Too bad about Stiletto City having more jobs, lower housing prices and the movie business.

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Yes, life is good. It's been a great year. What's out there waiting for any of us, we don't know and The Great Plotnik doesn't care. Life is good right now. One more capuccino, Signore Barrista, and a round for my friends.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Baby I's First Trip to North Beach

Yesterday six Plotniks and good friends Elsu and Nova went clomping around North Beach. Most of that time was spent in Caffe Trieste drinking coffee and eating cookies.

Elsu is a college buddy of The Great PunkyDunky, and he and Nova have been a couple for a long time. The Great Plotnik apologizes for observing out loud that Elsu looks great holding a baby.

Everything was going swell until Baby I, shall we say, let loose big big time. Dan and Elsu had to take her back to the car to change her. She ended up with, uh, poo, like, everywhere.

But she recovered and everybody went up through the secret alley to the top of the Kearney Street Stairs where the view is of Zoetrope and the Transamerica Building and coffee bars and Chinese rooming houses, and what a day it was in old Saint Plotniko.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Empress I Sa Be Ra


The Empress I Sa Be Ra, ruler of the Kon Dynasty, sleeps in her Royal Blankie on her Royal Sofa while her Pops and Grandpops snap away with their Sony and Canon.


The Empress's Father and Auntie share a Royal Chuckle, as Empress I Sa Be Ra sleeps, sort of.

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Then, when it is time to let the rabble know of The Force of Her Wrath, she lets go, just because she feels like it. That's what you do when you're da Queen. It's good to be da Queen.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Isabella's First Christmas

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My, Isabella enjoyed her first Christmas. Plotnik and Ducknik, though, had the best time of all. While Isabella was sleeping, or eating, or giggling, or burping, or even taking part in the first PooPoopalooza I last night, Plot and Duck got to hang out with BZ and PD and 5H and Mummy and Schmeckl Plotnik and Little BearNik. It doesn't get any better than this -- family, friends, food.

Isabella got her first Christmas stocking. Duck had several old stockings around whose owners are no longer able to attend the holiday festivities, so with an I from here and an S and a few Ls from there, presto.

Christmas Eve dinner was pretty fabulous: Baby Back Ribs

Pickapeppa Shrimp

Navel Orange and Oil Cured Olive Salad

Sweet Potatoes in Rose Essence

Sour Red and Green Slaw...

...and top it off with (no pictures, for some reason) Pecan Pie, Sour Cream Lemon Pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake.

This is our Pumpkin, of course.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Not Very Fat Lady Sings

Baby Isabella was babysat last night by The Great Plotnik and The Great Ducknik. The girl has lungs. We predict a future in opera.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I---sa-bella! Isabella! Isabella! I---sa-bella!

Last night The Great Ducknik got her first Christmas present: tickets to see Handel's Messiah at Symphony Hall. Plot and BZWZ accompanied her, and Plot has to admit he was amazed.

The music was written in 1741. In 2007, Symphony Hall, and Symphony halls around the world, are still filled with people anxious to hear this piece. Not a bad epitaph for a composer.

Duck remembers many of the airs and recetatives (they sound exactly the same to Plottie) from her church choir when she was a little girl. So she has a special attraction to the music. And the San Francisco Symphony Chorus is truly magnificent.

But...ya know. There are fifteen minutes of exquisite music ("Hallelujah!" and "Wonderful!" and "something about sheep."). But the piece is almost three hours long. Let's just say it drags a bit, in Plotnik's estimation. Act Two is v e r y long. Fortunately for Plot, a man in the front row of the second balcony, to the right and below where the Plotnik seats were, fell asleep and clonked his head on the balcony protector. He jerked back into his seat where his girl friend totally ignored him. If the protector hadn't been there the poor guy would have fallen onto this morning's front page. That was good for ten solid minutes of humor.

Plot needed the humor then -- though the bass singer helped. He sounded like a snow blower - eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh -- and looked VERY serious all the while. If they ever get him started he probably has quite a voice.

But "The Messiah" is not about humor -- intentionally, anyway. So you have to add your own -- fortunately Handel is big on singing about 'the magnificent lamb' so Plotnik could keep adding in his mind 'and his succulent chops.'

When the Plotniks got home from the symphony, Baby Isabella was here! Ha--llelujah! I mean I---sabella! Isabella! Isabella!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Nigerian Ottoman

The Great BeezieWeezie works for an organization that is trying to alleviate hunger in Africa. Many Africans are aware of the project -- apparently a Governor of one of the provinces of Nigeria is too. He graciously donated a beautifully appliqued Nigerian leather ottoman to the project's New York office, where Beezie works. But the New York office already had several beautifully appliqued Nigerian leather ottomans, so the staff got to choose a few for themselves. Beezie got this one and immediately gave it to her parents.

The Great Ducknik stuffed it full of newspapers and foam and now it sits in front of the fireplace, next to the Christmas tree. Thank you, Honorable Mr. Ambassador, and may hunger disappear from your door and from all your people.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

BZ's home, and the Plotnikkie View of Christmas

The Great BeezieWeezie is home. The Great Plotnik never thinks of himself as being overly glum, but when BZ shows up there is a noticeable uptake in laughter levels at World Headquarters. Puns are worse, too. It's great.

Holidays mean a week of cleaning and preparing, but it's worth the effort, especially since Ducknik does most of the heavy lifting. Plotnik's jobs are to keep his turf clean -- the studio and the kitchen, basically. He has to plan and shop for several big meals and make sure he has ingredients on hand to make the dough for the honey buns which have to rise through the night as Santa is on his way, so they will be ready Christmas morning.

He has shopped, and he is done. WHATEVER.

Some readers have inquired about how Plotnikkies view Christmas. All Plotnikkies believe Christmas is about celebrating the Birth of Santa Claus. Orthodox Plotnikkies believe the Holy Baby was born in a shopping mall in Chicago. Conservative Plotnikkies are sure it has something to with Tinkerbell. Reform Plotnikkies believe wholeheartedly in the Holy Baby and can't wait for her to arrive this Friday.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

To All Our Absent Friends

This photo was taken in 1993, when the Plotnik family moved to World Headquarters. It was Plotmas Number One. The Chief was not only alive but well, and The Great BeezieWeezie was in Fifth Grade.

This morning, Plot was reading a magazine article about a large, family Christmas in the Australian outback. Families are spread out in Australia, perhaps even more than in America. It's never possible for everyone to come to holiday dinners. Sometimes it is many years between visits for those who have moved to other continents.

So, at the beginning of Christmas dinner, the Dad always makes this toast: 'To All Our Absent Friends.'

The Great Plotnik thinks this is the perfect toast. To All Our Absent Friends. Wish you were here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fifty Five Bucks for Olfactory Peace

This morning, The Great Plotnik heard of a novel Christmas present:

"Donate to and you can offset a friend's carbon emissions for a whole year. For a tax-deductible donation of just $55 you'll neutralize all your friend's global-warming gases -- that includes CO2 emitted by driving, flying, and heating or cooling a home."

Plotnik's first thought was: if anyone puts this under Plotnik's tree, they're dead.

Upon further reflection, however, the part about neutralizing your friends' (or family's) global-warming gases is not such a bad idea, especially when the entire family is arriving in Saint Plotniko this weekend to celebrate the Birth of the Holy Child.

Plotnik has finished his Christmas shopping the way he always does. He looks at all the things he has purchased and tossed in a big bag in the Hiding Spot, realizes he has blown it for the umpteenth year in a row, and then says "Aw, but they already know I love them."

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Glass Might Have a Crack but it's Filled to Overflowing.

The thing about family is you always have a choice between glass-half empty or glass-half full. This morning, Plotnik is thinking his glass is filled to overflowing, but in a glass with a crack somewhere that he can't see. Maybe that's just the human condition. Maybe that's just families. Given the wide range of families available on Earth, Plot is a very lucky man.

Yes, it has occurred to him that he is the crack.

But if he could ask his extended family to make only one change in their behavior, it would be to stop keeping secrets from each other, or, if they can't do that, to at least keep the secrets from everybody, instead of telling half the people, who then tell all the others, but add "This might be a secret. Don't talk about it."

But if they did that, Plot would have to find another blog entry. He's the crack, all right.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

New Baby Pictures!

New baby pictures! Baby Isabella Louise and her Mom on top, Baby Isabella Louise and her little gummy smiley on the bottom. The GrandPlotniks get to see her this coming Friday at World Headquarters.

Plotnik turned on the digital recorder yesterday and began reading stories. The phone rang. Feet stomped upstairs. The heat went on. Noises everywhere. Plus, the ending's bad. Gotta rewrite. Fudge.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It Was a Very Good Year.

The Great Plotnik has hit upon a grand tradition for Christmas -- Kodak Gallery Picture books. He loads all his best pictures of the year into a book on line at the Kodak Gallery site, edits them, sorts them, labels them, picks out a cover and a page style, then edits that and sends in his order. The recipient of the Best Photos of the Year photo book always loves it.

It didn't seem to Plot that he and The Great Ducknik had done much in 2006, but when he looked at all the photos, he realized it really had been a great year.

It started with making ravioli on New Year's Eve...

Moved on to Guatemala...


Dan's graduation from Journalism School...

The trip to Block Island and Deer Isle, Maine...

And, of course, we've ended the year meeting Isabella Louise.

Oh, yeah.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Leo and Florence

Leo and Florence came to the NV Voice Christmas Party this year, as they do every year. They looked great -- Florence has been under the weather for awhile but she seems to always lick her problems for a party. She wrote a column in the Voice for many years about her experiences as a San Franciscan beginning in the 1920s, and her columns were so good that they're still repeated every month, and still hold up like they were written an hour ago. Leo is a photographer whose photos of authors like Wallace Stegner are seen everywhere. They're a wonderful couple -- they say they're getting older but nobody has seen too many signs of it yet.

It's a grand gift to have friends of all ages. Duck and Plot are lucky that way.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Will Vault for Food

Last night TGP saw The Great Domin-nik's son Will (hereafter known as Will Vault for Food) acting and looking like a star at the Palace of Fine Arts. He danced, he played piano, he twirled a skateboard like a cane a la Fred Astaire. But 'Traces' is no musical -- he and his four other troupe-mates were all the while jumping through Chinese hoops, hanging upside down on aerial straps, dancing ballets with basketballs, climbing all over each other on vertical poles and one even managed to do a pas de deux with a chair.

Criminy. TGP has known Will since he was in Middle School with The Great BeezieWeezie. WVfF has grown into a very large and accomplished person. He towers over the other regulation-sized acrobats in his troupe and there is an obvious athletic overlay to everything he touches.

Not that any of the others are chopped foie. When Heloise, the one woman in the show, takes an old armchair and attempts to read a book while 'sitting' in it, all the while managing to spin, twirl and turn the chair like a reluctant dance partner, it is easy to see this woman is a star in the making as well.

She and WVfF begin the show with a solo acro-mating dance that burns most of the varnish off the stage. It is clear that these two (who have been solo partners -- professionally only, we're told -- for several years) are a future duo who will go places if they choose to.

By the way, you don't want to miss Raphael Cruz falling to his death -- almost -- from the Chinese pole. You don't want to miss any of these kids.

'Traces' runs through New Year's Day. The tickets are a bit expensive, in Plotnik's view -- you want to take your kids and be near the front and that'll cost around $125 for a family of four -- but that is the only downside, and it's twice that to see Jersey Boys. These kids have energy and strength, plus they are artists. They've taken their show around the world and when they leave here there's no telling where they'll end up. I'd go now. That's right, I did.

The Great Plotnik Theater Awards Division awards Traces -- oh hell, Domin-Nik, why niggle? TEN Stars. Why not? Five stars was the maximum? So go see it twice.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It Sounds like Woo Hoo

In the rain at Portsmouth Square, the Chinese ladies huddle under the parking garage overhang and play cards, dice, mah jong. The men are on the other side of the building, playing pai gow, dice, go. When the rain stops they all run out onto the park benches, hundreds of elderly and somewhat-less-than-elderly men and women gambling, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and tea, slamming their cards down with a winning hand and crying out in excited single syllables when they've won a pot. Bills and change are in plain sight, but the police would not be so stupid as to try and put an end to this cultural mainstay of Chinatown.

Whenever Plotnik walks in Chinatown he is hard pressed not to stare into the papered-over windows of the Nam Yuen, closed for years, just to see if the 18-year-old Plottie and 19-year-old Judy Wong are still inside, leaning against each other at the round table in the back under the black, oval mirror, eating exotic foods the kid from the San Fernando Valley had never heard of before, and tasting all those previously unknown flavors, including the secretest and sweetest taste of all, the one she was saving for him, the one she knew he'd been waiting for.

Plot squints through the grimy shop window -- is that them? The girl smiles, her hip and knee touching his, as she teaches him step by step to use his chopsticks. When he gets it right, she claps her hands, without ever dropping his.

Nope, the place is empty. Chinatown looks drab and forlorn these days, a city within a city of cramped SRO hotels, crowded apartments, housing projects filled to overflowing with the elderly, shops that sell trinkets and restaurants who cook for tourists.

But money still changes hands in Portsmouth Square, as clouds threaten and the old ladies pull the collars up on their jackets before slamming their tiles onto the playing board and collecting a pot, all the while shouting something guttural, that though it comes without even the tiniest accompanying smile, sounds a lot like Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Last Tango with Over-not-Under

Yesterday was The Great Plotnik's annual lunch with his Boss, who refers to himself as Overworked but Not Underpaid. Plotnik has always been underpaid but seldom overworked. When Over-Not-Under hired Plotnik to be the sole writer for OLI's new content pages, at the end of 1999, Plot figured the job, at best, was good until the Spring.

Flash forward to December, 2006, and Plot gets paid, with checks that don't bounce, to review theater, something he loves, and also restaurants, something he likes almost as much. He is forced to augment his prodigious income with writeups about the Fifth Annual Felon Festival (fictional) at the Hall of Justice (even more fictional), something he dislikes, but for $16 million a year you'd do it too.

Plot works out of his house, but the office is downtown. He has never had to go into the office more than a few times a year, but since he started working for OLI Plot has always maintained one superstition: he keeps at least a buck or so on his Bart Ticket. The superstition is that if the ticket runs out, so does the job. See?

So yesterday, when it was time to go to lunch ("All right, Blackie, you 'n me we're gonna take a ride Downtown...") he put his Bart Ticket into the turnstile, hopped on the train, got off at Montgomery Street...and heard the most delightful saxophone music. It was this guy playing, of all things, 'Nemia' by John Coltrane.

Now what would you expect a young kid cadging for change in a Bart Station at Christmas to be playing on his saxophone? 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas.' 'Deck The Halls.' 'It Must Have Been the Mistletoe.' You know, standards.

Nope, he was playing Coltrane. Plot immediately thought about his fine friend Miss Domin-Nik who has written about seeing signs in the most unusual places. This was clearly a sign.

(Maybe you didn't know that 'Nemia' was going to be Baby Isabella's middle name until they settled on 'Louise.')

Plot set a buck in the man's horn case, then slid his Bart ticket into the turnstile to get out of the station -- nothing came back. The machine read: EXACT FARE. NO TICKET RETURNED. Uh oh.

At lunch, Plot listened as Over-not-Under announced that he, Over-not-Under, had been let go, that his position had been eliminated, that his last day was tomorrow, and that from here on out The Great Plotnik would be working with a new staff.

(CLEARUP TIME: That's Over-not-Under having been let go, not Plotnik. Let us make that perfectly clear. ONU is retired, not TGP.)

This is not good news, but it isn't the worst news. Plot immediately ran down and bought another BART ticket and loaded it up.

Plot will hate to lose Over-not-Under. He has always been the only person in the entire organization with a writing background -- as Managing Editor he was an ex-newspaper man himself and taught Plot all about form, and the first paragraph, and, not, using too, many commas and above all, to research everything and assume the Press Agent who is promising that THIS YEAR'S FELON FESTIVAL IS THE LARGEST FELON FESTIVAL ON THE FIRST FOUR PLANETS FROM THE SUN is smoking crack and lying like a rug. Nobody else at OLI, except for Plotnik, has ever given two hoots about anything but page views. Sigh.

But OLI is still publishing. The Great Plotnik is still in demand. For how long, we never know, do we? For his part, Plot ran downstairs to hear another chorus of Nemia, but the sax player had already jumped on another train and headed to a brand new station.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What? FIVE Stars? From The Great Plotnik?

During the cheering, rousing, screeching, caterwauling, blaring, howling and hysterical standing ovation at the end of last night's press opening of 'Jersey Boys' at the Curran, The Great Plotnik heard himself say these words: 'Damn! I think that's the greatest show I've ever seen!'

Ducknik stared at him without answering. This might have been because she knew she was holding the hand of The Great Niggler, The Great YeahButsman, the man whose theater motto ought to be: "If the show is good the prices are probably too high."

It may also have been because the audience was still going nuts, even as they exited the theater, screaming things like "Encore!" "Play it Again, Frankie!" "Start At the First Act and Keep Going!" (OK, Plotnik was the one yelling that last one, but the sentiment was there.)

Walking to the car, Plottie and Duck kept the glow, up three hills and over four. Duck finally answered Plot's question: "'My Fair Lady' was better."

Well, yeah, but Plottie never got to see that one on stage. MFL is either his first or second favorite musical of all time (with West Side Story the other)...but that's different. Those two are Broadway. This is Rock and Roll. Broadway taps. Rock and Roll dances on linoleum table tops. Your head gets out of the way with this music and, if you're not careful, your youth comes roaring back.

Then, The Great Plotnik read Robert Hurwitt's review in the paper this morning, and though the Reviewer for the St. Plotniko Inflammable liked the show a lot, he didn't go stark raving mad (like someone we know). There is only one way anyone could watch and listen to this production of Jersey Boys and not spew superlatives: Robert Hurwitt never caught the Boogie Woogie Flu.

Jersey Boys is the story of the Four Seasons (New Jersey, not Vivaldi). Though every segment is magnificent on a theater level (great sets, amazing lighting, superb direction, perfect choreography), in the end it all comes down to the songs.

Bob must have missed the era. Plotnik has met him at many openings -- the man doesn't look emotionally handicapped -- but it has to be that when Sherry or Big Girls Don't Cry came out, Hurwitt was reading Proust. Maybe he was the kid with the creamed spinach for lunch that his mother packed in a plastic container. He has to have been sitting by himself on a bench far away. He could not afford a radio. The two tin cans and the string didn't give enough reception. Something.

He might also be a little too...well...young.

Trust The Great Plotnik on this one: the man who plays lead singer Frankie Valli, whose real name is Christopher Kale Jones, has a voice from some musical dream. Plot has heard the current New York production and this Frankie Valli is better than the New York Frankie Valli. He may even be better than the Frankie Valli version of Frankie Valli. The other three Seasons blend magnificently with Jones, and then, yo, the songs: Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like A Man, Oh What a Night, Dawn, My Eyes Adored You, Who Loves You (Pretty Baby), Let's Hang On To What We've Got and so many others.

Yeah, yeah, it's probably sick expensive. The website lists tickets at $30-$90. But for your money you're getting a spectacular, first rate production on top of a concert with EXCELLENT musicians and world class singers. You can't spend your Christmas money any better, and to prove it, this afternoon The Great Plotnik is buying a pair of tickets for SOMEBODY'S Christmas present. (AHA! he didn't give away the secret! Even dumb dogs can learn to put their heads between their paws and not pee on the carpet! that the people they are surprising don't read the blog and figure out what they're getting for Christmas. Damn! Plottie is SO impressed with himself right now.)

Important part of the above paragraph: The Great Plotnik is BUYING two tickets. If this doesn't tell you something, you haven't been listening.

Now then, with a loud harrumph, The Great Plotnik Theater Awards Division awards 'Jersey Boys' its highest possible rating: Five Stars. That's Four Stars for the show, and an extra star for that rare combination of sincerity, spot-on perfect musicality (Plotnik counted two flat notes all night long, and he counts these things), a refusal to pander to the audience, and then OhmiGod, the appearance on stage at the final curtain of three out of four of the REAL Four Seasons, hugging and mingling with the actors. They are old and gray and barely mobile, but Plottie saw Frankie Valli slap Christopher Kale Jones on the face like an old musical Wise Guy, as if to say 'Great Job, Kid,' and Jones had to bite his lip to keep from crying, Plot kids you not.

How can a night at the theater get any better? Answer: it can't.

The show has already been extended through the end of March. Please go see Jersey Boys. You'll thank Plottie, who Loves You, Pretty Baby, as you already know.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Isabella Knows how to Laugh

1. That feels very good. 2. I am going to laugh. 3. The laugh is in process. 4. Here I go!

OK, admittedly only a GrandPlotter could stare at each of these photos for an infinite amount of time, seeing the thought processes snapping open and closed in his one month old grandbaby, and decide he knew exactly what she was thinking in each shot. But who cares? Dang, she's cute, isn't she?