Monday, March 29, 2010

Things I Find

Make Your Own Chocolate Bar

No, seriously. The place is in Germany, but they ship to the US. And they offer all KINDS of stuff to put in milk, white, or dark chocolate.

B&N has a new eBook lending system in beta. (scroll down and look on the right side of the list of features)

Ok, now that is interesting. It isn't restricted to books for the Nook, either. Not being able to lend eBooks has been one of the arguments against them. This system works kind of like a print book -- aka you can't read it while it's on loan.

Alexa Meade Paints People

I mean she paints people -- those are people with paint on them. Click on the pictures in her portfolio, then run your cursor over the pop up picture until the "next" button appears on the right so you can see different views. Coolest Thing!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Can't Even Imagine How To Title This Post

Sometimes great minds come up with solutions to problems you didn't realize could, should, or would be solved.

Case in point.

Discreet Odor Neutralizer Pads

I love the brand name.

And this.

Kush™ Bosom Sleep Support

It's a tit pillow. Never have I ever, ever considered needing a special pillow for my boobs. I haven't thought about it in any context whatsoever. I'm simply floored.

And it could only look more suggestive if it had a foreskin. I SAY NO!

Movie Joy

B&N recently had a DVD sale and I succumbed because, really, we watch a LOT of movies around here, so new movies (or new old movies) are always needed. And, for cheap, I was tempted to get several of my favorite good-bad movies.

Oh, come on, you know what I mean. Movies that are so bad they swing around again and are good in a way never intended by the people who made them. And I have a real winner here.

Do you remember Red Sonja? If you were watching action/fantasy/sf movies in the 80s, you remember Red Sonja. Bridgette Neilsen and Arnold Schwartzenegger in what was easily the best cheesy sword-n-sorcery-n-babes in chainmail movies ever. There's NOTHING intelligent about this movie. The acting ranges from barely competent to outright laughable. The plot is thinner than a spaghetti noodle, and almost as limp. On the good side, the effects were fairly competent. There are a couple of images that actually had some emotional impact.

Don't let any of that spoil the ride, though. This is a movie to watch with friends. It's a movie you can make into a drinking game. It begs for snarky commentary.

Also in the "so bad it's good" category is The Shadow. This one is a little sexier (yes, Alec Baldwin wasn't always scary-looking) and the plot is smarter, but there's still a bit of cheese to spread on your cracker here.

I also picked up a few honestly good movies -- The Blues Brothers, Romeo Must Die, City on Fire. And I picked up a mediocre oldie that I love, Spencer's Mountain, which is good more for the actors who star in it and the scenery than for the plot. Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara -- what's not to love? And I have a wee little crush on James MacArthur in his pre "Dano" days.

Yay for movies :)

Books - Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films

Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films: A Critical Analysis of 103 Features Released in the United States, 1950-1992

by Stuart Galbraith IV

I picked this one up while wandering the stacks at the Cooper (Clemson University) Library, and I took it home to read about the 20-odd Godzilla movies, among others.

The introduction essays to the book point out something I've learned myself over the years -- that the common conception of Japanese SF/F movies (of the 50s, 60s, and 70s especially) is of cheaply made schlock, kiddie movies, laughable and stupid films of men stomping miniature buildings while wearing rubber monster suits is both true and grossly false. Like the American movies that inspired them, these movies are also dealing with very real, very important fears and hopes, and represent how a culture looks at those fears and hopes via the venerable method of fantastic story-telling.

The book starts out with the classic Kurosawa film Rashomon before delving into the steadily murkier waters of giant monster movies I so love. Once we get into Godzilla (Gojira) country, I'm happy. The book has even changed my mind about one of the movies, Godzilla vs. Biollante (Biorante). In this one, our favorite radioactive not-a-saur goes up against -- wait for it -- a giant rosebush mutated with his own cells. Yes, this cracks me up whenever I think about it, Godzilla as hedgeclipper, but the essay points out small bits in the movie I missed, such as how this movie is actually rather dark and even a touch haunting and thoughtful. Sure, that's a big stretch for a rubber monster movie, but considering how moved I was when I saw the original, un-Americanised version of Gojira, and how really scary mid- and late-90s additions to the series are, I think I need to give this one another chance.

While often interesting in terms of history, "critical analysis" is, in my opinion, an overstatement of what the book contains. Each movie is presented with a plot summary, some facts about the actors and crew, notes about changes made to American versions, and comments about critical reception. The author touches on various themes in the movies -- few of which are obscure, as they were often delivered to the audience with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the kneecap -- but never delves far into the particular cultural or historical events taking place prior to or during the movie's development and production. Even more disappointing, the author makes no attempt to unpack any symbols or ideas that are peculiar to the Japanese and are obscure to an American viewer.

I've seen many of the Godzilla movies (and these movies are the major subject of the essays), and I've seen several of them multiple times. They brim with puzzling relationships, actions, ideas, and images that I'm certain make perfect sense to the Japanese but are mysterious to me (just as I know that many US films contain perfectly understandable cliches, tropes, symbols, and stereotypes that are strange and obscure to those outside my culture.) I hoped some of those might have been explained in a movie analysis, but they rarely, if ever, are.

Nevertheless, the essays are accessibly and entertainingly written. They contain a lot of facts about the movies, the directors and the production companies. Galbraith gives us a peek into a world more complex than most of us ever consider.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Maddness

The windows are open, the sun is shining, and there's a lovely breeze blowing (semi)warm through the house.

I have scrubbed kitchen cabinets and am awaiting the magic moment when I can wipe the Easy-Off out of the oven. Dammit, spring cannot make me clean the floors, though!


Every few weeks I get a little reality check about my own mortality. My hair grows out enough that my ever-increasing grey roots show and I must decide if I want to dye my hair again.

My hair has really gone grey the last few years, but not in an attractive way. No, I have the whole grizzled, salt-n-pepper look, my natural chestnut shade either fading to a steely color or darkening closer to black. I don't find this change very charming. It's not that I protest the greying of my hair -- that stared when I was 17 and I'm sort of used to the idea. It's how UGLY the particular grey I'm getting looks. It's not white. It's not silver. It's really, really grey, like white sheets washed in dirty water.

It's also sprinkled in weird patches. I started greying at the crown of my head. It's just now reached my temples with little streaks. It hasn't quite made paths on the back or sides. That just looks weird. It's almost like someone dribbled bleach on my hair.

So, I'm in the middle of my debate right now. I have a box of hair color sitting by my bathroom sink. Dying my hair is some work, because I have a lot of hair. It's now officially down to my butt and has to be pulled free of any waist band. Yeah, it needs a serious trim, too. So, it's a pain to do it. Am I bowing to societal pressure to stay young looking? Is it so deep in my psyche that I can't overcome or resist? Or is it just my personal aesthetic that says my hair looks ugly with its scattered dirty grey?

Seriously, every time I wait and wait until I have a good inch or two of roots to see if either the grey has increased to overcome the dark, or has lightened somehow to look less dingy. The increase I see, the color change I don't. And I debate using those chemicals on my hair. Should I stop now? Should I just quit messing and do it regularly? Maybe I'll follow my mother's lead and dye my hair until I turn 50, never letting anyone know about my grey. Of course, my mom's grey came in at the temples and was pure white. Dad, on the other hand, epitomized "grizzled". Guess who I'm taking after?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Doin' Business

The Etsy Store is up and running.

Magpie and Jay

It's taking a bit of time to enter all the inventory. I have to hunt the storage unit to see where my big box of boxes went.

There is apparently interesting weather stirring. My head is thinking about popping open.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Music Goes Round and Round

New computer means making sure I have all my happy CDs turned into MP3s. I am so glad I am old fashioned enough to prefer CDs. I've lost files often enough, or had to make emergency back ups and not gotten it all, that I really like that whole "more or less permanent" media feeling.

As I've combed my collection to fill holes, I find myself rediscovering music I haven't listened to in years -- you know, the way old people do? I'm an old people now, or at least working my way toward it. And I have music I haven't heard in 10 years or more.

For instance, I was once a huge Dire Straits fan. Now, Dire Straights hasn't made an album in the studio since 1991, and I don't have them all (I'm missing one studio album and all the live and compilations). At some point after Brothers in Arms I lost interest. The same goes for all my Talking Heads, Bare Naked Ladies, Laurie Anderson...oh, there are just so many. Would you pick me as a King Crimson or Emerson, Lake and Palmer fan? I got CDs that demonstrate it.

We have a few hundred CDs. Lots of them are The Husband's yoga and exercise CDs -- once upon a time he bought anything that sounded like it might activate an alpha wave. We have a lot of Disney soundtracks (just got a few from the Pixar movies, still want The Incredibles.) I have a few big band collections, and a lot of stuff I ripped while at the Mother-in-Law's house.

Among the more odd bits are CDs from my Ren Faire days -- Baltimore Consort, in particular, and New World Renaissance Band, Clannad and Enya and The Chieftains. I don't listen to it anymore. In fact, listening to the Celtic/Traditional songs that were practically all I heard for so many years can bring me to tears. It's too solidly attached to a particular time and place in the past, a time and place far gone now.

For that matter, as much as I used to live and die for Kate Bush, now I rarely pull up a song (her last album didn't do much more me). Instead, I'm all about Imogen Heap and Tori Amos. Like a lot of people, my music life was pretty much my teens and twenties, which means a lot of late 70s/80s music (and most of that is on LPs). I used to love such questionable music as Foreigner and Styx (well, early Styx isn't questionable). I think I played Queen's Bohemiam Rhapsody and Kansas's Point of Know Return until the LPs wore out.

However, some music remains with me. I can listen to Steely Dan/Donald Fagan all the time. I get moods for Sting/The Police from time to time. I can happily dig into Bobby McFerrin for a few hours. I'm not tired of Thievery Corporation or Chemical Brothers yet.

And I still -- occasionally -- tune in to something new. Maybe.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Further Progress

I made another thing yesterday.

Also -- SPRING!

I finally finished reading The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice Weaver Flaherty.

I started the book last summer as part of my attempt to get over my own blocked writing. It took me a long time to read not because the book is difficult or boring. It is neither of those things. However, it is a book packed to bursting with ideas that require digesting. A doctor and scientist goes through her own mental illness, which causes changes in her relationship to writing. That leads her to explore how our brains allow us to write (or keep us from writing), among other things. This is a small book -- 307 pages, including extensive notes and index -- but is is incredibly readable. It is funny, poignant, insightful, and very, very quotable.

I intend to read the book again, this time with a highlighter, and to take notes. There's too much in this book for one reading, and all of it interests me.

I also added Don Quixote to my reading list. I've had the book on my shelf since I picked it up last year. Ambitious? Yeah. It's one of those books that sits on a lot of "good intention" lists.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Made a Thing!

I decided this week to get back into making jewelry. So, I made a Thing.

.It takes a lot of stuff to make a thing

Marking out the wire.
Fitting the stone to the frame (it's a moonstone cabochon)

Finishing up.

And here's the finished product. Whadaya think?

I am toying with the idea of making a strand for it. And I'm thinking about what to put in that Etsy store.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Interesting Book

My list of books to read grows always.

Burying Bones: Pearl Buck's Life in China
By Hilary Spurling

Elaine Showalter

How does a woman overcome the suffocating messages of her culture to become an artist? In Burying the Bones, Hilary Spurling unearths the creative roots of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Pearl Buck (1892-1973). Spurling points out that, although Buck's most famous novel, The Good Earth, is still in print, the author is 'virtually forgotten. She has no place in feminist mythology, and her novels have been effectively eliminated from the American literary map.' Boldly conceived and magnificently written, Burying the Bones should repair Buck's literary fortunes and restore her to the pantheon of feminist heroines.

I've not read any Pearl Buck, although I have (I think) a copy of The Good Earth in my pile of good intentions.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Future of Books

Don't Believe the E-book Skeptics says Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire (well, at least, blogging and twittering). EBooks may not be that big a thrill now, but they will only get better. Being an ebook aficionado myself, I like to believe that. Right now, I like eBooks for their portability and ease. It's wonderful to travel somewhere carrying my ebook in its case, which is about the size of a medium hardback, but lighter, and know I have some 80 books to chose from inside. I look forward to the newer developments and the ability to one day be able to update my ebook reader with the same ease I update my MP3 player.

I can't deny there are downsides to current ebooks. They aren't very pretty, and I can't find every book I want in a digital format.
I have worries about ebook sellers having more control over my books than I do. Issues with Digital Rights Management (DRM) concern me.

However, part of me refuses to give up my printed paper books. Part of that is I'm always aware that ebooks are device dependent, and devices are notorious for not working when you want them to work. They run out of power and can't be recharged. They get dropped or bumped or spilled on and their delicate inner workings cease to function. They become outdated (rather quickly) and have to be replaced with new technology. They can require specific formats of books to work. The books they contain are also limited in that I cannot share them with others easily.

There is also the beauty of books themselves, on several levels, and that's what
Jonathan Jones reminds us when he says Print is beauty bound – even in a digital age.

I get a very specific satisfaction from a book as a physical object. I can look at it, touch it, hold it. I appreciate the feel of good paper and binding. Some books are marvelous for their sheer size and presence -- something difficult for any electronic book to replicate. I imagine books as threads through time. A specific book I own can pass into other hands and other lives. I might make notes in it and start a conversation with those who read after me, even commenting on notes made by someone who had the book before me. I don't see those particular qualities of books ever becoming part of an ebook.

Interesting Book Review

I've just read a rather dazzling review of a book.

Mrs. Adams in Winter

I don't read nearly the amount of biography that I should, probably because it's hard for an author to make a biography as interesting as fiction. However, using historical facts as the basis for a novel has appeal to me.

Historians have generally passed quickly over Louisa Adams. She is known as the somewhat unhappy, somewhat difficult wife of the sixth President (and daughter-in-law of the second). In the enormous files of the Adams family papers repose many of her unpublished writings -- plays, poems, memoirs, and, almost unnoticed until now, two brief accounts of her remarkable journey in 1815, alone except for servants and her eight-year old son, from Saint Petersburg, Russia, to Paris, there to meet her waiting husband. From these, the English historian Michael O’Brien has fashioned an irresistible adventure story and a brilliant portrait of Louisa Adams that ought to rescue her for good from half exotic obscurity.

So I think I'll add this one to my list of "To Be Read" books ... if I ever get through some of the books already THERE...

Friday, March 05, 2010

Why I Do Not Comment

I read a lot of what I think of as "the new news" -- the assortment of online news sources and magazines my aggregator gathers for me every day. I think of it as "the new news" because I am old enough to remember Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather at 6 pm being 'the news' and can still remember my fingers turning grey from cheap newsprint ink as I studied Dear Abby and the comics. I even wrote occasional letters to the editor -- once I was recognized by our local paper as a "star letter writer", with a dinner and a little award with 20 or so other such people. I was younger then.

Now, this New News has comments. I read through those occasionally. The quality varies according to the venue, as you might guess, but not as much as I would expect. This is one reason why I Do Not Comment -- I don't want to get anywhere near the assorted half-asses driven to spew their particular unconsidered and self-important opinions all over the comments of every article that hits the interwebinet. I'll say it here, and I mean it -- not every thought that runs through a person's head deserves to be immortalized in text and exhibited to all and sundry. If they had to take crayon to paper and scribble it all out, then find envelope, address, stamp, combine the pieces properly, and put the result in a physical mail box, a good 2/3ds of them would just mutter over their coffee cups and forget what they'd read while searching for a good donut in the box at the office. The few people who read the article all the way through, understood most of the words, and have a rational response or question are there -- the brave ones, the ones most committed to the act of communication -- but they are stuffed and squeezed between the assnuts.

But fear of assnut contamination is not the only reason why I Do Not Comment. Sometimes I start to type something only to realize halfway through that what I have to say does not need saying. It isn't relevant or informative or germane. I'm just using up their space, dropping dirty tissue in their living rooms. I really have nothing to say, just the impulse to say something, and that's not necessary. It's the same impulse that prompts a fair share of those assnuts I despise so much.

And, of course, sometimes I Do Not Comment because I don't feel a need to comment. Perhaps I'm convinced the person who wrote what I'm reading will never see my comment. I think it won't matter, it won't be read, or even if read it will garner no response. That's something else that happens with comments -- it's kind of one sided, especially on news sites, but equally on blogs or any other social venue online. Person A has something to say, or the impulse to speak. Person A writes a news story or a blog post or spits something out on Twitter or Facebook. Persons B and C write something in reply to those initial forays.

And that's where it ends. Person A was announcing, not starting a conversation. Replies are just acknowledgment -- points, if you will. This post earned this many posts. All is done.

I don't care to collect points and I don't like to give them. I like to talk to people. When I make a comment, I'm talking to someone. It's someone I want to talk WITH, which means I want that person to talk back to me. If you don't do that, or if I figure from the start that you don't -- that you live in your private world and other people online are just methods to feed your sense of importance, to build your prestige, or just feed your ego with "look! Look how many comments I got!", then I'm not bothering. Even with people I know online, I stop commenting, because I don't see a point talking to someone who won't talk to me.

That is, in the biggest part, why I Do Not Comment.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Shiny New Thing

My new Dell Studio 16 finally arrived. I am now

1) loading software
2) figuring out this Windows 7 stuff
3) being annoyed at all the computer's offers to "help" me
4) admiring the shiny newness

The old and faithful Chaos will be cleaned inside and out, and then it will wing its way north to Ohio to become the living room companion of my dearest Jammies, so she can (as I do) watch TV while mindlessly surfing the net. Who knows? We might get her on Twitter yet ;)

More raptures and rants later.

Monday, March 01, 2010

April is the Cruelest Month, But March Ain't No Pushover

A Numbered List (because there's a gizmo and I can)

  1. The Husband is returned from his job-hunting jaunt. Now we wait to see if there will be a second interview and a possible offer. Neither of us are wishing hard for it -- he has doubts about the job and we both have doubts about the move. We have friends in Arizona, of course, who would love us to move there. We have friends in lots of places who want us to move closer.
  2. We have yet to hear back about our offer for the townhouse. Our offer ends this month, but there must be time for closing, so in reality we have about 10 days. If we do not buy this place, we must be out of it by August. Where we will be going is the problem.
  3. Very few places will rent to people who own pets. A damn small percentage of those will rent to someone who owns 6 cats, 3 goldfish, and a bird with a screaming fetish.
  4. We both admitted last night that we have fallen a little in love with the old house in Anderson. The price on that house has dropped again, but it needs a LOT of work. Refurbishing it could be a money pit. It could also be a fantastic investment and a wonderful place to live.
  5. IF The Husband gets a job at Clemson, which is also up in the air right now.
  6. We are still waiting for the university in Toronto to repost the listing they didn't fill last year. I've harangued The Husband about his "want to wait for X" reasoning, because that's why he missed applying for the position when it was still up. Academia creaks very slow. It seems like you must apply for a job before they even know they have a position.
  7. Why do I want to stay in South Carolina? Well, the area here is lovely. I mean the mountains, the parks, the waterfalls -- I really love those parts. Other parts of SC don't thrill me as much.
  8. I'm starting to pack up stuff in the house, just little bits here and there. I mean, depending on what happens in March and April, we could have to move in May. We could be staying until August. I don't know. I'm packing up little stuff.
I'm a little rocky on the emotional front, as it happens. It seems most anything that speaks of the past -- my past -- can get me tearing up and make my heart clench. Or maybe it's just the dragging end of winter, although this was a very sunny winter. Or something else is happening as an extra goodie for turning 45. I don' t know.

We watched Star Trek last night, followed up by Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and as I watchd DeForest Kelly and James Doohan, I got teary for missing them. Seeing how old Leonard Nimoy looks makes me fear his loss, too. Why do I take it so personally? I grew up with these people in my head and in my imagination, forming a center of my thought and conversation. They don't know me at all, and I don't really know them as people, but the characters they embodied are important to me. The new versions aren't the same, and they can never be, as much as I may enjoy watching them. It is odd in one way and quite understandable in another.

I'm glad we bought more Kleenex at Costco, as I expect I will need it in March.