Saturday, October 31, 2009

Books read in October

A nice balance of fiction and nonfiction this month. I should check and see what my usual ratio is.


Toolbox for Sustainable City Living
Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew
A great book, not as friendly and chatty as "The Urban Homestead" but is required reading for anyone contemplating a gray water system. Also, good information about how to grow bugs, which your chickens (you do have chickens, don't you? Yeah, me neither.) love to eat.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Betty Smith
I read this first at the end of my junior year of high school, at the same time I was realizing I liked a boy. It turned out he liked me back and this book has always been linked in my mind with that boy ever since. In a year of somewhat "eh" fiction offerings, I was eager to read it again. I most wanted to get to the part where Francie is an older teenager, on the cusp of her first relationship. That part of the book loomed large in my mind and this time through I was surprised to find what a tiny section of the book it is.

The other surprising thing was how much of the story was lodged in my subconscious. I can't tell you how many passages I read and thought, "Oh yes! That was in this book!" This is a great story, of course, how else would it be a classic novel? The writing sometimes can be a little Dick-and Jane-y, a bit pedantic. Due to the lack of italics, I also sometimes got confused as to if a character was talking or thinking. But I recommend this book because the story is such a wonderful one.

Freddie & Me: A Coming-of-Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody
Mike Davis
The book section of the Oregonian recommended this to me and I missed the fact that it was a graphic novel. As I've said before, I'm not the biggest fan of the genre, and reading this I realized why. There are no paragraphs. Each picture has a sentence or two, but then my eye has to move a great expanse across the page to the next sentence. It is too choppy for me and there isn't enough description. I like description better than pictures.

But this book was okay. Davis and I are essentially the same age and I enjoyed his connecting Queen songs to various points in his live as well as following Wham!, his sister's favorite group. In my opinion, the book should have ended long before it did, the final 20 pages felt very tacked on.

The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls
I found this story very readable--it took me less than a weekend to finish it. Walls' descriptions are clear and the portrait of her family life is very well painted. Aside from that, halfway through the book I found myself getting impatient. Just as Dan Brown engineers each two-page chapter to end in a "dum, dum, dum" cliff hanger, so I found that every vignette in this book ended in a way that seemed to be manufactured for the liberal middle-class reader to think some form of "oh, those poor children!" or "what irresponsible parents!" or "how did they ever survive?"

Reading the book, I am amazed that not only did Jeannette Walls escape the situation she was born to, but that of the four children, three because productive citizens. There is a lot to discuss upon finishing this book: nature vs. nurture; the role of citizens to interfere in family life; what choices make sense for parents to make for their children; how we treat children who come from different situations; which parent was more to blame. This would be a good reading group selection and I am surprised my edition did not include the reading group questions I find at the end of so many of the books I read.

The Cactus Eaters
Dan White
There isn't much for me to say after finishing Dan White's chronicle of hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. There were a few "read out loud" passages, especially describing nerds and drug use on pages 200-201, but I mostly found this book "fine." I read it, I finished it, I judged him perhaps too harshly for his post-trail decline and that was that. I heard about this book through the Multnomah County Library's blog An Embarrassment of Riches. Here is part of what Tama had to say:

So far it’s the funniest book of my still new summer reading season. I’ve forced friends and loved ones to listen to entire paragraphs. The other day I was laughing so hard it actually made my son pause Lego Star Wars II to ask if I was ok. I couldn’t wait to finish it yet I was sad when I did, and in my world that is the sign of an excellent book.

High praise indeed and the reason I put it on the list. However, while I found parts of the story amusing I don't think I ever actually laughed out loud. Though there may have been a few snorts.

So, read it, don't read it. It's all the same to me.

Henry IV part II
William Shakespeare
Good god, but this was boring.

The Birth of Venus
Sarah Dunant
An intriguing premise (dead pious 16th c. nun discovered with large tattoo of snake on her body.) An interesting time (Florence during the end of Lorenzo de Medichi's life and with a fiery catholic priest making trouble.) A girl who just wants to paint. How does she end up the pious nun? How does that tattoo get on her body? Read and discover!

Started but did not finish
Edible Forest Gardens Vol I
Dave Jacke
Very textbook-y,and I mean that in a nice way. I would have finished this, but it is very thorough, and others at the library are in line behind me. This is permaculture for the east coast of the United States, which works better for me than permaculture for Australia. I'll reserve this again, and am contemplating buying it.

Poem for October: To Be of Use

Because Marge Piercy is still alive, and I'm concerned about copyright, I will link to the poem. Find it here:

I found this poem by flipping through the readings in the back of the UU hymnal one Sunday in late September. I needed a poem for October and the last two stanzas were a responsive reading. Memorizing it wasn't too hard, though Piercy is very precise in her words and I wanted to be doubly sure I would get each phrase right. I'm having trouble with actually remembering to include the third stanza, I want to jump straight from the "mud" to the "work of the world," bypassing the fields entirely. This is even though I love saying "parlor generals and field deserters" and the image of work done in common rhythm.

I also enjoy the lines about everyday work vessels being put in museums. Sometimes, when looking at something historical on display, I like to imagine all the hands that have touched said item, through its long history.

Marge Piercy has a few of her poems excerpted as readings in our hymnal. And she wrote one of my top five books of all time (Gone to Soldiers.) I expect we will be seeing her again.

Three sentence movie reviews--American Zombie

Were I elected president, I believe my first act--after passing a resolution to encourage more production and consumption of the vegetable kale--would be to pass a law limiting mockumentries to a maximum run time of 45 minutes, based on the fact that the joke gets old after that point. This movie would have benefited tremendously from this legislation as it had a good premise, but just kept going on and on and on. I got bored.

poster from:

Three sentence movie reviews--MST3K's Werewolf

If you only see one MST3K* movie in your lifetime, let this be the one. Some of the humor is dated (mid 9os) but I have not laughed so hard in years. The following make this movie so bad it's good: bad hair, incredibly bad acting, uneven story line, awful continuity, and the unintelligible English spoken by a pretty, but not understandable, actress.

I can't help myself, here is Julian Kennedy's review from IMDB:
Werewolf: 2 out of 10: Wow, this is a classic mess. First off, it “stars” Joe Estevez. Yes, Martin Sheen’s brother. Star of some of the worst films ever made. (A shocking 191 films according to his IMDb page with a discouraging 13 still waiting to be released.) Maybe one of the reasons he can star in so many films is that he only works for a few days at a time. In Werewolf, he disappears without explanation a third of the way through the film and was barely in the movie to begin with. However, I guess when your cast consists of non-English speaking Eurotrash, Estevez seems like a draw.

Speaking of the rest of the cast, we have Jorge Rivero whose hair changes every scene and is the most interesting character in the film (The hair not Jorge). Richard Lynch who plays the male lead with all the charisma of soggy toast. Adrianna Miles who I thought was two different actresses. (One character lives in the house with the gun toting Santa Claus where she types in panties. The other character has never been to the house and lusts after Lynch.) Turns out the script was more confused than I and it is the same girl.

Adrianna Miles is certainly attractive and has those nice deer in headlight eyes but her grasp of the English language is tenuous at best and she simply cannot wrap her lips around the word werewolf. (It comes out wahr-wil, wahrwilf, wearwaollf etc) Speaking of confusing, the “werewolf” appears as a large bear, a broken bat puppet, an elderly version of teen wolf (driving a compact car no less), and something else from the depths of cinematic hell. At no time does it actually look like a werewolf. I could go on for hours (The moon stays full through the entire picture we are talking two weeks in a row minimum.) But I will let Mike and the Bots take over.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season 10 episode 4: 10 out of 10: This is simply one of the best riffing jobs Mike and the bots have ever accomplished. Obviously, this is the only way to see the film.

poster from:

Three sentence movie reviews--Carrie

I didn't expect to like this movie at all. But aside from the somewhat awful acting, I am happy to say that this movies is beautifully filmed, from the first not-at-all-grounded-in-reality high school girl's locker room scene to the ending carnage. It was very pretty to watch and I say excellent job, Mario Tosi!

poster from:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Birthday BINGO

For my birthday, the MAunts and I saw BINGO! the musical at the Broadway Rose Theater Company. It was splashy and zippy as promised. And, we got to play BINGO during the production. I particularly enjoyed the turns of phrase in the song "Gentleman Caller."

I thought winning the BINGO game would be a nice birthday present, but it was not to be.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Just in time for Halloween

I was walking to volunteering at George Middle School when I noticed this swinging down from a large tree. Can you see what it is?

Here's a better picture. It's a huge spider. I'm not sure if I've ever seen anything that big in person before.

Signs of autumn

I've always liked the look of red leaves against the bright green grass. In Portland, most people don't water their lawns during the summer and they become yellow and brown. With the return of the autumn rains, they green back up, just in time for autumn colored leaves to fall on them.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things to think about during church

So the sermon today was kind of boring, or I guess I couldn't get into it. I was quite hungry, and I spent a large portion of church thinking about my lunch. Here is the result:

Grilled Cheese, with Tillamook Cheddar Cheese. Collard greens sauteed with apple and bits of paneer cheese I made, with a few apple slices on the side.
It was delicious. Yet another thing good of going to church.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--500 Days of Summer

This movie gets points not only for its incredibly clever nature, but also for illustrating the inexplicable phenomenon of grown men* wearing normal t-shirts under their work button-down shirts instead of buying undershirts. It looks dumb and I don't understand why it continues to happen. This is a different kind of romantic comedy as explained by the tag line** and I laughed hard at the first words on the first screen and audibly gasped at one part in this nearly perfect movie.

*the same grown men who wear normal t-shirts under their work button downs would probably enjoy this movie very, very much. After you see it together you can perhaps go and buy some undershirts. They are available everywhere.
**"This is not a love story. This is a story about love."

poster from:

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Great Pumpkin

It's great pumpkin time! The Fred Meyer near my house has huge pumpkins for sale. I came upon this one and "he he he he he" took a picture because my boss's name is Tara and I had intended to give her a hard time about her 79 inch waist. The human version of Tara is rather small and I think this pumpkin might outweigh her.
A good look at "Tara"

But then I came around the corner and found me (sort of) with a much larger waist. Unlike Tara, I outweigh "my" pumpkin.

A big picture look at "me"

I asked, and found that they named the pumpkins after the store's managers.

A Poem Encounter

This was on  a power pole in Northwest:

When I google "13th head prose and poetry" this is the first link.  When I google phantom billstickers ltd I found that they are a New Zeland firm that specializes "in the production and placement of street posters, shop posters & flyers (retail), programs, brochures, postcards & handbills promoting music, arts, events and street culture."  The web site goes on to explain that they have offices on Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, & Dunedin.  So how the heck did this get put up in Portland?

Ah-hah!  A visit to the site's blog leads to this entry about a "poster run" in Seattle and Portland which happened in October.  There are multiple blog entries on poster runs to different American cities, so this is apparently something the company does.  The blog entry is worth reading, though the author mostly talks about Seattle.

What a fun thing to discover.  Thanks phantom billstickers!


Years ago, living in Massachusetts, I went to get a new official Massachusetts driver license.  It all went well, I showed my current Idaho license, paid my (exorbitant) fee and brought along my other documents.  Then, I went to take my Idaho driver's license back from the clerk and the woman snatched it out of my hands.  It seems that I had to surrender my current license to get the new one.  There would be no holding on to this half-profile under-21 snapshot of my life.  So I let it go.

When I went to renew my Oregon driver license I remembered that incident and took a picture of my old one before I went inside.  Above you can see my first license in Oregon.  When I got it, I was astounded that I didn't have to renew it for eight years.  "Eight years!" I exclaimed to more than one person. "I'll be 35!"  I didn't mean, as many people assumed, that 35 was so old, just that it was so far away from where I was at that point.  Eight years was a very long time.

And now those eight years have elapsed.  I've lived in four different homes/apartments in my time here and I've gotten rid of that striped turtleneck and jean jumper.  My hair has gone through many incantations and my weight isn't what it says there.  However, it wasn't when I got the license, either.  I've had three jobs and one boyfriend and a host of friends.  It's been a good eight years, and I wanted to keep a memory of my first Oregon driver license.  According to this calculator ( I have about seven more Oregon Driver Licenses in my future.

And guess what?  After they had done all the paperwork for my new license, they punched holes in this one and gave it back to me.  So I have it anyway.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Three sentence movie reviews--Reality Bites

poster from:
Would re-watching this movie leave me with that uncomfortable bipolar feeling of intense embarrassment/disgust at the sometimes cheesy-ness of the plot combined with crazy strange love for the characters?  Indeed, the movie hasn't changed after all these years, nor has my reaction to it.  My favorite part was the 10 year retrospective in which I spent a lot of time wondering why in the heck Helen Childress hasn't ever written anything for movies ever again.

Friday, October 2, 2009


So, you have to work with me here. Nearly halfway down the picture is a piano.  And a tiny bit below the edge of the piano is a white blotch.  And that white blotch!  It's Noam Chomsky's hair!  Which is attached to the rest of Noam Chomsky, whom I heard speak!  I volunteered at First Unitarian where they were having some sort of social justice conference.  My job was to take tickets at the door, which was sort of easy, sort of hard.  The people in charge were expecting trouble, which wasn't there at all. People were very chilled out.  Except the organizers.  One of them ended up screaming at me, which wasn't so cool.  I hope she remembers that moment with shame for years. I was just a volunteer, for chrissake, trying to do my job as best I could under the circumstances.  At any rate, after I took all the tickets, I climbed up into the balcony and heard Noam speak.  Great fun!