Sunday, April 29, 2007

Reading Myself

"A photograph is not created by a photographer. What he does is just to open a little window and capture it. The world writes itself on his film. And the act of the photographer is closer to reading than it is to writing. He is the reader of the world." -Ferdinando Scianna, from Slate.

I was trying to capture the look of a couple of outfits today. I tried on the dress I'm intending to wear and I got both jackets together so I could take pictures of them each open and closed. Why just use a mirror when you can make it complicated, right?

Well, these pictures look as confused as I felt. I misplaced the focus and they definitely won't work for what I wanted. I was trying to read the world in the sense that Scianna described, but I failed. I had a good problem - choose between two lovely jackets to make a nice outfit. I also had a good weekend, enjoying dinner out with Gerkin and Hubster at Les Halles. Friday night, Hubster and I, too enjoyed a great evening with just the two of us and our unnaturally hyper cats. I did have a few darker moments, though. It seems as though I can feel a little too tied to practical matters of late - I'm bothered by how often I avoid deeper moments with K or just alone with myself. I'm stressing out, and I want to slow down but seem unable to focus on anything but the next task.

In some ways, these pictures capture that. I'm out of focus and the project I'm actually trying to do (decide which jacket to keep) is hopeless because the focal point of my camera is a foot in front me. My photographic ineptitude making my point for me. If only all these were solved so easily.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Petroglyph National Monument

We quite enjoyed our foray into this park, but then again we're nerds. If you find yourself equally nerdy and curious, I've included some Wikipedia links for more information. Okay, okay PICTURES!

According to the placards arrayed throughout the site, it was considered a holy place where Native Americans (and later Spanish settlers) would go on faith quests, basically. The art pictured here is less representational than ritual. Sometimes we have no idea what they mean because no cultural artifact bears the same symbol. However, many symbols recur throughout the area, like the one pictured above.

This petroglyph was not dug as deep into the rock, but you should be able to distinguish a man with a mask over his left eye.

Such fluid lines on this little man. Love it.

We also learned that the cross was as symbol in the local Native American cultures long before the Roman Catholic Spaniards showed up. You can tell each culture's cross by whether it has an outline or not. This is a Native American cross; the Spanish would not have outlined it.

Another man, hanging out. I should really reprocess this picture, though, because it definitely doesn't match the tonality and color depth of the desert varnish well at all. Oopsies!

KITTIES! ON ROCKS! Although these were likelier to be jaguars than domesticated cats. Apparently, their range extended to Albuquerque, back in the day.

And you gotta love the modern graffiti. Was is worth it, Amanda '86?

For a pretty good primer on petroglyphs (stone carvings) see this Wikipedia article. Apparently, the reason you can get and retain these carvings is because of something known as "desert varnish," a darkened exterior which certain types of rock get in hot arid climates. This article seems to indicate that it's because of the rocks make-up as well as the interaction with the environment over time. When you scratch off the outer layer of varnish, it doesn't fill in again so your carving remains intact for centuries.

I highly recommend a visit. Maybe next week, I'll show you some images of the area itself and you'll notice as we did that it's not as easy/safe as most national parks. For one thing, you have to climb among all these rocks without many handholds and few stairs with handholds. I wore some adorable platform espadrilles which were TOTAL CRAP on those steep (and often tight) inclined spaces, but I didn't fall down and avoided going boom. I just wouldn't recommend flipflops.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Albuquerque Snaps

Ah, the ubiquitous New Mexico chili peppers - this time chipotle. When we went out to dinner at El Pinto, the fragrance from the peppers bedecking their porch was amazing.

Desert Broom or Broom Dahlia. Whatever, it's PRETTY!

Oh, mysterious flower, what is your name? It was all over Petroglyph.

Here's the side view of the above plant. Those crazy modern-design-esque pods are flower buds.

This is how you pay for parking in Old Town. You stare at this board puzzling over just why the slots for each spot are so small. You look at the hourly rate and determine you need to insert three dollar bills. You roll them up tightly. You decide to finish pushing them into the slots with your car key. You wonder if the person who designed this was a genius or an idiot. You further decide that, although it made you laugh just then, making t-shirts that read "I parked in Old Town" would be too obscure.

All that fuss over parking was worth it. After all, here's a lovely picture of the San Felipe de Neri Church.

You count the days until you have to leave this delightful place.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Why read when you can hear about the movies I've seen?

I just went out to a movie with my husband, so I guess it's time to talk about recent movies I've seen and whether they are any good. In order now, from the crappy to the fabulous, I present my experiences with movies.

Music and Lyrics: Have you seen the trailer? Well, it tells you everything there is to know about this romantic comedy which was disappointingly formulaic. Drew Barrymore can be quite charming, but she is constantly doing these roles and I just want to airlift her out of this movie and into something good. I mean, the first few minutes of the movie feature a faux-80s band video which is PURE GENIUS. The end credits were also awesome. The middle? Not so much. It had its moments, a few quotable lines, and that's about it. No offense to those that liked it; I just felt like I'd rather be watching something better.

Talladega Nights: I was fully prepared to "not get" this movie and decide I didn't like it. I mean, lots of my friends loved Anchorman and I didn't enjoy more than a few lines of it. Really, Will Ferrell is not a sure bet for me, but this movie was pretty darn hilarious. Yes, I waited till it hit DVD, but it was worth the rental for the laughs and good lines like this one: "I wake up in the morning I piss excellence." Indeed you did, at least for this one, Ferrell.

Children of Men: Futuristic movies are always tough. The production designers either go Aeon Flux and make it crazy weird-looking or . . . well, they usually go nuts. This movie was amazing partially because though it was set 20 years in the future, and the world was going to Hades in a handbasket, it still looked and felt real. It was beautiful, sometimes so moving I cried, mostly it was an interesting foray into out culture and what ends it might reach. Also, it was beautifully filmed - long shots are so complicated and they had several. Kudos to them, and kudos to those of you who decide to watch it. Well worth a rental.

Shaun of the Dead: Sweet fancy Moses! I've never seen a zombie movie before, and I'm sure I would have been on the floor laughing had I seen them, but frankly, I know all the leitmotifs because they're such a part of pop culture. This movie is an entry in the genre, a funny homage, a delight. Loves it!

Hot Fuzz: The movie which Hubster and I just saw, created by the people behind Shaun, and it was fabulous! Growing up with brothers and tons of male friends, I've seen my fair share of action movies. Again, it's an action movie which ratchets the cheese factor. If this trailer strikes your fancy, you just might be Hot Fuzz material.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Late Book Report Fined 10% Per Day

Today, I'll be reviewing books which were all good to one degree or another. Some were more interesting than excellent, but I still think they're worth a read if the titles/themes catch your eye.

Pattern Recognition, William Gibson: From Amazon, "The first of William Gibson's usually futuristic novels to be set in the present, Pattern Recognition is a masterful snapshot of modern consumer culture and hipster esoterica." That's about all you should read, though, because otherwise you'll spoil the book. I had my issues with some of it, but overall, it was an interesting look at culture, and I thought the bits about internet culture were incisive.

Lady Oracle, Margaret Atwood: Oh, another Atwood. I'm like a groupie! Well, this wasn't my favorite of hers, so I guess the honeymoon's over with her. See, her beautiful language was still there, and she even retained some of her amazing insight, but the plot and some characters just didn't do it for me. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't Atwood good. Single tear.

The Autograph Man, Zadie Smith: I finally finished the book. Very good. I didn't enjoy it as much as On Beauty, but it was still miles ahead of other novels. I've included quotes from it before here and here.

Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez: One of my new favorite books because, WOW! The style reminded me a bit of Dostoevsky with its rambling narrative and insights about even the most minor of characters, but Márquez was didn't seem to wander quite as long as the D might. There were so many good lines that I really can't copy them all out. Really a must read. I think I could start a few dozen posts with inspiration from them. Hey, that's not a half-bad idea. Better idea? READ THIS BOOK.

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett: Another of my new favorite books. The language is truly fantastic. She creates a rather implausible world, yet you want so badly to believe it exists, that it is, in fact, our world that she keeps you at the edge of your seat, even when she's discussing how the terrorits and hostages will make dinner out of raw vegetables. Opera, terrorism, language barriers, and French Ambassadors cooking - it really has it all. READ THIS BOOK, TOO.

I'm reading another great book, but that's quite enough pontificating and Amazon searching. If you're headed beachward (or airportward) then snap one of these babies up.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

New Mexican Carpet Report

So, the conference went well. Got to hang out with Jefe and we did some fun stuff like eat here, here and here - (try the margaritas at El Pinto, the Shrimp and Cheese Fondue at Landry's, and ice-cream filled sopapillas at the Church Street Cafe, respectively). Also, we tried a delicious local wine, a Sangiovese from Black Mesa Winery (site under construction, meanwhile, try this) at the Church Street Cafe in Old Town Albuquerque. Delicious, especially with all the great salsas we were consuming. We also visited Petroglyph National Monument where I took entirely too many pictures. I still have to process them, but I should be posting them soon.

But enough about that, you want the State of the Carpet address, and let me just say, for a megachurch that's already a few years old, their carpet looks pretty fresh. Is it worth avoiding the water damage from all those crazy homeschoolers? Not a chance. But still, kudos on the well-preserved digs; just try not to dehydrate an entire people group over it, mmmkay?

More tomorrow. I've finished a bunch of books that I've said nothing about yet, and I'm also backlogged on movies, as well as the promised petroglyph images and I should soon finish my dress so hopefully I should have lots to say this week.

Until Then,
I Remain,
Your Most Autocratic Blog Monarch,

Señora Cranky Pantalones

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Le Crank Le y

Tomorrow, I have an early flight out to New Mexico. I've never been, and that's exciting, but I'm waking up at 4am, and THAT, my friends, is why I'm so cranky about being awake at 11pm. It's not because I'm preternaturally old or anything. Although I DO clip coupons. Whatever, the reason I'm up is because I got THIS close to the final stage of the dress I'm working on, and then I proceeded to make mistakes all over the place and get all nice and cozy with my seam ripper. By the time I'd fixed the problems I caused by my carelessness, I didn't have time to assemble the shirt, hem it, and sew it to the (complicated, but finally completed) bodice. I comfort myself that if I were staying up to finish the whole shebang, we'd be well into all-nighter territory and I AM too old for that. Single tear.

Did I mention this was the convention which allows absolutely NO beverages or snacks of any kind throughout the day? They noted that you could have bottled water IF YOU PROVIDE A MEDICAL EXCEPTION NOTICE. Their carpet must be made of the downy feathers of extinct geese, lovingly fabricated by the hands of the poorest peoples of the Himalayas, and festooned with 24K gold paint by their art prodigies, in short, this carpet better freakin' WALK FOR ME if I can't carry a Nalgene into the building. And we say TSA restrictions are tough!

Anyway, blah blah I'm be gone for the rest of the week, blah blah I'll take pictures, blah blah I'll miss you too. Nighty-night!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Selected Readings in Pop Culture

Today, I'll be taking selected readings from Dove Dark Chocolate wrappers.

"Remember your first everything."
Can anyone see what's wrong with this sentiment? It might be important to remember the first time you left the country for exotic climes or even the first time you had sex, but the first time you took a step? Kinda not possible. And the first time you noticed your mother had colored her hair? That has GOT to be crowding out a pin number.

"Wink at someone driving past today."
Sue Dove for damages when the crash is ruled to be your fault.

"Age is nothing but a number."
Not so much an imperative as a cliche. Also, age is associated with privileges and restrictions, so you know, YOU'RE TOTALLY WRONG, DOVE.

"Send a love letter this week."
Bite me.

"Sometimes one smile means more than a dozen roses."
Yes, but sometimes that means he's a miser whom you should drop like a bad habit. Think about it.

"Write a real letter, not just an email."
What's the deal with hating on email? Seriously, people, I can avoid writing an email just as steadfastly as writing a letter. Okay, you stressed out over whether the USPS had upped rates since Christmas when you bought 80 Santa stamps, which you are now ashamed to use. Is it a little warm in here, or is it just the caring?

"Flirting is mandatory."
Somehow, I think a man wrote this - a man who's bad at flirting. So sad.

And my personal favorite:
"Watch reruns, they replay your memories."
Um, WHAT?!? Either this is a failed metaphor or they think we live in front of the TV, and with the epidemic levels of obesity I keep hearing about, maybe dessert purveyors shouldn't be recommending a sedentary lifestyle.

Lesson for the Day: Don't read the wrappers; just eat the chocolate. Class Dismissed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Distractosaurus Rex

Cannot. Concentrate.

Really, I've tried to come up with something to write, but it's hard. I went shopping at G Street and found FABULOUS fabrics for cheap because they were having a sale - like I needed another reason to set up a cot and refuse to leave.

I'm going to make another Duro dress, but unlike the last one, it should be wearable like OUT THE HOUSE. Body: black with white polka dots, Contrast: bright yellow flowers with dramatic black details. Oh, man, what am I doing typing? I need to cut this thing out and get started already! I might also have a TON of gifty makeup bags to make for various and sundry folks whom I love and totally owe.

Even the Tiny wants to help out on this one. (I'm making the far right pictured dress, sans arm bands because there wasn't enough of the flower print (I got the last yard!) and it's a bit stiff for a fluid sleeve like that.

Yes, folks, the pendelum of Erica's attention has swung back to sewing, so I must follow its dictates. I am but a minion of my flighty, flighty brains.

Number two in the queue? Probably. (Sorry about the blurry picture. And the dots are chocolate brown while the pink is a bit less bright. Yeah, so ignore the picture altogether.)

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a 32-year-old Singer.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

StuckInARut City, Population: Erica

I want to share what's going on, but it's complicated, and some of it is too private for this kind of forum, and frankly, I don't have the words, no matter how many phrases I string into my run-on sentences. I've been in a funk for most of the day, and it's tiring. The deeper you get into it, the more of a rut it becomes, slowly dismantling your resistance to it, conditioning to ignore potential exits in favor of following the negative track you've carved out. It's been a long week, but it's my own fault. I got back from a great experience where my creativity was stimulated. I got back to my (okay, "at times") dull and uncreative life, and I'm frustrated.

It's a conundrum for a learning junkie like myself: expanding my knowledge doesn't actually change my life. I crave remaking myself once I've discovered new things. I feel as though my mind has changed so much so my life must have been totally transformed, but my life is much the same as I left it. Yes, fine, I have the chance to remake it myself with effort and experience. Ah, but the progress is never fast enough, and most of the time I get mired in decisions about how to go about it. I flounder. I get side-tracked. I procrastinate. I get in a funk.

And we're full circle. Circumstances always strike you as harder and more irrevocable in these moods. The old self-help thing about "acting not REacting to life" has some truth to it - if I'm constantly looking at my problems as mountains rained down on me from the heavens then beyond having some serious misgivings about the climate, I'll never get out of the house and clear them away. I can handle most of the things I face daily. So much of what I face is the loneliness of being at home, sans human companions for two-thirds of the day. BUT I KNOW HOW TO DEAL NOW. Anytime I feel overwhelmed, I've stopped acting - calling a co-worker, writing an email, chatting briefly with friends on breaks - and I started reacting by accepting the loneliness as a fact of my day and doing nothing to combat it.

Blah blah same old words blah

So what have I done in an effort to combat the rut by now: finally decided on wall decor for the living room and purchased frames for the scheme, experimented with pasta for dinner, made sure to drink my water for the day, and excised my demons on the Interweb. I guess that's not half bad. What do you do to escape the doldrums?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Picture Post: Sweet Victory Edition

Welcome to Camden Yards. As my friend Gerkin put it: "It's vaguely Dickensian. 'Please sir, I want some more.'" Yes, he did go for the Twist reference. Indeedy.

O-power is how you lose to the D-town. (Was that trash-talking? I think I might have just run my mouth a little. Am. So. Devious.)

The highlight of the game for Southwest and I was watching three bats shatter. Of course I failed to capture the moments as they happened.

Okay, this stadium scene exits for one thing: look at the speedometer clocking the pitcher. Pretty. It read 100 most of the time, but, again with the laziness, I missed it.

The fast pitcher in question: Joel Zumaya. Beautiful arm, that one.

Aw, the Bonsai boys! Watch them scurry. It's only Zen from a distance.

Pretty form. In case you were wondering, we went to the second game of the season, not actually Opening Day. Apparently the grass painters thought that was too much work to cover up for accuracy.

Fin. Though I may not love me some baseball, I love me some hanging out, and it was worth freezing to watch the Tigers bring it. Thanks to Gerkin for the idea, Southwest for the conversation and commisseration, and Mr. T and Hubster for the non-stop one-liners and snackies. Advance thanks to my pillow, y'all, I am OUT.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cop-out Post of the Week

I just spent my entire evening outside, freezing my butt off at Camden Yards. The Tigers BEAT the Orioles, YAY, but the cold beat me down. I got some interesting snaps. I'll process them tomorrow. With my kit lens, I didn't have the telephoto capabilities the situation required, but we'll see what some RAW, Photoshop, and elbow grease can yield. Until then, enjoy some snaps from the cherry trees currently lining my street. Nighty-night!

Fun with the Lab color boost. This picture wasn't really appropriate for the trick, but it sure was fun! Those colors make me think of one of my junkfood weaknesses - mmmm, cotton candy.

Detail is so much easier to capture when your subject is not a restless cat.

Why, oh why must they bloom for so little of the year?

Underexposed, but still pretty.

One more for the road.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Ill-advised proposals are a known side-effect of Photoshop euphoria.

So much time has passed, friends, and I have blogged so little about it. Photoshop World was awesome as advertised. I now have the skinny on non-destructive photo editing, the Lab color boost trick, and some sharpening methods that truly kick derriere. I cannot pledge that all my photos will henceforth be uncompromisingly flawless, but that might be because I want a life outside of my computer software. Although, I do have a huge crush on CS3 now, and if I can get a copy home with me once the product ships, I just might be the happiest woman on the planet. Quick selection tool: MARRY ME.

Moving to less terrifying subjects, I enjoyed Boston. We stayed at the Westin Copley Place (Heavenly Bed: MARRY ME) and had the convention at the Hynes Convention Center. In between lies the Prudential Center and its connecting skywalks, so though we never allotted enough to time for from one to the other and always arrived at our destinations with a patina of sweat and a certain degree of fluster, we did NOT have to savor the cold, wintry-mixed weather of Massachusetts. Thank the Maker. It should also be noted that though there was a Shoe Debacle (the shoes I packed sucked, #$%^@#*), I did not purchase anything with my own money despite walking through two, COUNT EM TWO malls from hotel to convention three times a day. There might have been a Charles David with their adorable Spring line avilable, too (Peep-toe flats with ankle strap adorably called "Pele:" MARRY ME). I practically pulled something to restrain myself. Anyway, we did actually leave our climate-controlled cocoon on Thursday night for a little Boston pubbing. It was lovely. It's loveliness was directly related to how little time we spent outside.

And then I returned home, having had my performance review and getting a raise (sweeeet!) to a street full-to-brimming with cherry blossoms. Again, life is good.

Also, I watched the following video, and I laughed pretty hard. It might be because though I wish Fergie no harm, I really hate her songs, and I wish she weren't famous. Okay, she might construe that as wishing her harm, so instead I'll say that I wish she could be famous while also being obscure to me. Since I've been doling out the marriage proposals like candy, a la Maeby Fünke, I think I have to say it, Alanis: MARRY ME.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Vista Bonita

I'm sitting in the my hotel room, checking my email inefficiently. To my left there's eighty square feet of window with a view of Boston that you cannot believe. I can see the Charles River, Cambridge, and a whole lotta pretty lights. Earlier today, we saw fifteen sailboats out on maneuvers, and there were crew teams out, the spray off their oars barely visible. Life is good.

I got quite a lot out of my Illustrator class, but it was still four hours long. Tomorrow's a full day, so I'm going to hit the hay. I slept like a colicky baby last night. Early start the next day, big day full of travel, a trans-continental rendezvous, four-hours of class, etc - it all added up to the ole Toss 'N Turn for six hours. I need me some sleeps. Good night!

Monday, April 02, 2007

I'm off to see the wizards.

So, I'm off to Photoshop World this week. Tomorrow morning my flight leaves early and I've got a four-hour seminar called "Illustrator for Photoshop Users." Despite how grueling that sounds, it's gonna be sweet!

Right now, however, blogging will have to wait because I've got to pack, tie up loose ends, and moon over my kitties. Yeah, yeah and my husband.

I will have access to computers, but I don't know how much time I'll have for y'all. Here's hoping I can share some of the joy!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ignore the Date Stamp; This Ain't No Prank.

Knowing what a crazy idealist I am, you might be able to guess the mixture of feelings the following fact engenders:

"Hubster and I have purchased tickets for a trip to Argentina for Fall 2007."

Let's wade into my stream of consciousness, shall we?

Yay we're finally going but crap we're finally going I mean it could be fantastic but what if our luggage gets lost and what if we get stuck in Chubut and what if we get robbed in Buenos Aires but won't it be fantastic for Hubster to finally meet my family but maybe he'll be nervous and they think he's a silent, serial-killer type and then they kick us out of their house where would we stay but maybe that would force is to interact even more with the culture and then we could experience the country as natives rather than uptight American suburbanites oh man we're freakin' GOING.

AHEM. Sorry. I let my crazy hang out there for a second. The closer I've gotten to this trip the more I realize just how many expectations I've heaped on this bad boy. I look at it as a touristy thing for certain parts (hello, BA!), but it's also a journey back in time since I hope to recover memories of places and people that are off the beaten path. I'll be reconnecting not only with family but friends with whom I don't really keep up. I'll see Chubut for the first time in 18 years. I'm going to see my cousin as a preteen whom I remember only as a four-year-old. My young life will be rocked by this trip, and I know I can't begin to understand how it'll change me. That is, if it doesn't all feel too normal. I'm actually afraid of this turning into just another trip. I want some revelation. I want the earth to a shake a bit. Why?

I couldn't tell ya. But I will tell you a little story to illustrate what I mean. I used to have this dream when I was young. I'm looking at a building and it's beautiful, built like a square mansion with Bavarian lines. I know I've been there before, and I think it's in Argentina, but it looks so out of place with their typical Spanish/Italian/French architecture. I keep staring because of its location - halfway down a dock that stretches from the shore into a vast body of water. Whenever I thought about it in waking life, I couldn't believe it was real. I had a sense that I'd been there before, but feelings are foolers, right? I decided it one of those crazy mashups that your brain makes when your consciousness isn't minding the store. If it were real, I figured it was in Bariloche because of the architectural style and the nearby lake. But then, at age 17, turning a corner on a bus ride from Buenos Aires to Córdoba, I saw my dream passing by my window.

I had tried to explain my dream to my parents once, but it didn't ring any bells until I hissed excitedly at my mother and asked her if I'd ever been there, right there, can't you see that building? Yes, she said. We'd shared a special dinner with family there (it's got a restaurant) and my grandparents kept asking me where the boats were so I would say "wada" over and over with my little-girl diction. It was real, substantial, a part of my life. Of the millions of memories I'd lost in the blur of my brain's longterm storage, I finally had one back. You can't buy that kind of elation (at least legally - heh).

It seems so trivial when I read over it. I guess when you've moved around so much, you really celebrate those little triumphs over impermanence. I've put a memory with an image in mind - I know that I once had dinner at the Club de Pescadores in Buenos Aires. Hardly the stuff of major life shake-ups, but I still feel more grounded knowing than not. I just hope I haven't hyped this so much that reality disappoints. I've got six months to realize it's happening and prepare for it. That's long enough to develop a more even keel, right?