Thursday, July 30, 2009
random posts of pretty: su blackwell's book-cut sculptures
Although the bibliophile in me loathes the idea of cutting up a book, Su Blackwell's fantastic book-cut sculptures are pretty enough to make me look the other way. Of course, the fact that there are several Alice in Wonderland pieces in her collection weighs heavily in her favor...

(Via Jezebel)

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today in nightmare-inducing photographs
When I was eleven-years-old I was stung by a jellyfish while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, and it was - at least at the time - the single most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me. That one little sting bashed my previously held dream of being a marine biologist, as my fear of sea creatures soon outweighed the prettiness of sea shells. I refused to enter the ocean long afterward, and to this day I'll only go up to my knees in salt water, shuffling the whole time for fear of stingrays.

So, needless to say this National Geographic picture along with the news that 1) jellyfish such as these exist, and that 2) experts are warning that "another giant jellyfish invasion may be on the horizon" all collected to send a cold shiver up and down my spine:

Bloody terrifying. My only solace is that they seem to be focusing their assault on the coast of Japan, and that Japan isn't Michigan. Which is where I live. Far, far away.

(Oh who am I kidding. I'm not sleeping tonight.)

(Via Boing Boing)

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
weekly book review: sharp objects, by gillian flynn
Firstly, it's been a bit since I've posted on what I've been reading, although that is in no way a reflection of my recent reading habits. I've actually read quite a bit this month. I just haven't written about any of it. So, in order to catch up I'm planning on posting shorter, more frequent reviews for the next couple of weeks or so. I'm talking, like, straight to the point reviews. No messing around. 250 words or less. (And if your response to that is, "About time, windbag!" then, well, that's a bit mean, don't you think?)

I'll begin with Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, a book which, to put it mildly, disappointed. I normally try to be especially kind to first-time novelists, but this book really pissed me off for some reason. No, scratch that. It pissed me off for several, very sound reasons. To list: I hated how Flynn, a woman, wrote about women - like she had to make them extra gritty, boozy, troubled, violent, and hypersexual in order to prove she can attract male readers. Even for a pulpy murder mystery, the characters risk absurdity in their level of caricature. It's sloppily edited, entirely too heavy-handed in its use of "sharp objects", and the plot twists are both absurdly convenient and glaringly obvious. In fact, I had the murderer pegged by page 37, but read the other 235 pages anyway in the hopes that I was wrong. Unfortunately, I wasn't. The plot really was that clunky and obvious, and yet Stephen King gave it a very favorable blurb. (Because Flynn and King both write for Entertainment Weekly, perhaps? Book politics. Blech.)

I have no doubt that Sharp Objects could make a passable made-for-T.V. movie, but that's hardly a compliment, and although I realize that saying all this makes me sound a bit cruel, I feel obligated to tell you the truth. This book did more than just disappoint me. It insulted my intelligence. I'd like to spare others a similar fate.

Gillian Flynn
2006, 272 pages

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Monday, July 27, 2009
(not so) random posts of pretty
Thanks to my recent trip to Barcelona where his work is everywhere, Antoni Gaudi has become my all-time favorite architect. I got a chance to see some of his houses and, of course, the Sagrada Familia, and it all just blew me away. Pictures truly can't do justice to his epic, beautiful, strange designs. And while it was all amazing, my favorite had to be Park Güell.

In 1900, Gaudi was commissioned to build a neighborhood of luxury houses set atop and away from the crime and pollution of the city center. Enough lots were available to build as many as sixty homes, but when the model home was unveiled, the Barcelona aristocracy was shocked and appalled at what Gaudi had created, so only two homes were ever built and only one was sold, making it a massive failure. I suppose it's easy to imagine how folks in 1910 might not have been able to wrap their heads around Gaudi's design, however today the park teems with tourists, the dragon sculpture outside one of the homes has become a symbol of Barcelona, and I can imagine folks would drop some major cash if the houses became available for private sale.

Of course, I loved everything about the place. It's like being in a fairytale dream word created by a mildly mad man...

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Thursday, July 23, 2009
a very european tale
The last handful of days have been fairly craptastic, so here's a reasonably amusing story from a few days back when things weren't quite so hairy.

(Well, they were a little hairy, I suppose. But literally. And in a gross way. You'll see.)

It's the story of when this picture was taken:
I suppose the picture by itself isn't all that terribly interesting. It's a weird sculpture-thing I happened by in Barcelona, about a hundred meters from the beach, but since Barcelona is FULL of weird sculpture-things, this one hardly stands out, nor is it artistically or otherwise interestingly shot. Like I said - it's not the picture that's interesting. It's what was going on behind my back whilst I was taking the picture that was interesting. And slightly hairy. And oh so very European.

But first, a slight digression. My traveling companions - although not exactly the people I would have hand-picked to spend almost two weeks bouncing around Southern Spain with - were all fairly pleasant. The kids were mostly agreeable, only a few of the adults were twitchy, and only once did a roaring game of Catch Phrase keep me from sleeping, and that's really the most a lady traveling with a teenage tour group can hope for. However, there comes a time when even the most harmless habits of the nicest people start to wear a bit thin, and that is exactly what happened around day three with someone I'm going to call "Catherine."

See, Catherine had this unfortunate habit of calling everything "European." While we were in Europe.

And while it's true that most of the things she deemed "very European" were, indeed, quite European - a view of the Mediterranean Sea, a nine hundred-year-old Mosque-turned Cathedral, a narrow, windy street in the middle of a ancient city IN EUROPE - it just seemed a bit...I don't know....REDUNDANT to call those things European. But enough of Catherine. Back to my story.

Having been to a European beach before, it came as no surprise to me that European women enjoy sunbathing topless. It's very, you know, European to do so. However, my students were wholly unprepared for this fact, so before we were set loose to explore Barcelona, our tour guide explained to the kids that there were three beaches in the city: one where ladies can bear their top-most naughty bits, one where everyone can bear ALL of their naughty bits, and one where homosexuals can bear all their naughty bits. And armed with this knowledge, my students opted to stay far away from the beach entirely. Not so "European," these kids.

BUT, since our group dinner was to be held at a beach-side restaurant, we were forced to the beach all the same. So, we hopped the Metro, rode few stops, hopped off the Metro, and walked above ground for a bit until we happened upon this:

The thing I started telling you about ages and ages ago. But bear in mind that we were NOT YET AT THE BEACH. In fact, we were still a good ten minute walk from ANY beach, even the "ladies can only show their naughty lady top parts" beach, which was the closest of the three. So, I was snapping this picture of that weird, but not uncommonly weird sculpture-thing in Barcelona when, from behind my back, rose a chorus of gasps and shrieks and uproarious laughter from the members of my touring group. Spinning around, I saw a man (a very EUROPEAN man) who had just come from the beach (a very EUROPEAN beach), and was now standing directly in our path, leaning on a park bench wearing nothing but a man purse (a "murse" if you will), a pair of glasses, some sandals, and a look of total indifference. He was paunchy, middle aged, and completely devoid of any tan lines. And let's not forget, quite stunningly nude.

"Look at the cool sculpture-thing, kids!" our tour guide shouted, but it was to no avail. A stark-naked man standing in the middle of the street looking hopelessly bored was WAY more interesting than some stupid weird sculpture. Shouts were shouted, pictures were snapped, videos were taken, and the naked man pretended not to notice. As if it happens to him EVERY DAY. I imagine that in the States he would have been in the clink fairly quickly, but we weren't in the States. We were in Europe. So instead of being arrested, he sauntered down the street, quite devil-may-care about the small riot he had started amongst the American tourists.

I wasn't by Catherine when all this was going down, but I like to imagine that she would have smiled and deemed it all quite European. And yes. Indeed it was.

(And if you're inclined to worry about the extend to which naked man may have wounded my sweet little students, don't. I later asked them to share their favorite moments from the trip, and, inevitably, one of them smiled and said "the beach." I didn't ask her for further elaboration.)

favorite songs of '09: bowerbirds' "northern lights"
Although I wasn't so much sold on Bowerbirds' newest album, Upper Air, when I first heard it, I did peg it for a grower album. (Meaning, if I listened to it enough, I'd realize how good it really is.) And after many, many hours in the air, on a bus, and waiting in airports, I was allowed the time to realize that my initial speculations were correct. I listened to Upper Air almost exclusively during my recent travels, and now I like it quite a little bit, "Northern Lights" in particular. Enjoy:

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009
(not so) random posts of pretty
While in Valencia, Spain we had the opportunity to go to L' Oceanografic, and it was so nice I fear it may have ruined me on aquariums forever. Of course I took a bunch of pictures, and although I didn't think any of them would turn out, they ended up being some of the nicest images I have of our trip. I love my camera. I sing it love songs...


Monday, July 20, 2009
Although some dogs can be really quite smelly, ours is - as far as dogs go - a fairly nice-smelling sort. Consequently, she gets bathed about as often as a woman in the Middle Ages would, and trust that this is fine by her and me both. I derive no great joy from wrestling a 50 pound wet, squirmy dog back into my bathtub, and she is of the opinion that being sprayed with water is THE most terrifying thing on the planet. And so it had been about two years since her last bath - long enough for her to start assuming she'll never have to have another one, but not so long ago that she forgot how awful they were. Hence her habit of staring at me awestruck whenever I take a bath, as if to say, "You mean to tell me you're doing this WILLINGLY? Are you OUT OF YOUR EVERLOVING MIND, LADY-WHO-FEEDS-ME-FROM-THE-TABLE?!?!"

BUT, today doggie decided to go rolling around in her own excrement. SO, today doggie got a rare bath:

She was mad at me for a spell.
However, she soon forgot she was supposed to be upset. Dogs are nice that way.


Hiya. Remember me?

So, I'm back. I had an amazing trip. I took a ridiculous number of pictures, and I've spent roughly 20 hours on Flickr weeding through them all. Thus, although I have loads to tell you and show you (not to mention a small mountain of books I've read that need reviewing), I've spent so much time on my laptop recently that I really feel as if I need to cut the cord and leave it alone for a spell. I'll probably resume regular blogging tomorrow (although I warn you that it will be rather Spain-heavy), but until then just a small note to tell you that I'm alive, well, and not nearly as sunburned as I had feared. Great success.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hola, friends. This is just a short programming note to inform you that I have not abanoned you for good, however it will be a few weeks before you hear from me again. Nate and I will be spending the next few weeks in sunny Spain, but we will be back soon - exhausted, tan (him), sunburnt (me), and with an absurd number of pictures to prove we were there. Miss you and junk...

Saturday, July 04, 2009
america: a place for americans
Happy 4th! Enjoy the freedom to get drunk and blow stuff up, doves.

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Friday, July 03, 2009
favorite songs of '09: white rabbits' "percussion gun"
I've been enjoying It's Frightening - White Rabbits' sophomore album - quite a bit recently, so when my husband discovered they were playing a teeny tiny venue, that my buddy's band was opening, and that the cover charge was negligible, you can understand that we jumped at the chance. I wasn't really sure what to expect of them live so my expectations were slightly tempered, however, they rawked and I was exceedingly pleased.

You don't get a full appreciation for how percussively raucous this band is until you see them perform. Most of the time they play with two drummers and at one point they use as many as three, lending them this pulsing, vaguely tribal sound that I really dig. You'll get the general idea of this from watching their performance on David Letterman, however, imagine listening to this in a space only slightly larger than my living room. My ears! They ring!

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009
glamoroso me
Most people may not consider teaching to be a glamorous job. However, that's only because they've never seen how I do it.

I mean sure - tantrums are frequent, you have to hold your pee all day, occasionally you come home with chalk dust on your ass and sometimes there's vomit, but we don't ALL wear holiday sweaters adorned with giant plastic pins, and if you play your cards right you can swing yourself some pretty sweet swag. Case in point: my job is sending me to Spain next week. That's right doctors and lawyers and professory types - Spain. To visit. For free. And all I have to do is make sure a handful of kids board the right plane, don't come home pregnant, answer their wake up calls, and don't get gored by bulls. (Wearing a holiday sweater while I do all this is, of course, optional.)

So, in the spirit of my upcoming intercontinental adventure, I've been trying to brush up on my Spanish. I originally had this grand plan to get myself some instructional CDs that I could listen to on the commute to work, but then I remembered that this is 2009. If robots don't do it for us then there's an app that will, so actually learning a language has become a bit...passé. So I searched around for a few minutes and, sure enough, there was an application available to download onto my phone that would not only translate useful words and phrases, it would even say them for me. I know, right?! Sweet Jesus, Hallelujah! Here I've been so busy dreaming of a day when I could somehow avoid all direct communication with strangers that I had failed to recognize that day when it finally arrived. Hello, brave new world!

Now, truthfully, the system isn't perfect. There's a very limited number of words and phrases that my phone will say for me, however, it will say "hello," "goodbye," and "I'm sorry" for me, so what else does a socially awkward English-speaking girl really need?

Well, after consulting the app's "Travel Safety" list, it appears that the creators of this particular application feel that an English-speaking girl traveling in sunny Spain also needs to be able to say:
Don't shoot!
Stop thief!
and best of all:
Those drugs aren't mine!

Yep, it's a glamorous place I'm headed to for my glamorous job. Better pack my nicest holiday sweater.

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