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


“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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

If Danny Bonaduce Falls On National Television, Am I Obliged to Watch?

Alright, I’m trying again today. I felt rather defeated by yesterday’s bloghap, even though it was my own damn fault for not writing it offline in the first place. I’ve done this before, of course, but this post was longer than usual, and far be it from me to make a mistake one time and learn from it. I’m the kind of gal who likes to repeat my mistakes a few times before moving on to new ones.

So, Danny, my Danny. I watched the first two episodes of Danny's reality show, which was excruciating on so many levels. His life is upsetting. He’s a drug addict, an alcoholic and a sex addict married to a nice woman with the seeming patience of a saint who loves him (although she apparently doesn't really like sex). Nothing surprising there, I've known lots of those. But what is so disturbing about Danny is his total disconnect - he is so not stupid. He seems to have a certain level of self-awareness insofar as he knows he’s an addict, he knows how he’s perceived by the public, good and bad, he admittedly suffers from severe self-loathing and knows he’s basically fucked up. But at the same time he just does not seem to be, well, in his body, is the best I can put it. He obviously loves his kids and seems connected to them, although he doesn't seem to understand the thing about “modeling” in parenting - he thinks if he teaches them “not to do what he does” they’re good to go, not seeming to understand that behavior is what's taught. He painfully admits that he really doesn’t know who he is.

As upsetting as anything though, is the whole idea that this is on TV, much of it taking place in his couples therapy. Danny seems to be an example of a new archetype that believes themselves not to exist if not televised. We live in an age of celebrity. This is not a revelation. I have said repeatedly that anonymity is underrated. It is my sense that Danny truly believes he will be helped by televising this, and for all I know he may be right. I think actually the much easier road to say that reality TV of this nature (or in general) is exploitative, and without value. It is what it is, and in this case it’s not much different in quality than anyone who’d allow a documentary to be made about their lives. I myself might rather televise my therapy sessions than drink a testicle milkshake, or get an eXtreme Makeover (Entire Body Edition). I would have to argue that the Danny show has more inherent value than anything ever presented on Jerry Springer (including those absurd moral speeches he gives at the end – “I think we can see that cheating is horrible, but just in case, we’ll have another episode about it tomorrow, featuring fighting midgets”) or Girls Gone Wild (or, Do My Breasts Exist if They’re Untelevised?). Personally, I think Danny would best be helped by quietly moving to the country and finding a group of Famous Anonymous, and probably every other 12-step group known to man. Instead, he puts the choice in our hands whether to watch or not, and for me it’s a hard one. Say what you will, but part of me wants him to be right just so he does get it together, and for better or worse, I’m going to tune in to find out.

But we already know I need TV Anonymous.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Due To Forces Beyond My Control

My brilliant treatise on the merits or lack thereof on Breaking Bonaduce disappeared into the ether. Look for it soon. No I mean really, look for it. Maybe it’s on your blog.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I Want My Placement to be Exquisite

Ben and I watched a documentary last night called How To Draw A Bunny about the life of this artist Ray Johnson, whose stuff is totally up my alley, what I'd want to do if I were that kind of artist, what I try to do when I dabble but never feel satisfied with. He was a collagist and a performance artist, and also sort of a mail-artist, and he had a pretty out-there personality I guess, and one of the things I admired about him was his seeming lack of need to be approved and/or accepted by the mainstream art world, although in a certain sense he was very much in it insofar as many of his friends were famous artists. He just didn't really see huge profits from it. Anyway one of the people talking about him said "His placement is just exquisite." Which is exactly why I'm a writer. Because in collage world, in addition to issues with glue, my placement is never quite right.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Things Happen In My Absence, Apparently

I still find this a fascinating concept that amounts to: if I am not there, time does not pass, but, and this is not unimportant, only if I have ever known you or met you once, and thus providing yet another way in which I am thoroughly self-centered. Example: people I knew years ago who have gotten married and had kids, have huge careers of some kind, pretty much do anything that implies that enough time has passed for these things to take place. A few more specific examples:
a) What do you mean you’re married to a TV star and have a baby? We were just out dancing in Soho like, last week.
b) What do you mean you own an art gallery? You were like, the dork I passed notes to in eleventh grade.
c) What do you mean you have a regular column in the NEW YORK TIMES? We were just in Mr. Alexander’s baking class making fried bowknot cookies.
d) What do you mean you produce a TV show? You sat next to me in Broadcasting 101.
e) What do you mean you produce a TV show? You’re my friend’s ex-boyfriend’s little brother.
f) What do you mean, you’re forty-four years old, Everyone I Graduated High School With?
g) What are you talking about, Emmy-Award Reporter Times Best Seller Sixteen Times Over Staff Member of The New Yorker? You just starred in GUYS AND DOLLS at Hillel Beth Abraham.
h) What do you mean you don’t know who I am, 80s teen star? YOU WROTE A PAGE IN MY SENIOR YEARBOOK.

Okay, so occasionally the passing of time does not aid in alleviating me of twenty-five year old bitterness (see h), but if you think about it, that sort of follows.

Please note, though, that if I have never met you, and meet you for the first time, then it is perfectly acceptable for you to have a backstory of any length.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

What I Never Have To Worry About, Thank God

In the event that anyone did hack into my phone or the phone of anyone I leave messages for, including my husband, I am so glad I don't have to worry about messages like the one from "hot chik", and not just because I don't have balls. I don't know how recent or um, real, this site is, but there's a "sexy" message from some girl describing what she supposedly did with him the night before, which is - well, I don't know that I've ever heard a line quite like, "I really liked seeing your balls?" Question mark hot chik's, not mine.

My Times DIdn't Come This Morning

And I feel a little lost.

Monday, September 19, 2005

My New Improved Blogness

Is pretty happening, in my opinion, and a big shout out to Zach at bleachedwhaledesign for rocking it. He also souped up my website, which is equally sweet.

Everything I Know About Relationships I Learned From My Husband, or: The Federlines and Us, Part 2

Yesterday the Brandts and the Federlines celebrated their first wedding anniversary. The Federlines of course, have a brand-new baby, which the Brandts do not. But we have decided on a name if we ever have a boy: Arndt. Arndt Brandt. No? Well, anyway, we had a wonderful day, starting with breakfast at the Bongo Room, Ben had Eggs Benedict and I had Lobster Eggs Benedict, aka Butterfest 2005, and I had cake and brownies for dinner, finishing off any hope I might have had of staying under my points limit for the day (which I think was maybe two bites of the lobster and none of the benedict, but I’m back on today and at least I can fit into my Levi’s now). We went to see the new Redmoon show, Loves Me, Loves Me Not, the one that was all but completely overhauled because of it’s eerie resemblance to Katrina, with a submerged house and service station for a set, which was completely engaging as always and a pretty impressive example of “the show must go on.” Ben gave me a painting he made that made me cry and I gave him an embroidery and I realized that having come into this relationship with virtually no qualifications whatsoever for the job, I have gotten extremely good on-the-job training from Ben, who shows me every day the kind of patience, tolerance, humor and love that I only hope I give him a fraction of in return. (Well, okay I hope I give him more, the point is if I only do give him a fraction of it, it’s a lot because he gives me so much, see.)

From the Department of: Come Again?

Renee Zellweger filed for divorce from country superstar Kenny Chesney, citing as her reason: fraud.
Er, wha?
I figured it out though. I heard a lawyer explain the meaning of the term “fraud” as used in something like this. It simply means that there was some information the claimant says they didn’t have before they got married and if they did, they wouldn’t have married them.
So let’s get this straight. This essentially means that Renee is saying that there was something she didn’t know about Kenny after knowing him for four whole months.

That’s the whole joke. I can’t think of a really good punchline. Somebody give me a punchline.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Eleven Years

I'm coming to conclude that every time I watch a documentary, and it seems safe to say that mostly that's all we've been watching lately, I come away fascinated by a single point and watching Fearless Freaks, a movie about the Flaming Lips, was no exception. Don't get me wrong, it was a really good movie, especially if you like the Flaming Lips, which we do, but when I found out that Wayne Coyne, the lead singer, had worked at Long John Silver for eleven of the band's early years, all I could utter periodically was, Eleven years? Or sometimes, Eleven years! Apparently he sort of liked it too, but more than that was that he's this very hardworking guy, and I guess that's what struck me, the lengths some people are willing to go to for their art. Because I do not have eleven years of deep-frying battered fish in me, and I think anyone who does is to be admired. When I worked at McDonald's one summer, I believe it was before my junior year of high school, I "worked fries" for maybe, well, eleven minutes before management (some perky seventeen year old dude) moved me over to the cash register for the duration of my six weeks there.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I Suppose You Already Knew I Saw Visions

Poking around Transitions Bookstore this morning for nothing in particular, I discovered that they have a new section: Visionary Fiction. It’s a fairly small section, but of course I had to look, and there it was, All This Heavenly Glory.

That’s right, I’m a visionary.

And so is the guy who wrote the DaVinci Code.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Federline Junior, Yo

Me: I’d like to welcome to our show today new parents, Britney and Kevin Federline.
Britney Federline: Hi! I’m so excited to be here.
Kevin Federline: Uhh.
Me: First of all, congratulations on your new bundle of… Federline.
Britney Federline: Thank you! Isn’t he so cute?
Kevin Federline: Mmmh.
Me: He is cute. I’m not so sure about the bandanna/trucker cap thing, but… I like the fake stubble.
Britney Federline: Fake stubble? (looks at baby) Oh my god, no, that’s just dirt. (spits on fingers and wipes it off)
Me: So, I imagine you know that you guys share a wedding anniversary with us.
Britney Federline: No way! How did you know what day we were getting married?
Kevin Federline: Errgh. Yo.
Me: Um, actually we didn’t. I might ask you the same thing.
Britney Federline: What?
Kevin Federline: Arrguh. Yo!
Britney Federline: (to Kevin) No baby I told you you can’t smoke around the baby.
Kevin Federline: Mmpfh. Dang.
Me: Nevermind. Anyway, we got married the same day.
Britney Federline: Wow. Aren’t helicopters such a pain in the butt? I could tell right away we had a lot in common.
Me: Really? What else do you think we have in common?
Britney Federline: I heard you love to say “Kevin Federline.”
Me: That’s true! I do!
Britney Federline: Who wouldn’t?
Me: I don’t know!
Kevin Federline: Hehmmh.
Me: So Britney, have you read my books?
Britney Federline: Books. Books. (to Kevin) Baby, what’s that mean, books?
Kevin Federline: Ehhagh.
Britney Federline: Oh, you mean like Us and People and shit?
Me: Well, those are magazines. But in the sense that they’re made up of paper and… well not words so much. Something like that. A few more words.
Britney Federline: Are there pictures of you and your Mr. Federline in it?
Me: Not too many pictures, no.
Britney Federline: Too bad, ‘cuz you’re real pretty. I bet you and your Mr. Federline have almost as much hot sex as we do.
(Britney takes the gum out of her mouth and she and Kevin start making out.)
Me: I’d be happy to have my people give you some copies on the way out.
Britney Federline: Well, I don’t have so much time these days for… what’s the word I’m looking for…
Kevin Federline: Rrngh.
Britney Federline: Reading, right, thanks, baby. (starts making out with Kevin again) But that’d be great, I can get my people to…
Kevin Federline: Rrngh!
Britney Federline: Read them for me!
Me: I think it's time for a commercial.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Job Application

Okay, it has taken me thirty years to become aware that I may in fact be qualified to realize my lifelong dream of being a talk show host. I have been watching these shows for years. When I was in college, my roommate and I used to stage, entirely for our own enjoyment, our own versions of Johnny Carson and the David Susskind show. Usually, my roommate would be the host and I would the only guest, movie star Jordan Brooks, who was famous mostly just for being a big name-dropper, and I’d talk about how I dumped some unfamous person (most likely, some cute jerk who wasn’t currently recognizing my existence). We also used to fill out library cards (which I still have) with topics like “Women Who Were Formerly Men Married to Men Married to Women Who Were Formerly Men Who Were Formerly Women,” or topics that were more specific to people we knew. If I knew their exact location other than “attic” I’d give you some of the real ones.

Reasons I have come to this conclusion at this late date:
Tony Danza
Tyra Banks

This list could be a whole lot longer, of course, and could include ALMOST ANYONE WHO’S EVER BEEN A TALK SHOW HOST. I do not mean to take any credit away from the list of people who have journalistic qualifications, and that includes Oprah.

But it seems to me that the list of qualifications is so broad it includes:
sitcom stars
soap stars
magazine editors
motivational speakers
reality show contestants
comics, of course
broadway stars
rock stars wives
many more I can’t think of
and the category I best fall into:
people you have never heard of in any context

It does not seem to exclude people on the basis of age or race, as far as I can tell, and actually sometimes the more qualified people don’t have the most interesting shows. I’ll take Tyra Banks over Larry King any day, because from what I saw yesterday on her show, Tyra’s planning to keep it real. She took off her makeup and showed photos of her unretouched normal-size thighs next to her retouched skinny-model thighs to prove it, and she has a runway on her stage so that women of all shapes and sizes can work it on the catwalk and feel better about themselves. That’s undeniably awesome. You wouldn't see that on Larry King.

So in thinking about my “concept,” on my talk show I would like to have the following: I’d like to have a mix of celebrities and friends as guests and just come on and talk about me. It would be like the “opposite” of an ordinary talk show. That’s fresh, right? Do you feel me?

Me: Today on our premiere show I’d like to welcome, my husband Ben.
Ben: Hi honey!
Me: Hi baby! What do you have to say about me today?
Ben: That you’re totally awesome and great.
Me: Aw, thanks honey! We have a call from my Dad in Iowa right now. Hi Dad!
Dad: Hi daughter!
Me: Dad, my husband says I’m totally awesome and great. What do you say about that?
Dad: Oh, that’s true.
Me: Thanks, Dad! Oh, have to go, we have a call from my best friend Nina in New York.
Hi Ninaba!
Nina: Hi Bets!
Me: Nina, Ben and Dad are in agreement that I’m totally awesome and great. Would you also agree with that opinion of me?
Nina: Yes, I would. And you’re so funny.
Me: Thanks, Nina! Okay, when we come back, Angelina Jolie will be here to talk about me!


Me: Welcome, Tom.
Tom Cruise: You don’t know what I know about you.
Me: What?
Tom Cruise: I know. I know more about you than you do.
Me: Really?
Tom Cruise: You’re being glib, Betsy.
Me: Listen, this show is about me, if you know stuff about me I think you should tell me.
Tom Cruise: I know that you take vitamins.
Me: Yes, you did your research, that’s true, Tom. I do take vitamins.
Tom Cruise: But you take the wrong vitamins. And you don’t exercise.
Me: I don’t exercise, that’s also true. But how do you know I take the wrong vitamins?
Tom Cruise: Because I know, Betsy, I just know what you yourself don’t even know.
Me: I’m getting that, Tom Cruise, but so okay, what vitamins should I be taking?
Tom Cruise: I’ve saved hundreds of lives.
Me: That’s what I’ve heard, and yet, I need to draw the focus back to me.
Tom Cruise: Okay well YOU should try saving lives.
Me: Are you saying my talk show isn’t saving lives? Because I think it could.
Tom Cruise: I think your talk show could save lives if you knew what I know. But you don’t.
Me: Okay, let’s try shifting gears here. Have you read my books?
Tom Cruise: Were they written by L. Ron Hubbard?
Me: Um, no, my books were written by me.
Tom Cruise: Are they about aliens?
Me: No, not so much.
Tom Cruise: L. Ron Hubbard is a fantastic author.
Me: Do you have anything else you’d like to say about me before we go to break?
Tom Cruise: I already told you you don’t know what I know.
Me: I’m clear on that point.

Where do I apply? No? You're not feeling it?

Monday, September 12, 2005

But Since I’m Already Soupy

I had this feeling even more strongly after watching Born Into Brothels, the documentary about these kids in Calcutta being raised in a, um, brothel. This woman came and got to know them and taught them photography and each one of them took amazing photos; this one twelve year old boy in particular was quite obviously gifted, not to mention being an incredible sage, if you ask me. The conditions in the brothel were needless to say beyond horrible, and some of the parents were verbally and physically abusive and it seemed pretty obvious that the girls were all destined to become prostitutes as well. Nevertheless, they were such unbelievably normal kids, they picked on each other, they felt sad about their lives, they were all pretty wise to what was going on and wished it were different but knew it probably wouldn’t be, and more than anything, they had what I perceived to be these incredibly joyful spirits. Not one of the adults seemed to have what they had, so you can only guess that it was a matter of time before that was gone, but you finish watching this movie just hoping even one of the kids will get a chance to get an education and get out.

In the Realms of the Darger Movie

In the Realms of the Unreal, was pretty good, actually. It was kind of more – er – ethereal than I personally would have liked. A lot of it was sort of animated versions of his work, which was cool, but I kept wondering what he’d think about it. I guess I’ll have to go read a book about him. If anyone isn’t familiar with his art, check him out. He was this prolific, gifted, outsider as they say, an orphan, with very few people in his life, possibly with some sort of mental illness but functioning in the world, albeit in a very limited way – home, work, art. He kept his work completely secret from even the few people he did know. He knew he couldn’t really draw, so he sort of traced images and pieced them together to tell this – beyond elaborate, 15,000 page story of the Vivian girls, and his sense of color, proportion, imagery, story is just so incredible. More than anything though, what I was left with after seeing this movie was that this man who went through life largely unseen, has left something like this behind, and it makes me think about how all of us have something to contribute, a reason for being here, that we all matter, and that in Darger’s case we were just lucky to have access to knowing the reason. I’m pretty sure a lot of lives go by where we don’t. But someone does. Every life touches another life in some way. Okay, I’m getting into Chicken Soup territory. Sorry.


I didn’t know what to say about it, not that I haven’t already said somewhere, anyway. So I’ll add only that I thought about it, the people lost and the people gained, as I do many other days. That’s pretty much all I have.

Friday, September 09, 2005


This week I have been trying to get up before Ben leaves for work, with moderate success. It’s not quite light at this hour, which is inherently wrong, I say, in terms of waking up. And of course, waking up at such an hour means I am inclined to go to bed at nine, which is embarrassing. Last night at 8:30 Ben said, “Want to watch a movie?” which I suspected was dubious and although it was a promising documentary on the life of Henry Darger, indeed, by nine we were both ready to pack it in. (More about Darger, I’m sure, after I actually watch the film.)

But it’s nice and quiet at this hour, and it’s an extra hour of work, theoretically, since I tend to be more productive in the mornings. I’m still behind on this week’s Times, though – no doubt because I discovered Gawker, one more way to spend time online.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Moore also has some great info and links if you're interested and able to donate stuff stuff for Katrina.

Michael Moore Writes to That Dude Holding Office

Who I can't bring myself to refer to as the president.

Check it out.
Right on.

PS I once wrote him an email and he wrote me back. That's the kind of guy he is.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I also forgot to mention that my brother Mark has a new puppy and they call him Mr. Tibbs. Mr. Tibbs is a “puggle” which is apparently part pug part beagle, but I keep calling him a muggle. Either way? He’s very cute, and he, like all pets that come to Mt. Pleasant, naturally gravitates toward my dad, who is the least overtly pet-friendly person, but who, I think it is plain to see, emits some silent critter love that is only perceptible to the critters.

Willful Creatures

I keep forgetting to mention that I finished Aimee Bender’s new collection of stories last week, Willful Creatures. Bender is one of my favorite writers, but there’s not much I can say except there’s one story called “Motherfucker” (about a guy who only fucks people who are… mothers) which has such a gorgeous ending it’s worth the price of the book for this story alone.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Old Settlers and Threshers

Inbetween watching news reports and still not getting a grasp on the extent of what's going on, Ben and I went to Mt. Pleasant this weekend to hang with the folks and go to the annual Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Reunion. Huh? You haven't been there? Well, neither had Ben, somehow. Okay, fine, I'll explain. It's a festival of old threshing machines and engines and country music and stuff. We ate elk burgers and elk jerky and funnel cakes.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dark Days

I just put a link on the side to the Red Cross, and the number to call to donate to relief for Hurricane Katrina is 1-800-HELP-NOW. There’s nothing more to say right now. The scope of what’s happened is profound in it’s thorough devastation. Never have I felt so ridulously aware of what I have, both in terms of family, love, and friendship, but also in terms of just plain stuff, and I hope there will be an opportunity to give some of it away at some point in the future because I have a lot more of that than I do cash even though I know that’s what’s needed right this minute.

Took a break from obsessive news-watching last night to watch a surprisingly uplifting movie about homelessness called Dark Days as well as every last extra on the DVD. The movie itself, about a little shanty town underground Manhattan in the railroad system, is beautifully shot and essentially just a portrait of a group of by and large, delightful, capable, funny and incredibly resourceful people. It has an amazing, right on soundtrack by DJ Shadow, and as you find out by the end of the film, I’m going to give away the (mostly happy) ending here, it works out that homes are provided for these people and that the most recent update is that many of them are working and doing very well. I could go on and on about what I think it all means (but, um, solution?), but in any case, the extras were equally illuminating in terms of how the movie got made; the filmmaker, I guess wasn’t even a filmmaker, he just knew these people from his neighborhood, went down there and spent time with them, they decided they should make a film about it, and that he would give any proceeds from the film to get homes for them. So he does exactly this, with ZERO funds, and furthermore, uses all these homeless guys for his crew. When you hear him talking about how the whole thing came to be, you realize it’s not just an incredible, enlightening, moving portrait of homeless people, it’s also an incredibly inspiring example of how to be an artist, and what an artist is, because this guy put his heart and soul into getting this thing done, he had a total vision of it and just like, assumed that it would happen and had no interest in financial gain. And not in a cocky way – this guy comes across as extremely likable – just in that sort of way where it doesn’t seem to occur to him that he can’t get what he wants. He’s like, I’ll have DJ Shadow or I’ll have no music. We’ll get the film now and worry about developing later. And little by little it all came together because everyone they came across at each stage of production realized what a wonderful project it was. Anyway, one of the things that struck me was that these people, while they lived underground, like you often hear homeless people say, don’t want to go to the shelters because the shelters suck, so they devised this way of living for themselves that they felt was better, and that they didn’t complain about in spite of the obvious: no running water, no light, no a lot of stuff and rats, rats and more rats. But they did have TV, “toilets”, pets, food, some of them even had cabinets and more, and they weren’t in a rush to get out but when they did, I was really struck by the way this awesome guy Ralph lingered by his window as he was interviewed. Debra, was it you that recommended this film? It was sweet.