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and another thing

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Friday, December 28, 2007
I Know It’s A Pedantic Bore, But: GUILTY PLEASURE! This phrase drives me crazy for a couple of reasons:

1) I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If it feels good and you’re not hurting anybody or committing a felony... But people don’t mean guilty when they say it -- they mean ashamed. (e.g. I don’t want my cool/smart friends to know that I watch the Hallmark channel.) Our culture has become an incoherent mixture of No Shame and Too Much Shame.

2) Why the hell do I care? My level of irritation with this phrase makes NO SENSE! It’s not like I don’t know what people mean, I’m often sloppy with language ( if I use nonplussed correctly 50% of the time it would be a miracle), it’s not like anyone made me The Police Of What You Say or that I don't feel guilt or shame about stupid things -- yet it drives me freaking crazy every time I hear or read the words Guilty Pleasure. I have to either accept that I am an insufferable pedant (!!!) only when it pleases me, OR acknowledge what has probably been obvious for a long time -- I was kidnapped by aliens who have RUINED MY BRAIN. (which brings me to the other Problem With Society: shirking personal responsibility. But seriously, space aliens are a menace!)

You Kids Get Off Of My Lawn: I almost had a heart attack today at the library -- I was helping this kid who needed to check out Catcher in the Rye but had an expired library card. He was approximately 6’ tall and born in NINETEEN NINETY ONE! No one born in 1991 should be 6’ tall! Seriously! I won’t even get into the “kids and their loud music” portion of this rant, because... well, I’m scaring myself and I’ve blamed the aliens once already. (he was actually as charming as a 16 y.o. with unremovable earbuds can be -- he kind of reminded me of King Dork, but maybe his choice of reading material colored my opinion.)

may your days be merry and bright

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007
I am tired from a marathon bout of holiday lazing and eating delicious food, but I wanted to share some of the things that made today a good day for me. So here are some pictures:

christmas lights
it's like a sickness -- I can't stop taking pictures of these lights with the plastic things on them.

christmas epiphyllum
Four epiphyllum blossoms today! Usually it blooms in the summer right around my birthday -- In my experience it's unusual for it to bloom twice in one year. Yet here it is!

I love these colors together
technically, this is from Christmas Eve. I was walking up Fremont to pick up a couple of last minute things and saw these cabbages in front of a new store. I think they're wonderful.

just beginning
I went for a walk in the park and it started to snow! The local news said it might, but I never actually believed them, since it's the kind of thing they're always saying when they actually mean "it will snow on the mountain," or "it will snow in the gorge." but this time they were right!

red leaves
There are still some red leaves left -- so pretty.

stickng a little
The snow began as just hard mean rain, but then it got into the swing of things and started getting nice and flaky. By the time I got home it felt like I'd been to the dentist because my whole face was numb. (I wore a hat and a jacket, but no gloves or scarf because of course it wasn't going to snow! and I don't need gloves for rain.) The snow has since melted away in my part of town, but it was sure fun for a few hours.

new necklace (no flash)
I received such thoughtful and generous gifts, including this necklace from my mom. I love it because it looks a little bit mod and a little white stripes at the same time.

....and now I have to go to bed before I am felled in transit by a turkey/carb coma.

shortest day/longest night

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Friday, December 21, 2007
Happy Solstice! I think it's tonight.. As I ably proved during the full lunar eclipse in August, astronomical time-telling is not exactly INTUITIVE for me. (But I'm pretty sure that the solstice was tonight around 10ish for those of us on the west coast of the united states. Everyone else: I'm sure it's soon, or has happened already. please adjust your celebrations accordingly.) Anyway -- I always love the winter solstice because it means the days start getting longer again -- good news for me here in dark cloudy rainland.

Bird Brain: Today I was thinking about the different birds that I've seen at the park -- mostly crows, although there's one seagull who is constantly crashing the crow party. (hilarious, if you allow that socially awkward seagulls can be hilarious, which I DO.) Occasionally I see small birds of prey (I think they're falcons of some sort -- when they're sitting in the tree they look JUST LIKE the statue of the maltese falcon, except Not A Statue, which I believe is exactly how John James Audubon would have identified birds if only the pop culture of his era had supported it.) This morning I saw about a dozen tiny yellow finches! They were hopping around eating bugs or whatever it is they eat on the ground. They were so small (about the size of my thumb) that at first I thought they were leaves. Very cute, very busy -- a wholly unexpected pleasure to see.

Speaking of the squirrels, I KNEW IT!

In other park news, the Stick of Damocles remains. There is this stick (it is between stick size and limb size) that has been caught in the branches of another tree and hanging over the path for almost a year. It dangles menacingly, although "dangle" doesn't really sound too threatening. The deceptive dangle! We've had huge wind and still it hangs. I've seen other park regulars try to talk the tree-maitenance guys into removing it, but it remains. I'm certain that it is going to fall on my head and kill me instantly. (This has replaced my previous Death Certainty, which was that I would be run over by a car going the wrong way on a one way street the ONE TIME I didn't look both ways before crossing.) The Stick of Damocles was much easier to ignore in the summer when it was hidden by leaves.

As for television (and why not), I loved VH1's top 100 of the 90's. It's cheesy, it's nostalgia for things that are barely over, but it's also what this channel does best: make lists. I love lists! These shows are great to listen to while I work on projects. Some of the talking heads are incredibly lame, some of the comedians are of dubious quality -- I don't think comedy means what they think it means -- but Sir Mix-A-Lot should be on every show they produce. I, of course, have quibbles (how is it possible that Deee-Lite was in the 100-80 section??? They should have been in the top 50 at least! Bootsy Collins, people! astronomical!), but it was almost as fun to be outraged as it was to think "I love that song!" Last night I was having a top 100 related IM with a friend that largely involved me going " OMG! How could I forget about XYZ!!! they're so wonderful/ terrible." A sample exchange:

Her: That one guy always makes me think of gnomes
Me: hee hee hee!
Her: I think you know the one I mean!
Me: the one with the gnome beard?
Her: yes!

(actual answer: Spin Doctors)

here are a couple of videos to celebrate the solstice! or something! First, No Diggity by Blackstreet. I am not a huge fan of modern R&B, but I forgot how crazy I was about this song.

And, of course, Deee-Lite -- so lovely and delicious!

drunk train to cookieville

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Thursday, December 20, 2007
choo choo
(doesn't this train look totally inebriated?)

I am neither drunk nor on a train, but I have eaten my weight in cookies today.

The TREE is DECORATED! With 6 days to spare! It turned out really fun -- maybe one day I'll get a good picture. I tried to take some today, but they were uniformly terrible. You don't have to take my word for the awesomeness of the tree, though. The UPS driver yelled up the driveway on her way back to the truck "your tree is SO COOL!" and that was through the window before ornaments (but after lights). (I realize you have to take my word for UPS driver compliments, but I would never lie about a thing like that.)

Further Holiday Related:

1. I still have a lot of things to do to finish my gift-assembly before the 25th, but I'm not TOO worried. According to the TV, I can just buy Cadillacs and hideous diamond jewelry if I run out of ideas and decide to rob a bank and/or sell my organs.

2. Most overused word in Christmas advertising: Magical. Is it any wonder that people get anxious and depressed over the holidays? It's not enough to have some days off, spend some time with friends and family, eat your weight in cookies, it has to be freaking MAGICAL on top of that. According to the television, the best way to achieve the "magic" is to spend a lot of money on stupid shit that nobody wants! I know it makes me practice cursing the tv, but I don't think that's the kind of magic they had in mind.

3. here is my illustrated recipe for Christmas tree lights -- you need at least three kinds. (these pictures are from years past, but you get the idea.):

C7 multi-colored twinkle lights. These are getting harder and harder to find -- it's the bulbs that twinkle rather than the strand. (I can't stand plain old blinking lights -- things like the chasing lights or other fancy patterns give me headaches. Twinkle is perfect. Perfect, I tell you!) I think I'm going to have to order fuses and replacement bulbs online, because all of my usual spots to get these things have let me down. This is the lighting anchor for the tree.

orange light
mini lights -- this year I used all red (not orange like the picture), but I put these cool vintage plastic thingies on them that reflect and magnify the lights. they look like tiny explosions and are perfect.

bubble light
bubble lights: Target had these a few years ago. So fun! They are kind of a pain in the ass because they won't bubble unless they are straight up and down, and since they're top heavy it's hard to get them straight up and down. But worth the effort!

I have found that I love all kinds of variations in lights -- some people do only white, some hate the bigger lights, some have blinking, etc. -- these are all lovely on someone else's tree, but on any tree for which I'm responsible, I need to have the three types listed above. As for the multi-color/ white divide... I think a lot of it depends on what you grew up with. I know some people find the multi-color to be garish, but not me!

Note of Reflection and Gratitude That Has Nothing To Do With Cookies: A year ago I was in the hospital with the evil surprise attack face infection that put me there. I just want to take a minute to say that I'm really, really happy not to be there this year!

No one belongs here more than you.

| On
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
by Miranda July

I read this back in August and wasn't ready to write about it then, so I put it on hold again with the thought that by the time I got it back (there were a lot of holds), I would be ready. Now it is one day overdue.

Five things:

1. I read this collection of stories in one sitting. Well, almost one sitting. There was a two hour break somewhere in the middle.

2. I wish I knew why I didn't like it more. She writes really well, but with the exception of a couple of stories I didn't feel like I was connecting with anything. Maybe a phrase or a fleeting emotion here or there, but a lot of it felt weird for the sake of weird, which is normally not a problem -- I like weird and I do think she's on to something about the innate strangeness of being alive -- but it just misses for me. I wish I felt like reading it again so I could try to identify WHY. Reading it was often like petting a cat the wrong way.

3. Her name is beautiful.

4. She used to live in Portland and the city makes cameos throughout this collection. (also in her movie, which I was similarly conflicted about.) Fact of Dubious Interest: two locations featured (Fabric Depot and Mr. Peeps/ The Peep Hole) are right across the street (SE 122nd Ave) from each other.

5. The Swim Team is wonderful, generous and strange -- definitely one of my favorite stories. How To Tell Stories To Children is difficult, raw and complicated but stuck in my head a long time after I'd read it.

you get it, you got it, you know it's good

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Sunday, December 16, 2007
christmas lights

I had the phrase you get it, you got it, you know it's good from The Beastie Boys stuck in my head all day yesterday. I think it's from Hello Nasty, but I'm not sure. Fun, but I haven't listened to them in ages -- why do they keep floating up to the surface of my mind? It's a December MYSTERY, is what it is. The sentiment is appropriate, however -- I'm finally rested up from my Long Week and everything looks better.

I have done zero decorating for Christmas! Today is the day, or else. (... or else something dire -- maybe no cookies.) Part of the problem is that I have been up to my eyeballs in Christmas junk at my far away sad crazy lady job since HALLOWEEN. Before Halloween! (She hates halloween! I told you she was crazy.) Between the weird It's Been Christmas For Three Months time-warp and the new library job-having, I am entirely time-discombobulated. I'm not stressed about it, though. It will all work out and I'm sure I'll be looking at colored lights in no time. (colored lights are my favorite. colored lights and cookies.)

And now, a list! Here's some of the stuff I've been watching --

This Film Is Not Yet Rated: oh, this is a good one to watch if your blood pressure is too low or if you need a little extra shot of outrage to get you through the day. I found it to be resonant with some of the issues of mega-conglomerate studio control that have been coming up during the writer's strike. (once again I am amazed at what a freaking MIRACLE it is that good movies ever get made at all -- when you think of all the places it can go wrong, of all the people that are involved in such hugely collaborative enterprise -- and that's just in the making-it process, not even mentioning all the places it can go wrong after it has already been created!)

This film is a documentary looking into the inner workings of the MPAA -- the movie ratings board. The members are SECRET their screenings are SECRET and their rules are BIZARRE and smothered in SECRET SAUCE. The filmmaker launches an investigation to uncover some of the whys and wherefores. The official line is that rating films is voluntary and a service for parents to help decide which films are appropriate for their children. This sounds so reasonable, but the truth is that the MPAA is the only game in town, they undergo virtually no review themselves (since it's a voluntary rating rather than a government rating), and if your film is given the dreaded NC-17 you are in the position of either trying to re-cut to get an R (which may not work), or just face that many theaters won't show your movie because they don't show NC-17 or unrated films. You can appeal, but the appeal process sounds like going up against the Spanish Inquisition or the Illuminati.

Watching this confirmed my suspicion that in the United States violence is rated on a far more lenient scale than sex. Some sex is okay (especially if you are on your way to blow some shit up or crash some cars or shoot some people or are a heterosexual man obsessed with apple pie), but once it gets to the realm of pubic hair or female orgasm, forget about it. The filmmaker talked with John Waters (who was delightfully frank as always), Wayne Kramer and Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan (surprisingly hilarious), Kevin Smith, Kimberly Peirce and many others. Director Kramer and actress Bello had some interesting insight since in their film it was to her naked body the MPAA objected, but I think they undercut their argument by saying "our movie sex was okay because these characters were in love," which, hey -- great for them, but it obscures the larger point -- the standards for ratings are purely subjective and based on criteria that appear to have been pulled directly from Jack Valenti's ass. Anyway. It was thought provoking.

Dirty Sexy Money: I finally saw the first episode (I came on board during the second or third episode) and I love this show! It fills the season 1-2 of The OC shaped hole in my heart. (I know some people love Gossip Girl for this particular void, but I couldn't get into it.) The cast of Dirty Sexy Money is excellent and they've got enough stuff going on that it's not just samestorysamestorysamestory like Grey's Anatomy was getting to be for me (although I heard that it's been getting better... is it true?). It's not like The Wire or anything, but I find it very entertaining and prefer not to miss it.

Pushing Daisies: I still love this so much! Olive is so great -- they all are, but she is filled with great lately. She's angry, heartsick and scheming, yet also generous (it's an effort), helpful (ditto) and scheming (because she just can't help herself). This is the show I will miss the most when they run out of episodes, which I think they just did. Sigh. Paul Reubens as Oscar Vibenius, olfactory expert who happens to live in the sewer and wear goggles for some reason? fantastic! Chuck's wardrobe still makes me green with envy, none of them are perfect and they all act like jerks from time to time... it's just so fun. They've got a lot of plates spinning at once, but I think that's how they keep any one element from overwhelming. Yeah, it's a big old candy-colored fairy tale or romance or quirky drama, but it's also an honest to god procedural! They solve crimes! bake pies! have Hitchcock homages! And somehow there is still time for synchronized swimming, knitting and beekeeping. It's funny and weird yet truly dark around the edges. I heart you, Bryan Fuller. This is by far my favorite show this season.

Bones: Aw, Bones! I like this show a lot. In fact, this list is inspiring me to try this crazy thing where I only watch shows I enjoy. Anyway -- they are always reasonably clever with the mystery every episode, but what keeps me watching is the interpersonal chemistry. They've got a great team and I like to see them working together. I like new-guy Sweets (the psychiatrist) because he was that little tiny kid from Freaks and Geeks, now hugely tall. I love that Ryan O'Neal is recurring as Brennan's jailbird dad. I'm enjoying how they are spooling out the Brennan and Booth relationship. They're friends and colleagues who respect each other, but there's that physical chemistry bubbling up all around. I appreciate that they're trying to vent some of that energy with the recent mistletoe adventure, but I found it kind of ... contrived. (because a character who suddenly had the power to grant the one thing that Brennan wanted (a family jail-christmas for her jailbird brother) was feeling "puckish" and insisted that they kiss?? Really??) They wanted to have their five steamboat cake and eat it too -- which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy it, because I did. I just felt cheap.

and now I'm off to unearth the christmas lights. Happy Sunday!

announcements and notes

| On
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
general announcement: sleep is awesome! I remain a committed fan.

park note: the squirrels are getting so fat! I know a lot of it is just winter fur, but some of it has got to be because they are eating so damn much of the corn someone is leaving at the base of the trees. These hefty rodents can still climb a tree faster than a dog, so I guess they're doing okay. (and they are so cute! They're mostly red squirrels, but I've been noticing some grey/red combo ones as well. all very adorable, even as they give me the beady stink-eye for daring to walk past the squirrel buffet. I don't want your corn, okay?)

earth tilted on its axis note: I hate that it is dark at 4:15 pm. It's just not right.

Second Weirdest Coincidence of the Week: some establishing information -- when a patron puts something on hold in our library system, the default is that the "copy returned soonest" will fill that hold. So if you put the new Murakami on hold and you've finally waited your turn and are #1 out of however many, whichever copy comes back into the system first will start wending its way to you. If the copy gets turned in at a library across town, your information comes up on the screen, your hold is triggered and the item gets sent to your home library for you to pick up. Stuff is constantly moving all across the city. SO, imagine my surprise when last Friday I was working at the Belmont library for only the second time ever, and a patron came up to the counter and handed me a movie that would turn out to be for me. He was returning some stuff and paying some fines. He handed me Fritz Lang's Metropolis and I thought "hey! I have this movie on hold," only to scan it and see MY NAME come up on the screen! It's so bizarre! It may not seem weird, but it so is. As an on-call substitute, the odds of me being at that branch at that counter at that time were slim (I only worked on the desk 3 of 8 hours that day, Belmont is one of 17 library locations), the odds of him coming to my station instead of the other were 50/50, the odds of me BEING THERE on that exact day at that exact time... well, it just seems so unlikely! He could have taken it to the book drop! he could have come an hour sooner or an hour later and I would have never been the wiser. It would be one thing if Belmont was my home library and I was checking in materials that were sent to fulfill holds -- I've had that happen before -- but to snag one in the wild like that was SUPER FREAKY. What's even freakier is that this was only the second weirdest coincidence of the week! (the first one was so strange I can't even write it out.)

Christmas note: I am woefully unprepared for Christmas. I don't think I'm making cards this year unless desperately simple inspiration strikes in the next three days. I've done no shopping, I've done no decorating. I'm not feeling particularly grinchy, but I'm not feeling particularly jolly either. I think the remedy to this might be cookies, but I'm not sure. Tests may be required.

Monday's post-it note bounty: Here's what caught my eye while I was processing materials on Monday. I usually write this stuff down on a post-it or scrap paper so that I can place the hold from home (where I am more used to managing my Hold List Empire):
Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series -- I don't know why, but I always have this picture in my head that bootlegs, particularly Bob Dylan bootlegs, should come either on reel to reel tapes or possibly as a microchip that is implanted directly in the brain. This is a CD set and I guess I am okay with that as it will be easier for me to listen to than reel to reel or brain chip.

Joseph Cornell: Master of dreams by Diane Waldman -- I could actually list Cornell in my series of weird coincidences, but in a week that featured the other stuff, he hardly rates. (I'll just say that he's been EVERYWHERE and that I finally got my hands back on a book (out of print, library only has one copy) that someone with an educator's card (check out period: 6 weeks instead of 3) had cruelly stolen from me (by placing a hold) 6 weeks ago.)

Field Guide to Dreams by Kelly Regan -- this looks to be slightly different than the typical dream dictionary and I've been having weird dreams lately so we'll see.

The Wishbones by Tom Perrotta -- I glanced at the back and flipped through the book -- it seemed like it could be fun and interesting, so why the hell not? This is the beauty of the library!

Of course all of this took some juggling in order to have this many spaces to place this many holds. The system only allows you 15 holds at a time. These are troubles I can live with, however.

Well, it is time for me to get back to my new BFF, sleep! Last time I said I would try to be more timely with updates was followed by taking even LONGER to update, so I'll just say that I hope to find some balance here pretty soon. I think I'm getting closer.

so tired

| On
Monday, December 10, 2007
Looking Up

I am so tired! Tomorrow will be my 9th day in a row working -- then, so help me, I'm not doing anything at all on Wednesday. Hooray for nothing! I'm not complaining about the work -- I'm still learning a lot and enjoying myself. The part that is less fun about being an on-call substitute is that when there's stuff available, I feel like I need to take it even if it's inconvenient because next week there might not be anything. [except for my other, far-away freelance job which, if this were 1900, would be along the lines of a poor unmarried niece keeping her rich soon to be divorced sad/crazy but sweet aunt company on a cross-country train ride, on which the niece has to field questions like what is the nature of god or why is my husband leaving me or what do you think I should do with all this stuff or why doesn't my computer work or why are men such assholes or why wasn't I born in the horse and buggy era. For reasons which seem obvious to me, I prefer to keep this job at no more than two days per week.]

I'm so tired time has started going wonky on me -- what seems like a hundred years ago turns out to be only a week, and vice versa.

Tomorrow should be a short work day for me. I hope to write up my #2 weirdest coincidence of the week and maybe I'll share the fruits of my postit labor. (I write down names of cool or seemingly interesting books/movies/cds on a postit I keep in my pocket as I process materials so I can put them on hold when I have room on my hold list. Sharing them assumes I can decipher not just my on-the-fly/sly handwriting, but also my not-really-so-clever abbreviations.) But for now -- SLEEP. I can hardly wait!

p.s. I think Journeyman (Journey Man? I'm not sure if it's one word or two) has turned into a really interesting show. I wasn't too impressed with the first episode, but it has grown on me. I love how they've been tackling repercussions of things changed in the past and the mysterious overall WHY of it all has me intrigued.

Billy Hazelnuts

| On
Friday, December 07, 2007
by Tony Millionaire

Last night on my way home I stopped off at JoAnn's to get some necessary crafty doodad that somehow, despite having more crafty doodads than is reasonable, I did not have. While there I was subjected to the most godawful noodly "lite jazz" version of a vaguely familiar but ruined Christmas song. Oh, it made me mad! I was ready to commit violence by the time I finally got to the cash register. I'm generally pretty easy-going, but I worry sometimes about how easy it is to manipulate my mood with music. Some things make me instantly and inexplicably happy, other things drive me to robot rage so fast it takes me completely by surprise. What if this information fell into the wrong hands? I could be turned into a violent criminal by excessive (aka: any) Kenny G!

This has actually come up before. Not so much with the violent crime, but being driven to speak when I would have preferred to be silent. (I will save my tale of boarding school, religion class, getting hopping mad and speaking out to defend Billy Joel (!) and by extension all popular music in an atmosphere of religious fucknuttery and Let's Burn Records insanity for another time, although that's pretty much it. It was much less Footloose than it sounds.) (I must be having some sort of age crisis -- I keep thinking of things that happened a long time ago.)

Believe it or not, this does have a tenuous relationship to Tony Millionaire's delightful and insane graphic adventure novel Billy Hazelnuts. Billy has a bit of a short fuse; he's a hot tempered homunculus prone to shaking his fists and shouting things like "Come and get us, boys! I'm a barrelful of hate! Come open me up!" I may not share the feelings, but I can relate to the impulse.

Here's a paragraph from the back of the book which I think gives enough information to trigger either the "HELL YES!" or "oh, god no!" response. I'm (obviously) in the hell yes category. Here's the quote: "In the all new graphic novel BILLY HAZELNUTS Millionaire dishes out a story about Becky, girl scientist, her pal Billy Hazelnuts (who was created from suet, yeast and discarded mince-meat pie by mice in the basement), and their journey to find the missing moon while battling an evil steam-driven alligator with a seeing-eye skunk." I was intrigued by the time I got to the parentheses (made by mice in the basement, you say?) but then came the STEAM DRIVEN ALLIGATOR, at which point I was completely helpless. That blurb doesn't even mention Adventure on the high seas! Finally, a book for those who have been longing to read about an ill-humored hero made from suet.

I picked this up browsing at the library and it turned out to be one of those wonderful surprises. The story careens along from one crazy thing to the next, but adheres to a rigorous internal logic. Billy Hazelnuts is a dark and creepy story, yet maintains an innocence you might not expect from a story with an evil steam-driven alligator and a foul-tempered protagonist. I found it to be charming, surprising, disturbing and in possession of an oddball kind of grace. Also funny. Recommended!

if you can't be groovy...

| On
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I met my movie-viewing goal and went to see I'm Not There sunday night. Hooray! It was very fun for me -- confusing, exhilarating, sometimes emotionally turbulent but FUN nonetheless. I'm still processing it (which, I feel I should note, is one of my favorite things! I love it when something has enough surface area that I NEED to process it), but I will say for now that one of my favorite lines was spoken in a swanky London hotel suite by Cate Blanchett's skinny strung out drawn-on mustache wearing Jude Quinn: "If you can't be groovy, just leave." hee hee hee. I think I'm going to recommend they start using this at the library when people answer their cell phones obnoxiously. That phrase and maybe a sharpened stick.

Speaking of the library, things are picking up for me work-wise. Huzzah! I'm getting more shifts which is wonderful since I do so enjoy getting paid. I'm finding that one of my favorite tasks is one of the things I dreaded the most when I started: issuing new library cards. I dreaded it because it involves giving the Library Spiel about the hows wheres and whys of having a card... but I realized that I am not just the Hair Club President, I am also a member! I am turning into an awesome library spiel giver because I am one of those obnoxious true believers. (it's such an incredible resource that your tax dollars have already paid for! Use it! Use it a lot!) I find genuine satisfaction helping people get their grubby hands on the collection.

Tuesday I worked two short shifts in two different libraries. Normally this wouldn't happen, but I lucked into the second shift at MY library, which is very near my house. It's still amazing to me how much the staff culture varies from branch to branch. The first branch of the day was a smaller, very nice neighborhood branch -- but the speed was set to S L O W. Some people love the slow branches, but I'm not used to it. I've spent my time trying to figure out the most efficient way to do a lot of work in a short amount of time, and this worked against me here. Someone told me (ever so kindly, but it stung) that I was 'not the only person working' that day and that I had better slow down. It was torture! I was literally hovering over the bookdrop and catching things as people were dropping them off so I could check them in. What a contrast when I went to my old volunteer branch for my second shift! There was no shortage of holds to process and many huge overflowing carts of books to check in. So much better for me! (plus I got to look at that many more things AND check in a hold for myself which always feels like I've won the lotto.) Anyway, as I've said before, the people have been great every place I've been, but I'm finding that I prefer the busy branches.

In other news, I feel like I have been totally erratic with blog updates lately and I'm trying to get on top of that.

december 1st

| On
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Hooray December! I have a feeling this is going to be a good month. I don't know why -- it's often stressful and people get crabby and paranoid. (example from my private collection: Diamond Cartels are part of a larger plot to ruin us all, the first step being their hypnotic yet rage inducing holiday commercials. I used to be able to spot them a mile away, but now there's one that tricks me with a good song. Damn those crafty mall jewelry diamond shilling bastards! their stuff is still hideous, but for a minute I'm fooled into thinking I'm watching a Volkswagen commercial.)

I know this month is going to be crazy busy, but my sense is that it will be busy in a productive way which will be a delightful change of pace from being busy with nothing to show for it. And now, on to the links. But first, a "how's the weather" interlude.

this is what it looked like this morning here in Portland. It snowed (briefly) and is now raining. I missed the snow by a few minutes when I went out walking -- I thought it would resume, but it DID NOT. This bummed me out since I like walking in the snow when it's a voluntary activity. The sky was that weird gonna snow, oops, no, gonna rain color, though. I thought it was pretty.

And now, THE LINKS:

Here is a link to a fun little flash game where you have to try to keep a cat from hopping off a field of green dots. It's perfectly good zone-out fun when you are trying to regain your equilibrium after inadvertently viewing a Kay Jewelers ad. (via boing boing)

Martin Scorcese does Hitchcock in a very charming booze commercial!

my paprika tights December shopping tip: I love Sock Dreams because they are where I found my newly beloved paprika colored tights. They're cotton and supplex and very well constructed. The bonus surprise that I didn't realize until after I'd placed my order -- they're from Portland, so my tights ordered on Friday were in my mailbox on Monday! and shipping is free!! They have a ton of other tights and fun socks, and I'm sure I'll be ordering more. (photo note: those boots are actually very dark purple.)

beaded ornaments
these ornaments are fun and pretty easy to make. I made a little photo tutorial set over on Flickr. If something isn't explained clearly enough (entirely possible!) you can leave me a comment here, on the photo itself or send me a flickr mail and I'll see if I can explain it better. They really are fun to do.

This embedded Meg Cabot youtube video doesn't really have anything to do specifically with December, (but dig the Masterpiece theater style fireplace! and the portrait over the mantle), but it does make me laugh a lot. Especially since it is from a blog post titled "Die Amy Die" and is a Little Women Literary Correction acted out with Madame Alexander dolls. I am particularly fond of the fight music.

ANYWAY, here's hoping that I'm not wrong about December! Busy, productive and fun sounds like a reasonable state of affairs.

curtains: so practical, so versatile

| On
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Enchanted (2007) Such fun! Here’s why (for me): I like musicals, I like romantic comedies, I like movies that can gently but thoroughly poke fun at themselves. I also have affection for Disney Princess animation in general, despite the dated payoff (she gets to marry an idiot she barely knows, but the clothes are nice) and the probably misguided fear that the older, darker stories they’re based on will be lost. This movie turns much of the traditional princess story upside down, yet still has the elements people love to see. Also, rats who wash dishes make me laugh (although I do not wish to dine from those dishes).

I heard about Enchanted a while back and thought it sounded interesting, but the minute I saw the commercial that asked “did you make a dress from my curtains?” -- the look on her face is so perfect, I knew I had to see it right away. I still laugh every time! [Sewing side note: After seeing the whole film I can tell you that those are indeed what the pieces of the dress she is wearing would look like, facings and all.] Something about how the curtains are hanging back in the window like maybe he wouldn’t notice makes me laugh and laugh and laugh.

And that’s not all! I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that they do a brilliant job of encapsulating the traditional Disney Princess movie in 10 animated minutes at the beginning -- vapid himbo prince, sidekick, helpful woodland creatures, evil step-mother and all. The musical numbers are FUN (esp. the Central Park one) and everyone seems so right for the part they are playing. Amy Adams is fantastic as Giselle (I love that she is very princess pretty but has not been botoxed expressionless -- she looks like a lovely human woman not a plastic doll), James Marsden is perfectly perfect “what’s not to like?” Susan Sarandon has a marvelous time chewing scenery as the sexy evil stepmother and Patrick Dempsey’s Robert is smart and kind yet rightfully incredulous. There’s a lot to be incredulous about, which is half the fun. The audience we saw it with Saturday night was about 40% adults with no kids and 60% families with children. Everyone seemed to have a good time. I know I did.

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) -- Speaking of Susan Sarandon in a musical, I rewatched The Rocky Horror Picture Show recently. The Madison gets a mention! (from dorky Brad Majors, but still!) I must confess that I think this is about 3/8ths too long. It’s so fun up to and shortly after going up to the lab to see what’s on the slab, but after Eddie is done, I kind of am too. I love the singing, the dancing, the gleeful campiness, but it gets draggy. Maybe I would feel differently if this were a movie that I went to see 1000 times in the theater, but it’s not so I don’t. (I definitely think it should win a lifetime achievement award for Best Entrance of a Sweet Transvestite Mad Scientist in a Descending Elevator, though!)

Heaven Can Wait (1943) -- I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed by this movie. I spied it at the library and snatched it up since it was a Lubitsch picture and I’m slowly working my way through those, but it didn’t really grab me. Don Ameche as the spirit of former horndog Henry Van Cleave pleads his case in the afterlife by telling the story of his life to His Excellency. (His Excellency has a pointy beard and a red complexion.) The whole thing is told in a “well Satan, I’m glad you asked. After I did that, I did this! Aren’t I a scoundrel?” manner that I never really warmed to. It is entirely possible that I wasn’t paying enough attention, so I'd be willing to watch it again.

Woman of the Year (1942) Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy have so much chemistry in this movie that it almost doesn’t matter what happens, as long as they’re on the screen together. I enjoyed it, although I was cringing through the whole Greek orphan storyline because it didn’t ring true for her character at all. She's smart and ambitious and I think they were trying to draw a thick line under her lack of maternal and other traditional "womanly instincts," but it just seemed pointlessly cruel to the child and not something she would do from even a diplomatic stance since she was an international reporter with lots of diplomatic ties. (Although maybe it’s more to do with the 65 year interim between then and now. Perhaps it was perfectly sensible shorthand in 1942.) ANYWAY, there was a moment somewhere early on where Hepburn did this “I’m thinking” thing with her mouth -- it seemed familiar, then I realized that Emily Deschanel (from Bones) often does the same thing with HER mouth, which reminded me of a snippet of an interview I saw with her on some entertainment show where she said that she plays the whole show (Bones), gory body bits and all, like it’s a romantic comedy. Then I realized that the basic relationship between her and Booth (David Boreanez) is styled on the typical Hepburn/Tracy mold (giant-brained independent sometimes oblivious woman paired with common-sense kind-hearted guy who is smarter than he seems). Anyway, my point is Tracy and Hepburn had chemistry to burn, and if Emily Deschanel hasn’t watched all their movies a million times I would be surprised.

not where I intended to go

| On
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
sickbed update: I’m not really in a sickbed. I’m sitting at my desk wishing I had more kleenex or that the kleenex were at least closer so I wouldn’t have to get up and shamble to their location. I don’t know why I typed sickbed -- maybe I have a strain of brain fever that causes one to resort to victorian euphemisms, although I think that particular victorian euphemism means either childbirth or tuberculosis (don’t they all). I’m pretty sure I’m clear of both of those at the moment. Kleenex! Why must you be so far away? (truth is, I have no brain fever. in fact, my brain is coated with thick layer of fever dampening mucus that somehow makes my ears pop when I swallow.) Kleenex! -- I love typing it now. I am going to replace all parts of kleenex with kleenex. My firstborn euphemistic victorian child shall be named Felix Quintin Kleenex of the dining room table Kleenexes. Those DRT Kleenexes lord it all over their crumpled cousins, the bathrobe pocket Kleenexes. You know what? the BP Kleenexes may not be pretty, but they’re dependable -- they're there when you need them! They don’t make you go tromping all over the house trying to remember where you left them. Good god Felix, I thought raised you better than this. Why can’t you be more like your cousin?

(I meant to write about something else but it’s going to have to wait until tomorrow so I can extricate myself from this kleenex family melodrama.)

I'm not there either (because they were out of tickets!)

| On
Monday, November 26, 2007
I got myself put together yesterday and dragged my carcass downtown to the ONE TINY THEATER (technically it is a cineplex with many theaters, but they are ALL TINY) that is showing I'm Not There and it sold out three people in front of me. Oh, the injustice! Oh, if only I hadn't tried to find street parking before giving up and going to the garage! (if I'd had my act together I would have taken the train, but there wasn't time.) As you might imagine, I have been whining about this for (now) 23 hours or so. It has been rightly pointed out to me that if I got the LAST ticket sold, I probably would have had to sit in some wretched hard to see from spot, or had to sit next to the smelly guy or whatever. I would have done it, though! My revised plan is to see it sometime this week. In all honesty, I should have left earlier considering it was Sunday and the Sunday of a holiday weekend on top of that. (BUT STILL.)

It's not all terrible news -- I was able to initiate my new Pay Artists Directly Whenever Possible Campaign by giving a busker by the train/garage a dollar. (he was really good and I always want to do it, but I am always too embarrassed because people LOOK AT YOU when you do. However, these sorts of things are part of my Grow Or Die aka It's Not Always About You, Jen campaign. I am running many campaigns right now. It's exhausting.) I'm not saying it was related, but after I made my contribution to the arts and retrieved my car, I didn't have to pay anything because I was parked for such a short period of time.

ricola herbes et meil

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Sunday, November 25, 2007
mermaid services, page 85

I am unwell, which is unfun. With any luck it will be one of those 24 hour things but I'm not confident that my luck runs in that direction. I'm sure it's just the time of the year -- people get sick! Plus I've been in closer contact with the public who have no doubt been licking their library books before returning them and therefore spreading cooties throughout the land. Blah. My throat hurts. Maybe it will be all better by tomorrow but that seems unlikely, even with the magical help of the ricola elves or goatherds or whoever those guys in lederhosen are. (besides people who wrap lozenges in paper and shout all over the alps about the cure for the common cold, of course.)

The good news is that I've been getting more library shifts and I'm still enjoying the work, hooray! I certainly enjoy getting paid. It's been a little tough to find jobs since it's all done through a staffing website and a bunch of new clerks with speedy trigger fingers were all hired at the same time, but I figure it will all shake out/settle down soon enough. I'm trying not to get too cranked up about it. (This is one of my mottos for a more harmonious life: Don't Get So Cranked Up About It. Maybe I should embroider it on a pillow or a hankie.) One of the most interesting parts has been the culture-shifts of the different branches. (There are 17 in the system, although as yet I've only worked in 9 of them.) They all have their own personalities and quirks, yet they are all alike in thinking that theirs is the most badass branch in the system. "If you can work XYZ, you can work anywhere!" I suspect many of the people saying this have never worked a shitty retail job because none of these "oh, it's awful" scenarios come close to a typical day of selling stuff. For example, on Friday I did have to talk to a lady who had almost 100.00 in fines (jail/rehab/had a baby) and was going to be sent to collections -- not fun, but if it got out of hand I could pass her along to the manager. But I also got to issue first library cards to a couple of five year olds, which was very satisfying.

More soon! I'm going to take a nap, medicate and put lots of tissue and cough drops in my pocket so I can go see the Bob Dylan movie today. My pre-sickness goal for this weekend was to see the only two movies that have really grabbed my interest in this holiday movie release cycle. (Enchanted and I'm Not There. I saw Enchanted last night (more on that soon, I hope) and it was a lot of fun. But I need to see the other one or I will... well, I need to see it. Since I'm not coughing or sneezing (my misery is silent) I don't feel like too much of a public menace.)


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Thursday, November 22, 2007

I love cranberries. I fear they are unreasonably maligned by the cranberry-haters of the world but since I have no evidence of actual cranberry maligning at hand, all I can say is they are delicious. Delicious, I tell you!

Here’s a cranberry recipe that I made to bring to dinner over at the lovely Powellhurst abode. I recommend trying it if you want something cranberrylicious, but are feeling slightly (only slightly) more ambitious than opening a can of cranberry jelly. It’s easy but seems fancy and tastes GREAT, which are all the hallmarks of a keeper recipe if you ask me. (it’s from Cooking Light 2006)

Cranberry, Cherry, and Walnut Chutney
Aside from making a stellar accompaniment to roast turkey, this chutney is great for gift giving: pack into a ribbon-tied jelly jar. It also goes well with roast chicken, pork tenderloin, or ham. [note from Jen: it also goes really well with just a SPOON.]

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup port or other sweet red wine
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1 (12 oz) package fresh cranberries
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Add cherries, and cook 1 minute. Stir in cranberries; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until cranberries pop. Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grated rind, and extract. Garnish with orange rind strips, if desired. Cover and chill. Yield: 16 servings (serving size 1/4 cup)

DELICIOUS! I also made a pie crust today which I’ve never done before. It looked hideous but tasted good, so that’s okay. Pie crust is interesting -- so few ingredients, but so many ways to screw it up! I am intrigued and will probably pie-crust my way into a larger pants size as I continue to experiment.

Long Shadows 2

It was cold and clear here today. This picture was from around 10AM -- the shadows seem all out of whack to me, but that’s probably just because when the days are short like this they are also usually overcast. What you can’t really see in this photo is that there was a full-on costumed soccer game (adults and kids) happening to the left which had not only Santa as a ref, but a guy in a grass skirt and a viking helmet. Everyone seemed to be having a good time which certainly radiated outward to other people in the park who were not playing soccer dressed as a taco. (I think it was a taco -- some of these costumes were difficult to suss out.)

I am currently thankful for so many things it would take me hours to try and list them all and I need to go to bed, so for now I'll say I’m thankful that there’s so much to be thankful for! I hope everyone had a lovely holiday/Thursday.

madison with grilled cheese

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Sunday, November 18, 2007
the cheese
I am being stalked by a grilled cheese cookbook from within the multnomah county library system. (the cookbook is calling from inside the house!) First it was on the paging list. I was derisive. "Grilled cheese cookbook? you have got to be kidding me!" Then, of course, I opened it to have a look to see what part of 'put cheese between bread and fry' was in need of further explanation and was immediately overwhelmed by the soft-focus grilled cheese porn within. It has shown up at almost every branch I've worked -- either as a hold I'm processing, as a book someone has returned or as a book someone brings to the desk. It is becoming the inexorable sandwich. I can now spot the cover from 50 yards and it instantly makes me hungry. I don't even particularly LIKE grilled cheese. Perhaps I've been cursed by a cheese pixie. (Are there cheese pixies? I feel like there should be.)

the middle of the day movie club
Usually I don't watch TV during the day. For the past few years my schedule has been elastic and erratic; I knew that if I started watching anything during the day my standards would start slipping and before I knew it I'd be screaming at Dr. Phil, sobbing about that poor woman (you know the one) on Oprah or watching 100 Shocking Moments in Heavy Metal (again) on VH1. Like any good rule, there are exceptions -- in this case I have three TV during the day allowances: 1) illness 2) disaster (natural or otherwise) 3) sewing.

Now that my schedule is slightly more rigid, I find myself willing to bend on my daytime TV stance. The latest allowance may be my favorite: watching movies that have subtitles or otherwise demand more attention than I might be able to give them sitting on the couch at the end of the day. I'll admit that time pressure is a factor as well -- almost all of my MotDMC movies have been ones that I had to wait a long time for from the library and could not renew, yet had been putting off because I never felt quite ready to watch them.

Last week was Band Of Outsiders which ... !!! (!!!) I really liked it, but need to see it again and think about it some more before I can articulate (even to myself) the reasons why. But one reason requires no further thought -- The Madison! The day I watched it the sun was shining, my lunch was delicious and then came along that Madison. It was a good afternoon, I tell you what.

I know it would dilute the impact to wish that EVERY movie had the Madison in it, but I don't think it's asking too much for at least one movie a year! Right?? Here's a youtube clip from Hairspray (1988) with "It's Madison Time."

making stuff: the paper wallet

| On
Saturday, November 17, 2007
wallet closed

Since the days are getting shorter and the gift-giving season is upon us, I thought I might post the occasional tutorial on handmade/crafty/diy projects. Or maybe I'll just do the one! Anyway -- the work on this set of instructions was mostly done in 2005 when I originally posted the tutorial photoset on flickr. This is mostly that, although there is some further HARD WON knowledge here for your paper wallet-making edification.

some things you should know about the paper wallet:

+++ paper wallets and the washing machine are HIGHLY INCOMPATIBLE.

+++ there is nowhere to put change. I use mine with a purse, mostly, so it isn't an issue.

+++ it's very handy for when you just want something to put some money and ID in when you don't want to carry a purse. (... and don't mind maybe having change in your pocket.)

+++ they're sturdier than you'd think. I used the one pictured in this post for over a year. They wear out a little faster if they're constantly in your pocket, but even so... pretty impressive for a paper wallet! Weaving is the key to making it stronger than the materials would suggest.

+++ however, not everything lasts forever so don't feel bad when it's time to make a new one -- especially if you're using something you've recycled! (I was just thinking tonight that magazine covers would probably be heavy enough to work...)

+++ in addition to paint chips (and possibly magazine covers) you can also use regular old cardstock. (My friend Leslie made a very cool wallet out of cardstock she decorated with rubber stamps.) OR, if you long for a more polished or coordinated look, heavier-weight scrapbook papers would also work. There are some really wonderful papers out there right now!

+++ this is easier than you think. You can do it!

materials needed:

+++ an assortment of paint chips or other medium to heavy-weight paper of your choosing.

+++ sewing machine. It is straight-stitching only, so you don't need anything fancy!

+++ ruler/scissors or some kind of paper cutting thing.

+++ a little bit of patience. You might want to give yourself permission to let the first one be a practice wallet. ( it will most likely be awesome, but don't feel bad if it's wonky and crooked. Mine certainly was.)

the tutorial:
step 1
paint chips - I had a big bag of them hanging around from various painting projects. Select some colors that you would like to work with. 

step 2
cut paint chips into 1/2" strips. I used longer paint chips (about 8-9") for the lengthwise strips so I wouldn't have to piece the wallet. 

step 3
assemble assorted paint chip strips. (or other papers. I will make one out of something else and post a picture, someday.)

step 4
lay 7 long strips side by side. I taped them down on one end to keep them stable. I worked on a phone book in my lap, but a table or piece of cardboard would also work. 

step 5
start weaving other paint chip strips crossways through the long chip strips. You can make a pattern, or just grab and go. (I am a grab and goer! You can do really interesting to look at yet uncomplicated to execute things with color selection. Not that I did in this example, but it IS possible.) You don't want to weave too tight or it will be difficult to close your wallet.

step 6
keep adding strips until you are to the end of the long strips. 

step 7
sew around the edges to keep everything in place. Once done sewing, trim off excess edges. You actually need two of these pieces in order to complete a wallet - one for the outside, and one for the inside. This will make good use of the one that turns out (inevitably) crooked or otherwise undelightful. You can stick that one on the inside, and the better looking one on the outside. 

step 8
cut additional paint chips to correct size to hold credit cards. (about 3 3/4", but be sure to measure for yourself!) Sew around three edges, starting with the top pocket, working down. after you get the pockets sewn on, sew the two sides of the wallet together, making sure to leave the top open. 

finished inside of wallet
ta-da! (I would like to note that that is paint and not dirt under my 2005 thumbnail.)

money goes here
inside the paint chip wallet. (money and atm receipts go here!)

paint chip wallet
Voila -- Paper wallet! They are very fun and inexpensive to give as gifts, or you could just make and stockpile them for yourself.


| On
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
red leaves

you know that blur song Parklife? It often pops up in my head (or on my ipod) when I am walking around the park. It's mostly about being unemployed and hanging around the park/dogtrack all day, but there is a sense of true enjoyment and appreciation for the small pleasures of this lifestyle: "I sometimes feed the sparrows too, it gives me an enormous sense of well being/ then I'm happy for the rest of the day," which I take as a kind of reminder to try and really see the things you look at every day. My parklife is not exactly the same -- no offtrack dog betting for one. (although now that I think of it, maybe I should set it up! it could be a lucrative sideline if I can figure out how to get anyone to give me money when the squirrels ALWAYS win. But I am enjoying the notion of arcane hand signals, stubby pencils and the sneakiness required to conduct my imaginary bookmaking empire right under the nose of the dogcatcher. I'll have to check my yearbook, but I believe I was voted Least Likely To Conduct an Imaginary Bookmaking Empire Right Under the Nose of the Dogcatcher, so there would be a bit of personal vindication as well.)

+toddlers in outerwear look like tiny drunken old men with a sartorial preference for dinosaurs and hello kitty.

+yesterday I heard a crow flying right over my head. He wasn't squawking at me (for once -- crows give me the business all the time), just the sound of wings against air.

+whoever it was that was leaving chestnuts on the dog-area boundary markers hasn't been to the park in a while. (or I suppose it is equally likely that they have been there, but are just not in a chestnut-leaving mood.) I really missed it at first, but then I started constructing my own surprises. At first I would collect feathers and acorns and tuck them into this spot in a tree right by the path -- not obtrusive, but obviously not accidental. I've escalated recently with collected leaves (they are so beautiful right now!) and since they were still looking good in the original spot, I had to branch out to a second location on the other side of the park. It satisfies my need to pick up interesting things and solves the problem of what to do with them after I've picked them up. (I always feel bad just throwing something back onto the ground.) Anyway, it brings me joy and it might make someone else smile so it's all good. It isn't hurting anything, anyway.

links! links! links! (strike edition)

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Monday, November 12, 2007
I believe in art.

I believe in fairness.

I believe in the value of the written word.

I've been thinking a lot about this strike and wanted to have a lovely rah rah post about why it is important (even for non-writers) and why it is not, as you may have heard, simply a matter of privileged artistic types having a hollywood hissy fit, but I keep getting angry. Not just because the situation is unfair, but because it brings up a lot of other related issues (the lofty status of The Corporation in our national mindset, how art is habitually undervalued and derided, how people who engage in creative work are treated as if it's not "real" work and therefore should be content with whatever they get, the grotesque reign of George W. Bush and the wave of anti-intellectualism he rode in on). I get so mad I can't think straight (rage blackout!) and find myself waking up pages later in the middle of a rant on Why Don't We Have Universal Healthcare!? which is not particularly helpful.

So I will say this: I hope for a speedy and fair resolution to the dispute and hope that the writers (and the scores of others affected by the strike) can get back to work making the shows and movies I love, the shows and movies I love to hate, and yes, even the shows and movies to which I am fairly indifferent.

Some links:

this youtube clip (The Office Is Closed) is a funny and pointed explanation of the "we're not paying you for promotions" issue.

Jane Espenson -- I heart Jane! She is as kind, smart, generous and funny as always, now with added strike news and strike-lunch updates.

John August makes sense of the underlying issues and language (why residuals and not royalties, etc.) in a smart yet easy to understand way.

Doris Egan -- on Living By The Pen, the human appetite for stories and some historical perspective. (among many other interesting things.)

Billy Mernit with tips for keeping your writing sharp during the strike (or, you know, any old time) and a recommendation for a book that sounds so good I have already ordered it! (novels in three lines! I can barely stand it.)

if you haven't already, I encourage you to read Joss Whedon's pointed, angry yet hilarious summation of early NYT coverage and overall issues. It's good and jossy which is a very good thing indeed.

...and another video. This time the Heartbreaking Voices of Uncertanty. (Screens will be fed.)

wordstock at last

| On
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Wordstock: Mercury
(this photo is from 2005)

Wordstock weekend has finally arrived! I have lots of cranky questions about why they changed so many things, but I'm going to put those aside for now since they are cranky and I am not (at present). I'm excited. The schedule does not seem as robust as years past to my eyes, but even so my plans today include Douglas Wolk, Wesley Stace, Lauren Weedman, Harry Shearer, Steve Almond & Poe Ballantine. Woo hoo!

and now I better get in the shower or I will be late!

(details to follow.)

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

| On
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
by Michael Chabon
If you know anything at all about this book, you probably know that it's a detective novel. (The title, after all, has Policeman right in it.) You might not know that it takes place in an alternate history. In this timeline, Jewish refugees settled in the Federal District of Sitka in 1948 after the collapse of the state of Israel. This settlement came with a ticking clock; as the novel starts, the process of Reversion to the state of Alaska has already begun. Everything is in flux, everything is about to change and has been changing. The earth is slipping beneath Meyer Landsman's feet, although Reversion is the least of his problems (he has many).

This book includes but is not limited to the following: family, community, faith (and lack of), despair, loneliness, guilt, longing, unexpected humor, language, politics, sex, grief, dirty deals, fleabag hotels, eruvs, bodyguards, acts of surprising kindness, acts of surprising violence, religious law, chess, continuity of spirit if not of location, hot tempers, miracles, string, love, alcoholism, endurance, loss, secrets, lies, end of times, bush pilots, rehab, pickles, the wild, the wooly, the wholly unexpected, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, blended culture, afraid of the dark and police work. handbags and hair. drunk and disorderly. heroin. hope. messianic fervor.

I really liked it. I was a little trepidatious after I went to hear Chabon read. The reading was so fun -- he had a great store of personal charm and charisma that he spent freely on his audience. Would the book measure up? It does! I know there has been some hubbub over so-called literary writers working in so-called genre. I haven't read much about it because the conversation gets so heated and touchy I end up mad at everyone. As long as the author in question is respectful of the work (which I think Chabon is), I don't care. I get that it must be very irritating for someone who has been writing genre their whole career to hear someone say "well, MY dragons and wizards novel isn't fantasy," like fantasy is some dirty word, but ultimately what I care about is this: is it good? I think this is good.

There are many memorable characters in this novel. I love how Chabon is able to paint these people in just a few words. Some of them we'll never meet again, but I appreciate the care that went into creating them for their brief moment. A few days after I finished this, various characters kept popping back into my head. I wish someone would make an HBO series based this novel -- there are so many corners of this world that remain unexplored. They just hang there being all intriguing and mysterious yet believably real. I want to know more! He's a very visual writer. Here's a little bit from when Landsman and his partner Berko are in a 3rd tier dive bar (trying to avoid other police and reporters): "Landsman pretends to spit three times over his shoulder. Then, right as he's wondering if this custom has anything to do with the habit of chewing tobacco, Mrs. Kalushiner comes back, dragging the great iron leg of her life." The great iron leg of her life! Of Mrs. Kalushiner it is later said "it takes a sour woman to make a good pickle," which just fills me with questions of what constitutes a good pickle (I have my own opinions) and what exactly made Mrs. Kalushiner so sour. (There are tantalizing hints of this, but I would love to know more.)

"Landsman gets paid--and lives--to notice what normal people miss, but it seems to him that until he walked into Zimbalist the boundary maven's shop, he hasn't given enough attention to string...... But the boundary maven lives and dies by the quality of his string.

Don't you want to know more about someone who lives and dies by the quality of his string? I do. (and there is more -- I edited out a lovely long list of types of string --something to look forward to!) I thought the mystery was pretty compelling too, which surprised me since lately the puzzle parts of mysteries have been the least interesting to me. So, if you like string, mysteries and/or compassionate and humane but not doughy and lifeless writing, I would recommend this novel.

wonderful, how are you

| On
Sunday, November 04, 2007

I am having the strangest sort of day -- I'm in suspiciously fine spirits. This feels good, but at the same time I'm kind of holding my breath. There's a weirdly reckless quality to this mood, like I'm braced for something bad but I'll quit believing in it right before it gets here and it'll bounce right off of me. I'm playing chicken with a bad mood! It's not quite as jolly as a regular good mood, but the fear that I won't jump out of the way in time lends an interesting air of imaginary danger to the proceedings. ANYWAY. Here are some things that have either given me a lift or made me cackle with glee lately:

Conversation overheard in the park today:

Man: Do you like egg salad?
Little Boy: (full-body yet noiseless disapproval of the very concept of egg salad, and a silent curse on whoever invented it for good measure.)
Man: what about sour cream and onion?
Little Boy: that's good.
Man (to other little boy): do you like egg salad?
Other Little Boy: RAAAAAAAAAAAR!!!!! (accompanied by fearsome dinosaur face and arms.)

I have no idea if dinos are pro or con egg salad, but it seemed to settle the issue.

the iTunes visualizer: I was all over this feature when I first got my laptop, but then I kind of forgot about it. For some reason I put it on yesterday to test out a new mix cd while I was puttering around the room. It's so hypnotic and fun! I was pleased to see that the random visualizer corresponded with how I thought some songs should look.

nano thought: ideally I would have had this thought a month ago, but I had it yesterday. It's still early enough in the month that I'm not freaked out. I decided freakouts are not what nano is about for me this year, anyway. (woohoo!) To cement my reputation as some sort of insane Oracle of iPod follower, just as I was debating a certain location for my story, iPod played a song about that very place. (ooooh)

it's really fall: Every time I go to the park lately I feel like I'm in a seasonal montage. The leaves are falling, flailing, fluttering. Prime montage weather was really about two weeks ago, but it's still lovely. The lesson I have FINALLY learned is to just let them fall. I had this crazy notion that I needed to catch one (for luck or something), which was ridiculous since falling leaves are not noted for their predictable landing patterns. I looked like an insane woman having seizures and I NEVER managed to get one before it hit the ground -- this made me feel unlucky which was sillier yet. I quit trying. I just enjoy them as they fall and it's so much better. Sometimes they fall right on me, which I can't help but think is nicer than one I managed to catch while terrorizing squirrels, running into joggers and providing pathetic amusement for forty 8 year olds playing soccer.

"The only place you will be singing is in jail" : said to Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker during his court hearing before he's sent to juvie. I saw part of Cry-Baby today, and I always forget how much fun it is! It's so gleefully trashy and silly, I love it. In addition to Johnny Depp and a host of John Waters regulars, Iggy Pop is featured as Uncle Belvedere Rickettes. Hee hee hee.

this poem! My sister gave me The McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets for my birthday in July. I just found it again while straightening the precarious stack of books by my bed. (I was afraid they would fall over in the night and give me a heart attack.) Anyway, I actually yelped out loud when I read the first poem by David Berman. This is a summer poem rather than a fall poem, but even though it is not currently seasonal, it resonated with me and my oddly good mood. It's a great collection, you should read it.

The Charm of 5:30 
by David Berman

It's too nice a day to read a novel set in England.

We're within inches of the perfect distance from the sun,
the sky is blueberries and cream,
and the wind is as warm as air from a tire.
Even the headstones in the graveyard
seem to stand up and say "Hello! My name is..."

It's enough to be sitting here on my porch,
thinking about Kermit Roosevelt,
following the course of an ant,
or walking out into the yard with a cordless phone
to find out she is going to be there tonight.

On a day like today, what looks like bad news in the distance
turns out to be something on my contact, carports and white
courtesy phones are spontaneously reappreciated
and random "okay"s ring through the backyards.

This morning I discovered the red tints in cola
when I held a glass of it up to the light
and found an expensive flashlight in the pocket of a winter coat
I was packing away for the summer.

It all reminds me of that moment when you take off your sunglasses
after a long drive and realize it's earlier
and lighter out than you had accounted for.

You know what I'm talking about,

and that's the kind of fellowship that's taking place in town, out in
the public spaces. You won't overhear anyone using the words
"dramaturgy" or "state inspection" today. We're too busy
getting along.

It occurs to me that the laws are in the regions and the regions are
in the laws, and it feels good to say this, something that I'm almost
sure is true, outside in the sun.

Then to say it again, around friends, in the resonant voices of a
nineteenth-century senator, just for a lark.

There's a shy looking fellow on the courthouse steps, holding up a
placard that says "But, I kinda liked Reagan." His head turns slowly
as a beautiful girl walks by, holding a refrigerated bottle up against
her flushed cheek.

She smiles at me and I allow myself to imagine her walking into
town to buy lotion at a brick pharmacy.
When she gets home she'll apply it with great lingering care before
moving into her parlor to play 78 records and drink gin-and-tonics
beside her homemade altar to James Madison.

In a town of this size, it's certainly possible that I'll be invited over
one night.

In fact I'll bet you something.

Somewhere in the future I am remembering today. I'll bet you
I'm remembering how I walked into the park at five thirty,
my favorite time of day, and how I found two cold pitchers
of just poured beer, sitting there on the bench.

I am remembering how my friend Chip showed up
with a catcher's mask hanging from his belt and how I said

great to see you, sit down, have a beer, how are you,
and he turned to me with the sunset reflecting off his contacts
and said, wonderful, how are you.