Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I’m going to be on it! Like, regularly! Amy Krouse Rosenthal, she of the awesome Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, has invited me to be a regular (“VIP”, her words) contributor to the new Writer’s Block Party on WBEZ, which will air on a more regular basis beginning soon. Suffice it to say I am PSYCHED. I just feel like, man, all I did was write a bunch of stories and all these great things keep falling in my lap. Nina, in typical fashion, says we’re on our way to being Oprah and Gail. I’m not sure which one of us is supposed to be who, but I think this might be overstating my couple of minutes on local radio every other month. Granted, I plan to write some brilliant new material for the show, so you never know. Plus oh my god I just remembered a dream I had last night where I was waiting tables at a place that was sort of the place where I worked many years ago, and my first table was having some trouble ordering and it took basically a half hour for them to order, and their table was a mess, and the rest of the restaurant filled up and emptied out before they even got their food and I was just like, oh, I really can’t do this. (I was a good waitress at one time, you know, when I was twenty.) My bosses were being nice enough and then I ran into Oprah somewhere and I apologized but I said I have this book and I know you don’t read books people give you but I just want you to know I have it and she said Oh, alright, I’ll read it. I have no idea what that means. (T.?) Anyway, more info to come on dates and times for my radio debut.


I had cause to think a lot about it this weekend. Suffice it to say there have been times in my life when it’s been a struggle. But. Ah, I can’t get into it. It was good, in a painful sort of way.


I know this wasn’t on the list, but I got two kick-ass cardies from the Salvation Army last week, one vintage in mint condition, just my size for two bucks, and one cashmere one from J. Crew, who I’ve been bitter toward ever since they discontinued their lingerie and like quintupled the price on everything else. I will take much comfort and joy in letting everyone know I got my two-hundred dollar cashmere sweater from J. Crew for three bucks.


Of late, I have made two adorable tops (working on a third, pictures soon, perhaps), new bedroom curtains, fixed some of Ben’s clothes, and patched up the quilt on our bed. This is a quilt I made about eight years ago, and is even more noticeably faded when you see the very bright patches of the same fabric next to it. But it’s still awfully cute.

Six Feet Under

Also like. I finally watched the end, and I won’t spoil too much (that hadn’t already been spoiled for me, anyway) but a few of the last few episodes before the final one were really great, particularly with David and Keith and the kids. David totally became my favorite over time. Anyway, we’ve had our bunches of loss over here, so after watching these episodes I told Ben if I go first I wanted to be cremated and I want a real funeral, I want people to get up and talk and tell the truth and cry and then you can go laugh afterward at the house or whatever but I honestly think services are an important part of the grief process. I think I brought him down a little bit. But I have no immediate plans to go anywhere.


Ah, there’s too much to say. I should really just write an update on her for The Believer. She’s an interesting kid to watch grow up. She’s funny, and thoughtful, and bright, and earnest. I know I shouldn’t be surprised when a seven and a half year old isn’t jaded, but I’ve seen a bunch of them, and they can be, and she isn’t.


I like it. Ben and I went Friday night. I stared at the stars. It was sweet. We will go again.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Am Too Hot To Think

I have many things to say, but my brain is a little melty right now, so I will just have to wait until it cools off a little up there.

possible topics to look forward to words on soonish:

six feet under
Ruby H.
the paperback of GLORY coming out this weekend

Feel free to go ahead and comment on any of these things if you have A/C and don't feel as floppy as I do.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I’ve written before about how my taste in music has changed somewhat over the years, and in the last three years in particular, Ben has introduced me to some stuff that’s very different than what I used to listen to, stuff that I like a lot, and although it’s sort of impossible to avoid straight-up pop music, not that I’m trying, I just don’t spend too much money on it anymore. I have had as much melisma from Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston as I can take for one lifetime. Anyhoo, but like many folks, I have been unable to not crank up the car stereo and sing along to SINCE U BEEN GOOONE! by Kelly Clarkson, and so I sheepishly asked Ben if he’d get me the record for my birthday, and he did, cuz that’s the kind of guy he is and truth be told he kinda likes the song too. And it’s everything I hoped it would be, but (not unrelated to a side point Megan makes about Alanis Morrissette on her fantastic rant about people who hate everything), although lyrics like “i’m so movin’ ooon, yeah yeah!” would have spoken to me a dozen years ago, it’s hard now to muster the necessary oomph to sing along in a way that’s – genuine on my part. What I need is for a Kelly Clarkson who sings loud trite rockin pop songs about being madly in love! Because a lot of Ben’s records that I really like, they’re just not sing along records. Or they’re certainly not belt-along records, anyway, and most of them feature dude lead singers. And sometimes I just need to sing along. The point I’m slowly trying to get to is that the feeling I had after listening to the entire record in a row was sort of like the feeling I get after I’ve been to an action movie and eaten a bag of Skittles, a nerds rope, a box of junior mints and washed it down with a slurpee. A little too much at once. I think the remedy might be to take Kelly one song at a time. Because some of the tunes themselves, minus the lyrics? Are AWESOME.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

You Should Pick Up The June GQ, If You Can Get Past Naked Christina Aguilera On The Cover

Read Saunders’ article about this boy in Nepal who’d been meditating under a tree for seven months with no food no nuthin and as usual Saunders not only had me laughing so hard someone on the other end of Ben’s phone conversation heard me, but also, he just has a way of describing human foibles – humanity, his mostly, that are so excruciatingly beautiful and painful and for me, really, really easy to identify with.

But as a side note, there are like six articles I dog-eared to read and I said to Ben, huh, this is a good magazine. Who knew. You know, I’m not the target audience. For a mag with naked Christina Aguilera on the cover.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Think I Rate At Least As Many Cursors As Billy Corgan

Aw, only two cursors? That smarts.

For the last few days I’ve been trying to get a hold of the new Chicago magazine because I knew they had a bit on me in a piece about Chicago blogs, and call me cranky, but I think they missed the point on a few counts. I offer my original mission statement for the bert from day one, which I think I’ve held to, for better or worse:

“If you’re looking for something serious, you probably won’t find it here, unless you do.
Things you might find here:
Observations and opinions, arguments and pleas, notes, lists, and tables, appreciation and gratitude, questions and guesses although maybe not so much in the way of answers, but, at the very least, text and images. Nothing about Leonardo diCaprio.”

As such, I don’t think this blog really warrants any sort of a rating. I’m not out here trying to get approval. I’m just talking about stuff. I'm just trying to connect.

That said, this whole writing career thing continues to teach me tiny little lessons. In this case: if I’d known this was a review, I might have mentioned the nature of my blog. And I might also have pointed them to some more interesting bits than the one about surfing with Clooney, which is the one they quoted. I can concede that they’re not all winners, but there are some way better ones than that.

And also – a passion for celebrities and crafting? Passion? Crafts, ok, kinda maybe. Passion probably isn't the right word, but fine. Celebrities? Passion? No. Interest, yeah, in the “There is a horrible, bloody, six car pileup right in front of me and it's particularly riveting because the cars are somehow defying the rules of what is considered ordinary car piling up in such a way that I can not look away,” which has lately transmuted into “There is a horrible bloody six car pileup in front of me and usually I can look away but once in a while (I’m talking about you, Brandon Davis) I get sucked back in long enough to remember why I haven’t been looking lately.” It is my sincere hope that someday, someone will say a name, any name, one such as Brandon Davis or even Jennifer Lopez and I will say "Who?" But I suppose that would involve never looking at the internet, or a magazine rack, or um, the nightly news. So it may not happen.

I swear, I’m really not even cranky today. The sun is shining and I have a new big long article by George Saunders (in GQ) to look forward to reading.

But I am hurt. I like my little bloggy.

My Feelings About The Movie “Shopgirl” Are Layered On Many Levels

Ben and I enjoy overuse of the terms ‘layered’ and ‘levels’ to describe complexities of feeling and other things, usually when things are not complex at all. In any case, we watched Shopgirl Saturday night, and I would say yes, it’s a good film, but it left me feeling kind of uneasy, and I’m not exactly sure why. Well, yes, I think some of it has to do with seeing Angela Chase naked. Nevertheless, I thought Angela – I mean Claire Danes – was really great, perfectly cast, as was Jason Schwartzman, who I always love. I had read the book and enjoyed it. I think maybe seeing this young woman take up with this distant older man – well, perhaps my discomfort has something to do with the general truth of it. It was a familiar situation – not the older man thing, especially not the wealthy older man thing, just the distant man thing – and although it was easy to see that Claire Danes character was taken with Steve Martin, and I understood why she was taken with him. But I thought that Martin as an actor could have given the audience a little more of what was appealing about this man, which would have maybe made it even more ‘layered’ for me. It was like – he really didn’t have any particular charm at all as far as I could see, and as I said, although I completely believed Claire Danes, I wanted to see it for myself. There. And listen – I LOVE Steve Martin. LOVE him. On all levels and layers. But I didn’t love him here, and I realize I probably wasn’t supposed to, but I wanted just a teeny weeny bit more from him, just one more teeny little layer, some little quirk that made him human.

Friday, May 19, 2006

BJ and Tyler Should Have Their Own Show

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I love love love the Amazing Race. I want to go on the Amazing Race. I always watch thinking about what if it were me, and even though watching BJ and Tyler ride tiny bikes through the busiest intersection in Tokyo made me think I might as well skip the bike and go right ahead and hurl myself right under the nine million people in the intersection. Yes, it’s true, the family edition didn’t do too much for me. But when they rock a great cast, they do it right. This group had a lot of likable people, including the self-proclaimed nerd couple (in reality, hipsters), and no really awful baddies, proving to me that you don’t have to cast a villain to make it interesting, and BJ and Tyler were so great not just because they were obviously bright and really funny, but because it was so clear that they were completely in love with life. And when they won, they said as much, but they didn’t have to. I want to see these guys again. Are you listening, CBS?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Embers Have Not Only Died, They Got Severely Grossed Out On The Way

Okay, honestly, I don’t know who Brandon Davis really is except he’s turned up on Go Fug Yourself next to Mischa Barton/Lindsay Lohan/Ashlee Simpson/one of those and he has a stupid haircut and now he’s getting next to Paris Hilton and apparently she thinks it’s very funny to say unrepeatably, unforgivably graphically awful things about Lindsay Lohan, or anyone, and you know what, Stupid Haircut and Paris Hilton, you’re a couple of disgusting brats. And yes, I’m old. I’m almost ninety. And I’m pretty sure old people like me are also beyond funny to Stupid and Paris. One thing I can repeat is that Brandon said something about how he felt sorry for Lindsay Lohan because she probably only has like seven million dollars to her name and Paris found this hilarious I guess because seven million dollars is their monthly budget for like, dog shampoo or something, and so the point is I guess if Lindsay Lohan is to be both trashed and felt sorry for because she is so impoverished that her dog is suffering from improper shampooing, then I almost can’t even understand how Brandon Davis and Paris Hilton can even leave their houses here in America where seven million dollars is so far away from even being imaginary to most people that it must just be an intolerable life, really, for Brandon and Paris, being so rich and properly shampooed and having to look at the rest of us all the time. The pain must be so terrible that they have to laugh.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Can I Be The World’s First Supershortstorywriter?

This interview with self-proclaimed World's First Supermodel Janice Dickinson has temporarily fanned the dying embers of my interest in celebrity nonsense. I could probably go through this entire interview and comment line by line on the over-the-top lunacy here, but the truth is, Janice is no Tom Cruise, and I think she knows it. The difference - Tom doesn't know he's crazy, but I think Janice kinda does, and just decided to run with it, clearly unafraid to acknowledge that she full-on loves the attention however it comes at her.

Someday, I hope to have a chance to say “Fuck you” in an interview. And also “shitillate.” When I figure out what it means.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Can See Why They Left Off “Adventure,” and Even “The”

I have now officially had to release Ben from his atonement for Constantine, as he agreed at my suggestion to go see Poseidon this weekend, which, well, it makes the original look positively brilliant. For one, the cast actually interacted in the original, there was, I daresay, some character development, and if I can’t argue that I can argue that among other things, Carol Lynley’s red hot pants, Stella Stevens in Ernest Borgnine’s shirt, Shelley Winters swimming, the freaking Christmas tree climb, the dude falling through the plate glass ceiling, “There’s gohht to beee a moorning aaahf-tuuuh,” just to name a few things, made for an unforgettable movie, whereas I’ve pretty much already forgotten everything about Poseidon except the twenty bucks we dropped to see it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Boredom is Not My Problem

Yesterday after work Ben said to me, “Remember being bored?” And I laughed not just because I knew why he was asking, not just because it was a funny way to put it, but also because I do remember being bored and it was a long, long time ago. One of the things I’ve always said about my adult life was, no matter what else it was never boring. Honestly, if you’re living life at all, boredom shouldn’t be anyone’s problem. For one thing, the world is just too fascinating, and for another, life is sometimes too painful, and for another, if you have the luxury of being bored, you should be out fixing what’s wrong in the world, which will make you less bored I am sure. Anyway, as an adult I’ve rarely been bored because there’s just too much to do and not enough time, and even as a kid I was always good at occupying myself, writing, reading, listening to records, crafting! I think some part of it was being an only child with no one right at home to divert me, but then again I was a curious kid so I wasn’t one to just sit around wondering what to do – but, as I said to Ben, I think part of why kids get bored is because the perception of time, something I’ve talked about here before, is SO slow when you’re young. Anyway, this was back in the day before kids were consumed the way I hear they are these days with after-school activities every day and hours of homework and whatever else. Honestly, it made me think, god, I hope that my kids do get bored every once in a while, rather than being overextended. My problem these days is in essence the opposite of boredom – sometimes I have so many options and/or things I have to do, that I don’t know what to do first, resulting in a sort of overwhelmed paralysis. Which isn’t any more fun, but it’s not boring.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Gilmore Girls Rocks, Kinda Literally, Depending on Your Definition of Rocks

Watching the season finale of Gilmore last night, there was a small subplot about an invasion of troubadours in the town square, much to the annoyance of the always-annoyed-about-something grocer-cum-many-hat-wearer Taylor Doose. Each troubador was featured for less than a minute, half more like it, and few of them were shown in close up. A summary of my reactions: After the first troubador. Hey, that was pretty good. After the second troubador. Hey, that was pretty good – those guys look vaguely familiar. After the third troubador – Hey, I know her, that’s Mary-Lyn Rajskub, offbeat indie actress from Punch Drunk Love (who sang an awesome song called “I Drive an ’89 Volvo”). After the fourth troubador, which was less troubador, more rocking, with an intense blonde pogoing in the middle – I was like, HEY, I THINK THAT’S SONIC YOUTH! Of course, anyone who watches should have caught on earlier than I did, because the show is known for it’s pop culture references, music in particular, still, you don’t expect Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo to be showing up on a show on the WB, you just don’t. It was especially cool because it was done so quietly, like, it wasn’t like BH 90210 where they’re like, Omigod, Blink 182 is playing at the Peach Pit!

Totally bummed that Lorelai did it with Christopher though. Now all of next season will be about her reconciling with Luke.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Can Someone Explain To Me The Whole Endurance Thing?

So I tuned in for bits of the David Blaine thing last night, and obviously however many people packed the plaza at Lincoln Center get it, and I will say this: I think his magic is really really cool. Ben and I kind of broke it down last night – he does stuff that’s small enough to be believable, but unusual and strange enough to truly be amazing. Also half the fun is he does it in public places and the reaction of the people seems to range very humorously from freaked out to really freaked out. BUT. The Houdini thing, I’m not so sure I really get. Something about a test of endurance and human will versus the body and even the mind. Except a) I feel like I know people are incredibly resilient in many ways, when they need to be, like I just read part of DFW’s essay about McCain’s POW years which kind of blew my mind – I had known about it of course, but not all the specifics, which are beyond horrific, the critical difference between him and Blaine being: Blaine has a choice. And plus b) I feel like I already know as much as I ever want to from endurance. So it’s the whole choice thing that baffles me. It’s about proving something we already know?

Monday, May 08, 2006


The week beginning June 5 will be devoted to all things IN PERSUASION NATION. You will contribute your thoughts in the comment box. We will discuss. We will compare and contrast. We will rejoice.

The Tipping Point

Okay, I was unable to put this book down and I recommend it highly but not until after you’ve read IN PERSUASION NATION. Totally different animal. But – a quick read and a fascinating subject – a look into what causes trends to catch on, how word of mouth actually works, how things that seem random really aren’t and why. It kinda blew my mind, probably because at the bottom of it it echoed one tine of my fervent life-beliefs which boils down to: possibility. It has everything to do with why I think I can tip the scales on the short story.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Invasion of the Faces

Last night Ben and I were watching Lost and as is custom, we tend to mute the commercials. So when a commercial came on for Invasion, which was nothing but a bunch of slow motion close-ups of the actors in the show looking very concerned, but indicating not much about, you know, what was going to happen, Ben said, “Coming up next: Actory looks!”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006



Supposedly the short story is down on the list of what’s popular to read these days, far behind, in order, nonfiction and then novels. I find this baffling. Once upon a time, about a million years ago or so, short stories were extremely popular. Short story writers were the superstars of their day. I heard yesterday from a reliable source that Ernest Hemingway was once paid $50,000 for a single story. This day deserves a renaissance.

I am hereby making it my personal mission to make the short story catch fire in the popular zeitgeist. In a country where people once paid money for a pet rock, I believe this is not out of the question. My motive is not simply to make a decent living. I’d be happy with $50,000 for at least two stories. Ha. My motive is to get people to read some great stuff that’s not getting read.

Part of what makes me insane about this, putting aside that I am completely passionate about the form, both reading and writing it, is that it makes no sense. You hear people say that they don’t read, or they prefer to read novels because they don’t have time. Um. Okay, the thing about short stories? They’re short. You read one, you take anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour, yes, there are longer short stories but even those will for the most part consume no more time than the local news or a bad movie, and you will have, optimally, all or even any one of the following which is good enough for me:

1) a feeling, or multiples thereof
2) a chuckle, a guffaw, uncontrollable laughter or combinations thereof
3) a thought, or multiples thereof
4) a new or even slightly new perspective on the world
5) a new or renewed sense of connection to the world, and/or the people in it
6) brain stimulation, good for prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia and longer lasting than Sudoku
7) (worst case scenario) pure entertainment

And I’d like to add that we all get enough news all day every day everywhere, we’ve all seen every episode of Seinfeld and the Simpsons enough times to give it up a few evenings a week, and I’d like to say that these are examples of good shows, so think about one show you watch that’s total crap, like I dunno, that inane show with the suitcases and the money, that’s a whole hour of crap that you could be reading some great short story that would rock your world. Why wouldn’t you want that? Don’t say escape. You can escape while you sleep. Or you can even do both. Let’s say you watch the suitcase show and also some reality show featuring Flava Flav and a Brady. Pick one, and let one go in favor of a short story.

Okay so here is where I’m going to start. I’d start with my own book, but the paperback doesn’t come out for another month, so I’ll hold off bothering you about that until then. What you will do is you will buy and read George Saunders new book of short stories, IN PERSUASION NATION. On the cover is a nice photograph of a man stopping to smell a flower. The very cover expresses my worldview, so you can only imagine what might be inside, except you can’t, since you probably haven’t read George Saunders, and even if you have, you still can’t, because only Saunders can, that’s what makes him him.

You will tell me that you have done so in the comment box. There are twelve stories in this book. This comes out to three stories a week. You will sacrifice three mindless hours of your life for this, and don’t even try to tell me they’re not there. I know what you do and I know it because I do it too. You will report back here on June 1 for discussion, or even before if you like. You do not have to be my friend. You only have to like to read. And you will link this to many and several people who you believe could be convinced of my theory that the short story is due for a Travolta-level comeback minus that weird Scientology movie.

It makes no sense to me that everyone knows who Paris Hilton is but everyone doesn’t know who George Saunders is. Because Paris Hilton? SHE DOESN’T DO ANYTHING. AND NEITHER DO THOSE DAMN SUITCASES.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Homer Simpson Moment

Last night I made chicken a la Ben’s mom, which is very tasty but very fattening, and the best part, in my opinion, is the burnt bits of buttery Parmesan left in the pan. So after dinner I was eating these bits out of the pan and suddenly gave thought to what I was actually eating.

Mmm, burnt cheesy Crisco chicken fat butter.