1. a Powerbook
2. a new iMac
3. a Mini
4. still more books
5. new pots and pans
6. new dishes
7. a beach house
8. a redone kitchen
9. three redone bathrooms
Hello, my name is Karen, and I currently have <gulp> 189 movies in my Netflix queue and another <gulp> 22 movies in the "saved until they're released on DVD" section. I have not watched a Netflix movie in . . . almost 20 hours. I last watched "The Weather Man," in which Nicolas Cage does the unthinkable! He plays an Angsty Guy! (Honestly, I think the world would end if a movie featuring an Angsty Guy got made without Nic. And, yet, I love him. I do.) I really liked this movie, even though parts of it were depressing as hell. Life is just what it is, and you are just what you are, and that's all there is to it. That doesn't have to be bad news. Accept it, live with it, and you'll be happy. Even if you're a weatherman.
**Just because I can't NOT, let me say that I don't like when people append "-oholic" to something they're addicted to, like "chocoholic" or "shopoholic" or "workoholic" or whatever. The original word, "alcoholic," happened to refer to a word ending in "-ohol," so "alcoholic" just has "-ic" appended. That means that those other words should be "chocolatic" and "shopic" and "workic," though, granted, they're not nearly so catchy that way.
There's only so many times you can recommend a book to someone before you finally have to take the bull by the horns and just give the person the darn book. I think that's what Mark figured, anyhow, because after hearing all my empty promises to read "something" by Richard Russo "one of these days," he mailed me a copy of Empire Falls. So, I'm starting to think that those folks over at Pulitzer know a thing or two about good writing. Wow, can this guy write. My only knowledge of Russo was that he wrote the novel that the movie "Nobody's Fool" was based on, and I thought that the movie absolutely nailed the portrayal of a washed-up small town somewhere, anywhere, in New England or upstate New York. It's a terrific movie—perhaps Paul Newman's finest performance, in my opinion—and I'm now eager to read the book. Empire Falls treads similar ground; this time it's a formerly bustling mill and factory town along a river in Maine. Russo switches point of view from chapter to chapter—even including entire chapters in flashback—so you really get to know several of the characters by their thoughts as well as their actions and words. These are the kind of characters you think about long after the book is done, wondering how they are and what they're up to. They're that real. This is a long, meandering book, although I never once felt it dragged. Russo skillfully interweaves numerous major and minor subplots so that, toward the end, I was simultaneously itching to know what would happen and fretting that I'd soon be out of pages to read. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Thanks, Mark! (Oh, and I've added the two-disc HBO movie—also featuring Paul Newman!—to my Netflix queue, despite his mediocre review of it.)
iPod Mystery: Why can't I use my iPod buttons with my gloves on? (On the coldest days, I've even tried unsuccessfully to use my nose—but I think the problem there is that I have a Generation 3 iPod with an iSkin, so the fingerholes are a little smaller and set farther in than usual, and my nose is not as agile as my finger.)
iTunes Question: Is there a way to make two songs always stay together, even when doing a shuffle? I have lots of live CDs, where the tracks sometimes have to be divided at arbitrary points, and it's disconcerting to hear a song being introduced at the end of one track, and then suddenly it shuffles over to a completely different artist and song. I would want to permanently join certain pairs of songs that really need to be heard successively.
Sauteed Turnips and Parsnips with Rosemary
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbps. unsalted butter
3 medium turnips (3/4 lb. total), peeled and diced
3 medium parsnips (3/4 lb. total), peeled, cored if necessary, and diced
4 medium shallots (1/2 lb. total), peeled and cut lengthwise into sixths
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Heat oil and butter in a 12" heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add turnips and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add parsnips and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes more.
This recipe is supposed to serve 4–6 people, but I ate pretty much the whole thing myself, because Andy was still getting over a stomach bug.
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 packet active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk, warm
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
In heavy-duty mixer, using paddle attachment, combine flour, yeast, butter, honey, salt, and baking soda until mixed. With mixer running, pour in warm buttermilk. When dough begins to pull away from the sides, switch to dough hook. Knead on low speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let dough rest for 10 minutes and then knead for 1 minute longer.
Transfer the dough to a well-oiled [I used cooking spray] bowl and turn once to coat [I just sprayed the top]. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Lightly grease [Spray again!] 9x5" loaf pan. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board. Roll or pat into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Beginning at narrow end, roll up the rectangle to form a loaf. Place the loaf, seam side down, in the prepared pan. Cover and let rise until near top of pan, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°. Brush top of loaf with melted butter. Bake until golden brown or the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 minutes [Mine took 30 minutes].
Turn loaf onto rack and let cool completely before slicing. [Or, if you're like me, slice it while it's still slightly warm and slather it with butter! Yum! It also made outstanding toast this morning. Just ask Pete.]
My list of links to movie reviews* I've written is finally live! Many thanks to the folks at Typepad and to Scott (who answered me more promptly, more clearly—and off the clock) for helping me figure it out. I'm still not 100% happy with it—for one thing, although it looks like just another page in my blog, the sidebar items (my Netflix queue, my book group choice, etc.) don't seem to get updated. I'm still trying to figure that one out. And I was annoyed I couldn't make a sidebar heading to match the others, so I had to tuck it in under "Links." But still, there it is! Next up is a link to all the recipes I've posted; I hope to get that one up in another day or so.
*"Reviews" here can mean a couple of paragraphs or a simple "Cute movie." That's the way it goes.
Sudoku puzzles and long steamy showers
Absolut Citron and freshly cut flowers
My favorite CDs where John Prine plays and sings
These are a few of my favorite things
Crisp roasted duck and dark chocolate truffles
Red wine that's all mine and Friday iPod Shuffles
Leisurely pushing my kids on the swings
These are a few of my favorite things
Putting the kids to bed with no whining
Movies from Netflix to watch while we're dining
Waiting to see what the day's Bloglines brings
These are a few of my favorite things
When the kids fight, when the phone rings,
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad!
(Inspired by Chasing Daisy)
1. I watched a little bit of "Spider-Man 2" but was too bored to continue. As I recall, the same thing happened with the original "Spider-Man." Oh well.
2. OK, now how to discuss "The Aristocrats"? For those of you who have been living in a cave, this is a documentary featuring 100 of the best stand-up comics and comedy writers alive, each giving their take on a famous dirty vaudeville joke called "The Aristocrats." The whole point of telling the joke is to be even more vulgar, to embrace even more taboos, to cross even more lines, and to push the limits of human decency farther than anyone ever did before. Well, let's start off by saying that I really enjoyed the movie and, at least a few times, laughed so hard and long I had to press the pause button. That being said, however, I'm not sure I can name even three people I'd recommend this movie to. For one thing, filthy doesn't even begin to describe it. I know many people with good senses of humor who would nonetheless be offended by this movie. Furthermore, I don't think everyone is as interested as I am in the "art of comedy"—that is, the history and theory and philosophy of it all. There are wonderful moments when people as diverse as George Carlin and Paul Reiser and Eric Idle and the staff of The Onion discuss what makes this joke an enduring classic, and what's involved in "getting" it. The centerpiece of the film is a clip of Gilbert Gottfried at the Friars' Club Roast right after 9/11. He has just gotten booed for doing a 9/11 joke ("Too soon!" someone yelled from the audience), and he launches into his version of "The Aristocrats," as if to reassure everyone that comedy will still go on. There are also some worthwhile special features on the DVD, particularly if you are indeed interested in that sort of behind-the-scenes comedy-speak. (Oh, and by the way, I had no idea that Bob Saget—yes, he of family TV fame—is known far and wide as the absolute dirtiest stand-up comedian alive. Go figure.) So, to sum up, I recommend this movie, but if you end up hating it, that just means that you have no motherfucking sense of humor.
I think these "game savers" (from the Container Store) are a terrific idea for those board games whose boxes have long since given up the ghost. One thing I've noticed since becoming a parent is how shoddily games—and their boxes—are made these days. The plastic is always the flimsiest sort, and you have to assemble everything—even putting the decals on various parts. The worst offender so far is Ker-Plunk. For one thing, the plastic sticks are so flimsy that they are almost unusable. But I was really pissed when I discovered that once I had put together the main cylindrical unit, it no longer fit in the box it had come in! So you end up either having to take it apart every time you put it away or being content with a box that won't close. Even Master Mind comes in a box that is just a little bit too small for the game to fit in lengthwise; you have to tilt it on the diagonal just so. Then there's Yahtzee, which comes in a big box but contains barely enough to fill half of it. And I was horrified to discover that it came with a crappy blue plastic dice cup instead of the velour-lined "leather" cup I remember from my youth. (And, speaking of Yahtzee, when we were little, there weren't yellow "bonus chips," were there? If you'd already gotten Yahtzee and then got it again, you were plumb out of luck, right?)
I finally caved and bought the new illustrated hardcover edition of Strunk/White, The Elements of Style. My old dog-eared paperback vanished long ago, but I think I would've bought this even if I still had the old one. Maira Kalman's whimsical illustrations of selected sample sentences are just delightful.
He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug.
(Not He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center.)
1. Old Folks' Boogie (live) - Little Feat
And you know that you're over the hill
When your mind makes a promise that your body can't fill.
2. Genius of Love - Tom Tom Club
No one can sing
Quite like Smokey, Smokey Robinson
3. Don't Know Why - Norah Jones
My heart is drenched in wine
But you'll be on my mind forever.
4. People Get Ready - Eva Cassidy
There ain't no room
For the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just
To save his own.
5. Candy Man - Steve Earle
Don't stand close to the candy man
He'll leave a stick of candy in your hand.
6. Carolina in My Mind - James Taylor
Karen, she's a silver sun
You best walk her way and watch it shine.
7. Jesus: The Missing Years (live) - John Prine
It was raining. It was cold
West Bethlehem was no place for a twelve year old
So he packed his bags and he headed out
To find out what the world's about
He went to France. He went to Spain
He found love. He found pain.
8. Broken Stones - Paul Weller
Like pebbles on a beach
Kicked around, displaced by feet
Like broken stones, all trying to get home.
9. Glory Bound (live) - Martin Sexton
Freedom came my way that night
Just like a jet plane in and out of sight
I was hauling ass at a million miles an hour
Wondering how hard I'd hit.
10. Doors of Your Heart - English Beat
You can feel love thumping at the doors of your heart
Feel love thump as it tears you apart
Feel blood pump as the worrying starts
You can feel love thumping at the doors of your heart again
At the doors of your heart again
You can feel love thump
Bom-bom be bom-bom.
Choose one: moving to another state, having triplets, or never being able to eat chocolate again.
Yikes! The only one that doesn't make me start shaking uncontrollably is moving to another state, although the idea depresses the hell out of me.
Soup: Name a news story that truly shocked you.
The newly released Abu Ghraib photos. Not shocked in the surprised way, but shocked in the horrified way.
What was your very first job?
If you had the chance to read the diary of someone you're really close to, would you? Why or why not?
No, I wouldn't intrude on someone's privacy—particularly someone I care about!
Dessert: What's something you're looking forward to?
Monday morning: Back to school!
Next time you meet a foreigner who is, shall we say, not the sharpest knife in the drawer or not playing with a full deck or a few beers short of a six-pack, you can refer to him in his native language:
If he's Croatian, say "Vrane su mu popile mozak." (Crows have drunk his brain.)
If he's Danish, say that he has "rotter på loftet" (rats in the attic).
If he's French, say, "Il n'a pas inventé l'eau chaude." (He didn't invent hot water.)
If he's Irish, say (in Gaelic), "Tá sé chomh mear le míol Márta." (He's as lively as an animal in March.)
If he's German, ask him, "Hast du 'nen Vogel?!" (Have you got a bird [in your head]?)
If he's Portuguese or Brazilian, say that he has a "cabeça d'alho xoxo" (head of rotten garlic).
If he's Russian, say, "У него крыша поехала (U nego kryša poexala)." (His roof has gone.)
If he's Serbian, say that he's "Луд ко струя (lud ko struja)" (crazy as electricity).
If he's Hispanic, tell him in Spanish that he's "más loco que una cabra" (crazier than a goat).
There are many more examples here, plus—for all you Monty Python fans—an entire page devoted to how to say "My hovercraft is full of eels" in every language. Oh yeah, and all sorts of interesting (for polyglots, anyhow) information about learning and studying foreign languages. Me, I find this stuff fascinating.
I've got "Lord of War" in my queue, but I just got this message re the bonus disc:
Lord of War: Bonus Material has been removed from your Queue. We no longer have enough copies of the DVD to satisfy customer demand. Unfortunately, we are unable to purchase more of this movie and will no longer offer it for rental.
We realize this is disappointing and want to reassure you that we remove movies from our web site only in unusual circumstances.
We apologize for the inconvenience and hope you find many other movies to enjoy at Netflix.
Why exactly can't they purchase more?
I've had to spend a full day thinking about "Grizzly Man" before I could bring myself to write about it. I can't recall the last time I was so incensed by a movie. It's a documentary directed by Werner Herzog about Timothy Treadwell, a self-proclaimed animal lover/naturalist/outdoorsman/ "friend" of the grizzlies. The guy was a total fucking lunatic (pardon me, I know this is a family blog). There is no question that he did more to endanger grizzlies (and foxes, for that matter—he even had a "pet" fox, for heaven's sake) than he did to "protect" them. Each summer he went out to Alaska to a nature preserve—which, by definition, refers to a place where animals are protected—to "save the grizzlies." He flouted the rules of the Park Service; namely, to move his camp a mile each week and to stay 100 yards away from the grizzlies. He seemed to think that he was a grizzly; his attempts to "make friends" with them gave them a false sense of trust for humans and was probably the reason some of them ventured too far into human habitats and were killed. The bear that eventually killed him ended up being shot—which never should have happened, never would have happened, if he'd shown the proper respect any real naturalist does.
Herzog stops just short of decrying Treadwell's actions, but the 2 hours' worth of Treadwell's video footage that he selected for this film, out of nearly 100 hours available, make the case plainly. I know that Herzog was conflicted because as much as he disapproved of—or, at least, failed to understand—Treadwell, he admired his filmmaking ambitions. Some of the footage is indeed beautiful, but that doesn't make anything he did "right." I don't even know what else to say about this movie. You should see it, because it's a well-done documentary, but you will come away from it just furious at Timothy Treadwell. Clearly he was unbalanced mentally, but he did seem to know what he was doing.
From the moment I put the DVD in, I was captivated by the haunting guitar music that accompanied the whole film. I should've guessed it was Richard Thompson. There's a terrific hour-long special feature on the DVD that is all about how the music got made for this movie. It is fascinating and beautiful—don't miss it. On the one hand, I wished I'd watched it first, so I could try to notice the music more; on the other hand, I was glad to have something to relax me and entertain me and impress me after watching the feature film and being ready to throttle Treadwell.
The postage-paid return envelopes from Netflix are all addressed to "Nearest Netflix Facility," which in my case has always been Worcester, MA. I keep the envelopes in a pile near the door; I have a few extras left over from those instances when I've returned two DVDs in the same envelope. The other day I happened to notice that one of my envelopes was from the Tacoma, WA, facility! Nearest, my foot! That seems to me to be just another way for them to drag out the amount of time between my returning a DVD and their sending out the next one. Needless to say, I put that one at the bottom of the pile, for use only if I somehow blow through all my extras.
Julie is a typical third child in lots of the expected ways, including being very adaptable to changes in schedules and being almost frighteningly savvy about pop culture. (Not only can she recite entire hunks of dialogue from "Jimmy Neutron," but I think she actually gets it!) She is also much better at playing board games and card games than Steph or Pete were at that age—or even at a later age. She can already play along with us in games like Sorry! or Uno, albeit without any hint of strategic thinking. (And, frankly, Steph and Pete don't always exhibit all that much strategic thinking, either.) One game we play a lot of is mancala.* She has absolutely no idea what is actually going on in mathematical terms, but she knows how to pick up all the stones in one of her wells and distribute them counter-clockwise-ly around the board. And, like me, she gets real tactile pleasure out of the sensation of letting each smooth glass stone slip out of her hand into each well until they're all gone. Very soothing and satisfying, regardless of who wins. And the counting practice certainly can't hurt!
*Everyone I know plays mancala the same way, although I just learned from Wikipedia that there are many, many variations.
I think my spam is coming from George and Yortuk Festrunk these days:
You wouldn't put stock in me if I told you what crazy gossip Les just disclosed to me!
The costly time-keeper we've been wishing for is for order from [Web address] for not much money. I'm no question not going to fool around with the full price at some other jewelry mart now.
Thought you'd want to know!
Let me know how it goes!
Any parent of a school-age boy is familiar with the world of Legos. (I'm sure there are girls who do them, but I've never known any girls who are even remotely as into them as every boy seems to be.) Sometime between my childhood and my kids' childhood, Legos became smaller and started coming in sets with detailed instructions for making a particular vehicle or scene. I remember when Stephanie was in kindergarten; every time she was invited to a boy's birthday party and I'd ask what the boy might like for a gift, she'd say, "Legos!" Sure enough, when Pete got to kindergarten, he started becoming obsessed with Legos, and we bought him a few of the sets that make robot-type creatures. Then came a great moment in toy history: the marriage of Legos and Star Wars. Pete has many, many of these sets, and some of them are downright beautiful in their intricacy. What usually ends up happening is Pete will work doggedly for a few hour or days, depending on the complexity of the project, then play with the toy for a few more days or weeks, then lose interest. Gradually he will begin to cannibalize the toy in order to create his own robots and vehicles. Eventually all the pieces will end up in the Great Lego Burial Ground. But then, many months later, he will pull out the instructions for one of these toys and start building it again, with all the same enthusiasm and concentration as the first time around. I am usually conscripted to help, which means that I paw through the box looking for three more of those little gray pieces with the thing sticking out or the long white piece with 8 dots. I have to admit that I am particularly skilled at locating the necessary pieces among the thousands of others in the bin—we refer to me as The Master. And Pete has a remarkable memory; he can look at a weird-shaped piece and say, "Oh, that came from Luke's ship" or "That was from the droid thingy." He's also really good at following the directions and putting everything together properly. Teachers swear by Legos for developing math skills, and I have to agree. There's something about the logic of fitting it all together, the symmetry of creating two wings or two legs, and the progression of the steps that make Pete's synapses go Pop! Pop!
Cheney's Got a Gun
1. Do you have good hand-eye coordination?
2. Have you ever held a gun?
Yes. At summer camp I excelled at riflery and, in fact, was the best shot of all the girls. I even taught riflery as a counselor. At the time, I didn't know that all those colorful NRA patches I kept winning were from an organization I would come to loathe as an adult.
3. What do you think of toy guns?
I disapprove. It's true what everyone says, though: Even if you don't buy your son a toy gun, he will make one out of a stick or Legos or even a piece of paper. It would never in a million years occur to my daughters to make a gun. Sigh.
4. When is the last time you asked for forgiveness?
Probably recently for something like forgetting to bring/do/make/buy something for Andy or the kids. I can't recall ever asking forgiveness for anything significant.
5. Your favorite Aerosmith song:
I can't say that I really have a "favorite," although I did own "Toys in the Attic" way back when (a Bat Mitzvah gift), and I suppose I liked "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion" well enough in those days.
I'm not really big on the Olympics, but when it comes to word usage, I'm your gal. And I'm with Mark: If you're going to insist on saying Torino instead of Turin, then you damn well better say Italia, Roma, Firenze, Milano, Venezia, and so on. We spent the weekend up in Franconia, home of Bode Miller, so the last thing anyone was worrying about was the announcers' pronunciation, but still.
I've decided that the best all-around athletes are the biathlon competitors. First they have to bust their butts cross-country skiing, then the next minute they have to slow their heartrates down enough to shoot a rifle at a
We got back this afternoon from a wonderful long weekend up in the White Mountains with Andy's parents. Steph and Pete had their first ski lessons—and outperformed everyone's wildest dreams! I wouldn't have been surprised if they had refused to even do it on the first day (Saturday), because it was so unbearably cold that (Mom, don't read any further!) Pete was even crying at one point. The temperature was hovering around 0°, but the wind was like a knife. I could never have stayed out there for 3 hours they way they did. Sunday was just as cold but with no wind, which made all the difference in the world, and today was downright balmy at 19°. Anyhow, they both really took to it and had a blast skiing with Daddy and their grandparents. Julie and I noodled about under an afghan back at the house, watching "Go, Diego, Go" and reading, respectively. We also played endless games of War and Go Fish.
I had my phone interview this morning, and it went very well. I learned that I scored second-best of all the online test-takers (I think there were about 30 of us). Most people would have been thrilled; me? I just about died—only second best? WTF? I was relieved to learn that 5 of the 7 things I missed were all in a particular category of things I didn't even realize I was supposed to be checking for. But the other 2 . . . well, I'm dying, what can I say. I must just be rusty.* But I'm still on board, and work should start in a couple of weeks. We talked a lot about the different tasks and subject areas I might be best suited for, and I think I convinced her to pay me a flat rate instead of hourly, which I despise.
*At least nothing was as bad as this, though!
1. Exodus - Bob Marley & The Wailers
2. Como Te Deseo - Maná
3. Yesterday - Eva Cassidy
4. Rednecks - Randy Newman
5. Fat Man In The Bathtub (live) - Little Feat
6. Knock On Wood (live) - James Taylor & Sting
7. There We Are - James Taylor
8. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson
9. Rollin' By (live) - Lyle Lovett & Robert Earl Keen
10. Bewildered - The Notting Hillbillies
Appetizer: If you were a color, which color would you be, and why?
Green, because I like green and it's cheerful.
Soup: When was the last time you went to the doctor, and what was your reason for going?
In December, for my throat crud, and to ensure that I'd spend New Year's Eve and New Year's Day covered in hives.
Salad: What do you collect?
I don't really do collections. Most end up making the person look crazy, or else they're just dust catchers. Julie recently told me she wants to start collecting money.
Main Course: What were you like in high school? Name one thing you miss and one thing you don't miss about those days.
What I was like: A really smart goody-two-shoes around the teachers, but outside of school? Not so much.
I miss the innocence—oh, and the pre-pregnancy body! I don't miss the social crap at all. Blech.
Dessert: Pretend you're standing in front of your home, with your back towards your home. Describe the view - what can you see? Trees? Cars? A zoo? Wal-Mart?
I see lots of other houses and cars.
I guess I never followed up on my ambivalent decision to start going after some freelance work again. I took the online test (cinchy and kind of fun!) and heard back that I'd "passed"; tomorrow I have a phone interview with the director of production. I just hope she doesn't want me to hit the ground running next week—when the kids are off from school!
Today was Stephanie's very belated birthday party. She and a dozen friends descended upon our local independent theater, where they watched "Ice Princess" (which I brought on DVD) while munching popcorn and sipping lemonade, then devoured most of an amazing skating-themed cake. I have no photos to share, because my digital camera was uncooperative; luckily I had brought along a disposable I had hanging around, intending to let Steph play with it. So you will have to wait until I get the film developed. Anyhow it was a nice party, and Stephanie felt very special and happy. The movie was terrific! Andy and I had watched it a few nights ago, just to make sure it was OK (I wasn't worried so much about the appropriateness as about the DVD having a huge scratch or something). I especially loved Joan Cusack's role—and yes, I shed real tears both times I watched it. All that mother-daughter stuff just got to me.
We met tonight to discuss A Changed Man by Francine Prose. This was the first novel of hers that any of us had read. We all enjoyed it and had a great time casting the movie—this just has to be made into a movie, right? I suggested Martin Landau for Meyer, Helen Hunt for Bonnie, and Ethan Hawke for Vincent. Other suggestions were Ben Kingsley, Felicity Huffman, and Heath Ledger, respectively. Anyhow, the book is the story of a liberal charitable foundation that is run by a dynamic and inspiring Holocaust survivor. His right hand is a single mom of two teenaged sons. One day in strolls a skinhead who claims that he wants to "save guys like me from becoming guys like me." He becomes the darling of the fundraising world, and no one escapes Prose's jabs—not the pathetic losers in the white supremacist group, not the media, and certainly not the well-heeled do-gooders who are forever being courted to write more and larger checks to help release foreign prisoners and the like. This is probably the "plottiest" book we've done yet, and it was great fun.
The American Book Review has posted a list of the 100 Best First Lines from Novels. Here are the Top 10:
1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973) I never read this and probably never will.
4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa) I could never finish this book, but I certainly read the first line!
5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955) I never read this either—could it be?
6. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)
7. riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939) Never read it, most likely never will.
8. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949) I've already admitted sheepishly that this one somehow passed me by, too; I do intend to read it.
9. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
10. I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952) I think I missed this one, too. Sheesh.
I've always loved Willie Nelson. Now I think he's cooler than ever. He just released a gay cowboy song, "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other," to show his suppport for a gay employee of his. And he had no trouble persuading his record company to release it:
"Willie wants it out so we want it out," says Kim Buie, a vice president at Lost Highway. "What this song does is give credence to something that I think a lot of people have known for a long time. Being gay is nothing new. It's gone through history, whether it's out on the plains or back in Roman times. Society puts its own standards on it, but that song makes it OK."
Friday was one of those days when everything was just slightly off-kilter. Right off the bat, the toaster broke. We do a lot of toasting, so this was a problem. After dropping Julie at school, I headed straight for Target (I'm weak! I'm weak!) in search of a new one. It's important to note here that I drove right past the Honda place where I was supposed to leave the car for servicing. Anyhow, I wasn't looking for anything special, just a 2-slice model with a "bagel feature" for toasting just the cut sides of bagels. I spotted this Oster model, which fit the bill:
Unfortunately, the brushed stainless steel wasn't available, and I didn't care for the fire-engine red or the copper (the copper was pretty, but it was too shiny—I could immediately imagine it smeared with butter and fingerprints). There was nothing else that appealed to me, so I left (with yet another chance to overcome my weakness!). I again blew right by the Honda place, totally focused on my toaster mission. About 3/4 of the way to Linens 'n Things, I remembered about the car and had to turn around and drive all the way back to Honda. I got my loaner, and even remembered at the last minute to grab Julie's car seat out of my car. At LNT, I found this Cuisinart model, which was pricier than the Oster, even with my 20%-off coupon, but I grabbed it anyhow:
I got home and set it up and figured all was well. Until I read the little instruction book and learned that this is what the folks at Cuisinart think a bagel button is for: "The bagel feature adds extra time to the toasting cycle to allow for thicker breads." HUH? So now I can't do the one-side-only toasting thing. I think it's crappy that Cuisinart would call extra time a "bagel feature," when every other brand of toaster uses that term to mean toasting on only one side.
Chris says, "I'd like to suggest a change in terminology: Please refer to any accidental shootings as dick cheneys. For instance, 'I have no idea how he got shot. I was just standing there with my gun and all of a sudden, I'd dick cheneyed him.'" This will definitely catch on, à la "getting borked."
Not the best week for movies in these parts.
1. "Broken Flowers" - It pains me to say this, but I was disappointed. I love Bill Murray, but even I was tested on this one. Just too long, just too slow, just too unresolved. There were a few good moments, but not enough. Sorry, Bill.
2. "Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control" - Typo. Actual title is "Slow, Disjointed, and Not at All Interesting." Oh, and if you, like me and Andy, can't bear to watch people who claim to be "lion tamers," skip it. Peh. Sorry, Errol Morris.
3. "Happiness" - Another typo. This one is actually called "Unbearable Agony." Mainly of the sexual dysfunction type, including a pedophile psychiatrist. Each moment was harder to take than the last.
Oy. I'm thinking a light romantic comedy is right up my alley this week.
We got a big-time blizzard last night and today. Lots of pretty, fluffy, powdery snow everywhere. I just checked the city web site and learned that school will be delayed by 2 hours tomorrow. But Stephanie won't be going at all, because she has a stomach bug. Andy went to pick her up this morning from a sleepover, and she promptly puked all over her boots and her friend's welcome mat. She was lethargic and pasty-looking all day, but perked up a little bit by evening.
Golly, Beav, but this sure frosts me! I've been one of the best word-of-mouth ads that Netflix has. I have persuaded perhaps a dozen people to join—and maybe more, because I'm always singing their praises on this blog, too. I really do think it's a great service, and we've always enjoyed excellent turnaround times—sometimes mailing out a DVD on a Monday and receiving another one on Wednesday. They have every DVD imaginable, the site is easy to navigate, and so on. Well, about a week ago I noticed that I hadn't received any new movies in a few days, and then the next thing I knew, I didn't have any movies in the house at all and they still hadn't sent out any replacements! I chalked it up to a one-time glitch in the system. Then today Ricky sent me this story, which really pisses me off. I'm being punished for using their service as efficiently as possible. I'll most definitely be filing a complaint with them, although I don't expect it will help much.
1. Tears of a Clown - English Beat
Now if I appear to be carefree
It's only to camouflage my sadness
And, honey, to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness
2. Tip of My Tongue - John Hiatt
Some words flew out
And made a crash landing
No love survived
Not a trace could be found
3. With a Little Help from My Friends (live) - Martin Sexton
What do I do when my love is away?
Does it worry you to be alone?
How do I feel by the end of the day?
Are you sad because you're on your own?
4. Girls Talk - Elvis Costello
Though you may not be an old-fashioned girl
You're still going to get dated
5. Diamond in the Rough - Shawn Colvin
You're shining, I can see you
You're smiling, that's enough
6. Nite Klub (live) - The Specials
Is this the in place to be?
What am I doing here?
Watching the girls go by
Spending money on...
7. IDTTYWLM - Loudon Wainwright III
I don't think that your wife likes me.
I don't think that your wife likes me.
Now why do you suppose that is?
I don't know.
8. Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Willie Nelson
I'm gonna lay around the shack
'Til the mail train comes back
And I'll roll in my sweet baby's arms
9. Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby - Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, & Emmylou Harris
Go to sleep, little baby
Go to sleep, little baby
Come lay your bones on the alabaster stones
And be my everlovin' baby
10. Has My Fire Really Gone Out? - Paul Weller
Something real is what I'm seeking
One clear voice in the wilderness
Appetizer: What was a class or course you took while in school that you realize now was a total waste of time?
"Intro to Contemporary Music," which we all thought was going to be all about the Clash and Elvis Costello. Turned out to be John Cage and Philip Glass. Oops. I soon learned I was unable to develop an appreciation for Contemporary Music.
Soup: Who is the tallest person you know?
Howie, at about 6'4". (Andy, is that right? Do we know anyone taller?)
Salad: What's your favorite midnight snack?
Main Course: Have you ever found money somewhere? If so, where did you find it, and how much was it?
I don't think I've ever found more than a dollar. Recently there was a story in the local newspaper about a woman who found an envelope containing nearly $1000. It was clearly someone's cashed paycheck, so she felt bad and turned it in to the police. The person who lost it called the police, not really expecting that anyone would have been so honest as to turn it in, and was pleasantly surprised! That got me and Andy into a conversation about how much found money you'd keep and how much you'd turn in. For instance, surely everyone would keep $20; I think everyone would turn in $500,000 (if for no other reason than that it could be marked or counterfeit). Would you have turned in $1000?
Dessert: Where would you like to retire?
right here in the Boston area
Andy hooked up a web cam to his PC and we had a ball doing live audio/video IM chats with Laura all the way in Mexico City this evening! I am new to this technology, and I just can't get over it. Unfortunately, I can't do it on my Mac, because Microsoft Messenger doesn't allow for audio/video (just regular text IMing) on the Mac. (Unless anyone knows a work-around—Scott? Are you there, Scott?) Laura got such a kick out of seeing the kids (and admiring the spaces where their teeth were, and Stephanie's earrings, and so on), and we got to see her puppy. Just seeing her face and hearing her voice in real time lifted my spirits.
We had a Scary Cat Experience here today. The plumber finally came to install the new shower. In order to access the pipes he needed to replace, he had to kind of burrow in from the built-in chest of drawers in the hallway that abuts the bathroom. It's hard to explain, but it's just one of those things about old houses: Everything is fine until something breaks, then you can't easily get at anything. I was taking a peek over his shoulder when I heard a tiny "Meow!" from somewhere in the bowels of the house—meaning the dark labyrinth of pipes, wires, beams, jutting pieces of wood, and rusty nails that winds its way between the walls and floors and ceilings of this old house. Grace had somehow gotten lodged in there and couldn't get out. We couldn't even see where she was, but we could hear her under us. Then we did see her face a couple of times, but we couldn't get at her. The plumber and I had to try to fit into this ridiculous drawer thing where the sound was coming from. I was really panicking, imagining her being stuck there forever and just dying. What would I tell the kids?! I tried food and sweet talk, but she was just petrified. And stuck. Finally I called Andy on his cell phone, thinking he was at work, and told him to come home right away. Turns out he was all the way down in Providence and had to drive back up here. Oops. But he was the one who finally rescued Grace, by somehow managing to jam his arm down a duct and yank her out. The whole thing took a couple of hours anyhow (all of which time the plumber was probably on the clock—I couldn't bear to ask). I promptly locked Grace and Mr. Jones in the basement for the duration of the job.
Meanwhile, I'll let you know how my shower works tomorrow. It ended up costing way more than we'd anticipated, so anything short of liquid heaven will be a disappointment.
RENO, Nevada (AP) -- She spelled it right. The judge said it was wrong. And she's not getting a second chance.
Reno, Nevada, eighth-grader Sara Beckman spelled "discernible" correctly during a spelling bee Tuesday at the University of Nevada, Reno. But the judge rang the bell anyway.
Her parents are furious, but organizers say they had to protest the call immediately. They say they waited until the bee was over to avoid interrupting.
A school spokesman likens it to a referee's call in an NFL game. The protest has to come before the next play starts.
Sara says she'd just like another chance, since it's her last spelling bee.
Her mother, Cindy, calls herself a "momma bear with her bear claws out" and is ready to go to court.
The school spokesman says he hopes everybody can sit down together and work something out. He says defending a lawsuit over a spelling bee isn't a good way to spend school district money.
RENO -- The state spelling bee is growing by two contestants to make up for a judging error that had one girl's parents ready to spell "lawsuit."
Sara Beckman was disqualified from the Washoe County spelling bee Tuesday despite correctly spelling "discernible." Officials say the word was misspelled on the judges' lists.
The Reno eighth-grader's parents waited until the end of the round to protest because they didn't want to interrupt the bee. But the rules say a protest must be lodged immediately and Sara ended up third.
Her parents hired an attorney. He threatened to sue the local sponsors if something wasn't worked out, and said he would seek an injunction to stop the state spelling bee next month in Las Vegas as well.
After meetings and phone calls, a deal was reached Thursday: The top three eighth-graders from Washoe County will go to Las Vegas.
"The decision is in the best interest of the students involved and it ensures that threatened legal action by a local attorney would not block the state contest, which would have harmed students from across the state," the district said in a statement.
I did feel terrible for the girl ("It's so unfair!"), but it's her parents' fault for not following the rules for filing a grievance on the spot. I think the wrong lesson is being taught here—and it has nothing to do with spelling, by the way. (Via Jen)