Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book Review

I had a problem in Italy where the Poste Italiane just refused to deliver packages. I don't know if they arrived and no one was home and in spirit of Italian efficiency they just sent them back, or if there was a customs problem, or what. Either way, I've returned to the United States and people are all "Welcome back! We have a care package for you in the garage!". It's like early Christmas out here!

I spent my Thanksgiving with my Aunt's family and they dug out a semi-mangled box of birthday presents for me. It was an amazing package full of food and wonders-- and my favorite part: Aunt Sara's Book Review. Aunt Sara is incredibly smart and well read and she LOVES to buy books-- so every time I'm at her house it's like going to the library except they actually HAVE all the books that are new and awesome. So usually I browse the shelves at Sara's house and then ask how the book was before I steal it away-- but for the sake of the garage package, because it was supposed to find me in Italy, she kindly included a post-it note review on every cover:
Travel to Venice! Sound advice for a world traveler.
"Entertaining but a little depressing" (thanks for the head's up)."Think you might have this already" (I don't).

And my personal favorite:
Think I liked it, don't remember.

It's really good to be home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Staple-Free Stapler

My sister gave me this stapler last Christmas, or the Christmas before, meaning I have been intending to post about it for a year or maybe two. It doesn't make much difference because either way I'm really behind. Anyway, isn't it beautiful? Taking this picture felt like doing a glamor shot of a Ferrari.

Here is how it staples. Front view:

Back view:

It's really quite ingenious, and holds the papers together quite well unless you're really violent with them, which I rarely am. An added benefit is that it's very light, so if you feel you cannot travel without a stapler, you could take it with you everywhere and not know you were carrying it. The only disadvantage is that it definitely does not double as a blunt instrument, so if you are being burgled, your best bet is a regular stapler, hole-punch, or paperweight. If you are not at your desk, I don't know what you'll do. I suppose most lamp bases would probably work. If you are in the kitchen your options should be obvious. But for desk-related defense, be advised this is not the tool for you. Other than that, thumbs up.

Friday, November 19, 2010

By the way

Remember when this happened? In case you're too lazy to click on that link (I know I am), I am referring to the time that somebody drove into the Masonic Temple with his car and broke one of the columns. WELL, after six months of a very ugly temporary structure holding up the sagging roof, there is finally a new column. I didn't take a picture because it looks just like the old column. Except that the cement base is just a block, and not as fancy as the other bases. Maybe they're working on that. Probably not, though. This town is run by people who think fake brick is an acceptable replacement for real brick. Philistines. Anyway. Just thought you all would like to know how relieved I am that I no longer have to look at orange construction fencing out half of my windows now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

James Thurber

So, Keith Olbermann has been reading James Thurber aloud on the Friday episodes of Countdown. I had mixed feelings about him before he started doing this. Now I have an enormous soft spot for him. He does voices! I repeat, KEITH OLBERMANN DOES VOICES WHILE READING SHORT STORIES BY THURBER ON CABLE TELEVISION. Nothing beats that for weird, and nothing beats it for wonderful.

It was solely because of Keith Olbermann that I picked up The Thurber Carnival at a book sale a couple of months ago. I'd read "The Catbird Seat" in high school, but on account of my inability to understand why the catbird seat was a good place to be, what catbirds had to do with anything, what a catbird was anyway, I was not bowled over by my first introduction to Thurber. But, put Keith Olbermann in an overstuffed red leather chair doing voices, and I'll give anything a second chance. Which is why I've just finished The Thurber Carnival.

Here are some things I like about Thurber:

1. He is preoccupied with Robert Browning and Ambrose Bierce. This is nice because it is human to be preoccupied with things, and I like my writers to be human. I am myself am currently preoccupied with cannibalism, colonial America, and baking bread. If I were writing anything at the moment, you bet I would find a way to work these in.

2. He neither likes nor understands automobiles. I sympathize.

3. He makes me laugh out loud. So few authors can accomplish this. Before Thurber I read American's Hidden History: no laughs. Among the Cannibals: no laughs. The Year of the Flood: no laughs. A Children's Book: no laughs. This is unrealistic. Life is simply not that serious. For Pete's sake, Thurber's brother shot out his eye with an arrow when he was seven (they were playing William Tell, a poor idea) and he still turned out hilarious. No one else has any excuses.

The stories I enjoyed the most were the autobiographical ones about Thurber's family, from My Life and Hard Times. They are full of things like this brief history of his great-uncle Zenas: "A sensitive, rather poetical boy of twenty-one when the Civil War broke out, Zenas had gone to South America -- "Just," as he wrote back, "until it blows over." Returning after the war had blown over, he caught the same disease that was killing off the chestnut trees in those years, and passed away. It was the only case in history where a tree doctor had to be called to spray a person, and our family had felt it very keenly; nobody else in the United States caught the blight. Some of us looked upon Zenas' fate as a kind of poetic justice."

It was the only case in history where a tree doctor had to be called to spray a person.


He also wrote something called The Pet Department, which appears to be some kind of advice column in which those asking advice send sketches to illustrate their questions. It goes like this:

Q: We have a fish with ears and wonder if it is valuable.

A: I find no trace in the standard fish books of any fish with ears. Very likely the ears do not belong to the fish, but to some mammal. They look to me like a mammal's ears. It would be pretty hard to say what species of mammal, and almost impossible to determine what particular member of that species. They may merely be hysterical ears, in which case they will go away if you can get the fish's mind on something else.

Standard fish books. Hysterical ears.


Anyway, if you are interested, you can go here to see Keith Olbermann read "The Night the Bed Fell." It's about eight minutes long. I recommend his other readings, too, especially these (which I really wish they had simply labeled with the titles of the stories):
  • The Night the Ghost Got In, (in two parts, listed under "Reading one of Thurber's classics" and the "Fridays with Thurber continues" that's right above it)
  • The Catbird Seat,  (in two parts, listed under "An ordinary man wanting to do the extraordinary" and "Thurber Fridays: The Catbird Seat")
  • Exhibit X, (listed under "Thurber's time in the State Department")
And of course I recommend The Thurber Carnival and everything else even though I haven't read it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Everyone should have friends who live in Europe

I got this package from Rome the other day.

I've decided that if this whole ... unemployed ... thing doesn't work out for me, what I will do is open a store filled entirely with imported Italian wrapping paper. I considered not even opening these because I could not fathom the idea that anything inside might actually be BETTER than the wrapping paper which is of course the great danger of beautiful wrapping paper. When I did finally open them, I removed the tape very carefully and saved the paper. You scoff, but it will be of great artistic use to me some day. You'll see.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Graveyard Brownies

Matt & Adam made these at my request/demand for my birthday. They remind me of that graveyard tour Travel Buddy and I took in Edinburgh which you think would put me off but it doesn't. Oh no it does not.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

This is what I've been drinking with my tea!


This came out of my kettle. After I saw it, I cleaned the kettle out, and boy was it dirty in there! I can understand mineral buildup, but what is this grit? It's not like I've been brewing nasty things in my witch's cauldron, I just boil water in my kettle. Weird.

Friday, November 05, 2010

About the new header

I never really got over the Moon Song. It has been rattling around in my head since sophomore year in college. WE LIKE THA MOON. There's something about the hysteria, the complete lack of coherence in the lyrics, and the bulging eyeballs. And the line about puffins gets me every time. It has nothing to do with Simon & Ivan. Ivan has no idea I'm putting it up. I just don't have any good header images and figured I might as well keep mining that one planetarium visit.

Also, that is a distressed version of Helvetica called Alte Haas Grotesk. I fell in love with it recently. I'm not sure why. I don't really like Helvetica. But Alte Haas Grotesk is so soft and friendly. In the right context. I'm just telling you because I wouldn't want to be accused of using Helvetica lightly.

Also also, I made the links red. Not sure how I feel about that. I really just wanted the links in the text to be red, but now all the links are red. O TO UNDERSTAND HTML. If anyone feels strongly either way, please click on the comment link. It's red, so you should be able to find it easily.

Also also also, this new look kind of makes me feel like I'm in a Soviet space ship. Except for the hedgehogs.