Friday, May 31, 2013

Books read in May, 2013

Only four books, two of them picture and two of them YA?  What happened?  Oh wait, the television series Friday Night Lights happened.

A love story starring my dead best friend
Emily Horner
I grabbed this book just for the title and found a great YA story bravely taking on issues of death, sexuality, friendship, musical theater and bicycling.  The main character reminded me a lot of a friend I knew in high school, which probably helped.  Great read.

The Lighting Dreamer
Margarita Engle
Read for librarian book group
The story of nineteenth century Cuban poet Gertrudis G√≥mez de Avellaneda told through poems.  Avellaneda was an interesting person, rejecting a lot of conventions of her times, so that made for interesting reading.  I liked the poems in that they were short and accessible, but didn't find them particularly moving.  Overall, okay.

Grumbles from the Forest
Jane Yolan
Read for librarian book group
Fun concept: two different perspectives of familiar fairy tales in poetry form.  Great illustrations.  So-so poetry.

Hoop Genius
Coy, Morse
Read for librarian book group
The story of how basketball was invented.  I loved the illustrations which reminded me of 1930s Soviet Union propaganda posters (but in a freer style).

45RPM: Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah

Where I match a song to a specific memory.
In my mid-twenties I lived in my version of Shangri-La:  a five bedroom house with two bathrooms and four other female roommates. One of my roommates was dating one of our neighbors, a late-20s PhD who spent his days doing some sort of scientific research I didn't understand.  He lived alone, but his younger brother was often over and we saw a lot of the two of them. We called them the James Brothers.  His brother, in the fashion of younger brothers the world over, was the hipper, freer James Brother, working in a job I don't remember, but more importantly, painting his car with chalkboard paint and playing the guitar here and there.  He was pretty darn attractive, and even more so when he played his guitar for us in our house.   One evening he launched in to the song "Hallelujah" and I knew from the first verse this was a song that needed to become a part of me.  After he finished playing and we clapped I made inquires.  The younger James brother lent me his Jeff Buckley tape so I could spend the next few weeks rewinding and hitting play. Much like the experience of my twenties, the song is both simple and complex, hopeful and melancholy, wrapping angry words in a poetry that hits an incredible range of emotions.  I've heard other versions, but I come back to Jeff Buckley,* because the fact that  he was a talented artist who died too soon adds yet another layer to what is already a complex and beautiful song.

*Although I shut off the song when he gets to his "general wailing" part at the end.

Three sentence movie reviews: Before Sunrise/Sunset

My friend at work realized after we had the big double feature, that she too wanted to watch these movies, so I borrowed them back from Christi and watch them we did.*  It's very fun for me to watch a film I love with someone who hasn't seen it before, because if they love it, we can talk about that, and if they don't love it, it is interesting to hear why.  She loved them, though and was a quite astute observer, catching a few details I hadn't noticed.

Cost:  free (thanks Christi)
Where watched: at home with Tiffany & Tim.  Matt came out at intermission for snacks and conversation.

posters from the same place they were from last time

*And that is how good these flicks are.  Two viewings in two weeks and I still was enraptured.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Art Building. Becoming a wavy wonder.

It turns out those grids are to support metal paneling.

Postcard from Germany

Beatrix sends me this postcard and tells me she likes to drink coffee, especially espresso.  Or ESPRESSO as she writes it, accurately capturing its lifting properties.  She sends me "nice greetings."  I think Beatrix should visit Portland, Oregon because we have a lot of coffee here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Postcard from Romania

I was quite excited to receive this postcard because I've been to Romania!  Though not Bucharest.  This is from Magdalena, a 20-year-old student who sent me this Paulo Coelho quote. "The darkest hour is the one before the sunrise."
There's also a lot going on on this stamp.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

45RPM: Oh what a beautiful morning.

Where I match a song to a specific memory.

One summer, I worked the night shift two days per week at a budget motel.  There were a lot of "betweens" that summer.  I was between colleges and boyfriends, my parents were poised between marriage and divorce and my brother was between residences.  I loved and hated the night shift.  It was fun being on my own, the only one awake among hundreds of sleeping motel guests.  I loved that I was an official "creature of the night".  But it was exhausting, pushing myself all the way to 6:00 a.m., and sleeping during the day was a challenge.  There also wasn't much to do in the middle of the night after all the grumpy traveling families had checked in and were tucked away in their beds, and all the truckers had wandered from their endless conversations in the lobby to their slumber.  I listened to cassette tapes to keep me company and every morning at 4:30 I would take a "security walk" around the parking lot. It was really just an excuse to get out of the office before people turned out to complain about the toast bar.  By 4:30 the dawn had broken and the clear Boise sky was melting into blue.  No matter how tired I was, no matter how boring the night had been, it was always a beautiful morning and I sang this song aloud as I ambled through the lot.  Oh what a beautiful day.

ps.  Hugh Jackman! He's the man! He's rather broad, but you have to picture him much further away from you, up on stage.

Postcards from Spain and Limburg

O! Postcrossing, why do you give me two postcards on the same day instead of spreading them out?

Those Boise, Idaho readers know that I loved this Basque Country postcard. For those not in the know, Boise has a pretty strong basque community. The postcard is from Dani, who asks me to send her something.  I've not yet done so, but I'm not ruling it out.
And where is Limburg?  Why the Netherlands, of course, didn't you know?  (I didn't, I had to look it up.)  Peggy sends me this card and remarks that it's funny she is sending a postcard to me in Portland, Oregon as she will soon be leaving on a trip to the Pacific Northwest, traveling from Seattle to San Francisco.  She was planning to visit either Portland or the Gorge, depending on weather.  When I registered the postcard, I told her that sounded like a fabulous trip.

Reading her Postcrossing profile, I found that Peggy is also very cool because she requests the tourist cards (some Postcrossing people don't like them) and then uses them to plan her travels.  You are a smart lady, Peggy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Stay stiching the neckline, joining the shoulders

Now that all that basting is done (three movies worth, geez-almighty) I can move on to the next step: stay stitching the neckline. we do  this to ensure it doesn't stretch out with repeated wear.  I'm in.

Here, I have traced my sewing line in disappearing marker so I know where to sew.
I'm choosing the organza strips and I get to not only pin, but also to baste the organza.  That Gertie lady is crazy for basting.
The finished stay stitched neckline.  You can't really see it, but it's done.  And I got to sew together the shoulders!  Very exciting.

Three sentence movie reviews: Argo

Matt hadn't seen this and so we watched it together. It was a good one to watch a second time as I wasn't so tense and worried and had time to notice details, plus ponder if John Goodman is one of the most under-rated actors of our times; because that man always delivers. I will conclude by saying that this movie still has the best toast of all time.

Cost:  $2.00 from Videorama
Where watched: at home.

(special bonus posters because I think they are great.)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dead Relative's Tour 2013

Yes, it's that time again:  time to put flowers on the graves of the dead relatives.  You can come along too.

In Rose City Cemetery I snapped a picture of this gravestone because someone I know has this same last name.  And Joshnston-with-a-"t" is much less common than Johnson.
I strode far away from the family grave to see who this large stone belonged too. From the space left on the stone, it looks like Rudolf was expecting company who never arrived.  Gravestones like this leave me a little sad.
I love headstones with photos.
A little something for the fans of the Waldorf method.  Plus, look at that great detail on the top!
(Argh. Didn't rotate this one)
I was intrigued because it had fresh flowers, so someone is still coming around.  But it's in a section of 1930s era deaths and has no headstone.  There's a story here.
Basil and Basiliki are bedecked for another year.
The tools of the trade.  Also, this is the first year we haven't gone in the Jeep Cherokee because my aunt has a new car.  It's a silver car.  I can't remember which kind.
That is so meta.
This hedge was gorgeous in color and undulated marvelously.
I wish I'd taken a bit more time to properly capture it.
Much speculation ensued about the family relationship here.
I love this epithet.  You go, Tyyne, with your double "y" in your name and all.
Working on Grandma and Grampa's grave (with the new car in the background)

This year we learned that the cemetery is not providing the green vases to stick in the ground.  I flagged down a maintenance worker to ask him for one and got an earful about how the cemetery is now cheap and doesn't want to give them out anymore because it just causes more work to pick them all up.  Then he gave me one on the down-low.  Thanks guy, you are awesome.  We will bring our own next year.

Sometimes, you just need a good grilled cheese.

All week long I've been craving grilled cheese.  Thanks to my sourdough starter, I keep myself in homemade whole-wheat sourdough bread, which is good for many things, but not the grilled cheese I was thinking of.  So I made a some perfect sandwich bread, bought some delicious ham, sliced up some Tillamook medium cheddar and made a pot of tomato soup to boot.

It really hit the spot.

Three sentence movie reviews: Tower Heist

I still had basting to do, this movie has Casey Affleck in it (I tend to see all the movies in which he appears) and it was there at the library.  So I watched it while sewing and it was the exactly perfect movie for just that situation.*  For once, Ben Stiller wasn't his usual sad-sack self, which was a nice change of pace.**

Cost:  free from library
Where watched: at home.

(props for having a Casey Affleck poster!)

*Other situations it would be good for:  when you have the flu; an endless airplane ride with few movie options; film fest of Alan Alda's lesser works; when they play it on cable and your remote is broken and you are too lazy to get up to change the channel.
**And this movie was feces-free!  Another rarity.

Three sentence movie reviews: Explorers

This was a great favorite of my mother, brother and I when I was 11 and so in the present, I was happy to realize that it stars not only a very young River Phoenix, but also a very young Ethan Hawke.*  It's still a very sweet film, worth watching for it's totally 1985 computer generated effects and copious pop culture references.  It's a great movie for the 8-12 year-old in your life and you, the adult might enjoy it too.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched:  At home while endlessly basting material together.

*Jason Presson, the other guy in the movie was my favorite actor of the three, at least during this viewing.   His acting was pretty contained and had the most amazing voice.  Ethan Hawke's voice was still quite high and really bugged me by the end, but Jason Presson, since you don't seem to be acting anymore, I hope at least you are a radio DJ or doing something with that great voice.  [one Google search and 10 minutes later, here's a picture of him from 2008 and a bit about what he's doing now.]

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Postcards from Write Around Portland, Joshua Tree, Ukrane

Three postcards arrived in the mail today and none of them were from Postcrossing.

I'm taking a writing class through Write Around Portland and the second of the wonderful surprises of the class (the first is that there are always snacks to eat during the class) is that each week we get a postcard from our instructor complimenting some aspect of our writing.  It's very sweet.
The Aunts went on a trip and Aunt Pat sent me this postcard. Guess where they visited?
I have a friend living in the Ukraine for 10 months and she sent me a postcard.  It took her three months to discover where they were keeping the postcards in the Ukraine. Sadly, she does not share this with me, so if you visit the Ukraine, you will have to find them on your own.   She also observes that all the buildings are ice cream colored.

Thanks Write Around Portland, Aunt Pat and Margaret!

Friday, May 24, 2013

I hate these signs.

"This sticker will save up to 100lbs of paper something something something."

What the hell does that mean?  How do they quantify that?  Where is their data? When I see this sticker, I sometimes want to use more paper towels, not fewer.  Do they factor obstinance into their sticker calculations?

Laurie Notaro

Kelly and I wandered down to Powell's for our third Laurie Notaro reading.  She was funny as ever, in her hilariously charming over-sharing way. If you are looking for a bit of a pick-me-up any of her books of essays will do.

ps.  The gallery installation behind her was incredible.  A whole heap of author portraits done by two artists. I especially loved the style of Allison Bruns (the top one pictured here).  She was great at capturing expression.

More pictures of the exhibit.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kickstarter and Habit RPG: How living with someone influences your habits.

When the people who invented Kickstarter launched their project I’m sure they envisioned a happy future when random people all over the world would find, love and fund various projects, creating a new method for people to raise capital to launch them into a world where they were paid to produce things they had dreamed about.  I’m not sure they pictured the cult of Kickstarter projects that would form, nor, I'm guessing, did they plan for the level of excitement evidenced by the fans of Kickstarter projects.  I’m guessing they could not have dreamed up my boyfriend’s level of interest, but I’m guessing they are quite happy to have it.

This is because while I become fixated on rather beefy movie stars of possibly questionable acting talent, my boyfriend falls in love with Kickstarter projects.  And just as my peccadillo results in hours of consumption, thinking, research and discussion about said movie stars, my boyfriend feels a similar intensity of feelings towards projects he finds on Kickstarter.  This means I hear a lot about his various Kickstarter obsessions.  That’s one of the secrets no one tells you about adult life.  If you find a partner in life, you get to learn a lot about the things they are excited about. I’m sure my boyfriend never dreamed he would have this level of knowledge about Channing Tatum, just as I never dreamed I would be so familiar with the intricacies of the fundraising goals for the Order of the Stick, the Veronica Mars Movie project, and Habit RPG.

But good things can come from the boyfriend’s obsessions.  For instance, thanks to his contributing to the Order of the Stick campaign, I got to complete the special OOTS Coloring Book.  And thanks to his haranguing about the Veronica Mars Project, I too became a backer and will eventually get some cool stickers, as well as the satisfaction that I gave ten dollars to fund a movie.  As you can see, just as the boyfriend’s consumption of movies with beefy movie stars has increased by knowing me, so do I get involved in his Kickstarter projects.

Let’s talk about his most recent Kickstarter interest:  Habit RPG.  This is an online program that helps you build habits.  It’s based on roll playing games (RPG) like Dungeons and Dragons where your character moves through levels, gaining things (experience points, gold, new stuff) as you go.  I have been using Habit for a few months now, thanks to the fact that one of the features is that you can have a “party” of people also using HabitRPG and I’m the only other person the boyfriend knows who could be a potential user of HabitRPG. Note:  If you know me and are on Habit, you should join our “party.”  It would make the boyfriend very happy.

So I started using HabitRPG reluctantly, and only to get him to stop bugging me, but once I started using it, I found it fun and kept using it. Here’s how it works.  You start as a basic character, pick some habits and then start checking them off as you achieve them.  You can pick basic habits, which are things you want to do more (or less) of.  There are also dailies, habits you want to do on specific days of the week, and then one-time things which is sort of like a to-do list that never goes away.

Each time you check off one of your habits you get experience points, which help move you to the next level, and you get gold, which let you buy things.  Habits can have a positive or negative element, or both.  So for instance, if you want to track your money, you could set that up as both a positive (I did write down the money I spent today) or a negative (I did not write down what I spent today.) If you click on the positive, you gain XP and gold.  If you click on the negative, you lose health points.

As you move though the levels, you can buy more and different armor, which is fun and also helps you in some nerdy way I’m not really clear about.  You can also set your own rewards and spend your gold on them.

Habit also uses random reinforcement.  Once you hit a certain level, you will start to get random “drops” (the sudden appearance of something cool) of either potions or eggs.  You can then use a potion to “hatch” an egg which turns into a pet.  There are 90 pets, which live in your stable and can be displayed at any time.  There are also badges to be earned for completing 21 consecutive daily habits. 

None of this matters in the real world, but it’s quite fun to have a virtual reward for the daily to-do list.  The site is still pretty new and fairly buggy.  For example, in clicking around the site while capturing images for this essay I got kicked off once and the load time overall was quite slow.  Eventually there will be a phone app, but in the meantime, you have to log in on your computer to check things off.  Sometimes your random drops include 12 shade potions, or you get more XP taken away than you should.  But overall, it mostly works and the positive reinforcement nature is quite fun.  After all, wouldn’t you like to look like the boyfriend and I currently do?  

If so, join HabitRPG today.

Three sentence movie reviews: Star Trek Into Darkness

I loved the Star Trek reboot and was looking forward to this movie.  It delivered everything I wanted: humor, action, plot, special effects.  And, it quasi-inspired me to actually watch the original Star Trek movies which, except for the whale one, I've never seen.

Cost:  $6.00 (plus another $7.50 for wine and popcorn)
Where watched:  St. John's Cinema

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

45RPM: Brown-Eyed Girl

Where I match a song to a specific memory.
My first job was in a tiny restaurant where they served good food and lots of it.  I worked Saturdays, alternating waiting tables with washing dishes.  My companion in work was a boy my own age, S.  We were acquaintances, people with things in common who never really became close friends, though I liked him.  He was smart and funny and a good conversationalist. In fact, at the end of high school, I surveyed the scene and decided that of all our classmates, he would be the one I would marry, if I had to marry someone.  Partway through our acquaintance on the job, he decided to reject who he had been and he foraged a new self, changing his name, quitting wrestling, getting rid of the music he was leaving behind.  Instead, he starting going by his middle name K., focused more on the art he created and he pledged his musical troth to Mudhoney and other bands we were then calling “Alt.”  To me, the reinvention seemed unnecessary, as he seemed the same as he ever was, but he said things were much better this way.  His devotion to his new alternative way of life was so complete I was surprised one day that he commented how much he liked Van Morrison’s  song "Brown Eyed Girl."  The song was played in heavy rotation at the time, thanks to being featured in movies and it was impossible to escape if the radio was set to the oldies station--they played it seemingly ever hour.  It seemed so run-of-the-mill for my very unique coworker that I forever linked the two of them together.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Three sentence movie reviews: Drive

First off, I must say that this movie has one of the best kisses I've ever seen in cinema, but I don't think it's worth it to watch the entire film just to see that 30 seconds of movie magic perfection.  This is because I hated this film and went on a long rant about "dick flicks" where I have a sneaking suspicion that two guys were just sitting around (possibly high) and saying stuff like, "it would be cool if there was this guy who was a mechanic and a stunt driver, but also a guy who drives for people committing crimes and there would be all this cool stuff like stunt driving and shooting and shit like that," and then those guys get to make this movie and, frankly, it's not a very good movie, but because the people who get movies made are men, and the people who review movies are men, it's considered amazing.*  I actually found it gratuitously violent, once it really got going, and why exactly was I supposed to care about this guy, aside from the fact that he did the hamster Ryan Gosling thing with the sad eyes** the entire movie when he struck me as somewhat of a sociopath?

Cost:  free from library
Where watched: at home.

*at one point, this rant was working itself into an essay, but it never made it the full transition, so you just get to read a run-on sentence here.  But really?  This movie made me so mad I almost spit.
**see that?  He's doing it right there in the poster.

Drafting new facings, cutting and basting

Here was the original plan for the facings, but I've got to make new ones due to arm area expansion.
It was easy enough though.
It's important to star one's cutting layout.
Bodice stuff that needed to be cut on the fold. 
Prepping my cutting area.
Have you seen the movie Unzipped, about Isaac Mizrahi's fall 1994 collection?  It's a great documentary.  And one thing I learned is that all the women making the fashion wear black all the time.  So I'm wearing all black in homage. Also because it's rather cold today.
I really despise cutting out.  It might be better if I didn't have to crawl all over the floor all the time.
After cutting out the underlining, I was to put out the main fabric...
...and lay my underlining pieces on top.
Then Gertie told me to carefully baste around each piece and then finish cutting out.  I suspect this is one of those things Gertie does because she likes to be careful.  I'm doing it, but it's taking forever.
But look how pretty it looks when it's done.
However, I needed to watch a movie to keep me occupied.  And when that movie was over, I was nowhere near done. Grrr.

Today I spent five hours working on this and I'm still not done with this week's items.