...(which I maintain is one word) good ole Wil Wheaton is also thinking about supervillains. I am not surprised by my results on this quiz. (Art Boy's supervillain is that terrible Pittsburgh coach with the chin and mustache who looks like a puppet.)
You are Poison Ivy
You would go to almost any length for the protection of the environment including manipulation and elimination.
Your scribe has returned from Tennessee without incident ... it was a lovely visit home. My niece and nephew are exceedingly cute, particularly the niece, who apparently developed a passion for bats after my last visit. I told her parents I would get her some black eyeliner and teach her the ways of the goths. (Oh, we adults are awful. Why can't we leave kids alone?) Anyway, I received some nice gifts, particularly from Art Boy, who gave me the sublime "Absolute Sandman Vol. 1," a compendium of supervillains (very comprehensive! I'm learning all about Solomon Grundy), a collection of Ricky Gervais podcasts and a much-needed bottle of Hendricks. Go Christmas!
Now it is time for New Year's ... I am not aware of any plans that we have, and I cannot ask Art Boy about it because he savagely beats me when I interrupt Bengals games. My plan is to get home from work sometime before midnight and count down to 2007 in quiet, adult fashion. Be safe, gentle readers!
When I brought this home, I was very grateful to Art Boy for not yelling "You were supposed to get a good tree! Can't you even tell a good tree from a poor tree?" We'll repot it outdoors into a bigger pot (Art Boy, reading at work: "We?") after the new year and hopefully it will bear lemons for us. In the meantime, the leaves have a pleasing lemon scent, and it's holding my collection of 5 nice ornaments and Mardi Gras beads very nicely.
Ahhh. The furnace repairpersons have just left after installing our brand-new wall unit. At last we have heat in the house ... something we never thought we'd need when we arrived in L.A. during a heat wave this summer. But it has been down in the 40s at night, and with the photoperiod at its shortest (happy winter solstice, by the way!), we have been a wee bit chilly. Now, though, the wall furnace is happily chugging away, and there's a vent right next to the house PC so your scribe can be comfortable while she blogs. Hooray!
While they were working, I did my annual round of shortbread, which I will just take to the office. No trays were dropped upside-down on the floor this year. I have also wrapped Art Boy's presents and put them under the tree ... suppose should finish assembling Mom's Christmas gift to us (furniture) so can photograph the whole shebang. The five-CD changer has Charlie Brown up now ... I think Art Boy ran off with my Solstice CD this morning.
Ah, speaking of this morning: The cat was startled by something and ran across my face, digging in with her back claw in her alarm. Two of her toenails caught on the edge of my mouth and dragged down slightly. My first words to Art Boy today were "Am I bleeding?" I did not bleed, but I have two lovely small scratches that resemble whiskers. And this is one of our good cats.
As vaguely promised, here is a list of my favorite holiday CDs. Keep in mind that I generally loathe holiday music. Shopping this time of year is just agony... yesterday H&M (where I had to buy clothes for my sister) was pounding out the "Winter Wonderland" at top volume and oh oh oh, my ears. (Presumably it usually plays Madonna at that volume.) So this is really a select group. I've been playing them the last couple weeks and Art Boy has been amazingly tolerant.
"A Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack Well, duh. You can perform the Charlie Brown dances in your living room, quote favorite lines to your tolerant art boy ("Don't you know a sarcasm when you hear it?"), and reminisce about making your friends watch the special in college. This music was also used to excellent effect in the Arrested Development episode "Good Grief."
"John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together" Most of this album consists of weenie songs performed by John Denver. And then there's "Alfie the Christmas Tree," a bizarre narrative about a tree struggling with its feelings about being cut down and displayed in a living room, then suddenly concerned about nonChristians around the world (a thought which causes the tree to "pause"). Denver reads the whole thing in a voice cracking with emotion. But there are some great Muppet moments as well:
Gonzo: Now bring us a figgy pudding... Miss Piggy: Piggy pudding?! Gonzo: No, figgy pudding. It's made with figs. MP: Oh. Sorry. Gonzo: And bacon. MP: What?
So you can either skip the weenie songs to the Muppet songs, or enjoy it all as one kitschy whole, which I have taken to doing in latter years. There are two CD versions floating around out there, one of them without "Little Saint Nick," which you need because of Animal doing the "Run run reindeer!" chorus.
"Christmas Caravan," The Squirrel Nut Zippers Every Christmas my family listens to this and my mom wonders whatever has become of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. It was nice of them to produce this before going into hiding. My favorite tracks are "Carolina Christmas" (for the line "We're chillin in our underwear") and their loopy, infectious instrumental version of "Sleigh Ride."
"Christmas Is..." Johnny Mathis I guess I shouldn't make fun of the late Mr. Denver for having been a weenie before endorsing music by Johnny Mathis. But dammit, Johnny is just so happy! You can't resist him! You can just hear the sleigh bells in his voice! I would love to see him perform. I bet he bobs up and down merrily. On this CD, just when you're starting to think he's a little too happy, he settles down with "Ave Maria," and it's pretty enough to melt even the toughest cynic. (And dear readers, that would be me.) Johnny also has a nice peppy version of "Sleigh Ride" but it is not on this collection... maybe for next year. "An Even Scarier Solstice" The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society This CD really makes shopping easier, particularly because they've tackled many of the most annoying holiday songs and made them much more palatable. I was in J.Crew a few weeks ago and they were actually playing "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth." Now, really, who wants to hear that? Everyone in the store looked annoyed. But I thought of "All I Want for Solstice is my Sanity," and was able to continue shopping with a serene smile on my face. I'm not just endorsing this album because one of the Arkham Carolers is me. You can't particularly hear me, thank heavens.
"Christmas with Johnny Cash" I am still on the fence about this collection. I can't really stand listening to it all the way through, but if you're going to put a bunch of CDs in the changer and set it to "shuffle" (if any of you iPod people still do that), this is a fine one to include. It startles you in a nice way to hear "Jingle Bells" and realize it's Johnny Cash singing. Taken as a whole, though, his merriment is just a little forced. If anyone wasn't lighthearted, it was Johnny.
I made up the bed this morning, but Sebastian unmade it and got completely wound up in the bedsheet. We normally don't like him to do this because then he does awful things necessitating immediate laundry, but right now he's just sleeping.
Anastasia and Art Boy share an affection for plastic storage bins.
Oh dear. I am up early, huddled under a blanket with my coffee in the sharp morning chill of Santa Monica (we tried to get our heat turned on yesterday, and learned we must wait a few more days), waiting for e-mail confirmation that Art Boy successfully dropped off our rocket cat at the vet. What an action-packed sentence! Anyway, while I am waiting, I have been browsing Defamer and idly opened a link to a Variety story about why Spaniards dislike Ali G. At first I scrolled past it, then I thought, "well, actually, Ali G/Borat seems very much like the Spaniards' cup of tea." Going out and humiliating the man on the street, while wearing a funny suit, is right up their alley; and SBC is good about asking questions that confirm Europeans' ideas of how dumb Americans are. So what's the problem? Why, it's that Spaniards already have "Torrente," the hilarious cop created by Santiago Segura who points up the Spaniards' own prejudices. (I like on the IMDb page how the full title translates to both "The dumb arm of the law" and "The stupid arm of the law." Imagine having to sit around and figure out which might be marginally funnier to English-speaking audiences.) I have never actually seen "Torrente" but certainly his concept doesn't translate to me, so it's fair enough, I suppose, for the "Ali G" concept to not translate to Spain. In fact, it's rather endearing. Oh, little Spaniards, you and your Torrente and your "Shadow of the Wind." I will visit you and eat your food and make fun of your American movie posters, but even after living amongst you I will never understand you.
(Yes, this is a wordy post. Must type to keep warm.)
A paraphrased conversation from last night (although this is still not a TV blog):
Art Boy: I've given up watching "Jericho." Me: What? Why? AB: It finally dawned on me that it sucks. Me: Well, it took you long enough. AB: What did it was they finally found a generator... and they used it to plug in Christmas lights.
Well, Bill the Cat's ex-girlfriend has died. It was a stormy relationship, despite her sending him a box of chocolates shaped like Nicaragua with the note "For my Bill - Let's devour it together." He took advantage of her to sell secrets to the Soviets, ended up in the electric chair ("That do it?" "He's still going 'Thpthpth'") but survived, and also dumped her for Cornelia Guest, shooting up the neighborhood after she sent him dead flowers in retaliation. "Dear Bill: These roses were red, but now they're dead. I heard you're dating Cornelia - I wish you rocks in your head. Sincerely, Jeane."
Finished "Cloud Atlas" a few days ago. It ended up with more of an overt social message than I had expected; I thought it would be all metaphysical and science fiction, but it closes with an urgent call for people to just generally behave better. I can see why my pastor sister-in-law liked it. And the futuristic image at the center of the book is very chilling: a hologram figure projected from an ancient device delivers a vital message that nobody understands. Very highly recommended. If you're one of those people who likes "Lost," you might like this. (I was one of those people until this season. Blech! But this is not a TV blog.)
Finishing up my lovely new edition of "At the Mountains of Madness," which I bought in a Joseph-Beth spree before leaving Cincinnati. It's a lovely edition with a surprisingly lucid introduction by China Mieville (I really hated his "Perdido Street Station"). He makes the interesting point that the shoggoth is Lovecraft's ultimate monster because it represents the seething mass of degenerate humanity that he saw on the streets & subway platforms of New York, and that he instinctively recoiled from. Mieville addresses Lovecraft's racism pretty intelligently, too. (The shoggoth is certainly not lily-white!) Anyway, the book itself is nice to reread; Lovecraft outlines his Elder Things mythos very clearly. I had agreed with biographer & ubernerd S.T. Joshi that what Lovecraft was creating was an anti-mythos, but after rereading this I'm not so sure. I can't say it's a favorite of mine, partly because reading it makes me cold (it's like watching "Dr. Zhivago") and partly because the Arctic explorer heroes are just SO scholarly. I can't deal with them tramping through this ancient city, in constant peril of their lives, discussing how the quality of the carvings here seems to be more decadent than the ones over here, and furthermore these seem to date from the Pleistocene, and blah blah. Certainly it is a Tale of Cosmic Horror rather than an action story, but you just want to yell at them to quit measuring the arches and RUN!
A better action story, also involving cosmic monsters, is Robert A. Heinlein's young-adult book "Have Space Suit, Will Travel." I picked this up at the library this week mostly because it was paperback and I had a long walk ahead. The Santa Monica Public Library is just stunningly gorgeous. Its front entrance hall is full of glass and is partly open to the element on nice days (which this was). I thought it would be a good book to read over lunch and it was. He's so sexist, and Lovecraft is so racist, but what are you going to do.
LaLa sent me a couple of CDs this week: the Broadway soundtrack of "Chess" and R.E.M.'s "Out of Time." I will defend "Out of Time" against that other album with the Andy Kaufman song to the death. The second side beginning with "Belong" is some of their best work. And the album overall has some great Mike Mills vocals, which is good for Mike fans like me. Sure, the first half is blah, but nothing on it is as offensive as "Sweetness Follows." (And it has "Losing My Religion," which was good until we all got so we never, ever need to hear it again.) I had a tape of it for a long time and am very happy to have "Half a World Away" and "Me in Honey" back in my life. LaLa is great for these kinds of CDs that you kind of want but don't want to buy at full price (or on iTunes or whatever the hell the kids do).
As far as "Chess" goes, well, it's nice to have "Someone Else's Story." And it's interesting to listen to the Broadway adaptation. It's the version we saw in Cincinnati - it's the only version you can see in the United States, for byzantine legal reasons. Tim Rice was very unhappy with the changes that were made and it sounds like he just refused to cooperate in places. "One Night in Bangkok," for example, has a couple lines that needed to be changed to fit the new plot, but instead of new lines there's just a pause in the song. It's nowhere near as good as the original cast recording, but I really do like Judy Kuhn. She's no Elaine Paige, of course, but her version of "Heaven Help My Heart" is much sweeter and more intimate. And "How Many Women?" is an interesting little number. The main reason I got this was for "Someone Else's Story," though. It's my favorite song to sing in the shower, although once I came out and Art Boy was looking miserable. "Are you going to leave me?" he asked.
A very sporting Art Boy and I survived my parents' visit, although I have been stricken with the hideous plague of nose & throat death. ("Sinus infection" sounds so boring.) There has been a very dry and cool wind the past few days, and a lot of people are suffering - last night at the office was a chorus of sneezes and coughs. After knocking myself out with Actifed the Wonder Drug last night, am much better today. And I think Mom and Dad suffered no ill effects. They enjoyed Santa Monica, did not seem too alarmed by all the homeless on the Promenade, and seemed interested in seeing my office.
Have not got much else to get excited about this month, save Christmas. Probably just as well.
This time tomorrow I will be retrieving them at LAX! We should have a nice time. I suspect we'll mostly bum around Santa Monica, with perhaps a short trip into downtown for viewing of my office. So why am I so nervous? There's something about the parents' visit... the world inside your 30-year-old head collides with the world you grew up in, and there can be discrepancies, such as that you are living in sin with an Art Boy. I was going to spend today cleaning but I think I'm going to throw that over in favor of some yoga. And making dinner reservations. As long as dinner is planned for, everything else will fall into place, I'm thinking.
With the addition of green bean casserole and pumpkin cheesecake from Sub Diego, Thanksgiving was completed satisfactorily. Everyone ate and got full and we just had a right nice time. I talked to Mom last night and she said everyone at the ancestral "Blackwood" manse was talking about my attempt to make rolls. She also said there were 43 people (it's a small manse) and zillions of toddlers running around, so it was a little chaotic. I rather enjoyed having a small adult gathering for a change.
And now it is time for Christmas music! At some point I will do a post running down my holiday favorites, but not today, as have not had enough coffee yet.
Today's book:"Cloud Atlas," by David Mitchell. This novel is outstanding, but I'm only halfway through it, and it's about to turn around and blow my mind I think. It's a series of seemingly unrelated story fragments that build on each other - the previous story is referenced somewhere in each new one, so it's like (as the critics on the back say) a puzzle box or Russian nesting dolls. I've reached the center "doll" now and it's about to all start coming together. It's like being at the top of the roller coaster just before the plunge.
Dressing: Done! I used rosemary instead of celery; this made it perhaps a bit dryer than otherwise.
Potato-apple gratin: Done! I hate baked apples so there's more potato than apple in it. Still, there it is. The key element is the gratin.
Rolls: Making an experimental second batch, just because I have time. We'll see which batch is better. I have always held that there's no such thing as too many rolls. One Thanksgiving at my aunt's I ate 13.
Art Boy: Home from work for a 4-day weekend, bearing a celebratory bottle of wine and seeming quite perky. We are kicking off the season of festiveness and lights and whatnot with some nice loud music. I do love this time of year, and it's even better not being freezing cold. *pauses to contemplate previous apartment, where the cold came through the edges around every window pane.* The best thing about it, though, is my Johnny Mathis "Christmas Is... " CD. Art Boy does not know about this yet, but oh dear readers, he will.
The situation is, his guns are bigger than mine and he has more of them.
.......Sorry. The situation in Emma's kitchen is as follows:
Turkey: In oven. Sorry, Big Country, I decided not to brine and smoke it. For one thing, the turkey I ended up buying is a bit ... large and will not fit in any of my containers for brining. (I considered using a plastic bucket, but Art Boy said he would take a picture of it and show everyone after they had finished eating.) So I gave it a salt-pepper-garlic-salt rub and then a nice butter rub before stuffing it full of whatever I had lying around (carrots, apples, potatoes) and throwing it in the oven. It's hanging out there now.
Gravy: Stock is in process on stovetop. Am planning to defy Mom's advice and not mince giblets to add to it.
Rolls: Rising. I had to really pry the recipe out of Mom, who like many of her generation is in love with prepackaged bread products. If the alternatives were bread from scratch or no bread at all, I would certainly understand. (Sort of like my friend's mom saying "I don't know why you girls today are all buying garter belts. We were so happy when pantyhose were invented.") Anyway, Mom apologized tonight for being so nonforthcoming, and explained that she's never had much luck with my aunt (her sister-in-law)'s recipe. After Granny "Blackwood" died, my aunt practiced making these rolls over and over and over and over until she got it right. God alone knows how my first batch will turn out, but the last thing I need is to piss off my other deceased grandmother. Mashed sweet potatoes: Finished.
Emma: Drinking bourbon and secretly quite pleased to be in Southern California rather than East Tennessee.
Oh, alas. I am very sad about the death of Robert Altman. While I haven't seen the vast majority of his movies, I have returned to "M*A*S*H" many times in these five years. ("My God! They've shot him!" "Hot Lips, you incredible nincompoop, it's the end of the quarter.") It has proved a great comfort as we have nationally made asses of ourselves in Iraq. And "Prairie Home Companion," was, well, pretty good; fittingly, its subject is death. Anyway, RIP, sir. I hope to be half as crotchety and brilliant at 81, although I probably won't do quite so many drugs.
It has occurred to me that I should start thinking about Thanksgiving, particularly as dinner will be here. (If you're in the area, feel free to drop by around noon.) This morning I emailed Mom asking for some recipes, and she came through in spades as always. I will be making scalloped potatoes, cranberry relish, vegetarian dressing, turkey and gravy. My favorite line, from the gravy recipe:
Strain the solids out and chop whatever looks appealing to you of the giblets to add to the gravy.
It is always so hard choosing which giblets are the most appealing, but these sacrifices are what the holidays are all about. Meanwhile, I'm going to have to discreetly call my aunt and ask for her roll recipe. This is hard as have never phoned this particular aunt, discreetly or otherwise, but these are really really good rolls.
Anyone know of good elements to apply to turkey besides celery and onions? I hate celery and Art Boy hates onions. On the other hand, we're both really excited about the turkey.
OK, I have to join Art Boy and many others in praising Lala.com. I wanted to support them because they revived WOXY, which is of course the future of rock 'n' roll, but it is just a lot of fun to browse their CDs. My want list includes some semi-obscure ones (first album by Mouth Music, anyone?) and four of them (including Mouth Music) are already on the way. This is particularly fun because Art Boy, whose tastes are genuinely obscure, is having trouble finding any takers for his unwanted CDs. All of my CDs are wanted by someone (except for the "Sunset Boulevard" soundtrack and a Ben Folds Five CD I took from my sister & should probably not be giving away anyhow). Nyah nyah, Art Boy!
Absolutely no news from our household today. This is an update for the sake of an update. Art Boy and I saw a play on Friday and watched "Battlestar Galactica." Then I worked a couple of late shifts while AB partied in Hollywood. (Actually, I think he and some other guys just hung out watching "The Phantom Menace" and making fun of it.) Am spending my weekend tomorrow/Wednesday with friends in San Diego, which is expected to be buckets of fun. I just bought some cat food. That's all. Carry on.
Well, that was rather exciting. My favorite election-night activity was refreshing a page with the Virginia returns every 2 minutes. It's Allen! Now it's Webb! Now it's Allen again! A colleague and I kept calculating the difference and yelling it back & forth. It was more fun than 2004 because there was just so much less hope Tuesday. And it's nice that the Democrats have Swept Back Into Power, but Art Boy and I are pessimistic. We agreed last night that Bush can now blame the Democrats for everything that happens in Iraq; he will have no problem claiming serenely that Iraq was going great until now. In a year or so, he'll be able to spin Rumsfeld's departure to look like it was forced upon him by the Democrats.
Art Boy has been predicting Vice President Rice for the past couple of years. Now Buck has joined the chorus. I've always argued this point with AB but I have to say it's looking like Bush's only hope of a legacy.
There have been remarks about Tennessee in light of Ford's loss in the Senate race. I refer the people who make these remarks to an excellent Nashville Scene article: "All politics is local. Whereas across the country, this midterm election was a referendum on the president and the Iraq war, the Tennessee election was a referendum on Ford Jr., his corrupt family and Memphis politics in general. That story, of course, was the one Tennessee voters knew but that national media ignored."
Meanwhile, my employer is in turmoil and may be purchased by a cadre of billionaires. And one of our cats has really bad breath. I need a drink.
I get to go and vote against Arnold Schwarzenegger today - yet another one of those things I never imagined I'd be doing. (Another was sitting on the beach listening to my mom recount the plot of "Thong Girl 3" over the phone.) And then I get to go to work and stay late while we see what havoc the electronic voting machines wreak. At least there will be pizza! Democracy = pizza!
Art Boy has some great snapshots from our Halloween-location road trip. Evidently the one of me in front of the Myers House, holding my sunglasses like a butcher knife, was not good enough for him. Hmph.
We saw "Borat" the other night. I love Borat dearly. I have been comforted this election season by thinking of the episode where he goes door-to-door with a candidate saying "If you do not vote for my friend, he will take power!" And the movie was funny, but he really goes out of his way to make people miserably uncomfortable, and it sat poorly with me afterward. Yes, great comedy provokes, and Richard Pryor, and blah blah; I've read several essays on this subject. But it's just mean to smash up a guy's antique store because he has some Confederate-flag items, and to humiliate a dining society because they live on Secession Drive. I don't find it very cricket for an Englishman to come over and act like Confederate flags are all crazy. I know they all wrote papers in school on the civil-rights movement and think American Southerners are just savage, but perhaps they should deal with their own problems. Anyway, it wasn't all bad. We did love the frat boys on the bus. (Even though they were Southern, and he got some racist comments out of them; that was their own fault.)
Today's book: "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife" by Mary Roach. I'm disappointed in this one. It's got some great trivia but her writing style is way too snarky; it reads like some editor called her up and told her she needed to sound more like Sarah Vowell. Every other sentence is a completely irrelevant aside. It doesn't deserve its beautiful cover (which is prettier than the one Powells is selling).
I was just doing yoga here in the dining room and discovered a clump of apparently-human hair painted into the baseboard. It's all covered with white paint. You can hardly see it unless, say, you're standing with your head near your ankle. Eww eww eww eww eww!! I love it.
I am just hopelessly in love with my own severed-finger cookies. It's Martha Stewart's recipe, but I modify it with greenish food coloring and almond slices instead of whole almonds for the fingernails. The slices tend to break irregularly and look really disgusting. This year I made a batch to take to work. Art Boy is always completely and utterly horrified by the fingers, but this year his horror gave way to fascination and he picked up a camera:
Granted, it's not October at all anymore. I woke up this morning after a night of Michael Myers nightmares and thought, "Halloween is over." My first sensation was relief. Onward to turkey and whatnot.
But the House of Restless Spirits that we visited last night was fabulous. Excellent sound effects and a quietly creepy aesthetic. You walk around the outside of the rooms and peek in at holograms, moving portraits and a doll that suddenly turns its head. Eek! I highly recommend it, if you're ever in Santa Monica on Halloween.
Happy Halloween, ducklings! We have been getting in the spirit with some lively movies, including an old favorite of mine, "Pieces." "Pieces" is set in a college town where somehow the body parts of attractive coeds keep disappearing. The dean doesn't want a lot of fuss, so he gets a local policewoman to go undercover as a tennis instructor. Meanwhile, the killer continues his rampage, at one point boarding an elevator with a prospective victim while concealing a chainsaw behind his back in one hand. The kung fu professor is a red herring! The killer is a bastard! The final scene is a shocker! Art Boy seemed to like it.
Last night we watched "Lake Placid," which was definitely scripted by a TV genius, but was still pretty good. I would be interested in watching some more horror tonight but I fear Art Boy's patience is running thin with these. Instead of handing out candy this evening, we're going to head over to a nearby haunted house and see how professional the special-effects are.
Art Boy and I carved a jack-o'-lantern (note tricky punctuation):
We had an excellent time at the Lemony Snicket reading the other night, as did hundreds of children. I was amazed how many actual kids were there, as opposed to slouching young adults such as ourselves. Mr. Snicket, unfortunately, did not show up in person, much to the bafflement of his Gothic Archies bandmates Stephin Merritt and Daniel Handler. They looked for him backstage and Mr. Handler placed an emergency phone call on a toy phone. Hanging up, he glowered at the audience and said, "I will spare you the ridiculous story I have just been told on this very convincing phone. I don't know why anyone would lie to children." Nonetheless the show went on, including the deft snatching of several books out of children's hands ("You see, it's easy to steal from children," Handler explained in his deadpan monotone), many warnings against Count Olaf and the books in general, and performances of "Shipwrecked," "Scream and Run Away," and "Smile! No One Cares How You Feel." Handler's dramatic reading from "The End" was accompanied by percussion from two audience volunteers, both girls around 8 years old. The auditorium was near a racetrack, and Handler stopped the girls before bringing them up onstage. "Do you know what normally happens in this room?" he asked them. "Horses are auctioned off. Creatures are led down this very aisle and sold from the stage." He paused thoughtfully, then added, "I wonder if that will happen tonight?" They loved it.
I bought a Gothic Archies CD, the liner notes of which Stephin Merritt was good enough to sign for me. The sweet-faced bookstore employees staffing the event didn't seem to know what to make of him. One gentleman with a megaphone was bouncing around the table telling everyone that Stephin was very grumpy - he seemed desperate to get a laugh or any kind of reaction, but Stephin just looked at him. Here is my awesome autograph:
We did not get a signature from Mr. Handler because our number was way too high - we stood a good chance of waiting until midnight and then being kicked out without a signature, particularly since we were not adorable moppets. But Art Boy took his picture with his cellphone. It's not very good, but here it is.
We were able to watch as he interacted with readers big and small. With the smaller ones, he would sign their book and then beg them not to take it back, offering a Post-it note instead. "This one is green," he implored a little girl. "Green like a leprechaun, in the grass, being eaten by a snake!" She took her book instead, and he screamed "WRONG CHOICE! I have FAILED AGAIN!" Another child's parents were forcing him to submit to too many photos. They took his picture as he approached the table and while he was having his book signed, then as he tried to leave they shoved him back in place for one last photo with Handler. Handler smiled sympathetically at him. "Are they always like this? Make your bed! Get me another bourbon! What a life, huh?"
Florence King once wrote, "Children are admirably gimlet-eyed before adults put them through the American make-over program," and the evening made me think she was right.
This started out as a reply to Kelly's last comment two posts down, and then I realized it was too long, so now it is a post!
I was just discussing "The End" with Art Boy over breakfast and trying to explain my frustration with the series. Much as I love it, it often feels as though Mr. Snicket is writing a long joke more than writing a story, and long jokes can wear thin. Sometimes it's not quite cartoony enough. My favorite installment is still "The Wide Window," which I think just strikes the perfect balance between the dreary (cold cucumber soup) and the ridiculous (Captain Sham).
Anyway, "The End" is similar in tone to the last few books. It introduces a bunch of new complications that Mr. Snicket obviously finds funny, but that don't answer the questions you've had. There are a couple of answers and some surprising revelations, and a satisfactory moving-forward of things at the end (I thought), but on the whole it was bittersweet. So many series subplots are just allowed to drop. It's probably best to warn you that the entire book takes place on an island. I kept waiting for them to leave and go back to some of the other places in the books, but they don't. It's certainly worth reading, though, if you've come this far.
The series never really recaptured my heart after "The Austere Academy." "The Slippery Slope" came close, partly because of the development of Sunny. I think Mr. Wufflekins is right about her: she could ditch the others and be fine on her own.
We watched "Bride of Re-Animator" the other night, which we had been warned by a knowledgeable party not to do, but I thought it wasn't that bad. The highlight though was the very first scene, when the fetching female lead comes running into the tent. I whapped Art Boy ("ow!" he said) and yelled "It's Alotta Fagina!" So that was a thrill. (It looks like she's kept respectably busy ever since this movie. You go, Fabiana Udenio!) Once more, I could have done without the animals being horribly killed, but a talking severed head with bat wings covers a multitude of sins.
Meanwhile, here's a "Jericho" update from Art Boy: Kansas has reverse 911 system! One woman can't wait for a latte! The internet was built by the military...it was meant to survive a nuclear war! (hmm. i doubt that)
Today turned out to be my only day off this week; I am going to have some overtime money to spend on fripperies. My job is not particularly taxing but it's still uniquely exhausting to finish a seven-day stretch. Tonight Art Boy and I went to the beach to watch the sunset while eating excellent Belgian fries with garlic mayonnaise. It had been a couple weeks since we've been able to do that (and we'd never tried it with fries!), so it felt marvelous.
Earlier I drove to the rather fetching little community of San Dimas to visit Mrs. Nelson's Toy and Book Shop. The worthy Mrs. Nelson is sponsoring an appearance by Lemony Snicket next week and only gives away tickets with book purchases. So I picked up my copy of "The End," as well as really altogether too many other children's books considering I don't have children, and secured tickets for myself and a very sporting Art Boy. "The evening might run kind of late," warned the kindly cashier. "How old are your children?"
"Erm, they're for me and my partner," I said. "Am I allowed to go?"
"Why, of course you are!" she said. So that was a relief. Am very excited about the show, as we are also Stephin Merritt fans! I also scored a good-looking book for the niece and a Spanish-language edition of one of the nephew's favorite books, "David Gets In Trouble." He will be learning Spanish in kindergarten next year, the lucky little cabron.
Now Art Boy is watching the Mets/Cardinals game (it amazes me that I know who is playing and why it is significant; yes, grasshoppers, love really changes one) and I have been asked to choose a carryout service for dinner. I may instead have another Manhattan and get even sillier.
OK, I promise not every post is going to be about Art Boy, but he did the sweetest thing last night. I saw on the Entertainment wire at work that the final CBGB concert, headlined by Patti Smith, was about to start and messaged him asking if he could find an audio stream of it anywhere. He never answered. I figured he was watching TV. When I got home, he greeted me at the door with 3 homemade CDs labeled "Patti Smith: CBGB's Last Show." He even apologized for having to use my computer to check his email because his computer was tied up with recording. Patti's famous onstage chattiness seems to have worn on him a bit: "The first CD is mostly sound check," he said, looking tired. Considering he's not a fan of hers and he pretty much had to listen to the whole thing, I thought it was just super sweet. I'm thinking of cooking him a roast.
Today's book: Bram Stoker's "Dracula," not to be confused with the Francie Coppola movie. Rereading the book for the first time in many years - possibly since middle school - I am getting more and more annoyed with that movie. Yeah, I knew it was ridiculous at the time; I even enjoyed how baroque and goofy it was. (Marvelous Nashville Scene film critic Jim Ridley wrote: "It's a shame the filmmakers didn't put an audible 'BOINGGG!' on the soundtrack for every time Keanu Reeves bugs out his eyes and drops his jaw.") But the movie completely inverts the characters of Lucy, Mina and Dracula. Isn't Lucy's seduction more interesting if she's a genuine innocent to start with? What is scarier: being chased by a monster or being chased by a lovelorn Gary Oldman? And I have never given Mina enough credit: she's a budding New Woman who's tremendously strong and takes care of everyone around her, but will her strength be enough to defeat the undead? The book's terrors are so subtle and so carefully built; I am just hugely impressed with its structure. (And the diary/travelogue elements were well honored in "The Historian.") Tom Waits will always be Renfield to me, though.
Today's film: The 1931 "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." It was on TV somewhere last night and I just got hooked. I've never read this book or seen any of the movies, figuring I knew the basic story so it wouldn't be interesting. Well, wow. Fredric March is fantastic and the directing is so witty. I loved the quick shots of the lab skeleton during the fatal shootout at the end, and the scene when Jekyll is listening to a bird and then a cat eats it.
Art Boy and I were kind of excited about the premiere of this new show "Jericho," starring Skeet Ulrich and concerning a small town isolated by a nuclear holocaust. AB is old enough to remember when "The Day After" aired and he hoped it would be kind of like that. I am just a fan of survivalist stories, hence my love of zombie films; heck, at some level I was probably thinking of the movie "Night of the Comet" where everyone gets killed by ... a comet passing overhead... and the valley girls have to survive and whatnot. Anyway, we both agreed the premiere of "Jericho" was a rotten disappointment and the show vanished off my mental radar. But it turns out Art Boy has been tuning in every week! Does he hope it will get better? Does he secretly like it? Is he enjoying it on an ironic, snarky level? (Not Art Boy!) Or is he just in love with the mean lady from Donnie Darko? Here is an email exchange from last night.
Art Boy: On Jericho they are speculating Cincinnati was nuked! How awesome that? the people hanging out at the bar were upset when the generator went out and we learned radiation sickness is not contagious.
Me: I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU ARE WATCHING MORE OF JERICHO. This is why I am concerned about staying in touch with you, because heaven knows what-all you get into. Next you might get into the tub with the stereo. Who knows? (That would certainly be more exciting than an episode of Jericho.)
Art Boy: dude! Its just now getting good. They are almost about to be concerned! And that Bud Cort- Ruth Gordon romance is heating up like a bologna sandwich in the microwave! I'll save it for you
(I have just learned that Steve Guttenberg was in "The Day After," which makes me seriously question Art Boy's standards ...)
That's what I'm saying to my extremely cute niece Martha, who is learning to appreciate the creatures of the night. The bat was fluttering around the yard as dusk fell, while my extremely cute nephew kicked a soccer ball with my sister. "Look at the bat swooping around catching bugs," I told Martha, who will be 2 next month. "See him swoop? Watch him swoop!" "Swoop!" she said. Soon she will be sucking blood just like her auntie!
Goodness, it's nice to be back in the South. My plane landed yesterday and the woman behind me immediately started bawling into her cellphone "Ah'm fixing to get off the plane." Two young men in the aisle were talking about the Auburn score. It's always good to come home.
This morning my parents took us to a monthly pre-church service that's an hour of bluegrass singing, complete with seven-piece band. It was a lot of fun. We sang many old church favorites including Are You Washed in the Blood?, Keep On the Sunny Side, That Old-Time Religion, When the Saints Go Marching In and an old favorite of mine, A Beautiful Life (chorus: Life's evening sun is sinking low, A few more days and I must go, To meet the deeds that I have done, Where there will be no setting sun). Lovely, chilling and rousing all at once. We had a ball. My old music teacher was there and I told her about singing on An Even Scarier Solstice, and she told me that was nice.
Here the temperature is about like Santa Monica, ranging from the 70s to the mid-50s at night, but it's so crisp and clear. And I love seeing deciduous trees again - they are just starting to turn. Last night we sat around a fire on the patio, heard some coyotes and a barred owl, and watched the stars come out. (We had a perfect view of Sagittarius and most of Scorpio, before the moon rose.) Today there's a blue heron in the field out front. My extremely cute niece and nephew are coming over and are expected to romp picturesquely with the dogs.
Today's book: "The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror," by David J. Skal. I read Skal's completely awesome "Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween" a couple years ago (right after buying my first Nepenthes!) and just loved it. Last night I stayed up rather late finishing this one, which I started on the plane. It focuses on early Hollywood horror, identifying four monster-movie archetypes: Frankenstein, Dracula, Jekyll & Hyde, and the freaks of "Freaks." I don't at all agree that all forms of movie horror can be traced back to one of those four, but he has some great observations about scientific "reproduction" movies (Alien, The Brood) and their sociological implications. There are also some fascinating Hollywood anecdotes; I enjoyed learning about the friendship between Vampira and James Dean. (She sent him a photo of herself in an open grave, inscribed with "Wish you were here," shortly before he died.) I'd highly recommend "Death Makes a Holiday," but this one's pretty good too.
This is my last day off at home for a while - I work the next three days, then I'm going home to Nashvegas for four days, and then I work a six-day week. Art Boy and I took our first trip to the fabulous Book Soup in West Hollywood. I goggled at the ceiling-high shelves and came out with an armful of books for my niece and nephew, including the marvelously creepy "Mommy?" by Maurice Sendak. (Neither of them has ever demonstrated interest in monsters; the boy likes trucks and the girl likes to put on hats. But I keep trying.)
Then we strolled up Sunset to a nicely decorated Halloween store, which turned out to be more of a big Spencer's type place but which still had some nice-looking false head decorations. Our route took us right by the Viper Room; it gave me quite a frisson to walk over the exact spot where River died. Then it was hot dogs at Pink's and back to the house.
We had a gorgeous sunset at the beach - I'm sure Art Boy will have photos up shortly - and are now back here preparing to watch some films. Tonight's roster includes "Dagon" and "Pumpkinhead", both of which arrived from Netflix today. I am rather curious about "Dagon," as it appears to feature an entirely Spanish cast, despite being set off the coast of Massachusetts ... oh well, Stuart Gordon wouldn't lead us astray. And "Pumpkinhead" was recommended to us as a good follow-up to Gordon's "Reanimator." It stars Lance Henriksen and is directed by special-effects pumpkin-pie Stan Winston, so it should at least be educational.
So it's been a dang good day. I'm going to top it off with some gin here in a little bit.
Addendum: Apparently "Dagon" is actually set off the coast of Galicia, which explains the Spaniards. I don't think Lovecraft would have liked Spain; the whole "mestizo" culture would have appalled him. Maybe that's the point of the movie? *optimism kicks up another notch*
This is awesome. Apparently a greenhouse in Lyon, France, attracted by "une odeur nauseabonde," checked one of their N. truncata pitchers and discovered a partially digested mouse inside. Ewww! (DO NOT CLICK on that link if you have a weak stomach. There are pictures.) I am grateful to Chris, creator of Linky (and a wiki!) for alerting me to this news.
They think the mouse was trying to dig dead bugs out of the pitcher, fell in, was unable to climb out and fell victim to the plant's digestive enzymes. Someone over at Carnivorous Plants UK reports that, after photographing the mouse, the enterprising gardeners replaced it in the pitcher to see how much more digested it will get. To avoid disrupting the process, they will weigh the pitcher every day. My French is not good enough to watch the video and check this for myself. The greenhouse appears to be at a place called The Park of the Golden Head.
Why is this a big deal? Nobody has ever documented a carnivorous plant eating a mammal. There are stories of Nepenthes chowing on mice, rats and even monkeys, but no scientific proof. I hope this news will result in more carnivorous plants on film.
From watchthewater.org, a website designed to help you plan your trip to the beach:
Q: Is it permissible to drink alcohol on the beach in Los Angeles County? A: No. Alcoholic beverage consumption is not allowed on any beach in Los Angeles County. Remember: Swimmers who drink are sinkers.
I have been leaving this extremely popular element out of my posts for a while! Today's book is "Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology," edited by David Ulin. It was a cool birthday gift from my brother, who is also named David, but was not involved in editing the book. I love the idea - I can finally quit compiling a mental list of authors to read in order to Understand L.A. (uh, James Ellroy?) and just dive into this collection. The excerpts are arranged chronologically, and while this is helpful, I'm still back in 1915 and it sort of feels like reading a textbook, as most of the selections from that era are essays of some type. I can certainly cope, but it's a bit dry after my last books, "Dune" and "Dune Messiah." Rereading them was a great way to fulfil my summer sci-fi quota (I still need a Greg Bear to top things off) and lay some groundwork for reading about a desert city. Would the rape of the Owens Valley have occurred if the Chandlers had thought to invent stillsuits? Probably not.
Today's plant: My adorable Pinguicula, which is blooming and looks like this. I'm not convinced it's the same type of plant - the one in the photo is probably temperate, while it seems reasonable to guess that a random Ping bought in L.A. would be a Mexican variety - but the flower is similar. Although mine is infinitely more beautiful, of course. The last time I got a Ping to flower, the whole plant immediately rolled over and died, so I'm trying not to get too attached. We have a well-meaning gardener who likes to shower my plant rack with the hose, dousing my fragile carnivores in toxic, mineral-loaded tap water. I have asked him not to.
Art Boy and I ripped into a helpless flank steak earlier tonight and then sat down to watch "Re-Animator." He got to see it in high school, on account of he was a boy and got to do cool things. I had never seen it! Gosh, it was great. I could have done without the sequence involving that poor cat, but at least it was fake-looking, and the rest was just spectacular. (OK, the severed-head-oral-rape sequence was rather distressing as well, and it did not look fake enough.) It was gory, it was witty (I loved the Stop Making Sense poster) and it had some really inspiring special effects. I'm getting excited for Prombie*!
This afternoon we went to the Getty Center, which was very nice. I wore my Phnglui shirt, which I almost never wear. We split off so I could wander around the blindingly bright gardens and Art Boy could look at, you know, art. I sat down under a tree to figure out what some plants were. A young man in a baseball cap walked by and gave me a sidelong glance.
"Great shirt," he said as he passed.
"Thanks!" I said brightly.
And then he turned around. "Say," he began. "Did you see that Justice League episode where Solomon Grundy fights Cthulhu?"
I hove a mighty inward sigh. "No," I said pleasantly.
"Oh, it's so awesome. Of course, they don't say it's Cthulhu, but it totally is. And then later, Solomon Grundy comes back from the dead, and -"
His cell phone rang. "Hang on," he said. "Hey, Mom. Yeah. OK. I'll be right there. I'm down in the garden so it might be a few minutes."
He hung up. "So Solomon Grundy comes back as a zombie, and he's clearly possessed by Cthulhu. It's so awesome. Is that a real society?" peering intently at my chest. I told him it was and gave him the URL, and he went away. Something like this always happens when I wear that goddamn thing. I asked Art Boy if this happens to people who wear Old Navy T-shirts, and he said no.
*Prombie might happen again, but if it does, it will be in San Francisco around April and will involve probably these zombie flashmob people. Amazingly, though, it could actually happen. If it does, I will be sure all previous attendants get an invitation and adequate notice, and I'll do my best to find you a place to stay.
Just glanced over at the TV here at work -- which is right next to my desk, always turned on and always turned to a sporting-event -- and saw my first commercial for "The Prestige." Hugh is going to be prancy. Christian is going to be smoldering. Who knows what David Bowie and Andy Serkis will do... Emma is excited!
After work last night I went to a fundraising party for this theater. It was quite nice; everyone was friendly even though I didn't really know anyone, and I spent most of the time talking to a Swedish ninja. I tried to tell Art Boy about it after getting home.
Me: ... Oh! And I met the makeup girl from Call of Cthulhu! Art Boy: You are the biggest geek I have ever met.
In unrelated geeky news, my long-awaited copy of "The Complete Grower's Guide to Carnivorous Plants" arrived yesterday! I was eating a peach and reading Doonesbury on the front lawn (life is so good here) when the mailman came up. "Is this yours?" he said, holding out the Amazon box. I knew what it was and practically somersaulted over to him. Hooray! I've been waiting for this since April! The book is gorgeous - I've barely skimmed the surface so far, but it just has exquisite photos, many taken by author and Carnivorous Plant FAQ lord Barry Rice. (There's a nice photo of an Utricularia cultivar called Cthulhu. See how everything in this post ties together?) And the chapter on cultivation looks very practical - rule number one is to always assume your plants are under stress. Which is refreshingly realistic. I'm going to go out and snuggle my Nepenthes.
When I got home last night, one of our cats (not the new rocket cat) had somehow gone missing. Art Boy had opened no doors or windows since seeing her last, but she just wasn't in the house. Not under the bed, not in the closet ... we poked around checking her hiding places, and trying to think of what new ones she might have invented, and then we found the hole in the closet wall. It led straight down. We had noticed it upon moving in and plugged it up, but someone had managed to get it open again... Now, Isis loves nothing more than hiding in a nice basement, which was her favorite pastime at my last apartment. But here we do not have a basement, just a sort of giant crawlspace under the house. It has a couple of vents that are open to the outside, through which a cat could easily fit. We went out and shone flashlights through the vents, and called and opened her favorite food, but there was no sign of her.
So we'd just given her up for Gone Exploring, and were going to bed, when a hideous caterwaul shattered the night. It seemed to come from every direction. Art Boy, who was feeling awful about losing the cat while just being in the house, immediately identified it as coming from around back. I threw on a shirt over my jammies (it's cold here, dammit) and raced around with the flashlight. There she was, having evidently just reentered the crawlspace. What prompted the caterwaul? What adventures did she have out in the great wide world? We opened another can of food, she came right to it, and we wrangled her inside. Once in the kitchen I tried to give her a welcome-home snuggle. She buried her claws in my scalp and launched herself across the room. It was 5 a.m. Fracking cats.
Today we are all unharmed except that my scalp itches from where the claws dug in. Art Boy is very sensibly still asleep.
Our new rocket cat is on his way to us as I write. We are somewhat nervous about adopting a special-needs kitty, but we're excited too. Art Boy in particular is looking forward to having another guy around the house. Hopefully he won't immediately blow himself up or run away or anything.
We've been rather taking it easy since we got back from Santa Fe. It just feels good to be back from vacation, and it feels like we're home. I need to find some new non-work activities; yoga really just isn't doing much for me anymore. I usually come out of class wanting to strangle the teacher. My ideal would be a dance class, but not having taken one since grade school, I am pretty nervous about the very idea. Also, many adult dance classes are partner-oriented, and you can bet that Art Boy is not going to learn to salsa, merengue or swing with me.
Some very cute plants huddled in the rocks at Bandelier. Aww! I'll protect you, little plants!
Art Boy and Music Boy think about being Prehistoric Boys.
Plaza, Santa Fe, during Fiesta, in the rain! Have a wet Navajo Taco. It was fun.
Art Boy is trying to pry me from the computer by blasting all his snarkiest iTunes. I am currently enduring the "Land of the Lost" theme song, complete with T-rex roars... This is what I put up with in order to communicate with you readers.
....From Santa Fe. We are back and dehydrated from drinking so much. It was a great long weekend. Our house has been declared Termite-Free and the cats were safely recovered from the kennel, although they ate almost nothing while they were there, so we have to watch them closely over the next few days. Oh, and the gas was turned off for termite purposes and not turned back on, so there's no hot water and we can't use the stove. Also, the front window, which was removed for mysterious termite purposes ONE MONTH AGO, is now being noisily replaced. Also, I got invited this morning to a very nice-sounding fundraiser that I cannot attend because of work.
On the other hand, I got some sweet birthday presents, including a The Economist style guide from my brother and a lovely lavender plant. And some fabulous cards. And a friend of ours gave the Humane Society a donation in memory of Stella. And there's a chance we'll have hot water tonight. Things are pretty good.
This is an extremely self-absorbed post for the fifth anniversary of 9/11/01, but I just really haven't got much to say about it that I haven't been saying for five years. The president is a twat.
And truer words our dear H.P. Lovecraft never wrote. I was born in the dark of September 9, and this Saturday I will be 30. I'm going to somebody's wedding that I don't really know, and dear readers, I am going to get drunk.
If you haven't read "The Dunwich Horror," the full text is here.
Art Boy and I are off to Santa Fe for said wedding. Talk to you kids on the other side of 30.
I asked my mom about the red thing and here's what she said:
Now, about red at a wedding: I wore a red dress once, and looked around to see if I were the only one that did; I was, so I haven't since, although I have seen both white and black, which I thought were more taboo than red. My advice is that in Santa Fe, anything goes; you are no longer in the Deep South, with "your mama and them" looking you over.
This only deepens my confusion and alarm. (There's nothing worse than feeling as though the disembodied spirits of your mama and them are looking you over; see diamond entry below.) Solution: Wear an old and respectable dress, and spend dress money on spa treatments to achieve Inner Glow.
I was at work last night when someone sent out a group message with the news alert "Steve Irwin killed." You should've heard the gasps that went up. Everyone was distressed. When someone read aloud "Stingray barb?" I just thought it was a joke. You step on stingrays, they make your foot swell up; they don't kill you. There are so many deadly marine animals in Australia - such as the stonefish, which DOES kill you almost at once if you step on it. Stingray barb to the chest is a rare and bizarre way to die. (A "freakish death," as Australia's prime minister put it today.)
The Sydney Morning Herald has a harrowing description of Irwin's last animal encounter, which of course was caught on video:
Without warning, the ray, usually regarded as a placid creature towards humans, stops, turns and lashes out, spearing Irwin in the chest with one of the knife-like barbs at the end of its tail - an action like a paring knife creating "a terrific tearing of flesh", said Bryan Fry, of the University of Melbourne's Australian venom research unit.
I mean, good heavens.
We were all sad at the office, and I was unreasonably down after getting home. He was someone everyone knew and probably imitated at some point, and it was because he did something really cool: hung out with animals everyone was afraid of, and showed you what was nifty about them. Tavern Wench has a sweet tribute up. Cheers, Steve. I'm so sorry for Terri & the kids. The image of Terri sorting through a huge closet of pocketed khaki shirts is almost too sad to contemplate.
(If you followed the SMH link above, here's a definition of "larrikin.")
I've been holding back from posting on this at Art Boy's request, but as he's now posted over at his previously word-free site, Stella here died last week. It was his loss more than mine; we've just moved in together, and I loved Stella, but she was indisputably his cat. I'm not sure I can overstate their bond. The news was a shock and my primary reaction has been overpowering rage. I would have killed anyone who got between him and that cat. Loving someone and seeing them suffer like this is hideous. At the vet's, when we went to see her afterward, I wanted to throw myself against the walls, pull them down, do SOMETHING. It wouldn't have helped, of course, and not having a direction for the anger makes it even worse. (Mostly turns it inward, actually.) It's the helpless fury of the failed protector that has motivated so many bad-action-movie heroes. Good thing I'm a Quaker.
We do think she's still around, though. The morning we got the news, someone jumped up on the bed and started to walk up between our legs. I assumed it was one of my cats, and we looked, and no one was there. We looked at each other. "Did you feel that too?" Art Boy said. The bedroom was really her territory - if my cat Anastasia came in, Stella would run her out. Anastasia still won't go near it. If I try to carry her in, she wriggles out of my arms and runs to the other end of the house.
I miss Stella. She was a good kitty and good to Mike, to say the very least. If you have cats, please keep an eye out for the symptoms of hepatic lipidosis. There are worse things than a trip to the vet.
I sort of ignore YouTube, being a cranky old bitch, but apparently there's an interesting drama unfolding over whether a series of intriguing footage is real, a hoax or a brilliant ad campaign. Nick Spencer has a post on it and the New York Times runs down the possible scenarios.
A pox on all dresses, actually. Let us return to the days when dressmakers would create individual frocks to suit a lady's form, occasion and taste. Actually, I don't know that I could ever have afforded such a thing, but it's nice to think about, particularly after a day of slogging through stores looking for a dress to wear to someone's wedding. It doesn't sound hard and I'm not picky. I just want something that isn't black and doesn't make me look like I'm trying to appear ten years old. After reading Salon's review of Alan Moore's latest, "The Lost Girls," I am particularly concerned about the latter.
Saturday I saw Rainn Wilson in a woodworking shop. I thought it was just someone who looked like him, the way you would if you saw him in Ohio, but then the woman I was talking to said "Did you notice that's Rainn Wilson in there? God, I love The Office." Stupidly, I said "What's he doing here?" as if he's not allowed to stand around a woodworking shop if he wants to. (We'll not yet get into what I was doing there.) "He's friends with that guy," the woman said.
So take that, Art Boy! Think you're all that for seeing Ming-Na?
Today's plant: My beautiful, beautiful Nepenthes have risen from the dead! One is a very large N. coccinea, obtained at Delhi Flower & Garden Center one giddy Christmas. It spent two years hanging unhappily in my Cincinnati bay window, where it got a fair amount of sunlight and enough humidity to keep it alive. One year it formed pitchers, but they shriveled immediately upon reaching mature size. The rest of the time it looked like a very unattractive hanging plant. Anyone else would have had the sense to throw it out, but it clung to life with such tenacity. I couldn't murder it. So I stuffed it in the back seat of the car with all the cats & other plants, and drove it out here, and by God it loves the new patio. I should've been putting it outside in the summers. It's crowded with new growth, and each new stem is forming a pitcher. Several are a couple inches long already. Carnivorous madness! Soon perhaps it will resemble this photo? Although its pitchers are beautifully spotted rather than solid red.
The other Nepenthes is almost more impressive. I got it at Home Depot or one of those places that had just gotten in a cheesily labeled Tray of Insect-Eating Terrors! This would be, god, about four years ago. I picked up one of each kind of plant that they had, and remember well the weary expression on my now-ex-boyfriend's face as I happily explained to him what they all were. The Darlingtonia died, the tiny Sarracenia died, even the Dionaea succumbed to scale after a couple of years and died. But somehow, the very tiny Nepenthes hung on. It's still in a tiny three-inch pot and has never done much besides look frail (at its best, it looked like this). Since being here, I think it has doubled in size. It's got about a dozen half-inch, bronze-colored pitchers. It is gorgeous.
Art Boy can only listen to me talk about the plants for so long, so you people get to hear the rest.
Today's book: "Arthur & George" by Julian Barnes, author of "Flaubert's Parrot." We continue in the English-literary-historical-fiction vein with this well-reviewed novel about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the innocent man he helped after a false conviction. I picked it up at a heavy discount, attracted by the cover (a fetching watercolor of London with beautiful typefaces), and have been putting off reading it on account of it sounded boring. Well, it is just great. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's both a detective story and a pair of in-depth portraits of two men at the start of the 20th century. What are their morals like? How do they feel about religion and science? How well does a Scotsman of Indian descent fit into society? Oh dear, it does sound boring, but it really is quite good.
Well, I have not found my diamond, but much to the delight of Art Boy I have obtained us a new cat! He belongs to a friend of ours who is no longer able to care for his special needs, which mainly involve severe pooping, as we understand it. Isn't he cute?
I feel rather as thought I have swapped the family cow for a handful of beans. But didn't that turn out well in the end? So too shall this, I am confident.
Well, bugger all. I have lost my grandmother's engagement diamond. When I graduated from high school an alarming 11 years ago, she came to the ceremony with my parents and handed me a gift bag afterward, asking me to open it later when we were all at lunch. I ran around embracing people, carelessly swinging the bag from my wrist. Mom stayed a pace behind me, grimly guarding the bag, and finally took it back from me - "You're making me too nervous," she said. When I finally opened it I saw why: They'd gotten Gran's engagement diamond reset into a new ring, flanked by sapphires (my birthstone), with a classically pretty sort of curlicue design in gold. It sounded like Mom and Gran had had a ball shopping together for settings, and Gran seemed pleased to be handing it on. "Never take it off," she said, "or you'll lose it. I always lose jewelry by just setting it down somewhere."
I remember looking at it with sort of a sinking heart; my favorite items of jewelry were woven beaded necklaces and a plastic-encased butterfly wing pendant from a nature store. This diamond solitaire was not really my thing. But I wore it every day from then on. I took it off for two trips to Europe (for the first trip it went in a safety-deposit box; the second trip I was a bachelorette living alone, and I put it in the crisper drawer of the fridge before leaving) and to swim in the ocean, and that was it. Gradually I started to feel I was growing into it. Mom's graduation gift was an antique guardian-angel pendant, and after a few semesters of college - where everyone wore beaded necklaces - my only jewelry was the pendant, the ring and silver hoops in my ears. (We will not speak of the navel-ring interlude.) It was my way of wearing three generations, the four hoops in my ears being completely my own. When Gran died two years ago, I looked at her ring a lot. I had almost stopped noticing it, and after her death it took on extra importance. She left us a little money, and Mom gave me a couple of her old calling cards she found cleaning out the house, but the main thing I had from her was the diamond. After giving it to me, she'd told me, laughing, that my grandfather actually waited to give it to her until after they were married. He'd been afraid she'd take the diamond and run off, she said. So the Valentine's Day after their wedding, he gave her a box of chocolates and a diamond ring, which she figured was costume jewelry and tossed into the trash. "He was so mad! He said 'Get that back out!'" she said. It did still look like an engagement ring, even with the new setting; I sometimes switched hands if I was going out alone and wanted to avoid being bothered. And I wondered, in the back of my mind, if I'd want any future fiances to get me a matching one. Having a diamond engagement ring has never seemed important, but then there'd always be this other one on my other hand, silently telling the diamondless ring "I'm fancier than you."
Anyway, tonight at work I glanced down at my hand and the diamond was gone. It would've looked interesting on Candid Camera. I had a moment of pretending it wasn't gone - the denial phase - and then started carefully patting my shirt and looking in my lap and on my desk, and a few moments later I was down on the floor. This attracted attention, and then several of us were on the floor. My boss was very nice about it and let me go wandering off to retrace my steps from earlier in the evening. You don't realize how many shiny, small things are on the ground until you're looking for a specific one. Nail heads, bits of mica and broken plastic, even isolated old bits of confetti. Nobody found it. The last time I remember looking at it and noticing it was before taking a long walk up the beach this afternoon. So it could be at work; it could be in my car; it could be in the apartment here; it could be on the beach. It's not big. I think it's gone.
The most annoying thing would be if it were in the ocean somewhere, or down in a pipe (the sink here, or the tub, or the sink at work), where nobody will ever find it. Because how cool would it be to just find a diamond on the street? I wouldn't mind if that happened to somebody. I loathe the idea of it just getting covered with crud and disappearing forever.
But then I think of all the people in this city. All the things they lose... today on the beach someone had dropped a T-shirt in the surf, and it kept washing up around people's ankles. Every stray corner near that beach is crammed with someone's stuff: there are lots of homeless, and lots of their stashes. The city's full of the trash people drop - T-shirts, bottles, wrappers, cans, broken glass. Why not diamonds? How many others are out there, glinting faintly in the grime? Not all detritus has to be ugly.
This notion cannot be great comfort to the spirit of my grandmother, nor to that of my notoriously cheap grandfather, who died the year I was born. I fully expect them both to rise and kick my ass for this. Oh well. At least I got to grow up with her.
Last night a slight cold led me to postpone Drunken Blogging Night. Tonight I have just finished the house's first bottle of gin (Art Boy had none of it, I'm afraid) and am watching classic Muppet Show episodes. This is an excellent way to unwind after a somewhat long and stressful day. (The day was not stressful by any objective standards, but by God it made me tired so it counts as stressful. Also, the absolute best thing about working a night shift is getting sloshed alone afterward.) I have just finished the Carol Burnett and Gilda Radner episodes, and am going to round out my second martini with the Steve Martin episode. I believe this one features the vegetable choir singing "Yes, We Have No Bananas" so I am really looking forward to it. I am even more boring without martinis!
I am indebted to James Thurber for the title of this post.
I'm not sure what has been going on that made the blog into a giant page of coding, but it seems to have fixed itself now. It probably involved yesterday's DSL Adventures of Fun that involved us trying to hook up my computer without really knowing what we were doing ... I understood the computer but not DSL, and Art Boy understood DSL but the computer was too different from his evil Mac, and it just ended with us giving up and watching "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" (Netflix correctly hyphenated it on the wrapper! They must read Copy Grrl). Somehow it righted itself while we were doing that. Perhaps it enjoyed the movie too.
So anyway, Art Boy is now flying to Detroit and I am alone in the California sunshine. I just went to the grocery and went slightly insane: Dead Guy Ale, asparagus, mushrooms, scotch... everything he doesn't like. Tonight I'm making steak with mushroom sauce and asparagus and getting absolutely sloshed. Check back for drunken blogging!
Also, we spent all morning watching this. With my old dial-up connection I could never watch video anything, so I really felt like a kid in a candy store.
Kind of. It took longer than expected and there are still complications, but we have got DSL or DHL or whatever the hell it is all set up on Art Boy's evil Mac. At some point my tired old PC will get connected and then we can seriously update our blogs. And that will thrill everyone.
Not much going on here. We hiked around in Topanga Canyon State Park today and got all hot. It was fun. Before that we watched Flashdance while eating lunch. I loove having cable.
Today's book: "The Lambs of London" by Peter Ackroyd. Peter likes to write biographies of historical British figures, such as Shakespeare, Chaucer and architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. (I want to read the latter in October, when I'm planning another Jack the Ripper binge - btw, anyone read "White Chapel, Scarlet Tracings"?) This one's about Charles and Mary Lamb, the brother and sister superteam who wrote Tales of Shakespeare for Children. They're sort of lonely and scholarly and are about to get sucked into a famous literary hoax involving a fake Shakespeare manuscript. It's an agreeable, spare little book. Also, everyone in it behaves sensibly and reasonably, which is in very pleasant contrast to Peter Straub's "Ghost Story." I was very disappointed in that one... it sort of lurched into Stephen King territory, where a small town goes mad and many die, but nobody had very good reasons for what they did. (King is so good at getting you inside the people's heads as they start to get all crazy and murderous. Straub is more interested in describing the snow.) At the end you're supposed to be all worked up about someone slicing up a wasp. ...whatever.
Art Boy is leaving tomorrow for a trip back East. I plan to drink a lot while he's gone.
Me: You know how the bathtub keeps clogging up? I remembered that the other day I dropped the conditioner in the shower and the lid broke and it probably went down the drain. We should probably get it out with a coat hanger. I'd do it but I have to go to work now. And I just got out of the shower where I was shaving my legs so the tub is full of gross standing water. I'm really sorry. I'm the girlfriend from hell right now.
I'm adding a couple of items to the blogroll: Defamer, because I feel obliged to feature L.A. news now; and L.A. Observed, which is very much like The Cincinnati Blog in concept, if more polished in execution. It also features more behind-the-scenes news about the media; it's where I learned, for example, that the Times managing editor gave his metro staff pony rides this week.
Today's book: "Ghost Story" by Peter Straub. Years ago, after a particularly bad week involving "'Salem's Lot," I swore off horror novels until I had a roommate. Now that Art Boy lives in my house (hi Mom!), I am diving in with this classic. It's pretty blah so far - four old men are being haunted by something nasty they did as kids. It sounds like they probably ran over a girl with their car and then buried her out in a field without making sure she was really dead. I'm just guessing. I'm about 150 pages in and realizing it's going to keep up this slow, moody pace. That's OK. There are a lot of descriptions of snow, which is satisfying to read about in Santa Monica, and the mood is effectively creepy. Art Boy is going out of town next week and I expect to terrify myself.
Today's plant: My beautiful, beautiful Sarracenia flava, which I got at the Delhi Garden Center in Tri-County (the only one now! Crazy) and which succumbed to something or other during the move from Pasadena. I brought it all the way from Ohio. It was fine in the car, but something about Pasadena disagreed with it - too much heat, too little sun or both. All of my favorite carnivorous plants are now dead. God, that's depressing. Guess I shouldn't have run over that girl and tried to bury her when I was 18.
Art Boy and I went to the central library of Los Angeles yesterday - there really is a downtown, and that downtown has a library, and I like it quite a bit - for a concert by Harry and the Potters. God, we like them! Unfortunately, the concert was in the library's rotunda, which was quite grand to look at but the acoustics were miserable. Most of the songs just sounded like a bunch of noise, and you couldn't understand anything the boys were saying, which drove us absolutely wild. Still, we enjoyed the spirit of the thing. Their enthusiasm was so unabashed, it was inspiring, and it was fun to hang out with such an interesting cross-section of fans: families, hipsters, kids, a couple of folks who looked like they might have been homeless and just wandered in. We particularly loved the opening act Draco and the Malfoys, who are in fact two other band members and not the Harrys wearing blond wigs as we had speculated. Their songs included "My Dad Is Rich, And Your Dad Is Dead," "Hippogriffs Deserve to Die," "I Have a Broomstick That's Better Than Yours" and the crowd-pleasing "Tom Felton's Kind of Hot." We wore our homemade shirts and I bought a beautiful new one that says "Save Ginny." I wore it to work today, but so far nobody's asked me about it. Hmph. Anyway, we talked about how much K-Hud would have liked it (except for the acoustics) and we've been singing "Save Ginny Weasley from the Basilisk" at home ever since. Art Boy wants to get their new album so we can hear "Save Ginny Weasley From Dean Thomas," which they did not play.
We spent our first night in the house last night and were not devoured by goblins, so we're going back for good tomorrow. It'll be a week or so of radio silence from here except for whatever time online I can snatch at work. This also goes for Art Boy who had only just started his blog back up again (albeit in a new Snarky Celebrity format). I'm sort of cranky about the whole thing because we had just gotten to know this bit of Pasadena; the library, post office and grocery are all within a few blocks, along with a decent yoga studio and some bars/ restaurants. Santa Monica seems a little more sprawly. We'll figure it out but it feels a mite exhausting to start from scratch *again* ... oh well, this is an adventure.
We're moving very, very slowly out of our extended-stay rooms in Pasadena, because we won't have an Internet connection in Santa Monica for a week and a half. Apparently the house has been empty so long that all the phone lines & whatnot need to be all set up again.. it's not like someone else just moved out and the company can just hit a switch. At least, this is what Art Boy has figured out. Blast! He will be rather bad off without the Internet, but I suppose we'll both appreciate it all the more once it's back up. And it's not as though we won't have plenty to do. Anyway, we're off to IKEA in a moment and then taking most of our stuff to the new house for tonight. The kitties are spending tonight in Pasadena by themselves. I think they'll be fine. *pauses to listen to hissing.*
Apparently my beloved A Common Reader, referenced in yesterday's perhaps overlong post, has gone bankrupt. A while ago. Like, in January. Sorry, readers! I will remove it from the blogroll posthaste.
In its last months, the company angered me with some really crappy service (something about mail-order packages being sent in the most complicated and annoying way possible, without notification, which was bad because they were gifts being ordered at the last minute) and a hideous redesign of its previously beautiful catalogue. Nonetheless, I mourn its passing. It introduced me to Alice Thomas Ellis and Barbara Holland, as well as to many children's books such as Maurice Sendak's "In the Night Kitchen," which my 3-year-old nephew memorized after I gave it to him. Also to my family's favorite trashy romance novel, "Emerald," which I gave to my grandmother just as she entered a nursing home. A Church of Christ volunteer visited her shortly after her arrival to Provide Succor, and Granny, hoping to shut the volunteer up, asked her to read "Emerald" aloud. A few paragraphs in, the volunteer closed the book and excused herself for the day. Granny was pleased.
I brought two pounds of Lookout Joe out here with me, and they're almost gone... there are about 3 tablespoons left. It is the end of my five-year era of drinking no other type of coffee. Goodbye, Mount Lookout. Out here is the land of Trader Joe's. I had been to the one in Kenwood a couple times and found it irritating; first, you have to go to Kenwood, find the right shopping-center driveway and park by David's Bridal. Then you walk in with your grocery list and find that half the stuff you want is either not currently in stock or has never been in stock. "But try these fantastic chocolate-covered frozen strawberries!" a brightly colored sign will say. I am not that kind of grocery shopper. If the store is trying to push strawberries on me, by God I want to know what's the matter with those strawberries that they want to get rid of them so fast. What kind of sucker do they think I am? I am here to buy vinegar, dammit.
So when I got out here and was told to visit Trader Joe's, I did so with some trepidation. The one near our hotel in Pasadena - which, according to a (brightly colored) sign, was the Very First Trader Joe's Ever! - is exactly like the one in Kenwood. I suspect the "handmade" signs are the same. (This was confirmed when I spotted three identical ones with different cheese names written in, prompting me to go "AHA!" and alarm the other customers.) One day I went with a shopping list of not-quite-basic things- rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil - so I could make my favorite peanut sauce. Well, forget it. Trader Joe does not want you making your own peanut sauce. He wants you to buy his Special Recipe in a reasonably priced jar with an amusing label! However, the goddamn place is winning me over. I have to shop somewhere, and I can't go to Bigg's anymore. The orange juice is reasonably priced and quite good. So is the milk. And the yogurt, and the bread. And, of course, the wine. I picked up some Trader Joe's Bock intending to laugh at it and actually ended up liking it. And I've gotten a couple packages of Prepackaged Fun Exotic Foods and found them fine - not as good as I can make, but adequate for a temporary kitchen. When Art Boy left here a few weeks ago, I was complaining about the store and snarling about its jaunty little signs that reminded me of college. When he got back, he found a weird object in the dryer and said "What's this?" I told him it was a Trader Joe's Lavender Laundry Sachet, of course. He looked at me for a minute and then walked off, shaking his head and going "I leave for ten days."
Anyway, I'm sure they have some simply adorably packaged coffee, perhaps sold by "Trader Juan" or some shit. It will probably be fair-trade, organic, reasonably cheap and quite good. Goddammit.
Today's book: "Unexplained Laughter," by Alice Thomas Ellis. Two London women spend a few weeks in a Welsh cottage and are creeped out by the locals, particularly someone's mad sister who's kept in her room when she's not roaming freely around the countryside spying on everyone. Mainly the women talk between themselves about love and death, and the sister interjects italicized commentary remarking that she herself is pretty much dead. Nobody actually dies, unlike in some of Ellis' other short novels. There's not much plot to speak of, but it's worth reading for the acerbic conversations and eerie setting. It reminded me of her excellent "Fairy Tale," except without the storyline; it felt like deleted scenes from that book. I highly recommend Ellis' "Home Life" column over at commonreader.com; I'd link to it if I weren't on the coding-unfriendly Mac.