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


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.