Thursday, February 26, 2009

Robot love

Ever since the boy brought home the DVD Wall-E about a week and a half ago, TLM has watched it at least once per day. The boy and I quite like it too - Wall-E is such a charming little beastie and Eve is a refreshingly un-girlie girl robot. She's pretty, but she's a bit fat around the waist - and she's got firepower to die for - not yer typical Hollywood heroine.

In short, the movie is about Wall-E, the last-remaining rubbish-compacter robot on an Earth piled high in rubbish; Eve, the robot probe sent to Earth to check out it's livability status; and a spaceship full of gravity-deprived humans who've been waiting over 700 years to go home.

This movie really made me think. Here are some of those thoughts:
  • Wall-E is completely lovable and friendly, but if he were a person I think he'd be short, fat, balding and wear coke-bottle-bottom glasses.
  • The Axiom is carrying what is presumably the remains of the human race. It's a damned large craft and there appear to be thousands aboard, at least. But looking at these people, I get the feeling they are all American. Maybe it's because they remind me of the stereotypical American tourist - large, mostly white, and unworldly. And they are all dressed in similar tracksuits.
  • If there is to be a sequel, it will be really hard to make a believable one that doesn't have most of the population dying off from starvation and dehydration. Because these people think that you can grow pizza from seed.
  • Also, did ya see the rubbish piles on board the spaceship? The people have evidently not learned the lesson about recycling and reusing. give them another planet and they will probably trash that one too, eventually.
One can only hope.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A bit of a skirt

Unfortunately my camera's batteries went flat just as I was in the middle of taking pictures of the finished skirt, and of course then something went wrong with the camera on my mobile phone so that none of those photos were saved.

So all I have to show is is this picture that I took of the skirt before I unpicked the waistband, sewed and topstitched a big dart in the front that went all the way down to the horizontal line of topstitching, and put the waistband back on.

But I did draw a picture to show you the before and after too. Only I placed 'em in the wrong order whilst scanning, so what you'll see are the after and before drawings. Oh yeah, and those are back views. The horizontal topstitching on the front view is straight.

Basically, I took a long skirt that was too tight at the waist and cut it in half. I took in the sides so they'd fit my hips, re-installed the invisible zipper (not very well), put in a narrow waistband/facing in a contrast-y fabric, added a little button and buttonhole tab to hide the uneven widths of the ends of the waistband, topstitched the hem because it was so badly sewn by the factory that it kept turning inside up, and then sewed the humungous big dart in the front to fix the large gape at the waist. Perhaps next time I'll use a pattern or another skirt to get the right hip and waist fit.

Anyway, another skirt to add to my collection.

Another thing they don't make like they used to

The photo-storing thingy on my mobile phone seems to have packed it in. I only discovered this after I finally finished my denim skirt reconstruction (from ill-fitting, frumpy skirt to well-fitting, flirty skirt - yay!) and took some pictures of it. Then I noticed that the phone's wallpaper had changed, from a lovely picture of TLM struggling to free herself from the boy's loving but vice-like grip, to an animation of floating dots.

So I checked my file of camera photos and...there were none.

This is somewhat annoying, because there used to be lots of photos in there. And I've only had the bloody phone since last August. And it cost me almost 400 smackeroos.

Now, in the old first mobile phone, a work one, was about the size of one of those gold ingots they have at the gold museum in Johannesburg, where visitors are told they can have one for free if they can lift it up with one hand. It (the phone, not the ingot) didn't play music and it didn't take pictures, but it sure as hell didn't start to break down after 6 measly months.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

They sure don't make buskers like they used to.

Busking just ain't the way it used to be, if the last busker I walked out on is at all representative.

This guy from Noo York spent about 20 minutes building up the audience - asking us to make loud, appreciative noises to attract passers-by, describing in mildly comedic terms what he was going to do ( he was an escape artist apparently), selecting volunteers to be the butts of his so-so jokes. Then I got bored and tired of standing around waiting, and moved on. I bet this guy only had one trick in his whole act. Okay, he did do one magic trick, but it was so unremarkable I nearly forgot about it.

Now, in my day, as a veteran busker might say, a busker would put his hat on the pavement and perform one trick after another, whether it be pulling scarves out of a lady's bra or pulling a balloon over his head. They didn't try to pull in an audience by asking a couple of bystanders to pretend they were having a good time; they did it by giving the bystanders a good time. Now that's the kind of busker I'd throw my coins at.

But what I saw in the weekend reminded me of that scene in Bedknobs and Broomsticks where Mr Brown the street conjuror sings "It really doesn't matter what I do, what I do, as long as I do it...with a flair" at his stoney-faced audience. Yeah, style over substance - it's really over-rated.

Friday, February 20, 2009

No thanks I'm sweet enough

I feel like I've spent the last decade or so dodging the diabetes monster, and it must be sneaking up on me occasionally to bite me on the shoulder (that's a werewolf reference). Although I've had myself tested a couple of times and came out negative, I can't help feeling that if I'm not pre-diabetic, then I must be pre-pre-diabetic.

This is because if I go without food for 3 or 4 hours I suddenly feel physically weak and am consumed with thoughts of loaves of fresh buttered bread (wholegrain). And after a large meal, I'm always fatigued. It's also because I have a frighteningly sweet tooth and cannot turn down cake or biscuits (unless they are made with carrots or an unusually large number of eggs).

Three days ago I decided that I had to do something about this oppressive tiredness that comes upon me soon after dinner each evening, because this is valuable time for doing stuff and shouldn't be wasted blobbing out in front of the TV, bleary-eyed and listless. I decided to give up sweets - even if this doesn't fix the tiredness, it certainly wouldn't hurt.

On day one, the only sugar I consumed was in the form of fresh fruit and well-diluted fruit juice. On days two and three, I allowed myself some Nutella on one of my slices of toast. I've bypassed the sweet muffins, the birthday cake left over from a daycare party, and the slices left over from a work meeting. I gave the boy strict instructions not to bring home cake for me.

Not even a Dutch Ring (nope, still sounds like an exotic sex toy).

Do I feel better?
Physically, no. Psychologically, there's a hint of moral superiority in my demeanor but not enough for other people to notice.

Let's see how long I can do this for.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The perils of ordering ethnic food over the phone

Sometimes I have to repeat our address over and over again until I'm almost ready to just get in the car and point to the menu in person.
Sometimes I get rung back because the poor guy sitting in the delivery vehicle with a bag of hot curries on his lap (well I hope it's not on his lap but I bet they don't drive very large cars) is outside the wrong house.

This time, I said we only wanted one of the complementary boxes of rice, because the boy prefers roti with his butt chick.

Which is why they gave us three...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

All the fun of the fair

Ah, I love summer because that's when the city council puts on so much free family entertainment. Today I took TLM down to the beach, where a week-long suburban festival was underway.

Not that we actually went onto the sand (beautiful as it was, framed by deep blue seas and clear, ozone-free skies). We peeked into stalls selling trippy beachwear, animal-shaped balloons, handmade photo albums and driftwood sculptures, and headed straight for one of the bouncy castles. It was a hit.

Five minutes later, we crossed the road to the park and encountered - to our great delight - a petting zoo. This was TLM's first chance to touch a baby alpaca, pony, lamb or goat (the latter had such a silky coat that it was impossible not to joke out loud about winter jackets). There were also rabbits, chickens and guinea pigs, and a mile-deep queue to have one of the furries on your lap.

Then TLM got hungry, and of course she didn't want to eat the snacks I'd brought with me. But before trawling through the aisle of food stalls, I had to make a toilet stop. There is one public toilet cubicle at the park. It has two toilets in it, side by side. I can only guess that this is to make it easier for a mum with a kid in tow, as they can both do their respective business at the same time. Because I really, really, can't think of another reason for two toilets to share a single cubicle.

I don't know if you guys get these where you live, but one of the food staples of the local fair is the hot dog on a stick. Put simply, it's a cooked sausage which has been impaled lengthwise, dipped in batter and deep-fried, and finally dipped in tomato sauce for serving. It's quite yummy in an artery-clogging kind of way. I hadn't had one since I was a kid, and eating it took me back a few decades. But TLM wasn't interested in trying this culinary version of white-trash; she stuck to the other food staple of the local fair - hot chips.

Our long morning out was nearly capped by a ride on the merry-go-round, but TLM changed her mind when she realised I couldn't ride with her. Not that there was a sign forbidding adults, but it was a teensy little thing and I'm sure I would have tipped the whole thing over.

When TLM fell asleep in the car, I seized my opportunity to eat a soft serve from the McD's drive-in without her protests (where's MY ice cream!") ringing in my ears.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Partially helpful

It's not often I have to answer the phone at the office, but there was a tiny window of around 5 minutes when all of my work colleagues were either in a meeting or power-walking around the block (I'm assuming it would have been brisk because it was pretty chilly today).

I answered the phone and stuttered through the greeting, which included the 17-syllable name of the place I am working for. Then I had to repeat myself 3 more times, because the caller was an old lady from Idaho, of all places. So she was probably a bit deaf and completely unused to the Kiwi accent and our unique way of runningourwordstogether (that's "running our words together", if you're blind and relying on voice thingy).

Well, I have no idea how she got our number, but she was definitely looking for someone in New Zealand to tell her about how to emigrate to New Zealand. We had a nice old chatter about how her son is fed up with life in the US, the fact that his dogs wouldn't be allowed into the country without several months in quarantine even though they are so nice and house-trained, and - that old nugget - what time is was over here.

And then I told her to go have a look at, and she thanked me hung up.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Baby dragons rule!

"There'll be dragons" I told TLM, hoping to excite her.
"I don't like dragons!" she answered, "they're scary!"
"Okay, there won't be any dragons" I replied, "but there might be free popsicles."
So TLM came willingly with me to watch the Chinese New Year parade.

It was hot (actually, only 25 degrees Celsius, but for this town it counts as a heatwave) and sunny. It was just the kind of weather that entices you to the outdoors, only to send you scurrying for the SPF 30 sunblock and a hat with a brim wide enough to support a pond-full of large frogs.

It was just the kind of burn-y hotness that made me anxious about the amount of time TLM and I were spending on the uncovered footpath, waiting for it to start.

Finally, we heard the distant crackling of what sounded like exploding Double Happies, and saw the glimmer of a long, sinuous dragan winding its way towards us in a cloud of firecracker smoke. TLM's face was alight with anticipation.

Then it got closer, louder and smokier. I tried to cover TLM's ears with my free hand (the other was holding her), but it had to divide its time between one of her ears and one of mine. Totally fruitless. TLM turned her face away from the spectacle and whimpered something about going back to the car. She'd forgotten that we'd taken the bus to get there.

The men under the dragon raised it up and down and wove in and out of legs, prompting me to wish I'd shaved my legs that morning.

But then TLM's mood changed. It was when some children from the Chinese language school passed by with more petite versions of the smoking dragon. I told her they were baby dragons and she chuckled delightedly.

There was more - Chinese opera performers with their faces made up in pink and white, drummers, men and women posing in beautiful traditional silk robes, a team of kung-fu exponents demonstrating whatever you call the kung fu equivalent of a kata, little girls in pretty red dresses (not sure of the relevance but they seemed a welcome part of the parade) and even Michael Tuffery's ox made entirely out of corned beef tins (click here and scroll down for a picture - actually the article is bloody hilarious!). The latter was present because it's the Year of the Ox, but what made it even more special for us was that we still have the children's library book of New Zealand art which features this very sculpture. But there were no free popsicles.

As I was saying, there was more, but as far as TLM was concerned, the baby dragons were it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Learning through destruction

Um...some time yesterday, before I posted the previous blog post, I thought of posting the above title.

Because I've gained a lot of sewing knowledge in the short time I've spent pulling old clothes apart in order to re-make them into something I wouldn't be afraid to wear in public. Like, the fact that I really have to use an invisible zipper foot if I want my invisible zippers to be invisible. Or that even an el cheapo skirt bought from a catalogue, will have a properly constructed waistband - but the hem might still look like it was sewn by TLM on a Dora the Explorer sewing machine (you can get those, y'know).

But maybe 2 sewing posts in a row is too much, eh?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The semi-nekkid seamstress

You might not believe me, but it helps to sew in just your underwear. I know this after working on a couple of refashioning projects lately.

My first one was the large man's polo shirt with NYPD embroidered on it, which the boy got for me last time he was in New York. Needless to say, it was hugely unflattering because of it's very bigness. I only wore it with over-long bootleg jeans and heeled army-style boots; every time, it reminded me of the time I walked into a party thrown by a lesbian work-friend and realised that the room was completely full of short-haired women in lumberjack shirts.

I spent several hours turning that shirt into one more suitable for woman's body shape, mostly by trying on, cutting, trying on, pinning, trying on, sewing, trying on etc. There was an awful lot of trying on, so most of the time my top half was semi-nekkid.

The other project was to take an ankle-length stretch denim skirt that was too tight at the waist, and turn it into a flippy knee-length skirt. As before, there was an awful lot of trying on, so most of the time my bottom half was nearly bare.

This isn't a method I'd recommend using if your sewing machine sits in front of a large picture window, but it's fine if you have curtains. (Also, I mightn't be so keen in the winter.)


...and after...

(I haven't quite finished the skirt yet.)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Historian

Last night I finally finished Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. I'm still trying to decide whether it's a good book or not.

It's very, very long.

If you ever wanted to know what it might be like to do Raiders of the Lost Ark but replacing the archeologist with a historian, then you'll be disappointed that the the book contains no ominous advancing boulders, hardly any guns and only negligible amounts of vodka.

But there is a huge amount of research. In fact, I got the feeling that Kostova might have spent years doing research on how historians do research, and couldn't bear to leave any details out of her novel. I'm fairly certain that this door-stopper of a book could easily have been half as long, without losing any of the story.

There were far too many transcripts of letters written by monks about trips around the Balkans. Worse, I was bothered by the unexplained, too-fortuitous meetings with complete strangers who turned out to have a connection to the big D (Dracula).

And so much of the story is told via letters - letters to the young girl from her historian father, letters to the father from his PhD supervisor, letters to the supervisor from his best mate, letters from the girl's mysteriously absent mother, and of course, letters between monks travelling around the Balkans with their bloodthirsty baggage. I know it's a literary device, but I couldn't help wondering why these people wrote such detailed letters - why didn't they just write a book and be done with it?

Last of all, the ending was predictable. And I'm not even one of those annoying people who see the plot twist in the first hour of the film and then tell everyone what's going to happen.

Having said that, I did manage to read the whole thing, and I only got bored with all the letter-reading about two thirds of the way in. So maybe if you've time to kill, like the idea of an adventure peopled by undead librarians and feisty academics, then this book wouldn't necessarily be a waste of money.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I feel some grunge coming on...

After the huge success of my jeans-turned-skirt (i.e. I've been wearing it almost every day and no-one's laughed at me yet), the idea of clothing reconstruction has become very attractive. And what's not to like? It's cheap, it's eco-friendly and...well it's cheap and eco-friendly.

The only thing that could be an obstacle is that, having Googled "t-shirt reconstruction", I get the feeling that the results tend to look good only on the young. I suppose if you're into your 4th or 5th decade, you should aim to look like you can afford to buy your clothes new.

But there's gotta be a way to turning all those ill-fitting souvenir t-shirts and that itchy alpaca jumper from La Paz, into something I can be happy to wear (or sit on, if it turns into a cushion cover). I'll keep looking around - I can't be the only person under 25 who wants to re-fashion their clothing.

Otherwise I'll have to start wearing beanies.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

And now for something completely different

Here are my results from the Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz - most of it is spot-on, if I may say so myself.

You Are an Ingrid!


You are an Ingrid -- "I am unique"

Ingrids have sensitive feelings and are warm and perceptive.

How to Get Along with Me

* * Give me plenty of compliments. They mean a lot to me.
* * Be a supportive friend or partner. Help me to learn to love and value myself.
* * Respect me for my special gifts of intuition and vision.
* * Though I don't always want to be cheered up when I'm feeling melancholy, I sometimes like to have someone lighten me up a little.
* * Don't tell me I'm too sensitive or that I'm overreacting!

What I Like About Being an Ingrid

* * my ability to find meaning in life and to experience feeling at a deep level
* * my ability to establish warm connections with people
* * admiring what is noble, truthful, and beautiful in life
* * my creativity, intuition, and sense of humor
* * being unique and being seen as unique by others
* * having aesthetic sensibilities
* * being able to easily pick up the feelings of people around me

What's Hard About Being an Ingrid

* * experiencing dark moods of emptiness and despair
* * feelings of self-hatred and shame; believing I don't deserve to be loved
* * feeling guilty when I disappoint people
* * feeling hurt or attacked when someone misundertands me
* * expecting too much from myself and life
* * fearing being abandoned
* * obsessing over resentments
* * longing for what I don't have

Ingrids as Children Often

* * have active imaginations: play creatively alone or organize playmates in original games
* * are very sensitive
* * feel that they don't fit in
* * believe they are missing something that other people have
* * attach themselves to idealized teachers, heroes, artists, etc.
* * become antiauthoritarian or rebellious when criticized or not understood
* * feel lonely or abandoned (perhaps as a result of a death or their parents' divorce)

Ingrids as Parents

* * help their children become who they really are
* * support their children's creativity and originality
* * are good at helping their children get in touch with their feelings
* * are sometimes overly critical or overly protective
* * are usually very good with children if not too self-absorbed

Click here if you're curious enough to take the test yourself. I found it on this sewing fashionista's blog.