Sunday, September 30, 2007

Blogging

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.

Extremis

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.

Pets

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.

Decisions

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.

Longford

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?

http://mirroruptolife.blogspot.com/2007/09/lights-lights.html

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.

History

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.

Books & Bands

A newsletter on webdesign had a contest to mash-up band names with book names--though it seems to have expanded to all literature.

My personal favorite is:
Horton Hears a Hoobastank

But there are many others bubbling under:
The Who Moved my Cheese (The Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf is nice too)
Courtney Love in the Time of Cholera
Wallflowers for Algernon
Bleak Housemartins

I like the ones that just merge, but this is good too:
One Fish, Two Fish, Hootie and the Blowfish (because the rhythm works)

For the 80's girl in me:
The Joy Division Luck Club
The Elements of Style Council
A Kraftwerk Orange (which is so great I'm surprised the band never used it for an album name)
The Jesus and Mary Chain of Command
Everything But the Girl, Interrupted
The Five People You Meet in Heaven 17
The Natalie Merchant of Venice
Romeo Void and Juliet
The Motels New Hampshire (that one's stretching it, but it's funny)
At Play in the Fields of the Lords of the New Church (and also At Play in the Magnetic Fields of the Lord)
Haircut 100 Years of Solitude
Of Mice and Men Without Hats (and also Of Mice and Men at Work)

And otherwise:
The Modest Mouse and the Motorcycle
Fleetwood Macbeth
Megadeath of a Salesman
A Little River Band Runs Through It
Sun-Ra Also Rises
I'm Ok, You're Ok Go
Are You There Godsmack? It's Me, Margaret
Gone With the Earth, Wind and Fire
Good Charlotte's Web
The Little Prince & the Revolution
Rabbit, Run DMC
Nineteen-Eighty-Four-Non-Blondes

There's a lovely set for Chicken Soup:
Chicken Soup for the Soul Coughing
Chicken Soup for the De La Soul
for the Soul Asylum, for The Collective Soul
and
Bowling for Chicken Soup For the Soul

And then just plain obvious:
Moby Dick

They would not accept bands who were named after books (D'uh):
The Soft Machine
Steppenwolf
Aero/Arrowsmith
And I would add Silver Chair

All I can think of is the blatantly obvious:
Prince Caspian
A Horse and His Boy George (having a Chronicles of Narnia night, here)
The Old Man and the L'Arc~en~Ciel
Bump of Chicken Soup for the Soul (Japanese band with the funniest name)


The humor requires that one know the names of a lot of bands and a lot of books. Here's the complete list:
www.coudal.com/bookingbands.php

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Musical Deja-Vu

During his encore, Thomas Dolby said he was going to sing a song that he said he'd been asked to sing at his uncle's wedding. It turned out to be the old standard, "Sway With Me." He sang it with great silliness, waving one of those little gourd/bead percussion things around and dancing. Now, the funny thing is that I had heard "Sway With Me" on Sunday afternoon. (Sidenote: Despite my knowledge of old standards, the first time I can remember hearing "Sway With Me" was in the movie Dark City when Jennifer Connolly sang it.)

Last week I heard Billy Joel's "Longest Time" twice in one day, once in a restaurant and once in my car. Now, I could understand hearing something current twice or even more times in one day, but "Longest Time"? From 1983? How many rock songs are there out there? What are the odds? (Sidenote: My secret Hyde fantasy number 14 involves him doing karaoke of Billy Joel since he says his first album was a Billy Joel--it just seems incongruous and funny to imagine. Hey, it's my fantasy).

I never learned probability or statistics in math (we never seemed to reach the end of the text book). I do know that the odds of rolling a six on a die are 1 in 6 and the odds the next time you roll are again one in six, but I don't know how to add those thing together and determine the probability of rolling two sixes in a row. Or, Mr. Spock like, to determine the odds of hearing a old song twice in one day or a really old song twice in two days.

Another strange moment last week came when I turned off my car radio in the morning on Oasis' Wonderwall, got in the car at the end of the day and turned on the radio to the other Oasis..."Where were you when we were getting high..." (shows the extent of my Oasis knowledge--Oh, yeah, Champagne Supernova). It was such a surreal moment--for a moment before I realized it was a different song, same singer, it seemed as if the whole day had not happened and only a moment had passed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thomas Dolby

Oh, bliss.

I finally saw Thomas Dolby play, live and in person! My husband saw him for the first time since 1988. He (Dolby) said he would try not to be away for quite so long next time.

I've added his blog to the sidebar--absurdly it never occurred to me to go looking for a blog from him. Given his fondness for and skill in technology I should have guessed he would have a blog. Duh. He even mentions the Steampunk laptop referred to here: Steampunk Post.

It was in a tiny club so we were only one person back from the stage (my fault for not letting us get there earlier). My husband has a picture from his phone (I'll try and get it up here). We got there at 8:45. He took the stage at 9:15 and played until about 10:45. The first half was just Dolby on his keyboards. As you can see from his post about this tour he's been having some technological problems. Despite that it's fascinating to watch him set up a song--he would lay in the rhythm and the samples and start playing the keyboards. This time (as opposed to Hyde) I actually had earplugs. I probably didn't need them as it was a quiet show, but I think it helped me focus on the music and not be destructed by the crowd, but the crowd was so into the music--it was magic. I like what Dolby talks about in the post--trying to be in the moment with the audience.
He started with his quiet songs--like this one (my husband's favorite):

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He also told some stories about how the songs were written--I love that kind of thing. He's been doing that for awhile on YouTube.

Then he brought out a back up band of sorts--The Jazz Mafia Horns (great name!) which is evidently a collective of horn players in San Francisco. He had a trumpeter, a trombonist and a saxophonist who also played the clarinet. They were very fun, great at improv--especially when the computers acted up. He moved into some of his more upbeat songs (including Hyperactive and She Blinded Me With Science). And this one, that I love (although he didn't do the funny little monologue).

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His voice, never strong, was a little raspy but the playing was as good as ever, and like I said, the audience was so happy to be there. We were certainly not the oldest. I think we might have been among the youngest (or maybe we really do look younger than we are). There was one gentleman who really looked to be about 75, wearing a Blondie t-shirt who danced in that spastic 80's way all through the show. Very odd.

He did not do any songs from Astronauts and Heretics, his last album in 1993. It was a sad, sweet album, deeply reflective.
This is my favorite song. It's about how members of his band died in an airplane crash, an airplane that he was supposed to be on but, as he says in the song, his plane was delayed.

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This is another of my favorites--again, deeply sad.
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He promises there will be a new album--soon. He played a couple of new songs including "Your Karma Ran Over My Dogma" inspired by a certain pseudo-rapper sampling "She Blinded Me With Science" on MySpace. I won't name the rapper because I don't want people to find this page because of that, but let's just say he's in a custody dispute with his ex-wife who was once a teen singing sensation. Let's just leave it at that.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Marcel Marceau

And now another luminary is gone.

I had the privilege of seeing him twice at the ART (I always enjoy the touring companies that come through there--for Mirror) in excellent seats where I could see every nuance. I saw him on his farewell tour two years ago.

Like so many once fine things, mime has been reduced by poor imitators, but there was only one Marcel Marceau. He showed what the art form was meant to be.

Trivia:
He was in Barbarella.
He says the only spoken word in Mel Brook's silent movie.

A moment of silence.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I'm it (eep!)

Patrick at Writing Life 3 has tagged me for a difficult meme.

http://writinglife3.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-meme-five-strengths.html

Name 5 of your strengths as a writer...
This is difficult because I don't feel like a writer, just a blogger.

1. Interest in a great number of things. I think about and do research on all sorts of things.

2. A good way with words--with the way they sound together

3. A randomness that allows me to connect disparate thoughts and ideas and see how they are connected

4. A good vocabulary from reading such a range of novels and non-fiction from different times and different genres.

5. A lot of ideas both fiction and non-fiction.

God, that was hard.


I tag Mirror, Musing and Matt (and not for the alliteration).




I recently got this in a newsletter.

Are you burdened by the copywriter’s curse?
Many a copywriter is hindered with a trait that damages productivity and constrains our ultimate earning potential. We here at Copyblogger may actually be guilty of agitating this problem for you.
See if you recognize any of these seven symptoms in yourself:
You start writing, stop half way and hit delete
You often feel like you are your own worst critic
You never feel like you’ve done the best you could
You second-guess your ideas, even when you know better
Other copywriters make you feel inadequate
There’s always something more to learn
Writing would be so much more enjoyable if you could just relax
Thankfully, if you do recognize any of the above symptoms, you are definitely not alone. In fact, I would say each and every copywriter I’ve met has felt the same at least once (and likely more often then they’d like to admit).
So relax, this curse doesn’t have to be permanent and is simple to treat. It even has a name.
Perfectionism: The Copywriter’s Curse
The first thing to realize is that writing requires two different modes.
Your main mode is what we usually identify with, which is the writing process itself. This is putting words down on the page.
In the second mode you go from writer to editor. This is where you clean, edit, critique, format, and ultimately decide when you are done.
Who’s in charge?
Our perfectionism problem starts when we confuse the two modes. As we put words on paper, the editor starts butting in, critiquing as we go. Rather than allow the words to flow, we keep stopping and starting, worrying and fussing, and heckling our own work from within. It’s no wonder we find it so hard to get to the end of a page when we have two personalities battling for control of the keyboard!
Edit but don’t agonize
As I mentioned, the editor part of us also gets to decide when we’re finished. The problem is, our internal editor loves to edit and is frankly a little lacking in the self-esteem department. Given a free reign and no deadline, your internal editor would keep editing long after the ice caps have melted.
In fact, in most cases our editor need not worry so much, given an opportunity to relax and let the writing flow, our first attempts are generally better than we think. Of course it’s good to edit, but I don’t do it right away. Come back to your writing with even a small break in between and it’s far easier to be objective.
No writer is an island
Finally, don’t feel as if you’re all alone in the process, especially when writing for larger publications. A magazine will have an editor who will have their own ideas about your piece. It could be that you agonize for hours over a tricky paragraph, think you have polished it to perfection, only for the editor to nuke it thinking it superfluous.
Even on Copyblogger, you’ll have Brian as an editor to bounce drafts off. An alternative to an editor is finding a writing partner, which could be just what your confidence, and your writing, needs.
Are you too hard on yourself? How do you manage your internal editor?

Happily Ever After

Interestingly, in light of what I wrote below about the realities inside famous novels (and plays) I came across an essay by Doris Lessing about Jane Austen. In it she questioned whether there really could have been the happy ending:

"And now here comes my personal caveat, but I am not the only one to think Darcy would not marry Elizabeth. Aristocrats do not marry poor middle-class girls much encumbered with disagreeable relatives. Yes, you believe it for the space and time of the tale, and that is all that is needed...Very beautiful girls, from nowhere, marrying lords in their castles? It all appeals to our nursery memories."

It's a fascinating little essay in a book of her random essays on a huge variety of topics. I picked it up as a bargain book from B&N. Rather like reading a blog.

One thing that she pinpoints is the absurd way Austen is sometimes taught--by people who don't know the time period to people who cannot imagine it. I remember at one point in my college career virtually screaming at my classmates because they couldn't grasp the import of a young woman being alone with a man who was not a relation. They kept saying that it wasn't that big a deal and I knew that it was. They were probably all children of Boomers. My parents came from a generation before that and my grandmother was born in 1898. In her youth it would still have been shocking for a woman to spend time alone with a man with whom she was not engaged. The 20's wiped much of that away, but even then the revolution would have been more in the cities and not the rural areas--the provincial.

Lessing, who grew up on a farm in the bush of Africa, also describes the fact that travel was so difficult. A distance of a few miles was like traveling to another country and required as much preparation.

But what I really found fascinating was her description of the radical quality of Elizabeth Bennet as a heroine--a heroine who chose her own path despite the pressures around her. She pointed out that it would have been remarkable to the readers of the day.

When I was in college deconstructionism was all the rage in literary criticism--finding the hidden meanings of these stories--homoeroticism or homophobia, internal misogyny, etc. I wrote a final essentially saying that deconstructionism might tell future readers a great deal about our times, but added not one whit to the actual knowledge of Austen, her time, or her writing. I got a B+ and pages of indecipherable notes from my professor. Really. I never figured out what he wrote. I've always wished I'd asked.

My husband (who doesn't like Austen because of being force fed her in school) and I have had long discussions on what would be more radical--to come from 1700 to 1800, 1800 to 1900 or 1900 to 2000. Despite the age of reason and the industrial revolution I've always argued for 1900 to 2000. The minute of life, the day-to-day didn't change much as the ideas changed--travel was still long and hard, you still went to bathroom outside or in equally unpleasant conditions, everyone had flees. But perhaps I have undervalued the power of pure ideas. I still think the shock from 1900-2000 would be greater, the noise, the speed, but the ideas--of women as more than property, of class change, etc. Those would have been pretty shocking too.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The way the blogosphere works

This is so fantastically awesome (I got it from Neil Gaiman's blog) that I had to put it up here.

http://shaenon.livejournal.com/48834.html#cutid1

It so perfectly captures Gorey and imprints it on Star Trek. Terrific.

Have I never mentioned here that I love both Gorey and Star Trek?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

And now Madeline L'Engle has died. She was 88. I never met her, but her books were very important to me.
One of my husband's newsletters, "The Wittenburg Door," said that J.R.R. and C.S will be pulling up a chair in heaven for her.
I hope so. I sincerely hope so.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My September 11th Poem

I suspect most poets have one. This is mine.


After September 11, 2001

Oh, God,
You end with a mighty sob
That should instead shake
Nations to the core.
What have we done?
What have we done?
If God was not dead before,
Surely he is now,
With a stake driven to the heart
That is not self-inflicted.
No one may call it that.
Humanity itself the suspect,
Victim, law and prisoner.
How many death sentences
For these crimes?
How many life times in these prisons?
How many lives
To erase, to balance, to ease,
The trenches, the ditches, the ovens,
The jungle, the desert, the city.
The heavenly fire (oh, do not give it such a name),
The death in golden jars and in the flesh,
Those willing to die, and those willing to let them.
Who knew that humans,
Could have so much pain in them.
I am nothing in this but witness.

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Guilty Pleasure

Ninja Warriors on G-4 (the station for gamers). Maybe it's my current fondness for Japanese things (and men), or the fact that since most of the play-by-play is in Japanese it's not as annoying as American play-by-play, or the fact that these guys are really in amazing physical condition, but I find myself totally drawn into it as I'm working (and yes, I didn't follow any sort of parallelism there). There's another show that was annoying because it was dubbed with stupid American commentary where ordinary Japanese men and women (Nihon-jin) would try to do things that cartoons normally do. I didn't enjoy it as much, but these guys are serious athletes--just doing things that are really bizarre--like clinging to rolling logs and tension walking through tubes. Scary.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJmCem8qbTE

And, of course, it's all over water.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Observations

Dorian Gray and Sybil Vane would not have had a happy marriage.

Tess should have killed Angel.

Romeo and Juliet would have grown to hate each other.

Doctor Bovary deserved better.

Feel free to add some.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

200 Posts

This is my 200th post of the year.

My next post will be the 200th since I started trying to write (on average) every day.

I think it's helping me as a writer. Just as I think writing for work is helping me as a writer. Might get somewhere in a few years.

On Happiness

For work I was thumbing through a book about "Life Planning" within financial planning--that is, the idea that you need to define what you are saving money for--what are your dreams and desires, how can you achieve those dreams through financial planning. The book is the Kinder Method, and it's very ... granola, for want of a better term. Feels like Hippie-speak.

Which makes me gag a little. Sometimes I think I'm too cynical for my company.

I also recently read that people in the arts are generally less happy--because success is dependent on so many other factors, factors out of one's own control. Happiness is about accepting where one is every minute and thereby feeling in control of one's life.

I drink a tea called Honest Tea (ha ha) that puts little quotes in the cap. One that keeps coming up for me is along the lines of, "Optimists may sometimes sound silly, but cynics always sound cynical."

The Band Wagon

This is one of my least liked musicals of the 1950's and I'm going to sound like a crazy snob when I tell you why.

Oh, it's lovely to look at (Vincent Minelli directing), and watching Fred and Cyd dance is always worth it, but it sucks as a modern musical. There are a lot of musicals of the 1950's that always make me think that the composers and librettists/lyricists were cleaning out their unused songs. So it becomes a, "Hey, let's put on a musical," show. How would "Triplets," "Louisiana Hay Ride" and "Dancing in the Dark" be in the same show? I like the musical to be intrinsic--organic if you will. The lyrics continuing the story. This is why Camelot and My Fair Lady are two of my favorite musicals and Singin' in the Rain isn't. Of course, better standard torch songs come out of "review" type shows. I just feel like the whole point in the progression of the American Musical from Show Boat to Oklahoma to South Pacific is the ability to tell a dramatic story with the songs.

One of my other...I won't call it a pet peeve...call it observations is the amusing convention of the Hollywood musical doing numbers supposedly on a "real Broadway stage" that looks to be the size of a football field, with multiple changes of location and split second costume changes. FAN-tastic.

(It's on as I'm typing this--in case you're wondering).

Oh, God, they're following it with Kiss Me Kate--it really is my least favorite Hollywood musical. How is "Wunderbar" in a show based on "Taming of the Shrew"? "I've come to wive it wealthily in Padua" should be removed from the lexicon. "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" is funny, but belongs in vaudeville. IMHO. I know many people who love these things.

Mad Men and life

I realize that in some ways as I'm watching Mad Men, I'm learning how to do my job.

Both to write adverting--find the benefit beyond the product, but also how to pitch. Don Draper walks like a God, talks like a God and sells like every idea is perfect--even when he doesn't entirely believe it himself. I don't know how to do that yet. I'm working on it.

Right now I'm trying to write some copy and I can't seem to do it because I don't actually think our company's special or groundbreaking--but I need to say that it is. I can't write--come to us, we're just like everyone else only smaller. Come to us-we're the lesser of many evils?

Of course I don't think my company is evil. I just don't think it works as well as it should.

I certainly don't want to be Don. There is much commentary at IMDB about how none of the characters are likable. Sometimes they're frighteningly creepy.

One thing that Don did in a recent episode was to basically fire the client--saying if you're not happy with our concept then you're just not a clever enough client for us. It was fascinating to watch.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Hot Fuzz

Watched this dark British Comedy last night. ADORED IT! Liked it only marginally less than Shaun of the Dead. People criticized it for suddenly becoming zany in the second half, but I think it was the fact that the reality of the first part was so meticulously detailed--pointing out that policemen do not jump through the air firing their guns--was hat made the second part, where they do just that, funny. The commitment of the actors, particularly co-writer Simon Peg, was superb (and what makes me dislike most American comedies--Ben Stiller, checking out and pointing out how funny he's supposed to be). I've seen him be a variety of nebbishes over the years and it was fun to see him be a "hero."

And then the range of actors in cameos!!! Billie Whitelaw??? The woman Beckett described as the "perfect actress." (Although being perfect for Beckett is an odd definition. I like Whitelaw very much, but I've never seen her in Beckett.) Timothy Dalton has gotten the most press--rather parodying his Bond performance. I was much more excited about seeing Edward Woodward (The Equalizer!) firing shotguns.

Great fun. Just what we needed.

Visceral Reading

I had an odd moment a few weeks ago. I was thumbing through an independent comic and I came across a couple of panels that disturbed me deeply. It's too complicated to go into what the comic was about--a short summary is that it was a satire on both the early studio system and it's abuse of actors (many actors were permanently maimed undergoing experimental cosmetic surgery) and the communist witch hunts (a Bugs Bunny type figure is shown embracing Ron and Nancy). I guess that didn't end up being that short. Anyway, the image was so disturbing that I went back a week later to read the whole thing, because it haunted me--I know that sounds contradictory, but I needed to lay it to rest.

But the strange thing is that reading it gave me a strange sensation, almost out of body--I could picture a desert city, with hot Santa Anna winds blowing across 1930's cars. I've gotten this same feeling from books by Tim Powers--but this is because Tim describes LA of the 30's--with the dry and barren landscapes and the disturbing power struggles that went on then. This had no description--it was sort of a documentary style. The interviewee in shadow in a dark studio. So where did the sensation come from? Do other people get these flashes when they read? I've often wondered how other people process what they read, but it's a hard thing to discuss--there doesn't seem to be a common language.

Grace Paley

Writer, Grace Paley died on August 22nd. I met her when I was in college. I have her autograph in the collection of her collections, The Collected Stories. I also have Begin Again, Collected Poems.

Revisiting the poems I understand them better over ten years later. I may grow to understand them even more as years go by:

Life
Some people set themselves tasks
other people say do anything only life
still others say
oh oh I will never forget you event of my first life


The Nature of This City
Children walking with their grandmothers
talk foreign languages
that is the nature of this city
and also this country

Talk is cheap but comes in variety
and witnessing dialect
there is a rule for all
and in each sentence a perfect grammar

The stories are like no one else's. The voice is New York and working class and Jewish. It is a mother's voice and a woman's voice. Nothing much happens in her stories, and that makes her books something to dip in and out of, because what they are is an examination of the minute(') of life and the way that that is all of life.
She was not a prolific writer. She was a prolific activist. I don't always agree with her activism but her passion and her commitment to her beliefs were always admirable. She was never afraid of making mistakes, and unlike many others admitted them.

When I met her, in her 70's, and my 20's, she seemed so solid. By which I mean, a comfortableness with herself, that seemed infinitely admirable to me then and now.

I am sorry that she is no longer in the world.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Guinness is HOME

He's very dazed and confused. They kept him until 5 pm. He keeps making snuffly noises instead of barking. They've shaved a patch on his back and his right paw. He hasn't wanted me to look at his belly yet. I'm having trouble getting him to drink water which is worrying. My husband is out getting him pain meds right now.

Edit: Drank a saucer of water, took the pain med, and let me look at his tummy. Oh, he looks like Frankenweenie! Poor thing. It's a good thing dogs aren't vain.