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planet elbow

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

I got off work just after five this afternoon -- it was dark already, but the sky was a clear purply blue inky color that was so beautiful I thought to myself that it couldn't be more beautiful. (exact internal quote: "the sky could not be more beautiful!") But then I turned around and saw the delicate little sliver of crescent moon with venus and the other planet that isn't mars that's hanging out right now (saturn? jupiter? one of those dudes) and thought !!! holy crap! it CAN BE more beautiful and it is right now! the only thing that diminished my pleasure was that there was no one to tell right away. My coworkers at this branch are all individually lovely human beings (apart from the douchenozzle), but collectively they are somewhat angular and not easy to talk to, much like a bag of elbows.

me: would you look at that!
collective bag of elbows: <<<<
person who has worked there more than I, in a whispered aside: I think they like you!
me: oh, good.

Anyway -- the important lesson that I have mostly learned in 2008 is never say "it can't get any worse!" but ALWAYS say "it couldn't be more beautiful!" because when that goes wrong it's the best kind of surprise.

(the photo in this post is unrelated to events, except that it was taken at the same time of almost-night and I like it.)

I like your moxie, Sassafras

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Thursday, November 27, 2008
Happy Thanksgiving!

I was going to make a list of everything I'm grateful for, but the truth is I am so full of gratitude for so many things it would take a really long time and I've got STUFF TO DO, including making:

Cranberry, Cherry, and Walnut Chutney:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup port or other sweet red wine
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1 (12 oz) package fresh cranberries
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Orange rind strips (optional)

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Add cherries, and cook 1 minute. Stir in cranberries; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes until cranberries pop. Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grated rind, and extract. Garnish with orange rind strips, if desired. Cover and chill.

This is really good and it goes together very fast. It's also delicious in turkey sandwiches later on!

AS I WAS SAYING. Here's a small sampling of things I'm grateful for today:

Pie: I can't elaborate or I'd be here all day. But, you know, PIE.

Pushing Daisies: (from whence I took the title of this post -- moxie sassafrass was directed at Chuck (aka: Lonely Tourist Charlotte Charles) last night by an octogenarian billionaire stuck in a chandelier, undead for one minute.) (!!!!) My thanksgiving wish is that this kind of zippy banter stages a comeback, along with "I like the cut of your jib!" (used by (among others) Monty Burns, another ancient fictional billionaire.) I don't know why they make me laugh so hard with their moxie, lime rickeys and 23 skidoos, but they do!! (I am also inordinately fond of Variety Speak, even though it is 2/3 unintelligible to me -- I think a lot of it is of the same sidecar-swilling era.)

Frankenstein: Without which I probably wouldn't be calling the cats FIEND! (Busby) and VILE CREATURE! (Dash) all the time. These names really suit them. Of course the novel was great for a million other reasons, but that's the one I'm thinking of today.

the exclamation point: I know I abuse it as a mark of punctuation, but I swear to you they appear in little thought balloons over my head all the time.

Everyone in the world who has ever made me smile or made me think: there are a lot of these people, many of whom don't even know it. But I know, and I'm enormously grateful! (example: THANK YOU, girl in the bright green coat with purple tights at the library yesterday -- I like your style!)

Okay, I have got to get to it. I understand there's food to be made while a fiend and vile creature are on the loose. It's my hope that I can accomplish what I need to do without a pitchfork and torch wielding mob.

Happy Thanksgiving/Thursday/New Moon wishes to you!

technical difficulties

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008
My internet is broken! From home (where I am) it's wonky and crazymaking. Fortunately, someone's coming tomorrow to fix it. Good thing, too -- I'm working myself into a state of Veruca Salt foot stamping I want it now! petulance, which is so irritating. But, since I've purloined access (which is very Veruca in a way), I'm going to post some pictures taken on November 13. (Thank you unknown neighbor with unlocked yet unpredictable wireless!)

November 13th was one of those Woke Up Wonderful days where the sun was shining, the birds were singing, every song on my ipod was perfect and everything seemed extra great for no discernible reason at all.

ginkgo mania

I'm crazy about this ginkgo tree. I think it's even more striking when the leaves turn yellow.

ginkgo mania

close up! The leaves are so textured -- they feel like really heavy, supple paper.

crows keep me company

the crows were keeping busy.

almost gone

The light was so wonderful! the sun was shining, but the clouds were coming in and shifting around. This was taken less than an hour (pointed in the same direction) as the blue sky ginkgo picture. Okay -- time to get this posted before my borrowed wireless disappears. I have to say, the good vibes of the 13th seem to work even by thinking about them because I feel much better than I did. Now I only have 12 minutes to get ready for work, but it was worth it.
Happy Tuesday!

at home with victor frankenstein

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Saturday, November 22, 2008
I am having a wonderful lazy saturday. My sole job today is to finish re-reading Frankenstein for a Read the Classics book club meeting at the library tomorrow. I haven't read it since college -- it's funny how much I've forgotten. It's also weird finding penciled notes (in my handwriting) in the margins. Oh, current me is plenty irritated with college me for marking in the book, except when current me thinks "hey! that's a pretty smart observation there, college Jen. Why didn't you retain it?"

Victor sure does like to talk. A lot. And so modest! He's the kind of guy who would go on and on and on in a plane or on a train or you know, on a boat in an ice field. I would be reading a magazine or listening only with half an ear because he's really full of himself and kind of a bore -- maybe with one earbud still in (I know it's rude, but I don't know him and it's both presumptuous AND rude to talk the ear off a stranger in a confined space) until some small corner of my brian recognizes what he's actually saying and the gum falls out of my mouth.

"I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me -- a light so brilliant and so wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised, that among so many men of genius who had directed their inquiries toward the same science, I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret."

I still have a ways to go -- Victor is just coming home to Geneva after creating his monster, going crazy, and learning of the death of his brother William. I think it's just about to really get cracking. (why did I wait until dark?! At least there's no lightning tonight.) I can't wait to get to the Monster. Now there's someone who could keep the attention of a distracted seatmate. I would listen to him for hours if it weren't for the fact that he probably wants to rip off my arms and hit me with them. He does have a way with the curses and warnings: "I may die; but you my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict."

Okay. Back to it. I hope I don't scare myself sleepless.

ruthless tidying

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008
almost serrated

Everything and nothing is happening simultaneously this week, right inside my head. It's benignly disconcerting, but not debilitating or anything -- a definite lull, but not an unpleasant one. It feels like my brain is chugging away at some mysterious calculation in the background, but in the foreground I'm cleaning. (I'm trying to learn a lesson from Ryan Adams -- this quote (via Vulture) made me laugh and laugh: "You could eat sushi off my bookshelf. My cleaning regime is like a  battleground. I'm Genghis Khan and my cleaning products are my Mongolian army and I take no prisoners." ) TAKE NO PRISONERS! ha ha! I should get that tattooed along with a feather duster on my forearms. I currently have many, many prisoners that I shift from one holding facility to another. (edit: I just realized Genghis Khan is showing up a lot lately here and there -- he's also in a Thomas Frank quote below in the Weekend Items post from last week. where will he be next?)

Anyway! I hope by the time I get my brain back I have the answer to something really good and not just a sharper recollection of the sixth grade or where I put that paper I've been looking for. At the very least I hope for some ruthless Mongolian cleaning power.

(Busby the cat is trying his entire bag of cat tricks to get me to let him outside. He has danced a fandango on the narrow windowsill in front of my desk, he is currently batting his patented cutie eyes at me and I know he's only a minute away from piteous whining. But he can't go out! there's a cat-eating coyote roaming the neighborhood, so he has to stay in at night. Poor abused creature! He makes sure he does not suffer alone.)

the weather and colors are changing faster than I can upload pictures, but here are some from the past week or so:

japanese maple

this is a japanese maple I walk by often -- I think they're very pretty. This one is conveniently squatty AND on a hill so I don't have to do anything but lean over to get a picture.

The squirrels are so suspicious, but also incredibly curious. If you're looking at them, they're looking at you. I find them hilarious for reasons I don't fully understand. (Maybe it's like those people who always laugh when they see someone fall down? I don't know!)

floating my boat (currently)

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Monday, November 17, 2008
perfect dancing

Five songs on my shuffle that I'm always happy to hear:

Tabasco Sole -- Voluntary Butler Scheme: !!! This song! It's like going to the UK with the Jackson Five for the express purposes of a) stealing the devil's shoes b) putting the devil in the oven on high c) playing the piano in the lift d) hotstepping in the devil's stolen shoes d) doot doot doot doot dootdootdootdoot e) I've been delightfully overwhelmed by doot doot doots and no longer remember what item was meant to be "e)." This list doesn't even begin to address the depth of my affection for the band name, which sounds like a university late night sure bet pyramid scheme for clean socks that falls apart in the harsh light of day, although I would posit that any scheme that ends with this song is a success. (From Fluxblog last month.)

Sister's Got a Boyfriend -- Rufus Thomas: Everybody's got something -- "Sister's got a boyfriend, Papa's got a shotgun... the dog got pnuemonia." for one week I'd love to have the ghost of Rufus Thomas follow me around and sing/narrate my life. This would undoubtedly goose me in the ass so that his unique talents wouldn't be wasted singing "Jen's reading the internet, agaiiiiiiin/ now she is crocheeeeeting." (although that already sounds more interesting when I imagine him singing it in his shorts and cape, punctuated with stax/volt horns!) This song is from the completely fantastic Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968 Collection. Every sad song sounds happy, every happy song sounds sad; most of them are inexplicably wonderful and some (like this) are perfectly bizarre.

Lovin' Machine -- Wynonie Harris: "I just built me a brand new lovin' machine!" This is what would happen if the good time mad scientist/inventor that lives in the ramshackle mansion at the top of the hill (the one with the laboratory in the basement, not the one with the cemetery in the backyard) was also a sociable but lonely broken hearted saxophone/boogie woogie piano playing pervert. Go up to his house and have a chat and a look around (keep likely points of egress in mind, although you probably won't need them) listen to some records, but for god's sake don't eat or drink anything. Seriously. "you put a quarter in the slot, things light up, and out comes your lovin' in a dixie cup" (I think I got this from Said the Gramophone, some time in the misty past.)

Roller Girl -- Anna Karina: Every time I hear this song, my lack of go-go boots is sadly and sincerely felt. (The imaginary ghost of Rufus Thomas just reminded me that a current lack of boots does not have to be a permanent lack of boots and that striped socks can be acquired almost instantaneously. who knew he'd be so helpful so soon?) From the Pop a Paris: Rock and Roll and Mini-skirts vol. 2 collection. Go here to watch Anna Karina sing this song while jumping around in Serge Gainsbourg's orange shirt, harry potter glasses, some long socks and a hockey glove. You know you want to! "roll, roll, roll roller girl!" (illustration by Hannah Karina, who also has lots of photos of Anna Karina in her photostream.)

Happiness Runs (Pebble and the Man) -- Mary Hopkin: This is one of those songs that at one point I might have dismissed as hippie dippy la la la, let's make patchouli scented sand candles, everyone!, but it never fails to cheer me up at least a little. Not once has it failed, and I've tested it extensively. Usually I'm not one to respond immediately to this kind of sincere soprano, but I love it! (the Donovan version is good too, but I like this one better.) "Happiness runs in a circular motion/ Falters like a little boat upon the sea/ All our souls are deeper than you can see/ You can have everything if you let yourself be/ Everybody is a part of anything, anyway/ You can have everything if you let yourself be/ Happiness runs, happiness runs/ Happiness runs, happiness runs."

indeed we needn't, need we?

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Friday, November 14, 2008
Gold Diggers of 1933 (Busby Berkeley/1933) -- I just watched this movie twice. Here are some reasons you might enjoy watching it, too:

1. GINGER ROGERS!! I love Ginger Rogers! She's funny, she's beautiful in a human way, and best of all she's a 12th degree black belt SASS MASTER. She's barely in this which is a shame, but when she's on the screen I don't care about anyone else. (plus, she's expert in pig latin!)

2. To answer the following questions: is Zac Efron the Dick Powell of the new millennium, or was Dick Powell the Zac Efron of 1933? Ruby Keeler looks kind of like Katie Holmes in this picture, right? RIGHT.

3. It's racy. So racy they even have John Waters in one of the accompanying documentaries. (He speaks about the huge production number Pettin' in the Park, but the movie is pretty suggestive outside the confines of that particular song as well.) It was made after the Hays Production Code was enacted, but right before they actually started enforcing it.

4. Inexplicable roller skating. Well, it's not exactly inexplicable -- it's roller skating as a form of commuting AND police transportation, right in the middle of the aforementioned highly suggestive song, Pettin' in the Park.

5. I love how the big Busby Berkeley dance numbers allegedly happen on a Broadway stage, yet they're often HUGE with a cast of 100's that could really only conceivably happen in a Hollywood sound stage or an airplane hangar. They do usually end with the flourish of a curtain coming down, but even so, that's a lot of disbelief you have to suspend. But they are so freaking bizarre and beautiful, I don't care at all!

6. The whole thing ends with a giant production number about forgotten men and the bread lines. This sounds strange and maybe it is a little strange to have this huge marching formation of homeless former soldiers at the end of a fairly raunchy sex comedy, but it was very topical and I think kind of risky at the time.

7. As Gold Digger movies go, I found this much more enjoyable than How to Marry a Millionaire. Joan Blondell is aces.

8. Billy Barty = creepiest roller skating baby EVER. (or maybe it's charming and my charmometer is broken.)

9. If you're looking to add to your list of comedies that deal with the Great Depression (My Man Godfrey, Sullivan's Travels), this is a good one. I don't think it's as good as either of those (both wonderful), but it has Busby Berkely production numbers including inexplicable roller skating and Ginger Rogers singing in pig latin. That counts for a lot in my book.

10. The clothes are fantastic.

I couldn't decide what youtube video to include since there are so many available! the trailer was tempting, but I decided you can't go wrong with Ginger.

crocodile news

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wordstock was so great! I think this might have been my favorite year apart from Year One. (or was it two?) Anyway. More on that very soon. What I can tell you right now is that Lynda Barry is even more awesome than I thought before (which was PRETTY DAMN AWESOME since Ernie Pook's Comeek, particularly How To Groove On Life , has gotten me through some agitated times). She's solid gold awesome.

This crocodile picture is unrelated, except it reminds me of this imaginary alligator I used to have when I was a kid. His name was Abe (for the president), and he was always dispensing useful advice while simultaneously inciting irresponsible behavior. I'm not sure now if I really really thought he was there, or if I just loved making up his exploits. People asked after him ("how is Abe, anyway?") so he kept pretty busy. I believe this coincided with my espionage obsession, so there were lots of stealth missions and disguises. He was very gifted at hiding for a creature of his size and could work an enigma machine like nobody's business.

The tree picture below is just because I thought it was pretty. I didn't used to have an imaginary tree, although now I'm regretting it! A tree could be a very stealthy ally as long as it didn't do things like drop all its leaves at once or shake uncontrollably. I'm sure I would have had a nervous, terrible liar tree who meant well but couldn't play it cool. A flop sweat kind of tree, if trees could do that. Poor tree. Maybe it should stay home at mission control.

The tree below is a civilian.

weekend items

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Saturday, November 08, 2008
I love this picture of Bessie Smith! She looks so joyful, yet was obviously bedeviled by the blues. A quick iTunes survey reveals following flavors of blue:
graveyard dream
far away
any woman's
chicago bound
frosty morning
haunted house
easy come, easy go
rocking chair
bo weavil
down hearted
gulf coast
oh daddy
mama's got the
bleeding hearted
lady luck
yodling (!!)
sam jones

That's a lot of blues! (some with a delightfully macabre tilt.) Any good men in this collection are dead or absent; the ones left are mean or otherwise unsatisfactory, but somehow unavoidable. But I do believe she enjoyed herself, or at least found her art in expression of suffering -- look at that smile, that dress, that pose! She is so buoyant and full of life; her hands won't stay by her side.

ELECTION METHADONE: Like many election junkies, I am having a hard time adjusting to life without polls to check every fifteen minutes. As curious as I am about what kind of dog the Obama girls will get, it doesn't drive compulsive browser refreshing in quite the same way. ANYWAY. I found this seven part series of behind the scenes election reporting at Newsweek to be very interesting and even more illuminating of the stark differences between the two campaigns. Highly recommended! It's worth it to read the whole thing. Speaking of behind the scenes, I love this flickr photoset of the Obama family on election night.

I very much enjoy Thomas Frank's column in the Wall Street Journal. (I just picked up his latest book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule from the library -- woo hoo! What's the Matter With Kansas? is really good, too.) Ooh -- his Powell's page has a video --

As I was saying: His latest column is titled Conservatism Isn't Finished. In it, he describes the great culture wars and how we'll never see the end of them because the GOP manipulates this conflict to their benefit. "The reason those wars have raged ever since 1968 was because they help Republicans win elections. For Democrats to wish that they would please stop was about as useful as asking Genghis Khan to a tea party." Here's one of my favorite quotes: "John McCain's campaign was not just another culture-war offensive; it was a flamboyant pantomime, grotesquely exaggerated in each of its parts, and, ultimately, separated from the life of the everyday Americans it claimed so extravagantly to revere. It was "overripe," to borrow the term Johan Huizinga used to describe late Medieval culture. The campaign's vision of America was like a Norman Rockwell painting in which all the figures wear flag pins and weep swollen, steaming tears for their betrayed homeland."

WORDSTOCK is this weekend. I would link to the website, but it is WRETCHED and makes me mad every time I try to get to the schedule -- there's automatic video (with sound) and the menus are hard to navigate. ARGH! it is enraging. But I am still very much looking forward to attending! Off the top of my head (since the schedule is not easily accessible) I can tell you that Aimee Bender, Lynda Barry and John Hodgman will be there. And a lot of other people. Exciting/excruciating details to follow.

the change we seek

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008
(Note: I planned to post this last night, but my internet connection went awol while I was uploading images so I went to bed instead. "today/this morning" was Wednesday.)

I've spent most of the day reading articles and commentary and answering my "can it be true?" question with an emphatic "yes, it can!" It feels pretty good. Last night it was just too much to take in -- my happiness, relief, pride and hopes for this new beginning got all tangled up with a bunch of other Already In Progress strong emotions and I was overloaded. This morning was better. Mostly, I think, because it was not just a beautiful dream!!

One of my favorite things today (besides seeing IT'S OBAMA in huge letters) has been looking at various election related slide shows and photo essays*. (the NYTimes and the Huffington Post both have some good ones.) I love seeing huge long lines as people wait to vote all across the country. I love seeing people celebrating around the world, I love behind the scenes photos from the campaign, I love seeing newspaper headlines and magazine covers from all over. Most of all, (unrelated to slide shows) I love that the electorate finally got its shit together and voted to begin the work ahead. There is so much work ahead!

I was watching part of Lou Dobbs today (I realize it's a sickness), and was shocked to hear both Lou and David Frum speak of Obama's community organizing without sneering. Even they had to acknowledge that something big has been organized here. I'm so happy that we as Americans are not just invited to be a part of it, but considered to be essential to success! (compare to the last 8 years of toddler-like "I DO IT! I am the decider!" toy throwing tantrums.) Anyway -- I have some photos and things to say about Oregon's Vote By Mail, but I don't have the pictures uploaded yet so it will have to wait. (I'll do it before the inauguration!)

Here's one of my favorite parts from Obama's speech last night. I love that he doesn't back away from the hard work ahead and that he emphasizes that this is the work of our nation -- we must all share in it: "What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change.  And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.  It cannot happen without you."

*thursday update: interesting post on the Year In Pictures about a photo essay on

**Design for Obama has some great poster art images and gets more daily.

can you hear it?

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Monday, November 03, 2008

So much going on! The main thing being that I think my brain has finally imploded. It's really peaceful here under the rubble, although I'm starting to hear music in the water pipes which is kind of disturbing.

(but also kind of cool!)

(but worrisome!)

(it's just one set of pipes, so it's not like I'm staggering around town with a tape recorder capturing my secret symphony which sounds great to me but just like running water to everyone else. someone would call the cops (of course) and I would have to explain and it would sound as crazy as it is, until either the implant or the tiny pipe-dwelling musicians (and choir!) are revealed and I am VINDICATED! the end.)

I'm not going to say much about the election in this post, except that I'll be working until the polls close tomorrow. This pleases me! The library is an official ballot drop-off place, and I love watching people come in and vote. I worked the last day of the primaries and it was pretty thrilling to see people waiting in lines to drop off an envelope (TRUE FACT). I can only imagine how great it will be now that we've FINALLY arrived at the general election. I am a big old sentimental sappy sucker, but I have an excellent poker face so I should be able to get through it without any embarrassing I heart democracy outbursts. (I will just say this: do you think anyone kissing a ballot as they drop it off in a public library is voting for McCain? Me neither!)

ANYWAY. If you need a break from fivethirtyeight or CNN or Daily Kos tomorrow (or any time!) here are some wonderful things that have come up in my feed reader recently:

1. This great post at Sunset Gun about It Happened One Night. I love this movie! I enjoyed Kim Morgan's reviews when she wrote for Willamette Week, so I was happy to find her again when she was rightfully praised on Bright Lights After Dark.

2. The Fluxcast -- the podcast of Fluxblog. #18 was just released today (Monday) -- I haven't heard it yet, but #17 is a lot of fun, and so are all the rest. I never know what will be on it -- sometimes something new, sometimes something old, always something interesting. I've fallen out of the habit of listening to the radio, but this replicates that sense of anticipation: what will come next?! I love listening while I'm out and about -- either in the car or on foot. On more than one occasion I have frantically grabbed around for a pen to write down the name of a song before I realize that it's okay! I can find out later.

3. Leslie and Dag are on vacation in Ecuador and the Galapagos! Her internet access has been spotty, but I love getting as it happens reports from the equator.

4. I am ready to buy Roger Ebert's rice cooker cookbook, RIGHT NOW. "How does the Pot know how long to cook the rice? It is a mystery of the Orient. Don't ask questions you don't need the answers to."

5. The Year In Pictures: I came to this blog a while ago via The Sartorialist. It embodies one of the things I love best about the internet: an expert who is generous with his expertise and genuinely enthusiastic about his subject. I always learn something.

BONUS: puppycam, for when everything else is just too much. sometimes, for the preservation of blood pressure, a person needs to watch a pile of puppies sleeping. Thanks to the magic of the internet, NOW YOU CAN.