Wednesday, August 26, 2009

YOU GUYYYYYYS.

Melinda, whose blog you should be reading anyway, was talking with some other people "in the computer" (her words) and decided to throw me an internet shower for my nurptialz. Isn't that the cutest, most awesome, most futuristic thing ever? Please stop by. The guest list is as big as the whole internets.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Oh hai(r).

Many years ago, the wig/makeup designer for an opera I was in recommended saving all of the hair from your hairbrush in order to have an easier time making puffs and buns that match your actual hair. So for awhile, during the years my hair was two feet long, I did that very thing.

Fast forward to today, when I decide that my habit of keeping the original boxes for my shoes is actually pretty worthless and I had better break down and recycle them. I don't currently own any Adidas, so it shouldn't have surprised me that the Adidas box was full of foam rollers, Motown silky (including my Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman braid and my beribboned Frida Kahlo braid), and a ZIPLOC BAGGIE OF MY OWN HAIR.

So what to do now? Throw it away, or make a creepy little pillow? (It's too tangled to make Victorian hair jewelry.) Blech.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oh hai.

I guess "regularly scheduled programming" means "blogging like every two weeks or whatever." I'm getting married in a month but I can't even really use that as an excuse. I mean, things have occasionally gotten heavy recently as we grope toward a shared vision of married life and discuss WHAT IT ALL MEANS, but it's not like I've chosen to be swamped by planning and busyness. I still don't know what I'm wearing, if you must know.

To kick off my blogging re-entry, here are some weird things I saw this morning.

1. The bus stop bench was a Wells Fargo ad that said "talk to a banker," but someone had crossed out the last word and sharpied "WANKER" over the top, which I loved. There was also a dinosaur saying "RAR" chasing the Wells Fargo wagon.

2. Two cracker-style breadsticks were laid neatly into the window well next to my seat on the bus.

3. The big awning/entryway thingie over the front door of my credit union (which I passed on the bus) had a Razor-type scooter nestled on top of it, like someone had chucked it up there. Or maybe yesterday's tornado deposited it there without damaging anything or leaving any other evidence behind.

Here's another list. This one is about deliciousness.

1. Tofu ranchero and vegan cornbread on the co-op's hot food bar this morning. Hell yes.

2. R.W. Knudsen's Spritzer Ginger Ale. It's just apple and grape juice, ginger, and fizzy water, and it is totally ginger ale. I've been experimentally off sugar for like 2.5 weeks, and this was a bonus discovery. Not that fruit juice isn't full of its own sugars, but the point is that nothing is added.

3. This is more about anticipating deliciousness: we have a tomato plant in the backyard that is buck wild. Like, it grows about 3 feet every day. It has completely overwhelmed the herbs planted nearby, to the point that I have transplanted the basil and may need to transplant the sage. But damn, none of the tomatoes on the plant have ripened yet. HURRY UP TOMATOES.

Okay, there was one wedding thing that took up a bunch of time and I can share that with you. I gocco printed all of my invitations, reply cards, and envelopes. It's a smallish wedding, so it wasn't an overwhelming amount of printing, but I still managed to destroy about 5 screens in my quest to get fairly clean and appropriately sized prints. Gocco is a bit infuriating because when everything works perfectly, it's a breeeeeze to print jillions of copies. But if your master comes out flawed, there's nothing you can do but burn a new screen. And if you're mixing ink colors, the potential for making a big fucking mess is high. And what is up with the carcinogen-coated lightbulbs? Anyway, I got the job done after several nights, but my internal jury is out on how much I love my gocco printer. I would say we have a complicated relationship.

As I mentioned above, there was a tornado in south Minneapolis yesterday, which is weird. It's awful for the people whose stuff was destroyed/blown away, but I haven't heard about a single injury yet. It touched down about 3 miles away from where I live while I was at work ensconced in a building where you can't hear the sirens and they don't tell you to take cover. I got home and there wasn't even a branch out of place on my street, though there are plenty of pictures of uprooted trees and lifted sidewalks on the internets. How did you Twin Citians fare?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Last but not least: England.

Practically the first thing we did in England was go see the Blur concert in Hyde Park.

The stage.

We were debating the merits of this outing practically until the last minute: we'd only been in the country a little over 24 hours and there were many ways in which getting to and from the concert could have been a clusterfucktastrophe. But as with everything else on our vacation, forces of benevolence smiled down upon our transportation issues. The trains were empty, we weren't crushed by raging fans, we easily found the toilets with the shortest lines, and the beer was fairly cheap.

Also, the concert was super fun.
Big mouth.

I've written about this before, but one of my favorite things about live music is the overwhelming surge of goodwill you get standing in the middle of a crowd composed entirely of people who are fixated on the same excellent project. It is crowd mentality at its best. So add this to perfect summer weather (in London, of all places) and an iconic band reuniting to play, essentially, a greatest hits show, and you get joy joy joy. You can't help it: everyone's singing along and pogo-dancing; no one's pushing you or fighting. Plus, if you're like me, you discover that you know 75% percent of the songs even if you pretty much missed the band in its heyday because you were very busy learning about the canon of Western art music. This is a bonus.

This video may make you motion sick, but it pretty much shows what I'm talking about:


We scooted out as they were playing encores, bought some sandwiches, and got the train home. Now would be a good time to point out a way in which England is way ahead of the US: there are delicious, inexpensive, ready-made sandwiches everywhere you go. They are cut in half diagonally, which is very important, and packaged in cute triangular boxes (like the crappy gas-station sandwiches in the US). I can't remember whether there are vegan offerings, but there are veggie offerings a-plenty. It is totally time for the US to catch up.

A day later, we went to Norfolk for the weekend.

Horses.

The Brit's dad and his (dad's) wife have a weekend cottage in a little town up there, 45 minutes or so from the North Sea. It is tiny, slow, relaxing, picturesque--all the things you want from a weekend retreat. The pub is about 12 steps from the front door. There are ruins of a priory and a castle. There are ivy-covered battle ditches and community garden plots that cost 6 pounds a year. There are cats prowling around at twilight who cannot help coming over to say hello. There are horses in the field, obviously.

It's a very flat part of the country, where all of the buildings are made of brick framing mortared flint. I pocketed a lot of flint when we were out walking around.

Mortared flint.
Part of the castle.

Priory ruin.
The priory.

Priory ruin.
The front of the priory.

Butterfly, inside the prior's rooms.
Inside the prior's private rooms.

Despite the whole relaxing vibe and in keeping with the rest of our vacation, we actually did a lot of stuff while we were there. We walked through little seaside towns.

Wells at sunset.

We went on a boat tour to ogle some seals, congregated on the beach like fat bananas.

Fat bananas.

We looked at the sea.

North Sea.

Then we went to Holkham Beach and looked at a different part of the sea. I also walked in it. The Brit's shoes were too complicated to take off.

I may have over-saturated.

The weather continued to be excellent, as you can see. Our second trip to London and our quick trip to Cambridge were both a little rain-soaked, unfortunately. But we did see an excellent Darwin-related art exhibit at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, and a less exciting Henry VIII thing at the National Portrait Gallery. Personally, I was more excited by this portrait of Harold Pinter by Justin Mortimer and this portrait of Germaine Greer by Paula Rego. Seeing the Julian Opie Blur portraits was pretty cool, too, and also germane (germaine!) to our trip. Same with the portrait of the Harry Potter kids, but that image isn't on the web.

Really, the only bummer thing about the England legs of the trip (i.e., before and after Italy) was not hanging out at home enough. The Brit's mum and stepdad were always making us breakfast and then driving us to some station or other so we could pop off to our next thing. But there will be other visits!

And now, back to my regularly scheduled programming. To kick it off: this morning, I was trimming my hair (as I do pretty much constantly). I grabbed what I thought were the thinning shears and applied them to a huge hank of hair on the side of my head. The huge hank of hair fell into the sink, and I immediately realized I was slicing with regular scissors, and I felt like a 5 year old who has just cut her own bangs. Fortunately, the shorn hank blends in okay. As you were.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Malalai Joya.

I've been using Facebook and Google Reader to share all of my internetual readings lately, but I want as many people as possible to read about Malalai Joya:
The story of Malalai Joya turns everything we have been told about Afghanistan inside out. In the official rhetoric, she is what we have been fighting for. Here is a young Afghan woman who set up a secret underground school for girls under the Taliban and – when they were toppled – cast off the burka, ran for parliament, and took on the religious fundamentalists.

But she says: "Dust has been thrown into the eyes of the world by your governments. You have not been told the truth. The situation now is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban for women. Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords. [That is] what your soldiers are dying for." Instead of being liberated, she is on the brink of being killed.
The whole story is here, in The Independent.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Piazza, Pizza, Pisa.

Well now the recapping is getting a bit ridiculous because it's been, what, 3 weeks since we got home? It's a personal goal to crank this one out quickly so that I can mow the lawn and sweep the walk before yoga class: it's National Night Out and we don't want to look like messy, unwelcoming neighbors, do we? I also need to take some pictures of Alice, my new vintage dress form, modeling some of the dresses I can't possibly squeeze into so that I can list them in my shop and hopefully get them out of the house.

Anyway, before I recap England, there's one bit of Italy left to describe: Pisa.

Leaning tower.

All of Italy was an adventure, but Pisa was an extra adventure because of the train strike, because of traveling without an Italian speaker, and because we had like 8 hours to kill until we needed to find our way to the airport. We paid 6 Euro to check our backpacks at the train station--well, well worth it--and just walked into the city instead of getting on the bus. It's not like it's a huge metropolis. You basically point yourself in the direction of the Piazza dei Miracoli and go.

Arno.
The Arno, one of Italy's major rivers, runs through Pisa.

It was Sunday afternoon and everything was extremely closed and quiet as we walked through town. Of course, once we got close to the Torre, there was the explosion of tourist activity you might expect: hordes of digital photographers, acres of tent stalls hawking cheap plastic tower paraphernalia, scads of cafe-bars happy to charge you extra to sit outside with your $8 beer. Still, we were pleasantly surprised at how photogenic Pisa was, and how much there was to see. You probably don't need more than a day there, and you'd be hard pressed to find good food, but if the weather is perfect, you can just walk and walk and feast your eyes. I especially enjoyed the bicycle porn. I don't mean that there was a lot of really sweet equipment rolling around the streets of Pisa. I mean that people ride ratty, sturdy, rusty steeds with chainguards and skirt guards and big baskets, not a bike helmet in sight.

Bike p0rn.

More Italian city bike action.

Bikes!

So. We ate some truly mediocre food, walked over to the tower, bought tickets to go inside the Duomo and Baptistry, and took a crapload of pictures. The coolest thing about all the buildings in that piazza, as far as I'm concerned, was the evidence of old-school recycling in the construction of the Duomo:

If you zoom, you can see all the repurposed blocks.

If you look closely, you can see a bunch of repurposed ancient blocks: some ornate, some inscribed, lots of different sizes all cobbled together. The Duomo itself was probably also my favorite church that we visited, and we visited a lot of them. You kind of can't help it in Italy, and you very quickly max out on multicolored marble and gold leaf.

Duomo facade.
Duomo

This was also, incidentally, the most grass we saw anywhere in Italy. Italians seem to like their piazzas paved and their decorative gardens equally paved and contained. There's not a big impulse toward public green space. I'm not a huge fan of grass myself (or, at least, lawn culture), but we happily stretched out in the grass next to the Duomo to chillax.

Colors.
The only significance here is that I like the colors, and paid 30 cents to use the bathroom in the orange building.

Trying to get to the airport was the most confusing part of the day--you would think there'd be a big ass sign that says "this bus goes to the airport" or lots of taxis vying for your custom during a train strike, but no. Still, we found our way there without too much trouble and had another uneventful flight on Ryanair. I'm glad I went into those flights expecting the worst. If you fly Ryanair, remember two things: 1. It is totally worth it to pay the 3 quid or Euro for priority boarding, because a surprisingly small number of people bother with this. 2. They open the back doors of the plane as well, at least for boarding, so zip to the back door and avoid the big line at the front. Also, wear earplugs. The sales announcements are ongoing throughout the flight, and loud.

Santa Maria della Spina.
Santa Maria della Spina.

I think I want to go to Switzerland next. I mean, I haven't been many places in Europe, so really I'll be happy to go anywhere, but I saw a travel show about Brienz and Interlaken and getting from place to place via cable car (might have to sedate the Brit for that), and I made a little note of it. Watch out, Europe: we're totally getting neutral on your ass.