A Good Yarn

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Movie Round up

Another weekend gone. :-( I did see a few movies, though. Friday night we went to the drive in and it actually was chilly during the second film! It felt so good to be cold for a change. We saw:

It was funny, of course. It was like a longer version of the tv show, so if you like the show, you'll probably like the film. The plot, in short: Homer adopts that pig in the poster and dumps the pig's waste into the lake. Springfield then becomes an environmental hazard, so the government puts a big dome over the city. Everyone finds out it's Homer's fault, so the family escapes and moves to Alaska. Eventually, Homer has to learn to listen to Marge and not be so selfish. I'm pretty sure that's been the theme of a dozen episodes of The Simpsons. The jokes come as quickly and as cutting as on the show. However, it's not a great film and die-hard Simpsons fans may be disappointed that it's not even as good as the best episodes, much less taking it up a notch for the big screen. It's very Homer-centric and the rest of the characters, even the other family members, get short shrift. There also seems to be a lot of storylines that are introduced but don't get much of a payoff. Having said that, it's still a funny movie and worth seeing.

The second show was:

I'd been waiting to see this until I could finish the book (my habit is to read each book the same summer the movies come out, so they're fresh in my mind). I took Friday afternoon off so I could finish reading, although I still have a couple of chapters left. I'll do my book review when I've officially finished reading. Having read 820 of the 870 pages, though, I was really disappointed in the movie. For those who don't read the books (and why don't you? They're wonderful!), it's Year 5 at Hogwart's for Harry Potter and his best friends Ron and Hermione. This is when school gets very serious and the students have to start thinking about what they want to do when they leave school. Harry himself is going through the usual growing pains too - he's a PITA teenager, cranky and confused. Trying to figure out girls and his own place in the world. And of course he's also being targeted by the Dark Lord and being humiliated and targeted in a different way by the Minister of Magic who doesn't want to acknowledge that Voldemort has returned. The Minister sends his own personal choice to Hogwart's to become the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor - Dolores Umbridge.

The film is the shortest Harry Potter film so far despite Order of the Phoenix being the longest book. For me, that showed. I remember a lot of criticism of the last film heavily editing the book, but for some reason that one worked for me. This one doesn't. It feels to me like they had a big checklist of the major plot points and just threw them in there one after another, without really worrying too much about how it was flowing together or the overall feel. They streamlined a lot of the events to make them fit into a movie-length, but you lose so much detail and feeling from that. I almost wish they could have cut the book in half and made two movies of it, but I suppose the cast is aging too quickly to spread the movies out more than a year apart. I do feel like the cast has grown well into these parts. Daniel Radcliffe can play the inner-struggle of Harry and Emma Watson and Rupert Grint do well with the more complex shadings of Hermione and Ron too. The A-list stars who are the Harry Potter regulars got way too little screen time. You barely see them for more than a scene or two. You do get a good dose of Dolores Umbridge and Imelda Staunton plays her brilliantly. She captures the sugar-sweet demeanor masking the cruel and ruthless person exactly as I imagined it. And her endless array of pink outfits is worth the price of admission! The end of the film has the patented Harry Potter battling Voldemort scene you always get and I do think the film did an excellent job capturing the emotion of what happens in that scene. Perhaps even more than the book, for me, since I am such a visual person. Overall, this film felt pretty rushed and like a lot of exposition to get to the next "chapter", so we'll see what happens next. We have the same director on board for Half-Blood Prince.

Saturday I had dinner and then saw this with a friend from law school:

Fun, fun movie. Of course, 9 out of 10 times I'm going to love a movie where the hero is a fat girl who gets the gorgeous hunk and sticks it to the racist lunatic in charge! For those who don't know, Hairspray is about a high school girl in Baltimore named Tracy who dreams of being a regular on a local dance show that looks a whole lot like American Bandstand. She is initially rejected by the Station Manager (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) for being too fat and ugly. However, after Tracy becomes friends with a group of African-American students and learns some great dance moves from them, she wows the host of the show and he hires her. Tracy has a crush on the lead male dancer on the show, Link, but Link is dating the lead female dancer, Amber, the Station Manager's daughter. Brittany Snow plays Amber, which makes me laugh because I first saw her on the late NBC show American Dreams. On that show, she played a teen girl who dreamed of dancing on American Bandstand and had a forbidden romance with the black son of her father's employee and became involved in the desegregation movement - a sort of Tracy in Philly, but tiny and blond. Once a month the show has "Negro Day" when Motormouth Maybelle (played by Queen Latifah) takes over hosting duties and the black kids get a chance to play. The Station Manager decides to get rid of that segment and Tracy joins her friends in protesting. And the fun just goes on and on.

Nikki Blonsky plays Tracy with a winning smile and a sense of optimism and wonder that's hard to resist. The entire cast is so attractive and you just love seeing them on screen. Every movie musical made should have Queen Latifah - she's obviously gold in these things. Tracy's parents are played by Christopher Walken as her dad (his nuttiness is just perfect in this setting) and John Travolta as her plus-sized mom. A lot has been written about that performance and for me, it didn't work. I thought it was hard for him to show his emotions through all that makeup and latex and his accent just really bugged me. I've watched all the episodes of "Homicide" and "The Wire", so I can deal with a Baltimore accent. But Johnny's just didn't cut it. I did like a nice dance sequence between Walken and Travolta, though. No matter what you do to him, Travolta's always got the moves!


Friday, July 27, 2007


Last night I went to The Old Arizona Theater to see a play called "Bush is Bad, The Musical". This is my first time at this theater, and I adore it! It's really a lovely space. It's attached to a coffe shop/wine bar that's really nice also. As you can probably suss out for yourself, the play is a musical Bush-bashing extravaganza. The cast is two men and a woman and a piano player. They sing a series of songs about how ridiculously awful/stupid Bush and his band of evil-doers are. If you want some good old-fashioned Bush-hating, this is the show for you. Unfortunately, things have gotten to the point where some of this stuff isn't really funny anymore, it's just sad and depressing. None of the songs are very suprising or unexpected - it's about what you'd think we can make of Bush/Cheney/Rove for - being stupid, policies that benefit the overlooked super-wealthy, the sanctity of life (until the life comes out of the womb, then you're on your own), anti-gay paranoia and hunting accidents. Ann Coulter, the rest of the Bush family, Scooter Libby, Condi Rice and Fox News all get jabs too. There was a piece on Alberto Gonzales which I didn't like because it was really racist. My favorite pieces were the one about Scooter Libby sung to the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber called "Scooter Libby Superstar" and the final piece, which is just a series of quotes from Bushy himself - like "put food on your family" and "raise the pie" and "if we don't succeed, we're setting ourselves up for failure". Nothing's funnier than Bush's own inability to put a sentence together.

This play is showing until mid-August, then it's moving to a 10:00 timeslot for another musical and eventually they hope to move it back into the prime time slot. It's been fairly well-received and successful, so they're hoping to run it right up to the '08 elections. The play originated in New York shortly after the '04 elections and the material has changed as time has gone by, so I'm sure they'll continue to add new material and take out other stuff. There's even a piece just for us called "Norm Coleman Just is Not That Funny", sung by Al Franken. It's a good one and the actor did a great job playing Franken.

On the knitting front, I'm continuing my Drops Alpaca Socks KAL - which is also a Project Spectrum project and a Summer of Socks Project. I've finished the heel and am just starting the foot:

I was afraid it was too small, because I am getting a tighter gauge than the pattern calls for, but I think the heel fits pretty well. As usual, I adjusted the pattern to make the legs shorter for my short and stubby legs. These are shaped legs, so I just started the decreases earlier. Here's a look at the back cable and the heel flap:

And the front cables. The side cables stop once you start the heel:

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Thursday, July 26, 2007


Oh, it's uncomfortable these days. I'm trying not to complain because I know in a wink of an eye, it's going to be really cold, but I just can't help myself. I know it's a tattered old cliche, but it's true - it's not the heat, it's the humidity! It's hard to breath. But I know relief is coming, because players report to Vikings training camp today - football has officially begun! YAY!!!!

Speaking of yay, can I just say again how much I love Ravelry? I got an email this morning about a yarn that I have admired in the store being on sale. So I looked it up on Ravelry and looked to see what people are knitting with this yarn. And it gave me some great ideas. How cool is that? If you're still waiting for your invite to come, Margene posted a great idea today - start taking pictures of your stash and projects and such and get them set up in Flickr. That way when you get on, it'll be so much easier to input everything. Great idea! I'm not going back and putting all my old stuff in, because it's just too time consuming, but I do find it incredibly easy to just add stuff into Ravelry as I'm going. I'm putting my pictures up on Flickr anyway to post them to this here blog, so it's just a minute or two more to go into Ravelry and add them there too - easy, peasy!

Like this new project I've been working on:

You probably recognize the pattern. It's the Multidirectional Scarf knit in Artyarns Handpaint Stripes. Since it's so close to the end of July and almost time to change Project Spectrum colors, I decided to knit up this bridge project - Black of June/July and Purple for August/September. I've had this yarn sitting next to my computer for months, so I literally started a project with the first yarn I could grab. It's incredibly easy - go make one for yourself or for charity!


Monday, July 23, 2007

Stitch N Pitch

Yesterday was the second annual Stitch n Pitch with the Minnesota Twins. I think maybe the knitters are bad luck for the Twins, because for the second year in a row, the Twins lost the game. This one wasn't even close. We all had fun knitting together and enjoying each other's projects, though. It was a pretty nice sized crowd. One of my knitting group buddies picked up tickets at Amazing Threads and they were great seats - 11th row in the Upper Deck, right above home plate. With our ticket, AT gave us a skein of Twins-themed cotton to knit a Homer Hanky. I didn't get to wave it, but it was good ballpark knitting:

Everyone also got a goodie bag:

I got some light up needles, some really big wooden needles, the bag, a yarn store travel guide, Spin Off magazine, some free patterns and a couple of cross stitch kits. If anyone is interested in the crocheted snow flake pattern booklet, let me know and it's yours!

It was a fun day, even if we didn't win. I'm looking forward to the day we can sit outside for the SNP!

Driving to the train station on Sunday morning, I got excited about the fact that in about a month, I'll be driving to the train station on Sunday mornings for Vikings games!! We upgraded our seats this year, so I visited our new seats. We're in the 14th row of the lower deck, right below where I sat for the Twins game. They're AWESOME seats - so close to the field!! I'm bummed about summer almost being over, but I can't wait for football to start!!!!!


Sunday, July 22, 2007


Friday night I saw this film:

Boy, is this an unforgettable movie! It's based on the true story of Dieter Dengler, a navy pilot who was shot down in Laos during his first bombing mission during the Vietnam War. As you may recall, we were secretly bombing Laos, so a full out rescue attempt probably wasn't in the cards. In any case, he was captured by the Vietnamese and tortured and eventually put in a POW camp with a couple of other Americans and some Vietnamese soldiers. Dieter immediately sets out to escape the camp. Dieter is played by Christian Bale, who is brilliant as usual. This man is such a brilliant, versatile actor! Minnesota boy Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies play the other American POWs and all three actors were incredibly emaciated for the roles - Zahn and Davies especially. Bale lost quite a bit of weight, but wasn't quite as thin as he was in The Machinist. I'm worried about the long term effects of his weight fluctuations, though - from the barely there character in The Machinist to the bulked up Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins and then back down to scrawny for this film and I assume he's bulked up again for the next Batman movie - that can't be good. But anyway, he's incredible in this film. It's directed by Werner Herzog who also directed a documentary about Dieter Dengler called "Little Dieter Needs to Fly". He was obviously very inspired by Mr. Dengler to have made two films about his life, but his life is pretty damn inspiring. Although this is a war movie and Dieter seems your typical hero, this isn't your typical action film. There are almost no battle scenes and very little action. There's just the realistic drama of one man's will to survive in horrific circumstances. It was emotionally gripping. Bale makes Dieter so real - he's amazing and heroic, but also really strange and quirky. I also loved the relationship between Dieter and Zahn's character. If you're interested in a real, moving film this summer, this is a must see.

I also knit up a little beaded project for this colorway in Project Spectrum - right under the wire again!

Black and metallic (the orange beads are silver-lined, giving them a metallic look) for June and July. This little bracelet knit up in one afternoon. The thread is a nylon thread from "On The Surface". It was all a kit from Deanna's Vintage Style. I think I bought the kit at Yarnover or maybe Mary Lue's. The kit was missing one packet of black beads, so I used some beads from stash for the largest black beads.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Beautiful Day!

Oh, it's a gorgeous one around here today. 71 degrees and sunny with a nice breeze coming through the window. Perfect! I was going to say that I wish it was like this every day, but I think because we have those frozen winter days and the hot and sticky summer days, we can truly appreciate a beauty like today and not take it for granted.

I mentioned that I had Book Club last weekend and I thought I'd talk about the book we discussed:

Pretty Little Mistakes by local author Heather McElhatton. If you're around my age (39), you may remember the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books that were popular when we were kids. This book is sort of a grown up version of that. Page 1 starts with your graduation from high school (the book is written so you, the reader, are the narrator) and you choose to either go to college or travel. You flip to a different page, depending on what your choice is and read a bit, and then are faced with another choice. You keep making choices until your story ends - as all of our life stories do, with death. Each story is pretty short and doesn't take longer than maybe 20 minutes to read, so you can flip back and start all over again, making new choices, and having a different life. The cover says there are 150 different stories, but I didn't count. I also didn't read every single one, though I did do quite a few.

At first, I didn't really like the book. In the Choose Your Own Adventure books, you would have quite a bit of story in between each choice, so there was more of a narrative thread. In this book, each section is only 1-3 pages long, so you're constantly making choices and there's a lot of jumping around. it doesn't flow quite as smoothly as you would expect a novel to flow. However, I got really hooked on going back and making a different choice at different points and seeing how my life would change from that point on. A lot of the choices don't lead where you would expect - you think if you make a "good choice" something "good" will happen. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you do something that you know is wrong, but you're amply rewarded for it. I kind of like that. It is just like life. Not everyone who works hard and lives well is rewarded. And not everyone who has good things happen to/for them is a good person. There's a lot of darkness in the book - lots of drugs and violence. A lot of the deaths are violent. There aren't a lot of stories about getting married, having children and working a regular job. It also seems like you can perhaps tell the author's biases. For instance, it seems like the stories that come after you choose to travel are a lot better than the stories if you choose to go to college. And the author travelled after high school herself. However, I really did like this book. It was really fun, easy reading - perfect for a sunny Summer afternoon!

I've also been knitting of course. I'm almost halfway done with the border on my Weeping Willow shawl:

It still doesn't look that great, but I'm hoping that the blocking will work its usual magic. Here's a closeup of the edging:

I bought two balls of yarn for this shawl and thought maybe was going to be enough, but I'm coming close to the end of the first ball. I may have to just break into ball #2. Still love this yarn (Zephyr).

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Monday, July 16, 2007


Another weekend done and gone. Why do they go by so quickly, when they're so much fun? Ah, the answer is in the question. I saw this movie this weekend:

Very, very cute. The story is about a rat in Paris who is a bit of a foodie, unlike the rest of his colony who eat garbage. This means that he doesn't quite fit in with the colony and is a little bit of a disappointment to his father. He also takes very dangerous risks to put together meals - like going into kitchens where humans may discover him and try to kill him. There just aren't a lot of great ingredients for creating masterful meals in the garbage, though. His hero is the late French chef, Gusteau, whose philosophy was that "Anyone Can Cook". The rat of course embraces this philosophy and begins to see visions of Gusteau's ghost after he's separated from the rest of the colony. He ends up in Gusteau's restaurant and through a series of events, he creates a soup that is a hit sensation, but everyone thinks the garbage boy created it. The rat is able to communicate with the garbage boy that he knows how to cook and they figure out a way for the rat to become a chef by controlling the body of the garbage boy. It all sounds very complicated, and of course it is, but it's charming and entertaining. There's good drama - will the garbage boy be discovered as a fraud? Will the rat be discovered and killed by the humans? Will the rat be reunited with his family and colony? There are some delicious bad guys - the chef who runs Gusteau's, who used to be Gusteau's sous chef, and has dreams of millions of Euros made exploiting Gusteau's reputation and celebrity in a line of frozen dinners. There's also a food critic who scoffed at Gusteau's populist philosophy and could ruin what remains of the restaurant's reputation (and probably a bit of a poke at film critics as well). There's even romance in the form of the garbage boy's relationship with a line cook who takes him under her wing when he's elevated to a cook position. The animation is beautiful of course - right up there with the best Pixar films. My only problem with the film is that I was very grossed out at any scene where the colony is all together and has to scramble away. Seeing all of those scurrying rats is really disgusting. Even if they are charming.

I finished up the painting in the living room and got almost everything back in place. I did end up getting rid of a lot of stuff to avoid the clutter. It felt so good! I still have some DVDs and CDs that are overflowing the racks I have. I'm not getting any more racks, so I need to cull down what I've got and get rid of stuff I don't listen to/watch any more.

I also did some baking this weekend. We've had a gorgeous, cool week around here, so the idea of heating up the oven wasn't disgusting. I belong to a CSA and we got a bunch of zucchini this week, so I made zucchini bars with cream cheese frosting for book club. They were delicious and a bit hit with my fellow readers. Since I had the oven on, I also baked up a banana bread - one of my favorite treats.

I also finished up my Shimmer Socks:

Project Name: Shimmer Socks
Designer: Meg Croft
Pattern Source: Magknits
Yarn: Lorna's Laces (Rainbow colorway)
Yarn Source: Coldwater Collaborative at Yarnover 2007
Date Started: 5/26/07
Date Completed: 7/15/07

Comments: I am really pleased with the interaction of this pattern and this yarn. It's my first time using Lorna's Laces and not the last. It was also my first time doing a short row toe and heel and I really like them. I think they fit quite nicely. Here's the obligatory sole to sole shot, so you can see how the heels fit:

I also think the heel looks very pretty. These were a Project Spectrum project - I started them at the end of May, so the green and yellow fit into that and I didn't finish until July, so the red fits into that Perfect! Here's one final shot of the finished project. As usual, I knit the legs shorter than the pattern called for:

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Friday, July 13, 2007

The Best So Far...

It's the midway point of the year, although in movie terms, it's not really. In January and the first part of February almost all of the films I saw were actually released in 2006. As pretty much everyone knows, the movie studios release most of their best films in November and December so that they'll be considered for the Academy Awards and will be fresh in voters minds. But those releases are often just in New York or LA, so we don't see them here in the middle of the country until the beginning of the next year. Chances are, then, most of my favorite movies of the year haven't been released yet. But, I thought it'd be fun to make a Best of the Year So Far list. You know, to encourage you to go see some good movies over the summer among all the sequels. So, without further ado:

5. Waitress - I thought this was as sweet as the pies the main character makes in this movie. Charming and quirky, with a lot of heart.

4. Hot Fuzz - I don't think this is in theaters any more, but make sure to catch it on DVD. Hilarious send up of American buddy cop films that ends up being a really good buddy copy film itself.

3. Knocked Up - Equal parts hilarious and sweet. It's a romantic comedy for people who hate romantic comedies.

2. Sicko - It's funny, gut wrenching and frightening. Not much is more compelling than real life. Maybe if everyone sees this film, there will be enough political will to fix our broken healthcare system.

1. Once - Oh, I love this film so much. I wouldn't be surprised if it's still my favorite film of the year at the end of the year. A modern day musical where the music is an organic, compelling piece of the story.

Those are some pretty light films, eh? Even Sicko, which can be pretty dark and depressing, is funny enough to earn the description of comedy. I'm sure my final list of the year will include some real drama and tragedy.

In knitting news, I got my latest selection from the Sweet Sheep Project Spectrum Club. The colors for this go around are red, black and metallic and we had red last month, so I was wondering what she'd come up with for July. Black is fantastic and I knit with it all the time, but it's kind of a bad choice for a hand-dyed sock club. But metallic, that wouldn't really work either, right? WRONG! I squealed when I opened this package:

It is indeed golden and really, really lovely. I am feeling the need to grab a gorgeous purple and start some sort of Vikings themed item to wear to the games this fall. Afterall, training camp starts in less than 2 weeks.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Combo Platter

I have a couple of mop up topics to post on, so it's a combo platter for you.


I joined the Summer of Socks KAL again this year. I'm a little late getting started because I'm very disciplined about not starting new projects until I've finished another project. I'm also a slow knitter, so I won't be in the most socks contest, so there was no real need to get started immediately. But, it's fun to knit with everyone else and fun to see the hundreds of different socks being made in the KAL. My first sock is also a Project Spectrum project, in lovely red for June/July. I also joined a KAL of this pattern. So, three birds with one stone, as they say:

Red is always hard to photograph, for me. I'm using some of my PS Sock Club yarn from the Sweet Sheep Shop. I really like the feel of this yarn. The slight varigation looks pretty with the cabled pattern, too.


I saw Chicago at The Ordway on opening night. It was a fun show and if it's a musical you enjoy, I'd say this is worth seeing. Probably everyone has seen this musical either in the theater or the film version. So, you probably know the great songs. The cast was all costumed in skimpy little black numbers - low cut blouses, body suits, mini skirts, etc. Very sexy. I really liked the performance of the actress playing Roxie Hart - Michelle Dejean. She had a nice, strong voice and danced well. She was very winning as the desperate for fame Roxie. I wasn't as fond of the performance of Terra Macleod as Velma Kelly. She had a strong voice and good moves, but she seemed just a little too hard and brassy for me. The great Melba Moore played Mama Morton and had a few good songs in there. Gregory Harrison, who you may be familiar with from his extensive tv work, played Billy Flynn and really captured his slick and charismatic character. My favorite performance, though, was Eric Leviton as Roxie's husband, Amos Hart. His performance of "Mister Cellophane" was hilarious and spot on. Overall it wasn't my favorite show, but it was an enjoyable way to pass the evening. It's playing at the Ordway until 7/15 if you want to catch it.


It took awhile, but I finally finished my last book club book, only about a month after our book club meeting. Ugh. I wish I wasn't such a slow reader. Anyway, this is the book:

This book won the Pulitzer Prize and it's so complex, it's hard to explain what it's about. In very sketchy terms, it takes place mostly just before the Civil War in a fictional Virginia County. There are a lot of characters in the book and it's sort of an ensemble story, so it's hard to say there's a main character, but I guess the story that kind of links everything together is about a freed slave called Henry Townsend who owns his own plantation and slaves, much to the disappointment of his parents who bought his freedom after buying their own freedom. The book includes their stories as well as the stories of their former owner, the most powerful man in the county, the stories of many of the slaves working Henry Townsend's plantation and the stories of the county sheriff and some of his deputies who patrol the county for runaway slaves. There are so many different characters in the book that for the first 1/3 or so, it was really hard to follow. I kept forgetting who everyone was and eventually had to make a little cheatsheet for myself. However, eventually the focus narrowed and I figured out who was who and eventually I really cared about the people in the book and what was going to happen to them. As you can imagine from a book of this nature, a lot of it is heartbreaking. Many of the characters are really complicated and you don't particularly like them, although you may understand them. The story isn't told as a straight narrative - there are times where a particular part of the story will be followed through to the end, before you return to the main timeline. It can be somewhat confusing and sometimes I was disappointed to know what was going to happen to someone - for instance, a character would do something and then the author would say something like, "that's the last time X walked that rode before he was killed in a boat accident" or something like that. Because there were so many characters, sometimes characters would just disappear from the story. Overall, it was definitely well written and worth reading, but it was very frustrating at times.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

It was a hot weekend, wasn't it? I took off Thursday and left early on Friday, so it was almost like a 5 day weekend. I didn't quite get finished with the painting. I have one more wall left. Looks like it'll have to wait for next weekend, probably. I'm not good at housekeeping, as you've all deduced from reading this blog. I pick up and vacuum and dust occasionally, but none of that REAL cleaning stuff. So moving the furniture around to paint the walls was time consuming because I had to clean those areas and I found lots of stuff behind the furniture. Like 4 pairs of sunglasses behind the tv. Various knitting needles and notions behind the easy chair and book case. Two different shoes and a plate (?) under the couch. Gosh, I'm a slob. I'm really glad I finally got around to doing the painting, though, because I'm loving it. Here's one wall:

That's my knitting chair (a relatively recent purchase. I love it - it's so comfortable and the leather is incredibly soft, so I love to just pet it. It's sort of sticky on hot, sweaty skin though). That's where the magic happens - ha ha. It is where I do most of my knitting though. You can see my Ott light to the left and my knitting books bookcase to the right. The little green bowl on top of the book case in front of the Eiffel Tower lamp is for my snips.

I did do some knitting, particularly on Saturday afternoon. Kerry and I met at our favorite coffee shop and enjoyed the air conditioned coolness. I spent the rest of the time I wasn't knitting or painting at the movie theater. I saw four films over the long weekend. On Wednesday I saw this:

It was ok. I didn't love it and didn't hate it. Probably doesn't need any description, but in case you don't own a television - Transformers are robots in disguise. They can look like an ordinary vehicle - like a helicopter or Camaro or semi-truck, but then they transform themselves into a robot. They come from outerspace and some of them are called Decepticons and are bad and want to take over our planet because they destroyed their own planet. But some of them are called Autobots and are nice and want to protect us humans. The film ends with a big battle between the Decepticons and the Autobots. The lead human actor in the film is Shia LeBeouf who plays a teenage boy who buys a Camaro and doesn't realize it's an Autobot called Bumblebee. Bumblebee wants to protect this kid because his great grandfather was the first human on Earth to have contact with the Transformers and unknowingly has information that would help the Decepticons take over Earth. LeBeouf is fantastic and brings a lot of humor and heart to what could be a pretty cold film. In part, the film is actually pretty funny and it is really cool to see the transformers. The film must have cost a fortune and it's all up there on the screen. So, if you like action films and just some light, summer entertainment, go for it. It was really long, though. Too long, for me. I got bored in the final fighting scene. Bay takes a long time before he brings in the lead Autobot, Optimus Prime, and explains what exactly the Transformers are and why they're there. I guess with my explanation you probably get the gist, but if you weren't familiar with the Transformers it may be a bit confusing for a while. Red's all time favorite thing in the world is Transformers, though, and he declared it the best movie he's ever seen. The other kids all liked it too.

Friday I continued the summer action theme and saw this one:

I'm a fan of the Die Hard movies, although I didn't see the last one. I liked this one a lot. Though I doubt anything they show in this movie could ever happen in real life, so you definitely need to leave your logic at home. It sure is cool to watch it all happen, though. Bruce Willis is back as NYPD Detective John McClane. As usual, McClane just wants to live his life, but when a job has to be done, he's willing to step up and do it. This time, the bad guys are computer hackers who are trying to shut down all the systems of government, commerce and life in the U.S. Their unwitting accomplice is a hacker played by Justin Long - the Mac in those PC/Mac commercials. They trick him into writing a program to breach security in a government facility and since he's on the government's "usual suspects" list, McClane is dispatched to bring him to D.C. for questioning. The bad guys are trying to kill him before he can reveal what he did, but of course McClane got there first, so he saves the hacker and the two team up to try to save the country. They have a great chemistry together and are a good yin and yang. McClane is analog in a digital world, but as a character says in the Transformers movie, sometimes the best weapon is a pair of boots on the ground and a pair of eyes in your head. Then again, sometimes you need a really smart computer geek, too. The stunts are amazing to watch. Another great popcorn movie for a hot summer day.

Woman cannot live on action alone, so Saturday night I saw this:

Loved it! But it's damn depressing. Michael Moore points his camera in the direction of our completely screwed up medical system. The film isn't about the millions of people who don't have health insurance coverage. It focuses only on those who do, but are still denied coverage because the insurance companies and HMOs maximize profits by minimizing healthcare. If you don't have a story about some screwed up healthcare problem, I'm sure you know someone who does. The problem is completely undeniable. Moore's solution is universal coverage by the government, of course. He goes to Canada and talks to Canadians about their system. He goes to England and talks to the Britains. And then he goes to France and talks to Americans living in France and French citizens. All of these people have free access to healthcare. If they're sick, they go to a clinic or hospital and get healthcare. No worries about getting pre-approved for care or getting denied because the treatment is "experimental" or "pre-existing" or anything else. As usual, Moore drives home the point by highlighting the stories of regular people caught in the system. There's a woman whose husband died because his treatment wasn't covered because it was "experimental". There's the mom whose daughter died because the ambulance brought her to a hospital that was outside her HMOs network, so they refused to treat her. By the time she was taken to an in-network hospital, she died. The couple that stuck with me because I see my own situation so clearly in theirs was an older husband and wife who had to move into their daughter's spare bedroom because they could no longer afford their house payments due to medical costs. Being self-employed, I'm one catastrophic illness away from having to move in with one of my parents. Which would kill me. The most controversial and probably well-known scene in this film involves Moore taking three people who volunteered at the WTC site after 9/11 and are now suffering respitory and other illnesses from that work, but can't get medical coverage from the Volunteer's Fund, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to try to get medical care like the detainees get. Of course they are unable to get to Gitmo, but somehow they are able to get into Cuba and do get free medical care and extremely cheap medicine there. The film is such an urgent call to fix this problem but it's also very funny. I highly recommend everyone see it.

Sunday was my movie club get together and we saw this film:

I hated it. After seeing Sicko, I was all set to move to France - life looked so wonderful there. But now I can see that I'd never fit in. This film is extremely popular in France and it's gotten some stellar reviews. But I hated it. It's French and stars Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf, the French singer popular in the 40s and 50s. I'm not a huge fan of her music, so I already knew that I probably wasn't going to enjoy the soundtrack, but I also just thought it was way, way too long and hard to connect with. The film follows Piaf's life (well, part of her life - the whole period of WWII and her actions on behalf of the French Resistance were completely left out of the film) in a non-linear fashion. You start with Piaf's collapse on stage in 1959 and then go to her living on the streets with her mother in 1917 and keep pinballing around forward and backward and to the middle. At times it was hard to follow - I had to try to figure out if this was before such and such happened or not, etc. So it was hard to try to figure out how one thing effected another. For me, it also made it hard to connect or feel anything, because just as something was happening, we'd move on to something else. It all seemed very disconnected. In addition, one horrible thing after another happened to Edith Piaf. As I said, while her father was fighting in WWI, she and her mother were living on the street while her mother tried to make a go as a singer. Her mother eventually abandons her to her maternal grandmother who doesn't seem to provide much care, so her father places her with her paternal grandmother, who runs a brothel. She is lives in the brothel and is cared for by some of the prostitutes, but eventually her father comes back to claim her and takes her on the road with him. He's an acrobat with a circus. He appears to have his own mental health issues as well as being an alcoholic and eventually Edith is back on the streets, this time with her father. Eventually she's on her own, singing for loose change. She's discovered by a nightclub owner and becomes the toast of the town. From there, she suffers the usual artist problems - mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, disastrous love affairs, career problems, etc. It was just one bad thing after another after another and throughout the film, Edith is screeching at everyone all the time. It just wasn't very fun to watch and it was hard to have sympathy for her because she was so awful all the time. The one section of the film that I did enjoy and that I thought worked well was Edith's great love affair with the world middleweight boxing champion Marcel Cerdan, a fellow Frenchman she meets while they're both in NYC. Cotillard plays Piaf from her teen years through her death at age 47 (though she looks like she's 87 after a life of abusing herself) and really is amazing. I guess the film may be worth seeing just for her performance. The film also shows Edith as a passionate knitter! In her debut at the nightclub, she has knit herself a sweater, but she hasn't had time to finish the second sleeve (sound familiar to anyone?) so she drapes a scarf around her neck and over her arm to hide its bareness. Later she's seeing a doctor about her addiction to morphine and she says she started injecting herself after a car accident because she was shaking and couldn't knit - I pray to God I never turn my addiction to knitting into a substance abuse problem. There are also a couple of scenes of her knitting. In fact, one of her scenes in old age where she looks the healthiest and happiest she's sitting on a beach, knitting a little sweater "for whoever will wear it".


Saturday, July 07, 2007

On my birthday, I also managed to finish up my Disco Lights Scarf during my pedicure:

Still can't see the sparkly little sequins in the picture, but that color of red is closer to reality than the close up I showed last time. Here are the specs:

Project Name: Disco Lights Scarf
Designer: Me, I guess
Pattern Source: I just googled eyelet rib pattern and found it somewhere, I don't remember where. I think a Lion Brand pattern maybe.
Yarn: Tilli Tomas Disco Lights
Yarn Source: Little Knits (evil yarn store because it has fantastic sales that are hard to resist)
Date Started: 6/17/07
Date Completed: 7/1/07

Comments: I posted before about my difficulties figuring out what pattern and what size needles to use for this scarf. I'm happy with the finished product. One skein of yarn knit a nice size scarf. It's too darn hot to wear now, though.

You can also see the other project I'm working on this long weekend if you look to the left of the door - I'm painting my living room green. Too bright for many, I'm sure, but I love it. I think it looks great with the moldings in the room that are the same dark brown wood as the front door. I'm only half way done with the room, though. The difference between that the ugly sponge painting that I did about 15 years ago when I moved in is amazing, though. You can see the sponge painting in the picture of Michael a couple of posts ago, if you want.

Anyway, I've also been working on my Weeping Willow Shawl. In fact, I finished the body of the shawl and now I'm just doing the edging. Yay! I took these progress pictures before I finished the body, but ran out of time to post, so I'll just use them now:

Just looks like a blog, doesn't it? Here's a close up of a section sort of spread out:

This thing gave me fits in that heavily lacy part with the chevrons. I'd make a mistake and the rows would be so long it would take me forever to figure out where the mistake was made, tink back to that place and then fix it. I never had to go back more than that row, though, so I guess that's good. Here's what I did to help myself:

It's kind of hard to see anything but red, but I color coded the chart. Red is ssk, blue is K2Tog and green is a double decrease. I used some highlighter tape that Kerry gave me to mark the rows as I went. The tape is great because it's like post it note adhesive, so you can replace it over and over again. It's see through so you can see the row you just knit but it's easy to keep track of which line you're actually on. And when you're done knitting, the chart isn't all marked up like if you used a real highlighter. Not that I'd probably knit this pattern again. Normally I use copious amounts of stitch markers to keep track of things on my knitting too, but with this pattern I would have had to move them around to make my decreases so often that I decided it wasn't worth it. I just had one stitch marker for the middle of the shawl.

I also started a new pair of socks - a pattern KAL, project spectrum and Summer of Socks project all wrapped into one. But I'll show you that after I have more than just an inch of ribbing on the needles.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

It's July already?

I know I say this constantly, but doesn't it seem like this year is going faster than ever? I can't believe it's already July. With July comes my birthday and I had a great birthday weekend last weekend. I got a number of very nice gifts from my friends - I'm so blessed with kind and generous friends! On Saturday night a couple of them took me out to True Thai, a restaurant that was just mentioned by Andrew Zimmern as perhaps the best Thai restaurant in the Twin Cities. My first time there and I will definitely be back. We had a few different appetizers and they all were delicious. I had the Drunkard's noodles. It wasn't very spicy, but I didn't specify what spice level I wanted, so I imagine they set it at "Minnesota hot" if not specified. My friends had the curry which was really tasty. This winter I want to go back and try the lemon chicken soup.

After dinner, Deb treated me to an evening at The Guthrie for the play 1776. I really liked it - and what a great way to celebrate Independence Day than to remember how it all began. The play tells the story of the Continental Congress' debate and eventual signing of the Declaration of Independence. It's sort of a musical, because there are a number of musical numbers. However, there's a lot of just straight dialog too, so it's not like your typical Broadway style musical. The music is ok. Enjoyable, but not something that's going to stay with me forever. In fact, less than a week later, I can't hum a single tune. The performances were really great. The play shows the "founding fathers" as the real men they were - human beings with faults and strengths just like everyone. I particularly enjoyed the performance of the actor playing Benjamin Franklin. We all know Franklin's wit from his famous sayings, and at least in this play, he seems to be a great fun to be around, too. I'm definitely going to have to pick up David McCullough's book, "1776" and read more about this.

I started my birthday as I traditionally like to, with a pedicure. There aren't very many spas open on Sundays, but Solimar was, which is a spa that I do enjoy. It wasn't quite as relaxing as I would have hoped because there was another patron there, so the four of us (the clients and nail technicians) spent the time chatting - mostly about books. Mostly about Harry Potter and the Outlander books (yes, we were all girl equivalents of fanboys). After that I headed over to Bill's for a picnic. Red was being absolutely adorable and even sat on my lap for a little while when we were watching some animation on the computer, which was the best present of all! In the evening I had dinner with Michael and Greg, so I got to spend the day with all my best boys at one time or another. A very nice, relaxing birthday.

A couple of days later, I enjoyed a gift for myself, a concert:

When I heard The Police were doing a reunion tour, I literally screamed. And waited for an announcement that they were coning through the Twin Cities. When it finally came, I realized that tickets were going to go on sale day I was leaving for the cruise with my mom, so I wouldn't have access to a phone or internet to buy them. After checking with several of my usual concert-going buddies and striking out, I finally convinced my brother to go with me and buy the tickets for me when he could - they went on sale at 10:00 on a work day, so most people were in the middle of their work day at that time. We got first row of the middle level, which is great because we didn't have anyone in front of us, but sucked because everyone around us was very sedate. But we were there and I was so excited!!

My top three bands of all time (in no particular order) are:

The Police/Sting
Pearl Jam

I've seen Sting in concert a half dozen times, but I never got to see The Police because the last time they played together around here was in the mid-80s, while I was still living in South Dakota. I remember how jealous I was of Diego in Spanish class when he came back from a trip up to the Cities with his new Police t-shirt from seeing the concert. (On a side note, I just found out that my Dad went to that concert. He used to work for Carlson Companies up here when I was in high school - he commuted on weekends from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis. I'm so glad I didn't know that back then - I would have been so bitter - as only a teen can be).

I loved the concert. Every song they played is one I love. I thought they sounded great together and they looked fantastic. I think Sting and Stewart Copeland could still wear the clothes they had back in 85. Andy Summers is even older than the other guys and looked a little older too, but still great. They re-arranged a lot of the stuff, which really didn't bother me. I like it when you see a show live and it doesn't sound exactly the same as it did on the record. Sting plays some of the Police songs on his tours, so maybe I'm just used to the way he performs them. They got bad reviews from both of the local papers. I think it just depends on whether you like Sting or not. The re-workings are definitely more of his style and his work. Andy Summers also plays a lot of jazz, so I think he and Sting both gravitate more to a jazz sound than a reggae sound that The Police had in the early years. Stewart Copeland was just completely intense and high energy throughout the show. He and Sting were always the two battling it out in the old days and given I was a teenage girl, I always thought he obviously was a jerk who was jealous of Sting's popularity. That may be true, but now that I'm a little older and little wiser, I have to say that Stewart's amazing and talented and maybe he's right, too. If you're interested, here's the set list:

1. Message in a Bottle
2. Synchronicity II
3. Walking on the Moon
4. Voices in My Head/When the World Is Running Down…
5. Don’t Stand So Close to Me
6. Driven to Tears
7. Truth Hits Everybody
8. Bed’s Too Big without You
9. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
10. Wrapped around Your Finger
11. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
12. Invisible Sun
13. Walking in Your Footsteps
14. Can’t Stand Losing You

15. Roxanne
16. King of Pain
17. So Lonely
18. Every Breath You Take
19. Next to You

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Auntie Week

It's not that unusual for me to go a week without posting, so you probably didn't even notice that I didn't post last week, but my reasons for not posting were unusual. My nephew Michael, was staying with me for the week while he attended "Movie Magic Camp" at the Science Museum, so I had to play auntie for the week and get into a regular schedule. He had to be at camp by 8:00 every morning, so I had to get up much earlier than is my normal practice. In the evenings, we usually did something fun together, so I really didn't have much time for blogging, although I had plenty of time for blog reading since I got to the office so early in the morning! :-)

Michael had a ball at movie camp. They learned all about the history of film and how movies are made - acting, directing, editing, special effects, costumes, make up, etc. They got to make a short film themselves and we got to watch the films on Friday afternoon. I think Michael plans to make more films on his own, now. Here's his superhero costume from the film that he made in camp:

I contributed to the costume by supplying some red yarn for the cape's ties. Good thing I've got that stash handy, huh? Here's some of his make up and acting:

Brilliant, isn't he? On Monday night we went to the bookstore and hunted through the new and used books for some good ones. Michael, like his dad and I were at his age, is a voracious reader. I don't read as much as I used to now that I'm knitting so much. And, you know, working and cleaning the house and all that grown up stuff.

Tuesday night Michael and I usually meet up with Bill and Red and whoever is around in his family at the park, so we just did that as usual. Wednesday night we went to the zoo:

It was an absolutely gorgeous day and perfect for the zoo. Then we both got our hair cut. Not quite the bonding experience that I usually have when his sister Jessica and I go get pedicures - boys! Thursday we decided to check out the new Pompeii exhibit since we were already at the Science Museum. I've been to Pompeii and it was one of the best trips I've ever taken. If you aren't able to get to Italy, this is a very nice way to learn about Vesuvius and life in Pompeii before the eruption. The exhibit includes an audio tour, which I always really enjoy. We also saw the Omnifilm about Greece, which was gorgeous, but a little slow moving.

It was really fun to "play mommy" for a week and this year we didn't even have time to do crafts together since we were out and about so much. We had fun though and it also made me appreciate all the time I get to spend doing whatever I want and the great flexibility of my schedule. I got to sleep in until after 8:00 this morning and just loved it!