Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays from the Darling family!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Haiku*

I liked Christmas best
when Santa did all the work.
Is it over yet?

I hate feeling like I'm too busy to really enjoy the season. I keep putting notes in the suggestion box saying that Christmas should really be scheduled for February when I have time for it, but so far no response.
The busyness is extra aggravating when I have blog fodder but no time to write the post. Oh well, 'tis the season and that. Hopefully holiday tales after the 25th aren't as repellent as the thought of eating more turkey after Thanksgiving, because that's when I'll probably manage to write about them.
I have to work through the 23rd, but after 5:00 on Saturday I plan on many hours of mangling Christmas songs and watching Rankin/Bass holiday specials as I wrap presents and wallow in the spirit of the season.
Happy Holidays everyone!

*sponsored by Jungle Dream Pagoda

edited to add:

1) The above picture shows the fabulous Snow Miser and his minions from the 1974 Rankin/Bass Christmas special. YouTube has a clip of his song and dance number here.

2) Believe it or not, my tree STILL isn't fully decorated. It has lights and strung balls, and I have to say it does look kind of awesome, but without the sentimental ornaments it doesn't seem complete. We'll see about a photograph, but I'm not promising anything. Mary did such a great job with her tree that I'm suffering from performance anxiety.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Miracle on Pleasant Street (part II)

Previously on Petula Darling:
We learned that Petula has a long history of becoming overwrought while gathering the annual Christmas tree. She also has an annoying tendency to sing narcissistic rewrites of songs. A pledge was made stating that she will never go out tree plucking again, but, alas, no such promise was made about the singing.

So what were we going to do about the following Christmas? To be honest, I was just planning on going to one of those makeshift tree stands that get set up in supermarket parking lots. Maine is known as "The Pine Tree State", so fake trees are something of an anathema. Then lo and behold...

It was little after Christmas last year; I was siting on the couch gazing at our less-than-spectacular looking tree. I decided to put off doing any post-holiday cleanup in favor of remaining on my butt and surfing the internet. Ahh, excellent, the holiday aprons were finally up over at Tie One On, so I settled down for a long winter's procrastination. And look at what I found:

Mary, from My House is Cuter Than Yours, had submitted this amazing photo of her handmade apron. Not only was I bowled over by her incredible photo-styling (and, of course, the great apron), but look at that tree! I had never seen such a fabulous thing. After adding her blog to my bookmarks and perusing its archives (something I highly recommend - so much kitschy goodness!), I set out to find a tree like that.
I googled every combination of terms I could think of (fake trees, artificial trees, vintage trees, feather trees, fluffy fabulous white trees) for much of the year, but I couldn't find anything like it. I came to the conclusion that it was one of her amazing vintage finds, and, since there were probably only three of them left in existence, I should just give up the dream. I decided to write a post about my failed quest, and I wrote to her asking for permission to use the photo. "The white tree?" she asked. "That tree is from Kmart."
Ha! Turns out it's from the Martha Stewart collection and it's called a "Snowbird Mountain Tree" (I will admit that's a term that I neglected to use in my googling). I renewed my quest with great fervor. Kmart was sold out, so I turned to eBay. Once again, the online auction house came to my rescue - I won an auction for one and it just arrived. Yay!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Miracle on Pleasant Street (part I)

Ext. Tree Farm - Midday - Winter 1978

A young Petula (nee Stacy) intently studies a potential Christmas tree while her family does embarrassing stuff on the periphery. She pulls out her Bonne Bell Lip Smacker(watermelon flavored) and applies it, as she concludes that the tree before her is indeed perfect.

Stacy: Oh Mummy! Daddy! Precious little brother of mine! Come quick, for I have found the perfect tree.

The family trudges over at a rate that's so slow they'll be lucky to arrive before New Year's.

Mother (in a voice that is clearly meant to be vexing): No sweetheart, that one is too large. Our ceiling is ten feet high, and that tree is easily fifteen feet tall. How about this nice one over here?

Stacy (reasonably): Your tree is stupid and ugly. I hate it-I hate it-I hate it.

The Lip Smacker-induced headache kicks in. Stacy starts to cry.

EXT. - A Bucolic Snow Covered Wood - Winter 2005

Stacy, having grown into a stunningly attractive woman, is walking into the woods with her husband to cut down a Christmas tree. She's wearing a handknit hat with bells that jingle as she walks, and she's aglow with holiday cheer.

Stacy (singing): Here comes Stacy Claus, here comes Stacy Claus, right down Stacy Claus lane...
Stacy (clearly unable to come up with any more lyrics): Here comes Stacy Claus, here comes Stacy Claus, right down Stacy Claus lane...

After fourteen choruses of this they come upon a clearing and look around. And then they continue on further because all of the trees look like crap. This happens three times.

Davis: Here's one that's not too bad.
Stacy: What? Do I look like Charlie Brown? That's a pine-scented twig.
Davis: Sigh.

More trudging.

Stacy: Hey - how about this one? I think it's perfect!
Davis: Sweetheart, that one is too large. Our ceiling is ten feet high, and that tree is easily fifteen feet tall. How about this nice one over here?
Stacy (reasonably): Your tree is stupid and ugly. But I am mature now and we can discuss a compromise.

Negotiations ensue.
They go with a fourteen foot tree that Stacy insists will fit, despite the obvious fact that it won't. The ever-handy Davis pulls out his trusty saw and cuts down the tree. He takes the trunk and the lead as they set out for the return trip.

Stacy (whining): My hands are cold.
Stacy (whining): My feet are numb.
Stacy (whining): Hey, this stupid tree is making it so I can't see where I'm walking.
Stacy (whining): Are we almost there?
Davis: Sigh.
They reach a small stream and start to carry the tree over a beaver dam.

Stacy: Have I mentioned that I'm freezing? Hey - slow down!

Stacy's foot slips through the dam and plunges into the icy water. The hypothermia kicks in. Stacy starts to cry.

INT. - Living Room - Later That Day

Stacy and Davis are on the couch eating Drake Funny Bones in an attempt to recover from the events of the day.

Stacy and Davis (in harmony): Let's never cut our own Christmas tree ever again.*


Voiceover: Tune in next time to see what our plucky heroine is going to do for Christmas 2006.

*Ok, technically, Davis may have said something more along the lines of, "Maybe you should stay home and I'll just get the tree myself next year." But there's really no need to nitpick.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Audio Entertainment

I was listening to NPR a couple of days ago, and they had a very funny interview with Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket (and a few words from Stephin Merritt) to promote the release of "The Tragic Treasury", an album intended to go along with The Series of Unfortunate Events. The music is by The Gothic Archies (basically an offshoot of the fabulously postmodern Magnetic Fields).
Now I can't stop singing, "Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, or Die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die" over and over to myself. It's strangely catchy. I stopped myself mid-drone from singing it to one of the bunnies, as that just seemed so very wrong.

Another little gem gleaned from NPR this week was a story about the lonely hearts column in the London Review of Books. The ads are far more entertaining than the usual I-like-sunsets-and-walks-on-the-beach variety. My favorite one starts out: "I like my women the way I like my kebab. Found by surprise after a drunken night out, and covered in too much tahini. "
If I weren't married...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Zippy the Pinhole (camera)

My newfound love of lentographs has reminded me of my old love, pinhole photography.
I was never a big fan of the popular oatmeal-canister camera, due to its being a pain in the ass and darkroom-dependant, so I constructed a variety of pinhole cameras from old Polaroid cameras. The advantages of the Polaroid-pinhole-cam were many: no need for a darkroom, you know whether you got a decent exposure within minutes , you can take 10 pictures at a time without the need for a light-safe bag, and you can work in color.
In bright daylight, you can get an image with Polaroid's typical retro-looking colors. However, the longer you need to expose the image for, the wonkier the colors get.
You may be wondering why anyone would want to do pinhole photography, since it's not like it's hard to get a regular lensed camera. Well, the cool thing about a pinhole lens is that the aperture is so teeny tiny that it gives you an almost unlimited focal range (something inches from your camera will be just as in-focus as something 20 yards away). If you're willing to do some math, it's possible to calculate the optimal pinhole size for your camera which will allow you to take incredibly sharp pictures. I do have one that can take near-perfect photos, but I seem to have misplaced my most favoritest image from it, so I'm showing you these less-spectacularly focused ones instead.
The drawback to Polaroid photography is that it's pretty expensive, and the difficulty in judging pinhole exposure time means you often need to take numerous practice shots to get one decent one. I haven't taken any pinhole pix in about 5 years, but my dream is now to have my very own digital pinhole camera. This is really easy to do if you have a camera that allows you to swap out the lenses (it doesn't hurt the camera at all), but I don't have one like that. So now I've taken to contemplating various camera hacks that could work on more basic digital cameras.

I'm especially enjoying gazing at the Maine summer shots below (featuring a real Maine outhouse), since the view out my window today is of a sudden dump of snow, and I reeeaaaalllly don't feel like going out and shoveling.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The process of elimination

So remember a couple posts back when I was whining about being busy and I mentioned that I had to take both my dad and Midge in for surgery? You know how I said both patients were doing well? Well, they were doing well when I posted that, but then both of them took a bit of a downturn afterwards. Interestingly, they both were having similar post-operative complications, in that neither of them was eating or following through with the elimination process that's related to it.
Rabbits have freakish digestive systems, and they can die very quickly if things stop moving along. Midge was minutes away from being rushed back to the vet when I was finally able to tempt her with some leafy greens. They had to be zealously wiggled under her nose in order for her to pay the least bit of attention, but she eventually took a few bites, and this seemed to be enough to jump start her system.
I contemplated bringing some Swiss chard to the hospital to wave in front of my dad's nose, figuring he would either eat it or yell at me to get the hell out, with either one potentially causing his system to fire up again. The doctors seemed to have other ideas (which is probably for the best), and after a couple unpleasant days my dad is on the mend.

In celebration, I present you with this lovely album which Davis brought home a while back. When I first saw it I thought it had been selected for either the polka factor (of interest to the new accordionist in the house), or the lovely petticoat-clad gal on the cover (of interest to me, a petticoat enthusiast). While both of these factors increased the desirability of the album, it turns out that the big selling point for this item was the name of the orchestra leader. You may need to say it out loud to appreciate it, but appreciate it you will - for deep down we are all only seven years old.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ma nouvelle chose préférée!

Here's my namesake, Ms. Clark, doing a cover of Lee Dorsey's Ya Ya (personalized and en français) on a tres fantastique set that could easily be the inspiration for some of those lenticular images that set my heart afire. Aside from the blurriness (which does lessen a bit as the video goes on), could it be any more merveilleux?

Je ne pense pas ainsi.

(apologies for any possible butchering of the french language)

tip: If you're on a slow connection, I recommend starting the video (may take two clicks) and then pausing it until it's fully loaded. After that it should play without any skipping.

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