Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Your book for THIS week

Didn't see that coming did you?  Didn't think I'd finish another book that fast?  How quickly you have forgotten our old friend Søren.  "Part Two: Containing the Papers of B: Letters to A" calls to me.  

Much like Part One, I started out strong.  "The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage" was only about ninety pages, and was a little snipey, which I like, so I was keeping up at that point.  Then there was "Equilibrium between the Aesthetic and the Ethical in the Development of Personality," which seemed (to me) to wander about as much as the title, which I just read three times to try to remind myself of what it was all about.  I think I might have done that "zoning out and thinking I'm reading while actually just turning pages and thinking of tiramisu" thing for awhile there. 

On the other however, "Last Word" was only two pages and starts out with this gem: 

"Perhaps you have the same experience with my previous letters as I have: you have forgotten most of what was in them." (p. 593)

There's a guy who knows me!  Anyway, he introduces the final bit, by yet another "author": "The Edifying in the Thought that Against God We Are Always in the Wrong."  Having just finished some nice C.S. Lewis, I was well prepared to read and understand a little sermon about how freeing it is to give up control to God, so I got ahold of this pretty well, and finished strong!  

All in all, I think "Either/Or: A Fragment of Life" was a little like the Tour de France for all those poor dudes who AREN'T Lance Armstrong.  Lots and lots of miles of uphills and foreign countryside, chasing after some dude whose process you can barely comprehend, interspersed with the occasional coasting downhill or nice French bakery.  It's worth doing, but you know you're not going to win, so you just have to enjoy your croissant while you have it.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Random Thoughts Set to Music

Above, you can see our trip into the rain in Wisconsin, set to Tegan and Sara.  Below, you can see the random things that popped into my head while listening to The Black Keys "Rubber Factory" on my way home yesterday.  

1. When the Lights Go Out:
"Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot."  Sometimes I trip on the way to the bus stop.

2. 10 A.M. Automatic:
 Suddenly aware I'm not wearing a seatbelt.  Seeing as how I'm riding the bus, this should not be a surprise.

3. Just Couldn't Tie Me Down:
Funny how anything out of a bus window looks like a music video if you listen to your iPod loud enough.

4. All Hands Against His Own:
My heart is beating really fast.  Or faster than usual.  Or harder.  It's probably amyloidosis.  Anyway, call Dr. House if I pass out, because I deserve the best.

5. The Desperate Man:
That statue just off 35th street kind of looks like the prostitute spire in Dublin.

6. Girl is On My Mind:
Nothing is on my mind

7. The Lengths:
Remember having underwater teaparties at the pool?  That was fun.

8. Grown So Ugly:
Did that dude just throw a seed pod at me?  What the f*ck was that about?

9. Stack Shot Billy:
Mmmm.  Barbeque.

10. Act Nice and Gentle:
One time, after a particularly late work night and an early morning, a number two bus just breezed right past my stop and didn't stop for me, and I started jumping up and down and screaming "F*ck you!  F*ck you!!"  That was a good day.

11. Aeroplane Blues:
Outside Windy's Deli a pug sits at the very end of his rope and watches a blue bottle roll around in the wind.  "Pug and the Blue Bottle" would be a great name for a folksy blues band. 

12. Keep Me
How exactly do people's underwear end up frozen on the ground?  

13. Till I Get My Way:
Yay!  First birthday card of the year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Your book of last week

If you can believe it, even while I'm NOT supposed to be working or keeping alert for suspicious activity on public transportation, I still sometimes read works of fiction.  Last week being the build-up to and eventual re-enactment of the birth of Our Lord and Savior, I decided to read something by C.S. Lewis, because I like lion metaphors.

However, I'm not great at reading titles or backs of books before I start into them, and was a little surprised to find that the book I held was called "Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life."  In other words, this was an autobiography, and there were no lions, witches OR wardrobes to be found*.  A warning on the back tells us that it is "The intensely intimate and sincere autobiography of a man who thought his way to God."  I am generally uninterested in the intensely intimate and sincere and particularly in spiritual autobiographies.  Pitewy on that, I say.

However again, C.S. Lewis turned out to be quite approachable and progressive and understanding when discussing his descent into Paganism, atheism and the occult, and also very charming and funny and not at all saccharine when explaining how he made his way back to the whole "God as Man and Spirit Three in One" thingamajig.  Having spent a youth and young adulthood in the pursuit of Joy through prostitutes and magicks, it's nearly the end of the book before he is "brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape" (p. 229).  Not despite of, but because of his earlier doubting, experimentation and dark nights of the soul, he is able to come to a faith that allows great humility before both God and Man.  

He also tells us late-20th century** American females about the intricacies of early-20th century British boarding schools for boys, with their explicit enforcement of class hierarchies based on ability at absurd English sports, such as Zucchini and Buggers or somesuch.  
It seemed to them self-evident that, if you left things to themselves, boys of nineteen who played rugger for the country and boxed for the school would everywhere be knocked down and sat on by boys of thirteen.  And that, you know, would be a very shocking spectacle.  (P. 106)
His straightforward style and sense of humor certainly does come across as both sincere and intimate, if by intimate you mean that I identified with him and would have liked to have a cup of tea with the man, not that he talked in detail about his venereal diseases.  Which he didn't.  Also, for the slightly literate in random English Christian authors, there are a lot of off-handed references to people with initials for first names, such as G.K. Chesterton and J.R.R. Tolkein.  

So, all in all, this book gets 14 out of 15 Partridges in a Pear Tree for good Christmas reading without a Santa Mouse reference.  


* Random side-note: when I was in 1st grade I saw a poster for the book "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and surmised that "wardrobe" referred to a large cast of anthropomorphic animals and trees standing around in the background.  I was a little disappointed when I actually read the book the next year.  

**Yes, I'm aware that we're into the 21st century or so by now, but I was in school in the late 20th century.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Picture that sample at the beginning of that Lyrics Born song and you'll pretty much know how I feel about the fact that I can't find any of my Christmas socks.  I can't actually watch that video, because YouTube is blocked at work... something about how watching videos of jiggling titties doesn't help us educate the children.  They never listen when I tell them that I'm trying to watch videos on Hierarchical Linear Modeling.  

Anyway, more to the point: all my damn Christmas socks just walked off the planet.  This is a collection I've been building since I was 16, dude.  No, you're not getting it.  CHRISTMAS SOCKS!  I have one sock that somehow avoided being put away last year, and I'm wearing it right now.  That's correct.  Not one pair of socks.  One.  Sock.

Eff Christmas this year, blogees.  

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In Which I Pretend to be "Cool" and Learn about the Hips and the Hops

In this second installment of "Movie of the Week," you will join me on an adventure into the lifestyles of those more cool than us with the documentary "Scratch," recommended by Houseboy's brother, who IS cool and is in a hip hop band and everything.  He was the dj at our wedding and didn't even laugh at our music choices [much], so that also makes him "cool" in the mom sense, because he's nice to those less fortunate than him.

So, if you're like me, while watching this movie you'll be like "That's the guy from the Beastie Boys!" every time you see Mix Master Mike and be very proud of yourself and otherwise really enjoy the obvious talent it takes to "scratch" and be a "turntablist" and etc.  I was aware of the fact that this is a difficult thing to master and all, and I've heard a hip hop-ist or two in my time, so I had what I would consider a healthy appreciation of the art, but watching all the footage in "Scratch" really took it to the next level.  It's like the first time I heard Rahzel on Make the Music and I realized that beatboxing is a little more than just doing the "ksh ksht" noise like Theo on The Cosby Show.  If you haven't heard it, he does this thing where he does both the background music and the vocals at the same time.  See?  I'm cool.  I know stuff.

Anyway, watch it and be amazed and also enjoy making fun of the tuba salesmen at the music expo.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Which I try to be smart and try to make you smart too.

Hello blog bidges!  It's that time again: time for you to learn to read!  This week I'll be berating you about Søren Kierkegaard's "Either/Or: A Fragment of Life."  Or rather, just "Part One: Containing the Papers of A".  You'll get to hear all about "Part Two: Containing the Papers of B: Letters to A" when I finish it.   

So, this is a reading selection brought to you by the wonderful intervention of my friend Soda Pop, previously known as Sweetbreads, but I didn't like that nickname, so she got a new one.  Now we can think about both Veronica Mars and The Outsiders every time we read about her!* 

Anyway, Soda Pop was a philosophy major and is very smart and is under the impression that I'M smart too, so she sends me books sometimes and I read them on the bus and get very confused and agitated.  I have to say that this book so far falls into that category.  It starts with an introduction by a dude who is pretending not to be Kierkegaard pretending that he found these papers in a desk that he was called upon by mystical forces to buy.  So, the papers by A and the papers by B aren't written by Søren, so give him a break.  He's just the author.  

The first section is called "Diapsalmata," which the appendix tells us is "the plural Greek form for the Hebrew selah, a word that recurs in the Psalms of David at the end of a verse."  Duh.  Anyway, it's basically a bunch of short observations and sayings, and when I read this part I thought I was smart because I was totally keeping up.  Then we get to "The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical Erotic" and "Ancient Tragedy's Reflection in the Modern," and I was just expecting a lot more penis, that's all.  "Shadowgraphs" and "The Unhappiest One" lulled me into a state of partial understanding, and then I got to "Crop Rotation," upon which I was revived by the aesthetic discussion of boredom!  This included such gems as "Idleness as such is by no means a root of evil; quite the contrary, it is a truly divine way of life so long as one is not bored."  Now, this is my kind of guy.  

We finish up with "The Seducer's Diary," which transforms from essay form to story form, and I'm finally in my milieu.  Here, we get to hear from the consummate 19th century Seducer, who accosts ladies on the street and compliments them on their hats, follows them back to their drawing rooms to make friends with their maiden aunts, and all around confuses them until they put out and then he runs off laughing.  Good Stuff.

So, in conclusion, I am not as smart as Soda Pop thinks I am, but put something in the form of a story instead of an essay, and I might just be able to tell you what it's all about.  


*  P.S. The Outsiders was a book too.  Check that out sometime.  
    P.P.S., Did you know that S.E. Hinton was a girl?  Rockin'!

Monday, December 15, 2008

List O' The Week

A new feature, ladies and gentlemen: List O' The Week.  In this feature I will be lazy and not write in full sentences.  This week's list:Things I Will Do Today Instead of Working.  Enjoy!

  1. Make myself some tea and oatmeal
  2. Talk to Houseboy on the googletalks
  3. Catch up on Dugout Chats
  4. Refill my tea
  5. Chat with Hedgehog 
  6. Read Hedgehog's Blog  (rhyming is fun!)
  7. Meet a strange man in the ladies room holding a wrench and standing over the heater
  8. Refill my tea, but worry a little bit about it this time
  9. Catch up on Natalie Dee
  10. Pretend I lost everything in a fire and somehow had a million dollars in insurance and restock my home at
  11. Investigate the bathroom.  Decide to use the one downstairs
  12. Refill my tea
  13. Reheat some delicious risotto made by Houseboy and eat it at my desk, so it looks like I'm working hard
  14. Feed the new office fish
  15. Turn on my Japanese star lantern so that it looks more cheery in here
  16. Decide the bathroom is safe, discover I still have hat hair
  17. Refill my tea
  18. Enter what I've eaten into my food log.  Skip all the cups of tea.
  19. Check out Twins Geek for Twins news
  20. Join a coworker in taunting the fish with a mirror
  21. Eat a bunch of candy from the office candy dish
  22. Refill my tea
  23. Leave it on my desk and head home early because of "weather"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Movie of the Week

I've decided to let up on you a little bit about the whole reading thing and let you watch movies too. You can have one movie a week if you promise to read one book a week. And eat all your vegetables. And clean your room. If you’re really good, maybe I’ll take you to the mall on Saturday and let you get your ears pierced by that disenchanted fake blonde who works at Claire’s and you think is so cool that you actually almost had an aneurism when she complimented the plastic necklace you picked out last week. We’ll see.

A nice movie for us to see while there might have been “Twilight,” but I went to see it without you last night. Because my life doesn’t revolve around you, missy, that’s why. Houseboy and I went to see it with Sonic and Hedgehog and ex-Roommate’s ex-Girlfriend (she needs a pithier nickname…) and my coworker, Hello Kitty. Yes, I work with Hello Kitty, my job rocks.

You’d think that six 25 to 35 year olds buying tickets to the pre-teen Movie of The Century would have looked odd, but no. It was a school night, people. We were in the theater with mostly middle aged and middle youth aged adult types and one baby who cried for about 1.5 seconds before its mother probably smothered it or something because Dramatic Things were happening on the screen.

But then Dramatic Things were always happening on the screen. This was a very Dramatic movie with lots of Dramatic Close-Ups that allowed me to really investigate these teenagers’ nonexistent skin issues. Hedgehog was the first one to laugh, I swear, but then after that the theater was a bit of a gigglefest every time Edward did his “Damnit I’m hot, but I’m either sad about it or angry or possibly hungry, which is like angry when you’re a vampire, and it’s hard to convey that all with my awkward teenage body” look. There was outright uproar when Jasper and Carlisle first appeared on screen, both overly powdered and (in Jasper’s case) apparently choking on a sour candy.

Having read all four of the books in pre-teen quivering anticipation, I have to say that I did expect the blatant sexual metaphor, as well as the (possibly unintentional) abusive relationship references and even a little bit of the crushing boring-osity of both of the main characters, when it comes right down to it. Somehow it was all more ridiculous on the big screen, though.

All that said, however, it was just too much fun to really dislike, and plus as Houseboy put it “We’re in it now,” so I’ll probably end up seeing every other one in theaters too.


P.S. There was a real spider on my pillow in the middle of the night last night, putting all the horrifying nightmares into perspective. He tried to crawl in my ear, and I said “Watch out little spider, or I’ll roll over on you,” and then brushed him off the bed. He’ll probably be back for revenge with his enormous compadres in tow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I love love love Chicago politics!

So, I never ever write about politics because I hates them like I hates the fat hobbit and marzipan and hair in my mouth. There are so so many things going on in the world that make me unhappy or itchy and I just prefer to look at shiny things and think of Christmas. However, given the buzzy buzzy bugs always saying things like "economic free fall" and "war crimes" and "little Stella's been kidnapped," I have to say that I've found This Week in Chicago Politics to be all kinds of entertaining.

People Who Care, such as Hedgehog should probably be upset about Kindly Mayor Blagojevich soliciting bribes in exchange for the Evil Minority Senator's seat. I mean, that's bad. Like bad bad. As much as I hate it, having a political system NOT based on paternalism and quid pro quo is kind of important. Plus, scoffing at Evil Minority Senator for offering only "appreciation" in exchange for taking his preferred successor...

See this is where it gets hilarious. How can I even be expected to hear about any more of this without picturing Kennedy-Knockoff Mayor laughing uproariously and slamming down the receiver of his giant phone before pulling out his plans to drill to the center of the earth and release giant ants on the mole people. Look at that picture by the way. THIS is how he got elected, in case you wondered. He looked us deep in the eyes and said, softly, sweetly: "Baby, you can trust me! I have such lovely hair and teeth!" And we thought about how important eating celery and dusting things with your head are to our great state, and we fell in love.

Ok, so to leave you with a parting shot, this is the first thing Houseboy sent me after hearing about this:


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rain is Like Jesus' Tears

Why is Jesus crying, you might ask? Well, Jesus is crying because the weather is ugly out there. And also because you're still not reading. Do we need to ease you into it a bit? Try a book of short stories, like so:

Yes, I know it says "Novels," but if you'll just pick up the book you'll see that it can't possibly be more than one novel. It's barely big enough for ONE novel! What's that? You can't feel the heft of a virtual book? Well, get a damn imagination. You really do need to read more.

I'll help you out. This is a collection of ten short stories doing the old "send up" of literary conventions and genres, such as the detective story ("Maddened by Mystery, or The Defective Detective") and the ghost story ("Q. A Psychic Pstory of the Psupernatural"). And those are only the first two stories! Now, you might have some trouble with this one, since it presupposes a certain familiarity with common works of fiction, and you've obviously been raised on a diet of pure Perez Hilton, who was raised on a diet of lead-based paint. If it helps you at all, you could try reading one short Sherlock Holmes mystery first, or maybe google "Science Fiction" to get some idea what that is all about.

To give you a little inroad into what you'll be up against, here is a representative section from the story "Gertrude the Governess, or Simple Seventeen":

"Yet Gertrude cherished the memory of her parents. On her breast the girl wore a locket in which was enshrined a miniature of her mother, while down her neck inside at the back hung a daguerreotype of her father. She carried a portrait of her grandmother up her sleeve and had pictures of her cousins tucked inside her boot, while beneath her--but enough, quite enough."

If you get where that is going, then you'll like this book. But you don't have to take my word for it.... assuming you have bookstores or the internet in your area.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Yup, it's snowing outside, so it's about time to make my winter hibernation plans. Since I can't make it down to the Florida beach house this year (or any year), I've put on my fleece skirt, made myself some tea and oatmeal and outlined a rough work schedule of one hour on, half hour off to get myself through the day. That's your tax dollars at work folks... at least if you pay property taxes in Chicago it is.

As a good beginning to this hibernation I've already lined my insides with the following:

I might need a colonoscopy after that last one.

This week, while eating and cooking and otherwise making merry, I also finished this book:

Which, of course, enhanced the festivities by adding a dash of guilt and a smattering of disgust at humanity. The book is a series of narratives, delivered to and transcribed by McSweeney's staff, by people who have been affected by the last 30 years or so of fighting in Sudan. It ranges from a graduate student living in the US to young people in refugee camps and on the streets of Cairo to single parents returning to their destroyed homes. Plus, it has about 50 pages of appendices for those of us who are very out of the loop on the whole "current events" issue on account of avoiding the news because it makes us sad, and we're going to eat the spinach and buy the asbestos t-shirts anyway, so why be afraid for our lives while doing it? Anyway, I usually hear the updates on which common household item I'm supposed to avoid sticking in my ear eventually and the rest of it seems like repetitive downers, but I have to admit that this book actually got my attention, and not just because it came free in the mail as a part of the McSweeney's book club. I'd recommend it highly, but that would make me sound like I enjoy the suffering of others, and I'd say everyone should read it, but that would make me sound preachy, so I'll just say "Good book. Yes."

And now the heaters in my office are making a sort of dissonant anti-music kind of sound, so I think I'll go climb into a file cabinet until the robots have swept through and eliminated all their enemies.