Friday, August 31, 2012

Unusual Sculptures, From Butterflies to Cities

First, allow me to say that next week, I'll be taking Monday off instead of Wednesday. Then you get to hear all about the apartment I'm going to see on Tuesday pretty much as soon as it happens. I know - it can't possibly get more exciting than that.


Driveable sculpture motorcycle, made from recycled parts!

Miniature cities - this one's made of soap!

Have an excellent holiday weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Tunes: Shankar, Garbage, The National

I got some new music this week, and Anoushka Shankar's "Red Sun" is a favorite of mine.

Spousal Unit heard a piece about her on NPR a few weeks ago; she's the daughter of famous sitarist Ravi Shankar, and this piece is on her CD Rise. But her new CD, Traveller, features a blend of Indian and flamenco music. This live video of the title track features some gorgeous Indian dance, too.

Another new song I got was Garbage's "Bleed Like Me." Nothing like Garbage to make you feel that your weirdness isn't that weird after all - plus, the melody is very catchy. (If you know Garbage, you know without my saying that this song is full of potential triggers. It's beautiful, but listen with caution.)

Last was a new-ish song by The National: "Exile, Vilify." I love the duality of the song, and how it changes when the word 'vilify' is first used. Two halves of the same whole.

This video features a sock puppet. At first, it's hilarious and a little creepy, but the sock dude really fits with the song's theme: he looks so abandoned.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Things I Learned From Disney's Aladdin

Aladdin has pretty much always been my favorite movie, and every time I watch it, I learn something new. On my most recent watching, I heard something new in the scene where Jasmine "falls for" Jafar: she tells him his eyebrows are very angular, and that he has "cute little gaps" between his teeth.

This can be added to the myriad things I've learned from Aladdin in the past, as follows.

1. Don't marry anyone who makes you change your clothes. Or, you know, spits on you.

2. People who say they're an excellent judge of character usually aren't.

3. Puns are often used for evil purposes.

4. A magic carpet is a pretty pimp ride.

5. Don't turn your best friend into an elephant.

6. So long as you have 75 golden camels, no one will question whether you're actually a prince.

7. If you make a wish to become a prince, be sure to include a "no lie-detector feathers" clause.

8. Best way to make the hot girl you just met fall for you? Pretend she's crazy.

9. Always make deals with the weird old guy in prison, but don't be surprised when he betrays you.

10. Only after you meet the princess, get imprisoned, get trapped in a cave, discover a genie, become a prince, woo the princess, thwart an attempted murder, lose your genie, get sent to the Himalayas in a jet-powered turret, and face down a creepy, powerful sorcerer-genie will the Sultan realize that duh, he could just change the law.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Terrible, Horrible Day, the Cocktail Party, and the Christmas

I had a pretty terrible Friday. Almost immediately that morning, I lost all faith in humanity - I really hate starting my days like that. 

It began small, with a realization (while perusing Facebook) what a propensity mankind has toward selfishness and ignoring the plights of others, and everything snowballed from there. The lowest point was probably when I looked up the New York Times and found an incredibly inappropriate and graphic picture from the Empire State Building shooting. On top of all that, I was working all day, and dealing with the masses when already in a low place doesn't usually help bring you up.

Luckily, things really turned around over the weekend, despite my slaving away unpacking textbooks all weekend. (In a way, unpacking 35 boxes by myself on Saturday helped - noticeable progress was made, I interacted with relatively few customers, and I got a good workout.) 

When I came home from work on Saturday, Spousal Unit was all dressed up. We went to a cocktail party - hosted by us, attended by us. We poured ourselves drinks and played gin rummy all night, talking, talking, talking.

Spousal Unit also told me he'd been to the library and had found a copy of Elf, one of my favorite Christmas movies that, for some reason, we don't have. So on Sunday, after another satisfying work day unpacking boxes, we had Christmas in August. Though the only things that made it Christmas-y were the movie and the music we listened to, it was a spectacularly joyful evening.

The hot chocolate in Christmas wine glasses helped, too.

The common denominator in my weekend going from Suckfest to Christmas was Spousal Unit. I do like that boy.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Book I Have: Rosenblätter

I am not a rare-book person. I'd rather be able to read it than have to keep it under glass and admire it from a distance. But that doesn't mean I don't admire something beautiful when I run across it.

This book is Rosenblätter: Lieder und Sprüche des Volksängers und Improvisators Assim-Agha Gül hanendé. Or, in English, Rose Petals: Songs and Speaches by folk singer and improvisor Assim-Agha Gül hanendé. The poetry was originally written in Turkish, so far as I can tell from the German introduction, and was translated by Bernhardine Schulze-Smidt.

Try as I might, I can find little information online about this book - it seems to be somewhat rare, at least in the U.S. - but I'd love to know more. The above picture, on the lower left, mentions publication in Bremen, in 1893. There's even a small piece of paper cut and glued on the very first page: Büchbinderei Hebel & Denck, Leipzig. Very old school. (And it's a small thing, but I think it's pretty awesome that the translator mentions a trip to Constantinople in her introduction.)

I'm especially curious about all of these color illustrations. Every single page has them, and they're not all the same, either.

Even if I never learn anything else about this volume, I'm going to adore it forever.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Hot Air Balloon and a Lightsaber Sounds Like a Bad Combo...

Last week, Spousal Unit and I were on our flying carpet of a porch when we saw something unusual in the sky. It wasn't a bird, or a plane. (And who gets excited about those, anyway?)

I'm pretty proud of myself for getting a pic of the hot air balloon while it was gassing up.

I'm also proud of myself for knitting a lightsaber.

I found a picture of Darth Vader's and replicated it almost exactly - not an easy feat, and I did it all without a pattern. Above, I was using three balls of yarn at once, for the angular end of the handle. It got pretty tangly.

I think I did really well for such a self-invented project. The saber itself was made of Fun Fur, the black yarn was Caron, and the silver was Vanna's Glamour, double stranded. I made the black parts  bulge by running the yarn behind it very tightly, and then stuffing between the back strands as I went along.

You may notice the white thing sticking out of the first lightsaber picture. It's from our blinds - I accidentally broke them, and the thing that opens the slats was perfect to reinforce my project. Unfortunately, that means I'll have to break another set to make another lightsaber. I still think a dowel rod would have been too hard, but the plastic thing makes it less painful for the person getting stabbed.

Speaking of which: Stephanie, I meant to apologize to you for this thing being in your home now...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Awake Fail

I have big, big plans for today, and for the rest of my four-day weekend. Unfortunately, if I can't shake off the sleep that's caught in my eyes, I'll spend the rest of today napping and being lazy.

This is not an acceptable course of action. Here are the steps I'm taking to remedy that:

1. An immediate and cold shower, lasting about five minutes. This will make my nerve endings scream, "AUGH! We're awake!"

2. A cup of Assam Gold Rain black tea to make the brain cells snort, "Whut? Iz okay, we can has think nao." Or maybe I'll skip straight to the English Breakfast. That always gives my brain a good kick in the pants.

3. A head-first dive into my list for the day. Usually, by doing that, I tend to just forget the rest of the sleepiness, and by the time it's all gone, I've already been productive.

The problem with all of these is that I have an unusual sleepy feeling today - one not caused by a lack of sleep. I fear I may end up like this:

Here's what I will attempt to do today, while half asleep.

- Our monthly budget. It will likely feature imaginary numbers.
- A trip to the library. I hope it doesn't become a sleepwalking trip.
- Reading about viruses, for my novel. And I will fall asleep mid-paragraph, dream the end of my novel, and wake up and write it. And then it will turn out that was a dream, and when I wake up for real, I won't remember how I ended it. Crap. I already hate that dream.
- A new knitting project. A very small but still complicated one. ...I hope I don't accidentally knit something totally bizarre. Like this.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fantasy Football: The Naming

This weekend, I get to have fun with a bizarre aspect of my life which, to most people, is a square peg in a star-shaped hole. But I love it and throw myself into it every year.

This weekend is the fantasy football draft.

I love the weird sense of community that develops between me and my friends - mostly guys, of course. The one other girl on my team always thrills at seeing how well we do overall, compared to the guys - and we've done pretty well every year. Here's hoping one of us wins it this time.

I've been doing research on this stuff, because last year I was woefully unprepared to choose my team. I chose... poorly. (Okay, I did just fine. But I wanted to use that line.) Still, when all is said and done, the English major in me can't resist having the most fun of all with the least important aspect of the game: developing a team name. The best one I've had so far was The Aluminum Falcons; I hope to top it this year.

I spent a good hour putzing around on the internet yesterday, watching Robot Chicken and Whose Line is it Anyway, trying to come up with some hilarious team names. Some of them turned out so wonderfully, I have to share them with you. One or two are names I found elsewhere and liked, but mostly, I engineered them. Take them and use them, if you like - but if you're one of my team members and you take a name I wanted to use, be warned that I might have to kick your ass this year in retribution.

For those who don't play fantasy, or watch football: there are several players's names in here. Those team names would, of course, work best if you had those guys on your team.

- The Last Ballbenders (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
- Kamikaze Penguins
- The Army Ants (The Big Bang Theory)
- I’ve Got a Sproles in My Pocket (Yellow Submarine)
- White Lightning and the Shockers (Jordy Nelson is nicknamed White Lightning)
- Indiana Jones-Drew and the Last Cruz-ade
- Wham Bam Thank You Cam
- The Romosapiens
- A Crabtree Grows in Madison (after the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn)
- Fifty Shades of Browns (Good if you have lots of Cleveland Browns on your team... but why would you?)
- Wildcard Bitches (Always Sunny in Philly)
- Punt Return of the Jedi
- The Empire Strikes Bradshaw
- The Padamame Panda Bears (Robot Chicken)
- Thai Fighters 
- Isis Goatleys (Archer)
- Fort Kickass
- I Had Something For This

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The New Caped Avenger, and Hippie Christmas

And now... the winner of Tuesday's giveaway, the Technicolor Madness Capelet! The correct answer was 504.

Congratulations, Amor! Her guess, posted on my Facebook link, came closer than anyone else's. She (or whomever she gives the cape to) gets to call herself The Caped Avenger while wearing it. Because I said so. What will she be avenging? All the happiness in the world that has ever wanted to shine through, and couldn't for some reason. Through her, while wearing that cape, happiness will abound.

Yes, I'm kind of a sap. Pessimists, deal with it.

For those of you who looked at what I was giving away and said, "Who the hell would want a shawl?" (because I know some of you are out there), I'll be doing another giveaway next month. That one will be a scarf. Unfortunately for you guys, it (like the shawl) is kind of girly. But I don't judge - wear the hell out of it if you win. That, or give it to your mom for Christmas.

Speaking of free stuff, I got a bunch of it earlier this week for Hippie Christmas. Last year, it fell on a weekend, and four of us went to vulturize the slag heaps downtown as students fled for their lives. This year, it was on Monday and Tuesday, and I was left to my own devices.

Hippie Christmas, much like regular Christmas, is not meant to be celebrated alone. I'm still under medical orders (for my back) to not lift more than 20 pounds at a time, but I figured if it was in the name of a bookshelf, I'd be okay.

And I did find a nice - if somewhat unstable - unit, with nine little cubbies. A few L-brackets, and it'll be good as new. I'd show you pictures, but that will have to wait for later - Spousal Unit has absconded with the camera. (P.S. My back is fine. I lifted properly and dragged when I could. Plus, a nice hot bath.)

I also found a set of sturdy wooden chairs with nice arms, perfect for our dining table. Now, no one has to sit on the rocking footstool when they come over, rocking tea into his/her lap. (P.S. Come over for tea, people.) They're in need of a better finish, seeing as half of the chairs are plain wood, and the other half are painted black. And the other half are the original brownish finish, complete with weird painted rope knots. Yes, that's three halves. Because I'm special, and the chairs are magic.

I discovered a sturdy glass decanter in a box of broken dishes - the decanter is decidedly not broken, and will be lovely for wine, brandy, or iced tea. It would even be lovely for cough syrup. But I'm not going to put cough syrup in it. That would be rather silly.

There was also a nice plastic jar, with raised decorative grapes (not a metaphor) and a wooden lid. I also discovered a broom, three cans of tomatoes, and an unopened box of spaghetti. Thank you, college students (or rather, college parents), for feeding me.

Someone asked if I wasn't worried about eating randomly discovered cans of tomatoes. Um, no. They're not leaking, and they're not rusty, so they're fine. They're not even dented.

Between those, the tomatoes my grandpa gave me, and the ones coming in my CSA this week, I'll need a recipe for tomato sauce.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hooray! A Giveaway!

I thought I'd try something new with today's post: a giveaway! The shawl above (which I've named the Technicolor Madness Capelet) is something I made for a craft booth a few years ago, and it's just been sitting around, keeping my yarns company behind a cupboard door and bringing joy to no one. It's time to change that.

This shawl measures 11 inches from the center point to the corners, and is 20 inches across. The orange yarn is merino wool, nylon and acrylic; the blue border is wool. A great piece for early fall, and a great present, if you're not personally inclined toward capes. (Though who doesn't love a good cape?)

Here's how this works: Leave a comment with your number guess - between 1 and 1,875. I have chosen the number and emailed it to Spousal Unit, so you all know I haven't changed the number at the last minute. (Because clearly, that's something I might do otherwise.) If two guesses are equally close to the number I've chosen, the winner will be the one with the smaller guess.

If I don't get at least five guesses, I'll put this contest back in my pocket and try again later. Check back on Thursday to find out who the winner is, and I'll let you know how to contact me.

This contest, unfortunately, must be restricted. It is open to anyone in the United States - I'm afraid I can't afford overseas postage at the moment.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Dance, Barn-Style

This weekend, I partook in a way of life that is slowly fading away, as more country roads become big highways and more corn fields become parking lots: a barn dance.

I went to lots of events like this when I was little, except they were held at a small rural town hall. They served as family reunions for the adults; they gave me the excuse to eat too many rosettes and spin in circles like a maniac. For hours.

I loved going to those events, despite the cheek pinches from people I didn't know and the long drive there and back. I usually wore a dress my mom had made for me, with a pair of frilly socks - back when pink was my favorite color.

My family provided the music for these events, as they did at this weekend's dance. Back then, there were a maximum of five or six musicians at once; this weekend, there were between five and ten. (Not pictured here are the ladies who played mandolin later on.) There was even a caller for the square dances.

The only ones I knew in the band at this event were my cousin (on the piano) and my grandpa (right where the lights come together in the middle). I'm sure I was related to everyone there, but these were distant relatives.

One of my favorite things was seeing so many people dance the polka. I spent most of the night standing on the sidelines, feeling more shy than usual and too awkward to jump onto the dance floor (which was specially installed for this evening). But I did end up doing a bizarre city-girl version of the polka with my sister, and a waltz with Papa Neal.

If these dances could happen every month - or even a couple of times in a summer - you certainly wouldn't hear me complain.

Friday, August 10, 2012

All You Need is Imagination

After seeing Love by Cirque du Soleil a couple of weeks ago (I promise, this might be the last time I mention it here), I felt really inspired. That's my favorite thing about the good art of others, no matter the medium: really good art inspires others to do good art, too. (Sometimes bad art does that too, but I'm focusing on the good stuff right now.)

I have a couple of specific future projects in mind. One is a Help! scarf.

I've been trying to think of a way to distinguish it from a Where's Waldo scarf, and the best I can come up with is adding Beatles silhouettes on the white part of the scarf.

I also want to make some cross stitches, featuring Beatles lyrics and psychedelic patterns. While I haven't found anything like my particular vision out there, I have found some amazing Beatles-related artwork.

Look at the detail! And look at Ringo's afro!

This Beatles cross stitch site has some fun stuff, but I like this All You Need is Love one most.

This "babymania" baby shower has lots of fun detail - including a menu that plays off of different songs (I am the eggman salad sandwich and Sgt. Pepper-oni pizza). And this Craftster list has a ton of Beatles-themed crafts, including bags, bras, and an awesome mosaic plaque.

Now for the fun part: the crafting!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Inspirational Art: The Peace of Solitude

All of these pieces I love are by famous artists, but they're some of the less celebrated works - and that's part of why I like them.

For example, Van Gogh's best known piece is probably Starry Night. But I like The Cafe better, for many reasons. It gives me the feeling of being peacefully alone in a public place. In high school, I often went to Perkins late at night for a cup of tea and a muffin, and I would sit in a corner and write till the place closed. This painting brings that feeling to mind - there's some minor bustle around you, the night is gently magic, and you're content to watch the world rush by in all its glory.

I also love the solitude in this piece by Salvador Dali.

Better known as That Mustachioed Guy Who Melted Clocks, Dali didn't need bright colors all the time to make a strong statement. Follow the link above for some interpretations of his work if you like. Personally, I love the idea of the flower-head: the rest of her body is solid and grounded, but her head is elsewhere, lighter, maybe even dreaming. I feel a sense of... dark whimsy, I guess. Note the girl with the hula hoop in the background.

This is my favorite of Picasso's Blue Period. There's a lot of sadness here - the woman with her back turned, hugging her knees - but there's comfort, too. I love finding the different colors Picasso included here: blue and black, yes, but also brown, yellow, and purple. It's a reminder that there's always more than first meets the eye.

It takes more than good words to inspire writing. It also takes beauty in every form.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Book I Want: The City's Son

There's one main reason I'm excited about The City's Son: it's a young adult title with a very unusual plot. It's not often, these days, that something original appears in that genre - or at least, something that breaks the mold a little.

The City's Son follows Beth, a teenage graffiti artist who runs away after her best friend betrays her. She turns to life on the streets - streets full of strange happenings, because unusual gods and menaces lurk in the shadows. Beth meets Filius Viae, or Urchin, the crown prince of London's underworld, whose mother is one of those gods - Mater Viae, Our Lady of the Streets.

Mater Viae has been missing for fifteen years, though; rumors say she's returning soon. Reach, the god of urban decay, wants to kill Filius before his mother returns. So Beth helps him to raise an army - and then is forced to choose between her old life and her new one.

Having read only the first chapter, I'm both entranced and confused by this book. The characters, setting, and style all remind me greatly of Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (and I'm not the only one - a review on Fantasy Book Critic draws a Mieville comparison, too). It's the combination of grit and a supernatural cityscape, I think - plus a touch of the ethereal, in those gods.

Pollock's writing brings even the most inane things to life. For example:

"It was train-like, but more animal, somehow. Its whistle was a howl, it was draped in a pelt of tangled cables and its chassis was scabbed with rust and graffiti. Cataracts of smashed glass covered its windows. Great rents had been torn from its hull as though by massive claws.
"The train-thing emitted a hydraulic snort and impatiently shifted its wheels."

Slightly creepy, definitely anthropomorphic, and a promise of many more bizarre things to come - that quote is from page 38. And this is the first title in a trilogy.

One last thing to mention: the cover above is the English version; the one below is for the U.S. Do publishers think U.S. teens won't pick up this book without a shirtless guy on the cover? I love the whimsical but still creepy style of the English cover. Why couldn't the U.S. one get fun artwork, too?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Blog? Augh!

Sometimes I have trouble coming up with blog post ideas. My wells of creativity become dusty and void of intelligence, to the point where I consider posting a picture of how thick the dust on my dresser has gotten.

I actually kind of love it when I reach the final crumbs of pseudo-original thought my mind can conjure. It means I get to search the vastness of the internets for people who've had this problem many times before - people who are willing to help me out. This time, I just searched "blog post ideas," and here are some of the fun things I accidentally found.

 - Joy the Baker. Usually, a list of post ideas has all the ideas I've already done, plus a bunch that I would probably never write about (things like starting a 401k and hiking across Tunisia). But her list actually got me thinking - especially her idea to post about where inspiration comes from! Post I'll feature soon: crafts I hope someone will make, inspired by Cirque du Soleil's Love.

- Joy's post led me to Shutterbean, who does a list post every week. I really like that idea, and Shutterbean has such a variety in each post! Books, food, clothes, art, and more. I might have a new favorite place on the internets. Post I'll feature soon: the best of my blog over the last year and a half.

- Shutterbean led me to Take a Megabite's strawberry rhubarb sweet rolls. Post I'll feature soon: an amazing chocolate basil cake I'll make for Spousal Unit's birthday. (Though I might get voted out in favor of Carl's Cakes.)

Holy sweetness, Batman. Feed me now.

- And a comment on that post led me to Shopped and Dropped. Charlie posts about a myriad of things, including some that I'm not usually into - like nails. But check these out! It makes me wish I could go a day or two without chipping them into oblivion. Post I'll feature soon: some of my favorite art pieces, and how they still inspire me whenever I see them.

Now I have enough ideas for at least the next two weeks.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Filler Bunny: Form of... A Sunset!

Today, you get this.

I, on the other hand, get an extra-long, extra-hot shower to burn away the terrible pain in my neck. And then later today, I get a new pillow.

Have a spectabulous weekend.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Last night, I tried to make falafel.

I had a new recipe I wanted to try, one that eagerly proclaimed, "Falafel didn't have binding agents back in the day, so you don't need any now! Follow our directions and you will be amazed at how utterly disappointed you can get!"

I'd really been hoping to have a nice dinner ready for Spousal Unit and I - it's fun to take full advantage of my days off and make something a bit more involved than usual. Along with the falafel, I had lots of CSA beets waiting to be nommed, so I decided on creamy mashed beets. Yes, beets and falafel don't really make a full dinner, but I started later than I wanted to, it was the only idea I had, and I was counting on Spousal Unit being full-ish from the work pizza party. So it was okay to make such an odd combo.

As you might guess, after processing the falafel ingredients and heating a pan full of oil, four falafel balls fell to disgusting, chunky pieces before my eyes. Now I had a pan full of boiling oil and chickpeas - not a suitable dinner. Feeling disgust but not despair, I figured I'd let the oil cool, strain it, and try again, this time with bread crumbs to bind them. (Much less dramatic than one ring, but more tasty, too.)

In the meantime, I started on the beets, which I had thoroughly scrubbed, partially peeled, and painstakingly chopped earlier. After they boiled, I added milk and cream cheese and pulled out my Blender of Doom (speed setting 1 is hurricane force - I haven't dared test the others). I began blending, and to my dismay, the only things that blended were the milk and cream cheese, spattering all over the tea pot, my clothes, and my dignity.

For some ridiculous reason, I'd thought ten minutes was long enough to boil them. Beets are cooked like potatoes, and I sure as hell know potatoes need about 20 minutes or longer if you plan to mash their little bits to pieces. But I'd forgotten this important fact and, apparently, all of my other culinary skills.

Witness the crazy prowess of the skinny blonde girl! She goes from zero to hysterical in five minutes flat!

I flipped through cookbooks like mad, trying to figure out what you do with creamy, partially cooked beets, and of course none of my cookbooks had any wisdom. I flopped flat on the floor, defeated by produce and my mind, which said of course I failed at this, I'm a pathetic excuse for a human being, I haven't even finished my novel yet, there are two piles of mush instead of dinner and it's already 7 p.m., and there's laundry and an explosion of Vesuvian proportions to clean up in the kitchen.

Don't worry - as you know, I have a shrink who's helping me put my brain-nuggets in order. But I'm amazed at how little it takes me sometimes.

Luckily, I have a wonderful Spousal Unit, who helped me decide on leftover pizza and brownies for dinner instead. He rinsed the beets for me to fix later, and suggested hummus from the falafel remnants.

We sat down to the geeky glory of Star Wars, and the evening was saved.

...Until I burned the brownies.
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