Friday, October 31, 2008

Reason #7: It's just another excuse for shenanigans.

Why Hallowe'en is a pain in my ass, a thorn in my side, the bane of my existence:
  1. in the stores, they start making with the orange and black before summer is EVEN OVER.
  2. candy corn: waste of sugar.
  3. orange is one of my favorite colors, but if you wear it with black, you're always signaling Hallowe'en, even if you don't want to. Hallowe'en has imposed a color hegemony! Throw off your chains!
  4. I HATE costumes.
  5. I HATE horror, fake, satiric, or otherwise.
  6. stupid fake spiderwebbery, dummies with knives stuck in 'em, skeletons of all reports, gravestones, ghostsheetery . . . the Hallowe'en decoration schema, gah.
  7. just another excuse for shenanigans.
  8. waste of perfectly good pumpkins.
  9. I have a stick up my rear end? --don't think I haven't considered the possibility.
  10. the kids want you to help them be things like Poison Ivy or a Darth Maul (or however you spell it). When I was a kid, you could be these things: Hobo, Gypsy, Little Girl (if you were a bigger girl), Witch. Also Ghost, if there happened to be a spare sheet.
  11. What if there's a Jazz game on television during the trick or treating?
  12. I HATE dressing up. Did I already mention this?
  13. Frankly, I'm not crazy about other people dressing up--adults, that is. Boo, humbug.
I do like: giving the candy out; seeing cute little kids in their cute little costumes; the fact that it's October 31, and therefore right on the cusp of a new month, the change in season, the secular residue of a religious celebration (the eve of All Saints day); eating Bit-o-Honeys, which my kids always disdained and which I remember from my childhood.

And speaking of that, where are the candy cigarettes of yesteryear?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who likes his breakfast?

Who's going to eat a pancake as big as his head?

I had breakfast with my grandson and his mom this morning. And then I
  • finished my Irish detective novel.
  • bought bendy dolls for the Scotland girls.
  • worked on last Friday's NYTimes crossword puzzle.
  • saw Fitzcarraldo at Brewvies (next week: Little Dieter Learns to Fly--for free! Brewvies is the bomb. Thanks to Dave B. for alerting me to this).
  • picked stuff up at Target; put it all back.
  • took Bruiser for a walk.
  • had awesome leftover white bean soup for dinner.
  • The Office, 30 Rock, a little poll checking, and The Daily Show.
And now: it's time to go to bed and dream about politics. Or moving steamships over mountains. Or maybe it's the same damn thing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Possible Halloween costumes.

1. Grandma. I'm thinking of wearing a curly, graying hairstyle. (unlike every other day?)

2. Closet Yeti. I could wear all my sweaters and all my pants.

3. Procrastinator. Carrying my calendar around, sporting an anxious facial expression.

4. Cook. Since the setting would be nine tenths of the costume, you'd come see me at home, in my kitchen.

5. Political Freak. Wearing a constant digital feed of poll data.

6. Film Critic. Dyspeptic expression, pen light, with a perpetual rude remark on my lips--also, spouting my faulty recollections of crucial plot details.

7. Deconstructed Bruiser. First, I'd take transparent contact paper and press it against Bruiser's flanks, then construct a shirt, to be worn inside out. My expression would be soulful, canine, debonair.

Open to suggestions, though I will probably just be College Professor, on Sabbatical.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jubilate Cornmeal.

For I will consider cornmeal:
  1. For it takes the form of cornbread, the bread of my mother's people.
  2. For it is delightful when eaten with soup or chili or cold for breakfast.
  3. Also, hot for breakfast.
  4. For it is often also eaten in muffin form, on the aforementioned occasions, as well as scarfed down when there are leftovers in the middle of the afternoon for no good reason except that they are delicious and they are there.
  5. For there is also johnnycake, in which form cornmeal makes another appearance at breakfast, the better to demonstrate its happy relationship with butter and maple syrup.
  6. For its sweetness is inherent!
  7. For polenta, which in humbler form is known as "corn grits" or even "cornmeal mush":
  8. For these familiar names do nothing to diminish its suavity, whether made with salted water and butter or broth and gilded with a dusting of cheese,
  9. Nor can polenta's versatility be overstated: it can be dished by the ladleful and eaten soft, or allowed to set and constructed therefore in various architectures, such as tortas, interleaved with mushroom ragouts or garlicky tomato sauces. Or ratatouille.
  10. For I do not exaggerate, not even in the slightest,
  11. For one can also make baked goods crunch with the addition of cornmeal: little biscuits flavored with orange zest and eaten with a chocolate pudding,
  12. For even polenta poundcake, as flexible and classic as any ordinary poundcake, but with a somehow Central American nuance:
  13. For it is maizecake.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stuff you can believe in.



A possible overstatement, but here we go:

The Selby is in your place. The photographer Todd Selby takes pictures of the living and work spaces of artists, writers, designers, and other assorted hipsters, current and past (he did a spread on Tom Wolfe, for instance.) and publishes them on this site.

Each feature has a small watercolor, as well,
of the artist, etc. at hand.

If The Selby were to come to my house, the feature would have piles of clothes, piles of mail, half-
organized books, many many shoes, and all of it
adorned with dog hair. In fact, I think I will do
this feature myself. What an inspiring and scintillating feature that will be!

I have this site on my iGoogle news and aggregator page. It is always interesting and often inspiring. (thanks to my oldest friend for turning me on to this site!)


The What Did You Buy Today? blog. OMG this woman, Kate Bingaman-Kurt, is a person after my own sick little heart. She's a graphic designer--now a professor, living in Portland--who draws a picture daily of what she bought that day, things like bus tickets and CDs and hole protectors for your paper and pot pies at Whole Foods and bike gloves and sale makeup. Her art focuses on consumption, the obsessive kind. (One way she got famous was by drawing detailed reproductions of her credit card bills, which she was able to sell as art. Genius.) Find out more about all her projects here.

This series of photos, by Callie Shell. The photographer took shots of Obama and the events surrounding his campaign for the past two years. They're beautiful and moving. Make sure you click through all of them! Here's one of my favorites:

















And lastly:



I know plenty of you have already seen this, but I thought it was worth reviewing. (If Hulu is not viewable in your country--hello, Scotland!--you may be able to view it here.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Let's throw the expression "throw [someone] under the bus" under the bus.

For example: Ann Coulter opined that Barack Obama "felt perfectly comfortable throwing his white grandmother under the bus" in his speech on race earlier this spring, just to make a point. She's awful, and ordinarily I wouldn't dignify her with a link or even a mention, but this phrasing has been repeated ad nauseam on the internets on this topic. Just Google "threw his grandmother under a bus" to see what I mean. Or don't. Just take my word for it.

For another example: in the latest sordid craziness from Isiah Thomas, a 47-year old man--and it's just a coincidence, apparently, that it was a 47-year old man the police took to the hospital as a result of an accidental drug overdose-- claims it was his daughter, and not him, who needed treatment. "It wasn't his daughter," Harrison Police Chief David Hall told The Associated Press. "And why they're throwing her under the bus is beyond my ability to understand." (via The Huffington Post)

Boo to this horrible trope. I veto it with an override-proof veto, and also a presidential (President of Hightouchmegastore, LLC, thanks for asking) signing statement to the effect that if you're thinking about using this expression, don't even think about it. Just don't.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday night is for thinking about politics.

This afternoon, when I was fretting, the historian pointed me to this editorial in In These Times, which I think does a good job of explaining how politics works. An excerpt:

On Jan. 15, during a primary debate in South Carolina, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked the candidates, “If Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today, why should he endorse you?” Obama, the one-time community organizer, replied: “Well, I don’t think Dr. King would endorse any of us. I think what he would call on the American people to do is to hold us accountable. … I believe change does not happen from the top down; it happens from the bottom up.”

The senator from Illinois has an understanding of how politics works that escapes his slavish supporters and jaded critics. In that, he is like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who once told an adviser after listening to a well-reasoned proposal: “Well, you’ve convinced me. Now go out and find me a constituency to make me do it.”

Our job is not to convince Obama to govern progressively, but to build the constituency that will make him do so.



Also, Saturday nights are for going to the movies. We took the TRAX downtown, got off at the station between 8th and 9th South and walked up a couple of blocks . . .





. . . to Brewvies, where we saw Ghost Town, a funny and also sweet film that we both enjoyed.

After that, we walked back to the station and took the train home.






Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday afternoon.

I was downtown today about noon. Could it be any more beautiful? I ask you:




In an important update, due to my get-up-and-go schedule today, I barely had time to look balefully at my computer because it is so slow, let alone check the polls like it was my job. Guess what? Everything is fine. I'd like to say that this means I've learned my lesson, and therefore tomorrow I will not check the polls obsessively, but I can't say that, because tomorrow is another, hopefully beautiful, day, and who knows what might happen if I'm not online morning noon and night? The end of the civilized world as we know it? that's why you can count on me. I'm on it, never fear. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on those polls. You need me on those polls.

Special Announcement: Who's gonna blog like it's 1999? November is NaBloPoMo. That's right, National Blog Posting Month. You know I'll be there. Who's with me?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oooooooooh, tag.

Dr. Write tagged me! The idea is to answer these questions with just one word, so here I go. If there's a parenthetical after my answer, it doesn't count, since parentheses cast whatever they contain into the abyss (I'm pretty sure that's what Derrida meant by mise en abyme, and if it isn't I don't want to hear about it). Here I go:

Where is your cell phone? bedside
Where is your significant other? doomsville (work)
Your hair color? graying
Your mother? supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Your father? Rockin' (in the Free World)
Your favorite thing? movies
Your dream last night? Obamafied
Your dream/goal? writing
The room you’re in? bedroom
Your hobby? shopping
Your fear? irrelevance
Where do you want to be in 6 years? here (SLC)
Where were you last night? book club
What you’re not? tidy
One of your wish-list items? publication
Where you grew up? Japan/California/Tucson
The last thing you did? obsessed (over the elections, obviously!)
What are you wearing? clothing
Your TV? cabled (dished, big diff)
Your pet? Boddhisatva (aka Bruiser, the enlightened one)
Your computer? overused
Your mood? optimistic (my duty in a democracy)
Missing someone? kids
Your car? Camry (of Power)
Something you’re not wearing? socks
Favorite store? Target
Your summer? blissful
Love someone? Multitudes
Your favorite color? yellow
When is the last time you laughed? six p.m. ("Two and a Half Men," sorry!)
Last time you cried? afternoon (working on a poem)

I tag: Hands Across the Water, Deacon's Mommy, The Nitty Gritty, The Inner Workings of . . ., Gillian, Middlebrow, and Counterintuitive. Do it! I'm begging you!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Important information for your head.

Tiny hotel rooms. (via digg)

Good news if you like Halloween (or, conversely, another reason I hate Halloween). (via The Cut)

And of course,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nuts for the winter.

The historian asked me, "You don't think Bruiser is getting. I mean, you don't think he has even a little extra, because . . . "

We both have our eyes on this question because last spring my kids' dad greeted Bruiser with a "Getting a little fat, Bruiser?" Which stung us, I confess, and we were all, No he isn't! And after that, we were all, Is he?

"You're supposed to be able to feel their ribs," I said, feeling his ribs.

"Can you feel them?"

Of course I could, but there was quite a bit of dog hair between my fingers and his ribs, otherwise known as "fur." Which complicates the question. Of course we could feel his ribs! Of course we could.

Maybe someone should devise a "feel the ribs" test for all of us, since, with the weather getting cold, we're all observing the evolutionary imperative to store up fat. Yeah, evolutionary imperative! But I want to tell you that soup may be the answer. Answer to what? Why, what to eat when the weather gets cold, that's what.

"I hope you don't mind having soup night after night," I said to the historian, since tonight was night three of my new initiative, "Soup Night After Night." Let me tell you about it:

Night 1: Vegetarian Chili and Quesadillas. I used dried black beans that I have had for, I think, a hundred years, literally, as well as assorted this and that, farmer's market onions and garlic and peppers, and roasted tomatoes. It made a delicious follow-up lunch burrito and another delicious follow-up bowl the day after that.

Night 2: Onion Soup with a Lovely Crouton, accompanied by a green salad. The secret to onion soup is to cook the onions forever, slowly, in butter until they caramelize. You could use oil, but why, when there's butter? I used a yellow, a white, and a red onion, as well as some garlic. Also, I find that a tiny little tip of something extra in the soup deepens and complexifies the flavor, like wine or even a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar. I am not ashamed to say that I use vegetarian vegetable bouillon cubes. This soup was awesome.

Night 3: Potage Bonne Femme* with Caprese Salad and Peach-Blueberry Crisp for dessert. I added two potatoes and a bunch of carrots to the leftover onion soup, some more water and an additional bouillon cube. Once the vegetables were falling apart, I blended the whole thing. I thought about adding some milk, but it was unnecessary. This soup is unbelievably delicious, considering its humble ingredients. I was particularly proud of the way I troped the previous night's dinner into tonight's. High five to myself! It's still blowing my mind that I have wonderful tomatoes and basil. But I do. And the crisp I made from some of the half a lug (that sounds about right) of peaches we cut up and froze a month ago, as well as blueberries I froze when they were kind of cheap. (*original recipe, adapted here, given to me when I was a young wife by my oldest friend--and still going strong!)

Someone still has to do the dishes, however. Where's the evolutionary imperative for that, I ask you?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Year's Best in Movies, 2008 edition.

In the spirit of my initial misunderstanding of the whole Best American Poetry (Year), concept--which is, the book is published in a certain year, but the poetry was published the previous year, whereas I was always so pissed because they were picking the best poetry when the year wasn't even over yet! What the hell!--I offer you this year's "Best of" film list, even though there are plenty more good films--I'm sure there are!--yet to come before 2008 breathes its last.

This exercise always leads to contemplation: will Kevin Spacey ever make another good movie? Why did the CoenBros. (tm) let me down? Will the mania for superheroes ever stop? How come so many comedies look so crappy? Conversely, how come movies that are truly beautiful are often simultaneously a little empty-headed?

I will leave you to contemplate these big questions, while I propose the following:

Movie that makes one question whether singing in the movies is a good idea, but which nonethless holds one rapt: Romance & Cigarettes. Hilarious, inappropriate, overblown. There were some great things in this, but the best by far was Kate Winslet, so amazing, gorgeous, outrageous, sexy and thrillingly human. She is a great, great actress, whatever you might think of this experiment. The rapprochement between James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon in the last third of the film is also very moving. Not perfect by any means, but I was not sorry to have seen it.

Best romantic comedy (in a very small field, admittedly): Definitely, Maybe. Ryan Reynolds is tall and--shockingly--subtle in the role, but the stars are the women, who are all good, and Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher are very good. But poor Abigail Breslin! Will the child be allowed to take a vacation? Ever?

Award for magnificent acting: The Savages. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, Philip Bosco. All transplendent.

Best movie that proposes the joys of homemade art: Two way tie between Be Kind, Rewind and Honeydripper.

Best music movie: The Band's Visit. See also Honeydripper.

Best dance movie--and this one is one of the best of all time: Step Up 2: The Streets. The standard is, of course that proposed by lis: a movie that is "awesome and plotless . . . who needs plot when you can move like that?"

Movies made watchable by Robert Downey Jr.: Charlie Bartlett and Iron Man. Neither of these movies was splendid, but excellent character acting (in CB) and a star turn (in IM) made me feel like I hadn't wasted my time. And my life. Bonus: Iron Man's inclusion of Jeff Bridges.

Excellent idiosyncratic little film: Married Life. I saw none of the Bonds that starred him, but I am loving Pierce Brosnan these days, and he is, again, awesome in this.

Best war movie: Stop Loss. I love how Kimberly Peirce makes you feel the solidity and tenderness of the young men's fleshly existence, because it makes their deaths--both physical and spiritual--the more weighty and unbearable.

Funniest movie featuring a puppet show: Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Funny, sweet, raunchy, good. When Jason Segel does songs from his puppet musical of Dracula at a roadhouse bar in Hawaii (I know, it sounds ridiculous), it's kind of perfection.

Best film featuring a literary critic analyzing Tennyson: Smart People.There was a scene in which the professor and his students were talking about a Tennyson poem ("The Lotos-Eaters") that gave me heart--drama could be made out of this! My studies were not in vain, possibly.

Best graphic/animated film: Two way tie between Persepolis and WALL-E.

Excellent small film: The Visitor. Features a beautiful performance by Richard Jenkins, of Six Feet Under fame. The real, and haunting, surprise, was the actress Hiam Abbass (who was also in Paradise Now), a beautiful and quiet actress.

Good martial arts for non-martial arts fanatics: The Forbidden Kingdom. I have a lot of catching up to do, Jackie Chan and Jet Li-wise. But I really, really enjoyed this movie.

Beautiful, beautiful movie that is maybe a little empty-headed: My Blueberry Nights. But there were some really good parts in this movie, although strangely, I can only barely remember what they were . . .

Another lovely movie that proposes the joys of homemade art: Son of Rambow.

Most ravishing movie: The Fall.

Dang good all around movie: The Dark Knight.

Movie improved by the presence of Jason Bateman: Hancock. I pretty much enjoyed this whole movie, but thank whomever for Arrested Development, because that show begat all the Jason Bateman roles improving movies everywhere.

Best movie featuring "Paper Planes" in the trailer: Pineapple Express. Otherwise, too violent for a comedy.

Best movie featuring ravishing Spaniards: Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Runner-up: Elegy.

Best movie featuring Kristen Scott Thomas in a French-speaking role: Tell No One.

Best Documentary: Two-way tie between Encounters at the End of the World and Man on Wire.

Darn good tense thriller: Frozen River

Even better tense thriller: Transsiberian. Bonus: Featuring excellent performance by Ben Kingsley (runner-up in the "Featuring excellent performance by Ben Kingsley" category: Elegy.)

Best movie featuring the infinitely sweet Michael Cera: Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist. I read one critic who said that his line readings are a national treasure. This is true.

Best odd and unsettling project for a film to undertake: W.

And the best film I have seen this year: The Edge of Heaven. It has a structure kind of like Babel's, but more modest, and with a consistently more humane scope. If you didn't see this movie, queue it up. It is completely worth your time.



Sunday, October 19, 2008

Like/don't like.

Cosmos/petunias.
Asters/chrysanthemums*.
Thanksgiving/Halloween*.
Tootsie Rolls/candy corn.
Paul Krugman/Irving Kristol.
Jonathan Demme/Adrian Lyne.
No allergies/allergies.

Also, I am looking forward to this and this.

*except for, lately, I've been noticing how much I love some of the chrysanthemums I'm seeing, which is making me rethink the chrysanthemums I ripped out of our back yard a few years ago. Not really. Those were bad.
*little kids dressed in costumes are cute. Just don't ask me to dress up. Just don't.
*candy corn is a waste of perfectly good sugar, in my humble opinion.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Creativity questionnaire.

In 1930, Yeats received a "Questionnaire on Creative Effort," from a researcher interested in creativity, Elliot D. Hutchinson, who also sent the same questionnaire to about 250 other thinkers and writers. (Hutchinson later published a book, How to Think Creatively, and also became a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in New York.)

The questionnaire goes a little something like this:
Do you at first experience a period of general productive inclination, a ill-defined, uneasy desire to produce something?

Always . . . . . Usually . . . . . Seldom . . . . . Never . . . . .

Is this productive inclination a permanent state of mind? . . . . . or only a mood . . . . . ?

What are your intellectual activities during this period? Are they

(a) active and definite search for material related to the topic in hand?

Always . . . . . Usually . . . . . Seldom . . . . . Never . . . . .

(b) Vague daydreaming along the lines determined by the nature of the work?

Always . . . . . Usually . . . . . Seldom . . . . . Never . . . . .

(c) Passive attitude of waiting for 'inspiration'?

Always . . . . . Usually . . . . . Seldom . . . . . Never . . . . .

(d) Absorption in other interests?

Always . . . . . Usually . . . . . Seldom . . . . . Never . . . . .
[For more of this questionnaire, look here, although you'll have to look around for "Creativity Questionnaire."] But I really just want to point out that Yeats, like me, when in the period of 'general productive inclination'--and let me just digress to point out that I am always inclined, generally, to be productive: absolutely always!--he
  • usually deliberately looks for material (although it "depends on the nature of the work')
  • always vaguely daydreams
  • never sits around waiting passively for inspiration, and
  • usually gets absorbed in (wait for it) detective stories.
Hey, W.B. (and you know he can hear me--he's perning in a gyre somewhere, but he can hear me, all right.): Ditto!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Listen up, pundits.

I know better, but I can't help myself.

Pundits [noun, from the old Sanskrit word 'pandita' meaning 'a learned man'] must pund, or whatever the verb form of pundit is. It's their job, though perhaps a low, ignoble one. Indeed, I myself have some of the traits that might qualify me to be one, since I'm full of opinions and I sure offer them up like it's my job. However, I am getting irked with the apparently widely held view that Obama is passionless, so unflappable that he verges on dull. To wit, David Brooks' piece, "Thinking About Obama," in today's New York Times:
We’ve been watching Barack Obama for two years now, and in all that time there hasn’t been a moment in which he has publicly lost his self-control. This has been a period of tumult, combat, exhaustion and crisis. And yet there hasn’t been a moment when he has displayed rage, resentment, fear, anxiety, bitterness, tears, ecstasy, self-pity or impulsiveness.
Overstatement, a little? You can read the rest of the piece here, and though I agree that, in contrast with his opponent, Obama is relatively calm, intellectual, deliberative, and unflappable, I'm just not quite sure how we get from that comparative assessment to the second of the following two possible forecasts for an Obama presidency:
And it is easy to sketch out a scenario in which he could be a great president. He would be untroubled by self-destructive demons or indiscipline. With that cool manner, he would see reality unfiltered. He could gather — already has gathered — some of the smartest minds in public policy, and, untroubled by intellectual insecurity, he could give them free rein. Though he is young, it is easy to imagine him at the cabinet table, leading a subtle discussion of some long-term problem.

Of course, it’s also easy to imagine a scenario in which he is not an island of rationality in a sea of tumult, but simply an island. New presidents are often amazed by how much they are disobeyed, by how often passive-aggressiveness frustrates their plans.

It could be that Obama will be an observer, not a leader. Rather than throwing himself passionately into his causes, he will stand back. Congressional leaders, put off by his supposed intellectual superiority, will just go their own way. Lost in his own nuance, he will be passive and ineffectual. Lack of passion will produce lack of courage. The Obama greatness will give way to the Obama anti-climax.
David Brooks, I know you're disappointed in how the election is shaping up, but your melancholy kind-of equanimity is bugging me. Snap out of it.

In conclusion, I am sick of the opinions I am gulping down by the heaping paragraphs. I would like to stop. I'm not sure how that's going to happen. In the meanwhile, anyone who wants to can buy me this:
Because if I'm going to spend this much time arguing, even if only in my head and occasionally on my blog, and also a little bit with the ever-patient historian, who is willing to stand in the place of my straw man, I should have the jewelry to call me what I am.

[pundit necklace via the "Election Schwag" feature on Mighty Goods]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Metaphor-generating machine.

In Summerland, which is a pretty charming young adult novel by Michael Chabon, a character says this:
A baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day.
That seems pretty good, as a metaphor, to me--even though I'm not mad for baseball.

So, if a baseball game is "nothing but a great slow &c.," then what is a soccer game? a basketball game? a football game? a tennis match?

Sportos, I'm asking you. I do have a poem about soccer, but it's more of a mom poem than a player poem. So I need your help. My imaginative world depends on it.

Updates: I wrote a poem today. Here was my process:
  1. got up late.
  2. ate breakfast while assiduously checking out the internets.
  3. lay back down for some cozy reading of novel.
  4. joined by dog for cozy reading.
  5. fell asleep for a few minutes.
  6. woke up to sun in the window and absolute stillness, which crystallized into a frieze of imagery and phrases.
Yeah, I'm doing fine.

My neighbor plays tuneless, bass-heavy techno, every single night now for about ten days. Nice guy, but why?

Off to finish my baseball reverie. The world hangs in the balance. No, seriously. Chabon is surprisingly cosmological in this novel.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No, but I would like to talk about my grandchildren.

That's the answer to the question, "Is your writing going well?" by the way.

But I digress! I am doing a swell job of
  • reading.
  • dog-walking.
  • cooking with the vegetables God gave us.
  • really enjoying the weather.
  • giving a bottle to a tiny baby.
  • getting smiles and kisses from the one-year-old grandson.
  • did I mention reading?
  • tracking every stupid bit of commentary about the election.
  • obsessing about comments on Scotland daughter's blog about the election.
  • thinking about the writing.
I had a dream that had fruit flies in it a couple of days ago. While, for the most part, fruit flies are almost always a negative, as in, Omg why are there so freaking many fruit flies? hanging around the peaches? Sweet Lord please save me from the fruit flies! In the dream, though--and I can't remember much of it--they were, I think, kind of beautiful. Kind of like these insects, catching the light over the Snake:

video

Maybe the flies in my dream were not so many or quite so busy, and definitely not as creepy (although I find this video also beautiful, but that's just me). But mind in motion, catching the light--not such bad metaphors for writing, actually.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wish list.

Would've been great to see this set.
If I were a traveling salesman in 1910, I would wear these.
My inner male dresses like this, except when he dresses like this.
It would be kind of fun to drift in a desultory way through this.
And I would sure like to see this.
Looking forward to reading this.
Thinking about staying in a cottage here with college daughter.
If I had organizational and minimalist powers, I could make my kitchen feel like this, even though there are charms to being just the way I am (wishful thinking).
I know it's silly to dream like this, but I kind of wish every day could feel like this:




(thanks for this idea, SAKS)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.

In other words, I can't stop
  • trying to figure out what the economic situation actually is,
  • trying to figure out exactly how worried I should be about
  • myself and the historian,
  • my children,
  • my mom and dad,
  • my siblings,
  • my bff, and
  • how this will affect the election, as well as
  • how on earth whoever wins the election will deal with all of it.
I made a new iGoogle page with a bunch of news and aggregators links. However: this way lies madness and obsessive page refreshing, so I also sorted through a bunch of possessions that it was time to get rid of (I think I could do this monthly, frankly), then made some excellent whole wheat bread and a good dinner, which we shared with singing son and his wife. What else is there to do?

This may shed a little light on the situation:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Aw, dammit.

Despite sweet talk, tough talk, careful removal and replacement of batteries, using a different kind of battery, looking online at the manual, consultation with an expert (my brother-in-law) and blah blah blah etcetera, my camera steadfastly refused to heal itself. What the hell. This apparently means that now, I have to wrap it up and send it off to some service center where they may charge me as much as my camera is worth to fix it . . . and what's more, in the chaos of my stuff, I can't find any of my documentation for it. Is it under warranty, you ask? Well, who knows?

What do they call this? poetic justice? the chickens come home to roost? bad karma? born under a bad sign?

Feh, I say. I hate when stuff doesn't work.

Time to read my young adult novel by a celebrated author, featuring baseball, ferishers, bridges between worlds, and two kids who are, I'm guessing, gonna help each other out, be heroes and save the world. But who's gonna save my camera?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cold storage.

This year at the October farmer's market, it is genius! Somehow things have held until now, so there are still peaches, plums, tomatoes, basil, melons, beans, along with winter squashes, potatoes, greens, pumpkins. Today, we got apples from a guy who literally picked them last night--Macintoshes, and so unbelievably good. He also had late crop peaches, O Henrys, that he let ripen on the tree, picked within hours of our buying them. Unbelievable! Given yesterday's and today's weather, it seems a little unseemly to be eating fresh tomatoes and green beans, let alone peaches, but there you are: eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow there may only be gruel, but today there are peaches and tomatoes.

Here are some things we saw at the market today:





















Squashes & pumpkins




















At Sun River




















At Chad's


















At David's


















At Tremonton Girl's


















Tremonton Girl and husband

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chilling with Will.

This week, I've had the chance to give the 11:30 a.m. feeding every day to this charming young man:

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Let us now praise Jeff Bridges.

Today I saw How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which is, on the one hand, an amusing way to pass a couple of hours, funny and kind of sweet and occasionally sharp and witty, and then on the other hand not a really, truly great film . . . but Jeff Bridges plays the editor of Sharps, a Vanity Fair lookalike, and he was excellent. As always: I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a Jeff Bridges performance, even if the movie wasn't so good.

For instance, I found Iron Man pretty entertaining, at least for the first two thirds, maybe, and Robert Downey Jr. is always perfectly excellent--but Bridges, in the role of Obadiah Stane, was also perfectly excellent--chomping on a cigar, imposing, menacing and also solid. Nothing too fancy, except for a crazy shaved head and incongruous beard. (Also, do I remember him riding up on a Segway?) A marvelous, film-enhancing performance.

How about Seabiscuit? I saw this movie on a plane--I was thinking I was too good for that film, but I enjoyed it, and Bridges was not the least of its pleasures (Chris Cooper, William H. Macy). Or, one of my favorites, when he played the President of the U.S. in The Contender, a kind of mix of L.B.J. and Bill Clinton. I almost didn't care about the outcome of the narrative because of how much fun it was whenever President Bridges came on the scene.

And of course, The Big Lebowski.

In reviewing his oeuvre on imdb, I'm thinking I still need to see American Heart, The Door in the Floor, and Tucker: The Man and His Dreams.

In other news, I would like to comment on the mounting incidences of people using the word "gift" as a verb. As in "He gifted her with a diamond bracelet," or even "He gifted her a diamond bracelet." Why not just "give"? Why not "He gave her a diamond bracelet"? I protest. It's bleah and it bugs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Researching is a recursive activity.

I find myself increasingly fascinated by the history of Dublin and Ireland, now that we've already gone and now that we're back. Before we left, of course, I was too busy getting my manuscript ready to learn about the place we were going. But onward, as there is plenty of time for self-recrimination later: for instance, we found out that Dublin was founded at the confluence of the Liffey and the River Poddle. The Poddle made settlement at the Dublin location possible--the Liffey is a freshwater river at its source, but in Dublin, it's tidal and therefore salty. The Poddle was a freshwater river; the confluence created a pool which gave Dublin its name (Dubh Linn = black pool).

But these days, the Poddle has gone, for the most part, underground. How does a river go underground? I asked myself, whilst in Dublin. Well, it turns out that this can happen a number of ways, including naturally, but it's also true that rivers can be diverted and culverted and even built over, which is what happened to the Poddle. (Also, the historian told me that he read an article by a guy who is interested in all the waterways in the Salt Lake Valley that have disappeared, gone underground, etc., and London has many streams and rivers, tributaries of the Thames, that have had a similar fate.)

Anyhow, there's a guy who's not only curious but kind of obsessed about this question regarding the Poddle. I am working on getting ready to think about writing a poem about a river going underground, maybe, but in the meanwhile, I'm looking at stuff like this:



(It's a little long, but that's the way it is with obsessions.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

This just in.

It's mouse and bird hunting season for our aged cat. She killed and ate one bird yesterday while I was taking Bruiser for a walk. It's so very nice to come home to find an entirely deconstructed creature, all scattered feathers but minus its interior. Y'know, it's all surface--a postmodern kill.

Tonight, I heard her make a low yowling sound, which always indicates murderous intent. Mouse-icidal impulses. Indeed, she had a mouse in her mouth, which she dropped when the historian picked her up. This meant, with only minimal scampering, the mouse found a hiding place, which called for us to use the two-man mouse-trapping method. This involves a blanket and two people, one to shoo and the other to catch. Bonus: I moved a medium-sized pile of crap (bags, a purse or two, etc.) and found the mouse, which the historian (who has excellent hands) caught and released. Thanks, kitty!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Maybe kind of sort of.

I wrote a poem yesterday, for my writing group, and started another poem today. What this may mean, and I'm saying this with some humility, as a person who can jinx her own mojo by overthinking it, not to mention over-talking it--and let me now refresh your memory as to the initial clause of this sentence: what this may mean is that I may be on my way to a little routine. A groove, if you will.

I'd like to further report that I also had a nice nap today and finished a very good book, which my daughter the make-up artist passed on to me, The Glass Castle. Also, while my work has been rejected by three of the journals I sent it to, my Johnny Cash poem got taken by Tar River Poetry. So I'm feeling cautiously victorious. For now.

Ergo, I shall now bake a cake.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Excuse me, but have you met us?

Return to Sender Department:

One (1) machine-signed photo of John McCain and Sarah Palin, delivered to our house in an oversized envelope. Inscription reads: "Dear Historian, Thank you for your support and commitment to our Party and candidates."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

In the rain.

Happy surprise: the farmer's market today, early in October, was full of wonderful food, with plenty of stuff I would have thought would be gone by now, including loads of tomatoes, still, peaches, some plums, melons . . . we came home laden when I thought we'd be stocking up for the winter with sober potatoes and pumpkins. Not that there would be anything wrong with that--but peaches! in October!

The market was thinner today, what with the rain, which was all right by us--fewer people to elbow out of the way (kidding!). We picked up our share from the farmers, then made our regular beat. We got tomatoes, squash, filet beans, an adorable French dessert melon (Charentais), and lettuce from the Tremonton farmers, bread from the Crumb Bros., a gorgeous red Buttercup squash from crazy David at the T where the main drag hits Coffee/Great Harvest/Ethiopian Ladies Street. Peaches from these new (to us) Santaquin people. Asian pears, which is a highlight of the season for us, from these people who appear mysteriously late in the fall for only two or three weeks, with the best Asian pears you ever tasted priced ridiculously low. I feel so fortunate not to have missed them! And then cherries--a bucket of frozen pitted ones and a good-sized bag of dried ones, from the guy who believes sour cherries can cure what ails you.

I think today might be the first day I really felt like myself again after the trip. Here are the reasons it is good to be home: baby Will, Deacon, my son and daughter and their spouses, Carter, Alex, David, Jenna, Rachel, and Eden, the historian's kids, Bruiser, the chance to sink into a creative rhythm, unlimited internet access, my friends and family, and definitely, definitely the farmer's market. Two more weeks!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Television: a good thing.

While we were away, we missed some very important things, like television shows. Today I watched the season premiere of The Office, which included this gem:



This genius bit could prove to be as classic as this one, from Scrubs:



Oh Television! Let us now praise thee. If I can only watch the episode of Mad Men we missed, all will be well and all manner of thing will be well.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How I made it through the Vice-Presidential debate.

I turned the sound way, way down.
I texted and twittered about when I felt something was unbearable.
I read the Arts section of the Sunday New York Times, kind of.
I closed my eyes.
I checked my blog and e-mail obsessively.
I played a little Free Cell.
I checked Slate's and New York Times's debate blogs.
I considered the household tasks I am going to undertake tomorrow.
I relished the fact that, for the first time today, my eyes weren't watering in some tedious and enraging expression of allergies.
I contemplated muting.
But I didn't mute.
I acknowledged to myself that I have absolutely no objectivity about Palin, because I so can't stand her that I couldn't really tell how well she was or wasn't doing.
I told Bruiser what a good, good boy he was.
I drank lots of water.
I switched from PBS to the major networks to see if their post-debate commentators were better.
Nope.

And now? Ugly Betty. This will alleviate the post-traumatic stress disorder, I feel sure.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The filth and the fury.

Even though Dublin is kind of a dirty city (I hope you aren't reading this, Dublin, but if you are, no offense!), I came home and now I feel that my house is even dirtier. My god. My mom asked if this was because of the teenage boys who stayed at our house with Bruiser and I was forced to admit that no, it was pretty much me, who spent the hours before leaving the country sending poetry out to the void.

In these dark times, one is forced to get it together and at least think about vacuuming up a dust bunny or five hundred, do the dishes, and start a load of laundry or ten. In these dark times, one must fend off the rising panic one feels when one is confronted with one's own . . . oh, hell, I just feel overwhelmed by it all and I have to make a dent in it or else feel like fleeing my own house. And that will not do, not in these dark times.

However, in such dark times, I have taken inspiration from W.B. Yeats, and not just because he wrote a poem that began "Things fall apart." That line is one of my many mottos (others: how hard can that be?, what the hell?, and I've had just about enough of your shenanigans.) (also, I am considering, Bitch, you trippin'! Does anyone have any thoughts on this as a motto? Let me know.). However, I am mainly inspired these days by W.B. Yeats because he was tirelessly making stuff and taking inspiration from the most amazingly dubious stuff, including crazy spiritualism of all sorts. In other words, his mind was full of nonsense and he still made beautiful, sublime art just about until the end of his life. In the collection of his papers exhibited at the National Gallery of Ireland, they had all sorts of his notebooks (comforting to me, a notebook keeper of the most random kind), including notebooks that showed some of the automatic writing done by his longsuffering and beautiful wife. It was a wonderful exhibit that you can get a sense of by looking here.

I am also currently taking inspiration from Francis Bacon's studio, which was originally located at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington in London, but which, after his death, was moved, part and parcel, and then reassembled just as he worked in it, at a gallery in Dublin on Parnell Square, the Hugh Lane Gallery. The most polite word--in fact, the word Bacon himself used--for this gallery is chaos. When I saw this space, I saw my very own soul, and it was (for once) one of the most comforting things I ever saw: so messy! so much stuff! Bacon was not a minimalist. Not! a minimalist, and an extraordinarily productive and powerful artist. Voilá:














And finally, some more pictures from our Ireland trip, for those of you still interested:

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