Saturday, January 31, 2009

A short list of books I have on my shelves that I have not yet read.

  • David Halberstam, The Fifties
  • Richard Howard, Alone with America
  • Jeff Schmidt, Disciplined Minds
  • Helen Vendler, Soul Says
  • Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon
  • Antonio Gramsci, The Prison Notebooks
  • Jesus de Nazaret, Las Palabras (mistakenly ordered in Spanish)
  • Fodor's New York City 1999
  • Deborah Solomon, Utopia Parkway:  the Life and Work of Joseph Cornell
  • Ruth Rendell, The Crocodile Bird
I should make other lists of the same ilk:  assorted CDs I never listen to; assorted clothes I haven't worn in years; files I will never again consult. Boxes of tea I'll never drink.  I do, however, hope to get around to reading almost all of the above books, including The Words of Jesus in Spanish.  If I ever learn Spanish.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fun stuff because I love y'all.

First of all, this, especially in honor of theorris:

(courtesy Scotland daughter, via navel gazing at its finest)

And second of all, because I read fashion blogs, I found this for you:  Aretha Franklin Is Not Sure if She Can Bear to Give 'The Hat' to the Smithsonian.  Better than that:  "The Hat" photoshopped onto Stephen Colbert and Karl Rove and assorted dogs:

Do not fail to check out the whole page.  It, like the hat itself on Inauguration Day, will lift your spirits.  And who doesn't need to look at pictures of dogs in hats in these dark days?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lost and found.

Having internet access back, after two days of not having it, is like your kitten being lost, then finding her and bringing her back home.  All you want to do, once she's home, is pet the kitten.  

Sweet, sweet kitten.

Analog error.

After spending an hour or so that I will never get back on the phone with my phone co., trouble-shooting the modem and everything else under the sun, I called my third party ISP (which I probably don't need--that was me, over-reading the instructions about how to set up DSL when I first got the magic box in the mail) to find out that I haven't been able to connect to the internet at home for the past 48 hours because . . . wait for it . . . I have not paid my bill.

I would start feeling like a dork except, wait, why didn't I get my usual e-mail from them saying, "Hey! your bill is due!"  So really, even though I'm a tad sheepish that I didn't think of this, I'm more uh, hello, third party ISP, YOU were delinquent.  Not me, YOU.

And I also now feel motivated to rethink this whole DSL provider/ISP conundrum, which I have been content until now to let alone because I'm lazy.  Lesson for third-party ISP, in case you're listening, which you're not, I know that now:  DO NOT INTERRUPT MY INTERNET ACCESS, or I will be forced to rethink the order of the universe.  And cancel my account with you.

In other news, I have ordered the smokingest iMac in the universe with upgraded RAM and lots and lots of hard drive to fill up with my stuff.  I will have it next week.  Beware of my computing power and general computing awesomeness.  Beware!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oh my gosh, no internet.

So, you guys, last night when I checked the tubes not for the last time but for the very last time, everything was working fine.  I connected to Safari and my computer hummed like a busy, efficient bee.  Gmail, blog, Huffington--up-to-date and off to bed.  But this morning, the internet has stopped being my friend, as in our friend, and there are all sorts of errors and problems, and failures to connect.  

Failures.  To connect.  As in, my efforts to connect all failed.

Rebooting like a mad woman has done nothing.  I can't even isolate the problem:  the historian's laptop won't connect, not even with the ethernet cable, but I can't connect to singing son's wireless, so what is it? and why this sudden meltdown?  The thought of talking to some probably very hardworking IT guy on the phone to troubleshoot it all makes me simultaneously itchy and weepy and rage-y.  

I am not amused.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Conversation with singing son.

me: Hi! my friend Ann said she saw you today at the Legislature--
  I'm so sorry I missed that!
  what did you sing?
9:51 PM Isaac: you can see that on line or hear a bad recording anyway
 me: yay! what did you sing?
9:52 PM Isaac: mostly snoop dogg covers
 me: awesome.
9:54 PM Isaac: we sang the national anthem prayer of the children Battle hymn of the republic and utah man but not bob dylan as per my incessant requests. or snoop dog-- my requests were not so incessant for the dogg
9:55 PM me: my friend Ann said you guyz were jaw-droppingly good.
 Isaac: yeah well drop your jaw to this
 Isaac: you will hear Russel M. Praying and Former Speaker Bumbling
  we are after that
 me: Is Bumbling his name? Mr. Bumbling?
  The Honorable Bumbling?
9:58 PM because that would be awesome.
 Isaac: no it is Cxxxxx as in I am a doof Gxxx Cxxxxx
 me: The Honorable Gxxx "Bumbling" "I Am a Doof" Cxxxxx, then. Great.
9:59 PM Thank you for the link! I am going to post it on my blog, btw.

10:04 P

   Isaac: What are you posting that I ain't got no status or that I sang for the lechislatyour
 me: lechislatyour
  It's cool, man.
10:05 PM Isaac: That is how I say it now it seems to fit them better.
  it sounds like leach or lech or something
 me: I might use that spelling, also--it's good.
10:06 PM Isaac: it is like they are going to lech your is sooner or later
 me: Excellent analysis.

Writing writing writing writing writing: a report.

Here are a bunch of things I would rather do than write, if I am to judge by my performance today:

1.  read the rest of an Irish detective novel that I started last night.
2.  find the book I'm supposed to be reading for my reading group.
3.  take a tiny nap.
4.  check my e-mail and all the blogs and aggregators a truly shocking number of times.
5.  check when The Closer and Trust Me are going to be on tonight.
6.  Twitter.

However:  I did finally bring myself to do it.  I circled around it first by making a revision agenda: what poems in the manuscript are pretty close to finished, what ones are in need of a stiff revision, what ones still need to be fleshed out quite a bit.  Then, I started in on one of them, making notes and looking at the feedback my group gave me, etc. etc.  Also some notes for a new poem or so.  Even the detective novel ended up feeling like not a waste of my time--something about the writing in it, and the way sex and death and curiosity and persistence intertwined in its plot, kept me going while I wrote and wrote and wrote. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Agenda for this week.

1.  Heavy and exciting television watching.
2.  Excavating a room downstairs so that it is useable again.
3.  Exploring whether I like beets grated onto my salad.
4.  Making a sourdough start?
5.  Buying a new Mac of my very own.
6.  Sending poems out into the void.
7.  Writing writing writing writing writing.
8.  Reading something slightly more aspirational than crime fiction?
9.  Going to the movies--at least on the weekend.
10. Lunch with a friend.
11.  More writing.
12.  Walking with Bruiser.
13.  A nap or three.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The historian, it's your birthday, happy birthday, the historian.

Happy birthday to the historian!  I asked him to tell me ten things he wished for.  He said he wished 

1. that he understood more about economics;
2. that he were a painter; and/or
3. that he were a musician, and especially that he understood jazz;
4. that we will be able to travel in the future to at least some of the places we want to go;
5. that he would enjoy good health for the rest of his life;
6. that the Scotlands would move here in the not-too-distant future;
7. that he would remain productive as a historian;
8. that he were a swell pool player;
9. that he were a magician; and finally,
10. that none of our kids will have financial difficulties.

In light of these wishes, I wish the historian a year filled with learning, art, music and especially jazz, travel, excellent health, lots of family visits, new and exciting historical projects, pool-shooting, magic, and prosperity spread all around--to everyone, because prosperity is just better that way.  

In conclusion, please substitute "the historian" for "Lisa" in this song:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Elizabeth Alexander explains what poetry is to Stephen Colbert.

And very well, I might add:

Props to Professor Pulitzer Yale: well done!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It is time to lie down,

I am sorry to report, since it's only 9:12 p.m. and I am NOT THAT OLD, am I? But before I do, curling up with my French Theory book and my French detective novel (hello, Gallic!), I must report that I found a petite package on my porch this afternoon, and I asked myself, now what in the world can this petite package be? and then I ripped open the box with my car keys like a sensible person, and lo! it was the complete box set of Faerie Tale Theatre, Shelley Duvall's live-action project of fairy tale reenactments (sort of like Civil War reenactments, but with talking animals and occasional fairies) from back in the 80s.  

It was originally shown on Showtime, but we used to rent episodes on VHS from Video Voyager out in Kearns, for you west siders, and watch 'em with the kids.  We particularly liked The Dancing Princesses (Lesley Ann Warren) and The Three Little Pigs (Jeff Goldblum as the Wolf, Billy Crystal, Fred Willard, and Stephen Furst as the pigs), and especially, especially Pinocchio, starring none other than Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee Herman, as the wooden puppet.  

I found out about this on some "The Most Awesome DVDs of 2008 You Never Even Heard Of" list, and ordered them toute de suite.  And now I have them.  So:  if you never saw them but want to see them; if you are a child of mine and cannot believe the good fortune of having a mom who found these precious, precious recordings and then purchased them; or if you grew up watching them, too:  you know where to come.  Over to my house, where the good times roll.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A moment and some words.

"The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Things that make you feel better.

In no particular order:
  • having delicious homemade cake laying around.
  • a dog that wags his whole body when you come home.
  • having the chance to talk to your daughter while driving all the way down to Provo and all the way home.
  • making a toddler smile.
  • doughnuts for the drive home.
  • having tickets to a concert but not wanting to leave the house, but going anyway and having a great time.
  • finding out that your four-year-old granddaughter in Scotland has taken a picture of you when you were having a webchat.
  • reading
  • having a dinner that consists of toast. Lots of toast.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Today we went to a memorial service for a friend's husband who recently died of cancer.  After, I find myself face to face with--or more aptly catching a glimpse as it turns a corner--the flatness of the things you can say, compare to what you wish to say.  I am remembering this man, whom I did not know well--his lovely smile, his way in the kitchen, his voice--and thinking about how many things there are to miss in life, how often I avoid what is awkward or difficult, which means not being surprised by what may be beyond the awkwardness, the difficulty.    

Tonight I feel grieved by this, by what feels to me like a failure.

When we got home, I made dinner for us and two of running son's friends.  I took special pleasure in the preparations--omelets and toast; roasted potatoes, carrots, parsnips; sliced oranges and black grapes; a lemon cake.  My friend and her husband together were geniuses of hospitality, conviviality.  I want to nurture that in myself and in our home, the simple human gestures by which we help each other live, connect, thrive. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sleep clinic.

A version of this article from the L.A. Times appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning, headlined "If you sleep more, you may sneeze less."  Some highlights:
"The longer you sleep, the better off you are, the less susceptible you are to colds," said lead author Sheldon Cohen, who studies the effects of stress on health at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University.  Prior research has suggested that sleep boosts the immune system at the cell level. This is the first study to show small sleep disturbances increasing the risk of getting sick, said Dr. Michael Irwin. 


The people who slept less than seven hours a night in the weeks before they were exposed to the virus were three times more likely to catch a cold than those who slept eight hours or more.
 and finally 

Sleeping fitfully also was tied to greater risk of catching a cold. Those who tossed and turned more than 8 percent of their time in bed were five times more likely to get sick than those who were sleepless only 2 percent of the time. 

So:  if you sleep seven hours, you're basically saying to the virus, I want you for my very own.  Sleeping fitfully?  It's like a mating dance you're doing for the virus.  And the advice of the experts:  "The message is to maintain regular sleep habits because those are really critical for health," Irwin said. 

No, let me just repeat that in case you missed its perspicacity, and in a larger font size, and indented: 

"The message is to maintain regular sleep habits because those are really critical for health," Irwin said. 

Oh, thank you.  How very helpful.  I will telepathically communicate my gratitude for this advice to the researchers tonight, while I'm tossing and turning during my less than eight hours of sleep.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Fine cinema.

Me, in my study; historian, in front of the television at 11:30 p.m., shooting through the channels with the remote. 

Historian  (to himself or to Bruiser--or both):  There are a lot of great movies on late at night.

Me: (from my study, laughing)

Historian:  For instance, Lost Boys: The Tribe. "After moving to a new California town, a young woman learns that her new friends are a pack of vampires."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The tome: a consideration, and other items.

1.  I am reading a big fat novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I bought it, I think, at Powell's, hardback, for a good price, and I am enjoying it quite a bit.  It is nearly eight hundred pages, and frankly, this presents some challenges.  These challenges have caused me to weigh (literally) the pluses and minuses of the very large book:  
  • on the one hand, a long book that's a good book has more goodness to love; 
  • on the other hand, my wrists sometimes hurt after I've read twenty-five pages.
  • On the one hand, who does not relish her appointment to spend an hour or two in the company of a splendid work of literature?
  • On the other hand, why is said work of literature so unwieldy?
  • On the one hand, reading a wonderful book for a little moment before falling asleep is one of the great pleasures of the reading life, but 
  • on the other hand, fitting this book in bed with myself, my pillow, and my husband (not to mention my dog for awhile before we usher him out and turn out the lights) is a feat that might require technical drawings and perhaps the services of a time-motion expert to perform properly.  
I don't wish this book were shorter--it is wonderful, and here Gregory Maguire says some of the reasons why--but I do wish I had more efficacious large-book-wrangling powers.  

2.  I recycled about a zillion magazines of all sorts today.  This has given me some new shelf space to work with, and that's a good thing.  If I can give away ten percent of my books, that would be even better.

I tried not to look at the magazines as I whisked them from my shelves.  I have done this before, and looking at the magazines typically extends the duration of the organizing project from a brisk "let's take an armload or ten out to the recycling bin" Clean Sweep, to a leisurely consideration of why people thought Obama was unelectable in 2007, and what color of lipstick the authorities were recommending for the spring of 2005. 

I was mostly successful in applying this broad, "if it's a magazine, it's trash" policy, but some quick judgment calls got made (save the Times Magazine with Joseph Gordon Leavitt on the cover; toss the Times Magazine with the article about the conservative powerhouse 4th Circuit Court of Appeals).  I filled the recycling bin halfway with periodical literature.  My triumph over the magazines may give me courage to tackle some closets.

3.  I roasted the giant spaghetti squash I had hanging around from the last day of the Pioneer Park farmer's market.  I was reluctant to buy it because it was literally bigger than my head, but it's good to have some hard squash around, and the historian likes spaghetti squash, and I don't know, it was the end of the market! I was contemplating months and months on end of straitened vegetable access!  

So we bought it and it has been sitting on my counter, a giant yellow squash of reproach, until today, when, giddy with my new organizational powers, I thought, let's just cook that sucker up and see what we can do with it.  Here's what:  
  • mix some roasted tomatoes, which you have tucked away in your freezer, in with the squash.  
  • Then give a couple of good glugs of olive oil.  
  • Rip some fresh mozzarella up into the mix, about a pound; 
  • crumble some ricotta salata in there too.  
  • Stir till it's all well acquainted.  
  • Crumble a little more ricotta salata on the top and 
  • bake for awhile at 350 degrees.  
  • Take  your dog for a walk.  
  • Come home and eat a delicious and wholesome dinner which will make you feel like a homemaking genius.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

You say it's your birthday.

Fact:  every birthday of every one of my children occurs in December or January.  
Fact:  my mother's birthday is in January.
Fact:  the historian's birthday is . . . in January.
Fact:  my son-in-law's birthday is also in January.
Fact:  my son the soccer coach, who joined our family kind of midstream--his birthday is in February.

There was a time in my life when I didn't go for more than a few days without baking a cake. Today I bought a bunch of birthday candles, just in case.  One time, I asked my doctor about what might explain so many births clustered so tightly.  "I guess you all liked to have sex in April," she said.  Oh: that.

Anyway:  happy birthdays to running son (20), college daughter (22), my daughter the makeup artist (26), and singing son (28), whose birthdays have already taken place.  Happy birthday to my mom (ageless!), whose birthday is right around the corner.  Happy birthday to my daughter in Scotland, who will be 30 very soon.  Each of them is so splendid a person, there should be fireworks, parades, confetti, and all sorts of delights to round out the celebration. (Also, the fact that I will soon have a thirty-year old daughter--I'm not quite sure what this signifies, but I fear it may mean I am old.)  

I have baked nary a birthday cake this year.  Everyone's grown up, plans are more malleable, people live out of town, etc.  And I'm sure I don't technically need birthday cake, but it does seem kind of a shame.  The historian's birthday, upcoming, may call for an extravagant cake.  I do have the candles.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This will fix what is wrong with your life.

Today, I went to Target (shopping list: 1. ibuprofen, the giant bottle. 2. Marshmallow Mateys. 3. Lorna Doones. 4. rechargeable batteries that aren't lame. 5. CD sleeves. 6. this. 7. that.) and I found this:

This, people, is a Pure Komachi 2 knife.  Even though the blade and the handle are apple green and therefore this knife is officially adorable, the blade has a full tang and it is super sharp. Also, according to a review I read, the blade is "coated in a fluorinated resin coating that keeps foods from sticking to the blade and helps to resist bacteria." This knife is sharp.  It is cute.  It only cost $12.99.  And with this knife, I made this awesome dish for dinner:

Greens & White Beans

In a pan, put about 3/4 c. dried flageolet beans, or other white beans that don't have as snooty a resume, in plenty of water.  Also in the pan with the beans and water put some fresh rosemary. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook till beans are tender and discard the branchy parts of the rosemary, although you can leave the leaves.  They're fine.  This will take a couple of hours.  

When the beans are just about finished simmering, take

1 bunch of rainbow chard (or any winter greens)

and toss into a pot of simmering, salted water.  Cover and simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Drain immediately.  Cut the chard crosswise so that the pieces are close to bite-size--but no need to be fussy or too exacting.  Toss with

about 1/3 c. finely sliced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper
olive oil to taste (don't be stingy)
a fruity vinegar to taste

If you happen to have some cherry or grape tomatoes, slice them in half and toss them in, too. Then add the drained beans.  Grate plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano over it all, and toss it till everything has met everything else.  Eat it and be amazed that relatively humble ingredients can taste so splendid.  You might think there will be leftovers but there won't because you will eat it all up.  And don't forget to give props to your knife for the good work it did.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The facts about today.

Bruiser woke me at 4 a.m.
Wrote.  Ate a bowl of Kix.
Woke the historian and climbed back in bed at 7.
Awoke three and a half hours later.  
Cleared my head, got dressed, ran some errands.
Found this, this, this and this in the piles of cds everywhere.
Bought lipstick and Sundance tickets.
Wrote some more.
Asked myself this question:  What connects grief and the will?
Made red lentil soup. Laundered. Waited for the historian to get home. Walked Bruiser.
Tried this and viewed this. (via kottke)
The Jazz beat Indiana.

That is all.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Poem vs. me: round 1357.

Today was my writing group.  I have been thinking about this one piece of freewriting I had, one that I had had for several months now.  This morning I awoke with this piece of freewriting on my mind and a little shred of a thought about where I might begin--with this line from the lyric of George Jones's "Why Baby Why" which I recently heard in a cover by James Taylor.  So I was thinking, This is it.  Today is the day.  The time is now to wrest a poem from you, piece of freewriting, or know the reason why.  

(Note to self:  why are you having so many showdowns with inanimate objects, self?  What is this agon, this animus, this bellicosity, this pugnacity?  Must investigate.)

So I pulled up this piece of freewriting.  I reviewed its eddies and flows and I did a little homework (downloading George Jones's version of "Why Baby Why").  I began to pull bits of the freewrite together into lines, the lines into stanzas, the stanzas into something like an argument with a big leap in the middle, and it started to seem so . . . hopeless.  Fatuous and hopeless.  Fatuous, pointless, and hopeless.  (It's sometimes hard to fend this feeling off even if the writing is going well.)  I thought, ugh.  That hole in the argument? I don't know how to get around that, or fill it in, or make it disappear with magic, or write an invisibility shield to go over it. 

It got to the point where I either was going to take a shower or sweat over the poem some more, and I thought, why inflict an unshowered poem-less self on my writing group?  At least shower.  At least be clean.  So I did, and I thought about the recalcitrant poem while showering, and I thought some more and I got some ideas.  So I did my hair and got dressed and thought, Never mind, I always show up with a poem, if I don't have a poem, big deal.  Maybe this poem is bigger than the time I allotted it.  Poem 1, Lisa 0, so what?  

But that just made me mad.  

So I sat down and I decided to leave the argument-hole as it was and write the strongest second half of a poem I could.  And that's exactly what I did.  I am a little bit in love with the second half of the poem I wrote, and having done so, I think I know what to do to work with the first half and the hole I wrote myself into. 

So the score is now Poem 1, Lisa 1, and I think I will also out-strategize the poem's reluctance to be written when I do the next draft. In the words of Jerry Sloan, I've done what I need to do to give myself a chance to win.   

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Movie reviews, sorted.

Tonight, I have completed the brief reviews of all the movies I saw in 2008.  Et voila.

As of tonight, we have seen five films in 2009, reviews here.   This is a full-service blog.  


Friday, January 09, 2009

Is Jim Carrey insufferable?: The Court hears the arguments.

For the prosecution, enter the attorney, Sir Poncey Impeccable, Esq.  For the defense, Sr. Olaf "Ace" Ipkiss.  

Mr. Impeccable begins the inquiry by citing the numerous breaches of good taste Mr. Carrey has perpetrated upon the public, to wit: when he "as Ace Ventura, bent over, hands on rump, ventriloquiz[es] through parted butt cheeks," not to mention assorted other indignities, many of them in Dumb and Dumber.

Barrister "Ace" rejoins, protesting that Mr. Carrey's comedic gifts are enormous, and not limited to the physical bravado he displayed even in some of his earliest work on In Living Color as Fire Marshall Bill and that one guy who used to leap across the background in various sketches.  His face is a rare instrument (more laudatory blah blah blah--the pathos of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show, and the amazing range he exhibited in the underrated Farrelly Bros. masterpiece of crassiosity Me, Myself, and Irene.  You get the picture.).

His Majesty of Good Taste Sir Impeccable sniffs that Carrey not only displays chronically poor taste in his choice of roles and in his playing of them, he also exhibits the delusions of grandeur of the actorly parvenu. Exhibit A:  The Riddler in Batman Forever, a piece of overreaching (although Impeccable concedes that the problem there was as much director Joel Schumacher as Jim Carrey); Exhibit B: The Majestic.  

Dragging a big fat red herring across the closely woven argument, Mr. "Ace" shamelessly introduces the claim that Mr. Impeccable would not know a comedy if it bit him in the ass. With spectacular aplomb, he presses further that Impeccable only deigns to laugh when a comedy is both in good taste and when it carries its comic conceits through to an aesthetically sound conclusion, which is to say, he never laughs.  Or perhaps once a quarter century, which is, statistically, never.  

Sir Impeccable spies an argumentative opening, because while his standards for comedy may be high (the claim that he "wouldn't know a comedy if it bit him in the ass" is risible and, moreover, itself in very bad taste, especially in a courtroom, the temple, after all, of justice), Mr. Carrey's work provides many occasions to examine the unfunny comedy.  For example: How the Grinch Stole Christmas.   Bad, bad, bad.  Don't even try to weasel out of that one, Ace.

With great swagger, Mr. Ipkiss draws his big guns--his ace in the hole, as it were--out for the finish, an appreciation published recently in The Atlantic Monthly, "Existential Clown":
Yes Man, out this month, is Carrey’s latest existential parable. If, as has been speculated, Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard shared a libertine moment in the salons and cellars of 19th-century Copenhagen, they could have brainstormed this movie over drinks. Carrey plays Carl Allen, an office drone and cautious Cuthbert who abruptly starts saying “Yes!” to everything—Korean lessons, cans of Red Bull, love, and life itself. This impulsive assent to existence is characteristically presented in the form of a gift/curse, laid upon Carrey, in this case, by a New Age positivity guru played by Terence Stamp. (The tie-in with Red Bull is a brilliant stroke, of course—no other legal product so generously extends the promise of turning you, if only for half an hour, into Jim Carrey.)
Ipkiss continues with an incisive citation from a recent interview with Larry King in which Carrey notes that comedy "helps you transcend whatever state of pain you're in. Now, everybody has a little bit of something going on. So I believe that movies are made by people in pain for people in pain."  Such insight! Such humanity!

Finally, delivering the coup de grace, Ipkiss returns to the Atlantic piece:

Carrey is the single performer at his level who seems as though he’d be as happy in a Samuel Beckett play as in a summer blockbuster. Beckett would have dug him, I think—the wintry Irishman liked his clowns, the more existential the better. Mask-faced Buster Keaton turned down the role of Lucky in a 1956 production of Waiting for Godot, but nine years later Beckett managed to corral him into an almost-silent film called Film. It’s a bleak little work, not unexpectedly—Keaton scurries rodent-like by city walls, his porkpie hat in place but his face scarved and averted, ducking from the glances of passersby and pausing only to take his own pulse. Rare is the Carrey movie that doesn’t feature some comparable scene of evasion or solitary, self-diagnosing crisis.

And what a Lucky he would make! One can see him shuffling, hangdog, compressed, with the rope around his neck, then erupting out of nowhere into Lucky’s famous semi-Pentecostal speech: “… A personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions …” “Mêlée, final vociferations,” wrote Beckett in the stage directions. It’s Carrey in excelsis. Perhaps he could deliver it out of his ass.


In conclusion, Yes Man is pretty darn funny with the plus of Zooey Deschanel; moreover Jim Carrey is a treasure--a treasure which may not be to your exact delight, but a treasure nonetheless.  Says me, Ipkiss, and the historian.  We laughed.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature.*

Over the past year, two of the most absorbing books I read were fantasy novels.

I will pause so that you may reflect.

The first was Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, a Socialist MP in the U.K.  I finished this book about a year ago.  The second was The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, who teaches writing in Wisconsin.  I finished this book the other night.  There are dragons in this book, and a university, and demons and faeries.  Yes, that is an "e" I inserted instead of the more usual, and modern, "i," in the word for "one of a class of supernatural beings, generally conceived as having a diminutive human form and possessing magical powers with which they intervene in human affairs." I did that, because now, I am apparently a person who reads fantasy novels.

You may not be aware of this fact, but it turns out that a well-written fantasy novel creates a world, and that this in turn generates a highly satisfying reading experience.  As in, you want to know what happens next, and you keep going in the hope that your dread about the demons, dragons, etc., will not be fulfilled.  This dread keeps you going and going and going, until you reach the end and then there's the next volume in the trilogy . . . which will not be published until April.  April! (Last night, after I finished The Name of the Wind but couldn't sleep, I totally pre-ordered it on Amazon.  According to Mr. Rothfuss's website, his trilogy is already substantially written, because when he was writing it, he didn't have any idea about how long a novel was supposed to be, so he basically wrote the whole trilogy.  And as is universally acknowledged, fantasy novels always come in trilogies.)

Well, in the meantime, I have The Scar, the second volume in Mieville's trilogy.  Also, when I need to change things up a little, I can go to the library and pick up a couple of Dublin detective novels.  And if that gets wearisome, I can read a little Proust, where nothing happens but the writing is exquisite.  I'm confessing right here and right now that, when it comes to novels, I'm almost always in the mood for something happening, even if it does involve medieval-ish spellings and the fey folk. Clearly, I'm going to have to try to keep this under control. 

*from the blurb on the back jacket of The Name of the Wind.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Organize Yourselves, Prepare Every Needful Thing Report.

First, I took everything out of my room.  Well, almost everything.  Enough so I could move my desk to face the wall, and my chair in front of the window.  As a strategy, this was to increase the likelihood that I would go through stuff and get rid of some of it.  Which worked pretty well, as it turned out, until I started to feel sick.  Is it a virus? Is it an allergic reaction to all the dust I stirred up?  Who can really say?

Here are some things I still need to do:  
  • reorganize all my books.  
  • probably buy new bookshelves for downstairs.
  • take stuff down from the closet in my study and get rid of it.
  • perhaps follow running son's advice, in response to my own dithering that maybe I would have to make an arbitrary decision, like getting rid of everything that's brown: "hope you can get organized and possibly get rid of some things, perhaps your magazines need to go?  You already have way too many.  Get rid of pink before brown, brown is a better color, nonetheless good luck on figuring that stuff out."
  • actually sort through my clothes instead of just putting them away.  Although putting things away is a good start.   
  • accept the fact that all the artifacts of all my projects and activities cannot fit into one room, and therefore, I will have to move things from here to there and from there to here. (It is shocking to me how much I need to just put things away.  What am I, in kindergarten?)
This leaves out the other rooms I need to organize.  One thing at a time.

As I noted before, even doing what I've done so far has made my study so much more hospitable to me and my work that it makes me feel good every time I look in there.  The only downside is that I feel a tiny bit less motivated to scour the earth and chasten the closets.  Still, it's progress.  I just need to not feel like lying down morning, afternoon, and night, and then some writing might actually happen in this awesome, scholarly, tidy space.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Snow day.

Although I'm not currently writing a syllabus or preparing to teach or anything that relates to my normal job, but because even so, I am technically about my employer's business, I decided that it was well within my authority as the smallest of the satellite "campuses" to declare today an official snow day.  Also, using that same authority, I retroactively declared yesterday an official snow day.  So I baked bread and made soup and read my very interesting novel.  Which makes the two official snow days highly productive, using the newly calibrated Snow Day Productivity Metric (®) (authorized for use only at this campus).

In other campus announcements, I am sick.

Also, while employing my remote control for television viewing, I caught a tiny snippet of Tim, a 1979 film starring a quite-young Mel Gibson as a mentally challenged but very buff young man wearing some super-tiny shorts.  If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself.  My channel guide said it was going to be The Rockford Files. Then we watched Jeopardy.  

And now, back to my regularly scheduled novel.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Thrill seeker.

These days, when I take Bruiser out for a walk, I am taking my life in my hands.  Bruiser is, it must be said, an excitable dog.  The snow really revs him up:  his usual stopping and starting is amped up--he stops to shove his nose into soft snow, possibly to find frozen treats, and then wheels around to take off in a flash. Add to this general dog enthusiasm for the snowy weather the fact that the sidewalks in my neighborhood are, on the spectrum that ranges from "shoveled" to "unshoveled," all over the map.  

I have come to be a very astute observer of the varying iciness of the walks.  There are walks so meticulously shoveled that they are almost dry; walks that have been worked over by a snow blower but which have underlayers of ice; snow-packed walks; walks that were never shoveled but have nonetheless been tramped on and sculpted by feet, so that they're like the freaking Matterhorn, but flatter.  

I'm not walking, exactly; I'm scrambling, or free-styling, or almost hiking.  All this with a rambunctious dog on a leash.  "Hey!" I say.  Often.  Or, "Hold on!" Or, "Don't pull me!" Or combinations thereof:  "Hey!  Hey!  Hold on, Bruiser.  Don't pull me.  Hey! You can't pull me."  My goal is to get through the winter without ending up on my butt on some sidewalk a mile from home, with Bruiser about fifteen feet ahead of me, still on the leash, foraging for God knows what horrible thing that has been preserved specifically for him in the snow.  

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Back to work.

Tomorrow, the historian goes back to work and so do I.  This week, I intend to sort and organize and give away and re-engineer and make my chaos submit to order or know the reason why. Possibilities:
  1. Give some books and/or cds away.
  2. Give a whole bunch of clothes and shoes away.
  3. Ruthlessly get rid of a LOT of paper artifacts.  Maybe without even looking at them.  Much.
  4. Move the big chair where the desk is and vice versa.
  5. Contemplate how things got to this state of affairs.  Try to do this without sinking into despair.
Why have I not done this during the past week, you may be wondering, the week in which I saw six movies and barely cooked and only started to clean stuff up yesterday.  The answer is that cleaning up my nonsense is private.  Which is why I'm talking about it on my blog but not showing you pictures.  I am just not sure that anyone besides me and my dog needs to observe me sorting through the pile of shirts I have accumulated, or watch me in my deliberations, or listen to me mutter to myself.  Significantly, I feel this same way--that it should be private--about shopping (ah! see #5 above).  

Somehow, this blessed rage for order (O pale Ramon!) is connected with what I am imagining will be a storm of productivity in my projects.  Actually, I have a lot of faith that this will be so.  Some amount of order will be the result of this organizing mania.  And that amount of order will be exactly what is necessary for me to feel, even if this feeling is ephemeral, that I am on top of things enough to create, to write, to make.  So tomorrow, when I feel all sweaty with the effort of streamlining the stuff of my life, it will be good sweat, the kind that makes me feel that I can do almost anything.  

Lisa's Stuff:  Watch your back, because I am about to kick your ass.   

Saturday, January 03, 2009


The historian's daughter and partner are in town for a few days. We went to breakfast, then took a walk around Liberty Park, which was nothing short of glorious:

Liberty Park Snow Day from lisab on Vimeo.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The week in movies.

Starting on Monday, I have seen, with either the historian or one or another of my daughters, the following:
  • I've Loved You So Long
  • Seven Pounds
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Marley & Me
  • Doubt
Tomorrow, we're going to see The Reader.  I might also try to squeeze in a viewing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, about which the historian's main view is that it appears to be long  (Me: "You know, David Fincher directed it!  Who directed . . . " Historian: "Fight Club. Zodiac."  Me: "So, you think you want to see it with me?"  Historian:  "Seems kind of long to me.").

Do not read the following if you don't want to know certain facts about the movies under discussion:

1.  I've Loved You So Long is marred only by a slight letdown in the final revelation which seems a little improbable.  The performances are all wonderful.  I loved this film.

2.  Seven Pounds is ridiculous.  I never mind seeing Will Smith, and the only reason he should be blamed for what is wrong with this movie, which is almost everything, is that he agreed to make it.  I'm going to tell you that his character dies in the most absurd way I have ever seen in the movies.  Rosario Dawson is lovely and adorable, however, so you can figure that into the equation in whatever way you do that kind of math.  College daughter and I saw this for her birthday, and we had a perfectly fine time at it, nonsense and all.

3.  Frost/Nixon:  The historian and I fear that, in order for this film to work as a meditation on the power of spectacle in politics, people need to remember more about Watergate than they probably do.  Because this film does not give a tutorial on Watergate.  How you feel about the way Frank Langella represents Nixon depends, I think, on how much knowledge you bring to the film.  However, we both agreed that the film was fascinating, engaging, very entertaining, and provocative.  

4.  Marley & Me:  I resisted seeing this film and then my daughter the makeup artist persuaded me.  I cried so much I  hurt myself (which is what college daughter said about another movie).  It's possible I may have brought to the viewing a certain sorrow about the loss of a dog.  If this is you, be careful, or you may also cry yourself sick at the ending of this movie.  Alan Arkin has a part in this movie that was quite wonderful and hilarious.  Also, great dog.

5.  Doubt:  This is another film that invited discussion afterward.  Thrilling--possibly slightly hammy, but thrilling nonetheless--performances, and a provocative argument that cuts a lot of ways.  I am currently considering a proposition that perhaps the two dilemmas of the film don't quite dovetail--the very specific question of doubt about the actions of the priest, along with the larger question of whether a the purpose of a church or system of belief is to erase all doubt or to provide a community of people who keep each other company in a near-permanent state of being lost.  Even so, this was a pretty riveting film and there was plenty to enjoy about it.

I am currently awaiting the arrival of The Class, Waltz with Bashir, Revolutionary Road, Che, The Wrestler, and Wendy and Lucy.   I also hope that Adventureland is as awesome as it appears it might be.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 FAQ.

Q:  What do you anticipate fretting about in 2009?
A:  Nothing.  I have resolved to fret less.  

Q:  Give me a break.
A:  That's not a question.

Q:  Seriously.
A:  Okay.  The economy, my children's economic future, the wars, my lack of closet space, the way dust and dirt accumulates silently yet openly in my house, aging, food insecurity all over the world, the historian's health and happiness, whether I am in fact a good person.  

Q:  Wow.  
A:  No kidding.

Q:  Maybe you should work on something else.  Like, give stuff up. Like shopping, potato chips, and general laziness?
A:  This isn't helping.

Q:  Fine.  Moving on:  How can you tell if you're reading for pleasure?
A:  If the book makes me feel as though it is my very, very best friend, as though, when I wake up, I want to cradle it in my arms; if I want to press a copy of it into the hands of everyone I know; or perhaps if I want to sleep with the book under my pillow--all these are signs that I am reading for pleasure.  

Conversely, if the book emits a force field that makes it impossible to read more than a page and a half without making me (a) put it down, (b) fall asleep, or (c) fling it across the room, then I am not reading for pleasure, and therefore shall seek another book to read. Preferably a pleasurable book.

Q:  In the phrase "write lots," how much is "lots"?
A:  Quite a bit.  A considerable quantity.  With significant frequency.  Voluminously.  At a marked rate.  

Q:  Will 2009 be a good year?
A:   Que sera, sera.  


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