Sunday, March 31, 2013

Books Read in March 2013

Only one "grown-up" book this month and the rest of reading was full-up with books for children and teenagers.  But some good stuff there.

Vivian Maier Out of the Shadows
Cahan & Williams
I found out about Vivan Maier because I downloaded the Fathom Events movie theater show of This American Life.  I paid five dollars to watch that show and I had an amazing two hours.  Vivian Maier was one of the discoveries.  This book publishes a retrospective of Maier's work and short essays tell the photographer's story.  Maier's work is stunning--her portraits of people she encountered are moving.  Her body of work is even more amazing when a page of her negatives are viewed.  She mostly just took one shot of each subject.  But what a shot.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Read for Librarian Book Group
Wonderful story of two friends in high school, chock-full of poetic details.  This deserves a longer review, because I really liked it, but it isn't going to get one.

In Darkness
Nick Lake
Read for Librarian Book Group
This was dark and disturbing, but the good kind of dark and disturbing  where I'm happy the book has won major awards.  Good insight into 19th century slave rebellion and present-day Haitian ghetto (or so I assume, having not experience either time or place.)

Love and Other Perishable Items
Laura Buzo
Read for Librarian Book Group
I love this book and not just because I've written an essay on a similar topic. Here is why this book has a place in my heart.  Our female lead is Amelia,  a 15-year-old in typical adolescent transition.  Her parents seem unhappy; it's that time when the boys are starting to notice the girls at school and she's not sure what to do with that.  She works in a supermarket and is hopelessly in love with her 21-year-old coworker, though she knows nothing can ever come of it. "I'm not even sure what 'getting' Chris would involve; all I know is I want him" she says early on in the book.

Meanwhile, our male lead is Chris, the 21-year-old coworker at the grocery store.  He's in his last gasps of college, his friends are moving on to other things and he's paralyzed by both the looming future and a broken heart.  I love that this book details the post-college transition, which for me was horrible and made more horrible by the fact that no one told me it was coming.  I read a lot of novels and nothing ever addressed the transition to full-on adulthood.  This does.

It also captures the hierarchies of the supermarket.  If the author didn't put in some hours working as a grocery clerk at some point in her life, she sure knows how to do her research.  The story is told in alternating voices, first Ameila's, and then the journal of Chris.  In the beginning he has no idea Amelia feels anything for him.  What will happen when he figures it out?  Therein lies the dramatic tension.

This book is also funny, taking the ache of what one can't have (for Ameilia, Chris; for Chris, his departed girlfriend) and finding the humor in the pathos.  Take this (rather long) excerpt from Chris' journals:

"Last night was just a temporary setback, a stumble, a blip in the getting-over-it process.  I really was doing a bit better.  I was dealing with the pain.  Or at least successfully medicating it with ever-increasing amounts of alcohol and caffeine.  When I read back over what I'd written, I seriously thought about ripping out all the pages. It was a pretty poor showing all the way through, but when I got to the bit where I was writing out the lyrics from the Dire Straits "Romeo and Juliet" song, I had to rip that out.

"But then, I really want to be more honest in this dairy than I have been in past ones, so everything else stays in.  It's bad enough that I present such a heavily edited version of myself to my friends and family; if I start editing my diary, it will reinforce my already overwhelming tendency to be gutless.  But let us never speak of it.

"For the record, she really did cry when we made love and said she loved me like the stars above and would love until she died.  But, you know, people say shit in the moment."

I laughed, my heartstrings were tugged, I think you should read this.

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight
Thom Hartman
Read for Kenton Book Group
The first third of this book outlines all the problems we've got going on, on this planet.  Since this book was published originally in 1998, it covered ground I was pretty familiar with.  No solutions were offered, though.  Then, there was a section about culture and then a third section.  Hartman is fond of "Old Way" thinking, characterizing modern society as "Young Way" thinking.  According to him, primitive cultures had it going on. But what to do about the fact that we don't live in primitive cultures anymore?  There are no solutions in this book!  Near the end, I hit this paragraph which made things clear:

"Missing the point of a book like this is quite easy to do, because the book makes a radical departure from the normal fare of self-help and environmentalism.  It presents the problems, delves into the causes of them, and then presents as a solution something that many may think couldn't possibly be a solution because it seems unfathomably difficult:  change our culture, beginning with yourself."

Okay then.  I'm off to change the culture, beginning with myself.

Nelson Mandela
Kadir Nelson
Read for Librarian Book Group
Very pretty picture book.  Had one hitch in the narrative early on where I had to flip backwards to regain equilibrium.

Penny and Her Marble
Kevin Henkes
Read for Librarian Book Group
I found this to be so-so in that the values seemed rather traditional in a stagnated type of way.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Community Sing-Along

It's the last Saturday of Spring Break, I've got a dress to finish ASAP, food to make for Easter tomorrow, and potatoes to plant today.  I also need a nap.  I have no time to sing along with Pink Martini in Pioneer Square.  

But guess what I did?  I didn't work on the dress.  I didn't get all the food made.  But I did plant potatoes, nap and sing along with Pink Martini in Pioneer Square.

The first 300 people got songbooks.  And very nice songbooks they were, too.  They had words AND piano music.

We had the bonus of having both China Forbes AND Storm Large lead us in song.  Also, the Von Trapps were there (four fresh-faced, college-looking members).  And former Governor Barbara Roberts was up on stage too, singing her heart out.  Members of the Oregon Symphony were there too.  It was a very full stage.

In my haste to leave, I forgot my camera, so these photos are taken with the cell phone.  I was delighted at the earnestness with which this deadlocked-haired youth sang along with the lyrics.  I was simultaneously disturbed because the song we were singing at the time was "I've Been Working on the Railroad" which apparently he'd never been exposed to?

In case of rain, local umbrella makers ShedRain gave away free umbrellas.  It was not at all rainy, but at one point everyone put up their umbrella for a photo op.
And we sang!  We sang nearly every song in the songbook.  The songs ranged from classic sing-along songs:  "I've Been Working on the Railroad," "Home on the Range," "On Top of Old Smoky."  There were also songs from musicals:  "Edelweiss," "Summertime," "A Spoon Full of Sugar."  And there were great surprises that were incredible sing-alongs:  "The Theme from All in the Family," "Copacabana," "The Gambler," "Nine to Five." Aside from all that singing we did, we got performances of Pink Martini songs, as well as Sound of Music songs performed by the Von Trapp singers.

At one point, Thomas Lauderdale referred to Edelweiss as one of five songs that everyone knows.  I emailed him, curious to see what he thinks the other four are, but he has not responded.  What five songs do you think everyone knows?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Postcard from Germany

This is from Astrid and I was thrilled to receive it because it's the first postcard I've gotten with a quote on it. Astrid translates Kafka's words as "ways arised because someone goes there" and then says, "I hope you understand, I cannot translate it correct."  I did a bit of googling and found that it's most often translated in English as "Paths are made by walking."  Interesting, eh?

Back is done. New material is bought.

My email update to my friend:

I hit a tragic point in my sewing.  Actually, cutting.   I decided the directions for what to do with the contrast fabric on the front were dumb, essentially they wanted me to fold it over at 5/8" sew along that line and finish that edge.  But I thought the fabric wasn't heavy enough and I would have to spend a lot of time ironing everything back into place and I hate to iron.  So I had the grand idea to just double those pattern pieces, fold them over and make a nice finishing stitch along the edge with that perfectly matched thread.  And my idea would have worked too, except I didn't have enough fabric to double everything, a fact I realized after I had cut out one of each of four pieces, when I needed 2 of each of four pieces. 

So back to Fabric Depot I went yesterday.  And let me tell you, traffic is much worse on Friday at 2:00 than on Saturday at 10:30.  And guess what?  No more of the material in that color.  A nice lady who worked there took my sample and looked all over the place for it, but it was gone, gone, gone.  So I found another piece of material, but it wasn't the perfect match the last piece had been.  Alas.

I've done the whole back of the dress and am quite excited as to how it turned out.  I didn't work on it today because there was potato planting in the morning and then Pink Martini had a sing-along in Pioneer Square and I couldn't rightly not go to that, now could I? And then I had to make food for Easter and for the staff meeting.  And I didn't even get all the food made because I needed 1 cup of coffee for the cupcakes and by the time I realized that, all the coffee shops near me were closed.  So I will get up and make the cupcakes tomorrow.

It's a good thing I don't have yoga this next week.  I'm going to need the time to finish my dress.

Here's the back.  I've cleverly pinned it to the muslin so it will hang and make me feel all accomplished.

Here's the replacement material.  It's shiner than the other material and not the perfect match the other material was, but it will do.

Self Portrait

Waiting for a table at Mother's I watched this guy set up this shot and started grabbing for my camera too.  He took more than one, but this was the only "hands-free" self portrait.  Can you see the phone on the top of the sign?  My friend laughed at his actions, but I've taken too many self-portraits to judge.

Ultimate Floor, Art Building.

Just getting started, but there it is.
I don't usually approach the building from this direction.  Here's the view from Burnside.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cutting out. For real this time.

An assembly of the pattern pieces.
My cutting layout.  I confess, I always hate cutting layouts.  I always think they could do a better job fitting everything in.  Then I attempt to do a better job, fail and end up going with what they say.
 Thank goodness I had my helper.

Three sentence movie reviews: Paper Heart

This is a quasi-documentary, in that it's filmed in a documentary style, but you can't believe anything you see presented as fact. However, that does not make it one whit less delightful as we travel the country with Charlyne Yi hearing people talk about love and watch her own views on love undergo a metamorphosis when one charming gentleman by the name of Michael Cera enters the picture. Overall, this is 88 minutes of delight (possibly propelled by the fact I love Michael Cera, but also due to the general whimsical nature of the movie) and I recommend it heartily.

Cost:  free from library (yet another, "why not?" that turned out well)
Where watched: at home with Kelly, my "I'm on break, big salad and a movie" companion.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

More sewing. And my sewing baskets.

Here's an update I sent my friend at this point:
I've made all the adjustments to the pattern based on measurements and ease and what have you.  I've cut everything out in the muslin (well, half of it I cut out in an old sheet, because I didn't have enough muslin) and sewn everything together.  Matt wasn't around to sew me in, but I tried on what I had and discovered that, holy cats, it wasn't as if I measured anything at all.  According to measurements I needed a 44/48/46 bust/waist/hips, but the whole torso is very tight, the waist is rather loose (although that might be in comparison to the bodice), and the hips seem a bit loose, though it's hard to tell with the zipper seam not done.

So I've just retraced the bodice in 46, but I think I'll bump it up to 48.  I need to move a bit more than that 44 was going to give me and the 46 isn't that much bigger.

The sad tale of the whole matter is that I didn't print the sleeve pattern when I printed everything else and it's not available on the site anymore, for unknown reasons.  I did save it on the school computer, which meant going back down there yesterday, only to find my "new" monitor had died.  I replaced it with the one from the stand-up computer and printed out the sleeve pattern.  Did I then go that extra step and SEND MYSELF THE PDF FILE OF THE SLEEVE PATTERN?  No, I did not.  And now, needing to make a new sleeve pattern in a bigger size, can I simply dig the rest of the sleeve pattern out of the recycle bin and tape it all back together?  Well, I can, but it will be a more involved process since I so efficiently emptied my overflowing bins into the big bin.  Oy vey.

I'm glad I did make the muslin (and I'll make another one in 48 before cutting into that fabric) because the directions are really awful and now that I've made the whole thing I have an idea of what they are trying to get across.  Don't even get me started about the term "plackett" which is used often and refers to: the contrasting color in the bodice, in the skirt and also the waistband.  Those are six different pattern pieces, all of which are numbered.  Why they do not refer to the numbers is beyond me.  I also completely messed up one half of the collar, so I've got that out of my system.  And it's been years since I set in a sleeve!  I prepped both of them, but realized that just putting in one would give me a good enough idea.

So, yeah.  At this point I'm happy I didn't just start right in on the real fabric.  Here's the too-tight bodice.

And we're off again in muslin/old sheet land.
Also today, I cleaned out my sewing baskets.  I have two; one was my mothers, and one my grandmother's.  This was a fishing tackle box, until my grandmother added the quilted lining for my mom.  It's my usual sewing/mending basket.
In it I keep basic sewing supplies: pins, needles, basic thread, beeswax, measuring tape, marking items etc.
This sewing basket was one of the few things I asked for when my grandmother died.  It's the one I drag out when I'm officially sewing something. It has a lot of sewing extras.  Here's a look all the way to the bottom.  That tin on the right once held lip gloss, but now it holds all my bobbins.
It has a plastic divider that also holds things.
Isn't it cheery and fun?
Here's my favorite thing in the box.  My grandmother's name was Helen.
Okay, muslin take two.
Better fit this time!

Monday, March 25, 2013


Much measuring and figuring has me with a muslin that is three different sizes (bust, waist, hips).  This will allow me to test the fit.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I embark on the Kristen

The Kristen is the first pattern I've made from Burda Style.  It cost $4.00 to download and then I printed out the pattern, taped it together and now I am cutting it out.  I'm not certain why you need to see 10 pictures of me cutting out a pattern, but I took them, so you get to see them.  As a reward, at the bottom is the material I chose.

Upper right is the contrast detail, lower half is main fabric, bit in the left corner is the lining.  I found the main fabric material back in January when I was buying skirt material.  I'm only allowed one sewing project at a time and I thought this design and weight would make a beautiful Crepe Dress from Collette Patterns.  That's the dress I plan on making for my 20-year reunion, which is the project after this one.  But the bolt was considerably slimmer on this trip and Julie (she of the excellent fabric picking skills) convinced me that I needed to get the material for THIS dress and find something else delightful for the reunion dress, as this material might not be there when I came back next time.  I'm so glad she convinced me of this.

The Whipping Man

I received a free ticket to this play (thanks Michael!) and am so glad I got to go.  Though the first act had a leg amputation which caused me to nearly pass out/throw up* this play's setting and themes (Jewish slave holder at the end of the Civil War, freedom, Passover) were intriguing. The plot twists were handy (That was me who gasped aloud when the big reveal near the end happened) and for a play that dealt with such serious topics, it was frequently funny.  Gavin Gregory, Carter Hudson and Christopher Livingston were all tops in their roles as young slaveholder (Carter Hudson) and freed slaves (Gregory and Livingston).  Also, the set was fabulous, and I wish my camera could do more with low-light settings.

*Really.  I was deep breathing while trying to figure out where, exactly, would be the best place for me to puke.  It took a good 10 minutes into the second act to regain equilibrium.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Art Building, 5/6 of the way there.

Otherwise known as Art Building: the penultimate floor!

Three sentence movie reviews: 10 Things I Hate about You

This movie is much better than it had any right to be.  Probably because a bunch of very good actors* took this usual high school romantic comedy up several notches.  Also, I think the setting is so magical, it conspires to make the movie great too.

Cost:  free from library.
Where watched:  at home.

*Joseph Gordon-Levitt!  Julia Styles!  Allison Janney!  And Heath Ledger, who, it is amazing and sad to realize, would be dead less than 10 years from when this was filmed.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Postcards from Taiwan and Germany

This is from Sonia who is a senior in high school and hopes I can come to Taiwan.  She also hopes I like the postcard.  I do!    It reminds me of the movie Hannah.  But in a good way.
This postcard is from Jule, who lives by the Black Sea in Germany.  She translates the front as "Life is an adventure---dare it."

A lot has been happening with the block.

I haven't taken any pictures since November 30, but things continue apace.  I really like the look of this place; it looks like it will be very grand.  Here's the view on the approach from Interstate, heading north.
They've blocked out the place where the sign will go.
This is the far side of the block and I usually don't take pictures of it.
Here's the usual view.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

fun. is fun.

It's a sunny Wednesday afternoon.  Where am I going with a backpack?
The fun headboard, the painted walls, the lamps.  I must be at a McMenamins Hotel.
Indeed it is.  It's the McMenamins Crystal Hotel located in downtown Portland.
Each room is  named after a song and I was excited to have the "Louie, Louie" room.  The very nice desk clerk told me that the song was recorded just up the street.
Here's a map of the whole hotel layout.
 And here's my room's "Louie Louie" painting.
Why am I here on a weeknight?  Why to see fun., of course.
You know, FUN.  The band's name is fun.?  It's the worst name ever, because no one has any idea what the band's name is.  It's like a mini "Who's on first" conversation every time I bring them up.  But if you have been anywhere near radio (including pop radio, alternative and adult contemporary formats) in the last year, you've heard fun.

Notice the ticket says "A December To Remember"?  And notice it's March?  The show was postponed twice, I was supposed to go on December 19, but they moved it to March.  Because I decided too late I wanted to see the band, the show was sold out, so I stayed in the hotel and was able to buy a ticket.

How was fun.?  fun. was fun.  The band Family of the Year opened and they were great to watch. They said we were an "amazing" crowd.  This was very flattering, although I'm sure they say that to all the crowds.  Here's a clip from the show.  This song was clearly their big hit as the sing-along got very loud.  I particularly enjoyed watching the bass player, whose hair and stage mannerisms were straight out of 1994.  I say that with love.

fun. was a good time.  They were apparently jet-lagged, but enjoyed us as a crowd as evidenced by this clip. I was interested to see how they would sound live as there are only three of them, and yet many more sounds on their songs than three musicians can make.  They solved this by having additional musicians on stage.  I particularly enjoyed watching Emily Moore (at least that's what Wikipedia says her name is) who played a lot of instruments.  I learned the lead singer's sister lives in Portland, which was an interesting fact.  And I particularly enjoyed hearing "The Gambler."  Here's a clip of "Carry On."