Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hi Ho Daddy Oh !!

Love this song and the video is even better!! If only we could all run around Mexican grocery stores dressed as greasers and boogie our asses off with strangers unselfconsciously in the midday.
Make sure you watch it until the end.

On the subject of dancing awesomeness... My two favorite dances of all time are the Charleston and the Jitterbug, neither of which I know how to dance. No matter how much I practice the Charleston I simply can't get my foot to twist pigeon-toed and go behind and then in front--I need my brain to shut down because it perceives this move as unnatural and I simply can't do it! Maybe the secret is drinking a few French 75s and dressing like a flapper, a theory I have yet to test.

My other favorite dance and favorite version (because it is from I Love Lucy):

In conclusion: We should bring dancing back as a kickass pastime. Now please.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mit loft er for højt

This one goes out to Rolf, the kook who was my Grandfather's Norwegian cousin (we always just called him my Great Uncle). 

I just found out two evening ago that he had passed away and it was honestly a shock because he was so full of life!! I stayed with him and his wife the summer after I graduated high school and it was one of the best times of my life.  I remember when he stayed with us in Salt Lake when I was in Jr. High--he taught me how to waltz and do square roots, and at his home in Oslo he woke us every morning at 6 am playing the bugle. I hiked up the hillside with him to pick berries for dessert and feared for my life riding shotgun in his little car while he tooled around going 100 miles an hour (through roundabouts at 70!) screaming at pedestrians.  We took a boat through the fjords and stayed at the cabin belonging to him and Vesla (his wife).  It was delightful.  He was hilarious and smart, tough and loving, all at the same time.  Even in his 70s he would ski the length of Norway every winter.  He would tell stories about growing up in Norway. He was a young boy when the Nazis occupied the country and packed a rucksack with bread and cheese and hid in the mountains until it became clear that most of the citizens of the country would not be sent away or killed.

He was, in many ways, my soul mate.  Telling stories, pigging out on berries, wandering onto strangers' boats to explore, acting weird, road rage...sound familiar?  The saddest part of all is that Eli will never get to meet him.  I told him all about Rolf and we were planning a trip to see him and Vesla before they died, but we were too late. Rolf's death was completely unexpected--we didn't even know he had prostate cancer.
This post's title is from a Norwegian folk song and means "My ceiling is too high." I think it is fitting for Rolf. I will miss him dearly. Here are some of our happy times:

He was mighty proud of these glasses with flip-up shades!

What a character! He and my Mom going to the well to get the water running in the cabin.

Showing me how to wear my scarf like a "true Norse!"

At the Oslo harbor.

Vesla, me, Mom, Rolf.

Inntil vi møtes igjen, jeg elsker deg

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Could Use This Right About Now

Time for a boat ride??  Guess I'll have to settle for a cup of tea and a steaming bath

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Most Important List of All

is...my BOOKS TO READ list.

I keep it in a little memo pad that looks like this and is dedicated to book lists entirely.
I record all of the books I've read, the ones I want to read, those that I am in progress reading and forgot about and need to return to, those worth re-reading or book-clubbing, and quotes or ideas I love from particular texts. I think everyone should keep one of these little guys and I favor the whimsical looking ones.  I've been neglecting my Book List Memo Pad lately and decided to do some housekeeping on it and boy are there a LOT of books I need to read!!

The TO BE READ list includes:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Sepharad by Antonio Molina
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Burns
The Day it Rained Forever by Ray Bradbury
In Dubious Battle by Steinbeck
Great Expectations by Dickens (this is one I keep starting and get stuck on, not sure if its worth it)
The Dharma Dums by Kerouac
The Metamorphosis by Kafka
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Letters From the Earth by Mark Twain
We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Pilate's Wife by Antoinette May
Everything every written by Hemingway (hell of an objective, I know)

Just to name a few. There are pages and pages of books to be read!

Now for a few recommends of books I've read this past year:

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
This book is intense to say the least. It is not for the weak-minded or those susceptible to heart-palpitations. By the middle of this book you are so involved with the characters that you may stay up for 2 days straight to finish it.  It alternates between hopefulness and heartbreak and tears the American Dream facade of the 1950s to shreds.  It really gets to the soft marrow inside the bone--the horrors and secrets of everyday life and the difficulty of belonging to the adult world.
What is particularly interesting about this novel is that it was written in 1961 but has all the cynical truth of a book written in the 1980s or 90s with the knowledge of hindsight.  I found it refreshing to see the obstacles of the time period through a man's thoughts rather than just the listless disillusioned housewife. In short, this book is smart.

The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
If you are a historian or a woman or a dude who loves strong female characters or someone who needs a fire lit under their butt, these books are a must read.  They will motivate you. They will make you laugh and cry, sometimes minutes apart. They will make you drink good tea like your life depends on it.
If you want to dedicate yourself start with the first, and my favorite, The Tea Rose. It is centered around a 19th century East London beauty trying to scrape by for her family by working in a tea factory when everything goes to hell (her mom is murdered by Jack the Ripper!) and she ends up fleeing with her younger brother to America where she comes into her own and establishes herself in the tea industry and...I'll try not to include any spoilers here.
The second book, The Winter Rose, is set in the beginning of the 20th century and has all of the original characters from the first novel and introduces new ones, including a new heroine that is a brilliant female doctor trying to help the poor of Whitechapel, to put it simply. There is another main character who is my favorite, Willa, introduced in this book.  She is one bad ass chick, and that is putting it lightly.  She is a mountaineer and goes to colonized Africa to climb Kilimanjaro and...no spoilers here!! But this book kept my up until 2 am with Eli lying in bed next to me laughing at me, exclaiming over (and sometimes to) my book, crying a lot and then laughing and then needing to tell him all about it. Lovely.
So now we come to The Wild Rose, where Willa truly becomes the protagonist. This book is centered around WWI and even has Lawrence of Arabia as a character! That is what makes these books so fun--they are historical fiction but are bursting with real people and places and events. Donnelly is an intelligent writer and knows how to research, as evidenced by her extensive bibliographies. This is not chick lit crap, I promise.

Old School by Tobias Wolff
I've been re-reading this book for years and years and I still love it and the way that his words take me by surprise.  I actually went to a launch party at the Downtown Library that Woolf attended and got to meet him (we talked about Tolstoy and it had a great influence on me).  I've long since lost that autographed book but my new copy is just as dogeared. This book is incredible!! If you love words, literature, history, or just a damn good story, BUY IT. Don't let this one get away.  It is set in a boy's prep school in the 1960s and addresses numerous complex issues (elitism, religious persecution, growing up, stealing, competition) in fresh, atypical ways.  It is written so well that even for those who aren't book freaks by myself this is an easy read that you can devour in several sittings and it is easy to get into. I love the quote that the book opens with, which sums up so many of its themes:

Why did you lie to me?
I always thought I told the truth.
Why did you lie to me?
Because the truth lies like nothing else and I love the truth.

-Mark Strand, "Elegy for My Father"

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Concise Treatise on Deathly Hallows pt. 2

The final movie in this epic series was amazing, obviously, and I need not go into details on just how and why it was so kickass (hello-Battle of Hogwarts, anyone?)----all HP fans know these facts. I want to write about the things that made me curl up my toes in anguish because they were  not dealt with properly:    ahem..

1. Voldy Biting the Dust: This is the moment the books and movies have spent years building up to and it is so fitting and gripping in the book that they are in the Great Hall, surrounded by Harry's closest friends as well as his enemies and everyone is witness to the end of You-Know-Who. What is with the random flying and falling that is in the movie?! This final battle is intended to be like a to-the-death sword fight on solid ground, not an airborne tour of the devastated castle.
On a side note: I found Voldemort's vaporization (what would you call this??) very fascinating.  The way that he flakes apart in the film and disperses with the wind in a very Holocaust-esque way was an interesting albeit disturbing way to make him very clearly dead, so as not to frighten the small children, rather than in the book where he just, well...drops dead and they put his lifeless body in a chamber removed from everyone else in the Great Hall.  I'm sure if he just dropped dead in the movie people would have been on the edge of their seat waiting for him to pop up again or some crackpot director would have had him open his red eyes one last time or something else lame and cliche, which, thank goodness, they didn't even go for.
This sounds morbid and I'm a bit disturbed I'm writing this, but whatever--I prefer his physical corpse in the books because it emphasizes the fact that he is mortal and Harry defeated him, just like any other normal human can be killed, no matter how evil they are.
An addendum to my side note: What did they do with his body?! I'll bet they cremated it because if not there would be some stoned wannabe Death Eaters drinking Firewhysky going "dude, lets go dig up Voldemort's body!! Yeah man" and then trying to re-animate it or something. Does anyone else wonder about this??

2. Our friend Severus Snape:  The back story with Severus and Lily was vague and rushed (watching this with non-readers is particularly tricky because they have no idea who the hell these random children are). Snape's death was quite different than in the book, though more visibly understandable due to the change in setting and that particularly brilliant though gory bit with the glass, but in the book it is far more poignant and heartbreaking than the movie scene which is used as a bridge to ending the movie and showing how Harry realizes he must die.  Understandably they spent so much time villainizing Snape in the movies that they couldn't dedicate an hour to showing "he was good in the end, see?!" but it just didn't do his mighty complex and heroic character justice.

3.  Fred: They did not show him being killed! I know this is probably because some producer though the movie too dark already, but this is a turning point for Harry, Ron, and Hermione because they've seen some pretty awful things before, but for one of their own siblings to be killed in front of them shows how perilous this fight is (we're not in The Sorcerer's Stone anymore) and brings everything teetering to an edge of "this is it." When Fred was killed in the book I was stunned and set the book down, saying "holy shit." And that it when I realized how real this was, and makes me wonder if Rowling put it in to prepare her readers for Harry's death by showing that all bets are off and no one is safe now.
In the film seeing Fred dead with his family around him is tragic, but not so much as the book where they're all fighting together and Fred is smiling at Percy and then.... oh Fred. You were cheated in the movie.

4. Neville's Big Moment: lost. Washed over. Lame.
In the book he pulls the sword out of the hat and just freakin kills the snake in front of everyone!! Reading this I was cheering because we all knew Neville was growing up and becoming awesome, but this unexpected move was straight Bad-Ass-Manship in the First Degree. In the movie with the entire chase scene with the snake I was yawning a bit and wondering where Neville had got to. Can't say I was all that impressed with his speech to Voldemort either.  Book Neville will always be more hardcore.

Well those are the main problems I had with the movie and just wanted to document them and get this rant off my chest. I know I've discussed it briefly with my other HP freak friends, but here I wasn't drinking G&Ts and incoherently shouting "I know!! What the hell?!! Oh Fred...and Neville! Holy shit! I know! Totally!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gee Whiz I suck at painting!!

chi·a·ro·scu·ro [kee rə skr ō] noun artistic use of light and shade: the use of light and shade in paintings and drawings, or the effect produced by this.   [Mid-17th century. From Italian , literally “bright-dark,” from chiaro “bright, clear” + oscuro “dark.”]
This painting by Georges de la Tour is one of my favorites and makes me want to try painting by candlelight, though knowing me I would incinerate my canvas and possibly my entire apartment. Pity those flameless LED candles don’t produce proper chiaroscuro-inspiring light.