Saturday, June 30, 2012

Treasure hunting.

I don't often go to garage sales - I like sleeping in and lord knows I already have plenty of my own crap. But about once or twice a summer, I get that itch...and the only thing that'll scratch it is to drive around gawking at other people's bountiful harvests of junk.

Today was one of those days.  My friend Elizabeth, who has a good reason to hit the sales most weekends (she's got a toddler and she's stocking up on clothes on the cheap), graciously allowed me to accompany them on their weekly rounds.  I didn't have anything in mind; I usually don't when I go to these things.  Mostly I just want to see what weird crap my fellow citizens are casting off.

And today did not disappoint.

June 30.

Baby doll dressed as a wild boar:  $1.00
Scoliosis Barbie:  $0.25
Jollies I got from purchasing these: priceless.

I mean, seriously.  Look at this nonsense.

Baby boar.

And the Barbie doll just gets weirder the longer you look at it.  It's not like it was accidentally bent into that position by some kids: it was molded that way. 

I mean, seriously.  Something ain't right.
(Yes, I gave her a modesty bar.)

The ladies who had Scoliosis Barbie in their garage laughed at her, too.  "Yeah, I found that in my kid's toy box and I have no idea what the story is or what her profession was supposed to be. But it's weird that they seem to have spent more time painting underpants on her than they did making sure she could stand up."

I'm not sure what I'll do with the boar baby just yet -- an impromptu baby shower present, perhaps?  But Scoliosis Barbie will eventually become part of a Halloween project for which her bizarre posture may be uniquely suited...mwahaha.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dear nice people at Easter Seals:


My grandma Vera died in 1995.  Please update your mailing list accordingly.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What's making me happy this week.

A joke from every episode of MST3K.  (I only wish whoever had made this would've omitted the goofy music in the background -- it's so loud that it's hard to hear the dialogue sometimes.)



The Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I read a popular book (and its sequels) and (mostly) liked it. I particularly liked how I could breeze through one of these in a week or two's worth of lunch breaks.  Then I went to the Hunger Games movie and mostly liked that, too.

Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch
On the whole, I enjoyed it; but, I think she wrote it without really having an ending in mind, and it showed.  Lots of funny anecdotes, but it felt a little unfinished.

I've been feeling some Facebook fatigue lately.  I don't completely agree with this article's hypothesis that we're all growing more disconnected from each other as a result of social media and other societal pressures...but it presents some interesting arguments. 

Maybe some of those feelings of disconnection depend on where you live, and what you use social media for.  Living in the small town where I grew up, and bumping into people I've known since childhood on a daily basis, I can't say I feel particularly isolated or that I'm lacking social connections. And having come of age when internet messageboards were popular, I've found I can carry on some pretty meaningful and profound friendships with people via the written word despite never having met them in person; but, if you're just trolling Facebook reading updates from people you vaguely knew in high school and aren't really interacting in a thoughtful way, then I could see how it would feel a little less fulfilling.

America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom by Michael Ian Black and Meghan McCain
I'm a little over halfway through this one and will probably write a separate entry about it when I'm done.  So far, I like it a lot and frankly, I like the premise of it enough that even if I didn't like it very much, I'd keep reading until I finished it so I could be sure I gave it a fair shake.  The short version: a conservative Senator's daughter and a liberal comedian take a cross-country road trip together to try to understand why our country's political discourse has gotten so vitriolic and us-versus-them.  They argue amongst themselves, visit historical monuments (and monuments to kitsch, like Yakov Smirnoff's theater in Branson), get drunk, shoot guns and get driven around by a former river guide who calls everyone "Gumdrop."  It's structured as sort of a he-said, she-said travel diary, with the narration flipping back and forth between them every couple of pages, and while I think Black's a stronger writer, McCain's sections are interesting, too, as she discusses how she's perceived as a "wild child" by the Republican establishment and how she's trying to blaze a trail for more socially-liberal conservatives within her party.  Anyway, it's an interesting read and frequently a very funny one, too.

City of Strays: Detroit's Epidemic of 50,000 Abandoned Dogs (Rolling Stone)
We hear so much about the economic crisis on the news, and yet it seems like the majority of the coverage I've seen in the last few years is about the big, broad aspects of it - the mortgage meltdown, the instability (and outright deceit) in the banking system, the bailouts.  Stories like this one that appeared in Rolling Stone a few months ago aren't getting as much attention as they should.  (If you're inspired to learn more about Detroit Dog Rescue after reading it, like I was, you can check them out here or find them on Facebook, where they post lots of adoption updates and some very cute dog pictures.)


On the flip side of the "oh, poor Detroit" coin is this 3-part miniseries that aired on Ovation earlier this month.  This documentary features a bunch of young artists and creative entrepreneurs in Detroit -- some who grew up there and have stayed out of loyalty, and some who have moved there to help revitalize the community.  The show's greatest strength is the people it profiled, and how it showed them coming together to mingle artistically and as problem-solvers - there was a lot of talk about the power of art to give people hope and a sense of purpose, and also some very tangible, here's-what-we-can-do-right-now-to-fix-this projects coming together (one young woman designed a coat that could turn into a sleeping bag for homeless people; another set up an organization that helped families moving into transitional housing get free furniture from curbside donations).  Very inspiring and positive - if I were a little younger and a little braver, this show might've convinced me to pull up stakes and join them on the new frontier down there in Michigan.

I wanted to like this, but didn't.  I get that it had to bow to its corporate overlord and sing the praises of the Michaels Wall™ ad nauseum, but some of the stuff on that wall isn't even sold in Michaels stores (fabric, for instance - at least not at any of the Michaels stores I've ever been to) and the projects they were assigned to make were too impractical to be functional or inspiring.  I mean, honestly, who's going to watch this, see those ugly duffel bags they cobbled together, and say "I must have one of those for myself"?  Or build an homage to that weird "school bus" playhouse to plunk in their backyard?  Doubtful.  The idea for this show's got potential, but I think it would take a channel like DIY or HGTV to really make it interesting (TLC's way too cutesy with everything).  And while I didn't mind Tori Spelling as host, just think how much fun it would be if they got somebody like Amy Sedaris involved. 

The Artist
Did it deserve to win the Oscar?  I'm not sure.  But it certainly was charming.

21 Jump Street
More clever than I was expecting -- the novelty of the Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum pairing reminded me of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys (in a good way).

Men in Black 3
What a pleasant surprise - I didn't have high hopes for this one at all, but came away really liking it.  I'll have to rent the first two one of these days to refresh my memory...I remember really liking them at the time they came out, but haven't seen them since.

The Avengers
The first 3D movie I've been to where it felt like the 3D wasn't just a huge freakin' distraction (or a way to pry more money out of my wallet at the ticket stand).  Loved the story and the characters and frankly, I was impressed that they managed to pull it off.  When they first started talking about all the prequel movies and this giant melting pot of Marvel characters years ago, I thought it would fall off the rails somewhere along the line, but this really came together beautifully.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, seasons 3-6
There are some standout episodes in here ("a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants"), but a couple of major duds, too (like the one where Murray reveals his sudden, out-of-nowhere-and-is-never-brought-up-again "infatuation" with Mary as a romantic object -- WTF?).  Also: I miss Rhoda.  One more season to go.

Sports Night, season one
The AV Club is doing a run-through of the first season this summer, and I figured that was a good excuse to finally cross it off my to-watch list.  While some of the Aaron Sorkin speechifying still grates on me once in a while, I like it much better than Studio 60.  (Thank goodness.)

Curb Your Enthusiasm, season 8
I hope they keep making this show forever & ever & ever.


- Crocheting!  Making baby blankets lately, and very much looking forward to moving on to something else.

- Flannery went to the vet last week: she weighs over twelve pounds.  Apparently Toivo (and the rest of the family) have rubbed off on her.  Say goodbye to the Pounce treats for a while, my fat little dumpling! 

- I know the 4th of July is fast approaching when I come around the corner of Vaughn Avenue one morning and find a carnival parked on 3rd Street.  Hello, annual pre-4th of July detour!  (Albeit a very short detour.)

June 28.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Police blotter.

Sunday, 10:58 P.M.: 
Caller would like an officer to remove her boyfriend, who has been camped out at her apartment for two weeks.

Tuesday, 1:49 P.M.:  Report of baby ducks in a wheelbarrow out in the sun.

Wednesday, 4:36 A.M.:  911 caller reporting that there is something in her apartment.  She can see it wiggling in the living room.

Wednesday, 7:12 A.M.:  Caller would like law enforcement to respond because her son will not go to school.  Update: dispatch advised caller to use non-emergency line.

Friday, 9:28 A.M.:  Caller reports a black lab with a red collar comes over to the cafe and gets into the garbage and eats food stored there.  Then it urinates on the garden and walks into the restaurant. 

Saturday, 9:52 A.M.:  Caller reports that someone put three orange cones, two flags and one sign on his child's truck as a prank last night.

Saturday, 5:04 P.M.:  Caller advised that kids were playing in the ravine with no shoes.  Update: one child didn't have shoes on and was told to put his shoes on.

Turtle power.

June 11.

This little guy (gal?) wandered through the yard last week...I swear, I kept my pestering to a minimum. But I couldn't resist flipping him over for a second to look at the bottom of his shell. 

Turtle butt,Bottom of his shell.Turtle foot.Turtle.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wow, that's terrific bāss!

Summer city band season just started up, and as I was filling out the paperwork before the first rehearsal, I realized I've been playing the bass clarinet for...TWENTY YEARS.  Twenty years!  Holy cow.  I checked the math and everything -- I started playing it the summer before eighth grade (with two years of dismal clarinet-honking before that), and other than a brief lull while I was in Montana, I've been playing it (at least sporadically) ever since. 

Nick at the homecoming parade, September 1992.
Marching in the homecoming parade in 1992 (that's me in the yellow headband) - as if it wasn't insulting enough to have to wear that ugly jogging suit, I wasn't allowed to march with the bass and had to squeak away on my crappy clarinet instead.  I got more assertive -- aka, loud -- in high school and put a stop to that nonsense right away. (Although once I had to squeeze my gut into one of the high school band uniforms with their cummerbunds and Pee Wee Herman shoes, suddenly those frumpy jogging suits didn't seem so bad.)

Anyway: the bass clarinet I have now wasn't my first.  My first was a run-down hand-me-down that lived in the recesses of the middle school band room. We formed no formal attachment.  Either it didn't sound good, or I didn't sound good, or some combination of the two.

But oh, my second.  When I got to high school, I inherited another school-owned instrument, but this one...maybe it was just because I was getting more experience, but holy crap, it sounded so much better than the first one did.  I called it my Bāss (pronounced like the fish) and blossomed into what anthropologists would refer to as a band nerd.

Jazz Band, 1994.
Jazz festival in Eau Claire, 1994.  We played that old jazz standard, "Purple Haze." (?)

I loved it so much that when I graduated, my parents offered to buy it from the school, but alas, 'twas not meant to be.  Instead, they let me use some of my graduation money to order a new one of my very own (which was very nice of them because while it was ostensibly "my" money, I knew damn well they didn't think it was "my" money).  I toted Bāss 2.0 off to college with me in the fall, where I played for a year or two with one of the concert bands on campus...until I got bored with it and decided I was more concerned with graduating on a strict four-year schedule than shoehorning band practices into my days.  But I still played with the hometown city band each summer and the high school pep band's annual alumni night during Christmas break with a lot of my friends.

Bāss 2.0 even moved out to Montana with me -- not that it got much action in Helena, but one summer me and Emily joined the local city band and quickly got our fill of that.  (It just wasn't the same as what we grew up with.)

Summer city band, 2003.
After a band concert in Helena, 2003 (with teensy tiny baby Owen!).

When I moved back to Ashland, I re-joined the city band the following summer...and those two months of the year are the only time my bass comes out of the closet.  At the end of last season, it was looking pretty bad -- years of, well, not neglect, but something milder than that, had left a lot of tarnish on the bell & other metal parts.  The case was dirty, I hadn't bought a new reed for about four years (the upside of not playing often?  you don't break your reeds as often!), it just plain wasn't looking very loved.  I promptly scribbled "clean bāss" onto my to-do list...and there it stayed.  For about ten months. Until two nights before this season of city band kicked into gear.


June 10.

I cleaned the hell out of that bāss!  It doesn't look brand-new -- there's still some little scuffs and smudges that the polish didn't totally eliminate -- but c'mon.  Look at that shine. 

Here's hoping it looks that good in another twenty years.

P.S.  For the record: this is the polish I used, bought off the shelf at Ace Hardware for a couple of bucks.  If you have a similar instrument and want to clean it up, I suggest doing some research online first to figure out what products & processes are best for your particular instrument -- different polishes have different chemical compositions, so you need to know what kind of metal you're cleaning and what's safe (and what isn't safe).  Some people go the whole nine years and disassemble everything, keys, pads & all -- I just polished the metal parts and cleaned the rest with some q-tips.  I mean, I wanted it clean, but not that clean.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What's making me happy this week.

It seems to me like there's two types of people in the world: people that love to cook, and people that just sort of begrudgingly tolerate it because, well, they have to eat something and somebody has to do it. I have friends who spend big chunks of their days putting together made-from-scratch meals, trading recipes amongst themselves, following cooking blogs, posting pictures on Facebook/Twitter of the ooh-and-ahh-worthy stuff they make.  They're inspired, they're skilled, they're not eating a lot of things that emerge from cardboard boxes in the freezer for a toasty pirouette in the microwave.

Guess which camp I fall into.

It's not that I dislike cooking -- if there's a recipe I want to try or something I'm craving, I'll dive right in.  The pour-this-much-of-this, and this-much-of-that aspect of it appeals to my nerdy, meticulous, German "VE SHALL FOLLOW ZEE PROCEDURE FOR MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY!!" side.  I'm not terribly daring in the kitchen -- you probably won't ever catch me puttering around, throwing random ingredients into a pot for shits & giggles -- but I've managed to cobble together the occasional cheesecake or other semi-complicated undertaking over the years.  (Hey, I made flan that one time!  And I had to boil things inside of other boiling things, inside the oven!  The horror!!) It's like I'm forever on the verge of enjoying it, but haven't really found a reason to take the plunge and start putting much effort into it.

But on the whole, for now it just seems like a big, thankless chore.  I mean, if I dump a lot of time into crocheting something, at least at the end, I've got something I can point to say and say, "I made that!"  If I cook something awesome, sure, I get a few minutes of satisfaction.  But then it's eaten, and all I'm left with is a pile of dirty dishes.  And particularly as a single person, the idea of cooking a big meal seems even sillier, because I'm going to have to want to eat that as leftovers for, like, two or three days afterwards.  I don't have the patience for that.

Which is why it's weird that I spent a good chunk of the weekend holed up in the basement, watching the Cooking Channel.

What first caught my eye was a commercial for a show called The Culinary Adventures of Baron Ambrosia.  It is as ridiculous as it sounds.

In fact, it's far more ridiculous than that trailer would have you believe.  For instance, this week's episode featured a villain (yes, it's a cooking show with villains) named Burgomeister Burger (who bears a passing resemblance to Starburns on Community) who carries around an evil Russian nesting doll that he uses to hypnotize chefs into revealing their secret recipes to him.  Also, there was a mermaid.  (Alas, I can't find any clips of this magnificence online.  Get on that, Cooking Channel!)  And, judging by pictures on their website, a future episode will feature some sort of Hairspray homage with John Waters.  Highly entertaining, plus it actually made me want to cook something.

Next up:  Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen.  I had initially rejected this show simply due to the very annoying, trying-too-hard-to-be-edgy commercials that used to run for it on another channel, but gave it a shot when it came on after Baron Ambrosia a few weeks back.  And now, I like it.  Kind of like a little kid who turns up their nose at brussel sprouts but eventually learns to love them.

(The show itself isn't that clip:  it's got weirder & funnier little nooks & crannies.  Also: this looks delicious.)

Last but certainly not least:  there were Two Fat Ladies reruns.  Man, I'd forgotten how much I love that show.  (The opening sequence always reminded me of this on Sesame Street.)

So, does this mean I'm going to be spending a lot more time in the kitchen?  Probably not.  Or probably not right away, anyway, since it was hotter than hell all weekend and the thought of hanging out in a hot kitchen in the middle of a heat wave makes me want to die.  But next autumn, when the house cools down and I don't feel guilty turning the oven on?  Well, time will tell.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Police blotter.

Friday, 11:45 A.M.:  Caller reports that she is being followed home by a llama.

Friday, 2:24 P.M.:  Visitor's Center called and stated they had a lady come in who wanted to complain about a sign that is just north of Washburn that states "throw the bum out" referring to Obama, and she feels it is offensive and too close to the road.

Monday, 6:06 P.M.:  Caller reports that his daughter is playing at Beaser Park and there is a second grade boy there "swearing up a storm."

Monday, 2:10 P.M.:  Caller reports a bear in their house.  No one is inside the home, they're all outside in their car.

Tuesday, 1:03 P.M.:  Boyfriend's "baby mama" is texting and harassing caller.

Wednesday, 2:30 P.M.:  Report of loud music coming from garage.  Update: neighbor was sitting in the garage listening to his favorite satellite radio station, was sorry if he was "rocking too hard."

Thursday, 12:53 P.M.:  Caller stated that people have been tipping over the "outhouse" at White River Bridge, asked for additional patrols.

Thursday, 4:41 P.M.:  Open-air 911 misdial.  Caller and children were heard trying to decide between Justin Bieber and Superman shirts.  Update: contact made with caller who confirmed she was just packing.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Insert creaky coffin-opening sound.

The first time I saw a commercial for that Dark Shadows movie that just came out (y'know, the one with Johnny Depp), it sparked a distant memory in the back of my brain that sent me rummaging through the storage room in the basement...where I found this:

May 26.

Behold: our copy of the Barnabas Collins board game.

Now, bear in mind that me & my brothers were born too late to have ever actually watched that show when it was on TV, so when we got this as a hand-me-down from our older cousins, we had no idea what it was about. And really, the box didn't give us much to go on, because as games go, this one wasn't terribly sophisticated.

What a weird game.

Yeah, you spun a wheel, picked bones out of a coffin and hung them off a hanger.  Maybe it was more fun if you'd seen Dark Shadows, but I kind of doubt it.

In fact, the only part of the game that I remember getting excited about was this:


Bonus fangs!!!  We never fought over how to play the game, we just fought over who got to wear the teeth.  Alas, our copy's "bonus fangs" appears to have flown the coop, so now the game seems especially pointless.  Perhaps someone will unearth this amidst the dark shadows of the Moquah thrift shop and pawn it off on their own unsuspecting children.  Much like vampires, boring board games never really die...they wander the earth forever.