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.