Saturday, September 27, 2008

not shiny, but still pretty

After months of research, I finally choose a case for my beloved Macbook. So here it is, not shiny (although definitely shiny) but still pretty.
In the end I decided to go with the Small Alley by STM (an Australian company it turns out). I like it's slim profile and the fact that it has pockets perfectly suited to Mac accouterments. I had a little trouble finding a North American distributor until I realized that it's available through the Apple store. Of course it is.Why many months of research you may be asking? Honestly, I have no idea. For some reason choosing the right bag became a bit of an obsession. There were so many options. Did I want something industrial looking? Something that looked like a laptop case? Something ironic? Should I get a neoprene skin for it and just toss it in a large and stylish handbag? For some reason the bag became very important. And it turns out there are a LOT of bags to choose from.

There were beautiful messenger bags from Manhatten Portage -- a company I was tempted to buy from simply because I love their name -- handmade bags from Oregon, versatile bags from Timbuck2. So many options. Was is just that the Mac is the closest I've ever come to cool and like a nervous ninth grader I didn't want to screw it up with the wrong outfit? I still don't know, but I'm happy with my choice and I'm sure my roommate is happy not to have to hear about it anymore :) Once I got the bag home, it was ready for the pin that Kendra picked up for me at DisneyWorld back in August. It reads "I'm not perfect, but I'm close" kind of ironic given all the running around that went in to the selection.The other day at work Sheldon told me that now that I've switched to Mac, the next step is to buy funky plastic framed glasses and a Volvo. There was a third thing I've forgotten. I think it involved a chocolate lab. I think I'll still with the bag for now.

As for the rest of the week, I caught the cold that has been making the rounds out here. The best way I can describe it is simply to say that the following box of lotion-y Kleenex was purchased Thursday evening and no one has used it but me. A sad statement indeed.
In happier news, now that we've reached the tailend of September almost all of my favorite shows have premiered. The best line out of all of them has to go to Shemar Moore as Special Agent Derek Morgan in the season opener of Criminal Minds. Towards the end of the show there's a scene where Derek is driving an ambulance that is about to explode. He's on the phone with Garcia, and facing apparent certain death, decides to tell her what she means to him. He says to her "You are my God-given solace." Now that's a compliment. Props to Simon Mirren for writing a great episode. (And yes, he's related. She's his Aunt.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

exit stage left, in silence

I was spoiled rotten this week-end with tickets to not one, but TWO shows. Luxurious indeed. On Friday night I met up with Amy & Patti to see the Panic Squad perform their improv artistry at Gallery 7. I have been going to see these guys for years and they never disappoint. I still have no idea how they do it. Memorable moments from this year's show included "cheesecake" and "totally going argyle on the guy in the hallway". And Jacob the announcer, he was great. We started the evening at Afterthoughts (you know it's going to be good when it starts with cheesecake). Great conversation and good times ensued.

On Saturday night I headed off to Bard on the Beach to see King Lear with Kendra and Monica.

There's always a line up for Bard and those in the know know that if you don't want to sit in the wings, you have to get their early. We ended up a little farther to the left than our usual center seats, but had a great view none the less. While waiting in line, Monica and I entertained ourselves with an impression of Comedy and Tragedy. (Although looking at the photo now, it's a little more like Comedy and Comedy but still...) Going into the show, I was a little nervous. Lear is not one of my favorite plays. It is very violent and very sad and I seriously debated passing on the chance to go. But Christopher Gaze was playing Lear and you never get to see him in a lead role these days. I decided I didn't want to miss that. Gaze was, of course, amazing, but I can say that I do not need to see Lear performed live ever again.

If you know the story, you are familiar with Gloucester's scene (and if you're not, I'm not going to put you through it here). I had read the scene before but it is something different altogether to have to listen to it, even if you close your eyes and look away. Christopher Weddell certainly earned his wage that night but I found I hadn't the stomach for it. Is it the first time I've exited a Bard on the Beach production where almost everyone was either silent or drying tears. There is such a calculated cruelty to Regan and Goneril that I found only slight relief at their deaths. When Cordelia and Lear met theirs, I had no saddness left for them. My heart was heavy enough.

To be fair it was a masterful production, and brilliantly costumed. I found I prefer swords to guns when it comes to Shakespeare. This production used guns and they're just so abrasive. Swords seem civilized by comparrison. The set was lovely, definietly one of my favorites. I doubt if anything will match the beauty of the white tree set from a summer or two ago.

Earlier in the summer we went to see Twelfth Night and that was one of my favorite performances of all time. It's always easier to like comedy, but this production had whimsy and nuance and laughter. It opened with a genius trick -- an old 1920s style silent film of the scene where Viola is shipwrecked (on a recognizable portion of English Bay which made it even more fun!). They made excellent use of the two tier stage and I remember being so quick to stand up and cheer when it was over.

I wonder sometimes if it's wrong to only pursue the easy art. I do read sad stories as well as happy ones. Perhaps it depends on what you are pursuing art for. If it's art for entertainment purposes, then surely there should be no requirement to allow yourself to be saddened, but if it art for the sake of learning, or for educating the spirit then maybe it can't all be roses. Art is said to ultimately be truth (although I'd argue that to some degree) and if that's so then truth is sad and happy, terrifying and delightful. Saturday night we exited the tents in silence. It was not an enjoyable evening but I wouldn't say it was a wasted one, just one I'd rather not repeat.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

sweet cheat

Last week Kendra, Shannon and I started our Wilton cake decorating course. This week we actually got to decorate cakes! The lesson plan suggested a rainbow cake, but I wasn't really feeling that. So instead I decided to do the Cheat, napping in a crisper drawer of course. If you haven't seen the "Privaleges" episode of Strongbad a) this won't make much sense b) you should really click that link and go see it and c) yes, I know it's spelled wrong, that's intentional.

So there he is, the Cheat, remote control in hand. I know he's supposed to be in the livingroom, but outside was so much easier to draw than an orange coach. If you haven't seen the cartoon, (and haven't clicked that link yet) here's the image I was working from:

The carrots on the cake aren't quite the right color, and I learned that when using a gel transfer, not all the gel will be covered, so choose a realllly light coloured gel. All in all, I'm pleased with the way it turned out. And it was delicious. More photos to come including Shannon & Kendra's very cool cakes later when I have some more time.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

old blue chair

I've been rather surprised, shocked really, to find myself listening to a lot of Kenny Chesney lately. My appreciation for country music in general has grown since moving out this way (I blame the prevalence of trucks) and several times now the local country station has been my company through a long day of sewing. I think it is, in part at least, because country music plays into my love of long stories. But it's a habit I fought long and hard.

My last year of university I roomed with Melanie, an ardent country music fan. We came to an arrangement that she wouldn't play country music when I was home on the condition that on Sunday mornings she got to listen to both hours of American Country Countdown and I wasn't allowed to make a single peep, comment, or annoyed-sounding sigh. I listened and, grudgingly, by the end of the year agreed that not all country music was bad. My friend Bryan made me a CD of the handful of songs I actually started to like. He titled it The Only Good Country CD. It has a lot of Alabama and Colin Ray. I still have it in my car.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to JRFM and was caught off guard by the haunting echos of "Better as a Memory". I was really surprised to hear that it was a Kenny Chesney song -- I thought he was all tailgating and beer. A little Googling later and I found that several other songs I liked were also his - "Don't Blink" and "The Good Stuff". Intrigued I headed over to iTunes and feel into a little song called "Old Blue Chair". It's unhurried and introspective and speaks of the need to look at life slowly. I particularly like the acoustic version. I was hooked.

It got me thinking about a conversation I had with a friend recently about how I buy almost all my music a la carte from iTunes now and rarely buy an album. My friend likened it to only ever reading a chapter out of a book and never sitting down to enjoy the whole thing the way the artist intended. Albums are whole entities my friend said, they lose something when you slice them up. I wondered if maybe this song would be from an album I should enjoy as a whole. With little research I found the CD -- Be As You Are: Songs from an old blue chair. I picked up a copy at Wal-Mart for $10.

It turns out this is the Kenny Chesney album no one likes. It's the one his management begged him not to make -- there's an apology to them in the liner notes. Yesterday it was my soundtrack for the drive home and I have to say my friend was right -- there is something about listening to an entire album. Old Blue Chair is full of quiet, lilting, ballads that taste of the islands and sound like the sea. I can see how this isn't perhaps the music that fills stadiums (Chesney, it turns out, has sold more concert tickets that anyone for the past 4 or 5 years) but it's lovely.

There's a line in one of the songs that says, "I don't remember what I think". Sounds like a pretty nice place to be. I don't have a ticket to the islands just yet, or an old, blue chair on the beach but this is definitely music to dream to. And if I can just find the place to put it, I do have a genuine Caribbean hammock, which I'm pretty sure is the next best thing.