In a clear and total retreat from freaking real life news and craziness, I present ... Sally Draper's cocktail cheat sheet.
Isn't that awesome? It's from a really quite beautiful set of illustrations based on Mad Men by an artist named Dyna Moe. They're all here, and downloadable in all sorts of forms and sizes.
If you're not watching it, it's a beautiful, sad, painful, and often funny show. It's also better than almost anything else I've ever seen at building tension--nearly dread!--out of... nothing in particular, just life. I have found myself very, very anxious while watching this show, and yet it's hard to pinpoint the source of that dread in anything in particular.
Like this image. It's inspired by a tiny little passage in an episode when the daughter of the main character gets to play barmaid. On the one hand, this seems totally familiar to me. I don't think I ever got to mix drinks as a kid, but I do remember loving to hand out cheese and crackers or similar things to guests. I have a memory of sitting in front of the coffee table assembling little stacks of cheese and crackers. Maybe I'm making that up. But, whatever, from that point of view the scene could be totally innocent and whatever. And although it kind of was on the show, it also kind of wasn't. You're never quite sure where you stand with the characters, or more, where the characters stand with each other.
I walked into my seminar yesterday, and all the students were talking about The Simpsons. As I got stuff out of my bag and sat down, they kept talking about episodes they liked. Then someone said "but not those early seasons. They're not that funny."
OK, that's not so bad--a lot of people think that, and I'm not even that big a fan.
"Yeah, but back then people probably thought they were funny."
Back then? BACK THEN??
Yes, I know logically that I am significantly older than my students, and that pop culture marks this obviously. Yes, the show is nearly 20 years old. This means that it has been on for nearly their entire lives. And, yes, childhood is "back then."
And yet, man. The way that came out was like people back then couldn't but be totally different than today's generation.
Anyway, turns out what is possibly my single favorite moment on The Simpsons is on youtube. I don't know why it's my favorite--it's just stuck with me for sheer absurdity.
And for what it's worth, I'm also always a sucker for Broadway take offs:
I only wish I could find the clip of Sideshow bob singing HMS Pinafore.
Which will probably mean nothing to like 90 % of you.
But the other 10 %!!!!
So, I just got back from another screening at the film festival (more on the film later). And who was sitting behind me?
AKA Meldrick Lewis
AKA Gus Haynes
AKA the guy who directed the first couple of episodes of The Wire, which means he set up a lot of the visual language of the show, and who directed the finale of The Wire, which was awesome in many, many ways.
No, I said nothing to him, and no, I took no pictures. He was with a family member, and no one was bothering him, so I felt weird about turning and saying "OH MY GOD!!! I LOVED YOU IN HOMICIDE!!! AND THE WIRE IS THE BEST THING EVER MADE!!!!!" Because I don't think I could be cooool about it.
But, man, that just made my day. I credit the penny I picked up on the way over.
First movie. The official TIFF site describes it like this:
"Ari Folman's animated documentary Waltz with Bashir
is a seminal entry into the canon of war films. Told from the very
personal point of view of Folman himself, it is a ferociously honest
exploration of the reliability of memory and the long-term impacts of
violence on young soldiers."
It is, essentially, the story of Folman's efforts to clarify his memory of his service during the 1982 Invasion of Lebanon/Lebanon War. He has a vivid image of himself and two others floating in the sea at night, seeing flares go up, illuminating a wrecked Beirut, dressing to walk into the city, and turning a corner into a sea of wailing women after the Sabra and Shatila massacre. But the friend he remembers being there with him says it never happened. And so, by talking with friends, former fellow soldiers, psychologists, and one news reporter, he tries to remember what really happened.
The really striking thing about the documentary is its look--it's animated, in a style that is like rotoscoping but isn't, apparently. So we see his conversations with friends, but animated. And we see dreams, hallucinations, and memories. It's often really, really beautiful, in a very odd, spare, graphic novel sort of way.
I looked up various reviews before going to the showing, and one judged the film in part on the following criteria: would anyone care if it weren't animated? But I think that's not even a question worth asking, because the animation seems to me to be the whole point. Certainly there's an element of the film that's about war atrocities and complicity in them, and telling truth to power, and all that. That element particularly seems to take over in the very last moments.
But much more of the film is about the unreliability of memory--how past dreams and reality are mixed together; how single secondary moments become the most vivid and clear parts of an otherwise murky memory (there's a hilarious [and, actually, I thought there was more humor in the film than the audience was willing to laugh at] bit of animated pornography that I think shows this well); and how others' memories color our own, to the point that other stories become our own stories. And the animation is central to the way the film explore those ideas. I don't think they COULD be explored without it.
(Also, someone asked the director "why animation" at the end of the film and he essentially said that he never thought of doing it in any other way... and then noted that, anyway, if it weren't animated it'd just be a bunch of 40 something guys sitting around talking, and who'd want to sit through that?)
My interpretation of the film was perhaps also influenced by an odd triad of things. Before the screening, the director gave a little introduction, in which he noted that in many ways the story could just as easily be a story from Vietnam, or the Soviet war in Afghanistan, or Iraq today. And then one of the TIFF pre-movie ads had a little funny thing about making movies on cell phone cameras and distributing them through youtube. And right before I left for the screening, I watched an episode of Generation Kill, in which one of the marines spends a lot of time videotaping everything he sees, and there's an journalist recording everything he can about this particular small group, and a number of the real marines portrayed in the film ended up working on the production, and in one case even playing himself.
And I thought about one major difference between the various wars Folman referenced and Iraq now--the almost relentless self-documentation that technology and e-technology have brought (like, for example, this blog). And I wondered what that does with memory. Does it better preserve it? Or does it alter it in other ways, by exacerbating the tendency for memories of single moments to overwhelm the whole? Or by bringing in an element of self-censorship, or perhaps more to the point, an already polished literary version of reality?
You know, right? Sitting on the couch for such a long time can really wipe a person out!
And the late hours? C'mon! This is actually the first time I've seen the Olympics in the Eastern time zone, so all this staying up until midnight to see the torch lit thing is seriously tiring.
And then there's the dehydration caused by the crying, since I'm a TOTAL SAP and find myself tearing up at the joyful faces of athletes, or at all those horrible heart-tugging profiles of athletes. And then there are the youtube links I stumble upon.
Like, this. I do not remember that at all, but it totally made me cry. Or this isn't sad, or anything, but, wow was Greg Louganis stunning. I admit, I had a bit of a crush on him in the 80s. Of course, now he's connected in my mind to my least favorite high school teacher (an English teacher who actually almost made me hate reading; his was the only class I ever dreaded attending). After Louganis hit his head in Seoul in 1988, and thus we were all talking about it before class started, the teacher ended the discussion by telling us all in a sort of snide voice "You all know he's gay, don't you?" At the time it made my little high school girl crush fade a little bit, because I hadn't yet realized that since I'm never going to meet anyone famous anyway, their sexuality doesn't actually matter when it comes to crushes. In retrospect, I just think, man, that guy was an ass. Not for talking about homosexuality, of course, just for how he did it--it wasn't meant to spark an open discussion, it was just meant as a way for a self-identified cosmopolitan hipster to shock us poor sheltered bourgeois kids. Anyway.
In my recent youtubing, I've also discovered this, which is AWESOME ON MANY LEVELS. As is the other Patrick Stewart Sesame Street bit that comes up next (though that one actually requires knowledge of Star Trek to make it funny).
And I posted a couple more videos of Ziti.
First, this kind of comes before the one I did a while back of me getting home. He's been getting noisier and noisier even before I come in the door, so... well, here. The volume's fairly low at the start, since you're hearing him meowing through the door.
And then there's this one, of him just being cute, and using his inside voice, for once.
(Incidentally, I think I'm futzing so much with youtube in large part because Russia is freaking me right the hell out. But more on that later, if necessary.)
I've written before about my tendency to be a relatively calm knitter, until I get close to the end of something, when I'll spend hours and hours in a row to finish something.
I've hit that point with another project.
I wrote a while ago about starting the Tangled Yoke Cardigan from last fall's Interweave Knits. I haven't put up any pictures of it, in part because it hasn't been all that exciting to photograph, and in part because I got side tracked with the dyeing and linen cardigan knitting (I've washed and blocked that, incidentally, but am waiting to get buttons to finish off that "story").
But after finishing that cardigan, and while also working on the Voyager stole (which I'm actually thinking I may frog and start over, because I think it could be wider), I picked this up again.
I'd finished the body up to the armholes, and then got bogged down in the sleeves, which are kind of boring to knit. I was knitting them two at a time on one long circular needle, and it just felt like they were taking forever. But I finally finished them by alternating with the somewhat more interesting stole, got them attached to the body, and did the few inches of plain knitting required before starting the interesting part of the sweater--the tangled yoke.
Oh, boy, is this fun. I know there's not much to this yet, but I'm finding the cables a completely fun thing to work on, because there seems like magic involved--you go from a crazy looking chart (there are examples here, but I don't want to put up the actual one I'm using, due to copyright issues) to interesting swoops and shapes emerging from the fabric you've been creating.
So now I am attempting to stop myself from just sitting and finishing the cable section today, since there is actual, you know, work I should be doing.
In other madness related news, last night I actually voted for a contestant on a TV reality show. I KNOW. Crazy! This is possible because of Skype--since I'm in Canada, I couldn't use the phone to call, since So You Think You Can Dance is an American show. But with Skype, all things are possible.
Anyway, I voted for Mark. I just like him. I have since the tiny little bit of a solo he did in the audition rounds (viewable in a not so great version here). He's totally weird, but fun. I think he's likely to go home anyway today, but I don't care. Yes, I have put too much thought into this. I blame summer.
On a more respectable TV-related note, last week I watched all of the British series State of Play, and also had to stop myself from watching it all in one sitting, or from watching just a little bit more during the day. It's a few years old, but just came out on North American DVD earlier this year. Very good stuff. If my Mamma Mia! and SYTYCD fixations haven't destroyed my credibility, go rent it.
I go through a lot of phases of enthusiasm for different things, in all sorts of spheres of life. I wonder, sometimes, if this is in part a side effect of being single--I get to choose my food and entertainment, and thus am only guided by whatever my current enthusiasm is.
Anyway, I tend to go through phases for different breakfasts--I'll eat one cereal for a year, then switch to another one.
Or I go through phases when I very frequently make the same dish. Sometimes it's a matter of expediency, like during graduate school when I went through first a macaroni and cheese phase (made yet simpler when a friend pointed out that you could make it without butter and milk by just saving a little of the pasta boiling water, which gives the cheeze powder a bit of body) and then a scrambled eggs mixed with fresh salsa from Hyde Park Produce (huh... I just googled them to see if they have a website, and they don't, but there's this, which is sort of interesting, too... and going to its current entries reminds me of another phase, the summer in graduate school I spent mostly at Promontory Point, alternating swimming with German homework, after which someone said I looked "tan and rested," which I may never have been since then) eaten over whole wheat toast phase.
In recent years I've been going through a lengthy beet phase. Mostly a roasted beet phase, except for my time in Russia, when the garlicky beet salad was very much in my regular rotation at the cafeteria at the Lenin library.
Much more often, though, I like my beets roasted, in part because they taste good, but also in part because it's fun (and messy) to slip off their skins. They're wonderful with strong flavors like blue cheese, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar.
(As an aside, I'm sort of sad that I haven't found my favorite beet, the chioggia beet, which is the target striped one I've written about before, here in Toronto. I'm sure they must exist somewhere, but where?)
Very recently I've been going through a cauliflower phase. This is surprising, because even though my tastes have broadened considerably over the years, I had somehow managed to maintain the thought that I didn't really like cauliflower, even if there were a couple of individual dishes involving cauliflower I do like. And, honestly, this lasted until this past holiday season, when I actually ate a piece of raw cauliflower and realized that, actually, I do liked cauliflower. So I've been mostly making a bastardized version of aloo gobi, based--yes, seriously--on a dvd extra from Bend it Like Beckham. But with some major differences, based on what I usually have around, and on the fact that I often throw in a can of chickpeas, which means that it becomes... something else.
And for the this past year I've been going through a huge sweet potato "fry" phase. In other words, sweet potatoes (wait, have I already blogged about this? if so, sorry) cut into fry like shapes, tossed with a bit of oil, spread on a baking sheet and put in a fairly hot oven until done. Here, they've then been sprinkled with a bit of fleur de sel and a Penzey's herb mix called "mural of flavors," which is really very good.
I love these so much I'd eat them every day if I weren't worried that that would make me sick to my stomach. But I think they probably would, so I don't.
I'll also go through entertainment-based phases, like when I'll "discover" an author and then read every book that person's written all in a row. This has been more something I've done since leaving Chicago and moving to places with easier to use public libraries (probably it'd now be easier in Chicago, too, but when I left I never went to the Hyde Park branch of the library).
Over the last few years I've tended to go through summer entertainment phases, too, based largely on Netflix, initially. It's something caused by a somewhat more relaxed schedule combined with my desire to knit combined with my desire to be entertained while knitting combined with the lack of anything on TV in the summer combined with TV shows on DVD. I haven't really had that since moving here, in part because I've only been around for partial summers and in part because there is no Netflix here (and the copycat version, though it now has a similar "unlimited" rental plan, also makes you pay if the post office loses a DVD, which I fear is likely to make the service less cost effective for me as a subscriber, so, hmpf).
But remember how I off-handedly mentioned I'd been watching a bunch of Doctor Who while knitting? HOLY CRAP, you guys, I have just spent the last week and a half being completely obsessed with the new Doctor Who, thanks to youtube. I've watched every episode now, plus assorted supplementary behind the scenes videos and the like. No clue. It's got the combination of utter silliness, frequent scariness, and moments of joy and woe that for some reason I find very appealing, in much the same way as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, back in the day.
So, to end, here's the first part of a great episode, which has a bit of the silliness, a LOT of the scariness (but not gross scariness), and a bit of the joy and woe.
Also, for what it's worth, this new obsession (which is likely to pass soon, because there's nothing new to see--the final episode of the season, which played in Britain Saturday evening, was already up on youtube within an hour or so of its ending) does NOT really extend to the show's spin off, Torchwood. That has redeeming moments, but is just not nearly as good, I think in large part because it doesn't have the silly part down as well.
I'm in a complaining mood. Blame a bit of school stress (which, yes, should be done by now, but isn't).
Squirrels! Or, whatever keeps digging in my pots! The battle wages on, ever and eternally, it seems. Let's put it this way--I identified a bit too much with thisNY Times article today.
People who write in library books. Yesterday I wasted half an eraser ridding a university library book of pencil (thankfully) marks so I could photocopy it for a course packet. And still there's a bit of ink in there that annoys. And don't even get me started on the people who feel compelled to correct or otherwise write in public library books. I recently read a humorous novel in which someone had underlined every reference to mental illness, and corrected syntax and grammar (SOMETIMES WITH A QUESTION MARK, like, they weren't even sure of their corrections!) to boot. ARGH.
People who don't pass people turning left. Driving in this city is generally not fun, which is why I don't do very much of it. But what really annoys me are not left turners--I mean, sometimes you've got to turn left, so what can you do?--but the people who pile up behind the left turners instead of passing them, thus really blocking traffic. Granted, sometimes you can't pass, but often... YOU CAN.
My current ISP. My connection speeds have been incredibly erratic recently, and when I've called to try to get things fixed, the tech people have been just as much salespeople trying to get me to upgrade as tech people. I keep telling them that I'm unwilling to spend MORE money with them to upgrade if I don't get a stable connection for a while first. Whatever.
In the meantime, I have apparently become hooked on So You Think You Can Dance. Seriously, some of these people are freaking amazing! Like this guy, who didn't get past the audition round, but who... it's like he has no bones... or like some invisible giant is moving him around. CRAZY.
That's how long it took for someone--damn you, squirrels! or maybe raccoons!--to eat up my newly potted basil and oregano plants.
They left the rosemary alone, which suggests... well, actually, I don't know what it suggests.
I have attempted to retaliate... er... cope... by sprinkling cayenne pepper over everything, since I've read that little city beasties don't much like it. We'll see if that saves the other things I planted from further denuding.
In other news, I am utterly enthralled by the current Masterpiece Theatre (oops, it's just "Masterpiece" now, for whatever marketing reasons) show. I've watched a number of this season's shows, but not all of them. I didn't entirely like a couple of the Jane Austen adaptations, though some were fine. I couldn't cope at all with the new version of A Room with a View. Seriously, the '80s movie is one of my favorite movies, and this just wasn't it. It's odd, actually. I'm not in principle against remaking movies, or new movie/tv versions of old stories. After all, plays get produced over and over again, and they maintain their interest. And I reread novels, too, with different but still general pleasure. But this one... no, the older movie is just too ingrained into my sense of what that story is. The new one just couldn't measure up to not just the older movie, but my longstanding attachment to it.
That sounds a little crazy. Well, there you go.
Anyway, what I wanted to write was that I'm enjoying the current series--Cranford, based on a few novels and short stories (I think) by Elizabeth Gaskell. I have laughed (at admittedly silly, slapstick bits mostly involving gossipy ladies of a certain age and animals) and I have cried. I have no idea where it's going next.
And how about this? At one point I dropped my knitting, so caught up in the story was I. Seriously!
If your PBS station doesn't repeat it, it's streaming on the pbs website (assuming, of course, you're in the US... it's blocked here).
Also, for what it's worth, I am now caught up with and watching Battlestar Galactica. It's... fine. I don't think it's as utterly stupendous as some seem to think it is, but it's good. I do, however, have one major nitpick. How on earth (or rather, on the way to earth) have they not run out of cigarettes? And why is every single ship apparently overheated (in freezing cold SPACE) to the point that everyone sits around in (kind of stupid looking) tank tops and a sheen of sweat? OK, that's two nitpicks. Still.