Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Etymology Lesson

Last night I was reading a story about kids in sixth grade and asked Ben if he was familiar with the phrase “Duh-Hay.” He said no, but he knew the phrase, “Uh-duh.” I said, “What about “Adoyee!” He said he was familiar with adoyee, but we had a debate about spelling. I’ve always seen it in my mind as I just spelled it. Ben said, “No, it’s uh-doi-ee. With hyphens.” I explained why I thought it was adoyee. I showed him, on paper, the evolution from duh, to aduh, to adoy, to adoyee. He said he disagreed, that the dashes emphasized the syllables more, that the “i” and the subsequent hyphen in uh-doi-ee acted as a spring for the “ee” to bounce off of, that it was onomatopoetic. Then he asked me if I knew the phrase “toh-heh.” (Or, “Oooh, toh-heh,” and I’d like to add that this is as odd-sounding and hard to say as it looks.) I said, “Only because I’ve heard you try to tell me you used to say it.” I asked him how it was spelled, and I was corrected. “No, it’s ‘tor-heh’ – t-o-r – you don’t hear the r?” I said, “Um, no.” He said, “Listen: tawww-heh.” I said, “Oh, sort of like with a Boston accent.” “Yes,” he said. “And what is the origin of this phrase, do you suppose?” He said, “Well, actually, there’s a longer version of it that goes, ‘Oooh, tor-heh awh yor heh!’” I asked him to spell it so I could write it down. He said, “It’s a way of saying, ‘tore hair off your head’. Like if someone insults you, especially a girl, it’s like she tore some hair off your head. “Ooooh! Tor-heh-awh-yor-heh!” I told him when I was in high school we called this a soup, or if someone really dissed you, double or even, “Oooh, triple soup!”

I SO married the right guy.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Glory Week at the Litblog Co-op

Proceed Only If You Have High-Speed + Can Tolerate The Sound of My Voice

Actually, there’s stuff to read too, and unlike me, you probably don’t have to leave your house while you wait for the podcast to download anyway. So, check out my virgin podcast over here at the Litblog Co-op, where the subject of All This Heavenly Glory is up for discussion this week. I’ll be joining them on Wednesday for a live blog, as will my editor on Thursday.

A New Online Obsession

I blame my new favorite cousin I never knew I had for turning my passion for crafts into one more thing to poke around for hours on the web: craft websites. Who knew. Here are three to get you started:
little birds
a bird in the hand
angry chicken
If you look at the number of comments on these sites, they are VERY popular, unsurprising because everything is so painfully cute that I want to retire from writing to my craft career way before I turn 65. I did start a little felt owl last night that’s turning out pretty cute. Anyway, also I ordered this book, and if anyone out there reads Japanese, please be in touch, because I’m not sure what I was thinking about how I’d actually read the instructions. I just saw the patterns and had to have it.
Writing this, I think I figured it out, how to get all the writing/sewing/embroidery/collage/quilting/knitting/whatever projects done. I will quit sleeping.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Off The Radio

Dang! An eventful morning of broadcasting over here. First I get all excited cuz Oprah's changed her mind and she's got Big Jim back on the show and she's piiiisssed! At the top of the show she said she regretted what she said on Larry King and that the truth matters, and then JF came on - admitting to certain fabrications but continuing to refer to the people in his book as "characters"... anyway, it was more what Oprah wasn't saying that was killing me, the look on her face was just like, DO. You realize. Who you. Have messed with. AND THEN, a mere ten minutes into the show, if this is possible, the only other person I have less patience for than Frey preempts Oprah and Jim to talk about, like, whatever, I don't know, because the sound of his voice is excruciating to me. Anyway you can be sure I'll be taping the rebroadcast late tonight, but some of you might still get to see it during the day.

Plus Writer's Block Party was bumped today, so I'll keep you posted on the reschedule.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mad Hot Ballroom + Spellbound = My Ideal Family

I my kids to be one half nerdy brainy Spellbound and one half street-smart wide-eyed Mad Hot Ballroom. Can I order that up? I think the thing that struck me watching MHB was how – ballroom dancing isn’t like, at the peak of it’s popularity with the kids these days, but that it’s almost like you could take anything at all (ok, anything wholesome) and get kids excited about it if you actually take the time. Okay what I’m trying to say is that they need attention, and direction, and attention, and attention, and some of these kids had behavior problems prior to the ballroom thing and then suddenly they didn’t, and I think that’s pretty awesome.

In Style Celebrity Weddings, The TV Show: We’re Not On It

The other night, watching The Bachelor (Paris!) a commercial came on for a special on Celebrity Weddings: Ben and Jen 2 and whoever the hell else got married last year. And I said to Ben, “I am soooo glad I turned out to be who I am.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On the Radio, Ooh Oh Oh Oh Oh

Heads up, this Thursday I’m gonna be reading from this blog on Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Writer’s Block Party, which will air sometime between 9:30 and 11:00 am on WBEZ (91.5 on your fm dial) Chicago’s program 848. Check it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Satisfying Noises

I think it’s fair to say that I am overly sensitive to loudness. I can happily listen to the TV at levels most people can’t hear, and although I do occasionally crank the stereo, if you crank the stereo and it’s something I don’t care for, I just can’t handle it. Even small noises are capable of completely tormenting me, especially if they’re of a repetitive nature; tapping or dripping, that sort of thing.
But there are also noises that please me endlessly. Two that come to mind today:
1) There’s a new self-serve machine at the post office that accepts packages. When you tap the screen, it makes an electronic, loudish clack. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. It seems to be it’s own distinct sound. Best of all, there never seems to be a line at the self-serve machine even though there is almost always a line for the real people. I can only assume those people don’t know about the satisfying clack.
2) The dial on an iPod. Ben got an iPod for Xmas and I was pretty unfamiliar with them before this. Again, it’s a sort of artificial sounding tick tick tick tick tick, but it’s just so dang pleasant.

I Quit The Game of Life

It was past my bedtime and I was tired and also busting out itching from our friends’ cats. I was having fun playing The Game of Life before that, honest, even though I was losing. The Game of Life. Not that I’m reading anything into it. Although I would like to add that in the real Game of Life, I've always been a late bloomer, and had I continued playing The Game Game of Life, I probably could have won.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I Don’t Really Care That I Already Know Who Wins

Because I am gobbling up last season’s Project Runway like I’ve been gobbling up cookie dough these last weeks. They did some awesome casting for this show, and I so want to be new best friends with Austin Scarlett’s hair.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

No, No, No, No, No. And No.

No to the title, no to the concept, no to the surgery, no. There’s a new magazine devoted to cosmetic surgery called, no lie, Skin Deep. Understand that I am as vain as anyone and I reserve the right to change my mind should the time come when I can no longer bear to look in the mirror. But even then I will fight my vanity with everything I have and it will not be hard because the thought of getting sliced, especially anywhere near my face, terrifies me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Stereotypes I Wasn't Aware Of

According to the letters section of the December Harper's, a Richard Lange of Santa Cruz, CA mentions the "shallow stereotype of experimental writers as weird, bitter people with an axe to grind." Huh. I consider myself at least somewhat experimental, and okay, weird, maybe, but weird and bitter? Maybe the problem is I just don't know what experimental means? Anyway, this is a stereotype? I seriously doubt anyone's bothering to stereotype experimental writers, not when it's so much more fun to stereotype movie stars.

I’m At a Loss

Oh, Tom, you shouldn’t have. No I mean really, you shouldn’t have. I’m working hard on a joke here reagarding what would be the gifting equivalent over here and, you know, there’s nothing, really. Well, the collected DVD of my acting career would at least make him chuckle. Which is pretty much the one line from the short film I was in that no one saw, in which I played a salesgirl: “Don’t you want your (excruciatingly overlong actory pause) – change?” Or I could give him the gift of all my diaries, but then he’d have to suffer through entries like this:

August 22, 1977. Here I am listening to Barry Manilow on the stereo. … Then out of one of the bedrooms comes John R., another lifeguard and a friend of Nina’s. Nina introduces us and he greets me not with a hi or hello but a ‘how ya doin.’… I met Danny P., who’s from Florida. He came off as a little too cool for me though. I guess. He greeted me with a ‘how ya doin’ also.

Okay, clearly at the appalling age of sixteen, I was yet unfamiliar with the greeting, “How ya doin,” and this is only one extremely brief moment in the life of E. Crane that I’d just assume not subject my husband to, especially, you know, as a gift. Because there are over a hundred volumes of this, and I’d like to say they get more sophisticated over the years, but really, not so much. I’ve always been a late, late bloomer.

The point is, there’s no equivalent.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Between You and Me

Props to cousin Rebecca for forwarding this awesome movie, shot entirely on a still camera. I so have to get on this. Actually I shot footage for a thirty second film on my cell phone, but I don’t know how to get it onto my computer. So I may have to reshoot on the camera.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Balance of Service

I think it’s off. Because when I go shopping in a small boutique, I am often swarmed by seven salespeople who, fashion sense or no, are rarely able to sense what I like or might look good in, or to intuit that I already have sixteen camisoles to go “with that.” At one store in particular where I have bought things on occasion, there is one salesperson who is very attractive, sort of like if a certain “asthmatic” starlet were thirty and back at her fighting weight, makes me so uncomfortable I kind of hardly ever even go in there anymore. Attention salespeople: if the zipper is two and a half inches long? I will not wear it because I prefer my butt to remain on the inside of my pants.
Why aren’t people like this where I need them, like at the grocery store? Yes, I go armed with a list, but the grocery store is a place where I might be open to suggestion. Can I help you find something in a root vegetable? Maybe, can you recommend an easy ten-minute root vegetable-based meal?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I So Totally Love Mary Karr

Yes! Yes! Yes! If anyone is qualified to comment on the whole fake writer week debacle, it’s Mary Karr. If you haven’t read it, you should read The Liar’s Club, which in my opinion is as fine an example of the genre as there is.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rock School the Movie

Is a totally fun rental but also one of those fascinating character portraits because the guy who runs the school is… well he says fuck to the kids a lot. He says fuck at the kids a lot. Beyond inappropriately. Except it kind of works. Except he’s kind of funny in that way that he’ll say anything to be funny and sometimes he is and sometimes he’s really not but you laugh anyway. Except they will probably need to include him alongside their parents when they go to therapy later. Because it’s like the Rock School of Fun Dysfunction. A couple of the kids are especially good, and my favorites are these twin boys, Tucker and Asa. Tucker has long blond hair and plays the drums with a tie on and closes his eyes when he drums. Asa has a mohawk. I LOVE long hair on little boys. I love it. I totally want twin boys who have long hair and a mohawk.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Okay, I’ll Join The Party

Seeing as how I started it a while ago with the whole “suck it” thing, which I actually came to regret, not just because Big Jim wrote me a snarky email, but because I’m at least a little nicer than that, usually, and had second thoughts about saying something that harsh to someone that I probably wouldn’t say to their face, and even though I still disagree wildly with his whole “hold on” thing, I’m sort of over it. That said, I am reminded now of why I write fiction; so I don’t have to keep track of what I made up. Well, that and it’s just fun.
All that said, longtime readers of standBy Bert know my feeling about categories. I think, excluding journalistic and biography-type writings, which have a clear-cut responsibility to documented truth, in terms of what my dad likes to call the litrachah, there should be two:
I enjoyed very much Megan’s take on this and I will add my two cents:
Cent one: fiction can be all made up, partly made up, exaggerated, stretched out, blown out of proportion, over the top, maybe even not made up at all, if you change names and don’t care if people recognize themselves and maybe hate you.
Cent two: nonfiction can not be made up. If you’re going to say it’s true, I believe there is a responsibility on the part of the author to write to the best of their memory. Yes. There is a certain amount of gray area in terms of what the word “truth” means; memory can be tricky. (I suspect I’d remember pretty well whether I was in jail for a day or three months, drunk even, and so yes, I think it matters very much.) However, can nonfiction be extremely creative? Absoefffin-lutely; witness Dave Eggers. Some say he made stuff up too. The difference? He flat out said some of it was made up. This is some of us in the biz call “cross-genre.” And I have no issue with this if it’s billed as such, in fact, bring it on, I say, especially if it’s flat out fun to read, as A Heartbreaking Work of SG was. Not so much A Million LPs, that on top of being allegedly untrue – had it been a brilliant book in either category, I might be more forgiving. The whole thing about this book was the supposed horrifying truth of it. And to me there’s a difference between my version of the truth, someone else’s version of the same truth, and what might be gray about that. I had on a blue sweater vs. a gray one, not so critical, and probably unprovable. I am a horrible criminal vs. a guy who spent a night in jail – there’s gonna be papers. It casts into doubt the whole rest of it, in my mind.
Perhaps a new category, if it wouldn’t mess up the librarians too much:
Maybe it’s True, Maybe it Isn’t.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Irony Levels Reach New High

Had lunch with my new friend Anne Elizabeth Moore yesterday, who told me of her adventures at the American Girl store last year. You can read more about it here. Fascinating and frightening to me that freedom of speech is discouraged at the AMERICAN Girl store, but also I just want to say I really admire her totally artful way of trying to effect change, and the way she has of setting an example and getting people to ask questions rather than, I dunno, shouting about it. Plus? She’s just really funny. Should be no surprise that she’s the publisher of Punk Planet, y’all probably know about that already, but as usual, I’m late to the game.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Vote for Pedro (ok, Vote for Me)

I’m sorry, I can’t resist. If you have a minute, go here and help me out. There are any number of categories. I don’t really care which, although I think I have a real shot with “Best Tagline”. I’m preparing my acceptance speech now.

I Like The White Stripes

I mention this because I hadn’t heard that many of their songs and I thought I didn’t. But I do. I think it was the looks of them I didn’t like. I thought they looked mean. But they don’t sound mean, they sound like stuff I listened to in college. And around these parts, we like songs with choruses like, “I’m thinking about the doorbell ringing gonna ring it yeah I’m gonna ring it!” because we make up songs like this on a regular basis, although our melodies tend to be a little more… eclectic. I also like The New Pornographers and the soundtrack to the movie Happy Endings, which movie I had mixed feelings about until the last third when I decided I liked it, even though Maggie Gyllenhall’s character made me so uncomfortable I was about to not watch the rest. And I say this not because I don’t like her, I actually like her a lot, and am doubly impressed by the fact that she sang several songs in this movie, you know, well, and would love her to be my next new best friend, even if she is so smart-seeming and cool I can barely stand it, and if we double dated with her and Peter Saaaarsgaaaard I might be overloaded by the smart-seeming coolness.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Lately my new obsession is very very short movies. I mentioned before that our friend Gene is producing some and now McSweeney’s is starting a whole magazine dedicated to them. The most recent issue of the Believer comes with a DVD of a bunch of short films, which is a great marketing tool, because many of these films are delightful and now I want to subscribe to the new magazine. One was written by Miranda July, called Are You The Favorite Person of Anybody? Which is great, and my other favorite is called The Delicious, about a guy who suddenly develops a weird relationship with his mother-in-law’s red jumpsuit. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the guy who sings Stairway to Heaven backward, but then plays the tape forward. Anyway, as a short story writer, it doesn’t surprise me that I’m charmed by this form, and that I have hope for movies again and that my long lost desire to be a filmmaker has been rekindled. I just found out that Megan and Christopher made that movie on their digital camera, so I’m super psyched.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Mashed Potatoes Are Easy

I am pretty sure I never mashed a potato before yesterday, and the reason for that is because, well, partly because I’m no genius in the kitchen, but also because I imagined that in some way mashed potatoes were both complicated and involved a good deal of physical exertion in the mashing portion of the potato mashing.
Had I known how easy it was to make mashed potatoes, I might have started mashing a long time ago. Ben enjoys potatoes in many forms. I recently bought a potato masher, you know, a tool with a wavy metal thing at the end?
It is not complicated and does not require very much physical exertion at all. It is safe to say that not many calories were burned in the mashing of the potatoes. In fact, the simple potato masher is what I find to be a brilliant utensil – whoever thought of it designed the perfect thing to mash through the potatoes with ease. So if there’s one person out there who shares my fear of mashed potatoes? Here’s my very own recipe:

Mashed Potatoes (serves 2)

boil potatoes (2)
add a little bit of cream and a little bit of garlic
mash a bit more
put on plate

You can of course, make as many or as few as you like, and however many you boil is how many servings you’ll have.
I found this whole process very exciting and revelatory, in that I am the sort of person who can imagine anything, including things like the making of mashed potatoes to be difficult, stressful, and emotionally complex.
And plus also? They tasted good.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Everywhere Betsy

The other day Ben mentioned that he’d heard a band called Eight Inch Betsy, and I was reminded that at one point I was collecting a list of band names that had Betsy in them, proving what I’m not sure but probably my pet theory that Betsy was an irretrievably dated name that is now being used ironically. So this morning this led me to try to search band name databases, but I couldn’t find a free one, so the only other Betsy band names I could come up with were thus:
Bullocks to Betsy
Fire Up Betsy
(of course)
Heavens to Betsy
Betsy and the Boneshakers
and my favorites so far:
Betsy in the Gene Pool
BUT, in my search, I had one of those totally wonderful accidental childhood flashbacks, because it turns out that eight inch Betsy, I’m almost positive, is a reference to the size of a “Betsy McCall” doll, which I did not personally have, but I was an avid fan, for obvious reasons, of the Betsy McCall paper doll, and today is one of those rare days when I really really wish I had a color printer. Dig Betsy’s awesome a-line dresses. I had some just like those, in that era, and I’m pretty sure my mom made them. In fact, I bore a rather strong overall resemblance to Betsy McC if you figure in a little photoshop magic leg-chubbening.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Okay, it’s great and all that this review for “Consider the Lobster” is more or less glowing, but if David Foster Wallace’s last two story collections are throwaways, I never ever ever want to know what mine are.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Are They British?

Why do I feel like it would upset some delicate balancc over at Netflix if I decided one day to refer to my queue as a line?

I read two really awesome stories last night, one by Joyce Carol Oates and one by John Edgar Wideman, but I don't have time to tell you about them right now. Except to say, Damn, if I add another name can I start writing like that?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I Don’t Know What The Title Should Be Here, I Only Know You Need To Know It

The other day I brought home a black and white cookie from Olivia’s Market, the only place I know of that sells them in Chicago. (I have a recipe from the Times, and I made them once, and they tasted okay, but not the same, and if you haven't ever had one, but had my homemade ones first, even if you happened to love them, you wouldn't really have any idea what the real thing was, and, if you haven't ever had one, you should go get one right now.) Anyway, when Ben got home, I said, “Hey, I brought you a treat.”
He said, “Is it astronaut ice cream?”

Stop it, Kevin

I’m rooting for you and Brit, no lie. We share an anniversary that means something to me, and you and Britney have a child. But this needs to stop. This is something that can be very very funny in the privacy of your own home, assuming you are making it up on the spot, but in the general public is just all kinds of unfortunate.

Monday, January 02, 2006

From The Department Of Does It Get Creepier Than This - Don't Answer That

On the very next page of Harper’s, is a reprint of the instructions for “REALdoll”, a $6500 life-size silicone sex doll. Now, okay, whatever. I know people have their sexual weirdnesses, and you know, it would seem that this could potentially meet certain no-muss no-fuss needs with a little more illusion of verite than a simple blow-up doll. But because this doll requires a certain amount of upkeep (the title of the article is “High Maintenance”) – instructions for use include, when cleaning your doll, “carefully remove the tongue…” “always remove the face slowly, working between Velcro pads to separate…” “tightening the jaw can be done with a Phillips-head screwdriver…” and my personal favorite, “when you wish to use your REALdoll in the ‘face down’ positions, it is highly recommended tar you remove her face.”

I’m thinking, if my lover’s face is you know, detachable, and I have to be the one to detach it, before lovemaking? Mmmm, I might just lose the mood. Because I’m thinking, Westworld? Not a turn-on so much.

And the Award for Best Collection of Linked Short Stories by A Former New Yorker in Chicago, Using A Lot of Parentheses and (award title cont'd below)

Not So Much in the Way of Periods, Occasional Elements of Fantasy and or Flights of Fancy, and Featuring the Word "Glory" in the Title Goes To...

So there’s an article in this month’s Harper’s by some Harvard dude about the dubiousness of prizes and awards and basically it makes a strong case for why the proliferation of these awards diminishes the value of any of them, from the Oscar to the Booker to the Nobel to some virtually unheard of awards.

But and still? I want to win.