Five Discarded Blog Posts

I have nothing I want to write about tonight.  Not a thing.  It was a pretty long day at the bill-paying job and I mostly want my acetaminophen-pm and my pillow.  But, since it’s my turn to post (and I’m all kind of resolved to be better about that this year)….here are things that I considered and discarded:

1) The Job.  One day, when I have other means of income, I will write a fabulous tell-all about my way not glamorous job.  It will be a fantastic mix of tragedy and comedy.  I will be hailed a genius, and the world will be changed.  Until then, I like paying the bills.

2) Politics.  Not touching that with a 10-foot f-ing pole.  To quote Josh from The West Wing, “I’m so sick of Congress I could vomit.”  If I hear about one more damn Republican Primary….

3) The Idiot Who Nearly Ran Me Into a Ditch This Morning.  He made my day start out sucky and since he didn’t actually manage to run me off the road and to an early grave, you’re stuck reading this sub-standard post.

4) The Weather. I’m not talking about it because ours has been fantastic and I don’t wanna jinx it by saying more than that (having written this much, we’ll get 6 inches of snow and -15 temps tomorrow)

5) The Cat.  She’s being bitchy and a little attention-whore, and paying her the slightest mind will only make it worse.

And on that note, my little painkillers-o-wonder are standing by to cure the pounding in my head and whisk me off to the land of Nod on 25mg of Diphenhydramine.

Coffee with a Grande Dame

Would we drink coffee with Maggie Smith?

Kristy: My first instinct was, “Holy crap, of course!” But then I thought about it and I’m not sure. I mean, I love this woman’s work. In everything I’ve ever seen her in she has this magical way of standing out without making the whole thing all about her. She steals scenes while still being a giving actress and that’s a rare talent. And yes, she keeps getting cast as the same character over and over again, I don’t care. She does it better than anyone else. And I love that even though she sometimes plays a raging bitch, she often plays strong characters. So on the one hand, I would totally buy her coffee. On the other hand, I’d be a little intimidated to sit down with her. Also, I have a hard time picturing her drinking coffee–if she drinks a hot beverage it’s hard to imagine it being anything other than tea. But if she does drink coffee, I suppose I’ll screw my courage up because I don’t think I could live with knowing I’d turned down such an opportunity.

Cammy:  For bringing life to a long list of awesome characters, I feel I owe her whatever the hell beverage she wants.  I mean, she is the screen embodiment of Professor McGonagall!  And need we even discuss the awesomeness of Lady Violet?  But, like Kristy, the intimidation factor is up there, not the least because most of what I know of her is the characters–and that’s not who we’re drinking with.  Being the more chicken-shit of the two of us, I’ll let Kristy be the brave one who actually sits down.  Me?  I’ll just help make sure they’re at the best table in the house and that the tab is open for whatever beverages are required.

Venting About an Idea

I know my love of grilled cheese sandwiches is well known. And I believe I’ve also mentioned my love of quesadillas. But I’ve recently become frustrated by a problem that eating either of those presents. I’m sure you’ve all experienced it. You fix your grillie, you cut it in half, you eat the first half, and in the meantime the other half has gotten slightly soggy on the side that was facing the plate. Maybe like me you try to remedy this by flipping it periodically, but it only helps so much. It’s even worse with quesadillas because I tend to cut them into more pieces.

It occurred to me that this is a great product idea. Why don’t they invent some sort of vented plate for serving grillies and quesadillas? Or some sort of rack that fits on the plate to allow the steam to escape. It seems like it’s a fairly basic idea—is it out there already? If so, why don’t I have one?

I will tell you this: when I drop out of school to open my ice cream shoppe that serves gourmet grilled cheeses, we are definitely going to find a solution to this.

Movie Review: The Girl

Title: The Girl (Original Swedish Title: Flickan) (2009)

Director: Fredrik Edfeldt

Writer: Karin Apphenius

Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytrma

I stumbled across this one at my local library.  Having not watched a foreign film in a while, I decided to give it a whirl.  I didn’t really expect much more than a little variety to shake up the string of BBC offerings I’ve been checking out from the library’s DVD section lately.  What I got was a visually beautiful, moving film.

You might notice that I noted the cinematographer above.  That’s because the way this film was beautiful visually.  That’s not to say it was full of sweeping vistas or shiny dance numbers or incredible costumes.  It was the composition of the shots, the way light was captured.  If had a greater experience with visual art, I’d be better at describing it, but the long and short of it is that reading the English subtitles is not the only reason I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen.

The story follows The Girl (never named), whose parents and brother leave for an African aid mission.  She was supposed to travel with them, but a last minute notification of restrictions due to age (she is 9 and a half) results in The Girl being left at home in the care of a somewhat unstable Aunt Anna.  Singularly unimpressed with this woman-child that she barely knows, The Girl is more than happy when Aunt Anna leaves her alone to go off sailing with a boyfriend.  The Girl begins a summer of freedom.

But, before you start to think this is a summery, Swedish version of Home Alone, be assured, it’s not.  The Girl’s freedom devolves into a loneliness and isolation that comes right up to the borders of madness before a meeting with a stranger pulls her back into society and reality.

And The Girl herself is remarkable.  Little Blanca Engström does a very impressive job of conveying the complex emotions involved in The Girl’s isolation.  She has a unique look with her red hair and skinny form–she stands out in every shot she appears in.  And for such a little girl, she can be intense with just one glance, almost to the point of creepiness.  You really don’t need the subtitles to pick up on the emotions and follow the path of this story.  If this young actress doesn’t do any more movies, we are all losing out, I’m telling you.

By the end of this movie, I had the same kind of feeling I have after reading a really excellent book that I know I’ll never forget even if I never manage to read it again.  Usually I withdraw from foreign films that are too “arty” but in this case, it struck the right chord–stable plot, deep emotion and beautiful shots.  I give it 4.5 out of 5 jars of peanut-butter.


Musikalischer Mittwoch: A Song of Ol’ San Antone

I am not a singer.  No false modesty, I don’t have a good voice and I find it a very frustrating instrument.  I sing along to the radio in the car, but the music is so loud I can’t hear how bad I am, so it’s okay (and I drive alone, so no one else suffers, either).  When I don’t have something to drown me out, put it to you this way: my cat howls at me.  But, this week I realized that the small shower here at home has these awesome acoustics that are just too good to waste.  Since the piano won’t fit in the shower and it’s not good to get a wood oboe soaking wet, my only way to exercise the sounds of the space is with those pesky vocal chords.  After many attempts to reproduce any number of songs, I have found exactly one song that I can sing even moderately well without the assistance of a radio to drown out my weak points:

“New San Antonio Rose”

This signature song of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys ought to be familiar to serious country music fans.  If you are interested in rounding out your musical education with the high-points of all the major genres and sub-genres, this song ought to be somewhere on your to-listen list as a grand example of Western swing.  If you are from Texas I suspect that you might be like me where one day you hear this tune playing and you begin singing along, never realizing until that moment that you knew all the words…

It was called “New” San Antonio Rose because the “old” version Bob Wills originally put together didn’t have lyrics. With the addition of words, they called it “New San Antonio Rose.”  Allegedly, the tune was, at least in part, developed when Wills decided to play the tune “The Spanish Two-Step” backwards.  FTW?  For shits and giggles I sat down and tried to play something backwards on the piano.  Um.  Fail.  So points to Bob for being some kind of crazy genius with his fiddle.

It’s been covered more times than I can count (I can name  5 renditions off the top of my head–I k now there are more) by a plethora of artists and in multiple languages.  It helped rocket Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys into the national spotlight back in the day.

In the grand tradition of country-western music (and plenty of other musical genres, but this one gets the most shit for it) it’s about a lost love.  In the grand tradition of Texas, it’s dance-able.  And it’s about Texas.  All these elements have made it a favorite of mine for years.  The shocker was the part about how sing-able it is.  Maybe I should have suspected it with the number of artists who’ve performed the song, but I didn’t.  And I sure didn’t expect it to be the one song that I can maintain in-tune start to finish.  Maybe it’s that the spread of the range is just right.  Maybe the tempo makes it easier to control the changes.  I don’t know.  All I know is that I usually sing it through 3 times in the shower–and the cat’s okay with it.


How to Pay Me a Compliment

I may have mentioned on this blog before that I get irrationally angry when guys tell me that I’m beautiful. I’ve been told this is because I’m a head case. While I won’t deny that as a factor, the real reasons are this: 1) I’m not. I’m not a dog, but I also don’t turn heads. And I’m fine with this. So while it’s one thing to tell me I look particularly good on a given day or in a given outfit, if you just say it indiscriminately it makes me think you’re a liar. And not even a particularly good one. And you probably want something. 2) I’m really fine with not being beautiful. I accepted my average appearance a long time ago and comforted myself with the fact that I’m possibly smarter than the average human and definitely make better sorbet than the average human. It all balances out. At the end of the day, I’m not sure how important I think looks are. But when you go on and on about my looks, it makes it clear that looks are that important to you. Which is a turn off. 3) Frankly, it makes for very boring conversation.

The other factor, which I’m not sure I was totally aware of until today, is that most guys don’t know how to deliver a compliment like this. I realized this when a colleague managed to pay me such a compliment today without pissing me off. Here’s how he did it:

Dude: [relevant conversation about our department]

Me: [responds to question about course requirements]

Dude: [mentions theoretical concept he’s dealing with]

Me: [responds with how it relates to my research]

Dude: By the way, your hair is beautiful. [return to stimulating academic conversation]

See what he did there? Made a specific, relevant, believable comment (I’ll admit it was a good hair day. And I have purple streaks in my hair. All folklorists love purple), but did not allow the conversation to turn shallow. Did not go on and on as if he feels like my self-esteem hangs or should hang on how he feels about my appearance. Did not, make it sound as though it’s the only thing he noticed or valued about me.

Now before anyone thinks I’m turning in my membership card to the permanently single women’s club, I’m fairly certain he’s not actually interested. And I’m not sure I would be if he was. But I will admit to you right now, that one little comment, thrown in there over the course of normal, grad student conversation kind of made my day. And it was kind of hot. Not gonna lie.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you tell a woman she’s beautiful.

Snarfing Coffee With Erma Bombeck

Would we have coffee with…Erma Bombeck?

Cammy:  A resounding YES.  Bombeck was held out as the benchmark for humorous newspaper writing by my journalism teacher (who didn’t generally encourage us to write humor in her class, but had no problem with us reading and appreciating it).  Reading her column was the first time I really realized that people wrote funny shit for adults, too.  Before there were “Mommy Bloggers” venting about the housewife life, there was Bombeck.  Not only did she write about the absurdities of suburban moms and their families, she wrote it in a way that anyone could snarf their Dr. Pepper over.  It’s been more than 10 years since I first read one of her books (When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home), but I still recall clutching at my sides laughing.  For that alone, I owe her a thank you cup of joe. I’d like her take on the Mom blog phenomenon mentioned above–I have to imagine she’d have something humorous to say about that one.  I think it would be interesting to get her take on women and humor in general (more than once I’ve heard that women can’t be as funny as men–something that women like Bombeck render totally untrue).  And if nothing else, I once read she was twice as funny in person as she was on paper, so as long as I’m careful when I take a sip, this should be a riot.

Kristy: Sure. I’ll shamefully confess that although I’d heard her name for years, I didn’t really know who she was until tonight. But you know I like people that bring the funny, and a quick google search for quotes reveals that this woman could indeed bring the funny. So while I lack Cammy’s passion for journalism, I share her passion for spending time with smart funny people. Like Cammy, I’d also like to hear her thoughts on the “Mommy Blogger” phenomenon. I’d also like to ask her about her forays into television, even though they were largely unsuccessful. Perhaps even more to the point, I’d be interested to know what she thinks about the dearth of female writers in television, particularly on comedy shows. Is this just social prejudice or something else? Does she think there’s any thing that can be done to help? I will also be careful when I sip my coffee.

Weekly Downton Redux

Well if Cammy gets to post about Downton Abbey when it’s her Sunday to post, I feel it’s only fair I can do the same. After all, I recommended the series to her. And my mind can be just as one tracked as hers.

As a friend of mine just posted on Facebook, this show will give me high blood pressure before all is said and done. Ay ay ay.

Isobel was annoying the crap out of me last week, but I can’t help but feel a little bad for her at the start of this one now that she has suddenly become redundant. Still, running off to France when there’s, you know, a war there, seems a bit extreme. And more than a bit passive aggressive. Who knew she was Southern?

I can’t quite make up my mind about Edith these days. She’s gone from object of pity to bitch to homewrecker to … almost too damn good to be likeable. Either she’s fickle or I am. But as Lady Violet would say, I’m a woman, so I’m allowed.

Lord Grantham seems to be playing the role I expected Bates to play this season—all frustrated and feeling useless.  I just want to hug him.

Mary… well she’s just so darn British and high class. I both love her for the stupid things she does and want to throttle her for them. But she’s growing, I guess.

Speaking of growing up… Sibyl. Let’s be honest about something. Sixteen year old me desperately wants to be Lady Sibyl. She lives in a big house, has fabulous clothes, gets to act morally superior and has an Irish revolutionary in love with her. She even has the cool mythological name. Come on! What more could you want? So… yes, I get why other people find her annoying. Sixteen year old me was rather annoying too. And sixteen year old me requires that I love her.

On the topic of Branson, I’m increasingly less certain of his death. William’s too. Not that I’m convinced either will survive at this point, but I’m mentally readjusting the odds.

Bates and Anna fill me with simultaneous squees and dread. Vera’s clearly not done yet.

I’m sure a lot of people are going to hate the little lapse into musical, but it filled me with joy like few moments on television have.  Can this show get any more delicious?

Back in the Linux Day

As a result of my slow, but steady, progress organizing the basement, I wound up identifying a few extra computer parts, allowing me to fix up my Mom’s old desktop.  I’ve been contemplating setting up a PC to connect to the TV.  Who says you need Hulu Plus to watch Hulu on the TV?

Being, well, me, I was also keen to set this box up with Linux.  Since my old laptop died, I’ve been Linux-less for quite a while now.  After a bit of searching I opted for a distro I’ve heard good things about, Ubuntu.  The install CD burned, I sat down for a good afternoon of bonding with the PC.

I was both pleasantly surprised and a little saddened.

Back in the dark ages when I was first exposed to Linux, it was a fantastic, powerful operating system with a plethora of tools for a young programmer like me–but installing it was a chore.   This OS was not for the faint of heart, those used to putting in an install CD, choosing OK in the appropriate places and setting the time zone before walking away.  Noooo, you had to know all manner of details about your hardware.  There were obscure drivers to be obtained, hard drives to partition and kernels to be re-compiled.  Our University ACM  (Association of Computing Machines) chapter hosted Saturday “Install Parties” so that the more skilled could help indoctrinate the N00bs.  It was its own form of bonding experience.

So, it was a bit of a shock when Ubuntu went on like butter.  Seriously.  It put the easiest Windows install to shame.  I chose a few elements related to the keyboard and the time zone, it chugged a bit, and before I knew it, I was staring at a gorgeous desktop on my TV screen.  Mozilla was installed and launched easily.  Hulu fired right up.  The network allowed me to access my server with no issues.  I pulled over photos which showed up brilliantly on the photo viewer.  Numerous programs and tools were already installed so I could click and begin working in a document, surfing, or pulling up MP3s immediately.  No more booting to a simple command prompt and being forced to go in and tweek the system to boot to a GUI.  No more fighting with the right drivers for my video card.  It was so EASY.  My Mom could have handled this install, and she normally has trouble when she’s prompted to update Adobe Acrobat.

On the one hand, this is great for getting the average user to dabble with Linux.  The initial hurdle involved with getting it installed is no longer a barrier.  You can install in a matter of a half hour and be on your merry, computing way.  Honestly, if you have some old hardware and no access to a cheap copy of Window$, download Ubuntu.

On the other hand–the challenge and the fun are gone for a geek like me.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of fun to be had whipping out the terminal window and tweaking things (I already tweaked get access to the advanced settings and install screen-savers), but there’s a twinge of sadness that I didn’t get that afternoon of frustration with the balm of triumph and self pride after finally getting it all up, running and just-so.  Sure, there are other distros that still provide a geek challenge (I assume–if Slackware got this easy to install, I think it might be a sign of the apocalypse), but I’m pretty sure that many of them are more like this Ubuntu install, and that makes me just a little nostalgic.

Either way, it’s still an awesome, powerful OS.  And I’m now in possession of both a media center for photos, music and video, AND my favorite C compiler and enough PERL packages to make your eyes bleed.