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?