Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reading/Watching/Etc.


READING:

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Kind of a lightning-fast read, since it's short and the typeface seemed...large...but it was funny:
"Remember the white dress I wore all through that film [Star Wars]? George came up to me the first day of filming, took one look at the dress and said, 'You can't wear a bra under that dress.'

'Okay, I'll bite,' I said. 'Why?' And he said, 'Because...there's no underwear in space.' He said it with such conviction, like he had been to space and looked around and he didn't see any bras or panties anywhere. He explained: 'You go into space and you become weightless. Then your body expands but your bra doesn't, so you get strangled by your own underwear.'

I think that this would make for a fantastic obituary. I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra."
Watchmen
Just getting started on this. Which means I'm on a self-imposed Watchmen movie media blackout, because I don't want one spoiling the other.

My Year of Flops (A.V. Club)
Every entry is a buffet of joy. My current favorite is the one about the Steven Seagal masterpiece, On Deadly Ground:
"The film embodies the comic contradictions at the core of Steven Seagal's increasingly ridiculous persona. Seagal is, after all, a high-profile Buddhist who makes his living pretending to beat the shit out of people. He's a self-styled tough guy synonymous with a hairstyle favored by 10-year-old girls. Seagal is universally considered one of Hollywood biggest, most misogynistic, violent a**holes, yet he travels the world lecturing about Eastern spirituality."
WATCHING:

The Wrestler : I think Sean Penn gave an outstanding performance in Milk, but honestly, Mickey Rourke got robbed at the Academy Awards. That's how good he was in The Wrestler. Amazing movie--graphic and downtrodden and squirm-inducing sometimes (the staple gun, eek!), but with such an ache at its heart. The gore doesn't overshadow that gooey emotional center, and that's why it works--seeing the nitty gritty makes The Ram all the more three-dimensional, all the more real. It also got me wondering about where the wrestling stars of my youth wound up. (Ah, Saturday nights, eating frozen pizzas, drinking pop [normally a controlled substance in our household], watching wrestling while my dad was out at the racetrack...good times.)

Happy-Go-Lucky : The plot felt a little disjointed and more like a series of vignettes than a really solid storyline at times, but it was pleasant enough and it made me want to spend a weekend with Poppy and her roommate.

The Rocker : Favorite line: "There's two things in this world that I do not trust when they're wireless, and that is phones, and marionettes."

Eight Legged Freaks : Ridiculous, obviously, but as a cheesy homage to monster movies of the 1950s-60s, it works. And I liked the tagline on the box: "Do you hate spiders? Do you really hate spiders? Well, they don't like you either."

LISTENING:

David Byrne /Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
Franz Ferdinand - Tonight
Clem Snide - Hungry Bird

MAKING:

Baby blankets!
Cross stitch-ery!
And this weekend--decoupage! (Maybe.)


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Look what I found!


In the Walgreens parking lot! In Superior!

Look what I found!

Thank goodness I stumbled on this before the Jets & the Sharks got into another scuffle...somebody might've gotten hurt!

I love that some kid (assuming it was a kid, because it kinda screams "TEENAGE BOY WITH ANGST AND NOT ENOUGH TO DO IN SHOP CLASS!", doesn't it?) made a sheath for a paring knife out of electrical tape, and took the extra time to attach a keychain ring. Precious.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

We need to lighten the mood around here a little bit.

And nothing lightens the mood like kittens.



(Thanks for passing this my way, Ryan.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pros and cons of the TV conversion so far:


Pro:
All of our equipment is hooked up properly and works as it should.

Con:
The signal can't get to our house (not strong enough out of Duluth, plus it can't get around the trees), so that pro is kind of moot.

Pro: We might be able to get a signal if we (A.) buy a new antenna, (B.) add a digital booster to our existing antenna and raise it up above the treeline, or (C.) chop down all the trees in our yard and probably the trees in our neighbors' yard and probably the rest of the trees in a sixty-mile radius, too.

Con: It's February, and maybe not the most ideal time to be trying to fiddle around up on the roof. Or to be starting up a lumberjack camp in our front yard. (Although really, there's probably no ideal time for that.)

Pro: The CBS & PBS affiliates out of Duluth are still broadcasting in analog for the time being, so we can still get our Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Judge Judy, Seinfeld and Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson itches scratched. Plus, George Kessler!

Con: No Oscars on Sunday, no Office /30 Rock tomorrow night (although I hear they're reruns), no viable alternative to Oprah at 4:00. Also, no Denny Anderson!

Pro: My parents had me print off about fifty pages from the DirectTV and DishNetwork websites tonight after my good friends at Omer Nelson Electric gave us some options.

Con: ...actually, I'm having a hard time seeing a downside to that right now.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ahem.


Dear Bay Theater:

While I completely understand why you decided to close tonight to work on your lobby remodeling project (I suppose audiences on Tuesday nights in February are pretty light), it might've been thoughtful to note that in your daily ad in the newspaper so I didn't arrive by the doors at 7:42 P.M. with my heart set on popcorn, only to almost trip over a heap of bags of grout as I rounded the corner and saw that the building was all torn-up.

You do not want to come between me & my popcorn.

Love,
Mary.


The day I've been dreading for a year has finally arrived.


DTV conversion day. Ugh.

Oh, I'm well-aware that Congress has pushed the deadline back to June, but almost all (well, 3 out of a whopping 4) of our local stations have decided to go ahead with the analog switch-off today anyway. And in principle, I have no problem with that--we got our boxes for our TVs a long time ago, as did everyone else I know who needed one.

My problem? I'm about 99% sure that come midnight tonight, our boxes aren't going to work. Because the digital signals out of Duluth aren't strong enough to get here. Well, not without a booster on our antenna, anyway--a booster that will apparently need to be attached somehow to the TV antenna already on our rooftop.

This might've been a useful piece of information to receive, oh, ANYTIME IN THE LAST YEAR WHEN IT WASN'T WINTER.

We followed this digital transition crap closely, we read everything we could find on it and got our ducks in a row waaay ahead of the deadline. I get that there's going to be glitches in this process, but seriously--the dearth of information about who needs to do what has been ridiculous. There were rumblings of "oh, you might need an antenna booster" last fall, but no concrete answers and no way to test anything on our end (outside of the plug-in-the-box-and-see-if-anything-comes-in-yet test). We just kept hearing, "Oh, we'll know more about the signal strength as the deadline approaches." Haven't they been preparing for this for like, ten years? Yeah, some issues might need to be ironed-out after the fact, but seriously--shouldn't they have some idea at this point of how far their signals are gonna go?

But the part I'm dreading most of all? When my parents' friends start calling our house tonight & tomorrow, asking, "Does Mary know how to get our TV to work?" Being under 30 in a crowd of retirees right now = AHHHHHHHH.


Monday, February 16, 2009

15 Albums.


"Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you that they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that, no matter what they were thought of musically, shaped your world."

Chronological, for the most part:


1. R.E.M. -
Automatic for the People: For my 14th birthday, I got my first CD player (a hand-me-down Discman that had belonged to my older brother) and three CDs. This was one of them. The other two? The Jurassic Park soundtrack, and Ace of Base's The Sign. I listened to all three relentlessly, but this was the one that I came to love the most and the one that I still listen to today. (Although I think I still have the other two in a box somewhere...hell, we might even still have that Discman, too.)

2. Dave Matthews Band -
Under the Table and Dreaming: I heard "Ants Marching" on the radio and instantly loved it. It reminded me of marching band music, I think. (I was BIG into marching band at that point in my life.) Then the next year, Crash came out and all of a sudden EVERYBODY liked the Dave Matthews Band, even the jocks. So that kind of ruined it for me.

3. Tom Petty -
Wildflowers: I remember being scandalized when they had a report on the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw about the lyrics in "You Don't Know How It Feels" because I was scared my mom wouldn't let me listen to an album with a song that mentioned "joints." (I remember being equally scandalized whenever the Steve Miller Band's "Space Cowboy" came on the radio around that same time.) Eventually it occurred to me that about 75% of the songs on the local classic rock radio station were about joints, and I could stop worrying.

4. Counting Crows -
August and Everything After / Recovering the Satellites: These always remind me of my friend (and eventual roommate) Melissa, because she introduced me to August when we were in middle school/early high school, and later on when we were in college, I remember we made what felt like an epic trip down to the Electric Fetus on the DTA to pick up This Desert Life the day it came out...seriously, a bus trip from UMD to downtown took about two hours back then, you had to make a day of it! Anyway, these two albums were my go-to angst music in high school. Whenever I'd go driving around, being all angsty and "I hate this town, I can't wait to go to college, blah-blah-blah," these are what I'd listen to on my crappy old car stereo (comprised of a radio/tape player my brother & his friends had accidentally wired straight to the '78 Oldsmobile's battery, and that very same old portable CD player plugged into the makeshift tape player with one of those cassette-tapes-with-a-wire-attached dealies). The sound of freedom! Angsty, angsty freedom!

5.
Pulp Fiction soundtrack: This will forever remind me of Lydia & Joe and the fabulous winter/spring of 1997.

6. R.E.M. -
Up: Sophomore year of college, I was getting ready to go to class one morning when "Daysleeper" came on the radio. It froze me in my tracks. I instantly turned into a huge--HUGE--R.E.M. freak, buying up all their old albums and reading books about them and covering my walls in their posters and driving my roommates/friends/immediate family completely insane in the process, no doubt, because pretty soon it was the only stuff I was listening to. Sorry for the monotony, guys! But hey, over time the fanaticism died down, and now I'm objective enough to publicly say that Around the Sun sucked ass. That's major progress, right?

7. Natalie Merchant -
Ophelia: Sophomore or junior year at UMD; I had to write most of my papers in the computer lab by the (former) library on campus, because it wasn't the norm yet for every college kid to have brought their own computer to school. God, that was a pain in the ass. I was working on an essay for a short stories class I was taking (where I met my friend Maria, actually)--we were reading "Miss Brill," and the story had really gotten to me because it reminded me so much of my Grandma Vera...anyway, I was pounding out an essay, and listening to this album, and something about it dovetailed absolutely perfectly with the story, and I almost started crying right there in the computer lab. Whatever got to me that day must've worked, because I remember getting an A+ on my essay, and that prof didn't hand out A-pluses willy-nilly.

8. Eels -
Daisies of the Galaxy / Electro-Shock Blues: Senior year of college--my first with a car. Another fateful trip down to the Electric Fetus to pick up Daisies...I remember getting back into the car and putting it into the Discman (well, not the same one as mentioned previously, because that one had finally died, but another of similar vintage) and having that same frozen-in-place reaction as I'd had with Up. I walked to campus from our house 3 blocks away every day, and I could listen to this every trip and never get bored. Electro-Shock Blues joined it soon after, and it accompanied me on many cold evenings shoveling sidewalks on Dunedin Avenue that winter...


9. Badly Drawn Boy -
The Hour of Bewilderbeast: This is one of those that I identify with that nebulous time between when I graduated from UMD, and when I moved to Montana. When I hear it, for some reason I always picture that span of Hwy 287 between Helena & Bozeman--the wheat fields and the big hill just south of Helena with the radio tower on top, and the train tracks and Townsend and the cattle guards turning onto I-15. (Another one that reminds me of that is Travis' The Man Who.)

10. Radiohead -
Kid A: Driving to Missoula for the first time with Emily & Kevin, in the backseat of their Subaru, staring at the rocks and the cliffs jutting out and the trees climbing up into the sky and the hills, those amazing hills. Otherworldly.

11. U2 -
Achtung Baby: All of a sudden, I got into a big U2 kick. I'd had this album since I was in college--one of those BMG club things where I kept getting talked into buying more CDs--and when I finally got around to listening to it, I wondered what had taken me so long to get around to it.

12. The Beatles - White Album:
Driving out into the boondocks with some of my VISTA friends, down roads my car had no business going down, driving past bogs and cliffs and rockslides and half-frozen lakes and eating tofu dogs roasted over an open fire. And later, stopping for penny candy at the gas station in Garrison.

13. Wilco -
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Driving back from MT to WI for the first time, June 2002--it seems like we alternated between this, and the Moulin Rouge soundtrack for most of the trip, but I'm sure there were other CDs in the car, too. It's a 24 hour drive, there had to be! Will and I got into a heated debate about whether or not "Heavy Metal Drummer" was earnestly sentimental or sarcastic--I can't remember who won.

14. Eels -
Blinking Lights and Other Revelations: May 2005; the first time I put this in my CD player was the morning I flew out for Kansas City, and I kept on listening to it from Kansas City to London to Edinburgh to Amsterdam and all the way back home. It'll always remind me of that trip, for better or worse. Sometimes it makes me sad to listen to it, because it's so irrevocably tied to that moment in my mind, and it reminds me that I hardly ever talk to Josh anymore. But on the other hand, I can't help but love it--it's one of my favorite albums, and it's one of those touchstones in my life that also reminds me of one of the freest, most adventurous, boldest times in my life so far. The word I'm looking for here is "bittersweet," I think. (haha)

15. Josh Ritter -
The Animal Years / The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter: I cannot get tired of these, no matter how many times I hear them. They remind me of the best parts of home, and my home-away-from-home, all the places I've been and all the places I still want to go.


Friday, February 13, 2009

"A great combination--violence and cute outfits!"


Everyone's going on & on about Joaquin Phoenix's whackadoodle appearance on Letterman the other night, but I think this interview with Debra Winger back in 1993 was funnier.



(It's gutsier--and funnier--than just sitting around, putting on a disaffected act and mumbling about your fake rap career, at least.)


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fortunately, the walls of our apartment were fairly resistant to duct tape.


World, meet Stefano.

"Panties...$3.99."

Stefano was a regular ol' Halloween decoration that turned into a year-round, multi-seasonal fixture in our apartment in college. He was named after our favorite soap opera villain, the infamous Stefano DiMera, who was surefire comic gold each & every time he showed up onscreen because he was always pulling crazy stunts like:
  1. Faking his own death (ELEVEN TIMES!);
  2. Switching people's babies for nefarious purposes (well, I guess there aren't many non-nefarious purposes for switching people's babies, really);
  3. Locking women up in elaborate room-sized cages;
  4. Facilitating the demonic possession of that same woman;
  5. And throwing glasses of scotch into fireplaces for dramatic effect. (For a while we considered making a fake fireplace mantel for the wall next to our Stefano, so he could throw fake goblets of scotch in there, but we stopped ourselves before we went too far.)
That is by no means a complete list of Stefano's shenanigans.



For most major holidays, we'd come up with costumes for him and hastily construct them out of construction paper or whatever else was lying around...also, we'd make word bubbles with whatever stupid things we couldn't stop saying at that particular moment in time. There was never a shortage of construction paper, and there was never a shortage of stupid things to put in the bubbles. (He also had a long-lost son who appeared one day, as is customary on most soap operas, and joined him on the wall. His name was Son of Stefano. Hmm, creative.)

"You definitely send in da trumpet."


Stefano and his son are currently in hiding out in my garage, lurking somewhere in a box of stuff I hauled back with me from Montana...who knows what wicked plans they're dreaming up whilst they lie in wait? Be afraid, people--be very afraid. (Or be afraid for the paint on your walls, at least. It took a lot of tape to hold those two on...)


Oh, for precious.


My first cross-stitching project.
My first cross-stitchery project. Awww.

(It was designed for eight year-olds, and this was the least immature
option I had to pick from off the beginner's rack, so lay off!)


Next up: something snarkier, I hope.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Mawikwe Sea Caves.


It was a gorgeous day yesterday--one of those rare early-February days when it gets up around 40 degrees, the sun is shining, and you can almost forget for a few blessed minutes that you're still in for another two months of Icy Death.

Seizing the moment, I headed out to the Mawikwe Sea Caves north of here (between Red Cliff & Cornucopia) with my mom & dad, to brave the one-mile walk out over the surface of Lake Superior to gawk at the ice formations. It was a perfect day for the hike--no wind coming off the lake, even!--and the park was crawling with people.

Definitely one of my favorite parts about living here, and definitely one of the best parts of winter around here, too.

Mawikwe Sea Caves.

A guy sliding from cave to cave.

Big cave!

Mawikwe Sea Caves.

Ice dribbles.

Deep crevasse.

One kid who got "stuck" in a hole...

Walking around the caves.

Lots more pictures over here.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

PBC-982.


Waiting for the light to change on the corner of Main Street & Ellis Avenue tonight, watching the time & temperature flash on the M&I Bank sign across the street, I remembered this:

I'm stuck at the same stop light, about 16 years old, making runs on a Saturday night with Joy & Julie in Joy's car--"making runs" meaning, of course, that time-honored Ashland tradition of teenagers driving back & forth on Main Street seeing who else is driving back & forth on Main Street. I can't remember if we'd gone bowling or not--Saturday night was (is?) "atomic bowling" night at Monk's and even though my average score was about a 45, we went almost every week. (I never got any better. In fact, if I went bowling right now and got a 45, I'd be pretty excited.)

Anyway--we'd gotten stuck behind this one particular car for the duration of our "runs" that night, and I can't remember if we were trying to keep following them or if we were trying to shake them but kept getting stuck behind them anyway--but there they were, in front of us at the stop light. And for reasons unknown--either I can't remember them, or, uh, I was sixteen and obnoxious and there was no reason?--I started singing the car's license plate over & over again, to the tune of "Camptown Races."

And tonight I found myself at that same stop light, thirteen years later, with "P-B-C-dash-nine-eight-two, doo-dah, doo-dah/P-B-C-dash-nine-eight-two, oh de doo-dah day!" running through my head.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Driving back to Duluth with my brother Dewey, circa 1998:


(Listening to the radio, approaching Superior.)

Dewey: What the hell is this song about? What is he saying?

Me: Which one?

Dewey: Is he saying, "How does it feel when you got no food?"

Me: I think so. I think he is. And what the hell is a "dutchie"?

Dewey: Only in the 80s could something this ridiculous be a #1 song.



Monday, February 02, 2009

Reading/Watching/Etc.


READING:


Magazines!
Loads and loads of magazines! Where did they all come from? Why must they all show up on the first of the month? And if I'm this far behind already, I shudder to think how I'll ever get through this month's Atlantic whenever that shows up.

The Watchmen
Well, technically, not yet. But I've got it on reserve at the library.

WATCHING:

Vicky Cristina Barcelona : My biggest beef with this movie was the narration. It was unnecessary, distracting and the result of some seriously lazy screenwriting. The point of a movie is to show, not tell. (I can't believe this beat In Bruges at the Golden Globes!)

Milk : Somehow, despite not deviating all that much from conventional biopic form, this managed to feel completely exuberant and fresh. And even though you know from the start how it's going to end, it's so damn energetic and empowering that the tragedy isn't the thing you remember when you leave the theater.

Slumdog Millionaire : I can see why it's getting the hype it's getting, and I enjoyed it for what it is--a fairy tale.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Laserblast : One of the movies included in the 20th anniversary MST3K DVD set I got for Christmas, and one of the funniest that I'd never seen before.



Father Ted, Series 1 : Another one of those shows that people have been recommending to me for years & years, and which I just finally got around to watching (thank you, Netflix). I knew it was love from the moment I saw the "dreams vs. reality" chart in the first episode ("spiderbaby!").

"Down with this sort of thing."Dig that wallpaper!
(Best protest sign ever, plus the greatest bathroom wallpaper ever.)


ETC.

My to-do list for this week:

1. Learn how to make pom-poms. (The yarn kind, not the cheerleader kind.)
2. Un-jumble my boxes of old pictures and make a discernible effort to actually impose some sort of organizational system on all that.
3. Try to find a way to get my old VHS home movies transferred onto DVD.
4. Drink up my chocolate soy milk before the expiration date.