February 28, 2005


I have a Jansport backpack that I still use near-daily. I've had it for almost 10 years now (which also mean that it's almost 10 years since I graduated from high school. Gack.) and it's never been damaged, except for the zippers failing, but they've been replaced for free under warranty. It was my bookbag in college, it is my bag for work, my carry-on when I go on planes, my day-pack on holiday, my bag for hauling groceries... It rocks. It's purple. I will never give it up. (Ok. End of ode to my backpack.)

When I was in college, I added some patches and buttons to my backpack, which are still there now. There are two homemade Radiohead-related ones, using symbols out of OK Computer. One you can hardly see cuz it's purple ink on purple cloth on a purple bag, but the other is big and it's purple on yellow, and it's of a figure kind of like the generic woman/man restroom symbols and beneath it it says "Lost Child". There are also three small buttons, one of the logo of a Portland record label that I think no longer exists (Candy Ass), and two for Belle & Sebastian. They're kinda vague B&S though, like they don't say the name of the band on them, one just has a girl on a bike and there's a little license plate that says "Belle"; the other has 8 drawings of instruments on it that represent the 8 original members of the band and what they played. Oh, and just today I added my new Magic Marker button.

So the other day, I was heading home and standing in the crowd (they don't do lines here) waiting to get on the bus. Suddenly a guy near me says "Hey, a Belle & Sebastian button!" though in Dutch, which really sounds the same as in English but with a funny accent. And I realized he was referring to me. I turned around and found that the guy who spoke was about 2 people away from me, a very Dutch tall, blond guy, sort of geeky/indie, someone you could imagine liking B&S. So I smiled and he said (I think) something about me having good music taste, though I wasn't quite sure what he said at the end, but I definitely heard "hebt goed muziek smaak" so it wasn't just me projecting what I wanted to hear. I said thanks and wanted to say more but I guess I felt weird talking about it with all these people standing there listening. It made me really happy though. I believe he was the first person to recognize those buttons. Or at least the first person to say anything about it. I've had many comments on the Lost Child patch, from people I know and strangers, and I think someone (who I knew) asked what the buttons were about, but no one's known what they were in the 6 or 7 years I've had them on there. I'm sure the guy would have liked to have known that. Sorry, Mr Stranger Guy, for not telling you that I thought it rocked that you recognized the buttons.

February 26, 2005

NW music happiness

Portland is home to a little record label called Magic Marker that puts out records by bands that in general are very poppy and sweet and 60's-sounding. Stuff I like. =) I only have albums by two Magic Marker bands, but I like them quite a lot (and I recommend you checking them out): Lines and Color by Kissing Book, and Foreign Words by Boycrazy. I'm subscribed to the label's mailing list and they recently announced the release of a double CD complilation of bands that have played over the years in the house where the two label owners live. The comp is called, appropriately enough, A House Full of Friends and includes many (mostly NW) bands, from the obscure to the getting-famous. We've got The Thermals, The Decemberists, The Shins, All Girl Summer Fun Band, The Minders, Boycrazy, the lead singer of Kissing Book.... Those are just the ones I know well, there are a ton more that I've heard of but not actually heard, so this was a great chance to hear something from them. Considering that even with overseas shipping the CD was still many euros less than your average CD here, I promptly ordered it online. It arrived hardly a week later, along with a little Magic Marker button and a handwritten note from Curt, one of the label guys, that said "Thanks for the order. You rule!" He had even mailed it off himself, from the University Station post office downtown. The package set me off into a haze of Portland happiness. As for the CD, I've only listened to CD 1 so far, but so far it's lived up to expectations.

February 24, 2005

Stupid Dutch TV broadcasters

The Dutch broadcasters have no respect for the boundaries of the American television season. They pay no regard to when it is the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Case in point: the season finale of a show I watch recently aired. Oh fine, I'll name the show, though it feels embarrassing to do so, but considering various guys at O's work admitted to watching it, maybe it's not so shameful... It's the Gilmore Girls. Alright? Good. Moving on.

So yes, a couple of weeks ago the season ender aired, and according to ads the station aired, new shows would be moving in on Tuesday night starting March 1; namely Desperate Housewives and Everwood. So I didn't know what would be airing for the two weeks between the end of the Gilmore Girls and March 1, but I stupidly assumed it wouldn't be more Gilmore Girls. So I didn't watch TV the following Tuesday night. But then this last Tuesday, I saw that Gilmore Girls would be on that evening at the normal time. I figure out that they didn't just leave the show at its season finale; they kept going with the next season's episodes (the season currently airing in the US). Gah! Besides me missing the season opener episode because I thought they were done with the show, it means that they've now aired just two episodes before leaving the Gilmore Girls completely for months while Everwood airs. Why? Why must they do that?! Why couldn't they just find something lame to air for two weeks (which is what I thought they'd do)? Doesn't some note come with the tapes that says these episodes belong to a different season?

Anyway, I've also seen ads that Lost will be starting to air soon (apparently beginning this Sunday, March 4 at 21:30) and I'm interested in seeing that. Another show to read about on Television Without Pity (besides Six Feet Under and 24 and the occasional CSI).

February 23, 2005

Life After God

Things have been feeling a bit drab lately. Maybe it's the endlessness of winter, forgetting what it's like to enjoy going outside or to be warm. I've seen friends quite a bit in the past couple of months, which has been good, but I still feel lazy and like I should be doing so much more. I feel like I have cabin fever.

And a couple of days ago I started reading Life After God by Douglas Coupland. I didn't know what to expect really, but it seemed like a good choice for the next book to read. I haven't read a Douglas Coupland book in awhile, not since I lived in England and I borrowed Shampoo Planet and Girlfriend in a Coma from my friend who recommended them. It's been interesting to get back into his voice. O bought the book at some point awhile ago and only read part of it before being too depressed by it. For me, however, it's just what I needed. Well, some of the stories I've read so far are better than others, but still, I like the overall tone. It reads fast since it has rather large type and is broken into little 1-2 page sections, with little drawings at the top of each section. Last night I read the story "Gettysburg", which is a bit overdramatic and sad, but kind of hit home for me. A wife leaves her husband suddenly because she says she's fallen out of love with him, and says that it's hard to feel much of anything anymore, that the time is gone for her when the world seemed exciting and mysterious. It's something I've been battling with for years, feeling like so much of my excitement for things is gone and that any feelings of true happiness are rare and fleeting. I'm happy I have O though, I'm not about to drop him in any way, and I know it's not just out of convenience or fearing leaving him more than staying with him. I know I want to be with him, and I do appreciate it still and try not to take it for granted. Still, I feel old sometimes, like my life mirrors my parents' life too much. I wonder though if I'll ever have the energy and strength to really change.

February 17, 2005

Bring out the cotton swabs

Sadly, we have had our first ant casualty. I noticed that an ant on the surface of the gel had been lying there for a little too long. So I swept it out of there. It's really not too bad that we only now have had a dead ant. It's been about 3 weeks since they arrived, and they supposedly only last 1-3 months, plus they had to go through the trauma of flying from England.

Actually, I think we have another dead ant to dispose of, but it's stuck down a hole so I can't reach it. The manual says they carry out dead ants to the surface if they die in the tunnels, but this one isn't in their main tunnel, it's in one of the holes we poked in the gel and not many ants go in it. Also, it's a very vertical hole, so I'm not sure an ant could lift another ant out of there. I watched an ant one day trying to climb out of that hole, but it kept falling back down. Maybe it's the one that died in there. Which is really sad. Why don't they tell you to make the holes at an angle?!

REM Rotterdam photos

After seeing REM play the Ahoy in Rotterdam, I searched about for any photos of the show. I came across some good ones, so I wanted to gather together the links here.

First some more professional ones, from the site for Mojo, the concert organizer: http://www.mojo.nl/concertphotos/concertphotos.asp?cphid=44. The third photo is just awesome.

Then there are some photos taken by audience members on this Dutch REM forum. I really like the one a few posts down from old man. I had forgotten that Michael left piggy-backed on Peter.

Here is another forum with some photos posted. There's only photos on page 3 and 4. This photo gives an idea of the set. We're down there somewhere in front of Mike!

And a couple of photos, and the setlist, on the official REM site.

February 13, 2005

Bubbles, tiny bubbles

For those keeping score, I have a new image background in my header, which I hope gives my blog a bit of a snazzier look (I had been thinking the blog design was good and simple, but a bit dead looking). Thanks to O for the Photoshop work to make it.

When batteries talk...

For my birthday a few months ago, O got me one of these mini radio-controlled cars that zoom around, and then you can recharge them on the controller. I happened to dig out the instructions the other day and I found this sheet that is printed with helpful tips on how to insert the batteries and general good battery usage, all illustrated by batteries that can talk in 6 different languages. It's a brilliant piece of Asian manual, though, amazingly, the English is near perfect.

So on the first page, the batteries illustrate that they are happy when you place them in the slot in the right direction. But don't touch two battery heads together, or "Wham!" (or, in German, "Bums!"): painful batteries.

The second page is even more brilliant... The illustrations on the left show how your battery is happy when it has good contact with the spring ("Now I feel comfortable!"). But keep the contact clean, or else you'll have a battery declaring "Oh, you're so dirty!" Which apparently is a turn-off for a battery... And to the right, we see Old Man Battery, who is dead tired, being replaced by Mr. Power, the fresh battery, who confidently, with muscly arms, tells us we can depend on him. Mr. Power to the rescue! I love it.

And speaking of other Asian madness, O and I have been stuck in the world of Katamari Damacy, which is addictive as hell, but the story bits are fucked up beyond belief. You are the strange rectangle-headed prince whose verbally-abusive king father has wiped all the stars from the sky. You must roll up objects on earth into a ball to replace the stars. Not only is the king on crack, but there's these other bits of a story where a sister and brother see on the news that the stars have all gone missing and they try to tell their mom, but she just smiles and nods and says in a sweet voice "Yes, dear. Now come along now..." It's all like one big insane dream...

February 12, 2005

Photo of silliness

I can't claim to know what is going on in this photo, or even say I know these people (thank god). It's a found photo, of sorts. See, at work we have this big exchange drive that anyone can save to and anyone can view. Mostly it's just where scanned PDFs get saved, which consist mostly of invoices and boring stuff like that, but occasionally I see a file that is a gem, like this one. It was in a folder called "Blackberry v 4.0". I hope someone wasn't planning on saving it as their wallpaper...

February 6, 2005

The Desert Jews

I came across this very funny website yesterday called 2 Jewish Cowgirls, which is run by two Jewish women who used to live in big cities, but met soon after they both moved to Tucson, AZ. They then started this website that sells clothing and Judaica that reflects their Southwestern home. Reading their site, I am reminded that the last time I went to a temple service was in Phoenix, AZ when I was sent to represent my arm of the family at a second cousin's (or cousin once-removed? Something like that...) Bat Mitzvah. It's the only time I've been to Arizona, and it was also around Thanksgiving, so I got to experience a 70 degree Thanksgiving and marvel over the orange tree that my cousin had in her backyard (they found it just as odd though to think that in Oregon we had our own pear and apple trees).

Anyway, the site has a great sense of humour (for instance the home page tag line: "Yippee-Chai-Yay!" Oy vey.) It mostly features their clothing, which is really cute, but also has a recipe for kosher chili, a "featured Jewish Cowgirl", and the aforementioned Judaica for sale, which includes Southwestern skullcaps and mezuzzahs. Who says religion can't have a sense of humour?

Go Sars!

One of my favourite procrastination websites to read at work is Tomato Nation. I love Sars' writing and once I've read the weekly essay, there's an almost-daily dose of The Vine, her advice column. No letter is too lame or too long to be answered and she's not afraid to give someone her honest opinion. A letter from the other day illustrates this well (scroll down to the 3rd letter beginning "I'm at the end of my rope...") The person writing is clueless and Sars' response is hilarious. A must-read.

I had O read the letter too because it was so priceless, and when it mentioned chain mail, he asked me what that was. I said it's the thin stuff knights wear, and he scrunched up his nose and said "oh, THAT?!?" heheheh. After he'd read the whole thing, he said "And the dude bought it on ebay. It's not even new chain mail, it's like secondhand chain mail. That is just sad."

February 4, 2005

REM, Ahoy, Rotterdam, 3 Feb 2005

I can check another thing off my "things to do before I die" list: I have finally, after 10 years of being a fan, seen REM live. Ten years ago I missed my only other chance to see them play, when they came through Portland on the Monster tour. I was only just getting into the band, but one of my best friends was a big fan and she and some other people went to the show. I didn't go because I was only in high school and I didn't want to spend that much money to see a band I hardly knew. I had one or two other semi-chances over time, like I could have gone up to Seattle for Bumbershoot to see them play, but that was just after I left again to go back to Europe. But finally it has happened, and by a stroke of good luck, I had decided last year to rejoin their fanclub after being a member a few years ago. Not long after I joined, the tour was announced and we were able to get tickets ahead of general sales, which came with wristbands for early entry. So last night O and I nervously made our way down to Rotterdam to get there before 6 when they'd let in the fanclub people. Fortunately the trains and metro all ran fine, and we had plenty of standing-about-in-the-cold time. Then someone lead our group of about 120 around to the back of the building opposite the main entrance. I'd never been to the Ahoy, so I didn't know how it was laid out so we were wondering if we were heading backstage, but instead we just entered into the seating area on the opposite side from everyone else. We got to be in a separate section at the front of the stage, with plenty of room for our group. O and I weren't set on being right at the front like some people, so we took advantage of the quiet to check our coats and go to the toilet. The rest of the audience was let in and some were allowed into the sectioned off area at the front. It still wasn't that crowded and we eventually sat on the floor since we had over an hour to wait until the openers, The Thrills. They actually came on early, and were introduced by Michael (yay!) and Peter Buck played mandolin on a song with them. Otherwise I really have nothing to say about them, I wasn't very impressed by them at all. I know it's hard to make a good judgement about a band you hardly know when you're just waiting for the main band you came to see, but their stuff just sounded very generic Brit-poppy.

The wait for REM after that wasn't too long. There was a lot of stage setting-up to be done. We watched two guys climb little rope ladders up to spotlights near the ceiling. People applauded them. =) There was space for photographers between the front of the crowd and the stage. The show was also filmed, so there were two large cameras that rolled back and forth in front of the stage, as well as a guy with a handheld camera who I saw a couple of times getting audience shots. On the big camera near us, there was a setlist taped to it, and people tried at every chance to look at what was on it (though it was folded up at first before the show).

And before long, the band came out and dove into Finest Worksong. Here is the setlist, by the way:

Finest Worksong
Wake-up Bomb
Boy in the Well
Maps and Legends
Hi Speed Train
Everybody Hurts
My Most Beautiful
Leaving NY
Electron Blue
Orange Crush
Wanted to be Wrong
Final Straw
Imitation of Life
One I Love
Walk Unafraid
Losing My Religion
What's the Frequency Kenneth
Man on the Moon
The band were awesome and everything I expected, with all their energy put into every song. Michael did all of his typical posing and moves that I know from all their music videos. It was awesome to finally see them right in front of me.

And they were rather in front of us. With getting in early, we ended up only about 3 people back from the front barrier, so we were closer than we normally are even for shows at Paradiso or the Melkweg. We were slightly off to the left, so pretty much right in front of Mike. When we got in and saw how close we'd be to the stage, I was so excited we'd be that close to see REM. And the crowd around us was (for the most part) great. There was no shoving or pushing or people elbowing through to the front when the band started. The biggest negative was this group of people right behind me who had thick Dutch accents that even O couldn't understand and which he described as "Hick". The group was ok, but they were big on YELLING along to the songs, usually using the wrong words or coming in at the wrong time. At first I was really annoyed, I could hear the guy behind me way more than Michael, but later it was louder and everyone was singing, so it wasn't as noticable. There were 3 Extremely Tall Dutch Guys in front of me, of course, but I actually found a spot where I could see Michael in between two of them. Thank god, otherwise I would have been really pissed. And at first I thought they were bastards (probably just influenced by them being so damn tall) but they were actually rather nice-seeming geeky guys. In fact, during one song in the encore, the guy in front of me was bouncing about a bit and he stepped back onto my toe and immediately turned around and did a whole "oh my god, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean it!" gesture, and I gave a smile and "it's ok" gesture back while being utterly shocked at someone apologizing for stepping on my toe. One to note in the books. To O's left there was this older guy, probably in his late 40s/early 50s, dressed in a nice shirt and slacks and with an Elsevier magazine tucked under his arm. I looked over a couple of times to see him enjoying the show with us young 'uns, bopping and singing along. It rocked. Also to O's left was this 20-something girl who was so into it, dancing so much to all the songs. She was just really cute, and I dunno if she was Dutch, but if she was, she wasn't your average Dutch girl. The girl to my right was just very quiet and never moved along to the music or showed any sign of knowing any of the songs, she watched the whole thing like it was a sociology experiment, and then she would politely clap at the end of the song. Just a bit weird, but overall I liked our little section of crowd.

As for the band, Michael came out dressed in a three-piece suit of some hard-to-describe dark colour, with a splashy red tie on. It all slowly came apart though and he got rid of the vest, tie and jacket. And he had the makeup on that he's being wearing lately, some dark blue-green makeup all the way across his face from ear to ear. Mike had on some weird flowery shirt that was brown coloured. And white shoes. Kinda Miami Vice? Peter had on a satin-y ruffly tuxedo shirt, heh. The rest of the band was Ken Stringfellow, Scott McCaughey, and the drummer whose name I didn't catch. I didn't know who any of them were til Michael introduced them before the last song. Scott McCaughey was hilarious to watch as he ran from the keyboards to guitar and back again; with his wild hair and sunglasses, he looked like one of those Muppets in the Muppet Show band.

The set was simple but awesome with these florescent-looking light tubes hanging down at all different points above the stage and they did all sorts of colourful things. At the back were some reflective metallic sheets that reflected some wavy lights sometimes. It all added a great atmosphere to some songs.

I've never really been one to be all yelling and singing and everything at a show (though some bands always get me dancing) , but this time I was singing along (though not YELLING), clapping in the air, waving my arms around... I was so into it. =) And then Michael or Mike would stand over at our corner of the stage and they were RIGHT THERE and it was great. During Losing My Religion, Michael crouched down and looked at our part of the audience and I could see his blue eyes and long eyelashes... Mike looked like he was having fun and sometimes kind of chatted with people in the crowd and threw out a pick to us once and offered to throw out a beer. It was all just awesome, to finally see them play and have such a great time. I hope it's not 10 years again before the next one.

February 3, 2005

Silly news, sad news

I just came across these two bits of news while reading KATU's website. First, the silly one: A woman in West Linn comes home to find 60 garden gnomes and other lawn decorations spread across her yard. KATU's story features a photo (not sure this is the original placement of the gnomes), but the Oregonian's writeup is much sillier, complete with a headline bad enough to make your stomach hurt with groaning.

And then for the sad news: "Study finds First Amendment no big deal to students." A foundation sponsored a study to gauge high school students' attitudes about the first amendment. Some of the findings: more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories. Only 83% of students felt that people should be allowed to express unpopular views (compared to 97% of teachers and 99% of school principals). The blame is being placed on an increasing lack of school newspapers and other media, which teaches students to appreciate free speech. But of course extras like that go by the wayside so kids can learn how to take standardized tests. More on the study can be found here.

February 2, 2005

Running with Scissors

I just finished reading Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs, yesterday after some marathon reading while I was sick the past few days. I wanted to say that I highly recommend it, so go out, find it and read it. I wasn't too impressed by his novel, Sellevision, so I kinda waited awhile on reading this, even though O said it was good. The book is a memoir of his childhood years of living with his mom's psychiatrist's family and dealing with his mom's occasional mental meltdown. It does remind me a lot of David Sedaris (the insanity of families, growing up gay, etc), but it's probably even more crazy. At the center, though, there is a heart. We also have Dry, his book telling about giving up alcohol, but I'll read it after one or two other books. I hope it's as good.