Monday, March 30, 2009

Sex and the Children of the Perfect Man

The blog title was unwittingly suggested by Houseboy, who confused the hell out of me with his cleverness.  In the last week we actually watched THREE movies: Children of Men (which has been saved on our Tivo for about 6 months), The Perfect Man and the Sex and the City movie.  

Watching the Children of Men needs no excuse, because it is a movie that Smart People like, and we are Smart People who watch Smart Movies and have Smart Friends who suggest Smart People Movies to us.  The reason it sat on our Tivo for 6 months is that everytime Houseboy suggested we watch it I was like "Isn't that the post-apocalyptic tragic landscape one?  Let's watch Superbad again instead."  And we did.  Because we own that, and I love the penises.  

Anyway, we finally watched it last night because we had to eventually, because I have a moral obligation to my Tivo queue.  Turns out it's pretty depressing, but not actually as bad as The Road, with which it had many similarities, such as corpses burning on the roadside.  The overall message seemed to be that our society is about to hit a massive an apocolyptic downfall, but that the scary thing will actually be the way the survivors treat one another, rather than the mysterious attack from the outside.  In this way it's also like 28 Days Later, which I think got at the message a little more clearly and also more directly, what with zombies being more frightening than infertility, at least to me.  Interesting side note: in all these stories, it seems that the 3rd world and undeveloped countries also descend into madness and chaos, even though one could argue that the message is directed at us first-worlders who treat each other with such lack of basic humanity.  Sucks to be an Aboriginal person and have to pay for the sins of the rest of us, I guess.

So, the excuse I offer for watching The Perfect Man is that my sister is a brilliant and lovely and wonderful person, but her taste in all things entertainment-related is just wretched, in my opinion.  She apparently not only bought this movie, but accidentally bought it twice, and so was kind enough to give me her extra copy when she was out to visit last week.  Being the Not Snob that I am, I decided to watch it after work one day when my brain was fried.  Being the Snob that I am, I did not like it.  I'm all about the stupid movie and even the romantic comedy when I need stress relief.  I own Bring It On, for crying out loud.  And I've watched it recently.  It makes me happy. 

All that said, The Perfect Man just didn't do it for me.  I thought the acting was terrible, the plot was laughable and there were not enough musical numbers for my taste.  In its favor, it was not very long, and I didn't regret spending time on it as a result.  The Sex and the City movie, on the other hand, seemed to last for-fucking-ever.  I was never a fan of that show, and I wanted to tear my eyes out every time someone claimed to be like one of the characters, who I believe to be heinous female stereotypes who have actively frustrated the progression of feminism.  This may be why I disliked the movie, since it seemed to just be a really long version of an episode.  Also, since I wasn't a regular viewer I don't know for sure, but I got the impression when the movie started that the series ended on a sort of "happily ever after" for the characters, and all this movie did was uproot that and then re-plant it.  In other words, it had no actual reason for existing except to get more money out of the fans of the show.  The cardinal rule of storytelling is that you should have a reason why you are telling this particular story in a character's life, and I just didn't see it here.

Oh, and my excuse for watching it at all is that I came upon it just as it was starting.  That never happens!  

I need to start being more picky...


Friday, March 27, 2009

My Discs are Clearer Than Yours

This morning I had to go visit my doctor because she needs me to pay her $20 to tell her that my medication is working just fine, thank you, may I have some more. Obviously this annoys me and I'm displeased at having to go, but then she had a 3rd year medical student with her, and he sat in on the appointment, so we got to do all kinds of fun stuff that we might not otherwise. Since I have the brain problems, she did the "neuro tests," such as looking in my eyes and banging my knees and making me push against her hand with my face and do the polka and etcetera.

Anyway, since she was showing the medical student all this, and he got to do it after her, I learned that I have "unusually clear discs" and that you can see the back of my eye very easily. I don't know what that means, but I'm taking it as a compliment. She also said I have very good reflexes, and I thought about asking her why I suck at sports then, but I figured she was just referring to the fact that I almost nut-kicked her medical student when he used the little hammer on my knee.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Brain is like a Skipping Record... Old and Technologically Trite

I forgot my book this morning, because I was reading it on the stationary bike last night because I couldn't watch TV because Houseboy has Ebola and if you make a noise louder than a dormouse sitting on a daffodil, he will raise up his head and groan and then pass out again and you have to go check if he's still breathing.

Anyway, my iPod is also out of batteries and has been for about 3 weeks because I have this iPod:

Which is from 1749 in technology years, and that means that when I charge it I get about 45 minutes of music, which just barely gets me to work most days.

Anyway, I didn't notice that I forgot my book until I was already on the bus, and so I had to spend the rest of the time hoping some chatty dude didn't sit next to me and looking out the window pretending there was really interesting shit out there.  

Therefore, I spent a lot of time thinking about why there are glass bricks in the median in Lakeshore drive, whether there's a tunnel under there, and how many stories there are in the new condos they put up around 15th street and whether that's taller than a lot of the buildings in downtown because it looks like it and whether those bushes are raspberry bushes, and if so how come there are a couple red raspberries on them when they look dead and when the season for raspberries is anyway.

Mmm.  Raspberries.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One Hundred Blogs of Solitude

Welcome to the 100th post, ladies and gentlepersons!  I should try to make this a good one.  

What is good/funny/interesting that I can tell you?  Let's start with books! I participated in this Facebook meme "100 Books," which claims that, according to the BBC, the average person will have read only 6 books on the list.  Because there are few things that I love more than feeling superior to the British, I made my little check marks and came up with 53.  So far second only to Houseboy's college roommate in total number.  After I did it, so did Soda Pop, and she seemed to think that you're allowed to put a 0.5 next to things when you started reading them on my recommendation and then stopped halfway through and will tell people all the time about how much you hated it.  In that case, I should really get 53.5 because I tried reading the Bible once, and also I hear selections from it every Sunday when I'm paying attention.  But no, I'm not a cheater like that.  Anyway, the list is pretty much bogus, since there are overlaps and repetitions and also you only get one check for reading "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" and one for reading "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe," which is a great book, but only like 100 pages.  It fulfilled its purpose, though, as I feel smarter than almost everyone, except my Korean friend who read like 43, and should get double points since it's not her native language.

This same friend also once came to my house for Halloween, and we proceeded to get more than sloppy, and I will never ever recover from the amazement at her ability to continue to speak English as she passed out on our couch.

In other news, I did 20 crunches yesterday and today I can barely sit up.  I'm getting old, folks.  There was a time when I could do hundreds, and then go swim two miles and then run 10 miles and then wrestle a cougar.  Sadly, I killed all the cougars and now I'm out of shape.

Speaking of being old, I watched Garden State last night, which I own and I love, but has evolved over the last few years in how I relate to it.  When it came out I was about the age and life-stage of the characters, and I thought the Natalie Portman character was just about the coolest thing ever and I wanted to scream into the infinite abyss and all that.  Now when I watch it I get nostalgic for a time when I gave a shit about stuff, and I think the poor Natalie Portman character has a lot of issues she needs to work out, and I still want to scream into the infinite abyss, but it would probably be unseemly for a woman of my age and position.  

So, that's about all for the 100th blog of all time, here's hoping we make it to 101.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Way Back Tuesday

One time, when I was about 7, I had a dream that I was walking through a desert and came upon a wooden shack.  When I went inside, there was a donkey with its hooves nailed to the floor, and several men were skinning it alive.  That was a good one.

Also, I used to have a recurring nightmare that Punch and Judy killed my family and took over my house:

Oh, and a few years ago, when I was watching a lot of Gilmore Girls, I had a dream that I watched Rory burn to death.

What do you think all that's about?


Monday, March 23, 2009

Spidercat! Spidercat! Does all the things that a spidercat does!

This morning Houseboy and I took the Neurotic Cat into the vet specialist way out in Buffalo Grove, Illinois to turn him radioactive.  Apparently they blast him with some kind of isotopes and that will make him less angry and pukey and skinny butt-ed.  On the way out there I let him out of the cat carrier and he puked, looked out the window for a really long time, and then made a break for it, via the back of Houseboy's head.  

Also on the way up and back, I paid a dollar (each way) to drive on the absolute worst stretch of road (not counting the Pennsylvania Turnpike which isn't really a road so much as a state-sponsored death trap) that I've ever had the pleasure of paying for.  It was actually amusing how as soon as we passed the tollbooth, it went from nice pavement to bomb zone.

That's as much of a segue as you're going to get into this week's reading, featuring: Anarchy!  First, I read an article in The Believer from some other month that is not this one, about a guy going undercover with the Anarchists who were protesting the Republican National Convention in Minnesota last year.  From this I learned what I already know: southern Minnesota is mostly corn and water towers, anarchists do not bathe as regularly as the rest of us, and the Anarchy Movement is kind of an oxymoron.

Similarly, A Girl Among the Anarchists, which was originally published in 1903, didn't really challenge my assumptions about Anarchy or Anarchists.  Most of the "characters" (this is loosely based on the real lives of Helen and Olivia Rossetti) are doing very little outside of writing and publishing tracts on Anarchy and debating with one another what Real Anarchy is and occasionally stealing shit because ownership of property is a false construct, or somesuch.  About 2/3 of the way through the book, the "Girl" of the title somewhat ironically lays out exactly what I see as the problem with Anarchy.  She is describing two brothers who stole all their employer's money and took off with it, because 1) they don't recognize private property, and 2) they needed it.  The employer then shot himself:

What they lacked was moral strength.  Under ordinarily good influences they would have acted in an ordinarily proper way.  They had not the force of character necessary for handling the Anarchist individualist doctrines, which, excellently as they may work with men of character, are fatal to weaker men.
(p. 206)

It seems obvious to me that not everyone would act in a moral or thoughtful way if they were left to their own devices.  If completely "freed" from  any understanding of obligation to our fellow man, how many of us would still feed the poor or refrain from stealing whatever we want, or even pause at a stoplight?  Maybe I have a lower view of human nature than Anarchists do, but it seems to me that she is here acknowledging that issue.  And as long as there are some who cannot handle "the Anarchist individualist doctrines," then it's a system that cannot work, because it is a system without any recourse or solution for those who don't fit in.  In fact, it's not a system at all.  


Friday, March 20, 2009

You're a bum, You're a Punk, You're an Old Slut on Junk

Sadly, the Pogues did not play Fairytale of New York when we saw them, probably mostly because they didn't have a female singer with them, so it would have required Philip Chevron (aka, the coherent one) to affect a high voice, which would be uncomfortable for everyone.  

They did, however, play this song, which I love:

I shot that on my cell phone, which isn't the kind with a good camera or anything, so I'm going to guess that doesn't violate any copyright laws.  I saw other people there with real cameras, and I will name names to save my own ass, if I have to.

So, anyway, this is all meant to show you how cool I am, because I like Irish Folk Punk, and I own a cellphone with a shitty camera.  You know you want to be me.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Headband is Squeezing my Brains Out

Being on a plane once again this week, plus just generally being more smarter and more hard working-er than the rest of you, I have several "Book[s] of the Week" to choose from today.  Do you want to hear about "Girl Among the Anarchists," which I started first, but am only 2/3 of the way finished because other books got in the way?  Or would you like to hear about "The Enchantress of Florence," Salman Rushdie's "new" book, which was the only Rushdie they had for sale at BAM! Books a Million! which is across the street from my office and is a miserable rotten bookstore for that?  Or, how about "All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well," by Tod Wodicka, which proves that picking books based on starting from the end of the alphabet in a Barnes & Noble and looking for great titles will really pay off?

Cast your ballots!


Ok, votes are in, I'm going to tell you about the last two, since I've actually finished them.


The Enchantress of Florence came out in 2008 (oh, those halcyon days), and I meant to buy it right away, even in hardcover, even if it put my reading out of order... but then I didn't.  Don't I tell great stories?  

Anyway, a quick glance at Rushdie's Wikiwikiwhat page shows me that I've read every novel he's ever written, and gotten a start on the short stories as well.  That should make me a Salman Rushdie Expert, but instead I think it just makes me almost incapable of reviewing anything by him.  I'm actually a Salman Rushdie Psycho Fan, and I may or may not own a pair of Salman Rushdie Pajamas that I wear under my clothing at all times.  So, you have permission to ignore me when I tell you that this is the most awesome novel you will ever read, and even if you're not stuck on a bus or train or plane, you will read it all the way through as fast as you can and then wish you had read it more slowly.  You will carry it around with you and whip it out at your in-laws place, ignoring normal social mores around helping with the dishes, because You Are Busy.  When it is finished, you will dream about Qara Koz, the semi-mythical "hidden princess" aka Lady Black Eyes, aka Angelica, and the traveller/storyteller Niccolo Vespucci, aka Ucello, aka Mogor dell'Amore ("The Moghul of Love").  If you haven't already, you will then quickly lay siege to every other Rushdie novel ever written and find them all to be just as wonderful.

Tod Wodicka, on the other hand, while certainly Pajama-worthy, I had never heard of before I read this book.  I don't feel too bad about that, since even ol' Wiki barely has a stub article on the guy, and his bibliography seems to be only this novel.  For first novels, it's a pretty damn amazing achievement.  For not first novels it's fantastic, in fact.  It follows Burt Hecker, aka Eckbert Attquiet (I'm all about the "aka" this week), who is a medieval re-enactor, father of two, semi-recent widow, and possessor of a nose whose description becomes like a good horror movie's monster: much worse in imagination than it could possibly be in life.  Burt is, quite simply, going off the deep end before the novel begins, and the narration jumps around a bit in his life to help explain why.  What it does well that other novels have failed at, is building a sympathetic character out of a pile of disgusting and laughable attributes.  Although his medieval obsession can be funny, it's never played for laughs.  While his children hate him, and he's always drunk on mead, and for some reason I get the impression he has terrible body odor, you still want him to be your friend--or at least to invite you to the annual revel at his wife's mansion.  

So there you go: two more novels you should feel bad about not reading.  Tune in tomorrow when I tell you about seeing the Pogues live in concert and maybe even upload a video shot using cell phone technology circa 2006.  Yay!


Friday, March 13, 2009

I'm all blogged out

It's sad when your life has gotten so boring that you don't even have anything to blog about.  Blogs are meant to be essentially a vomit bag for your inane life, and I don't even have that.  I guess it's time to start re-posting things I found on other websites:

Funny right?  Just the fact that I would re-post that should win me some funny points too.  

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I want to pick up an accent

So, I long ago lost most of any kind of Minnesota accent I had... which wasn't much considering my parents are from upstate New York and Cincinnati, Ohio, so what was modelled at home was a mix of semi-southern phrases and nasally vowels, and I had to pick up my penchant for saying "Oh Gosh!" from school friends, who were confused and appalled by me chastising them for "cussing." 

Anyway, at the age of 8, moving to a new state where everyone was related to one another and hardly knew of another way to speak, unless you counted Spanish, I worked hard to become more Minnesotan, but it was short-lived.  I went to a local college, but one with lots of out-of-state and out-of-country students, like my boyfriend-cum-husband*, who honestly didn't know what "pop" was and laughed uproariously whenever I said it.  So, now I say "soda" instead, and "yeah" instead of "yah" and cut off the "uf dah" before it reaches the "dah."  

All of this is to say that I now speak something like a newscaster with poorer diction, and I'm thinking I need to ethnic it up again.  Thanks to the Coen Brothers, the Minnesota accent (or a gross exaggeration of it, anyway), is almost as well known as the hick accent as a southern one, so I don't think I'll go back to that just now.  Considering my reading material lately, I'm thinking of picking up some Irish, and I don't mean liquor.  

For subtlety's sake, my model is going to be Mayor Carcetti in The Wire:

... who is supposed to be Italian, I think, but the actor is too Irish to completely cover up his accent, and occasionally says words stuff like "I tink" and "the letter haitch."  I was also inspired again by watching Hot Fuzz to say: "God rest 'im" and "God rest 'er" whenever talking about dead folk.  

In conclusion, coming soon, a pretentious and annoying fake accent!

* Stop laughing!  That's not dirty, it's LATIN.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Minnesotans Sure Know Noir

This weekend Houseboy and I watched "Lucky Number Slevin," recommended to our Netflix queue by Netflix buddy Soda Pop, who has an unhealthy obsession with Minnesota boy Josh Hartnett:

Ok, looking at that now, maybe it's not so unhealthy.  A hometown boy and graduate from South High School in Minneapolis (along with Rachel Leigh Cook and Carl Lumbly!)... I suppose it's ok to make secret plans to leave your high-powered DC lifestyle to cook and clean in the nude.  

Anyway, incitements to infidelity aside, this recommendation was a good one.  It could be described as a kind of "light-hearted noir" if that isn't a total oxymoron.  One of those more modern dark mystery pieces that nods towards its own outlandishness, rather than attempting to bury it in gore.  I'm not a student of the noir genre, exactly, but I've seen and read my fair share, and I'd argue that in the 1950's, when this was particularly popular, there was a certain humor to the situations, but also a certain unselfconsciousness that can only come from not having been done and redone eleventy hundred times.  When moviemakers dip into this pool these days, they're only too aware of the ridiculousness of the situations their characters end up in, and they really have only two choices: 1) distract us with a rising body count, eventually bordering on horror rather than mystery or 2) wink a bit at the camera, as Philip Marlowe might do.  

Lucky Number Slevin chooses the latter route, giving us the Lucy Liu character, who is an amateur detective and professional medical examiner, as well as the off-kilter charm of the Josh Hartnett character, who claims to have a mental disorder that does not allow him to feel fear, and results in him rather calmly making jokes when his life is in danger.  I think this approach is more in keeping with the original noir concept-- one in which we are all alone and the forces we fight can barely be contained, much less defeated, so why not throw in a wry comment between punches to the nose?  We know we cannot win the war, so we fight the battles with a certain freedom, humor and even affection.  By burying our self-awareness in sky-rocketing violence, the other "new noir" movies subvert this paradigm.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alcoholism is not all fun and games

So, continuing in my trend of reading about drunken Irishmen, this week I read "Charming Billy", by Alice McDermott:

This is one of those casualties of reading the books in your bookshelves in alphabetical order by author.  Sometimes you end up reading several books by the same person in a row, and then moving on to another person whose name starts with "Mc," and so is likely to have similar subject matter.  This is also the casualty of living with a Catholic: that your bookshelves will have a disproportionate number of Irishmen and women in them.  It has something to do with the perpetual virginity of Mary, I think.

Anyway, Charming Billy Lynch is an alcoholic who drinks himself to death, much in the style of the father in Angela's ashes, only he's not poor, holds down a job and doesn't have any children, so really it's not so bad.  All his friends are mad at him all the time because they think drinking yourself to death is a bad thing, but they also think he's charming and like hanging out with him in bars.  Even with the occasional misty water-colored memory of his father by Frank McCourt, Malachy McCourt isn't exactly charming the way his drinking results in them eating nothing but berries found on the side of the road for a week.  

All in all, if I have to rate them (which I do, because I read them back to back and I'm incapable of not comparing things that are practically rubbing elbows), I preferred Frank McCourt's memoirs.  Alice McDermott's style is much more descriptive and I really loved how detailed she got sometimes, but I also found her occasional use of repetition to be distracting.  Plus, I'm just a sucker for the extreme poverty and abuse stories, and even a bloated body found on the street doesn't quite make up the difference.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Ireland is a sad, sad place

And so was New York in the 1950's and 60's, but not quite as bad.  This is the lesson I learned from this week's Books of the Week:


This is an important lesson, because I visited Ireland once, and I didn't see the sadness.  Also, it was important because I started "Angela's Ashes" thinking it was about the Holocaust, and I think we all know by now that, while I find the Holocaust really, really horrible, I'm about done with learning about it for now.  I don't think I can get more sad about that.  Luckily, this book was, as I have mentioned, about how sad the Irish were, around the same time.  

These two are memoirs that are basically directly in a timeline together, so make sure you read "Angela's Ashes" first, or you might not have quite the basis in sad Ireland that you need to understand sad New York.  Anyway, Frank McCourt grew up about as poor as is humanly possible, as proven by the fact of several younger siblings dying of poverty-related illness, and him subsisting on nutrition found in fish and chips containers left on the street.  I don't want to give away too much, but pretty much every hopeful moment that is going to drag them out of crushing despair ends in tragedy, but it's still a fun read.  I promise I don't take pleasure in the misfortunes of others.  Mostly.  

Also, it's probably not revealing too much to say that the exception to the crushing despair and tragedy formula applied above involves Frankie going to New York and, while not "making it big" at least "making it well-fed and sheltered from the cold," which is a giant step up.  There's a third book in this series that I haven't read yet, so maybe that's when he becomes a Pulitzer-Prize-Winning author and buys a second home in Connecticut, as the book jacket reveals.  

Anyway, the style is not very like, but the stories as they play out over multiple books are reminiscent of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," with even more poverty, but less sexual assault.  That's the best I can do for reviewer-y comparisons.  Take what you will.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Vitame Vas

In the tiny town I grew up in, we had a yearly festival called "Kolacky Days," in which we pretended that everyone living there was Czech and knew what the hell those ladies in red dresses with frilly aprons were lip-synching to on the Czech Singers float in the parade and said things like "Vitame Vas" (We welcome you!) to one another while eating dumplings, sauerkraut and cheese curds.  It was good fun, and also involved beer, as all good fun does.  There was a corn-eating contest and my dad competed in it (as was required of the local doctor), and lost miserably every year to men with arms as big as my head who worked in the steel mill or the Green Giant canning factory.  As kids we bought tickets at a dollar a piece to ride amusement park rides that had been put up overnight in the park and would be taken down and packed off to another town the next week, and as far as I know no one ever died on them, even though I'm pretty sure they were short a few more bolts every year.  

On Saturday night there was a dance in the park and it started out with one of the local polka bands, and the children and older women polka'd together until it started to get dark, sometime after 9pm, when a rock and roll cover band came on and my parents would walk us home, where we could hear the bass and the drums from the upstairs bathroom window.  On Sunday we all went out with wooden stakes and rope to mark off our lawns and keep the drunken parade-goers from parking on it and then walked down to the funeral home and sat on the curb and waved at local politicians and the winners of the Kolacky Queen Pageant so they would throw us Tootsie rolls and suckers.  If we were feeling athletic we competed in the Bun Run, a 4-mile race that went straight out of town on the highway, looped around an abandoned dirt road by the railroad tracks and headed back in, chugging up the hill on mainstreet in the 95 degree heat and being hosed down by volunteers that used to be our elementary school teachers.  

If we were old enough we spent Friday and Saturday night on Main Street (which was really First Street, but no one ever called it that), which had been blocked off to traffic and the six bars spilled out onto the sidewalk and street with beer specials and karaoke, once that got popular.  Boys and girls flirted and men and women drank like teenagers and started fights and drove home through the town, beaching their trucks in my parents' backyard and good-naturedly tearing up the grass trying to get back out.  

After the parade on Sunday people trickled back to their homes with bags full of Kolacky and pockets full of candy, and the municipal employees headed out to the parks to gather bags and bags of trash, and on Monday the Green Giant workers sat at the same picnic tables and ate their lunches and talked about how much the festival had changed.