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traveling brain itch

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I have the brain itch again!

It's not the exciting or exotic eureka! brain itch of many good ideas, just regular recipe drive myself crazy brain itch. You know the kind where you can't settle down and actually do anything because Oh My God, my brain itches!?? Like that. I wish I could blame it entirely on the stress of the election or the economy imploding or my byzantine work circumstances or the change in season or various other reality cudgels, but I think those things just ACCENTUATE some natural state of agitation that travels around the world like a virus, persecuting the innocent and absentminded. Fair warning: by the time I can talk about the brain itch, its effect is lessening. You might be next!

One thing that helps is crossing things off of a list, and one of the things on my list is getting the stuff I have checked out from the library down to under sixty items. (it is currently holding strong at 76. This is INSANITY.) Some of this stuff I've been holding onto because I think "I want to post about this!" -- so I'm going to try to do that in the coming days. (ha ha! No, really! It could totally happen!! )

Unrelated, OR IS IT???: I have spent some time this evening sorting out my goodreads ratings. I was using three stars for almost everything, which rendered three stars almost worthless. Sometimes half stars would be handy. Anyway. I'm coming to embrace "it was okay" (two stars) as a perfectly reasonable rating. I have also noticed a weird thing where I'm really reluctant to give a 5 star rating unless it's an art book or maybe poetry. What's up with that? I guess I shouldn't be surprised since I do the exact same thing with itunes/ipod ratings. (one star is an emergency DELETE THIS ASAP code, but otherwise things fall into the 3-4 star rating. As with books, this is not particularly helpful.)

oops. gotta go to bed. brain itching less already. (blog post was on list! now I just have to change my sheets (also on list) and then I think I will actually be able to go to sleep.)

what are you watching tonight?

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Friday, September 26, 2008
You pay for the whole seat, but you'll only need the edge!

Debates are ON! for now.

The world has gone MAD, up is down and down is up, but these letterpress posters make me laugh. Available here and here. (click on images to enlarge)

As much as those make me laugh -- I esp. like the Snake Charmers vs. the Beltway Windbags! -- I hope the sentiment of the posters below is what wins the day. Available (for free) here. (via d.Sharp Journal )

toot toot

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Monday, September 22, 2008
at the fair

photo note: this picture is from the state fair. I think the "toot toot the clown club" was comprised of face painters, but I can't really remember now. They either painted faces or made quickie drawings where everyone is a "cartoon" version of themselves, except it's more like every man, woman, and child looks just like every other man, woman, or child but for hair color or glasses or a giant piercing through the nose. For the sake of convenience, let's say it was face (and body) painting.

medical report: I have a cold. Big deal, I know. It came on suddenly -- I got home from work yesterday and was like "man, I am really tired. I am sick and tired. Oh no, I'm sick!!" and promptly fell asleep for 10 hours. I had to work a weird 5 hour shift today, but I was doped up with dayquil and it went okay until I was on my way home and started sneezing my head off which prompted all of my face holes to start leaking at once. (gross and miserable, but true!)

you don't say: I've been reading Donald Barthelme's Sixty Stories. They are very good and I'm enjoying them so much, but I can't read too many at a time. They are funny and wonderful and complicated, but too rich to read all at once. (although not all of them, but that is the beauty of SIXTY STORIES! If I don't like one, there are 59 more.) ANYWAY, you know how it is sometimes: you read something and you think "it's so weird to be reading this now due to how it relates directly to current events, such as, say, a huge economic disaster!!" That's what happened to me this morning when I read The Rise of Capitalism. Keep in mind that this is but a small section of many other sections in the story, keep in mind that this was written well over 20 years ago, keep in mind that this isn't the last time I'll be talking about Barthelme, because I've been marking things down on my bookmark as I go along. However, the time is now for this one:

p. 201, Penguin Classic Version. (this page is omitted from the Google Books Preview, I must assume because this page is so awesome.)

Capitalism arose and took off its pajamas. Another day, another dollar. Each man is valued at what he will bring in the marketplace. Meaning has been drained from work and assigned instead of remuneration. Unemployment obliterates the world of the unemployed individual. Cultural underdevelopment of the worker, as a technique of domination, is found everywhere under late capitalism. Authentic self-determination by individuals is thwarted. The false consciousness created and catered to by mass culture perpetuates ignorance and powerlessness. Strands of raven hair floating on the surface of the Ganges...Why can't they clean up the Ganges? If the wealthy capitalists who operate the Ganges wig factories could be forced to install sieves, at the mouths of their plants...And now the sacred Ganges is choked with hair, and the river no longer knows where to put its flow, and the moonlight on the Ganges is swallowed by the hair, and the water darkens. By Vishnu! This is an intolerable situation! Shouldn't something be done about it?

last paragraph:

p.202 Smoke, rain, abulia. What can the concerned citizen do to fight the rise of capitalism, in his own community? Study of the tides of conflict and power in a system in which there is structural inequality is an important task. A knowledge of European intellectual history since 1789 provides a useful background. Information theory offers interesting new possibilities. Passion is helpful, especially those types of passion which are nonlicit. Doubt is a necessary precondition to meaningful action. Fear is the great mover, in the end.

Marie Antoinette

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Friday, September 19, 2008
Marie Anoinette/ Sofia Coppola 2006

I liked this movie! I haven't read much about it, but I know from doing some googling for images that there was a really mixed reaction when it came out -- boos at Cannes, charges of excessive frivolity, shallowness, boo hoo princess (aimed equally at Coppola as Antoinette as far as I can tell), too like a music video, etc. etc. I acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons for disliking it (how generous I am to allow for people having their own opinions!), although the one I keep circling back to is "I was expecting something else." If you were hoping for Lost in Translation Goes Versailles, you might be disappointed (although this movie continues to examine the loneliness that was at the heart of LiT, it does not have Bill Murray singing karaoke or Scarlett in her underpants); if you were hoping for a gritty prequel to Les Miserables, no luck! The angry torch and pitchfork wielding mob is alluded to, but rarely seen. (I think you see all of it in the trailer.) I grudgingly allow that if you were hopping up and down for something somber, traditional, political, weighted with the lead cloak of 100% historical accuracy-- the presence of music by Bow Wow Wow or Siouxsie and the Banshees might strike you like the laughter of GWB strikes me. (UNBEARABLE.)

Don't get me wrong -- I love history, I love political intrigues and all that jazz. ("all that jazz": a term often used in historiography.) But I LOVE that Coppola didn't choose to tell this story in that way. Instead she focused on the girl/woman herself -- what would it have been like to be a political pawn (married to France to secure an alliance), have no personal privacy at all (30+ courtiers watching her give birth), to have access to great wealth, but have virtually no power or freedom? And perhaps most importantly in this story, to be a teenager on top of it all?! She paints Marie Antoinette as a high-spirited girl, which she was -- not a politician, not a barracuda, just a young clueless person trying to make the best of the circumstances she was born to.

I read someone out there on the intertubes refer to this movie as more of a tone poem than a biopic. This struck me as being an excellent description because so much of the mood of the film is conveyed in music and color. (it's funny! The trailer has basically all of the movie exposition, and it takes less than three minutes.)


Perhaps here is where I should say that I am around the same age as Sofia Coppola and that we probably had the same picture of Adam Ant taped to our walls. A lot of the images and music combined hit me right in a culturally resonant spot I didn't even know existed. (much of the 80's was pretty embarrassing.)

Speaking of images, this film is lovely to look at. The color palette is bright and beautiful, the costumes are amazing, the furnishings... the fact that they're IN Versailles and make it look like a place where people are living (albeit opulently) rather than just a museum is no small feat. The lighting is beautiful as well -- I thought the "back to nature" section of the movie (Antoinette removed to the country with her daughter) with its simpler clothing and white/green palette was particularly gorgeous. And the food!! Oh my god! Don't watch it if you're hungry, because you'll be miserable. (me, and the people of France. I know, I know.)

I don't know why I waited so long to watch it. I was intrigued by the trailer when it was in the theater, but didn't get to it in time. The DVD finally passed through my hands at the library with no other holds on it, so I brought it home. It's something I'd been meaning to do, but I had this idea that I wasn't going to like it. (Here's the truth behind that "idea:" I know how this story ends! Madame Guillotine!) I am a wuss and tend to protect myself if I'm feeling vulnerable. Right now I'm a stressed out wuss who didn't want to be gut punched by my DVD player. I think I can say without giving too much away that Coppola found her way to an ending that was satisfying and felt right without being exploitative.

This was going to be part of a longer post about movies and other stuff I've been watching lately, but I got carried away by the Adam Ant of it all.

an acceptable interest for women

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008
How cool is this quilt??? It was made in 1876!!! According to the National Museum of American History where it is displayed, it was made by Sarah Ellen Harding of Cincinnati, Ohio. "The design of Ellen's striking and unusual quilt resembles illustrations in the astronomy books of the period. Ellen used the quilt as a visual aid for the lectures she gave in astronomy in the towns of West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa. Astronomy was an acceptable interest for women in the 19th century, and was sometimes even fostered in their education." If you follow the link, you can see some of the stitching details. (SO COOL!) Here's a photo of her below -- if you can tell such things from looking at a picture, I think I would have liked her. She looks like she would have been very interesting to talk to. Here's to you, Sarah Ellen Harding! (via boing boing)

Speaking of astronomy and whatnot, the moon was orange last night. It was huge and low and very orange when I left work at 8pm (I know! dark already. I'm so sad), and it was still orange (but lighter) when I propelled my weary limbs outside after 11pm to take the garbage can to the street. It looked like a giant gingersnap. The color was actually a cross between gingersnap and pecan sandy, leaning more toward the gingersnap end. I thought "surely Cookie Monster would agree with me, re: the edibleness of the moon," but then I watched that clip of great muppet cinema (C is for Cookie) and discovered that he did NOT. "The moon sometimes looks like a C, but you can't eat that." It's like you're not even trying, Cookie Monster! I forgive you, though. I made cookies tonight and would gladly share them with the Cookie Monster.

Unrelated but awesome, emusic is having a The Real Tuesday Weld giveaway right now -- they have a 10 song sampler that you can get for FREE. I'm not sure if you have to be signed up with them or not. (I think not.) Anyway, I'm enjoying it. I had heard a few songs before and liked them, but now I'll be buying more. (which is almost certainly the point -- but it worked!)

Here's a very fun animated video for The Real Tuesday Weld song called Bathtime in Clerkenwell. It's not included in the sampler, but the video is so great I couldn't not post it. I think these birds are related to the ones I see in the park every day.

sharp but not unkind

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008
It's so sad about David Foster Wallace. Others have expressed it better than I ever could, so I will just note (redundantly) that his death is a huge loss to readers and writers alike. Here's a video from Harper's 150th anniversary -- I love this very funny story and its sharp but not unkind observations of baton twirling mayhem at the fair.

waxing gibbous

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Saturday, September 13, 2008
I changed my home page from one that told me what was on TV to my google home page, which in addition to the usual groovy google reader/gmail/weather also tells me the phases of the moon, a vocabulary word, my horoscope, and a "crystal ball" (magic 8-ball knockoff). Listing it out like that, it sounds like I am CONCERNED FOR THE FUTURE, which is true on the one hand and not so much on the other.

moonphase: Waxing Gibbous, 99% of full. (doesn't waxing sound better than waning? I guess waning's alright and certainly part of the natural order of things, but it sounds like the moon needs a waning couch because its corset is too tight or something. A lunar swoon. "get the smelling salts, the moon is waning!" I think Waxing Crescent sounds the prettiest of all, but we don't get to that for a few weeks yet.) Anyway, I thought I might not like having the exact phase of the moon spelled out for me in scientific percentages and language -- thought it might somehow spoil the Old Way of looking and determining if it's full yet or just past full, etc. etc. But it doesn't. As per usual, I worry and worry about something that turns out not to be a problem after all.

I can see the moon out my window, but it is very high so I have to lean back in my chair. (it is worth it.)

More soon, including my new policy of being aggressively positive on election matters. Or maybe I'll just say that part now: I am tired getting pushed around by Rovian fear mongering thugs. I was letting my fear get the better of me -- I've been burned before. Best example: I never in a MILLION YEARS thought that GWB would be serving a second term! But this is the kind of weakness they prey on and is not sufficient reason to just close my eyes and hope for the best this time around. I see what you're doing, you lying sanctimonious crapweasels! It's not going to work!

BTW, Tina Fey was scary-brilliant on tonight's SNL opener. ("I can see Russia from my house!") Poehler was, as always, HILARIOUS.

just like a car (friday list)

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Friday, September 12, 2008
1. I laugh out loud every single time I see John Malkovitch punch Brad Pitt in the face during television ads for Burn After Reading. Every single time! I don't know why. I'm not sure what it is in particular that makes it so hilarious to me. I'm not one who automatically thinks face punches are funny; I neither hate nor love Brad Pitt. I think maybe because you can see the gum in his mouth? A COMEDY MYSTERY. Or maybe not. Maybe there's a name for what kind of crazy you are if you think it's hilarious to watch John Malkovitch punch Brad Pitt in the face and I just don't know it.

at the state fair
2. I am finally getting my state fair pictures uploaded. Here's one that's even weirder than I remember: this was in the 4-H pavilion, and I believe this girl is fulfilling some requirement by cooking something in front of an audience while in a glassed-in kitchen. (is it bulletproof glass? is it to protect her from heckling?) I think, I HOPE, most of those people are related to her. But maybe they're not! Maybe there's a whole subculture of 4-H cooking requirement fans who travel from fair to fair and judge (as laypersons) how well teens boil pasta. (although looking at the picture I see they're all watching some scandal unfold to the left of the kitchen.) But!!! That's not the weird part I didn't notice until now. That would be the banner hanging to the far right of the picture. I love the regional specificity of two GIANT STUMPS in front of a grove of cherry trees, the rolled up river (Roll On, Columbia, Roll On) and the words "The Power Of." The power of what??? Now I'll never know unless I go trolling flickr for a picture that has the whole banner. I probably won't, so I guess I'll have to make up my own answer. (Cheese? Love? Chainsaws? Applique?)

3. BUSTED: Several weeks ago I was walking at the park and had a fist full of fallen leaves and whatnot (like I do), and one of the park regulars -- the one I call "The Professor" in my head because he is always smoking a pipe -- asked me if I was the one who put the leaves in that tree. (I've been leaving little bouquets in a notch in a tree for almost a year.) I had to confess because he's probably seen me do it and it's kind of silly to deny it when I have a handful of evidence, but I was still reluctant to do so. I said yeah, (I usually have my ipod on when I'm at the park, so I don't get involved in a lot of chitchat), and he said that he enjoyed them very much and further confessed that he was the person who was sticking found feathers in various trees. My reaction was layered (running the whole pleased to pissed spectrum) but has returned to a place of equanimity. I'm glad to know that it brightens someone's day, and as long as I don't have to have daily chats about it, I will survive someone knowing my secret Leaf Leaving identity.

4. I mostly made a Duro Jr. dress yesterday! I still have to do some hemming. It went like my projects always do -- I go from great guns enthusiasm to dead certainty that I have made some error from which I can never recover, then I try it on and it's fine. I even added piping! Now we'll have to see if I actually wear it. (I think I will! It looks fine barelegged, and the fabric I used will go great with my paprika-colored tights when it gets to tights weather, which I'm sure it will sooner than I think.) Maybe I'll take a picture if I get it done today.

5. it is time to replace my ipod, which is 5 years old and has a much diminished battery life. I was all ready to do the smart thing and get a new ipod classic, but damn, those new nanos are ADORABLE! I want one in every color!!! It's so silly. (but the larger capacity nano has almost twice as much memory as my current ipod...) I guess it gives me fodder for a good internal debate. I'll probably get the classic, not because it's the most reasonable choice, but because I will be unable to choose a color.

6. T.Rex Jeepster! I heard this out on my walk the other day, and it's so weird but wonderful. The lyrics range from WTF?! ("just like a car you're pleasing to be hold") to poetic ("you've got the universe reclining in your hair"), but I think the contrast is part of why it's such a great song. (of course he could probably sing the alphabet and it would still be a great song, but whatever.) Here's YouTube to the rescue so that you might decide for yourself:

neither reasonable nor candid

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008
OOOOOHHHH! (I just sang that part, in case you were wondering, in a style somewhere between Feist's 1-2-3-4 and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!) I'm off work for the next few days and it makes me so happy I can't even tell you. I'm so tired. Books are heavy, people!

(DIGRESSION: thinking about the weight of books made me wonder if I was going to develop huge Popeye forearms. I don't think I will, but it reminded me that Popeye is one of the regular patrons at my Tied For Favorite branch library. He's an OOOOOOOOLD sailor (ancient mariner) who complies with my imaginary Old Sailor stereotyping by wearing striped shirts and sailor hats and having Sailor Jerry-style tattoos all over his forearms and an unlit pipe between his teeth. He dyes his beard and flirts with me and all my female co-workers, but in a light and charming way, not in a creepy "is he gone yet?" way. He likes audio books. In my head, this is so he can practice tying knots (or whittling puppets or etching scrimshaw) and improve his mind at the same time. END OF DIGRESSION.)

I worked a short shift today at a small branch that was having a staff meeting. Staff meeting coverage means it was just me and one other sub, who was on the ref desk a million miles away. I don't mind shifts like these because I like being busy (even so I managed to read The Onion AV Club interview with Paul Auster, which I thought was really good -- more on that later), and there is often cake at the end when the regular staff get out of their meeting. (This time there was a nectarine/blueberry cobbler, some other berry-cracker thing, and a chocolate cake with raspberry somethingorother. I had some of each and would eat more right now if I could.)

Anyway, I was processing holds and came across Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Jane is so great! She's witty and funny (two distinctly different things in my mind), wise and self-aware without being preachy or self-indulgent. In short, it is no surprise to me that she's still circulating a lot of books. I flipped it open to see what wisdom she would impart at a quick glance and my eyes fell on this quote, which seems so timely in this election season. Especially since on the topic of how could you vote for that clearly insane person??? or how can you be so uninformed? It's your duty as a citizen to inform yourself!! my impulse is Marianne Dashwood-like dramatic door-slammings or storming off to stand in the rain and catch pneumonia. (okay, maybe not the last one.)

here's the quote:
"Like half the rest of the world, if more than half there be that are clever and good, Marianne, with excellent abilities and an excellent disposition, was neither reasonable nor candid. She expected from other people the same opinions and feelings as her own, and she judged of their motives by the immediate effect of their actions on herself." (volume 2, chapter 9 sense and sensibility).

I am ever striving for Elinor-like levels of reason and candor, not only because it's better for my blood pressure, but also because I think it's necessary in order to reasonably discuss things. I don't expect that everyone should hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but I think the rhetoric and whisper campaigns in this Rovian Age have gotten out of control. It's so easy to get whipped up, and if you're whipped up it's easier to be manipulated by whatever they're selling. (that's right, I said THEY. You know who I mean. ::shifty eyes::) This is why I like reading Salon's Glenn Greenwald. He's really smart and is neither Pollyanna nor Grim Reaper in his approach. He gets mad when things are blatantly unfair or dishonest, but it's productive anger rather than sloppy swipes and jabs or storming off to get pneumonia. Unlike some others... ::coughCABLENEWScough::

TV talk and comic books coming up soon, I swear!!

I'm not sure what to call it

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Sunday, September 07, 2008
I do, I do!
I found two minutes to rub together today and took the opportunity to hang up some clothes that were strewn all about. (I don't think of myself as a clothes flinger, but it always looks like they were thrown in the air and allowed to float to the ground or the lampshade or the bookcase. Fling, flang, flung. I don't think flang is a word, but I want it to be -- flangdangle! it's the latest kind of scandal. Did you hear the flangdangle about governor so and so's book banning ambitions?)

ANYWAY, at the bottom of one of these flungen heaps I found this... garment. I'll call it a jacket for lack of a better word. It's a little bit victorian bathing costume, a little bit ye olde fashioned clown costume, and a little bit Matlock. I know! It has 3/4 banded blouson sleeves (!), a peter-pan collar (heart!), giant covered buttons (heart!), inexplicable yet perfect gathers, tiny but functional pockets, and (are you ready?) is made of SEERSUCKER! But not just any seersucker, it's in a narrow navy and white stripe and looks sort of like pillow ticking (!!!!!!). I'm wearing it now in the hopes that the answer to "What the hell do I wear with this?" will come to me in a moment of divine inspiration.

For now, all I have is the image of Andy Griffith singing Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man (in his seersucker suit, natch). In my defense, I got a really good deal on it.

Also, I am very tired.

In news unrelated to seersucker (I'm as astonished as anyone that there IS news unrelated to seersucker) -- at one point tonight, well after dark, I had the following conversations (among others) with a child who resembles Harpo Marx (but much noisier):

a) I'm not a ghost at all, let alone a scary ghost so please get out of the tree since your "scary ghost" rationale doesn't hold water. (as you already know!)

b) Busby the cat probably knows where Dash the cat is but won't tell us due to the fact that you, Harpo Marx but noisier, are a cat chaser.

c) if I were a ghost, (which I am NOT, as we have already covered), I would be a friendly ghost, so don't even think about climbing that tree again.

d) get out of the goddamned tree. (actual quote: "I think I see Busby over here.")

the nun thing makes me laugh

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008
This week is CRAZY BUSY. When I'm not busy being crazy busy, I'm busy trying not to let the television and my bearded robotic nemesis (Wolf Blitzer, ptui!) drive me crazy(er).

I have photos to share and adventures to relate from the fair (the chutney carnage was over by the time we got there, but I did see some cake controversy), but I won't be able to get the pictures uploaded for a couple of days. I know! you'll have to just imagine the Historic Poultry Hall until then. (There are giant carved busts of noble chickens near the flags.)

In the meantime, here's something that warms the cockles of my heart -- I'm so looking forward to the return of Pushing Daisies! Here's the promo they showed at comic-con (or so youtube would lead me to believe):

How much do I love Olive in her nun get-up with her Julie Andrews tribute? A lot, as it turns out.

New Bones tonight! Although it's going to start without me due to the aforementioned busy-ness. The way they tied up their ongoing mystery (masonic cannibal division) last year was terrible, but they're going to start this year in Swinging London, so who knows? Maybe the whole Zach is the Apprentice thing will turn out to be a Booth Steps Out of the Shower and it was All A Dream Dallas homage.