Friday, March 30, 2007

Highbrow and Lowbrow

I need to amend my list of Best Movies of 2006 to include Little Children. Actually, I’m going to go ahead and declare it the best movie of 2006 that I happened to see. Have you seen it? It should be out on DVD soon, so rent it if you haven’t seen it. That is, rent it if you like character-driven movies about the consequences of self-delusion and the transgression of suburban mores.

In my opinion, Kate Winslet should have gotten the Academy Award for her performance. It was better than Helen Mirren’s in The Queen, but Winslet played an ordinary and flawed character—not a larger-than-life bastion of self-discipline, so naturally she (yet again) wasn’t recognized. I think she’s a tremendously good actress. (Titanic notwithstanding.)

I seldom pay much attention to how a movie is directed—it’s one of those background things for me, but the director of this film made some very wise choices. For one thing, the movie has a narrator, which means that the tone of the novel from which the movie is adapted remains intact. And I should know, since I’m listening to an unabridged audiobook of the novel right now. (Yeah, I’m obsessed.) The movie is very faithful to the book. Damn it! It should have won best adapted screenplay, too. I mean, I was happy that Little Miss Sunshine won, but this adaptation was even better. And while we’re at it? Best supporting actor. Damn, damn, damn, and a side order of Hell! Why didn’t it go to Jackie Earle Haley for his creeptactular and yet somehow sympathetic portrayal of the “pervert”? I realize now that I actually had a little bit of a crush on this actor waaaaaay back in 1979, when he played Moocher in Breaking Away. I had no idea it was the same guy. Anyway—A+. Rent it or, if you live in Portland, go see it at the Laurelhurst and drink yourself a beer and eat yourself a slice of pizza.

On a completely different end of the spectrum, there’s Blades of Glory, which, I do believe, opened today at theaters all across the United States. It’s an incredibly stupid movie. But...incredibly hilarious! It stars the ever-paunchy Will Ferrell—flaunting his paunch to full comedic effect as only he can do—and that guy from Napoleon Dynamite (no one actually knows what the actor’s name is) in fine, blow-dried fettle. Spangled unitards are featured. Nutsacks are mentioned more than once. “Mr. Roboto” is skated to. It skewers everything that's ridiculous and outlandish about figure skating competitions. Do you really need to know more? I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I’ll just say this: Check your brain at the concession stand and go see it. Be sure to watch very closely during the scene of the North Korean team performing the vaunted Iron Lotus maneuver. You’ll wet your pantaloons!

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Latch on to the Affirmative

Gold Bunny
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I spend too much time complaining, criticizing, and being negative. My whole family is like this. I grew up with it and, by now, I’m super good at it.

It really comes across in my blog, as I'm sure I don't need to tell any of you.

Anyway, I’ve resolved to focus on the positive things in my life (of which there are many), and to make a concerted effort to look at the big picture instead of zeroing in this or that particle of festering discontentment and then writing a 1,000-word blog entry about it.

Actually, I should have mentioned that there is one person in my family who avoided the vortex of negativity and that person is my sister.

She’s a metalsmith and jewelry maker, and if anyone has the right to succumb to negative thinking it would be my sister. It’s not easy to make a living as an artist. She’s had to deal with lots of rejection and with the whim and pique of art fair curators. She’s also had to listen closed-lipped while potential customers slag off her work, evidently thinking that she can’t hear them! WTF?

She has had to get a day job now, but she still makes art. She recently discovered Etsy, an online showcase for artists and crafters to exhibit and sell their work. Marstinia (my sister) is totally obsessed with it and is finding that it's a much better venue for selling her work than art fairs or local boutiques ever were. Her work is and always has been fabulous and I’m not just saying this because she’s my sister. Take a look, and you’ll see. Note, too, the upbeat tone of the copy she’s written for each piece. That’s just the way she is—always accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. I’m thrilled that Etsy is working out so well for her. I must also admit that I’ve become ever-so-slightly addicted to Etsy myself. People are out there making the coolest creations! I’m definitely going to do as much of my gift shopping as I can on Etsy. Why buy mass-produced stuff when you can get something handmade and support hard-working artists and the crafters?

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sign Me Up for Some Torture

I went to the doctor today for my annual poke-prod-smoosh-jab. All that’s bad enough, but what I really wasn’t looking forward to was the command to “hop up on the scale.”

Turns out, I’m up three pounds from last year. An unwelcome trend.

Sod it!

I’ve no one to blame but myself and what’s worse, almost exactly one year ago, I thoroughly documented how I was going to pull up my socks and get back on track with sane dietary choices and regular exercise.

Clearly, I have no discipline.

But I’ve simply got to do something about these zaftig abs of mine. Something drastic. Today I looked in to taking some Pilates classes. Imagine my shock when I clicked on the site of one local Pilates studio and found this freak-ass sequence of photos!

What on Earth is going on? It looks kinda like torture to me. And doesn’t that Joseph Pilates guy creep you out? Old men should always wear shirts.

And as if that weren’t enough, it turns out that one of the key pieces of equipment is a Spanish Inquisitiony-looking contraption called the reformer.

It’s all rather off-putting, but I’d still like to give it a try. For some reason, part of the appeal is how daft and crackpot it appears to be, but I know at least one person who swears by it. Plus, the promise that Pilates will help me build a “girdle of strength between the rib cage and the pelvis” sounds like something I desperately need. I am currently scraping by with a girdle of extreme weakness and rounded flabbiness.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Winter Is So Over

Flowering Tree
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
At least it is in Portland.

Need proof?

All the photos were taken on a walk B and I took on St. Patrick's Day.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hokum Lovers Need Not Apply

Daffodils from My Garden
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Suppose you flipped open some CD liner notes and read this description of the boldly titled tune, “Ballin’ the Jack”:

"Scorched earth freek-jazz of the first order. The guitar- (or is it a uke?) –and-box-percussion break is worth the price of admission alone. Hokum lovers need not apply—this is the serious hijinks."
Instrumentation: Comb, kazoo, two guitars (or possibly one guitar and one ukulele), percussion.


Wouldn’t you drop everything and immediately listen to “Ballin’ the Jack,” even if you were supposed to be getting ready for a yoga class that started in 12 minutes? Well, if you were me you would have, which is why I’m sitting here typing a blog entry instead of lying on a purple sticky mat “letting go of my day.” Scorched earth freek-jazz made me miss yoga.

I’ve been waiting for quite some time for it to be my turn in the queue to borrow American Primitive, Volume II from the library. I’ve mentioned before that I go nuts for old-timey music, especially if it features yodeling and instruments like kazoos and guitars made out of cigar boxes. I have a small collection of this genre, but I was fairly surprised to discover that I already own another CD with a version of “Ballin’ the Jack” on it. I think that clearly establishes that I’m not some lame-ass hokum lover.

Truth be told, I kind of allowed myself to be carried away by the new CD; I wasn’t that bummed out when I checked the time and realized that yoga started in 4 minutes and there was no way (short of strapping on a jet pack) I’d get there on time.

I’m sort of burned out on yoga. I’ve been taking yoga on and off (but mostly on) since 1993, and yet I've made little progress as a yogini. I wouldn’t rank myself higher than advanced beginner. Or perhaps I’m just burned out on the class I’m taking. It’s a "gentle" class, and there’s no legitimate reason I need to be taking a gentle class other than the fact that I want a guarantee that not a single millisecond of class time will be devoted to inversions—which I can do—but which I hate a lot. Anyway, the class isn’t nearly challenging enough. I think I need to try something new. Maybe Pilates, although it terrifies me a bit. I have no core strength at all. My flabs abs will probably feel like they’ve been run over by a steamroller after the first class. I guess that might actually be the goal. If they're run over by a steamroller enough times, they're bound to flatten eventually, right?

Since I’m not at yoga, I’m also taking the opportunity at this very moment to bleach my teeth for what I hope will be the very last bleaching session. I’ve been at this for almost three weeks, using custom-made trays and bleaching gel provided by my dentist. I had hoped that the results would occur swiftly and dramatically. In fact, that’s what my dental hygienist had led me to believe—that my teeth would be toilet-bowl white (like her teeth) after a few treatments.

Since my goal was only to get my teeth, which have discolored with age, to match a much lighter crown (right in front) that glares forth blindingly and conspicuously at folks whenever I smile, I thought I was being pretty realistic. But it’s taken all this time to see any noticeable change. My teeth are maybe two shades lighter. I won’t say whiter, because they are nowhere near the color of a toilet nor are they anywhere near the shade (Nebulous White [for real, that’s what it’s called]) I painted my kitchen cabinets last weekend (see photo above). They are, however, pretty close to the crown color, which is more or less the color of the lightest daffodil petals (see photo above again). Before they were closer in shade to the trumpet of the daffodils—a perfectly nice color for a daffodil but not so very nice as a tooth shade. Anyway, it’s an improvement.

But I've had enough of it. There are sites all over the Internet saying the bleaching process is safe, safe, safe, these sites all seem to be part of some dentist or other’s Web site. How objective can they be? I have to wonder. I mean it is bleach, for crissake. I did find a few articles that admitted there are some dangers. Even with the dentist-supervised treatments (like mine), there’s the potential to become a “bleachorexic,” that is, a person who never believes her teeth are white enough and bleaches them until they become thin, bluish, and translucent. Jeez. Also, supposedly, the bleach only penetrates the enamel and dentin, but should it somehow make its way into the pulp (say if there’s a fairly serious crack in a tooth), it's good-bye, tooth; hello, root canal. Reading that scared me enough to decide to quit today.

I think this topic is now exhausted. Time to get back to American Primitive, Volume II and such freek-jazz classics as “I Got Your Ice Cold Nugrape” by none other than the Nugrape Twins and “Big Bed Bug” by Tommy Settlers and His Blues Moaner.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

17 Percent Happier

One week ago, I spent the day shivering in my office--trying to get some work done--bundled up in an Aran sweater with the space heater aimed full blast at my feet. The door from the garage to the house was WIDE OPEN and a tremendously freezing draft was swooshing down the stairs into my office.

Much drilling, clanging, banging, slamming, clunking, muttering, and intermittent whistling of "Tijuana Taxi" was also involved.

It was all worth it, though, because by the end of the day, The Worst Dishwasher Known to Humanity™ had been dishonorably discharged after years of substandard service (its shortcomings are catalogued here), new cabinets had been fashioned, and a new dishwasher had been installed.

I’ve been testing the new dishwasher (it’s this model, if you must know). So far, I’ve loaded it with:
  • Plates with hardened scrambled eggs on them.
  • Bowls with chili residue in them, purposely left on the counter for a few hours to “mature” before being loaded into the dishwasher.
  • A cookie sheet that really should have been greased before I baked cookies on it (lots of baked-on chocolate and cookie crust to be dealt with).
  • A jellyroll pan with remnants of gooey homemade granola clinging to it.
  • A grater used to grate a carrot and shuttled straight into the dishwasher without so much as a quick rinse to rid it of carrot shreddies.
Everything came out sparkling clean! It is simply delightful to unload the dishwasher and see that I don’t have to rewash every single thing in it. I’ve gone so far as to place the spotlessly clean cookie sheet on the counter with a note on it proclaiming, “The dishwasher kicks ARSE!” I just couldn't bring myself to put it away without giving B the chance to see what a good job the dishwasher had done and without giving myself a chance to gloat. Perhaps I should buy some gold stars and stick one on the dishwasher every time it comes through for me.

What can’t it do? I think I could place a platter containing an entire uneaten Thanksgiving dinner in there and open up the dishwasher at the end of the cycle to find nary a wishbone.

Seriously, I am at least 17 percent happier than I was during the dark days of the old dishwasher’s regime, and I look forward to providing the new dishwasher with more tough baked-on/dried-on challenges. Anyone have suggestions?



Monday, March 05, 2007

Deranged and Prolonged Sugar Binge

Cinnamon Swirl Toast
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I’ve become somewhat addicted to toast made with Bainbridge Island Cinnamon Swirl bread, baked right here in Portland by our very own Franz Bakery. Generally speaking, Franz bread isn’t the best bread to be had in Portland, but I like to buy it A) because it’s local and B) because of the gigantic revolving loaf of (premium!) white bread on its roof. I think it glows in the dark, too. If Franz were ever to go out of business and dismantle that loaf, I’d hate to feel like I was in any way responsible because I failed to buy Franz bread when I had the chance.

But this Cinnamon Swirl stuff is actually really good, especially if it is toasted and if you don’t stint on the butter (I would never do that). It’s the perfect breakfast, lunch, or dinner if you’re stuck inside on a bleak February day in Portland, working away at your computer and watching wintry mix pelt the windows.

I doubt Cinnamon Swirl toast has much nutritional value, although it may have a teensy bit more value than the brownies I baked two weeks ago, the 1/2 gallon of Limited Edition Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie ice cream I bought last week, or the Toll House cookies I actually took time out of my work day to bake today. Yes. I am on a raging sugar binge. For some reason, I’m not too interested in eating anything unless it’s sweet. I haven’t been overeating. If anything, I’ve been undereating—doing things like having a brownie or a bowl of ice cream (or a piece of Cinnamon Swirl toast) for dinner. Really bad and yucky. It’s unlike me, as I don’t normally have much of a sweet tooth.

Maybe it’s because I don’t like the fruit that is available in winter (bananas, apples, pears; I like oranges but I hate peeling them, so I end up not eating them), and I’m craving something sweet? I bought some grapes and a couple of honey tangerines yesterday, but my heart wasn’t in it. I’ll have to force myself to eat them. And I don’t see that happening until all those Toll House cookies are dispatched.

It might also be somehow related to the fact that the amount of exercise I’ve gotten over the past three weeks has been almost nil. I realize that, along with the sugar craving, I’ve been craving moss, lichen, and tall trees—AKA a walk in the woods! So, yesterday, my friend Dr. T and I headed over to Forest Park for a hike. It was just the tonic we both needed, but it was pretty darn muddy.

Festival of Mud

I can attest that it was not quite as bad as walking through six miles of Scottish bog. However, each boot probably has half a pound of mud caked on it. I’ve not yet worked up the courage to remove my boots from the plastic bags I stowed them in after the hike.

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