Sunday, December 31, 2006

Things Unseen

On our annual trip down south for Christmas, we passed a sign I had not seen before: the Big Muskie Bucket. Now that is an attraction that begs to be seen. What in the world is a Big Muskie Bucket? Of course my husband knew (he's annoying that way). There's a website for it, and since they sell pictures, I'd better not post one here. You can go check it out, if you're so inclined.

We did see runaway truck ramps, but no runaway trucks.

And we saw a dancing cow (pausing for breath in this picture).

We went through my favorite tunnel. I just love the typeface on its sign.

This was a working trip, as we were helping my father-in-law to clean out his house prior to selling it. We didn't have a chance to visit the islands and beaches, as we usually do. But we had fun nonetheless. Sis-in-law and I stormed the closets and bureaus, finding all sorts of treasures amidst the everyday detritus. Just wait till I show you the delicate crocheted doilies and tatted pillowcases. There was a cache of hand-pieced quilt blocks, with diamond patches no bigger than a minute. The sewing desk held nearly antique (yet still perfectly good) notions like ric-racs and elastics as well as pounds and pounds of buttons. And would you believe a knitting machine? And an old, working Sterling typewriter? I had told myself I wouldn't claim anything for myself. I lied.

Finally, what could be more fun than food from Willie's Wee Nee Wagon? Now, I've never been a fan of Southern names. Peggy Sue, Pamela Lee, Piggly Wiggly . . . please. Spare me. But Willie's Wee Nee Wagon? Come on, you gotta love it.

Hubby brought home the Wee Nee weinies for lunch to spare us preparing a meal and washing up after a particularly strenuous day of cleaning out closets. Of course, with my cholesterol, I wasn't able to eat the food, nor did I even look at it (see? I'm maintaining the theme. Things unseen. Get it?), but I did smell it, and it was wondrous. Hotdogs with sauerkraut, hotdogs with chili, and greasy, crispy handcut french fries. Oh, for the days when I could eat such food with abandon.

It was a good trip. Maybe the next time we drive down that way, we'll actually stop to see the Big Muskie Bucket.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

circle of dolls

More Commune Dolls (the pattern was drafted from a doll made long ago in a commune) commissioned (!) for Christmas gifts by friends of mine.

Today was the Second Annual Christmas Cookie Bake with two friends of mine. It was the first time this holiday season that I was able to relax and have fun. They're that sort of friends -- pure gold.

Christmas has caught me flat-footed once again. Despite crafting for this purpose all year, I somehow managed to leave several projects unfinished, and mailing things out didn't happen until today. (I did not ask for expensive, faster shipping options. People can wait.)

I spread out my purchases over the year as well, buying things as inspiration struck, to avoid last-minute bill pile-ups and the inevitable "I can't think of a thing to buy" that seems to strike my addled brain this time of year.

But those were things for extended family. What to get for my children? They're too old for toys, and too young for more adult interests (clothes, make-up, etc.) which makes gifting difficult. Books, of course. . . but what else? Just sign me up for Mother of the Year, leaving my children giftless.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Let Us Now Praise Neil Gaiman

(with apologies to James Agee and Walker Evans)

I just finished Neil Gaiman's Coraline. What an odd little book. Gaiman wrote one of my favorite books, American Gods, and I just discovered his children's literature. While my first thought was that this man should not be writing for children, upon reflection I think that his horrifying stories are as necessary as fairy tales used to be, before they got all sanitized and pretty.

Just this morning, the kids and I were listening to Jonathan Stroud's second Bartimaeus book, The Golem's Eye, on the way to school. One of the characters is watching a play and thinks,
Show us a little of what we fear . . . only take away its teeth. . . . Make the demons frighten us, then let us watch them die.

That's rather what fairy tales do for our children, isn't it? They provide a way to confront our deepest, animal fears and deal with them rather than pushing them back into our psyches, ignored and ready to fester out when we are least prepared.

Back to Coraline. The little girl walks through a closed-off door into an alternate reality, one in which her parents give her the attention and presents she craves, but are creepy and have sewn-on black buttons on their faces in place of eyes. Which life she chooses, and how she fights for it, make up the story.

The story is terrific, and what keeps the chill factor under control is the quiet, stubborn strength of the heroine. If this unassuming little girl can hold herself together in the face of such terrors, so can the reader. My 11-year-old daughter read it before I did, and while she didn't proclaim it her favorite book (it would have had to have dragons in it for that), she did talk about it and wasn't frightened senseless.

As good as the story is the writing. I don't know how to describe Gaiman's craftmanship. It's a spare text, finely honed. His sense of timing, the rhthym of his sentences, his use of just the right words is, well, poetic.

The blurbs on the back cover are by Diana Wynne Jones (who compares it to Alice in Wonderland), Terry Pratchett (one of my favorite authors), and Lemony Snickett, who goes off on his own amusing riff:
This book tells a fascinating and disturbing story that frightened me nearly to death. Unless you want to find yourself hiding under your bed, with your thumb in your mouth, trembling with fear and making terrible noises, I suggest that you step very slowly away from this book and go find another source of amusement, such as investigating an unsolved crime or making a small animal out of yarn.

(Too bad I don't like the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books. I love his writing here.)

Pratchett notes,
This book will send a shiver down your spine, out through your shoes, and into a taxi to the airport. It has the delicate horror of the finest fairy tales, and it is a masterpiece. And you will never think about buttons in quite the same way again.
And the illustrations by Dave McKean are fantastically creepy. I hope Gaiman doesn't mind if I reproduce one here (I'm fairly certain he's not one of the 3 or 4 regular readers of this blog):

The pen-and-ink drawings are spare but detailed and evoke the text's atmosphere perfectly.

I can't wait to read more.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tarot Card Meme

You are The Lovers

Motive, power, and action, arising from Inspiration and Impulse.

The Lovers represents intuition and inspiration. Very often a choice needs to be made.

Originally, this card was called just LOVE. And that's actually more apt than "Lovers." Love follows in this sequence of growth and maturity. And, coming after the Emperor, who is about control, it is a radical change in perspective. LOVE is a force that makes you choose and decide for reasons you often can't understand; it makes you surrender control to a higher power. And that is what this card is all about. Finding something or someone who is so much a part of yourself, so perfectly attuned to you and you to them, that you cannot, dare not resist. This card indicates that the you have or will come across a person, career, challenge or thing that you will fall in love with. You will know instinctively that you must have this, even if it means diverging from your chosen path. No matter the difficulties, without it you will never be complete.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.