Saturday, December 31, 2011

Poem for December 2011: A Song in the Front Yard

Go to here to read this poem.

You also have the option to listen to the poem although I have to say that the recitation doesn't do a lot to bring out the charm.

I chose this poem because it accurately captures the frustration I felt growing up and being "good" all the time. (Whether I was actually good or not is beside the point. I felt like I was good all the time and every treated me as if I was good all the time, thus, I was good all the time.) As an adult, it's easy to see that "coming in at a quarter to nine--or even earlier--is a good thing, and perhaps hanging out with someone who sold a back gate is not the best company to choose. But there comes a time in childhood when a split seems to happen and there are suddenly the "bad" kids and the "good" kids. The bad kids might not really be bad, just testing rules to be cool or suffer from a lack of supervision. But the good kids can see the split and for me the longing to break rules and ignore the consequences was a strong one, even if it wasn't often acted upon.

We are now 1000!

This here is post number 1000 on Out & About!


If I only had a dollar for each post I've written...

Three sentence movie reviews: Bright Star


Much like Paul Schneider(!)'s character I really didn't get what John Keats saw in Fanny Brawne and so was befuddled for much of this movie, and thus missed tapping in to the star-crossed love. This was kind of slow, but I'm not really sorry I watched it. The director's interviews at the end were nicely illuminating.

How did those 2011 resolutions go?

Well, it turns out I forgot one entirely. I was going to cook four different kinds of vegetables each week. That would explain why I had a separate "V" designation for chores accomplished (as compared to the "F" for anything to do with food. I did cook/prep a lot more vegetables early in the year and then less so the second half of the year.

I did do a very good job cooking food and not throwing out a lot of it. That list on the fridge I referenced in the resolution post did help a lot. I discarded the sheet at one point, but will bring it back. The notebook also helped and I have already purchased my notebook for 2012. I backslid a bit in November/December and ended up throwing out more food than I wanted. But overall this was a pretty good success.

Push ups. I still love them, but apparently not enough to really do them every day. Early in the year I did them pretty consistently and if I were in my mid-twenties, I would have been churning out my age. Alas, I am in my late thirties and didn't ever reach that number. I think I pushed too hard at the beginning and ended up incredibly sore which was a deterrent.

Resolutions for 2012? I'm pondering them right now.

Best movies watched in 2011

The Annual Patricia Awards
I haven't stopped to count how many movies I saw last year. Let us say there were 70. Here are my favorites (and not favorites):

Best series to watch and then immediately invite your MAunts over to watch it so you can watch it again:
Pride & Prejudice (1995)

The movie I over prepared for (read book, saw original) and found disappointing:
True Grit (Cohen Brothers)

Best documentary illuminating the selection process for a Broadway musical:
Every Little Step

Wonderful, delightful tale that managed to completely eviscerate me emotionally in the last five minutes:
The Illusionist

Best random pack of scary sisters I want someone to write a novel about:
The Fighter

Not a movie to watch when trying to wind down after a hard week:
and
Best movie that passed the Bechdel test:
Hannah

Movie that could have gone so wrong, but instead was so very right:
Source Code

Movie that spawned a personal film festival:
Fast Five

Bad, forgettable title (I just had to google it to remind myself what it was) with at least one incredibly funny scene and well developed characters:
and
Good romantic comedy your boyfriend will probably also enjoy:
Going the Distance

Best of the Vin Diesel Film Festival.
(I know! I was surprised too!)
XXX

Unfortunate example of how Hollywood completely erases strong female characters:
(which is ironic, really, because this movie got me started on the book series)
Gone Baby, Gone

Best movie to watch on your boyfriend's birthday after bicycling many miles:
X-Men, First Class

Movie I enjoyed, but not as much as I thought I would:
and
Suffered, I think, from a long delay before the big monster reveal:
and
Most authentic (and hilarious) teenage boy dialogue:
Super 8

Best eye candy of the fashion variety:
Mad Men, Season I

The "man, why don't they make more movies about wrestling?" award:
Win Win

My favorite of the superhero movie this year:
Captain America

The "Please avoid the movie and take the time to read the book. You won't be sorry" award:
The Time Traveler's Wife

Absolutely delightful
(even though I still am squeamish about Woody Allen):
Midnight in Paris

Happy sigh:
Babies

Pretty bad "last" movie, but with entertaining "bonus" interview with the costumer:
The Thing Called Love

The documentary where the "normal" people were more compelling than the celebrities:
and
Even if you just watch the "Will Shortz reads his mail" scene you will walk away happy:
WordPlay

"Old Fashioned" style movie I absolutely loved:
The Good German

The "two hours reading the book will be time better spent" award:
One Day

The movie that was seared onto my brain at age twelve:
Stand By Me

Funny movie we had no idea we would see:
Horrible Bosses

Excellent ensemble effort:
Contagion

Hit the nostalgia button hard:
Pearl Jam 20

Best horror movie concept of the year:
Attack the Block

Excellent acting, all around:
Margin Call

Best reason to start knitting again:
Heroes, Season 1

Well done movie that was very slow, darn it:
Hugo 3-D

Yet another interesting illumination into Broadway:
Life After Tomorrow

Movie that surprised me the most:
Being Elmo

Remake that surprised me the most:
and
A good reason to go into movies with an open mind:
Footloose (2011)

Movie with the most delightful little scenes sprinkled here and there:
The Descendants

Movie where my front teeth dried out because I was smiling so much:
The Muppets

Best movie about baseball and math this year
(and possibly ever):
Moneyball


Best books read in 2011

The annual Patricia Awards
(with 2011 being the year of the YA novel)

I read 101 books this year. I was hoping to read no more than 70 and completely failed. To be fair, there were a lot of YA novels, which are quick reads. There were also a goodly number of poetry and Shakespeare plays, which are also quick reads, but suffice to say I spent a lot of time reading this year. You needn't read as many books as I did. Instead, take a gander at the following awards and pick (or avoid) a read for yourself.

(All original reviews of these books can be found on this blog or on Goodreads)

Darn Good Concept whose ending was unfortunately bungled:
Incarceron
Catherine Fisher

Best female character I've encountered in years:
and
Best series to spawn 100 discussions about a variety of topics:
and
Best book by an author with my last name:
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins

Best novel to include a hilarious musical theater scene:
and
Most memorable main character since Owen Meany:
Will Greyson Will Greyson
John Green & David Levithen

Best book to read during the holiday season:
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Rachel Cohen & David Levithen

Book I couldn't convince anyone else to read due to odd subject matter, but that I (and the book group) absolutely loved:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery

Interesting portrait about one man overcoming (and succumbing to) his upbringing:
The Last American Man
Elizabeth Gilbert

An interesting idea, a gripping read, all capped off with two perfectly awful last chapters:
My Name is Memory
Ann Brashares

The classic novel I enjoyed much more than I thought I would:
Frankenstein
Mary Shelly

Sidesplittingly funny story of exactly what the title says:
The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie

Good collection of poems about people and travel:
The Last Uncle
Linda Pastan

Interesting book (especially about the history of the science of diet and exercise) whose advice I would rather not follow:
Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It
Gary Taubes

The most delightful tales from anywhere this year:
Tales from Outer Suburbia
Shawn Tan

Parts 1 & 2 of what would have been an intense five part novel:
and
Most heartbreaking story of its creation:
Suite Francaise
Irene Nemirovsky

Biggest slog I should have just quit reading:
The House at Riverton
Kate Morton

Best set of poems to read when you need a bit of a laugh:
The HaHa
David Kirby

Most fun book written this year for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans:
The Wilder Life
Wendy McClure

A bit too long, with a completely unneeded side plot, but still a very good read:
The Hour I First Believed
Wally Lamb

Excellent magical realism and overall most cherished book read this year:
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bendar

Fun to read, if only for the Richard III as Rocky Horror Picture Show send-up:
The Eyere Affair
Jasper Fforde

Best reason to clear your schedule for a few days:
Freedom: A Novel
Jonathen Franzen

My two favorite British characters this year:
and
The kind of book where the five pages of setup is completely worth it for the joke's payoff:
Freddy & Fredericka
Mark Halprin

Best languid description of landscape:
My Antonia
Willa Cather

Best audiobook to listen to while you wait out the insomnia:
A New Earth
Eckhard Tolle

Best intriguing plot and plot shift:
Silver Sparrow
Tayari Jones

Most delightful eleven-year-old of the year:
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Jacqueline Kelly

Especially good novel to read aloud with a partner:
One Day
David Nichols

A bright bit of fun for a cold night:
13 Little Blue Envelopes
Maureen Johnson

Book that I finished, but only so I could discuss it at book group:
100 Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Best urban tale set in Canada:
Blink & Caution
Tim Wynne Jones

Book I found both heartbreaking and heartwarming:
A Place on Earth
Wendall Barry

Book I liked the best of the "Anne" series:
Anne's House of Dreams
L.M. Montgomery

My favorite book read for the Mock Printz:
A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness/Siobhan Dowd

Incredible, wonderful, stupendous book...Until the last four words:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Laini Taylor

Best sci-fi historical fiction novel:
Kindred
Octavia E. Butler

Best "rough around the edges" memoir:
It's So Easy & Other Lies
Duff McKeagan

Books read in December 2011

I finish my ten-title Mock Printz YA reading list and find some time for other things too.

Read
The Order of the Stick: Don't Split the Party
Rich Burlew
Read aloud.
A very long book that refuses to follow the advice of its own title. We spend a lot of time with one or another of the split party. This long book and suffered a bit at the end from the "let's wrap this up now" syndrome, but overall it was pretty entertaining, when read aloud.

Dead end in Norvelt
Jack Gantos
Read for Mock Printz
This was book 9 of 10 read for the Mock Printz discussion and was the outlier, falling into neither the "grim" nor the "tense" category. I started out loving it, as Gantos has a way of phrasing normal observations into something rather amusing and there is a scene at the beginning involving melting gold statues, a feisty old lady and a bloody nose that is pure comedy gold. But after that, my adoration cooled, due to the main character's father being a bit of a jerk, a mystery poorly developed and quickly solved, but not resolved, and a very ambiguous ending that left me perplexed as to just what, exactly, the message was. I wanted to like it, but I just didn't.

Kindred
Octavia E. Butler
One of the pluses of volunteering at the library is that I find very interesting books that I wouldn't have come across otherwise when I'm shelving. This book was shelved in science fiction though, in my opinion, it was really historical fiction in which the main character just happened to time travel to 1815.

As mentioned in my review of Jubilee, I find slavery/slave narratives interesting and out-of-fashion. Indeed, this novel was written in 1979. But experiencing slavery from the perspective of a modern-day black person was a fun narrative device that kept me reading. Recommended.

Good Masters, Sweet Ladies
Laura Amy Schlitz
This has been on my Goodreads list for years, and I finally read it because I noticed it while volunteering at the library shelving books. This is a fun series of poems/monologues of young people in a medieval village. It's a quick read and the sidebar historical information is interesting too. I also loved the YA novel this author wrote, A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama.

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
Ken Kesey
Read for Kenton Book Group
This was a hard read, not because the prose was difficult, but the subject was. I had seen the movie and so I knew where it was going (assuming the movie followed the book) so there wasn't anything to look forward to and I kept putting off reading my daily pages. Still, it was well written, and I enjoyed the perspective of the Chief, which was not a part of the movie.

It's So Easy and other Lies
Duff McKeagen
Duff--from Guns & Roses (and Velvet Revolver and Loaded)--describes his life as a musician, an addict, and his life of sobriety. The writing is rough and unpolished, but enthusiastic and interesting, especially the details of the early G&R days. I was particularly interested in his journey to sobriety which I can sum up in three words: become a nerd. How could I not be delighted when someone's path to recovery includes reading, bike riding, martial arts and going to college?

My main quibble with the book was the question of who wrote it. Duff's name is on the cover, Duff is featured as the author on the back cover. Only on the last page of the book is Duff's collaborator listed. I felt like the book was mainly in Duff's voice and he probably did write most of it, but if you are going to use a collaborator (and there's nothing wrong with that if you've got a story to tell) the just put their darn name on the cover with yours.

Anne of Ingleside
L.M. Montgomery
Anne begins to fade into the background as her children take over more and more of the story.

Good Poems for Hard Times
Garrison Keillor, ed.
Yep. They were.

After the Golden Age
Carrie Vaughn
Okay entry into the non-comic superhero genre, though it was no "Soon I Will be Invincible."

It Looked Different on the Model
Laurie Notaro
Some funny stories. I recommend especially the one near the end about the dog translator.

Hamlet
William Shakespeare
As I read this, I was amazed at how many turns of phrase that we use in everyday speech originate from this play.

Anya's Ghost
Vera Brosgol
Read for Mock Printz
I've said before I'm not a graphic novel fan, but despite my "not" I loved this little story. Also, it was pointed out to me later that Central Library has a cameo role in the book. So exciting!

Started and did not finish
The Culture of Make Believe
Big thick book that made a lot of very good points in the first 75 pages I read. However, said points are rather depressing and sad and thus I wandered off. Would be worth tackling again in the future.

Three sentence movie reviews: State Fair


Though I've only seen it one other time, this is one of my favorite movie musicals. The songs are good, the clothing is delightful, the story is hokey--but entertaining--and I love the idealized depiction of an Iowa State Fair. For those of you who would like State Fair in more forms, there is also a book by Phil Strong, a non-musical version from 1933 starring Will Rodgers and a 1962 version set in Texas starring Pat Boone.


Note: I watched this sometime during Winter Break and forgot to record it in my journal. So here it is here, tacked onto the end of the year.

Also note: For Harry Morgan fans, there's a nice cameo of him as the man running the ring tossing booth, many years before his time as M*A*S*H's Colonel Potter.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: The Lion in Winter


I hadn't watched this movie since high school, and near the end I had the thought, "This is sort of like the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but the parents have four children! I didn't buy the oh-so 1960s reason for Katherine Hepburn's actions, but I loved watching her and the hunky Peter O'Toole as well as a very young Anthony Hopkins (and also Timothy Dalton!) There's a scene near the end where a soldier is killed that I would guess is rather what hand-to-hand combat is like: quiet, desperate and takes much longer than one wants it to.

Complementing staff

Below is an email I sent to the Dr. Martin's store after successfully purchasing a pair of boots. In 2012 I am going to make an effort to use those handy web site comment forms to leave praise for employees who are doing a good job. As someone who worked for many years with the general public I know how hard it is, and how a few sentences of thanks can really lighten your day. Actually, I don't really know that, seeing as people only complained about me, but I can imagine.

Maybe you want to start offering thanks for some of the service people in your life too? It doesn't take long and like this man's experience, can have good effect on you!

Dear Dr. Martin's

I've been in the market for boots for some time and have had trouble finding a pair that fits my calves. Shopping for boots is an embarrassing and demoralizing situation, mostly because the sales people who bring me the boots are then witness to the zipper stopping short several inches from its intended target.

After a lackluster sales experience in another store, I stopped by your Portland, Oregon location. There I discovered the Phina boot which neatly bypassed the calf situation by utilizing pretty kick-ass buckles throughout the length. In addition, I had the great help of Callie, who was attentive, but did not hover and did not make me feel awkward. I thank both Callie for her sales technique and your company for making such an awesome boot.

Sincerely,
Patricia

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why yes, I would love to see what you've been knitting.

So glad you asked! Dishcloth #2! This was a fun pattern, but I don't have the skill level to follow the pattern and converse with people. It's a "watching TV" sort of pattern.

Three sentence movie reviews: Moneyball


Populated with actors I love, this was a tiny bit on the slow side (it gave me time to contemplate why Brad Pitt's house might have had plates hanging on the walls which seems a bit out of character for a single man) but also fun and enjoyable. One thing I knew, but didn't really realize until I saw this movie was how long into the season the trading of players goes on. The movie is about baseball! and math! and you will like it too!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: The Muppets


Oh Muppets, how I love you for your humor and your songs. My front teeth dried out while watching this movie, due to the constant smile on my face. The actors broke the fourth wall repeatedly in a way they usually don't and Matt laughed at one line delivered by Amy Adams for a good three minutes; tell me you have plans to see this, because it's the most fun movie of the season.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: The Descendants


Slow, in that good, meditative way that I enjoy, this was an acting tour de force by yes, of course George Clooney, but especially by Shailene Woodley playing his older daughter. The incredibly understated story has me wondering about the book which I've just put on hold at the library. As with most Alexander Payne movies, there were some excellent scenes that will probably populate my brain for years and I always, always enjoy Judy Greer who steals every scene she appears in.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Footloose (2011)


Given that nearly every scene in this movie was reproduced verbatim,* I can only conclude that the reason for remaking this classic was to save today's teenagers from the heavy synthesizer soundtrack of the original. The new Ren and Ariel do not have the--and I can't believe I'm saying this--gravitas of Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer, and Dennis Quaid and Andie MacDowell are no John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest,** but I greatly enjoyed this movie. Setting this version in the South was a brilliant move and it's so true to the original that it's fun to see the "quotes" of the original movie sprinkled throughout in costumes, props and dance moves.***


*Footloose was the first movie I saw without my parents. In fourth grade I went with Angie Fuller after school on a very rainy day and we were quite scandalized by the language. My family had the VHS tape growing up and at one point my brother astutely observed that we missed a lot of the jokes the first several times through due to being too young to understand them. Viewing this film, I was very pleased when the MTV films logo popped onto the screen because if anyone currently does teen movies well, it's them.
**I did particularly enjoy the increase in Ren's Uncle, Wes Warniker's character. He was great.
***However, there is much to discuss in the small changes. Original Footloose fans, let's discuss the changes and which were effective.

Friday, December 16, 2011

New Slippers!

I used the rest of my birthday money to treat myself to delicious quality brand new sheepskin slippers. I've been walking around in thick socks, due to the lack of slippers so these are a vast improvement. I love how this pair have the cutaway, making them easy to get my feet into.

First wearing of the slippers! Sentinel is going through an interesting shoe phase and is busy checking out the news from my shoes.

Emu brand! Deliciously warm! Hopefully I'll be wearing them a very long time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why I can't currently live in a tiny house.

The coat closet rod is full of MY coats. Matt's are on the door.

From left to right:
  • Red rain slicker, for when it's really pouring.
  • Bright yellow flagger coat I wear when bicycling
  • Tan mid-weight jacket and matching fetching cap
  • Cute jean jacket
  • Tan vintage car coat whose button fell off and I need to replace
  • Red vintage dressy coat with fabulous button
  • Vintage red wool coat for when the temperature is below 40 degrees (also includes fabulous black hat with built in scarf and matching thick suede gloves)
  • Cream cashmere blend winter coat for when the temperature is above 40 degrees (also includes cute checked cloth cap and leather gloves)

Ideally, I would have one coat that could go on the bike, dress up, dress down and become warmer and cooler as the temperature allowed. I'm sure such a coat exists, but I have yet to come across it, especially at my store of choice, Goodwill. But if I found such a coat, I would have to give up all the other ones, most of which I like a lot, for one reason or another.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Decorating is fun

I enjoyed decorating at my Mom's house this afternoon. Mostly because last year she had handily taken pictures of each part of the house and included them in the boxes so all we had to do was find the object in the picture and put it in the proper place.

As there were a lot of boxes, this was a very good thing.

Afterward, we had delicious pulled pork sandwiches and potato salad. Yum!

What I want for Christmas

Smart Car wants people to drive them. So they set up on Broadway, right across the park from my work. I wandered over and got a test drive and a ten dollar gift certificate to the Pearl Bakery. They were fun to drive and now I know what you can get me for Christmas.

Only $12,000-$17,000 and you can make my wish come true.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Life After Tomorrow


Someone once told me there was a documentary about the girls who were in Annie and a post at the library blog prompted me to put the movie on reserve. I didn't see a stage version of Annie until I was in my twenties, but the movie--and the movie soundtrack--was a big part of my childhood. It was fascinating to hear the stories of the girls in the Broadway show and on tour; some details were a bit horrifying (ten-year-olds at Studio 54! Where were their parents?) and some girls clearly never got over washing out at twelve, but the subject was fascinating and made the ending song particularly bittersweet.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Requiem: Goodbye to dresses

I have a lot of vintage dresses. I love them and at one time in my life, I wore them a lot. Alas, none of them fit now. I've decided to trade them in at my local vintage clothing store. But before they go, here's a tour of these great specimens, all pretty wrinkled due to being rolled up and stored in Rubbermaid containers for many years.

This dress always made me think of a young co-ed, graduated, single and with her first job at a publishing firm in New York City. I also loved the double breasted buttons which worked well for me in this configuration, but never work in coat formation.

And look at the tag! Miss Executive!

Pendleton Woolen Mills is an Oregon company and so I snapped up this suit just after moving here.

I loved the color. The skirt was very unattractive, being a gathered, pleated-at-the-waist, hitting-at-the-mid-calf monstrosity. I had designs of cutting it into something that would work better, but never did.

Ah! My coat in Massachusetts for a long while. It kept me warm on my cold winter morning walks to work.

I always felt like I was in the rock band Led Zeppelin when I put it on.

I love looking at old labels on dresses. Peck and Peck sounds great, doesn't it? And according to Wikipedia, it once was. I know I found this dress one of my go-to classics.

And here it is. It covers most of your body, but the cut is incredibly sexy when worn. It was my first realization that more clothing, properly cut, could be much hotter than wearing less clothing.

See those great seams that cut across the bodice? Those made the dress. It also had a side zipper, which I love! This is the dress I will miss the most.

For awhile, this was my go-to dress. It dressed up and down (in fact, I tore a tiny hole in the skirt while playing pool one time) and I loved the lace around the collar.

Nice, eh?

This was a great summer dress, and a bit revealing for my mid-twenties-aged fun. I wore tap pants and a sturdy bra and was quite cool.

I made this dress for a party. It was my first (and only, thus far) foray into sewing with slippery material. I looked good in it and somewhere I have a great picture of my spinning in a circle while wearing it.

This was a favorite dress in high school and beyond. I loved the seersucker and the simple cut and, it being the early 90s, I wore it in the winter with long johns and converse sneakers.

It had this funny detail on the front.

This was my first dress with a side zipper.

I bought this my senior year of high school and wore it a few times until the freshman 15 caught up with me.

The matching jacket is fabulous and I always felt very much the sophisticated 50s co-ed when I wore this. This was also the favorite of Alexsandra, the woman I was trading with. She said this designer mostly did sportswear, so this was an unusual piece.

Boston in the late 90s/early 2000s was a great place to find cheap vintage dresses. I think I paid $10.00 for this beauty. I loved the color, the belt and the detailing.

Wearing this, I felt like the young sophisticated woman about town.

Another great label! And this dress completely looks like it is styled in California.

Another good Boston buy. I bought this for then-boyfriend John's cousin Karen's wedding. John wore a suit and a green striped tie and we looked great. Everyone looked great! East Coast people know how to dress up at weddings.

Detail of the waist.

This dress doesn't look like much on the hanger, but I loved it because I could wear it any time of year due to the pink or grey. I bought it right before I left Boston and wore it at the going away party we had at the house. I also love that it's homemade and the skirt detail reminds me of those birthday cakes with dolls in them that were popular when I was growing up.

Bodice detail. Someone was a good seamstress.

Skirt detail. I wore this for a party at church and one of the women was overcome because she had made this exact dress for a dance in high school. "Warren, don't you remember this dress?" she excitedly exclaimed to her husband. Warren did not. She told me that she had made it in red and black, which caused a bit of talk at the time.

So ends my tour of dresses. Keep looking for a shot of me in my new dress. And when shopping for dresses in Portland, be sure to visit Alexsandra's Vintage Emporium. Those out of town can click on the link and you can shop there from your computer.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Just one thing: Shelves in Order

Hey, no doubt you've read the fascinating post detailing the bathroom shelves becoming organized due to diligence, Ikea magazine boxes and a box cutter. No? Click here.

Mission for the week of December 4-10: Clean out uppermost shelf in pantry.

Future Patricia here! I've journeyed all the way from January 1, 2012 to tell you that I did not accomplish this mission and then never set a mission for the rest of the weeks in December. I was really busy actively avoiding preparing for Christmas which looked like a lot of reading and watching movies and not much doing anything else. "Just one thing" will return in 2012.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Being Elmo


"There's a whole movie about Elmo?" everyone asked me when I mentioned I was going to see it. I was unsure too, I mean, Elmo the slightly annoying after-my-time Sesame Street character? But it was a fabulous documentary, because it was the incredibly moving story of someone on a path he was supposed to be on, and a story that included Jim Henson, who always cheers me.


I saw this for free (Thanks Kelly!) but now that I've seen it I can recommend it for people to pay money to see.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Poem for November 2011: Solitude

You can read Solitude by clicking on the link below. I can pretty much guarantee you know the first two lines.


I was drawn to this poem because of two passing comments made in books I read this month. In Anne's House of Dreams, at one point Anne says to her friend something to the effect of, "you will have all the joys and sorrows a mother can expect." In Wendall Barry's A Place On Earth several of the characters experience great sorrow, but continue to go about their business, integrating the sorrow into their lives for the time being.

This was interesting to me because I feel as though today we do not accept sorrow as a normal part of life, but rather a misfortune which just happens to find us on occasion. This poem, especially the last lines, seem to refute this notion, saying instead that we all need to pass through sorrows to get to the "halls of pleasure."

I also spent the entire month debating the tone of this poem. Is it one of those nineteenth century instructional poem, basically saying, "unfortunate things happen, but you are better off looking on the bright side?" Or, instead, is it tinged with a bit of bitterness, with the ultimate meaning being, "people will be your friends when you are happy, but once you experience sadness, you are on your own." After a month of reciting, I'm inclined to the latter opinion and I think that the second conclusion is the correct one, and I offer the last six lines as proof:
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

The bit of reading I did about the poem (okay, I just read one Wikipedia entry, it's not like they pay me for this gig) said that Wheeler Wilcox encountered a woman dressed in black crying by herself on a train. She spent the ride comforting her and the poem sprang from that experience.

I take comfort in this poem. It says my sorrows are okay.

As for memorization, it went in pretty easily, but I think it will be hard to retain, simply because the order of the things are easily jumbled. Sometimes when I'm reciting, my mind wanders and I discover I have skipped entirely one pair, usually feast/fast, but sometimes glad/sad. For this reason I will put it on daily rotation for December and January, just to solidify it.

Books read in November 2011

Aside from the book group selection, I only read YA (aka "teen") books this month. For those of you looking to boost your book-reading bragging rights, YA books are good for that. They don't tend to take a lot of time to read, and some are very well written like this month's selection, A Monster Calls.

Read
A Place on Earth
Wendall Berry
Read for Kenton Book Club
Ah! After slogging grumpily through last month's selection, this was a breath of fresh air. It was hard to get into at first as I spent a lot of time thinking, "now who is this character again?" But that eventually resolved itself and the characters became known and the writing was just lovely. I hadn't read Wendall Berry before, but I'll seek him out again.

Anne's House of Dreams
L.M. Montgomery
After the scattershot nature of the previous "Anne" book, this was a welcome relief. This time, there was a narrative structure which vaulted this book in to the category of "my favorite book of the series so far." The cast of characters was varied and interesting and even characters from other books came to visit now and then. There was a very nice narrative arc, unseen in any of the other books. And I greatly enjoyed Anne and Gilbert as young marrieds, though Gilbert at times seems to just fill the "husband" character and not show much of his own character.

Jasper Jones
Craig Silvey
Read for Mock Printz
Of the grim/tense category that all these Mock Printz books seem to be, this falls into "tense." I found the writing for this novel very uneven. For example, the story goes along and I'm populating the pictures in my head based on the book and then suddenly it seems that it's the 1960s. Insert record needle scratching off record. What? Really? Huh. This happened several times: the mother seemed to be a normal book mother and then suddenly she wasn't, the love interest had a too-convenient part to play. Also, this book takes place in Australia, which normally is a fun thing, but this book had a lot of Australian things that it didn't bother to translate into American. And there was A LOT of cricket.

So I never really took to this book. But I did like the following passage:
"I take a small incendiary pull. Of course, it attacks my mouth and burns down the length of my throat. I gag immediately, wiping my lips, trying to keep my lungs at bay. I slant my head and pretend to read a label that isn't there through my clouding eyes. This shit is poison. And I realize I've been betrayed by the two vices that fiction promised me I'd adore. Sal Paradise held up bottles of booze like a housewife in a detergent commercial. Holden Caulfield reached for his cigarettes like an act of faith. Even Huckleberry Finn tapped on his pipe with relief and satisfaction. I can't trust anything. If sex turns out to be this bad, I'm never reading again. At this rate, it will probably burn my dick and I'll end up with lesions."

Imaginary Girls
Nova Ren Suma
Read for Mock Printz
Another of the "tense" YA books for Mock Printz reading. I hope all these adolescents are learning to breathe in yoga classes, or they are going to be incredibly tightly wound. This was nicely written and I spent the book engaged with puzzling through it, trying to figure out just what was up. I think it will inspire lively discussion when we get to discuss it. But I didn't like it. The main character's sister was quite unlikable and she was the book, so I spent a lot of time in puzzling dislike. "What's her deal?" I kept wondering. I'm interested to see what others think.

A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd
Read for Mock Printz.
Seemingly all ten of our mock Printz books this year are either grim or tense and this one falls into the grim category, what with a thirteen year old's mother very sick with cancer and his father living across the Atlantic with a new family and him not getting along with his grandmother and all. But despite it being grim, it was a fabulous story and my favorite Mock Printz book so far. It's short and there are wonderful illustrations and I highly recommend it for anyone going through a situation that involves loss. Even if loss isn't currently a part of your life, this book is worth reading for its very moving story.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Laini Taylor
Read for Mock Printz
"This book is awesome! I'm totally giving it five stars!" was something I thought repeatedly as I gobbled up this book, right up until the last page when the author actually used the words "to be continued." Invoking the "to be continued" phrase automatically breaks my "series rule" which is as follows: The first book in a series must be a complete story on its own; the second book should be a happy surprise, not a given." Authors that can't be bothered to come to a clear break in their plot are, in my opinion, lazy and should be rewriting a bit more before publishing.

So, the ending was disappointing, but until then I couldn't get enough of this book what with the kick ass female character ("This should be a movie!" I thought several times before I remembered how well Hollywood manages to diminish strong women literary characters) wonderful fantastical elements and a very interesting puzzle to unravel. Highly recommended, even with the disappointing ending.

Shelter
Harlan Coben
Recommended by my friend Maureen with the caveat that this book breaks the "series rule" (The first book in a series must be a complete story on its own; the second book should be a happy surprise, not a given) I read this in a day. Despite my compulsitivity, this book was awful. The writing was bad (though did not approach Twilight-esqe levels) and I feel like Coben's approach to writing a "teen" book was to read about seven of them and then take every cliche possible and shove it in his book. Let's count them up. We have: 1)The essentially orphaned, and mostly unsupervised main character, 2)The loud, eccentric best friend who might as well be wearing a jester hat, lest you not get that he's supposed to be the comic relief 3)The prickly fat girl who wears a defensive shell a mile thick, but is hiding a heart of gold and has a secret 4)much plot development action involving cell phones and 5)a large population of adults who "just don't get it" 6)Teachers who are all apparently very angry former drill sargents.

You know what else this book set in the present day had? Nazis. Really? Yes really! Because there is no better antagonist than WWII era Germany. But wait, there's more! A Strip Club. Prostitution. Mysterious White Van. Strange Tattoos. Stranger Tattoo Artists. Thinking over all of these elements put together I feel a building rage at the pure stupidity of this book. One or two of these elements in the hands of someone who can write would have resulted in something worth my time. But at this point, all I can do is warn you away. Go ask a librarian for a good YA book and leave Harlan Coben to the airport-novel-reading adults.

Also? Incredibly dumb character name. Mickey Bolitar! He was born in the mid-90s, for god's sake, not the mid-50s. In fact, I just checked Wolfram Alpha and the graph of the Mickey distribution shows a dip down to pretty much zero in the mid-90s when this character would have been born. It's rank is beyond 1000 currently. Mickey Boliter! Stay away! Far away.

Started and did not finish--None

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Just one thing: Curtains Up!

As you will no doubtably have read over in this post, I have completed my mission of getting the curtains up. Yay me! I was (again) a day over as I apparently needed the entire week off of work before I could bother to sit down and actually get the curtains prettied up and put on the wall. Yep, I did an hour's worth of work on Tuesday, then nothing until a few hours on Saturday and more hours on Sunday.

Mission for the week of 11/27 to 12/3: get the bathroom shelves in order. What's up with them, anyway? On the plus side, last week I cleaned out under the bathroom sink without it even being a "just one thing." Well done!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Hugo 3-D


This was well acted, very pretty to look at, had an interesting plot and was, alas, very slow. This was also the first modern 3-D movie I've seen and I found the 3-D to be a very distracting experience. "More like a Viewmaster, than actual 3-D" the person behind me commented and I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bigger bread

I found a pretty good "no knead" bread recipe, but it gave me two "bricks" or small flat loaves. Not exactly what I'm looking for for sandwiches and the like. Then I remembered my mother mentioning that she never could figure out how my grandmother's biscuits always came out so large until she realized her mother doubled the recipe and cut out the number for one recipe. I combined my two loaves into one and got a big loaf. See it there, on the left, as compared to its earlier friends on the right.

It was a little too big, as evidenced by this ooze. I'll make 2/3 of the recipe next time and see if that makes a difference.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Three sentence movie reviews: Heroes Season 1


I had to start knitting again because I needed to somehow feel productive while watching,say, four straight episodes of this series. It also caused me to break my "watch one disk and then back to the library" rule because it was just so damn good. Though I was quite disappointed in the final episode, what came before was amazing in a way I haven't seen on a network series in forever--if ever.*


*I mean, when was the last time you saw subtitles on a network show?