Friday, December 30, 2005

Art and Whatever

Ben and I watched this PBS documentary on American art in the second half of the 20th century last night and I have to say I love documentaries about artists, I love reading about artists, I love artists, obviously, since I married one, but one of the things I always end up thinking about is what I do as art. (Not blogging so much, for me, but actual story-writing.) OF COURSE, I know it’s one of the arts. But art art, fine art, was always something I was interested in and never pursued not just because I didn’t think I was great at it, but because writing floated my boat more than anything. (Another discussion for another time is why I didn’t pursue music, which is perhaps complex and perhaps as simple as TOTAL FEAR.) In any case, listening to artists talk about their art and other people’s art, I moved up on my mental netflix queue of passing thoughts, the idea that while Ben, for example, works with paint and wood, I work with words and letters and punctuation. Which helps a little in terms of being less frustrated by my ability to come up with/execute art art, because not only does it hopefully result in a thoughtful reflection of the world, it is, albeit in a different way, still a visual art, and, I think, this interest of mine in art art, goes some way toward explaining why I like to experiment with language and even with punctuation. I like the way words look on a page. I care about the look of the font, the slant of the italic.
Anyway, another thing they talked about a lot on the program was the idea of nature and landscape as not only being, you know, things that are green, but cities and I daresay the very concept of change as nature. I like to describe myself as a person who does not like change. I look at old film footage of the 60s and 70s, when I was alive, and even earlier and wish really hard that I could time travel. I am not a person who rearranges the furniture (which I liken to the difference between cat and dog people). I am not a person who throws things out, I am not a person who leans toward modern architecture. I like picture moldings. I like detail. My dad has a wall of rusty old tools, many that were my grandfather’s, some of which are truly beautiful with detail and even just in design. Take a walk through a big old Home Depot – I’ll spend money there, but would the word beauty come into my head? Not so much. And – I love the country, I love small towns with tiny little main streets and fantasize about the day I will move to one, and yet I continue to live in the city, and I actually love a lot of cities big and small and even though I will tote around the New Yorker cartoon with the guy in a t-shirt reading “I have mixed feelings about New York” which sums up my entire existence there in spite of the fact that I am not sorry at all to have grown up there, and, I think y’all know how much I love this one, Chicago, in particular. And yet. Andy Warhol was able to find beauty, able to make others see beauty, in a Campbell’s soup can. Could there be beauty in bin after bin of screws and nails and wingnuts and what have you? Could there be beauty – and brutality – and many other things worth looking at – ANYWHERE? (Ok, I’m really sorry about the caps here, you have to imagine italics, which I’m too lazy for today as all these BRILLIANT thoughts pour out of me.) I’ve digressed a bit, but if you take the actual definition of nature, is it natural to develop and pave and invent and destroy and fight the developers and pavers and inventors and destroyers and do it all over again in different ways, like, throughout time? I think so, whether or not I like it at any given moment.
Welcome to my head, by the way.
Not unrelated and actually kind of funny, speaking of Warhol, is that they had some old footage of him being interviewed, and his answers were quite terse, Yes. No. Yes. No. and Ben added that he would often turn to the person or the interviewer and say something like I don’t know, what do you think? So in this footage, the interviewer asks him something deep about the importance of his art and he responded by saying, with a chuckle, Can I just say, Llllaaaaaaallllhhh? And I have to say, man, he was an odd bird, but I kind of want to co-opt that for the next interview, because sometimes I get asked questions about my work and I really just want to say I. Don’t. Know. (This from the girl begging George Saunders to tell me how he does it and what it all means.) Of course, Warhol was probably being coy about the significance of his work, but what would anyone with even a tiny bit of humility say? Yes! I HAVE masterminded a new generation of art. Even the people who could say that probably wouldn’t. Similarly, though, if less cagily, Jean Michel Basquiat was asked about why he worked the way he did, specifically about why this one word was crossed out a couple of times on a painting – Is it to represent the messiness of life, Basquiat? No, man, he said, it’s a mistake. Well then how come this one is crossed out with an X and this other one only with one line? Because that was a better mistake.
Anyway, I could go on here, but my loose plan is to retire in twenty years and only do crafts. Because I can execute in certain ways, sewing, embroidering, knitting, even the occasional gluing, and enjoy the process very much – but the brilliant and original idea that make the crafts into arts? Not so much. That’s ok. In my retirement, I’ll write for fun. Oh wait, I do that now.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Federline Yo Dot Blah di Unhhh

Just in case y’all thought I dropped the ball or whatever, I am totally on top of the news that Kevin has a website. Unfortunately I am unwilling to spend the time to download FlashPlayer to view it, especially since I hear there isn’t really anything on it right now. But don’t let that stop you from having at it, kids.

I Forgot One Highlight

Ben and my brother Reed actually discussed vacuum cleaners for a good ten to fifteen minutes. Well, at least that’s what it seemed like to me. I can’t remember exactly how it started, but at one point early on I heard one of them say something like, “Oh, you’re into vacuum cleaners too?” and “Bagless, or bags?” Which, I think it’s safe to say, are remarks I never thought I’d hear, well, anywhere. They talked about the joys of seeing the dirt get sucked up, and I tried to join the conversation by saying that I occasionally enjoyed ironing because I liked seeing the wrinkles come out, but I think we all knew from the ensuing silence, that it wasn’t the same.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Xmas in Iowa

A good time was had by all, and we had all but one sibling present, which hopefully will happen next year. Highlights:
Salt-brined turkey and all that goes with, including pecan pie, made by Lois.
One round of “Compatibility.” We were all too tired to actually finish the game, but Ben and I had a small lead before we went to bed, probably because Dad’s method involved randomly choosing his cards instead of trying hard to consider what cards would be most “compatible” with his partner, my sister Susan.
Completion of an “all-white” puzzle of a map of the world. Ben worked hard to be the “winner” of the puzzle, and doesn’t really care that puzzles aren’t generally considered a competitive sport.
One eighty-eight cent package of balloon rockets in our stocking that we sent flying around the living room. WILD entertainment, best bang for the buck.
A rollicking game of “Lie-brary” which is sort of like dictionary but instead of making up fake definitions you pick a book and make up a fake first line. Lois took the big prize here, working hard for actual convincing definitions as opposed to some of the rest of our attempts at humor, as follows (book titles followed by fake first lines):
Eight Black Horses – “There were eight black horses, but I repeat myself.” – Mark.
A Lost Lady – “Alas, poor lady, I knew her well and now she is lost.” – Reed.
Dr. Spock’s Book of Child Care (circa 1959) – “Dear Reader, Lo these many years have I nurtured a troubled baby to proper psychological health and fitness.” – Ben.
The Gayety of Vision – “The circularity of influences complicate the delineation of events.” – Lois.
The Mountain Man’s Guide to Firearms, Traps and Tools – “If you are already a mountain man, you’re probably aware of your firearms, traps and tools, but if you come from a low-lying area, this is the book for you.” – Me.
And an actual one, from some mystery book: “The lady was extraordinarily naked.”
If this isn’t all hilariously funny to you? You must not have been there.

The Best Holiday Video Card We Ever Got

Okay, it’s also the first and only holiday video card we ever got, and fine, we had to wait a couple hours for it to download, but it’s THAT GOOD. Megan I hope you’re reading, cuz I would very much like to link to it. Yay, you are! Here it is! It’s only a few minutes long, but it has an amazing soundtrack, and lovely images – seriously, it’s really nicely made – but mostly it’s just so damn sweet, I watched parts of it several times and I watched the whole thing twice and it made me well up with happy tears both times. It’s a little love story of a girl and a boy and their dog and their friends, but there’s no girl losing boy or boy losing girl. There’s only getting and joy, and yet, it left me with the inexplicable feeling of time gone by, probably because it has that feeling of old home movies where you just dance around and wave and there’s no dialogue. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think you have to know Megan and Christopher and Mojo to totally be moved by it, although afterward, you will for sure want to.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Dream Hangovers

Often when I have a bad/weird dream, which is fairly regularly, the following day I feel sort of haunted; images and thoughts of the bad/weirdness recur randomly throughout the day, and don’t go away until the next day. The other night I dreamt that I was in a series of high rise buildings and could not for the life of me find my way out to the street. You know those hotels that have lobbys on the eighth floor and you have to take an elevator and then walk around and find the desk and then take another elevator in an entirely different location to your room? It was like that except imagine that there are a bunch of hotels like this and they’re all interlocking and very modern and all very different and have like, Chanel and Gucci stores and galleries in them (where I can’t afford to shop even in my dreams) and every now and again I can see some light from the street and I try to follow the light but then it goes away again and I’m lost once again. Over and over. The good news is supposed to be that you wake up and then you’re like, oh yay, I’m awake and I know where I am and I know how to, you know, find the street, except all day you still have the feeling that you can’t, even though you can. Similarly, on the more infrequent occasion that I do have a pleasant dream (not last night, I dreamt about a crazy murderess from the fifties and that my best friend could become younger and Chinese at will), I will have a pleasant feeling all day thinking of the dream about my husband who’s half-Ben half-Owen Wilson. Sadly, that is extremely infrequent, and all I can say is I’m happy that whole Ben is there to make it all better.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

New Lows in Syndicated TV: Imagine!

Stumbled across “Eye for an Eye” on channel 26 yesterday, which clearly needs little further explanation except that it’s one of those judge shows (have I told y’all how I feel about those judge shows? I’m against.) but the twist is that they find some “fitting” punishment like tossing pies at someone or putting them through a carwash in a convertible with the top down. What could possibly make this show worse than the concept? KATO KAELIN is the host. So while you get pies thrown at you? Kato Kaelin stands by with commentary. Do I even need to go into the new levels of wrong this reaches? Kato Kaelin is famous for being a KOOKY WITNESS and HOUSEGUEST of OJ Simpson. Now he is being monetarily compensated for these talents. Kato Kaelin. Kato Kaelin. Kato Kaelin. I'm sorry. That was me trying to shake it all out of my head.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Very Federline Christmas

My cousin Matt, unbeknownst to me a lurker here on standBy Bert (I’m outing you!), sent me the hands down funnest Xmas letter this year. I assume it was specially designed for me, but Matt, if you’re reading, I think that’s just plain fun for the whole family. I wish I had a scanner, but since I don’t, picture if you will, a holiday card with not one but two photos, one of the classic Couch-Jumping Tom Cruise, but with a Santa hat, and the caption, “Betsy and Ben, you just don’t understand how much I love Christmas. You just don’t understand…” and another of the Federlines enjoying a cocktail in a tropical location. I feel so… understood!

What, or What What?

Watched about ten minutes of Deal, or No Deal? last night only because there was absolutely nothing on and I was making crafties for the holidays so I needed something to listen to but seriously, this is the entire premise of the show, from what I can tell. A family goes on, and they get a suitcase that has a certain random amount of money in it. Let’s say it has fifty-thousand dollars. So then the host says something like, “The bank will make you another offer for that suitcase. Deal or no deal?” And then the family kind of freaks out about what to do, and then one of them says, um, either Deal, if they want to walk away with the fifty gs or No deal, if they think they might do better to pick another suitcase, one of which is guaranteed to have more money in it but the others of which do not. That’s pretty much it. There are no trivia questions, no eating of worm milkshakes, no nothing else. Deal or no deal. Someone in some big meeting in Hollywood said, I have an idea for a show where all people do is say Deal or no deal, and this actually became real and that someone made a boatload of money. I am completely dumbfounded, and frankly, was forced to turn the TV off and occasionally look up at my bedroom, which, in all honesty, would make a more interesting TV show. I think I’m going to Hollywood to pitch it. Hey, I have this idea for a show. It’s called “Bedroom.” And what it is? Is it’s my bedroom. No you just look at it. You don’t have to pay any actors or writers or anything. Only me. That’s right. Will I take half a million dollars? Deal.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Heartbreak Mountain

Okay, you have to just see the movie. BTW, it’s actually called Brokeback Mountain, for any of you I might have confused. This is the most telling thing I can say about the movie: Went to lunch afterward with Megan and her friend Jeff, and we talked about the movie for most of the lunch. I’m not sure when I’ve ever talked about one movie for a full hour. It’s not because it’s the most brilliant movie ever, although it’s very very good, but I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than not being able to love the person you love, or barely being able to even understand the kind of love you feel because it’s so untalked about, or not being able to tell people you love, you know, anything about your man, your Ben who spends time on the holiday letter when he could be making art, or surprises you with a Christmas tree when you’re too sick with the same damn cold from a month ago that won’t die to leave the house for an entire 48 hours. And plus also? Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger kissing and looking into each other’s eyes and just plain doing it? Hot. I wanted to be both of them in their little tent. At the same time.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Me vs. The Empty Bottle

Read at a party last night for Brian Costello’s new book, The Enchanters v. Sprawlburg Springs, check it, but an hour at a smoky bar did not help the cold that Ben and I have been trading back and forth since the dawn of time now. Plus, whenever I go out and chat with people, past my bedtime, I get all hopped up and can’t sleep, so I woke up all buzzy around 1:30 and went to watch TV and once again, I revisit the land of middle of the night broadcast TV is a weird one indeed. Infomercials are not getting any less bizarro with time. Jack LaLane has a juicer – the only one with a “pulp catcher.” You know what, I don’t know why, but those two words together disturb me. Also Jack says “Easy to clean!” and then puts it in a dishwasher, which tells me it would not be easy at all for me to clean. Next. YogaBootyBallet anyone? I’m less embarrassed about the copy Hip Hop Body Shop video I had high hopes for in 1989. What about buying real estate for less than seven hundred dollars, no mortgage? “Who wouldn’t want that?” says one of the two guys discussing it as they show pictures of homes that, well, might be as big as my kitchen, and I don’t doubt for one second are all located in the cracky part of Gary, Indiana. Then I landed on the shopping channel and this guy selling gold bracelets mentioned that he had one soldered to his wrist forty years ago. What??? I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but these were the highlights.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Spoo-Kee

So, actually got out of bed at six am today since it seems kind of silly to go to bed at nine and sleep all the way until, you know, seven. Tried to go get the Times at the corner, whadya know, they don’t sell it, although I got a beautiful, moody view of the skyline before the sun came up. Came home, what to do without the Times? I know, it’s online, but there’s no romance in that, so I ate my cereal and decided I may as well get my day started and started printing the holiday letter while I watched the morning news. Peeeouuuwww. (That of course, is the internationally recognized sound of the power going out.) Now me, I’m not the kinda gal who learns after the first, second, or eighth time that you can’t run the lights, computer, printer, electric heater, tv and vcr at the same time around here. Nope, not me, I’m gonna try it again! So but what we usually do is either call the landlord to flip the switch in the basement, or Ben does it if the landlord’s not here. But this morning I have neither the landlord nor Ben, so I ventured downstairs, which is as creepy as promised, the stairs creak, the walls are exposed, there’s no light in the staircase, and there’s all kinds of typically miscellaneous weird stuff you might find in any hundred year old basement. Old frames, rusty hand tools, broken flowerpots, two dressmakers dummies, a hundred years of junk. Anyway, I couldn’t find the box at first – there was one box that looked as old as the house, but I had the good sense not to flip that switch, I’m almost afraid to know what it is (probably something to do with the old gas lights), finally found the one that goes to our apartment and lived to tell.
Will this probably happen again? Yeauh huh.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I Think I Have That Thing That Baseball Player Had When He Like Psyched Himself Out And Couldn't Pitch, Do You Know The One I'm Talking About?

Because it has been many days since I have blogged, and though I have searched the web high and low, I cannot find anything that I have anything to write about. No celebrity missteps, no ups and downs of the Federlines, who are having them, I am aware, no babies named Kal-el, nothing. I haven't seen any movies in the last few days I've loved or hated, I am less and less interested in TV (WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME???) - believe me, I wouldn't go so far as to say I've like, turned it off or anything, but for example, last night I went to bed before the end of Amazing Race and didn't even tape it. What's that all about? Okay, well, I have been busy grading stories and CHRISTMAS shopping and making stocking stuffers and stuff, and even some actual fiction writing. Still, I haven't come across anything lately to make me go YEEARGH!!!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ass Master

Watched Margaret Cho’s movie, I’m The One That I Want yesterday, which was pretty great. There are criticisms to be made, I’m sure, but I think what’s best about her is her balls-out honesty about herself and other things like becoming a full-blown alcoholic after her network fucked with her head during her short-lived TV series, All-American Girl. She ended up in the hospital after losing thirty pounds in two weeks because “her face was too big,” and they hired an “Asian consultant” because she wasn’t Asian enough – to play herself. It’s old old old news that Hollywood is like this, but she does not mince any words about it. She manages to get a lot of humor out of this, but to me the funniest is when she tells stories about her mom, and the “Ass Master” bit, where her mom is shelving gay porn books, is so awesome. She opens the book and grimaces – “Oh! So much ass, so fast! I thought maybe a table of contents! Ass okay, but everything in moderation… too much ass… not special anymore!” She also has a really great blog.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mariah Carey Has Crazy Boobs

No, seriously, have you seen them? It’s not just that they’re fake, or too big, which they are, both of those things. There’s something crazy about them. I don’t know how else to say it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Iris and John

Watched the movie Iris last night, based on John Bayley’s memoirs about his life with wife Iris Murdoch, who suffered from Alzheimer’s in her last years. I started getting weepy halfway through and full-on sobbed at the end. It’s a beautiful, complicated love story. Bayley loved his wife to pieces from the beginning, and she loved him too, but was always at sort of an ethereal remove, for lack of a longer, better description. Also, at least in the film, he was a sort of dotty, awkward, funny, adorably goofy man all his life, and they were so cute together, especially older, that I can’t wait to be half of a dotty old couple. Anyway, it got me thinking about losing your mind, especially when your mind has been so extraordinary like that. I’ve always wondered about that, like, well, it would obviously suck to be aware of losing your mind, going in and out. But at a certain point, if you weren’t lucid enough to realize what was going on anymore, it seems like it would be much more painful for the people around you, as was clear from this film. Also, Bayley took care of her at home for probably longer than was a good idea, and their house fell to shambles because she’d always taken care of that, and taking care of her was a huge job on top of just keeping the house in order. And she wandered off for hours one time, and almost caused him to crash their car, which is pretty scary. Anyway, Judi Densch and both the men who played Bayley, young and old, were wonderful, especially Jim Broadbent as old Bayley – totally heartbreaking. Have tissues handy. But not Kleenex, they destroy trees and stuff.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Spoon Is Now Free To Run Away With The Dish

Ben surprised me with a replacement coffee pot last night that actually fits our coffeemaker. This is wonderful news for the spoon, I’m sure, and also for both of us, as I got to have two full mugs of coffee today and neither of us had to wipe up all the coffee that spilled all over the counter from spoon misplacement. I’m going to try extra hard not to break this one.

Crane Wonders What The Positives Are, Exactly

This was the headline of an article in today’s Times: Rumsfeld Says The Media Focus Too Much On Negatives In Iraq. Similarly, I think my headline in today’s standBy Bert speaks for itself.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Five Hundred Six Hundred and Twenty-five Minutes

That's Ben's version of it, anyway. Saw Rent on Friday with Megan and had never seen it on stage but loved loved loved it. Cried during most of the big songs (oh, those harmonies kill me! I will forever be trying to figure out a way to sing all the parts at once - in spite of the fact that my experience with the Tonight medley from WSS hasn't panned out thus far) and sobbed at the end. Tormented Ben with the CD when I got home. Wished I had been a good-looking hipster junkie performance artist in the eighties squatting in a four-thousand square foot loft in the East Village with no electricity and no money for “last year’s rent” instead of a Gap-clad depressed Upper West Side waitress in the eighties living in a duplex with a fireplace and a roof garden and no money for last year’s rent. Also it took me back to when I was absolutely sure I’d grow up to be a Broadway star, and although that didn’t pan out, I still sometimes have pangs that I didn’t do anything with my music. I’m not sure the movie was intended to leave one with the many layers of feelings that it left me with – yes, it’s a sad movie, about AIDS and violence and addiction and gentrification, but it’s also about love and art and friendship and family – but I’m pretty sure that Jonathan Larson wasn’t thinking about little Betsy Crane when he based it on La Boheme, or that the three chords he uses from the opera would send me into weepy convulsions thinking about my mom, who sang both female leads at different times, and my own childhood singing in La Boheme, which is about as Rent of a childhood as it gets, really, both literally and metaphorically and literametaphorically, although we had electricity – barely. There was a brief almost-evicted panic the summer of 69, if I have my years right. The funny thing is that my life now is more Rent than ever, minus the heroin and plus the rent paid on time and plus the living my life as fully as I know how. For whatever reason, as much that I couldn’t afford the rent as anything else, I couldn’t get my true bohemia on in New York. Ok, so I’m a little tired past ten these days, and don’t have much of an urge to light up the night. So I try to light up the day. Anyway, it’s about connecting, and living your life in the moment, and best of all it’s completely earnest, which rocks my world these days. How do you measure the life of a man? How about love?

Friday, December 02, 2005

He's Back

Lest you think I’ve forsaken my first love, celebrity weirdness, for my other, forbidden love of highfalutin’ness, I have not, it’s just that Tom Cruise has had the good sense to lay low until recently. But he’s back, and so am I. Well, okay, look for a post on Joan Didion soon. But in the meantime, I saw Tom, on Access Hollywood, mention his in-home sonogram machine so he can monitor the TomKitten on his own, which almost leaves me speechless, really, which he defended by saying “I’m in the film business! I have to see the dailies!” which okay, I know that was you being funny, Tom, nevertheless, this would be weird enough, if your answer to the question, “Do you want to know the sex of the baby?” weren’t completely disconcerting, which, for those of you who missed it, was “Absolutely! I want to know! I’ve been waiting all these… months.” Okay, I don’t want to overthink here, but it seemed very clear to me that “months” was not the first word that came into Tom’s mind. Even though his kids are adopted, I’m sure he must have heard from someone somewhere along the line how long it takes to grow a baby. What I can’t quite guess was what word was the first that came into his mind. If there’s any truth to the speculation, he’s been searching for an incubator for much longer than the time he’s known Katie, and of course, that would call into doubt the sincerity of his recent couch-jumping, and I wouldn’t presume to cast doubt on their union even though… well, he did meet her through his agent like it was a casting call, is all I’m saying. There’s also the speculation that the baby isn’t, you know, a baby, which is of course silly, I’m sure it’s a baby, but, I dunno, Tom, I dunno how long it takes to incubate something that isn’t a baby, and your little hesitation planted just a mustard seed of a question in my mind…

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Being Diane Keaton: Update

I have a good guess that by and large, not too many people will notice the subtle differences in the items I’ve chosen to layer together this week. Oh well.

This Is What It’s Come To Around Here

It is so cold in the middle section of our apartment that I’ve come to find doing the dishes something that’s marginally pleasurable because it warms up my hands for a few minutes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Swear I Don’t Keep Doing This Just So George Saunders Will Come Back

And yet, he keeps giving me reasons to keep blathering about him. Finally finished the article he wrote for GQ about Dubai (that I pitifully implored my hairstylist to let me tear out of the salon copy) which is not only fascinating (under construction are hotels that will feature: 300 man-made islands that viewed from above form a map of the world, an underwater hotel, villas that “fly” and replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal that are actually bigger than the originals – and at one point Saunders refers to some of the existing skyscrapers by saying that it looked like a bunch of architects had staged a “weird-off”) but typically Saundersianly hilarious and also managing to squeeze in some life lessons as well. He stays in one more insanely luxurious hotel after another (okay, and while I’m here, GQ or anyone, next time there’s an opening for this kind of assignment, I’m available), makes some pretty interesting observations about their culture and ours, and manages to wrap it up with like some super Zen stuff that I only hope reaches one GQ reader, which in case you are not, as I am, not, I have to give you the last two sentences here: “Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.” Rock it, Saunders. I know I’m going to keep trying.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This Could Be One Of The Most Awful Things I’ve Ever Heard

A fifteen year-old girl with a peanut allergy died after kissing her boyfriend, who I guess had just had a peanut butter sandwich or something. Dang. This isn’t the first time I’ve stopped to wonder about the whole peanut thing though, which were verboten in the preschool I used to work in for this reason. It’s suddenly become a weird epidemic. Peanut butter sandwiches were a staple of my childhood, and until I gained twenty pounds, were in regular rotation on my lunch menu (mmmm, Skippy Super Chunk…). I can’t really envision childhood without it. What gives, world? What will the children of tomorrow have to forsake next for fear of premature death? Cheerios?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Wait, What?

Among the articles I finished this weekend was the one by Maureen Dowd in the Times magazine about the subject of her new book, Are Men Necessary? which is a silly question I won’t even try to answer cuz I think the real question is, Are People Necessary? Ponder that. The article was interesting – in a section about the influence of women’s magazines – many of which I think do foster some self-image problems – I was especially amused by a sex tip from Cosmo, “…yell out during sex which of your girlfriends think your man is hot.” - What? Wait, what? Anyway, I don’t disagree with some of her points, yes, I think that feminism has changed, and yes, I think it’s okay to be a sexy feminist, although I won’t be posing for the cover of Stuff anytime soon even in the bizarro world in which this might be a possibility, but my answer to this question: Do women get less desirable as they get more successful? to which Dowd suggests the answer is yes, I suggest back that I had a long and protracted history of unsuccessful relationships during my unsuccessful era (er, most of the 80s and a substantial part of the 90s), started dating Ben three months after I published my first book, so you tell me. Do I believe it can be a challenge to date a complicated, successful woman who has opinions on stuff? Yes. Can you take “woman” out of that question and replace it with “man”? I certainly think so. There’s a whole section on “The Rules” which is one hundred percent not my experience of relationships, especially not the one I’m in, starting with “play hard to get.” One woman says, “It’s not about honesty.” Excuse me? Wait, what? Anyway, I just don’t think this subject matter is as black and white as Dowd makes it out to be. Maybe I live in a universe where men are interested in interesting women. Maybe I live in a universe where, even if I acknowledge that there are certain gender differences or even broad generalizations to be made or trends that take place, there are also individuals, and I personally judge accordingly.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I Want to Be Diane Keaton When I Grow Up

Actually I think I am already Diane Keaton minus the style and the being a single mom. Back in the day people always used to say I reminded them of her and I never really got it (I did briefly wear vests and ties, yes, but I never thought I really looked like her much) and I always thought they were meaning it in an Annie Hall sort of way, which I’m pretty sure they were, and which I realize was at least loosely based on the real her. At the time I didn’t get the complexity of Annie Hall, I more just got the flakiness, and so my appreciation of Diane Keaton has come late to me, after more viewings of some of her older movies and also with Something’s Gotta Give, which solidified my girl crush. I have come to see her as remarkably beautiful, not just because she seems to be an interesting person, but because she’s proof to me that you can be physically beautiful with a few lines on your face and that Hollywood is so thoroughly wrong in it’s beauty ideal, and I hope that I will remember Diane when I don’t want to look in the mirror anymore because the world tells me I should have lifted my face about ten years earlier and throw in some cheek implants and collagen while I was in there. Last night I tore out all the articles from the last couple of month’s magazines that piled up that I hadn’t read and just started plowing through them, and so I finally read the profile of her in the Times magazine from last month, and related to her on a lot of levels, but not on this one: a friend of hers said she wakes up every morning and “sees her clothes like paint coming out of a paint tube: What am I going to mix today?” I wake up every morning and think, what worked last week, and what’s clean? I’m not saying I don’t have a smidge of my own style, but I tend to stick with what works (jeans + whatever + boots) until I’m hopelessly bored with my wardrobe and then I make declarations like “I’m going to get a new style!” and then I buy a new t-shirt and pair it with the same cardigans I’ve been wearing for six years and the boots I’ve been wearing every winter for five. (Yesterday, I saw a girl I know wearing similar boots, and she told me someone told her, “Oh your boots are like Betsy’s.” I don’t really know what that means except that everyone knows I only have this one pair of boots. Well, I have other boots. But apparently this is a little-known secret.) Last year, I discovered layering a short-sleeved t-shirt over a long-sleeved one, which other people discovered back when I was in high school, but whatever, this rejuvenated my wardrobe (and kept me warmer!) until recently, at which time I’ve been thinking, again, “I need a new style!” So in honor of Diane Keaton, this week I am going to wake up every day and think of my clothes as paint coming out of a tube. What’s weird is that I actually did that yesterday before I read the article, and Ben said, “Oh, what a cute outfit” (or something) and so I am going to continue to do this because it’s not like I don’t have enough options for mixing it up a bit. I have a dresser full of t-shirts, a drawer full of tank tops, and two drawers full of cardigans, and I promise you they’re not all currently in rotation. Look out, Chicago.

Bizarro-Logic

People in Queens, lately, seem to go for the aesthetic of a paved yard instead of grass. This quote from a woman named Angela Casaro: “Lawns have ticks and disease and worms and stuff. This way it’s safe and sterile. It’s a cleaner area for the children to play. I love nature and I love grass, but I don’t want my family exposed to disease.”

Oh. Right, the deadly GRASS. I’m sure now that I’ve only lived to see my forties because I grew up high above Manhattan, blocks away from the deadly grasses of Riverside and Central Parks. How my grandparents survived fifty years on an estate with a dozen acres and a pond and like, trees and shit, is, I’m certain, nothing short of a miracle. I better tell my folks to up and move before it’s too late. Thank god we only have a four by ten foot patch of grass in our backyard… maybe that tree ought to come down…

Bizarro-Lotto

So this couple hit the Powerball jackpot five years ago, taking home $65.4 million dollars, and I guess they thought this was as good a time as any to split up and fulfill their dreams. After multiple run-ins with the law including a deadbeat dad thing and a drunken driving charge, the husband died in 2003 at age 45, while living in a replica of Mt. Vernon. Last Dec., some dude was found dead of a drug overdose in the wife’s custom-built geodesic dome house, then she was sued by a tenant, and then she laid dead in her home for days before being found. I don’t really know what the moral of this story is, except that I’ve never been one to bother with the Powerball, and apparently this has been a good choice.

Too Modern Love

In today’s Modern Love column in the Times, a writer decides it’s a really good idea to break up with her boyfriend via a PowerPoint presentation, and then wonders why he leaves her seven angry messages on her answering machine. I’m thinking this makes “It’s not you, it’s me,” seem kind, almost a classic in it’s simplicity and timelessness.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Kids Can

I have been very belated in putting this link up, after meeting this awesome kid Nick, during a visit to our friend Nick’s uncle in the hospital. Nick and another kid started this organization. This is obviously a worthy cause, and this kid has an amazing spirit, and the bracelets are only four bucks. I’ll leave it on the side as well.

My List

I keep this to-do list next to my computer and every now and again I cross things off of it, but seriously, a lot of them have been there for over a year, including:

-wedding album
-mend quilt

both of which I’ve started but not made bunches of progress on, and that’s only two. The “Presents For” category (that’s right, my undone to do list is broken down into categories) has several names after it that are many months late. Granted, most of the list isn’t necessarily critical, various crafty projects and such, but still, I don’t even have on there “go to the dentist” which is quickly becoming too overdue and is maybe more critical than finishing my tiny paper bed. (Which is about the cutest thing I’ve ever made, I’m pretty sure.)

Still, I have no plans to go through life without a list, I have always had a list and even when I don’t look at the list, I know the list is there, and crossing things off a list, however infrequently, gives me a feeling of accomplishment that the accomplishment alone doesn’t accomplish.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Seemingly Rhetorical Question

If it ever occurs to you to ask the question, “Does the Pope wear red Prada shoes?” in a rhetorical fashion, you will, curiously, not prove your point. He is, however, still Catholic.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Half of Happy Birthday

Yesterday we celebrated Ben's birthday at Bob San with our friends Gene and Krista and when I mentioned that it was my half-birthday, Gene leaned in and said, "Well, Hap-Birt!"

Friday, November 18, 2005

Frosting

It makes a lot of good things even better. Yesterday I was deciding between several yummy-looking scones, but the frosted one was irresistible, and you know, scones are all well and good if you’re looking for a certain dry, less-sweet sort of treat, and I wouldn’t have thought of putting frosting on a scone, but it worked, leading me to theorize that if you put frosting on something like even a bagel, I might try it. Anyway, speaking of frosting, it’s Ben’s birthday, and I plan on baking him something yet undetermined, but since I know he shares my opinion, it will be heavily frosting-oriented.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Keeping it Real + Living Large = Good Fun

Time and again, I’m noticing that in celebrity interviews, it’s often pointed out how “grounded” that movie star or this rock star is; Reese Witherspoon cooks dinner in a crock pot! Sean Penn carries his own luggage! Tyra Banks loves a bargain! Cameron Diaz drives a hybrid! Jon Bon Jovi is married to his high school sweetheart! (Okay, I do think that's sweet, but aren't there maybe nine million unfamous people married to their high school sweethearts?)

You know what I think would be awesome?

If someone just came out and said, “Aw hell no I don’t carry my own luggage!” “Damn straight we sleep on a bed filled with diamond dust!” “Yes, my dog wears an astrakhan coat! What’s your point?” Or more to the point, “I’m rich and famous! Why would I even pretend to be like anyone else? Wouldn’t you sleep with movie stars if you could? Wouldn’t you trade in your hatchback for a Bentley if you could?”

If I were rich and famous, I wouldn’t sleep with rotating movie stars (I like the one person I sleep with just fine) and I wouldn’t get six nannies or even one and I probably wouldn’t even lose my mind on clothes or shoes, but I would hire a chef and I would buy a LOT of beauty products. I would buy a quarter ounce of cream that came in a tiny jar that cost $265. I would buy scrubs and lotions and face “systems” and I would buy just about anything if it came in a beautiful tiny jar. And maybe I would even acknowledge that it was a ridiculous waste of money, but I wouldn’t even try to tell you I was keeping the economy strong. I would show you my flawless pores.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Thunder Road

Yesterday I was listening to Bruce Springsteen on Fresh Air (who was quite lovely and thoughtful and funny) and they played a good chunk of Thunder Road, which was something of an anthem for me and a friend of mine in college. Out at the Exchange, the local dive halfway between our dorm and the White House, we’d always sing all the words, and we’d always look at each other on the line, “So you’re scared and you’re thinkin’ that maybe we ain’t that young anymore…” because we were like, sophomores or juniors. So, I’m just saying, thinking of this yesterday kind of cracked me up, being that I really ain’t that young anymore. What I know now is that even at my age, I ain’t that old either.

Birds Crash Into My Office Window

It’s turning into like, a thing.

Thankfully so far they seem to be flying away unscathed. Maybe the velocity of a bird is slow enough that the result of its body weight times hitting a window equals not much damage. Still, I’ve walked into a few windows myself, which hurts at least a little. I wonder if birds suffer embarrassment. Like, is the bully of the bird world is out there laughing like the mean kid on the Simpsons going “HA-ha! Tweety did it again.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Okay, But I Still Have One Question

Frank Rich has an op-ed piece in Sunday’s Times this week about how 33 percent of the country still find the president honest, down from 50 percent in January. Which is all well and good but what I really want to know is, Who are you, 33 percent of Bush-believing people? Saying “we do not torture” a year and a half after Abu Ghraib doesn’t convince a few more of you? What about this doesn’t convince you, whoever you are? Okay, yes, that’s three questions. One for each eleven percent of the you I don’t understand. Alright, one more: What can I do to convince you?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dear Hollywood Writers of Bad Thrillers and TV Movies and also Sometimes Cop Shows

One time? When you reveal who the psycho killer/stalker is? Could you maybe think about spooking us some other way besides with a creepy collage on their entire bedroom wall of ripped photos and newspaper headlines? And sometimes also melty candles around the photos, if it’s a stalker? Because really? I’m thinking that in the history of psycho killers? Maybe one or two were into creepy crafting and the rest were maybe not so much into decorating at all. And but, if it’s actually like, a known thing that psycho killers/stalkers do tend toward the creepy collage? What if there were some sort of support group, or a class even, where they sat around and talked with each other about their techniques? That would be fresh, Hollywood Writers.

Friday, November 11, 2005

But My Dreams Are Interesting, Really

Last night it started out perfectly lovely, it was the holidays at my dad’s house, lots of relatives were there, we were all happy to see each other. Then I started to notice mysterious strangers peeking in windows and doorways, then more and more of them until it became clear that they were trying to overtake the house, they were kind of like the "others" on Lost, sort of piratey and tattery and rough-looking and then they did overtake the house and started tearing parts of it down and rebuilding it, and there were probably hundreds of these evil contractors, and I was screaming, and suddenly my family was gone and I was trying to escape but every time I’d find a way out someone would catch me, and then finally I found a way out and ran toward these giant colorful trailers, and there were these women clown-cheerleaders and I tried to get one of them to lend me a cell phone, but no one would, and then I saw some police except they weren’t really police, when they turned around I could see that they were two-faced or two-headed circus freaks, which was when I realized that the evil contractors were there building an arena for the evil circus, and once again I would try and try to get away only to be stopped by some weird circus act or another, then finally I sort of got away and I was coughing non-stop again, this part was real, so I got up and went to the couch so I wouldn’t bother Ben, then went back to sleep only to continue the same dream, and so but I still had no money or anything and couldn’t find anyone who would help me or believe my story, until I ran into a little Chinese boy with magical powers (he flew around in a little cart) who was with an old Chinese man who at first seemed helpful but then his eyes turned large and yellow and his teeth became pointy and weird and he told me to stay away from the boy and that the person who was behind all of this was a woman named Felicity “with scales” he said, which I didn’t understand until I wandered into a Chinese restaurant which featured mermaids that did synchronized swimming and realized that Felicity was an evil mermaid but that she wasn’t working that shift. So then I finally found a guy who believed me and we wandered into a fabric store where there were all these designers and I asked them if they ever designed anything like a mermaid’s tail but they wouldn’t really answer, they just told me they were designing my friend Elizabeth’s wedding dress, and then somehow I was back at my dad’s house and my family was all there, fine, although there had been some stuff stolen by the evil people and the house was sort of different, but not that different, and everything was more or less okay.

Being A Celebrity Does Not Qualify You To Be A Novelist, Part 2

It’s not that I’m concerned that she’ll take my solid place in the hundred-thousands on Amazon, because chances are she’ll sell a bajillion copies, but for the love of god, must I compete even peripherally with Nicole Richie? It makes me positively want to invite Selma Blair over to discuss Kafka.

Stella McToo Late Pants

I’m so glad I was too sick and too on my way to work yesterday to get over to H&M Thursday and find out whether or not I would become someone who pushed and shoved other unrich people to get a so-called affordably-priced tank top for fifty-nine dollars designed by Stella McCartney. Am I the only one who sees what’s wrong with this? I would love to be able to buy a few designer pieces now and again, but not at the cost of my ability to contain my violence, and it concerns me that our consumerist world has led those of us who can’t afford what the stars buy in multiple colors, to be willing to shove somebody out of the way for a pair of skinny zippered jeans that frankly, I wore in 1982 and don’t personally need to revisit anyway? I love a bargain as much as the next guy, but not enough to fight someone for it. I like a quiet bargain, a bargain that nobody noticed, like the deep pink vintage sweater with the little loopy edging I got this fall for seventeen bucks when vintage sweaters are rarely seen for less than sixty, not anywhere in my neighborhood, anyway.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In Other News

I have been relatively absent from my post as President, Vice-President and Secretary of standBy Bert of late because I have been busy perfecting my cough, which I like to do in the middle of the night, preferably for an hour or two at a time. When I have reached this goal, I promise to be back fulfilling my duties here as usual.

The Latest in Federliniana

The tabloids are suggesting there's trouble in paradise. I'm not trying to hear that.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Secret

I’ve been very far below the weather the last few days with a nasty chest cold, and thus, incommunicado. Many soupy thoughts have burbled around in my head in the phlegmmy haze, some deep, some shallow. Yesterday, in bed for most of the gray day, as Ben was upstairs painting, I flashed back to my single life with little fondness. (This is what happens when you have too much time to think, I guess, which I generally don’t, lately, which leads to a whole separate secret, though, which is that thinking is overrated and in my case leads mostly to despair and hopelessness.) Ben would take breaks and bring me cough syrup and tea, and I caught up on some shows I taped during the week and napped on and off. Anyway here’s my secret. All those single years, the longer I stayed single, the more I got used to inhabiting a largeish space all my own and all devoted to me, all about me, all me-centric all the time, and the more I came to conclude that if I were ever going to be in a relationship it would be an unending struggle, ongoing compromise, and a continual effort to “communicate.” To make someone understand me.

I was wrong.

And not just because it isn’t all about me. I did have another pet theory, though, tucked far in the back of my mind, that the above speculation was wrong, and that if I were to meet the right person, it wouldn’t be a struggle at all, and that, my friends, thankfully turned out to be true. So that is my secret for the day, if you are single and holding out. It doesn’t have to be hard to be real and good and true. (Which is not to also say that if it is hard it isn’t also real and good and true, since I can only speak for myself, but for me when it was hard, it was just hard, and it was almost always hard, which is why I thought it had to be hard, which is why I held out, because it was hard enough just being with myself, which is so totally silly, thinking about it now, because it’s of course much less hard to be with someone else, unless of course that’s only true because the person is Ben, which is possible, but I also think that if you don’t have a Ben, that doesn’t mean your Ben isn’t out there.) Yesterday, during the only part of the day that I was out of bed, Ben and I read the paper, and he said he was going to go to the studio for a while to work on something, and I said Ok, and for whatever reason, it occurred to me that that’s our whole relationship. Someone says something and the other one says ok. Ben said, Honey, I don’t like folding the towels in thirds, and I said, Ok, you don’t have to. Okay well it’s not our whole relationship, there’s the talking and the going to see art and the private-like stuff, but you see what I mean. No struggle. We struggle only with ourselves. It took being in a relationship, I guess, for me to see what a relationship was, or could be, and now that I’m in one, a lot of stuff that I thought mattered, towels folded in thirds and what have you, doesn’t matter so much.

Perhaps this is not as deep to you as it seems to me in my clogged-head state, but today it’s all I’ve got.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Oh. Dear.

I feel almost sure Vincent Gallo is telling a little story here. It seems like something he would do. But I would boldly italicize the word almost if I knew how. Anyway, story or not, the mind reels.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

He’s Right, I’m Not Ready

There’s really no need to listen to K-Fed’s upcoming disc to know that there’s no need to listen to it. When, when will these crazy kids today learn that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

One Random Opinion

I don’t like it when people say Roe “vee” Wade.

Our Telephone is Curious

In the last year or so, our home telephone will go dead for a while, but then work again after we plug it into different outlet for a night. Then, after a few months when it goes dead again, it can be revived the same way, but not in the same different outlet. It has to be a different different outlet, but only a particular diffferent outlet which will not make itself known until trying several outlets first. I think this can only mean that telephone makers design phones to pretend to go dead so you'll buy a new one, when really, you just need to try different outlets.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Quoi?

So, if your French is bad, like let’s say mine is, and you use feminine when you mean to use masculine (or vice versa), is it heard femininely? Like, if I said, I have to use le salle de bains, would a Frenchman think I was going to the men’s room? If I said J’adore la chien instead of le would the Frenchman think I had a female dog? Or to get more abstract, if I referred to my inability to speak French more than une petit peu, would the Frenchman understand my little bit of French to be more feminine than his? Or does it all just sound generally clunky and wrong like any other way of speaking a language badly?

Do Not Crump Without Supervision

See the movie Rize and you’ll understand the temptation. But borrow from my experience and take it slow, or you might end up with a pain in your abdomen that lasts two days.

From The Department of I Had No Idea

I could smell candles in my dream. I didn’t know you could have smell recall in your dream. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE??? How can you smell something that isn’t there? I realize the likely response to that question is something along the lines of "Same way you can see things that aren't there." But I think it makes more sense that we might see things in our mind's eye than we might smell them.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

MEGAN STIELSTRA + ELIZABETH CRANE = RBFF

As per Megan's comment, I amend the above title. But I also need to add, in case of any confusion, that NINA SOLOMON + BETSY CRANE = FBFF. (First Best Friends Forever.)

I am a woman of my word.

See post titled "The Greatest T-shirt Ever," and then read Megan's comment if you have no idea what this post is about.

The Reason I Found That

Is because Miranda July, who is my new imaginary best friend forever until You Know What happens, has a blog.

The Greatest T-Shirt Ever

Anyone who buys me this t-shirt in green in size medium will get their name on this blog in bold letters followed by my name plus = BFF.

Happy Ending!

Very belated on this. Wednesday night was the Happy Ending Reading at the Hideout, which went quite a bit better than it seemed as we approached seven pm and no one was there and I became certain that everyone on the face of the earth had suddenly become a White Sox fan. It was the fourth game of the World Series and I guess they hadn’t been in it for like eleventy-hundred years, so it was one of those things that I guess was just up to the gods. (And frankly, why else do you suppose neither team managed to score anything until well after our reading was over?) As it turned out, some of those fans were among our evening’s talent, and a good thirty or forty people, baseball fans among them as well, showed up to hear them as well. In spite of my epic awkwardness at being a host (I’m no Amanda Stern!), everyone did a typically wonderful reading, and the risks were all impressive. Elizabeth Berg started us off with a silent version of “If I Were Pitching in The World Series” and got several people in the crowd to help her out, including my husband in the important role of “Catcher”. She then proceeded to take breaks to answer her cell phone, apply lipstick, and take out an umbrella when it started to rain. Oh and she also murdered a fan. Joe Meno drew detailed pictures of Medusa and Harry Hamlin from “The Clash of the Titans” (on notebook paper, of course) and recreated a scene from the movie in which Harry Hamlin kills Medusa by looking at his reflection in his shield so he doesn’t turn to stone. Amy Krouse Rosenthal took five risks, including cutting the tag off a pillow, runnng with scizzors (in disobeyance of her mother), admittting out loud that she hopes to make the Times bestseller list, singing a goodnight song (which was quite touching) and playing Truth or Dare with the audience. Ben was the only one to (dare to – hee) ask a question, which was “Do you and your husband talk about poop?” Later, I took this as an opportunity to redeem myself and told the crowd that in the spirit of the evening, I would confess that it was my husband who asked the question about poop, and if I were to answer the question myself, honestly, the answer would be yes. (Longtime bert readers, you of course already knew that.) Finally, sundayrunners, who were awesome, brought in one of their girlfriends to sing lead for the last song, and they totally rocked the house with their cover of “Don’t Stop Believin’”. We raised a little over two hundred bucks for Community Labor United for Katrina relief, so I’m calling it a success. A thousand thank yous to the talent and to everyone who came.

Just a Crudite

The other night I said to Ben, "So this morning I drew a picture for Megan of the..." and he said, "Thing from the movie?"

That is what our relationship is like.

PS He didn't actually say "thing", actually he said what the thing was specifically, but I can't say it until all twelve (!) of you have seen it.

PPS I have to go out this morning but I promise more later just cuz you're all so awesome.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

More Reasons to Love George Saunders

You may have noticed my new credo on the side, once again words not my own but gloriously, perfectly befitting my life and worldview, and by its association with all things me, including this blog. I just finished The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, from whence the quote came, his novella, I suppose, an uproarious and typically Saundersian book about “a nation so small it can only accommodate one citizen at a time.” I’ve heard it was supposed to be a children’s book until he realized he was writing about genocide.

Learning to Love Miranda July More

Okay, I challenge anyone with even a single strand of creative hair on their head to head over here and pick one and do it. I want to do all of them. I want to make a paper bed. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

))<>(( Forever.

So for weeks Megan has been saying You have to see this movie Me and You and Everyone We Know, like, immediately. You must run and go see this movie today. Did you see Me and You and Everyone We Know yet? No. Well you need to go see it immediately. I had read the great reviews and wanted to see it, but we don’t tend to drop the twenty bucks more than once a month and plus we’ve also been massively busy of late and so I did not go see it immediately but I did put it on my Netflix queueueue immediately and still I did not watch it immediately because we’ve been out every night since it came on Friday. Last night we watched it.

THIS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER OF ALL TIME.

Or at least, as I said to Ben, my total favorite movie I’ve seen in years. We had to stop it at one point we were laughing so hard. Ben was literally folded in two, laughing. (The cryptic title of this post will make you giggle all over again if you’ve seen it, and will make no sense if you haven’t, and don’t cheat, cuz I’ll bet anything it’s somewhere on the internetting.) I really don’t want to say too much about it because I just want you to be a blank slate like I was, so I must urge you to do what Megan said, rent or go see it immediately, even though I did not follow that advice myself, I should have, frankly, I am fully aware that you’re reading this right now and not going to see it immediately. Honestly I was so excited about this movie I couldn’t sleep last night because I couldn’t wait to post about it.

Am I right? I shouldn’t even ask. I know I am. I’m totally right. Now I need to put Miranda July on my letter list.

Awww

Britney ex Justin Timberlake on the premature release of the Federline’s baby pix:
“It’s, like, leave the girl alone.”

Chloe Sevigny Fears Not the Bird Flu

This from imdb:
“The Boys Don't Cry star remains calm and collected, insisting she doubts she would be unlucky enough to catch the virus…”
There’s a quote from Chloe herself on there as well that’s worth some scrutiny, but really, I just want to thank imdb for allaying my concerns about Chloe contracting the avian flu…

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Weekend Roundup

So busy with life and work so here’s what is up:
1. Went to see Ian Belknap’s solo show this weekend, Wide Open Beaver Shot of My Heart, which is over now, so you can’t see it, but you’ll probably be able to, and should, read the book in a couple years. Ian wrests no small amount of humor out of his grandfather’s murder (possibly at the hands of his drunk Nana) and his hippie father’s suicide. Okay, it’s also really sad. But in a good way.
2. Our friend Gene Booth has a new zine called The Molten Rectangle, about arty movies. I don’t know where you can get it, but I’ll let you know. He’s also started a DVD company called VictorVision, which puts out short films (call 312-493-9736 for more info on both). We watched three of their shorts which were all great – one is called “The Moschops,” an animated film by Jim Trainor, about a creature before the dinosaur that was believed to be “capable of interior tenderness.” Another is called “Untitled (Band), An Antal Grevens Intervention,” by our friend Thom van der Doef. He’s written a piece about it in the zine, but here’s the description on the back of the DVD: “Footage of the “special musical guest” is acquired, and the lost audio is replaced with a response to the cliched visual cues that comprise the discourse of popular music and entertainment TV. Hilariously!” I printed all that just to get to the last word, because it is seriously hilarious. Ben and I laughed so hard, and I would do anything to see what Thom would do with footage of Ashlee Simpson. Finally there’s “Justin: Secret of the Lifeform,” Gene Booth’s short about three boys living with “the shame of their hidden love for the new Justin Timberlake solo album. I’m embarrassed to say that I had no idea until the credits rolled that my husband was the voice of one of the boys, but anyway, this movie is also fantastic. I think Gene should get hooked up with Netflix, because people should see this stuff.
3. Go to Megan’s blog and click the link for a few minutes of awesomeness.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sixteen Kinds of F’d Up

Is there anything I could possibly say about this that it doesn’t say for itself? These two make the Simpson girls seem like musical and spiritual giants. I don't want to fully blame them until they turn 18, so until then, join me if you will in despising their parents and everything they stand for. And perhaps throw in a few prayers for all of us if you're so inclined. I feel sick.

Friday, October 21, 2005

This Is How We Will Roll Next Time

Ben and I went to the Chicago Public Library Awards Dinner last night, which was a pretty exciting night since they were honoring John Updike. We don’t go to too many fancy events, but I figure, how many times am I going to be in a room with John Updike? Little did I know that quite a few of Chicago’s other literary luminaries would be there, one or two of whom I know casually, but who included Jeffrey Eugenides, whose aura I tried to absorb from across the room but didn’t approach because, well, I’m a geek. I couldn’t think of what else to do but curtsy before him and Updike, and thankfully I got an actual introduction from Leah Vaselopolous, from the CPL Foundation, when I put my book in front of him to sign. He was very sweet (and cute) and he told me to keep writing. So I said “I will - you too!” So I got a chuckle out of Updike. We sat with some lovely people and had a lively discussion about art ‘n stuff but here’s what I took away from the evening. Ben and I debated taking the el, since parking is a pain downtown, but I only have so many blocks/flights of stairs in me when I’m in high heels, so I suggested we splurge on either parking or a taxi. We ended up driving and finding a spot a block from the library, as it turned out, but only when we arrived at the red carpet (that’s right – albeit said carpet was noticeably short and minus the paparazzi I was expecting ever since I declared myself a celebrity) did I notice the valets, and only as we were leaving did I realize that the valet parking was probably included in the several hundred dollar a plate ticket price, my point/observation being that, you know, we’re not really up on the ins and outs of fancy living. So next time we’ll valet-park the ’95 Toyota wagon.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Highbrow Alert

On occasion I’ve been known to finish reading entire articles in Harper’s and The New Yorker, although sometimes it takes a while, what with all the Federline and Simpson-watching. Anyway, I finally finished two articles in separate issues of Harper’s, one from the current one I mentioned a while back by Ben Marcus, and one from the August issue about how Christianity in America gets it wrong. I strongly recommend both. The Marcus essay is pretty interesting to me because I have such a hard time with Marcus’ fiction, but I have tended to agree with what he has to say about fiction that I’ve read so far. His introduction to The Anchor Book of New American Short Fiction is right on in my book, and he repeats some of his tenets in this essay while also disputing Franzen’s claim that experimental fiction is I guess, well, bad, according to Marcus. I haven’t read any of Franzen’s recent comments on this, but apparently he’s made them. One of the things I took away from Marcus’ piece was that difficult writing – and perhaps this is solely my interpretation – but that in the event that you don’t understand it (as with Marcus’ writing) it can still have value. And it kind of reminded me of when I was in sixth grade and they had us read Pinter. I had ZERO idea what it was really about – but I recall being quite enthralled with the rhythm of the language and the unreal realness of it. I had the same experience reading Vonnegut that same year. Personally, these days, I’d rather read stuff I can understand – and I’m happy to say I can understand, at least on some level, some pretty smart stuff. And like Marcus, I’d always rather read something engagingly, uniquely, creatively written than something – well that someone says I’m supposed to read. Something tidy. I liked The Corrections, and I just didn’t get The Age of Wire and String, so take that for what it’s worth. But I also liked both House of Leaves (which, as my friend Bob says, requires turning the book upside down at times, and some people, like him, “Just don’t want to get physically involved when they’re reading”) and Henderson the Rain King, the latter of which is much more readable and, pleasingly so, not in any way ironic. Anyway, I recommend reading it less as an attack on Franzen than as an interesting discussion of what fiction is.

The other article, by a guy named Bill McKibben, a Christian, is also worth reading. Without ire, it more or less comes down to this – for a nation that calls itself predominantly Christian, our Christian values are seriously wack. Not that many people aren’t aware of this, since for one example, that elected dude calls himself a Christian, which is, you know, horrifying to think that he represents any religion, but just one of the Christian values McKibben discusses – helping the poor/loving your neighbor as yourself – is one we are seriously weak on personally and as a nation, statistically speaking, and that many of the current Christian books are promoting a very self-oriented brand of Christianity to go along with our very self-oriented culture. It gave me a lot of food for thought, and although I don’t know what I’d call myself, spiritually, I grow more and more weary of thinking about myself, remarkably. I thought he was pretty right on.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Okay Now I’m Just Upset

I saw Ashlee Simpson on TV this morning and realized I’ve gone from baffled to disturbed. Y’all know I have a solid place in my heart for pop culture, but there’s just no aspect of what’s happening here that I can get with. It’s so obviously, carefully constructed as to be upsetting, and as upsetting as anything is that this young girl truly has no idea. Well, either that or she doesn’t care, being rich and famous and all, but I think she just doesn’t realize that she is a vehicle for sales, and nothing else. I’m not really sure what I think Ashlee Simpson should be doing with her life, maybe doodling some boy’s name on her notebook during a slide show in Astro, or thinking about possible careers in fashion, like being a personal shopper, and perhaps I’m overthinking this but what I really want is for her to look into her soul and somehow become deep, and that’s probably not going to happen. In the meantime, if I were you, or her, I’d be like, Nobody’s forcing you to buy my records or to, you know, turn off the TV, Crane, I’m not interested in your stupid wordy books, like, go get a punctuation mark or whatever, at least I’m rich! I think what it really is is that Ashlee is but one blip on the map of products like this, and I’d be so bummed if my pre-teen daughters were into stuff like this as opposed to even the loudest, scariest kind of punk that makes no sense to me at all that’s around when I actually have pre-teen daughters. Because then I’d at least know they had a soul. What confuses me about, mmm, me, is that there are probably any number of musicians I’ve listened to that people would find equally as soulless, and it may even be true, but I feel like we’re reaching new levels of nothingness here.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Last But Not In Any Way Least

Is George Saunders. I finally got around to reading CommComm, the story that came out in the New Yorker about two months ago, and it was, well, I dunno, the dude never disappoints me. He’s so f-ing funny and smart, always, but the story takes a turn near the end I completely wasn’t expecting, which I won’t tell you because you should just go read it. I’ve come to be certain that in any Saunders story there’s always going to be a part that just kills me, and as usual he went above and beyond, and frankly, no matter how many interviews I read with him, I just don’t know how he does it, and believe me, it’s not because he doesn’t explain it well, because he’s as clear as anyone can be about his process. In fact, I have the impression that his process bears some similarities to my own, at least to the extent that he often talks about coming to rely on what he knows are his strengths as a writer rather than try to do things he just knows he can’t successfully do. We veer off when he goes and becomes all George-Saundery and creates completely outrageous but still so essentially real characters and places and like, manages to layer it with religion, politics and important-like stuff almost without your even noticing, until you’re done with the story and you’re like, Damn, George Saunders, how the hell did you do that – again? I was still in the middle of the story when I became possessed with the idea that I have to write thank-you letters to all my favorite writers for being such a critical part of why my life is so totally kick-ass. Emphasis on the word “idea”. I haven’t assaulted any of them with my insanity just yet. Well, actually I did once write a long crazy email to Saunders quite a while ago, and he was incredibly kind to write back and say thank you. But you know, what if George Saunders, like, left the house with the coffeepot on, and came home to that nasty smell that happens when the coffee gets all burny and bubbly in the bottom of the pot, and plus his kids are all like, Dad, you forgot to turn the coffee off again, and maybe they’re all grateful he didn’t burn the house down but he’s feeling bad just the same and gets a letter from someone saying how how happy he makes them just to be a living person reading his stories, that would help a little, right?

What In

This weekend we watched Tarnation, which I’d read a number of good reviews about but was still unprepared for, in the sense that although it totally told a cohesive story, it was an extremely unconventional film, very much above and beyond your more straightforward documentary and crossing over into something that almost belongs in a museum. The filmmaker, Jonathan Caouette, has a riveting family story to tell, not the least of which is that he’s made some sort of film of his life since he was a kid, but the way he puts it together is gorgeous, disturbing, heartbreaking, and unforgettable. It’s a collage, in many ways, and he frequently uses titles on the screen to tell the story, and he also uses some great music in an extremely evocative way. Plus, as intense as his story is, there’s a universality to it that makes it easy to identify with, and also I had the strong sense that this guy, as a kid, was so intensely creative and found these various ways of expressing himself that in large part it was what saved him from the difficult aspects of his life. Maybe I’m projecting that on him, but I know now that writing as a kid was an important place for me to put stuff I had noplace else to put and my life was not in any way as unusual as his. I think the thing that really struck me about it is how much it speaks to how many ways there are to tell our stories. Movies like this just remind me there are no limits to what we can do with a narrative.

Flying Inspiration

Inspiration is flying around at me from all directions lately. Last weekend Ben and I watched Frida, which for whatever reason I was surprised by – we both really liked it. I had always admired her paintings, but didn’t know that much about her life, her accident, her father was German!, she slept with Trotsky?! and had no idea how much she packed into her 47 years, and how political she and Diego Rivera were, both actively and in their art. It just made me think about a lot of things, living passionately, but also about how political art can be even when it’s not overtly political. Isn’t there some saying about – the personal is political? I think it can be very very risky to make art. Well, this is a long subject. So PS – I just always love Alfred Molina.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Two Reasons Why I Stick to Blogging About The Federlines

1) This. I find these literary fisticuffs perpetually fascinating, in this case mostly because I don’t have the balls of Steve Almond and I wish I did. I declare him the winner of this fight, and I didn’t even have to arm him with a sock and a bar of soap.

2) Because they keep giving me such dang good material. I just heard that the Federlines (thanks, Megan!) are planning to expand their line of action figures to include Kevin, baby SeanFed, Britney’s mom and little sister. I think Megan and I should have action figures, two teacher writers with little tiny tattoos, Megan’s comes dressed in a t-shirt that says Reading is Sexy and mine comes with tiny red motorcycle boots, accessories to include a battery-powered car with a window that closes with a paint stirrer. Megan’s individual set will also come with a tiny Mojo, a smiling Christopher, and two tiny laptops. Mine will include two Bens (long hair or short), a tiny easel and toolbelt for him (tiny paint not included), and a tiny coffeemaker with a teeny-tiny spoon. Interchangeable items include tiny bookshelves and lots of tiny magazines and books. Tiny ex-boyfriends sold separately.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Okay, But It Better Be Really, Really, Really Good

Apparently Selma Blair is publishing a short story in an anthology alongside the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Allison, and, sigh, I want to be open-minded, I do. She’s a fine actress, and if it were someone like Ashlee Simpson I’d have a full-on snit. Instead I’ll just have a half-hearted snit on behalf of the eleventy-billion talented writers who don’t star in indie movies or wear Chanel smartly or marry Zappas and can’t just call people up and say I think I’d like to be a writer today. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I knew her, I would encourage her to write if she expressed an interest. I would do that for almost anyone other than Ashlee Simpson. I’m also coming to understand and accept that there are any number of artists who work in more than one form. So why does it seem dicier to me when it’s an actress? Why do my haunches immediately go up? I don’t have haunches. Okay, I know why. It’s partly because I can’t suddenly become an actress just because I feel like it. Which I don’t, but I certainly don’t take it any less seriously as an art form, and if I did want to become an actress, and if it were just as easy to cross over in the other direction, I would expect Selma Blair to say the same thing about me. That Crane better be really, really, really good. I worked really hard, for years, to get to my solid position of moderate recognition, and I didn’t just call someone up, and if Selma Blair isn’t the next Joyce Carol Oates who happened to have taken a wrong turn into acting, well, she better… oh nevermind, I’m probably bitter towards anyone I think has it easy. I wonder if I still have my old therapist’s number…

Shoe/Shine

Ben and I drove down to Pilsen (ish) because we’d heard about this shoe repair place/hangout that sounded worth the trip, and it was as promised. (Seeming to be named, according to the sign, simply Shoe/Shine. I’m all about the slash marks as you know, so I already know this is my kind of repair shop.) This is the kind of place that makes me happy to be alive, that restores my faith in humanity, that is so far out of the way it’s almost silly, if you actually need something repaired. It’s totally cluttered, with music and the TV playing at the same time, a sofa in front of the TV while you wait, a row of antique typewriters on a high shelf, and makings of some sort of dinner on the counter along with spices on the shelf behind it right next to the shoe polish. We’d heard that if he happens to be cooking while you’re there he’ll offer it up, but he wasn’t that day. Best of all though was how warm and friendly this guy was – he was telling us about his kids going to college within minutes after we walked in the door. Ben brought something in to be repaired and he was like, Five bucks, is that too much? It’s the kind of place where watching snowy reruns of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yes, I Realize I’m A Little Late On This, But I’ve Been Busy, Ok?

Still, I feel compelled to mention my thoughts on the totally meta Jet Blue plane thing, what with the people on the plane watching themselves on TV while they were figuring out if they were all going to die a horrible fiery death. They had a segment on it on last week’s This American Life, and it what it pointed up for me was the utter uselessness of news reports like this. Talking heads on the TV, watching the plane circle, speculating about what was going to happen, only to have the plane land safely, tells me that it’s time for the news to stop their endless yakking about what if, especially if the poor people in the midst of the trouble might be watching. Can you imagine? This just in from Fox News – “Tell us what might happen here, Chet” “Well, in all likelihood the tire will catch fire as soon as it hits the ground and immediately ignite the entire plane. I’m pretty sure everyone will die.” And you’re on the plane. And then it doesn’t! Like you’re not already worried about your fiery death and never saying goodbye to your Peekapoo! News should give us useful information – am I wrong? Or how about even – actual information? Ladies and gentlemen, breaking news, a plane is in the air having trouble with its landing gear. “We will return when we know anything else. Go watch the Simpsons now. Goodbye.” Instead of yakety yakety blah di bloo. One of the funniest things I ever saw on The Daily Show, some time ago, was Jon Stewart consulting a panel of experts on some subject or another. You know how they break up the screen to accommodate two or more talking heads? This screen started breaking up into like, thirty-two talking heads. Every time he’d say, “Okay, let’s go to Granwyth Hulatberi from Ontario,” and they’d squeeze in Granwyth who’d say like, two words before Stewart cut over to the next guy. Stop it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I Don’t Need To Swap Out Husbands To Know I Have A Good One

Okay, the wife-swap shows are one more guilty pleasure for me. I think it’s a premise with a lot of interesting potential ramifications – on the positive end, promoting tolerance – but what possesses some of these people to sign up, I dunno. Last night there was an especially entertaining episode about a super-arty home-schooling organic food-eating family with no TV swapping moms with a pageant family who ate fast food every day, usually in front of the TV. Super-arty mom’s pet peeve was “anything matching,” and pageant mom wouldn’t let her kids out if they didn’t match. And she believed that TV was evil… not evil enough not to be on it, I guess, but evil enough. And the pageant mom made up this poor little girl like – so Jon Benet Ramsey, even though I think she was completely misguided about any benefit the pageants provided for her six-year-old child (who seemed way too concerned about winning one more crown and visibly upset when she thought she looked “like crap”), she seemed to be a loving parent. The thing here was that you could see what each had to gain from seeing the other’s lifestyle – the arty mom was actually more rigid than the pageant mom – saying stuff like “I don’t even brush my hair because I am against concerning myself with what other people think about how I look.” Huh? I’m always suspicious of anyone who says they don’t care about how they look. Even the most un-fashion-minded person makes a choice in the morning about what to put on. My dad wears pretty basic dad-like clothes, but he’s still making a decision not to dress like a punk. What I wonder is if any of what they claim to have benefited from the experience – the pageant family realized they needed a better diet and the arty family realized their marriage was in trouble – lasts long-term. Same thing with the extreme makeover houses and people. I really want to see the follow up shows in ten years.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Come See Ben's Art

This Saturday and Sunday, the 15th and 16th from 10 to 5, Ben is part of the Fulton Arts Walk, so you should go see his stuff at 1510 W. Fulton. Go here
for more info. That's one of his sculptures third from the left on the bottom, the one that looks like an electrical tower.

The Phenomenon of America’s Funniest Home Videos (or: Golden Showers)

Is that it’s only funny if I watch it with Ben. Men getting kicked in the crotch, I could take it or leave it on my own. Men getting kicked in the crotch next to Ben = hilarious. Why? I don’t know. That’s what makes it a phenomenon.

This is probably as good a place as any to mention that yesterday the very cutest white fluffy puppy came running up to me, so I bent down to pet him and like dogs will do, he immediately rolled over onto his back so I could scratch him on the tummy. I obliged, but almost as soon as I did, he started squirting pee straight up in the air! I thankfully pulled back just in time, but I wonder if I’d have laughed as much if Ben hadn’t been there. Anyway, given that I don’t have a video camera on me at all times, I didn’t get it on film or I could have maybe won ten thousand dollars.

The Return of Ashlee Simpson

Was it just me, or did Don Pardo’s announcement of “The Return of Ashlee Simpson” on SNL this weekend sound an awful lot like he was promoting a horror movie? Not quite as frightening, perhaps, but watching Ashlee Simpson, lip-synching or not, I feel as though our cultural life has gone to hell in a handbasket. (As you may know, going to hell via handbasket is way worse than going there any other way. I guess handbaskets are slow? I’ll let you know when I figure out exactly what a handbasket is.) I’m up for decent pop music, but this was an alarmingly and blatantly packaged, absurdly dull product, so much so that I almost feel bad for Ashlee, given that she’s, you know, a person. But watching her made me yearn for, like, The Return of Hanson. There’s nothing about Ashlee that I get, and yet, she’s selling records, to eleven-year-olds, I can only guess, still, I’m counting on my unborn future eleven-year-old to have better taste than this.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

MARK YOUR CALENDARS OR I'LL CUT YOU

I'm jus' keeeedeeng. About the cutting.
But -
NY’s awesome Happy Ending Reading Series is coming to Chicago, Wednesday October 26, 7:00 pm, The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia.
I am the host.
Elizabeth Berg, Joe Meno, Amy Krouse Rosenthal are reading.
Sundayrunners is playing.
Money will be given to charity.

Funky Craft Fairs

I went to another hipstery craft fair this weekend and bought an adorable skirt I’d probably fail to accurately describe, but I want to mention that whenever I go to these fairs I want to buy one of everything and then I think No, I can make one of everything, and so I don’t buy one of everything and I get home and forget half of what the everything was but I try to put as many of the everythings on my to-do list, like reconstructed t-shirts and mod-podge switchplates and then they sit on my to-do list like pretty much everything else until I remember that a lot of what goes on my to-do list never happens and I should have probably bought at least a few of everything when I had the chance.

The Dollar Store

Ben and I went to The Dollar Store reading Friday night, which did not disappoint. (Check the link, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept.) I’ve only been a couple of times, but I’m beginning to conclude it’s a winner every time, and the thing that really struck me this time was that it’s just such a great writing exercise, proving that you can take any random weird thing and build a story around it. It’s just an ingeniously simple way to get pen to paper. Here’s a weird thing. Write a story about it. No rules. Go. I’m totally bummed that I didn’t think to mention it to my class, but I will get them to go to the next one, which will be featuring none other than the always-rockin’ Ms. Megan Stielstra and a plastic marijuana leaf necklace. Anyway, I particularly enjoyed Joe Tower’s hilariously over-the-top meta-meta-meta story about a state of Illinois commemorative plush fake beany baby, and Sean Gardner’s musings on a package of temporary tattoos (like a mace crushing a skull, in case you want to be perceived as menacing, “temporarily”). I also feel a particular need to mention that I am officially a big fan of Jonathan Messinger, whose writing is always both funny and lovely. Which, now that I’ve written it, also captures my impression of him as a person as well.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Exactly How Long Should I Be Waiting For My Overnight Success?

Because it’s been a little over twenty-four hours since I declared myself a celebrity, and yet my celebrity status still seems to be unrecognized. Wait, let me go down and see if they’ve delivered that pile of money I’ve been expecting. Dang.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I Am A Celebrity

Ben advised me against this experiment, but I wanted to poke a hole in his theory that if you declare yourself a celebrity, then you are one. On a certain level, his theory makes sense, to the extent that there are any number of celebrities, like Paris Hilton, let's just say, who appear to have become famous for nothing visible to the naked eye. Still, I don't think it's quite that simple. So I hereby declare myself a celebrity. Should we become rich and famous overnight due to our celebrity status, I promise to try to make it up to you in infinity thread count sheets and a coffee maker that doesn't require delicate placement of a spoon in order to function.

Why America's Next Top Model Is Good Clean Fun

Because you get to watch fake photo shoots where the coaches encourage the aspiring models with inspirations like, "Okay, you're scared - but pretty!" Oh yes. I know that feeling well. I am scared but pretty all the time.

Ok, Ew

Yet another reason I should probably switch servers. AOL's welcome screen welcomed me with this greeting today:

AOL NEWS: Python Eats Gator, Explodes

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Ask And Ye Shall Receive?

Holy Cow, I didn't think Tom Cruise really read my blog, but this just in: Katie is pregnant. I was just asking for a little more crazy, Tom, nothing this big. Maybe a pet theory on guava juice as a cure for cancer or something? Anyway, shall we all start praying right now that Joey Potter never, ever gets anything remotely resembling postpartum?

I Must Be Dead Inside

Apparently the Lacheys have broken up for real. The main thing this brings up for me is the question, why do I care about the Federlines but not the Lacheys? Well, okay, I think it’s obvious. And maybe care is the wrong word. Fascinated is probably the one I should own up to, and I do know why, which my friend Bob (who sees it from the inside and has miraculously evaded the syndrome otherwise I’m sure we couldn’t be friends – he doesn’t even have a once-a-month housekeeper – and why? “Because I’m the kind of person who’d have to clean up before the housekeeper came.”) and I have been talking about for years. Which is that, with various exceptions, there is a level of fame at which point a corner is turned in terms of one’s relationship to reality, and although no one ever stops being a real person, there comes a time where the basic rules no longer apply, and for whatever reason I have yet to become bored or less fascinated by the myriad ways in which this manifests (for example, see Tod’s blog today for a post on a famous country singer no one’s ever heard of), and I truly believe that the very best of us are susceptible. Without a doubt, if I ever came into Pratesi-sheet-world, I would begin to wonder how I ever slept on our (two-hundred dollar-we-only-have-them-because-of-the-wedding-registry-anyway-totally-might-as-well-be-cashmere-Donna Karans), in spite of being one half of a couple that marvels at these sheets nightly, I know I am vulnerable to these things, and that if I could afford Pratesis I’m sure I would wonder how I ever slept on the sort of sandpaper Donna tried to pass off as high-end. I’ve said before that I like nice stuff, but it’s not just that even. I think what’s also around that corner are all kinds of erroneous beliefs about what constitutes acceptable – or even normal – behavior. Try to imagine me showing up at, let’s say, an awards dinner at the Chicago Public Library toting a chihuahua under my arm for an accessory. It just won’t fly. At least not until a few more than three people recognize my name. (But when that happens – I will for sure bring my baby Xena Warrior Princess Brandt, everywhere I go in a stretch Humvee stroller with a sidecar for the chihuahua.) I want to be loved. I just don’t think that massive numbers of people loving me entitles me to, well, anything. But I have entitlement issues. As in, I don’t feel. I’m working on that. Well, I think I’m entitled to what I have today, nothing more, nothing less. Of course I’d like more, cause that’s my nature, I just don’t expect it. But damned if I never seem to learn that the exact right scented candle will not complete my life.
Anyway, I’ve digressed quire far. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore, frankly. But isn’t that why you’re here? The Federlines are just a coupla crazy kids doing what anyone would do in their position. But I swear I’m not even clear on what it is the Lacheys really even do outside of the magazines. (I know what Britney does, and I think we all know what Kevin does too.) Which I think brings up the only thing I might have to add to the speculation of the demise of the Lacheys. It has been on the cover of at least one magazine per week, it seems to me, that they were on the verge of splitting, and on a regular basis they have denied it every chance they’ve gotten. Which is to say many, many chances. These people are everywhere. And yet, here they are divorcing. And so what I wonder is, could this be the first marriage to break up because the tabloids made it so, even in a distantly related kind of way? Were they at home not believing each other saying No I was not flirting in Vegas and No I did not sleep with that jackass dude? Did they disagree about how to handle the tabloid thing? Did they figure the only way to get away from it was to divorce? As they pointed out on Gawker, I’m sure they’ll both start talking about it… as soon as they have something to publicize. But really, I’ll get as far as JESSICA TALKS! or NICK TALKS BACK!, and I’ll probably never find out, because like I said, I just don’t care. Which can only mean that I’m dead inside. Give me a reason to come back to life, Tom Cruise.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Who Would Win In A Fight, The Offspring Edition

Kal-el Cage with a cape or Apple Martin with a kryptonite binky?

Actually I think Pilot Inspektor Lee could probably whup both their asses unarmed.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Here are a list of subjects I’m sort of in the mood to write about but haven’t got enough time.

1. Celine Dion. I missed her recent appearance on Larry King, since I don’t have cable, but I heard she was very upset about Katrina when she opened her TV, and that she very much wants to let the people touch the things because they have never touched the things, and they should go ahead and touch the things.

2. Teenagers serving life sentences for murdering people; I’m less sure about whether they should or shouldn’t, serve sentences, than I am in teenagers murdering people. What’s that all about?

3. Extreme Makeover: the lawsuits. One has something to do with a family allegedly ripping off the show somehow by not letting their adopted kids live there or something, the other has to do with a woman getting rejected from the show right before she was supposed to go in for surgery; it was not she who killed herself, but rather her sister for having said hateful things the producers allegedly coached her to say. Both of these cases seem tangential, and yet seem to be a cry for some sort of acknowledgment that these shows – the surgery edition much more so – have a lot of potential for disaster, above and beyond the obvious implications of you know, our obsessive focus on perfection and shit.

4. The Bob Dylan Movie, or:
Why I Just Now Realized I Wasn’t Meant to be A Rock Star, No, For Serious

5.Million Dollar Baby: what’s the big deal?

And one other thing I’m not interested in writing about, but am interested in:
Marcus vs. Franzen: Who would win in a fight?

Jonathan Franzen with an open firehose, or Ben Marcus with a used Prius?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Bill, Britney, Britney, Bill

It seems unimaginable that anyone half in their mind in 2005 would open their mouth and let something out like, “…you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.” And yet, this is what former Education Secretary William Bennett said, apparently flummoxed as to how this could have been misconstrued, since he went on to say that would be morally reprehensible “but the crime rate would go down.” Oh, good, I’m so glad he’ll be appalled if psycho world ever hits. “Bummer about those black babies… thank god we still have our 900” flat-screen TV to help us forget about it. Oh look, Amazing Race is on.”

“Bill, um, I dunno if you like, read the papers? Because if you did you might know that my stepchildren are black babies? And they’re totally not criminals? And even though I don’t vote, that bums me out so hard that you think that? Anyway I dunno if you’ve heard of it? But there’s this like, sort of religion? Called Kabbalah? And it’s all ancient or whatever? And it’s all about light? And it’s totally not in code or anything? And I think it could help you come into contact with your consciousness? Which you seem to be out of contact with cuz if you were you’d know that even thinking about killing black babies, like, isn’t very nice? Have you ever even seen a black baby, Bill, because they’re super cute, kind of just like, all other babies? And can grow up to be super fresh backup dancers or bodyguards who are totally my good friends who I talk about sex with on TV? Like I would with anyone? And if you’re not into reading so much you can still just like, wear this little red bracelet signifying that you’re all about the light? I like, totally know I’m not an expert or anything, Bill, but seriously, I think you are so kind of not about the light. I think you might even be about the dark, but that’s okay, because if you want? You can totally come with me and Kevin to the Kabbalah place.”

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I Am So Not Above Shameless Self-Promotion

Check it! I got mentioned on Morning Edition! Nancy Pearl rules! If you’re not familiar with her, she’s the author of Book Lust and More Book Lust and she’s got a dang action figure. I want one!

I Should Stick to Looking at the Pictures

I’m a magazine junkie, across the board. Highfalutin’, lowfalutin’, fashion, anything short of Dog Fancy. I have been tempted, on occasion, by Bead and Button Monthly. But as witnessed above, sometimes I make the mistake of reading things like the interview I mentioned yesterday. This time, I didn’t even make it as far as the actual interview before becoming horrified. The lead-in to an interview with Charlize Theron:

“The Oscar-winning actress… talks openly about turning 30…”

I absolve Ms. Theron of blame here, and I don’t know whether the author of the interview, Nancy Collins, or the editors at Bazaar, is responsible, in any case, huh, I wasn’t aware that turning 30 was something we could talk openly about. So thank god for Charlize! Now I can admit to the last fifteen years of my life as having… existed. Just in time, because I had a sneaking suspicion that people were beginning to guess I hadn’t really been 29 all these years. Sure, I might look 29, ish, in the right light, but even so, after a few years, people start to realize you’ve been saying 29 for kind of a while. Oh shit, wait, I may have made too big a leap here. Maybe it’s not cool to talk openly about being 40. Can somebody get in touch with Julianne Moore and let me know?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Verbatim

“Kabbalah has helped my soul. I was brought up Baptist, and there’s religions and all that stuff, and the Bible’s written – everything’s in codes. And the thing that drew me to Kabbalah is, it all comes from the light. This sounds so weird, I know, but I’m just trying to explain it in a way that – like, it all stems from the light. And Kabbalah, out of all of ‘em, is the oldest, er, it’s so rich, I think it kind of overrides everything. Like, if I read a normal self-help book – I think that the people who write these (Kabbalah) books are so on a different level, that if you can come into contact with their consciousness, it’s like, so profound and enlightening.”

Damn, Britney, if you write this stuff yourself, you’re not leaving me much room. But okay, I’ll try.

So, I guess I didn’t realize that if something’s the oldest it overrides everything? Huh. Because in light of this information I’m thinking that all the Catholics and Muslims and Buddhists and Christians and probably even atheists and flight attendants will have to rethink.

Politically Bizarro

The Times reports this morning that “Flightplan” Irks Flight Attendants, which apparently depicts flight attendants as “rude, unhelpful and uncaring.” Thank god they didn’t call them stewardesses. Anyway, I think the only obvious response is, “Um, it’s a movie?” Are we headed toward a world where no one of any profession or color or gender or group or anything is allowed to be artistically portrayed in any negative light? Ah yes, I see all the fascinating books and movies now. “Honey, let’s go see that new movie, ‘The Nice People’.”

On a different note but vaguely in the ballpark, last night’s premiere of the family version of the Amazing Race was awesome as usual except for a few glaringly bizarro and yet likely unavoidable moments. Each family was identified by their last name on the screen each time they appeared. (In past seasons, groups of two were identified by their first names only.) Uncomfortable enough that the one black family happened to have the last name of Black, so that the screen read “Black family” any number of times. (I shudder to think about the channel-hoppers unfamiliar with the show dropping in on that exact moment.) More uncomfortable was that they lost, thus forcing the host, Phil Keoghan, to utter the unfortunate phrase, “Black family, I’m sorry to tell you you’ve been eliminated from the race.” Pause and sit with that for just a minute before I move on. I’m certain the producers had some conversation about this inevitability, and yet had to have concluded that they had no choice but to proceed as usual. It’s their name. But damn.