Saturday, July 30, 2005

Movies, TV, and pesto

First basil pesto of the season -- yummy! Basil from the garden, made into delicious pesto by my Sweetie. And then we ate some -- even better! -- while watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. So now we're caught up on the HP movies; 2nd and 3rd movies were quite good: Some compression and changes from the book, but nothing that violated the spirit of the books, and generally strengthened the pace of the screenplay. Oh, and fabulous special effects! We decided to take our next vacation at's a beautiful campus, even if it is a bit dangerous. ;)

We went to see the new version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last weekend. I liked it, but it is a dramatic shift from the first film, and, although in some ways more closely allied to the book, it represented a different overall theme arc. I won't give plot spoilers, but: I loved the musical numbers (more consistently entertaining than the original film, and lyrics from Roald Dahl), the special effects were excellent, and the overall "feel" of the film was very good. I think my only reservations were related to Johnny Depp's characterization of Willy Wonka and the shift in the overall theme arc. This movie is much more about Willy Wonka's character development than it is about Charlie's, and I don't think that improves the film (IMHO). Depp is definitely eccentric and offbeat, but I'm not sure he captures what I think of as the essence of Willy Wonka (though I do admit that it would be hard to replace Gene Wilder as the quintessential Willy Wonka in my book). But Depp's reaction shots are GREAT -- he has fabulous facial expressions which are truly creepy.

I watched the first 6 episodes of Kids in the Hall [yay, Netflix!], and I had forgotten how odd it was. It's a very absurdist show; not consistently funny to me, but some very amusing bits within it. I loved a monologue by Dave Foley, excerpted below:

Dave: Hi, my name's Dave Foley, and, uh, something you might not know about me is that .. I have a good attitude towards menstruation. That's right, I'm the guy! The guy with a good attitude towards menstruation!

Oh, I know a lot of men are made uncomfortable by this monthly miracle. But not me. No, I embrace it. Embrace it the way the way some men embrace the weekend! Why I anticipate it the way a child anticipates Christmas!

. . .

That's why the woman I shall love will be able to menstruate as fully and freely as she desires. Even if her monthly flow should build in intensity to a raging rust colored torrent! An unbridled river of life giving blood flowing from between her legs! An awesome cataract plunging off the edge of our couch. I wouldn't be fazed! No, no, even if coureur de bois would come up stream, battling the rapids, and singing a 'jaunty song'! I would take no offense, rather I would ford across that mighty womanly river, and fetch herbal tea and Pamprin. And then I would mop her brow and admire her fecundity. For I...Have A Good Attitude....Towards MENSTRUATION!

Now, why can't more men (and women) feel that way! Although, at least Q does. ;)

After a long day of gardening, I'm off to a hot bath to ease VERY sore muscles and then bed.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Sad news

I just found out the my graduate advisor passed away recently. I had been out of touch with him for almost a year, and I was just thinking of revisiting some of our mutual projects and contacting him. I wish I had stayed in better touch. He was a terrific advisor -- smart, incisive, funny, he provided guidance without being controlling. He was never afraid of critiquing the mainstream approaches in the field and he inspired me to look for alternative explanations for social phenomena. I learned so much from him about writing, critical thinking, research methodology, and how to be an academic psychologist. I hope he knew how much I appreciated his mentoring. I'll miss him.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Too many chives and other important gardening facts

I awoke with the determination to get outside and clean up the ridiculously overgrown front garden. It's in the style of an English cottage garden, so I can get away with it being overgrown, but it was getting to be a bit much. So, on with the sunscreen and the floppy hat and out into the garden. That's when I discovered some vital, hiterhto unknown, facts.

For example, it is possible to have TOO MANY CHIVES. I cannot stress this fact enough. I was tired of looking at the row of floppy chive plants, so I figured I would cut them all down to half their height. This would give me neater plants, and some chives to eat, thought I, plus stimulating the plants to grow more. So I cut...and cut...and cut. My basket filled with chives. There were too many -- I threw some in the compost. I dug some up and put them in pots; maybe someone else would like chive plants. I finally finished the job and lugged the load of onion-grass into the kitchen to wash it. It completely filled the kitchen sink. It took me almost an hour just to wash it all. I finally realized that I had TOO MANY CHIVES. I could give onion breath to the entire population of Istanbul. I could cover a baked potato the size of Kentucky. And worse yet, I have no potatoes in the house, and precious few recipes that even call for chives. What was I thinking? I cannot change my predicament, but I can at least let others know of the dangers of growing TOO MANY CHIVES. In the meantime, if anyone needs 10-20 cups of chives, or some chive plants, let me know. ;)

I discovered, or re-discovered, some other facts as well:

Sometimes it is TOO HOT to garden comfortably. I'm pretty sure I already knew this. I seem to recall a dreadfully hot day last summer that I alternated between weeding the garden and sitting, slumped and panting, in the delightfully air-conditioned house, wondering what the signs of heatstroke were.

No amount of bug repellant will actually keep mosquitoes from landing on me and attempting to feast on my blood. However, bug spray does seem to reduce somewhat the final number of itchy bumps I develop after being in the garden, just enough to keep me using it (surely the intent of the manufacturers, who are sitting in a bug-free office somewhere laughing their heads off at me). And bug repellant does seem to confuse the mosquitoes enough that they don't just feast and leave, but rather they circle my head and fly at my eyes, wondering in their tiny neural circuits why the walking blood-bag smells funny today.

Ants are weird. I think I knew this already, too, but I am struck with renewed astonishment that they can create an entire ant-nest in an empty plastic pot I left next to the shed. And they seem to love the taste of gladiolas. Since most of my gladiolas had fallen over (because I forgot the important fact that they need to be staked to stay upright...*sigh*), there were thick lines of ants bustling in and out of the flowers, hoping for a hit. "Hey, man, I really need a fix, and the other gladiola bar is already out of juice...just let me in for a minute, huh?" And what are those little white things ants always seem to be carrying? Are they bits of food, or eggs, or ant-suitcases, or what?

I suck at growing vegetables. This is my first year trying to grow vegetables, and apart from a few kohlrabi (which were, admittedly, tasty), my vegetable growing has been pretty dismal. I have raised some mutant cauliflower, which looks bizarre and tastes terrible, some zucchini flowers (but no zucchini yet), and some lacy fronds of asparagus which I can't harvest for three years. I put in some beans and corn, with the (probably unrealistic) hope that they will produce edible produce, but I remain unconvinced of my ability to raise food. Maybe that's why I live near three grocery stores and scores of restaurants -- the universe is telling me to give up farming. On the other hand, I do very well with herbs, so we'll be swimming in basil pesto by the end of the summer.

And now, I'm off to dinner with colleagues from work. Poor Q, who has to spend the whole night listening to psychology-talk -- that's the cost of living with an academic! But it promises to be a good meal, since my colleague's wife is a professional chef (studied in France, I think), so maybe Q won't mind too much.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Movies movies and V-hearts

In response to several rave reviews for Netflix, I finally decided to sign up -- maybe now I'll finally actually see some of the movies on my "I really should see that" list! So let me know what your "must see" DVDs are, and maybe I'll add them to my queue.

I managed to get some sewing done this week. I helped organize the campus production of The Vagina Monologues (by Eve Ensler) in the spring (I was the main director), and it made me think a great deal about the issues and symbolism she evokes. If you aren't familiar with the play, it is about women's experiences of their sexuality and their bodies; Eve Ensler allows college campuses to perform the show for free in February/March as part of V-Day, the initiative to end violence against women (all proceeds go to organizations focused on violence against women).

In the final monologue, she compares the vagina to a heart:
The heart is capable of sacrifice.
So is the vagina.
The heart is able to forgive and repair.
It can change its shape to let us in.
It can expand to let us out.
So can the vagina.
It can ache for us and stretch for us, die for us and bleed and bleed us into this difficult wondrous world.
So can the vagina.
---Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues (2001, p.124-5)

So I got the idea of making fabric hearts which evoked vulval/vaginal imagery (a la Georgia O'Keefe's flowers, for example) -- vagina hearts, in other words (although actually it is more a representation of the vulva than the vagina, but Eve Ensler, like most of our society, underutilizes the word vulva). I wanted to make one for each performer in the show (which I haven't managed to finish yet), some of which would be inspired by some portion of their monologue. It has been great fun: It's making me get some textile art done, and encouraging me to stretch a bit in my textile art. I've also made a couple for friends -- they are a big hit with everyone, so far. I'll post pictures soon, once I get a photo editing program that works with my OS. I tried using the GIMP, which works fine under Linux, but crashes under my Windows OS. I suppose I'll get Photoshop, since that seems to be the most popular program for all kinds of photo editing.

It's storming today -- thunder, lightning, rain, and more thunder and lightning. Maybe I can garden tomorrow, if the storm system moves on. Storms make me sleepy, so there was a vital nap this back to work!

Saturday, July 9, 2005

First post

After many months of reading others' blog posts, I finally create one of my own. It's a bit daunting, really. The idea that these words go out around the world for anyone to read activates my perfectionism -- but that merely leads down the road to never writing or posting anything at all! So I alleviate my anxiety with the almost sure knowledge that few people will actually read the post. I'm reminded of the Blue Man Group piece which illustrates the proliferation of media sources leading to little overlapping exposure to any particular media message -- that is, when there are a myriad of media sources available, it's increasingly unlikely that you and I have had exposure to exactly the same media (particularly with increased "channel surfing"). So I write, but without any knowledge or surety of being read; ever the dilemma of our age.

With that sop to an introduction and the exorcism of my blogger anxiety, I can move on to more substantive material. Yesterday was full of weeding the garden, which is satisfying, but strikes me to be fundamentally similar to cleaning. I remember when I worked in food service, how frustrating it was to mop the floor and know that it would just need mopping again in a few hours or a day -- what was the point? Weeding has that same quality; one weeds and then two weeks later, one needs to weed again. While I admire the tenacity of the weeds themselves, I can't help but feel a combination of satisfaction and futility when I pull weeds. It feels great to get them out and see the cleaned beds, but I know they will be back and I'll just have to do it again. Maybe I can just view it as exercise -- after all, we go to the gym with the idea that we will have to do it again, and that rarely feels futile to me. It's all about the cognitive framing, I suppose.

With that said, I go back to revising my course materials for the summer classes which start Monday -- futile or satisfying? You decide! (I vote for satisfying, with some sense of non-futile repetition thrown in for good measure.)