Saturday, December 31, 2005

Party Hats & the New Year

Originally uploaded by Martina.
What better picture for New Year's Eve than a party hat? The delightful thing about this hat is that it was made by a very talented someone I know. She recently had a birthday party, and each of her guests got to take home a similar piece of headgear (mine was peacocky and blue, but I had to preserve this one for posterity, because it was my 2nd favorite).

Her birthday party was really lovely. There was great food, a hat for every guest (each of whom was great company, I might add!), and a fun little gift bag for each attendee (even though the birthday girl had insisted on no presents for herself).

Coupled with Christmas that event made me realize that I really do need to attempt to be at least marginally social and "do more stuff", which has become one of my resolutions for the new year. It is sort of a sister resolution to Jen's more snazzily named "Just Say Yes!" campaign. I suppose I could call mine "More stuff in '06", but that would be awfully derivative of the "More stuff in '05" campaign, which really did fall kind of flat once the summer was over. Anyway, the '06 version is more nuanced in that it also involves the caveat that said stuff must be done with people I actually enjoy as I've been having some serious thoughts about the sorts of friends I have, which involves how and why I choose my friends, what we have in common, etc. (For any of you who've been around since my early 20's or before, don't worry, you're not under scrutiny.)

Anyway, I know that some people are adverse to actual "resolutions", but the truth is that the only problem I have with New Year's resolutions is that I don't think one should wait until the New Year. What if I realize in June that my nose hairs really need to be plucked (or braided), and I wait until January? Then I've wasted 7 months without an appropriate nose coiff.

While nasal coiffure is not among them, I do have many resolutions (though I prefer to think of them as plans, since some of them actually do involve steps and goal setting, which makes them seem more palpabable than "Oh yeah, I'm totally going to lose weight this year"):

- There is the lose weight/get in shape plan, for which I really DO have a plan. I know the diet I want to follow and have a basic gym schedule in mind, and once the weather is nicer, I want to integrate going on some hikes on the weekends. The trick really is going to be driving myself to stick to it for long enough to reach my considerable goal.

- There is the redecorate my bedroom plan, which is actually already in phase one (The Thinnening), which involves getting rid of crap that I don't need in preparation for the more fun Phase II of painting, putting down new carpet, which makes the way for Phase III (also known as The Roomening - correct me, if I'm wrong), which involves the ultra fun period of decorating.

- There is the finish the write something every day/finish the first draft of my Nano project by my birthday, which is actually the time of Persian New Year AND, this year, the Vernal Equinox, either of which lend themselves nicely to birthday festivities. Go spring!

- Lastly (well, probably not lastly since I am a bit of a fixer-upper and it's the last thing of which I can think at the moment), I really do want to continue to do more creative projects. This year I started my blog, started taking more pictures, re-embraced playing piano, and worked more on writing. In 2006, I'd like to continue on this road, because I think it's good for a person (especially when she has a lame job that could be filled by a lame, blind monkey).

So, there we have my thoughts for the new year. If I have time, perhaps I will recap some of the more fruitful things I did with the old, but if I don't, that's okay too, because 2006 is going to be the year of "It's all good!"

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Baxmas!

Baby basket
Originally uploaded by Martina.
Today is Baxter's birthday. He is three, and celebrating by being bad. He already tore the stuffing out of his birthday present two days ago when he yoinked it out of a bag that had been momentarily left on the floor. He has only been awake for a few hours, but he has already chased a cat, taken a nap, and barked at my mother. He does this so she'll sit differently, thereby allowing him to hop into the wingback chair with her and shuffle his furry little ass in next to her.

But don't misunderstand. Baxter is not all bad. He marked Christmas dinner by being an almost perfect gentleman who didn't bark at anyone. He even wagged his tail at guests and allowed them to look at him without incident. He semi-successfully performed his cache of tricks - sit, shake, lay down, and roll over in order of lessening success (roll over being the death defying stunt at which he failed completely). He then capped off the evening proceeeding to adorably fall asleep in the middle of a pile of used wrapping paper. Perhaps year 3 is the year that Baxter Wigglesworth loses his shyness toward people who don't live in my house. I can feel it in my bones. It is the dawning of the age of a new, more relaxed Wigglesworth.

Baxter is even more sweet when we are alone, like when he puts his paw on my knee and leans in for hugs and kisses. (Spoiled you say. Whatever gave you that idea?) The best part of when he does this is that if you stop too early, he leans in closer for more. It's almost as good as the level of wiggly excitement that is engendered when I do something as unspectacular as waking up or coming home from work. Bottom line, my rotten little dog makes me smile more than he infuriates me (whch is a lot). So, really, adopting him has been totally worth it.

Happy Birthday, Baxie!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas!

Originally uploaded by Monquee.

Ground lapis for the sky, and scrolls of gold,
Before which the shepherds kneel, gazing aloft
At visiting angels clothed in egg-yolk gowns,
Celestial tinctures smuggled from the East,
From sunlit Eden, the palmed and plotted banks
Of sun-tanned Aden. Brought home in fragile grails,
Planted in England, rising at Eastertide,
Their petals cup stamens of topaz dust,
The powdery stuff of cooks and cosmeticians
But to the camels-hair tip of the finest brush
Of Brother Anselm, it is the light of dawn,
Gilding the hems, the sleeves, the fluted pleats
Of the antiphonal archangelic choirs
Singing their melismatic pax in terram.
The child lies cribbed below, in bestial dark,
Pale as the tiny tips of crocuses
That will find their way to the light through drifts of snow.

- Anthony Hecht

Here it is already December 24th, the day when most of my family (at least the non-hillbilly contingent abroad*) will be celebrating Christmas. The hillbillies are probably bedecking the Camaro (on blocks) with lights and boughs of holly and toasting each other with supersize cans of Coors Light as I type. For our part, we will do the last of our baking for the festivities tomorrow, wrap some presents, go to a candlelight service to sing Christmas carols, and perhaps go look at Christmas lights once it's dark enough. It is already shaping up to be a nice holiday weekend. The great thing about being a half "We celebrate the holiday on December 24th" and half "Fools! Everyone knows Christmas is on the 25th!" is that we get to celebrate TWICE. Add to that that my dog's birthday is December 26th, and it's one long Festivus weekend!

Tomorrow we will have guests for dinner. As usual, I am very much looking forward to it and have had great fun planning the menu (my favorite component of which is presently prosciutto wrapped figs stuffed with roquefort, then roasted and drizzled with honey and a bit of fresh, cracked pepper). I made a couple of test figs yesterady to make sure the recipe wasn't going to be completely jive and ruin Christmas with its gackitude. As it turns out, the combination of flavors is delicious! I would reveal the rest of the menu now, but then it wouldn't be a surprise for our guests, whom I enjoy taunting. So, I'll move on.

In honor of the holiday and my discovery of having been linked (when did she do that???), I've borrowed a picture from my friend MQ, who takes some beautiful photos. This one was taken on a trip downtown last year. Even if I didn't take it myself, I was there, which means I was probably her artistic muse, which means that she owes its success all to me, which means that it's probably okay that I borrow the photo for my blog, right? You wouldn't sue me on Christmas, would you, MQ? This shouldn't be construed as a bribe (unless it helps for it to be one!), but I do have presents for you, even if it may not REALLY be Jesus' birthday. Even if it's not, there's good food, fine company AND presents, so I am there!

So, in the spirit of the holiday (and so nobody is brought down by the birthday revelation), Merry Christmas! Here are some holiday stories and links for your enjoyment:

La Befana

The Gift of the Magi

A Child's Christmas in Wales

If I think of any more, I will add them.

Have a Happy Holiday!

*N.b. Before any Americans-are-better-than-ANYONE reader gets their panties in a wad* (doubtful, since none of the 3 people who read this are that way!) and tells me to back to where I came from (aka North Dakota) if I think it 's so great, the above comments are not to say that all Americans are hillbillies, just that the majority of my father's bloodline is a bit earthy.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Poem for Christmas Eve Eve

Originally uploaded by Martina.
Earth grown old, yet still so green,
Deep beneath her crust of cold
Nurses fire unfelt, unseen:
Earth grown old

We who live are quickly told:
Millions more lie hid between
Inner swathings of her fold.

When will fire break up her screen?
When will life burst thro' her mould?
Earth, earth, earth, thy cold is keen,
Earth grown old.

- Christina Rossetti

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Make it better

When a person attempts to keep abreast of what is going on in the world, it can be all too easy at times to become disheartened by politics, current events and (at this time of year) the blatant consumerism of the holiday season. This weekend I had the opportunity to visit Bridgeport UCC's
annual Mindful Gifts Bazaar and also organize and participate in a local Amnesty International's 2005 Global Write-a-Thon event.

There are people who tend to look at volunteerism as something one does to benefit others. The truth is that it benefits the volunteer as much as it does the cause. As Pollyanaish as it might sound, being around other people who are trying in their own small way to do and be good is inspiring. It reminds a person that no matter how much ugliness and selfishness one sees in the news and in popular culture, there is a significant amount of good in the world.

One of the great things about Mindful Gifts is that it concentrates about 30 non-profits that do a lot of good in our community into one building. Even if a person doesn't want to buy a Guatamalan poncho (or some really lovely photography, handmade soaps, pet supplies, jewelry, books, cds or donation certificates), it is a great places to find out about some of the organizations that work in our community.

For someone like myself, who is a nomadic volunteer in search of an opportunity, it provided a wealth of information on the types of agencies that are out there. As it turns out, there are some really great organizations in the Portland area (and beyond). Organizations that participated in Mindful Gifts included Living Earth, The Pangea Project, POPPA, Wild Cat Haven, and Cat Adoption Team among others including my current favorite Portland area 501(c)(3):

p:ear (program education art recreation), which is an organization that "builds positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth through education, art and recreation to affirm personal worth and create more meaningful and healthier lives." One of the really great things that p:ear does is to display the artistic achievements of program participants in the p:ear gallery at First Thursday in The Pearl.

In short, I am really glad that I got to go to the bazaar. It was second in my weekend only to my mother's dramatic debut as Mary in the Bridgeport Build Your Own Christmas Pageant. Watch out Marlene Dietrich, Citizen R is in town!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Odds & Ends

You might remember that Wesley Clark ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 2004. Now the retired General has written an editorial on the Iraq war that ran in the New York Times today. Clark's article offers not only a critique of our foreign policy, but an examination of the gains our war has afforded Iran as well as his proposal for the withdrawal of troops from the region.

It seems to me that a significant problem in all the rhetoric about Iraq is that there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground between the gun toting "stay the course" mindset and the "bring the troops home NOW" proponents. I am against the war. I was one of the people who (for a number of reasons) protested it from the beginning. but that doesn't change the ugly truth. We have caused significant instability in the he region, and there must be some medium between long-term occupation and cutting bait absolving ourselves of all responsiblity for what our foreign policy has wrought. I don't know the answer any better than anyone else. I do, however, think Clark offers some interesting ideas, and have to respect that he takes into account the perspectives of those Arab neighbors within the Gulf region.

Speaking of current events, I was recently sucked into watching a talk by Jeff Cohen, founder of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) on cable access (or possibly C-Span). Normally, I don't watch either too much, but my housemate was watching the program. On the heels of learning that the U.S. ranks 13 in an world audit of press freedom, Cohen managed to catch my ear as I walked by the t.v.

As it turned out, I ended up listening to the remainder of his lecture, which was largely on the bias of mainstream media and the need for independent voices to offer alternatives to corporate controlled media outlets like FOX, CNN & MSNBC. One project attempting to offer an alternative voice is independent World Television. IWT sounds like a fairly new endeavor, but the concept is an interesting one. I'll be curious to see how it grows.

So, this is it for today, because I have to go watch C-SPAN's coverage of Condoleezza Rice at a press conference with her German counterpart, Angela Merkel.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Black Friday

Party Progressive
Originally uploaded by Wal-Mart Movie.
Warning: The following is a Statler and Waldorf style balcony rant

Today is the day known as Black Friday, so called because it traditionally marks the season when retailers make their biggest profits. The term comes from the time when ledgers were kept by hand with red indicating loss and black indicating profit. Being the biggest shopping day of the year, retailers are eager to entice would be shoppers with advertisements of great discounts and the implicit promise that their lives will be ever so much better and they will be loved ever so much more if they shower their loves ones with gifts.

While I'm all for gifts (no one loves opening presents like I do!), I have to think that the whole circus surrounding the day after Thanksgiving is pretty antithetical to anything that Christmas is supposed to be. There were actualy brawls in some stores today. BRAWLS. I woke up this morning to images of shoppers scuffling Walmart and people being trampled as they rushed into a department store. What a nice way to kick of the the beginning of Advent.

I don't know what's wrong with some people. Call me crazy, but I can't help but think God is probably not so in favor of us beating each other for first crack at $40 off a laptop. I know I'm not Pat Robertson and therefore am not qualified to speak to God's will, but I can't help thinking this is not it. It seems like there has to be more to life (or holidays) than smackdowns and the acquisition of stuff.

The older I get, the more little things like just enjoying the holidays with friends and family come to mean to me. To prove this, I unwittingly (albeit successfully) participated in Buy Nothing Day today. True, this was mostly because Buy Nothing Day coincided with Why Bother to Get Dressed When I Could Lounge Around on the Couch Reading and Eating Pizza Day, but I like to feel smugly superior for it nonetheless.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Life of Leisure

This week promises to be a fun week in the Powellhurst household. This potential centers heavily around the fact that I do not have to go to work and am free to take pleasure in leisure and maybe even (dare I hope?) believe in joy. It's not that I hate my job. It is not in a sweat shop or a coal mine, and I can happily report that I do not have the black lung. Nonetheless, it is just a job. Now if I were Martonia, Superspy or HRH Martonia, Queen of the Universe, it might be different. As it turns out, though, I am just Martina, Humble, but Glorified Administrative Coordinator, which sometimes causes me to be Martina, Embittered Glorified Administrative Coordinator Who Wonders What She Spent All That Time In Grad School For If All She Was Going To Do Was This. Thankfully, now that I have embarked on NaNo WriMo, I can tell myself that it is all just my day job. After all, didn't Kafka spend his life working as a law clerk? Of course, I am no Kafka, but no one needs to know that.

Anyway, it's nice to have a little break. So, what have I been doing? Well, Friday I...Frankly, I can't remember what I did Friday, so I can only assume that heavy drinking was involved. It is also possible that whatever I did was so uncompelling that I have since blocked it out, which is probably more likely. I'd say it involved television, except for that I haven't really watched much t.v. in the past few days though that is no huge shock, since it's pretty rarely that I watch a lot of t.v. Apparently, I have suffered a black out, and not even a very good one considering I didn't wake up in Las Vegas or wondering what happened to my underwear. I know what happened to my underwear.

Now Saturday, I remember. Saturday was filled with errands. The morning involved taking Ruby the Wonder Dog, to the vet. Ruby, like most of our pets, was adopted from the Oregon Humane Society. She was in a kennel with about 7 other dogs, all of whom came eagerly up to the gate when they saw us. Ruby, on the other hand, hung back, shyly thumping her tail. You could tell she wanted to come up to the fence, but was too timid to do so. Little did we know back then that it was all part a highly successful campaign to win us over. Somehow she just made a person want to take care of her. It's a good thing, because she is the sweetest dog ever (if you don't you count Toby, who is so mellow I sometimes think he must spend his afternoons smoking pot in the back yard).

Unfortunately, Ruby is also epileptic, which means regular vet visits for blood testing to check her phenobarbital levels. Although Ruby loves the car, she does not like these outings. Somehow she always manages to forgive us, though, because that's just what dogs do. I think that even she would agree that occasional blood tests are better than seizures. It is no fun at all when she has them. Thankfully, since the last time they upped her dosage, she hasn't had any.

After the vet, I got to go do one of my favorite things ever - have my hair done. I don't know why it is that new haircuts feel so good, but they do, and they're even better when you've found the keeper of the golden shears. I LOVE the person I go to right now. She is my hair crush. Not only does she have cool tattoos and take in strays like nobody I've ever met, but she is great at her job. Seriously. You should see me. I am adorable now!

Oh, but my weekend has not been all puppies and awesome hairdos. Oh, no. I have also organized a Amnesty International Global-Write-a-Thon event and attended a screening of Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, because even on vacation, I am committed to my "Walmart is evil" philosphy. I highly recommend the movie to anyone who is interested. A lot of the information (i.e. the Walmart: Where Satan Shops vibe) was not new to me, however it was nice to have some figures to back it all up and great to see how many people turned out for the screening. If I have time, I'd like to come back and talk more about Amnesty and Walmart, but for now I'll just leave this as a marker for things to discuss at a later date.

In more personal news, we have also painted half the living room and all of the dining room. The thing about painting is that it's only as fun as it sounds for the first 15 minutes or so. After that, it just becomes work, though good painting music (which presently means Clifton Chenier as well as my Happy Fitzmas mix) and lots of beverage breaks do help. Knowing that it will look really nice when it's all done is also a boost, even though it's strange to come in from outside and see Caraway instead of ugly 70's wood paneling. As outdated as it was, it was somehow part of the house, so it's still a shock to see something else where I expect to see dark knotholes and wood. The color does look great with the rug and furniture, though.

So, this will have to be it for now. Today promises to be another full day of painting and tile laying as well as recipe choosing. I am still torn about which dessert to go with for Thanksgiving. The current front-runners are Pumpkin Cheesecake, Orange Cardamom Cake and Stollen, but that could all change. I also have yet to choose a potato dish, but that is down to two potential recipes, which I may just frankenstein together into one Superspud dish, so there's less holiday dining pressure there. Ok, if I am going to be honest, there is NO holiday dining pressure, since most of my role in this year's Thanksgiving will be to eat. Jen and her family invited us over, which means they get to do most of the work, while we reap the delicious rewards. Potatoes and dessert are the only things for which I am responsible. Still, even if I am not the Thanksgiving star, I still like the spotlight enough to want my cameo role to steal just a moment of the show.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Time's A-Wastin' (more accurately, A-Wastin' Time)

Having just completed another thousand words on my Nano project, I am now enaging in the time honoured writing tradition of procrastination. In order to affect this, I have watched a whole movie (White Chicks - no depth is too low for me!), called a friend, and am now "cleaning" my web browser favorites. I highly recommend this activity as a time waster. The lovely thing about it is that for every link I actually delete, there are at least two that I can visit and reread. In an effort to double the procrastinatory bang for my buck, I am posting some of my favorites here as a gift for my fellow procrastinators to enjoy.

Some time ago a friend in Britain sent me a link to Andy Kershaw on BBC Radio, which I saved, then promptly forgot. As it turns out, Andy Kershaw's "unique mix of world rock, country, blues and the unexpected" is pretty cool. Admittedly, I could probably find some similar programming locally on KBOO, but it makes me feel so much more sophisticated and international when I listen to the same thing via streaming audio from England. I probably shouldn't have said that out loud. Now KBOO is probably going to get all upset. Radio stations. They're so touchy sometimes. What's more, KINK will probably be offended, because I didn't mention it too. Don't be sad, KINK. Your Live 8 CD and support of local bands is still awesome. I'm not withdrawing the love, just sharing it.

Anyway, my point is that like music itself, music sites are always fun. If you don't believe me, check out The Decemberists, a band that is fun even when you almost pass out at one of their sold out concerts and spend half the evening alone, crouched in a bathroom stall, because it is the only available place to sit while you wait for the black spots to stop swimming before your eyes. If a show can withstand that and still be dubbed great, you know the band is good.

Coincidentally, I first saw one of the Decemberists perform live at a LiveWire taping last spring. While said Decemberist was a pleasant surprise, my real reason for going was to hear the John Wesley Harding aka Wesley Stace portion of the evening. I mention Stace, because I am very well disposed toward him at the moment, having recently learned that The Love Hall Tryst (a quartet inspired by his novel Misfortune) features none other than my new up and coming favorite, Kelly Hogan. While I am just getting to know her work, I am pretty confident that we have a long musical friendship ahead of us.

Speaking of work, now that I've wasted even more time reconstructing this post after Blogger ate it (alas SNZ segment, you will never be restored, may you rest in peace) it's about time for me to turn on some music and get back to it. Nano waits for no one. Only 6819 words to go and I will be caught up!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

National Novel Writing Month

Originally uploaded by Martina.
It is almost November, which means it is almost time for NaNo WriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. Will I actually have the time (or discipline) to do it? I don't know. Either way, I am now officially registered for 2005 and have grandiose dreams of writing 50,000 words in a month. I have even found my project.

As is my way, I am excited about it now, but who knows how I will feel about it tomorrow, after something shiny has diverted my attention. Yes, the big question is whether I'll be able to hold onto my enthusiasm for my story (it really is fun, if I do say so myself) long enough to actually do anything with it. While I really want to finish the heiress to the underworld story that I started writing a few years ago, I have myself 99.9% convinced that I am going to go with my new (but yet to be revealed, because I can't have my strange ideas perverted by outside influence at this stage) concept. So, for today, I say "Viva NaNo WriMo" and I mean that wholeheartedly for as long as my fickle allegiances commit themselves to this project!

P.s. What is up with my blog? Why have my picture, profile and link info all migrated down to the bottom? I do not like this, yet, being technically inept, I have no idea how to fix it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Martinaland Event Schedule

For some strange reason my normally boring existence has been pretty busy these past couple weeks. There are so many things I want to talk about, but I fear I will forget before I have time to do so. So, here is the short version, possibly to be revisted later. To make a short list, here is what I have been up to:

The Battle of the Hyacinths

Viewing the The Exorcism of Emily Rose
- Just as quick aside, I've gone to more movies in the past month than I probably have all year. I don't know what's possessed me, though I do know that my pre-Emily Rose self-creep out of wondering if I could handle the movie in all of its demonic creepiness was way scarier than the actual movie was.

Liederabend der Romantik (with Heidrun Kordes and Thorsten Larbig). I'm going to admit right now that Romantic Lieder are not necessarily my favorite genre of music. I really enjoy Romantic piano pieces. Vocally, the Lieder are sometimes just too much for me. Even though I appreciate the level of difficulty in singing them, I tend to prefer vocal music of a simpler, more melodic structure.

That said, the Lieder do have some definite plusses. The piano accompaniment is almost always gorgeous, and they mostly borrow their lyrics from Romantic poetry, which I do love. Best of all, though, is that they tend toward the gloriously melodramatic. Even the tortured soul program title "Let, oh world, oh let me be" was melodramatic. My favorite piece by far was Brahms' Mädchenfluch (A Maiden's Curse), which features lyrics like:

For, you see, Jawo has
Muddied the water.
How, then, o dear mother,
Could I have bleached it?
Curse him, mother, dear mother!
I will curse him too.
May God in bright heaven grant
That he might hang himself
On a terrible little tree...
On my white neck!
May God in bright heaven grant
That he might lie imprisoned,
Imprisoned deep in a dungeon...
On my white breast!

It goes on with the cursing from there, but I think it gives a good taste of the piece. In fairness to the performers, there was more to the evening than melodrama. Both really were incredible musicians. The particular style of music just isn't my favorite. Still, I am glad the I went. It was an interesting experience and I did learn a lot about the genre that I did not know, which is never a bad thing.

Seeing The Corpse Bride

Visiting the Shanghai Tunnels

Viewing Mirrormask

Continued visits to the gym (Soon I will be so buff, no one will recognize me! Well, either that or I will look a little less weebilesque.)

Taking the Northwest Earth Institute's Voluntary Simplicity course

Attending a performance of The Lion King
I know I said I would revisit this later, but while the feeling is still new, I just have to say WOW. The whole production was incredible. It even overcame my Disney prejudices! The costume design was beautiful and innovative in the most of the time I was not thinking "Huh. I'm spending two hours watching a grown men dressed up and pretending to pounce around like lions. Greeaat." The costumes were proportioned in such a way that, for example, the actor's face became the chin of the mask. The costumes managed to avoid being cumbersome and really did just become part of the characters.

Will I expound on all of these things as planned? Probably not, though hopefully I'll get around to a few. Either way, I have accounted for my whereabouts for a good portion of the past week or two.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An apple a day keeps the troops away

Feed a cold, starve a fever. If you're feeling fluish, call the military. With all that's going on in the world, our fearless leader is wrangling for Congress to approve the use of U.S. military on U.S. soil in a law enforcement role (i.e. to force people into quarantine) to stop the spread of the avian flu pandemic should it become a problem.

I, for one, am so very pleased that our President is spending valuable time on this. Why waste energy on issues like feeding the homeless, solving the healthcare crisis in this country, ending the quagmire which is our war in Iraq, or finding housing more suitable housing than an astrodome for victims of Hurricaine Katrina? (Or perhaps President Bush shares his mother's sentiment that things are working out very well (see, since blogger no longer allows me to do links the normal way) for impoverished evacuees from New Orleans, because they were underprivileged anyway.

But back to the bird flu. As it turns out, the avian flu is not communicable from person to person, only bird to person. This leads me to believe that the military should not be employed quarantining people, but hunting down lawless birds and rerouting them to the Cuban detention facilities where all of the other terrorists are held. Terrorists. That's what the birds are. Even more chilling, they have no need to hijack planes, because they are miniature planes themselves! Even more chilling, if highjacked by a malevolent leprachaun, the sick birds could become flying harbingers of magical disease and then even voodoo (oh, sorry, trickle down) economics won't be able to save us.

Joking aside, I find Bush's idea of repealing the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 a bit disturbing. If my superficial understanding (and the CNN article I read) is correct, it "bans the military from participating in police-type activity on U.S. soil." The Bush proposal comes in the wake of slow response to civil unrest in the wake of Katrina. The thing is (also according to the CNN article and more specifically Gene Healy of the Cato Institue) that the act does not apply to "the military's ability to respond to a crisis".

What disturbs me about overturning such an act are the doors it opens for using the military in other situations. Does this mean they could be employed to break up demonstrations? Does this mean that they could be employed to intern people for purposes other than medical quarantine? Maybe the power wouldn't be used for such things, but it's chilling to think that it could be. It reminds a lot of the stories my family has told about living under fascist and communist regimes, and that is a scary thought.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Nearly 195 years ago the citizens of Munich gathered in front of the city gates to celebrate the nuptuals of Crown Prinz Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxon-Hildburgshausen. The event was marked with horse races, feast and drink. It became the very first Oktoberfest. Today, the Munich Oktoberfest (so named, because it traditionally begins on the third weekend in September and ends the first Sunday in October) is boasted (at least by Münchener) to be the largest festival in the world.

Some seven days ago, I went to the Oktoberfest sponsored by Portland's German American Society. It was tellingly held in the club's headquarters in the old Altenheim (a retirement home that used to be run by the society) on Division. Excepting four or five early college aged students, who must have been there as part of their language program, I was the youngest person by a good twenty years. In fact, some of the guests looked like they might have been in attendance at the original celebration. I suppose that adds to the air of authenticity. Besides, age in no way kept anyone from having a good time, but that wasn't until later.

When we first walked in, I have to say that I was not exactly feeling the love. We were seated at a table with a group of geriatric strangers who did not seem too impressed with our addition to their little group. My initial thought was along the lines of "I really hope my mom does not want to stay long. Let's just choke down some sausage and get the hell out of here."

But then, another pair of new people were seated across from us, and people actually started to talk. After a drink or two, even the original squatters at the table were amiable. I think the ice was broken when what looked like the patriarch of their group was looking for butter, and I shared ours with him. After that, he kept calling me dear and winking at me. Our friendship cemented, he marked each new song by turning to our side of the table to say "I used to dance to that!" By the time the Schunkeln started, everyone was feeling friendly, which just goes to show that my natural instincts for how welcome I am are pretty much crap.

The event was held in a room that I thought must have been the dining hall when the Altenheim was still in operation. My mother, who worked there when she first came to the U.S. in the 60's quickly informed me, however, that it was not. At any rate, the room had long, low bench tables redolent (that was for you, Jen) of a public elementary school cafeteria, but instead of hair nets, polyester and large facial moles, the lunch ladies wore Dirndl dresses. In fact, many people were dressed in Trachten.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Trachten is how many there are. (To see what I mean, go to, click on an area of any of the maps that come up, then pick one of the "Tafel" links, which will take you to pictures of costumes for that region.) To put it in perspective, it's like Portland having a different traditional dress from Hood River.

Although it is probably a betrayal of my Germanic origins, I must confess to amusement at how silly some of the costumes look. The Dirndls are not really that bad. Some of them are actually quite pretty. It's the menswear that often leaves me scratching my head. There was, for example, one gentleman at Oldtoberfest, who was wearing a cap that had what looked like a shaving brush mounted on top of it. Another wore a well used pair of Lederhosen, very short socks and what looked like leg warmers. I can only think that the showing of skin between the top of his anklets and the bottom of his calf tubes was meant originally meant to be provocative, like an advertisement for an Alpine peep show.

But it wasn't only the Trachten that were authentic. There menu consisted of real German Wurst (not just some glorified American hot dog) and beer. The band from Munich by way of Mt. Angel's Oktoberfest and there was plenty of schunkeln. One of our non-German newcomer neighbors was delighted by schunkeln and kept consulting us on the schunkelability of various songs played by the band. I think it took him a while to realize that people mostly just do the linking arms and swaying thing to slow waltzes. Especially in a room of old people, where someone could get hurt by trying to swing back and forth too wildly.

That is not to say that the geezers aren't aren't a hearty lot. Frankly, I was amazed as I watched some of them totter out onto the dance floor. There were people who looked like they had a hard time walking, who suddenly transformed into light-footed 20 year olds when they started dancing. It really was a treat to watch, especially because it reminded me of my Oma, who loved to dance.

One of my favorite memories is of her standing in the living room of her apartment, wearing an apron and humming a folk song while she did a little dance. Suddenly, this old woman who had leg problems that had caused her to walk stiffly for as long as I could remember lost 50 years and I could see the 19 year old who loved to dance. This is how it was with these people too. It gives some poignancy to my neighbor's wistful outcries of "I used to dance to that!"

Of course, they weren't all frail. There was one older, but obviously healthy couple, who were incredible dancers. They looked like they could have done it professionally. Who knows, maybe they did. They guy had some tricky, fancy footwork, but the woman was obviously well schooled in her Strictly Ballroom - "Where the man goes, the lady must follow."

Now one person who didn't ascribe to the Strictly Ballroom aesthetic was the wife of the man who had too much to drink and tried numerous times to climb on top of the table at which they were seated. She ascribed to the aesthetic of alternately looking embarassed while trying to pull him down and pretending not to know him. Ultimately, though, I think she (along with the rest of their table mates) was just amused by his antics.

Really, the whole event was pretty fun. Usually, I find plenty of mockable things about Bavarian oompah music. I'm not going to lie and say they that I didn't find anything to amuse me (the old people formed a conga line, for Pete's sake!), but I can say that any amusement I felt was not cruel in spirit. It was a good time, and I am glad that I went. I would even go again.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fall's First Day

Originally uploaded by Martina.

Autumn has officially begun! In Oregon, the early fall is a lovely time of year. The air is crisp in the mornings, but the days are generally sunny and breezy - perfect weather for going for walks (as we all know is my newly rediscovered past-time).

While I am looking forward to watching the leaves change color, celebrating Halloween and pulling out all my favorite cool weather recipes, I will miss the long, sunny days. It was a good summer, one that passed all too quickly. Looking back, I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. So, before I forget, I want to look back at some of the high points.

1) (Re-)Discovering that I live within 20 minutes of one of the most gorgeous sunset views ever.

2) Seeing Pink Martini at the zoo

3) Getting a new camera (technically, it wasn't really summer yet, but the weather was summer-y, when it wasn't cold and raining and I did use the camera a LOT over the summer!)

4) Seeing a friend I hadn't seen in nearly 10 years and realizing that I've actually changed a lot more during the ensuing years than I thought

5) Being reminded what good (if weird) friends I have. Not everyone has friends who give them free airline tickets and introduce them to everyone as "my best friend Martina" or who would travel 4 hours just to go to a 2 hour picnic.

6) While I'm not exactly conductor of the Be-Born-Again-to-Our-Way-or-Get-a-Free-Pass-for-the-Eternal-Exursion-to-Hell train and will always have a pretty open view about following diferent spiritual paths, this summer taught me that not all organized religion is as scornful as I'd previously decided. Sure, pockets of scornworthiness exist. Can anyone say Pat Robertson? And don't even get me started on the unfeeling evangelist who informed me just before my father's funeral that I was doomed to never see him again because it would interfere with God's plans for me (and all other heathens who don't embrace said evangelists beliefs) to rot in hell. You probably don't want to get me going on the pastor across the street who stopped talking to me after I refused to sign his anti same sex marriage petition either. Anyway, my point is that it was nice to be reminded that there are insitutions out there that genuinely try to do what is good and right and are decidedly worthwhile.

7) Realizing that I haven't lost all musical ability, even though it's been years since I've done anything with it formally

8) Discovering the Decemberists, seeing them at The Bite (a major disappointment of an evening through no fault of theirs), but STILL leaving really liking them

9) Learning that while I have no formal dance training, being half German apparently has gifted me with genetic memory of how to polka. Thank God I went to the Oktoberfest last night (the final night of summer), or I'd never have discovered this!

10) Finding that my hair has just about grown out of its awkward stage just in time for fall

As for the first 22 hours of autumn, so far so good...

Linky Magic Test


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Night Draws Near

It is not uncommon for OPB to be playing on my car radio. What is uncommon is for me to be listening to it during my lunch break. As luck would have it, my Lean Cuisine looked utterly unappealing by the time mid-day rolled around, so I decided to run out and get a caesar salad instead. I left the parking lot just in time to hear most of the Fresh Air interview with Pulitzer Prize winner, Anthony Shadid, who was talking about his book, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War. If the book is half as interesting as the interview, which can be found here, it definitely demands to be read.

Shadid, who is the Baghdad correspondant for The Washington Post, has a ready store of anecdotes about the Iraqi people and what our war has meant for them. Some of the stories are enlightening and are just horrifying and sad. People do and endure some ugly things during times of war. It's difficult to imagine what it is really like to live in such situations.

I've heard some pretty similar stories about Nazi Germany (and later communist East Germany) from my mother and grandparents. Their neighbors actually turned them in to the Stasi, but I'll have to write about that another time. This time my focus is simply on pointing out that the interview can be heard at OPB's website and that the book definitely sounds worth looking into.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

These boots are made for walking

Originally uploaded by Martina.
Having just returned from a glorious hour and a half long walk in the hills near my house, one thought dominates my mind. Why do I not do it more often? It felt so good to wander along windy paths through orchards and meadows. Now, even a couple hours later, it STILL feels good.

Why must it be so difficult to motivate myself to just get off my ass and do it? NEVER have I come home for a walk (or, as much as my couch potato soul hates to admit it, exercise of any kind) and thought "Man, that was SUCH a bad idea! I should never have gone for this walk!" Just the opposite. I always return thinking "That was refreshing! I feel great! I should do this more often!"

I know that the dogs would love me, if I did. The original plan had been to just take Baxter along, because he is the smallest and easiest to maneuver. In the end, thanks to Ruby and her idea of pilfering my mom's fanny pack and then a leash and carrying them outside to the gate while the other two excitedly cheered her on, all three of them got to come along. How do you say no to something that cute?

I will admit, however, that my "yes" was gruding at best. Past experience with our trio of miscreants has left me dubious about group walks. As a result, I was concerned about being dragged around Powell Butte by a gang of ill mannered canines, but it actually turned out to be quite a nice walk. No one pulled or misbehaved nor did I find myself being dragged downhill on my ass as has happened so many times before.

The boys were perfect gentleman, and aside from the incident wherein she decided to stand on the picnic table, Ruby was quite a lady. Now they (being as out of shape as I am) are all sacked out at various points in- and outside the house.

If I can just hold onto this good feeling and use it to motivate myself, we will be going for another walk very soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens
Originally uploaded by Martina.
Driving home from work tonight, Mt. St. Helens was visibly smoking in the distance. Although it doesn't seem like it, it's been just over 25 years since it erupted. Frankly, it's bizarre to me to think that I have a clear memory of anything that happened 25 years ago, but I do.

I remember the dusting of ash that made it all the way to where we lived in Portland. That was that spring that my ash allergy became apparent. I remember my mom and her friend buying masks for me and the friend's son, Randy, because both of us were sneezing so badly from it.

Having run out of the normal white ones, the store only had oddly shaped green ones left in stock. Never one to make trouble, Randy good naturedly accepted his bemasked fate, whereas I refused to wear mine on the grounds that it made me look like a frog. I suppose that alive and amphibious is better than incessant sneezing (let alone dead and coated in lava), but even at 11, I had a keen fashion aesthetic that did not include emulating Grandmother Toad. It is a rule of couture that continues to served me well.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I'm back!

It seems like something should be written to commemorate the loss, reappearance, loss again and re-reappearance of my blog. The problem is that I do not find myself overly inspired to do so, even though I'm delighted at the display of accidental technical prowess that lead to its restoration. After writing Blogger and not hearing back from them within three minutes of clicking "send", I grew impatient and began to experiment at fixing the weblog myself.

This endeavor was akin to the act of opening up the hood when my car breaks down. Do I know what I am looking at? No. Do I sometimes manage to accidentally fix something while futzing around and slamming the hood back down? Yes. That is exactly what happened here. I looked at code. I saved. I closed the window opened it, and saved again all to no avail. Then, a shaft of light shone down from the heavens, and I actually noticed that some of the code was missing.

This lead me to the idea of selecting a new template. The first time, the text of my blog came back, but the menu was still gone. So, I resaved my last post (don't ask me why, it just felt right) and selected yet another. Suddenly everything was coming up Millhouse and my blog was back. While I suspect it was the last post that was the problem, I like to think that all of my steps (including the intermittent whining and cursing) were necessary to the solution.

While some may say troubleshooting strategy is as disorganized as a FEMA response to a natural disaster, I say that I am clearly a technical genius.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Books! Books! Books!

As I was putzing around on the net the other day, I ran across a book survey on someone's blog. Feeling as I do about books, it piqued my interest. It had some interesting questions, but was too short, so I started looking around for similar surveys and making up questions of my own in order to create my own Frankensurvey. I think all of my friends should take it, thereby providing me with inspirations for new reading material.

What are you reading now?
The Baudy Basket by Edward Marston and an anthology of gothic stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. I'm just about to start The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Also a book on the history of Halloween, but that is for research, so it doesn't really count.

What is the last book that you bought?
Silver Ravenwolf's Halloween

What are your favorite books?
This is a tough question. There are so many that I love, so I'm going to go with a few that I've found myself coming back to again and again over the years - Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, Paolo Coehlo's The Alchemist, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, also Stardust. Presently I'm also very enamored with Wesley Stace's book, Misfortune.

Who are your favorite authors?
In no particular order (and definitely not an exhaustive list): Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Mann, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (esp. his poetry), Italo Calvino, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, A.S. Byatt, Rainer Maria Rilke. If you asked me tomorrow, I'm sure the list would include some others too.

Which genres are your favorites?
Ghost stories, mysteries, poetry, fiction, biography, historical fiction, satire

What books did you think you would hate but loved?
Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgement, Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, Heinlein, the comic books that Carlton has loaned to me.

What kind of books do you dislike most?
Westerns, horror

Do you mostly read contemporary work, older works or both?
Both. All time periods have something to offer, why exclude any of them?

What are some of the funniest books you've ever read?
Voltaire's Candide, John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces, Mark Acito's How I Paid for College, John Stewart's America, a book called Puttin' on the Ritz and its sequel Blue Heaven...I can't remember the author's name at the moment, but both had me laughing out loud a lot.

What are the most suspenseful books you've ever read?
Barbara Michaels' mysteries; The Turn of the Screw. I really like reading supernaturally tinged mysteries when I'm just looking for something fun.

Which books were so good that you read them in one sitting?
Anything by Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters. The Da Vinci Code, which I hate to admit, because it was so trendy. The Baron in the Trees, the first time I read it. I think The Club Dumas as well.

Which books have impacted you most?
The biography of Charlotte Stieglitz, JM Coetzee's Foe, because of the time I spent writing on them. Also, The Hobbit and The Boxcar Children, because those books really cemented my love of reading as a kid.

Which books/authors do you consider the most overrated?
Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire

Which good, but little known book or author would you rescue from obscurity? Katinka. It's an impressionist novel written by Herman Bang. I don't think he's really known in the U.S.

How many books do you generally read at a time? One, possibly two if I am also reading a non-fiction book.

What ration of fiction to non-fiction do you read?
3 fiction to 1 non-fiction

When (if) you read non-fiction, what are your favorite subjects?
Politics, culture, music, women's studies, history, psychology, social sciences. I'm trying to get myself more interested in reading about science, becuase I'm not very well rounded, but it's a struggle.

Which book that you haven't gotten around to yet do you want to read?
Boccaccio's Decamarone; Dante's Inferno. Every time I hear them mentioned, I think "I really should read that."

What is your earliest memory involving books?
The library. I remember my mom taking me there on weekends to pick out books and also my Opa taking me when I was a little girl.

Later, when I was just starting to read on my own, I also remember that our school librarian would put together these packs on different subjects that we could check out specially. She'd put them in these big, cardboard suitcases with a plastic handle that we could reserve and go pick up when school got out for the day. I remember dragging home such boxes many times.

My other strong book memory is how excited I would get when they distributed those tissuey Scholastic book catalogues at school during reading time. By the time I got home, I always had half the catalogue circled and then we'd have to do a reckoning. For some reason, even though they encouraged my interest in reading, my parents didn't seem to think I needed ALL the books.

What were your favorite books as a child?
Fairy Tales (esp. The Snow Queen, which is still my favorite), The Boxcar Children series, Nancy Drew (but not The Hardy Boys - I only like the Hardy Boys television series), The Hobbit, and the Judy Blume Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing books, Where the Wild things Are.

Which children's books do you like now?
Nicely illustrated fairy tale volumes, like the ones that K.Y. Craft does with various authors. Also, the Harry Potter books and Lemony Snicket's books.

What frequently recommended book have you been unable to finish?
Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose, which really frustrates me, because I find Eco fascinating.

If someone were to ask you for a book recommendation right now, what would it be?
Probably Misfortune or maybe James Reese's Book of Shadows, which was good, spooky fun. If they were looking for something light and funny, Marc Acito's How I Paid for College would be good.

So, now that I've shared some of my thoughts and suggestions, maybe you'd like to share some of yours.


a) what book did you think you would love but didn't (to go along with the hate/love question)
Hmmm...The only thing I can think of off the top of my head is The Name of the Rose. It's a difficult one for me to not love, because I really do like Umberto Eco and keep hoping that I just picked it up at the wrong time. It's been a few years, so maybe I will try again.

The other book that springs to mind is Interview with the Vampire. At the time it was recommended to me, I was doing a lot of research on vampirism and folklore. Because I was pretty enmeshed in the subject at the time, I had high hopes for enjoying the book, but really didn't at all. The whole thing struck me as a bunch of unoriginal blah blah blah kill someone suck some blood blah blah blah kill someone suck some blood etc.

b) do you have to finish a book if you start
It is difficult for me to not finish once I've begun reading something. I used to be a lot more strict about this than I am now, but, unless they are just unbearably awful, as a general rule, I still finish most things that I start.. A lot of it dpends on the type of book it is. It's easier, for example, for me to put down a boring non-fiction book than it is a classic..

c) how do you find new authors
Good question. I think most of my new finds come to me in the following ways: 1) browsing bookstores/libraries/people's bookshelves (probably my favorite); 2) recommendations from friends; 3) bibliographies; 4) interviews, articles in literary journals, book reviews, etc. Basically, books can pretty much come from any source except for Oprah's Book Club. I have an irrational and unnatural hatred for Oprah's Book Club to go along with my extreme dislike for Oprah herself. I know, she's basically good in theory (at least that's what people tell me, but there's something about the woman that just bugs me. That causes me to wonder, do I hate Dr. Phil by association? Or is he loathesome on his own merits? I think probably on his own, but this is a topic best saved for a survey on unnatural aggression and not books.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Say you were reading someone's blog. Now say they were looking to use up an offer for 10 free cd's before cancelling the BMG music club membership they somehow acquired, even though they swore they would never sign up for one again. If they were looking to expand their musical horizons, which ten cds would you recommend? Any genre is okay. The hypothetical individual in this hypothetical situation has diverse hypothetical tastes, so anything you think is worth listening to is a welcome suggestion.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hungry Valley: A Road Mix

As has been noted earlier, PCJ celebrated a birthday recently and acquired some mix cds from me to commemorate the auspicious occasion. Because she likes mix lists with commentary as much as she likes mix cds, I offer her "Hungry Valley". While it is a mix that is bigger on theme or ability to induce laughter than it is on musical genius, it still has some songs that were just chosen simply because I like them, and they happened to mention food.

Like beverage, food is a big part of road tripping. While I do make the occasional trip with others, PCJ and her sister are probably my favorite road trip companions. Somehow our road personalities just click. An inevitable part of road travel is that moment, when you realize that you are starving and you notice (save for foraging for nuts and berries in the wilderness) that there is no food for 50 miles. Hungry Valley was created for just such moments.

Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran: The rationale behind making this the opening song seems obvious to me. It has the added bonus of hearkening back to the 80's, otherwise known as the days of PCJ's youth, so it holds a double whammy - food AND nostalgia!

Breakfast at Tiffany's - The Breakfast at Tiffany's Guy: Sorry, but I don't know his name and I'm too lazy to look it up. More than that, though, it amuses me to refer to him (or is it a band?) as "The Breakfast at Tiffany's Guy". I think it's professional, like something a real music critic would do. Anyway, I remember liking this song when it first came out. I'm kind of over it now, but it does mention breakfast, so it does fit the HV criteria. Plus, I really DO remember the film and I recall that DID kinda like it. Actually, I liked it a lot and Audrey Hepburn was adorable in just about everything she did.

The Red Rose and the Briar - John Wesley Harding: This is one of the first JWH songs that I liked. It is a ballad of the sort that few people seem to write anymore today. Anymore, when people use "ballad", they're just talking about a non-rocking song. JWH's song is a ballad in the poetic sense of the word. It tells a developed story. It's a nice song, and the bulk of it takes place in a diner, hence the suitability for this mix.

Lady Marmelade - The Skanky Hos: While this may not be their real name, it is their true collective name. This was mostly put on because it had "marmelade" in the title, and because, sometimes when people are delirious with hunger, they will French Chef along with Lil' Kim on the "On on on..." (<-this MUST be read with a French nasal or don't bother reading it) part and giggle uncontrollably. Please Pass the Milk - They Might Be Giants: Short, classic, a must - especially since the mix has been low on beverages thusfar.

C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips - OK Go: There are three reasons why this song was included: 1) Cinnamon is a spice, therefore it can be eaten; 2) It mentions candy kisses and buttery eyes; 3) I LIKE it! It's just a fun song.

Don't Touch My Tomatoes - Joséphine Baker: Much like Ella Fitzgerald's "Stone Cold Dead in the Market" (which I just realize would have also fit on this mix), this song just has one of those rhythms that I find impossible to resist. The lyrics carry some double entendre in them, however, when I chose this song I chose it in the spirit of "Touch my food and you'll draw back a nub!", which is clearly NOT the spirit in which Miss Baker sang it. Either way, it's still a fun song.

Potato - Cheryl Wheeler: Ok. I will be the first to admit that there is something potentially annoying about listening to the word potato sung ad nauseum to the tune of The Mexican Hat Dance, but that's only the chorus. There are also several verses, which are also sung to Mexican Hat Dance, but have kind of funny lyrics that offer deep insight to the life of a potato, and are potentially annoying.

Queen of the Savages - The Magnetic Fields: Another Stephen Merritt gem AND it talks about yams, cabbages, and cannibalism. Clearly it was written with my future mix in mind. It's like Stephen and I are on the same wave length. Eerie.

Forbidden Fruit - Nina Simone: A cheery, bouncy song about how humanity was expelled from The Garden. Like Ella, Nina had a gorgeous voice. It's much deeper and fuller in timbre than Ella's was, but equally lovely. This song is more silly than anything else, but I highly recommend checking out some of her other work if you haven't already, because it really is compelling.

Sugar Daddy - From the Hedwig and the Angry Inch Soundtrack: This is a great song, because it's from a movie I love and it talks about candy, which clearly fits my theme. It also has references to Erich Hoeneker and Helmut Kohl, which appeals to the Hun in me. Plus, it's a great song to sing along with, which is important on a road trip.

Sweets for my Sweet - The Drifters: I have to admit that this is not my absolute favorite Drifters song, but it makes up for it by having that almost Latin beat that I like. Beyond that, it fit well into the candy portion of my mix.

Malted Milk - Eric Clapton: This song appeals to me, because I love blues and Eric Clapton is brilliant. It also amuses me that the drowning of sorrows is not being facilitated by gin or whiskey, but malted milk. Since this IS a road mix and we don't want to promote an upsurge in DWI's, Malted Milk just seemed safe and sensible.

I Want You - Savage Garden: This song makes no sense whatsoever, but was included for one reason and one reason only - that 2 second span where the words "chika cherry cola" are revealed.

One Week - Barenaked Ladies: In a nut shell: I like the song and it had too many food references to pass up. Plus, how many songs mention Kurosawa?

The Mariner's Revenge Song - The Decembrists: Words fail to express just how much I love this song. It is a glorious story of vengance and being swallowed by a whale. My two favorite part about this song are 1) the protagonist's ghostly, consumptively weak mother, who urges her son to "Find him, find him, tie him to a pole and break his fingers to splinters; Put him in a hole until he wakes up, naked, clawing at the ceiling of his grave..." and 2) The fact that the mariner is thrilled that he and his victim both managed to survive being swallowed by a whale, because it affords him the possiblity of killing him himself. It's just a great song.

Dinner Bell - They Might Be Giants: This song takes me back to my California days. I remember one particular road trip between California and Oregon where this song (actually the whole CD it came from) figured prominently in our road show.

Is That You Modean? - The B-52's: God, I love me some Fred Scheider. He is just so cheesy and campy. How can anyone not love an alien abduction song that begins "Waiting for bus number 99/Going to the store for hot dogs and wine!/When all of a sudden, I felt real cold/And wound up in the belly of a big old UFO"? It's almost as good as Hot Pants. As with TMBG, this song reminds me a lot of a particular trip to California. I have very specific memories of bare feet hanging out the car window and singing selections from this CD at the top of our lungs as we drove through the mountainy, dry border area.

That's Amore - Dean Martin: It mentions pizza pie and it's cheesy - really cheesy.

Black Coffee - Julie London: I think it must be the slinky feather-boa-wearing opening that drew me. I don't even LIKE coffee.

Baby Got Back - Sir Mix-A-Lot: What mix cd about food would be complete without a song about fat assed women? Enough said.

The Union Mule & Friends - Easward Ho! Part 8

My friend in Union
Originally uploaded by Martina.

Day 1 - The Final Entry

Tonight I met a new friend. His name is The Union mule, but his friends call him Giles. He is a bit of a watcher, standing guard over the Union Cemetary. We met when PCJ and I made a stop at the cemetery on the way to search for dinner in La Grande.

Anyone who gazes on the visage of The Union Mule can’t help but think he was awfully cute. He came right up to the fence to say hello. I wished I would have had something to give him. What do mules like anyway? I know horses like apples. Maybe they do too. Either way, he was quite charming and it's a good thing there isn't room in my Matrix for a mule, or he might have become the trip mascot.

On the way to La Grande, we also stopped at Cove, which is a charming little town, but not as charming as the Union mule. There really was not much of anything there, but something about it just had a good vibe - much better than Island City which we also passed on the way to La Grande.

Of Island City, I can only say that the town has fallen prey to a gross misnomer that does not do it any favors. “Island City” screams grass skirts, mai-tais and luaus, not strip mall and couple of gas stations. I’m not sure who it was that thought anything containing “Island” was a good name for a town in the middle of the prairie. It’s pretty much doomed to disappoint. I’ll have to look it up in my Oregon Place Names book and find out.

Stay tuned for Day 2...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Union Hotel - Westward Ho! Part 7

Union Hotel
Originally uploaded by Martina.
From the Garden Room of the Union Hotel:

Tonight we are spending the night as guests of the Union Hotel. It is a sweet, little hotel that was built in 1919 for the whopping sum of
$150,000. Today you can’t even buy a small ranch style home for that, but in 1921 I suppose it was a lot of money. As with many of these buildings, the place opened with great fanfare, but then the town declined and the hotel fell into disrepair.

Eventually a couple bought it and began renovating. They’ve done a good job, the hotel is charming and the rates are a steal. The room (actually it is two rooms connected by a bathroom) we are staying in is called The Garden Room. The Garden Room(s) is (are) decorated in a palette of blue and yellow, which is used to a cheery effect.

If any decorating faux pas has been committed, it would be that the rooms are almost too cute. The furnishings are as “wicktastic” (or predominantly made of wicker) as a set from the Golden Girls, and the beds have white picket fencing as headboards. Truthfully, the fencing is an almost too precious touch. It is purely cosmetic and really does not make a very useful headboard. My room also has a mural of a tree painted on the wall, but Jen‘s does not. This has cemented in my mind that the Union Hotel likes me better. Clearly it is no match for my charm.

We are separated by a blue bathroom with an old clawfoot tub that I won’t be bathing in, because I have an almost OCD thing about hotel tubs. The thought of stewing in the remnants of some stranger’s funk grosses me out, so unless they are exceptionally clean, I only take showers in hotels. It is, nonetheless, a relaxing, comfortable place to stay, even for a whack job like myself.

The owners have cultivated an environment that makes the visitor feel like she has stepped back in time. That is my favorite part about this place. While the hotel has a community parlor and television room for those who require modern amenities beyond electricity, the guest rooms themselves have no televisions or telephones, making for a nice, quiet retreat to read, write, think or spend time alone together. The view from my window is also pleasant as it overlooks a city park with a stream (Catherine Creek), gazebo and veteran’s memorial. The hotel website also claims there is a view of the Eagle Cap mountains, but I do not remember seeing them. Either the proprietors of the Union Hotel are damn dirty liars or the cloudy conditions prevented my mountain viewing pleasure. It is okay, though, because we will see plenty of mountains as the trip goes on for tomorrow we head to Joseph, Enterprise and the Blue Mountains.

The Pendleton Underground - Westward Ho! Part 6

Ball & Chain
Originally uploaded by Martina.
Let it not be said that Pendleton’s seedy side was solely comprised of bordellos. Oh, no, there were also gambling halls, speakeasies, opium dens and ominous Chinese laundries. Ok, the Chinese laundry was not that ominous, but it was down there. What was ominous, however, was the Chinese jail, which still displays a rusty and uncomfortable looking ball and chain.

The first place we visited in the underground was the Shamrock Card Room, which featured a group of really non-lifelike mannequins playing cards. As it turns out, the non-lifelike mannequin tableau is a hallmark of the Pendleton Underground. I couldn't help thinking that the Underground mannequins looked like they’d have gotten on well with the House on the Rock mannequins. Someone should hook them up. Sure, they come from different times and different places, but they (assuming mannequins have the capacity to appreciate anything) might enjoy being part of an all mannequin revival of Kate & Leopold. On the other hand, I can’t imagine that the card playing, gun-slinger mannequins would be as happy in Spring Green, Wisconsin as they are in their home under a bordello. Sure the HotR mannequins are nude, but they're probably all talk.

While the tour is short on naked mannequins, it does continue on through a series of rooms including the aforementioned Chinese jail, an opium den, and a big room where Chinese workers slept at night (presumably before Chinatown was built). The extensive network of tunnels originated beneath the city as a way for Chinese workers to get from place to place. There were curfews in place for the Chinese after dark, and there was a real danger of being used for target practice, if they were caught outside past curfew. This yet again proves to me that no one society has a monopoly on treating outsiders poorly.

Following the tour, we were starving. Luckily the Main Street Diner was only a few feet away. It was the life-sized Betty Boop outside on the sidewalk that caught our attention, but once we looked inside, we knew it was the right place for us. What was so great about it? It had food. It was also a cute, old school diner with burgers, fries and shakes. Really, at that point I didn’t care what they served. Jen is testing the cheeseburgers at various diners and proclaimed them good, but not as good as Big Jim’s in The Dalles. I am not testing burgers, but thought my Western Burger (basically a hamburger with some barbeque sauce and an onion ring on top) was okay too. Really, if we had waited much longer to eat, I would have happily eaten my shoe and called it haute cuisine. It is possible that this makes me not the best judge. Either way, we left the restaurant full and ready to continue on our trip, which lead us through La Grande and a series of other small towns.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Songs from the Powellhurst Compound

We now interrupt our gripping series, Eastward Ho!, for a special PCJ's birthday month presentation. PCJ's birthday was on Friday, which means she has now joined me in being in her very late post-early-mid-30's. To commemorate this special occasion, we had a brunch and presents at my house. The occasion was made all the more special by the fact that my dog, Napoleon Baxtaparte did not bite (or even bark that much!) at anyone, despite the guest list including two friends he'd never snubbed before.

While I have eaten many a brunch, I have never actually hosted one, so it was a new experience for me. I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous about everything turning out well. This did not, however, stop me from trying out almost all new recipes. Luckily for me, everything turned out fairly decent. Some of it was even really good!

Anyway, part of the festivities was also giving PCJ some mix cd's I'd made for her. Since she has been gently reminding me for almost a week now that I need to give her the track listing for them, here is the one for Songs from the P'hurst Compound:

1. Son of a Preacher Man - Dusty Springfield. I know it's old and semi-dorky for me to admit, but I love this song. It was originally offered to Aretha Franklin. She turned it down, so Dusty recorded it instead. I really like her voice, however, it's the only song of hers that I've ever heard that I actually enjoy.
2. Hitler's Tears - John Wesley Harding. It might just be the cow bell, but I love this song! While Hitler is about as unfunny as you can get, the lyrics to this song crack me up. The idea that Hitler's actions all go back to some pop-psychology mumbo jumbo about a miserable childhood, being a frustrated artist and having bad luck with the ladies is patently ridiculous, but tongue in cheek, so it's ok.
3. Making Memories of Us - Keith Urban. This one was actually a Citizen R. addition.
4. Proud Mary - Tina Turner. Another Citizen R. favorite and example of my closet love for old school R&B. The thing that makes this song so great (beyond the obvious things) is that it really does showcase how lame Ike would be on his own. It's a shame he was such a bastard, because he was involved in making some pretty cool music. It's still not my favorite Ike & Tina song, but I do really like it.
5. Let Me Down Easy - Chris Isaak. This is one of the few songs that I really liked on his last CD, but I still love him. He just has this awesome tone to his voice that makes me melt when I hear it. 6. Time Enough for Rocking When We're Dead - The Magnetic Fields. Stephen Merritt has this great, deep, dark, almost creepy voice that still has a real beauty in its tone. He somehow manages to sound poignant and cynical at the same time. And his lyrics, well, they're just weird and great. The best thing about my favorite songs of his, though, are the melodies, which are lyrical and just plain lovely.
7. Misguided Angel - Cowboy Junkies. Thanks to PCJ, I went through a very heavy Cowboy Junkies phase in grad school. I don't listen to them as much as I used to (I don't know why and should probably start again), but this has always been one of my favorite songs of theirs. Margo Timmins has this great voice, like honey dripping from a jar. She never sounds like she's straining, which I love.
8. I Said I Love You - Raul Malo. Cheesy, but irresistable. This kind of song always makes me think of this time I was in a club in LA and this guy asked me to dance to a similarly fast song and was manically swinging me around the floor like a giant rag doll, which also makes me laugh.
9. Merry-Go-Round - John Wesley Harding. I could have subtitled this "JWH and Friends", because he appears on this mix a lot. All of the songs on this mix are live recordings that can be downloaded for free from Harding's website
Listening to him makes me happy, because it reminds me of the time between starting grad school and moving back to Oregon, which was, until my dad died, a really happy time in my life.
10. Wishful Thinking - The Ditty Bops. This is my second favorite song on their cd. My first favorite is "Sister Kate". Frankly, I've listened to it so often, that I'm ready for a brief "Sister Kate" break. Still, I really like this band. I knew I love them the moment I saw them on Conan O'Brien with their lead singer and her little Jazz Age hairdo and fringed dress. Besides just singing a great song, she inspired me to grow my layers out!
11. Let the Good Times Roll - Three Mo' Tenors. A definite Citizen R. addition, from a very eclectic cd, which is a collection of broadway, opera, jazz and whatever else came to mind when they were recording.
12. Fool in Love - Tina Turner. I have another newer recording of it that she did in the 80's, which I like better in some ways, especially because she was no longer an abused cash cow when she recorded and somehow sounds happier. On the other hand, her voice has more character and rawness in the original. Basically, I like them both. It's just a great, 60's pop song.
13. I Know Where I'm Going - John Wesley Harding. This is just a sweet, folksy song with some simple guitar for accompaniment. It has a lovely melody and I like the playing with perspective inherent in a man singing lyrics about loving handsome, winsome Johnny. It makes me wonder if maybe I'm not the only one who loves Johnny Depp.
14. Memories are Made of This - Dean Martin. Cheesetastic, I know, but it reminds me of muppets, so it had to be here. Also, just as a side note, the first movie that I consciously remember seeing was a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis movie (maybe Cinderfella?, but I'm not sure) and I had a kiddie crush on him then - though not as big as the one I had on Jim Rockford. Well, I guess I've revealed all my secret shames here, haven't I?
15. That's the Way I Like It - K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Despite the passing years, the fading disco glory of this song still makes me smile. K.C. and the Sunshine band was one of the first albums I bought as a kid. It's a perfect kind of belting it in the car while butt dancing song. Sometimes you just gotta embrace your inner dork and groove and what better song is there for that?
16. Truly, Madly Deeply - Savage Garden. Another Citizen R request. I figured since I was using the Chicka-Cherry-Cola song on my other mix masterpiece.
17. Joy to the World - Three Dog Night. Did you guess Citzen R? Well, you're right. You win the cheesy mix cd you are already holding in your hand.
18. Out of the Window - Violent Femmes. The thing I love about Gordon Gano is that his whiny voice is not technically what I would call great, but he makes me like it anyway. I think PCJ summed it up best when she attributed their appeal to getting this window into the mind of the 20 year old male. I really like this song. It's pretty bouncy considering its subject matter.
19. Hamlet - John Wesley Harding. Anyone who can condense the whole plot of Hamlet into a 4:57 minute song is brilliant. Enough said. This is SO much better (and funnier) than Cliff Notes!
20. Now Comes the Night - Rob Thomas. This is a Citizen R. favorite, because it's "pretty". She is big on pretty. I like it a this song too, so don't think it was only Citizen R influenced.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pendleton's Painted Ladies - Eastward Ho! Part 5

Cozy Room Interior
Originally uploaded by Martina.
By the time we got to Pendleton, it was around 11:30 a.m. We stopped for a quick trip to the visitor’s center, then wandered a couple of blocks down the street to Emigrant Avenue, the site of the Pendleton Underground tour office. They say that one normally needs a reservation, but we didn’t have one. It did not seem to hurt us. The tour was fabulous and filled with lots of local history (mostly the seedy bits, which tend to be way more fun than ultimately boring stories featuring the upstanding act of upstanding citizens). It was well worth the $10 admission fee.

Pendleton seems to have been the seedy underbelly of early Oregon. One hundred some odd years ago the little town was home to 32 saloons and 18 bordellos. At one time the second floor of just about every building on Main Street was a bordello, and there was even more illicit activity going on under the city.

The underground was build by Chinese laborers around the turn of the 19th century, and seems to have flourished in the time of prohibition, when the saloons, gambling venues and speakeasies moved underground along with the opium dens and Chinese jail.

The tour focuses largely on Pendleton’s brothels, in particular The Cozy Rooms operated by Stella Darby. The Cozy Rooms were located in on the second floor of the Emigrant Building (?). Locals (at least the ones prone to visiting such places) called the stairway leading to the rooms the “32 steps to heaven”.

Besides being an enabler to the whore mongers of the greater Pendleton area, Stella was an astute businesswoman who made her foray into the trade world at the tender age of 19.

She was by no means greedy, though. Always willing to help the community that shunned her and her girls (whom she is purported to have treated well), Stella was a benevolent soul, often donating clothing, money and food to the poor.

My favorite story about her was one the guide learned from an older woman who once visited the tour. As the guide started to talk about Stella, the woman blurted out “If you want to know about Stella Darby, I’ll tell you about Stella Darby!” The woman went on to tell a story from her own youth.

Apparently she was quite poor. This, of course, did not prevent her from being excited when a boy invited her to a formal dance. Still, it sunk in pretty quickly that she didn’t have a formal gown and that there certainly would be no money for a dress. Being a bold one, the girl decided the only sensible thing to do was to trot herself down to the red light district and ask a hooker if she could borrow a dress.

While Stella was accustomed to helping those less fortunate, it was the first time that anyone had ever actually asked for her help. Even though people were ready to take her donations and appreciated them in a fashion, they never really thanked her. Because of what she did for a living, she wasn’t exactly a pillar of the community. For a moment, she was stunned. She quickly recovered her composure and readily agreed to let the girl come in a pick out any dress she liked. The girl chose a blue satin number and went to the dance and had a wonderful time.

When the dance was over, she brought the dress back to Stella. Instead of making her give the dress back, however, Stella (who must have enjoyed the girl’s boldness, not to mention the fact that someone had come to her for help) let her keep it. At the time of the tour she took some decades later, the woman still had the dress wrapped in tissue paper in her attic.

In thinking about that story, it seems to me that the girl gave Stella something perhaps even greater than Stella gave her. In seeking out her help, for just a moment, she gave her respectability. She made Stella a normal neighbor, a part of the community.

The truth is that people like Stella and her girls were not really a part of the community. They weren’t truly welcome anywhere outside of their little red light district. They weren’t even welcome in church. Instead, Stella turned one of the parlors into a chapel, where she’d invite traveling preachers to come sermonize, so her girls could have church too. It must have been a very lonely life.

Brains! Eastward Ho! - Part 4

Crawling from the grave
Originally uploaded by Martina.
Day 1 - cont'd

Before leaving the greater Echo metropolitan area, we stopped at the Echo cemetery. I don’t know why, but cemeteries always interest me, especially the older ones. I suppose it is because of all of the stories they contain. When I see all those names and dates, I wonder about the people and lives behind them. It engages my imagination.

Also, cemeteries are quiet, restful places. Plus, especially in the older ones, some of the headstone carvings can be pretty interesting. This one had some great headstones. There was a rather large one that I believe was supposed to represent the soul reaching out to heaven. The impression it made on me was more one of a corpse crawling from the grave to climb up the cross mounted above it - possibly seeking a better vantage point in its zombie search for brains. That one struck me as more creepy than restful, but maybe that’s just the zombiphobe in me talking.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Echo Dog - Eastward Ho! Part 3

The Echo Dog
Originally uploaded by Martina.

Day 1, cont'd

Let it not be said, however, that Echo had nothing at all to offer. Echo is where I met the Echo dog. After scaring the hell out of me (he came running up, while I was taking a picture and caught me by surprise), he turned out to be a pleasant, if very dirty, friend.

At first I wasn’t too sure of him, because he was very reticent to be touched. Still, when faced with a large, unfamiliar dog with no way to escape, it’s best to try to make friends, so I said, “Hi puppy”. He immediately ran away, making me think that my diplomatic skills needed some work.

No sooner had I turned around to get back in the car, than he was there again. This time he was holding a ridiculously small stick in his mouth. He looked a bit silly, having chosen a stick that would have been more appropriate for a chihuahua than a dog of his size, but his intentions were clear. He was extending an olive branch - or at least an olive twig.

Apparently he did not want to maim me at all. He just wanted to play a game of fetch! So, we stayed and played for a bit. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, the Echo dog tore off to bound over a nearby fence and PCJ and I got back in the car and headed out of town.