Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just don't ask me to explain

I am old. I say this with complete comfort and an embrace of the curmudgeon-ness that accompanies it. The most pressing way this elderliness is manifesting itself lately is music. Man, I just can not find a way to care about most new stuff on the radio, be it on the rock station, the alternative station or the “cool” station here in town. And don’t get me started on Top 40. I was a teenager in the 80’s and still like a great deal of what I listened to then -- U2, REM, The Smiths, Adam Ant, Duran Duran. You get the idea. On the other hand, I love some good rock-n-roll. I’m a huge Rush fan (going to see them tomorrow -- w00t!), have mad props for Iron Maiden, dig on Queensryche, Gator and I had a little tribute sing-a-long when Ronnie James Dio died -- again, you get the idea. Irish music? I’m there. Other random stuff that prevents me from getting prettily pigeon-holed? You betcha.

Even most of what I consider new stuff that I like well enough to spend money on I realize with a bit of disbelief is already 3-5 years old -- Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco!, The Faint. It’s kind of like when I realized not long ago that almost all of my go-to clothes were over ten years old. How do these things happen?

Yes, I’m old, but it seems very strange to me in a kind of weird way. Now, I know the cliché is that you get old, look to the younger generation, and say, “That’s not even music -- that’s just noise!!” I don’t have that. Not at all. Well, okay, there’s that death metal crap that Gator listens to sometimes where the lead “singer” is really just a lead growling throat screamer -- I mean, there’s no tune or anything! But I sort of digress. From the point I was choosing to make, anyway. Death metal notwithstanding, most new music bores the crap out of me. I mean, I can’t even stand to listen to the entire sample clip on Amazon. Bored! Moving on! Nothing remotely interesting happening here! It’s frustrating, not only because listening to the radio can become torture, but because it’s uncomfortable to talk to most people about new music. Inevitably, someone will start talking about some person or band that I know only because I remember that I couldn’t switch away from it fast enough, and I find myself cocking my head at this person and thinking, “How can you, who seem like such an intelligent person, actively listen to that crap on purpose???” And, yes, someday this intelligent person may be one of you darling people that I love.

So, actually, all of this is really just background for what I’m going to do next. I’m going to inflict my music opinion on you. Yes! More than I already have! But, you see, the great thing about doing this on a blog is that you can cock your head at me and wonder about my sanity safely behind my back. Or skip it altogether. You have so much control here!

I feel about music the same way I feel about literature and the visual arts. I don’t come for the technique. Yes, I understand that without some technical expertise the finished product will be crap, but I figure that kind of comes along with being a professional. You can have awesome technique and still produce a crappy final product. I also don’t come for the subtlety of tone in the third beat of the 41st measure or the artful metaphor on the last page of the sixth chapter. For the most part, I don’t come for an artist’s statement. I have a brain and can read primary source material. Soap box to somebody else. What I want is to be moved. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or life-changing. If I want more, you’ve got me. I don’t have to know why. Frankly, I don’t care why. I want something that strikes a chord. No deep analysis. It can be totally stupid and nonsensical, but it’s got to make me want to listen/read/see it again. Period.

Amazon has hundreds of free MP3 downloads that I sift through occasionally. I try to do it monthly, but I just realized that I hadn’t done it since about February. Oh, look! Sus sucks at being timely about something! And something she actually likes to do, even! Imagine that! (Egad, how do any of you even put up with me?) Here’s my extremely scientific methodology: I start the clip. Within about four seconds I decide, based on my level of boredom, whether I will commit to downloading the song or skip directly to the next clip. All the songs I download (this is a very small percentage) go into a playlist and onto Ippy, my iPod for a few days of repeated listening. Then I cull out the ones that are actually boring or otherwise annoying after all, and everything else goes in the permanent lineup. I’ve purchased a couple of albums due to this (BLK JKS, Har Mar Superstar) but, honestly, I often find that even if I like one or two songs by an artist, the rest of the album does nothing for me. So I play my free songs game and have a grand ol’ time.

And now I will force it upon you! play before a live audience (sorta)!

Without further ado, here are my picks for best free singles on, August 2010 version!

And there you have it! A selection of free mp3 downloads that I like. There are several whole sampler albums for free on Amazon as well (I especially like the middle eastern stuff), but that’s another post altogether. Maybe you’ll find something you like as well. If you do, please share!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Woe is me (feel free to jump directly to the picture)

So I am home sick today with a head full of cotton wool soaked in vinegar (or at least that's what it felt like this morning), and that seems like a perfect opportunity to go on at length about how my aging body is betraying me and how that is affecting my life including, most importantly, my handwork. Now that I've slept like the dead for the better part of the day, that is.

About eight months ago, my right elbow started hurting. Soon, I couldn't even straighten my arm without intense pain. I went to the doctor who determined that I had lateral epidondylitis (tennis elbow) that was actually due to a (probably very old) rotator cuff problem. Physical therapy for my shoulder was prescribed and a cortisone shot in my elbow so I could stand to do the exercises. Theory being that once I strengthened the shoulder, the elbow would resolve itself.

I'd never had a cortisone shot before so I didn't know what to expect. It worked like a dream and after two days my elbow was completely pain-free. I breezed through physical therapy and everything was peachy. Then I opened a bucket.

To be fair to myself, it was a weird bucket. Five gallons with a sealed lid that could only be removed if you cut several spots around the top with a pair of snips. I apparently didn't snip sufficiently because when I went to pull the lid off, I felt what seemed like a separation in my elbow and intense pain. It swelled up but I iced it and by the next day it was a little better. Since this happened at work, I went to work injury where they assured me I had just strained a muscle, put me on restrictions for a week and the pain slowly lessened to nothing. Two weeks later I had a completely clean bill of arm-related health.

Then the cortisone wore off.

Since then I've been trying not to go back to the doctor, but I've been in constant pain. I do not just want another cortisone shot and another round of PT. I'm a Smart Girl (tm), so I've been researching some of my problems on my own. I've learned that my pecs were very shortened and I've been stretching them which really does seem to affect my elbow. I am sore in every trigger point of my right latissmus dorsi, but I've so far been unable to find a lasting way to relieve this. And, let me tell you, the effects of this muscle are far-reaching. My teres major is pretty pissed off. And my triceps are none too happy. I read, I stretch, I exercise, and sometimes it seems to help. But it just doesn't last. I'm not quite ready to give up, but that day may come. But if their response is another shot and another round of PT, that copay will be the last of my money they'll see.

The reason I tell you all of this: It's really cut into my handwork. It often hurts to crochet or knit. So I'm not getting much done. Which particularly sucks because I have this big project I'm working on for an extremely dear friend who got married last Saturday and I'm not even half done. Now I realize that Miss Post says I have one year to present the happy couple with their gift, and it's not that I've never utilized this convenient rule of etiquette in the past, but I really should have been able to get this done. And that just makes me sad.

So that's my story -- things are pretty slow around here. But while the cortisone was still chugging away, so was I. I showed some in progress pictures earlier in the process, but I failed to show the finished product -- an imminently pretty cross stitch for my mother-in-law. And I got it done in plenty of time for Mother's Day, complete with mat and frame.

Click to embiggen

It's not high art, and it's not a show of immense skill, but I think it is just very, very pretty. It was a kit that I luckily stumbled upon in a clearance bin, and it was hilariously called a "Weekender". This is about like the redonculously named "Square-A-Day" tablecloth that I've ranted about before and remains the bane of my handworking existence. Seriously, who are these people??

So now I continue to plod along on the big wedding project when the arm doesn't stand in the way. But at least it's not titled something that constantly makes me feel like a slow, inadequate crafter with too much of a life. I'm free to impose all of that upon myself.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Reason I love the interwebs #239

None of this is brand new news. I'm just now getting around to posting it.

You may recall that, some months ago, I designed a crocheted snowflake. Before I posted the pattern, my dear blog buddy Judy beta tested it. In thanks, I whipped up a small, pretty, useful knitted gift -- the Soap Sweater. It's soap, encased in a wool sweater that will felt as it's used and I think they're darling.

Soap Sweater by Cynthia Hall
(cable pattern from Very Cably Mittens)
Patons Classic Wool

I sent it off to her, it was well received, and everything was lovely.

And then, maybe as a thank-you for the thank-you gift, or maybe because I'd complimented others she had made (okay, maybe I'd done that about 27 times, but it wasn't a hint, I swear), or maybe just because she is awesome, I was gifted with the wonderfulness that is...

...wait for it...

...the incredible lavender chicken potholder!!!!!!!!!

Isn't it glorious? Doesn't it scream, "my kitchen is a delightful place to be!!"? I've had it for awhile now and I still get giddy every time I see it. Yay! Thank you again, Judy; I lurve him! I am thinking of naming him Ramon.

And that is why I love the 'net. It's where my friends live. :)


Friday, August 06, 2010


Today is August 6, and yesterday was my father’s birthday. He would have turned 90, and it had passed completely unnoticed. This is the first time that has happened. The truly bizarre thing is that realizing this made me realize that I had also completely failed to notice the passing of the anniversaries this summer of his and my mother’s deaths as well. It’s been thirteen and fifteen years, respectively, and I don’t especially want to commemorate these dates. However, it does seem strange and jarring once you realize that you have effectively forgotten to commemorate them. It’s a double-edged sword – on the one hand I like to think it means I’ve gotten on with it as I’m sure they would like me to do. But on the other hand it feels selfish, as if they’re not important enough to warrant the smallest of gestures, not even the raising of a glass and saying, “Here’s to you, Papa!”

Here’s to you, Papa.

Does it really matter what day I say that?