Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Out of office auto-reply

The Finer Things Club will be on vacation in Germany from September 24 through October 8. Please listen to the new Kings of Leon album and we will discuss as soon as I return.

Thank you and have a great day,


Monday, September 22, 2008

I am calling this one "A Crayola Rainbow of Texture"

You know that I could use somebody

I had not been a fan of Kings of Leon until this song came into my life. Unadulterated hotness.

Two mental notes:

1. The new album comes out tomorrow.
2. If I decide to come back from Ireland, project "learn to play guitar" will commence.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My little bro

He enjoys Van Gogh's Saint-Remy period, sketches by Picasso, and curling up by the fireplace with a Sartre novel.

Harry Potter and The Twighlight Saga are chief among his guilty pleasures.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

2 paintings to consider on a Saturday morning with my eggs and coffee

Roommate Mike visited Chicago last weekend and came back with a print of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, which he purchased after seeing it at the Art Institute. That reminded me of the Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery in DC last year and how I couldn’t at the time find a print of my favorite – Automat.

Both paintings depict isolation and loneliness in a big city. To me, Automat does a slightly better job of describing that feeling. Unlike Nighthawks, we cannot see the street outside through the big dark window nor can we see a reflection of the inside of the restaurant besides the lighting fixtures. My favorite detail is her one gloved hand, which makes me imagine that she is in a hurry OR maybe she just does not care. She is not looking up. There is no one there to impress, and certainly no people-watching.

As a layperson and not a professional art critic, I give myself free reign to judge paintings based on their attractiveness. I find the bright, rich splashes of color on the dark background attractive and think, “Pretty picture.” In Nighthawks, there is no door to get in or out of the diner (representing entrapment), but to me, it makes the diner look sort of like a fishbowl and the painting just slightly “off”.

After reading A Forger’s Spell, I became really interested in paintings by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. In Berlin next week, I plan to see A Glass of Wine and am fiercely hoping that the painting is not out on commission or traveling somewhere.

Vermeer paintings are considered to be beautiful – well-balanced, serene, finely detailed. If this is a scene from everyday life, what is happening? Why is the woman tasting the wine? Is the man getting her drunk? (He seems impatient. Or are those just my 21st century notions?) Why isn’t he drinking? Why isn’t he sitting down with her? Why is he wearing what I imagine to be a traveling cloak? Are either of them going to pick up that guitar off the chair and play some seventeenth century tunes?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Twenty: A Memoir

When my mother was twenty, she got married. When my brother was twenty, he moved permanently from Russia to America. When I turned twenty, I was convinced that something special would happen to me too. So I kept a journal that I would eventually turn into a memoir, because quite obviously by the time you are twenty you have already had so many fantastical life experiences that your life story is definitely worthy of a memoir that the world is itching to read. Basically I was under the impression that I was Michael Phelps, several years younger and not a single Olympic medal to my name. You know, illusions of grandeur and only-child syndrome and whatnot.

Not sure what compelled me tonight to open that file and skim through it. Here are some excerpts that really just CUT TO THE CHASE.

January 12, 2004
Men are like parking spots – the good ones are taken and the rest are handicapped.

April 22, 2004
Went to the engineering library to do research for my honors seminar term paper. My thesis will be that in the 1960’s the Soviets won the overall space race even though the Americans won the race to get a man on the moon. It’s really stupid but the professor never reads the papers so whatever.

May 31, 2004
I had a dream that I was in some class and the assignment was to take a shit and then make a little sculpture out of it, like clay. My plan was to make a model of Rodin’s The Thinker, but make it a girl with a ponytail so it would look like me. Unfortunately, there were only 4 stalls and many people in the class, so we waited for our turn sitting on the floor. There I was, waiting for a stall to take a shit in to make a mini Rodin The Thinker statue, and then I woke up.

Ghost Under Rocks

I must have listened to this song at least 30 times today. It entirely captured my mood this morning, in a perfect 4-minute musical capsule. It was therapy, of the finer things variety.

Ra Ra Riot is in town at the Black Cat on October 12. I may have to go just for this one song.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

NPR + iTunes = free concerts

This might have already been common knowledge for others, but today I discovered that iTunes has free downloads of live concerts from the All Songs Considered NPR program.

I am currently listening to Radiohead's show from August 28th in Santa Barbara and giving the Internet a virtual chest bump.

Other concerts downloaded:

Animal Collective
Arcade Fire
Arctic Monkeys
Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie)
Fleet Foxes
French Kicks
The Good, The Bad, & The Queen
Iron & Wine
The New Pornographers
The Raconteurs
Swell Season
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

My plane and train rides in Germany will be spent listening to concerts and learning useful German phrases courtesy of Rick Steves.

Hat jemand gefurtz? Did someone fart?

Sie sind ein Engel, von Gott gesandt. You are an angel from God.

Ich habe keine Krankheiten. I have no diseases.

Iche habe viele Krankheiten. I have many diseases.

Ich habe mein Geld/meine Handtasche/meine Brieftasche/meinen Glauben an die Menschheit verloren. I've lost my money/my purse/my wallet/my faith in humankind.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Gentle Arts

Despite the fact that my bookshelf has overflowed twice over and I buy books faster than I can read them, I went against better judgment today and bought another treasure. This one is called The Gentle Art of Domesticity.

Now we all know that I have the domestic instincts of a pig wearing lipstick (ha ha I kid, I kid, topical humor) but you try flipping through this book and not wanting to make it your own. The illustrations, and especially the photographs are gorgeous.

I am foreseeing being inspired to make my own quilt, wrapping myself in it, and arranging flowers as I wait for the muffins to finish baking.

Oh, and the lady who wrote the book also has a fun blog called yarnstorm.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So many different points of view

Today I read an eye-opening article in the NYT that opens with: "Seven years later, it remains conventional wisdom here [in Cairo] that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda could not have been solely responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that the United States and Israel had to have been involved in their planning, if not their execution, too." Shocking, right?

It goes on to talk about how so far we have not been able to convince that part of the world that our war is against terrorism and not against Muslims, how people there just can't believe that a group of Arabs like themselves could orchestrate such an attack against a superpower all on their own, and how their distrust of their political leaders extends to a distrust of ours. I was definitely disturbed that average citizens in Egypt widely hold these beliefs.

The crucial point of the article is that we can either immediately take offense, or we can listen to what they are saying and try to understand why they are saying it.

It's being able to handle criticism. You can either become defensive, which is always so easy, or you can consider where your critic is coming from, find some common ground, and learn from the experience.

Read the full article here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cause I need your sway

To continue the YouTube rampage, here is a video of the band I am seeing tonight:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bedtime story

Catch-22, page 149

"Why don't we give him a medal?" Colonel Korn proposed.
"For going around twice? What can we give him a medal for?"
"For going around twice," Colonel Korn answered with a reflective, self-satisfied smile. "After all, I suppose it did take a lot of courage to go over that target a second time with no other planes around to divert the antiaircraft fire. And he did hit the bridge. You know, that might be the answer -- to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That's a trick that never seems to fail."
"Do you think it will work?"
"I'm sure it will. And let's promote him to captain, too, just to make it certain."

Testing, testing, 1,2,3...

This past week I made a much-awaited purchase -- a new camera. My point-and-shoot that's awesomely tiny but makes disposable camera-type pictures was not cutting it for Germany and Ireland adventures. Finer Things Club, meet the Canon EOS Rebel XSi, or Canon Rebel for short.

This is my first jaunt into the SLR camera world, so after getting a memory card today, I proceeded to take a picture of everything in my apartment. I'll spare you from the pepper grinder and banana parts of the catalogue.

My little sanctuary, otherwise known as my bookshelf.

Shower curtain detail. Notice how some bits are in focus and some aren't. Incredible!

The lady of the house.

Bottle of fancy olive oil. Just chillin' on the counter. Posing for me.

I haven't been to this Virginia winery yet, but I hear it comes off as snooty. (Canon Rebel and I would fit right in.)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gender Card

What happens when the boys who run Russia start picking on you?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Weight Loss Partnership

I had the following slightly awkward encounter with a co-worker this morning. She took me into the kitchen, watched me step onto a scale, and proceeded to record my weight. I told her I was pretending that she was my doctor, not my coworker. That probably made it even more awkward.

Today marks the official start of the weight loss challenge.

The rules: Staff and seniors buy in at $250 each, managers pony up $500 each, and partners contribute $1,000 each. Each person sets for him/herself a reasonable weight loss goal (deemed reasonable by an expert panel of judges, i.e. the partners). In seven months, after April 15th, there will be a final weigh-in. If you meet your goal, you get all of your money back and you are rewarded with a party. If you do not meet your goal, you lose all of your money, which gets used to fund the party slash be distributed among those who met theirs.

I have yet to decide if my goal will be 11.1 pounds or 16.1 pounds. The latter will get me back to my pre-freshman 15 fabulous self, which is an incentive all on its own. I am making this a public record so that if you see me eating pasta washed down with cake, anything deep-fried, or really anything excessive, you are encouraged to give me a stern look or find another means of making me feel guilty. (When I misbehaved as a 3- or 4-year old, all Papa T had to do was give me a brief stern look, not even saying anything to reprimand, and I would start bawling in shame and my eyelashes would get stuck in my eyes and make me cry even more. Those were definitely some formative years.)

Please keep in mind that I am allowed unlimited amounts of sushi and the occasional gelato splurge.

Myth Busters

Another reason why I love dooce.com.

She cites this terrific article from the Associated Press that dispels some common G.O.P. myths and exaggerations.

Fun Fact Number 3: "Obama's plan would increase after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by about 5 percent by 2012, or nearly $2,200 annually. McCain's plan, which cuts taxes across all income levels, would raise after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by 3 percent." (from the Tax Policy Center think tank)


And yes, I did vomit in my mouth a little bit today when you said you were in love with Palin because she is an NRA member and is hotter than Hillary. Vomit to the max.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A little Labor Night prose

Currently reading Catch-22 and thinking that to be thoroughly enjoyed, this book has to be read out loud with at least one other person. The next time you talk about or recommend this book to someone, you won't remember the amusing dialogue or character descriptions on page 103 because on page 104 there's another funny character description or dialogue sequence, and so on and so forth.

Here are some enjoyable bits from the chapter I read tonight:

"A lesser man might have wavered that day in the hospital corridor, a weaker man might have compromised on such excellent substitutes as Drum Major, Minor Major, Sergeant Major, or C Sharp Major, but Major Major's father had waited fourteen years for just such an opportunity, and he was not a person to waste it. Major Major's father had a good joke about opportunity. 'Opportunity only knocks once in this world,' he would say. Major Major's father repeated this good joke at every opportunity."

Later in the chapter, Major Major gets promoted to Major:

"People who had hardly noticed his resemblance to Henry Fonda before now never ceased discussing it, and there were even those who hinted sinisterly that Major Major had been elevated to squadron commander because he resembled Henry Fonda. Captain Black, who had aspired to the position himself, maintained that Major Major really was Henry Fonda but was too chickenshit to admit it.