Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Goals of Birthdays Past

Way back in the day, I posted my goals for the year (my birth year, not the calendar year), and I couldn’t find my goals from the previous year to do a recap of those accomplishments. At long last, the list is located. Here are the goals I detailed in 2010-2011: 25 things to do before I turned 27.

1.      Participate in NaNoWriMo
2.      Submit novel to Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest
3.      Finish The Neverending Quilt by August 2011
4.      Write weekly*
5.      Learn some Korean
6.      Keep running/belly dancing
7.      Take a creative class
8.      Finish Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susannah Clarke
9.      Get paid for something I wrote/made*
10.   Find a wedding dress by Thanksgiving*
11.   Get married*
12.   Move*
13.   Pay off one of my student loans*
14.   Consolidate other loans
15.   See Terri again*
16.   Get my tattoo
17.   Make socks for myself
18.   Learn to tango*
19.   Make sushi
20.   Make wedding invitations*
21.   Run 10 miles at once
22.   Have a tea party, with my new tea set, in our new apartment

The items with an * are the ones I completed that year. All in all, kind of a terrible year for my goals percentage-wise, with the added awful bonus of being an incomplete list.

That said, some of these items were really big accomplishments. Gettingmarried was a BFD, of course, as I’ve mentioned here once or twice before. I cheated a little by including wedding-related goals on the list, but I figured I was entitled, what with all the work that goes into such a shindig. Nearly 50 percent of my accomplished goals were specifically wedding-related. (Learning to tango was the fourth one, not paying off the loan.)

Seeing my friend Terri again happened at the wedding, too, though I wasn’t sure at the time that it would. We had last seen each other when we were about 7 and her family moved back to South Korea. We wrote letters back and forth as kids, which became e-mails back and forth, then eventually Facebook. Through all this time, we kept saying someday, we would see each other again. When she started school in the States, we knew it was only a matter of time, and she was able to come to our wedding, where we saw each other again for the first time in about 20 years. We laughed, we cried, it was beautiful.

(Sounds like a Lifetime movie, doesn’t it? Except with less murder. I like that.)

Thanks to this blog, I got into the habit of writing not only weekly, but almost daily. I sold a shawl to a friend, marking the first thing I’ve created and been paid for. And there was, of course, the moving.

Now for the things I didn’t accomplish.

Many of the goals I didn’t achieve were money-related. Considering how long Spousal Unit and I were out of work, I’ll give myself a pass on the tattoo, the class, the tea party, and the sushi. Not consolidating my loans made sense, too, due to their interest percentages.

The novel goals fell by the wayside due to wedding planning. But the other goals? Mostly, I was just lazy and unfocused, with the craziness of marriage and moving cross-country. And I didn’t have easy access to my list, which decided to lose itself in the move.

(The Neverending Quilt is in its own category - I think no matter what I do, it will take me at least an eternity to finish.)

I’ve done much better on my list so far this year (which actually has 25 goals). I can see myself completing at least 15 of those goals for certain by October, and hopefully more. It helps that I made the list more reasonable this year, and that I’m not planning to move before then.

Being that I’ve already completed seven of my goals, I think I’m well on track.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Superman According to Strangers

Imagine that every day when Superman uses his phone booth to change, three people happen to walk by.
As Clark Kent ducks in and starts ripping his clothes off, the first person strolls by. (Clarkie has apparently forgotten that duh, phone booths have glass doors.)

Huh, the innocent bystander thinks. I hope that guy’s okay. Did a bee fly into his shirt? As Mr. Kent continues to get naked, the bystander wonders if maybe it was a whole swarm.

Then, out steps Superman. Astounded at having seen the superhero up close and personal, Bystander #1 runs home to tell her family about the guy who got naked in a phone booth and stepped out wearing his underwear on the outside of his spandex.

Bystander #2 doesn’t see the transformation, but knows Superman recently invoked the power of flight in the name of justice. He tries to make an ordinary phone call, not knowing this booth is Superman’s boudoir. Bystander #2 forgets about the call and examines the random pile of clothes, then discovers a wallet in them, with Clark Kent’s ID and various personal info.

BOOM. There goes Superman’s anonymity. Also $40, his credit cards, and various fortune cookie papers predicting an unfortunate oversight on his part. Bystander #2 gets rich blackmailing the supersonic guy from Krypton.

The third passerby is a bit different from the others. He had no idea Superman was anywhere nearby, and just sees a pile of clothes in the phone booth. His first thought?

This is no phone booth!

Rather, it’s clearly a teleporting booth. The technology is rudimentary, as clothing cannot be transported yet. This bystander would love to test his theory, but is terrified of his own nudity and therefore wouldn’t dare. He wonders where the owner of the clothing teleported to, and daydreams briefly about a nudist colony on the moon.

After examining the clothing a bit more closely, he notices there’s no underwear in the pile (because Clark Kent always, always wears his underwear outside his supersuit). His second thought comes to him.

He walks, commando, to the nude teleportation booth!

The owner of this clothing has now become more than a superhero to Bystander #3. He has become a god among men. The third bystander lies in wait till Superman retrieves his Clark Kent disguise, completely glazing over the fact that he didn’t teleport back. Rather, he is focused on this man’s freedom. Clark Kent is now Bystander #3’s idol, and a savior from both shame and constricting briefs.

Little does he know, his new role model is also a never-nude.

Now poor Mr. Kent has a blackmailer, a stalker, and disturbing rumors about his undergarments and clothing preferences to deal with, on top of a city rank with crime and evil-doers. It’s enough to make anyone want to file change of address forms and move to Mars. Or maybe Pluto, which is at best barely associated with the solar system anymore.

Too bad he can’t just teleport there.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Sharp Misadventure

I took some pretty nasty spills as a kid. I haven’t yet had a broken bone, so far as I know (though my little toes are mangled enough to suggest it), but I had my fair share of rollerblading wipeouts and slow-motion trips down the stairs.

But the worst was probably the time I ran into barbed wire.

At about age 9 or so, I had my first horseback ride (a real one – not one on the chained-up circle-ponies at the circus). We visited some distant cousins, who had a farm and a huge white horse named Marshmallow. I got to trot around in front of the barn for a while. Magical, though I wasn’t allowed to go faster. Running was faster than the pace I was riding.

At that age, I ran everywhere I could. I loved running. I ran at school. I ran home from the bus stop, kids shouting, “Run, Forrest, run!” at my retreating back. (Having not seen that movie, I didn’t get it and didn’t care if they were making fun of me. Just another day in the life.) Running was fun to me, and so I ran at every chance I got.

Fast forward to the summer before seventh grade. I was back on that farm, visiting distant cousins again for some kind of family reunion. At that point, I think they no longer had the horse. But the cousins supposedly had a treehouse out in the woods, away from the crazy ridiculosity of grown-up speak, and away from the green Jello salad with shredded carrots that has attended every family reunion in memory.

It was dusk, and we made our own adventure, crawling under the barbed wire like miniature Indiana Joneses, hunting for treasure against the wishes of others. We crept down the path toward the awesome treehouse.

Actually, I’m not sure if the treehouse was awesome at all. We didn’t climb around in it; maybe it was broken. But it was definitely a haphazard, schadenfreudic collection of former tree branches, nailed together in the branches of a tree.

My cousins (second or third, I don’t recall how distant) were boys, so of course there was the natural no-girls-allowed sensation in our momentary hangout. I didn’t care; I’d gotten that vibe from others many times before, and for true, I wasn’t that keen on hanging out with them either. (Then, as now, I get very quiet around strangers.) So I started back toward the barn, or shed, or whatever building the adults were hanging out in.

Remember when I said I ran everywhere I went? I ran back toward the buildings that day. At dusk, in unfamiliar territory.

I took the curve in the path and was almost in a full sprint, very close to the party pavilion, when I ran into an invisible force field. I flew back several steps, completely shocked. What was that? Had I stepped into an episode of Star Trek? Was there a ghost? Star Wars wasn’t real life; no one could have used the Force on me… right?

That’s when, in the faint light of the setting sun, I noticed the barbed wire. The stuff I’d climbed through to get to the treehouse. I looked down at my arms and saw little stripes of blood starting to appear.

Balls.

I had cuts all over, which scarred pretty heavily. I still have haphazard pale streaks on my arms and legs to this day, raised reminders of my foolish running off into the sunset.

I try to avoid running in the dark now.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kendo for the Spiritless

Let me tell you about my first kendo class.

I was all kinds of nervous to be going out into a new part of Madison, all by myself, to do something I knew nothing about with complete strangers. So I persuaded Spousal Unit to go with me. (I would have still gone if he hadn't come with, but it was a comfort to have him there.)

We arrived early as the website suggested (though a half hour was maybe a little much), and proceeded to sit around for 45 minutes until anyone arrived. Apparently, the class starts at 7:30 instead of 7. I had even e-mailed the instructor about it, and he said 7.

I felt like I was in New Mexico again.

The beginning of the class was fun. We learned the different bows, footwork and why it's important, and practiced swinging shinais in proper form while listening to the seasoned students count in Japanese.

It was entertaining to watch the students practice in all their gear, and they were especially serious about it because of an upcoming tournament. But at some point (maybe around when they were smacking each other in the head) I was amazed at how little I cared about any of it.

It had less to do with the head-smacking and more to do with the lack of explanation for things. The website was incredibly detailed, discussing how to behave in the dojo (which was a high school gym), proper treatment of shinais, and overall class etiquette. None of that was addressed in the class. We didn't even get an explanation of the screaming - there was no description of developing spirit through swordwork.

Granted, kendo is different from other martial arts, and I only attended one class. But a discussion of the internals seemed not only important, but necessary. How else are we supposed to get why we're going through the motions?

While the other students ran back and forth screaming at each other, us noobs were set to facing off and practicing motions. And I just felt incredibly silly. With more careful instruction, I may enjoy kendo yet. But in that time, I just felt like someone with bare feet and a piece of wood, shuffling across the floor while people in masks and armor whacked at each other and yelled.

I think it says a lot that something like that wasn't enough to hold my attention.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gotye and Guster, Whom You May Enjoy

I have a new obsession.


The song is Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye (go-tee-yay). I've heard it once, and can't get it out of my head. Unfortunately, I heard it a week ago, and all the parts of the song are jumbled in my head, so I'm not sure I remember it correctly. There's also the issue of New Song Nostalgia - when you hear a song for the first time and it seems absolutely amazing, but you hear it a second time and it's actually terrible.

I'd have watched the YouTube video five billion times by now if not for the fact that our internet is as fast-moving as half-frozen coffee sludge cross-bred with a giant sloth-slug. I've managed to load the first few seconds once or twice, but it's the chorus that thrills me (or did, if I remember right). Solution? Go to the library this weekend (where their internet is a cross-breed of a bullet train and Michael Phelps) and buy the song.

And I already have the song Architects and Engineers by Guster, but I want more of their stuff. They make me smiley.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Survey Results and Adjustments

Ladies and gents: I successfully avoided putting the box of cereal in the fridge when I got up this morning. Hooray for that.

Now for news that you actually care about. First, thank you for participating in my meager little survey. Results said that, if anything, you would all like to see more letters to various entities, be they undead mythological beasts or undead modern companies (seeing as corporations are people in the good ol' US, I guess they're just as at risk for becoming vampires, too).

Tied with that was a craving for more book previews. I am totally okay with that. It helps that at work, I'm now the custodian of sections that I care about, so I will more often stumble across awesomeness. Such as the one I'm going to tell you about later this week...

But overwhelmingly, rather than seeing any one particular thing more often, results said that you all like Deviant Dispatches the way it is, and wouldn't change it a bit.

Which is why I'm going to change it.

Idle down; it's not that big of a change. I started this blog, one year ago, with the main purpose of developing a writing habit, of working out my writing habit with linguistic dumbbells until it began to improve. I think I've seen some of that improvement (or at the least, words tend to flow much better when I translate brain matter to language), which means it's time to put that ability to good use.

Deviant Dispatches will still exist; have no fear of that. But I will no longer have posts on Wednesdays. Rather, I will use my usual blogging time on that day to work on my novel. (Remember my novel? I've been working on it for years now.)

I'm excited for this adjustment, particularly because you, my lovely and intelligent readers, keep me on track with this kind of thing. I know you're out there, watching my progress like a less-creepy next-door neighbor, and that will help me keep tabs on myself as I rewrite my book. It may not be National Novel Writing Month, but I want to accomplish that goal of a second draft by October, at least.

Until spring arrives and the sun emerges from its winter coccoon, I may not have anything for you on Wednesdays. But when I can, I'll at least post sunsets for you, so you will have something pretty to view.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Our Kind of Love

One of my favorite things about being with Spousal Unit is that I know so much about him.

About a year and a half ago, I realized he had a certain laugh for when he wanted to tell me something funny. I’d recognized it for a while before that, but it wasn’t until then that I consciously realized how intimate that was.

I usually hear it when I’m in a different room. I’ll be making dinner, or knitting, or getting ready for work. He’ll be on the computer, or playing a video game, and his laugh will appear. It’s a little louder than usual, and a bit more exaggerated. At some point, I unconsciously began interpreting it as him saying, This is so funny; Allison, you have to hear this. You’ll get a kick out of it.

For a long time, I insisted I would never get married. One day (before I met Spousal Unit), I woke up and thought that eventually, it might not be so bad. Maybe. Another day, years later, I thought that if I ever married anyone, it would be Boyfriend Unit, but I was not anywhere near ready for that.

Then came the day that I recognized that laugh for what it was. It made me feel closer to him than I ever had before – and it was such a simple, natural thing. It felt like something that had always been there and always would be. It was cozy; it was part of what made our tiny New Mexico apartment home.

I think that was what stripped away my final inhibitions, what brought me another step closer to him. I’d always had love and a soft warmth in my heart for him, but at that point it was brighter than ever.

I’d always thought knowing someone like that would get boring. One day, I’d wake up and know all his faults, all his jokes, all his smiles and every freckle on his body. There would be nothing new left, and we would grow stale. I had feared that happening.

But rather than being frightened of it, or weary, knowing his laugh felt like a comfort. It was a fireplace and a thick blanket, with a cup of hot chocolate, while a bitter storm raged outside. I know all of his smiles – even the Muppet one – but each still caresses my heart.



There are times when we drive each other crazy. I know all his annoying little quirks; he knows all my ridiculous trains of thought. Sometimes, it makes me want to tear out my hair.

But then he laughs. And my heart and his fall back in step, and we waltz away together, smiling and stepping on each other’s feet. And that’s my favorite part of us.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Letter to MyHotShoes

Dear MyHotShoes.com,

I was incredibly pleased with my recent purchase from you: a pair of knee-high boots with buckles and zippers and laces all over. I felt like the most fashionable pirate on the high seas (or in my case, the Great Lakes). I kept discovering wonderful new things about them, and - ask any of my friends or family - repeatedly lauded their greatness.

Now. You're based in California, so I understand (in a way) your not knowing what winter is like for us Midwestern folk. Allow me to explain. Here, we get snow. Snow is wet. Snow melts sometimes, and becomes ice. Ice is slippery. In such hazardous conditions, it is a good idea to have sturdy, reliable footwear.

Not this crap that you refer to as "boots."


And now for your closeup.



Let me tell you about the excellent craftmanship you worked into these plastic soles, since you obviously put no soul into them yourselves. Note the six holes around the perimeter of the heel. By the time the base of the heel fell off the first time, only two of those were left unbroken. Two, about half a centimeter in diameter - hardly sufficient to keep a boot heel in place for very long. Which is why I was less than surprised (but still incredibly pissed) to discover, just a few days later, that I'd completely lost the base of my heel in a parking lot.

When I was on my way out of town for a weekend.

With no working shoes. In winter.

So thank you, from the bottom of my cold little feet. I'd hoped these boots would at least last me one season - and considering I bought them in late November and did not wear them every day, they should have. Now, I am forced to rely on my old boots, which are cracked, ripped, and punctured in so many ways that they are drafty and no longer waterproof. I've got those and my sneakers to get me through.

(As you may recall my mentioning, it snows here. Sneakers don't quite keep fresh snow out, especially when there are several inches of it on the ground. Also, they're as waterproof as a paper bag.)

I am therefore requesting a refund, which should pay for my taking these sorry excuses for footwear to a cobbler to have them re-soled. (I understand the idea of boots for the purpose of fashion, but these would make you slip and fall on sandpaper. And how fashionable can you be in something so poorly made?)

I do still love the style - I'm just incredibly disappointed in the quality of the item I carefully selected and paid for.

Sincerely,
A former customer who will not be a customer again,
Allison

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Censorship and Politics


Yes, musicians deserve to be paid for their work, especially in a world where so few actually buy CDs anymore. But that doesn't mean YouTube deserves to be shut down. That doesn't mean random comics deserve to be blocked. Essentially, SOPA and PIPA are about censorship, and under those bills with their incredibly lax wording, you could come to Deviant Dispatches one day and discover it's shut down.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Read a good explanation here, via CNN Money (whose parent company supports the bills, but it's a fairly unbiased article). XKCD has some excellent links you can follow. Time has a list of different ways you can shout from the rooftops that you don't approve.

As long as I'm on a political note: big shout out to my fellow recall peeps! We are 1 million strong, and one step closer to the 21st century again - though we'll never get a chance at that high-speed rail again, will we, Governor?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Skirt Rainbow

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a thrift store, casually browsing for various things, such as bookshelves and skirts, particularly an orange one to complete my skirt rainbow, so I can cross it off my birthday goal list.

The bookshelves were not a success; neither were wall shelves. So I scouted out the skirt aisle, hoping something long and orange would catch my eye. I started at the size 0's (which I am not) and moved up from there. (Many of my best skirts have been categorized as much larger than my size at thrift stores, simply because of a drawstring, so I more or less ignore categorization).

As I reached the end of the aisle, where another customer browsed, I thought it was yet another day of skirt-rainbow defeat. But just beyond some shorter skirts, I saw a long, uneven scrap of orange dangling down.

MINE! my brain screamed in my head. It's my skirt! That's the one!

At that point, I didn't even know if it would fit, let alone what the rest of it looked like. But some part of me insisted that was the one.

But the customer who was browsing stood directly between me and my newest skirt. In fact, she stood right in front of it. And she stood there. And stood there.

After what must have been three hours, I nearly started jumping up and down in circles and making a high-pitched whine. But I am, after all, supposedly an adult. So I only did so in my mind, taking out my sudden excess-energy by pacing down the aisle and looking at other skirts with no interest whatsoever, my mind entirely on the creamsicle beauty maniacally guarded by the sloth-ish skirt seeker.

In my pacing, I did come across another beautiful skirt, which I ended up purchasing later. But as I turned, hoping to head back to the end of the aisle, sure that at least a full day must have passed by now, I saw that she was still there.

She was looking at two skirts, just two, and apparently they were the smartest, most beguiling creatures on this planet, because she kept comparing the two, wondering which one to put in her cart (if any), admiring the texture of one, then another.

I started wondering what the chances were that aliens had come to Earth in the form of inanimate objects, trying to control the population unnoticed, just to tick me off. I swear to you, I almost pitched a fit in the middle of the store.

At long last, she chose one and moved on her way. (It was only then I became convinced she didn't want my orange skirt.) It was probably only five minutes that she actually stood there, but it felt like an apocalyptic eternity.

Upon finally reaching my newest skirt, I saw that my instincts were right. It was very much my style, with an uneven hem, a swirly trail of knitted threads, and a spattering of gold sequins to top it off. But there was a small hole in the back, which I could easily fix, so I asked the clerk about a discount. I received it, and paid only $4 for the creamsicle beauty.

Check it out.



The best part? I've completed my rainbow.


Looks like something out of Dr. Seuss's brain.

So far, that completes approximately 7 of my 25 goals. Next up: kendo lessons.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Survey, Through Which You Control Your Destiny (and Mine)

We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of my blog being in existence. Hurrah! To celebrate, I have a question for you, which you can answer in one little click. Meanwhile, I'll be here, pounding my head against the wall and pretending that my favorite football team didn't play like high schoolers last night.

(And don't just start whistling and casually browse away from here. I'd love feedback from everyone!)

What would you like to see more of on my blog in the coming year?

If your answer is something completely unrelated, feel free to note your preferences in the comments.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book-to-Movie: Lost in Translation, or Perfected By It?

I'm very excited for the movie version of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which comes out in theaters on March 23.


I absolutely loved the books in that series, and can't wait to see what they do to bring it to life. The intensity willl be amazing, I think, and Jennifer Lawrence seems like she might actually play a good Katniss.

I know some of my friends will have concerns about staying true to the book and the possibility of the movie totally ruining the book in their eyes. I have some similar concerns; would you expect less of someone who has a t-shirt like this?


I don't really believe a bad movie can ruin a good book for me, though. The two are very separate medias, one relying imagination, the other asking merely for eyesight and hearing. And even if the movie isn't exactly the same as the book, it can still be a wonderful movie.

The prime example of this right now is Harry Potter. I've enjoyed pretty much all of the movies, thought not necessarily on first viewing. I detested Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on first viewing, because I thought the movie had turned his inner struggle against Voldemort's evil into mere teen angst.

That didn't mean the rest of it wasn't enjoyable, despite that oversight (especially Umbridge being chased by a fiery dragon). On subsequent viewings, it seems they did subtly emphasize it more as an inner struggle, which (to be fair) is a difficult thing to portray on screen.

On the other hand, there's the post-battle scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, which is completely different from the book's ending: rather than keeping the elder wand, Harry breaks it and throws it over a cliff. At first, this kind of upset me. Why change something as important as the ending of the series - and so radically - when it didn't need changing? Those are the deviations in book-to-movie translation that bother me the most.

Yet thinking on it later, I almost - almost - believe the movie version is more true to Harry's character. What reason would he have to keep the deathly hallows? Why should he want to keep all that power - the elder wand, the cloak, the philosopher's stone? It's not like him. Snapping the wand in half and throwing it away might be a more accurate rendition. (It's also more dramatic for the movie-going audience, which doesn't hurt.)

But regardless, the book is still the book. It was the perfect way to end the series (if you ignore the epilogue). The movie, too, ended the series in excellent fashion. That's part of why I'm not worried about the translation of The Hunger Games from book to movie. If the actors suck, if they change too many scenes, if the special effects fail, then there goes the movie. But the books are still delightful. And who knows? Any changes they make to the movie might improve it.

I still want them to do it by the book, though.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Gold Mine of Terrible Covers - and Some Good Ones

Yesterday I found a book called The Art of Romance, featuring hilarious artwork from old Harlequin and Mills & Boon covers. While searching this morning for the various wonderful covers featured within, I ran across Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, a website devoted to reviewing romance books (and more than occasionally poking fun at the covers). I am an amateur, they are professionals. Check out their wit and snark.

Over at The Independent, you can enjoy a little slideshow of old Mills & Boon covers, featuring such gems as Romance Goes Tenting by Phyllis Matthewman. (No double entendre intended, I'm sure.) And what the hell does the clown in the background have to do with this book? I really hope he's just randomly on the cover, otherwise we've got a romantic remake of It on our hands. (Click  that link with caution - it's funny, but there's still a clown.)


Another wonderful, awful title is Grace Before Meat by Sara Seale. Not sure I even want to speculate about the implications there, but it apparently has something to do with a riding crop.


On the other hand, The Art of Romance does feature some beautiful covers, from way back in the 1920s. I love them because I love the styles of that era. Don't ask me what Crump Folk Going Home is supposed to mean, but Constance Holme certainly had some wonderful cover art.


I wish the cover of Fortune Hunters by C.N. and A.M. Williamson existed on the Internet - it's a beautiful cover, featuring simply a girl's head, dressed up in a flapper hairstyle and headband. The coloring is beautiful.

So no, not all romance art is awful, but covers like Man - and Waif by Jan Tempest make me question that. (Is he supposed to be going up stairs, coming down them, or falling into the ocean? I just don't know.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Panda and the Magic Serpent

The best $1 movie I ever purchased was "Panda and the Magic Serpent."


The movie is one of the first color animes, which came out in the 1950s. It's a trip and a half. For the most part, it's just a fairy tale: a white serpent is transformed into a woman, a boy falls in love with her, and a sorcerer tries to break them up because he knows what she is.

But one of the best parts is when the sorcerer and the snake-woman decide to have this magical space battle. I'm not exaggerating: the two of them are kind of floating around in some kind of black void (he with his crystal ball), shooting various colors of light at each other. Everything up until that point is pretty normal, then BOOM! Early Chinese space disco.

Despite that oddity, it really is an excellent movie. It's a precursor to modern anime, and you can see a lot of history from this one movie. Give it a shot - you will especially enjoy the musical bits.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Book I Want: The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry

When I was in high school, I was part of the Forensics team. (Not the crime-solving, fingerprint-collecting kind, the drama and presentation kind.) My category was poetry, meaning whenever we had competitions, I would get up before a group of people and read my selected poetry outloud before peers and judges.

Junior year was my best in Forensics, when I read the poem "Ball and Chain Record Store" by Ellyn Maybe. In the poem, the main character ends up calling her boss a pig, wreaking havoc on the store, and waltzing out to the beat of a drum nobody's playing. I went to the state competition in Madison each year I participated, but junior year was when I received a perfect score and a gold medal - not an easy feat. But I'm sure half my success is owed to the poem I chose. (The other half goes to my coach.)

I found that poem in The American Bible of Outlaw Poetry, edited by Alan Kaufman.


A copy showed up at work the other day, and it's sent me into a fantastic nostalgia spiral: remembering all that time I spent practicing, the crazy fun with fellow Forensicators, the odd experiences on bus trips. For that reason (among others), I really want to get this book.

The Outlaw Bible features a ton of amazing poets - the book is about three inches thick, after all, so I would hope that's the case. According to various reviews (some of them snottier than others), not everything in this book is a gold mine. Some poems just aren't that great; some speak to a purpose that no one but the author could hope to ferret out. Then there's the discussion of whether anything in this book is actually "outlawed," but that's a bit nitpicky, I think. After all, poets use lots of metaphor.

But the purpose of this book, according to Kaufman, was to expose readers to things one doesn't often run across - hence the absence of Ginsberg's "Howl" and anything by Bukowski. Instead, writers like Ellyn Maybe and Patricia Smith shout their unsettled hearts out in these pages. It's a mind-opener, a non-conformist mantra, and an explosion of unrest toward all that's wrong with the world.

In other words, it's my bible.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cranberry Friendship Bread

A friend gave me some Amish Friendship Bread starter. It's delicious stuff, sweet and cakey when you follow the common modern recipe, which involves instant pudding.

I didn't have any on hand when I made my first batch, and I think I prefer it without. The bread is still plenty tasty without adding that, too.

For the second batch I made, I wanted something less sweet and more healthy - the original recipe I used calls for a full cup of oil and a full cup of sugar. (I also wanted to add cranberries.) So I reworked the recipe to get this tasty concoction. Follow all the usual Amish Friendship Bread directions for your starter, but use the following ingredients instead.


Cranberry Friendship Bread

3 eggs                                                        2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. milk                                                 2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. oil                                                    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. applesauce                                      1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 c. honey                                              1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla                                          1/3 c. cranberries

Add all ingredients to your starter; mix well. Pour into two large greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.


I love this version of the bread so much more. There's still a hint of sweetness, which the cranberries help to emphasize, and the wheat flour makes it much more hearty. It's excellent with a cup of Bohemian tea, so I imagine adding orange zest would make this bread just about perfect.

The only thing I wish was different about this bread? I'd rather not throw out so much starter every time I make it. I wonder if there's a way to avoid that...



Friday, January 6, 2012

The Neverending Quilt, Part II

Now that Christmas gifts are complete, I've returned to one of my eternal projects for the time being: the Neverending Quilt.


In surprisingly short time, I've managed to sew the first nine squares of this quilt together, resulting in a small blanket about one square yard in size. The squares are uneven, despite my efforts at blocking, and there are still myriad threads lounging about, waiting to be of use. But it's a semi-functional blanket at last.

According to the phrasing on my list of goals, I've completed goal 3 on my list of 25 things to do before I get older. I'm pleased with that, but I'm going to keep working on it. I still have a few more squares to attach.


When I say a few, I mean 18. And I have 22 more to make yet.

At this rate, it will take me another 3 or 4 years to complete The Neverending Quilt. Just when I thought I was starting to get somewhere, the dang thing slaps me in the face.

Some glorious summer, Spousal Unit and I will have a gorgeous, handmade warm-weather blanket. We will be neither too warm nor too cool, and peace shall reign in our little home. But for now, I have another mortal enemy. I swear, that thing is glaring at me as I write this post.

It's trying to thwart me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Let Beauty Find You

Most days, we simply go to work. Do our jobs. Run errands. Come home. We move quickly because we have

places to go, because there are
things to do, because there is always
another thing to keep us busy and moving and focused.

It's not that we ignore the beautiful things around us; rather, we're not open to seeing beauty all the time because our minds are closed to things that might distract us. When that happens, we miss things like this.


Most days, we just keep driving. We don't stop and let ourselves be amazed by what's in front of us. We drive away and pass it by.


Today, I challenge you to take a moment to enjoy a little thing of beauty. It could be frost on the grass, the texture of a cloud, a father-son interaction that makes you daydream. The best part? You don't even have to look for it - not hard, anyway.

Just open yourself up to it, and beauty will be there, like it's always been.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Blog's New Face

Rather than writing a post for you, today I've given the blog its semiannual facelift. (This is becoming a rather frequent thing - I hope the blog isn't getting too spoiled.) For your enjoyment, the following changes have occurred:
  • New picture header, complete with new tagline. I do enjoy coming up with those.
  • A list of my "top ten hits," as it were, according to number of pageviews. That's on the right.
  • Removal of my favorite links. It was starting to get crowded over yonder, so I closed my eyes and clicked. If you want it back and would rather let go of something else, let me know.
I'm already well over my allotted hour of work for the day; Spousal Unit advised I do something fun on my day off, rather than doing like I do and accidentally working all day. So... maybe I'll read. It's hard to resist the urge to clean, though.

Enjoy, and let me know if you've got suggestions for anything.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Return of Yarn

Christmas has come and gone, and so have all my Christmas gifts to others. Which means I can now share them with you. Feel the excitement, people!

First is a little guy I made for a friend with an office, which was barren except for stress.


This is Fuzzball the Destroyer, of planet Zweeflebox. He fits in the palm of one's hand, squishes rather nicely, and has opposable eyeballs. This might be the best destructive fuzzy thing I've ever created. (Yes, there have been others, but no relation.) I created him with size 6 needles, Lion Brand fuzzy pompom yarn, and a strand of brown Caron. The eyeballs are Patons Grace mercerized cotton.

On a slightly more practical note, I crafted a selbu (Norwegian-style) hat.




You remember Kaelin, right? She's the one with her foot all over the top of this page. I made this hat months and months ago, and I was so thrilled with it that I almost gave it to her back in September. But I resisted, and now she has a Christmas hat.

This is possibly my favorite hat pattern ever, from the book Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson. It's a very versatile pattern, which I meshed with my favorite Norse flower design. (Yes, I said flower, not snowflake. They're meant to help remember flowers in the cold months. I can't show my work right now, but I think I learned that from the book Norwegian Handknits. Correct me if I'm totally wrong about this.) I made this hat with Caron yarn, also.

The crazy love handwarmers I made for my sister were another really exciting project.


They're the first ones I've ever made that have a proper thumb. All the other thumbs I've made just kinda stick straight out from the side, at an angle no one ever casually dangles their thumbs. These have a gradual angle following a normal human thumb, instead of those alien ones.

And that's not all! Look at the fun color changes! I'd been wanting to do a project like this for a while, with the dark background and apparent magic of color changes inside. It was as much fun as I thought it would be. The black is, again, Caron (how could you tell I have a lot of it?), and the variegated yarn is Universal Yarn Inc's Cotton Supreme Batik, in watermelon patch.

Another sister got a colorful set of mug cozies, which (her fiance pointed out) double as funky-chunky bracelets.



One is slightly larger, for those extra-large mugs. They allow you to hold your hot mug of awesomeness without burning yourself, an especially handy thing for when you're passing the mug to someone else. These are made with Lion Brand Hometown USA yarn, in Portland Wine and Oklahoma City Green. I love, love, love how chunky and quick and colorful this yarn is.

I have lots of other projects to share with you, but there's a slight problem. I try really hard, every time I make someone a gift, to take a picture of it before giving it away. But sometimes I'm terrible at remembering the camera, that tiny little box which, with a single button, replicates the image before it. (I get amazed sometimes at the stuff the human race has invented.)

So: hear ye, hear ye. If I gave you a yarned gift, send me a picture of yourself with it. That includes four scarves, a blanket, and an earring holder. Many thanks.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Practical Post, Possibly the Only One of This Year

 
Welcome to another year. It's another chance to get right all the things we did wrong last year, a chance to improve our lives permanently and shoot for the stars.

Any of you have goals set so far? As you know, I make goals every year based around my birthday, but certain New Year's resolutions are very popular. According to usa.gov (yes, our government has a website devoted to this), the most common resolutions revolve around a healthier body: eating better, staying fit, and losing weight.


This website has some good suggestions for losing weight in a healthy and safe way. Suddenly cutting out meals or running 5K will only serve to hurt your body; introduce changes slowly. Portion control and daily exercise can go a long way, even if it's only a half-hour walk and one less chicken wing. I am a bookseller, not a doctor, so talk to yours to help get a plan in place. Don't forget to be safe - even diet and exercise changes can hurt your body, if not handled in the right way.

Financial resolutions are also very popular - saving money toward an end goal, or managing debt. It's good to know how to balance a checkbook if you're going to do that. I try to write down any debit purchases the day I make them, so I don't loose receipts. That doesn't always work, of course, usually meaning I balance it once a month, when I pay bills. It's good to compare your checkbook to the bank statement, whether online or in paper format.


You can then start using a monthly budget planner, which will let you see how to most easily save money. Once you know how much you can put away each month, decide what kind of savings account to open. Watch out for various fees, as every bank seems to charge you for everything these days. It is possible to have a savings account without paying for it. Then make a rule that once you put money in, you are not allowed to take it out except for a specific purpose - car repairs, down payment on a home, etc.

Here's a blog with tips for smokers who want to quit. Here's one to quit drinking, and of course, the Madison area Alcoholics Anonymous. Remember, it's almost always easier to kick addictions when you're held accountable by someone, so let a friend know what you're doing so he or she can check your progress.

There's a whole year ahead of you - whatever your goals, whatever your methods, you are capable of changing your life. May Lady Luck be your guide, whether the goal is to recycle more or to get a pet monkey.
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