Friday, September 5, 2008

Me likee the shinee!

I'm thinking I might have been a magpie in a prior life; if something is brightly colored and shiny/sparkly, I can't resist it. It's a good thing I'm not a fish, or I would've been caught by some shiny lure long ago. I'm particularly attracted to brightly colored fabrics; maybe it's a residue of living through the 70s, or maybe it's just because it's so rare to find nice jewel-toned clothing (especially emerald or amethyst) in the stores. Those colors only come into season every few years, while boring pastels that make me look anemic are available all the time.

I have the worst time resisting the shiny when I go to the fabric store. I can headed there for something small, like thread, or quilt batting, and I have trouble focusing. It's not really my fault; I have to walk past all the fabric to get to the notions, and I have coupons. My brain does something like this:

Just look for batting ... boring white fuzzy batting ... Oooo! Shinee! ... Don't look at the shiny ... Just go to the back ... But, BLUE shinee! ... No, we have plenty of fabric already, we don't need more ... Smooth shinee! ... We have enough shirts ... But me likee the shinee! Shinee! SHINEEEEEE!

And before I can get a few steps into the store, I'm stopping to look at more fabric. And rationalizing that patterns are on sale for $1.99, and I don't have anything short sleeved and blue, and ... I end up with this:

look, even the buttons are shinee!

So, the first step in combatting an addiction is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I admit it: Me likee the shinee.

Unfortunately, I still have to go to the fabric store today for interfacing ...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Boobie chicken!

I like to cook, which is a good thing, because I live with two males who really like to eat. (I also like to bake, which is a bad thing, because I really like to eat.) Unfortunately, I get conflicting directives from my hungry males. Boy would prefer to eat the same four things every week if he could get away with it. The Spousal Unit (heretofore known as "TSU") likes to try new things. I refuse to make two separate meals, but I'm willing to leave off sauce off half of a recipe to placate Boy. (If I leave it on, he'll just scrape it off, and this way there's more sauce for me.)

I've been feeling sorry for Boy this week, though. Not only does he have to get up before 6 am to get ready for his 6:30 bus (and I'm sure feeling the same pain), he's got marching band for three hours after school. Tuesday was only a half day of school, so there was almost six hours of band practice, most of it outdoors in 90-degree heat. So I was feeling sympathetic, and asked him yesterday what I should make for dinner. My only requirement was that it use chicken, and not be "Chicken Stuff," a recipe he really likes but TSU finds bland. "Make that chicken with the cheese on it," he replied.

I puzzled over that for a minute. He was referring to a recipe I'd tried a couple of times that bakes chicken, topped by a thin slice of Canadian bacon and mozzarella. It's okay, but I found it overly salty for my taste. So I thought I'd experiment. I adapted a recipe I have for breaded chicken, and I thought I could put cheese slices on Boy's portion, and goat cheese and fresh tomatoes on the grownup's portions. (I looooove goat cheese, and baked with tomatoes is one of my favorite variations.)

So I had the chicken baking in the oven while I rooted around in the fridge for the cheesy toppings. Slices of Swiss, no problem. Goat's cheese? Major problem. I knew I had some, but I forgot it had been opened. Now it was not so much goat's cheese as penicillin-producing science experiment. Fine, I could adapt. I had more Swiss slices, or, to make things more interesting, I used pepper jack. I took my cherry tomatoes, sliced them in half, placed a couple on each chicken tenderloin, and topped it with the cheese before returning it to the oven for a few minutes. The result tasted pretty good. (Although not as good as it would have with the goat's cheese. Sigh.) Its appearance, however, was a little bit peculiar:

And so I have invented "Boobie Chicken"! Let me know if you want the recipe.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I love to ride my bicycle...

... I love to ride my bike! I love to ride my bicycle, I love to ride it where I like! (Thanks to the immortal Freddie Mercury.)

My favorite place to ride my bicycle is the Canton Public Library, which is not only a great library, it actually has a bike rack where I can park and lock my bike. You'd think with all the emphasis lately on healthy lifestyles, reducing fuel use, and saving the planet, that there would be more encouragement for people who want to ride bikes or walk to various public facilities and shops in Canton. After all, it's not a huge, sprawling metropolis. Most everything you could want is off a two-mile stretch of Ford Road; a few things might be a mile north or south, but there are many destinations within a quick bike ride. The bank? Less than a mile away. The bookstore? A little over a mile (and thank goodness we finally have one!). The post office? About a mile. The craft store? About a half mile. I've even ridden my bike to visit the doctor's office, about two miles away. But do any of those places have a bike rack where a conscientious, bike-loving shopper could park their bike? Noooooo.

It makes me quite cranky. Strip malls are the worst offenders, because not only do they not have bike racks, the building supports are too big for my chain lock to fit around. I've had to resort to locking my bike around trees or parking signs. (Actually, I take a perverse pleasure in locking my bike to a "No Parking" sign.) This doesn't always work very well, especially if the only signs are in the middle of the parking lot, or if the tree is on unstable landscaping that makes my bike keep tipping over. I can't image a bike rack is that expensive of an investment for strip mall management, and I keep asking every time I ride my bike to a shop, and I keep being disappointed. (Actually, I'm not being entirely fair. Meijer and Target do have bike racks, but I don't shop there that often.) Then there's dealing with drivers who don't understand the concept of crosswalks (they're not for you, dolts!), and construction that blocks the sidewalks (I don't ride on roads with 45 mph speed limits).

And don't get me started on pedestrian impediments. (But then, why not. I'm in full rant mode. Blame the ridiculous 7 am starting time for high school.) There is a strip mall not two blocks from my house. If it was a straight line, it would only be about nine houses away from me. It's got a whole neighborhood that backs onto it. I frequently walk there to pick up pizza, or visit the video store, or pick up the dry cleaning, as could literally hundreds of residents within a two block radius. And yet, there is no pedestrian entry into the strip mall! For me to pick up my pizza, I have to either enter the driveway, or cross the berm and then the parking lot. I'm just flabbergasted that no one during the design process, not the builder, or the township planners, stopped to say, "Hey, maybe people will want to walk into this place. Maybe we should build a sidewalk or crosswalk."

Grrrr. I think I need another bike ride today just to calm down.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Battleship Potemkin: The Official Haiku Review

As I mentioned in my last Haiku Review, I was going to put my Remedial Literature Project aside in favor of a course of film study. For one, it takes less time to watch a movie than read a book. And I have to admit that there are quite a few classic movies I've never seen, although I consider myself a film buff. At first, I considered going with the American Film Institute's list of top 100 movies. After all, I looked at their top 10:

1. Citizen Kane (1941)
2. The Godfather (1972)
3. Casablanca (1942)
4. Raging Bull (1980)
5. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
6. Gone with the Wind (1939)
7. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
8. Schindler's List (1993)
9. Vertigo (1958)
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

and saw that I'd missed at least three of them.* But the AFI's list covers only American movies, and has an emphasis on "cultural significance" (ie, popularity) that means that they included a film like Forrest Gump, which I consider more gimmick than story, in their top 100. Blech. Besides, I wanted to include foreign films, because as I was browsing through music videos to put in my blog last month, I saw one that was inspired by Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, which I've never seen. I've never seen any Bergman film, for that matter. Or one by Kurosawa. Or Renoir. Or Fellini ... You get the idea. I've heard of them, seen clips (enough to know when a music video is inspired by a director), but never sat through one of their films.

Then I saw that Ann Arbor's Michigan Theater was showing the 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin, complete with live organ accompaniment. I've always wanted to see a silent film with live accompaniment, and Battleship Potemkin has ranked in every Sight & Sound critics' all-time top-ten poll since 1952.** The family was game, so we toodled off to Ann Arbor over the weekend. Here is my Official Haiku Review:

The collective whole
Exceeds the sum of its parts—
So the film frames say

Now at heart Battleship Potemkin is a propaganda film, designed to inspire socialist revolution by telling the story of a 1905 naval mutiny. It is also, however, a groundbreaking work for its use of editing and montage cuts. The director, Sergei Eisenstein, believed he could heighten the viewer's emotional reaction by switching between shots of different kinds (a closeup of a face, say, then a long shot of troops, then another closeup of a face, this time with glasses pierced by a bullet). This works to great effect in the Odessa steps sequence, where he shows Tsarist troops massacring the local people, who are rallying in support of the Potemkin. (There are literally thousands of extras in this sequence. Must be nice to have government support of your art.) The scene where a baby goes careening down the steps after his mother is murdered and knocks his carriage over has been imitated countless times.

Watching this film over 80 years after it was made, I could see how could inspire emotions in its viewers. First of all, when you watch a silent film, you really have to watch the film. No looking away, or you might miss something and not be able to figure out what's going on. The use of live music also enhanced the experience; Michigan Theater's organist did a fabulous job of performing the score (over an hour straight with no break!), using martial themes and even sound effects to support the images. So I could see why the film was censored and even banned in many places (even as late as the 1970s).

Still, it is clearly a propaganda film. Every character was clearly black or white (or Red), with no shades of grey. The film ends on a high note which felt false to me as a modern viewer. (The Potemkin was allowed to pass through the Russian fleet without incident, which really happened; later, however, the crew was forced to abandon the ship and was returned to Russia for prosecution.) So as an audio-visual experience, the film worked very well; as story, not so much. Still, now I can stick my nose in the air and say I've actually seen this very important and influential foreign film.

* Bonus if you can guess which three. It could be four, but I can't remember if I've actually seen Singin' in the Rain, or just parts of it.
** The S&S poll, sponsored by the British Film Institute, is widely recognized as the most authoritative in the world. At least Roger Ebert says so, and who am I to argue with the original thumbs' up(TM) guy?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Photo of the Week--8/25/08

Another photo which proves a picture is worth a thousand words. In October 1999 my husband had a business meeting in Switzerland, so we tagged along for a long weekend. We spent most of our time in Lucerne, in the center of the country. It's located along Lake Lucerne and nestled among the Swiss Alps, so it's a prime tourist destination. We took a steam engine across the lake, then an incline railway (something that enchanted Boy at the time) to the top of Mt. Pilatus (7000 ft), and a cable car back down to the city. Here is the view from atop Mt. Pilatus. It wasn't a very sunny day, but you can still get a sense of the Alps' majesty, as well as the beauty of Lake Lucerne.