Monday, December 19

among other small beauties

a Monday. the first Monday of winter break, post-finals-week.

everything seems quite disorganized. I should be writing, revising, Librivoxing. my to-do list is a frayed tangle, pulling me in a dozen unproductive directions.

I should be writing. drafting a proposal for this and thinking of ideas to submit to an edited collection, prepping course materials for next semester's class-- English 203: Introduction to Research for Professional Writing. I have articles to finish for submission to this journal and maybe that journal.

and I should be finding time to listen to sections of this audiobook and this backlog of podcast episodes. I want to be reading and recording sections of this collection about libraries, and then the narrator's liens for this play, and eventually all of this (except probably not the footnotes).

and then when am I going to stretch out in a warm, quiet room to read or finishing reading Les Miserables, which I got for Christmas at least two Christmases ago, and The Myth of Sisyphus, which I'm still in the middle of, and How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis?

when when when?

I'm feeling paralyzed by it all, and hence this frenzied blogpost. a selfish little piece of writing that I can get done in half an hour or so, and not stress very much about.

earlier today, browsing the pretty social media land of snapshots that is Instagram, I scrolled onto this simple, homey little image from knitting expert Bonnie Sennott. seeing it-- this beautifully neat, orderly, hand-made piece of art, part of a series she's been working on all year, stitch by stitch, day by day--made me so out-of-nowhere happy. I was so deeply sloshingly at-sea happy for a moment, to glimpse that careful, beautiful thing from inside my tangle of unorganized, unmotivated, unfinishedness.

my tangles of writing and reading and listening will take some time and some dancing with entropy. I'll get somewhere with it all, little by little, day by day.

Wednesday, November 30


I've been planning this all month long (but still managed to wait til almost midnight to write the actual review here)-- it is a simple ode to my lovely sister Marianne and her lovely soap business. 

today is the last day of my review-writing, and also sister's birthday! it also happens to be the day on which Oscar Wilde died, way back in 1900, but that is only relevant in a sideways jokey sort of not-really way. 

dear sister started her Etsy soap shop a year or so ago. I still remember eagerly ordering a few bars in the name of being supportive family-member. and I still remember getting my hands on an orange-scented bar that had my shower suddenly smelling so delicious and orangey I couldn't believe it.

I have loved this soap ever since. especially the orange-scented stuff. 

I have borrowed a few beautiful, beautiful photos from the Pebble Bay Soaps instagram feed. the soap Marianne makes is not only awesome soap, it is practically art.

the shop also has a facebook page. every so often she'll post discounts and giveaways and free samples and such there.

not every scent in her catalogue is my favourite, but most of the ones I've tried are really good.

and the bath bombs! I don't often take full baths, but when I have time to do so, these bath bombs are a great excuse for it. they smell magnificent, and they make your skin feel all smooth and wonderful.

I still want to try the salt scrubs sometime. that'll be my next "supportive family-member" purchase, probably.

so happy birthday to my sister, and happy end-of-November to everyone else.

Tuesday, November 29

from machine, toward what?

most people who know me know I get incredibly picky about movies. it is an awful snobbishness, an unshakeable sensitivity to predictable tropes and shallow sappy mush. in my silly opinion, most films are tolerable, a few are worth having seen but not much else, and a few are utter wastes of time. and a very, very few are masterful, provocative constructions that I'd definitely watch multiple times in order to get the most out of them that can possibly be gotten.

my list of movies I find significant fault with is pretty long. much of the time it's endings-- they're too neat, or too pathetic, or too conventional. I'm incredibly picky about endings of things.

my list of movies I hate is short, and my list of movies I love is somewhere in the middle. former favourites or near-favourites have included The Princess Bride, the BBC's Pride and Prejudice, A Beautiful MindFight Club, Seven Pounds. maybe Inception.

I went to see Ex Machina pretty much on a whim. because I'm so dreadfully picky about films, I don't often bother with seeing things in theatres. but friend Eric had mentioned he was going; I idly looked up the trailer and decided to tag along. I'd done the same with various other films friend Eric and/or friend Sam planned to see. Guardians of the Galaxy was alright. Mr. Holmes was alright.

Ex Machina was astonishingly good. magnificently astonishing.

{ borrowed from this kind soul on Flickr }

it had all the thought-provoking subtlety that I demand of a good film, along with great art and believable/relatable characters, and nothing at all slow or boring or in-the-way of the story. the settings and sequences carry such spotlessness and shine

the ending spun to a stop with a thrilling momentum, yet at the same time with all the delicate, delicious unpredictability I could ever want.

writing about it now, I'm reminded a little of the way Seven Pounds winds back on itself with its puzzling pieces of morbid evidence. but Ex Machina only barely leaves room for us to recognize our own disbelief or suspense--by the time its beautiful twists were unfolding I just had to let them wash over me and my expectations like an avalanche of something wide-open different, ambiguous and unsettling.

I immediately wanted to see it again. in the dark of that theater, gaping, speechless, I just wanted to start all over and keep thinking about the story and the future and the brilliant composition of words-pictures-acting I'd just seen.

if you haven't seen it yet, I'll watch it with you. just name the weekend.

here are a few miscellaneous and relatively unimportant footnotes, for anyone interested in reading more about Amelia's new very favourite film:
summary and info from the production studio
other films from the same studio, some of which I should find and watch to see if I enjoy them as much as I did this one.
some words on the fancy, remote, Scandinavian locations

Monday, November 28

if you ever are in Houston...

occasionally I still get emails from a little caribbean fusion restaurant in Houston, Texas. I haven't unsubscribed from those yet, for some reason. possibly it's because the owners were so gloriously nice to me last year when I was planning the reunion for our Purdue Rhetoric & Composition program. Heidi, the woman I spoke to about organizing our event at Calabash Island Eats, was the epitome of loveliness and accommodation. her venue was likewise lovely, and all the attendees at our reunion last spring seemed to enjoy the evening very much. the restaurant was close to the convention center, the weather and the space were as comfortable as anyone could imagine, there was plenty of food and drink, and we didn't go too much over our little budget.

just today (around 6pm EST, 3pm PST) I started calling around to potential reunion venues in Portland, Oregon. thanks (endless thanks!) to friend Ellery and his sister Bethany--both charming Portlanders--I had a great list of recommendations to work with. I'm slowly winnowing out the places that are too far from next year's convention center, places that look too small, places that don't seem to do private bookings, places that want more money than we can spend, and so on. there are 5 venues left on my potential venue list so far...

so this process is reminding me of all the phonecalls I made last year. all the harried restaurant managers and hospitality professionals who promised to call me back and didn't, or who never answered my emails, or who scoffed that I had waited until November to book this Wednesday night thing for April. Heidi at Calabash did none of those things, and made my job a thousand times less stressful. if you are ever in Houston, it is a place worth checking out.

Sunday, November 27

verrückt Zusammengehörigkeit

most of these are old sketches.

imperfectly photographed for reproduction on this little blog.

in case your German is beyond rusty, verrückt means "crazy" and zusammen means "together."

die Wort Zusammengehörigkeit ist mein Lieblingswort auf Deutsch.

I drew this scribbly sky over snow just the other week though, while I listened to Ron Chernow talk.

maybe I will copy it and make a Christmas card or two. it won't be anything like the old days of bespoke Christmas-card-making, but it might be okay anyway. 

Saturday, November 26

things I liked about Stranger Things

everyone was talking about this Netflix series Stranger Things a few months ago. I'm not sure if it was the things that were being said or the people who were saying them that made me slightly less skeptical than usual of all the hype. actually, now that I think about it it was the gifs and screenshots that may have made the difference. especially Barb. she simply intrigued me.

anyway, over fall break Patti and I watched it while we knitted. I was prepared for creepy-ness and nostalgia. there was a good amount of both, but thankfully not so much of either that it felt over-saturated. the suspense and monsters were not too gory, heavy-handed, or in-anyone's-face. all the 80s-movies references were subtle enough to not feel stupid.

it lived up to some of the hype, but not all of it. there were plot holes and unexplained bits, and I was quite disappointed by the way things ended for our mysterious heroine. others have written more attentive, more detailed things about the show's treatment of its female characters and on the show's manic-pixie-dream-girl-itis.

those things I didn't like are pretty major. but the rest of my review here is gonna be a list of things I did like. here we go:

- there are only 8 episodes. short is good.

- all the characters we got to follow added variety--the kids had a plot, the teenagers had a plot, the grown-ups had a plot. and all the plots came together eventually, balanced nicely.

- it's set in rural Indiana, and I had fun recognizing the symbol from the Indiana flag on the police officers' sleeves.

- the overall vibe was well done, all chill, shadowy, autumnal, balancing haunted and homey. at times it felt more like a fairytale than an 80s-themed sci-fi suspense thing.

it was worth watching, and I have no regrets. thanks for watching it with me, friend Patti. 

other friends who may not have seen it yet: you'll probably like it too. 

Friday, November 25


during fall break in October, Patti introduced me to the woman who spins the yarn that Patti so often sends me.  

we both ended up buying more yarn that day. 

I got two skeins of what the maker called Jupiter-Capricorn, if I remember correctly. it's a dark-pink, grey-blue, mottled handspun mix of Cashmire, Angora, Wool, Alpaca, and Silk.

I knitted a scarf out of it, just finished yesterday. 

it's not the softest, but it has lovely character. 

Thursday, November 24

favourite pie crust

on a very smudgy half-sheet of paper (pictured below) that usually lives in my yellow folder of recipes, I have scribbled:
mum's pie crust 
1 cup butter or shortening
1 teaspoon salt
2½ cups flour
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vinegar
½ cup cold water
there are no instructions listed, because I know to cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients, then add the beaten egg and the cold liquid. mix it all just enough, then wrap it up to chill in the fridge for a night. or 30 minutes. or something like that.

and then of course you roll it out on a floured surface, and make pies. pies with flaky, golden, lovely crusts.

these are apple. we also made two sweet-potato pies. they'll be our breakfasts for days, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 23

the slayer

let us retro-actively and without too much thinking about it blame my gaggle of younger siblings for monopolizing the television back when Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on. we could also blame my tendency to read instead of watch television. or we could blame my obsession with Xena: Warrior Princess. maybe that distracted me from this other female action heroine. who knows.

anyway, I hadn't ever seen any of this Joss Whedon show until one February evening in 2013, at my very first academic conference (this one, at which I presented something about food photography on Pinterest), some of the conference organizers set up a double-header showing of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (which I had seen already at that point, and knew I would enjoy) and the musical episode of Buffy (which I knew nothing at all about ended up enjoying, more or less).

for years, people have been telling me to watch Buffy.

for years, that musical episode was the only shred of it I'd ever laid eyes on.

last July, friend Chris and I had this conversation:
me: what should i blog about?
Chris: buffy the vampire slayer.
because i watched some and i've had the theme tune in my head all day
look, friend Chris! I am blogging about Buffy, at last, 16 months later. heh. the theme tune is in my head sometimes. my brain always confuses it with this Offspring song.

a few months after that July conversation, Chris and I were discussing another of Joss Whedon's television creations, Dollhouse (which I quite liked, and characterized at the time as "sufficiently thoughtprovoking inbetween excuses-for-drama-and-excitement-and-fighting"). I recommended Dollhouse to Chris, and he took another chance to recommend Buffy to me.
Chris: you should watch buffy
me: yeah... i probably should. but will it seem way weirdly dated now?
Chris: it's seven seasons. but nobody says you have to watch them all
it is very nineties, but it also holds up very well, i think
it helps that looking a bit trashy and b-movie is a deliberate part of it
first season is okay and dumb and obvious with the teenage allegories
along with the rest of his persuasions, Chris added, "also, you liked some of joss whedon's other stuff and i'm pretty sure this is his best." now that I've watched three seasons, I don't know that I'd agree about Buffy being his best work. but I do get the overall appeal. Buffy's main characters are so unique and charming, and it does hold up pretty well for a nineties show.

fiance Jeremiah have been making our way through it a few episodes at a time. he has seen it all before, and so far he is putting up with the interruptions of my knee-jerk reactions and snarky commentary pretty well. we just finished season 3, at the end of which the whole of Sunnydale High School comes together (huzzah!) to defeat the quirky, semi-cruel, semi-bumbling villain. they survive not only all the bloodthirsty, supernatural insanity of the unfortunate town they live in, but also the terrible ups and downs of high school. how warm-fuzzy and amusing, eh?

I shall not gush unreservedly about this series, though. I do like it, and want to keep watching, but I must confess that Angel, Buffy's non-sparkly but incredibly brooding, shadowy, vampire-with-a-soul   love-interest, annoys me quite beyond my ability to explain. his character is so barely-there, so moody and vague and pointless for most of these early seasons. and friend Chris agrees with me, to some degree, that "he's a very boring twilight-y character-- two hundred years old and skulking around schoolgirls." I keep waiting for him to leave the show for good, but he probably never will. such back-and-forth heartbreaky drama and silliness. I know he pre-dates Ms. Stephanie Meyer's creations, but still. it is impossible not to see Angel and Edward as practically interchangeable.

with that exception, everyone else in the Buffy universe is at least tolerable, at best fascinating. Willow is my favourite and I am jealous of her adorable face and rockstar hair. Jenny Calendar was really cool. Spike and Drusilla make an interesting duet of villainy in season 2. I appreciate her insanity and randomness much more than I do Spike's British bravado. and thankfully, the ensemble of sidekicks rarely disappoints-- Giles and Xander and Cordelia and Oz and Faith and all of them. there is plenty of depth to the story arcs, even when they seem hokey. that's what Joss Whedon is good at, it seems-- embracing and embellishing one set of tropes while at the same time subtly subverting and skewing another set into something new.

we'll see what the next four seasons bring. 

Tuesday, November 22

the best thai food

across the road and down the hill from campus, there is a tiny Thai restaurant tucked into a strip mall: Basil Thai. there are mirrors on the walls to make the narrow little dining space feel less cramped.

their menu is full of photographs, and footnotes explaining which dishes are spicy, which dishes are vegetarian.

everything I've had there has been absolutely wonderful. curry. soup. pad Thai. tofu and veggies.

it's a restaurant I crave going to, but don't indulge in going to as often as I could, given that it is just down the hill and across the road.