Friday, January 31, 2014

Books read in January 2014.

I had a few gift certificates to the Title Wave Bookstore, which is the place where the library sells the books it has culled from the catalog.  Books are cheap, most are $1.50 (for hardback!) and I had fifteen dollars of credit, so I came home with large stack.  Nearly all of them were YA.  I'm not sure if the publishers went on a books-about-death/dying/dead people streak or I just managed to pick up every single one of them, but this month featured a lot of grief and death.  Which was fine by me, as I think ramifications of death are worth exploring.  I also finished the last of the reading for the Mock-Printz Workshop and began the reading of all the books which won awards which I have not yet read.

Top three books this month:
Two Boys Kissing
Sex and Violence

Picture/Beginning Chapter Books
The Meanest Birthday Girl
Josh Schneider
Read for librarian book group.
Beginning chapter book that is also a cautionary tale.  Funny.

Dream Animals
Emily Winfield Martin
Read for librarian book group
Dreamy illustrations of the modern-version-of-50s-type-illustration.

The Dark
Lemony Snickett
Why shouldn't the Dark get his own book?  Funny and clever.

YA Books
If You Find Me
Emily Murdoch
I was all in due to the well-drawn characters and the basic premise of the plot. I also thought seeing the exploration of the world after being absent 10 years was done quite well. It was compulsively readable.  However, there were a few too many plot holes nagging at me for this to be a very good book.

Read on for SPOILERS and my quibbling with plot holes.
I find it hard to believe that two missing girls (or one missing girl and one unknown girl, because the second was born there) could be recovered from the woods and not a single media outlet would catch wind of this.  Here in Portland, Oregon, in real life, a man and his daughter were found living in a park and it was all over the news for some time.  So why did no one seem to be aware of this bigger story in Tennessee?
Where did the younger sister's birth happen?  Did her mother give birth at the site?  In a hospital?
Small Town.  
This is a town small enough that someone invites the entire sophomore class to her birthday party and yet no one knows that these girls have been living in the woods?  Extremely unlikely.  Especially because the father has been in the media now and then over the years looking for his lost daughter.  When the daughter shows up, towing a younger sister, was not anyone in town interested to hear where she had been?
The mother has not only stolen her daughter from her ex-husband who had full custody, she has hidden her away for a decade.  And yet no one seems to be looking for her?  Why were charges not filed?
Park Rangers
Only a few hikers came across them over the years?  I'm pretty sure a park ranger would have stumbled across them at some point, especially since they weren't camping in a designated space.  And hikers can tell the difference between someone camping and someone living.  They would have reported it.
The Camper
Supposedly it was going to be towed, but it never is and then becomes a burned out shell?  They would have had that campsite cleaned up within a week, just to keep the rest of the meth-heads out.
What does her father do for a living?
I really hate it when little details like this are missed.  He's not a farmer, because he states that the farm is a hobby farm, but he makes enough money to have a big house and property and various farm animals and a wife who doesn't have to work.  So what does he do for a living?

The Future of Us
Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Two teenagers in 1996 install AOL onto a computer and suddenly can see their Facebook profiles in 2011.  Interesting premise, which played out in a so-so way.  I found the constant 1996 references to be a bit too twee, but they might be fun for someone who was born in 1996.

A Corner of White
Jacklyn Moriarty
Ever since the Ashbury/Brookfield series, I'm a fan of Ms. Moriarty, so I was all-in for this.  And a good thing, too because it took a bit to get really rolling.  Part of the book is set in modern-day Cambridge, England and part of it is set in the alternate world Kingdom of Cello.  The worlds are clearly labeled, but at first I had trouble understanding who went with where and why.  Once that was squared away I enjoyed myself and I'm interested to see where the next book sends us.

Winter Town
Stephen Emond
Evan and Lucy meet up every winter in Evan's town (and Lucy's former town) when Lucy comes to visit her dad for Christmas.  This winter Lucy seems different to Evan, but he doesn't know why.  The book is told in two parts, first Evan's and the Lucy's.  I found the transition rather jarring.  Other than that, this was a great book, chock full of fun illustrations, also done by the author.  Which begs the question, why do grown up books not have illustrations any more?  I can recall reading a goodly amount of books published in the early part  of the last century that came with small illustrations.  It would be nice to have that again.  Anyway.  Great contrast between the lives of the two main characters and an overall good book.

YA Books with death
Dead mother:
Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs.
Ron Koertge
Middle school boy who likes baseball (hence "makes the playoffs") and poetry (hence the nickname "Shakespeare") has to make a decision between the girlfriend he has and the girl he meets at a poetry reading.  Manages to capture nuances of middle school while being entirely written in verse, from the main character's perspective.  Loved it!

Dead main character:
The Catastrophic History of You and Me
Jess Rothenberg
Main character dies (heart breaks in two pieces when her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her) and goes to the afterlife, which is a pizza place where a cute Tom-Cruise-in-Top-Gun-type guy hangs out.  Main character spends a lot of time scheming to get back at ex-boyfriend and subsequently trying rescue her family from their post-death misery/grief.  I'm a fan of books that imagine the afterlife, so it was interesting from that angle, but main character was wound a bit too tight for me and got on my nerves, though she probably would not have if I were still a teenager.  I read the whole thing and found the plot sufficiently intricate and interesting. If only that main character hadn't have bugged me so much (much as many people feel about the actress who plays Buffy) I would have actually liked the book.

Dead family members and neighbors:
The Beginning of After
Jennifer Castle
Laurel's parents and younger brother die in a car crash that also kills the neighbor boy's mother and leaves his father (the driver of the car) in a coma. We spend time with Laurel and her grief.  I enjoyed this book because Laurel's grief was incredibly constant and undramatic (probably like that kind of grief actually is: persistent and boring in its pain) and she never really "acted out" in a way that would be easy to plot, but probably less truthful.  Sure, a lot of kids deal with untimely death by drinking/drugging/sexing their way past their pain, but I bet a lot more just keep on keeping on.  This was well written and heartbreaking, in a satisfying, cathartic way.

Dead mother (who died when the main character was 11, six years before the book begins, but whose death is still affecting his life):
Sex and Violence
Carrie Mesrobian
Teenage boy Evan gets brutally beaten for messing around with a girl at his boarding school, so his father moves the both of them back to the Minnesota lake house that was his (now dead) mother's.  Even spends the summer healing physically and emotionally, making forays into friendship and tentatively investigating relationships.  What made this book excellent was the spot-on boy voice, and the many different settings the author creates.  And how does she manage to handle so many different characters?  It's also snortingly amusing throughout.  These teenagers drink and drug and sleep around, not to mention swear a lot, but if you are okay with that, read on!  A short excerpt: "Baker grinned and I felt like maybe the weirdness from the summer kitchen had passed and we could get back to our regular setting of me just secretly liking her while dicking someone else and her just being supersmart and unavailable while smelling delicious."

Quite Excellent!

Dead mother:
The Beginners Guide to Living
Lia Hills
Rounding out our month of dead people, seventeen-year-old Will's mother was killed unexpectedly and he deals with the loss by studying philosophers and having sex.  I find this to be not the worst combo one could come up with.  I thought the depiction of grief was pretty accurate and the book well written.

Dead narrators:
Two Boys Kissing
David Levithan
"Remember what it was like to have sex and not worry about AIDS?" a friend asked me once in the early 2000s

"Um, no." I replied.

She was six years older than me, which meant she had a few years of AIDS-free screwing around before even straight people got worried.  I started becoming aware there was such a thing as sex just as Rock Hudson died in 1985 and for years afterward, I saw a parade of sickly dying men succumb to the disease. I knew none of them personally.  There were no gay people in my life then, no uncles, no neighbors.  But I knew who Rock Hudson was, had seen his movies.  I loved Queen and mourned Freddy Mercury's death my junior year of high school.  I teared up seeing the dedication to Howard Ashman at the end of the movie Beauty and the Beast: "To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful."  My adolescence was spent watching the politics of drug research and approval, the colorful mourning of the AIDS quilt, seeing so much hopelessness, fear, anger, sadness, and dying.

This book is the story of two boys kissing, of two other boys' life as a couple, of two more boys finding each other, of a boy in crisis.  But this book is narrated by the collective whole of the gay men who have died before all the boys in this book. "If you are a teenager now, it is unlikely that you knew us well.  We are your shadow uncles, your angel godfathers, your mother's or your grandmother's best friend from college, the author of that book you found in the gay section of the library.  We are characters in a Tony Kushner play, or names on a quilt that rarely gets taken out anymore.  We are ghosts of the remaining older generation.  You know some of our songs."

The stories of the living boys are beautiful, because youth and love are beautiful.  That their stories aren't any longer hidden has to be one of my favorite things about the world we live in today.  The stories of the living are wonderful, and the collective narration is what makes the book sing.  It left me both happy and teary through the novel.  Thank god the dying has slowed.  Thank god people can love who they love.

Grownup Books
The History of Love
Nicole Krauss
Beautifully written, I fell in love with the two main characters.  I wanted it to last longer than it did.
And Goodreads tells me I already read this in 2008.  Ay carumba!  That was a good review I wrote though.  I'll copy it here:
Most novels I read are stories. That is, they have characters and a plot and plot devices and everything gets wrapped up in the end. They are sort of like real life, but not really. Real life never really wraps up as neatly as novels. You meet the guy, you find each other and pledge love and at the place where the novel of your life would end there comes a whole life of dishes that need to be done and bills to be paid and work to go to. Even on gray rainy days.

I loved this book because it was a slice of life. In real life people may never know what happened to this or that dropped plot line in their life. They may know each other. They may have said goodbye forever only to discover each other, by chance decades later. They may have a chance meeting with a stranger that connects dots for them. Or maybe everything is murky.

I loved this book because Leo Gursky, the character we meet first, is such a force of nature. An old man, retired locksmith in New York City, never married, who carries a note in his wallet explaining he has no family and where to bury him. Seeing the world through his eyes is a reason to read fiction.

Other characters were also wonderful. I can't say enough about this book. I don't even resent that someone the same age as me could create such a perfect thing. Read it

As You Like It.
Wm. Shakespeare
The analysis of this book insists that not much happens for most of the forest scenes, but I found myself enjoying this much more than say, Anthony and Cleopatra, which had things happen in every scene, but they weren't things I much cared about.

Slice of Moon
Kim Dower
Reviewing poetry is hard.  Let's just say I liked the poems.

Curtis Sittenfeld
It's fun to read an author's words as she produces them over the years and then guess at how the progression of the author's life is affecting her writing.  Judging from the content of this book, I think Curtis Sittenfeld must now have children in her life.  There were a lot of childcare scenes in this that have not been present in previous novels.  This is an observation, not a criticism.

In this book, twin sisters, Violet and Daisy (who changes her name to Kate when she goes to college) have senses, meaning they can see the future, or know things about people.  Violet embraces the senses, Kate rejects them.  Sittenfeld's grand prose takes us through the lives of Vi and Kate, jumping back and forth from birth to present day when Kate has two children, a husband and a happy home life and Vi is a local St. Louis psychic who is contemplating dating a lesbian.  The plot hinges on Vi's vision of a tremendous earthquake, which she alerts the press about and then becomes a media sensation.  Meanwhile Kate attempts to skirt the spotlight, look out for her sister and manage her own life.  It's just as engrossing as Sittenfeld's other novels and the end particularly grabbed me.  In fact, I would like to discuss. Overall, another tip-top entry.

I mean really, read this paragraph and tell me she's not fabulous:
"Our windows were open, and the radio had been playing continuously--not one but two Billy Joel songs had come on during our drive--and the air was dense with the humidity of a midwestern summer, weather that even then made me homesick, though it was hard to say for what.  Maybe my homesickness was a form of prescience because when I look back, it's the circumstances of this very car ride that I recognize as irretrievable: the experience of driving nowhere in particular with my sister, both of us seventeen years old, the open windows causing our hair to blow wildly; that feeling of being unencumbered; that confidence that our futures would unfold the way we wanted them to and our real lives were just beginning."

General grumbling about the cover.  I'm good with the two girls on the front.  But why make them have different colored eyes, if the eye color of the twins in the novel is never mentioned?  It was incredibly distracting.

A way with words.

This came via email today.  I get "child is sick" emails nearly every school day of the year and this was the first one that made me laugh out loud:

Subject:  Henrietta is sick.

I am sorry to report that Henrietta is in the throes of yet another plague. Inspiring me to make the positive suggestion that she perhaps be a bit more sincere in her handwashing efforts. Sigh. 

See you Monday, snot gods willing. 


Needless to say, names have been changed.

Go team?

I realize some people may look at the way I allocate my time and think I'm a bit crazy for, say, spending untold hours writing for a blog that about five people read on a regular basis.  However, I couldn't help but be amused by this guy.  Yes the Seahawks are going to the Superbowl, but what sort of thought process brought him to be standing on an overpass on a Friday afternoon, giving thumbs up to cars that honked at him.

Go team?

Long walk home.

I took a walk up Mississippi on the way home from work today and took a few pictures of ghost stairs.

Judging by the staircases, there were at least three houses on this bluff.

Now it's just grass and an "available" sign.

It's times like these I fantasize about buying the whole swath with my millions and repopulating it.

I also came across this house, and felt worried for it as it looks like it is ready for demo.  But while photographing it, I realized it is the house that was moved from N. Mississippi Ave. a few months ago and that it is settling into its new home.  Hooray!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Essay: Concert Band

More memories of high school band.  Feel free to add your own.

Marching Band ended in mid-October with competition, though we would still continue to play the football games through the end of their season in late October or early November, depending on how many games the football team won.  There was one last march in the holiday parade, which happened the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  But after Mid-October we entered Concert Band Season.

The first part of Concert Band season was without competition. We had to prep songs to play for the holiday concert that would happen in December, not long before Christmas break.  We still called it Christmas break then.  The transition from Marching Band to Concert Band happened on the same day when we passed in our Marching Band music, which we hadn’t really needed for several weeks now, because we had it memorized. Passing in music involved JP telling us the name of the piece he was collecting, then we rummaged through our music folders, recovered the piece of music and passed it down to the first chair person who sorted it neatly and walked it up to whoever was serving as JP’s assistant.  As with everything that involves large groups, there were multiple pleas for quiet, because the thing to do after you’ve handed over a sheet of music is to continue the conversation that you were having before you were asked to locate and turn in that sheet of music. Or noodle around on your instrument. There were also multiple people who couldn’t find their piece of music and usually one or two people who weren’t paying attention and turned in the wrong piece of music.

Passing out the Concert Band music worked the same, but in reverse.  The plus of passing out music is we usually got one new piece at a time, then played it, before the next came out.  It was a lot easier to stay focused.

Our music came from some central place at the district office.  Every band director I ever had referenced going to that place and picking things out, but I never saw the room.  The music arrived in generally fairly good shape, with all the parts present and usually with enough copies for each part so photocopies did not have to be made.  A full accounting of pieces we performed has been lost to time passing, but I do recall a performance of “Colonel Bogey March” that infamous song that is whistled in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai.  I remember this piece in particular, because during one part of the performance, JP encouraged the audience to whistle, and the sight of all the parents whistling happily along had me laughing so hard I couldn’t actually play.  I also remember a performance of “Thus Spake Zarathusa,” which was just fun to play.  I’m sure we tackled things that had nothing to do with movies too.

The first semester of the year, band never had drummers present, because they had their own sixth period class so as to practice all their Marching Band drum corps stuff.  Drummers usually dropped in for fourth period band practice the two days before the band concert, but they were otherwise absent.  It was rather nice as drummers are worse than brass players for repeatedly playing past the cutoff point and noodling around.  It was such a shock my first year when the semester turned and suddenly the drummers were suddenly present; taking up space in the percussion area, being the loud and fairly obnoxious ego-driven quasi-jerks I was perpetually attracted to.

So we played a Christmas Concert (we still called it that) and we had at least one competition in winter and perhaps one in the spring.  Competition involved getting out of part or all of the school day, traveling by bus to where the competition was held and playing in front of judges, who gave us scores from one to five (they may have been in Roman Numerals: I to V) with one (I) being the highest score.  I don’t think we were a stellar Concert Band, though the stakes were lower.  It wasn’t a competition like Marching Band Competition, with all the bands in a stadium and lined up on the field together afterwards to hear the results.  We went, we played, we went home and somewhere along the line someone told us our score.

The last thing Concert Band we had to do every year was play for graduation, an activity that has made me loathe “Pomp and Circumstance” as well as graduation ceremonies in general.  Graduation took place at the Boise State University Pavilion, where the basketball team played all their games.  There was a stage constructed at one end of the court. Each graduate walked across to receive their diploma and we sat below the stage on the same level as the 500 people who needed to be announced and graduated.  Before we played our piece (sophomore year it was “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha) and other things happened during the ceremony, and every single person was announced and clapped for, JP would raise his baton and we would put our instruments to our lips and play Pomp and Circumstance, repeating all but the beginning and end over and over again while the teeming mass of graduates shuffled in and took their seats.  The song would be stuck in my head for days after the ceremony.  Strangely, we played something else for the exit, and repeated it just as many times, but it was not nearly as memorable.  Maybe it was the Triumphant March from Aida?

For me, Concert Band was just the thing you did because you were in band.  It wasn’t the fun of Marching Band, and it wasn’t the endless obligation of Pep Band, but just the class we went to every day and theoretically (at least on my part) practiced for.  It was the same kind of band I’d been doing since seventh grade.  It was fun when a piece came together and it was a good place to go in the middle of my day, but I don’t miss it as much as I miss Marching Band.

Just rockin' out and whittling. You?

On the back of his chair, this guy had two speakers blasting Led Zeppelin.  It made for a good soundtrack while waiting for the train, though I fear for his hearing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When I'm gone.

The tear-down didn't take long at all.  All that is left is the foundation, the chimney and a brand new chain-link fence.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: Slings & Arrows Season 1.

The advantage to reading/seeing a lot of Shakespeare is that suddenly things that used to go right over my head, are very funny because I'm more familiar with the whole Shakespeare "thing."  So this show about a Canadian Shakespeare company is hilarious to watch.  It also is very moving and clever and this season deals with the play Hamlet with which most of us are familiar, so you too might want to search out this show.

Cost: free from library
Where watched:  at home with Matt

ps. for those of us who enjoyed Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley's father is one of the actors in this show!

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Results! 2014 Youth Media Award Announcements!

As discussed in the post about the Mock-Printz, today is the day the Printz Award and many others are announced.  The announcements happen at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting and Exhibition, which this year takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  I, unfortunately, am unable to attend the ALA Mid-winter Conference, but because the ALA is awesome, they are live-casting the announcements.  Less exciting for some is that the announcements are at 8 a.m. EST, which means 5 a.m. in Portland, Oregon.  But I get up at that time anyway and I don't have work today, so here I am, happy as a clam.

The computer on the right is the live-cast, the computer on the left is me putting things I haven't read on hold.

You can find a complete list of the results by clicking here.  You can watch the not-live-anymore webcast by clicking here.

Here are the Printz Award Results:
Honor books:
 “Eleanor & Park,” 
written by Rainbow Rowell and published by St. Martin’s Griffin (Macmillan) 
“Kingdom of Little Wounds,” 
written by Susann Cokal and published by Candlewick Press 
“Maggot Moon,” 
written by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch and published by Candlewick Press 
“Navigating Early,” 
written by Clare Vanderpool and published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, Penguin Random House Company.

2014 Printz Award:
written by Marcus Sedgwick, and published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

So, as usual, the results show what a crap shoot it is to choose the 10 books we read for the Mock Printz Workshop.  We had Eleanor & Park (yay!) at the top of our list, but none of the rest of them were on our reading list.  I did read Maggot Moon for the Librarian Book Group.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: Pitch Perfect

After the rather heavy Mysterious Skin, this was exactly what the doctor ordered.  I loved that--much in the style of Whip It--we got a movie about a female character who changes not because of a guy, but because she discovers another part of herself.  These movies are few and far between and I would like to see more of them.*

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home.

poster from:

*Also, I could have done with less graphic vomiting and the song "I Saw the Sign" which sticks in my head for weeks.
Also, also.  This movie pulled Matt in and he ended up watching it all the way through, which is something he rarely does.
And, plus.  Unlike Glee, I was not familiar with most of the songs the college-aged people were singing. But I enjoyed them anyway. 

Three Sentence Movie Reviews: Mysterious Skin

This was hard to watch in that it has to do with child molestation which--it probably need not be said--is not a fun topic.  However, the acting was tremendous and I loved how true-to-life the teenagers' friendship felt.  Worth watching, but have something fun on hand for cleansing purposes.

Cost:  free from library
Where watched:  at home

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Wardrobe Architect: Defining A Core Style

The Wardrobe Architect
If you want to choose your clothing with more thought and care, follow along with Coletterie and their series.  This is week two.

When you are wearing your favorite clothing how do you feel?
Purposeful, classy, unique

When you're wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel?  What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?
Fat, slobby, hobbit. (You know that part in the movie Juno where Juno points out Paulie Bleaker's mother looks like a hobbit?  As a short person with some heft, that line struck fear into my heart.)

Who do you consider to be your style icons?  What is it about them that appeals to you?
(This was a hard question as I don't really think about "style icons")
Audrey Hepburn--clean lines, always looked classy
Michelle Obama--not a small woman and likes bold things
Drew Barrymore--whimsical and sophisticated

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?
Elegant--I've got too many real things I have to do in clothing, so it has to be sturdy.
Boho--makes me feel sloppy, also like a two-ton-tilly
Fashion Forward--I have no time to keep up with that stuff.  Also the money.  And the fact fashion isn't really made for people of my shape.

Look over your answers from last week on history, philosophy, culture, community, activities, location and body. Last at least 15 words that you associate with your answers.  Think about descriptive words, moods, and feelings you associate with those feelings.
Classic, clean, strong, feminist, feminine, dressed up, comfortable, WASP, thrifter, laid-back, accessible, walkable, flirty, rain-proof, fit, structured.

Are there other words you would like to add to this list?  What other words describe your core style?
Colorful, practical, well-made, long-lasting

Look over the answers to all of the questions above.  If you had to narrow your list to only 3-5 words to describe you, which words would you choose?
practical, classic, walkable, comfortable, structured.

Collect 15-20 images that represent these 3-5 words for you.
I made a Pinterist board.  It was a difficult exercise because I wanted to pin images of women who look like me and had trouble finding them.  But I did it and you can see the results by clicking here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Essay: Marching Band Part II

More regurgitating of band memories.  Feel free to add your own in comments.

Marching band was a temperature slide—unbearably hot at the beginning and freezing cold by the end.  It was a lot of standing around quietly to learn something that was all sound and music.  Marching band was a dusty field, hideous unflattering uniforms and free admission (but sadly for me, mandatory attendance) at all the football games.

The first two weeks of practice we cranked things out.  To begin, JP would show us a diagram of what we were going to do.  He hand wrote our marching patterns on gridded paper shaped like the football field.  I figured out later he also hand-wrote arrangements of our music.  JP was one of those teachers who rankled me—his use of “gals” paired with “guys” came off as sexist and he was old and had that slightly jokey authority figure nature that was kind of hard to buy.  There was also a lot of imploring.  But when I think of the logistics of setting a hoard of musicians and dancers marching around a 100-yard field, my mind boggles.

With the day’s pattern in mind we would run through the music—we were supposed to be memorizing it, and ideally have it pretty much down by this point—and then head out to the field.  As with all large groups, this took forever, and thanks to the fact we all had instruments, it came to pass with a lot more noise than necessary.  The band room was separate from the school, tucked off the back of the gym.  Our practice field was across the loop of road that circled the school.  The football team’s field was further—they took up the middle of the track, and maybe another field off the side.  Sometimes they would cut through our field on the way back in from their own practice.  The band ignored them, though the drill teamers chattered with them.  In my school, football and band did not cross paths, except for the one guy who did both.

Once we straggled out and into position, we would make some attempt at pulling ourselves together.  Various attempts by various people were made to be more military and attentive in our practices, but they lasted a day at most before we devolved into talking and “horsing around” while JP used his megaphone to grab our attention long enough to get us started.

What I remember most about marching band practice was standing around.  We’d run a bit of the show, then screech to a halt—though there were always one or two in the bass section that just had to keep playing.  Then, most of us would stand at attention, while JP fixed something on some other part of the field.  “Attention” often had a half-life of three minutes before we would start to murmur to the person next to us, to quietly play a few measures, or start to spin or sway in our spot.  When the pause was very long we would resort to gymnastics—one guy could do a front flip with no hands and a lot of us did cartwheels, or pushups (meted out as punishment, but actually fun).  We also burst into song at regular intervals.  For decades now, I’ve been singing the line“the check’s in the mail, you’re beautiful” at appropriate moments, because that was in regular rotation for a time on the marching band field.  The boyfriend pointed out it was a line from a Werid Al song.

All that standing around must have led to something, because eventually, we had the entire program running.  I didn’t know it at the time, but there’s something magical about creating both music and patterns on a football field. And I had no idea of the incredibly brief lifespan of that magic.  After high school, I never marched again.  It’s not really an activity that lends itself to the adult world.

Oregonian down the drain. The hits just keep on coming.

To summarize the above article: Hey!  Now that you only get a newspaper four days per week, we're also going to turn that newspaper into a crappy tabloid format.  It will be great?  Why?  Because we say so!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wardrobe Architect: Designing and Building Thoughtful Attire. Week One. Making Style More Personal.

The Wardrobe Architect
Colette Patterns has a blog called the Coletterie where various things to do with sewing, fashion and the like are discussed.  This year they are launching the Wardrobe Architect, which is a way for us all to think carefully about the clothing we acquire.  Here's a link to the introductory post.  Each week there is an activity which will build on the previous week's activity.  

This week's activity had a worksheet to complete.  Here are my answers.
How has your personal history informed the way you dress?  When did your tastes crystalized?  How have they changed over the years, and why?
I like a neat and tidy look and I like comfortable clothes that are feminine.  I like dresses and skirts  and styles from the 50s.  I think this came about in high school/college when I felt the design choices from that era offered me more choices than my own era.

How does your philosophy, spirituality or religion affect your aesthetics and buying habits?  Or what aspects of those things would you like to see reflected?
I like to make an effort to look nice and dress up when the occasion calls for it.

How has your cultural background shaped the way you look?  How did the aesthetics and values you grew up with affect your tastes as you got older?
I don't really feel like I have a culture. However, growing up "bigger" meaning I was always on the larger end of whatever clothing scale affected me.  For example, I was a 9 or 11 in junior sizes, I've been a 12 or 14 for most of my adult life.  Because of this, I often feel like there isn't clothing for me, that clothes are designed for people much smaller (and now much, much smaller).  So I hate shopping for clothing because every time I can't find something in my size or something ostensibly in my size doesn't fit, I feel like a failure.  In some ways, thrift stores and second-hand shops are easier because there is just one of each item, so it either fits or it doesn't and I don't have to go back and find a bigger size or be frustrated that there are four more of the size 00 and six of the size two but none in the size that fit me.

How are you influenced by the people around you including friends, family and other communities you're involved in?
Portland is very laid back, but I also think there is a total clotheshorse aesthetic going on here that no one really acknowledges. It may not be the same high-fashion aesthetic of other cities, but people here have style.

How do your day-to-day activities influence your choices?
I need to be able to walk in my clothing which means no heels, comfortable shoes.  And I like my clothing to be comfortable, meaning I don't want to step out of them the minute I get home.

Does the place you live inform the way you dress?  How does climate factor in?
Dresses in the winter mean tights and I sometimes don't want to deal so I will wear pants instead.  I need some good leggings that are not too long.

In what ways does body image affect your choices in clothing?  What clothes make you feel good about the body you live in?  What clothes make you feel uncomfortable or alienated from your body?
too tight = alienated.  Things that fit just right are fabulous.  In general, I like my clothing to have some structure.  I currently have pants that can stretch every which way and I can't stand them. I need regular objective feedback about my size that clothing that doesn't stretch gives me.  If something has just been washed and is too tight, I need to step up the exercise and watch what I'm eating a bit more.

Postcard from Germany

In your Postcrossing profile you can say what you like and I mention that I collect quotes and ask people to send me their favorite.  So sometimes I get quotes written on the cards by the senders and sometimes people send me postcards with quotes on them.  This is from Anne who is a retired teacher and is collecting quotes from all over the world.  So we have that in common. She translates this as, "Each day is a new beginning."

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Manhattan-off

My Cocktail Book author said, "sometimes you just have to sit down and do the taste test to find out if you are a Bourbon whisky Manhattan person or a rye whisky Manhattan person."  A. and I accepted his challenge and did just that.  The result?  We are both Bourbon whisky Manhattan people. But we think maybe with lemon garnish instead of cherries, we might enjoy rye whisky Manhattans.  Further tests will ensue.

I enjoy a good alley.

It's a cold and foggy morn and I have a long walk ahead of me, so why not traipse down the alley?

A stick-to-your-ribs soup.

The first time I made this soup I peered at the finished product and said, "Ugh.  Doesn't look too great."  Then I actually ate it and changed my tune. It's incredibly flavorful, packed with umani flavors.  Some of the ingredients are not ingredients I have on hand on a regular basis, like the seaweed, but I've made this several times and it's just what the doctor ordered on a freezing cold morning.  

To make it yourself, follow the link to Eating Well's Tofu and Vegetable Stew.

Postcard from Russia

Podolsk, Russia, to be exact.  Andrey and Tana love to travel and take pictures. 

This postcard is the exact reason I love Postcrossing.  What the hell is that?  It's apparently called the Checkerboard Hill  (Dragon Hill).  Whatever it is, it is made of awesome.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

2013 Mock Printz

I attended another great Mock Printz Workshop where we read and discuss great YA literature and try to guess what the Printz Committee will pick as the best YA book of the year.
Here was our schedule.

Here were my votes.

After a few rounds of voting we came up with the following winners:
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell with 113 votes
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick with 86 votes
Boxers/Saints by Gene Luen Yang with 71 votes.

Now we wait for the announcement on 1/27.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Goodbye to house.

I can't say I'm sorry to see this house go as it has been boarded up since at least 2007, when I moved to the neighborhood.  Plus, once a gang of homeless people had a huge fight in the backyard while I was walking by and the bad vibes have never dissipated.

I felt compelled to make a record of its being though.  Poor house.  Too bad no one took care of you.
Any bets about what will replace it?  It's sandwiched between a gas station/cheap tobacco store and a house that has a coffee shop.  I'm guessing it will be commercial rather than residential, but you never know.  Then again, it could just become a vacant lot.

Pretty grades.

From one of the 4/5 teacher's grade book.  If you have to keep grades, why not make them lovely colors?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Essay: On being called a perpetual adolescent.

Last weekend, someone referred to me (and Matt too) as “perpetual adolescents.”  The description didn’t seem to faze Matt, but for me it was an arrow that shot through me and sunk the rest of my weekend, leaving me alternatingly angry and upset.  I’m not sure what aspect of my life they were referring to, but there are many things they could hang that comment on.  I chalked it up to not having any children, but it might be that I haven’t married my boyfriend or that I work 32 hours per week instead of 40, or that I invested a master’s degree worth of tuition and living expenses in a job I haven’t been able to be hired for.  Or perhaps the fact that I refuse to buckle down and do what needs to be done to get said job, because I can’t imagine anything more lothesome.

So yeah, there’s a lot about me that could be construed as adolescent. Including the fact that I haven’t gotten around to saying to the person in question, “hey, what did you mean by that?” and “You know, you really hurt my feelings.”

But here’s the thing about my life.  I chose every single bit of it.  I don’t have children because I have never wanted them and I have a feeling that lack of wanting would make me a less-than-adequate mother.  It’s possible I would rally and be outstanding, but I’d rather not stake someone else’s life on it. I’ve known people raised by disinterested parents and it’s not a good situation for any of them.  I’m not married because I don’t see the point.  I’m committed, he’s committed and the social structure allows us to be together without signing papers, so for now, no marriage.

I work 32 hours per week because my job allows me that freedom and I would rather have the eight hours to do other things.  I take a hit financially, which means not really ever having a vacation, but aside from the mortgage and student loans, I can work 32 hours, live debt free and spend more time doing things I enjoy.  The fact I’m not a teacher rankles me, but again, I’ve chosen there too.  I could move away to a city or town with more teaching opportunities, but I love Portland and would rather be here and not be a teacher than to be a teacher any other place.  I don’t work as a substitute because it’s a job that calls on things I don’t really like to do, and has nothing of the teaching things I do like to do.  I make my choice every year.  I’m not going to sub.  If that means not getting a teaching job, then so be it.

Though there are aspects of my life that I don’t like, I’m thrilled I got to have a say in how my life is lived. That hasn’t always been the case for women, and it’s not the case for women in some parts of the world today.  A generation ago, I wouldn’t have been able to live with my boyfriend, would have had trouble getting credit in my own name and (depending on how you define generations—my family tends to reproduce rather slowly) had trouble getting birth control.  Before that, I probably would have married and married early, even before I finished college as my father’s sister’s did.  Before that I wouldn’t have been able to own property, or vote, or live on my own.

In the movie Pleasantville, two 90s-era teenagers are transported to the bucolic TV town of Pleasantville where they both go about wreaking havoc on the ideal setting.  There’s an exchange of dialogue I love.  It takes place after things are starting to change in the town.   The basketball team doesn’t always win their games, the books actually have words in them and people have started thinking about places other than Pleasantville.  Margaret, the girl from Pleasantville, asked David, the boy from the future a question.  From the script:


               So what's it like?



                       (a whisper)

               Out there.

        She clings onto the words like they could transport her by
        themselves. David thinks for a moment.


               Oh. I don't know...It's different...

        She leans forward.




               Well it's louder...And scarier I guess...And...and a lot
               more dangerous...


               Sounds fantastic.

Margaret’s longing for that other place, where things aren’t safe and easy, resonates with me.  I could have gone down the path that was clearly marked for me:  college, marriage, job, children, etc.  But some of those choices didn’t click with me so I went in another direction.  It’s possible to construe my life choices as adolescent, but I see myself as fully adult.  I’ve supported myself since leaving college, I save for the future. I stay informed of issues, vote, pay my taxes and volunteer in my community.  And what I want for people in this world is the ability to be able to make their own choices about what is right for them, just as I have.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Back to the early twentieth century

I spent a year without a watch, figuring I would be like everyone else and just use my phone to tell me the time.  But you know what?  Sometimes I just want to know the time by flicking my wrist toward me and glancing down rather than rummaging around for my phone, finding the "on" button and pushing it.  There's no way to do that in a non-obvious manner.  So welcome back Wenger watch!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: Meek's Cutoff.

One of those movies were no one talks much, but man, is it tense in that way that you can't really get around, just have to go through.  Michelle Williams plays it quiet and understated as a woman on the Oregon Trail.  Difficult decisions are made, not with the input of the women, of course, because who needs to listen to them?

Cost:  free from library
Where watched: at home

poster from:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Essay: Marching Band part I

Note:  I’m going to spend a few weeks of the essays dredging up details of high school band because I’m trying to remember things that have sunk into some mostly forgotten part of my brain.  Feel free to tell me any of your band memories, should you be lucky enough to have them.

Also:  I apparently never finished writing this, so it just trails off.

It was in high school that band changed.  Before it had always been an elective, as in: “Are you taking band next year?”  At the high school level it became, “Are you in band?”  In junior high band, we were segregated by grade, travelling through seventh grade band, to eighth and then ninth grade band.  Eighth and ninth grade band got to practice marching by appearing in the holiday parade the week before Thanksgiving, but otherwise didn’t interact with the other kids in band.  In high school there was just one class with all three grades.  We were an activity, like student council in that we had a class all to ourselves during the school day.  We were also a group, like the sports teams, in that for part of the year we had practice outside of school hours.

Marching Band started off the high school band calendar.  Our practices began the same time the football, volleyball and soccer teams started their practice, about two weeks before school started.  I remember them being incredibly early in the morning, although I think we started at eight or nine o’clock.  Unless it was insanely hot, eight to ten in the morning was a great time of day, before the heat really kicked in.  The football players had two-a-days the first week of practice, so they were there with us and then came back in the afternoon for a second practice.  I always admired the cheerleaders, who started early and were finishing up by the time we rolled into the parking lot.

The first day was usually all about logistics: getting the sophomores oriented, passing out the music, sketching out the plan for the season.  We had not very much time to learn music for both parade marching and at the same time start to work on the halftime show. We would begin to build the piece and have the first song done in time for the first game, and then build more onto the show as the season went on.  Mid-October was the competition, so that was our big date on the fall calendar.

As a sophomore, starting marching band was fairly overwhelming.  There was a lot of music to memorize right off including at least three songs to know for parades, plus the pieces for the show.  I wasn’t very good at memorizing and mostly floundered at this part of band.  Avoiding memorizing music—and the drummer boyfriend—were the main reasons I played cymbals the last two years of high school marching band. 

We also had to learn to properly march.  Our band director was nearing retirement, having been at my high school since the early 1960s.  By the early 1990s he was still a fairly cheerful guy, although a bit stooped in the shoulders, and he was happy to shepherd us through the high school band experience.  We called him by his initials, JP, rather than Mr. Perkins. 

JP had done his military service in the Army band and would now and again encourage us to go in as a musician if we were joining the services.  The reason being, according to him: “while the other guys are doing pushups, you will be doing this” he would say, wiggling his fingers to mime playing the trumpet.  An aside: I told that story to a friend who had gone into the army as a musician, and his reply was.  “Yeah. Unless there’s a war.”  So beware.

JP loved to teach us to march, especially the “roll step” that was necessary to carry out the smooth maneuvers on field and parade route.  A good Roll Step involves placing your heel down and then rolling to your toes which minimizes upper body movement.  He also liked to drill us on marching, especially at the beginning of the season when there was more time in practice.  We would begin in a big block of people and started off in step while a drummer beat a steady beat.  Then JP, or the drum major would call out the changes, “forward march” “right face” “left face,” “mark time” “halt” while we attempted to follow them as an entire group.  People who messed up stepped off the field and watched while the group got smaller and smaller until there were only a few.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Postcards from Germany & Virginia

This lovely Christmas postcard arrived from Germany with best wishes for the new year.

And this nice sentiment came from Virginia containing thanks for a gift.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: Lord of the Rings Extended Versions of The Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, Return of the King

Really, there are three movies, so there should be nine sentences, but they all blurred together into a very long movie.  I found that a lot of the bonus content was not necessarily necessary, but was mostly interesting.  And I realized I hadn't seen these movies since their release (it was a Christmas activity with the brother for three years running) so I had mostly completely forgotten the story, which made for pleasant viewing as it seemed new to me.*

Cost:  free
Where watched:  Laurie and Burt's house.

*Also, I had completely forgotten the huge amount of eye candy, which made for a pleasant addition to eleven hours of viewing.

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LOTR Extended Editions

"If I were going to watch all the extended edition of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in one day, would anyone be up to watching them with me?"  So the query was posted and so people replied in the affirmative and so the Lord of the Rings Butt-Numb-A-Thon came to be.

Laurie and Burt provided us with three meals which was good, because we were watching movies from 9:00am to 10:00pm.  Here was the spread for Breakfast.  We also had sandwiches for lunch and tacos for dinner.

And we begin.

And we continue.  And some of us discover that sitting on the top part of the couch is preferable to the couch.

And so it ends, and I take a picture of the liquids that got me through my day.  Tea in the morning, water through the day, hot chocolate to get me through the last two-hour stretch.
I confess, I didn't really know what I was signing up for, and it was rough going in the middle*, but I'm proud to say I did it.  There were nine of us (if you count Lily the dog) who watched all three movies.  We should get tattoos.

*I actually left to feed the cats simply so I could get up and walk around.  I even did lunges, my legs were feeling so dead.  Since I stand at work now, I really never sit down for long stretches any more.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: The Italian Job (1969)

Yet another "why not?" at the library that turned out to be an excellent view.  It's speedily plotted, it's funny in the small details and you get to see those cute minis driving around Italy.  It also has the best ending to a heist movie I've seen in a very long time.

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

poster from:

New Glass!

My Aunt Carol has been on a clean and purge streak and boy, did I win.  Do I want the cactus glasses that were my Great-Uncle Tom's?  Yep.  Do I want the cocktail glasses that were my grandmother's?  Yes ma'am.
Uncle Tom's cactus glasses. There were 12, but I've learned that they don't stack well, so now there are 10.

Grandma's cocktail glasses, which would be even more amazing if I had put them against something white, so you could see the fabulous color.

They have these pretty roses etched on them.

And this is fabulous.  It has a glass stir stick and I love the shape.  Plus, the cups stack.
And now I must purchase something to contain all this glassware.

What we still write and mail in these modern times.

Judging from the amount of shelf space devoted to thank you notes, one can extrapolate that the only thing people hand write and mail anymore are thank you notes.  This is a shelf at Target, where I had a gift card.  Maybe I will get some stationary, I thought to myself.  I was excited to see the huge selection they hand and then, as usual deflated to realize that 90% of the offerings are thank you notes.  Grrr.

Final Postcrossing Statistics.

More fun stats from my friends at Postcrossing:

Hello Patricia!
In 2013 your mailbox was happy 41 days!
Here are some more statistics about your account
 in Postcrossing:
Your numbers
Postcards sent5151
Postcards received5050

Country ranking
By sent9550th
By distance9797th

Country distribution

In 2013 you sent postcards to...
postcards sent

CountrySentTravel (avg)
Czech Republic149
In 2013 you received postcards from...
postcards sent

CountryReceivedTravel (avg)
Czech Republic28
Hong Kong121

Top 3 favourite postcards

Sent by you in 2013
5 favourites
3 favourites
3 favourites

All-time favourites
5 favourites
3 favourites
3 favourites
Hungry for more statistics? Check your profile stats page