Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Been glued to the TV for the last few days trying to wrap my mind around what's going on down South. I was telling Ben, you know, you see these pictures and you know it's bad, but at the same time, when all you see is a bunch of debris for miles around, on TV, I know you can only get the barest idea of what was there before, that they were homes. Some of you know that I lived in Baton Rouge in my early years, and although I have only the blurriest of memories of that time, I have been reminded often that we survived Hurricane Betsy. Think of all the jokes you can, and then remember that I was there, and I was a temper tantrum-throwing four year old, and that my parents have already made them.

Anyway, our friend Ken, who some of you know here as "kfoz" got out of New Orleans (with all his dogs and one change of clothes) safely, but as they are reporting it now, that city may stay evacuated for weeks. Keep him in your thoughts if you will.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Not My Favorite Mistakes

All too often, I turn on the TV only to be jolted by the sight of the familiar face of someone I once dated. Even worse is when I’m in another room and I hear the unmistakable voice of one of them in the other room, not quite realizing that the TV is even on. This is probably something you get used to if you're Jennifer Aniston, but I am not she. Still, living in New York for as long as I did, the odds are that you’re going to date some actors, although somehow Nina managed to escape this fate, so maybe I have no excuse. None of the ones in my past are particularly well-known, but many of them work often, and turn up with some frequency on shows like Law and Order and Prison Break, which frankly, is no small irony. It would be different if I could go around saying, “Yeah, me and Clooney used to date, that’s right, movie star and ER’s Doctor Ross,” and, “No, I broke up with him.” More like, “Um, yeah, I used to know him,” about the child-killer on Law and Order: SVU or one of the craggy gang leaders on Prison Break. I suppose I should be grateful none of them have turned up on Elimidate. I’m just saying, most of us have the option of burning anything ex-related or at least mentally blocking out our mistakes if we so choose. I will say this though, watching these shows with my sweetie next to me, damned if I’m not even more grateful than I already am to be out of that game.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Ernie Pook

Okay, for the like, two people out there who don’t know who Lynda Barry is, run, do not walk to this week’s Reader and go straight to section 4 for this week’s Ernie Pook. I love anything she does, but one of my favorite subjects of hers is dogs. Sometimes she features Milton the Beat Poodle (Toilet! #1!) This week she has a dog astrology chart (Taurus’ Lucky Bark Style: Ceaseless) and “Ask Madam Lulu” in which “Ball-less in Baltimore” writes in about how he misses his balls so bad and asks if he will ever be reunited with them. She has several books, but I strongly recommend One! Hundred! Demons!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Tasting the Nerds

Last night Ben and I went to see Broken Flowers which was pretty great and I brought a bunch of candy from the grocery store so we wouldn’t have to spend an extra ten bucks. Generally I alternate between a few candies at the movies: Sno-Caps have been a longtime favorite, as have Junior Mints, Twizzlers and Spree, and in the last few years I’ve expanded into Skittles (Original, Rainbow and Tropical!) and Chewy Spree. This time I got a few things I haven’t had for a long time: SweetTarts, Nerds, and Lik-m-Aid Fun Dip. (This might be the time to mention to those of you thinking about it that yes, I am still on Weight Watchers, except when I go to the movies or when Megan buys me a pancake at the Bongo Room.) Anyway, I was mostly focusing on the SweetTarts, which didn’t disappoint, but later I thought, Hm, I should at least taste the Nerds. And my next thought was, That is a very weird phrase: Taste the Nerds. It should probably be a band name. The Nerds were very tasty indeed, pretty much nothing more than tiny bits of the candy shell on any sort of coated candy, if you’ve never had them, with a little bit of powder inside. Next time I have to try the Nerds Rope. Oh yeah.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Donovan's Closet

Here’s a story of mine printed up as a mini-book by the good people at Featherproof books, and the cover is very very very cute, as cute as anything I’ve ever seen. It has a lemon on a hanger.

Massaging the Queue

Last night Ben and I had a choice of three Netflix movies to watch, one about the holocaust, one about a couple with AIDS and one about a child molester. The moral of the story: Netflix is great, but you have to “massage” the list (props to Gene) to avoid nights like this when you just want to watch Anchorman.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Movie Star Eats Orange!

Okay, I think we can all agree it’s time for a little appearance by Tom Cruise when the best celebrity news we’re getting is that Heath Ledger peeled and ate an orange during an interview, thus leading to the conclusion that Heath Ledger Acts Strange, because he also (gasp!) wiped his hands on his pants. Which leads me to believe only that Heath Ledger Was Hungry

Thursday, August 25, 2005

In the Spirit of Bill Maher, Some New Rules of My Own

It’s not enough to just bring it anymore. Now you have to bring it like it’s already been broughtened.

Three hundred dollars for jeans is too much, especially ones that are pre-ripped and patched. If you feel you cannot destroy and patch your own jeans just by you know, wearing them, come to me, and I will either tell you how to do it or you can pay me the three hundred bucks and I'll do it for you.

Black is just black, and nothing is the new anything.

Dolls can talk, but they can’t talk back. (See today’s NY Times article about “Amazing Amanda” – more like Creepy Amanda.)

Dave Navarro. No. Just. No.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

DVD Etiquette

WARNING: If you do not have HBO or cable and like me, watch many shows when they come out on DVD, like let’s just say SIX FEET FREAKING UNDER, and you do not want to know how they turn out, do not read the following.

No really, don’t read it. Even though it’s already been spoiled all over the place, I’m going to spoil it one more time just because I’m so darn cranky now.

Nate died, I heard.

I also knew before watching that his wife went missing, I knew that Brenda was a sex addict, and that her brother was in love with her, I knew that Ruth got married, I knew pretty much every significant plot point before it happened. Same with Sex and the City and The Sopranos by the way. Carrie ends up with Big? Hey thanks. Ralphie gets his head packed into a bowling bag? Good to know. Only because all these shows are so well-written and acted do I bother to put them on my Netflix queue.

But I think there need to be some ground rules. For the most part, it seems as though most film critics would never give away a film’s ending without giving the reader warning. Why this rule does not seem to apply to television series that have great numbers of rental dollars in their future, I do not know. The Times yesterday had a huge article about the end of 6FU, which, even if I had chosen not to read it, had the spoiler right in the title, and as we speak, Terry Gross is on Fresh Air interviewing Alan Ball, the creator of the show, with the teaser about Nate’s death right at the top, before I had a chance to decide if I wanted to listen or not. Is there some difference between giving away the secrets of TV and the movies? What would that be?

I might propose a time limit after which most people would have seen something, like maybe after twenty-five years say, it’s okay to mention that Tony dies at the end of West Side Story, or that Norman Bates had issues with his mother? How about that?

Okay, I’m done beefing for today. I’m coldy and tired and I know some of you people who I adore have blogged about this, and I still adore you but… cut it out! Or give me a heads up. Either one.

Monday, August 22, 2005


P. Diddy has changed his name.

On your mark, get set, drop everything and delete the P from your speed dial. Are you done? Okay, now you can carry on with like, your life and stuff.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I Have Returned to the Blogosphere

I had a jam-packed week with my fourteen-year-old cousin Dana, who I will not write about too much because she is a teenager and although she is a ridiculously well-adjusted, smart, funny, interesting and sensible young woman, I do not wish to subject her to any embarrassment on behalf of her eccentric cousin the bougie boho writer lady and her band of merry bloggers.

But I will tell you what we did:
Monday we saw my friend Adam read at Quimby’s. He’s gonna be a rock star soon, I’m pretty sure.
Tuesday we drove around Northwestern and ate lunch at the Bongo Room. Megan gave us a banana heath-bar pancake, which is not on my diet.
Wednesday we saw Aretha Franklin at Ravinia for Megan’s birthday and it was not the nightmare that was Folds/Wainwright, but there were two large drunk guys on the train out and Dana said that they should show a movie of those two guys in high schools to scare people off drinking.
Thursday we went down to Millennium Park but it rained before we got to Grant Park so we went to lunch and went to Field’s. We tried to go see a play but a lady fell out of the audience and the show was canceled so we watched Freaks and Geeks instead.
Friday we drove around U of C and ate at Irazu and watched more Freaks and Geeks. (I told her this is what the cool people in Chicago do… no I didn’t – but dang, that show does not get tired for me. It still crushes me that it got canceled so quickly.)
Saturday we watched Redmoon rehearse their new show and went to the Smart museum and drove around and ordered pizza and actually did see a play that seemed more like performance art than anything – it seemed very Sprockets to me. And Dana said, “And it was a little too dark.” Which we all knew she meant more literally than figuratively, although it was that too. It was you couldn’t see their faces dark.
This morning we ate at Flo and then sent Dana home. On a plane.
A couple of times I actually cooked dinner.
And some other stuff, and she also wandered around on her own and did stuff. There was more stuff.

Now I am way behind on work of miscellaneous kinds, so I may be a bit absent this week again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I Feel All Nervous-Like

Wow, I got my first blog review this week, and it was good! I feel all kinds of pressure to post only deep and meaningful, spell-checked entries now that there might be someone reading besides my four friends. Which of course means that I now have exactly nothing to say.

Don’t Do What I Did

I have concluded without a doubt that I missed my calling as an advice columnist. (AKA unlicensed therapist.) So I hereby invite you, dear readers, to write in as needed with your problems and I will solve them, 100% Unguaranteed. My column will called Dear Don’t Do What I Did. I look forward to helping you. No I’m totally serious. I’m going to keep this thread linked on the side so you won’t forget.

The Sea Inside

Rent this movie, but expect to reexamine your entire life during and after. I was going to go off on telling you exactly how I reexamined mine, but since I do that pretty much every day anyway, I’ll just tell you that Javier Bardem plays a quadriplegic and is so amazingly fantastic that if he could only move his eyes and not speak at all, I would see a movie with him in it. And I could be convinced that if he couldn’t open his eyes, even his rapid eye movement would be compelling.

Sometimes I’m Just Too Busy

Which is why I’ve been absent for a few days.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Closed Captioning Brought to you by...

Beavis and Butthead?

Last night I had the TV on mute and when I looked up some businessman had a caption underneath him reading, "We've had a few attempts at corporate he is pee."

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Why does life have to be such a damned learning process all the time? Learning, learning, so much with all the learning.

And it’s not like I’m learning the deeper meanings of string theory. I’m talking about basic human endeavors such as, let’s say, Don’t take the train to a sold-out show at Ravinia that features an artist you really really want to see, especially on a weeknight. Many parts of this directive are critical, apparently, but it wasn’t in the handbook. Breaking it down:

train = good for Shawn Colvin, for Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright may require standing on the steps directly adjacent to the door, into which people will pile in at the next stop, with picnic baskets and chairs, before letting the poor unsuspecting commuters out
sold-out show at Ravinia = waiting six deep to board said train, sro on train, waiting in a sea of thousands to enter park, feeling lucky just to enter park before show starts, feeling lucky to find a patch of grass big enough to fit picnic blanket, feeling lucky to catch a brief glimpse of Ben Folds teeny-tiny head standing six-deep at the edge of the pavillion, feeling lucky you decided to listen to the second half of Ben Folds set from the train platform, which will be six deep with any number of drunk white people long before the show ends, knowing you’re lucky to get seats on the train, feeling slightly lucky at all to have gotten on this particular car, underneath an extremely loud bunch of people drunk on boxed wine
artist you really want to see = pavilion tickets yes, lawn seats next to video-game playing girl, not so much
weeknight = good for dinner at Irazu and maybe the first half of Law & Order, very sad when you’re not home and in bed until 12:22, feeling really horrible that you dragged your husband out there because he has to get up for work at 5:30

The one and a half songs I did see Ben Folds teeny head really brought this home, because as I suspected, he totally rocks out, and it’s something that needs to be seen. I almost bought a pretty cool forty-dollar track jacket that said Folds on the front, just to make myself feel better, but I resisted.

What I also want to know is, for the love of god, I knew I was too old for the Bottle, but am I too old for freaking Ravinia now?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

It Is What It Is

Heard a few bits of Paul Anka’s new record on Fresh Air yesterday, of covers of rock hits, which was, um interesting. First they played “It’s My Life,” a Bon Jovi song, I believe, which sort of works as a standard. But then they played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – and it’s bizarre – but Terry Gross asked him if he thought that some of those lyrics (a mosquito, my libido) were meant to be heard as clearly as Anka sang them. And his answer was sort of interesting I thought – he talked about how the meaning of a song isn’t necessarily spelled out, it’s what an individual takes from it, and that he didn’t know if Nirvana set out to obscure some of the lyrics, nevertheless, “it is what it is.” Made sense to me. Still rather listen to the original of course.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Women of Local Access TV

There are a bunch of different craft shows on every day; everything from quilting, all kinds of needlework, scrapbooking, and general “let’s decorate a lamp with shells” kind of stuff.

As a crafty-type person, occasionally I learn something, even if it’s just a matter of technique, and I check in on these shows fairly regularly although I rarely watch them from beginning to end, and I could not tell you any of their names or the names of their shows. But mainly, I love these shows because although the crafts are for the most part fairly typical (except for the quilts, which are often quite nice), these women are utterly earnest. They enjoy what they do and they enjoy sharing what they do and they are refreshingly sincere. I think sincerity is underrated. And frankly, I think that anything sincere these days is worth praising.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Spon-what now?

Watched Elimidate last night, which I don’t get to see as much as I used to because it’s on too late. This is a show I watched regularly for a while because, well, I dunno, I felt it had something to teach me. I’m not sure what I thought that might be, but it probably had to do with the lengths people will go to to be on TV for about seventeen minutes, and not even to win cash and prizes. Or maybe it’s just the lengths people will go to period. Or maybe it’s just to watch people get drunker and drunker and be really glad I don’t have to drink and date anymore. Or maybe it’s just to feel better about myself in general, which I’m sure is why I watch most reality shows. Anyway, Saturday nights at ten they have back-to-back episodes and SNL is in reruns now. Elimidate, for the uninitiated, is sort of the Fear Factor of dating shows – there aren’t any challenges, but I defy you not to scream out in horror when the tongues start flying all around like so many tarantula milkshakes. (No, I don’t know what that means either, but let’s pretend it works, ‘kay?) It’s just a half-hour syndicated show, and the premise is simple: one guy or gal meets up with four other guys or gals, and after each commercial break, elimi-dates one of them until one remains. The funnest part of Elimidate is when the gals start cat-fighting, and with few exceptions, it happens every time. Okay, it’s usually not physical, but sometimes it is, and it is always, without exception, not about whether or not someone’s breasts are real, because it’s a given that if they’re bigger than an a-cup that they aren’t (usually they are proud to admit “yeah they’re mine, I paid for them,” the important thing being “they look good, right?”) but about whether the girl herself is “real”, and whether she’s a skanky-ass ho or “classy”. It should go without saying that if you’re on Elimidate at all, even if you’re dressed in a turtleneck and ski pants, classy is a stretch. At least one of the following two are always involved – bars and hot tubs, and if there’s no hot tub, there’s always a dance floor, which allows the guy or gal to see “what they’re like on the dance floor” which allows them to see how much grinding and shirt-removing will take place, which allows them to get an idea if they’re going to get lucky. Anyway, last night were two particularly excellent episodes. Both featured bachelors as the elimidater. In the first episode, the guy was kind of muscley-tattoey with a thick New York accent. He wasn’t quite as overtly piggy and boastful as the guys often are, sort of giggling at the lengths the girls went to to impress him. One girl ran through a field in high heels, bouncing and shimmying her fake boobs. Then came the moment that made the entire episode worthwhile. The girls asked the guy what they were looking for in a woman. He said, “I guess what I really like is spontenuity.”
At which time, instead of anyone making a George Bush joke or even seeming to notice at all, two girls quickly took turns making out with him and grinding on him on the dance floor. “I am so happy I didn’t wear drawers tonight!” he said, giggling. (Note: fake boob girl won the date, of course.)
The second show was in some ways even more Fear-Factory to the extent that the guy was your worst nightmare, the kind of guy any girl in the real world with any kind of sense would – well, I’d say she’d politely back away from, but the truth is, she’d probably and thankfully not be in the universe of this guy – I personally have very limited experience in this kind of singles-bar universe, and upon occasional orbit thereabouts I tended to be unable to deal with guys like this in any way that didn’t involve sarcasm or at least protracted looks of disdain. In any case, this guy was a “party promoter,” self-titled “biggest player in Denver,” (okay, this from a guy who was almost a ringer for Eddie Haskell) with “six hundred” numbers in his cell, “all ladies”. He also tells us that there are lots of hot girls in Denver and that he has no interest in settling down, right now he’s all about “upgrading” and upgrading and upgrading and maybe he’ll stop when he can’t upgrade anymore, but so far that hasn’t happened since there’s always a cuter girl. Insert your own moment of despair here. So on the date, he starts out not by forgetting all their names, but not even making any effort to try to remember their names, calling them, “girl in red,” “girl in blue,” “girl in white.” He says to the camera, “I’ll remember their names if they’re cute enough.” All the girls, sensibly, became irritated when he kept taking calls on his cell phone, and one girl even Elimidated herself. “Bye, girl in blue,” he said.
I went to bed when he had two girls left. Usually I have to see how it turns out, no matter how horrified I am by humanity at the beginning. I guess I would like to have seen his ass get dumped by girl in white and girl in red too, but that only happens on rare occasions. So I’ll never know which girl “cock in brown” picked.

Friday, August 05, 2005


If it hasn't already been said, I want it on record that I coined a new word today, due to the unfortunate new fact of blog spam.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Oh. Dear. God.

Can we all just say some prayers for the people of America now? Because I think we're in some trouble. Have a look at this if you don't believe me.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I Wear Glasses

So about six months ago I got a pair of those dimestore glasses because I was doing some very fine embroidery that my then forty-three-year-old eyes needed a little help with. Noticing that reading in the evenings was becoming a bit of a strain, I started using them for reading as well. Recently I realized that the dimestore glasses weren’t always quite as effective as they could be – someone pointed out that my vision might be different in each eye (which turned out to be true, if only slightly), so I thought, okay, I’ll go get checked for glasses. Which I did, and which glasses I will pick up sometime today. At which time I will become something new: A Person Who Wears Glasses.

After Ben and I dropped Ryan off the other night after the movie, I suddenly realized that he is one of my first new friends who only knows me as A Married Person.

That’s just weird.

But it got me to thinking about identity, one of my favorite things to think about, and how aspects of our identity are constantly changing, and how others see us, and blah di bloo. I, of course, have been adjusting to the idea of me being A Married Person for almost a year now, still giggling a little when either of us uses the word husband or wife, still contemplating what all those words mean in conjunction with my life. Anyway the Ryans, present and future, have no concept of the me of the 70s 80s and 90s, when I was A Single Person. I can tell them about it of course, but in some ways it’s kind of like saying to your kids anything that starts with “When I was your age” – there may not be a lack of credibility so much as the presence of irrelevance. “Well, you’re not a teenager anymore.” “Well, you’re married now.” Irrelevant or not, for anyone who wasn’t there, I feel compelled to say that I was Very Very Single For An Extremely Long Time.

So but which being this Married With Glasses Person is even more weird, because it’s one thing to think about what my identity means to me, but another to think about what it means to someone else. Which I suppose is more or less impossible to know entirely. But it makes me think of all the identities come and gone that people once knew me as, or only know me as now. I used to Have Bangs. I had them for so long that very few people knew me before. Like, Nina is pretty much it. I had them so long I wondered if I could ever be Someone Without Bangs. Seriously. Figuring a move to the Midwest was as good a time as any to find out, I grew out my bangs, and became Someone Without Bangs. It was a transition. I also Got A Tattoo. But so the point is, pretty much everyone but the only person I knew in Chicago before I moved here knows me only without bangs or ink, and since I started getting blonde highlights shortly after that, you can go as far calling me A Blonde as well. Many do, but until I go platinum (not likely) I’ll continue to be a little startled when people call me that. I mean, I have a mirror, but I still see a brunette. Ben is in a group of people who only know me as A Blonde Without Bangs.

There’s also a whole bunch of people who only know me since I’ve become A Published Author, but of course I was A Struggling Writer for so many years that this one is only just beginning to sink in after four years. But it brings me around to a point about whether the essential Betsyness of me trumps all these different identities.

There are also people who never knew me truly happy, or only just began to. Mom comes to mind. I suppose that gets into a whole nother area (BTW, I think I might have to campaign for “nother” as a legitimate word to go in the dictionary), but I was so depresso in New York, and slowly came out of that in Chicago over a long period of time. Most people in Chicago know me as pretty happy, and I’m all too – er, happy – to proclaim myself A Happy Person. I have no issue letting go of my days as An Unhappy Person. Needless to say, there are any number of identities I’m leaving out here for the sake of letting you finish your coffee.

So I guess anyone who meets me until the next identity change will think of me as A Happy Tattooed Blonde Married Published Author Without Bangs Who Wears Glasses.

Dead Man

Is such a sad beautiful movie that you all should see it if you haven’t. At first I wasn’t quite sure where it was going, or if I wanted to go with it. It’s not a fast-paced film. But it is a really moving portrait of this man who – well, he moves to this small town to get a job and something happens and he’s run out of town and what happens to him while he’s on this journey is in some ways subtle and other ways not. He develops a typically Jarmuschy friendship with this Native American named Nobody. In some ways it also addresses the subject of identity, maybe everything does, because he begins the movie as this mild-mannered guy and in some ways that’s still a part of him at the end, but he’s also so much more. And the music is rocking and haunting at the same time. I don’t want to say too much more if you haven’t seen it, but the end totally killed me.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Too Good

I direct you to McSweeney's for the TomKat laugh of the day.

Chuck Klosterman is So Not Cool

As such, that of course automatically makes him cool. I just finished reading his new book, Killing Yourself to Live, which was pretty funny, although Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs was even funnier and more up my alley. I’m not really all up in the rock and roll universe. I just wish he would smoke a little bit less of the marijuana. I’m looking forward to the day Chuck Klosterman turns forty and gets married with two point four kids. Klosterman + middle age + kids – daily potsmoking is going to = high comedy, I think.

Willy Wonka Oh I Mean Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Okay, fine, it was good enough. It was thoroughly Tim Burtony and bright and dark and chewy delicious. The kid who played Charlie was especially good, as was his grandpa, and I really liked Deep Roy as all of the Oompa Loompas. Plus I just love his name and want to name my first kid Deep. (I realize it’s probably short for Deepak, but all the same, Deep is Deep and it’s a very cool name.) Honestly though, as much as computer animation and tricks can add to a film, sometimes I miss the days when special effects were done without computers. Even when they were a little clunky, there was something more real about them to me. Our friend Ryan, who came with us, put it in an interesting way; he said sometimes the computer technology they use to create special effects today makes things look too “bendy.” I couldn’t put it any better. Anyway, it has everything a kid’s movie ought to have, and I cannot take away from the entertainment value. But here’s what it doesn’t have: Gene Wilder. Johnny Depp, who is almost always great, is just a little too far to the weird side here for my liking. The kid and his grandpa play it so straight that the contrast is too much. Gene Wilder, on the other hand, was odd… but at the same time oddly real – in spite of the bizarro wardrobe and unrealness of the entire concept, Gene Wilder as Wonka was just – you know, it was about what was behind his eyes. But I hear that Roald Dahl was never happy with the original version for whatever reason, and his widow was apparently very involved in this version, keeping it much closer to the book, so take that for what it’s worth. What do I know, I’m just a kid who grew up in the seventies who saw the original in the theater when it was first released, and a few dozen times since, and I’m still attached to it, for better or worse. Remake The Bad News Bears? Why? Man, all I have to say is, if somebody tries to remake Paper Moon, I’m gonna raise hell. This has to stop somewhere.