Friday, September 30, 2011

Adventures in British television, starring Idris Elba.

We've been watching Luther, a darn good police procedural in the vein of the troubled detective who wrestles with the existential moral dilemma of the thin blue line, not always being sure if he's so much better than the violent, murdering criminals he must bring to justice.

My friend Ann recommended it, and the historian and I have watched an episode each night this week, and two on Friday, aka tonight (streaming on Netflix!). We have enjoyed it. Note: British TV gets away with a fair amount of gore in the pursuit of justice. It stars Stringer Bell, or Idris Elba if you prefer, and he is very good. There are an assortment of psychopaths, dirty cops, and unfinished romantic business. Very good stuff.

One of the great things--as with The Wire and Mad Men--there are amazing and always perfectly apropos songs to end each episode. Here's the song that ended Episode 6:

Now, when I heard it, I couldn't figure out who it was. Also, it took a minute, and also a tiny Google search, but who's counting? to remember that the version I had heard of this was done by The Animals.

The historian: Who's singing this?

Me: Dunno. Let's see who did the original. (google google google). (pause:) Huh.

Turns out, this song was written expressly for Nina Simone, who recorded it in 1964. And The Animals recorded it the following year. So, see? Television + Google: they're for educating minds.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dear grading.

Dear Grading,

I am in the middle of you, and I am not speaking metaphorically.

As a bonus thought, I will be in the middle of you until December. And then it will be Christmas, and there will be Christmas stuff to be in the middle of. And then, January, and by January 20th, say, I will be in the middle of you again. Until May.

Grading, you have a large, all-encompassing morass of a middle.



Friday, September 23, 2011


I am writing. As in, this morning, I wrote. A poem. I am still working on it. Also, there is a new poem percolating in my brain.


At night for the last month, we've been hearing the crickets singing away.


I bought a little earring--a brass wasp, a tiny stud. I had it in my earlobe last night while we were walking Bruiser. In checking it obsessively, I brushed it away and it is gone. Tiny little brass wasp, gone.


Moneyball is here. I can't think of a recent movie I have been more excited to see. There are also worthy movies showing currently at the Broadway. By "worthy movie," I mean the kind of movie that will make you feel like a better person, a more virtuous person, if you see it. Tonight, we are going to see a worthy movie. It will probably be pretty good. I will, I'm betting, in fact feel like a better person for seeing it. But tomorrow night, we're going to see Moneyball. I'm thinking of it this way: if we wait one more night, that's one more night I can look forward to seeing it.


Last week, rather than see Drive, we went to see The Guard again. I really, really love that movie. Anyone who has seen Drive--was I wrong?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

And there's a barrel that I didn't fill.

Autumn is my favorite season, I'm pretty sure. Paradoxically, autumn makes me anxious.

We went to the farmer's market today, and it was the very essence of the season: peaches everywhere, and tomatoes, and all the things that go with tomatoes--basil, eggplant, peppers, garlic. Corn. And grapes, berries of every imaginable variety, the beginning of the onslaught of apples. It's utterly beautiful. You can smell everything, too, there's that much of all of it. Brilliant, heaped in baskets and boxes and on tables.

We bought a box of tomatoes, for roasting. I am thinking about peaches--if I want to make more jam; if I want to bottle some. Or if we should just eat them as they are, as many as we can, until they're gone.

There are two poets for autumn, or maybe just two iconic poems: Keats' autumn ode, and Frost's "After Apple Picking." Both of these poems I read when I was much younger, though they have more power for me now.

Frost says,

I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

"Anxious" seems to mark things these days. Weary, too, but also anxious: how shall I spend these days? What shall I put by?

The last stanza of Keats:

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

The music is beautiful. It is wailful, it is rumbling, there's nothing for it but to let it sing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I am in the middle of these books.

I am reading Great House for my book group. I'm about halfway through it, and so far I am finding it rather brilliant. Each new chapter brings you up short, because it is in the voice of a character you haven't met before, but whom you will discover to be linked to the threads of the other chapters/characters in some unexpected way.

I am also reading this book about Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher's several years spent in Dijon, back in the late 20s and early 30s. Her style is desultory and devil-may-care, and she apparently ate and drank like a wolf and a fish, respectively. And I can respect that. The historian gave me this book for my birthday. This may be the closest I get to living in France sometime. I hate to be pessimistic, but there you are. However, I think I can say without a trace of pessimism that this is the closest I will get to living in France in the late 20s and early 30s, and for that fact, I want to express my gratitude to this book and its giver.

I am also reading this book, another birthday book. Actually, I have only read the preface to this book. I am afraid that this book is going to make me cry.

I am also reading this book, given to me by my mom and dad for my birthday. I love its author. She is a true original.

I am also reading this very interesting account of several family journeys to the places on the American map (lower 48) that seem to have the least human habitation, as evidenced by a nighttime aerial map, which shows where there is artificial light. The places include a stretch of the St. John river in Maine, central Pennsylvania, southeast Oregon, and part of the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. It is very interesting, as I too have a fascination with what is vast and empty.

This is a lot of books to be reading at one time. I am finding, though, that picking up nonfiction, particularly, a little at a time means I end up finishing more books than if I insist that I plow right through. I also have some books waiting in the wings, such as A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore, and Kraken by China Mieville, and some things I am supposed to read and watch, such as Andre Agassi's memoir Open and The Pianist, and the last season of Saving Grace and the first season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which I would very much like to do. I would, however, like to find an uninterrupted, oh, month, to do that reading and watching. A month in another dimension. Can't we, in this modern era, come up with the Uninterrupted Month Dimension?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

My so-called TV life.

What's that?--you want to know what I watch, week to week, on television? I thought so. Well, I am happy to oblige.

I feel like I'm maybe the only person in the world who still watches TV, as opposed to watching television shows via the internet, and likes it. This makes me feel a little like an old person, but the habit of regular TV watching can be explained: I believe it is due (a) to having come of age when watching TV was your only option, as there was no interweb, and (b) to liking the rhythm of a week being paced, in part, by the show that's on each night, if there is one. (I can feel your horror radiating all the way over here, through the tubes and onto my screen, because of how much TV you surmise I must watch. Well, horror away. I do watch that much TV. And I like it.)

So this means that, if the world is good, there's a show on most nights of the week that I like to watch. This is especially important for week nights. The world is most in balance if I can get through my working day on a Monday, for instance, and there's an episode of The Closer awaiting me at its appointed hour. That episode redeems whatever drudgery or difficulty or simply the long hours of the day that preceded it. On Tuesday, The Good Wife; on Wednesday, Modern Family; and on Thursday, the glory that is the NBC lineup, but especially Parks & Recreation. And 30 Rock.

Well, I have just named the television shows that are my mainstays at the moment. Like every other thinking person, I am awaiting the new season of Mad Men. I have several little DVD things lined up, because I either didn't have HBO, or I wasn't able to finish the series in real time (The Wire/In Treatment and Saving Grace, respectively). And I am about to go into mourning because The Closer is winding up its current stint, which will lead us inexorably into its very last episodes ever.

This summer, I started to watch Criminal Minds with my daughter, who is a huge fan of the show. I myself love a police procedural, and I came to appreciate the show. I am looking forward to the new season, which I will have to DVR so I can watch it later, as it is up against Modern Family, and the historian and I watch that one together. The DVR is hooked up to the downstairs TV. Currently, running son is residing in the downstairs lair, so it's possible that there may be a whole slew of Criminal Minds for me to watch sometime, when I don't feel I will be intruding on the whole lair-ness happening down there. Who can say.

I would like to have a bunch of new awesome shows to watch. I wish I had started Breaking Bad when it started. Ditto Men of a Certain Age and other stuff, like House. I guess. I guess I should have watched Downton Abbey, so maybe I'll try to catch up on the first season before new episodes start.

But I need to get this whole project organized. The television routine is part of what keeps everything else in its proper place, and I need that, the people. I need it, or everything else, and I, will feel crazy. Or maybe I might have to, what? do something else, like something productive. Write, or read.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. I will be checking out a few things in the new season. And if you have something you think I should watch, something that's still broadcasting in the real world, in real time--on television, and not on my DVR--please let me know. I will consider it an act of generosity, and a kindness, which I shall never forget.

(thanks to Amelia, who pointed out this post on every day I write the book)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Archival research, the people.

I know of no one, and I mean no one, who is better at it than my husband, known to you as The Historian, whose book is now a real thing, printed on paper and bound in cloth, with a dust jacket and dedications, historical photographs and captions, fat chapter titles, footnotes galore, and an index that his co-author did himself.

Did I mention the archival research? This meant looking at microfilms of newspapers and minutes, then searching newspapers online, not to mention looking at all manner of other dusty documents with their relevant secrets well hidden. It meant trips to Special Collections and the LDS Church History library. It meant reading more socialist writing than you can shake a stick at.

It required patience and diligence and persistence and invention. It is the completion of a many years' long task, and it tells a story that almost no one knows about.

And it is a damn book, the people, and that--that is something to celebrate.

Find out more about it here. And the authors will be at the Book Festival on Oct. 22 (more information here).

Monday, September 05, 2011

Cooking & cleaning.

Well, mostly cooking. With a little laundry and dish-washing on the side.

In the cooking department, though, in a grand flourish, commensurate with the great wealth of fruits and vegetables at the market of late, I:
  • roasted some squashes, some just on the verge of being not quite good anymore, along with some garlic, onions, and peppers;
  • steamed some yellow beans;
  • roasted some green beans with olive oil and garlic;
  • made some corn salad;
  • made some caprese salad;
  • made a quinoa salad with some beautiful Rancho Gordo beans, and various herbs, greens, etc.;
  • and roasted some potatoes, to eat as they are in their olive-oil-and-garlicked state, or with leftover harissa.
And what did I learn from this cooking extravaganza? Some things:
  • you need a vat of olive oil when you start a cooking extravaganza.
  • having already-made food in your refrigerator, the result of a cooking extravaganza? A truly excellent state of affairs.
  • we buy a lot of food at the farmer's market, and it takes a detailed logistical plan to eat it all.
For instance, I have a giant bag of basil in my refrigerator right now. (Me, to farmer: Is that whole bag for sale, for real? Lady Farmer: The Pesto Bag? Yep. Man Farmer: We call that "the pesto bag," because that's about how much we use when we make pesto. Me: Gimme that.) I'm going to make pesto out of it. But I need to get on that right away, and after my cooking extravaganza, I might not have quite enough olive oil up in here.

I would also very much like to make, or at least have, a pie--and I have got the peaches, blackberries, and blueberries to do something pretty spectacular in neighborhood of pie. But I need to make pie crust, and you know--logistics. What I mean by this is, I wish there were already a pie crust made. But what with having extravaganza'd around in my kitchen for hours, my desire to make a pie crust is kind of diminished, from my formerly ambitious state. Can't have everything, I guess. Although, having now whined for awhile about this, I feel strangely in the mood to actually make a pie crust. Check back for further information on this very important topic!

(I should add to the "cleaning" portion of this post that I also cleaned out some sad greens and herbs and a handful of leftovers and whatnot from the refrigerator. So now the fruits of my cooking extravaganza labors fit in there. Barely.)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Three songs.

Yesterday, my son and I ran to breakfast (at Virg's, radagast, in case you're reading--it was dang good, so thanks for the recommendation!). Whilst driving there, we were listening to The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, the last studio album of Ben Folds Five. The last controversial studio album of Ben Folds Five. Anyway. It has a great two-song sequence, beginning with "Army,"

which contains, near the end, these lines:

"and my ex-wives all despise me
try to put it all behind me
but my redneck past is nipping at my heels"

a song which is followed immediately by "Your Redneck Past":

which begins with these sharp lyrics:

"choose from any number of magazines
who do you want to be?
billy idol or kool moe dee?

if you're afraid they might discover your redneck past
there are a hundred ways to cover your redneck past"

(My son and I agree that those first three lines are some of the best beginning lines of any song, ever--"Billy Idol or Kool Moe Dee?" Ridiculous.) But all of this talk of rednecks reminded me of another song, called "My Redneck Friend," by Jackson Browne, from the album For Everyman, which I loved when I was in high school:

All of which made me think of how many ways we weave the connections between the things we loved in the past--I listened to this Jackson Browne countless times when I was young--and the newer things we encounter. Also, is there a thing about rednecks in popular music? Is redneckery the guilty secret of rock? Something to think about.

Here's a little sequence I have been mentally connecting:

Rolling Stones - Paint It Black by SamFisher037

I'd be interested in hearing about your little three-song chains, the connections you make between your past and present through song.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Dear Bruiser,

Today, in the mail, I found the following:

I once believed--when I thought about it, which was not, truthfully, very often--that you could not read. But who knows? You're now getting mail, addressed to you. With some news for you, Bruiser!

I'm sorry to say, though, that the news is a little presumptuous. In this newsletter, there's a coupon:

I don't know what "senior" means in Dog, but around here, when we hear "senior," we demur. We protest. We flat out deny. I am speaking of myself here, obviously.

And when we were out walking today, I thought, how can they say "senior"? to Bruiser? Because you were cantering and prancing and, in fact, took me for a little drag when a small, yappy dog behind a wooden fence had a thing or two to say. It was impressive, B, I just want you to know I felt your vigor--was, in fact, moved by it--and I thought, I don't know if a so-called senior dog would have that kind of gumption.

I say, let the people keep their labels to themselves. Labels cannot contain you. (I am speaking of myself here, obviously.)




Related Posts with Thumbnails