Two weeks ago I had never been to the opera. Honestly, I had never wanted to. I “love all music” (don’t we all nowadays), but the classical stuff never tickled my earbuds. But when a friend won two tickets to a dress rehearsal at the Des Moines Metro Opera, I had to check it out. We saw Dialogues of the Carmelites, which is about nuns during the French Revolution. It’s not really about their lives as much as their deaths, which is pretty heavy stuff. They all die onstage, which is why people come to this opera, said our New Friend Dan. To see the dying. (New Friend Dan controls the guillotine noise button, so he is really cool. He kills 20 nuns every night with nothing but a space bar.) Anyway, I went the opera with some ideas that were totally wrong. Here are five Opera Myths dispelled, in order of revelation:

1. You don’t need to dress up. At least if you’re going to a dress rehearsal. Kels and I were sporting cute (semi-formal) summer dresses and kitten heels, which we quickly found was too much. “Aww, you guys got all dressed up to go to the opera,” said New Friend Dan. We felt silly, especially since he wore jeans and a polo, and the usher was in sweatpants.

2. You CAN understand what they’re saying. Cross my heart, this is true. Unless of course, the opera is not in English, in which case you’ve got a different problem. But the singers enunciate well, even while screeching in octaves above normal aural capacity. There are hard-to-follow moments, but the DMMO (and I assume other opera houses) has a superscript screen, which flashes the lyrics above the stage. So even if your ears get lost, you can read what’s happening — or read ahead, if that’s your style. And the words are unobtrusive, unlike subtitles on a movie. All in all, I found the words very considerate. Like a “Thank you for coming to the opera. We will ensure that you understand what we do here.” Aww, thanks, opera. “No, thank YOU, Riane.”

3. There are no songs in the opera. There is a lot of singing in the opera, but it’s one continuous song. It’s not like a musical, where people burst out into musical numbers. Our favorite “song” went something like, “You slapped me in the FAAAAAACE.” It was one line long, with a last note that flew to the rafters and shattered the brains of whatever poor birds lived there. Powerful stuff. But don’t expect any “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria” bits (that joke comes from Kels. Thanks for letting me use it, girrrl).

4. The fat lady does not sing at the end. In fact, there’s not many fat people in the Des Moines Metro Opera (weird, because Iowa tends to have a porky population). But if you want to be an opera singer, you gotta be in shape. Those core muscles are key, and bellowing for hours at above a high C will make you sweat.

5. Opera is not boring. I was pleasantly surprised not to be out-of-my-mind-bored at intermission. I cared about the nuns. I cared about Revolutionary France. I cared about how they would all die. It was both entertaining and soothing to hear great musicians sing for three hours. I was inspired by their craft and their beautiful voices. I enjoyed the plot, the costumes, and the experience of watching art happen and knowing that soon this piece would be gone forever. They’ll perform it again, but the music is ephemeral — just like that silly bird who had his brain thrashed by a high C.

So rock on, opera. Maestro. I’ll be back.

[photos: Des Moines Metro Opera]



Let’s talk about threads.

It’s rare when I choose an outfit around an accessory, but it happened today — and it’s all thanks to my new scarf. Cool, huh? Got it last night from a group called Beza Threads. Long story short, a couple of Drake alumni went to Ethiopia, met some girls who used to be child prostitutes, and wanted to help them get their lives back together.

The girls were making scarves in conjunction with a boy’s center in Addis Ababa, so the Drake grads decided to buy some. Er, a lot. They bought a lot of scarves. And then they brought ’em back to the States. Now they sell them and send almost all of the proceeds back to the kids ($8 of every purchase goes toward to buying more scarves). At $20 apiece, they say that selling 160 scarves would keep a girl off the streets for an entire year.

As for the name, Beza, it means “redemption” in the children’s native tongue. And, beautifully,ironically, magically, they met a five-year-old child of one of the prostitutes named Beza. She’s growing up at the shelter that pulled her mother off the streets. Beza Threads.

If you want more info, visit them at Look for Megan and Josiah (Drake represent!). You can even schedule a presentation and have them come to you. Otherwise, ask about buying a box o’ scarves and selling them yourself. Beza Threads can get it to you. From the variety I saw last night, you’re sure to find something you love. You’ll probably love them all. I did. (Sidenote: the HOLIDAY season is coming. Don’t you want to give a great gift to your loved ones? Better yet, a great gift that makes a difference? Thought so).

Happy threading. Think before you buy this year.

P.S. I totally condone men in scarves, too. Men in scarves are cool. Men, buy a scarf. It will keep your neck warm and you will look awesome. If you buy a Beza Thread scarf, you will win my love and affection forever.

All I can say is that the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear blew my mind. It was everything I had hoped for–funny, smart, important, and crowded. A bazillion people with a billion posters made my life a million times better in just three hours. But instead of tell you, Imma show you. Check out the vlog below. And my ReadyMade blog. And Kate’s Urban Plains Blog. Oh, and the slideshow of awesomeness, here.

As of Friday, 2/3 yarn bombs had been removed. I don’t know when, how, why, or by whom, but I’m sad. And yesterday Robb told me that the last one is now gone as well. I’ll check Tuesday when I drive by.

But, in the spirit of resistance (and art) I am still knitting. Planning to bomb more this week. But, for your viewing pleasure, here are the videos from last Monday’s adventure.

Drake student Brittany Swanson is the coolest person I know. She has already found two of the yarn bombs, and they’ve only been up for 16 hours! She’s unstoppable — but she’s still missing one tag. Who can beat her to the last one?

It’s on! There are three yarn bombs around Des Moines in very public places. I have no idea how long they’ll be there though. The basics:

  • I met Robb and Matt at 9:45 p.m. Robb wore a black sweatshirt and black beanie. Matt wore flannel. I wore dirty jeans and a dirty sweatshirt. So legit. So ready for some knit graffiti.
  • Our first location yelled at us. Literally, the thing spoke, we screamed, and hightailed it outta there.
  • First success was in a highly lighted place. Serene though (no screaming this time).
  • Second success was in near a security guard and a some old dead guys.
  • Third success was like tagging in a spotlight. Matt almost wet his pants as all the cars passed by. I tied as fast as possible, and we sprinted away, babbling with fear.

But how exhilarating. Much congratulations and singing (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”) were in order. We are quite pleased with ourselves.

So here’s what’s going to happen: Below are three close-ups of the tags. Your mission: find them. The first people to snag a photo of each will get a coffee/lunch/milkshake from Smoky Row — my treat. Tweet me or send me your photo via email and we’ll talk. Happy hunting!

P.S. Stay tuned. There are hilarious videos of tonight’s exploits you really shouldn’t miss.

As one project winds down, another winds up. Literally.

I got my yarn, I got my needles, I got about 25 rows of a knit graffiti project comPLETE. I’ve scoped out my first site, and I’ve even attracted a small crew to help tag the town.

So far, major win.

Keep an eye out for color splashes in your neighborhood. And, as always, if you want to be awesome and join us, just let me know.