Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I love the movie Ghostbusters. I was only 4 when it came out and hadn’t seen many movies in theaters at all. In fact, this is the first film I remember going to.

Yes, children, believe it or not there was a time not too long ago before VCRs, DVDs, and on demand TV. If you missed the last few minutes of a film on tv, you might never find out how it ended. Scary, huh?

Ghostbusters does sound a little intense for a child so young, but I was insistent! I remember sitting on the swing outside of my uncle’s house while my father explained the premise (he and my brothers had gone to see it). He said that these ghostbusters captured ghosts in a tiny capsule. I was hooked.

So eventually, when it came to the Pickwick (which was a 3rd run theater at the time. I think a ticket was $1.50) I was taken to see it!

The bliss!

Except for one part. Right at the beginning, our heroes are called to investigate a ghost sighting at the Public Library. She is a transparent torso of an elderly lady. When Venkman tries to speak to her, she looks up from her book, raises a finger to her lips, and shushes him.

Venkmen backs away and confers with the Spengler and Stantz. Stantz says “Leave it me” and then shouts “Get her!” while the trio rushed forwards. The lady ghost turns towards them.

And then!

Mom claps her hand over my eyes.

I have a vision of a white flash, but don’t see what happened.

This haunted me. My imagination created a grotesque twisted skeletal creature with a skull like an elongated bowling pin. And then my imagination gave me nightmares.

It wasn’t until several years later that I saw the film again and saw that the library ghost turns into this rather charming ghoul. She’s actually sort of cute. I actually tense up a little bit at that part, remembering the twisted being of my imagination and am always relieved it’s not there.

Monday, July 28, 2008

As Fine as a Troll's Hoard

I have my jewelry class tonight and I’m thinking of bringing some of my most favorite jewelry to ask the instructor how it was made.

My favorite jewelry store in THE WORLD is in Valle, Norway. It is the home of Hasla.

We found it totally by chance. We had decided to drive through Norway from our home in the West to Oslo. In the wintertime, you have to take the highway that runs around the southern coast, but in summer, you can go through the mountains right across the center.

This is always charming because a good portion is through isolated country without human inhabitants, but lots of sheep. Farmers let the sheep up in the mountain to graze all summer long and then bring sheepdogs to round them up in early Fall to bring them back in for the winter. There are no fences and the sheep roam at will and nap in the road. They know no fear and you frequently have to stop the car and honk the horn until they get out of the way.

Anyway, after a tough morning of sheep-honking, we decided to stop for lunch just on the other side of the pass. This happened to be a tiny village called Valle.

It has a gas station, a city hall, a restaurant, a church, and a church community center. But towering about them is a silversmith in an enormous building built rather like a stabur.

Walk inside and it’s immediately clear there are masters at work. The workshop is visible through glass and the wall lined with sale cases. Hasla makes extraordinary bunad jewelry. Delicate filigree silver work is a trademark. It is beautiful, but I most love their modern pieces.

I have in particular two modern pars of earrings made in bronze. One is an elongated stem ending in four curved petals, known as their tulip design. The other is a bold twist of wires in a design the elves of Middle Earth might have admired.

They also use their bunad skills to other effects creating marvelous confections shaped like butterflies or daisies. Really spectacular.

It’s a shame, in a way. Their traditional pieces are fairly widely available, but the pieces I’ve really fallen in love with only seem available in that funny little valley.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dogs, Monkeys, Groundhogs

This weekend’s plans:
Dog Beach (Knut went yesterday, met three baby Cavaliers. I stayed home because he was a little bit grumpy. Darn it!). Will attempt to wade with Colin. Colin has previously shown no interest in swimming. I’m hoping peer pressure is the answer.

2. Awesome party at Cynthia and Steffi’s. Here’s the text from the invitation:

"God vs. the Monkeys -
We're having a party! For no particular reason, although it happens to fall on the same date that the Scopes "Monkey" Trial came to a close in 1925. To honor this this original showdown between the Creationists and the Evolutionists, we'll be serving up some brass monkeys and -- for those who remain faithful to Genesis -- some sour apple cocktails. Also feel free to BYOB (the B standing, of course, for Bonobos and Bibles, though Beer is okay too).

So come over next Friday to reconnect with your inner primate and nourish your jungle roots. We don't know exactly how the night will turn out, but we imagine it will look something like this:"

Looking forward to that! My favorite part of their parties is Knut sitting and being admired by super cute lesbians because he’s strong enough to open the hatch to the roof. It’s far too adorable.

3. Road trip to Woodstock. To Woodstock, IL not the 1969 Music Festival. I do not expect The Who to be there. Although that would be awesome! Woodstock is where they filmed Groundhog Day. It’s also the hometown of the creator of Dick Tracey. I’ve heard there’s a little Dick Tracey museum. We basically just feel like getting out of the city.

I don’t know what we’ll do on Sunday yet. Probably early preparations for the Norwegians who will be coming on Thursday. Right! I almost forgot to ask to borrow sheets and pillows from my folks!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Rose For Emily

Do you like Faulkner? He’s got sort of grim creepy quality to his writing that appeals to me. I love dusty ghost stories and chaste murders. So I was reading a full text of his short story “A Rose for Emily” (I have no idea if there’s any reference meant in the Emily Rose film) and was struck by two paragraphs:

It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores. And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.

Naturally, I being a modern babe, associate “the seventies” as the 1970s. After all, they could be described and “heavily lightsome” with all the weird browns and bizarre starburst shapes. However, he means the 1870s and it’s also funny to think of people objecting to garages and cotton gins which to us would be as quaint and darling as a period blacksmith shop. I wonder if people 100 years from now will think Wal-Mart and billboards are charming?

Then this one:

So THE NEXT day we all said, "She will kill herself"; and we said it would be the best thing. When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said, "She will marry him." Then we said, "She will persuade him yet," because Homer himself had remarked--he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club--that he was not a marrying man. Later we said, "Poor Emily" behind the jalousies as they passed on Sunday afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove.

I swear I read that five times before I figured out that Faulkner probably wasn’t explicitly saying he was gay. I mean, frankly, it fits the story well enough but it’s not very subtle. I gather “he liked men” mostly meant he enjoyed hanging out with other guys, drinking and gossiping. Still it is a question, isn’t it? I mean, people have always gossiped about that sort of thing, right? Ugh, I’m torn.

Anyhow, it’s a pretty creepy story of a woman who just sort of fades away through pride and madness. Another chilling story for a hot day. Full text here:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thank You For Being a Friend

Estelle Getty died today.

If you weren’t a fan, she played “Sophia” on The Golden Girls. The Golden Girls featured the antics of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia as they zipped around Miami and dated an endless parade of trim balding men.

The point was that it was a sit com about women who were over 50! And people loved it!

In our household, Mom and I would air pop popcorn in the microwave, cover it in melted butter and settle down in the kitchen to watch on the tiny nine inch screen. I always imagined them to be old, but when I became an adult, I was shocked to realize that they actually weren’t that old. Not old enough for Social Security or Medicare, but old enough to have adult children and dead husbands. An interesting and frequently forgotten segment of the population.

Mom really admired Bea Arthur. T think the idea of a tall handsome woman with dark eyebrows and graying hair appealed to her—since she fits that description as well. She also really liked the clothes but when I’ve watched it recently the amount of caftans, scrunch boots, and endless layers is a little overwhelming.

Let’s see which plots I remember… Dorothy gets Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (is that still around? It was the hot disease then), Rose experiences ageism, they buy condoms, they all pose nude for a sculpture, one of them has a pregnant unmarried daughter, Stan comes to recover from an illness, the piano playing chicken. Oh! I bet I know all the words to the song they wrote for the Miami Song Contest!

I have to say what I feel…
Miami has great appeal…
A good place for a seafood meal…

Miami, Miami
You’ve Got Style!
Blue skies, sunshine, white sands by the mile

If you live in this town, you’ll have a great time
The coldest of winters is warm and divine!

Awww.. that’s all I remember! I did find a link though!

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Work Day Fantasy

I’m not having a particularly nice day at work today, so I think I’ll lapse into a Walter Mitty style fantasy for a moment. Where would I like to be…

There is a beach in Hong Kong, not far from the worlds largest seated Buddha (not to be confused with the world’s largest reclining Buddha which is in Bangkok).

And on this beach, there is a pretty outdoor restaurant where the tables are set in the sand under a canopy. The sand is a little gritty and gray white.

The restaurant is owned by Ex Pats, so they serve bread to start with. We order seed bread packed with poppy and sesame seeds. We order Sangria. It’s clear red wine served in a small round wine glass, garnished with a stick of cinnamon and a slice of green apple.

We kick our shoes off and our toes dig like hermit crabs into the sand. We sip the sangria and nibble seed bread while the sun floats just above the horizon.

We spot another table beneath the red striped canopy. They are Englishmen dressed in traditional Indian white cotton outfits. We sneer a bit as we admire our seersucker and sundresses. The Englishmen have ordered many bottles of wine, but their inebriation is wholly cheerful.

We order grilled shrimp and crabs steamed with garlic. This is some of the freshest sea food in the world. We lick our buttered fingers and smile as the sun fades and pretty strings of miniature lanterns glow above our heads.

There’s still a bit of light so we leave our shoes under the table and take a a stroll along the tiny beach. A few children make grainy sandcastles but our attention is caught by something else. A feral cow stands on the shore, briny water lapping at its hooves. It’s furry and rather small. It wears no brand or ear tag. It will not let us touch it but is not bothered by our presence. The children jump up and we join them in chasing the cow down the beach. The cow jogs lazily along, clearly not too bothered by the game.

The sun goes on to warm the other side of the world and leaves us, the cow, and the children with only the glow of the party lights and the stars.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Puppet Bike!

Knut and I were going to the Kriskintel Market in Daley plaza Christmas of 2006 and we were instantly smitten.

We met the Puppet Bike.

I am a huge Puppet Bike Fan.

The Puppet Bike is a tiny puppet theater mounted to the back of a bicycle that weeds its way around Chicago delighting many and mystifying a few. It’s a brightly painted box just large enough for one person to stand inside with a tiny stage at eye level. There two frolicking hand puppets dance their way through blue grass, swing, or old favorites. They don’t speak, just dance. Their trademark is when the two puppets join paws and twirl forwards and then backwards.

So far I have seen a sweet little bunny, two tigers, a cat, a bear, and a monkey. If you show your appreciation for the dancing animals by putting a dollar in the little tip box on the front, a puppet will pop out of a side slit and wave enthusiastically. I highly recommend tipping such a great (but tiny) institution.

The Puppet Bike usually hangs around the Loop in all kinds of weather. I’ve mostly seen it on Lake or Michigan Avenue and if you want to take a photo with the bike, the puppets will gladly pose with you.

See The Puppet Bike Perform!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Taste of…?

My hometown celebrated a special event last weekend called “Taste of Park Ridge.” “Taste ofs” usually offer small portions of food in an outdoor fair-like atmosphere.

The best is Stavanger’s “Glad Mat” (literally means “Happy Food”) which is situated on Stavanger’s gorgeous harbor and offers lots of very adult fare like raw oysters, grilled half lobster, beautifully presented French desserts, champagne, mussels, wild boar sandwiches, and fresh fruits. Mind you, Knut and I spent a fortune there. Eating out is a huge gamble in Norway because it’s so expensive that it’s a giant disappointment if the food isn’t good. It’s heartbreaking to blow a month’s free money on a curry containing chewy mutton instead of tender lamb, so we’d just go to the same few places we knew were delicious. Glad Mat was just a few dollars for a small piece so if it was awful (I recall having the world’s worst nan bread there. How did they manage that?) you just tossed it in a bin.

Taste of Chicago is huge and used to be a wonderful event. When it began really nice restaurants like Bob Chinn’s offered small portions of garlic shrimp and you could stroll around munching shark or alligator. It was a tidy crowd who enjoyed sampling many things. Now it’s largely ghetto teenagers and the stalls are almost entirely pizza sellers. The one stand out in the last two years I went was a tiny crayfish boil in a Dixie cup. That was fantastic. It was three crayfish, a bit of potato, and a piece of corn cob all simmered in delicious spicy seasonings.

Taste of Park Ridge is definitely smaller scale and it’s almost totally locals. Many of the local restaurants had booths up selling Italian Ice, funnel cakes, pad thai,, tacos, etc. The stand out was a booth called Applause Catering. They had pulled pork and brisket sandwiches that were meltingly good, roasted corn on the cob, and homemade potato chips. I asked my mother who they were and she told me it was the man who provided the food for the local retirement hotel! Who would have guessed?!

They also had live music which in this case was an ABBA tribute band. As you can see from the photo, there wasn’t too much resemblance to ABBA. The blonde was very short and I couldn’t figure out where the second guy was. The women’s voices were also a bit on the heavy side, without that oh so Scandinavian brittleness. Mind you, the crowd had a great time. I just feel Knut and I can do “Tiger” just as well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Household Engineering Challenge

We have the greatest kitchen table. It’s actually a vintage drafting table in excellent condition. It’s got a heavy wood top and a metal base enameled in John Deere green. And it still works.

Possibly a little too well.

In fact, one side of the table wobbles when you lean on it. The left side, which is the that’s meant to tip down to the floor, falls about an inch and a half when pressure is applied. The right side remains stable when pressure is applied. This is a problem given that Knut and my father are huge elbow leaners. The only way to get around it was to have both men sitting opposite of each other, which works fine until one gets up. This was especially noticeable during Easter Egg dying.

So I’ve been thinking of a mechanical means to brace it, but I would definitely like to preserve the drafting function. So far, I’ve thought of mounting an extra leg that could swing out (like an old fashioned gaming table) or having a wholly separate pedestal that we could just slide under when we’re using the whole table (right now the wobbly side is pressed against a wall to hold it steady, which works very well.)

However, any engineering expertise would be appreciated!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Daily Coyote

It's been a very busy week so I haven't had much of a chance to do a lot of posting, but I got the chance this morning to catch up on my favorite blog (besides this one):  The Daily Coyote

This blog is the work of Shreve Stockton, who is a most interesting woman.   She began by moving from San Francisco to New York, not with a U-Haul like the majority of us, but alone on a Vespa.  On her way, she fell in love with Wyoming and returned there, instead of continuing to live in New York.
In Wyoming, she encountered a motherless baby coyote and felt compelled to save him from certain death.  This blog is the story of Shreve, Charlie the Coyote, and Eli the Cat as they go through their daily lives.   It's recorded mostly through beautiful photographs.  
I'm always a little envious of people who have the ability to cast practical thoughts aside and roam at will.  Most of us are stuck in a groove that forces us to do quite reasonable things like stay in jobs we hate because we're accustomed to the money, live in areas purely because they're what we're familiar with, or stick to experiences that hold no threats for us.  The truth is that freedom is a very scary thing and too many people will trade liberation for security.
In any event, Charlie's life is one I fear stands a good chance of ending in sadness, but it is so exhilarating to watch it even from afar.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

FOGHORN Returns!

The Foghorn Magazine has returned!

And it comes bearing a new article by.... wait for it...

If you want to read the sort of bloody curdling tales my darling mother reveals, read CHEERFULLY MORBID at the Foghorn Magazine. 
I guarantee you'll be shocked and amazed at what people in Crookston, MN in the 1950s got up to!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Have you seen A.I.? I myself am not a fan. Frankly, I find the idea of a child sized robot who is programmed to love pretty freaky (who would order that? Deviants and Cat Ladies? I mean, it doesn’t grow up! It just hangs around… loving… Weird.) and the whole Pinocchio idea is pretty strained. There are some very pretty shots and some gigantic plot holes in there too which are fun to pick apart, much like the robot demolition derby. Speaking of which, was that scene supposed to bother us? Are they suggesting that all robots have emotions and would thus hate to be destroyed? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure this computer isn’t much interested in its own ambitions. But I digress, here are the two things that really are great:

1. Teddy the Super Toy! Man, I would love a super toy. They’re so cool! Imagine having a little bear who could follow you around and have little chats with you and possibly watch your bags when you’re on vacation. I’d bring mine to work and teach him to staple things. Then I’d sit him on my lap and snuggle him as my day goes south. Maybe he could stroke my hair and say “only two days until the weekend…” Actually, the big plus would that he’d be like a dog you could take anywhere. I imagine having Teddy break would be very traumatic, though. When my beloved non robotic teddy bear, Sarah, finally had to be retired (her neck seam was so weak from hugging it couldn’t be properly resewn) I was sad for weeks. Fortunately, I have a lovely little spaniel who is probably even better than a supertoy. He’s definitely lasted more than a summer.

2. Sex Robots! Think of it: prostitution without the risk of disease, drug abuse, mean pimps, emotional trauma, etc. It could be clean and discreet. It would probably lose at least some of it’s taboo nature. I wonder what Charlie Sheen thinks? Plus, I think pretty much every woman and probably lots of men like the idea of a Jude Law sexbot. It boggles the mind. This furthers my suspicion that Futurama is the clearest vision of the future. We get computer technology and what do we do with it? Make humping USB dogs. I wonder if that’s a flaw in archaeology too. We tend to assume everything has a purpose when many things don’t beyond our own amusement.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Thumb, Can, Ahhh... Memories...

Today is my first wax casting class. I’m a little nervous because I’ve never done any metalwork or jewelry making. I am generally pretty good with tools and small objects (ie, Fimo stuff) but it’s a whole new medium.

The class is actually a birthday present from my lovely sister-in-law and brother. Mina thought the wax casting class would be ideal for me, and is charmingly hoping to recap her investment in my talents :)

I did take wood shop and plastics in junior high, along with a bevy of art classes. I loathed wood shop because we had to do a lot of hand filing and sanding. My kingdom for a power sander! I was the only kid willing to use the grinder because I just hated the boring repetitive sanding.

Our woods teacher came directly from the shop teacher mold. He was a tall sturdy guy who somewhat resembled Pete Postlethwaite. He used the word “can” a lot. As in “You stand on that and you’re gonna slip and fall on your can.” On the first day, he would lift one giant scarred paw and say “You see this? This is where I cut my thumb off the first time. It was on that very saw” and fifteen sets of eyes drifted towards the gleaming blade. “The second time,” he continued “was on a circular saw. YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE CAREFUL!!”

Even as a fourteen year old I wondered about that. Anyone who works with power cutting tools could have an accident. You just need to be distracted for a second. However, after you’ve completely cut your thumb off once, don’t you think you would be really really careful? He cut off the same thumb on two separate occasions! I mean, “fool me once…”

This speech then had less of the effect of warning us to be careful of the machine and more of the concern about what we would do if he cut his thumb off again in class. I mean, I presume we’d grab the drafting teacher, but should we look for the thumb? What do we do with it after we find it? Put it in that weird sawdust janitors use to clean up vomit? The only ice would be two flights down the stairs, would that take too long?

Fortunately, it stayed firmly on throughout the trimester, but it was a niggling worry.

Wish me luck on my class! Hopefully it’ll be lots of fun!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Joys of Fireworks

Since it’s the 4th of July tomorrow, I was thinking about the fun we used to have when we’d go to 7-11 to buy Snap Caps, Smoke Bombs, Snakes, and Witch Whistles. They started selling small fireworks like that in mid June and it was a time of excitement! My brothers kindly always bought me some of the girly fireworks like poppers and sparklers too. I love this Black Cat logo, but we never had that kind of fire power until we were adults.

The Smoke Bombs could be set off anywhere it was amusing to have a cloud of green smelly smoke. I do recall that you couldn’t throw them because they were made of something like pressed sawdust and would disintegrate upon impact. And it was hard to relight the pieces.

Snap caps were generally reserved for stomping on in the driveway, but we did occasionally put them under the tires of the neighbor’s cars. They never noticed. You could also pop ‘em between your fingers, which hurt a bit but was totally worth it to see other kids’ expressions. The really brave kids (I think Jamie did this) would pop snap caps with their teeth, which is probably not a hugely clever idea.

Snakes are interesting. They were these little black tablets and when you touched a lighted match to a side long coils of stinky black ash would push forth, looking appropriately like snakes. You got maybe 18 inches of ash from a tablet the size of antacid. They were pretty cool and left permanent char marks on the front steps.

The Witch Whistles were the most memorable. They were these orange waxy tiny rockets, about the size of a golf pencil, and when they flew off they emitted a high pitched screech that was highly appreciated by the adults in the neighborhood. We would set them off in the alley and every so often they’d backfire and we’d go tumbling out of the way. Good times! Once in a while we’d try experiments with them like, could you tie one to a popper and have it pull the string? They never worked, but we were all very good in high school Physics.

Sparklers were just for pretty, mostly, and running around with after dark.

That was fun. Knut and I checked and they don’t sell any of those things any more, not even Sparklers. In fact, the Park Ridge Fire Department sign now reads “Protect your family and friends by avoiding fireworks and sparklers.” You know, in case you stick one in your eye or something.

I think that’s sort of sad. I mean, I suppose we could have gotten burns or cause minor property damage, but it was so interesting! You got to experiment with something and cut it apart to see how it works and learned what it could do.

I feel a little bad for today’s kids. Many of the parents I know are scared to let them out of the house or do anything even a tiny bit dangerous. They probably don’t have much alternative to video games or tv.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Custom Pie Flavors

I’ve been doing a bit of custom pie work lately. I set out the challenge for any kind of pie and here was one of my first challenges: Banana Cream!

As you can see, it’s filled with rich banana custard, topped with slices of banana and a big dollop of cream. It’s also made of polymer cake and nestled in a beer cap.

It’s always a lot of fun working out new flavors.