Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Once upon a time in a junior high gym class far far away, an evil princess named Riley (or some other gender crossing uber-fashionable name) was in the locker room changing clothes next our protagonist.... Rebel, aged 13, newly relocated to Southern California. Rebel is standing there in a t-shirt and what her mother deems age-appropriate floral patterned modestly cut cotton underwear. Riley, wearing a training bra (training for what, I'm not sure, since there had not been much 'development' for either of us) and pale pink satin bikini underwear. Riley takes one look at Rebel's underwear and starts laughing "Oh my god!" she exclaims in her valley-girl accent... "Do you really wear those??? They look like Grandma underwear!!!" Rebel, suitably ashamed begins an unfortunate stage in her life where she saves up her allowance money to buy unbelievably uncomfortable and highly impractical undergarments for the sole purpose of avoiding ridicule in the locker room. A highlight of this time period was when Rebel tried to run a timed mile with the worst wedgie known to humanity. In High School Riley would lose two fingers** in a tragic wood-shop accident.
Fast forward a few years, Rebel, now aged 16, spends countless spring & summer afternoons with friends at Kevin's house (Kevin's parents are extremely successful and their house has a heated pool, hot tub, a large screen TV with surround sound and... a laser-disk player!). We come over after school, change into our swimsuits and stay as late as Kevin's parents will let us. This is such a common activity that there's a drawer full of left-over swim suits that anyone can borrow if they happen to have forgotten their own. Kevin is a year younger than Rebel and is viewed much as a little brother by many of his female friends.
It's important to note that Kevin and Rebel and their friends are all good fluffy-pink Christian kids, who go to Youth Group & Prayer meetings for fun, it is a point of much pride that Kevin goes to the same church as Kirk Cameron. In fact one day we all get to be the audience in a video on the dangers of teen-sex in which Kirk Cameron is the narrator and Kevin's dad, a doctor, is the medical expert. Later Kevin and his mother will appear on an episode of the Montel Williams Show promoting abstinence for teens. Just painting the picture here.
One typical evening, Rebel and friends (including Rebel's current crush... he has a tattoo!***) are hanging out a Kevin's house, watching movies, being noisy, just having as much fun as a bunch of good Christian kids can have under the watchful eyes of Kevin's parents. At one point Kevin stands up and says "Oh - I just remembered..." ducks into his room and returns carrying high over his head a pair of bright pink satin string-bikini underwear and in front of God, the tattooed boy, & everyone announces to Rebel "you left these here the other day." If she could have died on the spot... she would have.
Anyway.... all of that is just to say I've been blog-stalking and googling folks from my past. It turns out Kevin is one of the contributors to his church's blog, he's a part of the 'music ministry'. He still lives in Southern California, and recently sang back-up on the High School Musical soundtrack if you're curious. He's married & has a baby girl now. :) I left him a comment, but I'm not sure he saw it because he never responded. He hasn't changed a bit since high-school, and it's making me wonder how much I have. Huh.
I'm back to wearing practical cotton underwear though****... that's something. ;)
* aka - long & pointless
**They sewed them back on... but it's more fun for me to imagine her with a three-fingered hand ;)
*** Of a dove ... gotta love those Christian bad-boys. ;)
**** Most of the time. ;)
Monday, January 28, 2008
I went through a heavy cross-stitch phase in junior high & high school... culminating in this sampler I made to celebrate my sister's wedding my freshman year in college.
After finishing this one, I started an even more impressive pattern to honor my college graduation... I gave myself nearly 4 years to do it. I never even finished the border.
Anyway, I'm not so much into cross-stitch anymore, but I am getting back into needlework. Here's my second attempt at embroidery.
The flowers are from the same template I used earlier on a bag... but I filled in the petals with what I now know is called seed-stitch, and gave the leaves some veins. And then I added the little birdie from the same template package (lots of flowers & cute animals). I'm pretty impressed with this little picture, although I have no idea what I'm going to put it on. I think I'll save it up for a quilt (if I ever get back into quilting that is!!)
I was so impressed in fact that I went out and bought a white canvas apron and the book Sublime Stitching... which unfortunately claims not to be my "grandma's embroidery." While I understand this simple means she's updated the styles and patterns for current tastes, there's nothing wrong with my grandma's work! Anyway, stay tuned for more needlework.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Plot: Loud parties, fast cars, blatant infidelity, homicide, murder…all in under 200 pages.
Motto: Having it all means nothing at all.
I think the biggest strength of this book is its brevity.* Which is not to say I didn’t like it. But I think Fitzgerald does a good job of getting all his plot points & character development out without dragging on unnecessarily. His prose is rather more florid than I generally like, and I’m not particularly interested in the Jazz era, so most of the literary merit is lost on me. I really couldn’t see why this book is considered the quintessential Great American Novel. In my book both Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind are far superior books… but this post is not about those books.
The characters are well developed, considering the point was that they were shallow, self absorbed, and amoral. I’m all for giving your characters flaws, that’s human, but they lack pretty much any redeeming qualities. Nick is the ‘innocent bystander’ but the only noble (for lack of a better word) thing he does in the whole book is to take care of the funeral arrangements at the end. Tom is a stereotype, the brash, racist, two timing jock – just past his glory days. Jordan is also rich, spoiled, bored, and well, a liar… but beautiful, so that makes it all better. I dislike Daisy the most I think. Not so much because she married Tom rather than wait for Gatsby to come home from the war (although that did not endear her to me), but for her indecision. She loves Gatsby… until he’s been gone too long, then she loves Tom… until Gatsby comes back, then she wants to be with him… but she doesn’t really want to leave Tom because she still kinda sorta loves him. I most empathize with Jay Gatsby, as I’ve carried more than one torch for someone much much longer than would be considered healthy. But even I know when to give up the ghost – namely when the object of your affections gets married and has kids. Time to move on! Furthermore, if you have to sell your soul to be considered worthy by the person you love, you’ve got to ask yourself if they’re worthy of the sacrifice… and nothing about Daisy indicates that she is. As I’m sure it was Fitzgerald’s intention that these be unlikable characters, I give him full marks on that score.
One of the reasons this book has been called a Great American Novel is that it is a window into life in the Jazz Age. And I’m sure it is… to some degree. It could be argued, though, that the life of the young, rich, beautiful New Yorkers is not necessarily representative of life in general at that time. But it is interesting to think of this as the calm between the storms of two world wars. I found the descriptions of the parties to be insightful (and timeless); start with hordes of shallow strangers, add alcohol, turn up the music and everyone’s having a great time! No one really knows anyone, no one knows anything about the host, and no one cares at all. My favorite line is when Jordan says
“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
I think it just points out the lack of genuine intimacy in their lives.
Overall, I think this was a very good book, far from my favorite, but absolutely worth a read. There’s a lot of food for thought in this very short book. On Jenn’s advice though, I don’t think I’ll read The Beautiful and the Damned.
*The other thing I love about this book is the author’s name F. Scott Fitzgerald, he gets points not only for having a three-name name, which is cool in and of itself (Mario Vargas Llosa is another one I like) but for using a single bold initial as his first name, and also for having a ‘z’ in his last name. Pretty awesome. Tons better than Herman Melville… what kind of a name is that??
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Last night I put all the ingredients together and set it on the counter overnight. I though briefly about taking a picture of the dough before & after the 18 hour rise, but I didn't. It was quite impressive though, and the smell... just a bit sour, so yummy. I also kinda wish I'd read the recipe a little better before I did the shaping... because I kinda skipped that step and had a problem peeling the dough off the tea towel after the second (much shorter) rise. But all is not lost...
Now, that's a gorgeous loaf if I do say so myself! But that's only part of the story.
Check out those big glossy holes... that's the mark of *serious* bread. Oh, when I saw the glossy inside, I was so thrilled. The crust is crunchy, the inside smooth and yummy. It's not *quite* as the bread I tried the other day, but it's good... very good. I'll be trying this one again... and again... and again!
It takes a long time, but the idea is that you let the dough do the work to get the flavor. There's a lot of chemistry involved, and you just can't take a short cut to get there. Ok... I need to be alone with my bread now. ;)
Saturday, January 19, 2008
But as every cat owner knows, the most vital part of a lolcat's anatomy is her Axis of Schnorgeling.
To maintain the health & wellbeing of your lolcat regular schnorgeling should be applied here.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Also up for discussion today: Let's get drunk, smoke a few joints & go antagonize a 500 pound tiger.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Unfortunately, not everyone saves. =( I started a nice long post in Word, but neglected to save it and my computer decided to teach me a lesson. Oh well. Preferences are now set to auto save every few minutes.
I haven’t been keeping up with my Rebel’s Book Club reports lately, so here’s a quick catch up.
The Lathe of Heaven – Ursula K. LeGuin
Motto: You’ll never believe the dream I had last night!
Plot: Average Joe changes the world in his sleep. High minded researcher decides to use this power to save the world.
Opinion: I loved this book, not in the least because it was set in my very own Portland, OR. It’s also one of my favorite kinds of sci-fi books, about the far distant future… roughly the year 2002. It’s always fun to see how the author’s predictions compare to reality. LeGuin does okay. She predicts that Mt. Hood will erupt… which it hasn’t… yet… but Mt. St. Helens did, and she predicts that the US is involved in a war in the Middle East (although to be fair… it seems like we’re always involved in a war in the Middle East). She overestimates the population of Portland, but more or less correctly describes the Max (our light rail system). All of that is really fun to read about, and I got a huge kick out of knowing where the action was occurring, in fact, fairly significant portions of the story take place at the Medical School… which is where I work.
"George Orr's apartment was on the top floor of an old frame house a few blocks
up the hill on Corbett Avenue, a shabby part of town where most of the houses
were getting on for a century, or well beyond it."
As for the actual story… it’s very trippy. The world keeps changing, but certain elements remain the same. There’s also the theme of ‘be careful what you wish for – you might get it’, and how one defines sanity in an insane world. It’s just really trippy, really cool. I may have to read it again to really get into the psychology / philosophy of it. But it’s worth a read if you’re into science fiction, or live in Portland. ;)
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off: The Yarn Harlot’s Guide to the Land of Knitting.
Motto: When knitters take over the world…
Plot: Um.. it’s all there in the title.
Opinion: This isn’t the Yarn Harlot’s best work, and I wasn’t going to buy it, but I started flipping through it at the store and found myself laughing out loud so I caved. I know not everyone loves the Harlot, and I can see why, but I love her if for no other reason than that her obsession with knitting makes me look normal by comparison. I’m not going to recommend that anyone go out and buy this book – but you can borrow my copy if you’re interested.
The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck
Motto: A man must work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.
Plot: Wang Lung, a young farmer in China, gets married, works hard, lives long & prospers.
Opinion: This is such a simple story, but so beautiful. Wang Lung is so human. He is a good man, hard working, but flawed. His wife Olan is selfless, and so strong in her own way. We see the full circle of their life, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health. Buck portrays it all with an unvarnished honesty, which makes it all the more beautiful. There’s a reason this one is a classic.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Motto: Black is Beautiful
Plot: An autobiography that takes us from rural Arkansas in the 1930s to San Francisco during World War II.
Opinion: Nothing I can say will do justice to this book. Angelou has a gift. I don’t know how she managed to come through the tragedies and injustices of her life with such grace and strength and beauty. But she did. She says:
“The Black female is assaulted in her tender years by all those common forces of
nature at the same time that she is caught in the tripartite crossfire of
masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and Black lack of power. The
fact that the adult American Negro female emerges a formidable character is
often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom
accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves
respect if not enthusiastic acceptance.”
Well, she gets my respect and enthusiastic acceptance. But I don’t think she gives herself enough credit for how amazing she really is. The strength and openness that she has is *not* an inevitable outcome of her struggle. I think very few people can live through what she’s lived through and emerge with such grace and dignity and love. Lots of people fall apart, lots of people become hard-hearted, lots of people just give up. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s one of my heros now. Read this book to feel inspired.
Now onto my to-read list for 2008.
The first book on my list is “a long way gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmael Beah. This is the Everybody Reads book for Portland this year, which is good because it’s one I’ve heard a lot about and have been wanting to read & I got it for free =) (have I mentioned how much I love this town!). I expect it will be a bit hard to get through, but hopefully it won’t be a complete downer.
After that, in no particular order:
The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller (I bought this a while ago with the intention of re-reading it, but never did. I just need to plow through the first 8 chapters, after that I remember it gets really good)
A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
I'm looking into suggested books: Persuasion, Anna Karenina, Tender is the Night, The Beautiful & Damned, Of Love & Other Demons, and Pride & Prejudice. But haven't picked any of them up yet.
And the autobiographies… MLK, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela; these have been on my shelf since Bush was “reelected” and I keep meaning to read them. Perhaps I can get through them if I bribe myself with something fun to read afterwards… any suggestions for fun, light or humorous books? I like fiction & non-fiction, science fiction, some chick-lit, any genre really, if it's good.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
One of Sally's few redeeming qualities is that she doesn't really care about my knitting. When I wind yarn into balls she gets interested in the yarn spinning around... but other than that she leaves my yarn alone. She even tolerates being a model for my knitting!
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
It's two skeins of Nashua Wooly Stripes, basic roll brim hat. Nothing fancy, but pretty... and it matches a scarf one of her other friends knit for her. She loves the hat, wears her hat... it looks great on her.
Over the summer friend got a puppy. Cute puppy, smart puppy. Puppy broke out of her metal-barred kennel! Yesterday I got a call from the friend, she was a bit distraught. Apparently puppy developped a taste for wool... wool hats in particular. My friend asked if she thought I could fix it... I told her to bring it in and I'd see what I could do, no promises. Well, she did.
Sensitive knitters should look away... it's pretty graphic.
From what I can tell the main gash is about 9-10 stitches wide, about 21 rows high. The smaller hole goes from the cast on edge past the row of purls I did to end the curl - about 10 rows total. For what it's worth, the hat is about 100 stitches around, probably on size 7 needles. I have a little of the yarn left... not enough for a new hat... and I don't think I could match the stripes even if I tried.
So knitters... what do you think? Is it worth an attempt to salvage? I thought maybe I could do a little steeking of sorts, sew down a seam a few stitches away from the damaged parts, then try to seam it together? Alternately I could some how try to bind off the stitches around the hole, pick up some stitches along the top part and sew a flap down- kinda like the pony-tail hat on Neither Hip Nor Funky's blog. I'm not sure if anything will really fix it though. Anyone want to advise me on what I should try... or if I can't - a way to break the news to her?
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
And sometimes it doesn't. Like yesterday... and today. One thing I'd been meaning to do for a while was to go to the laundromat (rather than using the washer & dryer in my building) so that I could hang out at Starbucks and force myself to do some reading I've been avoiding. Anyway yesterday I finally got inspired, packed up all my laundry & detergent & quarters, got my reading material together (and some knitting just in case), got all ready to go.... and my car wouldn't start! Now a lot of the people in my building work where I work, and like me walk everyday. Unlike me though, many don't have cars, so there wasn't anyone around for me to ask to jump-start my car. I ended up staying home and trying to do my laundry here.... except that someone else was already using the machines. And I only managed to finish the wash cycle before 10pm at which point we're not allowed to use the dryer. Wet clothes in the washer all night - lovely. And I'm lucky they didn't freeze, as it snowed last night. Big sloppy wet snow all over the hill.
Anyway, I got up today threw my clothes in the two driers and went to work. Got home only to find out that one of the driers was broken, and my clothes are still as wet as they were the night before!!!! But that's not even the best part... I walk into my apartment to hear an odd thup thup thup coming from behind the couch. I investigate and find that there's water dripping from the ceiling and onto my long-unused exercise equipment (not to mention dust-bunnies of lethal proportions and the carcases of numerous rolly-polly bugs). I notified my oft-inebriated landlord, who gave me a big bucket and a cheerful "hopefully it'll stop when the snow melts."
I was still trying to figure out which minor deity I had annoyed lately when a friend showed up to help me jump start my car. Fortunately we managed to get my car started without electrocuting ourselves (it was raining & there was still a lot of wet smushy snow on the car, around the car - everywhere really). So I got one thing working.... and I guess that's something, not much... but it's enough.
Monday, January 7, 2008
See, something about politics makes otherwise rational and reasonable people turn into ... well... jerks (myself included at times... I lost a long-time friend after what started out as a political disagreement but turned into mud-slinging knock down drag out 'and 10 years ago you...' fight like you wouldn't believe). I don't totally understand it. It seems like two intelligent people should be able to sit down and discuss different aspects of an issue and if necessary just agree to disagree. But that just doesn't seem to happen. I guess people just feel very passionately about how they want the country to be run... and I can respect that, I know I feel pretty passionately about certain things. Anyway, for that reason I'd been trying not to get too wrapped up in the presidential election. But I guess it's upon us now. Although it's really not... we've got the better part of a year before we actually get to vote for the President. I kinda wish we did things more like the UK... elections get called and then boom - people vote. None of this campaigning for four years straight. I'm tired of it... and I think it makes for good campaigners, but not necessarily good leaders.
ANYWAY... what I meant to say is that I'm feeling hopeful our next president. I watched a bit of a debate the other day (I missed the Republican half), the candidates were discussing the threat of nuclear terrorism. Obama started out and said a lot of things I agreed with (I'm in love with Obama - but I'm trying not to let that cloud my judgement of him as a potential president), but then Clinton brought up a few things that made sense (and you know... she's a woman... which would be nice for a change), then Richardson made a lot of good points too (and I do loves me some underdogs) . It was nice to hear intelligent debate about the subject, even if it wasn't a particularly in depth conversation, and it was especially nice to hear presidential candidates saying things I could agree with. Over the past several years I've done a lot of screaming at Bush on the TV, and I don't like feeling that angry all the time. But more than that... I was impressed that all of the candidates pronounced the word "nu-cle-ar" and not "nuke-u-lar". And it occurred to me that no matter who gets elected...things can only go up from here (although I mentally cross my fingers when I say that, for fear of being jinxed into getting someone even worse than Bush... god I'm so tired of being scared to hope).
In other news, I called the folks who run the CELTA course and I have an interview on Thursday to go over my application materials. Wish me luck!
Oh.... and I learned how to text! I <3 txting!!!!11!!eleventyone!!!OMGponies!!! Seriously, it's like when I was in high school and we'd pass notes in class. So fun and so sneaky. I can see why the kids love it. Well... except when I was in high school I didn't get charged 15 cents a line for a note. Oh well.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
But since I was out & about anyway I decided to go to another favorite shop in southeast - Powells on Hawthorne! I've just finished up reading Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth and Stephanie Pearl McPhee Casts Off by the beloved Yarn Harlot and was feeling a bit bereft of reading material. I found myself picking up a number of books from the sale table... see if you can spot a trend:
Sense & Sensibility - Jane Austen
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Uncle Tom's Cabin
I'm calling it the "Books I didn't read or didn't appreciate back in high school... but am willing to give another shot" reading list (and yes M5K - I'm stealing your idea ;) -what book are you reading anyway?). Actually, the only ones I haven't already read are Sense & Sensibility (although I watch the DVD with Emma Thompson regularly), and Uncle Tom's Cabin (which I know only from the interpretive dance scene in The King & I). The others I read and have vague memories of not hating back in high school... but that's about all I remember. Any other suggestions of books I should read or reread now that I'm... mature*... enough to understand them?
Actually, I am currently reading Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This is my second time trying to get through it, she's a bit more poetic than I generally like. But I admire her a great deal as a person, so I feel like I should actually read her work. Anyway - that's the first book on my list. But after that I'll start in on the "Books I didn't read or didn't appreciate back in high school." reading list. Care to join me?
*old & boring