Saturday, January 31, 2009

I have a streak of white in my hair. Not that big, but....there. It is near my hairline, which has led me to shorthand it my Susan Sonntag Streak for a long time. But's not. It's not a skunk streak, not springing from the hairline. It's set back a little. I caught a glimpse of it today in the mirror (it's getting bigger, right) and realized what it really is: a Rockhopper Penguin Streak.

Idjits on the McLaughlin Group are calling him "Blahh-go." Crustaceans.

Friday, January 30, 2009

TCM has been having this great bit on Thursdays in January: New York vs. LA. Last night it was dating, NY v La, so: Annie Hall, Modern Romance, Shampoo, The Clock, The Bad and the Beautiful. (Last week? Showbiz. So: 42nd Street, A Star Is Born, All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard, The Producers.) I just couldn't turn it off...such a fabulous lineup. In some ways? The Clock a way sexier fiim than Shampoo, although W. Beatty sure is deadly in it. I am a huge sucker for The Clock. A really beautiful lil film. It benefits so much from V. Minelli directing the NY we see behind the two main characters.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

p.s. (Updike)
The remembrances at the New Yorker are definitely worth reading (I liked J. Barnes'), but I can't get the idiot phrase "limn the fissures" out of my head...gah! So stupid! [Scroll down to bottom of second page.] Just...bad. I may have to turn it into a pop song to excise it from my brain.

dear john

I put an idiotic place-holder here ealier that read "Updike :(" to remember to write about him. What can I write? I enjoyed (? not sure that's the word; got all sniffly/engaged) reading Lehmann-Haupt's obit in the Times; the Kakutani piece too. (The top of the Chi Trib home page is an image gallery of Updike over the years...strange thing to foreground, although I didn't like JKeller's Rabbit-focused piece much). I liked Updike's quote about writing about the middle class: “I like middles; It is in middles that extremes clash, where ambiguity restlessly rules.”

He holds up well in obituaries. He makes sense. Maybe it's the relief of putting a fence around so much literary activity, having it end--that sounds brutal, but the obit allows you to not pretend to not compare earlier, maybe more successful work with latter, in an ultimate way. There is a lot of say here about the writing who keeps writing/the shape of a career/etc. I admire what he did, and didn't want to read every book.

I forgot how much of him I read when I was a teenager. He was really around in my life as a bookshelf-snuffling kid, that huge nose of his peeking out from endless book jackets, hovering above a sweet but potentially evil smile. I know that I loved the Bech books; they originally confused me (unbelievable, but true) about Updike's religion and background (ah, so everyone is Philip Roth?). I remember reading Couples and Pigeon Feathers and couple of the Rabbits and I was even attached to his light verse; I still have a few of those books of his lying around. I haven't read much of him in recent years.

He was kind of my first adult writer. I read lots of other books for adults before I read him, but when I started to read him as a teenager I was reading...him. Not just his books. The smutty qualities helped, for sure, kept me interested. But it wasn't just that, nor the fact that he was more or less pointing out the adult lives being lived around me. I do remember every time I read a book of his that there was a spot on every single page that would make me want to put the book down, mark the page, throw my hands up, stop would be so good, so spot-on, or so transportive, or so poetic, or so real, or such sheer good writing that it would stop the flow. I know that didn't always serve his story-telling well, and it almost made me ambivalent sometimes as a reader--what do you do with that?--but I remember worlds cracking open for me because of it. He was really important to me, maybe just in terms of showing how far you can go with observing or sympathizing with the human race, which was way closer than I thought you were allowed.

When you look at all those jacket photos together now they seem just sweet to me, sweet and knowing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I can't believe there's gonna be a new chick flick (Sweet H*me Alabama mit different blond) set in New Ulm, Minnesota. Filmed, it appears, in WINNIPEG. Or maybe I can. But what about the Hermann the German monument? The Schell beer? The polka? Seriously...that town's insanely full of German/Minnesotan culture; why not just make up a locale if you're not going to show it? Here endeth another 100-word uh-oh the-preview's-scaring-me review.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'd like to lodge an official protest at the on-going frumpification of Kevin James, easily one of the most handsome men in movies these days, but one who is carving quite a career playing every kind of man were not supposed to want. He's obviously participating pretty hard in the frumpifying, so I shan't rant too hard, not to mention he's funny and can pull stuff off, but still, when you line em all up together: Hitch? (clueless about women) I Now Pronounce You.. (clueless faking gay) Paul Bl*rt? (dorky mall cop) K*ng of Queens was dorky too, and had a lot of bad thematic through-lines that were sort of in the same vein, but at least he was, you know, a husband.

It's sort of the...JohnBelushification, if not the frumpification, I guess. And I'm not claiming anything too noble here other than my But still. Must every plumpy fattish dude be such a farce? A hilariously out of control 'regular guy' we think we know everything about? It's such a stereotype, period. If I were a guy, I'd be ticked. By the end of his career Belushi was starting to play sweet romantic roles...hope that happens here too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I've had a whole series of funny reactions starting Tuesday and the last two days.

I've wanted O to be president for so long...I could see it, really SEE it, for such a long time in my head. For at least four years I have been picturing him in that role, thinking he belonged there. And Tuesday, as exhilarating as it was at times...became sort of anticlimactic. I didn't expect that at all. There was so much to be excited about, even with all the hype drained away--and I was. But I couldn't sustain it for a whole day, and in fact, I found myself fairly well tapped-out. Not only that, although I was one of the people who even thought at the time his speech could have eased up a little and still been effective, since then I have felt the way his photos have looked the last few days. Which is: We've got work to do. I have work to do. There is no time to waste.

I spent three hours wrestling with insurance companies on the phone this morning, making just a merest dent in my own personal snarl of red tape and denials. I talked to people in four completely different walks of life yesterday whom had all been through layoffs in the last week. I idly called up the CircuitCity website to double check some electronics prices, only to find it bankrupt. Which isn't news, of course, but still--I hadn't been paying attention and there it is. All around me I see resources drying up that I need more and can afford less. I'm trying to squeeze 50 lbs of health coverage in a 20 lb bag, all before it vanishes in a puff of smoke, unless the new president interferes. The job market is horrible, not only for what's not there, but for what is--the jobs people are clinging to all seem to have two or three others folded into them. The work isn't going away, just the money to pay people. And jobs like that just make people sicker (see beginning of paragraph).

Anyhow, all of that has been true for a long time. But I think the fact that there is someone in office whom I now feel understands these issues (whether or not it's true, but it sure feels like it) is affecting my feelings about it all--much faster than I thought. Which time to play. You're it, let's go, we have to try. I was too discouraged before to even want to try sometimes (I can see R*shLi*mbaughtypes pouncing on this fact, which I know I have in common with other people, but I think it's important to understand how far and how deep things have gone thelasteightyears for lack of a better term.) But's over. Or just starting. I don't know. I didn't expect to feel this way so quickly, but one day was more than enough! Now I want to see what we can do.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm awfully excited, I really am. Not for the balls and the performers and the first dances, but the noon on the dot (EST) stuff tomorrow. The formal bits, the DC monuments, and the speech, about which I have personalized expectation I don't ever remember having before. But then again...things have never been this bad before.

I lived in the DC suburbs when I was a kid, and I still miss it at times like this. It's a great place to live when things are happening. You feel part of them. For instance, I have been thinking a lot about the Carter inaugural parade, to which my parents took me (I was 13). I remember it vividly, especially--mostly--as my toehold for my visuals--the color of Rosalynn's coat (colors really stick out in a town full of beige government buildings); a fact which would seem to lend great credence to the fabulous "cerulean" speech in The Devil Wears Prada. Although Rosalynn's coat was a little more turquoise than cerulean, but the point still stands.

Somewhere in the sea of military in this next photo is my father, who as a sophomore naval cadet marched in Kennedy's inaugural parade in 1961. He remembers the unusual cold (I remember it being cold at Carter's), the terrible weather, and the fact that all those cadets in tight formation were -- literally -- walking the boots off each other. They would catch the edges of each other's galoshes and pull them off as they walked, leaving piles of boots in their wake.

(Images are from the fantastic Life Mag photo archive.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Looks like it was filmed underwater...dark and murky. But so great. The horns are so tight. A big big show. If you don't like, you don't like.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


1. See's Candies really has dethroned all other chocolate from my top favs lists these's so good. Enough to make a girl want to move to upper left-hand quadrant of the United Snates. Their Nut & Chew Bars are like good thickly covered adult versions of what Goldberg Peanut Chews outta be.

2. My favorite one-bowl brownie recipe is my friend Xandria's. She gave it to me in college and at that point 20 years ago could make it with her eyes closed. I like the size pan of brownies it produces (more like 8x8/9x9 than 9x13) and how super-easy it is--like all of them, I guess. I have been making these brownies a lot recently because I kept buying unsweetened chocolate on deep discount, thinking I didn't have any, until I suddenly had too much. Anyhow, I note the recipe here, along with the fact that it differs from X's version a little because I started adding the salt, which I think adds a lot:
2 squares unsweetened chocolate • 1 stick butter
• 1 c. sugar • 2 eggs • 1 tsp vanilla
• 3/4 c. flour • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Melt chocolate and butter together carefully in microwave, stirring until more or less warm/ cool. Beat in sugar, eggs one at a time, vanilla, then salt and flour. Should all come together quite fast in a fairly viscous mass. I wouldn't overbeat. I usually bake it in a round cake pan (I think it's 8") and throw in a handful of chocolate chips from the freezer. Bake at 350 for less time than you think...closer to 30 min than 40. Let set in pan before cutting. Yum! Fast. One-bowl. Oh, and I usually grease the pan a little.

3. Guiltiest pleasure--financially: Woodstock Farms Organic Dark Chocolate Almonds with Evaporated Cane Juice. Price averages out to about $12/lb. Really gud! (of course) But criminy.

4. Another strange but successful little dessert concocted from a fairly lactose-intolerant kitchen:
- 1 big scoop Ciao Bella blood orange sorbet topped with:
- chocolate sauce made with handful of Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips and a splash of Boost Chocolate Flavor High Protein (lactose-free) Nutritional Energy drink: microwave the two together and stir until it's a nice chocklit sauce. Not bad!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Very good, completely utilitarian, keep you alive/don't have to think about it salad: 10 oz bag of shredded carrot, 12 oz. can of tuna, drained, and a lot of sunflower seeds...maybe 1/2 cup? Add whatever dressing you like and stir a lot to break up tuna. Lasts well. Good on lettuce, by itself, or in a more nicely prepared version, with freshly grated carrot, celery, etc.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Submitting to the Boss

It's a new year...let us take a turn in the cultural confessional booth. I like to think I'm normally a little more balanced in my estimation of things, but regardless, it's fun to be wrong sometimes. Be wrong and then be righted.

Bless Me Bruce, for I Have Sinned
How I Was Wrong About "Born in the U.S.A."

I graduated from high school in 1984. There were a lot of things going on that year (scrunchy socks, my last perm, nervous jokes about the Orwell book), but looming larger than almost anything was Bruce Springsteen.

My high school was a big bowl of cold oatmeal, milky and boring but nasty. I don’t want to make fun of myself too hard for making fun of it but I was predictably snide in my rebellious estimation of the environment I was floundering in: the white bread, college football-watching, Reagan-loving, homecoming-going, unthinking herds around me that stifled Art and Freedom of Expression. Whoever they were. I know one thing for sure: those people all loved Bruce Springsteen.

High school was actually pretty sucky. So bad it was easy. As bad as it was, it was easy--I remember thinking even then--to know what I thought I was, when so many people were so obviously what I didn’t want to be. When I knew what I was rebelling against. (As Beatnik wannabe Kevin J. O’Connor vows in Peggy Sue Got Married: "I’m going to check out of this bourgeois motel, push myself from the dinner table and say, 'No more Jell-O for me, mom.'")

Dissent wasn’t as quite as commodified a part of the teenage experience then. It still had its feet in the 50s, somehow, or at least what we think of them--this was a conventional school in the exact center of a conservative Midwestern state. Weird wasn’t a part of cool. Weird was just weird. Punk was...I don't know where punk was, exactly. There wasn’t much wiggle room for anything other than the aggressively normal. Preppy had only recently loosened its hegemonic stranglehold (if you didn’t live through the tyranny of chinos and Top-Siders you’ll never know). The ironic distance and collective attitudinal change required to appreciate a movie like Mean Girls would have been as avant-garde as Damien Hirst. Or so it felt. Maybe I was just young. But I still think things were different.

The soundtrack to all this my senior year was Born in the U.S.A., especially the thumping title track. It was everywhere. Over and over, everywhere. Pounding out of every car stereo, every radio. Concert t-shirts...I remember people being almost crazed about concert t-shirts. I don’t know how to explain how popular Springsteen was, especially, it seemed, with all those white dudes. There was giant excitement associated with the littlest bit of it. I remember my Springsteen-loving cousin, who was working in radio at the time, being quoted in an article in the then all pie-charty new USA Today about how impossible it was to get tour tickets.

I turned my back. I felt this enormous pressure to like Bruce Springsteen, and that’s all it took to guarantee that I wouldn’t. It didn’t take long for me to associate the title song, and in particular its clubbing rhythm, with the oppressiveness I felt around me, especially the political variety. Reagan was a smiling demonic warmonger pushing consumerist excess and jingoism we couldn’t escape, just as we couldn’t escape the sound of that album. As people have noted, the spending and conspicuous consumption the yuppied 1980s was outweighed by the richest parts of the Clinton era in the end, but it had a different pushy flavor. It wasn’t tempered by as many reflexive layers of irony and media saturation; it was loud and out there, begging for a fall.

I thought “Born in the U.S.A.” was part of that. It was, in a skewed way (note the serialization of Bonfire of the Vanities in that issue of Rolling Stone, above), but I couldn’t see that it didn’t fit. Even with obsessive biweekly readings of Rolling Stone--the ones from that era that always had Billy Joel on its newsprint cover--I somehow missed the fact that Springsteen himself was uncomfortable with the jingoism and the flag-waving that had commandeered the album. And I only vaguely remember the news when Reagan tried to use the song for campaigning and Springsteen said no (and when Mondale tried to do the same and Springsteen still said no). This should have made me like him, or at least get my head out of my ass, but somehow it didn’t register. In my mind the jeans and American flag of the album cover weren’t Pete Seeger and the working man, but The Limited and It’s Morning in America. I don’t know if it was being sunk in my own high school misery that let me keep thinking this way, that kept me from questioning whether a song could end up where an artist did not intend it, but I was content to be wrong and content to think I was unique in my feelings. I was really wrong. I guess lots of us were.

My feelings all found a place to live in the fact that I just didn't like the song, and all the qualities the song had I didn’t like eventually became associated with all the non-musical reasons I didn’t like it. It was a droning, plodding thing, impossible to dance to. If you didn’t want to pump your fist in the air, there was nothing else to do. I would watch high school dudes twist their bodies in awkward, beatless ways to try to express their overwhelmed fanboy lust (Armistead Maupin notes that every generation has a male performer straight boys are allowed to be queer for, and that in the 80s it was Bruce) and feel more and more turned off by the Triumph of the Will fervor. The anthemic beat was obnoxious and macho, the heavily-repeated chorus was a simplistic sop to the mindless drones, the syllables “yoooooo-essssss-ayyyyyyy” buzzed like a headache, making America first! We’re number one! The quavery ringing tones in the background sounded almost off-key, wrong. Low-rent Sousa. It was grandiose and overblown but flat and everybody was wrong but me.


Cut to about about ten years ago. Despite being all hung up on a guy in college who used to lie in his bunkbed and play “Jungleland” at eleven, despite a mad pash for the song “Tunnel of Love” (has there ever been better meter than in the line "[beat] Youmeandallthatstuffwe’re [beat] SOscaredOF?"), despite whatever evidence I had to the contrary that many people I liked liked him, I was still dismissive of the Boss. Too obvious. Too critically lauded. Too worshipped. I’m starting to forget if there ever was a problem other than contrariness, but I just wasn’t gonna like him, everybody else had done that for me.

And then I saw him do a secret acoustic set in a tiny factory bar outside of Des Moines, with just two musicians backing him up while he played every song from Nebraska--man, you had to be there...

Heh (no). I saw him on Conan O’Brien. It was 1999 and Springsteen made a surprise appearance on the show on the show to “pick up" Max and take him on tour with the reformed E Street Band. They played “Working on the Highway” from the Born in the U.S.A. album, not a song I really knew.

I wish I could remember better how it felt to have my perception opened up real-time, because it was completely ratcheted around by his performance as it happened. Overwhelmed me. It was incredibly fun. Maybe this makes me a big cultural subbie--I guess we all are, in switchy ways--but it was one of those arty experiences I treasure in which I just got owned in the face of all my prejudices. Springsteen brought me a long distance, fast, from dislike to like, which made it a really exciting ride. The song even sounds like a car ride.

“Working on the Highway” is a kind of old-fashioned rock-n-roll three-chord song, so part of what was working in me was the great skill needed to do it well, like all simple things. It also required a bit of patience/commitment, a reaching out on my end, since part of its charm is its cumulative power. In return for my listening it fed me a lot of the things I should have really seen for myself about Springsteen’s strengths to begin with: that he was speaking from tradition, that he knew his way around a song, that he was talking about working life. It was just a really good performance. I don’t want to get too much more dorky amateur rock critic sans vocabulary about this epiphanic experience (too late), but that song knocked me on my head, and the hardened antagonism I had for “Born in the U.S.A.” finally started to soften.

This was also due to the power of just one line from the song, which had been tweaking my suspicions for a while. Every time I heard the (still astonishing) lyric
I got a picture of him in her arms now
it separated from my sneering impatience and rang in my head. It was eerie; hanging in the air without further explanation, full of pain and meaning.

Power ultimately came from all the lyrics, which I discovered (no!) were amazing--one of those times when a rock song feels like the most amazing piece of art in the world, leading you to do things like bob your head hopelessly at listening sessions or write silly essays like this.
Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says, “Son if it was up to me”
I go down to see the V.A. man
He said, “Son don’t you understand”
[Springsteen really is good at using syncopation and caesuras, as in that line in "Tunnel of Love"; "Born in U.S.A." is full of it, great bits like the beat before "Son" in the fourth line.]

The song is full of suggestive, imagistic story-telling like that, filling in whole canvasses with bits of chopped-off dialogue and effective use of specific names. The last verse that had misled me so much in high school--"I'm a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A."--wasn’t just aggrandizing, but sad, powerful, a despairing wail, a defiant fuck you at the end of a litany of hurt.

Now that I know what it’s about, “Born in the U.S.A.” is frightening. There’s no happy ending to the narrative. It is an anthem, deeply patriotic, just not in the ways I thought. And the song shouldn’t have been easy to dance to, even if there is celebration in it. It’s about every broken American promise, every hard fight. Why couldn’t I see that? I wasn’t that complacent a teenager. (Was I?) Did I think I would always be young and live forever? (Quite likely.) Did I think I could out-run hurt and adult troubles? (Also possible.) Did the great high school hordes see something I couldn’t? (Probably, right?) No way everyone at my wealthy GenX high school was fighting the fight in the song, but not everybody was James Spader either. I guess I really don’t know the answer to that question--what people were responding to when they flung their fists in the air, young and rich and born in the Yoo-Ess-Ayyy. I’ve stopped assuming I had a clue. Nor do I know why I couldn’t hear its power, other than a commitment to not being obvious in my taste. Maybe I just wasn’t old enough to realize life gets everybody in the end. Maybe the power in the repeated chorus just is, and can't be denied. Anyone who wants to has a right to feel it.

The funny thing is that now I love the song--everything about it sounds different musically. I don’t just tolerate it; sometimes I listen to it over and over like all those guys in Ohio blaring it on their car stereos in high school. It makes me cry. The feel of the rhythm has changed. It doesn’t plod anymore. I love how the drums tumble from the thumping of the opening chorus to the first verse and take over; descend almost kind of hopelessly, but with a cool downhill momentum, out of the rhythm, over and over. That’s the beat that drives the song, not the chorus over it. And I love the jangly (keyboard?) chimes that are part of the rhythm. They’re strange and oblique and lend a weird nostalgic feel. They sound deliberately off, rather than badly-done. The whole song has a fuzzy, confused sound that contrasts well with the strong big beat and the hollering, and gives you the sense that the song has to exist, that it's pushing through something to do so. It sounds wise. It’s taking you somewhere.

And that chorus, with the repetition that sounded so much like the crowd in an Olympic stadium at the time, sounds completely different too. Now that I am 25 years out of high school, past one recession and into another, past Vietnam and back into another, I don’t know how else he could have written it or what else he could have said. The melody is defiant, yet poignant. There is sweetness and vulnerability in the (very masculine) rebellion. I love that the song trails into nothingness, lyrically, even as the sounds get bigger and bigger, the drums crashing toward the ending and Springsteen’s big wail soaring daringly overtop. It’s full of feeling, but not full of conclusions, as the beat picks up one more time and the song chugs valiantly out of hearing.

This isn’t a story about how I learned to like every Springsteen song out there. I can’t stand “Dancing in the Dark” (sorry), and I will never like “Because the Night,” no matter who’s singing it (sorry). I’m not a wholesale fan. I haven’t been interested enough to read the criticism that’s probably said all this before me already.

But I will still conclude brashly: the things that he does that are good are as good as anything anybody does. “Born in the U.S.A.” is one of those magic songs far out of the reach of cynicism for me, even in regard to the dopey end of the (otherwise wonderful) video when Bruce in a gesture of the common man lets us ogle his butt. I even like that the song lives on in a confusing place culturally; when you search for “Born in the U.S.A.” on YouTube you get hits for Lee Greenwood songs too. It's in there. It’s all part of the confusing civic story the song thoroughly embodies, where the personal is completely political and vice versa, and you can’t squirm out of your connection to the world around you if you wanted.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I always feel naked when I put myself out there poetically, like I just sang "Auld Lang Syne" in my underwear at a party. Plus now the snow's been postponed until tomorrow when it's going to be much more inconvenient. BOO. So I retreat behind the thicket of prose!

I am finally reading Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado, just the latest of those great cracks in the dyke of literary knowledge that suddenly appear (the rest languishing thankfully unknown); I had only vaguely heard of the book when Dundy died this year and thus learned more about it (thank you MA). OH it is great. I am going verrrry slowly, for to savor. It's having a funny resonant effect with having recently read a couple books by Patrick Dennis--there is something really really wonderful about reading this kind of book by a woman, from that time, being as goofy and smart and knowing as anybody else writing their first novel (despite being a very American book, it doesn't feel too much to compare it to Lucky Jim). As I understand it, with this round of rediscovery the book's being commandeered/sliding under the umbrella of/being optioned for film as a "chick lit" book, but so far mostly what I'm reminded of are other comic writers like Dennis, David Lodge or Mary Wesley. And the Judith Jones autobiography, since that's exactly when she was in Paris too.

The book is also making me realize for the 900th time how much more Dawn Powell I need to read. Which makes this an oblique shout-out to my friend Kim, who noted this fact long ago in the northern suburbs of Chicago, long before Amy Sherbet-Palatino was doing it on the Gilmore Girls, but I still wasn't paying enough attention. [Hi Kim! You are the greatest.]

Monday, January 12, 2009

bad poetry time! mmmm!

This time last year I indulged in a similar effort (I still can enjoy the line "tout le monde all tout d'ivoire" without cringing too hard) because I was fucking sick of sno. This year? Unbelievably fucking sick of sno. Important to get it out of your system. This time: small decorative dabs of bad French and German; also now bad Latin and Too Much Sopranos, all in time for another Cook County Winter Weather Advisory/Blizzard Warning (until 12 PM CST tomorrow!).

Whine of a Dilettante II

IL NEIGE ENCORE...ça fuckin neige!
Always with the goddamn dredge

Of flour that all around us sifts
poulet parts in salty drifts

Ningit, Chi-town, ningit hard!
Time to ganter! Tie the foulard

I don't care that it's not news
nor surprise, shock--I say j'accuse!

To all the stupid dumb schneeflocken
that pile all over roads they blockin

It's hiver, yes, we shouldn't frown
to see the mercury dipping down

Nor be surprised that snow is dumpin
nor sleet ice slush around us thumpin

This isn't Boca, it isn't Nîmes
it's the yearly midwest freeze routine

But OH my peds are cold and wet
our entire world is eis-bedeckt

And OH I am so sick of slipping
over glacéed ice sheets dripping

It niemals ends, ciel hivernal
fucking silence éternal

If not the light toward which we grope
Show at least the tunnel so we can hope!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Whoops. Hit "publish" by mistake. Enjoy this photo of a panda and this soothing music until I get this figured out.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Two things I want to yell at times when I probably shouldn't:
1) "Oooooo-weeee-eee!," like Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band. Oh I love Charlie Wilson.
2) "SWITCH!," like Bilal--Martin Lawrence--in House Party. When he yells it in the movie characters switch dance partners; I wish you could yell it in real life to move people around when they are annoying you.

Two recent culinary successes:
1) Enormous pot of organic beef cooked with barley and brown basmati rice
2) Shredded lean nitrite-free Canadian bacon in a red wine sauce with pasta

Two things I remember imitating in high school from the movies, both having to do with Richard Gere, which feels weird:
1) Chanting "boDAYshus set of TA-tas" like David Keith in An Officer and a Gentleman
2) Re-enacting the last shot of the horrible (right? wasn't it? is it better than I remember it? nostalgie de la boue) remake of Breathless, when Richard Gere picks the gun off the ground and is freeze-framed as he turns around, crouched to shoot

Two things you can do to save money with toiletries:
1) I am a chronic shampoo harvester and here's how to do it. I like to mix up which shampoos I use (which allows me to buy only when on sale), and when a bottle gets near empty, rather than vainly trying to squeeze out the last bit I let the contents settle, then turn the bottle upside down and let it sit and drain into a wide-necked collection bottle--let gravity do the work and get every bit out. I know it sounds ridiculously penny-pinching, but shampoo's expensive and you'd be surprised how much of it you can collect this way. No shampoo bottle farting noises either.
2) I now keep a salt shaker in my bathroom and use it for warm salt water gargles. It's cheap and nothing seems to work better for keepin all the ductwork clean, you know?

Two least favorite presidents at today's White House luncheon:
1) All the way on the left
2) Third from the left

Two things you can't do:
1) Built a person out of parts (emotionally)
2) Spin the earth back in time like Superman

Two nastiest characters on The Sopranos whose names both start with R and make me want to hiss when I see them:
1) Richie Aprile
2) Ralph Cifaretto
I don't know if I will be able to make it tonight or not, but either way consider this a shout-out and one big well-wish for friend Martha Bayne's new Wednesday night--series? program? fud fun? great idea?--at the Hideout, Soup and Bread. Not only that, one of the inaugural soups will be by my friend Jen's sister, Celeste. Go have soop! It's a snowy winter Wednesday...what else are you going to do?
p.s. If I don't make it tonight I will be there soon. Having soup.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Rectified an enormous gap in my cinematic education and watched King Vidor's The Crowd. It's one of the most beautiful and moving films I've ever seen--I can't describe what it was like to come upon it whole like that. The famous shots--the swooping crane shot of the endless checkerboard of office desks that Wilder borrowed for The Apartment--the terrifying echo-y halls of the hospital as Johnny searches for his wife who's just given birth--Johnny moving against the crowd--were as cool as you'd think, but just as exciting is all the location imagery; there is a shot looking up at a building on a double-decker bus that just took my breath away. This was's amazing to see New York in 1928 like this. There was almost an element of time travel in the experience of watching it, due to its cinematic innovation and the influence it wielded on later films flowing backward. The movie's all in the most creamy delicious black and white and even the acting and the actors' looks feel modern--sort of amazing for a silent film. Very pre-Hayes code. Completely modern, really. Universal, heartbreaking, wise about all the things we're all still dealing with.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Seriously, what did Seth MacFarlane's sister do to him? It's just ruthless (Meg). Everybody else gets their own back a little, but she never does.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

1. The funnest thing about Facebook is how it encourages funny new constellation of casual crushes. Different, sometimes charmingly new versions of the same people. Or just a look into their everydays. It's interesting. It's not cool to admit this, is it. Lots of...bizillions of...other things to say about FB, but whatev.

2. Just because I am overwhelmed by their wonderfulness for the bzillionth time: the complete lyrics to "The Ladies Who Lunch" (Sondheim). I'd copy and paste them all here--the way we used to put song lyrics on our notebook in school--but they are long and Blogger's intensely rudimentary text layout possibilities won't help at all (oh to wrap a column). So brill, tho. Elaine Stritch's more recent version got taken off of yootoob recently, so I found an older one to start listening know, I actually think I prefer her older, more lined voice. Dang cool.

3. I once spent 2-3 hours trying to figure out if I could get a copy of this particular photo--what agency originally took it--etc. I would like an enormous reproduction of it on the wall of my Neutra-designed mid-century modern in Palm Springs. When I buy it.

4. I hypered myself into a frenzy the other day reminiscing about this top 100 rok list. I've loved it since I saw it for "the anomie of the vocals in 'Good Times,'" but it was interesting to read it again after a long time and see how I had come to agree with other ones/new ones. It's a really good list.

5. Although I came to it late, like many people in my demo I have the usual quite complicated relationship with Cook's Illustrated. Could write a novel. But for now I note:
a) I am getting tired of their prose recipe intros, especially the reinventing the wheel ones.
b) I gotst to make the chocolate bread pudding that's in the second-to-last issue (I think). YUM.

6. I count so far no less than three cooking shows on the Fud Network this weekend in which the primary recipe featured was fish en papillote. This seemingly because it is January and !¡!Diet!¡!Time!¡!in!¡!America!¡!. That's a lot of en papillote.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

In the midst of job searching I am getting the urge to apply for wildly inappropriate jobs as if I'd be eligible just by virtue of standard job-related competition. Why yes, I think I'd make a really good chief of the division of orthopedic surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Long-haul truck driver. Endowed chair in studies of Slavic languages at U of C. Probate attorney. HVAC technician. CFO and general counsel. Throw my hat in the ring. What--is there a problem?

It's old overcoat time at La Boheme at the mo. Sniff.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Did you read about this 1937 Bugatti sittin in a garage for fifty years? What a totally beautiful car. Killin me.