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Monday, November 24, 2008

Killers: Day and Age = Pretty Good Album for $3.99

I'm a new fan of buying my digital music from Amazon.com. Today I was listening to the new Killers album at Itunes where it costs $11.99 and I thought, I'll just go buy this one song that I really like so far, for .99 cents from Amazon. But when I found it on Amazon.com, it was only 3.99 for the whole album! That's ten songs for 3.99. I guess at Amazon.com, you get their dumb bonus songs, but is it worth 11.99? You decide. If you think no, go here to get it from Amazon.com.

I might add that the mp3s you get at Amazon are 256 kbps rather than the typical 126 kbps of Itunes songs. And also, you don't have to distinguish between drm-free downloads. They're all drm-free. Just another reason to love Amazon.com. I'm really really pleased about this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Did You Watch That Conway Twitty Video Yet?" and Ruminations About Conway Twitty and What He Means in the Larger Scheme of Things

Did you watch that Conway Twitty video yet? If you didn't, go watch it now and bask in his amazing muttonchops. Some of my readers will think that my infatuation is getting out of hand, and if so, then they obviously haven't watched the YouTube video of him doing "Slow Hand." Because if they had, they would understand how easily it can go this far. That video alone is enough to win the iciest of hearts. If not for the pure karaoke feel of it, then for the way he caresses the lyrics of the song even while balancing precariously on a six foot circular platform in the middle of an unresponsive audience.

The thing I'm so grateful for right now, is the opportunity I have to watch footage of Conway singing before I was even alive. Stuff they wouldn't air on television again except for late at night during Time Life Country Classics Collection infomercials. So thank you YouTube, thank you.

I pinned up a Conway Twitty LP in my cubicle. I've been decorating with LPs for years now (yes, I was the first, actually), but this one is special because it's in my cubicle and it's like airing your alcohol addiction for everyone in your office to see. I don't know where I'm going with that metaphor, but the only thing I could do that would be worse would be to put up an NRA sticker. I have one, yes, it's true, but I put it in my car to really make a statement. The truth is, I find it humorous to really be into sappy crap. And I love the contradictions in all humans, but in myself most of all. I think it says something about life, that life is chaotic but full of beauty. I guess beauty is impossible without an element of the hideous somewhere.

You know what I'm talking about. Like when you're out on a hike, enjoying breathtaking vistas and an endless sky and then you stumble across the fresh carcass of a deer or something. How it hurts, the violent beauty of earth. That's what I mean, and we all have microcosms of that inside us. We have beautiful desires, like the desire to sing a Barbara Streisand song as you walk down the street, serenading the homeless. But everything gets in the way, fear of rejection or even indifference, and so the beautiful desires get suppressed; instead you simply pin up an LP of Conway Twitty in your cubicle--a tiny suggestion of the passion within. And then you drive home from work, cursing your lungs out at the bastard drivers in your way.


Update: The original link to "Slow Hand" was to a higher quality video, which has been removed by the author. The new link is of questionable quality, but these versions are also good:



New Favorite Conway Twitty Song: Your Love Had Taken Me That High

Update: Sadly, this video has been disabled. You can watch it here. This one doesn't allow embedding. :(


Friday, October 31, 2008

Stupid Goodreads the Address Thief

I accidentally just invited 151 people to be my friend on Goodreads (stupid jerks, you Goodreads people, you). Yeah, it was great. A really amazing moment for me, when I realized I had just sent 151 messages to people I probably don't even talk to on a regular basis.

I'm actually pretty damn annoyed with the way things are set up on Goodreads. Here's why. I logged in after having not been online for a while. And I was putting some chapstick on my lips, and I was thinking about some other stuff, very important stuff, and I thought I had already logged in, so when I looked at my screen and it looked like the log in page, I simply, absent-mindedly clicked the button in front of my face. It wasn't the log in page. So suddenly the Goodreads tentacle had reached into my gmail account and extracted a million addresses.

So, now I'm on a page that's telling me I could send an invitation to a couple people who are on Goodreads already. I thought, ok, fine, yes, I'd like to connect to them. It followed, then, that I would send them an invite. I clicked on the 'ok' button. It takes me to a page with a standard form email message, and on the left, there's some huge list of people's addresses that I assume came from my account (which is still bugging me -- I DIDN'T mean to give them access to those addresses, the bastards). But I didn't want to send anything to them, HOWEVER, I did NOT realize that I had to do something to NOT send them email invites (uncheck the boxes, I guess?).

I still don't even know what happened. I'm assuming this is what happened. Did it? There's no way to tell, now. Apparently I have sent 151 invites to people I DON'T even regularly communicate with. Most likely. Addresses that have come to my account through chain letters, that kind of thing.

Oh this smarts. I feel like hiding in a hole. If by any chance, I barely know your name, and you have gotten an invite from me to connect on Goodreads, please realize it was the Goodreads monster that did this. Not me. I'd never plague a near-stranger* with a request to "connect on Goodreads" (unless we're already friends, or good friendly acquaintances and we just haven't connected on Goodreads, then, of course I want to connect to you, so, by all means, accept the invitation. ).

Woe is me. I'm going to go hide.




*If you're reading this and you're annoyed you got an invitation to connect from me, and it really bugged you, please accept my apologies. It was an accident. I guess I'm technologically backwards.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sobek

Meet Sobek. He thinks he's human. He likes refrigerator ice machines. He likes peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn, dairy products, windows, birds, bugs, running water, watching TV closer than your mother would let you, tormenting the other cats (they're girls), howling in loneliness when no one will play with him, marauding, pillaging, ransacking, and wreaking havoc in general. And Stoker. Whatever Stoker likes, Sobek likes.
He plays pretty hard. He needs at least twenty hours of sleep a day. Stalking birds is rough. It takes a lot of concentration. So after a long thirty minutes of hunting, he needs an even longer nap. He likes to sleep on the couch, in the closet, under the bed, on the pink blanket, in the dresser drawer, and in a variety of bags.
Sobek is half cougar. As such, he enjoys high places. Any perch will do: the narrow "ledge" of the top of a door, a door frame "ledge," the top of a speaker, the fridge, anywhere he can put his feet is fair game. Here he is on a perch we bought for him. Don't be fooled by his harmless appearance as he sleeps. Come too close and he WILL draw blood. Look at those ferocious paws!
Mmmm. Toasted tail de chat.
Not represented photographically is Sobek's dark side: bulemia. We're thinking about signing him up for a support group for bulemic cats. Tonight he gorged on tuna fish and cat food and then didn't even hide the fact that he was simply vomiting it! I guess it's gotten pretty bad and this is a cry for help.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that it's no wonder he has a delicate stomach, look at all the crap I let him eat (popcorn, peanut butter, dairy products). I don't LET him eat that stuff. He's got super powers. He bats his eyelashes at me and he gets whatever he wants*.




*That's a joke, of course. I figured out long ago that Sobek can't monitor his own diet. That's why he has a schedule. But occasionally he'll panic, think he'll never have another chance to eat, and gorge, and then throw up immediately. Or maybe he REALLY does have bulemia.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Musical Infatuation: Conway Twitty



I spent the evening last night with a selection of Conway Twitty songs on repeat. Oh, and Loretta Lynn was there too. I know that a bunch of people think that Barry White is the king of sexy music, and I guess he's alright. But when Barry White does a song, I'm not infatuated with him. When I'm in the mood for infatuation, I go see Conway Twitty.

I used to be all about promoting good music, and I loved to be an elitist about it, and there are still traces of elitism in me. It's hard to lose. But these days I don't give a damn what other people think about the music I listen to. So when you see a post from me about the music I'm infatuated with or the author I have begun to worship as the epitome of skill, I'm posting out of total devotion and adoration. It has nothing to do with trying to sell an artist or garner respect for my amazing opinions. It has everything to do with Infatuation.

Of late I've been very into older country music. It could be that I'm in Nashville. It probably is, because when I go to the used record shops, I'm swimming in old country LPs and it's difficult to resist their charm. I buy them based on their covers, and if I've recently been to the Country Music Hall of Fame and heard some cool, old song playing at an exhibit (the CM Hall of Fame is surprisingly good. I thought it would be lame. But it's not. They have Elvis' gold piano and Webb Pierce's silver dollar car) I will look for that album.

I have bought quite a few LPs of people I have been exposed to through the CM Hall of Fame. Ray Price, Marty Robbins, Webb Pierce, and others. I'm not sure how I stumbled across Conway Twitty. I mean, I knew who he was because the name Conway Twitty is a big name. It's . . . Conway Twitty, after all, and if you've ever uttered the name Loretta Lynn around your mom or dad, they're sure to say something about Conway Twitty. But I'd never listened to his songs. Right now there are probably about 5 million kids who should have been in bed already, whose parents shouldn't have let them watch it, but who saw the episode of Family Guy with a random clip of Conway Twitty singing "You've Never Been this Far Before" in the middle of the show. And it's a funny clip.

But the joke's on them. Because now those kids will always associate Conway Twitty with silly music and an outrageous red suit. At least I think it was red. It's hard to remember that kind of detail. In any case, "You've Never Been this Far Before" is sheerly great (is sheerly a word? I swear my coworker said that word the other day. And I stopped listening to what he was saying, thinking, "Did he just say 'sheerly'? Is sheerly a word? It seems like it might be, but it also felt weird, weird enough that I've stopped listening. Where have I heard it before? Have I heard it before? Would you spell that s-h-e-e-r-l-y? I've got to remember to look it up." And then I forgot to look it up. I just looked it up and I'll be damned. It IS a word. Go coworker, go!) and those kids will probably never give the song a real chance. I mean, it's more than just great. That song, in a word, is MASTERFUL.

That seems like hyperbole, because normally you'd call something like Beethoven's 9th masterful, or the entirety of Vivaldi's Four Seasons masterful, and other classical works that I don't know about. But if you listen to "You've Never Been this Far Before," you'll see what I mean. Granted, in the Family Guy clip, Conway didn't look as amazing singing the song as you'd want him to, it's hard to look sexy or cool saying, "Bump bump buuummm." Put the song on and listen to it, the "bump bump buuummm" actually works and you're compelled to sing along with it. The reason the song works is the build up to the chorus where Conway sings, "And as I take the love you're givin', I can feel the tension building in your mind, uuhhn uuhhnn. And you're wondering if tomorrow, I'll still love you like I'm loving you tonight, uuhhnn uhhnn uhhh." At that point the kick drum speeds up and a tambourine joins in and you know exactly what tension the singer is talking about without spelling it out. It's awesome.

I have only this to say to Family Guy . . . Nothing. I hate that show. That's all.

As for Conway Twitty and his music, both his solo stuff and the great duets he did with Loretta, all I can say is that it's great to have a crush on someone's opus.

My top Conway Twitty songs:

"I'd Just Love to Lay You Down"
"Feelins"
"You've Never Been this Far Before"
"Lead Me On"
"Easy Loving"
"Don't Take it Away"
"I've Already Loved You in My Mind"
"I See the Want to In Your Eyes"
"Touch the Hand"
"I Can't Stop Loving You"
"You Lay so Easy on My Mind"
"How Much More Can She Stand"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Government Gets My Bonus

$570 bonus minus Fed Withholding minus Fed MED/EE minus Fed OASDI/EE = $384 bonus. SWEET.

And you ask, am I FOR redistribution of wealth? Hell no.

We hear stories about wealthy people trying to get out of paying taxes and whatnot, I can't say that I blame them. I look at a bonus check like that and I feel like throwing up. If I had a check for $500,000 that was taxed at the rate I'm taxed now, I'd consider it too. Oh, I'm so greedy, right? Right. I work. I went to eight years of school for that modest bonus (not that I'm complaining, ANY bonus is awesome, but the fact that the government takes their enormous share is what's unsettling). I'm paying back student loans that I will most likely carry with me for twenty years or more. I did the leg work and found the job -- the government didn't GIVE me my job. So the problem here is that I am being punished for trying hard, while people who don't seem to try at all are being coddled and pampered and certain presidential candidates are promising to CODDLE them MORE.

Here's the kicker. If I really get my shit together and hustle and somehow manage to increase my earnings, this type of proposed tax system will take MORE from me and give it to the poor. That's a real great incentive.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Autumn, Grandma, and that Pensive Brooding Brought on by the Season

Where the H have I been? I'll tell you, it's been no cakewalk here. I've been deathly busy. But I don't feel like going into it, so, sorry, you'll just have to accept that I've been MIA for a while.

Let's see. A couple weeks ago I went to the Southern Festival of Books and I got a T-shirt with a dragon on it. The dragon is reading a book. So, that was cool. I can't really wear it yet, however. I have to wait until I'm not in Nashville, or at least until it's been a month. I saw someone wearing one somewhere and I felt sheepish. The shirt was $10, you can't beat that. I wear a lot of T-shirts and I haven't gotten any new ones in a while, so it was nice to find a cheap one that I didn't hate or that didn't have Hannah Montana on it.

I saw Robin Williams there, at the festival. A friend asked if I touched his butt and of course I did. No, joking. I didn't. I could have, he was that close. But it might have proven awkward. First of all, he's a human being; secondly, my life isn't a sitcom. It would be funny if it was, but you know, life is more than funny. I DID scream and tell him how much I loved Patch Adams. Joke, again. Not a funny joke and I've been using it a LOT when I relate the story. I just think it's funny to imagine me going on about Patch Adams.

But seriously, I like Robin Williams. I really do. Or at least I respect some of his work.

Autumn is here. I love autumn. My top two seasons are spring and autumn. I guess that's sort of cheating, because there's only four seasons and most people are going to say they love spring and autumn because those are the transitional seasons. Winter and summer are kind of tough because you get tired of the extreme temperatures, and they're just not as beautiful as spring and autumn. The transition promises something. Winter and summer are the equivalent of saying, "This is it. This is what I offer." And you have to just take it because there's no other option.

Who knows. There are ups and downs all year long and I guess it's sort of ridiculous to try to parcel your life into a top four or top five list. But it's kind of fun to try to categorize stuff, even though I get tired of always having opinions, and I begin to wonder what's the point? I don't know how I'm going to make it through an entire life having opinions and feelings. I've got to lighten up and learn how to be zen or something, otherwise I'm going to have a heart-attack at 35.

So, my grandma has been having a hard time. I can't go see her because she's in Utah, and when I talk to her on the phone it's only for a minute and then she wants to get off the phone. I guess I'm too real when I say to her, "I know you're trying to die, you silly old girl." Because she is. She's tired of life, I suppose, and every time something happens, like for example when she falls down and breaks her hip, she lays there and waits for the angels to come and take her away, and she's disappointed when her rescuer is instead my rail-thin cousin Ariana, picking Grams up with super human strength and carrying her inside out of the winter weather.

It's humorous and tragic, because I know it's got to suck to be 90 and to have outlived your husband and two of your kids, and most of your friends. It's got to feel lonely and irritating to have to depend on others. I'm sometimes ready to go myself, and I'm just a few months into 30. I mean, the world is a rough place. I know it's always been rough, and I guess that's why people get tired and they're ready to move on at 90. I just don't want her to go, that's all. It scares me because when she dies, I won't have her stories any longer. When I want to know what it was like in 1940, or when I want to know who my great-grandmother was and what she was like, I won't have my grandma to ask. When I want to know what it was like to live through the Depression, who will I ask?

My grandma is my link to the past and once she's gone, I won't have anyone to ask. My mom always says, of late, "'We all become forefathers by and by,' like Dan Fogelberg says." And she's right, and then it makes me want to cry. It's really mind-altering to realize that, to see your mother becoming the matriarch of your family, to watch your grandmother becoming a ghost. It's really really bitchy, sometimes, to think of this design. Life is this way to teach us things and the lessons are hard, but I guess if you let yourself learn, you become beautiful, like my grandma, and I guess that's when you're ready for the next phase of your existence. Something cool like that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CNN Is the Devil

I'm wondering who, besides me, sits in their cubicles and reads the news. From time to time I do, and some days I get so DEPRESSED that I want to die.

This has led me to the conclusion that the news is the devil. Once upon a time I wrote about the devil room in the house Stoker and I bought -- which we converted to a harvest yellow in an attempt to overcome its natural gloom. So, I'm very familiar with the devil. The devil likes things to be black and dark and depressing. The devil room was black and dark and depressing . . . and it sucked the light out of the world. It took grueling hours of work to exorcise the demon and make the room livable and friendly and . . . yellow. Honestly? I wish the room wasn't yellow now. I'm probably going to have to go back and paint it again. Maybe a nice, flat black.

Anyway, the point is, I was sitting here, depressed as hell, when it dawned on me that the news is the devil, and I wanted to share this revelation with the masses, not that they'll listen, because . . . well, they're the masses and I'm not Bono or Oprah. And I guess it depends on your definition of devil. Mine is this: the devil ruins my life; the devil makes me want to give up; the devil robs me of hope; the devil makes me do my worst because I'm no good anyway.

Sound familiar? It sounds like a chant. Like I'm writing terrible lyrics to a heavy metal riff. Maybe that's why it sounds familiar. In any case, why do I read the news? I've been learning to cope with the daily onslaught of horrors, but some days they're just too terrible. Like today. Here's a sampling of stuff I read: babies in China dying because of poisoned formula; man on trial for brutally beating his ex-girlfriends' cat to death; woman still searching for her husband who disappeared over a year ago in Iran; Finnish guy murdering college students; E! online writing "obvi" to mean "obviously" (you can see why this one is so upsetting).

Ok, I don't mean to contribute by sharing the horrors myself. But I must be a masochist because I keep going back. And if I was more of an optimist, maybe I'd see more hope in those stories, hope for man's redemption or something, that there is still goodness in people, that they're all trying, they're all doing the best they can, that sometimes good people just get misled. The news doesn't cover that part of the story, and why would they? Sensationalism is what sells, right?

These days journalists suck. They have twenty seconds to pump out a story and thus their writing is awful and the stories are chopped up to fit the sensational tripe that attracts viewers. They have no pride in their stories. It's a news-mill. So what we end up with is a skewed perspective of the world and how it's doing. It feels like hell out there if we listen to the media, but it is it really any different than it's ever been?

At first I was sort of joking about calling the news the devil. I thought it would be funny to sound very fundamental, like an I-live-in-a-compound-with-my-religious-compatriots zealot that the news LOVES to crucify. I don't. That is to say, I obviously read the news and participate in the machinery of our great over-newsed society and so I'm clearly not one of THEM. I'm a news junkie. It's in my blood, I need a fix often, I've fallen prey to the CNN drug cartel. I can't believe this crap is legal. And now I realize I'm right. The news IS the devil.




Quite honestly, I do believe in a fallen angel named, variously, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, Mephistopheles, Ned Flanders, etc. I think it's important to remember the things unseen that have the power to sway us, including the Internet. Can you see it? No! You see a manifestation of it, this page for example, is not real. It's ephemeral. You would not be able to touch it if you tried. It's unreal, yet its effects on you are real. Right now you may be livid with rage that someone might suggest that there is such thing as a fallen angel or that the news does more negative than positive in our society because you worship at the altar of the holy fount of CNN. Proving my point, this page is nothing. It's an idea, and yet it has the power to influence you. The most real and powerful things in our world are the unreal, the unseen. Think about it. (Yes, yes, so true, I am a genius philosopher.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Office Doomsday Narrowly Avoided!

At least for me. Some people weren't so lucky. I feel very fortunate at the same time as feeling like a huge ass.

Doomsday in the Office

Well today is doomsday for me. I have a meeting at one o'clock where I will supposedly find out what will be happening with the project I've been working on. About two months ago the manager of my department called us to a meeting out of the blue and told us we'd be putting everything on hold for sixty days while they determined what our future would be.

It was one of those moments of exquisite alertness. Prior to the sudden meeting, we had all just read the president's quarterly report. It was full of awful metaphors about the workplace being like a dance and other terrible pop culture references to things like reality shows. On the one side we're congratulated for being so fruitful and making loads of money and meeting goals, and on the other side he slaps us across the face with a 2x4 for not making MORE than the goal.

And then out of nowhere, in this report, he mentions my unit and says there's room for improvement with us.

And so we were all talking about that and fretting sarcastically that we were about to get the axe as we walked to the meeting -- because why would he even mention my unit if it wasn't some kind of corporate foreshadowing? And one person* brought up the incredibly funny stuff from Arrested Development about Black Fridays, and how George Bluth had everyone take their computers out to a moving truck, telling them they were going to be getting new computers, only to close the door of the truck once the old machines were in and tell everyone they're fired. Hilarious.

Office humor is the best, except for when it's your reality. We joked about getting the axe and then the manager of my unit told us, her face grim and unreadable, that they were putting a hold on all new contracts and other stuff. I was listening mostly to my breath and how quiet it was. Noticing how everything froze and instead of feeling upset, I felt this horrifying calm. I was shocked. I've never been so aware of how my chest rises and falls with each breath. I was suddenly aware of the sickening sound of the white noise they pump into the office.

I don't even remember a time when I imagined my life would be part of a corporation. I never did. I never knew what it meant. I never understood that my mom and dad would leave for work and sit in cubicles or offices and tap at keyboards and make up ideas and design things and get paid and get benefits, all to come home at night and feel a measure of security.

It makes sense to think of the farmer out in the fields, tilling and planting and hoeing and harvesting. It makes sense to think of a man herding sheep and tending them for their wool and feeding them grass and hay and caring about the weather because it affects his livelihood in a way much more urgent than whether or not he'll need an umbrella to keep the rain off his business attire. Those things, farming, herding, taking care of animals because you both benefit, those are intrinsic. They've been a part of our identities far longer than the cubicle and concrete.

When man relied on Nature to provide rain for his crops and sunshine and good health for his animals, it inspired reverence in him for the power of the unseen. There was spiritual potential for him because there were forces beyond the realm of man at work. People took part in the role of creation and something spiritual went on.

The office life is dead. We work in cold hard spaces with cold hard machines and it makes us cold and hard inside. Doesn't it feel that way sometimes?

Anyway, I know I'm romanticizing the things of the past. I know there were probably lots of lonely farmers in the world who really wished to buy a suit and go to Wall Street and sell their souls for wealth. I'm just really bitter for feeling like my future is possibly in the hands of someone who doesn't know its worth.



*Me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Summer Visitors and the Books

Sally and Terry will arrive on Friday night, adding to my list of illustrious visitors this year. Sally and Terry are my parents and if you’re lucky enough to know them, you know what an adventure they can be. I was just telling a co-worker that the difference between my family and Stoker’s family is like that between the Greek family in (yes) My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the family in The Queen (the one about the queen of England), without the cultural differences. My family’s not Greek and Stoker’s family isn’t British aristocracy, but my family is fiery, loud, and opinionated and Stoker’s family is opinionated but pretty calm and quiet. They talk but it never gets heated. In my family dishes will be thrown.

Just kidding. But they will be.

Joking.

Stoker’s parents came for a visit this summer. I have no pictures of any of these visits. I just can’t do it. I forget to take pictures, but when I remember to take them, they always turn out hideous. I don’t have the photographer’s eye. And I can’t suspend my disbelief long enough to take them or have them taken of me. I always feel awkward with a camera in my hand.

When Stoker’s parents came, as a parting gift I gave his mom* a copy of the Annie Dillard book An American Childhood. It’s an excellent book and I know that she’ll identify with the kid in it because his mom was once a pixie, I’m pretty sure. The kid in that book is a pixie, a real doll. Stoker’s mom has never stopped being a doll, if you ask me. She has this girlish quality about her that really catches a heart, and you can’t help but fall in love with her. She radiates energy. She sits on the floor if she wants, with her legs tucked under her like a little kid. And she engages with the world, like she still has so much to learn, like the curiosity in her has never died. I love that about her.

I gave Stoker’s dad this book called The Soul of the Night by Chet Raymo. At first the book sounds like it might be a Harlequin Romance, but then you read it and die. It’s perhaps one of the most poetic books I’ve ever read. (I read it in Chris Cokinos’ class and I only mention him as a kind of nod and thank-you for having introduced that book to me. He deserves the credit for the introduction [which is almost as important as having written it]). The book connects the bigness of the cosmos with the author’s small life on the earth. He quotes poetry and relates it to his perception of the night sky and the place of the earth in the universe. I don’t do it justice.

When I met Stoker and was falling in love with him, I gave him two books to read. The Soul of the Night, which he read quickly and enjoyed, and Crossing to Safety, which he also enjoyed. That sealed the deal.
You just know someone is for you when they can read Crossing to Safety and love it, and read Soul of the Night and get it.

I’m probably a jerk for giving people books. like I’m the dispenser of all good books and beauty (I am), but I can’t help it. If I respect someone and love them, on some level I relate to them by sharing the books I love.

Math Matt stopped by for three days on his way to Atlanta a week or two ago. I met Math Matt at some point during my time in college. He’s my intellectual friend and he’s stayed a friend all this time and now he’s Stoker’s friend. We had a great time with him. He can talk about anything with you. I say something that’s on my mind, like if I said, the movie The Departed was good, Matt has a response to that. Most people just say, “Oh,” and that’s it, unless they agree with you. But Matt’s opinion about The Departed was that it was crap and he’ll explain why. You have no idea how much I appreciate hearing other people’s opinions. I’m so surrounded by my own opinions that sometimes I want to scream I need a fresh view so bad. Stoker and I agree on lots of things, you see. Usually we both hate the same movies and love the same movies. Before Matt left, we gave him a copy of We by Eugeny Zamiatin. It’s a Russian book that Matt hadn’t read (surprisingly), and since I had just read it and loved it, I decided that Matt needs to read it ha ha.

My protégé and younger sister, Cassi, spent the 4th of July with us, and we spent an embarrassing sum of money on fireworks while she was here. At first Cassi was unimpressed because in Utah fireworks are sort of lame. Just fountains that whistle Dixie. In Tennessee you can buy Roman candles and other insane fireworks that shoot into the sky and flower. Once Cassi realized this, she secretly loved the fireworks. I didn’t give Cassi a book because the entire time she was here she played Portal on the Playstation, read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (again), and then read Interstellar Pig, half the time hiding out in the upstairs guest room. It was a real vacation for her. Before she came there had been lots of talk of all the cool bike rides we’d take and other explorations. None of that happened. It was hot out, I guess.

So, my parents will be here soon and I’m wondering what books I’ll give them.


*Also, I was a horrible daughter/daughter-in-law this year and didn't get anyone Father's Day or Mother's Day presents.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Purchased: Carl Sandburg "Honey and Salt"


Tell me this cover is irresistible and I'll say "I know." Because I know. This cover is a beautiful example of 1960s style. What a gem.

It's an artifact of a time period and I'm in love. The bookstore owner asked me why I didn't get the collected works because it was right there on the shelf next to it and I said because I like this one better. I like the little paperbacks that say things on them like "50¢ slightly higher in Canada." And that feature cutting edge graphic art. Can you see the butterfly in that line drawing? It's too good to be true.

This collection has a poem that goes like this:

"Love is a door we shall open together."
So they told each other under the moon
One evening when the smell of leaf mould
And the beginnings of roses and potatoes
Came on a wind.

Late in the hours of that evening
They looked long at the moon and called it
A silver button, a copper coin, a bronze wafer,
A plaque of gold, a vanished diadem,
A brass hat dripping from deep waters.

"People like us,
us two,
We own the moon."
That poem is called "Moon Rondeau" and it was the first one I read when I found the book on the shelf. I bought it for the poem, which I really enjoyed, but also because the cover is so great. I paid four dollars for it. Can you believe that? I could have saved three-fifty if I'd been alive in the sixties and bought it then. THAT'S why they'll never invent time machines. Because then you can get around inflation and the government won't have anything to do with that.

One more thing. This collection features a poem with these line that I'm sure are famous, somehow:
Love is a deep and a dark and a lonely
and you take it deep take it dark
and take it with a lonely winding.
From the poem "Love Is a Deep and a Dark and a Lonely." Beautiful. For some reason, I think it's true. Love IS a deep and dark and lonely. But not just dark and lonely, A dark and A lonely. They're things that deserve articles because they're not just adjectives here. They're nouns.

Sometimes language baffles me and so I'm not entirely sure that adjectives can't take articles. Usually they don't. Usually articles only go with nouns. I think. Don't quote me on that. This isn't a grammar blog, this is more or less a bull shit blog. As in full of b.s.

So anyway. I really like buying books.



p.s. Not all poems in this collection are love poems. I just happened to find both of them first off because I'm a love magnet.

p.p.s. HEY! When did they take the cents symbol OFF the keyboard? Oh, right, when anything less than a dollar became an artifact of inflation. Or maybe it's never been around on keyboards? I don't remember.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chekhov


There's something about Chekhov. I remember reading a review or an essay about him in The New Yorker a long time ago, back when I read The New Yorker (I don't anymore, pretentious jerks ha ha ha), and I remember finding it interesting. But I assumed that Chekhov would be a stuffy old bookish writer whose work I would find boring. And then I began reading, recently, some of Anna Karenina. A sort of fever started in me to consume as much Russian literature as possible. So I bought this small used copy of Chekhov's work, the Signet edition, from my favorite used book shop in Nashville (Books). The first story I read was "The Father." I read it quickly and then I read another story, "Peasants," and I was enthralled by his writing and the portrayals of the Russian people. He has such skill with language and my only regret is that I can't read his work in the original Russian.

At the same time I read A Moveable Feast by Hemingway (an amazing book), and I was very pleased to read his impressions of the Russians. He said of Chekhov that people had told him that Katherine Mansfield wrote great short stories, but once he had read Chekhov, Hemingway realized that Mansfield's stories were the equivalent of an old maid's tales (to recall from memory). One man's opinion. I have not read much Mansfield, but I can say that Chekhov is so widely read for a reason. I love his writing and have bought many more collections of his writing since then.

I'm not a huge fan of the short story genre, necessarily. But if you read his work it feels loosely strung together, a vast mural of the late 19th century Russia. It's quite beautiful.

My favorites so far are "Peasants," "He Understood," "The Dance Pianist,"In Exile," and "A Cure for Drinking."


View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cheating in the Olympics

I can't believe the Chinese are cheating at the Olympics. Oh wait, what am I saying? It's "for the good of the country."

At this point it's pretty obvious to everyone watching that the Chinese women's gymnastics team is full of twelve-year olds, and yet, no one seems able to stop them from lying to the entire world and continuing on as though they've done nothing wrong.

Honestly the rest of the Olympic community should have known they weren't ready to host the Olympics. Normally I'd say, "Hey, the fake fireworks display? No big deal. The lip sync fiasco? I mean, yeah, that's pretty insulting and cruel. But I'm over it." However, as I watched the women's meet last night, I realize that all of it matters and I'm NOT over it.

The picture China is painting is, for me at least, one of a nation full of automatons who are stripped of their will and free agency in order to do what is best "for the country." For a minute, I was feeling good will toward China and their efforts to impress the rest of the world. But as the Olympic games continue, I am compelled to no longer overlook the sins of their government. And I can no longer hold my tongue about the pollution in Beijing. From now on, when it's smoggy in Nashville and anywhere else, I'm going to say, "Where are we, Beijing*?"

It's one thing to have a coach who lies to his players (which is also bad, don't get me wrong), but it's another thing to have your government making passports stating you're sixteen when you're really only thirteen.

And it's even another to censor the press. That irks me too.

Am I a sore loser? Yeah. It's disgusting. But listen. How else is China cheating? In what other matters are they lying to us? All of them, probably.

So everyone has complained and complained about how the Tour de France has lost its glamour and appeal because of doping. Same here. It was no fun to watch the other gymnastics teams who were following the age restrictions competing against a team of eight-year olds. It would be the same as pitting a lightweight against a heavyweight. Where's the fun in that? The point of an age restriction is to even the playing field. When the restriction is ignored, the game loses its point.

I'm boycotting the rest of the games until the IOC does something about China's blatant disregard for the rules. I suggest the rest of the world do the same. Come on, now. Do as I say. It's for the good of the country**.



*I was overlooking the pollution in order to be polite.
**In this sense country means world. You'll no doubt agree with me that world wouldn't have had the same sarcastic ring to it as country.



I will probably keep watching the Olympics because I'm spineless.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Summer Is Just Another Word for Torture

The heat is ruining my life. I may have said something similar when I was living in Arizona, but only because it was. And it is now. At least in Arizona we had central air conditioning. Right now we're keeping our house cool with electric window units and fans. It's very ineffective and very trashy. The house we bought was built in the forties and none of the previous owners had felt inspired to get central air. We're inspired to, but first there are other pressing matters, like the roof.

Anyway, the heat is killing me. Each day that brings me both high temperatures and high levels of humidity wipe me out. The only thing I can do is swear, curse Tennessee, long for Utah and sometimes cry in frustration. Not to give you the wrong idea, I don't really cry. We have this air conditioner the previous owners left us and it sucks. Something is broken about it, I'm not sure what, probably the temperature gauge because it fluctuates so drastically, one minute it's 54 degrees and the next it's 83. When it thinks it's 54 it turns off and I swear at it and cut the power to it and then restart it. Stoker thinks it doesn't help, but I know it does.

Another thing that's killing me is the hills of Tennessee. Oft cited as beautiful in song, these hills are a bane and a curse and I curse them. The extreme heat and humidity and the hills have put the brakes on exercise. Last year I could tolerate it because I ran by the river amidst the trees and that lowered the temperature a little. Plus I ran home to the central air conditioner. This summer I run home and never cool down and I want to die. And there's no river and very few trees and everything is a hill. Stoker thinks I overdo it, but I assure you I do not. If you came to my house and we took a run on a day at 92 degrees and 65% humidity, or even 40%, you'd melt with me. And it wouldn't resemble a romantic song. It would be like a house of wax. There would be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And swearing at Tennessee.

Stoker says there are lots of hills in Utah, but there aren't. There are mountains. When there's a sort of hill, it looks like a hill and feels like a hill. In Tennessee, there's some kind of weird optical illusion going on and you can't tell it's a hill with teeth until you're running up it and dying in the extreme humidity and heat.

Long ago my pioneer ancestors tried to settle in Missouri and then Illinois, but things didn't work out. So they moved on and eventually set up camp in the Utah territory. It was hard for them and stuff, but after living in a humid climate and having been to some of the places that didn't work out for them, I thank my lucky stars things didn't workout in the Midwest. The desert is a superior climate. So maybe water was scarce and harder to come by and maybe it was grueling to drag those rocks out of the quarries to build with because there weren't a lot of trees, those things worked out, right? Once you live in a swamp, it's always a swamp and it breeds swamp creatures. The desert breeds hearty stock. Tall, lean, strong people. I can't decide for sure if this holds merit, it's just my perception, I'm sure.

I'm telling you, the heat is killing me. I'm very depressed right now. That's probably not super obvious because I'm being so hilarious at the moment. But I am. I'm wilting like a flower in a damn car out in the sun.

I tried to find scientific proof that extreme temperatures cause depression and other problems in people. I don't have time to rummage through all the studies, so I let the BBC do it for me. They came up with this article on the effects of extreme heat on moods. So I'm right, then. Thanks for playing. Now I'm going to go cry and melt in the pointless heat.



p.s. Recently I read this line from a short story by Chekhov ("He Understood"): "It was a stifling June morning; the air was sultry, the leaves drooped, the dry ground cracked." And I finally understood the power of that word sultry. Sultry only has power if you've been exposed to extreme humidity. I hadn't until Tennessee. Do I obsess? I do, I know I do.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where I Stand Right This Very Minute on Music: Pierce Brosnan, Babs and "Evergreen," and Celine

Is it so wrong to think that the best song on the new Mamma Mia! movie is the one Pierce Brosnan sings all by himself? I mean, I know that he's no Pavarotti or Bono or Miley Cyrus, and I know that, as Stoker mentioned, his song seems to have had the most digital editing done to it, but still . . . I love it. Why? Why do I love it?

I have no idea. How can I explain it? I can't. But let me say, there's something to be said about the virginal voice. And by virginal voice I mean the young, untrained sound. There's still the capacity for emotion and that's what I must be hearing. And there's the unique phrasing and emphasis that comes from someone who is NOT a singer first and foremost.

And since his days as the one and only Remington Steele, I have been a fan of Pierce Brosnan. And Streep does a great job harmonizing with him. It sounds good. That's all I can say.

And is it so wrong to sometimes just crave some old Barbara Streisand song ("Ahhhh ahhh, ahhhh ahh, loooove soft as an easy chair . . .")? Or some Celine Dion favorite, "A whisper in the moonlight . . ."? No, no, it's not. Occasionally a person just gets tired of all the new crap and the onslaught of new bands and the next fly-by-night sensation and they just want to hear Babs singing, "Like a rose, under the April snow, IIIIIII was always certain love would grow," and stuff. Because it's SO good. You can't deny it. You must relent, Babs' voice is butter and "Evergreen" makes you want to fall in love. It does. Even the most hard-hearted, Harley-riding, hard fightin', hard fartin' man's man's man wants to swoon and fall for someone when he hears Babs belt out the melody of that song.

When Cassi came to visit during the fourth, I was really into listening to these old easy-listening favorites. And I thought it would be really hilarious to have that song or maybe a Conway Twitty song playing when she got into the car at the airport. Stoker agreed. So I had it all cued up on the old Ipod (Stoker: "What I want to know is what the hell these songs are doing on your Ipod?"), and Cas was in the car, trapped in the backseat and as we're exiting the airport, the strains of "Evergreen" come lilting out of the car speakers, "Ahhhh ahh ahhhhh ahhh ahh loooooove soft as an easy chair . . ." Two seconds later, she hadn't even finished the first line, Cassi says, "What the hell are you guys listening to? Is this the radio?"

And I kept a straight face.

"Noooo, it's what we're listening to."
"What?" And what she meant here was something more like, "What's happened to you, Nik? You've gotten OLD or something."

So then we put on Conway Twitty "You've Never Been This Far Before," and we tried to tell her that EVERYONE listens to that kind of music in Nashville. Duh. She didn't buy it. But oh man, we got a kick out of it. Playing up being old (Stoker's only 25) and listening to what she would deem crap, because see, she's at that age where you MUST listen to cool music and go to lots of shows and wear band t-shirts and go to music festivals and your cool capital comes from WHAT you like, not what YOU'RE like.

Personally I think my cool capital comes from being so cool that I don't give a shit if someone thinks I'm cool or not, having the breadth to listen to Conway Twitty and Charlie Rich and Dolly and Porter and Babs, in addition to indie favorites like Devotchka, makes me the coolest. Ha ha ha.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hemingway and Nashville Local Color

I'm about to finish "A Moveable Feast." It's a great book. I read on Wikipedia that some call it Hemingway's finest writing. I haven't read all of his writing, but I have to agree. Maybe that's because he knew the protagonist so well and he wasn't being deceptive that the protagonist was himself.

I don't know. The thing that bugs me is the critics who say that Hemingway is still being deceptive in his portrayal of himself as the hero. Critics bug me, I even bug myself when I'm being a critic. Sometimes I think, "Poor Stoker, always stuck listening to me being a critic." And then I think, "Poor me, always stuck listening to me being critical." But there's no way to escape that. I'm stuck with me.

At lunch I have to leave my workplace. I have to get away, I have to think that I'm not fixed to this place like some kind of Dickens character. What's his name? The guy who worked for Scrooge who was forever positive and helpful and hopeful? I don't recall. But I'm not him. I like to think I'm not a cog in the machinery and that I could get away from it permanently if I had to.

I could live on the streets like the lady on Demonbreun. Demonbreun is a main road in Nashville. It takes one over to Music Row and it's not pronounced "deman-brewin" like one might think. It's pronounced "de-MON-bri-un." That's not an offical phonetical spelling, so don't check Webster's to see if I did it right. I'll spare you, I didn't.

The lady is a permanent fixture on Demonbreun. She's beautiful. I've never spoken to her, but she's got my heart. She's there in the middle of cold winter days, sitting on her bench in a big coat, and she's there in the swampy hot weather of summer, sitting on her bench under a big sun umbrella. She has Swedish features that have been bronzed to a sort of leathery complexion by the wind and the cold and the sun. Sometimes I'll see her eating a lunch off of one of the brick walls that separate the little shops along Demonbreun, and I've seen her drinking something from a styrofoam cup, with her pinkie in the air like someone with real class.

There are days that I wonder where she goes at night. Does she go to the mission? I look for her when I drive by and if I don't see her, I worry. I worry and wonder if she's safe. I wonder about her choice of "office." There's an abandoned newspaper stand next to her preferred bench. The glass has been broken out and I have noticed that she puts stuff in there, like her dayplanner and maybe a notebook.

She has class. She does. She wears dark velvety jumpsuits, the kind your grandma might wear. I guess they're called leisure suits. They have embroidered designs on them.

The most I've said to her is "hi." And I wave and she waves back. I don't know anything else about her. But I feel a sense of responsibility for her. That probably makes me an ass and if I ever spoke to her and if she found out I had said this or written a word about her, she would probably resent it and think, "How dare you!" She's got class and dignity, you see. She's not a stray cat or something. And I've never given her anything, not even spare change.

It's stupid to say, but I feel like she's given me something.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Talking to Strangers: An Inordinately Long Post (Worth It; Very Entertaining)

I have a stalker.

Ok. I use that term loosely. He’s not one hundred percent bona fide stalker, but he’s around and he’s undesirable and I don’t know how to get rid of him. No, I’m not talking sarcastically about Stoker. Stoker is still one hundred percent desirable and as it stands now, he’s not around near enough.

The stalker doesn’t seem to follow me, per se. And that’s why I use the term loosely. But suddenly, I can’t go anywhere outside my office without running into him. It’s annoying.

Here’s the story. In riding my bike home from work, I was waved over to a parking lot by a guy who was in workout clothes. I thought he was going for an after work run. Or maybe they were playing a pickup game of basketball. I stopped. The dude assured me that all he wanted to know was bike stuff and then he asked me a bunch of questions about my bike. I answered his questions while still being cautious, under the impression that I was speaking with a working professional, which somehow at that time meant to me that he wasn’t creepy. Not one hundred percent creepy, anyway. When the questions got uncomfortable, I started to want to leave, like when he asked if I go for group rides or what. I thought to myself that I didn’t want him knowing whether or not I rode alone. He wanted to know where I rode, I didn’t tell him. I told him I ride with my husband, which is true.

After a few minutes, a woman appeared on the front steps of his office building. She was shouting and waving for him. “His wife,” I thought, even though that didn’t really make sense. He said he had to go and left. So I left too.

Oh, and initially, he mentioned that he was glad I had stopped. He said he had seen me riding my bike by before and he was so glad he caught me. One of the other things he said was that he wanted to get a bike and that at one point he had done triathlons. Which is cool, great for him. Apparently he had been out of the scene for a while. Fine, awesome. Go to it, man.

A few days later, I was out walking on my lunch. I went about a half mile to find a place to eat. As I was returning to my office, I stopped on a street corner while I waited for the light to change. There was a dude in the bike lane and he looked at me. I ignored him. Then he asked, “Are you the bike girl?” And what did I do?

I said yes, because I’m an idiot. Why the hell would I say yes? First of all, why the hell would I talk to a stranger? In the very first place, why would I do that? Why would I not heed my mother’s advice and the advice of the public education system and the advice of all the television commercials during Saturday morning cartoons? Why?

Because I’m an idiot. I am. There’s no way around it. My stupidness surprises even me. So I say yes to the dude’s question, “Are you the bike girl?” I say yes and nod, dumbly, because I’m a little surprised and confused and I respond too quickly, automatically. When I’m taken by surprise I tend to become a deer in the headlights, I’m very shocked that there’s a car, I can’t believe there’s a car, why would there be a car here, why is it speeding into my face? That’s what I do. I get confused. That’s what happens right before you die.*

And the dude thinks it’s divine intervention or something. He’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I’m running into you again. My friends said that you rode by one day when I wasn’t there and there were all, ‘______, she came by again, the Bike Girl. She came by when you weren’t here.’ And now here you are.” And then he showed off the bike he got for $400 off of craigslist.com. He was so thrilled about the bike and I pretended to be impressed because I didn’t give a shit. All I was thinking about was how the hell** to get out of this.

The light changes and the dude rides his bike across the street. I wait for the cars and begin crossing the road. The dude gets to the other side and what does he do? He WAITS for me.

There’s no where for me to go. He’s on a bike and I’m walking and my work is half a mile away. He begins riding his bike real slow next to me and he begins gabbing. He chatters on and on about the bike and how he’s getting a fresh start and how he’s been out of the scene for four years and he just got to Nashville and he’s real excited about everything, to get a fresh start. I’ve got my hand in my bag and I’m texting Stoker to “CALL ME RIGHT NOW.” And I’m not listening real close, but I catch the thing about being gone for four years. So I ask him where he’s been for four years, feeling my blood turning cold.

“Prison. I was locked up for four years. But I’m rehabilitated now and I’ve got a fresh start. I don’t want to freak you out or scare you, I’ve got two sons and everything.”

I play it cool. And what the hell? PRISON? I’m not going to tell you my life story, but what is it with me and ex-cons? I’m not kidding. Somehow I seem to attract them and it’s not like I’m hanging out in bars. They find me in the oddest places. The climbing gym, college, the street. Ok, the street is a weird one. But that’s the first weird one.

At this point, I’m really concerned about how to deter to this guy. Stoker hasn’t called me and I’m getting annoyed about that. I ask the dude why he was in prison, but he pretends not to hear. He tries to tell me his life story, his name, where he’s from, that he has some kids, etc. It turns out that that office is not an office, but is rather a HALFWAY HOUSE. It turns out that that halfway house looks out on my parking lot (he was puzzling over why he keeps running into me in such a fortuitous way). It turns out that there have been a bunch of ex-whatevers oogling me as I ride by on my bicycle.

This stirs a ton of unpleasant realizations in me, as I walk along, thinking of how to get rid of him without being offensive.

And why on earth shouldn’t I be offensive? Why on earth is there a strange man riding beside me, trying to be my friend or something when I’ve already mentioned that I have a husband? Obviously there’s something wrong with him. Something anti-social about him. I hate to be an ass, but sometimes a person needs to get a brain. By person I mean this man, who clearly doesn’t have enough mental power to get out of his own experience and recognize that I’m a girl walking by myself and whether or not he’s harmless, his actions might appear otherwise.

What kills me is that I actually feel like I should try to preserve this guy’s feelings. Why is that? Why should I care? He’s clearly crossing all sorts of lines of decorum. I’m not his friend. Usually I don’t talk to strangers, and there are a lot of seedy guys hanging around Nashville, if you’ve never been here. They love to try to rope girls into conversation. Typically I mutter something unintelligible to them and hurry on. But one time I didn’t do that and it turns out that that one time just happened to introduce me to a guy who has been in PRISON.

I wrap the conversation up with that guy after he asks me my name and where I work and what I do. I tell him something along these lines, “I’m sorry, I have nothing against you, but you’re a stranger and because I hardly know you, I’m not going to tell you my name. I don’t feel comfortable telling you anything about me. But good luck with the bike, bye.”

And he rode off. Since then I have seen him several times. Each time I wish I hadn’t seen him and I worry about my safety. Has he marked me? He’s obviously being monitored to some degree, but what the hell was he in prison for? I have no idea and I didn’t listen well enough to do a search for him and find out what he did. I don’t buy that he’s rehabilitated. I’m the person who thinks that prisons don’t turn prisoners around, they make them worse. Today he rode his bike past me and waved and said in a real aggressive-sounding way, “Hey there!”

I saw him last week and ignored him so I guess that’s why today’s hello sounded like this, “Yeah, I know you’re trying to ignore me. But I don’t care. I’m going to acknowledge the hell out of you.” Which bothers me. What kind of a-hole doesn’t get it?

Oh yeah, and the world? Full of a-holes. Sometimes, and I hate to be a big whiner and complain, but sometimes it really gets me that a large portion of my thinking powers are put to trying to protect myself from men. It bugs me that forever and ever, men will always have the upper hand. I guess someone will always have the upper hand because life really is one big competition, whether or not pacificists and all those people who say to me “it’s not a competition” want to admit it. NEWS FLASH: It is too. Everything is a competition and I’m determined as hell to win it. And if it means carrying pepper spray all the time, I’ll do it. And if it means carrying a concealable bazooka, I’ll do it. I can field strip a bazooka in two minutes and forty-nine seconds. Beat that, a-hole.





*Word to the wise, don’t get confused and you’ll stay alive.
**I swear a lot when I feel like my life is threatened. Just be glad I’m not dropping F-bombs like 99% the bloggers out there.


Some really good men read my blog. Thanks for being good men. I’d make a list of your names, but it would be too long, as my entire fan base is composed almost entirely of men.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Buying Lolita in Nashville (But Really Buying Pnin). Great Cover, Though.


I bought this book today. Notice how big the word Lolita is. That's why I bought it, I thought it was Lolita and I've wanted to read Lolita for a long time. I can't believe I fell for that marketing scheme. It worked! Who would have thought it would work? Especially on someone as brilliant as me. I blame the heat. It was so hot in the bookstore. I was dying. The pants I'm wearing today are this really heavy denim but they may as well be an electric blanket. They're bottling the heat up. And the bookstore is small and it was particularly crowded and there was this man sitting on a chair near me trying to have a conversation with me about the book he was reading and I couldn't understand a word he was saying. Poor guy. He was missing his front teeth. I think the bookstore owner, a part-time criminal justice lawyer, had just switched off the air conditioner. Maybe he was trying to sweat us out. So we were all stuck in there like houseflies in a mason jar, suffocating. I had to make a decision quick. I thought the book was Lolita and I've wanted to read Lolita for a while now, ever since I heard Robert Michael Pyle talk about Nabokov's love for butterflies*. . . . No wait, ever since hearing the Police song about the young teacher, the subject, of schoolgirl fantasy**. And Pyle just fed the fire. So I bought the book (it was ten dollars). I bought Pnin. I meant to buy Lolita.

In case you've never seen this edition of the book, the spine also says Lolita*** in huge letters, before anything else. It says, "By the author of LOLITA." Nevertheless, I'm excited to read Pnin. It's supposed to be great as well.




*If someone loves butterflies that much, they must be beautiful and therefore must write beautifully.

**First heard in junior high, 1991.

***At this point, Lolita is starting to sound like a bunch of nonsense.


I know you find the cover as irresistible as I find it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Joys of Commuting by Bicycle


I’m riding my bike home today. If you’ve never been to Nashville, then you’d hardly understand. There’s a song by the Kamikaze Hearts called “Tennessee.” A line in it says, “I never knew there was* hills in Tennessee, I always thought that it would be flat.” Yeah, me too. But no, no, it’s not flat. I guess a lot of places in the U.S. are hilly**, but are they hilly, hot, and humid all at once and are you on a bike with a bag strapped to your back?

Because if you’re not, you should be. It’s the only way to travel. Riding your bike in a place like, oh, Salt Lake City? That’s nothing until you’ve ridden Tennessee. Ha ha. Mwah ha ha ha ha ha. (Riding crazily into the misty distance, uphill, with a bag strapped to my back.)




*sic -- yeah, I know, it should be WERE.
** The world, really.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Julius Caesar: Impostor or Emperor-Incarnate?

So, recently some divers in France found this, the oldest known bust of Julius Caesar at the bottom of the River Rhone in southern France. But what really happened was, my friend Mike posed for someone during his brief stint in the art program at Utah State, and the student—in a fit of rage because he couldn't get the nose right— flew to France and . . . . dropped it . . . . in the river. Is anyone buying this?

That's really what happened.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Golden Age of Film

This weekend I realized the truth about movies, again. That’s how life is, I believe, learning the same lessons over and over again until you die, and by that time, hopefully you understand everything that you should.

The truth about movies is that modern films suck. Old films have it all.

Just ask Stoker. Finally, after all these years, I sat down and watched Cool Hand Luke. Stoker watched it with me, but I said “I” in that last sentence because I have known that I ought to watch this film for a long time. At least since my first years in college, but I put it off and put if off, since I’m not a huge Paul Newman fan. I’ve got my Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, and from time to time Rock Hudson and Robert Mitchum (I’ve heard tell that Gary Cooper should be in there somewhere, but I’ve never indulged in a Gary Cooper film). So anyway, I should have known. I should have known better, should have seen Cool Hand Luke a long time ago.

Anyway, Stoker, bless his insight, pointed out that the Coen brothers’ style isn’t really a style at all, it’s a rip off of the techniques from old films. And I mean, the day before we watched Cool Hand Luke (I was very sick this past weekend) I watched (again) North By Northwest and had noticed the same thing. Recently Stoker and I rented and viewed that let down film, No Country for Old Men, and what we loved about it (didn’t make up for what we loathed about it) was the absence of a film score. Older films didn’t have overproduced sounds. Many of them DID have film scores, but there is a distinct absence of, say, a microphone right next to the actor’s mouths, so we don’t have to listen to the suction and sloppy noises of a kiss. C’mon! Who wants to hear the details of a kiss!? No one. It doesn’t ADD to the moment, it’s a distraction!

Anyway, though I love many of the Coen brothers’ movies, I have to say, what I realized this weekend is that I don’t need to overdo it. My first love was correct and true. My first love, which bloomed in junior high and high school, was old films. There was a short period during graduate school when I watched an old Cary Grant show and felt a little embarrassed at its innocence, and I swore I’d never go back. I was cynical and bitter, I thought my eyes had been opened to the real world and that I finally knew what great art was. But I was naïve to assume so much.

The truth is, old films are pure and untouched by the dirty hands of modernity. What directors like Hitchcock couldn’t say outright, they said through implication and innuendo, they crafted a story around what could not be explained and in doing so, shed light on the dark corners of the human psyche. They created meaningful dialogue through what was said as much as what was UNSAID. Their sparse sets and stark images, such as those in North By Northwest (i.e. the scene outside the United Nations), say as much in the positive space as they do in the negative spaces. The color in North By Northwest is gorgeous. Tell me, have you ever seen anything like it?

In any case, I have always known that Stoker is a genius. He understands things and he has ideas about things. I’m an idea-lover. I can’t help it. And when I hear his ideas, I realize I’m madly in love with him all over again. Tonight or tomorrow night, I’ll finally see a Steve McQueen movie. I had this mentor a long time ago who raved about Steve McQueen. All this time I’ve never seen a Steve McQueen film. Can you believe it? It’s nice to still have things to do even though I’ve lived such a long life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Air Travel

I leave for Utah today and I can't think about anything else. I'm plagued with worries. Traveling sucks, in a way. I don't mind the part where you're on the road or in the plane, but everything leading up to that time is rather stressful. All I can think about is getting to the airport on time, or being certain I've packed everything -- as we all know, if you forget something the trip will dissolve into a nightmare. Not really, but with the way I obsess you'd think that was the case.

In other people's lives, I'm sure that traveling is really smooth. Other people appear unruffled. These are also the kind of people who never pass gas or do the dishes or put their pants on one leg at a time. They walk through the airport with their laptop bag slung over their shoulder, their suits are neatly pressed, they exude confidence. They hang out with their peers at the airport bar, drinking and laughing like a beer commercial. Their teeth glimmer when they smile, their eyes are bright and sparkly and photoshopped. Everything is easy. Everything is good. Before the trip they have a manservant pack their bags for them. They know if they forget all their pants or socks, they'll just buy a new wardrobe. No big deal. A limo picks them up and takes them to the airport on a private back road. They can charter a helicopter if traffic is monstrous.

At least, this is how it looks from the outside. There's always people running around the airport who you'd think could never afford a ticket. They look like they just rolled out of a garbage can. There seems to be a windstorm of chaos following in their wake. You see them and expect to find loose newspapers trailing behind them and cookie crumbs stuck to their sweater. They look like they couldn't decide whether to travel comfortably, in their sweats, or business casual, in their freshly ironed sweats. You pass them as they sit in the McDonald's of the airport food court munching on fries and they look as harried as someone forced from bed at three in the morning to pick up their son who just got a DUI.

I fit into the harried crowd. I look like I've had second thoughts about my carry-on, like I wish I'd checked it after all. I look like I'm always just about to miss my plane and I'm lost and I can't read the sign announcing my gate. I don't wear sweats, but I'd be at home in them and everyone knows it and the flight attendants always ask if I want a blanket and a pillow as though they suspect I might have my own in that carry-on I've been sneering at the whole time. That would be wise, actually, since the blankets have been used by other passengers and who knows what diseases they were carrying. Small pox. Measles. Something like that.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Belated Birthday Post

Last Thursday I turned thirty. I could go on and on about the woes of aging and how strange it feels to say, "I'm thirty," and all that, but what's the point? This isn't a Hallmark card, or Shoebox Greeting or whatever brand of greeting card it is out there perpetuating all the hilarious jokes about getting old. In fact, why am I even talking about it?

Birthdays are still great, even when you get old. Honestly, I'm not really SAD about aging, if for no other reason than that the older I get, the better the presents get. Okay, so not really every year, just this year, otherwise by the time I am thirty-five I should have a Hummer . . . or a tank (the kind with cannons on it, not the ones seen driving around American towns doubling as Cadillac Escalades or some other "family" vehicle). And what's with all the crap about the economy being bad? I'm still spending money. Loads of it.

Last year I got a Trek 4300 for my birthday. That's a mountain bike. This year I got a Scott S40, that's a road bike. A picture:



What's with the bikes, you might ask. Simple. I haven't ruled out nuclear holocaust and when the shit is coming down, how else am I going to get around quickly? The rest of you will be in wheelchairs. I'll be gliding along on all my bikes.

Really I just wanted to say "the shit's coming down." For my sensitive readers out there, I've given up on you. The only sensitive people I know stopped reading my blog long ago. I'm too crass, I guess.*

I almost got a Sledgehammer this year, but instead I just put pegs on my Trek.

Seriously, who knew Scott was out there making bikes? Ski poles, ski goggles . . . and bikes. I guess I'm WAY behind the times.



Special thanks to my lover for working all the long hours just to put bread on the table and a bike in my back pocket (it weighs so little, you see). And also thanks to all the relatives who kindly sent me money (even though I KNOW you don't read my blog [secretly YOU are the sensitive readers I was talking about]). This is where it went: the bike and bike accoutrements. Happy birthday.



*Understatement is funny because it's understated. No one in their right mind could presume to think that the word "shit" is offensive. Understatement is a form of exaggeration, and we all know exaggeration is funnier than hell.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Beautiful Comb-Over. Or Is that a Wig?

I surprised myself last night and watched Celebrity Apprentice. I was bored, eating my salad by myself, and the cats weren't in the mood for conversation, so I turned on the TV. We don't have cable or channel two, ABC. I don't even know what shows run on that channel. At least, I think it's ABC. ABC is channel two in Nashville, right? I don't know. I know I get the nightly news with Katie Couric and the channel with Brian Williams, so whatever that's worth. Guess you have to know your channels and the shows to know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, my favorite thing about the show was watching Donald Trump. I know nothing about this man aside from the fact that he's extremely, embarrassingly wealthy, he was married to a woman name Ivana, and he doesn't care what you think, he's going to comb his hair like that! So I've heard he's an ass on the regular Apprentice and maybe last night diverged from his typical behavior, but I thought he seemed very humane when he fired Stephen Baldwin.

Maybe I'm easily impressed, because I was also impressed by Stephen Baldwin, the way he took the bad news and all that. I would have been in tears and the night would have ended with me screaming obscenities at the Donald and at the camera and at Trace for being such a perfect country gentleman. I guess that's why I do what I do, I can't handle the truth. I'd never make it in a real dog-eat-dog world. Everything would end with me screaming obscenities at everyone.

So Donald. He's real interesting. To his secretary, "GET me the final four in here right NOW!" What a man. A man of action.

This weekend: chicks from the Feed/Co-op whatever it's called. A coop. A rain barrel.

Friday, March 07, 2008

To Have Chickens, Or Not to Have Chickens....

I have a week to build a chicken coop. To figure out how to build one, to draw up some kind of blueprints, to paint the coop, buy the chicken food (feed?), etc. The chickens will be ready next week. It's a little scary. Can I even be a chicken owner? It's like deciding to be a parent. It's freaking me out a little. Maybe I won't get the chickens. Maybe a garden is all I can handle . . . a garden, a compost bin, and some rain barrels.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Records, Compost, and Rain Barrels

Two weeks later and here I am. My blog looks better on a Mac, with two big flat panel screens, if you know what I mean. Last week was rough, the kind of rough where you think you might not make it out alive, and when you do you wonder how the heck you ever doubted yourself. That happens to me all the time, perhaps because I'm just a negative S.O.B., right?

But it looks like I made it, baby.

Totally unrelated, I bought the most perfect gift for Christy Baugh. It's a record. She's going to love it. I found it sitting right out there in front of everyone at Phonoluxe in Nashville. I can't believe no one else picked up this sweet gem before I got to it. That's all I can tell you about it, but I wish, I really wish I could divulge more info about it. I might snap a picture of it and post it up here, but who knows. I'm usually all talk when it comes to taking and posting pictures. I'd tell you I'm more of a Polaroid girl because that sounds interesting and borderline artistic, but it would be a lie. The truth about me is that I'm lazy and unartistic. Before I married Stoker, two and half years ago, I started working on this present for him that involved some creative effort. It was going to be a wedding present.

I'm still working on it.

I have some good news. I found a place to buy a compost bin for $40. I've looked into them and have wanted to start my own little home compost pile, but I've only found the bins online and the cheapest the good ones run is about $100. Plus shipping and all that. So when I found out that my city, the Metro Nashville Public Works people, offers them for $40, I almost had a stroke. I was that thrilled. It means no shipping and no waiting for UPS. I also found a local place that sells rain barrels for relatively cheap (Gardens of Babylon), especially when compared to the stuff online and shipping costs. Anyway, that's where I'm at. Looking for rain barrels and compost bins and maybe some backyard chickens.

Now I just need to build a small chicken coop. I've been doing my homework. If I get some chickens, I'll definitely post about it, maybe put up some pictures. Again, that could be a lie. I like to keep you guessing. Honestly though, I might get a beehive and buy a colony of bees. And for sure I'll plant a garden this spring. I'm all over it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chicago Dogs in Nashville

I've been doing a lot of eating lately. I think the winter is getting to me. Everything looks so tasty.

What's really bugging me is my kitchen. It's completely unfriendly, uninviting. You could say I was spoiled by my mom's kitchen—it was well-designed and has lots of counter space and room for food preparation. So ever since then, most kitchens have been pieces of crap.

The problem I have with my kitchen simply forces me to eat at restaurants. Because, you know, who wants to prepare food on three inches of counter space? It sounds like my fault, like maybe I could take some initiative and remodel the kitchen. Great idea, I'll tackle that as soon as I'm done with the devil room and the mud room (which we scrounged from the edge of devil room).

Yeah, we've been working on that for four months. The going is slow and frustrating because we both work full time. Stoker actually works twice as much as me and he's the brawn behind our projects. I'm not a damsel in distress, but I'm not about to hang drywall myself. Or cut it. Or mud it. Or sand it. What you can count on me to do is to fill the screw holes with mud. That's the extent of my interaction with the mud (aka joint compound).

I've already blogged about the crème de la crème of the hot dog world, the Home Depot hot dog stand (for interested parties, the Home Depot in Berry Hill, across from Hundred Oaks mall). Today Stoker and I got adventurous and tried the Chicago dog from Hot Diggity Dog, located behind the Episcopal church near the Mission in downtown Nashville. It was . . . ok. Just ok. You'd definitely expect this hot dog to knock my socks off, but it didn't.

I guess it's hard to top the BEST Chicago style hot dog. I went in with high expectations. Hot Diggity Dog had the cards stacked against them to begin with. To be fair, it wasn't a horrible hot dog, and at least I could request that the dog be grilled, or in their terms, charred. That was good. And the bun was toasted. But the relish was bright green. How can that be? It was almost glowing, like overly fertilized grass. Or more like that fake grass that comes in Easter baskets. It was weird. And I'll be honest, I prefer jalepenos to the sport pepper.

Next, we need to try I Dream of Weenie, which I hear is located on the East side. It's really about what you prefer, I guess. If you like the sport pepper, you'll like Hot Diggity Dog. If you like unnaturally green relish, you'll enjoy Hot Diggity Dog. So what I'm really telling you is that I prefer hamburger dill chips and jalapenos and strong onions and heartburn. Because that's what the Home Depot hot dog offers. It's great. It's downright American.

Another place we dined at recently is Flyte. World dining and wine. Dun dun duhhhhhhh. It sounds brilliant, doesn't it? It sounds very modern and chic and expensive. It was all of those things. I'll write my own personal review soon, and because I'm so keen on honesty (I seriously can't lie. Not even to shave $3 off the admission to lap swim at a county rec. center -- $3 adds up quickly when you really think about it, doesn't it?), I'll be forced to compare Flyte to my other fine dining experiences. That's just how it goes.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Overcoming Nightmares Brought on by a Bestseller

I don't have to explain to you how crappy it is to have a nightmare. I know you know. Last night I woke up from the most terrifying dream I've had in years. I think dream sequences are really annoying in books, so I won't get into the subject of the dream or try to explain it to you. That's too hard, plus it's irritating for readers—I mean, I'm not looking for an interpretation. I know what prompted the dream.

It was the book The Historian. Curse that book! I read from it just before falling asleep, and so far I haven't been too worked up over it or anything. I haven't even been truly scared, you know, it hasn't freaked me out. I'm less than a hundred pages in. Not too much has happened—some guy got attacked by some mysterious creature and the medical professionals thought maybe it was a dog bite.

On the neck.

Anyway, I read that part while falling asleep. Stoker was asleep already, so when I turned off the light, I was alone. No light-hearted banter to brighten my mood. I said a little prayer and then fell asleep. I woke up from the nightmare at some point during the night. It wasn't one of those dramatic things either, where a person sits up gasping and sweating and crazed, like in the movies. I just opened my eyes. This incredible fear brought on by a frightening image and turn of events in my dream—I swear it nearly killed me in real life, the fear. I opened my eyes and just stared at the door to our bedroom. I didn't know what I was looking at. I laid there, the image that woke me making my heart beat fast.

I was disoriented. I stared, trying to figure out what I was seeing in the bedroom. And then I felt vulnerable, like the thing in my dream was going to come up behind me, through the window to our bedroom, and kill me. Whatever had been in my dream had followed me into the waking world. And when I tried to close my eyes again, the image was still there.

I woke Stoker up and asked him to talk to me. He asked what was wrong and I told him I'd had a terrible dream. He wanted to know what it was about, but I couldn't talk about it.

Weird, huh? I mean, usually when I've had a bad dream, I immediately want to tell someone. I couldn't bring myself to tell him. It was too vivid. The thought of trying to recount the dream scared me. I guess it felt evil. Something like that. I told Stoker that it had to do with the book, but I didn't want to get into it.

So he said, "Oh yeah. How the historian in it is getting chased by the old guy?" And I said yes, while thinking that he'd said too much, I haven't even figured out that someone is chasing someone else. And then I got scared some more, as my mind put the puzzle pieces of the plot together and realized it must be the historian's professor shadowing him and he's the one who said "He will brook no trespasses."

"You know what that old guy is missing? In the book?" Stoker asked me.

"No," I said.

"He's missing a Glock. If he'd just had a Glock, everything would have been fine. Don’t you think?" I guess Stoker was trying to make me feel safe by reminding me that we have a gun. Ha ha.

But even a gun was no match for the sense of evil the dream had blanketed me with. I needed something to push back the fringes of darkness, it was the reason I woke Stoker up. In the middle of the night, nothing feels real except a fear like that. So we talked some more and I tried not to think of the dream. I told Stoker that we needed to talk about something happy, I needed to get my mind off the dream, because every time I closed my eyes, all I saw was the image that woke me.

Other people might pray or something useful like that, but we talked about The Simpson's. When Homer rides the tiny clown bike and his pant cuff gets caught in the chain and it pulls his pants off. Then Krusty says, "Burn that seat." We laughed about a bunch of other scenes, like new billboard month, and the bag of MSG that Homer buys, and how his unit is burning, but all Homer can think about is clowns. It worked, and then I fell asleep.

During the night, later, whenI woke up again, I swore I wouldn't read any more of that book. I have a mind that's vulnerable to suggestion—at least, my imagination is. I can't listen to Coast to Coast when they're talking about aliens, UFOs, or ghosts, because I have to protect myself. And I hate scary movies. But I didn't realize a book could freak me out so much, especially not one about vampires (which I don't believe in). I guess what got to me is the feeling of evil. Of being pursued. I hate that feeling.

Anyway. "He will brook no trespasses."

I can read the book during the day. Right?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Great Eva Miller: American Idol in Atlanta

It's no secret that I occasionally give in to my weakness and watch American Idol. I don't like laughing at people who are embarrassing themselves, but hey, you put yourself out there, you're fair game. If you were smart, like the rest of us, you'd know implicitly that you suck. We stay home because we know. But I guess some of us need to be told we bite. This is what happens when you end up with a whole generation of kids who've been told they're great. You can do anything! Just put your mind to it.




Ok. I swear it was a bet. I swear her friends put her up to this. I can't believe she pulled it off. Anyway, it was horrifying at first. But then I just let my inhibitions go and I laughed. Next stop: Jerry Springer.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hot Dog Stands: Yet Another Way Home Depot Makes Dreams Come True

I'm not big into pork. I'm just not. Can't explain it. But the best hot dog* in town comes from a hot dog stand at the Home Depot by Hundred Oaks mall in Berry Hill. Stoker and I were there on Saturday, buying some more drywall (when you're new at hanging drywall, it's easy to make rookie mistakes, like not laying a piece flat to store it). We splurged and got the Chicago style hot dog. It was amazing. And the heartburn was amazing too.

There's another place in town called The Dog. You'd think it would offer the best hot dogs ever. It's got such a cool name. The sign out front is so inviting with its modern appeal. For a long time I could't tell when it was open. The windows out front are so tinted and the open sign was too faint through the window. I went by one Saturday for a chili dog (oh yeah, I go all out when I finally imbibe on pork -- can I say that? Can I say "imbibe on pork?"). I was the only customer there. Inside they had flat panel T.V.'s hanging everywhere, and cool stools standing next to cool chrome-edged tables.

I ordered a chili dog and the guy went through a door and brought it out immediately. There was this illusion that perhaps they were a made-to-order sort of restaurant because the kitchen was in the back. But the hot dog took him three seconds to prepare. The chili was just ok. The cheese was the sort that comes pre-grated: it had a fine powder on it. I don't know how most people eat a chili dog, but I like to use a fork for mine. This was rather difficult, given the dog was lying in wax paper in a plastic basket. The kind with big holes.

Anyway, I mentioned to the two employees working there that maybe it would help business to have a neon open sign out front, you know, the side of the restaurant FACING the busiest street. Tinted windows are cool and all that, but they don't do much for a business**. Most people judge a store by how well-lit it is. If it looks closed, we avoid it. We're like moths. We're drawn to lights. This isn't rocket science. And neon open signs cost, what, five dollars at the Dollar General?

There are other hot dog joints in Nashville. They're springing up everywhere. There are two downtown, one called Hot Diggity Dog and another called I Dream of Weenie. Clever names for simple fare. I haven't tried them yet, but I may. I mean, I won't be looking for the brass ring because I already found it at the no-name hot dog stand outside Home Depot. Can you believe it? The guy doesn't even have to dress it up in a clever name and a modern sign. He just stands there and lets the smell waft through the exit doors and we follow our noses outside like salivating zombies. It's the Field of Dreams story all over again.



*The one indulgence. Sometimes bacon, but that's happening less as the quality of bacon decreases.
**Unless your business happens to be one of the million strip clubs in town.