Thursday, January 31, 2013

Great Scott! Look what came in the mail!

A part for a blender we bought.  That was one thing that came in the mail.  It was waiting patiently on the porch along with...

What's this large package underneath?

Once I saw it was addressed to Patricia Clark, I knew who it was from.  Then it was only a matter of unwrapping to find:
(Cue sound of angels singing.)

  A cake carrier.

And not just any cake carrier, but a Tupperware carrier in perfect condition in the always-winning shade of Harvest Gold!   I can transport my cakes in comfort and style all thanks to Sara and Shawn at Pike Schemes.  You guys are awesome.  Thank you so much.

Art Building: First Floor, that's all right.


1/31/13 Essay

Apparently five essays in January was one essay too many.

Books read in January 2013

It's 1/4 of the way through February and I haven't written any of these reviews.  I'm going to do them now and I'm going to make them short.

White Teeth
Zadie Smith
Read for Kenton Book Group
Loved it!  Funny!  Really crappy ending, but the rest was so delightful Zadie Smith is forgiven.  Also funny in a way you can read it on the train without people looking at you like you are a crazy person. It is more of a "snort to yourself" rather than a "cackle out loud."

Jodi Lynn Anderson
I got this because I loved the writing in the author's Tiger Lily and I wanted to see if this had similar writing.  Alas it did not.  It was a solid good female friendship book, but not much else to write home about.

A New Dress A Day
Marisa Lynch
Interesting.  I think I will never do anything she does in this book, but I was curious to see how she transformed things.

Telegraph Ave
Michael Chabon
I don't so much read novels by Michael Chabon as I immerse myself in words.  His novels are made up of a lot of words and this one is no different.  There were so many words, I couldn't finish them all in a three-week period and had to return the book and request it again.

If you don't mind immersing yourself in words, this book is a joy to read.  It's full of interesting characters of many different generations, set in an interesting place and comes complete with an interesting plot.

Started and didn't finish
Nothing Daunted
Dorothy Wickenden
I wanted to like this book, but the whole thing felt rather padded.  There were all sorts of digressions which were kind of interesting, but not really.  I probably would have eventually ambled to the end of the book, but it was called back to the library.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mock Printz

I attended the Multnomah County Library's Printz Workshop for the third year in a row.

Our job:  read 10 YA novels, get together and discuss and vote one novel the winner.  Above you see my top three choices.

We initially talked about the novels in small groups, voted and then gathered in a big group.  The results of our small group voting were:

The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

We then had a large group discussion and voted again.  I was happy that some of the biggest champions for Code Name Verity (ahem, I was one of them)  were persuasive in our arguments.   The results were:

Code Name Verity
Fault in Our Stars

With Code Name Verity the winner, we knocked out the winner as  well as the books that had no votes and voted again for an Honor book.  Results:

Fault in Our Stars (53)
Seraphina (30)
Tiger Lily (22)

The 2013 winners?  Click here.  Note that one of our choices was an honor book.  None of the rest of the winners were on our list. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Essay: It turns out I have very strong feelings about the movie the Notebook.

Be aware!  This here essay is rife with spoilers.  So if you want to keep the plot of the Notebook undiscovered, stop reading.  But if you have seen it, or you plan on never seeing it, read on to discover why this is not a sweet, romantic film, it is C-R-E-E-P-Y!

Let’s look at the first meeting of Noah and Allie.  Noah, (Ryan Gosling) asks who this Allie (Rachel McAdams) is and his friend Finn explains.  Then, despite the fact that she walks up to him with not one but two guys on her arm, Noah leads by saying, “Do you want to dance?”  Note that they are not at a dance, they are at a fair.  There may be a dance at the fair, but there is no dance in the frame of the camera. Allie, quite rightly, says no and flounces off to ride the Ferris Wheel.  What an awkward beginning for Noah. I’m willing to give him a pass because maybe he’s nervous or so overcome by Allie’s beauty he makes an awkward move.  Who hasn’t done that?

But then Noah leaps onto the Ferris Wheel, landing in the same car as Allie and another man.  If this happened to you, would it be romantic?  No, it would be super creepy.  Even if the person who did it looked like Ryan Gosling (who I do not find attractive at all because I think he looks like a hamster, but I am aware that many women don’t see his hamster qualities, and instead find him rather dreamy).  You would not be attracted to this weird man because you don’t know this person and also invading space like that is wrong, there’s a reason we each have our own bubble.  Plus, there’s a weight limit on those Ferris Wheel cars, what if they crashed to the ground?

So maybe Noah is just weirdly enthusiastic and we can give him another pass?  Okay, just because it is Ryan Gosling and so many women like him, let’s do that.  So what does he do then?  He blackmails Allie into saying she will go out on a date with him by hanging from the Ferris Wheel, threatening to plunge to his death.  Allie agrees to keep herself from witnessing a real-life death/maiming, but is her agreement good enough for him?  No it is not.  He makes her say she wants to go out with him loudly and repeatedly before he climbs back into the car.  Ladies, once again, put yourself in Allie’s place.  Is being blackmailed into a date okay?  Is the potential date’s need not just for the date but for a loud proclamation of the desire to date the man in question okay?  I hope you have come to the same conclusion as me, but just in case, I will say it straight:  no it is not okay, it is rather disturbing.

Moving right along. Noah remains persistent about the coerced outing and eventually they go out together.  So here’s a guy on a date with a woman he is very into.  He is so into her, he risked life and limb, et cetera.  What does this guy who is crazy about this woman do on the very first date he takes her on?  He says, “You know what your problem is?” and then tells her what he thinks her problem is.  Gentlemen.  On what date is it okay to begin pronouncing your view of the flaws of your date?  Ah!  Trick question.  It’s not okay on any date.  If your date needs to deliver a diagnosis of your supposed flaws, then this person is not the person for you and the date should end.  It is never romantic to say, “do you know what your problem is?” because, really, who are you to say?

So then there’s a bunch of shoddy tell-don’t-show film making wherein we find out that Allie and Noah were crazy about each other and they fought all the time.  Again, there isn’t enough character development to find out why they fight all the time and why exactly they are so into each other, but I can say that if you are mostly fighting with the person you supposedly love, it’s probably not so much love and you should probably part ways and find someone you don't fight with.

Then, there is a cruel parting and Allie is whisked away by her parents (who, as far as I was concerned, were right on the money) and Noah writes one letter per day to Allie for an entire year and she never writes back.  We know that Allie’s mother is intercepting the letters and she doesn’t know about them. I want to go on record as saying this is wrong of Allie’s mother and I don’t condone it.  However, after a year, Noah does the healthiest thing he does in the entire movie and moves on.  Or, at least, he stops writing to her. 

Noah goes off to war, his tiny friend dies, he comes back and his father, happy to fan the flames of obsession, goes in with him to purchase a decrepit mansion where Noah and Allie almost had (or did have, I don’t think the film is clear on this point) sex.  Noah throws himself into restoring the decrepit mansion just the way Allie would like it.  He also grows a creepy-guy beard, perhaps to show us how focused/determined/crazy he is.  It is not an attractive beard and actually I question if Mr. Gosling--he of the fair hair--could actually grow such a hearty specimen. In fact, though I do not think Ryan Gosling is dreamy, as stated above, (hamster) overall in this movie, he did a lot with his eyes and I sort of had a window into the mmmmmmmRyanGoslingmmmmmmm world.  But that beard during all the big reunion scenes?  No ma’am, it did not work for me.

Someone who completely restores a house, and works obsessively (a word the film actually uses) to renovate it the way someone said one time, five years ago.  Is that someone capital-R Romantic?  Or big-C-stay-away-from-me CREEPY?  I think we know the answer.  Think of someone you haven’t been in contact with for a while.  Say you run into them, go for coffee, and you find out that they had built a shrine to you in their backyard.  That’s the moment when you fake an emergency call and leave the coffee shop.

So that’s all Noah and Allie back in the day.  And that’s bad enough.  But interspersed with the supposedly tragic story of the lovers is the present-day story of a sweet old couple who we later find out are Ryan and Allie.  And when I say present-day, I mean the 80s or 90s or some such thing, it was hard to tell from the clothing.

Present-day Allie (Gena Rowlands) has dementia and present-day Noah (James Garner, a man much more substantial than hamster Gosling,) has moved into the care facility where Allie lives so he can read from the notebook where Allie wrote their story, the same notebook that gives us the title of the movie.  As the movie progresses, we see Noah tell their story to an uncomprehending Allie, ignoring the advice of a doctor and insisting that the story always brings Allie back to him. In fact, Allie has even written in the front of the notebook that he should do this.  So he spends the day reading the story to her so she will return.  And she does “come back” and they have a dance and catch up on the news and this is all so very sweet.   It lasts for five minutes and then Allie forgets again and completely freaks out and has to be held down and sedated.

I ask you, is this the motivation of a loving man?  Nope.  It’s just Noah, being as obsessed and creepy as he was in his younger years.  If Allie is quite happy not knowing who she is or who the nice man reading the story to her is, wouldn’t it be more loving and caring to just let things be?  But no!  Let’s have the five minutes of recognition followed by the potent drug cocktail.  It’s completely worth it.

And it goes on!  The film ends when Noah sneaks into Allie’s room, she “comes back” and mentions how nice it would be if their love can “take them away together.”  So they hold hands, fall asleep and die at the same time.  I’m sorry, but dying at the same time as your spouse falls into the creepy category, not the “oh how romantic” category.  Noah’s got three children and two grandchildren whom he clearly adores and instead of just letting things be, and hanging out with his family, he goes off and dies at the same time as his wife.  Several women have said they think this is sweet and maybe if I hadn’t just watched 122 minutes of creepy behavior it would be sweet, but, alas, I had watched 122 minutes of obsession and that puts dying together into that same “ew” category.

So, dear reader, I implore you to continue watching this movie if you find it lovely and romantic.  But if you find yourself in this same situation in real life? You might want to check the creepy meter.  It’s probably running pretty high.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: The Notebook

I hadn't seen this movie, a favorite movie of many fans of the romance genre, and I wondered why.  I like both the actors (Rachael McAdams is A-okay in my book, and I like Ryan Gosling just fine) and since I liked Dear John  much more than I thought I would and this movie is also based on a Nicholas Sparks book, why not?  Well, it turns out I was not a fan, so much so that I wrote 1500 words on why this movie is not romantic, it is creepy.

Where watched: at home
Cost:  Free from library.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Art Building, gorgeous sunrise

The ceiling of the first floor is creeping toward us.

Three sentence movie reviews: Silver Linings Playbook

On second viewing (I brought the boyfriend along this time; he liked it) I can say that I really enjoyed the speeches by Jennifer Lawrence's character when I could tell she'd been through a lot of therapy:  "Let's talk about that..."  I also enjoyed how clearly and succinctly the family dynamics came through.  This held up quite well through a second viewing and I can still recommend it.

Where watched:  Regal City Center 12.
Cost:  Free, thanks to passes.

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(I find their eye color in this poster distracting)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: Lincoln

This is a movie with excellent acting,* an interesting plot, as well as wonderful set design and costumes.  Alas, it is a grand example of really excellent pieces failing to come together into a very good, or even a good movie.  I found it to be overly long and boring repetitive experience of speeches made by whatever character was in the middle of the frame followed by the John Williams music swelling to let us know how to feel.**

Where watched:  Regal Fox Tower
Cost:  Free thanks to passes from Kelly.  If I'm going to sit through a so-so movie, it's best that it be a free so-so movie. (Also note that this movie was mostly my pick, so double thanks Kelly)

*Please note that there was excellent acting by Sally Field, but she is twenty years too old (I looked it up) to be Mary Todd Lincoln and that was incredibly distracting from the overall whole of the movie and her performance in specific.  There is no way that Sally Field looks like the mother of Tad Lincoln who was 12 at the time of the movie.***  Also please note that seemingly every male character actor in Hollywood is in this movie and thus it was very hard for me to pay attention as I was constantly trying to figure out where I had seen that fellow before.

**Check back in 15 years, I suspect this film won't age well.
***Here's a picture of Mary Todd Lincoln in her inaugural ball gown.  The information with the photo doesn't say from which inauguration.   She's no spring chicken, but she's no old crone, either.  What 40-something actress would have been an age appropriate choice to play Mrs. Lincoln?

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Essay: On Slow News

On Monday, the Oregonian ran a commentary* by Peter Laufer, in which he attempts to convince the reader to join the “slow news” movement.  Mr. Laufer, I am happy to say I am already a member, as evidenced by the fact I read your column on Wednesday, two days after it was published.

I already have stepped off the 24-hour news cycle, having realized that there just isn’t enough news for all 24 hours of the day.  I read the paper daily—though I don’t always finish the current day’s paper by the end of the current day—I listen to NPR while cooking dinner and that is it.**  I will, on occasion, poke about online for more information about a current event, but mostly I just keep informed as people did in the last century: by reading the newspaper and listening to the radio.

Laufer says, “We need to be able to decide for ourselves what so-called news is worth our while, not just allow ourselves to be subjected to an endless barrage of unfiltered media assaults.” What’s worked for me is to have regular times each day to check in with the world.  Mine are: on the train to and from work, when I read the paper; also the aforementioned cooking dinner hour with NPR.  Unless some national tragedy is occurring, I can wait to wade into the details.

It’s worth noting that my definition of national tragedy is a lot stricter than the media’s view.  Here’s a tally of national tragedies in my lifetime:  the events of September 11, 2001.  That’s it.  Everything else can wait until my news hour.  Remember the DC sniper?  Coverage of that event was a wake-up call for me.  For the entire period the sniper was active, all our local news—morning, noon, evening, late night—spent a substantial amount of time reporting about something that was happening on the other side of the country.  Given that most days there was no new news and given that few non-governmental events occurring in our nation’s capital are local it was a colossal waste of time.

Laufer also points out that the first coverage of an event is often inaccurate.  Agreed. I would also add that it tends to be quite hysterical.  When the shootings at Columbine High School occurred, I recall thinking, “I can’t wait until someone writes a book about this.”  I had to wait a decade, but the book was worth the wait, as it carefully and completely proved that pretty much everything we “knew” about Columbine after the shootings was not accurate.

I’d like to invite all of you to join me in the slow news movement.  We can be informed, even if we check in at limited, regular intervals.

*If you want to read the original column, it is titled “It’s OK to read yesterday’s news tomorrow.” and is available, for a time, by clicking here.

**If I had more time, I would also read a weekly news magazine and also renew my subscription to Harpers and the Atlantic Monthly.  If I had more time and cable, I would watch the Daily Show and the Cobert Report.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Wait until you "See Back for Details"

This is one of those products I feel people go looking for.  They buy a smart phone, they realize they can't use it with their gloves on, they consult their friends or the Internet for a solution, et voila, they find themselves in the glove section of Macy's staring at the selection.  Or, they knew this product existed like I did, because the fluffy sections of the newspaper, as well as women's magazines, explained the whole concept to me in the form of a "feature."  Advertising as news.  Gotta love it.

But yes, I'm always happy for more details.

Unless the details are an obvious drawing that gives me no new information.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Essay: On seeing someone you knew briefly twenty years ago.

“She hadn’t changed a bit”

“He was exactly the same.”
From When Harry Met Sally*

Brace yourself.  If you don’t have a picture of the person, then the person today might not look anything like you remember.  Starting a decade or so ago, Facebook has made it impossible, for better or worse, to forget people from your past, however minor.  But for those of us who came of age before Facebook or digital cameras, having a picture of someone was not ubiquitous.  Sure, we might have a fair amount of photos of all your friends, but people on the periphery of our lives?  The people we worked with, went to church with or sat in classes with?  We didn’t have photos of them.  In fact, a lot of people didn’t like having their picture taken, so sometimes it was difficult to get photos of some of your close friends.

If you don’t have a photo of someone, chances are your brain has airbrushed the image a bit, building up cheekbones, brightening eyes, straightening teeth.  Enough time has passed that the image that remains in your brain might look nothing like the person in question then, much less the person in question then plus twenty years.

Don’t worry that you have gained weight in the intervening years.  It’s been two decades.  How many people can say they weighed the same amount they did two decades ago?  You?  Well, you, my friend, are the exception.  Well done, I say.  But, for the rest of us, we all weigh more than we did twenty years ago, some of us substantially more.  And don’t forget that, in general, Americans are overweight.  If you’ve gained weight, chances are this person from your past has not escaped the same fate.

The hair.  The hair will be different.  Depending on which segment of life the 20 years encompass, hair will be markedly different.  I came of age when a lot of boys becoming men had long, sometimes very long hair.  Five years after I graduated from high school, most of it had been cut off.  And with men, especially, hairlines recede, or disappear altogether.  For women, the color might be similar, or it might have changed entirely.  The style will be markedly different. 

There’s a good chance you might think, “My god, do I look that tired/worn out/old?”  And yes, you do.  You were about 7304 days younger when you last saw this person.  And, for most of us, we were much more sprightly and younger twenty years ago.  If that person is in the same general age bracket as you and looks tired, chances are you look just as tired.  And that’s okay.  You’ve done a lot in the intervening years to earn that worn-out look. 

You may have absolutely nothing in common.  Life throws us together and then separates us again.  We go off in different directions, explore different things, find new gurus and interests and enthusiasms.  Maybe you click with this person and it’s like a day hasn’t passed.  And maybe the only thing you share is your time together before. That’s okay.

*Probably not an exact quote but the search engines didn’t cough it up within my limited attention span and I was too lazy to search further.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I join the cell phone world.

I held off as long as I could, but it was time.  The phone arrived today.  Will I become an annoying cell phone user?  Only time will tell.

Art Building: rebar!


It's been a bit since we last checked in, but now there is rebar creeping out of the ground and a central wooden structure growing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Good litter

Found outside an apartment complex near my house.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: A Late Quartet

If I hadn't been sitting in the movie theater, I probably would have wandered off and found something else to do.  But I wasn't annoyed or disgruntled while sitting in the movie theater, so this wasn't a bad movie, just one where I was simultaneously bored and interested.  It did contain good acting all around and the subject matter (famous chamber music quartet) was one I'd never given much thought to at all.

Where watched:  Laurelhurst Theater
Cost: $3.00

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Essay: Let us Resurrect the Letter

Let us pause in our collective texting, emailing, tweeting, Facebooking, what-have-you-ing, and take a moment to appreciate the letter.  I am a fan of all forms of communication, though I am a more enthusiastic fan of some forms than others. It won’t surprise many of my acquaintances to learn that I’m the greatest fan of the letter.

Except for a brief resurgence in 2008, when I pledged to write one letter per day for the entire year (and mostly met my goal) my era of letters came to a close at the end of the last century, when email accounts became ubiquitous and communication became instant.  Here’s what happened. My letter writing dropped off tremendously.  Friends from high school and college who were regular correspondents of the page became correspondents of the email.  At first, letter-like emails were exchanged.  Eventually that correspondence faded as email’s true nature came to light:  a quick way to arrange details.  An unfit way, really, when you get right down to it, to exchange the longer narrative form that is the letter.

And I’m here to say I want the letter back.  I want regular correspondences with people.  And I propose the following guidelines to encourage correspondence.

1.  Your letter is interesting.  Whatever you write about in a letter?  It’s pretty interesting.  This is the magic of the letter.  When someone has taken the time to transcribe something on paper, find an envelope, address and stamp the envelope, and get the whole thing in the mailbox, the contents of the letter automatically become more interesting than if we were chatting or emailing.  So you could only think to describe your errand-running for the day?  In letter form this is fascinating, I kid you not.  Don’t wait around to write a letter because nothing is going on.  Are you reading a book?  Have you seen a movie lately?  Are you excited about a TV show?  Put it in the letter.  Your life is happening all the time, so why not share it in letter form?

2.  Make them short.  I myself am guilty of going on and on in letters because I tend to blather about whatever quite easily (see point number one), but I have decided to turn over a new leaf because short letters are easier to respond to.  If you have a collection of notecards Great Aunt Ethel gave you, get out one of those and start writing.  When you’ve filled up the notecard, you are done.  Although if you are really going strong, I say you can add one more sheet of paper.  But not much more than that.  Aim for some general chit-chat (again, see point number one) and one or two questions for the recipient and call it a day.  Or, see if your letter friends want to exchange postcards.  Those are even shorter, and cost less to mail.

3.  Respond quickly.  See how point three builds on point two?  If you are just dashing off a quick note (which will be interesting to the recipient—remember point number one) you have many more opportunities to dash off that letter than you will if you plan to write something much longer.  And when you respond quickly (and with a short letter) it’s more likely that your letter companion will also respond in kind.  I would say try and respond within a week of receiving the letter, though sooner is even better.

4.  Have a letter system worked out.  When I wrote a letter per day I had a letter box which held my main correspondents’ addresses, as well as notecards, postcards, stamps, a favorite pen and some return address labels.  That way the “hardest” thing I had to do was find a mailbox when I was done writing.  When you have to find the pen and find the notecards and turn on the computer for the address and go to the store for a stamp and an envelope it’s likely that you will not get that letter out the door very quickly.   Spend a few minutes organizing yourself and your correspondence will be much easier.  Also try to automate the most odious task of letter-writing.  For me that’s writing return addresses, so I have pre-printed labels to stick on.  Maybe you hate addressing envelopes?  You might try what Matt’s mom does.  She runs full pages of labels with Matt’s address information and sticks them on the many letters and postcards she mails him.

Are you excited to reclaim the letter from the detritus of the twentieth century?  Great!  Get out your pens (or computers. I’m not opposed to receiving letters written on computers and then printed and mailed if that’s what works for you) and write.

If you would like to engage in regular letter correspondence with me, write a comment of how to get a hold of you and we can work out details.  Note also that I’m not opposed to an in-town correspondence. It’s so nineteenth century, it’s cool!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Frosty Wonderland.

We don't have so much of a winter wonderland right now as we do a very thick frost.  I wonder if this was the same kind of killing frost that the horse Wildfire was lost, in that song.  Wildfire always kind of struck me as a dumb horse.  I mean, who gets lost in a frost?  But anyway, happy new year.

Three sentence movie reviews: Silver Linings Playbook

Because I was able to overlook the age difference between the two leads, this was an amazing movie.  Both Cooper and Lawrence nimbly portrayed people who aren't quite walking the normal line of "sane" in our society.  It was a fun, funny and dramatic film which hit all the right notes at all the right times and I'm so glad I went to see it.

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