Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More.


Let me tell you, there is one thing which has stayed true in my life for years and years, one emotion which has remained the same ever since I have conscious memories: how satisfying it is to stumble upon an album where you like every song. Where from start to finish, it seems like a work of art. Because it is! Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons has been this album for the last two months of my life. Their voices are some of the most comforting company one can keep during wintertime--full of a warm gruffness, kind of like taking a sip of hard alcohol. Burns a little on the way down, then sits nice and warm in your belly. Even though they're Brits, I always picture them in Appalachia, heartily strumming their guitars, stomping their feet, and melding their voices while sitting on an old wooden porch in the countryside next to rolling hills, a similar, yet slightly different, porch which I often envision the Avett Brothers also sitting on.

The first song I heard of Mumford & Sons was Little Lion Man, which they play on the radio quite often round these here parts, and which accordingly wins for Song With the Most Forceful And Obvious Bleeped Out F Word I've Ever Heard on the Radio. The only other song which comes to mind in this category would be Alanis crooning out, And are you thinking of me when you -bleep- her!!, back in my favorite musical decade, the 90s: When Angst Ruled the Airwaves. This classic line is definitely forceful; deadly, withering, even; but Little Lion Man's I really -bleep-ed it up this time; didn't I, my dear repeats over and over in every chorus! That is some pretty audacious radio bleeping. However, the song that really got me was when I heard The Cave for the first time.


My reaction the first time I heard it was, "Whoa, that song was badass," and this continues to be the reaction I have every single time I hear it. This song is badass. Just awesome. It also has a great opening stanza of lyrics:

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind
.

Really, all of their lyrics, which I've only recently been really listening closely to during my hundredth or so listen of the album, are pretty great. And by "great," I mean that they are surprisingly hopeful and lovely, with any angry lyrics being delicately balanced with talk about the goodness of love and souls and stuff. Case in point in the first and title track:

Love it will not betray you,
dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free.
Be more like the man
you were made to be.

And in the hippie-ishly titled Awake My Soul:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love, you invest your life.

Like, seriously. These dudes are all about the love and the souls.

Other highlights for me include include White Blank Page, which starts out quiet and plaintive, with the earnestly aching line, Tell me now where was my fault in loving you with all my heart?, and then builds steadily to much angrier crescendos: You did not think when you sent me to the briiiiiiiiiink; you desired my attention but denied my affeeeeeections! What a jerk, girl! Geez! The song then pauses for a moment for a long, beautifully harmonized singing of the word heart over and over, an effect which is more difficult to describe in words. But trust me, it is just lovely.

This song is followed by I Gave You All, the title of which itself continues on some of these You-Were-So-Mean-And-I'm-Still-Mad-At-You themes, and which also includes some great gems of lines, such as: How can you say that your truth is better than ours? and If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could've won. That is a great line, right there. This is actually the angriest sounding song on the record, swelling to some really good, therapeutic yelling at the end.

Then there is Timshel, full of quietness and combined voices singing You are not alone in this, as brothers we will stand and we'll hold your hand, and while I don't know who or what Timshel is, I suspect that this is an exceedingly nice song, and sounds altogether touching and reassuring regardless. The highest drama of the album comes towards the middle of the next song, Thistle & Weeds; with rising piano and drums and guitars, at this point in my mind they have moved off the porch and are running through the Appalachian forest in the dark--I'm not quite sure towards what, but it would make a great movie scene, that's for sure.

Dust Bowl Dance is also some good old fashioned musical fun, the last minute of which is actually the most badass minute of the album. Then the last song, After the Storm, ends with some similarly pessimistic thoughts as started the album. Really, Mumford, and your sons, stop bumming us out with this stuff.

There will come a time you'll see
with no more tears
and love will not break your heart
but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see
what you'll find there
with grace in your heart
and flowers in your hair.

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Friday, January 28, 2011

J & K Do Portland Food Carts: Month 1



The phenomenon of Portland's ever-expanding world of food cart cuisine is not new news. Indeed, there is an incredibly in-depth blog/website at foodcartsportland.com; a number of reviews and articles in fancy schmancy places like Sunset (which call them "mobile gourmet kitchens") and Gourmet (our street-food culture "may soon be rivaling the hawker centers of Singapore"!); many of the more popular or well-organized carts have their own websites; and there is even a book now, entitled Cartopia: Portland's Food Cart Revolution. In other words, I realize I am not adding much to the world of the internets by discussing them; in other news, oh well.

Kathy and I have felt like infinitely un-cool Portlanders for awhile now in our lack of knowledge about food carts, which is mainly due to 1) our laziness when it comes to trying new places to eat, and 2) most of the carts are cash only, and who ever has cash on them? Not us, that's for sure. However, one of our resolutions for the last full year we may be spending in Portland is to try to hit up at least one new cart a month, so get ready for me documenting our culinary adventures on here for posterity. I know you're all pumped. I am!

Of course, to back up for a second, for those who DON'T live here and DON'T hear people talk about food carts constantly, here's the basic scoop: the main food carts started downtown, turning a few different blocks of what were once bland parking lots into bustling lunch-hour hot spots full of international flavors. The food cart craziness has henceforth expanded into the East Side and other neighborhoods of the city, often in groupings which are referred to as "pods." Really, in an economy such as this, for those crazy young entrepreneurs out there, starting your own food cart in Portland is one of the easiest and most successful (relatively of course) ventures one can currently dive into. In fact, there are so many popping up everywhere nowadays that I've read articles in the Oregonian questioning whether we have reached our food cart "saturation point" (to which I say, pshaw!) and the city council is pondering stricter regulations for the carts (to which I suspect many Portlanders would say, "Down with the man, man!").

We started this month at the pod closest to us at SE 50th and Division, A La Carts.

My Choice: I opted for some cajun cookin' at the classily titled Bayou Fixins', and chose the awesomely named Smack and Cheese, pictured above (with cornbread!). Essentially, slightly spicy homemade mac n' cheese with sausage and some peppers--and they really didn't skimp on the sausage, which was the best part. I have to say I think my cart was one of the more unique ones in the pod--although I passed, you could get alligator! Just think of how much fossil fuels were spent to transfer THAT to the Northwest!

Kathy's Choice: Since it's hard to say no to thai food, Kathy got something from Run Chicken Run, which definitely won for cutest cart in the pod. Like seriously--cute. She got something involving basil and chicken and noodles or something or other, which she said was good (she unfortunately is currently not home for more specifics on this; dock me one for journalistic integrity). We also got quite tasty thai iced tea from them--seemingly always a winning choice, but I have had ones which were slightly too sweet--and the workers definitely won the award for friendliness/best service.

What we'd like to eat if we went back: some fondue (yes, there's a fondue cart!); a pulled pork sandwich from Jazzy's Barbecue; Southwestern Pizza Company; something German from Van Schnitzel, yah; and a sandwich from Om Nom Nom (which wins for best cart name). It is already clear that this whole plethora-of-choices aspect of food carts is going to be exceedingly difficult for us.

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, I'm waiting for your food cart skit. I already know it'll be good.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Rayannes, Emma Straub

This is one of the most perfect things I have ever read.

I heard about it via Jill D., and I should have known it would be good because Jill D. is highly intelligent and awesome and likes highly intelligent and awesome things; also, it's from the Paris Review (yes, the Paris Review daily blog, but in the world of writing and the internets this is still a big deal; it is still the Paris Review), so I knew it wouldn't be small potatoes. Although, and I am embarrassed to say this in front of other writer-y people who may read this, this is actually the first thing I have ever read which is at all associated with the Paris Review. After this, I feel like I should be checking it out much more often. Of course, I should probably prepare myself for the knowledge that not all of the pieces will be about My So-Called Life.

This piece (My Rayannes, by Emma Straub) in particular is about Angela & Rayanne, whose relationship is, clearly, the most dynamic, interesting, heartfelt, and worthwhile relationship of the show. Angela + Jordan Catalano = boring. (Okay, maybe boring is a harsh word.) Angela + Rayanne = truth, love, heartbreak, adolescence, life.

Some of my favorite bits:

Teenage girls curl up together like newborn puppies, painting one another’s toes as if they were licking one another’s ears. 

They aren’t hitting on each other, not precisely, though they are in a constant state of arousal that borders on the insane. No other love is like the love of a teenage girl, all passion and fire and endless devotion—at least for a week.

Yes. Yes. Welcome to the female friendship: the most underestimated phenomenon of all time. 

I have read a few adult novels which get at the power of female friendships, but on TV, they're hard to come by. This is not to say that there aren't good female friendships out there, that there aren't female characters who are good and kind and caring to each other, but none get down to the raw meat and bones of the kind of friendships I'm talking about. Perhaps these friendship portrayals are portrayals of just that: friendship. Angela and Rayanne weren't just friends, though; they loved each other. Love between two females--without sex--is rarely reckoned with. Maybe this kind of love is just an adolescence thing, as Ms. Straub also implied. Rayanne's mom sums it up perfectly, if you watch this clip from 16:30 on for just a minute or so:


Oh, you know kids. They find one person and they just can't get enough of them! It's like being in love, only they're not allowed to have sex. (Nervous laughter from Patti.) No, don't you remember? There's this one person, who has like, perfect hair, or perfect breasts, or they were just so funny, and, and you just wanted to eat them up. Just live in their bed and just be them. Like everyone else was in black and white, and that person was in color. Well, Rayanne thinks Angela is in color. Major color.

Man. That is why people talk about My So-Called Life the way they do.

I'd like to think this phenomenon isn't just a teenage thing; it's just that we allow ourselves to be less interesting as adults, and so it's harder to find interesting adults to fall in love with. If you do find a person you feel this way about, without wanting to have sex with them, you feel like kind of a crazy person. Like a teenager. Because teenagers are crazy. Honesty and emotions = crazy. Or, maybe it is just a teenage thing, because when you're a teenager, the only people who really accept and understand how worthwhile and real and smart your ambitions and problems are are other teenagers, hence the intensity of their friendships and love for one another. But really, as adults, we're still fighting for the same thing, we just acknowledge it less.

Back to Ms. Straub:

I was not particularly bad or good but hovered somewhere in the middle, always a plain-faced Angela Chase, too earthly for the truly beautiful boys and too vain for the pimply ones. Even at the apex of hormonal lunacy, I always possessed a stability that was too boring to be believed.

Of course! I don't know anyone who was Rayanne Graf. We were all Angelas.

It’s been a few years since I watched My So-Called Life, and I’m almost afraid to turn back to it, worried that I might find it trite or silly or less brutally authentic than I remember.

Don't worry. It's not.

Don’t even get me started about having to watch Claire Danes age into a sinewy ballerina of a woman, her even skin and taut limbs offering no proof that she was ever a teenager at all. It’s like watching a dear friend—your sister, a twin—wear a diamond ring the size of a lighthouse, move to the suburbs, and vanish forever. I say this knowing that Claire Danes (the actress) is not the same as Angela Chase (the character), but memories are no more rational than dreams.

I am still trying to get over the genius of that last line. The disparity between a character and an actress is a weird void to cross when that character has been imprinted in every inch of your mental being.


Claire Danes's lip quiver before she says, "Were you happy?" - gah! Gah! It is perfection. Heartbreaking, adolescent perfection.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cheese!


I was made aware by the lovely Cat over at See Tiny Run that a few days ago was National Cheese Lovers Day. Yes, something like that exists. This is America! You can make up whatever you want! Although I am a few days behind, I would like to say that I am a certified Cheese Lover. This was my day, and I didn't even know it! To make up for it, I'm going to talk about cheese a lot right now!

A list of my favorites:

1) Blue/gorgonzola. I was a late comer in terms of this particular cheese appreciation, which is a sad story, because BLUE CHEESE IS THE BEST THING EVER INVENTED. I have to say I can't eat straight blue cheese crumbles from a tub--I tried once and was heartily disappointed--but throw some of that shit on top of a burger or in a salad, or pretty much anywhere else, and I will order it. An abundance of chunky blue cheese dressing is also of course the yin to my boneless buffalo chicken yang. There has to be a lot of it, and it has to be chunky. Do you know there are people who get RANCH with buffalo chicken? RANCH. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

2) Extra sharp cheddar. Extra sharp white cheddar is particularly wonderful, when available. Sharp cheddar is acceptable. Mild cheddar is pointless. WHY WOULD YOU GET MILD CHEDDAR WHEN YOU CAN GET SHARP? MILD CHEDDAR IS FOR LOSERS. Yeah, I said it.

3) Mozzarella. I learned from Barbara Kingsolver in Animal Vegetable Miracle that the softer the cheese, the healthier it is for you. Which makes it okay for me to consume a whole chunk/wheel of mozzarella in one sitting, right, because I could. I really could. Kingsolver and her family made their own cheese all the time in this book, and she explains that the softer the cheese, the easier and quicker it is to make, as well. However,  although this is interesting, I will never make my own cheese, even with my intense love, due to this equation: My Laziness > My Love of Cheese = Sorry, Barbara Kingsolver (You Know I Love You).

Also, did you know that mozzarella is made from buffalo milk? Well, you probably did. But it blew my mind, let me tell ya.

4) Parmesan. So sometimes, I buy a bag of shredded parmesan cheese, to, you know, use in a recipe or put over pasta. And I may or may not end up eating the entire bag, straight, while watching TV.

5) White American. (The orange skeezes me out for some reason.) What is in American cheese? Nobody knows. It is a mystery, but a trashy, delicious one. As I've moved around the country and shopped at different supermarkets, I find the quality of American cheese to vary quite a bit. For some reason, nothing ever tastes as good as the American cheese my mom gets at home from the good ol' Hawley IGA. Don't ask me why. Most people get slices of American to put on sandwiches, but I like to take the slices, fold them into little squares, and eat them square by square. Yep.

6) Havarti. So creamy and good. (This is only for when I'm feeling fancy.)

Really the only cheeses I'm not a fan of are swiss, and munster. Munster cheese is just stupid. Also, although I love me some monterey jack, when it comes to pepper jack, those little flecks of pepper get stuck in my teeth and nauseate me a little. Kathy tells me I'm crazy for this, and she's probably right, but there you have it.

Lately, it is a necessity for Kathy and I to have at least one block of Tillamook cheese in our fridge at all times. (Note my sister in the picture above, displaying the glories at the Tillamook Cheese Factory Gift Shop. Yes, I have been there several times. Yes, it is the cultural highlight of Tillamook County.) Only problem is, that block always disappears, real fast. Whenever it does, this is what we say to each other:
Kathy: We are out of cheese.
Jill: :(
Kathy: :(
To talk about cheese some more, there is a place in Portland I have wanted to go to ever since I read about it in the paper over a year ago. It is called Cheese Bar. CHEESE BAR, PEOPLE. What more do you need to know? NOTHING. But, if you DID need to know more, according to its website, it has:
- 200+ artisan and specialty cheeses, many exclusive  
- 50+ seasonal, small batch, and hard-to-find beers

CHEESE AND BEER, MY TWO FAVORITE THINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 Don't ask me why I haven't actually gone there yet. I am already ashamed of myself. 

And now, I'll leave you with some of the finest 17 seconds ever recorded for television.


CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE CHEESE!

Okay. I'm done.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

OT: Our Town.



The only production I've ever seen live of Our Town was a community production of it in Moorhead, Minnesota (long, yet relatively boring, story), and I don't remember much about it other than general gloom, coupled with general entertainment value at somehow watching a community production of Our Town in Moorhead, Minnesota. In any case, the rendition which I recently watched in the documentary OT: Our Town will probably stick in my mind much longer. Compton, California, and Our Town--a play by an old white dude full of old white people talking about death, and stuff--seemingly do not go together, yet they are smooshed together here, in the first play Dominguez High School has put on in over 20 years. They have no stage, no money. Stories like these can turn trite/overplayed rather fast. Let's guess. They make an "urban" Our Town, make old white stuff "hip" and multicultural. Okay, the truth is I still usually enjoy that stuff, but what makes this movie (or rather, this experience, and the teachers) good is I believe it moves past that. They don't enter any "slang" into the play; they stick to the original script because as Armia says, it wouldn't feel "honest" otherwise. The two teachers who have taken on this project do struggle with how to make the play authentic and relevant to the students and to the audience, however, and while they first tread into some tricky waters--suggesting the students wear "ethnic clothes"--to which Chris rightly asks, "What the hell is ethnic clothing?"--I believe they get it right.

The best part of the film are obviously the kids--in particular, I loved the closeups of the extremely intelligent, well spoken, and exuberant Ebony. The Ebonys of the world give me hope for everything. (In a "where are they now" press release from Film Movement, the publication date of which I can't find, she was currently attending Berkeley and learning her fourth language. Booyah.) I also loved the quiet, deep thoughtfulness and seriousness of Chris; the charming and adorable Armia; and oh man do I love Jackie. The documentary takes place in 2002 and the footage of Jackie explaining her love for N*Sync, gesturing to the pictures covering the walls of her bedroom, was one of my favorite moments ever. ("Britney Spears, back up, okay. Back up, Britney Spears.") I also found the cuts to the 1977 Hal Holbrook version of Our Town mixed in throughout quite effective.

There were only a few things I had issues with during the movie; I did feel slightly uncomfortable during all of the comparisons to the basketball team. While I completely understand pointing out the gaping disparities between financial and moral support given to each program--meaning, the basketball team is the only thing in the school that gets any--I felt that it was unfair to target the basketball players themselves, which I felt was happening during the brief interview with them. While it's true that sports garner much more attention and money in high schools nationwide than is distributed to the arts, something I am not advocating for, sports remain an important and meaningful way for individuals--particularly those, in say, Compton--to make a better lives for themselves, to inspire self-confidence and discipline, to raise morale of a community, and yes, to bring in money. Dominguez High would probably be in even direr straights than they if they didn't have a successful basketball team. Is it fair that the other kids in the school feel neglected and pushed aside? Of course. I just feel that the sports v. the arts dichotomy is already so deeply entrenched in students' minds, that as adults we should really be trying to break it down. (But I understand I'm facing an uphill battle on this one.) I also would have loved just a little more background on how the students who were a part of it came to be there--did they have auditions? Were they recruited by the teachers? Were they just the ones who showed up?

In any case, as one can imagine, and by "one" I mean "anyone who knows me at all or has read anything else I've written," when it was actually show time for the kids--Were people going to even show up? Were they going to forget all their lines? Were they going to puke from nervousness?--well, I cried. For the last twenty minutes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Keeping a journal.

This morning, I sat down and somewhat spontaneously spent an hour writing a journal entry which fleshed out some of the odd things which have been swirling around my brain and heart recently and making me feel half-crazy all the time. And I did feel half-crazy when I was writing it, but then a remarkable thing happened. Once I'd gotten all that honesty out, I felt better. A lot better, and free to actually enjoy the rest of my day. This shouldn't surprise me, but it did.

I was always one of those dweebs who, obsessed both with my own emotions and with documenting my life, kept a paper journal from elementary school on. Even more dweeby, I've kept almost everything I've ever written; the most embarrassing tomes are sitting on bookshelves at my mom's house; others are in boxes somewhere or were dragged across the country with me during the move. I remember a moment during our family vacation to Hawaii after I graduated from college that I pulled out a notebook one night (I always ended up preferring plain, 95 cent notebooks from CVS instead of those endlessly cutely designed journals from bookstores, even though I kept buying those cutely designed journals--and never using them), and my sister remarked, "Wow. You are the only person I know who still does this." In actuality, though, my practice of putting pen to paper just wanes more and more dramatically each year. The best I've ever been at documenting my life on paper since leaving high school was the journal I used during the semester I spent in Europe back in 2003. During long train rides and restless nights at the Castle, I would scribble in that thing deeply and creatively. In the seven years since then, I often throw that blue journal into my bag anytime I'm going on an adventure, near or far, imagining that I will continue this travel-journal-ing, but I hardly ever do.

Other people I know who have the same journaling heart as I do often give a somewhat holy reverence to this act of pen and paper journaling. Although I do admit there is something comforting about that tangible feel of the pen in your hands (similar to the books v. e-reader debate), and also something to be said for the increased amount of time, and hence thought, it takes you to actually write down a sentence, I am increasingly starting to believe it doesn't matter where or how you write your words down--pen and paper, LiveJournal, blogging--I could even go so far as to say Facebook or Twitter or what have you (although I do believe people need more than 140 characters to express their thoughts), if you are brave enough to actually be honest and open in those places. (I still have yet to be persuaded on the e-reader thing, though.) As long as you are writing stuff down, somewhere.

I've heard over and over again, in my writing classes in undergrad and in my education classes now, that writing is thinking. Transferring words from our brain to their physical form clarifies our thoughts, cements them, and eventually reveals the words and thoughts we didn't even know were there. It is a miraculous, sometimes awesome, sometimes painful, process. I realized today that maybe I would be feeling less crazy and emotional if I just worked on writing more. I have been feeling a lot lately, but what I probably need to be doing is turning that into more thinking. Rationality normally helps mental health.

To get less self-absorbed with this train of thought, this has made me re-think once again how important it is to teach our children to write well. I've learned that it can be remarkably easy, most of the time, to get kids excited about books. ("This is the Graveyard Book! It's about a boy whose whole family was KILLED when he was a BABY! And then he grew up in a GRAVEYARD! Raised by GHOSTS!" Not a hard sell.) Teaching writing, however, has been thornier, a hundred times over. Not only do most kids not want to write, most of them I'm working with are writing at a much lower level than they should be at this point. It's hard to blame them; most of the things they've been asked to write at this point are boring and useless. And then when they do write something; we ask them to edit and revise? Unanimous groan from the classroom. It's frustrating to watch; you want them to write well so badly, and you know they all have a lot of important (and often, sad) things to say, but it's a slow process, writing. And you can't change it overnight.

But what I'm trying to get to here, is that these kids are feeling a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff. And maybe if they were able to get into the practice of writing about it, to help them think about stuff, and surprise themselves with how it makes them feel and the things it makes them understand, like myself this morning, maybe--just maybe!--there would be less violence in schools, and less kids growing up to be murderers. Less kids who grow up and beat their significant others. Less kids who grow up and get too drunk and drive themselves into telephone poles.

Of course, writing can't erase horrible parenting, traumatizing experiences, life.

But. I'm just saying. Maybe it could help.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scarves.

Even though I am already pining for warmer weather (yes, at the same time that I am complaining on Twitter that I'm jealous of all the snow on the East Coast--I just want something other than constant cold rain, people), I do have to say that I am a fan of cold weather clothes. I am pretty much in love with my winter boots. They are comfortable and warm and orange and have the slightest bit of a heel and hence make me feel fancy. Insult them and I may have to punch you in the face. I have also always been a fan of sweaters, so much so that I fear my wardrobe now pretty closely resembles my wardrobe from middle school, full of dark green and maroon sweaters from B. Moss.

But, as you can see from this photo above (which shows off my top notch graphic numbering skillz), my favorite part are SCARVES. SCARVES ARE SO AWESOME. A list of my faves:

1) A gift from my sister a few years ago, not only is this scarf super neon green, but it is the widest, thickest, and warmest of all of my scarves, and my go-to for really cold weather. Being able to wrap that baby around most of my face during early morning walks with Toby around the neighborhood is a blessing.
2) Bought in Pittsburgh when we visited Sam M. one fall and were unaware of how freaking cold it would be there, I wear this a LOT. It is super soft and I love all the colors in it.
3) There's actually three scarves smooshed in the middle here: an assortment of scarves made by my mom, who is insanely talented in all things. She made ALL of my siblings' and my clothes when we were kids; she made my prom dresses...making scarves is like, psssshhh, for her. There's one that's hidden between the two orange scarves which I've had for a long time and which has gotten massively stretched out, but I kind of like it that way--I can wrap it around my neck a bunch or just let it hang really long and believe I'm making some kind of fashion statement.
4) So, I think this one was just bought at Old Navy or something, but, I really like orange. This is kind of a skinny scarf, so I wear it less for warmth factor, more for I-am-just-in-the-mood-for-orange-today factor.
5) This beige-with-glitters scarf was a gift from Shelby a long time ago, and is a shorty short scarf, which I assume you are supposed to be able to wrap around your neck in some kind of fashionable way (like a puffier, prettier ascot). I have no idea what this way is, but I try sometimes. I'm pretty sure it always looks silly, but I pretend it looks awesome.
6) Hiding in the corner, this is also a gift from my sister (who has good taste!), and is less a winter-cold-weather scarf and more of a silky-from-India-made-to-go-along-with-an-outfit scarf, which makes me feel fancy that I own one of those kinds of things. There's quite a lot of fabric though so it's actually still quite warm, and if you could see it better, you'd see how lovely it is and how it's full of every beautiful bright color there ever was.

In fact, especially since the classroom I've been teaching in is usually quite cold, most of the time I leave my scarf on all day, which not only keeps me a little warmer, but also fashionably (maybe) covers up my fat stomach so I don't have to suck it in as much. Double win!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tastykake.

My sister sent me this extremely upsetting article earlier this week, explaining that Tastykake might sell or merge with another company due to financial woes. Woe is right. I understand that in the business world, selling and/or merging doesn't necessarily mean your product will disappear from the shelves. But even if they didn't, the loss of a token eastern Pennsylvania company is sad, and if they DID, it would be a TRAGEDY. I grew up on Butterscotch Krimpets and Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. (Which, sadly, you can't find here on the West Coast.) I think they make some other crap, but these two are the only two that matter. The Butterscotch Krimpets are the most iconic product of The Tastykake, and I think one of the reasons I felt particularly attached to Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (a Pennsylvania author) is because Maniac talked about how he'd eat these and the butterscotch icing would get stuck to the plastic wrapper--WHICH IT ALWAYS DID--so he'd scrape it off with his teeth, which I ALWAYS DID.

But the Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes were my favorite--two round globs of perfection on a piece of white cardboard wrapped in cellophane. Milk chocolate and the perfect amount of peanut butter on top of that light, airy cake of nothingness--melt in your mouth childhood nostalgia.

I even (kind of) forgive your horribly annoying incorrect overuse of the letter K, Tastykake. And that's saying a lot. So stay strong. I don't want a world without Kandy Kakes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fandom.


Recently Kathy has become enraptured in an online-fandom-world for Skins, a British TV show documenting the trials and tribulations (and drug-fueled rebellion and sexual adventures) of a group of teenaged friends, whose young & inexperienced cast changes every two seasons ('series' for the Brits). (And yes, the same Skins which has jumped over the Atlantic and the American version of which is set to air on MTV next week.) The fandom in particular focuses on the relationship of Naomi & Emily (or Naomily, as they say), who portray one of the most realistic and ground-breaking teenage lesbian relationships to ever grace the screen. Their storyline falls into the second generation of Skins' casts; or rather, series 3 & 4.

I was (just very) slightly skeptical of, and distant from, her relationship with this Skins world until, like, a week ago, for several reasons, although she's invited me into it several times. First, I don't feel as strong of a connection to the show, although I feel the need to defend myself to any Skins fans who may read this when I say that. The show is really well done, really unique, really raw and honest: I love the colors in the show a lot (I would say this more eloquently if I knew anything about film/video making); I love the music; I love many of the characters and lots of the writing. And after reading some analysis of it, I feel like if I went back and re-watched it I would probably appreciate it even more. You must understand that I have a horrendous short-term memory and normally can't remember what happened in TV shows I watched just last week, and Kathy had me watch these episodes quite awhile ago, so I probably hardly remember most of the things that happened, anyway.

EXCEPT, I do have to say that I feel like part of the reason I don't feel as thrilled about Skins as I might have is the last scene with Freddie, which I was completely traumatized by. If you know me you know I'm a serious wimp with any kind of violence, but this one scene was, like, over-the-top disturbing and upsetting. (I know this is the second time I've used "like" in this entry, but I am a little drunk, okay. Also, even though people have told me it makes me sound uneducated, I SAY LIKE A LOT IT'S JUST THE WAY I TALK OKAY.) I know the Brits apparently have higher temperaments for disturbing and upsetting things, but I had NIGHTMARES. And couldn't stop thinking about the last five seconds for days. Like. I really didn't like it.

Okay, confession over. The other main reason is that Kathy & I are not exactly one of those "opposites attract" couples; we often are on the verge of melding into the same person. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing; relationships work in all different ways, and ours works well. However, over the last six months when we've started our different programs at our different schools, our lives seem to be diverging more than normal: very different daily lives, different friends, different goals, etc. This definitely has felt a little strange but it's probably good at the same time. The point of this is that, going along with this theme of growing in our relationship as individuals, I saw Skins and the fandom as clearly her thing, and thought I should just let it be that: stay away, let it be hers, just as I have my things. You know, like healthy, normal people.

Well, apparently, I am not that healthy or normal, because I've spent the last day or so silently investigating this fandom world of hers, like a creeper. Well, mainly I've just been looking at Rophy Does, and reading Heather Hogan's blog, but I still feel like I'm intruding on a world that isn't mine.

Mainly, it's been awakening all kinds of thoughts and memories about my own history with fandom, and in particular with fandom on the internets. Read: Hanson, 1997-FOREVER.

There's a distinct difference between these: cool people like Skins. As an American, being a fan of a British drama for teens is an inherently cool sounding thing. These people that are part of the Skins fandom, from what I've seen and from what Kathy's told me, are cool. Hanson, however--well, I probably don't have to say more. Although this uncool-ness factor played a role in our admirations, as well; we were proud to be so uncool, and the constant rejection from the rest of the world brought us even closer together.

Which brings me to my larger point: a true fandom goes beyond the subject matter pretty quickly and really becomes about the people. And whoever has not experienced such a community can't really understand it, at all. Hence, I fully understand that my first real entry of 2011 is going to make me sound like a crazypants. And also, apparently, is going to turn into a novel.

The people I met online through my Hanson fandom got me through my teenage years; they spanned the country and the globe; I've met many of them in person and many of them, even if we don't talk as much as we used to, I still consider some of my best friends. It's amazing how much of yourself you can share through ICQ and AIM. My mother was amazingly reasonable about it--when it came to actually meeting them in person, my sister was convinced the people I were talking to were all crazies, my mom shrugged and said they were like "pen pals." There is something freeing about talking to people online--they don't know how awkward or weird you are in real life; they haven't known you since you were five; they don't know you just because of friends of friends. They just get to know you.

Kathy got a birthday card in the mail the other day from Germany; she listens to Vocaroos from Skins friends from all over the place. One time in high school I stayed up through the middle of the night to have a three-way phone call with a woman from Australia and a man from New Zealand. Which is normal, right? (Nick and Shelly. Shelly had the biggest heart and was overly kind to me. I couldn't understand Nick's NZ accent at all. They later ended up getting married. I have no idea what they're doing now or if they're still together, but I hope they are. Memories flooding back: I hosted Nick's fanfic on my website! It had a funny name, which I can't remember! It was like an action fic, which was new and exciting in comparison to all the weepy love stories written by girls.)

All of this focus on one group of people, or whatever the fandom is about, may seem a bit obsessive and/or creepy to other people, which it very well may be, but it is a complete distraction from Real Life. This can become unhealthy at some point, but most of the time, I think it's actually healthy. Some people have yoga; some people have fandoms. In any case, it's good to have something that makes you feel happy, that takes you away from the stress of all that crap the Real World throws at you. With me and Hanson, I actually still quite enjoy their music--which I will detail more in another blog entry--but I really don't care much about their personal lives anymore. I don't follow them on Twitter. Mainly because I feel like their lives started becoming too different from mine a long time ago--they all got married and started having lots of babies when they were still babies, and that's just not me. (This is especially devastating with Isaac since I'm convinced he's gay. I also have a feeling he's a Republican.) But back in the day, I felt like they could have been me--well, not really, but I could have been their friend--they traveled around the country and the world and made music instead of going to school, what a dream, and then in interviews they were always just goofy, and down to earth, and human. They gave me hope that life could not suck.

More differences between these fandoms, now and then: then, we posted all of our fanfics, all of our dedicated transcripts of interviews and favorite photos, on Angelfire, Geocities, Tripod. Now, with Skins, these people have professional blogs, with hip looking graphics (no rainbow bar .gif, no starry night backgrounds). Heather Hogan is a freelance writer who gets PAID to WRITE HER OPINIONS ABOUT SKINS on AfterEllen.com. (I know, right.) From what I can tell, Hanson ladies who are reading, Rophy and Heather Hogan are like the Laura and the Amanda (remember Lived? Oh, Sweet Jesus) of this fandom--those girls who can write really well that make you wish you could write like that, and mostly that you just really wish you could be really good buds with (but you never will).

Because these people? Who like to obsessively like the same things you do? Who are kind of crazy like you? Who waste lots of time on the Internet, like you? They are awesome. And talented. And awesome.

What a weird, wonderful world you are, Internets.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Wrap-up.

Things that have reminded me that life is awesome in 2010:

- Our local Jiffy Lube
- Conan O'Brien
- The Cosby Show & Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Multnomah County Library
- Haagen Daz Peanut Butter & Chocolate ice cream
- Jaqueline Woodson
- This Is It
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
- Madman Across the Water, Elton John
- That picture-covered wall of mine at the Piano Factory
- Vancouver Winter Olympics
- Barbara Kingsolver's "Jabberwocky"
- Cleveland
- John Mellencamp
- Dunkin
- Checking the mail
- "Home," Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
- Four Movies: More Than a Game, The Blind Side, It's Complicated, and How to Train Your Dragon
- Yourself or Someone Like You, Matchbox 20
- Sex and the City 2 / feminism
- Flipping the calendar to a new month
- Vinny T's
- Chris Crutcher
- August & Everything After, Counting Crows
- Freak Show, by James St. James
- Sarah McLachlan on VH1's Storytellers (1998)
- Hot sauce
- Crater Lake National Park
- Iced tea
- "Cathedrals," Jump Little Children
- Public transit etiquette
- The Wednesday Wars, by Gary Schmidt
- A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay
- Our rose bush
- Yellowstone National Park
- Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture
- New blog: Daily Daffodilly
- Project Runway
- Leaves in the fall
- The Vast Fields of Ordinary, by Nick Burd
- Northwest Conference of Teaching for Social Justice
- Sonic
- Having a roof over my head
- More things pumpkin related
- Sufjan Stevens
- Sweetness Bakery
- Rockin' the Suburbs, Ben Folds
- The travel section
- Corn casserole
- Gardening season 2010
- "A Better Son/Daughter," Rilo Kiley
- Holiday seasonal delights (mainly beer)
- Goodreads / reading in 2010
- Shopping on Hawthorne
- The East Coast.

One fine list.