Sunday, March 30, 2008

And they will sell like HOTCAKES.

Spotted in the children's clothing department at Wal-Mart in Hermantown on Friday night:

I will make these in adult sizes and they will sell like HOTCAKES.

New goal in life: make knock-off version of this in adult sizes, and watch the money POUR IN.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Four years in the making.

Four years in the making.
I bought this damn yarn back in 2004. I think. Actually, now that I think about it, it could've been in 2003. I don't remember who I had in mind when I picked it out, but I know it was going to be one of my first full-size blanket projects (i.e., not a baby blanket), and it was probably for a wedding around that time. At this point, those details are lost to the ages. Other afghans have come & gone...this one kept getting brushed aside, packed & re-packed and moved halfway across the country, only for me to find it last fall and say to myself, "Enough already."

Since it was one of my first big blankets, I may have, just maybe, gone a bit overboard in the yarn acquisition department. Just a tad. Because in my zest for not letting any go to waste during the production phase, I've wound up with an afghan that measures in at 92 inches long. 92 INCHES, PEOPLE. THAT'S OVER SEVEN FEET. MY BLANKET IS TALLER THAN YAO MING.

Whenever I look at it, I'm reminded of that scene in Like Water For Chocolate when the depressed/lovesick girl is getting sent off the ranch and mile after mile of afghan comes spilling out the back of her buggy. Watching that in my high school Spanish class, even as Señora Mattson kept running up to the TV with a piece of paper to cover up any exposed naughty bits that flashed onscreen ("Algo sexual! Algo sexual!"), I remember thinking to myself, "Oh, god, I hope I never end up like that."

Well, so far, so good. If I take up a sudden interest in baking, somebody stop me.
Flannery seems to like it, at least.

My favorite movies of 2007.

Is this overdue? Maybe. I guess we are tapping up on April now, aren’t we...well, blame it on the Oscars being in February, me waiting on DVD releases, and the ongoing floor-remodeling project in the basement hidey-hole where I do most of my movie-watching. Besides, better late than never, right?

Away From Her
Eloquent and understated.

2 Days in Paris
More people should see this movie. Julie Delpy (of two of my all-time favorite movies,
Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) has a two-day layover in her hometown with her neurotic American boyfriend, and in those two days their entire relationship get shot to shit. So many laugh-out-loud moments, at the expense of both Parisians and Americans (I loved the recurring bit with the Da Vinci Code tourists), but with enough heart to keep it from feeling too frothy. Seriously, rent this.

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Some of the most stark, beautiful cinematography I’ve seen in a film for some time. It’s a smidge too long, I think, but it still kept me engrossed until the very end. Great ensemble cast, and a nuanced fleshing-out of an American legend (however flawed he was).

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
There are so many things to love about this movie--video games! Intrigue! Suspense! Dorks! But what I love best is how the filmmakers tackled this with earnestness, and without any mockery or condescension toward the competitors or the championship they were fighting for. Is it dorktacular? You bet. But really, when you stop & think about it, is it really any dorkier than spending hours compiling basketball tournament brackets or spending hours watching bimbos parade around on reality TV...?

The Bourne Ultimatum
Somehow, I went the past five years without seeing a single
Bourne movie. This winter, I played catch-up. Holy crap, these are good. So smart, and so well put-together--they transcend the action/thriller genre, I think. And the chase scene in Tangiers alone made this worthy of the editing Oscar it won.

Knocked Up
Two of the stellar Judd Apatow movies that came out last year--but I favored this one over
Superbad, partially because I think it’s the stronger movie of the two, and partially because of its Loudon Wainwright III soundtrack.

4. Once

How cute were they when they won their Oscars? Honestly. This is a movie that’s just as much about a love of music as it is romantic love, and I admire how it approaches both so realistically, with starts & stops, and flashes of confidence & sputters of uncertainty.

3. La Vie En Rose

The make-up job they pulled on Marion Cotillard in this one was absolutely remarkable--and her performance as Edith Piaf was one for the ages, too. Even if you come into this knowing nothing about Piaf, and even if you don’t know a lick of French (my vocabulary is primarily limited to “Chevrolet,” “escargot” and words I heard in the Flight of the Conchords’ “Foux Da Fa Fa” video), this one’s a doozy.

A bittersweet movie, knowing the sad fate that befell the writer/director, but ultimately it’s a sweet story about a woman taking charge of her life, and the people around her who root her on. Plus, the pie footage looks delicious.

1. No Country for Old Men

What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said? Beautiful cinematography, spot-on casting, and an unforgettable performance by Javier Bardem. His portrayal of Anton Chigurh mesmerizes the audience even as his evil repulses them, yet manages to stay grounded enough in reality that he doesn’t become a horror movie cliché--as Woody Harrelson’s character puts it, “You could even say that he has principles. Principles that transcend money or drugs or anything like that.” This is the kind of movie that haunts you long after the credits roll and the house lights come up, and I don’t know that there’s higher praise for a film than that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm thinking...

The latest from the town gossip mill (and, well, from the Mayor's semi-regular column in the Daily Press):

I'm thinking...

At last, a new adversary for the McDonalds across the street. I eagerly await confirmation of this Arby-fication of the greater Ashland area--if there's one thing this town needs, it's Horsey Sauce. And stat!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

You get what you pay for, apparently.

Household tips printed on the free calendar we got from the pharmacy this year that, upon reflection, maybe come off as being the teensiest tiniest bit white-trashy:

"Use baby clothes to hang and decorate the walls of a little girl's bedroom."
- Patti, Nebraska

"Mayonnaise will kill lice."
- Floadene, Kentucky

"Put coffee beans in the bottom of your rubbish basket. I pick up the ones that fall on the floor at the grocery store."
- Barbara, Maine

"Cutting the picture part from the address labels makes nice stickers for children to play with."
- Sandra, Iowa

"Keep your pet out of the baby's room by replacing the door with a screen door. You can also see and hear the baby easier."
- Becky, Arizona

The week in review.


Monday: Developed a throbbing toothache in the tooth that chipped/got filled-in about a year ago.

Tuesday: Sought emergency dental intervention in Ashland, only to discover that the soonest I could get into a dentist's office here in town would be May or June.

Wednesday: Took a sick day and drove to Morgan Park in Duluth to see a kindhearted dentist (who'd had a cancellation that morning), who informed me that last year's chipped tooth had formed a cavity beneath the filling and it had spread to the root. Unable to receive necessary $800 root canal due to said kindhearted dentist's schedule already being overbooked, so back to Ashland I went.

Thursday: Tooth demonstrates a surprising (and suspicious) lack of throbbing until approximately 6:00 P.M., when it went into what can only be described as DEATH THROES OF UNEQUIVOCAL AGONY. The next six hours are spent wincing, groaning, self-medicating with Orajel and Tylenol and yes, crying, until my father slips me one of his narcotic-grade pain pills that he got from his dentist that very day after having one of his own teeth surgically removed. I either fall asleep, or pass out. The jury's still out on that.

Friday: Wake up...and the DEATH THROES OF UNEQUIVOCAL AGONY are gone. In fact, if we were to apply Homeland Security threat-level terms to my toothache, I'd say we went from Red/Severe down to a more livable Yellow/Elevated. My mother calls every dentist's office in a 60-mile radius and talks her way into an appointment for me on 3/31 in Superior. It's over a week's wait, but suddenly that seems like it might be manageable. I buy her a bag of jellybeans for her efforts.

The moral: it sucks to not have health insurance; it sucks to have your family dentist retire right before you need your first root canal; it sucks to live where demand almost always outnumbers supply; but on the brighter side, narcotic-grade painkillers are pretty damn awesome.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

When you care enough to kablooey the very best.

Friday, 4:13 P.M.:
Caller asks if it is permissible to blow up a van in his driveway.

Friday, 6:58 P.M.: Caller again asks for permission to blow up van, says it is his fiancée's van and he wants to blow it up to get her to talk to him--officer advises against this.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

There are so many things to love about this...

Bat v. princess, 1985.
...but I particularly love that I'm cuddling a feather duster.

Friday, March 14, 2008

To boldly go where I haven't been for, oh, a while.

Last weekend, I took a spin out to Madeline Island on...the ice road.

Driving the ice road from Bayfield to Madeline Island.

Have I mentioned yet that I'm scared to death of the ice road? No? Or of deep water, i.e., bodies of water I can't see the bottom of? Yeah. So this was like I'd spontaneously decided to gulp down a whole cocktail of neuroses. Where do my semi-irrational fears spring from? I think the root is threefold:

1. When I was a little kid taking swimming lessons for the first time, I got left at the bottom of the pool one day. I was really short for my age, and couldn't reach the ledge to pull myself back up, and I hadn't quite mastered that whole pesky "floating" thing yet so I was left frantically flapping my hand against the surface, trying in vain to get the instructor's attention. I'm pretty sure this incident is a big part of why it took me five years to pass the beginner's class--my fingernail indentations are probably still in the ledge there. (Fool me once, swimming instructor, shame on you--fool me twice, good luck prying me off that damn wall!)

2. When I was in middle school, we had a speaker one winter whose thesis statement could be summed up as, "YOU WILL DIE." Excerpt: "If you go out on the ice, YOU WILL DIE. If you take chances on the ice, YOU WILL DIE. If you mix Pop Rocks and cola, YOU WILL DIE." I've had my recollections of this speech verified by other parties present that day, and one thing rings true in our collective memory: ice = "YOU WILL DIE."

3. Have I mentioned that three of my relatives have met with untimely demises in almost the same spot in the lake over the past sixty years? The lake hasn't had a feeding for over ten years's just waiting for me to slip up and give it an opening, I know it.

So with this mental baggage and Bessy the Lumina, I set out to confront a couple of my fears, and to take pictures of Pablo. Who's Pablo? This is Pablo:
Travel at your own risk, indeed.
A friend's son had sent this variation on the Flat Stanley project my way, and I figured this might be a good photo op (and maybe a little more appealing to his pre-teen audience back in Connecticut than a trip to the historical society museum), so off we went.

Heading out to the island.
This wasn't my first trip out on the ice--I can remember going across the road a few times with my family when I was a kid--but really, the novelty/nerves never go away. Yeah, it's a road--but it's impossible to shove aside the fact that my car is rolling on a crackily layer of frozen water on top of 160ish feet of unfrozen water below. Cold water. Really really cold water. And even though the road conditions are monitored all the time, and even though there's other cars & trucks out there, and even though as daredeviling goes, this probably doesn't even tap the middle of the FREAKS. ME. OUT.

But, we crept onward...for the children.
Looking out toward the islands.
View out toward the rest of the Apostle Islands to the north/northeast.

Windsleds at Madeline Island.
When there's too much ice for the ferries to run, but not enough ice for the road to be open, folks go back and forth from the island on these windsleds.

Having safely made it to the island, I got a little braver on the return trip and opted to...get out of my car. Rebel, rebel!
Living for danger.

Pablo was also game for some heightened adventure.
On the ice road between Bayfield and Madeline Island.

I even managed to take a few pictures of the ice without fainting.
Don't step on the cracks.

Heading back to Bayfield.
Used Christmas trees.
The edges of the road are lined periodically with used Christmas trees, to keep people from drifting off course when strong winds/snows pick up out there.

Almost back to the mainland...
Almost there.

Great success!
And I didn't die.  Success!
I didn't kiss the ground, but the thought did cross my mind for a second.

(If you'd like to see some live-action footage of the ice road, check this out.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Riddle me this.

How do I go from this...
How do I go from this...

To this?
To this?

I like to think it looks a little something like this:

Friday, March 07, 2008

Peep show.

Peep show.

Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, and the watchful eye of my pal Georgia. I wish I'd known about this sooner--this is so up my alley.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Happy 130,000, Bessy!

Almost there...
Almost there.....

130,000 miles.
Woo hoo!

Yep, today Bessy hit the 130,000 mile mark--she celebrated with new side running lights (all four of which had been burnt out since, oh, probably long before the 112,000 mile mark), a trip to the car wash, and the glee that came with watching almost every other car parked on Main Street by the office get ticketed this morning whilst she escaped unscathed. I guess it was her lucky day.

Bessy at 130,000 miles.
(The site of the 130,000th mile. Not quite as momentous as hitting the 100,000 mark on Mt. Helena, but hey, I don't have any mountains to work with around here.)

Scene from a K-Mart.

*eying up Grandma's cart* Ma, what's up with the Alpo?
Oh, this? It's a can of turkey with gravy.
No, Ma, that's dog food.
Really? *looks at label* Oh, I guess it is. I didn't even look at that part of the label, I was just looking at that picture of the turkey. It looks good, doesn't it?
...Well, I guess it kind of does, actually. Better than the picture on the Spam cans.
Grandma, you don't have to eat dog food, we'll buy you lunch, I swear!