Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Proof that the law is taking over his soul

Jonathan to Meg,

"Is today Tortfeasance Against Your Progenitor Day? Did I miss the memo??"

Friday, June 24, 2011

Let's fly away

Our pink-and-chocolate diaper bag has gone missing. I can't figure out where it went, but first there was something nasty in it, and then I can only imagine I wasn't paying attention and put it away somewhere. "Nobody gets the best of Millard J. Monkey." "Except for Millard J. Monkey!" "Exactly!" In any case, the missing adorable diaper bag wasn't really suitable for also carrying a computer through airlines. And I was not motivated to try and use my college computer satchel as a makeshift diaper bag - way too deep and narrow.

So, since we have a trip coming up (woohoo!) I had to go purse shopping today. I kind of splurged. This one was $10 more than the runner-up, but it spoke to my soul. The retro birdcage print, and the contrasting flower pattern - oh my. The colors just yell NEW MEXICO! I went upstairs and built an outfit with a turquoise necklace around it, which is how you can tell I'm excited.


Isn't it funny how a bag can make you so happy?

Good advice, and Star Wars meets VBS

It made me giggle when I came across a post of 10 Things to Do if You Hate Your Kitchen. I would link it if I could remember where I found it, sorry. Normally these involves things like, "Paint every surface that holds still including the floor and ceiling" or, "Tile your backsplash in a chevron pattern with tiny glass mosaic tiles hand-pressed by nuns in Venice." This one started with, "Wash your cabinets. No, really!" I don't hate my kitchen, but I decided the cabinets could do with a wash anyway. So I did. And I was actually surprised by how fresh and new they all looked. I can definitely recommend it.

Then yesterday I was cleaning the bathroom and couldn't. get. the. brush. into. the. corners. That grout just holds the mold in. So nasty. And then, in a stroke of genius, I went at it with an old toothbrush. That's got to be the oldest housekeeping trick in the world, and would you believe it worked?

In other news, VBS starts on Sunday! That's Vacation Bible School, for those of you not up on church-speak. I volunteered to help with the skits, and get to direct. We have rehearsal every night. I'm just about over the moon happy. I missed drama so much. Essentially we're doing an eight-part play cycle on the life of Joseph (set in outer space) written by a church lady, and they're clever and very funny and also full of Star Wars references. I'm also enjoying getting to know some of the older kids and teens - since the Meg is a year and a half old next week, I pretty much know the toddlers and adults. I was so out of it, I didn't even realize one actress was the pastor's daughter. I wonder if that's ever happened to her before?

Saturday, June 11, 2011


A theater in Richmond was still playing Thor, so we went and watched it. We had the entire showing to ourselves - woo! It was doubly awesome because we got to give the movie its proper heckling without irritating anyone else. We enjoyed it. It was a fun little summer film, just about right for a 95-degree day, but for the big names associated with it, I was kind of expecting more. Kenneth Branagh can usually direct, and J. Michael Straczynski can usually come up with a story without massive plot holes. Natalie Portman... still can't do a convincing love scene, though these weren't nearly as bad as Star Wars 1 and 2. Ah, well.

The main plot was the redemption of Thor from pride to humility. It mostly worked. As Lars over at Brandywine pointed out, even wanting a hero to be humble instead of proud is straight out of Christianity and not Norse at all, but the movie is all the better for it. His change of heart was kind of sudden. Oddly, they downplayed the redemptive moment by ascribing a lot of his bad manners to a cultural difference - he had really beautiful manners, very courtly and old-fashioned, with just a minor problem of smashing coffee cups to show his appreciation, and it was not consistent with his pride issues. However, we like Thor better at the end than the very beginning, so some progress occurred.

The secondary plot was Loki's descent into evil. Again, it was kind of sudden and didn't make much sense to me. I really liked him better than Thor for the first half, until he started lying and conniving. I'm still not sure what he was really up to. If it was pure trouble-making, then the back-story hindered it.

Then there was Odin. For such a wise king and father, why did he fail so spectacularly with his sons? He never corrected Thor's pride until it was time for a dramatic exile. As for Loki, if Odin adopted him to be a kind of peace child, it would have been good to, you know, work him up to that role. Tell him he was adopted and he loved him anyway and he had an important job in life. Train him. Not tell him he was fit to be king and spring the adoption news on him after he figured it out for himself and Thor was out of the picture and thirty seconds before falling into a coma. Whatever. Odin woke up just in the nick of time and saved the day, remarkably perky for someone who'd been mostly dead all day.

Moments we mocked:

-When Natalie Portman took Thor home and lent him her ex-boyfriend's clothes. He and his long blond hair and manly shirtless chest struggle into a pair tight black jeans. He looked like a rocker. Incidentally, later on he was wearing different jeans. Maybe the boyfriend left two pairs?

- The warrior chica, Sif's, high-heeled combat boots. Well, obviously. If you were going warmongering on an ice planet, you'd need high heels too. Actually, I kind of liked Sif. She was competent in battle and a good friend, had a personality of her own, and she didn't wear a ferret-skull belt. She had a seriously awesome flying stab that nearly took out the droid, but Loki reanimated it anyway. Her outfits were mostly good and she didn't fall in love with anybody.

-Pretty much every attempted dramatic moment, especially the ones with daddy issues. Why are you having daddy issues? You've got a decent, if imperfect, father. And a decent mother. Can we get on with the plot please?

Moments we loved:

-Thor brought home Natalie Portman's coworker, dead drunk. "What happened?" she asks, reasonably concerned. In best Norse fashion: "We drank. We fought. He made his ancestors proud."

- The coworker, still drunk: "I still don't believe you're the god of thunder, but you ought to be."

-The scene where the researchers meet Thor and the ditzy college assistant tased him. "What? He was freaking me out." Hee!

-Natalie Portman accidentally ran over Thor with a truck. Twice. He was fine.

-The scenes on Earth. They were set in a fictional small town in New Mexico, and I recognized that mountain they used in the background shots. It's Santa Fe Baldy, the same view you get from I-40 along there between Santa Rosa and Cline's Corner. So I looked into it, and yes! They filmed in Galisteo, which, sure enough, has about the same view of that mountain, but a little bit closer to it. Sigh. I also loved the little town, and the retro Route 66 buildings, and the gorgeous airy observatory building, and the sleek trailer home. Warm fuzzy.

For the movie, they tried to meld very distinct visual aesthetics, part sleek futuristic superhero and part Lord of the Rings-style knotwork and archaisms, and then laying it alongside the relaxed New Mexican scenes. Sometimes the combination worked pretty well. Odin's armor, I thought, did a very good job being Norse and superhero. Jonathan liked Thor's armor better than I did. Some of the Asgard sets were pretty good, almost like Star Wars meets Rivendell, with chunky modernist fountains and ethnic Norse art scattered around. I felt like Asgard and the frost giants' world were too heavily CG. I'm still not sure what they were trying to do visually by choosing New Mexico to illustrate Earth - it's another very distinct style. Maybe I'm over-thinking this.

Anyway. We enjoyed it a lot, but I don't think we're likely to buy it. It was a fun date movie.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Fashionista already

My girl has taken to putting on any pair of her pants or ruffly pants (diaper covers? romper pants? what are those things called?) lying around.

She grabs them and sits carefully.

She pushes one leg through the leg hole, then the other.

Yesterday about this stage, she started squeaking and stood up. She fell over. That's when I noticed she'd put both legs into the same leg hole. I rescued her and helped her put on the ruffly pants properly, though over her leggings. As a general rule we wear our underwear on the inside and long pants on the outside, but some days it doesn't matter. She had a dress over top anyway.

Later on our walk, about three-quarters of the way around, I discovered she was still rocking the double-decker pants. You go, girl.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Modernist design

Today's library haul got me really excited. I picked up Lisa Skolnik's Retro Modern out of the architecture and design section, and it pulled together so much for me. There wasn't a huge amount of text, just an introduction, a page or two of text per chapter, and the rest photos and captions illustrating the style in actual houses and other buildings. And I read the entire thing, and got so excited I read a good bit out loud to Jonathan (who was peacefully reading Chuck Swindoll and really mostly back in ancient Persia).

First: I had never realized how much of modernist style I had unconsciously inherited. Big airy windows, an emphasis on back patios, built-in shelves and other furniture, rooms that flow into one another, and front doors that open straight onto the main living area of the house -- classic modernism. I hadn't realized that the basic ranch-styles and split-levels came out of that tradition; I grew up in and around them, and I guess I thought they just naturally occurred? Like mushrooms?

Second: I am reminded of several more aspects of modernism which I've always disliked. Now I'm thinking of bare blocky shapes, sterile walls, odd (but theoretically "functional") architectural excrescences, cantilevering and hovering elements, a dislike of right angles in furniture (Eames chairs, anyone?), and the general impracticality and child-unfriendliness of it all. For instance. There was one hearth out in the middle of the room where the widest part, a layer of bricks, was about six inches up off the floor. It was very nice looking, but carefully arranged so that any adult walking through would bark their shins on it and any child would trip and crack their head on a corner. Yikes.

Also, in order to really be in keeping with the aesthetic, you can't have any junk in your house. Or dirt. Everything is clean and on display. You may have shelves, but the only visible things allowed are Art, such as bio-morphic glass vases or African masks. Mundane things like books and toothbrushes have to be hidden behind fiberglass shelf doors, except for one book on your coffee table. Obviously this would not work for my house.

Third: I found it fascinating how the rise of modernist design flowed out of broader history. The 20th-century opened with a few movements, such as the Arts & Crafts, rebelling against fancy Victorian furnishing. In Germany this took the "Werkbund" style, which emphasized good workmanship and machine-production. That's exactly what they were doing in other ways, like making "the finest artillery in Europe" (to quote Jonathan).

During the late twenties and thirties, the modern aesthetic slowed down due to Nazi preferences (Europe) and production and sales issues (the Great Depression in America). Some major designers fled the war to the US. But, after World War II, there were all these artists raring to go and factories ready to make non-military things and new little ex-soldiers' families getting new little houses and furniture - and whoosh! A style took off.* And now, seventy years later, it's so normal we barely notice it.

Fourth: It's telling that the new houses were oriented around the backyard to have a better view of nature. No more big front porches for chatting with the neighbors, no more parlor windows facing the street, but uncurtained floor-to-ceiling windows facing your own secluded garden. These were built in dramatic natural areas and in cookie-cutter subdivisions, but they were not, for the most part, built on busy town streets so you could walk to the store. Hello, New Urbanism.

Styles change. It's what they do. A lot of the modernist aesthetic is very practical in some ways. It's great for public areas like park visitors' centers and libraries. I think the Los Alamos library is a very cool modernist building - big, airy, light, relatively easy to clean, nifty nested windows to photograph people through, nice balconies to drop things off of.** It's even pretty in its way. But it's not... everything. It's not good for the in-between living. You go for the day.

I think Jonathan and I, if we get a chance to design a house, will value other things. For us, functional means "good for raising kids in" and "hospitable" and, oh, I don't know. Enough storage. Pretty. Respecting boundaries. Curtains on the windows, so we can close them at night and open them in the morning. Not enamored entirely with the last seventy years, and able to tolerate things that are fabulous just for the sake of it, like a Sculpey dragon in red and gold named Aethelthryth***, to reflect the crazy creativity of the God who came up with the common platypus. I mean really, what kind of God makes platypuses? And what does that say about human house design?

Modernism is more pervasive than I'd realized -- which is fine, but also why it's good to keep up with Epbot. Also, if anyone knows of a good design blog inspired by Art Deco, I'd definitely be interested.

*Obviously, it's more complicated than this. But what a fun overview.
**No, I don't recommend this. What were you thinking? ;-)
***Amelia R. sculpted her for our wedding, along with a marzipan dragon. We have awesome friends.