Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gorge-ous birthday

It is Nordic Boy's birthday this month and we have pretty much celebrated it by stuffing our gaping maws with as much fancy feast as we can get. (Fancy feast, lower case, meaning actual deluxe vittles, not upper case Fancy Feast for kitties. Don't get grotty). First of all, Biogirl gave us a gift certificate to what is arguably the hoity toity-est restaurant in town so we pranced over there in our finest and got our grub on. It was really grand, and we felt like Kim and Kanye Lady Mary and Matthew Blake and Krystal Carrington. They had $100 beer there, you guys! We did not order any. The waiters all kept one hand behind their backs at all times like it was Darlington Hall from Remains of the Day and shit. We did the tasting menu and at one point the waiter brought us "pine foam made from the trees you see out your window here." And he pointed at the trees outside the window. Let me say that again. PINE FOAM. Get out of here! We also had this sweet crispy light vanilla-tasting biscuit that came with sorbet and berries and the server told us that the biscuit was made from mushrooms. Are you fucking with me, Mr. Belvidere? Because I think you may be fucking with me.

I tried to take pictures of some of the food there but the lighting was so bad that all of my photos came out looking like shadowy turds on a plate, so I shall refrain from posting those here. It was really a lovely dinner though.

Then I decided that Nordic Boy's birthday cake should be a Junior's cheesecake overnighted from NYC. Have you ever had one of those? They are so effing delicious. Just, if you get one, don't look at the ingredients label because there are many many things in it that do not come from nature. Whatever the heck is in there is the bomb though.

Then! Delium and Biogirl took us out for a birthday dinner to another lovely place. The most noteworthy thing about that evening wasn't the food (although that was so good), but rather that the conversation took a really wrong turn and one of us (all of us?) came up with a new sexual term called Butt Cobbler. Which, you don't even want to know, trust me on this. By the end of the night we had even composed a slow jam r&b song about Butt Cobbler, so that just gives you an idea of how classy us effers get.

In non-birthday, non-eating, non-butt-song news, this week there is a big librarian conference in my town. If you're a librarian and you're here for it and you want to meet up, email me!  DO IT.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mamma Mia

Happy birthday to my awesome mom. I am going to be a blog cheater and direct you back to another post I wrote about my mom, because that's just how it has to be today.

This is us when she was the age that I am now. Isn't she a stunner?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Consumables #72

Last time it was movies, this time let's catch up with some books I forgot to tell you about to close out my reading in 2012. There's a lot of them, so for this time let's only do books for grown ass people.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Listen, I am just as Tudor obsessed as the next person. What's not to like? King Henry and all his debauched sexy business, the parade of unfortunate wives, people getting all killed up every five minutes, the Church, the government, wars, drama, intrigue, secrets, power. So what if you already know the story? Didn't we all watch Jonathan Rhys-Meyers doing the naked bootango even though we already knew the story? However! There's a lot of details in this retelling. Some people will love all the particulars. Others will wonder why this is happening to them. As for me, I liked it, I appreciated it, but by the end, I was saturated in Tudorness in way where I thought I would never want to think about them again. It's like a huge Thanksgiving meal. You enjoy it while it's happening but at a certain point if you have to eat one more bite you are going to be like that barfy guy in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life." By the last page, I was all NOT ONE MORE TUDOR OR I SHALL BLOW LITERARY CHUNKS.

The Hope Factory, by Lavanya Sankaran
Two connected people in Bangalore: Anand, an unhappily married dedicated father and small factory owner, and Kamala, a widowed servant with a teenage son who works in Anand's house. Both try to live principled lives within complicated social and economic structures that make it almost impossible to do so. It worked on several levels: as a family story, as a social commentary, as an economic critique of globalization and more. Hey, lookee there, I had no annoying me-commentary to add about that one. That was like a straight up description and stuff. Weird.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
A funny satire with lots of inside jokes for Seattle people thrown in (well, I guess it's Seattle-specific in the same way Portlandia is Portland-specific. But really, isn't Portlandia just as much about Park Slope or wherever just as much as Portland?). I am always interested in books like this where it's funny and snarky but rides right along the edge of being a bit mean. I think it stays on the non-mean side of things, which I always like not only because it's nicer to be that way but more so because I think it's harder to do as a writer. It can be an easier choice to be mean sometimes. Or maybe it's because I just don't like mean and so that has more to do with me than the writing. I am always thinking that I want to be funny and maybe snarky but I really, really don't want to be an asshole. Hey, how about we make this review be all about me and my neuroses? Done and done.

The Crackle and the Frost, by Lorenzo Mattotti
Let me quote from the text of this graphic novel: "How was I to orient myself during my trip toward the frontiers of fear? The only compass I had on me was Alice's letter, with all of its silences." If you are the type of person who gets a rash from sentences like that, this one is mos def not for you. The illustrations are spooky and bold- I enjoyed looking at them.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
The thing that was really working for me in this one was the setting. Morgenstern creates a really interesting world that is super fun to imagine and magical and romantic. I was lucky enough to have read this on a vacation where I pretty much read most of it all in one sitting, which only added to being totally immersed. The storytelling is a bit flowery, but I found that totally appropriate.

How Should a Person Be?, by Sheila Heti
So this one gets described as being part of the whole Lena Dunham pre-Girls oeuvre (yes, effers, I said oeuvre) where one of the central questions is about how the contemporary younger lady artist plays with her own representation via mixing up fictionalized versions of herself with real stuff, etc. This is just the type of question that drives some people buh-nay-nays, but for others it's the total shit. I come down on the loving this sort of thing end of the spectrum. At least usually I do. This time though, I just couldn't. It just went to a place where the intellectualizing of Heti's life got to be unbearable to me. And believe me, I have a high threshold for loving this sort of caca.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
What everyone else says is true: compulsively readable, interesting, fun. It's interesting to me that so many people loved this book so much because I usually find that many people don't like to read unlikable characters and I found this one to be chock full of hah-rible people.

The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg
There are those sad novels about sad people who have dysfunctional families/relationships and bleak luck and reams of hopeless disappointment with no end in sight, and the author somehow makes it simultaneously depressing and beautiful. This book was one of those.

Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, by Warren Littlefield
This books was so weirdly written. The format was distracting to me. Each chapter focused on a particular show (Seinfeld, for example) and the editor interviewed a bunch of people about that show (actors, executives, producers, writers) and then there are just a bunch of quotes from these people, one after another, like a disjointed script. That's it. Good for people that really care about things like time-slot wars (guilty!), and not so good for people that just want dish.

The Wandering Falcon, by Jamil Ahmad
A man and a woman have run away from their village and had a child just outside a military fort in the area where Afghanistan and Pakistan meet. This child's life is loosely followed as he travels from place to place until adulthood in this series of interconnected short stories that describes the region, politics, societies, and people of this area pre-9/11. The stories are that lovely mixture that can sometimes happen where everything is simply told but impossibly complex at the same time. I don't usually do favorites, but this one would be in the running for my top pick of 2012.

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich
This one would would also be in my top picks for the year. Essentially it's the story of a 13-year-old boy whose mother has been raped at the beginning of the book. He and his father, who is a tribal judge (they are Ojibwe) spend the book trying to find the perpetrator and bring him to justice. It's a family story, a story about tribal land rights and politics, a coming of age story, an everything story, really. Characters are great, the language is great, the pace and plot are engrossing, the setting is vivid, the story is straightforward if you want to read it that way but there are layers underneath everything too if you want to dig for them. Sometimes writers are so good at what they do that it sort of makes me a little mad. This was one of those.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Consumables #71

Crap, people. I have so much of the pop cultures to talk about that I'm drowning! Let's do an all-movies lightning round.

The Holiday
To finish out my holiday movie binge, I watched this romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Jack Black. First of all you have to get over the fact that Jack Black is his usual air-guitar-y toodley woodley self AS WELL AS being a love interest. He's cute, sort of, I guess, but really, do you want him to be giving Kate Winslet crazy eyes like that? Then, you have to get over the fact that Cameron Diaz seems like she is reading all of her lines off of a cue card and then hamming up any frustration by stomping and going "errrrrGHHHHHH!" a million times because really that's what ladies do when we are frustrated and it is HILARIOUS. If you can get past these two things, there are two other things that maybe might make up for those. One, Kate Winslet has a storyline where she befriends her elderly neighbor and their pal-ship is really sweet. And two, Jude Law is at his most charmy, least smarmy ever.

How About You
I am not sure if this originally aired on tv or as an indie movie or what, but this one is a great pick for you Hallmark Channel holiday movie enthusiasts. This isn't the romance-y kind of HC movie, it's the young upstart bringing joy back into the lives of grumpy old people kind. First of all, the grumpy old people are fancy actors: Vanessa Redgrave, Brenda Fricker, and old Umbridge herself, Imelda Staunton. The young upstart is famous in the UK I am sure but all I could think of when I looked at her is that she looks like Kate Beckinsale 10 years ago. Sorry, young actress. But it's got all the elements of an HC movie: poor man's Kate B shows up from the big city where people are mean and life is not satisfying. She needs a job so although she thinks the country is BO-RING she starts work at an assisted living place that houses the crusty old people. She spruces things up with her feisty ways, and their withered up hearts get warmer. And it's Christmas.

Total Recall
Speaking of Kate Beckinsale, I saw the remake of Total Recall starring her, Mrs. Timberlake, and Colin Farrell. My expectations on this were way, way, way low, so it turned out better than I thought it would be. Lots of chases, cool futuristic world, fights. Good times. And can we just take a moment to discuss Kate B's hair? That shit is the shiniest, bounciest, Alberto-V-05-iest mane in all the land.

Here's my thing with time travel movies. If they are sloppily done, or if they are well done but super complicated, I can't tell the difference. Because if I perceive holes in the time travel logic, I either feel like the movie writers are dumb, or I am dumb because maybe there aren't holes but it's just going above my head. I felt like this one was right down the middle for me: it was complicated enough to be interesting, but not so complicated that I was all "huh?" Britney style. There are some kids in peril in this movie, so those parts can be hard to watch- fair warning.

Magic Mike
I went into it thinking that I knew from strip clubs. I know strip clubs, I have been in strip clubs, I have friends who have stripped, the family that lived three doors down from my parents when I was growing up owned a mom and pop strip club, blah blah. Really, the job of stripper is very normalized to me. But you know what I don't know about and I didn't realize? Male stripping. And you know what Magic Mike taught me? That a big part of male stripping is burly men dry humping women customers in the FACE with their sequined, oiled up banana hammocks. In the FACE, you guys. Which, WHAT??? That's what it is??? Ladies pay for this service? I just... I mean...e-GADS, people. EWWWWW. I wanted to Purell my eyeballs.

Hope Springs
We can pretty much prop Meryl Streep up in anything and she's luminous, so there's that. I was also surprised that Tommy Lee Jones managed to do something that didn't immediately bring to mind "search every foxhouse, outhouse, doghouse and henhouse" because usually I can't get past that point with him. It wasn't the best movie ever, but I got some laughs out of it.

Come to think of it, Tommy Lee Jones does that again in this one, so twofer! I mean, he's still a grumpy cuss in both movies, but still- he stretched. So this one is a good movie in that Oscar-bait sort of way. It doesn't really surprise- it's just what you picture a movie about Lincoln to look like and be about. That doesn't mean it isn't compelling: I was quite happy with it. Daniel Day-Lewis is once again inhabiting a character to the point of creepiness, plus he wears shawls, which I loved a lot. Can we bring back the presidential shawl please? Or perhaps we update and have Obama sport a Slanket or something. Anyway. James Spader was all kinds of awesome in this one, and I wished that they could have brought more richness or layers to Mary Todd, because she just came off as shrieky and hysterical and tiresome. I don't blame Sally Field- I think the part was just written that way. So, this movie will not make you see nuance or the contradictions of the time or push any envelopes, but it will make you feel super "yay, democracy!" and "Lincoln was a cool dude," which I am totally behind, obvs. It's a feel-good.

Katy Perry: Part of Me
I maybe watched this on one of my days off over the holidays where I never got out of my pajamas. That's the appropriate venue to watch it, if there is one.

This is a weird comparison, but I felt the same way watching this as I feel when watching Gossip Girl. Pretty clothes, pretty people, and posh New York City locations that are pretty. The story was sort of secondary to me. Still, Richard Gere as a ruthless businessman who makes a habit of morally equivocating was convincing. Bonus: everyone's least favorite boyfriend of Lorelei Gilmore- Jason Stiles- shows up.

Ooh, those Tom Ford suits, honey. Put people in good fashion and I will see the movie. And like it. Ok, so I probably would have liked this even without that, but it's a major factor. It's so CHASE! BAM! POW! SEXY! PRETTY! PEW PEW! EXPLOSION! I like it. I also liked how they did a lot more winks to the old Bond movies than in the previous couple. I wasn't really feeling the Bardem character, was the only thing.

That's all I have time for today, peoples. Hope your Monday is grand.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Wait a minute Mr. Postman

Hey, I totally forgot that I sort of do have a New Year's Resolution! It's a small-ish one, but I am disproportionately proud of it, as is my wont. And yes, I know that you don't really get to be proud of making a resolution, but rather the pats on the back should come after you actually maybe follow through with some part of it, but whatevs. And also, I feel the need to share this one because maybe a couple of you will think about doing something similar, and that would be cool. Not only do I all of a sudden have a resolution but I went from having one to being evangelical about it RIGHT QUICK, didn't I? So charming.

When Biogirl left the state for her fancy book learning many a year ago, we had a deal. We sent each other a piece of mail every week. Not email, but a real honest-to-goodness, Kevin-Costner-in-the-post-apocalypse-Civil-War-delivering, hold it in your hand piece of mail. It could be a postcard, a magazine clipping, a letter, a gift, a card, a photo, a dirty limerick, whatever. Something had to show up in the other person's mailbox each week. Biogirl was going to get doctorated, so she was going to be gone for at least 5 years. That's over 500 pieces of mail between the two of us. And there may have been a couple of times that one of us didn't do it, but for the most part, we did. We kept up with it, we made the effort, and it was super fun.

Since then, I have tried to make this sort of thing more a part of my life. If you are friends with me, you may have gotten a random card in the mail from me at some point or another, if I have your address. But it's few and far between, because unlike the deal I had with Biogirl, I haven't made it a part of my routine, and so many things in life depend upon making them a part of your routine. Eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising- we all know that these things need to be made into a pattern to really be effective, but so do things like thoughtfulness and reaching out. We have to prioritize those things and practice them. So, I have become The Decider about mailings and the decision is thus: I am going to send a piece of mail to someone I like every week. Randomly, but on a schedule. Because people love non-junk mail and isn't that all that mail really is anymore? Isn't the entire post office run on the fact that Walmart wants to tell you that it has 2000 Flushes on sale? I just know that when Biogirl would send me stuff in the mail, no matter if it was a letter or a silly photo, I was always happy to get it.

Even if you think trying to send a piece of mail a week is cuckoo, consider sending something to one of your homies this year, or two. Just 'cause it's nice.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Yearly Beloved

The old new year questions again. Reduce, reuse, recycle, is what I always say.
1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
Witnessed naked hikers. Yes, I'm going to start this out with some peen peekage. I have since learned that this is so a thing that apparently I should have known about long ago. I am pro-you-go-ahead with that, but I still find the idea strange, if for nothing else, just from a branches/brambles angle. Hiking trails are prickly places. Naked beaches I get, naked hiking does not seem logical.
2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Nope and nope. Although Nordic Boy and I do a financial plan every year with specific goals (full blown ADULTS!), so I guess you could call that a resolution of some sort. I hate doing this activity with a fiery, rash-like passion, but I am always really happy and feel good about it once it's done. Nordic Boy, on the other hand, actually said the words "I am a spreadsheet type of guy" to me in happiness so. There's that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Some acquaintances did, but no one super close. I think that's a first- these past few years I have been very fertile-adjacent.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No! Thankee Young Jeezy.

5. What trips did you take?
Michigan, Illinois, New York, Vancouver, Oregon, Wisconsin. All my regular haunts. I really should expand on this, but I love these haunts and I only have so many days and dollars.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Less tiredness. I'm just getting less spry, perhaps. As evidenced by my use of the word "spry."

7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and whyI sent out a Facebook message to people in my hometown to meet up with me for a drink when I was visiting and saw some people that I have known since before kindergarten. It was pretty cool- everyone was so different, yet at the core they were still the same.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
After a lifelong quest, my discovery of the Detroit Cooler finally happened. My precioussssssss.

9. What was your biggest failure?
There are many things that I don't think that I am failing but that I always want to be better about. A better friend and a better co-worker, mainly. I think about those things a lot. Probably a little too much.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not anything big. I did have the flu, and either I am the biggest wuss on planet earth or I have never really had the flu before and I did not handle it with one iota of grace.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new oven and cooktop. I now have all major appliances that completely and totally work as they are supposed to. CALL ROBIN LEACH.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Ok, I am going to say something barfy. Just close your eyes and think of England if you get queasy. Nordic Boy. I often am taken by surprise when there are things that I don't even realize that he's thinking about to make my day easier. The ice scraped off the car in the mornings, the snack left for me before he goes out, the text sent to me because he's remembered that I have a hard meeting at work at a specific time. He's always thinking of ways to make my life better, and making me laugh, and making me food, and making me a better house, and just doing every last thing to show me he loves me. And he's just so consistently, unfailingly kind to me. I love that guy.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Mostly political things on a national/international scale is where the appalling/depressing stuff has happened. Luckily I didn't have many appalling or depressing people in my personal life though. I think I have managed to cut all the fools out of here. Harsh of me, sort of. But mostly halle-fricking-lujah.

14. Where did most of your money go?
As always, our house ate our money. The house is getting shinier and better looking though, so apparently the money has an Oil of Olay effect.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
All of my trips. Gol-dangit I love a vacation.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Losing You by Solange Knowles, This Head I Hold by Electric Guest, Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools by DENA.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier. I remember being kind of down in the mouth at this time last year.
ii. thinner or fatter? Same
iii. richer or poorer? Richer, just a smidge.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing. Bloggy and otherwise.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Being cold.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Already happened! Movies, reading, eating, cozyville.

22. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Constantly! What a hoochie. A monogamous hoochie.

23. How many one-night stands?
A 365 stand.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
I discovered Dance Academy and lo, it was good.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

26. What was the best book you read?
The Round House by Louise Erdrich and Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad. In nonfiction, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isable Wilkerson, Just Kids by Patti Smith, and The Tiger by John Valiant. Kid novels were The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand, The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, and The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis. Picture books? Why yes. I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black, and The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket. Ok so that's 12 books, not one, but HELLO. LIBRARIAN.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I don't think I have one. Hipster points: DOCKED. How about I just say an artistic discovery? I saw the Cedar Lake Dance Company this year and they fricking killed me, they were so good.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
The Carol Channing documentary was honestly my most favorite thing maybe ever.

29. What did you do on your birthday?
My birthday was really good this year. An unseasonably warm night, friends, drinks, low key, ahhhh.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I had so many great times with people I love that live far away- I wish that I could see every last one of them more often.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
I ventured into the world of sweaters! Good for me, but honestly I am not convinced about the knits. In related fashion news I have a brand new Nordic-Boy-Built closet so all my pretty dresses look pretty in the pretty hangy box.

32. What kept you sane?
Sane in the membrane! My circle of peeps felt extra close and small this year and they kept me in good shape.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Ok, so I had this thought a month or two ago and every time I think about it I want to laugh until a peepee dance occurs. My dude is 50% Ben and 50% Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec. You have to know him to think this is funny but SHEE-YOOT it's funny. I shared this with Delium and we busted a freaking gut over it. So I guess in a way I am saying both of those guys?

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
The election, Hurricane Sandy, the Connecticut shooting, and gay marriage passing in Washington State.

35. Who did you miss?
So many people. Can everyone I love just move to live near me, please? I mean, really.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Katie! A long time blog friend becomes REALITY. Again! I am batting a thousand on these blog friends, you guys. Is that the right term? Batting a thousand? I am batting a really good high perfect number.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012:
Put time and energy where you intend to- with purpose- and let go of the rest.

38. A song lyric that sums up your year.
I can't really think of one, so I will just leave you with one that gets played/sung a lot in my house, full on. Please join me in belting it with your loved ones because it's kind of the best.