Tuesday, December 25, 2007

And so we are moved

It's been a long couple of weeks. Everything is here, except for husband's albums. It's a long story. We had more stuff than would fit in a moving truck. So, one moving truck, two minivan loads (borrowed from Red Queen) and assorted trips in the Yaris hatchback.

We had to go out for lunch today because we couldn't find our saucepans, and I'm wearing purple socks to work tomorrow with a red sweater because it was the pair that I found rummaging in the trash bag that contains all my underwear.

We did grab a tiny tree picking up the van and ate stuffed pork chops for dinner because we found a baking tray.

The bedroom is arranged, but nothing is hung up or sorted (they promised they could wrap the drawers and then couldn't. Very annoying).
These are pictures of some of the packing in the old apt.--too many books. This is without cd's or dishes:
Added to the fun is this:
This is my car in the work parking lot where I had to leave it two weeks ago. And then we had another blizzard, and then another. Slushy and icy alternately.
Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Heh, heh

Men are from the Post Office/Women are from UPS. (see comments below).

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Atonement (the movie)

And then I won tickets to see a preview of the film last Wednesday.

I don't usually read the novel that close to seeing the film--to go in with the book so completely in my head--and to wonder how they were going to be able to make a film of this book. It was the same director who directed Keira in Pride and Prejudice, and I had liked his direction there.

How to convert a book so completely of the mind--the minds of multiple characters--into a visual medium. It is a book with little external dialogue, but a lot of internal dialogue. It is also (the middle part) an enormous novel describing the chaos of Dunkirk and the horrors of war as seen from a military hospital. It is one character's story throughout her life. And it is a story seen simultaneously from several different points of view.

For the most part I will say that it succeeded. There was a little reliance on close up to show "the internal." But my husband, who had not read the book, said he had little trouble understanding the different viewpoints conceits after the first one. It was fascinating to see how he had managed to find a visual for invisible things, and to make subtle horrors large enough to be seen by the whole audience, as well as keeping some things intimate enough to not cheapen them. Clearly many others in the audience had read the novel because I would hear indrawn breaths before tragic moments.

There were a few moments which I found were slightly better in the film. One is a pedantic one. In the book Briony's sister, Cecilia (played by Keira Knightly), strips down to what McEwan describes as bra and panties. In 1935 the bra was a fairly new invention, certainly not one worn by a woman as bustless as Keira or Cecilia and panties were known as "step-ins," more like boxer shorts. My grandmother who would have been in her 30's in the 1930's never got used to a bra. My mother only had one because she was very busty in her teens. In the movie she wears a sort of teddy which is much more likely. The other is a moment when James McAvoy's character writes a dirty word in a note to Cecelia, a note he has no intention of giving her, an anatomical word (female anatomy). After he writes it he spins in his chair and laughs. He wrote it from tension and the writing and the laugh are the release--very believable and real.

Forget Keira's name on this--this is McAvoy's film. He ages believably and is changed by all he experiences. His short body of work is astounding in it's range--from Bright Young Things, to Mr. Tumnus, to The Last King of Scotland. Wow.

One trope that the director seems to like is to focus on hands. There were at least three moments in P&P where he zoomed in on Mr. Darcy's hand, clenching, flexing, and tenderly rubbing the spot that touched Lizzie's. Here too we see the character's true emotion through their hand.

And the sex scene here is perfect as well--just like the absence of one in P&P. Clumsy and awkward and desperate and real.

This is a gritty war film as well--as gritty as Band of Brothers or Black Hawk Down. We do not cut away or focus somewhere else.

The repeated motif of the typewriter--of Briony's typewriter--is sometimes perfect, sometimes overdone, but a bold choice. It is woven into the soundtrack and crescendos at crucial moments.

And then, finally there is Vanessa Redgrave as the old Briony, confessing her changes. This is the biggest change from the book. In the book the story is dying with her because key players are alive and might sue. She is heading towards dementia--and for her, at last, the blessed release of forgetfulness. In the movie too, she believes her changes do make up for what she did--that the fictional world is equal to the real world, and I don't know if that is true in the book. It seems to let her off, and that is not satisfying at all. So McEwan has robbed us of what Briony tried to offer--a happy ending. Interesting to consider.

Atonement (the book)

When I realized that I didn't own Pride and Prejudice I also realized that I did not own Atonement by Ian McEwan, now a film with Keira Knightly. I remember in the beginning of summer when I first heard advertisements for it I thought, "But there aren't any good female parts in Atonement." There aren't any good female parts in Amsterdam, McEwan's book before Atonement. This made me realize that I didn't own and hadn't read Atonement.

So, since I now work a few blocks from a Barnes & Noble, a terribly dangerous thing for me--I went an bought them (I also bought The Maltese Falcon and Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham--that's why I don't go to bookstores--it's hard for me to stop).

I don't want to give the story away. I had wondered where the transition between the McEwan of Amsterdam and the McEwan of Saturday had happened. This would be the book. I reviewed On Chesil Beach (and I believe Saturday before I started doing labels). McEwan's early work is fascinating and disturbing, but his characters were too distant. In Saturday he had overcome that, and here too, in Atonement. There is an understanding of all the characters--most especially Briony--the catalyst. The 11 year old who's vision of the world is so rigid that she cannot entertain the idea that what she has witnessed does not fit into her (11 year old) experience. I could not help wondering if Briony was a sort of stand in for McEwan himself. In one of his subtle moments of foreshadowing, he talks of Briony's future books, for she is already a writer at 11, and says that they were considered amoral. It has often been said of McEwan's writing as well.

And too it is a novel (at least the last part) about writing--the power of the writer on the reader, on the perception of what is real. Briony tells us, the reader, that what we have read is both true and not true. That she has started with truth--that we have been reading her novel up until this last part, her autobiography--but that a vital piece of it has been changed by her, the omnipotent writer. This is a dangerous line to tread--for McEwan, the real writer. To remind us that what we are reading is not in fact, fact. Is a story, and that the writer will alter what he needs to alter for the sake of the story.

In 2004 I had a subscription to The American Scholar which had an essay by Ben Yagoda called Heavy Meta, about the moment as puts it, "that I responded powerfully in estimable works of art to moments when the artist...winks: acknowledges, implicitly or explicitly, that what we are experiencing is after all a piece of human handiwork and he or she is the creator of it. It is gesture simultaneously of humility and of majesty, in both cases honoring the potency of art." I too grab the moments of reflexivity in art and find them fascinating. AND the magic moment when works refer to other works--"intertextuality," sometimes called meta. His essay is fantastic and if I had time I would try to see if it's online. Amongst his thoughts is the conundrum of Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust. The song is about a melody that haunts the singer's reverie. So is Stardust that song, or another song?

So, McEwan's pointing out that Briony (not he) has written this story and altered the facts for her own...sanity, while we know, of course, that McEwan wrote the story? And she has written for atonement, atonement she could not achieve without her alteration of the facts. So, is McEwan seeking atonement as well or is this just a well written novel from a man who gets really good ideas?

And, on the effect of the personal, what do I do with my recognition of my own self in the 11 year old Briony. Not in her crime but in her outlook?

I find I have annotated little in this book, so caught up was I in the narrative. It is a hard novel, and a heartbreaking one.

Know what I hate?

Secret Santas.

Know what I hate more?

Yankee Swaps.

At least with the Secret Santas you have sort of a chance to actually have the spirit--buy something specifically for someone. But with a Yankee Swap you're buying blind--could be mail/female, geeky, sportsy.

For those who don't know what it is:

Everyone brings a present. Everyone draws a number out of a hat. Number 1 picks a present. Number two picks a present and so on, BUT any later number can SWAP for an earlier gift and the earlier person has no choice in the mater. So it should be called Yankee Steal. So much for the spirit of gifting.

And you know that everyone is just regifting something that they got the year before. Probably true in Secret Santas--I for instance got a set of Margarita glasses last year. Not exactly my ideal, but the buyer thought of me as cosmopolitan and hip and so probably thought it was perfect.

Gift cards are the best. We should just agree to all buy each other gift cards. Much easier. I hate to say that since I used to believe in careful gift giving.

I'd rather get a $1 gift card to Starbucks from everybody (obviously wouldn't work for a company that had 200 people, but in all likelihood it would be department by department. My office has 12 people total. We could even do $2 gift cards for the same price as the swap sum. Everybody could draw a different place--Starbucks, Duncan Donuts, etc. If you didn't like a certain place you could swap with someone who did.

This is what I like--tiny, thoughtful gifts. I like to buy cheap mugs and several bags of candy, fill the mugs and give one to everybody. Or even just the candy if it's too many. In other years I've made cookies. Then you can slip slightly better gifts to your closer friends. Or something clever.

Since I didn't know about the swap until the invitations went out I had already bought a box of buttons with quotes from Office Space since several of the guys in the office had expressed a fondness for it. I was going to put the pins on the candy bags and do something equally silly for the women. Now I can't because people will act all funny that I did it in addition to the swap. I've done it anyway in other offices, and there's always some resentment. Like I'm doing it to be superior.

So much for the Christmas spirit.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

So we are moving

To a bigger, brighter, prettier, safer, much more expensive apartment.

Worried about the money, but I think in some ways it will jump start us, recharge us.

We have been here for nearly 11 years.

That in and of itself seems amazing and sad. This is the longest I've ever lived in one building, and I feel sad to go--more to leave our very nice landlord.

And yet, it's not as if we are friends with them. We can barely understand them. In the first few years when our dog, Fedora, was alive we would exchange gifts. I would bake them something and they would give us dog biscuits and Bailey's, but it never progressed to anything like a friendship.

But change is always hard. We have a moving truck booked for the 23rd. So I this may be another missed month. Christmas among boxes.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The message and the meaning

We had our first snowfall and I was driving cautiously home from a dinner with a friend. Not 40 miles an hour but certainly close to the speed limit. I was being tailgated by a car which always annoys me. They finally passed and I saw they had a "We vote Pro-Life" license plate. Apparently endangering the already here doesn't bother them. It's like being cut off by someone with the fish tag or a WWJD bumper sticker--I'm thinking not drive recklessly in traffic, but I could be wrong.

Don't get me wrong--I'm equally or possibly even more ticked being cut off by cars bearing Praise the Goddess stickers or Practice Random Acts of Kindness.

Pride and Prejudice

The Keira Knightly version. While I was sick and lounging on the couch I watched Pride and Prejudice. I had avoided it assiduously because a) who needs another P&P and b)I had just caught Vanity Fair with Reece before going away. The VF had annoyed me quite a lot. I don't think that Becky Sharp should be excused as merely an intelligent woman in a time when being an intelligent woman was not a desired trait. Nor do I think that all her problems could have been solved by just going to India as director Mira Nair seems to suggest. I will agree that the lowest of Englishmen (or women) could go to India and be lords and ladies by virtue of being white, but that was not the gist of the film.

At any rate, I decided it would pass the time to watch P&P and I'm glad I did. It captured for me the romance of the first time I read the novel. And I will say that a large portion of this was because of Miss Knightly herself.

How old is Lizzie? IMDB says that she's 27 but I can't think that. Her youngest sister is 15. At the general rate of a child every two years (and barring deaths--certainly not unheard of but not mentioned or alluded to in the novel), we'd have Kitty at 17, Mary at 19, Liz at 21 and Jane at a old and desperate 23. At the youngest (one year apart) she'd be 18. Keira captured this fragile time perfectly--her identity is in flux, despite her intelligence. Her vanity is wounded and it takes her a long time to recover.

Having Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy certainly helped. His own insecurities and fears were on display as is his desperate attraction--the scene in the rain, the first proposal is so beautiful and brilliant--well, I watched it again when it repeated. And I think (unlike many adaptations), while their desire makes them "almost" kiss, there is never a breaking of the propriety of the time. Many IMDBers don't like the almost kiss, but I do--attraction can overwhelm even intellectual dislike.

Also helpful was the supporting cast. All too often Mr. & Mrs. Bennett are regulated to minor characters--with barely any development. Having such luminaries as Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn really gave the film a complete shape. Oh, Donald is wonderful! Both in the Your mother will never speak to you if you do not marry Mr. Collins and I will never speak to you if you do, and in the end--when he cried to give away his daughter. I finally understood how Lizzie and Jane managed to rise above their sisters and I managed to have a little sympathy for Mrs. Bennett as well.

On the trivia side, Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) was in Pirates 2 and The Libertine. Jane (Rosamund Pike) was also in The Libertine.

I also realized that I didn't own a copy of P&P. I have Emma and Mansfield Park, not my favorites, but not P&P or S&S. That had to be rectified.

London Revenant

By Conrad Williams. An intriguing alternate London story. Is it just London, or is it just that my husband and I are drawn to London writers? Neil Gaiman visits this area repeatedly, as does his friend China Mievielle. Is it the age of the city--the Roman architecture beneath it all, the vast tunnels of sewer and tube? Are there equally stories of Paris that I do not know of, because I don't read in French?

It's a frustrating story--the protagonist is unaware that he is slipping between worlds, and so it takes a bit for us to catch up. It also has the most intriguing discovery of beauty in the grotesque that I've seen since Clive Barker was good. It was hard to eat and read. (Of course, according to my husband I shouldn't have been reading and eating anyway because it's a limited edition, signed copy.)

Strangest of all is the ending--there seems to be an extra chapter of another story after the end, and try as I might, I can't resolve the last chapter with the story. Is this just an error?

Brave Story

When I returned I read Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe. I had started a few chapters before I left, but as the book is an 816 page hardback I decided I didn't need to take it on the plane. It's also my husband's book and I don't annotate his books, only ones that are specifically mine.

I can't quite decide if Brave Story is a children's/young adult book or an adult book. Being a Japanese novel (no, I did not read it in Japanese) it had more adult themes than you might find in a young adult novel in the US or Britain, but at the same time, they weren't SO adult that they would be out of the realm of possibility that they were for young adults. Sort of Judy Blume meets Harry Potter. Perhaps it was the collision of realistic themes with a fantasy story. The first third of the book is a pretty straightforward description of being an 11 year old (what is it with 11--Aang in Avatar is 11, Harry Potter was 11 when it began) in Japan with a fairly strict, traditional family.

Then Wataru's home life collapses and he gets the opportunity to go to Vision, an alternate world to find the gemstones, meet the Goddess and change his destiny. He is racing against another boy from his school, one who is faster and smarter than he is. He makes friends, has adventures and staggers through. And he faces deep ethical dilemma's that all heroes have to face. Do we stop and help those around us because it's the good thing to do, even though it will mean possibly sacrificing our own quest. It's fairly obvious early on that Wataru is going to make good decisions and his opponent is going to be ruthless in his pursuit, and that it will seem that Wataru must loose because he isn't as determined. And he will realize that his destiny is his destiny--what makes him who he is--all the bad things shape our character and without them, we'd face other bad things. Nobody makes it through unscathed, yet that's who we are, battle scarred and still standing. So in the end he does not change his own destiny, he uses his gift from the Goddess to help his friends.

Like I said, all of this is fairly predictable in the genre, and yet despite the flat translation (a condition of all Japanese to English, I believe, not a lapse on the part of the translators), I found myself deeply compelled to keep reading all 800 pages. Whether this is just to see how the Japanese mindset might wrap it up in contrast to Rowling or because it was good, I'm not actually sure. Along the way there was much to be said about fanaticism and blind faith and good intentions.

I am always intrigued by the Japanese approach to these subjects in light of their history. I also caught the FMA movie recently and it came down squarely against the Nazi's. Of course, but I am intrigued by it.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Coming out of work the other day I saw about 5 sad moths, desperately struggling, confused (as are we all) by a day that began near 60 F and ended near 30 F.

Good deed

I don't do enough charity, and I do regret it. I sponsor a child. But when I find something fun and easy like this that Writing Life mentioned I get excited. I donated 900 and got to level 43. I will have to try harder.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


While I was in KC my Mom and I went to see Doubt at the KC Rep. She was offered free tickets.

All we had to do was sit through a small presentation.

It was like going for a time-share.

We were there to hear about the rest of the season and hopefully buy season tickets.

Has anyone else heard of this? This new tactic by theaters to get ahold of a captive audience?

Driving Part Two

I didn't know how to drive when I left Kansas City, so driving in my home town was a novel experience. I drove around and past my old schools before I went to see my mother. My home town has a highway down the middle with access roads down the sides.

There were a lot more highways. When I left they were just being built. A high school student died playing chicken there when I was in junior high. Went off an unfinished bridge.

It used to be that after taking I-70 from St. Louis to KC you had to wend through back roads from Lee's Summit to Grandview. Now it's a highway, but you miss the lake that way.


Added B's new blog. She's funny and I love her. I've referred to her often and now you can see why.
Removed Susan's--I think she's lost interest, being busy in New York auditioning and stuff.
Removed Musing's--because she moved blog addresses and is taking a break from blogging. It will come back whenever she wants.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On the sounds of words

Matt's been exploring something like this--only smarter.

This is what occurred to me:

Is it more fun to say "Knickers in a twist" or Panties in a twist?

Panties/twist has a fun ts/st play going on, but knickers/twist has the smooth middle short "i".

Ok, that's all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Meaningless meanings, again

On the plane I sat next to elderly Japanese-American women on both legs of the trip. Both mentioned the internment indirectly. The first I believe may have been in them but she didn't elaborate and I felt I couldn't ask. The second mentioned how she had not been at risk because she was in Hawaii, but her father had been active in the outcry. It was interesting. Neither had ever been to Japan.

I finished the Eco on the first leg and had to grab a book at an airport store for the second half. I passed on Middlesex by Eugenides. I felt I needed something lighter. So I grabbed a Kathy Reichs, the books the show Bones is based on. A bit of fluff--it's already in the bag for the Goodwill, but good for a plane ride.

So, I'm sitting next to this elderly Japanese couple, and she's reading a history of native abuse in Hawaii, and he's reading a bio of someone like Adlai Stevenson. I wanted to say, "No, but see I WAS reading Umberto Eco. And I just finished Moby Dick, and I read really serious books." Which is not to say that I read what I read to impress people, but you know what I mean.

BUT, he leans over and asks how I like the Reichs, because it turns out he's a retired PATHOLOGIST, and likes her books very much! We discussed how gory Patricia Cornwell can be. I said that when she started writing she was better but she'd become formulaic. Very fun.


My mother...it was better than I expected. And some things were exactly as expected--but I was in a better place to see those as aspects of being old, not terrible things that she was doing to me. And some things...were the same frustrations I've always lived with. She has too much stuff and too many plans and, and...

I'm glad I went. I need to go back in the spring to really take care of some things. I got some things set up for her--her non-internet connected computer, a new cordless phone, better TV picture, but I couldn't get the DVD and VHS player connected (I'm not even sure where she got them.)

I only really snapped at her once and that was because I had just fallen down and skinned my knee--in addition to Chinatowns and stadiums I seem to skin my knee in other cities--New York, Kansas City, Providence. I managed to apologize, and that was better of me than I might once have been.

I met her sort-of boyfriend. He seemed nice but less nice than my father, which is, I think what she needs.


Driving across Missouri was...peaceful. I left St. Louis around noon. I had a car with cruise control and could plug in my Zen. It wouldn't have been my choice of car, a Neon (I think, it's been awhile), but it was fine.

It's a four hour drive, but I told my mother not to expect me until six. So I had the luxury of time--nowhere to be and all the time to get there. I put the Zen on pure random--something I've never done--and set off. There were some silly moments (Cab Calloway after L'Arc, for instance, and for some reason--and I've heard this from others--random play has a fondness for certain songs) but overall quite soothing.

I let myself stop at places called Ozarkland and Nostalgiaville somewhere around the middle of the state. They had been advertised for (I'm not kidding) 70 miles. They were kitsch incarnate, but still fun. I bought my mother one of those booklets about the year in which you were born.

I could see myself doing that--driving across country alone--stopping where I chose, crashing in motels. I read something about someone who drove for 11 weeks, and wrote a book. I could enjoy that.


I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit my father's grave. I thought it would be mild--he isn't there, of course. But somehow, seeing the gravestone (which I had never seen) hit me in the gut.

I spoke to him for awhile. The grief was partially around my own sense of failure. A sense (which he did not instill) in letting him down. Baggage--it follows along a bumps you in the ankles when you least expect it.

So, How Was It?

Alright, Novel, you're thinking. You've sidestepped and failed to keep up with posting for over a month. Tell us about your trip, the conference, your mother. Like I said, it seems impossible that it was a month ago.

The conference was what it was--it went well, glitches were smoothed over, etc. I have a better idea for next time and the spring will be back in Boston. But the fall will be in Scottsdale (???). I know this because one of my bosses' brilliant ideas was a committee to decide such things, and boy, are they gung-ho. So I've been even busier since I got back than I was before I went. He also has an Idiot's Guide book coming out on Dec. 4th to promote, etc. etc.

Driving thru Kentucky at breakneck speed because I forgot to coordinate time zones with Musing, but had a good dinner. Then the drive through nowhere to St. Louis. I remembered then why I no longer live in the country. The gas stations were closed by 10:30. The highways were dark. The last 25 miles to St. Louis were hard--my eyes hurt. I had forgotten in legislated MA that smoking is still possible in restaurants. And I was tired.

Entering St. Louis from the east was interesting. I hadn't seen the Arch in, oh, probably 25 years. It was dark, of course, but there are always lights on the Arch. Oh, and I passed Busch Stadium--so three stadiums in a week. That would once have been barely noticeable to me. Like I said to people all week (it was the week of the World Series) the mood of my office would be determined by the outcome of the games--so I had a vested interest.

My aunt and uncle were...old. Quite simply--deaf and right wing. A strange but safe combination.

Time flies

Ah, where has the last month gone? I've been busy at work and it's left me drained at home. I spent the last three days trying to build a webpage for work. I'm an amateur at HTML, don't know javascript except to know that I need it, and basically did a crash course in Dreamweaver beyond what I had to know to do the newsletter each week. I can put up the pictures but as always, my ambition exceeds my ability. It's the general HTML problem--what I've built looks great on my 19" screen at home--but is too large to look good lower res. I'm doing percentages and tables and percentages in tables.
I often try to sew beyond my ability and knit beyond it as well. Does that make me grow, or does is it just foolish--esp. when I've said I could do it for work. Should I break down and admit I can't do this? Or is it perhaps better than I think? That happens too.

I'm coming off of being sick--a really bad cold, which caused me to miss friends in a play (sorry!) and miss work. I've read a lot and watched a lot of movies, which is nice, but is it worthwhile?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


After showing my mother and Musing my long hair I decided to get it cut.

Louise Brooks--how can one go wrong? Goth girls everywhere love her.

Actually, mine's a little longer--right to the bottom of the jaw and the bangs aren't as heavy so I look more like this.
Then I had to dye it black to get the highlights out.
I love it and I've gotten a lot of compliments. I feel...more like me. I'm not sure who I was trying to be before, but this is closer to who I am.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On anger

Something unpleasant happened while we were riding to the airport on the T. First, the website didn't tell us that they were busing from downtown to the airport, or that the buses were running from a different station--that we could have accessed by changing at a different station by walking across a platform, but instead had to schlep a suitcase above ground for 3 blocks. So we were a little tense when we finally got on the shuttle to the airport. Across from us was a guy tapping an empty water bottle against the arm rest of the bus. It was annoying and my husband turned to him and asked him, quite politely, to stop as we couldn't hear each other. The guy became belligerent and said that he was happy and he had a right to do whatever he wanted to do, and that we could talk louder.
I told my husband to ignore it, and we kept talking, when suddenly in one smooth motion--so fast it startled me--my husband stood up, stepped across the aisle, grabbed the bottle and tossed it to the back of the bus. My husband sat back down and said, "Now, I'm happy."
The guy became loud and said, "Fine, I can make a lot more noise," hit my suitcase with his hand and started to get out drumsticks. My husband (rather foolishly) said, "Oh, a musician." Which annoyed the guy even more. The bus driver said that if we were fighting we had to get off (by this point we were at the airport, but not my gate). All three of us got off--he by the front door, we by the back. As he was yelling at the bus driver we simply got back on.

Now, I don't think my husband handled it well. AND, I don't think he would have reacted that way if we hadn't been frustrated by the T annoyances. On the other hand, a reasonable person would have taken our polite request and stopped being annoying. My husband had a right to ask. And in some ways, at least at the beginning, I was proud of him. Correct assertiveness is something he's struggled with. I know that some of the moments that have made me the most proud--the most satisfied with myself--have been the times when I've spoken up for myself, quietly, firmly and determinedly. The problem with emotions is that they can take us in directions that seem logical at the time--but are really dependent on other things. That is--I feel angry at this person and what they've done, but I'm really reacting to all the similar hurts I've experienced in my life, and this particular action is not intrinsically bad.

The upshot of this is that they guy harassed us at the airport as well and I tried to be logical--to say that in a society we cannot all do whatever makes us happy, if it makes other people unhappy. He wasn't impressed. I said to my husband that the only way we could have peace was to ignore him completely, and low and behold, he got bored and went away, but for a brief time I was scared. I worried for my husband going home, but he was fine and the guy wasn't on my airline. But it was an annoying and bad start.

A few weeks before a friend (who reads this) and I had a fight because he was angry and hurt by something and I didn't appreciate that he was hurt and was dismissive. Then he said some things and I got angry and hurt. We've made our peace but emotions will take you down the wrong path a lot of the time. Was I right to approve of my husband's anger, but not my friend's? The incidents were different, but some of the questions were the same, and I don't know the answer...I really don't know.

I'd rather be Moomin

If all that is Christian in me was formed by Narnia and Lewis, then all that is Zen was formed by the Moomintrolls of Tove Jansson. They are kind and generous to their neighbors. They find joy in everything they do and they live in the moment and can walk away from their possessions and dark emotions without hesitation. When they have dark emotions--anger, possessiveness, jealousy they quickly realize the error of their ways. Many creatures try to tell them they are foolish for living the way that they do, and sometimes they struggle with it (reading Thich Nhat Hanh's Anger to see that even monk's struggle with it was very helpful to me), but in the end they return to peace.

I don't know if you can read this, but the Fillyjonk is berating Moominmama for her housekeeping--the fact they let a tree grow in their living room or that they keep the dishwashing for days when it rains, or that they pretend that explosions are happening when they dust and the garden is a jungle.

This is the Fillyjonk's home:

We don't wait for rain to clean our dishes, but we do lie in reading in the morning. What I must fully learn and own is to not worry about whether that is the right thing or the wrong thing. It simply is our thing.

A comment back to Matt who doesn't allow comments

I always heard that Evelyn Nesbit was the Gibson girl.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

In a sort of planned coincidence (is that possible), after posting the clip from Peter's Friends below, we went to see the above, with Imelda Staunton in rather a different role. Oddly, Emma Thompson is playing a fairly similar role.

Not my favorite film of the series. I felt very little when (spoilers--but is there anyone who cares who does not know this?) Sirrus died while I was deeply affected when I read it. It relied too much on tricks to move things along and found nothing knew--newspaper montage, slow mo over the emotional bits, general montage...etc. A few solid scenes would have served it better. We had all these new characters thrown at us, and no time to get to know any of them. Imelda was horribly wonderful. Rupert Grint was better than he has been before, while Emma Watson seemed less good. Daniel Radcliffe is excellent and since the film and the series rests on his shoulders, that's good. I'm glad to see him breaking free of Potter already. I see him being the next Christian Bale. He was in a film about Rudyard Kipling's son today in honor of Veterans Day. I meant to catch it, but didn't. This would be the son whose death inspired:
If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.

As to the movie--I kept feeling like I was watching some piece of Star Wars rather than Harry Potter and that is not a good thing--and the soundtrack drove me from the theater before the credits were over.

No, I do this for myself

After busily underlining things in Moby Dick, finishing it, tucking it away and then pulling out the Eco, and beginning to busily underline things, the gentleman next to me on the plane asked me how many book reports I had to do.

Oh, none, I said. I annotate for pleasure, solely for myself.

Friday, November 09, 2007

From which I found

The link gave me this:

Often I have encountered the evil of living

Often I have encountered the evil of living:
it was the strangled stream which gurgles,
it was the crumpling sound of the dried out leaf,
it was the horse weaty and exhausted.

The good I knew not, other than the miracle
revealed by divine Indifference:
it was the statue in the slumber
of the afternoon, and the cloud, and the high
flying falcon.

(Eugenio Montale, Ossi di seppia)

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

In my big long post about going to San Francisco to see Hyde last year I mentioned that I went into a book store in San Francisco to get a book by Umberto Eco and walked out with the book I wanted to buy in Britain two years earlier. So I went and got the Eco before I went to Nashville. I didn't get it for the title (ha, ha).

So, I read it during the week of the conference. It was a much faster read than say, Foucault's Pendulum. It was also illustrated. :)

The premise is a man who has had a stroke and cannot remember his own personal history but random quotes from everything that he has ever read haunt him and come unbidden to his mind. The first chapter have passages of random quotes--jumbled together. I recognized some pieces but not others. So much to read--so little time.

So here's a test for you:
...the marchioness went out at five o'clock in the middle of the journey of our life, Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob and Jacob begat the man of La Mancha, and that was when I saw the pendulum betwixt a smile and tear, on the branch of Lake Como where late the sweet birds sang, the snows of yesteryear softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves, messieurs les Anglais je me suis couche de bonne heure, though words cannot heal the women come and go, here we shall make Italy or a kss is just a kiss, tu quoque alea, a man without qualities fights and runs away, brothers of Italy ask not what you can do for your country, the plow that makes the furrow will live to fight another day, I mean a Nose by any other name, Italy is made now the rest is commentary, mi espiritu se purifica en Paris con aguacero, don't ask us for the word crazed with light, we'll have our battle in the sade and suddenly it's evening, around my heart three ladies' arms I sing, oh Valentino Valentino wherefore art thou, happy families are all alike said the bridegroom to the bride, Guido I wish that mother died today, I recognized the trembling of man's first disobedience, de las musique ou marchant des colombes, go little book to where the lemons blossom, once upon a time there lived Achilles son of Peleus, and the earth was without form and too much with us, Licht mehr licht uber alles, Contessa, what oh is life? and Jill came tumbling after.

"The earth was without form and too much with us," made me laugh out loud for some reason.

The only reason I would want to learn Italian would be know the original of this line:
"There was a continuous drone, as though I were being devoured by celibate machines with whetted teeth."!!!

When asked his name he says, "My name is Arthur Gordon Pym" (Poe). Then "Call me...Ishmael?" (which was funny to read back to back, but not as unexpected as below--in a book of memory of literature one is bound to find that line--there is also "For a longtime I had gone to bed early") And when he cannot find his name:
Like running into a wall. Saying Euclid or Ishmael was easy, like saying Jack and Jill went up a hill. Saying who I was, on the other hand, was like turning around and finding that wall.

All sensations are new to him--touching his nose:
I understood perfectly what my right hand was, and my nose. Bulls eye. But the sensation was absolutely new. Touching your nose is like having an eye on the tip of your index finger, looking you in the face.

Or brushing his teeth:
You have to start with the toothpaste and squeeze the tube. Exquisite sensation, I ought to do it frequently. But at a certain point you have to quit--that white paste at first pops, like a bubble, but then it all comes out like le serpent qui danse.
...I also ran the bristles over my tongue. You feel a sort of shudder, but in the end if you don't press down too hard it's okay.

But the really fascinating parts are the discussion of memory--that implicit memory is the kind that allows us to ride a bike after having not ridden for years. But that explicit memory is how we remember things and know we're remembering them. And that explicit memory is further broken down into semantic memory--"the one that tells us a swallow is a kind of bird." But the second type is autobiographical. "It's episodic memory that establishes a link between who we are today and who we have been, and without it, when we say I, we're referring only to what we're feeling now, not to what we have felt before, which gets lost, as you say, in the fog."

[My family] were cramming a thousand details of my life into my head, but they were like dry beans: when you moved the pot, they slid around in there but stayed raw, not soaking up any broth or cream--nothing to titillate the taste buds, nothing you would care to taste again.

Even more fascinating was the fact that when implicit memory of a fact--such as President Kennedy's death--became entwined with the personal by emotion, he could not remember it either and was surprised to hear that Kennedy had died.

You can't think of memory as a warehouse where you deposit past events and retrieve them later just as they were when you put them there,...when you remember something, you're constructing a new profile of neuronal excitation. Let's suppose that in a certain place you had some unpleasant experience. When afterwards you remember that place, you reactivate that initial pattern of neuronal excitation with a profile of excitation that's similar to but not the same as that which was originally stimulated...In short, to remember is to reconstruct, in part on the basis of what we have learned or said since.

You're saying you no longer live in time. We are the time we live in...We live in the three moments of expectation, attention, and memory, and none of them can exist without the others. You can't stretch toward the future because you've lost your past. And knowing what Julius Cesar did doesn't help you figure out what you yourself should do.

Which is, perhaps, both the curse and blessing of reading at all. All this vicarious living.

I'm a sterile genius, you used to say; in this world you either read or write, and writers write out of contempt for their colleagues, out of a desire to have something good to read once in a while.

And so, our protagonist tries to recapture his memories, first at his home, then his work--he is a dealer in antiquarian books (of course!), and finally at his childhood home (which he fortunately still owns).

And it is there where the story shifts and becomes (for me at least--others might differ), a study in what it meant to grow up in Fascist Italy. Something I had not really considered before. The propaganda being fed to the young and thy cynicism it engendered as the reality was all too apparent. The book is illustrated with the comics, song sheets, film posters and books of his youth. In some ways it becomes almost straightforward as he works his way up to the defining moments of his early life.

And then...

That's all I'll say.

Additionally, of course, the internet provides all:

Blazing Saddles

Watching the tail end of this--you could never make this film today.

I do love this film.

I discovered it quite recently as my parents didn't watch Mel Brooks films. I only watch Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. My husband loves The Producers (not the new thing--which we found unwatchable--putting us deep in a minority). He likes History of the World I too which just seems overdone to me. And the later stuff...well, the less said, the better.

Edit: My husband walked in and although I was looking at the TV guide with no picture, and even though all you heard was footsteps he knew right where we were in the film--and every line.

What R the Odds?

I had one of those stupid music moments again the other day.

Before Rod Stewart and Carly Simon did standards albums, Bryan Ferry of the 70's band Roxy Music and some 80's solo work, did one called As Time Goes By (and he was doing it before that--there's a cover of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and These Foolish Things on his albums). Oh, and he dated/discovered a model named Jerry Hall. You might have heard of her.

Anyway, the last song I heard from the album was The Way You Look Tonight. I was listening to it at work, and when it ended, I had to make a call. I was waiting on hold and realised that the song was...The Way You Look Tonight in muzak. At first I thought I was still hearing Bryan Ferry in my head or projecting it onto the muzak, but no--really The Way You Look Tonight.
{Sidenote: I've been trying to show how fabulously talented Hugh Laurie is lately by sending people You Tube clips, and it just occurred to me to look for this from Peter's Friends:

So, I was thinking, what are the odds? Of all the songs in the world that I would hear those two back to back?

A local radio station had a contest (I think they've stopped because nobody won) called "Psychic DJ" The caller had to guess the next song. I'm not sure how they determined the next song--they claimed it was Magic 8 Ball, amongst other things, but how could one possibly win? Now, this is an alternative station which began somewhere in the early 80's and plays music from the 70's. So, let's say there's 150 new alternative singles per year. We're looking at some 5000 songs to choose from. That's absurd odds. And they did select songs from across the spectrum. From Peter, Bjorn & John's annoying "Young Folks" (2007) to Beck's "Devil's Haircut" (1997) to "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" by The Ramones (1977).

Now--given that there is no limit to the range of muzak, what really are the odds that I would hear a song written in 1936 twice in a row? Granted, "The Way You Look Tonight" is a very popular standard, more so than say, "I Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle" but even so, is it more popular than several thousand other possible songs--maybe millions.

It's tempting to ascribe a great deal of meaning to this, and many people do. For instance--before I went to see my mother I kept hearing "Daughter" as mentioned below, virtually every day. I haven't heard it once since.

And that means precisely nothing.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Yesterday and tomorrow

Many umbrellas
are passing by
this eve of snow.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

At last--"whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul"

And the most important thing...more important than pulling off the conference in another state, more important than seeing my mother...

I finished Moby Dick on the flight down. I almost didn't pack it, because I knew I was close to finishing it but decided I wanted to finish it, not still have it when I got back.

...whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off...

What can I say? It's Moby Dick.

The first hundred pages are funnier than I expected. The last 100 are riveting and unputdownable. In between are some fascinating bits of boat life and boat lore and an awful lot of information on the biology of whales.

...how is it is that we still refuse to be comforted for hose who we nevertheless maintain are dwelling in unspeakable bliss; why all the living so strive to hush all the dead; wherefore but the rumor of a knocking a tomb will terrify a whole city. All these things are not without their meanings.
But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tomb, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.

"...immortality is but ubiquity in time..."

Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. When you think it fled, it may have but become transfigured into some still subtler form. Ahab's full lunacy subsided not, but deepeningly contracted; like the unabated Hudson, when that noble Northman flows narrowly, but unfathomably through the Highland gorge. ....
.... If such a furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentrated cannon upon its own mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one end, did now posess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object.

The metaphor Melville finds within the burgeoning natural sciences intrigued me:

...that all other earthly hues--every stately or lovely emblazoning--the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtle deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without, so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge--pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?

I often found myself thinking of the women waiting for these whaling men in Nantucket and other cities of the Massachusetts and New England coastline wondering when the three years had passed if the ship were late or gone forever. The babes in arms grown to children in their fathers' absence. What an agonizing life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another beautiful moment

When we were landing in Cleveland over Lake Erie, the plane banked just beneath the clouds. The clouds met the water as though we were inside a globe where the edge of the world curved up.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Not making a goal--for other goals

I find that I still like flying, but that I like traveling less. If I packed lighter—felt I needed less accoutrements to be content—like this laptop for instance, I might enjoy it more. But the security difficulties make traveling more of a headache than it used to be.

It occurs to me that traveling is a great leveler. The business man must take off his shoes and often his jacket, just like the casual traveler.

But I do still like flying. I like the growing speed down the runway—the moment when the friction of the tarmac gives way to the friction of the air, and one is airborne—doing the impossible. Heavier than air flying. I like watching the earth disappear beneath. The people, cars, buildings growing ever smaller.

In Boston, one often heads out to sea before turning back to head inland towards one’s destination, so one is nearly in the clouds before being over land.

Out of Kansas City we are over farmland. The tiny cows dotting square or nearly square fields. On a Sunday afternoon the cars are sparse on the great bows of highways. The river—Missouri probably though it seems small, snaking through the farmland. All of the metaphors are taken. I think about how none of those people in cars know that I am looking at them. That all those houses contain families and individuals with sorrows and happiness, frustrations, illnesses, hopes, plans. I have always disagreed with Tolstoy. I think all unhappiness is very similar—as is all happiness. What brings the unhappiness or happiness may vary. What is intolerable to one may be fine to another, but the sensation in the human body is the same. The giddiness, the punch in the gut, the tickle in the eye, the constriction in the throat. The same through time. That’s why the metaphors are taken—it’s all been lived, been done.

What I did find on this trip and on the last few I’ve made was a increase in neurosis which never bothered me before. I find myself a little more aware of the impossible condition of a multi-ton piece of metal hurling through the thin air. Why do we not fall out of the sky? Why do the multitude of things which must be checked go right most of the time and planes not crash on take off or landing.

And, flickeringly—what if there is someone on board who is mad? What if this flight too is destined to be used as a weapon? What will I do—will I have time to do anything? Will I "step up" or will I be a coward?

It doesn't stop me from getting on the plane, but it worries me that the worries are growing.

In the hotel I feel more "skeevie." Scare journalism at it's finest. Are these sheets clean? Is the bathtub? Why am I always in the "murder room." And this is true in the $229 room as well as the $50 room.

On this trip I even had a few moments of fear of heights--which I never have. It plagues my husband.

This is the center courtyard of my hotel from the 19th floor.

This was fine. The odd moment was riding up to the Pinnacle Room--a rotating banquet room on the top of the hotel. Riding up for a moment you were outside--looking at Nashville from the 26th story. But going down was worse--you passed through the roof and suddenly it felt as if you were free falling when you reentered the hotel.
That's it for now--I won't get 25 posts in by midnight tomorrow.
The rest of the trip may be as stream as consciousness as this.


a flutter of late flying birds
move as one
scatter like tossed pebbles
above the highway
dappling the cars
through the brilliance
of the late autumn sun
and for a moment
we are underwater

Monday, October 22, 2007

Absent not dead

I have a lovely rubber stamp which says that. I'm typing this in Nashville. So Not dead, just in Tennessee. On a hotel "business center" computer because I didn't want to pay for the internet. Although...it just occurred to me that the rep gave us some codes to use to log on for the conference... Probably get charged twice.

I'm debating whether to go swimming or just go pass out. Passing out is sounding more and more appealing.

So I am in the midst of my conference--my raison d'etre as far as the company is concerned. So far DHL lost a box we shipped on Friday and refused to deliver it when found--containing many things I needed for Sunday's session. Frantic photocopying on the hotel equipment. The case arrived broken, and the brand new booth had a broken bit too, leading to looking for super glue at 7:30 in the morning. Fortunately the hotel store opens early. Didn't realize someone needed a kosher meal. Erased a presentation from the laptop because someone wanted to make last minute updates--should have said no. Had the presentation on jump drive but still little moment of panic. I have been told it's going well. The food is very good.

That's it for now. There are several entries on my laptop but not online. I'm not sure I'll make my deadline next week. We'll see what the rest of the week brings.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


"For transracial adoptees, our lives are written in pencil. Everything you think you know about yourself can change in an instant." Bryan Thao Worra

The Only Pearl Jam Song I Like and It's Haunting Me

Get this widget Track details eSnips Social DNA


(You guys ready...)
breakfast table in an otherwise empty room
Young girl... violins (ence)...
center of her own attention
The, mother reads aloud, child, tries to understand it
Tries to make her proud
The shades go down, it's in her head
Painted room...can't deny
there's something wrong...
Don't call me daughter, not fit to
The picture kept will remind... me
Don't call me daughter,not fit to,
The picture kept will remind... me
Don't call me...
She holds the hand that holds her down
She will...rise above...ooh...oh...
Don't call me daughter, not fit to
The picture kept will remind me
Don't call me daughter, not fit to be
The picture kept will remind me
Don't call me...
The shades go down
The shades go, go, go...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007

Just another manic Monday

Sorry about the title. I had a better one in my head earlier, and now it's gone.

Anyway--I had a terribly productive weekend. I did all my laundry AND all My ironing (not my husband's) Finally filed my own bills, papers and whatnots. Brought down my box of Halloween decorations, split it into a pile for home and a pile for work and put the house things around--even decided to weed some of it by passing it on to other people. Tidied other bits of the house not involved in the above, including my poor neglected sewing room. Wrote all those blog entries AND modified a graphic for work.

I felt very powerful and excited about things and made plans for all sorts of things I could continue to do in the nights and weekends ahead. Oh, and went out and enjoyed sushi and Indian Summer with my husband.

Tonight I worked until 6:30, came home and went back out to drive around a house (may go back to look at it on Wednesday). Washed the towels we dirtied cleaning on Sunday, changed the bed linens, repaired two comforters, put a necklace drop on a different cord, made the world's simplest shrug (cut open a knit tube) that was so simple I have an urge to run out and by two yards in every color, did some hand sewing repairs I'd put off for ages, ironed a shirt for my husband (aren't I nice?), took a bath and am now here. Typing this. (We ate fast food out in case you're wondering).

The problem is that I don't feel like this often or for very long. The last time I can remember being this productive was in June or maybe July (I know I blogged about it) when I made that dress (which I did finish). It's very cyclical. Men can stop reading, but for a good two weeks of the month I feel so tired I barely function when I get home. And, it's very much the P of PMS. The moment it's current MS it's like a switch is thrown and I feel better. And every few months I get a week like this. It's not that I feel manic (still sleeping lots, not spending money I don't have--or no more than usual--etc.) or even euphoric, it's just that I feel that things are possible and manageable so worth starting and finishing projects. I feel excited to be doing things and a desire to be doing things--not vegging in front of the TV.

It's been like this for a long time. So I get very excited for a week, or maybe a week and a half and I finish things and I get set up to do other things, and then I wake up a little more tired or a little more achy, or even worse, just a little more hopeless--where I start to wonder what difference it makes in the world if I make that dress, or have a dusted house, or write, and then the projects and plans just settle on top of what's already there like so much sediment. Until the next time when I might dig off that layer, but never quite get to the really big stuff.

I wonder if people feel like this all the time and how nice that must be.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


So, I've managed to get one in for everyday and I think pretty much without filler--all things I wanted to post about.

I realized I'm sort of writing letters to different readers and if someone other than the intended chimes in, then so much the better.

I do find I'm working through things on here--and sometimes I'm working through them just by thinking about posting them here.

Edit: I didn't realize it, but this was kind of momentous. 222 posts this year, 300 total.

One I Wish I Could...

So, I've thought about posting this here for sometime.

I feel it's unfinished but I don't know where it would go.


You tied me to a sand dune, and left me baking in the sun
Still I crawled back to you
You sold me into bondage, to wolves and wastrels
I bought myself back for you.
I ran from you with hobbles on my legs.
You cut them off with the teeth of your tongue.
I carved totems from the length of your thigh bones.
You made them into oars.
I put you on a multitude of funeral pyres
And spit on them every time.

Everything I ever did for you
I did under duress.
Everything I ever did for you
Was a bouquet at your feet.
For years you kept my voice in your cigarette case.

This house, this life, this skin
Inside out for you.

All the pictures need rearranging in their frames.
They have fallen out of true.


So here are good pictures of my children.

Which made me think of an old poem. I still like this poem--it's different from the kind of thing I usually write.
The Dog Poem

Yes, you have shaped us. Bred us down, up
Dark, light, lean, round, sleek, full.
Like tools to a purpose we have been formed
As you form and shape and build with hands that flex and hold.
Were we somehow more malleable, more honeable?
Our DNA more willing?

But what you do not know is that under these customized hides,
We are the first dogs, slipping high through tall grass,
Short fur, the color of the Savannah,
Tails, curved as totems, upright ears that rotate 180 degrees,
Gleaming, unshadowed eyes, beneath smooth brows,
Pointed muzzles, slim as the prow of your ships
As an arrow, as a gun.
A machine of the senses.

We scent you and we are still in our contemplation.
The pleasure of wind running through our fur the only motion.
We scent you, dark and matted , tongues unsuited for grooming,
In stolen skins. They are not ours, and we are not afraid.

We are not Uncle Wolf. We are not Cousin Hyena.
We hunger for something more than just to jostle and steal.
We see you and you say, "Come! Let me shape you.
And in return, I will keep you from the scavenging.
I will give you warmth and light in the darkness, and company."
We move into your scent and press our muzzles into your
Outstretched hand.


So, I have a new camera. A Fuji FinePix S700. I've wanted a good digital for ages and periodically I would do some research. I didn't want to pay more than $200. I wanted at least 7 megapixels and some serious zoom. I also wanted it to feel better in my hand than the standard under $200 Canon which I dislike.

So, expect to see more pictures here.

The big thing about buying this is that I've researched cameras off and on for about a year and then put off the decision. What if the price went down? What if something better was released? And I couldn't find a perfect camera under $200.

And you know what, all of that is probably true, but I finally had to reach a point where I just DID it. I could debate it forever and not have a camera, or I could deal with the fact that everything I worried about is true, but doesn't matter, and have a camera.

Now, if I could just apply that to important things.

Why We Don't Have A House

We like our toys. This is the Tardis USB port on my desk at work.
We have one at home that we got about 6 months ago from Britain. Now they're available here at Newbury Comics so my husband got one last week and I decided I needed one too. The little construction site pieces came from one of those box kits you can get at Border's or Barnes and Noble. I love those. We have a Zen Garden in a box, a Gong in a Box and Stonehenge in a Box.

This is a small collection of miniature things I keep at my desk (the fire extinguisher squirts water--my husband got it as a Christmas gift from his boss last year). So you're painting and keeping a fire extinguisher nearby for safety when you decide to kick off your Birkenstocks and eat some ice cream with Dr. Pepper. I should have put in something for scale. The little shoes are for massage and actually work really well in the late afternoons when I've been hunched over my desk. They say they fit on thumbs, but I have to put my middle and ring fingers to hold it on. And the rest are lip balm. None of them cost very much and they are in fact useful--but silly.
And my husband HAD to have this (referenced in one of Neil Gaiman's recent posts).
We didn't feel the need to get the box of extra victims, although we are very amused that the two that come with it look like us. The figures come apart in the middle so your little Cthulhu can hold a half in each hand.
So what do these toys do for us? They make us smile. We pat the Cthulhu on his little round head when we go by. I will enjoy going to work more tomorrow because of my little Tardis.
And isn't that what life needs to be about.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

In the Bleak Midwinter (A Midwinter's Tale)

This is one of those little Kenneth Branagh films that disappear into the aether. I'd always wanted to see it, but apparently it wasn't on DVD for sometime. So it came on TV last week and we made a point of watching it.

It has a great cast, many of the people he was making his "actual" Hamlet with around the same time, Richard Briers, Michael Maloney, Julia Sawalah, Celia Imrie and John Sessions (as the actor playing Gertrude no less). Also quite amusing cameos by Jennifer Saunders and Joan Collins (yes, Joan Collins).

The plot is basic--let's put on a show, only it's a slapshot version of Hamlet staged over Christmas to raise funds for a church, by an out of work actor. The only other actors he can get are also unemployed (read bad actors). Because in Britain most actors are working in pantos at Christmastime. The panto is a fairytale or other children's story done with as much innuendo and topical reference as possible. EVERYBODY does Christmas panto, from Judi Dench down to some bit player on Doctor Who. If you're not in a panto at Christmas, well, you must be really bad.

So they all come together and of course all their problems get dumped out on the table and things are terrible and people explode, and then finally it starts to come together.

AND... the director/Hamlet gets cast in a Hollywood blockbuster on the day they are to open--must catch plane immediately.

Well, duh. Because it's a movie he turns it down and comes back and saves the day and the movie director decides to take the actor playing Laertes instead.

But in real life? Opportunities don't come again--do you want to be a nothing, or do you want to be paid and get to a point where you can greenlight projects? Who wouldn't take the movie?

I've had friends lose actors at the last moment for bigger opportunities and sometimes those moves are only laterally and you think--why did they screw up relationships with some people to curry favor with some others with not much of a step up. But a movie?
Likewise, I myself have turned down auditions for movies and commercials because the shooting dates would conflict with a current commitment, but again, that's a possibility--not a sure thing.

Ok, it's a fun little film with great dialog, shot for some reason in black and white. Watching Celia Imrie swan about as the "Designer" Fadge was delightful, and the fine acting makes it worthwhile. There's a scene between Sessions and Briers in the middle that makes it all worthwhile.

I still don't get the change of title between the British release and the American though.


We watched this HBO film last week. It was a difficult film and it was a film which delicately managed to give no answer.

Lord Longford was a member of the House of Lords several times over, a devout Christian and converted Catholic who devoted much of his life to prison visits and championing prisoner's rights. In the late 60's he started visiting Myra Hindley.

It's hard to describe for people who haven't studied British History how hated Myra Hindley was and actually still is. Her name is on a par with John Wayne Gasey or Jeffrey Dahmer in America. She and her lover Ian Brady murdered 5 children and buried the bodies on the moors. Three were under 10 and two were adolescents.

Hindley and Brady were considered monsters and it was only because of the abolition of the death penalty, a mere weeks before their trial, that they were not put to death. They were both given life sentences, but life was considered to be 21 years.

Longford was played by Jim Broadbent and Hidley by the amazing Samantha Morton. Brady was played with frightening intensity by Andy Serkis.

The British public was most angered and shocked by the fact that a woman had committed these crimes. It seemed to go against all of nature. Yes, men might do terrible, violent crimes, but there was supposed to be something better in women. The excuse both here and there seems to always be that "she" was led astray by her love/obsession with a man.

Longford did everything in his power to fight for early release for Hindley despite the derision it brought to him and his family only to have it explode in his face when she was forced by Brady to confess to the last two murders. Hindley died in prison in 2002. Brady is still alive and serving his sentence.

As I said, the film was hard and it gave no answer. We don't know if Hindley genuinely reformed in prison or if she was merely using Longford. At the end of the film, near the end of both their lives, she reveals that she did enjoy committing the murders.

I can't say enough about how much I love Jim Broadbent. In interviews he is a desperately shy person, but he can transform completely--from the boisterous Zidler (probably his best known role) to this, the eccentric and dedicated Longford.

IMDB reveals that he put pebbles in his shoe to walk painfully in his last scene as Longford (then 92). My husband asked me if this meant he was method or not--I'd go with not. A method actor eschews artificial trappings. But a method actor also welcomes verisimilitude, so I'm not sure. I know he insisted on a prosthetic nose and chin. Looking him up on IMDB he says he works just like Judi Dench.

Back to the question of Hindley. What do we make of the female serial killer? Is instinct more thwarted by a female than a male? And too, can the death penalty ever be used? Who deserves death--who is purely evil, and beyond redemption? Longford would have said no one.

What is Art, and Who is he?


There's an unintentional personal joke in there for Mirror, but it's an interesting discussion.

"Art is a man's name," as Warhol allegedly said.

As I said in my comments, "but I like Duchamp" and I don't like Rothko, and I'm not so fond of Pollack, but I'm way ahead of my mother who can only appreciate representational art. Is this artist, Martin Creed, laughing all the way to the bank (as my parents used to say), or is he on to something. He does seem to have an odd vision of all the canvases and statues stacked up and taking up space.

Theater art for instance is about both what is there and what isn't there. Negative space to use the general term, which can mean both the white or empty space on a canvas, or the literal empty space on stage where there are n actors or set. This is then the ultimate piece of negative space with no "positive space" to surround it or define it.


There is a new book called, "Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History," written by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. And yes, that is the bumper sticker and t-shirt slogan, but Ulrich is the actual author of the phrase in a 1976 essay. Her new book is not an exhortation to women, but rather an actual study of some less polite women of history such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and also Virginia Woolf.

I was reading the review (because the review is just as good, right? Kidding! Kidding.) and was struck by this phrase:
History is a conversation and sometimes a shouting match between present and past, though often the voices we most want to hear are barely audible.

Isn't that exquisite?

I wish I read more non-fiction, but I find it a slower read, like surfing the internet--things lead to other things, things to be checked, looked up, references followed, etc.

I have friends who claim to read only non-fiction (although I might argue that some non-fiction IS fiction). In the same part of the paper there is a review by Katherine A. Powers of Alan Bennett's new novel, "The Uncommon Reader."
"The story follows the unthinkable consequences of Queen Elizabeth II's becoming a problem reader, that is, a person who lives for her book and for whom, in her case, the affairs of state come second." The upshot is that the Queen becomes "more curious, humane, and sensible of the human condition."

I like that idea--that reading fiction makes us more aware of the actual struggles of our fellow humans than reading non-fiction or even merely being involved in the world (as the Queen obviously is). It rather continues Bennett's theme from "The History Boys," that it is the arts and the random and quirky that make us better people, not the rote of standard lessons.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Intimate Details

Red Queen recently won a rather amazing prize from her job where she gets to go to a spa with a few of her friends and she has graciously chosen me as one of those friends.

I'm very excited. It's October 14th, so one week before I leave for Nashville and I'm sure I will need the facial, back cleansing and massage and that it will help me gear up for the trip.

Here's my dilemma:
Do I really want people to look at my skin that closely. I don't like my skin very much. I had bad acne and have lots of scars and gunk in the pores. I don't like to have bare skin in public.

Isn't that silly?

Musing has explored this question recently, here and here. Why do we worry about what total strangers think of us? As if we are somehow abnormal? As if they (the viewers) are not also plagued with body odor and excess hair and gunk in their pores. As if they are not worrying about how we view them.

I have felt obliged to use my skin lotion more religiously to try and reverse years of damage (like frantically flossing two or three times a day in the week before going to the dentist as if that will prevent the dentist from knowing that you have only been flossing every few days for the six months before). I remember an old friend writing an email to me once saying that she had just 'masked' her face and looked seconds younger. I thought that was great.

I actually get massages semi-regularly now because I have a friend who is a masseuse. We trade for services--though I don't know that I have a lot to offer her, so I am reluctant to suggest it unless she does. I remember one time apologizing as I realized that I had stubbly legs.

Now, the silly thing is that she doesn't shave at all and I know that. She decided sometime ago that the whole thing was silly. Of course, she's a red-head so her hair is fine and nearly invisible. It's a little different with Asian hair.

But is she simply more comfortable with herself than I am? I guess it's partially the first impression thing--one wants to seem polished, but again, I'm unlikely to ever see these people again. There will never (or unlikely to be) a second impression. I have, for instance, a very relaxed relationship with my hair cutter and I don't worry about unplucked eyebrows with her, but I didn't have that relationship with a previous hair cutter and worried about appearing "worth" his time. The cult of (minor) celebrity. One is cool in proportion to how little you seem to care about it.

More on Band Names

That last post reminded me of a time, a long time ago, when I first picked up Games Magazine. On reflection it had to have been some of the earliest issues, because the magazine started in 1977. I got a stack of them at a garage sale. Yes, used Games Magazine is a rather sad purchase but the previous owner seemed to be interested in different puzzles than me (except for the crosswords which were pretty well shot.) The one I'm remembering had a cover puzzle to guess the bands from the pictures. What's funny is at the time (I was 9 or 10) I didn't listen to rock and roll and neither did my parents so these bands with their exotic names were impossible for me to guess--I didn't know what I was aiming at.

A few years later when I did start listening to rock and roll and started to hear band names regularly (if not the bands themselves) I suddenly realized what the bands must have been.
See if you can guess (these are 70's bands for the most part).

A picture of a black smith hammering small pointed arrows
Three dogs howling at the moon
A metal dirigible

I know there was at least one other, but I can't remember what it was, possibly bugs, or animals, or birds--rather obvious, now.

[Sidenote: I have a very visual memory. I can remember scenes from films I haven't seen since childhood. If I can lock an image with a memory I can hold quite well. But for some reason I can't remember people's faces until I've met them several times. Strange]

EDIT: I remembered the last image! It was a row of gravestones with little cartoon comment baloons saying "Thank you!" Guess that one.