Image Slider

3 good things for the last friday of the year

| On
Friday, December 30, 2005
1. Fluxblog has a great Stephen Malkmus song today. Really great.

2. MR. TRONA on flickr has some beautiful and strange collaborative double exposures, done in the spirit of the surrealists Exquisite Corpse . They are freaky, dreamy, and wonderful.

3. Pitchfork has their list of the Top 50 singles for 2005 up. Many I have heard, but many I have not. I sense a serious workout for my new iTunes gift card is in my future!

ipod, I love you

| On
Friday, December 30, 2005
Every person with an iPod that I have talked to or read about organizes their music and their playlists differently. It makes sense - I think it is related to how you remember things, how you listen to music, where and why you use your iPod, etc.

I have a friend who is all over Smart Playlists and keywords - a few thumb moves and she can access songs that have been keyword-tailored to specific moods. It is genius! I have experimented with a few smart playlists, but I still favor "shuffle songs" and manual playlists. Is it laziness on my part? Maybe. But I think it is because I like making mixes - shuffle lets me hear things in orders I would NEVER hear them otherwise (for example, just now the Cure was followed by the divinely named Zoot Sims - And it WORKS! for me, anyway) You never know when something will just sound wonderful out of it's original context. Some songs suffer, of course, and are miserable next to the Ween Cheese song or whatever else may be lying in wait. That's what the skip button is for! I confess that I used to feel guilty using the skip button, like I would hurt the song's feelings. It would not be a lie to say anthropomorphism has been a problem in the past. But now I know that just because you skip it now doesn't mean you won't be hitting the repeat button on it like crazy later.

I know someone who puts all new songs through a special playlist so they are listened to at least once before they hit the general song population. This is another one of those ideas that is so great, but just not for me. One of my favorite things is to have a new song spring out at me in the middle of old favorites. Especially if it is good - I get the cliched chills up my spine and tingly scalp and have to paw around and get the iPod out of my pocket so I can see what this miraculous thing is. Of course if it is really terrible I have to do the same thing (minus the chills and tingles, plus irritation). I do try to stack the new song deck with things that I have downloaded from mp3 blogs or artists websites that at least seem like I will like them, but it's not foolproof by any means.

Rating systems are another place where people can get very specific with their iPod. My system, I acknowledge, is in need of some fine tuning. Currently, songs I like get an instant 3 star rating. Evil songs (a song can be evil for many reasons, such as switching between left and right ear really fast and making me dizzy while I am sitting down, or annoying Blues Traveler- style harmonica solos which drive me to immediate, creative violence) get a 1 star rating which will get them booted off the iPod the next time I hook it up to the computer. 2's are pretty nebulous at the moment, but I think it is morphing into my "you get one more chance" rating. My ratings system needs work - currently the 5 is reserved for actual transcendence, I guess. Nothing has a 5 star rating - I think I have been waiting for something to physically lift me three feet off the ground, which is just silly. 4 stars mean I love it, but I am beginning to recognize that some 4's are more equal than others and they may get bumped to 5.

Shuffle All, are you sure? YES! this is perhaps my second favorite thing about the iPod (the first being that it exists at all). I do listen to albums in the order that the artist put them in, but usually only when it's new to me and I don't know it very well, or when I have become thoroughly obsessed with it and can't listen to anything else. Leslie calls this "the bonding period" and it is very important. But then there comes a point when my shuffle finger is itching and I just have to hit that button. Shuffle within the album, and then... I let it loose on the rest of the iPod. I know that my way is too sloppy for some, but that's ok. I like to let stuff slosh around and bump up against things it might not touch in normal circumstances. In fact, that's what I like about the entire internet! The beauty of the iPod is it will let you do whatever you want.

Synching, or manual updates - the technical element: When I first got my iPod (a 3rd generation with 10 GB) the iPod would hold more than my old hard drive, so I had to use manual updating. Now my computer will hold more than the iPod, so manual updating is still necessary. I like that there is different music in my iTunes library and on my iPod, but that may just be me being delusional and trying to shoehorn my preferences into my circumstances. I'm not so far gone that I really dig the drastically shortened battery life (hey - it's 3 years old!), so maybe there's hope for me yet. I see that there's a website that will sell you batteries to replace it yourself, so I might try that in the new year.

It all comes down to this - I love my iPod. I love that the same little machine can bring as much joy to people who have a laissez-faire approach as to those who attack iTunes with military precision, and all of us in-between.

Matty Groves

| On
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
by Deborah Grabien #43

I don't think I am going to hit 50 books after all. I am behind on marking them down, but not 7 behind. Oh well - I didn't start until February, and 2006 is another year. Back to business - This book is the third in the Haunted Ballad Series. I enjoyed it very much - it raised the stakes of the first two books and gave enough of a twist on the existing premise so it wasn't getting into Murder, She Wrote territory (oh, look - here comes Jessica Fletcher and the trail of her dead) I mean, this still has Ringan (I picture Ewan McGregor, which is never a painful exercise), and Penny, still has the framework of the traditional folk song and a haunting...but it is different. Just read it and see. I am crying that I was able to renew this from the library more than once. There should be a long queue to check these out! I definitely think the series should come out in paperback, and maybe with a little guide to some good versions of the songs mentioned in the books. On the bizarro planet/alternate universe where I am the supreme benevolent dictator, you may assume that it is so.

christmas poker

| On
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Christmas is over! I didn't play Clue, but I did learn how to play Texas hold 'em poker. Kind of. Weird Cousin B.* taught us. It was a more successful lesson than the time Martina, Bec, and I tried to teach ourselves. (upshot from that lesson: visors do not in themselves lend any poker know-how, and they will, in fact, give you worse hat hair than a regular hat).

I am still sick. Or almost sick, which is more irritating. I thought I was over it, but this morning has demonstrated otherwise. At least when you're sick you can lay on the couch and moan and dramatically throw tissues around and watch movies all day. If you're not quite sick, there's just the tiredness and the slow-brain which maybe makes you forget to take drugs so you feel even worse (but still not quite sick enough for the couch and Jane Austen or Gosford Park).

Here's a little something that should cheer up even the most hard-hearted or almost-sickly persons: This ~You Are Beautiful instillation is lovely. Just click on the pictures to bring up the next one.

* she's weird in only the best ways and is one of my favorite relatives.

merry christmas, baby

| On
Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! I hope these days are as nice as you could want. If you are frazzled (a common occurance when everybody is telling you to be happy) I recommend listening to the Sufjan Stevens Christmas songs. They are just about the perfect blend of traditional carols and new songs. The best part is none of them sound like they will ever be used in adverstisements or in-store music in Pottery Barn or the Gap, so there is no worry about retail burnout flashbacks. They are quiet but lively, fun but heartfelt, and the closest I've heard to my Ideal Christmas Songs. Plus, banjo! (in the more secular realm, I really think it is hard to go wrong with Elvis singing Merry Christmas,Baby, and Chris Isaak's Mele Kalikimaka) They both make me laugh like crazy, and laughing is supposed to be good for you, right?

This year, I miss my cousins. We don't really do anything when we get together at the holidays except play board games (Clue, usually) and watch movies. This year we are not together for a variety of reasons, one of them being that my cousin Deanna will be celebrating Christmas AND the first birthday of her twin boys tomorrow. In Fresno. I know we'll all see each other soon, and I swear, as soon as her kids are old enough to make indiscriminate and ill-considered accusations about who killed Mr. Body, it is ON. I like to think I will be able to out strategize a couple of 7 year olds (or whatever the beginning age is), but kids are wily so who knows.

For all that I lack in cousins this year, I am amply rewarded with really great friends and my immediate family. All of whom will play Clue with me if I agitate enough! I think there may be sightings of various other (non-cousin) family too, so that will be lovely. In a couple of hours Blondie will be stopping by, and tomorrow it is dinner at Martina's house. I had better get busy and do those things that need doing. All the best to you and yours.


no-name list

| On
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
1. funniest thing I've seen lately: the Chronic of Narnia video. call us Aaron Burr from the way we're dropping Hamiltons ha ha ha! Not to mention the whole cupcake thing. Double True!

2. Movies I've watched over the last week or so: A. The Corporation (long, but good for getting your outrage heart-rate up into the aerobic zone). B. Battlestar Galactica mini-series. I thought this was really good - I've seen a couple episodes here and there, and decided I needed to start from the beginning. It looks like it will ask some interesting questions and go to some interesting places. (no, I don't mean space, wiseass.) C. I Know Where I'm Going! - a great romantic movie. The DVD case said romantic comedy, but it doesn't really seem to fit into that category (mostly because it is not funny). But it was so good! I had never really heard much about this movie (or really know much about any Powell and Pressubrger films), but I read something about it recently, and that coupled with a cover of the theme song by John Wesley Harding - well, it must have been too much for my subconscious to resist. D. House of Flying Daggers I loved this movie! It was so beautiful, and it just kept moving all over the place. The colors!! The bamboo forest scenes reminded me of Amelie a little bit. Not because Amelie kicked 18 kinds of marital arts ass, or because Mei became suddenly a French gamine, but because of the GREEN. All the colors were super saturated, and made me very happy. (re-reading this it sounds like I would be equally happy watching the boohbah's, but it's just not true) I even liked the tragic but inevitable conclusion. (The Chinese film industry does love its doomed romances). But unlike many tragic endings (::cough:: madamebutterfly::cough::, I did not spend my time thinking that these were the most ridiculous non-thinkers-through of all time. Either I am developing a taste for tragic romance (v. v. doubtful) or this just made more sense in my tiny mind.

3. Current song playing on iPod: Sugar Water by Cibo Matto

4. I can't remember what 4 was going to be, so I guess I should just go to bed. ooh! book just finished: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. It was so good! But more about that later.

5. Item number one in this list reminds me: Hottest Founding Father? I'm going to have to go with Alexander Hamiltion. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comment section, but you are going to have to have a pretty convincing argument to get me to waver from Hamiltion. (although duels, while being all swashbuckly and romantic at first glance, are really pretty stupid. But that is just one minus against a whole ledger full of plusses.)

frozen falls

| On
Saturday, December 17, 2005

This is what Multnomah Falls looked like last weekend - so cold! The weather has been crazy here this past week - cold, clear, and so windy. Like hang on to that lamppost windy. This is all fine, because there is no moisture, so no ice. Well, obviously there is moisture at a waterfall, but there hasn't been any in town... see? This is why I am not a meteorologist. (The clear skies in combination with the full moon is about to do me in - it shines in right into my eyeballs at night. I may have to move the bed or start wearing one of those crazy satin masks, or possibly re-orient the house.)

does Santa have tattoos of reindeer?

| On
Friday, December 16, 2005
I will spare the internet from my PMS/full moon/holiday stress-bomb crackpot conspiracy theories. It was pretty ugly a couple of times today, but listening to Here Comes Fatty Claus from the John Waters Christmas album helped me reclaim some of my holiday spirit from Bill O'Asshole and the Retail Industrial Complex. The crisis seems to have passed, so many thanks to John Waters and to Blondie who brought me the CD.

Tonight I watched a show on the history of tattoos and it got me thinking about what they mean to people and why people get them. There is no one answer - I am sure there are as many reasons as there are people with tattoos. The program mentioned how they have long been used as a sort of social separator. Tattoos are a mark of otherness -they can be a form of self-separation from people who don't have them (and inclusion into groups that do have them). For example, in the early part of the last century, it was ok to gawk at the Tattooed Ladies in a freak show, but it would have been completely unacceptable for a so called respectable person to talk to (or look at) them outside of that context. How times have changed! I think in Portland there are more tattooed people than not.

I have never had the urge to mark something permanently on my body. I manage to do well enough with scars from my clumsiness, I guess. A friend recently mentioned wanting to get one (tattoo - not a scar from my clumsiness), and I gave serious thought for the first time in a long time to the question. If I got one, what would I want? Where would I put it? I really couldn't come up with much - it just isn't on my radar as a "hey, I want to do that!" thing. Plus - what a huge decision. I would dither forever. I do know what I wouldn't want, though. The program showed a typical suburban-looking girl getting a tattoo of the Tasmanian Devil on her hip. You could get anything you could think of tattooed on (FOREVER), and this is what you come up with?!? It just seems like a complete failure of imagination, especially with the preponderance of great tattoo artists.

I almost think that if I ever went to the trouble of getting one, I would just want a gigantic one of something. It is the kind of decision I could see myself making at some point in the future that would seem completely spontaneous (so unlike me) yet I would be perfectly satisfied with forever. So who knows. Maybe I WILL be one of the future generations of old ladies with saggy pictures of the Taj Mahal, ninjas or the cover art from Duran Duran's Rio on their back.


| On
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Fluxblog has posted about the NYC Fiona concert experience (go read it!), so I thought since the NYC show was the last one of this mini-tour, and the Portland show was the first I had better get to it.

I should start by saying it was a GREAT show. She hasn't been on tour in 5 years, but other than some endearing nervousness (which it sounds like she still has) you couldn't tell. Her opening act was David Garza, who only played about 5 songs. He was interesting - a very good guitar player and sang with a lot of vibrato. I think there are some mp3's on his website.

It was such a good show - it still feels good three weeks later! And not the kind of good where you're loving it at the venue and you get home and go "enh." I mean, she was obviously really nervous - but it seemed honest. My favorite example of this was at the end when she sketched out a little wave before any encores, and then came back right away saying "that was so bullshit. I knew I was coming right back out!" Another thing I loved about the show (besides that she played NINETEEN amazing songs!) was that the crowd was so glad to see her. There was lots of "We Love You, Fiona!" and "Welcome back!" and "You're doing a Good Job!" What I loved less were the people who had to sing along to Every Damn Song. I know, I know - you love Fiona, you missed Fiona, but this is not your car OR karaoke.

Even though I bitched about how much it cost, it was totally worth it. Especially since it looks like she'll be opening for Coldplay in 2006, which means at least 3 things: 1) more expensive tix, 2) she won't be able to play 19 songs, 3) Coldplay. (I'm not an extreme hater, but that "I will fix you" song makes me want to fix someone upside the head with a lead pipe. I'll fix you, alright.)

Here is the PDX setlist (it would make a great Fiona-sampler playlist or mix CD), which I copied from someone on the Fiona message board. According to the list on Fluxblog, she did the same set in NYC:

Get Him Back (Fiona at piano)
Better Version of Me (piano)
Shadowboxer (piano)
To Your Love (piano)
I Know (standing at microphone)
Sleep to Dream (standing)
Limp (standing)
Paper Bag (standing)
Tymps (standing)
Oh Well (piano)
On The Bound (piano)
Red, Red, Red (standing)
Not About Love (piano)
O'Sailor (piano)
Get Gone (piano)
Fast As You Can (standing)
Extraordinary Machine
Criminal (standing)
Parting Gift (at piano, alone on stage)


| On
Monday, December 12, 2005

Originally uploaded by okano.
I think this looks so amazing - it's even better in the bigger size. If you click through and look at the rest of his pictures from this grouping, you will see some more beautiful and seemingly un-vegasy lights from Kobe, Japan.

The Rabbi's Cat

| On
Sunday, December 11, 2005

by Joann Sofar #42
This is such a lovely book! It is set in the 30's or so in a Jewish town in Algeria (with a side-trip to Paris). The cat of the story belongs to a widowed Rabbi and lives with the rabbi and his daughter. The Rabbi's Cat, well - he causes some problems and solves some problems- although on balance he probably causes more problems. But he is a very charming and aware problem-causer (like most cats).

There are many philosophical rambles in the book too, but I found them interesting and not tedious at all. The story is all pretty well contained in this one collection, although I would certainly be glad to read more of this cat's adventures. I am sure he had many.

Pointless Peeve

| On
Friday, December 09, 2005
Decimate. It does not mean to destroy completely, it means to reduce by 1/10th. Those ever efficient (and practical) Romans would kill one in ten men in legions that had committed mutiny. As far as I know, hurricanes aren't quite that precise, nor are ex-girlfriends, ghosts, or other natural disasters. I'm not suggesting that decimate should only be used in reference to Roman discipline, I just wish that it hadn't strayed (so close but so far) from its original, precise meaning. I wouldn't even mention it, but I have had many jabbings right in the peeve lately. The two most recent examples: the ghosty book I just finished, and and OK Go song Invincible - (rock star word nerd Damian Kulash, how could you?)

What makes this peeve even more pointless: the english language is in a constant state of flux. I usually think this is cool (except when GW "nucular" B does it). I'm no prescriptivist - I get a little sad that some interesting, beautiful words have fallen out of use (hence my Decemberists love) - but I'm not pulling my hair out about the decline of the language. The real pointless pointlessness of my decimate peeve is that I never even thought about it ONCE until I read about it. What's up with that? I think this one bugs me because the ten-ness of it is built right in. Decimate. Decimal, decibel, decade and so on! It means some measure of TEN. TEN IS CLEARLY INVOLVED!! If we no longer used any deci-ten words, I think I could let it go, but man. We totally still do!

television television

| On
Friday, December 09, 2005
The OC: Woo Hoo! They seem to have fixed what was wrong, and I now look forward to each new episode. What was wrong with it? All of season 2.* Prime example: making Ryan into a sunny, anti-broody non-puncher. What was up with that? Lesson for season 3: he can be smart AND still get in pointless fist fights at least every third episode. And it looks like the return of the society party next week. Excellent opportunity for misunderstandings, AND Ryan is due to deliver a punching! He's not even my favorite character, but I think the whole thing hinges on him.

Seriously though (if you can say that about the OC), what I like about the show is that all of the main characters are essentially decent people - even Julie Cooper (in her way). I also like how they deal with all of these things that you expect, but then twist them up a little bit. I don't know that it will ever go back to the giddy heights of season 1 (that season had everything!), but I am enjoying it again which is more than I can say for season 2.

*except I must confess that I liked Zach. I liked that he was a huge comic book nerd AND a water polo player - it kept Seth off balance. And I liked that when Sandy went to bring Seth home from Portland the show made attempts to simulate a Portland environment even though sunburnt California mountains were visible beyond the potted shrubberies.

House: I like it despite the fact that there is a certain, shall we say... sameness to every episode. It's not nearly as formulaic as it was at the beginning. Hugh Laurie can be cranky like nobody's business, and I LOVE Robert Sean Leonard as Dr. Wilson. He's just as big a jackhole, but a more personable one. A stealth jackhole.

Bones: Angel's on TV! That's all I can really say. I also like the Angela character's clothes most of the time. Other than that, I like it because it is the cheeseball version of all of those forensic shows. It is totally CSI Relic Hunter-style transplanted to Washington DC and the "Jeffersonian." For people who want it more realistic, I ask you, are there not 300,000 program hours devoted to extremely detailed and gross forensic science already? I know at least one fan of the books who is not impressed, but since I didn't read the books and DID watch Angel, I'm OK with all of it.

Next time: Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls - Two great shows that are both dealing with a lot of really interesting class issues.

january's not all that

| On
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
I have decided that January is a stupid month for me to start anything new or make any resolutions beyond ones like "hey, I should have more fun!" With that in mind, I have been trying to do things I've been meaning to do when I think of them, rather than filing them away to do in The Future, or Starting On New Year's. One of these projects is The Perilous Pile of Books. I have had books and art supplies double stacked in front of one set of book cases for I don't know how long. As is the way of these things, clothes and shoes get mixed in. It was getting dangerous and I could never find anything except for the frayed ends of my temper. Once Nano was done, I decided that this was something that should be addressed sooner, rather than later. Today was day two. It's been going surprisingly well. Piles of books I bought from the Title Wave have finally been culled and sorted. Just because it was a only quarter and I found it diverting 13 years ago does not mean I have to keep it. It's not only been easier than I thought it would be, it has actually been fun. I am feeling an unfamiliar sense of liberation by getting rid of stuff! I will never be a minimalist, I will never only have decorator-approved books that are all the same size in graduated colors - but I'll be damned if I have to keep a bunch of lightweight mysteries that I never enjoyed that much to start with - or ponderous biographies of authors I've never read. By tomorrow I should have room for everything again AND a little room to grow on. Right On! And I'll take the books back to the Title Wave or Goodwill and some other reader/sucker can enjoy them.

In the spirit of things that are good and right with the world - you should (if you are so inclined) click on over to Said The Gramophone. Sean has posted his 22 favorite songs of 2005, and provided mp3's for all of them. I am listening to this playlist right now, and it is great! I have to say, some of his write ups make me as happy as the songs do - go now and celebrate 2005 Gramophone-style.

Also fun is, which has "free ebooks for your PDA or iPod." I haven't actually downloaded any from here but I like that they are available. Here's one for you, Martina. I know there are many other sites that do this, but I hadn't heard of this one before today and it looks pretty nice.

The Winds of Change

| On
Tuesday, December 06, 2005

by Martha Grimes #41

Oh, Martha Grimes! How I have missed you. This book came out last year, but I was so out of the loop I totally blanked it. I'll be honest - I don't go to Martha Grimes for intricately plotted puzzle mysteries. The puzzle is never what grabs me. I go to Martha Grimes because I love Richard Jury and I am completely besotted with Melrose Plant. Sigh. Melrose. The complainers (every series has them) say that the stories are so similar, who even cares anymore? Well, me! I would not dream of denying that there are certain similarities - there is usually a child, an animal, and a beautiful woman (who, if she has the misfortune of falling for Jury, will probably be dead before the middle). Jury is depressed and melancholy (also kind - but not sickeningly goody goody about it), Melrose is at loose ends. Hijinks ensue. All right, maybe not hijinks, but you know, melancholy events transpire and then the bodies start dropping or the clues start stacking up. Heads will be scratched, crimes will be solved. But more important than any of that, I get to spend a few hundred pages with Jury and Melrose and the whole world that Grimes has created.

Every series has a certain sameness - that's why readers come back. They like spending time there. It must be the blessing and the curse of a series author. I imagine that they can't change too much in order to maintain the integrity of the series (and placate fans), but you have to change enough to keep the larger story moving forward (and also to keep from going crazy). At this point in the series Grimes seems to be gearing up for some changes. (Although I would argue that there have been subtle character changes throughout the series) It is acknowledged (out loud, even) that Jury is in a constant state of melancholic misery, and that every woman he loves winds up if not most truly and sincerely dead then at the very least depressed herself. But, like the title implies, I think there is change in the air. I'm OK with that. I had an email argument with a friend who thought it was ridiculous the way Jury ended up alone at the end of every novel. She is rooting hard for him to find a little happiness. My stance was that in a mystery series there is no guarantee or expectation of happily ever after. I can see where she's coming from, but I think it would feel really awkward and irritating if the series took a turn to Jury having to justify how much time the job takes away from his family life and suchlike. But I think if Grimes is going to go in that direction, she'll find some way to do it that will be both fresh and natural for the character. In the mean time - Melrose, Melrose, Melrose. You are cranky, smart, funny, loyal and rich with a well-developed sense of revenge (particularly when it comes to Aunt Agatha). What's not to love?

things I hate (short shallow list)

| On
Sunday, December 04, 2005
because it's not always sunshine and kittens - here are a few of my least favorite things:

1. The use of the name "Madonna" and the word "reinvention" in the same sentence, except for me right now. Come on people! Get a thesaurus.

2. Local News. Dear Northwest Newschannel 8, it is not local news to me, a resident of Portland, Oregon that Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston got pulled over suspicion of DUI in ARIZONA. I don't even think it would be (local) news if they were arrested for it. If they had somehow driven into the grand canyon and parachuted to safety whilst singing Portland, Oregon by Loretta Lynn? - now that I would want to know about, but only because it would be so weird. The added salacious whisper that they are "rumored to be seeing each other" is so not news I don't even know where to start. So just stop it. Notice how I am not mentioning your "Storm Center?" that is because this is the short shallow list.

3. The word Slacks. How about trousers? How about pants? The word slacks is just evil and makes me recoil every time I hear it. SLACKS! ugh.

4. Jewelry that can be bought at the mall. Who buys this stuff? It is so ugly! It looks like it was crapped out by Santa's least imaginative elf. Under normal circumstances it can be avoided, but the holiday gift giving season means it is in my face every time I watch TV and every time I get the mail. I want to strangle someone with a tennis bracelet.

5. Dark by 4:30. It's just not fair. blah blah seasons, blah blah earth on its axis, blah blah blah. I know that the Winter Solstice is right around the corner, and with it will come longer days - but it can be so overcast here it doesn't really make any kind of immediate difference.

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

| On
Thursday, December 01, 2005

by Aimee Bender #40
I got curious about Aimee Bender after reading a Powell's Review-A-Day on her latest book. The review made comparative mention of Kelly Link , and I am crazy about Kelly Link. I did what anyone would do - surfed on over to the library's website and put this collection (her first, and with the fewest people waiting for it) on hold. I really liked a number of her stories, but as a whole the collection didn't knock me dead like Kelly Link's work has done (to be fair, not much does). Aimee Bender does have a sort of similar feel to Kelly Link - they both deal with imagery and archetypes that are the currency of the collective unconscious. They're more alike than either one of them is like Tom Clancy, for example, but I don't think the comparison is really fair to either one of them. I think Link is a master of metaphor in ways few are. But Bender has great talent in describing visceral emotions like hunger, fear, and desire. Kelly Link's work reminds me of Fairy Tales (in the OMG- the witch ate those babies sense, not necessarily the happily ever after sense) and Aimee Bender reminds me more of Fables (minus the moralizing, which some would say is the point... they're just different, OK?) All right, I will stop this rampant wikipedia abuse and conclude by saying that I really DID enjoy this collection. Particularly the story of the wacked out socialite who... well, just read it. And the one with the mermaid and the imp in highschool, the librarian story, the story about the healer (hand of ice, hand of fire - it reminded me a little bit of the AS Byatt short story about the ice girl), and so on. I know she's got at least one other short story collection, and a full-length novel, both of which I will be searching out.

post nano thoughts: (aka: where are my zombies?)

| On
Thursday, December 01, 2005

Well, I finished! By finish, I of course mean I reached my 50K word goal. Chris Baty really encourages people to try and tie things up within those 50K words, but so far I have been unable to do so all three years I've participated. I've made it to 50K, but not to The End.

I learned several things during this year's event. First, I can come up with 2K words in an hour if I make myself sit there and not go check ten million websites, not get up and change the CD, not get up and get something to drink, etc, etc. Basically, Jane Yolen's secret of writing is true (Butt In Chair). If only I had figured this out from the beginning! Second: coming up with a groovy (to me) scenario, characters I like and endless dialogue is not my problem. Plot is my problem. Chris Baty may say No Plot, No Problem! but after a while, it does become a bit of a sticking point. I thought I had a nano buster! An idea that was word-count proof. ( I should have known, then.) I wanted to do something cheesy fun and adventurish along the lines of Indiana Jones/ Romancing the Stone / Relic Hunter/ The Librarian. You know - fake archaeology, made up treasure, bad guys, bull whips/ irrational costume changes. (OK, I didn't think of the bull whips until right this second) I was attracted to this idea because it was different from my previous attempts, and it seemed like there would be plenty of opportunity to jump to something new ("run! zombies!") when things got sticky. Only problem - my zombies never showed up! Damn their shambling, decomposing hides! Did the arm with the watch fall off? It feels like all I have is endless preamble and no breakneck chases through the jungle. I know part of that is just me figuring out who these people are, but jeez! It is tedious. I think I will put it away for a while and take it out later and see what's what. I didn't look at last year's effort until October of this year. It wasn't nearly as horrible as I remembered it. Sure, it needs a lot of work, but at least there's something to work with - which brings me back to the whole point of nano! Just write it. Sure, it will almost certainly suck - that's kind of the point of the accelerated deadline - you have to write it fast, so there's not as much time to torture yourself. That's what December - October is for!

one year

| On
Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Just about one year ago (it was the 28th! I thought it was the 29th) I made my first post on law of sympathy. I was doing last, LAST minute research for nano in the 1911 Britannica (my grandfather was an encyclopedia salesman, among many other things) and I got side-tracked with the different laws of magic. The Law of Sympathy just resonated as a name and a theory, plus I was procrastinating pretty hard core, so... I'm sure you can see where this is heading. What a difference a year makes! Instead of having 3K words to go for nano, I only have 2K, and I just have to update my blog to procrastinate, not make one from scratch. If you squint at it, that's progress! I'll take it.


| On
Friday, November 25, 2005
I hope that everyone has had or is having a pleasant holiday weekend. There was wonderful food and company at my house. (I was a Turkey Cassandra on the subject of overcooking. Were my warnings heeded? No, they were not. But, to look on the bright side, it allowed us to fully experience the Miracle of Gravy.) I am so grateful for my friends and family. They are all Good Eggs, despite their tin ear for my excellent advice. hee hee.

Today has been a very lazy day indeed. I intended to get an earlier start on catching up on nano (still have about 14K words to do, and only 5 days to do them in), but I tweaked a muscle in my neck and couldn't do anything but recline on the couch with a hot water bottle and watch Sense and Sensibility. (and fall asleep - I missed the whole part where Willoughby is exposed as a cad). It got me thinking about Jane Austen's cads. There are a lot of them - and you can always tell who they are because they are too charming to start with, and the other guy (you know, The One) doesn't like him. Willoughby, Wickham, Mr. Elliot, Frank Churchill (he's a modified cad, but even so...), all of them slick and charming and ultimately lacking in character. I still want to see the new Pride & Prejudice adaptation, but haven't managed it yet. It was a little surprising for me to realize that I think I have seen more rock shows this year than movies. That is one definite change from 2004! I guess since movies are almost as expensive as concerts I feel like I am getting more value for my money with the music. I mean, the movie will be the same (only smaller) on DVD at home, but a concert is a much more interactive experience.

I have decided with only 4/5 days left on nano that it is time to start pulling the crazy stuff out of my brain. I think I'm doing too much thinking, and not enough writing. The whole idea of this exercise is to Get It Down, and then mold it later. This is not about getting it right the first time, or even getting it mostly right. It's about pushing yourself beyond the inner editor who sits in the middle of your head tut tutting and making dramatic sighs, and getting on with the crazy ideas that are stuffed into the crooks and crannies of your gray matter. So, onward to crazy.


| On
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Woo hoo! Since I upgraded my browser, I can now do nifty things like put pictures in posts using the blogger feature. Oh, what a world! This will come in handy for future posts about books and TV and whatnot.

Tonight I go see Fiona Apple (7.00 for a convenience charge? I, for one, find it inconvenient.) But it is Fiona, and it is her first stop on her new tour and I kind of felt like I had to. But that is the last splurgy show for a while. I will be back on the 15 dollars or less wagon. Which is actually a very nice wagon that gets many songs to the dollar.

In nano news, I am further back than I thought I would be, but if I keep plugging along with 2K words a day, I should finish on time. Finish in the sense that I will have 50K words in 30 days, not finish as in being done with it. Although getting it to a point where I can let more than one person read it is on the agenda for the new year. (for real this time, not like the attempted rewrite disaster of aught five). Anyway - here's my word count as of last night:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
33,050 / 50,000

and to top off this festival of random thoughts, here is a Fiona song, followed by a Decemberists' song. They are both here via yousendit, so the links will expire in 7 days.

Paper Bag - Fiona Apple
The Chimbley Sweep - The Decemberists

decemberist's show part III: the decemberists (in 4 parts)

| On
Monday, November 21, 2005
part I
part II

First Part - the crowd: This show was sold out. The Decemberists are a Portland band who have managed to build a big home town following. There was very good energy, even though it was at a venue I despise because it is uncomfortable in almost every regard AND they have draconian security measures to get in....because of the stabbings! (encouraging, no?) It is in Old Town which does not have the most salubrious reputation (in fact, the bus mall, which is the subject of one of the D's songs about youthful hustlers - "On The Bus Mall," for the curious - runs right outside the Roseland). I used to work nearby so the neighborhood isn't as scary to me as it is to some, but it doesn't fill me with happy feelings of delight and well-being every time I scurry through. Not scary, but sketchy - I hope this is a distinction that makes sense outside my head.
The crowd itself was very young, but enthusiastic. I only wanted to get all Kill Bill on about 3 people, which when you consider how many of us were all crammed together isn't bad at all. Mostly, I was filled with affection for everyone because I was so glad to be there and they seemed glad to be there, so it was just a sort of glad-fest! It wasn't just me, either. The guy behind me (who I jumped on once by accident during the Chimbley Sweep) was very nice about it.

second part: the stage: the stage itself was of medium size, although it seemed smaller, somehow, with all of the video recording equipment around. There was a large banner with many birds on it (I believe it was designed by the wonderful Carson Ellis) and there were little fake birds wired to all of the mic stands - fake birds like like I imagine dotty old English ladies wear on their hats when attending vicarage teas or inquests. Sad news for the brain trust standing behind me for the first part of the show: feathers moving in this instance are a sign of air conditioning, not vivacity.
The birds were because The Decemberists' name every leg of their tour - Portland was the last stop on the "Flight of the Mistle Thrushes" tour. Now they are off on the "A Jaunt 'Cross the Pond Tour 2005 " - which is headed to Great Britain, of course. Yes, it is almost too adorable to be borne, yet somehow they pull it off without making me want to roll my eyes forever. That was pretty much it in terms of decor, besides a lot of mic stands and instruments and wires and cameras. The cameras were weird at first - we were standing under the big boom arm of the robotic camera. Eventually, everyone pretty much stopped paying attention to it (except it got right in keyboardist/accordionista extraordinaire Jenny Conlee's face a couple of times and she rightfully flipped it off. I wonder if that will make the DVD)

third part: the band The Decemberists are generally a 6 piece band, but on this night they had their horn section with them, which was fantastic! Colin Meloy sings and plays guitar. He was wearing a red and white striped jacket that made him look like a charming but insane escapee from a barbershop quartet. OKGo is also working the Austin Powers/barbershop look, but they are trending to dandy (god bless their pointy shoes), whereas CM is trending to dorky, which is somehow even more appealing. He is precisely the sort of mushroom-pale, giant-brained, adorable nerd to whom I would have fallen in secret thrall during my college years. The rest of the ensemble is as follows (Hooray for flickr so I can link to all of them!) Chris Funk is a tall gentleman who also plays the guitar (and the banjo, and the hurdy gurdy, and some toy xylophone type thing). Jenny Conlee plays the keyboards and accordion, and also does some important Ghost of Dead Mother harmonizing (and other harmonizing, of course) Petra Hayden plays the violin and sings (along with Jenny Conlee) harmony and also all female ghost parts. She also sometimes performs a version of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights, but she didn't at our show. Nate Query plays both electric and stand-up bass with much finesse. And John Moen plays the drums (and also the sleighbells during the Minus 5's set) and really looks like he loves his job. Individually, I am sure they are all very fine people, but collectively they are marvelous.

fourth part: the show I bought tickets to this show months in advance. My sister kept mentioning what a nice birthday present tickets would be (her b-day is in late October). The last big show they had played in Portland sold out, so we enacted this ongoing drama of her looking up tickets and threatening to buy them herself. I would tell her to knock it off - how is a person supposed to get a surprise present under these conditions, etc, etc. I finally got them the day I bought tickets to see OK Go. Martina also bought a ticket and joined us in hopes of breaking The Curse of The Decemberists (in which she tries to see them perform her favorite number - The Mariner's Revenge Song - and is foiled by circumstance).
As I said earlier, it was a young crowd (lots of under 21's), but with enough of a mix that I did not feel like I was standing in the middle of a high school assembly. We were on the floor in front of the stage, and actually had a pretty good place (and managed to hold on to it) despite the press of hundreds more people. It was really shoulder to shoulder, but for the most part people were pretty decent.
Before I go any further, I feel like I should say a little something about why I like this band as much as I do. It is difficult to sum up, so I think I will resort to a short list:
1) they are smart, but not humorless
2) they sing about pirates, spies, gin-running uncles, dead babies, chimbley sweeps, legionnaires, and so on. Their catalogue is like one long adventure story, yet there is still real feeling and real emotion behind it.
3) They are a Portland band and it is possible that I am responding to some subliminal pdx-sensibility.
4) use of the word 'bombazine', which I feel is criminally underutilized.

When the band came out and started performing their first song, it was one I had never heard before. It was loud, deep, and heavy with lots of vague british-isles imagery. I will confess to thinking they were covering Black Sabbath (I am a metal expert only as far as repeated viewings of VH1's 100 Most Metal Moments, and its sister show 100 Least Metal Moments will allow.) Anyway - it sounded not like what I was expecting at all, but I liked it, even though I was half convinced it was the band goofing on something. It turns out that the song was The Tain, their take on the famous Ulster Cycle . This song is long - they released it as an EP all on its own (which I obviously need to purchase!) After this sort of extended intro, they pounded right into The Infanta which was a very satisfying way to start the show. I know I've nattered on about this idea before - but when you get a crowd who is very into a show, it seems like the band responds with even more, which feeds the's like a wonderful feedback loop where each iteration becomes even more joyful (that sounds dorky, but it's true). I'll be interested to watch the DVD when it comes out and see if it is even something that can be photographed, or if it is something that has to be experienced. Maybe there is something in the air.
Unfortunately, all those happy, sweaty, jumping people made the air inside the venue Very Hot. I think it was right before The Sporting Life, Colin said that they were about half-way through and led the audience in a round of "Rock Show Calisthenics." Right after the stretches and in the beginning of the next song, disaster struck our party. Martina was overcome by the heat. The dastardly Decemberist Curse had struck again! She went to go find someplace to try and get some air and missed her beloved The Mariner's Revenge Song. Of course now it is our sworn duty to break the curse by attending as many Decemberists shows as it takes. The Mariner's Revenge Song is a terrific closer - it is long, it builds and builds, there is audience participation (screaming like you've been eaten by a whale, the irresistible impulse to sway back and forth like the audience is also on a ship in pursuit of vengeance), and a big finish. The band left the stage, but they didn't make us stand out in the crowd and hoot and cheer for too terribly long before they came back out for the encore, which consisted of The Chimbley Sweep (fantastic!) and I Was Meant for the Stage during which the lead singer from the Minus 5 came out and played guitar. This song devolved into chaos (although I suspect similar chaos has happened before) as band members switched instruments, noodled along in 'if it had been one minute longer I would have stopped having fun, but it didn't so it's ok' mini-jam sessions, and finally ended with Jenny Conlee ripping the birds off the microphones and throwing them into the audience. Suddenly set lists, guitar picks, and Mistle Thrush props that were not nailed down were all sailing out into the audience. What really got people into a feeding frenzy though, was when the WHALE puppet from TMR song was thrown into the audience. Poor whale. He was pretty well ripped asunder by the crowd. Those jaws will never be reunited.

All in all (curses aside), it was a fantastic show. I think we'll definitely go see Colin Meloy's solo show in January, and be on the look out for the next Decemberist's concert and the DVD of our show!

Here's a set list (that I copied from the D's message board)

The Tain
The Infanta
The Soldiering Life
July, July*
Leslie Ann Levine
We Both Go Down Together
The Engine Driver
On the Bus Mall
Eli, the Barrow Boy
Colin Solo: Every Day is Like Sunday
The Sporting Life
16 Military Wives
Mariner's Revenge

Chimbley Sweep
I Was Meant For the Stage

* nobody was quite sure where July, July fit in on the list.

around and around

| On
Friday, November 18, 2005
down, down, down

Ha ha! So much for predicting "oh, I will have no time for blogging during november," or, "so much time, it is rideeeculous." Clearly, (as I have always suspected) I have NO IDEA what I am talking about!

As is usually the case, I am almost done with eleventy hundred things. So - coming soon - the final part of my Decemberists' concert experience (the part with Decemberists). Maybe I can get it done before the next show I go to. What a thrilling new concept!
I would be much further ahead with not only this, but nano, if I hadn't taken that ill-considered side trip down HTML alley. I got the notion that I should really re-do my garden journal so that it will support wider pictures without spilling all over the edge. It was nothing fancy - just changing the colors on an existing (but different from the one I've got) template. And yet. Many fruitless hours later (after the hissing, the cursing, and recriminations) I decided that perhaps that is a project best left for another time

PS: this picture is from inside the Cape Blanco lighthouse along the Oregon coast.

very interesting

| On
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
A quick note before I return to the intricate demands of my new and improved nanowrimo plan - There is a great guest blog piece today over at by Damian Kulash of OK Go. This post is dealing with DRM, inefficient, hamfisted copy protection measures, and the realities of how they effect a working band.


| On
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Bandit Queen Boogie: A Madcap Caper of Two Accidental Criminals, by Sparkle Hayter #38
I have missed Sparkle Hayter! I liked Bandit Queen Boogie a lot - it was fast and fun and slightly felonious. I really admire the way that Hayter is able to write these caper-style novels. BQB is simultaneously completely over the top, and totally believable. I think a lot of this is because she writes such great female characters. For example, both Blackie and Chloe are funny, wrong, right, nice, mean, selfish, generous, tough and vulnerable... you get the idea. They are relateable - even as they do things I'd never do. I need to read her next book - Naked Brunch - it looks like it might be even more fun. I am still missing her character Robin Hudson, but it looks like I won't have to be missing her for long... I just checked her website, and it looks like there will be a new Robin Hudson book. Yay! Sparkle Hayter also keeps a blog, which makes me love her even more.

Live Bait by PJ Tracy #39 - This is the followup novel to Monkeewrench, which I just read not that long ago. I enjoyed this one, but not as much as the first. There are several reasons I can think of: 1) I didn't wait long enough. If I had waited 6 months or a year, it probably would have been fine to dip back into that universe and not be disappointed with who is or isn't there. 2) It was summer in the novel. For some reason, Minneapolis in the summer is a lot less interesting to me than Minneapolis in the winter. Unless Prince was having a BBQ, and then I would be all over Minneapolis in the summer. Alas, he did not- at least not in this book. 3) I had totally imagined Magozzi all wrong! (I know writers don't spell too much out and let people meet them halfway, but don't go adding distinctive handlebar mustaches or whatnot late in the game because it will mess with my head). 4) Nazis.

the sun has come out

| On
Monday, November 14, 2005
Woo Hoo! The sun is out!! I kicked nano's ass this morning (am still not caught up, but I have a plan). Things are looking good. I have miles of stuff to do, but it feels less oppressive than it did even yesterday. I credit the plan.

Now, because it is dorky and involves iTunes, I present to you the latest blog/LJ meme that is sweeping the nation: Here are the directions so you can play at home:

Set your iPod/iTunes on shuffle and use each song as it comes up in order to answer the following questions:

(for the record, this is from iTunes, party shuffle feature.) This is like Magic 8-ball, iTunes style, which means for some I will nod along and admire its sagacity, others are just puzzlers and deserve to get the 'shake and try again' treatment.

Question: What do you think of me, iTunes?
Grace Cathedral Hill - The Decemberists all dust and stone and moribund Oh, iTunes... How about these lyrics instead we were both a little hungry, so we went to get a hot dog. That sounds more like it.

Question: Will I have a happy life?
Pretty Liar - Jude : ummm, yes? OK, maybe not according to the lyrics of this song, but let's just take the title. I will have to brush up (since I am in my annual late fall frump and also a terrible liar), but I will do my best. The music is really pretty, though! And I am not going to let some so-called "random" program dictate my happiness. (although it makes me happy a lot)

Question: What do my friends really think of me?
Millennium - Robbie Williams: All I can think of when I hear this song is the video, which was a hilarious James Bond (Connery era) send-up. Including jet-pack. I can live with it.

Question: Do people secretly lust after me?
California Rules - Je Suis France: the sweetest ocean breeze/ fills your chest/ so come on, come on/ come on come on. I think this means if people aren't people should!

Question: What should I do with my life?
The Venga Bus - Venga Boys: There are only three possibilities according to this answer: 1)party 2) party 3) get commercial driver's license so that I might become a cross-country party bus driver.

Question: Why must life be so full of pain?
Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve: ha ha! it doesn't really answer the question, but ask it again. At least you can have symphonic pop pain, which does mitigate, IMO.

Question: How can I maximize my pleasure during sex?
Very Funny - The Magnetic Fields: You're a cheeky monkey, iTunes.

Question: Will I die happy?
Portland Oregon (with Jack White) - Loretta Lynn: Portland Oregon and sloe gin fizz/ if that ain't love I don't know what is- I dunno - if you take away the barfly overtones, I think it sounds pretty happy to me! I lost my mind in Oregon.

Question: Can you give me some advice?
Friday Night - The Darkness: clearly, I need more hobbies. Monday rowing/ Tuesday badminton /Dancing on a Friday night/ I got ping pong on Wednesday/ Needlework on Thursday/ Dancing on a Friday night/ With you, with youuuu

Question: What do you think happiness is?
Let it Rain - OK Go: Oh, man. this is SAD. This is a depressed song. I will use it though, and say that happiness is probably the opposite of this song.

Question: Am I complete freak?
Last train to Clarksville - the Monkees. This obviously means NO. Monkee-haters are the freaks. I take this also as vindication that Mickey Dolenz is the better Monkee singer.

...look over there!

| On
Friday, November 11, 2005
Sharpie, I love you

see the pretty colors? sigh. So - today's/tonight's nano update is I did not do nearly as much as I had planned, but I did do some mapping out of where I'm headed with these very sharpies. Tomorrow/today* is another day!

*in my mind, it isn't the next day after midnight, it is the next day after I go to sleep and wake up again. This causes all sorts of problems.

I also spent a little bit of time over at Pitchfork reading record reviews. Not for the faint of heart. When they like something, they really like it. When they don''s not pretty, but often funny. Unless you really love the thing they are thrashing. Caveat lector!

more happy distractions

| On
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Today and tomorrow I am determined to catch up on nano. If I say so out loud and write it down, maybe it will be harder for me to weasel out of it (usually true). To mark my good intentions (and good mood), I am going to try putting up an Old 97's song that makes me smile. I'm using yousendit, so it is good for 7 days or 25 downloads, whichever comes first (7 days would be my guess). Anyway, here it is: Indefinitely.

obligatory nano update

| On
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
where I should be (for bare minimum 1667 words per day):
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
13,336 / 50,000

where I am:
Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
11,125 / 50,000

Not too bad, all told. This November fortunately has 4 full weekends in it, so as long as I don't get too far back, I know I will make it up. I've been trying the recommended technique of just working on it really hard in concentrated 1 hour bursts. This works better for easily distracted me. I close all my other programs and just write. I can still waste time like nobody's business, I just really try not to for one puny hour.

I swear, Nano is like mugging your own imagination. You jump out from behind the bushes at this idea you had one time, take the valuables and run like hell for 30 days.

* what is up with blogger eating posts?

decemberist's show part II: the minus 5

| On
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
The Minus 5!

I knew nothing about The Minus 5 before seeing them live, except for their AMG biography, which is not hugely helpful if you've never heard any of it. What a great surprise! The first song sounded very brit-popish and made me think of the Austin Powers soundtracks (which is a good thing, as far as I'm concerned). Somewhere around the middle of their set, though, they had a song that sounded like it was being sung by the devil (the devil who sits on ones shoulder and makes inappropriate suggestions, which if one follows one will almost certainly be filled with regret, yet one does not care because the devil makes a persuasive argument.) Here is where I had my Minus 5 epiphany. They are so much more than the sum of their (supergroup) parts! They are one of the few who have the hotline to that sexually charged and wildly flailing energy of rock music that so many try for but don't quite reach. Or at least they had the number on Nov. 4, 2005. I don't know why, I don't know how. It's alchemy.

side notes:

+ the drummer is awesome

+ why is it that some rock dudes (like say, the Minus 5) will let their hair go grey and who cares- but politicians and the media (Trent Lott and Mike Wallace, I'm looking at you) insist on shoe-polish black long after it is reasonable? I mean, if your face looks like crepe paper, you're fooling nobody with your blue-black hair! (I guess one could argue right back at me with Steven Tyler and Anderson Cooper - but at least Steven Tyler has highlights put in so it's not just BLACK)

+Hey - that's Peter Buck from R.E.M.! I wonder if it feels weird or what for him to play venues this small? The people in the crowd are RIGHT THERE.

the mumbles- they fight crime!

| On
Sunday, November 06, 2005
The Decemberist's Concert Review part 1

You know - I think I had it all backwards. Nano will lead to MORE blogging, not less. I don't know what I was thinking. So, on to my subject - The Decemberist's concert on the 4th was pretty amazing. It is probably one of my top 3 concerts ever. (I'm still debating, and since they were filming it for a live concert DVD, I guess at some point I will be able to re-evaluate)

Part one - The Opening Act

Let us not talk of standing in line around the block in the rain, only to get to the metal detector and realize that I would have to run my camera back to the car through sketchy town. Nor shall we dwell on the metal detector and the pat down (I came up clean, in case you were wondering). Let us get straight to the music.

Band 1: I have since learned they are called Blanket Music (see link above) and are up and coming twee superstars. Hooray for them! But, since either the sound was muddy or they are just natural born mumblers, I never heard who they were that night. So, I called them The Mumbles. I really think this is a better band name than Blanket Music, but it probably doesn't have that twee cachet, so I'll live with my disappointment...but not before I reveal my master marketing plan for The Mumbles!! First, they need a cartoon show where they solve crimes (not unlike Scooby Doo), and then sing a song at the end of every episode (not unlike Fat Albert). This would be a huge hit, I tell you!! It all maps perfectly - Lead Singer Mumbles with his pale and earnest face peeking out from a black turtleneck looked like a youth pastor prepping for the hootenanny following a hay ride - he can be the serious one who talks to the police. Floppy-haired, striped-shirt, bass-player Mumbles (my co-favorite) looked like nothing made him happier than jumping around and being bass-player guy - he can talk to witnesses and get them to confess things. Bearded Keyboard Mumbles (my other co-favorite who actually didn't mumble at all) can be the one who talks to the criminal element since he looked the 'scruffiest.' Drummer Mumbles - I am sorry I have no part for you! From where I was standing I couldn't see you at all. Maybe Deus ex Machina Mumbles who shows up at the end with the answer to the problem of the week, everyone has a belly-laugh and then starts playing the final song? Maybe something more glamorous. In any case none of this will work if you insist on calling yourselves Blanket Music. Seriously though, they were fun, even though the sing-along "I Love You" chorus went on a little long. Pay no mind to the jerk standing behind me hurling insults. He'll get what's coming to him when we cast him as the idiot villain in the Case of the Insensitive Heckler. Don't worry, I remember what he looks like.

done/ to do

| On
Friday, November 04, 2005
+ put air in tires during monsoon rains that will stop unbeknownst to me in 30 minutes. ( DONE - at least it stopped raining)

+read entire internet to see if it will somehow result in today's nano words being written effortlessly. (DONE - result was unsatisfactory, however)

+ use brush on three ill-conceived pincurls and give self unflattering white-girl fro (DONE - thank god for fro-flattening monsoon rains!)

+ eat all but the last two spoonfuls of ice cream. (DONE. I know it was an evil thing to do, but I had evil hair)

+ have brilliantly fun time at the sold-out Decemberists show tonight (TO DO! HOORAY!)

+ try on all clothes in closet to assemble most satisfactory rock-show ensemble (HALF DONE! what was I thinking, is all I can say to some of the things hanging in there)

+ actually write today's nano quota (TO DO: although this might get rolled into tomorrow's words since I realized why I hit the wall (long boring story involving a nano notebook and the intricacies of my latest 'that might work' scheme for writing))

+ waste time writing list and blogging it (ALMOST DONE!)

tree post

| On
Thursday, November 03, 2005

This was yesterday. Today that tree probably only has about half as many leaves since it has been raining more or less all day, and is likely to continue for a week. It's raining less than a monsoon, less than a world-ending flood - but rather than making me feel fortunate like it probably should (huzzah! the city has not flooded!) that knowledge wraps around me like a wet miserable towel. Bleh. But pretty tree!

lost and found

| On
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
So, I thought I would try to maintain at least a couple posts a week, despite the fact that I am participating in NaNoWriMo. Big talk from someone just wrapping up the first day, I know! But rather than dive right in to all my nano 05 strategies immediately (since they have not been tested beyond 24 hours), I thought I would post something from my "hey - blog about that someday" file. Today's topic: Abandoned, or lost and found.

1. First up, a link to some atmospheric photos of an abandoned amusement park in Japan. I understand that there are actually several abandoned theme parks there (like in Spirited Away). Check it out here. It's all in Japanese, but the pictures speak for themselves well enough if you don't happen to read Japanese.

2. Secondly, the Derelict London site is very interesting. I've spent a lot of time there just looking at the disused railway line. It's addictive, and I'm not sure why.

3. Britain's Cold War Underground City, is also worth reading about. There are no pictures, but it is intriguing nonetheless. It has 60 miles of road and it's own railway station. And it's for sale! It makes me think of Neverwhere a little bit.

4. Found Magazine, is always an interesting distraction. A good place to go if you're not sure whether you want to laugh or cry - it's even bets which you'll get after a few items.

5. This site is one that I love - it's called Look At Me, and it is a home for unidentified photos of people looking at the camera. I really like this site, although it makes me a bit melancholy. I rescued a group of pictures from an estate sale many years ago of a couple who did a lot of exotic traveling during the 1920's - Egypt, Sri Lanka, Thailand - on sailboats, elephants, and rikshaws. Why anyone would let those go for 5 cents each is a mystery to me, but I'm glad I've got them. I guess I could send them in - there's a great one of the two of them on board a ship. Anyway - this site actually could be a huge nano help if ever a person were in need of a visual to prompt writing.

Happy Halloween!

| On
Monday, October 31, 2005
pumpkin head

In honor of Halloween - since I am not dressing up this year, I feel like I should do something to commemorate it besides watch The Nightmare Before Christmas over and over (Go here for a TNBC wallpaper) - a poem. So in celebration, here is a Halloween Giant -Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. It's a classic for a reason! Dig those interior rhymes! Read it out loud, have fun, eat candy, and creep yourself out.

The Raven
by Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
" 'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow, sorrow for the lost Lenore,.
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,
Nameless here forevermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me---filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
" 'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door,
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door.
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is, I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you." Here I opened wide the door;---
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word,
Lenore? , This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word,
"Lenore!" Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping, something louder than before,
"Surely," said I, "surely, that is something at my window lattice.
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.
Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore.
" 'Tis the wind, and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven, of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door.
Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door,
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly, grim, and ancient raven, wandering from the nightly shore.
Tell me what the lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore."
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered;
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before;
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster, till his songs one burden bore,---
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never---nevermore."

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore --
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl, whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee -- by these angels he hath
Sent thee respite---respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore:
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me I implore!"
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil--prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden, whom the angels name Lenore---
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! -- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door! "
Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming.
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted---nevermore!

Baby Draculas

| On
Sunday, October 30, 2005
For Halloween eve, here is one of my favorite Charles Simic poems. (It could be for any other day, really, but it has baby Draculas, so why not?)

My Beloved
after D. Khrams

In the fine print of her face
Her eyes are two loopholes.
No, let me start again.
Her eyes are flies in milk,
Her eyes are baby Draculas.

To hell with her eyes.
Let me tell you about her mouth.
Her mouth's the red cottage
Where the wolf ate grandma.

Ah, forget about the mouth,
Let me talk about her breasts.
I get a peek at them now and then
And even that's more than enough
To make me lose my head,
So I better tell you about her legs.

When she crosses them on the sofa
It's like the jailer unwrapping a parcel
And in that parcel is a Christmas cake
And in that cake a sweet little file
That gasps her name as it files my chains.

- Charles Simic


| On
Friday, October 28, 2005
by P.J. Tracy #37

I liked this book. PJ Tracy (a mother/daughter writing team) crafted a group of characters that I really want to meet up with again, which is always a good sign in my world. Part of it may be that I was reading it concurrent to watching The Wire Season 2 (OMG - so good, I can't even tell you), so I already was in cop-land. This is a good thing since all but about 6 characters in this book were cops. Not Baltimore cops (that would probably not work and be weird when watching The Wire), but Minneapolis cops and rural Wisconsin cops. In fact, I had a hard time telling some of these cops apart for the first few chapters (but that problem resolved pretty quickly). The mystery itself was pretty strong and kept me guessing. I got all worked up at one point so certain they were going to do this one thing I can't stand (I won't say what so I don't spoil anything)- but they avoided it and came up with something different, but plausible. The authors are also very skilled in setting up the environment. I live in Portland. It hardly ever gets very cold here. The world stops when it gets below 20 degrees. They are dealing with SERIOUS cold in this book, and I love reading about how they live with it (and even how it can affect crime fighting). Anyway - I have already put their next book on hold at the library.

happy birthday to my sister!

| On
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Hey Bec - happy birthday! Despite the fact that you constantly got me in trouble (entrapment!) when we were little, I think you are one groovy younger sister, and I hope you have as much happiness as you can stand in your future.

Happy Birthday Bec!

I finally noodled around with the Mosaic Maker, and it is dangerously fun. Expect to see more mosaics in the future.

books and readings (neil gaiman related)

| On
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The Sandman Companion : a dreamer's guide to the award-winning comics series.

by Hy Bender #36

It's probably been about a year since I finally finished the Sandman comics. I was getting them from the library one at a time, but I read the last 3 books right up next to each other (or maybe it was the last 2, plus one of the specials they did afterwards). This companion book is really great - he does a book by book breakdown, gives an overview, notes some special things to look for, and then has an interview with Neil Gaiman about each section. I loved finding out what some of his inspirations were for various storylines - he seemingly has read and recalls everything ever written (and how sometimes it was just a time crunch, or a good friend, or a joke), and I liked the insight into how a comic goes together - it's very collaborative, even with a writer who leaves such detailed instruction for the pencilers (and inkers and colorists and letterers). Anyway, this is a lovely companion if you enjoyed the Sandman books. When I finally acquire those (apart from just borrowing from the library), I will want to acquire this companion as well.

This all reminds me of going to the Neil Gaiman reading which as I mentioned a week ago I had forgotten most of! But I found my scrap of paper and can hit the highlights, I think.
* the reading took place in a beautiful old stone church right on the South Park Blocks downtown.
* prize given for the furthest traveled to see NG : some signed statue thing went to a woman who had ridden up from Ashland (bottom of the state) to Portland (top of the state) on the BUS!
* the reading/ Question and Answer session was exactly one hour long - this included about 10 minutes of directions of what he could and couldn't sign, and about how long people could expect to be in line (up to 4 hours!). This made me wonder the thing I am perpetually wondering about how artists, writers, and musicians are also expected to be PR people, marketers, etc these days. It's not enough to produce wonderful art for the world to enjoy, I guess.
*He read from his new novel Anansi Boys. he said that in order to prevent burnout, he's been reading from a new section every night. Our night was about karaoke, and it was very fine indeed. Anecdote: he had somehow managed to get to the podium without a copy to read from, and a nice person from the audience jumped up and offered her copy...
* ...which reminds me: we got there about an hour early, and I was one of the few people who had NOT brought or bought something to read (so I had to amuse myself looking around, which was no difficulty). I told my sister that we were in Nerd Church. (I would go to nerd church every week, for sure). all the pews had the majority of the people sitting in it with their heads down in a book.
*after the reading, NG took questions. One persistent question was about a movie version of Good Omens, which he said had been almost ready to film but for a tiny bit of financing. Johnny Depp was set to play Crowley (there was an audible gasp in the sanctuary at this revelation), Terry Gilliam was to direct. Unfortunately, the timing was bad - a movie about the end of the world looking for financing at the end of 2001. Anyway - he said that it wasn't quite dead yet, but that it was in a "glass coffin surrounded by dwarves." So here's hoping! I think it would be a very fun movie.
* My note about the "whittering on woodland animals tribulations with jam" - I still don't remember what this was all about
* He also talked about the fact that he had kept the rights for a Death movie. That Death: The High Cost of Living was just about the right story arc for a feature, it just needed to be embiggened. He kept it for himself because that way he has the most control and could prevent things like the casting of Angelina Jolie as Death.
* another note I felt compelled to take (who knows why): "disembodied hands skittering around are creepy" - oh! I remember now. there was an 11 year old girl there who asked a very smart question about Coraline.
* my last note (which was actually my first note) says "blockbuster comic book guy" which I now remember was some guy (let's call him comic book guy) passed the long, wrapped-around the building line) and said "I've never actually stood in line for a blockbuster before!"

It was quite the experience. I thought he was a very engaging reader and seemed very solicitous of his fans. He knows he's huge, but managed to be reasonable and kind about it, which is not a given.

spooky trees

| On
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

OK - probably not spooky unless you are a big old scardey-pants like me. And they aren't scary in the daytime, but I imagine they would be *really* scary at night with ghostly scraps of gauze fluttering in the branches, the pounding of the ocean in the intermittent moonlight. etc. etc. It is getting to be Halloween season, and also Bec's birthday week! I shall endeavor to find a more birthdayish picture for later.

franco-klezmer-soul-indie- hiphop-mixture!

| On
Monday, October 24, 2005
Hooray for houseguests. No really. I am so glad that everyone came to visit during October, but I am equally glad that everyone is now tucked away in their own houses far, far away. In celebration of this (and because I should be working on my nano outline among other things), I am going to write up my latest CD mix! The franco-klezmer-soul-indie-hip hop- mixture! (I haven't come up with any kind of clever name, obviously) Anyway, this is one I did with a friend in mind and also a few songs that I had been trying to wrangle for months.

1.Alpha Beta Gaga (Mark Ronson vocal remix) - Air This song has a crazy mix of hip-hop rhyming, ringing bells, jaunty whistles, and... it is well nigh irresistible.

2. Ces Bottes sont faites pour marcher (these boots are made for walking) - Eileen I love this because it is such a fake-out! It sounds exactly like the Nancy Sinatra version, except - en francais! C'est bon.

3. Nifty's Freilach - Naftule Brandwein - I can't remember which mp3 blog I got this from. When I got it, it was unlike anything else in my collection. Even though I haven't heard (or at least listened closely) to much klezmer, this piece really called out to me - so much so that I had to figure out how to get it on a mix. answer: shoehorn!

4. Seven One Eight - Fannypack - From Fluxblog This has a very insistent beat, and JUMP ROPE RHYMES! NC-17 jump rope rhymes to boot. Here's a G Rated sample: you get rude in your underoos/ so so moved by my rap haikus. Hee hee hee. I think I might get tired of 12 songs like this right in a row, but I love, love, love this one.

5. Get Ur Freak On - Missy Elliot w/ Nelly Furtado REMIX - I don't actually prefer this to the original, but it is a version my friend hadn't heard before, and Nelly does bring her own thing to it. This was from the Tombraider soundtrack.

6. Sadder Day - McKay - this is a great soul/electronica style mix. Plus, I like that with the way many Americans enunciate, Sadder Day and Saturday are pronounced exactly the same. I got this from The Number One Songs in Heaven, and he describes the sound much better than I can (always), so you should go read about it there.

7. Jessica - Adam Green Hee hee. Jessica Simpson, where has your love gone? It's not in your music/ Jessica, Jessica Simpson, you've got it all wrong and this came out ages before her TV show! I saw Adam Green open for Badly Drawn Boy - I remember this song more than any other one I heard that night. (what that says about me, I'm not quite sure) Go here to watch the video. (It will open right up in Quicktime. If you want to watch it some other way just google 'jessica adam green') There is ping pong! and an orchestra.

8. Wraith Pinned to the Mist (and other games) - Of Montreal - I might have put this one on another mix too. It's possible - I am crazy about it, as I have recently stated here. it seems too lovely to be true/ but the best things always do.

9. Sitting in the Park - Georgie Fame - this is just a beautiful song and one of the best examples of blue-eyed soul I can think of. (but I don't exactly have an encyclopedic knowledge of B-ES, so feel free to enlighten me). This song just rolls along and sounds just like a warm summer afternoon.

10. Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive - Jon Rauhouse & Kelly Hogan - I saw these two perform this before my perfect and idyllic Old 97's concert last year (almost exactly a year ago). It was so good live, but the recorded version does not disappoint. Kelly Hogan has a huge, generous voice. Plus, I like this song a ton already because it has handy reminders for life: bring joy up to the maximum, bring blues down to the minimum

11. Sista Social Theme Song - Menomena This one starts off like some guy playing piano in the mall and gives me that sinking "oh no" feeling, but then an organ comes in and it all turns around to become something that sounds very much like the Electric Mayhem from the Muppet Show might be playing it. Which gives me that "oh yay!" feeling. Although maybe my imagination is too influenced by their name. From the PDX Pop Now! CD.

12. God Slick - Hank - I know I've put this on another mix too, (after rummaging around the internet - yes! this one). I still love it. They sound like they have been marched to the edge of the sanity plank, but they're not bitter.

13. Jon E Storm - Dog Ruff What's not to like? Bratty girl vocals about a comic book character delivered over a super-fast beat is not something you hear every day. Jon E Storm human torch/ I'm burning up I'm burning up/ naked flame, licking me/ I'm burning up , I'm burning up

14. School - Masta Killa - this has an incessantly speeding up beat, as well as the powerfully addictive Wu-Tang chiming in the background. (and very skillful rhyming - I can't help but think it is harder to adjust the rhythm like he does here than to just go at a steady clip). oOoh, I just read that Masta Killa is "the most mysterious Wu-Member." which predictably makes me like it even more.

15. Go Go Power - Sugar Pie De Santo. Besides having one of the great names of all time (she will go in my name hall of fame with Lefty Frizell and Zoot Sims) she does have go go power! This song defies all powers of keeping still. I'm gonna get up from my seat/ shout when I feel that beat/ dance in my stocking feet/ dance till the crack of dawn

16. The Untold Story - MyG Feat. Mikah 9, Sleep, Zelle Rock- This is also from the PDX Pop Now! compilation. I picked this because it has the klezmer-y clarinet that fits within my framework, but it also sounds like hip-hoppy middle-eastern pop. Like I flipped the channel at 2AM and hit the international channel and can't look away from Iranian music videos. excellent.

17. Change Clothes - Jay Z (Danger Mouse) - I put this on another mix Ideeho, but it is so good! It goes with everything. This is one of Jay-Z's more lighthearted efforts - I love LOVE the erratic "wooo!'s," Danger Mouse plays it over the harpsichord part of The Beatles Piggies song. To read about it sounds like the most ridiculous thing ever, but it works. Is that necessary?

18. La Breeze - Simian - from Fluxblog, I learned that this song became popular and was in an advertisement in France. From myself, I think the repeated here it comes build up and break off sounds an awful lot like the start of the Monkee's TV show theme! Anyway, this all adds up to Must Listen To Repeatedly. The build up does pay off, trust me!

19. Is this Love? - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! Man, they have an exclamation point in their name - it feels like I've found my people! The singer for CYHSY! has a... hmmm... non-traditional singing voice, which I also adore - he sounds like he took a big hit on a helium balloon (in the shape of a gorilla in a tutu), ran around in circles, jumped on a trampoline, ran through a field of daisies or other allergens, and then right up to the microphone to deliver important news. And we can do the zarathustra /We can do the broken fist /We can tear down all the borders /Or abbreviate the list

20. Freilechs Von Der Chuppe - Shicky Gnarowitz & the Transparent Wings of Joy - Transparent Wings of Joy? I loved it before I heard it!! Fortunately for the recipients of this mix, the song lives up to the name. Like School and a couple of others, it speeds considerably from the beginning to the end. I also like that there is a lot of crazy cowboy style "yeee haww!" hooting in the background of this very traditional style song. Also from the PDX Pop Now! compilation.

21. Like a Feather - Nikka Costa - this song represents my first successful appeal to the iTunes music store. Back in 2002 when it came out, they didn't have it. I wrote a letter, and three short years later, they delivered! Don't ever let anyone tell you that crackpot letter writing doesn't see results. I love the fast handclaps, and the crazy bass line. Oh, hell. I just like it all (and I was going to make a quilt based on the light pattern in the video. it's all coming back to me now!)

22. La Fin Du Monde - Francoiz Breut - just lovely. I have no idea what she's singing about (the end of the world, but what about it?), but she can keep doing it! This song also changes up the tempo at least twice. It starts sounding like one thing, morphs into another (with backup singer), and then ends in a handclappy indie pop place. I love that place.