September 28, 2011

Fresh Feist

Feist's Metals is coming out in a week or so, but you can listen to it early. Yes, you do have to provide an email (one you can actually check), but the album is so very ethereal and pretty and haunting. So you should probably do it. (You can always unsubscribe once you have the link!)


September 26, 2011

Dressing like Ms Frizzle

I have secretly always wanted to be more like Ms. Frizzle. She had the coolest dresses, took her students on the best field trips, and didn't doubt her own awesome for a moment. The Magic School Bus books were amongst my absolute favorites as a kid (esp. Inside the Earth and Lost in the Solar System*. Geo and Astro have always been my most beloved subjects...), so it is only reasonable that Ms. Frizzle become a role model, right? Even if she was never intended to be a fashion diva.

So recently when I was scrolling though my options at Spoonflower, the print-your-own-fabric-design shop, I came across some spectacular options that are screaming to be made into Ms. Frizzle outfits. Skirts, dresses, or blouses? I'm not sure yet. I just hope my mediocre self-taught seamstress skills are able to keep up with this plan.

Sun Surface
Sun Surface by Animotaxis

Malachite fabric
Malachite by Ravynka

Peridot by Paragon_studios_one

Rhodochrosite by Missemor

Nebulae by Tingish

Now I just need to find a couple great dinosaur, insect, and robot options and my nerdy desires will be fulfilled!

*How did I never own In the Time of the Dinosaurs? What a shocking lack in my childhood!

Ogling the Microcosm

I haven't yet voted on any options, mostly because I'm too busy ogling the awesome, but I thought I'd share just in case you hadn't seen this yet. Nikon is having a contest for microphotography, and we get to vote. Did you know that cancer cells and algae were stunning? That bug sperm and ovaries belong on my wall?

Nikon Small World

Now I really, really want a fancy zoom lens for my someday camera.

September 22, 2011

Frock or Folly

I really wish I got invited to the sorts of shindigs where this dress could rightly be called a necessity. Because it is amazing. Seriously. Go ogle it now. And then plan a super rad party and invite me, please.

I wouldn't decline invites that required this dress either.

September 4, 2011

Two of my favorite things are camping and stargazing. I love being out in the wild, feeling tiny and insignificant and yet connected. A bit cheesy, I know, but it really is the best feeling. Jared Brandon captures a bit of that awe and wonder and delight in this lovely timelapse video. Definitely worth a full screen view!

Go here to see the video on vimeo, with the filmmaker's description of the process. I wish I had been camped out there getting to see all this live!

Thanks to S, my kiwi's lovely sister, who sent it to him.

Decades of Dresses

Have you seen this yet? I found it delightful - and it turns out to be a commercial for a mall! And I hate malls! But this video is rad. Watch 100 years of fashion dancing though 100 seconds and wish that you had access to that commercial's closet. (I call dibs on the 20s, 30s, and 40s!)

Originally spotted at The Hairpin.

September 1, 2011

Geeky Fun

Hey guys, do you read Girls Like Giants yet? It is a great blog started by some lovely and talented gals up at the University of Oregon. They talk about pop culture in a smart, refreshing forum. It is fun, thought provoking, and has given me a load of fun new things to read or watch.

Anyways, they kindly let me do a guest post the other day and I thought I'd put up a plug in case you were interested. I'm talking about my current favorite tv show, Torchwood. Do you watch Torchwood? If not, do so immediately. It is the best show on tv right now (and the old seasons are all on netflix, so you can catch up fast!). Enjoy!

August 31, 2011

Good Intent

I am so glad I have an NZ hook up so I can get this album - since there is not a US release date yet. And guys, how good is that video?

I wish my spontaneous dance parties looked a bit more like that.

August 29, 2011

Starting Clean and Fresh

If you had the chance to move across the planet, what would you bring along? Everything you own? The bare minimal essentials? This is my current dilemma. I'm leaning toward the minimal side of the spectrum, but funny thing - I like stuff. I like stuff a lot. I like all my shoes and bags and coats, I like all my books - oh, my books! - I like my files of magazine clippings and notes, I like my knick knacks and souveniers and tchotchkes. I will store some things here in the states, so I don't really have to say goodbye (and maybe after a spell of living without the miscellany I can get rid of some), but what to take?

I am moving to a first world nation, one that speaks English and has a (mostly) western world mindset, so I don't have to plan on things I take in terms of what will not be available to me in my new home. But there will also be something comforting in bringing my stuff with me to this new corner of the world; I'm hoping it will make my new place feel like home.

So tell me, friends of the internet, what would you bring? What could you not live without? What would you leave behind? Would you find this a fun or distressing challenge?

August 26, 2011

Shopping Bag

My lovely friend C and I recently ventured out into the garment district of LA to find some oilcloth - you know, that plasticy fabric cheesy summer tablecloths are made of? She had a few projects in mind and I was just along for the fun. But the prints we found at Michael Levine's were so darling I couldn't resist getting a few pieces.

I finally figured out my first project with one of the prints - a floral on a lovely ochre green background. I happened to have some leaf green and deep maroon canvas laying around from previous projects and appropriated some to serve as the lining and base of the bag. I attempted to use this diy design by the very talented Renske Solkesz of The Dress I Made. (I've used it before on a different project and it is fast, easy, and looks like it takes more skill than it does.) But because my seamstress skills are subpar, (and I was slightly distracted by reruns of StarTrek on netflix...) I messed up the stitching (because I messed up the cutting and aligning of the lining with the bag) on one of the tabs. So I improvised. I tucked in one tab on itself and hey! instant pocket!

The other tab I folded over and it formed a flap to close the bag. But I still needed to attach a strap, and I like that the original plan holds the bag closed. So I ran the strap through the closing flap (and I may later attach a snap or such to keep it in place), and it holds the bag closed when the strap is held tight.

Not perfect, but I like it. Pretty color combo, useful, and my shoddy skills didn't even mess up the bag beyond help. It didn't turn out as originally intended but that's never stopped me from enjoying something before!

August 8, 2011

Calculated Costumes

Early next year my dear kiwi and I are moving to New Zealand for a couple years. This involves plans and schemes for various details - things like visas, storage and shipping of belongings, and finding new jobs and a new home. But, being me, I am also setting in motion a plan for one specific aspect of my belongings: my wardrobe.

I have trained as a costumer, in an amateur sense, and since I started doing that as a teenager, the ideas behind planning out a specific character through a series of costumes developed parallel to my sense of personal fashion. Often, when I'm picking out my outfit for the day or trying on new pieces at a shop, I'm asking myself what role I will play. Responsible adult? Quirky teacher? Urban party girl? Whatever the plan for the day, I've got an outfit to make me feel the part.

But moving to a foreign country means having to make some very (hard!) deliberate choices about what comes and what doesn't. Between luggage and shipping, I can only bring so many things. But I also don't know what sort of job I'll have, where we'll be living, and what kinds of new activities I will do in my down time. This means that I need to have a wardrobe that is flexible enough to serve a wide variety of purposes but which is as compact as possible. For me, this sounds like a fantastic challenge/opportunity to plan out an ideal wardrobe and curate my current collection to suit.

This is going to be a bit of an ongoing process for the next few months, as I finalize my written plan and start to sort through what I have, what I need, what I am making, and what is getting tossed. I will do my best to share my process here, from outfit inspiration to drafted plans, to final results. And I will appreciate every bit of advice you have to offer - because it turns out it is much harder to plan for every occasion in life than to plan for a series of scripted scenes. Look for the "Calculated Costumes" label if you want to follow along during this process!

August 4, 2011

Sun Ain't Shinin'

Spontaneous dance party, anyone? Yes? Well, ready, set, go!

This band is so much fun. I just discovered The Asteroids Galaxy Tour and am seriously digging their album Fruit. The video* for "The Golden Age" is on the main page and it is So. Much. Fun. How much do you wish you were at that party?!

*Does that video look familiar? The short form is a Heineken commercial, which is actually how I discovered the band in the first place. Yup. I'm not a very good hipster.

July 26, 2011

Smell as Sweet

I love the idea of a signature scent - always wearing the same specific scent (one which is at least mostly unique) every day so that when people smell it, they think of you. What a gorgeous thought. But I'm a bit too fickle for that. There are a few perfumes I adore, but there are also lots of others that I enjoy for a time and then move on to a new favorite. I'm currently on the prowl for a new selection of scents, and these are the ones on the top of my list so far.

Garden, by MCMC Fragrances. It is herby, unisex, and oil based. Pretty much perfect. It is also by a darling indie company, which rocks, and supports a charity, which also rocks. I have gotten this twice before and can't wait for my next tube to arrive. I would highly recommend ordering a sample pack (or both) from MCMC - enough to test each scent a couple times and really get a feel for how the scent wears on you. It may seem kind of pricey for what you can get for free at a department store, but remember, this is an indie company, and you are really getting a couple week's worth of perfume out of it. (Or it is possible I just have a crush on this company and will do anything they ask of me...)

Demeter Fragrance Library.
I particularly love Grass and Paperback. The former is a nice grassy smell but with slightly floral undertones to keep it from being too kitschy. Nice and fresh. The later is my favorite musty/musky scent. Very unisex, great for winter. I also love to layer it with a lighter floral option. I always order a small selection of scents in the .5 oz splash size. This goes a long way, and gives me a nice selection of smells. Plus, if you order enough you get a free prize! The prize was pretty lame on my last order (Who wants to smell like a cosmo? Gross.) but my selections were rad. This next time I think I may opt for Beeswax, Sawdust, This is Not a Pipe, Tomato, Earthworm (I've tried Dirt and it is kind of amazing), and Firefly. This is also a really fun thing to stock up on for little favors and gifts. With so many pretty, hilarious, and specific scents you can really personalize your message.

Perfume Oil, by Long Winter Farm. I haven't tried this, but recently spied it on another blog (I'm bad and can't remember who! If it was you, tell me and I'll link back to you!) and now can't wait to order. I'm thinking of getting a sample pack of three oils, because, hey, it's a bargain! I'm probably going to ask for violet, sunset, and meadow but we'll see. I may also have to order some of that cream and lip balm because basically that entire store looks amazing. Oil based fragrances, luscious scents, and they even do requests! I'll let you all know how it goes once I place my order.

What perfumes/scents do you love? I would love a recommendation or two!

PS: This post is definitely not sponsored by any of the above companies. Just my own opinions!

July 21, 2011

Hi Guys

Um, Hi. I know its been awhile. Ooops. Sorry. I'm going to try to be a much better blogger, but we'll see. In the meantime, have a dance party! Wheee!

Sorry it isn't a better video -- I really wanted to play you this song, and I didn't have quite as much fun dancing to the other versions (mostly live and acoustic).

Brett Dennen's music available here.

June 18, 2011

New Zealand

As you may or may not have gathered from previous posts, I happen to be dating a very lovely kiwi fella and we recently (Okay, it was in April. Months ago. Which isn't terribly recent in blog-time.) took a little trip down there. It is everything that people always say about it -- gorgeous landscape, nice people, good food. We spent time with my kiwi's family and friends, seeing places he grew up, drinking delicious local wine and beer, and gorging ourselves on some of the best dairy, produce, and meat I can remember eating. (It helps that his mum is a TERRIFIC cook and we spent much of our time staying with them on the incomparable Marlborough Sounds). Here are a very few of my favorite pictures from the trip. Enjoy.

P.S. More photos can be found at my flickr.

January 26, 2011

Punching in a Dream

For the second year in a row my boyfriend's rad sister sent me a CD for Christmas. Last year it was Gin Wigmore (a kiwi), with her smoky voice and playful sound that is part oldies, part island, and part rock. This time I got The Naked & Famous (also kiwi) and they are delightful. Very different sound from Miss Wigmore, much more of an electronic alt rock, and an altogether very different sound than I usually listen to. That said, the album is ace so I thought I'd share the fun. This is my fave song of the album, but be sure to check out this neat video too.

I highly recommend adding them to your workout mix, too! I keep alternating between The Naked and Famous and Florence and the Machine for my cardio days. Very energizing, both.

January 3, 2011

Make, Do, See

I know January is almost over, but I've been honing my list of resolutions and plans for this year and am just finally getting where I want it. I probably should also add "Resist procrastination" to the list, but I am trying to only put realistic expectations on my list. Basically my theme is to make more, do more, see more. As opposed to just watching reruns on Netflix again, or reading that same novel I've already read six times. While both activities are awesome and will not disappear from my repertoire, I'd like to add a little more to my days. So here's my list. I'll try to blog what I manage to make, do, and see so you can share in the fun!
  • Explore the bejeezus out of this city -- only one year left!
  • Eat real foods, mostly plants, as much as possible!
  • Finish that dern novel! Start a new one!
  • No more plastic bags!
  • Floss more!
  • Learn something new -- dance, tai chi, calligraphy, knitting, graphic design, martial arts, or something else entirely! Maybe even more than one thing!
  • Get my life ready to move to a new continent!
Any favorite themes, key words, or plans for 2011?

November 2, 2010

Go West

Being raised in the Wild West -- albeit a rather shady and all too 20th century version of it -- I have a bit of a fondness for frontier tales. Or maybe it is a remnant from my devouring all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books when I was 7. Either way, I really enjoy the period. I also enjoy manipulations of the theme: steampunk frontier, space frontier, romantic frontier. But there is a distinct shortage of frontier magic. Until now.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

Wrede is very good at alternative history, as we can see in what she terms Regency Magic*. So naturally, I had pretty high hopes for her latest novel, billed as a YA fantasy work. Then I read the book in a few hours on Halloween.

It is a rich novel, and long-ish for YA, so I generally would have expected it to take a few savored afternoons. Instead, I got up to make dinner and when I came back to the book, I noticed I only had about 20 pages left. The book was that good.

Okay, so now that I've built it up so much you are almost guaranteed to find it lacking, let's talk about the work itself. The U.S. frontier parallels the one we know from history lessons and Western movies, but differs in enough key aspects to be foreign and exotic. Magic, for one, is everywhere, as magicians, magical creatures, magical dangers. The nation we know as the U.S. has still separated from what we call England -- Columbia and Albion, respectively in Wrede's west -- but the Civil War happened decades earlier, Lewis and Clark never made it back from their expedition, and Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were genius magicians. In this strange, delicious, wild land, there is a girl, the thirteenth child of her parents and twin to a seventh son of a seventh son, called Eff.

When her parents decide to relocate, Eff is moved from the industrial and familiar east to the far edges of the frontier, at the edge of the Mammoth River that splits the continent. She is caught up in the adventures the frontier life brings, complicated by her own magic (and her mixed feelings on such) and the magic of the land, by turns terrifying and breathtaking. This is only the first book for Wrede's Frontier Magic, and while the end of the novel is a satisfying one, and not really a cliff-hanger, I am nonetheless greedy for Book Two's publication next August.

I think I like this book in part because it does what Wrede always does well, create relatable young heroines and entangle them in sticky-sweet relationships much like those her readers experience. She always places these characters in rich settings, with adventure-rich plots veined in magic. In short, she is a very good YA fantasist. But she is also a great novelist in that each of her books feels new, in a way that so much of the available reading out there today doesn't. Even though the frontier setting should be almost cliche by now, she gives it such new life with her interpretation that I couldn't help but turn page after page. Any author who can make the cliche seem new earns high marks by my count.

Read this book. Read her entire bibliography. I know I'm gushing by this point, but she deserves it. And so, my friend, do you.

*Mairelon the Magician
was a beloved book as a child, and its sequel The Magician's Ward (now combined in an omnibus A Matter of Magic) is a go-to when I have a craving for a sweet romance (with costumes!). I definitely recommend them, once you've finished Thirteenth Child and need more. And when you want even more, read her Enchanted Forest Chronicles. They are pretty much perfect.

October 31, 2010

Sneaky Sneaky

Yeah, I know, another video. Oh well.

Cephalopods are amongst my absolute favorite animals, especially cuttlefish. But this species of octopus might just be approaching the top of the list. The video gets cut off a bit early at the end, but you'll get the idea. And you'll either be as delighted as myself, or as creeped out as the friend who shared this with me. So, um, Happy Halloween?

In other news, I promise a couple book reviews coming up soon, and a discussion of pants.

October 27, 2010

And one more...

For those who actually know me, that last post was a trifle peculiar -- all my coats are bright and colorful, not black and white. I would ruin a white coat in about 3 wears, and black is boring. So here is one last coat, a blazer of sorts, that I am absolutely drooling over and may very well have to get before the season is out.

Isn't that pumpkin color perfect? And don't you just love the ruffled front? I haven't tried it on in person yet -- knowing full well I won't be able to resist temptation! -- so I'm not sure how those ruffles will sit on my very curvy chest, but I cannot wait to wear this with an airy petal blouse, dark skinny jeans, and my go-to lace-up riding boots. So perfect.

Found here. Le sigh, anthropologie. You get me every time.

October 26, 2010

Cozy Up

I could really go for some cold weather right now. For one, I could use a day cuddled up with a cuppa and a book, watching the weather out the window. For two, I really want one of these coats. Or all four.

Go here, here, here, and here.

October 21, 2010

Steampunk Parachute

Ingrid Michaelson is a regular in my playlists, but usually when I need something mellow and pretty. This new single is pretty and, I suppose, mellow, but is a bit punchier in sound than much of her previous work.

That said, I like it. And I especially like the video.

It has the flavor of George Melies early scifi film A Voyage to the Moon but also the sass of steampunk.

--- As an aside, have ya'll noticed how up and up steampunk seems to be at the moment? It was even featured in an episode of Castle recently??? Does it make me a total sf hipster if I exclaim "Pshaw, I was reading steampunk novels decades ago!" ---

Anyways, I want to dress as Ingrid's character in this video all the time. Especially that hair, with those eyelashes, those goggles, and that jacket. I've already got the shoes.


Did you hear about the 1010 project? Probably, because I heard about it from Joanna and we all know she is the Queen of Bloglandia and therefore we all follow her every post faithfully. But I'm going to reshare it here anyway.

Basically Victoria Hannan asked nine other photographers from all over the world to take 10 pics on 10/10/10. She did it too. And all the photos are now available here.

I was struck by how many things are so familiar, even in Japan, South Africa, Australia, Portugal. And then just as you are getting comfy, something wacky inserts itself and you know this ain't Kansas. Or, you know, where ever you happen to be.

Am I bovered?

As a good little nerd girl, I have a deep love of Doctor Who. I didn't grow up with it but discovered it after the revitalization with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. Then I became quickly obsessed. Witty, sweet, nerdy, a tad bit meta, and really good scifi, the show continues to be good, though with each companion change or doctor regeneration I'm always ready to say goodbye. But each time, they live up to their previous high standard (well, most of the time... Sorry, Martha but you have nothing on Rose.), or even exceed it.

One of the best pairings, though, was of David Tennant's Doctor and Catherine Tate's Companion. No romantic hints at all. Just quality comedy, smart commentary, and a truly moving transformation of Donna from something like her character below to the DoctorDonna and then, with such sorrow and grace, back again. The clip below is from a skit show I'm not familiar with -- having no British programming available to me, despite my hundred plus tv channels -- but features Tate and Tennant in their glory. The speed, the depth, the literariness, the confidence.


Sorry for all the videos lately. I know it is lazy blogging. I'm working diligently away on a few other projects that need finishing. I'll be sure to share here as I go, but for now, you get lazy blogging. But hey, it saves you from doing all the youtube searches yourself, eh?

October 17, 2010

Sunday Dance Party

While I don't always love Paul McCartney's solo work, I found this to be the perfect lazy Sunday theme song. Peppy, foot tapping-worthy, but mellow. And the quirky video is utterly fabulous. Happy weekend!

October 12, 2010

God Help the Girl

Do you know this delightful little band? This is the title track from their album, performed live. They crack me up, and I am seriously loving their voices -- those women can sing! A few of their songs make me think of Joni Mitchell -- if she were a cheeky young hipster today. Anyway, enjoy your song of the day.


I have a fascination of insects. I find them ever so pretty, especially the really grotesque beetles and ultra-magnified images of fly eyes or spider legs. But I like them the most when they can't touch me unless I want them to, i.e. behind glass or dead or in images. So I was pretty pleased by the cups and saucers featured in my Daily Candy email today. Available in several different insects and an arachnid, I'd love to add one or two to my tea cup collection. I'm not entirely sure about spending $40 on a lovely cup, however, so I'll just have to spend my time deciding which cup should be mine. The beetle? The fly? The moth? Alas, I'll probably just ogle the ABC Home cups (and the rest of their home and garden pretties) from afar. But I definitely recommend you check them out.

And if you get a couple cups, have me over for coffee or tea, please.

via Daily Candy

September 17, 2010

Fall Palettes

One of the things I really dig about living in Pasadena is how close we are to the hills. The foothills start just a few miles up the main road, and trails abound. The Kiwi runs up the steep path while I dawdle up the easy route and we meet at the ruins of an abandoned hotel and train tracks a few miles up.

The hills look different each time I go up them; different desert plants in bloom or seed. I was loving the color combos with all the early fall foliage. I can't decide if I want them to become outfits, jewelery, or wall art but they are definitely going to find new life very soon.

The rust plant had almost an olive hue in person, and when combined with a blushing pink and pops of cream, turquoise, or sage I couldn't get enough.

The silver-green-blue of yuccas, agave, and eucalyptus would be lush layered together in structured, sculptural fabrics, or clean, elegant, simple shapes. Maybe a faint hint of cappuccino, peridot, or butter.

Peridot, rust, and deep olive on a bed of greige. I'm thinking a layered, sculptural pencil skirt and a loose, sheer blouse with some feminine heels.

Who wants to go shopping?

September 16, 2010


This song just came up on my shuffle. I always forget how much I love this version -- such a sad, sweet, lovely song. Take a moment of your day and enjoy.

September 14, 2010

Oh, Autumn...

I can see the appeal of Southern California. Really, I can. All that sunshine, an endless growing season, the proximity of mountains and sea, desert and lakes. Plus, at least in the L.A. region, there are lots of ace cultural benefits -- music, museums, arts, vintage and thrift shopping, cool people, great food... I'm sure you get used to the traffic, and if your car actually works properly and doesn't have the heater permanently on, a good playlist on the mP3 can probably make an hour long commute a fun time to enjoy some car singing (my fave kind).

Me, though, I like seasons. Summer is great -- popsicles, sundresses, sandals, street tacos, farmers markets -- but summer should also come to an end. You can't appreciate the thrill of the first sundress of the season, that first toe-wriggling day of flip flops, the first drippy popsicle on the porch if you can do it any day of the year. Or if it has been summer since January, when you moved to California. It loses its magic, and just becomes routine. I'm sure some of you would argue that if that is routine, screw the rest. But I still crave seasons. Summer should give way to autumn (the absolute best season) the season of roasted root vegetables mixed with the last sweet fruits of summer, of tights and knee socks (and thigh socks) with boots, of scarves and hats and blazers, of pumpkin spice lattes and salted caramel hot chocolates to warm nipped fingers after a morning run in the crisp, fragrant fall air.

And then should come winter, wrapped in layers and warm blankets, belly full of rich soups and casseroles and baked goods. And then spring can bring green buds and flower shoots, rains and puddle jumping, the first tentative bare legs (which are almost always too early and regrettable -- and not just for the paleness of skin), and that absolutely perfect first crocus, daffodil or violet. But right now, I'm just ready for fall. Give me a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils, my best knee high boots, a silky scarf with my tweed blazer, and ripe pumpkin. I'm over this endless summer.

September 11, 2010

Dreamy Escapes

The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip

Just to be upfront, Patricia A. McKillip is my all time favorite fantasist. She is absolutely brilliant. Her lush novels always have this immense feeling of depth that you just get to glimpse here and there, with maybe a brief immersion or two. They leave you craving more, though you are also strangely satisfied. Her prose is crisp, clear but also creates a world of lyrical beauty that matches the Kinuko Y. Craft cover paintings that adorn so many of her novels. I always feel like I've been treated to a new fairy tale after I read one of McKillip's latest -- at once familiar and dear, but also dark and twisted and dangerous, like the original tales of Grimm and Perrault before Disney got to them.

Her latest novel, published in 2008, is no exception. The Bell at Sealey Head evokes something of an 18th or 19th century feel, wholly embedded in a very real village balanced on stormy sea cliffs, but the fey world steadily encroaches on the unwitting villagers, with a few notable exceptions. The innkeeper, a serving girl and her wild hermit mother, a merchant's daughter all have something more to say about why, each day at sundown, a bell rings out. A bell, that is, that no one has ever seen or located. The lady of the land lies in her deathbed and her heir comes to visit with an entourage of silly courtiers, throwing the sleepy village politics into a whirl. Meanwhile, a disheveled scholar arrives ink-stained and loaded down with books, seeking more of the bell and its world. The locals must help the strangers find their paths and positions in the village while dealing with increasing (and increasingly menacing) fey activity.

We are also treated to a glimpse of the parallel fey realm, seen through the dangerously curious eyes of a young princess who merely wants to know why. Her world is one of rules and duties, each more nonsensical than the last, but each of which must be followed to the letter at peril of death and doom. As the two worlds draw nearer and nearer, the young girl must learn to ask the right questions of the right person to free her world and that of the mortals.

There is a sweet courtship over books and curiosities, courtship kept secret to protect lives, bonds of family and friendship in both the mortal and fey realms. The characters are ones you would like to be friends with -- or ones you too would fight with all your strength.

I really encourage you to go out and buy each of McKillip's beautiful novels and story collections, but if you at least read her latest, I think you'll see why she is my favorite fantasist. Though others may reach her level in their own genres, none of them can do fantasy and fairy tales so beautifully, dangerously, achingly daringly well.

September 6, 2010

Fast as You Can

Just discovered this peppy little song by Elizabeth and the Catapult -- great band name, no?


September 1, 2010

Counting Calories

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

For the next installment in my summer reading series, I opted for a rad new science fiction piece. Bacigalupi has been nominated for and won various awards for his short and long fiction, and as soon as I saw this book I knew I wanted to read it. The cover is great, and I will definitely admit to judging books by their covers -- especially when they are this good.

The novel itself takes place in a distant dystopic -- or perhaps just realistic -- future, after the global oil culture has completely collapsed. The major commodity is now the calorie, as man and beast power is the primary form of energy. Genetic manipulators have created new food forms -- many of which are sterile after one harvest and enormously susceptible to terrible plagues -- as well as new critters and even new people. I found something of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake in his biopunk future, though he cannot yet keep up with her literary prowess at the level of the individual word. Her work is polished to the utmost, while Bacigalupi's is at points clearly a debut novel. That said, if this is his debut work, I can't wait to see his more practiced novels*.

Bacigalupi shifts his narrative's perspective from various characters occupying various roles in this new world in the Thai Kingdom. A calorie man: an agent of one of the biopower companies holding patents on seed variations and disease strains alike. Various locals throughout the bureaucracy each vying for a place in the precariously balanced hierarchy running the kingdom. And a windup girl, a new person genetically enhanced in almost every way, but handicapped by a twitching, clockwork-like motion that distinguishes her and her kind from true humans.

The novel is disturbing in the its level of potential truth. It is not so hard to imagine his biopunk society as one that could arise after our current petroleum bubble bursts. And his characters, perhaps especially the windup girl, are relatable in their hopes and fears, their flaws and strengths. He explores basic philosophical truths, such as what is means to be human, to be decent, to survive. He critiques and mocks our own society -- at times wistfully or gently, at times with the sharpest satire. The scifi world of his novel allows him to explore these truths in a way that lets them sneak into your own mind, settle in, and then smack you upside the head. Bacigalupi's social commentary is practiced and subtle, even when the novel itself bogs down.

I have also read some of his shorter fiction, which displays his skills in crafting new settings and characters that are immediately understandable. I look forward to his future novels displaying even more of that skill, as I did find The Windup Girl occasionally awkward or aimless. The narrative always found its way again, though, and while the ending can't rightfully be deemed satisfying, it was appropriate.

On the whole, Bacigalupi is now firmly installed on my author list and I certainly recommend delving into the novel. Give yourself a few weeks -- as it can be a bit too much to swallow in long sittings -- but I think you'll enjoy the ride.

*His latest, Ship Breaker, was released in May, but I haven't read yet. Have you? Thoughts?

August 30, 2010

The Scientific Method

I love the Internet. I really really do. I love blogs, photo sharing, video sharing, shopping... I love the way it opens new ways to communicate, educate, inform, share, delight, scare. I love the speed of it, the versatility, the ribozomatic interconnectivity of it. Okay, enough nerd speak. I love the Internet.

That said, I have been waiting for the next evolution of new media. It offers such potential for an entirely new way of thinking and conveying information, but sadly all too often it is used merely as a new way to replicate the old. Blogs -- as much as I lurve them -- are just shiny linktastic magazines or newspapers. Flickr and youtube just represent mass scale versions of Uncle George's vacation slide show presentation. Sure, they offer a lot of potential to reach new audiences in new ways, and they can be tons-o-fun, but they are nevertheless familiar, no?

So my mind was pretty much blown when I found Arcade Fire's Chrome Experiment. It is like a truly new music video, an interactive, multifaceted experience that combines uses the power of the internet to fuel something really ace. Go experience it. And then come help me figure out other awesome ways to use this wicked new tool sometimes still known as the world wide web.

August 29, 2010

Notes from the Field: NHM

I've decided that as a way to embrace life in Los Angeles I'm going to seek out spots throughout the area to take little field trips and immerse myself in the gems of L.A. It seems to me that the charm of L.A. is in the little things, the neighborhoods, the hidden spots, the particular locations that are infused with the quirky, eccentric, ostentatious flavor of the L.A. region. I'm going to try to find and enjoy them.

For my first voyage out into the city, I picked an old stand-by, the local Natural History Museum. As an avid (amateur) lover of geology, paleontology, archeology, and biology, I try to hit the local museums in most of the cities I visit. I grew up with Albuquerque's, and so judge all others by the high bar it sets -- because for a smallish city in a state many forget exists, it is a really good museum. I was very excited to see what Los Angeles, a city known for its talent, art, culture, and local natural history, the La Brea tar pits, had to offer.

The museum itself is located in Exposition Park, a gathering of museums, parks, and an enormous Rose Garden near downtown and USC. I had a snack whilst wandering the roses -- my green smoothie tasted faintly of roses, they smelled so strongly. The various museums are in various architectural styles, but somehow they all blend together. It makes you wish you were a kid in L.A., paper bag lunch in tow for your class trip.

There are two floors of exhibits, with expansions in progress -- a Dino Hall is slated to open in 2011. The building is a stunner: rich marble, polished dark wood, vaulted ceilings, a sweeping sense of space that retains a cozy, welcoming homey tone. Many of the exhibits themselves have dim lighting for the public area, with brighter spots highlighting the dioramas and displays. It was also rather chilly throughout, to protect exhibits. Dress in layers and revel in the relief when the outdoor temps spike. I immediately liked the museum for the almost early 19th century academia atmosphere, which made me want to wear tweed and have a nice cuppa.

The older mammal halls were quaint (and some of the taxidermy was a bit shoddy on the older donated specimens) but charming and the signage was full of fun factoids -- I now know that the unicorn legend is thought to originate from the oryx and of all the living land mammals, the hippo is the nearest relative to the whale. The new Age of Mammals hall was impressive, with excellent signs and displays and exquisite specimens all housed in a bright and modern room that managed to not feel to antiseptic despite the bright white light and clean architecture. It made it clear that the museum is doing its best to avoid a dank and stodgy fate.

Some of the other exhibits seemed almost haphazard or simply eccentric, almost like a curiosity cabinet of a curious old gentleman. The gem and mineral collection was extensive, though I found it a bit too crowded and the infographics rather dated. The hall of birds was also overly crowded, but I imagine would be fascinating to a bird lover. The hallway stuffed with Mayan, Incan, and Aztec artifacts was full of beauty; it left me wanting a full and proper exhibit. And the miscellany were just as fascinating, if odd. My favorite was an enormous fin whale skeleton suspended above visitors in a long, bare hall was artfully lit like some ethereal sculpture.

All in all, I would definitely recommend a trip to the museum. A bit rough around the edges, a bit worn, you can still slip into it like a beloved hand me down for a pleasant afternoon of curiosity and wonder.

((pardon the quality of photo -- I pulled stills from my flip cam video files))