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how many nickels?

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Monday, August 31, 2009
Easy Living is a 1937 film written by Preston Sturges, directed by Mitchell Leisen, starring Jean Arthur and billed as 'high society slapstick.' I liked it quite a bit but did not love it, although I would certainly recommend it if you like Preston Sturges or Jean Arthur or high society slapstick. The story begins with working girl Mary Smith riding to work on top of a double decker bus, only to have her view obscured by the very expensive fur coat that falls on her out of nowhere. (Nowhere turns out to be the window of a penthouse apartment, but she doesn't know that yet.) She puts it on, and suddenly everyone assumes she's a rich man's mistress. (She does try to find the rightful owner.)

On the coat throwing end of things, there's a husband in hot water; misunderstandings abound! Husband in Hot Water and Angry Wife have an Accused of Fecklessness (but handsome and intrepid) Son who stomps out of the penthouse to make it on his own (I'll show you!), while Mary Smith tries to figure out what the hell is going on and why everyone thinks she's sleeping with the rich old guy who let her keep the coat and bought her an expensive hat. (I like the way this was handled, surprisingly -- she's a nice girl, but not without a practical and sweetly mercenary streak. Rent is due and she lost her job because of all this and if he wants to buy her something, she'll let him.) Meanwhile, there's a cute boy working at the automat. You can probably guess what happens, but a surprise ending is not the pleasure in a film like this. There's a lot of barbed humor at the expense of Wall Street and bankers (everything old is new again!), but to counter that more cerebral fast talking there's a lot of double taking and slapstick falling down. I like it both ways in screwball comedies and this doesn't disappoint.

But let's talk about the automat! There is a fantastic automat scene in this movie -- Mary is all kitted out in her fancy coat and hat, but she's starving. Despite being installed in the Hotel Louis (by proprietor Louis Louis who thinks she's the old guy's mistress and is hoping to curry favor), despite her fetching hat, she is HONGRY and has very little money -- only the change in her pocket -- so she goes to the automat, which conveniently is open late and takes change.

I'm in love with the idea of the old fashioned automat; all that marble and frill for what's essentially a cross between a cafeteria and a vending machine. My first encounter with an automat was, no joking, in a Trixie Belden girl detective novel: the Mystery of the Blinking Eye. (Trixie and Honey stay at the Wheeler's fancy apartment and solve a NYC crime, I think something to do with smugglers and they end up getting chased through the U.N. --ANYWAY, the important part is they eat at an automat.)

I couldn't find any movie stills featuring the automat, so I had to make my own.

Mary's supervisor, about to rat her out to the boss for having a fancy coat. (this has nothing to do with automats, but I love the "you tramp" expression on her face, and of course the large Mr. Higginbottom on the door.)

This gives a general sense of the layout of the room -- lots of marble, lots of tiny little doors with categorized food behind. Some tables for sitting down, some tables for standing up. It looks like basic condiments are on every table. (salt/pepper, sugar, etc.)

hungry, but stylish.

dig the checkerboard floor and attractive waitstaff!

he recommends the pot pie, but Mary doesn't have enough nickels. (at this point, he thinks he knows her from some fancy society event. She thinks he's either crazy or just plain mean.)

but he persists and suggests that he'll open up the doors from the back, and pay the automat after he gets paid. (nothing can go wrong with this plan!) She's cracking wise because that's how you do in this kind of movie. Note the girl in the booth behind them: Wikipedia tells me that she's there to give change.

you sure this is okay?

uh oh. There has been some unauthorized/accidental lever-pulling in the back. (and a pretty great cafeteria-style kitchen fight!)

word gets out that the food is free. (I love the revolving door and the turkey leg in his hand.)

chaos, hot dishes, fruit salad, cake everywhere. This is very early in the food fight. (chaos is slippery.)

The drink station -- you can barely see it, but there are slots for nickels just to the right of every spigot.

I don't think this is the usual employee exit.

Time to go! (poor Mary, she barely got to eat anything.)

The aftermath. She's still hungry, but I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I tell you it works out okay in the end.

all the rest have thirty one

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Saturday, August 29, 2009
gold star

august is so long! I know it's just as long as most other months of the year (apart from september, april, june, november and february), but this august has felt like it's 10000 days. Mostly this has been a good thing -- I've read a lot of books and had a second beach vacation (I'm very lucky) and other fun stuff. But I've also been having a weird period of physical malady with twists, sprains, compression bandages, face band-aids and spectacular arm bruises. What's up with that? I won't even try to explain the weird headache stuff since I think 20% of this blog is full of it already.

ANYWAY, between having fun and injuring myself, I've been having all these ideas. One of the latest is that I'm going to start going to the movies again -- I pretty much quit for a long time for many reasons (biggest reason = inertia), but decided that the time to resume is now. I want to vote with my dollars! I'm lucky because portland has lots of places to see movies, including a variety of second-run (cuz I'm slow) and art house theaters. Anyway, my very modest goal is to try and see at least one a month in the theater. More if I feel like it, but let's not get crazy. I also want to watch more movies at home, especially since it's so easy for me to pick them up at work. (fellow portlanders: the library has a really great collection of dvds.)

But like I said, I'm all full of ideas and short on implementation. (being full of implementation sounds like a painful medical condition. Maybe being full of implementation but not implementing is what's causing my month of casualty -- if I would actually DO any of the things I need to do, perhaps I would stop falling down and walking into things, etc.) I need to break this stuff down into actionable lists! Or something. I did make a list on a whiteboard (it has categories!), but it's still too broad; despite running around and being busy, I didn't get anything crossed off. I need to put Make Detailed List on a list and mark it #1. But that's a job for tomorrow, day #9997 of August. I'm hoping to cross at least 2 things off the list and avoid any new injuries. I think I can do it.

here's an 8 second campfire for you (from beach vacation 1: camping). I roasted marshmallows over this very fire without burning myself! (I did spill hot chocolate all over my lap, but you know, that's another story.)

some things:

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009
1. Print out some stuff from Feed Your Soul: the free art project via the Indie Fixx blog. Free prints for you to print out, look at, and thereby be cheered if you are cheered by looking at prints. (as I am!) My hands down favorite so far is this sweet swamp monster from Ryan Berkley of Berkley Illustration. (scroll down the Feed Your Soul page to find it.) You know Swamp Monster probably smells pretty bad and will leave fur and mud all over the couch, but he brought flowers and has such charming but nervous yellow eyes...

2. Celebrate summer as it wanes with this awesome mix made at the apex of the season by Kevin Robinson of Viva Voce. It's called "Kevin's Summer Mix," and I love the entire shimmery psychedelic thing, although I always skip over the radio spots. My particular favorites this very moment are Summer by Octopus, Going Down by The Moles, and Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi by Jacques Dutronc. Oh! Also Queen of the Moonlight Wind by Andy Roberts. There's even an old Tyrannosaurus Rex song I didn't know on there! The Who inexplicably sell milkshakes. You listen and you'll see. (via Local Cut ages ago)

3. I have solved the mystery of how zip cars stay clean. (it involves a van filled with New Car Smell and some elbow grease, which is not actually made from elbows and kept in a vat.) Another case closed! (you can imagine me dusting my hands of that pesky mystery OR possibly slamming a filing cabinet shut with a satisfied look on my face while the credits roll on my 70s detective show.)

4. Love this mostly photo tumblr: smut-to-go. (not that smutty, but eclectic and interesting.) love this all poems tumblr: Poetry 365, and this art tumblr: Saints, Warriors, Tigers, Lovers, Flowers, Art. I love having some mostly visual blogs in my feed reader, especially ones like these that are coming from a personal taste place and not a cross-commercial opportunity place.

what happens when you let pirates name things

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Thursday, August 20, 2009
devil's churn!
I suppose they could have gotten a little more creative with "interpretive center." It lacks pirate poetry; adding "me hearty" to the end only makes it worse.

beware the churn!
that's more like it! I like how this makes it seem the height of irresponsibility to even be taking a picture from this spot. "Stay back from chasm edges or you may end up in the churn." Words to heed!

cooks chasm
Straightforward disregard of the apostrophe is the way of the chasm and the churn.

cape perpetua
I really like these trees.

two and a half more

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The Wordy Shipmates -- Sarah Vowell (2008): This was great! I've never really studied the period in depth, so WS was an eye-opener as to how off base the general Puritan reputation is. Despite more mentions of Fonzie than I would normally expect in a book about Puritans, I did find this book somewhat drier than Assassination Vacation. After consideration, I think it comes down to this: Assassination Vacation was not just about history, but Sarah Vowell's active pursuit of history -- she tracks things down (with accomplices), visits sites, museums and interacts with other obsessives. There was a lot of movement and latitude for that, but Wordy Shipmates covers a topic (the Puritans) which is more confined by geography and chronology. Her subject is interesting and her thinking as sharp as ever, but when you get down to it, apart from one trip with her nephew and sister it's pretty much just Sarah and a stack of primary sources. I love primary sources and I learned A LOT about the early settlers, but for me it lacked the swing of Assassination Vacation.

I did, however, develop a little crush on Roger Williams. "It's one thing for nonviolent nonbelievers to throw up their hands at the way the faithful of various religious faiths seem to come to blows over dogma. But Williams, a diehard zealot, is unflinching in his recognition that other diehard zealots are equally set in their ways. And while he would happily---happily!---harangue any other persons of faith for days on end about how wrong they are, he does not think they should be jailed or hit or stabbed or shot for their stupidity, the eternal flames of hell being punishment enough."

Zealots of today, why can't you be more like your (spiritual) older brother Roger?

Highway to Hell -- Rosemary Clement-Moore (2009): Wheee! this is my favorite Girl vs. Evil so far. [There are three in the series to date: 1) Prom Dates from Hell 2) Hell Week 3) Highway to Hell] I like it because it feels like Clement-Moore has settled into her Maggie Quinn universe, I like it because this one features a roadtrip AND el chupacabra, I like it because it's fun to say el chupacabra and reminisce about that X-Files episode which was totally gross. Anyway, it was fun to see Maggie and friends away from their typical college town setting. This one reminded me of one of my favorite stand alone Elizabeth Peters novels (Summer of the Dragon), even though in that one the girl detective was a big supernatural disbeliever and debunker, and in this one there is mostly believing and bunking... or, uh, something. (the evil is real and has shiny red eyes!) SotD features a second-wave smartass feminist, and in HtH they're third-wave smartass feminists. Hmmmm... other similarities: they're both set in the southwest (although this one is in gulf coast texas and that one was in arizona), and they both feature a ranch. Nothing ties two books together like a ranch! (am I right or what?) I guess I'd better read the other one again and see if I've completely lost my mind, which, as always, is a distinct possibility.

The more I think about it, the more I see the similarities between a certain kind of YA novel and the E. Peters style of comic romantic suspense -- I'm just not seeing titles like that for adults anymore. Why not? Is it because the adults who want it are just reading YA? Adult fiction titles that are supernatural or supernatural-ish seem to skew either to explicit who needs subtext sexy vampires or straight up horror. That can't be right, though! I'm going to have to think some more.

Moby Dick -- Herman Melville (1851): I have made no progress on this since my last report. NONE! those poor sailors are still floating in that boat waiting for me to quit fooling around and get reading so they can do that thing they do. If I leave them much longer, they will resort to piracy or yacht rock. Do I want that on my conscience? No, I do not.

night garden

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
It was so lovely this evening that I sat outside for a while after dark to just be out in it. The sky is clearing up from our week of clouds (now that the perseids are over, not that I'm paranoid or convinced of weather conspiracies or anything), and the temperature was perfect. It was so nice my only thought was how lucky I was to be there. (this is a magical thing when you spend a lot of time trying not to be disappointed, which seems to be occupying me a fair bit lately. I need an attitude realignment or something.)

Have you noticed certain flowers have a stronger fragrance after dark? Weird, right? but awesome. White flowers are particularly known for this. In the day I'm drawn to red, hot pink, orange, green, all that showy business, but the night time is the right time for white flowers. I don't quite know how to describe the scent -- it's not just the smell itself, which is usually sweet, but how it kind of hangs in the air, lovely and lightly humid like the beach or hawaii or a gilded age lawn party. I'm lucky to have a nicotiana (flowering tobacco plant) that is very fragrant and right near the front door so I walk by it often. (I thought it was the one called Only the Lonely, but I'm pretty sure now it's Fragrant Cloud.) It is AMAZING and came back from seeds I planted a million years ago. Jasmine and gardenias would be good night garden choices, but I think they're too tender for Portland's wet soggy winter. (Jasmine might work, though.) I'd like to do some moonflowers -- they don't smell, but some of them are as big as dinner plates! They're on vines and grow really fast, which makes me want to make a moonflower structure of some sort. (which, if my bean tower is any indication, would grow too heavy and collapse on itself but then become a beautiful sort of ruin.) I think they would act like moonlight reflectors, which is no doubt how they got their name. Also good for casting white light in the dark: phlox, light colored zinnias, light colored dahlias, lilies. A datura would be nice. (also known as angel's trumpet, which was featured in the Wicked Plants book since it's all poisonous, all the time. But so tall and pretty!)

anyway, I guess I don't really have any point here other than: it was really nice outside tonight.

oh, weekend

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Sunday, August 16, 2009
good fortune cove (sign)
(this picture has nothing at all to do with the rest of this post, I just like the cartoon whale and the notion of Good Fortune Cove.)

FRIDAY: I twisted my ankle and bruised my butt playing fake jai alai over a volleyball net with a towheaded six year old who believes he is the reincarnation of the Lorax and/or anyone Star Wars. I fell like a sack of potatoes off the back of a truck; it was very surprising and also painful. I'm pretty sure this happened because I stepped in a hole hidden by grass and not because of any juvenile jedi mind tricks. (I truly believe he uses the force for good, or at least tries to.) That was the bad part. The good part was that I got to see people I'm very fond of whom I don't see very often.

SATURDAY: I got to go to a book shopping and to a lovely backyard birthday party, so that was good.

SUNDAY: this morning I forgot I was supposed to work and they called to say "uh, you're supposed to be at work" and I flew around to get ready while freaking out (I've never done this before) and got on my way as soon as possible, only to get behind a giant Suburban that insisted on going 5 miles under the speed limit (and thereby guaranteeing every goddamned red light on the street) and I couldn't see around it stress stress stress, until I realized that the BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP Bleeping #$@#% FREEWAY was closed and I had to figure out how to get to my destination across town without it, which made me realize that being behind the Suburban wasn't really that stressful after all. The good part here was I swore so much in the car at every fresh hell detour I think I may have invented some new cursing combinations. It got so outrageous I had to laugh, which put me in a better frame of mind when I finally arrived at work, which turned out to be not nearly as huge of a deal as I feared. (The one woman who is always put out by everything was predictably put out, but there is no pleasing her so I'm not going to dwell on it. Everyone else was fine. These things happen, apparently.) The other good part is I checked out a book to a local writer whose work I admire and he was totally ace, which is always nice.

Then I got home and worked on a brand new project and watched a brand new Mad Men. I know it sounds crazy, but I think despite the bruises, ace bandages. lazy schedule monitoring and excessive unladylike swearing, the weekend overall goes in the success column! Tomorrow I have to help someone move, but I'm not going to predict how that bodes for the rest of the week.

bedside table, cont.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Pretty Monsters -- Kelly Link (2008): I read this so long ago -- I've put off writing it up because I was disappointed compared to her previous two collections (which I love). In retrospect, anticipating it so much made my disappointment more acute than it would have been if I'd picked it up with no expectations. But it was impossible for me to quell all expectation since she'd already written some of my favorite short fiction! Sigh. Time has passed and my disappointment has dimmed, so here's a list of the pros and cons for me.

the good:

1) the cover is creepy and beautiful.

2) many of her best stories are reprinted again here: Magic for Beginners, The Faery Handbag, and The Specialist's Hat were all in earlier collections. They're really good. (My favorite of these is Magic for Beginners, but they're all great in their own way.)

3) The Constable of Abal is a wonderful fairy tale/dark Oz story. It reminded me how freaky some of the Oz books are, which in turn reminded me of the deep weirdness of many old fairy tales. (you know: blood-eating ghosts, gender-swapping, child laborers, magic spells, kidnapping, the room you can't go into, etc.) Great atmospherics, too -- when I was a kid, one of my favorite things about fairy tales (and the Oz books) is how they conjured these incredible locations, recognizable, but unlike any place I knew. This story brought back that little bit of magic for me. Of the new stories, this one may have been my favorite.

4) The Wrong Grave reminds me of a one-off episode of Buffy. (I mean this in a good way.)

5) Shaun "The Arrival" Tan illustrated!

the bad:

1) disappointing because 3 out of 9 stories are from her previous books.

2) title story is SO CLOSE to being great, but it's off just enough to make me mad. (I know! sounds like a personal problem.) Maybe it would improve if I read it again, only every time I think about reading it again I'm all short-story heartbroken (and irritated) once more. I'll try the old fashioned cure for heartbreak of all kinds and give it more time.

3) The Surfer takes a long (l-o-n-g) time to go nowhere. Maybe that's the point. Maybe I just didn't get it, which is very possible.

4) there was more, but it's been so long now I've mostly forgotten, so probably not worth listing.

There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell -- Laurie Notaro (2007): It's funny. I like that it's "women's fiction" that's not about bagging a man like some big game hunter. In this novel our heroine Maye is happily married, but has just moved cross country and has no friends. (They moved to the pacific northwest, so it's sort of extra funny for me to see local obsessions from a newcomer's point of view. In fact, one of the things that pulled me right out of the book is the malted she takes to Ruby in a STYROFOAM CUP, despite having gone on at length about the community's styrofoam-hating ways. which I share.)

Anyway, Maye wants friends and she wants them bad -- this desire is the engine for the whole adventure. The thing that made me nuts about this novel is its dependence on excess Zaniness. Capital ZANY. I like funny, I like slapstick, I like screwball, but it misses the mark with me when they all happen at once with jazz hands and flaming batons. Like I said -- I laughed! aloud! more than once! But there were parts where it felt like she didn't trust her story enough (she should have) and felt she needed some nacho-cheese covered simile to distract the reader (she didn't). Notaro is best known for her non-fiction collections (like The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club); I believe this is her first novel. She's hilarious -- there's no question about that, but I found this book to be occasionally exhausting. (which isn't to say I didn't rush home from work to finish reading it, because I did.) I will probably check out some of her non-fiction stuff, but maybe not for a little while.

it's raining

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
it's raining like November! Yet I am relatively serene because the rain means perfect sleeping weather and I don't have to water the plants. Besides, I'm fairly confident the sun will return. On the downside, the cloud cover and rain came just in time to keep me from seeing the perseids, YET AGAIN. I suspect a conspiracy of clouds. One of these days I'm going to outwit the weather by sneaking out in my pajamas and driving east until I hit the high desert where I can watch all the meteors I want. ha! Take that, clouds. (I have concealed certain details (like how I change cars AND pajamas 4 times) in order to prevent plan foiling.)

bridge, surfer, sand

here's what it looked like on the Oregon coast in July. Or at least what it looked like on July 25 of this year. I just read a story in the paper about how surfing is becoming more and more popular in Oregon, despite tough economic times and the fact that the water is sharky, cold, and churns like a washing machine. Improved wetsuits is the only reason for increased popularity that I remember -- I'm sure there were others, but my brain kind of disconnected at SHARKY. Anyway, rumor on the beach had it that this guy was going to surf to the next town south.

This image is from the central coast (Heceta Head) -- I've generally seen a lot more surfers on the north coast, but maybe that's just because the north coast is more convenient to the larger population of portland? I don't know. SHARKY!

surfing to somewhere
there he goes! Note the lonesome bird in the fog. (The bird considers himself a poet first and a bird second; he's always happy for a distance-surfer captive audience.)

at heceta head, below the light house
he went this way.

fair warning: more book posts soon, maybe even today.

Wicked Plants

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Wicked Plants: the Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities -- Amy Stewart (2009): This book is so fun! I've just been flipping around and reading entries as they catch my eye, but so far it's a strangely compelling mix of botany, history, and morbid warnings. It's like the Deluxe Transitive Vampire, but for "the sordid lives of plants behaving badly" instead of grammar. There are fine pen and ink illustrations, latin names and common names, and the plants are further categorized into Deadly, Dangerous, Illegal, Intoxicating, or Destructive, depending. (of course there's a little overlap between a couple of those categories.) I love the common names! I just opened it up to see "Grapple Plant or Devil's Claw" right above the "Unicorn Plant."

Here's a bit from an entry on a plant most everyone's heard of: Deadly Nightshade/ Atropa Belladonna: Professor and plant researcher Henry G. Walters speculated in 1915 about the potential for cross-breeding carnivorous and poisonous plants. He believed that if a poisonous plant had "the semimuscular system possessed by the carnivorous plants, it would be more dangerous than the cholera." Dr. Walters declared that plants were capable of love and that they had memories, implying that they might also hold a grudge as lovers do. The deadly nightshade, he believed, was filled with hatred.

The section I quoted is obviously more on the historical side, but she does go on to talk not only about the poisonous nature of the plant (deadly, as the name implies) but also about historical cosmetic use of the plant (to dilate pupils), and the origin of the name. "Atropa comes from one of the three Fates of Greek mythology. (...interesting part about the other fates that you should read yourself...) ...and then, at the end, Atropos brought death at the time and manner of her choosing." I should copy this out and slip it under the door of the maniac that works next door who confessed, in one of his many bouts of over sharing, that he likes deadly nightshade berries on his cereal.

The copy I'm reading is a library book, but I must have a copy of my own! Beyond just being interesting reading, I think it could also be very useful for gardeners, or for those who write songs with evil botanical themes (Colin Meloy), or even those wishing to write murder mysteries with plant poisonings. They can't all die from foxglove (digitalis) tea!

Read more about it here.

in case you were wondering

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Sunday, August 09, 2009
this is how you indicate an interrobang in a telegram:

I was making some screencaps from Easy Living for reasons that will be apparent soon -- I couldn't resist QUESTION MARK URGENT EXCLAMATION POINT, even though it doesn't have much to do with the other thing. (mysterious thing!)


things to do

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Thursday, August 06, 2009
the moon is so bright I could:

1) perform minor surgery (stitches and other basic band-aid procedures only.)

2) shadow puppet show! (please note that all puppets are either alligators or really weird looking long-eared dogs and they all speak with a foghorn leghorn accent OR a reedeeculous fronch accent until I get so tired it's like foghorn leghorn's year abroad. NO REFUNDS.)

3) fry an egg! I need a frying pan and a source of heat, but I can see just fine. If you don't like eggs, I will happily make toast by the light of the moon, but that's not very impressive since I could make toast with way less moon than this. come see me on the 12% wax/wane for some truly daring feats of toasted bread.

4) almost read. it's good light for poetry, since if I can't quite make out the correct word, I'm at least in the spirit of the thing by making up my own.

5) water ski. If only I water skied! (skied? is that really a word?) Anyway, I think any proper moonlight (FULL MOON) water skiing should be done synchronized and costumed, Cypress Gardens-style. (Like the Go-Go's! But at night.) I hope everyone has their tiara ready. Meet me at the lake.

step one: pants

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009
believe it!

I'm having a non-productive sort of irritable day. I think it's because the weather ($#% weather!) is shifting, which gives me a background headache, which makes everything (especially me) dumber than it should be. For example, I was extremely aggrieved today while out for a walk because my pants kept slipping down and my shirt kept riding up which left me trying to be inconspicuous while clutching my garments and being mad at every other person out and about who managed to dress themselves in clothes that were STAYING ON. I would put myself together and walk three steps only feel a breeze on my hip that let me know my clothes weren't where I left them. Finally a tiny thought managed to float to the top of my brain and I tied the waistband string on my pants. (!!!) It's been like this all day.

ANYWAY. I'm going to go put a belt on! maybe pants are the problem, even now.

but first, here are some things that make me happy even while I'm crabby:

1. The fluxcast is back! Season 2 has begun -- I love these and missed them during the hiatus.

2. The picture at the top of this post -- taken outside of Ripley's Believe it or Not in Newport when I was at the beach last week. I may not have a lot of use for wax representations of the world's longest fingernails or whatever, but I love how they painted and planted their building and I love this orange crocosmia in front of "BELIEVE IT!" I believe!

3. The Advertising for Love blog. It's not what it sounds like. Well, it is, but maybe not exactly how you'd expect: this is a collection of 19th century personal advertisements. Pam Epstein is using these for her dissertation -- here's her description: I'm a PhD student in history at Rutgers University, on the verge of completing my dissertation, which is about the transformation of love and marriage in the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century in America. I'm using old personal advertisements to talk about this transformation, and I've found them so charming and fascinating that I want to share them with anyone who's interested in learning more about the history of personals.

the ads ARE charming and fascinating and illustrate the thing I love the best about history: that even as time marches and mores change and progress happens, people remain largely the same. She provides the text of the ads as well as scans of the originals along with analysis. I never knew there were so many codes and riddles! (via Argh Ink)

4. six year old's call and response: Yesterday marked the start of softball camp (or something that looks an awful lot like softball camp) at the park. The coaches were trying to warm the kids up and get some enthusiasm going. I observed three stages:

STAGE ONE: I say blah blah blah you say "YEAH!"

coach: blah blah blah points at kids

1/2 kids: yeah!
1/2 kids: yeah? (tentative, not confrontational)

STAGE TWO: I say blah blah blah, you say "O-KAY!"

coach: blah blah blah points at kids

kids: okay! (enthused but asynchronous)

STAGE THREE: I say Pokemon, you say "Pikachu!"

coach: Pokemon! points at kids

kids (losing their minds as a unit): PIKACHUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!

Maybe that's all I need today. I need my pants to stay up and I need to shout Pikachu! I put a belt on and do feel much less grouchy -- now I'm going to go outside and yell for a while.

spider season

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Monday, August 03, 2009
knot hole

there are spiderwebs everywhere. It's that time of year (the crunchy dried lawn of summer that's closer to the orange leaves of fall than the green shoots of spring), and the spiders build webs across every open space as fast as they can. Maybe this is when they get really hungry? Maybe it's when they give birth to their multitudes of hungry spider babies? (I'm sure glad I don't live near a radioactive something or other because a giant spider with a giant web and a bad hungry radioactive attitude is something I don't think I'd be particularly well equipped to deal with.) I spend my time going between any of the usual outside places with hands out in front so I'm not walking into webs with my face. It's sort of like a modified mummy/zombie walk, but sprightlier with occasional surprised screeches and the creeped out dance if I miss one. (there's nothing like being pretty sure but not positive that there's a spider somewhere down your shirt.) That being said, I never kill them on purpose -- if they can't be outside, where can they be? If I catch one with my zombie hands I dangle the silk over another plant so they can start over again. I'm also a pretty good spider remover from inside to out, although if they are particularly big or hairy or scary looking I'm super jumpy and therefore not very effective. (I'm creeping myself out just thinking about it!)

Anyway. Now that it's less than 100 degrees out (woo!) it feels like my brain is re-solidifying from the vapor it was a week ago so I hope to be posting more regularly. We'll see how that works out. (next post: no spiders! I promise.)

through the knot hole