Saturday, January 05, 2013

Time to Revisit Oz

B and I were just talking (on the drive down to Zach's Shack to get a Chicago dog) for some reason about the musical Wicked. I posed the question of whether or not it had any merit.  Is the music good? Is the book clever? Is the plot compelling? Are there any funny songs? I read the book upon which the musical is  (loosely, I assume) based, but my favorite part of the book was the map of Oz and the surrounding hinterlands;  I remember very little of the book except that I didn't think it was very good.

As for the musical, I obviously haven't seen it, but it's been around for some time now on permanent tour, it seems and is probably due to swing through Portland at any moment. Should I go see it? Turns out that the book is written by the person who created My So-Called Life, which seems promising, but still...the poster featuring that green-faced witch turn me off.

B and I started wondering if that whole green face thing was MGM's invention, "revised" in the same way the silver slippers were turned into ruby slippers that would have more pizazz in technicolor. Did L. Frank Baum specify that the witch in The Wizard of Oz had a green complexion. Somehow I doubt it. Now I want to find out by rereading the original books.

As a kid I never read the actual Oz books. Instead I read these "junior classic" kid versions of the books that had very arresting illustrations of Wheelmen, Tik-Tok, the Gump, Ozma of Oz, Jack Pumpkinhead, and those knitting needle girls (does anyone even know what I'm taking about?), but the books were heavily abridged and I'm sure the text was dumbed down.  I'd like to read the original books now just to compare all the spin-offs that have arisen from the original and to see how far off the mark they are. I'd also like to revisit my childhood and see if I could find those watered down kid versions I read and that we checked out over and over again from the local library--if only to look at the illustrations, which were, truly, outstanding. I think this is one from the series I read, published sometime in the 1960s. Seems about right.   

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Friday, January 04, 2013

The Power of Suggestion

When I lived in Chicago, I seldom had hankerings for hot dogs. But when I moved to Portland eleven years ago, I suddenly developed weird intermittent cravings for a Chicago-style hot dog, that is, a kosher all-beef dog (steamed, not boiled) on a poppy seed bun with tomato slices, chopped onion, sport peppers, neon green relish, yellow mustard, a pickle spear, and a dash of celery salt.

I cannot explain why this happened. I only know that the hankering can be triggered by various and pretty tangential events. For example, once we went the Multnomah County Fair to watch the "Weiner Dog Races," which featured dressed-up miniature dachshunds dashing about in all directioins. Very cute and chaotic indeed. After the races, we had to drive straight to Zach's Shack in SE Portland, one of the few places here where you can get a pretty close approximation of a Chicago dog.

Day 88/366: Dog and Fries

The pictured dog is not quite right. The bun doesn't have any poppy seeds on it and the relish is not neon; also, I committed a crime by adulterating it with ketchup, but hopefully the Chicago police have better things to do than fly to Portland to arrest someone for putting ketchup on a hot dog four years ago.

Anyway, once again today, the power of suggestion arrived--while I was working, as it happened. I won't attempt to explain my job here, but suffice it to say that in the course of my work today I ended up reading a paragraph about Chicago-style hot dogs (do I have a great job or what?). And I knew: This weekend B and I are destined to make a pilgrimage to Zachs, which by the way has gotten the message about poppy seed buns and neon relish.

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

A Book I Would Like to Have Read to Me

Knitting is my favorite winter sport, and while I knit I like to listen to audiobooks. I'm very particular about readers, and sadly I've found that about 98% of American readers can't hack it. They either read very unexpressively or--worse--make really bad choices and overact in the most irritating and inappropriate ways. Oh, it can be intolerable. However, British readers (who are often RADA-trained actors) are wonderful. So I usually stick with tried and true British fiction read by British readers. British mysteries are pretty much ideal, since I have to concentrate (at least a little bit) on what I'm knitting.

I've recently "discovered" two authors who are new to me: Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey. Both helped raise the bar of the mystery/detective novel genre above Agatha Christie and are often considered to be at least on a par with Dorothy L. Sayers. For some reason, critics also give them bonus points for not falling in love with their detectives, which apparently Dorothy L. Sayers did and which some critics, for some reason, condemn as being "unforgivable." (Seems pretty harsh and how can you even ascertain whether an author falls in love with a fictional character she created?)

Anyway, I digress. Of the two, I think Josephine Tey may be more original, but there are way more Ngaio Marsh novels available as audiobooks, so I've been listening mainly to Marsh. Marsh should also get credit for some pretty great titles: A Surfeit of Lampreys, for example. I haven't read A Surfeit of Lampreys but I would certainly like to. I have been trying to imagine what it could be about. (I could easily find out, I know, but I prefer to guess.) Is it set in Elizabethan times? I understand that people ate lampreys back then. Or is it about someone being attacked and killed by lampreys? Probably not, lampreys are bottom feeders--scavengers not predators. They are very slimy and disgusting and primitive, though, so the novel seems like it has a lot of good potential. Plus, I always applaud use of the word "surfeit."

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Art Shortage

My sister and her husband are both artists. Every time I visit their apartment in Chicago--which houses, I'd say, hundreds of paintings, photographs, etchings, linocuts, sculptures, collages, drawings, ceramics, assemblages, etc., I just wander around as if I'm in a museum.  Even their kitchen counter is a work of art--a mosaic they made themselves. My house suffers from an acute art shortage by comparison. There are blank walls!!! We've been living in this house for 11 years--what is up with that? Even though I'm often on the lookout for works of art that speak to me, I have trouble making up my mind to buy something, even though Portland is full of artists who sell their work at very attractive prices.

One year, I resolved to buy one piece of art by a local artist each month. It worked out pretty well. I don't regret anything I bought (certainly not the "Gargle Duet print; every time I look at it I smile) and as a bonus it was nice to feel like I was supporting local art and artists in a very small way. I may try something like that again this year.

Gargle Duet

Also, it dawned on me that I could, in fact, display a bit of my own "art." Art is in quotation marks because what I have in mind to do is sift through the thousands of digital photos I've taken over the past 6 or 7 years and choose a few to (gulp) send to Walgreens (or similar) and have printed. Put them in a frame and they're art, right? Of course, they are! It's just that I doesn't seem like I expended a great deal of effort to take those photos or that I have any extraordinary aptitude or talent as a photographer, so calling them art seems a smidge presumptuous.

However, there are many photos I took that I quite like, so why not spend $2.99 a piece to get a few of them printed, get hold of some frames (or make some [I made the "Gargle Duet" frame--it was fun!]), and slap them on some of those blank walls? Art shortage partially addressed!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A Portlandia Episode Waiting to Happen

We Can Pickle That!
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Over the holidays we watched our way through the entire second season of Portlandia. OK. The show isn't a masterpiece or anything, but I love it. Anything set in Portland automatically has at least some merit in my book. The setting (obvio!) resonates with me--not just because I'm a Portlander, but because so much of it is set right in my very neighborhood! There's just something inexplicably validating to be watching a TV show and finding yourself saying, "I've gone to Happy Hour at that place!" "I have that same reusable bag--I got it for donating to OPB!" "Hey, there's that stilt walker we always see at the Alberta Art Hop."

Another thing I love is how expertly they walk the line between satire and reality. Lately, I've walked into shops and have witnessed scenes that could have come right out of Portlandia. Example: I walked into Salt and Straw, the insanely popular artisan ice cream shop where they have a rotating selection of unusual ice creams (e.g., beet ice cream, olive oil ice cream, apple and cheddar cheese ice cream). Reminder: Yes. This is a real place, and I do recommend the olive oil ice cream (although it won't be available until "winter"; waiting for the next pressing of olives).

Anyhoodle. I stopped by there last week to see what was on offer for this month and decided to go with the relatively tame eggnog ice cream. I got in line. One always has to wait (even in winter) because part of the experience (for most people) is to sample lots of flavors before making the all-important decision about which ice cream to actually order. I wasn't in a big hurry, so so not big deal. But then something even more Portlandia-ish than people expecting an absurdly high level of personal service happened. The guy who was being served was balking at having his ice cream served to him in a paper cup. Without a doubt, it would have been a compostable cup, so, really, there shouldn't have been anything for him to gripe about. Baffled, but still beyond friendly, the server offered as the only other option a plastic "flight cup" (yes, you can get a flight of ice creams). Oh, dear. I have to admit I wasn't quite sure what the guy's beef was, but he did end up with the plastic cup instead of the more eco-friendly compostible cup. And that, I suppose, was how I knew that this was. in fact. real life and not TV. There's no punch line to my story. However, Salt and Straw would be an ideal setting for an episode of Portlandia, and I would not be at all surprised if it shows up in Season 3.

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