30 November 2006

40 & 41

40. Prisoner of Trebekistan: a decade in Jeopardy! by Bob Harris (4/5)

Yes, it's about being on Jeopardy!, but it's so much more than that. Autobiography, trivia, the pursuit of knowledge and how that differs from the memorization of facts, how to memorize things fast, winning, losing, and what's really important in life. And it's funny! Well worth checking out even if you're not a fan of the show.

Also, it's a chance to learn more about Jane Espenson which is a cool perk. And speaking of perks, his website has extras by page which you can enjoy as you read the book.

41. Brandt: The Photography of Bill Brandt by Bill Brandt (4/5)

My favorites are the atmospheric shots, several from London in the 1940s, others from the moors (think Bronte sisters), and Stonehenge. Some of his later nudes, strangely abstract, are also really interesting, as well as the documentary shot from WWII of people sleeping in the tube station that stretches on and on.

One year ago at TTaT: boy with brain
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27 November 2006

A bit of satisfaction

Firstly, I'm not one of those people who likes to clean or cleans when they're preoccupied (which is a shame really considering how often I am). Cleaning is just this recurring task that you never really get to cross off your list.

With my car it felt different though, perhaps because I know it'll likely be a long time before I do this again. It's not perfect- I didn't vacuum although it could use it and I didn't get to the back seat at all. Today was just wiping down the inside of the windshield, the dash, and all the other plastic-y surfaces within reach of the driver's seat. I'd forgotten I have an ashtray - obscured as it is by the drink holder thing I always leave open - and marveled at the fact I'd never wiped out the last vestiges of ash from my car's previous life as a rental.

I thought of when my car was broken into and how I was now wiping the front clean of all prints. Maybe it was more satisfying because it was so much easier than scrubbing the tiles clean in my bathroom. Anyway, my car has a Windex-y smell to it. Those Windex moistened towelettes are pretty handy for car cleaning.

Also, I checked my tire pressure, clearly long overdue because they were all running equally low. Filled 'em all up, including the spare which was lowest of all. I was hoping this would abate the loud road noise I'm hearing when I drive, but it didn't seem to have much effect. It might be all in my head. I hadn't really noticed it until my parents each mentioned it separately, and it's true that their car does run quieter than my model. It's just hard trying to remember how it sounded a few years ago for comparison. blarg.

Must remember to ask dad about tire/rim relationship to see if how mine look is ok. Maybe they just need to be balanced.

Anyway, my PSIs are correct, my tank is full, and my dash is free of grunge, so I'm feeling all right. Don't forget to check your spare tire!

One year ago at TTaT: Old Age and Permanent Ways
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26 November 2006


I was just thinking of a friend I lost touch with; it's probably been less than a decade, but I think it's safe to say we haven't communicated this century though I've thought of her a number of times. We met in high school.

Her sister was in my class, and I was the first person to pronounce her name right, mainly because I took her word for how it was pronounced even though the spelling indicated otherwise. J was 2 years ahead of us, but J and I both worked at the local library. There we discovered we were kindred spirits (and that her mom makes the most rockin' chicken pot pie ever- my mom still makes it from her mom's recipe).

It's not even like we ever made plans to hang out: we just enjoyed each other's company when we crossed paths. When she left for college, we exchanged sporadic letters and postcards for a number of years. Cool letters, worth saving, and I have. Makes me miss real mail, though I confess my handwriting has gotten much worse the faster my typing has become.

Anyway, on a whim I googled her fairly distinctive name. I feel certain I'd tried this before with no luck, but this time there she was, with an email address and a string of accomplishments that are all news to me. I'm actually feeling a bit intimidated which is irrational...or not. Probably my subconscious thinking ahead to 'what do I say I've been doing for the past 6 or 7 years?' and how lame the answer seems.

Certainly better left for daylight hours.

One year ago at TTaT: More haiku- it is addictive
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22 November 2006

2nd Annual Thanksgiving Haikuathon

I enjoyed this so much last year, I'm bringing it back. Thanks, of course, to Cathy on whose blog I saw this idea first.

Just leave a comment telling me something about your Thanksgiving in a haiku. If there's enough participation, I'll put together a showcase post of the best ones in a couple days. I'll start:

Curried fruit is done
Already the house smells great:

What's up with mincemeat
pie? No meat? I might like it
if not for its name.

One year ago at TTaT: Slurge
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21 November 2006

I know where I want to go

Sure, there's the Louvre and the Eiffel tower, but if I ever get to France, I want to visit Mont Saint Michel. I think I'd seen a picture of it when I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure this was the first time it registered as a real place to me. Being a tidal island with a castle on top of it, it seems more suited to fairy tale books than real life.

I was setting the vcr to tape Prime Suspect 7 (a most excellent detective miniseries starring Helen Mirren) when In Search of Myths and Heroes was playing. It was halfway through the King Arthur episode, but I was quickly hooked because the cinematography and locations (including Mont Saint Michel) were spectacular. I'll have to remember to keep an eye out for the next episode on Shangri-La on PBS.

One year ago at TTaT: Life with chainsaws, 3-D, Envy
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20 November 2006

My brain is numb

Who knew there were so many DDR dance pads out there? I knew there were soft pads and hard pads, but I had no idea just how many were available (100+?). This is one of those unfortunate times when I know just enough about something to become totally OCD about my selection process. I thought I'd settle it this afternoon but no luck. I've narrowed it to a basic type, but there are still soooo many options and so many conflicting reviews. argh.

One year ago at TTaT: It wasn't in there
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18 November 2006

People are strange, myself included

I was sitting at the table last night after dinner, my empty plate still in front of me, when I started looking at my dad. He looked back at me, and then without word or gesture, we both understood that we were having an impromptu staring contest.

For a moment I wondered if it was fair without an official start. I was pretty sure I'd stopped blinking first, but then I dismissed the thought because the blinking frenzy that would typically precede an official start had never done me much good when I was a kid.

I could feel my eyes drying out. Dad kept my gaze steadily. My eyes started to water, but I compelled myself to resist spreading the lubricant with a blink. Hang on a little longer. It was actually a bit zen: I was very much in the moment.

And then he blinked.

My arms shot up over my head as I exclaimed, "I win! Woohoo!"

Mom shook her head at both of us. I couldn't argue with her bemused look: people are strange. Or if not strange, then naturally inclined to compete in inane manners.

One year ago at TTaT: No big surprise
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17 November 2006


Evidence 1944-1994 by Richard Avedon (4.5/5)

I think his headshot of Ezra Pound is my favorite. I'm not sure why: his eyes are squinted shut, the frame feels tight, a composition it's not likely I'd ever shoot, and yet it appeals to me. Or the two-shot of models in a cafe in Paris in 1948. It seems casual, a snapshot of friends chatting over a smoke, but to know Avedon's work is to realize his photos are meticulously designed. So cool. And so many shots I'd be proud, nay ecstatic, to say I had done... but landscape and architecture seem to be where my brain is fixed: that which is there as opposed to that which is conscientiously designed and/or fabricated.

The book is a compilation of 50 years worth of studio, exhibition, and fashion photography by Richard Avedon. With pages measuring 11"x14", one gets a nice view of the reproductions. Two essays, one by Jane Livingston and the other by Adam Gopnik, make up the text of the book. Livingston's essay "The Art of Richard Avedon" accompanies the photographs, revealing context and background information about the subjects of photos and Avedon's life and work of the time. Many quotes from Avedon regarding his work are also included as well as commentary on how various photos and exhibitions (and his presentation) were received by the public and art critics. The book is laid out very well in terms of matching up the text to the photos discussed. Most often, they exist within the same two-page spread.

Gopnik's essay "The Light Writer" is a bit of an oddity. It exists by itself with no photographic accompaniment and alternates mostly between a discussion of Avedon's book An Autobiography and a story about an afternoon with Avedon in New York City told in the 3rd person with details that could not be believed unless Gopnik was the friend accompanying Avedon on that excursion. The essay feels like it belongs in An Autobiography rather than here. (I probably would have given this book 5/5 if this essay were absent.)

Following the second essay is a photographic timeline coupling events from Avedon's life with exhibition pieces from the same time periods. A list of solo exhibitions, and an extensive bibliography split into books by Avedon and books about him are also included. A picture index completes the book. Even if you're not interested in the text, the book is a nice scale for perusing over 600 photographs.

One year ago at TTaT: Just wait five minutes, It's just my nature
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16 November 2006

30 Rock

It was in the 60s today, overcast, but with a high enough humidity to feel warm: nice. The weather shift totally screwed with my sinuses and such though; I slept almost 11 hours and still feel grogged and headachy.

As a nice perk for the day though, I discovered that the iTunes Store is offering my favorite (to-date) episode of 30 Rock for free this week. Always good to have something that makes you laugh handy and Tina Fey makes me laugh.

One year ago at TTaT: It's pouring
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14 November 2006

The Road is my Favorite Place: Day 10

(Days: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine)

26/viii/04: Concordia, MO to Troy, IL
208 miles/335 km

I hate low shower heads. The shower head at the Concordia Days Inn was particularly low. However, despite the irritating start and unappealing weather, the day was pretty entertaining. I was in the "Show Me" state and indulged in a few roadside attractions. I grabbed a quick bite at Subway in Kingdom City before checking out Ozarkland and its red sparkling roof sign.


What an impressive array of junk! Cheap jewelry, moccasins, fireworks, t-shirts, knives, wood crafts. They did have some cool metal Harley signs though and a computer with free internet access. Finally a chance to check and send some email.

Nostalgiaville Flamingos

The same highway exit boasted Nostalgiaville, home to an impressive selection of memorabilia and collectibles: novelty signs; vintage signs; Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman lunch boxes, banks, and notebooks; posters, magnets, mugs, Elvis, The Wizard of Oz, Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe, poodle skirts and more. I bought a Mustang sign for a friend and some other trinkets for stocking stuffers.

Nostalgiaville Novelty Signs

Outside, I took some photos of the place. My California tags caught an old guy's interest before he walked inside. It was another amazingly hot day. It was so humid my nostrils burned as if I was trying to breathe underwater. I'd thought about hitting the zoo in St. Louis later but nixed the idea.

Back on the highway, I passed several beautiful watering holes: blue water with little wind ripples. Then I caught up to the storms again: lightning, dark skies, and heavy rain. Around 5, I was close to St. Louis; it was raining so heavily it was hard to see in addition to being rush hour, so I stopped at a Bob Evans for dinner. There was no wait (yet again), so I was out in half an hour. On my way to my car, I felt a couple of large raindrops, got in, and then it started pouring again. Hmm, stay or go. It was further into rush hour at this point and was actually raining heavier, so I decided to wait a bit.

5:54P Well my car's getting a serious bath. Windy too. Geez it was clearer before I pulled off. Now there's lightning too. I will wait. Damn- this wind is rocking my car. That's a bit nerve racking. Tornado? I see how it picks stuff up now. Blah. Maybe I will just stop here. Can't tell which way this is blowing.

A bit later, the rain finally eased up, so I got back on the highway. Two complete rainbows, one above the other, were visible. I was used to seeing pieces of arches but couldn't recall having seen two with both ends reaching the ground before.

In St. Louis, I parked in a lot by the waterfront and walked to see the Gateway Arch. I took some shots of this bridge along the way. The lower level of it was for trains while the upper part was for motor vehicles.

Bridge right Bridge left

Gateway Arch 2 Gateway Arch 1It was well after seven when I reached the Gateway Arch, and I still had further to drive to find somewhere inexpensive for the night, so I didn't take the tram ride inside or check out the museum beneath it. I was content to enjoy the shape and scale of the arch and the post-storm magic hour light awash over the city. (The photos were shot with color film and are unaltered.)

Crossing the river, radio stations went from K to W. I stopped in Troy, IL not far over the border and discovered that my cell battery was not low, there were crickets in my room. I was really tired but they wouldn't shut up, so I listened keenly, tracked, and caught them. There were two and I squished them between motel plastic cups. I'd wanted to let them go, but motel windows don't open and I was already in my pajamas. I mentioned I was tired, right? No plus karma points for Claire.

At 5:45 AM, I was awakened by The Tell-Tale Cricket, outside I think, but loud.


One year ago at TTaT: Shatter, Sniffed
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13 November 2006

the complete vlogs of TTaT

Run times are in minutes:seconds.

  • Vlog #20 (1:01) Hoodie Holiday Rap, an original song

  • Vlog #19 (0:26) Local Jungle, by a river after a storm

  • Vlog #18 (3:05) Kinetic sculpture in motion, autumn

  • Vlog #17 REMOVED

  • Vlog #16 (2:30) Drawing winners for note card giveaway

  • Vlog #15 (0:26) Burning matches

  • Vlog #14 (1:08) Heavy snow fall, snow covered trees

  • Vlog #13 (1:17) Kinetic sculpture in motion, blustery sunny winter day

  • Vlog #12 (0:31) Owl in my backyard

  • Vlog #11 (0:55) Kinetic sculpture in motion, winter night

  • Vlog #10 (0:55) Kinetic sculpture in motion, winter day

  • Vlog #9 (0:52) Holes in my WYSIWYG shirt

  • Vlog #8 (0:29) Fiery remnants

  • Vlog #7 (2:26) Kinetic sculpture in motion

  • Vlog #6 (0:31) The Bears (stop-motionish series of photos)

  • Retrovlog #1 (1:45) A Taste of the Jam (trying to slam dunk in 1992)

  • Vlog #5 (0:26) Creating chalk art (stop-motionish series of photos)

  • Vlog #4 (1:03) Catnap

  • Vlog #3 (0:14) Blue Juice Rumble (stop-motion animation)

  • Vlog #2 REMOVED

  • Vlog #1 (0:39) Burn, baby, burn!

  • tags: ,


    It may seem early to be thinking about my xmas list, but if the past few years are any indication, if I wait until the first week of December, my parents will say, "oh, we've already done our shopping."

    So... I'm thinking about what I could use and/or want. And I kind of want a video game system. I know, I know. If not for DDR, I'm sure this never would've come up. It's been ages since I've played and I miss it; it's fun and a good workout. If I had unlimited cash and lots of extra space, I'd probably buy an arcade version of it or a Bowflex machine. However, things such as they are, a small console that could play other stuff too sounds more reasonable. The motion-sensor controller of the Wii definitely has some appeal. Or maybe the more price-friendly PS2 while it's still available since it has several DDR games for it.

    On the other hand, I might never be seen from again if I had such a thing at home. Maybe it'd just mean less time on the internet though...and that wouldn't be a bad thing. Right? Hmm.

    One year ago at TTaT: All you have to do to sell it is commit
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    11 November 2006

    Thumbs up!

    It was a bit of a drive to get to a theater playing Running With Scissors for me, but it was well worth it. Such great performances cast-wide (Annette Bening, Evan Rachel Wood, Joseph Cross, Alec Baldwin, and Jill Clayburgh, just to name a few). Cool soundtrack. Based on Augusten Burrough's memoir of his crazy childhood. See it before it moves on. At the very least, check out the movie's very cool website. Just click "Enter the site" on this page.

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    Blue Juice Rumble

    (run time 0:14)

    Back in the days of undergrad, I did rather like Hi-C Wild Berry, 'blue juice' as I called it. This little animation is one of my favorite film creations for how much it's able to successfully convey in such a short period of time.

    (Other vlogs of TTaT)

    One year ago at TTaT: The Expedition
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    08 November 2006

    Third time's a charm

    After two too weak novocaine experiences, my Battlestar Galactica-loving dentist shot me up with a heavy-hitting anesthetic. Numb all the way to the middle of my lip? Heck yeah, and then some thanks.

    Grey, pouring, but not cold: as good a day as any to get a filling. I remembered to bring a book this time. As much as I love tv, I don't feel like watching it at the dentist's. Unfortunately the book I'm actually reading now is coffee table sized, so I grabbed a paperback from my shelf only to discover later it was one of those cheesy unauthorized biographies. It seems to stress the staff out a little bit when I opt to sit quietly, like I'm a guest refusing the offer of something to drink.

    In addition to the remote, he offered the magazines and newspapers from the waiting room, but newspaper ink makes me sneeze and the germophobe in me just doesn't want to touch magazines that have been pawed over by countless people.

    The filling went well, but my cheek is still so numb that I'm not supposed to talk or eat until it wears off in a few hours. I just feel like taking a nap.

    In other news, one of the ballot questions for my town lost by TWO votes. I voted yes and my parents voted no. Ggrrr.

    One year ago at TTaT: sequel to the prequel
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    07 November 2006

    Don't forget to VOTE!

    Vote411.org has all sorts of handy election information: polling places, candidate information, ballot measures, ID requirements. So read up on your candidates and issues if you haven't already and vote today.

    One year ago at TTaT: Distraction
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    06 November 2006

    I'm the crazy one

    I'm the crazy one. There, I've said it. It's been like a mantra for the past week that I just can't shake. I'd consider writing about it but would get wrapped up in something else for a while and then it'd be back: I'm the crazy one.

    Some people travel through life with a grace and aplomb when interacting with other people. In a moment of drama, they naturally diffuse it instead of exacerbating the situation. My friend Splice is like that, and I've tried to emulate that approach, but only with scattered success. It doesn't come naturally to me, knowing not to take things too seriously. Splice, for example, would never see the inciting incident as drama in the first place; whatever it was wouldn't become a big deal because it never was one to her.

    My default mode is literal. I never expected that assuming people mean what they say would result in me coming across as the unbalanced one when I tried to do or say what I thought was right in response. No doubt I'm overthinking it even now.

    I just want to shake this mantra. Although it does remind me I should take things less seriously, it's not helping me adopt a more happy-go-lucky attitude.

    One year ago at TTaT: tip of the week
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    05 November 2006

    the train bridge vlog

    So... that train bridge documentary I mentioned the other day? This is it. Please don't judge it too harshly. We weren't allowed to use light meters yet (it was only the second film I ever shot) and reversal film is unforgiving, like slides so you can't correct for exposure after it's shot.

    Also, the original transfer from film to VHS wasn't perfect to begin with (as you'll see), and if I think too much about the lens and gate filthiness, I will ditch this post altogether. So without further ado...



    (Other vlogs of TTaT)

    One year ago at TTaT: The tipping point, prequel to the sequel?
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    03 November 2006

    Suspension of disbelief?

    When you yank a necklace off someone's neck, doesn't it break?

    I've seen this in so many movies and tv shows, including this week's Veronica Mars, that it got me wondering. If you're a thief, aren't you damaging your loot?

    I imagine there's some percentage of necklaces with loose clasps where this approach might work, but I would think most would break adjacent to the clasp. Unless it was a thick chain or leather cord. Anyone? The necklaces I might be willing to experiment on are out of reach in storage at the moment.

    One year ago at TTaT: At the bar after the wedding reception
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    02 November 2006

    38, I miss Spalding Gray

    Life Interrupted: The Unfinished Monologue by Spalding Gray (4/5)

    If you don't know who Spalding Gray was, you should. Go rent and watch Swimming to Cambodia or Monster in a Box or Gray's Anatomy. I'll wait. Seriously. You're not going to believe me if I tell you a guy wearing a plaid shirt sitting behind a table on which there is only a glass of water, a notebook, and a microphone is absolutely engaging. His storytelling changed theater.

    His monologues evolved during workshops and were honed during performances. They were published later like epic tales of old were written down long after they were first told. Life Interrupted is the last monologue he was working on before he committed suicide. Like his other pieces, Life Interrupted is based on events in his life, finding the humorous twists to new difficulties.

    The book contains two companion monologues as well as numerous eulogies from family, friends, and colleagues (many of which did make me cry). His life had a tumultuous end, but this book is an understanding and celebratory tribute. I miss you too, Spalding Gray.

    One year ago at TTaT: Eye Contact (intermezzo)
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